goals

Four Simple Goals… Before 2014.

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So my condition seems to be continuing to get worse, my pain levels are heightened, I have sharp stabbing pain in the base of my spine, I usually wake up with a head ache, and my energy levels are pretty low. In an effort to think positively and try to enjoy life despite all of that I thought I’d write about my current goals.

I was reading Elanor’s blog blueeyedgirlstrikesback and came across a post which she wrote, inspired by a post from A Beautiful Mess.

The rules, created by Elsie, are as follows:

1. Choose simple goals that will make your life richer and happier on a daily basis. Choose things you may not otherwise get done but are not difficult to accomplish.

2. Do not choose result oriented goals. Choose activity oriented goals. For example, instead of “lose 10 pounds”, choose something like “eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day”. Get what I’m saying? Positive actions instead of just the end result!

3. Choose personal goals you believe will truly make your life richer just by doing them! They can be daily, weekly or one time experiences.

4. Choose a reward for each goal as it is accomplished! It can be a small or large reward—it’s up to you.

5. Blog about your goals, each one as you achieve it and a big post when they are all finished before the new year! 

It would be easy to make goals which relate to my work, but I have so many writing and research related goals this semester already and rule number one states that my goals should make me happier. Whilst finishing all of my uni work will of course be a positive thing, I’d argue it isn’t about making myself happier.

I definitely have a tendency to make myself target orientated goals, things which have a structured method to achieve them and a finite ending but I rarely set myself more abstract, action orientated goals so I enjoyed this challenge. It wasn’t easy to create goals which didn’t have a completely set aim but it was a refreshing change. Here are my four goals:

1. Listen to my body more. I love my food but sometimes I think this impairs my judgment of when I am actually hungry and when I am actually full whilst I am eating. My younger sister has always been very good at only eating when hungry and stopping the minute she is full and this is something I want to teach myself.

2. Sing. Music, but more specifically singing has always made me happy. I can escape into the melody and the lyrics, express myself through the song. Although I have never really enjoyed singing for an audience because of nerves I had singing lessons for years and just adored singing for myself. I haven’t been singing much recently and I want to allow myself to find my voice again without the pressure of exams and concerts. What better time of year to do this than now with Christmas carols just around the corner?

3. Take more photos. My wonderful camera has been sadly neglected recently and I want to get back into taking more photos of daily life. It’s coming to Rome with me this weekend and I’m sure the beauty of the city will inspire me again.

4. Stretch daily. I look after my body as much as I can, it’s the only real way I have of trying to combat my condition, but I have to admit I haven’t been making much of an effort to take the time to stretch out my body everyday. It’s relaxing to do so it fulfills two positive purposes.

In accordance with the rules I will blog about achieving my goals and think up some nice rewards for when I do!

Let me know if you set yourself any goals this year too and whether you prefer target or action orientated goals 🙂

Sophie x

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Summer Goals – Be More, Do More.

So this year, I didn’t set myself any new year’s resolutions. I decided that I didn’t want to make myself a list of things to achieve, a list of things that needed to be ticked off or I’d have failed. Who wants that kind of pressure? Instead, I resolved to throw myself into new opportunities and to maybe push myself a little more out of my comfort zone.  Now, almost halfway through 2013, I feel like I’m doing well. I have definitely welcomed new challenges and made the most of any opportunity given to me: I’m moving out to live with friends next year despite that not having originally been on the cards, I’ve made scary decisions about forging ahead with my plans for the future (more on that later!), and I’ve challenged myself to live more for the moment and more like a 20-year old and not an 80-year old!

Despite this talk of no lists, I now feel as though it is time to write myself some new goals. I have four months of time off university ahead of me and I have so much to do that I can’t let the time just disappear. So these are my aims for the months ahead, they are not concrete or particularly quantifiable but they will give me some focus and make everyday more motivational.

Read everyday!  The thing I miss most during term time is being able to read whatever I fancy. My weeks are consumed by the texts on my reading list, and not all of them are very enjoyable, I’m left with almost no time to read purely for pleasure. So this summer I have a huge reading list all of my own and I will be writing lots of blog posts reviewing those that I enjoy the most.

Make the most of the sunshine. Recently we have been enjoying lots of lovely sun and it’s marvellous. I’m already a little browner because I’m spending every minute that I can outside to make the absolute most of it. What this goal is really about is spending more time outside. I love being outdoors, especially when it’s a little warmer, and I really want to get all of the fresh air and sunshine that I can.

Get set for the future. I won’t go into this one too much as I’m going to write a post about it but I’m aiming to make some more finite plans for my future after graduating, I’ve never really known what I wanted to do but I’m starting to find my feet in the world and figure out what I want in life!

Research. As I am about to embark into my third, and final, year of my degree I now have my dissertation on the horizon. I want to combine two of my interests and explore the ideas about food and self-starvation in literature and this summer is the time for research, research and more research.

Look healthy, feel good, act confident. During exams I tend to eat more and gravitate towards more unhealthy food, I don’t really mind or feel guilty because I have more important things to focus on then, but now that I am finished for the year I’m back to my healthy choices and I’ve started lifting weights again. I have the most gorgeous red bikini and I want to be able to lounge by the pool run around on the beach and feel confident with my body and my own image!

Have fun. One of my closest uni friends, Sophie, is staying here to work during the summer, all of my friends from home are back, Tom is here (or I’m in London) on the weekend, and my sister and best friend, Alice, is here too. Friendships are so important and I cherish every single one of them, this summer I want to make the most of what is possibly our last shared summer holiday and do lots of fun things. Day trips, coffee dates, picnics, nights out, I want to see everyone and just enjoy the time off 🙂

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So here you have my goals or resolutions for the summer months ahead. I have a feeling it’s going to be a wonderful time, I’m so blessed to have so much. I hope you are all having a really lovely week! I’d love to hear your summer plans! Are you going on holiday? Or doing anything exciting in the next few months?

Sophie x

In Search of the Perfect Loaf.

Well hello there!

Today I am writing this post whilst feeling just a little too proud of myself.

Why you ask? Because today, not only did I get to cross something off my 20 Before Twenty list, I also made three delicious loaves of bread.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know I love to bake, if I had the time and the money (and the stomach capacity!) to bake everyday I think I probably would. I love creating pretty cupcakes, moreish cookies, the perfect afternoon tea sponges, anything with chocolate, muffins, traybakes, the list goes on… One thing that I had never tried my hand at before was baking bread. Of course I’d made bread as a young child with my parents but I doubt I did much of the work, I think the sum of my contribution probably amounted to sticking my hands in the dough and decorating the bread with seeds!

So today, as I didn’t really have any plans, I thought it would be the perfect day to give it a go.

A simple loaf of bread isn’t the most difficult thing to bake, but it does require a lot of time and it is a rather scientific process. It isn’t the ideal thing to bake if your someone who doesn’t like to follow recipes or measure ingredients. Or if you have no arm strength 😉

Luckily for me, I had this book to follow:

The River Cottage Bread Handbook No.3.

It’s a brilliant book with a great section at the beginning full of information on all of the typical bread ingredients, advice and a run-through of the proper method for making bread. I just followed the basic bread recipe which is recommended if it is your first time making bread.

I think kneading is my absolute favourite part of the bread making process. It’s hard work but it is just so therapeutic. You just let your mind drift and the methodical and repetitive action of pushing your hand into the dough relaxes you. I also love watching the dough gradually come together, it’s rather satisfying.

I was so pleased with my little loaves when they were ready to go in the oven, they looked more like proper loaves than I imagined! I think it’s the cuts across the top…

The entire time the loaves were in the oven I was terrified that they wouldn’t work out properly but when the timer beeped I was ecstatic! Don’t they just look beautiful? And the loaf that we ate with dinner tasted pretty good too.

Sorry if I sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet a little, I am just so chuffed with how this turned out! They are by no means perfect though so I have plans to bake bread again in the near future, probably more than once 😉

Have you ever made bread before?
Does baking with yeast make you more nervous?
What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever baked?

Practice Makes Perfect.

The phrase “practice makes perfect” is usually applied to scenarios where someone is learning something or training in some way but here I mean it in a slightly different sense.

As those of you who read my blog know, I have been battling chronic pain and chronic fatigue for several years now and it is an ongoing fight. (If you are new to my blog and want to know about this then I suggest you read this post to learn a little more!)

At the moment I’ve been seeing the Pain Clinic and the physio and we have had many discussions about where my future lies, what I can do to keep fighting and making progress, and how I can work on making myself better and living as normally as possible. I am not going to lie, I feel that my chronic condition has really held me back over the past year, with my health deteriorating so much in the first term of my first year at uni the year did not go how I expected or planned.

Being on holiday and back at home has made me all the more determined to get better. In September Tom is starting his first full-time job and will be moving to London and I want to be able to visit him easily and do lots of fun things. In October I start classes at my new university and I want to be able to throw myself into my course and into extra-curricular activities. I have plans to volunteer at a primary school and maybe with a charity, I want to have the energy for that. I am going to join the local gym and I want to be able to go regularly for proper workouts.

I know, that’s a lot of ‘I wants’. But the thing is for the past year, longer really, I’ve just been settling. Settling for things which aren’t as I planned, settling for something less than I hoped for, settling for a life I wasn’t 100% happy and fulfilled by.

Whilst I know that I will probably have to live with chronic pain and fatigue for the rest of my life, that doesn’t mean they have to completely dictate my life and it’s within my power to live life to the full as much as possible. I don’t want to spend my life regularly relying on people to help me with things, having to constantly make compromises and not being able to do the things I love.

I am not in denial. I know how difficult this is going to be and I know that there will be days and even sometimes weeks when I struggle and feel awful but I don’t have to constantly live as though I am an invalid.

With chronic conditions there are always periods of remission followed by periods of relapse, it’s just the way things are. I just want the remission to be the more significant part of my life. I want to feel healthy and able-bodied, I want to be happy with myself.

This is where the practice comes in.

Recovery and remission is not instant. It doesn’t just suddenly all clear up. Although some of it is just down to your body working better, a lot of it is down to the individual. Healthy living is so important for combating chronic fatigue and exercise really helps with the pain too. Equally your mental attitude can make an enormous difference to how you feel physically.

If I were to give into the pain and exhaustion, to just let my family, friends and Tom do everything for me, if I didn’t push myself to work, to study and to pursue my hobbies, I have absolutely no doubt that I would be worse and this is something my pain consultant wholeheartedly agrees with. It isn’t easy, you have to work past the lower levels of tiredness and aching. But it’s so worth it to be able to live the life you enjoy.

So I will practice pushing myself in a healthy way; not going to extreme to the point that my energy levels drop below around 20% or my pain levels rise above 8/10, but merely gradually doing more.

I will have goals to work towards, building up my physical ability and my day-to-day energy levels. I will make life worth living. I will live the way I love to be, I will make the most of all of the wonderful positive things I have and I will be healthy and happy.

will beat this.

Goal Check-In.

I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging that regularly for the past week, as many bloggers say I’ve been taking time off to enjoy life and it feels pretty good. I have lots too share with you and tomorrow I will have a post for you full of photos of delicious food. Today however I thought I would let you know how my June Goals are progressing…

Read at least 4 books – I finally finished reading Vanity Fair a couple of days ago, I’m pleased with myself for plowing through as it felt like it would never end! It was fairly enjoyable though as I enjoy Victorian literature and it is interesting to be able to compare it to both Dickens’s Bleak House and Eliot’s Middlemarch. I am currently reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho which is really a fantastic book and short too which makes a nice change.

Try a new baking recipe – I haven’t been home yet so this has not materialised but I have plans so watch this space.

Go the entire month without biting my nails – I’m pleased with how this is going, I’ve bitten one of my thumbnails a bit but I bought a beautiful new Models Own nail varnish in the colour Golden Peach. Having nail varnish on definitely helps to remind me not to bite and about half of my nails are starting to look quite nice.

Work on my strength – this has been a little more difficult than I anticipated, mostly because I’ve been feeling pretty exhausted from all of the walking we’ve been doing which is at least 3 miles a day. I have done a few exercises here and there but I’m struggling so I will wait a little and work on this more once I am back home.

Journal more regularly – this has to be my favourite goal this month. I don’t write in my journal everyday but instead write several pages as and when the mood takes me. You all know that I love to write and filling the pages of my black leather-bound diary makes me happy. I love the way it feels to hold a pen in my hand and I enjoy pouring my thoughts down onto paper. I will probably never read back what I write but it helps me to process my feelings.

Did you set yourself any goals for the month? How are they progressing?
Any suggestions for what I should read next?

What have you been doing this week? 

Getting on with it.

Sometimes, when people find out I have a chronic condition, they ask endless questions (not that I mind) and often the response I get is “How do you deal with all of that? I think I’d just want to die!”

In many ways it’s not really a very helpful response although part of me is grateful to them for realising just how much it can be a struggle. However, I always answer in the same way.

You just have to suck it up and deal with it. 

Life won’t just sort itself out.

It’s down to you.

I know that sounds tough, and goodness knows it rarely feels that simple. But the fact is that millions of people deal with illness, injuries and disability everyday of their lives and if everyone went around complaining or just gave in, the world would be a sorry place.

I’m not going to lie, sometimes (especially recently) I just want to curl up into a ball and cry, I just want to give up, to take time away from everything, to slip into a state of numbness. But you can’t, that isn’t how life works. You have to be strong for other people, and for yourself.

You never know what is going to happen, sometimes life throws things at you which quite frankly suck. I should know 😉 What I’ve come to learn though, is it’s much less about what happens to you and much more about how you deal with it, it’s about not giving up.

Lately, I’ve not been feeling very well. You may have noticed that I’ve been fairly absent from the blogworld, I’m behind on writing posts and I haven’t been commenting on all of your fabulous blogs as often as usual. My energy levels have been incredibly low, it takes all of my effort to go into town for a few hours and I wake up in the morning feeling as tired as when I went to sleep in the first place.

Obviously feeling like this has in turn left me feeling quite down. It’s hard to stay positive when it feels like you’re struggling with everyday tasks and exams are approaching.

But I don’t want to let myself sink into a pool of negativity, when I start feeling down like this I know I have to pick myself back up because it would be so easy to end up feeling far worse by lack of productivity and distraction.

So I’m making the active decision to make myself better.

I’m clearly not talking about my actual physical issues here. Other than doing my physio everyday there isn’t much I can do there to improve things, I’ll leave that to the professionals. But I can do a lot to improve how I feel and to improve the way I deal with my condition.

Starting today I am going to do several things, each and everyday.

  1. Productivity. I am going to make sure I do something everyday, being productive makes me feel more positive.
  2. Activity. I am going to do something active everyday – whether it is just a little walk, a bike ride or a strength workout, doing something physical always helps my energy levels (as long as I don’t overdo it obviously!).
  3. Eat well. Pretty self-explanatory. I have been eating pretty well lately, a good balance of healthy and delicious which always helps me feel better.
  4. Read and write. Although I’ve been working a lot, I’ve actually managed to find the time to read for pleasure and it’s a great way of distracting myself when the pain becomes too much. I also bought myself a new moleskin journal and I want to start journaling again because I like using the time to reflect.

Hopefully these four little goals will help me build my positivity back up!

I also want to get back into blogging and everything this wonderful community involves again. I’ve missed it, despite just feeling a bit too rubbish and I’m going to make a big effort to post more 🙂

When you feel down what do you do to bring yourself back up?
Any words of advice for me?

What are your plans for this coming weekend? 

March Goals + Coffee.

Well today has been rather nice considering that there has been a throbbing pain shooting up and down my spine all day.

I actually managed to wake up a little before my alarm which was set for 8am (almost never happens to me!) and got up and ready with surprising ease. I think that I’m going to have to talk to the doctor and maybe experiment a bit with the dosage of my amitriptyline because I really do wake up much more easily when I haven’t taken it.

Today is a simple day clothes and makeup wise. I’ve decided that I am going to minimise my makeup routine and start buying fewer but better quality products. Sometime soon I’ll do a post to show you what is currently in my makeup bag. I’ve pretty much made the same decision regarding clothes because wearing nice clothes makes me feel nice and I don’t feel that my style currently reflects my personality. When I was a bit younger I was really passionate about fashion and had a pretty stylish wardrobe (closet) and somehow that love just got pushed aside by schoolwork, exams, my singing etc. I want to rekindle this passion again, I’m aware that some people find a love of clothes to be materialistic but I know that wearing lovely clothes makes me feel good about myself. Ergo, it’s a positive thing in my mind.

I enjoyed a breakfast whilst staring out of the window at the beautiful blue sky. Lovely weather almost never fails to put me in a good mood, does it do that for you?

A bowl of weetabix mush (that old favourite – what can I say nothing compares!) with some really juicy raisins and skim milk. It’s so filling, the perfect start to any day really.

My morning was spent in a rather warm lecture theatre. It was a really interesting lecture, I took five pages of notes, but the lecturer has one of the most monotonous voices I think I’ve ever heard. Enough to put one to sleep. So it took a lot of effort to remain alert for the entire hour and a half. Ah uni life, so tough 😉

Once home I set about reading this book:

Shame – Salman Rushdie. It’s an interesting book to read although I did have reservations because of the author…

I then cooked up a light lunch (I knew I was going for coffee and cake later!)

Veg stir-fry, does me nicely as a quick and tasty bowl of vegetables. I always use sesame oil when I cook stir-fries, it gives the whole thing such a lovely toasted sesame flavour.

Spent more time reading, tidying and working in the afternoon (couldn’t quite summon up the energy to do the laundry!) until meeting a friend for coffee nearby.

I love this coffee shop, it serves really good coffee plus it’s perfectly positioned so you can sit in comfy sofas and peer out of the window.

I got a cinnamon and hazelnut latte and a slice of banana cake (bliss) and Chloe got… a beer! I love that girl. To be fair, it was almost evening. Almost 😛

Anyway, enough about my day. This month, as it’s the last 4 weeks of term before the Easter holidays, I’ve decided to set myself some goals. I enjoy creating goals and they definitely motivate me.

March Goals.

Lose 2kg. I know, excluding this revealing post, I never talk about weight on this blog. However this is something I really want to strive for this month. The number itself isn’t that important, if I look and feel thinner and, more importantly, healthier, then that’s the main thing. But just as I like making goals for myself, it helps to have such a definite target, I’m much less likely to ‘fall off the wagon’ this way.

Complete all of my work for this term. Although I have not been very well and I am struggling physically already, it is really important to me that I complete all of my work and don’t fall behind. I will get extensions for most of my deadlines so that should help. Whilst I love reading it is actually surprisingly difficult to keep up with. This week for example I have two novels and two plays to read in their entirety as preparation for various lectures or seminars. To some that probably sounds crazy and to others easy but when you have a condition like mine it’s difficult to work for hours at a time. I struggle with reading for extended periods of time as I end up getting dizzy and no sitting positions are very comfortable.

Read 2 books purely for pleasure. Again to some two might seem like an insignificant number but bearing in mind how much I have to read for my course I’ll be incredibly pleased if I manage to read for pleasure at all. So with this in mind I think two is a good number to strive for.

Bake at least once. I’ve realised that I haven’t baked anything for weeks! This saddens me greatly so I’m going to make it my goal to bake at least once. I love baking, I find it so therapeutic and relaxing, I don’t know why I don’t do it more. I want to branch out more and try baking new things, I’ve become an expert on cupcakes, I bake a mean cookie and I’m pretty good with cakes and banana breads but there are so many bakes I’ve yet to try my hand out. Watch this space 🙂

Craft a present for Tom for our anniversary. This is pretty self-explanatory. I used to love making things as a child and I want to create something special for him to treasure and to celebrate four years together (no I can’t believe it’s been that long either!).

Have you made any goals for the month? If so, what are they?
Do you prefer going for coffee or for a beer?
Have you read Shame? What did you think of it?