It’s interesting how, when you’re on the countdown to something, how quickly time goes, particularly when you’re not ready for it.
That’s how I feel about February; in March I’m giving an hour’s presentation on the tools and systems that I’ve put in place to enable me to be more mindful, focussed and resourceful with my time.
These are tools that I use on a daily basis – and ones that I came to rely on when I was working full time, but where 3.5 days of the week were taken up with cancer treatment. I didn’t just need to work harder – I needed to work smarter!
The extra hour to myself is spent wisely and broken down into 10-minute segments where I work through a range of actions known as ‘SAVERS’ – Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing.
I thought that each month I could write about each of the exercises and explain what I do and why. So, taking the first one – S for Silence: I only really started looking at meditation and mindfulness last year (the latter half) to help provide clarity and focus to my day. But it’s only since I’ve made this a daily habit that I’ve started to see many of the benefits that it can bring.
Not only has it been a great start to my morning – one that’s calm, collected and focused, I’ve also been more mindful of my emotions, how I feel physically and how my behaviour impacts others.
I used to flick between a few ‘assisted’ meditation apps on my phone, but I really like Andy’s voice from Headspace (I call it coffee voice as it’s smooth and reassuring), so I decided to bite the bullet and subscribe to the app for the year. And I’m really pleased I did – there are so many different types of meditative exercises to work through – and you can even join in live meditating with others if you so care.
Even if you just spend just a few minutes in the morning collecting you thoughts, focusing on your breathing and how you feel (rather than all the things you’ve got to do), it will provide an inner peace so that you can go about your day unrushed yet focused.
Out and about
This month I also managed to hook up with a couple of buddies in London and get myself over to Plant Powered Expo, which celebrates the best of plant-based living and showcases the latest plant-based products on the market.
The emphasis was on healthy living and we enjoyed looking round the stalls, discovering new products (I bought a couple of small beauty products) and listened to a presentation. It was an interesting presentation, one that Alex wrote about in more depth here.
I followed, understood and sympathised with most of what was being said, but there were question marks over some of what was stated – i.e. certain foods cause cancer. What the speaker failed to mention was anything about genes, DNA, environmental impacts etc… it was all down to the food, which was why it was possibly a little unbalanced. But, at the end of the day, it was just one person’s opinion.
The show was definitely an eye-opener though and I think next year it will be even bigger and better as the demand for plant-based diets continues to grow.
While I was at the show, I did come across something I’d been looking for that I hadn’t found anywhere…non-toxic nail polish!
And until this month I haven’t painted my nails since January 2019! At the show I came across a cosmetics company called Liv Oliv*. I got talking to the owner Sue, who explained that their products are cruelty-free, non-toxic and vegan.
The company’s nail polishes are 9-free, meaning that the products are free from nine nasty chemicals – tolune, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, camphor, Xylene, Ethyl tosylamide, Triphenyl phosphate and parabens.
The last one – the parabens – are particularly important to me having had breast cancer. As it says on Liv Oliv’s website: “… parabens are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking oestrogen. Too much oestrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumours, which is why paraben use has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues….”
Putting non-toxic nail polish on my nails has become very important to me since I was told I had cancer. In fact, clean living in general has become part of my lifestyle. I use non-toxic cleaning products, non-toxic beauty products and I’m mindful about what I put into my body. So meeting Sue was like a breath of fresh air.
With Liv Oliv nail polish, you use a base coast first, then the colour and finally a top coat. I was surprised that the nail polish didn’t smell much different to normal nail polish; I don’t know why but I was expecting a more ‘earthy’ smell.
The coats were easy to apply and I didn’t need a huge amount for the nail polish to go far. The colour I chose was Driftwood – a dark grey/brown colour if you like, quite apt for winter. My nails felt smooth and it was a good few days before I noticed the first chip. I’ve converted and would only ever opt for non-toxic nail varnish now.
Loving the telly!
Haven’t we got some great telly on at the moment? I’m in the middle of a few things including the latest series of Taken and The Rookie (with Nathan Fillion who I loved in Castle).
I finished watching You 2 (omg – when is the next series on?!), I started and finished two series of Bancroft, watched Deadwater Fell, was hooked on The Stranger (although the ending was a bit of a let down), have learned that a second series of BBC drama Liar is back on soon and the last series of Homeland is back (wooohooo!). I’ve also been enjoying Gogglebox and, right now, one of my favourite programmes is back on… Channel 4’s Hunted.
This year I’m putting myself out of my comfort zone. I’m going all out to do things I wouldn’t normally do. And one of these is to apply for Hunted. Whether or not I get on the show is irrelevant (although I would absolutely love it of course!), but the fact that I tried to get on is testament enough to show how serious I am about upping my game – because I’m here and I can.
The blog has been ticking along nicely and I’ve kept up the great work in uploading a blog post every week. Some weeks it has been a challenge – especially when juggling 101 other things – usually to do with the publishing business I own.
This month I wrote about things to do in St Albans (if you’ve never been you really must!), how I updated my kitchen on a shoestring (something to do with a few yellow accessories) and the top go-to rides at Phantasialand – a post I had been meaning to write for a while and finally managed to. If I can try and keep the blog a little varied as well (and this month has been good), then that’s another aim.
I haven’t been taking any offers for sponsored posts and collaborations recently, simply because I chose to concentrate on my business and things linked to the business, such as networking events and signing up to things like podcasts, panels and presentations!
I’m not sure how I’ve managed to do it, but I’m still no. 26 on the HIBS charts, despite not being on top of the whole social media thing on Twitter and Facebook. I think I’m doing well at Instagram, but keeping on top of all of them isn’t realistic, so I’m not beating myself up about it!
Something I have been doing every week is supporting a few friends on Instagram and their blogs – my ‘inner circle’ as I like to call them. I think half of them don’t know they’re part of my inner circle, but that’s okay. I’m just reading blogs I like to read and enjoying it when I can.
This month is the month I kick-started my 12-week (GP referred) training programme at the gym. I have to ‘check-in’ every week and have targets to aim for. On one of the days I overdid things a bit, spending an hour at the gym, half hour swimming and then an hour playing netball. I did my back in and spent the rest of the week doing nothing! That was a lesson learned!
The other thing I enjoyed this month that was a bit different was ‘Mindful Yoga’ (see the main picture of this post!). I belong to a small cancer support group and every month, the founder of the group – a really nice girl called Sarah – has been looking to get us a range of activities and experiences to try. She’s doing a fab job and I have to say – I’m so pleased we don’t just sit around a table and talk – as nice as this is sometimes, the talk usually comes back to just chatting about our treatment and sometimes it’s nice to escape that and talk about something new and exciting that we’re experiencing together.
At the last activity, Sarah got us to create mood boards. Sadly, I was verging on a migraine that day and couldn’t focus at all. But I brought the board home with me with the aim of giving it a go – and here it is!
It’s not the finished version as you can probably tell, but I’m pleased that I made time to do this – it was an enjoyable activity and it’s nice to have a focus and goal when I look at it now.
In terms of my other personal developments, I am doing a 5K Gung-Ho this year, have been invited on a panel to mark International Women’s Day at a local networking event and I’ve just been interviewed for a podcast where I chat about my publishing business and running a business with cancer. I’ve also got my presentation in a few weeks on how to utilise your time more effectively.
Now that my chemotherapy and radiotherapy are over, I’m doing less of the #BCDiaries on my Instagram stories – and more general updates. I still want to inform and educate others – and in the process provide ideas on how they can get the treatment they deserve.
On 27th February it was the one-year anniversary of me finding out that I had cancer. It was a poignant day looking back at what the last 12 months have brought – and how quickly the year has actually gone.
I have friends going through treatment now – and I keep being reminded of little things that I had forgotten about – like your nose running involuntarily when you least expect it (when you lose your hair when having chemo, this also means you lose the ones up your nose – so your nose will just start running!). But it’s interesting how quickly you adapt to new situations as you go along – and just learn to live with things.
Business is going well; well in the sense that I’ve been putting myself out there more and attending networking events. In fact, I’ve attended four this month – one a week! If anything, it just raises our brand awareness and gets our name out there.
I do need to cut back on attending these though – I’m thinking one or two a month at the most as it’s very time consuming.
This year my business partner and I are looking at expanding our little magazine and taking it to a neighbouring area. We’ve been deliberating over where to go for months now, but I think we might just have settled on a place, which is great news. Now it’s just a case of working out a timeline of what we need to do – and when. Hopefully, by the time summer is over we’ve got something off the ground.
Things I’m grateful for
Gratitude is something I practice every day. I fill in my 5 Minute Journal every morning and every night and have learned to acknowledge what I have and to be grateful for it.
I’m grateful that I can feel my fitness improving, week on week and that I can now go swimming again. When I had my picc line in I couldn’t go swimming and it used to annoy me, but now I can and I’m loving it. I also managed to play for 40 mins on the netball court the other week – for me that’s amazing.
Finally, I’m grateful for getting my MacBook back; enduring a week without it was tough, but I appreciate it even more mow!
My latest purchases
I have been trying to buy out of necessity rather than desire this month and I needed some new planners, so was thrilled to find some great bargains in TK Maxx.
On the left is a daily planner I picked up for £1.99, in the middle is The Art of Giving which contains 88 stickers, 58 gift tags, 20 gift cards, 6 gift wrapping papers and 2 single patterned sheets – not bad at all for £4.99 and then there’s the Mindfulness weekly planner, which I picked up for £2.99. Trust me, I’ll be getting full use out of all of these.
The Love, Beauty and Planet shower gels and shampoos were actually Christmas presents bought for me from VIP – and just in time with the shampoos as my hair has started to grow back after the chemo!
These products are great for a number of reasons. 1. The bottles are made with post-consumer recycled plastic. 2. The company is independently certified Cruelty-Free and Vegan by PETA. 3. The products do not contain any parabens or sulphate cleansers 4. Products are made up of at least 92% of naturally derived content (97% for shampoos)
Goals for the next month
- Continue to get fitter (naturally!)
- Give an awesome presentation at the conference (as long as it’s mega useful, has got some great tips and practical takeaway information that people can apply to their lives and business, I’m happy!)
- Read another book!
What are your plans for next month and what have you got to look forward to?
*I was given a sample of Liv Oliv nail polish to try in return for my honest opinion.
* This post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase what I've been buying or using I may receive a tiny commission. This doesn't affect your purchase price at all.
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