Free from rules, shoulds, judgement (including self imposed), standards and expectations in my day to day life, my online life and in my spiritual practice.
To be fair, I have cast off many of the shackles holding me down and back, but I still feel stifled, suffocated, stressed and overwhelmed.
I have written before about the need to simplify and slow down. In my efforts to do so I seem to have picked up other rules and must dos to replace what I let go!
Having moved house in the summer I wondered if the feels and energy lack were to do with that. However, I have come to realise that it’s much more; runs much deeper. My brain and being are saturated with images (including my own) , books, recommendations, advice and how-tos on EVERYTHING. So instead of waiting for my digital detox and life assessment in January, I’m spending the remainder of the year unpacking what serves and what doesn’t. I’m checking in with all that sees its way into my life; how I am spending each of the 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, even 365 days a year. In no particular order, under the microscope so far are:
Morning Routine – why do I do what I do, when I do. How does it make me feel? Could I change it, would it make a difference, does it need to?
Home/ Family – our settling in period has passed, what’s working, what isn’t and why? Balancing family needs and my own (not currently in balance, but is that elusive balance the new Holy Grail?)
Fulfillment – what makes me feel fulfilled? What do I need inorder to feel fulfilled? Where is the lack? How do I address this?
Values – what are my true values? How am I recognising and therefore honouring them, or not as the case may be?
Priorities – I have so many plates spinning – what are my priorities and why? Where are my top priorities sitting in my to-do lists currently?
Spiritual practice/path – why do I look outside of myself for the answers rather than seeking from within? What am I seeking? Why do I deem external knowledge, particularly printed or internet wisdom as more important than my own – espcially when in conflict with my own experience or opinion?
Time / Calendar – how do I use and measure time?What system(s) work best for me? Are arbitrary dates causing more unrest? Is it possible to rise with the sun and sleep with the moon in this day and age?
This list is not finite and I may add more as I see fit. For instance, the coming full moon I will be holding a private ritual, but I don’t know yet what that will look like – will feel into it at the time and see what comes up; without the use of astrology or new age/spiritual prescription.
I know what I want, what I crave.
Simplify my practice, just going with my internal calling and needs. Heeding our intuition is a super power! I love learning and seeking out new information to enhance and grow my own knowledge, but I don’t like being told or preached to, preferring to feel into what I trust and what I accept. But more and more I feel so much of the knowledge and purported wisdom is heavy and laden with the ‘right way’ or cultural appropriation, which goes against my personal ethos.
I want to break free, let go of it all and start a-new, with clarity, purpose and a healthy dose of realism inorder to be the best version of myself for me and my family (because currently I know I am not!) rather than constantly trying to silencing my inner voice which is screaming to be heard and released!
I know I need rewilding and freedom to just be, whatever the fuck that means!
Earlier today a friend sent me the quote below which summed up exactly how she was feeling. Talk about synchronicity!
From where? The internet, or rather specifically, Social Media ~ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (yes I know Pinterest is technically a search engine rather than a social media platform, but shhh).
Why? I needed a break.
We all know that taking a Social Media holiday is good for us, especially if we use numerous platforms on a regular basis. But do we need to take a break from the screens or the content of our screens? Are we addicted to Facebook or just our phones?
I pondered this question as I was feeling frustrated and anxious and numb and bored and happy and joyful and tired all at the same time, every time I picked up my phone and began the habitual scrolling. My notifications have all been turned off since January, my phone is always on silent, it doesn’t even vibrate, yet still I had the compulsion to “check” it. I didn’t even have the apps installed, instead had to go through my browser to partake in the aforementioned “checking”. It had become mentally exhausting and somewhat toxic when dealing with some people and their rudeness. The time lost to that scrolling is just that; lost. For ever! What a complete waste of time and energy. And for what, really, at the end of the day?
It was time for an intervention. I would have said experiment, but in lieu of a hypothesis I’m going with intervention, a self imposed one. One month, no Social Media. Could I resist the temptation of a sneak peak? Would I last a whole month? What benefits were there to this? Was I completely shooting myself in the foot and be about to lose all my followers and customers? Would I feel completely out of the loop with friends and was I about to miss out on important stuff? What was I trying to prove and to whom? (nothing to no-one) How much time was I actually wasting and what could I do with it instead? What would I do at the end of the month? ( spoiler : no idea, hadn’t really thought that far ).
Starting at the New Moon in March, I went cold turkey. One full lunar cycle was my time frame, returning yesterday, at the following New Moon.
I did it! So, what did I learn? How do I feel? Was it worth it??? So many questions competing for answers inside my head.
I knew from having Social Media breaks in the past that I would be more productive in the use of my time, but what else would it teach me?
The 9 things I learned during my Social Media fast.
1. I have to say I did not miss Facebook. I would go as far as to say that I could quite easily lose it and never log back in again, and this is without taking the Cambridge Analytica horror into account. However, much of the organising and arranging of my 8 yo’s home ed meets, support and community takes place on Facebook, so coming away altogether is not practical. I certainly did not miss the “debates” and generally arsery of some of the people I am “friends” with. On the flip side, I missed a couple of pregnancy announcements were lovely to read (once I saw them after scrolling through a whole lot of tosh that littered my feed) and a few updates that I definitely want to know about. So, decision made. I have now unliked the vast majority of the pages I follow and left numerous groups that I constantly ignore in my scroll and never interact with and have unfollowed most of the people I am friends with (no offence). The latter one may seem a little harsh but I am making a conscious effort to use time better and not get lost in the virtual vortex that doesn’t really serve any purpose. Which then leads to me tho think, as I am typing this, why unfollow and not unfriend? Because I don’t want to be mean. There you go!
I have a Facebook page for Wild Sister Rising as well as 2 groups (one private circle group and one public shop group) which took up a lot of my time. Moving back into these spaces I have decided that I will use the page to post only my own stuff and for the groups, I am as yet uncertain.
2. Nor Twitter, I had 2 accounts. One that I had since 2012 and one I started when I started this blog. I deleted the old account and kept the WSR account. Having read through my feed and clicked into specific accounts of some people I follow, I found out a cyber friend had had a bereavement and I felt awful, but the rest of Twitter was still the ranty, anxiety inducing echo chamber it always was. I’ll keep it until after the Eurovision Song Contest and then reassess its need to me (and probably delete). I have to stay until 12th May as 4 of us watch Eurovison in our respective homes across the country, and discuss it on twitter over drinks, cheesecake and other various nibbles – it’s hilarious and in the the style of the late Terry Wogan, our commentary usually gets more caustic and witty as the booze cabinet is worked through.
3. I did initially miss instagram as I enjoy the app. But, since I stopped using it, I haven’t taken a single insta-worthy photo. In fact I don’t think I have taken any photos other than one of (A) on his birthday! Everywhere we have been, everything we have done has been completely enjoyed and experienced as it was, in the moment and was fully present rather than thinking about taking a picture to share. And I am totally ok with that. I clicked into a couple of friends’ accounts and went through their pictures, to get back up to date (Hi Eilidh! She has the best hashtags in the instaverse) but have yet to post anything myself yet as have not had any inclination to take a picture or video. I think there will be a distinct reduction in the number of posts I share here from now on.
4. Pinterest failed me – or rather I failed in staying away… I nipped back on to send my tattoo board to the artist who is preparing/drawing up my new tattoo (a wee birthday present to myself). I only went on to send her my board, but then started looking for more ideas and inspiration and fell down the rabbit hole. It was a productive use of my time, even if I did stray off course and start searching for other things too… To be honest Pinterest is my favourite of the 4 so I don’t feel in the least bit bad about falling off the wagon.
5. I was free to use my time for things that actually served me and made my life richer. A couple of the activities that replaced my phone addiction were reading and yoga. I finished several books, including one which I heartily recommend, Burning Woman by Lucy H Pearce. In the absence of a kundalini yoga class in my area, found a great teacher on YouTube and have begun a daily practice. I’m now working through a 40 day Sadhana and loving it, even though I am ridiculously stecky!
6. The source of my headaches has been found! I have been suffering awful and regular headaches. My shoulders were stiff, my neck was stiff and my jaw was becoming increasingly tight. I knew myself when I was mindlessly scrolling through my phone and read something that angered me or pissed me off, or low and behold, if someone should interrupt me during this very important task, I could feel the instant tension and the audible inhale alerted me that I was in pretty bad shape. Off to get it sorted. I didn’t need a relaxing aromatherapy back massage I need deep tissue manipulation and so made an appointment with a sports therapy centre. After 2 sessions, a lot of discomfort, and a thorough workout on my poor muscles (including having my jaw muscles worked on from inside my mouth – unusual but with phenomenal results) my headaches are gone and I have movement in my neck and shoulders where the tension previously held them captive. The woman who worked on me was shocked at how “solid” my back muscles were – oops! A month of not having my head tilted at a downward angle and not filling my head with the angst and rants of the interwebs has helped enormously. Plus I am not as easy to piss off or annoy, there is a notable reduction in my anxiety and irritability.
7. Proper conversations. Having not being involved in or aware of news and conversations happening online, when I met with friends I was finding out information for the first time and face to face. I was back to having conversations. And not ones that start with “Did you see … on Facebook?” This pleases me immensely.
8. Opportunity to review Values, Desires and Needs. I crave simplicity, connection and solitude/space. Writing is important to me as is continually learning about and exploring my passions, deep connections with friends – in person, trying new things, such as ecstatic dance and kundalini yoga, spending time alone to recharge and get clarity has been vital.
9. FOMO isn’t real. The world still spins, politics continue, events happen, we show up or we don’t. If I want to know something I can deliberately go and find out about it, ask someone about it. If I see a headline on the front page of the newspaper I am perfectly able to go and research the truth of it myself rather than take the paper at face value – I don’t need to know everything that is happening at every second of the day.
If you are someone who can take or leave your phone or Social Media, then this post probably doesn’t resonate, but I am not one of those people. I am now making deliberate choices, becoming far more discerning about how, when and why I am opening one of these apps to engage in whatever is presented from the blue glare. Social Media is not going anywhere and we live in a digital world where technology is king, but that doesn’t mean that it has to take over our lives, or dictate what we see, read, are exposed to, based on algorythms.
In answer to my question “Was it worth it?”, I have to conclude that YES, my month long abstention was absolutely worth it.
I’d love to know how other people live with and manage their phone addictions and constant Social Media bombardment – do you ever feel the need to take a break but scared to? Or are you one of those folk who doesn’t have any issues and can pop onto facebook purely in the interest of friendship? Please feel free to leave a comment to share your experience.
I have for years, since I was about 12 and received my first leather 5 year diary with a little clasp at the front. Some years I have been very detailed in my entries and others, well, to describe my written entries as “sparse” would be generous.
Journalling is a very therapeutic exercise for me personally, where I find it easier to offload onto paper than out loud to another person. Once my thoughts are out, I can let them go. Once they are on the page I can begin to work through them like a puzzle to solve or an idea to develop and grow. It is an incredibly freeing and private way to collect myself.
But sometimes a block can come up and the ideas dry up or something happens that causes a phase of second guessing myself or challenges a previous view. In these times I have found journal prompts (of which Pinterest, of course, has a gazillion of) to be helpful for jump starting my thoughts and getting me thinking and creating again.
I figure I cant be the only one (certainly judging by the volume of journal prompts available on line, to which I am now adding) that finds these prompts helpful. For the past moon cycle, I have posted a Daily Journal Prompt in my Facebook Group, Circle Of The Wild Sister Rising, where the women in the group have responded with their thoughts and have challenged themselves with the questions.
So her are those daily prompts that we have worked with last moon. If you would like to try journalling or are in need of a wee push to get going again, maybe you will find something below that sparks that notion to pick up a pen and a notebook and reconnect with who you are, or maybe you would like to challenge yourself to take each prompt in turn for this full cycle (or start of the month – when ever feels right).
**This post has affiliated and advertising links**
When it comes to self-care, the number 1 priority is learning how to making sure we sufficiently rest and recharge.
Restore. Revitalise. Relax. Recover. Replenish. Renew. Revive. Refresh. It doesn’t matter what you call it, just make sure you refilleth thy cup!
In my last Self Care blog post I listed the barriers to self care and why it is essential that we make time for it. Today I want to look at the different ways we can ensure we make the effort, and if need be, create the time and space for that all important self care, starting with getting enough rest inorder to recharge our batteries, thus being able to live our desired life.
Do you ever have that gnawing feeling eating away at you with a never ending list of “shoulds” that need tending to before you are allowed to do something for yourself? You are hastily added to the bottom of said list, as an after thought, as another should, but the one that is perpetually just out of reach. If by some miracle you achieve the holy grail of “me time”, you are greeted by good ole’ guilt. How dare you be so lazy or self indulgent. Surely I can’t be only one to experience this?
But. I am getting better, much better, at saying Fuck It! I can’t be my best me if I am tired and running on empty. Trust me on that one…
Making the shift to incorporating even the tiniest of changes to prioritising self care is vital. Baby steps are good, they are a start and moving in the right direction.
So , back to actively achieving the goal of getting our required rest : here are my top tips for shooshing those “shoulds” that plague our thoughts and giving guilt the old heave ho.
1. No shit Sherlock! But seriously – how many of us get the recommended 8 hours per night? Nope, I thought not. Squeezing some “me time” in after the kids go to bed, and/or getting up super early before the rest of the household to grab an hour before the to-do list kicks in. Sound familiar? When I read Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life by Arianna Huffington earlier this year, she recommended scheduling bed time. Actually putting bedtime in your planner or on your calendar alongside dental appointments, work commitments, kids sports activities etc. It makes perfect sense. We wouldn’t be late for any of our other appointments, and our sleep is definitely one which we don’t want to miss. As practical an idea as it is, it is still a work of discipline to ensure the time is met.
2. Take a nap. Toddlers are proof that a nap is necessary to refresh and revive oneself. While we are obviously not toddlers, a quick 10-20 minute power nap has been proven, by science, to be incredibly beneficial to our well being, creativity and productivity.
3. Ditch the alarm clock, even just once a week (if you have kids and a partner, let your significant other get on with the breakfast routine and morning shenanigans) and rise with the sun. This sounds more appealing in the darker winter months, but what I am driving at, is to say, let your body wake naturally when it is ready, and therefore had enough rest.
4. If using your alarm, don’t snooze it. This may seem counter intuitive, as the more snoozes means the more rest, right? Nope, it’s a fallacy. The more you snooze, the more unrested you become, cue that groggy discombobulated feeling we get. The constant re-waking of the brain confuses it and makes us feel worse. *confession – I am a serial snoozer, sometimes every 5 minutes for up to an hour at a time!!!!!*
Oh yes, I love rituals. Some are sacred and others are probably more “routine” but ritual is far more pleasing a word.
1. First things first; making that first cuppa of the day. Morning routine – light a candle and make the act of preparing your cuppa, or preferred beverage, a daily ritual. Deliberate and conscious rather than just going through the motions – the candle helps here rather than the big light, especially in the dark mornings. Take time to enjoy the hot drink, savour the flavour (and the aroma if its coffee). Some folk may think this sounds a bit pretentious, but try it, it’s not and creates a really gentle start to your day.
3. Not all self care practices are solo efforts. One of the most powerful forms of replenishing my cup with restorative energy I have experienced was in circle. A women’s gathering/circle where the purpose it to bring us together, to support and encourage and share. Incredibly uplifting.
4. Personal rituals spread throughout the year and during each of the months in turn can make this element of self care so much easier. Living in sync with your own personal rhythm of your menstrual cycle. Charting it to learn and become familiar with where you are on your cycle and how you are likely to feel on certain days etc. My post here explains this process more fully.
Rituals for the New and Full Moon each month and/or the changing seasons help us to align with what is happening in nature and within ourselves.
5. Journalling – who didn’t keep a diary as a teenager? As an adult, journalling is a prominent feature in my life. I keep all sorts of journals : morning pages, daily planner, tarot card readings, dream journal, one specifically for when I am on my period, blog ideas and one even for notes on every life occurences as I observe them, to name a few. Having dedicated journal time allows me to plan and review, to brain dump everything, get thoughts paper before I forget or to track certain things at certain times. Journalling is a process which allows for calm and rest, it’s thoughtful and allows for reflection.
6. Affirmations. A great many people love affirmations and find them useful and inspired. Often affirmations are used each morning, looking in the mirror and reciting your affirmation to your self, selecting new affirmations at the New or Full moon, or on a particular day or at a particular time. Personally, I have not found them to work for me, I don’t feel comfortable or authentic reciting them, but that is purely my own take on them. The late Louise Hay has a phenomenal collection of affirmations, and in her book You Can Heal Your Life she shares many more within each of the chapters.
1. This may be a step too far for some people, but the thought of a pyjama day certainly has its appeal. One of the benefits of being a home educating parent, is the joy of a day of having nothing planned apart from a pj day. Total bliss. When I was working though, I threw the odd sickie for this very purpose. In hindsight I was really just looking after myself to recharge before going back to work the very next day. Not convinced my employers would have agreed though.
2. My preferred timeout has to be a long soak in the bath with a good book, wine and candles (lots of candles required if reading). Depending on my mood or when in the day I’m bathing, will determine if I am having a luxurious bath with gorgeously scented oil, such as my favourite NYR Organic Rose & Pomegranate Bath Oil or a fun bath bomb in a sweet nostalgic fragrance. The time in the tub can range from 15 mins to over an hour; that time is sacred and uninterrupted.
3. In my opinion, time out to escape can rarely be found anywhere else other than between the pages of a good book, but then I am a book worm. Magazines, brochures, comics, graphic novels, newspapers and blog posts, are perfect to pick up and dive into to have a little time out – be it on the commute to work if using public transport, in bed before going to sleep instead of reading scrolling Facebook or Instagram, with a cuppa on the couch or in the park while your children play – this is one of my favourite place to read. My son is now at an age where I don’t have to be watching him every second, so can actually sit and enjoy my book while he burns off all that energy.
4. Music is another time out beauty that ticks all the boxes, whether you are listening to or playing an instrument. Getting lost in the music as it surrounds you. Music, is extremely evocative. Let go and dance or sing and join in in which ever way the music calls to you.
5. If TV is your jam, or you decide on having a pyjama day, if there are no distractions (such as kids requiring your attention) settle in for a binge fest of your favourite Netflix series. No guilt. It has something of a splendid indulgence to it. Some will tell you it’s a waste of a day off, but if you feel rested and have enjoyed the day watching Gilmore Girls, the naysayers can bugger off. This is your time out to do as you please.
6. Pamper yourself. Go on, you deserve it. It needn’t cost a fortune, you can do it yourself at home with ingredients from the fridge or with your best smellies. Give yourself a facial and a cleansing mask, a deep condition treatment for your hair, paint your nails, what ever you fancy **Note to self: remembering to take make up off at the end of the day and apply moisturiser is also considered self care!!** or treat your self at a salon for a professional massage or any other treatment that sounds like an hour of delicious down time. Get those essential oils burning and create a relaxing haven.
7. Hygge. Need I say more? Is there anything else quite complete for ensuring rest and relaxation than Hygge? If you are new to Hygge – check out my post from last year, I suggest you grab a cuppa before you start.
8. A time out can often mean saying NO and meaning it. When you say yes to all the stuff you are surrounded with day in day out and people are depending on you, it can be tough to say no. But saying NO, you must. The world will not collapse because you are finishing the chapter of your book or sitting in meditation
9. Edited to add : Remember when you were a kid and the simple joy that colouring in brought? Or the satisfaction from crafting “something”? I love just zoning out and creating something colourful for no other reason than “I like it”. If crafting is more your bag, I am going to suggest you take a look at Molly and Mouse for your crafting needs.
1. Quite literally, switch off and disconnect from all electronic media devices. Even if it is only for an hour or 2. This includes mobile phones, TV , laptop/tablet, especially switch off from social media and (work) email. I like to do a social media detox from time to time with a week long break. I once tried 30 days cold turkey, it did not end well – I ended up lurking without commenting, so it looked like I was on a break but I was only fooling myself. A day or 2 is much more manageable and beneficial. I don’t feel as though the world has ended or that I am too out the loop, particularly because I use FB daily for Home Education meets and discussions. A full week is truly refreshing but sadly no longer really practical for me. (Hmm, I must find a way round this).
2. Ditch the drama – real life or TV. We don’t need the stress of other folk’s dramas or being brought into arguments or getting all fired up about what happened on Celebrity Big Brother. Switch it off. Trashy TV does have its place if this is something you enjoy inorder to zone out and chill for a bit. Choose your drama wisely…its not restorative if you end up agitated or wired following an episode.
3. When we switch off the white noise and bustle to slow down, we reconnect with out senses. We notice more, feel more and appreciate more – put it to good use and go for a walk in nature, dance in the rain (preferably barefoot), tend to your garden or house plants, buy or pick flowers for your home or try some wild foraging and bake or cook with your bounty when you get home.
If looking at the list and thinking ” ahh, that would be nice / chance would be a fine thing”, I’m here to tell you that it is not only nice and it is indeed a fine thing, when the opportunity to do so is created or diarised. I’m also here to tell you that if you don’t make your own rest important, no-one else will. You don’t need anyone’s permission to stop, sit down and do something, anything, for yourself. If you still feel like you need permission to SLOW DOWN and chill without the guilts or nagging reminders that this, this and this has still to be done, I am giving you that permission. There, done!
Please remember that as women, we are cyclic creatures, just like nature itself. We are not built to keep going like a Duracell Bunny, in a constant linear fashion, or just like the bunny, we will eventually run out of juice. Burnout is not something to aspire to. Having been there and done that, I can attest that it’s not a badge of honour. Neither too is the stress, frustration and resulting resentment riding shotgun on the journey. Instead, we respect the ebbs and flows of our cycle through the month, and we rest, recharge and replenish as we need, be it daily weekly or monthly, or when YOU decided.
Now, please excuse me whilst I take myself off for a bubble bath and an early night (with no phone…who am I kidding? But I will endeavour NOT to check Facebook just before I go to sleep. I promise.)
I got up this morning on a mission. I had planned it out – a baking day! With some bits and pieces inbetween baking and washing up. And I have to say, I got shit done! Mission complete!
Budge up Nigella, I got this! By 10am I was showered, beds were stripped, a loaf was already baked and cooling on a wire rack whilst the 2nd tray was in the oven. Dishes were washed and re-used, repeatedly. Over the course of the next few hours floors were swept and rugs hoovered. 5 different baked goods were lovingly created and sampled (for the purposes of quality control of course). I finished reading my library book, I’m actually sitting writing an inpromptu blog post! I am a one woman wonder today. Not in a smug, “get me” kinda way you understand, as I have actually astonished myself. Like proper gobsmacked! I am also, however, bloody knackered and can see a bubble bath in my very near future.
This baking bonanza was due to a combination of needing to use up different ingredients in the cupboard and an effort to try and save some pennies. I have been tracking our expenditure and the almost daily “what do we have for a cup of tea?” which results in, more often than not, nipping to Tesco to get “bad stuff” ie cookies or muffins or other such delights that never see the dawn of a new day, has created quite the dent in the old cash flow. I am convinced if Hubby or I were cut open, we would bleed pure Scottish Blend with a dash of milk, such is our tea habit.
However, these daily jaunts to acquire the necessary tea companions are now consigned to history. I have made enough today to last until next weeks Baking Day (am totally going to make this a thing coz its fun AND I got my house clean to boot!)
On the menu today was an Oat & Linseed Loaf (out a packet coz bread and me don’t often fair very well, unless its a banana loaf), Fearne Cotton’s Carrot Cake Tray Bake from her new book, Cook. Eat. Love. (it is so moist and delicious. I can assure you that it will NEVER last the 5 days she says it will keep for), Chocolate Chip cookies, which, well, sort of spreeeeaaaad out….they still tasted good, Oat & Raisin muffins and then made pizza dough for our tea tonight.
And with that, Baking Day comes to a close. All thats left to do is put the clean sheets on the beds and turn in for an early night, after aforementioned bubble bath of course. And a cuppa.
Self-care. There’s that word that keeps popping up everywhere, like 2017’s “hygge“. But like hygge, it’s more than just a buzz word. Self-care is not self-ish or self-indulgent, it is self respect, self preservation and a huge part of self love.
This particular post has been in progress for a wee while now in various guises and themes, but each version consistently pointed to the same key message :
It is vital for our own health & well-being as well as for that of those who depend upon us too. Remember the inflight instructions to ensure you put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else? This nugget of advice applies to many areas of our lives, not just when we are heading off on holiday.
While I am perfectly sure that we are all aware of how important it is to look after ourselves, I wonder how many of us actually take heed. There are numerous obstacles to taking the necessary care of ourselves other than the basics. Obstacles such as
guilt – I suffer from this – and it’s guilt placed on our shoulder from ourselves not from our children/partners/ careers (well, maybe your career, depending upon your boss…),
other people’s opinions, our own opinions and inner critics,
lack of time,
lack of finances,
prioritising other “things” over self-care in deliberate self sabotage for any of the aforementioned obstacles,
prioritising the care of others over ourselves, particularly children/partners/ other dependents/ employers,
the feeling of “I can do it all”/”I’m managing fine” as proof of no need to pander to indulgences,
not believing we are worthy of what we perceive self-care to be,
the social media vortex
We need to address these barriers and obstacles, because if we don’t how can we properly look after ourselves and meet all of our needs?. If we are meeting everyone else’s needs while sacrificing our own, what good is that to anyone? None, that’s what!
Over the past few months that I have been concentrating on and researching self-care for me, I noticed reoccurring patterns and themes, which I have categorised into 4 areas, which are separate yet all overlap with one another :
and will blog on each on individually (or else you will be here all day reading!) looking at what they mean and how we can incorporate them into our everyday lives and over come those pesky barriers that stop us from living our best life in optimum condition.
In the mean time, while we are all peace and love and (((hugs))) for our friends and family, how about we extend those feelings and words of wisdom to ourselves. We’re worth it.
Meditation. Chanting “Ommm” whilst sitting legs crossed in lotus pose, thumbs and middle fingers touching, eyes closed. That’s meditation, right? Remaining in that position for half an hour or multiple hours, with an empty mind seeking inner peace.
Well, no, that’s not how my practice goes. Not at all infact. I use several different methods when meditating, depending upon the circumstances and where I am. For instance, if I need to calm down, take a time out or collect myself in a stressful situation, I focus on my breathing. This can be done anywhere at any time! No need for candles or incense to do this, the car or a public loo if needed are perfectly suitable. All I do is take a deep breath in through my nose, counting slowly as I do so. Hold the breath for the same amount of time plus 1 second, then slowly exhale the breath for the same length of time as inhale plus 2 seconds. It doesn’t matter (to me) if I exhale through my nose or my mouth. This slows my heart rate and allows for clearer, calmer thinking and a better mood for continuing with my day or situation. This always works when I practice it, I just need to remember to practice it more…
Another method I use, if I need a more specific focus or advice, is a much more recognisable as a form of “meditation” as it does involve sitting down in a comfortable position (I have yet to try the lotus pose, I prefer a comfy chair if I am honest) and sometime I do burn candles or incense, but I absolutely need time and peace and quiet on my own, which is rare giving that I am a home-educating Mama. In this practice I have a place, a home, I go to in my mind and can seek assistance or guidance from my circle of inspirational advisors, which is essentially a group of women (real and fictitious) who chip in with their tuppence worth during these sessions. Over the years my circle has changed with various members of my imaginary tribe being replaced, or their numbers increased as I have evolved. I started out with 6 women on my team which has grown to 12, with me being the 13th. The only constant has been that my advisory squad has been made solely of women.
The other place I find it very easy to meditate, believe it or not, is in the shower! The motion of washing my hair is a no brainer requiring zero effort, which leaves plenty mind space to gather and process my thoughts and gain clarity. I often have my best ideas and moments of inspiration as I lather and rinse!
For anyone who has never meditated before, it can seem a bit woo-hoo or a little daunting, with the unsure feeling of where to start or even knowing what the point of meditation is, if not for finding inner peace. There are lots of books on how to meditate and why, plus Youtube has a variety of videos to watch or listen to as a guided meditative practice. I would recommend even just starting with the breathing exercise I use. If you want to sit in lotus, or create a dedicated sacred space at home for your practice, do it. If you want to light candles or incense, do it. Or don’t. There are no rules here, and the practice is entirely yours. It is worth noting though, that it is nigh on impossible to completely clear your mind, it will wander off in all directions, especially if you have a busy life with work or kids (or both), but as soon as you notice it going off on its own tangent, bring it back by refocussing on that breath. It takes practice.
I keep referring to meditation as a practice because practice is what it takes. Practice to get comfortable with what you are doing, with what you want to achieve and practice to make it a regular part of your routine. I have been “practicing” for the past 15 years but have yet to establish a proper and regular habit. It’s very much ad hoc and fitting it in when I either remember or feel the need.
Back in 2002 I attended a 2-day motivational event called Mindstore, by a bloke called Jack Black, and it was brilliant. My employer at the time was really into personal development and self empowerment and transferring that energy into the work place (recruitment consultancy) so sent myself and 2 colleague to the Mindstore programme. During the event, Jack guided the packed auditorium, which must have held about 500 delegates, through a meditation. This was the first time I had ever meditated, infact, I didn’t realise at the time that that was what we were doing. It felt like 10 minutes had passed, no more than that, but it had actually been 30 minutes. As it happens I still use that guided journey today (incorporating my advisory soul circle) . The general story is similar but I have changed details here and there over the years. It is as effective now as it was then.
Meditation has also helped (A) with calming down, expressing his anger in healthier ways or even to relax into sleep.. I find that guiding him with focussing on his breathing or visualising colours has been the most beneficial and effective way to meet his needs. It’s short and simple for little minds with big imaginations.
When I was coming to the end of my maternity leave around 6.5 years ago I started a distance learning course on meditation. I complete all but the last 2 modules as returning to work full time and having a toddler proved enough for me to take on at the time. I wish I had finished the course as it was really interesting and I picked up plenty tips and ideas for both my own personal practice and for guiding others. It is on my ‘to-do’ list to complete it one day, but I figure after 6 years I will probably have to do the whole course over again…
Since 2002, I have never participated in a group session, but a woman local to me runs guided women’s meditation workshops in 6 weekly blocks. At this stage in my own journey and with my own practice being so sporadic and inconsistent, I am contemplating signing up for a space – 6 weeks of dedicated practice, who knows where that could lead or open up?
Do you medidate? I would love to hear how other people practice and fit it into busy lives.
The bells on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny rang out 12 midnight. (A) opened the back door to release 2016 as I opened the front door, to welcome in 2017, (A) ran through and hollered “Happy New Year!”
And that was how we brought in the new year at my MIL’s. It was a quiet hogmanay, just the 3 of us (Hubby was working nightshift), but it was quite lovely. Polar bears, Cluedo, dominoes and hangman accompanied popcorn, pretzels and shortbread. After calling Hubby at work to wish him “Happy New Year”, we were in our beds by 12.45am.
Prior to the bells, I had made my plans and laid out my intentions for the coming year, choosing the word purpose as my “word of the year” to focus on. To live with purpose and intent, focusing on slowing down and joyful simplicity. This starts with a real presence in the now and a greater distance from the cyber world. I culled my Facebook and Twitter “friends” this time last year (without any regret since) and have begun to do so again this year, starting with Instagram. I have made my account private and begun to block people that I have absolutely no idea who they are or have any connection with – it’s not personal, I just don’t know them and no longer wish to share my pics. I also have said goodbye to hashtags; I don’t need them as not looking to attract followers and like for my pictures. This is not a monetary blog, more an online diary of the growth of my family, or rather, it will be once I begin writing again. So it was rather fitting this morning when the first text of 2017 I received was from O2 telling me that I had used 100% of my data 2 weeks into my monthly allowance. I refuse to buy any more so am effectively starting the year as I mean to go on, not with my head bent over my phone, just checking.
Many people dislike January as it is bleak and dull, but I love it. It is barren and grey and cold; it is the calm to balance the noise and flurry of December, it is the reset button. A fresh page upon which to write your story. It is not a “new year new me” point but instead, a point to reset and deliberately, with purpose, write your story; the best story.
So hello January, and welcome. Now, let’s do this!
Getting my hygge on this morning – candles and coffee before the sun was up
There’s that word again…Hygge! It’s everywhere I look now. Pinterest has exploded with Hygge pins, (I too have my own dedicated Hygge board), there are books written about it, newspaper articles and blog posts galore; pretty soon instagram will be flooded with hygge and hyggelig squares in soft focus. But what is it and where can I get some?
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Danish concept, for which there is no direct translation in the English language, it’s more an umbrella term.
“Hygge was never meant to be translated – it was meant to be felt”
~ ToveMaren Stakkestad
After much research into the world of all things hygge, I have discovered it is not only a feeling (that cozy content feeling) but it is also physical. Hygge is noun, verb and adjective! To hygge or invite someone to hygge, is actually a thing.
I first came across it last autumn and fell instantly in love with the entire concept. It became very much a focus of our home last winter. This year I want to delve in a bit deeper to embrace this wonderful thing and add a Scottish flavour, so am now calling it : Coory (as in to coory in)
You may already be familiar with the hygge phenomenon and be rolling your eyes as it is fast being co-opted by the middle class (as The Guardian and the Telegraph have been keen to report on it) as the latest trend to follow, or see it as being smug and yet another layer of social media saccharine fakery in the look-how-wonderful-my-life-is bollocks. But I don’t think it has to be that way and nor should it. That is NOT hygge. Not how the Danes do it and certainly not what I take from it – in fact that notion is the exact opposite of hygge. Another keeping up with the social media Jones’s is the anti-hygge. Denmark is one of very few countries where equality is an integral part of life and culture – the egotistical heirarchy and one-upmanship is not prevalent as it is elsewhere, such as here in the UK. Hygge is not just for those who can afford it, it is for everyone! You cannot buy hygge; candles, yes, but hygge, no!
So how do you hygge/coory? For a start, stop being so bloody British and moaning about the weather; embrace it! The summer has gone for the year, or rather it ought to have, but so far, October 2016 has been more ‘summery’ than that of July and August 2016 combined, but stick with me here. If, unlike me, you are already mourning the summer sun and despairing at the drawing in of the darker night and chillier days, then let me introduce you to the concept of hygge. Ready?
The top tips of getting your Hygge on and Coorying in can be categorised by what I call the 7 Cs:
Turn the big light off , light some (lots) candles and/ or twinkly fairy lights. This works both in the morning and in the evening, or as we get further into autumn and winter, then the afternoon too. The harsh glare of the big light is not hygge, it does not invite you to coory in. The softness of the candles do. They create a gentle light, can be romantic but not necessarily so, they change the atmosphere dramatically and are calming. Twinkle lights do too, as long as they are not the bright brashy white bulbs, the warm white has a much softer glow. All my twinkle lights, whether strung round curtain poles or stuffed in glass jars, are all warm white and super cozy. An upside to using candles is the heat they generate too – save some pennies on the leccy bill and reinvest it in candles.
Heading into the chillier months and then the cold depths of winter, it is so important to be warm. Making and keeping our homes and ourselves cozy seems pretty straightforward but bunging the central heating on is not cozy (it heats up the home and keeps us warm, it also seems to welcome and give a home to the common cold. When I lived in my old flat, where I had no central heating, I had hardly a cold in any of the 5 winters I lived there…just saying…), plus it’s not an option for many people these days. No, coziness is found amongst blankets and cushions, quilts, jumpers, cardigans, fleecy pyjamas, onesies, thick socks and slippers. Layers, warm layers.
I remember when I was a teenager, my friend and I bought thick cozy socks from Marks and Spencers which we loved and named them “beside the fire socks”. We were experiencing the pleasure of hygge without even knowing it. My “beside the fire socks” feeling has stayed with me and when I see a pair of thick cozy socks the image they conjure in my head is simply “beside the fire”. It warms my heart as well as my feet! And what is not to love about coorying under a blanket on the couch to watch the tv or read a book with a mug of tea? Or coffee or hot chocolate? Warm mulled wine or cider are equally cozy inducing factors in hygge. And if all fails and you end up with the cold, then a whisky hot toddy is just the hygge ticket.
Cozy is not restricted to the indoors – get your hygge groove on outdoors by getting cozy in scarves, gloves and hats ( I love getting all wrapped up to go out), add the warm mulled wine at a Christmas market (See photo of me at the Edinburgh Christmas Markets in Princes St Gardens 2007 with said mug of hot gluwhein, above). PLUS you have to get outdoors to appreciate the coziness of hygge when you come back inside. And, nothing invokes a sense of coziness other than to be outside after dark, when people in their homes have their lamps on but have not yet closed their curtains or blinds. I LOVE being outside looking in. Maybe it’s because I’m nosy or maybe there is just something super cozy and warming about seeing others go about their lives in the comfort of their own homes.
It’s no good being snug as a bug by candle light if you’re not comfy! And I don’t just mean the chair or sofa in the livingroom. Being comfortable in your surroundings and in the company you keep are crucial hygge points. A relaxing bubble bath is hardly comfy if you are freezing the minute you step out the water. Having to make torturous small talk with someone, even by candle light, is hellish and highly uncomfortable. Being comfy in yourself – in your body, your clothes (I don’t mean in terms of fashion, I mean in terms of a too tight wasitband for squishing your insides for instance – not comfy), in your esteem etc, is oh so important, and not just for hygge but for your overall well being. Being uptight or ill at ease or just ‘uncomfy’ is not hygge.
My home is not a social gathering point – we very rarely have anyone round to visit other than the parents, and only entertain at Christmas time, but our home is very much our sanctuary and safe place. We are completely comfortable here, are relaxed and at ease with ourselves and each other. When the world outside is a dark and scary place *shout out to Theresa May and her evil cronies* we need somewhere to shut it/them out, relax, get comfy’ to coory in.
For me my favourite spot in our home is the dining table in the bay window. This is where I write and blog, where I prepare my week, where I sit to read or just watch the world from the comfort of my old chair (which actually belonged to my Husband’s Grandmother). It’s my space, my hyggekrog.
It is said that we, as a species, are social animals who thrive in groups. To some extent I both agree and disagree with this. Each to their own and very much dependant upon mood at the time. I love my own company and am very comfortable on my own. I also enjoy being in the company of a small group of friends. It’s the large gatherings that I find impersonal and greatly increases the chance of having to make painful small talk, thus making it far less comfortable than is preferred.
From The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, it is recorded that the ideal number of people for a hyggelig gathering is 3-4. That sounds pretty ideal to me. Spending time, quality time with friends or family (if you get on with your family and enjoy spending the time with them) can be enormous fun, restorative and just plain makes us happy. The time spent in conversation, making food together, sharing in an activity, is personal and intimate. It’s deep foundations and bonds. It’s memories and belonging. It’s also being so comfortable that it is completely appropriate and acceptable to sit together in silence, lost in ones own thoughts without any awkwardness.
Hygge meets/gatherings may include board games, deep conversation (no politics, religion or controversy – the aim is to relax!), pot luck dinners, coffee &cake, book club, movie night, chillin out, fill in your own suggestions. They do not include Facebook checking and status updates, instagram opportunities, Twitter debates, bragging, showing off, general pain-in-the-arsery, etc etc. Before (A) arrived, a friend of our used to pop round every Thursday evening, and we worked our way through the box sets of Twin Peaks, one episode a week, with snacks and drinks and plenty chat. It was hygge and we didn’t know it. It was lovely and something we looked forward to. It’s also something I miss. *note to self to rectify*
The company we choose to keep extends further than our immediate group of family and friends. We are all part of our communities and as such, getting to know our neighbours and wider community can be valuable. Taking an active role in our communities is not really the norm here. Sure some people volunteer with the school PTA or help out the the Brownies or Scouts, but generally, most people leave community/civic duties and responsibility at the door step of the local council. Look and see how well that’s doing…. Community empowerment and involvement can really change a place for the better. The the people involved are committed to making a situation or locality better, being as they live there too. Getting involved, connecting with our communities all build into the hygge concept and is great for increasing well being and contentedness.
What happened to appreciating what we have rather than always striving for more? There is much to be said for being content, not for ‘settling’ but for appreciation and gratitude. In the slew of lists available online about things happy people do/have, one thing always appears on the list : gratitude. In today’s world, there is much to be said for appreciating what we have rather than constantly and always wishing for more,or misplacing the focus on what we don’t have.
Being content just to sloooooooow down from the business of being constantly busy, is super relaxing, especially if you are able to stop worrying about what your ‘should’ be doing. A change of mindset to appreciating the value and benefit of slowing down and not seeing the lack of busy as a waste of time is key. Switch off and enjoy the present, its good for your soul an your well being. De-stress. No multi-tasking, just focus on the art of chilling out – the mad rush of the to-do lists and social media dramas will still be there once your batteries are recharged. Your body will be thankful and appreciative of the peace.
To be content eliminates the need for competition – we do not have to constantly compete with others or with ourselves, just be free to be your authentic self.
It is said that we have lost or are in danger of losing our connection with nature; people are spending too little time outdoors. It is easy to get outside in the spring and summer with the nice weather, go to the beach, spend time in the garden, being sociable etc, but come the colder darker months and we want to hibernate. I have found that getting outside is even more important at this time of year – both for mental and physical reasons. I enjoy wrapping up to face the elements, taking a walk through the woods with (A) looking for conkers, crunching in the leaves, just taking in the beauty of the changing scenery – the colours and smells in autumn are spectacular. Even in winter there is hygge to be found playing in the snow (even if it brings the country to a standstill at rush hour) splashing in puddles. Find and release your inner child!
Connecting with other people is important, even if it is just the people/pets you share your home with. Coorying down on a miserable day with (A) looking at photo albums of years ago is something he enjoys, particularly Hubby and I’s wedding album and his own baby photos “awww I was such a cute baby” (he is very modest…). Saying hello to the neighbours in the street or to the person serving at the checkout (this works both ways, always helpful if cashier looks up, smiles and says hello too!). Reach out and phone the person you’ve been meaning to call or take time to go old skool and write a letter (with a mug of tea and some cake by your side) to a friend or relative instead of sending an email or text.
It is very hygge to dis-connect from the impersonal media of on-line communication. Switch off your mobile/Facebook/Twitter etc and be present, talk, cuddle, smile – look at the person you are with in the eye. Connection, physical connection and actually being there can make a huge difference to feeling connected to the world; your world.
This is a great time to also ‘connect’ with the seasonal festivities, such as Halloween or Christmas, making decorations, cooking/baking together, and that cliche of “making memories”, it’s a great way to while away the winter blues and spend time with those you love. The smells and scents of these days may trigger rosy childhood memories of your own and doesn’t nostalgia feel all cozy and nice?
While we are talking about connecting with other people and the seasons, we mustn’t forget to connect with ourselves. Time for self care in whatever way suits yourself: peaceful bubble baths with a glass of wine and a good book, exercising, journaling, going to the hairdressers, eating well, a marathon session on Netflix etc etc.
Who doesn’t enjoy good food? I’m not talking about expensive ingredients or complicated recipes, I mean real proper food that is both comforting and nourishing as well as tasty and indulgent. A home cooked meal is hygge, especially if prepared/cooked with others. A bowl of stick-to-your-ribs-soup with bread and butter or a plate of macaroni cheese for instance. Not expensive, even with a meagre budget, but bloody tasty and good for the soul. I find it particularly relaxing and calming, therefore hygge, to chop the veg for a pan of soup, or making gravy for mince, or mashing the potatoes for haggis neeps and tatties. Home baked cakes and cookies are also a winner. Traditionally, cinnamon rolls are baked and eaten in Denmark, I have yet to attempt to make these, but ginger bread (thank you Nigella Lawson), tablet and clootie dumpling are favourites at ours as are the cardamom cookies I tried out recently and will definitely be baking again.
Cooking for experiencing hygge is not restricted to dinners, a bowl of hot porridge with grated apple enjoyed in the comfort of the livingroom on the sofa with a blanket is particularly favourite hygge moment for me.
My 7 Cs are just that, mine – my interpretation of hygge; of coorying in and slowing down. There are of course other ‘C’ words association with living a hyggelig life, such as convivial,cordial, chocolate, celebration, Christmas, caring, closeness, co-operation, cake (pastries, but still…) and culture (a big shift – the Danes are repeatedly reported as being the happiest people in the world) for instance. So many feel good connotations attach themselves to hygge. For the more pessimistic amongst us, contrived, cheesey, corny, cringy and cutesy may be more appropriate. I say this as I look at the state of the country and the wider world as it stands currently : the UK with a far right verging on fascist Government / a too close to call US Presidential election campaign running between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton / the mess in Syria / refugees fleeing war zones / people in dire poverty in our own neighbourhoods with food banks trying to bridge gaps where the state fails / a lack of jobs – real jobs that can provide both food and shelter for the person working / the housing crisis and the increasing number of people finding themselves homeless /the social and financial divide further widening as the rich get richer and the less wealthy and poor becoming even more so / climate change is a reality and a frightening one and the list continues. It’s a pretty shitty state of affairs to be honest.
So why am I writing about being cozy and content and enjoying good food when a shit storm is raining down on the planet? Because hygge makes us feel good. It fuels happiness. Shutting the ugliness of the world out for 20 mins or for an evening to simply enjoy life, in whichever way; being able to just be in that safe place, to recharge, relax. We all need to find it and do it. Maybe if the world leaders had a bit more hygge and a bit less power trip the world wouldn’t be the selfish volatile unsettling place that it is. Perhaps hygge ought to placed on the agenda at the next G8 Summit in Italy next year, and on the G20 Summit agenda in Hamburg. Obviously the not discussing politics is a hygge step too far at such gatherings, but adopting the hygge approach of co-operation, community, fostering good will, trust and warmth among the nations would go some way in appeasing the ills of day.
It is important to note however, that this magnificent lifestyle shift making its way across the North Sea at a serious rate of knots, is not just for dark half of the year; no no, you can indulge and savour hygge in the spring showers and under the summer sun too. Picnics and barbeques with friends, camping trips and days to the beach, conversation and a cold glass or two in a beer garden, spending time in the garden weeding and planting and appreciating – it’s all hygge. It’s all how you frame it.
Essentially, embracing the simplicity and slow pace of hygge and deliberately integrating it into every day for a happier, more joyful, peaceful and ultimately, more content life. That’s my plan anyway.
So come on, candles are lit, the kettle is on, coory in.
It’s 4.37am. I’ve been awake for some time, listening to the birds outside in the bushes singing their morning song; there is definitely a blue tit out there, and something else too, but I don’t know what. It is the sound of peace. As I lie in my bed, I become aware with each passing minute the increasing fizziness of my sinuses – hello hay fever! This is not a sign of peace, but rather, annoyance. Why is it only in the morning that my hay fever bothers me? So now instead of gently waking, and if I’m honest, hopefully falling back asleep until a more acceptable time, I am awake and I need to get up!
I enjoy the morning when I am up first and have my coffee in the quiet calm, it’s just that that is normally around 7am…anyways, I’m up and keen to restore the mood I was in when I first woke. Time to get the coffee on, to sit and relax. Except – THERE’S NO COFFEE!! It’s as good as a dry house!! I know, I know, first world problems! In the grand scheme of things, this is so insignificant it doesn’t even register. But it’s my problem and it’s not yet 5am. Come on! How exactly did this happen??
Kettle on for tea instead. I do love a mug of strong tea, but not before my coffee.
I creep through to the living room, trying not to wake my sleeping boys, light a candle (apple and something scented), open the blinds and smile. The sun is streaming through the gaps in the trees casting long shadows up the garden. The sky is palest blue with the fainest suggestion of cloud. The bramble bushes and cow parsley visible over the top of the fence are gently waving; the trees behind them moving with a bit more purpose. There is a solitary blue tit feasting on peanuts from the bird feeder hanging on the fence (It could have enjoyed some seeds or suet balls but the resident starling family leave not a scrap once the feeders are full; if you’re not fast you’re last and left starving). The garden looks so inviting bathed in the early sun. I want to take my tea out and sit outside to enjoy it, but I don’t. Instead I gaze a few minutes more, enjoying the view and fascinated by my wee feathered visitor, before switching on the computer and “quickly check” social media. It’s now 6am !!! Whaaaaaaaaat? Where’d that hour go??? Bugger. I had loosely planned to do something…useful… or something with my precious quiet “me-time” but instead faffed about online.
Time to step away from the screen, make another cof tea, the first one hasn’t even made a dent in my need for caffeine
And I’m going to take this cuppa outside and enjoy the morning air, still quiet while many remain sleeping. Refuel on warm caffeinated beverages and a dose of tranquility before the madness of the day wakes and we launch into the weekend.
Hello, July. Good morning.
Doesn’t this cloud look like a big eye watching me drink my tea?