Hello once again,
This week I've been thinking a lot about the importance of giving myself a break and not being too hard on myself. I wrote last week about how I had been unwell and unfortunately that continued into this week with a second set of antibiotics and a horrible migraine. This then spiralled for me into a whole host of anxiety fuelled thoughts, what if it is something more serious? What if I need to go to hospital on my own? What if I catch Corona virus because my immune system is low? What if.. What if... What if...
I appreciate that this isn't a particularly uplifting blog to be reading right now! I am sharing these feelings because 1) I believe that when we talk openly about mental health issues we take away the power that they have over us 2) I am sure that some of you have experienced similar feelings, I want to voice them and let you know that it IS NORMAL! 3) I want to be completely honest with you, I feel that sometimes it can be damaging to see just positivity quotes and pretend that well-being is JUST positive, happy, smiley #livingyourbestlife. Well-being isn't just about 'focussing on the good and ignoring the bad' I believe that real well-being is about accepting the full range of human experience and acknowledging what we are going through with compassion.
So this week, I have not given the children the most exciting experiences that home education can bring. I haven't cooked nutritious and healthy meals. I have napped. I have cried. I have been open about how I'm feeling. Most importantly, I have accepted that this is way it is at the moment and not given myself a hard time about letting people down. I have also tried really hard to not compare my suffering to others who have it worse.... That's a whole other spiral that doesn't achieve anything for anyone.
Here are some top tips for well-being that I didn't manage to do everyday this week, I plan to put into action next week (now that I am starting to feel stronger and more able). I hope you find them useful.
I hope that you are doing ok, but if you aren't; remember that it is ok to not be ok!
If you would like to join my free, supportive facebook group please go here
Warm wishes and stay safe
Hey! I hope that you and your loved ones are doing well.
I'm going to share with you a Brene Brown quote because, well, I love her! And also because it has meant something to me this week and maybe it might mean something to you too during these weird times we find ourselves in;
I love the bit that says
"everytime we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy, the healing that results affects us all"
It's so true! I find myself drawn into comparative suffering fairly regularly, 'Oh no, I'm Ok really, lot's of people are in a worse situation, and really I'm very lucky!' It's true. Many people ARE in a worse situation. In the scheme of things I am lucky BUT if I ignore my own hurt or struggle then it doesn't magically disappear and it can drive a wedge between relationships. For example, if I try to be ok, but really I'm not, my ever-so perceptive children will pick up on it and wonder if they have done something wrong or worry.
This week I've been unwell, nothing serious, but at the time it felt serious and painful and scary. I was scared that I might have to go to the hospital, I was scared that something was very wrong with me. It turned out that a trip to the Drs, a course of antibiotics and all being well, I should be back to normal in a few days (still not feeling 100% but already so much better).
Anyway, my natural response to my thought process was to feel guilt. When I realised that I didn't have to go to hospital I felt so sorry for those who are seriously ill in hospital, and their families etc. etc. I spiral! Comparing my pain to others in a more serious position doesn't help anyone. Belittling my situation, feelings, emotions doesn't either.
I'm reading a book at the moment (when I can!) called Self Compassion by Kristin Neff I'm finding it really interesting and it is definitely something I need to work on! So this week was a real practice for me. I allowed myself to rest (thankfully I was able to), I allowed myself to feel a bit glum, I was honest with my family that it hurt and I felt sad that I can't play or do things that I normally do. I tried really hard to model self compassion and allow myself my feelings, without judgement or comparison (not easy, I can tell you!). I want my children to know that their feelings are valid, so I need to show them that mine are too. If you would like weekly ideas about how to support your family's well-being please join my free facebook group.
I am really enjoying listening to Brene Brown's Podcast 'Unlocking Us' on the occasions where I get to enjoy a walk on my own. Maybe you might enjoy it too.
Warm wishes and stay safe
This week I shared in the facebook group an interview with Lindsay Jane Hunter, Theraputic Art and Drama Practitioner. We chatted about creativity, it's importance and how to achieve creativity with limited resources and effort. If you missed it, you can see it here.
Studies have shown that even a small amount of creativity each day can boost well-being and increase feelings of positivity (Conner et al. 2016). So I really encourage you to find a way to both be creative yourself and encourage your children to do so. I feel after 5 weeks of staying at home I am starting to feel the need for some new ideas and I am really happy to share with you a list from Lindsay which will hopefully provide you with some fun creativity ideas for you to try:
My main realisations from the interview were that; creativity isn't always messy, you can be creative with very little resources and saying "yes" more (when you are able to) will often lead to some really imaginative and fun activities. I really hope that you find this useful. If you have a go at any of these, please feel free to share them in the facebook group!
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Keep well and stay safe
Hello! I hope that you and your loved ones are well.
In my home we are now just entering into our fifth week of being home with no school. Emotions are running high and both children are needing quite a lot of emotion coaching at the moment. I really love the work of Professor Marc Brackett and want to share with you a couple of his quotes that I really relate to at the moment:
"Hurt feelings don't vanish on their own. They don't heal themselves. If we don't express our emotions, they pile up like a debt that will eventually come due."
Sometimes it's tempting to say "Stop crying!" and "Calm down!" (these are phrases that I have definitely used more often than I would like!). It's much more healthy for us to address what is really going on. That takes a lot of time and patience, it isn't easy and it isn't pretty! There is often crying, shouting, accusing and also snot to sit with. I wouldn't say that I have this completely covered 100%, but on the occasions when it has worked, it has been because I've held back from talking and have listened and offered hugs. Stopping a child from expressing their emotion doesn't make it disappear. Another quote of Marc's that I love is:
"Labelling your emotions is key. If you can name it, you can tame it"
This is where the coaching comes in. When children are upset, it isn't enough for us to say "It's ok". Quite often children don't even know what "it" is. In fact a lot of adults find it hard to label their emotions.
In practical terms, this is where you reflect back the emotions that the child is feeling and also validate them. For example "You are feeling really disappointed that your brother doesn't want to sit on your bed for the story, he said he would and now he's changed his mind and that is really upsetting. It's hard when people change their mind, being disappointed doesn't feel nice, would you like a hug?" works better than "Stop fussing and go to sleep!". Experience of both strategies have taught me that although it's quicker to snap, it doesn't lead to a quick bedtime!
I am not a perfect parent. I do not communicate with my children like this all the time; those who know me well will attest to this! But I do believe that the emotional literacy of our children is key to their well-being.
I have realised that at times when we are being creative, we find it easier to talk. My children often share thoughts or worries when they are doing or making. With this in mind, I have interviewed theraputic arts and drama practioner, Lindsay Jane Hunter about creativity at home. I will be sharing the link to this on Tuesday evening in the facebook group Julia Hankins Well-Being at Home. It can be accessed at anytime, in it Lindsay talks about the benefits and practicalities of bringing creativity into your home, even if you don't feel creative. I loved chatting about this and I hope that you will find it useful.
Keep well and keep safe
This week, I am thinking about love languages and how they relate to our well-being. My reason for this is that I realised today that I haven't really been paying much attention to the love languages of my family recently. For me it's a really useful thing to consider when you are having a disconnection from someone. For example, me and my husband have different ways of showing our love and sometimes I find myself irritated that he hasn't spent much time connecting with me through conversation (something that is one of MY love languages) and completely over-looking the fact that he has mended something of mine without being asked or spent time creating something for us to use as a family (which is HIS language of love). We all show our feelings in different ways and sometimes when we feel our needs aren't being met, we can make the assumption that we aren't being loved or cared for.
This happened in my home today. My 8 year old shouted "No-one even cares about ME!" This is following an argument with her sibling, I had sat down and offered her a hug to talk about it and she threw herself across the room shouting that no-one cares for her. At some point I can imagine myself being irritated by her reaction and telling her that I was there trying to give her love and she didn't want it (escalating the situation even more) BUT something in me knew that this wouldn't help. I realised that I was trying to show love through physical touch (normally something that she loves) but this just wasn't what she needed or was craving for. It turned out that she had felt that she hadn't had much quality time together today - true as I was shattered as I didn't sleep well last night and to be completely honest had been busying myself with jobs and tasks rather than connecting with anyone!
Anyway to make a LOOOONG story short(ish) we chatted and cuddled and both realised that we needed to do something together.
It made me think that this week in my home I'd like to be aware of our love languages - when we are showing love to each other. I plan to draw attention to the ways that we all show love so that we can appreciate each other a little bit more. For example, when my 5 year old walks into the bathroom- while I'm on the toilet- to give me a dandelion that he has plucked from the garden, I'll try to notice that he is giving me a gift which is an act of love and I'll TRY to receive it well; as that is also an act of love!
I hope you have a fantastic week!
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Hello! I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. What a rollercoaster of a week this has been! Schools in England have been closed for a week due to Covid 19.
At some points I've been feeling incredibly lucky and almost like I'm on holiday and at others, I've been gripped by fear and worry for the future! I think these are all normal things to feel in this uncertain time and I know from my mindfulness practice and training, it is important to acknowledge the whole range of feelings.
There are so many presssures (both internal and external) that can make us feel like we need to be busy all of the time, doing all of the things; exercise programmes online, daily walk, 'home educating', keeping on top of work, planning and managing the home etc etc the list is endless and if you are anything like me, your brain will be adding to the list of 'doing' things; since last week I have worked my way around cleaning and sorting each cupbaord in the kitchen! Those of you who know me well, will know that cleaning isn't really my thing, so I know that it must be linked to feelings of anxiety and need for control.
It is completely normal to want to fill your day with a routine for some predictability, please allow space within that to take 'time in' with yourself to allow yourself to feel those feelings that you might be trying to ignore. Lean into them, be curious about it, what sensations are you having in your body? What feelings are you feeling? Allow them to come. If this is something you would like to do more of, I'll soon be launching a 'mini course' on mindfulness for yourself, just as soon as I have figured out the technology!
Today was the first day that should have been a school day. It went pretty well, we created a timetable based on the Healthy Mind Platter. I thought I'd share it with you, in case you fancied doing similar. Bearing in mind my children are 8 and 5, this routine may not be suitable for everyone but it worked nicely for us today.
We didn't have any set timings, one focus lasted about 10 minutes and another for over an hour because that is how they were feeling. We talked a lot about how we were feeling, which to me is really important (especially as my youngest had a nightmare last night).
I would highly recommend that you be guided by your children's needs and your own. I appreciate a lot of you will be having to work from home and that is REALLY hard with children around. There is only really one category that needs your undivded attention and that is 'Connecting Time' which we all need.
The Healthy Mind Routine and Ideas The resoloution on these images isn't great so I'll pop them into the facebook group too. I hope that you find them useful. It would be lovely to hear about how you are getting on if you are using the Healthy Mind categories.
If you need to work alongside your children, here are some tips and ideas:
Warm wishes to you, let's hope the sun keeps shining!
So, for us tomorrow is the first day of the new normal. The kids won't be going to school and all of my work is cancelled (my husband Guy has had his cancelled for some time now) due to Covid 19.
Many of you are in the same boat, maybe some of you have already been this way for a few days.
As a previous teacher it is tempting to get out all of my old 'teachery stuff ' create a learning timetable and start home schooling like I have seen many others share on social media. I also feel some sort of pressure to do this from social media and the pack of work sent home from school.
Lot's of people seem to think that this is the time for us to take of our parenting hat and put on a teacher's cloak (although that does sound cool!) and get to work 'educating our kids'.
I'm not going to do that.
The reason is because this isn't home educating. This is a serious global pandemic. We are in the s#*t. Everyone is.
There is no point pretending that every aspect of our lives haven't changed and just ploughing through with phonics, maths and spelling like everything is fine. It's not fine, the kids know it's not fine.
We need to nurture our children's well-being before we think about anything else. They are looking to us, thinking; What now? How do we cope with this?
This is an opportunity for us to connect with our children and model what resilience looks like. It's an opportunity to be honest, open and vulnerable with them and to reassure them.
So no. I'm not home schooling.
Of course, I am not saying that we won't have a structure to our day. Routine is important for children to feel safe, it brings order and comfort. There will be a daily routine in our home, no set timings for us, but a general 'flow' of the day to keep us all sane!
I am also not saying that there won't be any learning. As parents and carers, we are our children's number one teachers.
So what are we doing?
As a Well-Being Education Consultant I read a lot about what keeps us healthy and I love an idea proposed by Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr David Rock. They talk about The Healthy Mind Platter, similar to the Healthy Food Plate. They think that we all need 7 elements to keep our brain healthy, which leads to overall well-being. Our day in the Hankins house is going to be based around this notion:
The Healthy Mind Platter
Please excuse my scratty photo! These are the basics, the things that neuroscientists think help us to have a healthy mind when we do them daily. In very simple terms;
Maybe you would like to do this too.
So today, we talked about each element and the kids came up with ideas of things that they like to do that fit into each category.
Tomorrow we will create our own 'daily plan' base on what we think we need when. This is very personal to each family.
I really believe that involving children in their daily routine plan will help them to feel included, important and in control (so important right now).
Here are my children's ideas of what things they like to do in each category. I'll share some of their ideas in the facebook group. If you would like to do this too but are struggling with ideas, get in touch.
Keep well, and KEEP AWAY FROM EVERYONE ELSE!!
“By balancing your breathing, you can control your emotions and calm your mind. From the quiet mind arises the wisdom and insight that help you make good choices.”
According to the most recent Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (2000): 3 million people suffer from anxiety in the UK. I am one of these people. My own personal yoga and mindfulness practise helps me to keep symptoms in control and breathing exercises play such a large part of this. I feel so thankful that I am in a position to share this simple technique not only with children in my own classes, but also with parents and teachers; so that they can benefit from it and share it too.
When we teach children the skills of how to control their breath, we are giving them a gift: a skill that they can use throughout their life to help them control their emotions and regulate their bodies in a healthy way.
Benefits of Breathing Exercises
There are so many benefits to breathing exercises, here are just a few:
In getting children to connect with their breath; we are also giving them an insight into how they can control their physical body and their mental attitude. As they grow and mature, they will use these skills in their everyday life: indeed, I regularly get told anecdotes from parents of how a child has used a breathing exercise or even created their own. They love it!
Using Breath in the Classroom
As an experienced class teacher, I understand how hard transitions can be in schools. Many children struggle to move from a high energy task to a more focused lower energy activity. This is one of the ways in which breathing techniques can be so powerful. This is a really gentle form of behaviour management, which both reduces conflict and helps restore calm within the pupils and teacher. Win - win!
Take a Breath
So now you know some of the wonderful benefits of breathing exercises, why not treat yourself and take a few long, deep, luxurious breaths… How does that feel?
Thanks for reading!
“Autumn, the years last, loveliest smile!”
William Cullen Byrant
I love Autumn, it is such a fantastic time to connect with your senses and enjoy nature. I can just feel change in the air as it gets cooler and the trees share with us a myriad of beautiful colours. How can you not love the earthy smell of leaf piles in the woods? Wonder as the leaves gracefully cascade down and the satisfying crunch as you stomp along in welly- clad feet!
Yes! I LOVE Autumn. I love even more sharing its joys with children. Here are five simple ways to connect with your children or your inner child at this time of year.
Get your wellies on and go on a mindful walk.
A very simple way of connecting with the present moment is through use of the senses and this is wonderful to do outside. As well as being fun, this is fantastically grounding for anyone with anxiety, notice:
5 things that you can see (even better if it is something unusual.)
4 things that you can feel, can you feel different textures for example; a smooth pebble, a bumpy log, a waxy leaf. (Ensuring that it is safe to!)
3 things you can hear. Perhaps something close, something far away, something unfamiliar.
2 things you can smell pleasant or even unpleasant.
1 thing to taste; a sip of water, a piece of fruit or even the taste in your mouth.
Really take notice!
When you are on your walk, perhaps gather some items to bring home, really take notice of what you find. Maybe you find an acorn, be inquisitive, what does it feel like? Does it feel that way all over? What colours can you see? How heavy is it? If there are more than one, how are they different? What patterns do you see on it? Tuning in and focusing on just one thing is a form of active meditation. You could even spend some time drawing the item that you have found, you don’t need to be an artist to experience the benefits of being creative.
Create a mandala
Mandala comes from the Sanskrit word meaning circle and has been used in many religions to symbolise the universe. Creating a mandala can be used as a way of focusing attention and clearing the mind and is an active form of meditation. Nature mandalas can be made really simply by using sticks, pebbles, leaves, shells, pine cones, conkers and petals. An easy way to make one is to start with a central point (such as a stone) and build out from it. Another way is to have a circle to work from, perhaps a circle drawn on the ground with a stick, and then fill the circle with leaves of different shapes, conkers, sycamore seeds, acorns, pebbles etc.
You can create a pattern on your own or make a big one with a group of people. As you create your pattern try to bring your attention to the texture of what you are holding, the colours, smells even the sounds. Try to be totally focused on what you are creating.
Another way to be in the moment and creative in Autumn, is to do some leaf rubbing. This is really easy and lots of fun. You just need to place a leaf under a piece of paper and rub over it with a wax crayon (best if the crayon is without paper and is turned on its side). Another way of doing it is to rub using a candle, then paint over the top. It is like magic to see the shape and patterns of the leaf appearing in front of you. While you are doing it, take notice of the patterns on the leaf and all of the little veins, they really are beautiful!
Watch the sunset
One of the benefits of the longer nights is that sunsets happen so much earlier. When was the last time you watched a sunset? Really watched it? Just sitting; observing the shifting patterns in the clouds, the change in light and mood and the beautiful spectrum of colours that fill the sky is a wonderful, calming, peaceful thing to do. I love watching the sunset with my children, they always notice something that I hadn’t. It feels so special to share that moment with someone else, or even just enjoy it by yourself!
I hope that you enjoy ‘the year’s last, loveliest smile’.
In my blog, I reflect honestly about my experiences of trying to enhance the well-being of my own children.