10 Ways to Find Balance in Your Life

Hello my lovelies! Firstly, I must begin with an apology for my prolonged absence the past few weeks; anyone who visits often will have noticed my inactivity on here and I’d hate you to think I’m neglecting you all.

The truth is, no matter much I view the world through my own rose-tinted lens and actively seek out pleasure each day, sometimes circumstances can be beyond our control and life can get a little stressful. The dichotomy of my serious political day job and my evening fashion, writing and blogging pursuits are not, I’ll admit, a common combination, but I love the balance of the two and generally merrily juggle each side-by-side. But right now, my day job (to which I am nothing but loyal) is taking a little* more of my time and energy than normal, so other pursuits, by necessity, had to receive less attention.

But because life is rarely constant (and really, wouldn’t it be boring if it were), I’ve been reminding myself of a few important lessons  (and learning some others) about finding balance. So when life throws you a curveball or things get hectic, here are 10 ways to find a sense of calm and happiness amidst the stress:

1. Get organised. When things get hectic, it can be all too easy to try and avoid dealing with the situation (a fast route to chaos!). Instead, take stock and neutralise the situation as best as you can by getting organised. Break things into smaller, manageable chunks and set daily ‘to do’ lists you can work towards each day. As humans, we are naturally spurred on by success, so it is immensely satisfying to tick things off like a series of mini-accomplishments.  Re-assess each day until things calm down, and take control of any situation before it escalates.

2. Set limits. Recently, I found myself working 60 hour weeks as the norm in my day job which, after travel, sleep and basic daily tasks, left just one hour to do everything else I enjoy each day (which explains why things got a little quite around here…). Needless to say, I was tired, stressed, mentally exhausted and frankly un-productive, and realised that running myself down was helping no one. Because everyone can only be stretched so much, I’m now making it a rule to set limits to what I can reasonably achieve in a day be as strict with those boundaries.

3. Switch off and take time to recharge. When I leave the office each day, I put some happy tunes on my ipod and use the journey home to literally switch from ‘work’ to ‘home’ mode. I’m trying to find moments, no matter how brief, to recharge with some peace and quiet; a good book, a yoga session or wind-in-my-hair bike ride, a favourite movie or a non-essential activity that makes me smile (because no one needs afternoon tea with girlfriends, but oh how fun it is!) If you’re not getting enough ‘happy’ time in your schedule, then literally block out some time (and stick to it!) in your diary each day or week to do something just for you the same way you would any other important appointment.

4. Make peace with the word ‘no'; embrace ‘yes’. When you’re already over-stretched, it’s entirely acceptable to put yourself first and say ‘no’ to absolutely any invitation you’re not enthused about or eliminate things which add little value or pleasure to your life. One of the great joys of being a grown-up is that we’re allowed to say ‘no’ if we want to, and not feel guilty because of it. Conversely, life sometimes throws up wonderful opportunities at the most unexpected moments, so recognise the surprise chances when they come along and say ‘yes’ to a few new things outside of your normal routine. They might just lead you to something wonderful!

5. Be kind to yourself. When stress kicks in, your body goes into ‘emergency’ mode and releases a high dose of cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) which, over longer periods, can have detrimental effects on your cognitive processes, weight and metabolism, immune system, skin and just about every other important bodily function. Be sure to counteract the effects by being as good to yourself as you can; eat properly (that means vitality-boosting, nutrient-rich meals rather than reaching for the sugary ‘stress snacks’), get enough rest (because no one can function properly when they’re tired and run-down), make time for your grooming rituals (because when you look good, you’ll feel good), get some exercise (happy endorphins and stress-release), and generally treat yourself with kindness.

6. Nurture an optimistic outlook. Sometimes when things get really hectic, optimism doesn’t flow as freely. But here’s the thing: while optimism seems to come more naturally to some than others, positivity is still a choice. Actively choose to view things more optimistically, and it will be easier to recognise difficult situations as an opportunity to grow and learn a new life lesson, rather than the disaster a pessimist may perceive them to be.

7. Treat yourself to a few small pleasures. Sometimes, a bit of pampering does wonders for a stressed disposition. When things threaten to get too much, I book myself straight in for a massage (my ultimate stress relief), buy myself some cheering flowers, and indulge in a small treat I’ve been longing for. It needn’t be expensive, but it’s important to show yourself kind gestures when you need a little spirit-lifting.

8. Surround yourself with those who uplift you. Who we are is so often a reflection of the company we keep, so make sure that company truly makes you smile and encourages you to be the best version of you (here’s a secret: that person we all know who secretly wants you to fail to make themselves feel better? It’s totally okay to let them go, guilt-free). If you’re having a particularly stressful week, make time to nurture your relationships and see someone you love or send a thoughtful note to a treasured friend.

9. Send out some love. Tell someone you adore just how much you appreciate them, send a surprise letter to a friend, help someone in need, pay a stranger a compliment or practise random acts of kindness. Doing something nice for others releases seretonin (the hormone responsible for feelings of bliss) in the brain, so you’ll feel happier while making someone else’s day too.

10. Feel gratitude. When feeling overwhelmed, focus on all the wonderful things you have already achieved and already have and those positives will in turn appreciate in value. Be grateful for the wonderful things – big or small – that already fill your life and you’ll find a deeper sense of happiness even when things around you are stressful.

How do you find serenity and balance when things get stressful?

Love, Miss B xx

* translation: a lot!

Leopard Print and High Heels at The Bookshop

Here in England, the weather has been positively balmy considering we’re in the depths of winter. Although a snowstorm is forecast for tomorrow (I have my fingers crossed for a snow day!), it’s been so mild I could just about get away without tights (a winter miracle in this country) for those days when I’m cycling around town.

Although my default mode come winter is to hibernate indoors as luxuriously as I can, I do occasionally peel myself away for various dates with friends, walks or trips to the cosiest cafes and bookshops I can find. This little gem called The Haunted Bookshop (it is really this tiny) is one of my favourite Cambridge spots and is just made for wintery afternoons spend rummaging through dusty shelves for a vintage literary treasure.

Of course, it is entirely unnecessary to dress up for lazy weekend pursuits, but in my book that’s what makes it even more special. I always get a slightly smug satisfaction out of shopping for groceries, doing my laundry, having weekend brunch (or other such ordinary activities) in lipstick and high heels and jewels when everyone else is in their casual weekend uniform (not that there is anything wrong with that!).

And if you ask me, trips to tiny booshops should always me made in 60s-style dresses and leopard print heels.

Wearing: Vivetta dress (from Audrey Grace Boutique), Lulu Guinness book clutch, Kurt Geiger leopard ponyskin heels (from last season, but similar style here), Michael Kors watch, Jersey Pearl bracelet, Topshop leopard print coat (not seen, but similar style here). 

Do you like to dress up for your favourite lazy weekend activities?

Love, Miss B xx

Thank you Sarah for helping with these photos!

10 Ways To Sparkle More in 2013

Happy New Year my lovelies! I hope you all had a wonderful start to the year? (I kicked mine off as I mean to go on: with loved ones, fireworks, pink champagne and a lot of sparkles).

If there is one time of year that enables us to completely shift our perspective on things, it’s the prospect of a clean slate a new year brings. In 2013, I resolve to view the world through rose-tinted glasses; to find joy in small pleasures and to be a better version of myself. Here are a few of my favourite ways to fastrack to a sparklier year:

1. Don’t save your favourite things for ‘a special occasion’. Life is the special occasion! Treat every day like a party and wear a tangle of your treasures necklaces, a cluster of your grandmother’s brooches, or your favourite party dresses each day.

2. Be kind to your body. Get enough sleep and sunshine, eat well, drink gallons of water and move about. You’ll not only be overflowing with energy, but look gorgeous and radiant too.

3. Practise random acts of kindness. Tell a stranger in the street how great they look, leave a little note with a tip at your local cafe saying how much you adore their cake, volunteer for a worthy local cause. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but doing lovely, selfless things often will make you smile on the inside.

4. Always buy yourself a bunch of flowers. They needn’t be expensive (in spring, I love nothing more than $2 bunches of daffodils and white narcissi on my windowsill), but they will add a loveliness to your home which belies their cost.

5. Reinvigorate your look. If you’re in wardrobe rut, make an effort to do your hair and put on your cutest heels for no particular reason at all. You’ll spend the day feeling that little bit lovelier.

6. Don’t let grey skies get you down. Treat it as an excuse to wear a poppy pink lipstick, an adorable umbrella and perhaps a shot of pastel or fuschia in your outfit (the same optimistic rules apply to bad days).

7. Don’t get stuck in a rut; tweak your everyday routines to make them special rituals. Can’t function without your morning tea or coffee? Have it in your prettiest china instead so it feels like you’re having a tea party every single morning!

8. One day every week (without fail), go on a date with someone you love. It doesn’t need to be grand or over the top. Why not go someone fabulous with your best friend on pay day every single month for a single cocktail? Or get dressed up and go and see a musical you’ve been wanting to see for ages all by yourself? Or a bike ride at sunset with your loved one? Whatever it is, make time for special moments with the people you love.

9. Literally add some sparkle to your home. Buy yourself some (affordable) art that makes you smile. Treasure-hunt some beautiful vintage pink cocktail glasses. String some fairy lights around your doorways, or DIY it and make a garland of glittery bunting to string up across your wall.

10. If you’re feeling uninspired, broaden your horizons. Make plans to take a trip to a city you’ve always wanted to explore, visit a new museum in your area, or go to your favourite bookstore for something wonderful to read this week. Instant inspiration!

Lulu Guinness lips clutch (c/o), Jimmy Choo heels, vintage 1950s pink champagne glasses (found on ebay), ASOS earrings, vintage crystal brooches, Jennifer Loiselle ‘oui’ brooch, pink glass candle votives from Catbird.

What are your goals and plans for the year ahead? Wishing you all a wonderful 2013!

Love, Miss B xx

(This is an edited version of an article I wrote for the Glitter Guide last New Year. See the original post here.)

Glittering Festivities

Here in England, I’ve been in fully-fledged festive mode for the past week. Despite long hours in the office each day, I’ve been cramming in nightly playings of all my favourite festive tunes (Frank, Bing and Dean), having cosy Christmas movie marathons (It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Love Actually, A Muppet Christmas Carol…), ice skating (badly) at the outdoor rink, wearing glitter and sparkles with everything, and generally making the most of this wonderful time of the year.

Last weekend, I met up with some of my favourite blog friends for an all-day festive girl date. We began with shopping and the Christmas windows at Liberty (my favourite London department store), black cab rides in the rain, walks through the West End (amidst, inexplicably, thousands of chaps dressed as Santa), afternoon cocktails overlooking Trafalgar Square, dinner at the National Gallery and my very favourite Christmas tradition, the English National Ballet’s performance of The NutcrackerAs well as those festive rituals I already treasure each year, I love the English Christmas traditions I’m now making my own; the novelty Christmas jumper (which is simultaneously fun and hideously bad taste) – this bedazzled version is my 2012 version, mulled wine, and hearing the glorious choir sing carols from Kings College in Cambridge.

Now, I’m tucked inside my family’s place in London for a few nights of cosy laziness, too much of my Uncle’s good food, walks along the Thames and board game marathons until midnight.

And with that, I wish you all a very happy festive season (whatever you celebrate).

Wearing: Topshop crystal-embellished jumper, Uniqlo oxford shirt, Witchery skirt (old), Chanel shoes, 2.55 bag and crystal ring, Mimco necklace and clear bangle, Michael Kors Paris watch, Lulu Frost for J. Crew bracelet, bow hair clip from Tokyo, Chanel ‘Malice’ nail polish, Mac ‘Ruby Woo’ lipstick, the smile of an excited child at Christmas.

Love, Miss B xx