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?

How To Make Your Energy Last All Day

One of the biggest issues for people these days, and something I talk about often with my clients, is finding the energy to do everything we want to do.

Between the mandatory work and family obligations, let alone the plans of exercise, good food and a side business, it seems inevitable that we're going to collapse into bed each night depleted.

And the worst thing is - we still don’t feel like we got to everything we wanted to that day, so are already planning the to do list of tomorrow.

I was vacuuming my house today (yes, exciting) while listening to a podcast (are you guys into the Audible Esther Perel podcast on relationships? So fascinating!) when I felt super thirsty, hot and overall pretty tired. Old Georgie would have told me to suck it up and keep going until the job was finished. Yeah, she was pretty nice.

New Georgie listened to her energy level. She grabbed a glass of water, her Kindle and sat on the balcony for 10 minutes, taking a break before returning to the housework. She sounds much nicer right?

It’s taken me a long time to learn this but ‘pushing through’ is no longer the best way to get my to do list done and is a surefire way to run out of steam. So what can you do instead?

Change your self-talk

As I mentioned in the scenario above, my self-talk didn’t used to be the greatest. I thought I was super motivated and resilient but, really, I was just treating myself like shit to get things done.

Now, I get to the same destination, but treat myself much more nicely along the way.

I’ve also adopted the mantra ‘I have plenty of time’.

When staring down the barrel of a busy day, I remind myself that ‘I have plenty of time’.

I can either stress and huff and puff through every activity, living out of the moment and fretting about what’s next on the list, or I can do one thing at a time in a relaxed way, with the same result...and so much less stress. Try it!

Get into alignment

Hello Jess Lively. She is all about alignment (I think she recently mentioned she takes around 2-3 hours to get into alignment before she starts work). I’m not at that level but I definitely take time to think about this concept before launching into my next activity.

Tonight, I knew I had to make dinner, then jump on the computer to write to you guys.

Instead of ‘pushing through’ again, I cleared up the kitchen, made myself a peppermint tea, lit a candle, got comfy and settled in to write from a much nicer mental space.

I love to write so why make it a ‘have to’ when it’s a ‘want to’?

Check in with yourself regularly

This is probably my favourite tip and so bleedingly obvious, despite all my years of not doing it.

I learnt it as part of my intuitive eating journey with Paige Schmidt, and although it was specifically related to food back then, I now use it for general day-to-day use.

Depending on my schedule, I try and take a short break mid-morning and mid-afternoon, as well as my regular walk at lunch. I step away from my desk, grab a cup of tea or water, and just take a few minutes to reset my brain.

It helps me refocus on my tasks and particularly helps if I’ve been in a perpetual cycle of email/chat/phone for the last hour or so.

It’s no wonder we don’t feel productive if we never check in with ourselves or step away to recalibrate.

Try these tips this week and let me know how your energy levels go. Have a great one!

Best of Where the Light Plays 2016

Happy new year readers!

I sincerely hope it was a good one and you're looking forward to 2017. And, if it wasn't, or you're not, I hope you realise the construct of years is not such a big deal and you just keep going for today...

Looking back at the blog in 2016, I feel like I have learned a lot and am thankful to say, the posts full of those learnings were most popular with you readers.

From working on my negative thinking with Brooke Castillo's self coaching model, to continuing with intuitive eating (thanks Paige!), through to the eternal struggle of being super productive, while also making time for pleasure and relaxation - I'd say I've been working on it all. No wonder I needed this holiday break!

Enjoy revisiting your favourite posts below and thank you for coming by week after week to read my musings.

I truly love writing here and can't wait to connect with more of you in 2017. I'm taking a couple of weeks break, then will be back with more ideas for you to try out for the new year. 

I'd love to hear in the comments below or over on Facebook what posts you'd like to see in 2017.

Top 5 Posts on Where the Light Plays 2016

 

November Recap and December Intentions

A grey November morning with a surprise visitor...

A grey November morning with a surprise visitor...

Holy smokes, it truly is the end of 2016. Where is the hoverboard I was promised? 

I’m looking back on a productive but tumultuous year and participating in one of my favourite online programs - the Holiday Council with Molly Mahar from Stratejoy. More about that shortly.

November involved a busy time at work learning some new skills (I initially dreaded this but am now really enjoying it - who knew?), my first trip to a kinesiologist (would you be interested in hearing more? Let me know in the comments below) and, my personal favourite, some great catch ups and meaningful conversations with family and friends.

So let’s look back on my November intentions and set some final ones for the year.

Chill out

Uh, yeah, I did not succeed at this intention. My personal development tendencies are still going strong, however I did definitely cut back.

As I mentioned, I am doing the Holiday Council and have been chatting to the lovely Paige from Healthy Hits the Spot, however I’ve definitely reduced the number of self-help books and podcasts I’m dipping into.

Instead, I’m listening to more music (remember this song from Nelly? It's making me oddly happy at the moment) and more storytelling podcasts like Modern Love and Phoebe’s Fall. I’m also reading Helen Garner’s new book of essays, Everywhere I Look - her writing also makes me super happy. If you haven’t read her, I highly recommend.

December Intentions

Take stock

The Holiday Council is a 3 week program run through December, where you wrap up the year that was, and start planning for the year ahead.

My favourite parts of Holiday Council are:

  • the visualisation Molly does on one of the live calls where you go forward 12 months and see what your ‘future self’ is up to
  • the monthly planning of activities you want to complete throughout the next year
  • the quarterly review calls Molly does throughout the year - these are sometimes free so subscribe and keep an eye out!
  • choosing my word for the year - my word of 2016 was ‘Choice’ and I’m looking forward to choosing one for 2017.

Be present

Just like the year itself, the holiday period and the events that come with it will inevitably fly by.

I do love this time of year, so want to be present and enjoy the time I have with friends and family, in particular enjoying activities I don’t do as often throughout the rest of the year (swimming, water skiing, gorging on shortbread, peaches and nectarines).

Laura Vanderkam put it best in her ‘How to make time slow down’ newsletter from 2015:

“For the door does close, and eventually I will be looking back on all of this. Even happy moments bear in their shadows this melancholic reality. All moments are finite, the good, and the bad. All you can do is choose to deepen your experience of them.”

 

Do You Feel Guilty For Relaxing?

There’s certainly a pattern forming in the types of posts here on the blog (see here for example).

Women in all sorts of lifestyle situations (single, partnered, parents) are either taking no time to relax or, when they do find time to unwind, they feel a strong sense of guilt for taking downtime.

Where did we learn to keep so busy?

I’m sure it’s a mix of factors - comparison against other women’s lifestyles, productivity articles, societal changes. Somehow we now wear being productive as a badge of honour.

How many hours we’re working, how often we’re exercising, how organised we are at home are now seen as measures of success or self worth.

This mentality is in direct competition with lazy mornings, spare time with loved ones and long walks (without burning calories in mind).

What will your life be made up of?

I spoke to Paige from Healthy Hits the Spot about this and loved her response. She asked me if I wanted a large chunk of my life to be taken up with relaxation and enjoyable downtime activities. Absolutely yes, was my response. This really helps my mentality and I hope it helps you too.

Personally, I am planning on a life full of books, music and film, as well as time outdoors enjoying nature.

What is the damage of busy work?

The above point leads me into the idea of busy work and the inability to relax.

We really need to prioritise being present over the menial tasks of the day - it’s not a long term way to live to be constantly on the go, pottering around the house or ticking through your to do list.

Yes it has its place, but it’s usually not the time memories are made.

Do you find time to relax? Do you rate relaxation as highly as productivity? Let me know in the comments below.

 

How I Stay Healthy At Work

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I’m well into the principles of intuitive eating.

‘Healthy’ isn’t the restrictive word it used to be to me though.

Today it’s a way of eating and moving my body that makes me feel energised, light and able to make the most of my days.

I don’t want to eat bland, healthy food that leaves me longing for more, and nor do I want to punish my body with grueling exercise.

But I also acknowledge I don’t live in a bubble.

At work there is the temptation of morning tea cakes, free pizza for lunch and a vending machine that calls my name when I’m stressed and/or bored (how kind of it).

So in order to maintain my version of healthy, I have a few tricks I use at work that keep me feeling good.

Be armed with snacks

Not having healthy snacks around me is a one way ticket to eating foods that make me feel unwell.

I stock my drawer with nuts, fruit and popcorn most weeks. This makes sure that when I’m feeling the urge, I’ve got something I can grab and snack on that will not make me feel sluggish.

BYO lunch or rotate some healthy options

After working in the middle of nowhere for almost five years, I am pretty damn good at making my lunches. You can read more about my meal prepping tips here.

However, if I’ve lost cooking motivation or I’m out of lunch ideas, I have a few local healthy options (let’s face it, 99% of them are one of my favourite cuisines - Japanese) that I rotate.

I feel just as good eating those as if I had brought my own lunch in.

Loosen the reins so you don’t splurge on Friday

On Fridays there is a different feeling in the air. I often have lunch with coworkers and a chilled glass of white wine is calling my name by 4pm.

A few years back, this was usually a slide into splurging and sometimes a whole weekend of eating and drinking to excess.

However, these days I realise I need to have this much fun every day, in one way or the other.

If I treat myself in other ways throughout the week, I’m less likely to go crazy and feel blergh every Saturday morning.

Do it if you want to, then move on with your life

This is definitely my most important tip.

If your body wants a piece of pizza, or a cookie with your coffee or a pint of beer at Friday lunch, HAVE IT.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying those guilt-free, then moving on with your life.

Don’t obsess about it, or promise yourself you’ll be better tomorrow.

Simply enjoy the moment, listen to your body and move on with your life. Seriously.

How I Manage My Email Inbox

I’ve had lots of requests to write time management posts here on the blog, and one of the biggest ways I manage my time is by managing my email.

I’m not perfect.

I’ve suffered that sinking feeling when you leave a meeting, only to see you have 32 new emails that weren’t there an hour ago.

I’ve woken at 5am and thought ‘I’ll just take a quick peek at what happened overnight’ then lay awake anxious about the day ahead.

But it’s all a mind game. You are in control of your reaction to email and you are in control of how you manage it.

These tips may not be ground-breaking but they’ve served me well as I’ve navigated through what we all have to navigate - a busy work and personal life.

Compartmentalise your day

The quickest way for me to leave work without having achieved anything is to sit on my email all day. As soon as I reply to one, the next comes in and I’m jumping all over the place, all day long.

I don’t have strict rules as to when I check email but I do make sure once I’m working on a task that I don’t flick back to my email client out of habit and lose focus.

Lately I’ve been trying to work on projects in time blocks or Pomodoros (a la the Productivity Planner). I work on the tasks, but I may also review and reply to emails related to that project specifically. This saves me feeling overwhelmed by the number of emails awaiting my response.

Acknowledge receipt

I work mostly with clients but I think this tip applies to coworkers and family and friends too.

A quick email to say you’ve received their note and will get back to them soon / tomorrow / next week will:

  1. Make them feel heard and let them know you’re onto it.
  2. Make you feel better as you’re not staring at a stack of unanswered emails feeling guilty.

File file file

Get emails out of your inbox. It’s so satisfying to file emails as they are dealt with and to watch that inbox number shrink.

I used to try and keep my email inbox to around 20 emails but unfortunately these days it’s more like 50.

Either way, pick a number to work towards to avoid your inbox spiraling out of your control.

Unsubscribe

Ah, the sweet pleasure of unsubscribe.

As we all go down the rabbit hole of news sites, blogs, digital product offerings and so on, it’s easy to hand over your email address in order to receive a freebie, a newsletter or regular updates from a site.

But sure enough within a month you’re deleting those emails without reading them or wondering how the hell you’re receiving them in the first place.

I have a few that I love to receive (I'm looking at you Jess Lively, Laura Vanderkam and Paige Schmidt) but most of the others just end up annoying me or adding to the feeling of overwhelm.

For me, every time I take a holiday I go through my emails and unsubscribe from all the stuff I’m not reading. Try it now!

How do you manage email? What’s your favourite tip I’ve given?

 

Where I'm At with Ashten from Just Go Left

Welcome to the first 'Where I'm At' interview of 2016!

Today's interviewee, Ashten, writes a super inspiring blog over at Just Go Left. She posts about the ups and downs of real life, accepting adulthood (one of my fave posts!) and many other useful posts about health and lifestyle. She's also the social media queen for the intuitive eating program I follow, Finally Free.  

I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did - it's an honest one about the balance we try and find in our everyday lives. 

What is your usual wake up time?

On a weekday, I’m usually awake by 5 a.m., so I can go to the gym. And yes, I’m one of those crazy people who work out in the morning but in my defense, this is the only way I can fit it in.

On weekends, I don’t set an alarm nor do I have a set wake-up time. I like to wake up slowly and enjoy my mornings, since I’m so rushed during the week.

How do you like to start your day?

I like to start my mornings slowly, but during the week I don’t have that luxury.

When my alarm goes off at 5 a.m., I get dressed in the work-out clothes I laid out the night before, brush my teeth, grab the work-out bag I packed the night before and go downstairs. There, I grab the lunch I packed the night before and the coffee I set to brew at 5 a.m., make a quick breakfast and head out the door to the gym. 

I’m usually there from 5:45 a.m.-7:45 a.m. (this factors in time to shower and get dressed) and then I head to the office.

Did reading that make you absolutely exhausted?!

Don’t worry, my weekends are SO MUCH more relaxing.

I wake up slowly, have coffee and take my dog Gatsby to the dog park before coming home to work on my blog and spend quality time with my boyfriend Kyle. We take long walks with the dog, catch up on our DVR and do A LOT of relaxing. Clearly weekends are a lot more fun.

Tell us about your commute.

Okay first of all? Commuting is THE WORST.

I know I’m not alone in my feelings towards it.

I work in Downtown Atlanta, and getting there can be an absolute nightmare when traffic is bad (and it’s always bad in Atlanta, in case you were wondering). My drive can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, if I’m leaving from my house. But, when I leave from the gym it takes me about 10 minutes…which is even more motivation for me to get to the gym in the morning!

PS: if you’re like me, I found this blog post extremely helpful in surviving the commuter life.

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

I like a little bit of both, but if I’m being honest my weekdays don’t allow for much spontaneity unless it’s a random dinner with a friend after work.

My weekends are a lot more spontaneous, once the “adult” things (like grocery shopping and laundry) are done.

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

My ideal lunch break would look like me going into my kitchen, making something healthy and satisfying and getting to enjoy it at my dining room table. Maybe taking Gatsby outside for a short walk afterwards, before starting work again.

In reality, my lunch break is usually spent at my desk. But, to combat any “overwhelm” this might create, I try to have relaxing music on and soft lighting. I also try to bring food I can enjoy so it feels like a treat during a long day.

You’ve mentioned your morning gym routine so I’m guessing you have a pretty great workout schedule?

I try to get to the gym every morning during the week, and take long walks with Gatsby on the weekends.

I do not do the same workout at the gym every day, nor do I put pressure on myself to work out harder or better than anyone else. I do what feels good and what I enjoy.

How do you like to end your day?

I like to set myself up for success for the next day. This looks like packing a lunch/my gym bag and laying out my gym clothes for the next day.

When that’s done, it’s all about self-care. I take a bath, lie in bed with Gatsby (sometimes Kyle if he’s not working late), read or watch Netflix.

Weekends we like to watch Netflix and have Moscow Mules (our favourite cocktail)

What time do you doze off?

This is kind of embarrassing but I’m usually asleep by 9-9:30 p.m. That 5 a.m. alarm comes really early and I need at least 8 hours of sleep. (This is 30...)

What do you aspire to every day but rarely actually do? (you can tell me, we all have them!)

Quiet time. I would love to integrate that into my daily routine but I honestly just don’t have time. Bad excuse, I know. Maybe I need to make more time.

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

Try to do one thing every day that’s just for YOU. Doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it makes you feel good. If you can’t show up for yourself, you’re no good for anyone else.

Can you give my readers your quick go-to recipe?

This breakfast recipe has saved me SO many times. Bonus? It’s totally healthy AND easy!

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How To Listen To Your Hunger

The path to intuitive eating is paved with many insightful and challenging concepts.

One that I’ve grappled with is becoming aware of my hunger and fullness.

The concept is simple, yet was not often used by me - when you get hungry, eat. When you start to feel full, stop eating. Repeat.

Old Thinking

1. If I don’t eat when I have the chance, I’ll eat something that’s ‘bad’ for me.

The fear here is that if you miss your chance to eat, you’ll make a ravenous, unhealthy decision when you have access to food and overeat.

Think ‘I need to eat before I go to this meeting’ as an example - even if you’re not actually hungry.

2. If I don’t eat as soon as I get hungry, I’ll eat something that’s ‘bad’ for me.

Girlfriends of mine have confirmed they have almost identical thinking. Similar to the thought above, you’re afraid you’ll be caught unawares if you get too hungry and will be unable to stop eating.

As soon as you feel an inkling of hunger, you take care of it.

It’s really a fear of being hungry or, even more deeply, a fear of scarcity.

3. If I don’t finish my meal, I’ll regret it later and be hungry again too soon.

I admit I still hate wasting food, but I apparently didn’t like listening to my body either...

Rather than eating until satisfied, I would usually eat whatever portion size was in front of me. It was mostly out of concern that I’d get hungry again too soon if I didn’t finish my food then and there. Crazy right?

Through Finally Free and Paige from Healthy Hits the Spot, I’ve learned to listen to my hunger via a scale of 1 to 10.

The recommendation I follow is that I eat when I’m a 4 out of 10 with hunger (stomach starting to hurt/rumble) and I eat until I’m a 7 out of 10 (starting to feel full/hunger is satiated).

New Thinking

1. I don't need to eat on auto pilot.

Once I started using the above scale, I realised that I was following an eating routine day in, day out. For example, I usually don’t need my mid-morning snack and can wait until lunchtime before I became a 4.

I was used to constantly preventing the hunger and eating at those routine times.

Now I wait for the signs from my body.

2. I look forward to hunger.

How good is it when you eat when you’re truly hungry? Rather than thinking of hunger as a bad thing, I now look forward to it.

I know I’m going to enjoy my food so much more when it’s meeting that need of stopping the rumble in my stomach.

3. I can stop eating when full and enjoy the rest later.

This one is a challenge for me, but so rewarding when I follow through.

If you’re really enjoying food but have reached a 7 and have some left (even just 2 bites...), put it away for later.

Those last bites (pushing you beyond a 7) will never taste as good as finding the delicious leftovers in the fridge later that day or the next day and enjoying it (as a 4) fresh, all over again.

You will enjoy it so much more when you’re hungry, rather than piling it onto an already full stomach.

Do any of these thoughts ring true for you?

Do you listen to your body when it comes to hunger?

 

The Birthday Post: 5 Lessons Learned

Well happy birthday to me! Another year has passed and I’m following my blogging tradition of summing up the lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months. You can read last year’s post here

Let’s do this:

1. I measured my success by how much fun I’m having.

I’m going to post more about this in the future, but as we move deeper into adulthood, do you think we have we forgotten to have fun?

Between work, fitness, mortgages, kids, are we just slogging through life? I definitely was - or more specifically I was slogging it through to Friday, then finding solace in a pizza or bottle of vino.

This past year I’ve prioritised fun and I make sure I have something enjoyable to look forward to every, single day.

Examples of this include taking myself to lunch each Monday (rather than working through my lunch break while chowing down leftovers) and taking a bath on a Wednesday evening with a good book and a margarita. Don’t judge me, I’m having a blast ;)

2. I toned down on self-improvement.

My love of podcasts goes deep and whenever I’m alone I’m listening to one. This includes during my commute, on my lunch break, at the gym and while cooking.

What I didn’t realise was the insidious nature of the content I was listening to.

Many of the podcasts I listen to are about self-improvement and productivity, and often involve interviews with people who have written books or created courses on ways to improve yourself.

I was finding myself thinking ‘ooh, I should do that/buy that book/sign up for that course’ and it was exhausting me.

Even though you think you’re improving yourself (and that's got to be a good thing right?) there’s a time and a place for just ‘being’. Prioritising relaxation during your spare time is so important.

Nowadays I turn on some great music, or listen to a more ‘story-telling’ podcast, aka This American Life: activities that I find enjoyable, but that don't drive me to try and fix myself.

3. I broke up with diets.

Holy smokes, this was a big one for me. Let me know if you’d like a more in depth post on this, but thanks to the help of Paige Schmidt, I have at last broken up with trying to change my body. As a woman this is huge, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I unfollowed all health and fitness accounts on social media, I unsubscribed from any healthy eating plans that were turning up in my inbox promising huge changes, and I now follow intuitive eating principles.

I’ve been eating as I please and doing the exercise that sounds good to me for about 8 months now and lo and behold (even though I very rarely weigh myself now) I haven’t gained any weight.

In past years, I would have been struggling with what I ate, forcing myself to do exercise I thought I 'should' be doing, and hoping I could shift the scale by at least a few kilograms. And for what?

4. I asked for help around the house.

Another big one for me. In line with the superwoman / maternal gatekeeping mentality, I was keeping it all together at home, trying to keep the house clean and working through a seemingly never-ending list of tasks around the house.

My husband has never been against splitting the cleaning, but I would either try and take it all on myself or criticise him for not doing enough / not doing it 'right'. Sound familiar?

So at last I asked for help. We drew up all the jobs that need doing and how often, and we split them 50/50. My to do list around the house is much more manageable and I can depend on my husband to do his share.

5. I focused on my relationships.

Relationships have been a big focus for me in the last year. Since using the Stop, Breathe, Think app, meditation has helped me get out of my own head and focus on the happiness of others. A la the self-improvement lesson, we can sit around pondering if we’re doing life ‘right’, or we can shift the focus outward.

When I go out to dinner with my husband, go on a walk with a girlfriend or call a family member for a long chat, I fill myself up and can focus on the bigger picture. It makes me grateful and it makes me happy.

What have you learned in the last year? Let me know in the comments below.