Life

What is freedom

Like for many things in my life, I believe freedom is a state of mind. I build the prisons in my king and my ming stays trapped in there because I chose it to be that way. And breaking free is another choice I can make, but -alas!- don’t make often enough.

Being with friends, sharing a bottle of red wine, walking in the rain, caring only for what matters, forgetting the must’s and should’s for a brief moment — this is freedoms. It comes in many forms and shapes, I might not be able to describe it properly, but I know it when it’s there.

Take some time and appreciate all the good in your life. And there lies freedom. There lies happiness. Open your mind and let it in.

Life

Blue Monday (and how to not let it bring you down)

It’s Monday, it’s January, it’s probably cold and wet (unless you’re in Australia in which case what do you even know about this sorry excuse of a day???) and you’re like “why are holidays over?”, “when will I see my family again?”, “how will I get back into exercising and dieting when all I want to do is watch everything on Netflix accompanied by equal amounts of junk food?”, “is it too soon to already ask my boss for my next days off?” (the answer is no to this last one, go for it, definitely NOW!)

They call it Blue Monday, I call it pretty much every Monday, especially those so close to some of the best times I’ve had in ages (see Christmas holiday with family and my closest friends) and then again so far away from any kind of exciting adventure. And on top everything, work, work, work, so much of it that I sometimes can’t think of anything else during the day…

So, what is there to do to get out of this state of mind? (Because at the end of the day it is a state of mind, if you’re healthy and your loves ones are healthy as well and you have a half decent job, most sorrows are not real – they’re just a state of mind).

If you have a large budget: go travel. Book now. A quick city getaway or the vacation of your dreams in Thailand, go and do it. Check dates with the person you want to take with (or not), and go book. NOW. Did you do it? Ok, that’s great.

If you have a small budget: go for dinner and a movie. Sweet and cosy, will really lift your spirits. Also, because on Mondays restaurants and cinemas tend not to be super crowded. What is the movie you should go watch? Good question as in Belgium (at least at the moment), the offer is kind of crappy. Murder on the Orient Express or Molly’s Game might do the trick — they’re good movies AND entertaining as well.

If you have no budget: go Tinder. I actually have never done it (does this make me cool or unreal), but don’t tell me there is no fun checking out strangers online just to see what the offer is out there (and potentially finding someone you know -oops!- or potentially finding someone you don’t know but you kinda of really fancy – double oops).

Whatever you do, have fun. And remember: tomorrow might be another blue day. But it’s closer to Friday 🙂

Life

My birthday present (and a few thoughts on the art of gifting)

On July 21st we celebrated the Belgian national holiday which was the perfect excuse to take out the gift my boyfriend got me for my birthday:

The VonShef 4 person picnic backpack.

My boyfriend giving me presents is always a very funny process (for me at least). He’s really bad at gifting, he always gets panicked whenever he has to get someone a present, he can never think of what a person would like or want and he ends up scrolling the internet like a madman until a few hours before he needs to get to a party or a birthday celebration.

Of course I think this is lots of fun, because I’m the exact opposite: I’m a great gift giver. And through the years I’ve realised that the way to do so is to PAY ATTENTION. Pay attention people! To what your friends say they’d like, they’d need or they’d enjoy doing but never have the time or the company. And then offer it to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive (that’s what vouchers are made for! you can just buy a part of the product or the experience, ), but you can always put a smile on the faces of your loved ones if you just pay attention to the things they like and then you make an effort to offer them.

And that’s what my boyfriend did, which made his stressed face and hesitance to offer me my gift this year even more adorable. He knows I love picnics, he knows I want to do more of them (not that we can do so many given the Belgian weather, but still, a girl can dream), and he knows that I love doing them with friends….so voila! The perfect gift!

The VonShef backpack is truly amazing. It is so practical and works really well – our bottles of rose and still water remained chilled for more than 3 hours despite the heat, which was something I really appreciated (it’s a huge bummer having to run to the store for fresh wine in the middle of a picnic!). And it really has everything you will need for the picnic (the only additional thing I had to bring with me was a few toothpicks, everything else is already in the bag!!!).

We had such a great time that day and it really felt like a perfect way to celebrate my birthday and my boyfriend for implementing so well the first rule of the art of gifting: pay attention 🙂

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Life

On birthdays, friends and family

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Today is one of my favourite days of the year. My birthday. Which normally makes me feel sad, but lately I’ve come across a new found sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that make me actually happy to be getting older (to be honest, I would not mind staying in my 30s forever, like in a look, but then again I might be saying the same when I’m in my 40s…)

All in all, life is good. But it’s hard. Not real-problems-hard (this is a category saved for the only issues one really needs to worry about like health or serious financial problems that can impact the wellbeing of one’s family), but I’m-too-stressed-to-think-straight hard. Or stress-makes-me-cry-every-night hard. I was in that place a few weeks back due to a few work-related mishaps that were not really mishaps but I was so stressed they might turn into mishaps that I couldn’t stop thinking about them for almost a month. It was the first time I saw myself like that and I was shocked mostly because I thought I would never be the person who loses their sleep over work. Again, I don’t think anyone should lose their sleep over work. Except for surgeons or lawyers/judges involved in death row/life sentence cases. Because in everyone else’s case, NOONE dies. Noone will get hurt or even fired if I don’t do my job well (except for…me). This is something I had to repeat to myself like a mantra in order to be able to keep things in perspective. In the end, I did my job well and delivered the desired results. But the process left me in shambles.

So, as today I’m getting older (and presumably wiser), I’m looking at what kept me sane during this difficult period (and promise to try to amplify it from now on): it was hands down my friends and family. There is nothing else in this life that will save us from the worst version of ourselves than friends and family. My partner’s support during these difficult weeks was beyond anything I could ever imagine or hope for.  My mom’s tough love made me remember that at the end of the day I’m first and foremost me, not a lawyer, not an employee or a colleague, but me, a human being with needs and sensitivities, a good person who is trying to do their best. And this should be enough to not go crazy over work stuff. I was able to open up my heart to my friends and they filled it with warmth and love and their stories of anxiety for ridiculous reasons or work-related stress that never made them better or more productive.

I’m a very sensitive person and a pessimist by nature. I’m one of these people that think that life before was definitely better than life right now – easier, fuller, more fun. I complain a lot about many different things.I miss a lot of people who are not in my life any more. (Like really miss them. Like feeling a twinge in my chest sometimes when I think about them or see a picture of them. Like this morning. I hate Facebook’s memory lane. It’s the worst.) I tend to linger and get stuck in the past (I’m a caner anyway, what did you expect???).

BUT

I have a great family. I have friends who care for me. My partner is my friend and my family. And I couldn’t be more thankful. I’m looking at this new year in my life starting today and I couldn’t feel more mature and ready to face life and take it as it comes!!!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Life

My 2016

Every wellness blog that respects itself advises that writing down the things we are thankful for can help be happier. I don’t know if this is true or not, but in this spirit I will do that for 2016, a very weird year that I don’t know if I’m happy it’s over or not….

2016 was mostly a “waiting year” for me, meaning it felt like I was prepping for something bigger that is going to come in 2017. It might be that I moved in with my boyfriend, which has put me into the natural state of thinking about the future, or the fact that I started getting what my new job is about, which means more enjoyment but also more responsibility for me in the new year!

I love that I did a few good trips in 2016 (most memorably twice to Rome, my new fav city in the whole world!!!!), but I want to do even more and go even further in 2017. Which prompts me to be a bit more spontaneous when booking stuff – I already booked a weekend in Lille for January and one in London for February (thanks tax authorities for returning these 200 euros, best Xmas gift evahhhhh).

I’m extremely thankful that I have my health, my friends and family have stayed healthy too, I like my relationship and my day job is interesting enough to keep me exited. This little blog is kind of fun too. I love how people from all over the world take a few seconds every now and then to take a read, look at the picture, even leave a comment. It’s a special connection that makes the whole effort really #worthlivinit!!!! 🙂

So, all in all, 2016 has been a good year. But I have so much more I’m looking forward to in 2017!!! I have the constant feeling that there is so much more to achieve, to experience, to taste and feel and I want to have it all!!!! I guess this is the healthy approach to the new year, we have to be hopeful that better days are coming! White days for sure 🙂

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Winter shot from snowy Greece, yes it happens here too!

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!! And remember to love, love, love, nothing else matters 🙂

 

 

Life

What a little bit of bad luck can tell you about your relationships 

Yesterday morning, I hurt my pinky toe at the corner of the coffee table (major cursing ensued). The night before, my internet connection stopped working mysteriously. Today, I missed my bus and thus my only chance to find the super market open (and have a healthy dinner), due to limping because of said hurt pinky toe.

Two common things about the mishaps in the above paragraph: (1) bad luck (2) I missed my boyfriend in every single instance.

Partners are great to have fun with, but the real idea of companionship is founded on longing for the other person when not at your best (or at least so I believe). I have many suitors when I have my make up on, my fancy clothes and good hair. And that doesn’t impress me much. I only care for one when I haven’t showered for three days or I’ve gained gain a couple of pounds.

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I wanted to call my boyfriend because he was the only one I wanted to be comforted by at that moment. I wanted to talk to him because I knew he was on a business trip and wouldn’t be home when I got back from work. I wanted to hear his voice because it’s the most soothing sound on this planet (I should test him against whales once).

Who do you think about when your day sucks? Who is the first person you want to call when you hurt your pinky toe?

Life

How to stop stressing out about work

I was recently thinking about the stress caused by our work situation, something totally uncool and non-worthlivinit, but something I see all my friends trying to cope with on a daily basis.

It can be that work is too much or that work is not enough, or that there is no work at all. That the clients are too demanding, the boss totally unhelpful and the colleagues trying to step over your dead body. Deadlines, performance reviews, presentations to the board, salary cuts. All these paint a very bleak picture of how today’s working youth is looking at its work life.

I don’t think my parents ever experienced the kind of stress I and my peers live through every day. Of course there was no global crisis tormenting the economy and Greece was going through its golden age of modern times, but I think it wasn’t just that. It was also a different mentality. Of course they wanted me to want to have a job and be happy with my job and have a job that pays the bills (but doesn’t necessarily make you rich), an important job (so I can use all my skills, diplomas, foreign languages etc) and most of all a job that I enjoy and don’t lose my sleep over. I don’t believe my mom was ever stressed about her job to the extent she snapped out at my dad or had nightmares for three nights in a row. I, on the other hand, have been THAT stressed (I’m actually going through such a period right now, that’s how I thought of writing this post). I never remembered my dad complaining of stress (my dad is a lawyer, a job I find super stressful because other people’s well-being depends on you-even if that well-being is get out of paying a parking ticket). I, on the other hand, complain ALL THE TIME, when I’m stressed at work. I show signs of depression, I refuse to get out of bed in the morning, my tasks look like an endless list of challenges and I feel I’m drowning.

NOT COOL AT ALL.

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So I’ve developed a few tricks over the years to try and calm myself down whenever I’m going through a phase like this:

1. Put things into perspective: There are so many things in this life that are pure SH*T. Like war, illness, death and loss. None of these are caused by not performing well at work though (unless you’re Obama). Things will get harder in life. If you’re lucky enough to have friends and family, then things are about to get worse in some years from now. I know it sounds morbid and totally bleak, but that’s how it is: you’re bound to feel great pain from the loss or suffering of people close to you. And this is just one of the things that might go wrong. So stop it. Stop delving into stress without any particular reason, other than “my project is crap”. Stop feeling like work is the only thing that validates you and that it is worth losing your sleep over it. Stop thinking that your PowerPoint presentation will make it or break it for you. Instead, think of all the great things that make your life #worthlivinit, of the people you love and of all the great things you have achieved so far. Every time I was stressed before an exam, a test, a difficult day at work, a big presentation etc. I would always complain to my mom: “Mom, I just want tomorrow/next week/next month to be over.” It will”, she would answer, “it most definitely will. 30 years (i.e. my age) have gone by and they have been good. Don’t you think another day/week/month will go by as well?” I always found this phrase so wise and liberating and I always have it in mind every time a challenge shows its face at work.

2. Share your troubles: Talk, take it out, don’t feel you’re burdening people, you’re not. To the contrary, you’re actually opening your heart and mind to them, which is therapeutic for several reasons: It helps you take the burden off your chest, it helps you realize how ridiculous it might (or might not) sound and get a perspective that you probably hadn’t thought about before. If nothing else, it helps you get out of the house, have a drink and catch up with a friend you hadn’t seen in a while.

3. Meditate: Don’t roll your eyes and stay with me for a second here. It is extremely difficult to start meditating if you’ve never done it before, and I have first hand experience with this because after several months, I’m still trying! The 20 minutes per day that most people advise are a far away dream for me, however, even starting with 4-5 minutes will make a huge difference. I first thought about meditating to make myself sleep at night as I often find myself looking at the ceiling 2 hours after I laid in bed. You can find many tips online as to how to meditate, but I got my first cues from Arianna Huffington’s Thrive.

4. Get help: If you feel that the stress is getting worse and worse every day and that none of the usual tricks will do it for you, ask for help. Professional help. Go online and search the name of a good helpline that works on the issues that worry you. Call them. It’s a great first step in your path to feel better.