Eight years ago, almost to the day, I opened a WordPress account and joined the UK parent blogging community. I was pretty sure nobody would really want to read what I had to say, and even more sure that I didn’t want them to either. Now, reading back on old posts is a fairly uncomfortable experience. When I first started to write about my son’s birth I was in a bad place. I mean, a really bad place. Almost at the bottom of the gaping blackness of grief, anger, despair. Almost. Not quite. And while its hard to read back the words that literally spewed themselves onto the pages back then, I cannot ever bring myself to erase them. They’ve been such a huge part of my story, my journey, and my recovery. I used to think I was defined by my story, and that this blog was too. But now I see it. I’m defined by what my story has taught me. I’m defined by the strength I’ve built. I’m defined by every single person who reads my story, who takes the time to say ‘thank you for sharing’ or even ‘how dare you share’; every single person who lifts me, and even those who do not. I can’t pretend that everyone who has been a part of my journey has been a positive force, but in realising that for myself I have learned so much. So for every single person that has been here, in whatever way that may have been: thank you. (more…)
Almost nine years ago I stepped into the GP’s consulting room to ask for sleeping tablets. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly. In fact, it had taken me weeks to work up the courage to even make the appointment, and up until the words left my mouth I wasn’t sure I would even go through with it. I found seeking help so very difficult. I felt like such a failure for even being there, feeling dreadful rather than at home enjoying my new baby and his sister. But the truth was that I was in a state, and I needed help. Reaching out was so hard to do, but I had no other option. I needed to sleep. I was tired- SO tired- of spending all night being either forcefully woken with the demands of a new baby I had yet to bond with, or lying and wrestling with my own relentless brain. Was it worth going to sleep? Would I get enough sleep if I closed my eyes now, or should I lie awake until the baby wakes again? Should I just stay a little longer outside his room making sure he’s breathing at least, or should I do something to quieten my obsessive fears? Sleep had become everything. My son’s birth left a huge hole in my life that is only now starting to fill with good things once more… back then, the gaping vastness of black was swallowing me whole and all I wanted to do was sleep.
Over the years since the day I attempted to seek help, I’ve come to realise that lack of sleep is a huge trigger for me when it comes to anxiety, stress and low mood. I know I need to keep a handle on it, watch how many late nights I get (or how many early mornings, for that matter!) and take action before my mental health deteriorates. I know only too well how quickly sleep deprivation can envelop me, change my way of thinking. How it can take over my rational thoughts, my physical wellness and my ability to handle the slightest amount of stress. The importance of sleep really cannot be understated, but can you really change your sleep habits?
The thing is, although I know how important it is to get good quality sleep, there are often many things beyond my control that hinder it. Children, for one. Vitamin deficiencies for another. The right mattress and pillow combination. The whole package needs to work right for the sleep to be classed as good, and sadly it’s not always the case for me. I was recently contacted by Tempur, following a recent campaign to raise money for Mind, the mental health charity. For every mattress purchased in May, Tempur made a donation to the charity, to aid valuable research into the links between sleep and mental health. According to the charity, there’s a really close relationship between sleep and mental health- dealing with emotional stresses can have a direct impact on how well you sleep, which in turn then has an effect on your mental health. I recognise this spiral of almost unstoppable ripples- I’ve gone from believing I needed sleeping tablets to block out the trauma of my son’s birth, to eventually admitting that I would not improve my sleep until I dealt with the whole mess of it all. And there are still days where I feel so physically and emotionally exhausted that all I want to do is curl up and cry, and sleep, and sleep some more.
Poor sleep leads to worrying. Worrying leads to poor sleep. Worrying about sleep is like your mind trying to fight itself. That’s a horrible place to be.
So what have I done? What I am now doing to change my sleep habits? Can you even really change your sleep habits? For me, it’s a lifelong commitment. I’ve worked really hard in the last two years to make sleep a priority for me. I need those around me to realise that I cannot function on little sleep, and that sometimes I may need to bow out for a while so that I can re-charge and regenerate. That means early nights, and fewer early mornings. That means recognising the signs that I am doing too much and need to slow down. That means putting myself and my own needs first sometimes. It’s a work in progress, but that’s ok. Sometimes I might cancel plans, or I might turn down invitations for nights out but I’m ok with that. I’m fine with more early nights and I’m happy to forgo that glass of wine and that chocolate bar because I know my body. I know my mind. And for me, eating well, sleeping well and feeling well means I will sleep well- and a good night these days is priceless.
This post is in conjunction with Tempur but all thoughts are my own
When I was younger, my sisters and I literally devoted the horoscope pages on our favourite magazines. It was the one feature we always flipped straight to as soon as the latest issue of Just 17 or LookIn was released- and to say we held those snippets in the highest of regards is putting it lightly! We then spent the next week trying our best to make our horoscopes work for us- the stars told us x,y,z would happen this week and guess what? It came true! We were particularly interested in the love element of our weekly horoscopes, seeing as career and life were just that little bit out of reach for us. It was love we were really interested in. And throughout this lengthy obsession with horoscopes, I admit to being secretly proud of my straddling a couple of signs. In some magazines I would be Scorpio, and in others Sagittarius. I felt this made me more mysterious than my sisters, and the greedy side of me loved to interpret two readings each week, gathering the bits I liked from each to contrast my own predictions for the week ahead. Looking back, I know that these weekly horoscopes have always been a bit of fun, but I’m actually still really fascinated by it all.
Over the years I’ve tended to regard myself as a Scorpio and have really only thought of myself in this way if asked. Weekly horoscopes are a thing of a past, and something I haven’t really considered in such a long time. Recently, Furniture At Work (home of amazing office desks) asked me to consider how my star sign has affected my progress at work, and how being a Scorpio has impacted me during my career. Since I never out much importance on the ‘career’ section of my horoscope as a teenager, I decided to do some digging to see what traits the average Scorpio has when it comes to success in the workplace. The results were quite surprising! Here are my top reasons reasons why my star sign motivates me to succeed. (more…)
As a child I experienced sun burn more than once on holiday, and I can still remember how painful it was. Looking back, I’m slightly horrified that it even happened; if one of my own kids were to catch the sun in such a way I’d be devastated! These days, education surrounding sun protection and the dangers of being exposed to UV rays (for all ages, not just children) is so much more sophisticated than it used to be, and there are so many more options around for parents too. That said, there are still some alarming figures when it comes to sun damage and skin cancer in the UK. This is why kids need to know about sun safety.
According to Boots Soltan, England has the world’s fastest growing melanoma rates. It’s now the UK’s most common cancer for 15-35 year olds, rising by a staggering 345% in the last 30 years! Knowing that there are proven links between cases of childhood sun exposure and skin cancer, I feel more strongly than ever that we need to reinforce sun safety messaging from an early age. Yes, it’s a pain each year when the sun appears to get that text from school to say we MUST bring hats and suncream to school, but what’s the alternative? Sun burn? Heat stroke? Worse? This summer Boots Soltan are working hard with schools to carry on driving home the message that children need to be protected in the sunshine. Even in the UK with ‘poor summers’ we’re exposed to UV rays, which are responsible for 86% melanoma cases in the UK- and it’s our duty to make sure our kids understand not only how to stay safe, but why it’s so important to do so. (more…)
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