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Mel Riley

Mel Riley

I'm Mel Riley: a specialist counsellor and superviser in WV1, West Midlands. Here to listen and just talk to you, I can help you work your way through whatever problem you're facing.

 

Wednesday, 06 March 2019 13:05

Families

Parenting

A parent tells me "I have tried everything from begging and pleading to removing all privaledges nothing works". I ask how do you feel, "pissed off, angry frustrated and tired, she never listens to me".

Then we talk about the feelings she did not name, such as sad, and helpless. "What would you say if I told you that all this might be going on for your child too". Slowly I help parents stop focusing on behaviours and to tune in more to their child. To stop sounding like a broken record and take care of themselves. 

Parenting relationally takes longer, but it can be a total life changer. Learning to understand and trust each other, to work on reliability and accountability issues, is all part of the work we do together. Sure you can bully to get compliance from a kid and take stuff off them, but whats the real cost? If you wouldn't do it to an adult it has no place in your parenting with a child. If you want behaviour change in your child, you have to change yourself first.

Kids learn from you and sometimes, help is required to tune in and do things differently.

We live in a world thats focused on behaviour management when it should be emotions/feeling management.

I'm trying to change that.. one family at a time, if you need support with relationships get in touch, for a free confidential chat. I offer compassion and understanding, workable techniques that will help you become a better listner, improve communication,reduce conflict, decrease loneliness and improve your connction with your family members. 

 
Tuesday, 06 June 2017 13:53

The True Cost of Dyslexia/Dyspraxia

Hello, I am Mel and apparently I am dyslexic and dyspraxic, can someone stop the disability bus please, because I want to get off. This post invites you into the head of someone with a neuro-diverse brain. There is so much in my head that needs to go onto the paper but it just ends up in a jumbled up repetitive mess. Please don't send me writing strategies or I might just punch you, and if one more person tell me Steve Jones was dyslexic I may not be responsible for my actions (You have been warned!).

I am not normally prone to angry outbursts but some days it just effing sucks! This brain slows me down and makes the smallest jobs a flipping nightmare. Everyone posts about the positives to neuro-diverse brains, I know there are some dyslexic geniuses out there but there is a lot of people feeling pretty shit about them too. When left unsupported it can lead to anxiety and depression and other mental health difficulties.

Confession time, I am so jealous of the book and course writers out there, you have no idea how long I have messed about with this bit of writing and half the time I don't hit the post button out of fear of judgement. Yes I know there are standards but I struggle to reach them in the writing department. Writing the words for a book overwhelms me, I have no structure and the subjects I could write on is too vast to get any focus.

I just want someone to just do the writing for me, I really need someone to translate my words into text for me as I think it might be quicker, however stubborn me wants to do it myself.  I was only diagnosed 12 months ago, when I got overwhelmed with a doctorate and decided I preferred the client work to coding research data. The whole process of research felt like I'd been asked to dig to France with a teaspoon, when I knew I needed a JCB. I was sad and angry when diagnosed. Angry that it had not been picked up earlier and with myself that it took so long for the penny to drop. Sad because I am stuck this way!

When you run your own business there are all these jobs to manage, the blog writing, invoicing, appointments, emails to write and I have been asked to deliver training. That gets in me in such a muddle. My accountant needs a medal for patience. I have complex processing disorder so information just seems to get out of control.

There must be a million people like me out there, some diagnosed some not but all struggling in one way or another. I risk the fear of ridicule for my poor grammar and the over sharing because I think its important to talk about the cost of these disabilities to our health and our full potential.

I am only half way up the potential tree and its so frustrating I could toss the laptop out the window. But I would have to buy another one and it comes with Windows 10, which would mean having to learn how to do simple things all over again, that's if I can remember my password to get into my google accounts. Why do they keep upgrading everything. I just learn how to work something and overnight they move all the buttons. If its not broke just don't fix it. Please please stop the necessary upgrading.

Seriously there are days I would give anything to have better short term memory. I know the grammar in this post is really rubbish and some of you will be horrified but I know my stuff and most of the time I do more than OK. I just can't flipping structure well. I lose everything and fall over my own feet a lot but I continue to run, ride my bike and pray its not the day to sit in A&E.

My experience at school was awful I was called thick, stupid, clumsy and I felt awkward, I know I am smart but there are some things that just don't work well. Some of us are smart we just can't show it so well in our essay writing or exams.

If you are dyspraxic dyslexic or struggling with anything I urge you to speak out about it, and if you can get support. I get how hard it is to live with something that just won't get any better. Sorry if I sound whinging or whiney. I just think its time to stop feeling ashamed and speak out about how flipping hard it is. I hope that this will encourage people to get support and to know that despite the difficulties it is possible to cope with disabilities and amount to something. I hope you feel less alone too.

I wonder if there had been support earlier would I have I tried so hard or would I have settled for less and hidden behind the labels.. I am pretty determined and courageous in my own little way, although the clumsy stupid has slowed me down. I going to post this attempt at writing about dyslexia as I have tried several times and given up. Determination is a great quality and I have that in abundance thankfully.

Often people you have writing or reading difficulties but its so much more than that, I love books and read well. I struggle with logistics and hate driving to new places, because there is too much to do, my rights and lefts don't work well and I get mixed up, I can't remember the instructions and the people beeping in the car behind you because you're in the wrong lane, does not help. It can be so very stressful. Sometimes my brain goes into meltdown and tears can happen on the very challenging days. What other people do without thinking can take me an age. However there are some moments of brilliance. I can remember a clients partner and dogs name that came back to therapy after several years! Don't ask me how?

When travelling I prefer the train and I know others prefer the safety of the car, we are all very different with our disabilities. I get lost a lot and sometimes I want to cry and swap this flipping brain but then that wouldn't be me. Acceptance is key, I know this as a therapist but sometimes it gets lost, like my sunglasses. I calm down eventually and I have learnt to leave time, to get lost, calm down, recover and get to the damn conference that I was so excited about attending.

Well there you go inside a dyslexic's head, it feels like I live with a thief most days items just vanish and can take ages to find. I am still missing gloves form Bonfire night. So that's me and my struggle with disability It. does not define me but it does make life a challenge. Here are some of the things that have worked for me.

  • I have spares items where possible, if you lose stuff due to short term memory problems, partners and dogs are excluded. luckily they follow me around.
  • I use a day note book because I cant trust my memory.
  • Be disciplined only have one note book, I know you'll lose it and be tempted to get another out but don't. Find it because four books on the go just doesn't work. If I really have to write something on paper, I transfer it to the note book as soon as possible.
  • I use an electronic diary that's backed up, it gives you reminders and it tells you when you overlap. It also helps when you lose or drop your phone and break it.
  • Leave plenty of time to get to places if you get lost a lot, nothing worse than having to stress about being late too. Don't be frightened to say your prone to getting lost I have asked people to come and get me from reception in large buildings.
  • Don't over pack your diary as it can take longer than you anticipate if a muddle happens
  • Consider apps if it makes your life easier, the underground app that works out my routes is great for me, and when I forget the route, I can look at my phone instead of fighting the crowds for the map.
  • Declutter and have homes for your belonging, train yourself to drop your keys in the same place, this is working.
  • Don't beat yourself up if you get it in a muddle be kind to yourself
  • I carry headphones for noise and shades for bright places due to sensory issues.

If you mess up, own your mistakes, apologize explain what happened and most people will be accepting and forgiving. You will get a jerk that doesn't get it but peoples behavior says more about them than you.

Self care is so important, while I sound chaotic, most of the time its calm and quiet here and the chaos is intermittent. I have got much better at relaxing Be gentle with yourself, its not your fault you got wired up this way.

Get in touch if you need support and if you are offended by my lack of grammar, I am sure you can find something else to read. I just don't give a stuff, I have been quiet for way too long, through the shame of not being able to make the grade!

Anyone who wants to to be my book editor can get in touch! eek!!!!!

Best wishes Mel & River

Tuesday, 06 June 2017 13:48

Toxic Shame - Struggling to show up

I’d like to talk about shame, and what it does to a human, I am a human so I will use myself, that way I don’t risk upsetting anyone as I own the copy-write for me. I love the use of story, so I am hoping this story will help you to feel less alone if your courage is hard to find. So here goes…

One day I was in school and the Headteachers PA came to find me, she said “Mel, Sarah (the Headteacher) wants to see you, can you make an appointment”. I felt my stomach clench, my heart-rate increase and my first thought was “oh my god what have I done”. I am I being fired!

I made the appointment and had one week to wait until I found out what she wanted. I am suddenly 10 and in trouble again and that meant punishments and feeling ashamed for what I couldn't do. Except I am not 10, I am 40+ so why I am I feeling this way? 

I put it down to history, I wasn’t parented with kindness, always in trouble for something, I wasn’t even sure half the time what I had done and the messages received were I was not enough this or too much of that. The pain and disconnection from your adult as a child is frightening and painful. Blaming and shaming from poor parenting is harmful and it’s not something we forget. These events get wired into a nervous systems, they call it trauma and I think it leaves us with this toxic shame. Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk says “The body keeps the score”. Babbette Rothchild says in her book and teachings “the body remembers”.

Well mine certainly does and for a moment mine had gone into terror mode and I am transported back to far gone days. I breathed out, went home and tried to convince myself it would be OK. One week later standing outside the heads office I feel 10 again and struggle to trust its going to be OK.  I went in and asked “am I in trouble”. "No” laughed Sarah the Head Teacher, “not at all” came the reply. Her smile helped me calm some more. “I want to pick your brains about something as you know more about this than I do”. Oh, she wanted to ask my advice about the best way to deal with an incident at school. I was not being fired after all. She wanted advice, I was able to go back to being Mel the School Counsellor and share my experience and my learning. Owning my experience and knowledge is something I am getting used to.

Nobody knows that this terror that lives inside of me, or inside of you. I get scared quite a lot, on the outside I look quite capable and I am, but there is often a lot going on inside that is not seen. So I want to talk about that, because I suspect I am not alone.

When bad things happen to us as children we feel bad, this maybe abuse neglect or poor parenting, its painful and this toxic shame lives with us. It can really stop us reaching our full potential and keep us small and quiet if we let it.

Those coping skills we create in child hood, don’t really serve us so well as adults. We need our voices, to stand up for ourselves, we need to be visible to get that job, or run a business and we have to risk conflict that we hate a lot, when we have our say. It can can be so hard to stand out and be seen. Being visible when you are full of toxic shame and your body tells you its not safe is a challenge, your heart beats rapidly,out of your chest, so you can't breathe, our mouth goes dry and your legs turn to Jelly!

Talking of being seen I think there are levels of being seen, you can be physically seen but to be understood emotionally is a very intimate level of being seen. Dr Dan Seigel calls it “feeling Felt”.  We made want people to know how we are feeling but not have the language for it. Children and adults may communicate through behavior that may seem odd or confusing. When the pain becomes intolerable this can be projected outwards, tossed outward like a hot potato that's too hot to hold!

It can also be painful to see others successes too, leaving us with feelings of inadequacy with the “why can’t I do what they do?” Social Media allows us to see what the world is doing and see their successes and it makes it look easy. However it does not allow us to see their struggles and the effort it took to get there. I guess that is why I am attempting to put this into words. Life is not neat and nothing comes without effort, a bit like my writing!

I want you to see or rather hear a bit of my struggle but also the success too, so you feel less alone with yours. That toxic shame, says keep quiet, but these day's I have developed a more kind voice that says “no stand up speak out and hold your nerve”. The voices of the past can be quite hard to shake silence.

I have learnt to embrace my vulnerabilities, I tell people I am sacred but I still try to do it anyway these days. We are all works in progress, and I loose my nerve often but find it again eventually.

 I have just had a headteacher ask me to do some training, I tried all manner of things to get out of it, I tried I am busy, I am too expensive, there are others who are much better trainers than me, but he wasn’t buying any of it, I had been recommended. 

I just have to rethink it as a friendly chat with the teachers and tell them all the cool things about what I have learnt and not think about me being up the front as the expert. I work hard to stop the thoughts that they will say your rubbish and throw tomatoes at me. Like they would even have any tomatoes in school or be that rude!

My biology is making up all the stories from history so I stay at home but I can't do that. I have a living to make, something to share and River needs biscuits. So I have 24 to go and talk to, I have been assured they are friendly and more importantly what I share with them may make a difference to the relationships they have with themselves and their pupils. So I have to show up. !

This toxic shame, I believe it is responsible for that all-pervading feeling of not being good enough, that paralysis us with fear. That feeling you are in trouble even though you are now the adult. That feeling of dread you may live with but not know why, On hyper-alert waiting for the danger because that’s how it went in the past. Not being able to manage uncertainty or settle down is miserable indeed.

Watch that toxic shame, because, it will stop you from seeking support and reaching your full potential if you let it and drive you to some very unhealthy behaviors. Thankfully the answer to this toxic shame is kindness compassion to yourselves and others. If you have been judged and punished for long enough, you learn to do that to your self. Old habits die hard particularly in times of stress or fear. Keep practicing that kindness it takes more work than I have words to describe.

I read the book "face the fear and do it anyway", but its taken years to actually embody that phrase. We think we are head and brain led but I think the body speaks to us. There is no them and us! I hope we talk about about health one day as an integrated thing rather than separating out health into physical and mental because the brain and bodies don’t need separate departments they need to be worked with as a whole living system. I wonder are we sick or suffering?

I worry that this level of self-disclosure is unprofessional, maybe you think it is, maybe you don’t? I guess I have to risk it and press the publish button. How we raise children matters, we can fill them with confidence, by hearing their emotions and allowing them to make mistakes or we can punish them and leave them feeling disconnected, sad and bad or even mad. We make it difficult for them to think for themselves and they operate from a climate of fear not wanting to explore the world and to be frigtened of their own emotions and other people.  Childhoods matter they wire us up and it can take a lot of work to repair that. and built that emotional resilience.

If you need support, I get it, life can be scary and toxic shame and anxious behavior steals our joy, our playfulness and shuts down our possibilities Bessel Van De Kolk says therapy is about imagining new possibilities, Mooli Laahad says “you can’t play and be on guard at the same time". And Rachel Kedu gave us some very fancy science research at a recent conference and she reassured us. all is not lost with neuro-plasticity and epigenetics “we are weapons of mass -re-construction”. 

We are born for social engagement, but we can cut that off when frightened. Those with poor experiences may not feel soothed by people sometimes, we feel frightened of them. We worry about being rejected and hurt maybe not consciously. Dan Hughes talks about blocked trust leading to blocked care and the importance of attachements. Brene Brown (the shame researcher) talks about embracing your vulnerabilities and I love her saying “If you are not in the arena getting your butt kicked, Shut up! I am not interested in what you have to say”. Go Brene!

So there you go! I am daring greatly today and putting my wobbles out for all to see. Thank you to all the experts who make me feel that wobbly is normal, I know I am not faulty and that I am wired up for survival, I understand a bit more about my neuro-biology and I know that we can manage the scary stuff with the right support.

We don’t have to suffer in silence and feel ashamed, you can find a caring adult who can help you understand how your body works and with that all important “Climate for Growth” that the late Carl Rogers spoke of, we can grow and move from surviving to thriving and reduce that toxic shame.

I am always learning, I believe there is no them and us at my practice, we are all in the same boat, Dan Siegel gave us a new word (Mwe). We are wired for survival and we can get scared and we can learn to calm back down, it’s not easy and it takes practice and we all get their in our own good time.

Get in touch if you need support or just want to say hello, I am a chatterbox by nature, when I am in my thinking brain, so I would love to know what you make of my wobbly article and I think its good to connect. 

If we are asking others to embrace their vulnerabilities then maybe we have to be more comfortable with our own.

 Time for a deep breath and to press the publish button and a cuppa…..  

Dear Grammar police please take the day off, I am done wrestling with where the the full stops and commas go!

Best wishes

Mel and the dog is Miss River

 
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 01:00

Help anger is ruining our relationship!

angry

I am often asked by partners or individuals do you do Anger Management its affecting my relationship. Yes I am happy to help but its not just anger management here. It’s counselling which means looking at the whole picture and all the feelings  to see what is happening. If we get curious we can work out how we got to this place and more importantly we  look at what we can do to make things better. I will put money on it that it’s not just Anger that’s going on.

Most people will see Anger as an isolated issue but if we look a little closer it will be a bigger problem than just Anger.  Many people will have difficulty managing any big emotions and often there is a history of trauma that’s playing out in the here and now.

Most people won’t identify with the word Trauma but it is any event that is prolonged overwhelming or unpredictable. Some of us will have seen or witnessed things that have frightened us or we may have been parented with fear and control. If our basic needs are not met in the first 3 years of life this is a threat to our survival and has a long term effect on how our brain works. This will also affect our attachment style and if we trust people or if shut people out. Dr Bryan Post says “scared children do scary things” and I don’t think this applies to just children.  Often scared and vulnerable and insecure adults do scary things to!

If you are reading this looking for help I would like to say “your out of control anger may be not your fault”.  Our brain can work at 50 millionth of second so it can be hard to control that survival brain that flips into fight or flight.

The good news is with some work love and care we can learn to manage the big emotions and get the thinking brain working and settle down that survival brain.

We call this being able to regulate our emotions and use the whole brain.  

You are not a bad person you are just unable to manage the emotions possible because you didn’t receive the love and care you needed to build a healthy whole brain. You may have had an anxious hyperactive survival brain that keeps going off even though you are now safe.

Bad things happen to people but it doesn’t make you bad. Please do not let the shame that you can’t do something stop you from seeking support. Without the right support things will only get worse not better and if you do nothing, then nothing changes.  The bravest thing you can do is admit I am struggling and I need some help.

When working with couples or individuals I am asked who is at fault, maybe both parties are because one person gets angry then its possible they abuse their partner without meaning to. When we are hurt we may attack back making for a negative cycle of arguments or you might end up with long silences where nobody knows how to put things right.  Its both persons problem and both parties can help to find a solution together. You may be suffering from relational trauma and I am here to help if you need it.

We might be very good at arguing but we may not have been taught how to repair relationships and how to hear each other and the trauma brain may need some help settling. It’s hard to hear or see someone else’s distress and not get distressed yourself, particularly if you think you are to blame. Our shame will drive us to want to put things right and it;s hard to step back and give your partner time to cool down.

There maybe an absence of play in a relationship and insecurities may be driving behaviours. If we want to better relationship we need to start looking at the feelings that drive the behaviours.  To look at our relationship with our self so we can feel secure in our own skin.

Often those who have experienced early relational trauma may need help to manage feelings they blame themselves but are not aware that early life experiences may be the reason we can’t manage our anger. Its not anger its your survival brain switching on which then sends messages to the body to respond.

If both partners are triggering each others trauma, then we have got two negatives vortexes which are never going to end well. Often we assume that someone is choosing to behave this way and we don’t appreciate that its that they can’t rather than won’t calm down. This survival pattern has been wired in and it is hard to change but not impossible.  A lot of care support and understanding will be required for a scared brain to calm down. I don’t just speak as a therapist but as the owner of a scared brain.

I would like to remind you  THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT, you may have got the “you’re just like your Mum or Dad thrown at you” or you might be thinking this yourself or you  may be very shamed of what you have done to a partner.  I invite you to manage the shame and get some support but not from an anger management specialist from a counsellor who understands the brain and relational trauma. 

We may have resorted to some desperate measures to get our emotional and practical needs met this is because the need for love and attachments are required for our survival from birth. If you are not fed and loved as a baby you die and the need doesn’t go away in adults.

If you are working with me you can expect to be exploring some of the following:

  • What does love look like and how can we show it/accept it.
  • What does blameless good communication look like
  • How can we stop fear getting in the way of finding our voice
  • What kind of relationship do you have with yourself
  • Identify coping strategies for better self care
  • Educate you on your brain and body responses
  • Reduce the shame of not getting it right.
  • Help you manage anxiety and fear
  • Learn to tolerate the vulnerable feelings.
  • Know the difference between guilt and shame

Relationships are complicated, they take a lot of work, and if there is a history of trauma for either party it’s going to take more work but we can get to healthier relationships with our selves and our partners.

We can’t expect someone to meet our needs in a relationship if we don’t know what they are. We also can’t demand someone meet our needs we have to ask and get curious if they can’t rather than blaming and shaming.

If you need some help with relationships then get in touch, it’s helpful to work on problems together but it can be just as useful for one person to come and explore their relationship in therapy.  There is no right or wrong way to tackle a relationship that needs some repair.

Individual or couples therapy takes hard work and time but it can lead to better relationships in both your personal and professional life.

With Love and Best Wishes

Mel and River (Sausage)

Thursday, 25 June 2015 01:00

Help I am sick of the this!

parenting

Parents often ask if I can help with behavioural issues and I would like to share some information with you that may help you to tune in and connect better with your child.  I am often asked “What’s the best way to deal with anger or tantrums,my answer is it depends if its an upstairs or downstairs tantrum, one is a lack of regulation and the other is a I am doing this to get what I want tantrum?”

Don’t ignore bad behaviour

Many say they just ignore the behaviour because they don’t want to give attention to negative behaviours or it gets punished. Ignoring a child will never work they generally will just try harder to get your attention. Sending them to their room will not help either, they need your attention and your help to manage the big emotions. Punishing or sending children away will give a clear message that I only want you when you are good and anger is bad. Children need your acceptance regardless of the behaviours.

Bothpunishing or ignoring will make things worse as your child struggles to manage big emotions they may move from anger to sadness and hurt because you’re not getting them or listening. It’s a very sad, lonely place when your adult doesn’t get you and can’t help you. Where do you go and what do you dowhen there is nobody to help you? Anger may esculate and spiral further out of control.

Children need you to help them calm down

You are their adult and they need you to manage the big emotions, if you are struggling to manage your own emotions then get some support as without it things are likely to get worse and relationships break down. (If you don't like your child its time to get some support) Your child will calm down better with your help than left on their own. They may not just be angry they may be upset too so staying with them if you can is so vital. I would only suggest leaving if you felt you needed to keep yourself safe from violence. If you didn't have an emotionally available parent growing up or have experienced trauma then it may be harder to manage childrens feelings.

Beware of critical language & Labels

Many may use the words attention seeking or manipulative behaviour but I think they are both negative labels for what is just behaviour we may not like. All children will need an attachment to an adult who can help them feel safe.  Children don’t have the vocabulary or skills to tell you they are struggling to manage disappointment or fear, they just flip into rage quite quickly and may scream your house down. The survival brain works at 50 millionth of a second so little point expecting things to change without a lot of work to build new skills and pathways in the brain. With some help children can learn to use their whole brain and think for themselves.

Punishments create fear not thinking for yourself

We may want to punish children and make them do time out  to help them learn but this does more harm and won’t help them learn. Punishments just help them to be afraid, they may lie or become frightened to make mistakes. If we want chidlren to make good choices we want then to use their thinking brain and we want them to do things because its the right thing to do not because they will get told off or punished. Building resilience and helping chidlren to manage their emotions is key to long term mental health in later life. 

They are struggling not naughty

Children who are struggling will need more of you than less of you.  The challenging behaviour may leave you wanting to push them away but try not to. If we can understand what a child needs we are more likely to meet their emotional needs and the behaviour settles down. This applies to clingy children too, forcing them further away won’t help them build confidence it will make them cling harder, we need to restore safety first before they can explore the world and need less of you.

I don’t want to be my parent

It will be hard to not be critical or punishing and to view this behaviour with new eyes, particularly if your parents were critical and punishing. We may want to parent differently to how we were parented but when the going gets tough we may turn into the shouty parent we hated. Those patterns are so ingrained they can be hard to change but with a lot of work it is possible to parent with kindness and compassion rather than punishments.  Self care for parents is essential, if you are tired or overwhelmed you won't be as emotionally available for your child. If you want a better relationship with your child then you may have to examine your relationship with yourself first. 

They are doing it on purpose!

Behaviour is not purposeful, children are not choosing to be naughty to get a reaction from you, often they are simply struggling. They don't want to be told off or disappoint you, no child wants to be told off sent to their room or ignored. They want to please you and they need you,  they just don’t have the skills yet to be able to do all the things you may ask of them.  Daniel Siegel states. “We expect a lot children who may not yet have learnt to tie their shoe laces”. The brain is still developing and children will need a lot of supervision and routine to learn new habbits. You can't just tell them once and expect them to get it. 

Dealing with Anger

Tantrums happen when children can’t manage their big feelings and the survival brain flips them into fight or flight mode.   They become wobbly and may scream and shout at you, they are not using much of their thinking brain when this happens. It’s very hard but important for you to not turn into a five year old and shout back. They need you to show them what to do do and how to handle these big emotions. If you know what to do they will feel much more safer and settle down much quicker.

Some simple steps that will help your little or big one to manage their big feelings:-

Name it to tame it..

Hear the feelings and if you can label them.. Wow I can see you’re really angry frustrated or upset about this. If you struggle with the feelings yourself  try “Wow I can see there are some big feelings going on here”.   The minute we start to talk feelings they tend to settle down as the child feels heard. They also learn the names of the feelings and that they are ok to have and will go away and they are not bad for having them.

Engage don’t enrage.

There is little point in asking a child to calm down if they could do this they would not be angry in the first place.  Stay calm if you can and get curious with your conversations. I am wondering what happened here, I wonder what you were expecting, what can we do to fix things? This helps to switch the thinking brain on.

Move it or lose it.

You can redirect your child to something else once you have named and tamed things down this may work too. Distracting too early may mean your child can’t settle down and move back to thinking brain, they may still be in survival panic brain. Tame and engage first before you move them on to something else.

Connection before correction

If you to try to correct a child who is screaming they possible won’t hear you and won’t have enough thinking brain turned on.  Once you have named it and tamed it and engaged the child you will have more thinking brain going on.  When you have connected and repaired the relationship this is then a good time to talk about the correction. Kids can hear you when they are calm and its then time to engage the memory and thinking brain. You can talk about what happened and what we could try next time. Children will need lots of chances to get it right.

Try: "I wonder how we can do this differently next time?" Have a curious conversation and with practice they will learn to manage the overwhelm and engage the thinking brain.  "Next time come get me if your brother is annoying you".  Keeping a good emotional connection with your child keeps the relationship on track. Taking the time to help a child  pays off in the long run. It says no matter what happens you will keep them safe and not punish them if they can’t do something, this gives your child the climate for real growth.  You can offer gentle reminders and there are natural consequences for some things. eg. if you are late for school you may get a detention.

Don’t over protect

Don’t over protect your kids by taking away all the natural consequences, these are good life lessons. The feeling of having a detention will work better than you keep hanging around to make sure they are never late. That forgotten PE kit, you don't have to rush to take it in. If it happens a few times they will remember it from the natural consequences of missing PE.

This sounds like a lot of work

Raising children is hard work and they need more help than we may at first realise, they learn everything from you, how to empathise, how to do relationships how to manage emotions etc. It takes a lot more work to be emotionally available than to just scream at your child or send them to bed but it will pay off. Your self care is critical if your going to make it through the day. Spend enough time to enjoy your children but not every waking moment with them or you will start to resent them. Parents need time off to be an an adult and a couple (if you have a partner). Make sure you have fun get some time off duty. Get creative in order to ensure your own needs are met and you are not a tired out parent that wants to resign from the job.

Perfection is not required.

Its easy to think you need to be perfect and parents often give themselves a really hard time. I am bad parent or I am not doing it well enough, be kind to yourself. If  you get angry with your child and shout at them don't panick. Its good to own your mistake and offer the apologies.  “I got a bit angry and I am sorry. I tried to stay calm but didn’t quite manage it and I will try better next time are you ok, do you want a hug?”.

Your children will thank you for your honesty and you can repair the disconnection and reconnect. You don’t have to be perfect just good enough. How you deal with your mistakes is how your children learn to deal with theirs, so forgive yourself and they will forgive you too and themselves when they get it wrong.

Good behaviour needs good relationships

Good behaviour is about good relationships and it may take longer to be more emotionally available and to take the time to help manage the big emotions but trust me you can put in the work now and hopefully enjoy the results. Better connections and less challenging behaviour is what we want from our families.  If we teach children to manage their own emotions, to think for themselves, to make choices we give them the skills for life. The time spent with your child says you matter to me and they will matter to themselves. They stand a much better change of less mental health problems and better relationships too in school and later life. If your child cares about you they are more likely to call you to let you know they missed the bus and are going to be late.

I would ask you to think of attention seeking behaviour as attachment seeking behaviour and the manipulative behaviour is just struggles to manage the big emotions. They are not manipulating they are just children trying to get you to notice them hear them and attend to them. 

Some top tips for Parents

  • Talk don’t shout as this kicks off the survival brain and children stop listening
  • Don’t punishing children for what they can’t do as its not a kind way to parent
  • Help them manage big feelings by talking about them.
  • Create regular routines that can be practiced over and over
  • Don’t give vague answers a clear yes or no is much better
  • Try to expect a little less and provide a little more support
  • If children can’t play together then help them until they can
  • If you want kind caring children you have to model this
  • Help manage transition with count downs “we are leaving in 10 minutes time to pack up the toys, Ok once we have packed the toys, I need you to get your coat.  When we have got your coat we are going to the car” Ok lets go to the car and we are driving home".  When we get home I want you to take off your uniform”. Talking them through the stages helps massively.
  • Stick to your "No" if you are giving them but help them understand why and the disappointment they may feel.  Also what do they need to do, to get a yes. I need more notice next time if you want to stay at your friends.
  • Don’t give in to tantrums if you have said no, dont change your mind for an easier life, learn to deal with the tantrum and they become less as time goes on and children learn to accept boundaries and mange the emotions.
  • Don't promise one thing and do another, childen see through the false threats and it distroys trust.
  • Keep a routine and let them in on the plan so they know whats happening.
  • Most of all keep playing with your children and keep talking to them so they know they matter to you.

Thought I would throw this in as its said a lot….

My children never listen to me

Your children will not listen if they are in panic brain or if you have become a broken record and they have tuned you out. You need calm unscarred brains to listen and to remember. Telling a child once is no where near enough you will need structure and supervision. Keep doing the routine over and over until they know it half by heart and it becomes habit. Telling a child once will never be enough showing them and encouraging them and letting them know they can do it if they keep trying will work in time. If we give children a million one chances to get it right they usually will with time and your patiences. Sometimes you want it done now and they want to do it later so you may need to work on trust and give reminders. When Holly Oaks has finished can you wash up or when you reach the next level in your game can you can you take the bins out. Be reasonable with your requests.

Should I use a reward chart

Let your children know when they do something well and thank them, be careful of offering rewards they can be very disheartening to a child who can’t get it right and can make things worse.

Cut your self some slack

I do believe parents try their best but they won’t have the latest up to date information on the neuroscience and attachments and we will be parenting on what we were given which will sometimes not be enough and may be unhelpful.  

I am not here to judge, if you hate being a parent and don’t like your child it’s OK to tell me that. I will like your child for you and help you find a way back to them and understand what they need to build the relationships and get things back on track. You can learn to love your child and enjoy being a parent. It might mean some changes and some hardwork but it is possible.

My favourite books are listed in the picture above and this handy sheet can go on your fridge to help, and is from the author of the "Whole Brain Child" by Dan Siegel.  http://content.randomhouse.com/assets/9780553907254/pdfs/Sieg_refrigerator_sheet.pdf

If you need some support to manage yours or your child’s behaviour and big feelings then get in touch.

With love and best wishes

Mel & River

Wednesday, 24 June 2015 01:00

Bullying

bullying

I know from my own experience how damaging being bullied is, it can take a life time to recover from the effects of bullying and we know in extreme cases some have taken their own lives. Those playground names stick hard and can be very difficult to shake off.

There is no one size fits all for bullying and despite zero tolerance in schools and disciplinary procedures in workplaces bullying happens.  Sadly I think bullying will always be a part of our society as competition exists.  In an ideal world there would be no bullies but they exist not just in the class room and playgrounds but in the work place and boardrooms. Life is not fair and not everyone plays nice, but I believe cracking down on the bullies doesn’t always help that much. I don’t think you can stamp out bullying I think we need a different more kind approach. You can’t police out bullying we need to build more empathy and thought for others to stop bullying.

People bully for a number of reasons but with children its often a lack of skills and ability to care for others. It may also be down to their need to feel safe that they need to assert their power over others. If they struggle to make relationships they may try to do this by force.  Its possible that bullying is learnt behaviour if I hit you or shout at you then you do as I say, is this what has happened to them?  (Worth thinking about if you are a parent or teacher). Those who feel insecure in themselves do not need to pull others down in order to feel OK about themselves.

It’s important to remember that the bully may well be the victim of bullying too. The bully may appear to have lots of friends and be very popular but possibly those friendships are based on fear. It may be safer to do what the bully says rather than go against someone scary, so the friendships may not be real and genuine but more created out of fear.

There maybe a lot of work to be done to help a bully to feel secure enough to let go of their aggressive damaging behaviours and build empathy so they can see things from others point of view. To build empathy we have to model it to the bully. Often those who don’t care have not experienced enough care and have not had enough of their own needs met. We build relationships based on the relationships we have.

Parental distress

Any parent is going to want to protect their child and a bullied parent will be more likely to step in quickly if it triggers reminders of their own overwhelming bullying days then their may be their distress and their childs leading to feelings of anxiety panic or  helplessness.  If the bullying is dangerous then of course step in to keep them safe, but read on to see if there is room to let your child deal with it themselves.

Rescuing Children or Building Skills

If your child is coping then it may be better to give them the opportunity to stop the bullying themselves. Being able to stand up for your self is an essential skill to have in this world. To find your voice in any relationship is essential so time to start building those skills. If your child lacks confidence or self esteem they are at risk  of being bullied in the workplace or their adult relationships.  Building your child’s self esteem, coping skills and resilience to deal with big feelings are important skills for life, bullying can often be a sign that some extra skills are required.

Rescuing a child may make things worse

Its hard not to step in but its possible that your attempts to rescue your child make them more helpless. Do you give them a message that they can’t deal with it themselves? It’s hard to find the right balance too little or too much support leaves a child struggling but think before you race to the heads office is there another way. 

Stepping in to early

If you rescue our child do they feel embarrassed by your intervention, did they want you to fix it or did they just want you to listen, try to manage your own distress and your child may well manage theirs. If you can stay calm and talk things through ask your child what they need you to do, working together rather than just rescuing and seek some support if necessary..

Its time to do something different?

As bullying is such a problem and empathy is hard to find do we need to do something different in our homes, schools and colleges.  The best education our children have is from what they witness from the adults around them. If you are shouting to get what you want from a child then don’t be surprised when a child shouts to get what they want from their class mate. Empathy can’t be taught but it can be caught, model the behaviours you want. Experiential learning is how your child learns empathy, to be kind and share.

Dealing With The Bullies

Its really easy to punish a bully because they have been cruel and unkind but what does this really achieve. The bully may just feel angry even less powerless than they did before and its unlikely to stop them from bullying they may just get worse as they feel further misunderstood and their need to feel safe and in control grows. Do we need to get curious rather than critical.

I have witnessed a child who was caught bullying being shouted at in a school corridor by an angry teacher and then I ask myself, how valued does that child feel, do they feel ashamed and even more worthless. We have to be very careful that as  adult’s we keep our anger under control and that our parenting or teaching methods don’t turn into power and control or even bullying.

Teaching through example and modelling

If you want a calm child and empathic child that’s respectful of others we need to start by modelling that behaviour.  Taking a toy off a child that can’t share doesn’t really do that.  Maybe we talk about the difficulties of sharing and help the child to choose to share rather than be forced to share! That doesn’t create empathy it creates anger! Melt downs are likely as children struggle to manage big feelings, you’re the adult so take the time to help them manage, with calm conversations.

Children learn from experience best so the lectures don’t have anywhere near the same affect as experience does. These experiences shape little peoples brains and get them using all of their brain rather than just the panic bit.

 

Deal with the feelings to change behaviours

 

Dealing with big feelings means the behaviour are more likely to simmer down as its big feelings that drive behaviours. If we ignore the feelings the behaviours will get worse not better. The meanest people need the kindness the most because they need to know what it feels like to be cared for.

There are no magic wands for bullying but here are things that definitely help.

  • Having someone who can listen to your feelings really helps even if they don’t have solutions.
  • Having someone to help build skills and find your voice is vital
  • Learning to express the sadness, hurt and anger in a safe and healthy way keeps things from building up
  • Watch out for coping methods that cold be harmful such as  self harm
  • Step in if the bullying has become unmanageable to keep your child safe.
  • Building resilience is the best way to keep kids safe from the bullies.
  • Promoting empathy and understanding of why people bully is also useful to prevent your child turning into the bully.
  • Assigning a buddy maybe  helpful for some children
  • Friendships and arguments can be short with children so give things time.

If you are an adult struggling with your own feelings then support can help you manage your feelings so you can then in turn help your child with theirs.

Individual or family support is available if you need it.

Best wishes

Mel 

Thursday, 11 June 2015 01:00

Off Work Sick

pills

As I work with many clients off work with stress, anxiety and depression it got me thinking about how we approach and deal with sick leave.

I have had my own periods of sick leave following a car accident, the physical health turned into mental health problems as the weeks rolled into months. Its not easy to manage when you end up in Pjyama land with no reason to get up and get dressed.  With long periods of isolation at home more trouble can brew. It doesn’t have to be sick leave it could be redundancy, retirement or maternity leave that means we may suddenly have a change to our routine, often spending  large periods of time at home. Lets focus on being off sick for now.

Sick leave can be a miserable time, I felt guilty being off work, I worried about not being believed. It felt like I was stealing time because I was still being paid, I also worried about who would do my work and the mountain of emails I would go back to. I worried if I went out and was seen that I didn’t look that sick.  I also knew the sick pay would run out and the pressure to return was very much felt.  Just the thought of it let me shaky and there was plenty of signs that I was not ready to go back which I ignored. Our eagerness to get back to the job  and recover quickly can make things worse not better. 

Often we can return to early and it took many panic attacks before I listened and sought help to understand what was happening to me. If you have spent much of your life working your socks off being at home is alien. Its hard to know what to do to feel better. We want to get on with recovery but what do you do to recover?

Taking time off work when your struggling can be a life safer but too much time at home can be counter productive too. The ideal solution maybe reducing to part time. This may be beneficial but we seem to have a system that doesn't always offer this. Your either fit for work or not with no option for just reducing the hours. Reasonable adjustments may mean we can continue to work but often burn out happens because by the time we listen to our bodies it can be a little late. For me fear of losing my job or being discriminated against meant I hid  that I was struggling. This fear was real and I found one of my employers decided not to continue my probationary period even though I had not had a day off sick before my panic attack.

If we have got sick from over working then overworking the recovery does not make much sense, but we may still do it anyway. The first thing I do with new clients is talk about how we can manage recovery. We start with slowing things down so we can do a life stock take. What got us to this place, what do we need to move from it, what new habbits can we retain when returning to work and how we manage the return to work can make all the difference.

I encourage my clients to see the sick leave as a holiday or rest period, because then we may look at it differently. If we are off sick many of us will take a punitive not so caring approach to ourselve, which may sabotage our recovery. Just like if you were not at school you may not have been allowed out to play we may take the same approach to sick leave.  If you are off work do you cancel your fun diary commitment? Its OK if you can't manage to be sociable but we don't have to hide with guilt and shame when off sick and cancel what is already in the diary.

If you are on holiday maybe we would have a rest,  nurture your self, go to that yoga class, take the dog for a walk in the park, meet your friends for lunch. take time to read the paper or have a lie in.  Its important to stay connected to our support networks  and nurture ourselves, while off sick, which is far more useful than hiding at home in case anyone sees you out of the house.

I invite all my clients to take better care of them during sick leave. Here are some handy hints:-

  1.       Seek support if necessary to help explore and make sense of where you are.
  2.       An exploration of life style can help you to notice warning signs earlier
  3.       Old stuff could be resurfacing and its not always about the hear and now
  4.       Stay connected keep seeing friends and family or make new connections.
  5.       What can you do that you have never had time for?
  6.       What  new habits or hobbies can you keep when returning to work that will keep you well?
  7.       A phased return to work is advisable if you have been off work for a long time to help ease you in.
  8.       Its normal to feel overwhelmed or anxious at the thought of returning to work after time off.
  9.       There is only one pace that’s kind on returning to work and thats a slow and steady one.
  10.       Maybe looking at the boundaries of work hours to ensure we are not trying to do more than is reasonable.
  11.       Without health we have nothing and no job is worth sacrificing your health over.
  12.       Don't rush recovery its more usual to be months rather than weeks before we are ready to return.

If you are struggling and need someone to help you find a way forward then please get in touch. In the meantime use your time off to care for you.

With love and best wishes

Mel & River 

 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015 01:00

Lost and Found

lostand found1lost and found2

If you listen real close you will hear my tears
If you listen real close you will hear my fears
If you listen though I make no sound
I am no longer lost, I have been found

 

 

Sunday, 05 April 2015 01:00

Juicing Mad Fusion Confusion

veg basket5in5coloured juices

Following on from my “Failing to Self-Care” blog this last week has been a much different one. I have had Physio and the back is still sore but mywork load has been much lighter. I have managed to get some longer walks in with “River”, been out with friends twice mid-week, started a new knitting project and have booked an Alexander Technique lesson to learn about better back care. Life’s starting to feel a lot more balanced.

This week, Folks, I have started juicing. I have always loved fruit and vegetable smoothies, but they have been rather more fruit than vegetable and I knew I could do better. Having been a bit under the weather, I wanted to give my body and immune system a boost. With a back injury, I have missed my usual exercise, lost a bit of my bounce and the pounds have crept on.

Despite being inspired by all the tweets about Juice Master, known for weight loss and well-being, I am not one for gimmicks so was a bit sceptical. However, I concluded that so many people can’t be wrong and decided to join the “Juice Revolution”.

I have a lovely Twitter friend who I know is a big juicer called Nicki Hughes (@Waysidehealer) and a health bunny who believes in balance, so if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.

I contacted Nicki to find out which juicer she had and she kindly sent me her blog one rainy Sunday afternoon. I grabbed my laptop and ordered my “Fusion” by Express delivery along with the relevant books. Hubs took my shopping list along with his and fetched my “5Ibs in 5 days shopping list,” which you can download online. I was staggered by the sheer volume of produce and the whole lot cost me £33 for a week.

Monday morning and I unpacked the juicer ready to start juicing. I am not an instructions person; that’s what my husband is for, but he wasn’t here. Despite it saying on the side of the machine to read the instructions first, I ignored them. This eager beaver has trouble with waiting and understanding instruction manuals and I wanted to start my juice week straight away. Besides, how hard could it be? You put the veg in and it comes out as juice, right? WRONG!!! 

An hour later, the kitchen was covered in juice and pulp, my dreams of 5 pounds in 5 days dashed and my juicing journey ground to a very abrupt holt. I declared the machine a gimmick and a right con and wondered how on earth Mr Vale had made such a f#@king fortune from selling such useless junk!!

Husband arrived home, agreed I should be getting more than a thimble of juice out of all that lot and also asked why it was leaking all over the place! He kindly helped me clean up the food-covered kitchen, slightly relieved that the mess-maker was going back! 10pm and the “Fusion Confusion” was over for that day. With the juicer cleaned and packed back up in its four boxes ready to be sent back to Amazon as faulty, Hubs settled down to his dinner and I stormed off to bed!

Next morning, I started to panic about not being able to get through the sheer volume of fruit and veg in smoothies as I hate food waste and contacted Nicki, who recommended the Fusion to tell her what I thought of it!

Nicki told me she had a few issues at first and sent me a link to a video, assuring me that I would get the hang of it and that I could stick with my beloved Vitamix but would be eating pulp, whereas juicing would give me better nutrition and weight loss results.

All it takes is a video for it to start to come clear as I watch the very bouncy, enthusiastic Jason Vale, aka @juicemaster feeding his fruit and veg in to his machine effortlessly and I start to giggle.

I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do!

  • I didn’t switch the machine on first;
  • I tried to juice avocado;
  • I shoved too much food through too quickly;
  • I put leaves through on their own;
  • I put unpeeled fruit through;
  • I had the spout up which caused an overflow;
  • I jammed the plunger in the wrong way and had to google how to get it out.

With renewed hope, I tried again and effortlessly juiced a whole glass of glorious goodness. I had gone from juicing, mad, Fusion confusion to just juicing mad and happy!

I concluded that indeed, juicing was time-consuming, but no more than preparing and cooking food. I decided I could cheat too and I took a quick walk to the shops with “River” for some bottles of water which I shamelessly emptied, as I wanted the bottles, not the water.

Now, I juice my day’s worth of juices and am enjoying watching them come out in varying colours and, to save more time prepare in bulk to go in the fridge and freezer. Fresh is best, but you could juice up to a week’s worth and freeze it. If you’re super rich you can order a week’s worth of juices from Juice Master delivered to your door, but that’s a short term solution.

Your own juicer is so much cheaper and more fun once you know what you are doing. I think kids would love it, especially juicing beetroot; the colours are awesome and then you get to drink it. Every mother should get one instead of forcing kids to eat broccoli! They can just drink it all in one great tasting juice!

I am a juice convert as it’s the easiest way to get maximum nutrition, you lose weight and the juices are lush! It does take a little time but no more than cooking and you can have a juicing hour and stock up your freezer if you are really busy. Grabbing your ready made juice is healthier than anything you will grab on the go from the supermarket or probably your cupboard. .

Jason addresses all the arguments in his books such as “What about the sugar content?”, “What about protein?”, “What about when you go back to eating normally and put all the weight back on?” so that you are ready when people tell you that eating fruit and veg is bad for you!

I admit that I didn’t manage 5 days of solid juicing. I had a friend over and we had chips and curry sauce and a couple of glasses of wine. I also went out for a Cantonese for dinner that had been scheduled long before my crazy juicing idea.

Verdict: Juicing is a great way of giving your body a boost from the inside and is safe and healthy. Even with two meals a day on a 5-day juice diet, I lost 5 pounds. I would have lost probabley more but was to exercise due to a back injury.

Yes, we can live on fruit and veg, but as Jason says in his books: “If you just lived on juice, life would be very boring and you would have no friends”. I totally agree with him as friends are too important not to spend time with and dinner and a glass of wine are rather nice.

I have eaten more fruit and veg this week than I have in a month and I feel better for it, I have consumed less junk and even the Cantonese made me reconsider my menu choices and opt for beansprouts instead of stodgy white rice!  

I also liked Jason’s tip to substitute Costa/Starbucks drinks for peppermint tea with honey. It was very pleasant, soothing and I am a convert. I am not a coffee drinker but when I do want a hot choc from the big chains I will have one, but will otherwise be content with my herbal tea.

For fewer calories, sugar and caffeine, put the following in a mug of hot water:

  •          Lemon, ginger and honey;
  •          Mint leaves and honey.

I am juicing healthily, but won’t have juice for all my meals. I think I’ll combine solids with the juicing and if the weight creeps up again, I may attempt a juice week. Having got this far I am inspired to carry on jucing making sure I have maximum nutrition and hope to get off more pounds over the weeks.

Nothign should be an all-or-nothing affair; it has to be about balance. I am keeping my juicer and will stay juicing mad but no more Fusion confusion now. Juicing is sustainable for a healthier less fatter life.

Thanks to juciing friends I  have been introduced to Able and Cole who deliver an organic juicing box with recipe cards, so it just gets easier to be healthier. Juicing doesn’t have to be hard work and I would strongly recommend Jasons book to get you started, so you know what you are doing and why. The Fusion also comes with a book of Funky Juices too.

I ask Heather who is an expert in Nutrition what she thought of Juicing this is a summary of her comments. She said juicing was a healthy but should be treated with respect and there are some things to consider.

  • Consider using organic produce so your not consuming large volume of pesticides
  • Be mindful to rotate of juices, so you get enough variety (Jasons plan does this)
  • Introduce Juices slowly and introduce solid food back in slowly as drastic changes may upset our bodies.
  • Don’t over use beetroot as this can mess with blood pressure
  • A 3 Juice may be better if your diet is very unhealthy.

If you need to contact Heather for a nutritional consultation she can be contacted via twitter @HSTurmel.

Useful links if you want to start juicing:

www.juicemaster.com

http://blog.waysidehouse.co.uk/juicer-or-bullet/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fusion-Juicer-Black/dp/B00K77ANT4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428071169&sr=8-1&keywords=fusion+juicer

http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/boxes/juice-soup-boxes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?autoplay=1&v=qMt3NsGw_5I&app=desktop

Best wishes

Mel

With thanks to Heather Turmel and Health Sanders for volunteering to edit my blog for grammar.

Sunday, 29 March 2015 00:00

Confession Time

bouncePooh-Hunnyeeyore

I am sitting here with an ice pack on my back, unable to walk or drive very far due to back pain. I am feeling fat having stuffed my face with pizza, prosecco and of course there was a free tub of chocolate ice-cream, so why not? I was celebrating at home as I couldn’t go out (see my previous blog for the celebration reasons). If I had been feeling better I would have likely gone out, eaten a lot less and healthier too, and probably danced some of it off as well. As I wake up this morning feeling poorly and fed up I realise I have been failing in the self care department.

I am a therapist, I know what I am supposed to do; I am good at the fruit and veg smoothies and I like exercise since I realised that doesn’t just have to be an hour at the gym. My weight is stable and I usually workout 3-4 times a week; I cycle, box, swim, do circuits, and run. I mix it up as I have the attention span of a gold fish and a body that injures easily with poor joints. I like pamper days and nights out but these have been far too few lately. I like quiet long weekends in the countryside but they have not been so many as work creeps in. I used to have an odd hour on the sofa with an episode of a selected boxset, or an hour with the knitting or a book.

So what has happened then? I have been listening to my clients but probably not so closely to myself. I had a fabulous new website done in November, the word just keeps spreading, and the work has been pouring in. My business coach told me to be the “go to” person and I have clearly achieved this, but maybe the cost is starting to tell!

I am self employed, and I effectively have several jobs in one. I am a recovering workaholic too, I chose private practice for a better quality of life and yet I am back feeling too busy and I have failed to notice the hours creeping up as I fit in just one more client who wants help. I had a cold recently so I self care by not going to the gym and meaning to rest instead, but its undone by the fact that rather than rest I squeeze in another client to reduce my waiting list. I have given on one hand and taken away with the other. Woops!

I was raised to work my fingers to the bone, I had to get up and clean the house from top to bottom before I went to school each day. Young programming is hard to change, “don’t be lazy”, “don’t waste time”; it has to be constantly overridden.

I have ignored the warning signs: firstly a cold that I carried on in spite of, then came the mystery impetigo treated with antibiotics (it was just a blister that turned into a skin rash nothing to worry about). The antibiotics however set off a case of thrush; very common after antibiotics as they strip away the good bacteria too. Again perhaps denying my immune system wasn’t quite up to the job!

Then my back gives up and I was doing nothing, I wasn’t boxing or throwing kettle bells around, so why the injury? I think it was my body’s way of screaming at me to slow the hell down. I have not been listening, as the waiting list was getting longer and I have been working harder and harder to keep up, slippage has happened. The problem is when you love your job it doesn’t always feel like work yet it is! Let me repeat that to myself: IT IS WORK and you can’t do it all the time!

Three contract offers came my way, none that I had asked for, but my reputation is spreading and I was flattered. I have become that “go to” person my coach was talking about! But a full bank account is no bloody good when you’re stuck on the sofa with back pain unable to go shopping for a new bike or another dress that I don't really need!

I was working out how to fit it in all this new workin and then the penny dropped: maybe I don’t! Maybe I say NO!! “No”, that word we all struggle with, I have to say NO, NO, NO, NO and NOOO! “No” because I want to bounce again, have dinner with my friends, ride my bike, take up a random lesson because I love learning random stuff. I am the queen of fads and frocks and I want to get back to my lovely life that’s on pause due to the blasted back injury, oh and the slippage!

Having spent a long time building up a practice where every client counts and where I worked four jobs in the early days, I have failed to realise I am in a different place now. I don’t need to work so hard and I am not the 16 year old that doesn’t have a home or a pound for the electricity meter. I decided long ago that poverty wasn’t for me and worked hard to pay the mortgage off making this all the more ludicrous! We are sometimes driven by old stuff not the current stuff. I can take my foot off the gas and life won’t dissolve around me. I shall re-read that! Go on you read it again too it won’t hurt!

I have failed to register that there may always be a waiting list and demand that I can’t fill and I just have to accept it. I was better placed when I worked in schools because they closed for half terms and holidays. Now I have to pace myself and schedule the time off. When you don’t have many clients then the days off are easy, not so when the waiting list is there and growing. I am forever talking to my clients about this stuff and now I have to remind myself to slow it down.

When I am downing a chocolate protein shake with a banana in it, I kid myself this a suitable lunch because its not crisps or cake, it dawns on me that I am not practicing what I preach. I have fallen off the workaholic recovery wagon! This is not lunch, this is madness! When did I start skipping meals because I am too busy?

This is starting to look like my old life, although lunch would have been an assortment of crap at a desk! Too busy to work or breathe with a bully for a boss but I am my own boss now. I work from home and set my own hours, so being too busy to go the gym or eat is nonsense. I used to start at 11am when working late so that I could work out 3 or 4 times a week. But now I am fitting clients in as I am not going to the gym and I have been kidding myself that it’s just a crazy week and next week will be better, but it has not been and it has to stop!

I worked so hard to achieve this life so it is time to slow down and enjoy it – I need to stop old habits creeping back in. I used to have my canine monitor Max, my German Shepherd who sadly died last summer. He always had a lunch time walk and reminded me it was time to go out and play and walk. The sleepy sausageRiver encourages me to sit still as she climbs in my lap but I have neglected my walks and breaks. I miss my Maxy so much, he was good for me.

The weights creeping up a little bit due to sitting here on the sofa and comfort eating with the back pain so I am going to get back on track in a different way. I am going to give myself a treat; the occasional fruit and vegetable smoothies are all very well but I could do much better. I have ordered a juicer today and hubs has bought loads of fruit and veg so I can really give myself a boost of nutrition. I know when I am back bouncing I won't want to eat the crap!

I have also closed the appointment book; its one in one out now, when someone leaves someone can join me. And I am listening to my physio, as soon as the back is healed I am going back to my exercise. I am gutted that the light nights are here and I can’t get out on my bike or go for a run because of the back pain. It’s currently raining like crazy with gale force winds so today the sofa won’t be so hard to stomach.

It’s all very well kidding ourselves that we are self caring, it’s not easy to notice when we are failing; we can slide without noticing. But that’s okay, we are human and as long as we notice, hopefully early on, we can do something about it. No mad diets, no mad insanity exercise plans, we just need balance and mine has slipped.

The bank account is healthy so I have booked a short break in my beloved Florence, Italy, and scheduled in some weekends with my friends. I am turning another new leaf, but thankfully the trees are full of them as we keep turning them over in our effort to stay sane and well in this crazy world. I will get my bounce back.

Time to make some small changes and get Mel back on tip top form, don’t get me wrong I have not fallen apart completely, I have not put on five stone or am sitting here in tears. I am just not bouncing anywhere near enough at the moment. I am usually like Tigger, but I have turned into Winnie the Pooh with my hand in the honey Jar and on my way to becoming an Eeyore!

This is a small blip, long ago I used to live on beer and fish fingers, drinking too much eating too much, but since then I have shed four stone and have kept it off. So this is not an “I am rubbish”, it’s just a “this is where I am at”. We get where we are going in our own good time, when we know where that is.

Are you doing enough to look after yourself? I invite you to do a little extra for yourself and a little less work if you are prone to overworking like me.

There is no “call to action” on this blog as we have no spaces for appointments this week. I need some time to play with the new juicer and pause between clients and go see the physio and of course do more knitting and reading. Thankfully I know what will get me back bouncing less work and more play will save the day!

With love and best wishes

Usually Bouncing Mel

 

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My time with Mel has really helped me overcome many obstacles over the last few months. She has made me who I am today; brought back the old bubbly, confident person that I was.