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Ten New Years resolutions that will help your mental health

2018-background-celebration-714703It’s New Year’s Day and I am hungover. Not the best start to the year but my mind seems to be in a good place and I am determined to start this year as I mean to go on. My mental heath is a priority to me, and in my opinion it should be everyone’s priority. Some of us may assume that our mental health is always going to be good but why take it for granted.

I have made ten resolutions that I think will help you stay mentally healthy…

1. Get more exercise

I try to run three times a week, I plan on continuing this and also would like to add some strength exercises because I am not getting any younger and my arm skin is starting to flap. The benefits of exercise are multiple, not only does it help you stay in shape but for me it’s a mental exercise, a time to reflect and also gives me the best sense of achievement. Get yourself moving!!

2. Get more sleep

I am a terrible sleeper, I regularly wake at 2.30am and stay awake for hours. So this year sleep is going to be my priority. I am going to ensure I relax in the evening, read instead of being on my phone and get to bed early. I have said it time and time again but lack of sleep is my number one trigger for my mental health to slip, so it makes sense that it is my priority.

3. Get off your phone

The new iphone updates remind me of the amount of screen time I have had. Its shocking and I am pretty sure I am not alone. The problem with our phones and social media is that its a constant comparison competition and thats not healthy. We rarely post a pic of a really average fairly lousy day but we do post the happy moments. Even though we are aware that this isnt a true reflection of peoples lives we still compare ourselves. So for me, the phone is going down more and I am going to enjoy my life and those around me.

4. Learn something new

For christmas I got roller skates and I am determined to become good at it (i will be cursing myself when I am sat in a&e next week with a broken wrist). Its about doing something for yourself and having a sense of achievement. I also want to make some crochet goods (a crochetting roller skater I hear you say). Pick something that you have always wanted to do and go for it (it can be big or small).

5. Plan your life

I love lists and I love a calendar but I still forget things. When I forget something I feel bad in myself. So lets plan more. I like to have a full page diary so I can list what I need to do each day. I also have a calendar for the whole family to use. A sense of being organised is incredibly calming for your mind.

6. Learn to meditate

At Christmas I was discussing this with my brother and we both want to work on taking my mind to a place of calm, to clarify our thoughts and have more peace. I have an app on my phone but eventually I want to be able to just do it myself, anywhere. By giving yourself a couple fo minutes everyday will give you so many benefits and massively reduce your stress levels.beach-calm-dawn-267967.jpg

7. Keep a diary

Whether its a blog or an actual diary its very cathartic to write down your thoughts. Its sometimes easier to read your thoughts once written down, plus I dont think we write enough nowadays. I plan on having a physical diary and from that I will use my thoughts to write blogs, or not… its just about releasing some of your feelings, worries and stresses.

8. Be kinder to yourself

Self belief is not something that comes naturally to me and I am very critical of myself. So this year I want to work on the words that I tell myself become kinder. I want to cut myself some slack and look at the positive things that I do. Self affirmations are a great way to start, write a list of what you want to hear about yourself and what you want to achieve in your day “I will be great today” “I will be kind today” “I am a strong person”.

9. Help others 

By helping others you are able to leave your own troubles and focus on someone else. It also allows you to connect with other people. I am not saying that you have to go out and volunteer all of your time but just the odd job here and there. Help a friend with the school run? Help an elderly relative take their shopping in? It doesnt matter what it is but I always thing that these good deeds will be payed back to you when you need help.

10. Be Thankful

Stop and think about all the wonderful aspects of your life (list them if need be). I soend so much time worrying about things and focusing on things that I cannot control I have prone to forgetting what I have. Take being thankful into your everyday and your outlook of life will become far more positive.advertisement-advertising-font-519

So I hope these 10 resolutions will help you, I have also written a few more personal ones for myself but I think these are pretty good all rounders.

Happy New Year to you all, since writing this my hangover has lessened slightly and i feel inspired to get my arse into gear and get dressed. Heres to a brilliant 2019.

xxx

 

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Separated parents, parenting together

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We live in the modern world and a considerable percentage of us are not with the mother/father of our child. This is the case with me, but I have 2 ex’s and 3 children. My eldest two from my first marriage, and my youngest from a relationship after that. Having to deal with ex partners/husbands/ wives can be a nightmare, especially at the beginning, but what I have learnt along the way and what I am still learning is that having a “bad” relationship is unhealthy and destructive to your child, but also for your own well being.

When I was going through my divorce I never thought my ex husband and I would ever be friendly again, we couldn’t talk to each other and used (very expensive) lawyers as go between, by the end of the divorce and child residency I alone wracked up a bill of £30,000. It is such a ludicrous amount of money, but when I look back at it now do I regret that cost? no I don’t, because through it all, through all the courses and meetings, mediation and solicitors letter, I learnt a great deal and I am proud of my relationships that I have with my daughters fathers. I learnt from my first break up how to deal with the second and a lot of it is quite simple.

There was a stage where, during our court process, the only words that were passed between my daughters’ father and I were via a ‘communications book’, now thinking of it it seems awful but actually it was a very sensible way to ensure that no bad words were ever passed in front of the children, also this communication book could be called into court at any time so it made us be think before we wrote (this was a valuable lesson). It is something that both the court and CAFCASS would recommend if needed. In fact the suggestion of a communication book came about because we were both sent on a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) course by the judge. You go separately but I wasn’t sure about it but knew I had to, and I am so pleased I did. We were shown a heartbreaking film which demonstrated the impact that poor communication between separated parents has on children. As a group and with the teachers we discussed the film, one point that was reiterated and is very common in the modern age were messages sent via texts and other apps, due to not having to face the person, nor hear the voice it is easy to let the situation become angry and words can get typed that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face (obviously this is the most common way to communicate, but while things are fraught its most likely the worst approach). If an argument happens in this way, the parent who has the child in their care will be affected by it and that will impact the child, it made me realise how destructive it was. Sometimes now, when I am in a conversation with either Dad and I can feel it veering towards bad vibes the conversation stops for another day. 9 times out of 10 nothing more needs to get talked about, it was all in that moment and could have easily escalated.

Whether it’s in the early stages, or further along (when new partners are involved, or house moves happen), it is sometimes very hard to come to an understanding of what is going to happen with decisions to do the children, it is easy to always find fault in the other parent’s suggestions due to anger you may feel. What was reiterated by SPIPs was the fact you cannot control the other parent (whether straight after the separation or 5 years down the line) and you can only be responsible for yourself. What I also found very true was that up until recently you had been in a relationship with this person, you had loved them at one point (most probably) and you had chosen to have a child with them. So to then change your tune after breaking up and conclude that the other parent is incapable or has faults will not only seem insincere but also will be projected onto your child/children as perhaps a feeling they did not come from a loving relationship. Your job as a parent is to be the adult, and the best thing for your child is to support the other parent.

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After our course we came up with a child residency order which was agreed on but then was altered a few years later. During the second round of the court process we were sent to CAFCASS and we had meetings with a team who spoke with great insight into co parenting and the benefits for children. We covered many topics and made ‘contracts’ about the upbringing of the girls, they helped us open up communications and taught us that it was imperative for our kids to make decisions together. I am not saying it was all easy, but due to the fact we were not in the midst of our own break up, it allowed us to be productive rather than blaming each other. Some relationships, even years later constantly blame and have a power struggle, but I will talk about that next). The point that was very evident was that we were not in a relationship anymore  and so though we could make it hard for the other person and throw words at each other, the only person it will ever hurt is the child.

When my next break up happened, things could have been very difficult and I think that our relationship and break up could have ended in a high conflict situation, but I am really proud at the decision from both of us to to have a unity for our daughter. We knew she was and is the only thing that matters and once you come to terms with the fact you are not together there is no need for anything other that parental duties.

High conflict parents will be the first to tell you that it’s not their fault, I have met many people like this, and it is not a criticism (I absolutely understand how it feels, its where i was many moons ago), but it is hindering themselves and their children. They will always blame the other parent and I can clearly remember a judge in court one day telling me that once you get in to a situation where you are constantly arguing it is only with mediation that you will have some calm. To quote The Happy Family Lawyer “They will be so far involved in their own conflict that they won’t be able to see the ‘wood for the trees’. Only with specialised professional assistance can these parents improve their parenting techniques.”. It is also key to remember that it doesn’t matter who started or didn’t start an argument, you are not in control of anyone else but yourself, it takes two to tango and I am sure when these explosions occur between two ex’s the starting discussion is a distant memory.

So to conclude on my journey, most of the time I have a calm and steady “friendship” with the Dads of my daughters, I have learnt that they will ALWAYS be in my life, so why would I waste my energy feeling any anger for them (not that I do), but when something annoys me, I don’t rise to it, as long as my children are safe and well that’s all that matters. I also always try to be respectful, so always including them in decisions about the girls, for example which school they go to or whether to have certain immunisations. No matter who the children reside with the majority of the time, it doesn’t give you the right to be sole decision maker. (That being said it is not the resident parents job to inform the other of when events are happening or school choices are being made, both sign up to school emails and both keep upto date with the milestones of your children).

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I have summarised a few important factors that I learnt so far on my journey and I am always interested in hearing feedback from my blogs, or just any other information anyone has about successful co parenting.

I will attach links to a few websites that I found very helpful, especially the programme booklet for the SPIP course I went on.

  • Respect that your children may have different feelings to your own
  • Do not use your child as a messenger
  • DON’T make it a power struggle
  • Think about what you can do, not what your ex partner should/ shouldn’t be doing
  • Make small steps towards the end goal
  • Look after yourself and be the best you can for your children
  • Have faith in the other parent, no matter how they treat you don’t fight fire with fire.

CAFCASS

SPIPS

THE HAPPY LAWYER

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Today the fog came down

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My name’s Jo and I have depression. It’s not a badge I wear often but it is something that I live with, it’s something that so many of us live with and what us people (who live with it) will know is that some days are a great deal harder than the others, what those of you who don’t have depression won’t know is that the hard days can feel impossible and it’s like a grey fog descending onto your world, a thick fog that almost makes it hard to move let alone see clearly.

Today is one of those days and I have never written about how a bad day feels like so I thought, with my journey of writing and self improvement, it could be a cathartic exercise.

I actually felt the fog come down yesterday evening, it came on all of a sudden. I am very tired (I have previously said that lack of sleep is my number one trigger to the dark place) and I am  coming out of having the flu, so my body isn’t really playing ball physically. I had worked all day, done the school runs, done the clubs, been to the shop, made two lots of dinner (for the youngsters and then us adults), hung up the washing, then did bedtime,  and that’s where my line was drawn, I had had enough. If it had been up to my head I would have just gone to bed and probably should have done, I felt achy and my lingering cough was annoying me. I sat on the sofa and even the dogs’ sleepy breathing was getting to me. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault to my mood being this way it was simply my depression reminding me that she is still there.

There is no logic (apart from sleep deprivation) to the ups and downs of my depression, I am on a good run at the moment and am really trying to improve my mental well being by making positive steps in my life. This blog I have started is doing really well and I am really enjoying it, I am using my brain when I write and I find I am reading so many more articles that a broadening my learning.

If I just look at where I am with my week I should feel I am doing really well, I have just survived the kid weekend and the house stayed relatively tidy (as I had a big push on Sunday to get jobs done and not get myself into a panic), I have been to my little job (which over the past month just hasn’t happened due to illness of myself and kids) and the husband and I are going away next week for our anniversary which is going to be amazing. Life should be looking peachy, yet as I am well aware of this means nothing when it comes to the fog.

I woke this morning immediately knowing it had not left (not helped by Frankie waking 3 times in the middle of the night) but I set off with my routine and my normal techniques to keep the mood at bay. I make a nice coffee, I get the girls to school and I wrote my list of jobs (my daily list is my way of keeping on top of things but also reminding myself of what I have done and achieved). It does help and as I tick those jobs off, safe in the knowledge the kids are happy at school my mood sometimes begins to budge, but I can’t shake this off today. I note bad days because if I go over a week of it I will maybe book in with the doc,  but generally this doesn’t happen. The sun is even shining which normally helps me hugely (I don’t know if I actually suffer from SADS but a grey sky really hinders my outlook).

I am trying so hard to be positive but I still want to give up a little and cry. On days like today it is the children that get me through because deep down I want to curl away from the world, I want to shut the door and shut everything out. I can’t, because I am a Mum, but today the school run was a struggle, keeping eye contact was hard and even being interested in my daughters day I find myself zoning in and out, but I did it.

So as I sit and write this I realise that it has in fact helped me. Just noting the good and realising that I did too much yesterday puts my head in perspective, I am human and not indestructible, it was understandable that I got to my limit. I must look after myself, because going a million miles an hour and not stopping to eat and rest will put anyone in a bad mood. This evening my friend is coming for tea with her kids, it will force me stop and I have prepared everything so that we have food ready and even a bottle of wine if we fancy a little glass.

I just need to remind myself that life is good, it’s Wednesday already,  and come the end of the week I will have a little break from the kids and I will enjoy my days with my husband and our anniversary (and hopefully a few cocktails!). I am also going to work hard the next few days to be ready with blogs to post up next week so that I dont panic when I am away. I will even get my nails painted as a treat. 

I am so lucky and need to just stop and breath a bit more. None of this will stop me having depression, but my aim for the future is to have a little more control over it and instead of letting it rule me completely, I would like to own it even if just slightly.

I am almost through today and hope that tomorrow feels lighter. lts about taking one day at a time. 

If anyone has any good daily tricks and tips to break through a temporary mood please let me know, I am on a journey of self improvement and in no way do I know it all. I think if we can help each other we will all feel good for it.

Jo xx

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Comparison Parenting

As women we are terrible for comparing ourselves to others, add to that becoming a mother and we become so much worse. We then compare ourselves, our parenting and (shock horror) our children.

It starts off when you become a first time mum talking to other mums because you want to get advice and bounce off each other, but as soon as you start to hit milestones (lifting head, rolling over, sitting up) then it is honestly impossible not to compare our own little babies with someone elses little bundle who somehow seems more advanced.
I remember going to a weigh in session with my eldest, I was sat next to another Mummy who was exhausted because her 9 month old kept running up the stairs when her back was turned. My jaw must have dropped, because my daughter would just sit and hadn’t ever come close to crawling, she hated tummy time and though strong on her legs, she just didn’t want to move. There was more chance her fluffy rabbit would run up the stairs.
I left the clinic and I found myself trying to justify it. It was probably because Anya was a little early or because she was a girl (not my normal feminist slant on life but I was desperate for an explanation) or, god forbid, was it because she wouldn’t breast feed????
Three months later, Anya was walking and those thoughts were a distant memory. (Also I have since had a 9 month old walker and it is in fact exhausting).

Sometimes my mind would go on a bender due to bragging mums (or proud mums may be a better way to define them), I remember an aquaintance once telling me her daughter had done a 35 piece jigsaw that morning (the kids were about 18 months old), I looked down at Tabitha (daughter number 2) as she was wrongly stabbing a wooden Melissa and Doug cockerel piece into the tractor hole of her farm puzzle and felt like I had failed her completely. Now looking back I realise that the mother who told me this probably wasn’t speaking the entire truth and if she was, well done for her little one because I am telling you Tabsy would have more likely eaten the 35 piece puzzle.

The comparing and worries don’t stop and when they start school it brings up a whole new pot of potential comparisons to make, the playground is the perfect place for proud parents to speak about their childs achievements, leaving mothers like me crumbling with self doubt. Whether it be which reading level your child is on, what part they got in the nativity or how many school awards they have had in assembly it just makes you compare (not always negativly, I must add). I feel very sorry for my eldest daughter, she is at secondary school now so had to have the full 7 years of my neurotic primary school sizing up.
Looking at all these differences I never blame/blamed my children, I blamed myself, I put it down to my bad genes or lack of my time with them. What’s abundantly clear to me now is that all this time I spent panicking about my failings were a complete waste, and if I am being truthful probably detrimental to my girls.

Kids are different and that is a fact. I have three daughters so it would be quite easy to compare them, but weirdly I don’t. I wouldn’t even consider it as they are completely different to each other and all have their own strengths and weaknesses, yet I constantly compared my daughters to random children.
I believe it is a natural thing to do but it needs to be something we should be aware of, not something that affects us. Yes, make note of what other children around you are doing as it can highlight you to real developmental and health problems (my youngest still walks on tiptoes and now is being referred to see a surgeon, I realised she should have grown out of it by seeing other kids her age walking flat footed, this is a positive comparison). What I have stopped doing is comparing abilities and seeing the difference as a problem but also to stop seeing it as result, yes be proud of our children accomplishments but be proud of them in their own right not because it is they are better than another.

My girls are my girls and they will reach these government implicated milestones when they are ready, they will also tick the schools boxes of academia when their brain allows but in the mean time they will flourish on everything else around them. My eldest daughter is academic, but not “sporty”, this may change or it may not (who cares), my second daughter will flip herself around the lounge in her leotard and has a flair for art, but she won’t sit on her own and read for love nor money. Lastly there is my third daughter who is 3, so I think that’s enough for her to get on with, isn’t it?

Love your kids, support them and help them fulfil their dreams, but from someone who knows, don’t keep them in a box of expectations because one of the most fabulous things about being a mum is knowing that your children have a glass ceiling to their potential and watching them on their journeys is magical, I can’t wait to see what is yet to come.

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