Happy New Year to all of my readers! Wishing you a fantastic 2023. I’m a bit late sharing my bullet journal pages this time as I only just got them finished. I’ve done a snowflakes theme before, but last time, I did a monochrome version with just my Pigma micron pens. I ordered some new brush and fine nib pens to arrive just after Christmas and there are lots of lovely blues in the set of 24, so I thought I’d try out the fine tips on my January spreads. I hope you like them and as always, if you’ve shared your pages for this month, feel free to link them in the comments.
This month’s cover page is heavily influenced by a design from @createmore.se on Instagram. I’ve changed it up slightly by adding sparkles, dots and small circles but the composition is mainly the same. I used my circle drawing tool and, as I messed up the lettering in my notebook, I cut a page from the back using my X-Acto knife, trimmed it down, created the wreath and then stuck it in after I’d finished. I decided to do a rough freehand border around it to make it stand out. My new pens are from the Ohuhu brand and I ordered the mid tone range which has some lovely pastel colours.
I’m really pleased with how this one turned out. It’s my usual grid layout with different snowflake designs filling the space. It took me a while but it was a nice bit of mindful drawing in the evening of the first of January,
Again, this spread is self explanatory. By the end of last month, my expenses table was completely full – in fact I ran out of space! Hopefully, this month will be a lot lighter on the spending front!
TV series watched
I don’t do one of these each month but my last one ran up until the end of December so I’ve just set up a new one. I like to record all of the different series we watch and the particular genres we enjoy. It’s nice to see all of the things we’ve watched and is a good reminder of what we’ve seen.
Veganuary Week 1 Meal Planning
My husband and I are doing Veganuary again this year which means we’re eating vegan for the whole of January. It gets easier every year but we still need to do a meal plan each week so that we know what we’re having for lunch and dinner each day. I also find the meal planning pages from previous years really useful. Obviously, this page could be useful whatever your diet but we don’t tend to spend long thinking of meal ideas the rest of the year.
This is my first weekly of the month. I used the same snowflake design for each day because coming up with different designs is what took a lot of time for the cover and calendar. I messed up on the spacing for this spread so the bottom columns are one dot space shorter than the ones at the top but it doesn’t bother me too much as I tend to write less at the weekends anyway.
That’s all of the spreads I’ve drawn up so far. I have my running task list to set up this morning which will go on the page after my weekly plan and I will of course be doing more meal planning spreads and weekly plans over the weeks. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my spreads for this month. We have no snow here at the moment but it is certainly cold enough to get some white stuff soon.
Last month, I decided really early on that I wanted to do a Christmas trees theme for December. I was debating doing a watercolour scene featuring real trees and snow for the front cover but knew this would be quite time consuming as I would have to find tutorial to help me and then I would have to paint all of the other trees throughout the month for a cohesive look. However, in the last few days of November, I took to YouTube, searching the videos for inspiration and found this fairly easy but pretty set up from Claire Marie Bee which I was excited to recreate and make my own. I’ve copied quite a few of her ideas and, although it took quite a while to sketch out the tree pattern it was simple enough to do and I love the result.
I started the process of creating the front cover by sketching the outlines of the trees in a diagonal pattern. I then turned to the back of my bujo and spent some time practising different designs. The inspiration for the trees was taking from Claire’s video and also from images I found by typing in ‘tree doodles’ into Google. I used just two colours of Tombow ABT for the colouring – dark olive 158 and asparagus 192 and a red Pentel sign brush pen for the sparkles. The page was then outlined using a 0.,1 micron. I also used Claire’s idea of writing the word December on vellum and this meant I could practise a few times and pick the best one!
The monthly calendar
This is my usual 6×6 box calendar with trees dotted about in the background. I didn’t create a pattern with these two pages – I just chose some designs and placed them where I felt they would look good. Again, I wrote December on vellum, this time using a Tombow brush pen in poppy red 856. The Pentel pen and the red Tombow are very similar in colour and I don’t mind that they’re not a perfect match.
These pages are the same layout as I’ve been using for a while now. Again, I added a title using the Pentel sign brush pen. The words income and expenses are printed on green paper and stuck on because I messed up the writing on them first time. I wish the words were central on the page, but I guess I’ll just have to put up with it!
I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my spreads for December. If you like finding time to do something creative each week, I really recommend having a go at doing some tree doodles. My sketches are 2cms wide by 3cms tall, but you can make them any size you want. Sitting down and quietly drawing is a wonderfully mindful activity and a great way to destress during the very busy month of December.
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.
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.