[GIFTED items featured] There's no denying 2018 was a rough year for my wellbeing and happiness. I threw myself in at the deep end and gave 150% for months on end, completely forgetting to look after myself. It's not surprising after such an emotional roller-coaster that I crawled into 2019 feeling more than a little burnt out. In a society that seems to pride itself on how busy, how dedicated and how motivated it is, it can be easy to feel like you're under-performing, or like you just need to try a bit harder. But honestly, I'm so over this idea that we need to be constantly doing and achieving in order to be our best selves.
We all want to be the best version of ourselves, but when we're always trying to be great at everything, we often feel like we're falling short at every hurdle. That's why I'm declaring 2019 as the year for focusing on wellness, self-care and happiness. It seems the team at Whittard agree and they've sent me this lovely [GIFTED] wellbeing hamper filled with all sorts of goodies to help me start looking after myself. From special teas to help you sleep and tasty snacks, to gorgeous peppermint soap and even a mindfulness colouring book to help de-clutter my mind. It's made me slow down and take a breath to think about what is really important to me – what will make me happy this year.
We've all got dreams, but sometimes life gets in the way and you're forced to push them aside. Well I think it's time we stop waiting for tomorrow and we get focused on those crazy goals! Always wanted to start a new career, learn a language, move abroad, write a book, travel, buy a new car, go self-employed? Who says 2019 can't be the year you make this come true? The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to make this become a reality.
I saw this great line the other day about how there are countless people out there who are less qualified than you to do what you want to do, and yet they've done it through positive thinking and confidence. There's a lot of power in having a great mindset and just trying. Taking that first step is the hardest part, and you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. If you don't you'll spend your life wondering what could have happened. Every goal is attainable if you make a plan, take one step at a time, and work hard.
This is such an important one and I know I'm not alone in needing to put certain friendships and relationships in the past. 2018 was a year when i was exposed to some toxic people. I'm glad to have said goodbye to a few friendships that were bringing nothing but negativity into my life, and I don't feel bad for cutting them out. After all, your vibe attracts your tribe. So if someone is bringing bad vibes into my life, it's only going to attract more negativity, and that's something I'm leaving in 2018.
Most importantly, we do not exist to fix other people's problems. We do not exist to heal others. we are all responsible for ourselves. If someone has their own issues that are impacting our happiness and wellbeing, then I'm afraid it's time to say goodbye to that person. If they're not making effort or pulling their weight as a friend, there's no shame in holding your hands up and saying that someone is simply not good for you anymore.
For those feeling a little run-down or overworked and exhaustion has become your middle name. What has really helped me is changing my priorities. For me, a big issue was my long commute and working hours which left me no time for anything else. I hated the wasted time traveling, so I filled it with books and podcasts to make the most of every second. It's so easy to learn with so much information at our fingertips, so why not use travel time or your evenings to boost your brain power?
It gives you such a confidence boost to know you're learning a new skill or language, or you're listening to podcasts on major issues. Since leaving Hamburg, I've rediscovered my love of books, art, music, podcasts, documentaries – I'm using every second to learn and grow. It's amazing the effect reading books and listening to podcasts has on your mental health compared to scrolling through social media. Use your "wasted time" wisely and you can make a huge difference to your well-being.
This one is so important. There's a whole world out there waiting to question and criticize you, so why do it to yourself? It's so easy to forget about that inner monologue you have with yourself, but it's one of the most powerful voices you'll ever hear. If all you do is judge yourself, of course you're going to feel crappy! I'm a strong believer that you need to be your own cheerleader.
I always say you should speak to yourself how your best friend does. Always be supportive, always been a cheerleader and celebrate even the smallest successes. Importantly, just like your true bestie would always do, don't be afraid to straight talk yourself, to put yourself back in your place when you need it. Just watch how your mindset changes when you start turning every negative into a positive.
For some people self-care is long hot baths, candles and a good book. It's taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to relax. For others, it's facing up to home truths, cutting toxic people out of your life and allowing yourself to feel pain so you can move on. Whether your self-care is face masks or starting a difficult healing process, find the one that works for your wellbeing. Find a new set of values and take control of your life.
My self-care process has been allowing myself to take a time out from writing and social media to heal. It has meant investing in myself and my true passions, working towards new goals and dreams. Most importantly, it has meant cutting out all negativity and toxicity. By taking these steps – not all of them easy ones – I'm setting myself up for a year of healing and getting back to happiness.
Staying fit and healthy is always a good goal to have, but so many people do it for aesthetic reasons. Instead of trying to lose weight, why not shift the focus to boosting your mental health and wellbeing? I love to workout but I do it mostly for my mind. I love the rush of endorphins, group classes put smile on my face and yoga is great for soothing my soul.
There are so many different ways to workout and stay fit – make 2019 the year you find the one that suits you. Don't just go to the gym if you're bored of it, why not sign up for classes for the social side, or head out on beach walks with the dog for some fresh air? Why not workout with your bestie and combine catch-ups with a session? There's so much more to fitness than fitting in those Lululemon leggings.
For the goodies from the lovely wellness hamper:
How are you improving your wellbeing this year? What are you doing to invest in yourself?
Last year was a busy one – a lot of travel, a lot of living and a lot of changes. It was an amazing year full of highs and lows, but in the midst of that it was hard to feel settled and to live my best life. I finished the year pretty exhausted from the constant movement, ill as all my adventures caught up with me, and eager to make some big changes for the year ahead. Now don't worry, it may be January but this isn't one of those "New Year, New Me" posts – instead of some health kick, I'm focusing on making some big lifestyle changes that will hopefully bring me happiness in 2018. I'm looking at the long-term rather than some quick fix. What's prompted all this? Well I've been travelling for over three years now and in that time I've done and seen a lot, but now I'm craving some stability and a different way of travelling, and of living my life. So what changes am I making this year?
Now I don't believe in diets, but I do believe in lifestyle changes and improving diet. I am focusing more on what I put in my body and some of the ways I can really feel my best. I remember when I felt healthiest and happiest during the year and it was when I was road tripping Western Australia and was eating purely vegan/vegetarian for months on end. I had endless energy and as soon as I stopped that diet I was exhausted all the time. I'm already eating vegetarian most of the time, but I've been incorporating more vegan food into my diet and it's making me feel great. I'm excited to move into my own place into a few months and then there will be nothing but vegetarian food in my cupboards. I don't do this because I don't like meat – my choice is based on the fact that I feel better when I don't eat meat, and the fact that I just don't think a meat-heavy diet is sustainable without damaging the environment. Likewise, I haven't forbidden myself from eating meat if I do want to, I don't think diet should be about restriction – more about introducing more things that are better for you like my mostly vegetarian diet.
I've already cut out as much dairy as possible from my diet – choosing soy, rice or coconut products instead which has helped my eczema-prone skin no end. I absolutely love the Alpro with Coconut instead of yoghurt, and always switch regular milk for Rice Milk as it's far more sustainable than Almond Milk. My favourite post-gym breakfast at the moment is Lizi's Granola mixed with Alpro and lots of fresh blueberries and raspberries, the granola is absolutely delicious and packed full of protein, fibre and all the goodness you need post-workout, plus its low sugar. Fancy a snack? I'm the worst for picking up the wrong things to snack on, so Soul Food Collective sent me some of what they think I should be filling up on and I'm more than impressed. This entirely fair trade, delicious, natural and organic range is just what you need to keep you going during the day, and oh my goodness they are the perfect snack. My favourites are the Amarena cherries and raspberries coated in dark chocolate and I always make sure I have a packet in my bag to stop me from snacking on the wrong foods. When it comes to dinners, I actually prefer using tofu and Quorn as meat replacements, the more I have eaten them the more my tastebuds have changed and I enjoy the texture of meat less.
I'm so happy to be back in a gym. I signed up as soon as I arrived back in the UK and I'm there most days now to attend classes or hit the gym. After travelling constantly for three months and indulging over Christmas, it feels really nice to be back in a routine and to challenge my body, to feel the aches that means you've pushed yourself further. I have always been a bit of a gym bunny when I get going but travelling makes it hard to keep up a routine when you're never in one place long enough. I love yoga, pilates and running, but I miss the weights, the machines and the challenges of classes when I'm on the road. I don't consider myself out of shape at the moment – my focus is more on getting stronger and building my energy levels. Also, adapting to British weather, I need all the help I can get in staying warm!
I'm focusing on trying to be active every day but in different ways. A couple of days a week I'm attending classes such as body combat (my fave!), yoga, or zumba depending on what my body is craving. On the other days, I'll either head to the gym and do my own HIIT workout or have a weights session. One thing I can tell from this is that I love variety and I get bored if I do the same thing every day, so on the days where I just don't fancy the gym, I like to get outside and either run or do huge walks on the beach or in the woods – perfect for when you need to blow away the cobwebs. Looking for new workout ideas? Why not try your hand at winter sports such as indoor skiing?
Encouraging yourself to get active in January is a lot of work, so it's important to invest in yourself and to get some nice workout clothes that you are excited to put on even when it's cold outside and you want to stay in bed. I have the comfiest workout leggings and sports bra from Australian brand Cotton On Body and they are genuinely the best workout clothes I have ever had plus very budget friendly. I'm lucky to have a sister who works as a personal trainer so I'm always getting her cast-offs when it comes to exercise gear and she recently sent me two (almost new) sets of trainers! It's definitely helped me to get in the right mindset for working out and working hard! This gorgeous sports bag from Hunkemoller Doutzen Sports range has helped the most, I was in need of a new gym bag and this one is fantastic – it's huge and has plenty of space to fit all my workout clothes, shoes and even swimming gear in. Plus the cute floral design helps make it feel really feminine and pretty, just what I need after a sweaty gym session. I'll also be using it as a weekend bag from time to time as it's the perfect size for taking away with me.
As someone who spent much of Christmas/New Year feeling very poorly with the flu, and who spent much of their month in Sri Lanka with food poisoning, it's been a rough time for my body. I've spent a lot of the year working too hard, working long hours, partying too much and not giving myself time to heal. I've been the sickest I've been in a long time and yet I haven't stopped or taken time out, it's a problem when you live a lifestyle like mine. I'm not very good at stepping back and looking after myself, but since being home I am focusing on my health so much more. I'm making sure I exercise daily, that I eat as healthy as possible, that I'm sleeping for long enough and deeply enough. And I feel so much better for it. When I had the flu recently, instead of pushing myself to get out of bed and make myself worse, I wallowed and I allowed myself time to get better. It was frustrating and went against all of my instincts but it worked and I feel so much better now. I'm also making decisions to adjust my diet and lifestyle based on information that has surfaced during a long course of treatment for an ongoing skin condition that is finally being taken seriously. After it being brushed aside all my life by doctors and myself, 2018 is the year of healing.
This can come in so many forms and all of the above can also be included. But in this case I want to focus on how I am putting less pressure on myself, how I am changing my habits and giving myself space to breathe. I'm taking more time for myself lately, more time to do the things that make me feel good like reading a good book, or spending a day in bed watching Disney movies when I'm having a rubbish time. I'm giving myself the time to pamper and treat my body well, to indulge and invest in myself by actually taking the time to appreciate myself. Lately I've really been trying to focus on appreciating the people around me, telling them what they mean to me and making the effort to get in contact with friends I haven't spoken to for a while. Caring for my support network is in turn caring for myself – you get out of it what you put in. Most importantly, I'm making plans for the future, that for the first time in a long time actually revolve around staying put and settling for a while. Last year was one for moving constantly and pushing myself, this year I want to focus on what makes me really happy and that is being closer to friends and family, having more of a base that can become my home, exploring different ways of fulfilling my travel needs and letting my relationship grow.
I'm a self-confessed workaholic. When I have a job, it tends to take over everything and even during the times when I don't and I'm travelling, I end up giving all my time to this blog like when I spent ages redesigning the whole thing from scratch while I was in Australia. For so long I've been taking jobs for convenience and money due to travelling, rather than focusing on my skills, interest and qualifications. Now my brain hurts from lack of use and I'm craving the chance of having job where I finally get to use all three – I'm in the process of applying for jobs and for the first time in a long time I'm focusing on quality. This year is the year where I develop my skills and really use my brain instead of running myself into the ground for a job I don't believe in.
What changes are you making this year? Are you focusing more on your health, your relationships or your career?