Kicking old habits

We have all got an annoying habit (or five) that we wouldn’t mind getting rid of. My finger nails are practically non-existent due to biting them, I click my back and neck far too much for any normal human… and yeah, I most certainly have had some pretty horrific habits involving my health and wellbeing. In saying that however, habits can also be aspirational. I’m sure there are multiple habits that you wouldn’t mind picking up. It might be waking up a little earlier in the morning, creating a consistent pattern of eating well and feeling good, or simply taking off your makeup every night (I am the worst…).

Sometimes it can be hard to determine whether our habits are bad or good for us, but of late, my basic technique for deciding this is becoming more and more simple. Even the smallest of habits are CRAZY influential in our lives, and so its important to ask yourself how you feel while doing the task. Ask yourself how you feel straight after the task? Do you feel good? Do you feel guilty (cough cough… fingernails). Did doing that action really improve your wellbeing/health/mood? Whether you are aiming to shed old (bad) habits, or create and shape new ones, this post will hopefully help you to do just that.

Create Realistic Habits

The thought of creating new habits has no doubt got most of the world thinking… eat healthy, do more exercise, spend more time with family, spend less wasting money. The list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, the principle of these habits can be very beneficial. But before you rush into only eating salads for a week, or dedicating every spare moment of your me time with others… let me remind you to check yourself. As yourself if your new habit is actually going to be realistic? Thanks Annie… but what does that actually mean? Well, habits (just like resolutions), are all about how you frame them. If you choose to make your habit focused on eating more healthy, by eating exclusively healthy foods and nothing but healthy foods, then maybe we are asking a little too much of ourselves. We all know… that ain’t gonna happen. Make sure you are choosing habits that are achievable and realistic.

Dreams to reality

Like when creating any aspiration or goal, one of the coolest parts about it is visualising how little changes are going to effect your life. Whether its gaining a new habit, or kicking an old one, make sure that you are able to visualise the positive affect it will have on your daily life. Recently, I realised that my habit of over-exercise was slipping back into my daily schedule. I had minimal energy, lack of motivation for anything, little spark in my personality, and was consistently drained. Bad habit… yes I KNOW so. However, in visualising myself with more energy, and realising how much brighter and bubblier I would be as a person without this habit, I became even more motivated for change.

I sometimes think that habit changing gets a ‘tedious’ and ‘time consuming’ label, and sure, swapping or changing your habits can sometimes leave you feeling a little unmotivated. But never fear… this is exactly the crucial moments I am talking about. Take a moment to look at yourself, and visualise what life would be like with/without your habit. This not only helps to prevent the ‘ah-fuck-it’ moments when we want to give in or give up, but also helps us to become more in touch with the times that we know we may struggle in the future.

Plan your shit

Excuse the informal title, but you are currently talking to the ultimate lover of plans. Sometimes overly pedantic (perhaps a habit I could look into changing…), I am indeed the ultimate planner and organiser. My boyfriend often reminds me to chill while I rave about my 10 different to-do lists, but when creating or ridding new habits, nothing is more helpful than creating a plan. It has recently been proven that it can take anywhere between 21 days to an entire month to pick up or rid habits. Hence, planning out weekly or daily goals towards achieving these habits will almost automatically enable small, but crucial daily progress.

 

Talk about it!

This can sometimes be a difficult one, but talking about your habits is also a very obvious solution to help prevent falling off the bandwagon. Having a chat about the habit you are wanting to change may seem daunting at first, you may feel that telling someone about your goal makes you also accountable to them, as well as yourself. But I promise you that there is no harm there! All you need to do is start by selecting someone close to you on a daily basis… friends or family members, people who you live or work with. Then get chatting, because there’s a damn good chance they might be able to help you out with keeping you on track, or may have previous advice! You might even find a buddy who wants to change similar things to you, and come on… who doesn’t love a habit changing buddy?

Keep yourself in check

Your plan for changing your habits is super important, but as is the process of tracking your progress. Theres something incredibly satisfying for human beings found in achieving our goals, and while you tick off each day with a ‘YES’, you will also become more and more determined to reach the end goal. Personally for me, I also like to keep a list of any bad moments or thoughts, any moments where I realised things, or even moments where I slipped up. These day to day records not only help you to realise and prevent future down falls, but also can help you to realise the moments where you might struggle most, and the moments where you are at your best.

 

REWARD TIME

I’m thinking some new fresh kicks, or maybe a nice massage, mmm no perhaps a fancy dinner out. No matter what you love, there’s gotta be something you’ve been wanting lately. Whether you are making new habits or kicking old ones, make sure to have a reward for when you end your habit-changing process! It doesn’t have to be a big spend up or super flashy… Please don’t go out and rent a boat with champagne to celebrate the end of your habitual ‘big spending’ phase. Instead, focus on having something to look forward to that means a lot to you, and when you occasionally loose a little motivation, remind yourself of your reward and the good things to come!

Keep Up The Good Work

Remember that like anything in life, it’s what you do 90% of the time that matters more than the other 10%. Stick to your habit making/breaking plans, and in no time you will feel great with new routine and structure in your life. Once you have the process down, remember that you might have a few slip ups here and there. We are human after all. And hey, if you are successful the first time, why not reconsider your current habits once again and make more influential changes in your life!!

What ‘should’ we do

You should really go to the gym today. You should go to bed at 9pm. You should most definitely finish off your schooling, go to university and get a degree, and then pursue a career in the work force. 

Expectations and society. They go hand in hand really.

I have recently come to realise that we use the word ‘should’ on ourselves and on others far too often. Sure… we use a lot of words frequently, but the impact of this one can be life changing.

Why do we use it so much? Well that because it works. There is a certain amount of guilt and accountability that comes with what we supposedly should and shouldn’t do. Whatever we should do, is generally good for our wellbeing and lifestyle. The things we shouldn’t do, well those are just out of the question…. don’t you dare try to make your own decision about something.

When we say should, it suggests that someone knows better than our innate instincts, knows better than that gut feeling we get inside us when we know what we want. It also suggests that making a good decision on our own behalf is impossible, and causes guilt and anxiety prohibiting us from achieving decisions or choices that we (as individuals) crave.

What I have recently come to realise however, is that each decision in our lives is generally based upon what we think we should do first. We know what we should  do, and hence, we inadvertently create ideology about the specific choices that we should avoid. We should go to university. We should be skinny. We should have a solid job by the age of 25…. the list goes on and on and on.

What this collective ideology also creates however, is a perceived CORRECT answer to everything. And the sad part is, almost everyone in society knows what that right answer is. Absolutely everyone.

This means that people know when you have selected an option other than the norm. Lets say that you choose skip university entirely and pursue travel overseas. Maybe you pursue a health journey that is outside of the norm and decide to try something that may benefit your body and your soul. Or lets say you decide that quitting your job is for the best, and that you would really be happiest being a ‘stay at home’ mum. Tough luck… but these, along with many other options in life, will inevitably leave someone (who has no relevance to your life or happiness by the way…) disappointed by your actions. You will somehow, in a funny way, be letting someone down.

But the truth is, and what I am slowly coming to terms with in the months of late… is that the answer to life is not universal. There is no universal right answer to how to live. How to be healthy. How to be happy.

By doing what you should and following these universally correct answers, you are letting other (often invisible and unimportant) people, make some of the most crucial decisions about your life.

So how am I changing this you may ask? How do we stop the should expectations from ruling important decisions in life. Well, its a work in progress… but my advice is here:

Firstly, I think it helps if you notice that connotations and reactions to the word should don’t always scream positivity. Listen to others around you, and yourself when using the word, and become in touch with your innate reactions to it. You may sigh, you may feel deflated, you may even feel that sensation in your stomach perk up as if you do not want you to go with these exceptions. The more aware I am becoming of how others around me use the word, the more I notice myself falling into the trap of using it too.

Annie… you should most certainly strive to look this way. You should act this way in order to be liked. You should go to university for at least three years and do this course and take this paper and be friends with this person…. You should eat this for dinner and get a job that pays above this amount. You should exercise and drink a green juice every morning. You should push yourself to stressful limits because everyone likes someone ‘busy’. You should work hard at university to get a degree.

Sound familiar? Yeah… it’s all bullshit.

So we have to question: Why do we consistently say should? Are we looking for someone else to make a difficult decision for us? Are we feeling guilty about going against society, so we are choosing the select the easy option out? Are we seeking permission from our peers to be something they deem to be correct?

Ask yourself: WHAT DO I WANT.

Life is full of choices, and in order to pursue your own health and happiness, these choices need to be based upon what YOU as an individual want. If you feel like you should do something thats fine… but consider the reasons why YOU ought to be doing that. Will you feel good when you do it? Will it benefit your mental, physical and emotional health in doing so? Are you really only doing this action to please those around you?

Unfortunately, we will never be able to escape the should expectations within society. There is always going to be someone out there telling you how to eat, how to exercise, how to love, how to learn, and how to live. However, what we can control, is our awareness and action. I am slowly learning to become more aware of my use of should , and the more aware we can become, the more I can control the choice of decision.

As a 20 year old girl in the midst of multiple societal expectations and rules, this process is by no means easy. I don’t actually think it will get any easier with age. But what I am currently striving to do, is to highlight a way of life that encompasses my individual, rather than socially based happiness. The reason I am sharing this with you is because I have realised that it is by no means selfish to seek happiness for yourself, and to derive from achieving someone else idea of happiness in doing so. Will you be happy living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? No. Will you be healthy living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? Hell no. Will you be satisfied living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? I’ll leave that one up to you. 

Leave the expectations of what we have-to-do, what we have to look like, and how we have to live our lives, in the past. Attempt to make each individual choice because YOU want to, because its the best option for YOU at the moment, and because that overwhelming and exciting sensation in your stomach just feels right.

Do you. Do it well. And forget what society says we should do.

26 Ways To Look After Yourself

For most of us, there is often a point in life when everything feels a little too much. Times when even the smallest of tasks, like making a bowl of cereal, or getting off the couch to get a pen, can seem monstrous. There may be some days, or weeks, even months… and for whatever reason, just getting through the day can feel really really hard.

It may be because you are enduring a long term battle with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or some other mental illness. It may be because you have recently been through an emotional or physical trauma. You might have recently lost someone close to you. Maybe you have just had your heart broken. It might be the stress of university weighing you down. Or maybe, for some unknown reason… you just feel a little off.

Believe me, I have these moments and so does almost everyone I know. Would we be human beings if we didn’t? I don’t think so. So whatever the case, I need reading this to help you know that everything will eventually be OK. Whatever is looming ahead is something that you can overcome and achieve, and remember that going through a rough patch never makes you a failure. It does not make you any less loveable or capable. It simply means that you are a human being… and how can we possibly validate making ourselves feel bad for being human right?

At this point in the year, for university students in particular, stress management and practices of self love often fly out the window. Exams are on and you are prioritising your study, you have what seems like five thousand end of trimester assignments due, you may have money, flat, or family troubles… the list goes on. If I am honest, I recently fell victim to being overcome with multiple stresses, and found myself in a tired, overworked and fragile state. I stopped my regular practice of self care and love, I prioritised the wrong things, and I focused my energy in areas by no means more important than prioritising my health.

But I do get it… time management and organisation can be much harder than a regular routine in stressful times. I often feel less inclined to spend time doing the things (I know) will make me happy, because I ‘need’ to put other things in advance. For some reading this, that might be slacking off your regular exercise routine because you just don’t have the time. It might be putting off catching up with a friend or going for a walk… or depriving yourself from your favourite foods or listening to your favourite music. For others, it might even be the seemingly simple task of getting out of bed.

All of these actions are things that we love… yet for some unknown reason, they no longer seem priority right? Our health and wellbeing, our mental state and happiness, our friends and our family, me time… none of which seem to matter anymore.

But I’m going to stop you right there. Because quite frankly, I learnt the hard way that having this approach to stressful times in life does not work. Practices of self love and managing your stress, is crucial to our health and wellbeing.

Because I am personally a huge victim when it comes to letting myself get overtaken by stress, this is most definitely something I am working hard to improve looking ahead. Although I am by no means perfect, I have certainly learnt some helpful things along the way about how to get through these times.

So… if this is you right now, feeling alone, overwhelmed or stressed all ends… please keep reading. Whether it be you, or someone that you love who is going through a bit of a rough patch, here are some simple suggestions for self-care and management to help you through.

 

Self Care 101

 

1. Call a friend or family member and talk everything out. This can be super helpful, especially for people living away from home or travelling for university/work. Sometimes you can feel isolated and alone during stressful times – even when there are so many others around you. Its always nice to know someone cares, even from afar, so give them a call and enable an ability to vent everything out to someone that you trust.

2. Get good quality rest and tuck yourself into bed early. Sleep is vital, and essential. Yes there are times where you need to be pulling an all nighter, but in all honesty – you are generally always better off getting a good nights sleep, and being brighter in the morning to perform at your best.

3. While you are at it on the resting front… change your sheets and pillow cases, get a new duvet too. There is no better feeling than hoping into bed with crisp clean sheets, and a little revamp on your bed always helps you climb into bed after a long day.

4. Take some time to focus on your breath. It sounds silly I know, to just sit there and breathe. But seriously… focus on going in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly and deeply (from your stomach not your throat). When breathing in, you need to be pushing your stomach out (this seems opposite to normal at first). Do this consistently for 2 minutes and I guarantee feel a difference in your state of mind and peace.

5. Hydrate yourself. Ask yourself… have you had enough water today? Stress and worry can often leave us prone to more frequent breakouts or hormonal outbursts, and drinking water most definitely helps prevent this process. In order to combat this, have a big bottle of water alongside you consistently, or if you aren’t into drinking plain water… try infusing it with fruits or teas.

6. Eat something. Another question you need to ask yourself is… have you eaten something healthy and nourishing today? Have you fuelled your body with what it needs to get through? Most likely… the answer will be no. I know for me, if I don’t take the time to sit, take time aside from my work, and eat my meals… my whole days schedule is thrown off. Inevitably, my final work results are always much poorer than anticipated. Fuel your body at consistent times, have a break when eating, and be mindful of the way your body is feeling and reacting to what you are putting in. If it needs more nourishment, then don’t be afraid to give it that. 

7. Have a nice hot shower. Clean your body and get a good scrub on. Take time to wash your face gently and condition your hair, shave the areas that need it too, if you want too. Once done, dry your hair properly, moisturise areas of your skin that are dry, get into comfortable clothing (these need to be warm if in Wellington), and relax.

8. Get some vitamin D and get outside in the sun. During the winter months in particular, getting sunshine can seem a bit of a mission. Even worse, is when you are sitting inside smashing out an assignment while the sun streams in on you. If this is the case, take a 30 minute break from whatever it is you are doing and go outside. Feel the warmth on your skin, feel it warm your body and your soul.

9. While on the topic of getting outside, go ahead and make sure you move that gorgeous body of yours. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, just move it gently in ways that feel good. Aim for 30 minutes everyday. It could be a walk, some yoga, a kick ass bootcamp style workout… whatever it is that makes you feel good. I also guarantee you, that even if you are feeling a bit sluggish at the time, gentle exercise and movement will almost always make you feel more energised.

10. Grab a journal and write it out. Get everything on your mind out and vent to yourself, feelings, emotions, worries or future plans.

11. Write a list and create a plan. This always helps me when I am feeling overwhelmed. List everything that you need to do to address whatever you’re facing, and make this a daily ritual that you can tick off each time. Remember to make it realistic, don’t go setting yourself one million things to do in one day. Seperate your things to do into manageable tasks, and tick them off as you go. Start small, even if your first thing listed is to get up and out of bed.

12. Light a candle or incense and sniff familiar scents and smells that bring you joy. My favourites are my vanilla and caramel candle, or lighting the lime and coconut candle that mum gave me.

13. Clean up your environment, and stay organised. As human beings, we naturally like things to remain in order. Sometimes tidying things up can help calm our minds, so start with your desk, or organising your notes into sections that are going to help you stay on top of things.

14. Change your environment if one isn’t working for you. If you are not happy or being productive where you are, take a break and move somewhere else. I love working in cafes or the public library, and sometimes find staying in one space extremely isolating and unproductive. Move and change, and over time you will find what works for you.

15. Create a playlist of top notch songs that make you feel great and remind you of happier times. If its study that you are needing to prioritise, chuck on a playlist of some chill beats that make the atmosphere a little less boring.

16. Create a list of things you are grateful for in life. I find this helps me a lot when I am stressed, and draws attention to the things I have almost always forgotten when overwhelmed. While you are at it, make a list of things to look forward too, such as plans after exams or the things upcoming that make you excited to be alive!! If you don’t have any… make some!

17. Remember to stay in touch with the present, and remember that your only job right now is to put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward. Don’t think about facing entire weeks ahead if that seems too scary, take each moment one step at a time.

18. Put in your earphones or crank the speakers nice and loud, and DANCE. Dance for five or ten minutes like an absolute idiot, get a friend, and sing out the lyrics at the top of your lungs.

19. Seek expert help with whatever you need; if you are struggling mentally – remember you do not have to do it alone. This could be through seeking therapy, psychiatry, seeing a doctor… but remember to let those trained to support you through this. If its health related, work with your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist in order to develop a regime that will support whatever you’re facing right now.

20. Aim to establish a manageable routine and stick to it. Routines bring me a lot of comfort, and in times when I am stressed out, often help me to feel grounded.

21. Recognise your hard work and treat yourself on your achievements. Don’t save special things for special occasions, make the occasion special! Brighten your mood by attempting to make a moment more positive. Go for lunch with a friend, when you finish an assignment go ahead and treat yourself to your favourite chocolate bar, whatever it is that will make you happy.

22. Reach out to family and friends and talk. I said it earlier, but I can almost guarantee you that your friends might be going through a similar phase in life. Even if it isn’t the same reasons you are stressed out or worried, sometimes talking to others helps. Listening to others problems also helps to remind you that you are not alone, so enable yourself the opportunity to interact with others and have human connection. Isolation never helps.

23. Stay centred, and try not to not compare your daily experiences to another’s. Nothing will steal your joy as fast as comparing your journey to someone else’s. Social media can be a terrible influence for this, and can be a terrible way to judge how you are doing (especially when it comes to mental illnesses). Be you, and trust your instincts.

24. Get up early and watch the sunset. Take a friend or go alone, and watch the beautiful earth change in front of you. If mornings are not your thing, try this in the afternoon and watch the sunset. 

25. My favourite… get in the kitchen and experiment with something new. Make yourself a nourishing breakfast/lunch/dinner, or bake up a sweet treat that you have never tried before. There is nothing more satisfying than creating good food, and don’t worry if you fail, at least you will have something to laugh about!!

26. Remember to trust the process, and that what you’re going through right now is only going to be temporary. It may not feel like that right now, but this period shall pass and you will be feeling much better about things if you choose to take things at your own pace, one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your own abilities.

Much Love, A x

Consistency

Hello Beautiful!

Welcome along to the first ‘blog’ post of CleanandMean. It’s definitely been a long time coming.

As you might have guessed, this section of my website is going to be solely dedicated to sharing my thoughts, health tips, past experiences, and general opinions about health and wellbeing. From tips and things to remember, to a selection of my favourite products at present – the ‘blog’ section of CleanandMean is going to be an exciting space where I can openly and honestly share my journey of health with you.

I’ve decided I’m going to be very up front from the beginning… the online sphere of social media can be super fake. It doesn’t always allow for getting down to our nitty gritty thoughts and opinions, especially for those trying to portray a ‘perfect’ lifestyle online. It also means we hide our failures, creating a false personality online that is based on ‘perfection’. I myself, have most definitely fallen into this trap, sometimes posting content that I thought people would ‘want’ to see, rather than what was necessarily going on in my life. My aim therefore, for this section of my website, is to honestly let you in on my slip ups, my downfalls, the problems I still face, in addition to my successes and experiences of trying to lead a healthy life.

With that said, I am going to kick off this first post with something I consider to be super important when beginning any health journey.

Consistency.

When it comes to achieving long term results in your health, consistency is everything. Let’s face it… no one is perfect. Despite the common misconception that we must strive to look like ‘perfect’ Instagram models online, or fit into the perceived ‘thin’ ideal to be perfect… trying to be anyone else’s idea of perfect will always results in a failure.

Trust me. I know.

Trying to be perfect when it comes to health however, is also impossible. Social situations where you inevitably fall off your plan; be it a hiccup in your training regime, or simply the unavailability of ‘healthy’ foods… WILL happen if you are choosing to make healthy food a part of an already sociable lifestyle. With that said however, dwelling on these moments and letting yourself get down about things, is not going to get you anywhere. Your focus needs to shift to moving forwards.

No guilt, no punishment. Accept and move on.

For those on weight loss journey’s, or as students who are trying to make more healthy food choices, socialising around food can seem pretty tricky. Being able to enjoy smaller portions of your favourite foods is super important, we just have to be sure not to go overboard. So… instead of jumping to conclusions and punishing your body through restricting or binging in public, my tip would be to focus on portion control. If you want some cake, by all means have some; just cut a smaller slice or go halves with someone else. If its a more fancy dining experience, find someone else who will split your entree and dessert courses.

Majority of those who attempt to make healthy food a part of their everyday life, will begin their journey adopting an ‘all or nothing’ approach. This means, you are either training intensely for seven days a week and eating super ‘clean’, or are choosing to splurge on your favourite foods and lying around doing nothing all day. Its a similar ideology for those who binge… “Well I’ve eaten one cookie now so I may as well have 20”, and consequently, a lot of health journeys will start and end with small slip ups around food. I can tell you now that waiting around for Monday to start your journey again is certainly not the way to approach a healthy lifestyle; and it is this very cycle that will only cause things to get worse the more you fall into it’s trap. 

Similarly, for those on a recovery journey and those trying to gain weight, consistency is also going to be key for you… Just in a different way. Trust me when I say that sometimes just choosing to get up in the morning and make a simple breakfast, can be super hard. I will openly say that I still struggle with this on what I classify as my ‘off days’. It may seem easier to restrict your food intake, to give up, especially when your negative thoughts are strong. But I can assure you its never as bad as it seems, and we ALL have our off days. Not only will giving up or giving in prolong your journey back to health, but this also leaves the opportunity for your issues to bother you later down the track.

Like I said… I still struggle with the concept of consistency sometimes. No one is perfect. But in terms of recovery, the one tip I have is to keep trying and keep going; take that one extra bite, or go out for that suggested meal even when you feel you shouldn’t. There will be times where you slip up, that’s totally normal. But if you focus on trying to make small improvements and increases to your diet throughout your journey, you will by all means be better off long term. If making and eating breakfast is something that you struggle with, give yourself ten minutes, and then make something small or head off with a friend and suggest brunch out. Similarly for lunch or dinner meals, meet up with someone you trust and tell them how you are feeling before the meal. Not only will this help you, but also help them to understand whats going on for you, meaning that they can assist you where you feel at your weakest.

I think the key to starting any health journey, is to aim for consistency about 80% of the time. I’m well aware that you have probably all heard the 80/20 lifestyle principle. A lifestyle pattern that dedicates 80% of your time to following the rules and sticking to goals; and the other 20% to letting lose and accepting mistakes. My best friend has always said that a little spontaneity is the key to life, as long as you also have an ability to stick to routine where its needed. This lifestyle allows for both, and is absolutely the best way to achieve great results.

It doesn’t matter whether you are on a pathway to recovery, setting out to lose a little weight, or just trying to make healthy changes to your relationship with food, consistency is always going to be crucial. The intent to be perfect is not going to get you anywhere, and let me just tell you now… you do need to be prepared for small failures along the way. Regardless of your intentions with food however, the most important thing is to fuel your body well.

Focus on eating a range of nutritious and wholesome foods that make you feel good 80% of the time, while comfortably knowing you always have 20% in the bank for slip ups and treats while out with friends. No guilt, no harsh punishment of restriction.