Postnatal Depression Awareness Week 2016

For some people expecting a new baby or becoming a parent can feel like an isolating and lonely time. There are lots of reasons why this might be the case, and pre and postnatal depression is one of them.  This post marks the first Postnatal Depression Awareness Week, how brilliant to finally have a week focussed on raising awareness.  For me awareness raising should happen everywhere new parents are, in clinical settings, at groups and in our communities, and we should all support each other on our parenting journeys, too often the joyous moments are talked about, but what of the harder days, the guilt and the bone aching tiredness of the sleepless nights?

For over 2 years now I’ve been involved with an organisation called PANDAS Foundation who aim to make sure that no individual, family or carer feels as if they are alone. Whether this is through support and advice through PANDAS services including email support, PANDAS Help Line, or at a PANDAS Support Group, or through wider campaigning, PANDAS is supporting families navigating mental health challenges, and as regular readers will know this is an issue close to my heart.

A photo by Jeremy Thomas. unsplash.com/photos/rMmibFe4czY

I run a local PANDAS affiliated support group, supported by Launchpad Ncl and working in close contact with local statutory services who offer signposting support and support to make sure our members can engage with local consultations and have a say about parental mental health more generally.

They’re leading the way in awareness raising in founding PNDAW16, and have released a brilliant video to introduce you to their services, whilst raising awareness, why not watch and share this message, join the conversation and have your say about your experiences?  Together our voices are stronger.

If you would like to donate to PANDAS (Pre & Post Natal Depression Advice and Support) to help them support sufferers of perinatal mental illnesses please text PANDAS £3, £5 or £10 to 70660 or visit their website for further information and support. (Texts cost donation amount plus network charge. PANDAS Foundation receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payer’s permission. Customer care 01691 664275 Charity No 1149485.)

Mental health and addiction

Since January I’ve been working hard to improve my diet and have joined a healthy eating group. During group meetings I’ve been reflecting on the ease with which I seemed to have slipped into a sugar addiction, and the difficulty kicking it!

Just to be clear, my sugar addiction wasn’t just a love of sweets, though sometimes my instagram feed says otherwise, but rather made me somewhat subconsciously seek out any sugar laden foods. As with many problems we face, I didn’t realise until I started paying it attention how much sugar was in many of the foods I ate, and quite how low I’d feel when cutting it out! Mornings were hard, I felt as though I could barely face the day without a sugar rush. Lunches felt like a chore with nothing sweet to give me an afternoon kick. Night time comfort eating just isn’t the same when you’re kicking yourself for every teaspoon of sugar you go over your daily limit.

The lucky thing for me was that sugar addiction is such a widely discussed topic – look at the I quit sugar movement – people don’t feel so ashamed or guilty about it when it’s widely discussed and that means that there is plenty of available peer support around when I feel like giving in to a craving. When you feel like you’re sliding down towards frustration, anxiety or just feeling low, there’s usually someone around at home or work who can identify with you – and remind you that it’s all in your mind.

Addictions are defined as a continual act of doing something which becomes compulsive, like drinking, eating to excess or gambling. I really feel for people with addictions that are more taboo, who can often suffer in silence and without anyone ever noticing there’s a problem until it’s too late. Like sugar or alcohol addictions, gambling is all around us, everywhere we look. From high street bookmakers to sport on TV, often when there’s a big sporting event going on, it’s ramped up more and more to gambling fever pitch. Very, very difficult to avoid temptation when there are so many temptations out there, and with the ease of online gambling in all its forms, I really feel for any affected individuals and their families who have to deal with the fallout.

Spiralling debts, loss of income and home as well as the risks to mental health are all good reasons to ensure that you know where to get help if you or a loved one are caught up in this addictive cycle of behaviour. It’s worth checking out gambling addiction charities for more information about the tell tale signs of gambling addiction, as well as tips around how to keep gambling something you enjoy and control rather than something that begins to control you.

The same goes for other types of addiction, recognising that you have a problem is tremendously challenging, I think seeking support is a very brave thing to do and I hope we’ll see other addictions being more widely discussed.

This is a collaborative post

Talking about postnatal depression

For some people expecting a new baby or becoming a parent can feel like an isolating and lonely time. There are lots of reasons why this might be the case, and pre and postnatal depression is one of them.

For over 2 years now I’ve been involved with an organisation called PANDAS Foundation who aim to make sure that no individual, family or carer feels as if they are alone. Whether this is through support and advice through PANDAS services including email support, PANDAS Help Line, or at a PANDAS Support Group, or through wider campaigning, PANDAS is supporting families navigating mental health challenges, and as regular readers will know this is an issue close to my heart.

I run a local PANDAS affiliated support group, supported by Launchpad Ncl and working in close contact with local statutory services who offer signposting support and support to make sure our members can engage with local consultations and have a say about parental mental health more generally.

581857_1841606706066131_1682702959814885108_n

In a recent blog post for Men Tell Health I talked about the benefits of peer support for parents facing pre and postnatal mental health conditions; but I haven’t really blogged about these benefits on my own site, so am taking the opportunity to do so now to raise further awareness.

What we’ve set up in Newcastle is a really informal, but strongly supportive peer support group that’s inclusive of children, dads and the wider family network, grandparents, sibilings etc and that tries to reach out to anyone who wants to support their peers through their ongoing recovery.

What to expect from peer support:

Every PANDAS group is different, but coming to a PANDAS group is a chance to meet as a small group of peers, to share experiences, gain emotional support and realise you’re not alone, helping make life’s challenges as a new parent a little bit easier. By reaching out and talking about parental mental health I hope we’ll start to see a different way of talking about new parenthood. Perhaps one where people feel they can be honesy about their experiences, where coping with sleep deprivation and low mood are discussed at baby groups and ‘it’s OK not to be OK’ becomes more openly accepted.

At our Newcastle group we meet the last Saturday of each month; new members are welcomed with a new members pack and are introduced to other members; if the group is busy I might try to buddy up a new member with someone who has been there a while.

We get a cuppa on the go and will either have a chat about an issue the group are interested in, have a speaker to talk about an aspect of parental mental health (we’ve had talks about nutrition, the early days with a new baby, birth reflections, a talk from a GP about medication) or we’ll have an informal stay and play type session with toys for the little ones, and just catch up about how the previous month has been.

There’s no pressure to share anything you’re not comfortable with, and members can feel free to syat for the whole session, or just drop in and out as they please. We recently moved to a new venue so are finding our feet with a new setup, but I’d really like to see us grow the group and so outreach is something I’m spending a bit more time on.

Parents who have accessed the group have said:

“I haven’t been to many support group sessions as I think just being with other mums helped me see that I wasn’t alone in feeling scared, lonely and struggling to come to terms with being a mum, missing my old carefree life; hearing someone else say “it’s all a bit boring some days” was a relief! I’m feeling much better but it is good to know you’re there if I need to come back again.”

“A safe space to talk, to let out my anxieties and find some hope that it would get easier, suggestions for talking to my GP, ideas for things to try, and a really nice group of people that I can be honest with, I wish I’d heard about you guys sooner!”

“Coming to the group and saying “I’m not OK with how I’m feeling” was terrifying, but the group is really supportive and helped me to see that I wasn’t a bad Mam or a terrible person, I was tired, burned out and struggling. I needed somewhere away from home to let all those worries and feelings out, and now I feel better I want to support others so I’m still in touch with the group, thinking about baby number two and I now know others who have taken that step are there to support me”

For more information visit the PANDAS website

Mental Health and BuddyBox – a hug in a box

Founded in 2011, The Blurt Foundation is a community interest company that exists to support, help and inspire people affected by depression.  BuddyBox was born out of Blurt Foundation’s belief that whilst depression can’t be treated with ‘things’ we all need to pay attention to ourselves, self care is something I’m really interested in both as someone who runs a pre/perinatal mental health support group and as someone who sometimes needs a reminder to attend to my own needs.  I generally find winter a really challenging time and I try to pay extra attention to my mental health as I know that if I don’t do the things I know that keep me healthy, like practicing mindfulness and taking the time to rest, I can get into a downward spiral.

The BuddyBox is effectively a clever care package aimed at letting a loved one know you’re thinking about them, and it’s a really kind gesture, a sometimes much-needed hug in a box.
buddy box

Mental Health and BuddyBox

If you know someone who is struggling, it can be difficult to show your support.  The new BuddyBox subscription care package makes a thoughtful gift for anyone who could do with a boost. And if you’re living with depression, buying a subscription for yourself is a great way to enjoy a little self-care.

Every month a new BuddyBox is released, a special box filled with things to help, inspire and comfort those with depression. Each box has a different theme – for example, products and tips for a good night’s sleep or items to recharge the body and mind.  I was sent the September BuddyBox to review.  I thought the contents were thoughtful, well put together and I sensed that anyone receiving this as a gift would feel nurtured by the contents.

12033535_10152993676262062_2005687072_n

A monthly subscription costs £21.50 per month (there’s also a lite version, and you can buy a one off box too) and the contents of the box reflect the cost, as Blurt Foundation is a community interest company some of the proceeds from boxes support Blurt Foundation’s mental health advocacy.

In my £21.50 box I received:

– 4 postcards including a lovely one to leave in a public place as a random act of buddybox kindness :)

– Tisserand energy roller

– Cafe Direct hot chocolate

– Colouring sheets

– May the Thoughts be With You book by Charlotte Reed

– Seeds with a message

The energy roller is my favourite item in this month’s box, uplifting and an on the go item that I can take about with me I thought this was a lovely addition for pepping me up with amood boosting romatherapy oils, the quirky colouring sheets are much appreciated and a nice addition for someone thinking about buying a mindfulness colouring book who wants to give ‘grown up colouring’ a go.

12032470_10152993676267062_1145284942_n

May the Thoughts Be With You is something to dip into when you need a pick me up or a reminder that you’re not alone in your feelings.

12023166_10152993676242062_675929121_n 12007267_10152993676247062_2128473723_n

If you’re looking for a little self-care, or want to surprise a friend with a thoughtful pick me up BuddyBox is a simple and effective idea – why not send a hug in a box? Whilst you’re browsing read more on the Blurt Foundation’s site about mental health too, lots of fab resources to be found there!

Take care x

Focus in 2015

Quite by accident in December last year I found out about Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word mini-course via some planner addict friends and I found it to be a really helpful process to go through in terms of defining some personal goals for myself in 2015.

Focus in 2015

My word is FOCUS, there were other words that really appealed, including connect, and simplify but focus is what I need to get to and focus is not where I am right now. I also felt that this word was sufficiently action orientated to be encouraging – I will ask myself “am I focussing on being present in this moment?” “is my focus elsewhere or where it needs to be?” “how could I focus better on switching off?”

focus

Through counselling last year I’ve learned to expose myself to experiences I find uncomfortable and I also learned a lot about anxiety and how it holds me back. Managing anxiety takes focus and practice and this is increasingly becoming important to me as I have a lot less time to myself, and a lot less time to practice, now I’m back at work, working longer hours and nap times are a thing of the past.

I arrived at FOCUS after exploring my anxiety further last year. I learned that at its root, for me, is a desire to be productive, it’s in the quiet moments when I have nothing to do that I find a disquieting voice creeps in and I start to worry (hello ‘what ifs’ goodbye ‘calm collected’ self, if you will). I’ve learned a lot about managing this; if I step up my productivity I risk taking on too much and burning out, but if I listen to the disquieting voice, and just learn to let it be, paying it a low level of attention and moving on I find I start to enjoy life more and the noise in my head lulls again. So focus is a good starting point.

I am not a very focussed person, I flit from one thing to the next. I have lots of ideas, so many that I struggle to prioritise them, and I take too much on to fill the gaps. I’ve always done this, at primary school when the teacher gave out ‘jobs’ to do I’d always have my hand up, not just for the first job, that too, but also for anything that came later, I have an acute ‘fear of missing out’ and that can be disruptive; it’s where I lose hours to Pinterest or flitting between the open tabs of the desktop that is in my head, planning, thinking, being productive.

I’m sure I’m not alone in browsing pins for inspiration, but it’s more than that. It’s getting caught up in something and suddenly realising it’s 11pm and that book I’d been looking forward to reading hasn’t been read, I’ve distractedly binged on food I didn’t want or need and all that would be OK if I even enjoyed the browsing but there was just something driving me on, a compulsion, and one I have been working hard to get under control. I’m getting there, last week I sat for an hour and had a cuppa and just sat alone with my thoughts, not trying to collect them, but just let them be there.

So in 2014 I learned to control this to a degree, but in 2015 I need to start to focus myself further. In 2014 I achieved two big lifelong aims, I finished my Masters after many long years of part-time study, and I had a research report published that I feel really very proud of. In both cases I showed my ability to focus, but it was at a cost to other areas of my life where procrastination reigned supreme again.

I’ve started 2015 with a renewed energy, and took this focus into this weekend taking a trip to the beach despite the blustery weather.  We probably chose the coldest day of the year for it and were all blue after 15 minutes but man it blew away the cobwebs, it’s hard not to focus on the moment when your toes are freezing!

beach

The word ‘focus’ came to me when I was at my computer. I saw a photo on my desktop, a piccie of my darling girl in the sun, I was at work but wanted to reach out and hold her hand. I wanted to go back to that day, a day where I was really present in the moment and bring that presence into all aspects of my life, so that is why I now have a small card in my planner, and another on my computer screen with one short five letter word, I’m ready for the challenge, let’s see what FOCUS is all about in 2015.

beach1

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

New Year Mini Home Makeover

I don’t know about you but I go into overdrive with cleaning in January. I’m doing a 30 day declutter challenge (sweet joy!) and in the course of doing it I’ve also been doing some jobs that have quite frankly needed doing for some time. The nice side to all of this is appreciating the lovely things you have, that you love and want to keep (check out Marie Kondo for more info on cutting clutter) 43d17d4a071d0183b39de9e66aca8eb2

New Year Mini Home Makeover

Our mini makeover has seen us finally get round to hanging some artwork we’ve been keeping under the bed in Joss’ room, a Chinese kite which I love on the wall, and a French alphabet poster (shh, it’s a sheet of wrapping paper but you’d never know it wasn’t from a chic boutique! bird french And this latest offering by the little lady herself, a starry sky painting starry skies picture I’ve also really appreciated the little things, always floral, always gorgeous, including bulbs I’ve grown myself and prettied up by covering their pots with fabric and ribbons, and some pink hyacinths from a flower market.  I can appreciate them more now the surfaces have been cleared of clutter and my mind feels less ‘busy’ too flow flowers While this has been happening Joss has been jumping, a lot, from the sofa onto her Christmas beanbag and keeping her beady eye on me so her toys don’t get culled! action And finally we’ve all been enjoying a spot of winter sunshine to blow away the cobwebs. toby Some proper planning for 2015 comes later this week when I’m back at work and thinking about some goals for the coming 12 months, but after a busy 2014 I’m ready for the challenge, and the house is ready for it too!

You Baby Me Mummy

Please, please go to sleep sweetheart…how sleep affects mood in parents

This is one of those posts that’s been in my head for a while; it stopped being relevant for a while when Joss started sleeping better again but it’s now very much at the forefront of my mind.  I wanted to share some ideas on being kind to yourself when sleep deprivation hits because it’s important not to become desperate for sleep or to feel desperate about the situation. It’s an issue that comes up so much in the postnatal depression groups I run and attend that it felt important enough to need a post in its own right.

For four weeks now we have had some pretty horrendous night’s sleep. Normally we can cope with night wakings but these have been coupled with it taking two, sometimes three hours to get Joss back off to sleep by which point it’s 11pm, we haven’t had any time to talk to each other as husband and wife, we haven’t had any real ‘down time’ and then from 1am to 6am we’re up and down like a couple of yoyos and let me tell you it’s taking its toll on us, I feel like the walking dead some days.

How sleep affects mood

The longest day after the worst night

Things came to a head last week when, after another 4am spent in the freezing cold over the cot I did something stupid, sleep deprived and very stupid. I forgot to put the Calpol away and the seal on the bottle was broken. The next day Joss got the bottle and we couldn’t be sure she hadn’t drank any so we took a trip to A&E, a blood test and six hours on the ward later and we found she had not a drop of paracetamol and was perfectly healthy but the damage was done, we had reached peak tired and I felt like the world’s worst parent as the hospital filled out a ‘cause for concern’ form.  We all know the unthinkable consequences of this stupid mistake and I really went to town worrying about ‘what if’.  A week on and I have forgiven myself for this mistake but the enduring tiredness continues.

These night wakings can be relatively short, they’re probably owing to cutting teeth at the moment so they’re only five to 10 minutes long, but they disrupt the natural rhythm of our sleep in their frequency.

How sleep affects mood

There is undoubtedly a connection between lack of sleep and mental health, our sleep debt is racking up and Joss is tired too, so we all feel slightly emotionally frayed, except she cannot yet control and understand her emotions so tantrums ensue. They’re harder to deal with after sleepless nights and before you know it the wheels have come off and we’re all grouchy, sometimes it’s hard to tell who is the toddler and who is the grownup.

How sleep affects mood

The 11pm bedtimes mean the housework doesn’t get done, we snap at each other, neither of us have had a break for even an hour in weeks and it’s just relentless when work is thrown in the mix. Then back to mental health, the black dog pops his head in…”it’s never ending…it will always be like this…look at the state of the place…things are slipping…you’re a terrible parent/wife/colleague” then the “what ifs” and anxiety begins to spiral- “what if she never sleeps through again…what if we can’t cope” – I’ve blogged about this awful spiral before, not good.

Seemingly my own mental health becomes more precarious when I don’t get the rest let alone the sleep that I need to keep me on an even keel.

These last few weeks have brought some revelations though. I can cope with less sleep than I thought I needed, I can go to work, be a mother, feed the family, wash the clothes and yet I can’t be as present as I would like, or as positive as I would like.

How sleep affects mood

So what have I learned after probably five or six of these cycles of sleep deprivation?

  • Firstly it’s important to remember that your child is not giving you a hard time but is having a hard time too. You’re all having a hard time of it, they are likely feeling as miserable at night as you are, so do what works, take them into bed with you, share responsibility with your partner for ‘nightshifts’ or arrange for yourself to get some time for a catnap if you can. Asking for help is not a weakness, be kind to yourselves and each other, apologise if you row more frequently and remember it’s because you’re exhausted
  • If you do decide to sleep in shifts as is sometimes necessary here one of you could use earplugs to make sure you get the most of your hour or two
  • I also find that if I feel frazzled and am blaming Joss even though I know she’s not at fault it really helps me to reconnect with her in some way, whether its sitting by her as she plays, cuddling or just enjoying five minutes of a TV programme she likes together, I cope better when I’m connected with her and with her Dad, those short moments bring me back to reality and out of my anxious thoughts.
  • Another thing I’ve learned is that the old ‘sleep when they sleep’ mantra rings true, genuinely there will be a point when they do sleep, even if its not ideal timing, get your head down. When Joss naps I will nap, now she naps less I go to bed really early if she goes off easily or I sleep when she does, even if it’s just for an hour or two (and they do sleep eventually, just not necessarily when you want them to!) to catch up, the other stuff can wait, leading me nicely to my next point
  • Forget the housework, I know this sounds like something people said when you had a newborn and it sounded ridiculous and you wanted to do it all but genuinely (even if you are unlucky to have a poor sleeper) this current period of real crunching all-consuming tiredness will pass and you will pick up the time and energy to get yourselves sorted out again, to sort out your home and feel more ‘together’
  • Try to eat a healthy diet, even if it means cutting some corners, it’s so tempting to slip into bad food habits to get you through, after all you probably feel down and crave comfort, but eating well will help you to have more energy to get through the day. Try and reach for nuts, bananas, dried fruit, oaty snacks etc that will give you a healthy boost
  • Use relaxation techniques and breathing techniques to help you stay calm and make the most of the odd moment of rest that you get. A friend of mine swears by a 20 minute catnap at work, I like to take an hour on a weekend when I’m really flagging to have a massage and I use essential oils to calm and relax me during the periods when Joss is awake but should be sleeping
  • Get out in the fresh air. It’s so easy to stay home in your PJs lamenting your lack of sleep, but in reality tiring your little one out with a walk and waking yourself up in the fresh air is a air is a great tonic. If you’re at work take a break and get out, and try to do your hardest tasks first thing as you may flag during the day and could use that time for basic admin etc
  • Ask for professional help if it’s really getting too hard to bear; I know sleep training is controversial but there are gentle methods for supporting a good sleeping routine if other methods are not for you.  When things were really rough last year at the height of my postnatal depression just talking to my GP helped me gain perspective and feel less alone
  • And finally, ditch the guilt and being hard on yourself, this is so important. That someone wrote a book called “go the fuck to sleep” should tell you that you’re normal and only human, it’s bloody hard being a parent and you should use kind words about yourself

If you have ideas for additions to this list do let me know what works for you by leaving a comment, and I will try to add them as I hope this will be a useful resource for other parents

This is a World Mental Health Day Linky, link in via the InLinkz button below

 

The flexible working request, making it work for you

As the self-proclaimed queen of flexible working I read Tuesday’s Guardian interview by Tanya Korobka with Tracey Eker of Flexiworkforce.com with interest. I totally agree with the writer that we need to turn the UK into a place which values productivity over presence. Flexible working rights have now been extended to all but it’s only a right to request and more traditional employers are likely to want to maintain the status quo.

The flexible working request

Found on blog.expertmarket.co.uk

Productive without being present?

Is bums on seats9 – 5 really what we should value when the world is increasingly a 24/7 workplace?  Even before children I brought a degree of flexibility into my working life; I know I do my best writing 10 – 2 from home, not from the office, and before Joss came along I was always a ‘later to work’ kinda gal enjoying extra time in bed and then working later.

As I’ve gotten older and become a mother I have realised I quite enjoy working an hour or two before colleagues arrive, starting earlier and sometimes finishing earlier too, then picking up between 8pm and 9:30pm when I tend to do my best idea generation.

At the moment I’m back to working 21 hours over three days, of course part-time working doesn’t equate to flexible working but I deliver those 21 hours in a range of ways, I currently need to be around during core-hours, but will occasionally balance an early finish with an earlier start the following day; I would prefer to be more flexible than this though.

Doing work differently

When I tell people this is how I work they generally assume it’s unhealthy to take work home for the evening, saying that 9-5 gives a work-life balance that my schedule doesn’t allow for. Or they’ll assume I’m not as productive, dipping in and out of work instead of having a solid 8 hour run at it.

I’d challenge both of these assumptions, firstly I am much more productive working the way I do because I thrive when busy – I’m ‘flexibly-busy’ to coin a phrase, and I don’t just work one desk-based job, I also volunteer, run a few networks and blog too, my ‘on-time’ is really varied and interesting which suits me.

As a researcher I have times in the cycle of my projects where I really immerse myself in the field I’m studying, it seeps into conversations with friends, I mull it over with my coffee – passionate much? You bet, I love this line of work and it’s totally appropriate that I work at it flexibly.

Don’t get me wrong, I do lament the 24/7 ‘at it’ culture, but flexible working doesn’t mean longer hours in the long run, it’s just that the hours I work are often delivered differently. The only downside to flexible working is knowing your limits, when you live a flexible life it’s easy to say yes to everything and to this end you need to plan your me-time with flexibility too, but isn’t that the beauty of flexible working?

The flexible working request

With compressed hours we can get an extra day back to ourselves, or that time with the kids in the morning, or after school; this kind of flexibility is good for our mental health and wellbeing too.

Trust is key

Of course Tracey was bang-on in her assessment of the key to flexible working; it absolutely requires trust, and bags of it. My employers get 110% from me, as I deliver on time, every time, should how I got there need to concern them?

In an ideal world I would work more flexibly still, why stop at compressed days or working from home? I suffer with seasonal affective disorder, I’ve blogged before about how I work better in the summer when the nights are lighter and I feel I have a reward at the end of a long day in the form of a walk with my family.

Extended family time in the sun slips away into a doldrumous and dreary winter though, and I’m not so productive, tend to need more frequent breaks and struggle with depression. Flexible working can combat the longer days and the well-known to business dip in productivity by allowing an hour or two off in the brighter afternoons for example.

Culture

Of course all of this requires a cultural shift; freeing people up to be judged on their results rather than valuing the time they put in better suits the creative and more connected ways in which many of us now prefer to work. Gen Y knows it can produce consistent results whilst working flexibly and enters the workplace looking for flexibility, a stronger work-life balance and wellbeing at work too.

I agreed with the writer’s opinion that it tends to be women who work more flexibly and it’s hard to find an acceptance of flexibility at the top. There’s a definite sense that employees want to work in new and different ways whilst management wants to maintain the status quo.

Sadly when flexible working laws came in, especially new laws to extend them to all workers, businesses talked about having to ‘brace themselves’ against requests rather than embracing new ways of working, reflective of our very male-dominant working structures.

Speaking to friends who have worked flexibly longer than I have they recall feeling excluded as meetings were booked in on their days off, or pressured to change their working arrangements, hardly the flexibility they were seeking, but their employers agreed to their new working terms inflexibly!

When employers lead by example, working shorter working weeks as some CEOs now do this leads to a happier workforce, we get the job done in less time, think sharper and leave feeling fulfilled looking forward to our down time.

The flexible working request, making it work for you

So you’ve made the flexible working request and it’s been accepted, now what?

  1. Keep a work pattern diary to work out where and when you do your best work, if like me you write better from the library with resources to hand, or from home, or prefer to make your telephone calls when the office is quiet before everyone else comes in work to these patterns, they are your strengths!
  2. Know when to switch off and try to have switched off periods during the day. I check my emails once every two hours on the hour so I don’t get disturbed by lots of auto updates, I also try to use technology to my advantage, so I can check emails on the go and be as responsive as I would be in the office.
  3. Keep talking to your manager and make sure that they see the results of flexible working, ask to review the arrangements during your supervisions too. You need to make sure they don’t think you’re opting out of anything by working flexibly
  4. If meetings are planned for your day off try to gently change these arrangements, don’t take it personally or feel overlooked but don’t apologise for your working arrangements either, try to arrange it so they’re organised when you are in the office, and try to get a working relationship going where you and colleagues can all be a bit more flexible about where and when you meet
  5. Be mindful, try to live in the now at work and at home, I’m still learning to do this, but it’s important to be where you are and not where you’re not, whether that’s at home, your other job, with the kids or your partner, it really does help with your work-life balance!

What about you? Do you have enough flex in your work life?

Mums' Days

Why I had to go through PND to find myself – PND support

I have a guest post up with Beth from Betty and the Bumps today, she asked me to share my experiences of becoming a mother and how this is different from my life before; here’s a short extract, if you’d like to read more pop over and say hi on Beth’s blog!

People are surprised when I say that PND was the making of me, but it forced me to confront some uncomfortable truths about myself. It revealed my ‘true self’ – I found a great strength in myself, a strength and new resilience I didn’t know I had, but I also had to confront my selfishness and perfectionism and this was not an easy task. For a while I wondered why I didn’t do this during pregnancy, to prepare myself and our family unit, but I think I buried my head in the sand, I was afraid to say that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready to be a mother

Joss farm

Postcards from the City: UK Cityscapes

Postcards from the City, UK Cityscapes is a project being developed by local-to-me photographer Mandy Charlton; Mandy plans to document and photograph all 69 cities of the United Kingdom and inspire them to make bold moves in their lives. No project like this has been undertaken, whilst you will find lists of UK cities and regional tourist information no one person has produced a book featuring all 69 cities of the United Kingdom.

Mandy is undertaking a Crowdfunding route to financing the project “this initial funding will get me to many of the cities and as art is produced city by city I forsee that interest will continue to grow which will enable me to continue this to fruition. At the end of the project there will be a glorious photo book produced with all of the 69 cityscapes in accompanied by some of the adventures I’ve happened upon along the way.”

As you know, I often blog about mental health, Mandy blogs about her own mental health and reason for undertaking this project here – I think she’s taking an incredible step with this project both for herself and as an inspiration to others, in making a donation to Mind, and as well in documenting our great country; I love how she’s captured Newcastle, get involved to bring her to your city next!

NEWCASTLE FROM THE CASTLE KEEP (1 of 1)