Top Tips For Reducing The Stress And Overwhelm

Survive a Mummy Breakdown

Here are my promised 6 Top Tips for beginning to turn your life around and reduce the stress and overwhelm in your life.

When Nick coffer (My Daddy Cooks) asked me to summarise my book of over 100 pages into 6 simple tips on his radio show it made my brain ache.  But this is what I came up with, because without these steps the others in my book wouldn’t have worked.

In last weeks post on surviving my mental health problems I explained how come I know so much about this and why I know that the MOST important thing is to take care of your basic physical and emotional health.

Other things have helped, but this is the first step.

Life is difficult, but before you try to change everyone else and your circumstances, you can make a massive difference by just looking after yourself.

There’s no ‘one’ immediate click of the fingers answer, but this will help to get you back ‘on the right track’ and reduce the stress and discomfort.  From there you can decide how far you want to change things.

So the steps are:

1) Pick your top 3 life priorities and focus on them, reminding yourself every morning what they are.

2) Use them to sort out your To Do list and save you time.

3) Connect them to looking after you health, nutrition and fitness so that you have more energy.

4) With that energy you can then declutter your house and make it flow or work better for you and the family.

5) And know what the priority for potentially limited funds are.

6) Thereby getting some sparkle and self-love back into your life.

I also know that it’s not always easy to do something, without someone helping you.  So I came up with an idea to help you COMMIT to a change of focus and SHARE IDEAS.

Are you up for it?!  Then come here and commit to getting involved.  It won’t be a big thing you have to do, but it will start to make a big difference.

 

Remember, don’t ever feel guilty about being stressed, overwhelmed or having some kind of mental health problem.
Don’t let your past affect your future.
There are tonnes of people out there who have also struggled, just check out these amazing lists of blogs from similar mums:
Once this idea is off the ground, I’ll do some more blogs on the next steps.  But first things first.
Got a question about it?  Ask me anywhere, Facebook or  twitter
Mental Health

Surviving Mental Health for #DoSomethingYummy

Mental Health

This post is being written as part of the blog prompt for #DoSomethingYummy  from Typecast which is the campaign for CLIC Sargent Charity for children with cancer.  I’ve picked the prompt ‘Something I’ve survived‘.  

Yummy Mummy Week is 10th-18th March, so if you haven’t had a chance to add your own post, you still have time. OR just donate a few quid.

I do hope that you will think about donating even a little bit to CLIC when you think about what those children and parents are surviving and dealing with.  This is a great practical charity, that does loads of things to help the families and help them survive the awful stress of a sick child.

 

I’m going to talk about how over my life I ‘survived’ a ‘nervous breakdown’, ‘suicidal tendencies’ and more recently some kind of ‘Identity/Midlife Crisis’ or ‘Mummy Breakdown’.

I’m really nervous of writing this post.  I don’t know why, as the stats show that at least 1 in 4 of us will have some sort of mental illness in our life.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve had a few experiences of it that bothers me?  Makes me sound a bit ‘unstable’.  I didn’t even know I was worried about it, until I tried to write about it.  Plus I’ve been very ‘lucky’ with the help around me and knowledge I had, so I think that I feel a little guilty.

The other thing is what on earth to call it?  Because I’ve been in the alternative healing or therapy world for 12 yrs, I never had to go the medical route, so I was never labelled.  I don’t want to upset anyone who has had a label and get it wrong; there are so many different types of problems with mental health.

I’m not sure that it matters what I call it though, does it?  It was definitely something I survived; just.

My first experience was more like a sudden ‘nervous breakdown’, probably on the verge of a full ‘mental breakdown’.  It felt like I was teetering on the edge of a black hole.  I was pulled back from the edge by fellow therapists in a Kinesiology based therapy.  So I just experienced the shut down of my body for about 6 months.

In my second experience I just didn’t want to be in this world any more and grew an unhealthy fascination with trains; i.e. suicide.  (I know that makes no logical sense, and also I should have thought of the train driver; but I wasn’t ‘thinking straight’).  This time I was even luckier, as I was trained in a much deeper form of therapy and my mentor was in the UK.  After 2 very tough hours he got me back to life and able to work through the baggage.

What ’caused’ these two situations you might ask?  Why does someone, as we often see in the media these days, just crack?

I suspect the stresses of the previous 30yrs had taken their toll.

I was very up and down in nature at the time.

My very unhealthy belief in something that was impossible was a huge part of it.

Ironically learning all those therapies can make people less stable for a short while.

Plus I wasn’t taking care of myself well; always pushing too hard.

And I didn’t have a wide spread of interests.

It’s proved to be true that someone who has a wide spread of interests is more likely to survive the vagaries of life, because although one area of life might have the rug pulled from under it, the other areas will be able to keep them stable.  I had given up a well paid job, moved house and lost a lot of my ‘identity’ or ‘personal power’ in the process.  So since then I’ve very carefully watched my beliefs, and got rid of most of my ‘baggage’ and tried to keep a broad range of interests.

But it happened one last time, because I missed on important part of the equation; my basic foundations, which is pretty typical for a Mum.

It kicked in a little a few months after Little Dimples was born, I’d had a health scare and things weren’t going well at home.  I became the most pathetic version of pathetic that you can imagine.  A friend politely described it as ‘losing my mojo’; you know when a mum goes ‘grey’ and starts to disappear.  That’s where I was and I was TERRIFIED; sorry for the capital letters, but it seems such a silly thing to be scared of, and yet it felt like a life or death situation.  I was scared that if I didn’t do something I was going to soon end up a half-dead shell of a Mum, who cooked, cleaned, did all the basics, but that was all.  It could be considered a ‘mid-life crisis’ because I was just over 40.  It wasn’t the fog of depression.  It felt paralysing, so maybe it was some sort of long panic attack or ‘Identity crisis’?  Maybe I’ll call it a ‘Mummy Breakdown’; i.e. something to do with being a Mum, not PND, and not life/coping threatening?

This time no one else seemed available to help me, and I wasn’t in a space to use all the techniques I’ve learnt.  So what to do?  Run away?; I tried that, it didn’t help.  Give up?; However pathetic, there is something a bit bloody minded about me.  At last listen to the cliches and practical stuff I’d been spouting off about about looking after myself and the basics of life; Bingo!

After nearly a year, on the 11/11/2011 I woke up and thought ‘F*** this for a game of laughs’ and started to sort my ‘Sh*t’ out and blogged as I went.

The cliches were surprisingly true:

Change Yourself To Change Your Life

I was stunned by how really simple things could make me feel a thousand times better, within just a few months without changing anyone else or any of my circumstances.  I didn’t even ‘do therapy’ stuff as I would normally have done.

All I did was change me and look after my health.

I sorted myself by focussing on the things that I did have control over, rather than the things that I was missing or had no effect on, and by looking after myself and my body; And so was born my book ‘The Mummy Whisperer’s Six Steps To A Sparkling You And Enjoying Being A Mum’, which maybe should have been called ‘How To Survive A Mummy Breakdown’.  I decided that the things I did have control over where my thoughts, how I managed my time, my nutrition and fitness, how my house was laid out, some of the finances of the house, and getting a bit of sparkle back into my life.

I wouldn’t say that my ‘journey’ is over; I’m half way through finishing writing ‘Losing Weight for busy mums without diets or bootcamps’ and there are a good 3 more books to come after that I suspect.  But I love to write, so maybe that is the ‘silver lining’ from all of this?

In the next couple of days I’m going to write up a simple set of tips to help anyone get started who is feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

If you are currently suffering from a mental illness it will help you too, but it depends on the depth of it as to how much you’ll be able to do without a external help from someone else; I’m not in anyway underestimating how difficult it can be to pull yourself out of it on your own.  Maybe the stars where just aligned well for me that day to give me a kick start?  So I’ve got an idea for that too for how I could give you a little kick start and pick me up, so come back next week to check it out.

Most of all I hope that any Mums who don’t take basic care of themselves will now understand how potentially harmful it can be.  You need healthy food, a bit of exercise and sleep to manage as a Mum.  Running around like a headless chicken, in a house that stresses you out, and not getting your budget under control can lead to so much stress that you will one day not be able to deal with it.

Think of your kids and start to think more about yourself.

I’d really love to know what you think of my post as it’s the most honest I’ve ever been about these three times in my life, so feel free to add lots of comment love!

 

** The picture at the top comes from an amazing australian artist called Craig Martin www.craigmartinillustrations.com


An Alternative to New Years Resolutions: Your Top 3 Life Priorities


I’m not a fan of New Years Resolutions, I think it’s a time for a detox, clear out and rest.

Goals can just add to the weight of things we don’t achieve as Mums.

What I use are ‘Life Priorities’

 

Life Priorities help you to organise your time, energy and money spends for the year ahead and only focus on what is important to you.

 

Imagine a year where you can finish it feeling satisfied that you covered all the most important bases (not everything, just the important stuff); it’s a good feeling!


To do it ..

  1. Get an hour to yourself (if possible, otherwise do it on the fly)
  2. Get a piece of paper and put on some music that relaxes or inspires you
  3. Think about everything that happened recently or in the last year that you can feel really grateful for  (this means the ideas come from the heart, not the logic of the mind or emotion of the gut).
  4. Now think about looking back at the end of your life
  5. What do you most want to be sure you have achieved?  What would you be gutted not to have?
  6. Pick 3.

I know three isn’t many, and that you will actually have lots of other priorities, and you are welcome to write down the others as well.  But what I do want you to just pick 3.  You’ll want to refine and polish them as time goes by, so don’t worry about making them perfect.

YOU CAN”T GET THIS WRONG!

Just Change It Later On If You Realise that other things are more important.

Mine are:

  1. That my kids feel loved from top to bottom by me and love me in return
  2. My books become ‘THE pick me up books for all Mums’
  3. That I stay strong in myself physically and emotionally

There are reasons behind all of these, and reasons why they take the top rankings, and they are in no way a judgement on the fact that I know already that yours will be different.

For example, for some parents the top priority is to provide every academic opportunity towards a secure future career for their children, or to ensure they make a great marriage, or to make sure they have amazing experiences, or to nurture them.  Some Mums might not have a potential career option, or not at the moment, or not feel it’s in the top 3.  Some might not have their health anywhere near the top 3 (I would really recommend that you consider how much it will help your kids if it is at least in your top 5 though).  Others might have providing financially, or spiritually as the top priority.  Maybe yours is maintaining your relationship (note to the hairy one: the reason our relationship is No4 is because me being strong has always been an important aspect to the success of our relationship).

Why bother?  Because we all get tired, overwhelmed, stressed, overloaded, exhausted, knackered, unfocussed and end up fire fighting and headless chicken running around at some point.

If every morning you remind yourself what your top 3 priorities are, you will be able to make sure that AT LEAST those are done, and then the rest.  Plus loads of things you’ll just not bother to do, saving you time, energy and money.

Plus you can manage your weekly To Do’s and make sure that you at least make time for these three.

What it means is that:

  • I make time to hug my kids, because otherwise I get unhappy.
  • I exercise 3 times a week, and eat pretty healthily.
  • When work opportunities come up and I’m busy, I pick the ones that help me to spread my books

In my book, I talk more about how to pick your top priorities and find out more about you as a person and what you love to do, or have or who you love to spend time with, so if you’d like to find out more, remember you can read a kindle book without a kindle.

Fancy finding your Top 3 Life Priorities?  Pop your top 3 priorities below when you’ve done it or come over to my Pinterest board and add them there..  If you blog about it you are very welcome to add a link in a comment to any blog posts you write about it, so that other Mums can get ideas for how it helps or what affect it has on you.

Here’s a summary for you as a picture, I can’t wait to hear what you pick!

Dealing With Being Made Redundant When You Are A Parent

So the big northern hubby got made redundant on monday, perfect timing with Curly Headed Boy’s birthday coming up, followed by Christmas and then Little Dimple’s birthday.  Poor guy, this is the second time he’s been made redundant, last time it was when Curly Headed Boy was 6 weeks old, just after Christmas.  Lovely!

So I thought I might as well start a series about what to do when you get made redundant, so that we can share how we deal with it and hopefully help all the other parents facing the same problem at the moment.

The great thing about my tips is that having experienced this situation before we really know the mistakes that you can make when being made redundant or when your partner is made redundant.  This time it’s going to be really different, and hopefully by sharing I can make sure that it’s going to be different for you to.  The plan is to save you time, heartache and money, and get you back working, where you would like to be asap.

First, it’s important for you to understand that it’s very easy to take this personally, but in reality if you work in London you are going to be made redundant at least once in your life, probably more, and if you work elsewhere then expect it to happen once.  Maybe the a ‘job for life’ is over, but perhaps it will make ‘interesting job lives’ instead?

 

I’m not going to rant today.  But I will say these two things:

  • What comes around goes around
  • Diversity is the name of the game when it comes to a companies survival and any company that doesn’t get that is stupid
  • Wise companies will look at long term costs and find that retraining (skills or personal development) is cheaper than redundancies and hiring costs.
  • Options are not always black and white.  Sometimes it’s worth discussing with your staff what ideas they have.  Maybe they would be willing to work less hours or be more flexible.

There we go, Onwards and Upwards!  Here are the initial steps in the first week after the redundancy hits:

Step 1: Wallow

Go on feel rubbish for a bit.  It’s important not to suppress it or ignore it.  Just limit it to a few glasses of wine/beer and don’t consider actually taking any action against the people concerned.  Also don’t accept any offers from people to sort out the people concerned!

Step 2: Put a specific time deadline on how long you are going to wallow.

If you are the partner, I recommend making sure that this is between 1-7 days and no longer.  Listen to how they feel and don’t offer solutions until you are really sure.  If they are willing to talk, help them to express how scared they are, before you start with the ‘there there, it’s going to be OK’ routine.

Step 3: Start thinking about all the things that didn’t work for you in the past job.

Write them down.  (Writing is magic, you MUST write them down).  Keep going with the list, as this will help you when deciding what you can or can’t face again in your next job.  Plus it will reduce the feeling of upset.  Be very specific, so don’t just say ‘the commute’, say ‘being squashed with loads of people, spending xhrs, smelling of london, miserable people’ etc etc.

Step 4: Write down all the things that you haven’t been able to do because you’ve been working:

E.g. exercise, eat healthily, talk to friends, read a book, watch a film, paint the house, tidy your paper work, DIY, write a book, sort out your photos, make something, play with the kids, read to the kids, spend time with your partner.  This is the list for you to keep referring back to whenever you are down and to use to make sure that you get up off your butt and make the most of the redundancy.  It is quite possible to not make the most of it and have weeks, months or years go by.

Ok, so that should keep you going for a while, more tips next week!

Remember, that if you fancy using this as a way of turning your life around, that my book ‘Six Steps To A Sparkling You’ is out on Amazon and is already a bestseller and ONLY 99p!  Currently it is available as a kindle book which you can read on a Computer, phone, iPad or Kindle.  But by the end of 2012 it will be in paperback too.  It will help you to see life differently, become more contented, have more time, get more energy, sort out your house, manage your money and get more sparkle in your life.  Maybe this is the perfect time for you to have a life makeover?

 

Video Wed: Stop Whining and Sort It Out

Sounds harsh heh, ‘stop whining and sort it out’: but you know what I mean don’t you?  There comes a time when your friends need to stop listening to you, and kick you out the door telling you to do something about it all, or at least one of the things that you are whining about.

I’m the same; I do whine, even though I have a pretty low boredom threshold for problems, so I tend to be quite proactive about improving things.  This year has been particularly hard, and in a way I haven’t whined too much on this blog, because I knew that it was going to be a long haul.  However a few weeks ago I spent a lovely day with a couple of my Mummy Blogger mates, in the most glorious sunshine, and I basically puked whine and worry.  Whilst therapeutic, and I know they are my mates, so they didn’t sit there saying ‘For god’s sake shut up Lisa’, I did feel guilty afterwards.  Despite me saying that although I’m the ‘Mummy Whisperer’, not the ‘Perfect Mummy’, I do sometimes expect more of myself unreasonably/reasonably.  So I’ve decided it’s time to knock some of the things off my worry/whine list and sort it out.

Did you see my recent blog posts about embracing the exhaustion so that you can work out what the matter is, and then make a plan?  You don’t have to fix everything in one fail swoop, but pick a pile of little things to start with, and then pick something bigger.  I’ve decided to concentrate on first my exhaustion, so I’ve refocussed my energy on food, sleep and dumped a pile of to do’s.  Next on the list is a couple of things with the kids.

Hows about joining me in deciding to knock something off your worry/whine list?  I’m happy to help …

  • If you are exhausted, then read my exhaustion posts.
  • If you are overweight, decide to change it and read my weight loss tips posts.
  • If there are problems in your sex-life then keep reading all my posts about sex in marriage (which are soooo popular, that I’m beginning to think that I should organise them and make another weekly tip series, I just don’t have enough days in the week!).
  • If you are struggling with depression, make a small start and try counting your blessings (I’ll write more about it and how powerful it can be soon).  There are lots of books about it, I’ve even done a little ebook.  But the basic idea is that you get a notebook and each night before you go to bed, you write what you can be grateful for.  It might not ‘fix’ it, but it will help and give you more energy.
  • If you have a bigger problem and nothing smaller to look at, as me for help in my question corner, or talk to a mate and ask for ideas for help, or read a book about it, or ask for other professional help.

If you don’t, how long are you willing to feel crap about it?  It’s possible your answer is ‘a couple of years, because the kids are young’.  If that’s true, then try the counting your blessings idea to get you through it.  But if you are suddenly at the time where you are ready to change, then make the commitment NOW; do it here.

If not, your general enuie, lethargy, misery, or whatever is going to be written all over your face, and one day it will be etched there forever, like I told Curly Headed Boy.  So today your video is ‘Brand New Day’ by Ryan Star, which is the theme tune to ‘Lie to me’ and has the subtitle of ‘The truth is written all over your face’.  I hope that you decide it’s going to be a ‘Brand New Day’ as I have (I might need to remind myself a bit, over the next few weeks, but it’s a start heh).

Crying is Good

Crying.  Sometimes there are tears of joy, sometimes tears of happiness, and even inspired tears of gratitude to life.  The most annoying are angry tears; I remember getting infuriated with myself when I worked in Oracle (big american IT firm), because when I was at my angriest I would cry.  Then there are sad tears.  I’m not a great crier, but sometimes it’s just got to be done.

I was talking to a Mum the other day about her grief over her father’s death.  She mentioned that she hadn’t cried yet, and I recommended a really sad film to get it going; I remember mine being brought on by Terminator 2 when the bad robot who was now good and a father role model dies.  People around me thought I was weird and couldn’t understand how come I’d suddenly got upset.  But it was a catalyst to help let them out.  You see, tears might not always help a situation, but they are part of a process, and they are better out than in.

So if you ever need to cry, do so.  Then when you need to pull yourself together, blow your nose, and take some deep breaths in through you nose.  The nose has a link to the part of the brain that calms us down, so it has a much more effective result than breathing through your mouth.  Remember Mums, we are female, and that’s where our strength comes from, not from trying to be ‘professional’ or ‘male’ or ‘strong’.  Our strength is different from a man’s and that’s what will get us through the tears.

Don’t lose the power of the tears though.  Listen to them too, and write down what the thoughts are that are making you cry.  Writing is magical, it takes pressure off the brain and helps us to start to tackle things.  Fears and worries are not as bad when faced.  They can still ‘feel’ bad, but they won’t feel quite as bad.  Then you can turn to a pragmatic friend to help you to look at your fears and make a plan of action.

I know we are ‘british’ and are therefore not meant to cry, but seriously, ignore that, and if you ever need to go for it, and remember there is a big virtual hug enroute from me.

Hope for Mums with PND from a little black bear

I watched an amazing TV program a couple of weeks ago, and have been meaning to post about it for ages.  It was all about black bears in America, so it had big time cute factor.  But then it had the most incredible story about a Mummy bear.

I’m particularly fond of black bears having accidentally ended up on one of those ‘working’ holidays, counting acorns in Shenandoah Virginia for Earth watch (it’s a long story, we were meant to be picking up orangutan poo in Indonesia, but someone got kidnapped and their head chopped off the week before, so they sensibly moved our trip!) .  We saw lots of very unattractive deer (they aren’t like our cute english Bambie look a likes and they smell when you weight them), but hubby got a video of the cutest baby black bears climbing/falling down a tree).

Anyway, back to the TV program; A black bear called Lilly abandoned her cub, the kind of sad animal watching event which we often see, which ends up in sentimental music and them cutting to a sad picture without showing us the poor dead cub.  But this time the people involved couldn’t bear to see the little cub die, <big cheers> so they helped it along a little, so that it tried to survive on it’s own and then held their breaths with little hope of a happy ending.  Suddenly something AMAZING happened.  A couple of months later they found the cub back with it’s Mummy; They were together, playing, hugging and loving each other.  big tear shedding time!

Even more amazingly, the mummy bear had managed to re-lactate.  Now I’ve read about this care of the Breast Mates posts from the lovely Aly at Plus 2.4.  But I’d never heard of an animal doing it.  But there it was, clear as day, feeding the baby bear.  So it shows how even in the animal kingdom a Mum can change it’s mind and go back to breast feeding.

So if you are a Mum with Post Natal Depression, or even just feeling a bit knackered and wanting some time to yourself for a bit, I’m hoping that this little story might give you some relief.  It is possible to get over it and come out the other side, and your child doesn’t have to be damaged by the process.  It’s a ‘normal’ condition that even animals suffer from (i.e. feeling separate from our babies is something that many experience).  And when you overcome it, you can have a great relationship with your baby.  It’s only guilt (which the bears don’t feel like we do), which will get in the way.  Try to enjoy being back, and keep the image of a big black mummy bear rolling in the leaves with it’s baby.

If you are a Mum who has given up breast feeding and is now feeling that it is premature; for a start I don’t believe in mistakes, do don’t beat yourself up, but if you want to learn more, check out the breast mates posts for information on relactating.

The program was called ‘The Bear Family and Me’ on BBC2 with Gordon Buchanan a wildlife cameraman.  It all ended up happily, with the baby bear eventually building up enough fat to be able to go into hibernation just after all the others (it was a little underweight for a while), and with them surviving the hunters; phew!

How to organise a play room

Top Seven Top Tips for organising a playroom and my guilty pleasure confession

I mentioned the other day that I’m a fan of decluttering. I also have a serious guilty pleasure; boxes (I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE boxes!), but also includes to shelves to put them in/on! So Ikea is my heaven on earth. I can spend a whole day in there, especially as I love the meatballs, yum.

Becoming a mum, and trying to find a way for my highly interactive boy to keep himself occupied while Little Dimples needs my attention, has given me the perfect excuse to throughly enjoy my secret guilty pleasure. Plus it works for him, and makes it easy to remember what he has got and find what he needs.  Even I need reminding sometimes when I’m knackered and am trying to think of something to do with him or to occupy him with for a while.

Ok, so there have been numerous conversations about putting things in the right box and only emptying one box of toys at a time. But luckily for me, he is quite similar to me, so it’s not really a problem for him, maybe more so for the hairy northern husband, who tries to limit me to 1 trip to ikea every other year.

Here are my tips to making a playroom work for you and the kids, and to cutting out the stress of having toys all over the place and kids who say they have nothing to do.  The key to success seems to be:

1) Have different areas with similar types of activity e.g. mental, imaginative, creative, quiet, loud, outside, small space, big space.  So puzzles and games are together, and stuff when you know you need to mentally stretch or quieten them are together. Outdoor things are high up for me, so they aren’t played with inside, but are easy to find.

2) Make it really easy for them, to sort out themselves and find things, by leaving lots of space in the boxes, so they aren’t too heavy to carry, and easy to fill.  It needs to make sense to them, so watch how they play and how they combine the toys to see where the boxes go, and which ones they are near.  It’s like a workflow analysis for the home!

3) Look at the height of where you put things. Anything that is delicate or you don’t trust their friends with, or that needs you goes high up. That includes swords in my house!

4) Find a way to remind them of what they have got. I like doors on the bottom shelves so that the worst mess is hidden away. But open shelves are good for higher up, so they can see what’s on offer. Plus I quite like seeing toys, it doesn’t bother me that they are seeable.  But you could also have pictures on the doors or the boxes to remind them.

5) Keep it flexible so that you can adjust your needs as they grow up. This is where good old ikea (I think my cupboards are called Besta) with it’s movable doors and shelves are so great. One of my cupboards is on wheels and is shorter as well, so that it can change which wall it is against.

6) Be consistent with your rules, but make it fun. We do a quick tidy most nights, but have one ‘proper’ tidy the day the cleaners come (that’s when I clear the surfaces of the play table and allow myself full OCD freedom). Music makes tidying a hell of a lot easier, or a treat after.

7) Have a rule about how many boxes to play with at a time, otherwise all the cupboards and boxes will be emptied at once.  I promise that eventually they will learn the rule, but at first you might need to be there or help them with gentle reminders.  We have the ‘one box at a time rule’, which is a box each when we have friends around. Some visiting kids have needed some help adjusting to this, as a couple take great enjoyment in emptying EVERY box in the whole play area, but mostly it works well, and my ‘scary look’ has worked to ensure they only do it once ;o)

Overall, it’s got to work for you, and work for the kids; then its a real winner.  I don’t mind seeing toys, but I do get hassled when a boy with plenty of toys complains that there is nothing to do, or can’t find his favourite things.  Plus I need to feel space around me, so if the toys were just all out on the floor or bulging out of open boxes, all at the same time, I would go nuts.  So you need to work out what your key stresses are and what your kids would like.

Let me know if this helps at all, and if you ever need someone to go to Ikea with, you know who to call!

(This is not a sponsored post, but if ikea would like to send me some meatballs with that lovely sauce, or some dime bars, I’m totally open to it, and will happily post more in return for some of the coloured boxes with numbers, or Children’s hangers, or the cream boxes. I am very bribable!).

When the environment we are in doesn’t encourage us to blossom

We are a bit like plants, and our children are too.  Some environments help us to blossom, and some are more of a struggle.

Put us in the right soil, with exactly the right amount of cold, heat, and water, and we’ll take off like a tree and blossom amazingly.

Put us in a place that feels too cold for us, and we’ll shrivel up (become introverted and insecure).  Put us in a place that over stimulates us and we’ll become a man-eating triffid (become precocious and over confident).

Sometimes there is something that needs changing in order to improve our surroundings and help us to feel that perfect balance.  But sometimes it is just to do with changing our view of the world that we are in.  More often than not it’s a bit of both.

Curly Headed Boy is struggling at the moment and his environment isn’t quite right, there is just a little too much stress involved.  It’s not a major deal as it’s at the early stages, but adjustments are definitely needed before bigger changes are required.  I’m hoping that a few adjustments in several places will do the trick, but we’ll see over the coming months and I’ll let you know.

How do I know?  Well, he’s been having nightmares for several months (probably since half way through his first term in reception).  He is one for nightmares, but not so regularly.  He’s often worried and asks repeated questions that show it, mainly about whether he is good enough.  He was worried about Little Dimples arrival, and that sometimes resurfaces, but in the main that seems OK as long as we remember to praise both at the same time.  He is also pretty vocal about not liking school and why.  Plus we have had some MEGA tantrums over the last few months, which other Mums have also noticed since their kids started reception.

The long christmas holidays have been great.  They given time for him to tell me lots more about school, and I’ve had a chance to chat to other Mums and get a bit more information about the daily structure etc.  The perspective meant that I was very clear on the ‘problem’, and could go and have a little 10min chat with his teacher.  We are very lucky because his teacher is lovely, and he adores her.  She agrees with me, that he’s bright enough for the school, in fact he is apparently very bright (I’m a bad Mummy, I hadn’t really realised that!), but if we don’t get this sorted out, then it’s not the right environment for him to blossom and grow in.  His brightness is more in emotional understanding, so things that other 5yr olds would ignore bother him, and he is bothered by the degree of competitiveness in his class.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the kids, and it isn’t all of them (he just sees the ones that are, not the ones that aren’t).  It’s just that they have a VERY high value on academic learning, and he appears to have followed me in having a higher value on life experience and creative things.

There is also a touch of what could be called bullying.  It’s not major and no more than we’ve dealt with elsewhere.  It’s more of a general ‘throwing their weight around’ kind of thing, as the kids sort out their social hierarchy and a few lay claim to the top spots.  Now if you’ve read all my stuff about ‘bullying‘, you’ll know that I have a very different view of it from the mainstream, so I’m not upset with the kids involved, and I’m very aware that we have all bullied somewhere, sometime.  But I do need to teach him to sort it out and I know that the school is watching the situation.

So the plan …

  1. I’ve created a facebook group for the year, so that we can have more impromptu play dates: that should set him up to be socially stronger.  Luckily lots of the Mums are up for this.
  2. We started swimming lessons so he can meet more kids and gain confidence in something else
  3. I’m chatting to him and pointing out that not all the children have the same focus on their school work
  4. Some role playing to teach him how to deal with the slightly intimidating behaviour of a few of the kids, so he learns strategies to deal with it (he’s good at this).
  5. I’ve had a chat with him about being naughty to get attention at home, and we’ve come up with a plan that works out better for him, rather than the current one (mummy shouting), so the home environment will also be a little more relaxed for him.

This wouldn’t necessarily be the right plan for all kids, but Curly Headed Boy is a little like me.  We like a pat on the back, and wag our tails when we get them.  We are a little sensitive to a grumpy look, or angry voice and can recede easily.  I have the feisty Leo spirit in me to kick back in those cases, and I understand lots more about relationships and seeing both sides of a picture.  He’s too young for me to explain everything at the moment, so for a little while his environment needs a pick me up, and when he is older I can teach him more about looking for the stuff that helps us to blossom, even if it isn’t obvious.

Ironically, Little Dimples is totally the opposite.  I don’t have to worry about her at all, as she can hold her own with a scary look with babies twice her age.  This is great news, because wherever Curly Headed Boy goes to school, Little Dimples will follow with no trouble and she’ll make sure that she blossoms!

It’s also been a good reminder to me that we all need an environment within which we can blossom, and it can be subtly stressful when it isn’t available.  Again, it might just need a few minor adjustments or a change of perception, but it’s worth it.

I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks how he’s doing and what progress he has made.  Feel free to share your children’s experiences if you are also having a problem at the moment, and I’ll happily give you some ideas if you are struggling to get some.

You might like to sign up for my email list (which is different from subscribing to the blog), as during January you get a free online course.  I’m also about to announce a free webinar for February, which will give you more insight into understanding yourself and your children, which will help with coming up with these sorts of strategies, which goes well with the course.

Remember to see how good you are at stuff

This is as much a reminder to me as to you!

I find that we often don’t think we are successful or clever at something because the stuff we have done well at often comes easily to us.  I remember being guilty about revising English, because Maths and Physics was harder.  One of my resolutions for this year is to blog more, because I enjoy it, and not immediately force myself to do the marketing stuff that I enjoy less.

Our children are just as susceptible, as some will worry about what they can’t do, rather than what they can do.  It’s fine to be humble, but it’s a tricky balance to maintain between humble and unconfident.

Sometimes, we don’t rate what we achieved because we had to work so hard at it.  I worked for 13 yrs in a big software company, and became a well known expert globally.  But I didn’t rate myself, because I felt it was partially because I had worked hard and been there a long time, rather than computing coming naturally to me.  So I often don’t see what other people see, when they think I’m successful because I have a blog and a website that I built myself.  I just see that technorati still scares the hell out of me, and I can’t get my google analytics working quite right!

I got a couple of lovely emails from people over the last few weeks, saying well done and how successful I was.  Initially I just looked at them and thought that they were not seeing the ‘real picture’.  But I’ve decided to see my success more from now on.  I’m pretty good at some things, and in comparison to others I’ve done really well.  There are people better than me at marketing/sales/techie stuff but there are also people worse off.  There are people with more clients, who make a lot more money (just making a profit is my challenge!), but I’ll get there.  We are actually all as successful as each other, it’s just that it is in what we prioritise and value in our lives.

So, I’m going to write myself a list of where I’m successful and keep it with me.  It’s going to include the obvious, but also the stuff that I had to work a little harder at, and the stuff that comes easy to me.  It’s even going to include the stuff that I did nothing in order to get, like having good friends and a great brother.  Because it might seem like I did nothing in order to get them, but other people don’t have that.

Where are you successful?  If you ever worry about yourself, then take some time out over the next couple of weeks and write it down (writing it down is magic, it’s not enough to put it in your head).  If you are one of the Mums working through my full ‘from frantic to fulfiled’ program at the moment, check out Step 3: there’s a whole much more detailed section on success and how to see that you have been successful all through your life, and that everyone is as successful as everyone else.

If you child worries about how they are doing, help them to see the whole picture.  If they are comparing themselves to a bright child, get them to look around the room and see that there are other children at the same level or below them.  If academics is not there thing, have a look for another activity outside of school that they can be really good at and feel proud of.  Remember to remind them of where they are great and what they are good at.  But be truthful.  If you over compensate (which does depend on age, because we do praise them for pooing when they are babies), they will either not trust you, or end up auditioning for X-factor when they are tone deaf!