The Universe has my Back

2018 has been a year of self-discovery and one where I have learned the true meaning of “the Universe has my back”. Coinciding with “midlife” and hormonal ebbing and flowing, I have begun to wonder what I want in life. Life is far too short to live a life that’s mediocre. Life is also far too short to over-think, ruminate and drink bad tea but somehow I manage to do all of these things most days! This year I received some valuable personal coaching from the lovely Gabrielle Treanor (I highly recommend working with her), experienced and loved Reiki and found comfort in reading again. I have been diving into loads of positive psychology books and am loving taking time each day to improve my knowledge and open my mind. I have participated in (and contributed to) Life Reboot Camp with Sophie LeBrozec and have learned so much about myself and my potential. It’s so encouraging having a little cheering squad behind you and that’s definitely what Sophie and her LRC Facebook group provide.

As I have worked through WHAT DO I WANT, I have discovered:

  • I want to be my own boss. I enjoy working with and for people but I love the autonomy of working independently and setting my own hours and demands to be able to support our family the best I can.
  • I want to do meaningful work that makes a difference.
  • I want to have time to read and learn.
  • I want to be able to contribute more financially to our family.
  • I want to speak at events in my community.
  • I want to WRITE A BOOK (or 3??).
  • I want to be able to easily afford holidays that allow us to visit our family far and near.
  • I want to feel confident and appreciated.
  • I want my children and husband to feel loved and confident and for my husband to not be so stressed.
  • I want to continue to prioritise my health and self-care.

 

So not much then! The biggest want, in CAPITAL letters above though, that has been niggling for years now is to WRITE A BOOK. When I was a very young girl, I wrote a mystery with my Grandma. It was called “The Mysterious Case of Farley Filler”. I don’t think it hit the best seller list but it certainly lit a spark in me that has remained long buried. WRITE WRITE WRITE keeps popping up when I meditate. WRITE WRITE WRITE keeps flashing through when my brain wanders. WRITE WRITE WRITE keeps rising to the surface when I am reading others who inspire me.

I have begun one book. I have about 2 paragraphs done. My goal now will be to dedicate time daily to writing. Even if these books never see the light of day or a book shelf nearest to you, I know I need to do this. And in the spirt of “The Universe has your Back”, manifesting and the Law of Attraction, I am tapping into the Law of Action and putting it out there…if you are a publisher or agent, I am working on the beginnings of 2 positive psychology books and 1 children’s book related to positive psychology for ages 5-11. You may want to watch this space as I will be dribbling out excerpts from each in 2019 and who knows…maybe someone will get in touch and help me make this dream a reality? I’m ready Universe…I’m doing the work so when you have time, send me a rainbow.

Little Things That Make Me Happy

When I’m struggling, it can really help to take a moment to appreciate the little things that make me happy. Sometimes the littler the better!

Today? Well, that cup of tea that my husband always brings me first thing in the morning makes me very happy. The cup isn’t my everyday “mug”, it’s a porcelain cup and saucer that I bought in a local antiques market. I have two of them and only have my first cup of tea each morning in them. While Mark goes downstairs after getting himself ready in the morning, I enjoy a bit of a “lie-in” whilst listening to Radio 2 and the Chris Evans Breakfast Show. Usually some time between 7:30-7:40 Mark brings up my cup of tea and gives me a kiss. I can always count on this service Monday through Friday and sometimes on the weekend if I am lucky. I like this slow way of starting my day even though it isn’t particularly productive. I also like that Mark starts the day with the children and listening to their clatter is soothing.

When I drop the children off at school, that last kiss and reminder to “do good things” helps them to start their school day but it also helps me to know that I am leaving them with a positive thought and the knowledge that I love them. My brief walk home is always a bit quieter, a bit slower. I make a conscious effort to slow down and breathe. To appreciate the things around me. Greeting little ones and their parents is important to me. I like to be cheerful to others because I know that I appreciate it as well.

I arrive back home, unlock the door and let myself into the house where it is quiet and still. The house, while sometimes seems too silent and lonely, is a comfort to me as well. My morning routine centres around making a cup of tea (in one of my happy mugs), eating breakfast, listening to Radio 2 and getting down to work. Part of the reason that I have Radio 2 on is that it means someone else is in the room with the dogs and me. I have someone to listen to, talk to or laugh with. I hear the news every 30 minutes so I feel like I know what’s going on in the world.

My desk is a happy place for me. It’s an old writing bureau that Mark brought home for me. I painted it with chalk paint and originally it took pride of place in my Shedquarters in the garden. But then the Autumn and Winter temperatures made the Shedquarters less of a haven so I dragged it across the garden to take up residence near the back door of our lounge. My writing desk is decorated with bits and bobs of happiness and comfort. My laptop sits comfortably waiting for the ideas in my head to pour out into the keyboard. Some days it waits a while! My laptop is surrounded by several of my colourful notebooks which also wait to be written in. The ideas don’t seem to flow as frequently these days for some reason. Perhaps it’s lack of practice?

Another source of happiness for me is the sound of children’s voices when they play outside at school. We live only a stone’s throw from school and each morning during their break time and each afternoon at lunch I can hear their (hopefully) gleeful voices. I find it reassuring although having worked at school lunch hour previously, I know that not all of those shouts and squeals are happy voices. However I like to think that my two children are happy each day.

I’m quite a social person naturally and while I love the flexibility and freedom of working from home, I find the lack of company quite oppressive some days. I’ve been trying to find the right words to explain my feelings and thoughts but am struggling. There’s no reason for me to be struggling to be fair but I am. I feel like I have just stepped into quicksand. I’m stuck but as I try to move to extricate myself from this situation I just get more stuck. So there I stand…still. Paralysed essentially. Not sure what to do or where to go.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am peri-menopausal. A few months ago, after seeing a 3rd GP at my surgery, he offered to put me on anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medication, suggesting that it might also help with my hot flushes. While I have felt that the medication has helped me, to even me out more and clear away some of the black fog, I don’t think it’s actually what I need. I believe that hormone therapy of some sort is the best option but unfortunately the NHS generally chooses to ignore the symptoms of peri-menopausal and menopausal women. It’s time for me to get educated and make another visit to the GP to really see what can be done.

In the meantime, I am going to keep focusing on the little things and taking baby steps. The imperfectly happy journey…it’s quite the adventure.

 

Baby Steps

Don’t you just hate it when something you didn’t even know you wanted doesn’t happen? It’s been almost a month since I have written because life got very busy suddenly and I found the words weren’t coming so I just let them rest. Now I need to get them out.

3 weeks ago I saw a post on Facebook that a friend shared. It was a job listing for a Trainee Programme through the NHS. The NHS was looking for 4 people who wanted to become Trainee Child and Young Person’s Wellbeing Practitioners. The successful candidates would enter a PGCE programme to attain the necessary training and certification to become a Child and Young Person’s Wellbeing Practitioner and would also be paid a rather nice salary for 37.5 hours per week with all of the benefits of full time employment, including paid holiday, etc. This post had my name all over it! I have wanted to continue on from my initial work through Relax Kids to reach more children, help families and schools to create safe spaces and provide support for children experiencing anxiety and stress. I only had about 6 days to complete the NHS online application, contact and list references and also apply for the University PGCE programme which also required submitting my University transcripts. A lot of effort went into the applications but once they were complete I sat and waited with anticipation. The job description mentioned that interviews would take place the week of 5 November. I had been contacted by a couple of different people associated with the post asking basic job requirement questions so I was hopeful. I meditated, visualised and manifested. I could see myself in this role. I was excited.

And then it was November 4. I hadn’t been contacted. Interviews were supposed to start on 5 November. I emailed the contact person to enquire as to whether or not we would be notified if we were being offered an interview. The response that arrived at 5pm on 5 November was “We have already begun the interview process. Unfortunately, your application has not been successful this time.” Blah. I didn’t get an interview. I didn’t even get a courtesy email thanking me for applying and letting me know that “my application had not been successful this time.” I was like a balloon that was just poked by a random thorn whilst flying through the sky. A slow stream of air escaped as I began to sink and look rather less cheerful. A job that I hadn’t even realised that I wanted was not going to happen. And I was deflated.

I know, I know…I do believe that if something that you want to happen doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to be. As a wise friend said, “it’s not the job for you right now if it didn’t happen”. I know all of that but it still is disappointing. And that has knocked me a bit. I have slept so poorly the last 2 days, awake at ridiculous o’clock, over-thinking and aimless. But I know too that it wasn’t what I was meant to do. I was meant to do something else. Something that I haven’t quite figured out yet. And that’s a bit of my roadblock at the moment: what do I want?

I received an email from a positive psychology newsletter that I have subscribed to. Ironically, the subject of the email was WHAT DO YOU WANT? Not, “what do you want to do or be” but what do you want. I am looking forward to sitting down with my notebook to work on this. It’s everything from what type of setting do you feel most comfortable in to the hours that you want to work to what the subject of your work will be. It’s not defining a job or role but what the conditions are that you need to be the most happy, motivated and inspired.

In addition to this journaling exercise, I am free-writing ideas for the mini-mountains that I have burbling under the surface at the moment. I am also feeling the feelings. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to wallow a bit. It’s okay to have a nap or eat gluten-free onion rings for lunch. It’s okay to have a bit of retail therapy. It’s definitely okay to do whatever it takes to make yourself feel better. So this week is about that. Baby steps to feeling stronger. Baby steps to climbing that mountain. And I will get there.

How do you manage yourself when you get knocked back? What baby steps do you take to reignite your sparkle?

Stuff that helps

In support of World Mental Health Day, I have been thinking of the stuff that helps me to feel stronger, more positive and able to handle every day with a smile. I am hoping that maybe these ideas might help you or give you something new to try. We all need our own arsenal of things to turn to when the going gets tough, right?

It’s okay not to be okay!

My first step, most recently and back in 2012, was to realise that I was not okay. I think it takes a while for the realisation to sink in, to be honest. Especially when, on the whole, life is good. We think, I can’t possibly be depressed! I have a good life, lovely family and my health; how could I be so selfish as to be depressed? But a good life won’t prevent sad times and certainly won’t correct a chemical imbalance in your brain and body that takes you into a dark fog. Sometimes we need support that is found outside of the walls of our house. Sometimes that support comes in the form of talk therapy, counselling, EFT, CBT. Sometimes that support comes in the form of a tablet or two that you take daily that simply makes the fog disappear and allows you to regain control of your thoughts and feelings. I would also add that seeing your GP may not necessarily immediately result in support or solutions. If your GP doesn’t LISTEN to you or isn’t sensitive enough to your situation, ask to see another GP. You should never be brushed off when it comes to Mental Health. Stand up for yourself and get what you need.

I am currently taking Fluoxetine (Prozac) and it has been a lifeline for me. I feel me again. I dusted off my sparkle and feel so much lighter and more positive now. When I was suffering with post-natal depression in 2012, I took Citalopram. That certainly helped me but I also felt like it numbed me a bit too much. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t stuck in my dark hole any longer. It allowed me time to breathe and slowly peel off the layers to get back to me. Taking tablets for depression or low mood is not a bad thing. If you had diabetes or asthma or a thyroid problem you would never turn down medication to keep you healthy. So why is there such a stigma attached to anti-depressants? It’s like any other condition that needs treatment. There is nothing shameful about looking after yourself.

Fresh air & Vitamin D

It sounds perhaps too simple but when you’re needing a bit of a lift, getting outside in the fresh air and soaking up some ultraviolet rays (Vitamin D!!) can make such a difference. Walk outside, take a deep breath, look up at the sky and the clouds and the sun and just pause. Slow yourself right down and just sit or stand and take time to appreciate nature. For those of us who are affected by SAD during the Autumn and Winter months, this is almost as important as any medication you might take. In the UK during the Autumn and Winter our sunshine is more limited. By getting outside and breathing in fresh air you can clear your head and also give your body what it needs. If you have the time to take a walk as well, all the better. I find that even a 20-30 minute walk can make such a difference to my outlook. My brain gets time to step off the over-thinking treadmill. I also find that I am able to tap into my creative thoughts better as I let my mind wander. Take a daily dose of fresh air and sunshine and your body and brain will thank you for it.

Guilt-free Me Time

I had a ridiculous notion that taking time for myself was selfish. If I wasn’t busy working I felt that I should be doing housework or another job for my family. It’s no wonder that I started to have low-level resentment burbling under the surface. I was doing everything for everyone else and nothing for myself. That had an immediate knock-on effect on my family as well. If I don’t function properly our family doesn’t function properly. I am short-tempered, grumpy and hard to be around. I don’t have enough patience to be a thoughtful mother and wife. I felt that my needs were at the bottom of the list. I was then asking for permission to take time for myself and then feeling guilty about taking it.

After my coaching sessions with Gabrielle Treanor this Summer I began to fully believe that I had just as much worth as everyone else in my family and that looking after myself wasn’t selfish, it was necessary. I began to look at our monthly calendar and make a concerted effort to write myself into the calendar. I may not get big, luxurious breaks every day (spa treatments and afternoon tea aren’t in our budget) but I do allow myself time every day to indulge. I will sit and read, watch a programme I have recorded, eat a comforting lunch while watching Neighbours and Home & Away, take a power nap, meditate, paint my nails or go for a walk. I also make a point of scheduling things outside of the house that help me. Working from home means that I am a bit isolated and I am quite an extrovert and need social interaction to feel more human. I get out once a week to a local cafe (with or without friends) to have tea and cake. I am currently enrolled in a Pilates course that runs every Thursday evening. It’s a financial commitment but one that I am really beginning to enjoy as well. I now know that taking time for myself is a necessity and it makes me better as a result.

Creativity, Music & Laughter

When I was in my funk this Summer, I found that my creativity suffered dramatically. I love using my creativity to inspire myself and others. When my brain was weighed down with negative self-talk and my inner critic’s voice was drowning out everything else, I struggled to tap into my usual creative self. Once I began to value myself, to stop listening to that inner critic and realise that I was actually pretty amazing, I started to feel those creative vibes coming back. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I felt motivated enough to do something I had never done! I felt compelled to make a bit of art. I grabbed a large piece of cardboard, some acrylic paints, tubes of coloured glitter and a paintbrush. I just let my creative self choose the colours and the shapes and it all ended up quite sparkly and colourful. It’s not a work of art, it’s simply an expression of my feelings and sparkle. It’s not even good! But I love it. It made me feel good and it now sits next to my desk, sparkling away. It was fun, impulsive and fulfilling.

I have also remembered the importance of laughter. Not just social tee-hee’s but proper belly laughs and really letting those emotions out. Honestly, is there anything better than a whole body laugh that leaves you breathless and wiping tears away from your eyes? I don’t think so! And what else goes with laughter? MUSIC! Create a Happy Playlist on your phone or Spotify. Pick songs that speak to you, get your toes tapping and help you remember a fun occasion or happy memory. Turn up the volume to 11 and have a boogie! Invite your children and just be silly. You can’t possibly be sad or down when you’re laughing at each other’s dance moves. Try it!

Journaling

I have always want to be a journaling person. I have a Pinterest board for journaling and have had half-hearted attempts over the last 10 years to become a journaling guru. I love notebooks, colourful pens and office bits and bobs. However, I never could keep up the journaling. I suppose I felt a bit odd about keeping track of my day, perhaps self-indulgent? And then when bullet journaling took off, I thought that I could really get on board! Alas, no. But as part of my coaching sessions this Summer, I started to log in various things in a notebook. I was tracking things I wanted to be able to report back on. I found that it really helped me to get things out on paper. It was a brain dump for me and also helped me to see progress which was very important to me.

I have now started a new journal and am loving it. I keep track of daily reflections, my 3 good things (Gratitude Practice), a mood tracker, a 30-day challenges section (this month is daily Meditation) and also have an Affirmations and Inspiration section that I can turn to for support and motivation. I spend time at the end of each day writing and recording in my journal. It’s now a welcome habit for me but also one that I don’t feel tied to. I know that I can miss a day if I need to but I find that I don’t want to! Journaling daily helps me to look back positively on the day, helps me resolve any emotions that are lingering and encourages me to keep on this path. I also use my creativity a bit in my journaling as I use colourful Stabilo fine-line markers to perk up each day.

 Meditation

Similar to my desire to be a journaling person, I was very intrigued by the idea of meditation and wanted it to become a fixture in my daily life. Before this Summer/Autumn, I don’t think I was actually ready for it. I wasn’t open enough to the concept of the Universe guiding me and for things to “come through” in my meditation. It is a bit intimidating though. Allowing your mind to “empty” and just be? In our society of ridiculously short attention spans, mobile phones and social media, the thought that anyone can clear their head of the swirling ideas and things that fill our every day is ambitious at best. But really, meditation isn’t about CLEARING your brain. It’s about calming yourself, allowing yourself to slow down and tap into you. It’s about recognising that thoughts and feelings will come and we simply let them go. It’s about being guided toward a peaceful state that enables our emotions and blocks to clear. And it’s a bit of a revelation when it works.

I have used the various apps that are available on our phones but have not found one that truly resonates with me. Most of the meditation and mindfulness apps are free to download but only a few things are available for free. Most meditation apps have monthly or yearly memberships which you pay for to unlock the library of meditations and recordings. I am sure this is quite beneficial but for me, paying a significant amount of money for something to access on my phone was just not what I wanted to do. I have instead searched for free meditations online, found ones I use through my desktop and have also searched on YouTube for support and inspiration. This is working well for me and I am finding a lot more comfort and peace in my meditation journey. This is my first 30-day challenge as well, daily meditation. I alternate between doing breathing exercises which I do myself, unaided and listening to audio meditations online. It’s been exciting to see progress in this and I am now looking forward to my meditation sessions which I usually do in the mid-afternoon during the week.

Inspirational People

I have found inspiration and motivation from a variety of sources and would love to share those with you. This year I contributed to and took part in the Life Reboot Camp by Sophie LeBrozec. Life Reboot Camp is all about finding the life you love and is an amazing course that helps wade through the issues that face women/mothers. I have been supported and encouraged both by Sophie and the other Life Reboot Campers who interact regularly on a closed Facebook Group. It keeps us all on track and motivated to find our best life.

As I mentioned above, I participated in life coaching with Gabrielle Treanor, this past Summer. Gabrielle specialises in working with over-thinkers and has such a lovely soul. Gabrielle and I set goals and action steps, I was challenged and inspired to dig deep and I made a lot of progress of which I am extremely proud. Having Gabrielle in my corner encouraging me and helping me to realise a lot of things about myself was amazing. Gabrielle has just opened up her coaching to the public so run over and check it out through the link above.

Another friend of mine, Pippa Best, has a wonderful support community called Story of Mum and is also starting up a new venture, Sea soul Blessings. Pippa and I presented an Embrace Happy workshop at BritMums blogging conference about 4 years ago. Pippa is another lovely soul who works to empower women and mothers, who is a creative genius and who is so inspiring in everything she does.

This Summer I have found a great deal of inspiration from Gabby Bernstein who is a bit of a celebrity in the positive psychology world. I ordered The Universe Has Your Back, having been intrigued thanks to Sophie LeBrozec. While some of the messages are a bit WOO WOO, they are spot on. They totally spoke to me and I have found so much to grown on with Gabby’s messages. I have used her meditations and am currently working through her 3-part free Judgement Detox mini-course which accompanies her new paperback release of Judgement Detox which arrived on my doorstep yesterday. Gabby is definitely one of the spiritual, woo-woo leaders and some of that may be hard for critical thinkers to embrace but I am loving it. Something that helps us to open our hearts and minds can’t be bad, can it?

Phew, that’s a lot of stuff that helps. Happiness is not destination, it’s a journey. It takes work. Hard work! It means opening your heart, throwing out bitterness and negative emotions, getting rid of baggage that no longer serves you. It’s a daily challenge but one that I am loving. What helps you? Let me know!

Naps save lives

Back when Mark and I were very first together, I was studying in Normandy and most weekends I would take the ferry from Ouistreham to Portsmouth. Mark would drive 3 hours south to collect me and we would spend the weekend together and complete the reverse journey on Sunday nights for me to make an overnight crossing. I recall seeing billboards on the motorway every so often that advised “Tiredness Kills”. I found that campaign rather bleak but obviously the message was to be aware of when you need to rest and/or sleep, pull over and not kill anyone behind the wheel of your vehicle. Sensible advice of course! More recently, I was following an “influencer” on Instagram who had just had her third child. Her message to her numerous followers, after “pulling up the drawbridge” to have undisturbed time to recover following the birth of her son was #napssavelives. This is a message I can wholeheartedly get behind. Naps do save lives.

Yesterday, after another fairly fitful night’s sleep, I woke up feeling quite groggy and off. I had a bit of a cold with a snuffly nose and didn’t really feel fit for purpose. The best choice I could have made was to declare a Duvet Day and just indulge in slowing down. Instead, I pressed on to visit the inlaw’s with my family and put on that stiff upper lip that British people are so famous for. It’s not like I was miserable with a dreadful lurgy but I was tired, worn out and quiet. This is not usually the case and as a result I was asked more than once by my husband what was wrong.

We visited Mark’s family and then, when faced with the prospect of having pasta for dinner, Mark chose to stop at the shop on the way home so he could get some jacket potatoes and various other bits. As he hustled into the store with about 20 minutes before closing time, I sat in the car with the children and the dogs and proceeded to “rest my eyes”. It was no good, I needed a nap. Finally, after arriving home and unpacking the groceries, I grabbed a blanket and retired to my bed for a much needed kip. I slept for a little over an hour and boy, what a lovely nap that was! I awoke feeling dramatically better, had a smile on my face and was happy to make dinner and chat with my family as per usual. Naps save lives.

What I am very slowly beginning to learn is that, at age 47 3/4, I need to listen to my body and give it what it needs in order for me to function at my best. When I function at my best, everyone else around me functions better. And that’s what’s best for the world. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to realise that I need to listen to my own body and what it needs? Perhaps it’s societal pressure to be and do and achieve? Perhaps it’s the idea that it’s selfish to do what I need to do? However, as I have begun to turn up the volume on the needs of my body, I have been rewarded by feeling better, happier and stronger. When I feel this way, everything in my life runs better. And if all I need to feel better is to have a 20-minute power nap or 60-minute indulgence nap, why shouldn’t I do it? There’s no need to ask permission or apologise for needing this time. Just take it. Naps save lives.

A couple of years ago, following two knee replacements, I joined a local fitness studio. They run spin classes, Body Pump and lots of other fun classes that I knew would motivate me. I had several streaks of attending classes regularly and did feel better for it but I also found that my body hurt so much! Not my knees thankfully but my muscles didn’t recover in the same way that they used to. Slowly it began to dawn on me that doing things that were more gentle, like walking and Yoga, made me feel just as good but without the muscle pain and inability to walk downstairs in the morning. HIIT programmes, Cross-Fit or C25K challenges needed to be relegated to “things I did when I was younger”. My future was outdoor walks, gentle Yoga and afternoon naps. And that’s okay.

Recently, I reached out to a local Physio who specialises in Pilates and post-natal recovery. I am 6+ years past being post-natal but my midsection has never recovered. I still look several months pregnant and it’s beginning to affect my back which is never a good thing. I contacted this Physio who visited me at home for a consultation. We had such a lovely chat about all of my physical challenges, past surgeries, pregnancies and births and current symptoms. She tested my diastasis recti (muscle separation of this rectus abdominus muscles) and announced that I have a 2 1/2-3 finger muscle separation but that my diastasis also is quite long. Instead of being simply a separation in the middle of my belly, my diastasis recti extends all the way to my diaphragm! I’ve always been an over-achiever! I was given exercises to work on and I will be attending her weekly Pilates classes at a local community centre.

Being my best Me means that I have to listen to what my body needs. If I need a nap, I need to take a nap. If I need a slice of gluten-free chocolate fudge cake, I will have a slice of gluten-free chocolate fudge cake. If I need to sit in the garden in the sun and soak up some Vitamin D for a few minutes during the day, then I will! What could you be doing to be your best you? Do you listen to your body? Do you give it what it needs? I highly recommend it. And of course, always remember, naps save lives.

The Menopause Diaries: Insomnia and Hot Flushes

I have never been a brilliant sleeper. Well, that’s not entirely true, I do love a good, old fashioned nap. That I can do. But sleeping at night has never been perfect mainly because I am quite a light sleeper. When I became a Mum 10 years ago, a good night’s sleep quickly evaporated. I think probably the last truly good night’s sleep has to have been before I fell pregnant in 2007. That’s not to say that I don’t get sleep. I certainly do but I also wake frequently. Most of these wakeful episodes have generally been just stirring enough to look at the clock, note what ridiculous o’clock time it is and going back to sleep. Motherhood ushered in considerably more wakeful moments due to my overly sensitive ears hearing things like cries or sighs or a snuffle. Now that Ella and Sam are older, thankfully they aren’t generally the cause of my multiple awakenings. More recently the dogs were more to blame for that!

However, in the last year, the amount of times that I wake up during the night has steadily increased and now it’s not just “Oh, it’s 2:37am, I have 5 more hours to sleep, zzzzzz!” but rather “Oh, it’s 2:37am, I have 5 more hours to sleep, WHY CAN’T I GET BACK TO SLEEP?, Oh, it’s now 4:13am, I wish I could get back to sleep!, (5:21am) Zzzzz”. I wake up between 3-7 times a night and often struggle to get back to sleep at least once or twice every night. The real problem with not being able to get back to sleep is that I lay there, not wanting to disturb my husband or the dogs and begin to ruminate about anything and everything for a few hours. Sometimes I get up and go downstairs to watch some telly or read but more often than not I will resort to my phone to suitably wear out my eyes enough to send me back to sleep.

The other night I prepared for a nighttime wakeup by bringing my iPhone headphones and a book up to bed with me. My plan was that if I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep immediately, I would pop my headphones in, go to one of my meditation apps and find a 10-15 minute sleepy meditation to listen to. Failing that I would read my book by the light of my phone torch. True to form, I woke up at 3:34am and couldn’t get back to sleep. The effort of getting my headphones seemed quite great at the time and I didn’t fancy shoving anything into my ears at that moment. Instead I reverted back to the blue light of my social media channels on my phone and scrolled myself back to sleep about 40 minutes later. Best laid plans, right?

I have pretty much accepted that I am destined for numerous waking moments each night and will frequently struggle to get back to sleep but I don’t like it. Lack of quality sleep ends up making me a bit groggy and slow in the mornings and I end up needing a power nap mid-afternoon to get me through the rest of the day. I do feel that the increase in nighttime waking and insomnia is one of the glorious symptoms of peri-menopause. I have also been experiencing more frequent episodes of hot flushes and night sweats which just adds to the wakeful times and mental stress. Would you like to know more about hot flushes? I shall educate you!

I remember my maternal grandmother talking about “hot flashes” when I was young. In America it’s a hot flash vs the UK where it is a hot flush. Either way, it’s hot and it engulfs you in a flash and makes you feel flush with warmth so call it whatever you like. Mind you, that flush of warmth is not a comforting hug that one feels from a Slanket or some hand-knitted, Hygge-inspired lounge wear. That flush is a sudden and rather intense internal whoosh that makes you instantly too hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. I have experienced the odd minor hot flush during the day but for the most part, they pop up during the night. The other night I woke up for some reason and began to feel that growing wave of heat take over my body. I pushed the duvet off and laid there marvelling that somehow I wasn’t actually glowing as I felt so hot! I was sure that if someone put a marshmallow on a stick near my body I would have provided the perfect roasting area for a classic Smore.

I now find myself wearing t-shirts while everyone else happily transitions to their Autumn wardrobe, never needing a jacket, having the air conditioning on in the car at all times with all vents pointed at me and both legs constantly out of the duvet throughout the night. I am tempted to buy one of those glorious, old fashioned handheld fans that Southern Belles in America would have used to flutter and flirt with their suitors. Perhaps I should come out with my own line of handheld fans? Glitter, rainbows, sunshine?? Gap in the market!

As frustrating as the nighttime waking, the difficulty in getting back to sleep and the joy of feeling like a human radiator is, it’s certainly not the worst thing that could be happening to me. I know that this is kind of a rite of passage that most women will have to go through. I know that women who are dealing with cancer treatment have far worse to deal with. I know that people with life-changing conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis are challenged by a plethora of horrible symptoms and misery each and every day. I know that one day in the, hopefully, not too distant future, I will officially be Menopausal and most of these symptoms will stop. It’s not pleasant at all but it’s certainly not the worst thing I could be dealing with.

I do, however, find the dismissal of these symptoms by medical professionals as an “inevitable phase of life” that just has to be weathered, incredibly frustrating. If a man had to face 4-14 years of rather crappy symptoms as an “inevitable phase of life”, I have a feeling that suddenly a miraculous treatment for Menopausal symptoms would become widely available on the NHS. Instead, male GP’s poo-poo the symptoms, reluctantly discuss the possibility of Hormone Replacement Therapy but generally advise women to pursue some research on their own to find ways to cope. I feel that this is often due to a lack of training or education about women’s health. In the UK, women don’t regularly see a Gynaecologist unless there is a serious women’s health issue that needs pursuing. GP’s, generally, don’t have the necessary training to be able to offer proper diagnosis, treatment or solutions for the Menopause. Often, the only way to get proper support and assistance is to pursue private health care for a Menopause specialist or Gynaecologist.

It looks like I am in for several more years of interrupted sleep, radiating heat and insomnia so I will see what I can come up with to make the most of it! That handheld fan idea is sounding better and better! Let me know if you’d like one too!

The Menopause Diaries- The Beginning

I’m 47-years old (soon to be 48) and while the “medical professionals” have yet to confirm it, I believe I have entered that phase of life that every woman will experience…THE MENOPAUSE. Now, technically it is peri-menopause as the term Menopause literally is the ending of your menstruation and child-bearing years. Peri-menopause can begin at a variety of times but generally between the ages of 45-50 you will start experiencing different symptoms that are associated with The Menopause. I’m going to share my personal journey with you in this mini-series, The Menopause Diaries and hopefully you will find some resonance!

According to the NHS, these are some of the symptoms of The Menopause:

Most women will experience some symptoms around the menopause. The duration and severity of these symptoms varies from woman to woman.

Symptoms usually start a few months or years before your periods stop, known as the perimenopause, and can persist for some time afterwards.

On average, most symptoms last around 4 years from your last period. However, around 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years.

Common symptoms include:

 

I know. Where can you sign up, right?? What fun! I can confirm that from this list of 11 symptoms, I currently experience 6-7 of these on a regular basis. I have been to the GP three times now to discuss this stage of my life with very little support at the end. The first GP I spoke with (a man) told me that I am technically within the average ages of peri-menopausal women and it is possible that I have the symptoms (gee, thank you). He ordered a few blood tests and gave me a sound-byte speech about Hormone Replacement Therapy and then added “But ultimately HRT only prolongs the inevitable anyway.” Essentially I was told by a male GP to suck it up and get on with life. Helpful.

The 2nd GP I saw, about 3 months later, was a female which I requested. I thought there might be solidarity in a “sister” but I was sorely mistaken. She acknowledged that I could be peri-menopausal, that the first GP had not ordered the correct tests and that I could try an over-the-counter herbal supplement called Menopace which is helpful for some women. She told me she would ring me if the test results returned anything untoward. I never heard back from her.

The 3rd GP I saw, about a month ago, was technically my assigned GP. I have seen him a handful of times over the last few years but he wouldn’t know me from the next person so it didn’t really matter that he was my assigned GP. And he’s a man. I listed off my variety of symptoms including extra mention about my low mood and emotional distress over the previous couple of months. He looked at my blood tests and told me that nothing indicates that I am entering the menopause. But none of those blood tests were ordered specifically to measure my hormone levels and none were repeated month after month to establish a base line hormone level to determine if and when the hormone levels begin to drop. The GP said that according to the official guidelines I am not peri-menopausal however he did acknowledge that I was experiencing symptoms that were not pleasant. The one glimmer of hope that he offered me was the option of going on Fluoxetine (aka Prozac) which is an anti-anxiety (anti-depressant essentially) that has been known to help with night sweats and hot flushes as well as low mood and emotional ups and downs. I took that as a lifeline and scuttled out of the surgery, prescription in hand.

I can report, after a month of taking Fluoxetine, that I feel infinitely better! My days of rage have been dialled down, my mood swings are far less dramatic and I feel brighter and lighter. In some ways, I feel ever so slightly hyper at times, since starting the Fluoxetine. I do find that my normally very busy brain is often in overdrive but not in a negative way. While there is a general societal shaming of antidepressants, I have found that when I have needed to take them, they have helped me immensely and I see nothing shameful about taking help when we need it. If you were struggling in open water would you push away a buoy thrown by a lifeguard because you wouldn’t want to appear weak? No, of course not! Drowning in your own thoughts and emotions is exactly like drowning in water. Help is necessary. No one should be ashamed of asking for help and taking that help in whatever form is required. It does not mean you are a failure or weak. It simply is a chemical imbalance in your body that needs levelling. We take medication to help us with high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, birth control and more…what’s so wrong about taking a tablet to help you to clear the fog and look at the world with open eyes?

In addition to taking Fluoxetine for the last month, I have begun to prioritise myself, my self-care and Me Time. I am specifically putting myself on the calendar and appreciating that my needs and desires are just as important as the other members of my family. I am taking daily, guilt-free me time for a mental escape. I am using affirmations and brain breaks to keep myself from listening too much to my inner critic. I am journalling daily about the 3 good things that made my day special and worth celebrating and am also writing about my feelings, frustrations and worries. I am continually working to declutter and organise my house and life to keep myself free of “stuff” that blocks my progress. And I am giving myself a break. It’s okay to be human, to be imperfectly happy. And all of that is helping me to truly embrace happy.

I will continue to share my peri-menopausal journey with you in this mini series and hope that my issues, experiences, struggles and solutions might help someone else as they begin their next “stage of life”. So much is changing for me at the moment. My hormones, my body, my mind but also my identity. My children, at age 10 and 6, don’t need me in the same way any longer. I have become more of a taxi service at the moment. My husband reminds me often that he loves me and finds me desirable which I continue to struggle to accept, partly because I am only slowly beginning to accept myself. We need to find our own path as a couple and rediscover ourselves as man and woman, not just Mum and Dad. And I have such a desire to make a difference in the world and help others as much as I can but I am not sure how I will accomplish that! I will be 48 on 14 November…I might have a better idea of what the next year will hold for me by then?

So, what about you? Where are you in your journey as a woman??

 

It’s all about me

At the age of 47 and 3/4 I am taking time to focus on myself. Right now, it’s all about me and that feels kind of good. I am learning that happiness takes work and I have decided to take time to work on me. This past Summer was supposed to be one to savour but instead, it was one that left me feeling decidedly flat. My children are at a wonderful age where they don’t need me to direct every second of their day. They make their own choices and I chose to loosen the apron strings a bit to give them more independence and freedom. Thankfully they thrived with this newfound responsibility! And their relationship as siblings was boosted as well. They worked together to have fun and Ella took on the challenge of directing some of what they did as well in preparation for babysitting in the not-too-distant future. This helped to give me time to be more introspective and evaluate where I was, where I had been and where I was going.

Thanks to coaching from Gabrielle Treanor and support from Sophie Le Brozec and her Life Reboot Camp, I have finally fully appreciated that I need to do the work to know myself and love myself. As airy-fairy as it may sound, it’s true…happiness has to come from inside, not from external sources. I have taken time this Summer to get to know myself better, to recognise when I am over-thinking or ruminating and what triggers this as well as learning to make choices that are best for me. I have worked on setting goals and action steps to achieve those goals and have learned so much about myself in the process. I have also embraced journalling which has been both a creative outlet for me but also has given me a chance to evaluate my responses to situations and how I feel on a daily basis.

What have I done to help myself? I’ve looked at my past, forgiven some mistakes and people, forgiven myself and started to be far more patient and kind to myself. I have turned down the volume on my inner critic and am putting myself on equal pegging with the rest of my family as to things I want to do and pursue. Through the coaching and self-discovery I have also elevated my physical health to a higher priority. Today I had a consultation with a Pilates teacher who is also a Physio who specialises in post-natal abdominal issues. Although I am quite far away from being post-natal (Ella is 10 and Sam is 6!) I have a lot of physical repair of my midsection to accomplish. I was so encouraged by the Pilates teacher and am really looking forward to taking classes that will help me to help myself. It’s all a part of taking control of myself.

I have started using positive affirmations when I notice that I am over-thinking. My thoughts tend to swirl at about 200mph most of the time but when I find myself in a negative spiral or that inner critic starts speaking too loudly, I stop, breathe and repeat the affirmations above. Affirmations are positive statements that help to anchor and guide you forward. I have used positive affirmations with the children I have taught and now see the value of using them personally. I make a conscious effort to put the brakes on and remind myself of what is important and what accomplishments I have made. This serves as a bit of a happy flush for me as opposed to the hot flushes that I am starting to experience. Isn’t it funny how something as simple as a sentence can help you to feel better? Is it time to start making thing all about YOU?

 

imperfectly me

As I have been doing a lot of work this Summer in finding myself thanks to some amazing coaching from Gabrielle Treanor, I thought I would take some time to introduce myself and share the beginning of my self-discovery journey. I’m imperfectly me and am learning to love that!

I’m 47-years old. I didn’t find the love of my life until I was 34 years old and I had to cross an ocean to do it. It was definitely worth it as I have an imperfectly happy life, a supportive husband, two amazing children and two energetic rescue dogs. I have spent the last 10 years working as a blogger and social media manager which fits perfectly around the lives of our family members. My children are now 10 and 6 and in some ways need me more now that when they were little. It’s a different need though and one that generally involves me driving them to their activities and waiting for them to finish.

I’ve had a plethora of health challenges since becoming a mother: 2 Caesarian sections, Post Natal Depression, abdominal surgery, two knee replacement surgeries and asthma and Coeliac disease to name a few. I’m also at that amazing stage in every woman’s life that we try not to speak of…THE MENOPAUSE. According to various blood tests, the medical experts say that I am not pre-menopausal but I know I am. And what a wealth of new challenges that presents! Following a recent appointment with the rather disinterested (and male) GP, I am now the recipient of a Fluoxetine prescription (aka Prozac) which he prescribed partially to help my pre-menopausal symptoms.

Through my coaching sessions with Gabrielle, I have been taking a really good look at me and who I have become. I have realised that a lot of my happiness often comes from outside sources. I love acknowledgement from others yet I find it difficult to champion myself from the inside out. I spend a lot of time trying to please everyone else in the world and often forget about myself. I am learning that my needs are equally as important as the other members of my family and that making and more importantly TAKING time for myself is crucial to my wellbeing.

I feel quite sparkly inside and generally gravitate to glittery and colourful things (stationary, magazines, decorative items) yet I find myself forever dressed in dark colours. I have said before that if I could cut out my torso I would feel much more confident about my physical self. Since having children my body has changed dramatically and although I should be proud of what my body has accomplished I still tend to hide myself as much as possible. Yet, I love speaking to people, presenting in front of crowds, teaching and talking in general so I am not afraid to put myself out there. I have had a pretty prolific social media presence for the last 6 years and regularly share the snapshots of our life but I don’t always feature in those snaps. If I am in them, it’s usually from the neck up!

What I mainly want to communicate through this post is that in spite of physical and mental challenges, I am happy. Imperfectly happy but happy nonetheless. What I want to share is that perfection should never be the goal. Talking about our issues, sharing our concerns, not being okay and telling someone that you aren’t is the key. Struggling with the changes of the female body and fighting to have your voice heard by medical professionals is important. Allowing yourself to have a down day, to retreat to a safe place, to reach out for help and love is crucial to imperfect happiness. I find it refreshing when people tell the truth. In this age of “influencers” and Insta-everything I would rather see an imperfect photo and an honest recount of a difficult day than perfectly crafted and staged nonsense that’s bought and paid for. And that’s what I am trying to get back to. Reality isn’t always pretty. While I am most definitely embracing happy, I can’t be happy all of the time. No one can. Even Oprah has bad days occasionally!

My goal now is to continue to work on me, to share my journey honestly and do my best to help others to find their own versions of imperfect happiness. I hope you will stay with me on the journey!

Gratitude Practice changed my life

It may sound a bit dramatic but starting a Gratitude Practice changed my life. What began as a 21-day challenge resulted in a totally new me and is something that I continue to this day. I don’t know about you but even though I am a classic “obliger” (see Gretchen Rubin for more information) I have a hard time sticking to things. I am a bit of an all or nothing girl and if I fall “off the wagon” I tend to give up entirely. Experts say that to form a habit, doing something (or not doing something) for 21 days will dramatically increase the probability that what you’re doing or not doing will simply become a way of life. I have tried challenges before and have fallen at the 7-day mark and the 14-day mark so the idea of keeping anything going for 21 days was worth pursuing.

The 3 good things challenge was pretty simple, really. For 21-days, at some point during the day (for me it was at the end of the day) find 3 good things about your day that made your day brighter. They could be little things or big things but they just needed to be things that helped you to get through your day. Maybe it was the perfect cup of tea, a chat with a friend, a surprise letter in the post, a hug from your child, a lie-in? Whatever stood out in your day as GOOD! It’s suggested that tracking your good thing is even more valuable if you physically record them. At the time, 4 1/2 years ago, the easiest way for me to track my 3 good things was to do so on social media. I would choose a photo from the day to post, caption the photo with my 3 good things and ping…post it on Instagram and Facebook. I used the hashtag #embracehappy which related to my infant programme at the time. While I am not the only person to use the hashtag #embracehappy, currently the number of posts for #embracehappy is just over 14,000! I love being able to search back through the hashtag to find my images and 3 good things from the early days.

Oddly, back in 2014, when I hit 21-days for the 3 good things challenge, I just kept going. I loved what it had done for me in that short period of time. It allowed me to slow down, to appreciate the little things, to breathe, to pause, to calm myself down and to be more patient in general. Finding 3 good things in every day made me want to celebrate those good things too. Finding 3 good things in every day helped me to see how important it is to stop and smell the roses. Finding 3 good things was something I ended up doing, every single day, for 1000 days. Next to being married for the last 12 years and being a Mum for the last 10 years, it’s the longest time I have done anything!

As I was nearing that 1000 day marker, I began to get a bit tired of the 3 good things format. I watched a video by Marie Forleo where she talked about her own Gratitude Practice. She talked about finding ONE good thing to celebrate about someone or her day and really expand on it. I decided that I liked the idea of taking more time and thought with my gratitude practice so I chose to wrap up 3 good things after 1000 days and began a daily Gratitude moment, again for me, shared online. What I loved was the opportunity to reflect on my day and find time to give thanks. Taking that time truly changed my outlook on life and helped me to appreciate all of the good in my life. I also chose to focus more of my attention on that good and to stop moaning about the little things online. No one needed to hear me whinging about my day, I decided.

Here we are 4 years and 7 months later and I am still keeping track of my good things. I have reverted back to more of a 3 good things approach and have switched to writing things down, old school style. I’ve decided that not everything needs to be shouted about online (irony??) and I would like to have a written record of good things to look back on. I’ve started journalling more and thoroughly enjoy getting out colourful markers and documenting happy moments in my day. What could you pick out of your day that made you smile? Maybe a Gratitude Practice could be something to include in your life? Try it for 21 days and see what you think!