What I Learnt from Taking an Instagram Break

Social media is a huge presence in our lives these days, and the more I hear about the dangers of social media for young and vulnerable people, the more I hear of people taking time away from it too. The constant updating, notifications, liking, sharing, and everything else that comes with sharing your life online, can be overwhelming and at times intimidating. Whether you use social media as a simple communication tool, or if it’s part of your business as well, it can become a constant distraction and at times, a source of anxiety. In fact, research shows that the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to suffer from mental health issues. Multiple studies have begun to focus on the disturbing association between online social networking and a variety of negative feelings and psychiatric disorders such as low self-esteem, anxiety, feelings of inferiority and increased symptoms of ADHD (source).

I love instagram. I am a hugely visual person and use it for inspiration, amusement, research, and of course to see what my friends are up to around the world. Being a blogger, and now a PT, it’s expected that I share a portion of my life with the wider world, and even use the platform as a marketing tool for new clients. It can become an integral part of everyday life, and not always in a positive way.

social media, blogger, instagram, mental health

(Credit: Elle Linton)

After a particularly stressful end to 2017, the lead up to Christmas was an anxious time for me. I wasn’t feeling festive, and seeing everyone else’s seemingly happy posts about Christmas plans, romantic getaways and family gatherings filled me with both envy and sadness. Why wasn’t I feeling festive? Why is everyone so happy and I’m not? I’ll freely admit that I got caught up in the endless cycle of scrolling though instagram feeling that my life was rubbish and everyone else’s was great. Now, I know that social media is a tiny snapshot of someone’s life and that it should be taken with a pinch of salt, however, when you’re already in a low mood, it can be hard to find that rational voice in your head.

Feeling low, stressed, and generally overwhelmed, I decided to take a step away from the ‘gram. After a couple of days of feeling a little lost when I opened my phone, I soon enjoyed the break and only returned on January 1st 2018. With a better perspective on things, I now want to share with you what I learned with nearly 3 weeks away from instagram.

1. It’s a Habit That’s Hard to Break

The first thing I noticed when I deleted the app is that whenever I opened my phone, on the bus, tube, when I got home from work etc, the first thing I’d do is go to click on instagram. It’s purely a habit, much like checking the time, and checking my emails, and it took a while to break that. Instead, I’d tap on my favourite podcast, meditation app, or find some music to listen to instead.

2. The Reason I Took Photos Had Changed

I love photography. Since my teenage years I’ve always taken a camera on nights out, birthdays, family events, last days of term, even lazy days in the park as a student. I even took photography as one of my A-Levels.  I love having photographic memories of these events, and have piles of photo albums full of prints. Soon that changed from always having a camera, to always taking photos on my phone. No problem there, but when I deleted instagram, I realised that when I opened the camera on my phone, my thought process was to take a photo for instagram, not to take a photo to savour the memory. My reason for taking photographs had shifted. Over Christmas, I took photos that I wanted to cherish that might never appear on social media. One of my favourites being the three generations of women in my family….ok I did put that one on facebook eventually…but that wasn’t the reason I took it. Not to mention some hilarious photos of me with my nieces. Taking photos should be about the memory, not about the ‘instagram-ability’.

family, social media, women

3. Followers Come and Go

The burning question in your heads if you’re a blogger is probably ‘Did you lose a load of followers?’ – well the simple answer is yes…but not a lot. My following dropped by about 2%, that feels like quite a lot when I’m not a blogger with a huge following in the first place, but I really wasn’t bothered by that. The followers I regularly interact with were still there when I logged back in, my engagement didn’t take too long to return, and I expect most of the loss was from bots unfollowing a seemingly inactive account. Followers will stick around for fresh content from a calmer, less anxious me, and if they didn’t, well I don’t want them following me anyway.

4. Nothing Bad Happened

Taking a break from instagram didn’t ruin my career. I didn’t miss half a dozen events. I didn’t lose all my followers. I didn’t become an online outcast. Nothing bad happened. In fact, I found time and space in my life to meditate, have wonderful conversations with my mum / brothers / friends without the need to check my phone or photograph my Christmas dinner, or ‘insta-story’ our Monopoly game. Not criticising those who do that, AT ALL. This post is not about telling people they should spend less time on instagram. What I want to say is; if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the constant online stimulation, feel that you’re falling into the comparison zone, or simply need to step away from your phone….it’s OK!! If you do take a break, I’d recommend deleting the app to avoid temptation 😉

social media, instagram, blogger, mental health

(Credit: Elle Linton)

My instagram hiatus was exactly what I needed. Now I’m happy to not post for a day or two, happy to not spend half an hour each morning scrolling through posts in bed, and happy in the knowledge that while social media is a part of my life I enjoy most of the time, it’s also something I can step back from when I need to practice self-care. If you’re thinking about taking a break, give it a go!

Getting Stuck in a Rut

I have been feeling a little burnt out recently. I’ve struggled to find inspiration for blogging, studying, cooking, eating and looking after myself. As a result I’ve been neglecting the blog, getting behind on my studying, either skipping meals or eating rubbish, and feeling guilty about all these things, making me feel even more anxious. Everyone gets stuck in a slump (or a funk, as I like to call it) sometimes, and despite what you see on social media, life isn’t perfect for anyone. The trick is knowing how to get yourself out of a rut, should you find yourself in one.

blogger, life, lifestyle

A week or two ago I decided to work gently to get out of my funk, and not put pressure on myself to get perfect at everything, all the time. I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’m doing in the coming weeks, to get back on track and feel like myself again!

Blogging

Unless you have deadlines from PRs or brands, it is not the end of the world if you don’t post for a week or two, or more. Be honest, if you’ve given yourself a personal task of 3 or 4 posts a week and you’re stressing out because of it…give yourself a break! Set aside time per week for writing and photographing posts, and work for quality, not quantity. Your readers will stick by you, and they’ll appreciate better content from a non-stressed blogger!

Studying

I’ve recently started studying for my Level 3 Personal Training qualification, and I’m finding it hard to get the balance between work, study and actual relaxation. I toyed with the idea of creating a Bullet Journal to organise my thoughts and my time, but realised I already have so many diary-type things I can use! I recently contributed to the Passion Planner kick-starter, and was sent one of their planners, which I’m going to use instead. I love the fact that the days are broken down into individual hours, which suits my varied work schedule. I’m trying to be creative with the spaces given, taking the time to make the pages colourful, adding a bit of mindfulness into my scheduling!

passion planner, blogger, life, lifestyle

Hopefully, if I can see my schedule on paper, it will be easier to stick to, and I can get a better balance!

Food

This has been a big one for me recently, I’ve been so uninspired by food that I’ve either skipped meals (BAD TASH) or been lazy with basic stodge or UberEats. As a result, I’ve been fatigued, achy and have unnecessarily lost a bit of weight. Not good! This is not an easy one to deal with, especially when you’re not a great cook, like me!

First things first, I bought a bunch of my favourite foods that are nutritious and easy to cook to stock up my fridge. Think simple stir fry ingredients, fish, vegetables, meat etc. planning in my head all my favourite easy meals for the days ahead. I’ve never been one for meal planning too far in advance, but I might try that too, writing down each meal I’m planning and on which day.

food, blog, blogger, life, lifestyle

Next, I decided to go through my recipe books, get rid of the ones I never cook from, and highlight the nicest looking recipes from those I’m keeping. I’m moving soon (more on that in a minute) so the clear-out is needed anyway. With all these tasty looking recipes marked, all I have to do it pick a day and buy the ingredients.

Finally, with food, I know I have to be gentle. I’m never going to restrict myself to never eating a pizza or take-away again, because that’s unhealthy mentally in its own right, but I’m trying to lose the guilt associated with those treats. Once every two weeks, when I’ve not only taught but taken class as well? That deserves a treat. Every week when I’m simply too lazy to cook? That’s when I can be a bit more strict and make the effort to make something, even if it’s super simple. But Sundays are always for pancakes or waffles…

life, lifestyle, food, blogger

Life

Finally, and this is another big one, look at the bigger picture. This can be scary. Is there something else happening that might be affecting the smaller elements of your life? I remember when I was younger and something upset me, my mum would notice if my reaction to the initial situation was too big, and she’d always asks what else was the matter. She was rarely wrong, and invariably I’d end up telling her all about something else that was happening which I’d been trying to hide.

blogger, life, lifestyle

So when I couldn’t get myself out of my funk, I looked at what else might be bothering me. After a lot of contemplation, more than I can go into here, I decided that I needed to make a big change…and that big change is to move, after 7 years in my current flat. Now, I didn’t come to this decision lightly, I’ve considered moving before but have always found a reason not to (budget, nothing available, too intimidating) but this time something was different. As soon as I started flat hunting and planning a move, I felt so much anticipation and my mood brightened. That increased further when I found a place I loved and got my rental offer accepted. Now I’m moving in less than a week and I couldn’t be more excited. My funk is lifting and I’m happy to be planning not only the new place, but also planning new business ventures and other things for my future.

Getting stuck in a rut can be scary, depressing, worrying and seemingly never-ending. For me to get out of the downhill spiral of negative feeling, I not only had to put more emphasis on the positive things in my life, but I also had to face those negative things and deal with them. Burying your head in the sand, or just ploughing through, might seem like a good solution, but it is only temporary. Change in itself is scary, but it is also cleansing, cathartic, and energising. I am looking forward to my new challenges, new space, new scenery, and getting my groove back, ready for 2017.

life, lifestyle, blogger

Credit for Photos 1, 5 & 6: Will Patrick

Review | VerveLife

It’s not often an event involves an escape room, but a little while ago, I was invited to just that for the launch of VerveLife from Motorola! OK, it wasn’t quite an escape room, more like being locked in a tent and given clues as to the whereabouts of the key to the padlock. Whatever you want to call it, myself and a bunch of bloggers and journalists had a great time working through the clues and breaking the code to escape. At the centre of these clues were the products themselves, forcing us to get hands on with each product and learn how they worked.

vervelife, earphones, technology, fitness

First up we had the VerveOnes. Undoubtedly the most discreet earphones I’ve ever come across, these simply pop in your ear and connect to your device via bluetooth. They come in a cute little holder that carries enough charge for 12 hours of music. You can even make and receive calls (and snapchat of course) with these as they contain a microphone, although if you’ve got hair that covers your ears, it looks even more like you’re talking to yourself than normal!!

vervelife, earphones, technology, fitness

vervelife, earphones, technology, fitness

vervelife, earphones, technology, fitness

Easy to chuck in your bag, I’ve been carrying these around for weeks now. No knotted wires, no getting tangled with your earphone wire, these are super convenient with great sound quality. I recommend! If you opt for VerveOnes+, you get the addition of water and sweat protection as well.

I’ve been doubly lucky, and have had the VerveLoop+ to try in recent weeks too. Also working with bluetooth connectivity, these have just one wire that loops around your neck and controls on one side for volume and track skipping etc.

vervelife, earphones, technology, fitness

I’m seriously impressed with the battery life on these, I’ve hardly charged them at all! The sound quality is also great, as is the built-in microphone. Personally, I prefer having the loop around my neck, so if I need to take them off to order a coffee etc. I don’t have to worry about putting them down and losing them, which knowing me, I will one day with my VerveOnes+.

vervelife, earphones, technology, fitness

vervelife, earphones, technology, fitness

vervelife, earphones, technology, fitnessAlso available is VerveRider+, similar to the Loop, but with a magnetic collar to keep the earbuds in place if you remove them. Great for cycling or running or generally being on the move.

VerveLife isn’t just about earphones however, next in the pipeline is VerveCam+, an action camera that you can lifestream to youtube with! I’m going to be seriously tempted to add that to my VerveLife collection when it’s released. Link it with your smartphone to see through the 138 degree viewfinder and take it swimming with the 25m depth waterproof housing which comes included. Compact and light, this will be the next big thing in the action cam market.

VerveLife gifted me the VerveOnes+ and VerveLoop+ in return for this post. All words my own, please see Disclaimer for more information.

Sweaty Betty AW16 Wish List

The new season kit from Sweaty Betty has just launched, and I think I want all of it!! I’ve been staring at the website for a long time, and managed to select just a few favourites which have gone straight to my wish list. Check them out below! I can’t wait to rock these looks at the barre very soon.

sweaty betty, wish list, fitness

  1. Kapotasana Padded Yoga Bra – A pretty pattern and delicate straps, this is the perfect bra for a ballet class or yoga session.
  2. Upbeat Zip Padded Bra – A bra with a front zip…I love it! No clasps digging in here. A stunning pattern, I wouldn’t want to wear a top over this!
  3. Luxe Gym Bag – Every since Elle (KeepItSimpELLE) whipped some awesome food prep out of the roomy bottom pocket of this bag, I’ve lusted after it and it’s spaciousness. This colour way with its inky blue is a nice change from black too.
  4. Jive Crop Reversible Barre Leggings – With the matching bra above, and lace-up detail on the side, I love these leggings. Reversible too, my favourite!
  5. Power 7/8 Run Leggings – I had to try these on as soon as I saw them, and the whole outfit is on my instagram. They’re stunning and fit great!
  6. New Balance 99 Trainers – Clean white kicks (ok, with a hint of ombré), yes please!!
  7. Karma Yoga Vest – Lightweight and easy to throw on, this will be a wardrobe staple of mine.

 

What are you lusting for this season? There’s so much more coming too, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I am a Sweaty Betty Ambassador and promote the brand as part of this role. All opinions my own.

The London Coffee Festival

OK, not strictly a fitness post, but I make it no secret that I love a good cup of coffee, and a lot of my workouts are fuelled by coconut milk lattes. So when Joe Blogs Network had a VIP ticket to The London Coffee Festival up for grabs, I couldn’t resist popping along to Shoreditch on my afternoon off to see what it’s all about!

London Coffee Festival

Simply head to the Old Truman Brewery this weekend, and see for yourself the delights of the coffee world. You’ll find everything from tiny local coffee roasters, to larger brands, individual filter cups, to huge commercial espresso machines, and even some teas thrown in for good measure. Honestly, it was rather overwhelming to begin with, I didn’t know where to start. But with a show guide in hand, I slowly navigated my way around, admittedly getting a little tanked up on free samples of coffee!

Other than sampling every coffee you come across, there are plenty of other things to see and do. Book a spot at the coffee and food pairing table, have a cheeky espresso martini, watch the masters at work in a coffee workshop, or try your hand at latte art. The latter is a lot harder than it looks, I just about managed a wonky heart.

latte art, london coffee festival

Left: Not my art. Right: My attempt at art!

It’s not all about roasting and brewing however, you can sample the delights of Alpro Plant Power, Rachel’s Organic Milk, Rebel Kitchen and many more. Tasty snacks from Propercorn, Doisy & Dam and Hotel Chocolat, to name but a few, are also on hand to help absorb all that caffeine, as well as brunch or lunch from Gather+Gather.

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

Whether you’re a newly formed cafe, boutique retailer or simply a coffee connoisseur, the range of brands showing their coffee makers is so vast, there’s bound to be something up your street. At DeLonghi, I was treated to a macchiato made using their newest espresso machine, where your coffee is prepared using an app from up to 10 metres away. The thought of ordering my coffee from my bed is too exciting, all I’d need to do is train the cat to bring it from the kitchen.

london coffee festival

Next up I checked out what Sage Appliances had on offer, their state of the art range includes a milk frothing jug with a built in temperature gauge. Perfect for getting your cappuccino to the correct drinking temperature, and I’m looking forward to testing mine out tomorrow morning.

london coffee festival

I also chatted to tea brands T2 and Suki Tea, frozen yogurt company Bee Me, MOJU Juices and cold brew coffee company Minor Figures. So many lovely conversations over a coffee or tea!

SukiTea T2

Love coffee? Get yourself down to Shoreditch this weekend! Book your tickets here, and enjoy an afternoon fuelled by caffeine. Couldn’t make it? Check out Curry’s 5 Ways to Enjoy Your Coffee and get sipping away at that cuppa Joe!

CoffeeFest

Joe’s Blogs gifted me with a VIP ticket in exchange for a blog post. See Disclaimer for more information.

Fitness Trackers – Friend or Foe?

We’re constantly bombarded with news items about the nation’s obesity and inactivity levels, but at the same time, London seems to be at the heart of a wellness boom that is seeing health and fitness become the priority for many. Technology is at the forefront of this fitness revolution with activity trackers and fitness monitors being the ‘must have’ accessory in 2016. But here’s the question, do fitness trackers zap the fun out of working out?

fitbit, misfit, activity trackers, fitness

Activity trackers come in a variety of forms, from the simple step and calorie counters, to those that track steps, distance, approximate calories and also monitor sleep, from fitness watches with a heart rate strap, to devices that count steps, calories, distance, heart rate and more, all from one strap on your wrist. The world really is your oyster when it comes to monitoring your daily activities.

I’ve grown quite a collection of fitness and activity trackers over the last year or so, with varying degrees of success. I’ve had devices like the Misfit and Fitbit Zip which have counted all my steps, but when I’m sweating it out in a yoga class, it thinks I’ve been doing nothing for an hour and a half. In my opinion, these are better for runners and walkers where distance and pace are the key measurable elements. These trackers are also great for those just embarking on a new healthy lifestyle and are trying to become more active in their everyday lives by walking more and being less sedentary.

fitbit, misfit, activity trackers, fitness

The next set of trackers I own are those that monitor heart rate, much better for those hours in the yoga studio! My Polar watch is likely the most accurate, but I find it cumbersome and I more often than not forget to take it with me when I’m heading to class, but my most recent addition is becoming my favourite. I’ve now got the Fitbit Charge HR which has permanent residence on my wrist. Constantly monitoring my heart rate, it allows me to go about my daily activities and classes without having to think about setting up a heart rate monitor. A little chunky on my tiny wrist maybe, but I’m still a fan.

fitbit, misfit, activity trackers, fitness

Back to the question at hand though, do all these trackers take the fun out of fitness by making people overly conscious of their step count or fat burn / cardio heart rate zones? I can see how this might happen. Imagine being in the gym or in a class and having the person next to you checking your heart rate monitor mid-workout, and adjusting their intensity accordingly. This would soon become tiresome, and possibly distracting for the instructor or trainer too. I know runners who feel liberated when they run ‘naked’ – no, not without their trusty lycra – but without technology constantly monitoring their time, distance and pace. Perhaps the need for completing 10,000 steps a day, or burning x,y,z amount of calories comes from the same place that makes our brain do a little dance when those instagram ‘likes’ hit double figures.

On the other hand, what’s wrong with simply being fascinated by how the body works? I was the teenager who got annoyed when I had to switch to A-level Biology instead of Human Biology because there weren’t enough participants in the latter. I love knowing how my body reacts when I teach 3 barre classes, go to hot yoga, or take a quick jog up the tube escalators and my Charge HR is a great way to see all that in one place. I know that on certain days, I need to eat more because my energy expenditure is far more than I realise and I need to up my intake. My experiences aside, making somebody accountable for their activity, especially if they’re needing to change their lifestyle for whatever reason, can make a huge difference in whether they succeed at sticking to a new plan or not. A little dose of healthy competition never hurt anyone, and competing with oneself from the day or week before might just incentivise someone to get off the sofa and go for a walk, or take that jog up the stairs instead of taking the lift.

I agree that fitness trackers can become an obsessive piece or technology, and I’m aware that this can lead to health complications in itself with the rise of orthorexia and similar issues. I also think however, that while this can be the case for some, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that getting to know your body and your activity levels can be hugely beneficial. It’s a delicate balance between knowledge and obsession, but overall I think the rise in popularity of fitness trackers, and now fitness watches, shows that the nation wants to get fitter and healthier!

fitbit, misfit, activity trackers, fitness

Checkout someone of my fellow fitness bloggers commenting below for their thoughts on Fitness Trackers!