Beating the Winter blues

Whilst admittedly it is February and you’d think the Winter blues would be long gone, it’s true that when the nights are still drawing in fairly early and we’re commuting beneath dull skies at both ends of the day, it is easy to let it get to you.

Here are a few ways I’ve been helping myself out of that Winter slump!

I bought myself some daffodils.

I have a wooden dining table with a yellow table runner which was already brightening up the place, but I needed something as a centrepiece. Cue, Morrison’s £1 daffodils. I could have bought myself a big bar of Galaxy chocolate in the hopes that it would cheer me up but it certainly wouldn’t have lasted as long as my daffodils have so far! One week on and they’re blooming in the centre of my kitchen table, bringing a smile to my face every time I walk past.

I’m trying to catch as much light as possible.

If you work in an office like me, it isn’t always possible to make sure you sit by the window or manage to get a frequent dose of daylight by regularly wandering outside. However, it is possible to go for a wander at lunchtime, and make sure you’re catching enough daylight at the weekend. I like to get up early at the weekend and blitz the flat cleaning and tidying anyway, and doing that in natural light is such a lovely feeling.

Some also report natural light boxes to be useful, if you really can’t move from your desk much, I imagine one of those on your desk could also help you catch as much light as possible in the day.

I’ve been trying to keep busy.

Without any plans, it’s easy to hibernate under a blanket and not move until you really have to. This is something I used to do in the Winter months at university and it led to me missing lectures and really falling into a downward spiral. I’m still learning, but I find that making plans, even if it’s just a trip out to a restaurant, a walk to the shops, or having friends round for dinner; interactions and/or fresh air and exercise (or all three!) can really help boost your mood.

Love,

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“Help me, I’m only human!”

I think as a human, particularly as an adult, we expect to know everything, be good at everything, and be able to handle everything without freaking out. The important thing to note, however, is in the fifth word. We are humannot robots.

This is a lesson that I seem to still be learning but it’s on my radar and that’s the first step, so the idea now is to get it on your radar and make sure you feel like you can reach out.

At work, I am very keen to make a good impression; it is early days in my career and I am making a name for myself. I work hard; I’m very focused; I don’t always take my full lunch break; I go in early and I stay late to finish the task at hand. Today I had to walk away from my desk and have a breather (I’ll even admit that I shed a tear), why?

Because I was totally overwhelmed.

It’s at this point that I realised I was very late in raising the white flag. My manager turned to me after I finished on a call and said “how did your call go?” It’s at this point that I launched into my rather large To Do list, the very small gaps in my diary to address said list, and a looming deadline (the cherry on top of the figurative sweet treat).

Asking for help is not a weakness.

I managed to adjust my diary to suit the business need and deadline priorities, and I actually have time now to complete the task in work time.

This is a lesson that I’m working to apply to daily life. It’s true that in life, I see people say ‘Yes’ to so many social activities, charity events and extra-curricular activities, that they don’t have time for themselves.

I’m learning how to strike the work-life balance. Yes, I would like to progress in my role and succeed, of course, but only if my mental health doesn’t take such a hit. I’m only in the early days of my career like I say, I’m young and I don’t necessarily have the expertise or the superiority in the career hierarchy, but I do know this: if it’s causing you to come home two hours late with tears rolling down your face and crawl into bed, then it’s time to take a step back.

Don’t forget the importance of taking time to check in with yourself, make sure you’re looking out for you!

Love,

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Breakfast in Bratislava

As you may be aware if you follow me on Instagram, the destination of our most recent adventure was central Europe, namely, the capital of Slovakia.

If you find yourself there and wondering where to grab a breakfast bite, here are a few places I’d recommend:
Juice Factory

Juice Factory have so many options for you to start the day. Whether you want to be energised, detoxed, green or fruity… They have something for everyone! The smoothie bowl I tried was the Strawberry Smoothie Bowl which included strawberries, pineapple, banana, linseed, coconut flakes and chia. If you’re after a bite, they also serve sandwiches. Please note: this place was more of a grab ‘n’ go type of breakfast place; the ones I’ve mentioned below are better suited if you prefer somewhere to sit down in a cosy atmosphere and eat your breakfast at your leisure.
Mondieu Panska

This place has the cosiest atmosphere, we actually ended up having breakfast here twice, and Dean chose the same dish both times so it must have been good! Pictured are the Eggs & Ham (top) and Eggs & Bacon on French Brioche (bottom), which was divine. The egg yolk running into the texture of the brioche was just the best thing. The lemonade was also homemade and budget-friendly!
Moods

Situated at the end of the street that we were staying on, this place even served a full English breakfast! The staff were really friendly and the only difference was the sausage – but who’s going to central Europe and expecting a couple of Cumberlands on their morning feast anyway? It was served with salad which was novel and we sat in a lovely little conservatory type area.
Five Points

This is another one that we went back to; only the reason behind this one is because they were out of Mexican Breakfasts the first time! Yep, you heard. Mexican Breakfast: tomato, beans, chorizo, eggs and sourdough; and as I understand it, absolutely delicious. I chose the scrambled eggs both times; once with salmon and once without. I think the fact that I got straight into munching it before I realised I wanted to picture it says it all. The eggs were cooked to perfection (not too solid) and the cascara tea with honey and lemon was b-e-a-u-tiful.

So if you wake up in the morning and you’ve absolutely no idea where to go for your first meal of the day, I would highly recommend any of the above!

Love,

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Hiring a Car for the First Time

In the UK, 18 and 25 are big birthdays. 18 is the excitable you, celebrating your entry into adulthood and sometimes also into university, sometimes celebrating your flight of the nest, as it were. 25 is the more responsible you, probably juggling bills, housework, and a full-time job.

The milestones for 25 aren’t as widely discussed as those at 18 (unless it’s just because I’m not quite there yet): drinking alcohol, starting to enjoy nights out… Everyone talks about those. Well, at the age of 25, you can hire a car.

I’ll rephrase that.

At the age of 25, you are no longer considered a ‘young driver’. You can hire a car at the age of 23 with some companies, literally at your own expense. They just whack a ton of money onto the price to account for the higher insurance.

So when we decided that we wanted to hire a car to go up to visit my parents instead of trekking on the MegaBus, and then two local buses, it was a brand new experience for us. My parents had hired a car for holidays in Spain before, as my Grandma’s house out there is out in the sticks, but otherwise, I was totally clueless.

So if you’re in the same boat and you’ve no idea what to expect, I’ve gathered a few notes to start you off:
Before booking the car

  1. Is your passport in date? You will need this as proof of identity upon pick-up so renew it first if you need to.
  2. Is the address on your driving licence and proof of ID the same? It is a) essential that they are for most companies; and b) a criminal offence not to update it.
  3. Do you have a credit card? Don’t panic if not, but some companies say it is mandatory (so read those Ts & Cs!). If in doubt, drop them an e-mail or give them a buzz, they’ll be happy to confirm either way.

Booking the car

  1. Is the pick-up/drop-off time within their opening hours? Outside of the office opening hours might incur an additional charge.
  2. Are there enough miles included in your booking? If not, you might want to shop around as some companies do offer unlimited mileage. (Search the journeys you will be taking on Google to gauge this!)
  3. Is there a fuel station/garage close to the hire company? If so, don’t pay out for a full tank of fuel. They say it’s cheaper but how do you know you need a full one yet?

Picking up the car

  1. Do you have your passport and proof of address? (No papers, no car, guys ‘n’ gals)
  2. Do you know where you will be returning the car? (Ask an attendant if you want to make sure, especially if you’re returning the car out of hours! They are usually wandering around the car park)
  3. Are there any marks on the car? If you notice anything, report it immediately to avoid running the risk of being blamed. We fortunately didn’t have this problem but my parents always used to check the cars we hired before we set off. No nasty surprises that way.

Returning the car

  1. Did you check where to return the car or are you just going to follow the others and hope for the best? (I can confirm that the latter still worked a treat for us)
  2. Have you collected your things out of the boot, glove compartment, back-of-the-seat pockets, etc.?
  3. Has the attendant confirmed that you will receive your deposit in full?

So there you have it, a few questions to ask at each stage of the car hire process. This is by no means an exhaustive list; as I say, we have only done this once or twice so it’s very much the blind leading the blind (not selling these top tips very well, am I?). Let me know if you have any tips to add in the comments!

Happy Driving!

Love,

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The Importance of Switching Off

Not just the lights when you leave a room (save the planet) but switching off from the stresses of life when your brain is doing 9,999 miles an hour.

A skill you don’t learn in school is leaving work at work. In fact, quite the opposite, you literally bring work home, and call it “homework”. Working in Support was a stressful role at times and some days I’d get home and have a really big rant about a conversation I’d had with a sassy customer; in the beginning of my current role, I would take stress home about looming deadlines.

Taking work home, figuratively, doesn’t help your mood, stress levels or sleeping patterns.

If there’s something playing on your mind, face it head on in your working hours: set yourself more targets at each stage of a process; speak to your manager if your workload really is just not manageable; but don’t take it home and let it ruin your evening. That’s your time, enjoy it.

With social media being such a common activity in the morning when you wake up, during your lunch break, after dinner, at the weekend… and pretty much throughout your spare time, it can be difficult to know when to click off your Newsfeed, Tweets, or Snapchat list. Side note: The new Instagram feature that tells you when you’ve caught up on all posts from the last two days is actually quite helpful towards reducing social media time.

This one has two perspectives:

1) Giving your eyes and brain a rest – I look at a computer screen for 7.5 hours every week day, I wear glasses, and without even being an optical specialist, I can guarantee that staring at my phone all evening until bedtime will not be doing my peepers any good. I use Do Not Disturb mode so that my e-mails stop pinging after 9pm and only texts from certain people (my Mum and close friends) continue on Loud mode.

2) Giving your mental health a break – it’s very common to compare yourself to the seemingly perfect lives that your social media connections lead. This is not true at all, but it’s a trap that is very easy to fall into and the longer you think about how much “better” everyone else’s Instagram theme/picturesque holiday/flawless manicure picture, the worse you’re going to feel.

I have started setting alarms, in the same way that Do Not Disturb mode stops my messages, for certain times in the evening to tell me to click off social media and wash up, put some laundry on, or do something else with my time.

How do you switch off? Do you set alarms and use Do Not Disturb mode? How do you deal with those pesky bad days at work? Let me know in the comments!

Love,

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24

I’ve wanted to write a post like this for a while, I’ve just never started it early enough to get to the correct amount of points before my birthday. I started this one in August so I’m good to go this year. Here are 24 things that I’ve learnt by the age of 24!

1. The number on the scales is just that: a number. It took me a long time to realise this but if the food that you eat makes you feel happy and alert, and you’re happy with the frequency and type of exercise that you engage in, then who cares whether or not the number on the scales changes?

2. Don’t underestimate the importance of removing your makeup before bed. If you want to wake up feeling fresh, the last thing you need is crusty mascara keeping your eyes clamped shut when your alarm goes off! Having a skincare routine before bed will allow your morning to feel fresh and less hectic.

3. Keeping track of bills is easy once you know how. Whether you need a reminder on your phone for the day that council tax is due, or you have a physical list hanging on the wall that you tick off each month; once you find a way that works for you, you’re good to go.

4. Don’t rush life. People do things at their own pace and there is no set structure for where you should be in life. Some will continue to study at university; others will get married and have children; some will sit somewhere in between the two; some will never plan to marry or have children. There are no rules as to your timeline and marital status.

5. Being your own boss isn’t necessarily as you expected. You can eat what you want and go to bed when you want, but chances are you’ll eat better and go to bed when you should because your body tells you to. A Freddo a day does not keep the doctor away, and hitting the hay at 2am does not bode well for the next morning (if you even see the next day before 12, sleepy head).

6. This might depend on the person, but I have totally aged before my time. Once in a while, I enjoy a night out, dancing my little feet off until 1am and then a tray of chips on the way home; but mostly I’m good with a bottle of wine and having friends round for dinner or board games. I can’t be bothered sacrificing my Sunday for a Saturday night out, y’know?

7. Plan, plan, plan. I was good at planning essays at school and I seem to have continued the trait into my daily adult life since there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t write some kind of list. Things to do, things to buy, people to catch up with or text… You name it, there’s a list. It’s really helpful and means you don’t miss out by forgetting. I use the Outlook calendar on my computer at work, and the Google calendar on my phone, so that I’m never without a list!

8. On that note, make time for friends. I was terrible at keeping in touch with my friends even when we saw each other 9am-3pm every single week day, so now I have to make extra effort so that I don’t isolate myself completely. WhatsApp groups, regular messages (and I don’t just mean for their birthday), little messages when you see something that reminds you of them – those are the cutest.

9. You still won’t feel like an adult. I have a full-time job that requires my attendance 9am-5:30pm, I pay bills, I stand on my own two feet… and I still feel like a kid. When I was at school, I never felt old enough to be in Year 6, Year 8, Sixth Form; then at university, I still didn’t feel old enough to be graduating; and it continues right through your twenties (or at least, it has so far!)

10. I still consider my parents the ultimate fountain of knowledge and that’s okay. If I don’t understand the council tax bill, I don’t bother calling the council, I give my Mum a bell. If the WiFi goes down, I won’t necessarily call PlusNet, I give my Dad a ring. When I was younger, it was all about helping me with homework; now it’s questions about bills!

11. You are so much better than you think. I went to university because I thought that’s what everyone did, so I just followed suit. I enjoyed Spanish, got good grades and just went for it. I never sat back and considered how well I was doing or how well I could do. You are your own worst critic, right? In my first graduate job, I’m finally learning to sit back and notice my own achievements.

Pat yourself on the back, celebrate the small stuff, and recognise your worth.

12. Keep learning even when a curriculum is not mandatory. I’m still forever setting myself goals and targets to achieve in my role. You aren’t told what to do once you’re in a job, it’s up to you to achieve more and reach higher, and that isn’t something we’re used to. Your job is where most of your time is spent, so it might be worth researching relevant qualifications that your company may sponsor you for; or if you have an external interest or hobby, can you reach a certain level or status? What can you aim for?

13. On that note, you don’t need to know where you’re going. Some people are born into a family of a particular profession, see the ins and outs and go straight for their goal. All throughout life, they’re destined for a profession. Me? I stuck at what I was good at, and it hasn’t done me any harm! You don’t need to know exactly where you’re going, as long as you keep moving. Keep giving yourself targets and goals; and keep wanting to achieve more.

14. Sometimes the old tunes are the best. When I need a pick-me-up; when I’m grooving whilst loading the washing machine; when I can’t decide what to watch on TV… My 80s playlist is my ‘go to’ and I’m not even ashamed. Whack on a bit of Wham! or Journey and I’m singing my little heart out.

14. Wash your makeup brushes and appreciate homemade lunches. It might be easier to buy a new one from Superdrug every so often but it’s so much more economically-friendly to just clean it. Likewise, it might be more convenient to just grab a Tesco meal deal at 1pm every day but your pocket and bank account will appreciate you doing a big food shop regularly and spending 20 minutes in the evening packing up something healthy and tasty for the next day.

15. Look after your body. There isn’t necessarily going to be someone to remind you to brush your teeth every night before bed or get some fresh air on those hangover days. It’s up to you to recognise how often you need to eat your veggies and you’ll feel much better for it, and don’t forget: register with your local Dentist and Doctors surgery if you move cities!

16. On that note, look after your mind. People seem to still be coming to terms with this idea but mental health is just as important as physical health, despite not being as glaringly obvious and visible. Take time to meditate, go for a walk, read a novel… Whatever activity clears your mind and relaxes you, make time for it. It’s worth finding out what works for you. If you feel you need to reach out or talk to someone, don’t put it off. Make that call and set the wheels in motion. It will be a weight off your shoulders (and something ticked off the To Do list which is always a nice feeling!)

17. The importance of family. Now I know this one is personal and of course it depends on your circumstances but I recognise, for myself, the importance of keeping up with my family: regular messages, phone calls, visits other than just at Christmas… They spent the first 18 years of my life raising me and teaching me right from wrong, and now they are my life coaches and I make time for them even when my social or work life is hectic.

18. Learn to speak up. I used to be quiet, get on with the task at hand, and sometimes end up overwhelmed and feeling really drained. In school and university you are still learning to manage your time and that’s absolutely normal. In the working world, you have to look after yourself and speak up if there really aren’t enough hours in the day to complete your job. In my experience, speaking to your manager and introducing a new idea rather than a complaint, and offering a solution to the problem, really puts you in a good light.

Don’t be a complainer, be a problem-solver.

19. Find out what works for you. In a job, some might be motivated by money; others by a strong work-life balance. In revision, some might work better handwriting notes out and using muscle memory; others by writing a song that they can use to cue memories in the exam. It’s important to find out what works for you because if you sign up to a revision session where everyone is handwriting notes in silence and you need music to focus, it’s a total waste of your time.

20. Learn to manage your time. Another skill that comes in handy throughout life: revision, work, even cleaning your home. At work I use my Outlook calendar to manage my time and break down my tasks usually into one-hour slots – which will be, of course, entirely dependent on your job! When you have a 9am-5pm job and a home to run, you can’t afford to be staying late at work unnecessarily; equally, when you have so little time, spend all of it wisely.

21. That said, you don’t have to do anything at the weekend. You can use your weekends for yourself just as much as you can for everyone else. If you want to blog, nap and eat and that’s it, then you do you. There’s no pressure when someone says “what are you up to this weekend?” you are still well within your rights to say “absolutely nothing other catching up on sleep!”

22. There is no age limit on potato waffles and beans for tea. You might be a gourmet cook/chef for the most part but when you just want a comfort tea, potato waffles and beans can totally be on the menu even if you’re in your twenties and don’t have kids. It does not offer all nutrients expected from an evening meal so I wouldn’t recommend it every week, but you deserve comfort food every once in a while after a hard day’s work.

23. Looking after yourself includes lazy days. Sometimes lazy days are misunderstood as not looking after yourself but honestly, if you want to shove your hair up, curl up in a blanket in your jammies and watch Harry Potter all day on a Sunday, your brain will thank you for it when you’re ready to face the week head-on the next morning. Not letting yourself burn out is part of the trick to keeping yourself going.

24. Reading e-mails in your personal inbox is actually useful. I used to just “Mark All As Read” but if you sign up to all sorts of websites (Boohoo, Groupon, Booking.com), there are offers flooding into your inbox every day. So don’t let them pass you by, they could be offering you some unbeatable discounts!

Love,

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One Year in a Graduate Job

I have now been in my job just a little over a year now, after graduating last summer with a degree in Spanish & Translation. I figured I’d share my opinion on being on the career ladder for a full year for any of you out there who are approaching graduation and looking for work; recently graduated and also in full-time work; recently graduated and chose to dive back into another area of study; or if you’re at any stage in your studies or career really, I suppose there may be some relevance regardless!

Firstly, I want to point out that I still don’t feel old enough or mature enough to be earning my own wage, spending 7.5 hours every week day contributing to the inner workings of a large business. I remember the good old days when we finished at 3pm, I used to think all the older school kids knew what they were doing and then I reached that same age and realised they were making it up as they went along. In fact, I still feel like we all make it up as we go along.

Does anyone ever feel old enough for the stage in life that they’ve reached?

Another point to mention is that my job has absolutely no relevance to my degree subject whatsoever but I don’t regret it. I went through phases during my studies worrying that I should have studied Business or Marketing, but I enjoyed my studies and I haven’t done badly, so if you’re having those worries, please don’t panic.

Do what you enjoy, do well, and see where it takes you.

I didn’t expect to end up in the job I am now and that’s absolutely fine. I started off on a Software Helpdesk, answering to customers and telling them how to fix whatever issue they had probably caused by making a mistake (still bitter towards some of the sass I had to put up with…), and now I’m in the Bid Management team. It’s okay not to know what kind of role you want when you graduate, I applied for those with opportunities for progression, training and internal movement.

There are jobs out there that you’ve possibly never even heard of. I wasn’t familiar with the structure of a business before I graduated and I still have a lot to learn. I used to worry that I couldn’t see myself in a particular job and if you feel the same, it’s absolutely fine. If you asked me a year ago what Bid Management was, I’m 100% certain that I wouldn’t have had the foggiest.

That’s the beauty of searching for a role with progression and training because even if you find you don’t enjoy your initial role, you can train and progress, and try to find a role that suits you better.

Are you currently looking for a post-graduate job? Are you still studying? (I’m probably jealous of your hours and holidays if you are!) Let me know in the comments!

Love,

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