#apovgiftswap

So here I am – back with a bang! (or for those who know me well, a crash, bang, wallop! Either way, I have left you all for so long and I am terribly sorry to have left you in a lurch wondering if I would ever return but more on my little life update soon enough!

Today I want to let you know about a fabulous initiative I’m getting involved in after stepping back into the beautiful world of blogging. This fun opportunity involves swapping Christmas gifts with fellow bloggers whilst being able to network with one another, sharing ideas, happy thoughts and general positive vibes!

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This was something that I got involved with last year and I found it so much fun! It also enabled me to find out more about different blogs and writing styles which was so inspiring.

You’ll be able to see what I received closer to Christmas and I can’t wait to share my favourite Christmas gift ideas!

This year the gift swap is being organised by A Piece of Viola who has a fabulous Travel, Lifestyle and Fashion blog! Take a read by clicking here and if you fancy reading and discovering the blogs of those involved make sure you follow #apovgiftswap on Twitter.

Becky at Pretty & Petit

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New Year, New You – Focusing on myself one breath at a time in 2016

As part of my ‘New Year, New You’ series this month I’m asking bloggers to share their plans, tips and resolutions for 2016! 
So we’re approaching the end of January, and it’s gone so fast! With that, how are you getting on with your resolutions? I’m keeping on top of mine quite well, although healthy eating went out the window one morning when I decided to indulge in a packet of Mini Eggs for breakfast with the only valid reasoning of their limited supply on the supermarket shelves… 
Today Pouria is sharing his resolutions with us which I hope will provide some more inspiration on how to be more aware of our mind and social awareness in 2016! Let me know about your inspiration in the comments!
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Spending less time on social media and more on myself
I spend most of my day browsing Facebook status updates, posts, tweets and images. I follow friends, celebrities, influencers and every now and again random people on social media. I research them every day; I know them better than I know myself. That is not ok!
Fear of judgment and stigma prevented me from expressing myself and reaching out
I had a lot of ups and downs this year: personal, family and work. One pattern became obvious to me: I was scared of people judging me so I kept everything to myself. I never express things fully to my parents for obvious reasons! and I didn’t feel that close to my friends to share what was bothering me because they had judged me in the past. I opened up to my girl friend once and later on she used it against me! don’t see myself doing that again. 
In 2016, I would like to get closer to my friends and to also make new friends. I also like to share without the fear, even if they end up judging me. 

I now use Paralign to journal my thoughts, express myself, feel supported and support others.

I will meditate more

2015 I was pretty mindful but I could definitely be more. There were times where what happened on the outside, influenced my inner peace and clarity. I often dwelled on the past and things that were outside of my control made me anxious and sad. in 2016, I would like to learn more from this and let it happen less and less. in 2016, I will spend more time on my inner peace and harmony. I will try to listen more to my body and I will try to practice how to be more present. I will set aside 30 minute meditation time before going to bed and after waking up. Before going to bed to observe my day and assess what I learned. After waking up so I can start my day with a clear mind.
I tend to think just focusing on the breath can give us so much power; It is a simple phenomena yet it is so significant.
I will give back more
In 2015 I did a few volunteer work, donated money here and there and stood up for different causes. But I think I did that to mostly show off. I wasn’t authentic and I didn’t try hard to change some else’s life for the better.
In 2016, I would really like to dedicate good amount of my time to help others. Help high school students wanting to go to college. Helping lower income families make better decisions and helping unprivileged people live happier.
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Pouria has spent 8 years in health care, starting his career at UCSF and VA medical center helping advance predictions of Alzheimer’s, parkinson and epilepsy diseases through MRI and imaging technologies.  He built Paralign (http://paralign.me) based on his own journey and how he started to improve his life one thought at a time. He usually writes about powers of the mind and holistic approaches towards health.

New Year, New You – New Year, New Mindset!

As part of my ‘New Year, New You’ series this month I’m asking bloggers to share their plans, tips and resolutions for 2016! 

Today is the turn of Amy from Under the Surface who will be discussing New Year Resolutions, how to decide what they should be and how to have a happy and healthy 2016!

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I’m here to talk to everyone about New Year Resolutions. Resolutions are goals that people set themselves to complete in the course of a year and they are usually set on the 1st January. A lot of people set themselves relatively healthy and vague goals such as ‘this year I will be healthier’ or ‘this year I will get fit’. Those goals sound great and I want, with this post, to ensure that everyone is setting themselves achievable and healthy goals that will benefit your life in some way.

Firstly, when thinking about New Year Resolutions try to think of what is currently negatively impacting your life and set a goal to change that before adding in another aspect of your life. For example, if you are turning up late to work repeatedly or spending too much money then set yourself goals to fix those aspects of your life before incorporating healthy food and workouts as well  which are unlikely to help what is already negatively happening on a daily basis.

Please note that eating healthy, working out and all the other goals you may have set yourself are great and should be worked towards also. However, to feel the true benefits of a new year then focus on ridding yourself of the negative in your life and that alone will make you feel better. It may not be 100% where you want to be but it is a step in the right direction and after achieving these goals then you can incorporate eating less chocolate, going for more walks or anything else you may fancy.

The 1st of January has gone by so if you are setting yourself resolutions then it is likely you have done so by now. Take this time to look back on those resolutions and ensure they are achievable and that they truly will make you happy. If not, ask yourself what is truly making you unhappy and focus on changing that instead. You don’t have to set yourself a hundred goals or resolutions if you don’t want to. Just one achievable goal will have a tremendous impact.

Tweet me your goals at @Hadh0peAmyBlogs and let me know how your goals will change your life for the better!

Amy is an 18-year-old lifestyle blogger from Scotland, UK. She enjoys writing about various topics that she is passionate about including mental health. Other topics include book reviews, product reviews, personal posts and opinionated posts.

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You can read her blog over at: https://hadh0peamy.wordpress.com/ or give her a tweet @Hadh0peAmyBlogs

A Dream to Dance

When I was at secondary school, I absolutely loved to dance. It was one of the first extra curricular activities I joined, alongside studying music, it was my passion.

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Along with my friends at school, we attended early morning dance classes and practiced through our lunchtimes for annual dance performances and took part in once in a lifetime opportunities. Part of this was encouraged by our wonderful dance teacher, a woman so passionate about her dancing that it was inspirational and motivational to watch her perform – it made us want to have that same passion and she was why I think we were all so committed to attending those classes.

Along with school classes, I also attended a theatre school every Saturday called Theatre Train. I had trouble with my confidence so not only did this assist with this issue through drama, but we also enjoyed an hour of singing and an hour of dance. In 2006 I had the opportunity to perform at the Royal Albert Hall as part of a celebration called ‘Songs of the Century’, an incredible experience and certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity! To find your local Theatre Train group make sure you check out their website by clicking here.

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It wasn’t until my third year of University that I started to notice pain in my feet. There were days that I would struggle to walk to the main University building, less than a mile from where we lived. I took tablets to cope with the pain, but it got to the point where I just could not cope anymore. I visited my GP, who suggested I keep an eye on it and if the pain worsened to return but ultimately that I may need surgery. It was at this time that I started to use a splint on my big toe of my right foot, which I realise now has hindered my progress and caused more damage than good. Throughout this time, as I had been diagnosed with bunions I researched further into what they are. I always thought they were some sort of gross fungal infection!! Never realising they are actually to do with the main bones of your foot. As shown by the diagram below it is basically to do with the joint where your big toe joins the main part of your foot. Sometimes, due to bad footwear or other genetic problems, the joint ends up jutting out at an angle. This often is pain free and many go throughout their lifetime without experiencing any pain at all on the joint. In some cases however, it can cause significant pain similar to the feeling of arthritis where the joint becomes stiff and achy. This was how my feet ended up.

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In Summer 2012, I noticed the pain at this point was getting excruciating so headed back to the doctor. He put me on a course of Ibruprofen to ease the pain and referred me to my local hospital for xrays. I saw a surgeon who said they would need to operate and insert metalwork to straighten out the bones in my right foot. In November 2012, 3 years ago, I had my first (and what I thought at the time, my only) operation on my right foot. It was a day surgery which meant I could arrive in the morning, have the operation and be sent home the same day. It was a quick procedure performed under general anaesethic and I was on my way home by 5pm that day. As it was a simple procedure the healing time was fairly quick and 6 weeks later I was back at work.

Over the next year or so and despite the surgery, the pain lingered and on some days it was even worse than before. I went to my new GP based in London who referred me back to hospital. In March 2014 I had my appointment at Charing Cross Hospital, London. Whilst initially I had been referred for my left foot the surgeon took a look at my right foot and ultimately told me that it needed to redone as the initial procedure had not worked. They carried out some X rays and had found that the main bone of my foot was actually splitting due to the pressure of the bunion. It was at this time that they gave me crutches and I spent that March through to December 2014 using them. In July 2014 I had my operation and spent the summer recovering. It took a long time to heal. I had a cast on my leg and was in a wheelchair for 6 weeks. I promised myself I would never take walking for granted after experiencing this.

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I am currently awaiting hospital treatment to begin on my left foot which will again involve surgery and two months waiting for it to heal but this time I feel ready. I feel like I know what to expect now and I do feel some comfort in that. I do feel pain every day. It’s uncomfortable and frustrating but something I have learned to live with. Some days are better than others and I notice it is at its worse when it is cold and raining outside (which I can often tell before even opening the curtains some days!)

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As for my dancing? I would absolutely love to be able to dance again. Contemporary dance was my absolute favourite and I am starting to slowly work on my core strength to be able to attempt to dance in this way again one day. I definitely still dream of it. I have got to the point where I am visiting the gym on a weekly basis with the hope to join a dance class once my feet feel strong enough. Fingers (and toes!) crossed!

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This post has been submitted as an entry into the Dancewear Central competition. Dancewear Central is the UK’s number 1 dancewear specialist and provides a fantastic range of dancewear for all ages! There are lots of amazing deals on the site, perfect for dancers including up to 50% off 1000s of products on the site and free delivery on orders over £60! Make sure you check it out by clicking here.

Becky at Pretty & Petit

#LoveMe Challenge – Day 21

Prompts

Something you are proud of

Ok, so this might only be a little thing – and I’m only part of the way there, but I’m exceptionally proud of the fact that I passed my theory test for driving for the first time last weekend! I just couldn’t get to grips with the Hazard Perception part of the test at all in all my practise sessions, always clicking a second later or not scanning the screen properly, so I really revised this part of the test. I felt anxious before the exam too as with regard to the multiple choice section as least I could have some idea of what I would be asked whereas with the Hazard Perception it was more about spotting the hazards whilst on the road which is obviously more of a real life scenario!

On the multiple choice I got one question wrong which was the stopping distance in tunnels. It was the last question on the test and my mind just went totally blank! I managed the rest ok and made sure I checked all of my answers 3 times at least.

So, yey me! I’ll be on the road in no time 😉

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Becky at Pretty & Petit

#LoveMe Challenge – Day 20

Prompts

Something you love to wear

I love to experiment with different styles and colours. I absolutely love patterns whether that be a simple floral pattern or a unique printed pattern. I love to dress up in different items and definitely have a bit of a shopping addiction with the amount of clothes I own in my wardrobe!!!

My favourite international clothing brand has to be Black Milk clothing. Based in Australia, they offer an amazing range of unique printed items. Over the years I have collected Disney princess leggings, snowflake leggings, a Christmas ribbon printed dress, a pumpkin printed dress and a spiderweb skirt. I absolutely love how each item is handmade and is made with such care. I always feel like every item I receive from them is of the highest quality.

My favourite type of clothing has to be the A-line skirt which I often wear with bardot tops for a cute, girly outfit. I often wear a black striped skirt with a black bardot top which has a particularly Parisian feel!

My favourite A-Line skirts..

Warehouse Metallic Paisley Print Skirt - £38

Warehouse Metallic Paisley Print Skirt – £38

Monki A-line 70'S Suede Skirt - £60

Monki A-line 70’S Suede Skirt – £60

River Island 70'S Geo Zip Front Mini Skirt - £30

River Island 70’S Geo Zip Front Mini Skirt – £30

Embroidered Jacquard A Line Mini Skirt in Black - £25

Embroidered Jacquard A Line Mini Skirt in Black – £25

Red Abstract Jacquard Woven A-Line Skirt - £10

Red Abstract Jacquard Woven A-Line Skirt – £10

Do you have any particular favourite items of clothing?

Becky at Pretty & Petit

#LoveMe Challenge – Day 19

Prompts

Something You feel strongly about

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I seriously dislike the word ‘hate’. I don’t feel like I ‘hate’ anything. There are things that make me feel uncomfortable and there are things that I dislike – certain tastes or smells for example, but I would never say that I ‘hate’ them. I also feel extremely uncomfortable when people talk about their hatred for other people. How can anyone justify their hatred of someone? Usually a feeling of ‘hatred’ stems historically or through a feeling of peer pressure, through isolated groups attacking one other. When asking someone why they feel the anger that they do I would bet 9 times out of 10 at least that they would not be able to reasonably justify their answer.

Hate is such a negative word. How can anyone be happy when they use it? How can anyone think positively and work towards a brighter future and better relationships when using it? I found an interesting definition of the word which interpreted the word as stemming from fear, anger or sense of injury. At least two of those words are associated with the person using the word feeling threatened by those they are targeting. I wonder if the same can be said for current situations in the world, whether action is being taken through fear or the sense of being threatened with injury or even death. It’s a thought worth considering. It could also be interpreted as a sign of weakness, and therefore that hatred can be stemmed through a feeling of weakness. The third word, anger, is often incorrectly associated with hatred but in fact these are two very different feelings and emotions. It can be argued however, that extreme anger is a form of hatred as severe action is carried out at this point.

In psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud defined hate as an ego state that wishes to destroy the source of its unhappiness. Although many psychologists believe hatred to be a form of attitude rather than a temporary emotional state.

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How do you feel about the word ‘hate’? Is there anything you feel strongly about?

Becky at Pretty & Petit

#LoveMe Challenge – Day 17

Prompts

Something that feeds your soul

Acts of kindness, sharing and giving are all definite things that feed my soul. I like to motivate and inspire people. Through my current job I feel I inspire young people into looking into different career paths through different areas of study. I try and encourage them to think outside of the box by thinking about their skills and then associate them to different careers. I really like to motivate and inspire particularly those who feel as though they may have lost their way slightly or are unsure of what they would like to do in the future.

For special occasions I enjoy creating gift hampers for people. I recently created a wedding hamper filled with treats for a friend of mine. For my sisters birthday I created a hamper full of her favourite things decorating the top with a chalkboard as she has just started a new job in a primary school. I really enjoy personalising gifts and to show that I have put some thought into them.

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Do you create your own gifts? I’d love to hear some of your ideas for personalising your gifts.

Becky at Pretty & Petit

#LoveMe Challenge – Day 15

Prompts

Something You have done right

I have always wanted to work in events. I am quite a creative person and so to have the ability to develop ideas through events and to create something others can enjoy is such a passion of mine. I have recently been promoted into an events role which I feel is something I have done right!

I feel that throughout my career path I have developed a whole range of skills. Studying a degree in media, I enjoyed the different topics but I felt unsure as to what role I could go into upon graduation. On leaving university I wanted to develop my administrative skills and so started off by working in an estate agent, developing my digital skills and customer service skills. From this, I found that I particularly enjoyed the marketing aspect of my role and so, developing my knowledge through a qualification in marketing I moved into the role of Marketing Assistant at a busy college in central London. Over the past few years I have developed this role, managing internal events and attending careers fairs nationwide. I recently received a promotion which means I can now take more responsibility in my role which is really exciting. I look forward to producing lots of creative events going forward and really developing my role further.

Becky at Pretty & Petit

#LoveMe Challenge – Day 14

Prompts

Share a fear You overcame

The biggest fear I am learning to overcome is my fear of open space. This is a fear that occurred literally overnight and at some points I couldn’t even walk to work I felt so anxious. It has been difficult to face my fear. The most difficult aspect being that I could not understand my fear. How going to the park for example, a once normal thing to do, can be the equivalent of going on the most terrifying rollercoaster or seeing the biggest spider (for those who have a fear of those things!) I found it really difficult and daunting and when faced with a situation like that now if it is a large, open expanse of space I think I would still prefer to go round it rather than through it. I am however, slowly but surely overcoming this fear and feel like I take a little step further each day. With my new position at work I have to visit new places on an almost daily basis and many of these times I do not know what scenario I may be faced with; large school halls for example are one thing that I have found challenging. I also have a fear of escalators and especially dislike going up high escalators on the underground which can make travelling extremely frustrating! I feel like I have to plan every journey in advance to avoid particular stations which can be annoying sometimes, especially as it was a fear that I literally developed overnight. I am slowly but surely learning to overcome it by travelling on the tube with friends when I can and using escalators in other environments. I do feel however, with each challenge comes another step onto conquering my fears and I am exceptionally proud of myself for that.

Top Tips for overcoming your fear

  • Face your fear – It sounds like the complete opposite of what you want to do and it will feel a little uncomfortable. After a while though you will get used to the environment and find your anxiety easing.
  • Get some support – Take a friend or family along with you. They can help to distract you from your fear or discuss it with you to try and ease your anxiety.
  • Remember to breathe – Take deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth. Concentrate on regulating your breathing.
  • Concentrate on something else – If I feel anxious in an open space I usually concentrate on something like a work task or upcoming blog post. I also try and think of something calming such as a recent holiday. I also try and tell myself that the anxiety won’t last and it will be over soon.
  • Speak to your doctor – Do not be afraid to ask for help, whatever your fear may be or however silly you may think your fear is (Anyone can fear the most normal of things – take my example of escalators!) CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is particularly effective. Ask for further information from your GP.

Have you overcome any fears? I would love to hear your top tips!

Becky at Pretty & Petit