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 Happiness of Doing Less

In discussions of late with girlfriends, the idea of doing less has been coming up more and more.

We used to pride ourselves on hitting the 6am spin class, grabbing dinner and wine after work and stuffing our weekends full of catch ups with every ex-coworker and high school friend we could find.

It may be (read: probably is) age but this routine doesn't seem to have the same appeal as it used to. Slowing down, breathing and being more discerning about what we say 'yes' to is now at the forefront of our minds.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by commitment and don't know how to slow down, try some of these tips:

Form routines

A morning and evening routine crafted just for you will really frame your days and encourage self-care and pleasure.

Write out the activities you want to help wake you up in the morning and those that will end your evening on a relaxing note (a long walk? cooking a delicious breakfast? yoga before bed?) and start to implement them week by week.

Pick your appointments

Finding time to catch up with those important to us seems to be getting more and more challenging.

Diarise monthly or bi-monthly catch ups with friends, make sure the appointments are scheduled at relaxed times that suit both of you and feel free to say no to those relationships that you don't value as highly as others. Yes, really.

Avoid the highlight reels

Gazing on social media with a severe sense of FOMO can undo all the joy of doing less.

But remember - social media is everyone's highlight reel - we usually don't see them trimming their toenails, running late for appointments or dreading the next appointment they have to go to.

So if it makes you feel worse, stay off social media or remove those that bring any feelings of anxiety.

How can you do less in the next week? What can you say no to? 

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?

 

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.

4 Reasons You Should Stop Feeling Like A Phony

 
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Imposter syndrome, your inner ‘mean girl’, fraud complex, your ego who is certain you’re going to be found out as a bogus sham – whatever you want to call it, it’s likely we all have a similar voice swirling in our heads. 

Being hard on yourself is not uncommon, but feeling like an imposter at work, in your relationship, or in a personal pursuit, is no fun for anyone, least of all you. Below are four reasons to help you make peace with that voice, or at least not let it take you down the rabbit hole.

1. People believe in you or you wouldn’t be where you are

This one often relates to career – many women I know are a bit baffled as to how they’ve made it to where they are. They are intelligent, hard workers but still hear internal murmurs that they’re not deserving or that they’ll be ‘found out’. When I became an editor many moons ago, I had a deep seated fear that someone would arrive at my desk and demand I complete a pop quiz on split infinitives and non-verbal clauses. Needless to say it never happened.

Don’t disrespect the judgement of those who have hired you, promoted you, given you good feedback and helped you get to where you are. The more people you work with and the more workplaces you work for, the less likely it is that it’s a coincidence!

2. We’re all playing roles in our lives

A dear friend imparted this advice on me years ago. We are all ‘acting’ in some capacity – sometimes my role is a project manager, sometimes my role is wife, sometimes it’s zen yogi. The principle is that you don’t have to know everything in all of your roles and you don’t have to embody all of the roles at once, 24 hours a day.

It’s ok to act as if you’re gorgeous and funny and deserving of your relationship. It’s ok to pretend you’re a high-powered, confident employee, even if the little voice is trying to throw you off track. The more positive talk you instil in your mind, the closer you’ll get to believing it and showing it outwardly.

3. Everyone feels the same

I promise, ask anyone and they have likely felt like an imposter at some point in their life (if not, day / week / month).

I remember having to give a nerve-racking speech a few years back in front of the CEO and MD of my company. A number of other people had to give a speech that morning, including an experienced publisher, who I looked up to as a kind of mentor. After revealing my anxiety, he admitted he felt the exact same way. I knew then that if someone with 30 + years experience was doubting themselves, it was totally ok to feel how I did and enlightening to know that I wasn’t alone.

4. It’s ok to feel negative emotions completely

This one is a struggle for many women. It’s much easier to favour the upbeat emotions and brush away nerves or sadness in an attempt to get back to brighter days. But if you never fully feel these emotions, it’s likely you’ll never actually deal with them.

When you’re spiralling with negative self talk, set aside time to feel it. If you’re jealous in your relationship, freaking out at work or doubting your creative skills, step back and assign some time to dwell on it. Just not at that exact moment.

Set aside 15 minutes that evening or the next day to let the negative talk go crazy. Chances are it will have passed or quietened down a little by then. Either way, spend some time writing down how you feel and what you’re afraid is going to happen. What is the absolute worst thing that could materialise?

Once the time is up, you’ll often feel better and can resume your day. What’s even more useful is going back and reviewing the journaling – did any of it come true? If it did, was it as awful as you thought? I hope not but I’m also pretty sure not too.

Tell me – how do you deal with your inner critic?

And in what area of your life are you afraid of being ‘found out’?

9 Things I'm Doing To Make Every Day Feel Like A Holiday

 
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I spent a week on holiday in far north Queensland (FNQ) recently. Queensland is Australia’s favourite state for sunny beach holidays. I hadn’t been up there in a number of years and my focus was to wholly relax and check out some local attractions (while avoiding crocodiles and jellyfish – yes, really, see below). 

jellyfish

 

It was such a rejuvenating week and I got to thinking – what about it was so great? And how can I bring those aspects into my everyday life so I don’t have to travel to find that holiday feeling? Here’s what works for me and what I’m making time for in my weekly schedule.

Cycling

My husband is really into cycling and often asks me to go riding with him. Although I enjoy it once I get going, I tend to be lazy as it’s not as natural and as relaxing an activity as it is for him. On this trip though, we made the effort to get beach cruisers and check out the coast and surrounding areas. I really loved it, felt relaxed doing it and know it’s a great way to get around our local area in Melbourne.

cycling

 

Yoga

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a total yoga convert. I do a little each day but rarely commit to an hour long class. They offer yoga on the beach in Port Douglas and I felt so brilliant after taking classes while we were away that I’ve been going to at least one class a week at home.

Walks

Just like I’ve refused some cycling proposals in the past, my husband (and a few of my friends – looking at you Jules!) don’t love to 'go for walks' as they see little point... I understand that view but I love getting out in the fresh air and a FNQ beach doesn’t go astray on the stroll either. I think it’s a great time to chat and relax, so now we're home, as I compromise on the cycling, the husband compromises on the walks for me.

Going out after dinner…for ice cream

Now life’s all about balance, so I certainly didn’t spend the whole holiday on a bike or in a warrior pose. I have very fond memories of family holidays, grabbing an ice cream after dinner and wandering home along the beach. It’s a great mid-week treat after dinner, and makes a regular weeknight seem more special.

Board games

Yup, I love board games. We spent a couple of nights ensconced in Cluedo – one of my favourites as a child. My major tip is: do not try and solve the case after more than 3 glasses of champagne. My confidence levels did not match my actual abilities or memory. After requesting a board game for my birthday, I’m bringing them back at home and it’s a great alternative to electronic devices every night.

Reading

I read a lot in my job and that often leaves me ignoring the stacks of books I want to get onto at home. And leads me back to those devices I mentioned. I read three books while I was away – a real jump for me in recent months. It felt great to escape into some fiction and productive to read non-fiction longer than a blog post.

Minimal social media

You’re getting the picture yeah?! I’d check it for ten minutes in the morning, then maybe another ten minutes before we went out for dinner. And you know what, I didn’t miss that much. It felt great to leave it behind and I’m still working on that now we’re back home.

fruit salad

 

Fruit salad

FNQ has some amazing tropical fruits. Taking the time to make a big batch to last us a couple of days was so worth it, and something I want to do for breakfasts at home now we’re in spring and summer.

9 hours sleep

No alarms on holiday meant I could see how much sleep my body wants. And that greedy thing wants 9 HOURS! Aaaah. Ok, I’m putting some of it down to taking a break after working hard but yup, it pretty much wants up to 9 hours sleep. Considering that would mean a 9.30pm-ish trip to bed and reduced time apres work, I’m not sure I’ll get this many hours all the time, but on weekends and breaks, I’m going to give it a go.

What do you like best about holidays? And how can you bring those behaviours into everyday life?