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 (thanks 2020!), 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?

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Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 17 . Share Something New

After a while together it’s easy to assume the people we know also know everything about you, but stop a minute and think about that ..in reality you go out and learn new stuff every day, you’re constantly changing and growing and there’s no way others can keep up with all those new bits of you ..

So share something that others don’t know about you today .. we’ve all been forced to change in lots of ways in 2020 .. maybe you took up running this year, or learned to crochet Star Wars characters ..

#adventcalendar #adventchallenge #relationships #wellbeing

Relationships Advent Calendar Day 11 . Befriend Our Planet

Keeping a healthy sense of perspective is really important in maintaining our wellbeing.

Today, how about thinking how you can widen your focus and do something to give back to this beautiful world we live in .. pick up litter that you spot in the street, pop some money in a charity collecting tin or bag up some unwanted possessions in good condition for your local charity shop, save energy by having a short shower (after that yummy long bath you had yesterday), turn the lights off and have an early night ..

#adventcalendar #adventchallenge #relationships #wellbeing

Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 5 . The Body Knows the Score

Touch is so important in feeling connected, holding hands, being close, a hug .. this year has been so hard as we haven’t been able to show our affection through hugging and being around each other.

Many people also don’t have the opportunity to touch, people who live alone, maybe working from home at the moment. Studies show that when residents of care homes have affectionate consensual physical contact they report greater wellbeing.

So today how about showing someone you love them by sending a virtual hug, something to snuggle or if you can by using touch to show you care. You can even do this for yourself by wrapping yourself up in a lovely warm blanket and giving yourself a hug.

#adventcalendar #adventchallenge #relationships #wellbeing

Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 17 . Share Something New

After a while together it’s easy to assume your honey knows everything about you, but stop a minute and think about that .. in reality you go out and learn new stuff about yourself every day, you’re constantly changing and growing and there’s no way your partner could keep up with all those new bits of you ..

So share something your honey doesn’t know about you today .. a new favourite food, or maybe somewhere you’d REALLY like to be kissed (behind your ears, between the sheets or maybe in public?) 😉

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Relationships Advent Calendar Day 11 . Be Kind to our World

Keeping a healthy sense of perspective is really important in maintaining our wellbeing.

Today, how about thinking how you can widen your focus and do something to give back to this beautiful world we live in .. pick up litter that you spot in the street, pop some money in a charity collecting tin or bag up some unwanted possessions in good condition for your local charity shop, save energy by having a short shower (after that yummy long bath you had yesterday), turn the lights off and have an early night with your sweetie ..

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Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 5 . Get physical ..

Touch is sooo important in feeling connected, holding hands, being close, a hug .. and all too often I hear couples saying they don’t touch in affectionate ways any more because one of them is nervous it might be seen as a bid for sex.

Treat your sweetie to a shoulder rub today, and if this is an issue for your couple make it clear in advance that a shoulder rub MEANS just that, nothing more.

Or ju

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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?

Online Digital Counselling

I’ve been spending this summer honing my skills in online counselling, working on the Relate Live Chat service. It offers 30 minute chats with highly qualified and experienced relationship counsellors.

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It’s been a while since I’ve had to type quite so much, and fast, and it’s also been incredibly motivating! Often I’ve been able to help people who would never book a traditional face to face counselling appointment because of isolation, or mobility issues, or sometimes because of the nature of what they’ve wanted help with.

Online counselling, in the form of web chat or email counselling, can be a godsend for new parents, airline crew or anyone working shifts because it’s on demand and people can engage when and how they want to. I’ve spoken with many more young adults than I would when I’m in my counselling room and they’ve told me that our chats have been helpful.

I’m so excited about adding online counselling to the ways I can connect with people because of the frustrations I’ve had in the past in not being able to provide a service for people who can’t turn up to a face to face session regularly. We have a lot of people here in the North East who work offshore so I’ve had many conversations about different ways to access support and this feels like a big step forward.

And of course it’s good for me to keep fresh and challenged, to continue to grow just as I encourage my clients to do!

School holiday-proof your relationship

do216genres-relationships1200The kids have broken up and we’re heading of on that holiday we’ve been slogging towards since Christmas. We’re looking forward to a rest, being with family and long hot lazy days.

But the reality for most of us is that often we work harder in that last week before a break, the weather will be unpredictable, travel will be problematic, kids will whinge, getting out of our routine is stressful and drinking more alcohol than usual can make us more reactive and more tired and grumpy the next day.

Holidays are great for kids, who grow both physically and emotionally over the long summer holidays, but what about us?

It may be first time you’ve been with your spouse for a while, particularly if you work shifts or on a rota. Take a tip from school teachers, who often take the first week of the holidays to flake out and depressurize. That two week holiday abroad might look restful on the brochure, but how about taking a week at home, with nothing planned, to get to know each other again and destress, before heading out on a shorter adventure?

For those of us who parent with an ex partner the school holidays can feel even more stressful and it’s worth starting to negotiate your child’s schedule as soon as possible. Some parents might have a tried and tested formula for holidays, but remember as your child grows what you agreed for them at three years old might not work at age 13. As kids grow their peers become more important, so taking this into account and building in time to catch up with friends can be really helpful.

Whatever you choose to do this summer, be thoughtful, curious and kind to yourselves, and enjoy this wonderful season.