Recently I’ve been talking a lot about the Use It Or Lose It phase... mainly because that's where I feel I'm at right now. Reaching the big half century, which by the way feels pretty darn good, is for the most part, responsible for these ponderings. The thought of "It's now or never" when it comes to physical health and mental wellbeing is real and ever present.  

Running or in my case, walking, alongside the bigger decisions - we recently took out a family health club membership - are little steps that I believe can always help towards the overall picture. Baby steps, no matter how insignificant they may feel at the time, will eventually get you to where you want to be. And if you're anything like me, where you want to be is constantly evolving anyway. 

Where I’d like to be right now is healthier, stronger, fitter and able to find a state of calm when I need it most. This body is getting older and I feel it needs to be in the optimum shape to deal with life, the second half. There are also a lot of things I need to get to grips with in terms of internal struggles and how I'm dealing (or not) with the emotional rollercoaster that accompanies perimenopause, grief and parenting a teen. I know that life part two will bring yet more of these challenges and hurdles and it might be a little easier to deal with if I'm already in the habit of making self-care a priority. 

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 So What To Do In The Short Term? 

When significant chunks of progress feel almost impossible to achieve because... life, I think there's a lot to be said for keeping the targets more achievable and celebrating the small wins. I feel better for listing two or three small things that I did well today rather than berating myself for not reaching one unattainable goal by the end of the week. 

Below I’m sharing a few tried and tested tips that, whilst written with working for yourself or from home in mind, with a little variation could be easily adopted if you're office based. 

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For Peace Of Mind 

Be Firm With The Phone 

I've taken to keeping my phone on Airplane mode or switched to silent until I've completed the morning domestic routine and am fully ready to face the work part of the day. I've lost count of the number of times I've picked up it up with the intention of absorbing a hit of Instagram inspiration over a first cup of tea. Before I know it, I've let in three irritating and demanding emails, noted two texts or WhatsApp messages that "Shit! I really need to respond to this!" …and don’t get me started with Instagram DM's. 

Cue rising stress levels and one mother who's forgotten to leave plenty of time to remind the teen that she really does need to get dressed NOW before she misses the bus. Cue shouting. Cue rising stress levels. And all that before breakfast. My new mantra is it can wait for another thirty minutes until I'm ready to deal with it. There's a lot to be said for attending to one area of life at a time. 

And I've adopted a similar theory at night. Once we’re past 8:30 pm, the phone gets switched to silent mode and turned face down. I have family and friends who use this time of day for catching up via text and WhatsApp, but having spent the majority of time on my phone all the livelong day, I have to switch off in order to get to sleep a couple of hours later. Whatever comes in after 8:30pm can be dealt with in the morning - in between the domestic and work slots. It's called self preservation. 

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Accept The Slump + Work With It 

When I feel myself hitting mid-afternoon slump territory, which is usually around the same time I start telling myself I'm failing at being an inspired blogger/Instagrammer/general all round creative person, I allocate a ten minute Do Something Else break. But I know I have to be strict and set a timer. Without that safety net, I've lost whole afternoons where I was meant to just put the laundry away and ended up carrying out an impromptu wardrobe edit instead!  

Just ten minutes away from the desk doing something unrelated and not too taxing of mind really helps. And if that doesn't work, I'll lie on the sofa for fifteen minutes (again - not forgetting to set an alarm) and shut my eyes. It's just a brain break, time to slow down the breathing and sometimes, I'll fall into a deep doze, but it generally always helps. 

And if none of that works, I've been doing something really radical of late. Finish for the day. Put a pin in it right there and then and admit that it's just not happening. If the creativity isn't flowing or I'm too damn tired to see straight, there really is no point. I now know that stopping today a couple of hours early means that tomorrow will be a whole lot more productive. It ain't rocket science but it does work. 

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Helpers With Health Goals 

 Be More Dog! 

I’ve learnt to stop begrudging the dog walk and start embracing it. I got into the habit of feeling like taking the dog out was a thing I had to do that just took me away from work and broke my concentration. Not any more. I started looking more closely at how joyous Biscuit looks when I get the lead and utter anything that sounds like it could be in the realm of the word “Walk". 

Now I’m fully able to enjoy her moments of sheer abandon as she realises its freedom time when I let her off in the forest or down at the beach. I never want those moments to end, although I know sadly, one day they will. But for now I vow to enjoy every moment with our beautiful Labrador and emulate more of her happiness at being out in the fresh air and wide open spaces. There's a lot of life wisdom in that “Be More Dog” advertising slogan from a certain mobile provider. 

Even without a dog, it feels good to take a lunchtime walk. Twenty minutes fresh air is always better than thirty minutes spent eating lunch at the desk - the desk I've been sat at since 8:00am. A proper break, some fresh air and even the smallest amount of movement will do wonders for your attention span later on in the day. 

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Big Up The Fruits + Vegetables 

I'm consciously trying to add more vegetables and fruit to every meal. Even if it's as simple as adding a side of salad to my sandwich or having a fruit smoothie as a late afternoon snack. Evening meals are easy when it comes to topping up the intake but I guess breakfast is a bit more of a challenge when it comes to vegetables. But veggies at brunch I can do and love ideas like these Spinach & Sun Dried Tomato Frittatas on Love & Lemons! 

Generally, if I start small, I’m soon inspired to make bigger changes. And don't get me started on the whole food deprivation thing in any shape or form. If I hear the words "you can't eat that" or "you need to cut this out" I straightaway want to go and eat copious amounts of whatever it is. Moderation is the thing that seems to work best when it comes to a healthy eating approach. 

I guess you could say that invoking small changes feels in alignment with celebrating the small stuff. I don’t class any of this as groundbreaking advice or a set of game-changing life hacks - for me it's simply a way to feel like I'm winning at life and moving in the right direction. Even when there are too many other things on the agenda that keep me from those bigger goals. 

I'm all about the small wins these days. It makes life feel a lot more peaceful and calm...