Making the most of your photos

The average person takes 20 pictures every day. That’s more than 7,000 photos a year. It sounds insane until you have a look at your smartphone and scroll into the abyss, never to reach the previous year. Only a few of them ever see the light of day again and soon they are forgotten and can hardly be found again. Needless to say, it is a real shame. But what can you do? In this post, we’ll look at some great ways for making the most of your photos.

Decorations

Let’s start with the obvious: Photos are made to be seen and how better to show them off than as decorations? This starts with – but certainly isn’t limited to – picture frames. Good quality prints in nice picture frames can really turn a house into a home. The room lightens up and every now and then you catch a glimpse and remember the most precious moments. But there are also lots of other decorative things you can do with your pictures. For instance, you can get crafty and design a collage in the form of a heart. Or you could get a map of the world and frame it with photos of the places you’ve seen. Of course, the list goes on and on: Mobiles, wallpapers, stickers… Anything is possible. There really isn’t any limit to what you can do if you let your creativity run wild.

Memory preservation

It’s sort of a general term but if you think about it, memory preservation is quite literally what photos are for. The most traditional way – and likely the most efficient – to achieve this is by creating a photo book. Other than prints, a photo book lets you tell the whole story in a combination of words and images. This is particularly useful for travel photos, family pictures or special events. Not only does a photo book help you remember those wonderful times, but it also is a great addition to any bookshelf. There are plenty of different types of photo books out there for all kinds of projects and although it takes a little more time than the typical decoration, it is well worth it. Think of yourself a few years from now, looking at your favourite times away, your baby’s first year, or your wedding together with your family and being able to remember every single detail thanks to the combination of your photos and written stories. That’s what a photo book can do for you.

Gifts

When we’re talking about photos, we can’t leave out gifts. If you’ve ever been desperate to find a great gift, you’ll know the trouble: It has to be personal, it has to be useful, and of course, it has to fit the budget. To tick all of these boxes, the gift might as well be magical. Thanks to modern technology and the Internet, this magic is real. You can now personalise practically anything: From hand towels to keychains or even socks. There are lots of possibilities for using photos to create unique and wonderful gifts for anyone at all and it’s usually for quite a fair price too. So if you have a birthday, a wedding, or an anniversary coming up, think of all the fun things you could do with the pictures that are hidden away somewhere on your phone! Don’t let them go to waste and don’t force yourself to buy one of those generic gifts that you know aren’t very special at all.

These are just some examples of the things you can do with all those marvellous photos that are hidden away on your phone. The longer you wait, the harder it will get to control the sheer quantity of pictures and to get them sorted. At the same time, it’s worth having a thorough check and deleting any duplicates and unnecessary pictures. You’ll be happy to have a good handle on the photos on your phone and at the same time to enjoy them in the real world; as decorations, photo books, or gifts.

How to Transform Your Living Room

There are many reasons why you might want to transform your living room: whether it is to make more attractive for your visitors, to enjoy the time you spend there more, or to make changes so your family can be more comfortable. Sadly, most people don’t know where and how to start with this daunting task but follow these steps and you’ll find transforming your living room simple.

Starting with a Detailed Plan

All transformations require a plan – especially something as important as transforming your living room that will cost a pretty penny and requires a lot of time. You need to establish a detailed and factual plan before starting the transformation process to ensure you have the necessary budget to go through with it and that you don’t miss anything important:

  • Coming up with a list: the first is coming up with a list of all the different furniture, household items, renovations you’ll need to transform your living room. At this point, you need to just add everything to the list in this preliminary stage without any discrimination – at this point, completion is more important than accuracy.
  • Assessing the budgetary concerns and coming up with a ballpark estimate: now that you have a list of all the things you need to buy/do, it is time to estimate how much money your plan needs. This is an important step to ensure that you have the funds necessary to carry out your plan.
  • Double-checking and prioritizing the list: if you’re like most people, the list you come up with will be long and out of your budget. Now, it is time to prioritize which items you need to get and what renovations you need to make. You need to sort the items by priority and make sure you know which items on your list you need to take care of first.

How to Choose the Best Furniture

Next up, you need to choose which types and sizes of pieces of furniture you need to get for your living room – the furniture you buy will have the most impact on your living room’s transformation and you need to be careful with how you approach it.

  • The design: the designs of the pieces of furniture are obviously important, and there aren’t any universal guidelines on what kind of design you should get: it depends on your taste, on your home’s design, on the other rooms’ furniture design. But one important thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that you’re going to need to ensure the designs of the various pieces of furniture/lighting/etc. You’re going to buy for your living room all jive well together and there aren’t any odd pieces out. If you have a wooden staircase design next to your living room, for example, it might be a good idea to get more wooden furniture to complement the design.
  • The quality: your living room is the most important room in your home and the quality of the furniture is of paramount importance. That’s why you need to ensure the furniture is high quality, is comfortable to look at, and looks good.
  • The purpose: what are you going to do with each piece of furniture? What’s the purpose of your living room? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before deciding which kind of furniture you want to get. If you’re going to get a light for reading, it should be different from getting a light for a living room where you’ll throw a lot of parties. You need to make sure the furniture you’re going to get is best optimized for its uses.

Coming up with a detailed plan and choosing the right high-quality furniture within your budget are the two most important ingredients for a successful living room transformation. You need to follow all steps and always ensure you’re doing enough research.

A Guide To Mental Health Support For New Parents

In the UK, approximately one in four of us will experience a mental health issue each year. Issues including money, jobs, bereavement, and benefits are potentially making it harder for people to cope, according to mental health charity, Mind. It doesn’t matter what age or gender you are, mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression can affect you. This is also the case in what many would say is the happiest time of their lives; becoming a parent.

Babythingz, who provide double buggies and pushchairs, explore mental health issues in parents and look at some avenues of support that are available.

Parenthood and mental health

Although parenthood is exciting, it can be overwhelming too. Raising a child can be very stressful as you become the provider and carer for a person who can’t look after themselves. This can put pressure on yourself and relationships mentally, while also putting a strain on your financial situation. On average, a child will cost an average couple £75,436 from birth to 18 years old — and that doesn’t include housing, childcare and council tax. This cost rises to £102,627 if you are a single parent or guardian. These costs, alongside the high levels of responsibility you face, are two reasons as to why studies have found that around one in five women develop mental health issues while they are pregnant, or within the first year after having a baby. But, what can we do to try to prevent this figure from rising and to stop more father figures being affected too?

Parent groups

A lot of parents think parent and baby groups are a great way to help your child to learn vital skills. While this is true, it is also a great way for parents — especially those who stay at home — to get crucial interaction and boost their mental well-being.

Remember that although many groups require payment for each class, there are also free groups available for those who have very limited spare money. Check out noticeboards at your local child health clinic, GP’s waiting rooms, library, and supermarkets to find classes near you. You can also enquire with your health visitor as they may be able to advise you on which classes to try.

Family Lives

Family Lives is a great resource for help. Family Lives is an organisation which aims to build better family lives. It was registered as a charity in 1999 as Parentline Plus before changing to Family Lives in 2011. It offers core family support services with tailored support. They understand that parenthood can be a rollercoaster of emotions and works with parents, children and families of all age ranges to give them the best possible platform for life.

Another key area of mental health issues they focus on includes a bipolar parenting project which helps parents suffering from bipolar disorder. The project aims to help manage mood changes and impulsivity, while also working to develop a relapse plan. Visit the Family Lives website for more information regarding the services and advice on offer.

Tommy’s

This service is provided by the NHS, Tommy’s grants new and expectant mothers in England access to specialist mental health care. It was rolled out to each of the 44 local NHS areas and it’s hoped that by 2024, 54,000 women with moderate to severe mental health issues will get the care they need.

Tommy’s also includes specialist perinatal mental health teams which offer crucial psychiatric care for women who suffer from mental health concerns in pregnancy or early motherhood. Also, the service can offer advice to women with current or previous mental illness before that get pregnant.

Think child – think parent – think family

This scheme is set up by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). While it’s aimed more at families whose children are no longer babies, it was set up to help parents with mental health problems by providing support and recognition of their responsibilities as a parent. It also notes that a child’s needs must also be addressed. This is because research has found that between 33 per cent and 66 per cent of children whose parents have a mental health problem will experience difficulties themselves.

Furthermore, SCIE understands that it’s a family that needs support, not just an individual. With an estimated two million children living in households with a parent who has a mental health problem, talking as a family can help enhance your bond as well as alleviate pressure caused by not opening up on an issue. A parent’s resilience can often be enhanced if their family, especially children, understand the issue. As well as talking and personal support, however, the scheme highlights the importance of good physical health.

To conclude, there are many services in the UK that help people with any mental health issues they may have, no matter whether they are a parent or not. It’s important to remember that it’s okay not to be okay and to reach out for help whenever you feel it is needed.

Sources

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/parenting-with-a-mental-health-problem/#.XVVR5_ZFxPY

https://www.lv.com/life-insurance/cost-of-raising-a-child-2019

https://www.scie.org.uk/publications/guides/guide30/introduction/whatdealingwith.asp

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/services-support-for-parents/

https://www.familylives.org.uk/

https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/about-us/charity-news/nhs-launches-new-service-offering-new-mums-access-mental-health-support-closer-home

Pay your kids to eat their greens? Try these tips instead.

We’ve all been there.  Sat at the table watching junior push two kernels of sweetcorn and one lonely green bean around the plate whilst trying to ignore the sound of retching. Yep, vegetables for kids is one of life’s great challenges.

It’s a constant battle and one that can only be won by persistence and, possibly, bribery.

Caitlin & Ieuan trying out Infruition Water Bottles
The terrible twosome back in 2017

We get to the stage where we will do anything to get the little blighters to ingest something that actually grew and later on I’ll tell you my huge mistake when it came to getting those veggies into my kids.

But should we be bribing them with cash?  This is a suggestion that was made a few years ago by Tam Fry, head spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum and honorary chairman of the Child Growth Foundation.  And it certainly divided opinion at the time.

We know how good vegetables are for us and their importance in maintaining our health and avoiding diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes but this has little meaning for our kids at their age.

Of course, parents can be extremely devious at sneaking in veggies, hiding cauliflower under cheese sauce, for instance, or chopping tiny nuggets of vegetables into soups, quiches and casseroles.

Or you might want to try smoothies. A “milkshake” can hide a multitude of fruit and veg plus, thanks to more sophisticated blenders these days, the fibre, vitamins and minerals remain intact.

To improve the taste, you can add real fruit, natural fruit juice or coconut milk to the blender along with your chopped vegetables.

Vegetables for kids – it’s not completely impossible!

Here are some tips you might want to try:

Superhero veg to the rescue

Give the vegetables superhero names – mad I know but we renamed spinach “carrot guardian” and Ieuan ate it. That might just be my son though.

Hide veg everywhere

Hide veg in as many sauces as you can. The Husband whips up a meatball sauce which contains any leftover veggies he finds in the fridge and the kids haven’t cottoned on to this yet.

Soups and stews are your friends

The kids will eat soup if there’s plenty of warm crusty bread to dip in it.

Don’t fuss

If you create a battle of wills you’ll be sat there a long time.

Model the behaviour you want to see

You can hardly insist your kids eat their veg if you’re a stranger to salad yourself.

Caitlin & Ieuan Hobbis
Well, they seemed to be growing OK…

Get kids to help with the cooking

Teach your kids about the importance of healthy eating by involving them in food preparation.  A home-made pizza is easy to make and can be decorated with veggies such as cherry tomatoes and peppers.

Make food portions manageable

Don’t swamp their plates with huge portions.  It’s easier to get the kids eating veg if you start off with small, manageable portions.  Notice I said ‘easier’

Make food fun

…. although my Potato of Doom was not exactly a crowd-pleaser.

Linda Hobbis' Potato of Doom - A Jacket Potato In The Shape Of A Hedgehog
Look, I tried, OK?

Don’t give up

Continue to serve up veg in the hope that they will eventually try them.

Play the long game

Remember they’ll probably grow up to love veg.  After all, you did, didn’t you?

My biggest mistake?

Not serving them foods with home-made gravies and sauces early enough. It’s too easy to serve up fish fingers, chips and peas with just a dash of tomato sauce, but they get used to ‘dry’ food.

If you can get them used to gravy then you’re just a blender away from supplementing it with veggies.

Ieuan loves his gravy now and I wish I’d got him eating it a long time ago!

If all else fails, there are also numerous ranges of kids’ vitamins you can try, although ideally your kids should be getting their vitamins and minerals from a well-balanced diet.

Caitlin Hobbis eating Shepherd's Pie
Caitlin had no idea how many veggies she was eating

Ultimately, conditioning kids to eat their greens requires a conscious effort – and it’s best to get youngsters into the habit of munching veggies from an early age.

If you don’t, you may well find yourself having to take Mr Fry’s advice and cough up the cash – which in Ieuan’s case would be very, very expensive indeed.

Tips For Keeping Children Warm In Winter

When freezing cold weather strikes, as adults we know what to do to keep ourselves warm – but what’s the best way to keep our kids warm? The early months of the year often bring a prolonged cold snap or two with temperatures often plummeting below zero degrees.

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

We all know how challenging childcare can be during a spell of cold weather. We really want them to play outdoors but it’s easy to avoid it because we worry that they’ll be back in two minutes flat, complaining of frozen fingers or slipping on the ice.

As you might imagine, Norway experiences much lower winter temperatures than we do – often -10 degrees so here are some great tips for keeping kids warm in winter from childcare expert Elaine Kobbeltvedt.

Elaine is a mother and grandmother with more than 25 years of childcare experience, having run her own family of nurseries in both Scotland and Norway.

Want to know how to protect a child from the cold?  Read on.

1) Layering

The Norwegians all use the layering concept when it comes to dressing children for cold weather.

Place a layer next to the skin which is made from a soft material to prevent any rubbing or irritation, then add a fleece layer to keep them warm.

Over the top of this, you then add another layer of a coverall or rain suit (depending on the weather) to protect them from the elements.

This ensures the child is kept warm and protected but prevents overheating from too many bulky items because us Brits tend to just pile on jumper after jumper!

2) Cover the extremities

Heads and hands always need to be kept warm and covered to prevent frostbite and cracked skin which can be really painful for a child.

3) Keep feet warm and dry

Shoes and boots need to be waterproof and preferably lined.  Don’t forget thick socks if the footwear allows it, or two pairs of thin socks.

4) Keep them active

Use the layering concept and invest in children’s clothing ranges designed for cold weather, such as Tiny Trolls of Norway.

The ideal cold-weather clothing will allow children to stay warm but still move around with ease. Bulky layers will restrict their freedom of movement.

Ideally, kids will be active and enjoy the fresh air, rather than getting chilly – and grumpy!

5) Care for their skin

Elaine recommends putting cold cream on a child’s face as an extra protective layer against the elements. But make sure it isn’t a water-based product or the water can freeze on their skin.

Two great creams to try are Weleda Weather Protection Cream which is a water-free cream to protect babies and small children against the wind and cold, and Eucerin Aquaphor Soothing Skin Balm which can be used to treat dry spots and chapped skin or lips and is suitable for the whole family. There are plenty of ranges which offer gentle skincare for little ones, especially those who are prone to eczema.

You might also consider a Tusseladden which is an all-weather coverall. These can be used all year round as they are totally breathable.

This makes them just as useful for the great British summertime when it may be a bit windy or rainy, but not too cold, and great as an outer layer for cold winters when the mercury plummets.

Comfortable and easy to take on and off, you can find ones for the under-3s which have a handy two-way zip for quick and easy nappy changes.

Do you have any winter health tips for kids to share?  Do you wrap your kids up and send them out to play?

The best way to keep our kids warm might simply be to wrap them up and let them roll around in the snow!

7 Tips For Surviving Blue Monday

Welcome to Blue Monday.  I say this ironically, of course, because it is the day when the post-Christmas gloom hits us with full force.

We’re cutting back on booze, ramping up our exercise and facing our failings head-on. Again.

Blue Monday surival tips - woman with an umbrella walking along a walkway

Yes, Blue Monday (21st January this year) is THE most depressing day of the year.

So how to survive it?  You can find my own tips here but here are some extra ideas to put the colour back into your cheeks.

7 tips for surviving Blue Monday

TIP 1: Change your perspective

Clayton John Ainger, award-winning author of The Ego’s Code says that negativity is in fact, a very natural and normal process.

“By labelling negativity as bad, we provide it with more fuel. By changing our perspective on negativity and the meaning behind it will undoubtedly have a positive effect on your life. Feeling down is not meant to hinder you, it is there to learn from, so embrace your negativity and move on”  

TIP 2: Book a winter sun break

The summer months are the most popular time for sun holidays, but there are plenty of opportunities to escape to warmer, sunnier weather during the winter months. Booking a sunny break can increase your levels of serotonin which can make you feel more calm and focused as well as making you feel more productive when you return to normal life.

TIP 3: Book a staycation

If your bank balance doesn’t allow for an extravagant holiday abroad, why not book a long weekend away instead?  A change of scene will do all the family good and just a couple of days away can leave you all refreshed for a reasonable cost.

TIP 4: Go back to bed

It is ok to admit you are having a blue day, so don’t bother trying to fight it! Once you’ve finished work for the day, transform your bedroom into a tranquil sanctuary where you can take the time and rest you need.  If your bed isn’t comfortable consider investing in some gorgeous new bedding or a new mattress.

Stephen Volkins from Big Brand Beds has this sound advice.

“Make sure it is dark and a comfortable temperature with a source of light air flow, and remove light sources like TVs and LED clocks. Take a tip from Feng Shui and make your room softly curved and coolly coloured – avoid sharp angles and dominant colour schemes in order to calm the mind and spirit for a really relaxing night’s sleep.” 

TIP 5: Identify your negative thinking triggers

What sends your thinking into a spiral of negativity? Does seeing your friends going on great nights out on Facebook make you feel inadequate? Or perhaps you have some people in your life who are negative and that brings you down. It could even be the news on the TV before bedtime that send you to bed feeling unsettled or bad. Take some time to identify your triggers and then you will be able to avoid them.

TIP 6: Put the kettle on

Tea has a range of psychological and physical health benefits that can improve your wellbeing. The humble cuppa has been used for centuries across the world to help with relaxation, improve spirituality, nourishment and healing and there are many speciality teas which contain health promoting ingredients.

TIP 7: Challenge the rut

Carla Watson and Shelley La Mancusa, authors of Getting Out of a Rut (released 24th January ) suggest that the only way to combat self-defeating behaviour is to concentrate on who and what you surround yourself with. They say:

“It is hard enough sometimes for us to get out of bed in the mornings and shower ourselves with compliments, without the aid of other people commenting on the choices you make. A supportive network of friends and family is vital to achieving inner happiness and avoid negativity.” 

So there you have it – 7 more tips to cheer you up.  What coping strategies do you have for surviving Blue Monday?

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Blue Monday Survival Tips - woman with umbrella walking under structured metal arch

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Will You Be Blue This Blue Monday?

Monday 20th January 2020 is designated “Blue Monday” – no not a celebration of the now-classic song by New Order, but the day in the year when the combination of post-Christmas debt, dreadful weather and the lapse in our New Year’s resolutions combine to make us reach a peak of misery.

The first bank holiday is weeks away. The approach of Valentines’ Day is ramping up the pressure on singletons to find true love, whilst some married couples have thrown in the towel and are headed for the divorce courts.

The seasonal fun and frolics of Christmas seem a very distant memory indeed.

The concept of “Blue Monday” was apparently coined by a travel company some years ago to push us into booking our summer holidays.  Marketing has a lot to answer for, doesn’t it! Even Santa’s distinctive red robes were invented by Coca Cola.

Still, there is certainly some truth in the idea that having something like a holiday to look forward to is a great psychological tonic.

But, let’s be honest, shall we?

There’s a huge difference between feeling a bit down and ‘under the weather’ and truly suffering from depression, which some call the Black Dog.

Most of us, if we stop and think about it, can very quickly come up with a list of blessings, things to be grateful for, things that help us to celebrate living.

We can even, usually, come up with a list of solutions to those problems.

Spent too much?  Talk to your bank manager about your overdraft. Consider consolidating your credit.  Cut back on unnecessary expenditure.

Feeling bloated and unfit? You know what to do, don’t you?  Take more exercise, eat better. The old hoary chestnuts of advice stand the test of time, don’t they?

Some of us suffer badly from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The lack of sunlight sends us spiralling into a winter depression.

The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter and are typically most severe during December, January and February.

Symptoms may include a persistent low mood, irritability and feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day.  Sufferers may find themselves sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning.  They may also crave carbohydrates and gain weight

But there are things you can do about this, for example, light therapy.  You can buy special lightboxes which replicate the effect of sunlight on the body.  You can find more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder and light therapy here.

The cure may obviously not be as simple or as instant as buying a lightbox. I am merely saying that, sometimes, if we take matters into our own hands, we feel better.  Having some control over our problems makes us feel more empowered.

Most of us can find a way to lift ourselves out of the ‘Blue Monday Slump’.  A little time out for reflection may help.  Why not try mindful meditation?  Calming your inner voice may help you recognise what is making you feel so discontented.  It will certainly reduce your stress and improve your focus.

A long, hot, calming bath may also help perhaps with a herbal bath oil or a natural treatment such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

An early night will help.  We are all guilty of TV channel surfing when we know we should be going to bed – or, my particular downfall, playing the ‘odd’ game of Candy Crush.  One hour’s sleep before midnight is said to be worth two hours of sleep after midnight.  Lack of sleep has been proven to have very real consequences to our health and mental wellbeing.

Make sure too, that your bed is as comfortable as possible so that you get a good night’s sleep.  If your mattress is over 8 years old, the advice is to change it, but this can be done quickly and at a reasonable cost by searching for mattresses online.

It is important to recognise though, that if you feel things are really getting on top of you, or that you just cannot cope no matter what simple adjustments you make to your lifestyle, then you should talk to your GP.

There are also many organisations you can talk to, day or night, who can help you.  You can find a list of some of them here.

So, if this Blue Monday you feel your outlook is less than sunny, take the opportunity to be a little bit kinder to yourself.

And a bit kinder to others.

We never know exactly what others are feeling.  But by offering a few kind words, everyone’s day suddenly becomes a whole lot brighter.

And spring will be here before we know it.

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Waiting For A Valentine’s Day Proposal? Questions To Ask YOURSELF

The Valentine’s Day proposal.  How many of us, I wonder, are waiting with bated breath to see if this might be the day they’ll propose.

Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, a January birthday have all gone by and nada.

Waiting for a Valentine's Day Proposal? 2 white roses

The problem is that you can rarely be entirely sure a proposal will be forthcoming particularly if you already live together.

Will you get a Valentine’s Day Proposal?

It’s bad enough wondering if they’ll remember to get you a Valentine’s Card but if you are expecting a marriage proposal then the whole day will be fraught with waiting and hoping and longing …. and potential disappointment.

So before you risk having to crawl miserably into bed nursing your dashed hopes of the dress, the ceremony, the doves, the champagne and the vintage car, it’s time for a little Valentine’s reality check.

Here’s what you need to ask yourself.

What is the real state of my relationship?

You can’t use Valentine’s Day or any other annual celebration as a sticking plaster for a relationship which just doesn’t work.

Receiving a bouquet of roses or a diamond may well signify intent but there’s many a step between popping into Interflora and writing your vows.

Have you been getting on?  Have there been arguments?  Are there fundamental things upon which you just don’t agree?

These are red flags for a long-term relationship.  Money, sex, children, religion, ambition, hobbies – all of these things can throw a spanner in the works of romantic happiness.

Check in with how you actually feel about your partner and ask yourself “if it wasn’t Valentine’s Day, how would I feel about my partner?”.  Do they make me happy?  Do I feel confident and loved when I’m with them? Do they boost my confidence and self esteem? Would they be the person I would turn to first in any emergency?

What do other people think about my relationship?

This probably matters more than you might think.  If your friends and family hate your partner then you really need to ask yourself why.  Obviously sometimes we are constrained by cultural or religious expectations to do the right thing but, generally, if everyone else hates your other half then it’s time to wonder if they might have a point.

Has marriage even been discussed?

In my weekly problem page, I often come across the issue of mismatched expectations.  The most memorable is a lady who had been with her man for 3 years and was asking how much longer she had to wait for a proposal. My question to her was “why have you waited so long to raise the subject with him”?!

This is still, I think, an enduring problem in long-term relationships where the couple live together.

There is no longer the impetus to marry for the sake of children or to conform to society’s expectations because the landscape of gender, sexuality and the way we relate and live have changed almost beyond recognition from our parents’ day.

I think marriage has to be firmly on the agenda pretty early on  – especially if you are both over 30 and want to have children.  I married at 41 and had my kids at 43 and 45 and wish I had done the whole lot at least 10 years’ earlier – but life’s not like that, is it?

You do need to be open and honest about what you want for your future, and clear about what commitment means to you.

Many of us want the big white wedding to have our ‘day’ but in lots of cases a ‘day’ is all it turns out to be, plus a debt of around £33,000 , the average cost of a UK wedding in 2017.

Making the wrong choice of partner could be very costly indeed – and that’s before the cost of divorce, not only in terms of money, but in terms of friendships and your social life.

Far easier to gently ask “do you see us getting married and having kids one day” than lugging stacks of bridal magazines home and sighing loudly every time a jewellery commercial comes on.

What if it’s not a “no” but a “not yet”?

This could leave you, like the lady from my problem page, in limbo for a very long time. You have to be clear in your own mind how long you are prepared to wait. If you do get a ‘not yet’, you have every right to ask what would need to happen for the time to be right.

Putting pressure on your partner will not work.  “When, then!” is not the right thing to ask.  You need to understand whether ‘not yet’ really means a future marriage or whether, frankly, you are being fobbed off.

There’s a big difference between “yeah, I suppose so at some point ” and “when I have finished studying my business course and we have saved up enough for a deposit on a flat”.

Most of us can tell when we are being fobbed off but acknowledging that means having to be honest with ourselves about whether this relationship is the one – and if you have had quite a few ‘the one’s’, it’s understandable that you may feel panicky at the thought of going back on the dating scene again.

What if your partner wants to propose in their own way, in their own time?

Lots of people hate being put under pressure.  Equally lots of men hate Valentine’s Day – the commercialism, the cost, the fakeness of many of those hearts and flowers.  If your partner is going to propose you can probably tell you know.  But you shouldn’t assume they’ll conform to your expectations and do the big Valentine’s proposal.

If they are talking about settling down with you, buying a home, having children, planning future holidays, commitment in general then that’s a good sign and a basis upon which to have a grown-up and honest conversation.

If they are muttering about Valentine’s being a load of crap, arriving home later and later and going out more often with their friends, then the signs aren’t good, are they?

If the big proposal doesn’t appear on Valentine’s Day, the worst thing you could do would be to have a major strop, start a row and end up splitting up because one of you said something unforgiveable and unleashed the floodgates of every little irritating thing they’ve ever done since you met them.

Which will just convince them, if there’s any doubt, that you weren’t the right person anyway.

Hold it together on Valentine’s Day

Your best strategy, if you’re hoping for a proposal, is to play it cool, calm and collected.  If you are going out make sure you look gorgeous.   Try to stay in the moment and enjoy your food, the location, the ambience.  Talk to your partner rather than scan the room for a lurking violinist!

If no proposal appears and you are hurt and upset then say you are feeling under the weather and have an early night – rather than start the relationship wrecking strop I mentioned earlier.

In the morning with a clear head you can then make plans to have the conversation you need to have with your partner.

There’s one last question you should ask yourself too.

Are my expectations realistic?

I often hear of people who after just a few short months are so overcome with love that they are ready to hear the “will you marry me” and run off into the sunset. For most of us that is much too short a time to decide whether someone is worth spending the rest of our life with.

For others, having enough money saved up and making sure that their friends and family like their other half really matter.

I suspect lots of engagements happen just to keep the other partner quiet after too much nagging about setting the date. And, as we all know, an engagement can be dragged out for years – anything to avoid actually setting the date.

Desperation isn’t attractive and even today, I think a bit of mystery and independence work wonders when you’re trying to snare the partner of your dreams.  What’s that antiquated expression?  “A man chases a woman until she catches him”.

If you haven’t been together long and haven’t even discussed marriage, then Valentine’s Day is most likely not going to be the day your big proposal happens.

But what if I’m asked and I don’t want to?

What if that proposal does turn up and you just don’t know how you feel?  Actually I think most of us have a very strong gut instinct which tells us exactly how we feel but we often ignore it.

It’s so tempting to put the ring on, accept the congratulations, start planning the big party but if it’s wrong, a wedding isn’t going to put it right.

If you are really not sure just say “that’s so lovely and I really care about you but I’d like a little more time for us to get to know each other (or spend time together) before we make such a big commitment”.

Be kind but above all – be honest!

I really hope you get the Valentine’s Day proposal you long for (if that’s what you truly want) but just remember, it’s how you partner treats you the other 364 days of the year that is the truest indicator of their love.

10 Easy Ways To Get You Moving Towards Your Dreams

Do you find that January is the month you decide to do something to get you moving towards your dreams?

Do you make endless New Year’s resolutions, spend a fortune on planners, write bucket lists, create vision boards and create a public commitment by telling all your Facebook friends that this will be your year?

woman about to start a crafting project surrounded by flowers - moving towards your dreams

Each new year gives us a blank canvas to create our dreams afresh – but where to start?

Yes – you will hike across Mexico and start an award winning travel blog.

Yes – you will give up sugar and practise impeccable nutrition (and share it on Instagram, obviously).

Yes – you will finally stick to a beauty routine that will give you glowing skin, much to the envy of Kim Kardashian.

Yes – you will be calm, centred, loving and gentle even to those idiots who jostle you on the train in the morning and take up two seats?

All too often we set the bar way too high and then berate ourselves for giving up in the first week of January.

We all want instant change – but here’s the thing.

Change takes time.  Results take time.

You have to learn new behaviours, new reactions, new thoughts and prepare yourself for the ways your changes will affect everyone in your life.

We’ve all heard stories about relationships dissolving when one partner loses the weight and regains their mojo – much to the displeasure of the other.

If your friendship group revolves around the habit you want to give up then you need to think about this.

In my many years working in an office, those who smoked would often have a tight-knit friendship circle born of many years freezing their butts off out in the cold with a rushed ciggie.

Those who gave up smoking were no longer part of that group.

Peer pressure has a huge part to play in our ability to say no, enough, time to stop.

Many self help tomes advise making a public commitment is a great way to get you moving towards your dreams because of the risk of the failure of embarrassment.

I’m not so sure.  I think silence is better.  Quietly move towards your goals without fanfare, seek help from the best people you can find – those who have achieved what you are setting out to do.  Not those who would quite like to do it too but have never got round to it – but are still complete experts.

The biggest challenge is just starting, let alone maintaining the impetus to stay the course long distance.  We’ll have that last drink tomorrow, eat that last cake tomorrow, go for our first run tomorrow.

So what can you do if your goal is really important – for example you need to lose weight for an operation, or you need to cut someone really toxic out of your life?

Here are 10 simple things you could try and they all revolve around changing what you say to yourself and taking baby steps.

Small changes can lead to massive improvements if they are manageable and don’t add to your stress levels.  It is utterly pointless taking up something you know you’ll give up sooner rather than later because you will only succeed in lowering your self esteem and self confidence.

Exercise

Instead of:  I will get up at 6 am and run 3 miles
Try:  I will jog on the spot for the length of Coronation Street (or your favourite soap)

Instead of: I will schedule at least 3 gym classes per week
Try: I will find the family some new swimsuits and go for a swim every Sunday with the kids

Food

Instead of:  I will give up all sugary foods
Try:  I will give up cake during the week and treat myself to a couple of slices at the weekend.

Instead of: I will sit down to a home cooked meal every night
Try: I will cook three times a week and add extra home-cooked vegetables to any shop bought meals.

Money

Instead of:  I will save every penny towards my summer holiday
Try:  I will start a savings account and put in £20 (or whatever) every month and use public transport instead of taxis.

Instead of: I will get rid of all my debt
Try: I will contact my local Citizens’ Advice Bureau and talk to them about creating a sensible savings plan to reduce my debts – ensuring the most important debts are paid off first (e.g mortgage and rent arrears).

Work

Instead of:  I will find the job of my dreams this year
Try:  I will talk to someone already doing my dream job to see how they got started and what qualifications and experience they think I should get.

Instead of: I will speak up in every meeting and share my ideas
Try: I will ask for my idea to be included in the meeting agenda beforehand and make sure I speak up if the question “any other business?” arises.

Relationships

Instead of: I will find the partner of my dreams

Try: I will smile and be more approachable, make sure I look my best whenever I leave the house and sign up to a reputable online dating site.

My point is that your dreams have to be broken down into actionable steps – and those steps should not be daunting or complicated.

Moving towards your dreams gradually means, I think, that you are far more likely to get there.  As the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

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Want This Year To Be YOUR Year? Tell Yourself A Better Story.

Now we’re all re-emerging from the traditional post-festive slump, do you find your thoughts automatically drifting to those things you want to improve this new year? We have already probably read, by now, the myriad of pop psychology suggestions to transform our existence – from writing a letter to your future self and making gratitude lists to mindful meditation, seeking your guardian angel and rebalancing your chakras.

write a letter to your future self - woman outdoors sat on a log typing on a laptop

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Listen, I love this stuff and you won’t find any cynical sniffing from me if you tell me your goal next year is to explore your spirituality.  Too few of us are stuck in a kind of two-dimensional hell of work and shopping with very little actual human connection in between.

But here’s the thing I want to suggest you try.

If you stop and listen closely to the voice in your head, that incessant chatter which is you (probably) berating, criticising and scolding yourself, you might notice something.

You say the same stuff over and over and over and over ……

Basically, you are retelling your life as a story in which you may not necessarily be playing the role you want to play.  Is there someone else you have cast as the star whilst you have a mere walk-on part?

If you think about your history, your past, it is a collection of memories you’ve put together seen from just one perspective – yours.  We can never know exactly what someone else is feeling. Their behaviour may give clues, of course, but nevertheless, the only person we can truly begin to understand is ourselves.

Some of the people we find most inspiring, whether they are celebrities or members of our family, have the ability to make their own sunshine.  They put a positive spin on everything that happens. They are the ‘silver lining people’.

Hands up, on occasion, I find ‘silver lining people’ extremely annoying but in my more sanguine moments, I acknowledge that they are definitely on to something.

So, rather than retell yourself ghastly tales of past times when you were the fall guy, the stooge, the fool, where you let your light be eclipsed by someone with all the brightness of a 20-watt bulb, why not put a twist in the tale?

Ask yourself.  If I were to rewrite this, what would have happened?  And, in future, when you think of that time, tell yourself this new story.

If the old version of events has a terrible hold on you, see yourself writing it down then pick up the paper, scrunch it into a ball and chuck it over your shoulder.

Or pretend you have set it on fire and those horrid memories have literally gone up in smoke.

As you look to your future,  why not write yourself the story of the year now, complete with a list of what WILL happen. I don’t mean a bucket list.  I mean a list of glorious, golden outcomes.  Actually, writing a letter to your future self is a great idea because it will give you something to look back on to see how far you’ve come.

Faith and positive thinking may make your dreams happen.

We are adult and know that there are no guarantees in life but, equally, to live with an optimistic view where you let in the light has to be better than starting another year in a fug of gloomy despondency.

January is such a dark, dank month.  We miss the sun and the light both emotionally and physically. Those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) must feel this loss of light even more and, once the Christmas bonhomie has passed, there is a tendency for those of us who suffer from depression to sink into a deeper pit of our own hopelessness and melancholy.

But if we look around us, the best-loved stories are still there and are a testament to our eternal belief that good triumphs over evil, that light always wins out over darkness.

I am thinking not just of religion but of the Harry Potter stories and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

If we can let ourselves enter their worlds and believe so willingly,  why don’t we write our own sagas and recast ourselves as heroes and heroines?

Ultimately you know, we’ve all got the Force.

What is Sepsis?

Until the 2016 coverage of the tragic case of little William Mead and the alleged failure of the NHS 111 helpline and other medical agencies to make a correct diagnosis of Sepsis, I was unaware of this potentially deadly disease.

In fact, Sepsis affects 25,000 children each year in the UK – a staggering statistic.

Baby raising hand - what is sepsis? - motherdistracted.co.uk

As parents, we sometimes put our faith in the NHS and other medical agencies to a worrying degree. My own often stated view is that when in doubt, take your child to A&E or push for a second medical opinion.

And educate yourself.  I am not saying put blind faith in Google either but at least arm yourself with some basic knowledge which enables you to ask the right questions.

What is Sepsis?

So what is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a common and potentially life-threatening condition triggered by an infection in any part of the body.  It is a whole-body inflammatory response which results in symptoms such as a fever, raised pulse rate, raised breathing and confusion.

Sometimes, the specific infection and source of sepsis cannot be identified. Because it can begin in different parts of the body, the disease can have many different symptoms.

Sepsis is often referred to as either blood poisoning or septicaemia, although it could be argued that both terms are not entirely accurate. It is not just limited to the blood and can affect the whole body, including the organs.

It can also be caused by viral or fungal infections, although bacterial infections are by far the most common cause.

Sepsis can also cause blood clots to form in your organs and in your arms, legs, fingers and toes leading to varying degrees of organ failure and tissue death (gangrene).

Neonatal Sepsis can also be due to infection with fungi, viruses, or parasites but it can be difficult to diagnose as newborns may be asymptomatic.

Symptoms of Sepsis

Symptoms of Sepsis are likely to include:

  • fever
  • warm skin
  • chills
  • shaking
  • rapid heart rate
  • skin rash
  • hyperventilation
  • hypothermia
  • confusion
  • delirium
  • drowsiness
  • a decrease in urination

However, the initial signs and symptoms of Sepsis are frequently non-specific, leading to a delay in diagnosis.

As with meningitis, the symptoms of Sepsis in children are not specific and vary from child to child.

If Sepsis is detected early enough and it has not yet affected vital organs, it may be possible to treat the condition at home with antibiotic tablets. If it is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not work.

With early treatment, a full recovery is made in most cases with no lasting problems.

Severe cases often result from a body-wide infection that spreads through the bloodstream, but Sepsis can also stem from a localized infection.

For example, in someone who already has kidney impairment, Sepsis can lead to kidney failure that requires lifelong dialysis.

Severe Sepsis causes poor organ function or insufficient blood flow and is usually treated with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.  It is a particular risk for people already in hospital due to another serious illness.

It is more common among males than females and the worldwide incidence of the disease is estimated to be 18 million cases per year.

That’s another incredible statistic for a disease many have never even heard of.

If you are in any doubt, please seek urgent medical attention.

Find out more at the UK Sepsis Trust where you can also make a donation to support their ongoing research.

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation, And What You Can Do About It 

What do you think of when you hear the word “sleep”? Do you think of getting those zzz’s at night? Or of a comfy pillow and blanket that you might own?

Sleep is more important than you might think. Here’s what it affects, and how you can make the most of it.

For most people, sleep is a daily activity that we all participate in, after a long day of work. But each year, studies show that sleep is much, much more than that. In fact, sleep is connected to our weight, our heart health, and our immune system. And knowing its power on our lives has never been more urgent.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

We all know the feeling the next day when we don’t sleep well. We’re groggy, we’re out of focus, and we’re lethargic. But that should be no surprise, given the science: sleep is when our mind and body quite literally rebuilds. 

As our days wear on, we expend a lot of physical and mental energy, through movement and concentration. Sleep is when our brain takes to reactivating those synergies, while the rest of our body juices back up the muscle and tissue that was worn down. Dreaming, as it turns out, is one of the best mental exercises: it shows that our brain is functioning normally.

So if all of that doesn’t happen on a regular basis, we start to see the effects of it on our body. According to experts, sleep deprivation — or not allowing your mind and body to recover in the ways mentioned — can lead to lowered immune systems, a greater chance of diabetes and heart disease, unhealthy weight gain, and mood swings. 

In other words: your body is out of sync without sleep, and that has its consequences.

Here’s What You Can Do About It

First, you need to identify what’s keeping you up at night. Anxiety and other mental health issues are known to be factors, as is the food we eat at night. (It’s worth putting aside that coffee and sugar after 6 pm if you can.) 

It also could be an issue of temperature or comfortability: a room at a natural cool temperature is the perfect setting for a good night’s sleep. 

And then, you have the screens: smartphones and tablets emit certain rays that prevent the brain from effectively shutting down, and can cause insomnia. That last thirty minutes before sleep, why not put aside the electronics, and grab a book? Believe us: your brain will thank you.

Try a few experiments, where you switch up your late-night routine, to pinpoint the issues. 

Beyond those measures, it’s worth finding a natural sleep supplement that doesn’t rely on chemicals or lab-produced ingredients to put you to sleep. Because why harm your body more when you’re trying to help it?

A Natural Sleep Supplement That Can Help

If you’re looking for a natural sleep supplement that works, Dream EZ pill should be on your list. 

This natural supplement, made by the EZ Lifestyle team, only uses organic and pure ingredients from Brazil — like valerian root, melatonin, chamomile, and lemon balm — that are scientifically proven to calm your body down, into a restful, deep sleep. It has gotten approval from the FDA and Health Canada, and the company is hyper-transparent about the whole process, which should be a prerequisite of any nutritional purchase.

Thousands of users have attested to the efficacy of the three phases — the calming, healthy sleep, and REM sleep phase — and said that they felt the effects almost immediately. 

So what does that mean for you? A more productive, happy, and re-energized day.