What is social prescribing and how can it help you?

You may have recently heard the word social prescribing coming up in the news. From the use of the arts to help those struggling with mental health including the possibility of using comedians to help those with trauma. But what is social prescribing and how could it help you? Here, we get the full-down on social prescribing from Bev Taylor, Director of Strategy, National Academy for Social Prescribing and why this latest form of lifestyle medicine might be coming to prescribed to you by your GP sometime soon….

What is a social prescription and when is it generally used?

Social prescribing changes lives. It connects people to practical and emotional community support, through social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from all local agencies. Link workers have time to build trusting relationships, start with what matters to the person, create a shared plan and introduce people to community support.

Link workers give people time, focusing on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. They connect people to community groups and sources of advice, practical and emotional support. A social prescription helps people get more control over their health and wellbeing, to manage their needs and in a way that suits them. It can especially help people who:

  • have one or more long-term condition
  • need support with their mental health
  • are lonely or isolated
  • need extra help to make community connections
  • have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.

The NHS has committed to connecting people to activities in the community that help them manage their health and wellbeing. The National Academy for Social Prescribing exists to ensure these activities are supported, celebrated and able to support people’s needs.

How can it improve our health?

There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, such as improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing.

Many things affect our health and wellbeing – finances, access to green space, what’s going on at home, to name a few.1 in 5 appointments booked with GPs are for essentially non-medical reasons. These include issues such as loneliness, social isolation, debt, housing issues and relationships. [Source: A very general practice: How much time do GPs spend on issues other than health? – Citizens Advice]

People may talk to their GP because they may be feeling stressed about their work, money, or because they are lonely and isolated. The impact that these issues can have on our physical and mental wellbeing has been particularly clear as the nation responds to COVID19.

But these problems cannot be fixed by medicine, or doctors, alone. That’s where a social prescription comes in.  Social prescribing connects people to practical and emotional community support, through social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from all local agencies. Link workers have time to build trusting relationships, start with what matters to the person, create a shared plan and introduce people to community support.

Activities such as those connected with the arts, or natural environment, or engaging in exercise or sport can help us to maintain and build relationships, unlock our strengths, to have choice and control and to find constructive and helpful activities within our community.

social prescribing

How can it improve our enjoyment of life?

Everyone will gain from being asked the question ‘what matters to you?’ Social prescribing link workers help those people who need extra support to make community connections. They introduce people to community groups and practical support. They follow-up to ensure that people are included and getting the support they need.  Having someone to help us deal with poor housing and money worries can be a real life saver.  It can be positive to be out in the community, doing things, learning new skills, and meeting new people. All of these add to our enjoyment of life.

What could a social prescription include?

Social prescribing links people to a range of activities that are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations, for example, debt counselling, housing advice, volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

What are some examples of social prescription?

Through the Thriving Communities Fund the National Academy for Social Prescribing is supporting 36 projects to deliver social prescribing in their communities. Some highlights include:

  • Reading Voluntary Action – Wild Being – An extensive programme of arts, culture, nature, physical activity and life advice for 300 people including pop up arts, English language conversations, and gardening.
  • Robin Hood Health Foundation Prescribe to Thrive Partnership – Tailored social prescribing to reach 100 residents to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing, alongside support for artists and creatives.
  • Argyle Community Trust Green Social Prescribing – A health and wellbeing programme in Central Park, Plymouth, to enhance use and enjoyment of green space and green social prescribing.
  • Canal & River Trust – Nottingham & Beeston Canal – The Canal & River Trust will lead partners will use the natural asset of the Nottingham & Beeston Canal to provide physical activity, art, heritage and food-based activities, reaching c.430 people.
  • Heeley Development Trust – Happier Healthier Heeley Plus – A range of creative, green and physical activities to help people reconnect – including bicycle powered Shakespeare.
  • Sunderland Culture Sunderland Social Prescribing Partnership – High-quality creative social prescribing activities for carers and their families including doorstep delivery, men’s shed, outdoor volunteering and singing for lung health.
social prescribing

How do we go about getting a social prescription?

In 2019 the NHS introduced social prescribing link workers as part of the NHS infrastructure, which acknowledged what was already happening in some places. They were introduced in primary care networks, as part of the multidisciplinary teams within the practice team.

When social prescribing works well, people can be easily referred to link workers within their GP practice. People can also refer themselves.

There are many opportunities for people to access community activities directly, but the social prescribing link worker role is crucial for those unable to connect for themselves, or facing barriers to achieving their health and wellbeing goals; or perhaps lacking skills, knowledge or confidence.

Anything else to add or any resources to share?

The Thriving Communities Ideas Hub is packed full of inspiring stories, and you can join our Network to connect with others interested in the field.

photo created by rawpixel.com and tirachardz – www.freepik.com

What to wear in January when you are sick of your wardrobe

Hands up who is completely bored of the content of their wardrobes and has no idea what to wear in January now all the sparkle and glitter of the festive season is far behind us? I always struggle so much knowing what to wear in January. The weather is miserable, we’re all suffering with winter blues, and seriously lacking any motivation or inspiration. We’re supposed to be feeling all brand new but feeling as grey as an old badger.

So friends, if you like me are also staring into your wardrobe in the mornings feeling as miserable as a bandicoot then it’s time for a shake up! Here, Katie Moore stylist at stylepathldn shares helps us cut through the drudgery and shares with us what to wear in January when you are sick of the contents of your wardrobe.

Wardrobe detox

First up, Katie advises we get brutal with a wardrobe detox. It’s as simple as doing the below:

1) Clear out and make sure you know exactly what you have

2) Try things on! Especially anything you aren’t sure on

3) Be ruthless! 

Once you’ve done that, then it’s time to….

Build your capsule wardrobe

Forget having a thousand things you never wear jamming up your wardrobe. It’s time to streamline. No clue? Fret not. Here Moore breaks down exactly what you need:

1) New jeans

Are you still squeezing into your old skinny’s? Try some new shapes… wide leg and kick flares are definitely shapes for SS22! 

2) Quilted waistcoats

These go over anything and looks very chic. Too hot, too cold… waistcoats can solve all your temperature problems. 

3) Colour

Do you need some colour in your world? If you know what colours suit you then great! If not, try having a colour consultation. 

4) Chunky boots

Get out of your trainers and stomp the streets!! Chunky boots can be styled with anything, dresses, jeans or skirts… easy chic winning! 

What to wear in January
70’s Button Patch Pocket Flare Jean, Warehouse, now £29, Chunky Sole Leather Chelsea Boots, & Other Stories, now £75, JDY quilted longline gilet, ASOS, £30

5) Buy a new frock

I believe in elegance and beautiful silhouettes, buying the right dress can make you feel a million dollars. Invest in a shape that suits you.   

6) Leather trousers

As we become increasingly re-accustomed to jam-packed social calendars, we’re gravitating towards multipurpose pieces that have day-to-night wearability. Leather trousers are the perfect do-it-all.

7) Modern knitted dress 

They are everywhere and rightly so, is there anything more appreciated and appropriate for January? Opt for an oversized chunky knit for extreme comfort or a fine gauge body clinger for an evening look. Perfect. 

8) Bags of envy

My top tip is to invest in a bag, save up and then splurge. There is a big trends towards vegan friendly bags and the demand for sustainability within the industry. 

What to wear in January
Leather-effect Straight Trousers, Mango, £35.99, Recycled Crossbody Circle Handbag in Lizard Print, La Redoute, now £19.50, Cosy Cable Crew Neck Knitted Dress Brown, Monsoon now £49

So time to shake off the blah and get back into the swing with a little bit of style. Personally we are all over the idea of leather trousers and knitted dresses. How about you? Stay tuned for more style inspiration over on our Instagram community here.

Woman photo created by wayhomestudio – www.freepik.com

Relationship problems? How to get through rocky relationship season

It’s no wonder that January is a time when so many relationships hid the skids. I mean – let’s face it, there is nothing about January that is romantic and everything about it that is totally grim making it fertile ground for relationship problems.

When all around feels bleak and depressing, it can be pretty hard going keeping the flame alive when quite frankly, we’re all just dragging ourselves through the day until we can shut off from the world and hibernate in bed away from the dark coldness which seems to engulf us at this time of year.

Research from Richard Nelson solicitors found that searches for ‘I want a divorce’ rose by 230 per cent in the first week of January alone. But what if we are feeling all out of love, but not wanting to be so hasty?

Here at 40 Now What we’ve called in the experts to help us with some much needed relationship maintenance to help you keep the love alive and counter any relationship problems you might be experiencing right about now.

Why do relationship problems crop up in January?

According to Carolyn Hobdey, author of All The Twats I Met Along The Way and founder of the Redefining SELFISH community, ‘Relationships typically suffer in January from the ’New Year, New You’ pressure. It’s a time when many individuals look at their lives and decide that change needs to occur: “this year, things will be different”. We find it hard to blame ourselves for the issues in our lives, frequently seeking external factors – such as our partner – as the cause and what, therefore, needs to change.

Take time to really consider what it is about the relationship that you would like to be different and better, rather than it being the entirety of the relationship! Remember, you can only change YOU and your behaviour, so look at the things in your relationship that are currently irritating, annoying or upsetting you and think about how you could behave differently to prevent them occurring, or choose to respond differently when they do. This is the time to make peace with your partner’s imperfections.’

Relationship problems

Avoiding the blame game & the power of apologising

‘It’s critical to take care of our relationships after any difficult time’, highlight relationship coaches Matthew and Emma Pruen. ‘The first step is to move out of the blame game, where everything is our partner’s fault, and see our own part in things. It’s an inner awareness: ‘He might have ignored me all week but then I’ve been telling him off whenever he came home’.

The next step requires courage, although simple it’s a game changer: saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank-you’. It’s that easy. For example:

  • “I’m sorry for being critical and blaming.”
  • “I’m sorry for disappearing into my cave.”
  • “I’m sorry for leaving on your own at that party.”
  • “I’m sorry for doing my emails instead of helping you.”

Follow this apology with a swift thank you to acknowledge them for something you authentically appreciate. (Don’t just be nice, you have to mean it. We can feel when it’s real and when it’s fake.) This could sound like:

  • “Thank you for working so hard to make Christmas special”
  • “Thank you for being such a great mother to our children”
  • “Thank you for being so kind to my Dad”
  • “Thank you for helping me do all that washing up without a word of complaint.”‘


Feeling seen and acknowledged

According to the Pruens – who run relationship retreats – feeling seen and acknowledged ‘creates an opening, a window of humility (which can pass quickly) for courageous conversation.’

‘This conversation can heal the resentments and hurts which destroy relationships. The key thing is to speak from ‘I’. The world ‘you’ is toxic.  This might sound like “I notice I’ve lost hope of being heard,” as opposed to “You never listen to me. You’d rather look at your phone than talk to me.” Or: “I notice that I’m keeping my feelings to myself because I’m frightened of how you might react,” as opposed to: “You just bite my head off whatever I say.”

When we speak from ‘I’ it removes all blame, and blame gets people’s backs up and closes down communication. This is also the time to express your needs and make requests. Requests as opposed to demands though, which kill intimacy. The word please, when spoken authentically, can be very helpful.

We define intimacy as sharing your authentic thoughts, feelings (emotions) and life-experience and witnessing the authentic thoughts, feelings and life-experience of the other without agenda. What would that look like? Imagine if you could say to your partner: “Last Wednesday I experienced you as telling me I am wrong, dismissing my feelings and then disappearing all day without answering my calls. I heard you say I was wrong to feel angry and that I never think about anyone other than myself. I felt resentful, anxious and lost. And how this brings out the worst in me is I become oversensitive and play the victim. I withhold my affection for days at a time and escape by fantasising about another life without you, comfort eating and nit-picking.” 

This sort of agenda-free sharing transforms relationships. This is taking responsibility for your own part in things which is all you have control over anyway. This is what a good relationship looks like.’

How to sustain a happy and healthy relationship

According to the experts, the first step to avoiding relationship problems is to be aware of them in the first place (move over denial then!). So if you’re already feeling the strain, all is not lost. However, it does mean it’s time to take action before things spiral further downwards.

Here, Sara Davison, The Divorce Coach and creator of Heart Break to Happiness Podcast shares some things you can do to help strengthen your relationship:

  • Don’t rush into a breakup. Give your relationship time to adjust after isolation. It will take some time to get back on track as you establish a new daily routine. When other distractions come back and you can live more independently you may feel your connection reigniting.
  • Commit to take some action. Good relationships don’t just happen, they take work and commitment. Decide to do everything you can to rescue your relationship so you know in your heart of hearts that you have done your best. The worst-case scenario is you leave with a lot more clarity and with less guilt having tried your best, but the upside is you could save your marriage.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let go of the little things that have upset you and drop minor grudges that may have been stacking up irrationally due to ‘virus stress’. It’s easy to get tunnel vision about issues that really don’t matter.
  • Refocus your mind. Write a list of all the things you love about your relationship, including the things you are grateful for. It is easy to only focus on the negative points so this will help you maintain a balanced view.
  • Kindness is king. Kindness is often the first thing to disappear during rocky times in a relationship however it is key to a strong marriage foundation. Finding ways to be kind and loving can often melt tension and rekindle romance.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Being the change you want to see in your partner can be the most effective way to bring them around. You may find they reciprocate and make more effort with you without you actually having to ask them.
  • Be spontaneous. Surprises can be very romantic so take advantage of being able to eat out in your favourite place again or have drink in your local to rekindle your connection. It’s important to get your sparkle back so be creative!

Recent challenging times will have had an impact on both of you and maybe changed the way you think about life and the priorities that are most important. Take this time to get to know one another again and rediscover who you each are. These steps won’t always be the easy option and sometimes you may feel like throwing in the towel and walking away. Bear in mind nothing worth having ever comes easily and a good relationship needs nurturing. If things have gotten off track it will take some time and effort to restore it. But the good news is that it is possible and it could even make the relationship stronger and happier than ever.

Relationship problems

Actionable examples on what you can do to fortify your relationship

If your relationship feels like it’s limping along at the moment, Carolyn Hobdey suggests trying one of these small and easy ways to give it a little boost:

  • Make a point of telling your partner what is good about them. When they do something you appreciate – especially the small things – make sure you tell them. Catch them doing something right rather than complaining about what they do wrong.
  • Take yourself back to the start of your relationship and make a list of all the things you were drawn to about them in the first place (get them to do the same if you can) and then try seeing them now through those same eyes.
  • Time is the great need in any kind of relationship – it’s not about lots of time, but quality time. Seek to carve out specific time together and take it in turns to plan what you do. Remember, it’s not about grand gestures but thoughtful ones.
  • Try learning something new together – something neither of you have done before so that you can support and encourage each other. Make it fun and aim towards a goal such as learning a language for an upcoming holiday, how to do something practical so you can make-over your home or garden, learning to dance for a family party. It doesn’t matter what it is, but doing something that evolves you as a couple.
  • Know that time apart can be as good as time together. Support, encourage and take an interest in each other’s individuality. Make a point of listening to each other with the aim of finding out something new about your partner every week.

Have you been struggling with relationship problems this month? Remember although things can feel bleak now, Spring is on its way and life will begin to feel better again soon and that in itself will help things to feel more positive again. Follow us on Instagram here where we will be keeping the conversation going.

Family photo created by wayhomestudio, prostooleh, marymarkevich – www.freepik.com

Totally crazy things that happen the week before your period

You know that moment when you start your period, and you think to yourself…oh my god, this explains so much! The week before your period can be a freakish time. While nothing is more offensive than someone asking us if we’re about to come on our period, the reality is, the week before our period can make us feel and seem totally psychotic.

My last run up to my period was a perfect case in point. Complete Nutters R Us, let me tell you. If I was in sync with any of my girlfriends we probably would have been incacerated so dangerous would we have been. Just think, if it were all the women of the world it would easily just become known as The Apocolypse. But now that I am through it, I can look back at giggle at some of the crazy things that happen the week before your period. Just don’t make any period jokes while I’m on it. Period.

So without furtherado, down below is a quick reference to some of the crazy things that happen the week before your period

Insatiable eating

As if our uterus was on track to shed all the food we shovel into our mouths, our sole raison raison d’etre for the week before our period seems to become a game of how much junk you can binge eat in said period of time. After which we then only stop to cry about the fact we just did so.

week before your period

Raging murderous fury

Excuse us for being so hateful and foul, and a second away from a PMS-induced fit of anger like we have been posessed by some indescribable lunacy, it’s just that our bodies are ripping down our uterus walls and now we want to kill anyone in ourlife that merely looks our way.

Complete hatred for humankind

Well if it wasn’t bad enough having to deal with the people we actually like, we had to deal with the everyone else which means we have to resist the urge to want to punch everyone that crosses our path in the throat for an entire week!

Complete loss of any sense of humour

Humour? What bloody humour? And no being a walking PMS cliche is NOT FUNNY. Stop freaking patronising me!!

week before your period

Extreme cack handedness

Dropping oven trays on the floor, your toothbrush doing acrobatics out of your hand and landing into the toilet bowl FFS (cue me bending over the toilet with a fricking ladel to try and rescue it), tripping over thin air, knocking water all over your phone and a million other ways you’ll find to be as a big old bumbling bear.

Mind boggling vivid dreams

Every night before your period you wake from your sleep needing a whole other sleep because you’ve been resurrecting The Matrix/ hosting Inception/ playing The Fugitive in your dreams.

week before your period

Inability to curb your use of the f word

F-this, F-you, F-everyone, F-it, just F this effing s***, you can all F off!

Insaitable sexual appetite

You are as horny as an old goat. Only problem is you are unlikely to get some because who is going to want to do it with the boob-aching, sweaty, raging banshee you have become the week before your period. Oh the irony!

And then thank the Lord! Your period comes and your emotional, hell-inducing rollercoaster is finally over, and all is well with the world again…..until next time.

Which of the above gets your the most the week before your period and what else would you add to this list? Let it all out sistas and join our community over on Instagram here for more women’s talk.

People photo created by katemangostar, Food photo created by wayhomestudio, Woman photo created by wayhomestudio, People photo created by KamranAydinov – www.freepik.com

Five ways women in their forties are a force to be reckoned with

Roll up roll up all women in their 40s! We need to get the record straight now don’t we? For some reason unbeknownst to us all, 40 becomes a number that became associated with a life going downhill. At some point it was decided that women in their 40s should collectively feel a fear of being in their 4th decade, of being sidelined.

Well I say pah to that! Sidelined indeed…more like hitting their stride, thank you very muchly.

As a 41 year old, I have never felt more alive, powerful, confident, decisive, fulfilled and quite frankly….a force to be reckoned with. OK sure, we might have some challenges to grapple with along the way – you know, just a perimenopause here, then a menopause there sandwiched inbetween an identity crisis along the way.

But then we rise (all hail!), like a phoenix from the flames and POW! unleash the power within (stand back people or you might get taken down along the way!)

So with that, today we have a rather fantastic dedication for all women in their 40s by Yvonne Bridges – Author of YOU Are Relevant -A Guide for Mid-Life Women to Step into Their Power (available on Amazon now here). Here she lays down five ways women in their 40s are a force to be reckoned with (hear us roar!).

*****

When you were a teenager, didn’t you think being over forty was ancient? Or, like some women, you chose to have your children when your career was well established and on a good trajectory and now your children think you’re ‘old’ because you’re over forty. I can relate to that one – perhaps you can too.

The exciting thing about getting to your 40s is the experience and wisdom you’ve gained and are now applying in many facets of your life. Perhaps one of the less exciting things about our 40s are the few extra lines and sags appearing in a variety of places on our bodies. Nonetheless, here are five reasons why women in their 40s (mid-life women) become a force to be reckoned with as they progress through that decade.

They are clear about what is important to them and how their values impact their lives

Values drive behaviors. Professionally, this is a decade where women gain clarity about their personal and professional boundaries. They do this not only because they may hold family commitments or professional agreements which may infringe upon each other, they do it because they choose to be aligned in their thoughts, their words, and their actions. Their boundaries between the two arenas (personal and professional) which may have been in opposition in the past, now hold less tension because women demonstrate greater confidence in their approaches and decision making.

They are beginning to determine who they want to become in this next phase of their life

Arriving at 40 makes women step back and take stock of where they’ve been and where they want to go. This process most often begins with defining who they want to become. Interestingly, this can be a challenge to define. We, as humans, are rarely one thing. A woman in her 40s may be a parent (single parent, co-parent, stepparent … to name a few), be career focused, be a stay-at-home mum, a sibling, a caregiver, or she may be courageous, vulnerable, wise. I could go on and on. The important thing to acknowledge about women in their 40s is the clarity they hold about who they have been, who they are now, and who they want to become. This begins to create an almost omnipotent force as women in their 40s begin this important part of their life journey.

women in their forties

They hold clarity around the actions they will begin to take to becoming the woman they want to be

A woman’s 40s can be a time of continual action that contributes to the wellbeing of others while not always aligned with who she has decided to become. When women slow down and align their actions, they use their experience to step into innovative approaches. They shift their behaviour, so they move forward differently. Here’s an example. A woman who may have found their thirties consumed with moving their career forward, taking care of young children, and being a great partner. Each of these worthy endeavours and associated actions can exhaust women and, in their 40s, they begin to ask themselves – ‘what do I really want to do?’ Do those actions align with who I want to become? If the answer is yes, the forward propulsion for these women is remarkable. If the answer is no, the decade of the 40s finds women making a shift toward greater alignment between becoming and doing.

They can visualize the outcomes they seek

Like high performance athletes, women in their 40s and beyond see there is more for them to pursue. They create their own runway. Some leave significant corporate jobs with accomplished titles because of poor culture or the ongoing promise to become less misogynistic without any evidence of this happening. Some watch their children flourish as young adults and re-evaluate their own path and begin solopreneurship. Some begin to volunteer for causes they believe are worthy. Some even begin registered charities to move and shift people’s knowledge forward about subjects otherwise not spoken about – think of #metoo and #blacklivesmatter and #orangeshirtday and #wearpinkforbreastcancer. The desire to be the change they seek enables women in their 40s to be willing to take a step forward into the unknown while visualizing a future – different for them and different for others.

women in their forties

They are beginning to live in their wisdom and are willing to share it with others

Have you ever enjoyed a conversation with a woman in her 40s, or beyond, and walked away wiser? This is the gift of experience and shared wisdom. I’m fortunate enough to have many friends and colleagues like that. One, who thoughtfully, mindfully, and deftly asks me to consider another point of view without a trite phrase like – have you thought of this? She invites curiosity and the willingness to explore perspectives with such an open heart that all who interact with her feel this shared wisdom. Women in their 40s cultivate that – with and for each other. The deliberate cultivation of collaborative wisdom ensures the next generation of women step into better spaces and hold greater confidence in themselves.

When you consider those five elements of why women are a force to be reckoned with in their 40s, what might you see when you meet one of those women? You would see a woman who confidently makes decisions which align with her values and are good for her, her family, her colleagues, and her friends. This woman speaks with wisdom. She cherishes her connection with others. She speaks her truth – mindfully and thoughtfully. This woman demonstrates tenacity and grit. She is willing to take risks. She learns from her mistakes and accepts the invitation those mistakes present to take a step in a different, new direction.

In short, women in their 40s are a force to be reckoned with because they are stepping into their own power. They hold that power lightly and with strength. They are relevant. They have runway left in their lives. The world will become better, kinder, stronger, more thoughtful when women continue to step into that space. The relevance of women in their 40s, and desire to uplift and uphold other women, expands their runway. Know it. Believe it. Live it.

So whether you are a woman in your 40s, or a woman yet to be in their 40s and wondering what lies ahead, join us in this tribute and leave a comment below and connect with us on Instagram.

Woman photo created by lookstudio

How to have a more unconventional Christmas this year

Are you longing to shake things up for Christmas this year? Maybe you are yearning for a more unconventional Christmas this year, after more years than you can remember of doing the same old thing. The last two years have provided copious opportunities for reevaluating what we do, and the way we do it – and that applies to Christmas also.

So if you’re open to having a more unconentional Christmas this year, or perhaps just incorporating just a few more unconventional ideas into this year’s festivities read on my friends! Here, Natalie Farrell – Soulpreneur and author of Light The Way, a companion for modern-day changemakers who want to approach life in a more unconventional way – shares here ideas for a more unconventional Christmas.

***

I’m dreaming of a stress-free Christmas with every single breathe I take…where the family be self-sufficient, and the children listen, to hear everything I say!!!

Look I’ll get straight to the point…3 points in fact!

  • Life is for receiving every day
  • Giving gifts just for the sake of it numbs down our receptors to receive unconditional love
  • Turkey is not just for Christmas it is a lean meat which is great for our bodies all year round

Hi I am Natalie. I’m 41. Writer. Singer. Creator. Adventuring every day, the unconventional way, with my soul mate in Cadizfornia, the California of Spain. 

Unconventional Living comes naturally to me…

I love to step out of the norm into an abyss of explorative threads. Why because it stretches us as humans beyond our traditions, perceived ideas, and ideals to experience something else than the patterns and habitual (yawn, yawn) habits we keep ourselves prisoner to.

Before we go on, I want you to know I LOVE CHRISTMAS. But I love to bend the way I celebrate this beautiful seasonal holiday.

Perhaps like me you are 40+ woman in her power decade? Wishing to show up every day in a vulnerable way? To get excited by the possibilities of life? Break the mould extract yourself from tradition and approach life and business the unconventional way? So I am here to share with you a few ways to start doing exactly that…to turn around your Christmas Day and make it sparkle with a difference this year.

3 things really frustrate me when it comes to Christmas Day:

  • The unnecessary expectations/people’s lack of will power to speak out and spend Christmas Day the way they want to spend it
  • Over giving/gifts that get thrown away or go unnoticed 
  • The pressure it puts on people who don’t have a family/child and how this triggers emotions such as feeling unwanted, lost, and unloved at this “special time of year”

It’s just one day!

So, darling one this Christmas…I am inviting you to walk into a winter wonderland of mystery & take a walk on the wild side. To dive into the abyss of Unconventional Celebration I have conjured up 3 ways for you to approach Christmas Day The Unconventional Way. Tiered especially for you from The Unconventional Novice to the GO ALL IN Unconventional Expert.

Whichever one you choose I am Inviting you to kick the habit of overindulging and being a slave to Christmas traditions and start 2022 fresh and energised.

Here we go…

Unconventional Christmas Day No. 1 – Traditional with a twist

Unconventional Grading: Novice

This is for you is you if: You love a traditional Christmas; not quite ready to go 100% Unconventional.

Challenge: Role Reversal

Create a list of all the roles you can think of within your household/community for example:

  • Who is always the cook?
  • Who always wraps the presents?
  • Who is the lazy MF who lets everyone pamper to their needs?
  • Who cleans up the dishes/ rubbish/takes the bins out/left over food?
  • Who gets up late? Or not at all?
  • Who delivers the neighbours gifts/cards?
  • Who makes the tea/coffee/deserts?
  • Who picks the dregs of the food out from the kitchen sink?
  • Who tells the jokes?
  • Who is in charge mostly of the TV control?
  • Who spends most time on digital devices?

ETC!

Write each role/stereotype on a card…

Mix up the roles each person plays so you can all experience and enjoy all aspects of the day and see it from the perspective of another too.

Pop it into a Christmas hat and then pull out a role first one to be pulled is on Christmas Eve so you all wake up knowing the role you must play…

I suggest changing roles every 2-3 hours and then by 4pm you can stop and if you wish fall back tummy gleaming into your Conventional Christmas day

Unconventional Upgrade: Keep all the leftovers and create a beautiful Boxing day feast to share with neighbours or anyone you know who this Christmas is alone and needs some extra care and love.

Unconventional Christmas Day No.2 – Fitness Extravaganza

Unconventional Grade: Mover and Shaker; ready to have a go

This is for you is you if: Fed up with the boring stuffing yourself thing; love being different; jump for joy to the idea of keeping fit whatever day it is.

Challenge: Create your own Finite Fitness Festive Retreat (Soho meets Boho style).

The day is yours beautiful one to sculpt, burn, sweat, replenish, rehydrate relax.

Finite Fitness Festive Retreat Suggestions…

  • Wake up with the sun
  • Connect with your body and mood with a body mapping meditation
  • Connect with your partner and family too
  • Make love (with yourself or partner)
  • Physical activity of choice: run, swim, climb, beach, beach body on demand, beach volley etc…
  • Brunch: a delicious Unconventional array of nutritional nourishment suggestions are berry bowls with tahini and yogurt blitz sprinkled with cinnamon and orange spice along with a glass of homemade kombucha for that probiotic boost followed by Eggocado (egg grilled in the hole of half an avocado, asparagus sprinkled with seed and almond mix for some festive fibre and probiotic gutsy health!
  • Open gifts in a ceremony; sharing reasons why you chose the give the gift and then taking time to share why you loved receiving the gift
  • Afternoon bliss session: yoga, meditation, sound baths, anything which allows you and your nervous system to feel calm and plentiful
  • 5pm sit down to enjoy an Unconventional Christmas Curry accompanied with a side serving of roasted root veg crisps and a spoonful of keto brussels sprouts cooked with a splash of cream and dash of sage. Finish this pallet of pleasures with a punch, with homemade truffles and a dollop of coconut cream with frozen raspberry coulis (no added sugar required just boil in a saucepan with a splash of water)
  • A final hike with the dog, family followed by a massage and delicious nap

Unconventional Upgrade: Celebrate into the night with a silent disco before you meditate yourself into sweet dreams.

Unconventional Christmas Day No.3– Call To Adventure

Grade: Unconventional

This is for you is you if: Want that GO ALL IN out of the ordinary experience; love creating days to remember.

Challenge: Hunter and Gatherer

Ok this one is sublime and for all of you who are ready to go all in and jump the consumer ship and jump into action as you call yourself and your family to a new adventure.

So here goes…

Get out of your box. By box I mean the comfort of the 4 walls which you call home.

Hunting and gathering is upon you darling one. This Christmas Day you are going to peel away layers of conditions and traditions and set yourself and your family the task of getting back to the roots of your ancestors. You may crate some friction but this really is a way for you all to get to know each other and love each other fiercely into the New Year…a Christmas bonding experience like no other!

Keep it simple with three destination settings:

  • Forest
  • Beach
  • Nature Reserve

Then…..

  • Pack the essentials to make a survival revival Christmas lunch
  • Set yourself a task to build a camp
  • Set up tents
  • Go foraging pick up gifts from the earth to give to each other tell stories as to why you chose this gift (no consumer gifts in sight please!)
  • 3pm all give a speech for 2-3 minutes about your desires for 2022
  • Mindfulness Hour – use the sounds of nature as your motivation – what is that noise? Charades with the surroundings to flair your creative juices, sing make up stories, dance climb trees, go wild swimming, climb a hill/mountain.
  • Slow the day down with the light of nature…cosy on up with a fire or if you choose not to camp go back home and bring back the silence of nature into your home and take an early night waking up to Boxing Day hangover free and ready for a) another unconventional day or b) a traditional day.

Unconventional Upgrade: No technology – leave it all behind and surround yourself with the abundance of your own senses as they are tantalised by this outdoor Unconventional Christmas adventure.

So are you tempted to shake off the shackles of tradition and have a more unconventional Christmas this year? Which of the unconventional Christmas ideas appeal to you? Let us know in a comment below and connect with us on Instagram.

Free gift!

Don’t miss Natalie’s parting gift to you –  her Start Your Day with Bliss Smoothie Recipes booklet which you can grab here.

Christmas photo created by freepic.diller – www.freepik.com

Things we hate about Christmas part 2

Feeling like the Christmas crazy is getting to you? We hear you! In this, our part two of the things we hate about Christmas despite how enormously jolly we try to be about it all, we talk share brutal truths about the things we hate about Christmas that really leave us feeling less ho ho ho, and more help help help. Plus we join forces with experts on how to deal with classic Christmas pet peeves. Missed part one? Catch up here.

The next 6 things we hate about Christmas

The anxiety-inducing ridiculously long build up that Christmas has become

It all begins with a low level feeling of unease when Christmas in July emails start hitting my inbox. But I haven’t even had my summer yet! OK that is an extreme case for sure, but it does feel like the Christmas build up gets cunningly longer every year doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I hate about Christmas it’s a friend telling my they have done all their Christmas shopping by Novembe, sending me instantly into low level panic. So how we can deal with being strung along like this?

Aaron Surtees, a hypnotherapist, psychologist, and founder of app subconsciously.com says, ‘Christmas is a time for celebrating but while many of us enjoy Christmas it is becoming more common place to dread the festivities and anxiety around this time of year is rising.  There is huge pressure and expectation which can lead to stress. To overcome the problem, a switch in a person’s mindset is key. This can be achieved by hypnotherapy.

You can try this at home by using proven self-hypnosis techniques to re-write your subconscious mind. Self-hypnosis can simply be practiced once a day when you wake up in the morning by breathing slowly, softly and meditating on the edge of your bed for a few minutes up to 20 minutes every day.  Make sure you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and concentrate on this alone. It is all about improving your state of mind by training your brain to relax which in turn alters your mindset and reduces your stress levels.

As you sit still breathing in and out slowly, imagine the feeling that is concerning you, as a cloud in your mind, with your breathing pull it down into your heart, into your chest and then into your stomach. Then focus on pushing it back around into your arms.  Once in your arms use your breathing to pull the cloud down to your hands and then push the cloud out of your hands as though you are pushing the feelings away and letting go of your negative feelings.’

Having to pretend to love and be grateful for crappy gifts from loved ones

hate about Christmas

You know the drill, the one where you have to over compensate by about 2000% because the gift you have been given by said family member who should really know better know is just so tremendously crappy. You’d think that they would have learnt to see through those fake coos and smiles by now. But oh no, this year like all others, we have to suck up the crappiness yet again. Or do we?

Mairead Molloy, Global MD at Berkeley International, says that while unfortunately we do have to pretend to like a gift someone gave you, it’s important to understand why misguided gift giving can be so irksome, ‘Receiving an unfitting gift from a partner however can make you feel misunderstood. It seems like the giver thinks you’re a different person—a person with interests in maritime history, trojan horses and tea towels. That said, most gifts aren’t given with mean intentions. Poor gifts are usually just a result of laziness and ignorance. Try some of these tips for a better gift receiving experiencem:

– Give more direction next year: generate ideas and make lists. Be far more direct about what you want. Ladies – start sending him photos of things you like a month before the holidays, with the caption, Present idea – Men ask what they would like – ask for a list and take the time to be thoughtful.

Make a joke of it – it helps. After  you have been very grateful and acknowledged how thoughtful the hoover is, you can make a joke like, Hopefully we both get some use out of this. Ladies, take note that men have “fix-it” brains. They love finding solutions. Your partner has probably just heard you complain that your old hoover is rubbish and takes forever to clean the house. While it may seem like your partner is being pretty sexist and insinuating you must love cleaning because you’re a woman, he isn’t.

– Remember the effort. No matter what your partner gives you, remember that they put effort into this. They put time and thought into it. They thought about your life and thought, what would make your days so much better. They got it wrong, but they did put some thought into it – that’s a gift in itself.

– If you really don’t like the gift, don’t overdo the lie. Pretending you do like it – it will be noticed.

– If appropriate, ask where it was bought so you can take it back!

A few gift pointers: 

– When buying a gift, ask the person what they would like rather than buying just anything – it’s good to get ideas and it shows you care.

– Buy something for them that you would like to receive (if you have things in common!

– If you do receive something and you really don’t like it, use the tips above. If they don’t work, take the gift to a charity shop – don’t keep it in the attic and take it out when they visit!’ 

Whiny little children who don’t appreciate the expensive gifts they’ve been given 

Personally, there is nothing that makes my blood boil more outrageously year round than ungrateful children. Lord help the child that bemoans a Christmas gift to me this year then! Of course, when faced with this, we all then cite the poor starving children in African who have nothing. But my goodness isn’t it true? So when faced with ingratitude from our little humans this year, what to do?

Nora Szanto, psychologist and high-performance strategist reflects, ‘When my son was younger, he mostly received small and inexpensive presents”, said She continues, ‘Even for his 9th birthday, he wanted a Rubik’s cube worth around 15 dollars. Then, something has changed. First, he asked for a remote-controlled boat, which cost about 100 dollars. Then he begged for a 250-dollar freestyle scooter, which was soon followed by a PC with a monitor, costing in total over a thousand dollars. However, the other common pattern was that he started nagging us for something else the moment he got the presents. He became insatiable. When we said no, he got extremely frustrated. I used to be very disappointed by his reaction, but then figured out that we, the parents need to change things. Here are my tips for you if you are also facing similar behaviour by your child:

– Set a budget: Many children don’t understand the real value of money, especially if they see that all their friends have the latest gadgets, the trendiest shoes, etc. If they really want an expensive item, just tell them you have a certain budget, and if it is above the limit, they have to chip in. They will either realise that they don’t want the present after all, or they will actually work for it, which will make them appreciate it so much more.

– Try to avoid instant gratification: Instead of buying the kids immediately everything they want, focus on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas. Let them practice patience. Research shows that delayed gratification is one of the most essential traits of successful people.  

– Cultivate gratitude: One of the best tips I’ve ever heard to teach gratitude to children is to ask them to do certain chores once a month for which they get paid. The trick is that they have to spend the money they earned on helping someone else. This makes them appreciate more what they have and also helps them understand the value of hard-earned money.’

The unrelenting expectation to be cheerful and jolly at all times when really you feel depressed or angry 

Let’s face it, by 1st December we are all pretty much just dragging ourselves to the finish line. We’ve had enough of what this year has dealt us, and just want to switch off from the daily grind. The downside to this is it basically makes you feel like you’re wading through glue for about three weeks. This I completely hate about Christmas! So how else can we approach this period when we’re running of empty and feeling pretty miffed with the world?

Bev Cripps, Life Coach and Clinical Hypnotherapist says it’s completely normal to feel that way ‘When hibernation until March seems the only sensible idea, however exhausted and overwhelmed you are, it is possible to see this time in a different way’, says .  ‘Many cultures call these months the time of renewal, by making small almost effortless changes, it can be a time for you to hunker down and build the foundation for a good year. Small changes implemented daily, have exponential gains as a basis for growth.

Recording what you have done in a table, or a journal, reinforces them. This is a lovely one to try at the end of the day. Think about three good things that have happened during the day. However tough the day has been, they will be there, even if it’s the fact that it simply didn’t rain! Noticing the positive in a sea of grey helps rewire our experiences of the world. Think of things you can also commit to doing every day that you do just for you. These green shoots grow as we  feel more confident in our commitment to ourselves as the years progresses. We can do small things and together these can have a huge impact.’

Overindulgence and the knowledge that you are going to feel sick from all the Xmas eating

hate about Christmas

Who ate all the pies? We did! But seriously, Christmas is synonymous with excess, and after all you have been so good all year, so you deserve a treat or twenty don’t you my precious? But we all know how that one ends up. Usually with an intense sense of self loathing come January. So how we step away from the relentless conveyor belt of temptation?

Penny Weston, fitness, wellness guru and nutrition expert says, ‘As the festive period approaches many people see their social diary getting busier and as a result of this increase in social events, late nights, reduced sleep and change in diet and alcohol intake, many people begin to feel sluggish, bloated, tired and sick from all the Christmas eating.

In order to stop yourself feeling sluggish too early into the festive season and too stuffed from all the extra eating, I think that it’s crucial to try and maintain as much of your normal health and fitness routine as possible. For example, if you’re used to exercising three times a week, try not to suddenly stop doing this as the festive season approaches because by completely stopping the exercise that your body, and mind, are used to will cause you to feel tired and see your energy levels dip. Exercise leads to the release of endorphins that help to reduce anxiety, depression and low moods as well as boosting self-esteem. Even slow walking still has some effect at releasing these hormones and boosting mood.’

Also nutrition is an important factor in preventing feelings of sluggishness, bloating and feeling sick from too much festive food. It’s inevitable that when you’re going out over the festive period your diet won’t be as healthy as it usually is, however try to ensure that you’re putting as many nutrients into your body as possible at breakfast. An ideal way to do this is with a smoothie. Particular favourites of mine include my Vitamin Rich Super Smoothie which contains nearly every vitamin and mineral your body needs and gives you a natural boost of energy. It contains blueberries, banana, spinach, kale, chia seeds, spirulina, vanilla protein, and almond milk. Having a glass of this in the morning will provide an energy boost and help to prevent bloating

It’s also a good idea to pre-make some healthy meals or snacks to take out with you or leave in the fridge at home so that you’re not tempted to grab fast food on the go, as this is often high in sugars and salts. Allowing ourselves a treat over the festive period is important, and indulging in alcohol or food treats won’t be detrimental to your overall health, diet or size if in moderation, and it’s important that we don’t beat ourselves up about it if we do.’

The massive Christmas come down in January when you are staring into an abyss of nothing to look forward to 

Oh god, I already feel depressed at the thought of January just writing the word! If there’s one things that trumps the things we hate about Christmas it’s dealing with the massive January come down. But there must be another way instead of spending a month feeling sorry for ourselves and licking our Christmas wounds?

Intuitive Life Coach Ali Ford says yes there is – hurrah!

‘It’s common to feel tired, deflated, and even a bit blue after the furore around Christmas and New Year celebrations’, highlights ‘Added to that is the burden and pressure to set resolutions, reinvent yourself and somehow find the energy to be a ‘new you’. All at the back-end of an undoubtedly crazy-busy time.

‘I don’t believe in forcing and striving the minute January hits! Instead, if you feel a bit of a lull after the festivities, turn to celebrating yourself instead. Reflect back and explore your achievements, successes and the hurdles you have crossed off in the last 12 months.  Journal your gratitudes for all that you are, all that you have, and the many experiences you have enjoyed and still have to come.

Next, use your intuition to explore what you need most right now. Perhaps you need to plan something to look forward to, maybe you need some time and space for yourself? Take a few days off and spend them solely focussed on self-nurture and soul restoration. This will look different for everyone, but if you move your focus away from thinking and anchor into feeling, your intuition will tell you everything you need to know about raising your vibration and moving back into flow.’ 

hate

Which of the above do you also hate about Christmas? Let us know in a comment below and follow us on Instagram where we’ll be keeping the conversation going.

Christmas photo created by gpointstudio, Food photo created by wayhomestudio, Woman photo created by freepik, Woman photo created by drobotdean

Things we hate about Christmas part 1

Let’s talk about the things we hate about Christmas. If you have a love-hate relationship with Christmas, then this post is for you. The thing is, as much as I absolutely love Christmas there are some things I really hate about Christmas too! For all it’s so-called merry making, let’s face it, Christmas can also be an utter ball ache. From having to deal with people or situations you want to avoid, the insanity of the outside world, money problems and more, it’s no wonder that Christmas is listed as one of the most stressful life events.

Here we take a look at some of the things we hate about Christmas, and offer up some solutions on how to deal with these common Christmas peeves.

The first 6 things we hate about Christmas and how to handle them

1. Having to spend time with people you don’t get along with 

There’s nothing like a dysfunctional family trying to function for the holidays and goondness knows we’ve all been there. The family members that rub you up the wrong way, the spiteful comments, and resentful feelings from the past. So how can we keep our s*** together when your aunt insists on bringing up That Incident from 1996 yet again on Christmas Day this year? Niels Eék, psychologist and co-founder of mental wellbeing and self-development platform Remente offers up some advice:

– Think ahead: If possible, try and openly discuss any issues ahead of the holiday, to ensure that all grievances are left behind, before you are spending time with someone that you might have an issue with. If there is a topic that you’d rather not want discussed (like that incident from 1996), ask beforehand if it could be left out of this years’ repertoire of stories. But if it isn’t possible to resolve the issue, think about the ways in which you can avoid conflict and keep calm. Anticipating any situation will make you feel more prepared and in turn, significantly less stressed and worried.

Let it go: When we are thrown together with various family members during the holidays, the case might be that you don’t get along with some of them, or that you have long-term, unresolved issue. The first thing to do in this situation is to try and let it go – even if forgiveness is impossible, take a deep breath and try to stay calm, after all, you’re unlikely to see them again for a long time and it might be worth it for the sake of everyone else to just put a smile on your face and get on with things.’

2. Being skint for the whole of December and January 

Christmas truly is the most magical time of the year, because it makes all your money disappear! Jokes aside, not having enough money or being in debt at Christmas time is no laughing matter. So how can we address all these extra festive costs and pressures?

‘Having been in a large amount of debt myself in the past, I’ve learned the hard way that keeping up with the Jones’ is a recipe for financial disaster’, shares Tanya Ibberson, qualified accountant and financial wingwoman who helps female business owners with their finances. ‘Using money as a tool for financial freedom instead is a far better use of the resource. With a bit of planning, a smidge of control and a sprinkle of Christmas magic, you too can become more appreciative of the creative ways in which you can give to others in the festive season.

Here are some tips to manage expectations and avoid making December and January the financial nightmare that they will inevitably become through overspending:

– Suggest a Secret Santa pact with your nearest and dearest – you each get one gift and buy one gift for a set budget.

– Give the gift of time – when did you last spend quality time with friends or family? Create memories instead of debt. #presencenotpresents

– Spread the joy for longer – think about how you could give something that lasts beyond Christmas, so they enjoy more value, such as a membership or subscription.

– Most importantly, spend within your limits – make a realistic plan and stick to it!’

hate about Christmas

3. Feeling impatient and easily irritated about literally everything

When you’re in a massive grump and someone asks you where your Christmas spirit is, and you feel like pointing to the drinks cabinet, what’s really going on here? Moyra Mackie, Executive Coach and author of  Journal Safari: Create your journal habit in 30 days says, ‘Our difficult feelings are there to tell us something, if only we’d listen to them’, says ‘ She advises that we ‘Get curious about what your feelings are trying to tell you. Did you know we can’t be curious and anxious at the same time? We can spend way too much energy pushing down or denying these feelings, when leaning into them with a bit of compassion can often release these feelings that are in some way trapped within you.

Generally, this build up of emotions is a sign we’re taking on too much and not allowing ourselves time to recharge our own energy. However, there are a couple of simple three-minute things you can do to recharge; breathing and journaling.Find somewhere by yourself. It can be indoors or outdoors and it doesn’t have to even be quiet. Sit down, close your eyes, put one hand on your heart and the other on your belly and just breathe. Focus on slowing and deepening your breath, feeling your belly expand on your in breath and contract on your out breath.This might be enough to “reset” but if your head still seems full, grab a notebook and pen, set your phone’s timer for three minutes and get those feelings out on paper. Lean in and let go!’

4. Social media makes you feel like you’re the only one not living the Christmas dream

Sick of seeing everyone’s movie perfect, Hallmark-worthy Christmas snaps on Insta? Us too! We all know it’s a big load of fakery, but how do we stop ourselves from feeling down about our lacking? Holistic Life Coach Nichola Henderson has the answer.

‘We live in a world overloaded by social media. Unfortunately, with the benefits of this comes delusionary ideals and expectations. We know logically that the shiny images, perfect smiles and picture-perfect family posts are not always representative of real life, however it also can cause stress and anxiety if we fall short of the ‘Christmas dream’

The best way to deal with this is to stay focused on the present moment, do not allow yourself to let your thoughts run away with you by worrying about others may think of your Christmas experience, remember (with kindness) that other people’s families may be complex despite appearances!

Just focus on the here and now and try to stay in the moment, maybe reduce social media for the day, 1 hour in the morning, then another in the evening, really connecting to family and friends requires attention and presence. Remember that if other people are spending too much time on social media, then they are very likely not living in the moment, but in how the moment can be perceived, take pride in yourself knowing that really being present in the moment you are living the Christmas dream – the one that you’ll most likely remember for years to come.’

hate about Christmas

5. Your to do list being quadrupled due to all the extra work of decorating, cooking, entertaining, wrapping etc

Ever feel like you’d rather have eight days of Hannukah over six weeks of Christmas? If anyone doesn’t know what to get me for Christmas, the simple answer is: a PA to deal with all the extra stuff I have to do! The pressure of all the extra things piling up on our shoulders can be immense, so how do we cope? Emma Jeffreys aka Action Woman hear us, ‘The mental and physical overload of the Christmas to-do list can feel overwhelming to most of us,’ says ‘But it doesn’t have to be this way. Write out a list of all the things that are swimming round your head that need doing between now and Christmas. Now make a cuppa and take a deep breath as you review the list:

-Does everything on here HAVE to be done? Can you see any tasks where you are just creating more work for yourself or perhaps getting caught up in a story of an Insta-perfect Christmas? If so, ditch what you can and feel the weight lift.

– What can be delegated? Think about the tasks you can give to other family members (even the littler ones) or where you can shortcut to the results you want. There are no medals for doing it all yourself.

– Now group what’s left into weeks. What needs to happen now and what is a last-minute job? By doing one small thing a day you’ll feel a sense of progress without it feeling a struggle. 

And remember, only give what you can. Time, money and energy are all resources that we can overspend at this time of the year. Be mindful how much you spend without topping up the account….’

6. Christmas brainwashing and being made to feel like you need to buy, buy, buy when people are homeless and starving

Can you hear that little voice in your head telling you you’ve already wasted enough money this Christmas? No, of course not because you can’t hear it over the sound of Michael Buble on loop drowning out every logical thought your brain can muster at this juncture!

It’s all too easy to get swept up in the crazy need to keep buying as the insatiable buying monster within gets unleashed around this time of year. More often than not, this is swiftly followed by a feeling of self loathing. So how do we side step this trap this year? Sarah Parkes, podcaster and author of the number two bestseller – Awakening Legacy – shares three tips to say no to the collective hold of the Christmas marketing machine:

‘This year we have the extra twist and emphasis on reduced availability, driving this unhelpful pressure… to fan the consumerism fire.

– Reduce your exposure to unhelpful messaging. I stopped watching the news a long time ago, with all the sensational stories to fuel fear. I am mindful about what I am mentally consuming. Where are you at with this?

– Get clear on how you want to feel, and what you want your family to experience. Is it love, is it connection, is it fun, is it rested? What is the experience you want to have, and how can you achieve that in the simplest way?

– Try out the 4 gift rule, where each person only gets four gifts for Christmas: Something you want, you need, to wear and to read. If you have a tendency to go a bit overboard, this is helpful for reigning it in. Let’s face it they’ll probably still get some things from grandparents. But more than that, it can become a tradition … one that reduces burden in so many ways, and has the potential to reconnect us with the spirit of Christmas.

One extra tip… don’t start something (a tradition) without thinking it through. Do you really need that Elf? Or the Christmas Eve box…?’

Although we do have a whole lot of love for Christmas, it’s ok to also have some things you hate about Christmas too right? Who knows, maybe it’s just because we are getting older and less tolerant! What do you find challenging about this time of year? Let us know in a comment below and follow us on Instagram where we’ll be keeping the conversation going. And don’t forget to check out part two of the things we hate about Christmas.

Woman photo created by cookie_studio, Christmas photo created by gpointstudio, Gift photo created by mdjaff – www.freepik.com

Living with BRCA1: From ticking time bomb to taking action

It’s been almost 6 months since I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. That means six excruciating months of living with BRCA1 feeling like a ticking time bomb and being at worryingly high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer – may be both – over my lifetime, maybe over the next couple of years. Who knows? I don’t have enough women in my family to know how this could play out for me.

After spending a couple of months in denial, I went into a total research frenzy. I became obsessed with finding out the answer to everything about my new mind-bending prognosis to make sense of this crazy world of living with BRCA1. I had so many questions and thoughts on repeat in my brain it was utterly exhausting and overwhelming. Every spare minute I had I was lurking around in BRCA Facebook support groups and BRCA threads in cancer charity forums, feverishly devouring other women’s stories of their BRCA journey and their version of living with BRCA1 – the good, the bad and the ugly.

With every story, I anxiously weighed up my options, which I began to realise were not as many as I had hoped for a woman in her 40s in this day and age.

As I write this, I already have a 1 in 100 chance of developing breast cancer anytime now and that gives me the cold sweats just thinking about it. I know I need to trust myself, have courage, and blow this baby wide open.

Living with BRCA1

Living with BRCA1: No easy magic bullet

After countless conversations, I began to realise there is no magic bullet here other than to have preventative surgery. At my appointment with the Genetics team at The Royal Marsden to which I turned up still clutching at the hope that I wouldn’t have to have my ovaries and breasts removed dissolved quickly. The brutal reality of what I was dealing with smacked me right in the face.

Any noninvasive treatment using PARP inhibitor drugs in a preventative manner that might suppress the faulty gene expression instead of ops was at the very least five years away. At the moment they are only used for actual cancer treatment and are at the time of writing not even in the early trial phase for preventative treatment. Even if I got onto a trial, there is no guarantee that I would then be given a placebo. And of course then I would also have to sit and twiddle my thumbs for a number of years, by which time I could have already developed cancer. And that is not a chance I’m willing to take. Ultimately I began to realise my options were:

  1. Go through the excrutiating pain of taking a wait and see approach of being monitored for breast cancer through regular MRIs, mammograms and freaking out every time I thought I found a lump in one of my breasts. Note, there is no effective screening process for ovarian cancer. So that basically means just waiting to see if and when the cancer shows up and then having to deal with it and the potentially horrific treatment that fighting cancer involves. Thanks but no thanks.
  2. Taking place in The Protector Study to have just my fallopian tubes removed because it’s estimated that around 70% of ovarian cancers start there. I was seriously tempted by this but at already 41 years of age and most ovarian cancer risk presenting itself from age 45, I felt I didn’t really have the time to be messing around with this one. Ultimately I would need to have my ovaries removed in the end anyway and this felt like simply delaying the inevitable….
  3. Having my ovaries removed, my breasts removed and the reconconstructed. The full shebang. Jesus.
  4. Put my faith in alternative approach mainly through lifestyle, diet and herbs and supplements known to have cancer suppressing properties. Ultimately I was just not willing to put my eggs in that basket – as big an advocate I usually am of the natural approach – when essentially my life was on the line.
Living with BRCA1

Step up number three

I knew that whichever way I sliced it, the only option to help keep me cancer-free, alive and well would be number three.

So now I spend my free time looking at pictures of reconstructed boobs convincing myself that I will be ok with my future double mastectomy and reconstruction, that the scars will not be too bad and if they are, that I will try to turn them into something positive by having an artistic tattoo inked over them.

I am also shit scared of the hormonal mess that may ensue from having my ovaries removed – even with HRT which doesn’t mean it will all be rosy. I’ve been there before when I had a total thyroidectomy due to precancerous cells in my thyroid and it was not pretty let me tell you. So I’ve booked an appointment with hormone specialists at The Marion Gluck Clinic to start that conversation and get the best advice I can get.

I’ve also been really lucky to find a couple of amazing BRCA positive role models in my personal network who have been there done that and are helping me to deal with all the things I am so scared of. Questions like will I still be the same person? Will I still like myself? Will it affect my confidence? Wow about my libido and sex?

In the final analysis, it is a big thing having two things massively associated with your womanhood removed, and it is that at the moment that I’m finding the hardest to come to terms with. But then when you stack that up against cancer….well, how could I be so vain? But there it is.

Living with BRCA1: So what’s my game plan?

Right now, I’m waiting for my breast MRI results, hoping that there isn’t something lurking there already. And my rebooked mammogram- because I bloody well got pinged and had to go and take a PCR test which scuppered my previous appointment – is now ticked off. And so I wait.

Once I’ve had those results and know what I’m dealing with, I’ll be able to move forward. My plan is to immerse myself in the Christmas festivities and live life to the max with as much joy as I can possibly cram into it, then come January it’s time for shit to get real. I need to push the button and say I want to move forward with the procedures and stop cowering behind the sofa, starting with the oophorectomy (that’s ovaries removed to you and me love). I know I can do this, I’ve got to be fierce, a previvor, and do it for all those women who never got a chance to do so. I’m doing it for me, my daughter, my family, and for every woman who never made it this far.

Woman photo , People photo created by wayhomestudio, Ribbon photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Sex in your 40s? Here’s what you need to know

One thing I have loved about being in my 40s, is the confidence it brings with it. And we all know that confidence = sexy. But when it comes to sex in your 40s, is it true it actually gets better? Say you’ve already been with the same sexual partner for a while….how do keep things fresh after so long? Then there’s the fact that our hormones start having a mind of their own leading to both mental and physical changes which can have a knock on effect on our sex drive and relationship.

There are so many factors at play here, which is why here at 40 Now What, we’ve decided to put together this deep dive on sex in your 40s. Here, we’ll address common issues and challenges that come along with intimacy in your 4th decade.

Defining sex

I wanted to start out with this wonderful summary by Anna Sale, author of Let’s Talk About Hard Things: Death, Sex, Money and Other Difficult Conversations.

‘Sex is one the most potent ways we communicate with one another. It’s a wordless conversation, but managing its power takes words. Whether it’s a one-time fling or a sixty-year marriage, sex requires us to articulate our own needs while attending to someone’s elses.’

You think after 40 years, we would have gotten better at this, but for many even in our 40s, talking about sex, what we do or do not want or issues surrounding sex can still be cringey. Which brings me on nicely to my next point….

Sex in your 40s: The big issues at play

‘During their forties women can experience the symptoms of perimenopause, which comes before the menopause and is a time of transition for women, it occurs when the ovaries gradually start to produce less oestrogen and is when they are running out of eggs and as a result they only release them on and off’, says Cosmetic doctor and menopause expert Dr Shirin Lakhani of Elite Aesthetic.

‘While the symptoms can be less severe than the menopause, they can still see you suffer from things such as irregular periods, hot flushes and mood changes. It’s important not to underestimate the impact that the perimenopause symptoms can have on intimacy.  People can experience uncomfortable sex (and decreased libido as a result) due to the lack of lubrication from the vagina because of decreasing oestrogen (and testosterone) levels.’ 

‘Physically these may impact your sexual health and your physical ability to enjoy sex, combined with the mood swings which may inhibit your desire too. It’s important to try and be aware of these changes that will occur so that you can address them accordingly rather than suffering in silence. Nowadays there are plenty of options for addressing all of the symptoms of peri-menopause so that your ability to enjoy sex is not inhibited. Women in their 40s may also be experiencing the effects of child birth ie vaginal laxity and stress incontinence, which can also impact their sex lives.

Dr Ruth Maher, co-inventor of pelvic floor experts INNOVO adds to this that, ‘65% of women with SUI leak urine during sex. Leaking during sex dramatically impacts their sexual quality of life, affects their relationships with their partners, and can cause social withdrawal and depression. Many of these women suffer in silence and never report this to anyone.’ 

Sex in your 40s

The solutions

So what can women who are experiencing the above do to help reduce any discomfort and increase pleasure levels during sex in their 40s?

‘There are a number of effective treatments available to treat the symptoms. PRP Therapy with treatments like O-Shot have shown to have a positive result in treating atrophy as well as incontinence while hyaluronic acid injections and localised oestrogen can also effectively offer relief from symptoms. Meanhile, women experiencing vaginal dryness because of the menopause can experiment with lubricant that can be bought in most chemists and supermarkets. Some women find lubricants messy and troublesome so there are other options. Hormone replacement (localised and systemic), vaginal growth factors or hyaluronic acid injections can give longer term relief’, advises Lakhani.

‘There are also various supplements that can be taken to help with symptoms such as DHEA, Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) from cruciferous vegetables, DIM (diiondolymethane), above all else it is important to eat a balanced diet and not too low fat as we need cholesterol to produce sex hormones. Addressing intimate medical issues affecting many women over 40 will ensure that many experience their best sex ever.’

Meanwhile ladies, don’t forget it’s important to keep doing your pelvic floor exercises! ‘As our bodies age and change our pelvic floor – the key set of deep muscles situated in the pelvis – can become weakened, which can lead to an inability to control urination. Unfortunately, we can’t control when these leaks happen…sexual stimulation can put pressure on your bladder or urethra and when combined with a weakened pelvic floor muscles can lead to dribbles’, says Maher.

‘Our top tip to avoid this: pelvic floor exercises! It’s possible that strong pelvic floor muscles could not only prevent leaks, but it can also increase sensitivity during sex, giving you stronger orgasms. So get squeezing and if you need some motivation, check out our ‘Music For Your Vagina’ playlist, perfectly crafted for you to get the most out of your pelvic floor exercises.’

The importance of intimacy

As we’ve probably all learnt by now, intimacy is all important in our sex lives. While it’s true that sex can create an intimacy feedback loop, sex isn’t the only way to have intimacy with your partner. So how do we up our intimacy stakes in our 40s?

Ana Mikaela Silva- Founder & CEO of Pleasy Play advises, ‘You can be more intimate by increasing desire and moving to a deeper level of understanding of each other. It’s about moments of connection and affection in a less-physical way: making eye contact, listening to your partner, small touches on the hand, kissing, hugging.’

‘Communication plays a big role in developing intimacy. It´s how couples are able to connect and to speak about their deepest desires and also about their boundaries. However, it can be hard to communicate to your partner your needs and wants, which is how the Pleasy Play app can help. If you don´t want to try a challenge or if you do, you simple reject / accept a challenge and your partner will be notified. It´s a simple way to communicate that can accomplish so much in the relationship.’

Sex in your 40s

Sex in your 40s: Mixing things up

How can you keep things exciting when you’ve been with the same sexual partner for some time, and feeling generally knackered and harrassed by life? How do we break out of our existing sex routine (yup, we all have our trademark one don’t we?). To break out of the monotony, Silva says, ‘A great way to do this is to introduce sex toys as not only do they help to improve both of your pleasure, but also your confidence. Incorporating toys, like vibrators or couples toys, can increase sexual stimulation and pleasure in a way the human body sometimes just can’t. For example, Pleasy Play is a subscription service consisting of a personalised and specially curated box of intimate products and an interactive game with fun and sexy challenges through a mobile app.’

‘The great thing about introducing toys or intimate products like massage oils and lubes is that they can be used in diverse ways. which helps couples work on intimacy and communication, all the while having a lot of fun.’

Sex in your 40s

With us living longer, healthier lives, it’s common for women and men to have several sexual partners, and through divorce or death of a partner, people are embarking on new sexual relationships later on in life. People are no longer accepting that their sexual lives should end beyond a certain age. It is therefore far more important to minimise the negative effects of ageing, allowing people to continue to enjoy all aspects of their lives no matter what their age.

While in some ways your 40s are not exactly kind to your sex life, in many ways sex in your 40s CAN be better. So what’s the final word? We say now’s the time to revel in foreplay, use lube, get curious, address any health issues and keep exploring and investing in your sex life.

What has been your experience of sex in your 40s? Do share in a comment below.

People photo created by yanalya, Technology photo created by jcomp, People photo created by pressfoto – www.freepik.com, Photo by cottonbro from Pexels