For my BuJo theme for next month, I took inspiration from an article I read in one of my magazines which focused on awareness of the lunar cycle and how you can use the various stages of the moon to transform your life and become more in touch with your spiritual side. I read with interest and wanted to learn more so I bought a book called Lunar Living by Kirstie Gallagher.
Every morning, I spend about 20-30 minutes reading, highlighting and learning about the magic of The Moon. Today, I’m going to share the spreads that I’ve created and when I’ve finished reading, I hope to create a series of blog posts which begin to touch on some of the many things I’ve learnt. For now, here’s what I’ve currently got set up for October.
My cover page
It’s been a while since I did any watercolour painting so I decided to have a go at doing the full Moon. I found several tutorials on YouTube and decided to follow one which involved using the wet-on-wet technique. This was my second attempt and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
As watercolour paper is really thick, I didn’t want to stick the actual painting into my bullet journal so I photocopied it and glued it in, inside a diagram of the moon cycle (which was inspired by Amanda Rach Lee’s October 2019 YouTube video). I added the quote ‘Stay wild, moon child’ which as well as referencing this month’s theme, basically means keep being you and doing what you’re doing.
I originally planned to draw the changing moon for each day of the calendar and use black fineliner or white gel pen to add the dates. However, this wasn’t easy and in the end I just did black circles and use my white Gellyroll in 0.8 to add the numbers. I then added 4 of the 8 monthly phases of the moon to the appropriate boxes for reference. I’ve also downloaded an app which shows the % of visible moon each day on a calendar and contains information which explains when there is a new moon, full moon and also when the waxing (growing bigger) and waning (getting smaller) period is.
For this month I added a small notes section and a space for goals. I’ll then work on some actionable steps to achieve my goals throughout the month in keeping with the teachings of the lunar cycle. I printed a brush letter title for the page and used black paper to add some interest behind it. Mini letter stamps from Hobbycraft were used to create the days of the week headers and other titles. A mini star stamp and my own doodles added interest to the white spaces and I also used some moon and stars washi tape I got on Etsy a few weeks ago.
Finances – income and outgoings
I’m continuing to keep track of my finances next month and I’m finding this set up really useful. I wanted to stick with mainly black and white for my theme but light grey Tombow pen was useful for these pages.
On this page I keep a record of fiction and non-fiction reading and also add a hearts rating for how much I enjoyed a novel or how interesting or helpful I found that particular non-fiction book.
Manifesting with the moon
On these pages I created a mini guide to each of the eight phases of the lunar cycle and how they can be used, according to Kirstie, ‘for self awareness, self care, nourishment, empowerment, manifestation and purpose’. I found it difficult to create circles that looked good, so in the end, I printed titles and mini circles, which I coloured in and cut out to stick in. Even getting the crescent moons right was a source of difficulty but I got there in the end and my perfectionist self was happy!
This is a set up which I’ve recently started using. Basically, it’s a list of tasks for the week and you assign them to specific days using task bullets. It means you can keep your weekly to dos separate from your weekly event calendar and you can add tasks as and when you think of them and then choose a days or days to work on them whenever you like. If you want to know more about this system, I recommend checking out Plant Based Bride’s video on YouTube.
Week 1 set up
These pages are pretty self-explanatory. A place to record events and appointments plus make notes about anything that I’m getting delivered or that I’m waiting on to arrive. I might also do a little bit of journalling at the bottom of each box if I have room left.
I hope you have enjoyed looking at my spreads and like the way they’ve turned out as much as I do. If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them. I always get a warm feeling inside every time someone shares their thoughts or experiences on one of my posts.
This week, in my series on The Wheel Of Wellness, I’ll be looking at the Spiritual segment. This section, which is the last to be covered, is all about finding life’s meaning and purpose whilst developing understanding of your personal values, beliefs and morals and using these to guide your actions and inform your way of living. Spiritual wellness does not necessarily involve being a deeply religious person or believing in the supernatural, rather, it is related to the human spirit or soul, as opposed to material or physical things.
A focus on spirituality involves learning to be more self-aware and recognising our existence in time and space. It’s also about becoming more familiar with our personal beliefs and values and how they affect the way we live and what we see as our purpose in life.
We all have a spirit within us which is constantly guiding us, looking after us and showing us the way to go. When we start to tune in to and listen to our inner voice, we’re using our spirit, and this is what can help us to lead a life in keeping with our wants, desires and passions. Connecting with our spiritual side can also help us to feel happier and healthier which I’m sure is something we all want.
Ways in which you can connect to your spiritual self
There are a number of ways in which you can really tune in to your spirit and think about what you really want for yourself and your life.
Quieten the mind – meditation is a great practice to develop but other mindful practices include writing in a daily journal, doing relaxing breathing exercises, taking a walk in nature, doing a meditative activity such as drawing, painting or colouring in, stretching exercises such as yoga, Pilates or mindful movements and praying.
Practise gratitude – identify a number of positives in your life each day, expressing and reflecting on them
Take a Mindful approach – focusing your awareness on the present moment, whilst calmly acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations is at the core of mindfulness as is a great way of becoming more in tune with your spiritual side.
Consider your personal values – values identify what is important to you in your life and how you wish to interact with the world. When your actions align with your core values you will immediately start to feel more content, fulfilled and satisfied. To help you do this, I’ve created a Pinterest board full of links to core values lists and related activities – try scanning the pages to see what resonates with you. You’ll see so many different ideas and the ones which you choose to add to your personal list will influence your decisions and life choices in many ways including:
your job or career path
your hobbies and pastimes
where you live
how you manage your money
your friendships, romantic partners and relationships
where you shop
compromises we are willing to make
how we parent our children
the ways in which we treat ourselves (both good and bad)
Whilst I was researching this blog post, I came across lots of worksheets, workbooks and exercises to try which focused on your values. One of these invited you to split your values into ‘Valuing myself’, ‘Valuing my relationships’ and ‘Valuing my work’. I had a quick go at this below but added ‘my life’ to the first category:
Valuing myself and my life
compassion, creativity, enthusiasm, open-mindedness, acceptance (self and others), creativity, happiness, health (emotional, physical and mental), learning, intelligence resilience, fun, wellbeing, respect for animals
Valuing my relationships
loyalty, thoughtfulness, love, playfulness, understanding, usefulness and humour
Spend time reflecting on your beliefs – these may have a religious focus or might be related to your core values. Examples of non-religious beliefs could be:
family comes first
we must take care of our planet
honesty is the best policy
everything happens for a reason
work/life balance is a priority
I should always try my best
community service is a central part of life
the different phases of the moon have particular influences on my life
breaking a mirror gives you seven years bad luck
Think about your dreams – not the ones you had in bed over the past few weeks, but your deepest desires and wishes. As part of this, you could do some journalling or have a go at creating a vision board. Afterwards, you might spend time reflecting on small but positive life changes that you could make right now to help you work towards these dreams.
Cultivating spirituality has many benefits for your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Getting to know your true self can help you begin to live in alignment with your core values and beliefs which is fundamental for a long and happy life. Psychologically, spiritual practices can develop your understanding of your inner self, leading to a greater sense of purpose. They can help you to think positively and clearly, lower your risk of stress, anxiety and depression and generally give you a better outlook on life. Physically, being more connected to your spiritual side can improve your immune system, help you to fight off illnesses, lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also help you to make better choices in terms of diet and find other ways of looking after your body and your mind, for example by exercising regularly and finding time to relax. The peace and calmness we invite into our lives can also help us to get a restful night’s sleep.
I hope you have found today’s post useful and have enjoyed learning about The Wheel Of Wellness over the last few months. I would love to hear about your hopes, dreams and ambitions for the future and the ways in which you think you can bring these into fruition. In keeping with having an open mind, I’m currently learning about the magic of using the phases of the moon as a tool to develop self-awareness, self-care, nourishment and empowerment to live with purpose and to manifest my deepest wants and desires for life. You’ll see in my next blog post, in which I share my October bullet journal spreads, that this has inspired my theme for next month and provided me with lots of ideas.
This week, as part of my series on the Wheel of Wellness, I’ll be covering the emotional segment. This section of the wheel is all about your feelings and includes how well you are able to identify, manage and engage with your emotions and how successfully you can deal with any emotional challenges which arise from time to time.
In the Oxford Dictionary online, emotion is defined in two ways:
a strong feeling derived from one’s circumstances, mood or relationships with others.
instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge.
Assessing your emotional wellness
The following are some signs of good emotional wellbeing that you can use to assess your current health in the area.
you feel good about yourself and who you are
you have feelings of contentment most of the time
you treat others well, showing them compassion and understanding (if you do this, you are most likely to treat yourself well, if you are critical of others, you will likely have a tendency to be harsh and critical towards yourself)
you feel you have a good support network e.g. you have friends / family or colleagues that you are able to open up to and a sense that there are people in your life who care about you
you are able to rest and relax (including being able to wind down for good sleep)
you are able to assert yourself, recognising that your opinions are valid and being able to say no when you need to without feeling guilty
you consider yourself to be someone who manage stress well
awareness of the main signs of poor emotional health – anger (which presents itself in various ways, including irritability, short temper, being argumentative), feeling hopeless (feeling low / depressed, helpless, worthless, seeing small things as ‘the end of the World’, not being able to see things are capable of change etc), losing interest in activities you used to enjoy, becoming socially distant, poor levels of productivity, blaming others for your mistakes and failings and repeatedly having trouble in relationships (friends, family and romantic partners)
flexibility – you are able to change and adapt well to different circumstances
you are able to name and embrace all of your emotions (such as sadness, anger, joy, fear, excitement etc) as a natural part of who you are (rather than suppressing or ignoring them
you lead a purposeful life (do you feel that you use your strengths to your advantage to make a difference?) (see my post on Occupational wellness for more on this)
you are grateful for many things in your life (particularly for people and situations in your life rather than just your possessions)
you value your experiences more than you value your possessions
you regularly engage in self-care activities such as doing activities which make you happy, using breathing techniques to help you stay calm or calm yourself when anxious, practising mindfulness, journalling about how you are feeling, showing yourself plenty of compassion, developing a regular meditation practice, scheduling ‘me time’ into your day, do something altruistic and explore how you feel as a result.
Some ideas for improving your emotional health
Make sure you’ve got the basics right – eat healthily with occasional treats, get enough quality sleep, move your body on a daily basis and use vices in moderation (e.g. alcohol, social media, junk food etc). If you think you need to make changes in one or more of these areas, try setting yourself small, achievable targets and celebrate all of your achievements.
Try CBT. If you think you need to learn more about your emotions and how they affect you, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is really beneficial for many people. There are plenty of books on the subject but it’s best if you work through your particular issues with a trained therapist.
Make use of self help resources. A book that I’m currently reading which I’m finding super useful is ‘Why has Nobody Told Me This Before’ by Dr Julie Smith. I spend around half an hour reading each morning after breakfast and I always have a Mildliner highlighter pen at hand to mark up anything which especially resonates with me. The website https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/ has lots of resources which might prove to be useful too.
Develop a daily reflective journalling habit – spending 5 or 10 minutes each evening recording how you feel your day went is a great way to record events and interactions with others and explore how they affected you emotionally. When you’ve finished writing, spend a few minutes considering what you wrote thinking about the decisions you made, whether the experience was positive or negative, what you can learn from what happened and what you might do differently next time.
Become familiar with ‘Unhelpful thinking styles’ and use them to identify and rationalise particular thoughts you have. Type the above phrase into Google or YouTube to learn about them and consider which particularly resonate with you. Once you know about them, you’ll start to recognise them cropping up in your day-to-day life. You can then begin to challenge them and create more helpful alternatives (a trusted friend or therapist can help with this too).
Be realistic when you’re not feeling 100% – There will be certain times of the year when you’re not feeling quite yourself, maybe you’re feeling under the weather, perhaps you’re stressed out at work or you’re planning an event or holiday which is taking up lots of your time and making you feel super busy. Or, like me, you might have a mood disorder which causes you periods of difficulty. Whatever the cause, it’s important to look after yourself during these times (ramp up the self care and self compassion) and definitely lower the expectations you place on yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to say no if you feel like something will be too much for you right now.
Start a self-care routine for your emotions – this could include meditation, mindful movements or stillness, yoga, Pilates, stretches or different breathing exercises to calm your body and your mind. If you keep a bullet journal like me, a great idea is to create a page of self-care ideas (with pictures/doodles if you want) as a reminder of all of the things you can try.
Remember some things are outside of your control – there are many things in life that happen to you which you can’t change e.g. the loss of a loved one, a global pandemic, a health diagnosis etc, but we can choose how we respond to those circumstances, e.g. by being kind, self-compassionate, hopeful and accepting.
Reach out – if you’re feeling lonely, down or isolated, seek out supportive family members, friends, colleagues, online or in person support groups to let people know that you are struggling. Also, try to find out what is going on in your local community so you can seek out social connections. If the thought of social interactions makes you feel anxious right now, try to choose one of the options that feels easiest such as inviting a friend over for coffee or chatting to someone via text message or on the phone.
Set clear boundaries and learn to say no. If you say yes to things that you really don’t feel like doing or you don’t have time for, it can lead to feelings of anger, resentment or overwhelm. In her book which I mentioned above, she explains about ‘people pleasing’ “We say yes when actually what we want and need is to say no. We feel resentful of being taken advantage of but unable to change it by asking for anything different. On the other hand, having clear boundaries makes you feel in control and is a way of showing yourself respect. Being assertive can be difficult for some of us, especially during periods of mental illness, so it’s a good idea to develop your skills when your mood is stable. Only say yes to what matters to you the most such as a get together with close family and friends, learning opportunities or new challenges at work which will further develop your skills or increase your knowledge (but not too far from your comfort zone!). There’s a wealth of information online about assertiveness (some better than others) so if you need help in this area or want to know more about what it means to be assertive, try checking out NHS resources such as this one which includes a very useful download, worksheets and information on www.getselfhelp.co.uk and this article from lifehack.org. Again, qualified CBT therapists can help with assertiveness too.
Read up on emotional resilience – emotional resilience is the ability to adapt to stressful situations and cope with life’s ups and downs. You can learn about it and develop the associated skills in books, online, with a therapist or through doing a course at a local recovery college like I did.
Go outside – studies have shown that being in nature has powerful effects on our mind, body and soul. There’s lots of ways to fit in some time outdoors including taking a walk in your lunchbreak, enjoying your morning coffee in the garden or wandering through your local park or woodland at the end of a busy day.
Thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog post. I hope you have found it useful and are thinking about trying some of the ideas I mentioned. Let me know in the comments if you think your emotional health is quite strong or if you feel it’s an area you need to work on. As always, if you have any questions or anything to add, please do get in touch.
Next month in my bullet journal, I decided to go for something I absolutely love, which is coffee. During the summer, I always try hard to keep myself well hydrated and as it’s been particularly hot this year, I’ve developed a liking for iced coffee along with all my usual cold drinks. I hope you enjoy looking at my spreads – I’m really pleased with how they turned out and although I did a coffee theme already back in November 2019, the pages are very different to the ones I did then.
My cover page
I wanted to have a go at doing some coffee rings on this page but I experimented with real brewed coffee and it soaked through the pages really badly. In the end, I created the effect using brown paint and although it doesn’t look the same, it worked okay and more importantly, didn’t soak through! I printed a range of small photographs of coffee related images I found on Google and Unsplash. However, despite using glossy photo paper designed for my printer, the darker colours smudged even after being left to dry for ages. So, in the end, I used just one photo in colours to match my theme but with no darker shades. Using just one collage image meant that you could see the rings that I spent lots of time on better than if I’d included more. The little coffee beans are stamps which are from a really cheap set I purchased from The Works. I used StazOn jet black ink which dries really quickly and doesn’t soak through the page.
As usual, I drew out a large calendar over two pages so I could fit all of my appointments and coffee meet ups in! I also used some more stamps and added some drawings of my own too. The title is created using one of my new Pentel brush sign pens which I bought with some of my birthday money this month.
Last month, as part of my Monday Matters series on The Wheel Of Wellness, I wrote a post about Financial wellbeing in which I mentioned the benefits of keeping track of your incomings and outgoings so you can learn more about your spending. I thought I’d give it a go and have created a spread for the last three months. I try to fill it in on a weekly basis so that I can keep running totals more easily.
That’s it for my September spreads so far. I’m thinking of creating weekly 2 page spreads when I start working with the university but I will draw those up as and when I get some hours. I’ll probably do some little coffee cup illustrations to decorate but will otherwise keep the layouts pretty basic using a horizontal set up. I might add them at a later date so watch this space!
For today’s blog post on The Wheel Of Wellness I’ll be focusing on the Occupational segment. This section is all about finding meaningful ways to occupy your time whether that be doing a job you enjoy and get personal satisfaction from, volunteering your time and services for a particular cause such as a charity, helping the community in some way (either in person or online), raising a family or simply being a good partner / friend / mum or dad / sibling / pet owner etc.
When we think of the term ‘occupation’, our thoughts tend to turn to our job or the way we earn a living. However, some of us, myself included, are currently classed as unemployed (for whatever reason), in education, or are retired, but we still occupy our time in a number of useful ways. So, throughout today’s article, I’ll be talking about occupation in the broadest sense i.e. as a way of spending time, particularly in a manner that is useful for ourselves, our family and friends or our wider community.
To maintain occupational wellness, it’s important to consider how what we do impacts on our general health – both physically and mentally. Does your work leave you feeling good about yourself and as though you’re really making a difference or do you dread each and every week, feel constantly exhausted, dissatisfied and undervalued? If you volunteer your time for a good cause, does your line manager thank you regularly and encourage you to recognise the impact you’re are having both on yourself and the organisation or do you feel unappreciated and as though it is a struggle to think of the benefits? If, like me, you’re a blogger, do you get a buzz when someone likes your post, follows you or leaves a nice comment or do you feel like you invest too much time on your writing and have lost your spark? For those of you who are retired, have you adjusted to your circumstances, and are you happy with how you structure your days, or do you feel like you would benefit from making changes which support both your physical and mental health? Whatever you current situation, do you feel well motivated, happy and purposeful or is there room for improvement in this area of your wellness?
My own experience of occupational wellbeing (and lack of)
(N.B. these paragraphs may be triggering for individuals who are currently struggling with their mood in some way or have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder)
Before my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, when I was teaching, there were periods of time in my work when I felt on top of the world, superior to most of my colleagues and as though I was making such a difference to the pupils and the school as a whole that I was a complete asset. At other times, I felt demotivated, dreaded each week, struggled to get out of bed and get things done and found my work-life completely unbalanced and unmanageable – drowning both at home and at work. For the rest of the time, I was satisfied with the way my career was going, felt I was becoming better and better at my job and was, along with most of my colleagues making a real difference. I also felt that I was able to manage my workload and had the ability to say ‘no’ when necessary. The swings in mood I was experiencing were exacerbated by occupational / work-related stress but were also heavily affected by a mental health condition that I was unaware I had.
At the time, during a period of severe depression, I was convinced the solution was to give up my job and career and that following handing in my notice, everything would be perfect. I was devastated that this was the answer as I’d wanted to be a primary school teacher from my early childhood but, I was making myself ill and it just couldn’t continue. However, I soon realised that although some aspects of my situation had improved (less stress, better work-life balance, more time for self care for example), my mood swings (although not as severe) continued and I had highs, extreme lows and periods of balance. When I was stable, I would set goals for myself and filled my time in productive ways. I would wake up feeling good and ready to get on with things. When I was depressed, I completely lost my confidence, had extreme anxiety and felt like I was a waste of space and no use to anyone. When I was high (shortly after a depressive episode), I slept very little, was brimming with ideas for what I wanted to do and achieve, flitted from project to project often leaving them half unfinished, spent money on all sorts of items as everything looked attractive and definitely on my want/need list and basically felt like I could take on the world. This eventually caused burn out and resulted in another bout of depression or physical unwellness.
Fast forward a good few years and, although I still have mental health difficulties, a correct diagnosis, medication for my illness, a range of therapies and help from my support worker have put me in a much better place and I’m currently able to manage my moods more easily and occupy my days in useful ways that leave me satisfied and feeling like I’m making a difference (however small). I’m also able to add in mindful and calming activities into my day and can recognise when I need to take breaks and when I might be doing too much.
As some of you who read my blog posts regularly will know, I’m continually working on my physical and mental health in a number of effective ways and I even have paid work lined up with my local university for next month which will make full use of my skillset whilst offering me the opportunity to take a break during any future periods of mental ill health. I also have the chance to work and socialise with other individuals who have physical and/or mental health difficulties so I will feel less alone. For the first time since I resigned from teaching, I feel like my occupational wellness is getting to where it should be.
Asking yourself questions to consider your occupational wellness
I think it’s really important to reflect on the different aspects of your life regularly and consider how things are going. Asking questions can be hugely beneficial. Of course, the assessment questions you ask yourself will differ depending on your current life situation but below I’ve shared some examples which you can pick and choose from depending which are most relevant. You might want to spend some time thinking and considering your answers but another good idea is to make notes or do some journalling so you can deep dive into how things are for you, and evaluate if your needs are being met. This kind of activity is great for self care and building self awareness.
Again, I’ve tried my best to include everyone here but I apologise in advance if you feel like most or all of the questions aren’t relevant to you. If this is the case, you are more than welcome to drop a comment explaining why and I’ll rack my brains and see if I can create a few tailor made question ideas.
How would you rate your current happiness and life satisfaction? Why?
What is it about your current role or the way you occupy your time that makes you want to get up in the morning?
What does an average week / work week look like to you? Does this support your physical and mental health? Why? Why not?
Do you feel like your current employment / routine offers opportunities to expand your skills and use your strengths? Why? Why not?
If you are a student, do your chosen subjects interest you and are you learning well? Does your degree choice suit you and are you getting the help and support you need to learn? Are you able to study independently? Have you found the right balance between studying and enjoying life?
What are your career / life aspirations?
What do you feel is important in your life right now? Does your occupation / lifestyle reflect this? If there are areas for improvement, what changes do you think you could make?
Do you feel that you’re currently achieving balance between your work and leisure time? Are there any ways you could tweak things?
What opportunities do you currently have to use your individual gifts, skills and talents (try making a list of them first if you’re unsure what they are) in order to gain purpose, happiness and enrichment in your life?
Does how you currently occupy your time support your physical health? Why? Why not?
Does how you currently occupy your time support your mental health? Why? Why not?
Can you identify one change you could make to your life right now that would have a positive impact on your physical or mental health? (this could be asking for help rather than taking on all of the responsibility yourself, or simple putting your foot down and saying no!)
Social connection is considered important for wellbeing (even during periods of low mood). Can you name the ways you connect with others on a regular basis? Do these connections help or hinder your mental health? Are there any changes you’d like to make in this area to improve your wellbeing? Do you shy away from social situations during periods of depression / anxiety or low mood? Can you think of ways to remain socially connected that seem management during difficult times?
How do you manage your work related / family stress and responsibilities? If you struggle in this area, can you think of ways to improve?
What’s your current attitude towards life / work? Does this support your health or not? Why?
What about if I’m struggling with depression right now and feel pretty useless?
As someone with bipolar disorder, I have plenty of experience of depressive episodes and recognise the daily struggles. However, what I’ve learnt is that, if you feel like you’ve achieved nothing with your day, it tends to make you feel much worse. For this reason, creating a structure or plan for your time can really help. This might include going to your local recovery college to learn something new, identifying small and achievable tasks to do on each day of the week or planning activities which you know (either now or in the past) have given you a little mood boost such as going for a walk in nature, meeting a friend for coffee or doing something mindful such as colouring in, working on a jigsaw or doing some word puzzles. Then, by bedtime, you can celebrate all of your achievements no matter how tiny they are. And don’t forget, even something like getting out of bed and getting dressed shouldn’t be dismissed! Check out my post on Behavioural Activation if you want more help with making a daily plan.
I hope you’ve found today’s blog post interesting or helpful in some way and it has made you think about your occupational wellbeing. I’ve tried to include something for everyone no matter what your current situation as I know my readers are all individual and at different stages of their lives. Let me know in the comments if a question or idea has particularly resonated with you as I love to hear the opinions and thoughts of others.