My life now - an update

I've realised that I've spent a few posts talking about some of the smaller details of my life like my health and wellbeing, and trips and holidays I've taken, but I haven't really spoken about some of the larger details of my life since it changed hugely in January of this year.

Long-time readers of the blog have probably gathered that Tom and I separated in January.  It was an incredibly painful and heartbreaking time and obviously I will keep the details private, however I will state that we are still good friends and I still have a lot of respect and care for him.  We are sharing Bodhi the dog and we have him around 3-4 weeks each before he then goes to his other home.  He is a hugely loved little doggy and he now has double the amount of cuddles, walks and people around him who love his little face.  I should have him again within the next week or so and I can't wait to give him a big squeeze.  It's tough but it's been the logical thing to do since we both love him very much.

We sold the lovely house in Lymington (goodbye roll-top bath - a sad day) and I moved to Southsea in August.  I had been living at my parents for the first seven months of the year so it was amazing to finally have my own space again rather than trying to keep a houseful of things in one room. I will, however say that the time with my parents was wonderful and they looked after me so well - it was actually such good fun to be around them again and to wake up in the morning and have long chats with my Mum over breakfast.  I grew up in this area so it really felt like coming home again, and though it was obviously an incredibly tough time, it was also a time when I focussed on healing and finding myself again - I even ended up having to take time off work but it was exactly what I needed to find my way out of that depression.  I went for lots of walks on the beach with Bodhi, saw friends, read lots of books and watched lots of Netflix. (And caught up on lots of sleep).

I've been living in Southsea for two months now.  It's very different to living in Lymington (as I write this I can hear police sirens in the distance) - in good ways and bad ways, like any situation.  Southsea has lots of lovely coffee shops, independent bars and restaurants, the beautiful seafront and it's easy to get the train into work.  The area is quite different to anywhere I've lived before and there have been some issues with the neighbours and noise, but nothing you wouldn't expect from living in a fairly student-y area just outside a city.  

I've been spending my spare time in Southsea finding the best coffee shops, going for drinks and trying to get back into running and yoga.  I've found a yoga class but though I've booked in twice I haven't actually made it along yet for various reasons.  I'm hoping to get back into a regular practice soon as I find it really makes a difference to my mental and physical health.  It's funny how you can know that something is really good for you and yet be useless at making time for it (monkey covering face emoji).

At home I've been powering through my to-read list on my Kindle (I've been updating my Good Reads) - favouring trashy crime novels, self-help books, the picks from my work book club and anything else that takes my fancy! I'm going to write a blog post soon about some of the best ones I've read this year as I've come across some really life-changing non-fiction and some gripping fiction novels.  I'm also still completely addicted to podcasts, particularly true crime podcasts.  My current favourites are In Sight, Beyond Reasonable Doubt, The Trail Went Cold and Up and Vanished.

Not much else is new - the last month or so has flown by in a flurry of hen do's, weddings, trips to London, festivals and settling in to a new home.  I can't deny that my life looks very different to what I thought it would be at 33 but I'm healthy, have amazing friends and family and I'm working on finding happiness again.  The last few months have given me the opportunity to start to get to know myself again and start a bit of a love affair with aromatherapy, crystals, Law of Attraction, shamanic healing and acupuncture (which I'm long overdue another appointment for!).

I don't know if I've shared too much in this update but I just wanted to write a little bit about where I am and what I'm doing.  It's been a funny old year so far, but it's Autumn now, and how could you not be happy about that?


Five nights in Palma

At the beginning of September, on one rainy Wednesday I jetted off with a group of friends to sunny Palma in Mallorca for a hen do.  In total there were 17 of us (I know right, I don't have 17 friends myself!) and it was such an amazing time.  Having never been to Palma before I didn't know what to expect, but I quickly fell in love with it, with its winding back streets, beautiful old buildings and array of tapas and wine bars.

We actually stayed just outside of Palma in a small town called Portals Nous.  The hotel we stayed in was the Salles Hotels Marina Portals, around £80 a night for a deluxe double.  The hotel itself was perfect, with several pools, lovely rooms and a great breakfast (breakfast is very important!)  We spent a lot of our time lazing by the pool, chatting, reading books and drinking prosecco.  Pretty bloody perfect if I do say so myself.

We made a few trips down to the marina at Portals Nous where we were staying.  We had delicious pizzas and cocktails at Diabilito, a lovely bar and restaurant overlooking the marina.  Some of the restaurants on the front are quite expensive but this was really reasonably priced.  

We visited Palma itself twice - on the first occasion we visited we went to a stunning bar with amazing rooftop views and great cocktails.  This bar was called Es Baluard Bar Palma - it's next to the Contemporary Museum of Art and in a great location.  They also serve food but we only had drinks - we actually visited twice as it was such a nice bar with a good drinks menu.  After drinks we had tapas/pintxos at a place called Tast Union in the centre of Palma, which again I hugely recommend.  They have a huge selection of really reasonably priced tapas and well priced, good wine (around 2-3 euros a glass).  It's advisable to make a reservation as it was absolutely rammed and we had to book quite far in advance.  The best thing we had was the mini burgers (2.80 euros) and the melted brie was also very yummy (2 euros).

After tapas we went onto Bar Cuba - a bar, cafe and nightclub in the centre of Cuba.   There is a Sky Bar with rooftop views but the queue for this was huge and as there was a large group of us they advised that there would be a long wait.  The nightclub downstairs doesn't open until midnight so we hung around until that was open and had drinks and a dance there.  It was really good fun and the music was great - my only complaint was the drinks prices were quite steep (10 euros for a disaronno and coke, cocktails are about 15 euros).

The second time we went into Palma we had an amazing Italian meal at Bianco e Rosso.  Main meals were about 13-15 euros but the portion sizes were big.  I had a gnocchi and it was delicious.  House wine was 10 euros a bottle, service was good and everyone enjoyed their food - another great choice by the hen party organisers!

After the Italian restaurant we went to a bar called Abaco, which was a real highlight of the trip.  Hidden behind huge wooden doors it has a stunning courtyard with a water fountain, birdcages and beautiful flowers.  You can walk around the house, which is also a sight to behold and very plush.  It doesn't open until 8pm and then it fills up quite quickly so I think it was wise of us not to arrive too late.  Worthwhile also noting that drinks are around 16 euros, so it's very much a stop to take in the sights and tick it off the 'to see' list rather than somewhere to buy a few rounds!

All in all we had an absolutely amazing trip to Palma and I adored every second of it.  It was fab to be away with a big group of ladies, lying by the pool and gossiping and drinking lots of fizz! The ladies who organised the hen do did an amazing job picking brilliant restaurants and bars and booking things for such a large group.

I'd love to go back to Palma again as it's such a stunning city with so many great restaurants and bars.  It was a great choice for a hen do as there's so much to see and do.  We flew from Bournemouth and flights were about £100 but you can get good deals depending on when you fly.

Have you visited Palma before?


Anxiety, jiggy leg and what helps me

Hello anxiety, my old friend.  I've blogged a little about anxiety before, and whilst for some time now I hadn't really suffered any symptoms, I've found myself becoming more and more anxious recently and some of the issues I've had previously have started to rear their ugly head.  I thought sharing them here (and how I'm trying to tackle them) might be a little cathartic, and might help others suffering with the same struggles.

I guess I may as well start with the worst of it.  A couple of weeks ago I had a panic attack, or anxiety episode as my Doctor referred to it the following day when I phoned for advice.  I won't go into what triggered it but it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life - I couldn't breathe properly or catch my breath, I was sobbing uncontrollably and gasping for air.  My fingers tingled and I was almost rooted to the spot on the end of the bed.  I was taking my inhaler but it didn't make it any better - in fact it just made my heart race which exacerbated the problem.  One of the issues was that because I mistakenly thought it was an asthma attack I treated it as such, and I kept puffing away at my inhaler trying to calm down.  The attack lasted about ten minutes but kept recurring throughout the evening.

I actually phoned my Doctor the following day to ask for a different inhaler, but when I explained what had happened he described it as a panic attack, not an asthma attack.  He told me not to use my inhaler in future as although it will open up you airwaves it can also cause the heart palpitations and shakiness I described which obviously is counter-productive.  Instead he increased the medication I take for stress and anxiety (anti-depressants by any other name) and gave me some coping mechanisms to try and help - things like managing my breathing (which was very difficult at the time) by breathing in for four, holding for seven, and breathing out for eight seconds.  This shifts your nervous system out of the fight or flight mode and into a para-sympathetic response.

credit: gemma correll

I mentioned 'jiggy leg' in the title.  I also call this disco leg, or I believe it's also known as 'restless leg syndrome' (RLS).  I've had this for as long as I can remember, but never really linked it to anxiety before - apparently whilst it isn't commonly caused by anxiety, being anxious can make it much worse.  At night my legs will shake in bed, and when I'm sitting at my desk at work I'm always jiggling my legs or tensing and un-tensing the muscles and flexing my toes.  I've noticed this has been increasing and increasing recently and I've also started other habits like grinding my teeth and fidgeting with my hands.

In order to combat this I've been trying a few things that were suggested to me by friends or on Twitter.  Firstly I've been taking the Solgar Magnesium Tablets on a daily basis as they are recommended for things like cramps, restless legs and heart palpitations.   Knowing how good magnesium is supposed to be for RLS, I also picked up a magnesium spray in Holland and Barrett (the Better You Goodnight Magnesium Spray) which I use before bedtime.  It claims to promote relaxation and be really good for muscles and joints.  I must admit that the first few times I used it I really didn't like it as it causes a sort of tingling effect and it made my skin feel itchy and uncomfortable.  On the packaging it does say however that this is a sign that your body is absorbing the magnesium.  Now instead of spritzing and leaving it I actually massage it into my legs and I find I don't get the itching and tingling and it definitely helps.  The final thing I use is another Better You product, the Magnesium Flakes that you can put in your bath.  I used these last night and I slept like an absolute dream immediately afterwards.  It's really good for aching joints and it even makes your skin feel soft - I massively recommend these.

Along with these symptoms I've just found my general anxiety levels increasing.  I'm not sleeping very well, I find myself worrying about small things (worrying about saying the wrong thing, what someone thinks of me, looking back at things I've done or said and how they might have been interpreted) and finding it difficult to slow my busy brain down and stay present.  I've found myself feeling incredibly tired and energy-less almost all of the time, feeling a little like I just want to hide from the world in my comfy bed and cancel any plans that I make.  This of course exacerbates the problem as I then convince myself that the friends I've cancelled on all hate me and I'll be barred from the yoga class I had to un-book and everyone is talking about the day I had to leave work early with a stress headache.  Oh it's lots of fun being in my head!

The only thing I find helps is self-care, self-care, self-care.  Just allowing myself to slow down and just indulge in whatever I fancy with no guilt or shame.  It's taken a long time to just let myself lie in bed for hours reading, have two baths in one day or sit and eat a whole packet of digestives in bed (okay, not in bed - I've not completely gone wrong, crumbs and bedsheets are a horrendous mix).  I think the bottom line is to forgive and love yourself and go at your own pace.  There are also lots of other things that make me feel better, like journalling in the morning, listening to relaxing music, using the Calm and Headspace apps, going for a walk and spending time in nature and using essential oils, such as lavender.

Overall though I'm just trying to be kind to myself and accept that these things will come and go, and not try and fight them.  Would love to hear if you have any other tips or recommendations for things to try, or even if you're going through something similar and just wanted to say 'hey panic attacks suck, yo?'


September intentions

Whilst I was away in Palma last week I took the opportunity to take some time out to write in my journal and give myself the headspace to make plans for September and the coming months. Things have been incredibly busy over the last couple of months and I've got out of a lot of the habits that I know help my happiness, health and general wellbeing.  I really want to focus now on being happy, healthy and forming positive routines - this year has been a difficult one and whilst it's tempting to hide in my bed as much as possible, I know that there are several things that keep me on track and I'm determined to stick with them.

Yoga yoga yoga

I have barely done any yoga lately, and I really notice the difference in both my flexibility and sense of calm.  I've found a yoga studio that's a relatively short walk from the house and I'm going to try and go to classes a couple of times a week.  I also really want to get back to doing yoga at home - I started the day with a Yoga With Adriene video yesterday and I felt so much better for it all day.  I think it's such a good habit to get into just to take some time for you on the mat.

Go to the gym

Oops.  This is another thing I haven't done for around two months and I'm massively noticing the difference.  I've joined a gym near the new house and I must, must, must force my bum there and get myself into shape.  I've lost a lot of confidence about my body recently and I need to stop whinging and do something about it.

Meditation every day

I've just downloaded the Calm app as well as using the Headspace app - the one thing I really like about Calm is that you get a new audio every day which is part meditation and part reflection on life. I feel like I've been more anxious and worrying lately and I know that meditation is one thing that really helps me from letting my busy brain get out of control.

Listen to hypnotherapy audio

About three weeks ago I visited a hypnotherapist after hearing about Rapid Transformational Therapy on the Jess Lively Podcast.  I wanted to overcome some of my confidence issues and limiting beliefs and it was a really interesting session that I think I'll blog about separately.  The hypnotherapist gave me a recording to listen to every day to talk me through some of the work we did in the session and I need to be dedicated in listening to it so it can make an impact.

Reduce alcohol

I spent a week in Palma last week for a hen do, and whilst I had the most amazing time (take me back immediately pls), I did notice how the daily prosecco by the pool made me feel pretty terrible the next day; both health and mental health-wise.  Does anyone else suffer with 'hangxiety' or 'the hungover blues'? I know alcohol is a depressant and since I'm trying to work on getting into a more positive headspace and being more in control of my emotions, it makes sense to try and avoid the things that make this more difficult.

Use mantras and affirmations

When I find my busy brain racing out of control (usually in the middle of the night) I get a lot out of using mantras and affirmations to repeat to myself to calm me down.  I also write these in my journal so that I can remember them and look back on the ones that helped.  The most simple one I go to when I really need to slow my brain down is 'om'.  It's an ancient Sanskrit word traditionally used in meditation (you can read more about the meaning of the word here).  If I am getting too wrapped up in the past I repeat to myself 'I choose to enjoy my life now' (I borrowed this from Jen Sincero's book, You Are A Badass).  I also enjoy anything that teaches me to let go and relax, and allow things to be as they are and trust what is coming.

Eat more plants

Where things have been busy lately, my diet has been really poor and I've almost entirely stopped eating vegetables and green things, favouring convenience over nutrition.  I know I feel better when I eat lots of veggies (and less sugar - sorry Milkybar Buttons, we've become a bit too close recently) and so I want to whip up some batches of yummy foods to take for lunch so I feel more prepared and don't end up buying sandwiches and crisps from the Co-Op.

Finish online courses

I signed up for about five online courses with qualifications from Centre of Excellence recently but I've been a bit slack with actually completing them.  I want to start gaining some extra skills and knowledge to set me up for the future so I need to knuckle down and get them done.  I'm only 40% of the way through my Diploma in Wicca, it's so interesting!

Read more books

I say this all the time, but reading is a habit I know I love that I'm so bad at keeping up with.  Instead of reading I lie in bed, scroll through Twitter and instagram and then go to sleep.  I worked out before my holiday that I had 41 books on my Kindle that I'm desperate to read, so I really need to knuckle down and start ticking them off.

Run more

I really miss running, I think my last run must have been about two months ago too.  I need to be more disciplined with it and force myself out on a couple of mornings a week, I have no excuses not to, especially in the periods I have Bodhi as I can run with him as I'm out anyway (except for when he wants to stop and sniff everything!)

Use airplane mode or Forest app

I hate the amount that I use my phone and I really want to distance myself from it and focus on all of the things above over the coming weeks and months.  I've discovered this brilliant app called Forest where you set a period of time you don't want to use your phone for, and it starts growing a virtual plant for you.  If you use your phone during that period the plant dies, if you don't it adds it to your virtual forest! It's a fun way to get more disciplined about having some space from your phone.

What are your plans and intentions for September?


What couldn’t you live without?

I want to talk about something a little different today, something I might not usually blog about - and something that isn't aesthetic, or stylish or desirable, but something I have learned that needs to be shared.

When I think about the things I couldn't live without, I think about my duck down duvet, my morning green tea, my comfiest jogging bottoms and a bubble bath before bedtime.  Of course I could live without these things, but I'd definitely be a lot grumpier and craving the things that help me wake up in the morning and wind down after a long day.  I probably don't show gratitude often enough for the fact that I have access to all of the things I would describe as my home comforts - my sofa scattered with plumped cushions and soft throws, Bodhi dog snoozing at my feet, my king-size bed, my sheepskin rug.  But the concept of home comforts is definitely relative.  What I often take for granted are things I have in my home to make it comfortable, which for others would be unimaginable luxury.  This week I discovered via a campaign between Andrex and WaterAid that across the globe, 1 in 3 people live without a decent toilet.  This makes me feel ashamed that what I think I couldn't live without is a comfortable bed, when 2.4 billion people don't have access to a toilet, and simply have to go out in the open.  Again - this may not be something you might think I would usually blog about, but I think it's important to realise just how severe this crisis is.  (And not only severe, but deadly - disease spreads fast when people don't have clean water and sanitation).

When I think about my worries at school, they were about not having the right shoes, wondering why I was left out of certain friendship groups, or what would happen if I didn't get the right GCSEs. I learned that across the world, girls are dropping out of school because they don’t have access to private toilets, meaning their opportunities for a better future and an education, are lost.  Furthermore, women going to the toilet outside face harassment, or even attack.  It just utterly breaks my heart to think of young girls, struggling with how difficult it can be growing up anyway, but who are also faced with the prospect of needing the toilet or dealing with periods when proper sanitation and facilities are not available.  Being able to have your health, dignity and wellbeing should be a basic human right, so I was shocked to learn just how many people are robbed of this.

I fully support this new campaign - which at the heart of it lies the belief that everyone, everywhere should have a decent place to go to the toilet.  I was shocked to discover that 1 in 3 people live without a decent toilet, and almost a billion have no choice but to go out in the open.  I have been reflecting on this a lot, and it's really made some of the things I've been worrying about this week (having several as yet unpacked boxes in the new house, a cracked phone screen, noisy neighbours and nothing to wear on holiday) pale into insignificance.  I really had no idea that so many people were living without such a basic human right, and the number of deaths due to dirty water and poor sanitation shocked me to the core.  In 2017, you just don't imagine this could be happening.

I've been working on a campaign to highlight the partnership between Andrex and WaterAid – Andrex have committed to donating at least £100k to WaterAid this year, which will make possible up to 100,000 visits to community toilets.  If you want to help with this campaign you can choose to purchase the special Andrex packs in Tesco.  For every pack bought, Andrex will donate a penny for every pound spent, which will go directly to WaterAid.

You can also make donations directly to WaterAid.

*This post was written in collaboration with Andrex, however I have made a donation to WaterAid as part of this campaign