Setting goals (self-care month day 18)

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I can’t believe it is day 18 of self-care month already! Only 12 more days to go, well done for getting so far, you should be patting yourself on the back 🙂

When I went to counselling one of the things that we had to do in order to progress was to set some goals. This gave us all a purpose and a reason for moving forwards when the counselling had finished. I can’t really remember what my original goals were, they have probably changed quite a lot since then. Cont…

For more click here for the full free download of ‘self-care month’ now all as one handy ebook ‘The Self-care Manual’

Most Important Tasks

In my Leonie Dawson workbook that I filled out at the beginning of this year there was a page called

12 Zen Habits (From Leo Babuta at Zen habits.net)

They are all pretty useful and zen and go as follows

  1. Set your 3 MIT’s (most important tasks) each morning
  2. Single task (focus your attention)
  3. Zero inbox
  4. Process emails once a day
  5. Exercise 5-10 mins a day
  6. Work while disconnected
  7. Keep your desk decluttered
  8. Clear & declutter home for 15 mins a day
  9. Stick to a 5 sentence limit on emails (make your words powerful)
  10. Say no to commitments & requests not on your important short list
  11. Eat fresh fruit & veg everyday
  12. Follow a morning routine

I think we can all pretty much agree that these ‘Zen Habits’ are worth thinking about as we go through our days. In fact I have them stuck on the wall in front of me right this very second look

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My favourite one is number 1. I actually do use this one every day now. Having 3 MIT’s is great because it isn’t overwhelming. It its an endless to do list. It is just what actually matters to you the most on that day. Sometimes there is time for more. Some days I have achieved my MIT’s by 11am and I have the rest of the day to frolic..or whatever. I take 5 minutes every morning to figure out what the 3 tasks are for that day that i definitely need to do. If i think of 4 i have to choose which ones are the most necessary to my day.

Todays MIT’s for example are

  • Write blog post
  • Go to appointment
  • Start assignment

Today is pretty standard actually. Often my 3 MIT’s have something to do with self-care (appointment-actually for hypnotherapy) something for my business (today-write blog post) and often something to do with studying because there is basically always something I really need to do for that.

Other days, I know immediately that My number 1 priority is self care. Sometimes my MIT is actually to find time for a quick nap, or a bath, or just to read alone for a while. On days when I’m not feeling that great I know that that needs to be taken care of first.

Some days it is to do something fun with my family, to visit my grandma, to clean something, to business plan, to organise something for charity, to find time for yoga or a walk or to write in my journal if I haven’t done that for a while, to create something if i haven’t done that for a while.

You get the picture. I need to sit down each morning and actually give myself a few minutes to think about what the day holds in store for me and how I can work out when to do my MIT’s.

Why don’t you try it? Could you list 3 MIT’s today?

Peace out,

Imogen x

P.S.

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Warning signs for stress


Sometimes when you get a little off track and are struggling to create life balance you don’t see it coming. You burnout, stress out and you can’t think why. Everybody has their own warning signs when this happens, yours might be different to mine. I know mine because when I was diagnosed with anxiety I realised that all the things that I had begun to feel every day were not normal. When you are in the midst of it though you may not know what is normal, you may not know what your warning signs are. Mine are

  • Shoulder pain. When I tense up my shoulder muscles get the worst of it. I hunch up and I can tell maybe even after only a few hours that I am out of balance. Something has got my stressed and I need to implement a little self care to balance myself out again.
  • Fatigue. Being stressed is exhausting, the tension, the anxiety, the physical symptoms. For me especially my body screams at me to rest. If I sit down for a few minutes I struggle to get back up. I feel tired and then I figure out why.
  • Not being able to sleep. Anyone who has suffered with anxiety or stress will no that on the other side of the tiredness there is a horrific inability to sleep. You get so wound up that you can’t relax or rest. Something has got your mind whirring and you can’t switch it off.
  • Irritability. If I am getting unreasonably snappy at my family then I know I need to calm down. It happens when I am preoccupied with something that is causing me stress.
  • Feeling emotional. As well as the snappy irritability theres the urge to burst into tears with very little cause!
  • A feeling of uneasiness that you can’t put your finger on. It feels as though you have forgotten something, your mind is racing but not for any particular reason.
  • Headaches. Because of the combination of tiredness and tension headaches are bound to happen.

Some of these warning signs come straight away some of them come as the stress builds up over time. The big one for me is the shoulder pain. I know that if I am really sore up there then I haven’t been looking after myself properly and I need to stop and figure out why and how I can correct it as soon as possible, by scheduling some time for myself to relax and recover and to use my bag of tricks so I can get my life balance back to what it should be. It doesn’t happen as often anymore because I am used to balancing my life every day. But I won’t ever say that it will never happen, of course it will. We all lose track and we all get overwhelmed and we all forget to look after ourselves sometimes but now I know that I can see it coming. As it edges towards me I can tell myself that something has gone wrong and I need to reassess what I am doing in my every day life.

Do you know your warning signs? Perhaps you share some of mine. If not, do you know how to work yours out? Drop me an email at imogenjhope@gmail.com if you need help figuring it out.

Peace & joy,

Imogen x

12 Tips for better sleep

Hello again wonderful readers.

I’m not feeling so good today. The smallest of my children decided to be awake and crying for most of the night on monday, I know that was 2 days ago but haven’t recovered still. It takes me a while to get over such a big sleep disturbance. I am irritable, fuzzy, I can’t concentrate and every body else suffers for it. There really isn’t much I can do besides have a few earlier nights to make up for it. Do you do that? I can easily go to bed half an hour early but any more and I struggle to sleep through or a wake up super early. I know some people swear by having a super early night once a week at least. I can’t really do that. It throws me off for quite a while. So for me, I’m afraid, lost sleep is just lost and I won’t find it again. I have to spend a few days being gentle with myself to help me through and sometimes a 10 minute snooze on the couch but not more, or again, my sleep pattern will suffer.

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I need 9 hours sleep a night. I have an active lifestyle because I send the majority of my day running after my small children. I think everyone can just about work out what the right amount of sleep is for them. Sleep apps like Sleep Cycle are a super help. You switch the app on and place it next to or just under your pillow while you sleep. By measuring how much you are moving around at any point in the night it will analyse when you’re nearly awake and wake you during your more awake time rather than your fast asleep time-when it is the hardest to wake up. It shows you graphs and stats about your nights sleep and they can be pretty useful, it was because of this that I realised even though I was getting a lot of sleep the quality wasn’t what it should be. Which is why I was really suffering with so much tiredness last year.

If we are getting the right amount of sleep it can really effect so many parts of our lives including

  • Mood
  • Energy
  • Diet
  • Concentration
  • Immune system
  • Blood pressure

If you struggle to get the right amount of sleep or the right quality of sleep there are things that can help you. When I went to counselling for stress/anxiety/depression they covered a big section on how to improve sleep because unsurprisingly these are more likely to develop when you are having trouble sleeping.

Here are a few tips I learnt to help get better sleep

  1. Cut out caffeine. At my worst I could easily sink 8 cups of coffee a day. I had headaches daily, huge crashes in energy levels, terrible concentration and bad sleep patterns. I cut caffeine out completely which was pretty hard, I had lots of withdrawal symptoms and was horrible for quite a few days but when I had got through that, it was actually amazing. I was thinking clearer than I had in months, I had more energy in the evenings to spend time with my family, I wasn’t as irritable, I didn’t get headaches, my skin was so much clearer. Nowadays I have the odd cup of caffeinated tea on occasion when there might not be a decaf option but I never rely on it and I never use it as fuel for my body, its just not good for you. Oh and on the counselling course there was link noted between the big caffeine drinkers and panic attacks! For anyone who’s ever suffered with one of those they will know they are well worth avoiding.
  2. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, within 15 mins or so. Keeping to this kind of sleep schedule will help your body to know when its time to sleep and how much sleep you usually get. This goes for lie ins too. Ever get that feeling when you’ve had too much sleep? This can also ruin your sleep quality the next night. If I get a rare night out and I go to bed late I still get up within half an hour of the usual time (I have small children-go figure) it helps me to get better sleep the next few nights if I avoid a big lie in.
  3. Exercising regularly can increase the quality of sleep and will help you to feel tired when it’s the right time for bed.
  4. Switch off electronics for an hour before bed. The bright backlit screens keep your mind and eyes awake and make it harder to switch off when you get in bed.woman-653892_1280
  5. Keep the bedroom for sleep and sex only. That means no films, no TV, nothing but relaxing. Reading is great before bed as long as its nothing too stimulating.
  6. Hot drinks. Try herbal tea or warm milk. Hot chocolate can be a bit sugary for before bed.woman-601568_1280
  7. A hot shower or bath will relax your whole body and the increase in body temperature can really make you feel sleepy.
  8. Don’t let the bedroom get too hot. Keep a window slightly open all night if you can or if its really cold just let some fresh air in until you are ready to go to sleep. Overheating in bed can be a big problem with staying asleep.
  9. Writing things down. If you have a lot of thoughts going through your mind while you are trying to sleep, leave the room briefly, get a pen and paper and spend 10 minutes writing every tiny thing that comes into your head, even if it doesn’t seem important. Get it out and you’ll have less to distract you from just relaxing.
  10. If you do find yourself tossing and turning then don’t check the time. Just don’t. You will never be able to relax knowing just how much sleep time you have left and trying to force it.
  11. Burning essential oils in your bedroom before you sleep is helpful for helping you to relax. Lavender is always a good one to make you feel sleepy but also ylang ylang and sandalwood are really relaxing.
  12. Meditation can help you learn to relax your mind and not focus on your thoughts. If you want to learn to meditate I fully recommend the app Headspace as a good place to start.

All of these tips are things I do for myself. I know how important it is that I get the right quality and amount of sleep so I pass these ideas on from experience. I hope they can help you as much as they help me continuously.

Imogen x

P.S. I am currently working on a life-balance ebook which will be released on Monday May the 4th. More info on that coming soon….

P.P.S. I have some new photos of myself floating about the website which my brilliant friend Gary took for me. Hope you enjoy!

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Peace x

This is what brought me here

It was actually nearly a year ago when I first came up with the idea of creating a website/blog/service designed to reduce stress and overwhelm by personally helping people to fit in all the wonderful little things that they love and believe they haven’t got time for. The fact is you have got the time and it is important that you do these thing that mean so much to you.
Well I went about starting to set up my new business venture around the family commitments that come with having a 4 year old and a baby at home and running a house while my husband travelled around the world on business.
I didn’t realise there was anything wrong. I had no idea what was coming. I thought everything was as it should be. But then I couldn’t help but wonder-was I supposed to be so irritable and snappy with the children all the time? I was tired I knew that so I tried to get more sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake flinging myself around the bed and the few hours sleep I did get wasn’t of any decent quality at all.
Then started the ‘concerns’ regarding my boys behaviour at preschool and boy, I didn’t not cope well with that. Every day I would pick him up and be told how he had been hurting the other children and he couldn’t control the impulse to lash out that most children grow out of by the time they are 3. It broke my heart on a daily basis and I cried so often in front of the preschool supervisor. I couldn’t bare to look at the other parents in case they were judging me and I was terrified about the effect all of this was having on the child I adored with all my heart. The child I had always wanted and that I believe was made for me.
My shoulders were so tense at this time that I was in 24 hour a day crippling pain. I thought that the only way this pain would go is whenever it would be that I died. So, of course, i was getting even less sleep then. I had begun fuelling myself on around 8 cups of coffee a day just to get myself through.
I got a massage for my shoulders from a friend who was studying sports psychology, she sat me up, stood behind me and said ‘right just put your shoulders down’ ‘down?’ I said, I tried but they literally would not move with all the tension!
So anyway my genius business blog idea was completely discarded at this point. I couldn’t imagine how I could help anybody in the state I was in and who would listen to somebody who couldn’t balance their own life anyway?
So i trotted off to the doctors thinking it was probably anaemia or b12 deficiency. Something that I could get a prescription to fix. After blood tests and several meetings the doctor diagnosed ‘anxiety and stress’. I left thinking she’s got that wrong I would know if I had anxiety but no. Apparently I wouldn’t. She put me on the waiting list for counselling and physiotherapy for my shoulders and sent me on my way.
Upon returning home I got straight on to google as many people would do in this situation. I spoke to my friend the mental health nurse who reassured me by saying ‘knowledge is power where this is concerned’ so I ordered a CBT workbook online and set about researching what I needed to do. One of the helpful hints I read was to try journaling. I found a notepad and wrote away not really knowing what I should write about. After a few minutes of getting into the flow I found myself pouring my heart out about how I felt like a big black cloud was following me around. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. Ok maybe I am stressed and anxious then. Maybe the way I was feeling wasn’t right and perhaps there was something wrong after all.
Not long after the diagnosis my dear old grandad died. Which was a hard knock and for a few weeks there. All I could do was get through the days and be there for my family who all seriously adored my grandad with good reason. My family all needed me and I needed to be there for them. Somehow that was my way of dealing with it.
It was a knock yes and a very strange time. Especially for someone who, like me, was fortunate not have had much experience of death. But I dealt with it and life went on.
One thing I really felt the need to do in the midst of everything that was happening was take a trip to see my wonderful, wise auntie Jay who lived 2 hours away in Lancashire. She always somehow had the exact words that I needed to hear and I knew I would come away from her feeling enlightened. And I did. We talked about the anxiety, what I went through with preschool, grandad, childhood even and I cried and her soft gentle voice soothed me so much and I will never forget how much she helped me that day. As I drove back down the motorway the rain poured and I felt my pain wash away with it.
One of the outcomes of that meeting was that I got back in touch with my estranged father who I hadn’t spoken to or seen in 15 years. I had seen that he was on facebook and had considered how it would benefit me to ask him all the questions I had always wondered about and had probably affected my life forever. He answered all my questions with as much honesty as he could and I am grateful for that. What else will come of the situation I don’t know. I guess time will tell but at the moment we are emailing regularly.
I eventually got a counselling place on a 6 week course of group sessions in the middle of the summer. By that point I had dealt with a lot of what had happened and was beginning to feel brighter, happier and like my old self. But wiser and older. I went to the counselling and got an immense amount of help from it. Techniques and information that I will remember for the rest of my life. When I started the counselling I thought I was cured already but my curiosity took me there anyway. I’m so glad. The main thing I got from it was that i knew I had to stop it coming back I could spot it from a distance and delve into my bag of tricks to make sure I don’t get back to that same dark place. And I have used the techniques I learnt at the counselling sessions countless times already over the last 6 months and will do for the rest of my life.
Ok so here I really need to point out that if you do have symptoms of stress or anxiety tell your GP. It won’t simply go away. I also used the information on the website for the metal health charity mind http://www.mind.org.uk

At the beginning of last year one of the few people I had got round to telling about my website ideas was my beautiful little auntie Jay. When I revisited her in the midst of everything I told her I couldn’t bring myself to do it now. I wasn’t who I thought I was to be able to help anybody. She said ‘sometimes you have to experience something like this to be able to help other people’. At the time I really didn’t think it could happen ever. But as those words roll over in my mind more frequently a light beams brighter in my mind. She was right, of course, I can help people with this idea and everything I went through happened for that exact reason!
So that is the story of what led me to create this website that I hope will help other people enjoy their lives and look after themselves.
One of my counsellors many metaphors was ‘when you’re on an aeroplane and the flight attendants are reading out the safety instructions what do they say about when the oxygen masks come down?’
You put yours on before helping anybody else fit theirs because you can’t help people around you if you don’t look after yourself first!

Imogen x

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