It’s not what you see, it’s the way that you see it

I went back home this weekend to see my family, and it couldn’t have been better timing. I’ve had lots of thoughts and decisions swirling round my brain the last few weeks, and I’ve been waiting them out. Waiting for them to do their thing and solidify into a vision of what I need to do next. And turns out the magical catalyst is some family time.

I came away a lot clearer than I have for a while. I feel lighter. Excited about what’s coming next. A common theme in all of the conversations I have had these last few weeks has been that I have dealt with things (ie. the break-up – little b, little u) really well. Surprisingly well. And that I seem like a new person.

Mulling over that (yes, I’m a ruminator. Are you shocked?) I’ve been wondering why – because I’ve even surprised myself with how I’ve managed to stay so positive – mostly. I am prone to catastrophising things, and some days feel anxious just having to face the world. But not right now. And I think the key is how I’ve perceived it.

This whole time, the only way I have been able to deal with it, is to gather up all of that self-help wisdom that I’ve so eagerly absorbed throughout my adult life and USE IT. Practise what I (and they) preach. Viewing it differently has made it easier to bear, accept it, and not let it stop my world from turning.

Here’s what I know for sure:

  • This has happened for a reason.
  • The Universe has better things lined up for me. And this storm is clearing the way for them.
  • This is exactly what I needed to happen to me, when I needed it.
  • I will survive.

Viewing this thing as the right thing, as an opportunity, means I can get up every day and carry on.

And today? I can’t wait for the next step. I feel free. I can do whatever I want, and this path is the right one.

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Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day, or just Wednesday?

It’s not exactly a secret that V-Day is rubbish for a lot of people. The whole premise seems to be all about making single people feel very single, and not in a good way. And even in a relationship, if you don’t have a perfect evening, you end up having a raging fight about the fact that there aren’t a dozen red roses hanging around the house, like Kate from work has! Lose/ lose, right…?

This year it really got to me – I’ve been feeling low, grumpy, and so anti-love. And I think St Valentine played a part (soz, Val, but you did). I’m now annoyed at myself for letting it have that much of an impact on me..it is, after all, JUST A DAY.

So here’s my shout out to the future me (and you) – it’s cool, you will be fine, and you’ll live to fight another day, warrior – with or without a boyfriend/ girlfriend by your side.

I think what’s on the menu now is a recipe for love. I need to fall back in love with the idea of love. Love for myself, love for my friends, my family, the world, that elusive other person..

Here are a few ingredients that have been picking me back up these last couple of days -let me know how (and if) you survived the 14th Feb annual love in (disclaimer: it’s okay if you didn’t).

1. A dollop of Glennon Doyle talking to Marie Forleo about being a Love Warrior (seriously, this spoke to me in ways I can’t even explain)

2. A pinch of this article on The Everygirl about why being single on V-Day is TOTALLY FINE. And you are too.

3. A portion of Mastin Kipp, Marie Forleo and Gabby Bernstein talking to Oprah about how to become more spiritual on Supersoul TV.

4. As much as you can of SELF LOVE. Whatever that looks like for you. It could be a run in the sunshine, a weekend by yourself, a night of dancing.

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Three steps forward, but two steps back, is still a step forwards

I’ve been having a bit of a wobbly week. I have stayed positive for a good month now, and have been feeling pretty productive at work (I even surprised myself). All those blogs/self help books/ magazines/ podcasts have clearly made their mark and I have actually been taking the advice I’d give to others.

BUT this past week I have been feeling low, and very angry (angry enough to google ‘Boxing classes near me’). I spent today beating myself up that I couldn’t keep it up, and just stay happy. Everything suddenly feels blurry and I am questioning what I want my future to look like.

Then as I walked home from work, feeling pretty dejected, I remembered that even if I’ve had a small setback, as long as the general direction of travel is forwards, it’s still totally fine. Yes I have had a little cry every day for the past week, but I also started a blog this year, and booked a solo trip to South East Asia, and still get up and go to the gym in the morning.

The road is bumpy, and this too, shall pass.

x

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Comparison killed the cat: my top 3 ways to avoid falling into the comparison trap

I doubt there is a person on the planet that has never fallen into the comparison trap. It happens to the best of us. At work, at home, on the street, in the bedroom, on our phones…whenever we find ourselves with access to others (or the outer appearance of others), it’s natural to start looking inwards.

…Why don’t I look as pretty as her? She’s wearing the same dress!

…She/he’s younger than me, why am I not as successful/married/with child/paid more?

…They do so much stuff, why am I so lazy?

Just a bit thinner, faster, stronger, kinder, richer, cooler, smarter….

And it goes on. And on. It’s a dangerous game to play, and it rarely ends well.

Comparison is absolutely not a new phase for me. But it feels more poignant this month, as I’m analysing everything, and reviewing where I want to be in a month/year/ decade now that my priorities have totally changed.

I’ve found myself thinking ‘Sh*t. I’m 27 (in two months), I’m single, renting, not earning tonnes, still at the beginning of my career, nowhere near finding someone, not 100% what I want, not volunteering as much as I should…I’m SO BEHIND and my life is back at day ZERO. ahhhhhhhhhhggghhhlllll’. It’s not cool.

How can we kill the comparison vibe?

I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better at dealing with thoughts like this when they inevitably come along. And that’s thanks to small reminders from my friends & fam, social media (warning: consume responsibly), and some very honest conversations with myself. Here are a few coping strategies that have worked for me:

First, ask yourself if you actually want what you’re coveting?

Chances are, the answer is no. Call BS on your inner voice that’s telling you to abandon all of your innermost hopes and dreams, just because something different is in front of you right now.

For me, that looks like marriage and kids. I look at others and see them in settled relationships, living with their other halves, and getting ready to (or already starting to) procreate. Meltdown – I’m back at the start, and that is never going to happen for me – especially not anytime soon. My incredible Mum myth-busted this one for me: ‘Nat, you didn’t even want kids before you’re 30 anyway! That’s three years away…you didn’t want to be on that path right now regardless…and you CAN afford to buy your own house, you just haven’t decided where you want to live’. Yep. Cool. Mum knows best. Panic over.

If you find yourself comparing (and despairing) just give yourself a little reality check. Do you, deep down, actually want it? Or are you projecting someone else’s path onto your own.

If that doesn’t work, disprove the theory that you aren’t enough.

Take the thing you’re too much/ too little/ too old/ too young for…and google the crap out of it until you find evidence of the opposite. This might be a little hypocritical, because it’s *technically* still comparison, but it’s the positive kind, so it’s okay (right? please tell me it’s okay?).

Age is the big thing for me right now. I’m too old to be single and fresh out of a 7 year relationship! I quickly found this to be wholly untrue. Fearne Cotton (my current crush) met her now husband at 29…Bridget Jones (general goddess) didn’t make it official with Mr Darcy until her mid-thirties…Davina McCall (all round angel) married at 33, had her first child at 34 and at 50 is single again…a lady I work with (who I see so many similarities to myself in) had her first baby at around 33 too…the list goes on.

This exercise isn’t perfect, but it helped to calm my irrational thoughts

‘[Love] is like a virus. It can happen to anyone, at any time’ ~ Maya Angelou

Finally, YOU do YOU.

Ultimately, the thing to remember is that only you can be you. You are unique. You are in your own lane. You have so much to bring to the table, too. Things will happen, but there is no formula for life, and stuff will come exactly when it’s meant to. Write it, chant it, say it in the mirror, set it as your screensaver…however, you want to do it. Find the phrase, or picture, or song, that reminds you of this and keep it close, so you can call on it when you’re having a moment, and feel like you just aren’t enough. Because you are perfect, just as you are. 

*Bonus tips: these are the things that gave me that ‘ohhh, that is so true‘ kinda feeling and stopped me from being crazy:

  • This video by Lucy Sheridan on how to get back on track after you’ve had a comparison meltdown.
  • This post by Marie Forleo to remind you there’s no such thing as too anything.
  • This reminder that things will happen in their own good time.

Good luck – let me know how you manage comparison.

x

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Photo credit @poets instagram

In praise of community

I’m lucky that as part of my job, I work with a lot of community groups, and charities, and people just generally doing great stuff to help others. Every time I go out and meet them, I come away inspired, often sobered, grateful for everything I have, and with a hunger to do more.

This Wednesday was one of those days.

I travelled up North where it was (stereotypically) freezing..I’m talking -3C cold and snow..to meet one such group. And was blown away. Even though I work closely with them, hearing them talk about just how much they are doing completely knocked my (really thick) socks off.

The two women I met don’t have a specific job. In their own words, they just ‘fill the gaps’. Because it’s nobody’s job. But it needs to be done.

Over many years the support and service they offer has grown and evolved every time they identify something that’s missing, or that could be better. Right now their list includes: a community pantry, holiday school meals, home delivery of hot meals to neighbours who are immobile, a support teens into work scheme, parkour club, a community allotment, a community washer/dryer to provide affordable laundry, Pie&Pint social club for elderly, socially isolated men…I could go on and on.

On top of that they work tirelessly to get all the right people from local ‘formal’ support services round the table and tackling (with ACTION not WORDS) issues their locals have quickly and in the most practical way, to save time/ effort/ and just make it simple.

I can’t describe the sense of community and work ethic they emanated. Every word they said took me along with them, and showed me how much you can do with a dogged determination to deliver help. They see a problem, and they don’t stop until they’ve fixed it.

To me, what they are doing is astounding. Magic. And how do they describe to me what they do? ‘Old fashioned, help your neighbour’ stuff.

There is a lesson here, and it’s really very simple: lend a hand to someone who needs it, and whatever you do, don’t stop. You never know where it might lead.

My February Intentions

It’s a new month (so long, January) and since I missed out on New Year’s resolutions this year, I decided to start afresh with February. Why set out good intentions just once a year, when you could do it as often as you like?

At work, we’re asked to send a bit of a reflection on what;s gone well, and what we’re looking forward to the week after. And what appears to be yet another small chore on the daily to-do list on the surface, actually turns out to a powerful little tool to make you sit and think about what actually did happen that week. Here’s my Month in Review – let me know in the comments how yours went!

The positive thing about January was the amount of stuff I took control of. I booked a solo trip to Vietnam (eek), I saw my friends more, and I actually managed to hold it together pretty well after I split with my long-term boyfriend (if I do say so myself)…and also I FINALLY started this blog. After wanting to for SO SO LONG.

The not so positive was obviously the break – up, coupled with the amount of chocolate I felt like I needed to eat to feel okay…

In February I want to:

1. Sleep more: after averaging about 6 hours a night this week, I’m feeling it now. My skin is terrible, my motivation is lacking, and don’t even get me started on how little I’m actually doing in the gym…this month I absolutely want to prioritise some shut eye. I’ll be trying to stick to a better bedtime routine to help me wind down and shut off, so I have more energy for all the stuff I’m worrying/ thinking about.

2. Be more structured with the blog: the hardest part (starting it) is done, but now what? I’m lacking focus at the moment, so I intend to start honing the content a little, and planning towards some milestones. ALL suggestions welcome!

3. Read more books: I was quite bad in January at just defaulting to Netflix to wind down at the end of the day..when really those precious minutes (okay, hours) could have been spent with one of the multiple books that are sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to pick them up. AND it probably would have helped me sleep, too.

4. Be kinder: now I’m not an unkind person (hopefully), but one of the reasons I started this blog was to start hunting down the golden nuggets of goodness in the everyday. I think that starts with me. Wherever I can find an opportunity to just be that bit kinder, I intend to.

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I’ll be back here at the end of February to let you know how successful I was. I hope you’ll join me.

How was January for you? What are your hopes for the month ahead? I’d love to hear!

We need to talk about mental health.

Today is Time to Talk Day, a campaign run by Time to Change to get us all talking about mental health. I fully believe that as a society we’re getting better at being open about it, but there is still so much brushed under the carpet for fear of embarrassment, demotion, or being seen as weak.

I think I’m quite open about my experiences of mental health, and my family are also very honest. It’s never been far from my consciousness and I’ve seen it manifest itself in slightly different ways in each generation of my family. But there are points at which even I draw the line and keep stuff bottled up. I’m not sure if I will ever want to tell everyone, everything. And that is probably ok. But today, I want to tell you what it looks like for me.

My Mental Health portrait is..

  • Growing up accepting the phrase ‘today my nerves are bad’ as the norm..
  • Being woken up by my mum hoovering at the crack of dawn because she needed to have a clean house to deal with the day…
  • My Nanny telling me she’d hoover everyone before they went into her house if she could get away with it…(she couldn’t, FYI)
  • A photo of my Mum baking in the middle of the night with her mum, because she was having ‘one of those days with her bad nerves’…
  • My little sister hiding biscuits in the bedroom because her eating disorder was telling her she was too big to eat them…
  • Crying almost every day for a year at university, because I felt so desperately down for no reason…
  • Not being able to sit in the dark, or in my pyjamas, because it makes me feel stressed and down…
  • My manager telling me to leave the office to calm down, because my anxiety was so bad after a (relatively) minor thing didn’t go quite right at work…
  • A friend opening up about battling with extreme emotions and seeking support from a therapist…
  • Another friend talking about their struggle and some days not being able to face work…

I could go on. And on. But this is just a slice of what Mental Health means to me. For me, talking to my friends and family helps so much whenever I’m feeling low, or am struggling to make sense of things.

So, let’s talk. Ask someone you know how they really are.

What does Mental Health look like for you?

Six small things that made January just about bearable

January: hangover of the preceding year, bearer of bad weather, and just a generally rubbish month.

I have personally never had a massive problem with January , just a mild annoyance that I had to pretend to be a “new me” for around 18 days before everyone else forgot who they were supposed to be, too. But this year, it really rubbed me up the wrong way. I found myself facing life quite single, following a 7 year relationship with my best friend. This. was. not. the. plan.

Cue tears, confusion, eating, shopping, and a particularly resigned moment where I hastily stuffed my beautiful (oh, so beautiful) 2018 vision board out of sight.

This is not where anyone wants to be on the 2nd Jan, but such is life. A month later, I’m still not feeling it, but I have managed to find the strength to get out of bed every day and go and (sometimes) kick ass at life. Here are some of the small things that got me through..

1. Music

Whether I’m driving, running, gymming, working…listening to music gives me that fire back, and has helped me put into words what a lowly commoner like me can’t. I’ve noticed how much heartbreak is hanging around – misery certainly does love company.

Some of my faves:

  • IDGAF – Dua Lipa
  • Another Sad Love Song – Khalid
  • Strangers – Sigrid
  • Let you down – NF
  • Like Home – Eminem
  • Bad Mood – Miley Cyrus

2. Running

Possibly my greatest love. Running is my (budget) therapy. Getting my trainers on and going out in the fresh air gives me some time to unwind and let all the craziness in my head settle down. I’ve run on my best and worst days, and it always gives me clarity. Even 20 minutes makes me feel more like me. Going for a walk absolutely has the same effect, or just being in nature more generally. Some days I can’t face it, and that’s okay, but I try to keep it as regular as I can.

3. A Year of Yes

Reading is perhaps my greatest joy after running. It’s a form of escapism; the places you travel, the people you meet, the lessons you learn. There isn’t much a good book can’t remedy, but this month I read ‘A Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes’ and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Her kick ass attitude and positivity swept me up and by the end I felt, just, lighter. Give it a go, or go find your own version of Shonda.

4. Writing sh*t down

I very frequently find myself full of emotion and feeling, but absolutely no clue what it actually is I’ve got going on. So then I get more frustrated and usually just end up crying. When things are especially uncertain, I have found so much solace in just writing a few (or many) lines on paper. Just getting it out, knowing nobody cares if it’s gibberish – because only I can see it! One evening, I sat and wrote a letter to my ex..and I swear I stood taller as soon as I’d finished. If prose doesn’t work, a good friend of mine mentioned mind mapping. The point is, putting it on paper makes it easier to organise than when it’s floating around nameless in your head.

5. Saying sh*t out loud – to people who give a sh*t about you

Funnily enough, even though my love has just walked out of my life, I have never felt more surrounded by love in my life. So many people have my back, the biggest step to take for me was reaching out to them when I needed them (I suffer from chronic guilt for asking people for anything). Find your tribe – whether you need tough love, someone to cry on, someone to laugh with, shop with…ask and it is given. 

6. PB and Chocolate

This is perhaps the most important one. One day I was buzzing around like a bee and making plans for the year, the next I couldn’t bring myself to move from the sofa and spent a solid three hours watching How to get away with murder (thanks, Shonda) and periodically switching between stuffing chocolate buttons and Pip and Nut PB in my face.  This happened more than once (and more than twice..). You have to take the good with the bad, and feel it all. Giving myself a break and reminding myself I can’t feel amazing all the time is a form of self – care I didn’t really appreciate until this month.

What small things get you through?

Hello, World

This is my very first post. It has taken me a long while, and an abandoned wordpress site, to get here – despite reading and re-reading all the advice that told me to JUST DO IT. Done is better than perfect. SHIP.

So I’m shipping.

Why am I here? Lots of reasons, but mainly because I love to write. It’s my therapy. I also have this feeling that I’m meant to DO something. I’ve had the fear for too long. And so here begins my path to doing that something.

I’m not entirely sure how this blog will evolve, but I do know it’s going to be about all the good stuff in the world, and in the every day.

  1. For myself: right now I’ve found myself back at the starting line of something and so it’s going to be all about looking forwards and making time for myself.
  2. For the planet: there’s lots we need to do to look after Mother Earth and so I’ll be looking at what I can do (big and small) to help.
  3. For people: everyday acts of kindness, great people doing great things, and those who inspire me. The good often gets overshadowed, I want to search for it and show it to the light.

I’m so excited to start the journey – ‘its been a long time coming and it’s gonna be GOOD.