Travel Diary – Sunny Beach, Bulgaria

So I’ve just spent two weeks in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria and throughout my stay I was getting so many questions from my Instagram followers about the resort that I decided to compile all of the info and my thoughts right here!

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First of all, I stayed at the TUI Family Life Nevis resort. We had an all-inclusive package so all food and drinks in the resort were free. We got a TUI transfer bus from the airport to the hotel and it was about a 40 minute journey along the coastline, so very scenic.

The Reception

When we arrived I was immediately impressed. The reception area was huge, modern, clean and comfortable. It (like everywhere else) was heavily air conditioned too so we could get a much-needed break from the 32 degree heat. We checked in quickly and a bell boy took our bags and walked us to our room.

The Room

Our room was perfect. It overlooked the spa pool (yes – there’s a spa but I didn’t get around to using it) which was really pretty at night when it was lit up. The room was definitely small but not tiny and we had more than enough storage space for the two of us. The bed was comfy, air-con worked really well, the walk in shower was nice and powerful and overall I have nothing bad to say about any of it. It was a happy little home for us while we were there.

The Pools

There were four outdoor pools and one indoor one. The main pool is enormous. I mean, enormous. It also had adults pool slides behind it. The only other pool we visited was a smaller kids pool that had kids slides and climbing areas in it. The other pools looked great and seemed much quieter but we were happy to hang out at the main pool everyday in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. I was really happy to see that they allowed inflatables in the pools too. The only downside was the sun beds which were crap really.

The Food

Beside the main pool was an indoor snack bar. From 10am to 6pm it was constantly stocked with salads, fresh fruit, burgers and chips etc, grilled fish and meat and more alocholic and non-alcoholic drinks than you could possibly imagine. In the afternoon they started cooking fresh Belgian waffles and I cannot possibly explain how delicious they were. I mean – there are no words. And it was all free. There was a seating area inside the bar and outside it, but you could also bring your snacks/drinks down to the pool area.

There was also a main restaurant which opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a cafeteria-style set up inside with nicely laid tables out on the balcony so you got more of a high-end restaurant feel. Honestly I can’t fault the food they served. There was an INSANE amount of choice for every meal and everything was delicious. Our only problem was knowing when we were too full to eat another bite and stopping ourselves from going to get more.

The Shop

There was a small shop near the main pool area that stocks all of the usual things; toiletries, inflatables, small toys, lots of alcohol, chocolate and ice creams and crisps, flip flops, sunglasses, sun hats, postcards, cigarettes etc. It had everything that you’d need it to have – but not atm (although it did take card).

The Entertainment

This is very much a family resort that’s focused on kids and so, there was an entertainment show on every night. They had a really cool outdoor amphitheater with a bar and lots of seating around it. The shows varied from night to night. The best one was probably the fire-eating dancers. But every night was good craic. And the kids just lapped it up. They’d all go right down to the area in front of the stage and sit and watch the show while the adults chatted, had a few drinks and watched the sunset behind the stage. It was really nice.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go if you don’t have kids though. Sunny Beach strip is just 15 minutes walk away or a 5 minute taxi ride and there are more bars and clubs there than you could ever need. So, whether you have kids or not, there’s plenty to keep you busy at night.

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Day Trips

There were loads of day trips on offer but we really only did two.

On one day we went to the aquapark and it was AMAZING. At the center of the park was a pool bar where you could get a huge range of cocktails. Right in front of the bar was an enormous ship that acted as a stage for a band – band isn’t the right word because these guys were absolute entertainers. They were dressed as pirates, but not kids pirates, more like edgy adult pirates and they were singing everything from Nirvana to The Prodigy. It was a bit mad, but brilliant. Then they had competitions where they got people up from the bar to do tugs of war and slightly x-rated balloon bursting competitions. It was really funny to watch as you chilled in the water, sipping your mojito! Besides that there was about a million slides and pools and snack areas etc. It was by far the best water park I’ve ever been to, and the rest of the family agreed!

On another day myself and Rosie visited Nessebar – a nearby fishing town. We took an open top bus from Sunny Beach Central and the journey was about 25 minutes along the coast. Nessebar itself is really pretty. It kind of reminded me of Marbella old town. The buildings are very traditional, there are flowers everywhere, the restaurants all serve fresh fish brought in on fishing boats that morning, and the harbor was just gorgeous. It was really stunning. We pottered around, taking it all in, buying fridge magnets and the usual holiday crap before having a delicious seafood dinner that was unbelievably cheap. To finish it all off, we took a water taxi back to the resort which cost about €1 each. HIGHLY recommend.

My brothers went quadding through the mountains on another day and they loved it. There was also tonnes of water sports along the beach that we never got around to trying. Honestly, the pool was just too relaxing to be bothered but I would have loved to give paragliding a go.

Other Bits

I don’t know what else to say, except that we had a fantastic two weeks. The staff were lovely and even though Rosie decided not to bother with the kids clubs, they looked like loads of fun. Everything in Bulgaria is suuuuuuper affordable. Taxis are a bit mental though – the Bulgarians seem to see driving as a sport. The weather was HOT at between 30 and 34 degrees everyday.

When the time finally came to pack up and head home, none of us were too happy. We all would have stayed for another week and I’d happily go back again.

My Favorite Products For Travelling

So I’ve been away for three weeks now – how lucky am I? Two weeks with my Dad’s family in an all-inclusive resort in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria was followed by a week in Pettenasco, Northern Italy for my cousin’s wedding. It’s been a pretty good month. But when you’re jetting off for a while it can be really tricky to figure out what you’ll need and what you won’t. And we all know how important it is to stay below that crucial baggage allowance!

With that in mind and knowing that many of you are still to go on your summer holiday, I thought I’d let you guys know what products I used most when away in the hopes that it might help you make the most of your packing and your trip!

Skin Care

My skin care routine at home is quite long and time consuming, but there was no way I was spending my time on holiday faffing around with serums and scrubs and I also wanted to minimize the amount of stuff I brought with me. So I paired back my routine to the bare essentials and honestly, my skin looks and feels as good as it ever has.

Here’s what I used and the order that I used them in:

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Makeup

Similarly, I wanted to keep my makeup simple while I was away. I didn’t want to use foundation or concealer and thanks to my Pennys cleanser, my skin was so clear that I didn’t feel the need to. I wanted my makeup looks to be fresh, glowy and shimmery – but simple!

Here’s what I did use:

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So that’s it folks! I think the most important thing to do is get your skin care right and then settle on a makeup style that you can use with versatility throughout your travels. In the end, I was really happy with everything that I brought and didn’t feel that I was missing anything from back home.

I hope this helps any of you who are travelling soon!

S x

3 Self Care Practices To Calm Your Temper

No matter how good your mental health may be, life gets us down sometimes. People piss us off, buses are late, we get caught in the rain and things just don’t go our way 100% of the time, right? But just because something has gone wrong doesn’t mean you need to let it ruin your day, week or month. And it doesn’t have to.

I’m a hot head. I used to be much worse when I was suffering with depression, dealing with my eating disorder and hated my body. I operated with the belief that everyone was out to get me, judging me, laughing at me behind my back. And because of that, I was always on the defensive, ready to jump down someones throat in a split second. Thankfully, those days are long gone.

I still get annoyed. Sometimes its a specific event or comment that sends me into a rage. But more often than that it’s a series of teeny tiny things that build up over a few hours or a few days until they’ve formed a ball of fire in my stomach.

But losing my temper isn’t helpful. It’s unfair to those around me (mainly Rosie) who bear the brunt of it and it makes me feel guilty for taking it out on them. So I have a few self care habits that I practice when I feel like I’m about to blow and 9 times out of 10 they calm me right down and I feel so much better as a result.

1. Fresh Air and Exercise

It sounds like such a cliche and anyone who knows me will know that I’m not an exercise fan (although I do have a chapter about exercise in my Self Care Bible), but there really is nothing like a walk to lift away a bad mood. I don’t mean a power walk, although that could work for some people I’m sure. But I love a really chilled, relaxing stroll down to the local beach when life’s getting me worked up.

Science proves this 100 times over. Exercise releases serotonin which is the happy hormone, but life experience has taught me it in practice. Just the other day I went on a wild rant on my Instagram stories about something that had been annoying me. But rather than helping me to calm down, the rant actually got me more worked up.

I decided to ditch the phone and go for a walk down to the village. We took the dog and walked nicely and slowly, strolling along, chatting about how fresh air helps us feel good and laughing about Lucy’s compulsive need to smell every blade of grass. By the time we reached the beach I hadn’t a care in the world. It was better than any rant and it was real quality time with Rosie that we both needed.

Maybe you don’t live beside a quaint little seaside village like I do. And maybe you don’t have a pooch to take out for a walk. But I bet there’s a road and a path. Really, that’s all you need. And if you drive you could easily head to a nearby park and spend some time strolling around, looking at trees and breathing in the fragrant fresh air. I promise you, 9 times out of 10 it will transform your mood in minutes.

2. A Long Hot Bath

Is there any better feeling than lying in a tub of steaming hot water infused with all of the best things nature has to offer and feeling your temper just melt away? I don’t think so.

I’m a huge fan of a bath, which I know isn’t for everyone. Although I really struggle to understand how anyone could not enjoy it. My baths can be anything from 1 hour to 3 hours long. I light lots of candles, turn off the lights, play podcasts or my self care playlist and just soak.

I have a variety of different things I like to add to my baths. Epsom salts are an obvious choice, as are bath bombs from Lush. But I also love adding tones of olive oil or coconut oil with oats and essential oils like lavender are gorgeous too. Anything that’s gonna moisturize my skin while I’m in there while also smelling divine is a winner to me!

If you’re not a bath person, maybe try having a long hot shower with some really luxurious products and then applying a face mask afterwards? Skin care can be so indulgent and relaxing and could definitely help when you’re feeling like you’re gonna blow!

3. Meditating

Mediation is my bae. I meditate everyday in the morning and evening, even if I can only squeeze in ten minutes. It just centers me and helps me to put up a kind of barrier between me and all of the toxicity in the world. But sometimes, just sometimes, the toxicity finds a way through. When that happens, I just meditate again.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be an experienced meditater to use it when you’re about to lose your temper. There are lots of different kinds of meditation and countless apps to help even the most clueless beginners. Calm and Headspace are two of the most popular apps out there and both offer really great guided meditations ranging from 5 minutes to an hour long. If meditation is new to you but you’re feeling irritable a lot, I can’t recommend them enough. They really work.

If you’re a little more experienced at meditation then you might find a 10 or 15 minute session really helpful. When my tempers really bad, I usually add in some affirmations to help focus my mind and forget about whatever it is that is pissing me off.

Affirmations are best when they’re very specific to you, but you can easily use ones that you’ve heard/read elsewhere. My favorite affirmation that I always come back to time and time again is; I love myself, I accept myself, I am grateful, I am enough. I came up with this affirmation when I was in therapy and learning to use affirmations for the first time. 4 years later, they still bring me so much peace.

The Best Way To Overcome Your Food Guilt

Who doesn’t feel guilty after eating “bad foods”? In today’s diet-driven, weight loss obsessed, thin-worshiping world, I tip my hat to any woman who’s managed to make it through without developing serious issues when it comes to food and guilt. And I should know – that used to be one of the most prevalent issues I had.

My relationship with food was so unhealthy that I developed binge eating disorder – a form of mental illness that still isn’t taken seriously or seen as valid today. But it is serious. I used to spend my evenings eating until I literally vomited. I mean, head in the toilet bowl, puking and crying, feeling more worthless than words can ever say and eventually, wondering if it would be better if I was dead.

Intense, right? I know – sorry! I’ll keep things light from here on out.

But I’ve been lucky enough to be treated for my eating disorder and come out the other side with a really healthy, guilt-free relationship to food. These days I eat intuitively. Sometimes that means craving a spinach and banana smoothie and other times it means relishing in chocolate fudge ice-cream until I’m full. Now, I can keep biscuits in the house. I have a bag of toffee popcorn in the press that’s been there for weeks. I’ll get to it when I want it but I don’t feel that compulsive need to eat it which is AWESOME.

The weird thing about binge eating disorder is the role that guilt plays in it. I ate because I felt worthless. I felt like a fat, ugly, weak willed failure. And I felt so guilty for being that person, that I binged. It was like I was using food as a weapon against myself, a way to punish myself for my guilt. But the form of punishment that I chose (eating until I threw up) just perpetuated the guilt and made it worse. For a long time I couldn’t see it for what it really was – a never-ending cycle of food guilt.

Anyway, here I am 3 years after finishing my year of therapy and recovery and I feel so at peace with food that (brace yourselves) I’ve stopped gaining weight for the first time in my life. It’s not really the weight that’s the big deal here, it’s what it means. Not gaining weight means that I’m not punishing myself anymore, not feeling worthless anymore and eating in a way that works for my body and mind. I’m really proud of myself for that, and I want to do what I can to help you guys get there too.

I remember so well the pain of disordered eating. The emotional trauma of it will always stay with me. And I’m reminded of it almost everyday by my Instagram followers, many of whom are fighting against disordered eating patterns themselves. I’m not a therapist or a nutritionist or a psychiatrist, but I have first hand life experience of this and I believe in the value of that.

So, I wanted to share with you the best way (in my opinion) to help you to end the cycle of guilt and start enjoying food for what it is – a delicious friend.

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Understand Your Thoughts, Beliefs And Behaviors – And Make New Ones.

One of the really challenges aspects of our relationship with food is the fact that it’s so deeply rooted in the subconscious brain. Every single thing we do, we do for a reason, including binging or restricting our food intake, but often it’s really difficult to understand why we’re doing it.

Trying to tackle your issues with food without understanding where they come from is – frankly – a waste of time. Sure you can double down on the discipline approach and try to just force yourself to eat differently. But if that approach worked, we’d all look like Kendall Jenner, wouldn’t we?

Discipline just doesn’t work when it comes to the subconscious. You can’t tell it what to do, or try to wrangle it into submission. You have to figure out why it’s doing what it’s doing, what beliefs and values are influencing it and what childhood memories are driving it. When you do that, you can start to dismantle those thoughts and beliefs and that’s when you’ll see changes in your behaviors.

How do you do this though? Well I’ve said it a hundred times before and I’ll say it a hundred times again – journaling is the best way to figure yourself the fuck out. I included a full chapter in my e-book, The Self Care Bible, on journaling because I think it’s so important, but for those of you who haven’t signed up to my Patreon just yet, here’s the gist.

Journaling is the simplest thing in the world but it’s so powerful. All you need is some kind of notebook (I recommend splashing out on one that you really love to make it feel less intimidating, but any old copy book will do), a pen and 5 minutes of free time.

Start of by writing a question in the middle of the page. It could be “why do I binge eat” or “why do I feel so guilty after I eat” – just choose one that makes sense to you. Then draw a circle around it.

From that point, start scribbling down any words that come to mind. At first you’ll probably think of words like “fat”, “disgusting” and “worthless” and that’s perfectly fine. If it pops into your head, get it down on the page.

But after those initial few words, you’re going to want to go deeper. Ask yourself tough questions, like how did your Mum influence you as a kid when it came to eating. Did you have an embarrassing experience as a teen when some stupid asshole boy called you fat or chubby in front of other people? Try to pinpoint those formative experiences that really shaped your belief system and, no matter how vague they might be, get them on the page.

Now, you might find that you’re coming up blank and struggling to think of anything at all. That’s OK, it’s all part of the process. In that case I can’t recommend listening to The Food Psych Podcast enough. It’s hosted by a dietitian who practices a Health At Every Size in her work with women, many of whom are battling long-standing eating disorders and features incredibly intelligent and articulate guests who discus their relationships with food, what shaped them and how they experienced them throughout their lives. If you’re struggling to journal, a few episodes of this podcast and the words will be positively flowing out of you – guaranteed!

Once you are at a place when journaling is really helping you to understand where your guilt around food is coming from, you should start to notice changes in your feelings and behaviors. Don’t get me wrong, a 5 minutes journaling session isn’t going to undo 20 years of conditioned diet culture.

But you will start to question things, think more deeply about how your eating and feeling and, with time, see changes.

For me, journaling allowed me to understand what I was doing and to see it for what it was – self harm. That’s not to say that eating is self harm, LOL, but eating in a destructive way that makes you unhappy is dangerous for your body and your mental health. Figuring out why I was doing this to myself was the key to realizing that I didn’t want to do this anymore and once I realized that, it was like the final piece of the puzzle. I felt free.

Yeah, I still had work to do. Training myself to eat intuitively was literally that – a training process (which I’m planning on writing a full blog post on next month). But without reaching the realization that journaling gave me, the training process wouldn’t have been possible.

I’m so incredibly grateful. I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ I’m so grateful. I’ve come through something that is so difficult to overcome, and I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that it’s so worth the work, it’s so worth the struggle. Living at peace with food is just an entirely different way of living. I feel so free, so at ease.

Do I still binge? Hell yes. And I always will. Gorging on chocolate and popcorn and ice-cream is really important and when you’re doing it for the right reasons (ie. because it gives you comfort when you’re needing some) then it’s perfectly healthy. Today my binges are fairly few and far between, maybe once or twice a month, and God know’s they’re a fraction of what they used to be in terms of sheer volume. But they play an important role in my self care practice and my mental health. And I feel really comfortable with that.

Do I still diet? Hell no. But I do try to eat lots of fruit and veg and keep my diet balanced. I’m not interested in weight loss whatsoever, so I don’t eat well to achieve that goal anymore. Now I eat fresh, nutrition-packed foods because my beautiful body deserves them. They make my poos better, they help me sleep, my skin loves them and so do my moods. My body deserves the best kind of fuel, and I make sure it gets it. But it also gets chocolate and crisps and biscuits dunked in sugary tea, because it needs joy too.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to whether your eating because you love yourself or because you hate yourself. The distinction between these two things is fairly clear but knowing you’re motivated by the latter isn’t enough to create meaningful change. You need to understand why in order to do that, and I believe that journaling is the very best way to do that.

Sarah x

Outfit Details:

Kakhi shacket, Newlook, €32.99, buy here

Leopard print skirt, F&F at Tesco, not available online but here’s a similar one

Rust semi-sheer top, M&S, €24, buy here

Nude shoulder bag, Primark, not available online but here’s a similar one

Round rose sunglasses, M&S, €24, buy here

4 Things I Love About Myself

Happy Valentines Day my loves! Look, let’s all be honest. It can be a tough old day for us single gals. Whether you’re suffering from chronic singledom or you’re still reeling over a recent heartbreak, it’s shite. And no, professing your self love isn’t going to fill that little empty space. But, it might remind you that you have a hell of a lot to offer, and that when the time comes you’ll make the right person very, very happy.

So, with that in mind I thought I might try practicing what I preach (for a change) and list some of the things that I love most about myself. I’d really encourage you guys to think about doing the same, and reminding yourselves that you’re an incredible person who deserves the very best, very deepest love there is.

What I Love About Myself

1. My Ability to Make People Laugh

I honestly think that the ability to make people laugh out loud is one of the greatest gifts there is, and I’m so grateful that I have it. I get so much joy out of making people laugh. I love that I can put a smile on my friends’ faces when they’re having a bad day, or distract somebody from their troubles by making them giggle. My sense of humor is very dry and sarcastic, so it doesn’t do well abroad. But if there’s one thing I was born to do it was make Irish people laugh. And I absolutely love that I can do that.

2. My Love For Animals

I’m animal obsessed really. Growing up we always had dogs, cats and horses. There was a donkey for a while too. Oh, and a gerbil! Big or small, furry or fluffy, I love animals. I can’t imagine ever not having them in my family. And I really like that side of myself. I think that people who love animals tend to have enormous empathy, kindness and capacity for caring for others. Those are all things I believe I have, and I think they’re some of the most beautiful traits a person can have.

3. I Don’t Take Myself Seriously

I honestly don’t find anything less attractive than people who take themselves too seriously. I mean, get a grip. None of us is perfect, and not everything is life or death. And realistically, life can be incredibly dull and boring. What is the point of it all if you’re not willing to take the piss out of yourself and be a bit silly sometimes? I’m definitely one of the biggest goons I know. I almost never take myself remotely seriously and I’m never happier than when I’m acting the ejit. I love that in other people, and in myself.

4. My Fattness

No, really. I love that I’m fat. Why? Because it makes me a magnetic for cuddles. My ex used to call me his bean bag, and really it was probably the most accurate description of my role in the relationship possible. It would also be a very accurate representation of me as a parent. And a friend. I’m just a bean bag. And I’m good with that. I love being someone who can give the people I love physical comfort and warmth and soft, squishy, snuggly cuddles. Like, how amazing is that? It also means that I sit pretty much anywhere and my bum will never get sore! Perks.

 

Sooooooooo……. what parts of yourself do you really love?

5 Random Facts About Me

I recently asked my Instagram followers to send me ideas for blog posts they’d like to see here, and one of my favorite ideas was to do a post sharing 5 random facts about me. I liked this idea because I love learning random things about the people I follow. So, I thought why not do it myself?

1. My Travels

I spent 3 months in South Africa the summer after my leaving cert. Instead of heading off on the typical 6th year holiday, I went with a friend to volunteer in an orphanage on the outskirts of Cape Town. While I was there I got mugged a lot. But it was loads of fun too – a real coming of age experience!

When Rosie was small I was part of an organization called Global Brigades, I joined as a volunteer but after a couple of years became the Chairperson of the Irish branch of the organization. While I was involved with GB, I traveled to Ghana and Honduras to work with indigenous communities on micro finance projects.

Then after college I did an internship with the environmental organization Friends of The Earth. Through FOE I got to spend two weeks in the arctic circle, Norway, at a youth climate activism convention. I also visited Brussels a good few times to have team building weekends with our EU partners, and I got to attend the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris.

I absolutely adore travelling. One of the hardest things about becoming a Mummy at the age of 19 was watching my friends go off and travel the world while I stayed at home, alone, with a newborn. Still, I got to travel to some amazing places and plan on doing A LOT more travelling in my forties when she’s an adult.

2. My Run-In With Terrorism

OK so technically I wasn’t involved in an actual terrorist attack, but I thought I had been! I was on a flight from Paris to Dublin when I was about 15. Somebody was flicking through one of the in-flight magazines when they came across a note scrawled on one of the pages. It said that there was a bomb on the plane.

Now, keep in mind that this was only a couple of years after 9-11. So, unsurprisingly chaos ensued. We were forced to circle in the air for what felt like hours. Then fighter jets joined us and flanked the plane while we were re-directed to a military airbase in Scotland. There, we were met by Interpol and interviewed one by one, had our finger prints taken, and each given one phone call home. We had to wait for hours and hours sitting on the floor of the airbase while every inch of the plane was swept for a bomb. It turns out, it was all a hoax.

We got home that night feeling relieved, but traumatized. Thankfully, I’ve never felt fear like it since. The full news story is here.

3. I Used To Be Horse-Mad

For as long back as I can remember, I’ve ridden horses. My whole family are a bit horse-mad and there was never really any question about whether or not I’d follow in this particular tradition. I was actually quite good too and competed a lot.

My first ever pony was called Muirin. She was honestly the most beautiful, graceful creature alive. After Muirin, we had Bailey who was basically an insane animal whose sole mission in life was to quite literally hop the electric fence and gallop off into the village. He wasn’t popular. But he was spunky and I loved him for it.

I had to stop riding in my late teens when a bad fall basically destroyed my right knee. For years, it would dislocate every few months. The agony! By the time I had gotten my injury sorted out and my knee was strong again, I had put on too much weight to ride. To this day, while I’ve learned to fully accept and love my body, I feel intensely sad that I can’t ride anymore.

4. My Political Past

Now this is something that I’m not necessarily ashamed of, but I don’t shout about it from the rooftops. I used to work for RENUA, the far right political party. IN MY DEFENSE, they weren’t a far right party when I was involved and they CERTAINLY weren’t “pro-life”.

I did my degree in International Relations in DCU and, having finished up my internship in Friends of the Earth, I was keen to get involved in politics. I love the idea of working in Leinster House and spending my days with people who would make history through their political careers. At the time, there weren’t any openings in other parties, and RENUA had just launched as the “party of the future”.

I was taken on as a member of the communications team but quickly promoted to membership coordinator. It was my job to run a comprehensive CRM system, look after all membership related business, organise events and liaise with campaign teams and candidates across the country. I really loved the responsibility and f**k me, did I work hard!

We ran in the 2016 general election and honestly, the election nearly broke me. For the rest of my life, no matter what I might think about a particular politician, I’ll always have the ultimate respect for their ability to endure elections. If I wasn’t getting phone calls at 1 am from farmers in Kerry who accidentally deleted an email from me and don’t know how to get it back, I was having to referee between campaign managers who wanted to have a dick measuring competition.

It was extremely trying and I ran myself into the ground before long. Although I had a huge amount of respect for many of the people I worked with, being in such a male dominated organization really got to me. When the election was over and the results were in, I politely declined any further involvement and never looked back. This time in my life definitely contributed to my depression too.

5. I Smoke Cannabis For Chronic Pain

So you may or may not know that I have a chronic pain condition called Endometriosis. It flares up hugely around my period and can be so agonizing that I can’t walk. More specifically, it feels like being stabbed by a serrated knife in my anus. Yep. My anus.

A few months ago I decided to give cannabis a try. I’ve read so much about the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain conditions in Canada and the US, where medical cannabis is legal. And considering the fact that I haven’t come across a pain killer that dulls the pain effectively without sedating me, the legal issue wasn’t enough to put me off.

I’ve honestly been amazed by the difference in my endo since I started using weed. I smoke one joint every evening for about a week before my period is due. It’s not enough to turn me into a giggling mess and has less of an effect on me than a full glass of wine. And yet, since I started doing this I haven’t experienced any endo pain whatsoever. Every single period has been completely pain free. It’s nuts.

Now, this is not an advertisement for smoking weed. It’s illegal. I am breaking the law. But as somebody who exists in a health system that considers weight loss to be the only form of medical treatment I should be even thinking about, and someone who has been living with an untreated chronic condition for years, the illegality is worth it to me. Each to their own, but I’ll be smoking weed for every period for the foreseeable future!

5 New Year’s Resolutions Ideas for Self Love

Happy New Year beautiful! No matter what kind of year you had in 2018, it’s time to draw a line under it and move into 2019 as best you can. If you’re like me and find that setting resolutions helps you to to focus your mind on what you want to achieve in the next 13 month’s, here are 5 ideas for resolutions that could help you have your best year yet!

Sarah x

Social Media Swap

I’m a firm believer that who you follow has a massive impact on your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Believe it or not, we’re all influencers. The things we post online have an impact on others, even if we (or they) don’t know it.

If your social media feeds are constantly brimming with images of thin tanned bodies, cocktails on yachts, and designer bags bursting with the latest and greatest make up products, it won’t take long before you’re feeling pretty shit about life.

On the other hand, if your social media feeds are constantly brimming with images of beautiful, intelligent women with bodies like yours, living lives like yours, sharing positive messages and showing you that you’re not alone, it won’t take long before you’re feeling happy, fulfilled and positive about life.

Swapping accounts that cause the former for accounts that cause the latter is a brilliant way to kick off a new year. It’s quick and easy to do, and you’ll be amazed by how excited you get by the refreshing content that begins to fill your feeds!

If you’re looking for ideas on who to follow in 2019, check out my blog post sharing my favorite Instagram accounts here!

Affirmations

I’ve said it many, many times before and I’ll say it many, many times again; affirmations are the secret to changing your beliefs.

Whether you want to become more financially disciplined, tackle your disordered eating, or get out of a career rut you’ve been stuck in for years, affirmations cam play a huge role in creating change.

They don’t cost anything, they don’t require time or energy. All you need is a clear intention and plenty of patience.

Self Dating

Sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it? Self Dating is a term I use to describe spending alone time with myself. But it’s not just any alone time. It’s time I’ve planned to spend alone, doing the things I enjoy.

My idea of a great Self Date is going to the cinema by myself. One of my friends loves to schedule a couple of hours once a month to go to a shopping centre, switch off her phone and peruse the shops at her leisure. Another friend of mine loves to set aside time to bake at home alone.

The options are endless really. There is one thing that they all have in common though; Self Dating is planned ahead of time. It might be planned a few days in advance, or it could be a month. Either way, it’s something you look forward to.

The great thing about Self Dating is that it’s all about you. You don’t have to concern yourself with anyone else. There’s no pressure or anxiety. You get to do what you want, how you want, without having to keep a single soul happy, other than your own.

I try to squeeze in one Self Date each month, but I have to admit that I could prioritize it more. If you’re looking for New Year’s resolution ideas that will improve your mental health, this one could be for you!

Meditation

Another of my absolute, all-time favorite self care tools, meditation is something that we can all benefit from. Meditating gives us a chance to take a much needed break from social media, work emails, texts from our mother’s and never ending laundry.

This much needed break gives us an opportunity to breath in silence, take control of our thoughts and feelings, detach ourselves from the rough day we might be having, or the anger at others we might be feeling, and return to a place of peace, calm and self love.

I know meditation can be intimidating to people who are trying it for the first time, but it’s so much easier than it seems. That’s why I created this blog post to share my tips on developing a long lasting meditation practice of your own.

Gratitude

Its no secret that I love a bit of gratitude journaling. It’s not just me who loves it though. In fact, gratitude practice has become a well known mental health tool and studies have proven it’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety and boos positivity and optimism.

Personally, I like to be quite ritualistic with my gratitude journaling. I like to light candles, play a particular self care playlist on my phone, apply my skin care products and then lie down on my bed with my journal. I then fill one page with things I’m grateful for that day.

Sometimes I’m grateful for “big picture” things like the fact that I live in a country that isn’t war torn or vulnerable to natural disasters. Other days I can only think of “little picture” things like the fact that I showered that day, or that I mustered up the energy to cook dinner instead of wasting money on a takeaway. Some days are easier than others, of course. But I generally find that once I get going, I manage to fill a page pretty quickly.

Whether you get all ritualistic with like me, or just choose to simply create a handy little gratitude list in the Notes app of your phone, cultivating gratitude in 2019 will surely help you to feel more positive and optimistic than ever!

3 Ways To Look After Your Skin This Christmas – Winter Skin Care Made Easy

Looking forward to the festive season? Me too. Although, it’s really already upon us. December can be an intense month full of nights out and events, dinner parties and plenty of alcohol. Aside from all of the fabulous social plans that you might have, December is cold, windy and more than a little miserable on the weather front. And, believe it or not, all of this can wreak havoc on the skin.

January is depressing enough without having to live through it in skin that’s tired, dull and dry. So, I’ve put together 5 tips and tricks that you can use to stay on top of your winter skin care routine and keep your skin in tip top condition over the holidays.

Moisture

The weather during the winter months can be incredibly drying on the skin. Cold air and harsh winds, and the use of home heating really does zap every drop of moisture from the skin. Thankfully, there are ways to counteract this and keep your skin feeling soft and supple right through the Christmas season.

I recommend using oil based serums in winter because they help to lock in moisture and are much more thoroughly absorbed into the skin that thick and heavy creams or lotions. The Ordinary Buffet Serum has to be one of my all time favorites. This all-rounder really is a feast for the skin and will produce results quickly for those of you who have been neglecting your skin over the past few weeks.

Hyaluronic acid is a great ingredient for locking in moisture at this time of year. I used to be a bit freaked out by the idea of using something that sounded so harsh, but then I discovered that this ingredient is actually produced naturally in the body. Our bodies produce less and less of it as we age though, so using a product that contains it can boost levels in your skin. You’ll definitely notice the results of a good hyaluronic product on dry skin in just a couple of days.

Sleep

Ok I know, sleep is hard to come by during the festive season. Between late nights out shopping for gifts for your family and friends, kids Christmas plays, work parties that last well into the night and cocktail-heavy nights with your old school pals, the need to sleep kind of goes out the window doesn’t it?

But this doesn’t have to be the case, and if you want to protect your skin from the elements through a good winter skin care regime, sleep is a must.

Lots of studies have been conducted into the role of sleep in health and wellness, and some research suggests that it is just as important as a balanced diet. Without an adequate amount of sleep, your body simply can’t function at it’s best, and this includes your skin. Making sure that you’re getting enough sleep will help your skin to maintain it vital moisture barrier. This will, in turn, keep your skin looking and feeling super soft and supple no matter what the weather!

Exfoliate

Exfoliating the skin is something we should all be doing on a regular basis. But it becomes more important in the winter months than ever because the harsh weather can lead to a buildup of dead skin and chapped lips. This leaves the skin sore, dry and tired-looking.

Although exfoliating may seem like a very basic thing to do, lots of people exfoliate incorrectly by scrubbing their skin vigorously every now and again. This can irritate the skin and cause inflammation, which doesn’t look or feel good. So it should definitely be avoided.

Instead, this winter try gently exfoliating your skin every day in the shower. You can buy super affordable exfoliating gloves in Primark and pharmacies. Keeping these in your shower caddy and gently massaging the skin on your face and all over the body with a nice shower cream (I prefer using coconut oil as it adds to the skin’s moisture) is all that’s needed to keep the dead skin at bay during the cold weather.

Other Ideas For Your Winter Skin Care Routine

These three tips are the ones that I think everyone needs to adopt during the hectic festive season and the winter months in general. However, you don’t have to stop there. This really is the hardest time of year for every skin type, so stepping your skin care routine up a notch can only be a good thing.

During winter, I like to add essential oils to my skin care regime. In particular I love applying tea tree oil to any spots or blemishes I get as it’s antibacterial and antiviral so it will fight off infections.

I’ve started to add CBD oil to my morning serum. This is because studies have shown that CBD helps to restore balance to the skin, fights free radicals and relieves stress and anxiety, which can leave the skin feeling and looking tired and dull.

I also love to lather the skin on my legs in shea butter during wintertime. If you haven’t tried using shea yet, you really should. It’s really affordable, available from health food stores or online, all-natural and gives the skin the most luxurious feel.

These are just some extra little additions that you can make to your skincare routine during the winter months. Not only will they keep chapped lips and dead skin at bay, but these ingredients are all anti-aging and very safe to use in their raw forms at home.

Hopefully this blog post will help you hone in on the 3 most important things that you can do to look after your skin this Christmas. After all, January can be a tough month for the best of us and we don’t need to be adding tired and dull skin to the list of things that get us down when all of the Christmas cheer has died down!

Skincare as Selfcare – My Love Affair With LUSH

So I was scrolling through my phone today, deleting old photos and videos, when I came across a video that I made MONTHS ago for a blog post I planned to write. I had spoken a lot about why I love the skincare bran Lush so much, and a few of you asked me to write a post sharing the products that I used. So, I made a really nice video of all of my products and then immediately forgot all about it!

What I Use and Why

I’ve been using Lush Cosmetics for a really long time. Throughout my teenage years it was my brand of choice because I really loved their image, their ethos and how much their products stood out from the other boring bastards in the skincare market. However, there were 3 specific things I adored about them:

  1. They were cruelty free
  2. They were chemical free
  3. They were affordable

And, their products worked! I’m not going to pretend that a Lush mask cured me of severe acne overnight though. In fact, I’ve always been blessed with my skin. I never suffered from particularly bad breakouts. I’ve never had oily, dry or sensitive skin. I really did luck out in the dermatological department. But, my skin felt awesome after using Lush products and for me, they were always something I had fun with. Why wouldn’t I use them!?

Here is a list of the products I’ve come to rely upon over the years and that I’ve featured in the video below:

  1. Tea Tree Water – a beautiful toning mist that calming and refreshing
  2. Full of Grace – a facial moisturizing bar that feels so luxurious, absorbs easily and lasts forever
  3. Mask of Magnamity – a face mask I’ve been using for 15 years and will do for many more
  4. Sleepy – a lavender body lotion that gives the softest, smoothest skin (not featured in the vid because I had run out)
  5. Pumice Power – a foot scrub bar that gives you the feet of a newborn
  6. Whoosh – a shower jelly that smells like heaven
  7. DaddyO – a silver shampoo for blondes that don’t want to be brassy
  8. Karma – a solid perfume that packs a punch for a tenth of the price
  9. Bath bombs – my favorites are Intergalactic, Sex Bomb, Twilight, Big Blue, Sakura, Secret Arts and The Big Sleep.

Skincare as Selfcare

Although I’ve moved on to using other skincare products recently, namely a range from The Ordinary, Lush products are still a big part of my selfcare routine. I love nothing more than a 3 hour bath with candles lit, my favorite podcasts and one of my old reliable bath bombs. I find the scent of Sleepy alone can lull me into a sense of calm, and the ritual of using it very comforting.

I think that skincare can be a huge part of anyone’s selfcare practice. This is because it can be a gift to both your body and mind. By establishing a good skincare routine, you are taking care of your body everyday and doing something that it will thank you for. But also, the ritual of setting time aside every night to do something for yourself is great for your mental health.

When I was in recovery, I used to light a candle and turn on my selfcare playlist on Spotify an hour before going to bed. Once I’d done this, I sit down on my bed and slowly work my way through my skincare routine. The ritual of removing my makeup, spritzing myself in Tea Tree Water, massaging my face with Full of Grace, and then gently working Sleepy into the skin on my legs and arms, was in itself therapeutic.

I’d follow this with my gratitude journal, a 20 minute meditation, and then sleep. This routine was a huge part of my selfcare practice for over a year, and one that I know I really benefited from. It’s changed a little bit since then, but the principles remain the same.

If you’re looking to change up your selfcare routine, or establish one for the first time, I can’t recommend incorporating skincare enough. For me, this is a time of day I look forward to more than any other. It’s just for me, my body and my mind. And we’re all so much better off for it!

Meditation for Beginners – 3 Tips to Begin Your Practice

Meditation is something that we’re hearing more and more about these days. While in the past it was seen as something a bit “nonsensey”, today it has become mainstream. This is mainly thanks to the mindfulness movement, and the toned down, less evangelical version of mediation it promotes.

As a result of this, attitudes towards meditation have shifted dramatically in just a few short years. When I first began therapy in 2015, I was way too embarrassed to tell anyone that I was learning to meditate. But these days, it seems that everyone and their Mother are trying to jump on the meditation bandwagon.

Now, ordinarily I’d come down very hard on any bandwagoning whatsoever, but in this case I’m not. In fact, I think it’s friggin awesome that so many people are trying to develop a mediation practice and incorporate it into their daily lives.

The Benefits of Meditation

Why am I so pro meditation? Well, that’s easy.

  1. Meditation forces us to take some time out from our day just for ourselves.
  2. Meditation helps us to mute the noise of the world and distinguish between what’s important, and what isn’t.
  3. Meditation helps us to connect with ourselves, our bodies, our emotions and our hearts. This might sound very airy fairy, but it’s essential to inner peace and self love.
  4. Meditation provides a spiritual aspect to life. This might not be true of everyone who meditates, but it’s certainly been my experience, and one that I value hugely. I’m not religious and never will be, and I don’t know that I specifically believe in anything. But, my meditation practice gives me a sense of something bigger, and I find immense comfort in that.

Unfortunately, developing a meditation practice isn’t always as easy and straightforward as many people expect it to be. Forming a new habit, no matter what it is, is tricky. It can’t be done overnight. The simple decision to do it isn’t enough. Without determination, commitment, self compassion and patience, most people never develop the daily meditation practice they want.

So, I’ve decided to share my 3 tips for developing a meditation practice that you can fit into you daily life and enjoy the huge benefits of easily.

3 Tips for Mediation

    1. Use an App

Our brains are programmed to be constantly working, constantly busy, and never silent. This is why so many people find the very act of meditating uncomfortable. Apps can help with this as they give your mind something to focus on rather than just expecting it to sit quietly for a prolonged period of time.

There are so many meditation apps on the market for both Android and IOS right now. Most of these apps have introductory courses for people who are new to meditation. These generally involve listening to a ten or fifteen minute guided meditation each day for a week, before graduating to the next level or stage.

I’ve used Head Space and really enjoyed it. Right now I’m using Insight Timer and loving it. If you read some reviews and try a few different apps, you’re sure to find one that works for you.

    1. Be Ritualistic

I think that small daily rituals can make new habits much easier to stick to. This is something that I found when trying to develop an affirmation practice, when trying to get into the habit of morning mirror time, and when learning to meditate. In fact, rituals were a big part of my recovery process in general.

What I mean by ritual is this; make a bit of a fuss of your new meditation practice. I meditate at night time, and this is my ritual; I light my vanilla candle beside my bed, I prop up my pillows so that I can sit upright against them while I meditate, and I then sprinkle lavender essential oil all over my pillows and the top of my duvet.

This ritual is very short and simple. It’s not complicated and takes me about a minute to complete. But it gives my meditation a sense of occasion, and helps me to prepare for it. Developing a similar ritual around your new meditation practice could help you in the same way.

    1. Forget Everything You Think You Know

From the conversations that I’ve had with followers, friends and other people in my life about meditation, I think one of the biggest mistakes that people make is the assumptions that they have before they begin the practice.

Most people think of meditation and are immediately conjuring up images of bald headed monks sitting in the lotus position on top of some snow covered mountain, humming. They believe that the point of meditation is to quiet the mind completely and shut down thoughts, feelings and emotions.

The reality of meditation is very different. You can meditate on the bus on your way to work. You can meditate on the toilet. You do not have to be in an ancient Himalayan temple. And for the vast majority of people, meditation isn’t about shutting the mind down completely. Rather, its about filtering the bullshit from the truth.

When I meditate, I rarely achieve a state of complete and utter silence. Most of the time, I achieve a more peaceful, less manic version of my mind. My thoughts are slower and I can identify them more easily. My feelings and emotions become clearer and I can understand them better.

For me, meditation provides me with a filter. With this filter, I can dispose of the bullshit that I don’t need (such as: was this person annoyed with me earlier, how am I going to find the money to do that thing, will I be able to get X,Y and Z done in time) and what’s left is just the truth – that I am enough as I am, that I am safe and secure, and that no matter what comes down the line, I will be ok.

Meditation can be the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s something that every single person can benefit from, and should enjoy if they choose to try. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy and people often give up too soon. But I’m hoping that with these 3 simple tips for meditation beginners, you can develop a practice that will last for years.

My Return to Therapy – What I’ve learned so far

You may or may not have read my blog post from back in September in which I talked about the fact that I was going back to therapy after almost two years.

In that blog post I talked about my reasons for going back, and what I was hoping/expecting to get out of it this time around. Well, I’ve been back and once again, therapy has surprised me.

While my first couple of sessions have been mainly focused on catching up with my therapist and getting him up to speed on all of the changes to my life (my job, my Instagram and blog, my sex life), some really interesting stuff came to light in our last session.

Self-Sabotage

I was talking to my therapist about how I was feeling unhappy; unhappy in my job, unhappy with my Instagram, unhappy with my blog. I explained to him how I had seemed to lose all inspiration and motivation for all of it. And how I felt shitty because I couldn’t take pride in my work, in my content or in my progress. I explained to him that I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way, or why I couldn’t seem to shake it and just get on with things.

In his usual fashion, he just sat back and let me work through it all on my own. I ranted and rambled for what felt like an eternity until finally I stopped and looked to him for some kind of comfort or guidance. What he said next floored me.

He said, “self-sabotage is something we engage in when we’re living in fear”.

Self sabotage? What?

I couldn’t believe it. And yet, the moment those words left his lips, it all made sense to me. I’m no stranger to this phenomenon. In fact, if you had to describe the past 15 years of my life in two words, you’d be hard pressed to find two better words for me.

But, why? Why am I doing this again? I thought that I had dealt with this shit the last time I was in therapy. I thought that I had addressed my fear of not being enough, and built a self love strong enough to do away with self-sabotage. Apparently not.

Moving Forward

Now I find myself pretty much back to drawing board, working towards self belief again. And that’s ok. The last thing I’m going to do is come down hard on myself for finding myself here. As my therapist said himself, “we’re never just done with working on this stuff, it never finishes”.

So I’ve decided to throw myself back into the core practices that really helped to transform my relationship with myself and my body in the past:

  1. Meditation
  2. I’ve downloaded a new meditation app called Insight Timer which I’ve used every night since that session and I’m really enjoying so far. It has a free beginners meditation course that I’ve signed up for and it’s really helped me to get back to the basics and begin developing my meditation practice again.

  3. Gratitude journalling
  4. I went out and bought myself a cute little notebook, and I’ve spent a few minutes writing in this every night before I settle down for my meditation. I’m loving being back at journalling again and constantly surprising myself by how many things I can find in my life to be grateful for.

  5. Affirmations
  6. I’ve written about how I used affirmations in recovery in a previous blog post, and I’ve basically thrown myself back into that practice again.

    However, this time I’ve chosen two new affirmations to use; I believe in The Universe, I believe in myself. These feel more appropriate for what I’m struggling with right now. It’s been tricky to get back into this habit, but knowing how well it’s worked for me in the past, I’m persevering with compassion and patience.

What Does it All Mean?

It’s funny, because I feel so much better since coming to the realization that I’ve been self-sabotaging. You’d think I’d be angry with myself, or frustrated to be faced with something I thought I’d overcome, but I feel relieved really.

My therapist is right of course, self-sabotage is fear. So, you might ask, what am I afraid of? Well the answer is very simple. I am afraid of not being good enough in my job, in my personal life, and to achieve my goal of working as a digital influencer.

With ambition comes fear, and I’ve always been ambitious. And the cruel but unwavering irony that comes with ambition is this; the closer we come to achieving our goals, the more intense our fear is that we will fail.

The fear of failure is one that we all face at some point or another. Fear is not the enemy. It’s rational and intuitive and protective. But when we stop controlling our fears and start being controlled by them, we stop living and start existing. Right now, my priority is work on my self-belief. And that’s something I’ve thrown myself into. Because I do believe that I am enough. I just need to start feeling it again.

These Instagram Accounts Could Change Your Life

Everyone loves to blame social media for everything that’s wrong with the world today, don’t they? Well I’ve got news for you;

Social media isn’t the source of all evil. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be!

I used Instagram to transform my relationship with my body, and you can too. But Instagram isn’t just great for body positivity. There’s literally a community for everyone.

I wanted to share with you guys some of my favorite accounts on The Gram right now. I’ve broken them down into categories so that you can easily find something for you. Hopefully some of them will serve you as well as they’ve served me!

For mental health, follow:
@selfloveliv
@selfloveclubb
@kateshappinessjourney

For body positivity, follow:
@iamdaniadriana
@effyourbeautystandards
@glitterandlazers
@mynameisjessamyn
@fatgirlflow
@virgietovar

For self love, follow:
@gracevictory
@bodyposipanda
@kenzibrenna
@felicityhayward

For trans issues, follow:
@watchshayslay
@thesassytruth_

For feminism, follow:
@shellymc
@flynnfluencer
@sassy_latte

For parenting, follow:
@sophie_white_
@louisemcsharry

For disabilities, follow:
@thesineadburke
@littlelizziev
@thefeedingofthefox
@paddyysmyth

For empowerment, follow:
@sunnylenarduzzi
@nowrongwaymovement
@sarah_thebetterlifeproject

For plus size fashion, follow:
@calliethorpe
@daniellevanier
@curvyroamer
@chloeincurve_
@whatfatgirlsactuallywear

Sarah x