5 biggest myths about cervical screenings you shouldn’t believe 

Following on from our previous article around cervical cancer awareness, we got advice from Dr Tim Woodman, Medical Director at Bupa UK, who shared with us the following information about cervical screenings.

He says; ‘Regular health screenings have been neglected during the pandemic – there are currently 4.7 million people with cervixes in the UK who haven’t been adequately screened for cervical cancer. It’s more important than ever to book your smear test – and to encourage your friends to do the same.

Our previous research found that 1 in 5 women say they wouldn’t visit their doctor if they had pelvic pain or an unusual discharge or bleeding, and 1 in 3 women say they wouldn’t see a doctor if they had bleeding outside of their usual menstrual cycle. 41% of women wouldn’t go to a GP if they had an unusual discharge.’

From believing screening is painful, to the ‘embarrassment’ of seeing your doctor about gynaecological issues, there’s lots of common misconceptions about cervical screening that we shouldn’t believe. These myths could prevent you from attending your screening, or visiting a doctor for any unusual symptoms, such as abnormal bleeding or painful sex.

Here are the most common myths about smear tests you shouldn’t believe:

Myth 1: An abnormal smear test indicates a high risk of cancer

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer – it is used to help prevent cancer. A sample is checked for certain “high risk” types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). If these are not found, then nothing further is done, but if these types of HPV are present then the cells from the sample are checked for any changes. If any abnormal cells are found and these are left untreated, it could lead to cancer.

Having regular cervical screening will identify any abnormalities – these may not be cancerous, and mild abnormalities don’t always need to be treated.

Myth 2: A cervical screening test is painful

cervical screenings

It’s a common myth that a cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a painful procedure. For some, it can be an uncomfortable procedure, especially if you have endometriosis, vaginismus (when your vagina suddenly becomes tight) or vaginal dryness.

Breathing exercises and distraction methods (listening to music or counting to 100 during the procedure) can help to calm your nerves. You can also ask your nurse about using a smaller speculum (the instrument used during the test) – they come in different sizes, and it can help to ease any discomfort you’re experiencing. 

It’s important to explain any worries you have to your healthcare professional, as they should take additional steps to make the experience less stressful. 

Myth 3: I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need to check my health

We have an excellent cervical cancer screening programme, which can detect early abnormalities which can lead to cervical cancer. 

Even if you’re showing no unusual symptoms, you must attend your checks as these can detect abnormalities before you start showing any symptoms. Early detection is key to effectively preventing and treating cancers; attending all appointments – even if you’re feeling well – is vital.

Myth 4: Seeing the doctor about gynaecological issues is embarrassing

cervical screenings

Do not worry – every doctor or nurse in your local clinic will have seen more vaginas and heard more intimate stories than you could ever believe! They understand that everyone is an individual and will not be uncomfortable or bothered by talking about sex, vaginal bleeding, discharge, or painful intercourse. 

Performing intimate examinations is part of their everyday activities, and they want to do this to the cause of the problem you’re having. Try and be as open and honest about your symptoms or concerns as you can, as this will enable your healthcare professional to give you the best care they can. 

Myth 5: If I am worried I can go for a smear test, which will rule out any cancer

No, this is not the case. The cervical screening test only looks for signs that you may be at risk of cervical cancer. It is not a cancer test, nor does it assess the health of your vulva, vagina, womb or ovaries.  A cervical screening test is only suitable if you have no symptoms of concern. 

If you have unusual bleeding, pain or other symptoms you should discuss this with a healthcare professional, who will decide with you what steps need to be taken to assess your gynaecological health.  

Are you up to date with your screenings? Comment below on your experiences or connect with us on Instagram

The importance of cervical cancer awareness

17th – 23rd January 2022 marks Cervical Cancer Prevention week. We’ve joined forces with the experts, bringing you this guide, to raise awareness of cervical screening. If you have a cervix, this one is for you.

Here, Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy talks about the importance of not delaying cervical screening when invited but also to see if there was anything we could be doing to avoid this type of cancer.

Did you know?

  • There are around 3,200 new cases of cervical cancer each year in the UK.
  • Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer in the UK.
  • Cervical cancer can be prevented by having regular cervical smears.
  • The most common age group for women to be diagnosed with cervical cancer is in women aged 30-34 years.
  • Since the 1990s, the incidence of cervical cancer has fallen by around 25%. This is likely to be due to the success of cervical screening.
  • The number of cases of cervical cancer is predicted to fall in the coming years due to the success of HPV vaccination.
  • Around 850 women still die each year in the UK from cervical cancer.
  • Since the 1970s, the death rate for cervical cancer has fallen by around 75%. Again, this is likely to be due to the advent of cervical screening.

Risk factors for cervical cancer

HPV – 99.8% of cervical cancers are due to infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This is a sexually transmitted virus. There are over 100 subtypes. HPV 16 and 18 are high-risk subtypes, and these are the target of the current HPV vaccination campaign. Low-grade HPV subtypes, including those which cause many visible genital warts, are not a risk factor for cervical cancer.

Many women with HPV infection never develop cervical cancer, meaning other factors are also important for the infection to progress. Cervical cancer is more common in those who also had an early age of first sexual intercourse, before the age of 14, or who have had 6 or more sexual partners. Cervical cancer risk is lowered in women whose sexual partner has been circumcised.

Women with genital herpes are also at an increased risk of cervical cancer.

Smoking – 21% of cervical cancers are attributed to smoking. The risk of cervical cancer is increased by 46% in current smokers as compared to lifetime non-smokers.

HIV –  Cervical cancer is six times more common in those infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, this risk is significantly reduced in women who are taking highly active antiretroviral therapy (HART).

Family history – The risk of cervical cancer is 74%-80% higher in women with a first degree relative, such as a mother or a sister who has had cervical cancer, suggesting there may be some genetic susceptibility.

Oral contraceptives – Up to 10% of cervical cancers are thought to be associated with the use of oral contraceptives. However, the risk is only attributable after five years or more of use. There is no need to panic and stop taking the pill. The benefits of taking the pill are considerable and should not be underestimated. Pill users should not be unduly concerned but are strongly advised to attend for their cervical smears regularly, and to try not to smoke.

Ethnicity – Cervical cancers are more common in ethnic groups who are reluctant to come forward for screening. This means cervical cancer is more common in women who are Black, Hispanic, Asian or from low-income households.

Women who were given diethylstilbestrol (DES) – Some women were given DES, a potent synthetic estrogen, between 1940-1970,  to try and prevent miscarriage. This is known to increase the risk of cervical and vaginal cancers.

The UK Cervical Cancer Screening Programme

One important aspect of cervical cancer is that it has a very long premalignant phase, during which it is possible to identify abnormal cells – by having a cervical smear. These abnormal cells can then be treated. Doing this prevents these cells from transforming into cervical cancer cells.

The NHS Cervical Cancer Screening Programme was started in 1988, and since then there has been a dramatic fall in the number of cases of cervical cancer.

Adult women aged 25-64 years are invited to have a cervical smear once every 3-5 years in the UK. Those aged under 50 are asked to come once every 3 years, and those aged over 50, every 5 years. Trans men (who were female at birth) are not automatically invited but can request a cervical smear if they still have a cervix.

The smear itself is also tested for the presence of HPV. If HPV is present, you will be invited to have smears more often, or referred to colposcopy, where your cervix can be examined more closely with the aid of a special instrument called a colposcope. This gives magnified images of the cervix.

What is a cervical smear?

cervical smear

A cervical smear is a simple test, in which a plastic spatula is gently rubbed over your cervix (the neck of the womb) to collect some cervical cells. These are then sent to the lab to be looked at down the microscope.

To be able to do this, the doctor or nurse taking the smear, needs to see your cervix. This means you do have to remove your underwear, lie on the couch, and allow them to insert a vaginal speculum. This is an instrument, made of plastic or metal, which looks like a duck’s beak.

The secret is to try and relax as much as you can. This helps the smear taker to be able to manoeuvre the speculum as they need to, to get a good view of the cervix. Try not to get too anxious. Doctors and nurses who do smears are very well trained and will do all they can to put you at your ease. It can be uncomfortable having a smear, but it shouldn’t be painful. It usually only lasts – perhaps 30-60 seconds. This is a very short inconvenience for a test that could save your life. You can watch a video of how a cervical smear is taken here.

How many women have not had a cervical smear?

It is very worrying that in 2019, 1 in 3 women aged 25-64 had not had a cervical smear. In a survey conducted by Jo’s Cancer Trust, 2000 women were asked about their experiences of having a cervical smear. An incredible 915 had either never had a smear or had delayed an appointment to have one. 71% said they felt scared, 75% felt vulnerable, 81% were embarrassed, and 67% said having a smear would make them feel out of control. 58% were scared it would be painful.

Having taken cervical smears for over 30 years, I can tell you, taking a smear is a straightforward process, that for the vast majority of women, is easy, quick, and almost painless. The smear taker will respect your dignity, cover you with a blanket, ask permission to start the procedure and stop at any time if you ask them to stop. You do not need to feel out of control. Doctors and nurses who work in sexual health or GP surgeries, spend all day looking at female vulvas and vaginas – they are perfectly used to it, and nothing will surprise or shock them. You can feel completely at ease with these medical practitioners. Any female doctors or nurses will no doubt have had a smear test themselves and know how it feels.

What is far more of a worry, is not attending for your smear, but having to come to the clinic in the future, with a possible undiagnosed cervical cancer.

Getting your smear results

cervical cancer

You should get a letter in the post about your results, usually within 4 weeks. If your smear is normal, you will be told to have another smear in 3-5 years depending on your age. Sometimes, there may have been difficulty interpreting the smear, and it just needs repeating in 3 to 6 months. If you do have abnormal cells, you will be referred to the Colposcopy clinic so a Gynaecologist can take a closer look at your cervix. If HPV is present, but your cells look normal, you will simply be asked to have another smear in 12 months. The important thing is to follow instructions and attend for your subsequent visit as requested.

How accurate are cervical smears?

It’s important to remember that no tests are ever 100% accurate. There is always a small chance the smear could show an abnormality that isn’t cancer, or, could be wrongly classed as negative, meaning something abnormal was missed. In between smear tests, if you have any symptoms such as bleeding in between your periods or after sex, or abnormal vaginal discharge, it’s important to see your GP or go to the Sexual Health clinic without delay.

Prevention is better than cure

After a detailed look at the statistics, experts believe that for a woman aged 33 – 64, attending for cervical screening will reduce her chance of developing cervical cancer over the following five years, by 60-80%, and reduce her chance of advanced cervical cancer by 90%. However, cervical screening is less effective in younger age groups. In general, doing cervical smears in women under the age of 25 has not been found to be beneficial.

If you have any concerns about your smear test, you could book an appointment with your GP or practice nurse, just to discuss the situation and take a list of written questions. They will be happy to help you. You can take a friend or relative to your smear appointment with you.

You can also ask for a doctor or nurse of the sex of your choice to take your smear, although you may be asked to come back on another day if this can’t be actioned at the same visit.

You will also be offered a chaperone when you have your smear. You can accept or refuse – some people prefer another person there to hold their hand, while others prefer as few other people in the room as possible.

Try and find out all you can about having you smear before you get to the clinic. Knowledge is power, and it will help you feel more confident. For example, take a look at Jo’s Trust – Cervical Screening.

What can you do to reduce your risk of cervical cancer?

You can have a smear at any time so long as you are not bleeding. In the past, smears were preferable around midcycle – on day 14 – but these days this is rarely needed. If you are on a form of hormonal contraception, you will not be ovulating anyway, and will not have a day 14. This might be needed in older women, who are having natural cycles, if it has been hard to get enough cells on the smear in the past. But don’t let the day 14 issue confuse the situation.

If you are aged 40 plus, and find smears uncomfortable, you might benefit from using some topical estrogen in the vagina for 4 -6 weeks before your smear test. Ask your GP or the sexual health doctor or nurse about this. You do need to stop using the cream or pessaries at least 2 days before the smear test.

HPV vaccination

In the UK, HPV vaccinations are offered to girls and boys aged 12 and 13, when they are in year 8. They then have a second dose 6 -24 months later. The idea is to create HPV antibodies before they become sexually active and encounter the HPV virus through normal sexual activity. HPV causes cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, penis, as well as some head and neck cancers.

Between 2009 and 2018, over 10 million doses of the HPV vaccines were administered. The vaccines have been proven to be safe and highly effective. In a recent 2019 study, which included over 66 million young men and women, HPV vaccination showed an 83% reduction in high-risk HPV in teenage girls and a 66% reduction in women aged 20-24. There was also a 51% reduction in precancerous changes to the cervix in teenage girls and a 31% reduction in women aged 20-24.

Don’t smoke

cervical cancer

Some studies suggest the viral load of HPV is higher in the cervix of women who smoke than in non-smokers. The reasons for this are not well understood, however, a toxin in cigarette smoke known as Benzo[a]pyren has been shown to stimulate HPV multiplication.

Protect yourself from HPV by using a condom

Consistent and careful use of condoms can help prevent the acquisition, not just of HPV infection, but also other STIs. It can also help cause regression of abnormal cells if they are present on the cervix. However, having sex with an HPV  infected partner, even once,  without a condom, is likely to result in the transmission of infection. Most UK adults will be infected with HPV at least once in a lifetime.

The best sexual health advice at present is that women should use a condom for STI protection as well as, not instead of, a reliable method of contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. If a male partner will not use a condom, women do have the option of using the female condom, the Femidom.

Cervical cancer is linked to an increased number of lifetime sexual partners. For good sexual health, you should try to avoid multiple partners , or overlapping partners, as this is associated with increased risk.

References:

Gov. UK

Cervical screening NHS

HPV NHS

The Guardian

University of Oxford

US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health)

National library of medicine

Helen Baker founded and runs  We Are All Smear Ready, a craftivism campaign to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and addressing the barriers of body image and embarrassment, two of the main barriers to attending appointments. She says;

‘With body image and embarrassment being two of the main barriers to attending a smear test, this Craftivist campaign spreads the message that you don’t have to be beach ready to be smear ready, we are all smear ready. It really doesn’t matter how your lady garden looks, nurses have seen all varieties and don’t care what yours looks like.

With so much focus on the external aspect of our bodies we can often overlook how important it is to look after our bodies internally but these mini handcrafted pants as a gentle reminder that cervical screening and HPV vaccines are the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer. By making and sharing mini pants and boxers during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, we can help to spread this important and potentially life-saving message to anyone with a cervix.’ 

You can follow her campaign here

When was your last screening? Join in the conversation by commenting below or following us on Instagram.

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!).

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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

The ultimate survival guide to 2022

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New Year, same you? Don’t worry this is the only survival guide you’ll need. There’s no quick fix. There’s no wake up and magically be 10lbs lighter. We’ve got the expert advice to show you how you can softly, calmly and slowly emerge from the overindulgence of the past few weeks. You’ll be able to grab 2022 by the balls and show it who’s boss!

Go for a daily walk

Penny Weston, fitness, wellness guru and nutrition expert reveals, Walking doesn’t just make you feel good while you’re doing it, studies also suggest that it may reduce your risk of developing a cold or flu by boosting your immune system. It does this by increasing the amount of white blood cells circulating in your blood. These are the cells that fight infection and disease as part of the body’s natural immune system.

Make an immune boosting smoothie

survival guide

Making fresh smoothies is a great way of incorporating ingredients into your diet that can boost your immune system. A favourite of mine is this vitamin rich super smoothie. This smoothie is a powerhouse for the immune system, containing blueberries and spinach that have great immune-boosting properties. It will have you glowing from the inside out, and contains nearly every vitamin and mineral your body needs and giving you a natural boost of energy. And it actually tastes delicious!⁠

There is so much goodness in this smoothie. Use a frozen banana and less milk for a thicker texture:

2 cups Frozen Blueberries

1 Banana

1 cup Spinach

1 cup Kale

1 tbsp Chia Seeds

1 tsp Spirulina

40g Vanilla Protein

Topped with Almond Milk

Meditate

Meditation is an ideal way to reduce stress over the festive period and also throughout the whole year. Meditation helps to relax the mind and body, and focus your thoughts and attention in order to eliminate the thought overload which can often result in stress. This will not only help you to de-stress but also help you learn to be strong for all that is coming  in the year ahead.

Exercise

Regular exercise is the key to staying both physically and mentally fit, healthy and happy. When we exercise the body releases chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine which boost our sense of well-being and suppress hormones that cause anxiety and stress. Fortunately there are now a bigger range of exercise classes and sports out there than ever before and thanks to virtual and on demand training it’s never been easier to exercise at home or when travelling, so even if you’re away with work or family during January there’s no excuse not to be able to exercise.

Create a morning ritual

Start the morning with a ritual that lets you hit the ground running, make the most of your day, stay positive and in control and most importantly stress free! All of our rituals are different, but the key is that by setting them we are taking control of our morning, and therefore our lives. This will help to significantly lower stress levels.’

Ditch the moisturiser

survival guide

Dr Rekha Tailor of Health & Aesthetics says ‘I don’t recommend moisturisers for anyone because I agree with Zein Obagi, M.D, a dermatologist and founder of ZO Skin Health. He suggests that moisturiser is a waste of time and also that it is potentially damaging to the skin. He suggests that when you use moisturiser every day, you run the risk of making your skin older, not younger, because of the fact that skin will become sensitive, dry, dull and interfere with its own natural hydration functions.’

Personally, I’m a big fan of The Ordinary Amino Acids. It’s affordable and leaves my skin feeling totally hydrated.

Get outdoors

Celebrity facialist Lisa Harris, says ‘You can see (safe) sun exposure as your free dose of vitamin D. Feeling sunlight on your arms, hands and face for just 10-15 minutes a day in the UK can boost your mood and energy levels through the release of endorphins. As well as perking up your skin, it will also wake up your mind as the sun reduces the level of melatonin (AKA the sleepy hormone) in your body, giving you energy, inside and out.

Detoxify your tissues with face yoga

Just 60 seconds of a DIY face massage can make your skin look more alive. Using a creamy cleanser or moisturiser, make small circles with your fingertips – this will boost your circulation, bring oxygen to your cells and give you an instant glow.  If you’ve been a little congested, face yoga can help to remove any toxins from your tissue, helping you feel better too. You can supercharge your face yoga routine with our 3D signature facial, which relies on HIFU to restore skin vitality and improve skin health and luminosity.

Put down the needles

While it’s often easy to think that Botox and Fillers are the answer to looking younger and healthier, there’s a safe, non-invasive alternative to Botox and fillers helping you to achieve healthier, younger looking skin with long lasting results. Radio Frequency and ultrasound waves from treatments like Collagen Wave heat up the skin, encouraging your fibroblasts to produce new collagen and elastin – something we all need if we’re looking a little tired during the winter months.

Get more sleep

Sleep is a natural reset button for our brain and body, which is even more required these days because of increased work pressure and stress. Our face is the index of the mind and so naturally a skipped sleep is easily identifiable on our face.’

Choose your cleanser wisely

Consultant dermatologist Dr Ophelia Veraitch says ‘In the mornings and days you aren’t wearing makeup just use a gentle cleanser. When wearing water based coverage makeup you can use an AHA cleanser such as one with glycolic acid. When wearing heavier oil based makeup use a BHA cleanser such as one with salicylic acid.

Take vitamins to support healthy hair growth

survival guide

To maintain healthy looking hair, go for hair vitamins that have relatively high concentrations of the nutrients we know that are needed to support hair growth. Iron and zinc are both very important for hair, but when taken together they don’t absorb well. So a carefully thought out hair vitamin programme (such as mine!) is ideal. If in doubt about the cause of hair thinning or loss, seek an expert opinion.

Check the ingredients of your skincare carefully

Due to lack of regulation in the industry many marketed skincare products don’t have ingredients in them that will be effective despite claims, so don’t and won’t work. Tailor active ingredients serums according to your skincare needs. For example ivermectin is great for redness/ rosacea, azelaic acid/niacinamide/ salicylic acid is great for acne, Tretinoin / antioxidants such as vit C/E for anti ageing and hydroquinone/ Kojic acid/niacinamide for pigmentation etc.

Use almond oil

On the days I’m not going out I massage almond oil into my scalp and hair and onto my children’s scalp and hair too. 

It’s the best way to naturally hydrate your scalp and hair and help both to retain moisture.

This ritual comes from my Sikh background where having uncut hair (which I haven’t stuck to!) and importantly looking after your hair is a sign of respect to personal attributes that are considered god given. It’s common for Asian and Mediterranean cultures to put oil in the scalp and hair like this as a natural and effective way to moisturise our scalp and hair! Massaging almond oil into the scalp and hair like this helps to reduce frizziness of the hair and improve the condition of the scalp too. You can use coconut oil but I find this is smellier and harder, alternatively argan oil is thinner so it’s better for people with finer hair.’

Stop licking your lips

Nina Prisk, AKA ‘The Lip Nurse’, an award-winning cosmetic nurse says ‘When you lick your lips it’s usually to try and moisturise them. However, saliva actually dries them out and creates damaging friction. Sometimes it can become a bad habit which you can help to break by doing something else with your mouth such as chewing gum.

So it’s best to avoid licking your lips as much as you can. Biting and picking them should be avoided too because the lips are made up of delicate skin that can be damaged easily. Usually picking and biting happens when there’s already damage to the surface of the lip, try to resist the urge to pull or bite the rough or lose bits of skin and instead apply a treatment to moisturise and hydrate them.’

Eat more omega 3

Consultant oculoplastic and ophthalmic surgeon Dr Elizabeth Hawkes says ‘Omega-3 fatty acids are important to the health of the macula (the part of the eye that’s responsible for central vision) and the health of the skin, including around the eye area. So trying to incorporate more foods containing essential omega-3 fatty acids helps to keep your vision good and also to maintain healthy skin around your eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatories.

Research suggests that the fats protect skin cells against sun-induced inflammation and help control how the body responds to UV rays, thereby mitigating damage. Eating a diet high in good fats and oily fish can help to promote good skin health because they are rich in Omega-3 which is a key nutrient for helping to repair damaged skin cells. Omega-3 fatty acids are responsible for maintaining healthy membranes around our skin cells. If we’re deficient in these it reduces the skin’s ability to absorb and retain water, causing dehydration or dry skin.

Upping your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help improve hydration by boosting the skin’s natural barrier. Omega-3s may also help to protect our skin against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays because studies have shown that supplementing with a combination of certain types of Omega-3s may reduce the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays.’

Look after your gnashers

survival guide

We all want our pearly whites to be whiter than white. Cosmetic dentist, Dr Hanna Kinsella says ‘My Icy Bear whitening toothpaste is shown to not only brighten the smile but also to protect the teeth against cavities. Icy Bear is an earth conscious brand – palm oil free, SLS free and animal cruelty free and all of the products are produced in the UK adhering to strict industry guidelines. 

The unique toothpaste has a rare ingredient combination containing the finest diamonds. Thanks to its extremely low abrasiveness, tooth surfaces are gently cleaned and stains reduced with no damage to the tooth surface. Designed for twice-daily use for complete oral care, the cult product in the making uses diamond dust to effectively reduce stains – the diamond dust is a natural abrasive agent that reduces staining whilst polishing the surface of the enamel to restore teeth to their natural whiteness.’

What are your self-care plans for bossing 2022? Let us know by commenting below or reaching out to us on Instagram.

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.

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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

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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.’ 

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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!’

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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.’

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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