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The Benefits of Bad Weather: a winter love list challenge. Text over 2 photos, top photo frozen hawthorne haws, bottom photo, snowy fir branches.

[Vintage Post: While I’m on a wintery writing retreat I’m sharing this updated vintage post. Thank you for your patience while I write, I’ll be back with new articles soon. Thank you for being you, being here and wishing you warm days and good things, Grace xx]

I’m writing this by the fireside, I’m wrapped up, wearing my almost-pyjamas (hint: check out what to wear all day instead of pyjamas.) It’s a grey day, too dark even to go outside properly yet. But when the bad weather, dark-days-doldrums kick in, I have an antidote. And I’d like to share it with you here…

I used to love winter, it was the time of year when I finally felt like I fitted in. The illnesses I was struggling with meant that I spent most of my time tucked up in bed and was often wearing earplugs (with ear muffs over them for stylish camouflage), and lots of layers to keep my sore, tired bones warm. Naturally, winter was when my lifestyle was the one everyone wanted to follow. In the coldest times, everyone yearns to be warm in bed or resting in an armchair by the fire.

But winter was also the time when the grey, dim days seemed to stretch forever. It never got light, it seemed, until the drear days blended into one another and I lived in a dark world – rising in darkness, going to bed in the dark, and my whole world artificially lit in between.

Winter also tends to bring more coughs and colds, and infection is something I do my best to avoid. Having had two pretty difficult lung infections in previous winters, I was very nervous about this winter. Summer felt bittersweet as each warm, easy, sunshiny day felt like another day closer to the coldest times.

So I decided to flip that script, and shift my fear, I set myself a challenge. I made it my mission to learn to LOVE winter. My tools? A manifesto, a winter love list and allies to adore the cold days with me.

All through the summer, I put together a list of wonderful things about winter. Everything I could look forward to. I got ready, gathered my kit for a sustained winter joy campaign. I’m very serious about this, I was ordering ski wear on eBay in August! But now I have warm clothes, and a list of joyful smiling-worthy winter delights I’d love to share with you here.

 

Manifesto Mojo

Winter contains so much magic. A manifesto can help us find it.

The manifesto is your mission, your commitment to the challenge of cold-weather smiles and your guide of how to get them.

Simply fill in the prompts below and post it somewhere you can see it. If you’d like, share on social media #turntrailblazer

My Winter Manifesto

Today I commit to celebrating all the benefits of each day, whatever the weather.

I believe in myself, and know that my ________, ________ and________ are always with me.

Days are made bright by my actions and the three things I know can always lift my spirits are

1. _________

2. _________

3. _________.

Winter is a beautiful season, my favourite parts are _________, _________ but most especially _________.

I will take this season as an opportunity to _____________. Always remembering that _____________.

I look forward to each day and just like winter, I am magical!

 

Build Your Winter Love List

What do you love about winter? At the beginning, it can be hard to think of anything, but I’m sure if you turn your mind toward this question some thoughts will arise.

Can you begin with a winter free-write? Simply start by writing everything you feel about winter. The idea with a free-write is just to keep the pencil moving/your fingers typing/dictaphone speaking. When you have finished, take a break and then you can come back to what you’ve written. Grab a highlighter, read through, pull out any ideas (or seeds of ideas) buried in your words. What does winter joy look like for you?

I’m sharing my winter love list below for inspiration and fun.

 

Grace’s Winter Love List

Comfort at Home

Take the bad weather of winter as an opportunity to make the place you spend your time as lovely as possible. It can often be the case that when we live with illness we spend so much time focusing on surviving we can miss out on opportunities for the icing of life; pretty clothing, gorgeous home-wares, art which moves us. It’s also a common occurrence that our homes become filled with disability aids. These can be functional and beautiful but when they are not, it is hard. Can you make beautiful your equipment (check out my article here for tips and tricks)? And check in, does your home reflect you?

 

– Burning gorgeous candles – I can’t wait to try these Harry Potter scented candles

– Double duvet days – the ultimate luxury. A high-tog duvet over and under you, for total cwtchy comfort

– Decorating the house for festivities. I adore hanging holly over all the paintings, and homemade advent calendars!

– Planning the garden, get the seed catalogues out. Read Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville West for inspiration

– Decorating the chimney-piece with squash and pumpkin boxes from Riverford Organic Farms and then eating them!

 

Body Nourishment

Winter is a beautiful time to turn inwards and nourish our bodies. So often it can seem the world is moving so fast, that everyone wants to do more, go more, see more, be more.

Winter is a great leveller. It slows us down to the human pace of our bodies, we haven’t subjugated nature, and we all bow when the wind blows. This relentless pace of life can be especially difficult for those with chronic illness as the fast pace can be far beyond us. Yet in winter the world slows down, people walk at our pace through the rain and wind.

Can you draw on your wisdom and give your body what it needs in the cold times? Nourish yourself with what feeds your soul and your body. Take the rest needed and just be.

 

– Making warm and nourishing foods like black bean pot, sweet potato soup with vanilla, smokey tomato lentil stew with spinach and olives and scrummy split pea soup

– Drinking hot gingerbread rooibos tea with a good book

Supercharged vanilla porridge

– Pickling and preserving vegetables

– Gingerbread – fresh and warm from the dehydrator

– Enjoying blood oranges in season

– Making kale chips

– Mixed nuts in their shells and clementines at Christmas

– Making up festive hampers of homemade goodies

 

Fabulous Fun

With little to gaze at in the garden and fuel prices rising, winter boredom can set in and bring a reactive depression with it. However, I believe proactive plans can be made to prevent this occurrence. Can you begin by thinking what you might like to do, what you enjoy – like reading, movement, socialising, warmth, excitement etc?

Then mind shower activities that can fill these roles, what can be done around reading, for example? Perhaps a book club, a visit to a rare book shop, reading aloud for the Gutenberg Project etc.

Next, look at anything that might be preventing you from enjoying these activities and find ways to circumnavigate the winter-induced issue. It could be that you get so much pain in the cold that travelling to a bookshop would be a punishment rather than a joy – but great quality thermal hiking clothes might keep you warm enough to travel (and if so, eBay may be your friend here).

– Going to the spa or swimming pool and being in warm water when it’s cold outside

– Camping out in the sitting room, make a bed or tent on the floor and tell stories

– Listening to favourite audiobooks

– Cuddling up with the dogs

– Festive music on the radio

– Grey days are good photography days:
Cloudy grey days can produce surprisingly beautiful results because the clouds act like a diffuser around the sun, dispersing wonderfully even light across your scene and minimising the risks of harsh shadows and hot spots.” – Instant Love by Jen Altman, Susannah Conway, Amanda Gilligan

– Knitting

– Stargazing

 

Advantageous Allies

I don’t know about you, but accountability and support count for a lot with me. I am writing about this because to love winter I need allies, and I’d like to invite you to join me.

If you’ve enjoyed this article let me know by posting on social media with the hashtag #turntrailblazer and let’s love winter together!

If you’re looking to have a care kit to help you on your way this winter, check out the Original Healing Box, complete with super-soft warming bamboo socks (perfect for this time of year), luscious lip balm, a beautiful journals and more.

Originally published in The Pillow Fort Magazine. Photo by Galina N on Unsplash. Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

gratitude and grace list: hygge edition

Inspired by my dear friend Gala Darling, I’m taking my love lists out of my (midnight blue, star-spangled) journal and sharing them with you.

It’s been so misty here. I’ve been enjoying our woodburning fire, essay writing for college and puppy cwtching time. I am truly grateful for every beautiful day and for all the safety and support I have in this time and place.

Here are some more things I’m grateful for…

Little Things I Love:

* Crunchy leaves under my wheelchair wheels.

* Finding two marvellously iridescent feathers and trying to imagine what bird they could be from (what birds have rainbow feathers?).

* My peace lilies blossoming.

* Switching from a smartphone to a retro phone.

* Getting a pencil torch (metallic scarlet) to replace my smartphone torch and playing with it ALL the time ‘Do you need a torch? I HAVE ONE HERE!’ <-- me, constantly. * Watching the dogs be amused/bemused by pumpkins. * Drinking tea from a beautiful handmade teapot. * Making up gorgeous and delightful ethical self-care subscription boxes

* Listening to radio programs.

* Drinking goji berry and rosehip tea.

* Getting ready for winter – check out my winter wellness gratitude list here

* Planning my 2018 with Leonie Dawson’s amazing planners

* Reading period mystery novels.

* Planning the garden for next spring.

* Getting lovely letters about my new book on living well when house bound and bed bound. Check out Beyond the Boundaries: Finding Freedom and Fulfilment Within Four Walls. Self-Care Edition here

What are you grateful for? Let me know in the comments!

P.S Want more gratitude prompts and opportunities? Check out all my gratitude and grace lists here.

Self-care sunday: dealing with a bad day without chocolate, netflix or guilt) gracequantock.com text over photo of sunset at sea

(Ok, there may be some chocolate and Netflix, but only if they are right for you, and no unconscious choices and definitely no added guilt)

You know those days when you just can’t even?

When adulting or even getting breakfast feels a million miles away?

If you’ve had a bad night, a flare, a pain spike, the grief is doing a number on you or the anxiety just won’t quit and give you space to breathe?

I’ve been there, I feel you.

Often in these situations, we are told to get it together, to shift our thinking, shake up our mood and make the day AWESOME. And that’s all well and good, but I have found in my trailblazing wellness coaching practice and my personal experience that sometimes these exhortations to be great can feel bullying, shaming or yet another thing we haven’t reached.

I want to present an alternative.

Perhaps we are having a bad day for no reason we can see, but the fact is, we are feeling bad. That’s our experience. Sometimes it’s more compassion to ourselves and more healing, in the long run, to just let a bad day be a bad day. To not put pressure on it our ourselves and just let it be. Then see what happens.

Side note: I don’t actually call them bad days, myself. Because I am concerned with labelling sadness, anxiety, anger, regret, pain, grief, loneliness or similar feelings ‘bad’. I think they are painful, sure. They are uncomfortable, certainly. But they aren’t inherently wrong or worthless. They are a part, I believe, of being human. The other side of the coin of happiness, contentment, trust, confidence, ease, love, companionship and other feeling states we often label ‘good’.

But just as I have great respect for the shadows and what work our bodies and minds do in the darkness, I wonder if a life with only the ‘positive’ emotions would truly be like? Would it be a spiritual transcendence? Or would it be an exercise in denial and repression, always running away from the shadow side of life? How could we live in the world without being sad, angry, lonely or in pain, which so many things happen that are sad, and unjust and call those powerful, real, responses forth in us?

Just as I crave the rest of darkness and couldn’t live with the light on 100% of the time, so I find relief if letting myself be in the uncomfortable shadow times.

Instead of good days/bad days, I say optimum/non-optimum days, times when we feel at our optimum, perhaps with more comfortable, pleasant emotional sensations. And times when we don’t feel at our optimum. Because, no mistake, feeling all those darker emotions, can be painful, it can hurt hugely.

I have felt the hurt of a bad day we really, really wish was good.

The rising panic when they stack up and we can’t see an escape.

Growing resentment and self-doubt when we compare our painful reality to the edited online world which shows only the best. Which truly displays lives in only the best light (literally).

On a difficult day, what can we hope for?

Perhaps to contain it, to let it be a bad day and take action so that it doesn’t spiral and trigger other issues or expand into weeks.

To avoid the pressure and sense of failure from needing to make every day perfect.

Because you may have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce, but you don’t have the same resources. So let’s give you a break, huh?

And frankly, pitting women against each other without taking into account the intersecting frameworks for oppression and privileges that affect each one of us is simply an exercise engendering shame and disappointment.

So, what can we do?

1. Take care of basics

The pressure to feel wonderful can lead to further feelings of stuckness and disempowerment. Have you ever got to the point where you are so full of information and inspirational material that you can’t even get out of bed with the weight of all the wonderful, self-care things you aren’t doing?

The solution? Stick to the basics. I love this website (NSFW re. language)

Why? It takes you through the basics that humans need. So often we forget the basics. I know I all too often forget to drink water, say I will get up/go to the loo/take a break just when I finish this one thing….

Often when we feel awful it feels like we need a nuclear level solution.

I once had really, really awful nausea. It was so disabling, so awful.

Everyone told me to try ginger. Ginger tea, ginger capsules, ginger essential oil. Well, I’m afraid to say, I scoffed.

I thought, ‘Ginger? I don’t think you understand, I am sick! It is serious, it will take more than just ginger to sort this.’

I went for the powerful anti-emetics. Of course, you’ve guessed the end of the story. Eventually, I tried ginger and it helped so much, without any side effects.

Just because we feel seriously awful, doesn’t mean the only solution is a serious treatment.

Sometimes the simple, day to day things can make a huge difference. And if you want to go nuclear, try setting up all the basics first (if you are bed or housebound check out my new book on doing this accessibly) and then if you are still struggling, the nuclear option will still be there for you.

Often this saves a lot of hassle and money e.g if I take care of my back. I don’t need to see the osteopath so much. It’s boring, day to day work, taking breaks, using my roller, stretching in the morning, checking in to see where my pain levels are and what I need, but it makes the difference, daily and long term.

2. Take off the pressure

Often we are struggling, we are under a lot of pressure.

Have you ever had the experience of feeling awful and then feeling awful about feeling awful and then feeling trebly awful about all the things you aren’t getting done because you are having such a difficult time?

It’s so easy to fall into this cycle and it generally spirals downwards and feeds any sense of shame or not-enoughness we may already be carrying.

How to handle this? The useful question here can be ‘what can I do to take the pressure off?’

Often we feel we have ‘got’ to do things, but do we?

What are the things you have got to do? And how can you give yourself a break from everything else, just to take the pressure off?

In my work, Blazing Hearts Flight School Coaching: Pursuits and Passion for People Living With Limits (previously Phoenix Flight School)  we work on setting up systems. Systems hold things so you don’t have to. We can often automate much more than we out think – and I don’t mean by outsourcing your life to underpaid overseas virtual assistants – but by, as systems goddess and all around good

Systems hold things so you don’t have to. We can often automate much more than we out think – and I don’t mean by outsourcing your life to underpaid overseas virtual assistants – but by, as systems goddess and all around good

We can often automate much more than we out think – and I don’t mean by outsourcing your life to underpaid overseas virtual assistants – but by, as systems goddess and all-around-awesome-human, Michelle Nickolaisen teaches, looking at what you do over and over and making a formula for it. Then checking if any of those sites can be held by someone/thing other than you.

e.g meds on repeat prescription, reminders to book your next chiropodist appointment when you finish your current one, having the groceries you may use on repeat order etc.

I also love the concept of an “at the very least list” – credit to Xandra, of Heroine training (& Lumos Your Life that I am guest teaching on & my goodness you need to join!)

An ‘at the very least list’ is a list you make if what you will do even on a ‘bad’ day.
This will be individual to you, but it could be; getting dressed, taking your meds (if any), having some food, having some non-screen time, connecting with someone or doing something restful.

3. Dip into our self-care kit resources

Do you have a self-care kit? If not, here’s a guide for how to make one or I can make one for you.

How do you make your own Self-Care Kit? Well, I’d love to help you design one, so book a free consult here. But if you’d like to put together your own, the first thing is to get a box, designate it as your Self-Care Kit and then keep it in mind. Fill it with things you love, you can begin by looking around your house and asking if there are any letters from loved ones, postcards that make your laugh or funny cartoons etc. that you like and add them to the box. Keep thinking of your box and you will keep adding resources, and use the box when you need.

I’ve made us a Virtual Self-Care Kit here. I hope you enjoy it.

When we dip in, we are literally resourcing ourselves, remembering that we have tools, options and support.

We can use out self-care kit to prevent a difficult day spiralling into a difficult week or longer.

Really, it’s a process of listening to ourselves and adding nourishment where we need it.

If you need to talk, call:

(UK & ROI) Samaritans – 116 123 (their new freephone number)

(USA) Suicide Prevention Life Line – 1-800-273-8255

(Australia) LifeLine – 13 11 14

If these ideas resonate or intrigue you, why not conduct a personal experiment, try and see how you find it?

  • Bookmark this page and come back to it when you are low.
  • Make your ‘At the Very Least’ list and save it in your journal or your phone. Try setting a 5-minute timer now and making a draft list, then try it out when you next have a difficult day and refine as needed. Each non-optimum day will give you more data to polish and personalise your plan.
  • List the 3 things you repeat most regularly (like paying a bill, ordering food, running out of something or repeating something). See if you can find a system for one of those this week. Set up a standing order, get a repeat delivery or prescription, set up a reminder to order or write a canned response in gmail). Your future-self will thank you.
  • Begin making (or order) a self-care kit and use it when needed.

What’s your way to manage non-optimum days? Let me know in the comments!

P.S You may also like Having a bad day? head here and Bad day and work mounting? There’s another option.

Photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo on Unsplash

party food berries and drinks

Do you ever look at other people’s lives (as displayed on social media) and feel you are missing out? That your life too could be beautiful, perfectly placed, fun and meaningful, if only you were doing it right, or not doing something wrong. Or something….

#FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is real for so many people. It’s especially challenging if you are feeling excluded for reasons of disability, accessibility, discrimination or exclusion, if you have caring responsibilities and those aren’t supported (e.g no time off for caring roles or creche or childcare provided).

I can’t make it ok, I know. But I can share how I handle living a life free of FOMO:

Highlight reel v.s behind the scenes

Social media can be wonderful and beautiful. It connects us, inspires us, includes us and allows us to be involved, to stay in touch with loved ones, to witness and support events unfolding across the world, from our own beds.

But social media can also be tricky. It grew as personal sharing, but so often it’s commodified. Those gorgeous photos you see…may not have been snapped with someone’s smart phone. There may be lighting, a photographer, hair and make up people, and a stylist.

Someone may have spent hours planning and curating those designs. And that’s ok.

But if we compare the results of all that work, (even the ‘natural, casual, lifestyle’ shots), to our own actual-in-person lifestyle, it’s easy to feel less-than.

(And quite frankly, we often have many people/systems already telling us we are less-than. We don’t need any more.)

When I find myself in this situation, I think, ‘don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel’. You don’t know what it’s like in reality. And their social media isn’t an unedited, behind-the-scenes version of their reality.

All those sneek peaks and #nomakeup selfies may be carefully curated. It’s like ballet, part of the art is making it look easy.

When you look at a magazine or a television show, you recognise that it is probably photo-shopped, or styled or scripted. You don’t expect ‘real life’, which is too beautiful and painful, terrifying and frustrating, glorious and messy to look like those glossy images.

What happens if we extend this to view social media too? How would that impact your use? Why not try it for a day and see how it feels?

Bad things happen to everyone, we are just familiar with our own

Few people share their bad hair days, small dream losses, daily trials and tribulations on social media. Because of this, we often see the only good times. And it can feel everyone else is singing and swinging their way from strength to strength. Or that nothing ever happens to them, not illness or burning the toast or anything painful.

But we likely don’t know what it’s like for other people, because we aren’t them. We can think we know and they can act like they are sharing everything with us. But sharing everything is a tall order and happens less often than we might suppose.

There are people who seem to have lives which go swimmingly. People who plan their year knowing their health will likely be the same at the beginning as at the end. They can make plans, you see. And you, maybe, feel like you can’t make plans, because of flares and caring and all the other struggles that you balance daily.

Here’s the thing, they can’t make plans either. No one knows what will happen. Their plans are like yours, just hopes. Yet you have a good idea of what your main challenge will be, where your vulnerabilities are, because you work with them daily.

For me, I know energy and mobility are a challenge. Does it stop me doing things I would otherwise do? Sort of, I have to change my priorities and do things in different ways.

Does it give me good information about the part of a plan that’s vulnerable (the energy and mobility part), so I can make plans for contingencies? Yes, it does.

It’s not necessarily worse for me, I just have more information on my upcoming challenges.

How does it feel to reframe your challenges as advanced information? Does this change how you make plans?

I’m Happy at Home

We aren’t always happy at home. But if we are living a life we love, living well and doing work or creation that’s meaningful to us then it may matter less if we ‘miss out’.

Because we aren’t missing out because we can’t get somewhere, but because we are prioritising our own loves, passions and lives.

A good life is still possible, if we re-invent our dreams.

That’s the ethos of my new ebook, Beyond the Boundaries: Finding Freedom & Fulfilment Within Four Walls. Self-Care Edition. You can check it out here and get an ebook, an audio book version and free bonus interviews and printable goodies.

What’s your top tip for managing FOMO? Let me know in the comments.

L'Erin Alta standing against a wall wearing a white dress and gold bangle

L’Erin Alta is a spiritual mentor for resilient women who have survived a great something and cobbled their lives back together, Tour Guide Through the Shadowy Places, High Priestess of Sacred Space, Deep Listener and the soul guide. She’s graced the cover of Inspired Coach Magazine and she runs retreats, workshops and one on one intensives for women to connect to their deepest truths.

Read more at LErinAlta,com

In this Trailblazer Interview we talk about:

  • Resilience in our work, our souls, our lives
  • Relationship to resilience when resilience isn’t pushing through but
  • Learning how to be in her body
  • Her experience post brain surgery
  • The unsustainability of the hustle mentality
  • Learning to be gracious with oneself
  • Coping when you’ve been denied credit by the bank of your body
  • Useful links: Being Type-A With Chronic Illness, I Hate to Break it To You, But You Are Not A Robot .

 

Read transcript: Trailblazer_Interview_LErin_Alta_and_Psyche_Soma_Resilience

What’s your favourite takeaway from this interview? Let me know in the comments!

P.S You may also like more trailblazer interviews here

Accessibility