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5 Things To… Improve Communication With Your Partner

 

By Catherine Topham Sly @insightandconnection

A note from Anna: Amidst the challenges of the last year, investing in our relationships with our partners may have slid down the list of priorities. In our household, we often have to remind ourselves that we are on the same team as we find ourselves bickering or feeling misunderstood. Catherine gives us some golden tips on how we can best approach these moments of tension and frustration.

We all know that communication is one of the secrets to a happy relationship. But it can be hard to know how to do it well. This is especially true when we didn’t grow up around great communicators (so that’s most of us, including me).

When you can’t get through to your partner it’s frustrating, stressful, and ultimately, miserable.

Most of the time, better communication means being a touch braver. We have to trust our partners – and ourselves – enough to take a risk and let them see a little bit more of us.

In my experience working with couples, our partners know way less about how we feel about things than we think. And stuff said in arguments usually doesn’t go in properly, because we can’t think straight when we’re angry. So if you haven’t talked about it calmly, you haven’t talked about it.

It can be scary to say how you feel, what’s worrying you, or what you need. It’s worth it though, to break those frustrating patterns of misunderstandings that only leave you feeling further apart.

1. Say how you feel (not what your partner’s doing wrong!)

Most of us here in the West were not brought up to pay much attention to our emotions. And everyone wants a partner who’s easy-going, right?

So what we tend to do is put up with things, often not fully aware we’re getting annoyed or upset. We often do this until something tips us over the edge and we blow. Sound familiar?

Then our perfectly valid complaints come out critical or blaming. And the trouble with this is that criticism just invites defensiveness.

Want to break that frustrating pattern of criticism-defence? This is how: notice and talk more about how you feel. Take the focus off what your partner has (or hasn’t) done. State the facts of the situation, as blandly as possible. Then tell them how you feel about it – using emotion words.

So instead of saying, “You never listen to me!” try, “When I’m saying something and you look at your phone, I feel rejected”.

Think they already know how you feel? Don’t be so sure. Humans are not as see-through as we think we are.

2. Share what you imagine

One of the most powerful changes you can make in your relationship is to get into the habit of saying the things you’re imagining.

Most of us do something like this. But a lot of the time they come out as accusations. So when you’re frustrated, you might say something like, “You don’t care about me at all!”

Where does this get us? More defensiveness. (Ugh.)

See if you can be brave enough to share your fears from a softer place. Try something like, “When you looked away, I imagined you weren’t interested in what I had to say… or even in me.”

Find the courage to let your partner hear about your worries. When they see your vulnerable side, they’ll feel more empathy and softness towards you. This will make them feel closer to you, and more willing to help.

3. Ask for what you need

How do you know you need to address something? An emotion tells you, whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness, or even excitement.

That’s how it works: feelings are messengers about needs.

Ask yourself, “What do I need?” whenever you feel a wave of emotion. (This will change not just your relationship with your partner but your life.)

We can’t always get all our needs met, at least at the same time. But until we acknowledge and discuss them, we’re missing opportunities to find solutions.

“I need you to give me your undivided attention for a few minutes” is a great start. “Because I need to feel like I’m important to you and you want to understand me” is even better.

It helps to follow up needs with specific requests, like “Would you be willing to…?”

If your partner isn’t used to talking like this, they might not respond how you want at first. Stay with it – a request is just the starting point of a negotiation.

4. Say ‘and’ not ‘but’

The simple habit of saying and instead of but can transform your communication. This might sound like verbal trickery. But it can actually create a genuine shift in how you and your partner look at things.

The trouble with the word but is that it often dismisses whatever came before it. And, on the other hand, is expansive.

If my partner says, “I’m exhausted” and I say, “But I need you to do this”, how will he feel? Like I completely invalidated his exhaustion.

If I say, “I know you’re exhausted, and we need to do get this done”, he’ll at least feel seen and understood.

That’s the point of a partnership, by the way: to make your partner feel loved, appreciated, understood, accepted, important, and close to you. The rest is just details.

5. Know when it’s better not to talk

You might think that a relationship therapist would recommend always talking about everything. Nope!

There are plenty of times when it’s better not to talk. If either of you is angry, hungry, exhausted, drunk, in a bad mood, or feeling insecure, or if the kids are in the room, wait.

Take a break whenever either of you feels overwhelmed by a conversation. If you keep getting wound up every time you come back to a topic, it can help to write to each other instead.

The thing about communication is that often less is more. If you bang on about things, your partner will stop listening. See if you can make your point in just a few sentences, and then leave it. Resist the urge to say it again a different way. Let it sink in.

Research has found that happy couples say five positive things to each other for every one negative. Try keeping track of your ratio. Increase the number of compliments and thanks your partner hears. See what changes.

Want to know the great thing about improving communication? Small changes can have a massive impact. Vulnerability is strength – watch what happens when you lean into yours.

I want to shout less. I want to drink less.

‘I shouted at Charlie. Like, really shouted at him. He cried. I cried, and now I feel bad’

Oh Anna, we all do that.
Don’t worry about it.
It’s tough.
Everyone loses it sometimes.
It’s not like it’s all the time.

‘I can’t remember the last day I didn’t have a drink. Just one the evening, but I need to have more booze free days’

Don’t worry about that.

Everyone is doing it.
It’s necessary, it’s needed.
You deserve it. What else do you have to look forward to?
It’s not like it’s a bottle.

I’ve uttered both of these things over the last few months, many times in varying ways. To friends on walks, on the phone.

Both are normalised, the shouting, the losing your rag. Oh those days when I gaze at the small, sleeping form of my child, stroke a cheek and promise to do better the next day. To be more present. Oh the days I climb into bed, my body softened by wine, promising to replace the next day’s pouring of a glass with the rolling out of a yoga mat.

But it’s all hard. Because it’s hard. And whilst my heart knows what I need, my mind and body are challenged by the upheaval of time, support, friendship, change in context, and adventures beyond my postcode.

So I swallow down emotions. I ignore a need for space because it’s not easy to find it, practically, logistically. I hold it all in, my edges taught and stretched like an overstuffed bin-bag. But sometimes it all comes pouring out, a broken damn, spilling everywhere, causing flood damage in its wake.

But those things require intention and intention requires discipline.
And discipline requires energy.
So I sink into habit, because it requires so little of either.
I continue. I fill up, I spill out.

Oh the release. Oh the guilt.

I flop onto the sofa. Knowing I need to talk, to be heard, to process. Knowing I need to rest, not scroll, talk not stare at yet another episode of a programme who’s plotline I have long lost. I need to wind down, to slow down, to calm my wired mind.

But those things require intention and intention requires discipline.
And discipline requires energy.
So I sink into habit, because it requires so little of either.
I pour a glass, I sigh, my shoulders drop.

Oh the release. Oh the guilt.

But in reaching out to friends, I get support. It all gets normalised. I am not alone, we are not alone. In the shouting, in the pouring of a glass. In all of the things.

Yet the guilt never softened with the utterances of ‘we’re all doing it’.

Because, underneath, whilst I know I am not alone, I also know we need to be gentle on ourselves, I am stepping beyond my own sense of what is okay for me. I do not want to let loose on my kids, I do not want to join them in their tantrums. I do not want to be reaching for daily wine as a means to a chaotic end.

In the normalising of things that deep down, I know aren’t right for me, I’m not falling to meet an unreachable bar, I’m lowering a valid one.

Sometimes, our minds want to hear ‘It’s fine’ whilst our hearts are whispering ‘will you stand with me as I seek better?’.

When we are full, and tired, and stretched and wired, it’s easier to spill out and fall into our own cracks.

I spoke to my husband about my overstuffed bin-bag. And we planned and we juggled, and I battled with the guilt that rose when he pledged to take the toddler for a daily walk so we could focus on home learning. I coach myself to accept the offer of an extra ten minutes in bed, or head up for an early night even though we’re half way through an episode.

And I fight the guilt, and do it anyway, because half an hour’s reading in bed can be the difference between having a messy meltdown, and the ability to breathe through the stress instead.

And as for the daily wine, I found a couple of friends who said ‘me too’, who echoed my ‘it’s understandable but it’s not what I want either’. And we’ve been doing a month of consistent booze free weekdays and it feels good.

But it’s a dance, a dalliance between what I want and what I need. Where compassion and care collide with, zig zag and cross over ease and gentleness. But it’s a dance I’m glad I’m dancing, all the same.

If the relief of normalising no longer hits the sweet spot that silences guilt, then perhaps your heart is whispering ‘will you stand with me as I seek better for myself?’.

Sometimes our yearning for ‘better’ isn’t driven by perfectionism.

It’s driven by a deep desire for freedom from the things that keep the flames of guilt alight
And for someone to stand beside you as you reach for it.

Ruby in the Rubble – How do you eat an elephant?

Ruby in the Rubble submission by Laura Castree

How do you eat an elephant? With a knife and fork.

A note from Anna: Perfectionism can find us inactive, halting moving forward because the cost of getting it (whatever it may be) wrong in some way, is high!  For many who struggle with procrastination, the issue is less often laziness and more often the fear of failure. A task can feel so insurmountable when the desire to do it perfectly is strong. I absolutely love Laura’s story of how a simple question has become a weapon with which she repeatedly breaks through this barrier of stifling perfectionism.

From a young age I have been aware of two warring factions within myself, which so often are forced into uncomfortable co-existence in those they afflict: ambition and perfectionism. I never wondered how exactly I inherited this particular mixture of blessing and curse; I grew up in a home which was the product and reward of my father’s incredible ambition, which was anchored by my mother’s loving perfectionism. Seeing what these two traits had done for my parents and for me meant that I never once considered that they would be difficult to manage when combined within one individual.

In reality, it has taken years for me to harness and manage these impulses. School days are, of course, the best of our lives, but for me they often proved overwhelming. I adored writing, but a word limit often stretched out before me as a seemingly insurmountable challenge. I spent evenings crafting vivid and wonderful futures for myself, and found myself horrified at the thought of the impossible feats required to achieve them. This ebb and flow of ambition, so often stalled and defeated by perfectionist anxiety, became more of a burden than a blessing.

In the height of one such episode, I remember being stopped in my tracks when some unfortunate unpaid therapist of mine posed the question that would change my life: “Look. How do you eat an elephant? With a knife and fork.” I wish I could say that I remember the date, particular meltdown and wonderful individual who gave me this gift, but unfortunately it is only the memory of this phrase which has endured. The first remarkable impact it had was to force me to pause, frown, and then laugh. I am now a teacher of secondary school children and this is still a moment I truly adore. I have deployed this phrase to pupils gulping down sobs after friendship breakdowns, hyperventilating before exams, and proclaiming that they are simply unable to process German grammar. The first gift offered by this phrase is that it forces the recipient to stop, think, and breathe, like the moment’s respite you experience when passing under a bridge in the pouring rain.

The second miracle in this simple phrase, is that it begins to transform a perilous mountain pass into a series of familiar stepping stones, and to transform our journey into a sequence of one foot after the other. I have personally never endeavoured to eat an elephant, but I am generally proficient in the use of a knife and fork, and as such already possess the tools to contemplate such a mammoth task (pun intended). When we think of overwhelming tasks we tend to envisage them in their towering, terrifying entirety, like the notion of eating an elephant in one mouthful. In reality they are so often comprised of a sequence of smaller bites which may take time and grit, but are certainly within our grasp. At one point several years ago I found myself in a position where I was simultaneously applying for teacher training programmes, selling my first home and buying another, studying an advanced French course in the evening and working full-time during the day. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody, it was made possible by my miraculous elephant mantra; if I had taken a step back to look upon the situation I would most likely have failed, but instead I planned and lived in week-sized portions and somehow emerged victorious.

For me, the elephant has taken different forms over time. My inherited blend of ambition and perfectionism often produces elephants of my own making, as above, but it also makes our current, inescapable situation very uncomfortable. The indefinite expanse of time spent in lockdown stretching out before us is an elephant in itself; a parallel universe where ambitions are simply on pause and perfectionism is often beyond our grasp. I have friends who are home-schooling whilst breastfeeding for whom the routine of every day is an elephant, and I have family in the process of grieving who cannot even envisage the size and scope of theirs.

Whilst we are all experiencing our collective trauma very differently, what we all have in common is our knife and fork. Some days we pick them up with relish, and others with a sigh, but we pick them up nonetheless. The final gift of my lifesaving phrase is the promise it makes that you can, and will, eat your elephant. It might take months, or years, and you might throw down your knife and fork one day only to retrieve them the next, but one day you will accomplish the feat which once seemed simply too gargantuan and absurd to contemplate. How do you eat an elephant? With a knife and fork.

A different way of seeing self-care

I think I’ve changed my mind about self-care.

Self-care is not a shower. It’s not peeing when you need to. It’s not hydrating or going to bed instead of doing another load of washing.

That is self-respect.

Does my husband think he’s engaging in ‘a little self care’ when he hops into the shower to wash the day away? Or pours a quenching glass of tap water? (I can’t imagine that the thought even passes his mind to de-prioritise those basic rights anyway).

Yet we approach them with the indulgence and logistics of a spa-day.

Self-respect is meeting your basic needs.

They bring me to some kind of base level.

The over-and-above are the things that are more likely to relieve us from teetering on the edge of overwhelm. The extra. The things that bring us back to ourselves.

It’s not the speedy shower, but the long bath with a page-turner novel

It’s not the gulped down cuppa, but the coffee catching up with a friend

It’s not the ‘gimme a minute’ it’s the ‘please help me work out how I can get an hour or two’

It’s not the message reply ‘yeah I’m having a hard time’, it’s the ‘can we talk?’

It’s not the grab’ n go lunch but the one prepared and enjoyed sat down.

But perhaps we can find small ways to offer ourselves more than just the bare minimum. Upping our standards for what we deem a treat.

If I promised my kids a special day out and took them to the supermarket, they’d be solely disappointed.

If we pledge to work on our sense of worth and then ‘treat’ ourselves with a glass of water or a wee, then….some part of us learns to believe that‘a the limit of our deservedness, and that everything else is a guilt-ridden indulgence.

Self-respect should be the very basic, non negotiable level. And then everything else goes on top, the extras, the nice stuff. Because….*sits on hands trying not to type ‘you’re worth it*….well, because.

Just a thought.

5 things to…stop people pleasing

Stop people pleasing getting in the way of your dreams

5 Things Guest Submission by Joy Jewell @self.hood

A note from Anna: As someone who has struggled under the immense and relentless pressure of pleasing others, I am incredibly passionate about encouraging people to address this as a gift for themselves. Joy brings us some salient tips so that we can find our voice and claim our space as someone equally deserving of having our needs and feelings validated!

For generations women have been raised to give it all up for their family, to be the supportive wife and mother who puts everyone else first, saying yes to everything in a desperate plight to keep them happy. We’ve been moulded into people pleasers, dropping everything to support not just our family, but anyone around us.

Being a people pleaser is a tough gig because it’s a life of sacrifice. You can’t spend your days fulfilling the wishes and desires of others without giving up your own. In order to give someone time and energy you have to take them out of your own resources; once they are handed over they can’t be taken back.

As a result, you feel unfulfilled. You are so busy looking after everyone else’s wellbeing and supporting your loved ones in pursuing their dreams, you let your own dreams become dormant.

You tell yourself  ‘one day’.

When the kids start school or leave home, or your partner gets that promotion, or you retire… one day gets pushed back again and again.

People pleasing is a huge obstacle to personal fulfillment because it gets in the way of doing things for yourself – whether it’s spending some time alone to relax, or pursuing much bigger life goals.

Something has to give. It’s time to stop filling everyone else’s cup and start pouring into your own. Here’s how to start breaking free from people pleasing so that you can stop minimising yourself and live the life you deserve.

    1. Learn How to Say No
      Saying no lowers stress levels and frees up time, but the mere thought of it can create anxiety. Saying no does not equate to being unlikeable. It’s ok to turn things down. It doesn’t make you a bad person.If a straight ‘no’ feels uncomfortable, try these:Delay: On the verge of a panicked yes? Buy time with ‘I’ll have to get back to you’. This lets you come back with a considered ‘no’ when you’re less pressured.Gratitude: If you can’t yet separate saying no with being rude, start with gratitude. ‘Oh thank you for thinking of me, I’m afraid I’ll have to decline this time’ is to the point and kind.

      Alternative: It is possible to say no and still be helpful. Simply provide an alternative. Refer them to someone else, suggest another time in the future, or offer more hands off support.

    1. Turn ‘Should’ into ‘Could’
      We have a habit of filling our world with ‘shoulds’. ‘I should take the kids to the park, I should drink more water, I should do more exercise, I should be more productive’.Should is loaded with pressure. It’s demanding, overbearing… a burden. The ‘shoulds’ are always in the background convincing you that you aren’t doing enough. It’s exhausting.What if we replace ‘should’ with ‘could’? Suddenly, the pressure is lifted. We no longer feel like we are behind, frantically trying to catch up. ‘Could’ turns ‘should’ into an opportunity, not a demand. Where ‘should’ is asking for an end goal, ‘could’ gives you options.For a people pleaser, who often feels burdened by the things they think they have to do, this is an important and liberating shift. It allows you to pick and choose between the tasks that serve you, and those that don’t.
    1. Budget your Time and Pay Yourself First
      Picture each hour of the day as a coin. You start out with 24, just like everyone else. Several coins are spent straight away on sleep, then there are the non-negotiables like eating, cooking and basic hygiene. It’s up to you where to spend what’s left, but a people pleaser will give away their coins without hesitation, to anyone who asks for it. At the end of the day, there’s nothing left in the pot for you and you may feel taken advantage of.Time is a precious non-renewable resource, and life is short. We never know when our time is going to run out. Just like you would budget 24 coins, thinking carefully about how to spend them, get into the habit of budgeting your time too, always earmarking some for yourself every day. Pay yourself first, make it a daily priority.
    1. The 3 Ds
      People pleasers often think they need to do more, or do better. You take on all the responsibility for tasks, forcing a smile as you do so, but you are left feeling like you are drowning in your to-do list and don’t know how to come up for air.Feeling like you can’t cope is promptly followed by feelings of failure. Here’s the thing: you are allowed to ask for help, you are allowed to let things go, you are allowed to save things for another day. It doesn’t mean failing.Next time overwhelm creeps in remember the 3 Ds: delegate, delete, delay. Get all the tasks that you feel swamped by into a list and decide which can be delegated to someone else, deleted completely, or delayed to another time. Not only does this help beat overwhelm, it creates time for things which truly serve you.
    1. Celebrate your Own Achievements, Daily
      Do you need validation in order to feel good about yourself? Years of putting all your focus on other people can leave you unsure of yourself, so you look for approval from those around you.It is possible to appreciate your worth without looking to other people to reinforce it.Start celebrating your wins, especially the small ones. Going for a walk when the sofa was more inviting, making time to meditate, reading a chapter of your book, saying no instead of a knee-jerk yes… celebrating these daily achievements will help you raise your self esteem by getting you into the habit of thinking about yourself in a more positive way.

By following these five tips, you can break out of the people pleaser trap and start shining a light on the hopes and ambitions you have for your own life, gloriously guilt free.

Maybe it’s hard because it’s hard

If you’re finding life, the struggle with the juggle, the rollercoaster… hard, it’s so easy to slip into a feeling of failure. To be blaming yourself for not keeping all of the balls in the air, shaming yourself for finding it tough when in many ways you feel very lucky.

I wanted to share with you a lightbulb moment (you know I love a lightbulb moment) I had at the beginning of the first UK pandemic lockdown in March 2020. It feels so relevant, and is something I keep returning to:

Something clicked last night. I cried tears that I knew would sting in the morning. Trying to work out why even though my home is FULL of the things I love, my family, my job, I felt so…needing.

Life has become stripped back. What has remained here, in my home is my family and my work.

Both require me. Lots of me. All the time.

I look into their faces and I want to see them, to hear them. But it’s like wearing headphones with the radio stuck on. My mind is busy and fast, and loud. I’m there but I’m not.

I answer questions on autopilot. Realising seconds later that I’ve agreed to chocolate as I serve dinner. Charlie, my son, calls my name 5 times. I hear him but I don’t.

I want to be here, yet my mind leaps like a confused frog, from present to future. The weight of the to-do list, food shopping, emails, people I need to check in on, sits on my shoulders and in my heart.

And then I realised what I was hungry for. Lazy discussion about everything and nothing. Being with those who don’t care whether or not you provide a snack or an email.

I miss the 23-second conversations had whilst leaning against a friend’s washing machine, interrupted by fights over toys. I miss the presence of a friend.

I know we have phones and zoom. It’s something. But it’s like being served a softening poppadum when you’re hungry for the full curry shebang.

I miss just BEING with. Just being me, with no expectation, request or agenda.

Those playdate half-conversations never felt long enough. The kid free supermarket dashes never felt quite enough space. But they clearly gave me more than I realised. And I miss them. Little mini respites from the intensity. Little things that fuelled and refilled us more than we knew at the time.

 I took a lone walk, called a couple of friends, and came home feeling so refreshed, and known. It helps.

Maybe it’s just hard because it’s hard. I know some people have it ‘harder’. But this is MY hard’

If this feeling resonates, here are some tips that might help:

  • Make time for yourself. Be it a snatched ten minutes here, an early retreat to bed with a book instead of a phone, a bath over a speedy shower. You might have to fiddle with logistics, to ask for support in facilitating those moments of space, but prioritise them as if your family depend on you being refilled and refuelled.
  • Try to avoid the temptation to invalidate your feelings with gratitude and positivity. They are powerful tools, but ensure that you’re bringing them ALONGSIDE your feelings, rather than forcing yourself to feel grateful INSTEAD of overwhelmed. You can feel both.
  • Breathe. Literally. When we are stressed, we our breath is impacted. You might breathe more shallower, higher in your chest, you might clench your jaw or skip a breath all together. Become mindful of your breath, slow it down and deepen it. It helps calm your nervous system.
  • Bin all the ‘should’s right now. I ‘should’ be doing more, I ‘should’ be better. Right now the focus needs to be on surviving and nurturing your mental health.
  • Adopt a mantra to help ground you. When I realise I’m slipping into a sense of failure I repeat ‘It’s hard because it’s hard’. It introduces a little compassion into my mindset! We all need more of that.
  • Seek support in whatever way you can. I spent many years of life fearing being a burden, but I’m realising that sharing the burden with the right people doesn’t mean I am one.
  • Work on your self-esteem. Often the reasons we find it so challenging to reprioritise ourselves is because, deep down, we don’t believe we are worthy of kindness, from ourselves or from others. Have a look at my Week on Worth Course as a great first step into sending your self-esteem on an upward spiral.
  • Check your inner dialogue. If you’re critical and bullying, try and imagine what a kind, compassionate friend would say. Introduce a kinder voice where you can to counteract the critic.

 

Ruby in the Rubble – Love Sweat and Tees

Ruby in the Rubble submission by @lovesweatandtees

A note from Anna: As someone who’s world has been changed by a cancer diagnosis (of my Sister), I know how it can shake the very foundations we stand upon. Hayley brings us her ‘Ruby in The Rubble’ story. Her husband’s cancer diagnosis bought with it a reason to jump into some of the things that had only until then, existed as dreams. Be encouraged and inspired as you read her words, and then enjoy a browse of Love Sweat and Tees, her business that was birthed from a tough time!

“Just bad luck”. That was the explanation provided by my husband’s wonderful surgeon when we asked how it was possible that a sporty, fit, healthy 40-year-old could have been diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer. It was April 2017. My husband Ben had been feeling unwell for around six months. He was passing blood in his poo, had stomach pains and night sweats. Many visits to the GP and a couple of blood tests during that period had seen him diagnosed with nothing more severe than a urine infection and piles but after insisting, he was finally referred for a colonoscopy to enable a camera to take a closer look at the inside of his bowel. The colonoscopy identified a 5cm tumour in his lower intestine that we were soon after told was cancerous and had spread to his lymph nodes.

The initial diagnosis left us in total shock. Ben was super sporty; you name it he could play it, from tennis to rugby. He didn’t smoke, wasn’t a big drinker and ate well. Not a normal profile for bowel cancer. Until then we had both led very happy, healthy lives with few bumps in the road that we hadn’t been able to overcome with hard work and the support of those around us. We’d both grown up with wonderful families and a close knit group of friends. The two of us had become friends at university, stayed in occasional contact as we both lived in London and got together in 2003 in our mid-twenties. We moved in together after six months, got married a few years later, moved out to the leafy suburbs of Buckinghamshire and had two wonderful happy, healthy children, Max and Arthur.

To be faced with something so totally unexpected that could not be solved through trying / training / working hard, and that was totally out of our control was devastating for both of us. It turned our lives upside down. It felt bigger than the diagnosis itself – it took away the certainty that we’d both taken for granted until then that life would be OK, that anything was surmountable, that we would bring our children up as a happy unit of four.

Our children were 9 and 6 years old at the time. Ben was a very hands-on daddy. While we both worked long hours during the week, our family time generally revolved around sport, largely led by Ben. He coached our 6-year old’s football team. He’d spend hours with the boys teaching them how to pass a rugby ball or bowl a cricket ball (and teaching me too!). He was the centre of our world. Trying to explain to the that daddy had cancer, that he’d need a big operation and medicine called chemotherapy and that he would be feeling very poorly was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do.

Just three weeks after his diagnosis, Ben underwent a bowel resection. The tumour and lymph nodes were removed and Ben spent the following three weeks in hospital recovering from surgery. The children were desperate to see him but seeing him with many tubes, attached to monitors and often semi-conscious due to the pain medication left the children worried and confused. The worry about Ben and about the impact on the children as well as the practicalities of lone parenting, visiting, organising left me exhausted with little time or emotional energy to do much more than just keep going, let alone really process anything that was happening.

In the months that followed, Ben underwent chemotherapy that left him weak and sick. He did what he could when he could but was often unable to do more than lie on the sofa. A short walk each day left him exhausted. He was thin and weak and often looked a worrying pale yellow-grey colour. On top of the physical stress was the worry that the chemo wouldn’t work, that the cancer would come back and that he wouldn’t see the boys grow up.

Before Ben’s cancer diagnosis, our lives had followed a steady, tradition path: university, stable jobs, marriage, children, suburbia. We were conservative with money – always saving for the future when we thought we’d do something more fun, more meaningful that the steady 9-5. We had often talked about what we’d do when we had the money, the time, the freedom from mortgage payments and expectations about our careers. We often used the phrase “this time next year Rodney” – a phrase from Only Fools and Horses that basically referenced the fact that things would be different “next year”, “in a few years” “at some point in the future”. I had always dreamt of running my own business. We’d always planned to run the London Marathon. Our holidays had generally been UK-based to conserve money “for the future” but we dreamt of travelling with the boys. Until Ben’s diagnosis we’d always felt comfortable in the knowledge that we could do all of these things when the time was right. Cancer changed all of that. It took away the certainty of a future. “This time next year” might never arrive. But among all of those feelings was something positive – our ruby in the rubble. It was the sense that life is short and it’s for living now and despite the exhaustion for both of us it drove us to do more with 2017 than we could have ever imagined possible.

Fast forward to April 2018, just six months after Ben finished chemotherapy and Ben I found ourselves on the starting line for the London Marathon, having raised over £10K in sponsorship for Bowel Cancer UK, a charity that offered us support and advice throughout Ben’s treatment. I trained from June 2017, throughout Ben’s treatment. Ben started training in November 2017, just after his last course of chemo. He ran it in just under four hours. I took slightly (a lot) longer. He always was annoyingly good at sport. Had it not been for Ben’s cancer diagnosis that would have been a dream, something on our “this time next year Rodney list” even now.

The bigger ruby in the rubble for me was the launch of my business, Love Sweat + Tees. It had always been my dream to run my own business. I had worked in fashion retail for many years and I knew a thing or two about the power of a good outfit as confidence-giving, mood-changing expression of self-worth and self-care. When I had children I increasingly found that, while my work wardrobe expressed me and my sense of style, I relied on the same couple of pairs of jeans and plain hoodies whilst running around with the kids. A rare night out required serious thought to find an outfit that ticked the “cool, stylish but not overdressed box”. There were no effortlessly stylish outfits to hand. Growing ever more frustrated with the lack of good quality, hardworking “forever” pieces in my day to day wardrobe that expressed my sense of style outside of work, I dreamt of one day creating my own independent brand. I had business plans and roadmaps but it never felt like quite the right time to make that jump. Ben’s diagnosis gave me that push.

Despite a juggling a full time job, caring for two young children and a poorly husband, managing the cooking and cleaning solo, I decided that 2017 was the time to go ahead and start my business. I started Love Sweat and Tees in October 2017, after months of researching ethical production, testing the quality of sweats, poring over colour charts and learning about printing techniques. I launched with a small collection of six sweaters. Looking back, it was total madness to try to do this while Ben was ill and I don’t know what I was thinking. But Love Sweat + Tees has gone from strength to strength. I now have a collection of over fifty products, a huge number of wonderfully loyal customers and sell to eighteen wholesale boutiques. I still run the business alongside a full time job and plenty of games of football with a (now healthy) Ben and (now slightly older and more boisterous) boys. It took Ben’s diagnosis to make it all feel not only possible but necessary to get on and do the things that we knew would make our lives happier and more fulfilling.

That’s not to say that we don’t still have dreams that we put off, that now that Ben has fully recovered we don’t find it easier to add things to our list than to live in the moment. I think that most of us are like that. But I think the change of perspective that cancer brought with it will forever give us a little push whenever we get to comfortable with putting things off until “this time next year, Rodney”.


Three steps to letting go of guilt

Guilt for not being enough, doing enough, doing it well enough. Guilt for juggling, for struggling, or for thriving when others are surviving. Guilt for wanting space, for finding it hard when others have it harder. Guilt for not being present, for resenting, for wanting more. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

Guilt has become the soundtrack to many of our lives.

Unnecessarily.

When I feel guilty, my internal dialogue gets a little (ahem, a lot) more critical. I’m less likely to engage in the things that help me, and more likely to engage in the things that harm me.

Self-sabotage, self-destructive behaviours increase because I feel guilty, I feel bad. I feel less deserving of good things. Good things like rest, support, insight, compassion, empathy. And goodness me, wouldn’t we all benefit from more of those things?

So if you also have a habit of carrying guilt around like a heavy, sooty rock deep in the core of your belly read on, because…

It doesn’t need to be this way.

I want to share with you three small albeit mighty powerful steps to letting go of guilt.

This is an excerpt from The Week on Worth Course  I go into much more detail on guilt and self-esteem within the course, which will be a great next step if you want to explore this further.

But first of all, you need to know that guilt isn’t there to shame you. It’s there to prompt you.

Guilt isn’t there to point the finger, to brandish the whip, to turn up the knob on the gas burner of self-criticism. It’s there as a sensation, as a little flag that pops up to say ‘hey, something needs addressing’.

The guilt we feel often sits in one of two camps: Justified and unjustified. And determining which kind of guilt it is that you are feeling can be really helpful.

Justified guilt

This is the kind of guilt that comes when we have done something wrong. We have hurt someone intentionally or unintentionally; perhaps we have acted in a manner that we aren’t proud of; or made a decision that has come with negative repercussions. This guilt is felt because our actions conflict with our ethics.

Unjustified guilt

This is the type of guilt that comes when you haven’t done wrong.

It might be that someone has done something wrong to us, and we feel a sense of responsibility that isn’t ours to carry. A good way to test whether your guilt is unjustified is to consider how you’d respond if someone told you they were blaming themselves for the same thing.

For example, I felt guilt and shame for my period of post-natal depression and the fact that I wasn’t able to be the mum for that

I’d wanted to be for my kids during that time. Was this my fault? Had I done anything wrong? Or was it the circumstances I found myself in? If someone had told me that they felt shame for the same thing, I’d desire for them to feel the compassion for themselves that I felt towards them.

Regardless of what you feel guilty about, whether it’s justified or unjustified, guilt is there to prompt you to action, not to shame you. Here is my ACT tip for the next time you feel a wave of guilt or want to address the weight of guilt in your stomach:

Address it.

Imagine that guilt as a rock sitting on the palm of your hand. Look at it and ask yourself what it is about. Why is it there? What do you believe you’ve done wrong? Is it justified or unjustified? What would you say to a friend if they told you they felt guilt about this?

Compassion.

We ALL deserve compassion. If you did something wrong intentionally, find a way to inject some compassion into it. You may need to be a little creative, but it’s an important step as when we feel only shame, we stay stuck in a cycle of shame and criticism. It hinders us from developing healthy self-esteem. Introducing compassion doesn’t absolve you of responsibility, it just enables you to address it more constructively.

Perhaps I hurt a friend because I feared they’d reject me at some point, so I did it to gain a sense of control. The hurt is the action I feel guilty about, yet the fear deserves compassion.

Tweak.

So now you know what the guilt is, and you’ve injected some compassion. The final step is to make a tweak or action based on that insight. If you feel guilty because you’ve hurt a friend, talk with them about the fear you’ve identified. Apologise, and then let it go.

Maybe I equip myself with a technique, or I do some research to gain further insight into my own responses. Perhaps I feel guilty about

being on my phone too much, so I consider placing boundaries around my usage. I can then set the guilt rock down. I’ve addressed it. It is no longer of use to me. I don’t need to carry that weight.

If your guilt is unjustified, this process is very important. We sometimes direct hurt and anger towards ourselves as a way of making sense of difficult circumstances, or someone else’s treatment of us. If you feel you’d benefit from talking in more depth with a trusted friend or therapist, please take the step to do so. That is a statement of worth! You’re worthy of support in that process.

I hope this helps as you navigate the many feelings and demands that come with the pandemic. You need more of what you need to keep going, and unaddressed guilt is likely to stand in the way of you believing you’re deserving of that.

Just because you feel guilty, it doesn’t mean you are guilty.

Further resources:

The Week on Worth Course – Download now for £25

On Feeling Less Guilty – 10 Minute episode of The Therapy Edit

Counselling Directory

Mental health charities and organisations

Home Learning with ease and without pressure

More Enjoyment – Less Pressure

5 Things Guest Submission by @enchantednanny

A note from Anna: I count myself privileged to call The Enchanted Nanny a friend having handed tiny Florence over to her care almost two years ago whilst I spoke to a group of mums about post natal anxiety. Danielle has had my three captivated by her Youtube phonics, songs and story times, more than Peppa Pig ever did! Her desire is to support parents in supporting their young ones as we all feel our way through the Pandemic. So, feel the pressure lift as you read her words today.

It comes as no surprise that parents are struggling with the world’s new situation. The weight of children’s education has fallen directly onto the shoulders of those not trained to hold it.

It’s like being presented with the rough blueprints of a house, along with a pile of bricks, some tools and a loose set of instructions – and expecting to create a structurally sound home.

The impact of attempting to complete the task to perfection, while also maintaining the life you had before would cause no end of stress, anxiety, upset and eventually burn out. As well as a messy, unfinished, slightly wobbly house.

Much better in this instance, to admit that attempting the whole task blindly is simply not sensible, and that your time would be better spent laying and maintaining the house’s foundations, organising the bricks and getting ready for the construction team to hit the ground running when they take over.

Most parents are not trained to provide the intricacies of a full school day, and those that are certainly did not learn to deliver their profession from home, while balancing siblings, housework and a pandemic. It’s vitally important that parents understand that they are not expected to build the whole house – to be teacher, mum, emotional counsellor, chef. Instead, parents need to feel informed and supported, and to understand that this time is about maintaining the foundations, not attempting to build the whole house.

1- Remove the Pressure

Children are resilient. It’s their superpower. They make the best of a situation and they bounce back. Although this time seems long and detrimental, please remind yourself often that in the grand scheme of things, this is a small segment of their young lives. They haven’t stopped learning just because the learning is no longer formal and set within the walls of a school. Your children continue to learn every day, whether you are consciously teaching them or not. No one (and I have spoken to many school head teachers to verify this) is expecting you to facilitate a school setting or bridge the gap in their learning. Please remove that pressure and expectation from your already burdened shoulders. YES we want them to keep learning NO this does not mean teaching to a structured, formal and fast paced timetable at all times.

2- Find the Magic

I am not saying that this experience is easy or that every moment is magical. Most of us are not used to being with our children 24/7 and it’s not without it’s challenges. This situation does however present us with a unique opportunity to surrender our structure opening the door to new experiences and learning opportunities with our children. Being with them every day gives us time to be surprised by them, intrigued by them and to learn who they are as people. Our children are being granted the gift of experiencing us as individuals too – as we learn alongside them. They have seen us laugh, cry, they witness our struggles, our triumphs and sharing these moments with us is creating a bond between parents and children, the impact of which I think we will see when this generation are parents themselves.

3- Have a Safety Net

It’s SO important to know that you are NOT alone in any of this. There are professionals and resources out there to help you across or around every obstacle, whether it’s help with the educational stumbling blocks, mental health support, child development advice, support groups or even pages specifically designed to give you regular breaks while your children learn, sing or play.

This list is best made when you’re alone and calm. Fill it with links to ANYTHING that will get you through predicted tricky moments. This list will be your safety net. You’ll know that you can ‘break glass in emergency’ and it’s always their when you need to solve a problem and no longer have the energy.

Fill your safety net with those closest to you. I have a code word for when I am at breaking point. I send it to my Mum and she calls and supports from afar.

4- Build in a Release Valve

One little change that can have the most positive impact is understanding that you are free to set a home learning schedule that suits YOU and your household. This might mean learning Sat-Wed instead of Mon-Fri or completing the bulk of the learning early in the morning or much later in the afternoon. It’s home learning and you’re in charge!

Tension can build in even the calmest of households, so build in a release valve and know that you can use it at any time. You can guarantee that whatever your release valves are, they will still include some important learning. Ours is building a ‘spa at home’ or baking and cooking together. BOOM

an important lesson in self-care, maths and culinary skills – and a much more relaxed and happy family!

5- Carve out a Sacred Learning Space that Your Child Will Want to Spend Time in

We all work best in different environments. Some like blank, tidy spaces others prefer being surrounded by colour and white noise. Some learners are visual, some auditory and some learn best when moving around. Creating a sacred learning space for your child is vital and avoids a negative association with learning and their memory of our current situation.

Ensure they know it is theirs, that it feels personal, the lighting is good and it’s separate from the rest of their world, with all of the tools they’ll need close by.

My middle child is a visual/kinaesthetic learner, she sees, feels and moves in order to learn best. Learning prompts have been displayed on the wall along with her favourite drawing and physical resources are readily available, there’s space to move. I’ve popped some cheap and cheerful flowers on her table and we start each learning session with a cup of something warm. The sacredness of all of this has made her learning special and comfortable – for both of us.

 

Practical Ways to Protect your Mental Health in Isolation

You only have to glance the aisles of the supermarkets to know that people have been considering the practicalities of being isolated in their own homes. But how do we address the impact that isolation will have on our mental health?

Understandably, there is a lot of fear, trepidation and anxiety around the uncertainty of our global situation. It’s hard and worrying, because…it IS hard and worrying. Covid-19 is the term upon everyone’s lips, and many things hang in the balance. If you’re experiencing anxiety, read my article on addressing coronavirus anxiety here.

I’m going to give you practical tips to protect your mental health as we follow government guidelines for the foreseeable future.

Make space

Whilst the physical space that is available to us will be limited significantly to normal, ‘space’ is going be harder to come across. If you are living with others, find ways to create personal space and quiet away from the noise.

Perhaps you agree a set time in the day where you take it in turns to have half an hour on uninterrupted quiet, set your alarm so that you wake to stillness. You might find it helpful to retreat to a particular corner of your home and put your headphones on.

Increased emotions

This enforced slowness may well bring to the surface emotions that have been hidden in the busyness of life. As the pace slows, emotions such as grief, fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, trauma and sadness may emerge from the depths of where they have been hidden.

It is important to find ways to to verbalise some of these emotions. It can feel vulnerable, but the only way to process, and soften emotion is to give it appropriate space. If you can, speak to a trusted friend or family member. Take little steps of openness. You don’t have to tell them everything straight away, but it’s important to validate and respect what you are feeling. You might want to speak with your GP, or browse these helplines.

Seek physical comfort

I don’t think we realise how much small gestures of touch positively impact our mental health until they aren’t possible. A hug, a handshake, the brush of an arm or the pat of a back – all work to make us feel accepted and appreciated. For some, the lack of touch is going to feel prominent.

If appropriate (strictly following guidelines relevant for you), increase physical contact with pets and those in your home. More hugs with kids or drag the cat upon your lap as you watch TV. If you are alone and isolated, wrap a heavy blanket tightly around your shoulders for a feeling of containment. It’s not the same, I know, but it’s something.

Hold house meetings

Your home is likely to be used differently now there may be more people there. Hold regular meetings in order to delegate responsibilities. With lack of commutes, and the home doubling up as a workplace, you may need to set new boundaries and adapt roles. Unclear boundaries, confused roles and mismatched expectations can cause resentment and frustration.

Be intentional not passive

Let’s face it, whilst we can hazard a guess and make speculation, we don’t know exactly how long we will be isolated. Our government are constantly assessing and amending guidelines.

Don’t put life on hold. We have a choice on how we view this period of life. If we see it as a waiting room, we may become passive, letting the days slip through our fingers as we wait for some kind of familiarity to resume. Or we can use this time to learn, grow, develop relationships and invest in things that have been on the back burner! There is absolutely time and need for quiet and rest, but being intentional about the way we choose to live could mean that we learn and grow positively as individuals and families.

Maintain the weekend

It could be so easy to forget what day of the week it is, but finding ways to maintain the structure of the week can be really helpful. Having the weekend to look forward to gives us something to lean towards as we complete another week. In our home, you’ll find relaxed rules, pyjamas at breakfast, a little more tv and more exciting snacks!

Combat boredom

Boredom is something that we have long avoided with busyness, and filling every moment with a scroll or a soundtrack. Boredom isn’t a negative thing, yet it has been something we have tried to avoid at all costs.

Boredom gives our brains space to process feelings and experiences. It allows us to daydream and get creative. Remember the pre-technology days when sitting on a train or a plane meant looking out the window, thinking, remembering. That was valuable time.

Boredom is uncomfortable when we feel anxious, or have suppressed emotion because the feelings and thoughts y come forward when space is found. Once we begin to find techniques that help us productively acknowledge and address our anxiety and any trauma, we can start to enjoy those moments of boredom.

These next few weeks are a great opportunity to do this. See my home based Reframing Anxiety Course (use discount code ra-save15), or my post on coronavirus anxiety to help with this.

Gratitude for the small

Grab a piece of paper and write down a list of 30 things that you are grateful for. Note how you feel beforehand, and how you feel afterwards. Gratitude is a powerful tool, it calls us to look at what is right and good in our lives, bringing balance and perspective.

Bringing balance into confusion

I’m going to tell you a personal story to illustrate this.

I remember being ten. I was with my younger brother, rolling sideways down a steep, grassy slope in our little village. We were laughing hysterically, swaying dizzily as we stood. The thing was, we were rolling down the slope of a graveyard. Short weeks after we stood there burying our sister.

It wasn’t that grief didn’t sit like an elephant on our small hearts, or that our cheeks weren’t stinging from the salty tears we cried. It was that, in that moment, there was joy. And we didn’t know to strip the richness of the laughter by focussing on the aching confusion and pain. We just let it be. Sure there were tears that came after. Confusion, vulnerability – it was all there. But there was also laughter and joy too.

There is pain, hardship, uncertainty. There are tears, grief, fear. But when we let ourselves see and experience the joy, or pertinence of the moments that we walk through, it brings balance. It brings perspective.

No feeling is out of bounds. You may find yourself feeling a multitude of conflicting emotions and that is okay. Remind yourself that you can feel frustration AND relief. Fear AND happiness. Grief AND joy. Feelings may sound they are contradicting one another, but we are multi-layered beings, the more we try and dictate what we should or shouldn’t be feeling, the harder it makes them to process, and therefore pass!

Seek support

If you are living in a situation in which you are in emotional or physical risk, or living in relationship dynamics that are harmful in some way. Please seek support. You’ll find details on how to get support for domestic abuse here, and relationship support here.

If you are concerned about your mental health, you can find some tips for anxiety here, along with some contacts for support. You might find it very helpful to connect with people who are in similar situations to you. Mind has an online peer support community called Elefriends .

Monitor digital usage

We are going to be leaning on technology and the online world more to entertain, connect and support us. The internet can be both constructive and destructive, and it’s important to monitor how we are utilising it. Scrolling to feel connected is one thing, but if we find ourselves embroiled in a cloud of unhealthy comparison that makes us feel worse, then it’s not so helpful.

Consider using apps to help monitor and guide your use of social media and how long you spend on it. Before you pick up your phone, consider why and whether you’re going to benefit from the way you may be intending to use it. If you want to explore this further, this page is helpful.

Find light relief

Watch or read somethings that make you smile and laugh, or pick up the phone to someone who never fails to raise your spirits. Laughter brings a welcome dose of happy endorphins, seek it and enjoy it.

Do something for others

Altruism is good for mental health. Helping others gives us a sense of purpose and accomplishment. What might you do to support those around you in any way, big or small? Perhaps calling an elderly neighbour, or dropping some groceries on the doorstep of a family who need them.

Instil routine

Building routine can be really grounding. Even though we cannot plan our days around the things we usually do, you can still benefit from the predictability of routine by creating your own. However, ensure it is lose enough so as not to increase stress. Ensure plenty of flexibility to allow for fluctuating mood and feelings.

I’d recommend getting up and going to bed at the same time you usually do. Get up and dressed and make the bed. It may be a good chance to tweak routine to benefit you, adding in things you don’t usually find the time for such as exercise or hobbies. It’s still good to do the things that make you feel yourself – like wearing clothes you enjoy regardless of who sees you.

Get fresh air

Regardless of what restrictions are placed on spending time outdoors, ensure that you are getting a dose of nature every day. It is known to improve mood and reduce stress. Get outside if guidelines allow can or sit on your doorstep with your morning cup of tea if you are able. But regardless, open the windows daily even if it means wearing an extra layer. Bring the outside in – bring a pot plant indoors, lie or sit and listen to the sounds that come through your open window.

Be productive

Feeling like we’ve accomplished something is so rewarding and enforces a sense of purpose. Consider what you might be able to tick off the to-do list each day. Maybe there is a drawer you’ve always intended to clear out, or the kitchen has been begging for a thorough clean. Perhaps your digital photos need sorting, and you’ve always meant to map out some photo books!

Stimulate your brain

Have you always wanted to learn a new language, master crochet, or have a pile of industry magazines that have sat gathering dust? Now is the time. Regardless of whether you are working at home or not, keep your brain stimulated, however don’t pressure yourself to have to do it all!

Setting yourself a task or a project gives something to work towards and it’s always really enjoyable to see progress in your skills! There are lots of apps that help your learn languages, podcasts to give insight into different topics. What’s more the FutureLearn and OpenLearn websites offer some free online courses!

Keep connected

Pick up the phone and have voice to voice discussions with friends and family. It’s easier to simply send messages, but visual and voice calls give more of a sense of being with that person. It’s not the same as physically being with someone, but it’s beneficial in maintaining relationships. Text messages can be easily misunderstood too, so seeing and hearing someone adds context as you can hear tone of voice and see expression.

Seek at least one voice-to-voice conversation per day, especially if you’re alone. If you’re not able to do this, listen to talk shows on the radio to provide a sense of verbal company.

Get creative

In stressful or worrying times it can be a welcome relief to get respite from our own thoughts. Flow activity examples are colouring, jigsaws, painting, sudoku, playing board games or cards and other activities in which you lose track of time! The world around you quietens and stress is calmed.

Increase self-care

Our main excuse for not engaging in self care has been that we are too busy. But now the busyness has been stripped away, if you still find it hard, it’s often because you don’t believe you are worth acts of kindness towards yourself. Address your internal dialogue. Living in a home with an internal bully isn’t going to be helpful at all. Start to introduce a more kind and compassionate voice, and hopefully you’ll then find it easier to engage in acts of nourishment.

Move

Whatever your experience of exercise, now is a good time to routinely engage in it at home. We are so fortunate that the digital world offers many free workouts for all levels of experience and fitness.

Whether you engage in some gentle movement, or something more intense, all you need is space for a mat. Exercise is brilliant for both mental and physical health as they are inextricably linked. Find something suitable for your fitness level, and perhaps find an app or Facebook group that encourages a sense of community and

Eat well

In stressful times it’s increasingly tempting to comfort eat. However, this is such a good time to consider how you might eat well for mental health. Eating well has a positive impact on both our physical and mental health, whereas consistent overindulging makes us feel sluggish. If you struggle with this, and would like some further support, visit the BEAT website.

Cooking itself can be therapeutic. If you’re a sofa eater, challenge yourself to head to the table for some mealtimes. If you don’t have people to eat with at home, try a FaceTime dinner date. With online supermarket deliveries in high demand, batch cooking healthy, warming, balanced meals will get more out of your order.

Pep talk

I just wanted to finish with a pep talk. I so wish I had the answers, but I don’t. So see this as a metaphorical hand on your shoulder. This is a tough time of unchartered territory. The ground on which you stand has been shaken and we are all stumbling around trying to find ways to navigate the constantly changing guidelines and rules. There is collective grief, grief for the things that are no longer as we know them, fear for the health of those we love. Be kind to yourself, there is no map. Lower your standards of what you ‘should’ be achieving. You will get into a groove in time. The forced slower pace will become a new kind of normal, the and jarring sense of uncertainty and fear will blur. Focus on today, this moment. Use all the support mechanisms available to you. Anchor yourself in the things you know to be true so that they bring balance to the unanswered questions. It’s hard because it is hard. It’s tough, because it’s tough. But so are you.

 

 

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