10 reasons why it’s great to live Birmingham

grateful birmingham UK blogger

This week in the Gratitude Challenge it’s time to talk about the city I live in. I have to admit this made me a tad teary when I realised I had to talk about Birmingham instead of Glasgow (I moved here in July 2016) but then I remembered I have so much to be grateful for!

1. Blogging community

In Glasgow I wasn’t talking blogging seriously. There may be a blogging community back home that I just wasn’t aware of, but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing compared to what I’ve experienced down here. When I took to Twitter I found a Brum Bloggers Facebook Group, a regular Social Media Cafe Event and a weekly Brum Hour that lets local businesses meet up online.

2. Restaurants galore

I’ve not tried out nearly as many restaurants as I would like, but I’ve made a good attempt. Sunday lunch in The Fighting Cocks in Moseley is one of the best ways to see out the weekend, and I recently had some great grub in Cherry Reds. Other places I’ve enjoyed visiting include The Stable and The Cosy Club.

3. Change is good

I knew when I left Glasgow that I was so ready for a change. Although I’ve city-hopped I still feel like there’s been a substantial change in my mindset. There’s something freeing about feeling lost in the crowd of a brand new city, where no one knows you and you can be whoever you want to be. This has really shown in my newfound body acceptance and change in hair colour!

birmingham blogger

4. Career goals

I was lucky enough to find a part-time job within the first few weeks of arriving in Brum, after an initial panic of thinking no one would hire me! Although I’m more focused on improving my blogging income I’ve also had an interview for a writing job that I would never have been able to commute to if I’d lived in Scotland. There are just so many more opportunities for people with big career goals.

5. Friendly people

My social anxiety was a big concern when I moved so far away from home. I was under so much stress after recently losing my job as well as relocating our entire life in 30 days that I was sure my anxiety was going to be particularly bad. However after meeting some lovely bloggers (Bryoney, Erica, Claire, Emma, Elizabeth and Sinead) I felt so welcomed and at home.

6. The shopping is good

When I first visited the Bullring I couldn’t believe how many brands were on offer. Even six months later, I still get lost and have to visit the information point for help. I always forget where I am and have to stop for emergency coffee breaks; luckily there’s no shortage of chain and independent cafes in Brum!

7. Christmas Markets

The German Markets that set up shop in Birmingham every Christmas attract millions of visitor, which I thought would be pretty terrifying to witness. We ended up joining the crowds every weekend in December and even took a brave turn on the big wheel. The atmosphere was certainly exciting, and it gave the already busy city even more to offer tourists.

8. It’s full of creative people

Blogging has led me to lots of like-minded people in Birmingham. I’ve met lots of people who are successfully pursuing their passions in the creative industries and just as many who are happy to do it in evenings and weekends as a hobby. One of the best things is that I’ve found a local WordPress trainer who has helped me polish up my tech skills in order for me to redesign my blog.

best things about birmingham

9. Canals

People are always telling me that Birmingham as more canals than Venice. While admittedly it doesn’t have quite the same amount of sunshine, it definitely has its fair share of canals. I’m lucky enough to live just a minute away from Brindley Place where I can walk along the short canal walk to the Mailbox. It’s a great scenic trot into town!

10. Close to London

Although we haven’t ventured to London yet, it’s kind of exciting to know we’re just an hour or so away from the capital city. I wouldn’t normally be able to attend blogging events or training days in London, but now that scenario is totally do-able; an enticing thought as I broaden my horizon and explore more creative ventures.

What’s your favourite thing about the city you live in?

 

 

Reasons why I’m grateful for the best gift I’ve ever been given

year of gratitude mental health blogger UK

This week in the Year of Gratitude challenge the task is to talk about something someone gave me. I tried to find something heartfelt and sentimental that’s been in my possession since I was a child, Perhaps a handmade blanket or a worn out old teddy bear?

I couldn’t think of anything quite as beautiful as that because my most coveted gift is something incredibly materialistic and expensive. Don’t judge me. My MacBook Air is by far the best gift I’ve ever received.

My husband treated me to this just before Christmas after I started to become a bit obsessed with blogging everyday. It means I can do freelance work as the drop of a hat and also do my own writing, photo editing and blog images on the go wherever I am.

It comes with me everywhere

I long for the extended train journey back to Scotland where I can take out my laptop and get stuck into some writing. I often take it to work with me so that I can stop off at a cafe on the way home and do some work. It also means I can do work when I’m visiting in Scotland and really utilise any spare time I have.

It’s so fast

I’ve never had a laptop – or any device really – that turns on with the push of a button. Like, INSTANTLY. It means I can do those little five-minute blog related admin tasks like scheduling tweets, updating links or correcting spelling mistakes without needing an additional ten minutes to load up the computer.

It makes blogging easier

The portability and speed of my laptop are two of the main reasons that blogging has become so easy for me. I can also access all the photos on my phone, use the free software – like Pages – without having to purchase Microsoft Word and use iMovie to edit when I start creating video content. I’ve not always been an Apple fangirl but I must say, I’m absolutely obsessed!

Would it be exaggerating to say that this one gift has changed my life?

Why I’m grateful for my mum

gratitude mum mental health blogger

 

This week in the Year of Gratitude Challenge the topic of conversation is my mum. I don’t want to bang on about it too long because let’s face it; we all love our mums. I’m sure you can identify when I say she’s been there for me no matter what, looked after me when I’m ill and washed all of my cider-stained clothing throughout my university years. So let me keep this light-hearted, simple and to the point. Check out fellow blogger LuLu’s posts on gratitude too.

She spoils me

As much as I like to think of myself as a strong, self-sufficient girl boss (not quite a Beyonce but I’ve definitely got a Kelly Rowland vibe going on) there are still times when I need my mum to bail me out. Not in any serious sense like paying my rent (OK maybe that has happened) or credit card debt, but more in a “I’ve ran out of clothes” kind of way. Recently she treated me to a selection of Marks and Spencer underwear (that’s some fancy shit as far as I’m concerned) and I was on cloud nine for a good few weeks. She is also exceptionally good at keeping me fully stocked with my Liz Earle favourites which to be honest makes life more bearable on so many levels.

She has no expectations

Yes, I am grateful for the fact that my own mother has never had any expectations of what I should become. I’m sure she’s always had hopes and dreams, but never once has she led me to believe that I should do something in particular to please her. Never once has she scoffed at a failed essay, an ignored hobby or a poor outfit choice (remember when satin shirts were in?) and for that she’s the best. When I left university without Honours she was totally cool with it, and looking back it was such a gift to feel free enough to do that without any guilt. She also agreed that quitting my job was the best thing to do for my mental health.

She gives me space

It’s hard to explain to people what I mean when I say I need space. What I really mean most of the time is that I need to be alone. Often for days at a time. I have a small amount of energy to deal with stressful situations (which for me are busy places, socialising with people, being away from home) and when that energy is used up I need to recharge. Being such a stereotypical introvert means that I regularly need to be left alone with only myself for company. I know to others that might sound selfish, but luckily my mum can tell when I need that time and she lets me take as long as I need.

What are you grateful for this week?

 

Why I’m grateful for my family

gratitude mental health blogger UK

It’s that time again where I want to set my other work aside and practice gratitude. This is a task I’m taking great pleasure in if I’m honest, and I didn’t realise just how much I have to be grateful for until I started this challenge. I’m also joined by Lu Lu Blue who is doing this challenge too.

I won’t talk about my husband today as he got an entire blog post dedicated to him last week, instead I want to talk about my close family. I come from a small family. It’s just my parents and my two brothers and I. We are a quiet bunch of folks and we get on pretty well.

Here are a few specific things I’m grateful for and why:

My parents always encouraged extra-curricular activities. My younger brother Colin played football and my older brother Stuart has been a drummer in a band since he was a teenager. I was in a drama club, played piano and loved drawing and writing as a kid. We were always expected to try our best in school, but as long as we could promise mum and dad that we ‘tried our best’ we were never judged for our grades. This helped build our social skills and let us express ourselves creatively in a way which has made us who we are today.

We’ve all done stupid stuff. Thank god that we’ve stuck by each other through it all. No one holds a grudge in my family and we all remember the good – and embarrassing – times more than anything else. When we get together we generally have a laugh about stupid shit we’ve done and enjoy it. There’s no judgement.

We live apart but it’s not too bad. One of my brothers now lives in Australia, and although it’s hard not to see him at family events I’m grateful that he’s found a partner and settled down in an exciting new place. I’ve moved away from Scotland too (only to Birmingham, so not quite so far) and I’m grateful that my parents still make the effort to come and visit me as much as possible. I’m also grateful that they forgive me when I get busy and forget to call them for a few weeks. I need to work on that one!

Above all, I’m grateful for the unconditional love I receive from all of my family members. As someone with depression and anxiety it’s easy for me to feel like I’ve become a burden to others when I’m going through a particularly bad period. I know I have family I can rely on and I can ask them for anything. That’s what I’m most grateful for.

 

 

Why I’m making 2017 the year of gratitude

2017 mental health blogger UK gratitude

I’m always trying to be more mindful.

I’m getting better at it thanks to the odd yoga class and learning to put down my phone once in a while but of course, it’s all rather difficult.

Learning to count your blessings is difficult when you have depression. I feel empathy for complete strangers and bruise easily about causes which I don’t necessarily relate to my own life. I can feel heartbroken thinking about something I did year ago, and that inconsolable dread that accompanies my condition is sometimes hard to shake.

I’m slowly getting better though, and felt inspired when I stumbled across this post on Gurl.com and liked the idea of following the 52 weeks of gratitude challenge. Over the next year I’m aiming to write a short blog post each topic on a weekly basis as a way to document my journey of learning to be more grateful. Here’s the topic list in full if you want to join me….

52 weeks of gratitude mental health blogger UK

If you don’t blog then I think this is still a great tool to give you a writing prompt every week to reflect in your personal journal, or even just spend a few minutes peacefully reflecting on what you’re grateful for.

What do you think?

 

How to declutter your mind in 30 minutes 

declutter your mind destress relax anxiety

I spend so much of my life stressed out. Stressed out for reasons that are stupid and pointless for the most part; with my internal voice posing various questions such as “How many toilet rolls do we have left and will I remember to go to the shop for more?” I know, riveting stuff right? Sometimes, I worry about money, my health, how I treat my friends and how often I see my family. Other times I wonder if my life has been memorable. Have done enough good in the world? Then I think about the toilet paper again. So naturally, I need to find ways to calm the chattering voices in my mind, to find some serenity in the madness. Here’s how I do it…

Write a list 

Writing lists is a really straightforward way of offloading thoughts from my mind onto paper. I have an app, diary, journal and a notepad all on rotation depending on where I am and what kind of notes I need to take. I use Google Keep on my mobile to collect all different types of list from a basic ‘to-do’ to blog post ideas, useful websites, research to do, meal ideas and personal mantras. In my diary I can create bullet point lists for more pressing tasks and assign them to specific days which really helps me relax, because even though I haven’t taken care of ‘the thing’, said thing is now part of my grand plan so it will get done. My notepad is for more elaborate lists, or expanding on ideas and I often use mind mapping (I know, I’m a total geek but I’m cool with it) to come up with ideas for my blog. My journal is reserved for those times when I have a barrage of negative thoughts filling up in my mind. Like an overstuffed suitcase I need to take out the excess and discard it somewhere safe. In my journal I write completely honestly, knowing that no one will ever read it, and I often start without an idea of what I actually want to say. This can lead me down a rabbit hole, but a cathartic one nonetheless, that ideally ends in some sort of resolution or at least identification of a problem that can be worked on in the future.

Turn off your phone 

It might sound obvious but how many times do you actually sit and relax without your phone nearby? I often find myself in the middle of something important, like writing this blog post, only to hear that familiar ‘bing’ that instantly lures my attention away to whatever is happening on social media. Is losing my train of thought really worth it to find out that someone liked my latest Instagram post? Probably not. If I’m feeling overwhelmed it can be really good for me to pull a curtain over the world of the internet and just be in my own space for a while. It allows me to really focus on one task at a time – surprisingly difficult for me –  without that niggling feeling that I might be needed elsewhere.

Exercise/yoga 

It’s no secret that exercise is my number one form of stress relief. I get cranky when I haven’t worked out for a few days and I feel instantly renewed when I finally do hit the gym, take a class or even just take a long walk in the fresh air. Not everyone thinks of high intensity exercise as a way to relax, but for me it’s like the fitness equivalent of ‘giving myself a shake’, realising that things aren’t as impossible as they seem and it can put pointless worries into perspective. Doing demanding moves like burpees and tuck jumps is a way of getting out of my own head. For an introvert like me it’s also a great way to socialise with others indirectly without too much anxiety. Since moving to a new gym I’ve also been doing yoga regularly and I can really see the benefits. Physically it’s an invaluable tool for relaxing muscles that you didn’t even realise were tense, and mentally it’s perfect for forcing those racing thoughts elsewhere whilst you focus on breathing and holding challenging poses. Although most classes last an hour, apps like Down Dog offer short sessions that can be done at home and act as an instant way to clear your head.

What are your tips for decluttering your mind?

Three reasons why you need to have yoga in your life

three reasons you need yoga in your life

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have noticed my “in your face” updates about my recent foray into yoga. I’ve done it on and off for years and like bleaching your upper-lip hair or a visit to the dentist it’s one of those things you just wish you’d done earlier in life. Yoga is life-changing, invigorating and something I urge everyone to try at least once. Read on to hear my case for yoga!

Strength & flexibility 

Let’s talk about the physical benefits of yoga before I start to explain how much it has improved my mental state. My favourite thing to do in the gym is lift weights. I love the process, the sense of achievement and the feeling of power that comes with picking up heavy shit. The problem for me is that I do it for a hobby and as a result have obtained a few niggling injuries that could be helped if I had better core strength and general flexibility. I know what you’re thinking – yoga is easy, it’s just stretching! But trust me, when you wake up 24 hours after your first yoga class you’ll know for sure that it does effectively work your muscles! Yes, you’re only using your own bodyweight for resistance but the positions and the time held in those positions is a real test for even the most confident weight-lifter. Flexibility is something I have never had, but I’m assured it’s an ability I can refine with practice and a little time. Combined with some weight-training I’m still maintaining muscle but with a focus on functional strength.

Self-improvement

I have been a fitness freak for several years now, starting off with a cheeky Zumba class and quickly progressing to what others would deem unpleasant adventures like spinning, HIIT, weight-lifting and half-marathon training. The thing I quickly realised was that I loved the idea of trying something new and getting better at it over time. Unfortunately in my preferred area of expertise this often led to burn out, injuries and mental torture (running, I’m talking about the repetitive, lonely, painful torture of running). With yoga however, the scope for self-improvement seems wide and pretty welcoming. It’s not a case of doing more burpees than the person next to you, but more a case of pushing yourself a little further mentally and physically than you thought you could previously. The journey is ongoing and for me 100% internal which is a refreshing change of pace.

Motivation

There seems to be a common misconception that yoga is some sort of sleep-educing witchcraft designed to send you dosing off into the best forty-winks of your life. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times in the final moments of an hour long session where I’ve been lying flat on my mat, stretched out and could’ve quite happily lay there until the gym manager peeled me off the floor at closing time. But the general feeling at the end of a class is that of satisfaction, and for me a newfound motivation that filters through to other areas of my life.  Whether I held every pose correctly or long enough is irrelevant, because for that short period of time I concentrated on only one thing at that was my attempt at doing yoga. The ability to de-clutter the mind and work only on the physical task at hand is so beneficial, that I guarantee over time your stress levels will decrease, your daily focus will sharpen and your general motivation will improve. I find my motivation is at its peak just after I have practised, so I try to do classes early in the morning to get the most out of my day.

Do you practise yoga regularly, or are you tempted now?

Feeling thankful

15-things-to-be-thankful-forThe past few weeks have been really busy for me, and I’ve just put blogging on the backburner for now. I don’t tend to publicise it much but I write part time for a website called Nouvelle Daily and blog for a video production company too which takes up about a day every week on top of my day job, so Fionalikestoblog is just for fun whenever I have time.

I started a new job about 3 weeks ago and it has been a really positive step for me in the right direction. I was heartbroken to leave my old job in a bakery/deli in the town where I grew up. I worked there when I was still at school and throughout some of my uni days, and when I was in a bind the owners really helped me out last year and gave me some part time work. Having been unable to work for over 6 months due to illness, I was a total liabilty as an employee and they took a risk taking me on, although I probably played down the extent of my issues to get in the door. Anyway, I suppose the point I’m making is that there are so many things for me to be thankful for recently. When you are down and in a vulnerable position you assume people will take advantage, but the goodness in humans has been shown to me at times when I needed it most. Aside from the owners, I worked with the loveliest group of ladies. We all looked out for each other and there was a good degree of understanding of what was expected of each other. We also stuffed our faces a lot and had a few good nights out. The customers there bought me engagement presents and gave me gifts when they found out I was leaving. Honestly, I have so many fond memories of that time in my life and I am so grateful for all the wonderful people I worked with and served everyday.

If I could have worked there forever I probably would have, but it was time to look for full time work in a more convenient location. My fiance works in the city centre, and a lot of our friends live there too so it made sense to start looking for work there to get me back into the swing of things. Crazily, I found a job within about a week and we have spent the last few weeks hunting for a flat in our favourite areas to get moved in ASAP. We have a flat sorted now and we are moving in this week. How exciting!

I’ve missed being at the gym recently too… I can’t wait to get back into a routine of lifting heavy things and jumping about like a maniac – if I have any energy left. This new job has me on my feet all day, so at least my trainers are still getting used everyday. But overall I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy, thankful that I am too busy working to be in the gym. Thankful that I have to make time to do the things I enjoy because I have so much to do right now. I will fit it all in eventually, I guess.

The importance of being selfish

importance of being selfish mental health blogger UK

I’ve been considering writing a post which is a bit more personal for a while, but I wasn’t sure what to talk about. As a health and fitness blogger I assume that everyone is vaguely interested in my food pictures and workout schedule, but who is really bothered about my personal life, or my thoughts in general?

Be that as it may, I am typing up this up even if its just some sort of therapy for myself. I wanted to talk about the importance of being selfish, and how I have slowly learned to do this in my own life over the past two or three years. I came out of university to a great management job and I worked long hours, I was a ‘people-pleaser’ and moved up in rank because I always aimed to impress the boss. I thought it was pretty easy and I often wondered why everyone didn’t see the simple equation of work hard, do what the boss wants and get rewarded. Over time this got harder, especially when the recession hit and targets became more unattainable and customers stopped spending money in my industry. I moved onto work with other companies and continued to climb from the bottom of the pile up to the top controlling multiple departments and doing three people’s jobs simultaneously. It was a wonderful step up in my career and it absolutely came from saying “Yes, I’ll do that” at every opportunity.

The problem with saying yes all the time is that after a while, it becomes almost impossible to say anything else.On one hand I became the positive leader that I had always hoped I would; I genuinely motivated my staff to work hard, be happy and get results. On the other hand I constantly juggled the wants of my overworked employees, several bosses, interfering department heads and customers, all of whom had different expectations and priorities which I had to try and meet somehow without disappointing anyone. Everyone goes through stressful times at work, but I look back now and realise that I was unable to say no to anyone. I was always taught to have a ‘can do’ attitude, in fact I think I even have it written on my CV as a skill! Without making this into a negative post, you get the gist of the situation – I was very busy, and basically spinning plates for a living.

I took some time off. I have a different job now and I am hoping to change career to work in the fitness industry. I’m sure many fitness instructors and personal trainers will be reading this shaking their heads and saying that I still need a ‘can do’ attitude to get anywhere fast. I guess my realization is that I will still get there – wherever that is – but there is no rush. I don’t need to be better than everyone else, clocking in early, working from home, picking up every extra shift or training opportunity that comes along. If I can find the time to do a little extra then I absolutely will, but not if it affects my sanity or the chance to spend time with the people that matter. The people who have helped me regain my confidence after shying away from life for a while deserve to see me at my best from now on and I’m still learning how to do that.

People will ask me to do things and if I’m not comfortable doing it I will say no. Sometimes I will explain myself, sometimes they will know me well enough to understand, and sometimes I just don’t feel I need to give a reason. I’m in a position where I need to feel calm, relaxed and in control of a situation to stay healthy and if saying no will make that happen that’s what I have to do. I’m not saying its easy, but it does come with a sense of relief and freedom which can feel very positive. I know that we have to do things that scare us to learn in life, and I still continue to do that. I did my Level 2 Gym Instructor training even though I knew it would be challenging in many different ways and I went on holiday to Cannes and put myself in stressful situations which I couldn’t have done 6 months ago. I pick and choose my battles now and at the moment I only do scary things which have the potential to have an amazing outcome.

If you’re struggling to fit in time to relax, see family or even just get a good night’s sleep then I urge you to try and be selfish sometimes. Explain this to your close friends and family, and warn them that you might have to cancel plans or don’t answer your phone after a certain time at night. Tell your workmates that you can’t help out right now but that you’ll be back on track and ready to muck in soon. No one expects you to be indestructible, and they’re all too busy with there own stuff to notice if you’re snowed under. They just assume that when you can’t do anymore you’ll say ‘too much’ and slow down. So be you’re own stop sign and be selfish.