Why I am banned from grocery shopping

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I wonder why it is that certain subjects get blogged about by many people at the same time. Today there seem to be a few of us thinking about our grocery shopping experiences; what exciting lives we do lead.

My husband banned me from grocery shopping soon after we got married. He was shocked to discover that I bought only what I felt like eating at the time, with no thought for the future including the next day. I would wander up and down the aisles, filling my trolley with whatever caught my eye and looked tasty. I never planned meals and rarely bought basic ingredients. Most appalling of all in his eyes, I did not consider cheaper brands or stock up on items when they were on special offer.

I saw no problem with eating breakfast cereal for dinner, toast topped with whatever I happened to find in my cupboards, and bananas. I always bought bananas. My cupboards usually contained a variety of boxed and tinned goods, coffee and packets of biscuits. When I ran out of food I would go shopping again. Normally I went because I was hungry; apparently this is not a good idea.

Occasionally I would invite friends round for dinner. On these rare occasions I would hunt out a recipe and hit the supermarket with a list of  ingredients, many of which I had never heard of before. I was always trying to cook a dish for the first time when I was feeding somebody else, with varying success. As my flat had an ancient oven that belched smoke (I wasn’t yet aware that they should be cleaned occasionally) the suggested cooking temperature did not always produce the expected results. As far as I am aware, I have yet to poison a dinner guest.

My husband assumed that I would know how to shop and cook, I have no idea why. The first meal I fed him was a slice of pizza that I found lurking in the freezer section of my fridge, a baked potato and some tinned vegetables; impressive huh? I had no interest in acquiring cookery skills when I lived with my parents so left home knowing how to scramble an egg and toast cheese but little else. As a student I ate a lot of bread products and those ubiquitous bananas; obviously I survived. As I have been trying to lose weight since I was sixteen, food was my enemy and the less I had to do with it the better.

My husband can cook. In the early years of our marriage, when we were both working full time, he cooked at least as much as I did. When the kids came along though, and I became a stay at home mum, I was required to take on the role of family food provider. Now that I had babies to feed I started thinking about balance and nutrition. Too many mushy bananas are not good to deal with when processed by nappy wearers.

My husband still did not trust me to do the grocery shopping though. During the baby years I struggled to leave the house due to the need to shower and put on clothes. Also, I did not have a car. I would give my husband a list of food to buy and he would pick up provisions when he was out and about. This arrangement worked fine for both of us.

And then all the big supermarkets started to introduce on line ordering with a home delivery service. For this to work I had to plan out meals a fortnight in advance and let my husband know exactly what I needed. He would set up the order and I would stay in to accept the crates of groceries and put the food away. Suddenly I was organised with a rolling fortnightly menu that rarely changed; how boring this felt.

I sometimes miss those early dinners of a bag of cookies from the in store bakery and a banana eaten in front of the TV. I am still constantly trying to lose weight. If any kids are reading this, don’t be fooled into thinking you get to do what you want when you grow up. My husband may have killed my ability to be impulsive with his practical and efficient ideas, but it is my teenagers who nag me about my continuing inclination to adopt odd eating habits. I may now be able to produce a variety of nutritious meals from scratch each evening, but the only time that I truly enjoy my food is when the preparation has been taken on by somebody else.

The bad mother

Perfection Pending

This post is part of a parenting Blog Hop over at Perfection Pending

I felt like the world’s worst mom on Friday, and I suspect that my youngest son may concur with this opinion of my mothering skills. I would ask him except he is fast asleep, snuggled up in bed with his favourite teddy bear, on a Monday morning in term time. Even teenagers taller than their mothers benefit from a favourite teddy bear when they are ill.

On good weather days my son will sometimes cycle to school. As he is one of those computer game playing, stay holed up in his room type teenagers, we actively encourage this rare exercise. On Friday he set off in the morning with a friend, the second time in the week that they had cycled in to school together.

Being early in the year my son has had a full winter to lose whatever semblance of fitness he managed to acquire last year. As we live on a hill he finds the final mile home tough. After a busy day at school he just wants to get back to his computer, and the prospect of traversing that steep hill is off putting.

The routine has been the same in previous years. When his fitness levels are low he will sometimes phone to ask me to rescue him; to drive down to the cycle path, load him and his bike into the car, and bring them back the easy way. As I am not easily persuadable, especially when I know that he will benefit from the exercise, he will claim that he feels ill.

This has worked on a fair few occasions. However, when he started to get ill from just cycling three miles along fairly flat terrain, and recovery took about fifteen minutes from entering the house, I grew wise to his cunning. When he called for assistance I refused to collect him, an act that caused a great deal of complaint but no lasting damage. As his fitness improved so the calls for help diminished along with his journey times.

I guess we all know Aesop’s fable, ‘The boy who cried wolf’. Last Friday he texted to say that he was ill and I told him to cycle home. He told me that he had a headache and couldn’t cycle so I told him to walk. In my mind I was being harsh but fair, tough love. Except this time he really was ill. He tried to get home and couldn’t do it, so he phoned a friend. Friend’s mother rescued him, a kind and generous act that I humbly thanked her for the next day. The guilt I felt cannot be expressed.

As soon as he got home son went straight to bed and slept through until the late morning, a straight seventeen hours of sleep; it was obvious that I had messed up. He has had a fitful weekend, barely eating, with long periods of rest. Every time I see his pale face and dark ringed eyes I inwardly berate myself for not taking notice when he called me. What sort of a mother am I that I will not believe my own son?

My other two children are more circumspect. They remind me that their brother is one of those people who cannot seem to cope with illness. Whereas they will generally be stoic, he fusses and complains over the slightest ache or pain. It has always been hard to know when he really does have anything wrong with him; there is the regular suspicion that he simply wants to avoid the training session or have the day off school. He certainly claims illness more than anyone else in the family, yet is clearly not an unhealthy child.

I feel guilty for not believing him and guilty that a lovely neighbour had to rescue my son. I know that neither of these things are major issues, but mother guilt is so hard to cope with. I messed up and my son suffered.

Have you ever made a decision about your kids that proved wrong? Finding the correct balance between offering support and teaching personal responsibility can be a challenge.

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A small postscript to this sorry tale. Lest any of you fear that my son may be spending his recovery time playing on line games, worry not. For no reason that we can fathom, the hard drive on his computer died on Saturday afternoon. It will take at least three weeks for a replacement machine to be delivered; he is not a happy boy.

Best laid plans

To read the other posts in this Blog Hop click on the badge and follow the links.
Perfection Pending

In case anyone missed it, yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day. As an Irish girl living in a foreign land I am, of course, enthusiastic in my support of my home country. I mean, I wouldn’t want to live there again, but I am more than happy to lay claim to my Irishness from a distance at every opportunity that presents itself.

Over the weekend the boys in green did us proud by winning the Six Nations rugby championship after a hard fought game against France in Paris. Yesterday, another slightly less illustrious rugby match was played, one that I used to support from the freezing cold stands at Ravenhill in Belfast and which fostered my continuing mild interest in the sport. The school that my niece now attends came up trumps winning the Schools’ Cup final. My understanding is that they were worthy victors in another close fought match.

I wanted to wish my friends and followers a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day so, with my love of Teddy Bears, was delighted to find this little video which I spread around my social media sites: Irish Dancing Bears. After a wobbly start to the day, by evening I was feeling good, ready to celebrate, looking forward to continuing with my many and varied plans for the week ahead.

Except this morning I woke up feeling dreadful. Not mentally dreadful this time but physically, so now my plans are in disarray. I had to cancel the appointment I had made with my gym coach as I could barely make it downstairs for a cup of much needed tea, let alone think of attempting a workout. The swim I had planned is not going to happen this afternoon, and it remains to be seen if I can summon the energy to craft a story I hoped to submit to a challenge later.

In the grand scheme of things me being ill is not the disaster that it once was. I no longer have young children who need my time and attention; as co owner of our business I can grant myself time off work when needed, I have not been required on a client site in years. Being ill has simply messed up my own schedule and fuddled my brain. It is frustrating that my determination to make this week count has been scuppered so unexpectedly. I do not like surprises, especially ones that demand I do not stray more than a few feet from a bathroom.

At times like this I am grateful for machines. When I struggle downstairs to fetch myself another drink I can load and switch on the dishwasher, sort a pile of washing, then escape back to my bed to rest my aching head. I am also grateful for the home delivery service that will ensure my groceries arrive as planned. By the time my family return home this evening the worst of their detritus will have been sorted and the cupboards restocked. The house may not be as clean and tidy as I would like, I may not manage to achieve much for myself, but my little family should not be inconvenienced.

Why am I so concerned about not inconveniencing my family? A part of me thinks that I should just lie here until someone comes home and then wail about how awful I feel, try to drum up a bit of sympathy or appreciation for the efforts I go to making sure their lives run so smoothly. Of course, I will not do this. Mums are expected to cope, not to make a fuss. It would be an interesting experiment to see how they reacted if I suddenly demanded some attention, but I will not be putting them to the test.

I have walks with friends planned for later in the week as well as an important meeting at my children’s school, so I hope that this illness is short lived. I am impatient with incapacity; I do not show enough appreciation for my normally healthy body. Days such as today when I feel so dreadful remind me that I take it too much for granted.

Even assuming that I recover quickly I will now be playing catch up for the rest of the week; perhaps next week will be better. I would feel more positive about that thought if it did not recur on an almost weekly basis.

sick girl 

Lent: what can I do, not what can I do without

I woke up to blue skies and sunshine on Saturday, the first day of Spring. I have a vase full of freshly cut daffodils from my garden brightening up my kitchen; there are signs of buds and leaves emerging from the bare, woody plants in my garden.


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New life, a promise of warmth, a chance to relax and enjoy the view from the back of my house as the seemingly endless grey skies of recent months finally lift.

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After my few days away over half term I came back wanting to write, yet found that I was too busy with chores and children, mess and disorganisation. When I eventually sat myself down to put words into my computer they poured out of me like a flood. I found time for little else until the need to create abated. Flitting from one extreme to the other in this way creates rush and stress, I need to find balance.

With Lent approaching I have been considering how I can improve. I do not plan to give anything up, to fast, but instead I will try to focus on the meditative side of Christ’s retreat. I am thinking about what I can do in order to become a better wife, mother, friend, person; what can I do rather than what can I do without.

With the advent of Spring comes an increase in family activity and additional demands on my time. If I am to become the person that I wish to be then I need to look after myself better, to be mindful of my own well being. This is not about navel gazing but rather of searching out ways to improve my health and thereby my ability to give.

My hens are starting to lay more eggs after their long, winter rest. This evening, Shrove Tuesday, we will use their bounty and feast on pancakes.

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My husband will take up duty at the stove, heating and tossing the batter, while I try to persuade my children to choose the savoury fillings before moving on to the lemon and sugar, sticky syrup or chocolate banana that they favour. Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, I will begin yet another quest for self improvement.

As with many new beginnings, my desire is strong. Unfortunately, in recent months, my resolve in these matters has proven to be disappointingly weak. All that I can do is to keep trying; moving forward is the only option, time travel only goes one way.

This Lent I will be trying to establish a daily routine that enables me to restore balance to my life. I have not been making best use of my time and the knock on effect has been heightened stress as I have been unable to maintain standards in certain areas that matter to me. I have also been neglecting my health which has drained my energy levels. I will be looking at this little graphic and reminding myself that each of these areas requires attention, not just the one that appears the most desirable at a given time.

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There are so many things that I wish to do, but if I am to tread gently through this life then I must ensure that I remain mindful of both myself and others. We reflect and absorb what goes on around us, affecting all by how we live.

I feel that I am in a better place now than I was a year ago. I am learning to avoid damaging situations, even when others do not understand why I must act as I do. I am learning to stand up for my right to be me.

This Lent I will try to use the inner strength that I am building on to quietly offer more to those I care about. Small steps, mindfully taken.

‘Tread gently and remember that we are both inhabitants and stewards of nature in our neighbourhoods.’ 

So what do I do all day?

As a stay at home mum there are plenty out there who love to comment on my lifestyle, choices and use of time. There is the obvious and predictable ‘So what do you do all day?’ To be honest though, most people are more subtle.

Some share such unasked for nuggets of thought as ‘I would get bored at home all day’ or ‘Have you thought of going back to work?’

Others point out opportunities that they seem to feel I am missing out on such as volunteer positions in areas of interest, or clubs and societies that they believe I would benefit from joining.

They mean well. They sincerely wish to help. These are friendly, caring people who have my best interests at heart.

The only problem with all of these well intentioned comments is that they suggest I have too much time on my hands. Please allow me to make an announcement people: I do not have nearly enough time to achieve all of the things that I wish to do. If you could arrange it for me, another half dozen hours each day would be great thanks. If you can’t manage that then I need to be more efficient with all that I already try to do in order to fit it all in.

I know that I am in the fortunate position of being able to choose how I spend a large chunk of my week. Once I get the food, cleaning, tidying and laundry sorted each day I can tackle my ‘to do’ list. There are ongoing jobs in the house and garden to see to, my hens to keep happy and a running list of tasks to complete for family members. After that I move onto the things that I choose to do for me, and it is here that I never have enough time.

I want to visit the gym, go for walks, swim, meet up with friends, read books, watch films and write. I cannot get all of these done in the time available.

Take this week as an example. I wanted to write three short stories for three challenges. So far I have written two, one of which I was pleased with and one which I felt I had to rush, but which I will submit for the useful feedback. I still hope to find time to write the third but I am not sure when I will be able to squeeze this in.

In order to participate in one of the challenges I was required to read over thirty short stories, so that has been my reading this week. I haven’t had time to open a book since the weekend, and I have been leant one that I really want to read. I need to clear this as I have agreed to do a book review for another on line site, so when my copy of that arrives it will take priority.

On two mornings this week I met up with friends for walks, getting rather wet in the process given our recent weather. It was great to catch up with these lovely ladies, but in choosing to walk I have not been able to find time to visit the gym or swim. I miss my relaxing swims as they give me an opportunity to think about and plan my stories.

I am sitting here writing again when I should really be prepping dinner, thus my early evening will be spent on that task. It all fits so long as I do not plan any relaxation time, so no films until the weekend.

Now of course, I could just not write. I am not required to read or exercise. So long as I keep the house ticking over most of the things that I do are for me. I am well aware that there are many people who do not have my freedom of choice, who have to go out to earn a living or who have young and demanding children to care for. I am well aware of the privileges that I enjoy.

My point is that I do not need more to fill my time, I already try to squeeze too much into each day. I have no idea how my friends find the time to go to their clubs and societies, I guess they just give these higher priority than some other things they may also consider doing.

That is what it comes down to after all, priorities. I have hobbies and interests that eat time. I derive satisfaction from creating stories, maintaining this blog, joining in with discussions on the writer’s communities on line to which I subscribe. I do what feels right for me, whereas others do what feels right for them.

So what do I do all day? As much as I can squeeze into the few short hours between when I get up in the morning and when I go to bed at night. At the end of each day, if I have created a new piece of writing with which I am pleased then I feel that I have achieved something. Perhaps tomorrow I will find time for that workout and swim.

However you choose to fill whatever free time you have, I hope that you derive enjoyment from it. Such time is never wasted.

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First day blues

This week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop has the theme the First Day of School.

You can steal me and use me as your own

I had never intended to be there. This had not been a part of my grand, life plan, dreamed about for so many years. Nevertheless, there I was, standing around waiting to meet up with a few old friends from school who had also ended up at this place. We were getting together to attend the Fresher’s Bazaar on our first day at university.

In 1983 The Queens University of Belfast was not the university of choice for most British students. It had a highly regarded medical school where students got to see first hand how to treat bomb damaged bodies and the victims of shootings. Being so close to the centre of a troubled city was not, however, regarded as ideal for those unfamiliar with the province. However good the teaching may have been, location mattered.

It was not The Troubles that I was trying to escape from but rather the mindset of the people who perpetuated what I regarded as a pointless conflict. Some of the teenagers I had grown up with were starting to talk like their parents, to harbour the same prejudices. I wanted out.

I had applied to study at The University of Western Australia and received a generous scholarship offer dependant on acceptable grades in my final school exams. I also had an offer from The University of Warwick, and my safety net offer from Queens. All the locals knew that Queens could provide a safety net because there just wasn’t the same competition for places at that time.

Some chose this place because they were happy to stay close to their families. I was not one of them.

The day my ‘A’ level results came out my hopes and dreams were shattered and I knew that I only had myself to blame. I had studied subjects that were beyond my ability and had not put in the effort that would have been required to sufficiently raise my grades.

I would not be flying away to sunny Perth to start my life anew, or even travelling across the water to the mainland. Instead I would be catching the Number 38 bus from outside my parent’s house and travelling three miles down the road, past both my primary and my secondary schools, to attend my local university, Queens. I recognised that I was fortunate that they had agreed to take me despite my poor results. I knew some had not been even this lucky.

September was filled with pub crawls to say goodbye to the friends who had got away. At the end of the month those of us who were left arranged to meet up at the Fresher’s Bazaar. We were a motley crew, brought together by chance and circumstance. It was not the exciting new start that I had anticipated.

The Fresher’s Bazaar was full of stalls manned by the various clubs and societies run by the university. I stopped off at the University Air Squadron stand where one of the volunteers tried to chat me up. The banner overhead invited students to learn to fly; I rather liked the idea of that. However, it soon became clear that there was a problem; I was female. Oh, they most definitely wanted me to join, but they could not offer to training me as a pilot. The heated discussion on discrimination that I was eager to pursue was cut short when my friends pulled me away. Somehow this episode seemed to sum up my day.

We organised our student cards and membership of the sports club before retiring to one of the many bars in the Students Union, a place where I spent a lot of my time in that first year. I attended the parties and balls, sold the Rag magazine, dressed up for parades, but never felt that I fitted in. Most of the friends I had were from my school days, friends and friends of friends. I lost touch with the few new acquaintances that I got to know when I left the place five years later.

On that first day at university I knew that I had put on hold the life that I wanted in order to gain the qualification that I needed to eventually fulfil my dreams. Queens is a fine university and the quality of the teaching could not be faulted, it was simply not where I wanted to be.

With the benefit of hindsight I can see that everything happens for a reason, that the life I now lead and love would not have come about had I achieved my ambitions way back then. At the time though, that first day had the taste of failure. I determined that I would do all that I could to ensure I never experienced that taste again.

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To read the other posts in this Blog Hop, click on the link below.

Tasks and time

It started off a good week. A visit to the gym, a chat with a friend. I was still feeling poorly though. Turns out I was ill at the end of last week, not just tired and old. Still, I was feeling positive and getting on. It was fine.

I managed a walk with a friend on Tuesday. The sun came out and I was feeling a little better. I allowed myself reading and writing time, a glass of wine in the evening.

I didn’t get to the gym yesterday. My left knee hurts, I have other tasks demanding my attention. It is raining again.

Why does my mood dip in this way? Am I doing anything wrong or is it just how I am? I keep busy, active when I feel up to it. So often these days I do not feel up to it. I wonder if I am just making excuses.

Today I need to cook and clean. The days go so fast. All those hours stretching out in front of me, available for accomplishment and progress. I find myself feeling despair as the clock ticks past 2pm and I realise that I have so little time left before my kids get home from school and my productive day finishes. I love my kids, spending time with them, but why do those hours when I need to be achieving go so fast?

‘What do you do all day?’ my son asks. I explain to him but he doesn’t listen. Same old, same old, nothing worthwhile. I bite back the retort about food and laundry and a pleasant environment in which to live. We have had this conversation too many times already.

It is not that I am madly rushed, nor that any of what I do is so hard. It is the relentlessness of the tasks that can never be completed. There is always more dust, more mess to sort out. A woman’s work is never done. Why is that only said about women?

I know, I know that I am privileged and I would not choose to change my life. Still though, still I want more time just to breathe. I who have so much more time than most, who can choose how I spend my day. I do not do so many of the tasks that I should because I need to open my wings and fly.

‘You should manage your time better’ my son tells me. He is right and I try. I try to set aside days for the house, days for my health, days just for me. But those hours go by so quickly and the day is gone, tasks incomplete, dreams set aside. When did time start moving so fast?

I write lists in an attempt to ensure that what is important gets completed. I have whiteboards on the fridge, a family diary, prompts on my computer. Always I am working towards multiple goals, aren’t we all? Does everyone feel as exhausted by the effort to keep on top of these never ending tasks as I do?

I will get on, keep pushing that boulder towards the top of the mountain. Perhaps progress is slow because I stop too often. The view is amazing.

Sisyphus_Mom

I am linking up with Perfection Pending.

Perfection Pending


New Year

Happy New Year!

There, I’ve said it. I do wish you all good health, much happiness and strength to cope with whatever life throws at you. It just takes me a little while to get to the point where I feel able to relax enough to send out the greeting. I cannot relax until I am safely out the other side of the festive season.

I coped better this year than I managed last year. Not that such a thing would be hard given the personal implosion I suffered last year. Actually that would be the year before last now wouldn’t it? You know, given that we have been through the whole turn of the year thing? Oh well.

Talking about the turn of the year, I thought it would be different this time around. Now that my children regularly stay up to beyond midnight for, well, reasons, I thought that we might see the New Year in together. It was not to be. After the champagne, the music, the party food and the film, my husband and I agreed that we were in need of bed more than anything else. Lest you fondly imagine that anything romantic may have been going down, rest assured we were asleep within seconds of heads hitting pillows. At 10.30pm on New Year’s Eve. Boring? Yes. Enjoyed New Years Day more than a lot of my hungover friends? Yes.

So, having got up bright and early with a reasonably clear head, I undecked the halls. My reluctance to acknowledge Christmas until I am forced to do so meant that my children put up and decorated our two Christmas trees. Had they not done so there was a risk that I may have avoided this task altogether. I assisted by draping tinsel around various bits of furniture and innocent house plants. I found places for the themed candles and ornaments that we put out at this time of year. The bulk of the work though was done by my kids.

Not so the undecking, that I did alone and quickly. I have been known to tidy the lot away on Boxing Day so keen am I to move on. Bah humbug as they say.

Anyway, this year the decorations lasted until New Years Day. I had the house back to looking unfestive by lunchtime, and felt much better for it. Now that we have got all that out of the way I can start looking forward.

I do not really hate Christmas. What I find so hard are the expectations and obligations that have become a part of the whole thing. My natural urge to hide makes the whole bonhomie of the season a challenge. I could happily spend the two or three days in front of the television, dressed in my pyjamas, eating pizza with my loved ones. One of these years I am so going to do that.

Husband worked through all but the three shutdown days. The kids did whatever teenagers do all day when they are sequestered in their rooms. Now that we have got through and out the other side though we can enjoy what is left of the holidays. This weekend we will be getting away for some family time.

This is perfect for me. The weather may be foul but a New Year has started with all the positive energy that fresh starts bring. For a little while there will be no demands from others to fulfil any expectations. We five can run away together and have some fun.

So now I can wish you all a Happy New Year with heartfelt sincerity. I have a lot of plans for the coming months and am feeling good about what lies ahead. I hope that your year turns out to be magnificent.

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Panic attack

Monday morning just before 6am. I could have slept in today, what with the children being off school for the holidays. My body clock does not understand this change in routine. My husband left a cup of tea on my bedside table when he left for work so I sit up to enjoy it, firing up my social networks to see what the rest of the world has been doing. And there it is, a simple status update. I have tried so hard to make my loved ones understand the impact that such events have on me. I see the exasperation in their faces, that they think I am making an unnecessary fuss, that I should just stop behaving like this.

If only I could.

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Anxiety is something that we all experience from time to time. Most people can relate to feeling tense, uncertain and, perhaps, fearful at the prospect of certain events or situations that they find stressful. This type of short-term anxiety can be useful. For example, feeling nervous before an exam can make you feel more alert and enhance your performance. However, if the feelings of anxiety overwhelm you, your ability to concentrate and do well may suffer.

When you feel under threat anxiety and fear can protect you from danger by triggering the release of hormones such as adrenalin. Adrenalin causes your heart to beat faster to carry blood to where it is most needed. You breathe faster to provide the extra oxygen required for energy. You sweat to prevent overheating. Your mouth may feel dry as your digestive system slows down to allow more blood to be sent to your muscles. Your senses become heightened and your brain becomes more alert.

These changes make your body able to take action and protect you in a dangerous situation either by running away or fighting. It is known as the ‘fight or flight’ reflex. Once the danger has passed, other hormones are released, which may cause you to shake as your muscles start to relax.

This response is useful for protecting you against physical dangers. The response is not so useful if you want to run away from a stressful situation where there is no physical threat. If you have no need to physically run away or fight, the effects of adrenaline subside more slowly, and you may go on feeling agitated for a long time.

If the anxiety stays at a high level then you may feel that it is difficult to deal with everyday life. The anxiety may become severe; you may feel powerless, out of control. Sometimes, if the feelings of fear overwhelm you, you may experience a panic attack.

A panic attack is an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming sensations, such as a pounding heartbeat, feeling faint, sweating, nausea, chest pains, breathing discomfort, feelings of losing control and shaky limbs. It can be a frightening experience.

If something distressing happened to you in the past and you were unable to deal with your emotions at the time then you may become anxious about facing similar situations again in case they stir up the same feelings of distress. Some theories suggest that you may inherit a tendency to be more anxious, and so it is a part of your personality.

Anxiety can have an effect on both your body and your mind.

Physical effects

Short-term:

  • Increased muscular tension can cause achiness.
  • Rapid breathing may make you feel light-headed and shaky.
  • Rising blood pressure can make you more aware of a pounding heart.
  • Changes in the blood supply to your digestive system may cause nausea.

Long-term:

  • Fear combined with tension and lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, lowering your resistance to infection.
  • You may experience digestive difficulties.
  • You may feel depressed.

Psychological effects

Anxiety can make you more fearful, alert, on edge, irritable, and unable to relax or concentrate. You may feel an overwhelming desire to seek the reassurance of others, to be weepy and dependent.

The way you think can be affected: if you fear that the worst is going to happen, you may start to see everything negatively and become very pessimistic. If your anxiety is severe then you may find it difficult to develop or maintain good relationships, or simply to enjoy leisure time. Sleep problems may make your anxious feelings even worse and reduce your ability to cope.

For some people, anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it takes over their lives. They may experience severe or very frequent panic attacks, or have a persistent sense of anxiety. Some people may develop a phobia about going out or may withdraw from contact with people, even their family and friends.

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Like many mental issues, understanding the causes and effects does little to remove the stigma attached. We are expected to just get on with it, to accept what is happening and stop making such a fuss. Others cope fine with far more challenging situations. We are at fault.

I have to make choices. I can try to take control, look after myself, and risk seriously annoying my loved ones in the process. Or I can try to do what is easiest for everyone but me, and thus risk a recurrence of this panic. The thought of that makes my heart beat stupidly fast, the nausea threatens to overwhelm me.

I don’t yet know what I shall do. I want to escape but where could I go? I feel such a failure for not being able to deal with this rationally. Sometimes just keeping on living is so hard.

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Preparations

As often happens at this time of year, my life seems to have stepped up a gear. I have a long list of jobs that I need to complete in the next few days if I am to meet other’s expectations. I am not good at coping with obligations that I did not agree to but are presumed accepted.

After the initial wobble when December arrived and I realised that I could not realistically hide under my duvet for the entire month, I have been coping with the preparations for Christmas reasonably well. It will be very low key in our house this year, but the event will be marked. There has been some irritation from my children that I am not displaying the expected enthusiasm; sorry guys, I’m doing the best I can.

I had an added challenge this week as my daughter is attending a conference at a university 160 miles from our home. I have written before about my dislike of driving but, on this occasion, I had to balance my antipathy against the worry I would have to deal with if I sent her on her own by train. The compromise we arrived at was for me to drive her there the evening before and stay overnight in a cheap hotel to remove the pressure of having to complete the journey in a set time. This worked well and I actually rather enjoyed my time away.

With three children and a husband to consider, it can be hard to spend time with just one member of my family. Months can go by without this happening, although I have benefited from two such occasions this week.

On Sunday my husband and I had a meal out together, just the two of us. We do not have regular date nights so this was a rare treat. Admittedly it only came about because we had to bring my daughter home from a Black Veil Brides concert that was due to finish after the last train home had departed. As a trip to the city was necessary we decided to make use of the need to travel and park by indulging ourselves. I still had to cook a dinner for my sons before we left, but it was good to spend time alone with my husband. I almost felt young again.

The late return home after we had collected my daughter, followed by the need to get up for school the next day, meant that I had four hours sleep on Sunday night. This was not the best way to ready myself for the long drive on Monday evening.

I had prepared the family dinner in advance so that all my husband had to do in order to feed himself and our boys was to reheat the contents of a couple of pots. I was impressed on my return to find that they had been washed.

My daughter and I planned to eat on arrival, although I brought along a packed meal just in case we suffered delays or could not find a suitable eatery. I worry a lot about potential problems and feel better if I have contingency plans.

The journey up was exhausting. I am not used to having to drive in the dark and the traffic was very heavy. The unknown roads were confusing at times, despite the many maps and detailed directions that I had printed off. As I had to concentrate hard on my driving I needed my daughter to act as navigator. As a non driver, she struggled at times to understand what it was that I needed to know.

However, we reached our destination after about four hours and were able to walk to a restaurant from our hotel. After a delicious meal we relaxed for an hour or so before settling down for an early night. I slept better and for longer than I normally do at home.

The next morning we spent a pleasant enough couple of hours exploring the university campus before I left my daughter to find her own way into her conference. It was obvious from the many students on site that I was something of an anachronism but, having made the journey, I wished to see what the university had to offer as it is one that my daughter may consider applying to. She showed signs of irritation at my behaviour at times but coped well.

After a picnic lunch I then had to face the drive home on my own. Nobody seemed to have missed me and I was back in time to cook the family dinner. My daughter texted me to say that she was having an awesome time and had made friends already so I do not need to worry about her for the rest of the week.

My week, meanwhile, must continue apace. School finishes for the Christmas holidays on Friday and I still have letters and cards to sort as well as presents to wrap. With one week to go I am struggling to keep my mood up.

However, I am coping. I may not get to the gym as planned, or manage a walk this week, but I should be able to tick off all the essential tasks on my Do List. I also plan to do more writing as that is a guaranteed mood lifter. How grateful I am to have found this outlet for my vacillating emotions.

My house is a mess so I shall now tackle some chores before I face those festive tasks. I hope that your preparations are coming along as you would wish. One week to go and counting.

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