Why I Ditched My To Do List In Favour Of Self-Love

I’m very excited to be featured on a fellow coach, Bailey Opsal's blog this week, talking about the challenging topics of self-love and self-care.

All too often, in conversations with friends and clients, self-love is a concept they struggle with.

It’s not that they hate themselves, it’s that they think the more they push themselves or berate themselves, the more pleased they’ll be with themselves ... and that will somehow lead to self-love. It kind of sounds logical, but also quite harsh.

I used to fall into this camp. Sure I had fun and took care of myself, but the repetitive to do list of everyday life took precedent - I had to exercise a certain amount, there was always a list of things to do around the house and guilt and anxiety would set in if I wasn’t on top of everything.

I eventually figured this busy work was surely not what life was about.

Similar chores and to do lists would always be there, but I no longer wanted to make them the focus of my life or thinking.

I decided the things I loved to do had to come before my to do list.

So what does that look like?  

Yoga

If you remember this earlier post, you’ll know that I resisted yoga for a long time. In line with my busy to do list, yoga seemed boring, slow and did not burn enough calories for me back in the days when that mattered to me.

Now, I do it every day in some shape or form. It’s usually first thing in the morning and has worked wonders for waking me up and stretching out my creaky body after sleep.

You’ll know my favourites are Yoga With Adriene and Tara Stiles - try these short videos from Adriene and Tara if you’re interested.

Yoga now gets me out of my own head and slows me right down.

Reading

I used to read like a crazy person when I was younger - to the point where my sister was horribly embarrassed by me always carrying around a book.

Like many avid readers I know, the plight of social media and the short attention spans that come with it, meant I wasn’t reading nearly as much as I was buying books.

Over the last 6 months, when I catch myself on my phone, checking Instagram for the 10th time, I remind myself that reading would be much more fulfilling and again, will help me switch off.

I read a combination of hard copy books and download onto my Kindle app obsessively (are you guys all over the free sample chapters on Amazon’s Kindle store? Try before you buy!).

I’m currently reading The Course of Love (I am obsessed with Alain de Botton) and The Year of Magical Thinking (heavy going but Joan Didion’s writing is incredible).

Spending time with people

If you’re ever feeling too much up in your own head, my best advice is to go and spend quality time with someone else.

Sure you might want to talk about what you’re going through or your to do list might be nagging at you, but inevitably you’ll gain some perspective and either be distracted, or realise we’re all going through similar things.

If I can’t catch up with people in person regularly enough, I try and call them in the car on the way to or from work and make sure I check in with those most important to me.

Playing games

Those who know me, know I have a penchant for video games… yes, yes I know...

My favourite for years has been The Sims (stop laughing) which I dip in and out of a few times a year. I also love hidden object games (Google them!) - they are great for switching your brain off and relaxing. I have also recently made a triumphant return to playing Mario Kart.

Listening to music (and having dance parties)

Although I have an obsession with podcasts (my current favourites are The Life Coach School Podcast and On Being), I recognised a while ago that absorbing information constantly isn’t always the best for me switching off.

What is good for switching off my brain is listening to music - I try and do that in the car more often than not, and love going through my back catalogue of music on the computer at night and dancing around the living room when called for (much to the confusion of my cat Pickles).

What can you do this week to step away from your to do list? 

I also have one coaching spot opening up in June - contact me here for a complimentary 30 minute consult if you'd like to talk about how you can find fulfillment outside of your to do list. 

The Cat Lady Post: What My Cat Has Taught Me About Life

Day 1 with Pickles

Day 1 with Pickles

I’m going to start this week’s post with an incredibly depressing but profound quote.

I read a Guardian article about crime writer Henning Mankell who was facing his imminent death from cancer in 2014.

The quote goes:

“Fear is natural and based on the simple truth that what distinguishes us humans from other species is that we know we are going to die. The cats I have owned during my life have never been aware of their own death. They haven’t even been aware that they were alive. They have simply been there, day after day – hunting, lying around, miaowing. Acknowledging one’s fear of the unknown is realising what it means to be a person. Our existence is basically a tragedy. Throughout our lives we strive to increase our knowledge, our abilities, our experiences. But the bottom line is that all of that will be lost in oblivion.”

Heavy going right? But an interesting comparison of humans and their pets. I am a huge advocate for having pets – particularly rescue animals. 

Two years ago, my husband and I went looking for a cat to add to our family and were led to Pickles, a black cat who had been found very sick on the streets with cat flu.

He was taken care of by the Lost Cats' Home and now us and we can’t imagine life without him.

I’m sure you’ve heard the theory about why pets are so good for humans and in particular why it is so hard to ever lose them.

Relationships with pets are usually all positive, for a number of reasons... and here is what Pickles has taught me about life so far:

Accept people as they are

Our relationship with pets is so special because they accept us just as we are.

They don’t try to change us, they don’t mock us or put us down.

They love us just as we are.

Pickles is there for me through good times and bad and his love for and acceptance of me never wanes. His behaviour towards me stays consistent and it’s always positive. Whether I've I'm grumpy in the morning, have had a hard day at work or am just feeling glum in general, he's there for me in a consistent non-judgemental way.

Slow down

I remember when we first got Pickles, one of his major demands (!) of me was that when I got home from work, I was to lay on the bed so he could lie on me and purr and cuddle after a day away from me.

I must admit this was a struggle for me to start with – I was very used to coming home and getting on with cooking dinner, or cleaning up, or doing something else on my to do list.

Instead I’d come in the door and Pickles would demand I relax and cuddle with him. A pretty amazing way to end the work day and start my evening.

Don’t forget to be silly

Pickles loves to sleep a hell of a lot (did you know cats sleep for 16-18 hours a day? Inspirational really) but he also loves to be silly.

He did this even more so as a kitten, but one of my favourite times of day, is when Pickles will run around the house like a maniac, leaping off furniture, tearing up the hallway or bouncing across our bed.

It never fails to make me laugh and reminds me how much I love to make jokes, be immature and take a break from the seriousness of everyday life.

Thanks Pickles, I owe you so much.  

May Recap and June Intentions

Ah, perspective. I went back and re-read a few of my recaps and intention setting posts and had to scoff at myself for this one. Cold and short days in February? I don’t think so Georgie.

Here we are in winter in Australia - chilly mornings, followed by crisp sunny days (on my ideal days anyway, rain and cloud otherwise). I’ve moved out of holiday mode and am back into the swing of everyday life. Here’s a look back at May and a view as to what’s up next for me.

Morning yoga views in Thailand

Morning yoga views in Thailand

May Recap

I didn’t set any specific intentions here on the blog for May but considering the first week of the month was spent in Krabi, Thailand, I kicked it off nicely.

It was a great chance to unwind and relax, but it also made me realise I really missed our home in Melbourne and of course, Pickles, cat extraordinaire.

It’s a good feeling to come back home and see everything with fresh, appreciative eyes.

Pickles patiently awaits our return...

Pickles patiently awaits our return...

Upon returning to Melbourne, I’ve spent some amazing time with close friends.

My friendship group is all busy with our own careers, relationships and families, but when we come together for quality time, nothing really beats it.

I 100% remember why we’ve been friends so long, why we still push to stay in touch and how important friends are to lean on.

June Intentions

Keep the juggle calm

I am juggling quite a few things at the moment - work, study, social occasions, regular life admin. But post-holiday, I’ve found myself doing it in a calmer way than usual.

I’m not cramming my days full of appointments and I’m also not rushing from one task to the next - instead I’m trying to be present and give full attention to what I’m doing, whether it be laundry or coffee with a friend.

I’m hoping to keep this slower pace through June.

Do a financial review

After a few big purchases and a great holiday (worth every $), I’m ready to settle back into a more measured budget and get the savings up again. In particular I’m focusing on getting the rush from the ‘new purchase’ (aka online shopping) in other ways, namely free ways.

I will also keep in mind the future goal of savings and how good that will feel long term compared to the short term happiness of a new winter coat or a new mascara.

-

What are your plans for June? Any intentions you’re planning on working on?

 

January Recap and February Intentions

How has the first month of 2016 been for you dear readers?

Mine has been pretty great - with no specific intentions and a fairly free schedule, I’ve been able to enjoy the warm weather, take my time with thinking about 2016 and I’ve also been practicing a fair amount of gratitude (more below).

So here’s what’s changed at Where the Light Plays this month:

Journaling

I’m pretty sure I was 16 the last time I kept a journal. And it was mostly to document my crushes…

I’ve mentioned them a few times but I’ve become even more obsessed with Alex and Mimi Ikonn lately. On the surface they lead a pretty glamorous life but their backgrounds, outlooks and goals are very sincere.

I’ve been wanting to pick up The Five Minute Journal for a while but the overseas shipping is pretty exorbitant. Apparently this will change soon so I think I’ll still purchase my own copy when the time is right.

The great thing is the authors, Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas, actually give the planner away for free on their website. So I mocked up my own journal to start trying out this habit in January.

journaling-ikonn-cactus.jpg

And? I truly love it. It puts me in a great frame of mind when I think about what I’m grateful for each morning and makes me more conscious about what I want from that day.

I can check in on the journal after work to make sure I’m on track with what I wanted, then I practise gratitude before bed. I totally recommend trying this (even without buying the journal).

Productivity Planner

The obsession with Alex and UJ continues… again, for free.

As you probably know, I’m always up for trying new strategies to be productive and manage my time at work. I’ve been using the Productivity Planner worksheets to plan my week on a Monday morning, listing out my most important tasks. I then complete a review of the week on Friday afternoon to see how I’ve tracked with the goals and what I’ve learned and want to take forward into the next week.

A few weeks in and I’m finding this a very useful tool with a particular benefit being you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot by the end of the week.

Kittens!

Newsflash - I’m not the hugest risk taker in the world.

Luckily my husband has more of a taste for getting us out of our comfort zone, so persuaded me to agree to looking after two kittens for a week while his coworker was away on a business trip in January. I was pretty concerned about our current cat being put out and the general disruption to our house.

In the end it was such a rewarding thing to do - to know they didn’t have to go to a cattery, to get to hang out with two beautifully natured kittens and to help our cat socialise with other cats.

The lesson? The best fruit is out on the furthest branch, so take a risk!

February Intentions

And as for February?

Focus on home decor

We moved into our house almost two years ago now and I’ve been wanting to update some furniture, buy some rugs and do the final declutter ever since. February is my month to get this done!

I’m depending on Gray Malin and Danielle Moss for online inspiration. Check out my Pinterest boards here and here.

Plan a holiday

I’m very excited that we have an overseas trip planned this year. Almost 4 weeks in the States and Mexico is on the cards and I can’t wait! Time to trawl accommodation sites and plan sightseeing and (mainly) eating and drinking in each city.

If you have any Austin or Mexico City recommendations in particular, please let me know below!

Do my rehab

I spoke about this in an earlier post, but I have a niggling, continuing hip problem that gives me pretty bad lower back pain from time to time. I have a series of rehab exercises I need to do a few times a week but I always find an excuse not to do them.

The benefits definitely outweigh the time it takes me to do the exercises so I’m committing to three times a week through February.

What are your February intentions? Let me know below or over on Facebook

 

Where I'm At: Interview Series - Erika Swafford of Nature Photo Artist

 

Welcome to the next interview in the series, 'Where I'm At'. It's a voyeuristic, yet helpful look into the lives of women who are finding where the light plays within them.

Their daily rituals, ways of managing stress and advice to you, the readers, are captured in these interviews.

This month we have the lovely Erika Swafford from Nature Photo Artist.

Erika is a nature photographer, artist and photography mentor on a mission to help aspiring photographers get off the auto settings on their camera and start making art in manual mode.

She lives in Tennessee in the US and shares some great tips below.

What is your usual wake up time?

During the weekdays, I wake up at 5:30 AM.  I try to get right up so I don’t get behind.  On the weekends, I get up later and don’t usually set an alarm unless I need to be up by a certain time.

Do you have a morning routine or ritual?

I start my day by letting out our dog, Snoopy, who sleeps indoors at night. Then I head to the bathroom to put in my contacts, put on my make-up and style my hair.  Our two cats, Tiger and Mia, usually try to join in.  

Cat-Vanity-by-Erika-Swafford.jpg

While I’m working on my make-up and hair my husband is up and getting ready for the day, too.  It’s nice to start out the morning together like that.  He leaves before I’m finished so I have breakfast with a favourite TV show.  I like to start with something funny so it puts me into a happy frame of mind before I head into my day at work.

Tell us about your commute.

I have a 45–50 minute commute to work in the morning and evening.  That’s a lot of alone time in the car but I like it most of the time.  Sometimes I get to see amazing things like vibrant rainbows in weird places in the sky (as in the photo below).

I’ve learned to make my commute more entertaining than just staring at the road.  Here are a couple things I do on my commute:

Listen to audio books – this is by far my favourite thing to do while driving to and from work.  Both fiction and non-fiction books are great to listen to in the car.  Some of my current favourites are:

The Bartimaeus Series by Jonathan Stroud

The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Prachett

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

World Wide Rave by David Meerman Scott

Record your thoughts – I do this usually in the morning on my way to work.  This is a variation of Morning Pages, where you would normally write for 3 pages non-stop.  Instead of writing my pages, I talk my Morning Pages into my phone using an app.  It records what I say as long as I want to talk.  This is surprisingly therapeutic and even fun.  There are many apps you can get for your phone that record voice.  Then just talk away!  

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow for some spontaneity?

I do like to plan ahead but it doesn’t always happen.  Normally, I only plan ahead if I have a deadline for something.  Otherwise, I just do what comes my way or whatever strikes my fancy. 

I’ve noticed that when I do plan, I usually put too much to do in a day.  Because of that, I try to limit myself to committing to one thing at a time when I can.  I still have the list of things I want to do but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get them all done. 

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

I love going to the River Park at lunch.  It’s a good way to get my head out of the things at the office.  There’s a paved walking trail that follows the bank of the Tennessee River.  

At one end of the River Park is a dam.  That whole area is home to many Blue Herons who watch the waters for fish.  The fresh air is rejuvenating and watching the river go by is relaxing.  That’s a good combination to refresh from a morning of office work.  By the time I head back to the office, I’m ready to take on the afternoon.

What kind of workout schedule do you (try to!) adhere to?

Right now, my workout consists of doing squats while I put on my make-up in the morning.  I try to get in some walking at lunch, too. 

How do you like to end your day?

I like to end my day with a really hot shower, especially when it is cold outside.  The hot water is relaxing and warms me up so I can go to bed and fall asleep more quickly.

What time do you doze off?

I try to be in bed by 10:00 PM.  Being more of a night owl, I don’t always make it by 10:00 PM...  But I do function better when I’ve had at least 7 hours of sleep.

What do you aspire to every day but never / rarely actually do? (you can tell me, we all have them!)

Organising my physical space!  I have a tendency to just pile things up with the intention of organising it into a perfect dream of organised bliss ... My pantry, my closet, my desk, my purse, my mail.  It seems so easy and yet I rarely do it.  But I’m so glad when it is done because I feel like I’ve mastered my universe!

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day?

I’ve learned that I need to do one thing at a time.  In a world where multi-tasking is sometimes a necessity, doing things one at a time will help you do it better, faster and with less stress.  I have to repeat to myself many times a day, “one thing at a time, just one thing at a time”. This helps when I’m tempted to distract myself with other tasks I need to get done. 

Finally, can you give us your quick go-to recipe after a busy day?

I love a quick homemade-fast-food meal.  This one fills you up and is super-easy to make.  Instead of stopping by Taco Bell (ed: my equivalent of Mad Mex in Australia!) to pick up this delicious delight, I’ll make my copycat version.

Homemade Nacho Bell Grande

  • Tortilla chips
  • Refried beans and taco seasoning to taste, heated
  • Olives, sliced
  • Tomato, chopped
  • Taco sauce
  • Sour cream, optional

Layer on a plate: tortilla chips, refried beans, olives, tomato, taco sauce and sour cream.  Enjoy!

-

Thanks Erika! I'm definitely trying your nacho recipe soon and I love your mantra about one thing at a time. Very wise. 

You can find Erika at:

http://www.naturephotoartist.com/

www.facebook.com/ErikaSwaffordPhotography

http://instagram.com/naturephotoartist

If you're looking to improve your photography skills (who isn't?!), get her free digital guide 3 Easy Tricks to Improve Your Nature Photos at  http://www.naturephotoartist.com/get-free-stuff.html