I was so delighted with the content I received as guest posts that I decided to continue accepting them this year! I’m so excited to read and share more.
The first one is from Elle, who is new on the blogging scene, but clearly very talented. If you enjoy her contribution, be sure to let her know, and support her going forward!
The hustle and bustle of everyday life can be exhausting, daunting, and downright stressful most of the time. Thinking of the things that need to get done in that day, or in that hour, or in that minute can be enough to make someone’s head spin. Add a mental health issue into the mix, and you have yourself a recipe for a breakdown. How do I know? Because it happened.
In January of 2016, I suffered through a period of intense mental and emotional distress. Call it a nervous breakdown, a mental breakdown, whatever you want. It felt like my depression and anxiety was getting the best of me. Getting out of bed to go to work felt like an impossible task. Socializing with people was exhausting. Doing my day to day tasks like washing dishes, doing laundry, or cooking dinner seemed daunting and near impossible. If it couldn’t be done from my bed, I didn’t and couldn’t do it.
The day that I broke down in my therapist’s office was a turning point for me.
It was the first time I had felt my life spiraling so out of control. It was the first time I felt truly and completely helpless and pointless. I felt that I didn’t matter. The thoughts I had were scary and the feelings were so real. My mind was turning against me. My therapist had to call my sister to come pick me up, and she took me to an emergency appointment with my psychiatrist to get my medication evaluated
From that day on, my therapist has been working with me on positive self-talk and positive self-image. One of the most important and helpful things I have learned through this process is to change my thinking a little bit. Instead of saying or thinking “I have to go to the gym” or “I have to go grocery shopping”, I’ve changed the “I have to” to “I get to”. I GET to go to the gym. I GET to go grocery shopping.
That one simple, tiny change makes a difference, at least in my mind.
It reminds me that while I have responsibilities and obligations, I am lucky to have them. I am lucky that my body is healthy enough to get me through a work out. I am lucky that I have the money to go grocery shopping without worrying about spending too much. I’m lucky that I have a career and lifestyle that permits me to “have to” do things sometimes.
Doing things like going out in social settings is still hard for me at times, but I have to remember – I GET to see my friends. I GET to have a nice meal and some drinks. Changing those two words helps to change my thinking and helps me to realize that just because I HAVE to do something, doesn’t mean it needs to be unpleasant. So often we gripe about our responsibilities and the things we have to do, but we are blessed to have these obligations, because it means our lives are so enriched.
It seems I was naive. Consider this a lesson learned.
At the time of writing the previous post, I truly believed it would be fair. It looked good on paper, and I was optimistic. When I was nominated, I was ecstatic. Upon discovering I was through to the voting stages, I was emotional. It was something I was eager to see come to fruition.
Then, since the voting process began, everything has gone downhill.
Let’s preface this.
This isn’t on the basis of being bitter. This was my first year of blogging. I didn’t expect to be nominated, or reach the finals. I’m not going to say I didn’t want to, because I did. Despite how things have turned out, I remain grateful for the opportunity, and the support I received.
Then things started happening, and my confidence in the UK Blog Awards started to dwindle. I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, because I respected them. Time and time again, though, they fell short of expectations.
No system is perfect. You can’t please everyone. But to get it so badly wrong? That’s something else entirely.
This post is on the back of how things have been handled, the mess that it’s been since November, and the shameful lack of communication.
I’m also willing to admit that, yes, I am a little angsty about some of the other bloggers who have been overlooked. My opinion isn’t the be all and end all, but these are individuals I was confident would be there because they are admired throughout the community, and because they’re fantastic at what they do.
I’m not going to rehash every mistake.
Most of you will already know, and the rest probably aren’t interested. If this was their first year, then I would have been more understanding. After six years, though, I feel they should know better.
I wrote a thread on Twitter, and plenty of people echoed my sentiments, but there was no response. There was opportunity to go some way in redeeming themselves, and they chose to bury their head in the sand.
Bear in mind, this is a big deal to a lot of people, especially newer bloggers. It was new to them, and there were new elements to the process for seasoned bloggers, too. We were anxious, we were excited and, understandably, perhaps a bit restless. A lack of communication meant this quickly transcended into confusion, and, in turn, frustration.
Now, it’s easy to say “it shouldn’t matter, what’s the big deal – awards don’t define your content”, and I do agree with that. Yet, during the process, you get swept up in it. There’s a chance to receive recognition for your work, and that should be a good thing.
I appreciate they experimented with new systems, and new procedures.
I know technology is unpredictable. This is all well and good, but when things failed, it seemed increasingly more difficult to get hold of anyone to find out information. People were left in the dark.
I know they have since released the judging criteria which may have been helpful to some. But it’s a struggle for me to have respect for an organisation that claims to be in favour of bloggers, yet messes them around, and doesn’t offer so much as an apology for their conduct.
The feedback I gave them was well-intentioned, and I did my best to make that clear. I am of the opinion that feedback is helpful to learn, and to grow, and wanted them to acknowledge it for next year.
Of course, they didn’t. They were happy enough to retweet and like tweets which sang their praises, or anything in their defence. To respond to justifiably unhappy individuals? Nope.
And the thing is, is that they won’t do that while people passively accept or, worst yet, blindly praise them regardless of their actions. It’s a case of if they can get away with it, they will. I don’t really care who you are – if you mess up repeatedly, you should be held accountable. Especially when you fail a community you represent.
I can’t agree with an organisation that claims to celebrate the diversity in the blogging community, yet…
1) The majority of the finalists are white. 2) Almost all have self-hosted blogs. 3) The fashion finalists are all female, and there’s not a single plus size girl amongst them. 4) Several of the finalists are “big names”, who have several opportunities under their belt. 5) In some categories, the finalists’ blogs all look exactly the same.
With the first three points, it is possible that that reflects who entered. Without access to that information, it’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions, but it is a point of interest for me. The last two points, though, are a little more dubious.
Does that really represent the broad talent across the community? I don’t think so. Then again, it’s tricky when the marks are based on 3 blog posts, and 3 bits of criteria. A year’s worth of work for most people came down to their three most recent posts at the time of marking.
Having one judge per category is bound to cause issues. No matter how impartial someone aspires to be, they have their tastes and will naturally be drawn to certain things more than others. This is nothing against the judges as people, it’s simply how humans are. I’d be just as guilty as it of anyone else.
This was pitched as a level playing field; it was presented as an opportunity for all, but it’s difficult to believe that.
As for numbers not being a contributing factor, I’d like to give you some figures to mull over.
The average Instagram following in lifestyle was 5800. In fashion, 7000. Beauty was 9800. Culinary was way up there with 13,500. Oh, and in Parenting and Baby, there was a finalist with 811,000. Yep, you read that right. Though that one is extreme, there were several others in that category beyond the 10k mark.
I’m not saying those individuals don’t deserve their follower numbers. But, at some stage, you have to admit that popularity comes into it somewhere, and it’s harder for new talent to emerge amongst established names.
The vote, supposedly, counted for very little, with a 40% role in the total, and 60% from the judges. Why have it at all? Any voting system is open to abuse and puts anyone with low numbers at a disadvantage. It instantly becomes a popularity contest. (In the interest of fairness, I will say that this isn’t the case in every category. Some are better balanced than others.)
It is questionable to me, though, that these votes can’t be revealed because it’s “too much work.” I would have thought these statistics would be readily available in a voting system? I don’t know – that argument just doesn’t sit right with me. Once again, it demonstrates a lack of transparency.
Throw into that the fact that, as it turns out, there’s not one big event, but a few smaller ones, a dinner for the winners, and just an Instagram live ceremony? While this may work out better for the people involved (and I hope it does), I’m confused as to why this wasn’t made clear previously. This information only came to light in emails to the finalists.
It’s unfair to use this as a basis to tell bloggers to “work harder.”
On the one hand, we have people saying it doesn’t matter. Be proud of your content regardless. On another, we have people saying “let it motivate you to work harder” or “improve your content for next year” and I take issue with this.
This feeds into the idea that, somehow, an individual wasn’t doing enough, or that their content wasn’t up to standard. Perhaps, in fact, the truth is that the odds were stacked against them.
There are bloggers I have connected with this year who have outstanding content. They nail it every time – their writing, their images, their tone. It’s all fantastic. It’s a struggle to pinpoint how they could improve.
Yet, they didn’t make the cut.
I know the community is packed with talent, and not everyone can win. But the individuals I have in mind… well, to be frank, I’m baffled how someone could look at them and not see them as fit for recognition. Even having seen the criteria they were judged on, I can’t find any logic in it.
In some instances, maybe I’m biased, but in other cases, I know I won’t be the only one who was completely stunned to not see some deserving names in there.
Maybe it was simply a case of bad luck, but please, don’t come out with the nonsense that it should drive them forward. It’s insulting. If you’re going to attempt to console people, maybe stick with “your content is awesome, keep it up.” (I did see a lot of that as well so kudos to you, cuties.)
I am aware there are humans behind this, but there are also humans behind these blogs, too.
We deserve more respect than has been demonstrated throughout this entire process.
This isn’t a personal attack against any one individual. Having worked on a website in a previous job, I am painfully aware of how unreliable technology is sometimes. Things go wrong. This understanding is probably the reason I wasn’t as quick to jump on tweets or direct messages as others. I didn’t want to bombard anyone when I could imagine how stressed they were.
In these situations, though, communicating makes such a big difference – especially when people are eagerly waiting on you with bated breath. It may not be viable to respond to everyone individually, but intermittent updates along the way wouldn’t have gone amiss.
It’s hard to be criticised and not take it personally, or feel like you’re being attacked. But a lot of what I saw on Twitter was legitimate feedback. Though, nobody knows what could have been said in direct messages, and I don’t think there’s ever any excuse to be unpleasant.
Believe it or not, I have let a lot of things slide.
I’ve been patient and polite (correct me if I’m wrong) and I’m not content to sit and keep my mouth shut. I imagine this looks like I’ve gone off on a random one-woman crusade, but this is the culmination of a lot of frustration – both on my end, and for others who have been involved.
Maybe you’ve reached this point and you think I’m taking it all too seriously. Does any of it even matter? Well, yes, I think it does because, as a community, we are responsible for each other, and responsible for the standards we set. In my opinion, they failed to meet the mark, on numerous occasions, so it’s up to us to say that. We deserve better.
Having written and re-written this more times than I can count, I know it’s hard to talk about it without 1) sounding like you’re spitting the dummy out because you didn’t get through and 2) trying to take glory away from the finalists, but it’s not about that. It’s about how everything has been handled, which has ultimately caused me to lose any respect I had for them.
Would I still be writing this if I were through to the finals?
The tone may have been different, but I still would have had similar things to say. I would have discussed the highs and lows of the process overall. The number of hiccups along the way were beginning to replace any excitement with frustration. This was growing and it no longer felt as fun as it should. Whether or not you trust me on that is your choice.
The lack of organisation and the poor communication left a bitter taste in my mouth, which wouldn’t have been washed away just because I progressed.
I don’t think any less of anyone who is excited to be in the final. I hope it lives up to their expectations. As well as that, I hope the process is a lot smoother going forward, because this should be a big moment for you – once which isn’t overshadowed by anything else.
In the context of the category I was in – mental health – I maintain that I’m happy to see it there. It was a category of wonderfully talented individuals, and I stand by the fact I felt proud to be amongst them.
Nothing can be done now, and I will be letting it lie from here on out. But I’m disappointed, and think the community deserves more. I’ll stand by that.
I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I’m not going to name names because those individuals chose to message me privately for a reason. But I am aware that several people feel let down by the way the whole thing has been executed.
Now, before you write us off as haters, you should probably know that a couple of the people who have messaged me have been finalists. Grateful as they are to be moving forward, they admit the entire thing could have been handled much better. I think that should set some alarm bells ringing.
There were also finalists from previous years who popped up to say they were disappointed in the conduct this year. So, the feelings aren’t exclusive to me.
Needless to say, I have absolutely no intention of being involved next year.
Though I hope the UK Blog Awards learn from their mistakes and the whole thing is much better co-ordinated in 2020, I would prefer not to have a part in it.
For those who think I’m just upset right now and will feel differently next year, I can tell you from knowing myself as well as I do that it’s highly unlikely. The way I work is that I give people multiple chances, but when they mess up the last one, that’s it. It’s very hard to rebuild my trust from there.
This was my first time being involved with the UK Blog Awards, and they’ve made sure it will be my last. What anyone else does is their choice.
My choice to not be involved in the future will likely be of little consequence to anyone or anything, but the reason I’m writing this is so you all know and appreciate where I stand on the matter. And so that anyone who may be feeling the same way – even if they don’t want to express it openly – knows they’re not alone.
In summary, it’s just not worth the price.
Following the announcements, I imagine a lot of us went through a similar series of emotions. Sadness, disappointment, self-doubt. I’m not going to pin that on the UK Blog Awards because this is a sad side effect of these kind of things, and not created intentionally.
But what I realised was that anything that makes me question my content and my ability isn’t worth signing up for again. Given the cruel way my mind works at times, it may not have been the best idea to try in the first place. I was just so moved by the encouragement I’d had from others that I felt motivated to give it a go.
I held off on saying anything in the immediate aftermath, because I knew I wasn’t in the right headspace to be reasonable. Yet, after those feelings subsided, there was still an underlying sense of anger at the whole situation – not only on behalf of myself, but of many others, too.
Am I shooting myself in the foot by making such a decision? I’m sure some people will think so. As far as I’m concerned, I’m staying true to who I am and the morals I adamantly believe in. So, no, not really.
As I said way back at the beginning of this post (congratulations on making it this far, by the way), it’s a lesson learned, in more ways than one.
My blog, my platforms, and my “brand” if you will, are built on positivity, and I know this doesn’t necessarily showcase that. But, I do also have a deep respect and admiration for members of this community. If you think I’m being over the top, keep in mind it’s because I care.
The pressures of the New Year are something I’ve felt quite intensely this year. I don’t tend to make resolutions, January 1st is just another day but in a new year, and I’m happy to plod on as normal. So, why is this year different?
This is the first New Year when I’ve been a blogger.
I’ve been trying to figure out the direction I want to go, and what I’d like to achieve in 2019. I haven’t really gotten anywhere with this as of yet. I can’t seem to get my head straight for long enough to figure it out.
In the past couple of days, I’ve identified why this is. There are actually two reasons.
Number one is that I achieved far more in 2018 than I planned for. It’s left me a bit stumped about what I want to do this year. That’s a wonderful thing to be able to say, though!
The second reason is not so great and that’s that, despite surprising myself in 2018, I’m still lacking in the self belief department. If a goal pops into my head, I’ll immediately respond with a reason why I should scrap it.
So, the first thing I need to tackle is getting out of my own way, which I knew long before we were counting down to 2019.
Everyone is talking goals (which I love, for the record).
My social media feeds are full of it. My inbox has exploded with things along the lines of “how I’m making 2019 my best year yet!” Even though I love seeing the ambition and drive in everyone, it’s a new experience. I haven’t necessarily found myself in a situation quite like it before. I’ve had light-hearted discussions about resolutions with family and friends, but that’s about it.
In the week between Christmas and New Year, I lost count of how many times I was asked about my goals. It’s a natural conversation to occur at that time of year, but I found myself panicking about the fact I hadn’t made any.
I thought reading everyone’s goals would get me fired up, and help me to discover my own. It seemed to have the opposite effect. I froze up, and thought “I really don’t have a clue.” This caused a bit of a wobble, and a panic about my lack of ambition, even though that’s not entirely true.
Now that it’s all a little less intense, I’ve had the welcome realisation that my ambitions simply aren’t quite as straightforward to measure, which is perfectly alright.
I turned 28.
I’m still not used to saying that.
My birthday is right at the start of January. It got me thinking, once again, about approaching 30. It raised a lot of questions about where I’m at, and where I want to be. I read my previous post on the subject to try and reassure myself that things will happen as they’re supposed to – even if it’s not in the way I pictured it. It was comforting to a degree.
The combination of the New Year and my birthday means there’s a lot of reflection, and contemplating the future. Yet, no answers.
I realise a lot of the pressures come from within myself. That’s something I’ve always been guilty of. I pile it on, until I feel like my head is about to explode. I’ve made some progress with it, but if this New Year has shown me anything, it’s that I’m still doing it.
I guess I wanted to write this to say it’s okay if you haven’t got a long list of goals, or any sort of plan for 2019. Maybe your plan is to dive in and see what happens. That’s cool. Even if you’re a blogger. Maybe you need more time to figure it out, and come June, you’ll know how to ace the last half of the year.
Equally, if you’ve made goals, I hope you achieve them, but please don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t. If you’ve failed your New Year’s resolutions already by this point, it’s not a big deal. There are still over 300 days of the year, and you can make changes on any one of them.
This is a note to myself, and all of you, to say January 1st is just like any other day, and guess what? You can set goals any day of the year! Don’t let the pressures of the New Year overwhelm you.
Depending when you are reading this, I hope you are having or have had a wonderful Christmas.
I’d like to thank you all for your support over the last few months. You have given me more than you’ll ever know. The feedback, the comments and the messages I have received have left me speechless on plenty of occasions. Blogging has brought some exceptional people into my life, and I am so touched by the whole experience. You are the driving force behind what I do, and the reason I continue to work on giving you the best content I can. Though it hasn’t always been easy, it has been a pleasure to open the doors and let you in.
There’s not a single one of you who doesn’t deserve for all of your wishes to come true this Christmas. You deserve the best, so I hope Santa has been kind. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, enjoy it. Make sure you relax, let loose and have fun. That’s what Christmas is all about!
Now, that important information I mentioned:
As most of my loyal readers will know, I have worked tirelessly since I started in April. Hundreds of hours have been invested in making this blog the best it can be. The whole reason for that was to be able to fully enjoy Christmas, Neal’s birthday, New Year and my own birthday. To feel able to take that break, without any guilt. With that in mind, there will be no posts until Monday the 7th of January. It’s likely I will still be active on social media, although much less than I usually am. Please be patient if you try to contact me and it takes me a while to respond! I am hoping to return feeling refreshed and ready to take on 2019.
Let’s make next year one to remember – for all the right reasons!
I always make a point of reflecting on the past year when it’s drawing to a close. I think it’s important to take a look at the challenges, the successes and everything in between.
2018 has been a strange year for me. It’s been one of the toughest, while also being one of the most rewarding. I sank to new depths, and rose to new heights. I fell apart, then started piecing myself back together again. It’s been a rollercoaster.
January, February and March
The first three months of this year are a blur. I can barely remember them at all. Maybe that’s because I’m choosing not to. Maybe it’s because so much has happened since then. A whole lot of pain began piling up, before coming to a head in April. My job made me unhappy. I felt alone. I tried desperately to make the most of it, but it ultimately got the better of me.
Here’s what I do remember (with a little help from Facebook.)
In January, I celebrated the New Year with my sister, with party poppers, snacks and drinks. I’m still finding confetti around my flat now. I turned 27, and had Nando’s as my birthday meal. Baking became a short lived hobby. I rustled up two batches of cupcakes, before feeling sorry for myself that I had no one to give them to, and didn’t want to eat them myself. They were good, though.
As for February, Neal ordered a stunning heart shaped rose wreath, and made sure the flat was immaculate for me coming home from work as my Valentine’s Day gift. He nailed it. He always does.
March was a mixed bag. In the middle of the month, I went to Glasgow and saw Niall Horan perform at the SEC Armadillo. The tricky thing with this is I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. His performance was brilliant, I think. Most of it was spent fretting about the fact I was the oldest person in the room, and feeling ridiculous for showing up. Nevertheless, I’ve watched it back on YouTube and been able to fully appreciate it since.
The 23rd of March was my brother’s 30th birthday, and I travelled back for his surprise party. This date also marks 10 years since I got Juno. Though we weren’t together, I made up for it with cuddles when I got home.
And it was on the train journey home that I read Matt Haig’s “Reasons To Stay Alive”. When I started to see the way I had been feeling wasn’t how it had to be, or how it was supposed to be. With the prospect of going to work the following day making me feel terrified, I burst into tears and told Neal everything. He held me as I cried, listened as I fumbled my way through some sort of explanation, and promised everything would be okay.
April, May and June
This is probably the most significant part of this year. It changed my life.
In April, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I quit my job because it was only feeding into negative feelings. My doctor prescribed me some anti depressants and handed me a number for a counselling service. Blissfully unaware of the journey I was about to take, I followed the instructions and did what had been recommended.
Shortly after, I started blogging. My medication had started to help and I was gaining some confidence. Though I was nervous, I felt compelled to write about what I was going through. I had ambitions of helping others through my own story; of encouraging them to get help rather than suffer, and that’s what I set about to do. My goals quickly shifted to just doing what I could to make the world a little brighter. I wanted to be helpful, through whatever means I had. The response surpassed any expectations I could ever have imagined.
In June, I started counselling. I was apprehensive, but committed to improving my life. My counsellor was kind, and patient, and understanding. I knew that instantly. Safe in the knowledge I was in good hands, I began attending regular appointments, every Wednesday.
Towards the end of June, I had braces fitted. This had been a long time coming. After a miserable couple of weeks when I couldn’t eat much, I began to adapt. To finally have taken the step felt amazing, and I’m delighted with the progress I’ve made so far.
July, August and September
After several counselling sessions, I felt ready to confront an ugly part of my past. That’s what I did. I shared it with my family and friends, who had been previously unaware. I confronted the person who had hurt me. The process gave me closure, and some peace of mind. It was only a step in the right direction, but it was enough.
My blog continued to grow from strength to strength. In August, I decided to accept guest posts from other bloggers, and felt deeply moved by the amount of people who wanted to be featured. The submissions I received were incredible! This was also the month I had my first collaboration with another blogger, and it was with one of my favourites. It was fantastic.
September brought my first blogging opportunity. I received brownies from Kiss and Bake Up in exchange for a review. They were delicious! Though my intention hadn’t been to use my blog for this purpose, it was an unexpected and wonderful bonus. I love looking back at this post, because I’m really proud of my photography.
Mentally, I was in a good place. I had spent a week with my family. Two of my best friends had come to visit. I felt somewhat whole again.
October, November and December
At the beginning of October, Neal and I celebrated two years together. If 2018 has taught me anything, it’s that I have absolutely made the right choice of partner. Throughout everything, Neal has been patient, loving, kind and incredible. Westlife kindly decided to give me the best anniversary present of them all by announcing their reunion. This was the best day of 2018.
On the 23rd of October, my blog turned 6 months old. During that time, I realised this was something I wanted to pursue as a form of income. Through the support of others, I considered the fact I might actually be good at it, and should take it further. This is an ongoing mission. I reached 10,000 followers on Twitter – much to my disbelief – and ate cupcakes to celebrate.
Unusually for me, I won a competition in October, too! Luck is very rarely on my side with these things but I entered this post into Etsy’s affiliate competition and received a £100 gift card. That was a good day.
November rolled around, bringing its own surprises, like the fact I was through to the voting stage of the UK Blog Awards. I can’t help but smile when I think about this. When I started blogging, and I saw people with “UK Blog Award nominee/winner” in their bios, I thought about how amazing that must feel. To be in the running is a privilege I never saw coming this soon in my blogging journey, if at all.
Counselling came to an end. I simultaneously felt ready, yet unsteady. It had reached a natural end, where I recognised it was time for me to try going it alone. But feeling that security fall away was unsettling. Nevertheless, after an emotional final session, we parted ways.
In an attempt to become even more productive, I started getting up at 5am. It took some getting used to, but it certainly enabled me to get more done. I even went for a run outside for the first time in my adult life.
I got my head down in November to get ahead with Blogmas so I could enjoy December. This is the first time in many, many years when I haven’t been working in retail. It felt a little strange, to not be in the midst of all the chaos. I never anticipated saying that. Make no mistake, though, I don’t miss it.
Anyone who has been following me since the start may vaguely remember my goal being to work my butt off so I would be able to enjoy this time. That’s what I did. As a result, December has been less work, and more play. I took a trip to Edinburgh to celebrate my sister’s birthday. This is a tradition I’ve been forced to miss out on for the last four or five years because of retail holiday restrictions. Being able to go again was priceless.
The rest of the month has been embracing all Christmas festivities and appreciating the fact I have the freedom to enjoy it. It’s been worth all those long days I’ve put in along the way.
2018 has been a defining year in my life, for both good and bad reasons. Writing all of this down has made me see just what a year it’s been.
None of us can ever know for certain what next year will bring. I’m hoping for better. I’m hoping I can get out of my own way, and start to make things happen for myself. This year has shown me what I’m capable of. It’s made me see the strength I have inside of me, and the good I can do.
But, I know I haven’t fully let go. I’m being weighed down by a fear of failure, and the impossible pursuit of perfection. There is still a piece of me resisting. There’s still work to do. If I can continue to grow in 2019, I will be happy. If I’m able to keeping helping others, that would be delightful. What I’d love by this time next year is to be sat writing a post like this, having touched many more lives, and been able to take my blog to the next level. I hope you’ll stick with me to find out.
Christmas has been my favourite time of the year for a very long time, and there are so many reasons why. It saddens me to think of those people who have been given a reason not to enjoy Christmas, whatever that may be. For me, it’s a time full of joy, happiness and celebration.
Now, I know I’m not alone. Lots of people love Christmas. Some for the “right” reasons, and others not so much. Yet, I think Christmas means something different to each of us as individuals.
This is what it means to me.
I’m sure she won’t mind me saying this, but I’ve pretty much grown up with one of Santa’s helpers as my mum. The woman loves Christmas. Her happiness at Christmas is contagious. So, essentially, my love for Christmas has been passed down to me from my mum. We are both equally enthusiastic about it, and do what we can to make it special for those around us. I love this connection. I love that I think of Christmas as “our thing.” We have so many memories and traditions. Although it’s trickier now because of distance, that association is still there.
Last year, it was the first Christmas when I didn’t see my family. I did my best to make the most of it. Neal, and his family, were very kind and I had a lovely day with them. All the while, though, a little part of me was immersed in sadness. One of the biggest factors in making Christmas the best time of year was miles and miles away.
I wanted to be with the only person who could match my excitement about the season. I wanted my mum.
Christmas is my favourite time of the year because my mum helped to make it that way. Through all her acts of kindness, through her bundles of happy energy, and through her determination to never lose sight of what it’s really about. I love her for it, and I love Christmas because of it.
I will leap at any chance I get to spoil people. Though I try to do it all year round, Christmas and birthdays are when I really up my game. Hours and hours of trawling through the internet to find the perfect presents. Several trips to the shops to browse, “just in case”. I love that moment when you’re supposed to have finished your Christmas shopping and you stumble across something you know someone on your list will love. Bank balance permitting, you have to buy it. Because they’ll be so happy when they open it. Because they’re worth it.
It’s those little moments which make Christmas something special. The gift isn’t what matters. It’s the feeling which will go with it.
The season of giving and goodwill extends to charities, too, with many people choosing to donate as a way of spreading the Christmas spirit. I appreciate the desire for this to take place throughout the year, yet I love it at least shows people at their best somewhere along the way. For me, it’s one of the nicest parts of Christmas – it reveals the best parts of humanity. (Admittedly, it sometimes showcases the ugly bits, too.)
Generosity doesn’t stop there, though. It’s not merely about the gifts, or the money. People are more generous with their time. As far as I’m aware, most people make a point of being home for Christmas when possible. There’s no excuses. There’s nowhere else to be. Work is on the back burner, and their time is given to those who need it most. Their loved ones.
3. Christmas Eve.
This is my absolute favourite day of the year. I love being out and about on Christmas Eve. There’s something magical in the air. The buzz of anticipation. That unmistakable sense of excitement for the day ahead. Children restless with delight about the fact Santa is coming. Sweet relief the shopping is done.
It all comes together to make a one of a kind atmosphere. Christmas Eve is the day I feel most alive, and when my heart is full of hope. If I could bottle up any feeling and keep it for when I need it the most, it would be this one.
Christmas Day, no matter how wonderful, is over in a flash. Once the presents have been opened, it’s a case of lazing around until dinner is cooked. Then we eat, drink, be merry and maybe watch whatever is on TV. Yet, the unknown has become the known and there’s no longer the same feeling. It’s over and done with for another year.
Everything is still to come on Christmas Eve. The big day is close enough to see, but far enough away to intrigue. It’s wonderful.
4. Christmas Lights.
Christmas trees, the twinkling lights and other gorgeous decorations give our homes that extra cosy feel. To simply sit amongst it feels good.
When we look beyond the comforts of our own home, we can admire everyone else’s work. Wreaths hung on the door. Christmas trees in the window. Mum and I used to go for a drive and seek out the best displays. It’s a tradition Neal and I have continued, although we do the searching on foot.
Besides, do towns and cities ever look prettier than when they’re covered in lights for Christmas? The world just looks a whole lot nicer.
5. Advent Calendars.
Slightly more on the joke side, you get to have a piece of chocolate (or another treat) every day in December! I’m all about that life.
Even though I struggled to find my Christmas spirit this year, I hope there never comes a day when I don’t feel the way I do about Christmas. Just as my mum passed her love of it on to me, I hope to do the same thing for my own children one day.
I have found so many favourite bloggers since I started. As Christmas is a time for giving, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate some of the talent I’ve discovered.
The following are in no particular order. Please don’t feel bad if you’re not in here – this originally started as a list of 5, but there were far too many missing. There are so many bloggers I love and admire. Sadly, I did have to draw the line somewhere!
Come on. Cats. Self care. How could a combination like that not be on this list? That aside, I loved this unusual approach to self care. I hadn’t really considered what cats could teach us about the subject, but Lisa was able to extract several important lessons.
I could have very easily included every and any post from her garden series, though. Living in a flat means I don’t have a garden. Being able to admire the gorgeous flowers blooming in Lisa’s garden made me feel much better!
Even if you don’t have to tackle the burden of mental illness, everyone has bad days. Sometimes, the simplest things can work a treat in turning your mood around.
Carly shares 10 ways to look after yourself and your well-being. The list includes things like drinking enough water and getting plenty of sleep. I know these things definitely have a significant impact on how I feel if I don’t keep them in check!
It’s been a pleasure to watch Soph grow since she started. Her photos, her writing – everything has come on leaps and bounds. And it was already great to begin with!
This letter to her brain was very uplifting. You can sense her high spirits, and it’s a joy to read. I think anyone who struggles with mental illness will know how important it is to acknowledge those days when you get a breather.
In her blog, Cara discusses mental illness with an admirable sense of openness and honesty. She took inspiration from one of my favourite books by Matt Haig and compiled her very own list of reasons to stay alive.
Reading things like this is a lovely way to think of the good bits in life. I enjoyed reading Cara’s list just as much as I enjoyed reading Matt’s.
As I battled with anxiety, I read a lot about it over the course of the year. Desperately trying to understand how I felt, ways to help myself, and if others experienced the same things.
This post touches upon so many things which I hadn’t realised others went through, or that they were possibly a sign of anxiety. I nodded along as I read, and felt a lot of things clicking into place. It clearly demonstrates the various ways it can impact your life – even if you’re not fully aware of it.
On numerous occasions, Cordelia’s posts have moved me to tears. I know it’s not her intention, but it’s very hard not to have those emotions stir inside you. The things she has survived, the things she continues to battle on a daily basis, and the way she puts it out there to educate the rest of us is incredible in my eyes.
As an individual, I love her and as a mental health blogger, I respect her. For a raw, uncensored conversation about mental illness, she’s your girl.
You know those blog posts where you kind of want to give it a round of applause because it’s spot on? This is one of those.
As I struggle a lot with body image issues, reading this was empowering and encouraging in equal measure. Plus, it’s always fantastic to read about someone embracing who they are and loving every second of it!
It’s incredibly difficult for me to choose a favourite here. Bexa’s blog is a staple in my routine. I actively look forward to her new posts, because her content is of such a high standard.
Surprisingly, she only recently celebrated her first year of blogging. In this post, she divulges some of her best tips for doing well in the blogging community. Her suggestions are essential reading for new and old bloggers alike!
I was lucky enough to do a collaboration with Bexa, too, which you can find here.
Rachael’s guides are so incredibly thorough. I remember thinking how impressive this particular post was. When she says “epic deep dive”, that’s exactly what she means. I love the fact her personality shone in her writing, too.
If you haven’t had a look around her blog yet, you have my permission to skip off over there now and come back to me later.
Juggling everything in blogging is difficult. There are days when I have to focus on my own content, which means I’m not present on social media, or able to comment on others blog posts as much as I’d like. I want to support as many other bloggers as I can, but it’s not always possible. For me, this is one of the things I struggle with. The guilt really niggles away at me some days.
Amie shared this wonderful reminder to do what you can, and not stress about what you can’t. I related a lot to it, and found it very reassuring. All of Amie’s posts are written in a way which makes it feel like you’re sat having a cup of tea and a natter – and I love her for it!
I know very few bloggers who haven’t found themselves feeling frustrated and fed up with Instagram. The various algorithm changes over the last few months have made it a nightmare to use. Since Facebook took over the platform, growing on there seems borderline impossible unless you’re willing to splash some cash on ads. Thanks for that, Facebook.
Back in June, Zara let out some angst about the situation. Written in her usual witty and entertaining style, she reminded us all to not get so hung up about it. Use it in a way which feels natural for you! Support others, and you will more than likely see that come back around.
Instagram has been winding me up more so over the last month, and I’ve gone back to read this multiple times.
Before I started blogging, I didn’t even have a personal Pinterest account. I could never wrap my head around it, let alone figure out how to utilise it for traffic. This post definitely helped me to get started.
If you’re not careful, social media can become a toxic place. It becomes draining. In this post, Nati suggests creating a social media environment which creates good vibes. We spend so much time on there, we may as well do our best to ensure it’s having a positive impact!
She recommends five feel good Insta feeds – several of which I followed immediately and can vouch for! If you’re not enjoying your time on social media, I’d recommend giving this a read and thinking about how you can make it better.
What do you get when you cross puppies with my favourite TV show? This blog post. Although this was only published recently, it secured a place amongst my favourites of this year instantly.
I sat, squealed and aww-ed my heart out at these pictures. The icing on the cake was the fact they are all named after characters in Parks and Recreation. I really want one! Or two. Or maybe even all of them.
I always enjoy reading these posts because it’s nice to get to know the person behind the screen. This one gets a special mention because some of Kate’s answers are hilarious and I can recall chuckling away to myself as I read it.
I don’t get the opportunity to be involved with Kate’s blog too much because she’s focused on make up and I’m too lazy for that life but she’s awesome.
And that’s the lot! Well, not really – it’s a sample of the phenomenal content I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year. Here’s to more next year. I can’t wait to read what you all come up with!