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Life is a Rollercoaster

Life is a Rollercoaster

Do you sometimes feel as though you are on a rollercoaster and you can’t get off?

Life is so full of ups and downs that sometimes we feel dizzy. I know I have often wondered when I can get off the ride. 

This is life. 

Life is a glorious mix of good times and challenges. Without the challenges we don’t learn and without the good times we might just give up all together.

In the words of Ronan Keating: “Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it!”.

Why is it though that the difficult times always seem to last so much longer than the good times?

Well, it is due to a simple evolutionary process which is designed to keep us safe but which can, if we don’t learn to control it, lead to the feeling that life is just one long pit that we are trying to climb out of.

Over many centuries our brains learned to remember the challenges and dangers we faced more vividly than the fun times. This is for the very sensible reason that very few people die or are seriously impacted by laughing or enjoying themselves. It is vital for our survival that we are able to remember when something causes us hurt, either physical or emotional though. Psychologists call this the negativity bias.

As a result we become more alert and take in every detail of the dips in the ride in an attempt to avoid that part of the ride if we see it ahead in the future. 

If only it was that easy.

Of course any pain always makes us more present and more likely to be on high alert, when we are soaring high and enjoying life we just go with the flow and don’t pay anything like as much attention to the things happening around us. 

rollercoaster

We are pre-programmed to feel that it can’t last, when life is good, and that “life is always hard” when we are struggling. 

I remember buying a new car a few years ago and within hours of buying it everything started going wrong. The two weeks it took to get everything sorted (the garage bought it back and I replaced it with a reliable alternative!) felt like the longest two weeks of my life. It’s the same when we are ill, time stands still. Yet when we are on holiday or having fun with our friends the time passes so quickly we wonder if it ever happened.

 Apparently the majority of parents have feared that something bad will happen to their child, while watching them sleep peacefully in their bed. It’s the way most people are wired. Statistically though less than 9% of the things we worry about ever happen. I’d play those odds with almost any situation. So what can we do to allow ourselves some mental freedom and ease our feeling that we are riding a never ending emotional rollercoaster.

 

Is there anything we can do to help us appreciate the good times more and diminidh the darker days? 

Mindfulness

Well, it won’t surprise you to hear that mindfulness is a great start. 

Ensuring that you are fully present whatever you are doing will help you to remember the good times more and you will start to balance the scales a little. (Read  Can being mindful ease anxiety? for more information)

Cut down your screen time

Spending less time on screens avoiding “real life” will also help. When we are going through difficult times we often reach for our devices and either get lost in social media or play games to distract our brains from what is going on. This may be an effective short term strategy, but if you’re not careful you then miss all the good things happening around you too. You have to participate in the whole of the rollercoaster ride to really be living your life. 

Gratitude

Focusing on feeling thankful, whether it is by writing down the things you are grateful for, or saying them outloud, will begin to teach your brain to look out for all the good things in your life. This will, over time, shift your focus from the upsetting, or depressing aspects of life, and you will learn to pay more attention to all the joy and blessings. Make sure you work your gratitude into your daily routine. 

Eat well

We know that our stomachs act as a second brain as far as mindset and mental health and what we eat really impacts our mood. If you are consuming lots of sugar, processed food, caffeine, and alcohol, you will find it harder to see the positives because you will feel tired, anxious and lacking in energy. When you feel this way it is much harder to find the joy in life. We comfort eat for the instant gratification but long term it just adds to the rollercoaster feelings and is really damaging to our wellbeing.

 

So, the next time you are going through some rollercoaster times in your life, stop and think about all the positives you can find. It may only be that you have a roof over your head and something to eat, but that is more than many people have. 

Remember:

This too shall pass.

 

 

Writing for Wellbeing

I have been writing to support my wellbeing for as long as I have been able to write. From innocent stories typed on my Mums typewriter to grown up journalling I have always used writing things down as a way to process my emotions and work through any challenges I might be facing.

As a teenager I fear my many penfriends often got a deeper, more soul searching letter than they were anticipating as the confused ramblings of my adolescent brain spilled forth uncontrollably onto the paper. Little did I realise at the time, just how important this was for me in organising my thoughts and feelings. 

Now as an adult I fully understand the benefits of writing for wellbeing. Whether it is getting things out into a blog or article, or journalling in a notebook until I have worked through whatever it is that is holding me back.

How does it work?

Well, when we write we access a different part of our brain to when we talk. This is particularly true for handwriting over typing. When we write, we are fully focused on what we are writing which allows our brains to calm down in the same way mindful breathing or meditation might. We relax and emerse ourselves in the process.

By writing freely, as we might when journalling our mind takes us on a journey. It allows us to discover ideas that we may not have thought of in any other context, to discover solutions to problems and gain clarity. It increases our self awareness and provides insights which are ours and ours alone, where a conversation may help us to find solutions but they may be directed by the person we are talking to. 

 

How do I write for wellbeing?

Well, put simply, you just start writing. 

You can use a pen or pencil, notebook or scrap of paper, desk of the back of a book on your knee, and just start writing. 

 

You might have something on your mind that you want to try to work out; a relationship that is troubling you or a challenge at work, or you might just want to start writing and see what comes up. 

Some people find it easier to start with a writing prompt, others prefer to flow freely. 

You may choose to give yourself a time limit and to make yourself write until the time is up. This can be helpful because you often find that the really important things come up after you think you have written everything you possibly can!

The important thing is that you write.

Writing for wellbeing

Writing is the therapy that you can do all by yourself. 

It is the perfect excuse to buy a new notebook, even a new pen… ooh stationery! But, more important than being an excuse to buy new stationery (and there aren’t many things more important than that believe me!), it is so incredibly good for you!

You don’t have to find hours and hours to sit writing in a summer house. You can literally sit for five minutes in the morning or evening, or whenever you get chance, and write. 

journaling

As humans we need words, we need stories, that is how we document our lives, how we learn and most importantly, how we impart wisdom. We have always told stories as a way to share knowledge and folklore. We tell our children stories of when we were younger to demonstrate why we are asking them to behave in a certain way and the consequences if they stray from the path. 

We are narrative beings. We make sense of our lives and the things we go through by sharing stories.

Have you ever noticed that you may have different favourite stories, films or TV series depending not just on your mood but your age and what is happening in your life. We do one of two things, we use stories to escape or to learn from someone else’s life experience. We may look up to certain characters in our teens and find them un-relatable in our forties because we have grown past them and we now need to find the wise characters in their sixties and seventies in order to learn from their lives.

We need stories, including our own, to live happy, contented lives. 

 

What are you waiting for? 

Grab a writing implement and something to scrawl on and get writing. Start writing your story or just whatever is in your head today. But write, just write. Every single day. It will honestly change your life. 

Writing

Daily Rituals to Change your Life

Rituals

Daily rituals have been a real game changer for me.

I’m not talking about complicated ceremonies, although if that brings you joy that’s great. I’m talking about having simple rituals that brings you pleasure, that help you to achieve your goals and most importantly that make you happy. 

I have always had a morning routine. At some points in my life it has been as simple as: shower, dressed, empty the dishwasher, make the packed lunches, have breakfast and take the kids to school. But it always happened in the same order and at roughly the same time, that way nothing was forgotten, everyone knew what was happening and we were all on time. 

Routine and ritual is so important to help children feel secure.

Unsurprisingly, routines and rituals also make us feel secure. We know what is supposed to happen and when and that helps us to feel in control and allows us to organise our lives. 

This year my routine changed dramatically. In addition to all the changes due to the pandemic, my youngest started high school. For the first time in over 14 years I don’t have to do a school run in the morning and afternoon every day. As a result I have gained around an hour and a half a day. 

New rituals

I decided immediately that this time was not going to be wasted, but it was time I had truly gained. So I promised myself that I would sit and enjoy breakfast every day instead of rushing to eat something between making packed lunches and dashing out of the door. More significantly though, I made the decision to up my exercise game. 

For years I have been told that my joints were damaged and that combined with asthma and a lot of negative associations going right back to childhood, had resulted in a real dislike and almost fear of exercise. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have always walked a lot and enjoyed dancing and have kept moving, but anything more structured than that was a no no.

So at the start of the year I bought myself a cross trainer/exercise bike and a dumbbell. Since then, five mornings a week, I get up, sort out the children then do at least 15km on the bike and do some weight training.

This probably sounds like a very small insignificant change to some of you reading, but let me tell you, it has transformed my life.I feel stronger, my body is toned, my joints don’t ache as much and I have so much more energy the rest of the day. 

Small changes have a huge impact.

The best part is that I decided this year that I was going to start reading more for pleasure too. I have always read, but for years I have only read non-fiction books that could teach me things that would be helpful either for work or for my life. I have been reading so much more this year and I have totally rekindled that love of stories. Even better, I have discovered that if I do my cross training first in the morning, I can read while I cycle! I can exercise my brain and my body at the same time. What’s more I cycle for longer because I get into the story!

ritual

My daily ritual recommendations

These two small changes have improved my mental and physical health in ways I could never have predicted. These are just the new routines I have created in the last few months. By adding to our rituals slowly over time we can totally transform our lives. I highly recommend making one change, then once that has become embedded in your daily routine, add another, and another.

My top rituals for a happier, healthier day are as follows:-

  • Get moving. Whether it is taking the dog for a walk every morning, a morning yoga routine, going for a run… Whatever you enjoy doing, by getting moving first thing in the morning your whole day is energised. If you can’t manage a morning exercise routine find time later in the day. 
  • Find a morning routine that suits you. This might seem like an obvious one for this article, but everyone has lots of little things that they have to do every morning. It might be putting the washing on, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the pets, packed lunches, walking the dog… Find an order for all these essential tasks and do them in the same order every morning. By creating a ritual around them you won’t forget to do anything and you don’t have to think about as many things when you wake up because it all just happens like clockwork.
  • Don’t hit that snooze button! Set your alarm for a time that works for your morning routine and when your alarm goes off have a good stretch and get moving.
  • Little and often is better than blitz and forget. I used to try to do the housework one day a week. I thought that by getting it all done it would be out of my mind then and I could focus on other things. Things like housework are better tackled in small bite-sized chunks though. That way they don’t feel as daunting and you can keep on top of them rather than blitzing and living in mess, then blitzing again. Now rather than blitzing the whole house, I water the plants on a Monday morning, I keep on top of the kitchen ever evening, I put the vacuum round whenever it looks like it needs doing and I fit the bathrooms in when I have a few minutes… It all gets done but it doesn’t feel like I am tied to it all the time.
Writing
  • Read and write every day. This one is so important for me. I love to write, even if it is just my gratitude journal. I find it incredibly therapeutic writing and getting my thoughts in order. Whether it is writing an article like this, or a plan for what I am going to create over the coming weeks. It is a wonderful way to settle your mind. Reading, is now one of my non-negotiables, along with my exercise, I love escaping into a book, even if it is only for ten or twenty minutes. I always have a book with me in case I arrive early or an appointment is running late. For me reading and writing are input and output and they are as essential as food. If you haven’t tried journalling as a way to improve your wellbeing, I can’t recommend it enough.

My final recommendation is taking time to do something just for you every day. Even if it is a simple as having a cuppa and watching half an hour of your favourite tv programme. Perhaps you love having a bath or you enjoy dancing around your kitchen. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive, but it does have to fill your heart with joy. 

Make sure your new rituals make you happy. If you don’t enjoy exercise, then commit to dancing for 20 minutes every day while you prepare the evening meal or park as far away from the supermarket as you can and walk a little further. Take the stairs instead of the lift. There are so many little changes that you can make that will have an impact on your physical and mental health. 

Let me know what part of your daily routine is your favourite.

Mental Health Awareness Week – 10th-16th May 2021

Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week is 10th -16th May 2021

This week you will see lots in the media about mental health. It will be all over your social media feeds and celebrities will bravely share their experiences in order to normalise mental health struggles. Powerful stuff!

I am in awe of anyone who is brave enough to share their mental health journey publicly because I know how difficult it is and the judgement that has come with that in the past. Thankfully, over recent years the stigma associated with mental health issues has diminished and it is more acceptable to be open about our challenges than ever. 

 

That doesn’t make it easy though.

If you are reading this as one of the few people on the planet who has never had a mental health struggle in their life, don’t think for a minute that it is ever easy to share our mental wellbeing challenges. 

For most people, at least an element of their struggle is worrying what people will think and how they will cope in a new situation. Sharing their deepest, darkest internal battles is therefore one of the bravest, most difficult things someone will ever do.

There are countless organisations and movements now voicing the challenges those of us with mental health and supporting us on that journey, not just this week but all year round. They are incredible but we still have to be brave enough to admit that we are struggling. Unfortunately many of these services and organisations are under funded and as a result have shockingly long waiting times. 

Mental health awareness week

I have been very open about my mental wellness journey and not just during mental health awareness week. I am fortunate that I am a sharer, and my driving force in life is supporting others and helping them unlock their full potential. I know that being honest about my challenges is a vital part of that work. It hasn’t always been easy though. The first time I wrote a blog about my own depression and anxiety I was terrified, but over time I have got used to it and grown a little braver because of it.

My daughter was incredibly brave and shared her story on my school website almost two years ago now. I have never been more scared than I was posting that blog. Not only was it a very intimate piece by my daughter, but I was also concerned that I would be judged because I am a wellbeing professional and my own daughter struggles with her wellbeing almost constantly.

The reality though is that most people do. 

Even with all the tools I have in my mental health toolbox I still have days when I can’t get myself to a point where I even want to try using them. Those days happen less and less as time goes on, in fact I can’t remember the last time I had a day like that, but I would never been presumptuous enough to think that I never will again. One thing that is for sure, is that our mental wellbeing is a changeable and unpredictable beast. We may go for years feeling great, then one event derails us. 

Mental wellness

Throughout our lives we are constantly climbing that mental health mountain and gaining new perspective with every step.

With time and practice it gets easier to see the early warning signs and take evasive action. If I start to feel tired and notice I am eating more junk food than usual, I know that is my early warning so I correct my diet, up my exercise and self care and give myself more healing that I usually would. That is usually enough for me to avoid having a slump day.

It takes practice though, it isn’t an overnight change.

What sort of things can you do if you are realising that you need some help with your mental wellness?

  • Talk. Talk to someone you trust, someone who makes you feel safe. Sometimes just sharing your feelings can be enough to help you shift that feeling. One thing is for sure though, if you can find one person to confide in, it will be a weight off your mind, and it is instantly someone else to support you when you are feeling weak and frail. 
  • Ask for help. This is one of the hardest things in the world. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, just having someone help you with your housework, picking the kids up from school or cooking you a meal can be a game changer. You will almost always find that when you ask for help, that person has been wanting to support you but didn’t know what you needed.  
  • Visit your GP. Sometimes we all need a bit of medical intervention and GPs now have a long list of support that they can offer you not just pills. They may be able to refer you to a counsellor or support group.
  • Do all the things you know you should be doing to support your mental health. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, spend time with your loved ones, watch a film that makes you laugh, put on some music and have a good dance… All these things will counteract the stress chemicals your body is producing in reaction to your fear and anxiety.

 

Make sure you are checking in with your friends, colleagues and loved ones regularly too. Just asking “How are you feeling?” or “Are you ok?” may be enough for some people, but if you feel deep down that their “I’m fine!” answer isn’t true, ask them again “How are you really feeling?” their response might be life changing and give them the support they have been needing. 

So as we move through Mental Health Awareness Week stop and think about all the ways you could support not just your own, but other people’s mental health. How can you raise awareness and support others all year round?

As wonderful as it is that we have this focus on mental health for a week every year, we must remember that this is an issue for many, many people, all day, every day. So if you are struggling as you read this, please, don’t go through this alone. However you are feeling, you are definitely not alone. If you need a someone to talk to who is totally neutral and doesn’t know anyone in your life, by all means message me. But please talk to someone. You will get through this and the sun will shine again.

Cosy change

For more support and information about mental health awareness check out these links: 

 NHS Mental Health Charity Helplines

 The Next Step

Shift your Focus

Can being more mindful ease anxiety?

Anxiety

Anxiety is an issue for so many people.

I have wrestled with anxiety on and off my whole life. 

It is like the quiet house guest who you forget is living in your house until they become really demanding and spoil your day. ​​Like many

Like many emotional states there are varying degrees of anxiety. For some people it is something which makes them feel sick and as though they don’t want to do something. Others though are completely crippled by its impact on their lives. Anxiety can make it impossible to leave the house, spend time with friends and even get a job. So can something as natural and ancient as mindfulness really help?

The short answer is yes, it really can.

The longer answer needs some science and some techniques, which will hopefully help you if you are struggling with anxiety. 

Are you ready? Take a deep breath and let’s dive in!

Let’s get the science out of the way then we can move onto the more fun parts of this longer explanation. When you feel anxious there is a physical change in your body, your breathing becomes more shallow and your heart rate increases. This change is then detected by your brain which sends chemical responses round your body; sending more energy to your heart, lungs and muscles and redirects blood and function to those areas and away from your brain.

This is where things start to get difficult because at this point our ability to think logically and remember all the times we have survived this situation before vanishes. Our brain is incapable of rational thought, problem solving and even recall when we go into this fight, flight or freeze state. 

In order to feel more calm and regain this mental function, we must breathe. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Unfortunately our state of mind is causing our breathing to be shallow and fast and unless we consciously change our breathing we will remain in this state and it may even escalate into a full panic attack. 

Learning some mindful breathing techniques is a great way to quickly and easily calm yourself when you feel this way. Something as simple as 7:11 breathing (7:11 breathing is simply counting to 7 as you breathe in and 11 as you breathe out) or following a video like this one I created for my Calmer Classrooms programme, can help you to calm down really quickly. The advantage of many breathing techniques is that you can do them without anyone being aware that you are implementing a life changing strategy.

Prevention not cure

These techniques are great when you are already in the grips of an anxious episode, but the real magic of mindfulness is that it can help prevent you from reaching that point. 

Mindfulness is the process of being present, being in the moment, being reflective. It helps us to appreciate what we have and doesn’t worry about what will be. It teaches us to focus on the task in hand and deal with what is coming when it arrives. Given that anxiety is effectively a fear of the future, of what might happen, just by shifting your focus to what is happening you are reducing your ability to feel anxious. Given that research has proven time and time again that as little as 9% of our worries actually come true, that means that up to 91% of our worries are actually worth worrying about. 

journaling

Mindful journaling

Another mindful activity which can really help with anxiety is journaling. The process of writing everything down that pops into your head allows you to process the thoughts more easily and often see the reality of the spiral you have got yourself into. Just buy yourself a notebook and take time every day to just write until you have no more thoughts left. Don’t think about what you are writing, just whatever comes into your head – write it down.

This process also helps you to see how infrequently our fears become reality. The other really useful activity is a gratitude practice. Writing down every day all the things you are grateful for. This helps to train your brain to look at the positives in your life rather than the negative, worrying thoughts. Once you realise how fortunate you are, you have a roof over your head, clean water to drink and clothes to keep you warm, you will worry less about what might be, but in all likelihood, won’t ever happen.

Mindful movement…

Living mindfully is also about listening to your body. Mindfully moving when we need to, and we do need to. Particularly if you are an anxious person making sure you get enough exercise is vital. When we exercise our body can process all the stress chemicals our body releases when we worry, so just going for a walk if you start to feel anxious, will instantly calm you down. It doesn’t have to be strenuous movement, just movement. You can dance in your kitchen, take the dog for a walk or do a spin class, just move! In addition to the checmical impact movement will have on your anxiety, moving will change your state and allow your brain to start seeing the situation differently. You will begin to process the information you are working through in a more effective and calm way and you will feel so much better.

Get outside, take a big deep breath of fresh and and move that body! 

mindful movement

If anxiety is an issue for you, or a loved one, start small. Implement small daily changes and begin to see how these little changes can have a huge impact on your reactions and how you deal with situation. You can get through this.

I have, and still do. One day at a time. 

 

For lots more mindful ideas to fit into your daily routine check out my article: Every day mindfulness or why not download my free ebook: You’ve Got This for lots of easy to implement mindful ideas.

The Power of Women’s Circles

The Power of Women's Circles

Women’s Circles are as ancient as time. There is documentary evidence of women coming together as long as 300,000 years ago. This is not a new phenomenon. It is something that has had a resurgence over recent years though particularly in the western world. 

 

Why are these gatherings becoming more popular?

Well, my guess would be that the more detatched we become as a society, the more we crave true, meaningful interaction and connection. Women’s circles are a gentle, but also powerful, safe space for us to share and learn. 

What was once created out of necessity, is once again finding its place in the world. 

Historical context

Historically many gatherings were based around the “Red Tent”, a time when women would come together, usually during menstruation, to heal and educate each other about fertility cycles and how the cycle of the moon. There is strong evidence that this method of women gathering at this time is physically beneficial as well as mentally. During menstruation our bodies are using more energy than during other times of the month and our physical reserves are used for releasing the unfertilized egg, so getting together with other women, resting and sharing time together benefits women physically. This is a concept which has also become incredibly popular again in recent years. Women gather around the time of the new moon, a time when most women have been found to menstruate, to set intentions and discuss themes of the month (often around astrologically significant events and changes). Obviously there is a strong social element to these meetings, but the traditional wisdom sharing and space holding is still the core.

Of course there have been times in our history when women wouldn’t have dared to get together in this way. A time when this kind of wisdom sharing, earned these gatherings names such as covens and it’s members were burned or drowned as witches. These wise and wonderful women were persecuted for no other reason than that the patriarchy of the time felt threatened by their understanding of natural healing and couldn’t understand their intentions in creating these spaces. 

Thankfully times have changed and women are able to gather and share this wisdom now without fear of persecution. 

I am delighted that women’s circles are once again on the rise. Women need time with other women, just as men need time with men. When we feel lost or down we instinctively reach out to the women in our life; whether it is our Mum, sister or female friends, we know that they will comfort us and help us make sense of what is going on. I wrote about the importance of female friends a little while ago, by all means have a read.

Women

The evolution of my women’s circle

You may have noticed that my website has had something of a make over in recent weeks, including a move away from the Super Woman analogy. The Super Woman Life is now simply called “Kate’s Circle”. The instant this change was suggested to me by my good friend, Callie, I knew it felt right.

I had already decided that the group should be a circle. There are so many powerfully symbolic reasons for using the word circle (perhaps I will write about that another day), and it encapsulated what our group is. It is a powerful, intimate group of women of all ages, coming together to love and support each other and share their wisdom. 

There is a gentle coaching element to the live sessions, and I guide the members through monthly themes and encourage them to dig deep, but the energy of the group, is very definitely that of a women’s circle, and I am very proud of that.

Women’s circles are incredibly powerful. When women come together they share deep and meaningful parts of themselves which they wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing in mixed company. This is something we have done since the dawn of time. The only difference is that historically we would have been sitting in our cave, around the fire cooking the meat that the men had hunted and brought home, and now we meet on Zoom or in person.

women

Amazing women

I have been very fortunate to have some of the most incredibly supportive and wise women in my life. From birth I had, not only my Mum and Grandma’s but also Great Grandma and many significant Aunts. Throughout my life I have had friends, teachers, mother figures, colleagues and of course my daughter, who have had an enormous impact on my ideas and my concept of self. I know that without their input I would be a shadow my the woman I am now.

 I love that I am able to share some of that love and knowledge with other women and in turn, learn from them and the significant teachers in their lives.

I truly believe that life is one long learning journey. If we are not learning and growing then we are shrinking and becoming stagnant. I take every opportunity I can to learn, whether it is formal courses, or a significant chat with a stranger in a queue at the shop. There are learning opportunities around us all the time and just as children learn most effectively when they are playing, women learn most when they are chatting and drinking tea (or any other beverage of your choice!). If there is cake or biscuits involved then the learning is heightened even further.

My women’s circles 

To demonstrate my point, every year Callie and I get together for a five day business retreat. We have done this for almost ten years now (with the exception of the last year when it hasn’t been possible).

It started as a way to get together and for me to have some intensive work time away from my children when they were little, but it has grown into one of the most powerful weeks of every year. We get more inspiration and more planning done for our businesses in that week than at any other point of the year. 

It never feels like work. We do some of the longest work days we do all year. New notebooks are always required. We chat constantly, visit beautiful cafe’s and eat amazing cake and we write and write and just enjoy each other’s company (and yes, this is an actual photo of one of our retreat trips to a cafe!).

cake

Since we started having these retreats our businesses have grown immeasurably and we love every minute of our working life. But it isn’t just about business growth. During those years we have gone from two women who met on Twitter by chance, to best friends. I was bridesmaid at her wedding in Italy a couple of years ago and I can’t imagine my life without her. She is just one of many women for whom that is true.

Every summer I am blessed to have a week with my family on holiday. My parents, my stepson and partner, his my sister and her family, my brother in law’s parents and sometimes his siblings all come together in a huge house in the country and we just enjoy spending time together. My favourite times on that holiday are often the evenings when the men are watching football or a film and the women find a quiet room and just sit and enjoy time together. My brother in law’s mum, is a wonderful lady and she will often suggest a topic for discussion, or pose a question and everyone immerses themselves in the experience and digs deep. There is much laughter, often tears but relationships are deepened and cemented and it is a truly magical experience. 

Some people spend time discussing who they would invite to their dream dinner party, I would have a women’s circle. It isn’t that there aren’t men I would like to meet, there are many, but my soul feels complete when I spend quality time with other women.

Do you feel nourished by time with other women?

If so you will love Kate’s Circle. Numbers are kept small to ensure that the intimate feel of the group is maintained but we do have space for a couple more women at the moment, so please do take a look and if it appeals to you we would love to welcome you into our fold. 

 

 

Quit making excuses!

Excuses

Do you make excuses for not making changes in your life?

In reality I don’t know anyone who doesn’t make excuses sometimes.

I know I do. 

My monkey mind gives me all the reasons I need to turn around and walk away from certian changes I need to make. 

This week though something shifted and I have made some huge changes, that, I have to be honest, were long overdue.

The thing is, I’m usually pretty motivated. If I set my mind on achieving something, I invariably do, but a few things seemed to come together to defeat me this time and I know I am not alone.

 

What has been the issue?

Well, this time last year I was feeling great. I had been going to the gym, eating well, rehearsing every week for the show I was due to be in and I was feeling strong and happy. 

Then lockdown hit.

I made a rookie error and decided that one way I could try to help my children feel less scared and have happy memories of lockdown was to allow a few treats in our diet that we wouldn’t normally have.

It worked. Every lunchtime we would get together, watch an episode of Dr Who (our lockdown 1.0 treat) and have some crisps or chocolate, maybe popcorn and a film in the evening. Everyone was happy.

It was a great idea, if lockdown had lasted for the 3-5 weeks we originally aniticipated. The problem is we have scarcely been out of lockdown since then and the treats, though in fewer quantities have continued to flow. We have all been missing our friends and family and food has been our comfort. 

This increase in treats, emotional eating and of course working exclusively from home so not going out as much (I walk around a lot when I am delivering training) has meant that I have put on a few pounds. Not a massive amount, but more than I am happy with. More importantly though I am also feeling sluggish, not sleeping as well and my joints are hurting even more than usual. 

This week I shifted my mindset.

change

More truthfully, my mindset shifted for me. 

I don’t know about you, but I have been feeling a change in the air. The world feels more positive, people seem to be looking forward to life opening back up and things feeling more normal. There is less fear in the news, the statistics are looking positive and everyone is starting to feel more buoyant.

I have also finally got to a point where I absolutely had to make a change. I can cope with feeling tired and sluggish for a while but I’ve had enough now. But what have I done?

Well, I have dramatically changed out diets. Treats are only for the weekends now. We have upped our vegetable intake even more and I have been trying to get moving more.

As someone who has never enjoyed exercise this is HUGE. Going right back to primary school, I was never allowed to participate in team sports because I was the only asthmatic in the school and the teachers were worried it would make me ill. as a result, by the time I got to High School I already associated sport with not only danger but also being left out and excluded.  As you can imagine, this isn’t a great foundation for building a love of exercise.

Imperfect change

Throughout my life I have made myself exercise. I went to step aerobics and yoga when I was a student. I even joined a gym and went religiously for 12 months before I got married. I walk and dance and have a sporadic relationship with yoga.

I have owned just about every type of gym equipment; exercise bike, rowing machine, air walker… always second hand and usually with a squeak or glitch that put me off using it. I have bought a kettlebell, I bought a dumbbell and then yesterday I took the plunge and bought a cross trainer. 

I love walking and I love going out for a walk, especially if I can walk with someone else and have a good chat. I can walk for miles. Some days though I don’t have time to squeeze in a walk outside, or it is really windy (which makes my breathing difficult), this way, I will be able to walk or even run, short distances between clients or pieces of work. 

I know that this is going to make a difference for me. 

Making changes is about small, consistent steps and being realistic. That’s what I’m aiming for. I find it easier to do 20 minutes a day than I do an hour three times a week.

The biggest step is already taken. 

Making the decision to change is always the biggest and hardest step.

Deciding to do something and for the right reasons is so important to achieving your goals. For example, my change isn’t about weight loss. That will hopefully be a welcome consequence of the change, but my focus is very clearly on strength and lung health. 

The condition I have (acromegaly) causing joint issues, osteoporosis and also heart conditions and I am asthmatic, so being able to make my body as strong as possible is so important, especially as I glide through perimenopause.

Whatever changes we want to make though we can choose to listen to the excuse monkey, or we can prove it wrong. For the most part I am an “I’ll prove you wrong!” person, but unfortunately I am also very persuasive and think things through thoroughly… and so does my mind monkey!

In the same way that I can talk myself into doing things, equally my mind monkey can find really good arguments for not doing things. I have spent years battling: I can’t do this, it’s dangerous for me, I will damage my joints, I don’t have time… but I have made a conscious decision to change those thoughts and I can’t wait to prove myself wrong!

Just to prove that I’m not making it up. My new cross trainer arrived while I was writing this blog. We built it and took this photo just to prove it. (excuse the state of my office, we are doing some home improvements and lots of things have been dumped in there so it is all looking a little messy!). I have already had a quick go on it but, I will be getting up tomorrow, putting on my gym wear and doing my first proper session and I genuinely can’t wait. 

 

What are you making excuses about?

Kate's cross trainer

We all have things that we tell ourselves that aren’t true. 

When you realise you are making excuses, ask yourself these questions: 

Is this true? 

How do I know it’s true? 

What would happen if I tried?

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

I’m not saying that you can do absolutely anything, we all have our limits. For example, I might be able to “run” a marathon one day on my cross trainer, but I know I couldn’t run one on a road because my joints would be too damaged. That isn’t an excuse, it is a fact. I’m not making my life better by damaging my body, this is about positive changes not being stubborn.

For you it might not be about fitness, it might be about getting the garden tidy, clearing out the spare room, leaving the job you hate… whatever it is you are making excuses about, I encourage you to stop and ask yourself the questions above and see what changes you can make. You might be surprised at the results.

 

Reflections – A look back on the last 12 months

Reflections on COVID 19

Reflections. This time last year we were all merrily going about our business without a hint of how life was about to change. As we approach our first anniversary of being impacted by COVID 19 I felt it was a good time to stop and reflect on how our lives have been changed and hopefully find some positives in a year of deep learning for everyone on the planet. 

There have rarely been events in history which have impacted the whole world. It could be argued that the world wars impacted the whole planet but there were many people who would have been unaffected even by those. During the last 12 months everyone in the world has been impacted in some way by the new virus, COVID 19. We have had travel restrictions, national lockdowns and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Have all the changes we have experienced been negative though?

I’m not one to let things get me down. I always look for the rainbow and the silver lining and the last twelve months has been no different. I’m not saying I haven’t struggled, I have, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t, but I have also been really grateful for the many wonderful lessons this time has taught me.

The impact of the pandemic has been wide reaching; health, work, school, financial concerns, job losses, mental wellness, bereavement, missing our loved ones so much it physically hurts… the list goes on.

Have I been personally affected by all of these and more? 

Yes.

Have I cried because I miss my parents and worried about the fact my husband’s work dried up last March and there is no sign of it returning? 

Yes.

But the last year has brought so many blessings that those things have been made more bearable.

I have loved spending more time with my children. It hasn’t been easy juggling home learning and work, but it has been so lovely having them home all the time. Having lunch together every day. Watching whole series’ together while snuggling on the sofa under a blanket. (If you’re wondering we did the whole of Dr Who during Lockdown and we’re about to finish the Marvel films as our Lockdown 3 treat.)

We have also walked more as a family

I am walking more than twice as far as I was before the pandemic hit. I walk to the shop to get a pink of milk, where I would have driven and convinced myself I didn’t have time to walk. We walk and talk and it has really helped us process everything we have been going through.

walking

We have done many jobs around the house that we didn’t have time to do before. We have sorted through the contents of the loft and organised everything. We have made a start on really organising our photos and all our precious memories, rearranged rooms so that they function more effectively for our growing family. We have done work in the garden and got back into growing our own veggies, which we hadn’t done for a couple of years.  

I have loved having a reason to send people gifts in the post. I have always loved sending little messages and gifts in the post, but the last twelve months has given me more reasons to share a smile and I have loved receiving thoughtful gifts from loved ones too. A cream tea from a friend, drawings from my niece and nephew or a bunch of flowers from my parents have given me a reason to smile for days.  

Time out

We have allowed ourselves to stop and breathe

Life is so busy usually. 

Between work, family, after school activities, socialising… sometimes it felt like we didn’t have a minute to stop and think about what we wanted to be doing. 

Personally, I have taken time to really think about what makes me happy. How I want my business to grow. What I want to focus on and who I want to serve. 

I have spent time talking to my children about their plans and dreams.

I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have done some online courses (I know such a cliche, but I love learning!).

I have adapted aspects of my business so that I am able to continue working online and there are many aspects of that which have worked brilliantly and I would love to maintain once all this is over. 

I have made sure that I have made the most of all the amazing tools at my disposal and kept in touch with loved ones via video call or messages. I know that I will keep doing that even when I am able to see them face to face more. Weekly chats with my parents and my sister on video chat have been a life saver. My brain actually convinces my heart that I have seen them after our call. Since they live too far away to see every week, we will definitely keep our weekly chats going.

I have also made a list of all the things I never want to take for granted ever again:

  • Visiting my parents and sister
  • Hugs (with anyone and everyone)
  • Playing with my neice and nephew
  • Popping to my inlaws for a cuppa and a chat
  • Cuppa with a friend
  • Having friends round for a catch up
  • Wandering round a shop browsing
  • Theatre treats
  • Gigs and concerts
  • Days out as a family
  • Trips to the cinema
  • Eating out
  • Weekends away
  • Trying on clothes/shoes in a shop
  • Being able to walk along a pavement without moving to the side for someone coming the other way
  • Going to a shop without getting glared at because of my face covering exemption
  • … the list goes on and on.

The sad thing is that human nature dictates that we will all be so grateful for all these simple pleasures for a short while, but within a few months that will become normal again and we will forget to be thankful for hugs again.

I have tried so hard in the past to not lose this gratitude for the blessings in my life.

I have been fortunate to live in some stunningly beautiful places in my life and the first few weeks I have walked round appreciating every building and cobble, then within months it is just life. 

When I first had my tumour removed and I was pain free I vowed that I would appreciate every day and be grateful every single day that I am alive and in less pain. I managed it for a few years, but after 13 years the novelty has worn off. 

Am I still grateful I am alive and painfree? 

Of course, but I don’t remember to feel that way every morning. 

It is just human nature that once we become accustomed to something we forget to appreciate it.

York

I would like to invite you to take the time to create your own list of things you have really loved during the last 12 months. There will be many things I am sure. 

Then create a list of things you want to try to appreciate for as long as possible, things you have missed or want to make the most of when life returns to normal.

Find out why it is important to appreciate the little things:

Mike Robbins – The Power of Appreciation

Rose Chachko – Appreciating the little things in life

 

Home Learning – A real parenting challenge

Home learning

 

If you are a parent you don’t need me to tell you how stressful home learning has been during the pandemic. Many parents here in the UK have been educating their children at home for almost six months out of the last twelve, it doesn’t get any easier.

During the first lockdown there was an air of excitement and schools were encouraged to do whatever was needed to get our children through this time of crisis. Parents were baking, gardening, colouring and watching nature programmes and that, perhaps combined with some worksheets, was deemed to be enough to get our children through this temporary emergency state. As the time frame has changed and we are now looking at at least twelve months of disruption to learning though, the pressure put on schools by the government has changed dramatically. 

They are now being expected to teach a full timetable, mostly on live video calls, and the government even encouraged parents to report schools to OFSTED if they weren’t happy. What an appalling way to treat a profession who have worked, alongside our other keyworkers, throughout this pandemic, working much longer hours and putting themselves and their own families at risk.

Before I go any further I want to assure you that, however you are feeling about home learning, your child’s teachers are doing their best. Often teacher key worker’s children in the classroom, while supporting the children working at home and worrying about their own children. They would much rather be teaching your children in school, it is easier for them and it is the part of the job they love the most.

Now we have established that noone is particularly happy about the situation we find ourselves in I want to reassure you. 

You are doing an amazing job.

You might feel like you are drowning some days, you might have lost your temper or had a good cry. Maybe you had a really big gin and tonic at 6pm yesterday, or ate a whole packet of biscuits. You are human. You didn’t plan your life expecting to have your children at home during the school term. It isn’t that you don’t love them. You may even be enjoying having them at home all the time. 

You aren’t a teacher – and even if you are, teaching your own children is a very different thing to teaching other people’s children. I would choose teaching a class full of other people’s children over teaching two of my own any day!

How can we make home learning manageable?

There are many things we can do to make this time easier for everyone. It is important to remember that everyone’s situation is different, and not all these points will work for you, or even apply to you. Hopefully though everyone will take something helpful away from this.

home learning child

1. Take a deep breath

Breathing exercises calm the body and help your brain to function more effectively. When we feel stressed or cornered our breathing becomes shallow and our ability to problem solve and process information logically is reduced dramatically. Take three or four deep breaths before you start and everything will feel easier and more logical.

2. Don’t try to make home learning school

Unless your child asks you to make your time learning together like it would be at school, don’t even try. Honestly, unless you have worked in schools recently, you probably don’t really know what schools are like and how children learn in school these days anyway. Make a space on a table or desk where you will do written work but if your child wants a snack during a lesson, and youthink that will help them concentrate, then there’s no harm in them having one. If your child is getting restless and fidgetty, let them go run round the garden for a few minutes. Create your own routine and your own rules.

3. Talk to the teachers

Teachers want to know how you are getting on. If your child is really struggling, you don’t have the equipment you need, or you are worried that you don’t know how to explain something properly, just talk to them. They may not be able to respond immediately, but teachers are working so hard to make this easier for everyone. They don’t want you to struggle alone. 

4. Prioritise

Depending on the age of your child you can probably prioritise certain aspects of their work. For younger children this will probably be reading, writing and maths work. Older children may be allowed to not attend all the online sessions if they need time to catch up with their written work. It may be better for them to attend the online sessions and not worry about all the written work. Ask the teachers and let them know that your child is struggling.

5. Use relaxation techniques

Managing our emotions has never been more important. Whether it is breathing techniques, meditation, yoga… use whatever you feel works best for your family to help everyone stay calm and happy.

walking

6. Get plenty of exercise

Exercise is so important for helping us regulate our stress levels, as well as keeping us physically well. With everything happening inside our homes at the moment and children spending so much time sitting in front of screens, just going for a walk every day will have a huge impact on their mood, as well as their physical and mental health.

Whether it is a family walk, bike ride or a play in the park, make sure your children are getting outside every day.

7. Make sure you are all getting enough sleep 

With no school run to be up for it is easy to fall into the trap of allowing your children to stay up later than usual and then let them roll out of bed five minutes before their first lesson. Children need to be awake and alert if they are going to learn, but equally importantly, it is while we are asleep that we process most of the stress chemicals our body releases during the day. Without sufficent sleep we wake feeling stressed and short tempered. 

8. You can’t pour from an empty cup

If you are one of the many parents juggling full time work at home and home learning make sure you don’t end up exhausting yourself. If you are working into the night catching up on your work so that you can be there to  help your children through the day you will burn yourself out and then you can’t help anyone. Your work is putting food on the table and a roof over your child’s head, that makes it your priority. Find something educational on the TV (BBC Bitesize has some amazing programmes on demand) and let them sit and watch that while you get some work done. Perhaps you could read a book together while you have a break or do a worksheet while you eat your lunch. As long as you are doing something, you are winning. 

 

Everything will be ok 

This isn’t a tip as much as a message.

Whatever you do or don’t manage to do during this time of home learning, please know that everything will be ok. Our children will be learning so many life skills at the moment. They have already learned to be so adaptable. They are learning to cope with changes to their routine, learning to process their emotions, perhaps to bake or cook, to be more patient with each other. They are learning that life is unpredictable but that everything will be ok in the end. It really will.  

When our children do return to school, and they will, every child in the class will have had a very different experience of home learning. The teachers are acutely aware of this and will be prepared to fill in any gaps and support the children as they carry on their learning journey, whatever point they are starting from. 

 The most important thing we can do for our children right now is make sure they are happy, that they feel safe and loved and they are ready to return to school. For our children to be happy and calm we need to somehow manage to remain calm and happy too.  

If you need help with your child’s wellbeing or you are a teacher looking for wellbeing resources please do visit my Calmer Classroom website. 

 

Starting 2021 The Right Way

2021

2021 is almost here!

“2021 has to be better than 2020, doesn’t it?’ this is something I have heard so much recently. For many people, this new year will be an opportunity for new hope of a better year to come. There is a feeling of “out with the old and in with the new” and we certainly need some new after this year. 

I think it is fair to say that noone could have foreseen the events of 2020 and most people who had made plans for this year will, at the very least, have had to adjust and amend them.

Is it even worth thinking ahead to 2021 then or should we just free fall into the next twelve months without a second thought?

I think you know what my answer is going to be!

If you know me, you know that I am a planner. 

I love to plan!

I plan everything. I love nothing more than grabbing a handful of pens and a pile of dotted paper and getting all my ideas out on paper. 

How can we possibly plan for 2021 when we have no idea what it will look like?

Well, I encourage you to plan for things you have some control over; fitness goals, home improvements, hobbies you would like to revisit or take up, changes to the garden, recipes you want to try… It might sound like playing it small, but these are the things that can change your life immeasurably.

I have spoken to so many people who have re-discovered or even discovered, things about themselves this year, that they had forgotten because they never have time to stop and really take stock. 

Re-evaluate and reflect

Most of us will be having a much more subdued festive period than usual. We won’t be having big nights out and parties, we will have time with our immediate family, if we are lucky, and time for reflection and really working out what matters to us.

Journaling

There are do many ways that we can take time to process the year we have just experienced. Journaling is a great tool for this. Just take a piece of paper and either a pen or pencil and write. Maybe set a timer for 10 or even 20 minutes and write. Don’t filter anything. Just keep writing until everything has spilled out onto the page. 

Planning

So often things come out that you hadn’t even realised you were feeling or thinking. it really is a powerful tool.

Meditate

Setting the intention that you will have a greater understanding of the experiences you have had in 2020 when you meditate can be a wonderful exercise. You may see people, places or memories, you may receive messages in the form of images or words to help you make sense of things or you may just feel more relaxed, which is never a bad thing.

vision board

Create a vision board

A great way to collect all the ambitions and dreams you have for the coming year it to create a vision board. Cut images and phrases out of magazines and arrange them on a board on piece of card or foam. Or create a Pinterest board and then create a digital collage. However you create it make sure you put it someone you will see it every day. (I have mine set as my screen saver). Keeping focused on what you want your life to look like is so important.

Have an attitude of gratitude

Starting your new year with a gratitude practise is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Whether it is starting a gratitude journal where you write 3/5/10/20 things you are grateful for every evening, or waking up every morning and listing three things you are thankful for before you start your day, gratitude is a powerful tool. When you focus on the positives, your brain learns to focus on all the good things in your life and everything feels more positive. 

 

2021: A great big adventure…

None of us ever know how a year will go. We can make plans and dream of things we would like to happen, but there is always a possibility that circumstances will change. Once you accept this then 2021 is no different to any other year, so plan, dream and manifest your best year ever and believe it will happen… 

Hot chocolate

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