Wellbeing

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!

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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!

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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.

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Phones and sleep

So, it’s been in the news lately about the connection between mobile phones and sleep deprivation.

In particular, it’s been concerning children and ensuring they get enough sleep which is a national problem, and was highlighted on the BBC news this morning.

We all need our sleep to function properly and children need it even more in order to allow their brains to develop the way it needs to.

There is lots of data and research as far as sleep goes and it’s being done for a reason; sleep deprivation is affecting people everywhere. It’s not just about individuals and their personal needs, it’s very much about us as a society.

Sleep deprivation affects our ability to function properly including concentrating whilst driving and working. Productivity is affected for both adults and children.

Here are the latest recommendations from https://www.sleepfoundation.org

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)

  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

There are a few variables as we do have different needs dependent on fitness levels, weight, health issues etc.

Overall though, we all need to sleep undisturbed to function and allow our brain to rest. This includes leaving phones turned off and preferably away from the bedroom. A child should never have a phone or any electronics in the bedroom as it makes it too easy to be reachable. My daughter was one of them a few years ago, she kept on getting messages from needy friends in the middle of the night and it disturbed her sleep badly. I had to step in and remove it and told her to tell her friends she has the worst mum in the world!

The need to be available 24/7 is creating a society that is unhealthy and stressful. What choices do we have? At what stage do we realise what this is doing to our health?

As parents, we are the adults and decision makers for our children when it comes to knowing what’s best for them. Dare to be the ‘worst parents in the world’ because that comes with being the loving, caring parents we need to be. Boundaries are necessary for a child to learn right from wrong and they will thank you later on!

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Is the world different now?

Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remembered the millions of people murdered by the Nazis, and in the genocides since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Most of us know about this and spare a thought every now and then. What a horrendous thing to happen…

How different is the world today? Could this happen again in Europe??

I do wonder at times and it makes me sad to think how narrow minded and easily persuaded us humans are. Some more than others but generally most of us can get convinced of something that feels wrong to start with.

How can this be avoided? What do we need to stay strong in our beliefs and remain decent, caring human beings?

One thing I know is that parents have a massive influence on their children whether they like it or not. The way we bring our children up, show and teach them our values that influences them immensely.

By being role models, showing rather than saying, we teach our kids right from wrong.

This does not stop just because they become teenagers and don’t want to listen. It’s our job and responsibility to continue to be present and pay attention to what are children are doing, who they hang out with and who they ‘meet’ online.

  • Be a parent, not a friend.

  • Set boundaries and enforce them.

  • Be empathic to their problems.

  • Support the kids and listen without judging.

  • Again, be a ROLE MODEL.

We can if we try, and they are worth it!

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What colour do you feel?

I was sitting this weekend with my son as he put together a page in his photography portfolio on colour and we had a very interesting discussion about the different colours and how they represent people, moods, attitudes and feelings. It reminded me of when I had a ‘mood ring’ in my younger days and how I’d watch it change colour from day to day.

So what is colour and how does it work?

There are four psychological primary colours - red, blue, yellow and green. Each of them relate to the body, the mind and emotion and how these 3 elements are (or are not) balanced. The trick is to understand how these colours can how power over you and your emotions and how you can use them to your advantage.

The colour RED represents physicality.  Strength, energy, that ‘fight or flight’ reaction or in a negative way can suggest stress or even aggression.  Red often grabs our attention first which is why it is used with ‘stop’ traffic lights.  Red makes your pulse race faster (think love symbolised as a red heart).

BLUE refects intelligence, communication, trust and calm.  It makes us think of blue skies and releasing the mind.  It works with us on a mental (rather than a physical) level and is said to help with concentration.  However, too much blue can feel distant and even unemotional.

YELLOW is the colour of emotion and personality.  It demonstrates friendliness and creative impulses and optimism.  On a negative note it can be linked with emotional concerns such as anxiety and depression.  Using the right colour yellow will lift spirits and self-esteem and give the wearer/viewer confidence and a feeling of optimism.  Too much or the wrong tone can make you feel panic, fear and anxiety.

Finally, GREEN is about balance.  Green promotes nature, rest, peace and awareness and is often used to promote a sense of calm.  Too much green can suggest boredom and stagnation and being bland.

From these 4 primary colours comes a surge of ‘mixed’ hues that allow for a range of emotions, feelings and responses.  They are study in themselves.

Usually when we select colours to wear, paint a room, highlight a text, pick out an object it is done on a sub-conscious level, but there is always more behind the choice.  We are naturally drawn to certain colours and this can change depending on the way we are feeling, what we are trying to accomplish and the message we are wanting to relay.

So for today.  Have a look at the colour chart here and see which colour you naturally respond to.  What is your physical (body reaction), intellectual (what do you think), emotional (what do you feel) and psychological (how do you want to act) response to the colours.  Ask yourself why?

See how often this changes and when it changes.  Ask yourself why?

Colour can be a tool that you can use to build your self-esteem, your confidence.  It can help to portray a message to others subliminally or be part of a campaign with an objective to get a certain feeling or message across.

there are some different schools of thought eg DISC personality profiling that uses colour references as well as lots of additional reading available online about colour psychology and colour mood charts: https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824

Today I am wearing black and blue for a meeting, so I guess that makes me wanting to exude both power and trust!

How about you?

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This Can Happen....

Åse and I were very fortunate to be able to attend a mental health event in London last week called, This Can Happen. Tag lined, ‘Where Companies Address Mental Health in the Workplace’, over 750 people attended a day focused on making things happen!

One of the standout moments for me was when HRH The Duke of Cambridge joined a panel to share his own experience of mental health during his work with the Air Ambulance. This really highlighted how wide the net is flung with mental health affecting every single person in a variety of contexts and situations. His candor at how different stages of your life can produce different reactions to events really hit home. There is no ‘one size fits all’ or ‘box to tick’ to address mental health and this was really evident in the personal stories and discussions that were part of this event.

The more we talk about mental health, the more we chip away at the stigma around it and move towards a cultural shift in both organisations, communities and individuals. There is so much more talk taking place - such a fantastic change compared to even just a few years ago! Promoting open communication and genuine care and concern for each other is no longer the exception - but becoming the norm. Organisations are now getting serious about the business of mental health as part of their Corporate Strategies, but more importantly, they are really starting to care!

But what about us? What about those who are not working in big Corporates? What can we do? We need to care and communicate and to be part of the wave of movement where mental health and wellbeing are part of daily conversations. To be vigilant and mindful of ourselves and others and start our conversations with, ‘how are you feeling today?’ Ask twice: ‘how are you feeling today?’

One thing is certain. We can all make a difference, and together….THIS CAN HAPPEN!

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What does family mean?

Following some recent conversations about our Company name ‘Family Focus UK’, Åse and I were prompted to pose a new question on our homepage…‘What does family mean?’

When we joined forces, Åse and I were both working predominantly with parenting and we were both extremely passionate about its importance and the family structure. We wanted to focus on this notion of ‘family’ - hence our choice of Company name, Family Focus UK.

However, the tremendous growth in the talk, publicity and awareness of mental health and wellbeing has morphed our work from a purely parenting focus to one that includes a wider scope of topics. So then. Do we change our Company name from ‘Family’ to ‘something else?’

Absolutely not! Because the word ‘family’ is no longer a singular explanation from an olde-worlde version of 2 parents and 2 children. Family has evolved over time to encompass so much more:

In the context of human society, a family is a group of people related either by consanguinity (recognised birth), affinity (marriage or other relationship) or co-existence

Members of the immediate family may include spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. Members of the extended family may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and siblings-in-law

Family can relate to places of work or associates by proximity

In most societies, the family is the principal institution for the socialisation of children.

The word "family" can be used metaphorically to create more inclusive categories such as community, nationhood, global village and humanism

We believe that family is a lot more than your birth connections. Family is your community that you build around you. Your work colleagues, football club, your Church, your choir, your neighbours and school friends. Family is the unit you connect with that brings value to your life and gives you purpose. Family can be given to you with birth, or you can create it yourself by forming relationships and connections that matter.

So - who is your family? What are you doing to protect them and nurture them? Do they know that you consider them family? If so - show them!

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The invisible people

There are invisible people all around us. We might see them as we pass but we don’t SEE them.

At school, in the workplace, at the cafe, in a family… They are everywhere!

What makes someone invisible? Is it just in their own heads or is it as real for them as it was for Harry Potter whilst wearing the invisibility cloak?

I think the latter. In my work as a counsellor and coach, I come across people who feel on the outside of society and not seen. They are not noticed, not paid attention to and just ignored. What a horrible feeling that must be!

There is one client in particular that I have never forgotten. He was a man in his mid-20s and living in a bedsit. He said he had never been seen by his family and would just spend the time at home in his room, gaming and smoking weed. No interaction, no ‘How are you?’ or ‘Would you like dinner?’ Nothing. He said that no one cared and he might as well be invisible.

As a parent, that made me so sad for this lost boy. He needed love and attention in his life. That goes a long way to enable growing up.

There are of course lots of more people who feel like this and never seek help. The elderly in our country is a big group where isolation and loneliness is a big problem.

Why is this? What can we do to help?

This is where being a human and noticing others around us can help. Is there a child that rarely gets to play or get spoken to in your child’s class? Can your child engage with him or her?

Are there people in the office who rarely talk and engage with the rest? Why is that? Have you tried to connect?

In the adult world, we easily and often make assumptions and pass judgement on others without actually knowing them. Can this be the case with some of your work colleagues?

Inclusion is vital in the workplace and all around us.

Become aware of the people around us and be inclusive. Maybe there is a new friend nearby!

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People Matter!

I have just returned from a visit back ‘home’ to Cape Town where I’ve been reminded of what really matters.  And it is summed up in one word.  People. People who are family.  People who are friends.  And people who you have never seen before and will never see again.

The positive and vocal African welcome at the airport started a trip that was a humbling reminder of all that truly matters – connecting with people.

I always worry before ‘going home’.  Will I have to apologise for my lack of communication, my bad time management in that I never seem to keep in touch properly? Will I feel guilty that I’ve missed events and occasions and birthdays and I’ll never be able to make it up to my loved ones?  Guilt is a very real emotion for a lot of people – never more so than those living away from home.

And then, you see them and it’s as if time has stood still and you pick up exactly where you left off.  Conversations just seem to continue and the initial need to say ‘sorry for all I haven’t done’ – disappears.  Why is that?   

So much depends on the connections you have with people.  The relationships that you have established over time and the memories you have created.  If they are strong and intact then you will find that this solid foundation has not moved.  

So, this led me to consider the relationships around me now.  How much of a priority am I making the people in my life now?  I have had the privilege of moving over 9 times but with this comes a trail of people and friends left behind in different places that I want to prioritise, but find it very, very hard to find the time to do.  Am I forfeiting possibilities with people in the here and now by trying to maintain and hold onto connections from the past?  Is it physically possible to find the time, energy and resources to do both? 

Working parents also vocalise living with guilt that they are not spending enough time with their children and families. But working is a part of life and sets good examples for children on work ethic and responsibilities.

So what is the solution?

I believe the answer is being present in each and every situation and encounter with people as it happens.  Of connecting, focusing and being active in the moment so that the person (people) you are with both feels and knows that they are a priority for you.  If they matter, make sure they know it.  Make sure that the connection between you is one that builds layers each time you are together and that the moments have meaning for you both.

Every human being needs a purpose in life and no matter who you speak to, you will get a similar response.  A crucial sense of purpose that we all need is feeling connected to others and knowing that you matter to someone else.

So if someone matters to you - tell them.  Show them!  Make moments count and value your time and connections.  Don’t leave things unsaid and undone.  Live each day and be present in your life.   Build emotional blocks to give you (and them) a sense of purpose - which is a basic human need for us all.

People are a pivotal part of life and a privilege – make them a priority.

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World Mental Health Day - 10th October 2018

We’d like to highlight the amazing work being done around the world to both prioritise and de-stigmatise mental health. World Mental Health Day tomorrow is about supporting each other and having conversations to enable and encourage open and honest dialogue around wellbeing and mental health.

The focus this year is particularly on young people, so Åse and I decided that we would go out and ask some young people (aged 14 - 26) their views on 2 questions. The first was:-

“what is the hardest thing about being a young person today?”

Answers included:

“… social media; social media; pressure of internet; social media; stress with school; stress with exams; social media; social media…”

It was interesting how little hesitation there was when they answered this question. It was absolutely, without doubt, social media that was seen as the hardest thing to cope with as a young person today. Next was stress. Our young people are feeling a lot of stress around school work and exams!

Our next question was:-

“What does Mental Health mean to you?”

Answers included:

“ …living behind a facade; anxiety and depression; not feeling good about yourself; not too sure exactly; something to do with how you’re feeling; not coping; not to be taken as a joke…”

With this question, there was less of a theme. Some responses showed they knew a bit, but not necessarily enough or didn’t feel confident to reply. There were a variety of answers.

What was encouraging was how open and honest the young people were in their responses and how they did not shy away from the questions. They certainly seemed to be aware of mental health although not necessarily as confident or unanimous in their replies..

So our job then would be to keep the mental health momentum that seems to be with young people today going. To keep the conversations flowing so that when they enter the workplace this type of conversation and relatability is standard practise.

And something else we can do. We can add our voice in support of World Mental Health Day by wearing a green ribbon or something green tomorrow, 10th October 2018.

If you feel it or think it….SAY IT!

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A Poll taken by the WorldMentalHealthDay showed how important awareness and education is!

A Poll taken by the WorldMentalHealthDay showed how important awareness and education is!