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31 Free or Cheap Activities You Can Do This Summer For Fun

There are often times in our lives when we have to watch the pennies and feel the pinch in our wallets. Here are 31 free or cheap activities you can do this summer for fun:

 

  1. Do a Youtube meditation, or take an online kick-boxing, dance or yoga class
  2. Read a book (or several) – borrow one from a friend or a library
  3. Take a walk somewhere new – we often fail to take the time to explore places in or near our own neighbourhoods
  4. Check out free museums or galleries in your local area – most places in the UK have free or very cheap galleries or museums.
  5. Host a potluck boardgames evening – get guests to each bring a dish and a boardgame.
  6. Hula hoop or play ball games in the park
  7. Have a movie night – find a friend who will let you use their Netflix account or pick up a DVD from a charity shop and get some popping corn for around £1 to make your own popcorn in a pan on the stove.
  8. Learn a language on Duolingo – impress your friends with your skills!
  9. Invite a friend round for a catch up – you just need some refreshments to keep them well-fed and watered.
  10. Listen to an audio book or some upbeat music whilst you clean your house – kill two birds with one stone!
  11. Do a Parkrun and meet new people.
  12. Make a movie or music video with friends – dress up and wear silly outfits and put on ridiculous accents.
  13. Host a potluck murder mystery night – you can get a free murder mystery set and get guests to each bring a dish.
  14. Take a bubble bath – listen to some music whilst you relax those cares away!
  15. Try Geocaching – go on a treasure hunt and explore the wonders of Geocaching
  16. Have a picnic or a BBQ – raid your cupboards and see what you can make and take with what you already have!
  17. Write a song – if you are musical and think you don’t mind the silliness.
  18. Go for a swim (local public pools can be relatively cheap)
  19. Draw or paint a picture (if you already have art equipment) or make home-made greetings cards.
  20. Play an online computer game.
  21. Play at an open mic night – if you have talent!
  22. Write letters to friends you haven’t see for a while (as you’d only have to pay for the postage stamps!)
  23. Make a coffee at home, put it in a travel cup and go sit somewhere beautiful to enjoy the outdoors whilst sipping your drink.
  24. Go for a bike ride – feel the rush of the breeze against your face.
  25. Go to a Pride parade – even if you aren’t LGBTQ, these are still fun.
  26. Write a bucket list of 50 things you want to experience in your lifetime or a “Be, Do, Have list”– then close your eyes, daydream about what it would be like, and then set to work working out which 3 you’d want to do first! Then make a plan of how you can do them!
  27. Go to a free open house day at your local gym or have a free ‘trial gym day’.
  28. Go to a a free talk, poetry reading, book launch or any other free literary events – Eventbrite often have some advertised.
  29. Go stargazing – take your blanket and lie down somewhere where you can easily look at the stars.
  30. Call or Skype that person you are always meaning to ring but never find the time – show them you care.
  31. Bake bread, cakes, pancakes or muffins and have a lazy jazz breakfast.

Morning Success: How to Start your Day with Joy and Gratitude

So every morning I have a three part routine. Inspired by the likes of Tony Robbins and Hal Elrod, I developed a routine that works for me. Elrod has a five part routine which consists of silence (meditation), affirmations, visualisations, exercise, reading and scribing. Whilst he says to just do each one for 5 minutes (i.e a 25 minute routine), I find it hard to switch between tasks due to my dyslexia, so I felt his routine was a bit too complicated for most non-nerotypicals.

I therefore started my own take on this.

Mediation

I began my routine of meditating by using Headspace’s app, which gives you 10 days for free. This was the easiest for me to do, as I was able to be reminded by my phone. But once my free trial was up, I had to get creative if I was going to continue without spending money on this new habit. So, I spent some time searching for mediations online that made me feel comfortable and arranged them in a playlist in order of length. I did this so that even if I didn’t feel like meditating or didn’t feel like I had time to meditate, I would still do a minute or two. Here is that playlist. 

Hearing affirmations whilst exercising

Standing in front of the mirror ready to tell yourself that you are amazing can be very awkward, weird or even downright creepy for some people. I would also imagine that the idea of doing affirmations does not really excite most people. For me, it was also about time spent on this task. Therefore, I decided to do my 5 minutes of yoga whilst listening to tracks that did the affirmations for me. There are three that I use, depending on my mood. I have one for gratitude, one for financial affirmations, and one for general affirmations, depending on what has come up for me during my meditation. For example, if I find during my meditation that my mind is wandering towards worrying about finance then I choose the financial affirmations. I sometimes just listen, and other times I repeat the affirmations after I hear them. Particularly if I hear something that I do not yet believe to be true (either because it isn’t or because I am having trouble accepting it).

A jazz or story-time breakfast

I then go and make my breakfast and whilst I slowly savour my first meal of the day, I try to remain grateful that I am one of the lucky people in the world to wake up with food in the fridge / cupboard. I usually have a pink grapefruit and toast, musli with fruit, or porridge with cinnamon. During this, I listen to one of the audiobooks I am currently enjoying or my cheerful jazz playlist. I then write my ‘Most Important Tasks’ list for the day, if i didn’t do it the night before. And then I kick start my day!

This whole experience takes me between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on how much time I spend on each, but if I wanted to meditate for just a minute and then only do 3 minutes of yoga with affirmations, I would be able to do it in 15 minutes, including eating my breakfast.

Everyone has 15 minutes in the morning to take care of their needs. Invest in your own growth. Treat yourself to time to be alone with yourself and your thoughts. No-one else will.

Group Coaching Workshops

Bex Harper Tutoring and Coaching is launching some new group coaching workshops for this summer – one is aimed at children going into Years 5-7 and the other is aimed at parents who have children of all ages. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions you might have. See below for full details!

 

Stretching for Secondary: Success Workshop

Studying for the 11+, doing SATS and starting secondary school can be immensely stressful for many children. This workshop looks at the key skills children going into Years 5-7 must develop to be able to increase their chances of success at secondary level. I have closely observed both the relationship between language, beliefs and actions in my coaching practice and the patterns of achievement being closely linked positive mindsets as a private tutor, school teacher and lecturer.

 

This coaching programme, aimed at students about to go into Years 5-7, is suitable for those high flyers who suffer from feeling anxious or worried about their performance and making mistakes, as well as those who feel that they are unprepared to begin their secondary adventure.

The workshop will:

  • help them to understand how to prepare for exams.
  • help them to understand how to cope with exam stress and anxiety.
  • provide them with a mindfulness tool kit.
  • give them experience of being coached in a group setting.
  • develop skills such as teamwork and critical thinking.
  • teach them life skills to make friends in new settings.

This workshop only has a very limited number of places, so make sure to book well in advance.

Dates and times: Wednesday 29th August 2018 (2.00pm -5.00pm)

 

 

Unlocking Potential: Parents’ Coaching Workshop

This workshop is designed specifically for parents who want to know how best to encourage and assist with their child’s learning and educational growth. I have closely observed both the relationship between language, beliefs and actions in my coaching practice and the patterns of achievement being closely linked positive mindsets as a private tutor, school teacher and lecturer. Because of this, and because no-one is too old to learn and grow, I have constructed this workshop specifically for parents who wish to aid their children.

We will:

  • learn about language patterns and how they affect the way we think and perceive ourselves.
  • learn how values, self-talk and self-confidence develop from a young age and the impact these have on progress in school.
  • discuss current problems and solutions children and teens face in school today.
  • how you can support your children and teens in building their confidence.
  • how you can foster reflective behaviour patterns in your children and teens, so that they self-reflect on their progress.
  • discuss praising for effort rather than for achievement and the benefits of this.

This workshop only has a very limited number of places, so make sure to book well in advance.

Dates and times: Wednesday 29th August 2018 (6.00pm -9.00pm)

 

More information about the workshops

Location: The Tuition Pod, at The Holy Trinity Church Hall in Southchurch

Investment: £35.00 for each workshop

For enquiries or to book your place, please email: workshops@bexharper.com

Please also check out my workshop for students in Years 10-13!

N.B. For the workshops to go ahead, there must be at least 4 people registered on each one.

Dealing with Exam Stress and Anxiety

Lots of people suffer with exam stress and anxiety but here are a few ways you can help prepare yourself for exam season. If you are in the midst of university finals, GCSE and A-Level exams, or if your children are preparing for the 11+ exams, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Time out – Whilst studying is important, it is even more important to keep a healthy work-life balance. What this means is making sure you take time out of your week to do things you enjoy, such as sport, music, relaxation and watching your favourite shows. Particularly the night before an exam, you do not want to be studying, but making sure your bag is packed for the day and that you are sure you have everything you need, and then do something enjoyable, before getting an early night.
  2. A healthy diet and lifestyle – making sure you drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and that you get enough protein, is important for your exam-ready brain. Often when we are stressed, our bodies crave sugar, caffeine or alcohol. Whilst we feel our bodies want these, it is actually the sensation that it provides for our bodies that we crave – the energy boost or the feeling of relaxation. Instead make sure you fuel your body with foods that will benefit you, and drink plenty of water.
  3. Aromatherapy – Many will agree that lavender essential oil can be relaxing, but some say rosemary helps with concentration and memory, too. I know many people who have taken a cotton handkerchief with them to an exam that they have previously dabbed lavender and rosemary oil on to keep them calm. Either way, make sure avoid essential oils if you are asthmatic or pregnant and check with your doctor if you are concerned.
  4. Breathing exercises and meditation – apps like Headspace which teaches meditation, and apps or Youtube videos of nature sounds (rainfall sounds, ocean waves, etc) can be calming and allow you time out from your daily life. Giving yourself just 5-10 minutes a day can be very beneficial to your health.
  5. Exercise – exercise is extremely important for realising the feel-good hormones that relieve stress and improve your mood. Exercise has been proven to help combat depression and anxiety and recent research has found that exercise that involves being immersed in nature has an even bigger effect. So hiking, camping, beach walks, digging over the allotment, gardening, visiting botanical gardens and other outdoor fitness activities such as running can greatly improve your mental health. Remember to always check with your doctor that the exercise you do is suitable for your physical health.
  6. Sleep – Making sure you are well rested and have plenty of down-time before bed is essential. The blue light from our computer, TV and smartphone screens sends a signal to the body that tells us to be awake. So apps like f.lux or Twillight can help dim your screens and get you ready for bed. Try to avoid watching anything too exciting, scary or mysterious before bed so you won’t be wondering as you try to sleep who the killer is in your latest crime drama! Try taking a hot bath, reading before bed and make sure you have a light snack, such as a banana or some toast, and a small glass of water before bed to avoid hunger and dehydration.
  7. Be prepared – Don’t stay up late the night before an exam. Be sure to start your revision with plenty of time (weeks or even months before your exam) and stop the day before at no later than 5pm. Have a nice dinner and do something relaxing and enjoyable with friends or family in the evening, pack your bag and make sure you get an early night.

 

Good luck and please feel free to get in touch if you feel you would benefit from tutoring or coaching by emailing me: hello@bexharper.com

 

 

N.B. Whilst I am an experienced tutor, teacher and coach, I am not a therapist, counsellor or mental health professional. If you are concerned about your mental health, always speak to your doctor, or if you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact a suicide helpline.

What are your big dreams?

For a long time, one of the biggest dreams for me was to hold a book in my hands that I had helped create. When I received my copy of Domestic Imaginaries: Navigating the Home in Global Literary and Visual Cultures in the mail and held it in my hands, it was the greatest feeling of completion, and like a goal I had been working towards for years had finally reached fruition. But getting started was difficult, as I had never published a book before and neither had my co-editor, Hollie. Nevertheless, we really went for it!

Although I believe in regular goal setting and reviewing, I feel it is also important to prioritise your top goals. This is because we often start something difficult, and when we hit a difficult point, it can feel natural to give up and go onto something else that is easier and less daunting. Something safe. If you are someone with a lot of goals this can be dangerous because you could get deflated as you chip away at several dozen goals, but never really achieving any real milestones or completing any goals. This is why focusing on a maximum of 5 goals at a time is important. If  you are unsure on how to pick, it might be that you try to get balance by attempting to pick one goal for a different area of your life, such as:

  • relationships, friends and family
  • finances
  • career, work and business
  • well-being, health and fitness
  • hobbies, creative projects and travelling
  • personal and spiritual growth

Alternatively, you might find that most of these areas are going well, except for one and you want to set 4 or 5 goals that will get this area back on track.

Or you could pick according to urgency and need. If you could list all your goals and pick the top 5 most important, which would you pick? What could you do right now to get started on making small steps towards these big dreams? Who can you ask to help you? Often, once we break it down into sizeable chunks the big dream just looks like lots of little steps towards a bigger goal. And that is because it is!

If you are interested in finding out more and want to explore coaching with me, book a discovery call with me and find out how to achieve your dreams! Email me at hello@bexharper.com

Coaching Packages

I have just launched my five tailor-made coaching packages! Once you have completed your complimentary session, you can continue by booking blocks of sessions up front. I have provided a number of options, as clients have different income levels and various business or personal life needs:

 

Coaching Packages

Purple: The One Month-er 

  • Two pre-coaching tasks so I know in advance what you are dreaming about, aiming for and worrying about, so we can make the most of our time together.
  • 2 x 1 hour coaching sessions – over a month.

Investment: £89

 

 

Bronze: The Seeker

  • A pre-coaching workbook so I know in advance what you are dreaming about,  aiming for and worrying about, so we can make the most of our time together.
  • 4 x 1 hour coaching sessions – over 2 to 3 months.
  • 1 x 30 min follow up sessions to be used within 6 weeks.

Investment: £199

 

 

Silver: The Dreamer

  • A pre-coaching workbook so I know in advance what you are dreaming about, aiming for and worrying about, so we can make the most of our time together.
  • 6 x 1 hour coaching sessions – over 2 to 3 months.
  • 2 x 30 min follow up sessions to be used within 6 weeks.
  • 3 months of email support to make sure you’ve got an accountability partner, as well as the support and momentum to make the changes you want and to reap the rewards.

Investment: £399

 

 

Gold: The Believer

  • A pre-coaching workbook so I know in advance what you are dreaming about, aiming for and worrying about, so we can make the most of our time together.
  • 12 x 1 hour coaching sessions – over 4 to 8 months.
  • 2 x 30 min follow up sessions to be used within 8 weeks.
  • 8 months of email support to make sure you’ve got an accountability partner, as well as the support and momentum to make the changes you want and to reap the rewards.

Investment: £799

 

 

Platinum: The Achiever

  • A pre-coaching workbook so I know in advance what you are dreaming about, aiming for and worrying about, so we can make the most of our time together.
  • 24 x 1 hour coaching sessions – over 9 to 12 months.
  • 3 x 30 min follow up sessions to be used within 12 weeks.
  • Free invites to all online workshops and seminars that I run.
  • 12 months of email support to make sure you’ve got an accountability partner, as well as the support and momentum to make the changes you want and to reap the rewards.

Investment: £1999

 

You can email me at coachme@bexharper.com to highlight your interest in being one of my coaching clients and to book your first free one-hour session.

Why I love teaching English (EFL) online

I work for a company in China teaching English to children three days a week from the comfort of my own home. I love this job for many reasons, some of which I have outlined below:


1. Regular students

I work with regular students each week – some even twice a week – and this is great as you get to know the students really well over time. You get to know their strengths and weakness, celebrate their achievements and get to know their likes and dislikes.

2. Regular hours

You get set hours with the company I work for, so this helps you plan your week. I know I will always be working during my contracted hours, so it makes planning the rest of my schedule much easier.

3. The time difference

The time difference between the UK and China means that whilst I tutor people in the UK during my evening, I don’t have much opportunity to tutor people here in the UK during the daytime. However, China’s evening is during the middle of our day, which means I can still be working during the day, and so I can work 11am-9pm most days.

 

4. Bonuses and supply teaching

The company I work for offer nice bonuses and allow you to pick up supply work (They call it “part-time hours”) so if you have a free day, you can get some extra work.

 

5. Courseware is provided

As all the courseware is provided, you don’t need to do much preparation. All you need is a variety of classroom props and a lot of enthusiasm. The lessons are varied, with grammar points built in, so you can make the most of the courseware with minimal preparation time. The app used for teaching also has a whiteboard, so you can play games virtually and there is a chat box with a translator tool to allow you to converse with your students in either English or Chinese.

 


6. Flexible to suit your lifestyle

Shifts are between up to three hours and ten minutes long (6pm-9.10pm Beijing time) and you decide how long you want to teach for and how many days per week you want to work. You can travel the world whilst you teach, as you only need a stable broadband internet connection to be able to carry out your job! It is great for those who have dreams of becoming a remote worker!

If you are interested in working online from home and want to teach Chinese kids English then click here to apply.

How to organise your goals: Be, Do, Have Lists

One of the most effective ways to set long term goals is using a ‘Be, Do, Have’ list. In short, you write down all the things you want to be, all the things you want to do in life and all the things you want to have (both material and non-material). Then you come up with steps to achieve these goals. Here is some food for thought to help you write the list:

1. Be

  • What sort of person do you want to be seen as by others?
  • What sort of role do you want to play in others’ lives?
  • If you aren’t happy in your career, what do you want to be?
  • What sort of emotions do you want to feel more often?
  • What sort of habits do you want to adopt or establish?

 

2. Do

  • What do you want to do to earn money?
  • What sort of hobbies do you enjoy or want to cultivate?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • What haven’t you done yet that is important to you?

 

 

3. Have

  • Is there anything you want to buy that you don’t yet have?
  • What sort of relationships would you like to have?
  • How do you picture your ideal day? What would it contain?
  • Do you want to have more time? More money? More love? More forgiveness? More sleep? More patience?

 

Once you have written your list, write down one task  you can do this week or this month to help you to get a little closer to that goal. Review your goals weekly and tick off tasks you have achieved and set another task that takes you another step closer to your goal. Pin your list up somewhere where you see it everyday and read it morning and evening. The more you see it, the more you will subconsciously and consciously try to make your life go in the direction you want it to go!

Look out for my next article on this topic – on tackling tricky goals!

How to quit caffeine in just 7 days

Ever tried to give up tea and coffee? If so, you might have suffered from the awful headaches and not really known that these were linked to caffeine withdrawal. Yes there are symptoms! When I gave up caffeine in 2012, I’d been off the caffeine for around 52 hours (not that I was counting…) and had those dreaded headaches! But in a couple of days they were gone and I got on with my life, caffeine-free…

 

Why would you want to give up caffeine?

Well, most of you will know it is a stimulant and its effect only temporary, so you get a quick boost before feeling worse than ever. Before I gave it up, I hated the feeling that I was so reliant on tea and coffee to function. Does that feeling when you wake up in the morning and you can’t even see because you feel so tired sound familiar? (And yes, I was wearing my glasses!) Plus there is some evidence to suggest it disturbs sleep (especially if drank late afternoon onward) and has a diuretic effect (you are then likely to get more dehydrated), so it is best to avoid if you have problems with your waterworks! You are way better off with water or a healthy smoothie.


So, how did I quit?

Good question! I was on at least one cup of coffee a day and between one and three cups of tea, so probably your average subject.

DAY 1: If you are an excessive tea or coffee drinker (or both!) then get your intake down to just 4 cups in total.  I was already on 4 cups, so I just made sure I cut one cup out.

DAY 2: I got my caffeine intake down to 3 cups in total.

Day 3: I got my caffeine intake down to 2 cups in total.

DAY 4: I gave up the coffee totally – it started off being a treat to go to coffee shops and then became a daily habit. And an expensive one at that! So I also saved some money! If you can’t live without coffee you can try decaff coffee or, even better, No Cafwhich is totally caffeine-free and organic.

DAY 5: I went down to drinking black tea or coffee only with my breakfast. Anything after that I made sure it was decaff coffee or herbal tea, such as peppermint or lemon and ginger, (but not green tea as that has caffeine in).

DAY 6:  I switched my morning cup of tea for a rooibos tea. Rooibos is actually really nice (I was pleasantly surprised) and can be drank with milk or honey. Often known as Redbush, it is available in most supermarkets. You can try decaff black tea but I found it gross and decided I’d have been back on the caffeine habit in no time if it hadn’t been for Redbush! Plus, the processes they use to decaffeinate coffee and tea is not particular good for you either, so it is better to choose something naturally caffeine-free. If you feel you can’t manage this just yet, you could switch from black tea to green tea, which has properties that scientists believe can improve your health. ,

DAY 7: I was now caffeine-free – just had to keep it up!! When I came off the black tea, I was armed with some paracetamol to get me through the first few days (Days 7-10) of a head-achey caffeine-free life!

 

What about relapses?

I did have a relapse when I handed in my PhD, as I was working 19 hour days to finish my thesis edits alongside a full-time job and drinking 4 cups of strong coffee a day seemed the only way I would manage this. The effects were not good, however, because I had gone from living very healthily to not overnight. It did have a knock-on effect, in that I feel awful for several months but I made the wise decision to quit again but in a less rigid way.

 

But what about if you are visiting friends or family?

An excellent question. One of the main reasons people choose not to pursue an alternative lifestyle choice is because they don’t want to feel awkward or inconvenient to others. If this worries you, you can do a number of things:

  1. Always carry a spare decaff teabag / instant coffee sachet in your bag for emergencies.
  2. Drink water instead (oh extra bonus points, eh!?)
  3. Have an exception to the rule, that you will only have caffeine if you can’t get decaf!
  4. To easy people into this change, take a box of your favourite rooibos and say you have discovered something really tasty and want to share it with your loved ones.
  5. Leave your own supplies at your boyfriend’s/girfriend’s/ parent’s place, once they know you are quitting for good.

Voila, a recovering caffeine-o-holic has made it through five years already! Good luck if you decide to quit! Any questions, please contact me or leave a comment!

How to make a capsule wardrobe!

I recently created a capsule wardrobe. “What is a capsule wardrobe?”, I hear you cry! Well, simply put, it is a wardrobe of relatively few items that all (or mostly) go well together. You should have lots of neutral colours like black, grey, white and creams. Then you need to work out a few colours that will be your accent colours. Pick colours that suit you. (If you aren’t sure, Colour Me Beautiful is a good place to start.) I discovered that my colours are bright red, purple, peacock blue and turquoise-green. These became the accent colours for my capsule wardrobe.

What are the pros and cons of creating a capsule wardrobe?

Well, the pros are that you are meant to reduce your wardrobe to a much smaller, more manageable size (say 30-50 pieces, not including underwear, PJs and socks) which can be very hard for some people. However the benefits are three-fold: firstly, you do not need as much space to hang your clothes so it is great for students and travellers. Secondly, having less clothes means taking less time to decide what to wear in the morning, which means you get more time in bed. Thirdly, because nearly all the outfit pieces go with each other, you have many more combinations than you would expect from so few items!

How long does it take to create? How do I do it?

Anything from three days to three years. You can start the process by dividing your entire load of clothes into three piles: keep, donate, recycle. Keep only those that you absolutely wear and that fit you well. You will want to donate those items that no longer fit, that you never have a chance to wear or that don’t make your heart sing. Then you will want to recycle those items that have been a little too well-loved and are worn out. Try to get your wardrobe down to under 50 items. This could take you a day or a week to do. Only you will know!

Once you have done this, sort through and put away the items that are neutral colours:  black, grey, white and creams. Then you will be left with the colours that are your current accent colours. See if you still like these and try to get these colours down to just two to five colours.

The last step is to create a list of what is missing. You might have given away your only pair of shorts. Or you might not have enough underwear. Whatever it is, write it down on a list and then go shopping. Only buy what is on the list!!! (This is important!)

 

Changing habits

The most important part of creating a capsule wardrobe is that you are becoming a minimalist. This means you should aim to not just buy whatever, whenever you seen it. Once you have your capsule wardrobe, enforce the ‘one in, one out’ rule. If you buy something already have in mind what you will donate from your wardrobe in exchange. This helps to keep things under wraps and also helps make sure you aren’t breaking your closet every time you try to take out your outfits!