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Photo of 3 candles in jars on a tray, text above: Turning your journal into an altar- a how-to guide

In difficult days, self-care can feel like a luxury that we cannot afford, delicious journals or artful altars can feel ever-so-far away. But it doesn’t have to be this way. And painful times are when we most need compassion.

I believe self-care is a way of including ourselves in our compassion (credit: Karuna training)

My favourite self-care activities are non-aspirational, they are in the moment, accessible for those of us on the front lines, those fighting to help or suffering at the sharp points of this world.

A challenge for many of us is making self-care accessible. I don’t know about you, but I have spent far, far too long scrolling through the #altar tag on Instagram. And while there are some beautiful creations there, I am literally never going to make an ombre mandala of roses and then meditate in front of it.

And my journal looks far from the gorgeous pages I see displayed online. And I’m ok with that, because my journal is sacred and it’s mine. A space in this world I can tend to without expectations. A space I can tend to myself, without expectations.

For those of us who need assistance, have carers or are living in shared spaces, setting up a physical altar space can be difficult to improbable. Small children, rambunctious animals (I’m looking at you, Doris), or overly interested/critical family members can make it impractical to set up a physical space for our dreams and devotions.

I’ve had altars on window sills, bookcases (no candles – fire safety!), on dashboards while driving over the darkening mountains. I’ve built altars on a hotel dressing table, over a bathroom sink (hot-pink lipstick prayers on the mirror and feminist postcards NSFW), on my hospital table and…in my journal.

Yes, our journal can be our altar – let me show you how…

Continue Reading Turning Your Journal Into an Altar: a How-To Guide

Trail Blazing Times and How To Turn Trail Blazer E-Book

Image of Elizabeth Cooper with arms above her head showing underarm hair. Wearing a navy tunic and silver link necklace. Text: Trailblazer Interview: Elizabeth Cooper & Queer Body Love

Elizabeth Cooper is the founder of Queer Body Love, a coach, artist, guide and queer performance artist. She holds a vision with us of feeling alive and free in our bodies. She has a BA in anthropology, gender and sexuality studies and performance from Princeton, and has studied coaching, yoga training at Kripalu and has explored her own personal journey with healing too.

In this interview, we talk about: 

  • What we mean when we are talking about queerness
  • Elizabeth’s journey with her queerness
  • Intersections of disability and queerness
  • Body love for those of us with marginalised identities
  • Body shame and systems of oppression
  • What we can do today to incorporate a queer body love practice into our lives

Continue Reading Trailblazer Interview: Elizabeth Cooper & Queer Body Love

Trail Blazing Times and How To Turn Trail Blazer E-Book

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.

Continue Reading The Benefits of Bad Weather: A Winter Love List Challenge

Trail Blazing Times and How To Turn Trail Blazer E-Book

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.

Trail Blazing Times and How To Turn Trail Blazer E-Book

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
Trail Blazing Times and How To Turn Trail Blazer E-Book

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