Creating Balance- Day 50 Of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

DONT LOOK FOR BALANCE CREATE ITSelf-care is actively creating balance in your life

I have a packed diary for the next two weeks. Some of it is leisure, some is business. Both categories cause my anxiety levels to raise.  I can very easily get overwhelmed. The main reason for this is that l put far too much pressure on myself, to do things to a high standard in my personal and professional life. I know all too well that I have the control dial for my expectations of myself turned up far too high. Even though I know this, and cope far better with my increased self-knowledge of how to deal with it, it still of course comes up at times.

One of my main coping strategies is to make sure I have a clear day at least once a week where I can take a mental health day if I need it. Time to sleep in, stay in my pyjamas, and generally recharge my batteries. This helps me to regain my balance. However, I do not have a spare day free for a while now and this is adding to my feeling of being overwhelmed as I am worrying about where i will find balance.

I realise that I do not in fact need to look for balance, but rather create it. I dont have to rush through all my commitments and then crash on my designated ‘regain my balance’ day. I can instead choose to mindfully look for ways to create balance , in amongst all the busy days ahead.

On realising this, my self-care yesterday (as I am posting this late!) was to say yes to my best friends request to join him on a night out, after his date unfortunately had to cancel. Initially I thought, I cant do this, I have too much to do. But actually, going out, having a nice meal, spending time with my friend, listening to amazing music, was just the balance I needed and I created it.

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Balancing Healthy Habits – Day 49 Of #365daysofselfcare

The Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

healthy habitsSelf-care is developing healthy habits without being hard on yourself

Myself and food have a constant love hate relationship. Although I do have a far healthier attitude towards eating than I once did, it is a constant battle. I can go a period of time where I eat really well, then I have some down days and comfort eat, or simply just stop paying proper attention to what I am eating.  I cycle like this all the time.

Over the last couple of months, I made a lot of progress in moving again towards healthier food. I even lost some weight after putting on an awful lot. Then I was diagnosed with a low thyroid. I decided to stop giving myself a hard time about losing weight and to just eat sensibly and revisit my need to shed a few pounds once my thyroid levels had levelled out.

However, I seem to have used it as a bit of an excuse to stop making any effort to eat regularly and healthily. Since starting the thyroid medication I have lost weight without really trying, even when I’m eating comfort food I am not putting on weight . This means I am really lacking incentive to improve my diet.

Today, I went shopping and bought some healthy food. I cooked myself scrambled egg on bagels and as I sat eating them I remembered how much I really enjoy nutritious food! It is just too easy to grab a quick processed snack but it is never as tasty. Its helpful that I now have a partner, someone else to cook for (yes those of you that know me will be surprised to hear that I am the chef in the relationship, his cooking skills are worse than mine!). I need to remember that it is about balance. I don’t have to go full steam ahead and become a food saint. It is not about setting hard restrictions, it is about little changes that become habits.

 

 

Practicing Gratitude – Day 46 to 48 Of #365daysofselfcare

The Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

self care instaSelf-care is developing an attitude of gratitude

Gratitude comes easily to me because I have so much to be grateful for. I am reminded of this from the moment I wake in the morning. Throwing back the duvet, I smile at my hairy, masculine body. I reflect on the previous day, of which I remember every detail without the haze of alcohol or the sting of shame. I speak and my deep voice resonates within the walls of my clean, debt free home. I look at the pictures on my wall and my hearts swells with love, for all the wonderful and supportive friends and family I am blessed to have in my life.

I’ve spent the last few days in Brighton, During that time I have found myself on many occasions, smiling gratefully at just how many wonderful things I have in my life. It is because of recovery that I have this healthy, hairy body. Its because of this body that I am able to have a relationship with a loving and gentle man. Recovery has made me more able to make balanced decisions. Clarity of mind means I can trust myself to make the right ones. It is for that reason that I am back here in Sussex and very happy to be. Recovery has given me resilience and personal responsibility, which means I no longer allow my mental health challenges to hold me back. For this reason, I have wonderful friendships, especially my best friend, who I love sharing the ups and downs of life with.

Gratitude is such a powerful self-care tool. It keeps me clean and sober as I know all of these things would disappear if I picked up a drink or a drug. Gratitude helps to soften the blow during difficult times as really, compared to all the wonderful things I have in my life, difficult times are tiny and fleeting. Gratitude keeps me upbeat and positive as I only have to compare my life today with my life seven years ago and suddenly I am beaming.

 

Deliciously Gorgeous – Eastbourne – Writer’s Café Review

 

 

This blog post is part of the Writers Cafe Review series

DELICIOUSLY GORGEOUS REVIEWDeliciously Gorgeous

If it wasn’t for the collection of tables and chairs outside, you would be forgiven for not realising that Deliciously Gorgeous is a café. On arriving there this morning I realised I have walked past this place a few times myself. On a quick glance, it looks like a garishly pink, boutique style chocolate shop. I’ve since discovered this is in fact where its origins began.

Walking inside you find yourself inside a pink Willy Wonker style paradise. Display counters to the left and right as you enter are stacked to the brim with beautiful delicate chocolates of every kind. The décor is a subtler pink inside than its shop front, but it is still lit up like a novelty Christmas tree. Despite sounding like I am judging, I really like it. It should be too much, but somehow it isn’t.

I’m greeted by a friendly chap who takes my order.  I ask for a flat white with soy milk. Unusually, here they offer three varied sizes, which doesn’t usually happen with flat white. I order a medium size. I’m given a number and asked where I will be sitting. There is plenty of seating to choose from. Outside there is a small area with a few tables. Inside, directly opposite the door, is a runway of pink lights leading to upstairs seating. Downstairs there is a spacious area at the back. I tell the friendly barista that I shall sit downstairs.

20180418_115726My exploring leads me to a little snug section at the back. I love areas like this as it allows for a sense of privacy in a public place. As a writer, I like to find a bit of peace but still feel part of the café experience. I choose a table and take a seat.

Despite my senses initially being assaulted by the bubble-gum pink, I really like the way this café has been styled. It feels like you are sitting in someone’s front room. It has so many personal unique touches and you can really tell the difference between a chain café and this independent one.

20180418_125914Soon after, a smiling waitress arrived and placed my coffee in front of me, along with a sample of chocolate. Don’t mind if I do! I ask a waitress what it is. “Salted caramel,” she tells me. The coffee is hot but not scolding, there’s a nice amount of froth, though this is meant to be a flat white. No fancy leaf on the top, I’m fine with that. Its £2.85 for the flat white, about average considering it’s a bigger size than I usually get. It’s a good coffee and the little chocolate is amazing! I’m supposed to be on a diet but hey….

I’m really enjoying working here so I decide to stay for another drink. I order a green tea. It arrives lightning fast and is served in a pot rather than just hanging over a cup the way chain cafes often present it. I am also given another chocolate. This could get dangerous for my hips.

It’s fairly quiet in here today, the loudest thing is the smoothie machine which occasionally breaks the silence. Its only when the music is turned on that I realise there wasn’t any music before. I welcome the music to be honest as I have been joined by a middle aged woman and her opinionated husband who is talking very loud about politics.

The music is a bit louder than I prefer but I am sat directly under the speaker. I didn’t realise this when I selected my seat. The politics talk gets louder. Thank goodness for earplugs. Another woman joins us in the cubby. It becomes painfully clear she regrets her seat choice as we make understanding eye contact. The loud man and his wife eventually leave, myself and the woman chat briefly to share our relief. Its good entertainment and makes for great writing inspiration! I have visited a number of times now and is quickly turning into my favourite place to write, for the following reasons. 

Friendly, welcoming staff

Every time I walk in the door I am greeted with a warm smile and served speedily.  This has been the same on weekdays and weekends. The table service is a lovely additional touch.

Ideal writing conditions- great seating, WIFI and electrical outlets

There is no shortage of seating here. There is a small outside area, the downstairs area at the back, an upstairs with a seating area overlooking the café and lots more seating behind that. The upstairs is now my favourite place to write as I found a little cubbyhole at the back with its own table right by a window, so I get some sun and see the outside!

The tables are a decent size and perfect height for writing on a laptop. The tables dotted around are mostly 2 to 4-person seating which I really like. The shared seating you find in some cafés makes me uncomfortable. The seats are comfy too, another must for the hard-working glutes of a writer!

There is free WIFI available. It is easy to sign up to and has a strong reliable signal. I’ve used it a few times now and never had a problem. There are plenty of plug sockets available near to the seating areas

Cosy ambience

This cafe has a lovely feel to the place. It feels as though you are sitting in someone’s living room. The decor is quirky but sophisticated, and it’s bright without being too imposing. Its crisp, clean and has that wonderful independent café personal touch that you just don’t get in chain cafes. I can happily spend hours here writing comfortably.

Just the right amount of background noise

Even at very busy times, the noise in the café is never overwhelming. I think this is because it is so spacious, and you don’t feel like you are cramped in with everyone. When the music is on its never too loud. The loudest thing is the smoothie blender but that doesn’t happen often and where I sit at the back upstairs, it doesn’t bother me. I like that there is a buzz of activity but that it doesn’t stop me from working

Good quality coffee and tea and lots of fresh food menu choices

The coffee is lovely here. Always piping hot and always the right amount of foam. On my second visit, the barista picked up on the fact that I asked for soya milk and asked me if I would like a dairy free chocolate too. I was offered a couple of choices and chose ginger. How wonderful that they picked up on this and that they had alternative options available! The tea is also wonderful, they use the Tea Pigs range and they sell it too which is an added bonus as it can be hard to find in supermarkets. They do a wide variety of dietary options, vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free. Although food isn’t a priority for me, as I am only using the cafes to write in and drink coffee/tea, it is still nice to see all dietary needs catered for. This speaks volumes about the ethics of a café.

Things to improve on

Toilet access

It’s hard to point out any flaws with this café really. I find it to be a writer’s paradise. The only thing for me that stops it from getting a perfect score is the toilet access. Although accessing gender specific toilets is no longer an issue for me, its something I am always conscious as a trans person. I just wish all places would make the move towards gender neutral toilets.

Here, the toilets are individual cubical, labelled male and female. The fact that they are individual cubicles is a little better, as it helps to lessen the fear of walking into a busy toilet. However, it would be so wonderful to see these toilets ladled simply as ‘toilet’ especially as they are self-contained, and this wouldn’t pose a problem.

 

20180418_140446Conclusion

For myself, for the things I look for in a café as a writer, this ticks all the boxes as being a perfect place to easily spend half a day in and get lots of writing done.

If you are in Eastbourne and need a comfortable and welcoming place to sit and get things done, I recommend a visit to Deliciously Gorgeous, because it really does live up to its name.

 

 

Making Time For Self-Reflection-Day 44 & 45 Of #365daysofselfcare

This blog takes part in the #365daysofselfcare challenge

2018-06-13_15.54.32-01.jpegSelf-care is using balanced self-reflection

I am a deep thinker. In the past, this caused me a lot of unnecessary distress. I would over-think absolutely everything and go over and over things that had happened. Over the last seven years, since finally beginning to engage with, and take responsibility for, my mental health, I have learnt to use this tendency in a positive way. Balanced self-reflection is now a vital part of my self-care,

Self-reflection is a valuable skill to add to a well-being toolbox. It is an active, conscious process, unlike the over thinking and negative self-evaluation I used to engage in. It’s a balanced action of not regretting things that have happened but also not locking them away.  Everything we experience is a chance for self-growth. The ability to be able to stand back and objectively look at aspects of our inner selves without judging, allows us to learn from mistakes and understand ourselves on a deeper level.

I have carved a career for myself out of self-reflection, in the development of my YouTube channel and in my writing. Most of my creations are reflections on aspects of my personal growth. I really enjoy the process of experiencing and then reflecting on aspects of my inner and outer world. I think sometimes people are concerned that this reflecting means I am not OK with what is. It’s not that I am not OK, but rather that I wish to move deeper into understanding a particular thing. I want to move from simply experiencing to fully understanding. That can only happen in deep, active reflection.

Over the last few months, my life has been crammed with significant and life changing events. There is so much new information to process, fresh understandings of myself, of who I am and what I want in life. My new relationship, in being with a man, is causing the filing cabinets of my mind to fly wide open and spit out their contents. I realise that so much of what I thought about myself, is not true at all. I need to spend some time reflecting on and understanding this. I took some much-needed self-care time, yesterday and today, to allow myself to freely mull over everything and write down my reflection’s. This is why you are now seeing a number of new posts and vlogs!

I do not regret at all the oddly winding road I took to arrive here, where ironically, I find myself back where I started, albeit in a different package. Neither do I wish to shut the door on it. It is because of the journey I took, that I am now fully able to embrace who I am. I simply wish to unpack my previous understandings and re-visit them through the lens of this new knowledge of myself. This will allow me to make sense of the past and know myself on a deeper level.

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through”

beach comparrison.jpgI wandered over to the beach this afternoon, whilst waiting for my washing to finish its cycle in the launderette. The seafront in Eastbourne has seem me in many physical and mental states, drunk, stoned, lost, depressed and suicidal. Most recently though, it has seen me walking hand in hand with my new partner. Two men with faces fixed in matching ear to ear grins, glowing from the warm high of that new relationship buzz.

Once again, I am having one of those wonderful periods of time where I am overwhelmed with awe and gratitude for the life I have today. I look at this picture, which I shared for #transformationtuesday and I remember the pain I was in. I could never have imagined the life I have today. Which is different in every way possible, largely thanks to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I remember sitting in my first Alcoholics anonymous meeting and hearing, ‘The Promises’ read out.

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through…”

I am 7 years sober, I feel I have areas in my life that still need work. My gender transition and my career for example. My life isn’t perfect, I live hand to mouth and my Mum is slowly and painfully being stolen from us by vascular dementia. However, despite these things, I have a truly wonderful life in which I am content and proud. I am not even hallway through and yes, I am more than amazed.

In these seven years, I have discovered the man I truly am and stepped forward into that identity with clarity and grace. I have unashamedly embraced living an honest life, even when that honesty meant facing difficult facts about myself. Where once I would run from emotions, using alcohol to numb their razor-sharp edges, I now lay myself bare to even the most painful of emotions.

I have done this because every time I face something rather than run, I am rewarded with a new phase of development. A growth in self-knowledge, a deeper level of self-awareness, and an even deeper sense of contentment and faith in life’s process of unfolding.

Facing my doubts about my sexuality, and my fears about relationships has been a long and confusing road. I am now being rewarded with the arrival of a wonderful man in my life who brings me so much joy. Alongside that, being with him has given me even greater confidence in my gender identity and a much deeper understanding of my sexual attraction.

To think I once feared change, and now I welcome it, even when those changes are the least expected. In fact, those changes are the best.

Embracing New Beginnings-Day 40-43 Of #365daysofselfcare

This blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is allowing yourself to trust in new beginnings

2018-06-11_09.17.49-01At the beginning of this year, I decided to start dating again. This was for two main reasons. The first was because l really needed to get my own life back after being so focused on looking after mum for the last 7 months. The second reason was that l still hadn’t had a significant intimate connection with a man and l really wanted one. My thoughts about my being attracted to men were still a theory. I felt pretty sure that these feelings were real, but they were still largely untested. You can think about strawberry ice cream all day long and imagine what it would taste like, however, until you actually taste it, you really can’t know for sure, can you?

I wasn’t looking for a relationship. Neither was l purposely not looking for a relationship, but l certainly wasn’t expecting to find one. To be honest,  I wasn’t sure l was ready, what with everything in my life presently being incredibly physically and mentally challenging. I also didn’t think l was ready to share my life in any significant way with anyone, and l wasn’t sure l wanted too either. I’ve been burnt too many times now and it is not easy putting your hand back in the fire. More than anything, I just wanted to date, to meet people and explore my sexuality.

My first venture back into the world of dating was with Chris. I was attracted to him instantly and after the first date, he made it clear the feeling was mutual. Even more than that, it quickly became apparent that we both felt very strongly for each other. This has continued to grow in strength in the 5 weeks since then, and we’ve even been discussing a future together. This is something that has surprised us both.

I feel wonderful. He makes me smile. He makes my heart feel like its going to burst out of my chest. Alongside that though, are a bundle of nerves, as is the case with new relationships. l am afraid of being vulnerable, of opening my heart and laying myself open to the possibility of being hurt. Additionally, as l have mentioned previously in my blog entries and my videos, my mental health and recovery cause extra concern, as being hurt can really set me back.  However, as l have also discussed, l refuse to let my mental health stop me from enjoying life, l just need to proceed with balance.

This week, l experienced an abrupt and distinct internal shift in these early nerves. Chris and l were sat having a coffee on the seafront, and l suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of acceptance of the intensity of my feeling for him. I moved into a wonderful feeling of trust, in both the way l feel about him and in my belief that this really is turning into a relationship with a future.

This is what has made me decide to break my silence around his identity and publicly share who he is. Despite it still being early days at 5 weeks into seeing each other, I know I want a future with him ,and I am fully trusting this very promising and magic beginning.

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