Realising The Importance Of Unwinding

Happy Sunday, loves! Self care is something that is discussed in great detail, but it’s often linked directly to beauty treatments and pampering yourself. That’s not to say I don’t love a pamper night because – let’s be real, I DO! – and that’s something I make sure to incorporate into my life at least once per week, but I think there’s so many other ways you can hit that self care button and relax at the same time.

We live in a world where we’re so connected via iMessage and social media, and it’s really become difficult to let ourselves and our minds unwind. Most of us spend at least forty hours per week at work, and during that time our minds can be so wired and frantic with everything we need to get done we don’t allow ourselves time to stop. My blog is something I do in my ‘free’ time, but as I talked about in my October goals post, I was losing the barrier between ‘free’ time and any time I wasn’t at work. I felt like I needed to be constantly working on my blog whether it was writing posts, taking photos, editing photos, reading other blogs, trawling social media or just brainstorming ideas and it became so hard to let my mind escape and just enjoy being at home. I’ve been feeling extremely anxious over the past few months and it’s something I’m really struggling with right now. As a result, I’ve been trying to find all of the things that make me feel less anxious and focus on those, rather than trying to identify why I feel anxious in the first place!

Something Matt and I have prioritized more and more recently is unwinding each evening/weekend we aren’t at work. I often take a little time whilst he’s at work (either early morning, after I get home during the week or whilst he’s in on a weekend) to do all of my blog work, and I’m feeling way happier and less stressed out by giving myself some ‘me’ time back. I made a promise to both Matt and myself a long time ago that I’d not work on my blog whilst we were having chill time at home, and it’s really important to me that I stick to that.

I’m such a homebody at heart but Matt would often rather be out; we compromise on this by usually spending a little more time at home during the week, and a little more time out of the house doing fun things at the weekend. Being a homebody means I relish in all things cosy; candles, fuzzy blankets, comfy pj’s and dressing gowns are up there with my all time favourite items ever, and I just love every opportunity Matt and I get for a cosy night at home. Also, you don’t need to have a ton of time to enjoy the cosiness of being at home; often by the time we get home from work, cook and eat dinner, shower/bathe etc it could easily be 8pm! It’s about being intentional with the time you do have, and being able to roll your to-do list over to the next day.

Here’s a few little things I suggest doing at least a few times per week to help you unwind, relax and enjoy being at home.

Clean your space. I can’t really explain how or why, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people will agree with me on this one: when my space is clean, I feel happier. This is the same for my home and my car; I just need my environment to be welcoming and as clutter free as possible. I pick up our room several times per week which takes all of five minutes in the mornings, then I fully deep clean once per week. Putting on fresh sheets, hanging clothes away, vacuuming, dusting etc just makes the whole room feel more cosy and inviting, and it always makes me feel a small sense of accomplishment. We’re big believers in the fact a bedroom needs to be a happy, comforting space; it’s so important to allow yourself to fully rest at home!

Light a candle. Okay so I’m sure so many of you will already know this, but I’m obsessed with candles. Obsessed. I love love love the cosy pumpkin scents for Fall right now, and I’m genuinely concerned at how often I think about purchasing another. Ha! I feel so calm and at peace with candles burning and our pink Himalayan rock salt lamp on; it gives our bedroom the most beautiful warm pink glow and makes my heart happy.

Put down your phone. One of the best things you can do to unwind from work, friends, peers, a bad day etc is to just put down your phone. Leave it charging in another room or preferably another floor of the house and be in the moment. Matt and I always try to do this when we’re out for dinner too; so many times on date night you’ll see the couple more interested in their phones than each other. Other than maybe taking a quick snap of our food we don’t put the focus on our phones. We’re really working on not having our phones in bed at all; every night we were brushing our teeth, getting cosy in bed, then sitting on our phones for at least ten minutes just scrolling through our socials. It’s gross how attached we all our to our phones; as much as I love technology, I sometimes really despise it too!

Listen to music or a podcast. Our Amazon Echo Dots are some of our most favourite ever items we own, and we make use of them every single day! We sleep with Alexa Sleep Sounds on every night (we alternate between Matt’s favourite, ocean sounds, and my favourite, thunderstorm sounds) and it’s truly made a difference to how we sleep. We sometimes play music whilst we tidy up or get ready in the mornings, and it’s just a fun way to occupy ourselves that doesn’t involve being on our phones. I also listen to podcasts almost every time I’m driving (it’s either a podcast or Disney music, there’s no in-between!) and I find them such a fun addition to my day.

Head for a breakfast/dinner date. Going for breakfast is hands down one of Matt and I’s favourite hobbies. Breakfast food is our favourite, it’s generally way less crowded, and we still have the whole rest of our day to get a bunch of things done. We also love dinner dates because getting dressed up together, having a few glasses of wine and making the most of date night is such a treat to us! I think it’s so important to take time for food dates with your partner, your friends and your family – both Matt and I’s families love to go out for meals and it’s something I really am grateful for.

Take a hot bath. The ultimate self care treat for me personally is a hot bubble bath. Pile in your favourite Lush products, light an aromatherapy candle and allow yourself to disconnect from the world for thirty minutes at least an hour. A bubble bath can seriously make up for any crap work day, and you’ll never regret taking time out of your day for that. I’ll be sharing my favourite self care Sunday pamper routine on the blog in a few weeks!

Snuggle up with a cup of tea and your book. Ah, a book and a cuppa… that is my idea of bliss. If we’re having a lazy weekend morning in bed Matt likes to watch various football shows on Amazon Prime (he’s currently watching Sergio Ramos documentary which is all in Spanish… I mean…) and I’m so happy to curl up with my iPad and read before we get ready for the day. I also am a huge fan of sleepy time teas before bed; they really do make you feel a little more relaxed and ready for sleep, and reading a book is a great way to unwind before bed. Matt is not a reader at all which hurts my heart a little bit, but I just keep telling hime he hasn’t found the right books yet!

Watch your favourite shows. Is there anything better than snuggling up with your love and watching the series you’re both invested in? No, there is not! Matt and I often watch several shows at a time, and then incorporate the odd movie or documentary into that too. Strictly Come Dancing is my thing, so by default Matt is often stuck watching it too. He is a huge football fan, so that’s his vice and another thing we watch SO much. We love comedy shows; Brooklyn 99 was our favourite, we’ve seen Friends one hundred times and right now The Office is our ‘easy watch’ obsession. We love love love documentaries (Stacey Dooley’s are a personal favourite, obvs) and shows like Ambulance: Australia make us very happy. We change things up pretty much every evening, but it’s such a nice time to chill and chat with each other too.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you found this post helpful and maybe it’s inspired you to unwind a little more this coming week. Do you make unwinding a priority right now? Or are you always go go go, ticking things off that to-do list? I challenge you this week to take at least an hour each night for yourself or you and your partner, it will totally change your week I promise you!

-G x

How I Find Time To Read & My Current Picks

Hi, loves! Today’s post is one I’ve teased on the blog for a little while, and I’m so happy to be writing about BOOKS. *Warning: it’s a long one, and perfect if you want to carve out a little self care time this bank holiday weekend. I’d recommend you grab a cuppa and settle in!* I love love love reading and it’s something I really wish more people were passionate about. Don’t get me wrong, I know lots of people love to read, but I really don’t know that many people who do! I have loved reading since I was a child; my parents and grandparents always read to me whenever they had time to, and I learned to read so quickly myself. I read my beloved Jacqueline Wilson books so many times I swear I knew the stories off by heart! When I was around 10 or 11, I was helping my granddad clear out a bunch of stuff, and discovered all of my mum and auntie’s old books by Enid Blyton. He kindly gave them to me, and I spent the rest of my summer engrossed in those books! The Secret Seven and Famous Five series ignited a serious love of reading (and dogs – I wanted my own Timmy SO BAD) and I’m forever grateful. I literally spent so many nights in my lilac groovy chick themed bedroom, curled up with a blanket and a book thinking I was so grown up. Ha!

In the years since then, I’ve never lost the joy in browsing book stores, talking about books and of course, reading them. I literally can’t walk past a bookstore without dragging Matt in ‘for a look’ – although, if you’re on a budget (aren’t we all?) have a perusal in store and check the prices on Amazon whilst you’re there; I can pretty much guarantee you’ll always get a better deal on Amazon! No, this post isn’t sponsored by Amazon, I just really love it.

Whenever I talk about my love of reading I am often met with “I wish I had time to read”. News flash: everyone has time to read. Let’s be honest; if Michelle Obama can find time to read, so can you. I have time to read so often because I literally set time aside to do so; making reading a priority is really important to me and it makes the world of difference to my mental health. It’s the perfect self care treat for me (along with a pamper evening and a cuddle from Matt, of course) and it truly opens your mind to SO much you may otherwise not know. Books can cover all different topics, issues and situations, and it’s crazy how much you can learn from a book. My mum and Matt’s mum share my love of reading, and we’re always swapping our current reads, like an unofficial book club! So, how do I find time to read? What are my top tips to help you make reading a priority?

Keep your book on your bedside table
Possibly the most obvious tip, but it makes sense guys. I always keep my current book on our bedside table, and take a little time to read most evenings/mornings. Matt often has to send a few work emails just before we settle in for the night so I take those twenty or so minutes to read a few chapters and get my reading fix. Similarly, he starts work early several times per week (which means a 6am alarm for us both) and I also take a little time once he’s left for work, before I blog or get ready for my work day, to read too. It’s a lovely way to begin or end your day, and if you’re struggling to fit reading time in, this will make a huge difference.

Set goals
Like with anything else, setting goals to read X amount each day/week, will make you hold yourself accountable, and make reading a priority. I love to set goals and have things to work towards, so of course this is no exception! I really think being able to tick a goal off a list helps to visualise it; of course this is a very niche goal but if you want to read more you need to treat it seriously. Maybe you could set out a week Monday to Sunday in the Notes app on your phone, using the bullet point system you can tick off, and then you can see how many days out of seven you read each week. Doing this week by week until it becomes a habit (which it should within two months, as scientists say on average it takes 66 days to create a habit) means that within a really short space of time reading would just become part of your everyday life!

Incorporate reading into your day-to-day life
Similarly to reading before bed or first thing in the morning, it’s amazing where you can fit time in to read. If you spend hours scrolling mindlessly on social media (your phone literally tells you how much time you spend now so you can’t avoid it) you could easily spend at least some of that with a book in your hand instead. I love to read in the bath, I seriously take super long baths just to be able to read for longer, and it’s the ultimate self care time for me. Matt sometimes spends a little time in the evenings working or playing on the playstation, which gives me a good chunk of time to read and not feel guilty about it! I also will spend a little time reading whilst sitting in the garden when it’s warm, or on a cold day I love to curl up with a cuppa and a book. I really should take my lunch break at work away from my desk, as that would be the perfect time to rack up some reading time.

Read digitally on your iPad/Kindle/phone
If you find reading a struggle or would just like to switch things up, I’d really recommend downloading a book onto your tablet or phone. I have been really enjoying reading on the Kindle app on my iPad recently; it’s so convenient as I always have my iPad with me anyway, and it’s very accessible no matter where I am. Downloading books onto a tablet is so handy when travelling too; it limits the weight/bulkiness of books (although I do think you can’t beat a ‘real’ book!) and it allows you to take several options, not to mention ebooks are way less money than a physical book. I am still so mad at myself for not picking up a Kindle Paperwhite during the Prime Day(s) sale, and it’s very high on my wishlist right now.

Carry a book with you day-to-day
If reading on a tablet is not for you I totally get that, but you need to carry your book with you if you want to make the most of reading time as and when you can. If you take public transport to work I’d really recommend making the most of your journey time and lose yourself in a book (just make sure not to miss your stop). Side note: I drive to work each day, and spend lots of time during the week in my car; I’m tempted to try Audible but it’s just not something that’s crossed my mind before. Please let me know if you would recommend! If you’re going somewhere where you may be waiting around, hospital appointments spring to mind right away, pack a book and the wait definitely won’t seem so bad.

Find authors and genres you find interesting
Another thing people tell me, is that they have the time to read, but they can never find a book they actually want to read. This is a little trial and error, but if you put the effort in to finding what makes your heart sing, you’ll see the benefit of it. Personally, I love fiction stories that feel like you’re right in with the characters but as you’ll see from my current picks below, I do like varied content. I really want to read more mystery books as I’ve borrowed a few from my mum that I’ve enjoyed, so that’s something I need to explore more in the coming months. It’s the best feeling finding an author you love, as you are drawn to their writing style and therefore can find so many books. Amazon’s ‘Recommended for you’ section pretty much always brings up amazing options, and I’ve found so many books I love that way!

My current favourite author is hands down Taylor Jenkins Reid. Two books I’ve read (and loved) recently are Forever, Interrupted and After I Do; both books are filled with love, heartbreak, sadness and happiness, and you truly feel like you’re experiencing the emotions of the lead characters. Zoe Folbigg is an amazing author and I’ve loved every book of hers I’ve read! I just finished The Postcard, which was the sequel to The Note, and it left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Two books that changed my life (in different ways) are Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton and How To Be A Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan. I’ve read both several times; they’re incredible and would make for brilliant presents for the gals in your life!

Michelle Obama’s Becoming is a must read for everyone, everywhere; she is, in my opinion, the most inspirational woman of our generation and I’m so happy she shared her story. The best non-fiction book I’ve ever read was This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay; I don’t know anyone who disliked this book, it’s filled with so much emotion – I’d literally be laughing one page and sobbing the next – it’s a must read. If you like books that let you escape from every day life, I’d suggest anything by Elin Hilderband. She writes about Nantucket (and Martha’s Vineyard) in so much depth I feel like I’ve been there myself; it’s a book that takes you on holiday from real life, and her stories are always so enticing. My favourite book of hers is hands down The Identicals. I’ve just downloaded a new Elin Hilderbrand book called The Perfect Couple (and One Minute Later by Susan Lewis) onto my Kindle app for literally 99p each! Order while you can! Shoutout to the lovely Savannah for originally recommending Elin Hilderbrand books to me!

Some of my current ‘to read’ list include the last in a wonderful series by Louise Pentland; Wilde Women. Louise is someone I’ve loved and admired for years, from way back to her Sprinkle of Glitter days, and I’m so happy that she’s began to write. She writes from the heart, her characters are lovable and I’m so excited to see what is happening with Robin, Lyla and Kath in the final installment! Queenie is a book I saw in Anna‘s reading pile and immediately purchased (the girl just knows her books, and also wrote a cracking book herself, An Edited Life) and I’m so excited to read; the book talks all about love, life and race issues and has rave reviews. Another author I’m very interested in is Jane Fallon, I often see her books featured on Instagram and I need to order one soon!

Thank you so so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post and found my tips and tricks helpful in some way. Can you believe my boyfriend (who is perfect in every other way, if I do say so myself) doesn’t like to read?! He’s literally been ‘reading’ the same book since Christmas 2017… maybe you take a few pointers from this post, Matthew?! Ha. So, are you a bookworm like me? Where’s your favourite way to make time to read? I’d love to share my favourite books every few months if that’s something you’d be interested in? Please leave me all your book recommendations below, I love to hear what other people are reading!

-G x