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

Be Happy….. Not S.A.D


I have suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder for as long as I can remember but for many years I was totally unaware of what was going on. Like my Mum I have been plagued by mental health issues since my teens. Low Self Esteem, Depression, Anxiety… all to varying degrees of severity. The first time I became truly aware of any problems was when I suffered from Post Natal Depression following the birth of my first child. It was a work colleague who noticed a change in my behaviour and mood, she mentioned it to our company doctor who then called me in for a chat and it all came tumbling out. I was signed off work for 4 weeks and put on anti-depressants. I don’t like taking medication at the best of time, so I didn’t stick with the medication, but just being aware that something was going on helped a little. I felt low for several months but eventually my mojo returned. This cycle of feeling low and then feeling good continued but I really didn’t associate it with the seasons at that time. It is funny now, looking back, because I always used to say my “lucky” time of the year was April to August. This was when life always seemed to deal me the Ace. I met my husband in May and looking at my CV all but one of my successful job interviews have been between April and July. I was totally unaware of the relevance of this until years later.

It was actually about 12 years ago when it became more noticeable. I had a period in my life where I was working in a very stressful environment and my depression became quite bad. I was also suffering from IBS which got worse during the Winter months. I felt physically ill most of the time. For three years in a row I went to my doctor complaining of extreme tiredness, aching limbs, coughs, colds and even recurring tonsillitis. Each time he took full bloods and they came back showing that I was perfectly healthy. I was lucky at the time to still have my family doctor, he had been my mums doctor and had known me since birth so knew my medical history inside out. The third year I went to see him with exactly the same symptoms as the year before he diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder. Just another form of depression caused by a reduction in Serotonin levels during the months where there is less sunlight. Suddenly everything made sense and I started to see a pattern.

Once I had a diagnosis it made life easier. I am the type of person who researches and tries to find ways that I can help myself overcome issues. I am one of life’s Problem Solvers. I did this for my Seasonal Affective Disorder and tried many different ways to help reduce the severity of the symptoms. Some worked, some didn’t. It has been years of trial and error. And some years are definitely worse than others. But i do think I have finally found a few simple things that help me get through those dark 5 months. For me the onset of my S.A.D is a little like flicking a light switch. I know exactly when it is going to start and end. The day the clocks go back in October is the beginning and the day after the clocks go back in March is the end. Knowing this does help me maintain a little element of positivity during the Winter. Because it doesn’t matter how bad my symptoms are I do know there will be an end date.

If you think you suffer, even just a little bit, I have some tips that may help you. Everyone is different though so they may not work for all of you. But anything is worth a try !! My biggest tip is to plan ahead. I start getting into a routine in September. Particularly with health and fitness and taking of supplements as these need a little time to get into your system.

Get Outside

I know it is hard to find the motivation to get outside when you are feeling low and it is cold, wet and windy. But it really is the best medicine for sufferers of S.A.D. And it is free. 10 mins in the middle of the day is all you need. I was the worlds worst at taking this advice in previous years. I worked in an office in London and hardly ever took a proper lunch break so never ventured outside between the hours of 8am and 6pm. I can honestly say that those years were some of the worst for my mood. Last year I moved out of London and started working in a school. I pop outside every lunchtime to check on lunch staff and what is going on in the playground. I get my 10 mins of daylight every day and despite having a more demanding and stressful job last Winter I suffered far less than I have for many years.

Maintain a Healthy Diet


You will crave sugary and carb laden food. Particularly, if you are feeling low but this is not going to make you feel better. I know from past experiences. I used to eat very differently during Summer and Winter months and cold nights would mean lots of potatoes, pasta, puddings and chocolate. But the extra lbs this added made me feel sluggish and depressed, when my clothes were tight. Now I tend to eat the same all year round. And yes people do think I am a little mad when I rock up to work with a salad for lunch in the middle of December. But all that spinach and raw veg with a tin of tuna keeps my Vitamin D levels topped up and my weight down.

Exercise

When you feel low this is the last thing you want to do. I usually exercise every morning, before work. I find it harder to do this in the Winter months when it is dark and cold when I get up. So I change things around a little. I reduce my morning workouts from five to just two and I add a longer gym visit at the weekend. If I try to maintain the same level of workouts as the Summer months I fail and that feeling of failure fuels my depression and then I end up doing nothing. So It is better to do something than nothing at all. My morning workouts will usually consist of a 15 min HIIT session. They are fast, warm me up and are over and done with quickly. I know I can maintain this. Sometimes if I am having a good week I manage three morning sessions. On a Saturday morning I head to the gym with my husband. We make a morning of it. I will either take a class (box fit or circuits) or spend 30 mins lifting weights and then finish with 5-10 mins on the treadmill. It helps having someone to go with. After the gym we walk into a Village Centre for coffee and breakfast at a lovely little cafe. By doing this it becomes a bit of a treat rather than a chore. And the 10 min walk there and back gets me outside too.

Supplements


Due to having already gone through early menopause there are several supplements I take all year round now. These are the same ones I used to take just in the Winter months and ones that I would recommend if you suffer from S.A.D. Start taking them in September.

Vitamin D – I take mine with Calcium every night to try and protect myself from Osteoporosis but this is honestly the best supplement you can take to help elevate the severity of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Vitamin B12 – I don’t think everyone needs to take this. I think it is more beneficial for women who are also going through the menopause. I only started taking this supplement in the last 12 months and it has been a godsend. It really helps me concentrate and I have more energy and in my job I really can’t afford to be feeling tired.

Magnesium – This is a great supplement if you are struggling to get a good nights sleep. Take about an hour before bedtime. One downside that I find is that Magnesium can dehydrate me. So I always make sure I drink plenty of water during the day and also have a bottle of water on my bedside table to drink first thing in the morning. If you don’t want to take the supplement you can use Epsom Salts (which contain Magnesium) in a hot bath. Soak for about 20 mins for best effect.

Lighting


I have a SAD light that I bought from Argos about 10 years ago. It cost about £50 at the time (similar here). I put it on my dressing table from September through to March. I pop it on in the mornings when I am getting ready for work. I also have a couple of full spectrum Daylight light bulbs that I put in my bedroom and lounge lamps during the Winter (purchased from Amazon). Do they help? I think there are some benefits but only when combined with the other things mentioned above.

Winter Sun


We have not taken our main holiday in the Summer for years now. Most years we take a week long holiday abroad, somewhere sunny, over the Christmas period. I really notice the difference in my symptoms when we have been away. The Algarve is one of our favourite places in the Winter. It is not overcrowded and is warm and sunny during the day and very easy to pick up a bargain if you book a few months in advance.

Be Kind To Yourself

Sometimes the only thing that you can do is give in to the feelings that Seasonal Affective Disorder brings. I am lucky that my husband fully understands my mental health issues and knows that there are times where I just cannot function properly. When that happens he steps away and gives me the space I need to have a day off (I do not like to be fussed over as this produces feelings of guilt which then fuels the depression). He will take over the household chores and the cooking for the day (usually a Sunday) and allow me to just snuggle under the blanket on the sofa and watch movies or box sets all day. There is nothing wrong with this, unless it happens too often. I tend to have one of these days once a month. Maybe twice in January and February, which seem to be my worst months.

Plan Something Fun

I have at least one day/night out already planned and booked for each month between October and March. I have committed myself to socialise with other people and booked something fun to look forward to. I tried this last year but failed miserably. Mainly because last year I booked things to do with my husband. The reason this didn’t work was when the day came I didn’t want to get dressed up and go out of the house. I wanted to hibernate. And because my husband is so lovely. He let me do just that. So you can see why for me this isn’t the way to go. This year I have booked things to do with friends. Now I know that on the day I will still get the feeling of not wanting to go. But because I would never let friends down. I will persevere, get dressed up and go out. And you know what. I will have a fantastic time full of fun and laughter.

I hope you have found some helpful tips above, that you haven’t tried before. And if you have any other tips that work for you please share. I am a big advocate for talking about mental health issues and sharing experiences and would love to hear from anyone who suffers from S.A.D so I can share with other sufferers.

Thank you for reading
Melanie xxx

Week 3 (Sculpt & Tone) – THRIVE DIARY

The first day of my final week of the Sculpt & Tone Stage was an epic fail. I woke up late, hungover from an impromptu Sunday evening party in my local pub. All good intentions to get off to a good start went completely out of the window. I spent most of the day either in bed or on the sofa.

Tuesday was a little better but to be honest I struggled at the beginning of the week. The weather was awful and my mood was low. I almost felt like I had a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is something I have suffered of for as long as I can remember.

I did manage to force myself to exercise on Wednesday. Only a short Yoga session at home but it was better than nothing and helped lift my mood. The rest of the week I felt a little better and getting out of the house to meet with a friend was the best medicine. 

Saturday I made sure I ate well during the day and worked out in the morning to make up for the fact that I had a night out planned with my Sister and her Husband, who were coming to stay. We went out for dinner at a local Indian Restaurant and then onto our Village pub for an Ibiza Party Night. Too much to drink again. But no hangover on Sunday thankfully.

It has been difficult keeping on plan during the holidays and I feel that I have let myself down a few times. So as I have several events this week, including an all inclusive weekend away, I am going to take the pressure off myself and take a little break from my plan. I am going to give myself a little holiday and allow myself to relax, have fun and enjoy a little over-indulgence. It is just as important to know when you need to step out of a routine and relax. I think it will do me good to have a little holiday and to come back refreshed and remotivated. 


MONDAY 7th AUGUST

Movement - Rest Day
Steps - 1,930
Breakfast - Banana Smoothie
Lunch - Beans on Toast
Dinner - Cold Gammon, Fried Egg & Chips
Snacks - None
Wellness/Beauty - Mini Facial with Liz Earle Products

TUESDAY 8th AUGUST

Movement - Rest Day
Steps - 9,380
Breakfast - Banana Smoothie
Lunch - Courghetti Bolognaise
Dinner - "Picnic on a Plate"
Snacks - Hnadful of Mixed Nuts
Wellness/Beauty - Spending the Day with my Son

WEDNESDAY 9th AUGUST

Movement - 20 mins Yoga (Barbara Currie Power of Yoga DVD)
Steps - 2,005
Breakfast - Slice Wholemeal Toast with Ham, Avocado & Poached a Egg
Lunch - Avocado & Lime Smoothie
Dinner - Grilled Pork Chop with Beetroot & Feta Salad
Snacks - 1/2 Packet of Haribo Sweets & Glass of Prosecco
Wellness/Beauty - 10 min Meditation (Calm App on i-phone)

THURSDAY 10th AUGUST

Movement - 10 Mins Kettlebell Circuit
Steps - 9,595
Breakfast - 2 Slices Bacon, Fried Egg, Beans & Wholemeal Toast
Lunch - None as I had a late Breakfast
Dinner - Grilled Chicken & Salad & Pitta Bread
Snacks - Large Latte & Bakewell Tart
Wellness/Beauty - Coffee & Cake with a friend

FRIDAY 11th AUGUST

Movement - 5 km walk
Steps - 13,590
Breakfast - Avocado & Lime Smoothie
Lunch - Grilled Halloumi & Chorizo followed by Chicken Burrito
Dinner - Chicken & Vegetable Chow Mein
Snacks - 1/2 Packet of Haribo Sweets & Glass of Prosecco
Wellness/Beauty - Manicure

SATURDAY 12th AUGUST

Movement - Bodycoach 20 min HIIT workout
Steps - 14,450
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs with Spinach & Tomato
Lunch - Fruit Smoothie
Dinner - Meal Out at Indian Restaurant
Snacks - None but had several drinks throughout the evening
Wellness/Beauty - Liz Earle Intensive Nourishing Face Mask

SUNDAY 13th AUGUST

Movement - Rest Day
Steps - 4,675
Breakfast - Full English
Lunch - None
Dinner - Roast Beef, Roast Potatoes, Broccoli, Asparagus & Carrots
Snacks - Lemon Cheesecake
Wellness/Beauty - Early Night

So I will be back with my Diary in two weeks after a little break from my plan.
Enjoy the Sunshine that is meant to be on the way.

Thank you for reading.

Love

Melanie xxxx

Week 2 (Sculpt & Tone) – THRIVE DIARY

Week 2 was a week of two halves. The start of the week was good. Eating well and fitting in plenty of exercise. Then from Friday onwards all good intentions went out the window.

Friday was my second Wedding Anniversary and as we were both off work we had planned an indulgent day out in London. In the morning we did a little shopping in Covent Garden and met friends for coffee, then we walked along the Southbank and enjoyed a late lunch on the 31st Floor of the Shard, followed by drinks in a couple of bars in the London Bridge area before jumping on a train home at a very respectable 9pm. Saturday was a lazy day. Luckily I didn’t have a hangover but I was very tired. So much so I fell asleep on the sofa at 8pm. Sunday wasn’t much better in the end either. I woke late after over 10hrs sleep and as I still felt exhausted I skipped the gym and spent the morning on the sofa. I finally found enough energy to do a little yoga session before heading off to our local pub for more celebrations late afternoon. Epic fail on the alcohol consumption this week.

I am hoping the final week of this Sculpt and Tone stage is better. I have no lunches/dinners or drinks planned until Saturday and I am off work for the whole week along with my husband. So we have plenty of time to fit in exercise.

My biggest challenge this next week will be to not eat and snack out of boredom. I have a very busy demanding job and not doing anything for the whole week is going to be difficult for me. Although my husband reckons he can find me a few jobs to do if I get too bored !!

MONDAY 31st JULY

Movement - Walk 5 km
Steps - 26,390
Breakfast - Frankie & Benny's Vegetarian Breakfast
Lunch - Small portion of Chips while out shopping
Dinner - Grilled Chicken, Salad with Chilli Dressing and Pitta Bread
Snacks - No snacks but 2 x Lattes and 2 x Beers while out shopping
Wellness/Beauty - A Day Out with my husband

TUESDAY 1st AUGUST

Movement - 30 Mins Dynamic Yoga (Jillian Michaels Yoga Burn)
Steps - 7,440
Breakfast - Bagel filled with Hard Boiled Egg, Ham and Spinach
Lunch - Wholemeal Wrap filled with 
Dinner - Moroccan Spiced Kofta, Grilled Halloumi, Spinach Salad & Coleslaw
Snacks - Handful of Mixed Nuts
Wellness/Beauty - Hair Colour, Haircut & Blow Dry

WEDNESDAY 2nd AUGUST

Movement - Rest Day
Steps - 9,430
Breakfast - Danish Pastry
Lunch - Pineapple Smoothie
Dinner - Peri Peri Chicken, Sweet Potato Mash & Green Veg 
Snacks - Feta Cheese sprinkled on Dinner & Chocolate Mousse
Wellness/Beauty - Liz Earle Deep Cleansing Mask

THURSDAY 3rd AUGUST

Movement - (Gym AM) 10 mins cardio on Bike, 30 mins Resistance Machines 
           and 7 km walk in the evening
Steps - 15,660
Breakfast - Mushroom, Tomato & Feta Omelette
Lunch - Pineapple Smoothie with 1 scoop of Protein Powder
Dinner - Sticky Soy Salmon, Griddled Aubergine & Green Veg
Snacks - Handful of Mixed Nuts
Wellness/Beauty - Manicure & Pedicure

FRIDAY 4th AUGUST

Movement - Walking around London (in heels)
Steps - 10,670
Breakfast - Sausage Sandwich
Lunch - 3 Course Meal at Aqua Shard including 
Starter - Dug Leg & Heart with Green Salad topped with a Poached Duck Egg
Main - Pork Rib Eye with Crispy Crackling, Apple Gel, Rainbow Chard and New Potaotes
Dessert - Raspberry Fool topped with Whipped Cream and Pistachios
Dinner - Mushroom Omelette 
Snacks - None but drank 1 glass of Rose, 2 Pints Czech Lager and 1 Aperol Spritz
Wellness/Beauty - Celebrating my Wedding Anniversary with my husband

SATURDAY 5th AUGUST

Movement - Rest Day
Steps - 3,220
Breakfast - 1/2 Tin Beans on a slice of Wholemeal Toast
Lunch - 2 x Rye Crackers with Garlic & Herb Soft Cheese
Dinner - Mixed Grill (1 Chicken Thigh, 2 Sausages, 1 Homemade Chilli Burger) 
         with Spinach Salad, Avocado, Halloumi and Coleslaw
Snacks - 1 Handful of Mixed Nuts
Wellness/Beauty - Liz Earle Brightening Treatment Mask

SUNDAY 6th AUGUST

Movement - 15 mins Yoga (Barbara Currie Power of Yoga DVD)
Steps - 9,615
Breakfast - Sausage & Scrambled Egg with fresh Tomatoes & Feta
Lunch - Avocado & Lime Smoothie
Dinner - Slow Cooked Gammon, Dry Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Green Veg
Snacks - 4 Pints of Beer
Wellness/Beauty - Drinks with friends

I am disappointed that this week ended so badly but I need to just pick myself and start over and make sure I do things better this coming week. I don’t think I will have made any progress this week either. I am trying to avoid jumping on the scales as it’s likely that I will have put on a couple of pounds and knowing this will only diminish my motivation. As they say, “Ignorance is Bliss”.

Thank you for reading.

Melanie xxxx