Creating Rituals

Athletes are renowned for pre-game rituals. It gets them in the zone to perform.

Starting your own ritual is a great way to boost your overall well being.

What makes a ritual different from a routine is that it’s more intentional and mindful. Mindfulness is a term that has been used so much in recent years that it feels as though it’s losing its impact but essentially mindfulness is the practice of focusing on what you are doing in the moment and not allowing your mind to wander.

While mindfulness is known to improve your mood, mind wandering has actually been linked unhappiness and dissatisfaction. One of my favourite podcast episodes ever is the Happiness episode of TED Radio Hour where they delve into this subject. Actually, that episode is what sparked my interest in learning more about happiness and how to find it. 5 years later, I started this blog 🤣.

Another way to look at a ritual is just taking some time to slow down and enjoy your day to day activities. Instead of hastily chugging down your coffee as you race around the house take an extra five mins so just sit down and savour it. Maybe while also reading your favourite blog…

We tend to focus more on the big stuff to bring us joy and kind of skip past all the “mundane” but we’re missing out on countless moments of magic we could be enjoying!

We all have those little things we love like getting into a bed with fresh sheets, the cold side of the pillow, the smell of coffee brewing. Incorporate some of these things, that your senses enjoy, into a daily ritual.

Morning Rituals

Getting up early and having a routine makes a massive difference to my overall wellbeing.

I am incredibly lucky and don’t start work till 10 am so I get up at (mostly) 6 and really make the most of that time. I often wake up stressed and with 1,000 thoughts in my head about all the things I have to do in the day so I really need to take some time to get some balance before looking at my phone.

Waking Up: I use an alarm app so I am woken up by my music. I used to really struggle in winter when the sun comes up much later so I also have a Lumi light which gradually brightens the room from 30 minutes before my alarm goes off.

Bathroom: I like to brush my teeth before I do anything and wash my face just with water. (See my blog on skincare for the rest of that ritual).

Hydrate: I always drink a pint of water right after I brush my teeth. You get dehydrated during the night so it’s good to get some H2O in first thing

Journal: I take my glass of water and get back in bed and write in my journal. Sometimes, this just stream of conscious writing and sometimes it turns into a list! It helps me organise my thoughts and feel calmer.

Make the bed: I feel so disorganised unless my bed is made! I very rarely skip this and only if I’m in a massive rush to get out the door.

Exercise: sometimes all I manage is a couple of sun salutations but on a good day, I do 15-20 mins. If it’s sunny, I set my mat up facing the window. If not, I set up beside my favourite Monstera plant. Put yours anywhere you like!

Meditate: 5 – 10 mins on my yoga mat after a stretch. I don’t use an app or anything, I just set a timer in my phone and just focus on breathing either in a cross-legged seated position lying down. It took me years and years to even get to 10 mins. I hated meditation when I first tried it and I’m still not very “good” at it but I do enjoy being still and trying to quiet my very noisy mind

Get dressed and do my hair and makeup: No need for any more detail here is there….

Breakfast: This is typically the same every day to keep things simple. I sit down and either listen to music or a podcast and try to enjoy my food slowly before heading out for the commute.

Evening Rituals

Throughout most of my life, I have had various problems sleeping. Insomnia, nightmares, sleep paralysis, you name it, I have had it. Sleep deprivation causes my memory to just die completely so I have spent years working on my ‘sleep hygiene’ to make sure I am getting enough sleep to be able to function like a normal person!

The Space: Creating a relaxing space is one of the best things you can do to help you get to sleep. Every night, I spend a couple of mins just tidying up so that it’s a clear, relaxing space.

Before Winding Down: Before going up to bed, I check my calendar for the next day and pack anything I might need like yoga gear, laptop, mentoring material etc. I usually lay out my outfit for the next day so I have less to think about in the morning. Once I am organised, then it’s time to relax and get ready to sleep.

Lighting: I dim my bedroom lights or use warm, soft lights like a salt crystal lamp or candles at least an hour before bed so that my body knows it’s night time

Bathroom: I have a fairly elaborate skin regime at night but it’s so relaxing and really helps me relax.

Bed: Once my skin has been looked after, I get into bed. Instead of scrolling Instagram or watching Netflix, I try to read in bed for at least 30 mins before I sleep (I regularly fail at this but really do try to make an effort as it seems to make the biggest difference). I really try to avoid the blue lights for at least an hour before I sleep.

If I am having trouble switching off my devices or my brain, I use the 4-7-8 breathing technique to slow down my heart rate and relax.

Disclaimer – In a regular week, I probably manage the entire thing once! But, I try.

Instead of trying to squeeze everything in for the sake of ticking that box, I only do what I need to work on that day. If I’ve gone to a yoga class that night then I’ve already meditated.

Your rituals can be as simple or as complicated as you like. If you prefer to just sip your tea alone by the window in the morning that’s perfect. Or, you could establish a ritual as elaborate as an Egyptian queen complete with essential oils, candles, crystals and pillows. It’s your ritual. fucking go all out!

So long as you are taking a little time for yourself every day and just enjoying the moment for whatever it is, you’ll start to notice a positive difference.

Low waste (and low cost) skin-care swaps

In my quest to create less waste and spend less money, I’ve actually discovered several skin care swaps that have my skin feeling better than ever.

Ice roller -> lavendar infused ice cube

Ice rollers or jade rollers have been popping up on social media a lot of late with beauty bloggers swearing by them. The supposed benefits include

•reducing puffiness

•increasing bloodflow

•reducing appearance of pores

I have no idea if any of that is based on fact but I kinda loved the idea of rolling something cold all over my face! 🤣

A “sustainability influencer” suggested making your own by adding a drop of essential oil into ice cubes so I tried it and loved it. I use it every morning now. It helps me wake up and I feel like it reduces any puffiness. Also, smells amaaaazing. Cheap and easy to do but it feels like a luxury!

Oil-based cleanser -> Almond oil

Every night, I remove my makeup up (which is typically just tinted moisturiser and mascara these days) with Sweet Almond Oil and a hot face cloth. Just work the oil into your skin for a minute or two and then remove with a face cloth (mine are bamboo)you’ve run under the hot water tap. It’s dreamy!

After that, I wash with a facial cleansing bar to make sure my face is properly clean.

Then, cos I’m fancy AF, I spritz my face with some Rosewater.

Serum -> homemade oil blend

Instead of a super expensive serum, I made my own blend of Sweet Almond Oil and Argan Oil (50/50) with a couple of drops of frankincense. I read that frankincense has anti-aging properties and I have no idea whether or not that is total bullshit but it smells good and I cross my fingers!

Homemade scrub

Once a week, I exfoliate with a homemade honey and brown sugar scrub.

It’s so cheap and easy to make and if I accidentally get any in mouth, it tastes fab!

Homemade body butter

For years, I just used Palmers Cocoa butter and it was the only thing that I felt worked. I have pretty dry skin especially here in London where the water is really hard (I actually really miss the humidity of Taiwan!).

That was until I tested out this recipe that I came across on Instagram over the Christmas holidays.

You take equal parts;

• Shea butter

•Cocoa butter

•Coconut oil

Put them in a glass bowl and place over a saucepan of water. Boil the water and wait for your mixture to melt. Once it’s melted, let it cool for a few mins and then pop it in the freezer to solidify it a little. When it’s started to solidify around the edges, take it out and use a whisk to whip it up. When you have a nice fluffy consistency transfer it to a jar. I use a salsa jar because I eat chips and salsa at an alarming rate and always have a ton lying around my kitchen! You can also add a couple of drops of essentail oil if you want to make it scented.

Tranistioning from “normal” moisturiser to oil did cause some breakouts for a couple of weeks but I’ve now followed this regime since last summer and my skin is happier than it has been in years!

Let me know if you try any of these and how you get on with them.

So, you’re out of debt. What next?

I’ve been debt free now for 5 glorious months!

Surprisingly, I feel like that was probably the easy part. It took me about 18 months from when I decided get my shit together until I actually made the last credit card payment.

I forgot to to mention it in the last post but I used Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball” https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/get-out-of-debt-with-the-debt-snowball-plan. It’s a really great method! Reaching each milestone was such amazing motivation.

Staying out of debt hasn’t been hard because not only do I have more money to play with than before, I also still remember the stress that came with it and I could never let myself go there again.

Saving, on the overhand, is proving a lot more challenging than I’d anticipated!

I’ve always been good at saving for travelling and stuff I want but I have a much harder time saving for things that are less tangible like emergencies or ‘rainy day’ savings or big things like a car, house or retirement.
My current savings goals are:

  1. Trip to Vancouver in July
  2. Full emergency fund of three months expenses
  3. A car
  4. Start saving for a house

Goal 1 is going really well for two reasons.

  • I fucking love travelling!
  • It has pretty clear ‘deadline’. If I don’t have the money by July, the trip can’t happen. And it’s definitely happening!

Goal 2 and 3, not so much. I’ve dipped into those pots a few times for non-essentials and am having a much harder time staying motivated. They feel a bit too big and too far away and also less exciting that a holiday or new clothes…..

Goal 4 honestly seems completely out of reach right now. And virtually impossible to make any real commitment towards. I am doing some research at the moment and trying to figure out my best option so this will definitely be a future post.

I’m a spender! I am an absolute sucker for new stuff. And while I’ve become a lot more conscious of the products I buy and where they come from, I still love spending. Instead of random fast fashion, I’m now splurging on house plants and rugs! Hello mid 30s!
I know my weak spots

  • Clothes
  • Food
  • House stuff

So, how do we stay focussed?

1.Use a ‘Zero-Based budget to ensure you’re saving as much as you can

2. Make is easy for yourself.
To get me into better habits, I’ve decided to automate my savings. They will now come straight out of my account a day or two after I get paid and go into an account I can’t easily access. Out of sight, out of mind!

3. Look at your balance
I can’t remember which podcast it was on it was but something the host said really resonated with me. Get used to and excited to see a big number in your bank account. I look at my bank account every morning and it does feel really good to see big numbers! I lived paycheck to paycheck my entire life and now I always have money in my account before payday.

4. Create some “rules” around your spending.
A good rule of thumb before purchases is to ask yourself a few questions. I love these from Money Saving Expert:

Skint? Ask:

  • Do I need it?
  • Can I afford it?

Not skint? Ask:

  • Will I use it?
  • Is it worth it?

5. If you really want it, earn extra money
Another tactic I use to stay on track with savings when I see something I really want to buy is to find a way to make some extra money to pay for it. Some of the ways to do this are similar to how to make extra money to throw at debts.

  • Have a clear out and see if you have anything worth selling
  • Use OhMyDosh to earn some extra cash
  • Get cashback – I’ve just signed up to Quidco to earn cashback on some of my purchases
  • See if you qualify for a “bank bribe” to switch your current account

Whether or not you can be bothered with the extra effort to find the money for something will tell you whether or not you really want it! It also helps to change your mindset when you have to work harder to get that shiny thing you saw and when you get it it feels so much more satisfying.

Lastly, if you do impulse buy you can return it! Don’t take the tags off right away. See if it really does “spark joy” and if not, take it back.

Changing your spending behaviours takes time and you will slip up. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Our relationship with money is deeply personal. It’s cultural. It’s gendered. It’s traditon.

We like to think we are rational beings, but we are more irrational than we realise. Advertisers know this. Marketing relies in behavioural science. They sell you a lifestyle, not a product. They tap into your emotions and insecurities and they are very, very good at it.

Keep an eye on those numbers, watch the debt decrease and the savings increase and your stress start to melt away.

Read: The Minimalists, Dave Ramsey
Listen: Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, So Money with Farnoosh Torabi
Follow: @FiscalFemme @TheMinmalists

Anxiety

I was going to write about staying motivated to save this week but truth be told, I’m not feeling motivated to do anything at the moment thanks to my old pal, anxiety.

My anxiety is a real bitch because it keeps changing the way it manifests and catching me off guard. When I think I’ve figured out the best coping strategy and I’m feeling good, boom. Anxiety changes its strategy. It’s basically The Many-Faced God.

My anxiety is currently playing the role of Total Overwhelm.

I have felt constantly overwhelmed now for over a month and am really struggling to get a handle on it. It seems like there are never enough hours in the day and I always feel like I’m neglecting someone or something.

It’s especially frustrating because I enjoy all of the things I’m doing. I love my job, writing, dancing, seeing friends, travelling. The problem is that there is always so much going on and I constantly want to push the pause button to catch my breath.

My thoughts come in thick and fast and don’t stop so it’s difficult to focus. There are too many to sort through and organise. I end up with ‘task paralysis’ where everything seems equally important and daunting and I don’t know where to start so I just, don’t. Even the smallest “clutter” can tip me over the edge. Physical, mental and electronic. When my anxiety is heightened I notice dishes in the sink, emails that haven’t been filed, post that hasn’t been read, my podcast queue being too long, desktop unorganised, too many open tabs in my browser, laundry piling up. Somehow all manner of clutter affects me equally and I start to feel really claustrophobic.

I want to meditate more, cook more healthy meals, do more yoga, write more. But even these things that I do to reduce my stress are beginning to causing me stress because they are extra tasks and I feel pressure (from myself) to find extra time somewhere to do them. If you’re not an anxious person you probably think that sounds ridiculous but if you’re anything like me, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about!

It’s been building for weeks and now the other symptoms are creeping in. I feel impatient and short tempered. I’m tired. I want to retreat. My chest feels tight. I feel guilty. I feel inadequate. I feel crowded. I have butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat.

To reduce the overwhelm in general, I am on a mission to just simply my life wherever possible. At the moment, though, there are a couple of key things I know will make a significant difference.

  1. Telling someone – kinda covering this by default through this blog but ordinarily, I would reach out to a close friend and just say, I’m struggling a bit at the moment and need to vent. A problem shared and all that.
  2. Sleeping at least 8 hrs every night – anxiety knackers me! It always comes with physical symptoms for me and that just adds to the tiredness and makes it harder to get things back under control. I will be putting my ass to bed for 9.30 on school nights until further notice!
    3 . Taking a break from alcohol – I haven’t been drinking a lot (certainly a lot less than in my 20’s!) but I find that even one drink can exacerbate my anxiety the next morning. This is actually one of the things I expect to make the biggest difference
  3. Limit social media – the phone is going on aeroplane mode at 9 pm for a while.
  4. Swap TV for reading in the evening – I bloody love TV. So many amazing shows but the blue light from the screen definitely affects my ability to fall asleep and my sleep quality.
  5. Going for walks at lunch – the sun has finally graced us with its presence and London is looking buff. I will be making a huge effort to get out for at least mins at lunch every day to just enjoy and stretch my legs.
  6. Journalling – a few months ago, I started doing “Morning Pages”. It’s basically where you write first thing in the morning and just write whatever comes to mind, like a stream of consciousness. My anxiety is always worst in the morning so this really helps me to kind of unload a ton of my thoughts.

Anxiety is not only super common, but it’s also a bit of a chameleon and you may not even realise you have it or that it’s changed its tactics. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed all the time, even when you’re busy. Share how your feeling, ask for some help and take some steps to getting the rest and recuperation you need.

(The savings post is almost done, I just need to edit it, so I aim to have it up next week.)