Self-Care Sunday

After the wobbles of last week, it’s been a beautifully chilled weekend.

Whilst some of the immediate work pressures have been lessened, there is a lot to do over the next few months, with lot’s of evening meetings coming up.

I knew I needed to get some self-care bonus points in the bag to help get me through the next couple of weeks.

The first thing I did this weekend was to get my haircut.

Whilst I’m trying to budget carefully at the moment while I get used to the extra expense of renting the flat on my own, there are some things I’m not prepared to scrimp on.

Getting my haircut at my favourite salon is one of them. It took me ages to find a hairdresser I liked after I moved to London. In fact, half the time I ended up traveling back to Northampton to get my hair cut at the salon around the corner from mum and dads house.

I find some hairdressers so stuffy. I always feel so uncomfortable when the hairdressers are overly manicured and immaculately dressed. Thankfully my hairdresser in London is lovely and normal. We spend most of my appointment chatting about the great outdoors as opposed to gossiping.

I spent Saturday afternoon catching up with some housework and found some time to bake a banana and chocolate chip loaf to put in the freezer, ready to devour next time I have friends or family come to stay.

I woke a few times last night (thanks to my delightful cat who decided to play with her toys right outside my bedroom, and then tried to sit behind my head on my pillow 🙈), and had hoped to sleep in, but my cat was having none of that either.

As if butter wouldn’t melt…

So I decided to get up and make the most of my early start. By 9 o’clock I had my running kit on and was heading out for an early jog. It was so nice to be out and about whilst London was still half asleep. The park was empty except for the odd runner and a few sports teams starting to warm up before kick off. Every time I go out, I’m able to run a bit further, and my body is loving the exercise. I used to convince myself that walking was enough, but I realise now that it’s not. Walkings obviously good for you, but getting my heart racing, breaking out into a sweat and noticing the difference in how my body feels, is fantastic. It’s giving me so much more energy throughout the day, as well as helping me to sleep better.

After my jog, I carried on my workout at home, by cooling down, and lifting some weights. This time last year, I noticed my arms had got really big (and not in a muscly kinda way). That’s when I first realised how much weight I had piled on. Whilst I haven’t lost as much flab from my upper arms as I would like, they are slightly more toned. Hopefully now with jogging and eating better, hopefully it won’t be long until they start to look more how I would like them too.

I’m super pleased that I booked my holiday before Christmas, as this is giving me extra motivation at the moment to keep exercising, knowing its only a few weeks until I fly out to Portugal. On top of that, two of my best friends get married in the first half of the year, a month apart, so with two hen parties and two weddings after my holiday, I’m hoping that will give me the motivation I need to keep me focused on my new eating and exercise regime well into the summer months.

After my workout I decided to get some more self-care in the bank, with some pampering.

My brother always buys me really good beauty products for my birthday and Christmas. A couple of years ago he brought me Ren Flash Rinse 1 minute facial which has become one of my staple beauty products. It is what it says on the tube, a 1 minute facial. So even when time is short, there is no excuse not to treat my skin.

Another great product my brother brought me last Christmas was GlamGlow’s Poutmud fizzy lip exfoliating treatment, which is fantastic at this time of year when the weather and central heating are playing havoc with my lips. Like REN Flash Rinse 1 Minute Facial, it’s really quick to use and leaves lips super smooth.

With my workout and pampering complete, it was time to head off to Westfield to do some much needed pre-holiday shopping. Thankfully, I had some vouchers to use, so I came away with some lovely new holiday clothes without suffering from buyers guilt.

I then made it back home in time to pop outside to my terrace before it got dark, to see what state my plants were in. I love gardening, but as soon as the winter weather creeps in, I tend to neglect my poor plants. But it was lovely to get out there this afternoon to tidy up and deadhead the plants that haven’t realised it’s winter yet. A perfect way to end the afternoon.

So after a topsy turvy week, it’s been a productive weekend, with lot’s of self-care. I’d love to sit here and say I’m ready for that week ahead. Whilst my body maybe, my mind would really like another day or two at home not worrying about work. But at least I’m getting closer to my Algarve Adventure ✈️☀️🏖

New Year, New Goals

It’s that time of year again when we take time to look back at the last 12 months and to look forward to the next.

I reflected on much of the last 12 months in a blog I wrote earlier this month called Turning 35, so now it’s time to focus on the next 12 months.

I’m  not one for making new years resolutions. Resolutions always sound like they should involve giving things up. I don’t feel the need to give anything up, so instead, what you will find below, are the 5 things I would either like to achieve, take a break from, or improve on in 2019:

  1. I will be cutting down on my social media time in 2019. Facebook, Twitter, 2 x Instagram accounts, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Pinterest, LinkedIn. Why is it as human beings we have the inability to just click into one app and be done with it? Why does clicking into an app lead to us scrolling through the latest updates, and then moving onto the next app, and the next, and the next. Before we know it, at least an hour of our precious day is gone. Whilst there are some apps I couldn’t live without (Whatsapp for one, and my Mindful Gingernut Instagram profile which links in nicely with my blog), do I really need to use mindless apps such as Facebook? And I guess I question why I need 2 Instagram accounts? And Linkedin too. I struggle to ‘get’ Linkedin. Spending my limited free time browsing through posts from work colleagues old and new, is no longer appealing. I do know of people who have been headhunted through the app, but these are few and far between. This week alone, I have spent over 7 hrs on Facebook and Instagram, which is just ridiculous. I could’ve achieved so much more with those 7 wasted hours! So from the 1st January, I will be deactivating my Facebook account, taking a break from my personal instagram account for the first 6 months of the year, and will more than likely be taking a break from Linkedin. This should free up some time to focus on other things, such as reading more books, and joining some classes in order to meet new people and to make new friends. After 6 months, I will reflect back on whether I have missed either app, and if so, look at ways I can continue to use them but in a more mindful way.
  2.  In 2019 I want to find some more London friends. Ok, so I have been saying this for the last 3 years, but in 2019, I really need to get off my backside and do something about it. I love my friends dearly, but not many of them live close enough to pop in for a drink on a Friday night, or to grab dinner after work mid-week. I love spending time on my own, but likewise, I love to be sociable too. Just before Christmas this year, I went to a wreath making workshop. Whilst I didn’t exchange numbers with any of the ladies at the workshop, it did give me hope that I hadn’t lost the ability to talk to new people. So in 2019, I’m going to put myself out there. I’m going to enrol on some courses, learn some new skills, and hopefully, make some new friends.
  3. In 2019, I want to eat healthier and to exercise more. Whilst I wouldn’t say I have an awful diet, I have spent the last couple of years eating oily curries, bigger portions, and lots of naan bread. Now I will be cooking for one more often, I will have greater control over my diet. I want to eat a wider variety of foods, giving my plate more colour, trying out new dishes, and filling them with more vegetables. What i don’t plan to do is to give up my favourite foods however ‘bad’ they may be. What I am going to do though, is make sure I eat them in moderation. When it comes to exercise, I love walking, but struggle to fit this into the working week, especially during the dark evenings. I know once the nights get lighter I will get out and about more in the evenings, but I can’t put my fitness and health on hold until then. I live in between two of South West London’s biggest parks. There is absolutely no excuse for me not to take a run around either of the parks during my lunch break on the day I work from home and again at weekends. I do like to work out from home, and lift my weights and do some strength exercises at least 3 times a week, but I definitely need to do something that gets my heart racing. I would love to join the gym again, however, the nature of my day job stops me from doing anything on a regular basis at the moment, and for me, if I am going to join the gym, I need to be able to commit to a regular routine. So, for 2019, I aim to continue to work on my strength exercises from home, and to work up to jogging around one of the local parks 3 x per week. Although this will be one of the harder challenges I set myself, with a little bit of determination and motivation, with any luck, I will be jogging around those parks in no time.
  4. In 2019, I want to travel more. I have always longed to travel, but i’ve either never had the money or the courage to do it. Money is still tight especially as I face renting on my own for the first time. But what I do have is lot’s more courage. Ever since I took my first holiday alone in 2016, I have longed to take another trip. So yesterday, rather than wait for the new year to begin, I booked my first holiday of 2019, which will see me heading to the Algarve in February. Whilst it won’t be at it’s warmest in February, I’m looking forward to exploring somewhere new, taking my laptop and some books, and just spending a few days relaxing, reading, eating freshly caught fish, and writing more blogs. I hope this will be the first of a few breaks in 2019.
  5. Last but my no means least, I want to spend 2019 focusing on my wellbeing and self-care. It’s only in the last 6 months of 2018, that I have become more aware of the need to look after myself mentally as well as physically. There have been so many times over the last 3 years, where I have been so consumed by work, that I forgot to check in with myself to see how I am. Work has often left me with little free time to do the things I enjoy. It has left me exhausted and mentally drained. This has to change in 2019. In the last 6 months, I have learnt so much about myself as I begin to take greater control over my life and my mind. Yet there is still so much more to explore. I want to spend 2019 reading into and practicing different wellbeing, mindfulness and self-care techniques in order to find out what works best for me.

These goals shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve with a little bit of thought, motivation and determination, yet at the same time, if I get these right, they are things that could really change my life. So much of the last 3 years have been focused on work and other people. It’s time to shift the balance a little, so I can focus a little bit more on me and what I need in order to be a happier more balanced person.

What are your goals and aims for 2019?

Turning 35

This weekend, I turned 35.

Birthday’s normally create moments of reflection for me. What have I accomplished in the last year, what do I hope to accomplish in the next?

So far this year, I have been too lost in other things to actually pay much attention to these thoughts.

Sitting here mulling this over as I type now, it would be quite easy to think that I haven’t achieved much this year. The focus has been on others and not me. But actually, as I start to reflect, it’s been a pretty epic year for me too. Move all the drama to one side, and you will see that I have been quietly beavering away in the background.

So what have I achieved in the year leading up to my 35th Birthday?

  1. I finished my ILM Qualification in Leadership & Management…and passed. It was hard going back to studying and working on assignments after such a long time. I had attempted a qualification in Horticulture before my move to London, but this was exams based, and exams had never been my strong point. Give me a written assignment or coursework though, something I can get my teeth into and write to my hearts content, normally leaves me in a pretty good place. And so it did.
  2.  I started to visit lots of new places. To name but a few, I have discovered Chelsea Physic Gardens, Tooting Broadway Market, Kensington Palace Gardens, and Holland Park. I spent a day chilling and drinking wine with friends in Regents Park. I enjoyed a day exploring Abingdon and Oxford with my friend Alastair, I discovered Venn Street Market, which is just a stones throw from my flat, and thanks to my mum, I discovered the Vintage Retreat and Millers Yard Cafe at Boughton Mill Equestrian Centre in my home town of Northamptonshire. 
  3. I went to the cinema on my own for the first time. For someone who likes her own company, going to the cinema on my own had become a bit of a barrier. However, I was desperate to see Black Panther and had no-one else to go with. So it was a perfect opportunity to push myself to just do it. And I did. And I loved it. I had a whole bag of Malteser’s to myself, no obligations to share, and was able to sit back and relax and just enjoy the film. 
  4. I have found more time to read. I cried my way through Freya North’s ‘Turning Point‘ and Maria Realf’s ‘The One‘, but also spent some time reading about ‘Hygge’, the Danish way of living.
  5. I took a spontaneous trip to Southend on Sea. I had been to Southend before, but mum and dad had decided to spend the weekend there, and with nothing else planned that weekend, I jumped in the car spontaneously and went to join them.
  6. I travelled to the Greek Island of Crete for the first time, with my younger brother Sam. We had never holidayed together just the two of us before, but we were both in desperate need of a break and some time away from our everyday lives. I fell in love with Elounda, the village we were staying in, and long to go back one day, armed with my laptop, and to write to my hearts content. 
  7. I spent some quality time with my Dad. My parents have been happily married now for 35 years (they didn’t get to enjoy married life very much before yours truly came along!). Whilst they come down to visit me in London a couple of times a year together, my Mum will always pop down in between those visits so we can enjoy some Mum and daughter time together. However, I don’t know if its a man thing, but Dad had never really talked about coming down on his own before. Mum hinted one day that Dad would love to come down more, so back at the beginning of summer I invited Dad to come down for the day. Me and my Dad have two main things in common. We love football. And we love walking. Having done a couple of charity walks with my Dad years ago, I decided it would be fun to do a walk in London. Whilst I had walked the Thames Path in central London a number of times, I had never really covered the path which starts further out to the West. So we hopped on the train to Richmond, and walked from Richmond to Wandsworth along the Thames Path, stopping for a lovely pub lunch and a couple of drinks on the way.
  8. I went Glamping for the first time. Whilst I spent 6 years of my life camping with my ex, I had never been Glamping. My camping days are very much behind me, but the idea of Glamping had appealed. So off we went one Friday afternoon to the South Downs where we stayed in the most delightful Glamping site. It was a blazing hot weekend, but thankfully, our chosen site was amongst the woodland, which was a nice bit of respite from the sun. A nice little addition, was the outdoor hot tub  which despite the heatwave, we obviously had to try out. So one evening, we donned our swimwear and relaxed in the hot tub whilst the sunset behind the trees. Bliss. It was the first time either of us had stayed in the South Downs National Park. Another place I would happily move to in order to sit and write all day. It’s such a beautiful part of the country, only an hour from London in one direction, and an hour from the coast in the other. 
  9. I have enjoyed lot’s of new experiences, which have included visiting Chelsea Flower Show with my lovely friend Kim, getting tickets to Club Wembley for the England v Nigeria game, and watching the lovely Craig David & Rita Ora perform at Northampton’s County Cricket Ground earlier in the summer.
  10. I lead a process at work which we were being externally assessed on…and we passed.
  11. I had some professional coaching for the first time. And loved it. This has helped me to realise that some of my ‘dark cloud’ moments are thanks to Imposter Syndrome. Recognising that I suffer with this, and then looking at ways to overcome it, has taken a huge amount of weight off my shoulders and has helped me to start to understand some of the muddled chaos in my mind. It was also this that made me consider blogging for the first time. It also made me…
  12. …start to think more about mindfulness, wellbeing and my own mental health. I had always been aware of mental health. Many of my friends and family suffer from anxiety or from bouts of depression. My dearest B had battled with mental health as long as I had known her. But I had never stopped to consider my own. Mindfulness and Wellbeing had never really entered into my headspace. However, through the coaching experience, I suddenly realised it was something I needed to explore. I started to download apps (Calm and Headspace to name but two), and to read articles which explored these areas in more detail. It was also around this time that I realised I had a lot going on in my mind, and I needed to start shifting some of it to help me to declutter my mind, to help me to think clearer and to function more effectively…
  13. …so, I started my blog ‘The Mindful Musings of a Gingernut‘ and created my Instagram page ‘The Mindful Gingernut‘. And what I great experience this has been. I wrote my first blog at the back end of August and since then I have written 21 posts (this will be my 23rd!), my blog has been visited by 302 people and has had 710 views. Now, I have no idea in the grand scheme of things whether this is below/above average or not, however, what I do know is the stats don’t really matter. What really matters is that by blogging, my mind is freeing up some headspace. I have more time to reflect, to think about what works for me and what doesn’t, it’s helping others who are experiencing or have experienced similar things, it’s giving my loved ones an insight into what makes me tick, and one of the things I least expected from my blog, was the ability to make new friends through the site. There is a lovely network of bloggers out there, who are likeminded and seem to be travelling down a similar path to me. It’s lovely to bounce ideas off one another and to seek comfort and reassurance from one another. Creating my blog and starting to write again has by far been one of my greatest achievements of the year. But it hasn’t stopped there…
  14. I stopped drinking coffee. Throughout my coaching experience, it was flagged by a number of my colleagues that I had an inability to function effectively in meetings before 11am and around 3pm. This was quickly linked in with my coffee intake. I would need at least 2 cups of black coffee in the morning to feel like I was ready to function. After this time, I was fine, until around 3pm. I would have a further cup of coffee, but instead of helping me to function, it just made me really sluggish. I was able to function on my own at these times, but human interaction during these key points during the working day was useless. I would like to say that this pattern of behaviour encouraged me to stop drinking coffee. It didn’t. What finally made me give up, was a bout of Norovirus at the back end of August (funnily enough, also coinciding with the time I started to write my blog). I came down ill one Saturday night and was violently sick for the next 12 hours and continued to be ill for the next few days. After this, I just couldn’t stand the thought of coffee. The smell and the taste even now, still makes me feel slightly nauseous. I have never been a tea drinker, however, all of a sudden I felt the urge to try herbal teas. So now I drink a lot of mint tea and peppermint tea and feel so much better for it. I have found that I don’t have to wait for 11am before I can function. I am able to sit in 9am meetings and have a perfectly human conversation, come up with new ideas, and to think things through effectively. It has also prevented me from hitting my 3pm slump. I power on through the day from one hour to the next, without any noticeable difference in how I will react to a situation at any one time. 
  15. More recently, I have also rediscovered my love of baking. I don’t have a very big kitchen in my London flat. There’s no room for funky gadgets and little room for using a rolling pin. However, recently I have found myself starting to find ways around these issues. During the winter, when it’s too wet to tend to my plants on my little terrace, I find baking massively therapeutic. Sometimes you just have to think a little bit more creatively about how you can use the space you have, and by making sure you stay on top of things like the washing up throughout the magic you are creating, just so things don’t get too crazy in the kitchen. The month of December is always a great month to get your bake on back on! So far we have a Christmas cake waiting to be iced and decorated, and I made my first batch of mince pies at the weekend. I wonder what goodies will appear next… 
  16. After a pretty epic year, I didn’t stop there. On the day before my 35th Birthday, I decided to go and get my ears pierced. Being a glasses wearer, I’ve always joked that I already have too much metal on my face to suit earrings. Mum has tried to convince me for years that they would suit me, but I just didn’t have the urge to get them done. However, over the last few months, I kept looking at really nice fashion earrings, wishing I had pierced ears so I could wear them. As I strolled down to our local shops with Mum and Dad on Saturday, who were visiting for my Birthday weekend, I turned to Mum, and said ‘Shall I go and get my ears pierced?’. So that’s what we did! I now have lovely pierced ears with white gold earrings. I’m still a few weeks away from being able to wear ‘fashion’ earrings, but I love the ones they have put in for now. They make such a difference to my face and make any outfit look slightly more glam, just by having a little sparkle on my ears.

Despite it not being the easiest year, it’s certainly been full of lot’s of positive moments. 

Sitting down and writing this has made me realise just how much I have achieved and how much I continue to grow as a human being. 

I’m excited to see where the next year will take me.

 

Muddled Mind

My mind has been all over the place this week. I’ve been struggling to write, starting a number of blogs but unable to find the right words.

I was relieved to have some alone time this weekend. I needed some space and time to think, reflect and to soak up the late October sunshine.

I headed to the local market yesterday, thinking I would stop by to look for some upcoming birthday presents. The market was celebrating its own Birthday so it was busier than normal, and not the right place to try to clear my mind. The hustle and bustle would have to wait for another weekend. So instead, I headed off to the local common. The weather was beautiful. I found myself an autumnal tree and spread out next to it, soaking up the rays and enjoying a bite to eat.

I had a pootle around a few shops before heading home for a quiet, relaxing evening.

Today I woke up feeling a bit more adventurous, considering I hadn’t slept well this was nothing short of a miracle. I started to look at my bucket list. I wanted to go somewhere that would look beautiful in the October sun, but somewhere I hadn’t been before. Nothing on my bucket list took my fancy, so I started to flick through Instagram and found a saved link to Holland Park. I had wanted to go for sometime but kept forgetting to add it to my list. As I looked at the warm sunshine outside, I realised it would be a perfect day to go.

My only disappointment…why on earth hadn’t I been before?

It was beautiful.

As soon as I entered into the park (from the entrance nearest to Holland Park underground station), it took my breath away.

The park entrance is walled, and as you walk through the gate, its like stepping into another world.

As I walked further into the park, the scene became more and more autumnal. The Acers almost stole the show. That is until I stumbled across the Kyoto Garden, which quite simply took my breath away. I have never felt the urge to visit Japan, but if their gardens are anything like the one here in Holland Park, then Japan is also now firmly on my bucket list. The colours were spectacular, and despite the large number of tourists trying to get that perfect Instagram shot, it was surprisingly peaceful.

As I sauntered back to the underground, after a good couple of hours exploring the Park, my mind felt much calmer and more peaceful than it had earlier on in the weekend.

As I get older, I am so grateful to have a much better understanding of my mind. I am much more in tune with it these days, knowing when I need to take time out, reducing the chaos around me, and simply just being.

As I sit in my front room enjoying the last of the days light, which is slowly fading outside the window, I know I can now move into the working week with a clearer, calmer mindset. The issues causing my mind to be muddled haven’t gone away, but with a clearer mind, even these don’t seem as daunting.

(Photos taken today at Holland Park)

Change (Part 2)

In Change (Part 1), I wrote about the importance of living life. How life was too precious and too short to plod along, and how sometimes it takes a life changing event to give us the wake up call we so badly need.

In Change (Part 2), I want to share with you, my readers, how a heartbreaking, life changing moment has lead to to so much positive change. I hope that the next time any one of us suffers heartache, that by reading this, it gives you hope that good things can, and will, happen to you again.

Losing B triggered so many changes in my life. As much as I hate not having her by my side, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone through the heartache of losing her.

The key thing to note here, is that although I firmly know what my trigger to change was, I didn’t know that at the time. It was only when I looked back that I could see this. 

The first major change happened just over two years after B left us. My relationship with my then boyfriend had been deteriorating since B’s funeral. Shortly after we said our goodbyes to B, my now ex, asked me not to speak about her anymore. Needless to say, I was shocked and confused, especially as I was given no explanation at the time, other than ‘she’s gone and you need to move on’. Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t leave there and then, or at least to try to get a better understanding of what he meant by this, but I just remember feeling too drained to argue. It upset me deeply as I knew in my heart that I still had a lot of grieving to do, or at least to try to come to terms with my loss. I wanted to talk about B, the memories I had of her, and how I felt now that the one person I hoped would be with me for every major event in my life, was no longer going to be there.

I had to find another way to ‘get by’.

So instead, I found solace in spending time on my own, It was at this time that I found comfort in my garden. I had always loved gardening, but from that moment, I would spend hours pottering around outside, lost in my own thoughts. It helped a lot. I could go out there and spend hours thinking about nothing or everything. Finding so much therapy in my garden also lead me to consider a career change. Shortly after, I signed up to an evening class in Horticulture.  It was on this course that I met two of my dearest friends, Kim and Kelly, who played an instrumental part in making me realise how unhappy I was at home, and how much shit I was putting up with. Talking to them helped me find the strength and courage to realise that I deserved better.

People often ask me why I didn’t leave him sooner. And the truth? Part of me was wrapped up in that small town mentality of thinking that by my age I should be thinking about weddings and babies (because thats what everyone else was doing), and not starting again from scratch. The other part of me knows that I had to grieve for B before I could put my own relationship back onto the radar. It wasn’t until a year had passed since her death, that I finally started to refocus on my relationship, and I suddenly realised how selfish and controlling he had become.

Further to my new found friendship with Kim and Kelly, it was a chance encounter with someone I vaguely knew, that finally made me start to rebuild some of the self-confidence I had lost over the six years I had been with my ex. Not only did he make me realise I was good at my job, but he also made me realise that I was a lovely, caring person who had a lot going for her. He gave me my sparkle back.

So one morning, four years ago, I woke up and decided that enough was enough. On that very same day, I walked away from my ex, the house we had brought together and had lived in for the last 3 years, and temporarily, my beloved cat Wiggler.

It wasn’t plain sailing of course, but these things never are. And needless to say, things got much worse before they got better. But step by step, I started to rebuild myself, improving my self care, my self worth and rebuilding my confidence.

With new found confidence, I began throwing myself into work, improving my networks, and talking to people who genuinely cared about my wellbeing. With this new found confidence creeping in, I started to get recognised for my work, which then triggered another change…

6 months after I left my relationship, I started getting itchy feet at work. I loved my job, but there was no chance at that time of an internal promotion and as it was only a small organisation, there was nowhere else for me to go with the skillset I had.  So, I started looking around at other jobs with my industry. A chance phone call lead to me being informed that an opportunity had arisen in London, and would I fancy going there to fix some of their problems? I was terrified, but I had nothing to lose. Even if it didn’t work out, it was only an initial 6 month secondment…

A few months later, I found myself waving goodbye to my family and moving down to Surrey to begin with (the thought of commuting from Northampton to South West London on a daily basis did nothing for me, especially as back then I struggled to function until 11 in the morning! Some would argue that even after 11 was a challenge!), and another six months later, London itself.

I had never lived or worked outside of Northamptonshire. I had grown up there, gone to university there, and even brought my first home there. If truth be told, I had never really thought about leaving.

Yet, three years later, here I find myself, living and working in London, and loving every minute. Thankfully a decision I have never once regretted.

There were other life changing moments even further back that I am sure also contributed to my move to London.

I was in my mid 20s when I learnt to drive. However, being in a controlling relationship meant that I was not ‘trusted’ to drive. Because of this, I had never driven on the motorway and had become fearful of it. Once the relationship had ended, I started to panic about the fact I was restricting myself by not driving on the motorway. I gave into that panic, jumped in my car and drove myself and a friend to Birmingham to see a show. My friend commended me on my driving ability and this then gave me the courage to visit more places, forcing myself to drive on the motorway more often. This was only the start of my motorway journey. If I only I had known back then how useful the motorway would become over the next few years (with the exception of National Rail, the M25 and the M1 are my most direct roads back home to see my friends and family)…

Turning 30 had been another trigger for change. I had dreaded turning 30. I felt nowhere near ready to live a grown up life. I was nowhere near marriage, especially as a new singleton, and I couldn’t have found myself any further away from having kids.  I found myself putting so much pressure on myself to conform to the ‘norm’. Little did I know that my 30s would turn out to be a hell of a lot more liberating and exciting than I ever imagined it could be…

I hope this goes a little way to show how life changing moments can lead to positive change. Sometimes life changing moments are deemed as the norm, like learning to drive, or changing jobs. However, I think it is really important to recognise that positive life changes can also happen after loss. It can take a lot of time, self reflection, and a whole load of courage, but I truly believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

I am certain that if we hadn’t lost our B, that I may not have left my relationship when I did, which could’ve then altered the destinations I visited en-route to where I am today. And that my dear readers, is not something I would be too keen to change…

 

 

Whittlebury Hall

Yesterday I treated mum to a spa day at Whittlebury Hall. Whilst I have been a few times before, mum had never been, and it was nice to finally be able to treat her.

We were both ready for a day of rest and relaxation, and what better way to unwind than in the beautiful grounds of Whittlebury Hall.

Things got off to a slightly disappointing start.

There was an incredibly tetchy lady on reception when we arrived who seemed to find it a complete inconvenience when we kindly enquired as to whether we could move our lunch time from 2pm to 1pm. This idea seemed completely absurd to her, and in the end, it was easier to keep lunch at 2pm rather than to create a scene.

Thankfully, that was the only negative to the spa day.

The facilities at Whittlebury are beautiful. Everything is immaculate but not pretentious, which is refreshing.

Mum, who often feels quite self-conscious parading around the poolside on holiday in her swimming costume, felt completely at ease at Whittlebury and found the whole experience quite liberating.

We opted for the Autumn Rewind Spa Day for Two package (£99 for two), which included full use of The Leisure Club, full use of the Heat and Ice Experience, a Two Course Buffet Lunch, and an inclusive 25 minute treatment.

Towels and dressing gowns are provided on arrival, and fresh, warm towels if needed throughout the day can be sought from reception for no added fee.

We both opted for the ESPA  Soothing Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage for our 25 minute treatment. Mum loved it, and said it was just what she needed after a busy few weeks. Whilst I enjoyed my massage, the Deep Tissue Elemis Back Massage I had on a previous visit, will take some beating (the knots in my back are so big I think the only way to tackle them is to go deep!).

The Heat and Ice Experience also takes some beating. With a hydrotherapy pool, an aromatherapy crystal steam room, experience showers & foot spas, a caldarium, an ice cave, a samarium, a tepidarium, and a traditional sauna, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

At Whittlebury.com they suggest a bathing plan to get the best out of the heat and ice experience, however, it is just as enjoyable without using the plan.

The buffet lunch is lovely, and whilst there are plenty of healthy options, there are a wide variety of dishes for everyone to enjoy. Whilst we tucked into chicken with rice and vegetables, there were vegetarian alternatives, cold meats, jacket potatoes and salad for those wishing to have a lighter bite. The tomato soup for starter is also worth a special mention. I rarely opt for soup as a starter, but it was so delicious, I could’ve eaten a whole load more than I did. There was complimentary water with lunch, however, for those who fancy something a little more exotic, there are cocktails, wine, beers and hot beverages to chose from for an additional cost.

After a late lunch we got changed and headed for home.

I would highly recommend a trip to Whittlebury Hall. Whilst we only experienced the facilities available for the day spa package, there are other things to enjoy within Whittlebury Park. In addition to the spa facilities, there is a hotel, restaurants, conference facilities, and a golf course. On top of that it is a great venue for weddings, and the hall is also popular with partygoers who visit for the vast array of party nights the venue has to offer.

I would also recommend visiting the spa on a weekday. There are far fewer people there during the week compared to weekends, meaning that accessing the facilities is a lot easier. We rarely shared the sauna and steam room with anyone else throughout the day, which also meant we could have a good old natter as well as relax.

By the time we reached home, we felt rested and cleansed…at least we did until we realised we were locked out of the house…at least we were relaxed enough not to mind too much!

 

Onions

Rumour has it…I’m an onion.

Over the last few months at work, members of the senior management team (myself included) have been receiving professional coaching from a lovely lady called Beth. My sessions with Beth are pretty epic. Sometimes I think they are more like therapy sessions then coaching sessions. Either way, I seem to need them. It s great way to offload and in the process I am learning a lot about myself.

During Beth’s last visit, I was described as an onion. Not because I smell like one (thankfully), but because I have lots of layers. Ironic, when people in my past have said they like for my simple nature. I’m far from simple. I know that. But being described as an onion!?! I’m not sure I saw that as much of a compliment, but it does make sense.

Admittedly, I do show some random characteristics and behaviours.

I am unable to accept compliments for one. We have explored many possible reasons why this may be. However, we have drawn a blank on this one and parked it for now.

As much as it is sometimes nice to draw a conclusion about things and to put behaviours in a box, sometimes, we just have to give into the fact that we don’t know the root cause, it is just the way it is (for now at least). Despite not knowing the cause for this behaviour, it is still an area I am working on.

It is my natural instinct to reply to a compliment with a negative.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, my friend complimented me on my driving skills. Instead of thanking her, my reaction was to laugh and tell her that she was only person to think that (most people aren’t that kind about my driving).

Why do I struggle to thank people?

I am however, becoming more aware of this. Now when someone compliments me, I automatically go to respond with a negative, but I am learning to pause, realising the comment is complimentary, and although I don’t respond immediately, after a pause, I am slowly learning to say thank you and leave the negative response parked in the corner. Overtime, I hope the length of the pause will shorten, but for now, I am grateful that I am at least noticing the behaviour, and working to resolve it.

I think the most life changing characteristic we have identified is the fact that I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I have possibly suffered with imposter syndrome for much of my adult life without realising it. I can think back to a number of times when I would receive a negative comment about my performance, and I would let this fester away in my mind for days. The only way I can describe it was like having a dark cloud over my head that I just could not shift.

I don’t tend to get the dark cloud as much anymore, but more worrying in some ways, I can feel my heart racing, which comes with a dull ache in my chest and a kind of sinking feeling.

Part of me is grateful at being ‘diagnosed’ with having imposter syndrome. Giving a name to the sinking feeling took a lot of weight off my shoulders, and made me feel a little less like I was going insane. For those of you who may not have heard of imposter syndrome, neither had I until my first coaching session. In short it is a fear of being found out to be a fake or a fraud, that our achievements are based on some type of fraudulent behaviour, as opposed to actually just being really good at what we do.

Imposter syndrome for me comes in waves. It is not something I suffer with all the time. My trigger seems to be other people’s comments. I have recently come out of a particularly bad wave of imposter syndrome, triggered by one persons comments, which then made me doubt myself. I had the ‘sinking’ feeling for around three weeks in the end. And quite frankly, it was exhausting. It was all I could think about. It affected my performance at work and my mood at home. It was demoralising and made me feel horrendous.

I am working with some new techniques to deal with this. My current trend goes something like this:

Trigger  > Reaction > Perspective

The ultimate goal is to avoid the trigger. However, in the meantime, I am trying to work on:

Trigger > Perspective > Reaction

The aim is for the reaction not to be as long lasting, or in fact, not to be there at all. By putting perspective into the trigger first of all, I should then be able to see that the comment wasn’t necessarily a dig at me, but could’ve purely been the result of someone else’s bad day, or simply realising that there was truth in the comment, but there are solutions in order to fix the problem. Fixating on other people’s comments is not healthy.

Ironically, the individual who made the comment that set off my last trigger, doesn’t even know the impact it had on me.

Eventually of course, I rationalised things, and realised that the reason I reacted so badly was because I already knew I wasn’t performing at my best in a particular area of work, I didn’t need someone else to tell me this. But, as they say, truth hurts. And it did. For three god damn weeks…