Knife crime, dirty laundry, and self care

The last couple of weeks have made me realise just how important it is to have a self care bank.

If I hadn’t been able to cash in on some of my self care reserves, I definitely wouldn’t have got through it as well as I have.

Most of the drama that has unfolded, has been out of my hands.

Sadly we’re living in a city where knife crime is a reality. It’s almost becoming the norm. Yet twice, in the space of just a few days, knife crime got closer to home.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s my country bumpkin background that makes me more shockable when these things happen.

The guys I know who have lived in and around London for most of their lives, tend to just shrug it off and tell me ‘that’s life’. I guess this isn’t the first time they have dealt with knife and gang crime. It’s not like it’s a new problem, but with the news and social media platforms we use these days, perhaps it just seems worse because it’s talked about more.

Whatever’s going on, when it impacts people you know, as well as the work you do, it starts to feel like it’s getting a bit too close for comfort.

I’ve also still been having problems with my ex. I’m not going to air my dirty laundry on here, but it’s something I could do without.

I’m also trying to spend some time forging new, exciting friendships/relationships with people. It was one of the things I wanted to accomplish this year. It’s early days, but it’s kinda fun wondering whether these people are here for a reason, here for a season, or here for a lifetime.

I haven’t even had time to head home lately. Weekends have been filled with hen parties, friends and family visiting, and work. And there’s still more busy weekends to come.

I’m certainly not complaining, but my body and mind are starting to tell me I need some R&R.

Today, I listened to my body and did bugger all. After working all day on Saturday, I needed some time to just vegetate today. I only left the house to grab some food for dinner, and barely left the sofa. I used to hate days doing nothing. But I’ve learnt that when my body says rest, I need to listen to it, otherwise I run the risk of burning out.

Heading into a new week, I need to make sure I focus on getting back outside for some exercise, as well as creating some time to bank some more self care points, in order to replace those I have used over the last couple of weeks.

Fingers crossed for a more peaceful week ahead…

Praia Santa Eulália, Praia da Oura and Alfagar II Aparthotel

I’m now back in gloomy, grey, England after a beautiful few days in Portugal.

The flight into Gatwick yesterday was slightly unnerving, as we landed in high winds. There were gasps, followed by a few expletives from passengers as we made our descent, but thankfully, our pilot got us back safe and sound (and without the drama this plane had trying to land at Heathrow yesterday – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-47177383/plane-struggles-to-land-in-strong-winds-at-heathrow-airport).

Thursday was my last full day in Portugal. I had intended on having a rest day, but I also wanted to get back out to see what else was around, close to where I was staying.

I had been staying at the beautiful Alfagar II Aparthotel, which has private access to Praia Santa Eulália. Although I had taken a walk down to the beach on the day I arrived, I really didn’t explore that much. So, I decided to pack up my rucksack and head down to the beach armed with my book and my beach towel ready to explore Praia Santa Eulália.

View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
Private access path down to Praia Santa Eulália.

Once I arrived at the beach, I noticed the tide was out, so I decided to keep walking and followed the beach around towards the next cove. The beaches around this part of The Algarve are stunning. They are rugged and wild, but magical and serene at the same time. The cliffs were something else, and their colours are just beautiful.

As I continued my walk around to the next beaches (Praia da Oura Leste and Praia da Oura), I turned back to look at the view. It was such a stunning spot. So it was there that I sat and read my book until lunchtime approached.

After a spot of lunch by beachside restaurant Vivaldo’s it was time to head back to the hotel to enjoy my last afternoon poolside.

The view from Vivaldo’s

As the evening set in, it was time to reflect back on a fantastic trip.

I booked the entire holiday (flights, hotel and transfers) through easyJet, and I couldn’t fault any of it.

The hotel was absolutely stunning and spotlessly clean, the staff were really friendly and helpful, the food at the Buganvilla Snack-Bar where I ate my evening meals was fantastic. The portions were huge, with a wide selection of starters, and main meals. The apple pie was to die for, and the chocolate mousse was simply divine! The evening entertainment was on the cheesy side, but I guess you expect that in resorts, and in actual fact, holidaying in February, I was probably lucky that evening entertainment was on the menu! The little supermarket in Alfagar Village was well stocked with everything you could wish for, including fresh bread, a butchers, and plenty of wine.

I didn’t use all the facilities on site (there is a car rental office on site – not sure I trust myself to drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road yet!), but those I did use were superb. The gym, the spa, the pools, as with the rest of the hotel were spotlessly clean and well looked after.

On my first day, I had a slight problem with my lights not switching on in the apartment, however, I called down to reception, and within 15 minutes the maintenance guy was at my door, ready to fix it for me. 2 minutes later, I had light and had no further problems throughout my stay.

Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel

I had also booked my transfers through easyJet. Finding the meeting point at Faro airport was really straightforward, and only took 30 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel. On the return journey, thankfully I was early, and already in reception, because the transfer was a good 10 minutes early picking me up. We got to the airport early which at least meant I had a bit more time to look around duty free!

And despite landing in windy conditions, both flights were excellent.

All in all, a fantastic holiday!

Where to next I wonder?

(All photos in this blog are my own)

Olhos de Água and Praia da Falesia

After my relaxing day on Tuesday, yesterday I was back into explorer mode.

This time I decided to head east of the resort, and headed to the beach at Olhos de Agua. Again, I chose to walk, as good old Google maps told me it was only a short walk away.

20 minutes later, I arrived at the beach. Olhos is small fishing town where the local fishermen still pull their boats onto the sand when they arrive back to the shoreline with their fresh catches. It’s a much quieter town than Albufeira, but lovely if you have a young family and aren’t looking for somewhere overly commercial.

As there wasn’t an awful lot to do or see there, I decided to head down onto the beach to see if I could walk round to the next Praia (beach), Praia da Falesia.

(All photos in this post are my own )

If you are lucky enough to get down to the Praias on the Algrave’s south coast when the tide is out, it is really easy to walk from many of the beaches to the next without too many problems, albeit over a few small rocks. However, once the tide comes back in, these parts are pretty much impossible to reach by foot.

Luckily, the tide was out when I arrived in Olhos de Água, leaving a clear path right i round to Praia da Falesia.

As soon as I walked around the corner of the cove onto Praia de Falesia, the view took my breath away. Seeing the vivid orange colours of the cliffs and the distinguishable layers of rock, made my inner geographer do a little back flip of joy!

I must’ve walked down almost the entire stretch of the praia with a massive grin on my face. Every new section of cliff face I came to had something different to offer.

As I continued to walk along the beach, I realised how light and carefree I felt. I felt more relaxed and content than I have done in a long time.

As I walked along, I did a lot of thinking. I started to make a lot of sense out of things on that walk, putting some things into perspective, letting other things go, and thinking about some of the changes I need to make in order to create more happiness and feelings of being carefree, on a more regular basis.

I will share some of my thoughts with you over the coming days, but for now, it’s time to pack and wave goodbye to Portugal as I have a flight back to London to catch tomorrow.

Miss Explorer v Miss Relaxation

Since I arrived in Portugal, I’ve been feeling torn.

My intention was to get away, relax, get some self care points in the bag, and to have some much needed reflection time.

However, my inner explorer keeps trying to lure me away from this.

So, I’ve compromised, alternating each day. A day of exploring, followed by a day of rest and relaxation.

Thankfully the facilities at the hotel are great. With a gym, tennis courts, indoor (heated) and outdoor pools, and a spa, it means that I don’t have to wander too far from my apartment to enjoy some of these little luxuries.

As yesterday was my first proper rest day, I got up, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant, and then headed back to my apartment to catch up on some blogging (Albufeira was the result!). It was then time to check out the gym facilities.

I don’t think I’ve ever been on holiday and used the gym before, or even taken my gym wear away with me, but as I am becoming more aware of my health, as well as the mental and physical benefits of exercise, I came away with every intention of using the facilities.

Luckily, as with so many other parts to this holiday, I had the gym to myself.

I didn’t go too crazy, as I haven’t used a gym in around 3 years, but managed a good spell on the treadmill, the recumbent exercise bike, as well 3 x 10 reps on the lat pull down machine.

I say I didn’t go crazy, but I managed to work up a really good sweat, and came out of the gym feeling really good.

I had booked in for a full body massage in the spa for 2:30pm, so it was time for a light lunch back at the apartment before heading down to the spa.

I don’t remember the last time I had a full body massage (I normally stick to a deep tissue back massage to sort out the terrible knots I get in my back!), but it was lovely to switch off and relax. I must’ve fallen asleep a couple of times, as I remember dreaming once or twice! My only criticism was that the lady was too gentle. I like someone to really work on my knots when I’m getting a massage. However, it was relaxing, and it was lovely to just lie there and enjoy getting some pampering, breathing in the aromatherapy scents and thinking of little or nothing for 50 minutes.

Once I had finished in the spa, I had just enough time to sit by the pool and read for an hour before heading back inside to get ready for dinner.

It’s very easy on holiday to spend every waking moment on the go, and that’s understandable. Perhaps we spend all year saving for our holiday, and it may be that we only get one a year. However, it’s also really easy to burn yourself out when you go away. The last thing I want to do is go back to work next week feeling as though I’m not rested. I know I haven’t been performing my best since Christmas, and I need to listen to my body and my mind, in order to make sure I’m ready to hit the ground running when I get back.

So as much as my mind keeps trying to lure me into Miss Explorer mode, my body is fighting back and making sure I get lots of rest and self care opportunities too.

The Simple Act of Showering

It’s funny how sometimes it’s the smallest new tips or habits that can really change how we feel and deal with situations.

For me, being quite newly aware of self-care and wellbeing, I’m constantly learning new methods to try and experiment with.

Some stick, others don’t. But I know my self-care journey is all about working out what works best for me. What helps me to unwind, stay calm, but to also stay focused on chasing my dreams.

This week, my self-care tip of the week is….drum roll please…🥁🥁🥁…a good old shower!

Now, before you think I’m crazy/smelly/massively unhygienic, hear me out.

I shower everyday. I can’t function without having a shower in the morning to set me up for the day. If I don’t shower and wash my hair, I feel uncomfortable, dirty and unable to focus, particularly if I am at work.

In the summer, or when on holiday, I will often shower twice a day.

But, I had never thought about showering twice a day on a normal day.

After reading about the power of the shower at the weekend, it got me thinking.

The idea is not only to wash off the days work, but to help transition the mind from work mode to home mode, in turn, helping the mind and body to relax, and hopefully enabling a more enjoyable evening, and a much better nights sleep.

So I decided to give it a try.

Monday evening, I came home from work, cooked, and then took a shower. The shower felt heavenly after a day in the office. Afterwards I swapped all of the clothes I had been wearing that day (including my underwear and even my socks) for my comfy joggers and a baggy sweatshirt. I still had work to do, but by showering after dinner, I was then focused on only completing work tasks I had to do, without letting it bog me down and/or getting side tracked. I even had time to catch up on some reading before I fell asleep, and slept like a baby.

Last night, I followed a similar ritual, and again, had a really good nights sleep.

Today I finished work a little bit earlier than normal. I had already decided to have a work free evening, after two long working days earlier in the week. As soon as I got home, I showered. After travelling across London today on the underground and buses, I felt particularly grimy. I stood under the shower for ages enjoying the feeling of the water against my skin, washing away the days dirt, and completely freeing my mind of work. I even had a little chuckle to myself over how good it made me feel.

The other thing I am keen to see if it impacts, is the difference in my skin. As an adult, I have often suffered with lousy skin. I never really had problem skin as a teenager, but as soon as I lived with someone who smoked in my 20s, my skin has never been the same since. To cover my bad skin, I wear make up. But by showering when I get home from work, instead of just washing my face before bedtime, I’m not only washing off the grime, but also my make-up. I’m also making sure I don’t reapply my make up again that evening, in the hope that my skin will get a longer period of time to breathe before I reapply my foundation before work the next morning.

So far, although I am aware that showering twice a day is less kind to the environment (I am having a much shorter shower in the evening than I am first thing in the morning), and may impact my water bills, I have noticed real benefits to my wellbeing by showering twice a day. Not only do I feel cleaner, but my mind is also more relaxed in the evenings, and I am sleeping better than I have done for ages.

Have you discovered any new self care tips so far this year?

The path to self-discovery

Have you ever been known to choose the wrong partner at a time when you are feeling lost?

Perhaps at a time when you have been suffering from low self esteem, you fall for someone who ends up making your self esteem even worse? Or equally as bad, you fall for someone who wants to control you?

I seem to fall into this trap time and time again.

I have actually lost count of the number of relationships I have been in whereby I have come out of them feeling worse about myself than I had before the relationship had begun.

It’s time to change this crazy pattern of behaviour.

I am making a commitment to you, my lovely readers, that I am going to do everything within my power, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

No doubt you are asking yourselves how I am going to achieve this, especially when I have just confessed that my history goes against this.

The difference this time, is the fact that I am on a path of self discovery.

I am learning what makes me happy, what makes me laugh, what makes me smile, and what brings joy to my soul. I am learning what makes me tick. I am learning to notice when I need to be around people, and when I need time to be alone. I am finding new ways to improve my wellbeing and to be more mindful in my day to day, and not just when I am feeling close to burning out. I am learning to look after my mind and to also look after my body more.

I am learning that I don’t need a boyfriend to complete me.

When I am ready to love again, I am hopeful, that because I am happy with myself and who I am, that the person I meet will be happy with themselves too. It will then be time to take another journey, learning how we can work together to bring out the best in each other. To encourage one another to be the best person they can be, without jealousy creeping in or the need to control one another.

Whilst I have made a good start down the path of self discovery, I am nowhere near the end yet. I’m not even sure I am even anywhere near the middle.

But what I do know, is that I am excited by this journey, and I have already learnt a great deal about myself.

Do I sometimes wish I had started this journey sooner? Of course I do. But I am also aware, that I was not ready to make this journey until now.

Working From Home and Prioritisation

After a crazy week, I’m grateful to have a day at home to relax today.

With a full on working week last week, a trip to the solicitors on Friday and a lovely day walking around London with mum yesterday, my body and mind are in need of some R&R today.

For the first time in 3 years, work is starting to feel relatively settled. Our company has been through a lot of change over the last 3 years, and on top of that, around a year ago, I was asked to start managing a side of the business I knew very little about. It’s been a tough ride. But finally after a year battling to understand the role, and getting myself into a position where I could competently manage the team around me, I feel like good progress has been made.

On top of that, I have been working with the team to get through an external assessment for this area of the business. Not too much pressure then! Last week saw us meeting with the assessors and submitting our final pieces of evidence. We won’t know until next week how we have done in the assessment, but through a lot of hard work and determination I am confident that this area of the business is in a much better place than it was, and my management of this area of the business has improved tenfold.

It has been hard putting other areas of my work on the back burner whilst I focused on the assessment. One of the most important things I have learnt over recent months, has been how to prioritise my workload better. For me it’s simply being more aware that it’s ok to say no to some things. And those things I can’t say no to? I say yes, but I am learning to give more realistic timescales in order to get the work done.

In addition to learning to prioritise, the other thing that has changed my day recently, is the ability to work from home more often. Under new leadership, we are taking the time to understand how we can help and improve staff wellbeing, whilst still getting the job done. Working from home once a week has changed my working life, which in turn has changed my home life for the better too. Our office can be like a whirlwind at times, with the phones ringing non stop, constant queries from the team, in addition to meetings. This can make it incredibly difficult to get the day job done. There have been times over the last 3 years where I have ended up working 12 hour + days, as well as working at weekends, just to stop myself from drowning. But working from home has changed all that. Having that one day a week to work from home means that I get at least one full admin day per week. It is often broken up with phone calls, conference calls and still the odd emergency to deal with, but because I have no other distractions when I am at home, I can manage these situations a lot better and still catch up with my administration or to work on projects.

Working at home also gives me that much needed reflection time. One of the early sessions I had with Beth  we discussed the importance of finding time to reflect. This was also reinforced at the Level 3 Award in Leadership and Management course I completed recently. When I am working out of the office, whether I’m at home working in silence or with the radio on in the background, or in a coffee shop with the day to day hustle and bustle going on around me, I get far more opportunities to be present and to reflect on the work I am doing and how things are making me feel.

Working from home also gives me the time and space to plan. This may seem quite a simple process to some people, but when you work in an open plan office constant distractions, with few quiet spaces leading to a lack of opportunity to move away from the chaos of the office in order to plan effectively, it makes planning extremely difficult. This of course then has a knock on effect to the rest of my work. I find that planning on my day at home enables me to have a lot more focus during the week, which in turn is helping the rest of my team. By being much more organised and less fraught, I can already see the difference in my team who have themselves reacted positively to these changes. They too are benefiting from more opportunities to work from home, and are a lot more productive as a result.

Despite only having the opportunity to work from home for a couple of months, I can already feel the difference this is making to my wellbeing.

All of this combined, is helping the team (as well as us managers) improve our work life balance. I acknowledge that my job is never going to be solely something I can do from Monday-Friday 9-5, however, I am no longer working 12 hour days or weekends which quite frankly, is bliss.