World Mental Health Day

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

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

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

 The reality of course is very different.

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

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

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

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

10%!

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

These are children.

What are we doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Khalil Gibran

Writer

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

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

How are you going to mark World Mental Health Day?

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

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

I’m one of them.

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

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

Do you take time to reflect?

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

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

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

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

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

This is deeply engrained programming.

I once tried to use a yearly diary. 

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

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

But why am I telling you this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It turns out they are.

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

Do you take time to look back at your journey?

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

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

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

Soren Kierkegaard

Philosopher

Do you take time to plan and reflect?

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

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

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

Maybe you want to earn more money?

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

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

Get really clear on exactly what you want.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn – my favourite time of year for self care

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

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

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

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

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

What is self care?

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

Here are a few ideas

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

You get the idea.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Self care is not the same as selfish! 

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

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

The Importance of self care

The Importance of caring for our energetic self

Taking time out – why adults need time out too

Do you need help changing your mindset?

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

What is mindset? 

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

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

This is great news!

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

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

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

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about this programme before you decide.

Are you ready to change your mindset?

 

I’m ready!

To Infinity and Beyond!

Infinity is always a word that has fascinated me.

What does it mean?

How can anything keep going forever?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

My friend Mojo can explain better:

 

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

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

We can love to infinity.

Love is definitely something I can understand being never ending.

I have been reminded of this a lot recently.

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

I will love my children to infinity and beyond!

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

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

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

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

The Meaning of Life

Today I am “the answer to life, the universe and everything” according to Douglas Adams. 

I have never had an issue with with birthdays. Age is just a number as far as I’m concerned, and I really mean it. I genuinely feel blessed to be alive and to have reached another birthday.

It may sound like a cliche but it’s true.

As you may know there was a time when that wasn’t guaranteed (not that it ever is!). 11 years ago I was led to believe that my life now would be very different; constant unbearable pain, physically deformed, no energy and unable to have any more children.

Instead I am happy, my condition is under control, I am back to looking like myself and I have my beautiful, almost 10 year old son. 

Today, as I turn 42, I am feeling more grateful than I have ever felt in my life.

My children are happy, healthy, amazing mini-humans who not only saved their pocket money to buy me thoughtful presents from Harry Potter Studios, but made their own card and made the most delicious brunch.

My husband had a clock that we fell in love with when we visited Italy recently sent over for my present. My friends and family have really been there for me during what has been a rollercoaster 24hrs. I had my injection yesterday, we went to see Mamma Mia: Here I go again and I laughed til I cried and cried because I was heartbroken, I found out some devastating news and my family and friends said and did some truly incredible things to support both me and one of my closest friends and her family at a very difficult time.

I cried tears of sadness and tears of joy within moments, not just once, but all day.

As we get older it is easy to focus on the negatives.

Society encourages it.

The wrinkles we are led to believe are bad. The grey hairs we are encouraged to colour in. We are constantly told that youth is good and age is bad.

Why?

What is so wrong with getting older? We all get older.

Would you want to go back to having the experiences you were having when you were in your teens?

Believing the things you believed?

Feeling the insecurities you felt?

I wouldn’t!

Given a choice between having the body I had then and the experiences and emotions I had then and being me as I am now, wrinkles, stretch marks, grey hairs and all, I know what I would choose. I feel honoured to be growing older. I love that I have 40+years of experiences, knowledge and memories to look back over.

There is no size 12, wrinkle free, body that can top the wisdom and memories of 20 years of life. 

 

I don’t agree with George Carlin, I don’t think he does either for the record, I think age is a very small price to pay for wisdom.

Wisdom is something to be treasured.

Age is something to be cherished. 

“Age is a hell of a price to pay for wisdom”

George Carlin

Comedian

As we take steps along this journey, we are all ultimately heading for the same destination, which ever road we take.

I have been fortunate enough to have some wonderful companions on my journey.

I have also experienced the heartbreak of losing friends and family members for as long as I can remember. Not just people older than me. People who completed their journey way too soon. Friends who left us before the even finished school. Family members who should have had many more years of memory making.

I was nearly added to that number. I am acutely aware that my journey could have been much shorter and much less enjoyable.

I make an effort every single day to find at least 10 things I am grateful for. I have a little pile of notebooks next to my bed where I have written my daily gratitude every day for years now.

“Today I am grateful for… I am glad I… I am thankful for…”.

Some days it’s a struggle. Some days it feels impossible and other days it is easy and I write twenty. I make the effort to do it every day thought remind myself how lucky I am.

My birthday is always a day for counting my blessings.

Today is no exception. I am thankful for the amazing people in my life. For the opportunities I am given. For the places I have seen the experiences I have had and I am grateful for you.

Yes you.

I am grateful that you have taken the time to read my inner babblings. That you have found my website and decided to delve deeper. That you are taking time to get to know me better. Thank you.

I may not actually be the answer to life, the universe and everything but I hope you have taken something away from reading this. 

I hope you have a wonderful day.

 

 

Taking a leap!

Leaping isn’t something you will often see me doing I’ll be honest! I am trying to do it more often though.

Not long ago I wrote a post about achieving your potential which touched on this subject a bit. I have been trying to say yes to things and then working out how I am going to actually be brave enough to do it after.

I know that I am not alone in liking the comfort of familiarity.

It’s so easy to only agreed to do things that you have done many times before and know you are capable of, but there are a few problems with this life.

By definition it means that you don’t experience anything new. This is sad. There are so many amazing experiences out there waiting for you to sample them, why would you only ever do what you have always done.

 So why is this on my mind this week?

Well, I like to draw inspiration for my blogs from my recent experiences. We have been having lots of new experiences as a family and well and truly leaping out of our comfort zones!

Last week we went to Italy for my best friend’s wedding. 

My son (9) has never been abroad and my daughter hasn’t since she started school (she’s now 14) so this was a huge deal for them.

In order to get to Italy we had to go in an aeroplane, my husband HATES flying, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him being there for such an amazing and memorable week.

In addition to this my son is very close to my husband at the moment so because Dad was scared, he was too.

 

While we were in Italy the children tried foods they claim they hate at home and loved them, they went to places they have never been before and experienced Italian life to the full.

It wasn’t just my plane-hating husband and children who had to take a leap out of their comfort zones though.

I volunteered to drive one of the hire cars we needed (there were 10 of us altogether so we needed two). I love driving but I hadn’t driven a left hand drive for over 10 years.

I was also asked to do a reading in the church service for my friends Callie and Emilio. I do a lot of public speaking but I’m not catholic, and I’m not usually recorded and it is rarely for something so memorable!

I also agreed to sing at the reception.

I know! But this is all part of my saying yes to opportunities thing. I used to do a lot of singing but haven’t done much at all apart from in the car since I had the children. This is my best friend in the world though, I’m not going to say no when it’s for her big day!

This not only meant singing though, it also meant meeting the musician who was playing at the reception the day before in Florence at his studio for a very quick rehearsal. Finding new places, meeting new people, singing in front of total strangers, all things with the potential to induce panic once upon a time.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m cool about it all now, cause I still have butterflies and what ifs, but nothing like I did once upon a time. 

I try to do something everyday that is out of my comfort zone whether it is making that phone call, contacting a potential client or doing an extra 5 minutes on my rowing machine.

I do think that the more we do it, the easier it gets.

I have heard about 2 people in the last week who are at extremes of this attitude. A man in his 70s who has never owned a passport and will barely leave his home town. Think of all the amazing opportunities he is missing. All the major events, all the sights, sounds, smells…

“There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.”

 

James Cameron

Film Director

At the opposite end of the scale though, my friend’s daughter turned 16 yesterday and she did a skydive to celebrate! She loved it! What an amazing memory to have made and an incredible way to celebrate her birthday. Now that is literally taking a leap!

Don’t be one of the talented people who doesn’t make our mark on the world because you don’t take that leap of faith, that step out of your comfort zone.

 

How can you exercise your courage and step out of your comfort zone today?

 

If you are intrigued about my singing you can watch the video below. Apologies for the quality of the video it was taken on a phone but you get the idea. (I’m also really cross with myself for holding the words but we had only sung it through 3 times with the guitarist and it threw me a bit 🙁 ). Adding this video to the post is my “stepping out of my comfort zone” for today so please be gentle with me.

Taking time out -Why adults need time out too!

As adults it is easy to forget that we need to take time out sometimes in order to recharge and feel re-energised. Without this time we inadvertently turn into toddler versions of ourselves, having tantrums about minor issues and doing a grown up version or the tired cry all parents are familiar with.

We may not throw ourselves on the floor and kick our feet any more, but we do stamp about, moan about having to do everything ourselves, and refuse to stop even when ever part of our being is screaming “BUT I’M TIRED!”.

 

Different response (although only slightly!) but with the same trigger – overwhelm.

 When life gets busy we push ourselves to do everything and then eventually it all gets too much.

So what should we do when overwhelm strikes?

Well, I can’t really tell you that. 

You are probably wondering what the purpose of writing this is if I can’t give you any advice – am I right?

Well, I didn’t say I couldn’t give you any advice, I just said that I couldn’t tell you what to do.

Not the same.

You see the magical thing about living creatures is that no two are the same. You might be very similar, but you are never the same.  

My sister and I look alike, we sound identical, we like the same types of music and films but we are also very different.  

When my sister feels tired and overwhelmed she goes for a run or reads a book. I have a bath AND read a book – you see, we’re nothing like each other! *giggle*

The point I am trying to make is that we are all different, so what is relaxing and a real indulgence to one person is another worst nightmare.

It isn’t what we do that is important though, fortunately, it is the fact that we step away form the to do list and the never ending chores and allow ourselves time to relax and unwind. Whether that means playing a round of golf or knitting, it doesn’t matter, as long as you feel nurtured and happy.

You may want to be alone or meet up with a group of friend.

Your idea of chilling out might be going clubbing, or it might be walking up a mountain and sitting quietly.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are doing it because you want to not because you feel you should. 

 

It is also important that you do not at any time; before, during or after, feel guilty for taking this time for yourself.

This is where self care can be a challenge for many people. They know they should spend time relaxing but the whole time they are “relaxing” they are feeling guilty for doing it.

THAT’S NOT RELAXING!

By doing this you are neither getting through your jobs or giving yourself the time out you so need.

“You shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. Every so often, everyone needs to give themselves a big ol’ bear hug and treat themselves to some TLC.”

Sean Covey

Author

Today I am working. It’s a weekday and I do most of my work while my children are at school. Am I sitting hunched over my desk?

Nope.

I’m sitting with my MacBook on the patio table enjoying this beautiful weather we are enjoying the UK. Dreaming of my upcoming holiday as I type.

Find moments of joy even in the jobs you do. Maybe you have to do some weeding. Make sure you take time to appreciate the beauty of the garden as you do. Feel the sun on your back. Listen to the birds singing.  

Maybe the job you need to get done has no obvious pleasure associated with it. Get back to the basics. I am grateful I can see well enough to mend these trousers. I am grateful I am able to stand for long enough to clean the mirror. Whatever you are doing, remember that there is someone somewhere wishing they were able to do it. Find the positives in the jobs you do but make sure you take time to relax and recharge too. You will get those jobs done quicker and with more energy and accuracy if you aren’t tired and angry doing them.

Female Friends – Why they are so important

When we are little friendship is probably THE most important thing in our lives. We fall out with our friends and make new friends constantly. It is all part of working out who we are and what sort of person we want to be. As we grow older we usually have few friends but they are often deeper and more meaningful. 

Throughout our lives we are thrown together with people and we build friendships with the people who fit us best. As children our friends are the people we are in the most classes with, that we do clubs and extracurricular groups with or our parents friend’s children. As adults we throw the net wider, but for many people their closest friends are people from work or whose children go to the same school. 

 Often as adults we discover who our true friends are in times of hardship. Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying; “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo—what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” I found this out when I was ill. Friends who I thought would be there for me no matter what disappeared off the face of the earth and people who I had only recently met walked over hot coals to help me and support me.

Without my female friends I would have given up many years ago.

I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start my business, to grow my business and I would have been drowning in parenting challenges. Without my female friends who would help me see that all the things I struggle with are normal and all women go through them? I am fortunate that I am close to my Mum, sister, and my mother in law and I was very close to my Grandma, but friends fill a different role.

Friends make you laugh and cry. They tell you home truths when you need them and they act like giggling 8 year olds when you need cheering up. Women are, for the most part, nurturing and we all need a little nurturing. 

Last weekend I was on my best friend’s Hen weekend in London. We have been friends for almost 10 years and we talk nearly every day. She is one of the first people I tell when I have exciting news and whatever happens she is always there for me. A very, very special person. Despite being friends for almost a decade I have met relatively few of her friends, she lives 125 miles away. 

I was reminded during our fabulous day of fine food and haberdashery (yes we made fascinators for the wedding at a fabulous workshop!) that women have an amazing ability to bond in a very short space of time. I had only met the Hen and one other friend before the big day. I had spoken to people by email and text as I had helped to organise it but despite this within minutes of being thrown together we were all sharing details of our lives and bonding over stories of adversity. 

Good friends can make the difference between drowning and gliding like a swan through life's challenges. Click To Tweet 

When we get together with our girl friends it is like the best informal counselling session ever. We can get things off our chest about our families and work and anything else that we need an opinion on or someone to sympathise.

Most importantly though our friends make us laugh. 

So what?

Laughing is SO important for our physical and emotional health. It reduces stress and anxiety and is even good for your heart. We all need to laugh more and I don’t know about you but I laugh a lot when I’m with my friends.

This quote from Tanja Taaljard sums up my feelings about female friendship perfectly. We do just instinctively understand the struggles of other women.  It is a very special gift.

I’m sure men cater for each other’s needs too, but their needs are different. Men need male friendships just as much as women need female friendships. They need someone to joke with, to talk about their worries, or just someone to distract them from their challenges.

Friendship is friendship.

“Women instinctually know how to nourish each other, and just being with each other is restorative”

Tanja Taaljard

Author, UPLIFT

Girl Code

Recently I have been reading Girl Code by Cara Alwill Leyba and it raised some brilliant and beautiful points about female friendship. This quote particularly resonated with me; “You know a woman is strong, beautiful, and secure by the way she empowers and inspires others.”

So often women tear each other down. Watching the royal wedding a few weeks ago I realised how easy it is and how quickly I commented on outfits or the look on someone’s face. I’m a friendly, generally non-judgmental person, but when faced with rows and rows of women in such a wide array of hats and dresses my first reaction was to judge.

I’d like to think that that behaviour was out of character but I wonder how often we are all guilty of judging quickly based on appearance?

When it comes to supporting other women though it is so important that we look past first impressions, that we listen and nurture. I understand more than most that our physical appearance isn’t always something we can control. If someone is struggling with depression or mental health issues the last thing they care about is putting on make up and what outfit they are going to wear. Instead of judging we should take time to look deeper and offer support and advice.

It is also important not to judge other because they have different priorities to us. When we see someone wearing very expensive jewellery or designer clothes, or conversely wearing old clothes that have seen better days, let’s try as a society not to immediately make assumptions about the reasons for those choices.

We all have a story to tell and no-one ever truly knows what another person is going though Click To Tweet

Let’s support each other and teach our children to love each other and look for the similarities in others not the differences. But above all let’s celebrate out friendships. Male, female or animal! Friends are so important and we must never take them for granted.

 

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Feminism – What does it mean to you?

FeminismFeminism. It is a word which means different things to different people.

According to definition Feminism is:

  1. noun
  2. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
  3. (sometimes initial capital letter)an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
  4. Older Use. feminine character.

(Dictionary.com)

The word only came into use at the start of the 19th Century with suffrage and then the rise of the women liberation movement, lead by Simone de Beauvoire, but only became used frequently in the 1970’s with the rise of modern feminists like Germaine Greer.

Women were treated as second class citizens for centuries but at during the late 19th and early 20th Century they began to fight back.

The suffragettes risked everything for the right to vote and to be seen as more equal in the eyes of the law. Their children were taken away from them, they lost all their material security. They were tortured, beaten and ostracised for their actions and beliefs. But they never gave up.

Last week there was a wonderful programme on the BBC, “Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley”. It was part dramatic re-enactment and part documentary. It was beautifully made. I have read and watched quite a lot about the Suffragettes over the years but every time I discover something new or I’m reminded of something I had forgotten.

Every time I think about it, I wonder whether I would have been brave enough to risk losing my children and my home for the right to vote. I wonder whether I would have been brave enough to face the beatings, the arrests, the tube feeding… for the right to put a cross on a piece of paper.

It is so much more than that though, it is the start of equality. The small snowball that escalated and eventually gave us the right to financial independence, the right to have a say in our own future, the right to equal education, equal job opportunities…

Don’t worry, I’m not deluded enough to think that we have fully achieved equality, and of course there are parts of the world where women are far from equal, but suffrage started the change.

What is modern feminism?

During my lifetime feminism has managed to get itself a bad name in some circles. It has been used to describe men hating aggressive women who don’t want equality buy supremacy. It may not be what the word actually means but many people still have that image when the word is used. Because of that many women struggle to identify themselves as feminists.

I believe that women are equal to men. Not better, not worse, but equal. I don’t however, believe that they are the same. I firmly believe that women have strengths and abilities and so do men. As a generalisation they are not the same skills and abilities but they are equally important and equally valuable to society.

When women are given the same opportunities as men they achieve incredible things. When women work together they are a real force to be reckoned with, even with all the restrictions the Suffragettes had to overcome.

When we support and encourage each other, men and women, so much can be achieved. When we fight against each other, everyone loses out.

“Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan, and it does not mean you are a ‘bitch’ or ‘dyke’; it means you believe in equality.”

Kate Nash -Singer

This quote from Kate Nash sums up how I feel about feminism. I don’t often refer to myself as a feminist, but when used in its true meaning I would definitely identify with the definition. I love that over the last decade it has become a word which is also being used by men to identify themselves as supporters of equality of the sexes. Equality shouldn’t just be something women are supporting and working towards.

Should we still be fighting for equality in the 21st Century? Shouldn’t it just be a given? Why is it even a subject that needs discussion?

What are your views on modern feminism? I would love to know.

Do you think we need a new word, one without the negative connotations that “feminism” has now?

Feminism isn’t about not wearing make up, it isn’t about cutting your hair and drinking pints. It isn’t about training to be an engineer or not breast feeding your baby. It is about having the choice to do all those things without judgement. It is about supporting women with whatever their choices are. Whether they want to return to work after having a baby or stay at home and care for them until they leave home.

It is about the freedom to choose. True equality.


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