5 STEPS FOR CREATING THE PERFECT MORNING ROUTINE

People always talk about which side you get out of bed on as a factor for deciding whether you have a bad, good or great day. And while yes, sleep and what you do in your bed is essential to feeling refreshed and full of energy, for me, what I do immediately after getting up is just as important to a great day. My morning routine used to suck – it was all about getting as much sleep as possible and then running to work with a piece of toast in one hand and a coffee in the other. This was kind of cause and effect because I was going to bed late which set me back completely. But as many of you will have read, last year I decided it was time to become a morning person. You can read about that here. Most of the things I talked about in that post covered the concept of how to plan your evening so that getting up was easier. And all of those things have genuinely helped me. But while investing in your evenings (i.e. sleep) is essential to feeling good, so is designing your mornings so they are inspiring and put you in good stead to combat what the day is sure to throw at you! As work life has intensified lately, mornings have become even more sacred. If I start the day without my routine, these days I feel like crawling under the desk and crying by 2pm. Seriously.

Morning routines

1. Make Time
Feeling like I can take time to wake up and enjoy the early hours has utterly changed my outlook on not just the morning but the whole day. I guess I covered it in my last post but jumping out of bed and rushing to work definitely doesn’t help you calibrate for what the day will throw in your face. The key here is to set your sleeping rhythms so that you wake up earlier naturally (or with a nudge of some music or alarm), and just force yourself initially to get up. There’s not much of a way around this other than to go to bed earlier. Those few extra hours (or even just 30 mins!) will set you up for a great day.

2.Ban Work
This can be a hard one, but try not to view your mornings as an extension of your work day, no matter how busy you are. This goes for everyone from students to freelancers to professionals. Think of them as special and just for you. Avoid checking emails, looking at Instagram or anything that could have your brain forced into work mode. Better yet, start a 8pm – 8am screen ban so that you can shut the world out completely.

3. Get moving
Nothing is better than getting the blood flowing first thing in the morning. If you get the chance, do something that helps you sweat so that you can wake yourself up and kick start your metabolism. I often try booking myself in for a class that I can’t get out of – it’s a great way to lock yourself into a morning routine, and if that can’t happen even just a bit of stretching will help you feel great. My regime changes all the time but no matter how much I just wanna stay in bed, my outlook is a zillion times better when I’ve sweated a bit in the morning. And yes, before you groan at the thought – relaxing on the couch with a book every few days is great too. 😉

4. Feed your body
Making breakfast and having time to actually sit down and eat it is a probably not something many of us get to do that often. In the past when I was rushing to work breakfast was the last thing on my mind and I often found myself eating Starbucks banana bread on the bus… Not a great way to start the day! Making a good breakfast takes a bit of prep because you need to make sure you have the right ingredients in the fridge the night before – these days I’m all about poached eggs and wilted spinach – but it’s so worth it. Even something at *basic* as avocado on toast is a great start to the day.

5. Just add water
I know everyone talks about lemon water, but IMO I struggle to think it makes much difference whether it has lemon, seaweed, cucumber or crushed Himalayan wild flowers in it – for me it’s the water part that’s going to make you feel good.

6. Feed your soul
In my last life post we talked about mindfulness, and the morning is the best time to have a crack at meditation and set yourself up for an anxiety free day. My mum has done light meditation every morning for years, and I truly think it helped her keep work and life related stresses at bay. This is something I’m yet to master but hoping I can by the end of the year. Onwards and upwards!

What do you do to start the day right? Any other ideas for how I can improve my mornings?

BEFORE & AFTER: DIY FLARED SLEEVE TOP

In today’s episode of take this, make that – aka the before & afters, we finally got around to creating one of the iconic shapes of the season. The flared sleeve. Initially I was undecided on this silhouette, I felt that maybe it was a little dramatic for the every day, but over time it seems to have seeped into my thoughts. A case of the more you see it the more you like it. And hence, time to try a hand at it ourselves. Yet another project created from a plain black shift dress, clearly a nun or perhaps Greek widow has donated her wardrobe to our local thrift store… Thank you whoever you are!

DIY Flared Sleeve Top

Take this, make that:

DIY Flared Sleeve Top

How to:

  1. First, cut the dress off at hip height. Also, cut the sleeves of the dress to just below elbow length.

Before and after bell sleeve top

2. You’ll be left with a tube of fabric that you want to cut in half longways to create two pieces of fabric. These will become your sleeves.

Before and after bell sleeve top

3. Line up the sleeve with one of the panels of fabric, doubled over. Make sure to orientate the hem towards the outside.

Before and after bell sleeve top

4.  Draw a line from the outer edge of the panel of fabric to the sleeve. Cut away excess.

Before and after bell sleeve top

5. Pin the new edge of the flared sleeve together and sew along it.

Before and after bell sleeve top

6. It should match up with the sleeve of the dress.

Before and after bell sleeve top

7.  Pin together inside out, and then sew down.

Before and after bell sleeve top

Voila!

DIY Flared Sleeve Top

Photos by Nicola Lemmon

EVENT: JOIN ME AT J CREW IN HONG KONG

Hi guys! I’ve got a few emails recently from many of you about our upcoming workshops, and although we’re yet to finalise the upcoming public ones, I’m excited to be hosting a fun get together at J Crew in Hong Kong next Wednesday night (the 9th). There will be design your own cocktails, a Swarovski hot pressing station and lots of yummy nibbles, as well as 20% off J Crew pieces (including that bag I love so much) during the evening. I’m looking forward to meeting a few more readers in person and this is a great opportunity to do that. Hoping I get to see a few of your there. xx

Time: 7pm until 9pm
Date: Wednesday, September 9th
Location: J Crew in IFC Mall, Hong Kong

Rsvp to – rsvp@apairandasparediy.com

*Note that the rsvp address on the original invitation was incorrect.

Guide to Hong Kong with J Crew www.apairandasparediy.comINT1574_HK_GenevaVenderzeilInflurancerEvent_PDF_FA15;6Guide to Hong Kong with J Crew www.apairandasparediy.com

Pics by Marion from a little while back – still one of my fave easy outfits!

A QUICK (BEGINNERS) GUIDE TO MINDFULNESS

Don’t worry I’m not turning all hippie on you guys. Ok maybe just a little. In a world of distractions and new apps we can’t get enough of (snapchat…) it’s now harder than ever to do nothing, or even just one thing at a time. I think we’ve all established that. Meditation and mindfulness aren’t new (obviously), but the more entrenched in the online world I become the more I think I need them. Although meditation might seem a little new age to the uninitiated, there’s scientific evidence it’s effective in helping with stress, anxiety and focus and helping us to be more creative. We can all use some of that can’t we? As part of this year’s goal to be more present and give my brain a break (remember this?) I completed a meditation course in Thailand a little while ago, but for a while was too busy to put what I learned into practice.

Ok so what is mindfulness? In a nutshell it’s about ‘Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement.’ Or even more simply (for us beginners) being fully in the moment. The simplicity of the idea as opposed to other meditation practices was the big attraction for me. Recently I’ve tried to put into practice what I learnt on my course, and thought I would put a bit of it on paper for you to (perhaps) get some use out of. Here’s to less brain drain!

a quick guide to mindfulness
1. Breath

So the usual suggestion is to ‘just sit observing your breath for 30 minutes’ Say what??? I don’t know about you but my breathing definitely isn’t that interesting! Instead, I start with 10 mins. Find a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes, and start paying attention to your breathing. In-breath verses out-breath. How long are they? 3, 4 or 5 seconds? Do you breathe mostly with your chest or more with your stomach? In and out your nose or in through your nose and out through your mouth? It doesn’t matter. Don’t force it. Just breathe and simply recognize the in-breathing and out-breathing. It has a surprisingly calming effect. I use this a lot when I can’t fall asleep, counting to five for each breath, and find it works a treat!

2. Take note of all your senses

Once you feel comfortable with the breathing exercise, and can focus for the full 10mins without too much ‘mind wandering’, start taking note of your other senses and try 15mins. What can you hear? Noisy neighbours, traffic, construction, a bird, a dog? Again it doesn’t matter, it is just about observing. Think about the feeling of the floor under your feet, the seat beneath you and your arms resting across your body or by your side. This one was really hard for me. Living in Hong Kong there is constant noise. I kept thinking I can only hear bad noises like traffic and construction and yelling! No birds or waves or children laughing! But try not to judge. There are no good or bad noises. Just be aware of them all.

3. Body scan

Once you’ve mastered the first 2 steps add this in. Think about each body part individually and how it feels. I like to start with my feet and work up. Take note of its position, any tingling, can you feel a pulse? Where this gets tricky is if you feel uncomfortable or have an itch that needs scratching, or any aches or pains. Just like the noises, try to be aware without judgement. This is also helpful when you find yourself in stressful situations in real life.

4. Implement into daily life

Too busy to set aside 10-20mins a day? Try implementing mindfulness into other aspects of your daily life. Focus on breathing, your senses and what is happening around you at that very moment. Not a work deadline or bill you need to pay. Stay in the moment. I try my best to do this when waiting to meet someone or on the bus/train. Must-resist-urge-to-look-at-phone! And if you think your life is just too frantic, remember this little quote: “You should sit in meditation for 20 mins every day – unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” Ermagherd that so me! :)

5. It’s ok to get distracted sometimes.

It happens. You are focusing on your breathing and suddenly you think about what you want for dinner… Don’t worry this is inevitable and it will get easier with practice. At least this is what my meditation teacher told me! Just try to gently let go of that distracting thought and pull your attention back to your breathing and your body. Sometimes I find I get my best ideas when I day dream and let my mind wander so it’s not always such a bad thing…

5 steps to Mindfulness 5 steps to Mindfulness

If only life was a series of meditation appropriate jetties…. Most of the time it’s me staring at the walls of my tiny apartment! 😉

Photos by Nicola Lemmon