Category Archives: Chats

April to June Reflections and July to September Goals (2018)

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We’re now in the third quarter of the year which means it’s time to look back at my goals from the past three months and to set myself some new goals for the next three. I spoke about changing my perspective with New Year’s Resolutions back in January so I wanted to play around with three month goals instead.  

(Number One) Begin my research into growing my blog. 

I didn’t even begin to start this one, it’s something I have wanted to do for about two years now but it’s something that I haven’t sat down properly to do yet. Maybe it’s a sign that it’s not a priority at the minute? 

(Number Two) Note down my spending for one month. 

I started to do this at the beginning of April and it lasted until three weeks in but I didn’t get until the end. So I didn’t complete this but at least I started it, which is something, right? 

(Number Three) Try a new fitness class. 

Yes! I did this and it was defintely an interesting experience. Scott and I went to a kickboxing class together for six weeks and we really enjoyed it. We even signed up to the next level class but on the first week, it was completely out of our comfort zone and we didn’t enjoy it as much so we decided not to go back. He did buy us a pair of gloves each though so we can have our own sessions in his garden if we wanted to. 

So on to the next three months; this will cover July, August and September then I’ll be back at the beginning of October to tell you about my progress for my latest goals and what I have in store for the next three months after that.  

(Number One) Write a “Top Three Tasks” list every day. 

This was something I used to practice quite regularly for a few months but it suddenly dropped off my radar and I want to pick it up again. It was very helpful for me to minimise stress so instead of creating a huge to-do list, I had to choose the three most important things I would like to get done that day. If you feel overwhelmed like I do when it comes to to-do lists but you still love them, I would try out this technique to see if it can work for you too. 

(Number Two) Be satisfied with my home. 

I’m a perfectionist and while my handwriting is very pretty (I do love it and it’s one of my traits I’m very proud of), it comes at price when it comes to other aspects in my life. I never feel satisfied with my home; I always feel like there is something to clean or put away and that’s partially true because it’s never felt truly clean. My spare room was a complete bomb site for over a year and I want to get to the stage when it’s clean, spacious and I don’t leave everything to the point where I need to do a huge clean. It will be challenge but I’m willing to try it; I want to be proud of my home and right now, I’m not. 

(Number Three) Practice “Good for them” rather than being negative towards myself. 

Jealously or envy is something that I don’t hear about all that often and my perspective on it is very similar to comparison. We seem to be more open about talking about comparing ourselves to other people especially in the online world and I believe envy slots into the same category. When I hear about someone’s success, I want to be able to say “Good for them” rather than think “I wish I was good enough to do that” because I don’t want to be negative about myself simply because someone else is doing better than me.  

Let me know what you think of goals; are you more of a New Year’s Resolutions person that focuses on all year-round goals or do you like to split them up like me? ❤

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How I Felt Being Made Redundant.

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If you follow me on social media, you’ll know recently I posted on Instagram about leaving my job due to being made redundant, which considering the terrible state of the arts sector in Northern Ireland is in at the minute, was still a shock to me even though I should have seen it coming.  Today’s blog post is about my initial feelings about the situation.

First and foremost, I understand that being made redundant is nothing to be embarrassed about and while many people around me told me this; until you’re in the situation yourself, nothing anyone can say will make you feel better right away. Redundancy happens to many people through no fault of their own and that’s part of the reason I was able to hold it together the latter part of my last few weeks in the job. Ironically, the afternoon I was told was the same afternoon I was heading to see my counsellor, so it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Within the first week I can only remember not crying two of those days, I felt like I was a mess. I struggled to get out of bed that first week to go to work after I found out. I couldn’t be angry at anyone and I think that was the most frustrating part. I couldn’t take it out on anyone because it was no-one’s fault so normally when that happens, I take it out on myself which ends up being worse. I cried in front of work colleagues and if you know me in real life, you’ll know I’m very sensitive so one little remark can set me off at the best of times. Crying in work wasn’t something I wanted to do but when you’re put in a situation that you can’t control and your emotions can’t control, then at that point, you have to let your body do what it needs.

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What was I worried about? When you put the situation into perspective; I don’t have children to look after, I don’t care for anyone and I have people around me who can support me. No-one had told me “how lucky I was that I didn’t have all these other problems” but that was all I could concentrate on leading to me feeling even worse for feeling like I was slowly crumbling. However, I live on my own and have done for the last year and a half and it’s something I’m very proud of. That’s what I was afraid of; I was afraid of losing the one thing that had given me such a wealth of independence and no matter how much everyone kept telling me “you’ll be fine”, I wasn’t able to believe them.

Thankfully for me, I had six weeks’ notice which I know that not many people get that lucky. I’m not sure if it was a help or a hindrance because I knew that I had no job in less than two months but I still had to try my best. For me it was important not to step completely back from the job during this time because as upset as I was, it wasn’t in my control. During my time in that job, I had taken on more than I needed to most of the time and it had taken its toll in more ways than one. However, I knew that my depression and anxiety symptoms were at their high points so stepping away from tasks that weren’t absolutely essential, was the best decision for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still tried my damn best and I’m proud of the work that I done up until the end but seeing it from the other side now, the stress was not worth it.

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As I write this, I’m in my first week of unemployment and it’s been hard. I thought I was prepared and I hadn’t expected to feel the way I do. I wanted to do so many things during this time while I look for a job and my plans haven’t went as well as I had hoped. It’s still hard getting out of bed in the morning, it’s hard holding a conversation with anyone and unfortunately for me, my tiredness hasn’t changed. When you wake up in the morning and feel exhausted, it doesn’t give you much hope for the rest of the day.

I’m not writing this for sympathy and I’m not writing this to tell you how hard I have it because I know that so many other people have it much harder than me but this has been a very challenging part of my life that I thought would be important to document for the simple reason that I know this will be okay in the end. This won’t last forever and I have come to terms with the fact that I have to ask for help when I need it. I’m not good at asking for help, it’s one of my worst traits in fact but sometimes help is all you need. 

How Often Should We Re-Evaluate Our Content?

victoria-wilson-29(Photo Credit: Jess Lowe Photography)

Over the last year, my blog and the content has changed quite gradually. In today’s post, I’m going to talk about how my content has changed and how I think it’s important to reflect on your content and what you have learned from it. 

I’ve had quite a few blogs over the last number of years but this particular blog, I have had active for almost four years. My first post was about to celebrate the 2015 New Year, and while I’ve went back and deleted some older posts over the years, I have seen some true growth since then. Currently I have a little over 200 posts from that first date, and over four years I can admit that that isn’t a lot. I took breaks, I stepped back, I had no motivation, I had no ideas and then there were weeks where I was absolutely killing it.  

260717WC3_031.JPG(At the Linwoods Protein+ launch back in July 2017. Photo Credit: Press Eye Photography)

I’m pleased with where my blog has taken me over the last number of years. I have connected with online blogger friends, I have had the chance to attend blogger events and very recently, take a trip and explore it for the purpose of the blog. I’m very lucky and I’m so grateful for those opportunities and the forthcoming opportunities that may arise.  

IMG_20170615_184655.jpg(I got the chance to be a part of Super Valu’s #LetsCookNI campaign back in June 2017)

20170703_122328.png(Getting to meet up with these girls is always a pleasure!)

20180330_181805.jpg(I got the opportunity to stay at the lovely Dufferin Coaching Inn for the evening over the Easter weekend in 2018)

While it has given me external opportunities, it has given me internal opportunities. I always knew I had a love for writing but I never knew how to channel that and now I can delve deep into topics that I ponder and think about on a daily basis. When my mental health is in a bad place, I put myself out there and speak about it. It’s uncomfortable, it’s negative and it brings you back to a place where you didn’t want to be. I questioned whether I wanted something so raw out on a public platform, because I didn’t want to give the impression that I wanted sympathy, I didn’t. I wanted to put my experience out there for others to relate to it, it was hard to justify my reasons for being so personal. 

I started out as a beauty blog but my heart was never in it. That’s why my other blogs failed, and if I had my perfectionist way, I would delete all the older blog posts that don’t relate to anymore and curate this blog with the posts that go with my values now. That’s not a learning curve though, you have to be willing to live with those posts that you wrote before and let them be. Once I stopped talking so much about beauty, I concentrated on lifestyle and food. More recently in the last year and a half, I’ve opened up to talk about more than lifestyle. I use the blog as a process tracker for my running and as I have mentioned, mental health is spoken about too. 

I started a weekly Sunday series called “Sunday Saves” and the main aim for this was to celebrate other bloggers and showcase posts by them that I loved. I’m so happy that I achieved my aim with this series but unfortunately, I feel like the concept no longer serves my blog. While I still stand by each and every blog post that I talked about, I need to move onto something new. Mind you, I don’t know what that will be yet, but I’m always open to new opportunities. 

victoria-wilson-71(Photo Credit: Jess Lowe Photography)

My future plans for the blog in the next year are to talk more about chatty topics including mental health and to start talking more about food. I have a number of key recipes I always stick to which I would love to share so that’s definitely a passion that I want to incorporate into the blog at some point too. I want to continue sharing my growing love of running and try to explore Northern Ireland more too because there are some lovely little spots that I haven’t been to yet. 

Thank you so much for reading today’s blog post; over the last few months my blog has taken a back seat but it’s still something I love writing content for and I think it’s healthy to re-evaluate if you don’t feel like your current content fits with what you truly want to write. 

Why I Stepped Away From Yoga.

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Yoga is such a special journey for some people and it’s become a constant release in my life that has been there for me during the good times and the bad times. Today I’m talking about how I feel about the practice at the minute, why I stepped away and how I’m slowly incorporating it back into my life again.

Monday nights were yoga nights for me. I went almost religiously for a few years, I then took a few months break and then I suddenly went back for a few months every Monday evening. I practiced in a studio that was a twenty second walk away from work so it was easy for me to get changed in work and head straight there. I have a blog post about Monday Syndrome and while I didn’t dread Monday’s too much, it was nice knowing I had something to look forward to that evening.

My mental health had slowly started to slip again at the beginning of the year but I continued to practice but the more my mental process slipped, the less I enjoyed the class. Yoga is about so many more elements than the body, and physically, I was connected. I could move with the teacher and the rest of the class without too many slip ups and considering where I started a few years ago, I had made amazing progress. However, I was too stuck in my own head and it was hard letting go for an hour when I couldn’t hear anything apart from my own thoughts. I often described it as being stuck in a box and having every negative thought and anything bad someone has ever said to you, being with you inside this box. You can’t escape it and the noise gets louder.

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I was no longer getting the true benefits of yoga and I had to make a decision. Did I continue paying for a class that through the fault of no-one, I was struggling to enjoy or did I take a break from the practice until I got my headspace back in check? For a while, I made the decision to slow down my practice from once a week to once a month with a special class that my teacher had set up focusing on learning more about the teachings of yoga. I fell in love with the concept but my mind still wouldn’t shut off.

From practicing once a week to once a month was a difficult change because while I’m not religious, it was something I done that felt very similar to a religious teaching, but I thought it might help me emotionally connect again and I really tried hard for a few months. I loved changing my routine because it meant jumping on the bus on a Sunday afternoon, picking up a tea at one of my favourite coffee shops and then having a short walk to the community centre where the class took place. I loved that it was on a Sunday afternoon because I liked starting fresh for the new work week. My headspace was very much the same for these classes and I struggled to focus on anything in the class, to the point where I couldn’t hear the silence during relaxation. I felt like I could hear my own thoughts and again, they were too loud.

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Comparision is a funny thing, isn’t it? I follow some wonderful yoga teachers online and I love watching their videos talking about their classes, their own journey or how they have combated their mental health journey with a yoga practice and I feel jealous. I’m jealous that I had to step back from yoga because my head wasn’t right but yoga works for them to correct their headspace. I almost question what is wrong with me but I know that everyone goes through their own journey with mental health but sometimes you can’t help but wonder, what is it about me? Am I doing something wrong? I try and not look at other people in that light because I know you shouldn’t compare your chapter one to someone’s chapter twenty. We all go through different points in our own lives and to compare yourself to others, it won’t even give you that little piece of relief you’re looking for. We’re all guilty of it but it’s learning more about self-awareness that will help you not go down that route so often.

Right now, my mental health isn’t on the right track but that’s something that I know the reasons behind and it’s going to take some time for me to become stronger again. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone when it comes to yoga; I went to a yoga workshop last month with the co-founder of my yoga organisation I have been practicing with since the beginning of my journey and while I didn’t feel like I was “completely there” in the workshop, I feel connected to a certain extent and I was more than happy with that. More recently, I went to a kundalini yoga workshop at a studio closer to home and while I had never experienced that type of class, it was an interesting concept and I would be open to trying it out again. Like the other class, sometimes I wasn’t completely connected but I was for the majority of the time, so mentally, I am getting there, even if it is at a slower rate than I would like.

Thank you so much for reading today’s post, it was another personal one for me and I quite like sharing these ones. I don’t share every single detail on why I feel the way I do but that’s a decision that I am more comfortable with. I hope it was an enjoyable read and if you were able to relate to it, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Entrepreneurs and Mental Health: Michaela Pontiki

I’m back this week with another interview facilitated by FPComms with the wonderful Michaela Pontiki as part of my Entrepreneurs and Mental Health series. If you missed my interview last week with Latoya Lovell, I’ll link it right here. 

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(Photo Credit: Mi Business Mag)

First of all, for those who don’t know, can you tell me who you are and a little about your background in your career so far? 

I am Michaela Pontiki, the founder of Arapina bakery. I am an architect with a Masters in sustainable design and having worked in both industries, I decided to start my own business in the food & beverage sector.

Can you tell me the philosophy behind “Arapina“? 

We are an award winning Healthy Lifestyle Bakery, based on Mediterranean cooking, offering free from and low in options to a sophisticated clientele. We are here to offer food to those who suffer from various intolerances and or have physical or mental diseases. We believe that food can be your medicine.

There is so much information out there, especially online, about food. Do you think that there is too much information that people are overwhelmed when it comes to making the right food choices, especially if they are being told conflicting information? 

Definitely, companies are fighting for their own reputation and companies get it wrong a lot of the times, especially in today’s world when masses can be easily influenced by TV commercials and social medias platforms. And they get it wrong because they either don’t have the right information themselves or purposefully manipulating concepts for the sake of their personal profit. Either way is unacceptable and one should cross referenced sources of information that is readily available out there.

We talk a lot about super foods but unfortunately, we know that if people are overwhelmed, the benefits of certain foods may not be important because they may not know what information to trust. So, I want to know two of your favourite meals that not only have the nutritional benefits that your mind and body love but are a joy for you to make too? 

I don’t have much time in my hands so I need to be creative and seek easiness with my meals. So quick breakfast is natural greek yogurt, with organic blueberries, raw almonds, honey and cinnamon. Second best is almost any type of grilled fish with a vegetable ratatouille next to it.

Why should entrepreneurs be thinking more about the food they eat? I know that I’m guilty of saying “Oh I don’t have time to eat, I’m too busy” and I’m not even an entrepreneur. Talk to us about the remarkable impact food can have on our minds as well as our bodies. 

Imagine you own a fast car, but every time you try to speed up, the car does not accelerate to the level you want it to simply because the fuel you are putting to it is of poor quality. It is exactly the same with ones body. You want to “run”, physically and mentally but you probably can’t simply because you have not taken care your body and mind. One cannot fulfil their full potential with an underperforming fuel which in this case is food.

What do you think of the “busy” excuse? Is there such a thing? By saying this, are we not making ourselves a priority? 

It is a fact that we live in a society that keeps us busy and activated, so in a way yes, we are busy, but I would say that it is more of a matter of priorities, and that applies on many aspects of our lives. When we fail to call our friends, spend time with our family or not properly plan our meals, it simply means that this task is not high up on our priority list, because I am sure the same person would find the time to watch the new series on Netflix if this is what he/she would value more. So it is a matter of changing your mentality to change your priorities to help your body.

I can only imagine the pressure that you are under having your own business, do you think that that is something quite a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with? 

There are different types of businesses, businesses with different demands as well as businesses with different starting points. If we had to generalize business is not easy and yes, the pressures are high when running one.

For you, what is the difference between being stressed while starting your own business and your mental health slipping? 

Stress can be activating or stress can be destabilizing. It really depends on the space you allow stress to occupy in your life, the grade of stress you are suffering from and the way you approach stress itself. Sometimes it is a fine line between stress and mental health slipping.

If someone is finding it hard balancing their mental health while running their own business, what tips would you give them? What do you do when you are in their situation? 

Quit business, life is more important.

Finally, if anyone would like to find out any more information about you and the work you do, where can they go to do so? 

Follow us on our social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and keep an eye for podcasts and more interviews. If you are lacking this physical contact as most of us are in today’s world, come down to the bakery and ask for Michaela (by appointment only).

Again, a massive thank you to Nicola from FPComms for facilitating this interview and to the wonderful Michaela for taking time out of her day to answer my questions. I also got sent the most gorgeous chocolate covered almonds and bergamot preserve from the Arapina Bakery, so thank you so much for the treats!

 

Entrepreneurs and Mental Health: Latoya Lovell

As a society, it’s very clear we are talking more about mental health which for me, I couldn’t be happier about. With May being known as Mental Health Awareness Month, FPComms got in touch with me to see if I wanted to interview two entrepreneurs who champion the topic of mental health. Over the next two Sunday’s, I’ll be posting two interviews I conducted with two entrepreneurs. First up is Latoya Lovell! 

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If you’re not familiar with Latoya, she is an influencer, a soon-to-be novelist and a freelance writer from London. She has a new book coming out towards the end of 2019 which uses her experiences of her depression to bring her villain characters to life. She tells us where you can find her on social media at the end of the interview so I hope you enjoy!

(Disclaimer: As a warning before reading on, depression is one of the topics discussed and there could be a number of triggering words for some, so please take caution before reading.)

First of all, for those who don’t know, can you tell me who you are and a little about your background in your career so far? 

I started doing interviews for a magazine called We Are Collision and after realising how much I liked media working for them, I decided to master the Media Industry.

I believe you went through a stage of depression, in as much detail or as little as you would like, can you tell us about this? What’s your story with depression?

After a few years of working in the media industry I started to feel like I was letting people down when things went wrong. I was in a bad situationship with a male friend and when we stopped talking to me, he said it was because I disappointed him. At the time I never realised it was a trigger word for myself but it made me feel like I was disappointing everyone. I convinced myself I was going to disappoint my son and so I decided he would be better off without me. I wanted to complete suicide and I went and got my hair done and wrote a letter to him and sent messages to everyone saying goodbye. I left the salon and when I arrived home, my friend was sitting on my stairs waiting on me. She collected my son from school and looked after me for several days. We identified what I wanted to do over those several days and it also made me realise my triggers.

After this experience, you started to write your own series of books. Now, I know that they aren’t released yet but can you give us a sneak peek on what the first one is about and an insight into some of the characters? 

The book is based upon myself and my 2 best friends. We are a diverse bunch and I wanted to highlight how 3 different women from different cultural backgrounds still loved and embraced each other. How women empower each other but I decided to make us 16 with superpowers. I realized by showing the lead characters as how me and my friends look I could show younger girls that being natural is fine.

Did you find it healing writing about these experiences or did you find that initially it was hard having to look back to the battle you were fighting at that time?  

I actually used the book to write about how I wish my life had progressed with certain situations. Like I never spoke to my Biological Father before he passed but in the first chapter, there is a letter to myself from him. I guess it’s what I would’ve liked him to say to me but now I realise that even that isn’t needed because I am ok.

Social media plays a large part in many of our lives now, how much do you choose to share online? Do you share the positive and the negative, or do you still struggle (like many of us) to find that correct balance? 

Before I was someone who only wanted to highlight the positive because I believe in focusing on solutions. However, recently I have decided to show the negative but how I follow through to my solutions in hopes that people may use tools I am suggesting and it will help them live a better life mentally.

What do you do as a form of self-care when you start to notice that your mental health isn’t as balanced as you would like? 

First, I look at my environment and whether I am allowing the wrong people or putting myself into the wrong situations and I withdraw. As someone who likes to please sometimes, it is hard to say no but my mental health has to come first.

I have also learned how to do things alone like go to restaurants or the cinema things I would never have done before because I cared too much that people would judge me.

Lastly, I do activities that I know will release endorphins like exercise or eating chocolate because sometimes the little things really help.

How important has it been for you to be open and honest about your mental health with your children?  

My son now understands that I am human too and I make mistakes. However, in my household I say it’s like a job so he still understands that there are certain behaviours that are still not acceptable to a boss. I also try and show him that it is not an excuse, it is something to survive from and grow from. Mental Health will only stop us if we allow it.

For a parent or guardian who is currently experiencing their own mental health problem at the minute or have come out the other side, what advice would you have for them in order to be able to be open with their own children? 

To be honest, we give children a false perception of an adult and then when they go into the real world, sometimes they are not prepared. I try to make sure my son knows what the world is really like because otherwise he could fall into the trap I fell into and feel not good enough.

Finally, if anyone would like to find out any more information about you and the work you do, where can they go to do so? 

@LatoyaLovl on all the socials and www.latoyalovell.co.uk

Thank you so much to Nicola from FPComms for facilitating this interview with the lovely Latoya and thank you again to Latoya Lovell for taking the time out of her day to answer my questions.

Meditation May: A Month of Meditation

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With the start of a brand-new month (Yes, I’m very much into that cliché) I wanted to set myself a challenge outside my three-month goals (which I will link here) and I thought a daily practice with meditation would be perfect so that’s what today’s post is focused on. 

Meditation was a daily practice for me for quite a few months but as my mental health deteriorated, I no longer reached for my guided meditations and this also included my yoga practice. I went to a yoga class religiously on Monday evenings after work and it was fantastic then gradually I started to only practice once a month. The fact of the matter is when my head gets in a bad place, I’m so stuck in my own head that I can no longer feel the benefits of yoga. When I describe this feeling to people, I often describe I like this:  

Imagine you are on a hamster wheel going round and round but at the same time, you’re stuck in a box that you can’t get out of. Every negative thought and every negative thing that has ever been said to you is in the box and you can’t get out, you have to stand there. (If you’ve ever watched the Crystal Maze, imagine all the paper money in the dome that the contestants have to catch, are the thoughts and the words.)

Unsurprisingly it’s a very hard trap to get out of so I had to step back from yoga especially until I get my head and mindset back on track. I’m getting there but it’s still off track sometimes. Gradually over the last few days I have been getting into evening meditations again but I want to take it one step further and give myself that boost to do it daily so that’s where Meditation May comes from. 

Back in January, one of my favourite bloggers Madison started up a meditation challenge on her YouTube channel and Facebook group and it was so comforting to have a support group there who you could open up to about your meditation difficulties. I really enjoyed that challenge and while I didn’t manage to meditate every single day, I got very close. This is another part of my inspiration behind Meditation May because I noticed a massive difference in January with Madison’s challenge. 

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My plan for the month is very simple; I want to practice meditation for ten minutes a day every day and for the first two weeks I’m not going to push myself to practice twice a day, I’ll build that up over time. I’m planning on keeping a journal on the experience to note down what meditation I use, how long for, how I feel before and after and if there is a particular emotion I’m trying to work alongside. At the end of the month, I’ll be posting those journal entries to see how much of a difference it really made and how the month went overall. 

Over the month, I’ll be posting on my Instagram and my Twitter too and I’ll be using #MeditationMay as the hashtag. I’m sure I’m not the only one to be practicing this idea so I’m not claiming it as mine but if you fancy seeing some “live” progress, you know where I’ll be. With the Spring Clean season around too, I’m hoping that this will help me along the “fresh mindset” element of the new Spring time. 

Thank you so much for reading today’s post. Quite a light one today but it’s always good to start the month off nice and light.