Life Changing Moments

Three weeks ago an event took place that transformed my life, I suspect forever. What’s really strange is that I wasn’t really even involved in it. 

In my last blog I talked about how important it can be to make the most of opportunities when they come your way. At that point I was marvelling at the transformations I had seen in the cast and crew of The Real Full Monty. I had watched these amazing people transform from shy and insecure to radiant, confident, inspirational beings. 

Little did I realise when I wrote last about this project how much our lives would change as a result of this one event.

So what has happened that is so dramatic?

Well, it has been profound, for me at least. I will attempt to explain.

 

This is Ian. If you have been reading my blog or following me on social media for a while you will know that he is my husband and my world.

Over the years he has grown and transformed so much. This photo captures perfectly the latest stage in this transformation, thank you Sam Carpenter Photography. One of the cast hit the nail on the head when she said he was the “proud father of the show” his face here radiates pride and joy at what the cast are achieving. It is one of my favourite photos, ever. 

But what has this got to do with life changing moments?

 

Well, this show started a ripple.

These photos were taken last Saturday, they were taken by our friend Evie, while we were out celebrating Sam (the amazing photographer)’s birthday.  

What has THIS got to do with life changing moments? 

Well, a lot actually. You see we were discussing while we were getting ready to go out when the last time was that we had asked someone to have the children over night so we could go out as a couple and meet up with friends.  

We can’t remember. We have both gone out with friends while the other has stayed at home. We have very occasionally asked someone to come sit with the children so we could go out, but it has always been so last minute that we have gone for a meal just the two of us, not with anyone else. We had a weekend in Paris as a birthday gift for my 40th from my in laws, which was lovely, but it is almost 3 years ago now and we have had very few nights out together since.

In the last three weeks we have been out together, as a couple, without children, on an evening, three times. We have had countless daytime dates and we are enjoying spending time together so much. We are still enjoying quality time with the children, but we have made ourselves a promise that we are going to make the effort to go out together as a couple, in the evening more.

 

This transformation is about so much more than going out though.

Look at our faces in the photos above. Now look at this photo from our holiday a couple of years ago. 

I loved this photo, I thought it was a really happy photo of the two of us. But look how much happier we look in the recent photos

It feels as though a light has been switched back on inside us and we are filled with a new found appreciation of life and our relationship.

We have been together for 18 years this year, and I feel like I did when we first got together. 

Life as a couple is never linear. It is not a simple path. It is a rollercoaster. It has twists, turns, challenges and triumphs. During our time together we have overcome serious physical health challenges, parenting challenges, financial worries, grief… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

We have also been blessed to have three beautiful children, amazing parents, incredible friends, fabulous days out, heart warming parents evenings, holidays with loved ones and pure pride and joy watching our children grow and achieve their own successes. 

 

When I was younger I remember my lovely Dad talking to me about  a family friend who was going through a divorce at the time. I was asking what had gone wrong. Dad, in his wisdom, said that nothing  had gone wrong. They had just stopped loving each other. He was really candid and said that he and Mum had just been really lucky because they had always managed to grow together as they had changed as they had got older, “not everyone is so lucky”, he said.  

These words have come to me many times over the years, and he probably doesn’t even remember the conversation. It’s so true though. Over the years our marriage has had some rocky times. Times I wasn’t sure we could get through. Times I considered walking away. Fortunately, just as we were getting to that point, we always managed to pull back together. Life would get really difficult and something would happen to make us remember how fortunate we are to have each other and give us a new found appreciation of our marriage.  

I believe you can have several marriages to the same person without ever getting divorced. I know that we are on maybe marriage number three or four now. Every time we have had something dramatic to cope with, we reinvent ourselves, and our relationship deepens, and grows more beautiful than ever. 

It is easy when life is busy and you have; children, family, work, a home to look after, to lose track of the important things. We get busy doing and forget to be. 

I have always loved my husband but it is often easy when you are busy and tired to scale back the little actions that can make your relationship really special. Whether it is remembering to give each other a kiss before you leave, making a cuppa in bed, paying them a complement or just generally supporting each other.  Taking time to really invest some time and energy into your relationship is never wasted, it will, in most cases, reap rewards and you will get back all that you put in and more. 

Sometimes, life can give you a little nudge to make these changes – like giving you a reason to go out as a couple and reminding you how much you need that – but sometimes you have to make a decision yourself. 

Yes we had the initial nudge and we went out to the after show party together, but we then made the decision to extend that impact and make sure that we were able to also go to the birthday party. We have committed to going out together much more often. We will make this happen.

Life has changed and it is happier and healthier because of one event, one decision. You just never know when life might give you that nudge in the right direction. Keep looking out for the signs. 

 

What could you achieve…?

Do you take opportunities when they are presented to you?

Nine months ago an amazing project began. It has changed lives in immeasurable ways and no-one involved could have ever imagined the impact it has had. 

My husband, Ian, was chatting to his friend Rich last summer and Rich mentioned that he had had this idea to raise money for a local cancer charity, KMAC. He was going to get a group of local people together and put on a show at the local theatre. More than that, inspired by the ITV Full Monty show that had recently been on with various celebrities, it was going to be a full monty show.  Ian is very supportive, and will do anything for his friends but his reaction was “I’ll help you, but I’m not doing it!”. 
Now Ian is not just a great friend, he’s also a considerable asset on a project like this, he has so many complementary strings to his bow; videographer, graphic design, sound technician, musician and composer, journalist… He’s a very talented man. However, you could know Ian for a long time and not know any of that because he is also painfully modest and has struggled with anxiety most of his life. (I can share this because he has been very honest about it publicly recently). He is my hero and I love him very much.

Back to the story…

Over the coming months Rich managed to get a core group of people together; 9 local men and 9 local women, all of whom had been affected by cancer in some way and were prepared to perform on stage at The Gatehouse, Stafford to raise money for KMAC.  It is important to mention that although they had agreed to it, they all had very personal reasons for doing the show. Many had undergone cancer treatment, others had lost loved ones to cancer. Some were doing it to overcome body confidence issues, some to prove to themselves that they could. Ian agreed to video all the rehearsals, meetings etc as well as the final shows to create a documentary. They booked two nights at the Gatehouse and rehearsals began.  Every Sunday these amazing people gathered to learn their dance moves with local choreographer, Lucie Talbott, photographer Sam Carpenter, Alan Gee who was in charge of promotion, social media and everything no one else wanted to do, and of course Ian with his video camera. They were shy, scared and most had no dance experience at all, let alone any experience of taking their clothes off on stage!
Along the way their confidence grew. They formed friendships and became a family. Unfortunately during the six months they rehearsed several people involved had loved ones pass due to cancer, this just made them more determined to make it a success though. Their dedication to the project was inspiring and the results they each experienced could never have been predicted. By the time the big night came round they had a full night of variety planned with local singers, dancers, local bands and a comedy magician and both nights were a sell out. They had laughed, cried, confided and resigned themselves to putting on the best show they could.

But what did they achieve?

Well, before I forget the purpose of the show, they have to date raised well over £30k for KMAC which is over three times the amount they first hoped to raise. It might sound strange to say it but this was almost the least important thing they achieved looking back. More significantly confidence was restored, body image improved (not just for the performers, they have had messages from people in the audience who have been helped), marriages have been saved, fears overcome, friendships formed… and these are just the things that are coming to mind now, there has been so much to this project my head is full of stories and my heart is full of love and pride. If you want to find out more about this amazing project and follow their journey as it continues why not like their Facebook page or check out Ian’s Youtube channel to watch some of the videos he made for them.  

How does this help you?

Well, we are all presented with opportunities every day. Some big some small. How often to we grab them with both hands and throw ourselves wholeheartedly into something that scares us? If these amazing people hadn’t made the decision to overcome their fears and step out of their comfort zones they may have lived the rest of their lives feeling scared, insecure, unable to change in communal dressing rooms or talk openly to people about their feelings. They decided to get out of their own way and do something truly terrifying but the pay off has been immeasurable. There isn’t one person who has been involved in this project who wishes they hadn’t wasted their time. They have all learned and all grown and not always in the ways they might have expected.   

Next time an opportunity comes your way what choice will you make?

Is your body controlling your mood?

February has been tough.

I don’t very often moan and I want to assure you that that isn’t what I’m doing now. What I want to do is to help you see that we all struggle sometimes. 

We do, it’s inevitable. 

No-one is happy and energised all the time. 

I spend a lot of time talking about helping to improve your mood and how easy it can be to change your mindset but sometimes it feels like too many factors are conspiring against you doesn’t it? It is all just too much.

Just before Christmas I went to see the nurse about my asthma. She was lovely and a little concerned about my breathing. It had been getting more difficult, despite being really strict about my diet and she prescribed a brown inhaler to be taken morning and night.

Now, as you may know if you have read some of my other blogs, my body does not react the same way as the average body. My acromegaly means that I deal with steroids differently to most people.

I had been feeling really tired since the start of the year. I convinced myself it was because my diet had been far from perfect and I had had an incredibly busy Autumn term. It wasn’t until I went to see my consultant that I realised that there was a reason I had been feeling so incredibly tired. 

While I had been gentle with myself, allowed myself more time that usual to rest and tried to get back to healthier eating habits, unbeknown to me my body had been sabotaging my efforts. 

I have carried a steroid card since I had my pituitary surgery but with so much information to take in at the time I couldn’t remember why. When I mentioned to the consultant that I was now using a brown inhaler (which incidentally has transformed my breathing) he asked how I had been feeling. I said I was fine, still not connecting the total exhaustion with anything external. He then went on to tell me that I could experience tiredness if I use a steroid based inhaler… oh, well, that joins a few dots! So now I need to go see the nurse and see if there is an alternative.

It got me thinking though, so many of us think that our mood is something purely cerebral but the reality is that our temperament is controlled by so many things, and our body and general health is a huge factor. 

For centuries we have understood that the stomach contributes to our mental health. Ancient Greeks believed that all thinking occurred in the stomach and that the head was just for cooling the blood.

We certainly experience emotions in the stomach. When we feel anxious the first reaction we notice is in the upper stomach not in the head usually.

That sick feeling or butterflies it’s all in the stomach. Scientists now refer to the gut as the second brain. This is a great article if you would like to read more on this subject.

The world is so much bigger and more interesting than we can see with our naked eyes. If we could, we could watch cells grow, morph, and split again over and over again on the backs of our own wrists—or the billions of foreign cells living in and among our own, forming what scientists are beginning to call our “second brain.

Richard E. Cytowic

Contributor Neurologist & Author, The Huffington Post

So next time you notice your mood slipping don’t assume that the world is getting on top of you think about this little checklist:

  • Have you been eating properly?
  • Have you been getting enough sleep?
  • Have there been any changes to your medication?
  • Are you getting enough exercise?
  • Have there been any other changes to your routine which could have affected your mood?
  • Are you getting Not all changes in temperament are caused by circumstances, sometimes it is our body giving us a warning sign.

Blue Monday

Blue Monday… today is apparently “Blue Monday”. Not a day to celebrate my favourite colour but a day when statistically more people feel depressed than any other day of the year.

The sparkles and decorations have been put away, the yummy Christmas food is finished and the resolutions are in full flow. More significantly though the credit card bills are arriving, it is cold, the next pay day is still a week away and most people are skint and regretting the extravagance of the festive period.

Hmmm, when you put it like that it does sound pretty depressing doesn’t it? 

Does it have to be this way though? Do we have to be feeling fed upend full of buyers remorse?

Well, the short answer is no. 

We have the quadruple financial threat of father in law’s birthday 3 days before Christmas, Christmas then my son and my husband’s birthdays at the start of January but I’m still smiling. Am I rolling in money, no but we have budgeted and we’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.

Have we eaten too much over Christmas?

Yes, definitely.

Are we all starting a sensible eating regime this week now that all the treats are finished from the birthday boys? Yes, we are.

Do I regret any decisions I have made? Nope!

 Have we eaten too much over Christmas?

Yes, definitely.

Are we all starting a sensible eating regime this week now that all the treats are finished from the birthday boys? Yes, we are.

Do I regret any decisions I have made? Nope!

Times are hard

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate how difficult life is for many people at the moment. Some of the stories I heard over Christmas about how some families were having to spend this “magical” time of year broke my heart. So many people are feeling the pinch. Families are spending money they don’t have to buy presents for their children that they don’t need, but everyone else has got one and they don’t want to be the only ones without the latest gadget. We see it all the time don’t we?

For many families the pressure to keep up appearances has been huge over the last few years and that is a very difficult position to be in. 

There has always been a strong correlation between financial security and stress levels but we have definitely seen this trend on a global scale over recent years. As life becomes less predictable and busier stress levels have gone through the roof. Children as young as 5 and 6 are now being diagnosed with stress and anxiety disorders.

Recent research suggests that the biggest factor in childhood stress is whether the child’s parents do a job they enjoy.

You might question the logic of this statement but if you think about it, if you don’t enjoy your job you come home tired, stressed and agitated. Who do you take it out on? Your loved ones of course. Children are amazing bundles of joy but if you are tired and stressed they can be a walking talking trigger.

Why am I talking about this? 

Well, because I truly believe that a huge factor in my January happiness is the fact that I love my job. I don’t dread going back to work after the holidays because I am fired up and ready to implement all the ideas I have had while my brain has been resting. We live a modest life compared to many families, but we are surrounded by love and happiness and that is all we need.

Is life perfect?

No of course it isn’t? It would be pretty boring if it was. But we look for the positives in everything. Every night I write down ten things I am grateful for in my Gratitude Journal and as challenging as that can feel some days I always manage at least ten.

We spend our time doing things that make us happy; going for a walk, watching a film together, eating a nice meal. None of which have to cost any money if you don’t want them to. 

Sometimes we get sucked into seeing what someone else is doing or seeing something they have and feeling envious. We’re human. But we know deep down that we are very lucky to have the life we do. We have a warm, dry home, filled with people who love us, we have food on the table (well we do now I’ve been shopping!), we have clean running water that we can drink and wash in without worrying about disease, we have clothes to keep us warm in these freezing temperatures. If that was all we had that would be more than 35% of the world’s population.

We have all that and more though! We have a car to drive to go and. buy food from the shops and money to buy it, we have schools and hospitals and friends and a job and a tv to entertain us. We have mobile phones and laptops to help us keep in touch with our loved ones and the rest of the world. 

We really are fortunate.

 

I can’t help feeling a little cynical about the labelling of this day too. My inbox today has been full of “cheer yourself up on Blue Monday” offers! In a world where consumerism is rampant, we are constantly told that we need more, that we deserve to have these luxuries and we should expect to have them. The cynic in me wonders whether the fact that spending of course drops in January as people try to recoup a little of the excess that they spent in December whether we are being manipulated again.

Could it be that making a fuss about how depressed everyone is feeling on a particular day is even designed to make us spend money? It isn’t impossible. Retailers manipulate us all the time into believing that we need more stuff. Maybe that is why they have jumped on this bandwagon?

Interestingly the doctor who first coined the phrase “Blue Monday” has since said that he “didn’t mean it to be a sad day”. 

So, instead of sitting and feeling blue this “Blue Monday” why not sit and feel blessed. Maybe we could rename it “Blessed Monday”?

What do you think? 

ADVANCE – a review

It finally arrived! We finally “ADVANCE”-d in Telford last Monday. After almost two years of planning and dreaming how this event would happen; where, when, what we would cover, it all came together beautifully.

If you have ever organised an event of this scale you will completely understand the amount of work involved in getting something like this from conception to birth but we are all on such a high because it was AMAZING!

Our incredible attendees travelled for hours, stayed over in hotels and had very long days in order to be able to join us but I know from their feedback that they are so glad they did. I think everyone is still buzzing a week on from the incredible energy in the room. We laughed, cried and shifted some big issues together… oh and also ate the best chocolate tart I think I have ever eaten (yes I know I’m not supposed to eat chocolate tart but it was my reward!).

 

We always knew that the day would be powerful (that’s power full – thank you Taz for reminding me of the difference), but I think because we each use our techniques and strategies every day and have done for years we forget the impact that they have when you first discover them.

It’s an interesting thing isn’t it knowledge?

We somehow assume that everyone has the same understanding, the same interpretation, the same talents we do. The more naturally we do something, the more it is part of our life, the more we take it for granted that “everyone does/knows that”.

So often it isn’t true.

There were some really significant light bulb moments for many of the attendees, including us! Yes, we were as excited about the event as anyone. We have known each other for years, we have attended each other’s talks and events, but we know from experience that even when we plan what we are each going to cover that there are always little alleyways from the main path, and without exception there is always a take away from these little meanderings.

Thank you!

We had so much fun and despite the stress of organising such a big event everything went pretty much without issue. This was in part due to my amazing husband, Ian, who stepped in and saved the day several times by correcting issues we were left with my the PA provider (thank goodness he had brought his sound engineer head as well as his videographer head!). Ian you are a star, thank you for all your help with the promotional videos and for coming along and filming the day for us.

An extra special “thank you” also needs to go to Asha Thornton-Clearwater, Taz’s wife, who was incredible introducing the day with style and grace, and she helped us so much with publicising the event. Thanks Asha, I don’t know where we’d be without you on Team ADVANCE.

We would also like to thank Telford Couriers who stepped in and saved the day but delivering the additional food we bought to a local homeless shelter Maninplace. When we originally planned the day we booked it for October but for personal reasons we had to move it later in the year and we knew that that would have an impact on attendance because we were getting so close to Christmas. Because we had booked for larger numbers we still had to pay for the food for the additional number, so we asked the hotel to make that food into packed lunches and Martin from Telford Couriers very kindly offered to collect the food and deliver it for us. Thank you Martin, you are a star.

The biggest thank you of the day has to go to the attendees though. Thank you for coming along, for believing in the power of three and for trusting us enough to be open and vulnerable. You are amazing and I can’t wait to watch your journey now.

It was a truly incredible day, Jo talked about how to stay calm and make sure you clean your wellies. Then I talked about staying calm like a Jedi, Taz showed us how to Unleash our Awesome and then we ended the day with one of my favourite extreme empowerment exercises… a glass walk!

All in all it was a powerful and life changing day.

Do you want to know more and make sure that you are first to find out about the three events we are already planning for 2019? Check out my ADVANCE page or sign up for my newsletter these are going to be such popular events and we’ve learned even more about how we want to make the day MORE powerful and MORE impactful. We are always striving for better and this is going to grow and grow.

Thanksgiving – a celebration for the World

Depending upon where you are when you are reading this the word “Thanksgiving” will have very different associations. 

If you are in the US you are no doubt in full flow with your preparations for Thursday; the pumpkin pies will be baking and the turkey defrosting as I type.

If though, you are elsewhere in the world, you probably see Thanksgiving as a purely American celebration, after all, what relevance does it have to you in your house in the south of France?

Well, perhaps more than you might think. Let me give you my take on this day and see if I can convince you of its relevance for everyone. 

 

What is the history of Thanksgiving?

 Well, it is fundamentally a Harvest festival. A celebration of all the food nature has provided to help us get through the cold winter months. Most cultures and religions have a variation on this festival. It is a very primitive need to be appreciative of the food we have to nourish us and of course that is much more scarce or non-existent during the winter months. So we say thank you to whatever higher power we believe in for providing for our family through those dark and cold days.

The festival celebrated in the US takes its origins from the pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in the early 17th Century and the first meal they had with the Native Americans. Families decorate the home, cook a wonderful meal and bake seasonal goodies such as pumpkin pie and minced pies.

More importantly though, families take time to think about what they are grateful for. School children do lots of work in the lead up to Thanksgiving about gratitude and often perform random acts of kindness. Families often sit round the table and each share what they are thankful for before tucking into a feast of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce… yum!

 

Sounds like a Christmas dinner to me, as a Brit, I would definitely be feeling grateful for such a delicious meal with all my family around me!

The meal may be very similar to a traditional Christmas meal but the rest of the day is very different. In many families now Christmas has become all about indulgence and presents. We often forget to be grateful for all the wonderful things we have, that we are with our loved ones, that we have food during the coldest, bleakest time of year. 

“Thanksgiving day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude”

E P Powell

In a world where consumerism and waste seems to dominate, let’s appreciate this celebration of gratitude and family. Let’s all take time to eat together, to feel truly thankful that we have food to eat, a warm home and people who love us. Take the time to think of those who do not have all the amazing things we have. Perhaps consider doing a reverse advent calendar for a local food bank or taking a donation to a homeless shelter. Just check on an elderly relative. Think of others and help someone else feel really cared for.

That is what Thanksgiving is all about, for me anyway. What does it mean to you?

 

Under Pressure – a life with Queen

I was 5 years old when I first remember being aware of Queen. Sitting on my bunk bed with the window open with my sister and my Dad listening to the playing Elland Road in Leeds. I grew up in a village just outside Leeds and we could not only hear them playing from our bedroom we could see the lights shining at Elland Road.

It really was a Kind of Magic (did you see what I did there?).

It was a real treat because we should definitely have been asleep but it was so exciting listening to this amazing music flying through the air from this mythical place just two and a half miles away. Of course I had no idea what Elland Road was, I wasn’t 100% sure who Queen were if I’m honest, but that moment started a life long love of this amazing band.

Fast forward a few years and I was hooked.

When Freddie Mercury died in November 1991. I was 15 years old. Just starting my GCSEs. I had been listening to Queen for a few years by this time. Of course buying records was expensive (I was just transitioning to CDs!) but I was lucky because my friends Dan and Simon were fans too so we used to record each others onto a tape so we had pretty much all their back catalogue between us.

I bought every newspaper, all the tribute magazines, had the posters on my wall and grieved as though he was a family member.

I loved everything about Queen. I’ve always loved rock music, but I loved the theatre that Freddie Mercury added. I loved that they laughed at themselves.

I’m sure you must be wondering why on earth I am going on about my favourite band by now. Well, there are a few reasons.

Not least the fact that the new film “Bohemian Rhapsody” is released this week.

It’s more than that though.

This film got me thinking. I can remember listening to Queen when I was a little girl. Listening to their music was a huge influence on my teenage years. Years later they were one of the first things I bonded with my father in law over. I can’t remember a time without Queen in my life.

Of course I never saw the original line up live. Their last tour with Freddie Mercury was in 1986, I was 10 years old. In those days concerts weren’t family environments.

A few years ago though I watched the film Bucket List, with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It got me thinking about what things I would put on my bucket list.  

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, a bucket list is basically a list of all the things you want to achieve in your life. I realised that there were very few things I felt passionately about achieving, very few places I felt I had to visit.

But I attempted to write a list with a few things I wanted to achieve, places to go, things to do, before I die. 

  1. Write a book.
  2. Go to Italy.
  3. See Queen in concert.

I suddenly realised that not having seen Queen live was a big deal for me. I really regretted that I hadn’t had that chance.

Then they announced that they were touring with Paul Rodgers.

It wasn’t perfect but it was better than nothing. Unfortunately the timing was all wrong. They toured from 2004-09. My daughter was born in 2004, I was diagnosed with acromegaly in 2007 and my son was born in 2009. They were busy and exhausting years.

Going to concerts was not high on my list of things to do.

Then a miracle happened in the form of Adam Lambert.

 

Adam Lambert is the son Freddie never had, in my opinion. My amazing hubby got me tickets to go see them live for my Christmas present and we went to Birmingham on 23rd January 2015.

It was a dream come true. I have had a wonderful life. I have been fortunate enough to meet and even work with many famous people along the way. Never have I been star struck (well maybe a little with Alan Rickman but mostly I’m pretty cool!) they are just people like us.

Queen was a very different matter. When Brian May walked out onto the stage I cried. I don’t mean I had a tear in my eye, I mean properly cried. 

It was one of the most amazing nights of my life.

Why am I telling you this though?

Well, obviously I think you should all go out and watch the new film, if you are interested, but that’s not the reason.

What I really want you to do is to stop and think about all the things that you really want to do with your life.

There is definitely something significant about the music you connect to in your teenage years. I don’t think we ever connect with music in quite the same way at any other time in our lives.

What music has really impacted on your life? 

Have you been fortunate enough to see your favourite band playing live?

I just want you to think about what makes you happy.

Write your Bucket List.

Don’t overthink it.

If it pops into your head, write it down.

You might be surprised at some of the things that come up.

You might not appreciate how much those things mean to you until you actually get to tick it off either. I certainly didn’t.

Live your very best life, whether it is using your best perfume, going to the theatre more, travelling the globe, eating in fancy restaurants.

Whatever makes you happy, if you possibly can do it, then do it!

 

**UPDATE 24th October 2017**

I had to hop back on to give you an little update. This morning my husband and I bunked off and went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I had a meeting cancel at last minute so I suddenly had a timely free day. I knew I would love it. I knew it would be an education. I have always loved the music and performance Queen created but I have never really looked into much of their private lives or behind the scenes elements. I was not expecting to laugh and cry. If you are a fan of the band, if you like music, if you are a human, you must see this film.

Every so often I go to the cinema or the theatre and completely lose where I am. It doesn’t happen often. If happens when I see Les Miserables at the theatre, it happens when I see War of the Worlds tours and it happened today in the cinema.

I didn’t want the film to end and I cried as it did. Now I know I have something of a history of crying at Queen but I really wasn’t expecting to cry at this film. It really is exceptional. I feel I have to give a special mention to Gwilym Lee who plays Brian May too. His performance was breathtaking. I have always been a big fan of Brian May and thought he would be hard to replace but it’s so evident that they worked incredibly closely together to ensure the portrayal was spookily accurate.

Huge congratulations to everyone involved in the film though, it was a triumph!

ADVANCE: It’s time to make a change

We hear a lot these days about people going on retreats to find themselves, for personal development or to learn a new skill. It seems a strange word to choose, surely none of us want to “retreat” we want to ADVANCE. Whether it is in our personal life, our business, our relationships, academically… whatever you are learning, developing you want to advance and make a move forwards not backwards.

Months ago I was asked by two of my favourite inspirational women if I would be interested in running an event with them to empower people and help them to move forward feeling happy, calm and empowered.

 

How could I say no?

So we have organised an amazing day of Happiness, Calm and Empowerment which will open your eyes, your mind and leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle everything that 2019 has to offer.

ADVANCE; Because who wants to retreat is taking place on Monday 26th November in Telford, UK and it will be a powerful and life changing day. 

 Taz Thornton, the Empress of Empowerment and Jo Howarth, Happiness Hero are two of the most inspirational women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and to be working with them is truly awesome.

Taz is an award winning coach

 She is an empowerment specialist and the UK’s number one inspirational breakthrough speaker. She is a TEDx speaker and best selling author.

Taz will be empowering you with her own unique blend of motivation and inspiration. Her speciality is helping people to reboot their lives and move from breakdown to break through. I have known Taz for many years now and I can’t tell you how many times she has helped me out when I have been feeling stuck. 

She isn’t you average coach and speaker. Taz walks the talk. Having spent her twenties and thirties living a very corporate life in London she made a life changing decision when she had her “break through” and realised that something had to give. That something was her. Taz transformed her life. She learned new skills including NLP (neurolinguistic programming), shamanic teachings, Reiki, extreme empowerment and much more. She will be leading an amazing session at ADVANCE, you really don’t want to miss this opportunity to learn from her. Just one hour working with Taz would cost you more than the cost of your ticket for a whole day at ADVANCE.

Jo runs The Happiness Club.

She is a Mum, wife and is also a best selling author, hypnotherapist and inspirational speaker.

Jo always suffered with anxiety and stress both at work and in her personal life. She lacked self confidence, self belief and felt like a fraud. Her life changed when she too went through a difficult time in her personal life and she made the decision to change her mindset. Through a combination of coaching and hypnotherapy she changed her life and she has since changed many lives with her magical Happiness Club.

 

Then there’s me, Kate, Queen of Calm.

You know who I am, if you don’t you can read more on my About page. I will be sharing lots of tips to help you stay calm and feel in control right through 2019. I will be looking at routines and simple strategies to help you change your mindset and change your life.

This day will change your life, we guarantee it. BUT, you have to be prepared to follow through. You can’t just turn up, listen and leave. You have to commit to making real, every day changes. If you do that, you life will never be the same again!

We’ve had a few enquiries asking whether this event is just for women. Absolutely not. Just because it is three women speakers does not mean that it is exclusively for women. We have all been to countless large events with all male speakers and there are always lots of women attending, this is no different.

We have also been asked whether you need to have a business to get the most out of the day. Again, no. We will all be giving tips which will help you if you do have a business, but these are transferable skills which may help you with your life whether you are a carer or stay at home parent, employed, self employed or retired. These are life long skills that apply to everyone. We all work with everyone from schools through to the older generation and our techniques work for everyone.

 

Whoever you are, whatever you do, you are going to love ADVANCE.

If you are ready to ADVANCE with and enjoy a day of fun and transformation get yourself along to Telford on 26th November. It really will be a day you won’t forget.

So come along, bring a friend and begin changing your life today!

Book your tickets today. 

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!

5 Mindful Minutes

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