That's a really sad sentence isn't it? It's amazing how much our appearance really does affect the way we feel about ourselves, and how easily it can be damaged without us even realising. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about finding balance in your own life as you get older - read it here. And, well, I've got to tell you guys that I'm failing at the moment, big time. I've just finished working over 40 hours in just four days and I'm beyond exhausted, I haven't been eating enough and I've barely had time to sleep let alone relax. It would be okay if this was a one-off, but to be honest these last few weeks it has become more and more common. I'm working too much, I'm too desperate to save money and plan for the next exciting adventure to think about my health and it's not good for me.
My days are spent biking to work in 35 degree heat, rushing around for 10+ hour shifts until I'm almost dizzy for not eating enough or waiting eight hours for my next meal. Then I bike home to collapse into bed for a few hours, getting to spend a precious five minutes with my boyfriend, and then I get up and do it all again. I'm a sweaty mess most of the time, I pile on the make-up to cover the bags under my eyes and pull on the same manky uniform I've been wearing for days on end. Travelling isn't always as glamorous as you think, is it? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind this life - it takes it's toll and I'm terminally exhausted at the moment but I know it will be worth it when in three weeks I go travelling again and get to spend all my time relaxing, enjoying and appreciating my relationship.
But in the meantime, it really hit me lately that I barely remember the last time I made an effort, or when I honestly felt glowing and happy and healthy. It was weeks ago, when I was off exploring a national park and spent my days hiking, swimming and eating healthily. I wore no make-up and lived in my bikini, and I was confident and happy, really happy. Before that, I remember the West Coast road trip, when I was living off nuts and avocados, when my body was strong and fit from exercise and fresh air. I was always smiling and full of energy because I rose with the sun and went to sleep under the stars. I miss that life. Back then it took nothing to make me feel beautiful but now, living in the city and not getting the chance to make an effort, or dress up or feel pretty, it takes its toll.
It's interesting how physical health and mental health play such a big part in our understanding of beauty. At the moment I'm mentally and physically exhausted, I'm run down and don't have time to look after myself, and I'm finding it hard to feel positive about my own body image. It's silly, because my body is the healthiest and strongest it has been in a long time from being outside and working out at the gym. I know deep down I'm happy with the way I look, but exhaustion can have a big effect on the mind and when you don't appreciate yourself, you often end up making it impossible for others to appreciate you. You don't realise until you've been sucked into that pattern of behaviour of not taking the time to look after yourself and then feeling down because you look and feel rubbish. It's so easily avoided, if only you can notice the signs before it is too late to prevent it - and sadly, that's what I'm always rubbish at.
We may be on different sides of the world, but I'm sure you can all relate to feeling like all you do is work. Feeling like life is getting on top of you and it's just not fun any more. You don't get time to look after yourself, then before you know it you're exhausted and run down, your attitude towards yourself is less than forgiving and you don't know how to get out of the hole that you've dug for yourself. It's a slippery slope - but I don't want this to be a post about feeling down and not loving yourself enough. I want to talk about how to fix things and how to change your attitude towards yourself.
It's not easy, but you start with the basics. Are you eating and drinking enough? When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? Are you getting sick, or have you lost/gained too much weight? Are you stressed out from work or life? Ask yourself all these questions and figure out what your pattern is so you can identify it earlier next time. I know that every time I end up overworked, I find I'm not eating enough which affects my weight, my sleeping patterns and stress levels - more often than not I get sick as a result. Other people overeat to deal with stress, or indulge too much in coffee to keep them going which messes up their sleep pattern even more. It's important to identify your own individual pattern of behaviour so you can break it and notice it earlier next time you do this.
Why are you letting yourself get in this state? Do you have an unachievable goal looming in front of you? Or are you unhappy with something else in your life so you're throwing yourself into work to escape? Whatever the answer, you need to tackle the problem - remove the obstacles from your life and everything will slot happily back into place.
You might not be able to escape the workload or the job, you might not be able to get out of the stressful situation, but you can change how you react to it and how much you let it affect you. Take charge and focus on boosting your body image and positivity, give yourself time to appreciate what you have. Pamper yourself - paint your nails or dye your hair, have a long bath and do your make-up how you like it, then pop on an outfit that makes you feel fabulous and go out. You could try one of these gorgeous party outfits from SimplyBe for the festive season. Whether it's out for cocktails or just to the supermarket, just know that you look and feel amazing, then hold on to that feeling and remember it when you're next working and feeling run down.
After three much-needed days off spent relaxing at the beach, sleeping in and eating properly, I'm feeling so much better. Still not 100%, I don't think I'll feel that until I quit this job and start travelling again, but I'm definitely on my way. Sometimes all we need is to look after ourselves a bit.
What makes you feel body positive? Have you got any tips for dealing with body issues and exhaustion?
When you first pack your bags and head off into the big wide world on your travels, it's a pretty exciting time. It's been a long time coming and you've lost count of how many times you fantasised about being on that beach thousands of miles away from the stresses of home. It's easy to get swept away in the excitement and say yes to everything, to everyone who invites you for dinner, sightseeing, or just to hang out. And why shouldn't you? Hell you should grab every opportunity with both hands, make new friends at every turn and have an amazing time because you're no longer holding yourself back. I certainly did - I've now been travelling for about four months by myself and it has been a truly amazing four months spent exploring Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and now Cambodia - it's been more than I ever dreamed it would be.
Travelling by yourself means you have to give 100% every single day, you never have anyone else to pick up the slack if you're hungover or tired, so it's that much more exhausting than travelling with someone else. I know, how can laying on beaches be tiring - well consider the time that goes into travelling between places, the organising of transport, accommodation, the arguing with tuk tuk drivers, having to find new friends at every destination... The list goes on. There's a lot more to travelling than just laying on beaches - I write this after travelling through the length of Laos and Vietnam in one month - that's really not long and trust me I've barely slept for the whole time. Between late nights hanging out with friends in Laos and sleeper buses/trains throughout Vietnam, plus the constant movement, sightseeing, exploring, and all the physical activities like mountain biking and canyoning - it's bloody knackering! I've actually had to take a little holiday from travelling and am spending a few days catching up on sleep on a beach in Cambodia.
What's my point in all this? Well, it's suddenly struck me that if you are travelling for any length of time last a few months, you really need to take this into account when you plan. You need to realise that at one point or another you will hit a wall if you go full pelt every single day, you need to allow your body time to recover and to relax as well as trying to fit everything in. This is something I'm learning as I go, and to be honest I'm not great at - I just get so excited about everything that I want to do everything at once and don't want to miss any opportunity! I'm the sort of girl who does three festivals in a row and works two jobs in-between instead of allowing time to recover - and I need to learn to change my ways. I've noticed lately that I'm getting tired so much earlier in the day and it is my body telling me to rest instead of organising the next stage of my journey - so as I'm coming to the end of my time in Asia I have plenty of R&R time booked in. I've made the decision to stay on this beach for a few days before heading to a yoga and meditation retreat for a week, followed by a few days of shopping, being pampered, going to the gym and relaxing by a pool in Bangkok before heading to Australia. Then I can arrived refreshed and ready to take on a new world of travelling.
Have you got traveller burn out? My top tips for how you can beat it:
Don't be afraid to say no. Travelling solo means often you feel obliged to take up every invite extended to you but that's not always the wisest move - this can mean you're too busy to really appreciate any of what you are doing. Sometimes it's best to pick out what you really want to do instead of following the crowd on everything - after all, that's why you came away by yourself.
Spot the signs. Feeling achy or getting ill? Tired for no reason, not sleeping well, can't be bothered to socialise? All signs you're getting burnt out and need a break - listen to your body, it knows what it's talking about! Give yourself time to relax and unwind, eat properly, drink lots of water and don't feel guilty!
Know that time spent alone is time well spent. I find it hilarious that actually in the time I've been travelling I have usually had to fight to get time alone rather than being surrounded by a gang of people - Cambodia is actually the first country I have predominantly been alone! But that does mean that often you lose the fight and end up spending all your time with other people, getting locked into a pattern where you feel like time by yourself is wasted. It's not, it's very important. If you can't be happy in your own company, you never will be with others, so take time to get to know yourself and your own thoughts.
Get your priorities in order. Sightseeing is not the most important thing and if you don't end up seeing some temple because you needed a lay in, fancied a leisurely breakfast or just wanted to lay by the pool - that's okay! You don't have to see every historical landmark, every temple, every bridge and every pretty viewpoint. Pick wisely and see just what you want to see, that will give you time in-between to chill as well - often if you try to see everything you end up not enjoying anything and that is why you are there! To enjoy yourself!
Remember what you did to get there. Think back to the time you were working five jobs to find this trip, to when you cried in the toilets at work because you were so stressed out over something that just didn't matter, or to when you had spent 20 out of the past 24 hours working and we're seeing double you were so tired. Now ask yourself why you're pushing yourself so hard and demanding so much - you came here to relax and be happy. So do it and don't feel like you have to achieve all the time. You're free of that damned rat race and you need to enjoy it before you get sucked back in.
Have you had traveller burn out? How did you beat it? Any other tips for getting back on track?