and though her mind is burdened by anxiety
and her heart heavy with sorrow,
she will rise with the dawn.
and though her mind is burdened by anxiety
and her heart heavy with sorrow,
she will rise with the dawn.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
… 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”.
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.