End of lockdown…week 1

This week saw the beginning of a return to probably pretty much the new normal when it comes to day-to-day life in England. We have adjusted to having a mask with us everywhere we go and wearing it pretty much all of the time when out and about. I remember when shops opened for the first time after the first lockdown I daren’t touch anything unless I was buying it but how can you sift through clothes without touching them? Now we use more hand gel than you can imagine regardless of if we have touched anything or not!

I have to admit I quite like having to book to eat out or to go to the cinema or indoor play etc as it makes me feel reassured regarding how many people will be there. Not just because of Covid but also because I have never really been one for crowds. It is a much nicer atmosphere and far more relaxing to be somewhere that isn’t rammed and incredibly noisy.

I know some parents were counting down the days until they could go back to soft play, but I was never a fan anyway let alone now, I mean everyone knows all the toys particularly the ball pools are a hub for every bug going! It’s like taking your children to a chicken pox party! How on earth soft play centres can make sure everything is clean I do not know.

As soon as cinemas announced they would be reopening I have to admit that I booked tickets for myself and my eldest daughter as she has been wanting to see Peter Rabbit 2 since it was first meant to be released last year. It was good though as you booked online, selected your seats which showed the seats around you that would be blocked off and there was no waiting around.

I also ventured into a bar for the first time since last year – aren’t I a rebel?!

I think there is still a lot of confusion around what we can and cannot do and trepidation with the Indian variant taking off in England. I know it was part of the plan for restrictions to be eased this week, but it does feel odd how last week we could only eat or drink outside yet this week we can be inside and not always sat 2 metres away from others. It’s also odd that in college we have had to wear masks all the time yet this week we didn’t. The main thing that boggles my mind about this is that colleges are predominantly filled of 16–21-year-olds who haven’t had either vaccine yet and cases are increasing again but the rules regarding masks and social distancing no longer exist. When I was in college this week 17 adults were sat in an average sized classroom with no ventilation, no masks, and no social distancing for 4 hours, I find it bizarre that that’s now ok. I suppose people at work are there for longer and with more people, but I don’t understand the change of rules when we’re not out of the woods yet.

As I have said before I believe that people should do what feels right for them. Just because we are now allowed to do more does not mean we have to. If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask at all times, that’s ok. If you feel safer being sat outside even though we can sit inside, that’s fine. If you would rather still do shopping online, go for it. If you would rather wait until you’ve had both vaccines before you dish out hugs, fair enough.

I have noticed a lot of people have been saying how tired they are feeling lately, and I read an article about how people may feel fatigued as life returns to ‘normal’. This makes perfect sense to me as the majority of us have had a more subdued life for months, we’ve not been going out socialising or dashing around as we’ve not been allowed. Suddenly people are generally doing more (even if it’s on their own) and this will make you tired, just being in a busy environment may affect us as this isn’t what we’ve been used to.

However, you are feeling after this week I’d just like to remind you to be kind to yourself and not pressure yourself to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable with.

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I received an email this week from Concern Worldwide that said I have raised more than £75 and earned salt for the duration of Ration Challenge week. Even more importantly, £75 is enough to provide medical referrals for six refugees. Because of you, refugees will have access to life-saving treatment. We cannot thank you enough.

This made me very happy, to be making a difference however small it may be.

I also received my ration pack and although I have read what would be included, when I opened the box, I was shocked at how little there was and worked out that under normal circumstances the ingredients would probably make no more than around 5 meals yet these rations (+ a bag of flour and an extra bag of rice) have to make 21 meals!

It is going to be tough, but I know I only have to do it for 7 days unlike refugees.

I have decided to start the challenge tomorrow (24th May), instead of 13th June as it feels as though it’s hanging over me, with the anticipation building up. So, rather than worry how I’ll manage, I thought I’d just go for it!! Wish me luck!!

Thank you to those who have sponsored me so far, if anyone wishes to donate (there is no minimum amount) I would be incredibly grateful.

L.O.S.T Mum • Ration Challenge UK 2021

Lockdown part 3…. Week 19

I can’t quite believe that tomorrow marks the end of most of the restrictions in England and that life will return to as normal as it has been for a long time and what may be the new normal for some time to come.

Not a lot will change for me on a day-to-day basis, but I imagine some people will be desperate to go to restaurants, bars, the cinema, indoor attractions etc.

Whatever your plans are moving forward, I hope you will be kind to yourself and only do what you feel comfortable doing. Some people will feel cautious or uncomfortable and others may feel completely relaxed but the main thing is to consider how you feel and not to feel pressured by anyone. We have spent more than a year living with varying degrees of restrictions, some of us have been working remotely, some may not have left their house, ventured into shops or been anywhere crowded (in some large towns and cities social distancing seems to have already gone out the window!).

Some people may feel excited about having more freedom and others may be anxious, I hope that people will be kind to one another as there is no right or wrong. We don’t know what people are feeling or what their personal circumstances are. Yes, there are lots of people who have now had either one or both vaccinations but there are also lots of people who have had neither and of course there is the unknown about how the Indian variation may affect things. I am hopeful that vaccinations will still protect us at least enough to prevent anyone from being hospitalised.

I read an interesting article based on the virus experts’ opinions about the next stage of lockdown easing and the general consensus was cautiousness particularly in the next couple of weeks until we see what impact the easing has had on the number of cases etc. Like the experts I will still feel more comfortable sitting outside at cafes or restaurants or at least somewhere where there are limited numbers and 2 metres between tables. I found it interesting to read that all indoor exercise classes can resume but that high intensity classes pose more of a risk than say yoga as people expel more air when doing such classes. Fortunately, I wasn’t planning on attending any indoor exercise classes!!

There is still a feeling of limbo or that the government are hoping for the best but taking a stab in the dark when it comes to making decisions (yes, I know they say all decisions are based on data but it is obvious that a lot has to do with the economy, and we know the UK government has made mistakes otherwise we wouldn’t have the 5th highest number of Covid deaths).

Wales has advised people not to travel abroad until next year whereas England is allowing foreign travel to resume from next week. However, I am not sure how many countries will want us due to the increasing number of cases linked with the Indian variant. People won’t find out if they can go on holiday until the government updates the traffic light list which could mean you may not find out until the day before you are due to go. Although I had hoped to be able to take my girls abroad before my eldest starts school in September, I am relieved that I didn’t book anything and instead have planned a couple of staycations!

I got another chance to drive to York this week for my second Covid vaccine and I am now one of 15 million people in the UK to be fully vaccinated. I was a little anxious about having my 2nd vaccine as I had the Astra Zeneca and not long ago it was announced that all under 40’s would be offered a different vaccine because of a small number of people getting blood clots. However, I found it interesting that you are more likely to get a blood clot from taking the pill than from having the Astra Zeneca vaccine, yet a lot of people take the pill without batting an eyelid.

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As tomorrow marks the end of lockdown as we know it, this will be my last lockdown blog, but I will still write about life after lockdown!

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I am excited that my blog now has 100 followers from all over the world! I cannot tell you how much it means, and I want to thank everyone for reading my blog. My blog has now been read by people from the UK, USA, Malaysia, India, China, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Romania, Ecuador, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Albania, Slovakia, France, and Israel!

So, thank you, thanks, terima kasih, dhanyavad, xiè xiè, arigatou, dankie, mulțumesc, gracias, Спасибо, shukraan, Go raibh maith agat, merci vielmal, Dziękuję, bedankt, tack, faleminderit, Ďakujem, merci, todah!

Lockdown part 3…. Week 18

1 week to go until the majority of lockdown restrictions are eased! This week marked the announcement of foreign travel rules with the new traffic light system which will also begin on the 17th May alongside the return to life as normal as it is likely to be for a while.

There has been a lot of confusion and frustration over foreign travel, and I don’t feel it’s much clearer after the recent government announcement. I know some people are desperate to travel and may not care about the potential risk of bringing new variants of Covid into the country but then there are others (like myself) who would rather the government do everything within its power to keep new variants out.

As it stands the government have decided which countries are on each of the green, amber, and red lists and have said that these lists will be reviewed every few weeks. This seems to make sense as we know how quickly things can change when it comes to the spread of Covid, however I also appreciate that this doesn’t help people when it comes to planning a holiday and may have left people in limbo. Some people may have booked holidays or decide to book a holiday in a country on an amber or red list with the hope that it will be moved to the green list in time but with a lot of companies not being able to provide refunds unless holidays are cancelled as well as people having to book time off work, pay for tests etc it seems more hassle than it’s worth right now.

We have been told this week that anyone coming from a green list country needs a negative pre-departure Covid test and they will also have to take a PCR test on day two after their arrival. (I am not quite sure what would happen if this were positive once they’ve arrived on holiday!) Isolation is not required for people returning from green list countries.

If people decide to travel to an amber list country, they also need a negative pre-departure Covid test, have a PCR test on day two AND day eight. They then have to isolate at home for 10 days on their return, however, they can use the test-to-release system on day five and if they have a negative test result, they can end their quarantine immediately.

Finally, people visiting red list countries need a negative pre-departure Covid test, have a PCR test on day two and day eight and stay in a hotel for managed quarantine for 10 days which cannot be cut short.

The government have said that no one should travel to amber and red countries for leisure, but I can’t see the majority of people following this advice. However, unless the government allow people to purchase PCR tests anywhere instead of through limited and expensive companies then this will put some people off as it will significantly add to the cost of a holiday.

The first countries to be added to the green list are: – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Israel, Jerusalem, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira.

However, I had to laugh because I have no idea why the government has produced this list as only Portugal and Gibraltar will allow British tourists to travel there without quarantine or vaccination requirement and Iceland and Israel will only allow entry if people have had their vaccinations. So really the green list consists of four countries!

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I decided to set myself a challenge this week which took me way out of my comfort zone. I am aware that I don’t like to speak in front of others and so I am the quiet one on my counselling course when it comes to whole class work. There are people who are happy to take centre stage, so this has made it easier for me to take a step back, but I realised that I didn’t want people on my course to think that I didn’t want to contribute or judge me for not speaking up often. I also thought how much more difficult I would find standing up in front of them and talking about myself for 10 minutes if I didn’t take the opportunity to voluntarily speak up beforehand.

So, I thought about what I wanted to say and built up the strength and courage to do this. I am proud that I did speak up and that I was brave enough to share with the group how I didn’t value my voice so why would others and that this had stemmed from my abusive ex where I had no voice or say in my life. I couldn’t look at anyone as I spoke and felt myself getting teary (which isn’t what I wanted).

When I finished speaking, I was taken aback by the response I received from the group – I wasn’t the only one with shiny eyes. One person told me it was the most touching thing they had experienced; I was told how brave I had been, how people like hearing my voice and when I do speak up how valuable my contributions are and how touched people were. My tutor asked me to say what I needed afterwards, and I said that I needed a hug but certainly didn’t expect one given the restrictions but ended up getting a group hug! I was surprised how much it took out of me, but I am pleased I did.

I have always been a private person but know that sometimes it’s important to share and to take yourself out of your comfort zone. I’ve been left realising that I need to have more belief in myself as well as what others say about me without almost shrugging it off (not in a nasty way as I was very touched by the comments, but I struggle to take compliments).

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Finally, this week me and my girls re-designed our front window with a summer theme. We may be the only house that is still decorating our window, but I have received such positive comments about how much people love to see our window and how much children enjoy walking past our house so of course it had to be done!

131 Confidence Quotes To Help You Believe In Yourself

Lockdown part 3…. Week 17

Here we are another week closer to life returning to some sort of normality! I am pleasantly surprised at how well I seem to be adapting to this new life so far, but I am not putting pressure on myself to do things that make me feel uncomfortable. I have booked tickets to take my girls to an indoor mini village play area later this month that they both love! (We’ve not been for nearly a year). I also got excited and decided to book a holiday to France next summer with the hope that things will have calmed down by then.

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I am proud of myself for making it to college this week after last weeks wobble, it took a lot of strength and reflecting to get past it as old me would have struggled and probably spat the dummy out (given up).

As I walked back to my car which was parked in a multi-storey carpark, I suddenly found myself thinking there was no one around and even though it was light I was thinking how easy it would have been for someone to be lurking around a corner, so I found myself running up the stairs. I have also been parking as close to the door as possible so that I don’t have to walk across the car park. I would never have thought twice about this until Sarah Everard’s murder, and I found myself feeling a little uneasy but at the same time thinking is this how I’m supposed to feel from now on? Is it not a good idea to be outside on my own? Especially after the tragic events of PCSO Julia James who was murdered earlier this week. An innocent woman walking her dog near her home, brutally bludgeoned to death and the killer remains unknown.

What can we do to protect ourselves? Are we supposed to walk around with a rape alarm, pepper spray? I will never condone anyone who walks around with a gun or knife however I do understand why some people may feel the need to, in order to feel safe. Just like people I know of who now sleep with baseball bats after being broken into.

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Last week I mentioned that I feel as though I am starting to rebel (or maybe I am just discovering my true self after my previous sheltered life) …I still can’t quite believe what I did. Anyone who knows me would know that I am not someone who has ever shown an interest in them let alone someone who would consider getting one, but something came over me. I did not even discuss getting one with anyone or seek approval. Yet here I am, with a purple heart tattoo on my arm!! It may not sound like a big deal, but for me it is.

My friends and family where shocked particularly as I am normally someone who needs permission to do things particularly as drastic as this, however they love it. They are probably wondering what’s next!! Aside from having a new hair style next week I don’t have any other plans (for now!).

I decided to book an appointment to give blood later this year (I have to wait a few months after having my tattoo) for the first time since being pregnant with my eldest daughter. Despite having health anxiety and not liking ‘medical’ environments I have given blood a few times and would like to start again.

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Finally, I wanted to share some happy news that I found. An alternative to plastic that can be composted (and even eaten) has won an award for innovation. Dr Anne Lamp has designed a system to transform agricultural residues into a range of plastics, which in turn can be safely reintegrated into the food supply chain. The process can cut carbon emissions by 87 per cent compared to conventional plastics production – and it promises to compete on price, too.

I’m not sure how I would feel about eating sweet wrappers, but I love the fact that it would be put on the compost heap and no longer polluting the environment. What an inspiring woman Dr Anne Lamp is, I truly hope this takes off!

Lockdown part 3….Week 16

This week has felt almost as if lockdown is over…doing school runs, seeing friends, going in shops, seeing beer gardens full and the return to college. I’ve been doing my counselling course remotely since October and when we did go in during September, we were split into groups, so I had only met some of my fellow students. I am surprised that I wasn’t nervous due to Covid and meeting people for the first time but having seen everyone virtually for the past 6 months it felt like I knew everybody already. We had to keep our masks on for the full 4 hours which was rather unpleasant particularly as it was so hot inside, I should have turned up in my bikini!! (Not that I ever would, let alone be seen in one!) I feel a little safer being out and about having had one of my vaccines, but I am aware that people can still carry the virus even if they don’t get it themselves. I have been taking lateral flow tests now that my girls are back in pre-school which I am now used to but still find myself sneezing like a trooper afterwards as it tickles! It is interesting how it doesn’t phase my girls when they see people in masks or taking lateral flow tests, it’s something that I think they associate as a normal part of life and are more likely to find it odd if they see people without masks on, but I imagine it will be along time before this happens when generally out and about.

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I managed to submit my case study and final assignment and with time to spare! I don’t know if I have passed yet, but fingers crossed! Now all that is left is the presentation, where we have to talk about ourselves for 10 minutes with reference to our own philosophy and beliefs and our journey so far. No where does it say that we can’t play a song for 10 minutes as long as it fulfils these objectives!!!! (Wishful thinking!) I have never felt comfortable talking about myself or talking in front of a group of people, so this is going to be a challenge for me. It’s almost as if I have barriers that go up at the thought which prevent me from even thinking about what I could say about myself. I was asked to write a bio about myself to go on the website of the provider that I will be completing my counselling placement at and I drew a blank. Despite reading what other people had written about themselves I didn’t know where to start. So, I called on my Mum for ideas and she did an amazing job, so I got out of that one!!

We’ve got at least a month before we’ll be released into the big wide world on placement so aside from the presentation, we have finished our first year of the course! It has flown by and I can’t believe that in a years’ time I will (hopefully) be finished and therefore be a fully qualified counsellor. I realised that next weekend I can actually have a weekend off from studying and don’t know what to do with myself!

I had a wobble this week when someone said something that knocked me down, inside I was fighting crumbling and telling myself that I am a failure and should give up my course. I know it wouldn’t have been long ago that I would have fallen apart, felt very down and lost sight of everything I have worked so hard for. However, thanks to this course and my own counselling and inner strength I am trying to fight against these thoughts and feelings and reflect upon why the words of one person can affect me so much. Why do the words and opinions of so many other people suddenly no longer matter but instead I am only thinking about and valuing the words of this one person? Admittedly I have them on a pedestal which may be why I value their words so much but equally I have learnt on my course that we do not need to value what other people say, instead it’s our choice to accept what other people say and it’s down to us what we do and how we react.

Do I allow one person to have such an impact on me? I know that I have worked incredibly hard to get where I am, battling through despite everything else that has been going on with my life. I have secured a placement at a fantastic independent organisation working with children, young people and their families and I have a lot of people that believe in me and have encouraged me to do this. I need to reflect on where it stems from this feeling of failure based on what one person says. Does it come from when my ‘father’ walked out when I was 8 or is it when I was at school and teachers humiliated me when I was having panic attacks? It could be something that has become internalised as I remember from an early age wanting to give up when something happened that either upset me or make me feel uncomfortable and because my Mum didn’t want me to be upset I often ended up giving up rather than carrying on and I have realised that what I wanted and needed was to be encouraged to carry on but as a young child I either wasn’t aware of this or couldn’t verbalise this and so it has carried on throughout my life.

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I saw someone who hasn’t seen me in a long time, and they commented on how well I looked, and I said it’s because I am finally free! It does feel like a huge weight has been lifted and that finally I can rediscover myself – at times it feels as though I am having a 30 something life crisis or rebelling!!! Talking of which…. look out for next week’s blog!

Lockdown part 3….Week 15

This week has felt like what I imagine the new normal may be the foreseeable future. My youngest daughter returned to her childminder for the first time since the last lockdown started and my eldest daughter had her first day at pre-school. I cannot remember the last time I had to put my alarm on which was a shock to the system as we have enjoyed relaxing mornings, eating breakfast in pyjamas, instead I was running around like a headless chicken getting the girls up, dressed and fed before putting them in the car at 8am. Thank goodness it was light and sunny! I didn’t know how my eldest would be on her first day as she has spent the last 6 months with me and her sister and before starting preschool she went to the same childminder as her sister, but she took hold of her teachers’ hand and went straight in. I spent the day wondering how she was and if she was ok but when I went to collect her in the afternoon, she had a smile on her face and her teacher said it’s like she has always been there. I was very proud and a little choked at how well she had coped and adapted, it made me realise that children can be more resilient than adults!

This week parents of pre-schoolers in England were waiting to hear what Primary School their children had gained a place at and although I was resigned to accepting whichever school this maybe I was starting to get fidgety in anticipation of the news. I had my hopes on a small village school rather than my local school which is very big but as it wasn’t in my catchment area, I didn’t get my hopes up. When I woke up on Friday morning, I checked my emails and saw the notification and was so happy and relieved to see she had been offered her first choice! I still can’t believe that my youngest daughter will be starting school in September!

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Whilst both girls were in childcare, I used the opportunity to go to a clothes shop with my Mum for the first time since lockdown and felt reassured that they were limiting numbers in store, so it felt safe and pleasant to look around. I certainly wouldn’t have been queuing to get in and can’t even imagine how crowded it must have been in the likes of Primark! I haven’t really missed going into shops as it kind of feels like the new normal to not be able to do so many things. The highlight of the trip was when a woman asked us if we would mind watching her new-born baby whilst she took her daughter on the escalator as her daughter hadn’t been on one for so long and found it exciting. Her baby boy was fast asleep and looked so peaceful and content, I stood and looked at him with a sparkle in my eye, I could feel myself getting broody, but I soon snapped myself out of it! It was lovely that the woman felt able to ask us and trust us even though it was only for a couple of minutes.

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I finally managed to hand in my case study (2 weeks early) for my counselling course and have been working my way through my last assignment of the year which is due in 10 days’ time. At times I’ve felt like spitting the dummy out but know it must be done. The final hurdle before finishing the first year of the course is doing a 10-minute presentation to the rest of the group and anyone who knows me knows I don’t like talking to groups of people or attention being on me so this will be a challenge for me especially as we must talk about ourselves.

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I have been sticking to my Noom plan and I am 2 weeks in…let’s see how I get on this week.

I caught a bit of Jamie Oliver’s, Keep Cooking Family Favourites and found myself rolling my eyes when he kept telling viewers to add a ‘kiss’ of oil…please! If I were cooking with my children and told them to add a ‘kiss’ of oil they’d look at me as if I’d lost the plot!! Now I’m all for exposing children to new foods but when he was making the aubergine salad, I kept thinking that my girls would look at me as if to say what’s that and why are there flowers in it, his son didn’t look too impressed when he was trying it either!

Lockdown part 3….Week 14

This week has been a mixture of complete relaxation and getting jobs done. I did manage to do some baking and had a go at rainbow icing which was messy but fun. I might challenge myself to make a rainbow cake for my daughters’ birthday. I enjoyed binge watching some TV including a series called The One on Netflix and the 2020 film The Father with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman. Normally I like to watch chic flicks and romcoms and avoid tear jerkers, but it was good to watch something different. How it has been written is incredible…within minutes I was completely confused and as I had not read about the film it took me awhile to realise that was the point. It is filmed from the father’s perspective who is suffering with dementia. Anthony Hopkins was amazing; he is so talented to be playing such a challenging role and Olivia Coleman was also remarkable. I was gripped all the way through and sobbed like a baby at the end of the film. Despite it making me cry I would thoroughly recommend it but would advise you have a tissue to hand!

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The deadline for the case study for my counselling course is getting closer by the day (obviously!!) and I have managed to do most of it this week, but my goodness talk about procrastinating! It is amazing what you can end up doing to avoid doing something! Suddenly, I had an urge to put a new floor down in my bathroom, replace the seal around the bath, going hunting for garden furniture for my Mum, sort through all the paperwork I brought with me when I moved here 2 years ago…and these aren’t the kind of things I would normally choose to do! I am someone who likes to get things done and be prepared, I don’t like things hanging over me and know that once I get something done then I can enjoy myself but all that seems to have gone out the window! I’d be the one encouraging others to get it done and reminding them that they’ll feel better once its out the way and that they can reward themselves afterwards…and in fact that is what I have been doing but clearly, I am not listening to my own advice!

I investigated the reasons that people procrastinate and apparently it is due to a fear of failing. That does resonate with me as I do lack confidence in my own abilities and I have a habit of comparing myself to others and assuming everyone else is better than me. However, I also believe that sometimes there are other things you’d rather do or you’re not in the right mood or you’re tired and that at times it can be worse and sit aimlessly at a computer screen for hours not getting anything done than to admit to yourself that right now it’s not going to happen and coming back to it later or another time.

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Tomorrow is a big day for those of us in England as lockdown restrictions are eased a bit more. All shops will be allowed to open, hairdressers and beauty salons will also open, alongside gyms and spas. Restaurants and pubs can open if people are seated outside. Zoos, farms, wildlife parks and theme parks can also open. However, we are still not allowed to visit friends and families indoors.

I feel a mixture of emotions about tomorrow, it feels like such a long time ago when all the above was last open so in a way it will be nice to feel like we are slowly returning to some sort of normality but at the same time I am a little anxious about it. I will continue to avoid crowded places and will no doubt wait a couple of weeks before I attempt to visit anywhere such as a farm in the hope that it won’t be incredibly busy.

I know I have mentioned it before, but I really hope that people will be mindful of how they are feeling and not beat themselves up if they are hesitant about things starting to return to normal. We have spent the past year living in bizarre circumstances that we never imagined would be happening, our lives have been turned upside down and each and everyone of us will have been affected one way or another. It’s ok to not be jumping for joy about restrictions being eased. Take things one step at a time and maybe set yourself a small achievable goal such as visiting a shop when it’s quiet or arranging to meet a friend for a drink somewhere so that you’re not on your own when you take the next step.

I will be continuing will my weekly lockdown posts until 21st June when Boris Johnson hopes to be able to lift the majority of restrictions.

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Finally, this week brought the sad news of Prince Phillips death. I had to remind myself that he was 99 years old and from what has been reported it sounds as though he passed away peacefully in his sleep. However, I still feel sad, particularly for the Queen who has lost her husband of 73 years and who described Prince Philip as her strength and stay. Not forgetting Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward who have all sadly lost their father. It doesn’t matter how old someone is or how wonderful their life may have been, they have all still lost someone close to their heart.

I love this photo!

Lockdown part 3….Week 13

Happy Easter!! It has certainly felt like summer is on its way recently which has made a pleasant change.

I arranged for my girls to go on an Easter Egg hunt this week and luckily, we picked the nicest day of the week. I liked the fact that you had to book in advance and that there were limited tickets available. As it was being held in the gardens of a local hall there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out too. The sun was shining, and the grass was full of daffodils in full bloom! We enjoyed running around looking for hidden Easter Eggs with letters on for us to unscramble. I couldn’t believe how much my 4-year-old daughter has grown up and was running around finding the letters and writing them down all by herself. There wasn’t a prize at the end, so I sneakily hid an egg for them both to find! It’s a good job I was prepared!! My girls finished the trip by discovering the joy of rolling down hills…again and again!

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I left my abusive partner 25 months ago and this week I finally got the best email ever from my solicitors!

I had never been so excited to read the words, your decree absolute has come through, congratulations you are now divorced!! I squealed and did a happy dance!!

I’d had a bottle of champagne ready for a while but finally I could pop it open to celebrate! I can’t tell you how happy I am to be free; I feel such a sense of relief.

As my parents divorced when I was a child, I never wanted to get divorced myself and never thought I would, let alone be happy about it. However, I am free to be me and to live my life.

It has been 2 years of pretty much constant emails, phone calls and paperwork and has been an incredibly stressful, anxious, and emotional time. If it wasn’t for lockdown restrictions, I would be having a divorce party!!

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The pressure is building for my counselling course with 2 assignments due this month which we must pass before we are allowed out into the big wide world on placement as trainee counsellors. I also want to try and fit in some me time – well needed self-care. I used to love baking but haven’t really done much in the last couple of years, mainly due to time restraints, loss of interest and money being tight, but I have been challenged to bake a cake. So, I dug out my Mary Berry books and set my sights on a rainbow cake! Let’s see if I get round to it and how it turns out!

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Wow! I now have more than 70 followers!! Thank you once again to each and everyone of you who has read my blog, I can’t tell you how much it means to me!

Lockdown part 3….Week 12

This week has seen a lot of anticipation for tomorrow which marks when we can meet people outside including in people’s gardens and the stay-at-home rule is ending (although the government are still urging people to stay local which is confusing) and outdoor sport facilities are reopening. I’ve noticed that a lot of tourist attractions with gardens and outdoor spaces are also reopening from tomorrow. I must admit that it will be lovely to be able to drive further than 5 miles and to go to the beach or to outdoor attractions.

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the first national lockdown, and it was funny how the weather really reminded me of how the first lockdown felt. It has been the first time this year when I have been able to leave the door open to the garden and we have spent a lot of time in the garden where upon my girls have been playing with the sand, singing, dancing, chalking, gardening etc. It makes such a change…seeing the blue sky, the sun shining, spring flowers starting to bloom and hearing the birds tweeting is definitely good for the soul!

It was the last session of my counselling course before we broke up for Easter and I found the session very interesting and have reflected a lot on the topics covered. We have been learning about and discussing mental health. So much was brought up by everybody and it really highlighted how many people are struggling with their mental wellbeing. Someone talked about their experience of CAMHS and how the children using their services are just being filtered through in a very robotic way which is making the statistics look good in terms of how many children are ‘accessing mental health support’ but in fact the majority of these children are not finding the support offered of any use. They come away saying that they have been given a worksheet to do but they don’t really understand it and the adults working with them within their school see how disheartened they are.

It made me wonder if some children are struggling or have certain barriers when it comes to talking about their mental health because they are seeing the ‘support’ available and unfortunately are not seeing any benefits for those who are being referred to CAMHS. Therefore, come children may already have the attitude of ‘what’s the point?’ or feel that they are not really being heard. I find this frustrating and makes me want to do something drastic to shake up the system within the UK. However, as usual one of the main hurdles is money and budgets – if me or anyone else was to offer a service to schools they are likely to say that they don’t have the budget available or that they can refer children to CAMHS therefore they wouldn’t be interested.

I feel strongly that mental wellbeing needs to become compulsory within all schools and having a ‘mental health week’ simply is not good enough. I appreciate how much pressure schools are being put under, however, ½ of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, 48.5% of 5–19-year-olds with a mental health disorder have more contact with teachers than any other professional service and 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder (these figures don’t take into account the impact of Covid-19). Children’s mental health problems can affect their attainment and behaviour which I picture as a car needing fuel to function – we harp on about needing food in order to function but actually there is so much more we need than just food. We all know that we need to sleep, exercise, keep hydrated etc but how much emphasis is put on the need for self-care or mental wellbeing, particularly with children and young people?

I believe that if children are given tools to support their mental wellbeing from a young age that this will have a massive positive impact on their life, now and in the future and that these tools could be used throughout their life. I believe by teaching children about mental wellbeing properly, (meaning not just a one-off session) that they will be in a better position to tackle whatever life throws at them. I feel that this could prevent mental health problems or at least the severity of how children are impacted by possible mental health problems rather than trying to treat or ‘cure’ them once they are diagnosed. The other problem with treating mental health problems is that most often particularly through the NHS and CAMHS, the waiting lists are long, and support can be very limited, therefore in some cases people may be worse before they access support or may not get the support they need.

Another reason I feel passionate about children being taught about mental wellbeing is that most people (no matter what age) that have committed suicide have not shown any signs that they were suicidal and quite often these people aren’t diagnosed with mental health problems. Therefore, if GP’s or schools are only trying to tackle the mental health of those who are ‘flagged up’ then children will devastating continue to slip through the net. Those who appear to be fine or do not have a diagnosis will continue to be offered very little or no support for their mental health which is feel is so wrong. As adults, each, and every one of us has been impacted by Covid-19 and a lot of people’s mental health has suffered, therefore who’s to say that children also haven’t been impacted?

I loved reading an article in The Guardian about a primary school that put catch-up on hold and instead spent a week focusing on children’s wellbeing. The headteacher was fully aware of the importance of this and felt that unless children are in the right place to learn mentally, that things just do not go in and I couldn’t agree more.

Lockdown part 3….Week 11

This week has whizzed by and has felt a bit strange. I get the impression that people some people are feeling in limbo due to lockdown. Some people have expressed how liberated they feel now they are back at work and the commute which they used to begrudge they now love because they have a valid reason to be driving somewhere! Others have commented on how nice it is to see people for real rather than virtually.

However, we are still very limited with what we can and cannot do…in 8 days’ time on 29th March we will see easing on social contact restrictions, so in time for most schools breaking up for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings, including those in private gardens, can go ahead of either six people or two households. Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts and open-air swimming pools can also reopen.

This date also makes the end of the ‘stay at home’ order, though many restrictions will remain in place.

I know that the past few months have been hard on people who aren’t able to see any friends or family and have only been able to meet up with one other person outside for a walk or more recently to sit on a bench with a drink however that’s not as pleasant when its cold and rainy which has predominantly been the case recently. So, to be able to know that in just over a weeks’ time we can sit in someone’s garden will make a pleasant change and with the weather starting to improve this will no doubt be something many of us will look forward to.

This Tuesday (23rd) is National Day of Reflection…looking back over the past year it has certainly been a year nobody will forget, and one people will talk about for generations to come. I remember thinking when I first read about Covid in China thinking that it would never come to the UK, then when it did, and we went into our first national lockdown I thought that it would have all disappeared by the end of that lockdown. Never in a million years did imagine that I would have to wear a face mask to go out and about doing everyday things or that hand gel would be come part of our everyday lives.

For someone who suffers with health anxiety I am impressed that I have coped so well and that I don’t feel panicky leaving the house. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel particularly comfortable going to supermarkets or being in crowded places at the moment and therefore I do avoid them, however, this is more to do with the fact that I want to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Hopefully in time things will improve but for now Covid has taken the edge off perusing around a shop and instead I go round quickly and move on if there are people hovering around. I certainly won’t be queuing up to go into the shops when they hopefully open in April.

I hope that people can reflect on this past year and realise how well they have coped and adapted to a situation we have never experienced before and that we have got through this. This is a massive achievement. The past year has proved challenging for most people in one way or another and will no doubt have caused added stress, anxiety, or depression. I hope that you can find ways to be kind to yourself, no matter how that may be.

I also want to remind people to check in on friends, family and loved ones as you never know how they are coping or feeling. I have found in my experience that people tend to assume people are busy and therefore don’t want to disturb them but it’s always worth dropping someone a message just to say hi or that you are thinking of them.

When people ask me how I am, I have a tendency to always say that I am fine – I rarely answer differently unless I say I am ok…regardless of how I am feeling. I think this is because I have the impression that there isn’t necessarily meaning in the question and that it is just something that is said in passing…’hi, how are you?’ and most people respond with a short answer such as, ‘I’m good thanks’ and then that ends the conversation. I am also quite a private person and don’t like to burden people so I wouldn’t want to say if I wasn’t ok.

Someone shared with me an acronym for ‘fine’ which I found hilarious but true…I have added a picture of the acronym at the end of the blog!

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I was given a gift of a beautiful, framed poem this week called ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou. I had never heard that poem or of Maya Angelou before, but the poem is beautiful and empowering. I was told that the poem made them think of everything that I have been through and how strong I am. I watched a clip of Maya reciting the poem and it made me smile with her use of facial expressions and actions. What a powerful, wise, and incredibly inspiring woman she was! I feel inspired by her and wonder if there is a small part of me that feels I could be a little bit like her.