8 acts of self-love

We are all great at telling our loved ones that they need to take some time for themselves when they're feeling stressed and run down; we are awful at making time for our own self-love, though. 

Let's take a show of hands; how many of you regularly schedule time for yourself? Where you don't have commitments, studying, or chores to do? Just time to do whatever you want or need to do to relax and love yourself? I'm truly interesting to hear from any of you that do and would love to hear some tips.

I am about a month into my masters degree and while I wouldn't classify myself as being on the wrong side of stressed right now, I'm getting there. Relaxing is beginning to get lost amongst coursework, reading, my job, trying to finalise a dissertation idea, and looking at PhDs already. Don't get me wrong, I was never expecting a masters to be a walk in the park; I am a strong believer in getting the best results when you take care of yourself. Though I'm not entirely sure why I don't do that as often as I should do.

A few weeks ago, I listened to the first Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert podcast. The topic was "do what ignites your soul" and it spoke about trying to find a balance between your passion and what you consider your obligations to be, and how you can release yourself from them sometimes to indulge your passion. Elizabeth shared a profound quote that I can't stop thinking about and that I need to share you with you:
 


"I think of my writing simply in terms of pleasure, it's the most important thing in my life; making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them only because I am the person who makes things. I am who I am, is the person who has a project of making a thing. And because that person does that, all the time, that person is able to love all these other people."

- A S Byatt, British author.


 
What Byatt is saying here is that if she couldn't do the things she loved doing, she wouldn't be able to love  the way she does. I think that's such a powerful idea and it makes sense when you think about the big picture.

Consider something you truly enjoy doing, your passion, your love in life. If you couldn't do that thing, how would it impact your life? Would you be unhappy? Would you be able to love your family and friends the way you want to? It's worth thinking about.

I think quotes and ideals like that are vital for helping us as a society get over this idea that spending time on ourselves or being "selfish" is a bad thing. Being "selfish" in this context is not a bad thing at all. Being a selfish dick is something else entirely. We all have the right to be happy in our lives and to deprive ourselves of that is pointless and destructive.

With all of this in mind, I want to share some simple acts of self-love. The list is by no means exhaustive, it's what works for me so I'm interested to hear what you do and what your thoughts are.


Planning & Organisation

A really easy way for me to decrease my stress levels is to plan and organise my life properly. If I don't know what I need to do and when, it makes me anxious and I end up not having time to get everything done. I also hate not being able to remember when I'm working; if I think I have the day off work and then I realise I'm at work in the evening, it puts me in a rubbish mood.

I try to set aside some time each week to use my planner and look at what I need to do in the week ahead, look at longer-term plans / commitments I've got, and break up larger tasks into smaller tasks to make them more manageable. When I do this, I can identify time to spend on doing something I want to do and it makes me feel so much better.

I'm also finding this is a good way for me to figure out how to make sure I get "time off". Anyone who is (and ever has had to) balance studying with work quickly realises that it's important to make sure you have at least one day off from everything each week.

Get outside

One of the greatest joys in my life is being outside with nature. And moving up to Scotland has made it even better. We are now less than 15 minutes from a beach! It's pretty exciting because we were about 3 hours away from a beach before. We're trying to take time to get outside for a bit each week, though living in Scotland means the weather does not always play ball. If it's a bit of drizzle, I can deal with it, but driving rain? No.

 

Last week, Daz and I visited Aberlady Bay and it felt so good to stand on the sand again and listen to the waves. The last time we did it was in Tofino in June. I didn't realise how much I needed that walk until I stood there and felt myself relax. I might even go as far to say that almost I understand what all those young adult authors were referring to when they kept saying "I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding in." Almost.

Talking a walk outside is a great way to destress

 

Change your scenery

Similar to getting outside, I think it's easy to go a little stir crazy sometimes. I find this is especially the case if I'm working on assignments and spend the whole day staring at my laptop. If you've got studying to do, do it somewhere else occasionally; use the library (gasp!), go to a coffee shop, get outside if you can.

Pamper Yourself

I feel like this is such a cliché but it's true. I feel a lot better after sticking on a face mask, actually adhering to my skin care routine, and remembering to put oil in my hair after a shower. The great thing about pampering yourself is that you can do it at home and it doesn't have to take up much of your time if you're short on it.

Take some time each week (I feel like Sunday is always good - if you don't have to work, that is) to pamper yourself and read a book or magazine while you're at it.

Talk

I am one of those people who gets convinced that what I've got to do is completely insurmountable and horrendous, until I say it out loud. Talking to someone about how you're feeling about something can really help.

Often, I'll start telling Daz about "all this shit I've got to do" and after a few minutes I've switched to "actually, it's not that bad." Saying things out loud and working things through with someone else can help you see the forest for the trees.

Read

A look at my Goodreads challenge for 2017 will quickly inform you that I have been terrible at reading books this year. I mean, I have read goodness knows how many journal articles (can you include those in your Goodreads target?) this year. It's not to say I don't enjoy reading those papers because they're really interesting, but some of them are horrendously dry to read and there are no wizards.

 

Daz and I are both huge Harry Potter fans, and Daz is the kind of person who remembers everything. He remembers things like who Mrs Weasley's favourite singer is. When that question came up in Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, I didn't even remember Mrs Weasley's musical taste coming up. We have at least three copies of the series between us and we're planning to start reading it together.

Last Friday, I took part in the Cosy Reading Night on Twitter and started reading John Green's Turtles All The Way Down. It was so nice to read something other than journal articles, and I hadn't realised how much I'd missed John Green's writing. I don't think I'd realised how much I missed the feeling of escaping when you read too. A couple of years ago, my blog was primarily books and I've finished one non-fiction book this year; how did that happen? Life. 

Reading is one of my favourite acts of self-love

Finding the yes & no balance

A couple of years ago, I remember the blogging scene going through a huge phase of encouraging people to say yes more. Saying yes can be great sometimes because it gets you out of your comfort zone; you shouldn't always say yes though. 

Saying no is really important sometimes, and I think it's something most people have a hard time doing. We want to please people and help them out but if you keep doing that, you're the one who suffers in the long run when you're burned out and exhausted. I understand that sometimes there's a trade-off; you say no to an extra shift and you lose out on extra money. Try to take a step back occasionally to look at the bigger picture, and ask yourself what you really need right now. If it's some time off, say no. 

 

Ask for help

Our inability to ask for help is probably one of the biggest drivers of stress. At school, we're taught that we shouldn't be afraid of asking for help but as we get older we buy into this perception that asking for help makes you week. No, it doesn't. I like to remind myself of something a chef at my old work used to say, "no one likes a hero." Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Whether it's school, work, or your home life; if you're struggling with something, speak to someone and ask for help. I know that in the workplace it's a conversation people fear having because they worry it makes them look like they're not good enough, or they can't cope. Your job should not involve being paralysed by stress and a huge list of things to do and not enough time. 

The same goes for school too. If you're finding yourself overwhelmed and need some breathing space, speak to your tutor as soon as you can. If you can do that, they can help you and you can keep on top of your grades.

Make time to take some time out

Ok, I'm really curious and want to hear your thoughts on this topic; are you good at spending time on yourself? What do you like to do to de-stress?

 

8 acts of self-love

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Organisation tips to help you survive the final year of your undergraduate degree

Before I started my third year of university, I heard from two former students who had just finished the same course. They had two completely different opinions about the final year; “it’s really easy if you keep on top of stuff” and “it was horrible, I was so stressed, and it was really hard.”

I was determined not to be the latter and I wasn’t particularly, apart from that one time our lecturer told us we should have been laying our assignment out differently eight hours before deadline, when I was at work all that night too. Great. I survived relatively unscathed and came out with a first class honours, so I can share a thing or two about keeping on top of things in your third year. I’m not saying it was a walk in the park but my third year was easier and a lot less stressful than it was for some students on my course.

This post is almost a year in the making because I started it at the beginning of my third year as a “quit dicking about” note to myself. I’ve split it into two sections; a “general” and “project / dissertation” section since not all courses involve final year projects.

General third year survival tips

Be prepared

The Lion King, be prepared

You’re a third year university student; you tell yourself every semester that you’re going to be more prepared. In fact, you’ve been saying it since you were in year 4. Well, third year is the time you actually do it and stop lying to yourself about it.

Whether you prefer paper planners or online ones, take some time each week or every day (whatever works for you), to review what you need to do this week, when things are due, what classes are on, and what you can start on now. If you like printouts take a peek at these three polka dot timetables.

I know that sometimes it’s actually quite daunting to look at what you’ve got to do, especially if you know you have a lot to do, but it’s better to know what mountain you’ve got to climb this week, right? It also means you can avoid saying horrifying things like, “we’ve got an assignment due next week?”

 

Assume that at least one person in group work is going to do nothing

Again, you’re a third year; the idea that there is one person in your group who you didn’t know was even on the course and / or isn’t going to do any work is nothing new. Assume that at least one person is bone idle and is more than happy to coast through their degree based on other people’s work and plan that in to your timeline.

Ideally, you and the rest of your group want to plan to be finished at least a week before the deadline in case you have to re-write something that’s been copied and pasted from Wikipedia, or if you need to pick up their slack. It’s ok, you can slate them in the peer review later; though we all know they will still get the same grade as you…I’m not bitter, honest.

How to survive your third year of university

Break it down

Something I found really useful was breaking down my assignments into smaller tasks. That way, I could trick myself into starting and finishing assignments early because I would think, “ok, I have a couple of hours, I can start doing some research on this specific thing,” rather than “ok, I have a couple of hours and need to start this assignment.” Being able to tick little tasks off was quite motivating because it looked like I was making progress faster and I think it definitely kept me on target, instead of feeling overwhelmed.

I found some of the printouts on The Organised Student really helpful for breaking assignments down, and making sure I was hitting all of the assessment criteria. Take some time to look at your assignment brief and write down exactly what you need to do to finish it and get the grade you’re after, and remember to be specific.

Don’t just say, “do research,” be specific, so for my dissertation one of my tasks looked like “research how long decomposition fluids affect soil.” It seems like more work but believe me when I tell you that the extra time planning will make things easier for you and might even help boost your grades.

 

Give yourself some time off

At the start of third year, our course leader told us to prepare “not to sleep or do anything fun during second semester.” That sounded pretty dull to me; I like sleep and doing things I like. No dissertation is going to get in the way of that!

We have all spent hours and hours working on something, only to find that it’s a load of rubbish when you come back to it with a clear head. Or, you end up feeling mentally exhausted and say things like, “I don’t even care what grade I get, I’m just glad to have handed it in,” and you know in your heart that you haven’t given 100%.

Studying all day long without breaks is not beneficial to you or your grades; take breaks, unwind, recharge, and go back to studying refreshed and focused.

 

Find your place / yes, you can study in bed

I really struggle to get much done sat at a desk; I find it too uncomfortable. My little study fort is on the sofa, so I can sit back comfortably, and when I’m there I can get loads done. If you stick me at a desk, I’ve probably got 30 minutes in me before I’m uncomfortable and trying to find an excuse to get up, like a three year old that doesn’t want to stay in bed.

Study wherever you feel the most comfortable and productive. And if that means studying in bed, do it.

 

Planning & organisation to help you survive your third year of university

Bribe yourself

By now you should know what you can bribe yourself to get work done with. Whatever it is, do it. What works well for me is doing an hour of work for an hour of doing something I want to do. That way I know I can get work done ahead of time (because it’s pretty hard to leave it to the last minute doing it that way) without feeling really stressed or mentally drained by it.

Just make sure you keep yourself in check though. Set a timer on your phone and don’t let one hour of playing games turn into two days of obsessively playing LEGO Jurassic Park…I speak from experience.

 

Accept help

I think it would be incredibly difficult to get through the final year of your course without any help. If someone offers to cook dinner while you’re furiously typing away, say yes. If a friend offers to read something over, let them because they might spot something glaringly obvious that you’ve missed, and sometimes a new perspective can involve new suggestions. If your university offers tutorials or workshops on how to revise efficiently, how to write scientifically, or how to write up your dissertation, go to them.

 

Get competitive

Feeling a touch unmotivated? Get competitive with your friends. My friend, Sophie, and I had a little dessert-based competition for each of our exams; whoever got the highest grade got dessert brought for them by the other. That is honestly what kept me revising over the Christmas break and even when I was on holiday in Iceland. It also got me off Youtube or pulled me out of Pinterest rabbit holes and got me back on task so many times. Friendly competition works.

 

Do not give up

We had a period of about six weeks between handing our dissertation in and our final exams. During that period, a lot of people’s enthusiasm went MIA. Somehow, it seemed hard to keep motivated knowing we were almost at the finish line; I think the dissertation took a lot more out of us than we expected.

If you’re sitting there, wondering whether to revise or do something else, revise. You might honestly feel like you can’t be bothered or you’re so tired of university work right now, but don’t give up now. Once you’re finished, you will soon forget about feeling lethargic and will be proud of yourself. And if you do give up, you might have to resit exams or entire modules, and that’s just dragging things out further.

Do not give up and end up wishing you had tried harder when you see your results, it’s not worth it.

 

How to survive your third year project / dissertation

See your project / dissertation supervisor regularly

My project supervisor once joked that he quite looked forward to my daily emails and only sounded mildly sarcastic about it. If you want to get a good mark on your project / dissertation (whatever your university calls it) you best get to know your supervisor.

I met with my supervisor at least once a week and it was a really good way for me to keep myself on track. I knew that if he’d been too busy to get back to my emails, he could answer any questions I had in our meetings. It was a good way for me to learn more because we discussed things, fell down little rabbit holes, problem solved, and he pointed me in the right direction a lot. It also meant I couldn’t be lazy with my project because I’d want to get things done before our next meeting.

I have heard some horror stories from people on my course who had supervisors that weren’t that useful at all or who were impossible to book meetings with. I hit the jackpot and had a great supervisor. I did go through the list of projects and rule out lecturers I thought / knew would be hard to work with, so do that if you can. 

 

Organisation tips to help you survive the final year of your undergraduate degree

Contemporaneous notes!

As a forensic science student, contemporaneous notes were drilled into us from day one. Though, I’ll admit I didn’t really do it until I learned the hard way during write-ups in my second year when I had no idea what my random comments in my lab book meant. Never in my life have I wished so hard that time travel was real than when I was reading those notes. 

Get a notebook you can use to write down all your thoughts, questions, results, notes from meetings, or anything to do with your project. Planning what you need to ask and find out, and writing a detailed answer about why will be really helpful when you come to writing up.

 

Start writing up from day one

Throughout the whole of my project, I had a working document that I regularly updated with my experimental, references I’d found, ideas for the discussion, and my introduction underwent many transformations as my understanding of my project improved.

If you start writing up right at the beginning, it will make your life a lot easier. I’m not saying you need to finish your introduction or literature review in the first week, but if you write down why you’re doing it, your hypothesis, and how you’re going to do it, that’s some groundwork laid already.

 

Tell your family, friends & anyone who will listen about it

I found that my family and friends (and even some of the customers at work) were really interested in what my project was about, and they would regularly ask me how it was going. Discussing and explaining my project to non-scientists was really helpful for me because they raised questions that I hadn’t thought of, and it meant I really got to know the topic well to be able to explain it to them. If you’re a fellow science student, you know that you can sometimes blag explaining something if you can hide behind scientific words but you really need to understand the topic if you’re explaining it to someone who doesn’t know much about it.

An additional bonus was that they kept me motivated because they wanted to know how it was going, and I felt bad when I had to say things weren’t going great or I’d not made much progress.

 

Get to know the lab techs / whoever is helping you

My project was based in a lab that was understaffed meaning the lab technicians were often a lot busier than they wanted to be. That said, they would always go out of their way to help students as much as they could. Obviously, they were not going to do work for you, but they would show you how to use machinery, help you find things, take you to restricted areas, get equipment if it was already in use.

For me, the lab technicians were godsends and not once did they make me feel stupid about asking what I thought was a stupid question, such as “how do I calibrate a pH meter?”. They were busy and stressed, I was busy and stressed, and it was good to talk and joke about that, and get to know them a little bit. Plus, we all know that people will go further out of their way to help people who are nice to them / they like.

 

To conclude, your third year requires you to actually start being organised and keeping yourself in check; but it’s also about being kind to yourself to prevent being so stressed you want to rip your own hair out, stick your fingers in your eyes, and hide under your bed. You’ve come this far, you’ll survive your third year, graduate, and feel proud of yourself, and you should do.

 

If you’re heading into your third year, I wanna know what you’re studying! Feel free to share any tips & ask questions in the comments.

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How to survive your third year of university; organisation & survival tips

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How a planner stopped me losing my s**tPaper Plum planners day to day view

Last October, I began to feel like my memory was turning into a sieve. With university, work, blogging, reading, and generally living, everything was becoming a bit too much and I kept forgetting things, so I decided I needed to get a planner.

I would try to write things down, but there would be bits in my phone, bits on emails to myself, bits in different notebooks, so I needed a way to pull that all together.

The ironic thing is that I went to a high school where they gave every student a planner, and it was compulsory to use it. You had to keep track of what homework you had been given, any projects, and even note down how much time you spent on your homework. And I hated it.

I didn’t like using it at all, and I think it’s because I’m one of those people who has to understand why you need to do something rather than just being told to do something. A few years down the line, I can definitely see the benefits of using a planner.

Paper Plum monthly highlights Paper Plum planners monthly overview

With so many things to juggle, your average planner was not going to cut it. I began searching the interwebs and came across Paper Plum on Etsy. They sell a range of highly customisable planners for students, teachers, families, wedding planning, general planners, and fitness planners, and the way these planners looked and the whole feel was just so me.

The main thing I was drawn to was how customisable their planners are. I chose the student planner, which gives you:

  • Monthly goals
  • Weekly to do lists
  • Weekly lists of tests of quizzes you need to prepare for
  • Sections for each subject

You can start the planner on any month, and let it run to any month, so mine is November to October. In hindsight, I should have done November 2015 to December 2016, but you live and learn.

Paper Plum planner blog annual plannerPaper Plum planner blog statistics pagePaper Plum Planners sponsors page

They sell lots of add-ins too, including a blog section which has pages and prompts for planning posts, keeping track of statistics, information about sponsors, and things you want to get done on your blog each month – you can see a few of those above. I like that it encourages me to think about things like any little bits that need doing on my blog, rather than letting it stew in my brain and getting done whenever I happen to think about it while at my laptop.

There’s a whole load of other things you can add to make your planner suit your life, such as: to do lists, fitness planning, cleaning chart, a baby section, sticker sheets, and so on.

 

How has my planner helped me?

I guess that’s the key point here; has it been worth it? Was it worth the £34 price tag? Definitely.

  • I feel a lot less stressed and up in the air because I know when things are happening
  • I’m keeping on top of my to do lists – and actually making them, and getting things done
  • I feel a lot more prepared in general because I’m aware of what’s happening, when; which lets me split things up instead of leaving it all until the last minute
  • I’m on top of my reading and note taking for classes
  • I can plan my time better
  • I can identify monthly goals – I used to hate doing this at school and college, but I’m all about it now

 

Is there anything I don’t like?

The only thing I would like to be improved in some way (and I don’t know how, because there’s so much crammed in there already) is a slightly larger to do list space. It can get cramped and look a little messy quite easily, so a bit more space is the only improvement I can think of.

 

How has it held up?

You should know that I am not one of those people who inexplicably manages to keep stationery pristine despite using it every day; that is my best friend. I am the kid in school who ends up with pencil led over everything in their pencil case, despite trying not to.

In the past couple of months, this planned has been rammed in and out of my university, along with text books, notebooks, lab coats, and snacks, and it’s held up perfectly. The plastic front and back covers protect it and keep it looking neat and clean in general. The ring binders are sturdy and are still looking as good as the day it arrived, so there’s no bent or wonky wires to be seen.

 

In short: This planner has been so helpful to me and has stopped me losing my s**t. I’ve felt a little stressed a couple of times with deadlines, and I’m certain that I would have turned into a crying mess hiding under the duvet if I did not have this. If your plan is to get more organised in 2016, I cannot recommend Paper Plum’s planners enough.

 

Do you use any kind of planner?

This is not a sponsored post; I just love this planner so darn much.

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Free downloadable polka dot timetables

Hands up if one of your goals for 2015 is to become more organised? Yep, me too. 

Since leaving school I haven’t really used timetables and I ‘plan’ in my head, which doesn’t work because I forget or get distracted. If I write something down and plan, I remember to do it and it makes me feel less stressed because I know what I should be doing and when.

Last weekend I designed a polka dot timetable for myself and I was pleased with how it turned out so I thought I’d create some different colours and offer it on here for you as a free download.

You’ve got a choice of pink, blue and purple, though if you want another colour please let me know and I’ll add one.

These timetables are designed for A4 landscape, so you won’t need to resize anything.

To download your timetable, click the download link for the colour you want. This will take you to a full size version which you can save and print.

If you have any problems, please let me know – the fastest way will be via Twitter @eatreadglam.

Download pink timetable Download pink timetable

Download blue timetable

Download blue timetable

Downloadable timetable in purple Download purple timetable

 

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