Posts tagged ‘mental-health’

August 19, 2013

Top Tips for Stress Management

Last week, I asked my Twitter followers for their top tips for stress. I’ve been a bit frazzled and faced with competing demands on my time, energy, money and attention.  I’ve got a lot on my plate and when I think about it all at once, it feels somewhat overwhelming.

I’ll admit that I’ve been having a cry more often than I’d like and my blood pressure, which is always high (an ongoing complication following pre-eclampsia) has been a bit of a worry. I know that I’m generally well, but I also know that I could feel better. The joy that is ‘Three Good Things‘ certainly helps me to concentrate on the great things I have to be thankful for, and now I want to build on that momentum.

The replies that I got were really interesting, and followed many common themes.

  • Being outdoors, in nature, especially near water.
  • Gazing out to sea.
  • Exercise – releasing endorphins to improve your mood.
  • Giving yourself time, even if that means saying ‘no’ to things that might be fun, in order to create some space for yourself.
  • Drawing, because it concentrates the mind on what you’re doing.
  • Trying not to do everything at once! Break things down into individual issues, tasks, or problems. This makes them easier to manage than looking at everything you’ve got to do as one giant problem.
  • Delegate responsibilities where possible.
  • Eat well. Don’t rely too much on alcohol or sugar.
  • Trying to get more sleep and quiet time.
  • Meditating and remembering to breathe…

Since asking Twitter, I’ve tried to take up every single tip I’ve been given. Giving up sugar and alcohol is hard, but I’m trying to reduce my intake at least! Most things I already knew, but it’s all to easy to forget or ignore things when you’re in the middle of a period of stress instead of taking the time to really look at yourself, examine how you’re feeling and behaving, and then take steps to help yourself.

At the top of Castle Crag

Getting fresh air and exercise! At the top of Castle Crag, The Lake District

I realised a long time ago that in order to cope with stress, I need to move. A sprained ankle has put paid to most activity for the past couple of months and it’s only really hit me how much I’ve missed it. A fortnight of swimming and hill walking has really improved my mood and also my blood pressure. I took a reading this week, and it’s lowered to normal levels for the first time in months and months.

My plans for managing my stress now involve regular exercise, trying to look after myself a bit better, spending time with the people who bring me joy and going to bed a bit earlier! Oh, and regular camping trips to the sea or to the hills. More on that later this week!

What are your best tips for coping with stress? I’d love you to share them.

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August 21, 2012

Ventnor Botanic Garden: a moment of solitude

One of my favourite places on the Isle of Wight is the Ventnor Botanic Garden. The location of the garden means it is really well protected from the elements giving it a unique micro-climate. This means that they are able to grow many subtropical plants outdoors and on a sunny day it feels a million miles away from Great Britain. I never get the chance to see all of it in one visit, as my family are less enthralled by gardens than I am, so I have to prioritise the parts I want to see on any particular visit and make a beeline for them. One of the parts I’ve not made it to yet is the Hop Garden, where they grow the hops that will eventually become TropicAle, their own beer!

One of the truths about going on holiday with small children is that it’s not terribly relaxing. Although its lovely to spend time together, without the daily grind of school and work to think about, it’s generally not going to involve much lazing around in the sunshine reading a book. More like relentless noise and activity, and sometimes, to be honest, I find it a bit overwhelming.

On my flying visit to the Ventnor Botanic Garden this year, I decided to visit the New Zealand and Australia garden, one of my favourite parts. I love the Australian garden in particular as it is predominantly planted with Eucalyptus, the smell of which beings back memories of a wonderful trip across South Australia and Victoria, which I was stunned to realise the other day was ten years ago!

On my way back to the playground to meet up with my family (and what a great idea to have a playground, making it possible for me to be there at all!), I was distracted by the most beautiful flowering Eucalyptus I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately I forgot to make a note of the name, but I will try to track it down because I’ve fallen a bit in love with it. The peeling orange-red bark, the fine pointed silvery-green and pink  leaves, and the contrast between those and the white fluff of the flowers made for the most remarkable colour combination.

I stood for ages just gazing at it, when I noticed an older woman doing the same thing.

We chatted for a while about this amazing tree, then I confessed that I must go because I’d left my children and husband in the playground. On hearing this, she turned to me and said “Oh, but when you have small children, time spent alone is essential, my dear. Don’t ever feel bad about taking some time for yourself.” Then she smiled and went on her way.

So, I’m going to take her advice and make sure that I get a little time alone every so often and that my husband does too. He will probably be on a bike. I will probably be in a garden…

How do you like to find peace in a busy life? I’d love to hear about it. 

August 8, 2012

Roles and roller coasters.

When my daughter was born, she spent the first nine weeks of her life in hospital. On the blessed day she was allowed to come home she weighed the grand amount of five pounds and four ounces, and was a tiny and delicate porcelain doll baby with almost translucent skin and barely any hair. As you can imagine, her early birth and subsequent hospital stay was a traumatic time for us all. She was the first grandchild for both sides of our family and so, from the day of her arrival, was treated with such love from everyone it was almost overwhelming. We got cards and gifts from people we didn’t even know, who had heard about her early arrival and wanted to send their best wishes. I still have them all.

As a consequence of her tiny stature, I’ve always thought of her as being delicate and fragile, and I’ve been guilty of treating her in that way – as though she might break easily. But recently, that’s begun to change. Even though her end of year report talked of her being ‘gentle and quietly spoken’ she is beginning to surprise me in so many ways. She’s athletic, bold and brave. She’s one of the tallest children in her class, and even though she has a tiny hand-span waist (making clothes buying a nightmare), she also has a six pack of muscles!

Perhaps a lot of this is merely that she’s growing up, but I’m beginning to see that my ‘cotton-wool’ treatment of her was wrong. I’ve never really behaved the same way with her younger brother, (who I consider to be relentless in his pursuit of life, even when he’s clinging to me)  and so I do think that it’s a hangover from those days when I had to sit by her incubator, unable to do little more than watch her breathe.

This was highlighted to me hugely when we were on holiday last week. We went to the Isle of Wight (which I’ll write more about in another blog) and spent a day at Blackgang Chine. Now, if you went to Blackgang Chine when you were a child, you’ll know it’s a cliff-side theme park, and some of it really and truly remains the same as when I was a child – and the kids are still enjoying it so much. The place was packed full, and it was so great to see that in a time when we’re constantly told that kids don’t play outside, and as a consequence of too much TV have lost their imagination, that if you provide the right backdrop (a fairy castle, or a pirate ship that fires water, or a cowboy town) that imagination is alive and well. It was like being in the middle of an Enid Blyton novel, or perhaps ‘Just William’ might be more fitting!

Anyway, one of the new things at Blackgang Chine is a roller coaster. A proper, scary, roller coaster. It’s only short, but there were plenty of screams coming from it when my daughter announced that she wanted to try it. Now, that in itself was a surprise. However, she duly queued with her dad, having found out that she was just tall enough (at five) to go on it.

Here it is! – Well, part of it anyway…

Heart-in-mouth, I watched as they took their place on the ride. From what I could see from the ground (waiting with her younger brother) they seemed to be having fun, but at the end, I waited by the exit anxiously for them to appear. They didn’t come out and so I was imagining all kinds of horrific accidents, or perhaps just buckets of tears. But, and I bet you know what’s coming already, she loved it so much she stayed on for another go…and then two more. Followed by three times down a terrifying water shute, in the dark.

I think that we get assigned a role in a family, and that it can stick with you forever. In my family, I’ve been thought of as the ‘academic’ one (even though I went to agricultural college, not Oxbridge!) , and my brother as the ‘practical’ one. In fact, even to this day, if we have an argument his parting shot to me is often “oh, go and read a book…” so it’s clearly a label that has stuck. Little brother, if you’re reading this, you know I’m right! The problem with such a label is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – you think that you can only do certain things, or behave in a certain way, because that’s the role you’ve been assigned or the way people think of you. This clearly isn’t true. I could be practical and my brother could be academic, if we gave ourselves the permission to be different and worked at it. If you think about it, I bet you know what role you were assigned (often unwittingly) by your family or friends, or even one you’ve given yourself.

So, I’m going to try really hard not to think of my kids as being the ‘delicate’ one and the ‘relentless’ one. I want them to carry on surprising me and to be the person they want to be, whoever that is.

July 25, 2012

Lomi Lomi

Recently, I had the best massage of my life at Lomi Massage Leeds. I’ve taken a while to write this post because I wanted to be sure of myself before I wrote about it. You see, the massage therapist is a dear friend of mine and I wanted to be sure that I was writing about the massage and not just being kind because of how fondly I think of her. I’ve thought back on it for a while now, and I’m reassured. It really and truly was the best massage I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot. I’m even qualified in Swedish massage myself, and I believe wholeheartedly in the power of massage for mind and body, so this is high praise indeed from me.

Often, when I have a massage, I spent far too much time thinking ‘Relax, relax, relax for heaven’s sake. You should be RELAXED by now. Why aren’t you relaxing?…’ Then, I start thinking of my to-do list and all hope is lost. Obviously, this means that by the end of the massage I’m not feeling much better than I was at the start. Having studied massage myself too, I kind of know what I’m looking for, and what I’m expecting, which can mean that if it fails to live up to my expectation, I’m terribly disappointed. This sometimes can happen if it feels as though the practitioner is merely going through the motions as if by rote, without really being genuinely involved in what they’re doing.

Jo’s calming personality and true belief in what she is doing mean that you have a real trust in her and that in itself allows you to relax almost right from the start. I know that it helped that we weren’t strangers, but I do believe that you’d feel that way from the start regardless. She’s simply one of the most grounded, kindest and positive people I’ve ever met. The secret location (a hidden cabin in the leafy Chapel Allerton area of Leeds) also helps, as you feel a little disconnected from the world for a while, which feels perfectly suited to the experience. She also works from Bivouac in North Yorkshire, another beautiful location.

Lomi Lomi  is different to the Swedish style of massage more commonly practised. It originates from the Hawaiian islands and is based in the spirit of Aloha. Simply put, this means universal love and it creates an atmosphere of open-hearted acceptance and kindness that you can feel from the minute you arrive. This massage is a wonderful way to be nourished and nurtured, and to take some time out of your regular routine for your mind, body and soul. The long firm and intuitive massage strokes flow over and under your body and you drift off into a real place of peace. As the massage began, I cried. At the end, I cried. I know this sounds odd, but they were not sad tears, but a sign of the much needed release of built up tension and anxiety. I felt so much better afterwards. More at peace with myself and with the world. This feeling continued long after the massage ended and thinking back to it, I return to a calmer state of mind.

Lomi Lomi massage is a beautiful, nourishing and powerful experience. I hope to repeat it again very soon.

PS: I want you to know that this isn’t a sponsored post in any way. I paid for my massage, and I wasn’t asked to write a blog post about it. I just loved it, and wanted to share that with you. Especially if you’re looking for a massage yourself…