Self Empowerment

Why you should guard your alone time

The word ‘introvert’ used to really freak me out. I would picture someone at home alone, with no one to love, no one to share things with. It made me think of lonely people. So I wanted to be an extrovert – socialising often, partying with friends on the weekend, always looking to extend my social circle. Choosing time out with others over time alone, regardless of how tired I was, regardless of whether or not I felt a true connection with them.

No wonder I was unhappy. I was disconnected from myself, acting against my true nature.

Since developing my creative journaling practice and my online business, I have opened a creative channel inside me that longs to be expressed. When I’m out with others I often find my mind drifting to my creative projects – the things I’m truly excited about. Things I tend to work on alone.discover yourself

When I started to dive deep in my journal, I realised that I am very much an introvert at heart – and I love it. I felt the pressure of socialising all the time fall away. It turns out that spending time alone with myself is awesome.

But this can also present a problem. I often get invited to social engagements, catch-ups, parties and so on. Now I find myself carefully guarding my alone time. I want to turn down a lot of these events to be alone and work on my creative projects, but it’s hard. It’s hard to explain to people.

Most often I just say I’m busy. Because I am busy. With myself.

It’s funny how bad we feel turning down others or cancelling on friends when we regularly do it to ourselves. It’s something I’m really working on – if I want to spend time alone instead of going out, then I say no. Brene Brown has this fantastic saying:

Choose discomfort over resentment.

Choose the discomfort of saying no at that moment, rather than the resentment you will feel later if you agree to something you don’t really want to do.

For me it used to be about what my friend calls ‘FOMO’ – fear of missing out. I used to worry that friends would have an amazing night out without me. So I would go along, just in case, even though most of the time I would be longing to come home well before the others.

I’ve now realised that years of missing out on spending time with myself has been more damaging than missing out on one or two great nights out.

By embracing my inner introvert and indulging in alone time, I’ve reconnected with myself. I’ve learnt things about myself that I never knew. I’ve stopped worrying about offending people if I turn them down – those that really love me understand.

I find using Brene’s mantra helps me to say no to the things I don’t want to do. I’m working on not feeling guilty if I choose time with myself over others, allowing myself the time and space I need to unwind, create and dream.

And it’s lovely.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Home

I’m a real homebody. I love winter time, because it’s the perfect excuse to stay in, wrapped up warm and cosy.

I think it’s important that we make our home a safe and comfortable space, especially if we spend a lot of time there.

This is particularly important for people like me – HSPs and introverts. We need a safe space to retreat after being out in the world. We need a place to feel that we can just relax and be ourselves, a place where we are inspired and our creativity is nurtured, and a place to be safe.

For me, the feel of my environment home 3is important. At home, I want it to feel inviting, warm, inspiring, cosy, light, safe and comfortable.

A lot of this comes down to the way the place looks, including the colours, images, light, and arrangement of the furniture. I’m careful to include images on my wall that make me smile or think. I use colours that lift me up and also colours that soothe. I keep the place tidy and have objects on display that inspire me.

Besides my desk, where I do most of my creative work, my bed is my favourite place. It has to be just the right level of comfort – it’s a little like Goldilocks – not too hard and not too soft. I have a lovely duck down duvet (or ‘comforter’ for my North American friends), big pillows and a beautiful bedspread cover. I have extra blankets for winter and hot water bottles.

Some people see the kitchen as the hub of the home, a place to entertain guests, the most important part of the house. For me, the bed is the symbol for a cosy house. As a highly sensitive person, I need to know that I have somewhere warm, safe and delicious that I can go when the world becomes too much. The bed symbolises rest and renewal, safety and security.

This way, when I am out in the world dealing with stress at work, traffic jams, difficult people, bad weather or just a plain bad mood, I know that I have my wonderful haven to come back to – my home – and things seem a little more manageable.

>>> Prompts:

What does ‘home’ mean to you? What do you associate with the word?

What do you love about your home?

What would you like to change about your home?

Describe your ideal home. Include the way it looks, sounds, smells and feels.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: It’s ok to say no

This has taken me years to learn. I must say that I’ve had a little help in getting there faster with some words of wisdom from Brené Brown:

Choose discomfort over resentment.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before. It’s become my personal mantra to ensure I don’t over-commit myself. As an introvert and HSP I need lots of downtime, lots of alone time. This entails saying no to people.

Basically what Brené means is to choose the discomfort of saying no to someone at the time, rather than committing to something you would rather not do/don’t have time for and resenting it later.

This makes perfect sense, but in reality it can actually be pretty hard to do.

The more I have learnt about who I am and what makes me tick, the more I have come to see how important it is for me to honour my needs. This means saying no to people sometimes, even if it disappoints them. At the end of the day, I find that this statement (attributed to Dr. Seuss) is so true:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Saying no means offending or usay nopsetting some people, but I think that is ok. Those closest to me know I need a lot of time alone and if I say no to them they are usually pretty understanding. They know that is part of who I am. The more that people get angry at me for not committing to doing what they want me to do, the more I feel like they don’t understand or appreciate who I am, and potentially don’t matter as much.

Is this a harsh way to approach life? Maybe. But I think it is so essential that we look after ourselves and meet our own needs, because most often others aren’t going to do it. Besides, it’s my life and I get to choose how I spend my time. I want to do the things that make me happy, not just what makes others happy.

It might sound selfish, but I think of it as the whole oxygen mask thing – we need to look after ourselves first so that we are better help to other people. It’s an act of self care. I have more to offer others if I’m looking after myself properly, than if I’m rushing around trying to make everyone else happy.

>>> Prompts:

How often do you find yourself saying yes to people when you would rather say no? Write about why you think you do this.

What are the consequences of saying yes when you would rather say no?

What are some small ways you could start saying no to people, when it feels right to you?

How might your life feel different if you honour yourself and say no when you want to?

Write/print out the saying ‘choose discomfort over resentment’ and put it somewhere you will see it often.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Know yourself

The practice of journaling regularly has allowed me to get to know myself in ways unimaginable.

There’s something about the process of writing our thoughts, dreams and fears out onto the page, getting them outside of ourselves and having them there for us to look at, that enables us to better connect with and understand ourselves.

My journal is a mirror I hold up to myself, reflecting back my deepest values, highlighting my darkest fears and loftiest dreams, showing me who I am.

Through this process I have gained greater clarity about myself, about things I never knew before; I’m a highly sensitive person, an introvert, I often let resistance and fear stop me from doing things but paradoxically I also believe that anything is possible.

lesson 7When I began my journaling journey, I didn’t set out to ‘get to know myself better’, it just sort of happened along the way. And while I’m sure there are other ways of getting to know yourself and how you tick, I have found journaling to be the most invaluable tool to do so.

It’s like an ongoing therapy session with myself that I always have a record of to reread. Patterns and cycles become clear, images, symbols and words are repeated, certain themes emerge.

And by seeing myself on the page, I start to become a character in a bigger story, distinct from myself. I find this allows me to learn about ‘this person’ with compassion and acceptance, without judgement.

In short, journaling has deepened my relationship with myself. I can now listen to that small, quiet voice inside – the one that accepts me as I am and comforts me when the world is too harsh, that tells me when something feels off, when I need to rest more, when I need more self-love.

In fact, the small voice inside has gotten louder and louder. I now no longer look at my life and wonder why things are happening the way they are happening. Because I have a deeper sense of who I am, because I know myself and why I think and behave the way I do, I have a greater sense of purpose and control over my life. I find myself reacting less and acting more purposefully.

This post is a lot more rambly than I intended, so I apologise if you’ve struggled to follow my train of thought!

>>> Prompts:

How well do you think you know yourself?

What practices do you engage in regularly to maintain a good relationship with yourself? It doesn’t have to just be journaling, it might be painting, meditating, exercise such as yoga or running, seeing a therapist, etc.

What practices would you like to try to create a deeper sense of connection with yourself?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Don’t have time to journal? Think again

Sometimes we don’t have the time and space we need to be alone and journal. We may have the best of intentions but the universe puts obstacles in our way.

I like to think that these are little tests to see how committed we really are.

For a while I was getting up super early… but it wasn’t really working. I naturally need a reasonable amount of sleep, and I was struggling to get myself to bed by 9pm in order to get my 8 hours. I feel like my evenings are my time to be creative, play in my art journal, or spend time with loved ones.

I’ve been really reluctant to give my body the extra rest it needs by sleeping a bit later. Last week I started to get headaches and when I found myself contemplating a fifth cup of coffee one day I decided I just had to go with it.

But my journaling! I tried just working for a couple of days without journaling first – I thought, maybe I could journal in the evening? But it didn’t feel right. I didn’t start the day with the usual positivity and intention. I felt a little… directionless (if that’s a word).

I can’t exactly journal at my desk when I get to work because I have colleagues sitting next to me. Not exactly an environment conducive to pouring my deepest fears and desires onto the page. Plus, work is associated with, well, work. Not creativity.

As I mentioned I don’t actually have to be at work until close to 9am, so I found an unusual solution:

I journal in my car.

This way I can miss the bad traffic, but find a nice quiet place to pull over where I can write for a while before I get to work. Sure, it’s not ideal. But it’s better than not journaling at all! Given that my job is only short-term, this will work in the mean time.

At first I felt a little ridiculous pulling out my giant pencil-case in the front seat (it needs to be giant to fit my selection of pens and some washi tape).

But then I thought, who cares?

I reclined the seat, tucked my feet under me and just wrote. It was fine. I even brought coffee from home in a travel mug (bonus points to those who recognise the company logo on my coffee mug!).

The other thing I noticed is that a change in view is good. I can choose a different spot if I want a different view. I feel close to nature with trees and the rain just outside, but my car is warm. It’s still a personal space, and while I miss having my pup at my feet and burning my essential oil, it still gives me the time I need.

I’m talking about all this because I want to point out something:

Journaling can be done in many places.

I know I have talked about making a ritual out of your journaling but really if need be, it can be done when and wherever. If you’re stuck for space to be alone, why not try journaling in a cafe? You could always find a table in the corner or somewhere that you can get a little privacy. Or if you’re running between appointments and find you have a spare 30 minutes, you could journal in your car. Or in a park. Or a library. I’ve even heard of people journaling on the subway ride to work!

Find what will work for you. And if you need to, do something a little different. Don’t let life get in the way of your journaling.

How have you made more time to journal? Share in the comments.

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share the blog posts and other bits and pieces that have most inspired me. Feel free to share anything that has inspired you this week in the comments below.

creating a magical life

Jamie Ridler has some great advice for when you feel overwhelmed (something I’m all too familiar with!)

Akiyo at Journaling Sage is posting daily journal prompts – a great way to get into a regular journaling practice

Loving these ideas of how to be alone with your writing and how not to be too alone with your writing – great for striking a balance in your writing life

Totally crushing on Susana’s art right now

Andy shares some great ways for introverts to recharge when feeling drained of social energy

Have you got your free copy of the Journal Wild Self Love Kit yet?

Have an inspired week!

Creativity

Journal prompt: Goodbye 2014, hello new year!

I love this time of year. It always feels like a chance to reflect on the year that’s been and get excited about the year to come.

It feels like a fresh start, a clean slate, a do-over. It feels full of possibility.

But the only real way to get the most out of a new year is to make peace with the year that’s been, then set some clear intentions for the year ahead. If you don’t let go of what’s been, you may drag it into the new year with you.

i am so blessed

I cherish this time of year as a chance to spend extra time with my journal; reflecting, dreaming and planning.

For me, this has been a tremendous year, personally. I’ve started a blog and welcomed my soul sister Kelly on board, I’ve created a regular journaling and creative practice that lights me up, I’ve gotten engaged to the man of my dreams and he and I have begun a journey to build our own little house. I couldn’t be happier with these things.

Professionally, this year has been challenging for me. I’ve been working full-time in a teaching job that I find stressful and, at times, overwhelming. While it certainly has its rewarding and enjoyable moments, as a highly-sensitive person and introvert, it is harder for me than many. Perhaps not the ideal career choice, I now realise after getting to know myself a bit better through my journal. Nonetheless, I made it through the year in one piece.

Our school years run from the start to end of the calendar year in New Zealand, so I am currently in between jobs, deciding upon my next move for next year. Instead of being fearful about this, I’m excited for what could be ahead.

So now, I’m going to take out my journal and explore the year that’s been and the possibilities that lie ahead of me.

>>> Prompt:

Take a fresh page in your journal and create a heading: Goodbye 2014, welcome new year! (Or whatever floats your boat).

Begin by answering some of these questions, and if something stands out to you, go as deep as you like:

  • How would you describe 2014 in one sentence?
  • If you could redo 2014, what would you do differently? Why?
  • List three things that went well for you this year.
  • List three things that did not go well for you this year.
  • What was the absolute highlight of 2014?
  • What was your lowest point?
  • If 2014 was a book, what would be the title? Come up with a few chapter names.
  • Draw a timeline of the year from start to finish with all of your achievements and greatest joys.
  • What was the predominant feeling for you in 2014?

Now, think about the year ahead:

hello 2015

  • If you were writing this at the end of 2015, how would you ideally like to be able to describe the year in one sentence?
  • If 2015 could be a book, what would you like it to be titled? Come up with a few possible chapter names.
  • What do you hope to achieve/do/complete/have happen next year?
  • What will you absolutely make happen, without a doubt?
  • How would you most like to predominantly feel, next year?
  • Create an art journal page or collage that best represents how you would like 2015 to be.
  • Choose one word to guide you through the next 12 months. The word I have chosen for 2015 is focus. Kelly’s word is joy. Choose whatever word most sings to you. If you’re a bit stumped, visit Susannah Conway for guidance on this. Once you’ve chosen your word, write it in big bold letters and put it somewhere you will see it every day.

Most importantly, be kind and gentle with yourself while you go through this process. If this hasn’t been the best year for you, try your best to acknowledge that and then look forward to the new year. It’s a new beginning for us all.

Creativity

Back from a weekend break: Art journal peeks

I’ve just come back from a lovely weekend away with my best friend. We spent the entire weekend talking about our exciting new business venture, drinking wine, art journaling, walking on the beach and resting. Not to mention (she is an avid journaler too) we stole a few quiet hours away alone each day to journal.

I am finally starting to feel like myself again after what has possibly been the most difficult term of my teaching career.

Journaling in my lined written journal has been great, just getting back to basics. As I had the time this weekend to just write as much as I wanted to, I found myself exploring issues that have been bubbling away below the surface for a while now. unsurprisingly, solutions came to me as I wrote.

All in all, a very healing weekend.

I worked quite a lot with my paints in my altered book, too. Below are a few peeks of my favourite bits.

altered book 03

altered book 05

altered book 06

altered book 04

I didn’t really realise quite how much blue and turquoise I had used until I looked back through these pictures! I guess I was using those lovely colours to invoke a sense of calm and peace after a hectic few months at work.

I also notice now that the theme of travel, journeys and freedom came up a few times. I think I’m feeling the need to go out into the world and take a break from stress!

I’m lucky to now have two weeks away from work to unwind. People always joke that teachers have it so easy with ‘all the holidays’ but boy, do we need them.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and took some time out to journal.

Creativity

Journal prompt: Balance your creative energy

I’m feeling quite drained at the moment. Work is very busy and when I do have free time I’m trying to fit in my journaling – both written and art journaling.

I’ve been listening to an audio book in my car on the way to work which is fascinating: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The book gives quite specific details of the daily working/creative rituals of artists, writers, musicians, philosophers and other creatives from all different time periods.

One thing that has stood out to me is how often each of these daily rituals include some form of investment in creative energy.

lovely-list

What I mean is this: when we spend a lot of time working, or creating, or socialising, we are effectively spending our creative energy. These are activities whereby we produce and our energy flows outwards.

If we do too much of these activities, particularly if we are introverted, we can end up feeling a bit drained.

Our society puts a lot of emphasis on being productive and expending energy, but we need to make sure that we are taking the time to renew that creative energy too.

I think it’s really important to balance this with doing restful and rejuvenating things whereby we ‘refill’ our creative energy tanks. These are things where we receive something, rather than produce something. I guess it’s like receiving inspiration, in a way. It’s like a sort of investment in our creative bank account, so that we then have enough to ‘spend’ later.

For me, things where I consider myself to be spending my creative energies are:

  • Working
  • Writing
  • Socialising with groups of people
  • Blogging
  • Art journaling (certain kinds)
  • Doing housework
  • Doing things for others (most of my day job is about this)

So I need to remember to balance this with activities that refill my creative tanks and renew my creative energy:

  • Reading
  • Listening to inspiring/relaxing music
  • Listening to audio books
  • Listening to guided meditations
  • Journaling (although I technically ‘produce’ something when journaling, the act of deliberately thinking, writing and reflecting fills me up more than it drains me)
  • Napping/sleeping
  • Sitting with a cup of tea/coffee in the morning sun, being still and taking my time
  • Long walks
  • Spending time with people who get me and inspire me – usually having long and interesting talks
  • Cuddles with my partner or puppy
  • Yoga
  • Watching an interesting documentary or inspiring movie

I’m not suggesting that one list is better or more important than the other. To me, it’s about balance. We need to spend our creative energies, but of course we also need to invest in them.

>>> Prompts:

Take a fresh page in your journal. Create two headings:

  • How I spend my creative energy
  • How I renew my creative energy

List all the things you can think of under each heading. Your lists may look similar to mine or they may be very different. It all comes down to what works for you.

If you’re not sure which heading to put something under, consider this: does the activity leave you feeling more tired/drained or rejuvenated/refreshed afterwards?

Now, think about whether or not your life has a good balance between the two lists. If not, consider how you can bring in more of the other to create more balance for your creative energy.

Self Empowerment

Take all the time you need

The universe has a way of slowing us down if we are going too fast. So often we feel reluctant to stop and rest when we can be busy and productive.

Our society prizes busy-ness over rest.

Today I had a hard time just resting, just doing nothing. But, my body was screaming at me to stop, so I curled up on the couch with a blanket, my laptop, some lemon tea and watched Friends re-runs (I would have chosen The Office but I watched that not long ago).

It was great. I will probably have to do the same thing tomorrow.

I felt myself wanting to go to my desk, to paint or play with my new stamp-carving supplies (yay!) or do a load of laundry (not so yay, but still has to be done!), but I forced myself to stay under the covers. I even had to cancel dinner with friends, which I had been looking forward to all week.

I talk a lot about rest. I don’t think it can be overemphasized in today’s world.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP) I tend to feel more easily overwhelmed, tired and just plain run-down than the average person. Add to that a stressful teaching job, and I’m basically constantly tired. Approximately 15-20% of the population is HSP (see here).

I do my best to stay as productive as the next person – I do my creative projects, spend time with family and friends, walk the dog, work on my creative business – but sometimes life just steps in and says ‘Enough for now! Time to rest!’

The key is being able to notice the signs, then having the courage to say no – to cancel appointments, to turn down invitations, to risk letting people down.

I’m sick with a cold at the moment, but you don’t need to have an illness to need time to rest. Sometimes it’s just feeling tired, overwhelmed, tearful, crabby or like you just want everyone to leave you alone.

So take the time to rest. Take all the time you need.