Inspiration shouldn't be forced

15:38


One of my goals for 2019 is to be more consistent with my blog, as I've definitely got more than enough time every day to fit in at least something. However, I've just spent the last 15 minutes forcibly looking for inspiration to strike because I've got the time now - is this right?

There's forcing myself to write when I've got ideas and there's forcing myself to write because I feel I need to. I don't want to resent the process of blog making and eventually burn out from making myself do something that just isn't coming right now - the key words in that are "right now". Just because inspiration isn't coming right at this very second, it doesn't mean that I need to give up entirely.

I've put so much pressure on myself recently to find time to blog, that when I've actually sat down with my laptop, I haven't got the faintest idea what to talk about. I've been constantly thinking about when I'm going to blog and not what I'm going to blog, which is ultimately more important. 

Normally, I would see this kind of thing as a failure, my mind would make up some shit excuse as to why this really isn't for me after all. That is 100% NOT true, though. 

I need to take a step back, find inspiration outside of the online world and muse upon what I want to focus my content on next. Inspiration shouldn't be forced, but should be a natural flow - when it becomes forced, that's when you know you need to slow down and reevaluate what's important. 

Books in 2018

17:00


Before my initial inspection, or seeing my year in books on Goodreads, I genuinely thought I'd had a rubbish reading year. I thought that because I hadn't read nearly as much as I'd wanted to at the beginning of the year that I'd almost "failed", and that the books that I had read weren't especially good.

However, upon actually looking at what I've read this year, I've remembered that I actually read some pretty decent books and that I should be proud of what I've done. Just because I only read 20 books and not my initial goal of 50 does not make my reading experience any less valid - even the fact that I wrote "only read 20 books" shows how much it's ingrained in me that reading a large number of books is equal to being a good reader. NO.

If I would have read 100, 1000 or even just 1 book in the entire year it would have been an achievement because at least I'm reading. Reading is such a wonderful past time, and it upsets me to think that I've spent a lot of the last few years equating the amount of books to how good of a reader I am.

I have set my goal to 30 books this year because I feel it's achievable and I want to make more of a conscious effort to read more. However, if I don't get anywhere near that goal then I'm not going to make a big fuss over it and I'll still be proud of what I've done. I read for pleasure, and I don't find it pleasurable keeping a tight track of my stats, what books I'm reading or how far behind on my Goodreads goal I am. This year if I fancy reading I'll read, and if I don't fancy it then I'll do something else, it's as simple as that. I've vowed to do more of what makes me happy in 2019 and I plan on doing just that.

*ahem* so here's a list of everything that I've read in 2018 - anything in red I didn't finish for one reason or another:

The Light of the Fireflies - Paul Pen
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k - Sarah Knight
Elantris - Brandon Sanderson
How to Stop Time - Matt Haig
A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J. Maas
Red Rising - Pierce Brown
Unf*ck Yourself - Gary John Bishop
Renegades - Marissa Meyer
The Vegetarian - Kang Han
Little Black Book - Otegha Uwagba
The Fifth Season - N.K. Jemisin
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
Furyborn - Claire Legrand
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck - Mark Manson
Strange the Dreamer - Laini Taylor
To All The Boys I've Loved Before - Jenny Han
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
The Game of Life and How to Play It - Florence Scovel Shinn
Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
Your Word is Your Wand - Florence Scovel Shinn

I'm not gonna lie, my memory of the books I read last year is pretty lacking for one reason or another. Other than Ready Player One which was a reread and my favourite book of all time, my favourite books of the year were probably Furyborn and The Alchemist

Even though The Alchemist was a fiction book, I read it with a mindset of it being a non-fiction book; it has real life problems and relatable epiphanies in the casing of a fictional world and it was just amazing - I'd heard so many good things about that book so was really happy when I finally got around to reading it. 

I remember what happened in Furyborn and that I absolutely LOVED it, but I can't quite remember how to describe it (if that makes any sense whatsoever). The fact that this is an issue is a reminder to myself to write more book review in 2019 - that'll definitely be a thing. 

Here's to 2019 - finishing books I've already started, creating more of a consistent reading habit and generally enjoying the reading experience more than ever. Chin chin!

2019

13:44



You have no idea how happy I am for the new year. None of this new year new me bullshit here, it's just that December has been by far the worst month of the year for me mentally and physically for a myriad of reasons. We shall not dwell on the negatives though, but look forward to what 2019 has to come!

I want this upcoming year to be the year that I fully start focusing on myself, it's time for me to put myself as number one priority. I've spent too much time in my life focusing on other people that I've just simply forgotten about my own well being. Don't get me wrong, it was never a bad thing to care so much about other people, and that won't change, but it was the way that it was impacting my life in a negative way that was the problem.

Towards the end of December I started some intentional journaling, reflecting on what I wanted to leave behind in 2018 and what I wanted more of in 2019. This is direct from my journal, so some of the phrasing may be written in a more note taking way:

Less of:
Caring what other people think of me
Nobody has any right to judge anything I do, I can make my own decisions and I decide what is right or wrong for me. People don't actually care as much as it feels like they do; the likelihood of someone talking about you constantly is slim.

Being a people pleaser
The only person I want to be bothered about pleasing is myself and that's the only person that really matters right now. Pleasing others isn't benefiting me, it's only increasing the ego of others, and when it isn't reciprocated then it's harmful to my own mental health more than anything.

Being so dependant on my phone
This is the main cause of my anxiety I feel. Constantly checking my phone - have they text me back? How many people liked my photo? Wishing my life was like xyz and comparing myself to them. When I'm not always looking at my phone, my head is a lot clearer and I get a lot more done.

Negative talk
Recently, I've found myself getting more involved in negative talk and I really can feel it affecting my mindset. Stepping away or not getting involved in negative situations, not participating or setting a positive example.

Feeling sorry for myself
No pity parties for one, crying over meaningless things that I have full responsibility in changing. Weighing out the pros and cons and coming to a sensible conclusion. Cutting things at the bud and focusing on myself and a positive mindset. I need to journal or talk away my bad feelings instead of bottling them up.

Staying in and calling it "self care"
Akin to above, moping inside and scrolling through my phone is not a self care day and I need to realise this. I tried to justify myself with self care days this year and it did not help.

Making things up and giving excuses
I'll do it tomorrow, I need to buy x to be able to accomplish this, I need to plan more, I can't be bothered, I don't have a "why". Some of the lame excuses I've made this year that stopped me doing more. I need to force myself and actually make time to do the things that I want to do.

More of:
Visiting new places
I had all these plans in 2018 after I moved to be a tourist in my own home and explore the surrounding areas and I have done none of that. I will plan and action these visits even if I venture out by myself.

Mindfulness
Being aware of myself and how I feel mentally and physically. Checking in with myself regularly in the from of gratitudes, journaling and meditation predominantly. Being aware of how I feel and how different situations are affecting me and making me feel.

Doing more of what I love
...and finding new things that I enjoy. All year I felt I wasn't good enough for the things I enjoy. Reading, blogging, rugby, being creative, going out with friends, meeting new people.

Saying yes to new things
Stop sticking to my comfort zone and try new things. Go out with new people, gain new experiences, push myself to the limit and finally believe in myself.

Letting things go
Don't be afraid to let go of things you once thought would benefit you; friends, relationships, hobbies, ideas, work, etc. Trust that the universe has plans for you and everything happens in its perfect time. Letting go has two meanings - getting rid of bad things and letting go of worries and trusting that whatever's meant to happen will happen.

Checking in with loved ones
I haven't done enough of this which is sad, and I don't want to lose touch with those I care deeply for - when I'm with or talking to these people, I want to be 100% present.

Being more present
Leading on from the above point, I want to be fully present when participating in activities or hanging out with friends and family. Giving everyone my full attention without the distraction of my phone; you don't need to check your phone when you're busy with your loved ones.

The majority of my main "goals" are very personal; they are things things that don't have a final destination point, they can't be ticked off when complete because they are things that I will constantly be working on throughout my life.

One of the main phrases that I want to take into 2019 is "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind" because I feel it encapsulates nicely how I feel and how I want to look after myself. If you have a problem with me putting most of my attention into myself for once then you clearly couldn't care less about me. 

2019 is going to be my SELFISH year, or LESS SELFLESS - whatever way that you wish to see it. Focusing on myself is my top priority, what's yours?

The SAD Diaries | #2

21:24

The SAD diaries is a documentation of my experiences, feelings and thoughts in combating season affective disorder (SAD). 
For previous posts, click here.

So I'm updating you pretty soon after my first post in this series because I've felt a massive shift even after a few days, and I just want to share how excited I am to be feeling this way.

The shift in attitude I've had over the past few days has been HUGE. It's like feeling down and depressed has given me the motivation I need to start doing the things I've been wanting to do for such a long time - it's given me a reason to start. I know I should have found the motivation in myself, but you know what? How I got here doesn't matter, as long as I'm feeling this way now. 

I've actually started doing, I've started pressing forward on my action plans instead of thinking about them over and over in my head. Perfectionism is part of my anxiety, and I'm starting to finally start to realise that there is no perfect time to do anything, there is no perfect way to do anything, and that you actually have to just start before you can think of improving. How can you improve on something that you don't know how good you are at? 

I'm not saying that my anxiety has stopped completely due to this attitude shift, but it's definitely calmed down a lot, and I've found myself completely forgetting the things that I was previously worrying about. I feel as though I'm in a better place already and I'm only at the beginning of my journey. The difficult part is going to be pushing through the tough times when eventually I'll have a down day. I'm not saying this to be negative, I'm saying this to be real, because let's be honest, absolutely nobody is 100% happy and positive all the time - we all go through down days. It's how you deal with those down days that makes all the difference; am I going to break down and give up, or am I going to realise that it's just one day, pick myself up and carry on because I've been doing amazingly?

Previously, I mentioned that I wanted to implement exercise into my routine and I am extremely proud to say that I've been running for a week straight so far. This is a MASSIVE deal to someone who only normally does one day of exercise and gives up until the next year. I've been getting into the habit of waking up, putting on my exercise clothes and just going out - it's got to the stage now, where I don't want to let myself down by missing a day and, to be honest, I look forward to getting outside and moving my body now. 

The third day was the real test for me because on the previous night, I only got to sleep around 3AM and I had work at 12PM. My head was telling me to get a bit more sleep, that it wouldn't matter if I missed one day, but my body just kept on waking me up to the point that I just took control, got out of bed and went out for my run. I made a conscious decision that day to go out despite not wanting to, and it made me feel all the better for conquering something that would have previously made me sleep as long as I could. That run actually made me feel amazing and was definitely the wake up I needed that day.

Over the past couple of days, I've been using the Headspace meditation app on my runs which has helped me become more mindful when I'm out. Andy Puddicombe (the voice behind Headspace) is joined by Chris Bennett (Nike Running's global head coach) where they guides you through your running experience with encouragement, tips, and the realisation that you don't need to push yourself to exhaustion to have a good run. Headspace is meditation orientated, but I would class the running exercises on the app to be more of a mindful guidance than a meditation. It's a healthy alternative to just listening to some upbeat tunes on your headphones but I'll try and go into this in more detail in another blog post when I've had a bit more experience with it.

I'm so happy with how far I've come in only a few days that it just makes me even more excited to carry on and see what I can accomplish for myself and my mental and physical health.

The SAD Diaries | #1

15:01


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is something that I've struggled with for the past few years. Admittedly, I've never been officially diagnosed by a doctor, but I get these depressive episodes when the clocks go back, the days become shorter, and we don't get as much light in the day.

According to the NHS website the symptoms of sad include:

▸  A persistent low mood
▸  A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
▸  Irritability
▸  Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
▸  Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
▸  Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
▸  Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

Normally, these feelings come out of nowhere for me as I generally always forget that I feel like this every year, for some reason. However, this year I knew it was coming but I just didn't know when it was going to start.

I only noticed it after the fact, but over the past couple of days on my days off from work I have been laying in the same position on the sofa all day; scrolling the same feeds, attempting to read, playing phone games, watching Netflix, and occasionally napping. I just had absolutely zero motivation to do anything or even to get up out of my position on the sofa; my whole body felt lethargic despite getting more than enough sleep. I barely wanted to exert energy to eat, let alone do anything remotely productive, and I was more than happy to sit in my own misery for the entire day and label it a "self-care day" when it was anything but one of those. 

Now I know that I'm in a SAD rut, I'm going to do everything in my power to combat it and nip it in the bud. I have a tendency to research and research the hell out of my problems but never end up actioning anything into my life, so this time I'm going to just start

I'm going to document my findings, what I've tried, and how I'm feeling. I'm going to start off with exercise - this is something that I've been wanting to implement into my life for quite a while now, but like most things, it's just been a thought in my head that never came to fruition because I didn't have the motivation. My motivation, my "why" for doing all of this is to help myself feel better, to not feel sorry for myself everyday, and to beat this depressive season, so I now have a reason to get ot of bed in the morning which is something that I've previously never had.

Let's be honest here, I've never stuck at any sort of exercise for more than about 2 days before I gave up or can't be bothered anymore - I'll do it tomorrow, was a common catchphrase of mine, but of course, tomorrow never comes. I'm keeping myself accountable by posting daily pictures of my runs on Facebook and by documenting my SAD journey here on my blog and I want this to be something that I actually do stick to.

I know I say this a lot but as much as I want to nip SAD in the bud, I also want to end 2018 the way that I want 2019 to start, and that is gonna begin with creating some good habits and breaking some bad ones. 

I'll check in with you again, soon.

Controlling Your Reactions

13:08


When something bad happens to me, the natural thing to do is to be immediately negative. A reaction like this can ruin an entire day for me; I could have had the best day ever, but as soon as one tiny bad things happen my whole day comes spiralling downwards. 

Was it a bad day? Or was it a bad 5 minutes, that you milked all day?

I've been trying to get back into a positive mindset in this regard; one where I focus on the positive, or realise that I'm over dramatising a situation that isn't actually that bad. Oftentimes, I'm making a big deal out of nothing, and when I talk to certain friends about it they help me realise that. I'm trying to get into the habit of not making any rash, in the moment decisions that are mainly caused by my anxiety brain, but instead being calm and rationally thinking about the situation and how I'm reacting to it.

Your problem isn't the problem, your reaction is the problem.

They say that life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it, and I'm trying to control my thoughts in this way. The more time I give to my negative thoughts, the more it affects my day and my well being. Recently, whenever I've felt negative about a situation, I've written out every single one of my feelings in my journal to vent, and I'll tell you what, it's been the best habit that I've started adopting.

As soon as I write everything out on paper I feel like a massive weight has been lifted, I feel a lot calmer, and I just generally find the exercise extremely therapeutic. I may not be talking to anyone, but just getting it out in the open is just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes writing everything out helps you realise what you're actually feeling. I used to not write out certain things in my journal that I was thinking deep down because if I fully admitted to them then it would mean that I actually believed in them, but when I did, it helped me deal with those situations better.

When I don't have the time to write things down in negative situation, instead, I've been taking a moment to think to myself and breathe:

Can I change anything?
What's a positive I can take away from this?
Does it really matter?
Are you going to let it ruin your day?

Sometimes it's hard to just let it go, but you just have to try and release it from your mind and carry on. It's going to be natural for your mind to wander back to those negative thoughts, but be strong and keep going back to those questions if needs be.

The Time I Forgot My Phone

21:03


I went on a long overdue friend date this afternoon, when disaster struck. When our food arrived, oh my gosh it looked so pretty that I had to take a picture - I started to rummage around in my bag for my phone and...it wasn't there!

*Cue the mini panic attack*

I knew I'd left it in the car, so the first thought my anxiety brain told me was that my car was going to get broken into and my phone was going to get stolen - I just couldn't shift that image from my head. The next thought was that I didn't have my phone; the object that doesn't leave my side, the photo taker of the pretty foods, my security. My friend actually suggested that we go back to the car to check that it was there, but I dismissed that with my final thought that was one from the rational side of my brain that puts things into perspective - this is a chance to fully immerse myself in what I'm doing without my phone distracting me. I also realised that the anxiety side of me was just over dramatising the situation, and the likelihood of my phone being stolen was quite slim in a multi-storey car park.

This was the mini phone detox that I've been wanting to do, but have been too scared to fully do. It just happened unexpectedly, which was probably the best way, as it forced me into it without me having to convince myself to do it. 

Don't get me wrong it was definitely hard, I kept going to get my phone and then realising it wasn't there - to take a photo, to check the time, to check if I was popular. I love how we validate ourselves over how many people message us in a day, when in the grand scheme of things, who actually cares? The hardest time was when my friend went to the toilet, what do you do when you're alone in a  public place without a phone? You just appreciate where you are, what you've got, enjoy the surroundings, and even people watch a little, maybe.

I'll tell you what though, the one time when I didn't have my phone, was the time that every single one of my three courses looked absolutely amazing, but you know what? Who cares? I'm always the one that jokingly says "If you didn't take a picture of your food, did you really eat it?" but I can definitely appreciate something without having photographic evidence that it happened, and so can you. 

Luckily, my phone was in the car as I anticipated, and no, nobody had broken in to steal it - bad anxiety brain creating over dramatic scenarios in my head. I had 3 messages when I checked my Whatsapp, but I think I was more worried about my phone being stolen more than how many people had messaged me by that point to be honest. 

It was wonderful to not have to worry about anything apart from where I was, who I was with and what I was eating. Pardon the pun, but it's definitely food for thought when it comes to future endeavours with friends, and I'm going to try a phone or social media detox at some point in the future too. Could you and do you go without your phone sometimes?