Beauty Tips

Something’s Got To Give – And It Better Not Be Me

somethings-got-to-give-2

I’ve always rather prided myself that I wasn’t one of those people who habitually – or even occasionally – lose their phone. (If you’ve ever lived with a teenager, chances are you know one of those.) But a few days ago, distracted after a work event, I left my phone in an office that was then locked up for the night. Unfortunately, this was in Manchester – and I was flying to Dublin next morning. There was nothing for it: my phone and I had to be parted, at least temporarily.

It took a lot of deep, rhythmic breathing to accept that this wasn’t, actually, the end of the world as I know it – because like most of us, I have become wedded to my phone. (I blame Steve Jobs, but there you go.) But over the coming hours, I realised: I’m an addict. Utterly dependent. And it ain’t healthy.

‘Oh, I’ll just call Craig [husband] and explain why he can’t get hold of me.’ Only of course, I couldn’t. (Though I could at least remember his phone number, unlike 99.9% of those in my address book.) Beyond that, I couldn’t Instagram, or Facebook, or even take a photo. I couldn’t add to my Ocado order. I had to meditate – WITHOUT ANDY PUDDICOMBE’S SOOTHING TONES COMING FROM MY HEADSPACE APP. And most guttingly of all, I wasn’t notching up any steps, because my Health App was sitting sedentarily in someone’s office drawer, on my iPhone. Aaaargh, aaaargh, double-aaargh! Read More…

The Joy Of Routine

faceless clock

Thanks, Julianne Moore. Why? For a little phrase she quoted in an interview with a Sunday supplement recently, which really helped put my daily life back on track. Actually, it sounds a lot less poncy to quote a Hollywood actress than a French author – but in truth, the quote belongs to Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary, etc.) It reads: ‘Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’

Now, what Gustave/Julianne mean isn’t actual violence as in thumping your colleagues, of course. It means creativity, inspiration, spark. And what this reminded me of is how hard it is to tap into that when your life’s in disarray and chaos. So I promptly printed this out, pinned it to my office wall – and even Instagrammed it. (@jofairley, if you’re interested. Got lots of likes, it did, too.) Read More…

The Joy Of Sea-Bathing

september beach writing

My friends think I’m mad. (Yes, I know, I know.) But I’m not, actually – or at least, in respect of my habit of sea-bathing. Because I happen to have the ocean at the end of my road, on the South Coast – a ten-minute saunter away. And between around the beginning of June and late October, unless the red flag’s actually flying, I’m in there. Not for hours – just five or ten minutes or so. Ideally at lunchtime, with a snack and a bottle of water – or maybe tea-time, depending on high tide.

Over the years I’ve lived here, I’ve become convinced of the benefits of swimming in the sea – and am only surprised that more people don’t follow our lead. (The other half of ‘our’ being my husband, the ‘equally mad’ Craig – or so friends would have it; sometimes it’s the only daylight time we get to spend together, between morning tea and dinner – despite the fact we work in adjoining offices.) Read More…

Embracing Change

torn lined paper

‘A change is as good as a rest,’ we’re often told. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that; nothing quite rivals a good lie-down (preferably for two weeks, right around now, with a stack of books to read). But over the years I’ve learned to embrace change in a way that I never would have expected when I was growing up. I loathed change. I wanted everything to be the same, always and forever. As disasters unfolded (my mother’s death, my father selling our beloved childhood home, other relationships unravelling), I realised: change was pretty unavoidable. But I can’t say I came to like it much, even then.

You might have heard me share my love of yoga on VH in the past – but I do think that it was when I seriously started to practice that I truly learned to go with the flow. One of my favourite yoga teachers (hilarytotah.co.uk) has a wonderful saying, which I truly subscribe to: ‘Flexible spine, flexible mind.’ And I do honestly think that yoga enables me to deal with everything the universe throws at me, and adjust to the ever-changing landscape of my life.

Recently, I’ve had a couple of changes to deal with – one small, one more impactful. Someone who worked for one of my businesses landed her dream job – and was leaving pretty quickly, to take up her new role. I wouldn’t dream of trying to change someone’s mind when they make an announcement like that; by contrast, when someone’s decided to move on, they’re mentally half-way into the new job and I’ve learned to let them go as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it was going to leave a hole which everyone else was going to have to work that big harder to fill, short-term ­– including me.

We’d been all bobbing along quite happily, taking the status quo for granted – and suddenly, it was change-a-go-go. But after 24 hours wondering how to fill her job, I had a flash of realisation. We didn’t have to find someone to sit in an office in London – which in turn meant I had to trek up from the seaside for a few days a week, mostly to make that person feel motivated and ‘loved’. Before launching this venture, I’d always run my businesses close to home – and suddenly, the possibility opened up to do so again. (Infinitely my preferred option to spending a lot of time in bustling, polluted, overcrowded central London.) By staying calm – largely thanks to yoga and meditation, I’m 100% convinced – rather than run round like a headless chicken, in panic mode, I was able to see that this change really was a golden opportunity to do things better. And so often, I’ve discovered, that’s the way it turns out – if you embrace the change, rather than fight it tooth and nail every step of the way. When you become stressed and angst-y, it creates a type of mental paralysis – and you can’t see beyond the here and now.

The other change was pretty trivial, by comparison. It involved a tree. Or half a tree, laden with plums, that broke off when it got weighted down in a torrential rainstorm a couple of weeks ago. Trouble was, I’d built my much-loved shed under the shade of that tree – the only flat, shady place in my garden. Suddenly, there’s no shade. If I want to lie and read a book (are you sensing a theme, here?), then I now have to do it in sunshine. There’s something about losing a tree – or even half a tree – which, while it’s nowhere up there with losing a human being, is still incredibly upsetting. It makes a garden look like its two front teeth have been knocked out. (Old enough to remember the hurricane of 1989? There were countless homeowners and park-lovers who suffered from a kind of PTSD after all those trees blew down.)

I could’ve cried. I could’ve got hysterical. I could’ve raged. (Against the eternally unpredictable elements.) But instead, I decided once again to embrace the change. Look on it as the universe’s way of telling me to get a bit more vitamin D. To appreciate the way it opened up a view I hadn’t had before. To give that bit of the garden a little makeover (while also being grateful that the half-a-tree had missed my shed by millimetres).

What I’ve definitely learned about change, though, is that in order to be able to deal with it, I have to have in place a fundamental routine – my ‘wellbeing’ building blocks, if you like. Taking my supplements, every day (as advised by Shabir, of course!) Walking daily. Doing somewhere between 10-15 minutes of meditation every morning, while my Rare Tea Speedy Breakfast brews, in preparation for powering me through my morning. Yoga, at least every Friday (and more, if I can manage it). I also need to spend an hour a week in the aforementioned (and now sunlit) shed, writing letters and cards to friends (and feeling grateful, as I do so).

These are things that fuel my body, my soul and my mind – and knowing I will be doing them day after day, year after year, not only helps to ensure that I’m as healthy as possible, but sets me up for dealing with the other, way more unpredictable things in my life. Only twice in my life have I experienced a can’t-get-off-the-sofa depression (both after broken hearts) – but I’m convinced it was by establishing a routine every day that I could depend on that got me through it, when life felt deeply rocky and uncertain.

We never know what life will throw at us – and we’re often told that what matters isn’t what happens to us, but how we deal with it. I couldn’t agree more. But it was Stephen Hawking, no less, who once simply said: ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’

I’ll take that, Professor…

How To Stay Cool At Night

black ceiling fan

Somehow you don’t expect to return from a goddaughter’s wedding jaunt to Mallorca to find that the nights back in Blighty are even more sweltering than they were in Deia. Now, I’m not good in the heat. During the day, I cope by moving very s-l-o-w-l-y, glugging what feels like gallons of water – and if I’m too hot at night, I simply can’t sleep. Almost nothing I hate more than tossing and turning, glued to my sheets.

So: keeping cool on steamy summer nights has become something of a specialist subject for me, over the years. Air conditioning’s a) an environmental no-no, b) generally noisy (outside of the most five-star of hotels) and c) unsightly. (As anyone who’s ever looked up from a New York pavement can confirm.) Here’s what I’ve found works. Read More…

The Healing Powers Of Illness

Flowers

Many years ago I read a book which made a deep impression on me. It was called The Healing Power of Illness, by a German doctor called Rüdiger Dahlke. Highly controversial, it suggested that when we get sick – or even have an accident – it’s not just random, but we’re in some way responsible for what’s happened to us. (The book, incidentally, can still be sourced via Amazon.)

This is an attitude which prevails in my house, where my beloved and very caring husband goes into complete lack-of-sympathy mode when anyone in the family is ill. You’re lucky if you get a glass of water out of him, so convinced is he that you’ve brought the cold/flu/norovirus on yourself. (Mostly by allowing your immune system to become depleted enough to fall victim to a virus or bacterium. The right diet, exercise and enough sleep should keep illness at bay, he believes – and the thing is, he’s almost certainly at least partly right.) Read More…