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The Benefits of Singing

Singing is good for you. 

 I know, it might sound ridiculous but when I read a study a few years ago that actually stated that singing can even prolong your life, I wasn’t even a little surprised. 

I have been singing all my life. I could have written the Abba song “Thank you for the Music” I think I was singing before I could talk. I love it. As a child I sang all the time. As a teenager I sang to pop songs, I was in the choir at school and I was always in the school productions (which at our school were always musicals). 

If I was happy I sang, if I was stressed I sang, feeling lonely, sing and I never get on a dance floor without singing along to whatever I’m dancing to. I’ve even been known to sing along to theatre shows! 

 

Why is it so good for you?

Well, there are many biological factors at play. We know that one of the best ways to calm our nervous system is to control our breathing, this reduces the production of cortisol and calms us down. In order to sing we have to regulate our breathing, even slow it down. So it is physically very calming.

It is an incredibly mindful activity. It is very difficult to sing and be thinking about other things. We have to be completely present and concentrate on the words and tune we are singing.

Socially it lifts our spirits to sing with other people. It builds a sense of community and belonging. We even synchronise our heartbeats with others when we sing together. It builds our confidence. When we sing we release endorphins that help us feel positive and boosts our energy levels. The more we sing the more we want to sing. 

Singing even boosts your immune system!

By calming our body through singing we strengthen our immunity and we are less likely to become ill. Not just that but it reduces pain. 

By singing regularly you not only strengthen your lungs but also your heart health is improved. This is another reason I have always done a lot of singing because I am asthmatic and it really helps by breathing. 

There has even been research done which proves that people who sing regularly have better balance and posture! 

 

Are you starting to see how dramatically singing could change your life?

In studies conducted with people suffering chronic pain, singing has been shown to alleviate the pain symptoms for not just immediately afterward but for up to 6 months later. The studies have also shown that singing could have a real impact on the amount of pain relief medication used by participants.

Sing Up Foundation

Singing has been shown to be really beneficial for people with alzheimers. It improves your circulation, increases the amount of oxygen in your blood and improves your mental alertness, concentration and memory. 

 

But I can’t sing! 

 

Who cares? I know it’s easy for me to say. I’m not even going to pretend that I can’t sing, I have done a lot of singing in my life, and people seem to quite like listening to me for the most part. I feel very fortunate but I have had my own struggles though. My acromegaly means that my throat tissues can become enlarged and when I was really ill before my surgery I couldn’t sing and it made me really depressed. When I say I couldn’t sing, I don’t mean it wasn’t good, I mean it was physically difficult. But it isn’t about performing. It isn’t about being a singer. It is about singing for health and enjoyment. You don’t look beautiful and composed when you go to the gym or take part in sport, but you feel better afterwards and your body and mind are healthier. It’s time to start seeing singing the same way.

 

There are lots of opportunities to sing whether you believe you can sing or not. You don’t have to join a choir or singing group (although if you can I can highly recommend it!). Why not sing in the car when you are traveling alone?  Sing in the shower, while you are cooking, put the radio on and sing while you are cleaning. I sing while I work in my office a lot (apart from when I’m writing because then I write what I’m singing instead of what I should be writing!). I also sing while I’m on my rowing machine. It passes the time and that way I am getting even more exercise.

 If you don’t like listening to yourself sing turn the music right up. But I’m fairly certain that your singing is no where near as bad as you believe it is! 

 

In summary

 

Singing is good for you because it:

 

  • calms you down  

 

  • boosts your immune system 

 

  • improves your memory  

 

  • benefits your heart and lung health increases your confidence  

 

  • can help with alzheimers

 

  • improves balance and posture 

 

  • reduces pain

 

  • helps you to be more mindful

 

 I’m even going to be brave and upload a song I have sang at weddings recently. I believe in walking my talk and if I am going to encourage you to sing, I should be brave enough to let you hear me sing. I would love to hear your singing and your stories about how singing has helped you. 

 

Be the change

As the new year approaches it is always good to take time to reflect on the change in your life over the previous year. Every new year brings change and we all start to focus on the what we would like to have achieved by the end of the coming year.

There is something in the air as we approach the new year, we are all filled with hope that any challenges we have faced during the previous year will pass and better things lie ahead. It is the perfect time to sit and take stock and check in with our progress towards our dreams and make sure we are still on track.

Those of you who know me will know that I LOVE planning. I love everything about it; the dreaming, the possibilities, the challenge and of course the stationery! But this year I am planning big changes.

Be the change

When it comes to planning I’m old school. 

I like a notebook and pen. I use an electronic diary so that I can sync my diary with my husband. He is also self employed so work routine is not something we understand! Everything else is done on paper. 

I know it’s old school but there is solid scientific evidence that our brains process writing and work on paper differently to the way it processes screens, and it works so much better for me, it’s so much more flexible. Paper also allows your mind to wander and it lets you tap into your unconscious more I find. 

At this time of year I use dotted paper and various pencils and pens to plan. I plan everything I intend to create and achieve in the coming year. I sit and reflect, I breathe deeply and allow my intuition to take over and make sure that everything I plan feels right. It is so important that everything we do adds to our happiness and contentment. If something doesn’t feel right then there is a reason for that. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t a worthy cause, it  certainly doesn’t mean that it is something that shouldn’t be done, but maybe someone else needs to do it. We can’t do everything after all.

 I also like to take the time to look back on everything I have created and achieved over the previous year. This year however, I went a step further and looked back over everything I have achieved over the last 10 years.   

Wow! What a change!    

In 2009 I had a newborn, I was just doing all my Reiki training, I had been self employed as a childminder but hadn’t started any of the work I am doing now. When I stop and look at all the work I have done, both with individuals and schools over the last decade I am genuinely shocked. When 2010 started only a couple of years had passed since my tumour surgery, I was just starting having my injections to control my acromegaly and I had spent most of my recovery pregnant and caring for a baby. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to function fully as a mum let alone run two businesses. 

Why not take a few minutes to think about everything you have achieved over the last decade?  

Grab a notebook or piece of paper and write down everything you have done, holidays you have had, friends you have made, all your professional achievements, all your personal achievements… You will be amazed at everything that has changed over the last decade.  

One thing is for sure. The coming year, and indeed decade, have the power to be whatever you make them. We can decide that this is going to be our best year ever. Why wouldn’t it be? We can get up every morning determined to make the most of every minute. Choose to be kind and thoughtful. Be dedicated to making the world we live in a better place in whatever small way we can. You don’t need to have money to change the world. Maybe you help someone out, pay someone a compliment or just smile at them.

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Helen Keller

It is so easy to think that it is someone else’s job to make a difference. That someone else will step up.

Why not you? 

Why wait for someone else?

Get out there and do what you have seen needs to be done. If you can’t physically do it yourself raise awareness and encourage others to come together and do it. 

Life is amazing. Make sure you are living every moment. 

 That doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to have a pj day under a blanket watching Christmas films, of course you can. No-one can be on duty all the time, even heroes need a day off to recharge their batteries, but I implore you, stop and think about what you can do to make a positive impact on the world this year.

There is so much negativity in the world at the moment, lots of people despairing about decisions that are being made and the way things are being handled by those in power but we need to come together and create a movement of light and positivity. If we do then we are unbeatable. Are you ready to “be the change that you wish to see in the world”(Gandhi)?

If not now then when?

 Write down all the things you would like to change this year in your notebook or on your paper. Whether it is getting more fit, decorating your bedroom, sorting out your finances, maybe volunteering for a local good cause, whatever it is you want to change, write it down and commit to it now!

As another decade passes and I am reminded how much my life has changed, I can only imagine what the next decade will bring.  Honestly, I don’t like looking too far forward. I’m very much a “live in the moment” person. Just knowing that my children will be adults and I will be in my fifties makes me realise that I don’t have time to mess about. This year I am going to make big changes so that I am firmly on the right track for the rest of the decade and I cannot recommend enough that you do too.

Be the hero of your own story

Many years ago now I remember reading the Joseph Campbell quote “You are the hero of your own story” and I remember thinking “wow, yes, of course I am. Who else could be the hero of my story?”. 

Of course back then I was a naive 20 year old who had had a relatively sheltered life. Now as a more worldly forty something I apprecaite how easy it is to sit back and let someone else take the lead. 

It is easy to decide that you have nothing to contribute, that you aren’t good enough or that someone else is more important than you. 

 

Rubbish! 

Be the hero

In your heart there is a song that needs to be sung. There is a passion that needs to be expressed, an adventure that needs to begin or a journey that needs to be taken. Perhaps a project that has been waving at you in the distance for many years. Whatever it is, only you can make it happen. 

The world needs to hear that song, feel that passion, share that adventure or benefit from that project. As Marie Forleo would say “the world needs that special gift that only you have”.   

Don’t believe me? 

 What if the great inventors and influencers of all time had sat at home and played it small? 

 What if Isaac Newton, Einstein, Marie Curie, Brene Brown, Mozart, Ronaldo or Malala Yousafzai had just sat back and waited for someone else to take action? These are just the first names that came into my head but there are so many more. 

 Take a moment to think about all the people who have impacted your life; the teachers, coaches, authors, film makers, athletes, musicians, doctors… the list is endless. Think how much poorer you would be had those people not made the effort and put themselves out there. 

I can practically hear you screaming at your screen: “but I have nothing to contribute to the world, those people were like a different species to me, they are geniuses and I am a mere mortal”. Well, maybe that’s not exactly what you were thinking but I know I have thought similar things over the years.

You have a lot to contribute to the world. 

There are people who you have influenced more than you will ever know. Lives you have changed with a comment or a helping hand. You don’t have to be a celebrity, have given a TED talk or written a book to have made an impact on the world.

Perhaps you said something kind to a girl at school when you were 12 years old and because of that her self esteem was restored and she went on to invent something amazing. Everything you do, every day, makes changes the world in a small way. 

What sort of story will you be the hero of? 

If you don’t feel like life is going quite the way you expected it to, perhaps you are a hero stuck in the wrong story? The Hulk probably wouldn’t have been a hero if he had landed in Oz, equally Dorothy would be pretty useless when up against Abomination.

Are you following your bliss? 

If not you might want to take a moment to work out what your story is supposed to be. 

What sort of hero are you?

 When you find the right story things will start to click into place. This quote from Joseph Campbell sums it up perfectly.

I have had several instances in my life when I have made a decision, sometimes one that felt a little crazy, and suddenly everything aligns to make it happen. That is when you know that you are on the right path.  

I have literally been picked up and put onto the right path a couple of times in my life. The most significant time though was just after I had my son. I had been pregnant or ill for 5 years and felt like I had lost who I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I had been reading lots of “self help” books (I hate that phrase) and I sat down one day and decided that I needed to make a change. 

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”
Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

Author, The Power of Myth

I sat at my computer and typed “distant learning course” into Google and the top course was from the Institute of Counselling. It was a course called “Certificate in Spiritual Care”. I took a look and it was as though the course had been created for me. I had no intention of it leading to a career change, I just wanted to get my brain working again and feel like I had achieved something. Little did I know that that one decision would lead to me doing my Reiki attunements, getting back in touch with my spiritual side, doing qualifications in mindfulness and creating two amazing businesses. It was magic. I trusted the universe (or whatever force you believe in) to point me in the right direction and it really did.  

I have been trusting my intuition and the universe to point me in the right direction ever since. I pay attention to every sign and comment. If someone mentions a person, technique, book, event… and it comes up a few times in quick succession, I look it up and find out more. If I am feeling a little lost I take time to meditate or read or even just have a bath and try to work out where I need to go next. I know that if I am having to force something it isn’t right. 

Are the hero of your story? 

Why not let me know your story in the comments below?

Have Yourself a Mindful Little Christmas

Could having a mindful Christmas really be the answer to holiday stress? 

Christmas time can be so stressful. There are food preparations, gifts to wrap, cards to write, social occasions, friends to visit, family to visit, traditions to be remembered, the list seems endless. 

Add to that the pressure for everything to be “perfect” and it can be a really toxic combination or stress, guilt, financial worries and emotional exhaustion. We all want magical memories of Christmas, particularly for our loved ones, but all too often we are too stressed and exhausted to be able to remember anything let alone enjoy it. 

Mindful Christmas

How can mindfulness help?

I’m sure many of you are nodding with a deep understanding about the stresses of Christmas. How can mindfulness help though? 

Well, by staying calm and in the present it can help you to lower your physical stress levels as well as feeling more present and organised.

When we are busy and there are lots of things to think about it is easy to be constantly living in our heads. Constant streams of; “I must remember to…” can be distracting and not always as productive as we might try to convince ourselves. 

 

My top mindfulness tips for a calm and happy Christmas  

Be organised   

When we are organised and feel on top of things we always feel more calm. Deal with things as soon as you can and make lists for everything to make sure you don’t forget everything. By writing them down you don’t have to keep them going round and round in your head. 

Preparation is key   

Do as much in advance as you can. There are so many things you can get done really early so that you aren’t dashing round at last minute. Get your veggies parboiled and in the freezer. Wrap your presents as soon as you can. Whatever you need to get done do it as soon as possible.

Let go of the myth of perfection 

We all want our memories of Christmas to be greeting card perfection but in reality we are all just human. Often it is the imperfect that makes the day special. You don’t have to have an instagram worthy breakfast, have some toast so you can sit and enjoy watching your children open their presents. Realistically something will happen that will ruffle your feathers; you will forget one of the veg, misplace a present, drop the Christmas pudding, whatever it is you will survive.  

 

Breathe

It doesn’t matter what I am talking about, when it comes to feeling in control and calm breathing properly is always my top tip! When you breathe slowly and in a controlled way your brain knows that there is no need to worry and it begins to calm your whole body.  Even just a couple of minutes breathing in time to this little video is enough to calm your mind and body. 

Mindful Drinking

Why not try making a hot drink and really taking the time to explore all the effects it has on your senses? Watch as the hot water mixes with the dry ingredients. See the steam swirl out of the mug. Smell the aroma. Feel the steam hit your face. Then take a sip and really taste it. Feel how warm and comforting it is as it flows down your throat and into your stomach. Really take the time to savour each mouthful and enjoy some quiet time. 

Quiet moments

During the big day, try to find little pockets of calm. Even if it is just stirring the custard or making a coffee. If you can manage a quiet half hour with a book or a quiet walk with the dog, even better.

Remember, these festive days are for everyone to enjoy. You are allowed to relax and enjoy the day too. 

If you want to learn more mindful tricks to help you have a wonderfully mindful Christmas why not sign up for my Mindful Advent Calendar? It’s completely free and you will learn so many amazing mindfulness strategies in just 5 minutes a day.

 

Mindful Advent Calendar

Do you always feel stressed and exhausted by the time Christmas arrives?

Sign up for my FREE Mindful Advent Calendar and ensure you have a calm and happy Christmas.

If you need someone to talk to over Christmas please know that there is always a listening ear at the Samaritans they do incredible work. You are never alone. I may not check my emails as often over the holidays but I do check them every day and will always be there for  anyone who needs a listening ear.

Other blogs you may find interesting:

Time for a change

Why you need to start practising mindfulness

It’s a Wonderful Life

Life is wonderful! 

Don’t panic, this is not a blog about the ‘C’ word, not this early in the year. As much as I love Christmas, the start of November is all about fireworks, bonfires and toffee apples, not fir trees and baubles.  

The reason I have used this title for my latest musings is because this is not only one of my favourite festive films, it is also the phrase and the story I think of when I think of gratitude and being grateful for everything you have in your life.  

This week was an interesting week for me. Within three days I had to face the third anniversary of my beloved Grandma’s passing, face some personal fears and contemplate the 12th anniversary of my surgery and what would have been my other Grandma’s 99th Birthday.

wonderful life

Those are some hefty emotions to deal with in the space of 72 hours!

I’m not even going to pretend that it has been easy. There have been tears, even some anger (which isn’t like me at all!). I have journalled, meditated, talked to friends and loved ones, and emerged in one piece – just about!

I miss my Grandmas, very much. Particularly my Grandma Smith, the lovely lady shown above. We were kindred spirits, partners in crime and best friends, all my life. Despite missing them, I don’t feel sad that they are no longer here. I was blessed to have all four grandparents until I was 18 years old. I then had my remaining three grandparents until I was 33 years old! My precious Grandma Smith died a few months after my 40th birthday. They had truly wonderful lives. I can’t be certain but I don’t think any of my grandparents would have had an regrets. They loved and lived life to the max. They taught me so much. This fact combined with my joy and delight at being alive, and relatively uninhibited by my condition 12 years after my surgery,  reminds me that it truly is a wonderful life.

Terrible Titties and Other Bitties 

Just to remind me a little more how blessed I am I was asked to talk at a local support group last night; The Terrible Titties and Other Bitties. They are an incredible charity, based in Stafford, who support people going through, who have been through or who love someone affected by, cancer. 

I got a message at 3pm asking if I could do a 30min talk at the meeting because their speaker was ill. I had an hour and a half to think about what I could say. I grabbed a notebook and scribbled a few notes down so I had a rough structure but apparently that wasn’t what I was supposed to say!

Off script as usual 

 

As is often the case for me when it comes to public speaking, my higher self knew what I was supposed to be saying any of the things I had in my notes. Instead I found myself talking about the importance of self care and positive thinking. Just what I needed to say as it turned out.  

I find it very easy to talk about positivity because I am naturally a very positive person. I also have the advantage of having some pretty huge reasons to be grateful. I may not have had cancer, but I have supported loved ones on their cancer journey and I have experienced the fear of having a potentially life limiting illness. I know how it feels to enter an operating theatre and wonder if I will ever see my loved ones again. I could relate to the amazing women in that room, and they opened their arms and welcomed me in.  

Most of the women there were on a personal journey with cancer. They were mostly incredible positive and smiley, but it was interesting to talk to them about their experiences of how it had changed them in a much deeper way than the physical scars – something else I can relate to. 

 

Don’t judge a book by its cover 

I talked to many people, who all looked fit and well from their appearance alone, but once you dug deeper many were still living with treatment and hidden conditions; brain tumours, breast cancer, MS…

One thing I am really passionate about is raising awareness of the many invisible but life changing conditions that people are coping with every day. That’s a big part of the reason I am taking part in The Real Full Monty next year. So many people you meet are fighting issues you may never know about; illness, mental health struggles, caring for a loved one, financial difficulties… It is so important to be patient and kind when we are dealing with others, no matter how well you may think you know someone you will never know everything they are experiencing. 

As we approach the festive time, we can all make a difference to someone. Whether it is checking on an elderly relative or neighbour and making sure they won’t be alone this Christmas, donating to a charity, taking some donations to a food bank or donating gifts to a children’s hospital you can make someone very happy this year. 

Have a look at all the amazing things my little friend Noah has been doing! 

Noah saves his pocket money every year and then gets donations from companies and shops and delivers hundreds of Christmas presents to children’s wards every Christmas. He has been on the tv this week for his amazing work. If you don’t know about this amazing little boy please do take the time to read about his life. I first met Noah before he was born, when I was sending healing to his Mum, Michelle. At that point she had been told that Noah wasn’t going to survive and between the emotional upset and the impact of pregnancy on her body she had asked me to help her. I knew from the first moment I felt him that he was a fighter and an amazing little boy and I haven’t been wrong so far. 

Born with only 2% of his brain and so many complications it is just untrue, he is know 7 years old and living his own wonderful life. I am so happy and proud to know this family, they inspire me every day.

Pause and appreciate

When you are doubting that your life is wonderful, stop and take stock. I write a list of ten things I am grateful for every night and it really helps me to get my life into perspective. With Thanksgiving at the end of the month it’s the perfect month to remind ourselves that yes it might be getting colder and darker here in the northern hemisphere, but we have so much to be grateful for. 

What is making your life wonderful today?

 

Thriving not Surviving

On the 7th November 2007 my life changed.  

I have always been a fighter, and most people wouldn’t have known that there was anything wrong with me at the time (apart from my facial changes). I have always been a believer that thriving not surviving is what life is all about. 

Six months before my surgery I had been diagnosed with Acromegaly, a condition which is caused by a tumour on your pituitary gland which results in your body producing too much growth hormone. I was in pain, I was exhausted and my mood was all over the place. If you want to read more about my story at that time I wrote a blog about my experiences.

Thriving

It was a lot to cope with, mentally and physically at the time. I had been told for 6 months that my body wouldn’t return to what it had been before, that I wouldn’t be able to have any more children and it is a long and invasive surgery which took me a good six weeks to recover from. 

I have never experienced fatigue like that.

 

I had just got my head round the fact I couldn’t have any more children when I found out I was pregnant with my son. This was a huge blessing but also led to lots of unanswerable questions; would I go full term? could I go into labour? would I be able to breastfeed? My consultant wanted to do follow up tests which couldn’t be done because I was pregnant so it was a time of uncertainty.

Fortunately I’m built of tough stuff and 14 months after my surgery, my son Dan was born. 

Happy, healthy and almost 11 years old now.  

It was a difficult time looking back but it’s incredible what we can do when we need to. I challenged my body as much as I possibly could have all within months of my pituitary surgery. During the first three months of pregnancy your pituitary gland grows significantly, which six months after surgery probably isn’t adviseable. But here I am 12 years on and I’m still thriving.

Is my life the same as it was before my diagnosis?

No of course not.   

I am acutely aware at times that my energy levels are seriously affected. I have to plan my work around my body’s capabilities. I rarely book more than two days out of the office in a week because if I do it takes me a few days to recover. I have created a business that allows me to work around my numerous medical appointments, my energy levels and my physical limitations.  

I was asked the other day if I would ever consider going back to teaching. The reality is that I couldn’t, for many reasons but mostly because I couldn’t cope with the long days, the amount of standing and squatting (I taught primary), the amount of marking (my hands are probably the part of my body most affected by my joint damage) and no school these days would employ me knowing that I need one sometimes two days off every six weeks for my injection, the consultant appointments, MRI, colonoscopy… I’m not exactly an appealing prospect anymore. 

More importantly though, for the first time in my life I have realised that sometimes it’s ok to put myself first. For years my priority was making sure everyone else was cared for and happy. I can’t pretend that I don’t still care for everyone. I’m a mum and a wife and a sister and a daughter… but I have learned that if I am taking time to care for other people I need to give myself the same amount of time, sometimes more.  

I don’t  give myself a hard time for needing a nap or an hour in front of Netflix. I will go for a long, hot bath if I feel that it is what my body needs. Whatever it is that I need to do to help me feel calm and as though I have enough energy I will make sure I do it if I possibly can. 

Life has changed a lot in the last 12 years. I have gone from having a fiercely independent 3 year old daughter to having an even more determined and amazing 15 year old young woman. I have gone from thinking I would never have any more children to having a lively, brilliantly funny, football mad little man. My marriage is stronger than ever. I have discovered who my real friends are and made lots of new friends. I have built two businesses from nothing and grown in confidence in every part of my life. 

I was reborn

It might sound dramatic but that one event in my life changed me forever, for the better.

Yes I have physical limitations and I have to be very careful what I eat and how I care for my body, but the mental and emotional changes were possibly even more dramatic. 

I have learned:

  • The world keeps turning with or without me.
  • I don’t have to do everything.
  • It’s ok to ask for help.
  • To wear clothes that make me feel happy and confident not save them for best.
  • To not keep anything for best. Every day is the best day to wear/eat/use your favourite things whether it is perfume, crockery, clothes…
  • Busy isn’t always better. So many people think that being busy makes you more important. It’s ok to not be busy all the time and to be happy doing nothing.
  • To appreciate everyone in my life. My family and friends are amazing and I love them all very much.
  • It’s ok to create a life that works for you. It might not suit anyone else, that’s the point.
  • To do what makes me happy.

I have met so many people who have been though similar life changing events and come to similar conclusions. I just think it is a shame that for most people it takes a health scare or a big tragedy in their lives for them to starting living life to the full. 

What small changes can you make today to ensure that you are living your best life? 

 

 

Being your own Superhero

Why do we love a superhero?

We have been fascinated by the idea of superheroes for almost a century now. Since Superman first hit the shelves in 1938 children and adults alike have been enchanted by stories of people with superhuman abilities. 

I have to confess I am a fan. As a child I loved Superman and Wonder Woman and as I have grown older I have grown to love all the Marvel films. The escapist plots and magical characters combined with a great sense of humour are the perfect way to relax and escape from the stresses and strains of the modern world. 

But do you need to be bitten by a spider or born on another planet to be a superhero?

 

Superhero

Of course not! Last week I went to see Les Miserables the Concert. I have seen this musical so many times over the last 25 years I have lost count, I love it. It is the story of an every day Superhero. Jean Valjean is stronger than the average man, especially when he needs to help someone. He manages to live outside the law, helping the poor and caring for Cosette, keeping the promise he made to her mother. 

An every day hero. Doing the best he can to make the world a better place.  

But he was a criminal, on the run from the law throughout the story. 

Yes he was, but for what? Stealing some bread to save the life of his niece or nephew. Not exactly  murder.

Superheroes walk among us every day. 

People who are fighting incredible inner battles with anxiety, depression or unthinkable pain. People who care for their children or loved ones without a second thought for themselves and their needs. Parents who give their children the only food and go hungry themselves but continue going out to work. Firefighters who walk bravely into burning buildings to rescue others. The teachers who take extra food in for their hungry students.

All these people are superheroes.

These amazing people help others every day. Most without ever understanding the impact of their actions on others. 

It isn’t easy to be so giving and selfless. It’s often easier to help someone else than it is to help yourself though isn’t it?

“You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.

Diana Prince

Wonder Woman

How often do you put other’s needs before your own?

We all do it don’t we?  

We make ourselves ill sometimes making sure that everyone else is cared for.  So today I am asking you to be your own superhero.  To care for yourself with the same determination and fearlessness that you care for others. 

 I am asking you to be brave in your choices, to follow your heart and to believe in your own abilities.  

Be your own superhero! 

You don’t have to be incredibly strong, you don’t have to have a cape or be able to fight like a warrior. You just need to believe in your ability to change the world, starting with you. 

Make yourself a priority. Keep your body and your mind healthy. Rest when you need to rest and believe that you can make a difference. If our favourite superheroes had thought that they were too insignificant to make a difference, where would we be? 

Every single one of us has the ability to change the world. Whether it is a random act of kindness or saving a bee, buying someone a coffee or helping someone carry a heavy bag. Make the decision today to make a difference in your world, and the world around you. 

 

Take a look at some of my old blog posts:

5 Ways Being Organised Reduces Stress

The Importance of Caring for your Energetic Self

Does your Lack of Self Belief hold you back?

 

A little help from my friends

Help is a difficult word for many people. 

We would often rather struggle alone than admit that we need help and support with a task or situation.

I know I am guilty of this, and always have been. 

I have had several reminders of this over the last 24 hours so I thought I would get some thoughts out and see if you can relate.

Yesterday my husband, son and I went to a barbeque at a friend’s house. It was only local so my daughter (15) asked whether she could stay and get some work done and relax so we agreed. 

When we returned home it was clear something had happened.

A little help
I won’t go into details but she was upset and worried and it was all over nothing. No-one was hurt, nothing was damaged, but her mind had run away with her and she had had half an hour of worrying when if she had just called and spoken to us we could have set her mind at ease.

I was heart broken that she hadn’t called me but she didn’t want to interrupt us and doesn’t like to ask for help. 

 

How can I be mad about that when I am so bad at asking for help myself? 

All my life I have been stubbornly independent.  

I didn’t like being helped, I could do it!

If I didn’t know how to do something I could find out. It has caused more than a few arguments with my very patient husband over the years.

Then, when I was very ill, I couldn’t physically do everything alone. I tried, I really tried, but the combination of pain, chronic fatigue and a toddler made it impossible. I was convinced that if I didn’t do everything myself it wouldn’t get done (or certainly not the way I wanted it to be done – me control freak?). 

Imagine my frustration when I had to spend six weeks convalescing at my parent’s house, a hundred miles from my own little family! For the first time in my life I had to trust other people to care for the most precious thing in my life, my daughter. She was only 3 years old and still needed so much help. She was also already stubbornly independent, but she needed feeding, her clothes getting out, taking to nursery… I could do nothing to help. I could barely walk to the kitchen to get a drink let alone drive a hundred miles and make my daughter one! 

But do you know what. She survived. Better than that, she thrived. She was spoilt a little, but that’s ok sometimes, she was dressed and fed and happy and all without my input. 

That was the moment that the world wouldn’t stop spinning if I didn’t do it all alone.

From then on I stopped worrying about being the “perfect” mum. I put my own wellbeing before the need to appear to be coping.

I asked for help.

Did I ask for help as often as I should? 

No, of course not! None of us do. But I don’t struggle with something if I know there is someone who will be able to do it better/quicker/easier than I can. 

I ask my husband to cook tea if I’m tired, I ask him to make a graphic in photoshop if I need it because he is so much better and quicker at that! I ask my children to help with housework. Everyone in our house does their own laundry. It isn’t laziness, it is contributing to the house you live in, and at 10 and 15 years old they are more than capable. 

“Dependence starts when we are born and lasts until we die… But in the middle of our lives, we mistakenly fall prey to the myth that successful people are those that help rather than need, and broken people need rather than help.

Brené Brown

Rising Strong

Since my diagnosis I have had to be realistic about my limitations. I might want to live in a perfectly clean and tidy house all the time but sometimes I have to decide between using my energy to have fun with my family and using it for work, when faced with these choices, using it for housework doesn’t get a look in!

There are some jobs I find almost impossible. For example scrubbing things or very close work like sewing. My hands cramp very easily and I struggle with anything repetitive. I try to make sure that I eat the right foods for my body and take supplements to help my joints, but unfortunately they were damaged by my acromegaly before my surgery so they will never been as good as they should be.

Being forced to ask for help sometimes though has taught me that it isn’t as scary as I used to think.

It isn’t admitting defeat. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It is just an acknowledgment that you have a lot to do and that there are some things that you could be helped with rather than doing it all alone.

This morning my best friend, Callie, sent me an email (as she does every Monday) with an oracle card from Colette Baron-Reid’s “Wisdom of the Oracle” Deck. Every week she sends a newsletter with a message for the week.

This week’s message was all about asking for help. It resonated with me so strongly. The next couple of weeks I have a lot to fit in. I have trips, meetings, writing, resources to create for my schools, meals out with family, even a trip to the West End. Once upon a time I would have been heartbroken if my family had arrived for the weekend and the house wasn’t spotless. Now, I will make sure the beds are up and clean (there will be 10 of us sleeping here this weekend), I will make sure there is food in the cupboards and I will have a quick clean and tidy round.    

I won’t beat myself up though if I run out of energy and can’t dust everywhere. Or if I can’t present them with a show home. They are my family. They love me and they know my physical restrictions. They would definitely rather I have the energy to enjoy our trip to London on Saturday than spend a few hours in an immaculate house! Let’s be realistic, by the time my children have come in from school and their shoes and bags have been joined by another six visitors with bags, shoes, coats and tranklements (as my father in law would call them) it won’t be tidy and clean anymore anyway. At most it will last a few minutes. 

The important thing about this weekend is quality time spent together, not how clean the carpet is, not whether you can see your face in the taps. Time and memories are so precious. Priorities can be blurry sometimes, but let me tell you, you will never regret spending quality time with loved ones. You will never regret putting your wellbeing before your need for the appearance of perfection.   

The problem with trying to do everything alone is that we aren’t designed to be lone wolves. We are pack creatures. We function better in ever way the we play to our own strengths and when we share the emotions and stresses of life. When we attempt to do it all it can cause physical and emotional stress and you don’t need me to tell you that this isn’t good for you.

What can you ask for help with today? 

 Perhaps like me, you need to ask a friend to collect your son from school one night? Maybe you could ask someone to help you with something at work? Whatever it is, take a deep breath and ask for help.

The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Helping others gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Why would we deprive our friends and loved ones of the joy of that feeling when they are able to help us?

Time for a change – why change can be exciting

Change is a word which can induce fear in some people. 

There is an assumption that change will disturb, disrupt and be a generally negative force. 

I have always tried to embrace change and have actively sought it out throughout my life. I was reminded of this when both my children decided to rearrange their bedrooms the first weekend of the school holidays. Rearranging my room was always one of my favourite things as a child and even now, I regularly make small but significant changes in my environment when I feel that the energy in a room needs shaking up a little bit.

Just as the energy of spaces needs refreshing every now and then, so too does the energy of a business. 

time for change

 Change is coming!

As you probably know I run two businesses along side each other. I have Calmer Classrooms which is my wellbeing for schools company, and I also run this business, Kate Beddow, as a more general wellbeing, mindfulness and all round positive space. 

I love both branches of my business for different reasons.

My work with schools takes me to my roots. I have always enjoyed working with children and having been a teacher for many years I see the education system and the stress and anxiety it is causing for so many staff and young people and it makes my heart so sad. I have to keep doing everything I can to help alleviate this situation, little by little. 

My work here though is much more free. I can create whatever I feel you may find helpful, whenever that may beMy work in schools has been intense the last few years and I am incredibly proud of everything I have achieved, however, I am feeling the need to stretch and expand a little and this is the place I have chosen to do that.

Running two businesses I love isn’t easy. There are times when one takes over completely and the other is neglected and I am sorry to say that that has been the case the last couple of years. However, as I approach the start of the new academic year it is my whole hearted intention to devote more time to my work here. 

You will notice over the coming weeks that there will be a few visual changes to the website. I have had a beautiful new logo created and will be changing the look of this website completely to match my vision for this work.  

When this site was created it was designed to be as neutral as possible as I was working on many varied projects at the time and the audiences were very different. Whilst I am incredibly proud of the work I have done, it is time to inject more of me back into my work. 

Colours can initiate change 

You will notice that there is a theme growing in the images on this page and that is not by accident. There is going to be a pop of colour and energy to my new site to really signify change and the new vibe I am trying to create. 

I appreciate that red isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (it hasn’t always been mine) but it is such a positive and vibrant colour that I think it will give my new projects the energy and passion that they need. 

For me red represents many things: love, energy, positivity, passion (sexy underwear), Christmas time, confidence, Chinese New Year (and therefore Chinese food!), glamour (red lipstick, a red carpet event), communication (phone boxes and post boxes), theatre (the velvet seats and red curtain), my favourite slipper socks, geraniums, roses… I could go on and on. I hope that you can learn to love this new colour as much as I do already.

Remember it may not be forever, change happens and it is always for a reason. 

I am being drawn back more deeply to my spiritual roots and this will be more strongly represented in my new designs and products.  

I have been looking into the meaning of the colour red in traditions I know it is used in, such as Buddhism and the Chinese culture.  

In Buddhism red represents life force, preservation, sacred places or things. It is auspicious and protective and symbolises warmth and comfort. It can also be destructive so I am aware of the negative as well as the positive associations. 

Chinese traditions associate red with good luck and good fortune. 

In colour therapy red is energetic, daring, determined, powerful, enthusiastic, exciting, confident, passionate and courageous. 

All of these things are elements I hope to include in this business going forward.

There will be much more work on confidence, passion and courage in particular. I also don’t see destruction as necessarily being a negative thing. Often things must be destroyed in order to move on and create something beautiful. Just as I am doing now with my website. I will be taking apart some elements and replacing them with the new vibrant, energetic pages. 

Channeling Wonder Woman 

My daughter pointed out this week that my new colours are very Wonder Woman.  I suppose they are; blue, red and white. What could be better though. If I am going to have anyone on my team Wonder Woman will do just fine. 

While I was away last week I was doing some work with my Mum, daughter, sister and my sister’s mum-in-law. One of the things we did during this circle time was to tell each other the resources we felt we each had to help us in our lives. I was blown away when my sister said that I always managed to dig deep to help others, no matter what I was going through. My daughter then followed that with, “You always show your emotions when you need to but you can hide them when you need to too”.

Wow! 

I was more than a little emotional about all the comments that were made about everyone in the circle, but these two really hit me hard. 

That my daughter is so perceptive that she can see through my parental mask blew me away. What an amazing young woman she is! I suppose I always knew what my sister told me, but it was the acknowledgment that it was noticed by others that got to me with that one. 

I would do anything for those I love. I feel so fortunate that we have such deep and beautiful relationships. 

You see, we are all Wonder Women. 

Whether you are a parent, carer, living alone, whatever your gender, age, race, religion. We are all battling something, every day. 

You are amazing and I am going to help you be even more amazing with the help of my new Wonder Woman colours. 

But first, I am going to enjoy the rest of the school holidays with my precious family. I will undoubtedly be doing some work on my new projects but that will be when they are busy doing their own thing!

Priorities and precious memories.

I would love to know what you associate with the colour red and how you feel about the changes that are coming here. let me know in the comments.

Time to shine

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will have noticed that a theme is forming at the moment. Time to shine is just my latest musings on self confidence, self image, body confidence and the many and mixed emotions we face as a woman surrounding our sense of self. 

I am not choosing to focus on this to be self indulgent. Although, it is something I am working on on a very deep level personally at the moment.  

I want to talk to you about my journey because I know that I always discover things about myself most effectively through listening to other people’s stories and revelations.    

My musings today are definitely a continuation but also feel like a huge leap forward.   

 

Time to Shine

As you know I am building up to a huge step for me personally next year. Next May I will be taking part in a Real Full Monty show at the local theatre (this photo shows the amazing cast who took part this year).  

We haven’t even started rehearsing yet. I know that I have a lot of inner work to do to get to the point where I can do this and enjoy it so I am starting now.

After years and years of feeling self confident about my body it is not going to be an easy thing for me.

Some how between now and next May I have to get to a point where I feel happy stripping down to my knickers in front of over 1500 people.

I am not just worried about what I will look like, although of course that is a huge factor. I’m worried about getting the right message across and I want to raise awareness of rare conditions. To give people who might be struggling physically or mentally hope that they too can beat their demons.

Of course I am worried about what I look like. I don’t want everyone running out of the theatre screaming! But I know that that won’t happen. I want to use this as a motivator to help me care for my body more from now on. As a busy mum I have neglected my physical body over the years. This is the perfect excuse to start looking after myself properly again. 

I don’t eat badly, but we can always eat better can’t we? I don’t exercise enough (although I do more than I have done for years) and silly things like, I never remember to moisturise. 

Well no more! 

From now on I intend to look after my body. It serves me incredibly well and considering everything it has been through it is amazing!

The other day I decided to write myself a list of things I like and dislike (physically about my body) and the dislikes list was twice as long as the likes. I thought I was doing pretty well on the learning to love myself. It looks like I have an awfully long way to go!

For a few days I have been trying to decide whether to post the photo below. My husband took it when we were in Rome recently on my request. I was wearing a bikini for the first time in 13 years and I wanted a record of the fact that I had done it. I posted a photo of my head and shoulders on social media at the time. I wasn’t brave enough to post this one. I keep going back and forth about whether to post it but the bottom line is, I want to show you that it’s ok. With my rational head I sit and watch people who look like me go past at the beach or by the pool. I think “she looks great, I wish I was brave enough to wear a bikini”. But I still can’t get to that point when I look at myself. 

So here it is! 

Now I don’t know what you will see when you look at this photo. You might be as appalled as I am. You might see the wobbly bits. The stretch marks. The ill fitting bikini, that I bought thinking I would never wear it so it didn’t matter. 

But here’s what I would like you to see 

I would like you to see a woman who has given birth to two beautiful children and survived two c sections in order to bring them safely into the world. 

A woman who despite growing in all manner of strange ways throughout her life, tries really hard to stay in shape. To keep her body strong enough to care for her family.   

Someone who despite feeling really self conscious wore a bikini all day in a public place. And managed to smile on a photo that she was feeling very uncomfortable posing for. 

A scared and scarred woman trying hard to over come her own insecurities and fears in order to hopefully inspire other women to feel more confident in their bodies. To raise awareness of all the millions of people around the world who struggle every day. Those with pain and terrible side effects who are too exhausted to tell anyone what they are going through. 

We all need to get to a point where we appreciate our bodies for the amazing things they do for us. For the functions they perform, often without us even realising. Instead of only caring about what they look like on the outside.   

We also need to remember that the way we see our own body is very different to the way everyone else sees it. 

I know all of this on an intellectual level. But my insecurities and my peri-menopausal hormonal wibbles just tell me I’m old and fat and no one should have to look at this!   

I thought my self confidence was pretty good. It turns out that when I dig a little deeper I have just used a few clever tricks to fool myself. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a combination of being too busy to think about something and changing your life to make sure you never have to confront your fears. So I am great at being body confident when I don’t have to go swimming, when I wear clothes that I know flatter me and when I don’t think about it too much.  

Meanwhile in the real world there is still a little voice in my head saying; “But look at; those stretch marks,  that double chin, those wobbly thighs, that wobbly tummy, my big feet/hands, those saggy boobs…” 

Do I need to go on?  

Now I hope that you are one of those amazing women who loves their body. That you are just reading this wondering what is wrong with me.  However, I don’t think I have EVER met a woman who loves everything about her physical form.  

My beautiful Mum was two dress sizes smaller than me on my wedding day and I was the smallest I have been in my entire adult life that day. She won’t wear certain tops because she’s too boney! She looks incredible! My sister is almost 6ft tall and a size 10/12. She has had two children and looks amazing but does she love her body? No she tries to tell me she’s fat!!  

Never have I met a woman who loves everything about her body. 

Do I think that by doing lots of inner work over the next 12 months I can magically be that woman? 

 No of course not!

Am I going to get to a point where I can walk onto the stage at the Gatehouse and feel proud of myself for being brave enough to strip in front of 500+ people a night for 3 nights? 

Oh I do hope so!  

Well, I am going to be doing it, one way or another. I am committed to the self care and also the cause now. Whether I can get to a point where I feel proud of my body. Only time will tell, but one way or another it will be seen and I will have to do it.

Where are you at with your own body confidence?

What have you done to try and improve it? 

I’m so conscious that I have to be careful what messages I am sending to my children, particularly my daughter. I am very careful not to talk about the things I don’t like in front of her. I talk about my body’s limitations because of my condition but I try really hard not to pass comment about things I like and dislike about myself. 

I’m delighted that both my children want to come to the show next year. If I can show them that it’s ok to be whatever shape you are and that we should be proud of ourselves not feel like we need to hide ourselves away I will really feel like I have achieved something special. 

It’s my time to shine and wearing a bikini and being brave enough to share it with you is the first twinkle on a long path to illumination on stage next year. 

I would love to hear from you if you have any stories, any recommendations for things that might help me on this journey or you just want to tell me to cover up! 

 

 

 

 

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