We’ve been living under varying levels of lockdown for over three months now and (although everyone’s situations are different) I think it’s fair to say that all our lives have changed.
So I thought it might be a good time for us to do a wellbeing check-in!
Of the things that I’m grateful for during lockdown – my top three (in no particular order) would be: my garden, being able to work from home and living with a wellbeing advisor! Mostly because he’s lovely… but the wellbeing advice is always a bonus!
One of the things that Beardie often refers to as a good way to check-in with how we’re feeling is the “five ways to wellbeing”.
Research has shown that we need to fulfil certain needs in order to maintain good wellbeing: Connecting to others, being active, taking notice, learning and giving. You can find more details over on the Mind website here.
Connecting to others has definitely been difficult for all of us during lockdown… video chats just aren’t the same but they’re better than nothing.
So maybe do a check-in with how you’re feeling now and think about how that compares to the before-times. Maybe there’s one of these five needs that you’ve been fulfilling more during lockdown and you want to carry that through to the after-times?
I’ve personally been a lot more active and have really been enjoying running (still can’t believe that…) so I want to make time for that on the other side.
I’ve also realised how much I value seeing my friends face-to-face and being able to hug them! I’m definitely going to be a hugger when we have a vaccine!
Hope you’re all staying safe and mentally and physically well x
If you’re reading this on Sunday – I’m not contactable because I’m on a mini digital detox!
Over the last year I’ve got into some really good habits with my phone usage. Spending less time browsing social media and switching off my phone before (or sometimes just after) my evening meal and not switching it on again until the following morning.
However… habits slip. When I’m really busy I find it particularly difficult to stick to my new habits – partly because I feel guilty for not being contactable or not replying to emails straight away, but also because I just want to browse Pinterest! But busy times are when I’m most in need of the evening switch off.
My morning habits have also slipped a bit. I try to start each day with a walk, but recently I’ve been switching my phone on as soon as I get up… then I get distracted, waste time and often end up skipping my walk. Not good!
I’m amazed by the technology we have these days and certainly wouldn’t want to be without it, but I’m also very aware of the negative impact it has on mental health, self-esteem and sleep if we don’t use it sensibly.
So this weekends detox is about pressing the re-set button. Reminding myself that nothing terrible happens if I’m off the radar for a couple of days. Breaking the bad phone habits that are creeping up on me and making the time to knit, walk, garden and cuddle the cats – all activities which are far more beneficial to my mental and physical health than passively scrolling through my phone!
Why not join me? Maybe leave your phone at home while you go for a walk, switch it to flight mode for an afternoon… or go full detox and switch it off for the day!
After crawling through Christmas with a horrible lingering cold… I’m not exactly bouncing into the new year feeling motivated!
Unlike my usual Back to Reality blogs about my plans and goals for the year ahead – my Back to Reality 2018 post was largely about planning less and not setting concrete goals.
And 2018 turned out to be a brilliant year! There were some very difficult times (which I might tell you more about later), but overall for me it was a fun, relaxed and happy year. Particularly in August when we got married then lived in a hut for 10 days!
There’s definitely something good about not planning too much. And after a decade of prioritising work, it was glorious to step off the treadmill and take time to prioritise life.
There are a couple of big lessons that I’ve learned over the last few years and in 2018 I put some habits into practice which I want to carry into 2019.
Lesson no.1: There is no such thing as a work/life balance.
This might sound like a sweeping statement and many of you might disagree. But this is something I heard Courtney Carver talking about on Instagram stories and it really changed the way I think about work/life balance.
If you’re self employed and working in a creative industry it is virtually impossible to find a “balance”, set boundaries and compartmentalise work time and life time. The edges are very blurry- sometimes work takes over and sometimes life takes over, but it’s difficult to find a lasting balance when you can’t easily separate the two.
So I’ve given up my constant striving for the perfect work/life balance and instead I now focus on having a good sleep routine and ring-fencing some me-time each day and each week. This makes me feel like my time is more balanced overall and as a result – work feels less like work because I have some calm time every day to come back to.
I’ve tried various things including meditating and making green smoothies (well… beige smoothies). But these are the habits which have made the biggest difference for me… and I notice the difference if I let these habits slip:
Going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday… (a little bit later at weekends).
Switching my mobile off at dinnertime each night and leaving it in another room.
Going for a walk every day.
These three simple habits make my life feel so much more balanced than it used to even when I’m really busy.
Lesson no.2: I can’t say yes to everything.
This might be stating the obvious, but a lot of us struggle to say no! It might be work stuff or social stuff and you might be worried about letting people down or fearful that opportunities won’t come up again, but saying yes to everything generally ends up with us taking on too much.
In 2018 I accepted that I can’t do all the things I want to do and practiced saying “I’d love to, but I can’t right now”. And do you know what? Nothing terrible happened! I’m making decisions and planning ahead rather than just being carried by the tide and only dealing with what’s urgent. I have lots of exciting things planned for this year… but not too much!
It can be difficult to say no to things that I really want to do, but I’ve leaned the hard way that saying yes to lots of work opportunities means saying no to having free time. And I have a million things I enjoy doing in my free time so I occasionally need those evenings and weekends!
Being less busy means that I have more time to enjoy my life and enjoy my work. I’m so excited about my projects for 2019 and can’t wait to share them with you!
The photo I shared of my habit tracker sparked a lot of interest so I thought I would talk about it a bit more on here…
There are so many lovely inspirational layout ideas for habit trackers on Pinterest and Instagram and I initially planned to create my own layout. But then I found this one from Clementine Creative and it was perfect…so that saved me a job!
It’s available in different sizes and is free to download as a pdf here – or you can pay to get an editable version if you want to type in your list and days rather than adding them by hand.
Why Habit Track?
At the beginning of this year, I knew that I didn’t want to set myself any big goals or resolutions. After a very busy year last year I was looking forward to being less busy and giving myself a better work/life balance. But that doesn’t just happen on it’s own!
I knew I needed a plan to make sure I was getting work done but not doing too much (an easy habit to slip into when you don’t have specific office hours). I also wanted to get into a routine with some things I’ve been doing sporadically for a while (for example – meditation) and create new habits that I knew would benefit my health.
Is it working?
In my experience, habits take a long time to build and not long to fall down! I put flossing on here because I have a tendency to floss every day for months and then miss a few days… and then just stop until I see the dentist and get told off… and then it starts over again. I’m getting better at not stopping things if I miss a few days because colouring in my pretty chart motivates me!
The thing that has surprised me most is that I don’t eat five portions of fruit and veg every day! I was planning to put seven per day as the target on my tracker because that’s the new recommendation and I thought I was easily having five. Turns out I have a tendency to eat lots of portions of the same thing each day – I’ll happily eat a few portions of carrots – but then that would only count as one portion. And however many different fruit and veggies I put in a smoothie… it counts as a maximum of two portions. And the portion size guidelines have doubled since I last checked! I’m really glad I put that on the tracker as it’s making me count each day.
The most beneficial things on the tracker for me are those related to my sleep habits and working hours. I’m pretty sure I’m a nocturnal animal and as I’m self employed I could in theory sleep when I want and work when I want. But over the years I’ve discovered a lot of down-sides to being a night owl…
Getting up late makes me feel lazy! Even if I’ve worked until 2am the night before… It feels inappropriate and somewhat defensive to explain that to the UPS man when I answer the door in my pyjamas at 11am.
When everyone else is finished for the day I’m still working and miss all the fun things!
It’s difficult to develop a consistent sleep routine because I’m out of sync with everyone else… and insomnia kicks in when I don’t have a routine.
Small changes such as putting my phone into flight mode by 10pm (so that I’m not browsing Pinterest until midnight!) have really helped improve my sleep. Giving myself an earlier bedtime means I’m now averaging about 7.5 hours sleep compared to less than 7 hours previously – and I feel better for it.
On top of extra sleep most nights, I’m also enjoying a new slow start to my weekdays. I’m setting my alarm early to give myself some Pinterest/Instagram browsing time, followed by arm exercises and a passive chest stretch to help my knitting pains (shoulder, elbows and wrists) and ten minutes meditation. Doing all of that before I start work feels good!
After 48 weeks of knitting…I completed the final square of my Moody Blanket last Sunday!
A huge well done to everyone who stuck with it throughout the year – even if you just kept up with the colouring in. It’s been a long project and I hope you’ve found it as beneficial as I have.
The idea behind the Moody Blanket is to give yourself a bit of time to reflect each day on how you’ve felt, put your moods into the knitting and create a lovely cosy visual diary of your feelings. But it’s been so much more than that for me, and my blanket has inspired some big life changes.
Early on in the Moody Blanket knitting process I needed to add in a couple of moods to my list…and both were related to being busy. The first was “productive” which I added to the content/calm/satisfied list for those days when I’d been super busy but felt good because I’d achieved a lot.
The second mood was less positive – “overwhelmed” got added to my meh list for those days where I just couldn’t see the wood for the trees. The majority of my “meh” days were the result of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I also felt this way on many of my “fine” days – but managed to lift it to fine by reflecting on the day, putting things in perspective and eating lots of chocolate. Below is an overview of my year of moody knitting…
The number of days I felt overwhelmed was significantly higher during busy periods. 18% of my days in January through to April were teal and 21% in September through to December – compared to just 8% from May to August. I also had 24% happy days in May to August compared to 14% in January through to April and just 8% from September to December.
Weeks 1 to 16 (2nd January to 23rd April)
Weeks 17 to 32 (24th April to 13th Aug)
Weeks 33 to 48 (14th Aug to 3rd Dec)
I love stats!
Reflecting on your mood everyday for a year means you really get to know what affects your mood and you can take action to improve it. Between May and August I had a holiday and my workload lessened, giving me free weekends. It’s really noticeable when looking at my planner that I have a brighter band of colour running through the middle for this period of time and I knew I needed to make some changes in my life to be less busy and create more yellow days.
I read something this week over on The Minimalists website about scaling back and the fact that when you say yes to something you’re inadvertently saying no to something else. I’ve always found it difficult to say no to things and I’ve had so many fantastic opportunities over the last couple of years that I’m glad I’ve said yes to everything!
But however much I love everything I do – saying yes to every single work opportunity that comes my way means that I’m saying no to free time at weekends, no to seeing my friends and family, no to going for hikes in the country, no to lazy Sundays on the sofa and no to looking after myself. Eventually being too busy takes it’s toll.
So I’ve already started making some changes and have said “not now” to a few opportunities that have popped up (I still want to do everything…just not all at the same time!).
The biggest change that I have made is the decision to step down from my day-job with Rowan. I love working for Rowan – I love the yarns, the patterns, the lovely independent retailers I work with and my Rowan family, but I know this decision will give me the freedom to focus on my freelance work and free up my time outside of work.
I’m so excited about 2018! I’m not going to rush into things – I’m going to take the time to plan and make sure I don’t over-commit so that I can really enjoy exhibiting at yarn shows, teaching workshops and designing new patterns. It’s going to be great!
If you’ve been taking part in the Moody Blanket Knit-along I would love to see pics of your planners and of your finished blankets when they’re sewn up. I will be sharing a pattern for a knitted border early next year – or you could pick up and crochet or edge it with ribbon or fabric… I’d love to see what you do!
And just in case you missed the important news re the yarn:
*UPDATE* Rooster have now discontinued Almerino DK (November 2017) and the top-up packs are available while stocks last – so please ensure you have enough yarn to complete your blanket.
MOODY BLANKET TOP-UP PACK (5 BALLS): £30 – SHOP NOW
MOODY BLANKET TOP-UP PACK (10 BALLS): £59 – SHOP NOW
If you would like to knit yourself a Moody Blanket in 2018 – you can buy the pattern & planner and use a DK weight yarn of your choice.
We’re almost at the halfway point of the Moody Blanket Knit-along and for those knitting the smaller version it’s almost the end!
It would also be the perfect time to think about joining in and knitting along with the small version for the second half of the year.
The Moody Blanket palette has five colours, with each one relating to a mood – ranging from sad/angry/depressed (dark grey) through to happy/upbeat/excited (yellow or pink depending on your chosen colourway).
I’m happy to say that the most popular re-ordered shades in the top-up packs are those relating to fine, content and happy. I hope that reflecting on your mood and knitting the blanket is helping on the darker days…and perhaps, like me, you’re realising that you’re more fine/happy than you realised!
I’ve sewn up and blocked the first two rows of my blanket and I’m loving seeing patterns starting to form. I added two new moods to my list – both based on how busy I was up until April.
Firstly I added “productive” to my aqua moods. Sometimes I have a super busy day and feel really good about it because I feel satisfied that I’ve achieved a lot. I think this fits in with the content colour because I’m generally not super happy yellow when I’ve been busy – but often feel good, satisfied and productive.
Secondly I added “overwhelmed” to my teal moods. Because busy days don’t always feel productive! I often get a lot done but I’m maybe doing lots of bits and bobs and not completing a whole project. Sometimes I have lots to do and I don’t know where to start so I struggle to focus. Often I have so much to do that I just want to switch off my phone and go and live in a yurt! These are the “overwhelmed” teal days which definitely sit on a level with “a bit meh”.
I love the way that my overwhelmed weeks have collided in the centre of the blanket creating an abstract teal diamond. And most of all I’m enjoying seeing how quickly my mood lifted after we finished the photo shoot for my book and life became less hectic.
Seeing this visual diary of my moods is really making me address what makes me happy and how can I get more of that?!
Pretty much all of the teal days in my blanket so far are the result of feeling overwhelmed. This was mostly due to me over-committing myself and my time…but I’ve also started to realise how much I feel overwhelmed by “stuff”.
This is something I might not have reflected on if I wasn’t knitting the Moody Blanket, but I think that embracing Minimalism and living with less “stuff” will give me more time for the things I enjoy and improve my happiness long term. We’ll soon find out when I play the Minimalism Game in June!
If you fancy joining in with the Moody Blanket knit-along you can find out more here.
Last year on Mental Health Awareness Day I wrote a blog about looking after your mental health as well as your physical health regardless of whether you have mental health issues.
Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation are looking at why too few of us are thriving with good mental health, rather than why so many people are living with mental health problems.
My workload so far this year has meant that I’ve had little time to look after my well-being and have very much been surviving rather than thriving. So as I’m writing this on Friday – I have decided that instead of writing a long blog – I’m going to knock off a bit early to do some gardening and knitting!
And then after this blog posts on Sunday I will be switching off my phone for the rest of the day so that I can enjoy the moment without being distracted. Why not join me? It doesn’t hurt to switch off once in a while…it helps us thrive x
I’m so happy with the response I’ve had to the Moody Blanket Knit-along! Lots of you bought starter packs at the end of last year and I’ve received lots of orders for top-up packs with messages saying you’re enjoying the project – and so am I!
I’m personally finding the self reflection at the end of each day really beneficial and even though I’ve had some tough weeks – it’s really soothing to reflect on my mood of the day, allocate a colour and knit.
I asked a few fellow Moody Blanket knitters how they’re feeling about the project and this is what they said…
What appealed to you about the project?
Lesley: “As a relatively new knitter I wanted to do something beautiful but simple. I liked the idea of a mood stripe per day.”
Toni: “I think the first thing to appeal to me about the project was the fact that it’s a Jem Weston project. I’ve always loved not only Jem’s patterns in the past, but also the choice of colour combinations and yarn, so all of this amalgamated into a knit along was a very attractive idea to me. I’d never done a knit along before and the sense of community and longevity it promised fascinated me.”
Claire: “I liked the idea of the project as I live with a long term mental health condition and am interested in ways of managing my condition differently.”
What are you enjoying about knitting your Moody Blanket?
Lesley: “I like sitting after work and relaxing whilst knitting my stripe for the day, it’s very therapeutic!”
Toni: “I am really enjoying seeing each week knit up and become something completely unique. And perhaps more than that I really love seeing everyone else’s squares and the way everyone sends kind wishes when a fellow participator has had a difficult time. Or how everyone celebrates a happy day!
Setting time aside each evening to reflect on my mood and do a bit of simple knitting has really improved my mental health. I know that a lot of people find such reflection difficult, I’ve even had a friend tell me they couldn’t see themselves enjoying it at all, but the way I see it: if you’ve had a terrible day, I mean a really rotten day, the day will have been that bad whether or not you think about it. Only this way you might be able to find some little pockets of happiness, or even okay-ness, that’s gotten lost in the storm of the day. And create something beautiful from it at that!”
Claire: “I am most enjoying being able to have a positive way to look at my feelings, rather than reverting to other coping mechanisms. So even though I’ve had a tough day, there is a positive way of communicating that, through craft.
Is there anything you’re finding challenging?
Lesley: “When I’ve been busy during the week I’ve had to leave catching up to the weekend and sometimes it’s hard to get up to date before the next week begins.”
Toni: “I am finding some of the lower mood days to be challenging to knit. I’m always glad when I’ve done it in the end, but gosh it feels like a real slog.”
Claire: “I sometimes find time constraints difficult, but then I find the sheet where I can colour in my days helps to be able to recall my feelings on a particular day.
Is it becoming easier to reflect on your mood/choose your colour…or more difficult?
Lesley: “It is getting easier as I can compare to previous days and make a judgement about what colour a day should be.”
Toni: “Overall I think I’m finding it much easier to reflect on my mood and choose a colour. For example, I find I’m much more accepting of making a day yellow now. For some reason at the beginning of the project I felt I could only pick yellow if that day had been oh-so-amazingly-wow from the word go. I may have had a very black or white approach to moods… but now I’m much more appreciative of the little joys throughout a day whilst being able to accept, or even put a positive spin on, the disasters.”
Claire: “Over the last week particularly, due to lots of change,I have found it difficult to choose just one colour, but I tend to go with the predominant emotion of the day.
It’s brilliant seeing the blankets starting to come together and the patterns forming as everyone starts to sew up their squares!
Thank you so much to the Moody knitters above for sharing. If you’re taking part in the KAL and want to share your thoughts and images here on my blog, please feel free to contact me – I’d love to hear how your getting on.
The Moody Blanket pattern has options for a large blanket knitted over 48 weeks or a small blanket knitted over 24 weeks – so if you’re thinking about joining the KAL part way through, you could knit the small blanket and still be finished this year. Starter packs including one ball each of your chosen colourway, the pattern and planner (for colouring in) are still available here or you can buy the pattern & planner individually here.
In 2016 I learnt the hard way that life isn’t much fun if you don’t take a break to stand back and appreciate things!
My Moody Blanket is definitely helping me to do this – as I’m spending that little bit of time each day to reflect. But I have realised that the most important thing I need to do in order to take care of myself is to get out more.
So at the end of last year Beardie & I wrote down all the things we talk about doing on days off on pieces of paper and put them in a jar. I’ve tried to think of a different name with less potential innuendo…but it’s a jar of fun things to do so it’s a fun jar!
Saturday was my first full day off this year – so we picked our first fun from the jar! It was a walk in Derbyshire – and it was perfect. Despite not being far from Derbyshire, it normally feels like we need to do a lot of planning and then when the day comes I tend to think “I’m quite tired…There’s things to do around the house…we can just have a nice day here”. But because we picked it from the jar – we just decided on a place and went.
I will have time to take a ‘proper holiday’ in the summer but, until then, picking fun from the fun jar will help me to maximise any days off by motivating me to doing something different.
It was a cold and grey day, but it didn’t matter! We had a lovely time, I rediscovered my love of moss, we finished the walk with an excellent meal…and it was officially fun!