Friday nights in never felt so good.

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Picture this; it’s not even 7pm yet, Friday night. Am I out downing cocktails with my 20-something friends in a dimly lit bar, the tension of the working week slowly dissipating with every minute? Not quite. Perhaps I’m strolling some cute night markets with my bearded boyfriend, sampling treats from food trucks and listening to soft guitar under the moonlight? Hmm..

Nope. I’m tucked in bed, socks and warm pyjamas on. I’ve had dinner with my Nana and Pop, a hot shower and lit a candle. I’ve got fairy lights on and my favourite new purchase – a steam diffuser filled with the scent of lavender and geranium essential oils, slowly wafting through the air. Am I concerned that this is what I’m doing on a Friday night, and I’m not even 30 yet!? Absolutely not. It’s bloody great, and this is literally ALL I feel like doing after a long day at work. You see, I’m on my ‘gap year’ from pretty much everything I’ve been doing for the last 10 years, and I don’t have to apologise to anyone. Is this what getting older feels like? All I know is that shedding the stresses, worries and cares is incredibly liberating, and I’m not looking back.

Hoping you all have a lovely weekend doing whatever you feel like doing… No regrets, no judgement, just enjoy the moment 🙂

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Photo credits – haciabiden & spell_byronbay

Wait, was that a real smile?

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For so long I was stuck in this grey reality, going through the motions of life without really being ‘present’. I’d turn up to work, catch up with the friends and keep up my social media appearance. Every night I’d be so exhausted from the emotional, mental and physical strength this existence required, that all I’d want to do is lay in my candlelit room at night listening to depressing music, dreading having to do it all again tomorrow. Of course, it finally caught up with me and it’s only 5 months into my ‘gap year’ that I’m genuinely starting to be excited about life again.

In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed subtle changes in my thinking patterns that have got me doing mental cartwheels of joy. I’ve caught myself not thinking or worrying about my anxiety issues, and while that sounds silly – if I’m thinking about not thinking about anxiety, then aren’t I thinking about anxiety again? Well yes, and no. It’s different now. For a good year it was all I thought about – it literally consumed my thoughts every hour, if not every minute of the day. I’d wake up assessing how I felt, I’d walk to work wondering how long I would last before starting to panic, I’d try and hold myself together all day until I could get out and escape to the safety of my bedroom. If I had plans that night I’d try and stay calm until I got there, then spend the entire time feeling like shit because of how exhausted I was and looking forward to just being in bed. But even in bed I couldn’t escape my mental state – I’d meditate to try and get to sleep, and then some nights wake up with a racing heart trying to catch my breath at 2am. Anxiety was with me constantly, sitting on my face and refusing to let me live my life in peace.

But as I mentioned, lately I’ve caught myself not thinking about it. And this has made a world of difference. I can actually read a book, watch a movie, talk to family or friends and take the dog to the beach, and actually just live in the moment, not worrying about whether I might have a panic attack or where I can escape to if I start feeling anxious. This is an amazing feeling and something that I don’t expect everyone to understand. I couldn’t even go into a grocery store or drive across a bridge 3 months ago without feeling sick in the stomach, worried about panicking which naturally leads to a state of panic. The cycle of anxiety is vicious, and comes on so quickly that you barely have time to put your coping methods in place. I can genuinely say I feel like my storm is starting to ease though, and I’m beyond excited. I’ve actually booked a trip to Bali in a few months with some friends which is something I feel like I deserve. After the hard work I’ve put in to overcome my challenges, I think a cocktail on the beach is well overdue!

The happiest people seem to be those who have no particular cause for being happy except that they are so. (William Ralph Inge). 

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Photo credits – katie.one & sandra.cumplido

The importance of rituals.

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If you’ve moved house a couple of times like myself, you’ll understand the feeling of not being quite able to settle in until you’ve completed your ‘homely’ rituals. Even after the long days of packing, hiring utes (and friends) for the heavy items and the inevitable unpacking, nothing feels right until your favourite items are in place and a candle has been lit. I could be sitting in an absolute mess of books, clothes and bathroom products at the end of moving day, but as long as my family photographs and rose quartz crystal are on display, and the scent of a (preferably lavender or lemongrass) candle is delicately touching the room – all is well in my world.

So why are these rituals so important to our happiness? I think it comes down to a sense of grounding, of bringing us back to our perception of ‘home’ after engaging in activities that are perhaps unusual or exhausting. We all like to end our day with a familiar routine so we can feel calm, centred and peaceful. If I don’t get the time or chance to wind down after a stressful day at work, or a night out with friends, I feel uneasy and tense going to bed. I think it’s extremely important to ensure these little rituals don’t get pushed aside when life gets too busy, because it is precisely in those times that grounding ourselves and checking in is most needed.

In the last 9 months I’ve also become a huge believer in meditation. Before I got into it, the idea of taking 20-30 minutes to just focus on my breathing seemed ridiculous, and it did take quite a few weeks to feel comfortable with it. Before long though, I actually found myself craving those precious minutes, where all I had to do was focus on the in and out rhythm of air through my lungs – something so simple yet critical to overall well being. Learning the art of deep belly breathing can also help in times of tension when your body goes into fight or flight mode. Now that I’ve made meditation an almost daily ritual, I feel in tune with my body all the time. Even if I’m feeling a little agitated, I’ll enter that mind space of simply breathing to bring myself back to focus.

Whatever your little rituals are – keep at them, relentlessly. These are the small things in life that make us smile and keep us grounded, and sometimes that can make a world of difference.

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Photo credits – fleaandbear & theophelia_