Being busy is all the rage, especially in London. If your social life isn’t crammed full of catch ups, trips away and parties and if your work isn’t filled with new opportunities and endless task lists, then you’re falling behind in life. Or at least, that’s what we tell ourselves.
OK, so we all know that magic mushrooms are illegal and I have to begin this blog by stating that I am not suggesting that any of you go out and take magic mushrooms in the hope of attaining enlightenment.
For many of us, overthinking and worrying is our constant companion. We overthink everything…
We become inspired by things we see, read and experience in our daily lives, and are sometimes struck by an idea or an insight that we want to explore.
Time for a round-up of everything that has happened to me this year – both the good and the bad, plus a few nuggets of wisdom (if I do say so myself) that I hope is helpful to you.
The moment when I don’t know what is going to happen next has become the moment that makes me unbelievably excited, and terrified.
So here's the thing. It is possible to combine all your passions and earn a living from them, if you want to make it work.
Here's the thing with perfection: it's not real.
The rise of social media makes it a challenge not to compare yourselves to others on the glossy feeds of Instagram every so often, but you don't see the mess in the background. You don't see the edits, the fails, the re-takes, the slip-ups, the primping and preening.
How many times have you put off starting something new because you don't feel ready? There have been countless times in my past where I've been too scared to go for something because I felt like I wasn't "there" yet in my life, in my abilities.
I have learned along my path that what we receive is a mirror of what we give out. How we show up in our day to day lives determines what comes our way.
I always feel super busy around the Christmas period. I've got my group yoga classes and private 1:to:1's, which all need planning, my day job in marketing & advertising which is always fast-paced, as well as planning for Christmas! While I love the build up to Christmas, and I love my jobs, I can find myself getting so busy that I find it hard to relax. Then when I take some time out to relax, I get less done so it makes me feel more stressed.
On Sundays, I generally get a hell of a lot more of my to-do-list done than on any other week. My Sundays are spent teaching yoga, which is incredibly grounding and is something that I absolutely love, so I have a lot of clarity on Sundays and feel that much more able to prelax, and to work less but get more done.
We can make our weekdays more like Sundays, if we know how. So I'm going to give you the lo-down on how to feel less stressed and relax during the working week - especially in London where it's all go-go-go. There's nothing tricky in here, just little things that will all add up to help you to become more relaxed, and more able to wind-down towards the end of the day, to prepare for a great night's sleep.
Set your alarm 5-10 minutes earlier than usual: once you have those extra 5-10 minutes before you're supposed to get up for work, you can relax more rather than jumping out of bed and straight towards the coffee machine. I set a calming song to wake me up 5 minutes before I need to get up. Then I simply lie there in my bed and meditate, focusing on my breath awareness - nothing too complex, just enough to allow myself to wake up gently and for myself to feel into my body before my mental to-do-list starts writing itself.
Go get yourself some essential oils: I am a big fan of essential oils, and rarely go to sleep without putting a few drops of lavender oil on my pillow. Research shows that the scent of lavender eases anxiety and insomnia - in a recent study, researchers tracked the sleep patterns of 10 adults and found that the volunteers ranked the quality of their sleep 20% better on average when in a lavender-scented room. I also make a bath oil using a blend of Safflower seed oil, Sunflower seed oil, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Chamomile and Rosewood essential oils. You can find these oils in Boots or on Amazon. Seriously, these scents have such a deeply calming and uplifting effect on the body and the mind that you will have the best night's sleep after your bath. I also love a NEOM candle because they smell heavenly!
Legs up the wall: Sometimes, when I get home from a busy day at work, all I feel like doing is flopping on the sofa and zoning out with some TV (I'm religiously into the Walking Dead atm - not the best thing to watch before bedtime...). However, try this before you flop on the sofa. Legs up the wall is a yoga pose that is deeply restorative and helps drain all the blood from the feet and legs to the head, inducing a calming effect on the mind and body. Spend 10-15 minutes just relaxing here and breathing deeply. I find it helps tremendously when I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Switch off your mobile: I try to stop looking at my phone and any electric devises such as my laptop after 8pm, as I find it disrupts my sleep, and it's been scientifically proven to over-stimulate the brain and disrupt your quality of sleep. There's no need for it, you won't miss out if you're not stalking your friend's friend on Instagram or browsing for clothes you don't need (I totally do this). Just switch it off, it will still be there when you switch back on.
Stop the intense workout: When you're stressed out, adding an intense workout after your already stressful working day seems like you're doing yourself some good, right? Everyone on Instagram is telling you to switch up the intensity of your workout with HIIT or treadmill springs, and GO HARD OR GO HOME. HIIT is great for burning fat and for strength. Not so good when you're already stressed. Intense workouts such as High Intensity Interval Training raise your cortisol level, the stress hormone, which you want to reduce when you're already stressed out. Instead, to support a calm mind and body, try some gentle yoga before bed for 30 minutes, and reduce HIIT and intense workouts to 2x a week, with some LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) workouts into your regime, such as power walking or cycling.
Eat to sleep better: Reach for the complex carbs both in the morning and for dinner. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice and sweet potato stimulate the release of serotonin, the sleep-hormone, and help to increase tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin which in turn helps you to become more sleepy. So a great pre-bedtime meal would include something containing complex carbs and tryptophan: turkey, eggs, fish, beef, or duck. Then, to really increase your serotonin levels even more, have a bit of quality dark chocolate (80% or more). Dark chocolate is associated with increased serotonin levels, so reach for a few squares of that Green & Blacks goodness.
I hope my tips help you to relax more and lower your stress levels. Life can be so stressful, but you can make healthier choices by listening more closely to what your mind and body is telling you, and change how you react to stress. Don't over do anything - life is all about balance and moderation.
If you're looking at this blog post and thinking that you'll never find your "passion" or "dream" life, I know the feeling. We all get stuck in a run at some point in our lives and forget to be curious and open to new things, however small or insignificant they can seem to you. Some people are incredibly ambitious, and know what they want in life, the career they want to work in, right from a young age, which guides their path. If this sounds like you then it’s great that you have this strong sense of direction.
For those of you that feel like you’re floating somewhat aimlessly in life in an unknown direction, and can’t figure out what your passion is, then it can be pretty frustrating to be advised to follow your passions when you don’t know what they are. However, don’t give up! The answer to finding your passion lies in the process of self-discovery, a process that can only take place when you allow yourself to be curious and try new things.
If you don’t allow yourself to be curious, never try new things, never follow-up an interest in something, however small or large, how can you go about figuring what makes you happy in life?
First of all, I find it helpful to make a mental note of all the things that I am interested in, or just a bit curious about. The list could go on for ages, and there might be things that seem quite insignificant – that’s fine, there’s no rules here. These may be fleeting interests such as photography, or long-held curiosity about something, like writing. You just want to bring these interests to the surface in your mind. Once you are confident in these interests, you can set about exploring them further!
It might be that you’ve always loved cooking, you watch cookery programmes, and you’re in your element when browsing through a beautifully written and well-designed cookbook, and this could inspire a passion for cooking or blogging about the recipes you’ve created. Perhaps you’ve always had an interest in travel and have a desire to see the world and capture it beautifully, and this might spark a passion for photography.
Taking the time to learn more about the things that you have a curiosity for can be a really fulfilling, rewarding activity. I’ve often heard people reject this, as they don’t see the immediate benefit to their lives and would rather not be a student again. But we should always be students, because when we stop learning we stall self-development. Any small act of curiosity can quickly lead to greater things, embarking on an adventure, signing up for that course so that you become a pro in your field, rather than someone who looks at other pro’s and thinks “I wish I could do that.”
Allowing yourself the time to indulge in these little acts of curiosity is the best way to take a break from the duller parts of your life that feel like obligations, like working. I’ve had plenty of interests that have seemed so intense that I was 10000% sure that I would continue with it. However a lot of them have been fleeting, and haven't held their ground when I gave myself time to reflect on them. If they turn out to be short-lived and no longer interest you a few months later, that’s fine! It just means that this thing wasn’t your true passion in life, but at least you gave yourself the opportunity to check it out. If it does hold its ground, withstands the test of time, and is still a burning interest after a year or two, then you’ve found your true passion(s)!
If you approach everything in this way, allowing yourself to indulge in your interests and curiosity, then you will eventually find your true calling. You will start to lead a very fulfilling and happy life, doing what you love to do, and giving yourself the space for more interests to develop.
So stay restless. Stay curious. Say "yes" the next time something sparks a flicker of curiosity in you. Teeny bit interested in yoga? Go on, try a group class, what's to lose?
Finding a balance in life is always a struggle. What with work, seeing family, catching up with friends, spending time with loved ones, it's no wonder that most of us feel unbalanced a lot of the time. Finding time for yourself doesn't have to be hard. Exercise is the perfect way to get some YOU time. To find that escape, to re-charge, re-energise, and de-stress your body and mind.
With exercise and heath, it's SO important to find a good balance. Just doing cardio everyday, such as pounding the treadmill seven days a week, isn't going to give you the balance that you need from your workouts. Yes, running burns fat and is great for cardiovascular health, but, and just like everything else, it can be overused, causing imbalance. The same goes for weight-lifting. Lifting weights everyday, without stretching out the muscles, will eventually cause tightness and a lack of flexibility. Think short, tight muscles.
This is where yoga comes into the mix. Too many people think that yoga doesn't count as "exercise". That it's just for people who want to de-stress and become all zen. So.not.true.
Did you know that yoga can be just as effective as weights when it comes to building a stronger, more impressive physique? While lifting weights causes your muscles to adapt and become stronger and bigger over time, strength that’s developed from yoga doesn’t quite work that way and is more of a functional strength. Yoga is a balanced approach to strength training. It conditions your body to perform things you do everyday: walking, sitting, bending, lifting. Your body moves in the way it was designed to move.
Yoga also tones both large and small muscles all over your body in balance with one another, while weight training isolates one muscle group at a time.
More technically, yoga relies on eccentric contraction, where the muscle stretches as it contracts, giving it a sleek, elongated look. Weight training relies on the opposite principle of concentric contraction, where the muscle gets smaller as it contracts. Muscle fibers heal close together, resulting in that "pumped" look.
Yoga poses also build stamina through extended holds and challenging postures. Stamina is an essential part of any exercise routine, whether you’re running, lifting weights or doing a spin class.
Finding a balance in your regime by adding in some regular yoga classes or a personal practice, will help sort any imbalance in your bodies, whether it's tight hips, tight hamstrings from running, a stiff back and chest from lifting weights, or a lack of strength.
When you combine flexibility with strength, you enter a whole different ball-game. You also feel so much stronger, fitter and comfortable in your own body, knowing that it is moving in the way that it was designed to move. Knowing that your body is in balance.
“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment”
Every negative thought is bred by fear. Worries about not being good enough, of failure, of the future, of what we do not understand or know. Fear lives in the past and in the future. But it cannot live in our present. If you are so immersed in the present moment, it is impossible for fear to step in. Fear will only start to weave its web if you dwell in the past, or about what could happen in the future, be it in a few seconds time, a month, a year, or 10 years from now. Instead of asking 'what is going to happen to me?' ask 'why is this happening for me?'
"We sow the seeds of our future hells or happiness by the way we open or close our minds right now"
- Pema Chodron