When Things Change ….

Hello again! I’ve been out of communicado for a few weeks due to a house move. It’s been a busy time with lots to do and great excitement as we enter a new phase of our lives. My blog will always be ‘Notes From Dove Lane’ though: this title is dear to my heart and was taken from my book ‘Tea at Raphael’s which was inspired by a favourite lane in Somerset.

No matter how we are pleased with life’s new twists and turns, anxiety can still creep up on us and make us feel unsettled or jittery; its as if the old ‘worry monster’ likes to gain our attention and remind us of those old scenarios that cause us to fret. But it is good to remind ourselves that change helps us move forward and embrace new beginnings, and by engaging in new routines and trying out new surroundings we can move forward, even though we may move tentatively at first.

Today I am sitting in a delightful cafe in my new village – it’s a book shop that serves coffee and snacks – definitely my sort of place! The walls are lined with books from top to bottom and the array of coffee and cakes available is fabulous. I may be here often, (especially as I have no broadband yet!)

Please excuse my short blog this week – there is much to do at home and many deliveries and callers to attend to! One thing I must say though is that the weather has been glorious, and as we look out over the open fields beyond our house and watch the red kites swooping and hear their familiar whistle welcoming us, I am filled with gratitude.

Before I go, I have some exciting news! Last weekend, the Janey Loves Platinum Award Ceremony took place – and I am very pleased to say that my book ‘Best Foot Forward’ received a ‘highly commended’ award. It is always wonderful to know that someone has enjoyed your work!

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See you soon and blessings to you.

 

Managing the Stress of Moving House…

Remember that home is wherever you and your loved ones gather….

 

Some say that moving house is one of life’s major stresses. Anyone who’s undertaken a house move will agree it’s one of the most challenging events we experience, both physically and emotionally. A lot of us find it stressful because it involves change and represents a transition in life – and with it comes unfamiliarity. Most of us, me included, like familiarity, routine and order, but when we are moving house, for a while at least, we have none of those. Depending on your age and your stage in life, you might be in a new area, having to find new schools for your children, take on a new commute to work and find a new doctor. Often too, when you move into a new house, it’s the simple things you miss, like knowing exactly where the light switch is in the dark, and where your personal mementos are stored.

Although moving can be exciting and you can embrace the thoughts of new beginnings, it is good to think about the mental impact moving will have on you. If you can clear your schedule a little way in advance and take some time off for preparation, this will help the actual moving day feel less overwhelming and give you a bit more control of your situation. If you provide ample time to pack and find removal firms, this will greatly remove stress. Clearing out clutter well before you move will help you let go and prepare for the future. Make sure too, if you can, to get your family members and good friends to lend a helping hand. This will lessen the burden on you and also give you a chance to spend time together before moving.

It is a good idea to have a few rituals before moving; maybe have a small leaving party, take a few walks around your favourite routes and allow time for special memories – this can help the transition from your old home to your new one.

This is a busy time and it is easy to neglect your diet. Being well-rested and having good nutrition is vital to good health and helps to keep stress levels down.

My own route to where I live now has been a long and sometimes winding road, and there are more moves ahead. For someone who’s home and surroundings are one of the most important things in life, moving several times over the last few years has been unsettling and at times traumatic. Several times I have had to pack and unpack my treasured and various possessions, some of which have become more battered and forlorn which each and every move. But with my footsteps echoing in a bare and empty room, when I start unwrapping a well-loved piece of china or some favourite photographs, or even a cosy blanket, the look and feel of those familiar things never fail to bring immediate comfort. As my home has scaled down in size progressively with each and every move, my belongings have had to be pared down accordingly, but some precious things remain, like the beautiful wooden chest decorated with painted birds that our elder son gave us some years ago, and a small chalkboard, carefully varnished over to preserve the cheerful pictures our younger son drew for me when he was little.

It is good to remember that we are only custodians of any house we live in. It’s as though the character of the house leaves with our possessions, and as we take that last look around, the feeling of familiarity is gone and all that remains is the echo of the voices of the inhabitants who once lived there, and the feeling that all the familiarity of home is gone. The house already feels as though it preparing for its new owners. Yet, if you ever have reason to drive down the same path again it would feel quite normal to step inside and feel you have never been away. One thing I have learned is that life has twists and turns and we end up in unexpected places. But once we make our mark on a new house, wherever it is, it turns into home. Home is where hearts are sure of each other; a place where you know your way in the dark.

As we enjoy the summer with all its outdoor pleasures, the cosiness and warmth of home is still important; we take comfort in a shady spot under a tree in the garden, closing the shutters or the blinds at the end of the day as the sun sets or sharing a simple supper around the kitchen table. And for that we all need that special place: a place to rest, recharge our batteries and sometimes retreat from the outside world for a while. Whether we are a large family or just one person, our home reveals in all its artefacts (those precious keepsakes, and the everyday and ordinary and extraordinary things that surround us), the story of us, and of who we are. We may think that style and inventiveness, as well as hard work and money, are what is needed to transform a house or an apartment, and it’s true, those things help create the space we yearn for. But what really matters is that we creat a place of security, a place of love and warmth, where children and grandchildren can grow and turn to, especially when the outside world seems to be creating stresses and strains.

The place we call home needs to keep peace within its boundaries, welcome within its walls, shelter for its friends, and a cake in the larder.

So when you feel unsettled, have to move house or change your surroundings for whatever reason, remember that home is where you and your loved ones are – it is not dependent on fancy fixtures and fittings, palaces and mansions, but on you and the people you love, and in the cosy place where you gather together.

And a single small cottage,
A nest like a dove’s,
The only dwelling on earth that she loves’.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

 

 

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The House We Left Behind

The removal van is on its way, I hear it rattling up the lane,
The time is fast approaching for us to be moving on again.
Before I’m even ready, the men are standing in the hall
Examining the packing cases stacked up by the wall.
And as all of our possessions disappear from view
The old house turns its back on us and waits for someone new.

                                          (C) Lyn Halvorsen

If It Doesn’t Open It can’t Be Your Door

Do you ever feel you haven’t got what you deserved?

Have you ever had trouble coming to terms with acceptance? When you feel you haven’t got what you deserved or when you can’t seem to bring a plan into action even though all the signs were there that gave you hope for a good solution? Stressful situations occur when we dwell on what we haven’t got, what we haven’t been given when we feel it it is rightfully ours or perhaps a relationship hasn’t worked out even though it seemed to be going well.

It is difficult to know when to give up sometimes; when to call things a day when something isn’t working or to accept that there are some things that you can’t change. Some things cannot be forced and some things cannot be kept. When you try to keep water in your cupped hands you cannot, not matter how hard you try.

There is a difference between finding courage to keep going in certain situations when you know you need to and when your heart is telling you you are doing the right thing, and finding the strength to walk away when a sitauation isn’t working and isn’t beneficial to you. Mostly, we have an inner knowing if we stop and recognise it  – we know when something is going to work and when it isn’t. Yet we sometimes do not know how to stop, or maybe we can’t find it in ourselves to let go of a situation. The more we force our selves into a situation the harder it becomes. It often takes more courage to give up on something than to keep going. To let go of something that isn’t working is not necessarily failure, it is just a result.

When a plan doesn’t work out it is very hard to find a reason – but when you feel stressed or upset ask yourself if it will really matter that much in years to come. Time helps us look back on situations and see them for what they really were. Some things just cannot be explained until you look at them retrospectively. Trust that even if you don’t have an understanding of a situation now, you will in time. So many times we can be thankful that we were saved from making a bad mistake when we look back. Perhaps you were sad when a relationship didn’t work out but would you have met the person of your dreams further down the line – your soul mate who was waiting in the wings?

It has been very busy at Dove Lane this week; I have been working hard on a project and haven’t always taken enough rest. Why do I keep going when I know I should pause, take a break and regroup? I know what I should do and yet I don’t follow my own rules! I hear the birds singing outside and hear the breeze calling me in the early hours – my mind is active yet I should take time to notice the small things – the things that matter – and remember that quality time is precious.

When the  door you want to enter won’t open for you, don’t keep pushing against it. It the door won’t open it can’t be your door.

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Ways of Coping with Stress.

We have to remind ourselves that we need to keep a positive self-image….

Do you have days when worries creep up on you and you just can’t shake them off? Yesterday was okay, you had a good day and felt content and optimistic but today you woke up knowing the old ‘worry monster was lurking in the shadowy corner of the bedroom?

Perhaps the cause of the worry monster’s reappearance should be addressed which isn’t that easy I know. Sometimes, you’d rather get up and try and get on with the day even though you know it won’t be perfect. But perhaps the cause of what’s worrying you should be identified and scrutinised; sometimes a change in attitudes could resolve the problem. Adapting to stress can bring about changes which are often all to the good. Other stresses, particularly those that aren’t of our making, could be eased by taking definite steps such as changing jobs or moving house.

Sometimes, there is only one solution and that is to come to terms with unpleasant realities that may be there to stay for whatever reason. Occasionally there are things we just cannot change. Accepting that once and for all can actually take the pressure off and lessen the impact.

We have to remind ourselves at times that we need to keep a positive self-image.  We can train ourselves not to indulge in self-fulfilling negative prophecies with a bit of practise, and not indulge the worry monster. When you attempt a new way of coping with stress and whether you succeed or not, do a kind of de-briefing afterwards. Ask yourself what went well and maybe what went wrong; how you could have done things differently; think about it and tell yourself all the positive and useful aspects of what you did. Don’t forget, you can learn from anything – good or bad.

It is important but often difficult to pinpoint the relevant triggers of stress – sometimes we spend too much time trying to work on one thing when really we need to turn the spotlight elsewhere. It’s good but sometimes painful to be really honest with yourself. That is why the wretched worry monster reappears with monotonous regularity if you are not careful to really look at what is bothering you.

Stress in one circumstance may spill over and influence another situation. For example, if you are feeling stressed about your work you may get irritable about other things that really aren’t the main problem. Factors can interact and stress builds up in all areas, so it helps if you can really identify the main problem so that you can tackle it.

As far as stress is concerned, how we see ourselves is often more important than the reality of our situation and can be the main factor as to whether we can cope or not. Isn’t that an interesting point? How important is image to us and why do we worry about how we appear to other people? If we can find a way to accept ourselves as we are we are on the way to becoming more self assured and comfortable with ourselves. Stress responses are largely determined by, for instance, the perceived threat to emotional security or to self-esteem. Changing the perception of the stress – how one views it and views oneself  – can mitigate the effect of anxiety and sometimes neutralise it more or less completely.

So this week, if the worry monster lurks nearby maybe you could just turn your back on him and go about your business. He has a big ego so just watch him shrink when you don’t look his way!

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A Thousand Pleases…

Kindness Matters. Always.

This is my mantra.

No matter who we are, whatever gifts life has or has not bestowed on us, we all benefit from kindness. Words of kindness can help our fears and anxieties disappear, like ice melting in the warmth of the sun.

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Lately it has come to mind – It is most important to be kind. To take a moment, make a choice, Comfort with a loving voice.’

Perhaps I can offer a few examples of kindness I have encountered.

One day last year I was sitting outside a cafe enjoying some coffee and Some welcome winter sunshine. All was quiet until a group of young men walked towards the cafe. They appeared to be in boisterous spirits, shouting and laughing. Swaggering along dressed in their hoodies, they gave off an air of arrogant confidence. They ordered drinks and sat down at a nearby table. They were loud. To be honest I felt slightly uncomfortable next to them and a little annoyed that my space had been invaded. I began to make assumptions about where they were from and wondered why they were out and about. Why weren’t they at work or college? But my thoughts were interrupted when an elderly lady walking across the road tripped and fell, scattering all her shopping in the street. Before I had chance to move, the young men next to me all stood up and dashed over to help. I followed over too, to see if there was anything I could do. Very gently one of them checked the lady over to see if she was badly hurt, and as a group they wondered whether an ambulance was needed.

It was decided that the lady was just shaken up. Getting slowly to her feet she insisted she was okay but was agitated about her groceries and handbag. No problem they said, and gathered up all her things, reassuring her everything was there. I took her over to the cafe and sat her down whilst one of the young men went inside to order her some tea.

We all sat outside the cafe together, our chairs pulled round one table in a companionable circle. Soon the lady was smiling and feeling better .

She looked up at one of the lads. “Why, I know you! You are Jenny’s son from the next block of flats to me! I haven’t seen you for a long time! It’s young David isn’t it?”

‘Young’ David smiled and looked embarrassed. “Yes that’s me.”

“Well I’m blessed,” said the lady, who’s name was Molly. “How you’ve grown! I’m so pleased to see you.”

We all chatted for a while and then David offered to walk Molly home. Off they went arm in arm, the others following behind. David promised to tell his Mother he had spent time with Molly and suggested Molly came round to visit sometime. Molly smiled such a sweet smile as she waved goodbye to me. An upsetting fall had had a happy ending.

I went inside and ordered another coffee. I thought about the boys and their kindness to an old lady. I realised one thing. It was not my business to question how anyone passes the time of day. And it was the last time I ever made assumptions.

In this complex world we keep afloat, Care for ourselves without rocking the boat. Weigh up the politics, Try and do what is right, Find something we believe in and follow the light.’

I remember having to start a new school when I was thirteen as my family had moved house. I was crippled with shyness and it was a very distressing time in my life. I joined the school at a time when everyone had been there a while and had settled into new friendships. They all had their allocated seats and knew the routine. Break-time was miserable. I lurked around in the changing rooms as I didn’t have friends to hang out with. Sometimes after my father had dropped me off at the school gates I would watch him drive off and then I would turn around and walk the three miles home again. My parents were worried about me but at a loss about what to do.

I knew somehow I had to get used to going to school. Gradually some of the other girls started to include me in their circle and the days started to improve. It would take a while until I felt that I belonged but the person who really helped me was my English teacher. Mr. Walker was a kind and thoughtful gentleman who took an interest in me. He made me welcome and took time to concentrate on my work. He taught us good values and good manners by example. He gave me good marks for my essays! He instilled in me a lifelong love of writing. He remembered my name, even when we met by chance years later. Mr. Walker had a class full of pupils but he took the time to be kind to a young, timid girl. He must be long gone now, but I have never forgotten him.

   ‘Too many times on a solitary track Have we passed on by, and not looked back Not knowing the difference we could have made, To the person standing alone and afraid?’

Kindness often comes at times when we least expect it. A random stranger smiling and opening a door for us. A passer by giving us change for the parking ticket machine, or, as happened to me recently, a waitress who was so kind to me after a rough day she brought tears to my eyes.

No matter who we are and whatever our circumstances, we all have times we feel alone. We struggle to understand what is going on around us, both in our own small world and the big wide world too. Most of us have times when we feel lonely in a crowd; days when we wonder literally what this world is all about.

On Monday my elderly father was rushed to hospital with a sudden infection – he had gone to bed perfectly okay the previous night and the onset was sudden. When called, the paramedics were very professional and efficient and realised he needed to be hospitalised and so we were soon waiting in the emergency room of the local hospital. The immediate care was good and the staff did their best. It was very, very busy though and the staff had their hands full. The unit was overflowing and there was stress. In the midst of it all I heard a lone voice asking for help – ‘please help’ and again, ‘please help! A thousand pleases!’. It made me think that when we are at our lowest the basic need in all of us is to be shown some kindness. And the person was helped. And shown compassion. I’m so thankful there are people who do their best in tough conditions and who are not just motivated by earning money or by fame, but who are just there to make a difference to someone’s well-being and who are doing their job the best way they can.

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‘After frantic years of business deals, With arrogant managers clicking their heels, Would anyone look back and say: “I’m glad I acted mean that day?”’

One last word.

Some days I can get out of the bed the wrong side and feel grumpy. We all can. These are the times when it may be harder to summon up a smile or be polite. After several cold calls interrupting me on the telephone I can feel exasperated. Or maybe it has taken what seems like hours to be served at the checkout. Or perhaps I have been stuck in a long queue of traffic. These are the times I take a deep breath. These are the times I remember life is good. These are the times I tell myself I have today. I am lucky to have today. I am lucky to be able to walk around freely. I am lucky to have a phone I can take a call on no matter how irritating. I am lucky to have some change in my purse. Therefore I will try and cope with my day and whatever it brings. And I hope I will be kind.

What are your thoughts on the healthcare system? In the Uk we seem to be at crisis point although the present government disagrees. As a former nurse and someone who has worked for many years in the NHS system and believes in it wholeheartedly, I hope to see change and more resources before we lose it forever.

Keeping Anxiety at Bay for the Holidays.

It’s the time of year when there is a lot to think about. Perhaps more than usual. If you are prone to anxiety,  the thought of coping with Christmas plans can add to your anxious feelings or to the feelings of someone you love. While for many, Christmas is nothing but exciting, this is not always the case for those who suffer from anxiety, depression and conditions such as OCD.

Do you find yourself caught up with the stress of the pre – Christmas rush? The build up seems to start earlier each year and before we know it we are bombarded with all sorts of smart advertising containing supposedly endearing stories and mini films with the ‘ahhh’ factor, that are really there to entice us into spending money in the big, well- known stores.  The media paints a picture of wonderment and happiness; we would all love this of course, but for some people this is not how Christmas is for them. The world is not perfect all of the time and we need to hold on to that thought and remember we are not the only ones who get anxious this time of year. For some, loneliness can be a real problem, perhaps because of the loss of a loved one, and the sadness of loss can certainly feel desperately raw at this time of year.

Christmas parties, whether it is with colleagues or old friends can be hard to cope with at the best of times, but add anxiety to this and before you know it you may dread the social scene. You can be out of your comfort zone having to speak to people you don’t know well and worried about having to impress – maybe a new boss or confident looking colleagues. With parties closer to home, it may be a case of meeting new neighbours or friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Food shopping is something else to negotiate – for some reason we feel the need to buy massive amounts of extra food this time of year; ok we may have people coming to stay or extra mouths to feed at Christmas Day, but even if not we tend to buy stuff we wouldn’t normally buy – think big tins of biscuits, the Turkish delight, the boxes of dates and the mountains of Yule logs and mince pies. I know it is good to have a treat this time of the year, but perhaps we do get tempted to buy too much. Then there is the alcohol too – would we dream of drinking chocolate liqueurs and mulled wine (often not even worth drinking) or egg nog any other time of year?

Apart from the fact we end up spending a lot more money on food and wine this time of the year resulting in a negative effect on our bank balance; eating and drinking extra calories and rich food this time of year can make anxiety levels worse and again have a negative effect on us, this time on our health.

Buying presents is something most of us get concerned about. Of course, we want our loved ones to have something they like to open on Christmas Day , especially the children, but for an anxious person, the results of spending a lot of money in a short space of time can seem very scary and worrying. Money aside, the crowds, loud jarring music and queues can make Christmas shopping seem unbearable.

So okay, the above situations are those which most of us have encountered at sometime in our lives and I am painting quite a grim picture of what should and can be a magical and completely enjoyable time of year. Beacuse it really doesn’t have to be such a stressful time of year. Who makes it that way? And why?

Going back to the advertising, we are taught from quite an early age what we can expect Christmas to be like. But it cannot apply to us all. We are not all the same. And we are all coping with our own personal situations. What may be wonderful for one person may not be right for another. What do most of us remember when we look back down the years? Piles of presents around the tree, huge amounts of food and big parties? Or do we remember the excitement of hanging the stockings at the end of the bed and the thrill of opening the small gifts in the early hours, so lovingly and haphazardly wrapped by a caring parent.  Or sadly, there may be memories that are not quite as happy, and that may be another reason Christmas evokes pain and stress.

Maybe this year  – with still some time ahead before Christmas is really upon us, we can decide to take a different view and look at what is really important. One thing that always strikes me every year, and I always comment on to my husband without fail every year, is that the build up to Christmas is huge; we all rush around trying to get things done, caught up in the whole rush and excitement and then suddenly we arrive at Boxing Day and hear murmurs and mutterings of: ‘well that’s that for another year’, and: ‘where are you going for your holiday this year?’ It seems to be indicative of the society we have become: always looking for the next thrill, the next celebration or occasion before we have had time to enjoy and digest what has just occurred. So this year how about making a decision not to get too ‘wrapped up in Christmas ‘? Have a year where you do not make too many commitments. Be honest with people and say no in the nicest possible way if you don’t want to do something. Do most of your present shopping online and do it in your own time. Book an online food shop well in advance if it suits you, and apart from the convenience you won’t be so tempted to buy lots of unnecessary goodies (which aren’t really goodies at all). Also, explain to everyone that your Christmas this year may be a little more low key and that includes your present giving. Offer loved ones time instead. Time is the most valuable gift of all.

Decide a few things in advance to help keep your anxiety at bay. Plan to eat healthily and avoid too many stimulants like caffeine and alcohol. Have plenty of rest and not too many late nights. Cortisol is the body’s most powerful stress hormone. It causes a number of changes in the body, including increasing stimulation and the perception of fright. Getting regular good rest and sleep can keep cortisol production to a minimum and reduce the feelings of dread.

If you reduce your expectations about the holidays you will not be disappointed when things don’t always go according to plan; likewise if you are feeling calm you will be more able to enjoy things and ‘go with the flow’. Good things that do occur can be received with joy and thankfulness. Do things you like to do too, like walks in the clear, crisp night when the stars are out and the world is peaceful. Spending time doing the things you love and want to do is a great way to celebrate the Christmas season and you will feel better for it. This isn’t being selfish but just being your true self. Having healthy boundaries is essential when you are prone to anxiety.

A good tip is to think and act a bit more like a child at Christmas – have you noticed how children don’t run around getting stressed about Christmas? Far from it! They just enjoy the time while it is there.

So now that the lead up to Christmas has started remember that every day is special and also has it’s own challenges and delights. When the events of the holiday season threaten to overwhelm you, breathe deeply,  take time out until you feel calmer, and look forward. Look forward to celebrating in your own way and until then remind yourself there are no rules to follow for a good Christmas break!

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