Senior Leaders challenge...

We are thrilled to support the minds@work movement - ‘a movement for mental wellbeing in the workplace’. They have just released an appeal for ‘senior leader at Board level who is ready to inspire others with their story of recovery from mental illness’. This supports the notion that in order for things to happen or to change, it needs to be led from the top. http://www.mindsatworkmovement.com/

We have the utmost respect for Rob Stephenson who has initiated the leaderboard through his platform InsideOut. They are a social movement that is getting a lot of momentum. They task ‘senior leaders to share their stories so that employees feel more comfortable in also speaking about mental ill-health’ https://inside-out.org/leaderboard/

More and more organisations are prioritising mental health as it is the leading cause of absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace. The Centre for Mental Health states that mental health problems cost UK workforces almost £35 billion last year. It’s no longer something that can be ignored and putting wellbeing and mental health firmly on your organisations agenda is a must.

A good starting point is to train Mental Health First Aiders and Champions who can lead the culture change in your organisations. As mentioned above, the best possible route is for senior leaders to step forward to support this plan and to ensure that some senior leaders and line managers receive training. In addition, it’s a great idea to run a Mental Health Awareness session for all employees so that your entire organisation is on the same page at the same time and the buy-in from the top filters down with the same message for all.

If you’re not sure what to do to start this process, give us call. We can do a needs analysis for your organisation as well as provide you with a variety of training options to cover both mental health and wellbeing. Or perhaps you’d like to start with training Mental Health First Aiders or organising a refresher and supervision session for those already qualified?

There are 2 important dates coming up:  Suicide Prevention Day on the 10th September and World Mental Health Day 10 October. It would be great to launch a training plan to coincide with these events.

Either way, we’re here to help so give us call to see how we can support you and your organisation.

http://www.familyfocusuk.com/ 07720-591857 (Åse) 07733-434143 (Jenni)

mhfa blog.jpg

Teenagers and summer parties....?

It’s the summer - school’s out and parties reign. If you are the parent of teenagers you may be faced with the questions, worries and challenges of allowing your teenagers the freedom to socialise and gain independence, whilst keeping their safety as a top priority.

I read a really heartbreaking post on facebook last week about a dad who’s lost his 19 year old son to a ‘bad’ pill that he took at a concert (https://www.facebook.com/scott.c.maney) . This was the last thing he’d expected as he had no idea his son would participate in recreational drugs. This leads to the question of how we protect our children from negative influences, the unsuspecting spiking of drinks, the peer pressure. It’s a challenge all parents face - but particularly those with teenagers.

We believe that the skills to navigate teenager years starts a lot earlier. By building blocks of communication, values and beliefs that are embedded in your family and your child from their early years. The rules of thumb of kindness, consistency, consequences and communication. Use these well and wisely throughout childhood and you’ll have a head start on the teenage years.

We love the teachings of Maggie Dent and she speaks in this vlog about how important a teenagers’ temperament is in their navigating the stressors of teenage years:-

https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/roosters-lambs-as-teenagers/

On a more practical note here are some tips as your teens head out to parties:-

  1. Make sure you and they have the address of where they are going on their phone and on their body.

  2. Have a ‘safe word’ that they can text you or say for to collect them so that they can save face with their peer group

  3. Make sure they have money for a cab or the uber app on their phone set up

  4. Discuss how to keep safe with them before they leave (keeping the focus on your love and care of them - not ‘rules’) Be sure to mention opening drinks themselves and not accepting anything from strangers.

  5. Talk to other parents and make sure you’re all on the same page about pick up times etc

  6. If they are going to drink alcohol, buy it yourself and have them take it along with them to be sure of what they’re drinking!

  7. Try and download an app that lets you track them eg Life360

  8. Talk talk talk - and be there for your teen

We are here to help. We run workshops that are specifically for parents of teens and how to cope with the stressors of having teenagers - plus how to help your teens cope with their stress and mental health worries! Contact us to find out more.

teen parties.jpg

Should all Workplaces have a Mental Health First Aider?

Åse and I are now offering Mental Health First Aid Training and we have had some interesting discussions lately with potential clients about the ‘need’ for a MHFAider and the role that this individual should have in an organisation.

MHFA England is working hard to de-stigmatise mental health in the UK by encouraging workplaces and individuals to engage in mental health first aid training. Their hope is to raise awareness of mental health issues as well as improve the literacy levels of everyone around mental health topics while boosting confidence to both recognise and respond to concerns.

MHFA England’s website promotes:-

Two Day - Mental Health First Aiders

A practical skills and awareness course designed to give you: −

  • A deeper understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect people’s wellbeing, including your own

  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues

  • Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress

  • Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgmental listening

  • Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to appropriate support”

Some people are arguing that a simple 2 day training course is not enough. We tend to agree. We feel that there needs to be built in support (similar to counselling supervision) for all participants who qualify as Mental Health First Aiders. To allow them to keep up to date with recent trends and news in the mental health world, as well as have a support group and mentoring system to offload concerns or get advice about situations they encounter.

Luckily, most of the clients we speak to agree, and we’re able to support them through both the training and supervision/mentoring process.

Just as having a medical ‘First Aider’ is compulsory for companies, there are calls for mental health first aid to be part of legislature. At present, this is in discussion but is not mandatory:-

“The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have enhanced its First Aid guidance to help employers understand the existing need to consider mental health alongside physical health when undertaking their ‘needs assessment’. There has, however, been no legal change to make mental health first aid-type training mandatory.”

For us, any forward motion is good news and a great place to begin is just starting to talk about mental health and if having a first aider will work for your workplace.

So give us a call if you want to find out more about what’s involved. Lots of Companies are getting on board - how about you?

www.familyfocusuk.com

MHFA instructor badge.png

Mental ill health in the workplace. How is it handled at your place of work?

It is great to read about the steps a lot of companies are taking towards supporting their staff with mental ill health. Any step is better than nothing, however, one week a year doesn’t do it. So many companies have their wellbeing week and that is it. What about the support the rest of the year?

The stigma surrounding mental ill health is still prevalent in the majority of companies. According to the research, employees struggling with mental health or other wellbeing issues are unable to concentrate on their job, a symptom known as “presenteeism,” for more than a third of the total scheduled work time (54.95 hours). This adds up to about eight total days per month, and more than twice as much as the typical “healthy” employee. These employees are also absent from work for an average of 7.36 hours per month – almost one full working day and about 5% of all work time.

An employee would rather talk about their stomach bug and their effects than mental health issues!!

To enable communication between managers and staff is vital, in many cases, a matter of life or death.

Thriving at work – a major report on mental health and employers, commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May – quantifies the impact of mental ill health in the workplace. Poor mental health costs employers between £33bn and £42bn a year. This is in addition to an estimated £37bn to £52bn cost to the economy in lost output and £25bn cost to the government due to reduced tax intake, NHS treatment costs and poor health-related welfare payments.

Placing wellbeing at the core of your HR strategy is the first step to building a mentally healthy workplace. The following checklist can help you and your business to achieve this.

Workplace culture – Build an environment that is open, transparent and empathetic by allowing for flexible working, social outings and more. Openly acknowledge key resources out there such as those from charities including Mind, Rethink and Anxiety UK.

Role modelling – Normalise mental health issues by sharing personal stories, preferably from the top.

Work/life balance – Establish and enforce boundaries at work so your employees know that after work hours are theirs to unwind and disconnect from the daily grind.

Physical wellbeing – Whether by setting up cycle to work schemes in place or something as simple as a running club or meditation hour, try to introduce physical activities as part of your company’s work life. This will give your team the option to incorporate physical well-being into their lives as well.

Peer support and mentoring – It can be hard to open up to colleagues (or worse—your boss!), so by introducing peer counselling you could set the scene for your employees to connect with colleagues in a way that gives them permission to open up and connect over shared experiences. Mentoring programmes where senior members of staff take juniors under their wing could also help create rapport and start a dialogue where they can be their authentic selves at work.

Build strong communications platforms – Internal communication isn’t just a large company’s game. Even when running a startup you can keep the lines of communication open and transparent. Whether it’s through messaging channels like Slack or a weekly meeting, keep everyone on your team in the loop about major work changes to ease their transition. It’s also a great opportunity to praise employees and give kudos when deserved.

Monitor absences – Absences can be a dead giveaway that things may not be smooth sailing for your employees. If an employee is absent or late frequently, it should raise questions about their wellbeing. This could present the opportunity to start an open dialogue about what’s not working for them at work.

Seek employee feedback – Adopt frequent wellbeing checks through formal surveys or informal one-to-one meetings to keep the channel of communication open both ways. Using the data you gather can help you understand where your wellbeing strategy may have gaps from the perspective of your employees.

Review all of your policies at least once a year – Using feedback and monitoring progress of particularly vulnerable employees can help you stay accountable and reinforce your company’

Family Focus UK provide Mental Health awareness workshops and Mental Health First Aid courses amongst other topics. To find out more please go to:

www.familyfocusuk.com

For the full article which was published in Business Advice, please click here:

https://businessadvice.co.uk/hr/employment-law/sme-employers-mental-health/?utm_source=ba_newsletter&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=ba_newsletter_28668&utm_content=ba_story_standard&utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=A+bad+hire+could+cost+your+business+£132%2C000%21&utm_campaign=BA+Newsletter+Daily+15%2F07%2F2019

mental-health-in companies.png

The 'controversy' of Cannabis?

I came across a link on facebook that had created a lot of controversy (going by the conflicting comments posted). It headlined ‘Cannabis gives teenagers ‘brain damage’ and loss of self-control, study finds’.

“...the adolescent brain may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of substance use, particularly cannabis” Dr Marilyn Cyr

Dr Cyr is the lead researcher from Columbia University in the US. She showed that there was a direct link between adult substance use and problems with drugs and alcohol in adolescence.

This gave me pause for thought as in our mental health work we know that there is a link between drugs (particularly depressants), dependency and mental health concerns. We also know that the teenage brain is a ‘work in progress’ and really susceptible to influences (physical and cognitive). Teenage neural pathways are a hive of activity and development with the frontal cortex only fully developing by the age of 25. This means that teenagers are particularly vulnerable to substance use and by using it ‘recreationally’ in this developmental stage, they may in fact be paving the way for problems later on in life. They are, in effect, ‘wiring’ their brains during development towards this path.

Cannabis is the most widely used recreational drug among teenagers world-wide with vaping growing at an alarming rate. This research is a big step towards directing early interventions that will help manage addictive behaviours.

So what are ‘early interventions’ and what are their goals?

  • To reduce potential harms and risky behaviours

  • To prevent the behaviour developing into a disorder

  • To provide information about substance use risks

  • To provide information about normal and safe levels of use

  • To provide information on how to quit or cut down on the use

  • To be a bridge between prevention and actually receiving treatment

  • Could be informal counselling and help with decision making

So we have to ask, could we reduce the numbers of drug and alcohol dependent adults (and by default the presenting mental health issues) if we reduce the use of these substances among teenagers?

Whose responsibility is this? Parents? Schools? Government? NHS?

In our line of work we always come back to the premise that ‘knowledge and awareness is key’. The more information you have about behaviours, choices, cognitive development and life - the better equipped you’ll be to cope with situations and challenges. This is what we work through in our workshops and deliveries to organisations, employees and parents.

For those who argue that Cannabis has value - are you referring to medicinal cannabis use or recreational use? I expect it’s a continuing debate!

cannabis.jpg

Summer and depression

The summer is upon us and it can be lovely, but not for everyone.
Summer is a time where depression and other mental health problems are common. Despite the weather being nicer and seeing people outdoors, this time of the year is tough for many. Being on your own and feeling lonely is even more obvious when seeing all the 'happy' people out and about. Posts on social media from 'amazing' holidays and times with friends and family are on show more than ever. Body image can also be a big issue. The thought of showing your body in summer clothes might be horrifying. The ‘what if someone comments and doesn’t like me’ feelings set in.

Feeling low affects everything around us. Something we normally cope with becomes a huge issue. So what can we do to help ourselves?

  • We are all entitled to wear what we like and do what we are comfortable with. Say no and stand tall. It’s OK.

  • We have choices about how to structure our days so make sure it is what suits you, not everyone else. If we know our triggers, try to avoid them.

  • If summer holidays aren’t your thing, don’t go. Choose another time of the year. Some work mates will appreciate it!

  • Most people are too busy thinking about themselves and their lives to notice someone elses' discomfort or how they look. It is more probable that we are caught in a negative thinking pattern which seems real but might not be reality.

  • If these feelings have a big impact on life and are regular, ask for help. Therapy is there to assist and improve our lives. Don’t hesitate, it does work for a lot of people.

Be aware of others and their feelings and above all, be inclusive! Loneliness is a tough situation. If we can make a difference to someone, whether at work for lunch or after work drinks, inviting a neighbour, make that call you meant to do or send a text shows that you are thinking of them. The simplest things can make someone feel like they too are important. Kindness is one of them.

And, remember the sunscreen!!

summer_meadow.jpg

Suicide...such a hard word.

I have had several incidents of suicide cross my path in the last few weeks and it has really brought home how alarming and devastating the effects of suicide are.

The latest figures from MHFA England suggest that over 15 people a day took their lives by suicide in 2016 (Road accidents death is just over 4 people/day). 3/4 of completed suicides are by men with the highest risk group age 40 - 49. But there is very little research about the effects on those left behind. The feelings and thoughts that they will live with on a daily basis. Suicide affects so many people.

I always have a saying that ‘if you know what you have to deal with, and for how long, you can cope with anything’. With suicide, it’s the unknown that eats away at you and leaves you with unresolved issues. When someone you love or know attempts or completes suicide it will affect you in profound ways. Some people will react with an extreme response to the trauma, some will withdrawn, others will act out and engage in risky behaviours. Still others will be left with feelings of guilt and blame and questions that will never be answered. It’s an untenable situation and one that no-one ever wants to be faced with.

So, with such a sensitive topic the guiding principles are: be aware. Take notice. Act and intervene if you are concerned. If you feel there is a risk of suicide - do something. Approach that person, ask them what their intentions are (it has been proven that asking someone if they have a plan for suicide does not encourage or accelerate their action to complete suicide). If you feel they are at risk, get them help. Call for professionals, get them to the GP or A & E, call the mental health crisis team, or CALM or The Samaritans.

If we all start to really notice each other and show care and concern, we can bring this shocking statistic down and save not only the lives on those who are considering suicide, but also the circles of friends, families, colleagues and others around them.

There is lots we can do to help. Start by reading more about the work the Samaritans are doing:

https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/suicide-facts-and-figures/

Appreciate those in your life and make sure they feel this appreciation. And above all…

Take care.

suicide.jpg

How does social media affect our wellbeing?

I’ve been thinking about the impact social media has on our wellbeing. It is up and down for a lot of people. A kind of love or hate relationship.

Depending on how you are feeling that time you look on FB or Instagram, what you are reading and seeing can set you up for the day. The tendencies seem to be that the majority of posts are about how great life is, which can be really uplifting and inspiring if you are in that mindset.

However, if you are a bit low and things aren’t going as well as you’d like in your own life, reading about others ‘perfect’ lives can be depressing and sometimes hurtful. Seeing photos from an event or gathering with lots of your friends and you were not included can be one of those hurtful moments.

The lives of our online friends can seem so different and more exciting and successful than ours. But are they really? What goes on behind those facades?

There has been a lot in the news about suicides amongst not only youngsters but also adults. Has this digital world got anything to do with this increase in deaths?

So how do we live with this phenomena? How can we handle our social media without allowing it to get us down?

I think self-esteem plays a big part. If our self-esteem is high, we can handle situations and rationalise feelings much better. We are able to push those thoughts aside and see that what is presented is not always what it seems. Also, even if it is amazing, we can be happy for those involved and not jealous.

Envy is fine, we all would like some things we don’t have but that is OK, this is life. Kids today need to learn from an early age that life is not always fair, it can’t be the same for everyone. Study, work and do your best to create the life you want to live.

So, here are a few tips on increasing our self-esteem:

  • Write a gratitude diary every night. I know it sounds funny but it is all part of feeding our brains with positivity.

  • Challenge any negative thoughts that pop in to your head. “Is this really true?”

  • Use mantras. “I can do this” , “I am a good person”, “ I am worthy”, yet again, feeding our brains with positive words has a great impact.

  • Exercise! Release those endorphins!

  • Get out, go into nature and be present! The feeling of being out and breathing fresh air is unbeatable.

  • Sleep. Give yourself and your body a chance to recover and recharge.

Enjoy your life, never mind what others do!!

Self-esteem.jpg

It's all in the numbers...Men's Health Numbers!


It’s ‘Men’s Health Week’ this week (10 - 16 June) and the focus is on ‘numbers’!

The theme this year focuses on the fact that men (as a generalisation) seem to like (the campaign uses the word ‘obsessed’) numbers!

So they want to raise awareness of some critical numbers.

  • 7 ‘must know’ numbers for all men

  • 5 ‘statistics’ that we all need to be aware of

Key numbers for men:

  • 37 If your waist size is 37 “ or more, you’re at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes & cancer

  • 150 Try and do 150 mins of some physical activity each week

  • 5 That’s your ‘five a day’ fruit and veg goal

  • 14 No more than 14 units of alcohol a week spread over several days

  • 10 Years off your life if you smoke (average)

  • 120/80 normal blood pressure

  • 75 % (3 out of 4) suicides are by men

For those of us wanting to help (Family Focus UK included!)…think about the facts that:

  • 1 man in 5 dies before the age of 65

  • 2 men in 5 die before the age of 75

  • Unskilled working men are 3 times more likely to take their own lives than those in senior management

For men wanting some more information, there’s something called man MOT to challenge you and check your own health: https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/man-mot-faqs

So, if you are a man or have a man in your life (old or young) please take a look at these numbers and see where you (they) fit in. Do you need to take stock? What can you do to make some changes in your life?

We’re here to help in any way, so let us know if you’d like some more information on any of this.

mens health week.jpg

Time travel...or time travels?

How many times a day do we say the word ‘time’? ‘I’m running out of time’, ‘I don’t have time…’., ‘there’s not enough time in the day’, ‘when was the last time…’, ‘I wish I could go back in time’?

I’ve just had the absolute pleasure of welcoming my nephew into our home, visiting from Auckland, NZ and the first thing that came into my mind was, where has time gone? He is a full grown man now and I still remember him as a young boy. And yet, when we connect again, it’s as if time travels and it’s like yesterday when we were all together again.

What does time mean to you? Do you put things off for a later date - another time? Do you make full use of every moment of time you have and make it count?

In the work that Åse and I do we often come across people who say, ‘yes - we need to do this or that - we’ll do it when we have time!’ And more often than not, the moment passes and it doesn’t get done.

What can you do today that you’ve been putting off? What can you say instead when faced with another of these time issues? How about accepting and committing to a ‘bite-size’ piece of whatever seems to need too much time. For example. Instead of saying to myself, I must find time to go and visit my friend who lives 90 minutes away (which gets put off and put off as I can’t find ‘the time’ to take a whole day out to do this) - I can prioritise a regular call with her for 30 minutes every week so that I make the time to commit to our friendship.

Every time you come across this thought pattern ‘I need more time / I wish I had more time’ - re-frame that thought into, ‘what can I do in the time I have now’? Commit to that and do it! Maybe it’s calling that friend of yours, or doing a parenting or wellbeing course with us? Something that gives you the time to think, enrich your life and connect with yourself and others.

A small bit of time spent on someone/something is more important than waiting for a big chunk of time that never comes!

I hope you agree?

Have a great weekend everyone…take some time for yourself!

time travel.jpg

Work environment - who is responsible?

What choices have we got as far as making our jobs and work environment a good place to be?

Recognition and money does not necessarily mean satisfaction and contentment at work.

The ethos, values and atmosphere of a company can make all the difference to why an employee chooses to stay with an employer.

So what responsibility towards their staffs’ wellbeing does a company have? Where is the employees own responsibility?

We all have to take charge of our wellbeing as much as we can. On a practical level that can be healthy eating, exercise and sleep. On an emotional level, communication and connection goes a long way.

In order to create these relationships and maintain them, there has to be a commitment and understanding from both employer and employee.

To suffer mental health issues can feel like a very vulnerable place to be. It takes courage to talk to a manager about it and ask for help.

An employer/manager needs to be approachable and empathic in order for employees to communicate with them. Employees also have to be better equipped to understand colleagues differences and needs to enable a harmonious work place.

This is where we can help. We can ensure your management and staff are trained and understand what is needed to grow and keep the company family together.

mental-health-.png

Do you spy on your child (ren)?

Huawei has been in the news lately and seems to have got into trouble because some people think they are using their technology to ‘spy’ on people.  Even though the Company totally denies this claim, it has certainly generated a lot of interesting conversations about if it’s true, or even possible!

So, thinking about the concept of  ‘spying’ - who has the right to do this?  As the boss of a Company or a team leader, do you have the right to access any information your employee has created or their correspondence?  What impact would this have on you or the employee? 

As a parent, do you have the right to read your child’s diary or their text messages?  What are the boundaries?  What are the norms and rules?  What impact would this have on your relationship with your child? Can you resist the urge to do this?

In our work with parents,  Åse and I always language this question around the ages of the children and the risks involved.  It can be very controversial but we believe mutual trust is key, so you don’t invade personal space without prior communication and consent (i.e. you don’t ‘spy’).  Rather work with your child to gain access to this communication if you feel it’s important. 

The only time this would change is if you feel there is a significant risk to your child (if they are very depressed or suicidal) and breaking this trust to gain information may in fact be a life-saving action.  There’s also the very real worry about grooming and how this develops.  Breck Bednar  is a real example of this devastating situation.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-47473932 Would this concern justify you spying on your child?

It would be great to hear what you think?  What experiences you’ve had with this and what you can share?  Please comment below if you’d like to join this conversation.

huawei.jpg

Why is listening and sharing so important?

This week is Mental Health week and I thought I’d write about the secret battles a lot of people are facing.

The stigma around mental health problems is still big even though it is getting better. A lot of people are working hard to get the message through to companies that they are part of the problem and need to become part of the solution. The more we talk, the more people dare to open up. There are some brilliant movements going on like Minds @ work and the Leaderboard, created by Rob Stephenson at Inside-out.org, which publishes names of leaders who are open about their Mental Health issues. It shows great leadership to share difficulties and real life issues as it enable others to speak up. This is what is needed; real people, real problems and no fear in sharing.

As a counsellor, I worked with many people who did not talk to anyone around them. The fear of being judged and seen as weak was too great. The relief of being able to open up was evident as was the progress of a lot of clients that finally had someone that listened. Listening is a great skill and we just don’t teach this enough.

When a person is heard, they feel understood, acknowledged, validated, significant and seen. How can we ensure that our nearest and dearest and ourselves understand this and are able to share?

How can we create trust with our children to enable talking? The emphasis on communication can’t be talked about enough. It’s the basis of every relationship we have whether at home or at work. Misunderstandings happen too easily and are not clarified often enough.

If in doubt or not clear about what someone is actually saying; ASK!!

Stop making assumptions that people ought to know and how can they not?!

Start talking and actually listen. The effort can make a huge difference!

COMMUNICATION I LANG.jpg

Every day heroes

I watched the London Marathon on Sunday from the comfort of my home. The achievement of so many of these runners was amazing. What makes a person continue when it’s so painful and exhausting?

Determination and perseverance to keep going during training even when it’s cold and wet must be at the top of the list. The emotional reason is the main driver for most though. The thought of making a difference to others in memory of a loved one or to bring awareness to a cause will be a major reason for many. One after the other, runners told a different story but similar in the passion and determination to put their cause to the front. So many tears and sadness of the loss or illness of a loved one. The helplessness felt.

There are so many good people out there. We tend to hear more about the ones that are bad though. I think we need to celebrate the every day heroes we have so many of here in Britain. The neighbours looking out for each other, the friends gathering around and taking turns helping a friend in need, the volunteers at the hospices, homeless shelters, nursing homes, schools and libraries. What would we do without them?

The thing to remember is what we can do, rather than what we can’t do. We can’t ensure no one gets a terminal illness or is involved in a life changing accident. What we can do is to be there for who ever is struggling, help with anything that’s needed even if it’s just a hug or a cup of tea. Show empathy and allow grieving of what or who has been lost.

The smallest gestures can make a big difference and the fact that we care is a great thing in itself. This also applies in the workplace. Noticing if someone is going through a tough time and ask "‘Are you OK’ is an important part. Making an effort and show concern for others is a lovely trait to have. Knowing someone cares is a great healer.

To all you everyday heroes out there, continue with your amazing efforts! That is what community and caring is all about. Thank you.

George-rocking-his-cape-on-last-day-of-30-rounds-of-Proton-Therapy-in-Jacksonville-Florida.jpg

Judging a book by its cover

I just saw a vlog on LinkedIn (thanks James) about being judged and how can we stop being so quick to do so.

It made me think about what I have learned in my life and also all the times I have judged someone without really thinking about it. It just happens and it’s scary how easily it does and is accepted.

It is in human nature to look at people and make assumptions. That is why it’s so important that we do consider what kind of impression we want to give in various situations whether it’s work or privately.

To turn up to a job interview in the City wearing jeans and a t-shirt will most probably not make a good impression on a potential employer. Or shorts and a strappy top to a classy restaurant with the future in-laws might be too casual and bare (?!) to some. We do have to judge and enquire if needed about expectations of dress code if we think it’s important to be seen a certain way. This is how we show respect and consideration to others and it is part of being an adult. Some might argue that we shouldn’t have to adhere and everyone should dress however they like but I think, no matter who you are, these values are there and if it matters, dress accordingly.

When it comes to making judgements because of disabilities, ethnicity and sexuality, we have to be taught from a young age about differences. Why they exist and why we need to be considerate and respectful to them. This all comes from home, from school and the environment we live in. Our children learn from us and if we don’t teach them they are at risk to learn something that goes against our beliefs. Of course, they will learn lots from others too and make up their own minds eventually. However, parents are the first teachers and what we show our kids is detrimental to their foundations in being a good human being.

When I grew up in a very ’sheltered’, safe place in Sweden, my parents ensured we learnt about differences by being a host family in the summer to children visiting Sweden with charity organisations. I remember having two boys from Kenya staying with us and they had never used cutlery. Some children didn’t speak English and we had to use sign language. It was very exciting and we learnt a lot.

We were also a respite family to a girl who had various disabilities including being blind and she stayed with us for a weekend a month. To have her with us taught us about disability and how fortunate we were to be healthy. This also led to me and my family becoming a link family here in the UK. For 9 years, a lovely girl with an unusual syndrome, Kabuki syndrome, spent a weekend a month with us. I know my daughters, (despite it being inconvenient to them at times…) learnt to appreciate their lives and help others. They both now volunteer as adults.

Embrace differences, accept them and learn from each other. Behind those facades awaits a possible new friend.

Don’t be so quick to judge, give people a chance to prove otherwise.

We are all human.

books-1617327__340.jpg

Effort = Reward

I was walking around my neighbourhood last week and thought I would do a ‘social experiment’.

I walked with my head up and as I walked past people I attempted to make eye contact but without much enthusiasm or interest. Result. Out of the 14 people I passed, 2 made eye contact with me and no one communicated with me.

I then walked with my head up and as I walked past people I made eye contact, smiled and greeted them with ‘good morning’. Result. Out of the 12 people I walked past 10 greeted me in return. The 2 that didn’t had earphones in their ears and I suspect didn’t hear me!

My conclusion? It’s so easy to keep your eyes to the ground and make minimal effort to communicate and connect with others. But equally, a really small effort can make a big difference. It felt good greeting people, smiling and seeing them reciprocate. I received many warm greetings and smiles and in those brief moments, felt a connection with total strangers.

So this reiterates that effort = reward. You have to put something in to get something out and if we all make an effort - the overall result could be extraordinary. This goes beyond general ‘friendliness’ with people you pass by. It extends to greeting work colleagues, parents at school, neighbours, new people at your club. It’s so easy to close ranks and contain your world and avoid taking the time and making the effort to extend the hand of friendship or even just ‘connection’ with others.

Take the time. It’s worth it. Not just for you, but for everyone around you. You’ll feel better plus you’ll act as a role model to others - particularly your children.

So try and make an effort this next week to greet others. Smile, make eye contact and try and form a connection even for a brief second. Our world is becoming so insular and downward looking - let’s take some time to look up and outward and include others in our world view. Radical idea - keep your headphones out your ears at times to listen and be part of the world around you.

This attitude can then extend to everything else. If you don’t make an effort - you can’t expect reward (aka homework, school, health, fitness, love, friendships etc)

Let us know how you manage? How it feels? We’d love to have your feedback info@familyfocusuk.com

Have a great week!

connections.jpg

Women and our hormones

I’ve been thinking lately about the impact of hormones in our lives. Girls and women have to deal with this from an early age and it impacts very differently from person to person. It’s amazing to think 50% of the population will suffer at some stage to something out of their control.

I do know that men also have hormonal changes but I am pretty sure, us women have the tougher deal…

One thing is for certain though, all women experience something in our lifetime, whether it’s puberty, childbearing years or menopause. Things like period pain, masses of bleeding, PMS, exhaustion, headaches, memory blips, mood swings, acne, weight gain, weight loss (yes, that happens too…), low libido, high libido, skin changes, hair thinning, depression etc. The list is very long!!

These issues can have a massive impact on a woman’s life and everyone around her, yet it’s not something we talk about often enough. A lot of men, in particular those inexperienced with women, have no idea of the battles that go on. Even some men who have female partners are in the dark why their women turn into ‘moody cows’ at times.

I think it’s up to us women to educate the men around us and explain what to expect at times and why it happens. Sometimes we have choices and can control what happens but a lot of the time, we can’t.

The more we talk about it from an early age, to both our sons and daughters, the easier it will be for everyone. Our kids also get to see sides of us we wish they didn’t have to but yet again, talk and explain.

As always, understanding and knowledge is power and we have to help ourselves and our loved ones by taking charge of this. We can’t wait or expect others, like the school or friends, to explain to our men and children.

Also, in a work environment, this is very common. We have to talk to our co workers when needed. They can’t read our minds and understand what is going on. Having said that, please be supportive of the female staff during certain times in their lives. It’s hard enough having to cope with yourself, let alone everyone else around you.

I used to get dreadful hot flushes at any time of the day. In my work, I do 1-2-1 sessions and sometimes a flush would hit me. I’d go red and start to perspire. Not a nice look or feeling. When that happened, I had to explain that it was not about them and their story, but me and my menopause… At least they knew and I felt better for explaining.

Awareness is key. Educate, train and encourage communication. It is needed all around us so get talking!

witches of menopause.jpg

What is your Love Language?

After a weekend of celebrating the special mother (s) in your life I was really taken with how different people show and express their feelings. This reminded me of the ‘love languages’ that are so often discussed and how I could pinpoint each of these to various people in my life.

One of my children falls clearly under ‘acts of service’, expressing love by offering to help me, do the ironing, cook supper, make me some tea. My other child’s language is ‘quality time’ and my husband is another one entirely. Makes for a very interesting set of languages in our family.

So how do you communicate with those you love?

The Love languages fall into 5 categories:-

  1. Words of Affirmation: You communicate by encouraging, affirming, listening and appreciating others. You often send unexpected notes, texts or encouragement.

  2. Physical Touch: You are a non-verbal communicator, preferring to express how you feel through your body language and touch. You hug, hold hands and prioritise thoughtful touch.

  3. Receiving Gifts: You communicate with purpose and a lot of thought. You make others feel like they are a priority and you’re constantly giving thoughtful gestures, gifts and expressing gratitude.

  4. Quality Time: You like uninterrupted and focused conversations, preferably 1-1 and like special moments with those you love. You like to do things together and love getaways.

  5. Acts of Service: You like being part of a team with those you love. You like to do things together and often say, ‘I’ll help…’ You are thoughtful and go out of your way to help with chores and workload. It’s important to you to know you and your loved ones are connected.

If you aren’t aware of the different ways love can be expressed maybe you’re missing out on receiving these messages? Think about where you fit in; your partner; children; extended family? Are you picking up their cues through the ways they are communicating and are they picking up yours? Are you a mix of different languages? The more awareness you have the more love and connection you’ll feel.

However you choose to communicate and express love, the most important thing is that you do it! We are constantly being reminded of how tenuous this life is and you never know what’s around the next corner. Don’t let moments pass you by…express your languages of love!

love languages 2.png

Relationship maintenance

So, my husband and I just had our 30th wedding anniversary. That is a looonngg time.

Looking back, there’s been many highs and many lows. Somehow we’ve managed to get through them and are still, happily, married. I do wonder what makes some relationships last and why others don’t.

Friendships, family relations, work colleagues and our relationships with them takes effort and time. How do we we keep them going? What makes us put in the work necessary with some and not bother with others?

Connection/love is one of our human needs and we all need this to function and live a fulfilled life. To cover this need we search for connection and look for love. When we are in relationships this need has to be topped up regularly in order to be content and able to function.

One thing I think plays a big role in a relationship is common views on life and understanding of where we come from. If our backgrounds are really different, we have to work harder on learning about each other and acceptance of differences. If the love is there, everything is possible.

A partner has a lot to live up to and be accepting of each others’ needs can be difficult at times.

Here are a few tips:

  • Communication is essential!

  • Talk instead of making assumptions and have expectations they might not be able to live up to.

  • Accept different views unless totally unreasonable. Agree to disagree when needed.

  • Listen and allow people to speak, don’t interrupt.

  • If someone takes all your energy every time you meet, they might not be good for you.

  • Friends should give and take, not just take.

  • Your children are your children, no matter what. Make sure you always talk to them throughout each stage in their lives. They might not always want to but persist.

  • Expect the downs as well as the ups. Happiness is not a constant. Be prepared and make sure your love bank is topped up.

  • LAUGH TOGETHER!! With your partner, with your children, with friends and at work. Such an important part of life and it makes living a lot easier.

Have a think about what relationships need more attention in your life. If they are important to you, make an effort even if you feel like you are always the one doing just that. The other person will appreciate it.

love friends.jpg