Friday, 24 August 2018

The life-changing magic of not giving a F*ck

It feels like a million miles away from the gorgeous sunshine of today, but on the 13th March I woke up cold, miserable, and poorly. How is this important? Because it was my birthday.

I have never been bought a book by my brother in my life, other than Harry Potter of course, but for my birthday this year he bought me The Life-changing magic of not giving a f*ck, written by Sarah Knight, (It is loosely based on the book The life-changing magic of Tidying up, only with a focus on how cleaning up your "mental mess" can help you, rather than your unmade bed). Looking back, I can understand why. I was so stressed at work that it was affecting my physical health. My lifestyle consisted of little more than work, sleep, and eating take-out. I didn't really know anyone in the area other than my partner. As far as I could see, there was no quick way out of the mess I had found myself in. My brother knows me well enough to know that I wouldn't have listened if he tried to give me advice, so maybe this was his way of giving me the kickstart I needed?

In the book it describes how we each have a "F*ck budget" - a limited amount of energy we can give to caring about things whether they're good or bad. Obviously some things are automatically on the list of things I care about: Family, friends, my home, my pets, my health. But there was also a lot of things on my mind that weren't as positive. Sarah describes this as "stretching my f*ck budget". It was these things that were making me feel tired, stressed, and worn-out. Makes sense, there is only so much that we can stress about before we begin to crack.

Sarah encourages us to think about what we would like to cut out of our lives based on how much joy it brings us, often using anecdotes from her own life to help explain her point.I felt like the book pointed out the obvious path you would need to take to have a happier life, but sometimes we all feel that we are so stuck in a situation that we need someone to give us a straight-talking guide on where to begin. We need that reminder that it is okay to do what makes you happy regardless of what people think. Plus, if you can get over the over-use of the word f*ck in the first section of the book, it reads well.

Seeing as I had nothing to lose I decided to put some of the ideas in the book to practice. Obviously what I was doing was not aligning with what I care about. My job was meaning that I was losing out on time with those most important to me, and was making me physically sick. I wasn't looking after my basic needs let alone doing things purely for the joy in it - no wonder I was miserable! I decided I didn't care enough about the company I worked for to continue suffering, and left immediately, finding something almost perfect within 2 weeks of handing my notice in. The new job allowed for a better work/life balance, more time with my friends and family, and more time to spend on things that make me genuinely happy. - Who knew all I needed was the little push this book would give? 

In spirit of the book, here is my list 
Five things I don't give a F*ck about:

Reality TV 
Love island, Big Brother, X-factor etc, I completely accept that I don't have the attention span to watch something every day, or even at the same time each week. If I can't binge it, it doesn't get watched. Even if I do miss out on a few conversations in the office. 

Going "out out" 
I am a complete idiot when I'm drunk, I can never have a night out that doesn't cost a weeks wages, and I get hangovers that last me three days. Pub Quiz? I'm in. Night Club? No thanks. 

Ru Paul
I cannot remember their names to save my life. Just, so many names. I give up. I surrender. I will never understand another meme again, but I am past trying to keep up.

Blogger Drama
Why can't we just be nice to each other girls? (and boys?) We're all in this together.

Fitting in
It is so sad that people judge us on our hobbies/interests/passions just because it isn't deemed cool. I like what I like, and if you aren't going to sit through three hours of Wheel of Fortune, you can leave now. 


Saturday, 19 May 2018

How to survive a night shift

Not so long ago, I took a demotion at work to give myself a little more flexibility with my hours. What I didn’t know when I agreed to the job change was that I would start my new role with 6 consecutive night shifts. Now, I have been pretty lucky up to now and only ever worked sociable hours (there was one 5am cleaning job, but that doesn’t count), so doing a night shift was something totally new to me - and not at all what I had expected! I struggled so much with the change that it prompted me to write this post, and hopefully give some of you some tips on how to survive the dreaded night shifts (or even just an all night study session).

Try to get 8 hours sleep
This can be easier said than done when it is sunny outside during the day, but is important to keeping yourself healthy and productive during the night. I downloaded the app second time zone, and figured out what time zone I would be living in during my shifts. This helped me ensure that I was not only going to bed at the right time, but was also getting up at the right time. (Turns out my night shifts make me on Australian time)

Remember to eat 
The hardest thing I found was trying to remember to eat between my shifts. Due to the shifts I would wake up too late to eat dinner, not pack anything for the night, then be too tired once I got home to cook anything. It eventually took an impact on my health and I made an effort to make the time to eat regular meals again. I’m still not used to having breakfast at 8pm, and am still upset that takeaways aren’t open at 9am, but I’m getting better at this. 

Don’t overstretch yourself 
Your days are for sleeping, your days are for sleeping, your days are for sleeping. I won’t repeat it again, I think you’ve got the point. Just be mindful of how much rest you need between shifts, and don’t try to cram your days with meetings and appointments (if you absolutely have to, then make them fit around your sleep routine). Part of the reason I went on to the shifts was to allow myself availability during the day for interviews, only I soon learned that if I wasn’t asleep by midday then I wouldn’t be waking up fresh for work. Get the rest you need, trust me. 

Take entertainment
Depending on the job you are in, the night shift may be a quiet period. In my current role it involves a lot of lone working, and essentially resetting everything ready for morning. The problem is, I can complete the jobs within my shift in far less time than I’m in work for so I end up with hours spare with nothing to do, but where I legally can’t just have a cat nap. As I have no team around me to keep me motivated during these times I make sure to pack my phone/tablet/book so that I have something to keep my mind active. 

Stay hydrated
This is the same as forgetting to eat, but way easier to fall into. There can be an urge with working nights to live off caffeine and energy drinks to see you through to morning. The problem with this is that they are neither hydrating or in any way good for your body, so you quickly start to feel sick or queasy from them. They also may keep you awake during the day when you mean to sleep. I personally try to use fizz sticks rather than coffee, as they mean I’m getting my caffeine in but also getting enough water. 

Drive home safely
This may be the most important one. If you do not feel safe to drive after your shift, don’t. Simple as. Find somewhere to have a quick nap before you travel, drink coffee, find an alternative way of getting to work, blast loud tunes, drive with the windows down and the air in your face. Use any techniques you wish, but make sure you are driving safely! I usually blast out music and badly sing along all the way home, and if it’s light I try to make sure I wear sunglasses so that I’m not too awake when I get home.

Night shifts don’t have to be dull or lonely, they can be a time of productivity if you allow them to be, and by making small changes that becomes easier. Heck, most of my recent blog posts have been ideas formed in the dead of the night. 

Ps. It’s worth noting I still detest night shifts but have just learned to make the most of a bad situation. I’m not sure advice exists on how to enjoy them rather than simply survive them. 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Spring 2018: What I've been doing lately

It was only two months ago that I wrote my 26 things I'd like to achieve in my 26th year post, although to me it feels much longer. When I wrote the post I was far from 'happy' with my life - I mean, why else would I be posting a list of things that I wanted to change about it? Although I never spoke about it to anybody other than those closest to me, I had reached a point that being so unhappy was having an impact on my physical and mental health, and my self confidence had sunk so low that every sentence I spoke began with me apologising for my own existence.  I had to make some serious changes. I set the goals in my post to give myself some direction, and so I set to work. 

Being a bit of a geek, my first step was to take to the self-help books. After a lot of page-turning and soul-searching I decided that I was going to start focusing on me and my happiness. And that I would stop giving energy to things that were bad for me, or things that quite frankly I couldn't give a f**k about. To be honest, it amazed me how much of my life I have either 'drifted' into things or spent doing things just because it was what was expected of me. I have never been good at making decisions, or standing up for myself, but before long I went from shaking at the idea of phoning to complain about my take-away, to feeling increasingly confident telling people where to go if they expected too much from me.

Then I thought I may have gone too far. I quit my job. 
My entire life transformed the day I decided to hand in my notice. 

It was in the middle of a particularly challenging 48-hour shift, and I was trying to pump myself up enough to be able to deal with the 24-hours ahead before I could go home and be with my bunnies. There was nothing that could motivate me other than the idea of walking out and never coming back, so I spent the next 24-hours drafting my notice in my head to keep myself sane, and slyly applying for jobs in my toilet breaks. It wasn't planned, I had just had enough and was exhausted. I had nothing else to go to.  

Having a month to sort your life out because you quit your job and have no savings is not fun. I'm not going to lie I spent the first three days I was off hiding in bed watching Wheel of Fortune re-runs on Challenge to avoid facing up to what I had done. I used the rest of the time I was off work trying to put some of my plans into action. I quite literally took my own advice and detoxed my lifestyle

Not to brag or anything, but it worked. As I said, the moment my notice was handed in, my whole life transformed the day I decided I'd had enough. Here's why:

  • I found a new job - It was actually one of the jobs that I had applied for whilst sneaking off to the loo at work for a little peace, and the first job I have ever been passionate enough about to prepare for the interview for. What's even more important for me, is that it gives me the flexibility that I need to be able to feel like I have a good work-life balance, while also paying the bills and giving me chances to progress.
  • I found Volunteer work - I have always seen volunteering as a bit of a chore if I'm honest, but I had an email pop through to my spam (yes, seriously) advertising an opportunity to volunteer with canal trips near me. This not only brings out my love for boats and being in nature, but also seems like something that is going to be really fun to do!
  • I (reluctantly) made friends - I started spending more time with my friends, and with people that I care about, and began to focus on developing friendships with people who build me up and encourage me (the one benefit of my situation being that its easy to identify these people when you're down as the fickle friends won't give you the time of day anyway). The more time I spent out of the house again the more my confidence was developing.
  • I planned an entire new series of blog posts - I have always wanted to be more frugal and find ways to continue living well, but also be thrifty and save money where possible. I am also well aware that i am shocking with money and that this holds me back from doing things I want to do. I have challenged myself to get out of debt in 12 months using only "saved or extra income", and obviously to document it warts-and-all for you guys to see.
  • I made my house a home - I deep-cleaned and re-organised the entire house, doing the chores I have been putting off since we moved in along the way. I threw out all of the things I had no use for and made every room in the house practical and usable - rather than it being mostly storage as it had been since moving in. 
The amount my mindset and my life has changed in the last two months has completely amazed me, This is the first time I have ever put myself, my health, and my happiness first in my decisions and it is making me feel more focused and passionate about my life than ever - Is a little self-esteem all I have needed my whole life? 


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Setting goals you will actually stick to

Before you scoff at this post or tell me that you ‘don’t need to read a blog post to be able to set yourself goals for life’, have a think about how many times you have set goals that you have not achieved. Having a new approach can’t hurt your chances of success too much can it? Everybody has goals of some description, whether it is something big and bucket-list worthy like starting a family or something as simple as eating breakfast in the morning, yet many of us struggle to achieve them. This can be for many reasons, but a lot of it lies in the way that we set our goals in the first place.
Kate loves blog - Mindfulness - Setting Goals

We have talked about how to figure out what will bring you happiness, and how to remove negative influences in your life and begin looking after your health, all of which will help to improve your chances of success with the goals you set – but how do you set a goal in a way that it is achievable? I am going to talk about some different techniques that you can use to fool-proof your plans. You don’t have to do all of them every time or can mix-and-match your approach to pick strategies that suit you.
Be aware of the bigger picture

We all have an ‘ideal life’. Ask yourself what you would be doing with your life if failure was not an option then let your mind wander through the options of what your life could be like. There is absolutely no reason that your life can’t be like the thing you imagine. By turning focus to your ideal life you can spot the disparities between where you currently are, and where you want to be. These differences are your goals. You can look at role models on social media or get crafty and make a vision board to keep you on track and remind yourself exactly where you want to be. Have this somewhere that you can regularly see to remind yourself of where you want to be.

Set challenges & Identify milestones
If you are trying to achieve something that is relatively new to you, then setting challenges, clear objectives, and milestones can ensure that you remain motivated on your journey. For example, having an event like ‘Tough Mudder’ could make you more motivated to stay on track with your health and fitness journey, and your milestones may be the different distances that you can run.
Try to avoid having milestones that are too strict, time restricted, or defined by numbers especially in the early days (EG weight, time to run a mile) as it can be incredibly easy to feel unmotivated when these take longer than you wanted to complete.

Research your options
If you really want to make changes in your life having an understanding of the thing that you want to change can make you more likely to be successful. We are much more likely to be able to stay focused on something that we are interested in and knowledgeable about. Take the time to research the changes you want to make, read blogs about how others have made the journey before you – and ask questions, watch documentaries, or do online courses. I usually use a pretty basic project pad to keep track of my ideas and where I am up to with them - especially as I find that once I have motivation I get more ideas of new things to try than anybody could ever remember! I use a different tab for each area of life I am focusing on changing, and then make an effort to review what I have written at least once a week. 

Another advantage of this is that by increasing our knowledge of these things, we become more aware of different techniques that we can use to get where we want to be, and to adapt what we are already doing to get where we want to be quicker.

Focus on the day ahead
Having big goals to transform your entire life can be daunting and overwhelming. Part of our problem with this is that we feel so far away from where we want to be that it can seem impossible to get there. Rather than spending all of your time focused on the bigger picture (I mean, always be aware of it, but don’t make it your be-all-and-end-all, you need some flexibility) break it down into more manageable chunks. Each day ask yourself what you can do that day to make you one step closer to your goals. Take it one step at a time. Slowly slowly catchy monkey.

The most important thing to remember when you are setting goals is to make sure that we are remaining true to ourselves, and consistently reviewing what we want to achieve to ensure that it still fits with what you want, what makes you happy, as well as fitting with your morals and values. You need to find the balance between focusing on your ‘ideal life’, and not getting overwhelmed by taking everything a day at a time. You will find that just by considering how each decision you make will benefit you, you will begin to feel more content and at peace with yourself and who you are almost instantly.


Monday, 26 March 2018

10 Questions to ask before you move in together

Moving in with a partner can be as exciting as it is daunting. You will both have expectations of what living with your boyfriend/girlfriend is going to be like, different experiences of family homes whilst growing up, and different habits that you display within the home, which aren't always as positive as we would like to think. At the same time you are about to get a space you can truly call your own, with one of your favourite people by your side there every day. Having moved in with my partner in October, there are a lot of things we discussed prior to moving in together, and a lot of things that we probably should have discussed which have come out in petty arguments since!

  1. Will we be renting or buying?
    Buying was not a realistic option for us when we moved in together as we both had too much debt to consider getting a mortgage, let alone getting a deposit together. What we should have discussed is when would we like to buy? so that we could put a plan together for that. 

  2. How long will we be renting for? / Do we need furnished?
    Furnishing an entire property can add a few thousand pounds to renting, but also opens up your options of where you are looking, and how much you are paying. Have a think about how long you are going to be in the property and if it is worth getting furniture for that amount of time. I want to move across the country within the next 2 years, so a 12-month lease that came furnished allowed us that flexibility. 

  3. Where are we going to live?
    With many people this is a straight-forward answer, however neither me or my partner have any ties to the city we live in, or know many people in the area, so we were pretty flexible with where we were going to look for houses, but still had to consider things like my commute to work, accessibility for public transport, and distance to our parents home (I like to be no more than 90 minutes drive from my home town). We also had to consider the area of the city and neighbourhood. 

  4. Do we have any requirements (pets/parking etc)
    I was very insistent that wherever we moved had a garden, a bath,  parking for my car, and would accept my pets. Other than these things I didn't care if I lived in a shed or a mansion. It is likely that you and your partner have different ideas about what you are looking for in your new home, so make sure that you have a list of features your new place "has to have" before arranging any viewings.

  5. What kind of place?
    This is where you get to consider whether you really wouldn't mind  if you ended up in a shed or a mansion. I think both me and my partner both knew deep down  that we wanted a house rather than a flat or shared accommodation, but in the end this wasn't one of our main concerns when looking. 

  6. How much space? How will we divide this?
    I have learned from my mistakes in the past, and am well aware that I need copious amounts of space to put my copious amounts of stuff. When living in a house share I burst out of my room and into the communal living area with all of my belongings just because I needed storage. I knew what I needed for my belongings, and knew that I wanted space to grow into my environment. We essentially needed at least one spare room just for me.

  7. How are we going to split the cost?
    Moving house is expensive. The deposit and first months rent alone can be more than the average annual salary, and that is without considering any estate agent fees, or 'basics' that you may need for the house. Knowing who is paying for what before committing to moving or signing papers can really help prevent any arguments at this stage, and help you negotiate who gets what back at the end of the tenancy.

  8. How do we split bills? Will it be a 50/50 split, or will one of you be paying more towards this than the other? this can be an important question to ask before moving in, and it is worth thinking about how the dates of the bills work alongside your paydays and whether this will impact your ability to contribute (It is worth noting that most direct debits can be moved if you contact the company). You should also consider the "hidden bills" such as food, toiletries and cleaning products for the home, Netflix and broadband subscriptions, or insurances which will be bought for you both to benefit from.
  9. Who will cook? Clean? Take the bins out? Splitting the chores is usually one of the top causes of arguments in any shared house, and just because you may be moving in with the love of your life it will be no different. It is worth having a conversation about what level of clean you expect the house to be kept in and which jobs you agree to do before you move in, but also expect negotiations along the way. There may also have to be times where the 50/50 split is more like a 90/10, but that's just part of human relationships.
  10. What is your routine?Whether you work completely different hours, one of you works away, or simply one of you is a morning person whilst the other is a night owl, knowing each others routine is important before you move in. This prevents arguments about the simple things like when you want to go to bed, take a two-hour bath and binge watch friends, have some "you time", or even have the girls over. Plus, you can use your routines to schedule some time together each week and plan activities.
Since moving in with my boyfriend I have found making compromise to some of my routines has been tough, and we have had our fair share of arguments (mostly about things I find stupid) along the way I wouldn't change the last few months of my life for anything. Getting it right can be tough, but with a little conversation about the important things it can definitely be worth every second. 


Friday, 16 March 2018

How to detox your lifestyle

To quote Mean Girls, "When you get bit by a snakeyou have to suck out all the poison, that's what I had to do, suck all the poison out of my life”. Okay, so maybe that is a little over-dramatic, but it is not uncommon to find that most models of change begin with removing the ‘poison’. Diets often begin with detoxes, financial plans start by eliminating your bad debt, and lifestyle changes start with your environment. It makes sense, not only are there loads of benefits of having a ‘clean start’ (but I’ll go into that later) but what we don’t realise is that in making change it is not all about making positive steps forward, it is also about eliminating our bad habits, and sometimes that is much harder.
Kate loves blog - Mindfulness - Fresh Start

The first thing I would recommend everyone doing is having a really good spring clean. Yes, that may seem dull, and you are going to be even less enthusiastic when I tell you that I mean cleaning everything. Focus on your living environment as if the queen is paying you a visit. Take a day or two to blast loud music while you clean, and again ensure that you organise everything, go through every drawer, file every receipt. At the same time, if you are a bit of a hoarder like I am then try to clear out some things that you no longer use or need, such as clothes that you no longer wear.

Trust me, I’m not just trying to bore you all with this. There is some logic as to why cleaning your environment will help you in achieving your goals. Sounds daft, but whilst scrubbing away the dirt in the house, it is symbolic of also scrubbing away the negative parts of your life that you wish to change, seeing the clean home after your hard work makes the changes feel achievable. You also see the areas that you are hiding away when you are forced to clean everything. There are guaranteed to be jobs that you have been putting off for so long that you have forgotten that they even need doing, and as you do these jobs and methodically work through what you need to get done you will begin to feel more in control of your life. Finally, the most obvious benefit of this is your ability to function in a clean environment will be much greater than in clutter. It is easier to maintain, you have more space to think, and you’re spending way less time digging for your keys in the morning.

Most people follow the same, or similar routines every single day of their lives. We shop in the same stores, take the same routes to and from work, talk to the same people, watch the same TV shows – and then wonder why things in our lives aren’t changing when we want them to. Now, I am not going to say you need to be up at 4am and heading to the gym because this post is all about cleaning up bad habits, not creating new ones (yet).

Take a moment to have a look at your routine on an average week – write it down or plan out a schedule in an app or a diary if it helps, I use this weekly planner to help me. This will show you the amount of time that you are spending on activities that are not going to be helpful for achieving your goals, but also shows you an indication of how much free time you have. It may be that you have very little spare time each week that you are going to be able to utilise when you do add in your new behaviours, which will mean that you need to be very strict and organised to get things done. It may even highlight that you are spending time on activities that are not going to benefit your goals which you could better use. For example, if you spend an hour per day cooking you may be able to save time by bulk-cooking on your day off. If you spend two evenings per week in the pub you may be able to spend some of that time doing a sport together or spend some of the time working towards one of your goals.

Everybody will have heard the expression “Healthy body, healthy mind”. Whilst you are cleaning up your environment it is also important to look at your own personal health. It may be that you feel you live a pretty sedentary lifestyle or that your diet is not particularly great, and if this is the case it is likely to be having more of an impact on your life and wellbeing than you realise. Food and nutrition can massively influence your physical and mental health, but again, we aren’t talking making massive changes here.

You’ll want to monitor everything that you currently do. Keeping a log of what you are eating and exercise either in a book or on an app will show you what you are taking in on a regular week. I used a fitbook to show my exercise and eating habits, and it helped to show me the small changes I could make. By doing this while you are on the go means you won’t miss any sneaky snacks through the day. You may notice that you are not drinking enough water, or that you are eating too much convenience food and you can use this to identify where you want to improve, and then make small steps to changing your diet by removing the negatives. Think ‘clean’ when you are making your changes, and try to swap out any unhealthy foods in your diet for a healthier option that is as similar as possible  - In my first week of “eating healthy” I removed all fast-food, sweets, and convenience meals from what I was eating, and tried to make home-cooked versions on my own, and tried to make sure that I wasn’t skipping meals anymore. it doesn't have to be difficult either, I used the Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredient Meal book to help give me some quick and easy ideas. Within 3 days I was feeling healthier and more energetic!

What a lot of people don’t realise is that trying to remove negative habits takes as much motivation and energy as it does to start new and healthy activities in our lives, and that our usual strategy of trying to do everything at one time can be overwhelming for us, which is why we often fail in our goals. By taking the time to “spring clean” our lives before trying to make any big changes it means there is space in our lives for these new activities, we have less conflicting behaviours that may lead to failure, and we can see positive changes in our lives already making us more motivated to take on the world.


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

26 things I want to do in my 26th year

Today is my 26th Birthday! (I'm working, grumpy, and feeling sorry for myself). Rather than write my usual post about things I have learned through my life, I thought I would look forward and list things that I want to achieve over the next year or so. So, here is my 26 things I would like to achieve over the next year.

Love kate blog - lifestyle - goals

Learn to cook 
I have gone on a bit of a health-kick lately and become really passionate about cooking everything from scratch where possible. From learning a few basic recipes and growing my knowledge I have realised that I'm not as bad of a cook as I thought I was. This year I would really like to expand on the dishes I can actually cook and try new things.

Develop my career
After a really tough few months at work I've spent some time looking at opportunities for training and progression. I would really like to be feeling like I have 'overcome the odds' and got to where I would like to be by the time my next birthday rolls around - not sulking at work like today. 

Pimp my Ride
I can't lie, my car is basically held together with will-power and some kind of black magic. It is really difficult to look professional rocking up in it in front of the young people that I work with, let alone in front of the anyone I need to give a good first impression to, and I am in constant fear of getting pulled 'cause I look like a boy racer. It NEEDS fixing. 

Find time to exercise 
Being a particularly anti-social child I was never one for team sports, gym class, or anything that involved sweating in front of others. I have never enjoyed sports or exercise, and find it really difficult to find time to fit it in to my schedule. Thankfully I have a bit of time free now to begin trying new things, and I can try to find an exercise that I enjoy and learn how to fit it into my schedule.  

Have a holiday
I haven't had a week in the sun in about 5 years. If I don't at least have one booked by this time next year I'm quitting life and going backpacking. 

Do something for charity 
I have always enjoyed giving back to charity, even at the times where the only thing I could afford to give was my time. I would love to find time in my routine to give back, do some voluntary work, or do some fundraising. 

Stop being a damn hermit
The thing with being an anti-social child, is that you grow up to be an anti-social adult. I have moved at least 60 miles from my nearest friends, and have made absolutely no effort to make any friends since being here (other than people I work with). I need to get out of the house and meet people, and stop making excuses. 

Decorate the house
We moved into a house last October, and to say it is basic is an understatement. The place was used as a shared student house for the last four years and was neither clean or pretty when we moved in. I have slowly been adding some personal touches, and after a very deep clean and something to cover the hideous sofas it is starting to look like home... now it just needs to be less beige. 

Just keep blogging
I have been on and off blogging for TEN years now! Wouldn't it be great if I actually stuck at it for once? I want to make sure that I commit to blogging regularly on here, and not changing my entire identity again any time soon! 

Write that book
Writing a book is something I have dreamed of doing since I was only in primary school. I used to write and illustrate my own stories in little hand-made books and give them to relatives instead of pictures (yes, I've always been a nerd). It wasn't until recently that I realized what I want to write about, and now I want to make my dream a reality. 

Learn to be on time
I am AWFUL at being on time, for anything. I mean, I manage to make it to work on time every day, but other than that you can guarantee that you will be waiting at least 15 minutes for me to do things. It isn't just meeting people either, I moved house and it took me six months to move my address on some of my cards and documents. I need to learn to manage my time, and stop keeping people (and things) waiting! 

Housetrain the boyfriend
I actually have a full post about this coming up, because living with a boy can be hard work! It annoys me how things that I see as important when living together don't seem to concern him in the slightest (and vice verca) but we have finally thought of a fun way to actually compromise on this - hopefully it works and I can stop picking up dirty socks off the bathroom floor... 

Take care of my health
I have finally got to the age where I need to have regular checkups, vaccinations, and tests just to keep my body ticking. It is finally time that I stopped swerving the doctors and started taking responsibility for my own health. 

Overcome a fear
My completely irrational fear of spiders is taking over parts of my life I didn't believe that it could, and working with young people who know that I'm completely terrified is like living in hell on earth. I need to take steps to overcome my fears, and eventually would like to brave the spider-walk in London Zoo. 

Take care of my skin
Again, part of that getting older process is taking its toll on my skin. I need to begin to look after my skin, wash away the waterproof mascara and clean my pores out before I hit the pillow after a long day at work, actually moisturize once in a while. Don't be expecting a full skincare regime any time soon, baby steps. 

Practice what I preach
I write so many self-help posts I never publish, and spend most of my day doing therapy sessions giving advice at work, yet rarely practice what I preach. To go along with my 'life change' blog series on here I have made it a golden rule that I practice what I write about. Not only will it help me sort my own life out, but it guarantees that I am giving everyone better advice... and I feel like less of a hypocrite telling people to eat healthy whilst I live on take-out. 

Read my backlog of books
I haven't found the time to read a book cover-to-cover in what feels like YEARS, yet it is something that I love doing and find incredibly relaxing. I want to have read every book in my house in the next year. Hopefully rekindle my love for reading again, and let me feel less guilty when people ask how I enjoyed books they bought me for birthdays back in 2013. 

Make the niece's blanket
When my niece was born I promised I would crochet a blanket. What I didn't mention is that all I had ever crocheted was a slightly wonky scarf and a rose in a tutorial. This year I will be refreshing my ability with a beginners crochet course, and finally giving my niece her long awaited blanket. 

Switch up my style
Honestly, if there is one thing I noticed whilst moving last year it is how old and dated my clothes are! I have always been the kind of person who puts practicality before style, but it never occurred to me that maybe the very comfy hoodie I had been wearing for the last decade weren't exactly fashionable anymore. I really want to sort through what I own, create a capsule wardrobe with a few new pieces, and give the rest to someone more needy.

Learn to live frugally
It isn't just my wardrobe I would like to slimline, it is my entire lifestyle! With some of the changes I have already made since moving into my own place last year I have had a big realisation just how wasteful I can be in some areas of my life. I want to learn to live on more of a strict budget, and to recycle and reuse things where possible. Plus, there's more chance to pick up a few new skills if I'm fixing and upcycling things. 

Donate blood
I haven't given blood in almost 3 years, but with the uk blood donation service crying out for certain blood types recently, I have made it a priority to get back in. Click here to book and donate. 

Learn to be more organised
I have a really bad habit of letting things get on top of me when I am stressed, and with a job that can only be described as 'intense' at times, my life is more often chaos than calm. I would like to start implementing some of the advice I learned from my mentor at university and start to have some more order to my life. 

Actually date my boyfriend
Sometimes, me and my boyfriend feel more like flatmates than a happy couple. We went three weeks recently where we had seen each other (both awake) for a grand total of 4 hours, and communicated in an inconsistent stream of texts and snapchats. With both of us working such weird hours it can be difficult to find time together, but I'd like to try to go on a date at least once a month... not just to review new places.

Keep moving forward 
I have been doing a lot of personal development and working closely with my life coach recently and have made some progress on a lot of personal issues that have been holding me back. I would like to continue to make time for myself to do this work each week to try and ensure that I keep moving forward. I don't ever want to go back. 

"every day is a school day". But seriously, there are so many things I want to learn this year. I want to be able to iron a shirt, to make meatballs just like my mum, to take decent blog pictures, to style my hair, to blend my foundation like a pro, to speak infront of people without losing my nerve. There are courses I want to do to improve my skills, courses I want to do to further my career. The only thing that keeps stopping me is me. 

Spend more time in nature
I grew up in the countryside and have always felt more like myself somewhere that I can escape and be with nature than in a busy city. I want to make an effort to spend more time out in nature over the next year, and hopefully get to see more of the beautiful county I decided to move to. 


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Knowing your 'True Self' and finding your purpose

I’m not gonna lie, I hear the word “Mindfulness” and my mind instantly flicks to images of yoga retreats in the mountains and whole-food dinners on Instagram. It is something that I have always associated with them unattainable lifestyle blogs, and never with me. It wasn’t until I decided I wanted to write a series of posts helping you guys transform your lives that I realised just how important mindfulness can be, and how it is something we all practice to some extent in our lives already. What’s even better, it is a skill we can practice that makes navigating through our hectic life easier (without becoming a slightly hippy-ish cliché).

So, recently I have had a lot of time on my hands to think. I decided I wanted to write this blog series on how to transform your life and find balance during this time, and spent several weeks researching and planning for these posts. There will be 10(ish) posts in the series full of information and activities for you to get involved in and, although they do follow a vague order, you will be able to dip in and out of them as you fancy. I am using my experience and knowledge of working with children in care to write the advice in these posts, but still need to make the disclaimer that If you are dealing with serious mental or physical health issues the advice within these posts may be unsuited to you and your needs - Please go and seek help from a professional or visit your GP. This being the first post, I’m focusing on the importance of knowing your true self before you try to make changes.

Kate loves blog - Mindfulness - True Self

By developing a true understanding of who you are, and what makes you tick, you begin to make better decisions on everything from small things like what to have for lunch, to big things like where you want to live. The problem a lot of us face is that we never take the time to sit and reflect on ourselves and learn who our “authentic self” really is. We effectively float through life making decisions based entirely on what is expected of us by others, or what we see those around us doing – which is part of the reason people say that we are a sum of the people we spend the most time with. You may find you get no real joy from your achievements or feel out of place in a position you have worked hard towards, because it is something that means nothing to you and your values as an individual.

I am as guilty of this as everybody else. All the way through my childhood I was very academic, and I thought the harder I worked then the more likely I would be to get into university and get a job that I wanted. I drifted into my A-level subjects, taking topics that my friends were taking, or that I thought looked easy. Because I was not passionate about the subjects I went from attending meetings about going to Oxbridge in my first year, to attending what had been my 5th choice “backup university” studying Psychology. I loved the experience of getting my degree and being a student and it is something I would not change for the world, but I would have made different choices had I been encouraged to actually reflect on what I wanted or to find my ‘authentic self’ rather than just applying because everybody else was.

Knowing how to discover your true self is a challenge. Not all of us can afford to have a gap year to “find ourselves” and it can take a lot of time - especially as you need to think of not only every area of your life how it is now, but also how it has been impacted by your history, choices, and relationships up to this point. I was incredibly lucky (if you can call it that?) and had two months that I was unable to work. I had a lot of time during this period to sit and contemplate just about everything.

Take stock of where you are
With a focus on the things in your life that you would like to change, have a think about where you are right now, and what set of decisions lead you to this moment. Notice during your thoughts that some decisions you have made in this area will have worked well for you, and others will not, and contemplate what has influenced your decisions in these areas.

There are many factors that can influence our decision making as we go through life, including our physical and mental health at the time of making the decision, our relationships with others, the expectations of our families and cultures. By becoming more aware of the things that may sway our decisions we can be more in control of whether we are making the decisions for our own needs, or for others.

What do you enjoy doing?
What are you passionate and interested in?
What do you want to try?
Who do you enjoy spending time with?
What time of day do you feel most motivated?

Most importantly… why?
It is these questions that make us all individuals and influence the ways our minds work. By finding what activities give us energy we understand what makes us happy.

Read books & take personality tests 
It seems almost too obvious to read about different personality traits and behaviours when you want to discover more about yourself.It is important to take what personality tests reveal with a 'pinch of salt', most are designed for a UK/American culture so may not be relevant if you are from a different culture, they're also usually trying to reduce the billions of people in the population into a limited number of 'categories' so you may not find a description that fits you perfectly. My favourite books for this are The 5 Love Languages and The 5 Personality Patterns.

Pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses
We are all completely individual and have our own strengths, weaknesses, and passions to bring to the table. By increasing our awareness of these things about ourselves we can use them to identify things that may make us happy, as well as things that may block our path to success. Think about the tasks that you are most likely to avoid, or jobs that you never quite get around to completing, and see whether they link to your weaknesses, or if they have a common pattern in them. People tend to avoid doing things which would mean putting themselves in a situation where they have little control, which is exactly why people avoid doing things that involve a skill that they aren’t good at.

Once you have identified tasks you avoid, or skills that you are not as competent with, you may be able to see ways that your strengths can compensate and help you in completing the tasks. You may decide to get help with your weaknesses. You may decide to abort the task completely and focus on a different area with your goals – It is completely up to you, but you should have more of an understanding of why some things always feel like an uphill battle to you when others seem to find them a breeze. A really good book to explain this concept is bestselling motivational book Eat That Frog!

Listen to your self-talk
“If you think you can or whether you think you can’t you’re probably right” – Henry Ford

I have always been a firm believer that when we are talking about ourselves, we tend to be our own worst critic - however if we talk to ourselves as we would speak to our friends or family we are much more supportive and understanding of our own needs. Easier said than done, trust me, I know. Try to listen to the way that you are thinking about yourself, and for every negative thought you have, try and think why you believe it, and then think of three positives in its place.

It is also worth noticing how your internal voice reacts to the environments and people that you are around – If your first thought when thinking of seeing a particular person or about going to work is a sinking feeling of dread (beyond the usual Monday blues), then maybe there is something about that situation that you need to avoid. Maybe it is a person who doesn’t value you, or a workplace that doesn’t motivate you, it is worth investigating why you have these feelings before you set your goals. 

Focus on what makes you happy
I found that after years of pursuing goals that I had drifted into I was no longer sure what I actually enjoyed and what I didn't. I used the time that I had to try out a few new activities, and read a lot of posts from other bloggers about how they found their passions and what they had done to find what they loved. If I'm honest, I spent a lot of time doing a lot of things I was not passionate about and smiling at people as I pretended that I had enjoyed their events before I found anything that I wanted to do again, but then I also got to meet a lot of very interesting people along the way who suggested more things for me to try and expanded my horizons. 

As well as trying new things, I was looking backwards. I tend to focus a lot on my hobbies when I was a child, because that is the period of my life that I was most comfortable in being myself. (lets face it, not many of us look back and want to change who we were as a child before we began to be concerned with other people's influences). When I had been young I had been very active, participating in several different sports and being very sociable. I picked out a few activities that I had enjoyed and found taster sessions in my area, I also looked to get back in touch with some people that I had lost touch with from this period of my life. 

Mindfulness isn’t a hippy term for meditation and detoxes, it quite literally means paying attention to how different activities and factors influence our wellbeing and how we feel, and the effect of each decision on your feelings of happiness. You can review your feelings and reasoning behind every decision within your life, from what to have for lunch, to whether you wish to go for a job. By focusing on how your choices make you feel, you will eventually be more competent in understanding what we truly want, and what actions we can take to help us feel more content and less stressed in our lives. 


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

2017 In Review

I have had this post drafted since December 2017, but after the worst start to a year I have ever had (seriously, it has just been one thing after another - I may discuss it on here eventually) am only getting around to posting it now it is nearly March - Please be patient, and pretend it is an acceptable time to be posting this!  I am usually the kind of person that has lists of goals and New Years resolutions longer than my arm, but despite my initial excitement they have been forgotten about by the middle of the year. In 2017 I tried to set ’17 goals for 2017’, with the theory that sticking to a smaller amount of goals would mean I had more focus. So, for anyone interested in how I got on, below is a summary of how 2017 treat me.

Create my ‘Home sweet Home’ – After 7 years of living in shared accommodation, I have longed for my own space pretty much all of my adult life. Somewhere that I could lock the door on a Friday evening, then not see another person until work on Monday morning (Yes, I am that much of a private person). In October I moved into a beautiful 2-bed house with my boyfriend, and whilst it needs a fair bit of work it is finally somewhere that feels like home.

Be more confident – I recently wrote a post about how bad my confidence had got, and how I had begun to avoid social situation, even with my closest friends, because of my lack of self-esteem and the constant feeling of nervousness that had begun to follow me around. Now, I may not be quite where I want to be, I’m not the first to raise my hand to answer a question and I am still scared of just about every new experience, but I have had a lot of therapy over the last year, and can tell I am making some progress in overcoming the things holding me back.

Reduce my debts – I was always brought up not to discuss my debts, which meant that they remained hidden as they spiralled out of control. In 2017 I paid off 1/3 of my debts and am on track to pay off a further 1/3 this year. I have learned how to budget and save, and how to be more mindful of what I am spending money on which greatly helped.

Travel the world – It had been YEARS since I had a holiday, so I wanted to explore a little more in 2017. I didn’t get to go far on my holidays but did get to go away and I spent a week in wales with my family in September, and a few days in Amsterdam with my partner during October.

Learn to open-up in my relationship – This relationship is still different from anything I have ever been in, and despite that I still find it incredibly difficult to talk about myself and my feelings, but I have finally got used to being able to talk about anything without judgement… even if sometimes it takes me hours to get the words out!

Go to a festival – This is something else I hadn’t really done since I was a teenager, and I have always really enjoyed how heading to a festival can feel like going to some kind of post apocalypse civilisation with port-a-loo’s and beer (I challenge you not to think that at least once whilst walking through a campsite) In summer I headed to Download with a few friends, and although I am definitely too old to camp out anymore, I had the best time.

Learn a new skill – I have always wanted to be more crafty and be able to make things that are actually useful, unlike the bottle opener I designed in high school that never worked, or the wonky desk tidy I had so proudly presented to my parents. So in 2017 I had been lucky enough to hook up with Beautiful Creations and learn to crochet. I’m now about half way through making my niece a beautiful blanket which is something I could have only dreamed about before!

Learn to cook – I am still not an excellent cook by any stretch of the imagination, but over the past year I have improved quite a lot, I no longer rely on Just Eat to feed me every night, and have actually been able to plan and cook my own food most nights after work. Granted, I still have a cheeky microwave meal when I am feeling lazy, but that isn’t every single day anymore.

Find an exercise that I enjoy – I’m not entirely sure why this was ever written down as a New Year’s resolution, when the only exercise I have ever enjoyed is swimming and I knew that already. Needless to say I got back into swimming over the last year, although didn’t start doing it anywhere near regularly enough!

Not Achieved
Get to my ‘happy weight’ – As is always the case, I probably gained more than I lost over the last year. This was not made any easier by events towards the end of the year that made it difficult to look after myself, let alone eat well and exercise. It is something I am already working towards in 2018.

Make Friends – It seems crazy to have lived in this city for almost 18 months now, and yet still not have any real friends in the area. I need to get over my avoidance of leaving the house and make some friends this year – It is SO much harder than when I was in university though!

Get over one fear – OK so this goal came about when I was walking past the spider room in London Zoo. I am determined to go into that room (honestly, I couldn’t even walk near that room last time). But if that does not happen this year then I would like to be able to overcome another one of my fears – just to show that I can.

Go for the promotion at work – This definitely didn’t happen in 2017 as I was made redundant at the start of the year, then spent the next few months job hopping and trying to find a place that was the right balance of what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to earn. I’m still not sure I have struck the right balance in this area but am getting some amazing support from work on changing this. Watch this space.

Blog! – Now to say I didn’t blog last year would be a lie. I ended the year with only 11 posts on my blog, and it was pretty sporadic through the year, but what you guys didn’t get to see was the 143 draft posts, each in various stages of completion, that never made it to be published. This year isn’t going to be so much about doing more for the blog, but more about making sure I complete my ideas and posts before constantly moving onto the next thing.

Make Derby my home – I hate to say this, but I do not feel like I am ‘at home’ living in Derby. I get lost walking any further than the end of my street and can’t ask for directions without having the poor person repeat themselves 15 times. I don’t understand most of the colloquial language. Most of all, I’m homesick all the time. I know that the more I throw myself into the community then the more at home I am going to feel here, but I don’t know if I want to do that this year – or if I just want to go home.

Visit my donkey – Now I’m down to the ones I had no control over, I had a donkey adopted for me for 2017 and me being me chose to adopt the oldest donkey at the shelter because it had a name that made me feel he was ‘misunderstood’ and came from the same town as my partner. Unfortunately, adopting a donkey that was 10 years older than the average life expectancy meant he passed away before I got to visit.

Get a tattoo – Quite simply, I changed my mind. I found through my therapy that a lot of my urge to get tattoos and piercings were to ‘cover up’ some of my bigger issues, and in working through these issues was able to develop healthier coping mechanisms that did not involve needles (who guessed?).

I am going to be posting about my 2018 resolutions in the next few weeks, and a series about the psychological tools I have tried and tested to help me reach my goals. What are you hoping to achieve this year? 

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