I, like many women (and probably some men, although I’ve yet to meet them), love a ‘to do’ list. My tiny Parisian apartment is littered with them from post-its and scraps of paper to leather bound ‘passion planners’. But recently I’ve been questioning whether they actually cause more harm than good. High functioning anxiety has, in the past, featured very high on my resumé. I excel at being nervous. I’ve come to realise that I’ve been self-fuelling it with my unnecessary, almost addictive need to see myself getting stuff done.
In today’s whirlwind society that moves faster than we can think, it can be difficult and anxiety inducing to keep up with all the things we need to do each day. Making lists is often a way of giving our minds a break from constantly repeating things to ourselves over and over like a broken record. And there’s new ones coming in all the time. Buy more washing tablets, pay the electricity bill, Katie’s birthday, P.E. kits Thursday, dentist appointment 9am and that thing that was just there a moment ago, hang on, it’s on the tip of my tongue….crap, should have written it down. Lists are a great way of coping when we worry that our brains might implode with thoughts.
But I’m wondering if we’re not becoming addicted to that sense of accomplishment as we draw a satisfying black line through each item. Giving it the value of making us feel completed and important. Talking to my Mum the other day, we laughed as we agreed to feeling a rush of pride as we cross off our duties but also, rather worryingly, both admitted that if we complete a task that’s not on the list that we will write it in and cross it off directly as we feel we’ve cheated ourselves of a self congratulatory pat on the back for getting something done. That’s more than a little silly and yet, I bet we are not alone.
Live your dreams, have goals, hobbies, have a full time job, be house proud and a good mother, daughter, friend, speak out, have a butt that could be mistaken for a ripe peach, travel, meditate. The list, ironically, goes on. Today’s women are more independent and have more freedom and power than ever before. Yet running along side these wonderful rights we’ve won and built up there’s also been a sharp rise in anxiety, depression and a colourful array of other mental health problems that people are trying to deal with, sometimes without knowing they are even suffering. Social media pushes us to be our ‘best selves’, to get more done, to look more perfect, to compete with other women at making a success of our lives. We feel we must always have something new to be working on so we can tell each other that our next incredible plan is just around the corner. Or at least I do. The pressure we put ourselves under is immense. Add to that the fact that the wonderful men in our lives continue on as oblivious as they were two decades ago to the pile of ironing, the lack of toothpaste or imagination for their Mother’s birthday present. They’re not fully expecting us to do it for them, but not doing it themselves either. It can really begin to feel like it’s all on us #whorunstheworld This question has now become rhetorical.
We are all, by now, through the deep insight of Facebook articles, aware that whilst our other halves may possess many enviable qualities like the ability to walk blindly past the stack of washing up for three days in a row (that we’ve left festering in the sink in protest) without developing a so much as a twitch, they aren’t exactly wizzes at multi-tasking. Maybe it’s biological or, just maybe, this is actually a survival technique that we’ve yet to clock on to. The ability to see past less enjoyable or necessary tasks keeps their minds clear and calm. I know what you’re all screaming at me now, ‘BUT SOMEONE’S GOT TO DO IT!’ And we don’t want to live like teenage students forever; washing up only when we need cutlery and so we do. We do it all. We also don’t want to be a nag, we want to be BETTER than that and so they get used to us picking up the slack and we marvel (and silently seethe) at their ability to ‘not see’ the mess accumulating around them.
Now, this is by no means a man bashing blog. I love my fiancé and often remind myself as I hoover for the third time in a day that, while he sheds leg hair faster than any animal I’ve come across, he also provides me with the kind of level-headed emotional support and love that keeps me sane as I struggle through the game of life. It doesn’t stop me feeling frustrated (most likely, if I’m truly analytical, at myself) as he lies down after work and watches TV for two hours straight without moving a muscle whilst I buzz around him like a turbo charged bee, doing a thousand little jobs that I’ve created for myself. I mean how does he do it? Doesn’t it make him nervous just doing nothing? I think I may be a little bit jealous. So instead of joining him, I scold him for being lazy and continue vacuuming the windowsill.
Sometimes, I vacuum the air.
Just to pre-empt the dust.
Somebody pass the little blue pills please.
This IS however, a blog about our over stimulated brains and how we suddenly feel it’s no longer acceptable to lie, slovenly on the sofa for a whole afternoon watching way too early and badly written Christmas films on channel 5 (Just me?) We do do it, but never truly relax, knowing that we could be being more productive if we tried. We may even get up several times as ideas drift into our brains and add them to the list of shame.
I put anything and everything on my lists. It feels good at the time. Phew, I think, getting it all out of my mind and onto paper, putting the beast in its paper cage, but not two seconds later it starts to growl back up at me in its now physical form and the anxiety begins to ball in my stomach as I realise I can’t possibly get all these things checked off instantly and that that list will now have to remain unfinished, making my sleep restless and my mind clouded. I regularly add things to my lists such as ‘paint nails’ or ‘wash hair’. I mean, I could just do this in my spare time, because I enjoy it or because it’s part of daily life, instead of turning it into something that NEEDS to be done and has a deadline. I don’t think I’m going to never remember to wash my hair and I’m quite sure no one actually cares if I have my nails painted or not. No one’s going to pull me up on it and label me ‘a mess’. I know that I don’t care about other people’s nail care!
I can look forward to a lovely day of nothing for so long and then fill it to the point where I collapse into bed and wonder where that day of blissful nothingness actually went. Instead I’ve spent the day getting all the things done that I haven’t yet had time for and the time has passed in a frenzied rollercoaster of procrastination and productivity. I feel like I’ve done a full day in the office and I’m mentally exhausted! It’s madness.
Making lists has even become fashionable. You can actually buy fancy planners that help you make lists for anything your heart desires. It’s become a hobby in itself. We’re all running around like headless chickens trying to confirm to ourselves that we are doing it. We are #winningatlife. I’ve definitely succumbed to the trend, buying myself unnecessary coloured pens and wasting hours making my 'to do' lists look beautiful and artistic only to realise that while I had enjoyed it for the first hour, it now seems like a task in itself that needs to be constantly maintained to a high standard. Half the lists I’ve never even looked back on and have probably duplicated numerous times just for the sheer thrill of re-writing them and seeing a smaller more compact inventory. I am getting somewhere, I tell myself firmly, yet not quite believing it. The truth is, I’m getting nowhere fast. I feel productive but I’m giving myself more work than is really needed.
So, I think it’s time we put down the biro, step away from the pile of notepads and stop ‘schedule shaming’ ourselves into oblivion. I bet I’m not the only one who feels a little bit ill adding things to a list that’s not yet finished. Will it ever end? Is this my life? A never-ending series of tasks to complete where I compete with myself to do more than is humanly possible in a day? Sometimes it feels like that.
I read quite a good little book back at the beginning of the year which helped me cross of ‘read more books’ from my New Year’s resolution list. It was called ‘Eat that frog’ and talked about labeling activities in order of importance or difficulty and doing only the smaller, more personal tasks when the big boys had been completed. This was actually useful in opening my eyes to what activities actually need to get done and which are filler activities that can be completed at a later date or that I’ve put in because I know they’ll be easy to check off!
In my opinion, lists only seem to incite fear in us, they light a fire under our bums and in our stomachs that can’t always be put out in one day and those that are left over keep beeping irritatingly in our minds, like my stopwatch that I can’t work out how to silence.
Breaking it down could be the answer. Only writing lists of up to say, three items a day and then spending the rest of the day actually living. Or even doing away with lists all together. Oh the novelty! Could I dare to be that brave? We could allow ourselves to do nothing, giving ourselves the time to actually realise that there is something spontaneous that we’d like to do that would give us pleasure and peace of mind even if it's only reorganising our wardrobe. I know. We just can’t stop! But we need to. Having a mind that’s constantly running at such a high frequency and telling ourselves that we are not being productive unless we’re getting things done and moving forward is unhealthy. Are we even moving forward or just avoiding bigger more life changing tasks that seem too overwhelming to even put down on paper? Your body will get tired and you may notice aches and pains, headaches or upset stomachs that you can’t quite allocate to anything. And the more we do it, the worse it gets. When our minds are calm it feels wrong somehow. Have we forgotten something? Is there something we could be doing to make better use of our time? There must be something that needs to be done! Ladies, enough. Just stop.
The thing about life is; there will always be more things, tasks, chores, and duties. They will just keep on coming. And the more we take on and agree to, the further away the goalposts of peace move. We can bog ourselves down with list after list or we can have faith in ourselves that all WILL get done. Create a little inner calm and believe that we are intelligent women whose mothers have taught them well and that we will remember the important things when we need to and that we will be forgiven for the things we forget. We can stop being afraid that we will be letting others and ourselves down or that we will gain a reputation for being unreliable. Because we don’t not do important things on purpose and because everyone drops the ball occasionally. These are (or were) MY underlying fears, I’ve come to realise. However, what made no sense was that I don’t judge others if they occasionally let me down or forget something I’ve asked of them so, why then, did I judge myself so severely? We must stop holding ourselves up to these impossible standards. It’s been said a million times and it will be said a million more. Life is short. No matter how much you get done in your insignificant lifetime, no one is going to look back at your time on Earth and say ‘God, she was exemplary at list making; she never left a job unticked!’
I’m proud to say that I didn’t add ‘write a blog on lists’ to my list and am conquering my ‘addiction’ one day at a time. Fighting the need to do stuff, to fill the emptiness and say I’ve progressed to feel like a success. It’s great to be proactive but it’s not healthy to hold yourself to standards that you wouldn’t hold others to. I remind myself I’m not failing by slowing down in life. I may even make more progress as my head is clear to get to work when, and if, it needs to. By giving myself permission to breathe, to not answer a message the second the phone pings and by not reaching for the notepad I’m trying to regain some trust within myself that things will always get done in due course, that there will always be time and if there’s not, well that’s just how it is. Tough titty everyone! I’m conscientious and I’m doing my best, but nobody’s perfect and no amount of completed lists are going to prove otherwise.
So let’s leave the list making for grocery shopping and suitcase packing and free our minds in order to make more solid, concentrated progress on the plans that really matter. The things that just can’t wait and the things we want to do, NOT, the things we feel we should do.
I know, I know, it's nearly the end of the year! The holidays are over and the clocks have gone back bringing long, dark evenings and we're all getting ready to turn up our heating and start our Christmas shopping.
Let me stop you right there! There are still two whole months until January people!
Do you know how much a person's fitness and health can change in two months? One of my clients just pushed himself and lost 6kg in that space of time. He's fitter, stronger and more motivated than ever to keep up his good nutrition and fitness training passed the lure of christmas treats and into the new year. That could be you!
Don't let the end of the year be a slippery slope towards overeating at Christmas and feeling hung-over and crappy on New Year's Day with the daunting prospect of change hanging over you. January seems like a great time to start new resolutions and set new fitness goals but why wait? Why not get ahead of the game and start a new resolution right now? If you keep promising yourself that you'll 'start next year' the chances are that you'll let yourself go for the next two months on that very promise and the goal will inevitably feel even further away and the mountain even high to climb come new year. Wouldn't you feel amazingly smug at the christmas parties/ family get together's receiving compliments whilst everyone else binges on the celebrations tub?! You'll be looking and feeling better than ever and when January 1st rolls around you'll already be on form and ready to make even more change in 2018.
It's getting chilly now in Paris but 1 hour of training in the fresh, crisp air can really put a spring in your winter step and leave you feeling pretty smug with yourself for pushing through and beyond the winter blues. If you want to get a session in before work you have the added bonus of watching gorgeous Paris sunrises with me free of charge! Plus, we only have an hour and I make sure every minute counts, I never leave time for you to get cold!
I have places available for new clients now that will be snapped up come January. Why not grab one yourself before the rush? And, if you feel you need a bit of support there's always my mini group sessions. Split the price with a friend and have double the fun for great value. Still deterred by the weather? I also train people in their own homes all over Paris......run out of excuses? Come on then, let's do this!
There's still time to raise yourself up this 2017, don't let the last two months slip by, make them count!
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
What? Not Christmas already?! I hear you cry in horror!
No! Calm down, panique pas! I'm sure Father Christmas is nowhere near organized with this year’s booty yet! No, I'm talking about the most wonderful time of the year for me, which if you know me, has always been autumn!
Early this morning, I was out training a client in the fresh September air, wishing I had a slightly warmer jacket on and willing the sun to wake up a little faster. Once finished, I decided to check out a different potential spot for training another new client when I came across my first conker laying on the ground. It was all shiny and new having been freshly released from its silky bed. That can only mean one thing; autumn is upon us! I always collect the first conker I find as a token that my favourite season has arrived. It went straight in my backpack to come home with me. There it will rest in my little Paris apartment in pride of place on our bits and bobs dresser, slowly shriveling for the next couple of months until winter arrives and it gets (somewhat sadly) replaced by Christmas decorations.
The trees are starting to shed their leaves in Paris already probably due to the relatively mild summer we’ve been having since the heat wave thankfully left us alone in early July. They laid crisp on the ground as I crunched my way over them jogging across Jardin des Tuileries and I felt all excited with childish contentment that we rarely get to feel in busy, serious adult lives.
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been in love with Autumn. I’d walk back to school after the long summer holidays, book bag and lunch box in hand, to find the trees surrounding the school grounds shedding bright yellow and red leaves. They would fall, tumbling lightly to form big, soft piles of warm colours just waiting to be kicked and waded through. Their vibrancy and ability to change so naturally over time had me enamoured. We'd go into assembly and sit crossed-legged singing 'Autumn days' (you know the one... #when the grass is jewelled#), trying to read the handwritten lyrics scribbled in fluorescent green pen off of the projector screen while Mrs Marshall banged away enthusiastically on the piano. Swaying happily and bumping each other playfully, we'd take great joy in singing louder than our neighbour with each chorus until we reached the final line and, in no particular key, a crescendo of kentish voices screeched 'To say a great big thank you, I mustn't forgeeeeet!' The sound rang out proudly around the hall and rattled the fogged up window panes. Ah, those were the days! Apart from being great fun, I always remember thinking how beautifully the lyrics described Autumn and made that magical feeling I had for it come to life.
It's still a great song that reminds us to count our blessings and appreciate day to day life and nature doing it's natural thing.
Back 'À Paris' in the year 2017, it’s still mild, but not too hot, I know I can soon break out my favourite hats and light scarves from my 'winter wardrobe', and there’s a soft wind gently blowing the remains of summer away. The clocks haven’t been turned back so we still have our evenings to enjoy before winter rouses and takes a hold. The wind tickling the trees always reminds me of my favourite Enid Blyton story book, ‘The Enchanted Wood’ where the author describes the magic, rustling sounds as the trees whispering ‘a wisha wisha wisha’ to one another. There’s an energy in the air that makes me feel, somehow, more alive.
So while many people will be mourning the loss of summer sun, holidays and the sad return to a proper work routine you’ll most probably find me still grinning away happily to myself as we sail, inevitably, into this new segment of the year.
If, after a summer of indulgence, you’re starting to get back to normal daily life and regretting that all inclusive holiday buffet or endless evening rosé sessions, get in touch! My time slots are filling up rather quickly with people who want to get back on the fitness wagon and make the rest of the year count and you can too. There’s never a better time than today to take control of your health and fitness and, although the weather is turning, you won’t believe the pride and contentment you’ll feel after you get out in the fresh air and move your body. Maybe you’ll even join my Autumn fan club!
Hop on over to my contact page and tell me your goals and aspirations and realize that there is still time yet to raise yourself up this 2017!
Something I think we all struggle with in day to day life is snacking or mindless eating. Here in France, snacking or 'grignotage' is something that just isn't really done. The French eat richer, larger lunches which helps keep the hunger at bay and they just don't seem to feel the need to snack. The French government even advise against snacking on TV food adverts and the supermarkets don't offer endless options of snacking material.
If however you are a big snacker and have been for sometime, I want to share with you a little technique I use to avoid dipping in and out of the fridge....
I am often working from home for at least part of the day and like anyone I get bored easily. My mind wanders and I want a break and a change of sensation from what I'm doing and so off course I thinking about having a little something to eat. However, I don't want my waist line expanding so I challenge my mindfulness by asking myself these questions before reaching for a snack.
1. Am I really hungry?
An obvious one and yet probably one you don't remember to ask yourself at the time because your mind gets so excited by the idea of having a yummy treat. However, you are NOT the cookie monster ('Me want cookie now!') You are an intelligent human being, yes, you are, so stop and ask yourself if you are REALLY hungry? If you are great! Go for it, but if it's not dinner time try to pick something healthy like a piece of fruit, nuts, seeds or chopped up veg.
2. Do I need it?
If the idea of fruit or veg as a snack is disheartening then the next question you need to ask yourself is, do I need it? Does your body need more fuel right now? Sometimes I'll go, as many of us do, and open the fridge 'just for a look', to check the fridge gremlins haven't emptied it out behind my back. Nope, everythings still there, phew! But that inevitably leads to eating. Especially after dinner, I'll start to take out a yogurt or something sweet but then I stop myself and ask 'Do I really need it?' I take a second to feel how full my stomach is. If I feel full I close the fridge.
Don't go putting more food in your body when you've just eaten for no reason, that's how the calories add up and the pounds pile on. Put the kettle on, have a tea and see if you still feel you want something to eat in 20 minutes. It's scientifically proven that if you wait 20 minutes after a craving first pops into your head, it will more than likely disappear and stop you from spontaneously snacking.
It's worth a try, right?
3. Am I just bored?
Boredom is a cheeky little chimp and often disguises himself as hunger to get you to notice him. Don't let him fool you! When I'm feeling bored but can't escape what I'm doing I change it up by asking myself the following....
3. Would a liquid snack suffice?
We all know that we should be drinking approximately 2 litres of water a day. That can sometimes seem unachievable. However, often when we think we are hungry we can in fact be thirsty. So instead of grabbing food I ask myself firstly 'Am I bored?' and if the answer is yes I ask myself 'would a drink suffice?'. I love having a range of different drinks during the day and love feeling like I am hydrating my body and suppressing my inner hunger/boredom monster at the same time, so I will often stop and charge myself up with one of the following:
-Herbal Tea (I love camomile or verbena for a moment of calm)
-Fizzy Water (So much more interesting than regular water!)
-Espresso (Not so hydrating but very satisfying and low in calories)
-A small fresh juice (Not from concentrate)
Just getting up and boiling the kettle or pouring a drink is sometimes enough time for your brain to have a little rest and regain control. Whilst writing this blog I've drunk a fresh sangria orange juice and an espresso but no snacks ;)
4. Do I just need a break?
If you've been working at your computer for a long time it can get dull and maybe you just need a break. Look at how you schedule your morning. Could you make room for a break where you can go for a walk, do another chore or even a short workout? Even a few minutes of meditation or mindfulness will help you rebalance and break the habit of automatically reaching for food as an escape.
Of course the best method to stop snacking is to not have snacks in the house in the first place but this isn't always possible when you don't live alone. I never buy crisps or chocolate bars because I just know that I am going to hear them calling me from the cupboard. My advice is give yourself a fighting chance to begin with and stock a minimal amount processed snack food!
Listen to your body, concentrate on physically feeling how full your stomach feels inside of you and learn to be more mindful about what your body(or brain) is really asking for. Don't forget that YOU are the boss of YOUR own body and you decide what goes into it, how healthy it is and what size it stays at. Take responsibility for yourself and the voice in your head which tells you you're hungry- it's not always telling the truth!
Summer is Coming! And I've found the perfect spot to train you guys. Get ready to feel inspired by nature in the city!
Yes. It. Is! It may not feel like it this week in Paris but summer is indeed on it's way! I'm gearing up for a lot of outdoor sessions with clients in Paris and plan on taking full advantage of the beautiful parks, riverside and city in general. I love working outside as every landscape provides an abundance of unique and natural training equipment.
I went for a run the other day and came across the most beautiful park. Maybe you know it? It's called Parc André Citröen. I have been living in the 15ème for nearly 6 months now and have to say I was almost embarrassed to not have come across this park or even know of it's existence until now! Still better late than never! And, in my defence, I haven't done a huge amount of running over winter due to an ankle injury in November.
I thought I'd mix it up and take a different route for my run. I usually run down by the river for the ever-changing scenery and ease of route. I hate running on the streets where you can't switch off as you constantly need to dodge tourists and cross roads. However, my ankle is still healing and a bit stiff so I didn't want to run too far in one direction but to do a small loop, up to the river and back around to my house. I turned the corner and came across these simply stunning views and it literally stopped me in my tracks. You don't imagine such nature and beauty in the middle of such a densely populated city.
It has a beautiful wide open grassy area, landscaped flowering gardens, quiet spaces of tranquility, cool wooded sections and stunning water features all surrounded by these huge glass buildings making it seem even more beautiful. There are even bench sun loungers which I'm sure will be hard to come by as we move towards the summer months and a balloon that you can pay to go up in which I assume has an amazing view at the top. I ran past couples lazing in the sun, people admiring the flowering gardens and students propped up studying against the building walls.
I ran round and round and ended up doing a spot of interval training. Not on purpose but I just had to keep stopping and taking photos of all the stunning different views as i discovered them. Then off I'd go again! There were circuits, hills to sprint up and plenty of solid edges for booty work. I couldn't help but start mentally planning programmes for clients and testing out exercises on my new free equipment! Ever the opportunist! I even found a shady spot of solitude to stretch in feeling like I was in my own private, secret garden. I finished off with a juice at the park café which also serves delicious fresh salads and sandwiches and left with spring in my heart.
I am nothing short of in love with the place and plan to spend many a lazy summer afternoon sprawled out on the grass or working up a sweat training you guys in the sunshine. You will LOVE it!
So if this blog and my photos inspire you and this sounds like the kind of place you'd like to train all summer I invite you to start booking your sessions today to avoid disappointment- I am only one person after all!
Author Caroline Roy
Caroline is The Saint Trainer a certified personal trainer based in Paris, France