8 lovely, simple ways to embrace autumn this year

I don’t know about you but I love autumn. Knitwear, hot chocolate, an excuse to fill my flat with candles and spend evenings reading under a pile of blankets… But more than this, it’s the natural, seasonal changes that I love the most. Darker evenings, crisp mornings, the turning leaves, seasonal vegetables (especially apples, I love in-season apples). There’s a huge trend on Instagram at the moment about embracing seasonality, and I really think it’s wonderful – it inspires people to get out and enjoy nature in different ways, depending on the time of year. Spending time in nature is phenomenally good for our wellbeing, so I thought I would share some of my favourite ways to embrace autumn, but not just outdoors: indoors too (because let’s face it, those cosy evenings inside are THE BEST).

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Get crafty with a cosy homemade project

Recently I’ve spent a few evenings upcycling a rarely-worn jumper into two cuddly hot water bottle covers, and I’ve also made several vanilla and cinnamon soy candles – I used vanilla extract and cinnamon powder, which smells UNREAL. It’s not that much cheaper to make your own candles really, especially if you use baking ingredients for the scent. But it’s incredibly satisfying and there’s less waste when you’re reusing using old candle glasses. There are so many other things you could try as well – did you know that Flying Tiger (or Tiger? Not sure what they’re called now) sell watercolour colouring books? So you don’t have to be able to draw to use watercolours! And there are dozens of embroidery kits out there too, which is something I’ve got my eye on right now. Whatever crafts you choose, it’s really good to spend a little bit of time focused on creating something. And if you’re feeling daring you could always make a coffee table like I did last month 😉

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Seek out seasonal foods…

…and cook with them, of course! Supermarkets make it easy nowadays, there’s always a union flag on products that have been produced in the UK. Plus, here’s a great website to help you find seasonal foods. Apples are in season now in the UK, I really have a soft spot for seasonal apples because my family used to grow and sell them. But butternut squash, leeks, kale, shallots, beetroots and more are also all in season in autumn too so get cooking!

Try baking something cosy too

Gingerbread loaf, apple pie, pumpkin tart, carrot cake, cinnamon apple cake, honey cakes… are you salivating yet? I certainly am. It’s not just the joy of eating baked goods of course, it’s also the process of baking that gets you into the autumnal spirit. The spices, chopping and stirring, the oven making everything warm, the smell of a cake as it cooks… it’s all so homely! I love it.

Find a cosy book to curl up with 

There’s the obvious, but still lovely choice of Autumn by Ali Smith, or a modern classic like The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. An exciting new release like Melmoth by Sarah Perry or a brilliant work that’s stood the test of time like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (one of my all time faves). I mean, let’s face it, autumn is the perfect time to spend a rainy day reading that book you’ve always meant to read, with rain hammering against the windows and a hot chocolate in your hand. Here’s another blog post I wrote about brilliant books everyone should read, to get you even more inspired!

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Make more plans 

A tried and true method that Norwegians use to get through the dark (and in Norway it gets reeeeally dark) months of autumn and winter is to make plenty of plans. You don’t need to have a buzzing social life or huge friendship group to do this so if you’re socially anxious don’t panic! Just make plans to do specific things with people you like, with your partner, and even with yourself. It will get you out of the house, and make you feel like you’re making the most of your time.

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Make your home a nice place to be

Making your home a nice place to be is essential during autumn and winter, so that you can really feel relaxed and at ease when the weather is raging outside. There’s a reason that Scandinavians take their homes seriously, and this is it – you need a good base camp to cope with cold, stormy weather. When you’re out on a cold walk, or your feet are soaking from the rain, or you’re at work with a winder cold, you need to know that you have a cosy space to come back to. The first step is to make sure your home is actually warm. Even if you’re renting and can’t really control the insulation or heating system, there are things you can do such as using blackout curtains, which will keep the heat in at night, and picking up some insulating strips to use on doors and windows. Next, get yourself some candles. Nothing makes a home cosier than candles! Wilko do a great selection of affordable ones, or if you live near an Ikea, go wild in their candle section too! Lastly: blankets. Don’t skimp on the blankets. And some soft, brushed cotton bedding, too! James and I have just bought this set, because we live right next to one of London’s deer parks and we can watch the deer grazing from our living room window, so it seems appropriate! Wilko, again, have a fantastic selection of cosy blankets and bedding, and they’re great quality for the price, too. You don’t have to spend a fortune on making your home a cosy, calm space. Even just tidying up can do wonders for that ‘hygge’ feeling!

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Go for an autumn walk

Not to get too simplistic on you here, but if you haven’t yet then get to your nearest botanical garden, nature reserve or park and enjoy the changing leaves, look for squirrels and breathe in that autumnal air. An autumn walk is a magical thing, just make sure you dress appropriately – bring a bag that will fit your coat in if you get too warm, but also bring along a waterproof, gloves and extra socks, because autumn gets cold, it gets wet, and it gets unexpectedly warm too. If you’re well prepared, you’ll be able to enjoy it no matter what. Also – here is a directory of accessible walks across the UK, for people who are disabled.

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Get in the bath

Of course, it wouldn’t be autumn without a hot, candlelit bath, and it wouldn’t be my blog without me recommending one, would it?! Check out this other post I wrote about the best bath products I’ve ever used (out of like, hundreds of products guys, when it comes to baths I do not mess around).

Happy autumn everyone!

 

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The best bath products ever

I love a good bath. In fact, I need them. I suffer from severe anxiety, which gives me terrible muscle tightness. I find that a warm bath, with candles and some gentle music helps to relax my body and slow my racing mind better than almost anything. Sometimes, especially when I use particularly fragrant bath product, I’ll even sit in the pitch darkness whilst I soak, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it.

Unsurprisingly then, I get through a lot of bath products, and now that the weather is getting colder (and apparently will be getting VERY cold indeed this year) I thought you might like to read about some of my all-time favourite bath products!

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Homemade bath salts – £4.95 approx

The ones in this photo are a mixture of Himalayan pink salt and epsom salts, dried rose petals and lavender essential oil. Bath salts are particularly amazing for sore muscles from sport and exercise. It’s quite inexpensive if you do it yourself by buying your own essential oil and a giant bag of salts like these from Westlab which are the ones I use. However, it can be tricky to get intense or more complex scents by DIY-ing it, so if you want a bath that will be less practical and more sensual, keep reading…

Olverum Bath Oil – £32

This is hands down my favourite bath prodcut on the face of the earth. Nothing compares to this formula, unchanged since the 1930s. It’s all natural combination of pine, lavender, eucalyptus, lemon verbena, which creates the most relaxing, soothing vapours you could possibly imagine. I pour it on my skin when I’m in the bath and then let the water gently wash it around so that I can absolutely maximise my experience of the scent, because the thing about this is, it’s pretty expensive. If I could afford it, I would use this all the time, but for now it’s really just a ‘treat’.

Weleda Bath Soak – £14.95

This is the perfect affordable alternative to Olverum. I absolutely love the Pine scent, which is the one pictured here, but I also ADORE the Lavender, Rosemary and Arnica scents. And the great thing is, they are 100% natural, nourishing and really potently scented so they last for aaaages. I reckon you could mix them up and get a very similar scent to Olverum too – Lavender, Rosemary and Pine are the main ingredients in that too! All in all, these are a fantastic choice for lovely, relaxing baths. Get them here.

KINN Living Bath Oil – £28

This is a delightful, subtly scented bath oil that’s 99.5% organic. The scent is ylang ylang, lavender and tangerine and it’s so delicate and beautiful. The oil base is really nourishing on the skin too. I love this brand, founded by a mother-daughter duo who wanted to create a range of toxin-free home and bodycare products.

Geo Mitchell Relax, Naturally Bath Salts – £14.50

This is another amazing small brand, who have a gorgeous range of products that include natural home fragrances, essential oils and bath salts. These Relax, Naturally bath salts are amazing, combining lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus and peppermint oils in a dead sea salt and epsom salt base. It’s super relaxing but somehow also invigorating?! You get out of the bath feeling like a new person! I love it. It’s great in the bath but also probably one of the best things I’ve ever used as a soak for tired feet. Geo Mitchell have also very kindly provided me with a discount code for you: enter LYB15 for 15% off your first order!

Caudalie Purifying Mask – £22

This is my all-time favourite mask, but that’s not the only reason I’m including it in this list – the other is that it’s a mask that you can leave on for pretty much as long as you like – it doesn’t dry out, which means you don’t have to get out of the bath when your skin starts feeling tight! This mask reduces inflammation and removes impurities to help fix blemishes and give you a smooth, clear complexion. It smells gorgeous and is super gentle on the skin too. Cannot recommend it highly enough! Get it on Look Fantastic, here.

Skyn Iceland Skin Hangover Kit*

Why is it that getting older means worse hangovers? I don’t drink that often but when I do it’s like being hit with a tonne of bricks, it never used to be like that!! I know I’m not the only one, and I have a feeling that those brutal late-twenties/early-thirties hangovers may have been the inspiration behind this brilliant product I’m going to tell you all about…

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Skyn Iceland is a brand formulated with millenial women in mind. Their tagline is ‘Solutions for stressed skin’ and who among us doesn’t have stressed skin right about now? Whether it’s work deadlines, wedding planning, buying a house, kids, money, dealing with your landlord, worrying about pollution, concerned by the state of the world or literally suffering from anxiety, we’re all stressed out by something. Skyn knows this all too well, and their products are formulated to help support, soothe and care for your skin during stressful periods. I love brands like this, ones that think about what you want, rather than coming up with things to make you want. The Skin Hangover Kit illustrates this perfectly. Containing a detox mask, cooling gel eye patches, a hydrating moisturiser and a refreshing eye cream, it’s designed to help you feel fresh and awake on days where you can’t just pull the duvet up over your head and pretend last night never happened. Grab yourself a large glass of water and let me tell you more about it!

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Fresh Start Mask Sachets

I absolutely love this mask – I have a box of the sachets as well and enjoy using it whenever my skin is feeling dull. The first sachet contains blue clay to deep cleanse and purify, and the second sachet contains an activating gel which creates an effervescent effect to further stimulate the skin, and give you a really refreshed feeling. It’s a hangover cure it itself, even without the rest of the brilliant products in this kit! Buy this on its own here.

Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels

These lovely little patches help to de-puff the eyes and reduce fine lines with cooling and deeply hydrating ingredients. After just ten minutes they leave you looking totally fresh, absolutely perfect for when you wake up bleary-eyed and puffy. Buy a full pack of them here.

Icelandic Relief Eye Cream

I absolutely love this eye cream. It smells minty and initially I expected it to be like putting menthol under my eyes (cue: weeping!) but it’s very subtle indeed, just enough to make your eyes feel bright and awake without overdoing the tingling sensation. This eye cream helps to target puffiness for the rest of the day (after your eye gels have taken away the bulk of it), as well as reducing dark circles and fine lines. The eyes are the part of the face that really gives you away when you have a hangover, but these two together sort them right out. Buy this on its own here.

The Antidote Cooling Daily Lotion

Of course, there’s no point looking better if you don’t feel better, and while the wonderful eye products do help to relieve that tired-eye feeling, there’s still a whole face that needs some tlc! Once you use the mask, follow it with The Antidote which cools facial skin instantly, and really, deeply hydrates. I’m very picky about moisturisers so wasn’t expecting to like this, especially when I was hungover and moody, but I really felt better after applying this. The Fresh Start Mask gives your skin a wake-up call but this maintains that ‘awake’ feeling! Buy this on its own here.

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James and I tried the kit out the morning after celebrating a little too hard. We climbed Ben Nevis and may have overindulged on prosecco afterwards, and woke up feeling a little worse for wear. The Skin Hangover Kit contains two of both the single-use products, and plenty of the other two products so you can share it with your significant other, or a friend while you sip coffee and complain! The four products come inside a resealable packet, which means you could buy more of the single use products (both available separately, here for the mask and here for the eye gels) and restock the kit to bring with you if you’re going somewhere. I think it’s perfect for after a big night of celebration, such as a wedding, graduation, work party or housewarming, and I also think it would make a really nice bridesmaid gift, or something to put in your best friend’s bridal suit, perhaps a cheeky secret santa or even a going away to uni present! Get it here for £17.

WHAT IS SELF CARE?

Ever since the concept of self care became a thing that we actively talk about, people have tried to define it in lots of different ways. I have to say, I’ve found a lot of these definitions lacking, because most of the time they seem to invalidate what one person does, in order to validate another person’s self care techniques. I’ve seen people laugh at and bully a wonderful internet activist who created an app reminding people to drink enough water. I’ve seen people describe taking a bath as ‘self care for people without any problems’. I’ve seen websites promote buying £200 weighted blankets for ‘luxury’ wellbeing, while these very same blankets are desperately needed by people with ADHD who often can’t afford them. I’ve seen people implying that the only valid form of self care is basic maintenance (sleeping, eating, drinking) whilst other people claim that meditation and mindfulness are the only true ways to perform self care. Others will tell you that self care is worthless if you don’t love yourself. The concept of self care is turning out to be quite a complex one, and I wanted to spend a little time unpacking it, to shed light on what has become so unexpectedly confusing.

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I believe that the root of the problem is consumerism. Brands have had a hugely negative impact on the way people view self care. Above, I mentioned a listicle of luxury self care items, and this is where I think the problem comes from. Most people will have first heard about self care in the media, so they see it as something luxurious, an indulgence. Something they have to spend money on. This makes many people who are truly in dire need of self care reject it, because it seems frivolous. It isn’t the bubble bath that’s the problem, it’s the women’s lifestyle website telling you that you need to spend £100 on accoutrements to go with your bubble bath.

This has led to people feeling that it doesn’t reflect what they actually need, and I completely understand. Just like the trivialisation of the word ‘triggered’ affected me in therapy, where we used the word when discussing trauma, thoughtless media treatment has put people off self care because they feel silly talking about it. This is why I’ve decided to spend time earnestly talking about it; I know how important it is, and want help other people see that self care isn’t a fancy lifestyle choice, it’s a basic choice that helps you live your life.

Some people have tried to get around this trivialisation by moving the goalposts – describing self care as being only things like taking meds, drinking water, brushing your teeth. But I believe this makes some very unhelpful assumptions, and doesn’t clear things up at all. First of all, it assumes that self care is only for people who are ill. It’s also very ignorant of the fact that illness and wellness both take many, many forms. You cannot make a statement about self care being one thing but not another, because you don’t know what other people need. At the Foodbank I volunteer at, we put bodycare products like lotion or bubble bath in with our monthly menstrual parcels, we put chocolate into all of the food boxes and we put lipbalm into every homeless food box. Why? Because people need more than just baked beans and tinned vegetables. They need to feel like a human being. Many people across the world go through terrible, horrible things whether it’s due to poverty, sickness, grief or abuse. They don’t just require basic self maintenance to feel better. I truly believe that there is a gross lack of empathy in a lot of conversations around self care.

The NHS describes self care as being the different ways you can look after yourself, both mentally and physically. What we really need to understand is that this looks different for absolutely every single person on earth. And we need to accept that we can never, ever know how much another person needs their self care, how hard their journey is or what’s going on with them. Self care can also be very hard for some people. Roxane Gay makes a very good point that this concept of self care seems to her like yet another thing women are expected to be good at, and I’ve been there; I used to suck at self care too. But you cannot expect people to be able to learn how to practice self care if it doesn’t sound accessible, or attainable. The only answer is to eschew rampant consumerism and to be empathetic when others talk about their self care. We should be open about how we like to look after ourselves, both the elaborate and simple methods, and be honest about how that doesn’t always mean doing what we want to do. You can’t change what self care is – it already is what it is.

What we should be spending our time doing is discussing how to ensure we make honest choices about self care, because it doesn’t always mean doing whatever you want. Being honest with yourself about what you actually need is essential. For example, you might really want to spend four hours cooking a fancy meal to cheer yourself up, but perhaps you only want to do that to procrastinate some less fun chores? Skipping school or work might be something you do need to do once in a while, but you must be careful – why are you skipping it and what are you doing instead?

Every human being on the planet deserves to practice self care, and some people find it harder than others. The most important thing to remember is not to be negative about what one person is doing to care for themselves, because you don’t know how much they need it, why they need it or what they’re going through. But next time you see a magazine listing the “40 Best Self Care items you need”, ignore it.

January Beauty Favourites!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever done a monthly favourites post before, certainly not for a long time! But I thought it would be nice as I’ve been loving a few specific things this month; a combination of new discoveries and some old favourites.

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Lush Rosy Cheeks – I picked up a pot of one of my most beloved face masks this month and I’ve been loving it just as much as I always do. Rosy Cheeks is made with calamine and rose oil to calm the skin, as well as kaolin clay to draw out impurities. It’s fantastic because it does it all – deep cleanses the pores, calms irritation and nourishes the skin, thanks to the rose oil. My skin has been feeling a little more sensitive than usual this month so using a mask that comforts, calms and cleanses has been great. 

Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask – I got the flu this month, and I had a few irritating stressful things to deal with as well. These things always give me spots, and I decided to use this gorgeous, calming, purifying mask to calm them down. It really worked, as it always does. This mask contains manuka honey which is like a holy grail skincare ingredient – it nourishes, calms, hydrates and is also antimicrobial so it’s perfect for clearing up spots. It feels gorgeous when it goes on, like a soft gel, and it smells divine too. Highly recommend! Read more about this miracle worker here.

Magic Organic Apothecary Green Balm – Ok ok, I picked a couple of spots and they got nasty. I was stressed! I applied my MOA Green Balm before bed to help them heal and prevent infection – and they healed perfectly. What a relief! This stuff is a total multitasker and I LOVE it. You can cleanse with it, use it on eczema, scrapes, all sorts of things. You can even gargle with it! Read more about it’s amazing healing properties here.

Glossier Body Hero Daily Oil Wash – Urghhhhhhhh this STUFF. It’s SO GOOD. It smells like absolute heaven, a light orange blossom scent that’s refreshing but indulgent at the same time, and it leaves the skin velvety soft. No shower gel, body wash or even oil wash has ever made my skin feel so wonderfully soft. It’s the perfect way to make your shower time a little bit special. Get it on Glossier’s website here.

Byredo Inflorescence Eau De Parfum – This is an absolutely beautiful fragrance. It’s extremely unusual but also quite familiar – it really does smell exactly like a garden bursting with fragrant spring flowers. It’s basically the essence of spring and I love wearing it whenever I need a pick me up – I’ve been feeling a bit down with the cold weather and it has lifted my mood every time I wear it. Byredo are a very high quality brand and you’ll find their fragrances wonderfully long lasting and flattering.

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Toner – When my skin was really bad, I tried just using my trusty Avene Tolerance Extreme Emulsion to moisturise, thinking that keeping it as simple as possible would work. But my skin was very dehydrated from the winter weather and I found that I needed something else. Fresh’s Rose Deep Hydration Toner turned out to be exactly what I needed – it’s rich in hyalurinic acid to hydrate and rose to soothe. I applied it like an essence rather than a toner (pressing it into my skin) and it was perfect. Read more here!

Hope you enjoyed this quick little look at the products I’ve been loving throughout January 🙂

Self Care Ideas That Don’t Cost Any Money

In today’s world, self care is essential. It can be as simple as remembering to drink water, or as elaborate as a seven step skincare routine followed by 40 minutes of yoga. The type of self care you need depends on the level of wellbeing you are currently at. You shouldn’t feel pressured to engage in mindfulness meditation when you can’t even get out of bed! And you certainly should never feel obligated to spend money on making yourself feel better, despite how many magazines and websites say otherwise. Even the most well meaning self care ‘listicle’ is only really there to sell stuff. When brands are saying that you *need* the latest luxury bath salts or £40 face mask, it’s really just regular old marketing, re-spun, so that instead of saying ‘you’ll look better!’ they’re saying ‘you’ll feel better!’ Capitalism has taken the concept of self care and resold it to us as a commodity.

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You can absolutely look after yourself without buying anything new. I’ve complied a list of free ideas for people who can’t splash out, or are suspicious of the idea that self care should cost money. Obviously these are some of my personal favourite ways to look after myself, but I thought they might also be helpful as inspiration to get you thinking about creative ways you can rest and recharge on your own terms:

Turn your headphones off when you’re walking home in the rain – Listening to the rain is one of the most effective ways to soothe my brain and always has been, ever since I was little. I love walking home listening to the water hitting my umbrella. Perhaps it’s the same for you, or perhaps you love the sun and could try crossing the road whenever you can to walk on the sunny side. Or if you love the wind you could go to an open space on a blustery day and let it whip up into your hair and blow the cobwebs away.

Water and tend to your plants, then sit with them for a while – I have an enormous family of plants in my flat and I always feel more positive and recharged after I’ve spent a little time checking in on them; watering, dusting their leaves, repotting etc. I talk to them too. Houseplants are inexpensive, and do not take a huge amount of time to care for. If you don’t already have one, bringing some greenery into the home has been demonstrated time and time again to have lots of positive effects!

Read to your partner and have them read to you – James and I absolutely love doing this together, and usually read a few pages at a time before swapping. It’s lovely to do this while snuggled up under warm blankets and pillows, with bedside lamps just bright enough to read by. Everything you remember about how nice it was being read to as a child will come flooding back and you and your partner will be left feeling warm and fuzzy.

File the dead skin off your feet – Gross, fun and sooooo satisfying. Set aside 20 minutes for this, get right up in there with a pumice or file, then have a shower to wash it all off, and finish the job by rubbing in some body lotion, if you have any!

Cook yourself food and allow yourself to enjoy it – Anyone who has ever suffered from stress, exhaustion, physical or mental illness or financial difficulties will have been through a time where cooking food and letting it nurture them was impossible. I’ve been to that place. There are hundreds of reasons why someone may not have eaten properly for a while. If that’s you, when the time does come to give yourself a hot meal, try this method to make it as restorative as possible: Choose a meal that you know how to cook, and get the ingredients out before you start. While you cook, focus on the way the food feels in your hands, how it smells, how much you’re looking forward to eating it. Wash things up and clean as you go so you don’t have a pile of pots to tackle after you’ve eaten. When it’s ready, pour a large glass of water and bring your food to somewhere you find comfortable. Put some music on; don’t watch your shows while you’re eating today. Eat it slowly, let yourself enjoy the warm feeling that food can bring you. Drink your glass of water as you eat.

Make taking a shower into a cleansing ritual – For some, the simple act of getting in the shower is a taxing enough act of self care, and they should be proud to have managed to do that for themselves. But for other people, the way in which you shower can have a powerfully energising, restorative effect. It’s very basic, but the act of focusing the mind on something simple is so good for us. This is how I like to use my shower time to rest and refocus my mind: Get in the shower, squeeze out a generous amount of body wash, and massage it into every inch of your skin, from your toes to your neck. Pay attention to soaping up every part of your body, bit by bit. If you have a body brush or scrub, do the same with that and exfoliate your whole body. Just focus on the sensations, the smell of your shower gel, the heat of the water, the softness of the bubbles. If you want to, wash your face and hair too with the same degree of care, and finish by giving yourself a thorough rinse, letting the water wash everything away, leaving you shiny and new.

Get everything ready for bed, then run a bath and read in it for ages – I particularly love to do this when I’m reading a book I’m really enjoying. Get the washing up done, get your bag ready for work tomorrow, teeth brushed, alarm set, phone on charge, bed made. Then run a hot bath, put some bubbles in, soak and read away, until you’re ready to dry off and slip into bed.

Listen to an entire album that you love from start to finish – I suggest putting your headphones on for this, and lying on your bed. While you listen, try to focus just on the music, the emotions it stirs in you and any happy memories it may bring. Calmly but firmly steer your mind away from negative thoughts or worries that will try to creep in during this quiet time. This isn’t an opportunity for you to mull things over, make plans or ruminate – this time is for you and your brain to hang out together with something you both enjoy. If I do struggle to stop my mind racing, I say this to myself: “No. I’m not thinking about that right now. I don’t need to and I don’t want to. I am going to enjoy Zaba by Glass Animals until it is finished, because that is what I set this time aside to do.” Then, I will focus on the lyrics or pick out different instruments and follow them through the songs until my mind quietens down again.

Ecotherapy – Being out in nature is clinically proven to help improve mood and reduce stress. Jump at any chance to simply be out of doors, even better if you can take your shoes off and put your feet on the ground! In Japan this is known as ‘forest bathing’ and is regarded as essential, particularly for those living in densely populated urban areas.

Move around – Exercise is a personal thing and I don’t like to talk about it because it has the potential to make people feel bad when they haven’t done anything wrong. But still it seemed weird to leave this off the list, as it really does make a lot of people feel a bit better. If you’re able to, and you want to, I would definitely suggest trying exercise when you’re feeling down. It can be as simple as going for a walk or run, or you could try one of the millions of workout and yoga session on youtube. All completely free!

Some of these methods may seem trivial or pointless, and some of them might seem silly to you, but remember that I’ve tried to create a list that will inspire everyone, no matter what life situation they might be in. Whether you’re a student, a new parent, physically or mentally ill, in financial trouble or stressed at work, you are allowed to spend time on yourself. It’s not just nice to do, it’s necessary for your wellbeing which means you should never feel bad for taking the time to do it. Spending money doesn’t validate your self care, and doesn’t necessarily make it more effective either. The most important thing is that you approach your self care with the intention of taking some time to look after yourself, because you, just by virtue of existing on this planet as a human being, deserve it.

Yoga and cultural appropriation

It’s almost impossible to cope in our narcissistic, capitalist, violent and fragmented society without something to help. For an ever-increasing number of people, that thing is yoga. And that’s great. Yoga is a wonderful thing to do – it helps with anxiety, stress, poor posture, flexibility, joint health and muscle tone, which in turn can help support your immune, digestive and even endocrine systems, as well as improve your patience, sleep and mood. But yoga also has a long, dark history of cultural appropriation and class exclusion. No one is saying that westerners should stop doing yoga (although they certainly could) because of this, especially if it already forms a part of our self-care routine. However, it is extremely important that we are educated about it, and that we take steps to ensure that our yoga is inclusive and respectful.

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If you practice yoga, you have almost certainly engaged in cultural appropriation of some kind. This video is the ideal starting point for learning about cultural appropriation in yoga, as well as this article on Everyday Feminism. It’s pretty much a certainty that all western yoga students have done something disrespectful, ignorant or arrogant at some point. It’s frustrating to hear, of course, whether because you feel guilty or because it’s inconvenient for you to acknowledge it, but either way, lets move on to some practical ways for you to be a better yoga practitioner!

Call it what it is. It’s difficult to know exactly what to do when you realise just how deep the issues of colonialism, religious oppression and cultural appropriation go. If I’m not spiritual, but yoga is, should I just say to people that I’m going to a ‘meditative stretching’ class? Of course I shouldn’t. The stretches are yogic stretches and if I call it ‘lying on my back in the dark’ instead of savasana, I’m erasing the fact that it was invented in India thousands of years ago. Learn about the ever-developing history of yoga, and keep in mind that yoga is founded on religious teachings. There is nothing wrong with learning lessons from different religions. But there is a lot wrong with benefitting from something and not knowing about, or giving credit to, the culture that created it. And if you are only engaging in the physical aspects, perhaps you could consider clarifying that when talking to your teachers, to give them the choice about if, and how to engage with you.

Step away from the skinny white rich people. Western yoga is notorious for classism, racism and fat-shaming, and really doesn’t do well when it comes to inclusivity and acceptance. The fact that the most popular yoga instructors on instagram and youtube are white, skinny and able-bodied is sickeningly reflective of our society, and it needs to change, because that is not what yoga is about. Please stop following that tidal wave of brand-endorsed whiteness, or at least cut down. Instead, why not follow some of my faves: @biggalyoga@yogaplegic@nolatrees,  @daughteroftheuniverse, @mynameisjessamyn, @curvygirlmeetsyoga@justferd. It’s so important to show diverse bodies participating in yoga, because everyone deserves to benefit from it, and how will people know that yoga is for them if no one like them does it?

Join, or support, a more physically and financially inclusive yoga group. The relationship between yoga and money is complex, and an unfortunate by product of capitalism. But there are some things you can do. Practise yoga somewhere that makes an effort to be actively inclusive. People on low incomes, children with learning difficulties and pregnant women are almost certainly in need of the healing properties of yoga more than you, so support a group that supports them (unless you belong to one of those groups, in which case, here are some places you can go!) My suggestions are all based in London because I’m only one woman, but do your own research and I’m sure you’ll find one where you live too! Most cities will have a pay-what-you-can Yoga group (so if you can’t afford Yoga you can donate a little, if you can afford yoga you can donate more). Donate to Special Yoga which is just about the most amazing idea I’ve ever seen. The West London Buddhist Centre does low cost and community classes. There’s pay-what-you-can yoga at the DIY Space for London, and St Margaret’s House in Bethnal Green does the same thing. Triyoga offers discounts to seniors, jobseekers and students, so if you are one you could sign up with the discount, and if you aren’t, sign up anyway so they can continue offering the discount to those that need it! And the Iyengar Yoga Institute is an incredible charity that offers free classes to pregnant women and kids, as well as being extraordinarily knowledgeable about the practise.

Don’t perpetuate the show-off culture so prevalent in westernised yoga. Yoga is not a trend, it’s not cool and it’s not a sport. It is a culturally significant, physically challenging, deeply spiritual practice that should be approached responsibly and sombrely. Make sure that your attitude towards yoga is in line with the intentions of yoga. You aren’t better than someone else because you have expensive yoga pants, or because you pulled off a headstand on your first try. Be nice to everyone in your class, take steps to ensure you don’t make anyone feel embarrassed or self-conscious. In the UK for example, black women practicing yoga can often feel like outsiders. That’s not fair, or in line with the intentions of yoga. Obviously you shouldn’t be going up to women in your class saying ‘hey, you’re welcome here!’ but you could at least be nice to them and ensure that no one is being actively excluded.

Buy ethical or inexpensive yoga clothes/mats. You don’t actually need special yoga stuff (again, that’s not really in line with yogic intentions). But if you don’t have anything that can comfortably accommodate a warrior pose sequence, or the Lululemon yoga pants that you got when you didn’t know any better have sprouted an unfixable hole (hi, that would be me), then you need to get something from somewhere. It’s extremely difficult to find ethically made (or any, actually) yoga pants for less than £45, and most are £60-£70. This isn’t right, and if you’re financially unable to buy adapted yoga pants you shouldn’t feel like you can’t take part – all you need is a stretchy pair of leggings that you feel comfortable in, and a top that doesn’t ride up or fall down. You don’t need a £62 bra, £18 thong, £52 yoga mat or a £138 cardigan (yes, I just went on the Lululemon website to find all those…feel free to browse for a great lesson in white privilege…they sell a ‘namastay put’ thong. Seriously?) As for mats, well you don’t actually need one, but again the most ethical are the most expensive. If you can afford to spend £50 on a jute mat, get one, but if not, please don’t feel guilty about buying a £6.50 plastic one.

Yoga is not perfect, and neither is anyone who has been, or is, is involved in it. That’s kind of the point. No one is perfect and we’re always learning. You are benefitting from yoga, so you must take it seriously, treat it with respect and approach it with humility. Avoid explicitly capitalist behaviour like buying expensive clothes, or paying loads for classes in studios that only benefit themselves. There is a fantastic website called Decolonizing Yoga that you should definitely visit if you want to continue learning to be a better western yoga practitioner.