A helping hand?

You know how things seems to suddenly creep up on you? Like age perhaps.

I remember when I was little my birthdays were so far apart. It felt like decades between each party I was able to throw and I just couldn’t wish time by fast enough. Now though you are wildly grasping at the time, it slips through your fingers like sand as it rushes past. You aren’t able to slow it or stop it. It feels like only yesterday when it was the beginning of the month and now in a week it will be the end.

The same seems to be true with my weight. I managed to get a reasonably flat stomach through exercise and watching what I eat but still having what I fancied in moderation. But now in high season weight appears to have crept on quietly. I think while I was having a bad time with my anxiety I might have let slip the healthy diet. It is difficult to keep track of what you might normally care about when all you are trying to do is survive. There are days where I literally have to grip on to the edge of my desk at work just to try and hang on to the few shreds of sanity I have. If I wasn’t on strong medications that have to be taken on an empty stomach, to stop my transplanted kidney from being rejected, I know I would comfort it. It is quite handy that I am unable to eat between the hours of 7:30 and 10:30 morning and evening.

A few more bars of chocolate sneaked in. A can of cola here and there were added. Before I knew it, my trousers were too tight. I’m now having to resort to leggings as everything else just isn’t comfortable any more. I found out that 4 extra kilos had appeared on the scale.

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I had a go at my husband Caz. ‘Why didn’t you tell me I was getting fat?’! I guess it is difficult to notice small changes if you are with someone each day. It is only when you see someone after a few weeks or months that you notice the little things.

I know exercise is THE best thing for my anxiety. But I can’t. I just can’t face it. I feel tired. My heart is already pounding away. If it is like this when I’m just going about my normal routine what would a workout do to my poor little ticker.

I decided to try meal replacement shakes. I know with all my medical problems I should go to the doctor before trying out a new exercise or diet. But it always seems to end up the same way ‘you know your body best’.

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I thought I would ease myself in so as not to shock the system. I would have a meal replacement shake instead of breakfast and have two regular meals. So far so good. It tastes pretty nice. I got the banana flavour. It is just like a MacDonald’s thick shake!

Come Monday I was ready to start with two shakes a day and a regular but healthy meal in the evening. I felt a bit silly making my shake in the canteen. There were quite a few questions. What is it? Am I on the protein shakes? You think you need to lose weight?

I didn’t actually feel hungry between meals but I still had a banana and some celery sticks just to make sure I was tided over.

I had planned on giving exercise a miss that evening but the knock on effect of consciously doing something to help yourself encouraged me to work out. And I worked out hard! I downloaded the Nike+ app and did a 45 minutes circuit training style workout. A variety of crunches, lunges, squats and other movements later in quick succession with little rest I was done. I felt so drained. I had definitely aced that workout!
I went to sleep with a headache and felt like my body was vibrating in a buzz kind of way. I didn’t feel normal but thought I may have just overdone the workout. I didn’t think any more of it.

Come the morning I still felt a little ‘distant’. It was like there was a feeling of space in my head. Such a strange way to describe it but I don’t know how else to sum it up! I had two shakes again today, but after each one I started feeling more and more sick. I had a meeting at 2pm and while the guy was talking I thought I might have to make my excuses and run out of the room. I wasn’t even sure if I could make it through the rest of the day. I just wanted to go home. But I managed to sit through the rest of the day and couldn’t wait to get home.

It must be the meal replacement shakes. Looking at the nutritional information they appear quite high in sugar – 23.0g. Maybe these sort of shakes are good for someone who is going from takeaways and ready meals to these meal replacement convenience shakes. But for me who is usually pretty careful about food but had just lost my ways it was too much for my body to handle. When I returned home from work I threw the tub in the bin.

I did manage to motivate myself to go for a half hour walk and then did a 30 minutes long HIIT and strength training session. So hopefully I can keep this up. I’m going to be sore though…!

Today, I made myself a home-made shake. It contained semi-skimmed milk, a banana, a handful of blueberries and a handful of frozen black forest fruits. Yummy! I know fruit can be high sugar too but with the carbohydrates that are in fruit too it will be longer release energy.

Then for lunch I have a sweet and crunchy salad with peppers and lettuce along with a sprinkle of chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts. I also put in a little grated mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.

There is no beating what nature produces for us. Our bodies just function so much better when we eat whole or raw ingredients.
The meal replacement shakes might work for you. But it wasn’t for me.
I think I will just stick to the following rules for a good life:

Polite Company

Polite Company

“It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?

To start with, I was going to say I disagreed with the statement that it’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know. I had thought I was quite open about what I believed in. But now I am truly thinking about it, more in depth, I realised that I generally choose not to discuss my choices of politics or religion with my colleagues or anyone really!

I was brought up as a Christian. At a young age I was Christened and it was presumed I would go on to be confirmed. But something just didn’t feel right about it with me. I didn’t understand why people went to a stuffy old building to worship a God. Surely any act, no matter how small, can be classed as worship. Why did I have to prove it by being surrounded by a group of people where I felt I was the odd one out? I was younger than everyone there. My parents tried a number of churches but they were either too somber or too happy clappy. No happy medium! I found the hymns boring and the older language didn’t make sense to me. I slowly but surely backed away from regularly attending church. I just knew if I continued going there that I would be put off religion for life.

When I was at college I joined the Christian Union. I wanted to find out if there were any other like minded people there. Turns out it is basically the nerds club. There were like 5 people there out of a large campus of youths who wanted to declare they were Christian and do something about it. I gradually drifted away from these people too. Again, I just didn’t feel I belonged.

After college I went on an Alpha course which was recommended to me by a family friend. I was really starting to doubt that religion was something I wanted to do but wanted to exhaust all the avenues first. I studied hard during the several month long course and met a wide variety of people. There were group days, lots of prayer sessions, various texts you were suggested to read and topics to really think about. I found i just didn’t feel comfortable with any of this. Praying felt awkward. I have a very inquisitive mind and kept questioning everything. I frequently found myself thinking surely I can just live a morally good life without being religious.

When I let my family know that I was going to live without a religion, instantly there were questions. What did we do to make you do this? Did we raise you incorrectly? I saw it as a freedom not a failure. I looked hard, took in the options and made my own choices. I don’t need some old text to tell me what is right or wrong. On Sunday’s I don’t sit in a church feeling cold and bored. Instead I go for a walk and be with nature. I had never judged anyone else for having chosen Christianity as their religion, it isn’t personally for me but each is welcome to their own opinion, so why was I being branded as a Satanist for choosing to follow my own path. I’m not harming anyone and I’m not telling others that their way of life is incorrect or pushing ideas down other people’s throats.

This is when I learned that you never talk about religion or politics to anyone. They are very personal choices. Disputes and even wars can be started by having the opposing opinion in either. It is better to remain on neutral ground and not bring these things up. My family and In-Laws know where my heart lies now and although they possibly don’t respect it they know that I’m happy and my mind is made up. My colleagues probably don’t know I’m an atheist but maybe now a days it is more commonly accepted or presumed that you have no religion until proven otherwise.

Does this mean that my life is now only tiny because there isn’t an afterlife in my view? That when I’m gone that is it? I think this sums it up pretty nicely. All the particles in me were once star stuff and once I’m gone the atoms will be redistributed and be put to good use. Not gone, just redefined.

Roy G. Biv

Roy G. Biv

Write about anything you’d like, but make sure that all seven colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet — make an appearance in the post, either through word or image.

Each year, for the last 3 years, Caz and I go to the racing circuit in Oulton Park to watch the British Touring Cars Championship (BTCC).
It is our nearest circuit, apart from Trac Mon in Anglesey of course, to see some big names and high octance action!

Unfortunately last year Caz was unwell and unable to go. So I called the next petrolhead who I knew would really appreciate going to see some fast cars – my Dad!

Here are some pics from the day! eBay are the most colourful team in the paddock featuring a lot of the colours of the rainbow!

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Dad by eBay Motors in the paddock

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Collard pulling into the pits at the end of the race

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Dad and his new ‘friends’!

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L-R – Rob Austin, Colin Turkington, Rob Collard

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Rob Collard after being on the podium

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Some racing action

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Me and my Dad

Four Stars

Four Stars

Write a review of your life — or the life of someone close to you — as if it were a movie or a book.

That was quite an action packed, intense read right from the word go!

When the main character entered the story she was so loved. She had everything she could ever ask for with both parents being there giving love and cuddles whenever she needed it. They were truly devoted to her.
But then disaster struck. Maybe it was to test the strength of the parents relationship? Maybe it was just bad luck? The lead character developed cancer of the kidney. It was such a difficult read during these chapters. It was so touch and go for a long while. The chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments sounded so harrowing. So much for such a young little mite to cope with. But she showed such strength and character throughout and always managed to maintain a smile. Just as you start to think she is getting better the doctors asked for a scan and found a shadow in her lungs. Her cancer had returned. She had secondary cancer.

Everything looked very bleak. Her Dad lost his job during a wave of redundancies. Her Nana, who had been fighting cancer herself, was becoming weaker and weaker. The odds were against my little warrior. The only option was to treat her new cancers with a strong, yet untested on children, drug.

A kindly neighbour who offered an attentive ear to listen to her Mum’s problems and he put things into perspective. Yes the doctors may be saying that there is an 80% chance she won’t make it, but what about that 20%? Hold on to that. Believe she will be one of the ones to prove them wrong.
It turned out he was right. By the time she started primary school she had been given the all clear. She felt a little silly to have such short hair compared to all her friends, but she was so grateful to actually be there. It didn’t matter anyway, she was beautiful on the inside and that really showed. Her Dad also managed to get a job back at his old employer to be able to support his family.

I was so relieved to read they things were starting to look up. She had been a tough little cookie. There was a bit of a sadness about her though. She had been through so much and was wiser beyond her years. After all she had witnessed so much trauma already in her short life.

Sadly though, this wasn’t the end of her issues. It was becoming a bit like the biblical story about Job. Was this happening to test her, to make her stronger for something else in her future? It all didn’t seem fair. You just wanted the little girl to be able to run and play with her friends but there were more troubles in store.

All the treatments to save her life caused other physical issues for her. You wonder if maybe it might have been kinder if she had just passed away rather than to continue suffering. But then maybe that would have denied her something wonderful that could have just been down the road and around the corner.
She had bowed legs that had to be surgically broken and straightened. Before she could barely walk, now she can do everything her heart desires.
She had a weak left ventricle in her heart that caused palpitations and dizzy spells. She had to drop her A levels and go part time in college. Effectively denying her a bright future as she could now no longer go on to a degree or further herself. Doctors were able to treat it with medication alone but she had missed out too much education to go down the route she wanted in life.

But there was one glimmer of hope. One little thing that seemed to be the answer to all her prayers – a guy!
It turned from a massive weepfest into a beautiful story of true love. Everything suddenly became a bit easier to read and less heavy. I wasn’t dreading turning the page and hearing the next horrible thing that this poor girl had to go through. I was now unable to put the book down and was experiencing butterflies in my stomach from anticipation of what I could see developing before my eyes.

Two years after dating the guy of her dreams they moved in together. It was like a light had been switched on within her. It all suddenly made sense. He was the one for her. He was the missing piece to her puzzle of life. A year later they were engaged to marry and they wanted to buy their own house. It seemed the more independence she had the happier she was. He was there to support her and help her develop into who she wanted to become. He was always there to hold her hand, wipe her tears and listen to her thoughts. They really were always there for one another. Apart they were always missing the other. Together you could tell how much they loved each other and completed one another. Even at social events or if they were sat apart you could sense these two were together. It was like there is some invisible thread joining one another.

They married in a beautiful intimate ceremony that I almost felt a part of by the way the author described every little detail. The wonderful songs they chose with the spot on lyrics. I was so proud of her. I have to admit that I did shed a few happy tears. I had been there with her reading along as she went through her journey.

Just 6 months into their marriage though I thought all was going to fall apart. She needed a kidney transplant. I was starting to get quite agitated about all the plights she was going through. She was so happy and then this! Her Dad came along and donated a kidney to her. As if her parents hadn’t already done enough for her! They were now willing to spare their own organs! The transplant didn’t really seem to remove the bounce from her stride. She just kept on going. Her husband was by her side. She knew she had been through worse before and now with him there for support she could get through this.
Less than 3 months later she was back to normal. Back in work full time and ready to face the next stages in life! I did wonder if this blip might give slightly turbulent seas for the lovely young couple. If anything though, they came out stronger and more bonded. They had been close to the edge but then guided each other back to safety.

This isn’t the end for my heroine though. The story hinted at another novel in the pipeline. The beautiful couple were embarking on a huge project to build their own house with the hope of starting a family. I want to know what happens! You do wonder if with all the treatments she has been through if that might add a spanner in the works for having a family. I really hope with all my heart that everything works out for them. I could guess and speculate about what life might turn out for her but I don’t want to jinx her future!

In summary, although it was a difficult and emotional read it is good now and then to have a cry. I would definitely recommend anyone to read this if they are having a tough time. You see that anything is possible if you believe. How she managed to keep going I will never know. There is such a strength and sassiness to her that I find inspiring. She has really put things into perspective for me. Despite whatever is going on at the moment there is always hope. Hold on to that hope and it will turn into a glimmer of happiness. Keep building that happiness and it will turn into a wonderful life you will be able to reminisce about with your children and grandchildren.

Karma Chameleon

Karma Chameleon

This just in: let’s pretend that science has proven that karma is a thing. Your words and actions will influence what happens to you in the future. How (if at all) will you change your ways?

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I’ve always been aware that I notice even the very small, perhaps insignificant, details around me.
I clock the colour and shape of the clouds and point them out to Caz, my husband, and he says he probably would never have noticed them otherwise.
My mum might think a safe place for a yet to be written birthday card is behind the ornament on the mantel piece. It turns out that is the first thing I look at and she admits she thought I wouldn’t spot it.

A lot of people go around in life glued to their phones or otherwise not taking in their surroundings. Me? I’m looking everywhere, taking everything in. I see a pretty flower a little distance from the path and avoid stepping on a small insect while making my way over. I hear the buzz of the express-way in the background but also pick up on the bird singing in the tree.
Like at this moment my husband is making dinner so I can hear the tap running, a bird singing outside, the creak of my leather sofa, the heat coming through the glass of the window, the coldness of the leather sofa against my legs, looking outside as I’m expecting someone to visit shortly and in doing so I spot a seagull flying really high in the sky that is so high up it is barely a speck.

I often wonder if it would be better for me to be able to switch off whatever part of me that picks up all the minute details. Would I be more intelligent, filling my mind with facts, maths, formulas and such? Instead there are lyrics to songs I haven’t heard in decades. The funny shaped cloud I saw yesterday. The little weeds that grow in the cracks of the pavement. The little critters large and small that pass me during my day.
But isn’t it wonderful that I seemingly never miss a thing. A fly that falls in my drink gets instantly fished out. A bee that haphazardly flies into a spiders web gets gently extracted from the trap and given the taste of freedom once again.

In the past at college I took up a years course in holistic therapies. There I learnt about massage, aromatherapy, Indian head massage and reflexology. I had a tough early start in life with having thwarted cancer twice at a young age and have always felt a sense that I wanted to return some goodness back into the world. To help people or animals in any way I could.
I keeping thinking back to one of my hopes in life which is to volunteer my spare time at an animal rescue centre. My only downfall would I may end up filling my house with all the cute animals wanting a fresh start in life, a warm place to sleep and a little love in return.

I would hope I have nothing to worry about with karma. There is a caring part to my personality. I’ve been through a lot in my years and can offer a good and experienced ear to others despite my age. As a lot of people though, there will be the occasional thought that flitters through my mind of how annoying I believe some people are.
Why are they chewing so loudly.
Couldn’t he have held the door open seeming I’m walking so close behind.
It wouldn’t have hurt her to thank me for letting her in at that junction.
But I think that it is very natural to feel put out by others now and then, especially if you have high standards you set even for yourself!
It might be nice to think that somewhere in these annoying people’s day that maybe they could knock over their drink or just stumble a little over an uneven paving slab.
Karma restored!

Powerful Suggestion

Powerful Suggestion

What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you a year (or five, or ten…) ago?

Don’t worry about the past. It has already been written and the time machine hasn’t yet been invented so you can’t go back and change it.

Try not to worry about the future. Maybe your wildest dreams will come true. You never know or can predict what is just around the corner. Isn’t that exciting?!

Do the things that make you smile. Usually these are the little things. Joking around with your friends and being a little childish. You will come to realise it is the little moments that make life big.

Wear clothing that is comfortable or that makes you feel great. It doesn’t matter if it clashes or that it is just from a high street store. If you like it, then that is all that matter.

Spend time with the people you love. That can be family or friends. Sometimes your true family aren’t blood relations. They are just the people that light up your life and make it worth living.

If there are people in your life who suck the joy out of your day, spend less time with them or remove them from your inner circle. Don’t let them have a control over you.

Don’t change who your are or put your life on hold for others. If people can’t accept you for who you are and what you want to do, then that is their problem.

Learn to say no more. If you are already swamped with tasks, or have your own chores to be getting on with, then feel able to say no. You will only burn yourself out.

Learn to say yes more. If you are nervous about going to that drink with workmates just say yes. You will find they are actually fun people and you will enjoy yourself.

Just remember, this is your life and you get to live it the way you want to. Be kind, be grateful and have fun while you make mistakes and gain experiences. Sometimes things go well and other times it will go so badly that you can’t see the light. Keep your chin up and know that it is all worth it in the end. Difficult sometimes but worth it.

Caffeine and Anxiety

Recently, I have been wondering if I can correlate what I do, where I go and what I eat with how my emotions are.

When I go to the seaside am I calmer?
If I drink more than 3 cups of coffee a day am I more anxious?
Do I feel better when I have a small square of good quality chocolate every day?

I really try and drink plenty of water each day. It is good for my skin and obviously really good for my transplanted kidney! Often I try and replace my cup of tea or coffee with herbal teas. Nettle tea is meant to be wonderful for kidneys so I try and drink that once a day. I also really love camomile or fennel tea. There is just something so comforting about them. But as good as I try and be, there are times when I look at the range of teas I have and not a single one tempts me. I just look at them and think urgh and then reach for my jar of coffee.

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I think the issue is when I’m feeling low and a little off balance I can end up being a bit fussy and only wanting comfort foods. I’m sure there is no coincidence that a lot of comfort foods begin with the same letter – ‘C’. Chips, Crisps, Chocolate…
I don’t comfort eat to the extent that I have weight issues. But somehow I seem to achieve the opposite of comfort. I feel guilty, sluggish, tired and unhappy with myself after I reach for the less than healthy snacks.

Some people are morning people. Some people are night owls. I’m not really either. I seem to have the same low level of energy throughout the day. Having a coffee to wake me up doesn’t seem to do anything for me. I like to have a coffee after dinner to relax. On occasion where I have drank quite a lot of caffeine it seems to have the opposite effect on me. Instead of waking me up, it actually makes me sleepy.
In fact, I seem to have opposite reactions to a lot of things. Once I was given adrenaline as part of a check for my heart health. It made my blood pressure plummet and I went really dizzy. That is the opposite effect the nurse was expecting and a doctor had to be called and I was laid down on a bed with my knees up. Another time I was given antihistamine as a preventative measure as the next medication they were going to give me could cause unpleasant reactions. Very quickly my face went blotchy and I felt like my throat was starting to slightly swell…

But is there any evidence to link between anxiety and caffeine?

The effects of caffeine are highlighted below:

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One study carried out looked at if there was an Association Between A2a Receptor Gene Polymorphisms and
Caffeine-Induced Anxiety. Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world: 82–92% of the adults in North America report regular consumption of caffeine-containing beverages. They used a total of 100 healthy, infrequent caffeine users, 54 men and 46 women. Essentially in the end they found that caffeine significantly increased scores on Stimulation, Anxiety and decreased scores on Depression and Fatigue.

This article says Consuming too much caffeine when you are already highly stressed is like adding fuel to the fire: you are simply revving up your body’s stress response. So we need to be wary of the link between caffeine and anxiety.

Coffee-induced anxiety <— This gives a lot of good advice and interesting glimpses into caffeine. If you go in complaining of panic attacks the first question they ask is do you drink coffee and how soon if your panic after your morning beverage.
The American Psychiatric Association has added three caffeine related disorders to its list of official diagnoses: caffeine intoxication, caffeine-related anxiety and caffeine-related sleep disorders. Caffeine is after all a psychoactive drug but it is the most widely used mood-altering drug in the world. Caffeine generally gives a sense of energy, focus, alertness, concentration, and memory for the majority of people.
However people predisposed to anxiety disorders may find caffeine can trigger a spiral of sensations. It can make your heart beat faster, raise your blood pressure, cause headaches, nervousness and dizziness. As we associate these feelings with a panic attack our body can then go into panic mode. It can be our head misinterpreting what are actually just the effects of caffeine. Nothing bad has happened, your body is just physically reacting to coffee but you are now going through the fight of flight scenario.

Obviously there are a variety of triggers for anxiety. But I was just pondering if caffeine might not be helping me in finding the peace and calm I have been seeking.
It seems to be suggested you start to taper off your caffeine consumption. Remember caffeine is in many foods and drinks – coffee is just the first one you think of! Tea (even green tea), carbonated beverages, chocolate, cocoa… Lots of things!

So from this weekend I will be stocking up on herbal teas and having a proper go at reducing my caffeine intake. I read this blog post and she says that although she still has anxiety after cutting out coffee, it seems to be slightly better. She has spells of calm and the panics don’t last as long. If this is something I could potentially have then I will try anything – I will hold on to that hopeful thought!