Dreamer vs. Realist {and how to work together}

Of all the stresses caused by the COVID-19 lockdown the one I was least expecting was the strain on my relationship with my hubby. At first, although a huge mental and physical shift, lockdown allowed for some lovely family time – time to spend together, get stuff done around the house and time to kick back and relax {thank you sunshine}. But after 3 months of living in each others pockets we found ourselves clashing more and more.

My hubby can come across as quite negative and gritty {especially first thing in the morning} and is the epitome of his brain not kicking in before he speaks. You’d think after 13+ years being together I would know to take what he sometimes says with a pinch of salt but being continuously confined to our home and each others company made it harder and harder for me to bite my tongue.

I found myself feeling wounded and placing blame on him for {pretty much} everything. I even tried diagnosing what I thought was “wrong” with him, and for that I apologise.

Put simply – I’m a dreamer and he’s a realist. This can mean I feel dampened and unheard whilst hubby feels I’m being irrational and impulsive {both of which are at least in part very true}.

I live very “in the moment” whereas hubby is always looking ahead. He has goals rooted in ambition and determination. Mine are too but I tend to jump in feet first whereas he’s more likely to take a measured approach. I see him as stubborn and feel frustrated when my ideas or impulses are {rightly or wrongly} squandered. I love the idea of a carefree, simple, happy life. Whereas hubby feels life is much more worry free because of survival, responsibilies and the “bigger” picture.

Hubby is generally more reserved and dislikes small talk. I thrive off social interaction and chat chat chat {!} I am open minded with a deep value for harmony and to make sure everyone feels heard and understood and a strong dislike for conflict. Hubby has strong views and values and isn’t afraid of a dispute.

Whilst it’s very easy to see why our personalities clash at times we also make for a pretty kick ass team. I dream, he critiques. And if we can keep our heads and work together the result is a well thought out, practical, inspiring and exciting plan of action. Left to our own devices I would likely be getting myself into all sorts of problems and hubby would run the risk of never moving forward for fear of failure.

So how can a dreamer and realist work together?

  • Understand and accept each others personalities – you cannot change another person. But you can make yourself more understanding and find ways to move forward together. It’s important each personality has the space and acceptance to be themselves
  • Communication – having someone you can openly talk to without fear of judgement or being put down is also key. Hand in hand with this comes the importance of communicating when you’re having an off day. If you’re feeling unwell, tired or woken up in a grump acknowledging this can save a lot of potential clashes
  • Find a way to compromise – accept that you may not always agree with each other but that you are allowed to communicate your thoughts – noting the other may have a point of view you’ve not thought of
  • Stop placing blame – take responsibility for your actions or re-actions and say sorry. Simples
  • Be assertive – your partner is not a mind reader. You sometimes need to vocalise what you want. I listened to a Made by Mammas podcast recently where they talked about how they’d feel guilty about doing something for themselves {like go for a run} and that they felt like they needed to ask permission to do something whereas their other halves would just be like “right I’m off for a run”. I’m definitely guilty of not being assertive and building something up to big drama rather than just saying “I’m feeling a bit off so I’m going to take myself of for a walk” and just getting on with it
  • Turn the focus on you – just because you’ve decided you want to eat healthier {for example} it doesn’t mean your other half has to be on board. Of course you would expect them to be supportive but chances are they’re not in the same headspace as you and that’s ok! Marie Kondo wrote about her experience with tidying and organising other people’s belongings – in essence you shouldn’t. But the simple act of you organising your own stuff may have the knock-on effect of them feeling inspired to sort out theirs {if they want to}. You should do things because YOU want to and if others follow suit that’s great
  • Create expectations and boundaries – as mentioned I can be incredibly impulse and left to my own devises this could have huge consequences. A way around this we’ve found is {using the example of money} by allowing me the freedom to spend “my” money as I wish {i.e. what I have left after bills etc}. If I want to buy something more expensive for say the house I speak with hubby about it first. We then decide together whether it’s needed, a priority, will make our lives easier or better and if yes then is this something we can purchase now or save up for. This helps me have the independence I need to spend what I like but within the parameters agreed to ensure I don’t let my impulsive spending habits have a negative effect on our lives. We are honest about our needs and don’t enter into any kind of longer term commitment {such as a credit card} without discussing it first
  • Try not to catastrophise – If a clash does arise {which is inevitable} try not to go in all guns blazing. You have a choice whether to “feed the fire” or step away. Try to find other {healthier} ways of venting frustration. For example – when hubby has something on his mind he often goes into a grump and starts picking faults at home “why do we have this thing here?” “why are the kids toys everywhere?” I then have a choice whether to “fight back” or I can take a breath and respond in a more positive manner knowing that this is him venting and not a direct dig at me
  • Respect their decisions – they may not always want to do the same things as you and that’s their choice and prerogative. At the same time this shouldn’t necessarily mean you can’t go ahead and do what you want {within reason}
  • More communication – when situations arise it may be important to say to your partner {when all is calm} “when you say things like X it makes me feel YZ.” This gives them the opportunity to either explain why they acted that way or to apologise and find a way forward

None of this means you have to put up with bad or abusive behaviour. Only you know if things are getting really out of control and are no longer acceptable. There is a stark difference between clashing with your partner and abusive, controlling behaviour.

Lockdown has caused a huge amount of uncertainty, fear and change. A change in focus, in roles at home and/or at work and a change in how we function as a family unit. In the same way coming out of lockdown will also have it’s challenges. When hubby goes back to work I will be back to riding solo from 8am-11pm 5 days a week. He will no longer be around at the weekend or have a regular full day with the boys outside of school holidays. And that is going to be another hard shift.

Remember you are not the same person. I find my husband highly irritating {!} but I also love him and the way he keeps me grounded and safe.

If you want to read more about what can happen when a dreamer starts dating a realist I found this good article here.

What do you want to be {do} when you grow up? | Guest post by Christine from @badassbossmum

Today’s guest post is from the lovely Christine over at @badbossmum. A mum of 2 and self confirmed bad ass working towards her dreams of being her own boss. I love her attitude, sass and commitment to making a better life for herself and her family. Here she talks about her journey to ultimately taking the plunge to change her career, and life, for the better.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A vet, a paediatric doctor, a firefighter, an astronaut, no… an Olympic Gymnast! What do you want to be when you grow up? This playground question was all too easy to answer, we wanted to be everything and anything. So, why was 17-year-old me sitting in front of my blank UCAS application until it was due for submission? I had already decided against medicine or anything that involved shift work. I grew up with a mum who was a slave to the shift pattern and so I knew I didn’t want that for my future children.

(Side note: Has anyone ever noticed what is wrong with that question? What do you want to BE when you grow up? We should be asking our kids, what do you want to DO when you grow up? I just want my children to BE happy. Let’s stop defining people by the jobs they do.

So, off I went to university to study Physiotherapy. It’s not a job I ever considered but I was down to the wire and had to pick something. I pretty much chose it because, after a particularly nasty leg break, I had experience with Physios and they were nice. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the learning behind Physio, I love anatomy and physiology. However, I knew I didn’t want to do it as an actual job. After a year of getting to the bottom of too many bottles and crawling out of too many beds, I decided to change course. I decided to change from Physiotherapy to Drama and Scriptwriting……. I know! I know! What was I thinking? To be honest, I probably wasn’t thinking and was probably a little drunk. However, I don’t regret it; it grew my confidence. Pre- drama me was the look down at my feet, hair covering my face kind of person. Post- drama me was a head held high, shoulders back, wiggle in my step kind of person. Changing course also pulled me away from an all-consuming “friends with benefits” situation, that was in no way healthy. Had I not been released from that, I may never have given my now husband a chance when we met.

After university, I had a degree which was worthless in terms of getting a real-life adult job. I listened to Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen) a lot!! This has always been my go-to song when I feel lost in life and don’t know what the future holds. My sister had a baby, but she still had one year left of her Master’s degree and so I stepped in to help with my nephew for the year. This gave me time to think about what I wanted to do; and watch an abundance of daytime TV, which consisted of an array of property programmes. So, I became an estate agent! With my Drama degree and my estate agent know how, I was going to be the next Kirstie Allsopp! Life went on, we bought a flat and got engaged. We (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) decided that if we were going to get married and have children, we should move back to Northern Ireland to be closer to my family. We moved back over 7 years ago and the move got me thinking about a career change.

When I was in my teens and people asked me what I wanted to do, my only answer was that I wanted to be self-employed. I was never driven by money, for me everything was about control over my own life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to be my own boss. My dad was self-employed, meaning he was able to make his own hours and work his schedule around us kids. This is something that has always appealed to me. I was never going to be the type of person to do a job that I didn’t want to do; just because that’s what my parents wanted me to do or what society told me that I should strive for. This is part of the problem in going to university at 17; you are still a child. How are 17-year-olds with no real-life experience supposed to decide what they want to do with their lives? Of course we are going to take advice from our parents, who have lived and made mistakes and from our teachers who know our intellectual worth. For example, the summer, just before I started my second year at university, I ended up in hospital (that’s a story for another day) and I met a junior doctor on his rounds. He asked me what I was doing at university; he could obviously tell by the accent that I was not a Geordie. I told him that I came to university to do Physiotherapy but I had changed to Drama and Scriptwriting. He didn’t say anything; they left to continue on to their other patients. However, the next day he came back on his own to do my OBS and have a chat. He said, he couldn’t believe I had the nerve to change course and that he envied me. This was genuinely the first and only time, when telling someone what I had done, that they “envied” me; most people thought I was crazy. He told me, the only reason he was doing medicine was because his parents wanted him to, but all he wanted to do was be a ski instructor. So, this guy decided to do one of the hardest courses that you can do, to do one of the most demanding jobs that someone can do, just because other people wanted that for his life! I sometimes wonder what happened to him; I like to believe he is swoop swooping down the Alps.

Anyway, shortly after moving home I decided I would like to be an Independent Mortgage Adviser. I love helping people find a home and so it was something I wanted to continue with in some aspect. Once again life went on; getting married, having kids, needing money to live. When would I possibly have time to study? Hello, Lockdown! For the first couple of weeks of lockdown I was trying to work from home (office phone plugged in and everything) whilst also trying to keep everyone alive and do home learning. It wasn’t working, there were tears, I was neglecting my children, I couldn’t go on this way. Then came furlough- it was exactly what I needed. It allowed me time to regroup, recharge and refocus. Working from home had made me realise how much I really disliked my job and needed to make a change. When you are at home and it is just you and the job, no colleagues to have a laugh with; you quickly learn whether you like your job. If you work in a full time job, you spend more time at work and with your colleagues than you do with your own family; you need to like what you do. I have spoken to several people now considering a Coronavirus induced career change. My husband said, if you aren’t going to do it now, then you never will; he was so right, if I wasn’t
going to study when I was literally stuck in my house, when was I going to do it? So, I bit the bullet and ordered the online course. I’m 33 and I’m studying again! God, I forgot how much I truly love learning. I am scared in case it doesn’t work out but I am so excited for the possibility that it does. I do not believe in regretting things that you do, only things that you don’t do. We learn and grow from every experience that we have. Surely it is better to say, I tried this and it didn’t work out but this is what I have discovered about myself and this is how I have grown; rather than simply say, I didn’t try it because I might fail.

Remember, you don’t need to know what you want to do with your life when you are 17. You do not need to stay in a job you don’t like out of convenience. You may still not know what you want to do for a living and that’s OK. I might do this course and start working as a Mortgage Adviser and discover that I hate it and that’s OK too. At least I will have tried and won’t be asking myself, “what if?

A huge thank you to Christine for sharing her inspirational story! Make sure you go check out her Instagram account @badassbossmum and say hi 🙂

Resetting {Expectations} | Guest post for Isabella and Us

This is a guest post I originally wrote for Isabella and Us at the start of the 7th week of lockdown which I thought I’d also share here 🙂

I often find myself thinking about what a “perfect” day would look like.  Getting up early, having time to meditate, practice some yoga then get up and ready for the day before the rest of the household rises.  Sipping a hot cup of coffee whilst making a super healthy breakfast for my family feeling refreshed and motivated.  The house clean and organised.  Everyone happy; no-one rushing.  Right the way through to pulling a frilly eye mask over my perfectly cleansed skin {probably wearing silk pajamas} content, relaxed and ready to start afresh tomorrow.  

Reality, of course, does not quite match up to this movie-esq vision.  Yet I still find myself coming back to it with thoughts of “if I can just get up early and meditate” {noting I have never meditated in my life!} or “if I can just get the house together” then maybe I can get closer to this sought after life.  Well the house is never going to be together, I’ll probably never meditate and it’s taken me the best part of 36 years to accept that.  

What I should be taking from this recurrent daydream is not so much the need to do more but actually the desire to have and do less.  Less stress, less rushing around, less clutter to tidy up, less expectations put onto myself and less pressure to be everything to everyone.   

Last year I went back to work following maternity leave, launched my blog and started an on-the-side business.  I {foolishly} thought I’d have more time  when the boys started school that September and {as so often is the case with me} I went full-throttle mode into too much too soon.  Fast forward to the beginning of 2020 and what resulted was a full mental breakdown {read more here}.  I took 2 months off work, 6 months off the blog and agonised over what to do with my business.  In the end I decided to continue but with a much smaller client list.  At the time it felt like I was failing but I’ve since come to realise it’s not a failure, it’s just not the right timing.  

I needed to reset my own expectations and be clear about those put in place going forward.  I had 3 children who were 4 and under {at the time}.  I wanted to create a business that would work flexibly around my family and a creative outlet for my own mental wellbeing that would also offer support to others.  All whilst being able to pay the bills, feed our children and buy nice handbags {!}

Then of course came the COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020.  A forced step back from reality.  Meetings were cancelled, schools closed, there were no opportunities for trips out.  Staying home and away from the hustle and bustle became the norm.  An opportunity to reassess how we do things, spend time with our young family and take a mental break.  My second spell at home during 2020!

Of course there were the added pressures of homeschooling, working from home, anxiety around this invisible virus, feelings of isolation and missing loved ones.  But in the place of the morning school rush there were lazy mornings.  In place of the brain-numbing commute were virtual meetings.  In place of fast food restaurants there were home cooked meals.  We started working out more, exploring our local area {within the set guidelines}, looking out for our neighbours, having family quiz nights and taking life that much slower.  We wrote letters, finished home projects, spent hours watching Star Wars, had home haircuts and were more open about our mental health.  We made virtual friends, built new networks, decluttered and rested.  We showed gratitude to those who were going above and beyond to keep us and our loved ones safe {thank you key workers!}  It’s been intense, it’s been hard, it’s been scary but it has also been healing.  

As we start week 7 of lockdown I have mixed feelings about what the end of lockdown may look like.  Are we ready to pick up the reins and get going again?  Will things be different or will we slip back into old habits?  What lessons will we learn from this?  

Will we continue to rush?  Take on more than we can cope with at this present time?  Will we still be honest about how we are feeling?  Or will we try resetting our expectations and adjust post-lockdown life to a new normal; making room for those habits we created when the world slowed down.

Mental Health {Brain} Fog | Guest Post from Charlie-Jane from {Life with the Hazelwoods}

A huge thank you to the lovely Charlie-Jane for today’s guest post – this is definitely something I can relate to! Make sure you go check out her motherhood and lifestyle blog and Instagram {links below} and follow her journey. Charlie-Jane not only writes beautifully and honestly but she has also been a great support and has me belly laughing with her quick wit and infectious sense of humor! A kind heart with a touch of sass – which I absolutely love!

Hi I’m not Ellie, I’m Charlie-Jane and I run Lifewiththehazelwoods blog and insta. So first of all hi and a little bit about myself quickly. I’m 25 from Suffolk and I’ve been blogging for a few months now. I’m a mum to a two year old boy and happily married to my husband. I’ve been talking about my mental health issues, honest parenting and other things on my blog so if you’re interested take a look. But for now let’s get into this guest post for the lovely Ellie.

The beautiful Charlie-Jane

So as it’s mental health awareness week I thought I’d talk about my personal struggle today with one of the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Brain fog. Basically confusion and a inability to focus or really understand what’s happening at times. 

I’ve suffered mental health issues since childhood and really sort of came to terms with it as I got a diagnosis in my teenage years. I was diagnosed with ocd, depression and anxiety. Yeah three lovely things to have all at one but hey ho. Medication and therapy later I go through stages of feeling okay and then a bit crappy again. 

Since lockdown started I’ve kind of been stuck on fight or flight mode going between the two constantly. Trying to accept what’s happening and then not. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster on my emotions and truth be told being in lockdown with children can be a bit rubbish. I don’t love my son any less by admitting he can be a handful at times and that doesn’t make me a bad mum, but sometimes I wonder if he just enjoys being naughty at times. Obviously this has had a huge toll on my depression and anxiety and I’ve sort of developed brain fog again from it. 

My brain fog sort of stops me talking to people at times or making no sense when I talk. I tune out. I can’t be bothered, I just can’t be in the moment. I can’t watch telly or read a book or really engage in any adult conversation at times. I often get confused on things I have to do like replying to messages and just don’t have the energy to go through with it. I often also just get the biggest headaches from it too. Don’t worry I’ve already had a mri and no Tumor (well yet). 

I find brain fog really hard to deal with because sometimes I feel like I’m not living my own life. I’m surviving but it’s like I’m watching myself like I’m on autopilot as I write this blog post now I’ve been planning for days i just don’t feel here or present.  I sometimes feel a bit light and complete sensory over load and can’t concentrate until it’s fixed. I feel clothes might be tight, noises are too loud, being touched makes me feel on edge and being spoken to constantly completely drains me. It’s hard to turn of and just relax. My brains defending myself in its own little way from a incredible amount of stress the way it knows how. 

Obviously it’s not normal and not great so I reached out to the doctors. Of course the doctors upped my medication and I have a review in a weeks time. If you ever feel like this I strongly suggest you reach out and give your gp a call to try talk through your symptoms. 

I think we always talk about our mental health but never the toll it can have on just living at times. Mental health isn’t just emotional it turns into physical symptoms. Take my Functional neurological disorder for example. I can loose function sometimes to my body and that’s how my body deals with stress. So for now I’m stuck in the what’s going on stage but it is okay. I know I’ll come out the other side. I’m functioning, living and talking normally just having problems processing it all. I’m grateful to be here safe and well and for my brain hanging on as well as it can. 

Thanks, Charlie xx

A huge thank you again to Charlie-Jane for her absolute honesty – something I’m sure will help so many others know they are not alone.

{Check out my guest post over at lifewiththehazelwoods on A New {Routine} here}

Defining {Friendships}

I’ve written this post because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about friendships – how they change over time but also how my response to friendships has changed.  I’m a very open minded person.  I be-friend people easily and sometimes this doesn’t work out for the best.  Sometimes I’m not the best fit for people and vice versa and (if I’m honest} I just don’t have time for that s**t anymore.  I’ve been in my fair share of what I would call {toxic} friendships {for a variety of reasons} and this has made me cautious.  Sometimes expectations about friendships differ and that can cause a lot of heartache.  

This is not to say I don’t value my friendships.  My friends are up there with the most important people in my life.  As mentioned I have been a part of a few {toxic} friendships which have made me tentative when entering new friendships.  There have been people in my life who {put simply} wanted too much from me.  More than I can or am willing to give.  There have been people who have sought to disrupt my life {usually as a reflection of their own demons}.  There have been people who have been controlling, openly flirted with my husband, judged my children or belittled me.  And quite frankly I’m done with it.  There is a lot of cr*p I will {rightly or wrongly} put up with but even I have a line.  

{photo credit Mark from The Stevenson Life 😉}

Friendships are not conditional.  You don’t need to meet a certain criteria to sit with me.  We could have known eachother 5 minutes, 5 weeks or 5 years.  We could be from completely different parts of the world or only have ever communicated virtually.  

Friendships are secure.  They are supportive.  You can go live your life safe in the knowledge that our friendship will still be here.  We don’t need to be in constant contact and you don’t need to apologise for being busy.  

Friendships are not high maintenance.  I am not your life partner.  I will be always be there for you but my own wellbeing and family come first.  I do not expect the world and in return that is not something I can offer you.  

Friendships are flexible.  We may be virtual friends, school run friends, meet up once a year friends or all of the above.  It doesn’t matter.  As long as we value each other that is all that matters.  

Friendships are not exclusive.  You can have other friends and so can I.  You can have completely different social circles.  So can I.  You don’t need to invite me to everything you do and I won’t be offended.  You do you and I’ll do me.  

Real friends would never put you in a position where you are being asked to put them before your family or yourself.  If they do, maybe those friendships need to be re-evaluated.  As I’ve said, I am tentative when entering new friendships – almost like an understanding needs to be drawn up to say hey we can be friends but we’re not best friends {!}  I’m here for you but my family will always come first.  Basically – if you’re a knob you can’t sit with me. 

I will always be there for my friends when needed in the best possible way I can.  And I know they will always be there for me in the same way.  There are times I retreat into my own bubble and that’s ok too.  This is how I deal with my own well-being and I need to know you’ll still be there when I emerge and not judge or make me feel guilty for it.  I hope my friends know they can turn to me when they are in need.  When they need to have a rant, glass of wine or stomp around the block.  

To put it simply, I no longer have space in my life for anyone bringing toxicity.  I can’t/don’t/won’t engage in high maintenance friendships.  I don’t have ONE best friend.  I have a small group of what I would call my closest friends but this is not a closed group or a “golden ticket” gathering {ha!} Each friendship is different and each has been through its ups and downs.  We don’t always speak or meet up regularly but we will always have eachothers backs and when we do get together the amount of time spent apart falls into insignificance.

How do I define friendships?  I define them as supportive, funny, honest, loyal and uncomplicated.  I define them as free, easy {even through the tough times}, non-judgemental and mutual.  I define them as non-competitive and honest.

I define them as the family I chose to have in my life {and who have also chosen me}. 

Running for {Mental} Health | {re-post from May 2017}

This is an old post from my previous blog Tales of a Wannabe Perfect Housewife which I wrote back in May 2017. After taking a short turn around the block this morning I thought I’d re-post it here for anyone who fancies giving it a read ♥︎

When I first started running I did so with one simple aim in mind. To get slim. And whilst this initial goal has continued to spur on my somewhat sporadic relationship with running over the years I now have a very different reason for pounding the pavements. Nowadays I run less for vanity and more for well-being. I run because it makes me feel good.
The fact that exercise releases endorphins {happy hormones} may be a well known fact but what other benefit could there possibly be for something which for the majority of us is bloomin’ hard work and some days seemingly damn near impossible? Speak to any regular runner and they will tell you.

For me some of the psychological benefits of running include:

Lowering anxiety and depression:  Physical activity releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness.  You may experience a sense of “runners high” or even euphoria.  Or you may just feel a little bit happier about life in general.
Nevertheless running can lead on to….

An opportunity to unwind and clear your mind:  What better way to spend a bright spring evening then enjoying the great outdoors.  I’ve done a mixture of treadmill and outdoor running over the years but for me nothing beats getting outside in the fresh air.  I’ve grown to love exploring the country lanes around my house and finding new routes and beautiful places I never realised existed right on my doorstep.  Sometimes it’s hard to take in your surroundings when you feel like your legs and lungs are about to collapse but take a minute to look up and around you, say hello to the new spring lambs {yes I do this} and admire the rolling countryside or river or wherever you may be.  Breathe deep.  Relax your shoulders.  Let your mind unwind and your legs find their pace.  This is where running regularly and getting a bit fitter is key.  Suddenly you can start to enjoy your run and really begin to understand what people mean by the aforementioned “runners high”.

Better sleep:  I always {half} joke that my children sleep better after a glass of wine {for me not them. Obvs} and I find the same is true after a decent run.  It could be the nice warm shower, cosy pjs, hot chocolate…. or the fact that my brain has cleared and I’m just plain too pooped to rouse to their sleepy rumbles but either way we all seem to get a better nights kip which {as any parent knows} is pure gold.   

Social interaction vs. time to yourself:  I usually run alone.  It just works out that way as I grab opportunities to go as and when I can and actually I quite enjoy the solitude, especially once the boys came along – to have that space {physical and mental} and time to myself was a tonic.  I also like to go at my own pace, no pressure to keep up or go a certain distance.  If I want to stop and walk home I can.  If I want to go further that’s fine too.  But when I do get the opportunity to run with a friend I actually really enjoy it.  It’s easy to chat away the miles, especially if you’re lucky enough to find someone your pace/fitness level is evenly matched to, and actually finding like minded peoplee,  having someone there to push you once in a while and to swap tips with is good too 🙂  I love the idea of joining a local running club but at the moment the timings don’t work out with having the little people but maybe one day.

Increased energy:  We’ve all been there.  You’re tired.  It’s been a long day.  The last thing you want to do is any form of exercise.  And I totally agree.  But I also guarantee {unless you’re poorly pops or injured} you will feel better and more energised if you get off the sofa, lace up and get out for a trot even just around the block.  Running gives me energy and helps me make better and healthier choices plus I feel a lot less guilty if {when} I decide to have a little {big} treat.  I have to constantly remind myself of this and although it may feel awful at the time ultimately I know getting out and going for a run will help. 

Learning focus and determination by overcoming obstacles:  The last long bank holiday weekend was a week before a 10k race.  I ate and drank my way through the whole weekend and probably {no joke} put on about 5lbs.  By the Monday I knew I really had to get out and do a half decent run to keep up with my pre-race preparation so off I went {extra 5lbs and all}.  2km in I stopped and had a mini tantrum.  I did not want to be out running.  I felt awful and in a proper grump.  If someone would have driven past me I probably would have asked for a lift home.  I grumbled and stropped.  But then I thought of the race ahead of me and gave myself a proper good talking to after which I got my head down and got on with it.  An {albeit sluggish} 8.8km later I was home and although the run itself was hard work I felt so much better in myself and was so glad I got on with it and didn’t give up.  Running for me has helped show my sheer sense of determination and that I can achieve so much even when the going gets tough.  And that sense of achievement does wonders for your mood and self-confidence 🙂

You may have seen the recent two part documentary on BBC1 (UK), Mind over Marathon, where the 2017 Virgin London Marathon Charity, Heads Together, worked alongside ten unlikely runners living with different mental health issues to train and take part in the London Marathon itself.  If you missed it, look it up.  Not only were the stories eye opening {and sometimes very hard to hear} but the motivation and sense of achievement was captivating and the series really helped to highlight the psychological benefits taking part in a regular running programme could achieve.  I particularly liked Paul, who throughout the training was quite open about that fact that he did not enjoy running, but stuck at it because it of the difference it made to his mental wellbeing.  6 months down the line he no longer needed to take anti-depressants and found running 2-3 times a week helped him stay more balanced and in control of his emotions.  He may even enjoy it a bit now who knows!
All this goes to show that absolutely anyone can reap the mental health benefits of running or even just going out for a walk in the fresh air.  You don’t even necessarily need to enjoy it {!!} And if you can find the mental strength to get through those bad runs you are working towards so much more than getting a PB {although that’s always nice}.  Lace up and get out there.  It will get easier and I guarantee you will feel better 🙂

A New {Routine}

Evening campers!

I’ve written a guest post for a great friend of mine – Charlie-Jane over at Life with the Hazelwoods talking about my changing relationship with having a routine.

Head over to lifewiththehazelwoods.co.uk to take a look 🙂

Supporting mums through {Yoga} | Guest Post from Lynley at {Topknot Yoga}

I used to practice yoga {very much as an amateur} over a decade ago and it has always held a special place in my heart. Since then I’ve dipped in and out of the odd session never really finding a way for it to fit in with my now very different life. With that in mind I am so excited to welcome Lynley from Topknot Yoga to the blog today! Lynley speaks so beautifully and honesty about motherhood and the importance of mums supporting mums in a way I know so many of you will relate to. Lynley’s pre and post-natal Yoga routines fit wonderfully into your busy day and focus on listening to your body at all times. Find out more about Topknot Yoga here.

I’m Lynley.  Kiwi Mum of 2 beautiful girls and now a yoga teacher.  Before I embarked on the wild world of parenting, I used to be a business manager for a multi-million pound dental studio in Harley Street, London.  I was used to controlling most situations, I knew how to get what I wanted, when I needed/wanted it. 

April 2016, our first baby was born.  She was perfect and I was excited to start this journey because of course I knew exactly how I wanted it to go.  She was a lovely little sleepy thing, for the first 4 weeks at least.  Then week 5, she definitely didn’t do what ‘normal’ babies were supposed to do, I now realise there is no such thing as ‘normal’.  

I remember sitting on a swiss ball, bouncing for the umpteenth hour, I don’t even know what early hour of the morning it was, I remember asking myself ‘why did I ever want to be a mum?’ because in that moment, I hated it.  As soon as I was done with that thought, the wave of guilt for not being grateful and  enjoying motherhood washed over me.  I felt like such a bad mum!  This is a vivid memory of my early days of motherhood I don’t think I will ever forget because I couldn’t understand how something you want so badly isn’t quite turning out how you expected it too and why you can’t do ‘everything right’.  This was my first experience of not being able to control the situation.  There were significantly more amazing moments during this time, but this shame of feeling this stayed with me for a long time. 

Within Caroline’s first 12 months, whilst I loved her with every inch of my being, I came to realise how hard parenting can be.  How judgmental the mummy community could be and how small comments can knock the confidence of another mum.   I finally found peace with yoga and other exercise – looking after me helped me to look after my family.  I was very lucky to find an amazing group of friends within a mums fitness group I was attending.   There is so much value in mums supporting mums.

2017 saw a year of recurrent miscarriages for our desperately wanted second baby.  Another situation that was completely out of my control.  Throughout this turmoil, I decided to become a yoga teacher, I needed a new focus that wasn’t just being a mum and trying to fall pregnant again.  But also, I wanted to support other women in their journey of motherhood.  I wanted to create a safe place for women to come, met other women, to say ‘hey you know what, I’m finding this tough’ and to get support from other mums.  Because let’s be honest, we all have good days and bad days, its just some talk about it and others don’t.  But one thing that is evident is that we all need a safe community to grow and learn in. 

I completed my pre and post natal Yoga training in 2018 and immediately starting teaching mums and bubs yoga.  It is my calling.  I absolutely love being someone’s safe place.  To help them realise how amazing they are, to realise that they don’t need to buy into competition, their baby is perfect,  all babies develop at their own pace and time and most importantly to trust their mummy instincts.  We have grown our babies, birthed them and know them better than anyone.  But yet very quickly we are told what they should and shouldn’t be doing,

 ‘don’t spoil your baby’

‘don’t make a rod for your own back’

‘don’t let them manipulate you’

They are babies!!! The do not manipulate!  They aren’t spoiled! They need their mama, they need love, they need cuddles, to be close to you and they CAN be fed to sleep if the parents want them to be!  

I feel like the world wants to take care of the baby, want to know about the baby, want to cuddle the baby.  But what about mum?? My purpose is to help mums refuel and for me that is through yoga, yoga helped me in some dark days.  It also helped in my tired days.  Self care is one thing we put on the back burner but as they say on the aeroplane – ensure you put your oxygen mask on before assisting others.  

Motherhood is the most magically journey filled with ups and downs.  But ultimately, mums love their children, they are doing what they believe is best for their children and without truly understanding the situation, who are we to judge.  Support and being nurtured will help to create amazing mothers that then raise amazing children.  Mums supporting mums is essential to this and this is what I will do for the rest of my life!  When people ask what I do – I no longer say I am a Yoga Teacher, I say I support women to believe in themselves and their parenting skills. 

Project {Simplify}

Truth be told I’ve had a version of this blog post in my head for probably close to 2 years now. It started when I was pregnant with Penny and had an overwhelming desire to declutter {hello nesting}. We had {have} SO.MUCH.STUFF. It was exhausting. Constantly cleaning, moving things around, re-organising, getting rid of stuff then at the same time buying new things in an attempt to make our home look and feel better. I’d flit from project to project as time and motivation allowed never really finishing anything or feeling like I was making any headway. I never felt that {possibly unreachable} point of feeling content. Never reaching that “perfect” point where I could sit back and relax into my little world.

When Penny was about 5 months old {January 2019} I read Marie Kondo’s Book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying {which by the way I LOVED} and started following The Organised Mum on Instagram closely followed by the online phenomenon that is Mrs Hinch. This was what this post was originally going to be about – how I worked through and implemented aspects of these methods to finally “complete” project {simplify}. Fast forward 15 months and I’m still not there. I still have too much stuff. I still don’t feel like the house is “together” or that I’m in a good housework routine. And actually things have changed. My mentality has been through the ringer and {partly thanks to some pretty intense counselling sessions} I began to realise project {simplify} was about sooooo much more than my home. My whole being felt claustrophobic, enclosed and over complicated.

Penny {at 5 months} helping with a Marie Kondo inspired clothes clear out

The definition of {simple}

So what does simple mean to me. When I broke it down here’s what I came up with:

In a nutshell, project {simplify} meant creating physical and mental space in which I felt good, clean, healthy and productive. A space which felt achievable, clear, inviting and welcoming. A space which felt natural, light, spacious and sustainable. A space where life felt uncomplicated and I could be creative and relaxed at the same time. Sounds like a dream? Maybe so. But for me project {simplify} on some level isn’t a wish list, it is a necessity. I believe it will have a life-long impact on my mental and physical health and open up my creativity to enable me to achieve things that always felt out of arms reach. In essence, I believe it will make everything better. Not perfect. But better. And that’s perfect enough for me.

Where to begin?

Note : This is not so much of a “how to” post but more of an amalgamation of thought processes from the last 24 months.


When you scroll through Instagram accounts filled with beautiful homes what do they have in common? Chances are they are {seemingly} uncluttered. They are usually quite simple and have some kind of theme or style, full of beautiful pieces which bring joy and delight. Achieving an Insta-perfect home may not be realistic for your life {or budget!} but noting down some of the elements you love or creating a vision or Pinterest Board of achievable ideas is a great place to start. Is their toy storage amazing? Does the style of their bookshelves look uncluttered and inviting? What exactly are you drawn to? Is it the colour scheme or the artwork on the walls? Are you drawn to beach homes with a huge open view? Do you love simple, clean cut outfits or bright floral prints? Remember this is more than your home. Project {simply} is about your life.

My {recently decluttered} favourite spot


Clear out books, ornaments, clothes, make-up, toys, paperwork, emails, stationery, bank accounts, your instagram feed. Clear all the apps off your phone you don’t use. Change notification settings so you’re not bombarded with information 24/7. Unsubscribe from email chains you no longer engage with. Have a switch-off Sunday where you turn notifications off or delete your social media apps for 1 day a week. Take active steps to clear space. This may be in bite-sized chunks or full Marie-Kondo-ing the s**t out of your home. It’s hard. Really hard. To clear out stuff you’ve held onto for one reason or another. That may have been a gift or has sentimental value. But it is necessary. Think of what you would want to leave behind {without sounding too morbid!}, what makes you happy {sparks joy as Marie would say}, what is actually needed and used. Try not to overthink it. You may chose to clear things out in waves. There are things you may not be ready to let go of and that’s ok. There is no right or wrong to this process. The aim is to reach a place where YOU {and your family} are content. Whether that’s for a season, a year, 5 years or a lifetime. And remember to be realistic about where you are now. If you have children there will be toys. If you have animals there will be pet paraphernalia. If you are saving or don’t have the finances to fund your dream home/wardrobe you will have to make the best of what you have. This is YOUR life. YOUR style and YOUR space. Don’t try to copy someone else – that brings with it a whole heap of other issues!

Decluttering mental space

This is a big one. For me decluttering physical belongings is only half the project. Creating mental space is not only necessary. It’s vital. It’s vital in feeling well. It’s vital in managing the bad days. It’s vital in finding inner peace and acceptance. It’s vital in being the best mother, wife, sister, friend and colleague I can be. Not perfect. Not “high functioning”. But the best version of me {warts and all}. It’s saying no. It’s ending toxic relationships {personal and professional}. It’s nourishing my mind and body. It’s knowing where to go for support. It’s giving myself space to breathe. It’s creating routines which work for our family. And {for me} there is a definite link between mental and physical clutter. I can’t have one and not the other. Physical clutter makes me feel anxious and uneasy. Mental clutter makes me unproductive and unmotivated. Creating a space for mindfulness and self-care is essential to survive and thrive. Filling your cup so it overflows to others.

Having a {mental} declutter


This brings me nicely onto what prompted me to revisit this post. We are now at the end of week 6 of the COVID-19 lockdown. We have been social distancing, furloughed and self isolating for well over a month. This past week I’ve felt incredibly anxious about what happens post-lockdown. We’ve been inside our own little bubble {which in itself has come with it’s own ups and downs} and although I’ve been very active on the old virtual community I’ve been feeling incredibly disconnected with the outside world. I already fear the overwhelm of being re-introduced to society, strange as that may sound. Part of my anxiety is around regretting not making the most out of being at home. {Noting not everyone is at home – the reality for key workers and those who are feeling incredibly lonely and isolated or unwell is very different}. As a way of trying to ease my own anxious brain I decided to make a list. A list of things I would like to do over the next few weeks {or longer}. Not to put pressure on myself but as a way of re-focusing what is important at a time when there is so much uncertainty and need. Here’s what my list looks like:

  • To make progress with project {simplify} {this counts right?!} {see below}
  • To make time for health – self-care, nutrition, exercise, mental health, my skin, weight and fresh air
  • To home school the boys to the best of our ability – including a {flexible} structure to our weekdays
  • To use The Organised Mum Method {TOMM} to help feel/stay on top of housework
  • To implement switch-off Sunday – turn off all social media notifications during the day every Sunday
  • To plan out/start or even complete one of my e-book ideas
  • To start Dermatillomania Support UK
  • To make space for creativity – blogging, writing, painting
  • To support others by reaching out, offering support, listening, laughing, crying or being an Insta-friend – whatever I can give that people need
  • To enjoy my little family

My initial aims for project {simplify} are:

  • To implement TOMM {as above}
  • To clear out my office space and paperwork
  • To finish decorating the kitchen
  • To clear out my dressing table drawers, make-up and medicine cupboard
  • To clear out our garage
  • To simplify my email accounts and unsubscribe from chains
  • To allow myself space for family and creativity by implementing switch-off Sunday {as above}
  • To simplify our belongings to create light, spacious and uncomplicated surroundings

Clean. Clear. Natural. Achievable. Sustainable. Open. Simple.

Parenting with an {Anxiety} Disorder | {Guest Post by Ashleigh}

I’ve been engaging with Ashleigh from thestevensonlife.co.uk on Instagram for quite some time now. Ashleigh is married to my friend Mark who I met at University many moons ago and together they have a gorgeous little boy, Grayson. I love following their adverntures on their blog and Instagram account and Ashleigh kindly agreed to write a guest post for me on something very close to my heart and I know a lot of us can relate to – anxiety. {You can also check out the guest post I wrote for The Stevenson Life about my battle with Dermatillomania here}.

Hi Everyone, before I get into things, I thought I should offer some background. I’ve suffered with anxiety since my early teens, by the time I reached 19 it reached a point where I had to see a doctor because I could no longer control the problem by myself. I was eventually diagnosed with having a generalised anxiety disorder.

Ashleigh with her son {Grayson}

I recently touched on living with my anxiety in a post over on The Stevenson Life, but I didn’t really explain how it can affect me as a parent. I remember when I found out that I was pregnant, I was happy but the other main emotion that was at the front of my mind was pure fear. Childbirth had always been a big fear of mine, so the fact that I was going to be birthing a baby in the near future made my sense of fight or flight go into overdrive.

I’d feel physically sick before every appointment, because the anxiety of it all was just too much to handle. I also spent a lot of my pregnancy just lying on the floor, holding on, because that was the only way I could still the thoughts in my mind. Every hospital appointment and blood test left me wanting to cry because I couldn’t handle my fear of hospitals.

I did hypnobirthing in the hopes that I could minimise some of the anxiety that I had for labour, and while it did help, unfortunately my anxiety was just too much to handle. I ended up having a traumatic birth, which had just made the anxiety of ever having another child even worse.

In terms of the actual parenting side of things, it’s always been very important to me that Grayson understands mental health – so he knows all about feelings like happy, sad, angry and so on. However, I won’t mention anxiety to him until he is old enough to fully understand because one of my biggest forms of anxiety now is passing this anxiety on to Grayson.

I have days where I struggle to eat or go outside because of the anxiety that’s sitting on my chest making my breathing shallow, or the knot in my stomach that’s making me feel sick. However, Grayson doesn’t know about this because I want him to just see me as ‘mummy’ for the mean time. Grayson went through a spell of anxiety when he was around 10 Months old and I had such a fear that I had caused this anxiety in him that I felt so awful I didn’t think I deserved to be a parent (obviously
separation anxiety is a very normal thing for children, so if this sounds like your child please don’t think it’s anything you’ve done).

I worry about Grayson on a daily basis, is he eating enough? Is he drinking enough? What happens if he gets unwell because of something I’ve done? What happens if he gets hurt, what do I do? What happens if someone thinks I’m a bad parent and I don’t deserve Grayson? I constantly have a cycle of thoughts going through my mind, sometimes those thoughts are quiet enough that I can go about my day normal
and other days the thoughts are so loud that I just have to hold Grayson close and use some of the coping mechanisms I’ve learnt through years of CBT and therapy.

So far, Grayson hasn’t showed any signs of anxiety but that still doesn’t stop the fear that he’ll sob to me one day that the anxiety is all too much and I’ll have caused that. I’m very careful to push any of my anxiety to one side until Grayson’s in bed, when I can decompress and work through the anxiety. I try not to let my anxiety stop Grayson from doing anything, I don’t want to wrap him in bubble wrap because I feel like that will make him start to fear things. I try to encourage him to do everything (within reason of course).

Living with anxiety is a constant battle, because every positive thought you have is counteracted with a “what if” or “no, you’re wrong” it can turn every positive into a negative. Parenting with anxiety is just as bad because you question your natural parenting instincts, but if you suffer with anxiety the most important advice, I can offer is:

  • Talk to your loved ones: tell those that you trust and love how you are feeling, because they will no doubt help you understand you are doing a great job as a parent.
  • Seek medical help: I’m currently on no medication for personal reasons, but I’ve benefited from both medication and seeing a registered therapist in the past and thing that these things are a great way to help you cope if you are otherwise struggling.
  • Find coping mechanisms that work for you: different strategies work for different people, something I learned at hypnobirthing is actually something I’ve carried over for my anxiety (I close my eyes and I imagine a red light as I breathe in and a blue light as I breathe put – so all the negative thoughts are disappearing and the outcome is peace). I also find it helpful that with every anxious thought I try to think rationally and break that thought down so that I can see how wrong my anxiety is.
  • Try not to be so hard on yourself: this goes for all parents. Parenting is hard, one of the hardest things. Raising little individuals who are constantly learning, and adapting was never going to be easy, but as long as your children are safe, happy and healthy then you’re doing a pretty good job!

Parenting with anxiety or any mental illness makes things that bit harder, so be kind to yourself.

If you’re interested in guest posting on a Life twintastic get in touch here.

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