Back to the daily grind? Or another step forwards?

It’s that time of year again, the air seems fresher, the holiday clothes and suitcases are being packed away, school uniforms bought. In the words of the great Don Henley ‘The summer’s out of reach ..’

I hope you made the most of the long hot summer days (and the rainy ones too) to make the most of being outdoors and late nights with your loved ones.

Some of you might be looking forward to the kids going back so you can finally take some holiday and spend time together. But eventually we get home, and wouldn’t it be nice to hold on to some of that connection, to slow things down the rest of the year.

I was thinking about this for myself. Spending time away from work has been great for family relationships, so I put together some ideas about how to continue this for the rest of the year. Here are some of the ideas I came up with, some of which I do already and some I’m going to try out.

  • Booking at least one full day every month and clearing it as couple or family time.
  • Trying something completely new as a couple or family once a month
  • Putting phones away as much as possible
  • Getting outdoors whatever the weather
  • Being a ‘tourist at home’ and exploring your local area
  • Starting conversations with strangers and friends about what’s fun to do in your local area

Which of these ideas are catching your eye?

Would they be easy or difficult to do, and why?

Could you commit to trying just one of these and letting me know how you get on?

It’s the thingamyjob!!

When I was a kid my big brother was fascinated by how things worked. Through his open bedroom door I’d see the floor covered in bits of radio, and later on he’d fill the garage with bits of cars and motorbike. He needed to see the component parts and how they worked together in order to understand them properly.

I was the reader in the family, nose always in a book, to the point where my sister and mum would joke they had to remove all reading materials if they wanted my full attention.

Recently I’ve been wondering if we were really that different after all. The way I work is very visual, I use questions to work out how things are working and not working for a couple or in a family and I draw it out in a ‘geneogram’ to get a visual representation of what’s going on and what needs to change. It’s called systemic therapy.

One of my amazing teachers once described the idea of systems theory to me in a way that really helped .. she said:

‘Think of a central heating system. It works great, keeps everyone warm until the day it breaks. We don’t assume the whole thing is broken, we track and check to find which bit of the system isn’t working, and once that’s fixed the whole thing starts running properly again.’

So in a way I’m continuing the good work my brother started, staying curious about how things work, and how to make them work better.

How are you continuing family ways of doing things? How are you different and the same to your siblings?

In The Guardian

I love when an email comes through from the BACP media department offering me a chance to talk about my favourite subject, and the one that came through at the start of July was especially welcome.

Since long before I started training with Relate the first section of the Saturday Guardian I’ve turned to has been the Guardian Family supplement, and my favourite bit of that is always Annalisa Barbieri’s advice in response to letters sent in by readers.

So I was super pleased to be asked if I’d speak with Annalisa about a letter she’d received from a reader.

I really enjoyed looking at Annalisa’s reader’s letter and talking it over with her on the phone. We also had a chance to talk about her time doing the column, and how she manages the push back she sometimes gets from readers online.

Do have a look at the piece, and let me know what you think. Maybe it might stimulate some ideas about how you might approach a similar situation in your life?

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/aug/02/husband-humour-turnoff-annalisa-barbieri

Getting Ready for Summer?

Like many parents I have mixed feelings about the summer break. On one hand I look forward to family time, but on the other there’s an extra load of managing childcare, managing expectations and making sure everyone HAS LOTS OF FUN!!

Which of course is unrealistic, so when I notice this is happening instead of putting pressure on myself to rush around making everyone happy I’m making an effort to be more mindful about my own self talk, and reaching out to the others in my family to work out what’s possible.

The lovely people at Select Psychology asked me to write a blog post about preparing for the summer holidays, and you can find out what I suggest by having a look at what I wrote for them.

Let’s talk MORE about sex

I was still a little sleepy when I got a call from BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday morning, asking me to talk about the sex survey featured by the BBC on whether Britons are having less sex. Now there’s nothing I enjoy better than being asked to talk about sex on national radio so of course I jumped at being given the opportunity.

Because from the conversations I have with others, either in the therapy room or with friends and family, I see that we are not talking enough about sex. My take on this is if you can’t talk about sex with someone, it’s probably not a good idea to be having a sexual relationship with them.

Sex is communication of course, a wonderful way of talking with our bodies, but it’s not enough, and it’s too easy to miscommunicate, to get our wires crossed.

It made me chuckle when Nicky Campbell admitted to blushing when he was reading out listeners’ texts and tweets about their wonderful sex lives, because I remember clearly sitting in my training with the Relate Institute pushing through that discomfort of asking people about sex. I remember sitting in a counselling room at Relate asking couples the first few times about their sex lives and blushing furiously.

But soon I saw that talking about sex was a relief and a release. Starting to support people in sharing what they wanted and needed from each other in their closest moments, seeing the changes, made me realise that it’s more embarrassing NOT to talk than to talk about our desires, what turns us on, where we like to be touched, how we like to be touched.

If you’re interested the BACP wrote a little summary of the piece here.

So, today, right now , whether you’re single or coupled up .. ask yourself .. what do I want, what do I need from my sex life, and who can I share my thoughts with?

Stepping Forwards

I’m up early again today .. not just to enjoy a beautiful North Tyneside sunrise, but to put my walking boots on to raise money for Acorns, a charity that supports the recovery of children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

I spotted the charity walk in January on the North East Guides website when I was feeling a bit run down and looking for things to get me out. At the time April seemed pretty far away and I had ideas of sauntering along Hadrian’s Wall on a sunny Spring day, enjoying the views.

Well .. it’s looking a bit different now, rain forecast, and it’s pretty exposed up on the tops there.

I know it’s going to be tough. Sitting in a counselling room with my clients is massively rewarding for me, and together we make so many mental and emotional leaps forward that sometimes I forget to physically move enough. I’ve been practising but this will be the longest walk I’ve done in a long while.

I chose Acorns because I know what drives me in work and life is playing a part in making kids lives safer and happier. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realised how much fear had played a part when I was growing up, and that’s what led me to what I do today. Acorns provides a safe and welcoming place where children can make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, and start to recognise what loving behaviour looks like.

We can’t choose where we came from, and often we don’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose where we go from here.

So when I’m wet and cold and I can’t see the end in sight I’m going to put my head up and keep stepping forwards. I’m going to think of all the wonderful people who are supporting me in doing this walk and I’m going to remember that although sometimes life can be tough I am so very blessed in this life I’ve stepped into.

Taking Stock

I wanted to share with you a great habit that I was taught to carry out at the turn of the year, and which has served me well .. which is reflecting on what happened in the past year and how I handled it.

I love the quiet time in between Christmas and New Year and I made a commitment to myself a while ago to take this time for myself, for quiet enjoyment of the season, the weather, and taking a look back over the past twelve months.

Life has a habit of throwing the unexpected in our way, however well we plot and plan our lives, and often I’ll be surprised at the things that happened that I could never have predicted the year before. Sometimes these are wonderful and sometimes less so: in examining how I responded I find clues to who I am and how I’m showing up in my life and others’

So maybe you’d like to join me. Carve out a little space for yourself in the next few days to ask these questions:

What happened in this past year that I could never have predicted?

How did I respond? Was that helpful to me and those around me?

Who was important to me in the past year?

What one thing would I have liked to be different?

What would I like to do differently in this coming year?

I’d love to hear your thoughts .. do you have any other questions you’ve found useful?

reflectingendyear