challenge · Lifestyle · Mindfulness · self care · Wellbeing

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
Depression · Lifestyle · Mental Health Awareness · Mindfulness · SAD · self care · Wellbeing

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

Lifestyle · Mental Health Awareness · Mindfulness · self care · Wellbeing

Self Care Sunday 14th January

How is it already the end of the second week of January. Last Monday I went back to work after just over two weeks off. I struggled to get out of bed and I really didn’t feel ready to face a new term at School. My brain didn’t really function properly and it felt very strange to be back in work clothes and heels. After what felt like I very long day on Monday all I wanted to do was crawl into bed with my hot water bottle and a cup of tea. I have to admit to feeling a little low and had not planned any self-care activity for the evening. But my mood was lifted when I walked through the front door after work and found January’s Birchbox had arrived. It was just what I needed.

I have only been receiving the monthly beauty box since November when I received a one Year subscription for my birthday. I am trying to make the effort to use the products as part of my self-care routine and to give myself a little treat with new products that I would not normally purchase myself.

I opened the pretty flamingo box after my shower and immediately used the Restorative Night Cream. My skin is not looking great at the moment, too much sugar and alcohol over Christmas combined with late nights and a cold/sinus infection has left it looking very red, dry and dull. It says it is the ideal boost for tired skin, so it is a treat rather than one I would use every day. But I tried it every day this week. I’m not sure if it made a difference. My skin did feel a little more hydrated but I had a break-out of spots which could be due to the cream. I am going to keep using it for another week to see if the condition of my skin improves.

On Wednesday I tried some of the new make up that was in this box and last months box. I always wear the same make up because it is just quick and easy in the mornings to just go with what I know works. I don’t have time to test out new products or shades and then risk having to either go to work unhappy with how I look or having to remove make up and start again. But this time I decided to spend a little extra time on my make up and try something new. I was really pleased with the result and I had several comments about my new look at work.

To create this new look I first used the Lord & Berry Blusher Pencil. I received the peach shade and I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t normally wear a blusher because a) I always feel I look a little like Aunt Sally and b) I’m too lazy. This blusher is very easy to use. It blended into my skin well and it left my cheeks with am subtle rosy glow, which I really loved. It made me look a little healthier. I may now be a blusher convert.

Next I used the Marcelle Charcoal eyeliner. Most days I wear a Navy eyeliner as it works well with the colour of my eyes. I tend to wear black eyeliner on a night out but it can be a little harsh on me. So I figured that the charcoal may be somewhere in between. I can’t describe how much I loved this eyeliner. It gave a smokey look to my eyes and made them look really different. I will definitely be using this again.

Finally I used the Pixi by Petra Shea Butter Lip Balm. I opted for the nude colour and it was actually a little more tinted than I expected. This was ok but I would have preferred no tint. I would still use this product though as it really moisturised my lips which are incredibly dry at the moment.

Whilst I was in the beauty treat mood this week I also used a couple of items from previous months Birchboxes. Tuesday was the turn of the Kebelo Clarifying Shampoo. This is meant to be used as a monthly treat to cleanse and rejuvenate hair. My hair re-colour is due in a couple of weeks and it is about this time that my hair starts to feel dry and look really dull. Immediately after using the clarifying shampoo my hair actually felt squeaky clean. And I really mean that when I say squeaky. It was a very strange feeling. I don’t think my hair had ever felt so cleansed. I used my normal conditioner, which is a inexpensive one from Aldi. Later that evening when my hair had dried naturally it felt so soft and silky. I didn’t have to use any styling products or straighteners on my hair the next morning it just fell into place and was lovely and “swingy”. I couldn’t stop touching my hair all day. This shampoo really worked well on my hair and definitely gets five stars.

A couple of days later I decided to use another new hair product. Sugar Texturising Spray by Number 4 (High Performance Hair Care). My hair is very thick but fine. It never has much body and I struggle to get it to hold a style. In the past I have used Seasalt Spray to gain some texture on my layered hair, which is great for those in-between washing days. I thought the sugar Spray would be much the same. But no it was better. I put a slight curl in my hair at the front and side using my Babylis wand and then applied the spray. Usually by lunchtime any style I have done will have dropped out. But not this time, the curl and the texture remained until I got home in the evening. I loved how my hair looked. I may even buy a full sized version of this product purely because it is the first styling product that has actually worked on my hair. You can buy it here at Birchbox.

It was a hectic week at work and on Friday the husband and I decided to pop to our local pub for a couple of drinks. Unfortunately it now turns out that I am allergic to their new puppy. I woke during the night struggling to breathe with blocked sinuses. Fortunately I had my new Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser (featured on my last blog post) to hand and a morning of Eucalyptus Oil misting into the air helped clear my sinuses. By Saturday evening I was feeling much better.

If you read my post last Sunday you will know that my husband and I are using a “self-care jar” this year to make sure we spend quality time together each week. This week we randomly picked out “Movie Night”. So Saturday night comprised a takeaway, prosecco, a box of Maltesers and the movie 9/11 on Sky Cinema.

Today saw the arrival of new book. (all hail Amazon Sunday deliveries). I had been waiting for this book, Happy by Fearne Cotton, for two weeks. I ordered this to compliment The Happy Journal which I received for Christmas. So as you can imagine I am eager to start reading it. I will find the time thus evening to curl up in the sofa for an hour of reading before heading off to the bedroom to watch McMafia on the TV.

Happy by Fearne Cotton currently £3.99 at AmazonSo this week’s self-care revolved around beauty treatments and actually using those products I receive each month in my beauty box subscription. It has really helped give me a boost during my first week back at work. Next week is going to be all about Health & Fitness after a lovely surprise I received last week. All will be revealed on my Instagram account throughout the week and on the blog next Sunday.

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

Melanie xxxx

Depression · Lifestyle · Mental Health Awareness · Mindfulness · SAD · self care · Wellbeing

Self-Care Sunday No. 1

How was your first week of the New Year?

Mine was a bit of a mixed bag. Mostly good but with a couple of low points throughout the week. It may in part be a little bit of post holiday blues but luckily I didn’t have to rush back to work, as both the husband and I are not back until Monday 8th January. This is longest break from work I have had since I started my job as a School Business Manager in September 2016. It felt a little strange not going into school or working at home. I was very tempted at times to get the laptop out and get some work done but I had promised myself that I would take a proper break for once and try to relax. Something I am notoriously bad at.

It is something I really need to learn to do this year. I always keep myself busy. Too busy really. I rarely stop and just enjoy being at home or being with my husband. My health and fitness has taken a back seat this last year and I am suffering from small recurrent illnesses, particularly sinus and ear infections. Which I think is my body’s way of telling me I need to slow down and switch off. I am fully aware that I cannot keep living life at the pace I do.

So whilst I don’t set New Year Resolutions this year I am setting Intentions for 2018. The main one being to take better care of myself. Both physically and mentally. This week I have tried hard to start the year on the right track.

I am using social media to motivate myself to do something to promote my own wellbeing each day and I am using The Happy Journal by Fearne Cotton to record my year and hopefully encourage me to stay on track. Which you can purchase at Amazon for £14.99

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Last year I felt I failed at being a good wife to my amazing husband. I have to admit I took him for granted. He has never said anything and has actually been really supportive of me chasing my new career. He looks after the home and me without any complaint. But because I am always busy being busy I have not given him the time he deserves. Actually if I am honest I really have only given him my full attention once a week when we disappear to the pub, which is a bad habit I have developed as a way to relax. I have found it hard to do this at home because I end up working or busying myself around the house. The result of this bad habit is one too many drinks, an unhealthy takeaway and a late night which results in a wasted Saturday morning and abandoning trips to the gym. This is one thing I really want to stop. I have found I am not even enjoying it anymore. It has just become a weekly habit that we do without any thought. This was highlighted this week when after being at home all week and feeling a little bored, we went to the pub Thursday night. I felt awful Friday morning and can’t say I even enjoyed it. So I think that has reinforced the need to stop and find another way relax and switch off from work at home.

One idea we have come up with is doing something we enjoy together every weekend. We have written 52 things to do on slips of paper and popped them in a jar. We will pick one out every Monday and then plan to do whatever it says at some point over the weekend. This is such a simple and inexpensive thing to do and would work well for families too. We have nothing extravagant in our jar. We have selected two different coloured pieces of paper, one for Autumn/Winter and the other for Spring/Summer as the activities can then be tailored to the weather. We have included things like going for a walks in the countryside, visiting the beach, bike rides, pub lunch, movie night and the one we picked out for this weekend…. Box Set Sunday. Which will consist of an afternoon & evening of cosying up on the sofa, with sweet treats and hot chocolate, to binge watch a TV series together.

I have also been taking steps to kick start my healthy lifestyle. I have been meal planning with some great new books. I am a big fan of eating for health. It is something I have researched and done in the past when I had some health issues due to a reduced immune system. I am so glad that there are Medical Doctors now releasing healthy lifestyle and recipe books. So much better to eat this way rather than following fad diets aimed at weight loss rather than health. Check out these books and Instagram accounts.

The Food Medic Amazon £13.56 (@thefoodmedic)

The Doctors Kitchen Amazon £7.49 (@the_doctorskitchen)

Dr Chatterjee – The Four Pillar Plan Amazon £8.49 (@drchatterjee)

I also made a couple of purchases this week to help me

Savisto Fruit Infuser Water Bottle. Amazon £5.99

I always start the day with hot water and lemon and try to drink at least 2.5 litres of water a day. I use an app on my phone to remind me but quite often fall short, especially when I am at home. This is a much more versatile way to drink more water. I love flavoured water and there are so many options using this and you can use different fruits and herbs depending on wha you feel your body needs. I’m using cucumber at the moment. It’s refreshing and aids your body’s ability to detox.

Ultrasonic Night Lighting Aromatherapy Diffuser. Amazon £12.88

I have bought this for two reasons. One to help me learn to relax/mediated and also to help with my sinus problems. I have tested it this week using Eucalyptus Oil when my sinus infection was particularly bad and it really helped. It also has an automatic shit off so you can use at bedtime and not worry about having to switch it off before falling asleep. I also bought a starter pack of aromatherapy oils.

Essential Oil Starter Pack. Amazon £10.95

This pack contains five oils: (I am not an expert myself and the information below has been gained through research from qualified aromatherapists. Always check with your doctor before you use aromatherapy and follow the instructions for use).

Eucalyptus – Great for respiratory health and can help alleviate coughs and congestion

Geranium – Helps balance hormones, promotes emotional wellness, alleviates anxiety.

Lavender – Helps improve sleep quality and promotes better concentration

Cypress French – A very powerful Oil and care needs to be taken when using this. In a Diffuser it is good for stress relief and alleviating coughs and congestion but combin d with a carrier Oil it can be used on the body to aid muscle and joint pain and it also as an antiseptic.

Ylang Ylang – A natural antidepressant. It has a positive affect on emotional wellbeing, blood flow and immune health.

So that is the round up of my first week of self-care. Why not try and set aside a little time each Sunday to do something for yourself that makes you happy or enhances your well-being. Sundays are perfect for this as it is a nice way to end a busy week and it also sets you up for the week ahead. Post your self care pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #selfcaresunday and tag me (@wigglewhenyouwalk) in your posts.

Have a great week and thank you for reading.

Melanie xxx