Why Beating Yourself Up Never Works

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Earlier this week, I came home from a busy day at work and flopped on the couch with my phone.

I was tired, bone tired.

Suddenly the to do list I had in my head for that night seemed insurmountable and I resigned myself to the fact I was probably going to get nothing done.

Instead of accepting that decision and relaxing into the evening, I had a severe case of the guilts.

I hadn’t cooked dinner all week, I hadn’t exercised, I had a pile of laundry waiting and some freelance work unfinished and almost a week late.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun night.

Sure, I watched some TV and had an early night but the nagging voice that was beating me up stuck around for the rest of the evening.

The following night, after another busy day, I came home, determined not to have a repeat of the guilt.

I decided the best thing to do was stay off the couch (for now) and make something for dinner that could roast in the oven. Firstly, so I could get a couple of things done while it cooked and also so I wasn’t eating super early, since I’d only just got home from work.

My lamb and sweet potato fries baked while I did 20 minutes of pilates - I then made a quick salad and we sat down to eat. I asked my husband to take care of the laundry and decided the freelance work could wait until the weekend.

By 7.30pm, I was on the couch with a peppermint tea, Netflix on and no nagging voice to be heard.

Sometimes, it can feel productive or important to beat yourself up. My experience this week proved that doesn’t work.

Some days we’re not going to get our to do lists done, and accepting that without guilt is the absolute best way to go.

Some days we need to ask for help.

Some days we can just get a couple of things done.

And that’s fine, because the next day we get to wake up with purpose and goals again.

However you’re feeling right now, whether it’s super motivated or in a slump, be kind to yourself and know that coming from a harsh place is not going to help.

You’re doing a great job.  

Stop Feeling Guilty for Relaxing

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A few years back I was working with my health coach Paige and was pretty deep in the self-development churn.

My husband was heading away on a business trip to sunnier climes so I joined him and mostly had the days to myself while he was at the office.

Paige emailed me between sessions to see how I was doing.

I had grand plans to relax on this holiday and my first day was blissful - a long walk, spa, a cold beer with lunch on the beach, reading all afternoon, but by the second day I was struggling … I told her I’d already powered through the goals we’d set at my last session and was itching for more to do.

She then asked me a question that has really stuck with me since - “Do you plan to spend a significant amount of your life resting?”

Um, yes, was my response.

Yet here I was on day two of my holiday sitting with uncomfortable feelings like boredom, guilt and restlessness.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, here’s how to combat your phobia of relaxing:

Schedule relaxation time

A good type A personality trick right?

I found, for example, when I had ‘nothing’ to do on a weekend day, I felt quite guilty for lounging around. I think this was because none of it was very intentional and I hadn’t actually committed to my plan to do nothing - it was just happening by default.

So now, if I want to make plans, I do - brunch, walks with friends, shopping, all still fall into relaxation for me. Or, if I have a few errands and chores to do, I schedule them for the morning, then schedule in an afternoon of reading my book, watching Netflix or scrolling social media with no issues.

It feels better for me to relax after having been productive, or to relax with other people rather than alone.

Sit with the uncomfortable feelings

As I mentioned, I do struggle with the feeling of boredom or, more specifically, not being sure what I feel like doing.

We run around so much in our lives - working hard, running to appointments, keeping our houses in order - and when we do feel any boredom a device is there to distract us immediately.

Sitting with hard feelings is something Brooke Castillo taught me and it’s really about realising there’s nothing to fear in any emotion.

Boredom to me might feel a bit icky and might make me a bit restless but I can handle that.

Given everything else I have going on, the feeling of boredom is a good thing to come up for me once in a while and after I’ve accepted that I can move on to the things I think I never have time for.

We’re not living life on a points system

I absolutely love this concept (thanks Amy Young).

I’ve talked about it here on the blog before, but if we’re lucky enough, we’re always going to have a to do list, a bucket list and a bunch of cupboards that never stay cleaner longer than a week.

So when I have nothing to do, I can easily create something to do - but who is watching and who is going to pat me on the back for ticking these things off?

Life is much more interesting when lived with pleasure and enjoyment and compassion for ourselves, not when we’re churning through a to do list or adding to that list for the very sake of it.

I do plan to spend much of my life relaxing, and I’m ok with that. How about you?

Three Steps to Overhaul Your Calendar Today

When you open up your calendar, whether it be at the start of the week or each morning, let me ask you - do you feel excited for the days ahead or do you feel a heavy sense of dread as you scan your appointments?

I know I’ve felt a mix of these emotions over the years. In general I was looking forward to the week, but sometimes there were appointments that brought a creeping sense of apathy or, in some cases, misery.

So how do we ensure we’re filling our limited, busy days with activities that energise and excite us?

Here are my three tips:

Accept you are in control

This is a major step to a calendar (and, let’s be honest, a life) that you love.

Accepting that we are in control of all of our choices can be challenging for some people.

You may not be loving your job but please remember you did choose to accept that job and you do choose to show up every day for it. You may be dreading the family dinner on Sunday night, but you accepted the invitation and no, you don’t ‘have to go’.

So when you survey your current calendar, bear in mind that you have created this life and you have chosen each and every appointment you see before you.

Wipe the slate clean

You may not have to get 100% literal here, but when you look at your calendar for the week ahead, imagine there were no appointments in there. Zero.

Just 168 hours that stretched ahead of you.

Each white space represents a chance for you to add activities of your choosing, within reason of career or family commitments (which again, remember, you've chosen).

Want to get up and write before work? Want to go on an hour walk at lunch? Want to book in to see your best friend every single Saturday afternoon? You can! Which leads me to...

Listen to your intuition

When adding activities in or choosing to scribble them out or delete them with one click, try doing a gut check over the next month.

Picture each activity in your mind and think, ‘Do I really want to do this?’... ‘Is this the best use of my time?’ … ‘Does it make me happy?’

This may not be black and white - for example, going to the dentist may not fill you with excitement, but maybe the thought of clean teeth and ticking it off your list for the year does. Maybe you want to prioritise spending time with your partner or good friends over house cleaning and errands this month.

And the overarching message?

Please don’t feel guilty for choosing what you want - no one else is doing to do that for you and we only get so many blocks of 168 hours in this lifetime.

I hope this helps you stuff it with moments that fill you with anticipation in the lead up and happiness in the aftermath.

How You Can Beat The Dreaded Sunday Blues

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a victim of the Sunday blues. Around 3 or 4pm on a Sunday, I start to feel a dark cloud move over me. My days of freedom are almost over and I start questioning if I’ve ‘made the most’ of my time off. I start to worry about the unknowns and to do lists of the weekdays ahead and a general feeling of malaise washes over me.

A few months back, I decided I was fed up with this feeling and I wasn’t going to let it control my Sunday afternoons... So how did I do it?

I did all my chores on Saturday

Sunday afternoon used to involve doing groceries, meal prepping, cleaning and other errands. Does that sound like a time to look forward to? Yeah, didn’t think so.

I’ve switched it up and now do most of my weekend jobs on Saturday, leaving Sunday less of a day to dread. Saturdays have a different feel about them, so I’ve found it less of a pain to do my errands on that day. And waking up on Sunday with a very short to do list is worth it.

I avoided a hangover

Guilt, regret, anxiety, irritability. Sound familiar? A few too many vinos on Saturday nights were leaving me in a pretty terrible mood come Sunday. The journal Alcohol and Alcoholism characterises hangovers as “general misery” with symptoms including drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal complaints, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability and anxiety. No wonder I wasn’t loving Sundays.

Although I still enjoy a drink, I make sure to drink lots of water and try and steer clear of my beloved red wine, which according to the same journal, causes the worst hangovers

I did any work early in the day

I try not to make a habit of doing extra work over the weekend, but some weeks I need to play catch up, and other weeks I know doing some work on Sunday will get me set up nicely for a busy Monday ahead.

Again to save it hanging over me, I’ll try and do it early on Sunday, usually late morning. And if it’s not required, I steer clear of the work laptop.

I talked about it

Yup, I asked around. So many of my friends confessed that they too feel the Sunday blues. Just talking about it left me feeling less alone and made a distinct difference to my outlook at the end of the weekend.

It’s been easy to send a message over to a friend and see how they’re doing on Sunday afternoon. We usually check in and remind each other there’s no need to feel down.

I gave myself permission to relax and have fun

Despite feeling the need to be super productive on Sundays to get set up for the week ahead, I’ve recently let this belief go. I lead a busy life, so now feel no guilt for lying around watching cooking shows (one of my favourite guilty pleasures) or going out for a long lunch with friends.

Allowing time for rejuvenation will increase your motivation in the long run.

Do you suffer from the Sunday blues? What are your strategies for beating them?


5 Christmas Staycation Ideas

 
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With Christmas just days away, most of our workplaces close down for a period of time.

Time off work is always a winner, but it can be a pricey nightmare to travel at this time of year. I also know a lot of people’s Christmas celebrations revolve around the city they live in, so they can’t stray too far.

Enter the staycation.

I was lucky enough to have my own staycation a couple of months back. A short break between jobs and extra time around the house sounded blissful to me, but as a Type A personality, suffering from bouts of imposter syndrome, I know I have the tendency to ‘potter’. Also known as: cleaning, cooking, doing boring errands and catching up on my long to do list.

All worthy activities that feel nice to tick off the list, but not exactly a break.

I planned out some activities to keep me occupied and away from the vacuum cleaner and also set some ground rules to bring ease to the period and make it feel different to my everyday routine.

First, the ground rules:

  • Enjoy a minimum of 9 hours sleep each night (what a rule!)
  • No cleaning
  • No social media, just email and my blog reader Feedly
  • No worrying or guilt

Then came the preparation…

I knew as a Type A, I couldn’t sit around a dirty house all week with no food in the house. The first morning of the staycation, I stocked the kitchen and gave the house a clean. I recommend the same for you if it will make the rest of your time off more enjoyable.

Now onto my top 5 staycation activities for you to try:

Make spa water

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This was a random one I’d read about on a couple of blogs about staycations, but it’s become a fast family favourite.

Making flavoured (or spa, as I’ve dubbed it) water is meant to give the impression that you’re on holiday, drinking something a little tropical and different to the norm.

My personal favourite was sliced cucumber and lemon infused in a jug of water (or mineral water if you prefer some fizz). Stick it in the fridge and enjoy for a couple of days, refreshing as needed. Lemon water is also meant to be great for your digestion and immune system.

Some other combinations I’m keen to try – fresh mint and lime, orange and mango slices, and blueberry and pomegranate. Delicious.

Catch up on media (not social!) with no guilt

Whether it’s piling up books beside our bed or in our Kindle, saving articles and emails to go back to one day, or making a list of the movies we need to see before we die, these fun lists start to morph into ‘have tos’ rather than ‘want tos’.

When I’m busy at work, it’s hard to find the time to enjoy these things, and even when I do, I know I’ve got other things I ‘could’ be doing. Time to ditch the guilt and indulge. Lie around for hours watching box sets, escaping into a book, or catching up on all the Serial podcasts. Take advantage of the time off, and no shame ladies.

Try those classes you never get to

Not all places are open over Christmas, but if you search ahead, you can totally tick some New Year’s resolutions off before the end of December.

Head to that yoga class you always skip (or even do the 10am one on a Tuesday that work always prevents you from making!), try a photography or cooking class – anything you would try on a vacation when you have the time.

Enjoy a 'do nothing' morning

These are the absolute best. Turn off your phone, do not set your alarm, even stash all your clocks out of sight.

Let your body clock wake you up, then stay in bed. Read, stare at the ceiling, do whatever works for you. Again, no guilt!

Visit new cafés and restaurants

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Another benefit of the staycation is the time to visit those cafes and restaurants you read about or saved in your phone during the year. On my staycation, I drove across town in the middle of the day (hello, no traffic) to try a new organic café. I honestly never go to that suburb and would rarely drive that far for lunch, but… I had the time…

Plus, often people travel out of town over the festive season, so you might find busier restaurants are easier to get into. Just check the opening hours.

And remember you’ve got at least 9 hours sleep ahead, so again, indulge with no guilt.

 

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone and even if you can’t take time off, consider a weekend staycation sometime soon! You deserve it.