No gym, no problem – Keeping fit in iso

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog – I’ve been working pretty furiously at developing another blog (Culture Champs) for HR and people leaders instead.

I’m a bit of a gym junkie (‘bit’ being a massive understatement) and was pretty upset at the thought of losing my gym privileges in iso. I’ve been working on building up my fitness for the last year and worried I’d lose it all and become the size of a house with all the comfort eating and #boredbaking I’ve been doing. I have, however, found a way to keep fit and managed to challenge my body without any equipment except resistance bands and a Swiss ball (the kettle bells I ordered were cancelled by the supplier -_-). As a prolific Instagrammer, a lot of you are probably already familiar with my new #parkworkouts, but I thought I’d share some #inspo and top #sejtips to help you stay fit in our crisis.

*I do want to add that this post isn’t trying to make you feel bad about being unproductive throughout this COVID shit – if you’re not feeling up to a challenging workout, just go for a walk instead. I cannot overstate the importance of fresh air and limb moving.

#SEJ TIP ONE: Home yoga

I’ve become a bit of an expert on this one, having been a home yogi for quite some time now. You may have seen references (several, actually) to my favourite Youtuber Adriene, who literally has a yoga practice for every occasion on her channel. I’m currently doing the 30 Days of Yoga HOME practice and am a huge fan. I’m also told the Down Dog app is pretty good. If you’re in a small apartment, there’s still a lot of practices you can do. I recommend getting a good quality yoga mat – the $10 one I bought from Aldi is now starting to malt. It’s worth investing in something $30+ (no, you don’t have to get a Lululemon one, just something that won’t be a) slippery b) malt underneath you). I’ll keep you posted on my latest mat purchase once it arrives.

#SEJ TIP TWO: The park workout

I honestly never thought I’d be one of those people you see out in the park getting their Lululemon pants dirty (okay, they’re actually Kmart, but same thing, right?) doing push ups on the grass, but here we are… I took inspiration from Pinterest and created my own park workout circuit that is super challenging and burns around ~500 calories. It includes split squats, push ups, tricep dips, jumping squats and some ab exercises. All you need is a park bench to challenge you a little and your body weight. I use the Tabata app to do 45 seconds on with 15 second break for 12 rounds per circuit, but you do you with this one! I do recommend using the timer as I think it’s easier than trying to remember if you’re on the 15th or 20th lunge.

#SEJ TIP THREE: Old fashioned running

Despite winning Cross Country (TWICE) in Primary School, I’d pretty much decided that as an adult, my running days were behind me and am a firm advocate for spin class in lieu. However, I couldn’t fit another piece of equipment in my apartment, so decided to abandon my prejudice for running. I really adopted the aesthetic of a runner with my skin-tight shorts, hat and sports bra, which is half the challenge really (see below). Having not run in years (except away from problems), I decided to use the C25K app to help motivate myself. It’s going pretty well, I’m 5 weeks in and can now run 2x 8 minutes without stopping (judge me not – it’s a HUGE improvement from where I started). I recommend using this or some other fitness app (I heard Nike Run Club is good) to hold you accountable to actually running (I would otherwise end up with a 90:10 walk to run ratio). You can really hit peak runner status by posting the geo-log of your run on your Instagram story so everyone can see how fit you are (yes, guilty).

#SEJ TIP FOUR: Pop Sugar HIIT workouts

The Pop Sugar Fitness Channel on YouTube has some fantastic workouts (all free, although they may tell you many times how great oat milk is). I’ve been doing these when I’m short on time/low on motivation. They’re pretty good, you’ll definitely sweat and the timer in the corner reminds you that you only have to suffer for another 5 minutes (jk, they’re not thaattt bad). A lot of them are no equipment too, so you can do them wherever with whatever you have (i.e. nothing).

#SEJ TIP FIVE: Home Pilates

I bought a Swiss ball from Amazon for $16 so I could diversify my home workouts and also sit at my desk and bounce when I’m on the tenth Zoom call for the day. Great investment. Sitting on a Swiss ball helps stabilise and challenge your core and is also a nice break from sitting at a chair all the time. They also make for good Pilates workouts at home. I’ve found some great Youtube workouts using the Swiss ball and often tack these on after a run. You can choose how long you want to go for, but I will warn you that they’re pretty challenging!

#SEJ TIP SIX: The resistance band workout

Another great purchase from Amazon was a set of resistance bands which are a nice break from just body weight all the time. There are a lot of resistance band workout ideas on Instagram and Pinterest, so I create my own workout using those and the Tabata app for timing. I do love a circuit.

#SEJ TIP SEVEN: Go for a walk

I’ve been pretty committed to getting my 10K steps every day in iso, which is pretty hard given the square footage of my apartment. I usually go for a run/workout and then a walk later in the day. If you can’t be bothered with anything else, please just get out and go for a walk. Sitting all day is super bad for your body and fresh air and sunshine will lift your mood infinitely (or at least it does for me). You don’t have to go far, or fast, but you should move your body at least every day.

I want to end with another reminder that you don’t have to push yourself physically when you’re probably struggling a bit mentally. If you’re like me, a challenging workout will lift your spirits and make you feel some sense of achievement. If you’re not, again – just try do something! I’d love to hear any other ideas if you’ve got them for great iso exercises!

Stay safe, stay sane.

-Curly Girl x

SEJ runner’s tip: Fake it ’til you make it ; dress the part and figure the rest out later.


Honing in on: Habits

Long ago alluded to in an earlier blog post, I finally finished Gretchen Rubin’s “Better than Before” (interrupted by my reading of Jen Sincero’s “You are a Badass“, which was the excellent pep talk I needed). Habit formation isn’t the most exciting topic in the world (Gretchen Rubin does do a great job of it), but now is actually a great time to think about this (bear with me). In this crazy COVID time, you don’t have to operate at 100%, or even 80%, but if you go down to 0% productivity, it’s going to be pretty damn hard to get it back up to 50% (minimal adulting level). I’m using this time now to try and not break hard-earned earlier habits of getting up early (again, see earlier post) and to try keep exercising with some sort of routine.

Here’s some ideas (mostly from Gretchen’s book, but also me) on how to develop habits, even when the world is absolutely mental.

Before I start, I want to touch on the title ‘Better than Before’, which was probably my favourite thing in the whole book. The idea of being ‘better than before’ negates the belief that developing habits is going to make you this magically different, new and exciting person. The whole point is that good habits won’t make you radically different, but they will make you better than before (how good?).

TIP ONE: Understand who you are

Basically the premise of the whole book is to learn more about yourself and your approach to life and most importantly, habit formation. You can learn more about the four tendencies here, which will help you work with your preferences rather than against them to form new habits. For example, I’m an Upholder who will “respond readily to outer and inner expectations”, which means that I find it easier to form habits as a promise to myself than, say, an Obliger who needs outer accountability to motivate them. It may sound a bit complicated, but it’s worth taking the time to figure out who you are and then you can do what works for you (e.g. find an accountability buddy, get data on why this habit is better than that one etc.).

TIP TWO: Make it easy on yourself

Once you figure out who you are, make it as easy as you can to start a new habit and then continue that habit once it’s ingrained. The hardest part is always starting and it’s waayyy harder to start again when you’ve stopped. Habit formation isn’t actually straight forward and it may take longer than the commonly bandied about 28 days to build a habit (more on this here). Your barrier to entry for starting the habit needs to be very low. If you’re building up a tolerance to running (like me), start with 5 minutes of running and work your way up to 30 minutes. 5 minutes seems a lot easier on the brain than 30!

THREE: Attach new habits to existing habits

I recently decided to jump on the meditation bandwagon and clear my brain for at least 5 minutes a day (super challenging when you’re quite hyperactive in the thoughts department). The problem I’ve had with this in the past is that I always forget… So I attached meditation to my pre-bed ritual of pill-taking and journalling. This makes it easier for me to remember and although I still can’t do it for more than 5 minutes (yet), it’s a start! (And you know all about the importance of starting!). Attach a new habit to something you already do and it’ll make it much easier (to remember at least).

FOUR: Have some sort of accountability

What kind of accountability you need really depends on your tendency. For me, a phone alarm every day reminding me to do yoga is all I need. I always recommend having an ‘accountability buddy’, which is someone who you check in with often to see how your respective goals are going. I have an accountability buddy doing my running app with me (I don’t enjoy running so need the external accountability here) and we check in with each other every time we run. This makes it more fun and I know if I don’t run, I’m letting her down as well as myself (and no one wants to be disappointing, do they?).

FIVE: Measure your habits if you can

This is another form of accountability, kind of… Having a way to measure whether or not you’re actually doing the habit properly is a great way to stick to it and keep going. This can come in multiple ways. A fitness tracker is an excellent way to remind you to get your minimum daily steps and stand up every hour, building great active habits. When I was younger (though I’d totally do this now), I had stickers that I’d use to reward myself when I went to the gym. Seeing the stickers on the page for the week was a great motivator to keep going. I would also give myself a reward, but Gretchen says that we then come to only do the habit for the reward, when the reward should be the habit (confused? more on this here).

TIP SIX: Focus on one thing at a time

This shouldn’t be news to anyone that’s read any of my blog posts around goals etc., but when we try introduce a whole lot of things at once, our brain gets overwhelmed and often we end up doing nothing. Introducing new habits can be challenging, so focus on doing one challenging thing at a time, nail it, then move onto the next thing.

TIP SEVEN: Accept yourself

A great point from Gretchen is that sometimes we do things because other people think we should (i.e. meditate) rather than because we actually want to. Within reason, don’t do the things that you really don’t want to (the reason is you still need to be at 50% functioning adult). Accept you for you; you’re great and unique and if you don’t want to be an ultra-marathon runner, that’s cool, it’s not for you! Maybe I’ll take my own advice and drop the meditation…

There you go! Now is the chance to focus on building a new habit that will see you through iso and out on the other side. Stay safe, stay well and stay at 50% adulting level.

Sending socially distant love,

Curly Girl xo

Staying sane in iso.

I wrote a blog post not too long ago on surviving quaranting and since then, things have certainly ramped up a bit – with New Zealand friends in full lockdown and Australians currently facing a scary situation with the closure of both gyms and nail salons. In all seriousness – stay safe and healthy, but most importantly, stay sane! I read an article this week about productivity in the pandemic (well worth a read, here), it reminded me to be kind to myself and not expect the same amount of workload that my usual self balancing study, work, gym, socialising and adulting self would usually put on. On the other hand, you also don’t want to spend days on end bingeing Netflix, which I promise (believe me on this one) will make you feel worse.

So, with half-mast productivity, here’s how I’ve been (actually) surviving self-isolation.

#ONE: Staying fit.

It’s no secret that I’m an absolute gym junkie. I love the gym and typically do 5+ classes a week. When the government closed the gyms (for good reason), it was a dark day indeed and I realised I’d have to find another outlet for my excess energy. I unfortunately didn’t get the kettlebell I ordered from Target (sold out </3), but I did get a swiss ball, resistance bands, medicine ball and have a yoga mat at home. I try to do some sort of exercise 3 times a day and have been averaging 12k+ steps a day in isolation.

YouTube is the absolute best thing in the world for this – I did a super fun cardio class with PopSugar and have been continuing my Yoga with Adrienne, plus adding some Pilates. I also downloaded the C25K app and have been running with my socially distant run buddy (who is in Melbourne). Having an accountability partner to achieve a new goal (I am really not a runner), is a great way to stay motivated and neither of us miss a run. Pictured is the view from one my runs – it definitely beats the treadmill!

I also suggest getting onto Pinterest and finding some workouts that work for you – I’ve been trialling some outdoor playground circuits that are surprisingly difficult. Bottom line: it doesn’t matter what you do, just do something! Don’t use this time to become a couch potato.

#TWO: Learning stuff.

As a Distance Student (for my Master’s), I’m pretty used to learning online – it does take a bit more discipline, but is something I really enjoy. There are a lot of companies now increasing their webinar offerings to capture the audience of people now permanently at home. General Assembly have a great stack of online resources and webinars that are really well delivered – I did one on data analytics last week that was really good (just watch out as they’re mostly delivered in the US; the marketing webinar I signed up for was at 4AM Sydney time – nooo thank you). There’s also a raft of webinars on YouTube and I’m told Skillshare are also pretty good. Reputable universities like MIT have free online courses too, so there really is an abundance of stuff online to keep you learning. I know it’s a challenging time with a lot of people losing their jobs, so think about how you can add to your skillset to round out your CV.

#THREE: Mass self care.

This one is pretty much a given, but with all this extra time on your hands, this is the perfect time to take care of you! I’ve been taking a lot of baths (I LOVE baths) and doing a lot more face masks and body scrubs than usual. Another way to show yourself some love is to start journalling (I do this every day). I have a Dream Journal from Kikki K (think goals, not sleep), that I’ve neglected for the last 6 months and am finally making some progress in. I’ve also been reading and relaxing a lot more too.

#FOUR: FaceTime!

I think I’ve had more video calls this week than I’ve had this entire year. I tend to have a few video calls with friends and family in all different locations and this week has been bulk catching up – it’s been awesome! Now is the time to check in with your loved ones, who are probably also lonely and what better way to do that than get on a group call where no one has brushed their hair in days? Promise it’ll be more fun than the full company conf call (hilarious video on conference calls here).

#FIVE: Baking/Cooking.

I know my Kiwi friends don’t really have much of a choice but to do their cooking at home, with takeout places closed, but this really is a good opportunity to trial and error some new recipes and not just eat 2 minute noodles for the next four weeks. Just don’t be like me and manage to get 3rd degree burns from making fried rice (always use a sieve, folks). I thought it would be a great time to try out some low-FODMAP cookies. I got two cookies in before deciding the mixture was way too sticky and ended up with a massive cookie slab instead (which still tasted good). I’ve also been trying out some different recipes (mostly because the supermarkets aren’t well stocked and I’ve no choice). Pinterest is also a great resource for new recipes, particularly for friends with dietary requirements.

#SIX: Smashing the to-do list.

I think I hit my peak yesterday when I vacuumed the ceiling of the bathroom to get rid of cobwebs, which was surprisingly satisfying. I’ve been living in my apartment almost a year and finally took the time to give it a really thorough spring clean. I also vacuumed under my bed and reorganised my closet. Now’s your chance to do all the things you never thought you’d have the time (or the willingness) to do! Reorganise the closet, find the lids to the Tupperware containers, write a letter to your Great Aunt! Now’s your time!

#SEVEN: Bulk hobbies.

This week I finally painted the view from my house that I always wanted to. I also did some writing, read my book and here I am writing this blog post. Don’t have hobbies? Again, now’s the time to pick up a language (I’ve a friend learning Mandarin), learn how to crochet (here’s a great Harry Potter crochet kit) or learn how to paint (again, seek help from Pinterest).

As always, I’ll stop at 7 (most magically powerful number and all that). Don’t feel like you have to do something all the time, but spending hours on the couch probably isn’t a good idea to stay sane either. Try find some balance between the endless episodes of Tiger King and some yoga, Namaste. I know it’s a challenging time, but remember – we’re literally all in this together (across the entire world) and home really is the best safe harbour right now.

Sending socially distant love,

Curly Girl x

#SEJtips: Surviving quarantine

Since moving to Australia and starting scratch with my friends slate (don’t worry, I’m no Nigel No Mates), I’ve basically become a self-taught expert in the art of self care, solo dating (masturdating as some call it) and alone time. With the current corona crisis, I thought now was an excellent time to impart my wisdom on how to truly enjoy your time alone (I’m talking to you New Zealand returners facing 14 days quarantine). So from the woman who literally never spent an evening in New Zealand alone and successfully survived wisdom teeth surgery in self-imposed quarantine, here are my top tips for surviving quarantine/living up solo time:

#ONE: Uber Eats/stock up on excellent food

I can promise that quarantine is 100x better with food. I know this first-hand because, recovering from wisdom teeth surgery, I was unable to eat any kind of good food. I think I could pretty much stay in a bomb shelter for a month (okay, a week tops) if I had a good supply of Thai curry, fish and chips and Twix. Thankfully Uber Eats now offers rewards for your gluttony and you can request the food be left at the front door – no human contact required. Woolies also deliver, which is a relief – you just need to order a week in advance to guarantee a toilet paper delivery (I wish I was joking).

#TWO: Learn a new hobby

There is no better time to focus on self development than when you’re literally all alone with yourself! (Again, not a fantastic idea when you’re drugged up on painkillers post surgery, but totally applicable to the COVID19 isolation). There are a tonne of super great hobbies (great list here) that you can do at home alone – was there ever a better time to become an expert crocheter? And when you come out of isolation, you’ll be much more interesting because you’ll have an extra hobby to add to the Tinder bio (nothing says #husbandmaterial better than a multi-talented scrapbooking enthusiast).

#THREE: Establish some kind of routine

If five days at home recovering felt like five years, then fourteen days is going to be some new kind of fun challenge to those unfamiliar with the fun of isolation. It can be tempting to let the days roll into one (I legitimately had no idea what day it was for 80% of the time), but in order to keep functioning as an adult, I suggest putting together some kind of routine (particularly so your day doesn’t just revolve around food). Try getting up and going to bed at a regular time and avoiding spending days on end binge-watching the Real Housewives of Orange County (they also have an Auckland version if you’re interested).

#FOUR: Really work on you

Isolation is a great opportunity to go through a caterpillar phase and emerge a self-actualised butterfly (fun fact: this is around the same time it takes for an actual caterpillar to blossom into a butterfly and if an insect can do it, so can you). There is no greater time to be alone, with an entire internet of resources ready to help you meditate, manage your mind better, become a more positive and happy person. Youtube, Spotify and endless blogs exist to help you grow and learn. Why not set some goals to learn more about yourself and go on a journey of self discovery? I can promise you it will (probably) feel more fulfilling than learning the entire love-story of Luke and Lorelai (guess who has been watching Gilmore Girls?).

#FIVE: Throw in some real self care

There is a lot of contention around what self care actually means, that I’m going to stay out of with this post and go for the commonly espoused baths and face mask kind of self-care. Think of it like a day spa retreat at home (but forced) – when you return to society, you can tell them you’ve been on a 14 day wellness retreat and your skin will thank you.

#SIX: Keep moving!

You may be banned from entering the gym (or any public place), but keeping some sort of exercise routine will help your brain and body stay active. If you can, get out and go for a walk (just stay 1M from any innocent, uninfected community members), or alternatively, Youtube has a plethora of excellent home workouts. You can get really creative and work in tip two with this one, becoming a level three yoga teacher in no time.

#SEVEN: Maintain contact with the outside world

Be grateful in 2020 we have the miracle of communication. Book in lots of FaceTime dates (or WhatsApp video call if you’re an Android heathen like myself) where you and your bestie can both drink wine and watch the same movie (just like on the movies!). For added fun, download Words with Friends and really cement that virtual friendship with your linguistic superiority.

Seven is the most magically powerful number so I will leave you with these seven great tips for surviving the most exciting time of year (not quite what I imagined with the roaring 20’s). Good luck, enjoy the solo time and remember you don’t have to be quarantined to take care of yourself and enjoy being alone.

Stay healthy!

Curly Girl xox

#SEJtips: Becoming a morning person

I never thought of myself as a night owl, or a morning person really. The phrase ‘permanently exhausted pigeon’ was most apt (although I will be honest that I usually have quite a bit of energy). I’ve heard a million times that the ‘early bird gets the worm’ and that the 5am Club are people who achieve the highest. I just didn’t think that I could change my habits from someone who peels myself out of bed at 7am to someone who jumps up at 5am praising the day.

Well I definitely didn’t achieve the latter, however I have been able to consistently get myself out of bed to make the 7am gym classes I love so much and now prefer to get up earlier than drag myself out of bed at 7. My goal was to give myself a bit more time in the morning so I didn’t feel so rushed, as my work day + study schedule is usually packed. I recently went to a Meetup (thank you Unstoppable Women’s Network) that pointed out the importance of giving yourself time in the morning. Often we give ourselves time just before bed, when we’re already worn out and exhausted – giving everyone else the best of us, before giving to ourselves. (Refer again to the Golden Goose parable by Stephen Covey that I swear by). So I decided to give myself a bit more time in the morning and invest in a morning routine. I haven’t quite made it to meditation, but getting up and being active is definitely a win.

I do want to add the caveat – right here – that you don’t have to force yourself to become a morning person if you really are a night owl. I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before book on habits (totally recommend) and there is an emphasis on understanding and working with, rather than against your preferences and tendencies. I know I’m quite capable of getting up to a) run events or b) catch flights, so decided to put this into action on a more regular basis to give me the opportunity to enjoy my evenings/study.

SEJ top tips for getting up early(ier)
*note that these are translatable to other habits and since I get up to go to the gym 90% of the time, the habits are interrelated for me.

# ONE – Give yourself a reason

Most of these tips can totally translate to other habits (I’ll do a Gretchen Rubin summary of habit formation later); if you don’t have a good reason to do something, chances are you’ll either procrastinate (listen to this podcast on procrastination by Jay Shetty), or just not do it at all. If you’ve got a compelling reason to do something (e.g. if you eat peanut butter, you’ll get a violent allergic reaction), chances are you’ll follow through. I decided that I wanted to get up early so I could spend time in the evenings studying and finish before 10pm (super compelling to me because I am noottt a night-owl). Even better; write down the reason you’re doing it and better than that, share that reason with a friend.

#TWO – Accountability

Hold yourself accountable to something, or someone. With my gym, I’m heavily penalised (in my view) for not attending classes; I lose the ability to book in advance and would then miss out on my favourite classes. There’s a great incentive not to miss classes, so I generally don’t. Booking a 7am gym class ties me to attending and getting up on time. Find some way to hold yourself accountable e.g. booking a PT, having a friend get up with you or find an accountability buddy (another Gretchen Rubin trick).

#THREE – Rewards!

I’m not ashamed to admit that when I was younger (okay like two years ago), I struggled to motivate myself to go to the gym and so used stickers to reward myself for attending. When I got a certain number of stickers, I got a reward (mine was a massage, which was a great non-culinary reward for me). Now, my colleagues and I have house points (I have my own Ravenclaw jar with my face on the eagle which is amazing). It’s small, simple but still has the dopamine release that motivates me to keep going. It depends if you’re carrot, or stick motivated, but I do highly recommend rewarding yourself for good behaviour (yeah, we’re like dogs).

#FOUR – Ease into it

Many people like to adopt an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to new habits, which may make it way harder to start. If you’re getting up at 7.30am every morning and you suddenly get up at 5am, it’s going to be a huge shock to the system and a great deterrent from getting started. My goal was to slowly get up earlier. I moved from 7am to 6.30am, to 6.20am and my next goal is to get up at 6am. There are no set steps here – do what works for you, but I recommend having a plan and slowly getting to where you want to be (no one ran a marathon after a day training, did they?).

#FIVE – Consistency

Another truism: ‘consistency is key’. It’s very difficult to keep doing something if you only do it some of the time. Building a habit by getting up early 3 days a week is going to make it quite difficult to keep it going. At least in the beginning, take the time to do whatever you want to do <getting up earlier> every day (I except weekends from this) and mark it off in your calendar when you’ve done it for that day and keep going (loop back to the rewards in top 3). It apparently takes 66 days or so to form a habit (not the 30 everyone refers to), but once it’s ingrained, it’s much easier to keep going.

#SIX – Go to bed!

This may seem fairly self-explanatory and obvious, but don’t expect to get up earlier without adjusting the time you can go to bed. ‘But I only need 4 hours of sleep’ you may say – to which I would reply, watch this TED talk; sleep is critical to being a functioning human being. I personally know I need 8 hours to get up in the morning and smash out a hiit class (you can get away with 7). I make an effort to go to bed and wind up earlier so I can actually sleep by ~10am so I’m not a permanently exhausted pigeon the next day. It may seem early, but so is 5am 🤷.

There you have it – 6 top tips to get up earlier and to start any habit. It’s never easy at first but the first step is always the hardest (thank you Gretchen Rubin). I’m not yet the member of the 5am club I hoped I’d be by now, but I’m making great progress! And if you’re motivated, you too can be a member of the 6.20am out of bed fam (we’re not yet cool enough for the club status).

Stay tuned for a post on habits!

‘Til then,

Curly girl xox

Don’t believe everything you think

Last year I heard about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for the first time. CBT seemed a way for me to be able to manage the ongoing monologue I have with myself striving to do better, be better and always achieve (see blog post on perfectionism). It helped me understand why I think the way I do and most importantly, that a lot of our thoughts simply aren’t true. I found it amazingly useful and although it might seem too woo-woo for you, or too entrenched in the depths of psychology, it has some useful takeaways, so try hang in there with me.

Have you ever heard the saying that you should talk to yourself the way you talk to a friend? Have you ever actually followed this advice? When you dropped a glass in the kitchen did you say ‘eh, mistakes happen’, or ‘shit, I fucked up’ – what would you have said to a friend? Or if you got a B+ instead of an A, would you have told your friend that they need to do better, or that they tried their hardest and you’re proud of them? I’m guessing you’d never criticise your friend for making a simple mistake, yet it seems second nature for us to critique ourselves.

Growing up, I was someone who required very little pushing from my parents (except to partake in sport; I wasn’t a natural-born athlete and didn’t like doing things I wasn’t particularly good at). I would always say that the pressure I put on myself would always be greater than any that would come externally. That’s because my mind was always engaged in a monologue with me that I didn’t realise, telling me what it thought I should be doing, what I should be achieving and I just took it for granted that it was all true.

I heard a quote last year that’s really stuck with me, a reflection from a well-known athlete, who was asked why he was so successful, his response; “I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of I listen to myself”. Here’s a Kara Lowentheil podcast on it, if you’re interested. When I first heard the quote, I honestly had no idea what it meant. Then, learning about CBT, I heard another quote “don’t believe everything you think”. And then it hit me…

So what I’m really talking about is that voice in your head. That one that says your friend’s painting is way better than yours (true story), the one that says if you’re not the best, why bother? Or probably more relatable; ‘you’ve watched 36 hours of Netflix, you’re a failure’, or ‘you made a mistake in this morning’s email campaign, you’re bad at your job’. There’s actually names for these kinds of thoughts and if you have them, I’d suggest having a crack at reading Sarah Edelman’s book.

Without going into the psychological explanation, our brains are actually wired for negativity, which is shit, but part of us being evolved from neanderthals who were constantly fearing for their lives. The voice in our head is often critical, negative and looks for the worst in situations. Unless you’re an enlightened human being, which I’m guessing most of us aren’t, yet…

So this year in particular, I’ve paid more attention to my own thoughts. Way more. I am listening to what I’m saying to myself, instead of blindly accepting what I think. When I have a lazy day watching Netflix, my first instinct is to tell myself off for being lazy, then I think about it and question the voice with ‘well, when did I last have a day off?’ and ‘how can I perform at my best, if I don’t rest?’. The kind of stuff I’d tell my friends if they refused to relax. I try to no longer take my thoughts as gospel and to question why I feel a certain way, why I want to do something and am I really hungry, or just bored?

I talk to myself a lot more than I ever have (which apparently is actually very normal) and I’m seeing the benefits of being kinder to myself. Part of my daily journal practice is to check in and see how I’m feeling. It’s like being my own friend and something I totally recommend.

If the practice of CBT, journalling and self-talk is all a bit much for you, try starting with paying attention with what you’re saying to yourself. After all, you’re with your mind 24 hours a day.

Better living everyone.

And all the best,

Curly Girl xx

My word for 2019: Resilience

As a good reflective thinker (long live the IB learner profile), I spent a lot of time thinking about 2019, what I learned and how far I’ve come in the last decade. It’s been a decade of firsts as I was just a wee teenager at the beginning of 2010. I won’t go through a long list of everything I have achieved, but I do believe in celebrating the wins, reflecting on the mistakes and moving forward with positivity.

One thing I did want to write about was what I learned about myself in 2019, with the word of the year being resilience. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had a challenging 2019 – I managed to cut my arm open (whoops!) and had the ongoing challenge of working full-time, studying towards my Masters, finding a new flat in Sydney, then finding a new flatmate and toward the end of the year, finding a new job. But I did it, I got through and here’s what I learned along the way:

My mantra for the year: It doesn’t get easier, but you get stronger

How true. Every time I do a challenging gym class, where I’m having to do the 50th burpee in a row (I do hate burpees), I keep telling myself that I get stronger and it’s true. This is a mantra I like to carry across for life also – it doesn’t get easier, really, but difficulty is part of being human. It’s never going to be easy and if it is, you’re not growing, are you? But once you’ve done something once, managed it once, you know how to do it and you’re stronger next time round. The first burpee will be the hardest, but your muscle memory will ensure you get stronger. Apply to emotional memory and remind yourself of what you’re conquered and how strong you are to conquer the next challenge.

It’s much easier to be resilient with a strong network

Last year was hard. Being away from home and managing a whole lot of different highs and lows isn’t easy, but I couldn’t be more grateful for my friends and family here and back home. Having someone to turn to, listen to you, pick you back up and tell you when you’re being ridiculous is invaluable. (Thank you to everyone in my amazing circle!). Don’t have a good support network? Go find one. There’s so many networks, Meetups and events where you can make friends and meet people – even if you’re an introvert, there are now amazing Facebook groups where you can form strong digital connections with like-minded people. But you have to want to try.

You gotta have a good coping mechanism

You know what they say – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But that’s really hard to do when you don’t have some way of release/self care/self love. 2019 was the year that I started to paint. Watercolours are an amazing way to focus and take you completely out of your head – they say the best thing you can do to diffuse stress is to stop focusing on the thing that’s stressing you. Trying to paint tiny trees on a landscape is a great way to diffuse this (for me at least) and one of the ways I take time out. I also read, write, do yoga, walk, colour and Netflix. Sitting in the stress does nothing to help you move on from it.

Learn as you go

I like the quote that you either win, or you learn. There’s only a failure if you don’t learn something. Last year I developed a practice of daily journaling with a spare diary my boss handed over to me. Best gift ever. Everyday I write how I did in my goal focus (it was balance for the first quarter of 2019), what the win of the day was, how I felt and what I’m grateful for. This helps me to pinpoint what I do well in, where I could improve and how I could do better next time. It also gives me perspective because I have a LOT to be grateful for. Every day. If you’re reading this, you’ve got internet access and chances are, you’ve got a lot to be grateful for too. It does sound a bit airy fairy (I love airy fairy and fluffy), but this practice is worth it, in whatever medium you choose (I love to handwrite).

I’m excited for this year, what it will bring and the dawn of a new decade. If the word for 2019 was resilience, I’d like the word for 2020 to be positive. If you look for the good, you’ll find it, trust me.

-Curly Girl xo

The death of my perfectionist self

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Except a bit is in brackets and it’s not really a bit, it’s a solid 99% (well if you’re going to do something, do it well eh?). When I started my Masters, I set out to achieve an A grade GPA and honestly, anything less than that felt like a fail. I’ve always wanted to have things just perfect; my house is exceptionally tidy, I can’t sleep in a messy bedroom and I won’t start something without having perfectly planned it first.

I know I’m not alone in my desire (well, actually it’s more than a desire, but rather a need to have everything A+). In fact, perfectionism ended up in the psychology textbooks and, as Wikipedia so helpfully identifies, it is a personality trait characterised by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

Up until this year, I just didn’t see perfectionism as an issue, let alone a psychological barrier to achievement. In the perfectionist’s mind, if you can’t achieve an A+, there’s no point in starting as it’s better to not start than to fail (although, most people would consider a B+ to be a great achievement). Honestly, I’ve heard so many podcasts that say it’s better to get a B and make a start on a project than to not start at all. Perfectionism doesn’t usually affect one area of your life, but all – perfectionists not only want the perfect grades, the perfect house, but they want to be the perfect partner, employee, sister, daughter, friend… You name it. And the problem with this (if it isn’t obvious) is that a) perfect doesn’t exist and if it does it’s b) subjective and c) fucking exhausting.

So, here’s my B+ post on how to kill your perfectionist alter ego (from someone who’s been there, doing that):

#Tip 1: Just Start.

I cannot tell you how much time I wasted because I wanted to get all the information, gather all the data and hear all the advice before I started a project. Particularly at work, when I was nervous about fucking up, I would often talk to 5 different people before actually embarking on a project. And do you know what that lead to? Confusion, procrastination and a total waste of time. If you just start, with whatever you have now, you’ll at least have some foundation to tweak, work on and go to other people with if you do need more help. You’ll figure out the rest later and at least find out what you do actually know. Same goes to assignments. Write that first draft. It doesn’t matter if it’s shit – it’s a first draft! It’s not supposed to be perfect.

#Tip 2: Set time limits

This is a great one I picked up from Jenna Kutcher. In case you haven’t met me, I’m an obsessive planner, researcher and organiser. This has been a total asset for my career to date as an event organiser, but isn’t so great for my personal life (you should see my flat organisation spreadsheet). One tip is to limit the amount of time you’re going to research, or plan. I spent hours researching flights and US Topdeck tours before going ahead and finally buying the first one I looked at (yes, there was a spreadsheet for this, too). Allocating 1 hour of research would’ve saved me the following 4 of mindless researching, as I went with my gut anyway. Moral of the story – set yourself a time limit and stick to it.

#Tip 3: Do your best, but don’t beat yourself up if you do get a B+

My perfectionist brain didn’t want to stop being an A+ student, because I was worried that if I didn’t keep striving for the top tier, I’d become average and my marks would totally plummet. To me, it was all or nothing – either I succeeded (i.e. got an A) or I failed (literally anything else). I’m currently learning about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (so bear with me), which says that this is ‘black and white’ or all or nothing thinking, which isn’t how the world works at all. When I did get a B+ (yes I got a B+), I wrote down everything that I was balancing when studying, all the hours I put into the grade and realised that I did my best, it was a hard paper and there’s nothing I can do. (Remember, to a perfectionist, this was a fail). I celebrated the win and realised that B+ is still a great mark.

Writing things down helps a lot, as does celebrating every win.

#Tip 4: Ballpark the worst case scenario

This is another CBT technique, but a good one nonetheless – writing down the absolute worst thing that can happen and the actual probability of that occurring is a great way to realise that not being perfect really isn’t so bad. In practice (again going with uni because it’s been my life for the last 2 years) – if I got a B+, or a B, what would it mean? Would anyone see me differently, or as less scholarly? Maybe, but who cares what they think anyway… Would it effect me getting into my thesis? No as the minimum baseline is B. Would I remember in 5 years that I got a B? Probably not… So the worst case scenario really isn’t so bad, is it? Rinse and repeat with everything else (as it turns out, most people don’t care if your house is a little messy either).

I’m going to leave you with these 4 tips (instead of my usually magically congruent 7 – this is an imperfect post after all). Perfectionism might look okay on the outside when you live up to the high standards you set, but it’s really exhausting to maintain and can stop you achieving because you’re too worried to even get started. By accepting less than perfect, I’ve started to learn how to paint, booked a trip to the US and have more time to enjoy life because I’m not spending all my time revising, fixing and planning (just some of it). You don’t have to change everything all at once, but just ask yourself, well what if I don’t get this perfect? (Unless you’re the surgeon removing my wisdom teeth, then I want 100% accuracy please).

Until next time,
Curly Girl x

From my bookshelf to yours…

One thing that’s good about doing a Masters by Distance is the spark of joy that is alighted by the hours and hours of reading I do every week… (Yes, you do detect a heavy layering of saracasm – much like the sprinkle:ice cream ratio on a Macca’s Mcflurry, I digress…). Fortunately I haven’t lost my love of reading normal books and have surprisingly smashed through quite a few this year.

I took a bit of detour from my traditional historical fiction and thriller books about young girls getting abducted (note to self: do not read these when on holiday in Bali). A lot of my books this year have been recommendations from podcasts I listen to (fab post about top 10 podcasts here). This is my year of professional development and hearing from badass women nailing their dreams. I’m not really into book reviews, but here is an overview of what I’ve read this year and why you should also read said books. Catchy writing style coming at you today.

  1. Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis

I may have mentioned once or twice (okay at least fifty on this blog alone) that I am a huggee Rachel Hollis fan. Because she is ahmazing – she’s a hustler, hard worker and makes no secret about what it actually takes to achieve success. Girl, Wash Your Face is about the lies we believe about ourselves (ourselves being women –  this is 100% a book for women) and why they’re not true. It’s literally like reading advice from your best friend and Hollis literally refers to herself as ‘your pal Rach’. She breaks down the leis with relateable stories and gives advice on how to kick ass and conquer. I recommend this to anyone who is female and wants to do well in life – so everyone.

  1. Girl, Stop Apologising – Rachel Hollis

Would you believe that this is the sequel of my first fave book? Rach is pretty amazing. I don’t often buy books in hard copy (I’m a kindle fan), but this one was definitely worth the paper. There are some repeated sentiments from her first book, which is okay because our brains need repetition to learn things. This was more of a guidebook on what you need to do to conquer your dreams, how to make more time in your day to get what you want and how to actually admit to yourself what you want. Also for women and pretty powerful. Follow her on Insta also – she posts good things.

  1. Everything is Figureoutable – Marie Forleo

I am the biggest Rachel Hollis fan ever, but this book was almost better than the Rachel Hollis books (almost). I love love love the philosophy behind ‘Everything is Figureoutable’ which is a strong belief that if we think we can figure something out, we can and we’ll make it happen. Marie talks a lot about the power of mindset to make things happen and each chapter ends with an ‘action to insight’ challenge – so if you’re into just passively reading books and hoping for the best, this is NOT for you. If you’re committed to personal growth and you love hearing personal stories (some of her stories are almost unbelievable), then give Forleo a go. I got this book because I heard about it on a podcast (recurring theme here) and it’s one of the best I’ve ever read.

  1. You are Badass at Making Money – Jen Sincero

Would you believe I heard about this book… on a podcast? I loved the podcast so much (Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger) that I literally bought the book on the train to work when I was still listening. This one is surprisingly about mindset – a lot of women (and men) have constraining mindsets about money that that restrict what we actually make. Our unconscious beliefs about ourselves control our life way more than we ever notice. So although I was expecting to read a book that finally helped me understand how shares and shit work, I wasn’t actually disappointed to read about the importance of changing our beliefs about money. This one is also full of practical tips and actions to change your thinking, which ultimately does change your life, who would’ve thought?

  1. High Performance Habits – Brendon Burchard

I listen to Brendon’s podcast quite a bit and he does refer to this book a lot, but it was the clever Instagram tracking ads that finally wore me down and made me read High Performance Habits. Brendon writes this based on years of his research and working with CEOs, Olympians and high calibre leaders. There’s a lot of really interesting stories in there, which helpfully reminds us that we are human and we all make mistakes. He goes through the 6 habits to cultivate to be high performance and how you can manifest excellence in what you do. I will warn you that it’s not a light read and this books has more actionable insight/challenges than anything else I’ve ever read, so only get this one if you’re 100% committed to the cause.

  1. Calm the Fuck Down – Sarah Knight

I’m quite a fan of the Sarah Knight books – I preferred the Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck to Mark Manson’s similarly titled self help book and love her humour. This is the fourth book she’s written – she calls them No Fucks Given Guides – all with equally profane titles… I did find this one particularly helpful as she’s written it for anyone who worries about things that they shouldn’t and gives helpful diagrams and flowcharts (every type A loves a flow chart) to breakdown the likelihood of what you’re worrying about actually happening and what you can do about it. OCD bliss. You don’t have to read her books in order, but I recommend starting with the Life Changing Magic and working your way through.

  1. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo- Amy Schumer

This one has almost nothing to do with professional development, but you gotta keep it fresh eh? I picked it up in Melbourne for $7 when I wanted something to read and surprisingly, once I picked it up, I couldn’t stop reading. Amy has a pretty interesting background as a female comic, which has similar themes of working hard to become successful and highlighting what it actually takes to become a Netflix comedian star. She is quite funny and although not as articulate as the other authors on this list, it’s still a great read.

Here are the highlights of my (mostly) non-fiction books that I’ve read this year. It’s the first year I’ve read so much non-fiction (Harry Potter will always hold a special place in my heart), but I’m glad I committed and cannot recommend the plunge into non-fiction enough.

If you got this far and are still unimpressed with my taste in literature – well done, thank you and I promise the next post will be something exhilarating based on my life. I did recently acquire a life-changing garment steamer so maybe I’ll feature some transformational appliances (promise I won’t, please don’t unfollow).

Until inspiration next strikes,

Curly Girl x

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