Some Good Things To Remember This Christmas

The big day is almost here! I hope that you’re reading this all wrapped up and cosy, with a nice beverage and plenty of chocolate around you.

Just before Santa busies himself with delivering presents, I thought I’d share a moment with you and remind you of some important things. Christmas is a brilliant time of year, but I want anyone reading this to know that it’s alright if things aren’t all that brill.

I’m not going to put a downer on the festivities! As you’re reading this, it’s incredibly likely that I’m lounging around in a festive onesie, drinking my twentieth cup of tea and stuffing chocolates into my mouth.

I just want to give anyone who needs it some peace of mind.

Now it’s Christmas, be kind to yourself and remember:

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT

I’ve talked about this before, but Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect. As long as you are happy and safe, then you’re doing it right.

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Yes, Christmas is all about being with loved ones but there comes a time when you need to be alone. Make sure you get a little bit of downtime during the celebrations, it’ll do your brain wonders.

MONEY ISN’T WHAT MATTERS MOST

In this social media age, showing off and comparison are everyday occurrences. It can be so easy to feel as though you’ve missed out when comparing yourself to strangers online and money is a huge factor in this. Strip things back and remember that Christmas isn’t a game to show how much money you can spend, but is instead a beautiful time to be close to those you love.

MAKE THE MOST OUT OF THE DAY

For me, this means going all in with the food because that is my favourite aspect of this season. But for others it may mean finally taking a day off, being with family or friends, treating yourself or just allowing yourself to enjoy a cheeky drink or sweet treat. Whatever you’re up to this Christmas, try to make the most of it.

IT’S ONLY ONE DAY

No matter what happens this Christmas, remind yourself that it’s only one day.

The sun will rise, and we will try again

#joinin

If you are dealing with loneliness this Christmas, sign up to Twitter and check out the #joinin campaign. Created by my favourite comedian Sarah Millican, this campaign allows people from all over the world to connect and make new friends during this festive seasons.


Merry Christmas friends!

I hope you have a magical, safe and very happy Christmas.

Thank you so much for reading.

Speak soon,

Rachael.

 

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3 Challenges I’m Setting Myself In 2019 | BECOMING BETTER

Christmas hasn’t even arrived, yet feels as though everyone is already preparing for the new year.

If you’re like me – nerdy, an organisation fanatic and (alright I’ll admit it) a bit of a perfectionist – then this time of year can be so much fun. There’s nothing better than a fresh start and the new year is the ultimate fresh start; the cleanest of slates.

I love reflecting and trying new things, so as you can imagine my brain is going mad right now. I’m constantly thinking about all of the events of 2018 – trying to decipher what when well for me this year and what certainly needs to change in 2019.

Like last year, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself and try to make the new year perfect because that never works for me. But I have come up with some challenges that I want to work on and complete throughout 2019.

I thought I’d share them with you today to potentially inspire you for the new year.

1. READ 5 CLASSICS

If you’ve been here before, then you know I am a massive reader. I managed to get my mojo back in the latter months of 2018 and reading is once again my favourite pastime.

In order to diversify my reading and to finally get through the huge pile of unread books I have on myself, I want to challenge myself to reading 5 classics throughout 2019.

2. STICK TO MY PRE-ASSIGNED BUDGET

Money is the main thing I want to focus on in 2019. After being unemployed for a short period this year, money has been something I have been constantly thinking about.

Being without money in 2018 made me realise how many bad spending habits I have. For 2019 I am going to organise myself a budget, set up some automated direct debits and get saving. I am entering 2019 as a freelancer so working on my income, saving and spending really needs to be a priority.

3. TRY A MEAT-FREE PERIOD

Throughout 2018 I have been trying to become better. I have made a commitment to myself to only buy and use cruelty-free makeup (check out my posts about that here) and I really want to take some steps towards making my wardrobe more ethical too.

The next step now then surely is my diet. Now I am not in a position to become a full-time vegetarian, but I would like to challenge myself to maybe having meat-free Mondays or a full month of no-meat.

Not only is this good for the environment (and therefore my guilt!) but will also force me to eat more veggies and mix up my meals.


What do you want to try in 2019?

If you have any other challenges I could try, or any tips on how to make what I’ve set for myself easier (especially with the budgeting!) then please let me know.

All the best friends!

Speak soon,

Rachael

Top 5 Mysterious Reads Of 2018 | What I’m Reading Wednesday

I’ve read a lot of pretty great books this year! Now is the time for me to get all reflective and attempt to make a big decision; what was my favourite book of 2018?

But while I’m not at that stage yet, I do have five incredible reads to share with you today.

By documenting my reading and my ratings for each book for the first time this year, I have discovered a pattern within what I like. I’ve discovered that my favourite kinds of books are mysterious reads. Those kinds of books where you normally have to wait until the end before everything falls in place.

I don’t really know why this is the case, but I do know that I’ve read some pretty great mysterious books so maybe that’s where the bias comes from.

Anyway, here’s my top five mysterious reads of 2018*:

1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine : Gail Honeyman

I read this book pretty early on in the year when it was making its rounds through the supermarket charts, and I simply adored it. Eleanor has quickly become one of my all time favourite characters and her story is just breathtakingly beautiful.

It’s ultimately a story about hope, recovery and making a fresh start – basically my favourite themes to a novel!

2. The Room By The Lake : Emma Dibdin

This was one of those books I picked up on a whim from a bargain book shop and had no idea that it would become one of my favourite reads of the year!

Without giving too much away, after all that’s the beauty of these stories, this book is the story of a girl who accidentally gets herself caught up in some kind of ‘retreat’ (read: cult).

It’s pretty dark and a very visceral story, at times I thought I could actually feel what the main character was going through.

3. Sharp Objects : Gillian Flynn

This is the most recent read from this list, despite the fact it’s been out for ages. I finally read Gone Girl in 2018 and immediately after wanted to try more of Flynn’s work.

I managed to grab a copy of this at a bargain book shop and simply devoured it. I know Flynn is kind of a divisive author, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read from her. This book in particular was so upsetting and dark, which is everything I love!

4. Everything I Never Told You : Celeste Ng

This book combines two of my favourite things in one; a mysterious read and unsolved mystery.

It is an incredibly moving and somewhat suffocating story of a Chinese-American family who’s daughter is found dead in a local lake. The story not only works to discover what happened to this character, but also goes so in depth with the family and every single detail is revealed.

It’s one of those slow-burn reads, but I couldn’t put it down. I simply had to know what happened to Lydia, even though it broke my heart.

5. After Me Comes The Flood : Sarah Perry

2018 really has been the year of bargain books for me! This was another amazing find in the sale section of a bookstore.

I don’t really know what attracted me to it at first, but when I read the blurb and found that it was about a man who simply walks away from his life, I knew I had to have it.

This one is certainly a slow-burn and the way the characters are it can sometimes feel frustrating to get through. Everyone is so eccentric and you know there’s more to the situation than they’re letting on, but it is so worth the wait.

If you’re a fan of cults and those kinds of organisations, this one has some of those dark overtones to it.


Those were some of my favourite reads of this year, from my new-found favourite genre.

If you have any recommendations of books you think I would like, please share!

Speak soon,

Rachael.

*affiliate links used

 

 

What To Do When Bad Things Happen At Christmas

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year – at least it seems that way, if you listen to the carols and pay attention to every bit of festive pop culture.

However, as we all know by now, that isn’t always true.

But why?! My inner child cries.

Because life doesn’t stop just because it’s Christmas. That includes the bad stuff too, unfortunately.

“IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!”

Now I adore Christmas. Truly I do, no matter how much I find myself identifying with the Grinch! Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year and I love nothing more than seeing my home and my city decorated with colourful lights, glitter and music. I love the festivities and the focus on family that this season brings.

But the older I get, the more I begin to see how stressful this time of year can be.

A huge factor of stress at this time of year is the pressure to make it perfect.

Perhaps it’s because it only comes once a year, or maybe it’s down to all the advertisements telling us we need this or that for the best Christmas ever, but this season can be so stressful purely because we think we have to make it perfect.

This pressures comes from everywhere (books, movies, television, billboards, shopping malls) and hits everyone. If you’re a parent, you need this toy to make your child’s Christmas. If you’re a newly-formed adult, you need to make sure you have this food or this decor to make your Christmas party perfect.

“LIFE DOESN’T STOP JUST BECAUSE IT’S CHRISTMAS”

No matter who you are, unless you’re a very small child perhaps, there’s no doubt that you’ll feel some sort of pressure this Christmas.

So when something goes wrong in our private lives, say it be a breakup, a family illness or a job loss, Christmas is perhaps the worst time for it to happen. Not only do these kind of issues have no place at Christmas time –  as the only issue you should face in this season is not being able to get the latest toy for your child, Jingle All the Way-style – but we also have less time to deal with them rationally.

At Christmas everyone is rushing around, trying to make sure they’ve got everyone’s presents, cards, the right food and are making this most out of the season. There’s far too much stuff going on for us to be able to process something bad happening.

At any other time of the year, although big issues like family illness or a job loss are certain to cause a lot of stress, we are able to process things a little better because we’re not bogged down with all the festive extras.

I don’t want to put a downer on Christmas, because it truly can be such a magical time of year for those who celebrate it, but I do want to shed some light on the fact that it won’t be perfect and sometimes, as much as we want to avoid it, bad things do happen.

If you are currently struggling with some issues right now, don’t let Christmas make you feel even worse. Sure it’s a shame that you’re missing out on fun stuff because you’re tied up in appointments, meetings or family things but just know that you’ll have your chance again.

“GET YOUR KINDNESS ON”

Christmas is here every year so it’s totally fine if you have a couple of not-so-great ones.

Ultimately, the main thing to accept is that Christmas can’t – and likely won’t – be perfect. Life doesn’t stop because it’s Christmas – so don’t worry, you’re not the only one dealing with shit right now.

The best thing to take away from this season, especially if you’re dealing with some nasty things, is kindness. If there’s anything a lifetime of Christmas movies and songs has taught me, it’s that this is the perfect time of year to get your kindness on.

Be a little gentler with your peers, your family and above all yourself this festive season. That’s the only way to go.

If you are struggling with stuff this season, my heart goes out to you. Please check the bottom of this post for some helpful links.

All my love and speak soon,

Rachael.


Helpful Links:

Call: 116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI)

Call: 0300 123 3393
Text: 86463

  • For loneliness or social issues on Christmas day, tweet #joinin for a large online gathering (not suitable for series issues, more of just a chat)

Remembering Loved Ones At Christmas | Festive Thoughts #6

Now I get that Christmas is meant to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ and I don’t want to take that away from anyone. But I do, and have been trying throughout this little series, want to highlight that it’s not like that for everyone.

A big thing about Christmas and this time of year in general is family. It’s the time of year where spending time with our loved ones is an essential and, although I personally think that’s a lovely thing, I understand that it’s not for everyone.

In some cases, we lose loved ones around this time of year and that takes a toll on all the festivities. Even if we don’t lose them at this time, Christmas is always a reminder of the people who we no longer have around us because of the emphasis on family time.

My family has been very unfortunate and we have lost a lot of loved ones over the years. Christmas, although it remains a happy time for us and certainly one of my favourites, is always a reminder of those people we miss.

I know it’s not the most fun thing to be discussing so close to the big day, but I think it’s important to highlight that Christmas isn’t always perfect.

I do think, regardless of what’s going on around you and who you may or may not have, that we should use the loss of our loved ones to remind us of how vital family is. Use this time of year to celebrate those you do have around you and make the most of the time you have together.

Some other things you can do to remember loved ones this Christmas is:

  • Add them to your decorations. We lost a great-aunt a few years back and she used to go all out at Christmas. We have now inherited some of her decorations (pictured) and putting them up among our own things allows us to reminisce and remember her in a wonderfully fond way.
  • Talk about it. Of course it’s hard and no one wants to be seen as a downer during this time of year, but talking about things is so important. Have a chat with your loved ones about how you’re feeling; share stories and anecdotes about your loved ones and have a laugh at all of the brilliant things they did.
  • Be understanding. Christmas can be a hard time of year for those who are missing people, and you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. Use this time to be there for your friends and family. Let them know that you are there to support them, to be a shoulder to cry on or to cheer them up if needed.

I know there wasn’t too much to this post, and I could have went more into detail with it. But being so close to Christmas and all I didn’t want things to be too heavy. I simply wanted to highlight the struggles some of us have and remind you that you’re not alone in them.

I hope you have a wonderful and happy Christmas.

Speak soon,

Rachael.

Small Things To Do For Yourself This Christmas | Festive Thoughts #5

I know it’s so cliche, but allow me this one – can you believe that Christmas is basically here now? I certainly can’t! Where is this month (read: year) going man.

Anyway, I was so pleasantly surprised with the response to my ‘pep talk’ post. It seems like so many of us are going through the same thing during this season and I wanted to keep this conversation going.

Of course, I’m leaving it a bit late but I feel like now is the time – more than ever – to emphasise the importance of self care. We’re so close to the big day and the pressure is on. You might have so many events, traditions and commitments coming up in the next few days and although I hope you’re excited for them, I totally get that it can be overwhelming sometimes.

Allow me to remind you of some small, simple things you can do for yourself to make you feel calm and positive. Sometimes just taking a step back is all that is needed.

  • Run yourself a hot bath and use some of your favourite products
  • Make yourself your favourite meal / order your favourite takeout
  • Read several chapters of a book
  • Listen to your favourite album all the way throughout without any interuptions
  • Change your bedding for a fresh nights sleep
  • Make yourself a cup of tea (or another beverage) and actually take the time to taste and enjoy it
  • Have an early night
  • Watch your favourite Christmas movie or Christmas special
  • Simply allow yourself to be on your own for a while

And most importantly:

DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF. PUT YOURSELF FIRST.

I hope you have a wonderfully relaxing evening. Sending you all the positive and calming vibes.

Happy holidays.

Speak soon,

Rachael.

Last Minute Christmas Gifts: A Gift Guide Inspo | Festive Thoughts #4

Buying Christmas presents, in my opinion, can either be a wonderful experience or the worst thing ever. There’s no in between. With the pressure of making sure the people actually like it, some money issues and the deadline, Christmas shopping can be a nightmare sometimes.

If this is how you’re feeling right now and you’re really not sure of what to buy anyone, I’ve come up with a little list of generic presents to try to help you on your way. These ideas can be tailored to suit anyone and any budget.

THE LIST

  • Pyjamas
  • Underwear / socks
  • Candles
  • Sweets / chocolate
  • Bath bombs / body products
  • Mugs
  • Hot chocolate / speciality tea
  • Stationary
  • Vouchers (Amazon, supermarkets or shopping centres for variety)
  • Headphones
  • Alcohol
  • Slippers

I’m aware that a lot of these choices may seem obvious, but I think they might help if you’re really struggling. Sometimes we get so stuck in our heads that we forget the basics and that’s what I was aiming for with this post.

I’ve tried to go for ideas that would work for anyone of mainly any age / gender, and of course you can (should!) tailor them to your loved ones as best you can.


I hope this helped you some how. Good luck with your shopping! In fact, let me know how far you’ve gotten with your gift shopping or even if you’ve started it at all.

Happy holidays and speak soon,

Rachael.

Here’s Why Christmas Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect| Festive Thoughts #3

As I’ve gotten older I’ve experienced more of a pressure, more stress, around this time of year. It actually really upsets me, because Christmas is my favourite holiday. But for the past few years or so I haven’t been able to fully enjoy it, as I am being bogged down with various pressures – all of which revolve around making Christmas ‘perfect’.

We see so many adverts, blog posts and messages about how to make this Christmas ‘the best one yet’ and, although I understand that these are serving a purpose, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed as the season goes on.

Christmas is a wonderful and fun time of the year, if it’s your kind of thing. But it can also come with a lot of commitments and expectations.

There’s expectations on how much money you should be spending; how many gifts you should give or receive; how many relatives or friends you should see and so on. The list is basically endless and the older I’ve gotten, the more expectations I seem to find.

Especially considering I am someone who is obsessed with all things social media. We all know how equally amazing and damaging these platforms can be sometimes, in terms of only seeing the highlights of other people’s lives. And, in some cases, this is just vamped up over the Christmas period.

Of course, it’s lovely to share what you’re getting up to and showing off your decorations, presents and events. I love a good Instagram post or tweet declaring what festive treats I’ve been up to! But I feel like this constant feed of ‘perfect’ images and ideas can really get in the way of your personal enjoyment – of all things, not just Christmas.

But because it only happens once a year, there is this daft pressure to make sure that your festive period is full of parties, events, family and decorations and if you’re not doing it like everyone else then surely you must be wrong.

I think we sometimes forget that life doesn’t just stop because it’s Christmas.

Unfortunately issues or things don’t just go away because a special holiday is coming up. Many of us still have work commitments, families to take care of, health issues and so on that may hinder us from going in full force with all the festive stuff.

I just wanted to write this post to remind myself and anyone else who may have stumbled across it, that Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect. Yes it can still be fun and enjoyable, but there may be some things that get in the way at times and that’s okay. You may have other commitments that need to come first, like looking after yourself. 

Maybe you can’t get involved fully with the festive spirit like you really want to and that’s okay. Here is our reminder that we might as well make most of the moments we do have, while still getting stuff done in the meantime.

Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re struggling managing all the pressure and commitments, take a breather and remember; it’s just another day.

Enjoy yourself as much as you can, take a break when you get the chance and stay safe.

Happy holidays.

Speak soon,

Rachael.

Five Things EVERYBODY Can Enjoy This Christmas | Festive Thoughts #2

This time of year can definitely be a hit or miss for some people. Although it can be easy to imagine that everyone in the world celebrates and loves Christmas, it’s just not true.

For some people it’s a religious thing, as I think we seem to forget that Christmas is a relgious holiday and not everyone is about that. For some people it’s a deeper, more personal issue. And for some it’s just not their cup of tea and that’s it.

But regardless of what you think about Christmas, there are some things about this whole season that I think we can all enjoy. Like…

THE FOOD

It may sound a bit daft, but I honestly think my favourite thing about this entire season is the food. As soon as winter hits, it seems like all everyone wants to do is huddle indoors and scoff chocolate. Which, if we’re being totally honest, is how I like to spend all of my time throughout the year anyway so it’s no surprise that winter is my favourite time!

Everything from the family packs of sweets to miniature party food (mini burger, anyone?) just makes my heart – and tummy- happy and I feel like all my fellow foodies can feel the same.

FAMILY TIME

Now this one is a little more specific, as I understand that not everyone has a great family life. But the fact that this whole season is about spending quality time with our loved ones, sharing, caring and all that good stuff, is amazing and something we should definitely do more throughout the year.

No matter how you feel about Christmas or who it is you have around you, taking some time out to just be together is a lovely thing to do. I am a huge family person so this one is definitely an important factor for me!

THE DECORATIONS

Again, regardless of what you actually think about Christmas or whether you even celebrate it there’s no escaping the festivities whenever you leave your house.

From the end of November fairy lights and decorations begin appearing everywhere – on the high street, in shops and even in our workplaces – and despite what you actually think about this season, I’m sure we can all admit that it makes everything look so damn pretty!

I personally love seeing the transformation in my city and my home. Somehow, adding fairly lights to things just makes them instantly look more attractive, don’t you think? And when the days are short and the nights are dark, having lots of pretty lights around to brighten things up is just so lovely.

BEING COSY (HYGGE)

On the note of things being cold and dark, winter is the perfect time to snuggle up and spend a lot of time indoors. And once again this is how I like to be all year round, so it’s wonderful that everyone joins in at Christmas!

Staying at home, wrapped in a blanket burrito is my ideal situation and in winter there often isn’t any other activity that will suffice. Even if you’re the biggest extrovert / party animal out there, you can definitely still appreciate a cosy night in.

CELEBRATING

And finally, regardless of whether you actually celebrate Christmas day specifically, now is the perfect time to get involved with celebrations anyway.

Celebrate the fact that you’ve made it through another year; celebrate all of your achievements; celebrate the people around you. Get jolly about the fact a fresh start is coming up and another chance for to you tackle all of your goals is on the horizon.


Whatever you choose to do, I hope you have a wonderful time. Stay safe and happy holidays!

Speak soon,

Rachael.

 

 

Lessons Learnt From 2017 | Festive Thoughts #1

This past year has been a mad one, don’t you think? I know how cliche it is to say this but it has honestly gone so fast – I don’t think I can even process the fact that 2017 is soon to be over!

To be totally honest with you, this year has been full of extreme highs and lows. And although it’s been a strange thing to go through, 2017 has provided me with so many learning curves and lessons to take along to the new year.

So what better way to celebrate the fact we’ve made it through another year, then to share what this one has taught me?

SELF – CARE IS HARD SOMETIMES

Contrary to what Instagram will tell you, self – care isn’t always face masks and Lush products. Of course it can be this, but there is so much more to looking after yourself then the luxury stuff and I think that’s hit me hard this year.

Sometimes, self – care can mean letting go of old friends who are no longer serving you or make you feel good, or sometimes we can lose friends when we put ourselves first. Both are painful and difficult situations to go through but are so worth it in the long run.

2017 taught me that I need to get serious about my self – care and I need to put myself first, or else I can’t be there for anyone else.

YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS IMPORTANT, GODDAMMIT!

On a similar note, this past year has taught me that I need to practice what I preach when it comes to mental health and looking after yourself.

I am often very public about caring for mental health and I am the first to encourage my loved ones to take care of themselves. But for the longest time I didn’t take my own mental state seriously – and how that’s come to bite me on the arse this year!

2017 taught me that, regardless of how you’ve been in the past, you do have a mental health and it is something that needs to be taken seriously. Take care of yourself, be honest and seek help if you need it. We all struggle sometimes.

HARD TIMES = GROWTH, BUT OH HOW IT SUCKS!

Can you tell that this has been a little bit of a difficult year for me? 🙂 But as I said in the beginning, I’m actually feeling quite grateful for it all, as it’s allowed me to grow and learn so much.

Because this year has been so full of extreme highs and lows, I’ve learnt that you only really grow during difficult times. It’s those times that allow you to really get deep with yourself. You’ll learn how you cope, what triggers you, what makes you feel good and so on. But even though I know how beneficial these hard times can be, it doesn’t stop them sucking and it doesn’t stop the negative impact is has on me in the current moment.

2017 taught me how to cope better with hard times, how to lift myself back up and the signs to look for when things start going downhill again.

SOMETIMES YOU NEED THE DULL MOMENTS IN LIFE

Like I keep saying, there’s been some extreme highs and lows this year. One of which was my graduation in July, which was definitely a high! I had worked so hard for so long to get to that moment and although it was wonderful, and I still can’t believe I have a degree in a subject I love, life suddenly got in the way again.

I felt so underwhelmed for such a long time. After all that hard work, effort and fun I was now back at home, working in retail and, along with a bunch of other obstacles, I’ve found myself feeling like a failure for the past six months or so.

But being out of education and being away from creative/productive work has allowed me to relax and get a grip on my life again. University was a wonderful experience for me, but it also came with it’s difficulties and I now understand that I’ve needed some time away just to live. To get back in touch with myself, so to speak.

2017 taught me that there is value to every season of life. Comparison certainly is the thief of joy and just because your journey differs from those around you (or online!) doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Take things at your own pace and stop being so hard on yourself.


So there we have it! This has been a bit of a personal post and basically a summary of my 2017. How was yours?

Happy holidays!

Speak soon,

Rachael.