Monday, 10 November 2014

what I've learnt



After almost two years in my current job writing about various health and wellness industries, I'd like to think I've learnt a fair bit. So, unsurprisingly perhaps, quite a few of these lessons have seeped into my personal life. I am certainly not an expert, but I thought it might be nice to share the few things that have gone from 'tips' I wrote about in a blog at work, to life-long habits. Let's see.

Mental health

1. Talking to someone always helps

Whether it's your family, a good friend, your boss or even a counsellor - when you're feeling low, talking is the best medicine. Don't feel embarassed or ashamed, we all have demons and mental health issues need to be discussed. 

2. Writing it down does too

If I'm feeling anxious or 'all in my head' about something, I find it incredibly helpful to write about it. This works especially well when you're trying to sleep but your brain is all "la la la, isn't thinking FUN?" give those thoughts somewhere to go - on paper.

3. There is little a long bath and a good cry can't fix

I always fall into the trap of trying to be "OK" even when I'm really not. And this isn't just in front of other people, this is to myself. So sometimes I need to remind myself that it is OK to not be OK. We all need to feel our feelings and burying them will do more harm than good. I recommend running a bath, having a good cry, feeling the pain and listening to Damien Rice. When you're done, wash your face, take a few deep breaths and write down everything you are grateful for.

Nutrition

1. Chewing gum can help stave cravings

I always crave sweet things after eating a meal, so I always carry gum and chew this instead. It gives me a sweet fix while being good for my teeth - winner! 

2. Snacking on fruit is where it's at 

I always have a punnet of fruit on my desk at work (usually blueberries) to snack on when hunger strikes. This usually stops me reaching for the biscuit tin and makes me feel better all round.

3. Giving in to temptation (occasionally) keeps you sane

I eat well during the week, but weekends are fair game. Chocolate brownie with my coffee? Hell yeah. A cheeky burger at the pub? Why not. I think eating everything in moderation is the best way to eat.

Fitness

1. Finding an exercise you enjoy is like looking for the 'one'

It may take a while, but when you've found it you'll know. Yoga is the only exercise I truly enjoy it and while I do other cardio bits to keep things ticking over, yoga really is the one.

2. Listening to your body is key

I try to break a sweat, build strength and stretch out a few times a week, but there are times when my body just can't do it. Tonight for example, I have a sore throat, my body is aching and all I want to do is sleep. So instead of my usual spinning and yoga routine, I've had a long bath and when I've finished writing this I will be lying in bed watching TV until I fall asleep. 

3. Exercise makes you feel frickin' awesome

This has only really kicked in recently, but I'm finally getting that endorphin rush everyone always harps on about. I feel calmer, more confident and generally happier when I'm exercising.

Beauty

1. Moisturising is essential, whatever your skin type

I cannot tell you how much clearer my skin has got since I ditched the spot treatments and moisturised instead. I have combination skin, but I was treating it like it was oily and tried to strip it of any natural oils. Now I use gentle products and moisturise morning and night.

2. Investing in skincare is worth it

I never used to be that into beauty or skincare, but since I started writing about it for work, I've become a tad obsessed. Now I spend more money in Space NK and relish my weekly face mask habit.

3. Being a girl is fun, take advantage

Again, in the past I never cared about nail varnish and I rarely experimented with my make-up, but you know what - it's really fun. Now I have two (yes TWO) bright lip colours (planning to get more) and a whole box full of nail varnishes.

Wow, that was quite a long one, hope I didn't lose anyone there. What have you learnt at your job?

Sunday, 2 November 2014

talking to strangers



If there is one thing I would like to change about myself, it would be to be better at talking. As anyone who has ever met me will (probably) testify - I can be difficult to talk to. At first. Once I warm up and shake off my social awkwardness, I love a good chat. But even then, I don't talk for the sake of talking, I only speak if I feel I have something to contribute. This can come across as shyness, or even rudeness, but it isn't either.

There are days when I barely speak at all. Choosing to get lost in my own thoughts, read or listen to music instead, I can go from feeling desperately sad to hopeful in a day, with no one else being any the wiser. This isn't intentional, I don't actively shut people out - sometimes I just need to be quiet.

It therefore surprises me when circumstances lead me to talk to a complete stranger, and I feel strangely revitalised. On Friday night when myself and a friend found ourselves at Clapham Junction waiting for a delayed train, a burly looking chap made conversation with us. His name was Charleston and he was a pop artist by day and a doorman by night. He showed us his art on his phone and mocked my friend's fear of a nearby zombie-fied Ronald McDonald (it was Halloween). 

Now, I'll never see Charleston again - but this snatched insight into another person's world was fascinating. If I had a camera around my neck, I would have felt like Diane Arbus, roaming the streets of New York taking pictures of strangers. She was socially very shy, but with her camera she felt invincible and came to life when she entered other people's lives, no matter how briefly.

Fuelled by rum and boredom, on that platform I felt like Diane. I wanted to meet everyone in the world and find out what life looks like to them. I've been thinking about myself a lot lately - what does my future look like, where will I end up, what the fuck am I doing - so I think the reason I enjoyed this random conversation so much was because it got me out of myself. I burst my own security bubble and saw a world outside of my own.

I want to do that more. Maybe I'll take up a new hobby, or travel somewhere by myself. Maybe I'll take a camera and start my own Arbus-inspired anthropology project, who knows. All I know is that while a certain amount of introversy (is that a word?) is nice, it's time to take a deep breath and head into the unknown with the curiosity of an explorer and the bravery of a warrior. 

I'll let you know how I get on. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

staycation




I have taken this week off work for a much needed 'staycation', or as I like to call it - 'operation breathe and reboot'. The last few months have been somewhat full on in many aspects of my life (some in a good way, some in a less good way) and I was feeling stressed. Stressed to the point that all I wanted to do was sleep or watch TV - I even began to feel overwhelmed and anxious in social situations. As I became more run down with niggling sore throats and regular headaches I quickly realised that I desperately needed a break.

Now, a week in an exotic location with access to a luxury spa would have been ideal, but alas - a week at home would have to suffice. And while I may not be lounging on a beach soaking up some late summer sun, I am just a few days into my staycation and I already feel rejuvenated. Here's what I'm doing:

So far

- letting off some steam and taking silly photos at a garden wedding reception 
- eating nutritious and tasty foods like avocados, berries, olives and eggs
- lots of detoxing, strengthening yoga practices
- listening to music and reading  
- walking in the woods

Still to come 

- shopping for some transitional wardrobe pieces
- getting my eyebrows shaped
- face masks, body scrubs and DIY manicures (oh my)
- getting some boring appointments out of the way
- getting my car cleaned, inside and out

I suppose it all boils down to self-care; recognising when you're feeling run down and knowing when it's time to take a break. And also knowing what you need to do to really relax and rebuild yourself. I think over the last few years I've gotten much better at this - maybe yoga has helped me connect the dots between my body and mind, or maybe it's just something that comes with age. Either way, I'm glad I seem to be connected to myself.

 I'm feeling better already. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

lost souls



With no map or direction, the two lost souls found themselves at opposite ends of a jazz bar. One was sipping tea from a cup, the other was lighting a poorly constructed cigarette. Both their thoughts wandered far away from the conversations they were having, where words tumbled lazily from their lips. 

Drawn together by forces unknown, their eyes locked, both equally full of sadness. Seeking solace together, they ran from their surroundings to a nearby motel. As the sky turned black, they folded into each other. Telling their stories through their bodies, he kissed the scars of her youth while she gently outlined a birthmark on his shoulder. Escaped from reality, the lost souls felt free. 

As the morning light intruded on their slumber, the heaviness of reality retuned. Paying the bill with cold plastic, the souls thanked each other with polite words and a modest hug. Each returned to their lives, gripping onto reality with all the strength they could muster until their next chance meeting.

*****************************

Last night I watched Lost in Translation and remembered how much I love the film. The story of two lost souls seeking comfort in one another is told so beautifully. It stirred some creative juices that, to be honest, I haven't truly tapped into for a while. So I wrote this - my incredibly brief interpretation of the idea. Yes, it is pretty sad and perhaps not the uplifting prose one would want to read on a Saturday night - but hey, life isn't always sweetness and light. I like sad movies, sad songs and sad stories. I like a little darkness from time to time - it makes for good contrast.

My best writing has always happened when I'm a little sad - which is probably why I haven't written creatively for a while (damn you happiness!), but I have been through sad times in my life, and when a film or piece of music takes me back there - it is nice to turn those feelings into a story (even if they only end up on a neglected blog in the depths of cyber space). 

So here's to feeling sad every now and then - and embracing it. 

(p.s. - just to lighten the mood, how gorgeous is Scarlett Johansson's hair colour in that movie? obsessed)

Friday, 30 May 2014

moments



Recently there have been quite a few moments that have made me smile - most fuelled by sunshine, a few fuelled by chocolate. Whenever this happens, I like to really take it in. Sometimes - if I have a phone/camera on me - I take a photo, other times I close my eyes and take a mental snap shot. I think this simple act is an important part of being happy; taking the time to appreciate such moments helps you get by when things ain't so rosy. 

The moments I photographed:

bright pink lips for a sunny Sunday

al-fresco breakfast, chamomile tea, music & reading

favourite jewellery & favourite magazine

chocolate because, well... chocolate


The moments I didn't photograph:

coffee & croissants with my love

red wine, dinner & flat hunting

conversations with sanka cat

yoga in the sunshine

On reflection, none of these moments were particularly special - no birthdays, no landmarks, nothing deep and meaningful. Just perfectly ordinary events that, when looked at in the right light, are anything but. 
What moments have made you smile lately? 

Monday, 5 May 2014

treat yo'self

treats: seven course dinner, kraken rum, cos dress, anthropology earrings 

So lately, when it comes to spending money, I have been somewhat overindulging. In the past my spending habits resembled those of a hungover student - I can't afford that, that's far too nice for me - oh but is there a voucher? Most of my shoes came from Primark and I considered Urban Outfitters as the 'dream shopping destination'. Now, thankfully, my taste has matured - meaning that my spending habits have had to mature too.

Replacing my lust for Topshop and Urban Outfitters is Cos, Mint Velvet and Anthropology. And while I do still enjoy the odd Nandos, a proper meal out now typically takes place at Cote or a gastro country pub.

Sadly I'm not quite in the position yet where I can splash the cash, and I do still find it hard to part with my money (and I should really be saving for a house, hmmm) - but lately I've been treating myself. Nice rum, pretty dresses and rather extravagant meals out have made me both happy and a little poorer than I should be. But you know what - sometimes you have to flip off your sensible side and treat yourself. 

And I promise, as soon as me and Joe book a luxury all-inclusive holiday as a pre-mortgage hurrah, I'll go back to being sensible ;)

Have you treated yourself lately? 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

spring clean



I know it's a cliche, but whenever spring rolls around all I want to do is clean and start afresh. The sunnier days make us reconsider all kinds of things - from our wardrobes, make-up and nail varnishes to exercise routines, diet and how we spend our free time. Suddenly we have more choices,

sandals or flip flops?
nude nails or neon nails?
pub garden or run in the park? 
(I think we all know the answer to that one)

and today, being warm, sunny and free of obligations, felt like the perfect day to kick spring off right - with some cleaning, new skincare and spring fashion mags in the sun. 

My skin has changed from oily and spotty teenage skin to blotchy, dry and yet somehow still spotty adult skin. So when buying skincare products I have to use a double pronged approach - keep skin hydrated and stop shine/spots. A bit tricky, but luckily there are lots of skincare products to help.

To cleanse I've recently started using Micellar water after a decade-long love affair with Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish. This particular variation of the French cult item feels like it cleanses really well, doesn't irritate and leaves my skin feeling hydrated. My only gripe? It takes quite a lot of work to remove my stubborn eye make-up.

To moisturise I wanted something to hydrate and control shine at the same time - and again, I turned to the French. I treated myself to a La Roche-Posay moisturiser that controls sebum and tightens pores. I've only used it once so far, so I can't judge yet - but so far, so shine-free.

Finally I wanted something to brighten up my complexion and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm does this wonderfully. I'm hoping by the time summer hits, these products will help my skin to be smooth, spot-free and happy. 

After slathering my skin in these lovely products I cleaned my room from top to toe - it's incredible how much a tidy, clean room can soothe the mind. Then I headed outside to sit among the flowers, read about spring silhouettes in Elle and watch Sanka chasing butterflies. It was lovely until my hayfever kicked in and I couldn't see my magazine through watery eyes and sneezing fits.

So now I'm inside, with tea and tissues - but I'm still excited for spring. 
Just need to stock up on benadryl.

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