You know those days where everything seemingly goes wrong and the smallest of interruptions irritate you?
A prime example reared its ugly, sleep-deprived head a couple of weeks back. My attitude from the second my alarm slapped me bluntly out of a deep early morning slumber was one of bitterness and stubborn reactions. Rather than trying to fix it with the sweet remedy of rationality, I welcomed the sour sensation to engulf me and proceeded to blame each negative aspect of the day on my dark mood.
Realistically, the scales weren’t weighed down with more bad instances than usual, but feeling sorry for myself was an excuse to act as though the world was against me and not have to deal with the consequences.
After a tough day at work I dragged myself to the gym, with low expectations of how the session was going to play out. I promised myself a rewarding glass of red wine on returning home as an incentive to complete my workout, which consists of a run and some weights (which translates to lifting the smallest available dumbbells).
As soon as I arrived I was subconsciously searching for reasons to leave. I headed to the toilets to procrastinate and on exiting the cubicle managed to drop my tragic Love Island water bottle on the tiled floor and watched with disbelief as the plastic bottom smashed. The full amount of water flooded out across the toilet floor and rather than go and tell a member of staff the embarrassment saw me attempt to clean it independently. The problem was the toilet roll dispenser happened to be the kind that gifts you with one pathetic square at a time, so the process was long and soggy.
I cleared most of the waterlogged (and admittedly now very clean) floor, and half-heartedly convinced myself I could still make it through my workout without needing hydration. On finding there were no free treadmills I counted up my misfortunes as a sign, drove straight to Morrisons and bought a whole bottle of my favourite red wine (McGuigan’s Black Label Merlot if you were wondering).
I had two options to cure my slump that day: running it off with endorphins or drowning it with the tasty hit of dopamine from that first sip of wine. At that moment in time I chose the path that suited me best and I refused to let myself feel guilty for it. The chances are if I had forced exercise when my emotional state really rejected the idea I would have ended up more stressed than before. By indulging my craving for a glass of wine and stretch out on the sofa I accepted defeat, paved the way for an early night and admitted that tomorrow was a new day.
On these kinds of days from the moment I get out of bed my fate is sealed; no matter how I try to avoid stressful situations and reinforce a sense of calm, the instant anger and snapping of patience following the slightest of triggers is more tempting and seemingly easier to give into than accepting the reasons why I could be feeling so hostile. I get hot, flustered and angry when details don’t go according to plan and then upset for acting so childishly.
These scenarios are heightened when I’m tired or hungover, and despite efforts to steer myself into a lifestyle that revolves around a juicy night’s sleep and less alcohol, I often kid myself it will only be one drink and let the joy of the sunken pints and late nights get the better of me, without any consideration for future me the following day.
My relationship with a healthy lifestyle evolves constantly. More accurately, my perception of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle does. At 14, this to me was maintaining a skinny figure through obsessive exercise, calorie counting, drinking lots of water and constantly dieting. Throughout my later teens it was becoming vegetarian, as if this would automatically solve all my (and the world’s) problems. At university it was regularly going to the gym, cooking healthy meals, walking everywhere possible and then reversing any good this did by partying and ordering Dominos every other night.
Currently, it’s eating whatever the fuck I want (within reason and a mainly pescatarian diet), cooking diverse meals and going to the gym when I can, without being too hard on myself when I mess up. This routine is proving to be the most wholesome and sustainable yet, and the result is a positive mindset towards my body, eating and exercising without risk of falling into any danger zones.
There’s one habit I just can’t seem to kick, however. My decisions always seem to boomerang back to alcohol and the liquid can often be held accountable for personal setbacks. I do smoke cigarettes too, but I can’t even stomach them when hungover.
The epiphanies of people who have given up drinking and praise the increase in productivity and enjoyable activities they experience as a result have been infiltrating my thoughts a lot of late. I must spend at least 40% of my time suffering from hangovers (on a varying scale from mild to severe). Even the niggling little culprits from a nightcap and staying up past bedtime affect the ability to be my true self and limit my full potential to succeed in relation to work, relationships, activeness and creativity. Why do I purposely self-sabotage my wellbeing for a few stolen moments of alleged bliss?
Alcohol is not necessarily a problem in moderation – and by no means is this a cry for help. But the reality of the amount I consume has slowly crept up on me since leaving university where the culture is accepted and even encouraged. I have gone from drinking socially with groups of friends on the weekends or at events, to polishing off a bottle of red by myself whilst watching the latest BBC drama.
I savour my evenings as an opportunity to catch up on blogging, reading, exercising and relaxing before the ball starts rolling again at 6am. Often, though, the more persuading invitation after crashing through the front door following a full-on day and long commute is to numb my evolving to-do list with a tipple. Of course this dissolves my energy and distracts from the tasks at hand. By the time I turn in for the night I have achieved far less than I’d hoped, which snowballs into fear and dread when I realise how far behind I am on personal errands.
In retrospect, I think I have always done everything in my power to try and postpone growing up. Whether that’s leaving no possible time to consider what adult responsibility means, acting like I’m still a teenager by attending every night out on offer, or avoiding the concept by assuming I can still drink as much as I did at university.
As it nears one year since beginning my graduate job I’ve been compelled to confront the uncomfortable truths that coincide with ageing: there’s only so long that internal conversations about money and housing and health can be put on the back burner. Accepting the precious fragility of time has encouraged me to evaluate my lifestyle and tussle with whether I can squeeze even more happiness into it, and how I can manoeuvre short term options to obtain long term goals.
The simplest way it seems is for an overhaul on my financial and physical health; both of which indicate a sloppy suspect that could easily be targeted to save money and improve wellness. I’m not committing to cutting alcohol out completely – I enjoy it too much. Although I do want to make some waves and see how the ripples take effect. With any luck by reducing the amount I drink the outcomes will be two-fold: I’ll save money and appreciate the health benefits.
I’m sick of cancelling plans and wasting days due to hangovers. I’m fed up of the paranoia that leads to scrambling my brain to remember what I said the night before. I want to return to my hot-desk on Monday morning with the satisfaction of having spent my weekend wisely, not just curled up in a ball on the sofa.
I’m making a conscious decision to consider the pros and cons of spontaneous pub trips and be a little kinder to the Lily that has ambitions to get shit done tomorrow. I want to treasure the positives of drinking rather than use it as an escape from reality. I need to respect and preserve my body and use it for causes other than stretching my liver to the limit.
Ultimately, my aim is to drink less, especially in the week, and not feel obliged to go to events. Obviously over Christmas this plan will be ignored as I gleefully pop open another bottle of Prosecco at 1pm each day, but the comfort of being surrounded by family and friends reinforces that this is an acceptable holiday tradition and I can let my hair down. It’s the mundane diary days that I’m directing my efforts at.
I recently signed up for my first charity run and I am so looking forward to having a genuine milestone to train and push myself towards! In any walk of life I’m always more motivated when I have a mission to complete, so I’ll be using the 10k as a positive influence on my behaviour.
Case in point: in a plot twist on our normal Sunday lazing around, this weekend Josh and I sprung out of bed at 9am and welcomed in December with a 6k run down the canal. We had savoured a few glasses of mulled wine whilst decorating the Christmas tree on Saturday evening, but let ourselves succumb to sleepiness around midnight instead of convincing each other to stay up drinking. The difference the exercise made was impressive; we were energised, awake and relished in each moment of the day.
The Cancer Research UK Winter Run will take place in February 2020 and the prospect of tackling it with a group of colleagues instills a sense of joy in me while simultaneously feeling proud that I’ll be supporting such a great cause.
I have always been a runner, and whenever I nudge myself to get back into a routine with the activity I am rewarded with the flush of tingling excitement and happiness it brings. In school I willingly accepted the 100m at sports day and flung myself into cross country. In my spare time I would crisscross through the Welsh hills bordering the village I lived in, letting the music guide my footsteps and granting my mind space to wander.
On a typical day I rarely look up from technology or disconnect myself from some form of media. Between working constantly on a laptop and then switching to my phone to blog, consume podcasts and soak up missed Attenborough episodes, I am forever filtering information no matter how much I kid myself I have switched off. Running (no matter where) is the mechanism that works for me to cancel out the buzzing in my brain and check in with how I really feel.
I sink a fun playlist into my ears – one where I eagerly anticipate the next song and physically have to stop myself from beaming when my feet all in time with the music – and let go of the tension my body and mind have accumulated throughout the day. I try to concentrate on the rise and fall of my breath, and the simplicity of this focus allows creativity to naturally flow: solutions to problems, fresh think-piece ideas and outfit combinations flutter easily into my thoughts as opposed to me straining myself to conjure such inspiration up while staring at a screen.
Running is an opportunity to reconnect with myself. I can’t escape or distract from that fact when navigating windy lanes or striving to hit a certain distance on the treadmill. I have been listening to a flurry of Fearne Cotton’s Happy podcast episodes on journeys and adore the different theories and perspectives offer up. I really resonated with some of the topics discussed in Russel Brand’s interview, in particular how exercise can be likened to meditation as you are allowing yourself time to reflect, which is where some of the greatest sources of inspiration surprise you.
I’m not under any illusions that cutting out habits is easy (smoking, you’re next), but it’s a step that needs to be taken to prove to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to, and that the majority of issues cannot be fixed with the quick distraction of alcohol. I’m sure I’ll go off-track, but it’s the importance of picking myself up and returning to it that matters.
And despite these pretty adult-like self negotiations, I don’t think I’ll ever learn that not wearing tights for the sake of a cool outfit is really not worth getting a cold over… (because it kind of is).