Have a greener (not Grinch-ier!) Christmas: Simple Sustainability Tips

I don’t know about you, but every single day I feel a bit sick about the amount of plastic packaging we see everywhere – and yes, I’m an eco-hypocrite because I have my plastic kobox bottles, for example (although I reuse them as much as I can!), or buy the odd innocent green smoothie which is of course in a plastic bottle (and many other eco-sins, I’m sure!).

Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg have brought sustainability to the attention of the mainstream and it’s starting to (finally!) be cool for normal people to care about the planet – no longer the realm of tree-hugging hippies (nothing wrong with being this, but it’s just less relatable for many of us!), the online world is starting to embrace sustainability and eco-consciousness.

Xmas is a time of year most people LOVE (I’m less big on it myself, but trying to get less grinchy so that I’m more fun for my family!) but it’s also filled with waste, waste, waste.

Here are some simple hacks for trying to make your Xmas more sustainable this year, and if you try them you’re not alone – I’m working to implement them too! They’re easy and unobtrusive so they won’t ruin your holiday, and just remember – every little action makes a little difference, and if we all made changes it would be AMAZING!

Xmas (Christmas to you religious folks!) is a Christian festival that derives from Pagan Yule/Winter Solstice, and the pagans were waaaaaaaaaaaay more in touch with nature, so in a lot of ways, going back to a greener, more natural Xmas is going back to the heart of it.

Greener gifts

The greenest thing we can do is probably to not buy gifts at all, but I know for lots of you that won’t feel like an option. Hell, my other half and I have actually campaigned for this for years, believe it or not, but my family are steadfast present people and it’s hard not to buy some things. So I think the options are:

  • Experience gifts – I feel like these are the best way to go! Take someone to dinner, or to the theatre or cinema, or cook them an amazing meal and take them out to do their favourite activity.
  • Hand-make gifts… can you bake cookies for someone, make sloe gin for someone else (both amazing gifts I’ve received in the past!) Can you paint or write or draw something for someone? Or if you’re a musician, write music for someone?
  • Buy vintage or second-hand… we all are starting to wake up to how bad the fast fashion industry is, and so consider going vintage or thrifting for fashion lovers in your life. Charity shops may not have seemed sexy options in the past, but you’d be surprised what gems you can occasionally pick up.
  • Make donations to the persons’ favourite charity – for our wedding, we asked for donations to Girls Not Brides instead of gifts. For animal lovers, you could donate to WWF for Xmas, or the RSPCA. For eco-warriors, pick a charity that’s helping the planet like Friends of the Earth or the Environmental Working Group . For arts lovers, donate to a project or ballet company… you get the idea.
  • Shop at more ethical and sustainable places (although while it’s better to buy more sustainable items, remember we also need to reduce consumption generally to be truly sustainable – no matter how biodegradable the gift!)– ideas include The Body Shop, Lush, Positive Luxury, The AceyThe Deep, and sustainable brands like Reformation and Stay Wild Swim.
  • Reduce the list of who to buy for – can you just buy for peoples’ kids, for example, and do a ‘no presents for adults rule’?
  • Don’t use that plasticy-wrapping paper – you know, the metallic style ones? They’re actually metalised-plastic and non-recyclable.
  • Try to save and re-use wrapping paper and gift bags! Or better yet, don’t wrap at all!
  • Give lovely gifts that may help and educate – for example, Max La Manna’s amazing book More Plants, Less Waste is a delicious recipe book and teaches you how to produce less waste… win win. Or check out the recipe books below with plant-based recipes which will help you change your diet for a better planet (you don’t have to be vegan to reduce your meat and animal product consumption!)

Consider your Christmas Tree

If you already have a fake tree, get as MUCH USE OUT OF IT AS POSSIBLE, but the thing about plastic trees is they eventually will end up in landfill.

If you must buy a fake tree, try ebay and gumtree for a secondhand one.

If you’re going for a real tree, the best option is finding a farm where you can cut your own, but that may not be possible for everyone.

The next best thing is to find locally grown trees where you can.

This article by Eco Age gives you the full lowdown on how to make sure your Xmas tree is more sustainability friendly, and even gives options for renting a Christmas tree!

Eat more plants!

Xmas is very often a ‘bring out the meat!’ fest, but if we all reduce our animal product consumption just a bit it can make a huge difference for the planet’s health (and our own!)

No-one is saying you have to go vegan or vegetarian (although by all means do, or try, if you fancy – it’s far better for the planet and there are SO MANY delicious options these days!) but cutting down as much as you can is definitely a good thing.

  • Can you swap pigs in blankets for a more plant-based recipe?
  • Can you make your other meals over the holiday season plant-based?
  • Have you ever tried vegan and vegetarian Christmas food? It’s incredible! Maybe give it a go this year. Or do just a chicken and a veggie dish, rather than 3 massive birds! Anything you can cut down.
  • Can you swap a cheese board for a plant-based dessert?!

Here are some amazing cookbooks to help you find plant-based inspiration:

Learn a little bit more ready for 2020

I don’t want you to get stressed and eco-anxious over the festive season, but I think education is only ever a good thing, especially given that some people feel talking about sustainability at Christmas is ‘grinchy’ and ‘OTT’. We are overwhelmingly in an environmental crisis, unfortunately, but we can do SO MUCH to help, and we just have to be willing to try. You don’t have to live in a hut in the woods and only forage for berries. Just do a little bit.

It might also be good to think of a couple of small things you can try to do for 2020 New Year’s Resolutions. I’m hoping to make mine:

  • No more fast fashion! No buying new clothing for a year
  • Reduce food waste
  • Recycle my beauty product bottles (you can apparently do this via TerraCycle at The Body Shop)

Some resources to get you started include these TV and documentary resources:

And detoxing your social media of rubbish and filling it up with more positive and educational influences like:

Good luck & enjoy!

I hope some of these resonate a little bit or seem achievable. I think little changes bit by bit are the best way to go to make the change sustainable (wheeeeeeeeeey!) for you in the long term.

It doesn’t have to be everything, all at once, but if we all do our best (and instead of attacking everyone else for doing it wrong, or not doing enough, we focus on living our best lives and doing as much as we can ourselves!) it can only be positive.

Happy Xmas from the reluctant Xmas celebrator (I’m more of a pagan at heart haha!)

B xoxoxo

PS. If you liked this post, you might like my Inspire Interview with Venetia Falconer here, my post about my experiment with veganism here, my landing on being a flexitarian here, my 10 simple sustainability hacks to be kinder to the planet  and also this green beauty post.

PPS. for other peoples’ ideas and more on a sustainable / more eco friendly Christmas, check out these articles:

And if you’re interested in the intersection of your health with the planet’s health, here’s some more food for thought and nutrition / diets to save the planet:

 

 

Easy steps to clearer skin: Green Beauty & Organic Skincare tips

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You may or may not have noticed, if you’re with me on Instagram, that I’m loving all things Tara Mackey at the moment (music, books, you name it…! If you haven’t read Cured by Nature or WILD Habits, you totally should, and I’ll post about them separately as they’re totally life-changing!) Her new single ‘Level Up’ is literally on repeat in my earphones 24/7 at the moment. Her message of how to cure all kinds of ailments, and make all kinds of great beauty choices, the green, natural, eco and ethical way is a pretty cool one… and something I’ve been starting to explore.

Sick with stress

I’ve been ill with stress recently, and for only the second time in my life it’s taken its toll on me physically (as in literally my body is reacting weirdly AF) – dermatitis on my scalp and eyebrows and palms of my hands, stomach pain (not as bad as the end of last year when I had chronic gastritis with stress, but still enough to make me do a double take!) and even vomiting. I knew whatever I was already doing (diet, exercise, not enough meditation) to manage stress clearly wasn’t enough, because I was actually getting sick. Medical advice was to reduce stress, which is about as helpful as saying ‘just get better!’

Treating your skin (& stress!) the natural way

At just the right time, I turned back to two books on my shelf that I read and loved a year ago by the gorgeous goddess that is Tara Mackey, founder and CEO of her own organic skincare company, activist, blogger at The Organic Life, musician and best-selling author (oh, and she does loads of work with orphanages and under-privileged children too!). Using her meditations and taking some natural plant-based supplements that she talked about in her book that are great from everything to overall health, reducing inflammation, and nature’s antidotes to depression and anxiety (always consult your doctor or a nutrition professional to be safe – I did extensive research before dabbling) I feel like a new woman (no word of exaggeration!)

Finally feeling better and full of new energy, I wanted to carry through some of the nature-based living into my beauty routine. An advocate of natural, green and ethical options, I love Tara’s style and have been interested in trying to clean up my beauty products for a long time now, but, frankly, just too lazy to do it. The one problem – most of her lovely recommendations are US-based, and I’m over here in the UK.

Get the green glow

I am a firm believer that every little helps, so I’ve done a little research, and am ready to go green! I’m not throwing out old products as that will just cause waste, but as they run out, I’m hoping I can track down cleaner, greener alternatives and I’m always on the look out so hit me up with recommendations!

For now, though, I just wanted to share some of my favourites that I’ve found, because I’m so so excited about these – each one has been so worth it!

Swapping all the nasty chemicals out for clean, natural products has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my skin. Not only did it clear up my stress-induced skin issues, but my skin is the glowiest-dewiest-softest it’s ever been… I’ve discovered my new regime just in time for my upcoming Winter Wedding!

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Clean, green brands you can find in the UK

The Body Shop was an obvious one to try, known for not-testing on animals and great nature-based products, I thought I’d try them out, although I have to admit I was dubious about whether their makeup would be as good – oh my god was I crazy to be skeptical! Their lipstick is one of my firm favourites (just the right amount of moisturizing and staying power, and they have great colours) [I have this Colour Crush Lipstick in Corbodona Petunia and I adoooooore ittttt], and their eyeshadow palettes are GORGEOUS (this Own Your Naturals palette is my absolute fave, the colours are great). They also have some lovely skin-care products (I’m now using their camomile waterproof eye and lip makeup remover and loving it because it actually works but is so much gentler and more soothing for my skin!) Their Matt Lip Liquid in California Rose is also my new ‘feel-good-pick-me-up’ go-to when I need some cheeky Cali/LA vibes, I’m obsessed.

Then I went to Planet Organic and picked up this natural shampoo by Jason Natural Hair Care which completely solved my stress-triggered horrific scalp issues in a matter of days without any of the nasty chemicals or coal tar normally in these types of shampoos, along with bathing in warm water with added lavender and geranium oil, which I also picked up from Planet Organic.

Plus a favourite skincare brand of mine for a while now since I discovered it maybe a year ago is Pretty Athletic, as its formulated specially for active women whose skin needs that extra care, it’s natural, vegan and not tested on animals (plus they’re the best working skincare products ever – the cooling gel cleanser is a daily staple for me, as is a face massage with their Recovery Boost Cell Repair Serum! This delicious serum is actually my number one skincare product that I absolutely couldn’t live without!)

While we’re talking about natural and ethical products, I’d also be letting you all down if I didn’t share my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE part of my bath rituals – Lush Cosmetics Intergalactic bath bombs. They’re absolute HEAVEN. And while I stopped off to pick up a couple of others (for a really nice girly pamper beauty ritual style bath, I love their Goddess and Sakura bath bombs too!) I made a cheeky impulse buy at the counter… their lip balm in Rose Lollipop might be pricey at £7.50 a pop but MY GOD is it the most delicious, hydrating, moisturizing, magical product I have ever put on my face maybe ever. It literally smells divine… I can’t stop putting it on! And it’s all natural, not animal tested, all that amazing clean green jazz so you can feel like you’re doing good things for the planet as well as your face! I literally feel happy every time I put it on haha (no exaggeration!)

Get your glow[-up] on!

Here are my top tips for skin health and feeling glowy inside and out:

  1. Source natural, organic products as much as possible, for cosmetics as well as skincare. I felt almost an immediate different (and the planet will too!)
  2. Cleanse, tone, leave it alone! Don’t over do it. A mask or exfoliate of a weekend is fine, but a simple, sustainable routine is better.
  3. Swap moisturisers for natural face oils and self-massage. This is great for stimulating circulation and lymphatic drainage to keep your skin looking young.
  4. Reduce or cut out caffeine and alcohol. Sorry girls, but it’s the best anti-ageing tip there is!
  5. Drink loads of water! Hydration, hydration, hydration!
  6. Get your vitamins and minerals, especially B, C, D, E and the omega / fish oils! A well balanced diet with fresh veggies is best, but supplements can be used where needed (consult a professional!)
  7. Tara Mackey’s book Cured by Nature has been a game changer for me – I’d highly recommend checking it out!

What are your favourites? Do you have any green and clean beauty recommendations? I’d love to hear from you.

B xoxox

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6 natural ways to manage anxiety & mood (that aren’t meditation!)

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It’s no secret that pretty much the entire world is over-tired, undernourished, bombarded by stressful technology, media, internet, work requests 24/7… or even if not, anxiety is actually nothing new, we just live in a world which makes it more of an epidemic than ever because we’re so disconnected from the natural way of living our lives.

I’ve previously taken anti-anxiety medication, but I’m happy to say today I’m able to manage it entirely pharmaceutical free! Here are my top 6 tips for managing anxiety entirely au naturel! And I know some people get sick of always hearing meditate, meditate, meditate… so as big a meditation advocate as I am (I regard it as essential to my wellbeing and happiness!) this will not appear on my list of top tips… you’re welcome 😉

1. Your new (natural!) make-your-own-medicine

No need to pop pills – chamomile tea (available at any good supermarket or corner shop!) and 3-4 drops of Valerian tincture (available via this link at Planet Organic, and most good health stores) and you’re good to go! This works at least as well as if not better the drugs I was once prescribed (and took!) for anxiety… without any nasty side effects. It’s a life saver. I keep the tincture on my desk. You can add it to water or any herbal tea, but chamomile has calming properties and I find they work best together.

2. Movement – the right kind

Notice I didn’t say ‘exercise’ or ‘train hard’. If you’re stressed and anxious, hardcore workouts release quite a bit of cortisol (normally this is an okay dose and your body deals and it’s actually beneficial, but if you’re already frazzled it can be cortisol OD! Not good!) So I recommend mindful movement – 30 minutes of outdoor walking near as much greenery as possible per day (no excuses Londoners – Hyde Park, Holland Park, Victoria Park, Clapham Common, Hampstead heath, or even a leafy neighbourhood are great…!), things like yoga, pilates, cycling and swimming can all be nice, mindful, meditative and importantly they get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing without too much stress on the body.

3. Vitamin meeeeeee

Make sure you’re eating a diet rich in vegetables (all the colours of the rainbow, and don’t forget the leafy greens!) but if in doubt you may want to speak to a doctor or nutritionist and consider supplementing. Some mood-boosting (and general health boosting!) supplements I researched extensively and incorporate now include vitamins C, E, B12, Co-Q10, ashwagandha, ginseng, and olive leaf extract. I came across nature’s amazing pharmacy via the amazing book Cured by Nature by Tara Mackey (but always remember professional advice is key when supplementing! Don’t take my word for it. your body could be different, and always double check if you’re pregnant or on any medication with your GP if there are any issues with you supplementing). Most pharmacies and health food stores will stock all the ones I’ve listed above. Probiotics are also great (the gut brain strongly affects mood!) and you can get these good live cultures from kombucha, kimchi, or supplements.

4. Caffeine and alcohol (sorry folks!)

Cutting these out is good for your health anyway, but if you’re anxious and stressed, it’s super important. They’re dehydrating, they’ll make anxiety and mood issues worse (caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant) and so in difficult times, these are best avoided. They also disrupt your gut microbiome and so its no wonder they’re detrimental for mood, anxiety and stress! Try swapping for herbal teas – the calming ones are a much healthier swap for the over-anxious (peppermint, chamomile etc. and you can find all kinds of de-stress blends to help!) and if you’re missing alcohol, pop some kombucha (which feeds your microbiome the good gut bacteria and boosts your mood in the process!) in a wine glass – voila! No-one will know it’s not champagne!

5. Turmeric… gold dust!

Apparently studies show this can be as effective as some anti-depressants for mood (source: Cured by Nature). Even if not, it’s been used since ancient times for food-medicine for all sorts of things, and is a key spice in Ayurveda (an ancient Indian holistic health system). I drink it in the Yogi Tea Turmeric Chai herbal tea blend and add it to soups and salads. You can also mix it into juices, smoothies, sprinkle it on veggies or whatever meal you have, season meat, fish or veggie alternatives with it… and you can also buy it in capsule form online or from health food stores. It’s anti-inflammatory, and whether or not it works like magic, it’s placebo, or whatever… it’s great for your health, it’s the colour of sunshine and some studies do support its benefits so I’m totally in! No bad can come of incorporating this sun-dust into your diet.

6. Clary sage – so underrated! (lavender’s so last season…)

Everyone’s favourite essential oil for relaxation is lavender, and yes, it works… but if you’re anything like me, it reminds you of sleep. If you’re in the office and anxious in the middle of the day, you might like to sniff something else. I find clary sage oil to be the best calm remedy. Sniff straight from the bottle, or pop a few drops on a tissue and breathe in as needed. It’s calming, but less sleep-inducing than lavender. I’d also recommend uplifting scents like orange and lemon for a little energy boost!

I hope some of these help a little bit, or give you something to think about. There are so many more (I promised I wouldn’t say meditation or deep breathing, but those are great, but also reading, creativity, trying new things, journaling, finding inspiring podcasts and blogs, dancing… there are a million options we have to better manage our stress and anxiety!) Let me know some of your favourites if they’re not listed here 🙂 ❤

B xoxox

 

8 Benefits/Side-effects of Boxing You Never Expected!

I make no secret of my love for boxing (yep, I really enjoy watching the sport as well as going to classes at KOBOX [check them out in City, Chelsea and Marylebone]) and, when I can, getting in PT to focus on padwork and technique) so this post won’t catch anyone by surprise…

I always advocate people finding ways to MOVE and TRAIN that they love and that feel intuitive and fun, rather than ‘exercise’ to burn calories which you have to force yourself to do and take less joy in. The mental angle of being excited about learning a new skill is key for me, and key for every client I’ve worked with or friend I’ve encouraged when we’ve worked on lifestyle changes for better health (both physical and mental!)

It’s also better for body image and your relationship with training and nutrition if you can move for joy and to celebrate what your body can do (because it honestly is kickass!) rather than as a punishment for what you ate.

Maybe it’s not boxing for you that ticks this box, by the way. Maybe its cycling, ballet, hiphop, triathlons, karate, hill sprints, hiking, surfing, paddleboarding, competitive swimming… the list is endless. And that’s okay too. But in really zoning in on boxing as both a way to keep my mental health in check, my body healthy, my stress levels down a little, and most importantly as a hobby that makes me happy and teaches me new skills at the same time, I’ve found loads of unexpected benefits to boxing that I thought I’d share incase anyone is on the fence about trying it.

PS. If you are on the fence about trying it and are nervous to go to a traditional boxing gym, DEFINITELY check out KOBOX – you can find out all you need to know on their website, and I’ve also posted at length (nothing sponsored, all me!) about why Kobox is incredible here, how 1 year of Kobox changed my body and brain here, plus I interviewed Kris Pace, their brand director when we spoke but now Operations director here for my Inspire Interview series.

Anyway, without further ado, here are 8 benefits of boxing that you probably aren’t expecting when you start!

  1. More Zen – yep, despite it looking like an aggressive gig (and obviously it is, so it has MAJOR stress busting benefits!), the cool down and stretch times after a boxing session are some of the most relaxed and blissed out sessions I’ve EVER had (it’s like a yoga savasna x100000000000, and beats saunas and Jacuzzis any time for the relax factor!) The 100% mental focus it takes to push yourself hard and try to wrap your head around the physical challenge but also the technique side of things means you concentrate super hard, sweat a tonne, release a f**k load of stress and you can really meditate, stretch and unwind like you’ve never experienced when it’s all over.
  2. Grit / resilience boost – I’ve noticed my stamina and grit through painful bits of training has increased sooooo much through boxing classes and PT. I used to be more prone to working at 60-70% effort and stopping with some fuel left in the tank. Not anymore! The Kobox instructors particularly are all super motivating, really know their sh*t, and will push you out of your comfort zone but also know how to tailor it to the individual so they can always gauge how hard to push you and when to let you recover.
    Developing this grit and resilience helps you day today as it also stays with you outside the gym too.
  3. Improved mindfulness, focus, and being present – as above really, 1 & 2 combined… having to challenge your cardiovascular system, your concentration on technique, controlling your mental state so you don’t give up and lie down or grab a donut – over time it’s amazing how these really build to a better ability to be present. Focused. Mindful. Boosted concentration. Boxing in class or a cheeky PT sesh is one of the rare times I can genuinely 100% block out and switch off from the outside world and zone in on the task at hand – hitting bags or pads or doing drills, whatever it may be! You definitely take this out of class or out of the ring too and find you have a fresher, uplifted perspective.
  4. Better body awareness (also = better sex, fyi…!) – [this is something you can get from dance training too] – focusing in on technique and having to be aware of the alignment and placement of all parts of your body to execute movement better translates into gradually improving your awareness of your body at all times, both inside and outside the gym. This has knock on effects for all other workouts, for how you walk and move generally – the more aware you are of what feels right and wrong and how your body is aligned means you get more out of every session. It also has interesting benefits outside of the gym too… 😉
    You’re also less likely to get injured if you move and train with awareness and it helps you cultivate an injury prevention mindset and makes you want to take care of your body so you can continue doing the good stuff rather than hammering it and risking longer term injury.
  5. You learn a lot about yourself – the style of training is quite demanding but you also only get out what you put in. How you adapt, how much you push yourself and how you respond to new challenges really reveals to you what your strengths and weaknesses are. You will also be surprised how much harder you can work than you thought. Boxing’s combination of learning a skill, working you crazy hard, demanding focus and dedication to getting better (plus the huge number of inspiring trainers and sportspeople you can learn from!) means you always leave a session knowing a little bit more about it and you than you did before. It also teaches you perseverance at a much higher level than any other form of workout I’ve tried.
  6. Boxing psychology & a fighter mentality (even if you’re not sparring yourself!) – you feel much more revved up to tackle things in day to day life because of the physical and mental benefits of training. I also find it fascinating to read about boxers’ mindsets and strategies and the psychological tactics they use, so even if you’re not in the ring or doing white collar fights yourself, you can still apply what is interesting and exciting about the sport to your life by taking on board those lessons. Boxing psychology is insaaaaane. Talk about mental toughness!
  7. It’s the best for improving ‘overall athleticism’ – a few years ago, a bunch of researches and ESPN found that boxing is the sport that takes the most athleticism.  Boxing combines so many factors and demands a lot of anyone taking part, beginner through to pro – it’s a sport that requires mega endurance, building strength, learning to develop power and some speed and agility to boot. A good trainer will make sure you understand how each drill or seemingly weird or random exercise is beneficial for your boxing – some work to improve footwork, or the placement of the hips or feet to sharpen up your technique, and some things might just be for your endurance.
    Either way, boxing is one of the most incredible all-round workouts you can do!
  8. It’s empowering – from both a self-confidence point of view, from a seeing yourself progress point of view, from the feeling you get when you finally manage to nail something you’ve struggled with for ages… it’s bloody empowering! That’s without even visualizing people you hate on your bag 😉 Also, as I allude to in this post here, I’m passionate about women doing sports like boxing and feeling stronger and able to hold their own due to some past family experiences and witnessing guys who think it’s ok to hit girls outside of sport. Spoiler: it’s not.

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What are your fave ways to train? Have you tried boxing yet? Let me know what you think. And hopefully see you at Kobox!

B xoxo

The new wellness craze… spirituality?

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Spirituality is slowly seeping more and more into the instagram wellbeing bubble – I’ve recently heard spiritual wellness coaches like Jody Shield speak at events alongside fitness and nutrition professionals, showing people that spirituality can combine with modern life and isn’t just for hippies in a field dancing naked wearing hemp and sandals.

Former ‘fitness only’ influencers have moved across into yoga, astrology and crystals (quite a few instagrammers, for example) and then there are the public figures like Mel Wells who has moved from food coaching into more of a ‘spiritual wellness’ space having launched her new membership product, The Goddess Collective… Figures like Jasmine Hemsley combine nutrition and Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science)…

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a new wellness craze! But none of these things and ideas are particularly new, it just seems they’re reaching a new market and being taken on by a new ‘generation’ almost…

Wellness and lifestyle bloggers are expanding the areas of content they cover from fitness, fashion, nutrition and health into the spiritual. And I guess that can be quite polarizing for some people, who maybe don’t agree with their ideas, or odd for others who haven’t encountered these ideas yet.

The Big Questions

Religion and myth have been a part of humanity for as long as we’ve been conscious – humans naturally crave explanations for things they don’t understand and the mysteries of the universe.

I’ve been asked recently in a Q&A I did on instagram if I’m religious, and if I think religion and spirituality can help mental health. I didn’t answer it on IG as it needed a fuller post to be honest, it’s a huge topic! So here goes!

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My two cents…

Let’s just get it clear that all of these things are deeply personal and we all have to respect that people won’t always agree…!

I am an atheist. I’ve never believed in a creator god, and still don’t. I was made to go to Christian Sunday school as a kid for a bit, but my parents aren’t really Christians either (my grandmother and former stepmum are) but I never believed in it.

I grew up near Glastonbury and so as a teen discovered paganism and Wicca and dabbled for a while for fun, but never seriously believed in it. Yes, I did a couple of Witchy Rituals following Fiona Horne’s books. It’s funny looking back on it now 🙂 However I did learn loads about the pagan tradition, gods and goddesses in all kinds of different traditions, crystals and new age philosophy, and all that jazz. I first started learning to meditate as a teen but stopped and didn’t come back to it til later in life.

I’ve also, with my other half, rejected a lot of the Glastonbury naval gazing and hippyisms as we’ve witnessed first hand how the lack of responsibility and drug culture can mess up peoples’ lives (particularly kids).

At university through literary criticism I discovered philosophy and found myself to be an existentialist. I don’t believe life has inherent meaning, I believe we create it, and have to work to create it and find meaning in things.

I went to Cambodia and Thailand in one of my uni summers and was OBSESSED with exploring the gorgeous temples of Angkor Wat.

I’ve always been interested in world religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism (and my mum was interest in Buddhism too so I read loads on it as a teenager). I’m fascinated by ancient cultures and indigenous peoples, and love to hear about myths in, for example, Aztec and Mayan traditions, and Japanese and Chinese beliefs.

I got diagnosed with depression in my 20s although I’ve had it my whole life. I remain an atheist and existentialist, but after years of work combining fitness, nutrition, medication and meditation to manage the condition, I started looking wider.

I’ve (in the last year or two) dabbled in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian holistic wellness system (and even did a mini course), I’ve read more widely on meditation, spirituality, Buddhism and mindfulness, and I’ve been part of wellness groups which incorporate spirituality (originally Jody Shield’s Tribe Tonic, which I left, and now Mel Well’s The Goddess Collective which at the time of writing I’m still in).

I’m also fascinated by the commonalities between religions, and the ways in which conquering religions like Christianity used existing Pagan holidays to persuade people to adopt their practices more easily.

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

So where are you now? Do you believe in god or a creator? How does it work with your rational logical side? Does it help your mental wellbeing?

I’m still an atheist.

I’m still an existentialist.

I’m also a Scorpio with Capricorn rising…!

Do I rationally and logically believe in astrology? No. Do I match everything my chart says about being a Scorpio with Capricorn rising? Hell yes! Do I enjoy it intuitively? Yes. Is that a bit of a paradox? Probably, yeah! Whatever!

In Ayurveda, I’m very strongly the pitta dosha. Do I believe this is biologically, scientifically a thing? No… but I can still relate to it, enjoy it, use it to derive meaning and adopt self-care practices…

Not everything, for me, now, has to make clinical sense. At one point I’d have rejected all this. But I think it’s totally fine to do your own personal thing.

If I had to be labeled, I’d be nearer a Buddhist as they don’t believe in an active being, or creator.

I think you can create meaning and fun however you want. I enjoy hearing about different cultures’ believes, I enjoy astrology, I may not rationally believe in tarot but why the fuck not if you like that kinda thing?

Keats was a poet who wrote about ‘negative capability’ – the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts and beliefs at the same time, so why not do that?!

I think generally religion is two things – a source of comfort and guidance to people (nothing wrong with that!) and an attempt to explain things that science has not yet been able to. If you want to enjoy the fictions to bring meaning to life – why not?!!

Given that I don’t believe in a god, I don’t exactly have a being I feel comforted by, or ask for guidance from. But my foraging into meditation and Buddhism has definitely helped me get a grip on my brain and managing my thoughts, emotions and moods.

What are your thoughts?

Let me know what you think about how spirituality is really kicking off in the wellness field, and share your beliefs and practices if you feel comfortable!

B x

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#8 Inspire Interview Series – REBECCA KING – Lawyer (Associate at one of the Biggest American Firms in London)

Sorry it’s been a little while since the last Inspire Interview… today’s is completely different to the careers we’ve spoken about before, which is why I love doing this series so much… there are so many amazing people doing cool jobs in all kinds of different industries, and talking to everyone about it is great just for me to be nosey, let alone share with you!

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I know law is something I get asked about a lot – how do I fit fitness around life as a trainee, for example, so I thought I’d go right to the source and give you a fully qualified lawyer on how she balances all things work, life, workouts and play!

Today’s interview is with the kick ass Rebecca King, who I actually met through our mutual obsession with KOBOX. She very kindly answered some questions on life as a lawyer in one of the biggest US firms in London, and busts some myths about lawyer life, not least that you have to do law at uni  – she did THE COOLEST undergrad degree ever… so without further ado –

B: Can you tell us a little bit about the area of law you work in…

R: I work in Debt Capital Markets on bond issuances (for corporates, banks and sometimes sovereigns).

B: What made you become a lawyer? How did you get there – did you do undergrad law or convert later?

R: To be honest, I just thought I’d be quite good at it! I didn’t study it as an undergrad, as I wasn’t 100% decided and knew I had the option of converting later. I studied a subject I loved but doesn’t have much in the way of traditional job applications outside academia – Archaeology and Anthropology. I focused on Biological Anthropology, the study of how humans evolved – I even met Jane Goodall once when she gave us a primatology lecture. I also took papers in Ancient Egyptian Religion, which I’ve always been fascinated by, although I chose not to make Egyptology my main focus because I’ve never been great at languages. If you think French is hard – try hieroglyphics! (I did. I was crap.)

I combined that with some legal work experience and vacation schemes, and I was offered a training contract with my current firm just before I graduated from Cambridge – they then sponsored me through law school.

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of RK?

R: As you know, hours and work can be so varied! Officially our working hours are 9.30 till 6 and recently my department has been relatively quiet so that’s been about when I get in and out. I’m about to head to lunch, and today so far I’ve sorted out some postclosing matters for a deal that closed last week, had a kick-off call for a pro-bono matter, reviewed and updated our internal memo on listing procedures for the London Stock Exchange and attended our department quarterly meeting. A pretty average morning!

B: What advice would you give someone looking to become a lawyer? Any advice you were given en route that was helpful?

R: I’d say that the subject of your undergraduate degree doesn’t really matter but your grades and outside interests really do. If you’re a non-law undergrad like I was, you’ll need to prove you’re serious about law even though you actively chose not to study it for your degree, which can be tricky! Definitely get involved with your university law society early on and attend recruitment fairs and law firm presentations, and apply for vacation schemes or open days as soon as you’re eligible – once you’ve attended one, it’s easier to tick that “genuinely interested” box and be accepted for more.

Also – and I think this is true of any industry, not just law – it’s infinitely better to just submit five job applications that you’ve really thought about and tailored to that particular firm than fire off fifty identical cover letters and CVs. Believe me, these firms receive thousands and thousands of identikit applications and anything they think you’ve copied and pasted will be promptly set aside.

B: What are the biggest misconceptions about being a lawyer that you think are out there? Any myths you want to bust (or confirm!)

R: That all lawyers go to court! My sister is at a different firm that specialises in arbitration, and goes all the time. I’ve never set foot in a courtroom outside of a school trip aged 15. I work on deals, not cases!

B: Best and worst bits of the job? Biggest challenges?

R: I work with some great people! Almost all the lawyers I’ve ever worked with have been really clever, fun and interesting people. There’s definitely a certain drive and perfectionism we all have in common but my department is a great place to be and I met some of my absolute best friends through work.

I think the biggest challenge for me personally is the variability of hours. As I’m in a transactional area, I can have two weeks of past-midnight finishes followed by two weeks where I barely bill any time at all. When your bonuses and performance reviews put a lot of emphasis on whether you hit an hours target, slow weeks can be really demoralising and on the flip side busy weeks can mean cancelling really important plans. People tend to be very understanding but ultimately the client calls the shots, and if there’s work to be done and no one else can do it, you just have to put plans aside.

B: I’ve found that people really stress about training contracts (and I know the numbers are tough!) but personally I found being a trainee waaaaay tougher than the application process… any thoughts on coping with the journey to working in law, since it can be super long, super competitive, and of course isn’t always peachy when you’re on a very late deal…?

R: Personally, it’s easy for me to finish a tough week and just flop on the sofa for six hours straight on Saturday and binge watch a show because I’m tired. If you’re like me – my advice is to try not to do that too often, as I’ll then get to Sunday evening and feel like the weekend was wasted. I always try and spend some time with friends, do a workout class, book an event or, if I am sitting in front of the TV, I’ll work on one of my costume projects at the same time – it’s a creative outlet and making something gives me a sense of achievement, even if I did it while watching Netflix! It’s different for everyone but basically my advice is – if you don’t have much time off, really make sure that the time you get to yourself you’re putting towards something or someone you love, rather than just spinning wheels waiting for the next work email to come in or Monday to start.

B: How do you relax and wind down outside of work, and look after yourself generally? Anything that particularly helps you stay balanced?

R: I have a lot of hobbies and interests, and making time for those is really important to me. I love reading – history, true crime (I stayed up till two last night reading the Ted Bundy biography “The Stranger Beside Me” and barely slept a wink!), trashy regency romance novels, fantasy and sci-fi. I’m also listening to podcasts at the moment on my commute – my favourites include “You Must Remember This” (on the forgotten scandals of Hollywood), “My Favourite Murder” and “The Soundtrack Show” (which analyses film soundtracks). TV-wise I love Westworld, Game of Thrones and anything David Attenborough.

I’m also a huge Star Wars geek and in the last couple of years have got into cosplay, so I love researching and making props and costumes in my spare time and attending comic conventions, and I even take lessons in lightsaber fighting! It’s basically a fusion of kung fu and tai chi, except instead of wooden practice swords we use plastic ones that light up. Other sports and activities I love are Kobox (obviously!), skiing, diving, yoga, pilates, hiking and golf. Some weeks I’m busier than others, but for me balance is when I’m happily busy at work but with time for my interests and seeing friends and family.

B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?

R: Best: people don’t dwell nearly as much on the criticism they give you as you do. I think particularly in law, we’re such perfectionists that any negative feedback can really knock us. Take it, learn from it and try and move on – because the chances are that the person who said it hasn’t thought about it since they did!

Worst: “You can’t wear dangly earrings to work!!” My mum was an incredibly badass accountant-turned-banker in the 80’s when the City really WAS a man’s world, and any sign of femininity was seen as distracting or a weakness – this classic quote was from my first day at work when I was going to wear drop earrings. I don’t think she realised when I started my TC in 2015 how much the world, and corporate dress code in particular, has changed from “her day”. The fact our firm has casual Fridays continues to amaze her, as does the fact I never wear suits (stretchy jersey dresses for the win!)

B: Do you feel like workouts impact how productive you are at work?

R: 100%. I always try to work out in the mornings. It wakes you up, it gets your metabolism going, it clears your head, and ultimately I think it’s great to start the day with a bit of me-time – whether it’s yoga, running or, in my case, punching the hell out of something heavy to some really loud music.

B: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be and why?

I honestly don’t know! I always have loved writing and secretly wanted to be a novelist, but I realised early on I wasn’t suited temperament-wise to such a solitary and unpredictable job. I also occasionally daydream of being a guide at a safari camp! Spending all day in the bush and then the evening round the fire with a glass of Amarula listening to the sounds of the wild and chatting to guests from all over the world sounds pretty fun to me. Having said that, I’d probably make it about three weeks without internet access before hotfooting it back to London.

B: Any role models career-wise (whether in law or not)?

R: My mum! She was the first in her family to go to university and then trained as an accountant as one of five women in a class of over 100. She then went into banking and made way more money than my dad for the first 10-15 years of their marriage (which was very unusual then). She ended up giving up work completely to look after me and my sister about the time I started school, but my parents were married for 10 years before they had kids, so she fit in a pretty incredible career before deciding to make that change. People are always shocked to find out my parents’ house is in her name! She’s incredibly driven and hard-working and is an example I try (and fail, a lot of the time!) to live up to.

B: Fave restaurant in City – any great places to take clients you’d recommend people?

R: I go to the Ned a lot and really like their restaurants, but if I’m not eating there I’ll usually head back towards Chelsea to have dinner. Mossimann’s, which is a dining club set in a gorgeous converted church in Belgravia, is the ultimate favourite – unfortunately I can’t go without my dad, as he’s the member, but I always beg to go there on my birthday! I love Rabbit, on the King’s Road, which does incredible seasonal British food tapas-style, and nearly died of happiness when they opened a Sticks ‘n’ Sushi less than two minutes walk from me!

B: And finally, what does ‘success’ mean to you?

It’s kind of abstract but that little fist-pump moment you get when you’ve absolutely nailed something. Whether it’s at work or not, the aim for me is for life to have more fist-pump moments than “d’oh” or “loo cry” moments.

**Quickfire Round**

Fave KOBOX combo – I know you go a lot 😉

Uppercuts. When I hit the bag hard enough that it jumps up, it makes me feel like Captain Marvel.

Pancakes or full english?

Full English for sure, I’m a savoury girl!

Burpee or bear crawl?

Oh Christ. Is Miranda reading this? Bear crawl! Definitely bear crawl!

Nature or nurture?

You can’t ask a former anthropology student that question, she’ll spend three weeks agonizing and then give you a 12-page essay that doesn’t even answer it! Like any true-crime aficionado, I’d probably say mostly nurture. But as a cat owner, nature certainly can’t be discounted.

Martini or cosmopolitan?

Martini – I like a citrusy, dry one with a grapefruit twist. But I’d choose a good margarita over either!

Talent or hustle?

Hustle.

Fave latin phrase from law-school?

In vino veritas – definitely learned during law school, although not actually during lectures…

Chocolate or cheese?

CHEESE.

Louboutin or Jimmy Choo?

Louboutin, as long as I’m not walking far.

Fave legal drama?

Does Judge Judy count?! Funnily enough for a lawyer I’ve never watched Suits or The Good Wife or anything like that. But my mum always has Judge Judy on somewhere in our house so I have a soft spot for her.

You have to hug, marry and water-balloon 3 kobox instructors – which ones do you choose?! 

Marry Miranda, obviously. Hug Joe or Jesse. Water-balloon Jacob (This is 100% revenge and I reserve the right to revise this when he’s back on the timetable permanently!)

Fave movie?

Hot Fuzz!

It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you go for?

Christmas lunch followed by my mum’s EXTREMELY boozy raspberry trifle! With wine. Lots of wine.

Hope that was a useful insight into lawyer life – Bekky is definitely the coolest lawyer I know. Catch her at KOBOX in City most weekdays 😉

B xoxo

 

#7: Inspire Interview Series – MICHELLE KEILL, NOVELIST

I have LOVED working on the Inspire Interview Series this year (catch up with any you missed here!) and getting to chat to so many amazing people about the cool stuff they’ve done with their lives. To round off 2018, I wanted to share with you a really special one.

1409DC03-D1AD-4569-897C-F37D4E88C22ELast year I was quite stressed out and disillusioned and needed a break and some inspiration, so I disappeared off to Paris for a weekend as it’s my favourite city in the world. Outside the bookshop (my spiritual home!) Shakespeare and Company, I discovered a book on a bench that had been left as part of a BookFairy Drop (where people leave books all around major cities and towns for others to discover)… and I was hooked. That was how I first connected with Michelle – through her gorgeous, haunting novel The Four Women (available here), and its characters, and I suppose above all – Paris.

Michelle Keill is a beautiful writer and novelist, and has kindly taken the time to answer a few of my Inspire Interview questions… so here’s hoping this kickstarts your New Year with a little creativity.

Writers are some of my favourite people because I’m fascinated by what they create, I get so excited when I get to talk to them – so without further ado, let’s chat to Michelle about her awesome work!

B: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

M: I’m not sure it was something I wanted to ‘be’, but it’s something I’ve always done. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house writing stories with a crayon (in those days I also illustrated – badly, but more competently than I would do now).

B: What is the best thing, and what is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

M: The best thing, apart from the excuse to drink tea to excess and buy lots of pretty notebooks, is the opportunity to take myself out of reality and create a new one. Also, the potential to provide an escape for people: hearing from readers who’ve connected with the book is wonderful. As for the most difficult thing, any form of creative expression makes you vulnerable, and that feeling is hard to get used to. I find writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process – from there it gets harder, with all the rewriting and editing.

B: Can you give a little teaser about your novel The Four Women for anyone who hasn’t read it?

M: The book is about a young woman living in Paris whose world is drastically transformed by four women who enter her life, seemingly from nowhere, and introduce her to a reclusive and enigmatic tutor whom, they promise, can teach her French. On meeting him, she discovers that although he is indeed as brilliant as they described, he may not have the best of intentions. It’s a love story, but a dark one, and explores the theme of how much of our lives is predetermined, and what is simply chance. If I could give my characters one piece of advice it would be to be careful what you wish for, and to follow your instincts and stay true to yourself. Advice I try to keep in mind myself, actually.

B: What are you currently working on at the moment?

M: A collection of short stories, which should be published in 2019. I also have a romantic comedy and another Paris novel in the works.

B: Any tips for aspiring writers?

M: Write what enthrals and engages you, rather than what is popular or selling well at the moment (unless that is what enthrals and engages you!). You’re in charge of what you put on the page, so be sure it’s a genre or story that you feel passionate about. And read a lot. But, mostly, just write. 

B: Can you describe a writing day in the life of Michelle Keill?

M: Despite not being a morning person, my best time to write is first thing, so I try to make an early start. Then I’ll keep going until about two in the afternoon, which is usually when I feel my creative energy fading. I might push on into the evening if I’m working on a key scene or if I’m really in flow, but I find my mind is clearer earlier in the day. I need to be free of distractions (i.e. no phone), but I need music on when I write, otherwise it’s not happening.

B: What has been the most challenging part of getting to where you are today?

M: I developed a serious illness in 2014, which struck without warning and came close to getting the better of me. I ended up having emergency surgery to save my lung, which was frightening. From there it was a long road back to health. I wrote ‘The Four Women’ as I was recovering: while my body was restoring itself, my creativity was resetting too. I look back and I’m amazed that something good came from such a harrowing experience.

B: What does 1) ‘happiness’ and 2) ‘success’ mean to you?

M: Happiness for me can be as simple as spending a rainy day indoors lying on the sofa with a book and a cuppa. Same for success: if one person reads my book and enjoys it, then I consider that a win.

B: Best life advice you’ve ever been given?

M: Treat other people as you’d want to be treated yourself. And, from my mum, always make sure you have a decent mascara.

B: Best career advice you’ve ever been given?

M: Treat everyone you encounter at work, no matter what their role, with equal courtesy. The person at the bottom today may be at the top tomorrow. I think that came from my mum too.

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?

M: My friends inspire me with their kindness, loyalty, and courage. Also, if I’m in a tricky situation, I often think, ‘What would Michelle Obama do?’ That always gets me on the right track.

B: What does ‘balance’ mean to you?

M: It means leaving a bit of energy in the tank and not pushing too hard (I’m still learning how to do this!). It means pausing and not always rushing to the finish line. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up.

B: What’s your life’s mission in a nutshell?

M: To make a positive contribution to the world.

B: What inspires you to write?

M: People, faces, and places. Or sometimes just a line in a song. 

B: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be in another life?

M: Perhaps a doctor, if I could make the grade.

B: If you had to spend the rest of your life with one fictional character, who would it be?

M: Ross from ‘Friends’. He’s intelligent, sensitive, musical (!), and enjoys lounging around on sofas drinking hot beverages.

B: How do you take care of yourself and make sure you get the right ‘work life balance’, if there is such a thing?

M: Following my illness, I’ve learned to listen to my body (not quite sure I’ve mastered it yet). If you’re working too hard, or not getting enough sleep or eating properly, your body will usually drop a few subtle hints to let you know. I make sure I pay attention to those early warning signs, and try to take it a bit easier when I feel I need to.

Quickfire

Physical books or ebooks?

Physical, definitely. I love to see rows of bulging bookshelves.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Dinner.

Forests or beaches?

Forests. Bonus points if there are squirrels.

Walking or running?

Walking.

Favourite place?

Paris, Washington D.C., and my bed.

Dancing or yoga?

Dancing.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture.

Talent or hustle?

Talent.

Chocolate or cheese?

Cheese. I’m all about the cheese.

Fave self-care ritual?

A hot bath, a book, and a cup of Earl Grey.

A good book or Netflix?

A good book, but I can’t pretend I could function without Netflix.

Fave quote:

Not a quote as such, but JFK’s ‘we choose to go the moon’ speech always gives me a boost when I’m feeling overwhelmed, incapable, or my courage is failing me.

Top 3 books?

Hard to choose just three, but …

1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

2. Misery by Stephen King

3. Tampa by Alyssa Nutting

Tea or coffee?

Tea, all day long. With plenty of milk.

Who would attend your dream dinner party (living or dead, fictional or real!)

Frank-N-Furter, Oprah Winfrey, Juliette Binoche, Romesh Ranganathan, Don Lemon, Charlie Brooker, Stephen Colbert, and Freddie Mercury (I’d have to invite my mum too if Freddie was there).

If you had a ‘death row dinner’ – a last meal that could be anything you want, favourites, whatever… what would it be?

Pizza, followed by homemade apple crumble (custard mandatory). All followed, of course, by a large cup of tea.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights Michelle, I am so excited to read more of your work as I still get shivers thinking about The Four Women!

Hope you all enjoyed hearing more about life as a novelist, and if you’d like to connect further, you can find Michelle on Goodreads here, Instagram here and Amazon here.

B xoxo

Staying Zen while spinning multiple plates! (Bust stress & anxiety for Autumn)

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Everyone gets stressed and anxious, some more than others, but pretty much everyone can relate in some way! It’s become such a ‘thing’ (people talk about being busy and stressed and anxious 24/7 these days!) that we’re all looking for easy ways to de-stress all the time. While there aren’t any magic solutions, there are some effective tried-and-tested techniques, all of which help me manage my mood and hopefully will help you manage yours too!

Zen-up your life & feel better for Fall

Sweat

  • Wake up early for a workout. This literally kickstarts your day in the best possible way, releases a rush of endorphins, boosts mood and creativity and is great for physical and mental health.

Snooze & hydrate

  • Make sure you’re getting 7 hours sleep a night, minimum.
  • Drink water! 80% of the human body is made up of water so it is ESSENTIAL!

Break free from the desk trap

  • Get away from your desk at any opportunity you can – easier said than done most days, but even a 20 minute walk at lunch, extra trips to the loo or to grab a coffee… movement and a change of scene always helps!

Get ruthless with social media – detox those screens!

  • Minimise social media usage if it’s making you compare yourself with others. De-toxify your insta and facebook by unfollowing and unfriending anyone who is making you feel bad – it’s not selfish to prioritise your sanity! An instagram cull can be so mentally cleansing if people’s content is irritating, making you envious or feel inadequate, or just isn’t what you want to see! It’s YOUR FEED. You decide.

Cut the caffeine (sorry!)

  • Reduce caffeine as much as possible – caffeine will amp up your stress levels and elevate your heart rate, and try to stop drinking it after lunch or it will still be in your system when you’re trying to go to sleep – true story!

Rewire your brain & delete ‘perfectionist’ from your vocabulary – rest is valuable!

  • Sometimes it’s okay to be good enough and not always work the overtime or volunteer for an extra project. Remember that, and rest up. You’re no good to anyone burned out!

Not just for New-Ageys… the science supports yoga and meditation

  • Yoga and meditation are amazing ways to promote what scientific studies have termed the ‘relaxation response’ – an alteration of your chemical state that is good for body and mind! They also help build resilience and flexibility, both mental and physical.

Fresh air ‘n’ breeeeeathe

  • Go outside – even just for 2 minutes – if you feel overwhelmed. It can totally shift your perspective, break up the day and give you a second to collect yourself.

Just. Say. NO.

  • Learn to say no – if you don’t want to go to that social thing, just get out of it and look after yourself. FOMO is so 90s. There’s no need for it!

Ditch public opinion & love yourself

  • Work on getting comfortable in your skin and not stressing about what other people think about you – whether you do this with yoga, meditation, journalling, sport, art, therapy, or all or none of these – honestly, it’s LIFE CHANGING. At 27 I had some mega realisations about living MY LIFE and liberating myself from being concerned with other peoples’ views of me… and it is honestly insane once you get there in the BEST POSSIBLE WAY. Obviously we’re all human and so relapse sometimes, but overall… I promise, you’ll feel amazing.

Re-prioritise… the good stuff

  • Recognise that work isn’t everything. Once you prioritise your relationships and your loves (be it a boyfriend, boxing, or family) you’ll feel so much more content with life. No-one dies wishing they’d spent more time at the office, however driven.

Nostrils, nostrils, nostrils (pranayama baby!)

  • Pranayama breathing, aka alternate nostril breathing. Sounds a bit mad, but I love this stuff… try it! It works. Go on. Give it a google.

Be curious!

  • Cultivate curiosity in new things, be it exploring, or learning a new language. Being stimulated in non-worky non-burnouty ways is so great for stress busting and feeling like you’ve achieved something, and re-invigorating your inspiration levels.

So, there you have it, my favourite ways to stay zen while spinning plates (or try to!) No-one is perfect and no-one can be chill all the time, but the nearer I get to 30 the more I realise what matters to me, and feeling happy and mentally and emotionally healthy is more of a priority than ever – I no longer have the obsession with beating myself up about things and stressing to the max… so I hope this helps you get happier too 😉

B xoxo

 

 

4 simple tips: become more CONFIDENT

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Anytime I see posts and articles about this I find it SO INTERESTING because I feel like we all get insecure sometimes and want to be a little more confident.

I’m a super shy person. Always have been. But I am less painfully shy than I used to be, to the point where now often people don’t believe I’m shy (maybe they think I’m awkward instead hahaha…!)

Confidence is this weird thing, right? You see people who literally are just so free and don’t give AF and are able to share their ideas, boss something in the gym without embarassment or speak up at work… I’ve often wished I could buy it in a bottle (champagne doesn’t count if you wanna keep your job guys!)

In my first job at Vouchercodes.co.uk, a lot of ‘pitching’ was involved – and I had to deliver the pitches myself. I was 21, super shy, not at all confident, I felt inadequate and ridiculous, and could barely speak in internal meetings, let alone with clients! We also had to present in company-wide meetings weekly, and it nearly gave me a heart attack.

I’ve always hated public speaking. I’d shake – as in PHYSICALLY SHAKE. I’d feel sick. I’d cry on the phone to my dad every morning.

But you know what? Being forced to do it again and again means that 1) I know if forced, I can… I even gave a speech at a wedding a couple of years ago! and 2) where speaking in a meeting of 3-10 people used to terrify me, now I know how to do it.

How?

Practice, basically. I’d practice my pitches to my boyfriend, on the phone to my dad, I’d set up meetings with my boss to practice with her, I’d listen to her and make notes on how she did it… and then the worst bit was just making myself do it.

To help, I qualified to teach fitness so I had to stand up in front of a class so I could learn to do it somewhere I enjoyed. And it really, really helped. But you have to decide to put the work in.

All of that ground work is the only reason I could go to an interview at a magic circle law firm and get a job as a lawyer, because if I’d gone in post-graduation at 21, I’d have fallen to literal bits and been a nervous wreck.

I mean, I’m still an introvert, I like to recharge solo as much as possible rather than socialise, and that’s totally okay! I can still be awkward and weird hahaha… but I got over that crippling shyness and if I managed to, anyone else can too.

So here are my tips! And yes, ultimately it really is a case of fake it (or try!) until you make it!

1. Stop hiding behind the ‘it’s just my personality, I’m shy’

This is tough love, I know. I used to have panic attacks about doing public speaking, and I’ll never love it. BUT if you repeatedly practice exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations, you WILL adapt. Be gentle with yourself, do it gradually, you don’t have to be too mean to yourself. But the big key is to stop making excuses and decide to make a change. The way to start is to jump in and practice whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable. 

Set small goals initially. Baby steps. Then as you get into your stride, you can take the leaps and bounds.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

2. Physical strength builds mental strength

Did you see this one coming? 😉 Fitness is amazing for releasing feel-good hormones (endorphin pump is REAL y’all) but it also shows you the power of practice – little by little you increase strength and/or cardio fitness and it shows you change IS possible, which should give you the confidence to keep trying new things!

I did a Kayla Itsines leg workout the day of my training contract interview and it literally saved me hahaha!

3. Re-train your brain: the long bit!

How much time do you spend worrying about what other people think about you? I read an amazing book called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k and it suggested you have a think about the important things in your life that you DO and are WILLING to give a fuck about. Anything not on that list? It’s not within your fuck budget. Let that shit gooooooo!

How your life feels to you is more important than how it looks to other people

Trust your own choices and stop talking to yourself in a negative way in your head. Try just repeating (silently or aloud!) ‘I CAN do this’ or something similar. It sounds super American and cheesy but when your habit is to tell yourself you CAN do something instead of saying you CAN’T, it does make a massive shift in your mindset.

Too scared to try something in the gym? Feel stupid, watched, embarassed? Re-train your thought process to be like SO WHAT? What’s the worst that could happen? They’d laugh at you? (I guarantee the other people there won’t, they’re too busy doing their own workouts, but even if they did…) Worse things happen at sea, guys.

The ego likes to try and protect us from laughter or scorn from others, but I think as a result it goes into overdrive and makes us think 99% of the time people are judging us when actually they don’t really care or even notice what we’re doing! Your opinion and that of those you love (and maybe the person who pays you!) is the only one that counts. Let everything else go. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and you’re super embarassed – so what? Once you start approaching things this way, and not minding looking silly, you’ll 100% feel liberated.

I used to experiment with my hair tonnes as a kid, but my dad’s side of the family always made comments about it, and gradually I think I stopped wanting to experiment. I started to think I had to have long hair to prove I was a girl (?! wtf ?! seriously ?!) as comments would often be about short hair being ‘boyish’. As my EDs got stronger and my confidence got lower, I felt like I was way too ugly for short hair and needed long hair to distract from it. How crazy is that?!

So, recently, (and also once a year and a half ago!) I chopped all my hair off again from my boobs to my collarbone, and it’s super liberating… and I now don’t care what anyone else things, apart from me and my boyfriend basically!

Basically, work, fitness, gym, wherever… there’s a bit of work to be done on realising that you just need to go with your gut. And if it all goes wrong and you look silly… you’re not dying, you’re still alive and have soooo many good things going on… so focus on that ❤

Admittedly some of it comes with age too. The nearer  I get to 30, the better able I am to shake off anyone who bugs me and stick to my fuck budget 😉

Books for this process that I’d recommend (although you may have to take with a pinch of salt as they can get a bit too hippyish, but I do still love them!) are Life Tonic by Jody Shield and Hungry For More by Mel Wells.

4. Daily meds*

*meditations, of course!

Whether you hate the idea of meditation as woo woo, you’re a hippy spiritual moon-child or [insert other extreme here], meditation has been proven by various reputable scientific studies to have a positive effect on the brain due to its promotion of the ‘relaxation response’, a physiological change in the body as a result of the ‘relaxed’ state.

So. For the purposes of confidence, meditation’s mention here is twofold:

  1. it teaches you increased focus, which makes you better able to let go of nagging, negative thoughts like ‘I can’t do this, I’m too scared, I’m too shy, I’m too anxious, why is everyone else more confident/smarter/prettier/cleverer than me…’ and breathe, and master your emotions.
  2. it connects you better with yourself and your thought patterns, and by being more present with yourself, you eventually come to realise that you’re not your thoughts… you’re the observer of your thoughts. So you can actually create change and not let thoughts control you, but also it should increase your ability to spend time with yourself, feel good within yourself and actually (god forbid if you’re British) LIKE YOURSELF. Like, what is this madness?!

Also, her style may not be for everyone, but Jody Shield does a meditation series (with a track specifically relating to confidence) if you fancy giving it a try. Despite my atheist and decidedly not spiritual views, I really like her stuff – I find her voice super relaxing.

So, how are we feeling?

Hopefully some of these help a bit… Would love to hear any more you can add!

Also check out this piece on how to be confident by Rose The Londoner and this FREE fierce confidence workshop / livestream replay with Jody Shield to help you get started!

B xoxo

You may also wanna browse:

Ways to boost body confidence on bad days – without working out!

Careers section – Inspire Interview Series plus work tips, resources and confidence building

Body Confidence: talking about taboos, fat loss and some tips!

How to stay motivated to fit in workouts with an office job

Motivation 101: get it and keep it

Is it vain to have a fitness instagram?Is it vain to have a fitness instagram? + dangers of social media

Sparkle: resources to find yours

#Inspire Interview 5: MEL WELLS (actress, best-selling author, speaker, food & psychology coach!)

 

 

Top 10 EASY ways to stay workout-motivated!

woman balancing
Photo by antas singh on Pexels.com

Sometimes our insta feeds get filled with post-workout selfies and when you’re having a day or a week where you reeeeeally don’t feel like working out, it can actually be really off-putting.

Everyone has, at some point or another, hit a bump where they just don’t feel like working out. It’s completely normal! I LOVE training but I still have this happen to me sometimes. But over time I’ve gotten used to it, and figured out some easy ways to slide back into the zone. So – what are the easiest ways to pick yourself back up?

Social media

This is a double edged sword. Scrolling for motivation can be helpful, but it can also make you feel rubbish. I recommend, first and foremost, an ‘unfollow’ spree – stop following ANY accounts that annoy you, make you feel not good enough or make you compare yourself with them. It’s not a comment on their content! It’s just protecting yourself. Similarly, start following accounts you do find helpful and inspiring.

Book classes!

This is an obvious one, but super useful. Kobox, Core Collective, Psycle, F45, whatever your jam – buy some credits and book some classes, and you won’t want to waste the money!

Make sure you’re doing workouts you love

If you hate running, for example, or weightlifting (or if you used to like it but you’re now over it) – change it up! Don’t do it anymore, do something else.

Ignore what’s ‘optimal’ because if obsessing about that is making you not want to train, then in trying to optimise your workouts you’re ironically stopping yourself from training… not the desired outcome!

Love netball? Join a team! Curious about #bbg? Download Kayla’s app! Always wanted to try boxing / capoeria / modern dance / athletics / volleyball / trail running…? Sign up to a class or a team or club.

Set some goals that make you want to progress

For example, I REALLY want to improve my pushups and be able to do 20 effortlessly, super quick. So that motivates me to train upper body, even on days I don’t feel like it. Maybe your goal is to run 5k, 10k, or a half marathon… maybe it’s to do a pull up, maybe it’s to increase the height of your box jump, or learn a new style of dance… whatever you think sounds like something you want to achieve, set the goal and then work towards it.

Be honest: are you making moves or excuses?

Yes, rest and recovery is important, but don’t fall into the trap of using it as an ‘excuse.’

You do need 2-3 rest days a week (ideally active rest, so still lots of walking, and maybe gentle movement like yoga or swimming) but stop using this to disguise the fact you can’t be bothered. It’s FINE to have a day where you’re like nah, today’s not the day, but own the decision. I like to schedule my rest days at the beginning of the week so they’re mindful. Ultimately it’s about being honest with yourself and in tune with how you feel!

Schedule workouts like you would meetings

This speaks for itself, right? By scheduling workouts you don’t really need to exert much willpower to go. They’re already in your diary.

Remember your why

Remember all the reasons we work out in the first place! It’s AMAZING for reducing stress, keeping us fit and healthy as we age, it has important cardiovascualr and longevity benefits, so keep in mind that it’s for your mental and physical health! Try to imagine the endorphin buzz you feel after a workout, and mentally re-create that feeling. Focus on those process based goals we talked about above – being able to do push ups or pull ups or whatever! And lastly, it’s okay to think about your aesthetic goals as long as it’s from a healthy, positive place, not a guilt-ridden one! Exercise isn’t a punishment!

Eat well for energy

Eating healthily, with a balanced plate of carbs, protein and healthy fats, plus ensuring you’re eating a rainbow of fruit and veggies (the easiest way to get in all those good vitamins and minerals – as you all know I’m all about the micronutrients and phytochemicals!) is the best way to fuel both your body AND mind. Carbs are essential for seratonin production which is a key hormone in your moods and staying happy! If you’re down, blue, grumpy and hangry and nutrient-deprived you’re less likely to train. Look after your body on the inside too and you’ll be primed for a productive sweat session! I also find that when my nutrition is good, I feel more motivated to take care of myself in other ways too like working out, and I feel so much happier and more energised!

A spoonful of caffeine helps the workout go down…!

Be careful with this! Make sure you always have a glass of water with your caffeine as caffeine is dehydrating. But several studies have shown caffeine can help boost your workout – my understanding is it lowers your perceived rate of exertion, so you don’t feel like you’re working as hard as you are, enabling you to go harder or longer! There’s a reason preworkout is sold to bodybuilders. Personally, I now steer clear of preworkout as I worry about all the other crap in it, but I grab either an espresso, or a black coffee, or even matcha.  This especially helps me as I like to train fasted as my body struggles to exercise after food, so I love having a bit of a supercharge to my session!

Playlists are key

Make sure you’re not bored of your workout playlist, and I always like to choose ‘pump’ tracks – tracks that get me excited and want to make me get moving. This can be anything from a super motivating soundtrack to the Spice Girls! Whatever floats your boat. Studies also show that listening to music while training can also lower your perceived rate of exertion, so you don’t feel like you’re working as hard as you are. Go figure!

I hope some of these help get you a bit more motivated to train… you’re not alone if you’re in a bit of a rut and not feeling it, but the important thing is just to brush yourself off, stop beating yourself up and get moving again and you’ll soon feel AMAZING. ❤

B xoxo