Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013!

2013 has been a wonderful mixture of difficult yet amazing. To an outsider 2013 might not look too positive for me, what with leaving two jobs due to anxiety. Yet I do believe everything has unfolded how it was supposed to unfold in order for me to learn some pretty important and profound lessons. I'm waving 2013 a fond farewell and embracing 2014 with the understanding that 'everything you want is on the other side of fear' as said by Jack Canfield, and although 2013 has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster I wouldn't change it. I've learned too much to go back!

The ultimate lesson I've learned this year is to follow my intuition and quit hiding from what my soul is seeking. I thought I'd love moving from working in a school to having an office job as it seemed like a 'grown up' transition, leaving the school I had both attended and worked at for somewhere new. I told myself I'd enjoy a more administrative role, but of course I didn't because deep down I knew I didn't want to be an Information Officer. There's nothing wrong with the role itself, it's just not me! Then I tricked myself into thinking a-ha, if I return to a school environment I'll be happy again! It will feel safe and comfortable and cosy! But that isn't the role for me either, and that decision ended up exacerbating my anxiety rather than abating it. 

This time last year I was signed off from work on long term sick leave after having panic attacks and bouts of anxiety at work and at home. I felt stuck, confused and helpless. And yet in the midst of all those feelings, I also felt a sense of freedom. While some may suffer from anxiety out of the blue, I felt, and now feel very strongly, that anxiety was my body's way of sounding the alarm and alerting me to a truth I had been desperately trying to avoid. I was on the wrong path, and I was clinging on to the the wrong path out of a choice rooted in fear rather than in intuition. A year later and while I haven't re-entered the workplace yet I have a much better idea of who I am and what my soul needs. 

2014 is going to be the year I launch my tarot reading business. It's the year of business cards, tarot reading bookings, tarot events, tarot blog content and a tarot website. I am SO EXCITED to get the ball rolling and follow my dream of running my own guidance and healing business! I'm also planning to train as a Reiki healer, something I wouldn't have considered this time last year. I no longer feel lost. I made a conscious decision in 2013 to switch my thinking from 'I am lost' to 'I am found' and the effect has been astonishing. 

I believe embarking on a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy this year has 'saved my life' in terms of giving me the tools I was desperately searching for to live a life of happiness, and to carve out a path for myself that 'fits' with who I am and what I love most. CBT has enabled me to take full responsibility for my actions and choices, and to understand with greater clarity that thoughts are not facts... they're just opinions! The greatest discovery of all is that I can change my thoughts for the better, in doing so empowering myself and enabling positive growth and change. 

While my life might not look too different on the outside yet, I feel transformed on the inside, and I think it's beginning to show. When I talk with my friends about plans for the future I no longer feel so anxious or uncertain, and I think this change comes across in my tone of voice, facial expressions and frequent smiling! I'm happy that CBT has made me realise that I am the only one who can create the path I most desire, it's in my control and if I want something badly enough I can jolly well get out and make it happen! I don't feel as if I need anyone to 'confirm' my plans for me in order for them to happen; I am making a conscious choice. It feels exciting!

My favourite moments from this year include meeting my long lost cousins Pamela and Olivia, thanks to Ancestry and Twitter! It was amazing catching up in person and sharing family stories. I can't wait to see them again in 2014! I also loved attending an eight week tarot course in January 2013, as it strengthened my love for the cards and reaffirmed to me that I want to 'go pro'. It was awesome meeting fellow tarot enthusiasts, and I'd love to sign up for another course in the new year. I've read tarot for so many people this year, both those I know and for strangers, and it has been an absolute honour. I can't imagine my life now without tarot, as it's such an integral tool for me! Whether for meditation, self reflection or for reading for others, tarot has been my constant side-kick this year. 

Planning the wedding has taken up a huge chunk of 2013, and I can't quite believe that it's almost here! In 24 days (that's less than a month! Eek!) I'll be marrying the greatest person on the planet (not that I'm biased or anything) and we'll starting a whole new adventure together. I can't even begin to describe how happy and excited I am, and how much I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life with the love of my life. The countdown begins as soon as the clock strikes midnight!  

Another  favourite moment from this year has to be my hen do which was just perfect! I had the best time with my friends and I'll never forgot everything Alice did to make it so special. 

2013 also saw the redesign of this here little blog! Before the Bluebird & the Robin my blog was called 'Thoughts on Things' which seemed rather boring! I thoroughly enjoyed renaming and then redesigning everything, Googling my heart out while wading through HTML and CSS, all of which I've completely forgotten now of course! I felt such a huge sense of achievement every time I managed to tweak the blog layout slightly, and when I finally managed to get a new header sorted I felt completely overwhelmed! Haha, I'm really proud of the Bluebird & the Robin as it was a real labour of love, and I'm looking forward  to posting my way through 2014.

With the revamp of the Bluebird & the Robin came my Anxiety Diaries series, which I've loved writing. I've always believed writing to be therapeutic and through typing out my thoughts and discoveries while battling anxiety over the past year I've come to understand so many things that I might have chosen to ignore in the past. I particularly enjoyed writing up a CBT based post exploring anxiety thought cycles, as well as the 'Do not be afraid to blossom' post and a post exploring the transformative power of 'I Am Found' thinking. I've got plenty more Anxiety Diaries scheduled for 2014!

 I've 'met' some wonderful, wonderful fellow bloggers this year. Megan from Southern Charmed in particular has been a fantastic anxiety cheerleader over the past year, always reassuring me when times have felt tough and lifting me up with encouraging and inspiring words. I value our friendship so much and it's all thanks to the world of blogging that we connected! I can't wait to see the unveiling of her revamped Southern Charmed blog at the start of 2014, as I know it's going to look amazing and be jam packed with incredible beauty and lifestyle content. Swing by and say hi, I promise Megan is the friendliest blogger out there! 

While 2013 has been a real struggle at times, the learning I've undergone has made it worthwhile ten times over, and I'll be forever grateful for all of the opportunities I've had this year to cultivate inner change. 2013 has most definitely been a year of inner work, whereas I'm predicting 2014 will be the year of outward change; a year of implementing the lessons I've learned and of using the tools I've gathered to create an exciting outer path for myself. I usually feel very uncomfortable on New Year's Eve as I don't like the 'unknown' that a new year represents. This time, however, I'm happy and excited to leap into 2014 and get to work! 

I've planned a separate 'Hello 2014!' post to follow this one, so I won't ramble on any longer! Wishing you a wonderful new year full of peace, happiness and joy.

Baci e abbracci, 
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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

It's Christmas Eve!

Happy Christmas Eve all! I'm spending today picking up some last minute stocking fillers, having lunch with family and then dinner with Chris's family in the evening. I can't wait! We open presents at midnight at Chris's and it's always so much fun wishing everyone a merry Christmas just as the clock strikes midnight. 

On the eve of the big day I thought it would be nice to post a festive roundup of the things I've been loving in the run up to Christmas. Enjoy!

On Saturday (21st) I celebrated Yule with some chocolate Yule log and a warming cup of tea. Yule celebrates the triumph of the Oak King over the Holly King and the welcoming of brighter days after the Winter Solstice. 

You can't go wrong with some festive Yankee Candle melts! I've been burning a Spiced Red Apple wax tart over the past few days and it smells so Christmassy. I'm looking forward to opening Christmas Eve tonight!

A little Lush pampering is always a great antidote to tired legs after hours of Christmas shopping. I picked up this little Marshmallow Moment bath bomb because it smells absolutely gorgeous, just like a marshmallow funnily enough! 

How beautiful is this Christmas card? My friend Michaela designs the most amazing festive cards every year and I love the detailing on this year's reindeer design. 

I couldn't resist ordering a copy of Linda Raedisch's The Old Magic of Christmas. Packed full of all sorts of folklore and Pagan wisdom, this is my festive reading of choice right now. 

I picked up a few beauty bits and bobs while out Christmas shopping and these are my current faves of the bunch! I purchased the Bourjois Happy Light concealer pot and Color Boost Balm crayon and received a free Bourjois gift pack in Boots, which is always a nice bonus! It contained the red lipgloss and smoky eye palette pictured above, as well as a red nail polish and black mascara. In Lush I purchased a mini Charity Pot hand and body lotion for £1 (the proceeds go to charity) and it smells AMAZING. So sweet with cocoa butter and almond, it's seriously good stuff. I also picked up a mini Benefit skincare set from Boots for only £12.50 and I've been enjoying using the It's Potent! eye cream. 

I hope everyone's having a lovely Christmas Eve! And Merry Christmas for tomorrow :)

Baci e abbracci,

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Monday, 23 December 2013

Tarot Diaries | Christmas reading

The countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun in the Massey household! I've been wrapping presents, eating minced pies and watching a whole host of classic holiday movies over the past few days. Oklahoma! is on in the background as I sit here typing, and earlier today I watched the Crimbo classic The Santa Claus. You can't get more Christmassy than that!

I thought it would be nice to pull a few cards to keep in mind over the festive season. The Four of Wands is a wonderful card depicting celebration, home and family, which seems pretty appropriate! I absolutely love Christmas, from sharing presents to eating a huge family Christmas dinner and everything in between. No matter how busy you've been over the past year it's lovely to gather around and reconnect with family and friends, and the sense of excitement and anticipation in the air makes for seriously fun times. As always I'm in charge of the pickle bar (!) and encourage everyone to wear the paper hats that come with the Christmas crackers. I can't wait for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to spend some quality time with my family and stuff my face with lots of delicious festive treats!

I smiled upon seeing the Page of Pentacles as to me he represents the giving and receiving of presents; particularly the giving. He admires the golden pentacle in his hands and truly appreciates what he's about to deliver. I bet he's great at choosing meaningful gifts for his loved ones! I really enjoy Christmas shopping as I love choosing presents for my loved ones, and I get a thrill from coming across the 'perfect' present. I spend quite a lot of time wrapping gifts with ribbons and bows; I'm quite an attentive gift wrapper! 

Perhaps the most important gift you can give at Christmas is time. Material gifts are nice, but 'emotional gifts' are even better. The gifts of listening and love will see you through further into the New Year than a Christmas jumper will ;) The Five of Pentacles reminds us that Christmas isn't always the easiest time, and it can feel incredibly difficult if it's not a stress-free period. Families always tend to have one or two problems, big or small, and spending a lot of time together over Christmas can get tricky after a day or two! I'm going to make an extra effort to act out of love throughout the festive period and to be understanding and appreciative of peoples' different needs and feelings, in order for no-one to feel left out or pushed aside. 

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas,

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Friday, 13 December 2013

Anxiety Diaries | Victory

It will have taken me seven years to graduate by the time I wrap up my degree next summer. I left school with straight A's at A Level in 2007, but it's taken me until now to race towards the graduation finishing line. Why so long? 

I've found one reason after another to delay finishing my degree for the past two years or so, and at the heart of each 'reason' is fear. I started a Twentieth Century lit module, and dropped it pretty soon after because it wasn't what I'd expected. I signed up for an advanced creative writing course having loved the intermediate course I'd completed the year before, only to withdraw due to fear of developing writer's block and failing the course completely. I started a history course but decided I didn't like that much either, so I deferred another year and signed up for a Shakespeare course. Along the way I've tried various different subject areas, studied part time, full time and then part time again. 

Which brings me to now. Two weeks ago I reached breaking point. I was in essay hell battling Macbeth and every fiber of my being wanted to quit. Not only was I in essay hell, I was in panic attack hell, insomnia hell, headache hell. I couldn't concentrate on note taking, I couldn't seem to string a coherent sentence together. I felt absolutely horrible. An all too familiar string of thoughts began playing through my mind: 'It's not the right course for you... You're just not clever enough to do well... If you mess up your final course it will bring down your degree classification... Wouldn't you prefer to try another history course instead?!' 

In the past, I would have listened to that voice wholeheartedly. Woohoo! Freedom! Another chance to get it 'right' next time. Yet this time, something stopped me. Whereas usually this voice would dominate, I could sense another voice, very faint but definitely there: 'pick up your pen. Pick up your pen. You're the only one who can work through this. Pick up your pen'.

I didn't pick up my pen. I resisted, and resisted and cried and panicked and resisted some more. The voice was patient. It wasn't going anywhere. It was as if I knew, on some small level, that I had to keep going, and that this was it: this was the test, a chance to change my previous patterns of behaviour. This was a chance to build resilience and it was a chance to be brave, even if the thought of hiding away was infinitely preferable. 

I was curious. What was on the other side? I'd been running for so long, out of fear of failure and fear of the next stage of my life being a blank page that I hadn't stopped to consider that the other side, post fear, post running away, post graduation, might be nice. The other side might be a good thing. I might like it there. 'The best way out is always through' so said Robert Frost, and I started to wonder if he was right. Wouldn't it be a shame to never find out? Hadn't CBT taught me that I am responsible for my thoughts, feelings and actions? That I have a choice and I can choose to stop running? I can choose to be... happy. 

It might not seem like much of a moment, but this was significant for me. It meant that over the past six months or so I've been growing a stronger voice within without even realising it, a voice willing to speak up when I'd rather take the easy way out. I was holding myself accountable and not letting myself get away with running. I was telling myself 'you have to face this'. 

So, after a prolonged struggle, I did. I chose to face it head on. I requested an extension for the essay I was supposed to be writing, and I managed to slowly piece together an essay plan. I wrote the essay, sent it and gradually began catching up on all of the reading I'd missed. I'm still a little bit behind but I'm still here, I'm still on track for graduating this coming summer! I'm still ploughing ahead, even though it feels scary at times. 

I've grown tired of having to respond to comments along the lines of 'wow, so... When exactly will you graduate?' I'm tired of letting fear dictate my life. I deserve to graduate; I work hard and my hard work should pay off! I deserve to move on to the next stage, be that further study or carving out a career path. Or both. Who says I can't do both?!

I've always thought I lack resilience, but I'm learning that with every victory, big or small, comes an inner strengthening and a stronger voice. I don't want to bury my head in the sand anymore. I won't let myself off the hook so easily. Victory feels pretty darn good! 

To anyone reading this and wondering if fear has the upper hand: you can do it, whatever 'it' is, whatever your fear. I promise. 

The other side is already shaping up to be all kinds of wonderful. 

Baci e abbracci, 
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Monday, 9 December 2013

Tarot Diaries | Change

Universal Waite Tarot Deck

New series alert! Welcome to the Tarot Diaries. I've wanted to create a tarot series for a while and have pondered long and hard about the approach I'd like to take. There are plenty of brilliant tarot card-by-card resources out there, and I wanted to try something a little bit different.

the Bluebird & the Robin is a very personal blog in that I'm always writing about my thoughts, feelings and experiences, and writing a generic interpretation of the cards just didn't seem to be working for me. A few weeks ago I started posting daily three card 'tarot trios' on Instagram in which I take a personal, rather than general, approach, outlining how the cards relate to specific experiences I'm going through. It suddenly hit me that this is the angle I should take on my blog; a personal approach simultaneously allowing personal reflection with a chance for readers to see how tarot links directly to 'real life'. And in line with my Anxiety Diaries series, naming the tarot series was a no brainer! 

I really hope readers find the weekly Tarot Diaries posts interesting and insightful, and if you're new to tarot then welcome! Take a seat and settle down for some personal tarot 101...

3 of Wands | 3 of Swords | The Hermit

The above tarot trio is one taken from two weeks ago. I chose to feature it as the first Tarot Diaries post as it carries some very striking imagery and the situation it pertains to is something ongoing today, albeit from a more peaceful place now. 

Immediately after drawing the cards I was struck by the two '3' cards, the number 3 in tarot suggesting movement and growth. The 3 of Wands, with it's flourishing energy encouraging putting plans into action, links directly to the energy surrounding wedding planning. We're in the final stages now and it's surprising how much we've still got left to do! It's a very exciting time and it's thrilling to see how our plans are becoming real. 

Yet with the exciting and energetic 3 of Wands is the 3 of Swords, which suggests an element of pain in moving forwards. The 3 of Swords links to a friendship breakdown, rife with miscommunication and unintentional pain, built up over a long time most likely due to not knowing what to say to make things better. No malicious intent; just miscommunication and buried feelings. Growing through this type of change is painful. 

Sometimes you need to sit with your pain and accept how rubbish it feels in order to understand it. I spent a lot of time a fortnight ago crying, shouting, and basically wallowing in how I was feeling, and sometimes that's necessary in order to work out what's really going on inside. I battled with a series of questions: Have I acted in the best way I could have? Have I been accountable for my actions? What am I really upset about?

The Hermit encourages taking time to sit with your feelings and ask questions in order to heal. We can't ignore pain. What am I really afraid of? That's the question I felt The Hermit was asking of me. My sadness felt disproportionate in some ways. I couldn't stop crying and I had a big panic attack and came down with a wretched cold and sore throat. It was as if my body caved in under the fear and upset I was feeling. I dug deep and realised that as well as being upset by the situation at hand I was also upset for other reasons beyond what was happening at the time; I was terrified of change in general and the uncertainty change brings.

 Change doesn't always feel comfortable and I hate feeling out of my comfort zone. Change is something I've always struggled with, yet through the CBT sessions I've had over the past six months or so I've started to develop healthier coping strategies and I know I'm much more equipped to face change head on. There's no reason to feel so terrified anymore.

As soon as I hit on this realisation, I started to heal. Change can be a real bitch at times but it's a part of life. I gradually started to feel less scared and less shaken over the past few weeks and I have a fresh determination to act from love and compassion instead of from anger and fear when facing change. The heart in the 3 of Swords may hurt, but it's also a vivid symbol of our ability to love.

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Sunday, 8 December 2013

Sunday Gratitude | December 8th 2013

Happy Sunday! I intend on spending the evening snuggled up on the couch watching Christmas movies and chomping on some healthy snacks (more on that later!) I've had a pretty chilled week and weekend, spending most of yesterday indulging in a How I Met Your Mother marathon, and I don't feel bad about it one bit! I'm definitely a homebody at heart and love spending time pottering around the house. Here's what I've been feeling grateful for over the past seven days.

I'm grateful for Prayer

Last night I was browsing blogs and came across With Great Expectation, a blog written by a woman named Logan who shares her journey of living with PCOS and her experiences undergoing infertility treatment in the US. Logan and her husband Andrew are finally expecting their first child which is so exciting! What struck me after reading through a number of Logan's blog posts is her faith in God and her dedication to prayer. Logan and her husband have been through a hell of a time and their journey hasn't always been an easy one, yet she remains so positive and proactive. I find that sort of confidence very inspiring and uplifting. She peppers her posts with meaningful quotes and anecdotes about prayer, and I was completely absorbed in her story for hours. 

Although I was raised Catholic I'm more spiritual than religious now, but I believe faith and prayer transcend religious boundaries and are open to all. Prayer has always brought me comfort, and I see it as a form of 'targeted meditation', a chance to reflect on situations and put my feelings and thoughts into words, in doing so beginning to  process them. I guess you could even say I 'pray' with the tarot, in the conversations I have with the cards about the situations they bring forward and illuminate. I often pray intentionally to the 'universe' rather than to one God, and I find it a very grounding and comforting thing to do. I'm grateful that I'm able to pray in my own, and I'm grateful for the example of others who incorporate prayer into their lives in such a positive and empowering way. 

I'm grateful for Choices

Don't you just love strange coincidences?! As I was applying my makeup yesterday my mind randomly recalled a psychic reading I'd had emailed to me a year or so ago. Now, a lot of what was in the reading was nonsense and didn't transpire, such as me having a baby by the end of the year (as far as I'm aware, I'm not nine months pregnant). One thing she did say, though, was that a 'flair for numbers' runs through my family and that my future sons would be accountants as that's a career path tracing back through my family tree. At the time I thought this was crazy, as maths was without a doubt my least favourite subject at school and I wasn't aware of any accountants in the family. It then transpired that there are accountants in my family and it is a career that traces right back through my family tree for generations. Hmm!

This morning while having tea with my mum I mentioned that I'm missing working and really want to start looking for a job, but I'm still unsure of what I should be looking for. I want something that I find fulfilling and interesting, in order for me to save up enough money for the alternative therapy courses I've got my eye on. My mum randomly said 'well, have you thought about doing something completely different to what you've considered before? How about that accounting idea you had a while ago?'

Spooky coincidence alert! While I'm not convinced about this whole accountancy thing, I do think that looking in other directions could prove interesting. All I've ever really known is working in education and that's not really something I'm keen to get back into. I'm feeling grateful that I'm in a position that enables choices, and that I'm able to spend some time researching the different avenues open to me. While I'm not sure where I'm headed yet, it's quite exciting to be looking at a clean slate and feeling ready to move forwards. Wish me luck!

I'm grateful for Time

Some days it seems I get hardly anything ticked off my to-do list, other days I feel super productive and everything falls into place effortlessly. Monday was one of those days! I managed to get a fair bit of uni work done, scheduled a blog post, sent lots of wedding related emails and had a good clear out of my room. One of the annoying things about living at home is that all of my things (and Chris's things) need to fit into one room, my bedroom, and there just never seems to be enough space. I decided to embark on a huge clear-out in time for January, as I refuse to begin married life surrounded by outdated clutter! 

As much as I love my huge CD collection I knew there were CDs in there that I would never listen to again, such as freebie CDs from magazines and random singles purchased in my teen years. I bagged up a huge stack which freed up room for more books on my bookshelf, something I'm in desperate need of! 

I also gave my room a thorough dust and hoover (I do that regularly, of course, but I made an extra special effort to polish!) There are still lots of things that need to be either taken to the dump or bagged up for the charity shop but my room is looking much better and my desk area in particular is looking very neat and tidy. Phew! 

I'm grateful for Willpower

Speaking of the wedding, I'm determined to try my hardest to improve my skin as much as possible by the end of January and a major break-out on my chin this weekend has made me even more determined to feed my body better. I've been wondering for a while if dairy could be triggering my skin problems and after spotting a few bloggers discussing it on twitter I've decided to lay off the dairy for a while and see if it makes a difference. I've swapped cow's milk for soya milk and regular yogurt for soya yogurt, and I'm aiming to cut down on cheese as it seems to be all I ever eat! I know it's important to have a calcium rich diet so I'm researching calcium rich foods to ensure I won't be missing out. 

I'm also making an effort to swap 'normal' tea for anti-inflammatory packed green tea in a bid to clear up my skin, and so far I've been finding this quite easy to do. I love the taste of plain green tea so chugging back three or four cups a day is proving rather easy! The only problem is it's not great for biscuit dunking, but I guess that's a good thing really as I've been consuming waaaaay too much sugar recently, another thing I'm aiming to change. 

I've set myself the goal this coming week of starting the day with a healthy breakfast. I usually eat the same old slices of toast or bowl of Weetabix, so there's definitely room for experimentation! I'm thinking poached/boiled eggs, porridge with chopped almonds, yogurt with chopped banana... I figure if I can start the day with a healthy choice I'm more likely to eat better the rest of the day. Here's hoping! 

I'm fed up of eating unhealthy snacks throughout the day, so I'm on a crisps and biscuits ban and am aiming to snack on healthier options: banana with Nutella (so good!), rye bread with cream cheese and baby tomatoes, various fruits and veggies etc. I'm a pretty small person and weigh around the 8 stone mark but I am such a snacker and I always seem to reach for biscuits, crisps and chocolate coated cereal bars. I end up feeling sluggish and bloated and I know so much sugar can't be doing my insides any good! I'm feeling grateful for the willpower I've shown this weekend and I'm hoping it will see me through next week and beyond!

Reading back over what I'm grateful for, it seems this week has been a rather reflective one. Funny how some weeks it seems lots of external things happen, and other weeks it's mostly on the inside. I wonder what next week will bring!

Baci e abbracci, 
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Friday, 6 December 2013

Beauty | Christmas Nails

Glitter and sparkle, glitter and sparkle! I must admit I usually keep it very simple with my nails, sticking to classic nudes and rich reds, but seeing as I'm feeling so festive and in the Christmas spirit I thought I'd add a little sparkle to this week's manicure! I used to love wearing glitter polish when I was little, and who's to say you can't wear it at 25?! The book I'm resting my hand on is a copy of one of my Christmas favourites, Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Christmas nails and Christmas reading, a perfect combination!

For the red base I used two thin coats of MUA Nail Polish 'Fever Red' (£1) which gave a lovely opaque coverage, followed by a thin layer of Orly 'Hair Band' (£5) which I received as a freebie with last month's Cosmopolitan magazine. I'm a big fan of teeny nail polish brushes and find MUA's little brushes really easy to work with, especially as I'm a bit of a polish klutz at times! I'm so impressed with the opacity and quick drying time considering the £1 price tag, and I've got quite a few different colours in my collection as they're such excellent value and great quality. 

Picture of MUA nail polish fever red and Orly lacquer hair band
Orly Lacquer 'Hair Band', MUA Nail Polish 'Fever Red'

I have a theory that the cheaper the polish the better in many cases... I used to use a 2True top coat that I got from Superdrug for about £2 and it was amazing! It kept my nails chip free for over a week at a time and it was super shiny too. I do love more expensive brands such as Essie and OPI but I don't really see the point in always spending over a fiver on nail polish as more often than not I use a bottle two or three times and then move on to a different colour. Ah, fickle heart!

I love the little gold glitter pieces in Orly's 'Hair Band' and the cute little bottle. Plus, it dries quickly which is always good in my book. I'm not sure I'd pay £5 for it though as it is tiny and I wouldn't say it beats it's cheaper MUA counterpart. Still, it adds a gorgeous festive touch to my mani, which can only be a good thing at this time of year!

What are your favourite festive nail picks? I'd love to hear recommendations!

Baci e abbracci, 
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Anxiety Diaries | Self Care

I can often sense when I'm headed for anxiety city, yet there have been so many times where I've ignored the signs instead of implementing damage control. It's important to look after yourself and listen to your body and mind, especially when it comes to anxiety. Based on my experiences with anxiety, panic attacks and low mood, these are my top tips for looking after yourself when you can sense anxiety is about to come knocking. 

Sleep, sleep, sleep

When I can sense anxiety creeping up on me, by tuning into how my body feels and the thoughts occupying my mind throughout the day, I know it's time to make sure I get enough sleep. I usually go to bed around midnight and get up at 7.30am, but if I'm feeling all over the place with anxiety my body craves a longer dose of rest. I try to be in bed at least half an hour earlier than usual, if not an hour, and I also take a short nap in the afternoons if I'm home. While it might not always be possible to squeeze in a siesta, adding an extra hour to your nightly sleep quota can make a significant difference to steadying your mood and calming your body. 

Eat well

Admittedly I don't have the best diet in the world. I'm a total sugar fiend and LOVE all things chocolate coated and I also love salt, so not the best combination! I have a tendancy to eat small meals and snack in between, but when I can sense anxiety bubbling away beneath the surface eating junk makes me feel even worse. Psychologically it feels good to take care of your health by making an effort to eat well, so I try to swap unhealthy snacks like biscuits and crisps for healthier choices. 

Almonds, Brazil nuts, satsumas, bananas (sliced and served with Nutella if I really need a choc fix!), apples, raisins, celery sticks with peanut butter, wholemeal toast, Babybel cheese, crispbread with cream cheese; there are lots of snack options available that require minimum effort, perfect for times where I'm suffering from a creeping anxiety induced lack of motivation. I also make it my aim to prepare at least one healthy meal a day, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. A jacket potato with cheese or baked beans and a mixed salad on the side is one of my favourite choices, as it's warming and filling. The ultimate comfort food!

Get outside

The last thing I want to do when I can feel panic, anxiety and low mood descending is to leave the house for a walk, but once I'm up and about I instantly feel better. Leaving your house allows you to gain a little distance from your thoughts; your worries aren't going anywhere, so don't worry about 'forgetting' them for a while! I'm lucky to live close by to some lovely parks, so I usually head out for a stroll around one of them. I like snapping pictures on my phone as I go, as it gives me something external to think about and focus on. Plus, walking is exercise and your body and mind love the benefits of exercise. I always feel a little better about myself after taking a walk, and pounding the pavement helps expel some of that anxious energy otherwise causing the jitters. If I can't face a walk around the park I'll start with a walk to my local corner shop for a newspaper or magazine, and that usually gives me the boost I need to venture further. 

Write it out

I attended a guided meditation session at the beginning of the year that involved walking with wolf animal totems. I was skeptical at first as I'd never participated in an 'active' meditation before, one that involved movement and 'acting', but it was an amazing experience and I found it a wonderful way to tap into my intuition. This was when I'd had been signed off sick from work and was in the grip of panic attacks and daily anxiety. Towards the end of the workshop we wrote down any messages we had received from our animal totem, and I instinctively touched pen to paper and wrote 'write yourself free'. It's only now, looking back on that day, that I've realised the truth of what I wrote. I really have written myself free in many ways. 

Through penning this Anxiety Diaries series, sharing my thoughts and working through my feelings and fears, I've started to get to grips with anxiety and am no longer letting it totally run my life. I'm proud to say I've come a long way over the past year and I'm feeling very positive about the present, and the future!

You don't have to write blog posts about anxiety, of course, but writing in some form or another can feel very therapeutic and freeing. It could be a word repeated over and over, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph. It could be a poem, an unedited stream of consciousness, a letter, a postcard, a quick scribble on a post-it note. Writing helps me unload and work through whatever it is I'm feeling uneasy about, before it begins to feel overwhelming and suffocating. I often ask myself questions when writing: 'why am I feeling wobbly? What am I really upset about?' in order to try to get to the root of the problem in its early stages. It's amazing what a difference writing has made to my anxiety journey. 

Set small goals

I mean teeny tiny goals! When I'm caught up in an approaching anxiety web I find it extremely hard to motivate myself to do anything that needs doing. Deadlines loom ever closer, uni work piles up, blog posts go unwritten and all I can feel is a strange mixture of panic and inertia. Urgh, it sucks! To combat this I've started doing two things: reassuring myself that this mood won't last forever, and setting myself very small goals every day. Things as simple as 'hoover my room', 'read two pages of a textbook', 'write the first paragraph of a blog post', 'read three pages of the book I'm currently reading'. I attach deadlines too, to really help add solid structure to my day. Reading might be given ten minutes, note taking fifteen, hoovering and cleaning twenty. Once finish a task I congratulate myself on finishing and refuse to get mad at myself for not accomplishing what I'd usually accomplish in a better mood. You've got to be your own cheerleader when the going gets tough!


I used to feel that I didn't know 'enough' about meditation to practice it 'properly' but now I go right ahead and meditate in my own way and it really helps calm the nerves and soothe the soul. All you really need is your breath and you're set for a meditation session. I tend to meditate in the morning, sitting cross legged on my bedroom floor with my back resting against the bed. I start off by shaking out my arms before resting my hands palms up on my knees, eyes closed. I take a slow and steady breath in through the nose for the count of eight, then out through the mouth for a count of eight, repeating around five or six times. 

Once I feel settled and comfortable I start a meditation technique I learned during CBT sessions, which focuses on tuning in to the world around you in order to gain distance from pesky non-stop anxious thoughts. I begin trying to identify as many sounds as I can hear, which might sound a bit frantic but actually it's very relaxing! I don't pass judgement on anything, so there's no 'that sound is SO annoying!' I simply register the noise and move on to the next. 

A list in the morning might consist of 'the radiator humming; a car driving past the house; a baby crying; leaves rustling in the wind; a window rattling; a front door closing; a faint hum of a TV; a wind chime'. I settle right into it and am always amazed at the amount of sounds I can detect beneath the noisiest ones! It's a great way of gaining distance from anxious thoughts and it brings my heart rate right down. I finish the meditation with another round of slow and steady breaths. 

After a single meditation session my mood improves and steadies, and I feel far calmer and better able to embrace the day ahead. I can only imagine the benefits that come with daily meditation, my current anxiety busting goal! It's a work in progress, but I'm getting there! Meditation is for anyone and everyone, so don't be afraid to give it a go. 

Be kind

Perhaps the most importance self care step of all: be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Remind yourself that you won't feel like this forever and that you're allowed to take things one step at a time. Remind yourself of all of your fantastic qualities and achievements. Remind yourself that today is not the end of the world, and you will be OK tomorrow. Give yourself credit for trying to implement self care steps and heap on the praise when you do something to help look after yourself. Heap on the praise when the teeny tiniest thing on your to-do list gets done, and give yourself permission to step back from your inner critic with a firm 'Hush! I'm not listening to you today!' Think about how you'd speak to a friend in the same position, and be gentle with yourself. Do what you can to boost your mood but don't beat yourself up if you spend the day in bed watching movies on Netflix while eating your way through a bumper bag of popcorn (just me?!) Things will get better. 

What are your self care tips for fighting anxiety? I'd love to pick up some more strategies so do let me know if you've got something that helps!

Baci e abbracci, 
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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Getting Sh*t Done | The Blog Schedule

I'd say I'm a pretty organised person, what with my love of to-do lists and ability to study for my degree from home (I'm a whizz at managing my time while in my PJs!). Yet when it comes to blogging I often fall at the first hurdle due to wanting to write EVERYTHING, all at once, which often leads to overload and a sad case of blogging paralysis. 

 I've been trying to come up with a manageable blog schedule for a while but was finding it hard to resist penciling in a new post every day. As much as I love writing, I don't always feel I can write 'under pressure' and I kept making myself miserable by setting ambitious targets and 'failing' to meet them. Blogging is supposed to be fun! 

Over the past few days I've spent some time devising the blog schedule above, based on what I feel I can best handle blogging-wise throughout the week. How exactly do you go about creating a blog schedule that suits you and your needs? Here are my top five tips:

1) Brainstorm ideas

I brainstormed the topics I really wanted to focus on and that I focus on already, and came up with the following: tarot, beauty, anxiety and personal development. I figured these make up the core of my blog, as they're the topics I most frequently find myself penning ideas for and writing posts about. It makes sense to shape a schedule around the topics or types of posts that are most meaningful to you and that you're already focusing your energy on. 

2) Be realistic 

 I find writing and publishing new posts every day a little intense and overwhelming at times, so I decided to set myself the target of blogging every other day. I figured this will leave me with time in between posts to edit and refine what I've written, as well as to post other non-core topics should I feel like it, and to rest! I work best when I have a little downtime to gather my thoughts and sift through ideas. Of course, you might find you prefer blogging more or less often than this, and that's totally fine. It's all about creating a personal schedule that works best for you (with this in mind, you might not even want to create schedule at all, and that's OK too!)

3) Time your topics

I decided to get a little strategic with my scheduling in order to tap into the times I'm most likely to be thinking about certain topics and the times people are most likely to swing by my blog and have a read. Not that it's all about readers, of course, but there's no harm in wanting to gently nudge people towards your hard work, especially if it happens to focus on a topic that might interest them. 

I decided to post Tarot Diaries on Monday because Monday marks a fresh start and this ties in with my Tarot Diaries aim (check out the first post in the series next Monday!); beauty on a Wednesday to tie in with the #bbloggers twitter chat which I love getting involved in; Anxiety Diaries on a Friday (which I've been posting for some time already on Fridays) to coincide with winding down for the weekend; and Sunday Gratitude on a Sunday, because, well, duh, it's Sunday (!), and I've been writing these posts for a few weeks now. If you spot any patterns in your posting from the get go, consider popping them straight into your schedule.  

4) Take care of blogmin

The other benefit of blogging new posts every other day is that I should have a little more time to see to 'blogmin' in between. Tasks such as tweaking my blog design, creating new badges, editing photos in Picmonkey, taking photos of products, replying to comments and brainstorming post ideas can be reserved for non-posting days. Alternatively, if I'm writing post content on the 'off' days, ready for the day after, I can complete blogmin tasks the day posts go live. I've found in the past that blogmin often gets bumped to the bottom of the list if I'm trying to post every day, but of course that's very much down to the individual. Whatever works best for you!

5) Flexibility is key!

Don't be afraid to review your schedule if you feel it needs adjusting. I've been through various schedules in the past and it's through a process of blogging trial and error that I've devised a schedule that feels manageable for me and that should ensure blogging remains a fun and exciting experience, which is what we all want it to be! No schedule is set in stone, so if you want to make changes go right ahead! The key is working out what feels most comfortable for you, regardless of what anyone else's schedule might look like. 

I can't wait to put my schedule in place properly next week! I've got a couple posts lined up already and I'm feeling confident that I've devised a schedule that meets my needs. What are your top tips for blog scheduling? Do you have a timetable or do you prefer to go with the flow? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Baci e abbracci, 
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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Feeling Festive! | The Christmas Tag

 I've seen heaps of Christmas themed tag posts floating around but thought I'd create my own so that I can ask all the questions I'd like to answer! Control freak, moi?! 

I start to feel Christmassy when...

The mince pies come out! My mum is a mince pie fan and from the start of December onwards it's mince pies and tea on tap. I'm not a massive fan but I always seem to find myself eating them anyway, in the name of tradition! I also begin to feel super Christmassy when December 1st rolls around and I pop Mariah Carey's Christmas album on, and when I open the first door on my advent calendar. I've gone for a Marks & Spencer chocolate nativity calendar this year, although I'm so jealous of the Benefit beauty calendar Megan is unveiling day by day over on her blog Little Miss Average. Take a look at the treats she's received so far!

I start my Christmas shopping...

When I was younger I used to get all of my shopping done in early November, but apparently the older I get the poorer I get (isn't that the way!) so now it's more often mid December. I'm quite organised and love making lists so I usually know what I'm looking for in advance and budget accordingly once I've scraped the pennies together. This year I'm hoping to find smaller, more meaningful gifts what with most of our money going towards the wedding at the moment. It might be a Christmas on a budget but I think smaller, personal gifts can have a lovely impact.

Our Christmas tree goes up...

We usually buy our Christmas tree from the local garden centre in the second week of December and then it inevitably stands naked or a few days because none of us are particularly keen Christmas tree dressers! My mum eventually drapes the lights on and then I help add various baubles we've collected over the years. I always make sure my special pink and gold bauble takes prime position! I love it when the tree is finished as it makes the living room seem so cosy and wintry. The colour scheme tends to lean towards reds, greens and gold for a classic Christmas look. As you can probably tell by now, I do like upholding traditions!

My favourite Christmas song...

It has to be Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You, I can't imagine ever getting bored of it! It's the ultimate Christmas song to sing along to, it's romantic and it's so sweet. I have both her Christmas albums and as soon as December hits they're on repeat right through to Christmas day, along with anything by Michael Buble, obviously. 

My favourite Christmas film...

Oh man, I LOVE Christmas films. Elf, Little Women (it has a Christmas scene!), Home Alone, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Love Actually, The Santa Clause, Fred Claus, The Grinch, and every Disney film ever made just because they feel so cosy and comfortable and Christmassy. I have a soft spot for Home Alone, which I watch every year, and every Christmas I watch the original Footloose because you can't go wrong with a classic musical! I love watching old favourites like Grease and Dirty Dancing too, even thought they're not *technically* Christmas films... Basically Christmas time is a time to indulge in any and all movie favourites!

My favourite Christmas read...

A few years ago my mum bought me a beautiful hard back edition of A Christmas Carol and I re-read it every year during December. I always find myself returning to Little Women as well, which I received as a Christmas present when I was younger. It's such a comforting read and always has me in tears at the end, in a good way! I used to idolise Jo March (I kind of still do) and wanted to be a writer like her, although I still can't forgive her for rejecting Laurie...

Pre- Christmas traditions include...

Last year I celebrated Yule on December 20th, the winter solstice, and it was such a nice occasion that I'm going to do it again this year. Yule celebrates the triumph of the Oak King over the Holly King and the promise of brighter days and shorter nights to come. I took part in a guided meditation and it was extremely peaceful and comforting; I set about planting 'seeds' for the future in writing out my intentions and hopes, and celebrated by decorating my room with gold candles, berries and mistletoe from outside, and by burning frankincense. I also bought a chocolate yule log for the family to share which was yummy! It's nice to take a moment to slow down during the pre-Christmas rush and Yule is all about slowing down and being at peace.

On Christmas Eve I...

Chris's family have a big Italian Christmas dinner on Christmas eve and exchange presents at midnight, which I joined in with for the first time last year. It was so much fun! I loved having a big meal on Christmas Eve because it made Christmas last longer and it means you get to stuff your face with even more amazing Christmas food. Mmm. Plus it means more time with family, coming together to share a meal and hang out, which is always lovely. 

This year Chris and I will do the same and head on over to his in the evening with presents in tow. At around eight or nine we'll sit down to a delicious dinner (Chris's mum is an amazing cook!) of roast beef with all the traditional Christmas trimmings! Chris's mum stocks the cupboards with lots of Christmas snacks so I'll no doubt end up stuffing my face all evening ;) 

Last year I exchanged presents with Chris's family at midnight, which was awesome, but I couldn't bring myself to open everything as I'm so used to waiting until Christmas morning! Once the meal has been eaten and presents opened, we'll hang out for a while chit chatting and watching TV before making our way to bed in the early hours. 

On Christmas day I...

Christmas day is the main event at my house, so in the morning Chris and I will be waking early at his and heading to mass where my mum will join us before coming back to mine afterwards. I've always gone to church on Christmas morning (sometimes on Christmas Eve instead) and it's such an ingrained tradition that I don't think I could ever not go. I really like the community feel of it and the excitement in the air. The 8am start is a little difficult (!) but it means I'm up early. I don't want to waste a second of my Christmas day! 

Once at mine we'll gather around the tree with my mum and older brother and exchange presents. While I'll no doubt have torn through mine in about twenty seconds my mum always takes what feels like hours to open hers, which always drives me a little bit nuts! I still have a stocking because I absolutely refuse to give that tradition up; it's the best part of Christmas morning! My mum used to hang my stocking on the end of my bed when I was little and I'd have to force myself to stay in bed and not open it at some point during the night. So tempting! We usually fill each other's stockings with little bits and bobs like chocolate coins, a Chocolate Orange, toiletries and other small gifts. Last year I made sure Chris had a stocking too, and tradition dictates that stockings are to be opened before any under-the-tree presents.

Once the presents have all been opened it's breakfast time. Every year since my brother and I were little my mum has bought one of those cereal selection packs, so I always end up munching my way through a few packets of Coco Pops with a cup of tea. Sometimes we'll have Bucks Fizz and croissants, although I'm a stickler for tradition so I'm hard pressed to give up the cereal! After breakfast I have my 'Christmas bath', which involves using a selection of the toiletries I've received as presents (hint hint!) and then I put on my pre-selected Christmas outfit! 

Sometimes we have neighbours over for Christmas drinks at midday, and I always see Alice to exchange gifts. My mum is in charge of cooking the turkey and we eat at around 3pm. Roast turkey with all the trimmings, it can't be anything else! I particularly love sausages wrapped with bacon, and I'm obsessed with roast potatoes cooked in goose fat.. So crispy! I'm in charge of the 'pickle bar' which usually opens in the evenings when we have smoked salmon, crackers, various cheeses and pickles for dinner. Mmm. After lunch we laze around watching TV, napping, playing with presents, eating our way through chocolate selection boxes and generally taking it easy. Perfect!

Writing this post has made me feel thoroughly festive (and also quite hungry. Bring on the Christmas treats!) I'd love to hear how others celebrate Christmas, so do feel free to have a go at the tag!

Baci e abbracci, 
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