World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is celebrated on the 10th October every year and although it was founded in 1992 it has definitely been talked about more in the last few years than every before.

High profile people such as the royal princes and celebrities have really led the way and used their influence as a force for good on the subject of mental health. By discussing their own struggles with mental wellbeing and encouraging others to do the same they have removed a lot of the stigma that used to exist around mental health issues.

It isn’t long since illnesses such as anxiety and depression were kept behind closed doors and those struggling, then felt that not only had they got this huge issue to overcome but they felt unable to talk about it with anyone for fear of seeming weak.

 The reality of course is very different.

Many people who struggle with mental ill health do so because they are incredibly mentally strong. They simply have so much to deal with, and do it with such grace, that no-one is aware that they are living an internal battle.

In my line of work I am very aware of changing attitudes to mental wellbeing and also see first hand all the statistics we all see on the news.

There are some worrying trends, that cannot be denied. Suicide and self harm rates are up for all age groups, from adolescents to adults, with particularly alarming trends towards self harm among teenage girls.

10% of children (age 5-16 years) have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder (source: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-children-and-young-people).

10%!

That’s at least three children in every class! And those are the children who have been diagnosed with issues which means it has been so severe that someone has referred them to a medical professional.

These are children.

What are we doing?

Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t always easy. But it shouldn’t be. I actually think that that is part of the problem. I have seen a shift over the last 20, even 30 years towards protecting children and young people from all pain and disappointment.

We don’t allow our children to be upset because they broke their favourite toy, we buy them a replacement.

Preventing them from doing things that we deem to be too dangerous, not allowing them to climb that tree at the park or learn to roller-skate in case they get hurt.

We give awards to everyone at sports day for trying instead of letting the child who is brilliant at running really shine that day and give the other children a small and very manageable dose of disappointment.

If we don’t learn these little lessons and develop that mental resilience, how on earth can we cope with failing our driving test, not passing an exam or being rejected in an interview process?

Learning to be more mentally strong is a challenge for everyone, with or without additional challenges. I am a huge advocate for learning strategies to strengthen our mental wellness before we need to use them. By having these tools and techniques ready in our toolbox we will use them quickly and easily when we really need them.

That is why most of my work is in schools. I am passionate about teaching children strategies to stay calm and happy while, for the most part, that that is their natural state. It is then something that they understand and is so natural and instinctive that they use their favourite breathing technique or they meditate, do some exercise, whatever works best for them, whenever they feel the mental malfunction monster knocking. 

 

 

As a society we need to understand that it is through our challenges that we learn to grow. This must start in childhood. Protecting each other from pain isn’t doing us any favours.

I’m not saying that we need to intentionally hurt each other, that is very different, but some upset is character building. It strengthens our mental wellness. 

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

Khalil Gibran

Writer

My sister overcame a huge fear this weekend. She intentionally went to a Go Ape with her school friends and spent two hours high in the trees, walking on ropes and swinging down zip wires. She is terrified of heights, but she decided that it would do her good, as part of her “special” birthday celebrations, to face her fears and tackle this head on with supportive friends who she has known for many years.

I wouldn’t say she found it easy, she didn’t. But she did it! She laughed and smiled (I’ve seen the evidence!) and enjoyed spending time with her friends, but most of all she had that amazing sense of achievement that you can only get from achieving something you didn’t think possible. If she had sat at home worrying about it, she wouldn’t have had that amazing buzz.

How are you going to mark World Mental Health Day?

You don’t have to climb trees or jump out of a plane, but maybe you could visit someone you know doesn’t get out much? Perhaps ring your Mum or your Nan? Check in on that friend who is having a difficult time? Just be there for someone who needs to know that they are loved and supported. Maybe you will choose this day to start a new wellbeing routine; find a yoga class, make a self care promise to yourself.

Whatever you decide to do know that if you are struggling today, you are not alone and there are people out there who want to talk to you and help you.

I’m one of them.

By all means reach out to me and ask my advice or just tell me your story. I’m always here.

Happy World Mental Health Day, let’s make it a happy and healthy one, for everyone! 

Do you take time to reflect?

September is the start of my new year. For as long as I can remember I have worked in academic years.

I was at school, the new year started in September, that was when you started with a new teacher in a new class, new school even.

Then I went to college to do my teacher training. Again new year started in September.

When I started teaching I then had my new class and started a new year in September.

Now I am a Mum, my children start new school years and change class or school in September and of course I work in schools.

This is deeply engrained programming.

I once tried to use a yearly diary. 

It was disastrous. My brain just doesn’t work in calendar years. So now I have accepted that my year starts in the Autumn and concludes in the Summer.

I am an academic diary girl and I always will be.

But why am I telling you this?

Well, I have been reflecting. That’s what we do at the start of a new year isn’t it? We set out what we want to achieve, changes we are going to make and where we want to be at the end of the year.

My new year is no different. I have set my targets for the year, I have created my vision board and I am raring to go.

Part of this process is reflection and acknowledging how far I have come too.

Three and a half years ago I conceived my Calmer Classrooms business. At first I visited schools, delivered training and lessons, but I was unclear what the future of the business was.

Two and a half years ago I began creating lesson plans for teachers so that they could lead mindfulness and relaxation sessions and I started building my newsletter.

Eighteen months ago I began creating my whole school mindfulness programme. I would spend days in my office, creating resources, building my whole school resources, planning how I was going to help schools in as many practical ways as possible.

I was always busy but I was busy doing things in my office. I could do my work at 9am on a Monday or 8pm on a Saturday, as long as I got them done. My friends would get in touch and I could always meet for a catch up. I never missed a school run.

A year ago I had just released my whole school wellbeing package and my teacher resource package. I was amazed every time I had a school sign up or a teacher buy my resources. It was so incredibly satisfying to know that something I had created was being used in schools, not just in the UK, but thanks to the power of the internet, schools around the world were using my programmes and teaching my lessons.

Now I am out in schools, colleges, businesses, networking every week. I never have a week in my office alone. I still take time to create resources but I spend much more time helping in a physical way too.

I used to wonder if my ideas for Calmer Classrooms would ever take off. Whether schools would ever be interested.

It turns out they are.

I have to remember to look back at everything I have done to get here. All the lessons I’ve learned. I have to remember to give myself a pat on the back too!

Do you take time to look back at your journey?

Relfection is so important for learning about ourselves and also for seeing our achievements. So often we are so busy living life we forget to appreciate all the amazing things we have done along the way.

As Kierkegaard points out though, life can only be lived in one direction. Getting the balance between reflection and planning is the key when it comes to achieving in the long term.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”

Soren Kierkegaard

Philosopher

Do you take time to plan and reflect?

You might be feeling like you haven’t achieved anything. I guarantee that if you stop and think about where you were and where you are now you will be surprised.

There may be areas of your life that you aren’t satisfied with. That’s ok. That’s where the planning comes in.

Take the time to look back on the last year. Then get really clear on where you want to be in a year’s time and really focus on how you can get there.

Maybe you want to earn more money?

Perhaps spending more time with loved ones is top of your list.

It could be that you want to get more healthy; eat better, do more exercise… Whatever you want to achieve picture yourself achieving it. Create a vision board and put it somewhere you will see it regularly.

Get really clear on exactly what you want.

You aren’t going to move house, you are going to move to the house of your dreams with a woodland at the bottom of the garden on top of a hill. It has 4 bedrooms and a study, room for friends and family to come and stay, it is near your favourite restaurant and you can still get to your children easily. Be REALLY clear. Find a photo of the house (or whatever it is you want) and believe it is coming, believe it’s already yours you are just waiting for the right time to move.

When I looked back on my vision board from last year I was amazed: 

  • New car – tick
  • Holiday to Italy – tick
  • More speaking gigs – tick
  • More time for self care – tick
  • Get more organised – tick
  • Send out my newsletters more regularly – tick

In fact there are only two things on there that I haven’t achieved and they were big things which were always intended to be more long term. But they are coming, I know they are, progress is already being made.

Don’t underestimate the power of putting your energy into something and believing it will happen. Our thoughts are energy and just by believing you start the process. Don’t worry about how, just make the decision and start working towards your goals and watch what happens.

I can’t wait to see what this year brings!

Autumn – my favourite time of year for self care

Autumn is my favourite time of year. I say that every year, but I know that it’s a half truth. I LOVE Autumn. I love warm jumpers, I love new boots and crunchy leaves on the ground. I love the colours, the chill in the air and I LOVE Halloween and Bonfire Night. I love Autumn.

I also know that I say that whatever season is just beginning is my favourite. When we get the first frost and the car is covered in beautiful patterns and you can see your breath when you go for walks, Winter is my favourite season. When the first signs of life appear and the world get so green, Spring is my favourite season.  Then of course the warmth of Summer comes round and I get my flip flops out and work in the beautiful sunshine in the garden I love Summer the best.

I’m fickle I guess. I prefer grateful! I’m grateful that I live in a country with such diverse seasons. Where every few months we get a renewed sense of appreciation for the world we live in.

 There is something particularly cosy and wonderful about Autumn though. I love blankets and hot drinks and sitting with a good book in front of a fire. The word “Hygge” which has become better known over the last few years, was created for Autumn I think.

Cosy, contented, twinkly lights, snuggles with loved ones and everything that makes you feel heart happy.

What is self care?

Put simply, self care is making sure you prioritise your needs, at least some of the time. It is that little nudge to make sure you are feeding your own soul and not just looking after everyone around you.

Here are a few ideas

  • Taking a bath
  • Reading a book
  • Going for a walk
  • Meeting friends for a coffee
  • Doing some exercise; running, dancing, golf, football…
  • Creating; painting, crafting, knitting, pottery, woodwork…
  • Cooking
  • Watching a film
  • the list goes on and on

You get the idea.

Do you see how perfectly all these self care activities lend themselves to Autumn? 

Is there anything more perfect than a walk through the woods with the orange and rust coloured leaves crunching under your feet? That slight chill in the air. Maybe you go alone, with a loved one, the dog or with the kids. Whatever makes you really happy. We used to go Dragon Hunting on Cannock Chase when my children were little, they loved it. Coming back with stones that they said were dragon eggs and running through the brown ferns breathing their own fire as they ran.

Another firm favourite is a long soak in a hot bath with a good book. I have been known to spend 3 hrs in the bath. I know! I love it, especially when it is cold outside, there is no better way to warm yourself through. Even better if you put some Epsom salts or sea salt in and a few drops of lavender oil. Magic. It just isn’t appealing in the hot summer months. 

 

 

I encourage you to take a few moments to think about all the ways you can make your life more Hygge this season. How can you care for yourself better? What do you love doing that would be a real treat this Autumn?

Make a conscious effort to change your approach to your daily routine and incorporate more self care. You won’t be sorry.

Self care is not the same as selfish! 

Self care is about refuelling so that you can continue to be of service to those you love and live your best life.

Here are a few other blogs I’ve written about self care if you want to do more reading:

The Importance of self care

The Importance of caring for our energetic self

Taking time out – why adults need time out too

Do you need help changing your mindset?

Mindset is a word I hadn’t really encountered until I was an adult. I wondered whether it was just that it isn’t something children discuss or really need to understand. But upon research I discovered that actually it wasn’t a word used until the 1990’s, when Carol Dweck used the word in a publication. I was, pretty much, an adult by the 90’s, so that explained that.

What is mindset? 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindset as the established set of attitudes held by someone”. We often talk about fixed mindsets and growth mindsets in education. These are, in brief, a belief that we have an inability to learn or change attitudes or, conversely, a growth mindset is about developing your ability to learn from mistakes and believe that you can become more intelligent or skilled. 

When I was at school it was believed that once your brain had formed and you had set certain neurological pathways up as your go to approach or attitude to something, that was it, you couldn’t change it. We have now discovered a wonderful thing called neuroplasticity. We know that it is possible to reroute those messages and alter our reactions. It takes practice and consistency to rewire our brains but it is possible.

This is great news!

It means that we no longer have to blame our ancestors for our pessimism, or lack of drive. We can now learn to be happy, to be calm to be more motivated and driven. Whatever we want to do is possible if we put in the effort.

It is never a quick fix but often there are simple, easily repeatable exercises which over time help our brains to respond differently to situations and triggers and achieve the results we want.

So, if you respond to feeling anxious or worried by being short tempered with the people around you, you can, over time, learn to respond in a more positive way, and learn to eliminate the feelings of anxiety, or at least deal with them quickly and easily.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Well, no it isn’t, but anything worth doing takes time and effort.

Imagine the impact feeling calm and confident all the time would have on your life, your family, and your business. 

What if you knew how to react, and what do to quiet that inner voice every time imposter syndrome raised its ugly head?

Imagine no more! My new workbook and MP3 pack, Change your Mindset and Become the Force, can help you to do just that.

It won’t happen over night, although you should see immediate improvement, but over time, by listening to the meditations and practicing the exercises in the workbook you will slowly change your automatic responses to these, often crippling, stories you are telling yourself.

Read more about this programme before you decide.

Are you ready to change your mindset?

 

I’m ready!

To Infinity and Beyond!

Infinity is always a word that has fascinated me.

What does it mean?

How can anything keep going forever?

Even if it does, how can anyone ever prove it does?

That aside, it is a useful word and one which apparently gets its own national holiday on the 8th August? (8/8 I suppose that is the obvious choice!). Upon investigation I discovered that the first Infinity Day was celebrated in 1987, the year I started high school. It obviously isn’t widely celebrated given that I have only just become aware of it.

It is a day to celebrate philosophy and encourage discussion. This is definitely something I should have known about! There is nothing I love more than a good philosophical debate!

 

Don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into a philosophical debate…

Nor am I going to talk about this guy (although I do love Buzz Lightyear and his “can do” attitude!).

I’m not going to talk about Pi or the never ending universe.

No, I’m going to talk about infinity breathing, a very useful tool to have in your mindfulness toolkit.

That’s much easier to get your head round and since our breathing is infinite, well, as infinite as our life, it seems like a good thing to focus on on Infinity Day.

Infinity Breathing is a very simple breathing technique that I use with even very young children in schools. Imagine an infinity symbol (a relaxed 8!) and hold out either a hand or finger and draw round one loop as you breathe in and complete the symbol as you breathe out.

My friend Mojo can explain better:

 

So, tomorrow as you celebrate Infinity Day (It has an added 8 for good luck this year too 8/8/18!) why not try some infinity breathing and help your body really calm down so you can have a very calm and considered philosophical debate rather than getting all hot headed.

I do want to end on a slightly aspect of infinity.

We can love to infinity.

Love is definitely something I can understand being never ending.

I have been reminded of this a lot recently.

As I write this in my garden wearing my Grandma’s ring and smelling the beautiful rose my best friend bought me to remember my Grandma when she passed, I know that I will love her for infinity and she will definitely return that love infinitely.

I will love my children to infinity and beyond!

My beautiful best friend recently got married and her ring is an infinity symbol, completely beautiful and so appropriate.

Although our loved ones can’t always be with us, that love stays in our heart for infinity.

There is no more precious gift in the world than that of love and true love is always infinite.

Infinity might be a difficult concept to understand with our minds but our hearts it seems just get it!

5 Mindful Minutes

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