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WEEKLY BLOG EPISODE 84 | SELF CARE SEPTEMBER

Wow, it’s Wednesday already. Where does the time go? It feels like returning home from Iceland was both yesterday and three years ago… wibbly wobbly timey wimey!

As promised in Weekly Blog Episode 83, this week I’m chatting about a lovely trip I had to Lichfield to meet Sarah for my belated birthday brunch, and heading to Dorset for my first work-related conference for two years. It’s been a good week, actually, so let me get straight to it.

Self Care September

Did you know that it’s Self-Care September? Action for Happiness, a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society, has coined the phrase this month – and it seems like something I ought to listen to.

I don’t know, it just feels like decompression is something that’s very much needed, by me and lots of people I know. Even with Iceland, which was for all intents and purposes a holiday, I feel like everything has been adding up for quite some time, and I could do with a little assistance in the relaxing department. And I know I’m not the only one.

I’ve written about self-care before. In a world where we spend so much time consciously and subconsciously comparing ourselves to others, it’s good to remember to be kind to yourself. My post You Can Do Anything But Not Everything is still one of my most popular musings to date, and my more recent Self Care When You Couldn’t Care Less gets daily views.

But we can all do with a little reminder occasionally, and that’s where self-care September comes in.

Action for Happiness Self Care September Calendar

Action for Happiness have created a calendar with useful daily prompts (yes I know it’s half way through already, but today is always an excellent day to start something new). Ideas such as making time for the things you enjoy, forgiving yourself when things go wrong, asking for help when needed – they’re all very obvious when you think about them, but they are important habits that can help you be a little bit happier when enacted.

Today, the day I’m writing this weekly blog episode, the prompt is “find a caring, calming phrase to use when you feel low”. Here’s my offering – I’d love to hear yours in the comments below:

“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” —Hermann Hesse

Birthday Brunch and Exploring Lichfield

Last Sunday morning (I’m a week behind…), I met up with very good friend Sarah (The Urban Wanderer) for a very long overdue birthday brunch. Naturally, given I was meeting Sarah, we chose a location that would also provide fodder for some urban exploring, looking for somewhere that was equidistant between Manchester and Gloucestershire… and this time we chose Lichfield.

Lichfield is a Cathedral City just north of Birmingham which claims Samuel Johnson of the first English Dictionary, and Erasmus Darwin who was something of a polymath combining medicine with poetry, as its alumni.

After parking up (free on a Sunday), we started at the vegan friendly café Pom’s Kitchen for a rather belated birthday brunch (Sarah gave me a promise voucher for my birthday last year and I’ve only now been able to cash it in). I had the sweetcorn fritters (a favourite of mine) and a juice, a most excellent brunch with great service and company. Both Sarah’s and my brunches were served with tenderstem broccoli – who knew this was a breakfast vegetable? I’m sold, it worked very well!

It might be a small city, but there is surprisingly a lot to see. Actually it wasn’t surprising at all, Sarah has a real talent of finding interesting things to see in urban environments, so I should have known.

I was particularly taken with how varied the architecture was – timber framed Tudor buildings butted up against Georgian manors and terraces, with modern concrete blocks and Victorian cottages all in the same row. Yes, there is a modern shopping precinct which is a bit dull and full of the usual chains, but the character of the city still shines through – antiques shops, museums, the public library in an old church. And, of course, the Cathedral, which has some of the most detailed stonework I’ve seen, just beautiful.

There are also a bunch of large green and blue spaces, which for a small city was very nice to see. Lakes, recreation grounds, woodland – Lichfield was unexpectedly ideal for a Sunday wander.

Of course, it turns out there is family history in Lichfield. While we might not be doctors and literary experts, the Radfords do get around a bit… My Dad was born in Lichfield, although I didn’t think to ask in advance where his old house was to go and see it.

Comms Unplugged 2021

At the end of last week I attended a conference. A real life, in person conference. My first for two years. And it was fantastic.

Comms Unplugged is all about coming together for professional and personal development without the distraction of WiFi, work emails, or social media. It all takes place on a camping field in Dorset (all the delegates camp), and has a particular and important focus on wellbeing.

I wrote about my first experience of Comms Unplugged back in 2019, and was very much open to what this year’s event had to offer professional and personal me.

I love how relaxed the event is. The workshops are as you would expect any CPD-style conference to be, with talks on best practice, skills and other Comms-related topics. It’s just based outside rather than in a hotel conference suite, with no screens (laptops or PowerPoint), and with psychological safety for all those present.

Our keynote speakers this year were Kate Mason from The Big Draw, who spoke about the importance of making intentional marks on paper, and Bruce Daisley, author of The Joy of Work, who spoke about team culture. Two incredibly interesting talks with plenty of take-homes I hope to make good use of. There were also a wide variety of workshops to choose from, on work-related topics as well as personal wellbeing.

One of the workshops that I found particularly was on the difficulties cause by Imposter Syndrome and how to (begin to) overcome those, which was super interesting. Jill Spurr talked from her own experience, offered up some tips, and it was good to hear from others in the marquee with their own stories too.

The message of Comms Unplugged is loud and clear. You cannot do your best work if you are feeling either full or empty. Teams cannot function properly if there is no psychological safety. Words (for these are the tools of comms) don’t flow if your mind is having a hard time with unclear objectives or too much stuff on the list. And that goes for any profession, just change up the tools. I’m very glad this event went ahead, and I am already looking forward to next year.

We finished the event on Saturday morning with a trip to the beach – how many conferences can say that?! Some of us had a swim (I think it’s my first sea swim of the year, the shame), some made sandcastles, others went for a walk to see what wildlife was around, and we all played with bubbles. Honestly, the perfect way to end the an event such as this, and a most excellent way to get One Hour Outside on a Saturday morning.

An iPad Experiment

I’ve been using an iPad and iPhone set up for a good few years now, and I really like having both. The two Apple devices complement each other well, and along with our desktop computer in our home office, provide me with all the tech I need at home and when I’m travelling.

For the last eight or nine months or so, I’ve been thinking about switching my iPad (which I think is now the oldest supported iPad model when it comes to iOS updates) for a Macbook Air instead, especially given that the iPad Pro and Macbook Air are similarly priced. My thinking is around a laptop being more useful, and maybe even helping me be more productive (well, more intentional), especially when the desktop computer at home isn’t available.

In the interests of enjoying an experiment, I’ve done a temporary swap. I backed up my iPad, cleared it down, and handed over to my husband for a while. He’s a good sport. In return, I’ve got sole use of his Microsoft Surface for a while. The idea being that, even though the Surface is quite old now and has the battery life of a tired grandpa, requiring regular naps, it will give me a good idea whether ditching the iPad and buying a laptop is right for me.

It’s been a couple of weeks and so far, so good. I do miss my iPad (it was particularly good for watching YouTube videos in the bath…), but I’m liking the laptop life. I particularly like having the extra capability a laptop gives me, the ability to run full programmes rather than only stripped back apps, the extra disk space and better sound, and it’s so much easier for writing (even with an external keyboard my iPad was okay but never really conducive to blogging). The idea of using a laptop being intentional, rather than just having what is essentially a massive phone that is very likely to lead me down a rabbit hole of scrolling and time wasting, has proven to be true. Not always, but quite a bit of the time.

On the other hand, I no longer have a handy large touch screen device on which to quickly edit and share my photos, especially when travelling. Instead, I’ve gone back to doing that on my phone, which feels small and difficult. Also, while I would normally pack my iPad on any trip as my book, television, photo editor, and journal, I haven’t bothered packing the Surface – and this is when I’ve most missed the tablet. Maybe I would pack it if I had one that lasts more than an hour without being plugged into power, but maybe I’d still leave it at home as any kind of laptop just isn’t as travel friendly as an iPad is.

Somewhat obviously, the two devices are very different, and as such, it’s not a straightforward comparison. That’s why the swap experiment is useful, as it means I can test things out before parting with any cash. My processes have already had to change quite a bit, especially with the way I organise, edit and save my photos, and even the way I consume entertainment. Some things have been easier to get used to than others.

At the moment, I am leaning towards making the switch permanent, it seems to be working well for me. But the thing I’ve noticed most is how much I now rely on my old iPhone 8; I might also want to upgrade that so that some of the on-the-move stuff (quick photo edits and caption writing for Instagram, for example) is a bit easier than currently. And if I do that, should I upgrade my phone first, and see what difference that makes before I do anything else? Oh to have choices.

I don’t know. I might be reasonably good at not having lots of stuff and clutter these days, but I really love tech and find joy in shiny things, even when that makes me very spendy. Let me know… What kind of devices do you use day to day? Did you swap from a laptop to a tablet, or a tablet to an iPad? What do I do?!

As always, I would really love to hear from you in the comments below. What have been the highlights of your week? Let me know what your favourite thing about the last seven days has been. And don’t forget to get your One Hour Outside today… whatever day you happen to be reading this on!

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