HOW TO BREATHE WHEN FEELING OVERWHELMED

25 February 2018 · posted in self-care

river-bank-snow-trees-sunset.jpg

Yesterday I sat in my sofa, appearing calm on the outside but heart-racing-fingers-tingling-overwhelmed on the inside. There were a million thoughts racing through my mind and all of them were worries. Mostly worries about being overworked and other stressful situations in my day job but because of that also worries and doubts about how I'm building my life, what I plan for the future, ... basically a quarter-life-crisis moment. I felt like there was a massive amount of weight pressing on my chest, making it physically hard to breathe. 

This massive overwhelming pressure, it's nothing new for me. I've had moments like this throughout my whole life and I think it's a result of living passionately. The highs are really high but the lows are really low too. When I'm feeling overwhelmed it's hard for me to focus and think. It's like a bomb of worries has exploded in my brain and pieces are flying in all directions uncontrollably, resulting in chaos everywhere. When I feel like that even the most basic questions like "what are we having for dinner?" are too much. At that moment I don't know anything anymore and I feel like I never will. And even though we all know that feelings are temporary and even the lowest of lows will fade, sometimes we just need some good advice and a strategy to get through it so that's exactly what I have for you today. 

river-bank-snow-trees-from-train2.jpg

Slow down the escape

When I feel really overwhelmed, a lot of the times I just want to step on a plane, leave everything behind and start over. The older I get the worse this feeling of needing-to-escape becomes. I think it's because when you're younger you always have a natural escape plan: growing up. Even though it always seemed too far away when I was younger, it was there and it was something to look forward to.

But now that I'm all grown up there is no more natural escape coming. Everything that happens in my life is a result of the choices I make. That responsibility is sometimes heavy to carry and I end up feeling overwhelmed, stuck, lost. However the moment when you're feeling overwhelmed is not the right moment to make big life decisions. Rash, impulsive decisions when you can't think straight will only lead to feeling more overwhelmed down the road.

Get some air

When I'm so overwhelmed that it feels like it's physically hard to breathe, I like to go outside and get some fresh air. Especially in winter it really helps because the cold air seems to open up your airways and release some of the extra pressure. Untouched nature has this way of giving you perspective as well.

Take a cold shower

If you can't get outside or it's too hot outside to feel like fresh air, taking a cold shower/bath is a good alternative. A few times when I was feeling overwhelmed, I tried calming myself by taking a hot bath (because bath are supposed to be calming)but the pressure on my chest and the feeling of not being able to breathe only became worse so cold is definitely the way to go.

Drink some tea

Opposite to a hot bath, drinking a hot cup of tea really helps me when I'm feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. While I'm focusing on the drink, checking if it's not too hot, feeling it warm my body from the inside out every time I take a sip, ... I forget everything else just for a little bit. I prefer tea in mugs when I need to calm myself down for the simple reason that they take longer to finish, giving me those extra five minutes of complete focus on how my body feels ingesting the tea.

Take a step back

While you are taking your walk or drinking your tea, try and take some distance from your emotions. Close your eyes and try to look at your life and your feelings as if you were an outsider. Notice that your thoughts are racing, observe how it makes you feel but instead of being swallowed up by that tornado of worries, just acknowledge that it's there. It might be hard at first, but this outside perspective is something really powerful, as if suddenly you are no longer affected by your emotions. After a few minutes you'll realize that you are no longer feeling that pressure and are able to breathe more freely.

snow-zermatt-snow-river-bridge-atmosphere.jpg

If you have found and read this post because you are feeling overwhelmed right now, I'm sorry that you are feeling like that. I am not here to tell you that everything will be okay, because you and I both know that even though that might be true, it doesn't make it easier to breathe now. However I hope that some of my strategies do.

xo,
Margot

HOW AND WHY I HAVE RE-ORGANISED MY BLOG CATEGORIES

21 February 2018 · posted in behind the scenes

computer-sun-table-glasses.jpg

Hustle & growing as a blogger

I'm the first one to admit that I have always not-so-secretly wanted to grow a successful blog and build that into an online business some day, not because I think it's a way to get rich quick but because even though I put in many hours a week shooting, writing, editing, designing, ... on top of my full time day job now, it never feels like work. I really believe that you have to hustle for everything you want and treating my blog like a business from the very start is in my eyes a very important part of that hustle. 

However, I think that in order to achieve my goal of blog success, in the past I have focused too much on creating content that would "sell" instead of focusing on what I really wanted to put out in the world and as a consequence I've been on this rollercoaster of starting over again and again because nothing felt quite right.

Searching for authenticity

This year though, I've been doing some real soul-searching and working on finding myself and my dreams. Allowing myself that time to become more authentic as a person has been eye-opening and I can really feel myself relaxing in life through that honesty more than I was ever able to before. This honesty has also made me grow into a more personal, open and vulnerable blogging style and it's been so rewarding to create content that I can proudly take ownership of because it's created completely in sync with my life and my personality.

I think by taking a step away from creating content purely for an audience and focusing more on my personal story and what I have to offer you, surprisingly I have seen more and more constant blog growth than I did before. (Still very small, but step by step). Through this mentality shift I'm now much more inspired to create content, which in turn creates more consistency, one of my 2018 blogging goals, which in turn helps me grow my blog. Basically win-win for everyone involved.

Shifting focus

For the first time ever, this blogging space feels completely natural and unforced when it comes to content creation but the organisation of the posts, the four categories I had (home, food, life, blog), started to feel wrong somehow. Too general. I absolutely believe in reflecting your brand and site vision into the visible categories in the navigation so your audience immediately knows what your space is all about but my old categories didn't do that and it felt off. Adjusting my category organisation therefore was an inevitable change waiting to happen.

The new set up

I want this blog to be more about that personal honesty, about growing as a person and about taking care of ourselves (body and mind). I want to be able to share my life's adventures proudly without comparison to bigger influencers with very different lives and I also really want to talk about building a blog and (online) business, not because I'm an expert, but because I'm still passionately hustling to build my own and it's what keeps me awake at night.

So after figuring out what kind of content I want to put out in the world, I starting brainstorming about how to show that best into categories and I ended up with 3 main categories with a subdivision into 8 topics.

· wellness; food
· wellness; self-care
· lifestyle; interiors
· lifestyle; thoughts
· lifestyle; adventures
· blog + biz; behind the scenes
· blog + biz; how to blog
· blog + biz; brunch browsing

Once I set up all the new categories/topics and started moving already published blog posts into them, it felt like finally, the pieces of the puzzle were coming together: all the posts fit so much better into one of the new categories than they did in the old ones. In a way, nothing has really changed, as the content I'm sharing will be exactly the same (although ever growing with me) but in a way, everything has changed. It's like a fog has lifted and this space is now much more reflective of who I am as a person, what I'm hustling for and the message I want to put out in the world.

Reflect your brand

If you are also hustling for your own blog biz but you're not completely feeling your blog post organisation, I truly recommend doing some soul-searching and changing the categories so that they feel like a true reflection of your brand. It might sound dramatic and over-the-top-cheesy but I feel so liberated now, free to create content I want to create. Whereas before the categories were limiting my creativity and were too vague to show you my blog and brand vision, now it is completely clear I am sharing content to help you and me become our best possible selves, create the most beautiful lives possible and become successful blogpreneurs. I couldn't be happier with the new set up and I hope you feel the positive change too!

xo,
Margot

SKIING IN ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND

18 February 2018 · posted in adventures

snow-tasch-trees-snowing-white-red-house.jpg

Blogging has always been something very personal for me. The last few years, the pressure has been on though, to focus on writing content as the expert and although I'm super passionate about and have a ton of tips to share on some topics (like how to blog or learning to practise self-care), travelling is not one of those areas.

I love seeing new places and I love finding photo-worthy spots when we're travelling but I have never felt confident enough to put together a travel guide. Like, I went somewhere once and you think I know what's a must see? I'm just a tourist following the advice of Mr Google ... So although we visited some pretty amazing places during our summer road trip to Croatia, the only wanderlust-style posts I've shared so far are A day in Salzburg, Austria and Island life on Curaçao because I just wasn't feeling the whole I-recommend-you-do-this style post.

But I do want to share our travels with you (and future me) and I've been absolutely loving other blogger's story / diary style posts so I've re-organised my categories to fit around the content I love to share (and read). This past week has been one of the coolest adventurous winter weeks I've ever experienced so I thought it was only fair to share a ton of pictures and some stories to kick off the new adventures topic here on the blog. Hope you love it as much as I've enjoyed creating it.

snow-train-tasch-zermatt-trees.jpg
snow-train-zermatt-red-people-working.jpg
tasch-taxi-snowed-in-wind-wipers2.jpg

For this week of winter sports, we were invited to Täsch by friends of Ruben's family and we stayed in the apartment next to theirs with Ruben's mum and brother. The skiing area is located in auto-free Zermatt (the neighbouring town and the last town in Switzerland before the Italian border) so every morning we took the 15min train to Zermatt. Although the weather forecast wasn't that amazing we had at least 4 really good ski days.

One day though, it was snowing like crazy but we decided to go skiing anyway (because you know, very expensive ski pass) but after 25min of the worst skiing slopes and visibility we gave up after all. On the way back to the train station we were already chatting about nestling in the sofa with some snacks and a good book but we ended up being stuck in Zermatt for the next four and a half hours: all trains were temporarily cancelled due to an avalanche blocking the rails (which needed clearing) and more avalanche danger. I guess you've not really been on a winter sports holiday in Zermatt without being stuck there for at least a few hours. We used our time in Zermatt to walk around the entire town (which in all honesty, we probably wouldn't have done otherwise) so it ended up being quite a fun, photography filled afternoon.

snow-train-zermatt-stuck-transport.jpg
snow-zermatt-snow-river-bridge-atmosphere.jpg
snow-zermatt-restaurant-athmosphere.jpg
snow-zermatt-snow-hotel-atmosphere.jpg
snow-zermatt-snow-spade-hotel-atmosphere.jpg

Lately, I've been really enjoying capturing shots out of life, with more people in them and I'm really loving the vibe of the photo above, showing the hardworking spirit of the Swiss. I still have a long way to go before I'll become more confident with this type of photography but I'm enjoying the process so far. Hopefully in the future more out of life shots from me as well.

snow-zermatt-snow-river-cabins-atmosphere.jpg
snow-zermatt-klein-matterhorn.jpg
snow-zermatt-klein-matterhorn-gloves-eskimo-hoodie.jpg

One of our sunny skiing days we went up to Klein Matterhorn, the highest cable car station in Europe with it's 3883m, and although the view from the panorama platform was absolutely breathtaking it was so very very cold (-22ºC, wind 37km/h) we could only stay there for a few minutes, even if we were dressed like Eskimo's, so we just took a few quick shots (wrestling the camera with my mittens on) and got the hell out of there!

On the way down, we had some of the most beautiful panoramic slopes and the closest absolutely stunning photo spot near the Matterhorn where I realised that it's so much easier to take a good photo when you don't see facial expressions, so I'm totally planning on doing more crazy, full face covered photos in the future! (Still figuring out how to fit those in a blog post other than ski adventures though..)

snow-zermatt-matterhorn-ski-eskimo-sticks-air.jpg
snow-matterhorn-ski-blue-sky-gloves-on-sticks-black-white.jpg

This week was the first week I've ever been skiing that is not around Easter so I was totally unprepared for the cold. I didn't find a new ski jacket before we went and the jacket I normally wear around Easter left me frozen to the core the first day, even with a gazillion extra layers underneath, so I ended up skiing in my "normal" sporty winter coat which made me realise I need a fluffy hood on my ski jacket just so I can become an Eskimo and block out all wind. Also, I wondered, did anybody invent a ski coat with a hood that can be attached to your helmet so it doesn't fall off due to high speed (wind)? Like, that would be literal heaven.

Also, my fingers were absolutely frozen the first day so we splurged a little on these black and white colour block mittens and for two days I even put in little glove heaters filled with magical-instant-hot-shake-powder and it was so gloriously warm and snuggly, I am already looking forward to the next time I can use them! (Maybe I'll start to like winter after all?)

tasch-red-house-wood-bungalow-snow.jpg
zermatt-iglo-dorp-eskimo-thumbs-up.jpg
snow-ruben-face-cover-cool.jpg

I only really learned how to ski because Ruben is kind of a ski fanatic, like do not try to take away his week of skiing every year or he'll go mad. Even if I say so myself, over these last few years I've become quite good at skiing and I mostly feel confident now coming down even black slopes, still Ruben stays a league ahead of me when it comes to the level of skiing and I think you can see it right here ... seriously how pro does he look?

tasch-snow-mountains.jpg
snow-matterhorn-ski-blue-sky.jpg
snow-rothorn.helicopter-red-zermatt.jpg

One day, when we took the last cable car of the day up to Rothorn there we three helicopter picking up skiers. It was quite the show but we didn't really understand why they couldn't ski down like everybody else unless they still had to go back to the Italian side of the skiing area, but that's just poor planning and flashing your cash if you ask me. (Or is it just me that gets a bit upset by this show of wealth? As if a "normal" week of skiing isn't already expensive enough.)

zermatt-iglo-dorp-eskimo-dancing.jpg
snow-iglo-durf-zermatt.jpg
zermatt-matterhorn-blue-sky-snow.jpg
tasch-water-sow-frozen-tab-outside-fullview.jpg
snow-tasch-trees-snowing-white-mountain-cabins.jpg
snow-matterhorn-ski-blue-sky-slopes-red-flags.jpg

Anyway, I had an amazing week and I can't wait to go back to the snowy mountains for more skiing in six weeks (this time to Austria)! I hope you enjoyed this first photo-packed adventure post!

xo,
Margot

SELF-LOVE AND SELF-CARE FOR VALENTINE'S DAY

14 February 2018 · posted in self-care

snow-tree-trunk-green-needles-evergreen-tree-dark.jpg

Start with yourself

Every year when Valentine's Day is coming up, wherever you go, red and pink heart decorations are thrown in your face. On the day itself, men are expected to buy roses or jewellery for their ladies, dinner reservations are all sold out (at least the ones where you don't sit only 20cm away from the next table) and all grandparents have a random Kuschelrock vinyl on repeat. But since the saying goes "You can't love anyone truly until you love yourself" I really wanted to focus on me this Valentine's Day to kickstart some healthy self-love and self-care traditions and rituals. Although I'm well into my twenties - only a few more years before I turn 30! - I still haven't gotten into a solid self-care routine and it's usually also the first thing that goes when I'm under pressure. Lately, I've realised though that exactly at those times when self-care is easily forgotten about, it's the one thing that makes me feel much better in my skin so today I've rounded up the ways I am making self-love and self-care a priority for myself. Interested? Let's kickstart our self-love and self-care routine together!

Skin care

I am guilty of many years of not taking off my makeup before I went to sleep and I know that in skin care world that is one of the worst possible crimes. I'm also guilty of never properly washing my face. Or using a scrub. Or day cream. I put on makeup in the morning and I quickly removed leftover mascara in the morning before putting on new makeup. For years. Maybe an occasional face wash in the shower. So a change in skin care has been long overdue.

These last few months, on top of the usual winter dryness, I've been struggling with keeping my skin clear. Especially my forehead has been fighting a losing battle with some of the worst acne I've had in my life. Although emotionally, getting acne in your late twenties is different from getting acne in your teens (it doesn't feel like the end of the world or the reason you will never be loved), it's still pretty upsetting to see bumps and zits all over when looking in the mirror because it just isn't that attractive (and did I mention painful?).

While I'm hoping my hormones and skin will regulate themselves in the near future, I've started looking after my skin much better than I did before. I've been using natural oils to remove my makeup, a gentle face wash for sensitive skin, and Freeman's Charcoal + Black Sugar Polishing Scrub Mask and Freeman's Anti-Stress Clay Mask a few times a week for cleaner and clearer skin. It smells amazingly relaxing, it's very calming for my skin and it makes me feel really soft, smooth and fresh. I've recently ordered Tea Tree Essential Oil, Witch Hazel and Activated Charcoal Powder to help clear up my skin naturally and I'm really excited about it. I'm also looking into more natural, chemical-free moisturizers so if you have any must-have skin care product recommendations, please share in the comments below.

For now, even though my acne hasn't improved a whole lot since starting my skin-care routines, I'm trying to steer clear of any anti-acne systems as I know the chemicals in them are very hard on your overall skin and (hopefully) this acne struggle is just a temporary thing. 

Body care

After many years of being unkind to my body, I think it's about time to give my body credit for all the amazing things it does for me. It might not look exactly the way I want it, it might not be completely healthy at times and it might not be as fit and strong as it could be, but my body has made it possible for me to do all the amazing thing I've done in my life so far. Hiking in Austria, skiing in Austria, France and since this week Switzerland (photos coming soon, promise!), swimming with turtles in Curaçao, bungee jumping in Croatia, ... All of these experiences wouldn't be possible without my wonderful body.

So as a part of these new self-love and self-care routines, I'm focusing on treating my body with more respect. Trying to eat healthier. Trying to exercise a bit more. But also listening to the signals it sends me when it's hurting or tired. Or when it has had enough food or when it is thirsty. I'm trying to find a balance between changing my body for the better, when I know my body is capable of it, and accepting and loving my body exactly the way it is. So far, it hasn't been easy, flipping the switch, after so many years of shaming my body for doing what it's designed to do when it was me who had lost track of how to be healthy but slowly I can feel my focus shifting to being healthy and feeling good rather than just wanting to look good. Step by step, I'm teaching myself to accept to process and see beauty in every step of the way.

Cleanliness

We all have those days that we're too busy, too hurried and too stressed that we start living on autopilot. When on autopilot, feeling pressured for time, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one to skip showering in the morning in favour of a quick washcloth scrub at the sink, every day of the week. I'm also pretty sure I'm not the only one to put on the same clothes for one too many days despite their questionable maybe-needs-washing? smell because I just can't deal with finding another outfit. Nothing an extra spritz of deodorant won't fix.

Or so I thought. Lately, I've noticed that after a few too many days of living on autopilot, that unclean feeling drags me down even more than the original stress that caused me to go into autopilot mode so I'm really trying to make cleanliness a priority. Feeling (un)clean is not just something that affects my stress level, it's also a big part of my confidence and let's just admit: feeling unclean is one thing but actually being unclean is just disgusting. But since we're all human, I know we've all been there, done that and wore the same shirt for a week.

So I'm working on taking baths more often, especially when I'm feeling stressed and pressured for time. I'm also working on laying out clean and fitting outfits to wear to work the day before. I'm working on getting and keeping on top of laundry and ironing (baby steps ...). I'm also planning a thorough wardrobe clean-out soon, so it will be much easier to navigate what I can and want to wear.  

snow-tree-trunk-green-needles-evergreen-tree-aveda-invati-system.jpg

Hair care

I've always had quite thin and not a lot of hair but six or seven months ago it started falling out even more than usual. It got to a point where I couldn't hide my thinning hair and my visible scalp even when I put my hair up in a bun. Even when using Batiste Dark & Deep Brown Brunette dry shampoo, I felt really exposed and unattractive so I went looking for a solution. After a bit of research and discovering there wasn't really a lot I could do, I made the decision to start wearing hair. Just a little extra on the top, a clip in hair piece and the first few months it really made me feel so much better. For the first time, I didn't have to worry about people noticing my thinning spots and my visible scalp and I could suddenly pull off up-do's I was never able to do before. Many people noticed a difference somehow and complimented me on my hair - did I get it coloured? I felt good, but at the same time, I was terrified my friends or colleagues would notice I was wearing hair as it really wasn't something I wanted to share.

After the first few months, I started noticing my own hair being pulled out by the clips of the hairpiece, leaving me with balding spots, and I knew I had to stop wearing the hairpiece. I also realised that emotionally, trying to hide the status of my hair from everyone was starting to take a toll on me. Because it was always hidden underneath the clip in hair piece and up in a bun, and never really cared for anymore, my natural hair was starting to look more and more like straw. I knew I needed a drastic change in hairstyle to save my natural hair and to be able to transition to not wearing the hairpiece without questions so last week I decided to finally get the much-feared chop.

So right now, my hair is the shortest it's ever been in my life (kind of pixie style in the back, mixed with a medium bob in the front), and although it's not a style I'd choose myself, I know it's the best thing I've done for my hair in a long time and it feels good. Since then, I've been using Aveda's Invati system for thinning hair and so far I've been loving it. Especially the Scalp Revitalizer spray feels amazing. It has a fresh, minty smell and it creates a pleasant tingly feeling on my scalp like I can feel it activating my hair to grow. I did notice it dries out my hair quite a bit so I might rotate with moisturizing and softening products in the future - Redken All Soft? I have also recently bought Witch Hazel to try and soothe scalp irritations and help my hair get it's natural moisture back. Thinning hair sadly runs in the family and my mum is a big fan of the Nioxin system for thinning hair so maybe in a few months, I'll give that go as well. 

On most days, now that my hair is short(er) and back to it's natural thinning state, I'm still using Batiste Dark & Deep Brown Brunette dry shampoo as I was before to cover up my (again visible) scalp, but I'm hoping to try (and if I like it switch to) Super Million Hair soon. I think that hair fibres that stick to my own hair will give me a more natural full look than spraying my scalp brown and I hope it will give my scalp some much-needed rest from irritations so the Invati system can do its work. I also have an appointment for an actual hair analysis (including microscopes and all that) soon, so I'm hoping to get more answers to my questions of how to improve the condition of my hair.

It took quite a bit of courage sharing this on here but I felt that now that I've decided to try and make the best of what I have, I needed to get it all off my chest somehow, and what better way to hide it inside a big self-love post, focusing on the positive side. Maybe once I'm brave enough, either on the other side of hair loss or on the other side of accepting my hair as it is, I'll share it more openly so I can help or inspire others that are struggling with hair too with more details on what worked and what didn't. If you know me in real life, please know that me being open in writing on here doesn't mean I'm ready to talk about it with you. This heightened vulnerability and somehow lost femininity is something I have to deal with on my own.

Sleep

Let me just start by saying: I don't sleep enough, so I'm trying to start some bedtime routines that will hopefully help me to sleep more and better but it's been one of the tougher ones so far. My Fitbit Alta HR has the option to set a bedtime notification so I've set up mine to give me a soft buzz reminder at 9.30pm to start winding down for bed. That way I know it's time to put away all my screens, start my skincare routine and hopefully be ready for bed by 10pm. So far though, I've ignored it more often than I'd like to admit and putting away all screens at least half an hour before is much more difficult than I thought it would be. (Quick 5min-turned-into-1hour scroll through Twitter before hitting the pillow?) I'm also working on washing our bedsheets more often as there really is nothing better than the feeling of a fresh clean bed. I'm looking for some sleep improving essential oils or sprays to put on your pillow for an extra luxurious night sleep and a more holistic way to wake up for work (maybe a light alarm?) so I can actually leave my phone in the living room, far away from my pillow, at night. If you have any recommendations for sleep scents or more natural ways to wake up, please let me know in the comments!

Kindness

I think all personal struggles start and end with self-criticism. Although it is something that can, in some cases, be useful to make personal changes and become a better person, more often than not self-criticism is unnecessary, unrealistic and just plain mean. You're too fat. Your calves and thighs are too big. You're not a good enough blogger. You will never be able to start your own business. These are just a few of the unkind thoughts I hear myself thinking quite often lately. And quite frankly, I'm sick of being my own worst enemy. So I started wondering. What would happen if I started treating myself as if I would my daughter? I don't have children, but if I had a daughter I would tell her she's beautiful no matter what, I'd tell her she could do anything she puts her mind to, I'd tell her she's unique and valuable and loved. So, what would happen if I told myself all of those things instead of being a bully in my mind? At first, nothing. I didn't quite believe myself (yet). But after a little while, thinking kind thoughts came more natural and I started to believe in them a bit more. That little devil bully is still there on some days, but I'm really starting to notice myself becoming calmer and more relaxed and accepting of who I am because of the kindness I'm showing myself. I'm curious to see how this one simple way of thinking will change my outlook on myself and life.

snow-green-needles-evergreen-tree-dark2.jpg

To all my beautiful readers, I want to wish you an amazing Valentine's Day. I am beyond thankful for your encouraging comments and your everlasting kindness, especially on the more open and vulnerable posts. Sometimes it's really hard to open up, but time and time again you all show me that this space is safe for me (and you) to share painful struggles as well as happy inspirational moments and that this space is safe to connect with, help and inspire each other. So all I can say is thank you for always being there with kind words when I need it most.

Let's continue keeping it real.

xo,
Margot