The perils of Sports Day!

Parenting is so bloody hard sometimes. At the weekend I was so, so proud of this sensitive, shy little bean at her taekwondo class as I watched her sparring with her peers and the teachers. Her confidence has grown so much since she started. Pride beamed from my face like sunbeams and I couldn’t take my eyes off her or the grin from my face. It was a parenting high that’s for sure.

Last night however, she lay in my arms and cried herself to sleep because she couldn’t understand why she has to take part in sports day today when she hates running. Personally I have no idea why sports day exists either, other than to celebrate you if you are fast at running and make you feel bad if you aren’t. She loves taekwondo and roller skating, has the strongest core I’ve ever seen on a child, but just hates running.

She cried that she came second from last in her house running race in the practices she’s done.

She is 8 years old. I too had horrific experiences with school sports days that led to a lifetimes hatred of exercise and especially running too. I was humiliated in front of the whole school on these occasions, (but I would never tell her that) at both junior school and senior school so I really do feel her pain.

In the infants, sports day is about throwing bean bags and having sack races and having fun! But as soon as they are in the juniors it becomes competitive. Just a reminder here that she is a mere 8 years old.
She is amazing at spelling, has the neatest handwriting I’ve ever seen, is a total brain box at maths and adores art. She also has a moral compass like no other. She is über polite and friendly and an all round superstar. So why are there no competitive spelling, maths, art, manners, or handwriting competitions as part of the curriculum?

I had to have the conversation with her tonight that it doesn’t matter whether she comes first or last in the race, but to just try her best. I had to emphasise that unless she wants to be a sports scientist or a personal trainer when she’s older, I’m pretty sure running isn’t a requirement for most jobs out there. She wasn’t buying it. She just wants to fit in and be like the cool girls in her class. This pains me, as I have done everything in my power to make her understand that I don’t give a crap about fitting in with the cool set, I am just happy being ME!!! I told her I can’t run and much prefer strength trainings and weights and I’m happy with that. But it just made me so sad that my wisdom and experience in this case just couldn’t allay her fears.

Today I feel pretty crap, as I will watch her do something that she absolutely hates with a passion ‘because she has to’. But WHY does she have to?  Can someone enlighten me? Still, I’ll be there with a smile plastered on my face because no matter the trials and tribulations of parenting, we still put a smile on and get on with it don’t we?.

What do women really want for Mother’s Day?

This year I wanted to pare down Valentine’s Day as, quite frankly, why can’t we celebrate our love every day? It got me thinking about the impending celebration of Mother’s Day. Why can’t we tell our Mum’s how special they are EVERY day? Don’t get me wrong, I do love the idea of an extra special day celebrating Mum’s and everything they do, but I also think we should tell them more often how much they mean to us! Plus, it’s a difficult day for those who have either lost their Mothers or who can’t be mothers themselves. I have a number of friends who I know struggle on this day and I send them all my love.

I also know that many partners and older children often struggle with what to buy their significant others/parents for Mother’s Day and to be honest, I don’t know about you, but flowers just don’t do it for me anymore as I often buy myself a bunch to brighten up the house, and I have all the mugs with Mummy, Mama, Mum on i could ever need, so what do women really want for Mother’s Day?

I put a poll out on my Instagram page and asked lots of my friends what they would really like for Mother’s Day. The results weren’t all that surprising.
The resounding answer by 99.9% of the Mum’s asked, was either a LIE-IN or SLEEP! Sometimes followed by a cup of tea or coffee in bed, in peace! Some Mums also answered that they wanted a day off mothering duties, cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking and to generally be pampered!

We just want a lie in!

Homemade cards were also high on the list, so get those creative juices flowing partners, it really doesn’t have to be complicated!

I think the main jist of what most of these amazing Mum’s wanted, wasn’t a massive ostentatious day, but to relax, have some time for themselves and most importantly a ‘THANK YOU’.

So if you’ve booked the restaurant for lunch, or got the meat in to cook a roast at home. You’ve taken the kids out for an hour in the morning making as little noise as possible and left a cuppa on the bedside, but you still want to get an extra little something for the wonderful woman in your life from you or the kids, then here are a few local Gloucestershire Mums who offer some perfect gifts from their businesses…

Baby Prints Cheltenham
Who wouldn’t want a amazing keepsake of their babies or children’s hand or footprints adorning their walls? Baby Prints Cheltenham offer gift vouchers in any denomination for the perfect Mother’s Day Gift. Prices start at just £45 for a one hand or one foot unframed print.

The Holistic Hideout
Any Mum would be overjoyed with a voucher for a treatment of their choice with the lovely Natasha. With prices starting at just £25, The Hideout bring the Spa to you! They will turn a room of your home into the most tranquil and relaxing space for the best massage of your life!

Willowberry Natural Skincare
This local skincare brand founded by MumBoss Jenni, has grown so quickly, because it’s quite simply amazing! With gifts sets or single products to choose from, this 3 piece travel set, consisting of cleansing balm, treatment oil and day cream at just £29.95 is top of my list!

Advanced Skin Cheltenham
Mum Amber from Advanced Skin offers a whole range of specialist facials and treatments tailored to your skin type. She knows her stuff when it comes to your face and can advise on which treatments are best for you. I can’t wait to try the microdermabrasion or a glycolic peel to give my aging skin a bit of a boost!

Mama Life London
Mum of two Beth runs this local business selling slogan clothing to women. Her ‘A Little Less Judgement’ and ‘Never Off Duty’ tees, jumpers and hoodies are staple Mum Uniform and some of the comfiest items you’ll ever wear. This ‘Sisterhood’ rose gold text jumper is next on my list! She also donates money from some of her range to the charities KicksCount and Mind. Now what present could a Mama wish for?

So whatever you decide on, just make sure you say thank you for everything your Mum or partner does for the children or for you. Those two little words mean so much.

The Friend Game

Blimey being a parent is hard.  Actually, being an adult is a struggle most of the time! As I start dealing with ‘friend’ issues with my 8 year old daughter, it made me look back at the friendship groups I’ve had over my life, but more importantly dwell on the inordinate amount of guilt I suffer when I struggle catching up with my best friends, let alone old friends who I haven’t seen in years.  Damn you anxiety.

Now, I get a buzz out of making other people happy.  It feeds my soul to see people smile at something I’ve done for them, which is why I love keeping in touch with old friends, because they have shaped and changed my life for the better and I value them, but the anxiety I feel on a daily basis, to add to the increasing mountain of parental, health, safety and general life anxiety in my brain, is getting ridiculous.

We’ve all, well the anxiety sufferers amongst us, have all been there haven’t we? A new Facebook request comes in from an old friend whom you spent many a pre-children year with and who knew you inside out and helped you through some bad times.  You desperately want to check in, see what they are up to, tell them how great they are, meet for a coffee, an adult only evening out to catch up on life and old times, but you know as soon as you click ‘approve’ on that friend request, they will be added to the really long list of people you simply don’t have time to see, not for fear of trying, but because life gets in the way.

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Me (left) and my friend and neighbour Jane.

Now I have had lots of friends at seminal times in my life.  When I was at playschool and primary school I had my class friends and a few close friends from outside school too.

Then different groups of friends at senior school, Uni, friends at the different jobs I had, and then its a whole different ball game when you have a baby.  Different baby class friends, pre and post natal Mum’s classes and now, in my job I meet so many new people, a lot whom do become friends.  I love the work community I find myself in but because my babies are at school now I can’t go on playdates anymore. I have found my tribe. But I feel bad about not seeing all these different groups of people who impacted my life so much in a positive way.

My very oldest friend, the one I grew up with from playgroup all throughout school, but with whom I fell out of touch with throughout those Uni and beyond years (yes kids, we had no mobile phones or social media in the 90’s when I went to Uni) but when she moved back to our home town we got back in touch and became close again as we both had small children.  BUT, we haven’t seen each other in about 10 months.  She has three kids (1 still at home) and I have two. She lives round the corner from my kids school, and I feel the guilt of not getting in touch every week.  I say to myself, “I must message her” but I always either forget, or something else distracts me and it gets put to the bottom of the priority list. In short, life happens.

I know I shouldn’t feel guilty but I do.  I cant help it.  I miss these people.  Friends are the family you choose yourself aren’t they? and I need them.  They know me, they’ve been an important part of my journey.

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With some of my best friends in the 90’s

I was talking about all this to someone recently and she told me that I was worrying too much and that actually, friends come in and go out of our lives as and when we need them.  There are some who will always be with us, but others are there for a particular part of your life and will see you through that, but as you grow and move on, people inevitably drift apart.

So here I am apologising to all those friends who I have loved and lost touch with. All those I don’t see as much as I’d like to, or whom I have promised coffee/lunch/catch ups with and we never get around to setting a date! My mind, my diary and my life are addled, and we’ll have to make do with fleeting glances of each others pictures on Facebook as we lock ourselves in the bathroom for a wee for now!  But thank you for the good times and I still think of you.

What are your thoughts on friends and how often you get to see them? Have you found a happy balance and have loads of time to see your friends?  I’d love to hear your points of view on this!

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Thank you to one of my best friends who is 40 today. She has stuck with me for 29 years! Happy Birthday Karen! 

Miscarriage and My Maternal Mental Health

There are so many feelings during the first few weeks of pregnancy.  Excitement, anxiety, trepidation, fear, happiness.  Throw hormones into the mix and most of us are usually a hot mess.  I felt all of those and more.  It had taken us a little over 2 years to get pregnant the first time around.  When everyone around you is getting pregnant and you aren’t, it’s a long, slow, heart-breaking journey, but when the pregnancy test came up with two lines, we were elated.  It was all I’d ever wanted and all we’d ever wanted as a couple.  The pain inside us from a stressful conception journey drifted away instantly.  I spent the first few weeks feeling very sick with constant headaches and I could feel the changes in my body.  At around 7 weeks pregnant I felt all of that stop.  I just woke up one morning and I knew, but no one would listen.

At our booking in appointment with the midwife at 10 weeks I told her that something was wrong.  I had always trusted my instincts in the past and they had served me well, but she totally poo pooed the idea that I’d miscarried.  I hadn’t had any bleeding, I hadn’t had any pain, all of my symptoms just stopped and I told her I knew it was gone, but she said “with all due respect, I’m the professional and that happens sometimes”, which I’m sure it does, but I was already an anxious person and this made me even more so.

So we waited another 2 weeks until our first scan.  Excitement mixed with nerves as we sat outside the scan room.  Bladder full, mind fuller.  Watching happy couples come out with their scan pictures.

We were finally invited into the scan room.  It started with the usual polite conversation and smiles but it soon went all quiet. The radiographer’s face fell and after another few minutes of concentration she uttered the words no one ever wants to hear, “I’m so sorry to have to tell you that there is no heartbeat”.  We were ushered into a side room right opposite the scan room with the door left wide open and advised a nurse would be with us shortly.

45 long and painful minutes sat waiting followed, listening to the elated squeals of joy from all of the other couples coming out of their scans and we were sat in a room RIGHT OPPOSITE!  I know hospitals are tight on space, but waiting so close to the scan room was a horrific experience and rubbed salt into an already excruciating open wound.  I felt so low and once we were eventually seen and the operation I had to be booked in for was explained, it felt like they were going to be removing my hope.  I had to wait just over a week for my ERPC (evacuation of retained products of conception) surgery.  I was desperate to get it over and done with.  I spent every minute of every day blaming myself for what had happened and going over the first seven weeks of pregnancy with a fine toothed comb in my mind, so at least during the surgery I could be put to sleep and my mind would be at peace for a while. I didn’t smile much in those weeks, I was living under a very dark cloud.

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Some days, even a smile was a chore

I was the first operation of the day and it was over and done with very quickly.  The nurses, doctors and anaesthetist were all amazing and treated me with the utmost respect, but afterwards I was told I wouldn’t be able to leave until I’d been for a wee.  I must have drunk about a gallon of water after being told that so I could just use the loo and leave.  My husband told me he’d never seen me hop, skip and jump to the toilet quicker than he did that day and I pulled my usual grief curtain down and did my usual ‘I’m FINE, everything’s FINE’ but underneath it all I was breaking, I had been for weeks.

I got home, crawled into bed and cried my heart out.  Relieved it was all over and I could move on, but devastated that it was all over and that I could move on.

It took me a long time to smile again but we got there.  I had a very understanding and supportive female boss who had been through a similar experience and with my close family and friends behind me, I was able to get back to some semblance of normality reasonably quickly.  The experience left a scar though.  During my next pregnancy, I was so anxious and refused to buy anything for the baby until after the 20 week scan, even then I still didn’t feel like the pregnancy would go all the way.  At that time, social media was in its infancy stages and there wasn’t the online communities and support there is today for all those affected by baby loss.  I was one of the lucky ones to have the close support network and my husband was amazing, but I know not everyone gets that.  My mental health took a dip, especially during my second pregnancy when I was 2 weeks overdue and knew I had to be induced, but that’s a whole different blog in its own right!

I had the baby, my precious baby girl and my world brightened significantly and some of my wounds healed.

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I was inspired to pen my story this week by my amazingly brave friend, who has been raising awareness of stillbirth since the loss of her beautiful first daughter, Florence, who was born sleeping.  I am not looking for sympathy, but something she said in her recent interview with channel 5 struck a chord.  She said that people didn’t know what to say to her after she gave birth to Florence, and it was similar when I went back to work, because I was so low, everyone would ask me what was wrong.  It was different in that no one knew I was even pregnant, but because I had taken two weeks off, everyone automatically asks on your return ‘are you ok?  What’s been the matter?’  I didn’t want to lie, so I told them, but as soon as I uttered the word miscarriage, everyone fell silent and looked awkward and shuffled off, but we need to be talking about it.

1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime and 1 in 100 women in the UK experience recurrent miscarriages (3 or more in a row)*, so you can see it is common.  There was no advice, groups or people I was steered towards after my miscarriage, but thankfully now there is more information and support around now for women in all cases of baby loss.

So it’s the end of Maternal Mental Health Matters Week and it’s got us all talking about all aspects of maternal mental health, which is amazing, but I just hope it doesn’t stop after this week.  Let’s keep the conversations open.  Miscarriage, stillbirth, ptsd, pnd, it all needs to be discussed, and we need to be making sure all those women AND men going through any one of these is fully supported.  Ask ‘Are you ok?’, let them talk or not if that’s what they want, but just be there, tell them you are there for them, be supportive and be inclusive and to hospital departments dealing with these issues; please don’t dump couples who have just been given devastating news in a room right next to those having joyous, healthy pregnancies when they have just found out that their world has just fallen apart, it can severely affect their mental health at such an awful time!!
KEEP TALKING.

 

*stats from Tommys.org

10 things I love about my body…

So it’s 9:14am and I am starting to write this in a coffee shop having just wolfed down a peanut butter brownie for breakfast (don’t judge me).  Not my finest choice as far as breakfast on the go goes, I get that, but a most enjoyable one nonetheless.  Mix chocolate and peanut butter and I will shun the smashed avocado and poached egg on sourdough faster than Usain Bolt on a mission to win gold!

I am overweight. I have been most of my adult life. I come from a mixture of Hungarian, Dutch and Welsh heritage and neither of my parents were tall nor particularly slim and my mum has regularly told me I am the spitting image of my Hungarian Grandmother. Food has always been a very big part of my family life.  I come from a family where no one was ever allowed to leave the house on a Saturday before we all sat down to eat a family lunch together.  The Christmas’s of my youth were all about family and food and fun and I know I use food as a comfort blanket all too often these days, but I just bloody love food!  I exercise, probably not enough, I juice vegetables and fruit, I eat healthily, but I also have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) which affects my weight significantly.

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Pre children our holidays were ALL about the food!

I have struggled to accept my size and my weight for most of my life.  From my school days I always felt chunkier than my peers, a few of whom I knew were struggling with eating disorders.  I just couldn’t make myself sick, nor did I want to as I actually enjoyed food and the social aspect around it. Food was a cultural thing with my background and many of my relatives were feeders and amazing hosts.  I went through a period in my 20’s where I lost a couple of stone on weight watchers and loved my size.  Then I got married aged 26 and the comfortable phase kicked in.  I gained and lost weight slowly and healthily over the years but I really had to work hard to lose it.  I never really knew why I found it so tough until I was diagnosed with PCOS in my late 20’s by a fertility consultant.  To have a reason made me happy and throughout my first pregnancy I discovered the low GI way of eating and it really suited me.

After having my first daughter I lost 24lbs within 2 weeks of the birth by doing nothing other than breastfeeding!  However, I think I put that back on during the first 10 months of her life with the lunches and cake meetings with my NCT group!!!  But then as everyone around me started losing weight and I struggled, it affected my confidence and self worth again.  I had never felt like I could wear all the cool clothes, hell even the mum uniform of Breton stripes was out as it made me look wider, even though I loved stripes.  My confidence was at an all time low but lifted when I became pregnant again with my second.  I adored being pregnant, I really did, but my second baby bump was absolutely massive.  The placenta was massive and the amount of fluid I was retaining was ridiculous.  I ballooned, my stomach stretched so much.  After I had the baby, sadly I didn’t ‘snap’ back into shape as society dictates we should.  The stretch marks and the dreaded mum tum arrived and this time it was here to stay.  I was so sad about my shape, even though I ate healthily and worked out.

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My chins and I, hard at work at Baby Prints Cheltenham!

It has taken me until now, 38 years old, 2 kids and a lot of personal trauma in my life to finally try and be positive about it.  It has taken me this long to appreciate what I have.  The kids don’t give a stuff whether I have a mum tum or cellulite on my legs.  My friends don’t care if I’ve eaten all the mince pies at Christmas and developed an extra chin in the process (my husband does make amazing mince pies though!), so why should I?  I know how to eat healthily and I do regularly, but I also don’t believe in denying yourself life’s little pleasures.  Life is too short to regret not making yourself happy.  I had a massive green smoothie for breakfast and lunch yesterday and a halloumi and asparagus salad for dinner last night so I feel I could get away with the brownie for breakfast this morning!  It’s all about balance and it’s about not making yourself feel guilty.

One of my friends feels awful if she doesn’t look a certain way or if she misses an exercise class!  I don’t let things like that bother me anymore.  It’s just not worth worrying about things like that as it has consumed far too much of my life for far too long.  Who am I out to impress?  NO ONE!  If someone can’t love me for being me and judge me by my looks or what clothes size I wear, then I really don’t want them in my life!

One of the things I found so cathartic and started to allow me to accept my body as it was, was sitting down and writing a list of 10 things I love about my body.

If you are struggling with self confidence or acceptance with your body shape or size, I really recommend writing a list.  It will focus your attention on being grateful for your body and all the things it has given you and helped you with in life.  Don’t get me wrong, I was desperately stuck at 6 for a long time so the last few may be clutching at straws, but I did it, now I just have to keep reminding myself of these and not slip back into my old negative way of thinking about things.  I don’t want my daughter (or my son for that matter, who was recently called fat by one of his friends at school) to grow up with the self-loathing of their bodies like I did.  It’s an unhealthy obsession, and although I sometimes struggle finding reasonably priced clothes to fit and look good on me, I am getting over it.  So who is in? Who will join me in the positive body movement and learn to love yourselves, you’ll be thankful you did!!!

The 10 things I love about my body

  1. It housed my two babies – it is incredible and life-giving and although another two beans didn’t make it, it still started the remarkable journey of growing life!
  2. It is strong – I never thought I’d be able squat 60kg at aged 38 but I had a LOT of practice carrying my babies on my hips, front and back in a sling!
  3. My boobs – although they might now resemble a sad pair of spaniel’s ears, they served the purpose of keeping both of my babies alive and comforted for a total of 5 years.
  4. My feet – they have carried me away from danger, they have marched me towards adventure and caused me much amusement when they swelled beyond belief during pregnancy, but that also made me rest when I needed it. Feet don’t get enough praise for the exemplary job they do.
  5. My bum. It may be the size of a small country, but its mine. It also houses gluteal muscles that allow me to squat and improve and challenge my strength!  I have comfortably sat on this ample seat all my life and no matter how much weight I lose it never leaves me and I don’t think it ever will so learn to love it I must!
  6. My eyes. Being able to see the beauty in nature, the beauty in people and the beauty that this strange and often messed up world has to offer is sublime.  Eyes are the window to your soul and I truly believe that.  To be fair, mine mainly look sallow and tired, but often, that’s exactly how I feel!
  7. My shoulders. They carry stress, they carry burdens away from my children, they have even been known to carry my children, but they are strong and tough and help me do loads of things in daily life.  Without these, I couldn’t carry my kids.
  8. My hands may be small and I have the affliction of the family short fat sausage fingers (thanks Dad!), but they can be deft. They are the tools of my trade, they wipe tears away, they hold my babies in close, they create beautiful keepsakes for parents and without these little sausage fingers I’d be nothing.
  9. My heart – its not just what you can see on the outside, my heart is big and I go out of my way to help people. I have spent most of my life doing things for other people.  I’m not a great people manager as I am far too empathetic.
  10. It’s mine – the whole thing, my whole body works. It keeps me alive, it tells me when I need to rest, when I need a break, when it is busy fighting illness.  It has seen me through two horrific childbirths, through grief, through sheer exhilaration and everything in between and I am still here.  It’s not perfect, but it works and most importantly it’s mine and is home to my soul.

Ok, so if I wrote a list of things I hated about my body, like the cellulite, the size of my thighs, my eczema, my hair, etc etc, I would be able to reach 25 with no trouble, but I guess what I’m trying to convey, is that we all have things we hate about ourselves, but it’s time to start appreciating you, your body and the amazing things it does and enjoy it and our lives!

NOW GO FORTH AND LOVE YOURSELF, FLAWS AND ALL!

For more inspiration on kick ass women loving themselves and positivity, check out these Instagram accounts:

@bodyposipanda
@helenwearsasize18
@thismamadoes
@kelly_thebeesknees
@thatmumwithcancer

 

The ongoing saga of anxiety…

Watching an episode of ‘24 hours in A&E’ the other week, there were three women brought in who had all been stabbed by the same man in a Sainsbury’s car park.  Completely unprovoked and completely random attacks.  In the following weeks I have never been more aware of who was around me or near me or the children, I was often crippled with fear.  I would feel nervous being in crowds of people, I would feel uncomfortable if the kids wanted to run off in different directions at the park and the whole scenario of what would happen if I died that way played in my head like a broken record for days.  My mind is a stressful place to be sometimes as all these thoughts whirr around.
Having lost quite a few people very close to me now, I have a fear of dying, because I know how much it hurts being the one left behind.  I never want my children to feel the pain that I have, and to some extent, I think we all feel like that once we become parents, especially mothers, but my anxiety ridden brain takes it to the nth degree and plays out the worst possible scenario! It made me want to write again about my own struggles with an anxious mind and give you more details of how I manage it (or occasionally don’t!!!).

After my last blog on anxiety, I was both moved and heartbroken that so many people got in touch to tell me their stories of how it has affected their lives and their families.  It made me want to continue the conversation and I want to shout from the rooftops that ‘IT REALLY IS OK NOT TO BE OK!’.  I know it’s a cliché and an overused hashtag #itsoknottobeok, but I feel it’s a vital one that we all continue to talk about and normalise, because mental health matters. It REALLY does.  Life is hard enough without having to feel alone and alienated.

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It had been decided by an archaic society that any form of mental illness was a sign of weakness and you should therefore be locked away for it, but it’s really not.  I know many very successful, career driven people who live with, and manage, high functioning anxiety.  Our society seems to want to move with the times where technology is concerned, but not so quickly in accepting the thought that mental illnesses are not things we should brush under the carpet and not talk about through fear of being judged.  I think there is a definite shift over the last couple of years, but is it happening quick enough and are enough people are talking about it? There are an estimated 18 million people living in the UK with some form of anxiety disorder, so it is clearly more common than you may have thought and you are certainly never alone.

Anxiety is a human trait which is deep rooted in all of us and harks back to the days of living in caves and fighting sabre toothed tigers! It’s the fight or flight response that pumps us full of adrenaline.  Everyone has some form of anxiety and it is designed to keep us safe, for example, we are all anxious when approaching a main road, and it stops us from walking straight into it, but anxiety takes many different forms and people deal with all sorts of different symptoms.  Sleeplessness, panic attacks, the feeling of having a heart attack, a ‘brain fog’, sweats, a raised heart rate, feelings of utter hopelessness, some lose the ability to reason things out, these are just a few.  Some have all of these symptoms, some have one, but does that make one sort of anxiety more valid than the other?  The simple answer is no!
I was talking to a close group of friends recently and we got onto the subject of our anxieties.  I asked if anyone had or would see a professional about it.  One of the group said she wouldn’t as she felt like a ‘fake’ as “my problems aren’t real anxiety. Not like people who have full on panic attacks and need to take medication.  I’d feel like I was wasting their time” she said.  This shocked and saddened me and this is why we need to keep talking about it, because anxiety takes many shapes and forms and you should never feel like a fake!  One form of anxiety is not more or less acceptable than another, they all suck and if you need to seek some help to manage it then you are just as entitled as the next person.

pexels-photo-262113.jpegI think I am becoming more aware of my anxiety the older I get and am able to manage it in a few different ways.  This got me thinking about how other people manage theirs, so I did some research and there were a lot of similar ways people seemed to deal with it.  Reading all of the comments were fascinating and I have summarised a few of the most common answers below.  If you are an anxiety sufferer to any degree and haven’t tried any of these, give them a go. I’d love to hear how you found them, but remember, what works for one won’t work for another.  If you use a technique not on my list below then please get in touch, I’d love to hear it.

  1. Fresh Air – being outside with fresh air in your lungs appears to help relax and de stress our minds. Whether you are walking for 5 or 10 minutes or just sitting and appreciating the view in a café, getting out can help balance us.
  2. Quit the caffeine and alcohol – Ditch the daily cappuccino for a chamomile tea (or other caffeine free drink) or ditch the gin for a ginger ale (easier said than done I totally appreciate!) and reap the benefits.
  3. Exercise – a gym session, pounding the pavements, a dog walk, working out at home, running around after the kids, it’s a natural way to fill your body with endorphins and get the feel good factor!
  4. TALK – talk to a friend, partner, parent or a group of friends that you absolutely trust and be open and honest about your thoughts and feelings.
  5. CBT or NLP – after an initial chat with your doctor, they may refer you for some help in the form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) or Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). These are said to be amazing for some at helping to develop coping strategies and identify key anxiety triggers for you.
  6. Say NO! – stop doing too much! Focus on you, don’t feel pressured into saying yes to every little thing going, take some time for yourself because self-care is NOT selfish!
  7. Breathe – when we get anxious, we breathe in short shallow breaths and therefore don’t take in enough oxygen which in turn creates more anxiety. Stop, breathe in slowly through your nose and fully out through your mouth for a few minutes.  Be mindful and try pushing your stomach out as you breathe in and relax all your muscles.
  8. TALK TO YOUR GP – don’t be afraid, they will not judge you, but do try and see the right doctor, one that you feel completely comfortable with.
  9. Meditation – find a quiet space, slow your breathing right down and clear your mind. Some people who noted this used apps such as Headspace and Calm.
  10. HUG – (I loved this one) Whether it be a big hug from a family member, a partner, a friend or your kids, hugs release oxytocin and serotonin into your body and can sometimes make the world seem OK again!
  11. Step away from your phone – we are so reliant on our phones and computers these days and a lot of social media can add to anxiety, so leave your phone turned off and enjoy the freedom.

It really is OK to not be OK.  It is OK to seek help if you need it, no judgements and no stresses.  If you need medication and professional help to manage your anxiety or a walk, a cuppa (caffeine free of course) with a friend and a hot bath will heal your woes, then just do whatever works for you! We are our own worst critics at times, so please, be kind to yourself and remember, YOU ARE AN AMAZING HUMAN BEING.

 

Christmas Crafting with Babies and Toddlers…

The magic of Christmas seems to multiply once you have children. You want to make it magical for them too, even when they are too young to be able to understand or remember it! But we all love a Christmas craft, especially grandparents and family who maybe don’t see you very often, and they make wonderful memories for the future, even if they do go slightly wrong sometimes! You just have to take a deep breath and accept that it’s going to be ‘fun’ and your baby may poo glitter for the next few days and your walls may be covered in paint splatters, but hey, its all going to be ok (so long as you make sure your glitter is non toxic!).

I have, in my 7 years of parenting thus far, always spent my October evenings going through Pinterest and pinning every adorable craft idea known to man. Some of them have totally ballsed up, but here, I have cobbled together a little selection of the hand and footprint craft ideas which have worked, to save you spending hours trawling through pinterest and getting totally overwhelmed, as you probably have far more interesting things to do!

DESIGN YOUR OWN BAUBLE

The first craft idea that worked, I tried when my daughter was still a baby and young enough to fit her little hands around a Christmas bauble.

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This one was simple, all it took was some plain glass baubles, some white paint, and a set of thin permanent markers. I painted her hand all white and then pressed the bauble into it. This is much easier with plastic baubles if you are doing this with babies or really young children. Then simply wait for the white paint to dry and turn the white fingers into snowmen once they are dry. Even the least arty amongst you can do this one and they can hang on your tree for years to come. I would recommend plastic baubles though, as once my beast of a second child came along, he pulled them off the tree and they smashed. I was mortified!

If you are local to Cheltenham, Aldi had some decorate your own white IMG_4613baubles in the store last week for only £1.99 a pack, great for finger painting for babies and toddlers or if you aren’t brave enough to try this on your own, you could pop into your local pottery painting shop and get them to help you with a painted one!

CHRISTMAS CARDS

Card blanks can easily be bought cheaply from local craft shops such as The Range, Hobbycraft, etc, and hand and fingerprint painting can be really effective on these. Here are some ideas that have worked for me.

The reindeer on the right were made with my youngest child’s feet for the head and the hands, which were printed first as the body, were my eldest child’s simply using brown poster paint. They were finished off with a fingerprint each of pva glue on the nose and some red glitter dusted over it. Is it even Christmas if your house isn’t covered in a light dusting of glitter anyway?
Then googly eyes were glued on, but drawing eyes on would be equally as effective, or using black paint and fingerprinting the eyes in.  As you can see the snowmen card on the left didn’t go as well.  The nice neat hand on the left of the card belonged to my eldest and the right, slightly smaller hand belonged to my then 18 month old beast who just wanted to smear his hands in the paint!  But I managed to work around it and make it look as though the poor snowmen were all falling over!

WRAPPING PAPER

IMG_4722Making your own handmade wrapping paper is easy.  Get either a large sheet of paper or the kind of roll you find on children’s easels.  Hobbycraft, The Range or IKEA have these or get a roll of brown craft paper.  Rip off a long piece of paper and either let your child loose with festive coloured paints or use stamps.

These can be bought or easily made from a potato or a sponge.  It makes for a really effective and personalised wrapping.  If you do Christmas trees, you could decorate the trees with the whole family’s fingerprints to make it really special.


FINGERPRINT AND HAND AND FOOT PRINT IDEAS

Here are a small selection of other ideas, which have worked really well with both my children from the baby years onward.  Remember, what I haven’t posted is the awful ones which didn’t work, and believe me, there were plenty.  It really does just take being brave and whatever you produce will be amazing because it will be their masterpiece!

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Not feeling too brave?  Not a crafty bone in your body?Well why not try one of our Christmas craft kits.  they come with handy little ink pads and a selection of Christmas craft shapes to decorate. simply pop baby’s fingers or toes in and print on the pre-cut shapes, it couldn’t be easier. We have just two left at £5 each with £1.75 p&p. Contact me to buy yours now!!!

I’d love to see your ideas and your crafty inspiration for Christmas crafts you’ve done with your children.  Please tag me in your pictures on Instagram or send me some pictures as it’s that time of the year where the craft drawer is being raided again!