we are all grieving the loss of normal

“I just feel like I can’t be sad about it right now, but the reality is that I am. I am sad about having to cancel our trip.”

My dear friend pours her heart out to me over Whatsapp. She recounts to me the moments her and her husband decided to cancel their long-awaited birthday trip to New York City.

Even though we are hundreds of miles away from one another, I feel her disappointment over the phone. And it resonates because I share that same sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

My trip to Slovakia in April. Cancelled.

My husband’s marathon in May. Cancelled.

My parent’s visit to the UK in June. Cancelled.

The whole world is cancelled, it seems. And we are all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to find out when life will return to ‘normal’.

“When I read news headlines about nurses on the frontlines dying of coronavirus”, my friend continues; “I feel guilty for even being upset in the first place. It could be worse.”

~~~

Friends, I think it’s time that we had a talk about empathy. And we can’t truly do that without first talking about comparative suffering.

My friend’s phone call is just one example of the kinds of mixed emotions we are all experiencing right now during this crisis. Call it a ‘Coronacoaster’ of emotions. Which lead you to making one too many ‘quarantinis’ (okay, I’ll stop).

Call it what you want, but we need to talk about our feelings (and all the empaths said AMEN). Because no matter what your current situation in life is at the moment, the COVID-19 outbreak will have had an effect on you in some way. As a society, we are all collectively grieving the loss of normal in some way or another because our ‘normal’ has forever changed. And that will start to take its toll, and for many of us; our emotions have taken the largest hit.

I cannot tell you how many Zoom conference calls and phone conversations I’ve been in that are similar to the one I’ve just described to you. People feel afraid, anxious, upset, annoyed and frustrated yet many of them are unable to express themselves.

But here’s the truth: everyone has the right to feel and express their emotions.

Which leads me on to the issue of comparative suffering.

The reason my dear friend feels shame about venting her emotions to me is because she has fallen victim to the comparison game. She is comparing her suffering to another’s. And because she is not a nurse currently working 12 hour shifts on a COVID ward, she automatically comes out the loser.

Yes, it’s important that we have perspective, especially during an unprecedented crisis. I’m all for having perspective. Things could always be worse and practicing gratitude amidst a crisis is tried and tested coping strategy. But that does not mean we need to see how our pain stacks up against someone else’s.

Repeat after me: Pain is pain.

That same nurse who is on the frontlines of this crisis does not benefit from you withholding empathy for yourself. Conserving your own self-love does not equal to more empathy for someone else.

Empathy is not a finite resource. It knows no limits.

Comparative suffering says that “If I feel my emotions about this current situation, then I won’t have enough empathy for others who are worse-off than me.” This is a false understanding of empathy.

Before we can show empathy towards others, we must first learn how to be empathetic towards ourselves.

And it all starts with taking a seat and having an honest conversation with ourselves.

Asking the tough questions. Feeling the hard emotions.

“How am I really doing?”

So friends, let’s stop comparing our pain with other people’s pain. We all deserve to feel our emotions right now. And when we engage in that healing process with ourselves, only then will we really be able to demonstrate more love and compassion for others.

Feel all the feels. Stay safe. And don’t forget to hug your loved ones a little tighter (that includes virtual hugs!)

Love,

Rachel

 

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5 Habits to Manage Anxiety During Coronavirus Lockdown

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Hello friends, 

Such strange times, right?

You don’t have to be an anxious person to recognise that we’re living in what feels like a post-apocalyptic world. With the global spread of coronavirus, many thousands of people have lost jobs, loved ones and future plans.

This time three weeks ago, I was boarding a last-minute flight home to the UK from Austria, moments after the Austrian government had announced a national lockdown. Stepping aboard a plane full of anxious passengers and cagey crewmembers was an unsettling flying experience I won’t soon forget. Over the last several days, my eyes have been glued to the news, my face grimacing with every COVID-19 update and wondering what good could come out of this crisis.

Over the last few days, my emotions have felt super up and down. On the days where my anxiety weighs on me the most, I try to take it moment by moment. For me right now, life is about taking little steps throughout the day that help me nurture my mind, body and soul and encouraging others to do the same. I wanted to share with y’all some of the habits I’ve been trying to put in place to help manage my anxiety during lockdown.

One. Accept how you feel and take a deep breath.

This season has been a great opportunity to practice checking in with myself. I don’t know about you but lately my days have felt like a nauseating carnival ride. The morning begins full of promise with a long list of ‘to-dos’, only to succumb to a wave of anxiety the moment the Breaking News notifications alert my phone. If you’re like me then you’ll also be hard on yourself for feeling this way when in reality it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious right now. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event in our lifetime so it’s natural to feel a mixture of emotions, especially anxiety. What I’ve tried to do in these moments is to have realistic expectations about what I can and cannot control. And how I do that is by stepping back from the media and take a deep breath.

The other day when I was feeling anxious, I couldn’t help but notice that my chest began to feel tight. Because chest tightness is a key symptom of coronavirus, I couldn’t help but start to worry. Why is my chest getting tighter? Am I getting sick? Talk about a vicious cycle! This is where learning to take deep breaths comes into play. By limiting my exposure time to the media and by practicing deep breathing in the moments when I’m feeling anxious, I am slowly regaining control over my emotions. Don’t get me wrong; it’s difficult to calm a racing mind. But allowing myself to relax as much as possible and rationalising some of my feelings – perhaps my shortness of breath is from over-thinking and not coronavirus – in that moment I noticed that my anxiety started to level out. This simple practice of checking in with ourselves is really important and can help promote healthy wellbeing during a very stressful time for all of us.

Two. Find your people.

Crises have a funny way of bringing people together. If there’s one thing I have learned in these last few weeks; it’s in the tough times where you find out who your friends are. As we are all forced to slow down our lives, many of us have taken to Zoom (all hail the app of 2020) to catch up with our friends and family members. No longer can we hide behind the guise of ‘Sorry, I’m just too busy right now’. Connection has become a top priority for all of us; however I’ve learned that you can’t force connection.

Let’s put it this way. Forced love is not real love. The same goes for connection. Everyone has their people. You’ve got yours and I have mine; part of this whole lockdown conundrum might just be discovering who our people really are. Find your crew; the ones who are at the end of a crying phone call. Hold tight and (in the words of Pilot Pete’s Mom) don’t let them go. Schedule date nights with the people in your life that you love and embrace the technological magic that is FaceTime.

Three. Develop a routine.

Lockdown has killed any semblance of my daily routine. In fact, what day is it?

As someone who enjoys a bit of planned spontaneity, I’ve noticed my anxiety has increased as the days mesh into one big blur. After a week of needless trial and error (I mean who am I kidding? It was always going to be a sweatpants kind of work week); my husband James and I realised that our days demanded more structure so we came up with a more stringent routine for our work week.

If you’re like me and you’re not used to working from home every day, I’ve found that mapping out my workday has helped my mood and increased my own productivity levels. Whether it’s creating a separate workspace in your house (I repeat, do not work from bed) or starting your mornings with a HIIT workout, I’ve since discovered that sticking to a daily routine is key to establishing some kind of normality in what is an otherwise very abnormal situation.

 Four. Stay active.

As a gym junkie myself, not being able to go to the gym has been one of the hardest things about lockdown. But in the age of Joe Wicks YouTube videos and home Pilates apps, never before has working out been easier to do at home. Of course, there are so many other ways to get your daily dose of exercise. Whether it’s going for mid-day walk to stretch your legs or riding your bike around the neighbourhood, I really believe that exercise will be a lot of peoples’ saving grace right now. Lately, I’ve been walking around some of Edinburgh’s green spaces while listening to a relaxing podcast. James and I have been taking advantage of this opportune time and going for evening walks around the city after work. It’s a lovely way to catch up with each other about our days while breathing in some fresh air. Whatever your thing is, find something that works for you and your body and set aside time to focus on you.

 Five. Don’t forget to dream about the future.

When all of this is over, and our routines return to something along the lines of ‘normal’, we will need to find a way to pick up the pieces and move forward. For some of us, that sounds impossible because maybe our job situation is really tricky or our future looks uncertain. I completely understand that dreaming about the future may feel like a pipe-dream in this moment of time. For me, it’s one of the main ways I am staying emotionally well. Let me explain.

Sometimes when you hit a massive brick wall, it forces you to start examining every aspect of your life. Do I like the job I’m doing? What’s something I wish I had more time for? What’s one dream I want to make into a reality this year? I have been asking myself these questions on a daily basis; and while it may sound like a lot of unnecessary pressure; it’s actually brought me a lot of focus I’m craving right now. I’m trying to see this lockdown more as an opportunity to grow as a person; particularly my creative projects. Pouring myself into writing, reading poetry books and creating new recipes in my kitchen has been a relaxing and therapeutic outlet for me to channel a lot of my anxiety and create something new and beautiful. Not only that, but I’ve started putting together a ‘post-lockdown’ list of travel destinations as something to look forward to. What places are on the top of your list? Not every one of us will have the desire to create something like a blog post or poem; but I would encourage you to discover what brings your soul joy. 

 

This goes without saying, but I am definitely in no way an expert when it comes to nailing this whole lockdown lifestyle. The last few weeks have been very up and down for me as I’ve been trying to identify the right routines that will help thrive physically, emotionally and mentally. I recognise that some of these habits may not work for you and that’s perfectly okay but what I would encourage us all to do is to use this time to be intentional about our lifestyles right now. Never before in our lives have we had to collectively slow down and re-evaluate our priorities. As we discover how to move forward safe and well, remember to take it one day at a time and to celebrate the little things.

Love,

Rachel

some things to remember when making your New Year’s resolutions

It’s that time of year again when gym memberships are on the rise and half the world seems to have sworn off eating white bread for the next several months.

Over this past week, I have read countless blog posts and Instagram stories promising dramatic behavioural change in 2020. By the sounds of it, either people are far more confident in their own will-power than I or I’m worringly growing more cynical by the day (I blame living in Scotland!)

I’ll admit, there’s something quite grandiose about making a bullet point list of New Year’s resolutions, and I certainly do not want to damper anyone’s motivation for a happier and healthier 2020. If you know me, then you will know that I absolutely LOVE goal-setting. I place a lot of value on introspection and am constantly looking for ways to improve myself. Ultimately, I want to be the best version of myself that I can be so that I can more effectively use the tools that God has given me to live out my calling and bless others around me.

But in the days leading up to January 1st, I can’t help but feel an anxiety looming over me like a grey storm cloud.  In just a couple of days, am I really expected to produce a list of life-changing and behaviour-modifying goals to stringently follow over the next 12 months? That feels like too much pressure to me.

I think we’ve been looking at New Year’s resolutions through the completely wrong lens.

Let me explain.

Resolutions should not seek to erase the past 12 months (no matter how rough). 

Good riddance, 2019! I’m glad to see the back of you. The number of times I have read this phrase on social media. Even if 2019 sucked, please don’t throw away a whole year. You are not the latest iPhone. I completely recognise that this past year has been considerably difficult for some; chalk full of unexpected plot twists and nail-biting cliff-hangers. But don’t throw away an entire year because it kicked your butt. After all, the last 12 months have shown you what you’re truly made of. Becoming a grittier person is often far from easy. And before you start hurling stones at me, don’t think for a second that I’ve always had it ‘easy’. While I personally may have enjoyed 2019, I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of ‘bad years’ in the last decade. Job loss, an unexpected medical diagnosis, family deaths and good old-fashioned sexism at a previous job to name a few. Believe me, I know what rotten tastes like, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy taking that swig of mouthwash which was my promise of a fresh start. But this is not about competition; this is about fresh perspective.

Be kind to your mind in 2020 and lean into the hard lessons of 2019. They have moulded and shaped you into the strong and courageous person you are in this present moment. Don’t water down that triumph.

Work towards realistic goals not Pinterest-inspired life mantras.

In 2020, I vow to drink less wine! (Said no person ever). Look, I am fully on board with striving towards living a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. (I even wrote a blog about this back in the summer when I talked about my self-care routine). Balance is one of the essential ingredients to living a satisfying life! But our New Year’s resolutions must resemble more like measurable goals rather than Pinterest-inspired life mantras found on pillow cushions at TKMaxx. Yes, I too want to travel more and worry less, but if exploring the globe is one of my 2020 goals, how am I going to realistically work towards this? For example, to turn my travel dreams into a reality, I would need to ask myself questions like: If I want to travel to Southern Africa by September 2020, then how much do I need to save each month? It might mean I need to buy fewer drinks and learn to make coffees at home (a massive savings for a coffee fiend like me). Perhaps I will vow to not purchase any new clothing items over the next several months unless something needs replaced or repaired. Or it could be as simple as deciding to cook homemade lunches and bringing them into work instead of buying out (I’ve discovered this saves around £250 a year – that’s already a few days’ Airbnb!) Whatever your goal, make sure you create an action plan that clearly outlines how you will achieve your goals with realistic timescales. When it comes to goal-setting, I’ve often found that strategy is key.

Progress takes time (and sometimes more than a year).

My lack of patience is what I have found most frustrating about making New Year’s resolutions. Truth is good things take time; particularly any kind of personal development goal. Whether it’s the self-discipline of sticking to a workout regime or continually resisting the temptation to compare myself to others, I can and should expect my goals of self-improvement and behaviour modification to take the amount of time they require. Don’t measure the importance of your goals based upon the length of time they’re acheived. It’s taken me several years to become a more emotionally whole person, but it’s probably the most important New Year’s goal I’ve ever made!

Don’t forget your mind and soul.

While setting physical health and fitness goals are important, we shouldn’t neglect our mind and soul. I used to think that New Year’s resolutions were all about the physical, but over the last few years I’ve been intentional about setting goals relating to my faith, relationships and mental health. For example, last year I wanted to read more of my Bible so I started doing the ‘Bible in 1 Year’ app each morning on my commute. I was pretty disciplined for the first 6 months of the year, but bad habits kicked back in come summer as a result of intense working and co-teaching a prophecy course at Church (not an excuse I know!) Needless to say, doing daily devotions makes it to the top of my spiritual goals list in 2020. In terms of emotional goals, in 2020 I set myself the goal to care less about what other people thought of me. I realised that the ‘fear of man’ was a main driver for me; and unsurprisingly, it was suffocating my creativity dramatically. Over time, I took little steps to tame my people-pleasing ways by simply resting in my identity as a woman who has dignity and purpose in life. Doing transactional analysis theory and secure attachment work in counselling last year brought me tremendous freedom in this area particularly. All in all, humans are not just bodies but also possess emotions and souls, too. Therefore, it’s vital that we treat our goals of positive mental well-being and emotional growth with the same significance as our physical goals.

Now, I don’t want you think for one second that I have this whole New Year’s resolution thing all sorted out because that couldn’t be further from the truth! For years, I have naively worked towards unachievable goals which have left me feeling disappointed and defeated. Instead, I want to share with you just a few helpful things to keep in mind as we enter into a new season.

So what are you aiming for in 2020? Share with me some of your New Year’s resolutions in the comments below! And because I’m a firm believer in the power of accountability, here are some of my own physical, emotional and mental goals. I feel this is going to be a BIG year, both personally and creatively. I’m so excited to bring y’all along for the ride – Happy 2020 everyone!

 

In 2020, I will try to:

  • Worry less about things I can’t control by shifting my focus from a ‘worst-case scenario mindset’ to one that is focused on positivity and gratitude.
  • Be more aware of what I’m consuming through my body and mind by eating/drinking less artificial and unhealthy foods and beverages and by reducing the amount of time I spend watching/listening to ‘trash’.
  • Live more environmentally friendly by purchasing less plastic and single-use items and researching new ways to lower my carbon footprint i.e. trade makeup remove wipes for bio-degradable ones or using a washcloth and natural facial soap.
  • Travel outside my comfort zone by going to one new continent i.e. saving for Southern Africa in Autumn 2020.
  • Take better care of my skin by investing in a manageable skincare routine that includes taking ALL of my makeup off at night.
  • Read my Bible daily by choosing to spend the first 30 minutes of my morning reading Scripture rather than scrolling through Instagram.
  • Practice healthy boundaries by saying no to people and things that negatively drain me of my spiritual, mental and physical energy.
  • Prioritise my mental and physical wellbeing by making space each week to exercise and have ‘me’ time.
  • Write/publish my book by scheduling time each week to write and by sending my book proposal to a publisher.

 

Rachel in Budapest

 

 

 

Dear self: before the year ends, I want to say…

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for being so hard on you. And for not cutting you any slack. If it’s one thing you’ve shown me this year, it’s that you are resilient. You are stronger than you think. Braver than you will ever know. The way you keep showing up. Day after day, hour after hour. Even when the weight of anxiety feels too much to carry, you have not grown cold. Keep turning the other cheek to a dark and cruel world with a thick skin and soft heart. The world needs more kindness.

 

It’s okay to say no.

Say it with me, ‘No, I cannot do that today’ (see, that wasn’t so hard). I have watched as you needlessly carry the weight of others’ unrealistic expectations. Caught in between the tricky tension of people pleasing and self-preservation, I have watched you overcommit to everyone and everything and as a result, overwhelm your beautiful soul. People who don’t respect your boundaries are telling you that they don’t love your no’s.  And while I know one of your greatest fears in this life is disappointing others, you’ve go to let that one go. At some point in the future, you will disappoint someone because you didn’t say or do something they wanted you to. That’s on them, not you.

 

Embrace your real self.

Not the pretend self you masquerade at cocktail parties. Not the self that society has forcibly projected onto you. Embrace your real self; your truest sense of who you are. The joyful, adventurous and endlessly curious woman you were created to be. Embrace every bruise, every scar and every freckle as a reminder of how far you have travelled on this road. You deserve to be here on this earth to share your light.

 

You will be okay even when you don’t feel okay.

I know there are moments in life when it feels like the walls are caving in, and the winter sky hangs a little bit lower. But remember that your emotions, while they are strong, often play naughty tricks on you. You don’t have to be mastered by your feelings. You can master them; they no longer need to have a hold on you. Learn to respond to crisis, not react. Lean into the hard times and watch the shadows of your greatest fears shrink before your very eyes.

 

Invite God in.

In your New Year’s resolutions. In your present pain. In your future plans. In your disappointments. In your confusion. In your what ifs. In your cliff-hanger moments. In your unanswered prayers. In your uncertain future. In your new seasons. In your relationships. In your mental health. Invite Him in. And breathe in His goodness to the places in your life that need more Love. I promise you won’t regret trusting Jesus.

 

I know that the promise of a New Year fills you with both eager anticipation and nerve-wracking anxiety, but just remember that tomorrow is just another day. Another opportunity to love deeply, forgive quickly and wildly explore the places your heart longs to see. Step into a new year with more gratitude and thankfulness in your heart, and I promise you will hold the keys to peace on earth. Don’t hesitate to share your story of His faithfulness. Shine your light, dear one.

 

With love,

Rachel

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my story with anxiety

When I was 19, I suffered a major panic attack. At the time, I was studying for finals and was under a lot of stress. In that moment of complete and utter dread, my heart was beating uncontrollably, my hands went numb and started to tingle and the room began to spin. I can’t describe this feeling other than I felt like I was going to die. In fact, I would say that I’ve never been more aware of my mortality since that moment. ⠀

Was I having a heart attack? Did I drink too much coffee? I didn’t know what was happening so I got in the car late that night and drove myself to the hospital. The ER doctor diagnosed me with a panic attack caused by ‘anxiety’ but little did I know that was only just the start. ⠀

At 20 years old, I was living through what can only be described as hell on earth. Anxiety controlled me and everything in my life. I lost my appetite completely and struggled to eat more than a yoghurt cup and bowl of tomato pasta each day. I lost 15 pounds in a month and a half. I was literally starving myself wishing I could make it stop. I didn’t know how to regain my love of food. People told me I looked in ‘great shape’. They didn’t have a clue. ⠀

For a year straight, I had a panic attack every single day. In fact, I was constantly in fear of having my next attack (especially in public places) that I became a bit of a social recluse. I avoided studying in the library, ate dinner alone in my dorm room and prayed to God that this would not become my new reality.

Surely there was more to my story.

This couldn’t be ‘it’. ⠀

At 29 years old, life looks and feels unbelievably different. I no longer live in constant fear of having a panic attack in public. I no longer wake up worrying about how I’m going to force myself to eat a meal. I no longer shake with dread walking into the doctor’s office.

Don’t get me wrong. I still struggle with anxiety from time to time.

But I have come a long way. Gosh, an awful long way. Sometimes I look back in the rear-view mirror and just gawk. Is that really me? How on earth was that me? I don’t even reconise myself anymore. 

With God’s help, I have overcome so much. He has made me into a brave warrior of a woman and I will not stop fighting for more wholeness, freedom and joy in my life.

A lot of people don’t know my story and maybe would be surprised to hear it. But for those who feel overwhelmed by the darkness, to you I say never give up.

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healing

that’s the thing about healing.

it takes more precious time

than you’re willing to give.

but when you surrender

all that you are

to the power of Love,

all your fears sink to the bottom

and you are left to float

on the waves of liquid grace.

 

healing ~ rachel leigh moreland

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3 myths about self-care

Dear beautiful souls,

Self-care feels like the buzz word of the moment. Here on my blog, I try to write helpful articles all about self-care, self-love and and personal growth. Ultimately, I want to keep it real with you. So friends, let me start off by saying that I do not have this whole self-care thing figured out (shocker, I know!).

Sure, I enjoy sharing with you my own self-care routine, but I have not mastered the art of ‘being kind’ to myself. I am still on a journey. We all are. So before you read on, please know that any hints and tips I share with you are meant to inspire creating healthy routines in your own life, not to make you feel down or judged about not having nailed this stuff. At the end of the day, this is all coming from someone who doesn’t have all the answers but from someone who is simply trying to live her best life.

So let’s talk through some of the most popular myths about self-care. The sooner we talk through these popular misconceptions, the sooner we’ll be on the road to discovering a self-care routine that’s right for us.

Myth number one. All self-care routines are the same.

Self-care is not all about lounging around in your comfies, lighting your favourite candle and drinking hot cocoa. What self-care is for one person may be completely different to another. While I personally find creating a peaceful atmosphere key to helping me feel more relaxed, this might not do it for you. Self-care is all about doing what’s good for your and your soul. It may not look like unwinding with a glass of wine in a bubble bath. It actually might be putting on your gym clothes and going for a run. Whatever your thing is, guard that time with your life. It’s precious.

Myth number two. Self-care is saying no to everything. 

Self-care is often viewed as a very ‘millennial’ trend, practised mostly by privileged people in their 20s and 30s who are craving more downtime. But self-care is not selfish. Self-care isn’t saying no to everything, it’s saying yes to the right things. When I set healthy boundaries in my life, I am making the effort to be intentional about what commitments I know I can take on and saying no to the ones that will leave me drained physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Self-care isn’t being non-committal; it’s committing to a practice of self-love.

Myth number three. Self-care isn’t a priority, it’s a luxury.

Prioritising the things that nurture your soul is never a waste of time. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for pencilling in a little me-time. We all need to set aside time amidst our busy weeks to look after minds, bodies and souls. Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity in order for you to be the best version of yourself each and every day.

 

What does self-care mean to you? What boundaries have you had to set in your own life to make sure that you’re prioritising you? Some people describe self-care as hard work but, with a little intention, self-compassion and perseverance; cultivating a self-care routine that works for you is one way to grow more peace and joy in your life.

Love,

Rachel

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Reset your life this summer by trying these 5 things

Summer is a great time to reflect on how the first half of my year has gone. As I’ve been thinking about my lifestyle and pace of life over the last few months, it quickly became apparent to me how much I needed to hit that ‘reset’ button; to take a moment to pause and re-prioritise my life. So at the start of this summer, I made space to think about forming new rhythms that were best suited to me and my lifestyle. And FRIENDS, I can already see the results from following it the last couple of months!

If you’re looking to hit ‘reset’ on your life too, and are craving a rhythm of self-care this summer, then check out these 5 helpful tips to add to your own routine.

Organise + declutter

Now I don’t mean to jump on the Marie Kondo bandwagon here, but I cannot tell you enough how much lighter I feel after a good summer sweep through my closet. Whether it’s re-organising my wardrobe (I like to remove all of my winter pieces like sweaters and scarves and store them away in our guest room dresser to make room for flowy maxi dresses and sandals) or decluttering my vanity of old makeup and expired body lotions; one thing is certain – cleaning and clearing out gives me more mental clarity. In fact, one of the ways I manage my anxiety is by decluttering my flat once every 3 months. I just less stressed with less stuff kicking around! Ridding your home from clutter might feel like a monumental task that you don’t know where to begin. So for starters, why not focus your attention on just one room per month? Before you know it, you’ll have a simpler space.

Nail your workout

Strangely January is the most popular month of the year to join a gym, but I can’t imagine a worse month to challenge my body! Especially in Scotland, when the sky is dark and weather is wintry, I would much rather done my sweats and hide under the cover with a new episode of Gossip Girl than walk 10 minutes outside in the cold to the gym. Call me lazy but I’m just keeping it real with you. Instead, I feel that summer is the right time of year to set healthy goals. After injuring my back last winter, it took me a long time to get back into a workout routine that was sustainable and convenient for my already busy schedule. My biggest excuse was that I didn’t have the time to workout regularly but I know that I was just full of it. I spent some time figuring out what was both enjoyable and safe for my body (plie squats instead of dead lifts and cross-trainer instead of the bike) and built a routine around that. I realised that exercise could not be just another trendy fad for me but an actual lifestyle choice. Just like washing your face or cooking dinner – it had to become a part of my daily routine if it was going to stick. And guys, I discovered Joe Wicks’ HIIT workouts and they are golden. You feel like you’re going to die after the 20 minutes but you must give them a go!

I know I sound like a broken record but finally nailing my workout routine where I’ve committed to exercising several times a week (for me this is 4 but it may be something different for you!) has noticeably improved my sleep and stress levels. Plus, I’m feeling a lot healthier in my sense of self and stronger in my body, so I think that’s a win-win.

Fuel your body with the right things

You know the phrase ‘You are what you eat’? This really hit home for me last year when I was suffering with IBS-related symptoms. A lot of the foods I was eating – chocolate, caffeine, bread, cheese – was causing me a lot of uncomfortable symptoms (I’ll spare you the details!) I started to keep a food diary (although I found this really difficult because I often forgot to log snacks or would miss out days completely!) and tried my best to record everything I was putting into my body. Slowly, I started to decrease my intake of my ‘trigger’ foods like bread, for example, and quickly noticed a change. I still struggle with regulating my caffeine intake (mainly because I love coffee so much!) but these days I’m trying to experiment more with decaf. In the end, it’s all about balance. It’s not as if I will never dig into a cheese board ever again (I’m not savage); its more that I try to eat these things less frequently and enjoy them on an occasional basis.

Lately, I have also been delving into the world of herbal remedies. Hello, elderberry syrup! I used to be such a sceptic of these sorts of products (queue the eye-roll). But once I discovered a regiment of natural remedies that worked for me and my body, it didn’t take me long until I became a firm believer in homeopathic medicine. The first few months of 2019 had me feeling tired all the time and susceptible to picking up viruses here and there (I blame air plane travel); but nonetheless, I was advised to look to herbal supplements as a first port of call to address my weak immune system. After just a couple of months, I noticed a huge difference: increased energy levels, better sleep and almost zero tummy troubles. For me, my go-to’s were a wholefood multivitamin, elderberry syrup, vitamin D tablets (for those darker winter months) probiotics and a course of echinacea (for when you’re feeling a cold coming on).

Wear less

… Makeup that is! So this one is more for the guys, I’ll hand it to you, but summer is the time to take your beauty routine a bit more casually. Less makeup, less hair product, less clothing dare I say. This summer, I’ve tried to embrace my natural skin more and wear less foundation. As someone who struggles with adult acne, this was a big step for me. Instead of choosing maximum coverage, I’m opting for a more sheer tinted moisturiser (the Clinique CC cream is my fave right now!). The same goes for hair-care. I’ve been putting my hairdryer down and letting my locks dry naturally. If you’re not into the whole au natural look, I get it. I wasn’t at first, either. But lately I’ve been personally challenged about the amount of time I spent covering my face out of insecurity and am steadily choosing to love my bare skin and all its imperfect flaws. I don’t want to make generalisations here, but I think embracing our natural beauty is difficult for us American girls in a culture that strives for flawless faces and perfectly toned bodies; but I’m determined to not let myself fall into the mindset that says, “Your value as a human being is defined by your appearance”.

Sometimes, for these truths to sink deep down into our hearts, we have to take very practical and physical steps in our lives. For me, this simply looks like scaling back on the make-up and speaking life over myself when I look in the mirror. Repeat after me: “You are beautiful, with or without makeup on”.

Look up

When we get sucked into the monotony of our daily routine, it’s easy to lose perspective. As someone who is not a ‘big picture person’, take it from me. If you ask me about how my week is going, my answers could go a number of different ways depending upon what day of the week you asked me. More recently, I’ve been challenged to ‘look up’ amidst my daily hustle and bustle. Whether it was the advert serendipitously sprawled across the side of the bus I took to work last week or the theme of yesterday’s devotional, as someone who is largely guided by their faith; I figured it was God’s way of telling me to stop, pause and remember the picture bigger. To keep my eyes focused on God’s plan. After all, his ways are higher than mine.

So this summer, pause. Take a deep breath. Look up. Notice the ornate architecture of the tall buildings you walk by every day on your morning commute. Or the pastel blue sky. Look out on the horizon. That is your future; not all of the little things in your life that would keep you bogged down. Look up and remember that there is more to this life than what you give of yourself each day at work. That you are magic. That you are valuable and worth knowing. That it’s okay to stop every once and a while to appreciate the small things. That it’s okay to prioritise your self-care. Look up and soak up the glorious promise of another day.

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