Morning meditation


Meditation has a significant effect on stress management. It can build resilience over time but it can also help you feel more centred in minutes. 5 minutes a day will do the trick. It’s all I have and it works. Of course 45 minutes woudld be better. An hour in a spa woud be ideal but what’s a bust mum to do?

Regular practice is important. If you want to develop a regular habit it’s  easier to hang it onto something you do already. Trust me on this one – it’s psychologically proven. My students are probably sick of me telling them that they shouls learn quotes while brushing their teeth.

One of my regular early morning habits is making coffee. I do it every day, rain or shine. So I bought myself one of these stove-top  coffee pots and while the coffee’s brewing – and it helpfully makes a gentle percolating sound – I meditate.

5 minutes to get centred before the day kicks off and a delicious cup of coffee at the end of it.

Simple.

Snowdrops

It’s blowing a hoolie. I’ve spent all afternoon watching the eldest teen taking part in a cycle race under dour skies. But there’s a log fire crackling and signs of life in the garden. I don’t usually pick snowdrops but I planted a few in the green last year especially for cutting after the twinkly lights and Christmas bunting have been packed away until November.

Charming, aren’t they?

Wolf Moon

Helen Thompson is my ‘go to’ woman for enchanting pics of the moon

Tonight is the Wolf Moon – January’s full moon named because of the lupine howling which traditionally haunted the midwinter. If we’re lucky, it will look like this.

When my children were younger and bedtime stories were stiil popular, I remember reading them ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’ whilst gazing up at the moon. For parents of primary school aged children it comes highly recommended from Country Gate HQ.  It was my favourite time of day. I miss it more than anything else about daily parenting tasks that are now a memory.

A wolf moon is said to symbolize a time to look to your community for creative solutions and to communicate with inspiring individuals to overcome challenges.

We need that right now, don’t we? There is a great comfort and power in getting to know your community well and working together to make it an inspiring and vibrant place for everyone.

What better way to start off the new decade than by immersing yourself in your local community?

All the teens are stiil at home after the Christmas break. Maybe we’ll share some family time tonight while gazing up at the moon.

 

 

A trip around the herb garden – Bay

 

 

Spending as little as five minutes in nature every day exposes us to natural light and helps us slow down and get or daily rhythms in sync. I’m particularly fond of walking on the grass in bare feet. I’ve blogged about this before. January is perhaps a bit extreme to indulge this too much so a wander round in boots, clutching a hot drink and looking for signs of life is more my thing. The bulbs are poking through; the snowdrops are in bloom; weirdly there are still some rosebuds clinging on – pretty strong evidence of the way the seasons are crazily mixed up now; and many of my herbs are still looking good.

Herbs are the first plants I remember growing and picking as a small child. My granny had an old Belfast sink in the garden where she grew mint and a lavender hedge over which she used to spread her hankies to dry in the summer. It was herbs that I grew on the windowsill of my student digs and now they take up more than their share of space in the garden. This year I’ll try to feature one herb a month, tell you about its history and talk a little about how I use it. Queen of herbs Jekka McVicar was showing deep love for her bay tree (above) over Christmas and the bay I transplanted from the allotment into the front garden is looking mighty healthy so let’s start with that.

Bay has a long and noble history. The ancient Romans and Greeks used to make crowns out of true bay leaves (Laurus Nobilis) to crown great and accomplished people – kings, war heroes and Olympians. As a teacher I’m honour-bound to point out that the term ‘baccalaureate’ originates from this giving of bay leaf crowns to signify success, as does the term “poet laureate”.

One of the constituents of a traditional bouquet garni, used to flavour soups and stews bay leaves are in regular use in my kitchen. Dried bay leaves that are more than six months old are pretty pointless in my experience. Pick them fresh and keep them from anywhere from a week to a month for optimum use.

Or try this recipe suggestion I picked up from Borough Market when visiting the East End in-laws
Bay two ways: try bay leaves infused into the milk of a rice pudding along with a little cardamom, which highlights that menthol and eucalyptus quality further; alternatively tuck it in  among forced rhubarb. Its gentle scent will work its way into those pink batons as they release their juices and cool. It’s easy and comforting. Give it a go.

Juicing in January

It’s time to stop the sherry trifle breakfasts or cheese and crackers with a Belgian chocolate chaser of an evening. A determination to get fit, join a gym, run more and eat more healthily is the stuff of the infant days of the year. I am a great fan of juices and smoothies but the start of term is often frantic and shopping specifically for a juice cleanse alongside feeding a family of five carnivores, vegetarians and vegans is a step too far.

So I treated myself to a five day juice cleanse from Hanna Sillitoe – all ready made.

It’s a bit of an extravagance but the odd treat does you good.

I first came across Hanna’s book and blog about 18 months ago when searching for dairy free recipes to heal a flare up of psoriasis. Since then she has appeared  on Dragon’s Den, securing offers from all of the dragons to launch a new range of products. Check Hanna out. She knows her stuff, is inspirational and a jolly lovely person into the bargain.

Yesterday a chilled box arrived stuffed full of delicious juices for the next five days. No work, no stress and packed with the kind of goodness I need to get through the start of the new term. Admittedly by Friday afternoon my year 9 class may find me a teeny bit grumpy as I’ve avoided coffee, Christmas cake and the temptation of the biscuit barrel in the staffroom for the umpeeth time.

And I’ll be smug.

Oh so smug.

Mindfulness and the beauty in winter

Picture shared by Dominic O’Connor

It’s the start of January and I drove to work in the dark and home in the drizzle. My timeline is full of comments from those suffering post-Christmas blues. For many deep Winter is a challenging time. Many of the labels we attach to Winter are negative ones – depressing, lifeless, cold, miserable – and yet there is beauty in every season if you look for it.

The moon poking through the clouds; a deer darting across a field; candlelight; firelight; snowdrops poking up through the brown soil, the glimmer of occasional low sun in the late afternoon and the pattern of moss on a tree.

Practice mindfulness and January has its beauties.

Indoor gardening

I’ve taken my plants back to school today – a mixture of succulents, indestructible spider plants and potted bulbs like these crocus, which I snapped last year, cheering up the gloomy north facing window in one of our rooms at home.

Over the next few weeks they’ll be joined by some seed trays because my classroom windowsill is THE perfect place for starting off the annual cut flowers, herbs and a few veggies that will be planted out into my garden beds once the frosts have passed.

Indoor gardening has become really popular, especially among millennials, who may not have access to a lot of outdoor space but want to grow a few culinary herbs. In fact windowsill herbs was the first kind of growing I did as an independent adult in my student digs. Along with the obligatory yukka and spider plant there were a range of mints to make tea and some basil jostling for position on the windowsill.

I’ve even grown some peashoots for students to munch. The only down side is that my classroom is miles from any water source.

Woodpiles, fire and hunkering down in January

 

There’s something very satisfying about a full log store at the beginning of January. I’ve blogged about fire wood at this time of year before. It’s an annual experience. We had a load of kiln-dried firewood delivered on 2nd from Top Grade Logs in Bathford. When the weather turns wild and we’re all home for the evening,  we can put on our pyjamas, light the fire and hunker down, albeit with marking, homework or A Level mock exam revision to do. It will go some way towards making up for the lack of tree lights in the front garden and the loss of the Christmas tree in the kitchen.

I might buy some fairy lights for my classroom at a post-Christmas knockdown price. I’d install a wood burner if I could but I don’t think it would go down too well with the lady in charge of health and safety at school. She tolerates my penchant for houseplants and seed propagation. Some twinkly light in January is just the job.

Wellbeing on a budget

My son and his friends are heading back to university. It’s fair to say some of them have not quite got on top of establishing a routine during their first term. There’s been a lot of socialising, making new friends, trying new activities and coping with the inevitable Freshers’ flu. After a long relaxing summer and the much freer approach to attendance at lectures, seminars and tutorials, it’s hard. Even the fairly strict training schedule of a competitive cyclist can go awry if illness and socialising are to the fore in the early weeks at university.

 

It started me thinking about how to maintain wellbeing and feel productive when money is tight. It’s relatively easy if you have the money to indulge in some retail therapy, plan a weekend away, have a spa day, buy some paint and redecorate a room in your flat or house, go to the cinema or splash out on some special food. When you have to count every penny you need to be a bit more creative.

Here  are my top tips for keeping healthy in the full sense of the word when you have no spare cash.

The comments in bold are for my son.

1. Sleep well
Pulling the odd all-nighter and having a late night out with your friends every now and then is a given fir students, but not getting enough sleep affects chemicals in the brain which can make us feel low and anxious. So, make sure you get as many good nights’ sleep as possible to feel refreshed and recharged – you’ll wake up with a more positive attitude ready to take on the day ahead.

Note to son – getting up early is also a good idea.

2. Stay active
Regular activity and exercise is not only good for your waistline and physical health, but also for your mental health and wellbeing. When you exercise you’ll see an immediate boost in your overall mood because your body releases chemicals (endorphins) and these endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body. And you don’t need to run marathons to be active, even a brisk walk around the local park will help!

10/10 for this if you are a member of the Swansea University Road Cycling Team

3. Help others
Whether it’s volunteering in the community, raising money for a good cause or a simple random act of kindness, helping others can make us feel good and improve our self-esteem, whilst reducing stress and negative feelings.

You know it makes sense and you’re a charming and responsible member of society.

4. Socialise with others
Long periods of being alone and isolated aren’t healthy, so interact with people regularly and grow your friendship network. Chat with others on your course, introduce yourself to fellow residents at your accommodation, join clubs and societies, get involved with any events at your university/college, accommodation or student’s union, volunteer in the community and embrace any work opportunities.

This needs no further work. You’re doing just fine!

5. Enjoy yourself
University isn’t just about studying and deadlines. It’s important to have fun, laugh as much as possible and enjoy yourself. Whether it’s playing a team sport, watching the latest movie at the cinema, catching up with friends over dinner or getting lost in a novel, be sure to make time for doing the things that make you happy.

Another one you’ve cracked already.

6. Maintain a balanced diet
Reaching for the convenience foods and sugary snacks might be an easy option as a student but they’re not the healthiest. These sugary foods are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream which may cause an initial ‘high’ or surge of energy, but it will soon wear off as the body increases its insulin production, leaving you feeling tired and low. However, a balanced mood and feelings of wellbeing can be protected by eating a well-balanced diet containing adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water.

I know it’s a hassle and you’ve made a start by bulk cooking healthy stuff at home and taking it back for the freezer in your student digs but there’s work to be done here.

7. Stay hydrated
Similar to your diet, you should maintain a health intake of fluids. Avoid drinks high in caffeine, or at least drink them in moderation, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, particularly if you are drinking alcohol. If you don’t drink enough water, you’ll become dehydrated which can cause headaches and make you feel tired and dizzy.

Drinking loads of water is second nature to you. Top of the class.

8. Establish a routine
Remember when you had a timetable of lessons, regular training sessions, regular mealtimes and got up at pretty much the same time every day? You got loads done and still had time to socialise, hold down a part-time job and binge watch episodes of Sherlock or Game of Thrones, didn’t you? Now you get to establish your own weekly timetable.

Just do it.

9. Grow some herbs
Nurturing a windowsill full of green stuff you can use to spice up your cooking is beneficial on all levels – improving your environment, looking after something living, improving your cooking…..even if that’s buying a few potted herbs from the supermarket.

Trust me on this one – I know what I’m talking about.

Following these simple tips will help to improve your health and well-being whilst at university. However, if you do experience any problems throughout your studies, no matter how big or small they may be, you should always speak to someone and seek advice.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑