4 YOUTUBERS WHO INSPIRE ME

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I’m a little late to the YouTube party if I’m being honest. It’s only really in the past couple of months that I’ve got into watching YouTube videos, but now that I have I just can’t get enough. It probably seems obvious to most that YouTube is a huge source of inspiration, and it’s helped me a lot lately, in exploring minimalism, dealing with my motivation struggles and encouraging me to try different things.

I’ve really only just got started, but I wanted to share a few of the YouTubers who’ve been top of my playlist, and whose videos I’ve found to be a treasure trove of great influence.

Madeleine Olivia

Maddie was the first person I discovered on YouTube, and I binge watched a huge chunk of her minimalism series in one weekend. One of the key things I learnt from her was to stop wearing clothes that aren’t comfortable, and that’s one valuable piece of advice. Thanks to that pearl of wisdom, I’ve replaced most of my underwired bras with cotton bralettes and the experience has been freeing! I’ve also ditched my standing-only jeans and shoes that rub, and I’m feeling much better for it.

Lavendaire

Aileen has been my go-to for productivity motivation. Her advice on habits and making the most of your time have been my favourites, and watching her channel has helped me to improve my routines and keep my commitment to them.  One of the most useful tips I picked up was to really plan your time. At first, I found myself a little stuck after creating a weekly planner, because I wasn’t sure what actions to log to fill those time gaps, but after putting a little effort in I’ve allocated time for writing, developing knitting patterns and prioritising self-care, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to keep things organised.

Use Less

Signe is my number one for style inspiration, and will always be the one I look to for building a wardrobe of classic, timeless pieces that will remain staples throughout the year. I’m much more considered about my purchasing these days, and Signe’s channel is right up my alley. I love the way she puts together outfits, and I’m keen to develop an all-year wardrobe with quality pieces that will last.

Meghan Livingstone

I’m really inspired by Meghan’s natural lifestyle, and am constantly intrigued by her homemade beauty products, which are something that I’m really wanting to try for myself. I also found one of her videos to be the most simple, yet impactful, way to manage stress, during which she outlined three deep breathing exercises that have made the world of difference to me.

I’m really keen to continue to expand my YouTube viewing, so if you have any channels that you love, please do share them with me!

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MENTAL HEALTH IS EVERYONE’S ISSUE

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I’m a bit late for World Mental Health Day, which was on 10th October, but, really, we shouldn’t need a dedicated day to talk about mental health, so today is as good as any.

In my opinion, mental health is everyone’s issue. Without a shadow of a doubt, we will all either experience difficulties with our own mental health, or interact with someone who has, at some point in our lifetime, and probably at some point in our day. Mental health is not discriminatory, anyone can struggle with their mental health, and it’s just as valid as any physical health difficulties that someone might experience.

I feel very lucky in my experiences with mental health, in that, while I’ve encountered things like stress and emotional responses, I’ve always felt that things have been under control. There have been a couple of times where I’ve considered seeking professional help, but, out of the moment, things didn’t feel so bad. It’s something that I will continue to hold as an option, though, because I want to be self-aware enough to know that, if I do need some kind of support, it’s out there and I can accept it.

If there’s one thing that I know for certain, it’s that we need to talk more about mental health. I’ve had experience of talking about mental health quite a lot as I’ve grown up, and I hope that those conversations have helped those close to me to deal with what they’ve been going through, but there’s so much more work to be done.

Even now, conversations can be guarded, down-played and issues discussed more lightly, because I guess there’s still a stigma, and these things can be difficult to admit and open up about.

Personally, I want to be the kind of open, non-judgemental person that you would feel comfortable talking to about anything that you’re going through. While I might not be able to relate, I can be an ear and I hope that will help to provide some relief.

I want to be the person that reaches out, just because, because I’m sure that knowing someone is thinking of you can make a whole lot of difference. I want to be a friend and an ally, and to contribute to a wider shift in society so anyone who is finding things difficult with their mental health feels accepted and connected.

I don’t want anyone to feel alone.

If you’re struggling with your mental health right now, please, talk to someone. You can seek professional help privately and through your GP, there are online therapy options such as Talk Space and Better Help, or you could message a friend. If you’re finding it difficult through any of those avenues, you can drop me an email at jessicafrjohnson@gmail.com. I’m not a professional, but I can lend an ear (or some eyeballs), if you need to talk.

There are a couple of initiatives that I’ve come across that I think are great for mental health. Visit The Blurt Foundation for lots of great resources and support, and Mental Health Mates if a walk and talk is up your street.

If you’d like to support someone who’s having a difficult time, the aforementioned Blurt Foundation have a BuddyBox, wonderfully described as ‘A hug in a box’, which you can gift on a one-off or subscription basis. And don’t forget – you can gift to yourself, too!

I’ve also discovered this line of unisex t-shirts from River Island’s collaboration with The Mix, a charity focused on providing essential support to people under 25, which also help to de-stigmatise mental health through their slogans.

Whatever position you’re in, know that there is help available for you, or you can help if you’d like to.

Together, we can change the attitude around mental health and make things better, for all of us.

6 THINGS I DO TO RELIEVE STRESS

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Stress is not a stranger around here, I can’t deny that. I tend to try to live in the present, but when I look back over these past nine months or so, I can see why this hasn’t been my calmest year.

Life is always going to throw things your way. Whether it’s an hour, a week or a whole year of taxing times, it can be difficult to deal with, but one thing is sure – you can get through it.

While you might not be able to affect the situation, there are things that you can do to help you deal with it better. I’ve found these things so helpful when everything is getting on top of me, and so I wanted to share them in case they can help you, too.

Take five deep breaths

It might not seem like much, but, trust me, this can make a huge difference to how you’re feeling. I found this tip in September’s issue of The Simple Things magazine, and I thought it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. I always close my eyes, and focus on pulling in as much air as I can through my nose, then breathing out slowly through my mouth. It’s kind of magical to experience those stresses falling away as I re-centre myself with my breath. I always feel more ready to face whatever is in front of me after I’ve done it.

I’ve also set a daily reminder on my phone, so each morning I see ‘take five deep breaths’ and I always do it. It’s really had an impact!

Make a cuppa

They may joke that tea fixes everything, but it certainly helps me when I’m feeling stressed. I think there are a few ways this helps to calm me, really. It forces me to step away from whatever it is that I’m doing. I need to go to the kettle, pour in the water and wait for it to boil, so it refocuses my mind and gives me a change of scenery.

After that, there’s something I find so comforting about hugging that warm mug close to my chest, and sipping on the hot tea, which itself is like a hug from the inside. This also gives me more time to change pace. You can’t glug down a boiling cuppa so it forces you to take things a little slower, which I also finds helps with thought-processing in stressful situations.

Get a hug

I’m sure there’s something about endorphins here, but all I know is that a good squeeze does wonders. It helps to focus on someone else, and human contact is a winner. I always feel better after a hug!

Take a bath

This is one that I’ve only recently come back to. Since moving out of home, I hadn’t had a bath in around two years, but Sam recently convinced me that I should give it a go to help relieve my stresses and, of course, he was right. I like to have the water a little too hot, lots of bubbles, maybe a candle or two, and my favourite podcasts playing to keep me entertained.

Knit

Knitting is one of my favourite things to do, and I often say that it feels to me like a form of meditation. There’s something about the repetitive motion that calms me down and helps me to leave those stresses behind. Even if you’re not a knitter, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. A basic knit stitch is easy enough to pick up, and remember, you’re doing it for the process, not the finished product.

Go for a walk

There’s nothing like being in nature to open you up and help to gain perspective. It’s a wonderful, healing thing to do, and it’s saved me on a few occasions this year. I also find walking is the perfect time for me to work through any thoughts that have been bothering me. It always helps me to find clarity, and I’ve come up with some of my best ideas while walking! Plus, exercise is a winner, so getting your body moving is sure to help, too!

I’d also encourage you to try a few different things to see what works for you. Each of us is different, and that’s what makes us all magical, so don’t worry if my tips don’t work – but something out there will.

 

HOW I MANAGE MONEY SO I CAN DO THE THINGS I WANT

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If there’s one thing I’ve stressed about more than anything else in life, it’s money. Not having enough money is a really tough position to be in. It impacts deep and beyond what you might imagine, and those worries can really affect you personal wellbeing.

I know I’m not the only one to have ever felt this way. I think it’s something most of us will experience at some point in our lives, so I wanted to take a little time to share some of the things I’ve done to help me keep on top of my money and save for the things that are important to me.

These tips are not gospel. They’re not meant to be taken as a ‘right’ way to do things. They’re just a personal account of the things I have done for myself that have worked, and that I hope may be of use to someone else. Nothing more, nothing less.

Know what you’re spending

It can be shocking to realise just how many people don’t actually know what they’re spending. For me, this is one of the most important things in managing my money and being able to save. I bank with Nationwide, and their app is my saviour. If you don’t already, I would 100% recommend registering for internet banking and finding a banking app that lets you access your accounts on the go. Being able to see in an instant what’s in your account, and where your money has gone, is the best way to keep yourself informed, and being informed will prevent any nasty surprises further down the line.

Audit your outgoings

Raise your hand if you’re still paying a direct debit for something you never use. Credit score services, anyone? Once you know where your money is going, you can see exactly where you’re spending when you shouldn’t be. Start with direct debits and cancel what you can. I stopped giving to charity, and while I felt a little guilty at the time, the impact has been astronomical, and I can also focus my charitable giving on things that mean more, which aren’t necessarily monetary. Drop magazine subscriptions, unused gym memberships and anything else that isn’t bringing value into your life.

Then go onto your bills. See if you can switch provider to a cheaper alternative. You can also get lots of good referral bonuses, so see if any friends can recommend you, and you’ll both get a reward. You can also contact providers for TV and internet services and request to cancel. Often they will offer you a reduced rate to keep you as a customer, so you can cut your expenditure that way.

Finally, really look into how much you’re spending. I looked back through a six month period of my bank statements and added up all of the money I spent on food; in supermarkets, dining out and grabbing snacks on the go. Dividing that by six, I found an average for what I was spending each month, and the result was quite surprising. You can do this for anything; cosmetics, clothes, magazines, coffee. Once you know where you’re at, you can consider where you could be saving.

Set yourself a budget, and stick to it

I, personally, have created my own spreadsheets to manage my budget, but I know there are a tonne of good apps out there that can help and do a lot of the hard work for you. The first step is to categorise all of your expenses. You’ll have things like rent, council tax, electricity, gas and TV license, and others like food, petrol, insurance and clothes.

For each category, set yourself a monthly budget. Some of these will be dictated for you, like your rent, but when creating budgets for yourself, be realistic. If you need to cut back on your spending, set your budget a little lower, but also be reasonable with what you can honestly live with. And always round up. Adding a few pounds onto each item will give you a little buffer, which should keep you out of trouble.

Also, include savings in your budget. Whether you’re saving for something in particular or not, it’s important to build up what you can. Set aside a specific amount each month so you’re consistently topping up your savings account. It might help to set this up as an automatic transfer following pay day, so you don’t have to worry about the temptation to spend it instead.

Plan your meals

Food is one of my biggest expenditures. I’m a sucker for a celebratory lunch and coffee with a friend never comes without cake! Having calculated my monthly expenditure though, I could see that I was eating most of my pay packet, and while good food is always a winner, I didn’t have an awful lot to show for that money.

One of the best ways to combat this is to plan meals. I have a menu that I fill out every week, and from there create a shopping list of exactly the items that I need. This prevents waste, and impromptu takeaways, and it’s much kinder on my bank balance. Plus, it tends to be healthier so I feel more fuelled by my food than I would otherwise.

Curb your impulses

I don’t think I would have ever called myself an impulse shopper, but having gained a lot more perspective of my shopping habits, I definitely was. It’s so easy to get caught up with consumerist culture when you’re in the shopping centre or browsing ASOS online, but do you really need that thing you’re looking at? My first step to curbing my impulse shopping was to remove myself from the situation. I don’t often go to the shopping centre, and when I do, I’m there for something in particular that I definitely need. And then, I go where I need to go, and avoid browsing elsewhere.

I’ve also unfollowed social media accounts of most online stores, so I’m not constantly faced with their marketing. While I’d like to think I’d be immune to their efforts, they know what they’re doing, and if given the opportunity I’m sure they could convince me that I really do need another pair of black ankle boots for winter. Instead, I avoid them, and keep my bank balance, and my wardrobe, under control.

I’ve also taken the advice of some minimalist YouTubers, and made myself a wishlist. I just use a secret board on Pinterest, where I keep a record of any items that I really want. Instead of buying them straight away, I add them to my wishlist and check back every now and again to see what’s there. Often, the impulse to buy that item has gone away, and I can remove it from my list. Sometimes it’s something that I would still really like, and I leave it there to consider for Christmas or my birthday, or when I have some money to spare. Occasionally, it’s an item I really need, in which case I’ll include it in my budget for that month, and buy it.

I know for a fact that these processes have prevented me from spending an awful lot of money, and, even though I haven’t bought any of those things, I’m getting by just as well as I was before. I didn’t actually need them, after all!

By implementing these ideas, and being very mindful with how I spend my money, I’ve been able to start saving to buy a house, and for a holiday to the US next year for Sam’s friend’s wedding. And I know those things are going to mean a whole lot more to me than a collection of Nike trainers!

ONE YEAR MAKE UP FREE

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I can’t remember my exact motivation for ditching make up this time last year. I think, like many things, it might have been an accumulation of circumstantial reasons that has since faded beyond memory, but I recall that it was a distinct decision.

It followed a holiday, during which I never bothered to touch my make up bag, and I expect concerns around money, or lack thereof, may have been a contributing factor.

What I do know though, is that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Going make up free can certainly be intimidating. I spent years believing that covering my uneven skin tone and disguising my dark eye circles was the best way to be acceptable for society. I wasn’t comfortable leaving the house without make up, and while I wasn’t ever particularly experimental, I made sure to never run out of my essentials.

One year since ditching the coverage, there are quite a few things that I’ve learnt.

The first is that no one actually noticed. No one questioned why I looked different or asked if I was tired. No one made any comments at all, they just interacted with me in the same way they always did.

Another thing I’ve learnt is that my face is wonderful, just the way it is. I’m lucky not to have experienced skin conditions, or acne or any of the other things that people can have difficulties with, but I never used to be comfortable with my uneven skin tone and chicken pox scars. Now, though, I’m embracing it all. I love the freckles on my forehead that I never realised I had, and I’m in awe of the way my eyes can show me I’m getting under the weather before I really start to feel it. I am amazing, just the way I am.

It takes a little time to learn that, a few days of feeling bare and exposed, wondering if people are secretly judging you, but once you get comfortable, the confidence you can gain is a game-changer.

One of my absolute favourite things about being make up free is all of the time that I’ve saved! Getting up in the morning and not having to dedicate a chunk of my routine to applying my face has been a life-saver. I’ve slept more, knit more, exercised more and worked more. I’ve been able to dash out for impromptu meetings at the drop of a hat, and not had to worry about overnight trips. It’s been a blessing!

The biggest difference though, and the thing that has made my life infinitely easier, is not having to take my make up off before bed. Seriously, it’s been so good! I’d always find myself at night, sitting on the edge of my bed, sighing in exasperation that, yet again, I’d forgotten to remove my make up. Not anymore though! Now I can breeze through the night time routine and be all tucked up before I even know it, and I love it!

I think my decision to go make up free may have been the first hint of my journey towards minimalism. I’m not yet sure that I’d call myself a minimalist, but I’ve definitely developed some minimalist tenancies and I’m constantly learning more. It’s something that I think I’d like to write about more, and to share my experiences of as I go along in my journey, so keep your eyes peeled here if you’re interested in coming along!

MAKING EXERCISE WORK FOR ME

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I’ve spoken about exercise a few times before. Or moreso about my failed relationship with exercise. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for years. I’m sold on the benefits, I know exercise will give me more energy and pump some awesome endorphins around my body to get me feeling all the good vibes. But actually making myself do it has always been a chore.

I don’t want to join a gym, and I never have. I can’t afford regular exercise classes, and while my boyfriend is a personal trainer, we’ve kept our work and home lives separate. The spate of running I did to prepare for a half marathon was almost traumatic, and those memories of nights on the sofa icing my knees are enough to put me off for life.

I tried The Body Coach’s HIIT routines, and while I totally believe in the benefits of HIIT training, I don’t feel like working out so hard that I think I might die. I guess I’ve learnt a lot of the things that don’t work for me, and it’s only recently that I’m starting to learn the things that do.

Little and often. A 20 minute yoga practice or one of Davina’s 7 minute workouts are the perfect options for me. It’s over quick enough that it doesn’t take a huge chunk out of my day, and when I move regularly I can really feel the benefits in my joints.

Having a tracker. Since I started my bullet journal, I’ve been so good at keeping up with my exercise goal. My plan to exercise 40 times by the new year was illustrated with lots of little boxes for me to shade in every time I completed a workout. And it really, really helped! I love seeing those boxes fill up and not wanting to miss out on my goal is motivation enough to whip out the leggings and get right on with it.

Being accountable. I’m not very good at being accountable to myself, but letting Sam in on my goal and knowing that he’ll ask me how my workouts are going is the perfect way to stop me from bailing. He’s a good motivator, too, so that helps on days when I’m not feeling up for it.

Getting it in early. I’ve learnt that I’m much better at working out in the morning. As soon as the day gets going, I’m so caught up in other things that stepping away to exercise seems like such a chore, and it’s much easier for me to put it off.

I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride with my workout routine, and I’m committed to it more than I’ve ever been before. For the first time in my life, I feel like I would answer the question ‘Do you exercise?’ with a ‘Yes’.

So my advice to you is to exercise for your own reasons, whatever they are. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not working out and just try something new. At some point you’ll hit on what works for you, and it’ll become part of how you live your life. Just allow yourself a little (or a lot!) patience to get there!

MY MORNING ROUTINE

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A few months ago I was listening to Sophia Bush on the That’s So Retrograde podcast and I had a bit of an epiphany moment. Sophia is my #1 girl crush so I obsess over most of the things that she says, but what hit me that day was her super simple advice. Do one thing in the morning that is good for you.

For her that started with drinking a glass of water. From there, she explained, it’s easier to add other good actions, like taking vitamins, incorporating meditation or fitting in some exercise.

I took her advice, and started adding positive actions into my (then non-existent) morning routine. As those actions became habits, I started to add more, until I reached the stage I’m at today.

I love my morning routine. It really sets me up for the day and knowing that I’m doing all of these things that are good for me gives me such a buzz. So, here’s what it looks like…

07:00 The alarm goes off. I try super hard not to fall back asleep, but do allow myself a few minutes to laze and relax before I face the day.

07:15 Time for exercise. I’ve got a good thing going with yoga and Davina’s 7 minute workouts, so I take my pick, usually based on whether I need to feel like I’m busting my ass, or if I need to re-centre and calm myself.

07:45 A quick shower freshens me up, blows the cobwebs away and really prepares me for the day ahead.

08:00 I tend to stick with one breakfast option if it works for me, and right now that’s a bowl of porridge (made with almond milk and a scoop of protein powder) with an apple chopped in.

08:10 I give my breakfast a little time to cool while I practise my German. I’ve been using the DuoLingo app and I’d recommend it to anyone. I studied German in school, so a lot of it is a refresher for me but it’s amazing to learn a different language.

08:15 I make sure I put my phone down so I can eat my breakfast peacefully, and consider how I’m feeling each day. Eliminating those distractions allows me the space to acknowledge anything that might be troubling me, and opens up the opportunity for thoughtfulness.

08:25 I cosy up with a cup of green tea and check my Instagram. A lot of the people I communicate with are in the US, so I like to address any overnight messages first thing in the morning to make sure I’m on top of everything.

08:30 I’m super lucky that I get to work from home, so I have the opportunity to really make the most of my time before work starts at 09:00. I spend this time knitting, reading, taking photographs or prepping the day’s meals and I can’t explain how much I value it!

It’s been a process to get my morning routine just right, and I do love a Sunday when I scrap the alarm and give myself a relaxing lie in,  but these positive, repetitive habits have had such an impact on my wellbeing that I can’t imagine giving them up!

Do you have a morning routine? What habits have you built to keep you feeling good? I’d love to know!