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.

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!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/megan-keith1

Love Your Skin- My Guide to Body Positivity

Today’s post has been written by the WONDERFUL Sarah from Self Love Sarah. She is one hell of a woman. Someone striving to help others love themselves and feel more confident in their own bodies. She genuinely brightens up my Instagram feed EVERY DAMN DAY. I hope you love reading her guide to body positivity as much as I did! Also head over to her online platforms and give her some lovin! 

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In a world where we are surrounded by diet culture, and are constantly told to count our calories, slim down our waists and [add your own body insecurity here], no wonder we find it so hard to love or even be comfortable in the skin we are in!

We are constantly told, whether it’s by the adverts we watch, the leaflets that come through our letterbox or even subconsciously by the diet talk we get sucked into at work, that we are not good enough and we need to change ourselves, and mainly our bodies, to look a certain way. An acceptable way.

Well I call bullshit. It’s time to start a revolution ladies. Time to end the war with our bodies and fall in love with ourselves again.

Body positivity (BOPO) can be seen as one of those woo-woo terms that make people cringe. It is a hot topic right now with the evident rise of the body positive community on social media. However, in my opinion, body positivity isn’t some woo-woo new trend on the internet, it’s a necessity and a right for all women.

So, let’s get clear on what body positivity is and more importantly what it is not:

  • Being body positive is not staring at yourself in the mirror telling yourself you love yourself, but not really meaning it.
  • Being body positive doesn’t mean you have to love every single part of your body all the time.
  • Body positivity is not before and after weight loss photos.
  • Body positivity is not #gains, forcing yourself to exercise in a way you hate just to fit into that little black dress.
  • Body positivity is not promising to love yourself after you’ve lost those five pounds.

So, what is body positivity?

  • It’s accepting your body for exactly how it is in this present moment.
  • It’s showing gratitude for what your body can do, not focusing on what it can’t do.
  • It’s adopting a mind-set that EVERY single body is unique and worthy – and I mean EVERY single body.
  • It’s speaking kindly to yourself.
  • It’s not shaming any body – size, shape, colour, race, age, gender.
  • It’s realising that you are more than just your body. You are your soul. Your body is just a vehicle. But it’s the only one you have. So, love it and treat it with kindness.
  • It’s the freedom to express and decorate yourself and your body however you want to.
  • It’s giving a huge middle finger to the society who tells you that you need to look a certain way in order to be worthy, accepted or loved.
  • It’s accepting that you are enough exactly as you are right now.

If you’re reading this and thinking – this shit is hard! Don’t worry! I’ve got your back. It is hard, which is why I’m going to share with you my top 5 tips for practicing body positivity. And the reason I say practicing, is because body positivity is a practice. It is not an end result. You won’t just wake up one day and be like “Yay. I’m body positive now. I love myself. I love my body. I made it”. Body positivity is a journey, it’s a practice. Some days we will rock at it, some days we won’t. Some days we will have those unkind thoughts about ourselves, and that’s okay.

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So here are my top 5 tips to help you on your body positive journey:

Throw out the scales. How many of you just read this and tensed up? Yep, the first tip is probably the hardest, but it will change your life. Why are you judging your worth and living your life based on a number on a block of plastic and glass? The scales literally just tell us our gravitational pull to the earth? It’s just a number. You are not a number. You are so much more than a number. These scales don’t tell you how beautiful, intelligent, creative, kind, caring, loving and amazing you are. Trust me, getting rid of the scales is such a freeing feeling. Take them out now – preferably with a sledge hammer.

Ditch the diet culture. Want to lose weight? I’ve got the secret – the real secret. Get rid of any diet-culture related influences in your life. Throw away the slimming club magazines, unfollow the people on social media who try to convince you that you need to change or make you feel bad about yourself. Stop buying foods with the words ‘diet’ or ‘light’ in them. Stop meeting up with so called ‘friends’ who only talk about how much weight they want to lose. And after dropping all of this diet-culture deadweight, notice yourself feel instantly lighter.

Connect to your body. Our broken-down relationships with our bodies and with food all stem back to a lack of connection with ourselves. It’s time to connect back to and really listen to our bodies. Our bodies are so freaking clever. Think about everything they are doing right now just to keep you alive – breathing, digesting, pumping blood around body, sending millions of tiny signals all around you – without you even having to think about it. Your body really does know what is best for you. So, start tuning in to what she has to say. I like to connect to my body through yoga, meditation, journaling, getting into nature, self-care pampering and my favourite one – dancing like there is nobody watching!

 Sprinkle kindness like confetti. The way we treat other people is a direct representation of how we treat ourselves. So, if you find yourself judging other women by how they look or having unkind thoughts about other women (hey no judgement from here – we’ve all been there!) then the likelihood is you have these judgemental, unkind thoughts about yourself. Start complimenting other women regularly, cheerlead them, support them, uplift them, empower them. And then notice how your own thoughts towards yourself become kinder.

 Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the new attitude you know? We find it so easy to focus on everything we are not. To focus on what we haven’t got. To change ourselves to be something else. Instead, let’s focus on everything we are and everything we have. Be grateful for yourself and your body and everything it can do right now. When you switch your mind-set from scarcity (lack) to gratitude (abundance), you start to live a full up life and realise you have everything you need right in front of you – including a gloriously, unique, one of a kind body.

So there you have it, my top 5 tips for practicing body positivity. Why not try integrating just one of these into your life? Then maybe two, three? You get the idea! But most importantly, do it with love and curiosity. No judgement or comparison.

And just because you are wonderful, here is a little bonus tip from me:

Be true. Be you. Be kind. Because you are fucking fabulous!

 

(You can follow me for all things self-love and bopo @selflovesarah_ or why not visit me at my website http://www.selflovesarah.com)

The post uni blues no one talks about

Graduation was the best day of my life- hands down. I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement that day that all the hard work and graft I had put in over four years was being recognised and had paid off. I was surrounded by my caring and supportive family who were all equally as proud of me as I was and it was such a special day I hold very close to my heart.

Graduating is an amazing time; a time for prosperity, new beginnings and new adventure. However, when summer is over and a new University year begins you all of a sudden begin to feel very left out. You’re not going back there when a lot of your friends are. Going out drinking mid week isn’t as acceptable now you’re no longer a student either. For the last four years you have had this student label attached to you and if you’re unemployed or working any job you can just to pay the bills you begin to feel like you have lost a community and a sense of belonging.

I also moved home after finishing my studies because I wanted to be able to save money and have the flexibility to move for a job in an instant. I found moving home incredibly difficult. I had lost a sense of freedom. I didn’t like having to report to my parents and let them know what I was up to. I struggled to slot back into the home family environment and really resented the fact I had to do it. I also lived quite some distance away from my friends so popping out the door and walking down the street to grab a coffee and have a catch up was no longer an option meaning I began to feel very lonely too.

Then there’s the job applications. The dreaded job applications. I couldn’t tell you the number of jobs I applied to, the number of enquiries I made and the amount of unpaid work I did to try and get myself a job. It seemed never ending and it seemed like I was failing. I couldn’t understand it; I had done everything right. I had worked hard at school to get the grades for uni, I then continued to work hard in order to graduate with a 2:1 and had worked for several different companies whilst doing so to gain the work experience. I had been on several uni sports teams and committees and volunteered too. All CV boosting skills I had been told. But they weren’t enough and I wasn’t enough. My confidence hit rock bottom. I was embarrassed because my cohorts from university were all getting jobs or travelling the world while all I felt was stuck. Stuck with no way out.

No one tells you how lonely graduating is and how getting a foot in the door in a graduate job is increasingly difficult. I don’t think people appreciate how difficult the transition from student to graduate is and so many of us suffer in silence thinking we’re going through it alone.

But I promise it will get easier. A job will come around and it may not be your dream career (no one really loves their first job) but it will give you the tools and experience to later get into that dream job role you were always hoping for. Remember to step away from the computer and don’t frantically apply to anything and everything. I did so much of that and people can see right through it- they can tell you’re not the right fit for theming their business because your heart isn’t in it. Take time out to do the things you love and remember this is only temporary. It’s a challenge to be faced and it will make you a stronger person.