A Bump In The Road
So I can only apologise. I think the first rule of blogging is to be consistent, and I've been consistently inconsistent.
I won't beat around the bush - I've been having a really awful time lately just putting pen to paper. My focus was totally lost, my thoughts were all over the place, I've been seriously distracted & there have been so many different things going on in my life that I've let my writing, my hobbies and my work slide. Without those three what could have I possibly been doing with my time? I'm not actually sure, but I've definitely been in a bit of a funk, but I'm now trying to make my way through the smog, clear my head and find my focus again.
I know I've been super stressed recently, and still am today. I've had a constant two day headache and can't seem to sit and relax. In fact, I tried to have a nice soak in the bath the other night and I couldn't stay in it for longer than 15 mins. I think this was in part brought on by the beginnings of an anxiety attack - I have a fear of deep water & sunken ships and had just watched 'Hidden Britain' where a drone had gone around a sunken ship that still had its masts sticking out the water! You're probably reading this and thinking wtf is wrong with that, but honestly the whole thing just really bothered me, and then when I was alone in the bath I just started to get really freaked out by it. The same thing happens to me occasionally if I'm lying on my front in my bed. I have a terrible phobia of snakes and there was a news story a few years ago where two boys had been staying overnight in a flat above a reptile shop. A very large snake had managed to escape, somehow make it's way up into the attic above the flat, fell through the ceiling into the little boys bedroom and then killed them. Sometimes if I lie on my front my mind starts to image a snake falling through the ceiling onto my back and it's as if I can feel the weight of it on me. This all sounds so silly writing this now, but when it's dark, I'm tired, and I'm feeling a bit stressed this is what my mind does to me. Anyway, I digress, you can probably tell the kind of mind-frame I've been in the past few months -agitated, distracted and mentally & creatively blocked. Probably not the best formula for writing & blogging.
However, although I've been unable to actually write anything, that hasn't stopped me from having plans on where I want to take this blog in the future. And If I want anything to happen then I just need to sit down and do the work. This weekend, I was feeling stressed about what direction I wanted to go in, why I wasn't being consistent, what was wrong with me, and what should I be writing. I decided to get a large piece of paper, sit down and really planned what I wanted to do. What did I want to write about? What kind of audience did I want to attract? How did I want them to feel when they read my blog? I've got a good sense of what I want my blog to be about now, and the kind of posts that I could create to get there. Really, that's half the battle done - the other half is just finding the time and focus to write them - which is why I'm here now. Funnily enough, I have about half a dozen unfinished posts in my blog box now, and yet this one has just flowed right out of me. Perhaps this was the one that I needed to write first, and the others will soon come?
So, just in case anyone else is feeling the same I thought I'd write out the few things I've been doing the past few weeks that have helped me feel so much better.
- I initially used the simplest of exercises to try and get my thoughts relating to my blog in order - a mind map. I've not done one since school, and honestly they are possibly my favourite things right now as I feel like they've helped me achieve a bit more mental clarity. I've done about 8 of them this week already, helping me get on top of my work and routine and just figure out what my goals are and the little steps I need to take to achieve them. I find breaking things down makes the whole thing so much more manageable, and mind maps are a great way to get the mess of thoughts out of your head. Once they're on paper you can take a deep breath and start to make sense of it all, and rearrange ideas & thoughts into steps.
- Yoga - I'm sure I've mentioned this many times before, but honestly the past two weeks I feel like i've turned such a corner in my yoga practice and am starting to really reap it's mental & physical benefits. Yesterday I was such a mess during the day, totally agitated and unfocused but I managed to drag myself along to my local yoga class. I've been going for four weeks now and I find that I can now truly find some focus in my hour & a half practice. I was able to totally concentrate on how my body felt through the movements, and maintaining the ujjayi breath throughout the practice. By the time the session had finished the headache that two strong paracetamol had failed to lift had completely cleared, and I felt positive and renewed. I'll do a proper post about my progress in Yoga, but in the past four weeks I have noticed significant improvements in my focus during class, as well as better positioning, strength, hold and ability with some of the poses. I think the teacher makes a huge difference too - my current teacher is absolutely wonderful and has probably been the sole reason why I've been having such significant improvements. I've already mentioned the wonder that is Movement For Modern Life, (if you want to try it & get 50% off then click here for my referral code) but I also cannot express the benefits of having a regular practice with a real teacher too. She has managed to correct a lot of my bad posture habits and I've been suffering with a lot less back pain as a result. A good teacher is able & willing to guide you through movements based on your body's abilities - our class is held in a local village hall and is made up of all different ages & sizes. Last week I was able to achieve a 'birds of paradise' posture, which if you'd shown me a picture beforehand I would never thought I was capable of doing it, and whilst I'm not quite there yet a lot of our class can go into headstand quite happily. I'm aware I'm blabbing on here, but in short yoga has been absolutely awesome for both my body and mind. The fact that I can concentrate so fully for 90 minutes has shown me that I can sit down and spend half an hour writing something!
- I mentioned that I've been having a bit of a creative drought, so I signed up for a couple of online photography courses with Makelight to help get everything flowing again, and also to help me with my photography as this is something that I do struggle with. I have completed a Photography for Beginners course and am in the middle of their Visual Social Media one. I'm doing both whilst considering what my approach will be for both for my blog and also for my work, so I'm perhaps feeling a little bit muddled today (more mind maps required!) So far I've found both courses to be excellent. Emily Quinton, who runs them is so informed, helpful and these two courses have totally changed not just my approach to photography and social media, but also how I see the world and approach things. Whereas before I was very much a 'spur of the moment' blogger and photographer, I'm definitely much more of a planner now, and whilst you maybe can't see the results of these efforts just yet, I think as I continue the practice you'll see a big difference over the months. After all - two separate & very different brands to plan for - I need a bit of time to get my head round things & plan! Emily and the Makelight team also run in-person workshops too, and I would love to attend one in the future - the Photography & Styling ones look great, as well as the photo walks, and I really had to tell myself that my bank balance really just couldn't take me attending their September Retreat. I think I'll have to have a break from social media that week to stop myself from going green with jealousy. Recently launched this week, they also run Makelight Insights - a really handful tool to understanding your Instagram. This is a subscription service, but is well worth getting as it runs a number of different algorithms to help you with your account & how to understand it and make the most of the platform. I've probably not explained it very well but it's all on their site for you to check out if that's interested you! Whilst you're surfing you should probably also check out Emily's beautiful Instagram gallery. She knows what she's talking about, and definitely practices what she preaches!
- As a final point, as I know this blog is long enough (writer's block? what writer's block!) I really can't express enough how important it is to set yourself some time in the evening for a bedtime wind down. Put that phone down, turn that TV off, pick up a real book and read a few chapters or just relax back into some meditation before bed. Breathe deeply and find your happy place. You need your brain to switch off before you can get a good sleep & watching films into the early hours ain't gonna do that. This is a conversation I have with my Mum nearly every morning - she gets up and complains about her awful sleep and I ask her what time she went to bed, 'oh well i was watching a thriller till just past midnight!'. Facepalm! Everybody needs their evening wind down, and having got into a really strict schedule with it I can really tell the next morning if I've stayed up even half an hour later, or spent that bit longer on my phone or laptop before bed instead of reading my book. At the moment I'm reading 'Rain' by Melissa Harrison - an amazing nature writer, and this has been the perfect book to read this week before bedtime. With just four short chapters, each giving an account of a wet walk she's been on this is a lovely book to read, and a chapter each night hasn't been a reach at all. It's been rather comforting reading about Great British downpours and thunderstorms whilst i'm tucked up in my warm bed, and I think I might choose more nature writing books and collections of short stories in the future to read rather than my usual massive historical tomes (In The Land of Giants has been resting on my bedside table for a few months now, yet to have been chosen) Before 'Rain' I rocketed through a Bill Bryson, and would recommend but I find Bryson's books hard to put down once I get going! They're definitely more of a Sunday Afternoon read for me. 'Rain' is already divided into four separate chapters, with four separate stories and it gives me that 'right now you go to bed!' barrier, rather than being one long 'just one more chapter!' story. Bookworms will get what I'm trying to say.
Anyway, these are the little changes that I've been doing that I've found have definitely helped me. I suppose the proof is in the pudding as I've sat down and been able to write this whole blog out in one go! I'd be interested to know if anyone else has periods like this and what they do to overcome them. Hopefully I won't have such a lengthy hiatus in the future as I now have my plan! Hopefully you will all enjoy the content that I create in the future.
I have to say, having got this all out I feel ten times better already. In fact, just in the process of writing this I've had four totally new ideas for posts this week. Stay tuned!