Year: 2020

Dreamlands by Yomagick

I came across Yomagick on Instagram and was instantly blown away by these beautiful dreamscape scenes. They feel surreal, like something out of a children’s storybook world. There is something so deeply beautiful and incredibly dreamy. My impulse would be to climb into these and take a nap.  Sometimes you come across work online that is so lovely you simply can’t stop thinking about it for a while. This work is definitely that kind of work for me! These have been created by a multidisciplinary designer based in Dublin.  You can find more of their work on Instagram.

All images are by Yomagick

On self-care habits

The internet has made it seem as if self-care has to entail face masks and online shopping. And whilst these things are lovely, there is great value in making self-care a habit that we incorporate into our daily lives, rather than something luxurious and indulgent that only happens once in a blue moon.

I tend to get very absorbed in my work. During stressful periods in my academic life, it is easy for me to slip into a cycle of spending most of my waking hours working, and my sporadic breaks scrolling on my phone instead of taking proper time to rest. I struggle with thought patterns that make me feel as if I’m being lazy if I’m not working all the time. When I have a productive day and finish off earlier than anticipated, I get a little nagging in my brain. “Have I forgotten something? Should I just study some more?”

This is exhausting to deal with and at times, it has been extremely difficult for me to relax and truly switch off. Now that my bedroom is both my resting space and my university, this has been magnified. So I’ve had to be extra diligent about my self-care practice during lockdown. I’m a planner by nature, so I’ve found it helpful to set aside specific time in my schedule just to relax and do something unrelated to university. I’ll put “take a bath” or “work out” on my to-do list, so I know it’s something I need to do. (It may not be perfect, but it works for me). Finding systems that work for your life and schedule is key. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Also, keep in mind that it shouldn’t feel like a chore.

Some self-care habits and rituals I’ve found joy in as of late:

  • Morning and evening skincare. I thoroughly enjoy these few minutes of my day specifically dedicated to looking after my skin.
  • A hot bath. I’m not usually one for baths, but every two weeks or so, I like to take a bath on a Sunday afternoon and catch up on some reading. It helps my body to feel less tense too.
  • Morning reading. I’ve built reading a chapter of a book into my morning routine this semester. I’ve really been enjoying it. (I try to read non-fiction during this time, as I’m awake and able to absorb whatever I’m reading fully).
  • Journaling. This is always something I’ve found value in and it continues to be a habit that serves me well.
  • Series. I enjoy escaping into another world for a while. I tend to enjoy lighthearted shows where I don’t have to focus too hard.

I hope you’re able to find a way to add some tranquility to your every day.

Tell Your Friends About Your Dreams

I’ve come to learn that setting goals is the easy part. The real test comes in when it’s time to knuckle down and get to work to ensure that those goals are achieved. In highschool, it was always drilled into us that our goals need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound). And whilst at the time, I didn’t fully internalise it or see it as anything more than a homework task, I’ve learnt that the more detailed a goal is, the easier it is to identify how to get there.

Holding yourself accountable is tough. But it is also necessary. It can be easy to slip into complacency and put the hard work off when we’re not actively checking in with ourselves about our progress. The simplest yet most effective way I hold myself accountable is by talking about my goals to people I trust. I’ll tell my parents or friends, and that way, not only do they hold me accountable and push me, but they also celebrate with me when I achieve. I tell different people depending on what aspect of my life the goal I’m trying to achieve falls under. For example, when I’m trying to get back into healthy eating and working out, my best friend will be my accountability buddy. We’ll send each other pictures of our meals, voice notes on how we’re feeling and what exercise we’ve done and just generally keep each other motivated. It may seem like something simple, but it has proved to be incredibly effective. 

Another thing that I enjoy about sharing my goals with people who I love and trust, is that they keep me in check. I tend to hold myself to impossibly high standards. So having people to talk to and bounce my goals off helps me to manage my expectations and allows me the space to recognise when I’m being unrealistic or too hard on myself. Sometimes, it’s hard to hear. But, it helps me immensely. 

It’s also important to be realistic. Whilst holding yourself accountable is essential, sometimes life just doesn’t go to plan, and you can’t run as many times as you would have liked in a week, or something comes up and you don’t have enough hours to study for that test to get an A. It’s okay. Being flexible and adapting your path to reach your goals is all part of it. So yes, having a plan and mapping out your “stepping stones” is important, but it’s also important to recognise that sometimes we need to shift the stepping stones a little to overcome things we couldn’t have anticipated. 

Everyone’s goal-setting methods look a little different, so how you choose to practice accountability comes down to personal preference. Try a few methods and then go with what feels right for you. Keep adapting and shifting as you grow and learn what allows you to feel most in control and happy.

Originally written for Comeback Magazine

Notes on being kind to yourself

We’ve heard it all before. “Speak to yourself the way you’d speak to a friend”. “Treat yourself the same way you treat the people you love.” But in reality, it’s much harder to be kind to yourself than the quotes on Pinterest would have you believe. One thing that makes it especially difficult is that we often don’t even realise just how detrimental our negative thought patterns are. We get so used to negative thoughts that we are unable to recognise when we’re self-sabotaging or projecting. Over the past few months (and years), I’ve slowly come to realise that there is immense value in making a conscious effort to be kind to myself. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

  • I tend to make myself miserable. I recently watched a TEDtalk that talked about how we take things personally because we make everything about ourselves. We assume that everyone’s seemingly negative responses to us are also about us. I can relate to this deeply. As someone who struggles with anxiety and is an over-thinker of note (a simply delightful combination as I’m sure you can imagine), I tend to overanalyse everything. Honestly, it’s exhausting. The only thing I gain from it is, well, nothing. If a friend takes longer than usual to reply to my text, or they seem even a little “off”, I’m sent into a spiral of thoughts, thinking about everything I could’ve done to make them mad at me. I’ve had to train myself that not everything is about me. People can have off-days, and it can have absolutely nothing to do with me. In fact most of the time, it’s not about me. So something I’ve been working on is making an effort to flip my negative thoughts on their head. Instead of telling myself that they’re mad with me, or don’t like me or I’ve done something wrong, I’ve tried to replace it with “maybe they’re just busy or tired or stressed”.  And that’s okay. Just like I can’t give everyone else my energy and attention all the time, I can’t expect other people to give me all of theirs all the time either. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it has been an incredibly necessary one.
  • I always assume that people don’t like me. There is literally no basis for these thought patterns , except for my own stubborn insecurities. Sometimes, I will spend days thinking that everyone is judging me and thinking bad things about me. I’ve come to learn that this is just my own insecurity that I project onto others. Something I’m learning to do, is to believe the things that people tell me. Instead of thinking that everyone secretly hates me, I’m learning to replace these negative thoughts and believe it when people tell me that they love me or value our friendship or think I’m pretty. It is so much more peaceful and gratifying to just accept compliments and believe them, instead of assuming that people think the worst of me. It’s freeing and leaves room in my brain for much happier thoughts.
  • It’s okay to fail. I hold myself to impossibly high standards and I’m sure most of us do. But sometimes, what we may perceive as a strong work ethic or ambitious goals, are just eating us alive and making everything we achieve feels subpar. Allow yourself to get things wrong. Whenever I get annoyed at myself for getting something wrong, I think about how quickly I would get bored if I was just getting everything right. It may seem obvious, but making a conscious mindset shift from seeing failure as a bad thing to seeing it as a opportunity for growth and learning to laugh it off and then work harder to get better has made it so much more rewarding when I eventually do get it right.
  • Taking time off does not equate to laziness. We live in a society that glorifies the workaholic mentality. In reality, it’s unsustainable, unhealthy and takes the pleasure out of everything. It’s okay to enjoy your work. It doesn’t mean you’re working any less hard. Often, I’ve confused enjoyment with laziness. I still struggle to take a break and switch off from my academic work, but I’m starting to see that when I do, it allows me to perform at a higher level when I am working. You don’t need to earn your rest. You deserve it anyway.
  • Everyone won’t like you.  It can be easy to spend all your time focusing on people who aren’t your biggest fan and then forget about the hundred others you love you. I’ve often subjected myself to a fair share of people-pleasing to desperately try and make everyone like me. It’s not worth the emotional energy. I’ve made peace with the fact that I simply cannot be loved by every single person I cross paths with and that’s okay.

These are some hard lessons I’ve had to learn and I still have a long way to go. I have a long list of things I still need to work on and through. But being just a little kinder to myself has already allowed me so much more room for positive friendships, taking time for myself and has even motivated me to work harder, for me. It’s a journey and everyone’s looks slightly different. I hope you will join me in being kinder to yourself.

Nabeela x

On learning online

This year,  most students have had to to transition to online learning. You’d think that as the “digital generation”, this would be easy, but it has been quite a feat. Aside from teething issues with online learning platforms, studying and learning from home has brought on a whole new set of challenges (and ways to procrastinate).

I’ve just completed my first semester, half of which we did online. I thought I would share some things I’ve learnt over the past few months that have made it easier for me learn from home.

Don’t underestimate the importance of routine. At school or university, the day tends to be quite structured. Replicating that at home has allowed me to make sure I have time to complete everything that needs to be done on a particular day, whilst still allowing for pockets of time to do non-work stuff. Sometimes, you sit down to do some work and before you know it, the sun has set and you haven’t left your desk all day.

Take breaks. At university, even although the days were busy, there were small pockets of time during the day spent walking campus or to lunch, or a few minutes spent chatting to someone you’ve run into. Whilst working from home, even these tiny breaks away from focused work aren’t happening. So I tried my best to make my own, by taking sometime to go make coffee or lunch and take a quick reading or youtube break. Even just a few minutes standing by the window to get some sun on my face and fresh air did the trick. It helped me to view my day in segments, rather than one long monotonous unit of time.

Schedule more time. Often, I found that the work that would usually be covered in a 50-minute lecture on campus would take me 1.5 hours to complete at home. That’s because I’d sit and watch the lectures, write the notes and do the homework all in one sitting. I found it immensely helpful to complete the work in this way, as I was focused on the task at hand and “in the zone”.

Exercise. This WFH lifestyle is even more sedentary than usual. So it’s important to ensure that you’re still getting some movement, even if it’s just walking. Taking a walk can be a good way to calm down, clear your head, get some fresh air and get your body moving.

Don’t isolate yourself socially. I’ve found that scheduling time to call my friends and cousins gives me something to look forward to. Sometimes you just need to see your friend’s faces and hear their voices and laugh about silly things. It always instantly makes me feel better. I also found that phoning a friend to chat about work that was bothering me helped me when I was anxious about an exam or test. It’s much easier to answer each other’s work-related questions over a call rather than texting.

Be patient. The reality is, this is a new ball game for most of us. It’s unrealistic to expect it to be seamless. It’s frustrating, as everything seems to be up in the air and unclear. Give yourself grace and allow time to adapt and find new routines.

I’ve found these things really helped me to feel more at ease and a bit more “normal”, whatever that means to you right now.

 

The movies lie

As someone who watches a lot of movies and reads even more books, I’ve been exposed to just about every type of ideal girl trope there is. Sometimes, it’s the nice girl who does whatever it takes to make herself liked and be well-perceived by those around her, even if she loses the essence of herself in the process. Because at least everyone likes her and thinks she’s perfect.

Then, there’s the cool girl. (This trope is by far the most interesting of them all. Listen to this and read this). The girl who’s game for everything, never complains and always looks perfect. Her emotions never get in the way of her sole pursuit in life: being easygoing and desirable. Whilst it seems obvious, it can be easy to forget that these people are far from real. The perfect girl does not exist, contrary to what society’s pre-conditioning would have us believe. Even the best movies and books can only capture a one- or maybe two-dimensional character.

For many of us, at some point in our lives, the expectation to be perfect and achieve certain things has been projected onto us by those around us (and even by ourselves). Something I was most excited about leaving behind when I finished high school, was the high expectations people have always had of me (but they caught up with me in university pretty quickly anyway, despite my best efforts). Trying to emulate (because that’s what it is) the perfect-girl persona is exhausting and deeply damaging. The cycle is a difficult one to break, and takes a lot of hard work and honest conversation.

It’s easy to place our worth in the things we achieve and the way other people view us. But in reality, trying to live up to other people’s (or even our own) impossibly high standards all the time is exhausting. I know that the person who places the most pressure on me, is me, so I’m here to remind you (and me) to cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to slip up now and then, and not get perfect marks all the time. It’s okay to not feel on top of your game every day. Even if your worst worst-case scenario plays out, it probably still won’t be as awful as your brain would have you believe it is. Allow yourself the same grace and kindness you give others. Not being perfect all the time doesn’t make you less of a person. It just makes you human. And whilst learning to let go of this part of your “identity” can be scary, it is also freeing and deeply necessary.

 

On facing the discomfort…

We live in a world that is undeniably unjust. It feels like every other day, we are bombarded by the news of yet another tragic event that reminds us of this pertinent fact. If you’re anything like me, this can lead you to feeling incredibly helpless. These things feel so big that it seems impossible to do anything about it. Change feels out of reach.

However, change needs to happen, and we need to speak out. It’s difficult. It’s uncomfortable. It ruffles feathers. But the truth is, we’re at a point where shying away from things simply because they make us uncomfortable, is not a good enough excuse. I am of the belief that it is everyone’s responsibility to do everything in their capacity to fight for social justice. People often put down social media activism and even having conversations in real life. However, I don’t think these things should be overlooked. Having difficult conversations is the first step to mobilising change.

What I’m saying is this. Use the platforms you have, for good. Don’t overlook the importance of speaking out about the things you believe in, even if you worry about how you will be perceived. These issues are bigger than ourselves. I’m not saying it’s not difficult. Trust me, I know just how hard it can be. But sometimes we have to recognise when we’re making excuses for ourselves and those around us. So join me and let’s get into the habit of voicing our concerns about things. It may seem trivial, but in the bigger scheme of things, it is anything but trivial. If everyone thinks it is someone else’s responsibility, who is ever going to step up and do the difficult things that need to be done?

 

Image credit: Imán Cassiem

Days

It’s been 29 days since I packed up my room at university and came home. I went from extreme busyness to a dead halt. The world has shut down. I wear a variation of the same outfit every day now. Sweatpants and a teeshirt. I walk around with bare feet because I feel most comfy like that. Sometimes, the house is cool and the tiles make my feet cold. Maybe I should put on socks. It’s been 26 days since I wore an actual pair of shoes. I wear my comfiest, faded cotton pyjamas. I shower twice a day sometimes, because it gives me something to do. The water is so hot that I can see the steam rise off my skin. I like the smell of the green Dettol soap bar in the shower. It reminds me of my gran’s house.

Every night, my family watches the 8pm news. I try not to because I usually feel one of two ways. Either it makes me deeply sad and leaves me feeling defeated. Or I feel absolutely nothing. Which then leads to me feeling guilty, because the world is in a state of chaotic disaster.

I watch lots and lots of movies, and then sometimes I write about them in a notebook. I call them films because it sounds cooler. I love watching period pieces the most. They feel so pure, and the details fascinate me.

Every morning I make iced coffee and then spend too much time on the Worldometers site, looking at the latest virus statistics. I toggle between all the graphs and think about what my high school maths teacher would say about the gradient of the curves when we learnt calculus. I think about high school sometimes. Does that mean I miss it? I don’t know.

I spend ages on Pinterest sorting pretty photos into neat categories. Some days I sort out my boards to make sure all the pins are in the right place. Sometimes I get bored of Pinterest. I get bored of things quickly nowadays.

I tell myself I need structure, and then every time I try to create some sort of routine to follow, every fibre of my being resists it. I end up sleeping in for 2 hours and only getting started on my to-do list at 3pm. I wanted to try do some yoga during lockdown too. It’s been 21 days. I haven’t started.

I try not to get too upset about people’s opinions about lockdown and the whole coronavirus situation online. It’s hard. Especially when people are adamant about making statements that come from a place of privilege, and feel very unfair.

Some days I try to re-organise my desk in hopes that it will give me the kick I need to study in a focused manner. It doesn’t work. Nothing does really. I’m trying to fix my concentration and sleep schedule before the term starts online next week. It’s not going well. I have 4 days to sort it out.

It’s been 29 days since I packed up my room at university and came home. I wonder when the world will be normal again. I wonder if the world will be normal again.

 

Good Stuff 06. / Earth Blooms

I came across Earth Blooms on Instagram and was instantly in awe. Jess May, the creator behind the brand, is based on the island of Okinawa in Japan and she has a deep appreciation for nature. Her work pays homage to this. She creates exquisite, delicate jewellery pieces that make nature’s perfect beauty wearable. Here’s what she had to say…

What made you decide to start your business?

I’ve always loved the idea of having my own business! I kept seeing women run their own little shops successfully and that really encouraged me.

I wanted to create something that was aligned with my love for nature and things that hold deep meaning. When I discovered the art of preserving nature in pendants, I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do and was eager to start my business Earth Blooms. 

What inspires you to keep creating?

Nature. The abundance of it and the wisdom it holds. I’m super inspired by the natural world. Both learning from it and spreading its love.

How would you describe your brand/products in 3 words?

Meaningful, Earthy, and Feminine. 

What is a struggle you’ve had to overcome with your business?

Oh gosh, there were many struggles in the beginning. So much trial and error, finding what materials work and which don’t, learning the art of resin (measurements, temperatures, ridding bubbles), finding what leaves and flowers work best and which don’t for this art. There is an incredibly delicate and detailed work flow and process to create these pendants, but I’ve loved each lesson learned and seeing how far my business has come!

You can find Earth Blooms on Instagram here and Etsy here.

Nabeela x

Peace in the chaos

I write this blog to share my thoughts with the world. But more than that, I write this blog for myself. So right now, while my mind feels in a bit of turmoil, I’m going to write.

What’s happening in the world right now feels unreal. It feels like the plot of a movie that I watch one afternoon and then have an unsettling dream about later that night that leaves me feeling out of sorts until the next morning. Except, it’s not a dream. Life has come to a screeching halt all around us. It’s been frightening for me to see the people whom I usually turn to for guidance and security be just as uncertain and scared as I am.  The uncertainty has left me reeling. Whilst I have not cried about it all yet (although I know its coming), I feel a sort of strange numbness. It feels as if I’m observing all this and not really living through it. Today was day one of 21 day lockdown. It feels unreal.

I’m somewhat of a control freak and I know that for many people, the uncertainty and lack of control that this situation has brought about, is torturous. The feeling of helplessness, knowing how many people are suffering and not being able to actively help in any way, breaks my heart. All my university friends live in different provinces. I wished I had hugged everyone a little tighter when we all went home 2 weeks ago after our university very suddenly shut down and canceled our exams.

The one thing this has taught me, is to stop putting things off. Life is uncertain. You never truly know what is coming your way. After this passes, I’ll stop putting things off for when “things get less busy” or “next week”. I’ll make the most to live fully in every moment. I’ve also come to realise just how truly insignificant some things are in the bigger picture. I’ve learnt to be grateful and appreciative for all the blessings in my life. Things that felt important two weeks ago feel ridiculous now. At times like this, everything really gets put into perspective, whether you are ready for it or not.

This week has had me do odd things like message people I haven’t spoken to in months and contact teachers from school because I miss them. When things feel uncertain and life feels scary, the people you truly care about occupy your mind and heart non-stop. It’s frightening and painful and lovely all at once.

I live in a city where the economic disparity is almost unbelievable. For some people, the lockdown means having to make a double shot cappuccino at home and work on their Macbook on the couch instead of going to the local coffee shop. For others, it means that they will not be able to put food on the table for their families this week because they can’t earn money right now. This makes me sad. We are in for some very difficult days ahead. I’m trying my best to take each day as it comes. We’re all doing whatever it takes to get through this. Deep breaths.

Nabeela x

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