It’s Not Self Care- It’s Self Preservation.

The phrase Self Care is incredibly popular within the media these days and as the number of people suffering from poor mental health, stress and exhaustion is growing year on year it is an important topic to be discussed.

Nevertheless, I personally believe this popular phrase should be rephrased. Self Care sounds a little woo-woo and airy fairy. Instagram images of face masks and soaking in lush bubble baths immediately springs to mind. Self Care should in fact be known as Self Preservation. Self Preservation is the act of doing several different activities which light you up and spark joy, in order to preserve your mental health.

As the saying goes you cannot pour from an empty cup. If you constantly give to your friends, family, job etc without taking time for yourself it will inevitably result in a burn out. Burn outs are not good for us or our mental health and can be avoided by implementing some simple techniques into our daily routine in order to look after ourselves. By filling yourself up with a little love and care you will be more effective at looking after those around you. You are less likely to snap at someone or lose your cool in an instant. You are less likely to feel drained and exhausted at the end of each day and you are more likely to feel empowered and fulfilled within yourself. Anxiety and stress can not coexist alongside relaxation.

Take A Minute To Breathe

A common excuse people use for not looking after themselves is “but I don’t have time.” What that insidiously really means is it is not a priority to them. Self preservation should be a priority- especially when it can take as little as a minute of your time a few times per day.

When you feel pressure and stress mounting and taking control then I recommend using the following breathing technique to calm the mind and take charge of your feelings and emotions.

1. Stop whatever you’re doing and either lower your gaze or close your eyes completely.

2. Place your softly hands on your lower abdomen.

3. Take a cleansing deep inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.

4. Adopt the box breathing technique. Breathe in the nose for the count of four; hold the breath at the top for four; exhale for four and hold for four.

5. Repeat this pattern 3/4 times

This is an incredibly simple breathing technique which calms the central nervous system and stops your fight or flight instinct from kicking in. Simple breathing brings you back into the present moment and gives you something to focus or rather than getting caught up in the mind chatter.

Make A Commitment To Yourself

In the past when I was feeling outta whack I would make a ridged schedule and put so much pressure on myself to stick to it. “I must practice an hour of yoga every day,” I would tell myself, and when I didn’t manage I would feel shame, guilt and failure. The polar opposite of looking after myself and taking positive steps to feel good.

Nowadays, I don’t make strict schedules anymore. I try and tap into my intuition and listen to what my body needs each day. Some mornings that involves taking to my mat and stretching out my body through a yoga flow. Other days it involves hitting the snooze button my alarm and savouring an extra half an hour in bed. By listening to exactly what your body, mind and soul needs you are more likely to finish the day feeling like you’ve achieved some form of balance within yourself and less defeated by not meeting an unrealistic target.

Get Moving

Countless scientific studies explain that moving the body through exercise aids positive mental health and helps maintain a healthy body and mind. It is important to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping!

Some of my favourite ways to get moving are to walk back to work on my lunch hour; go climbing with my boyfriend; take a pole dancing class; head over to YouTube and take an online yoga class; throw on a podcast and head out for a run. The list is endless really. Try different activities and see what you enjoy and makes you feel good!

Eat Well

Finally, take time to cook something bright, colourful and tasty. We don’t just use our tastebuds when we eat. Your brain is also stimulated by a variety of smells, colours and textures. I often notice that when I’ve been eating poorly and neglecting my body by feeding it a poor diet I feel sluggish, lethargic and more irritable than usual. I also understand that if you are cooking for one it can feel difficult to put in the effort and cook a proper meal for yourself- I often struggle with this mentality. My solution for this is to invite a friend or my boyfriend over and cook for them too! This gives me more accountability and pride to do a good job so the other person gets to enjoy a healthy, wholesome meal too. I also ensure that I make a meal plan for the week and keep it visible in the kitchen to remind myself of all the tasty treats I have to look forward to each day.

These are a few of the most basic techniques that I will always come back to when I need to take care of myself better. Self preservation takes time and a level of discipline in order to form strong habits. It’s easy to forget these skills and techniques when life feels good and we don’t think we need them. However, it is important to maintain them in daily life in order to look after our mental, physical and spiritual selves. I hope these are beneficial to you and you pass them on to friends and family as new tools to add to their mental health toolkit.

By talking to one another about mental health we can help improve the overall mood of this country and look after one another. Communities who share skills, knowledge and information with one another will thrive and grow.

A Call To Action- Simple Steps to Uplevel Your Sustainable Bathroom Game

A recent pole carried out on my Instagram (@iammeganalexandra if you want to check it out for yourself) showed that my audience are all as interested in sustainability as I am and are looking to find new ways to make their own sustainable swaps to help fight climate change and protect Mother Earth.

Full disclosure, I am not perfect and I do not claim to be. I recycle, use green energy providers to heat my flat and make appropriate changes to benefit the planet. I believe that we should share the hints and tips we learn with one another to educate others and develop better practices ourselves.

I have been following Acala Online, a sustainable health and beauty online store with a passion for the environment, for quite some time. Their goal is to make conscious, eco friendly shopping easy and accessible to everyone. They even go to the extent of using innovative packing methods to ship your parcels straight to you too.

Recently, I shopped with Acala using their new Repack, reusable and returnable packaging and I was suitably impressed and wanted to share my experience with you all.

RePack packaging is a brand with soul and who care for the environment. RePack packaging is entirely made out of recycled materials and can be reused by other shoppers once your shopping has arrived at your front door. 

RePack make it super easy to send the packaging back to Acala as well and all you have to do is reseal it using the Velcro tab and pop it back in the postbox. Acala pay for the postage so you don’t have to worry. So, not only do you have conscious, affordable skin care and beauty products delivered right to your door it comes COMPLETELY PLASTIC FREE! I absolutely loved this element of my shopping experience.

But now onto what was in my RePack parcel! Four wonderful, everyday essentials to make my bathroom look great and make me feel good too.

Something to remember when shopping is brands and businesses can be pretty sneaky in their marketing, convincing you to shop for more when you didn’t need it in the first place. They often do this by using some of those eco friendly buzz words we talked about earlier. Remember, if you don’t need it don’t buy it! Conscious consumption and is what will help save the planet.

We have so much stuff as it is there’s no need to fill your house with more just because it says it’s eco friendly.

This month I really needed a new toothbrush as my old one had given up the goose so I decided to swap from my traditional plastic one to a bamboo one by Hydra Phil. I must admit prior to using a bamboo toothbrush I was worried that a bamboo one might not give me as good a clean but how wrong I was. This toothbrush cleans all the plaque and daily grime off my teeth with ease whilst protecting my gums at the same time. It did cost slightly more than its plastic competitor but it has a much smaller carbon footprint and can be composted once it’s had its time as long as the nylon bristles have been removed. 10/10 from me!

Next, was The All Natural Soap Company Ultimate Soap Bar! A brand new edition to the Acala store. I had recently finished my bottle of body wash and decided I wanted to opt now for a plastic free alternative so this suited my every need. The Ultimate Soap is completely cruelty free and 100% palm oil free and smells amazing! It’s filled with nourishing and enriching essential oils to help sooth skin from those sunny summer rays and fight mosquitos- which if you’re from Scotland is a big winner! This soap is also easy to store, I just place mine on a slatted soap dish to let it air dry once I’m finished with it.

Finally, I might have got a little carried away with the amazing weather we had a few weeks ago and purchased Amazinc Mineral Sun Screen. Not only does this sun cream come in a high factor 50 for my delicate, Snow White inspired skin, but it is entirely natural and won’t negatively impact the rivers and oceans! Result! I can’t say I have had a chance to use this much but no doubt when I do you’ll all be the first to know.

So there you have it. My sustainable bathroom swaps with Alcala! I only believe in working with brands I believe in and I wanted to offer you the opportunity to save 10% off with Alcala when you shop for all your beauty supplies! Just use the code 10-YOGAMEG or click on this link here. Remember to share your sustainable swaps with my by tagging me in your posts on Facebook or Instagram.

Together we can take little steps in the right direction to protect the planet and help her grow and thrive once more. Any eco friendly hints or tips you are dying to share? Please pop them in the comments below!

Don’t Look Back. Keep Moving Forward.

Your twenties are a very fickle time and it often feels difficult to know if you’re ‘doing it right’- so to speak.

At school I was taught the age old strategy; work hard at school, work even harder at university to get the honours degree, land the dream job, find yourself a partner, buy a house, get married and have children. Then make sure the same cycle is instilled into them. That seemed pretty straight forward to me when I was 13, young, naive and easily led. Damn, at that age I thought you were a fully fledged grown up at 18. Oh how wrong I was.

Fast forward to my twenties and I’m lying in bed writing this post with two cats napping on my chest wondering if I’m doing it right? On one hand I have a group of friends still at uni, drinking and living it up at all hours in clubs several times a week. Then on the other hand I have a group of friends, much like me, who are in the early stages of their careers, working the 9-5 and settling into adulthood. Then somewhere in the middle are my nomad pals who I couldn’t even tell you where in the world they are this week- probably some beach in South East Asia using the hashtag #travellerlife. We’re all the same age, living completely different lives.

You might have even noticed this trend yourself. More and more people on your Facebook feeds announcing their engagements, job promotions, new sprog and you’re sat there wondering where you fit into all of this! I am constantly comparing myself to others around me wondering if I’m on the right path doing the right thing. To be honest, I’ve had to get really firm recently when I catch myself in these moments and try to snap out of it because it’s detrimental to my mental health.

I’ve also realised that you can’t plan life. I’m a massive over-planner by nature. I wish I could be a carefree, gypsy yogi without a worry or fear in sight but that’s just not me. I like to know what’s going on all the time; know exactly how others are feeling and what I’m doing next. I think that’s why I enjoyed university so much. There was always a plan or a deadline to be achieved.

However, when you leave the walls of academia and head into the big, bad world you literally have your whole life ahead of you and that can be daunting especially when everyone is navigating it so differently.

The only way I’ve learnt to deal with the twists and turns of my twenties is to keep moving forward.

Life will most certainly throw you some curveballs when you’re not expecting them- and boy did the universe serve me one lately. But rather than curl up in a ball and sit with misery I pushed onwards and moved forward. The event in question taught me that there’s an awful lot in life we have no control over but we do have full control of how we handle it. We have the tools to adapt and grow from these events we are experiencing and use them to help others who will inevitably go through a similar situation in the future.

I’m trying not to focus all my attention on the big 5/10 year plans and live week to week. I’m striving to enjoy the freedom I can have in my twenties and not take life too seriously. I don’t have to have my shit together yet *repeat 3 times*

I’m not entirely sure where I am going with this but if like me, you’re a twenty-something lying in bed feeling overwhelmed by your friends newsfeeds and Instagram stories this week then I hope if nothing else this post shows you are not alone.

I think very few of us know exactly what we’re doing or if it’s the right thing for us. Nonetheless, I do truly believe there is a plan much bigger than you can imagine and you are exactly where you need to be right now. Your path will undoubtably twist and turn but if you keep moving forward with as little resistance as possible all will become clear and you’ll wonder why you sat comparing your life to someone else’s in the first place. Remember if Britney can make it through 2008 you can navigate these confusing times too!

You can do hard things

“You can do hard things”- @Adrienne_ldn.

As many of my family and friends know, I am a goal setter. I am a creature of habit who needs structure and routine in her life. Goal setting allows me to have the routine that I crave as well as work through the year achieving micro and macro goals. It allows me to look back at the end of each year and remind myself of how much I managed to accomplish. But don’t get me wrong that makes it sound easy. Goal setting is the easy bit, the hard work comes next.

At the end of 2018 I set myself the goal of running a half marathon. I don’t run- well I didn’t run then. I decided to go one Saturday morning to my local ParkRun and have a bash at it. I was unfit and out of shape. I managed to limp to the finish line in 36 minutes, cursing every step of the way. I tell you this because I think it’s important for you to know how difficult I find running and it’s not something I am naturally strong in.

So, rather than throw in the towel after hobbling through my first run and tell myself I was just not cut out for it I chose to see the potential room for improvement. I signed up for the Edinburgh Half Marathon in aid of Mental Health Aberdeen.

I remember phoning my dad after signing up and all he said was, “did you not think of starting off with a 10km Meg? 13 miles is a long way.” He is not wrong this challenge is probably the biggest fitness and endurance goal I have ever set myself- but I chose to run a half marathon because I believe it’s important to do hard things.

I can’t say I spring out of bed ready for a run every morning and some runs are much more successful than others. But there is so much magic in running. I began to realise that it was so much more than physical and actually my biggest hurdles have been battling with the negative self talk while running and getting into a meditative zone where my pace and breathing almost become one.

Running has become far more than a form of physical exercise to me, it has opened me up to a world I had never experienced.

The running community is incredibly accepting both on and offline. When you go to your local ParkRun- seriously go to one they are amazing- you see a whole host of people. Different ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities all running, jogging and walking together.

The people who attend my local ParkRun in Ellon are such kind and caring individuals who actually make running fun. They high five you on route, they help you up the hill at the end when you feel like your legs have nothing left to give and they really want to see you achieve a PB or make you feel good in yourself.

In the online world I began following an incredible influencer @adrienne_ldn who inspired this post. She is a fitness influencer who has a passion for running. She hosts The Power Hour podcast which I love listening to when I’m pounding the pavements and her happy, motivational outlook on life pushes me forward when running feels too difficult. She made me realise that it’s important to do hard things and to push myself out my comfort zone. By staying in the comfort zone you never grow or change.

This started out as a way to raise money for Mental Health Aberdeen which is a local mental health service that I personally benefitted from in 2017 and want to give back to. In an increasingly uncertain world we are becoming more anxious and depressed than ever before and we need these charities to continue to get funding in order for them to continue the amazing work that they do for those in their care. I’ll link my Just Giving page below and if you feel inclined to support me at the end of May then I will be extremely grateful.

Run for your life. Run for your soul. Run when it feels easy and when it feels hard because remember- you can do hard things!

Forced Meditation: What I learnt while travelling around New Zealand in a camper van

Everything happens for a reason and at the right time

Before I had even packed my bags, my fiveweek road trip in the North and the South Island of New Zealand were to be transformative. I was seeking answers. Answers whose adhering questions were mostly ethical and highly theoretical. Yet life happens and as per the aforementioned mantra, it happens when it wants and needs to happen. So, a single day before a 24-hour+ trip from London to Auckland, I found myself unexpectedly single with a broken heart and plans that were on the works for more than a year suddenly collapsing on themselves leaving me entirely unprepared for what my return from NZ would look like. Barely keeping it together, bursting into tears whenever my mind and body got a break from carrying bags, running up and down corridors and boarding flights, I made it to NZ. I went in expecting answers. And answers I got. Only they were answers to questions I had not yet asked. 


No level of preparation could ever have prepared me for the reality of spending so many hours disconnected (from the internet and from civilisation in general), alone, staring at the road and the surrounding nature. The only words in which I have myself managed to conceptualise what I experienced would have to be “forced meditation”. With music playing in the background (mainly Arcade Fire to be honest), I drove and drove and drove further still not towards a destination (one of the biggest perks of having a vehicle/home combo), but simply for the sake of exploration. I drove on scenic side roads, often following (and being blinded by) the sun, accompanied by nothing less or more than my thoughts. I drove past fields and left my thoughts behind amongst the grazing cows; I drove towards new, exciting thoughts triggered by the landscapes changing from tropic to bucolic to alpine with every stretch of distance. I drove next to rivers, lakes and waterfalls, and with every bend or ripple in the water I saw the reflection of my ego disturbed. 


Were I safely at home and not in the middle of this extraordinary country, I would have dealt with this new reality quite differently engaging in all types of distractions, keeping my mind busy and my heart as content as I could under the circumstances. Were I not in the Southern hemisphere and thus in the opposite time zone to everyone that would normally hold my hand, allow me a shoulder to cry on and listen to my muffled arguments and excuses, I would not have been forced to look deeply within myself and truly understand my emotions as they were organically evolving. Having been forced to dwell on my thoughts and lay them on the road ahead, I began to question realities I never had before. How much were those plans that I was grieving my own and how much were they simply figments fulfilling desired societal expectations? How certain were I really about being located where I would have been, doing what and being close to (and thus away from) whom I would have been? The unexpected rip in my life’s trajectory and most importantly its relative timing to my road trip allowed me (or better forced me) to really question and discover what I really want from and for my life. 


And the answers came more organically than I ever thought was possible. Amongst the original thoughts that emerged, I started to notice brand new connections between situations, feelings and memories that regularly twirled in my mind. I could see some of my wants clearly taking shape popping at me like the drawn lines on the road, whizzing past my van under my feet as the miles packed on. Images and words manifested themselves to me so clearly that I just had to listen. There was no ignoring them. For me that were five concepts, related and unrelated not only to each other, but to my life as it was before they revealed themselves to me. Revealed not in the sense that they were hidden per se, but that their absolute significance was. I chose in that moment to not ever let anything distract me again from those five concepts. I made the conscious decision to let them drive me and let them inspire every choice that I make from now on until I re-evaluate and discover that I have changed once more. 


My experience of “forced meditation” was revelatory and frankly shook me to my core. It allowed my mind space and time to grow, relax and reflect that I wouldn’t have normally allowed myself. I gained not only a valuable experience, but a tool to take forward in my ‘real’ life. “Forced meditation” might mean a different thing to every person, but for me it means that I now allow the chance for boredom into my life. What I found out through my experience is that in contrast to popular belief, enough time does indeed exist for simply sitting. I now choose to log off. No computer, no telly, no phone, no podcast, no audiobook, not even music if I find it distracting. No matter how entertaining or informing, the above are distractions. Sitting on the couch with no distractions and without the open road ahead is much harder, but incredibly fulfilling. The frustration of inefficiency was overwhelming at the start and anxiety sometimes inevitably takes over. I like to breathe deep, acknowledge it and consider: Can you in the present moment do something to tackle whatever is causing you to feel this way? If the answer is yes, then by all means finish your thought, make an action plan, get out of your comfortable seat and attack. You’ll feel better for it. 


However most of the times the answer is no. Acknowledging that the worrisome thoughts are as equally, if not more, unproductive than the neutral or positive ones, choose to shiftyour mindset on what is instead in your control. Allow for the space and time where boredom may emerge, because eventually you will realise that boredom is just a threshold to be stepped over into what your mind is truly capable of and what your soul really needs and desires. 


 Anastasia Baka

social scientist with a specialisation in media practice for development and social change.