Setting up a support network (Self-care month Day 24)

Morning everyone! I hope all is well so far today for you,

I have had a little something on my mind just this morning so I have to make it clear here. I want you to know that I am by no means a finished product. Nobody is. I am on this journey, learning how to take better care of myself just the same as you. I want to say this so that you know that I am not better, I don’t have everything sussed. Sometimes, in fact, I struggle to take my own advice. For example, putting too much pressure on myself, not taking care of myself as I should, not making self-care my number one priority. But I learn from it and I move forward and it becomes less and less often that I completely overwhelm myself and it is very rare that I don’t see the warning signs for stress and anxiety coming.

Today, the self-care message that I want to get across is about creating a network of support around yourself so that you can you are at your best to look after yourself and your health. Cont…

For more click here for the full free download of ‘self-care month’ now all as one handy ebook ‘The Self-care Manual’

It works!

I had a wonderful message the other day from one of my readers, she had a bad day with a lot of stress from outside influences beyond her control and decided to delve into the ‘bag of tricks’ to feel more balanced and calm heres what she said;

‘I had the most horrendous migraine yesterday with it all and I realised my neck and shoulders were tense. This made me think about the things you have said so I put everything on hold and jumped into a nice hot bubble bath and came up with an action plan. It worked!!!! Thank you! You should be so proud of everything you are doing for yourself and other people.’

I’ll be honest now it brought a tear to my eye. I love to know, on a personal level that the tricks and tips I write are being used and are working. I mean, I know they work because I do it myself but it’s so good to hear this.

And very importantly-Dear Lady, you should be soo proud of yourself too for noticing the signs and for looking after yourself. I am so proud of you and happy for you!

Remembering to take care of yourself when it feels like the world is falling apart is hard to do. But it works, it puts things into perspective and it makes you stronger for when these things do arise.

Have you been delving in to my bag of tricks? What do you feel is working for you?

Don’t forget to sign up for self-care month emails. A self-care task to your inbox everyday throughout June for FREEEEE!!

And the Ebook Balance Your Life Today is available worldwide on Amazon for £1.99 or free on kindle unlimited. It is a practical guide to creating balance in your life and is choca-blok with tips and hints.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend,

Love & joy,

Imogen x

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Warning signs for stress


Sometimes when you get a little off track and are struggling to create life balance you don’t see it coming. You burnout, stress out and you can’t think why. Everybody has their own warning signs when this happens, yours might be different to mine. I know mine because when I was diagnosed with anxiety I realised that all the things that I had begun to feel every day were not normal. When you are in the midst of it though you may not know what is normal, you may not know what your warning signs are. Mine are

  • Shoulder pain. When I tense up my shoulder muscles get the worst of it. I hunch up and I can tell maybe even after only a few hours that I am out of balance. Something has got my stressed and I need to implement a little self care to balance myself out again.
  • Fatigue. Being stressed is exhausting, the tension, the anxiety, the physical symptoms. For me especially my body screams at me to rest. If I sit down for a few minutes I struggle to get back up. I feel tired and then I figure out why.
  • Not being able to sleep. Anyone who has suffered with anxiety or stress will no that on the other side of the tiredness there is a horrific inability to sleep. You get so wound up that you can’t relax or rest. Something has got your mind whirring and you can’t switch it off.
  • Irritability. If I am getting unreasonably snappy at my family then I know I need to calm down. It happens when I am preoccupied with something that is causing me stress.
  • Feeling emotional. As well as the snappy irritability theres the urge to burst into tears with very little cause!
  • A feeling of uneasiness that you can’t put your finger on. It feels as though you have forgotten something, your mind is racing but not for any particular reason.
  • Headaches. Because of the combination of tiredness and tension headaches are bound to happen.

Some of these warning signs come straight away some of them come as the stress builds up over time. The big one for me is the shoulder pain. I know that if I am really sore up there then I haven’t been looking after myself properly and I need to stop and figure out why and how I can correct it as soon as possible, by scheduling some time for myself to relax and recover and to use my bag of tricks so I can get my life balance back to what it should be. It doesn’t happen as often anymore because I am used to balancing my life every day. But I won’t ever say that it will never happen, of course it will. We all lose track and we all get overwhelmed and we all forget to look after ourselves sometimes but now I know that I can see it coming. As it edges towards me I can tell myself that something has gone wrong and I need to reassess what I am doing in my every day life.

Do you know your warning signs? Perhaps you share some of mine. If not, do you know how to work yours out? Drop me an email at imogenjhope@gmail.com if you need help figuring it out.

Peace & joy,

Imogen x

Hosting a stress-free kids party

  
Sometimes I feel like there is so many ideas going through my mind that I just want to run round and do them all before I forget them. Obviously I can’t do that because not only have I got kiddies to look after, I would seriously crash after a couple of days. Taking my time and easing into things is seriously a learning curve for me. I am still learning. But be prepared there are a lot of blog based goodies coming this way.

At the weekend it was my baby’s 2nd birthday party. I don’t know how other parents feel but these are usually times of great stress for me. Half the people that come are super critical, the kids are crazy and at least one of mine will have a meltdown, I invite too many people and I spend 90% of the time either cleaning up or making food and not enjoying the party at all.

  
This time, I wanted it to be different. I wanted to see everyone, I wanted it to be calm, I wanted everyone to get along. And actually, this time, I think I might have just about achieved it.

I decided before I planned the party that this would be the last kids party I do for family & friends and from now on parties will involve a few kids and a few parents for supervision. So what did I do this time to make it easier on myself? Heres a list of tips that made this party my most enjoyable one yet through 5 and a half years of motherhood.

  • Delegate. I recruited my mum and my sister to help. Rather than them chatting and playing I asked them to help, and of course they didn’t mind. Mum washed up and sister made cups of tea. Thats all. It helped me immensely.
  • Don’t offer different kinds of food. There have been occasions where I have separated children and adults food. That’s pretty crazy. They can all eat the same! And have in the past been running around topping up glasses of bucks fizz and wine and beers. Not this time, it was a tea only party.
  • Simple food. Sandwiches were off the menu because of the time and effort needed to create them. I had quiches (pre-made) garlic bread, pasta salad (actually everything was pre-made lets just get that over with) coleslaw, cookies, bottles of flavoured water for the kids, grapes, strawberries, crisps, sausage rolls, carrot sticks, mini sausages etc.
  • Make clearing up easier on yourself. I bought foil platters, paper plates, plastic knives and forks and popped it all in the recycling bin at the end of the party. Clearing up time seriously reduced
  • Get them outside. Ok it rained, a lot. I knew it would be a squeeze to get everyone in the house so we borrowed a gazebo. Not that the kids minded, especially the birthday girl, she just got wet!
  • When party time is over its ok to usher people out. If you have specified a start and end time on the invitation then people will stick to it. 2 hours is plenty.
  • Some situations can’t be avoided. My boy caused a fight which wasn’t ideal. He was sent to his bedroom for a while which gave him time to calm down but as the party was drawing to a close it was getting more obvious that he had had enough excitement and I started to wind things down with a few songs and asked him to help blow out the candles.

  

  • Arrange for some down time afterwards. I rewarded myself with a bottle of prosecco and a nice easy tea. The next day we spent time as a family and relaxed. It took me possibly about 3 days less to recover from than other kids parties because I gave us time to rest.

Overall I enjoyed my girly’s party. I had time to take photos of everyone, to greet everyone and even sat down to eat something at one point. Even with one or two little hiccups I would say that I didn’t get stressed. At all. really! Amazing isn’t it. There you go anything is possible!

  
Have a beautiful day guys,

Imogen x

12 Tips for better sleep

Hello again wonderful readers.

I’m not feeling so good today. The smallest of my children decided to be awake and crying for most of the night on monday, I know that was 2 days ago but haven’t recovered still. It takes me a while to get over such a big sleep disturbance. I am irritable, fuzzy, I can’t concentrate and every body else suffers for it. There really isn’t much I can do besides have a few earlier nights to make up for it. Do you do that? I can easily go to bed half an hour early but any more and I struggle to sleep through or a wake up super early. I know some people swear by having a super early night once a week at least. I can’t really do that. It throws me off for quite a while. So for me, I’m afraid, lost sleep is just lost and I won’t find it again. I have to spend a few days being gentle with myself to help me through and sometimes a 10 minute snooze on the couch but not more, or again, my sleep pattern will suffer.

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I need 9 hours sleep a night. I have an active lifestyle because I send the majority of my day running after my small children. I think everyone can just about work out what the right amount of sleep is for them. Sleep apps like Sleep Cycle are a super help. You switch the app on and place it next to or just under your pillow while you sleep. By measuring how much you are moving around at any point in the night it will analyse when you’re nearly awake and wake you during your more awake time rather than your fast asleep time-when it is the hardest to wake up. It shows you graphs and stats about your nights sleep and they can be pretty useful, it was because of this that I realised even though I was getting a lot of sleep the quality wasn’t what it should be. Which is why I was really suffering with so much tiredness last year.

If we are getting the right amount of sleep it can really effect so many parts of our lives including

  • Mood
  • Energy
  • Diet
  • Concentration
  • Immune system
  • Blood pressure

If you struggle to get the right amount of sleep or the right quality of sleep there are things that can help you. When I went to counselling for stress/anxiety/depression they covered a big section on how to improve sleep because unsurprisingly these are more likely to develop when you are having trouble sleeping.

Here are a few tips I learnt to help get better sleep

  1. Cut out caffeine. At my worst I could easily sink 8 cups of coffee a day. I had headaches daily, huge crashes in energy levels, terrible concentration and bad sleep patterns. I cut caffeine out completely which was pretty hard, I had lots of withdrawal symptoms and was horrible for quite a few days but when I had got through that, it was actually amazing. I was thinking clearer than I had in months, I had more energy in the evenings to spend time with my family, I wasn’t as irritable, I didn’t get headaches, my skin was so much clearer. Nowadays I have the odd cup of caffeinated tea on occasion when there might not be a decaf option but I never rely on it and I never use it as fuel for my body, its just not good for you. Oh and on the counselling course there was link noted between the big caffeine drinkers and panic attacks! For anyone who’s ever suffered with one of those they will know they are well worth avoiding.
  2. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, within 15 mins or so. Keeping to this kind of sleep schedule will help your body to know when its time to sleep and how much sleep you usually get. This goes for lie ins too. Ever get that feeling when you’ve had too much sleep? This can also ruin your sleep quality the next night. If I get a rare night out and I go to bed late I still get up within half an hour of the usual time (I have small children-go figure) it helps me to get better sleep the next few nights if I avoid a big lie in.
  3. Exercising regularly can increase the quality of sleep and will help you to feel tired when it’s the right time for bed.
  4. Switch off electronics for an hour before bed. The bright backlit screens keep your mind and eyes awake and make it harder to switch off when you get in bed.woman-653892_1280
  5. Keep the bedroom for sleep and sex only. That means no films, no TV, nothing but relaxing. Reading is great before bed as long as its nothing too stimulating.
  6. Hot drinks. Try herbal tea or warm milk. Hot chocolate can be a bit sugary for before bed.woman-601568_1280
  7. A hot shower or bath will relax your whole body and the increase in body temperature can really make you feel sleepy.
  8. Don’t let the bedroom get too hot. Keep a window slightly open all night if you can or if its really cold just let some fresh air in until you are ready to go to sleep. Overheating in bed can be a big problem with staying asleep.
  9. Writing things down. If you have a lot of thoughts going through your mind while you are trying to sleep, leave the room briefly, get a pen and paper and spend 10 minutes writing every tiny thing that comes into your head, even if it doesn’t seem important. Get it out and you’ll have less to distract you from just relaxing.
  10. If you do find yourself tossing and turning then don’t check the time. Just don’t. You will never be able to relax knowing just how much sleep time you have left and trying to force it.
  11. Burning essential oils in your bedroom before you sleep is helpful for helping you to relax. Lavender is always a good one to make you feel sleepy but also ylang ylang and sandalwood are really relaxing.
  12. Meditation can help you learn to relax your mind and not focus on your thoughts. If you want to learn to meditate I fully recommend the app Headspace as a good place to start.

All of these tips are things I do for myself. I know how important it is that I get the right quality and amount of sleep so I pass these ideas on from experience. I hope they can help you as much as they help me continuously.

Imogen x

P.S. I am currently working on a life-balance ebook which will be released on Monday May the 4th. More info on that coming soon….

P.P.S. I have some new photos of myself floating about the website which my brilliant friend Gary took for me. Hope you enjoy!

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Peace x

This is what brought me here

It was actually nearly a year ago when I first came up with the idea of creating a website/blog/service designed to reduce stress and overwhelm by personally helping people to fit in all the wonderful little things that they love and believe they haven’t got time for. The fact is you have got the time and it is important that you do these thing that mean so much to you.
Well I went about starting to set up my new business venture around the family commitments that come with having a 4 year old and a baby at home and running a house while my husband travelled around the world on business.
I didn’t realise there was anything wrong. I had no idea what was coming. I thought everything was as it should be. But then I couldn’t help but wonder-was I supposed to be so irritable and snappy with the children all the time? I was tired I knew that so I tried to get more sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake flinging myself around the bed and the few hours sleep I did get wasn’t of any decent quality at all.
Then started the ‘concerns’ regarding my boys behaviour at preschool and boy, I didn’t not cope well with that. Every day I would pick him up and be told how he had been hurting the other children and he couldn’t control the impulse to lash out that most children grow out of by the time they are 3. It broke my heart on a daily basis and I cried so often in front of the preschool supervisor. I couldn’t bare to look at the other parents in case they were judging me and I was terrified about the effect all of this was having on the child I adored with all my heart. The child I had always wanted and that I believe was made for me.
My shoulders were so tense at this time that I was in 24 hour a day crippling pain. I thought that the only way this pain would go is whenever it would be that I died. So, of course, i was getting even less sleep then. I had begun fuelling myself on around 8 cups of coffee a day just to get myself through.
I got a massage for my shoulders from a friend who was studying sports psychology, she sat me up, stood behind me and said ‘right just put your shoulders down’ ‘down?’ I said, I tried but they literally would not move with all the tension!
So anyway my genius business blog idea was completely discarded at this point. I couldn’t imagine how I could help anybody in the state I was in and who would listen to somebody who couldn’t balance their own life anyway?
So i trotted off to the doctors thinking it was probably anaemia or b12 deficiency. Something that I could get a prescription to fix. After blood tests and several meetings the doctor diagnosed ‘anxiety and stress’. I left thinking she’s got that wrong I would know if I had anxiety but no. Apparently I wouldn’t. She put me on the waiting list for counselling and physiotherapy for my shoulders and sent me on my way.
Upon returning home I got straight on to google as many people would do in this situation. I spoke to my friend the mental health nurse who reassured me by saying ‘knowledge is power where this is concerned’ so I ordered a CBT workbook online and set about researching what I needed to do. One of the helpful hints I read was to try journaling. I found a notepad and wrote away not really knowing what I should write about. After a few minutes of getting into the flow I found myself pouring my heart out about how I felt like a big black cloud was following me around. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. Ok maybe I am stressed and anxious then. Maybe the way I was feeling wasn’t right and perhaps there was something wrong after all.
Not long after the diagnosis my dear old grandad died. Which was a hard knock and for a few weeks there. All I could do was get through the days and be there for my family who all seriously adored my grandad with good reason. My family all needed me and I needed to be there for them. Somehow that was my way of dealing with it.
It was a knock yes and a very strange time. Especially for someone who, like me, was fortunate not have had much experience of death. But I dealt with it and life went on.
One thing I really felt the need to do in the midst of everything that was happening was take a trip to see my wonderful, wise auntie Jay who lived 2 hours away in Lancashire. She always somehow had the exact words that I needed to hear and I knew I would come away from her feeling enlightened. And I did. We talked about the anxiety, what I went through with preschool, grandad, childhood even and I cried and her soft gentle voice soothed me so much and I will never forget how much she helped me that day. As I drove back down the motorway the rain poured and I felt my pain wash away with it.
One of the outcomes of that meeting was that I got back in touch with my estranged father who I hadn’t spoken to or seen in 15 years. I had seen that he was on facebook and had considered how it would benefit me to ask him all the questions I had always wondered about and had probably affected my life forever. He answered all my questions with as much honesty as he could and I am grateful for that. What else will come of the situation I don’t know. I guess time will tell but at the moment we are emailing regularly.
I eventually got a counselling place on a 6 week course of group sessions in the middle of the summer. By that point I had dealt with a lot of what had happened and was beginning to feel brighter, happier and like my old self. But wiser and older. I went to the counselling and got an immense amount of help from it. Techniques and information that I will remember for the rest of my life. When I started the counselling I thought I was cured already but my curiosity took me there anyway. I’m so glad. The main thing I got from it was that i knew I had to stop it coming back I could spot it from a distance and delve into my bag of tricks to make sure I don’t get back to that same dark place. And I have used the techniques I learnt at the counselling sessions countless times already over the last 6 months and will do for the rest of my life.
Ok so here I really need to point out that if you do have symptoms of stress or anxiety tell your GP. It won’t simply go away. I also used the information on the website for the metal health charity mind http://www.mind.org.uk

At the beginning of last year one of the few people I had got round to telling about my website ideas was my beautiful little auntie Jay. When I revisited her in the midst of everything I told her I couldn’t bring myself to do it now. I wasn’t who I thought I was to be able to help anybody. She said ‘sometimes you have to experience something like this to be able to help other people’. At the time I really didn’t think it could happen ever. But as those words roll over in my mind more frequently a light beams brighter in my mind. She was right, of course, I can help people with this idea and everything I went through happened for that exact reason!
So that is the story of what led me to create this website that I hope will help other people enjoy their lives and look after themselves.
One of my counsellors many metaphors was ‘when you’re on an aeroplane and the flight attendants are reading out the safety instructions what do they say about when the oxygen masks come down?’
You put yours on before helping anybody else fit theirs because you can’t help people around you if you don’t look after yourself first!

Imogen x

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