Motivation to exercise – how to find it after you’ve lost it

My initial motivator for joining the gym in 2009 was an upcoming trip to Thailand. I wanted to be fit enough to endure the hikes and physical exertion.

After that, while I did still exercise (I was always doing yoga and did some home workouts) it was pretty sporadic and I stopped going to the gym. I joined the gym again in 2015, inspired by my then-flatmate Emily and switched up my routine by going in the morning.

I realised I loved the way I felt when I went to the gym and wanted to make it, and exercise in general, a part of my life. For most of 2015 and 2016, I had my routine down and absolutely loved it.

For the last couple of months in 2016 I was back to sporadic yoga sessions and totally let go of any routine by Christmas (don’t we all?). After that, I really struggled to find motivation again in early 2017.

Getting out of a habit is easy. Getting back into a habit, even when you know it makes you feel good, is HARD.

For most of the year I’ve swung between having the odd week where I smash it at the gym, do yoga, do my strength training and feel amazing. And then there would be weeks where I thought ‘fuck it’ and did nothing, not even yoga. I was swinging from extremes.

But now…. now I feel like something’s switched. The last couple of months in particular, something’s changed and I’ve found my motivation.

How to find your motivation after you’ve lost it

Wearing my lovely Island Feather sports bra and leggings ❤

Change your mindset

You know how people say when you don’t try and force something, that’s when it’ll happen? This is true of working out too. I would feel guilty for not going to the gym and put pressure on myself.

As soon as I decided it was OK to say no to the gym and take off that pressure, guess what? I felt more like working out because I wasn’t doing it because I felt I ‘had to’, I was doing it because I wanted to.

Take off the pressure and rid yourself of gym guilt

Do it from a place of love, not punishment

This really came into effect after BeFit festival and hearing the Girl Gains talking about their attitude to exercise and doing it out of love, not punishment. I was already half-way there after taking the pressure off myself, but after hearing them talk I realised that I wanted to exercise because I loved my body and wanted to do things for it that felt good.

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Since then I’ve genuinely been excited for the gym, without feeling bad if for whatever reason I don’t make it there.

Exercise because you love your body and want it to thrive. Don’t use exercise as a punishment for eating, it has to come from a place of love.

Mix it up

This is the next step for me. My routine is getting a little stagnant and I can sense myself getting bored. I did recently swap a gym workout for a morning walk and that was perfect for what my body and mind needed that day. I may switch up my at-home strength training routine and brave some new machines at the gym to keep me motivated.

Keep your body and mind engaged by switching up your routine every now and then – and don’t be afraid to try new things. 

As well as the above I follow people on social media and Youtube who have the same outlook to fitness so I can dip into their world occasionally and feel inspired. How do you find your motivation after losing it? Let me know in the comments!

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Yes, it’s OK to love yourself

When I was at school, there were a couple of girls I was friends with. I found out that they were writing notes about me behind my back, commenting on everything from the way I wore my make up to the way I ate (which, for those wondering, is apparently like a squirrel).

While these nasty notes were just another part of school life back then, one comment in there stuck with me. That I ‘loved myself’.

At this point I was on the road to anorexia and I don’t think I could have been any further from loving myself.

What makes me sad now though when I think about it, is that according to them, me loving myself was a problem, a flaw, it made me big headed and vain.

And I’m pretty sure some people feel this way today. That loving yourself is wrong.

Well, I’m calling bullshit.

After years of hating myself, starving myself, cutting myself… I can honestly say right now, I love myself. I love who I’ve become. I love how mentally strong I am today. I love the way I can demolish a plate of food and feel no guilt. I love that I can look in the mirror and think “I look HOT”.

And yes, I do sometimes document when I feel like this. Why not?

I get it, selfie culture is a bit strange and it still feels a little weird posting a picture of your face and waiting to see people’s reactions.

And yes, I know, some people take it too far and can become obsessed – but you know what they’re obsessed with? The reactions. The comments. Whether or not people think they look ‘acceptable’.

This is not why you post selfies when you truly love yourself. You do it because you want to remember this moment. If people want to comment, tap like etc. then that’s just fine too.

Let’s be real though, nobody loves themselves every second of the day. I have times when I get so sick of the sound of my own voice I have to have a stern word with myself. But when you learn to love yourself, you learn to accept your flaws, your barefaced beauty, your quirks and embrace them with open arms.

When this happens, when you love yourself without the make-up, without the filters – and more importantly, when you believe in yourself – incredible things happen.

You attract positivity. You find your voice in the workplace, confident that you know your shit. You meet people who bring light into your life. You discover your purpose. You flourish. You thrive.

So don’t tell me it’s wrong to love yourself, because it’s never felt so god damn right *drops mic and sashays away*

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Input vs output: the key to creativity

Last month I talked about how important creativity is to our happiness – that being able to use our imaginations to bring an idea to life is part and parcel of being a human. Now, this is all well and good, but…

… What happens when we find ourselves in a creative rut? How can we get inspired again?

This is what I want to talk about today. As you’ll know if you read that post about creativity, I’ve been exploring my creative side on Instagram with more styled images.

Through this little journey I listened to a podcast that discussed the idea of input vs output when it comes to creative work (I wish I could remember which one, but alas I can’t. It was a while ago and I listen to very similarly themed podcasts these days, doh!).

Input vs output

Whether you have to be creative in your day job or have a creative project/hobby on the side, the work you do on this is your output. So that’s sitting down with your tool of choice (camera, laptop, knitting needle, whatever) and actually doing the work.

What you do outside of this work – sitting in a park, listening to music, meeting friends, visiting new places, generally living LIFE – is your input.

Maintaining this balance and taking time for ‘input’ is, I think, the best way to keep your creative batteries charged.

I know it can be difficult and if you have a creative job taking time to go sit in a park may feel like you’re slacking off, but it may be exactly what you need to go back to your desk and make magic happen.

Ideas to recharge your creative batteries

  • find somewhere beautiful to sit (take a notepad)
  • listen to some music that makes your soul sing
  • read some poetry
  • visit a new town and go exploring
  • go to the cinema watch a genre of movie you would never normally go for
  • cook a new recipe
  • meet friends for coffee and avoid work-chat
  • take yourself out for lunch

Finding inspiration

Sometimes, even when we’ve nailed the input-output balance, new ideas seem completely elusive. When this happens to me with taking photos, there’s a few resources I fall back on…

Pinterest

I must admit I’ve been neglecting my little Pinterest account recently, but it is a fantastic resource for inspiration, whether it’s the images themselves that inspire you or thought provoking articles.

Instagram

This one probably only applies to those working in photography/visual art, but Instagram is a great place to find inspiration. I go through my favourite people to follow on Instagram and bookmark any images that I particularly like.

When I’m next stuck for ideas I’ll look through them and think about what I like about them (the simplicity, the light, the feel) and try to interpret it in my own way.

Now, this doesn’t mean outrightly copying someone else’s photo (not cool people) but figuring out what it is about it you like and seeing how you can translate that using your own style.

Podcasts

You guys know I love a good podcast – you get to listen to inspiring conversations and motivational monologues all while doing your nails/having a bath/working out/doing your make-up.

I’ll have to do another ‘podcasts to inspire‘ post soon as I definitely have some new favourites!

Blogs/magazines/books

Read, read, read! There’s interesting perspectives all over the place, but be mindful of what content you consume and remember to take everything with a pinch of salt – what works for one person may not work for you.

Feeling suitably inspired yet?

Remember – check your input-output balance, actively search for inspiration, and… go create!

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Let’s stop demonising food

OK, hands up if you’ve ever said one of the following phrases when offered a slice of birthday cake / other tasty treat:

“Oh, no – I’m being good this week.”

“Oh go on then, I’m so naughty!”

“I’m so bad for eating this cake…”

I admit, I have certainly done this in the past – but I’ve decided to stop and think about the language I use to describe food in conversation.

The words we use have a huge effect on the way we think.

Take food for example. Labelling it as good or bad gives it a moral standing, leaving us open to judgement if we choose to eat it (or not eat it). Worse than that, we give ourselves these labels too – “I’m so bad”.

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I LOVE this ^^^

Picture this: you’re in your staff room at work, there’s a tray of cupcakes doing the rounds and you say, “No thanks, I’m being good.” You don’t know it, but your co-worker standing next to you is struggling with body image and is on the cusp of developing an eating disorder. Hearing you say that, confirms what the voice inside his or her head is saying – that they are a bad person for wanting a cupcake.

I know – not everyone around us has eating problems or will necessarily be affected by what you say… but consider the message you’re sending yourself with this way of thinking.

When you label food, or yourself, as ‘bad’ it immediately conjures up feelings of guilt. This guilt is what clouds our minds when it comes to self-image. It makes us feel less than worthy and nothing should have that sort of power over us, especially food.

enjoying some tasty food in Barcelona

Adjusting your moral compass (and eating intuitively)

Food can be many things – a source of joy, a source of nourishment, a source of fuel – but it is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is not ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’.

Take away these labels and what are you left with? Food.

Food that will affect your body and mood in a certain way. Look at it again and ask yourself – do you really want it? Is your body or soul craving it? Will it bring you joy? Will it give you energy? Will it make your body/mind feel good?

Consider these questions and respect your answers – if eating a cupcake in this very moment will bring you joy, eat the damn cupcake. 

Recently there was a birthday at work and there were two trays of cupcakes, two regular birthday cakes and a box of chocolates. After looking at them and asking myself these questions, I realised that, actually – I didn’t really want one.

healthI knew I had chocolate at home. I knew myself well enough to realise that after dinner is when I get serious sweet cravings. I knew that enjoying that chocolate in the evening would bring me more joy than a forced cupcake at lunch would.

This isn’t the case every day (trust me, more often than not I revel in a cupcake) but on this day – that’s what my intuition was telling me.

Eating intuitively and without judgment allows us to enjoy food again.

Getting rid of moral labels eradicates the associated guilt.

Imagine if, as a society, this was the way we all ate. We were brought up to listen to our bodies and to eat mindfully. We were brought up without ‘bad’ or ‘good’ foods.

How many people would have eating disorders? How many would have unhealthy emotional attachments to food? How many would spend their hard earned money on the ‘diet’ industry?

Just some *food* for thought.

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Being body positive

Last month I wrote a post about how I deal with feeling fat, something that as a woman, and an ex-anorexic, I deal with a lot. Today I want to delve a little deeper into this topic, talk about what body positivity means to me and why I feel hopeful about the rise of this movement.

This is a definition of the body positive ‘movement’ according to Wikipedia (I know, I have the best sources):

The Body Positive Movement is a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being.

And yeah, in a nutshell, this is pretty much it. It doesn’t mean not caring about your health or not wanting to improve yourself, it means accepting and loving your body exactly how it is.

Loving yourself and your body doesn’t mean you can’t change it with exercise and healthy eating – it means making those choices from a place of love and respect for yourself, not as a form of punishment.

Recently I went to BeFit, a fitness festival/expo for women which had talks, exercise classes, cooking demonstrations and lots of exercise/nutrition stands to buy things. My lovely friend Claudia was there with her brand Island Feather and she invited a few of us along to enjoy the festival.

Walking around, I noticed a real variety of people. Of course, there were some incredibly ‘fit’ looking people, but there was a range of ages and body shapes, which made me smile. The highlights of the weekend were a talk from the Girl Gains and a Vinyasa yoga class.

I had heard of the Girl Gains before, but I didn’t really know much about them. Hearing their story and their ethos, I was pleasantly surprised. They’re all about loving yourself and giving your body what it needs without punishing yourself or becoming obsessive.

The yoga class was intense, physically demanding and incredibly empowering. I pushed myself further than I had in a long time in certain yoga poses and the meditation on being ‘worthy’ at the end actually left me a little emotional.

I think what struck me at BeFit was this message of loving yourself as you are and respecting what your body can do. There was a lot going on at the festival and perhaps not everyone came away with that same message, but from the classes/talks I chose to attend, it was the biggest take-away. And that left me feeling hopeful for the future of the fitness industry.

So as I continue my mission to loving my body as it is right this moment, here are a few things I’m doing.

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What I’ doing to love my body more

Looking at myself

I mean butt naked, in the mirror, really looking at my body. Looking at the way my belly curves, the way the skin on my thigh moves. I’m looking at it and giving it love. I’m cradling my belly, holding the weight in my hand and saying – you are beautiful.

It isn’t easy. Your natural reaction is to think about how much better you could look if you did X or ate less of Y, but resisting this and connecting with the body you have NOW is what being body positive is all about.

Speaking out

As a way of affirming it to myself and hopefully encourage others to join me, I’m being more vocal about body positivity both in real life and on social media. After all, this isn’t just an issue I’m going thorough, it’s one as a society we need to address.

Buying bigger jeans

I spoke about this on Instagram, but after accepting that my favourite blue jeans were too tight for me now – I went out and bought a bigger pair. They hug my curves and frankly, make my ass look amazing. It’s incredible how much better you feel in clothes that fit, it’s all about getting out of the mindset that the size of your jeans matters… it DOES NOT.

Not congratulating people on losing weight

OK, I’ll hold my hands up and say I definitely do this – but I’m resolving to stop now. Recently I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time and she had lost weight – the first thing I said to her was about how great and “skinny” she looked.

As we continued chatting, I noticed it wasn’t her weight-loss that was making her look so good, it was her radiance, the way she was holding herself. She was happy and it shone through. She said the same to me.

Even though I am probably at my heaviest weight right now, she didn’t see that at all, she just saw that I was happy – and I am.

It’s so ingrained in us to congratulate people for losing weight, but I want to try and shift that mentality. It’s about people feeling happy and healthy – whatever weight they’re at, and that’s what I want to focus on in everyday conversations moving forward.

Phew – this blog ended up a bit longer than I intended, so well done if you stuck with me to the end! It’s a subject I’m getting more and more passionate about and I have a lot of thoughts about it… so don’t be surprised if it pops up again here on Blue Jay.

Did anyone else go to BeFit or been to any other fitness expos? I would love to hear other people’s perspectives on the industry and how it’s changing – let me know in the comments.

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Crying for no reason

Recently I found myself sat in my car, crying for no reason. It was a Monday, I was in the work car park and it was just before I was due to walk in and start my day.

The weekend before I had wrestled with headaches, nausea and generally feeling low, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why I was feeling so sad. It was like a wave came over me. Everything felt heavy and pained, including my thoughts.

At first I blamed it on the headache and thought I was just being a bit grumpy, but by Monday morning when I was in tears in the car park, I realised something else was going on. I felt a painfully familiar sense of wanting things to ‘stop’, wanting to pause life and just retreat under my duvet.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt like this from time to time. Suddenly going from content to sad with no explanation.

The worst thing about it was not being able to explain to people what was up. I spent most of the weekend with Dan and couldn’t tell him why I was feeling like this… and that’s frustrating for everyone. All I knew was that I wasn’t feeling good.

By Tuesday evening, I was crying again, but this time from laughter. Just like that, the wave passed and I felt back to normal (even though the headache was still bothering me).

I thought I would record here what I did, what I didn’t do and what ultimately helped as reference for me and also as it may help you if you find yourself in a similar situation.

I will stress however that everyone is different and there may be underlying reasons why all of us find ourselves feeling low sometimes, but hey – gotta start somewhere right?

What I did

Asked for what I needed. On the Saturday I had zero energy and zero brain capacity, so me and Dan went for a walk, watched Rick and Morty and he went out to get us dinner (and wine). It was exactly what I needed and it really helped.

Ate whatever I wanted. Which was mostly chocolate. It was necessary.

Journaled… kinda. So I didn’t actually end up taking pen to paper, but I feel like I mentally journaled about why I was feeling like this. Every time I had a quiet moment to myself (usually in the shower) I thought about what brought this on. And to be totally honest? I came up blank. There were no culprits, no dark clouds –  nothing but blue sky and sunshine.

What I didn’t do

Exercise. My headache and low energy levels meant I just did not want to do any exercise. In hindsight, yoga would have probably helped, but I just wanted to give myself permission to drop any ‘shoulds’ in my routine and feel free for a bit.

Talk about it in great depth. This goes against everything I know about mental health, but in this instance I just didn’t feel like I had anything to talk about. I didn’t know what was causing it or how to help, so I didn’t go into great detail when discussing it. I did however discuss it.

Lie to people. I considered it. I thought about just saying nothing and pretending I was fine, especially at work. But I realised I shouldn’t be ashamed of it, so when people asked how I was, I said I wasn’t feeling great. As mentioned above, I didn’t go into depth, but I didn’t sugar coat it either or brush it off.

What helped

Listening to ‘From the Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl‘ podcast

There was an episode about ‘manifesting’ and it talked about putting your trust in the universe that everything is how it should be and everything will work out as it’s supposed to. In that moment, it was what I needed to hear and it helped shift my thinking.

Going out for dinner with Dan

This was on the Tuesday evening, we hadn’t been out on a ‘date night’ for a while and we were both in really silly moods. The whole night was spent talking, eating and laughing.

Spending real quality time with him just reminded me what’s important. Love. People. That’s what it’s all about. And as quickly as it came, my low mood lifted. It was like I was feeling a little lost and was reminded of where my home is – with the people I love.

The most important part of this experience for me was to remember that mental health is a constant thing we have to contend with and that we can all have blips, no matter how happy we think we are.

Being more honest and open about it than I would have been in the past showed me how much I’ve learned. I also know the next steps I would have taken, had the mood not improved over time – I certainly would not have hesitated to ask for help.

Anyway, not sure quite how useful this post is… but hey, it felt worthy of recording. Let me know if you ever feel like this too in the comments and how you pull yourself out of it – let’s help each other.

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Self-care when you’re feeling run down

How often do you stop and listen to what your body is trying to tell you? How often have you ignored that niggling pain or tiredness only to go and get ill the following week?

In the last few years I feel like I’ve gotten better at hearing my body when it’s telling me to slow down. I can feel run down from time to time, like I’m fighting something off or have ‘the edge’ of something, but I don’t seem to get coughs and colds too often (probably jinxing myself here but hey).

I think this is because once I recognise that I’m feeling run down, a bit off or just not right – I slow right down. I do what my body is telling me it needs and I focus my attention on self-care.

Something I love about yoga and meditation is that it gives you the space to listen to your body. And I think it may be the reason I don’t get ill too often.

self-care

I’ve seen it far too often when people don’t do this. They push through, try to ignore what their body is saying and then seem surprised when they come down with an illness and are out of action for a week.

Obviously, sometimes there’s simply no escaping getting ill. But I do think we can give ourselves a fighting chance if we listen to ourselves and look after ourselves a little more often. So I thought I would share some advice for gaining better self-awareness when it comes to health and how to look after yourself when you’re feeling run down.

Self-care when you feel run down

Notice your symptoms

Try and keep an eye out for tell-tale signs that you are run down. For me it’s headaches, sore throats and a general lack of energy. For you it may be stomach aches, insomnia or muscular aches and pains. Whatever it is, try not to dismiss it. Ask yourself, why am I feeling like this?

What does your body need?

Think about what your body is craving and what would help it feel better. If I feel like I’m coming down with a cold, the first thing I’ll do some immune-boosting yoga. There are certain poses/moves that stimulate your lymphatic system and thymus gland to boost your immunity. Then I’ll add more fruit and vegetables to my diet and… rest up. If that means skipping the gym or saying no to social invitations, then so be it.

Try and reduce stress

Stress makes everything worse, including your health. Whether your feeling physically or mentally run down, try to include some sort of relaxation into your day. This could be meditation, a long bath or reading. If I get really stressed it triggers anxiety symptoms which leads to headaches… etc. Let’s just say stress is all-round not good for us.

Eat what you’re craving

Yeah, sometimes this is more fruit and vegetables, but let’s be honest – sometimes it’s chocolate. You all know my thoughts on this, enjoy food and give your body and soul what it needs – just don’t go crazy on the sugar, it isn’t ideal if you’re fighting an illness. Try to eat more body-nourishing foods.

Get into immune-boosting habits

Instead of just looking after yourself when you’re feeling ill, get into the habit of looking after yourself every day to maintain your immunity. I drink green tea at work every morning, try to meditate regularly, move my body often and include good stuff in my diet. Nothing revolutionary, I know, but these little habits add up and if nothing else, helps you to be more in tune with yourself.

At the time of writing this I am wresting a particularly nasty headache and nausea combination and I’m feeling pretty crap to be honest. So I plan to finish this, get Netflix on the go and stay horizontal for the rest of the evening. If you’re feeling rubbish, I invite you to do the same.

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Creating a brand with purpose with Island Feather founder Claudia Albrecht

I’m so thrilled that today I can share another ‘hope‘ interview featuring another of my very talented friends – Claudia.

I always noticed Claudia at school, she was carefree and genuine. Much like with Emily, I didn’t get to know Claudia really well until college where we bonded over a mutual love for Linkin Park and skater boys.

Suffice to say, she’s come a long way since then, but her free spirit remains. In fact, she’s channeled that sense of freedom and created a brand with it – Island Feather. Starting off as a hair feather stall popping up at festivals here and there, Island Feather has transformed into a stunning activewear brand with passion and purpose at its core.

Anyway, let’s get Claudia to tell us more…

Hey Clauds! Can you give us a brief description of your work history?

My full time job was working as a children’s services manager for Action for Children. This role was managing eight managers with eight staff teams working across 13 children’s centres. Children’s centres were early intervention for vulnerable children and families and the work we provided was to support them with issues such as parenting, domestic abuse, health and wellbeing.

Can you explain how the original concept for Island Feather came together?

You can read more about the beginnings of Island Feather over on our blog, but really Island Feather has evolved over time. I never saw it as a business, just a hobby. Over the last 6 months I realised that it could be a business and be a career that combines all my passions.

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look book images by Ryan Winterbotham

Can you tell us how the vision for Island Feather has changed since you started out?

The vision for Island Feather was always the lifestyle. It was a brand that captured all the things I love, finding your freedom, being happy and caring for one another. These fundamentals still remain. The products have evolved as my skills have evolved. I have learnt along the way; three years ago I never could have designed and understood the manufacturing side of fitness clothing.

What is the company’s mission statement?

“Find your freedom and look after one another.”

What are your hopes for 2017?

My hope for 2017 is to grow Island Feather’s sports and fitness wear collection, inspire more people to find their freedom and live a happy, healthy life.

Pictures from the Island Feather launch party, taken by Fi Muray.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking about starting a business?

My advice for anyone starting a business is to know the reason why before doing it. Your why will be what drives you, it’ll stress you out… but it will be the thing that sticks with you for the long run. I didn’t go into the business thinking it would work overnight, it has evolved and become a part of me.

If you have a job, maybe don’t give it up straight away – wait until the business evolves and see how it goes. You do need something to keep yourself propped up for the initial stages. I don’t do it for the money, or to ‘own my own business’, I do it because it is everything I believe in and something that makes me happy.

I would also recommend signing up with a government funded organisation for support with mentoring. Really have a clear plan and have a system to review how you’re doing. This helps keep your focus, allow for change and opportunity to reflect on what you can achieve. I would also say that you are going to make poor choices and mistakes, but the most important thing is making a decision and going with it. The rest will come later.

I have learnt so much along the way, but have never had any regrets for the choices I made. When taking the plunge to take working for Island Feather seriously, it was when I asked myself “at the age of 80, would I regret not trying this and giving it a go?”. My answer was yes I would, therefore that was the simple answer!

Do what makes you happy – find your freedom.

Thank you Clauds! I bought myself one of Island Feather’s beautiful sports bras and I can testify that the quality is incredible, and I loooove the design, especially the back.

As well as the gorgeous designs, I love Island Feather for their philosophy, which is to encourage women to find their freedom, whatever that means to them. So proud of Claudia and I can’t wait to see her business thrive – follow Island Feather’s journey on Instagram.

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A morning routine to set you up for a healthier, happier day

Hands up if you love hearing about other people’s morning routines? *raises hand*

I have a real fascination with other people’s routines and especially how they spend the first hour or so of their day.

I guess it’s because that hour or so sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you spend it rushing around, knocking stuff over and stressing out about that catty work email you read before you got out of bed, your day probably won’t go so well.

If you spend your morning embracing a healthy routine, being calm and intentional it might steer your day in a better direction.

As I like to read about other people’s morning routines so much, I thought I’d share what I try and do on weekday mornings here for other equally as nosey people…

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A morning routine for a healthier, happier day ahead

Avoid looking at your phone

OK, I need to be honest here. What I’m really saying is avoid checking your email, because that will only stress you out. I, personally, have gotten into a habit of checking my Instagram before I even sit up in bed… is this a bad thing? I don’t know. It helps me wake up a bit and inspires me with pretty images, so it doesn’t feel ‘bad’. I guess this one comes down to personal preference.

Hydrate

The next thing I do is drink lots of water. I used to drink hot water and lemon, but the acid from the lemon was making my teeth sensitive, so now I just keep a filtered bottle of water by my bed and drink from this.

Meditate

I sit up in bed and try to get five minutes of meditation in before rolling out of bed. This depends on how long I’ve snoozed and whether or not I’m going to the gym, but most mornings see me being still for a few minutes to set an intention for the day. I try to think of a word or a phrase I can think back to throughout the day like “calm amongst the chaos”.

Exercise

On weekday mornings I try to either get to the gym or do some strength training at home. Now it’s getting sunnier I might go out for the odd morning walk instead. There is something quite magical about being up and outside when most people are still sleeping.

Listen to a podcast

While I’m putting my make-up on I’ll listen to a podcast. It’s usually something work/creative related to fire me up for a day at work. I’ll listen while eating breakfast too, feels much nicer than watching TV.

Eat breakfast

I cannot not eat breakfast. Hungry is basically my general state of being, so eating is a non-negotiable! These days I tend to rotate between having:

  • oatibix + granola with blueberries and banana
  • peanut butter on toast (great after the gym)
  • yoghurt + granola with blueberries, banana and honey

Drink some green tea 

As soon as I get into work I make myself a cup of green tea, usually one flavoured with fruit as straight green tea makes me sad inside. I will then promptly move on to coffee for the rest of the day, but at least I have one cup of antioxidant-filled goodness.

So there you go – obviously some mornings I sleep too late and only have time to throw clothes on, stuff my face with toast and head to work, but it sure does feel good when I have a calm, intentional start to the day.

What does your morning routine look like?

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Supporting someone struggling with their mental health

Up until now, when I’ve discussed mental health on Blue Jay, I’ve mainly stuck to self-management and self-care type posts. So I thought it was about time I looked at it from another angle: how to support someone struggling with their mental health.

Almost all of us will encounter this challenge at some point in our lives. It may be a parent, sibling, friend, partner or even a work colleague. They may be going through a blip, or they may be living with a long-term condition.

Whatever the situation, it can be hard to know what to do, as someone significant in their lives.

First, let’s start with what not to do.

Do not ignore them. Do not assume because you aren’t a counsellor or don’t know much about mental health that you should keep your distance. Do not avoid topics of conversation because you ‘don’t know what to say’.

As much as people are confident talking about mental health online or in the media, it’s the way we have these conversations in our everyday life that makes the difference. Don’t shy away from it. The more we talk about it, the more ‘normal’ it becomes – that’s how you eradicate stigma.

OK, so now you know what not to do, here’s some thoughts on what you can do to show your support.

How to support someone struggling with their mental health

  • Educate yourself. A lot of people shy away from talking about something because they don’t feel they know enough about it. If someone you love is struggling with something in particular, look it up and learn more about how it may be making them feel.
  • Start the conversation. Often it will be up to you to take this first step. And this is honestly easier than it seems. Try a simple, ‘how are things, really?’ or ‘what’s been going on in your world lately?’ or even ‘are you OK?’.
  • Be there. Be a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, a kind hand for them to hold. Sometimes a smile and a hug can make all the difference. Assure them that you are always there to listen – even if you don’t feel capable of actually helping them, being someone they can talk to is precious.

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  • Encourage, but don’t force. If you feel they would benefit from extra support, for example from a counsellor or a doctor, try to encourage them to seek help. Do some research and let them know what could help and the benefits of getting extra support, but avoid dictating to them or forcing them to do anything they’re not ready to do.
  • Ask for help yourself. It can be easy to try and carry the weight of other people’s problems, but remember to look after yourself too and don’t be afraid to speak to a doctor yourself if you’re struggling to know what to do next. They will be able to advise you and may even recommend you chat to a counsellor too.

I remember when I was going through my eating problems, my sister wrote me a letter. She didn’t know I had anorexia then, she just knew I was unhappy and struggling socially at school. In the letter she spoke from experience, telling me about life after school and that no matter how bad things seemed, nothing is permanent.

This really stuck with me and although I ended up needing professional intervention to help me recover, that letter was incredibly important to me. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Letting the person know that it’s OK to not be OK and that nothing lasts forever.

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