June the first… How?!

Oh dear. How is it June already?

Theodore Gordon quote from quotefancy.com

I didn’t used to be all that bothered. In fact, I’ll admit that sometimes I only noticed the change of month because my mum religiously sends me a ‘happy 1st of the month’ followed by – since the invention of smart phones – two rabbit emojis. (It’s a Scottish thing apparently!)

But now time seems to be flying buy with precious little to show for it. Delta Goodrem sang ‘Another Year Older’. Well here I am another month older. Yes, I should take it as a compliment when I get asked for ID when buying fags. But ultimately having to confirm that I’m 32 (32!!!) is pretty depressing.

For a while, in my 20s when things were good, time was flying by but in a good way. Uni, then a Masters, then an immediate job with a posting in New York. Now I think back over the past month and wonder what exactly I’ve achieved.

So what’s the way out of my predicament? Since lockdown I’ve poster quite a lot about trying pretty hard to keep myself busy, be it reading, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, online mini workouts etc. And it seems acceptable in lockdown. Ish.

But what next? And no, fly fishing isn’t even a possibility. I’m just baffled by how much time has passed me by without a proper career. And yes, I still hold a huge grudge against the woman who bullied me out of said career.

Basically I’m just feeling a bit sorry for myself and wondering if I’ll ever work again; it’s been so long. And this is a ramble of self pity.

I’ve been out today, I plan to do some yoga and I’ve got my Lee Child book on the go so hopefully I can pull myself out of my slump. Just have to keep on going, Thank you to the people who read or comment on my posts. It gives me a little boost to read the stats.

So another month over but I’m going to try to make this a better one. Suggestions welcome!

Oh Insomnia, thou art a heartless bitch

Image from SHOSHANA KESSOCK

I’ve read somewhere that if you waken up and afte 20 mins still can’t get back to sleep then you should get up and do something gentle fr a short period then give it another shot.

I mean, it’s not an exact science – there are arguments that even just checking the time on awakening scuppers your chances of drifting off back to the land of nod. But sometimes, and especially when you have a snorer in the room, these things are surely worth a shot.

I won’t embarrass said snorer by making a recording, but let’s just say it’s, well, pretty hard core.

So I’ve taken myself downstairs to get away from it and I’m going to do some more postcard colouring. About 2hrs ago, when this last happened, (the exhausted awake but can’t sleep-Ness, I began a list of who I wanted to write to and which type of message.

So there’s going to be some not so subtle address seeking and hopefully a nice bunch of cards to put in the letter box – just to say to someone that I’m thinking of them, or a congratulations on a new baby or happy birthday or anything really.

Yup, it’s true, I’ve reached that grand old age when many of my friends have one or more children. Scary!

I’ve been at it a while and my desperately poor attempts to colour within the lines has resulted in a handful of cards and a more relaxed, sleepier me so I’m back off upstairs.

Please oh please give me another couple of hours kip 🤞🙄🙏💤

For more tips on overcoming insomnia type symptoms check out The Muse, where I found this:

1. Think Positive

It’s that easy—science says ridding your mind of those negative thoughts (“It’s so late, I’ll never get to sleep at this rate,” “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow at work,” “This stinks”) calms you down and makes you more likely to fall asleep.

2. Pick One Thing to Focus On

You know how they always say to try counting sheep? Well, focusing on something specific (like filling a treasure chest) could be just what you need to get sleepy. Choose to focus on your breath, or repeat a calming mantra over in your head—as long as it’s not “I can’t sleep,” because see above.

3. Pretend to Be Tired

Trick your brain into thinking you’re exhausted by, well, pretending you are. Concentrate on the kinds of things you would feel if you were tired, like drooping eyes, the room darkening, or the sensation of sinking into your bed—and before you know it, you just might experience them!

4. Adjust Your Temperature

What’s your ideal sleeping environment? Even if you can’t completely control the heating and cooling system in your home, you can control your body. So, put the fan closer to your face when you’re too hot or bundle up when you’re too cold. Science proves that the ideal sleeping temperature is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so best to shoot for that!

5. Read

No, not on your Kindle or phone, but with a solid, made-of-paper book—to help you out, here are 21 books that career coaches recommend. Dim the lights in your room (or use a lamp) just enough so you can see comfortably, and read—don’t worry about remembering the story or getting to a certain page, just take it in until you feel yourself getting sleepy.

6. Listen to Music

Now, I’m not suggesting you go blasting an intense album (unless that works for you), but some simple, acoustic, minimal percussion music might be perfect for getting your eyes to droop.

7. Or Try a Podcast or Audiobook

Choose your favorite podcast or a non-action-packed audiobook, preferably one that’s dense, and let the soothing voices quiet your mind. It’s not about retaining the information—it’s about giving yourself some comforting background noise.

Bonus tip: Try out the Sleep With Me podcast that’s literally meant to bore you to bed (you’ll be surprised how well it works).

8. Or White Noise

Sometimes the unbearable silence is what’s keeping you up—so, try a white noise app to fill the space with subtle sounds.

9. Or a Meditation App

Download a breathing app like Headspace, or a nature sounds app that will soothe your thoughts and make feel like you’re napping on the beach.

(For more apps, try out these eight free ambience apps!)

10. Stretch

Yes, you can try this sleep hack without getting out of bed. Put your legs up against the wall to calm your central nervous system, or try happy baby pose or child’s pose to relax your body. Alternatively, do some light leg and arm movements and exercises on your back to release any excess tension.

11. Relax From Head to Toe

A colleague swore by this: Concentrate on each muscle, starting from your toes, and tell yourself “My feet are getting sleepy,” “My right leg is getting very sleepy,” “My stomach is asleep,” while you relax each body part. She says she never makes it past her hips!

12. Try the 4-7-8 Exercise

According to science, focusing on your breathing decreases your heartrate and blood pressure, which is prime for sleepiness.

So, try this sleep technique:

  • Inhale for four seconds
  • Hold your breath for seven seconds
  • Exhale for eight seconds
  • Repeat!

13. Journal

If your mind’s racing, grab a notebook and jot down every thought you have—don’t make it linear or pretty, just get everything out until you’re out of ideas and start to tire.

14. Work on the Thing That’s Keeping You Up

If you find that there’s something really nagging you and keeping you awake, don’t just pretend it’ll go away. Whether it’s responding quickly to an email (or writing it and saving it for the morning when you can properly spellcheck it), jotting down some ideas for your upcoming presentation, or even taking out the trash before you forget, getting it over and done with will make sleep a heck of a lot easier. Just don’t spend all night working on it!

15. Do Your Least Favorite Task

As Muse writer Varci Vartanian says in an article about simple sleep solutions, “‘If it’s after bedtime, do something that you enjoy a lot less than sleep!’ [says Dr. Stein] If it’s been 20 minutes and you still haven’t drifted off, get out of bed and attack the most boring, least stimulating task imaginable. Sleep might seem more welcoming after spending a lively half-hour with a dusty college textbook on literary theory.”

Or, even just thinking about the task might be enough to make you fall asleep.

16. Drink Something Hot

Making yourself a glass of hot milk with honey (I swear it’s delicious) or decaffeinated tea could warm your body up for rest. Want more options? Here are 10 drinks that’ll help you get to sleep, backed by science!

17. Stick Your Feet Out

Yup—research says that keeping your toes cool makes you more likely to fall asleep. So pop them out of the covers and get snoozing!

18. Cover Your Eyes

Even if your room’s pretty dark, there’s probably some light that makes its way in. So, if you don’t have an eye mask, grab a warm washcloth (soak and microwave for a few seconds) or a t-shirt and cover your eyes so that all you can see is sleep.

19. Watch a Good Movie or Browse the Web

I don’t want to be the one who says browse through social media or watch Netflix, because glaring screens are probably not the best idea—but I’m also not going to say they don’t work. Because sometimes, you just need a comforting movie or TV show or an endless scroll on Imgur to distract you from insomnia.

That being said, try everything else above first, because it could also backfire and turn into a long, unproductive night of technology.

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There’s also lots online about devices that can help you sleep, as well as those to combat the snorer in your life!

So that’s it from me tonight/this morning… And as Jim Carrey would say in The Truman Show, ‘uncase I don’t see you again, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight!’

Making creativity my thing…

Can I do it? I hope so.. image from Miss Benison

For my 19th birthday I had a fancy dress party. I was coming to the end of a ski season in Les Deux Alpes with Skiworld and costume stores aren’t exactly top priority in ski results…. So as you may guess resources were limited.

Just for fun I set the theme as ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up, when I was young’ – open ended enough to use some imagination and with tin foil and linen being our go to ‘ingredients’ being half way up a mountain, it was an opportunity to get creative.

We had an astronaut, a cat… plausible or not it did not matter. It was just the fun of seeing what our creative juices could come up with. So being a massive Disney fan, and not a tiara in sight to allow me to go as a princess, I used green food dye on a pillow slip and went as Tinkerbell.

Yup, thanks to some green food dye and a pillow slip that’s me as Tinkerbell… Sort of…

But without clothing limitations, if I really thought about it, yes being a disney angel fairy or princess would have been pretty bloody brilliant…. I can remember myself as a young animal-loving me desperate to be a vet.

Unfortunately I saw a James Herriot documentary in which his hand, well, penetrated a cow’s backside to put it politely. And then there was the secondary school tutor who told me to drop Latin and the sciences because I wasn’t smart enough…. So that put an end to my veterinary dreams.

From then on I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be. I went to Loughborough University and studied English, focusing on language and linguistic modules, as well as one in creative writing. I graduated, after having become in the university magazine and I figured actually I might want to be a journalist. So then came my City University, London, masters degree in the field and a job at a national newspaper.

That was fun for a while. But I’ll be honest I found it really draining dealing with the hugely long hours and harassment by the editor of the desk I worked on. It wasn’t rare for me to be working from 8am til 3am. And almost without fail I would be greeted by abuse from the desk editor. You’re only ever as good as your last story in the worked of journalism and according to her I simply didn’t cut it.

So I quit.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about whether my true calling might be in fictional writing, As my Grandma has told my mum (and yes, I know I’m blowing smoke up my ass a little here) ‘that girl has a way with words’.

So I’m dedicating some of my time in lockdown into writing a novel.

It’s gonna be based on a true story I covered as a newspaper hack in Liverpool where I spent some time on the Liverpool Echo during my training. I hope of creating a Jack Reacher type thing, though I could never place myself alongside Lee Child, the bestselling and simple fantastic author.

Jack Reacher, by Lee Child: My inspiration to become a novelist

It’s exciting and scary at the same time and will probably never leave my laptop. But it’s a fun project and I love research, which my idea will require a lot of.

So long story short, and it will be short! I’m gonna give this novel writing thing a whirl and see where I get. Wish me luck! And do get in touch if you’re doing something similar – it’s always good to have someone to knock around ideas with.

It’s OK to not be ok

Image courtesy of You Matter

I’m a terrible fraud at time, replying to the question ‘are you ok?’ or how are you doing?’ with a false smile and an’ im fine thanks how are you?’

But the truth is I’m not always OK, especially when lockdown is quite literally getting me down.

There’s so much out there – my phone is jam packed with apps to keep myself busy and having recently got back into reading novels (and not just my usual go to of beachy type reads) so I would love to find an online book group.

Just a few of the apps I’ve downloaded

I’ve taken up new hobbies, mindful colouring, writing a short story that will probably only ever be seen by my own eyes and joining in with zoom meditation or yoga sessions.

My Sunday night ritual – meditation through Zoom

Then there’s my course in the science of happiness which is not only teaching me things but by putting it into practice it helps boost my mood.

My next project is to knit a family of penguins (don’t hold your breath!) and today I read a Prima article by Gaby Roslin in which she’s written about the different housebound exercise sites she recommends. So I’m excited to try them.

Gaby Roslin in Prima magazine

Keeping to a schedule has been helping keep me sane as well. I keep a daily gratitude diary (on the thrive app which you can also learn about CBT and do practice exercises).

Organising my life: keeping a schedule and recording what I’ve done

Of course it’s also so important to stay in contact with people. I’ve had some lovely messages from people I’ve lost touch with and I make sure I ring my grandma regularly. Just having a conversation with someone is mood boosting for both parties, even if we have precious little to report! But I love hearing her voice and stories from the past, as well as visitors she’s had coming round to have chats from the front garden gate. My parents have put some garden chairs out so she can sit and chat away with them. It’s a small gesture but if it helps then do it!

In the past I’ve often swept over Facebook notifications but now I’m responding to people, wishing them a happy birthday, or offering one of my hand crafted postcards. Isn’t it wonderful to receive some good old fashioned snail mail?! So do feel free to give me your address if you fancy a bit of pen pall contact.

As ever this has turned into a bit of a ramble, so forgive me. But if you get a chance do check out the latest Prima mag. It’s not one I’d normally buy but it’s full of crafty inspiration.

So if its the only promise you make to yourself is to speak truthfully when someone asks if you’re ok, then that’s a great achievement. It really does help, at the same time as sparking up a conversation.

Let’s make a habit of staying in touch and talking about how our day’s been. Hopefully when lockdown finally comes to an end it’ll be the start of a better way of life.

Exercise, no matter how basic, boosts endorphins, laughter is the best medicine, and we can all find ways to occupy ourselves and be able to tell people ‘here’s what I’ve done today’. Or if you’re feeling down, tell someone. Facebook is so successful because it allows communication.

And right now, that’s what we need.

I’d love to hear from people about how their day has been. I promise to respond to all comments and hopefully make some new friends along the way.

Oh and by the way, Gaby, who is also creating a new structure to her day, recommends the FitBit workout, Alice Liveing’s work out and The Body Coach abs sessions as part of her morning routine. No need to push yourself too far. In my opinion little and often is the greatest goal to have.

And who knows, you may find yourself fitter than before!

Make do and mend: DIY beauty in lockdown

My grandmother is, in my opinion, tackling the current crisis with the greatest optimism of all.

At 94 she’s lived through two world wars, dealing with rationing while raising a family, with queues for basic food goods surpassing the lines we are experiencing today. All the loneliness, fear and frustration many of us are battling became part of daily life.

But when I speak to her she tells me: ‘Love, I’ve lived on my own for 30 years now. I’ve got plenty to do and it is what it is’. As she told me earlier today, during the bleak years of WW2, men would jokingly wonder aloud what their wives would do it when rationing ended and queuing came to an end.

It’s been a few years now since she was confidently going out on her own, even to the local shops, with one of the highlights of her week being a drive to the park with my parents or uncle and having a sandwich and a scone for lunch in the restaurant.

Now that’s not possible. It hasn’t stopped her enjoying life though, and I enjoy our phone calls – now more frequent than ever – and hearing about her day.

I think we’re all trying to find ways to keep ourselves occupied – there’s only so many times you can reorganise a chest of drawers or, if the ingredients are to be had, creating something new and interesting in the kitchen. There’s been a surge in people taking up things like knitting, with YouTube and Zoom tutorials at (virtual) hand. And we’re all communicating much more be it via telephone, the internet or good old fashioned snail mail (long live the Royal Mail).

As I’ve previously blogged about I’ve been doing the same. It distracts me and gives me time to think about what’s really important – including showing yourself some love.

Today I’ve decided to try out some DIY nail art. Slapping on a layer or two of polish was once a menial, thoughtless project for me. It served the purpose for whatever I was about to do, but the actual process – well I didn’t really give it a second thought.

So in the spirit of creativity, rather than moaning that my gel nails have long grown past an acceptable level, since no salons are open to fix them, I thought I’d experiment with a little ‘dip-dye’ approach.

Far from perfection but who cares?

The top half-or-so is the now chipping gels I had done and the pink stripe is what I’ve applied myself. No one will see them but hey, it’s time-filling (tick), creative (tick) and actually, I quite enjoyed it.

It also made me notice and appreciate that my nails are in somewhat better condition than I’d have given them credit for. I’ve spent so long moaning that they’re weak and don’t grow well, so I was surprised to see how far the gels have (on some fingers more than others – again, I never realised they grow at different rates) are reaching the tips.

I’m yet to have the courage to apply the same technique to my hair, which not only needs a cut but some definite touch ups to the roots… But I’ve heard of other people doing DIY jobs at home. Dip-dying has long been a ‘thing’ in the hairdressing world but reverse dip-dipdying? Maybe a step too far but.

Yet I do know many people overcoming regular trips to the hairdressers with shop bought tints – of the same colour as the rest of their hair which is trickier for me since mine is highlighted blonde – but there’s room for creativity.

One of my mum’s friends has been given some of the tint her hairdresser uses on her to touch up her roots so there are certainly ways around it.

And in terms of maintenance, I read in the Sunday Times Style magazine about the benefits of actually not washing your hair in order to let the natural oils do their stuff.

Definitely worth a try.

Re-establishing priorities

Virtual meditation: connecting through lock down.

I used to hate Sundays.

Sundays meant if I woke up needing a drink, but without a drop left in the house, I would lie in bed counting down the minutes until shops opened so I could drag myself out of bed and get some more.

Come later in the day I’d inevitably reach the 3pm panic of oh God, they close in an hour, do I have enough to see me through the night?

Of course, before I got ill, Sundays were either a joyous day off or a 12 or so hour shift sat in terror the whole time. And that wasn’t much fun either.

Now, however, I have begun to look forward to them because I have started doing my online meditation sessions. Being a prolific goal setter and list maker, often to my detriment, I’m learning I can achieve something while doing nothing. Well, actually not nothing, its called a practice for a reason and I’m still mastering it. But for those 20 minutes I can shut my eyes and try to relax, as a voice guides me through it.

As a naturally pessimistic person I’m drawn to seeing the negatives in my life; the things I should or shouldn’t have done. But I’m learning that there are positives to be found if you can just still your mind and allow them to find you. I’m understanding more that success doesn’t always equal being a multi billion company executive or the world’s best athlete. Perhaps it can also be about successfully just being.

Thanks again to Ali Gilling for making these sessions available.

Sometimes the oldest rituals are the best….

Image from amazon

Back when I worked for The Daily Mail I would often be told to ask the more ‘mature’ celebs I met at events what their beauty secrets were.

Because what makes a story more than finding out that Joanna Lumley uses some super basic old school face cream?!

I remember asking Peggy at the Chelsea Flower Show but while she tempted me with the info that it was dirt cheap, she refused to tell me what it was.

One, who I won’t name, said she swore by Epsom salts. I’d never even heard of them if I’m honest. I was just relieved to have a story Mail worthy to keep my awful boss (since fired for how she treated her team) from bullying me to the point I quit.

Anywho, I’ve recently been putting Epsom salts in my bath because they contain magnesium. Up until very recently I didn’t know how important magnesium is for body function. In particular studies have shown it helps with sleep – something I think many people are struggling with when days are spent expending less energy than we’re used to.

In short, old school as they may be they really are good for the body and mind. So give it a go – if for no other reason than because you’re recommended to soak for 20 mins. And right now we all need to take some time for ourselves.

In about half an hour I’m doing an online meditation with Ali Gilling on Zoom (ali@aligilling.com) so I just have enough time for a soak in the bath with my salts 😊

Happy bathing!

Courtesy of Ali Gilling, meditation tutor
Continue reading “Sometimes the oldest rituals are the best….”

Why can’t I relax??? Oh yes, I might die

I don’t even realise how high my shoulders are until something, whatever it is, makes them drop. The same with my forehead. Hello early wrinkle lines…

I find it very hard to relax, and trust me I’m trying. Does that make it harder? I don’t know.

Last night I was baking hot so took my jumper off – so unusual for me as I’m generally always cold. And even stew – the warmest person I’d ever touched – said I felt warm to touch. Warmer than him.

Is that a fever? Hypochondria has hit me hard. And despite my efforts to practice mindfulllness all I can think off is s*** do I have coronavirus?

Boris is on the mends – in London’s greatest hospital and under the care of a top consultant – and that’s great, but what about the rest of us?

Do I have it? Have I had it?

Telling the public to stop buying face masks is disgraceful. If we can keep ourselves and others safe then surely it will start bringing numbers down.

The government should be buying PPE for NHS staff rather than funding MPs. I’ve been in ICU before. Twice. Once as a premature baby given a 50% chance of life, then more recently as an adult.

I cannot thank those who looked after me enough. I mean, the dr who told my mum not long after I was born that ‘she’ll live or she’ll die. There’s nothing I can do’ was obviously pessimistic. And for the first month or two of my life my parents could only poke their fingers – fully scrubbed, gowned and masked – into my incubator.

But I made it.

My second visit was probably about 6 months ago when my body wasn’t reacting to treatment and I had a drip put directly into my neck. At the time I didn’t realise I was in ICU. but there were nurses everywhere, in what was maybe a 4 or 6 bed bay. They sat with us, chatted with us plaited our hair.

One girl had been there about 6 weeks I think she said, having developed meningitis.

I’m terrified of this virus, given my low immune system. But I just hope and pray my loved ones stay safe.

And that includes you xx

Lock down prevails but so does my birthday

Then of course there’s the pinpoint birthdays – 18, 21, 30 – the list gets more depressing as time goes on…

For many people the most memorable day of their lives is their wedding day, or perhaps the birth of their first child. Maybe when they finally got a foot on the property ladder.

But for me, yesterday, as I ‘celebrated’ turning 32, I thought it was going to be a bit of a nothing birthday as I can’t actually go and do anything or see anyone. But it’s certainly one I will remember. For all the wrong reasons – thanks to coronavirus – but I’ll remember it for sure.

My wonderful fiance wished me a happy one at exactly midnight and showered me with love for the whole day. And thanks to modern technology I’ve had some truly lovely messages – the first of which arrived the night before in a bid to be the first!

Presents and cards opened in the sun. Bliss.

The other thing I should say is happy birthday to my twin sister. Having just got her own flat I was worried she would be spending the day alone but thanks to my amazing mum and dad she had company.

On Thursday my mum asked if I’d got her jiffy bag containing a card. I had to cut her off from describing the exact contents! I hadn’t. And I won’t until next week as it’s the bank holiday but it’s en route. Apparently parcels are being delivered 10 to the dozen (is that the right phrase??) because of so much online ordering,but there’s a massive overload of letters and cards so expect late deliveries y’all.

But it doesn’t matter. A birthday is just another day. And most importantly the birthday bottle – a wind up bottle that plays happy birthday – that has literally passed through generations was played down the phone to me by my grandma. She sings along with it and its on its last legs but my god it makes me cry. Happy tears though.

In the end I had a great day. A long walk in a nearby park, present and card opening, so many lovely messages from friends and family and being waited on hand and foot as dinner was being prepared while I had a long hot bath.

Fresh air, exercise and relaxation in a beautiful setting

So thank you everyone. As always I hope anyone reading this is safe and well x

Rewiring my thinking

Image from garmaonhealth

Being productive means constantly doing chores or other things you don’t necessarily want to do, right? It’s getting frustrated when a queue isn’t moving quickly enough for me to complete a task ‘on time’.

Not always. Or at least that’s what I’m trying to teach myself…

As previously mentioned I’m learning about the science behind happiness, it’s importance, and how to put it into practice.

So today I cut myself some slack and fitted in some things that gave me some pleasure. I went for a walk somewhere I’d never been before and discovered a rare spot of open green land that’s not locked shut, by the football stadium. I noticed and appreciated the patches of daisies and some beautiful blossom trees. I felt moved and grateful when I saw rainbow paintings posted in people’s windows. I also showed myself some self love by having a long hot shower then straightening my hair.

But while I’m trying to have a more positive attitude to things, I still need to practice.

My ‘homework’ for the wellbeing course I’m doing was to try and use my top 4 qualities, as scored on a Yale University credited scoring system.

One of them was kindness and on reflection I could have been kinder to a guy in the queue for our local pharmacy. He charged past me as I approached, to beat me in the line but joined the wrong end. I realised before he did and got to the correct end first. My first thought was ‘ha ha, beat you’, but on reflection a kinder me would have offered to let him go in front.

So to that anonymous guy, who won’t be reading this, I’m sorry. Right now, more than ever, I need to stop obsessing about to do lists and moaning about things and instead appreciate what I do have.

We’re all in this together.