Stuff that Helps

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!