Hello 2020!

Well it’s been a while. And I was doing so well!

Basically it’s been a rollercoaster since I started my Masters and now I’m in the midst of assessment season… Which is why I’m writing this actually, I’ve realised I need to write something more than literary analysis, lol.

I have some goals this year, but simple goals really. I know some people think it’s a bit of a fad to have New Years Resolutions, but I generally do quite well with them because I enjoy the perspective that comes with a ‘fresh start’.

My main and basic goal is to remind myself daily that my life remains firmly in my own control. There’s a lot of things that make me feel out of control, and that’s perfectly natural, but ultimately I call the shots with what I do – I can’t constantly be concerned with how slow/fast/right/wrong/odd/dull people find me.

I’ve also set myself a reading goal (books that AREN’T for university) and I downloaded Audible, which so far has led me to re-listening to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy three times (DON’T PANIC).

Anyway I know this isn’t riveting content, this is just a way for me to get my fingers back on the keyboard.

But to make it worth your while my January recommendation is checking out Yoga With Adriene’s 30 day Home series on Youtube because it’s relaxing and it’s good to stress those hardworking muscles. Give your body a lil thank you – it does a lot for you.

Meg x

Making moves!

Wahoo! I’ve done it! With my sanity intact! (Debatable.)

Basically in the last six months I have:

  • handed in my notice
  • moved out of my flat in the Midlands
  • moved back in with my parents in Yorkshire
  • moved to Newcastle in the North East (again)
  • started my Masters in Literature (!!!)

I am PROUD of myself for making it through all that transition. Because change can be hella scary. And the worry doesn’t tend to be an instant ‘what am I doing, have I made the right decision’ sort of thing. It’s a slow, creeping anxiety about unrelated, and more often than not irrational, stuff. I tend to catastrophize. It’s an anxiety thing – I’m working on it. Luckily I have the skills to work on it since I did my CBT course. I can’t recommend it enough if you have issues with anxiety. Asking for help is not a weakness.

I’m on my second day living in my shiny new studio flat and it’s very exciting. Because I tend to overthink and constantly have to remind myself it’s OK to let life just happen sometimes I’m experiencing those dippy moments everyone gets when they’re not sure how they feel. But that’s life – right now I’m focussing on making sure my actions are the kind that will set me up for a fruitful year.

My first day even though I was tired from the journey, from unpacking, from saying goodbye to my parents (and dogs/cat), and from the worry about the year to come, I made myself go down to a welcome event. At first I was pretty embarrassing and pretty embarrassed, entirely uncomfortable, but then I stood there and thought ‘go on – just do it’. So I moseyed up to a couple of women and just said ‘this might be awkward, but can I sit with you?’ And you know what, they bloody well said yes because people aren’t as scary as your mind wants you to believe. So instead of focussing on being embarrassed I am PROUD of myself for doing the scary thing and not turning away at the first sign of discomfort. Plus it’s nice to think I know people in the block, however briefly.

The great thing about being back in Newcastle is that I’ve got friends I haven’t been able to see very much these last few years nearby. We went out Sunday and it was great meandering down to old haunts… we both agreed it doesn’t really feel like we’re really here yet. It’ll take a while to sink in. I think my body is confusing the adjustment to being really anxious – I can feel it constantly trying to find something to be worried about. But I keep breathing through it and reminding myself that it is OK to be worried about this. I am allowed to feel my feelings without it becoming some catastrophic event.

The studio is lovely, just big enough for me. And the view is over the train tracks, I can hear them passing by, as well as all the people and cards and sounds of life – but I kind of like that… Maybe not the drunken argument I heard yesterday, haha.

I’ve booked in lots of things to keep me busy as I sort my life out a bit, I’ve got jobs and my course to focus on. The course is scaring me a bit, but at the end of the day we can only do our best. I’m establishing a new routine with lots of built in self-care, from yoga in the morning, delicious food, and lovely skincare products.

I can’t wait to share my vegan adventures in Newcastle, as well as more on what it’s like to be a ‘mature student’ (omg since when am I mature??). In fact I might do a post on what made me really consider the change, as well as what I learn about the process once the course starts properly!

Change can be good.

Meg x

I choose positivity.

I’m writing this in the aftermath of a pretty serious discussion debate argument with a loved one. One that left me feeling not very loving.

It could have just been a debate. A back and forth of opinion, probably not without some mild frustration. In a perfect world. But subject and situation means a lot when it comes to stuff like this.

I already knew we differed on opinion in many different matters. The sort of matters that create foundations for things like political views, ethical practices, and other core human principles. But I love this person very much even when I don’t understand how they think.

I think most of the time you can brush small matters to the side, opinion is opinion. Sometimes with people you love, you kind of have to. But sometimes… well it goes one of two ways: you’re not in the mood, recognise you’re not in the mood, and refuse to engage further than saying ‘I disagree’ or get into a debate, governed by the rules of such a thing.

Oh wait… there is a third option. Blowing your f**king fuse.

I chose the third option. I wasn’t in the mood, hadn’t been in a sunshine-y mood all day, but I couldn’t thought I couldn’t ignore the situation. In the back of my mind all I could think was I couldn’t possibly sit there passively and let them think I was in any sort of agreement whatsoever. No! To say I disagreed with them wouldn’t be enough, I had to tell them in DETAIL WHY THEY WERE SO WRONG.

(And I’m not going to tell you the subject of this entire thing because this isn’t that sort of post. It would exhaust me.)

What started as me going ‘are you serious’ turned into me loudly and vocally being, well, loud and vocal.

There is a small part of me that will always think I’m right this time, despite the delivery being less than perfect. Their entire argument was riddled, riddled I tell you, with illogical fallacies and hypocrisy.

…actually, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to have thought that my argument was sounder than theirs. I don’t think that’s a negative thing to think, I believe I can be proud of myself for having passionate opinions that can be factually backed up and given as a sound case. What I do think is so negative is the timing and the delivery.

I wasn’t feeling very positive in the beginning, and it was about a tough subject to be in such a negative frame of mind about, so my manner of speaking was never going to be very diplomatic. I even had to leave the room at one point, I believe I threw word ‘sickening’ in there as I left. And, ho, when I heard the suggestion that maybe I ‘couldn’t take it’ I was in there like a rocket. I was on fire I tell you. Aggressively so.

And I got that last word, you better believe.

And then I went upstairs and fumed. Thinking all the nasty things in my head that I could. I have tinnitus and stress makes it worse, and, boy, it felt like a train was setting off in my head. I knew I had to calm down.

So I rolled out my yoga mat and put on Yoga With Adriene’s most recent video and let all the witty and nasty things I should have said down there roll around my head. Then realised that even as my mind dwelled my body had moved on, it was going with the flow of the yoga moves, my breath was deep and even. I was actively keeping my mindset from calming down. With that realisation my thoughts turned less vengeful and more to how I could get over these negative feelings. Feelings that weren’t necessarily brought on by their ‘bad’ opinions but my willingness to match that with aggression. Which actually if you knew the topic of the conversation would have been quite ironic.

I could have said everything I felt I had to say in a different way, without the frantic urgency of needing to tell someone that they’re wrong. Without the defensiveness.

This negativity I had during and after felt so heavy and slimy, made me feel out of control. Spending those moment actively seeking positivity made me feel stable and light. I can move on from this moment now without dwelling, but accepting it happened and learning from it. Maybe next time I can consciously dial it down before it gets to that point.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not ashamed of my opinions and I think they should be heard. I think all people should speak for themselves. But I also think that a positive mindset wouldn’t go amiss. More for myself and my health than anything. I want to come away from a confrontation, no matter what it is, knowing I’ve kept my cool and said my piece in a way I can be proud of. That the words of someone else should not have the power to drain me and make me feel bad. Because, ultimately, I let that happen.

With that being said, I choose positivity.

Meg x

Spotty vegans: breakouts + dietary change?

Now, I can only correlate the outbreak of tiny, angry second-heads on my face as a direct result of going vegan. Deep, under the skin spots on my chin, a smattering of small pimple like constellations across my forehead, trickling down into angry, welt like lumps on my temples. Even a few rearing their ugly heads on my cheeks (how dare they!!).

Ah, nothing like the power of words to make you sick.

But honestly the sudden onset of these nuisances really affected my mood and the way I viewed myself. I’d never have spots, so why now? Eating all this wonderful plant-based, easy to digest food?

Queue much googling.

Apparently it’s ‘normal’ to have an outbreak when encountering dietary change of any sorts. One source even said it could be a sign of detox – if I believed in things such as detoxing (hello I have a liver for a reason, thank you). Another said vegan diets sometimes means a switch to a more carby based foods, which can contribute.

Either way, it wasn’t so easy for me to start scouring shops for products to rid me of these evil things – what with trying to be plastic free and (as much as poss) zero waste in the bathroom. But there’s a couple of things I started doing that I thought – hoped & prayed – might help.

  • Double cleansing – once to get rid of my makeup with a facial soap bar and another with a Lush oil cleanser I found in a bag of toiletries I had.
  • Toning with witch hazel diluted with water, as it also helps reduce inflammation and smells like a witch’s workshop.
  • Mixing sudacrem with my moisturiser as it’s anti-bacterial and apparently a bit of a cult product in the murky world of pots & potions. Not plastic free but very cheap and one pot lasts for like a millennia.

I also tried altering my diet, thinking ‘oh no what if it’s the bread, processed vegan cheese, and *gasp* soya’… but I quickly scuppered this plan. I’ve only just started enjoying food again, veganism helping rid me of several unhealthy fears I’d had about food – contributing to a frightening weight loss in 2017/2018. I don’t want to start restricting myself by demonising food I’d enjoyed. I can’t do that to myself. I know I am balanced (for the most part) and healthy (for the most part) – I will not punish myself for eating food I have enjoyed.

My mum recommended Evening Primrose Oil based on rave reviews from colleagues at her workplace and I decided there was no harm trying. After some research I found there was a double whammy of it (potentially) helping with cramps during menstruation. It’s a mixed bag of scientific evidence but I can only review based on my experience. Having one pill a night before bed seems to be really helping the hormonal (?) outbreaks of spots I get on my chin, especially the deep under the skin ones. The science behind it is that it contains Omega 6 fatty acids that help keep the skin plump and soft – and I think that’s what is helping my skin as it’s naturally quite dry. Also, the pre-menstrual/ovulation related pain doesn’t seem to be as bad as normal; my periods have been appearing out of thin air with little cramp notice. The only change has been the oil, so I think it’s helped in that way. Though my pain during periods is still pretty horrible. I’m not going to start raving about it though – there’s a lot of claims of what this oil can do and a lot of science refuting it as a miracle cure.

Lastly, and perhaps most effectively, is the cheapest, simplest, and most accessible solution of them all: steaming and hot compress! After cleansing my face I’ve been soaking a reusable cotton round in hot water and then wringing it out and applying the heated cloth to my chin area. The science is that it helps release the oily sebum by opening up the pores and helping clean these gunky spaces out. I’ve also been steaming my face once a week for the same reason. I have seen the biggest difference. It helps bring the pimples to the surface on those nasty under-the-skin spots and helps soften the skin so it doesn’t feel tight and dry. I cannot recommend doing this enough. I really do think this simple remedy has made the biggest difference, especially in culmination with my other solutions.

Some say that diet related spots will clear up by themselves, and whilst I didn’t want to wait months feeling a bit uncomfortable and painful in my own skin I was not going to sacrifice the healthy relationship I’d built with my food. Life, as they say, is for living.

How do you help get rid of spots?

Meg x

Sustainable Sunday: Sustainability of Self

This post was going to be about building a couple of eco-bricks out of the non-recyclable plastic I’ve accumulated since November.

…You know, I was even going to berate myself slightly because last week I was doing so well with unpackaged snacks up until Thursday, where I promptly bought a packet of salt & vinegar chickpeas and some microwavable rice.

But I’m not going to do that right now, because to be honest I am completely lacking in energy and actually in hindsight this has probably been one of my most eco-friendly weeks. There isn’t even half as much recycling as there normally is. And you know what, if it’s getting to the point where I can exactly pinpoint where I’ve made a unsustainable choice, then surely that’s a good thing?

Anyway.

The difference is perspective: I’ve had a bit of a rotten week in the sense I’ve been in a complete funk. I just wanted to moan and be a bit mad, to be honest. Which isn’t fair on anyone. Plus this weekend I’ve had life admin to do before it all goes a bit busy for the next three weeks (albeit with enjoyable plans). You should have seen me Friday when I got to my friend’s house for a meal: we just pretty much laid on the couch and ate carby, delicious food until we were sleepy. I’m just mentally exhausted, tired of my own negativity, and yet I’ve sort of being nagging myself all day to type something up.

(Don’t get me wrong I’ve got tons of ideas, this post was even going to be a rundown of what I want to write about in the future… but even that seemed like effort.)

But I’ve climbed into bed tonight after a weekend of being in my own funked-up, stressed-out company and frankly I’ve annoyed myself. I’m ready to hit the ground running tomorrow. But not tonight.

It can all wait.

I want my sustainable way of living to extend to a mindset where I know and do what is best for my mental health, because I’m not helping anyone if I’m a second away from ticking over.

Meg x

Out with the negative, in with the positive

As with anything big you choose to do in your life, there’s going to be a group of people who don’t understand why you’re doing it. And are, as a general rule, uninterested in hearing why.

I think there was a certain level of expectation that when I went vegan I would encounter something of this ilk, perhaps vainly. But, to be honest, this hasn’t been my experience. In fact I’ve been surrounded by support. And when I think about it, it was the same with being vegetarian, with being cruelty free, and with aiming to reduce my plastic use. In a wishy-washy, warm-fuzzy-feeling way, it made me reflective about why that was.

I think the honest truth is that if you surround yourself with people who want to see you at your happiest, are honest, and respect your opinions, you take in that positivity and reflect it in your actions. And you want the same for them, always. To frame it within the context of my own experience, the choice to do Veganuary was made almost easy when I found that four of my friends wanted to do it too.

We’ve been swapping recipes, talking about the new trends (*cough* Gregg’s-vegan-sausage-roll *cough*), making plans for dinner dates. At one point a friend and I proudly exchanged presents for Christmas, only to open them up and discover we’d bought each other vegan cookbooks (it was wonderful).

I think it’s a testament to The Rise of the Vegans (sounds intense) and the accessibility of vegan food. But it’s also testament to how having a solid support network can made big transitions wonderful.

  • Friends: none of my friends were particularly surprised, if at all, and like I’ve said, more than a few are doing it alongside me. Including my friends The Confused Vegans. Even when I told a friend, whose house I’m visiting soon, she was like ‘they’ll be plenty around’. It’s as easy as that, because these things won’t be a massive hoo-ha to the right people.
  • Family: my mum has always been very supportive of my eco-conscious adventure, on the basis that I’m getting what I need to stay healthy. I had a scary moment in 2017, where because of a panic disorder, exasperated by severe anxiety and a bout of illness, I lost a weight and wasn’t eating properly at all. But she knows that what I’m doing now is different, and is always willing to make me some delicious vegan meals when I’m back home. Likewise, my dad has bought me food magazines and cookbooks, even though it’s definitely not his sort of thing. They trust me to make my own decisions and think things through.
  • Colleagues: People at work are always recommending restaurants, shops, things they’ve seen to me that support of my vegan and plastic free adventure. I’m quite an outward person: I like to talk about the things that I’m doing and my lifestyle, and they haven’t locked me in a cupboard to shut me up yet, for which I can only thank them.

If something is toxic, if I can, I tend to cut it out of my life. Because it won’t benefit me, it won’t encourage me to further myself or my ambitions, and some of that toxicity might impact the way I see the world around me. I’m not perfect, no one is, and it’s so important to be aware of your hypocrisy. Who knows, I might be the draining influence in someone’s life (though I try not to be), because no-one is going to be a one-sized-fits-all person.

Just keep on trying to educate yourself, don’t be afraid of making big decisions because they might be the best decisions. At the end of the day, I don’t have time for someone else’s negativity – let them keep it.

How to be both clean and plastic free

One of my most successful ventures (and the first area I focussed on) for eradicating plastic was in my day-to-day toiletries.

I thought using a ‘plastic free alternative’ would mean some sort of sacrifice in quality or that I’d have to pay out of my arse. I thought travelling would be difficult. I also thought the only place I’d be able to find things would be Lush. And that bar soaps were an unsanitary relic of the past.

Alas! I was all wrong – yeah sure, you have to find the product that works for you, but that’s the same whether it comes in a plastic tube or not. And there is variety: there’s so many cool, small brands out there. Also, because the majority of zero waste products are simplistic in their ingredients and, a lot of the time, organic, I’ve been prone to less breakouts and my skin isn’t putting up with loads of nasty chemicals.

Also, bar soaps are awesome.

Here’s a breakdown of what I use, excluding my handsoap (which is in an old plastic soap bottle and is refilled at a zero waste shop):

What I use in the shower: bar shampoo (£7 .50, Jumping Juniper, Lush), conditioner refilled at a zero waste shop (normally around £1), a reusable razor (£20), bar soap (gift for Christmas, Lush), and shaving soap bar (£2.62, Friendly)

I did try the Friendly brand shampoo bar, but let me tell you it did not get on with my hair at all. Plus the Lush one smells beautiful and leaves my hair smoothy smooth. I LOVE Friendly for its shaving soap, face soap, and body soap though.

I also think I’m going to do a separate post on shaving with a safety razor, because it does take some practice (it’s worth it though).

Skin care: Shade SPF25 suncream (was a gift), cleansing bar (£2.62, Cocoa Butter, Friendly), face cream (£9, Jasmine & Neroli day cream, Sapooni)

I was most worried at skincare, but my skin is better than it’s ever been. At first I bought another moisturiser, having struggled to find a plastic free option, and it cost me £24. Honestly, I was horrified about the thought of dishing that out every couple of months. Then I found this little beauty at a local zero waste shop for £9 and, honestly, my skin just loves it.

Dental care: bamboo toothbrush (was a gift, Planet Emporium), tooth tabs with fluoride (£2 for 30), dental floss (£5 for a pack of two refills)

Again, dental care was a bit of a stickler for me – not so much the floss or the toothbrush, but the toothpaste. I didn’t want to use anything without fluoride, that just isn’t in the gameplan for me. BUT (and it’s a big but), I found these tabs in a zero waste store that contained it. It’s a bit more dear than a tube, but I’ve afforded myself this indulgence (lol).

Deodorant (£6, Happy Holistics)

Ah, deodorant. Well, I have to admit I’m not liking the one I’m using at the moment. It just doesn’t agree with me and I spend most of the day worrying I smell. I was using Fit Pit, comes in a glass jar that you apply yourself (ordered online) and it was wonderful – I recommend it highly. Stupidly I decided to try another brand, this was a mistake unfortunately.

Misc: exfoliator (£9.25, Lush), body moisturiser (£15.95, Lush)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: plastic, she’s a lying liar of lie town. Yeah, but hear me out: the pot of Sleepy I’ve had for a while now and I’m using up to replace it with something more zero waste. The exfoliator I received in a giftset at Christmas and I love. Also, I may in the future buy Lush tubs of stuff, I’ll admit, as they’re made of recycled plastic and if you bring them back to Lush, cleaned out, they take them from you to be reused (and you can get a cheeky free face mask or exfoliator).

Rags (haha): normally used to wrap up soap bars when travelling, the top is an old exfoliating sponge that will be replaced with a biodegradable alternative.

When travelling, this stuff fits easily into a large cosmetic bag. I just wrap my soaps in a cloth, as well as the head of my safety razor and pop it in. They’re not heavy and I find I own less toiletries then I did before. Organic, cruelty free, and plastic free – sounds perfect to me.

I’m totally going to do a post of the amazing zero waste shops that I know, because they’re incredible and they deserve their own little ramble.

Is there anything you could switch out with a plastic free alternative?