No spring chicken!

The clue is in the title. There are days when I feel energised and ready take the stairs at work instead of using the lift. Then I go to the gym with my youngest two siblings.

As you know I’ve been embarking on a bit of a fitness journey and I am pleased with the results so far, there are days when I feel energised and ready take the stairs at work instead of using the lift. Then I go to the gym with my youngest two siblings.

Ok, they are about 15 years younger than me, go to the gym more than I do and have started running regularly, they joined a local park run group!
The first time I went to the gym with them I stupidly thought I could do their routine, I was sorely mistaken.

My voice may have said I was fine but my facial expression and the lack of colour on my face betrayed me and showcased how I was really feeling…broken. Yes I slept well that night but that’s because I was exhausted and my body was internally crying wondering why I had put it through that torturous moment. I’ll tell you why. Pride.

After the workout I could barely see because of the sweat blurring my vision let alone walk, but I had to plough on through and show no weakness until I was home and nursing a cup of tea..tea always makes things better.

Despite my determination my body won out and I have had to accept that being fit and of course healthy is a journey.

A long journey.

I can’t keep up with the youngsters, yet. I’m not overweight, eat okish and exercise regularly. If I wanted to I could train like them but at the moment my priorities are different, or so I tell myself.

A new chapter

As you know from my previous article my department went through a consultation where I had to reapply for my job. I was fortunate to not only still have a job but to also get a promotion in the process.. The downside of this progression is that other people in the team were made redundant.

People are still working their notice period so it was business as usual and it didn’t seem real, until the first person left. This has started the chain reaction, first person gone, the others will be leaving in the next few weeks.

This period of transition is daunting, exciting, challenging and so many more emotions that would take up space listing them. Many of these people are not just my colleagues but are also my friends, I know they are going to go onto do great things and be a success but it is still a rubbish situation. The people who I am not going to see every day or turn to for an opinion on a piece of work or to just bounce ideas off.

I had my first taste of what the future is going to be during the Easter school holidays. The team was running on a skeleton crew and it was a busy week. I knew that with the new position the workload was going to increase and that I was going to have a steep learning curve, I just wasn’t prepared for how overwhelming it was going to be. There were deadlines, requests for things I didn’t know the answer to but had to work out, lets just say the stress levels doubled!

It felt then and still now scary to not have the people I relied upon to keep me motivated to catch me when I waiver around, but there is always the telephone and Skype for when I need some advice.

By the end of the week, I was exhausted, drained and frustrated. I don’t regret my decision but I also can’t continue to think like this. This situation isn’t going to last forever so it’s time for a new approach, focus on the positives and do the best that I can. I have a goal, I want to continue to develop my skills and grow and this is just part of the process to get to where I want to be.

Image by kai kalhh from Pixabay

Car troubles

Most people start of their bank holiday weekend by going away, planning day trips or doing nothing at all but relaxing and recuperating.

Me, I started the weekend, by breaking down on a busy dual carriageway in the cold! What should have been a simple car maintenance job, timing belt replacement that same day turned into a mini nightmare. Starting with a crunching noise followed by the car losing power, I was lucky there wasn’t much traffic at that moment and was able to guide the car to the side of the road before it decided to give up the ghost.

When I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I phone the RAC who initially told me there was a 3-4 hour wait for a repair person to reach me. In this situation I was thankful I had remembered to charge my powerbank.  Whilst I stood on the side of the road surround by trees, stinging needles and an abandoned tyre,  via hands free husband kept me company as he made his way to me.

30 minutes in and I had a phone call from an RAC patrol person who was round the corner from me, another 15 minutes later both RAC and husband had come to rescue this by now, very cold and hungry damsel in distress.

Sadly the news was not great, the new timing belt had snapped resulting in me being towed back to the garage. Followed by husband who was my lift home. Finally reaching home late, hunger had faded by then and all I really wanted was a hot cup of tea and my pyjamas. Husband made me eat dinner, mostly because the last time I ate was at lunch time.

‘You didn’t do anything wrong, all you did was drive the car’.

                                                                                       James, RAC

Fast forward, the car is being repaired by the garage who admitted fault and apologised. I have been going to this garage for years and know this is out of the ordinary for them.

Being without my car is not a pleasant feeling, I’m lost and relying on others for lifts to get me to and from work. Plus side I’m not paying for petrol and spending money in my lunch time shopping trips.
Fingers crossed I’m back behind the wheel and on the road by the end of the week.

Image from Car photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com“>FreePik.

I got the job!

As you have guessed from the title I got the job!

There were moments of self-doubt where I thought I might fall at the last hurdle, that all my hard work would have been for nothing and I would either end up the position I didn’t want or no job at all.

There have been moments of tears, laughter, high and low levels of confidence. Despite all the rollercoaster of emotions I am pleased to say that I didn’t stray from my goal, I knew what I wanted and that I was going to do what I needed to do to achieve it.

This is a bitter sweet moment for me. I have the position that I want but it also means going forward the new team is going to look very different. These changes do unsettle me and the next few months are going to be difficult. I will being saying bye to people who I see as a support system at work, made going to work fun and interesting and boosted each other’s confidence.

We are all at different points in our lives and through the restructure process have had to learn to adapt, and think about what these changes mean for each of us. As much as I would like to work with these people forever, that isn’t how the world and life in general works. To grow and evolve we sometimes need these out of the blue curve balls to give us the kick we need to stop coasting and go for what we really want, and if we don’t know what that is then take the time to find out. 

My future

It’s a daunting and exciting time for me.

I love what I do,  it’s just a bit overwhelming at the moment. There is going to be a lot of hard work to be done and some steep learning curves ahead but I think I’m ready.

It’s not even been a week and I have already been given new tasks that I hadn’t previously been involved in, learning to question, planning and organise a project / campaign in a logical manner instead of getting over excited and needing to be reigned in by someone senior, as now I am that senior person.

I still have a way to go in terms of my personal and skills development but then who is a perfect fit for every job they have ever applied for?

Travelling: I don’t like flying

Before I got married I wasn’t ever much of a traveller since then I have been fortunate to have travelled to some beautiful countries, Bali, Cambodia and have recently returned from a well deserved break to Thailand.

As much as I enjoyed spending time in these fantastic countries, I dislike flying for a number of reasons which I’ve outlined below. Personally I think I could have been more scathing but then this article could have turned into an essay.

Travel sickness

I have not ever been a great back seat driver, doesn’t matter the vehicle there is a good chance I will still become unwell, this is even with travel sickness tablets.

On the journey to Thailand I must have been in the toilet too long as the air stewardesses were knocking on the door.  I had become unwell and was trying to pull myself together before returning to my seat.

Food

I wouldn’t say I am a fussy eater but when it comes to flying I have learnt to take snacks with me on the plane as I cannot stomach plane food. Every time the food arrived Husband already knew I wouldn’t eat very much. Long plane journey and not eating a lot did worry Husband, but what he failed to understand is that I know my body and eating the reheated meal on a turbulent plane does not go down well with my stomach, see previous point.

In the end we came to an agreement that I would eat the fruit, yoghurt and bread roll, it seemed whatever the meal you were always giving those three food items, anything else was a bonus.

People

Along with plane food (unless you are in first / business class) this one is a common gripe.  I do wonder about the human race sometimes, I know I can be a bit vocal that Husband had to reign me in a few times but it only takes a few people to make a situation challenging.

We are all in the same situation, in economy, in the same small amount of space. So why is it necessary for the person behind me to dig their knees into the back of my seat, even if they are a similar height to me? I am 5.1 and was fortunate to have a reasonable amount of leg room, so there was no excuse as to why I would be digging my knees into the back of the seat in front of me. The same happened to Husband, it got to the point he had to speak with the person behind and ask them to be a bit more considerate. In husbands scenario what was the problem? They wanted to slouch in the seat as if they were in their own living room. Come on people use a bit of common sense, we are in economy with barely enough space to swing a cat let alone behave as if there is no one else around.

This may sound like a minor issue but when you are on a 13 hour flight you start to lose patience and understanding for the inconsiderate flyer.

Turbulence

Not to self, avoid the news when on holiday!

We flew Thai airways so of course two days before we are flying out Pakistan close their airspace forcing the air line to cancel their flights to Europe until they can find an alternative flight route. We were fortunate that all flights has resumed by the time it came for us to fly out to Thailand. We were checking that everything was still ok with our flight home and subsequently read the news reports about the recent air disasters.

So me being a novice flyer, every time the plane has a bit of turbulence and the seat belt light came on all that would come into my mind is how far were we from the nearest airport.

Me nerves were fried by the time we landed.

Future

Despite my woes when it comes to flying Husband is already planning our next holiday to another part of Asia. I can’t fault him as there are some beautiful countries, with interesting culture and history that are worth visiting.

I know that my relationship with flying is something I will have to come to terms with, it’s a case of deal with it if I want to ever want to travel outside the UK again.

It’s restructure time!

Department restructures are not ever an easy thing, they create tension, stress, and relationships can become strained.

I’m coming to the end stages of my teams restructure process, it has been emotionally and mentally drained me. In this restructure I am competing with my colleagues for the same positions. For the most part I enjoy my job but it doesn’t hurt to want a more & I now have the opportunity to apply for a promotion, which I have done.

It would be daft for me to pin all my hopes on this one job, what if it doesn’t work out, then what will I do? I have had to look at all my options and the changes I need to make, you don’t know when the next opportunity will land on your doorstep.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Yes going through a re-structure can be a negative experience, but it also has it’s benefits. In my case it has forced me to re-evaluate my personal objectives asking myself;

  • what is it that I want?
  • how do I go about getting it?

This process has helped me to get my mojo back, build confidence in myself and the work that I do. With this new found confidence I have been;

  • updating my cv
  • applying for jobs
  • working on my online presence
    • being more active on my Twitter and LinkedIn pages
    • reviving this neglected blog

It is hard work, and at times it does feel like I have two jobs, but it is important to keep the momentum going and remaining as consistent as possible.

When I’m tired and I think I can’t do anymore I like to remember;

  • have fun and enjoy what I do
  • be selective with the information I share online but not too stuffy. You don’t know what shared interest will open the door to your next job
  • comment and like other peoples posts
  • be myself and let my dry sense of humour shine through
  • be patient, everything takes time
  • don’t be too hard on myself, if I don’t have time to write a blog article one week then that’s ok, it’s not the end of the world
  • aim high and keep moving forward with a smile

I’ve had the interview it’s now wait for the outcome, fingers crossed.

Staff awards

At work last week was the annual staff awards ceremony; Quality Awards.

This event is organised and run by the Communications team, the team I am a part Quality Awards 2019 207of. Guess what, this year the HR and Communications nominated for the Chair award for the work that had been done to recruit and retain staff. I am pleased to say that we won ‘Highly Commended’. This is a huge achievement and it’s just nice to be recognised for the hard work and effort of everyone involved.

These awards are about the staff across the whole Trust, recognising and appreciating their hard work and dedication to their colleagues and their patients.

  • individuals and teams are nominated by their colleagues and patients
  • it is funded with sponsorship money, usually from companies who we have worked with such as printing companies

Quality Awards 2019 023It’s an amazing evening where staff can dress up and mingle with staff from different parts of the Trust, put names to faces and overall have an enjoyable evening. Plus everyone who attended loved the obligatory hand clappers.

Despite all this positivity it can be a bit disheartening when you hear some of the negative comments about the evening, how it is about the Executive team and that money for services had been used to fund the awards.

I understand why some people have reacted the way they have to the staff awards, it doesn’t help when the media focuses on the staff shortages, lack of funding for essential services and generally how the NHS is failing.
Despite all this, the hard working staff deserved the awards evening and the joy you see on their faces when they received their awards was priceless.

Give your mental health the boost it needs with exercise

It’s not rocket science, we all know that looking after our health through exercise and clean eating is good for us. If you are happy with the way you are then great, it’s all about body confidence, but did you know that exercise and reducing your rubbish food intake doesn’t just keep your internal organs happy, help you lose weight and become stronger but it can also benefit your mental health.

When you exercise your body releases happy chemicals in your body; endorphins, dopamine and serotonin helping with the following;

  • reduce stress
  • ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
  • boost self-esteem
  • improve sleep

I’m not saying you need to strap on your trainers and get ready to run a marathon but just moving that little bit more can make all the difference to how you feel about yourself.

Ideally you should be aiming to get:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Set yourself realistic goals, if you want to relax and unwind try yoga. If you want something with a bit more intensity then try a cardio workout, there is something for everyone.

  • fitting in a home workout session while you watch your favourite programme two or three times a week.
  • YouTube have some excellent videos to suit all fitness levels, at the moment these are my preferred forms of exercise.
  • NHS website has some great suggestions to get you moving.

If home workouts aren’t for you then a group like Fitness in Mind could be just what you need. It ‘..was founded in 2014 by a kick boxer with social anxiety disorder, a rock climber with general anxiety disorder, and a couch potato with bipolar disorder’ so these people know what they are talking about. Through physical activity and creating a safe and welcoming environment they help people with mental health illnesses work through their concerns and feel good about themselves.

Sports for Confidence is another group who are doing a lot to help people to help people take back some control they may have lost because of their illness through exercise.

Don’t like the idea of structured exercise then try going for long walks, gardening even housework can have the same effect. If you’re anything like me then housework is way down your list of activities.

My fitness journey

I only started to look after myself in my adult years. As a child I was underweight, and didn’t have much strength. Throughout the years my relationship with exercise has changed. I’ve gone from being a cardio gym bunny to finding stress relief through kickboxing to now fitting in short but effective YouTube video workouts in the morning before work.

My lifestyle has changed and I have had to find ways to adapt to those changes. In my blog post ‘Trousers are a bit tight’ I talk about how I had put on weight and though not overweight I wasn’t happy with how I was feeling with myself inside and out.

Getting up earlier in the morning to workout wasn’t easy to begin with, I had to set myself realistic goals and start with less intense workouts and work my way up. I started to notice that even though I would be worn out I would recover quickly, as a result I have begun to feel more positive and happier within myself. It’s not about getting a 6 pack but getting to a point where I am content.

Running was on the cards for a period of time, due to the temperamental weather changes this has taken a back seat for now. Yes I know it’s a lame excuse.

Diet and moving more go hand in hand, by releasing the happy chemicals in my body  and choosing different types of food to keep me fuller for longer means I’m not always reaching for a sugar fix in the afternoons. I have tried to get to stage where I have a balance between healthy food, junk food and how much I move.

Exercise is not a magic pill and there are conditions that will require medication to help people feel better. This isn’t a sign of weakness, it takes strength to accept help when it’s needed.
The first step is the hardest but when you do you’ll be surprised by the results.

Employers; Are you missing out on a talented autistic employee?

16% of autistic adults are in full-time paid employment

Employers want capable, talented employees but in this day and age they must know they are missing out on one part of society? Those with autism may lack the ability to sell themselves, do not have the same social skills as others and questions need to be direct and clear. But they are also hardworking, talented, creative people that deserve to have the same opportunity as others. Not everyone is suitable for mainstream employment but isn’t it time that the recruitment process is given an overhaul so those on the spectrum who can work and want to work are given that option?

It’s no secret my own brother has Asperger’s and a degree in graphics and animation. Like my brother many people with autism struggle to find suitable employment. Those diagnosed with Asperger’s will understand and can relate to my brother in the sense that he doesn’t have the same social skills as you and I. He doesn’t make eye contact when speaking, his expression and his tone of voice can be a bit monotone, unless you tap into something he is passionate about then he becomes quite animated even throwing in the odd witty comment.
He is currently working with a fantastic group called Signpost that are helping him re-write his CV, write job applications, helping him prepare for interviews as well as boosting his confidence. I know that with the support he is receiving he will eventually be successful. He has a great work ethic, is creative and hardworking,  the concern will then be the interview stage. My hope is that potential employers will do their research and adapt their interview process.

The National Autistic Society has some useful interview tips and advice for employing someone with autism, from creating the right job advert through to the interview stage. Interviews can be a daunting experience, so imagine how someone with autism will feel.

A solution for one parent was to create his own company that only employs people with autism, Auticon. Formerly known as Mindspark, was created by Gray Benoist, a parent of two autistic sons who saw the lack of employment options for them so decided to take matters into his own hands.

Our mission is about enabling a group who have been disenfranchised. There are many segments of society that are under-utilised and people on the autistic spectrum are one of them

In the UK two autistic brothers decided to change their employment situation by opening their own comic book shop. It wasn’t an easy task to begin with but with the support of their family the business is still going.

My aim is to not vilify employers but this is an ongoing problem and concern. Despite all the education, knowledge out there, groups emphasising that in the right environment autistic people can thrive we are still in this position. It’s a different world we are living in now, many people don’t work 9-5 they work hours to suit the demands of the company and to accommodate their lifestyle for a better work life balance plus the option to work remotely. So if companies can adapt to these changes then why not adapt to employ people with autism?

This isn’t an easy task and not even something all companies can invest in, but it is down to all of us to get the best out of people. Sometimes a bit of kindness, understanding and time can make all the difference. Put a bit of effort into investing in people and you’ll be surprised by the positive results.

Mental health in the Asian community

Time to Talk Day 7 February.

‘..one in four of us, yet people are still afraid to talk about it. Time to Talk Day encourages everyone to talk about mental health.’

This year the theme is having the right ingredients, to have a conversation about mental health. This could be from having a private chat over a cup of tea to hosting an open event where strangers can get together and share their experiences. Whether it’s private or public it’s all about creating a comfortable, non-judgemental environment where anyone and everyone can feel safe to talk about mental health whether it is their own or someone they know.

Despite all the work being done to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health there are still communities that do not understand mental health and see it as an illness that will go away with some tablets, it is a punishment that can be treated by praying more or by carrying out particular rituals.

Those in the Asian community living with a mental health illness may keep this a secret from their family, friends because of the stigma still associated with mental health and the fear of being ostracised. Then there is the fear of what society will say if they found out, what they will say about the parents, who will marry them.

‘…kept their illness secret from their spouse for more than 20 years.’

My own brother has Asperger’s, our own parents didn’t really understand what this meant and what it meant for my brother. It wasn’t something anyone in their family has come across before, this it isn’t because no one else had been diagnosed with autism but because it isn’t something that is recognised or acknowledged. In there minds there was nothing wrong, which in some ways is a good thing because my brother is capable of doing many things but his normal is not the same normal for everyone one else.

I don’t want readers to think that families / friends don’t care but to understand that this isn’t a community that wouldn’t come together. No one should have to hide how they feel but it isn’t easy to break the mould, to go against cultural thinking and traditions that have been ingrained from childhood.

Changes are happening

Culture has a way of adapting without breaking traditions. For many people religion is part of their identity who may feel that being mentally unwell could compromise that relationship it can make seeking help and starting the recovery journey more difficult. This doesn’t need to be the case, religion could help those with mental health by teaching that religion doesn’t turn their back on those who are suffering but giving them the tools to find inner strength and seek help.

Coming together

Within the Asian community there are three main faiths, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism. Throughout history and even still today relationships between the three religions can be strained at times but not in the world of mental health. There are support groups specifically aimed at those of each religious group but will openly encourage and support each other.

When it comes to helping each other even though we may have different ways of practicing our faith it all comes down to one things, being a decent human being and helping each other out. No deserves to be alone.

Muslim Counsellor and Psychotherapist Network (MCAPN)
Sikh Forgiveness
Bengali Mental Health Movement
South Asian Health Foundation
Mind
Rethink