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Mental health & Wellbeing Product Reviews

I am your friend. A book of Hope – Book Review


If you are ever feeling down or having a bad day, this wonderful little book is just what you need to pick yourself up. 

I am your friend a book of hope is packed full of colourful images with positive messages that burst of the page. They will leaving you feeling uplifted and inspired. 

This handy smaller pocket edition of the book is designed to be your perfect companion when you are out and about. You can pick it up and flick through it anywhere or share it with someone in need of cheering up. There is also a bigger hardback edition of the book. 

As soon as I opened the book I was drawn in, you can just feel the love, positivity and emotion that the author and illustrator Billie Bacall is portraying. She created this book to help lift herself out of a very difficult time in her life. In a short time period she suffered the sudden death of her husband and went through major surgery and chemotherapy. It is through drawing that she found solace and a way out of her a difficult period in her life. 

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Now she shares her drawings to uplift and inspire others to stay positive and to help them through dark times. 

After I finished reading the book I felt on a high reeling in the positive vibes. I straight away shared it with my girls and they loved the book too. 

I am your friend. A book of Hope is available to buy one Amazon

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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Mental health & Wellbeing

Mental Health Awareness Week – I Share the Struggles I Have Had This Week

As you may well know this week is mental health awareness week which is so important. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the last week would have experienced a mental health problem, that is an alarming number of people and unfortunately it is a growing issue. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-uk-and-worldwide

I have written a number of posts in the past on self-care and ways to help with mental health issues for both children and adults but today I had to put my own advice to good use as today I had a little breakdown.

It was caused by a build up of lots of little things that all together ended up breaking me.

Today started with me struggling to get out of bed, rushing to write a blog post while eating my breakfast and getting my girls ready for school. Then my computer at work played up most of the day, I ended up with a headache and also in the back of my mind I was worrying about my impending redundancy when our office closes next March and what the hell I am going to do with my life. 

To top it all off when I got home my girls were just on my case moaning and arguing that in the end I just burst into tears while trying to hang out the washing.

After having a sob I did feel a little better but I decided to make a cup of tea and go and sit on my own in the garden with my feet in the grass for a bit. I did feel so much better and calmer afterwards but unfortunately I didn’t have the time to sit there any longer as I had dinner to make, children to drop at Brownies and shopping to do so I had to get a move on.

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Somehow I had managed to do everything in record time that after I had finished shopping there was still some time left before my girls were bought back from Brownies so I decided to go for a quick run. If I am honest I didn’t really want to go and at that point I would have preferred to sit down and eat a big bar of chocolate but I knew deep down I would regret it later so I pushed myself to go.

I am so glad I did as my mind is so much clearer now and I feel like a different person. Although some of my troubles are still there I am in a much better frame of mind to tackle them and they don’t feel as daunting as they did a few hours ago.

When you are feeling down and stressed exercise is probably the last thing that you want to do but if you can just get over the initial hurdle of getting yourself up, as soon as you start exercising you will feel 10 x better, it definitely works for me.

Physical activity is thought to cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-benefits-of-exercise/

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Looking back I don’t think I have been in the right frame of mind for a couple of days. When I was thinking of ideas of what to write as a blog post for mental health awareness week I wrote this in my notebook last night ‘To me mental health awareness week is about accepting that life is hard and can be shit at times. At some point these times will affect us as there is only so much we can take’. I should have realised when I wrote this that something was up and that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. However it is so true there is only so much we can take until we break so it is important to implement self-care and take time out when possible. Hopefully next time I will take my advice before I start feeling down.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Love the skin your in

Self-care tips for busy parents

The Benefits of Journaling

Art is good for the soul (even if you are not very good at it)

Ways to help children improve their mental health and well-being

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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Product Reviews

Book Review of Cassandra Farren’s ‘The Girl Who Refused To Quit’ and ‘Rule Your World

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I have been reviewing the touching and motivational books “The Girl Who Refused To Quit” and “Rule your world” by author and Reiki master Cassandra Farren (Cassie Farren).

Her first book “The Girl Who Refused To Quit” is so raw, down to earth and touching as Cassie shares the highs and lows of her life and how no matter what was thrown at her she refused to quit.

Throughout the book you can really feel the emotions through her writing and although you can feel her sadness when she hits rock bottom (not once, not twice but three times) you can also feel the determination she has to carry on. The love she has for her two son’s provides her passion to push on through the sad times to not let them down.

Despite the heartache you feel for Cassie at her low points this book is so uplifting and positive that it shows with the right mindset you can get through anything that life throws at you.

Cassie also shares her issues she has had with work, from working stressful jobs and having to leave her son in childcare (something I am sure a lot of Mums can relate to) then giving it all up to work happily as a part time cleaner for years until being made redundant to then start on her journey of being self employed and building a business which was not without its setbacks.

Cassandra is a strong and truly inspiring lady and has showcased it by writing this powerful and motivational book that makes an aspiring and uplifting read.

You can order your copy from Amazon by clicking here.

In Cassie’s second book “Rule your world” she has used all of her past experiences and knowledge to create a self-help book that combines her real life stories with scientific studies to provide the readers with the 7 rules that will help you raise your self-awareness to empower a calmer and more fulfilling way of life.

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The rules are very simple but are so often overlooked and pushed aside as we are all often too busy to implement self-care. If you are looking to de-stress and regain control of your life this book is for you. 

It is easy to follow and showcases that making a few small changes to our lives can make a big impact on our health and well-being. You will be given the steps to create your own “toolbox for life” that will help you focus on yourself and give you ways to help bring you out of the darkness on to a path of empowerment and self-discovery.

You can order your copy on Amazon by clicking here.

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Parenting Advice

It is OK to have a lazy day every now and then.

I always feel that on weekends and especially on Bank holiday weekends our family should be doing something special like visiting a new place, going on a beautiful walk, making something or doing an activity.

I often feel that if we haven’t done something that day then it has been wasted and I have let everyone down. Today was one of those days, I wanted for us all to go out and make some memories but no one really wanted to move. All of us were knackered, the weather was cold, we don’t have a lot of money as we are going on holiday in 2 weeks and we just couldn’t be bothered.

I think social media plays a huge part in making us feel like we should be doing more as you only really see post when people/families have done something or gone somewhere exciting you don’t see people posting that they spent the day watching telly and doing the washing. However the real-life truth is we can’t do all these things all the time we have to have the boring days of doing nothing to be able to enjoy and look forward to the fun days.

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At first I was worried that my girls were missing out on an opportunity to do something over the bank holiday but then I looked at them chilled out playing on the computers and I then realised that they need days like these, they are happy and not moaning and we could all do with a down day there is nothing wrong with having one every now and again..

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So instead the girls all played computer games, I did the housework and then we did a bit of roller skating. Even though we didn’t go anywhere we still all had a good day. It also means we were able to save money so we will now have a bit more to spend and enjoy our holiday with.

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Why not also take a look at my other posts –

New Years Health & Fitness Routines – Why they don’t work and what we should be doing.

Body Image / Body Confidence photo shoot

Love the Skin you’re in

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Mental health & Wellbeing

The Benefits of Switching Off from your Electronic Devices

I recently worked myself into the ground and was feeling worse for wear. I had worked every day for a month at both my day job which I work Monday to Friday and then my book/blog writing business in the evenings and weekends all of which requires looking at a computer or phone screen for many hours.

It got to the point where I started to feel a bit sick when I looked at the screen. So I knew then that I needed to take a break.

When we go on family outings or days out I never take my phone out of my pocket and can easily go for hours without looking at it but we can’t really sustain these trips every week so on the days we only go out for part of the day the rest of it I would be looking at a screen, working away.

So on Friday evening I switched off my phone and didn’t even look at it until Saturday evening and even then it was a quick social media update on my blog page then back off again. I know not a complete switch off but at least it was a step in the right direction for me.

I instead went for a walk with the kids, did some yoga and baked a lemon drizzle cake with my girls and I feel so much better for it. My head feels so much clearer now. I am definitely going to switch off more often at least one day over the weekend. Even when my girls were out playing with their friends I chose to listen to music or read a book rather than put the TV on.

The Benefits of Powering Down

Helps you relax – turning off and shutting down from technology allows your brain to relax. It is so easy keep checking into your phone or tablet every now and then to see what is going on in the world of social media. It is all too easy to worry about what you might be missing and want to stay connected. However by setting yourself a time frame where you stay away from technology and have them turned off or on silent then you can relax and not worry what every beep or ring might indicate.

Improves sleep – Studies have shown that screen time can be a factor in poor sleep. The brain creates a hormone called melatonin that regulates are sleep and awake cycles but when we look at screens at night it can affect are melatonin levels and our body’s think that we are not ready for sleep. https://www.alaskasleep.com/

Reduced body pain – looking down at a screen all the time can be bad for your neck and spine which can result in pain. The term ‘tech neck’ is used to describe the pain we get in these areas from excessive electronic use.

You are more aware of your surroundings – when you turn away from electronics and unplug for a while you are getting rid of a distraction and you will find that you then take in more of what’s around you.

Addiction – It is amazing how addictive we all are to technology and the thing is you never realise how much until you take it away. Although I wasn’t going into a hot flush and having the shakes trying to stop myself looking at my phone I did find that every now and then I would think about checking my phone and had to talk myself down from not looking at it. It then took me a few minutes going over in my head if I should look at my phone or not before deciding against it. Switching off for that long wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Why not give it a go and unplug for a few hours or maybe a whole day and see the benefits for yourself.

I would love to hear how you get on from unplugging please do drop a comment below and share your experience below.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Love the skin your in

Self-care tips for busy parents

The Benefits of Journaling

Art is good for the soul (even if you are not very good at it)

Ways to help children improve their mental health and well-being

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


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Mental health & Wellbeing Parenting Advice

Self-care tips for busy parents

As busy parent’s we can often find our days are like a never ending to do list, as soon as we have finished one thing it is straight on to the next.

As well as looking after our children, there is cleaning, chores and for some of us work to fit in as well. With life being so busy it is hard to remember to take time out for ourselves to ensure that we have some me time and do not become run down.

As parents we tend to put our self-care last and focus more on our children’s care when in fact taking care of ourselves should be number 1 priority as when we our burnt out we are unable to care for the rest of the family.

As they say in the airplane safety briefing before the plane takes off, ‘always put your breathing mask on first before helping others’, they say this for the simple fact that if you take care of yourself first you are then in a better position to help others afterwards. The same goes for self-care, look after yourself first then you will be in a better position to give your children the best care.

I have to admit I have not been the best at self-care and often put myself last but I have been making more of an effort lately and have noticed the improvement in family life, when I am chilled and happy so is the rest of the family.

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How to factor in self-care?

Take 10

With our busy lives, time is always an issue when trying to fit in self-care and we can’t take a few hours off every day to refresh. This is where we need to ensure that we take at least 10 mins to ourselves a day. I have incorporated this into my everyday routine with a tea break. Everyday after finishing work and getting back from school run I will make a cup of tea and sit down on the sofa and drink it slowly. If anyone wants anything from me they are going to have to wait until I have finished. It is amazing what just a 10 minute refresh can do for your mind and body.

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Exercise

Exercise is a great way to clear our heads and help us stay focused. If you are feeling stressed then a great way to unwind is yoga. Yoga has the unique ability to help melt away stress and help your mind to focus on what is important. It will leave you feeling calm and relaxed and after doing it regularly you will feel healthier and stronger. (For more on yoga take a look at my post Why parents need yoga)

Going for a walk or a run is also a great way to get some you time because as well as getting exercise you are also getting fresh air.  

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Taking time out to go to the gym, an exercise class or any type of exercise that you enjoy will leave you feeling energised and invigorated and ready to take on the challenges life throws at us.

Planning

I know planning can seem an odd thing to put for self-care but sometimes if we really look at our busy lives and take the time to sit down and plan out our week you will find that you can slot in a few hours here and there for ourselves. Whether that would be in the morning before the children wake up, a little time while they are at school/nursery or when they have gone to bed. If you usually spend this time filled with chores plan in that one day a week you are going to forget all about the chores and take some time for yourself.

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If you are looking for a good planner take a look at my

post on The ultimate Diary Planner.

Hobbies

Find a hobby that you enjoy doing and set yourself some time during the week to carry it out. I love to read so every night before I go to sleep I sit up and read a bit of my book, some nights I can only manage a page or two as I am so tired and other days I can read for hours. There are lots of hobbies out there like knitting, drawing, baking, listening to music the list is endless you just need to find something you enjoy and try to set some time aside to do it.

Music

Music for me is one of the best ways for me to de-stress and go into my own little world. Even if I am still doing the housework putting my headphones on and dancing around the kitchen whilst mopping is the perfect way to forget your troubles. I also quite often put the radio on in the morning while we are all getting ready as I feel it motivates us more and I also listen to my i-pod on my walk to and from work which helps me relax and switch off for a few minutes. (For more on how music can benefit families read my post on how music brings families together)

Baths

Now this maybe a lot higher on some peoples list but for me baths are very rare. I am a shower person as they are quick, easy and get the job done and I don’t have much time for baths. That being said when I am feeling run down taking the time to have a nice warm relaxing bath can really help.

We are all different and all have our own unique ways to help us relax and unwind, whatever they maybe we all need to ensure that we are setting aside some time no matter how big or small in our busy lives to take care of ourselves.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Love the skin your in

The Benefits of Journaling

Art is good for the soul (even if you are not very good at it)

Ways to help children improve their mental health and well-being

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Mental health & Wellbeing Product Reviews

Thrive the stress management programme App

I recently jumped at the chance to review a new app called Thrive which is a stress management programme.

The reason why I wanted to do this trial is because I have a lot of stress going on in my life at the moment. I have 3 children, I work full time as a property manager in a busy (and very stressful) lettings office, I am working hard in the evenings to build my blog and gain more readers and to add to all the above my partner works away from home Monday evening to Friday evening so I am on my own during the week.

I think I can be excused for feeling a bit stressed from time to time. While I can’t change my immediate circumstances I need to start implementing changes to manage and combat my stress.

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That’s when I saw the trail to review the Thrive app and I was so happy when they picked me to try the app for a month’s free trial. (If you read on they have given me a code for you to try the app for free as well)

The app was very easy to download from Google play and sign up was quick and easy and the code for the month’s free trial was easy to add in.

The first day I downloaded the app I was having a pretty crappy day and was feeling quite stressed. I had the tightness in my chest and tension throughout my body so I was sceptical that it would be able to help.

To start with you are given a sliding scale that asks you how you are feeling today and on one side of the scale there is a stormy cloud and on the other a bright shining sun. On the first day mine was very near to the stormy cloud. After you have picked your mood you are then taken through a series of questions which go more into depth on how you are feeling.  There is a question at the top and then a range of answers below in these purple floating bubbles.

I started looking through to pick my answer and when I read some of the answers I could pick from I realised that my life and problems were nothing compared to some of the problems people are suffering from. After scrolling through I eventually picked work as a cause of my stress and then I was taken on to the next question as to why I am stressed at work and again from looking at the answers I realised that things are not as bad as I thought. So before I had even got into the app and carried out any of the exercises I was already feeling so much better about my life and a lot less stressed just by having things put into perspective.

I am using the app on my smartphone and the bubbles can be hard to pick as they move around quite a bit and having a small screen makes it difficult. If you were using a tablet then it would probably be a lot easier to see and manoeuvre the bubbles to pick your answers.

The home screen is a beautiful desert island with a palm tree and a deck chair, which I am longing to sit on. The background music is very gentle and calming and combines the sounds of the waves crashing against the sandy banks of the island with the soft music.

In the app you have this really cute alien/robot looking guy who is always there to guide you through and carry out the exercises with you. He floats around the screen and has a welcoming face.

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At the very beginning and after a couple of weeks I was asked an in depth questionnaire about the past month and how I have felt over that time. As I mentioned I was having a pretty rubbish day the first time I tried this app so the results of my questionnaire came back that I was suffering from a moderate depressive episode which did not sound good. However, when I took the same questionnaire a few weeks later my results were a lot better and noticed that I was managing my stress levels better.

Every day after you have been asked about your mood the app sets you stress relieving exercise goals for the day. There are quite a few different exercises and also for different durations.

Calm breathing is the exercise that I was given the most. It sounds simple and it is quite a simple exercise but so effective. The lady that talks you through the exercises has the most calming and soothing voice.

After just 3 minutes of sitting still following the deep breathing guide and listening to the subtle music and the ocean I was feeling so calm and relaxed. When the lady announced well done I had finished at the end of the exercise it took me a minute to come back round as I was so relaxed it was hard to get up. After this I was already feeling a lot happier.

After you have completed the calm breathing you are then taken on to more in depth relaxation and stress relief exercises which are deep muscle relaxation and meditation. The deep muscle exercise is good as it gets you to think about how your body feels and the lady will talk you through the exercise asking you to tense different parts of your body then release and feel the relaxation feeling. 

You do really start to notice the difference between tense and relaxed and for me after every time I tensed when I released I felt more and more relaxed and heavy.

My favourite exercise is the meditation as when carried out correctly it can put you into a deep state of relaxation. It is the perfect exercise to carry out before going off to bed as it calms you down and also help to focus you so your brain is not doing over time thinking about everything that happened in the day and what you need to do tomorrow. The meditation exercise tries to get you to think of a word for example ‘relaxation’ so if your mind starts to wonder you say to yourself ‘relaxation’ and it should slowly bring you back to your chilled out position.

As well as the basic meditation exercise there is also Mindful Walk, Sensory, Mindful Earth and Mindful Body Scan each exercise focusing on a different area of meditation. The key with all of these exercises is to be in a quiet area without distractions allowing you to focus and drift away into relaxation. The app does advise you to use headphones to ensure that you are not distracted but I managed to find myself a few minutes quite time each night to be able to listen attentively however I would advise using the headphones if you feel that you may be distracted by noises.

The app also contains a mini Zen Garden, filled with sand for you to rake and add your stones, shells and even pools of water. I have a small Zen Garden at home with some sand and stones and a mini rake which I love so this was great. I find the raking very therapeutic. 

Also within the app you can send a message in a bottle which will pop up on other users home screens with messages of inspiration. The app will automatically generate you a name mine was ‘Compassionate Massive Wolf’ then you get to pick from lots of different messages to send off in your bottle.

You can check your progress at anytime to see how your moods have changed over the course of the week or month and also see what exercises you did on each day.

Review

I have been using the Thrive app now for a few week spending about 15 to 20 minutes a day on it and I can honestly say I am so much happier. I do still get very stressed during the day mainly at work but due to using the app in the evening I am feeling chilled out and going to bed relaxed, helping me to sleep better which means I am  waking up happy. 

Before staring this trial I would continually snooze my alarm as the thought of getting up and facing going to work and the day ahead was too much and then when I did finally get up it was a rush to get me and 3 children out the door and into breakfast club so I wouldn’t be late for work but now I am waking up before my alarm and waiting for it to go off. I feel I have a lot more energy and can face whatever life throws at me. I would recommend this app to anyone who is feeling stressed, depressed or anxious as if you are willing to really give it a go then you can come away feeling like a new person.

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Why not also read my other posts –

Self Care tips for busy parents

I am your friend, A book of Hope

Why parents need yoga

The benefits of Journaling

10 Cheap Activities to do with the Children this summer

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.