Everything Else

How to take the guilt out of self-care

In my last post I wrote about learning the art of relaxing and talked about how I needed to take a more proactive approach to having some downtime.

Well, since I wrote that I haven’t really managed too much downtime. And talking to some friends about it and the whole “self-care” thing, it seems that a big reason a lot of us don’t practice self-care is guilt. We feel guilty about taking a nice long bath instead of doing the ironing. We feel guilty about spending money on a massage – something we perceive to be a non-essential item of expenditure. We feel guilty about doing just about anything coming close to self-care!

But what was interesting was that we didn’t feel guilty when we were able to combine doing something we love with doing something useful. For example, watching our favourite programme while doing the ironing or reading our book while waiting in the car for children to finish their activity.

So perhaps a good balance for those of us who are rubbish at doing this whole self-care thing is to follow this combo method. And, taking it one step further, letting ourselves “earn” our reward of pure downtime – if I manage to conquer Mount Clean Clothes That Need To Be Put Away I will go have a long soak in a bubble bath with a glass of wine and my book. If I tick three things off my to-do list then I’ll book that long-wished for massage or manicure.

Because although technically we shouldn’t need to justify or earn our downtime, for those of who are so stuck in their ways on the guilt thing perhaps this is a good way to start making that change.

Then hopefully, eventually, we’ll come to realise the benefits being a bit nicer to ourselves brings and see it as an essential part of being happy, rather than having to find ways to earn it.


The Art of Relaxing

I’ve come to realise recently that I am not very good at the art of relaxing.  Yes, I can sit and watch TV in the evening (and that is often all I’m good for after a busy day at work) but that is about as far as it goes.  I am not very good at sitting down at the weekend and just reading a book or watching a film or even just doing nothing!

There seems to be always something I feel I should be doing.  Be that helping children with their homework, sorting washing out, tackling the mountain of clean clothes waiting to be put away, catching up with work, tidying the house, walking the dogs, brainstorming my latest great business idea or doing an online course to support said latest idea.

Recently though, when I was moaning to my husband that he seems perfectly capable of sitting there playing his game on his phone for what seems like hours on end, he asked why I couldn’t I simply do the same?  So I reeled out all the things that needed doing and that if I didn’t do them then they wouldn’t get done.  But he didn’t agree this was the case.  He also pointed out that I was also on my phone more than I thought – checking out Facebook and all the other rubbish I waste my time on on auto-pilot.

Fast forward to the following weekend and I decided to have a day of “doing nothing”.  I had a very long lie-in, sat and read my book (a trashy fiction novel rather than any form of self-help or business book!), drank tea and ate biscuits until my friend came round.  We then went out to dinner and had a lovely evening.  And it was a great day.  Particularly given that my lack of productively seemed to spark my husband’s so the washing got done as did the hoovering and various other things around the house.

The problem though was that I felt guilty.  Less so about the washing and the housework but more so about the work I should have been catching up on, the school project I could have got the children started on and my failed progress at anything resembling a good business idea.

It didn’t feel like a totally wasted day though.  Reading a book seemed much more productive than messing about on my phone or watching rubbish TV.  Perhaps because I was consciously choosing to take some downtime, I acknowledged to myself that that was what it was.

And once I looked past the guilt, I did feel better for having had some downtime and it did help reduce my stress-levels – I guess you could say I felt more relaxed!

So although the art of relaxing doesn’t seem to come naturally to me, it is one I am trying to learn – after all practice makes perfect!  And I have been practising – I’ve taken some time out here and there to do a jigsaw puzzle (it was a really difficult one I got for Christmas so ended up being quite a lot of time!) and I’ve sat down on a Sunday afternoon to read my book.  No the washing didn’t always get done and the hoover didn’t see the light of day.  But it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things if that slips another day.

And so I’ve decided that the key to success is to consciously schedule in some downtime and to focus on the benefits relaxing brings and less on the things that don’t get done.  To cut down on the time I spend wasting on my phone and turn that into a more productive or even a more relaxing time.  And to find the right balance for me – I’ll never be someone who can do nothing all the time but I do need to dedicate some of my time to that.  Because, in the end, I think it will make my whole life more productive and less stressful – something that can only be good for our family, even if we may end up tumble drying the school uniform Monday morning!


2017 - the year that was...

Each year, for the last couple of years, I have worked through Leonie Dawson’s Shining Life Workbooks.  Although a little on the “airy-fairy” side for me, I do find the workbooks really useful and enjoy filling them in.

So, last night, I finally got around to starting work on my one for 2018.  And the first part of that exercise involves reviewing 2017 and then “closing” the year, ready to move onto the next.

One of the things Leonie suggests you do is choose a word of the year.  The first year I chose “change” but then nothing really did change.  So last year I chose “action”, thinking that I actually needed to take action in order to make things change.

Well, it turns out that simply choosing “action” as your word of the year, doesn’t actually make you take said action!  And looking back on my 2017, I would say that the word “inaction” probably sums it up.

That’s not to say I spent the year doing sod all.  I actually spent the year working.  A lot. My day job became so all-consuming, especially over the summer months, that I had very little time to do anything else, let alone to “pursue my dreams”.

So I didn’t spend more quality time with my family, I didn’t write my blog as much as I wanted to, I didn’t start my killer business, I didn’t manage to see as much of my long-distance friends as I wanted to and we didn’t move house.

That’s not to say I didn’t do some great things in 2017.  I got to go to Venice for a fantastic child-free weekend, we had a really lovely and relaxing family holiday to Florida, I went to see Take That, Sophie and I have had some great mummy/daughter days out to see David Walliams’ plays, I did the 26 mile Allendale Challenge and I’ve had some brilliant nights out with friends.

There is so much more I could have done though had I not been so consumed by work. Having said that, part of the problem is also that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do – did I want to get back on track with my blog, reinvigorate my family hotel directory, finally complete my web design course or come up with another business idea that would be the one to finally gain traction.  So I spent a lot of time reading various business and self-help books, looking for the answer – instead of just getting on with doing something.

And that is the lesson I think I have finally learnt – that you really do work to live, not live to work.  That there is more to life than work and only I can really change my work life balance.  And that if I want to make things happen I need to get focussed on what exactly those things are and just get on and do them – make them a priority.  Stop thinking and start doing – even if what I choose to do doesn’t end up being my “dream”, I won’t get any closer to finding out what that is unless I just give it a go.

And that’s the point of the review exercise – I can now put 2017 behind me, take on board what I have learnt and get cracking with 2018.  And make it a year that counts – after all, it is the year I turn 40 so really the perfect time to make things actually happen!


And relax!

I'm sat in the hot sun by the pool at our rented villa in Florida. The kids are having fun in the pool and I only need to keep half an eye on them nowadays and so can still read my book or type this. We've had a lazy morning after a day out fishing and watching the sunset yesterday and are contemplating a trip to the beach this afternoon before having dinner out. All very chilled. Except I'm not quite as relaxed as I'd hoped. The last few stressful months at work are still taking their toll as my thoughts keep flitting back there. And I'm restless, thinking there is something I should or could be doing but not quite pinpointing what that is or summoning the energy to work it out.

The problem is I find it hard to just sit and do nothing, to simply lay back and soak up the sun. I'm like it at home but there I can always find something I should be doing – it's harder here when the one thing I am meant to be doing is relaxing!

I know I need to switch off from work completely but it's so hard to – probably not helped by me checking my emails each morning. But I'd rather know everything was in hand rather than worrying what might be going on.

This happens every year though – it always takes me a few days to completely relax. And not to feel so tired all the time – partly due to my body clock still being on UK time I think but also trying to catch up on all the sleep missed in recent weeks. I'm lucky to last much longer than the children in the evenings!

I will get there though as I always do. Eventually I'll think about work less often and happily lose myself in some trashy novel. Or just sit having a drink at the beach bar not thinking about anything other than which child is going to be the first one to 'accidentally' paddle too deep and get their shorts wet.

This is why two weeks is so much better than one. It gives me enough time to wind down and fully enjoy the holiday – and to actually stay awake long enough in the evening to enjoy some child-free time with my husband!


Walk All Over Cancer - Week 1 Update

So I’m a little over a week into my month long challenge to walk 10,000 steps a day and so far I’ve managed to hit my daily target – although it has been very close a few times!

The first day I was very good and got up early to walk the dog before going into the office. Which was all going swimmingly until the dog decided to go for a swim in the canal – twice!! So I came back with a stinky dog and a hoarse voice from shouting at him for the remainder of the walk to leave the ducks alone!!

I then went out in the evening to a friend’s for dinner with a little over 2,000 steps left to go.  After pacing around the kitchen a few times I decided I’d be fine by the time I walked home.  However, I lost track of time and didn’t leave until just before midnight but luckily managed to get the walk home in just in time and ended the day on 10,021 steps!

The next few days were easier as I was working from home and it was then the weekend. I haven’t as yet made it out for an early walk again, which has meant a few evening walks, and I am blaming having a cold for that (rather than my inability to drag myself out of bed).  I have found though that I have been out for a lot more walks than I would usually, purely to get my steps up – which the dogs in particular are loving!

My best day was Wednesday, my day off, when I hit 18,044 steps – this was mainly due to a trip into Birmingham and wandering around the shops.  I had also done a walk in the morning to get a head start on the day and I’m learning that it’s better to try and get a decent number of steps in early on so there’s less risk of the day getting in the way of hitting my target.

My worst day was Thursday, despite getting the train into work which meant a decent walk to and from the station at both ends.  I ended up walking around the bedroom waiting to hit that magic number – and ended the day on exactly 10,000 steps!  So it seems those days I am in the office I do need to get up early and do a walk in order to be sure of hitting my target.

So I have a nice little run of ten green stars in my FitBit app – something in itself that is very motivating as now I’ll be gutted if I miss a day and break the streak!

All in all, I am finding that having this goal is definitely motivating to me to walk more. And I think I am going to have to try harder to get up earlier and go for an early morning walk if I want to make sure I comfortably hit 10,000 steps every day, rather than getting there by the skin of my teeth!

If you’re also taking part in the challenge, how have you found your first week?


Walk All Over Cancer Challenge

In a bid to try and up my fitness while at the same time hopefully raising some money for a good cause, I decided to sign up for the Walk All Over Cancer challenge, run by Cancer Research UK.

This involves walking 10,000 steps a day for the whole of June.  And, having had a Fitbit for a couple of years now, I know how difficult this is going to be, especially on the days I’m working.  If it’s a day that I go into the office I drive and so walk 10 steps to my car and then about 50 steps from the car park to the office!  And if I’m working from home and Jon’s around to do the school run and walk the dogs, I can easily find the furthest I walk is to the kitchen and back!  In fact, on the days I’m working I am lucky if I hit 4,000 steps, which is pretty pathetic!

I’ve tried on numerous occasions to consistently hit 10,000 steps a day but have always failed after a few days, citing the usual excuses of being too busy with work or too tired.  I decided though that to hit 10,000 steps a day I need to get into the habit of walking more.  By creating a habit of, say walking the dogs before work, it will hopefully become second nature, rather than something I have to think about.

But I have also previously tried to create new habits like this and failed.  So I thought I’d do some research (and indulge my love of self-help books!) and have started reading Gretchen Rubin’s book about mastering habits, Better Than Before. In this book, Gretchen explains that people tend to fall into four different categories, namely  “Obligers”, “Upholders”, “Questioners” and “Rebels” and identifying which one you are can help you formulate the best strategy to create, and stick to, your desired habits.

Apparently I am an “Obliger”, which basically seems to mean that I am more motivated by accountability to others, rather than to myself.  So, for example, I’m much more likely to stick with going to the gym if I go with a friend as I wouldn’t want to let them down.  However, I’m much less motivated to go simply because I promised myself I would.

I’ve not finished reading it yet but so far have found it really interesting and am hoping this will help me with my 10,000 steps a day habit.
Anyway, the reason for telling you about the book is that, hopefully, by needing to create the habit of walking to raise money for a good cause, I will be much more motivated to stick with it than if I decided to do it just to get fit.

Also, by blogging about it, I’m effectively holding myself accountable to anyone who reads this (hopefully not just me as that kind of defeats the purpose!)  My plan is to chart my progress and so I’d much rather be able to write about how I met my 10,000 steps a day than having to list all my excuses as to why something else got in the way.

But how am I actually going to manage my 10,000 steps a day?  My current game plan is to:

  • get up earlier and take the dogs out before leaving / starting work.  This involves creating a habit of getting out of bed earlier and heading straight out for a walk.
  • catch the train to work more as this adds a couple of thousand steps walking to the station and then to the office.  This also involves getting into the habit of getting up earlier as the train won’t wait for me like my car does!
  • walk the kids to school more often – again an earlier start required.
  • go for a walk each lunchtime – I need to get into the habit of taking some time out at lunchtime, rather than sitting eating at my desk.
  • go a walk in the evening now that they are lighter (admittedly this is only likely to happen if I am struggling for steps or it involves a stop in the pub!)
  • as a last resort, pace around the lounge a few times before bed while watching TV!

And, as I don’t like to hassle people for sponsorship, I’m going to sponsor myself on a daily basis – so the more days I hit my goal, the more money I will raise.  Another incentive to get me out there walking.

Also, I have friends who are also attempting this challenge and so hope we can spur each other on and drag one another out for an evening walk when one of us is still only on 4,000 steps at tea time!  Again, I suspect a stop at the local pub will be an added incentive!

If you fancy joining me then you can sign up for the Walk All Over Cancer challenge at Cancer Research UK.  And if you do feel like sponsoring me and helping motivate me, you can do so here.

Finally, good luck to anyone else out there doing the challenge – and please let me know any strategies you have for hitting that magic number!


Top 10 Benefits of a Kids-Free Holiday

We recently had a few days away in Venice without the children and although I did really miss them, there are certainly some benefits of a kids-free holiday!  Here are my top ten…

  1. I got to read my book uninterrupted on the flight – no requests for food, entertainment or questions about how much further there is to go.
  2. We could get up when we wanted to, sleeping in until we woke up naturally, rather than to demands of going in the pool.
  3. With no children requiring a detailed, and full, itinerary for the day, we were free to meander at will, going with the flow and just taking it at our own leisurely pace.
  4. There was no-one requiring cajoling into walking just a bit further, finishing their main course so they can have ice-cream or bribing into being quiet and not running riot in the restaurant.
  5. We could walk past an ice-cream seller without fear of a request for yet another ice-cream and the resulting tantrum when said child is told no.
  6. We weren’t hindered by lots of steep steps, having to worry about a child falling into the canal or keeping children in the boat.
  7. An evening out didn’t have to end in time to get the children into bed so as to avoid a subsequent day of meltdowns.
  8. There were no meltdowns.
  9. We didn’t have to carry round spare clothes, snacks, drinks, suncream, hats or wipes.
  10. The hugs we got from the children when we got home.

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Rhyming with Wine

Are my Clubbing Days Over?

Last night we went for a night out in Manchester to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  We went for some brilliant cocktails at The Alchemist (mine came bubbling with dry ice and changed colour!) and had a fantastic meal at Australasia.  All very well suited to two couples in their late 30s/40s.  Then, having consumed a number of cocktails and one or two glasses (and by glasses I mean bottles!) of wine, we thought it would be a good idea to go find an establishment in which to carry on drinking.



Long time, no post...

As some of you may have noticed (or maybe not!), I have massively neglected my blog the last couple of months.  Not just the writing of it but the social media side of it too.  In fact, the title should really read, “Long time, no blog, tweet, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook post” but that was a bit of a mouthful!