Over the past couple of week's I've been trying to follow some personalised tips from the experts at Aviva as part of the Stress Less challenge with mumsnet.
Week 1's tips were mainly about Work-life balance, wellbeing and diet and you can find out what my personalised recommendations were here. For week 2, I was given a few more follow-up tips about work-life balance and wellbeing along with some fitness advice and more specific diet advice relating to sleep too. You can see week 2's tips here.
I was extremely pleased with the tips I was given because they really rang true. They related to things that deep down I knew I needed to tackle and the tips gave some practical suggestions on how to actually start to tackle the issues.
So how did I get on?
A number of the key decisions we had to make have begun to resolve themselves. Having now made most of our secondary school visits, there are one or two schools that stand out as being most suitable for J and so that feels like a weight off our shoulders.
He continues to do well at his current school and younger brother D is also in a school that is wonderful and supportive too and we are truly thankful for that. We know from previous experience of schools, that if your child is unhappy at school, it has a huge knock-on effect on stress levels for the whole family so it is good to be able to reflect on just what a blessing it is for them both to be so happy where they are right now.
I totally recognise the need for 'me-time' and that is something that I will be prioritising in future. Without wanting to make excuses, this past week has been my husband's busiest week of the year work-wise and so it hasn't been possible to make time for proper 'me-time' but I'm hoping to make sure I do get the chance to do things for me going forward.
Sometimes it is simple things like making time to read a magazine or book. I even find I enjoy getting the time to do some tidying up or clearing out therapeutic as I rarely get the chance to do that.
I have totally taken on board the tips from Dr Doug about sleep and the need to wind down for bedtime. Blogging and time spent online in the evenings is a big culprit when it comes to inhibiting the production of melatonin in the evenings and it leaves my brain buzzing with thoughts and ideas instead of relaxing ready for sleep.
So as much as I hate to say it, I will need to either blog less overall or find a way of fitting it in during the daytime perhaps when Miss T is having her naptime.
I loved Dr Doug's tip from week 2 about thinking positively about successes. I am often guilty of placing mega-high expectations on myself in terms of getting things perfect and also trying to achieve too much in one day. And then it is all too easy to feel like a failure when the chores don't get done, and when things don't turn out perfectly as planned.
I know I struggled with this a lot during our time homeschooling as I would try to achieve EVERYTHING in one day - a huge list of school work for the boys to work through, get the household jobs done, look after a new baby and get a meal on the table ready for the evening. I think those high expectations were a big factor contributing to post-natal depression last year.
And I think this also links with the blogging issue too. Blogging helps me feel like I've acheived something because I can write a blogpost and by seeing it live on the blog, I have something to show for my time unlike most of what goes on throughout the day. Whilst I know deep-down that looking after the children is extremely worthwhile, I do feel frustrated that there can be things I'm trying to get done all week and by the end of the week those jobs still remain unfinished. Again, are my expectations too high?
Perhaps I need to adjust my thinking to realise that actually getting everyone washed, dressed and out the door in time for school is an acheivement in itself. Entertaining a toddler all day long is an achievement. Keeping the peace and preventing squabbles when J is having a difficult day is a success. Getting a meal ready for the family is something to be happy about. By seeing all these things in a positive way should hopefully help me celebrate those successes and help feel more positive too.
I am aware that we have real ups and down when it comes to diet. I can have weeks with lots of fresh fruit and veg, homecooking meals from scratch and eating well all round. Then there can be other weeks, where due to the busy-ness of life or feeling in pain with my back, I am not able to cook and so we end up with unhealthy takeaways and snack on unhealthy foods.
The tip about not eating too many carbohydrates in the evening is a good one as I am aware that I can snack on carbs late in the evening (usually when I stay up late online and blogging - again blogging seems to be a big culprit!) so I have been deliberately avoiding those evening carbs so that I can sleep better.
Cutting down on computer time in the evenings and getting to bed earlier should also help with this as I won't get hungry and feel the need to snack.
This was always going to be the hardest tip of all to incorporate because of my long-term arthritis and health problems.
However, I have tried to take the ethos of this on board and on days when my back has been feeling better we have tried to get outdoors more this week.
I still need to sort out those hydrotherapy sessions in the longer term and I am currently awaiting an appointment with the rhematologist to see if I can find out why the back pain has increased recently. I'm also trialling a rosehip supplement to see if that helps. So I do feel like I am taking small steps in the right direction.
And the one tip I am going to commit to for life?I have found so many of the tips useful and I'm going to do my best to keep going with them all. However I know that there will be days when I will eat poorly and I know there will be nights that I'll stay up late on the computer.
The tip that I feel will actually help me most and impact most on helping me carry on with all the other tips is this Wellbeing one from Dr Doug:
"Think positively and list 1 or 2 things you did well today or that you're grateful for."By looking at the positive instead of constantly feeling like I've failed or not achieved what I needed to that day, I know that I'll be more likely to feel like looking after myself properly, making that time for 'me-time', trying to eat well and generally living life with less stress!
I'd love to know if there are any small changes that you feel you could make that would help reduce stress in your life?
Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I will receive a small incentive upon completion of the Stress Less challenge for blogging about my experience.