Self Care Sunday 4th February

Procrastination is one of my worst faults. Which surprises many people. Particularly those I work with. I spend a huge chunk of my day at work and I am very proactive . I am always busy, I plan for future events but also have to be very reactive. I am good at thinking on my feet and solving a problem. I am classed as one of those people who get things done.

But when it comes to things that I have to do…. I procrastinate. Which means I am always sailing a little close to the wind when it comes to deadlines (I also do this at work but not intentionally, it is usually because a million and one things have cropped up that are more urgent). This week I have had to work flat out on my studies. I am basically playing catch up and trying to fit several weeks work into 8 or 9 days. Even now I am delaying getting up and starting my next assignment in favour of writing this blog post.

Fortunately, once I do get my head in the zone I have a natural gift of being able to speed read and process information quickly. It used to drive my poor friend at school mad when she spent weeks revising for a test and I scanned over the text the night before and ended up with a higher test score. Anyway I digress.

So because I now have to spend every non-working hour on my studies I haven’t really left myself much time for self care. Although I did manage to sneak out twice this week to the pub.

My procrastination skills are also worse this time of year than any other. The first two months of the year are historically the worst for my Seasonal Affective symptoms. It is during this time I usually hide away from the world and don’t want to do anything or go out anywhere. I turn into a bit of a hermit. This year, so far, has not been as bad as last year. Probably because of my little jaunt to Portugal for Christmas. Long walks in the sunshine will have topped up my Vitamin D levels and every time we have been away to sunnier climes in the Winter my SAD has not been as severe.

However, I don’t take any risks at home and still religiously take my Vitamin D and B12 supplements, I also use a SAD lamp from October right the way through to March. It sits on my dressing table which is where I spend about 45 mins every morning eating breakfast and getting ready for work. I have been using my lamp for about seven years now. I don’t know if it does work, but I am sure as hell not going to risk not using it. The years when my symptoms have been particularly bad are not ones I wish to repeat. So I prefer to err on the side of caution. This lamp was purchased from Argos and it is still available now on Amazon but twice the price I paid. You should expect to pay a minimum of around £30 – £40 for a lamp. I did a lot of research when I bought mine and I would question the effectiveness of one that is too cheap.

This model is no longer available at Argos and the price of SAD lamps seems to have increased dramatically. However you can purchase one from Amazon for around £40.00 here.

An alternative to an expensive lamp is to buy light bulbs.

Amazon sell them for around £5.00 each. I have used these in the past in my bedroom and lounge. I think they are great if you are in the house a lot and you can be exposed to the light for a prolonged period of time. If like me you are at work all day the. The intensity from a desk lamp would be more effective. Another item I have also purchased to help me I. My fight against Wjnter is a luminair wake-up alarm clock. I bought this last year to try and help me get up on the dark cold the mornings. Because, lets face it it, none of us really want to get up in during the Winter months. The alarm clock can be set to gradually wake you up by replicating the sun rising. It is meant to help stimulate the natural chemicals in your body and wake you up more naturally. It does seem to help but it’s a shame it doesn’t warm the bed as to be honest it is generally the cold that delays my movement in the morning.

Amazon £39.99

I only use this in the Winter months and if like me, you have have to get upin the dark in the mornings then this helps that process of getting out of bed by waking the brain up gradulally before the sun comes up. I have a love hate relationship with this alarm clock. Not because it isnt any good. In fact quite the opposite. I hate the fact that it wakes me up when in all honestly I really dont want to get up. It’s just doing its job 🙄

Tuesday was a busy day for me. I was up bright and early and in work by half past seven to set up an event. I have taken the big step to set up a forum for School Business Manager’s in my area of Kent. At present we don’t have anything that enables us to network, share ideas and gain CPD together. It was inspired by events I had attended in London and my background in Course and Conference Organising with King’s University in London. I was very nervous and really needed it to be successful. My professional reputation was on the line. I did find time for a quick HIIT workout first thing in the morning. I think it helped calm me down a little and even though I did not feel like eating I knew that skipping breakfast would be a big mistake so I opted for a healthy protein smoothie.

I combined 100ml or skimmed milk, 100ml water, 75g of 0% Fat Free Greek Yoghurt, a handful of strawberries, one apple and half a 30g scoop of Latte flavoured Protein Powder from MyProteinUK and gave it a good blitz with my blender. We have had the Breville Blend Active for a couple of years now and really can’t fault it. We only really use it for making smoothies but it is a great budget alternative to the NutriBullet.

My event was a great success and the feedback was amazing. Lots of lovely comments thanking me for coming up with the idea and confirmation that people want more. So I am now already planning the next one at the end of April. Running and hosting these events will also enable me to maintain my membership of the Institute of School Business Management which is the new professional organisation for School Business Managers which now and recognises us as a profession on par with lawyers, solicitors, accountants, etc.

The other aspect I am currently working on to qualify me as a member is completion of the Level 5 Diploma of School Business Management. I am halfway through the course and it have found it a struggle to commit the time, thanks to my procrastination issues and long working hours. I took another study day Wednesday and sat at my laptop for 10 hours with only short comfort breaks. I had originally planned on working all evening too until a friend messaged me to ask if I fancied going to a Spiratulist night at our local pub. To be fair I saw the word pub and I was in. Anything to give me a break from studying. It was an interesting night. I did have a reading but to be honest it didn’t really highlight anything I didn’t know. But that doesn’t matter. It was a night out of the house with a group of girls and a couple of drinks. Just what I needed to clear my head.

Thursday I was back down the pub in the evening, I wouldn’t usually go two days in a row but one of the barmaids, who is more mature in years, was leaving. Her and her husband have become good friends of ours since moving to the village so we popped along to support her on her last night, not to say goodbye because we are seeing them on Sunday, when they countersign our applications to join the Village Institute (CUI) club.

This week has not been the healthiest of weeks. I have drunk a little more than usual and we have had three takeaways this week, due to fact that I have been exhausted from work and spending as much spare time as possible studying.

My skin is looking pretty tired and I am still battling a cold, my cold sore from last weekend has finally cleared up but lack of sleep (my mind has not been switching off) and a poor diet have caught up with me. It doesn’t take much neglect to have an impact on the way I look and the way I feel about myself.

My assignment has to be submitted by midnight on Wednesday this week, so I have a few more days of hard graft. Once that is done I am going to make sure I put aside some time to give myself a little bit of self care and beauty treats before I tackle the final unit of my course. You never know I might be more organised this time and start my course work earlier. Who am I kidding, pigs might fly before that happens.

Anyway thank you for reading my rambling post and I hope you have a great week. Normal self care posts will be resumed next Sunday.

Love

Melanie xxxx

Self Care Sunday 28th January

This is just a brief post this week as I really have struggled to find some time for myself this week. It has been very busy at work and I have had a cold lingering all week. So I have not been very good at keeping up with my self-care.

It wasn’t a good start to the week. I hit the snooze button one too many times which ended up with me getting up late and then having to rush around to get ready for work. It is on mornings like this I am tempted to skip my normal morning routine. But I am becoming more mindful of the fact I need to take care of myself. So even though I was short on time I did stick to my normal skincare routine of using a cleasning milk followed by micellar water before moisturising and putting on my face for the day ahead.

I don’t use expensive products, I stick to what I know my skin likes. Products that I know don’t irritate. I used to be able to use anything on my face but since going through the Menopause I have found that my skin is drier and more sensitive. At the moment I am using Garnier products. Both of these are available on the high street.

Garnier Soothing Botanical Cleansing Milk with Rose Water currently £2.33 at Boots

Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water for Sensitive Skin currently £3.33 at Boots

Tuesday was hectic at work. I had a couple of my admin staff off sick which left me running around and it was a late finish due to some issues in our Late Care provision that I had to take care of. By the time I got home all I wanted to do was have a hot shower and crash out in front of the TV. My cold was also still lingering and I really needed comfort food. I was tempted to pop out and grab fish and chips but my lovely husband took over the cooking and presented with a bowl of Pasta Bolognese. Comfort food at it’s best. It meant I could then put my feet up and  catch up on the last few episodes of This is Us. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. This is a show that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure.

On Wednesday morning I was feeling a little better. I had booked a day at home to study. I am part way through my Diploma of School Business Management. I have three 5000 word assignments to submit in two weeks. And as usual I have been so busy at work I have put everything else to one side. I am very behind and so I ended up glued to my laptop for 8 hours reading all about Strategic Development Plans. And yes it is as exciting as it sounds !!

I finally finished at 6pm and again I really did not feel like cooking. Everyone has weeks like that don’t they? My husband came to the rescue again, suggesting we move our planned curry night (which was this weeks “Couples Quality Time”) from Saturday to midweek. I certainly wasn’t going to protest. So we walked into our Village centre and enjoyed an Indian feast at our favourite local Indian restaurant (we have two to chose from in our Village). We actually prefer going there during the week as they have a special offer on from Sunday to Thursday. £11.95 for a three course meal. Every time we visit we try to have something different. We are slowly working our way through the menu. This week we opted for mini lamb kebabs to start, followed by Butter Chicken and King Prawn Goan. I left feeling happy and de-stressed with a very full stomach.

Thursday was another busy day at work. I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with auditors. I knew it was going to be another late night and that I wouldn’t have time in the evening for any “me time” so I decided to do something different with my hair in the morning. I used another of my Birchbox products to try to create a bit of volume in my hair. My hair is fine and does not hold styling products for more than a couple of hours. I tried this product and was pleasnatnly surprised. It didn’t last all day but it did last longer than any other products I have tried before. My hair felt lovely and soft and fluffy for most of the day. In fact it felt like it was full of air. I would have liked it to last all day but that has not put me off trying the product again, maybe on a night out.

If you have hair like mine it might be worth giving it a try. Although £15 is quite expensive if it doesn’t work. Maybe try and hunt down a sample size. However you can purchase the full size product at www.birchbox.co.uk

I was so glad when Friday arrived. IT was another busy day at work when another of my staff went down with Tonsillitis, along with quite a few of our children. I was very aware that I had not spent much time with my husband this week, so we decided to have an impromptu drink at our local pub. We do like to go to the pub together at the end of a busy week, we have a table in the corner that we always sit at and we then spend a couple of hours catching up on what has been going on during the week and getting all those work stresses out of the way so we can relax and enjoy the weekend.

I woke on Saturday feeling really rough, the cold, that had been lingering all week, had finally taken hold along with a lovely cold sore on the end of my nose. I spent the day at home doing household chores, including cleaning my dressing room which seems to deteriorate during the week. I also decided to restart the Bodycoach new 90 Day Plan. I didn’t exercise, opting to take this day as one of the two weekly rest days but I did stick to the healthy reduced carb meals, starting the day with a good breakfast.

Saturday night was spent watching the voice and enjoying a nice meal together before another day of studying today. I did make sure that I took regular breaks this time. Writing a couple of blog posts and cooking a few meals for the week ahead, which is going to be another busy one. I am hosting the first School Business Manager Networking event on Tuesday and I am a little nervous. I am hoping that it goes well and that it leads to more events in the future.

I can’t believe it is February this week. January seems to have passed quite quickly. Or is that just me. I have a couple of nice things to look forward to next month. Afternoon Tea with my two instagram friends Liz and Alex and or course it is Valentines Day on the 14th. We don’t do the whole card and present thing and we begrudge going out and paying a premium to eat. So we will do what we have done for the last couple of years. Buy an M&S Valentines Meal for Two and watch a movie on Netflix. Also a new month brings a new #mystylephotochallenge I am looking forward to February’s prompts. Letters of the Alphabet. I have been terrible at joining in these last few months but next month I am going to make a concerted effort to post every day. After all it doesn’t look very good when the person who created the challenge doesn’t join in.

@mystylephotochallenge

So that was my last Self Care Sunday post for January. I’m sorry it wasn’t very exciting or that I didn’t share any new ideas for self-care this week. Hopefully I can do better next week. But to be honest I am probably going to struggle to find the time again as it is another busy week ahead.

Thank you for reading. I hope you manage to find time for a little self-care this week.

Love

Melanie xxxx

The history of the #mystylephotochallenge

One of the things that has changed my life immensely over the last three years is the #mystylephotochallenge It is a daily photo challenge that I created back in November 2014. It has had a massive impact on my life and definitely led to me being brave enough to take more risks in my life, personal and career and along the way I have made many friends and met some lovely ladies in the flesh.
For those of you not familiar with this monthly challenge I pop over to the Instagram account @mystylephotochallenge and join in. You will not regret it. I can guarantee that you will meet a wonderful group of lovely ladies sharing daily pictures of our individual interpretations for each day’s prompt. And having a few laughs along the way.
When I joined Instagram in September 2014 I was very shy and apprehensive about posting my photos or talking to anyone. I did not have many female friends (more about that another time – it has a lot to do with growing up with a mum who suffered from mental illness) and was not used to communicating on social media with anyone I didn’t actually know.
I decided the best way to dip my toe into this whole new world was to join a photo challenge. I found one that I liked the look of and started posting my photos each day. There were only about half a dozen of us posting and to begin with I was too scared to comment on anyone else’s posts. Then this wonderful lady came into my life and starting “chatting” to me. And even though, at that time I had never met her in person, we became friends. This lady (who is sadly no longer on social media) gave me the confidence to put myself out there to interact with more people.
So back to the beginning of #mystylephotochallenge. The photo challenge I had joined was nearing an end and I had enjoyed it so much that I wanted to continue. However, the only ones I could find were very ‘American’. There was only one thing I could do. Create my own.
This was the very first challenge back in November 2014.
We started as a small group and I need to give a special thank you to those original ladies who have continued to come back month after month. They probably don’t realise how much of an impact they have had on my life and how grateful I am to them to have stuck with this each month. The #mystylephotochallenge has become a very personal thing for me. It made the transition from being a busy mum to living on my own with Mr A a lot easier and filled the gaps left by not running around after my two children. It has  helped me overcome some insecurities and allowed me to grow as a person and build my confidence.
The month of the first anniversary a group of the original ladies met for the very first time in London. This was before it became common for people who met on Instagram to meet up in real life. I know that we were all a little apprehensive. But we had a fantastic time.
This meet-up was also where a friendship started between three of us that has led to many more drinks and even a weekend away. I would never have imagined that I would end up sharing a tent with these two ladies who I met on the internet @lizbotr_style and @alex_bettertogether
We following year we had another meet up with a couple more ladies joining in. This was a great afternoon tea with free flowing Prosecco and far to many Porn Star Martini’s than I care to remember. It was quite a sight in Henry’s Bar in Convent Garden…. 24 cocktails all lined up along the bar (it was two for one!!).
So I am sure you can see what a fabulous group of ladies take part in the photo challenge. I am continually overwhelmed each month when more and more ladies join. Yesterday we had over 60 posts and a number of stories. I could never have imagined that something that I created to hide behind has become this wonderful daily interaction between a fabulous group of ladies who share a snippet of their lives and are so supportive of one another. Something I have not always experienced in my own life.
This year we will be trying something new and I will be handing over the reins to a few other ladies to design the monthly challenge. Our first “guest challenge” is March and will be created by the lovely Lynne @tryingforstylish. One of our original ladies is going to step in and take over June. I know Tracey @ellisneviesmum will do a wonderful job.
We are not too far away from 100,000 posts on the hashtag, which is amazing. Thank you to all all of the fabulous ladies who take part, It wouldn’t be the success it is if it wasn’t for you.
Melanie xxxx

Self Care Sunday 21st January

This week was one of those hectic weeks that quite often lead to me neglecting myself. Work was extra busy this week with government returns to process, a training day and about a dozen meetings. All on top of my normal workload. I also had to commit some time to my studies this week. My assignments are due to be submitted in a couple of weeks and I have three 5000 word essays to complete. When will I learn not to leave these things until the last minute.

Anyway I promised myself this year I would make self-care a priority, even during the busiest times at work.

I started the week off with an early night. I do love the dark Winter nights, it is the perfect excuse to get into my pjs, pop on a face mask and get into bed to watch TV or read something lighthearted such as this book, which is one of those great little inspirational books that you can dip in and out of. Each page has a different quote to inspire you. The book is available at Amazon. I try to do this at least once a week and get to sleep before 10.30pm. If I’m not feeling particularly sleepy I swear by Sleeptherapy pillow sprays from Avon, I have used them for years.

Also on Monday I started the new Bodycoach 90 Day Plan after being offered it for free. Joe Wickes has kindly offered all of those people who competed and graduated from his first plan the opportunity to do his second personalised plan free of charge. Of course I jumped at the chance. I had great success on the first plan back in 2916, losing one and half stone and dropping two dress sizes. I have since put on half a stone and am back to a size 10/12 due to not being able to exercise for the last 5 months following an injury to my foot. I started the workouts on Tuesday morning and really felt the pain later in the day. It’s been a bit of a struggle getting up and down the stairs all week but it has been a while since I did this level of exercise.

The first half of the week was a little challenging at work. I had to deal with a couple of staff issues which saw me having to reprimand a couple of members of staff. Not something that comes easily to me but it’s part and parcel of being a senior manager. I was pretty stressed out and feeling very low when I got home from work Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m lucky that my husband is great at looking after me when I feel down and he took over cooking dinner while I treated myself to a luxurious shower with another product from my monthly Birchbox.

I have to say I don’t think I have ever used such a lush shower gel. It is so creamy and smells divine. My skin felt so silky afterwards. One word of advice if you go and get this product is you only need a tiny amount. It comes out of the pump as a clear gel but as soon as you rub it in it turns to a gorgeous creamy foam. You can purchase this Shower Foam at www.rituals.com

Thursday was a long day at work. It was Spring Census Day. It is the day that all schools have to produce various governments returns and each school has a specific time to run their report and there are always errors and queries to resolve before it can be submitted to the Department of Education. The return is used to formulate some of our funding so it is really important that the data is correct. After such a busy day I didn’t feel like cooking so my husband took me to one of our local pubs for dinner. It was freezing cold so I took the opportunity to wear my favourite big cosy jumper from Next. This really is a fabulous knit at a very reasonable price. Unfortunately it is no longer available online but I have seen it in store in other colours.

Because I had been really good with my diet all week and I had stuck to the no sugar, reduced caffeine rule of the 90 Day Plan all week I decided to have a little Friday night treat. I used the Black Forest Hot Chocolate powder that was in my Christmas stocking, for the first time. It was an interesting flavour and if you are looking for a hot drink which is a little different then it might be worth a try. I can’t find the powder available to buy at the moment, it may a Christmas product but you can purchase Black Forest syrup at Amazon.

My Friday night treat set me up nicely for the weekend. Saturday morning was taken up with normal weekly chores of cleaning and ironing. Normally on a Saturday evening we would either pop to our local pub for a drink or have a Netflix and takeaway night. This week we had arranged to drive across Kent to meet up with my husband’s Sister and Brother-in-Law. We hadn’t seen them since last Summer. We both have busy lives, full time jobs, kids and houses that we are renovating, so we only ever seem to catch up at family gatherings. This time we met up at a lovely country pub in Westerham It was the first time the four of us had been out without kids in tow and we had a really great time. If you are ever in this area check out the Aperfield Inn. Very cosy, amazing food and fantastic customer service. We all enjoyed ourselves so much we are planning to do it again soon.

Sunday is my favourite day of the week. It always has been. When my husband and I were first dating, we would have every other Sunday to ourselves because my children would be at their dads for the weekend. We used to make the most of it by having a lazy day. We would stay in bed all morning, reading the newspapers, eating bacon sandwiches and drinking coffee. The afternoons would have been spent on the sofa watching a movie while a roast dinner cooked.

Today we did much the same, minus the newspapers as they just make me angry now. But we stayed in bed late drinking coffee. Then instead of cooking bacon sandwiches at home we wrapped up warm and walked to the Marina in the sleety snow, stopping at the old fashioned river side cafe for a cooked breakfast.

On the walk home we stopped at the Co-op in our Village square for roast dinner ingredients. The rest of the day will be spent on the sofa under the blanket. Hubby watching movies while I catch up with social media, write a couple of blog posts and indulge in some online shopping, I wont be buying anything exciting… just food and toiletries.

So there goes another hectic week. The week ahead should be a little calmer at work, but I have a lot of studying to catch up on so I’m still going to be busy. I will still make sure that I fit in a little self-care though as I am finding that I really look forward to it now. It is slowly becoming part of my daily routine.

I hope you have had a good week and don’t forget to make some time for the things that bring you joy.

Thank you for reading.

Melanie xxxx