Tag Archives: live for now

5 Last Chance Opportunities To Show Unconditional Love

5 Last Chance Opportunities To Show Unconditional Love5 Last Chance Opportunities To Show Unconditional Love

I’ve been thinking about all the things I wish I’d said or done and didn’t get the chance. I imagine most of us have have experienced this. So I’m going to talk about last chance central, unconditional love and how you can still have a loving relationship with chronic illnesses. I’ll be sharing 5 opportunities I believe we should take to show limitless love.

**WARNING This blog contains possible triggers surrounding death and loss of loved ones. So although this blog is mostly about love if you feel uncomfortable whilst reading this, please stop and if necessary, speak to a professional.

This blog is based on my own experiences. I am not a doctor and all thoughts are my own, other than attributed quotes. If you need medical advice speak to a professional.

Bucket Lists

Before we start talking last chances and unconditional love, I need to get my thoughts on  Bucket lists off of my chest and I need to ask you this:

If You Had Only 24 hours left to live, What Would You Do?

I’m asking, because there’s myriad possible answers so choosing one becomes, well, tricky! I guess Space would be a mission 😜. I guess this is how bucket lists became a thing, but I’m not one for that kind of idiot box cheese.

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Photo by hitesh choudhary on Pexels.com

I mean, why write a list of things you want to do before you __⌛, when you could just get up off your arse and do them?  In my opinion, the idea’s been hijacked by social media disease and become another thing you have to have!

Don’t sit around thinking and planning, get on and do the things you dream of because one day you may no longer have a choice. If you have the chance to do what you dream of every day, then go for it. But chuck that icky bucket!

** Of course when someone is diagnosed with a terminal or degenerative illness, they should grab that bucket and do everything they can. 

Chronic Illnesses and Last Chance Decisions

Having a chronic illness can change your viewpoint and may need you to adapt your lifestyle, meaning you may miss opportunities. I think this has the potential to create a shift in your decision making.

You might:

  • Grieve for what could have been or
  • Choose to take a different path and make the best out of the situation
  • Feel held back from taking chances
  • Be left in a position you’d never imagined could be you.
  • Change what you thought of as or
  • Feel that unconditional love has reached its limits
  • Become dependent for support with money, travel or childcare
  • have your partner or child become your carer
  • Feel too sick and weak and remain where you are
  • Might take opportunities, even when you feel worse after doing

When you’ve been given medical clearance, be kind to yourself,  showing unconditional love to yourself before you give it to your loved ones. Please don’t let those countless opportunities pass you by just because you have an illness.

My Own Last Chances

These are the stories of last chances I wish that I’d taken had I known it. **This may be distressing reading.

As a Mummy I’ve felt the loss of my baby born unresponsive and whisked away from me. On the ward, the cot by my bed lay empty. Joel and I were told he was having a 4 hour fit. Not knowing if he’d make it or have brain damage, I feared I wouldn’t get the chance to hold my boy alive. We’re very lucky as he pulled through at the last minute. He’s more than fine now, but this still haunts me. It’s the worst last chance I ever had to imagine.

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My lovely Nana

As a granddaughter I’m sad that my husband never met my Nana. She got sick not long after Joel and I started seeing each other. Sadly she died 2 weeks later, so I never got the chance. If the odds had been stacked a little differently, she would have welcomed him with loving arms and adored our boys. She’d have been an awesome Great-Nana.

As a daughter in law I’ve wished many times that my boys had been able to meet their Grandad. Nearly 14 years on I still regret that distance mattered. That 5-6 hours in a car was so far for us then, so he only got to hold Eldest once. How I’ve wish he could see how immense both our boys are and that we’d see him fill with love and pride. He’d have got to play his pranks on them and taken them on many spontaneous adventures, I’m sure.

As a wife with an incurable brain disease, I’ve seen my husband’s face as I go down for brain surgery. Surgery with a likelihood that it’s fine, but no mistaking the less than 1 in 10,000 chance of a stroke or worse. I see that last forlorn glance as our eyes meet when I leave the ward. Then I see the relief when they wheel me back.

Unconditional love
Relief That I’m Safe After Surgery

Last Chance Decisions

When I was first diagnosed I knew one thing was never going to change. I knew that Joel was always going to be there for me as I knew our love was unconditional. I knew how strong our relationship was from when we nearly lost Youngest.

As my condition got worse, I realised that I was grieving for the last chances to live the old Laura’s life. I gave up for a while and it got messy at times, but Joel put mine and the boys needs first, much more than I could have comprehended at the time.

I can’t even contemplate what he’s been through when I was so ill. I began to realise how many opportunities had been taken away. I pushed my body but I soon learned I needed to listen to my body.

Balancing Needs and Wants

When I finally realised I needed to create balance we could begin to understand our new normal, but still be The McKees. I still wanted to do more but I couldn’t ignore the needs of my family. As I can’t plan for how I’m going to feel,

On a better day we make the most of it but then spending days in bed to recover. We take it day by day and grab every opportunity we can. I’ve realised that we can only control what’s happening, right now!

Living for Now

missed opportunityThere’s myriad opportunities to take a chance every day. I wonder how many we miss and how many might be seen as successes, or if it’s as Thomas Edison said..

I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Imagine all those missed opportunities because we think there’s more time. Time to grab chances for us or to show kindness to others. We never know a situation, so little thing we do, may make their day.

Affirmations encourage us to grasp opportunities as they arise. It helps us live for the moment and grasp last chances experiences. One such as ‘I let go of fear and guilt’ help me restrain the little guilt demons that haunt me!

When it comes to the future, if I use the ‘I am courageous’ affirmation, I know that everything is going to be okay. If I say ‘I surround myself with positive people’ I know Joel will be there for me if I need him.

I’d love you to experience the freedom and comfort these cards bring, so you can grab the set of positive affirmations that I’ve made for you. They’re only available until March 31st and I’ve put the link at the end of this blog post.

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Free affirmations printable download

Taking a Chance on Me

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Joel and I in 1998 in my last year at Uni

Joel finished his degree a year before me and that left him having a huge decision to make. He had to base it on the 7-8 months we’d had. Thankfully Joel decided to stay in Canterbury working in a supermarket for the year.

I didn’t realise how much commitment he was making at the time and I wonder what would have happened if hadn’t taken that gamble on us. We moved to Sussex and our level of commitment stepped up a notch when we bought our first flat. 

One day we were talking about the future and he just said ‘shall we get married then?’ I seriously thought he was joking but he wasn’t, so I agreed. It wasn’t planned so that there was just a thought in Joel’s mind and he ran with it was part of the magic.

We married in August 2003 and still balance each other perfectly. He has encouraged me to take more chances and I’ve helped him be more focused and plan more.

Unconditional love

Unconditional love is a powerful term, meaning love and affection without limitations; when you’d do anything for that person no matter what. This is usually between parent and child and is the sentiment behind marriage vows; a promise to love no matter what.

Unconditional love is something you have to work at and develops over time, rather than the ideal of love at first sight – sorry romanticals. You shouldn’t ever feel like you’ve failed if a relationship doesn’t work and is never a reason to stay in an unhealthy relationship.

“It is a minute-by-minute decision by both parties to remain committed to each other… Love is expressed by a person’s actions… [and] best expressed when a person chooses to put another’s needs above her own.”

Everyday Health Article

5 Last Chance Opportunities to show unconditional love

These points are based on my experience of 21 years of very few arguments, raising 2 boys who usually handle disagreements with respect and empathy and 15 years as a Teacher. We take opportunities to show unconditional love. These are my own opinions and ideas. * However, If you feel you need relationship support, please seek professional advice.

  1. Never go to bed on an argument. If an argument is over something small, take 5 and consider whether it’s worth wasting time. It could take just one of you to back down first, especially if you’re the parent.  You may feel wronged but apologising for how you reacted is likely to dissolve the tension. If it’s more serious with your partner, you may not feel ready to make up but be honest and say ‘I’m not ready to talk about this tonight.’ Try to plan time to talk properly in the morning. Then say good night. If it’s with your child/ren, tell them you love them but you don’t like what they’ve done. This needs to be made age appropriate but try to make as little drama as possible and say goodnight as usual. You can reinforce it in the morning. When you talk about it, be specific and don’t attack. Try this structure: ‘I didn’t like it when (action) because it made me feel (_). It was because (obstacle) I’d prefer it if (ideal solution). Teach your kids this too so you can all make up quicker!
  2. Good relationships are built on trust and loyalty
    Trust and Respect

    Build your relationship on trust, honesty and respect. In any relationship you learn how to deal with conflict. This TED article (although about the workplace, it has six great tips). Positive language and actions are important to acknowledge. Reward positive actions with a note or a little treat for adults as well as kids. If you show you’re noticing the small stuff, it makes the big stuff easier and you’ll build layers of trust. Be aware of how you bring up issues within the family. It’s vital that any problems are addressed quickly and honestly. Use the structure in #1 regularly so it becomes normal. Embrace vulnerability so hearing what others say becomes much easier. Creating an environment where listening is valued is so important for building respect. When you know that what you say matters, you will become more confident and positive. When you become positive, you will inspire positivity. The cycle of positivity, reward, positivity begins!

  3. Put their needs above yours. When you decide to share your life with another human, you’re making a commitment to meet their needs. You’re there to grow together in any form of relationship. As adults our emotional and physical needs can be met too by cooking a nice meal or taking them on a surprise holiday! The point is, is that you think about your partner, so my fellow bed livers, we can meet our partner’s and children’s needs from our sick beds by asking about their day. If you’ve got a busy life, don’t let this get lost in life noise, don’t take your relationship for granted. We’re all different so some of us need extra support to do this, but if you meet their needs they’re more likely to reciprocate. It may be something to discuss in your relationship.  If one person in the relationship becomes dependant due to illness or disability then this can create strain, but you can still meet your partners needs, you just need to think it through. If you have young carers, meeting their needs can be a worry, but be reassured that you can still do this. If you want some tips, read more here.
  4. Be Affectionate with each other. With children it’s easy, they’re usually pretty affectionate unless their teenagers, although we still give ours a kiss goodnight. (boom, down with their street cred😜). It’s really important to make the effort in our adult relationships because “forms of physical affection…were strongly related to the…satisfaction the participant felt with the relationship and the partner.”     Psychology Today We’ve found that establishing affection at any transition, such as waking up or getting home, we’ve become more affectionate and it deepens our connection (yes still, after 21 years). Those hugs and kisses build positivity and happiness. Although some find public affection difficult, I think it’s important in a relationship; especially around your teenage children! We’ve always loved to hold hands in public (although trickier in a wheelchair). “Affection produces feelings of intimacy, security, significance, and respect in a relationship.” Everyday Health
  5. Show them how much you love them.

They say that actions speak louder than actionsandwordswords! So show you how much you love them by getting creative. Whatever works for your kids: show your love by slipping a note in their lunchbox, sitting playing Lego for hours, leaving notes on the fridge and snuggling in front of a movie. With your partner, focus on them regularly to keep a healthy relationship: giving a foot rub, sending texts during the day, writing poems or creating art from photographs!or organising a date night. And don’t forget to always listen to them! Make what you do romantic and do it at least once a week. Just don’t be repetitive. Or creepy. Or boring. Or immature. Or creepy….

In conclusion

In my opinion, if you wait to do the things you love, you may just miss that chance. Bucket lists and waiting for another day may mean that you missed your chance. If you ever missed that opportunity to show your love and something happened, well….

If you’re reading this with a chronic illness, then this can be even tougher for you to think about. I’ve tried both waiting and pushing through, but in the end I’m up for taking a chance.

Someone took a chance on me and we’ve built conditional love for each other and our boys, of course. But we’ve had many tough times and we’ve been lucky enough to make it through. I hope someone has or will take a chance on you.

I make sure my children know how much I love them every day. I make sure to kiss my husband every time he leaves the house and when he gets home.

Don’t wait to do anything, show you love your someone at every opportunity and don’t sweat the small stuff. We never know what’s about to happen…

Affirmations for a better you
Positive Affirmations for a Better You

You can help yourself achieve the things you want to do today using Affirmations. I’ve mentioned these above.  I’ve created a set of Printable Affirmations that would for setting the tone for a good day Grab a copy of this when you sign up to my occasionally regular newsletter today!  You still have until the 31st March to get your free printable. 

Sign up for your Printable Positive Affirmations Freebie

I make sure my children know how much I love them everyday. I make sure to kiss my husband every time he leaves to go to work and as soon as he gets home.

My point is – Don’t wait to do anything, show you love someone at every opportunity and don’t sweat the small stuff. We never know what’s about to happen! So, if you start living for now, today, then what would you choose as the first thing you’d do?

Chronic Illness Bloggers

Continue reading 5 Last Chance Opportunities To Show Unconditional Love

How To Focus To Stop Being Flooded With Worry

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How To Stop Being Flooded With Worry

The Worry Flood!

What on earth am I going on about? Worry is a part of human nature and is a shared experience. However the way everyone experiences worry is another thing…

I know this idea of a Worry Flood might sound strange, but bear with me and I think you’ll see what I mean…well, I hope so! I can only describe it in ‘technical’ terms as a weird VaVoom drop and then the rush of worry that floods you from head to toe!

More simply, this is that feeling in the pit of your stomach before your heart races! The sickening sinking feeling that joins in can last seconds or days. I imagine there aren’t many people that haven’t experienced it at least once in their lives

The extent of worrying for you and me

Unfortunately some of us (*raising hand awkwardly even though no one’s home) worry to such extent that it can cause debilitating anxiety or even panic attacks. This is when worry has gone from flood to tsunami and your techniques stop working.

You might be in a very similar situation to me, but because of all sorts of factors, you may be able to brush off that Va-voom feeling quickly. Then take a deep breath to reboot, gain your composure and can carry on with what you were doing.

However, when I forget to check myself, worry quickly swirls into a whirlwind. Guilt, doubt and fear enclose me and I get caught in the eye of the storm; in panic mode until the dust settles. This happens less and less as I’ve had help from experts.

I’m not an expert, so if you feel like this, please seek medical advice.

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Worry becomes anxiety or panic.

Worry is experienced to varying extents but everyone shares that initial adrenaline rush. That heart quickening and stomach sinking feeling, is a common experience, but there are vast differences in how you and I then react. The extent of one person’s worry is almost impossible to comprehend.

How does worry affect you? Are you a worry wort or chronically concerned? And why the heck does worry exist? First, the science geeky stuff behind what you and I feel and experience.

Why does worry exist?

Life is full of uncertainty and this is what drives solutions and new ways to look at things. You can only prepare so much for things that are going to happen, at some point. When you can prepare, you’re able to take back some control of the situation.

And that’s the key point: Control!

You only have control of what is happening to you now! You can’t control what has happened; good or bad. But you can learn from your mistakes and successes to shape your future decision making so even without full control, you forge your path.

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A lack of control… Photo by ehsan ahmadnejad

Having a lack of control over the future is often that pivotal moment when apprehension turns into worry. You can only solve possible future problems to a certain point, before you literally can’t prepare anymore.

You might start trying to predict every eventuality; asking ‘what if’s’ and going over and over problems. All of that is going to dredge that worry monster up – I’ve been there!

How to react to feeling flooded with worry

If you’re still here then I’m guessing it’s pretty likely that you’re a worrier. Hopefully you’ve learnt how to handle worry so you can avoid destruction. It’s vital that you do build these strategies up so that Worry doesn’t stop you living your best life.

I’ll throw you some life lines a little further down the page, so stick with me a bit longer and learn the skills I’ve built for the least disturbance in my life.

But first the sciencey geeky stuff!

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The Sciencey Geeky Stuff Photo by Toni Cuenca

a) You put up barriers, like sand bags, doing all you can to avoid failure. You avoid any vulnerability, that you are never budging from that comfort zone. You’ll miss out on learning about your potential and becoming a stronger person. You stop living!

b) You’ve built defences so you don’t have to worry about anyone or anything. You see where the day takes you. Not the best long term plan, but I get it, you’re protecting yourself. You could end up living a very lonely life though.

c) You let the water freeze around you, creating a protective bubble. When you start to feel uncomfortable, you give up and take the easy option! You’ll forget what the world has to offer to you.

I’ve just described 3 examples of The Stress response: fight, flight or freeze. All primal examples of how animals respond to fear. I’ve explained The Stress Response in this blog: How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes

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Photo by Darrel Und on Pexels.com

I also wanted to share this article by James Clear about The Evolution of Anxiety. James is an author and photographer who shares the latest scientific research about human habits and potential.

A giraffe makes immediate choices such as: “When you are hungry, you walk over and munch on a tree. When a storm rolls across the plains, you take shelter under the brush. When you spot a lion stalking you and your friends, you run away.”

“[M]ost of your choices as a giraffe (…) make an immediate impact on your life. You are constantly focused on the present or the very near future.”

Animals live in a state scientists call an immediate-return environment. However, as we’ve evolved we’ve lost that immediate reward of food, shelter or safety.

“Most of the choices you make today will not benefit you immediately. (..) [E.g.] If you save money now, you’ll have enough for retirement.  (..) [The things we] worry about are problems of the future.”

Humans live in a Delayed Return Environment. “[This can] lead to chronic stress and anxiety,(…) because your brain wasn’t designed to [work in this environment]”

Why do you need to know this?

You need strategies that help you respond to today’s societal expectations. You need techniques to help you avoid stress response. Ideally these need to be so practised that they’re what you turn to in a split second, when you recognise your triggers.

This takes time and dedication, working on yourself and ideally having an expert to guide you. I’m years into this and still get tripped up sometimes. If they’re available at your fingertips, you can press pause on the Worry Flood and get back to dry land.

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Build a dam to divert the Worry Flood into canals Photo by Quintin Gellar

You build a Dam by de-watering (in this case) the habits you’ve used for years. Then you learn  distractions and ways to create calm. Once you’ve done this you can use floodgates to divert the Worry Flood in to a canal, giving you more control to deal with smaller sections of the bigger problem.

Once you’ve curbed your anxieties you’ll be more equipped to counteract the Worry Flood. The less your thoughts are eroded the less you’ll struggle. You’ll be armed because use you’ve built barricades and have a safe place where to continue to grow

How it feels to be flooded with worry!

I’ve been out of my depth many times and lately I’ve been struggling;  worry that has been overwhelming at times. I’ve failed to recognise the Amber alerts and have become engulfed with anxiety and panic attacks. So I have to start rebuilding again.

I realised I’ve been stuck in this whole delayed return environment phase. Behind the scenes, I’m developing all I need to launch a better Paprika Jewellery & Accessories. But the reward is a way off yet and with the pressure I put on myself I just didn’t spot the triggers!

I’ve spent the last few years building easily accessible skills. I used them regularly so when it comes to times like this; I’d have some control to slow down the flood. When I realised it hadn’t worked, I ensured to get my routine back. Now I’ve got my sights back on my main goal of being well enough to spend time with family and friends.

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How to Focus when that flood warning is given

So I want to share my top tips for controlling the Worry Flood, by diverting the overload into canals where I could catch smaller sections of water. This allows me to use my strategies to rebuild, dealing with smaller sections of the bigger problem.

These skills have become my go to, picked up through research, forums and work with qualified practitioners. They’re personalised for my triggers, but I’m able to share them in a way that you can developthem for your own needs. Remember, it’s not just building walls and they may need you to step outside of your comfort zone! 

 My Top Tips for Worry Flooding

  • The 1st thing you do each day is set yourself just 1 goal that you commit to. This can be about anything. Check in with yourself a few times a day to see if you’re on track.
  • At the end of the day, write a done list! it feels really good to reward yourself by knowing what you have achieved and think less about what you haven’t. I try and make this really positive and celebrate things I’m happy, proud and grateful for.
  • Use a timer to focus on productivity. I do this when writing and on social media. I need to balance time spent online with energy for my family and friends. You can download a free planner here- How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes
  • Plan to keep yourself on track. I love planning, but use my long term goals to keep on track as I write my planner each week. If I don’t achieve something, I rub it out and reorganise. Breaking down a problem into chunks make it easier to control.
  • Block similar work together. For example, I find all photos I need in one go, instead of with each blog. This is just right now that I’ve explored what works for me.
  • Use music to set the tone. I really missed music when I was really poorly. I’m bringing it back in to my life gently, but with purpose. I use an album as a timer; a playlist for productivity or ambient sounds for concentration.
  • Use the notes on your phone to keep track of your ideas whenever and wherever. I use it to plan my writing or to keep track of medical notes. I know I’ll always have what I need for some control in unplanned or stressful situations.
  • Recognise the little voice in your head. Don’t miss the Amber flood warning, practising your best on the spot techniques. I write stream of consciousness rants to stop me going over something that can’t be changed. It’s also helped me stop saying sorry so often and use more positive language than negative.
  • Meditation is the best skills to learn if you worry. It helps you build layers of protection and grounds you. Learn when to be vulnerable and when to let go. You can learn quick centring techniques easily. I meditate every day and I’ll tell you why in this post. 5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress
  • Learn breathing techniques. It’s especially effective when for me, when I feel that first wave of worry. Try putting a hand on your heart or stomach and take a few deep breaths to compose yourself.  There are many techniques, so experiment to see what works for you. I recommend this guide: 1 minute breathing exercises
  • Live in the moment. As I’ve said, now is the only time you have control of your next choice. Step outside your comfort zone and embrace life right now. Be present and live to your fullest potential. If a planning freak like me can do it, I’m sure you can.
  • Develop a sleeping pattern that works for you. So 8 hours in a dark room at the same time each night, might be your thing, but let’s get real; this isn’t going to work for everyone. I sometimes get no sleep due to pain, bleurgh…. But if I sleep well, I cope with the pain better. Find things that help you relax and try setting a bedtime routine. You should be more equipped for handling worries.
  • Face your fears. I’ve embraced things that scare me from my bed, so try not to get hung up on bolstering barricades. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. I think you’d be surprised by how it makes you feel and the response from others!
  • Affirmations are statements you can use to manifest your potential and strengthen your self belief. They help me so much that I’ve designed a free printable available until the 31st March, if you sign up to my newsletter. Check out the link at the end of this post. Here’s a guide to use them to set yourself up for a very productive day. L
  • 5 Morning Affirmations To Guarantee A Successful Day!
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Learn from my tips to develop your own strategies for worry and anxiety Photo credit Natalia Figueredo

In Conclusion

I hope I’ve not been too metaphor happy, so these are the key points to take away:

There’s many ways to protect yourself from too much worry, so explore and find what suits you. Build up layers of protection, whilst also being vulnerable, Step outside your comfort zone and remember the power of diversions.

Fight, flight or freeze (stress response) are reactions to perceived threat. This is a primal response, but we know experience that from stress and worry. We also have to wait for reward most of the time, which can heighten our anxiety. Develop skills and strategies that give you some control and help reduce the extent of your worry.

When planning ahead, focus on leaving room to reflect. Writing your concerns can help stop you overthinking.. You can only control right now, so practise different strategies that focus on letting go of control.

*This is based on my own experiences and is just my opinion, unless referenced. If you are struggling with stopping worry overload, please seek medical advice.

I’d love to know how you focus to cope with worry in the comments! 

Chronic Illness Bloggers

✋ Hey there! You could really help me out. Just one minute of your time to press that share button helps me so much! You’ll literally make me do a bed-bound happy dance. Now there’s an image for you!

5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress

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5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress

Meditation Myths

Are misconceptions about meditation preventing you from relieving stress and pent up anger?  If you want to learn how to develop techniques to think more clearly and positively, then find out how meditation can aid better sleep and restfulness. Find out how releasing negative energy through Meditation can help you live a happier, healthier and more positive life. Please don’t run away – I know the M word is scary as, but if you’ve got any investment in reducing stress levels, then keep reading!

*DISCLAIMER – All thoughts are my own, backed up by genuine research. Please don’t confuse me for a Doctor or anyone educated in Meditation. I just like it a lot!

I think Meditation is one of those Marmite (American? read this) words. Either someone snores you to death talking about Om postures and staring at a candle for 3 hours or the tumbleweeds roll when you mention it. No one wants to talk about 3 hour candle watching, so if you’re a sceptic, stick with me; it doesn’t have to be this way people!

If you’re in the ‘love it’ camp, please read this to consider if you’re adding to these myths. If you’re in the ‘hate it’ camp, then please read this to learn why these myths are giving meditation such a bad image. The word ‘Meditation’ evokes feelings of confusion and disinterest, even in a world where you can’t move for talk of self care!

But before I dive into the myths, I’d like you to reflect on your character, consider your day ahead or the one just gone and remember what your big goals/dreams are.

Reflect

I wonder what goes on in your everyday life and what you wake up to each day. Do you fret over the frenzy or dread the drudgery of your day? Are you fashion frantic or gagging for the gym?  A vocal vegan or a loudmouthed lobbyist? Actually, don’t answer those last questions! My point is, whether you’re a Conscious Charlie or a Trendsetting Tara, you’re expected to live by rules created by someone you’ll never know.

Consider

24 hours a day, we have access to news, emails, social media, shopping, partying and more. We drive when we could easily walk and lose that feeling of holding a real book as we download them. We have the TV on late at night, affecting our sleep and eat microwave meals instead of cooking even a simple omelette.

Remember

I believe we’re losing the art of engaging with our world. Forgetting to create magical moments for our children, like those from our own childhoods. For me it’s cooking crumble with my Nana and hauling 20 books home from the library. What about you? Do you talk with your family about their days? Do you actively take baby steps towards your ideal life and focus on your family’s hopes and dreams?

As I sat with my youngest and taught him how to make apple crumble without a recipe, I realised our responsibility to pass down the simplicity of life: before technology. The smells, sounds, look, feel and taste matched my memories of Nana and I in the kitchen, I knew she’d be smiling down on us. This was the first cooking I’ve done for a long time, as I need help, and it was wonderful. It was such a calm, peaceful and gratifying activity.

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Hidden Stress Can Result In Pent up Anger

Hidden Stress

We must do what we love, but our zest for success can seep into every area of our lives. We go to sleep with our phones in unnatural light. We compare our lives to the ideal image filling our newsfeeds. These are the hidden stresses of our fast paced world and can only get worse.

Without knowing it, we’re under strain from overwhelm. With no warning, sneaky stress can creep up on us and invade. Read more about overwhelm on this blog post. We all need to find some head space, so that our brains don’t fry and our bodies don’t burn out.

Headspace

I’ve been thinking about the vast space in our noggins for a while, but then read this article and found that we’re using most of our brains most of the time, even whilst sleeping. “The brain is constantly making new connections and breaking old ones” so surely we need to do as much as we can, to keep our grey matter healthy.

This made me consider how much we can balance before we buckle and whether we have any control over what is going on in those active minds. I concluded that we need armour in case of a headspace invasion (I think I may have just revealed my secret geek 😲). This brings me back to Meditation! You thought I’d forgotten then, didn’t you? 🤔

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5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress

Meditation Myths

If your reaction to this heading is hostility, then maybe we should part ways here – but you’re always welcome back of course. However if you can bear facing your meditation anticipation, then these are the 5 main excuses used when that word gets mentioned:

1. I’ve done it before and still have the same problems, it just didn’t work!

2. I can’t be quiet for long enough to read this post, let alone silence my mind!

3. I don’t have any time for it, there’s just too much in my life already!

4. I don’t really need to do it, I’m fine as I am thanks!

5. I don’t do that sort of hippie nonsense, sitting with my legs crossed and all that!

All that negativity gives me the heebie-jeebies. Anyway, any of the above rsound familiar? I bet you’ve said at least one of those. You’re not alone, meditation is misunderstood, but remember that busy mind I’ve unmecically diagnosed? That’s you, that is (I’d love it if you got that reference)! You may think you’re fine but do you really have all your shizz together?

Let’s start myth busting and see if meditation is something you’d consider. Could you learn to create some head space? Do you want simple techniques to help calm you when anxiety strikes? Come this way and learn how to solve problems the easy way!

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The Typical Image of Someone Meditating

1. Ok, so maybe you tried it once or twice and it didn’t solve your bitchy boss problem, or *________ (insert problem here). There are have been heaps of studies about meditation solving all sorts of things – mental and physical things. So when life goes pear shaped, it’s easy to pin your hopes on something you’ve heard might solve it all. However, like most things in life, you can’t just try it once and be all ‘winner winner’! When has that worked for you? I bet you didn’t just take one antibiotic dose and lose that throat infection either, did you?

You have to practise, practise, practise. But first explore and find out what works for you. Yep, that sounds like loads of work but you’re likely to find one that suits you pretty quickly. I know within seconds if the voice is right for me; if not, I change it. Look for beginner guided meditations first. I’ve recommended some of my favourites at the end of this post ⬇️.

2. Now then fidget pants, close all the other tabs on your phone – Yep, thought as much. I bet you’re doing way too much. No wonder you can’t concentrate, you need to stop sometimes and chill. If you had to sit in silence, could you? I doubt it, but that’s not the point. The goal for meditation is to help you cope with life!

You don’t need to silence your mind to meditate. You’re not a Buddhist monk! (unless you are, then I wholly apologise for everything I’ve said). This whole malarkey has actually been researched! They found that people when asked to concentrate on something, say a candle, for 5 minutes, couldn’t. Then they were told to not think about that candle and let their mind wander for 5 minutes. Guess what? They all thought about that sweet candle. I bet you’re imagining a candle now! 😂 Let your mind roam free and you’ll calm it. Silencing the mind to mediate is a total myth!

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Meditation is Not About Silencing The Mind

3. No time for it? Well I’m going to blow your mind right now… I watched this awesome Ted Talk and found out that there’s a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience about this time thing, I wasn’t expecting what the speaker told us. So, our biological age speeds up when stressed and meditating can reduce the rate we age at. e.g. If you start meditating daily on your 30th birthday and had a matching biological and chronological age (Science stuff), something awesome happens – on your 35th birthday you’d have the skin, sight, hearing, memory and sexual responsiveness (yes, I went there) of a 23 year old! Say again???

Crazy – but logically from this research, meditation is the one activity where you get back the time you put in! You can meditate for 1 minute or 10 hours! You can concentrate on that candle for hours or learn a quick breathing meditation to calm your mind in minutes. I use an affirmation such as ‘Everything is going to be okay’ when the anxiety monster bites me. Just as it starts to sink those teeth in, my muttered words start to become reality; I know it’s going to be👌🏻and I can relax. This has stopped me having a panic attack more than once! You can use these quickies anytime, anywhere; on the train, in the office or lying in the dark.

4. Alright, you’re fine are you? Be honest – it’s only you and me! Do you have a busy mind; ever worry over things; lose your rag with your kids or argue with your partner? If you just nodded, raised your hand (it’s ok, no-one’s watching –  unless you’re on that train) or accepted those may be a possibility; you might want to rethink your excuse. It sounds to me like you need some time out, headspace or coping strategies! In a day we have tens of thousands of thoughts, it’s highly unlikely that you really are just fine. Meditation Mindfulness is a great way to take some time to consider what you need and how to get it. I bet after a few weeks meditating, a loved one notices something – an normal argument topic, becomes something you let go of instead! 

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Meditation after Brain Surgery

Meditation in any form, has more restorative effects than sleep. It’s thought to release feel good hormones and free the tension that’s built up over a stressful day. In my case, my pain is often worse than when I gave birth to my 10lb 9oz son naturally (really)! 15 minutes of meditation will reduce that pain to a tight band feeling – I know, right? I even use it after brain surgery to help me cope with the pain and busyness of a hospital ward. Mediation is a very important part of my daily routine; it can reduce my pain and let me write to you!

5. Ok, some meditation is full on hippie (no offence – I love that myself). The four (some say 30+) types of meditation vary in that between and within each category.

  • Concentration meditations are tough – this is where you have one single point of focus, such as that flickering candle and try and clear your mind of everything else.
  • Contemplation meditations are beginner friendly – guided meditations, visualisation and affirmations. Your mind is active and your thoughts roam free.
  • Mantras or Chanting meditations are the typical image of meditation. This involves prayer beads and chanting ‘om Shanti om’ and is typical Buddhist prayer practice.
  • Transcendental meditations are about going beyond thought. They’re usually way out, using vibrations to take the brain from using beta waves to Delta wave (beyond conscious thought). But can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing and being in the present/now.

There are studies that say meditating can heal such and such, but honestly can a medical meditation trial work? The Ted Talk linked above, explains this much better than I can. But as a beginner, if you try sitting cross legged in the lotus position with palms up in ‘om’ pose and start chanting;  you’re setting yourself up to fail. You’ll feel like a drowning peacock with all your beautiful feathers ruined; losing the attention you crave!

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Meditation Myths Busted! Silencing Your Mind is Not Typical Meditation Practice

My point is made now, but these myths are holding people back from using simple tools and techniques to deal with stress, hidden or not, that would ease the impact on both their mental and physical health!  Whatever you felt about meditation before reading this, I hope I’ve made you think or at least chuckle – unless you’re a Buddhist Monk of course.

Meditation can be an amazing tool for calming your mind. So, I’ll just finish by saying this: Anyone aged 3 – 103 can meditate. We all experience stress in this age of fast paced living. You can stay calm along this busy path through life with simple meditation techniques. Don’t be swayed by the myths and don’t add to them! It really is easy to let meditation into your life.

Here are some links to my favourite beginner meditations if you want to give it a go. * These are not affiliate links, they’re just my recommended go to’s.

Guided Body Scan for Beginners By The Honest Guys

Back To Basics Meditation By Jason Stephenson

Easy Beach Visualisation and Breathing Meditation

3 Minute Breathing Exercise

Deepak Chokra 3 Minute Focus Meditation

I use this App which has access to loads of meditations at different levels of ability and the different types of meditation. Insight Timer

Do you have any questions about meditating?

Do you meditate or is it still not for you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this. Please pop any comments or questions below. I’m looking forward to hearing if you’re a lover or a hater! Peace my friends!

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How to Cultivate A Grateful Life – A Beginners Guide

A smiling Indian lady with long black hair and brown eyes holds her hands together in front (and to the side) in a Namaste Greeting. She is wearing a green, red and orange top with stud earrings, a silver watch and an orange and white bangle. There are white, green and maroon half circles in the corners and the wording at the top says ‘How to cultivate a Grateful Life: A Beginners Guide’
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How to Cultivate A Grateful Life – A Beginners Guide – ‘I think of 3 positives at the end of each day and I’m thankful for my friends and family. This simple act has helped me grow as a parent during many tough times.’

How to Cultivate A Grateful Life – A Beginners Guide

In this step by step guide I’m going to show you how to grow from feeling mostly meh to predominantly pleased by lightening the load using these pointers. I’ll explain how my life as a parent with anxiety and chronic illnesses took me to the lowest lows of my life to being as well balanced and harmonious as a landscaped garden.

When I recognised that I was dragging my family down with me when I’d get grouchy with my boys or snap at my husband because I couldn’t cope, I knew I had to change. I had to find a way to climb out from the undergrowth for them and it was as simple as making 1 or 2 small changes first! This guide covers the 10 steps it took for me to live gratefully.

When the Light Dimmed and I Couldn’t Breathe

I struggled with my mental health on and off for years after Youngest was born. I had post-natal depression and suffered from panic attacks for months after nearly losing him many times in his first 48 hours. The first time we left the hospital for some fresh air, once he’d stabilised, I couldn’t breathe properly as soon as we stepped out of the hospital door.

After being checked out by doctors, I was told it was a panic attack. It happened again, each time I left him in the NICU and continued once we were home, especially as he was rushed back into hospital for a 5 day stay a few weeks later. I’d panic if he didn’t snuffle when sleeping and even had a GP tell me that he didn’t know what I wanted him to say.

I just needed to be told he was okay, which he was that day but not every day. All this went on in the same 12 months that I lost my Grandpa and Father In Law as well as four other family members and friends that died too young. Joel and I had to find our way through all of this heartbreak, which was a massive strain, and I needed my voice to be heard!

Finding the Air and The Space I Needed to Grow

I was in very a bad way when my GP listened and I was counselling sessions which had a positive impact. My counsellor guided me towards the air holes when everything was suffocating me. Joel held on tight to my hand and I had a 2 year old to think about as well as a baby so I fought hard and together we found the light we needed in our lives again.

Making these big changes led the way but it was little changes that were key to me being purposefully grateful for my family, my remarkable husband who gave me space when I needed it even whilst he was dealing with his own grief. I had 2 beautiful and healthy children (Youngest was given the all clear aged 1) )to be thankful for.

A photo showing my 2 children when I was spending time nurturing them and learning to be grateful for wha5 we had. They’re running across the grass, in front of the camera in profile, in Brighton Pavilion garden with the trees in the background. Eldest is closest to the camera and is wring jeans and a green, hooded winter coat. He has short brown hair and a big smile. Youngest is slightly ahead of him and much smaller. He’s also wearing jeans and an orange and cream, hood winter coat. He has ginger hair and has his head turned away from the camera.
As a family we grew stronger roots and the trail that the our tears left behind faded.

I needed time to nurture our boys and bed in strategies to keep me on a positive path. Just look at these faces to see all I had to be thankful for.

We got plenty of fresh air on family walks and I exercised outdoors when possible. I had breathing space to appreciate the world around me and to recognise all the positives I had in my life to celebrate!

Cherishing Life Every Day and Seeking Adventures

When I was diagnosed with migraines a couple of years later, it threatened to uproot all of the hard work we’d put in to creating space in which to appreciate our family and the life we’d built. But we’d done the tough bit and with Joel by my side I managed to stand tall, despite the wobble. In many ways it was the catalyst to my valuing every day with them.

So when my physical health stabilised we grasped every opportunity. We embraced travel with unbelievable family holidays and wonderful long weekends just the two of us. We embraced live music and made the most of living close to London and Brighton; immersing ourselves in the culture and experiences available to us.

When I took a promotion with full time hours when Youngest started school the challenges came and the cracks in the ground around me started to appear again with the stress. I had panic attacks driving to work or would arrive in tears. It wasn’t the right place for me.

A coral background with the text ‘Begin each day with a grateful heart in blue and white writing.

So I went back to part time hours and rediscovered my love for teaching and as part of a small school nurture every child.

I was happy to wake up and drive along the country lanes and have time to exercise and be with my family at weekends. But I needed the buzz of a challenge and landed a Senior Leadership role in a lovely school. Unfortunately I fell ill after one term and this project was abandoned mid sentence!

The Abandoned Vine and The Weeping Willow

It had been an on off relationship with cultivating a grateful life as my mental health wasn’t being nurtured continually. I was on uneven terrain so I became a weeping willow, a common symbol of grief. Isolated and feeling like the only one with a constant migraine, I hardly saw any friends because I found it hard to have a simple conversation.

I was stuck at home, unable to carry out plans we’d made to see gigs and I felt suffocated. When we were together as a family, I’d be shushing the kids over nothing because of my hyperacusis and getting grouchy, I couldn’t sit with Joel on my right because his deep voice triggered tinnitus. So family life became strained, left as though an abandoned vine.

I found other chronic migraineurs online but this compounded my feeling of hopelessness. However the light shone through my protective foliage when I found a group of amazing people who gave me support, inspiration and laughter. They helped me gather strength and find the positives again! Maybe I wouldn’t be left to go to rack and ruin after all!

It turned out that I was actually suffering from IIH or Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. You can read more about this condition in this blog I wrote a while back: https://laughingwhileyourecrying.wordpress.com/what-is-idiopathic-intracranial-hypertensioniih-iih-brainandspine/p

The Beginners Guide to Results From Being Grateful

A wooden surface has most of a white porcelain heart on the left hand side of the image. It has the phrase ‘I am grateful’ in black text and hessian string tied through a whole at the top. Below is green background with the words ‘The Beginners Guide To Results From A Grateful Life’.
  1. Find someone to give practical advice to help you solve the root problem.
  2. Connect with someone to confide in when times are tough.
  3. Get help with complex applications for monetary support.
  4. Seek counselling through very tough times.
  5. Find your tribe, the people who get what your going through.
  6. Pass on acts of kindness to others going through similar situations.
  7. Share your story with those you could help those beyond your group.
  8. Change at least one habit to help you live a healthier lifestyle.
  9. Find at least one positive or small win from your day.
  10. Record your positives from each day In a way that you can refer back to.
  1. I was given a crash course in how to deal with chronic illness life, which at the time was still diagnosed as migraine. My migraine friends would chat to me on the phone when I had particularly bad days or worsening news. There were there to offer me practical advice, including introducing me to my trusty Migracap and meditation.
  2. I made many online friends but have been lucky to meet some of these truly amazing people who I could confide in, as well as having Joel of course. One truly amazing lady told me that she would be there in spirit to squeeze my right hand and she would squeeze back. This simple invitation became my safety harness!
  3. I learnt about options for having to leave my teaching career and how to plan for the future. I was supported when I had to fill out forms for ESA and PIP support and how to deal with the face to face meetings with them, social workers and more besides.
  4. Little did I know then where chronic illness life would take me. Having friends that get it to confide in meant that there was always someone there if I had bad news. If Joel was at work I might have to wait all day but his support is what got me through, I recognised early that I needed counselling again to help me cope with extremes.
  5. These people became my tribe and having them there got me through the really scary times when I couldn’t communicate at all. By this point I’d narrowed down my friendships where people disappeared when it got too much. But once I was diagnosed with IIH and had a treatment plan of how to help me, I had hope again.
  6. As my confidence improved I developed a more positive outlook because I could pass on these acts of kindness to friends I’d met online with similar symptoms to me. Meeting members of my community has allowed me to understand chronic illness better and I can offer advice based on other’s challenges from different perspectives.
  7. I started my blog to be able to support my readers during their own tough times. I share information for awareness of my Conditions and mental wellbeing. I share what’s helped me as a parent with chronic illness, finding a purpose and having a healthy lifestyle and have created a community where people can ask my advice.
  8. By being so open I’ve really found out who my true friends are so I’ve worked hard on developing my self esteem. I try not to let those who can’t cope with my no filter speak and inability to communicate well all the time, impact on my own wellbeing. Luckily I’m overwhelmed by the support and understanding my friends give me.
  9. I was inspired early on, when I first wrote this post in 2014, to think of one positive at the end of every day, however small. It could be that I managed to wash my hair or that I saw my nephews and nieces. It might be that Youngest and I baked a cake or that Eldest tidied his room – it’s rare. It might be that Joel and I watched a great film!
  10. Now I write 3 positives every morning in my journal about the day before as I’m too tired to write at night. I write 1 thing that made me happy, 1 thing that made me proud and 1 thing that I’m thankful for. If I’m going to always be in pain, I’d rather be happy in pain than miserable and in pain anyway.

Hey, you might like to check out my top tips for setting up your day to be positive using affirmations. These easy tips can help you to build on to these tips above. https://laughingwhileyourecrying.wordpress.com/2019/02/03/5-morning-affirmations-to-guarantee-a-successful-day

Conclusion

A quote saying ‘Just one positive thought in the morning can change your whole day. Anonymous

I give myself limited jobs to do each day, the amount depends on whether I have a friend visit, so that I can still take time to take that one positive thought and remind myself throughout the day.

My life is no longer about a teaching career but it is about the little things in life. Having a positive thought to focus on helps me to stay thankful for having supportive friends and most importantly every moment with my family.

Almost every day a friend will mention that they just don’t know how I’m able to stay positive despite being in constant, debilitating pain. I’ve been told by many friends that I am the strongest person they know or even that I am an inspiration to them. No, I’m not singing my own praises here; I just wanted to share how this makes me feel.

After years of living with mental and chronic illnesses, I’m honoured to be able to inspire my friends with my positivity. I feel that I’ve been passed along insider knowledge for helping others that are suffering with pain or illness; sharing closely guarded tips, tricks and wonderful acts of kindness. My strength has been sent my way and I share it freely.

If I can raise a smile for someone or give them extra strength to get through their day, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do when I started this blog. However, these days I can see what led to me thinking of one positive thought a day and now extend to recording 3 positive thoughts for every day.

If you can only do one of the 10 tips in this guide to a more grateful life, then please find your person to confide in. We all know someone who has needed someone to check on them at some point so if you can be a confidante then make sure your friends know they can talk to you about anything, at anytime. A grateful life starts with a small win and a grin!

Have you got any tips for creating a positively grateful lifestyle that I’ve not mentioned? Please pop them in the comments below. I’d love to read them and I do reply.

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*If you feel you need professional help then please speak to your doctor. This information should not to replace medical guidance and is based on experience alone.

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