Category Archives: Lifestyle

loneliness

The age of loneliness

If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before and people continue to disappoint them. Jodie Piccoult, My Sister’s Keeper.

I met with some friends recently for afternoon tea, a rare occasion where I forgave myself for leaving the office for a couple of hours to catch up with gossip and have a laugh. loneliness

After we said our goodbyes I experienced a real ‘low’ as I walked back to the car I couldn’t understand how after a couple of hours talking about kids, work, life and husbands and having a good old laugh, why I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach.

Then by sheer coincidence I stumbled upon an interesting article about a woman of 48 years married with two young children who described her feelings of loneliness.

I could relate to this woman entirely. They had recently moved house to a new location, had left old friends behind and this was clearly affecting her well being.

And that is when I realised that what I was experiencing were symptoms of loneliness.

As a working mother of two boys, the extra school activities and everything else in between, there is little time for socialising with friends, conversations are online using Facebook or Whatsapp and not much face to face time.

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How can you be lonely in a society that is 24/7, always  connected, always on.

You are only three steps away from someone you know.

Are these relationships just acquaintances rather than real friends?

If you have a best friend are you more likely to share personal stuff with them face to face rather than on facebook?

The more I thought about this the more I became aware of the difference between being lonely and being alone.

I hardly consider myself alone, I have a family, husband and friends but I do admit to experiencing feelings of loneliness.

Married with a family doesn’t make you immune to loneliness.

Conversation with your partner usually takes the form of how the working day was, money issues, holiday planning, kids well-being, schooling, ideas, dreams.

This type of conversation is mostly transactional that is a series of daily conversational transactions. For example, can you pick up some milk, I’m doing the shopping thursday night, John has a dental appointment on friday.

Or, focused exclusively on parenting leaving little time for talking about how you are feeling. Drought

Many of us are connected socially in the online world but five million of us don’t have close friends according to Relate.

In a study by YouGov commissioned by Relate, 1 in 10 said they had no close friendships, 64% of those with children had daily contact with their sons and daughters, only a quarter kept in daily contact with a parent.

The study found that there was more contact with the boss and work colleagues than friends and family and in spite of an increase in the use of email and mobile phones, 1 in 4 said they had no real friends at work.

Loneliness affects many of us at one time or another and the “Lonely Society” survey by the mental health foundation in 2010 found that 22% of those surveyed (2,256) never feel lonely with 11% or 1 in 10 said they felt lonely often.

Four in ten or 42% felt depressed because they felt alone. Over 48% of those people surveyed felt that society is getting lonelier

When I was a fourteen year old, I can recall befriending a new girl who had recently moved along way from her former Yorkshire home.

I was given the job of looking after her as she became acquainted with her new school and we got on right from the outset.

I was protective of her when she was mocked by others for her strong Yorkshire accent and generally made sure she settled in okay.

We had the same interests – boys, music and sport and went everywhere together and were almost inseparable.

Saturdays were spent at her mum’s flat where we would talk and share our hopes for the future; we would listen to the bee gees and declared that we would be best friends forever.

Then after a year or so, something changed and another school friend started to muscle in on our friendship. It wasn’t done in a malicious or nasty way but I started to feel left out like an equation without the + sign.

Suddenly my best friend and our mutual friend were together and I was cast aside like an old shoe.

I can still recall a history lesson when the ‘other friend’ said to me I hope you don’t mind me being friends with Andrea we’ve become good mates, you can still be our friend.

At that moment I felt slighted, hurt, dumbfounded. I wasn’t aware that I had done anything to upset my best friend. I did ask her if I had done something wrong but she responded with ‘not a thing’.

She went onto say that she had become good friends with Rita.

There was no animosity or hate at all and I was told that ‘two could be three.’

But it didn’t feel the same and then I found out that Rita would often be invited somewhere without an invitation extended to me so I left feeling hurt and dejected.

I can remember that hurt and sharing my feelings with my mum that Andrea and I were no longer best friends.

At that age friendships are transient, they come and go, this week you are top of the pile the next cast out like a leper until the next amazing thing you are seen doing and then you are cool again.

That’s growing up.

But I didn’t realise until I walked out of the coffee shop just how much I missed real friendships.

I’m talking about deep down tell all, through ‘sick and sin’ admit all best friend relationships.

I suspect that my experience of loss, insecurity and aloofness is the fallout from that lost friendship.

I have met many different people, in life and work, made many friends and acquaintances some have come and gone.

My Italian grandmother told me that in life you can count the number of friends you have on one hand, the people who stick by you through thick and thin, those you can turn to in the hour of need and who will not be angry if you don’t speak with them from one week to the next.

Research shows that lonely people share certain characteristics like loss, trauma, negative or critical parenting.

Loneliness brings feelings of anger, sadness, depression, worthlessness all of which have a negative impact on our health.

As we navigate through life we lose friends and make new ones, sometimes we choose to or want to be alone, few of us have escaped the pain of loneliness but, it is part of the experience of growing up.

Our relationships begin, change and end from being an infant to a toddler who experiences separation anxiety.

As children we try to be part of the ‘in crowd’ by making many friends and trying to get acceptance amongst our peers.

Then, as teenagers and the prospect of first love, good or bad and finally into adulthood our social relationships change and shift.

Relationships ebb and flow like the tide and so does loneliness but true friendship endures like a fine wine.

 

 

 

 

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Help. I’m a workaholic get me out of here.

It’s the school holiday’s and I’m spending time working from home with my children.

Five weeks in and I’m like a fish out of water. I didn’t realise what a creature of habit I’ve become.

My husband happened to mention recently whilst I was working at my desk that I am work obsessed in fact he actually said ‘you are a workaholic’. The treadmill of life

I considered that there might be a faint possibility that I am work obsessed given that I do have a touch of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and like to get things finished and perfected but I was slighted by being labelled a ‘workaholic.’

Then I researched the meaning of workaholic and unsurprisingly I found myself ticking most of the boxes.

“A workaholic is someone who is addicted to work. While the term implies that the person enjoys their work it can also imply that they simply feel compelled to do it. There is no generally accepted medical definition of such a condition, although some forms of stress, impulse control disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder can be work-related.” (Wikipedia)

i love my jobWorkaholism is not the same as working hard.

Loving what you do or job engagement is not the same as being a workaholic.

I was relieved to find that whilst I don’t fit into the category of workaholic I definitely classify myself as being work obsessed.

I was bought up by the work ethic; work hard now and you’ll reap dividends later.

Workaholism is not defined by the number of hours you work but rather the relationship you have with work.

By that definition my relationship with work is based on the fact I enjoy it.

When you work based on fear like losing your job or feeling compelled to show your boss how committed you are, you are working with the adrenaline in full flow.

This type of work pressure will lead to chronic fatigue, stress and ultimately burn-out none of which are conducive for a long life.

Getting satisfaction from work is a good thing but I’m not sure that many of us derive work satisfaction.

Are we working to live or living to work?

Long hours are a sign of dedication and commitment but for many workaholics it is an indication that they need to escape from problems. In doing so this can lead to neglecting personal relationships and responsibilities.

Although I don’t fit in with the need to work to escape problems I do admit to my wondering task list in my head that goes something like this:- iStock_000010266186Small

  • Finish this blog
  • Work on my college assignment
  • Plan meetings next week
  • Shopping
  • Pick up kids school uniforms
  • Provide proposal for customer

And so the list goes on.

I have trouble switching off and I don’t find it easy to sit still and relax. I am always doing “stuff”.

It must be my psyche and personality that makes me this way but I do know of others who are the same as me.

Give me a desk and chair and I’ll find something to do. I’m relieved when my family leave to go out so I can have peace and quiet.

When I’m on holiday all I want to do is work, draw, write or answer emails I like to fill my day which would imply that there is something missing in my life?

Do I really need to fill every endless hour or void with something to do?

I don’t want to fall behind and leaving things for a few days means that things get forgotten this leads to more work, hassle and pressure to get things done.

Working over 50 hours a week seems to be the threshold that differentiates the ‘workacoholics’ from everyone else.

  1. Do you feel a constant need to be busy?
  2. Do you find it difficult to relax or sit still?
  3. Do you find it difficult to delegate work to others?
  4. Do you have an endless to do list which feels like it is never completed?
  5. Does your spouse or children complain or moan that you “always seem to be working?
  6. Do you forget things, events, conversations because you are forever preoccupied?

Some of the above I can say yes to but given the modern society we live in, we are all under pressure to stay on top of things.

Using a bench mark of fifty plus hours a week to work out if you are a workaholic seems unfair given many Doctors, Nurses, Solicitors and endless other professions work long hours and probably don’t consider themselves as workaholics.

Wayne Oates coined the phrase “workaholic” back in 1968 but there are many jobs that require us to work long hours that provide a huge sense of satisfaction and meaningfulness.

If we see our jobs as satisfying and worthwhile and we have choice and control over our work then work contributes to our lives in a meaningful and purposeful way.

No control and no choice over work results in misery, depression and stress.

Finding the work-life balance is still a utopian ideal.

Mostly I love what I do, the day job helps keep me focussed and pays the bills and I love to write.

Half Asleep Woman With First Cup of CoffeeBut toward the end of a school term I suffer with chronic fatigue from the endless school activities and work having to fit in an otherwise impossible schedule.

A few days out of the routine and I feel less tired and clear headed again.

Researchers from Norway and the UK developed the Bergen work addiction scale.

Read each of the following statements and rank yourself on each one according to the following:-

1= never

2= rarely

3= sometimes

4= often

5= always

If you score 4 (often) or 5 (always) on four or more of these statements it may suggest that work is all consuming for your.

1. You think of ways to free up more time to work

2. You end up by spending more time working than you had initially intended

3. You work to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression

4. You have been told to cut back on work but haven’t listened

5. You become stressed and anxious if you can’t work

6. You prioritise work over hobbies and exercise

7. You work so much that you’ve noticed a decline in your health and well-being.

You can be a highly effective workaholic as long as you recognise the signs and symptoms of over work.

Finding the WLB (work-life balance) is like a pendulum, it moves in different directions according to our status.

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The downside of work overtaking your life is that you are likely to miss out on fun, laughter and the richness that life has to offer.

Advice I would do well to heed!

 

 

 

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I want to leave my family… just for a week

I want to leave my family just for a week.It may sound selfish and probably insane but fifteen years since the birth of my first child and the arrival of my second almost eleven years ago I’m in urgent need of some well-earned ‘me’ time. 

I’ve always been there for my family through thick and thin, good times and bad and I am at the point where I need to re-discover who I am.

I have morfed into a cross between a young looking XX year old mum who is fashion conscious but wondering if she’s beginning to dress like her own mother, to a teenager in Vans and Skinny’s.

I’m not even sure what look I’m trying to cultivate for myself. I’m stuck in no womans land, who am I, what am I, who do I want to be.

It is that feeling you get when you take a deep sigh and harrumph!

What do I mean?

I’ve put my life on hold for my kids and to some extent my husband, for sure I run a business and I contribute to our financial sure footing so it’s not like my whole life revolves around them.

Who am I kidding of course it does. I run errands for them, I take them into school most mornings and I collect them from school (too far to walk and the bus doesn’t go all the way.) And I work in the same town.

You can find me lurking in the school grounds long after parents and children have gone home for a drama rehearsal that is running beyond the finish time of 8:00PM or a swimming competition that is in another town and has overrun by an hour making it 7:30PM before they get back to school.

I rush to school at lunchtime because one of my adolescent’s has left their PE bags in the boot of the car. I spend more time in that school car park than I do in bed with my husband.

Escape and be freeI’m there through sickness and health, tears, tantrums, happiness and laughter. I provide the emotional and physical support, I am the proverbial tower-block for them.

Why do I have this inherent desire to leave, to flee the ship to abscond to escape like a prisoner desperate to see blue skies?

Simple I need to discover me.

You see it got lost somewhere between M for Mummy and CS for cervical smear.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be me. I lost my identity and myself sometime back in 2003 after my second child. I feel more like a Mum and less of a woman

I love motherhood every moment has been precious to me. I love its daily challenges; why can’t I play with my ipad in bed or why do I need to go to bed so early, my friends are allowed to stay up later on school nights.

The overwhelming feelings of love are inexplicable as is the dislike of their bad behaviour and answering back which at times force me to the whisky bottle.

Yet I absolutely cannot justify booking a week at a spa retreat or on a ‘singleton’ type holiday and leave them just because I’m going through what might seem to be a mid-life crisis.

Certainly doesn’t feel like it to me.

I had a birthday gift given to me in January, one night at a spa retreat, one whole day and night being pampered but I am hesitant to go.

Am I completely insane?

I have guilty feelings for even thinking of leaving our home for one day let alone seven nights.goldfish jumping out of the water

Why?

Because it feels like I am abandoning them. For so long I’ve always put them first, their well being is far more important than mine.

At the same time, I need to get back in touch with the person that is me, the person I was before I got married.

The occasional flirtatious, sexy (my husband’s view), very funny chick that would laugh at the most outrageous things and behave occasionally very badly.

What am I scared of?

That my husband wouldn’t love the real me, the person I use to be when I was his girlfriend, the woman he proposed to?

I can’t have changed that much surely.

Maybe I have. Too many years being a mummy and fitting comfortably into the genre is enough to make anyone question their identity.

Am I having an identity crisis? 

Do I need solitude from the ‘noise’, kids noise, school noise, work noise, world noise?

The idea of decamping from house and home and seeking solace in a place that requires me to be calm and tranquil sounds fabulous.

Away from the daily tasks that have become automated like loading the washing machine, planning dinner for next week, shopping lists, school runs, extra curricular activities that are dropped on me at a moment’s notice and are in my head not in my Filofax.

It’s endless.

familyAm I just tired like every other weary working woman who never gets their allotted amount of sleep and because I yearn for solitude and quiet and not the sound of my brain whirring?

I had no idea that having children and a husband would be so unrelenting and exhausting.

What if they left me instead?

I’ve suggested the idea on numerous occasions ‘go and have a male bonding week’ but it fell on deaf ears. No Mum, we can’t go without you, we can’t leave you, we’re not a family without you were their exclamations.

I’m not convinced their responses were indeed virtuous. Very sweet yes, but more like who is going to cook, wash, make the beds and be the general tidy up person rather than have mum around for the sake of mum.

The idea of being gloriously self-absorbed for a week sounds so delicious.

What would I do with this me time?

Would I do the things I want to do or would I end up by sorting my wardrobes, getting rid of piles of stuff, resolve to tidy the garage.

When really what I should be doing is sitting in a café in London watching the world pass by or sketch and paint, pamper myself at a day spa, sleep or simply lie on crisp white linen sheets looking at the ceiling and thinking of nothing.

There’s the thought of laying in bed all day watching TV or wallow in the bath with a bottle of champagne until I shrivel up.

The thought of not having to justify my actions or explain why I do the things I do would feel great.

Would one week of unadulterated bliss make me truly appreciate what I have the other 51 weeks of the year?

Until next time

Old age

Death and all his friends. Looking after the elderly

why I fear for my children's futureLast year’s BBC documentary ‘The child of our time’ presented by Professor Robert Winston focussed on the development of children from 0-13 years.

The documentary showed the difficulties parents faced in coming to terms with their babies developing into young children and into teenagers.

Parents talked of their feelings of love, happiness and worry for the future of their children.

Parenthood doesn’t prepare you for the speed with which the years pass – from babies – toddlers – young children – teenagers to adulthood.

The only thing we know for sure other than birth and taxes is that death is inevitable.

No school, college or university prepares us for that eventuality and that is a very difficult pill to swallow.

This was made more apparent to me recently when a very dear friend and neighbour only 73 years of age passed away. In less than six months he was dead and it was this stark reality that made me appreciate just how vulnerable my parents are if they fall ill.

The documentary made me examine the relationship I have with my parents, watching them grow old and more frail as age slowly takes its toll. It is difficult to imagine them not being ‘there’.

Their agedness is even more marked as we live far away and we only see them 4-6 times a year.

Old ageWith our busy lives and the children’s school activities it makes it virtually impossible to take a weekend off to see them and so they are the ones that travel to us but I am only too aware that this window is closing as my father will find it too tiring to drive the two hours to spend a weekend with us.

What will happen when one of them is ill and requires long term care?

Long distance travelling two or three times a week isn’t practical when we both work and the children can’t be left on their own.

When my eldest child leaves home at 18 my parents will be be 81 years old and I will still be caring for a 14 year old. I may well be faced with the prospect of looking after my younger son as well as ailing parents.

Like many of my peers we are facing the stark reality that our middle age may not be as exciting as we had planned, instead we face the prospect of caring for our elderly parents.

It is a sobering thought.

As much as we cherish our parents and with children having flown the nest, we should be looking forward to a slower pace with less demands on our time. A time to consolidate relationships with partners and take stock of our lives and look forward to our retirement.

Aren’t we entitled to some ‘we’ time after years spent bringing up children?

The UK’s ageing population is having a major impact on public services creating extra demands for care and support. Modern medicine means that people are living longer up from 67 in 1950 to 79 today.

The fastest growing age group is the over 85’s. Fewer people are dying suddenly, instead they decline into chronic conditions which require long term treatment and care; care which the UK is struggling to provide.

A reduction in their rate of income tax, exemption from rising national insurance payments, free TV licences, winter fuel allowances and free transport are some of the benefits the ageing population are entitled to and rightly so.

If they’ve been working and contributing all their working years, shouldn’t the elderly be entitled to some comfort in their twilight years?

10,000,000 people in the UK are over 65. In 20 years this is likely to be 15,500,000. By 2050 it will be over 20,000,000. There are 3,000,000 over the age of 80 and this could double by 2030. One in six is over 65 and by 2050 one in four will be. 65% of the Department for Work and Pensions benefit goes to those over working age equivalent to £100 billion in 2010/11 or one-seventh of public expenditure. (ONS)

The number of people aged 60 or over reached 14,000,000 in 2013 and this is expected to rise.

In asian cultures old people are revered rather than frowned upon, in Japan two-thirds of old people live with their families, in european countries like Italy, 40 per cent live with their offspring and Spain is similar, in the UK it is 15%.

The extended family is prevalent with children choosing to stay in close proximity of their parents where care can be administered more easily, a care home is often the last resort.

The UK no longer has extended family units with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins all living nearby or in the same household.

We are a society of nuclear families – parents and children only, often living far away from parents.

A socially and geographically mobile generation of which I am one, have left their folk behind at home with no one to care for them but the state. In spite of my parents insistence that I move south after I finished my education in search of better jobs and opportunities.

Over the last fifty years there has seen exponential growth of women in the workplace leaving no one at home to look after elderly parents. Communities are not so closely knit as they once were and families are smaller.

Almost thirty years and with four grand-children, I sense my parents sadness, tinged with regret that they weren’t there when I needed them the most. The distance and the fact they were working until they were 67 was not conducive to a hands-on grandparent grandchild relationship.

As a society we are responsible for looking after the elderly, as children some of that responsibility surely falls on us and as the only daughter most of the responsibility will fall on me.

My grandmother lived to the age of 93 and the prospect of looking after my mother when I’m in my 60s causes me grave concern.coffin

It may be selfish that I should want some ‘me’ time after my children have left home, hobbies and travelling are what my husband and I are looking forward to.

But I also want to spend time with my parents in a fun and loving way not as a full time carer and not when I am working full-time with a young family to support.

So who is responsible for the long term care of not just my parents but our parents?

In less than three decades the world’s old will out-number the under 15s for the first time and as the elderly population grows the working population will shrink.

The problem of elderly care is hurtling toward us like a speeding truck, it is the big elephant in the room that no one seems to want to talk about and it will take the political will of the main parties to work together and formulate a plan.

As for my parents, I do have some ideas on how I will manage long term care as and when it is needed but I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

What do you think about your parents getting old? Are you worried how you will care for them?

Do you see it as your responsibility? How far should the state help and do you think communities can work together to help?

Drop me a line or a comment and share your thoughts here.      

Time to Workout

Do you need a personal trainer?

Time to Workout

Most people baulk at the idea of having a personal trainer.

They are more expensive than gym memberships and with the average rates outside of London anywhere from £40-£75 per hour and in London anywhere from £60 – £150.

It’s understandable that hiring a PT is considered a luxury but when you compare that to the billions wasted on unused gym memberships it represents excellent value.

We can justify paying out for a good bottle of wine or have manicures and facials weekly yet paying for a personal trainer is beyond our financial justification.

Claire-Louise Linnett, 27 years and an experienced PT says “the benefits of choosing a PT are worth sacrificing the luxuries depending on how much individuals need motivation and guidance to progress with their health and fitness. When you choose to work with a PT you are paying not just for a workout but for effectiveness, appropriateness and improved confidence”.

Mark, 49 a Managing Director based in Bedford says “it’s value engineering”. I’ve had a personal trainer for over 6 years and train twice weekly. I’ve cut back on my local pub trips and justified the cost because I can see the fitness and health benefits”.

Having a personal trainer helps establish a fitness routine that is tailored around your availability and to your specific needs. Whether it’s losing weight, improving muscle tone or simply requiring motivation to work out.

Obesity has doubled since 1980 according to the World Health Organisation and with obesity levels set to rise even more by 2050 governments are spending millions on campaigns to encourage us to get fit and eat healthily.

Happy fitness woman lifting dumbbellsSince 2009 there has been a surge in the recruitment of personal trainers and according to the fitness exercise register there are over 19,000 PT’s in the UK capable of stretching, toning and pushing us to the very limits of our ability, endurance and existence.

Claire-Louise Linnett has spent 6 years training people of all ages, shapes and sizes, “one of the main reasons people come to me for training is time and motivation. They find it difficult to make time to go to the gym but training with me ensures they are committed, focused and turn up for the session.

The key to being a good PT is understanding what the client hopes to get out of their sessions and tailor a program that they will love to do so they will experience real benefits, keeping it fresh and different each session means the client won’t get bored”.

Aileen, a 62-year-old retiree says having a PT is important to my well being. Now that I’m retired I have more time and want to get fitter and feel better about myself”.

PT’s help to enforce an exercise regime and foster good eating habits because they have acquired knowledge of everything that is essential in exercise and healthy living through training.

The register of exercise professionals provides certification for all UK PT’s. As a member of the register PT’s are obliged to undergo continued professional development to ensure that their knowledge is up to date it also means they are insured to practice.

What do good personal trainers offer?

  1. They provide accountability and motivation
  2. Expertise and know how in what they teach
  3. They will customise each training session to suit the needs of their clients
  4. They will help you achieve your fitness goals
  5. They will review your progress and advise and vary your training sessions accordingly
  6. Consistency – they will always turn up for your session

How do you find the right personal trainer? one couple man woman exercising workout fitness

  • Find a qualified PT from the fitness industry register
  • What experience do they have and can they provide references
  • Be clear on your personal objectives and ensure you tell your PT what your goals are
  • Make sure YOU feel comfortable with them
  • Ask for 2-3 sessions to see how it works for you before you decide to commit longer term

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Competitive parenting. Has parenting become a competitive sport?

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Twelve years ago I set up my business to give me the freedom and flexibility to spend more time with my children.

As they head into their teenage years, I admit to feelings of guilt because I still feel like I didn’t spend as much time with my children because I worked .

I was convinced I wasn’t a ‘proper mummy.’

The fact of the matter is I love what I do and fourteen years after the birth of my first child I wonder if I would have made a better mummy had I given up work altogether and been a stay at home mother. i love my job

My decision was based on feeling uncomfortable being reliant upon my husband because I wanted to manage my own life, be in control of my own finances and I admit that had I had given up work it would have felt like I’d be handing control of my life to someone else.

Like many mothers I put my children first but there have been times when I’ve had to cancel a really important meeting with an all new prospective customer, how hard it was to get that appointment, there were times when I could have screamed and cried ‘why do you have to get ill now!’

I can recollect missing one harvest festival and one christmas carol concert both due to circumstances beyond my control.

I was always home with them when they were sick and remember on one occasion when I was visiting a client, getting a phone call from the nursery to say that I should come and collect my toddler as he had developed a high temperature.

Apologetically, I bid a quick farewell to my host and flew out of the office.

There were days when the only conversation I had was with my bundles of joy and when my husband came back from work it was a moment of celebration as it meant that I could engage in adult conversation rather than baby talk.

From the outset of parenthood I’ve become increasingly aware of the pressure to make sure we are doing the right thing for our children.

When my children were between the ages of 4-6 years I felt that I was in competition with other parents to enrol my children into as many sport and social activities – swimming was an absolute must and as an ex-gymnast I hoped that maybe one of the boys might follow my footsteps into gymnastics.

As a former gymnastics coach I experienced first hand the pressures placed on children by their parents forcing them to concentrate on one activity and pushing them beyond what they were capable of.

I adopted the opposite attitude by encouraging my children to do what they wanted my thought process was that if they tried something and really enjoyed it they were more likely to stick with it rather than me dragging them kicking and screaming to an activity they hated but one I felt they should do.

I was mystified when well meaning mums enrolled their children into everything from childnastics, swimnastics, to toddler rugby and music classes.

There were times when I felt inadequate as a parent because I did not have the time to do the same for my children.

Was I wrong to deny my children access to all these activities? Did I fail them by not ‘pushing’ them harder?

Watching a hockey match recently, I overheard a mother speak to the coach about why her son should be playing for the A team and not the B team. Perhaps a better question might have been what does my son need to do to be considered A team material.

As parents we are protective of our children and want the best for them so I understood what this mother was asking. What surprised me was the presumption that she thought that her child should be in the A team.

Is this not down to the wisdom of the coach? I felt that as a parent she was overstepping the mark and questioning the teacher’s authority and knowledge?

I’ll admit to getting angst if my boys aren’t selected for what I believe to be the best teams just because I think they are good enough but, I accept that maybe they aren’t as good and who am I to determine what team they should be in?

As parents we see our children through rose tinted glasses believing them to be brilliant. The truth is often very different.

We need to be able to accept that maybe our kids aren’t and can’t be great at everything. By recognising their limitations and encouraging them to be the best they can be and to enjoy themselves is more important than our single-minded quest for them to be the best at everything.

business team standingParents evening is a clandestine place for competitive parenting.

Observe the competitive parent hanging onto teacher’s every word in the vain hope that the smiles and addressing teacher on first name terms will automatically guarantee Henry an A in his next maths test or better still a prize at prize giving.

Then dad asks the most important question did teacher watch the rugby on Saturday because he knows teacher coaches rugby and dad wants his son in the A team. What can he do to make sure that happens?

Invariably at the end of the evening you chat to other parents who can’t help but tell you how well their children are doing without admitting they might need extra help with school studies.

In your naivety you admit that your youngest needs some extra help with his studies and you are left with that feeling of inadequacy because you feel like you have failed them as a parent.

I’m left reeling with the thought there must be many mothers who despite their best parenting efforts feel a failure. When did competitive parenting suddenly make you feel bad because you were unable to attain a perfect ten in motherhood.

How did women get to feel this way? Am I the only one?

Is it because we had children later in years after having established ourselves in a career or well paid job?

Women have to compete in the boardroom, for managerial and senior positions continually striving to improve and show how good we are.

Has this competitive element spilled over into our child-rearing efforts? What are we trying to prove? Our kids are blissfully unaware of this competition that is until school sports day.

Cross Country Team RunnersParents are secretly praying that the ‘superstar kid’ who always gets picked for every A team will fall and give their child a chance to win. Parents shout and scream at their offspring to run faster, giving them advice and tactics on how to be the best. I’m one of them.

Work now sits a very comfortable second place to my life as a mum and that for me is as it should be.

I love my kids unconditionally and ponder momentarily over the toddler photos I have of them in my office. The joy of being a mother engulfs me as a tear swells in my eye for I know I can never have that time back again.

I’ve accepted that the most important thing in my life is the welfare and happiness of my children and whilst they quite possibly may not end up being selected for England, I believe they will be the best they can be and that parenting isn’t a competitive sport with rules, training manuals and a referee, it is a life long learning skill.

Perhaps the only true indicator of your success as a parent is when your offspring turn out to be well rounded individuals who show compassion, care enough about family and friends, have a sense of morality and finally understand that maybe mum and dad weren’t that bad after all.

If my children are still talking to me when I’m 65 then I’ll consider my parenting efforts a success.

Time to relax? Are you kidding? Is stress a part of our everyday lives?

Relaxation is now no longer part of our culture
Relaxation a thing of the past?

Are we more stressed than we were 50+ years ago?

The 60’s with its partying, rock n roll, drugs scene, the rolling stones, the beatles a great era to work live and enjoy life the decade I was born in and the chapter of my life often relayed to me in vivid detail by my parents who described the 60s as one of those defining moments in history.

Feminism gained momentum, man landed on the moon, the cuban missile crisis, the JFK assassination and music that truly defined many of us today.

According to The Times [6th November 2013] relaxing has now become a thing of the past.

The amount of time we spend pottering around at home or actually sitting down and relaxing has fallen by half in the last five years. With the exception of sleep, we spend on average 3 hours in our homes every day, down from six hours in 2008.

A survey of 1,000 people in full-time employment found that 42 per cent leave the house as soon as they are ready in the morning and return late at night with many expressing that they had days like these at least once a week as work, business and commuting take up more time.

57 per cent of people in the survey felt they were constantly on the move and 59 per cent had to schedule to make time at home

The increasing use of technology to get more done whilst commuting represented 53 percent of workers who use mobiles, laptops and ipads to get tasks done.

These mobile devices have become intrinsically integral to our lives that people find they can’t be without them.

We spend 11 hours a day staring at screens – laptops, computer screens, smartphones, e-books and TV’s with most of the communication largely done via work on a screen.

I can categorically say that relaxation has become a thing of the past for me. My husband commented recently, I never see you sit down and relax you are always doing something.

He’s right, if it’s not working, it’s picking up the kids, cooking, washing, ironing, writing or doing something that invariably leads to the use of a device to communicate, write and read.

Often times writing emails at night is a great way to catch up on the not so important tasks.

The simple fact is we are ‘always on’.

social media = an always on culture
Our work and lifestyle means we are always on

Our society has become a living and breathing 24/7 organism. I’m sure many of us could process work through the night and still not achieve a zero inbox or complete tasks.

The 24/7 working society may make you shudder but I don’t think we are that far away from it happening and for customers to assume we never need to sleep.

Fifteen years we didn’t have the technology that allowed us to always be on and fear of missing out (FOMO) wasn’t part of our vocabulary.

Many commuters find that by the time they get to work they are ready to go home. One commuter in ten says that their morning journey is so stressful that they want to cry by the time they arrive in work, one in six sit at their desk and want to go back to bed, while one in nine feels totally and utterly miserable according to a study of 2,000 travellers undertaken by Evian. The majority of workers arrive feeling tired and down-hearted.

No wonder we’ve become a nation of stressed out over worked underpaid, self obsessed individuals.

According to psychologist Graham Price british adults are more stressed and worry more about their lives than those who lived through the blitz.

How can you compare the two historical periods?

One dominated by bombings, rations, blackouts the other dominated by the internet, social media, longer working hours and 24/7 always on.

According to Price we are more anxious and stressed than our world war two counterparts, we are consumed with fears of being unemployed, financial and relationship worries.

Stress and worry has become the cornerstone of our lives, stress is endemic.

Do you think we’ve been worn down by the everyday pressures of commuting, unrealistic demands of bosses and the treadmill way of life?

I see a time in the future where we are connected directly or indirectly via social media to pretty much everyone.

social media addict
Bit by bit we are connecting to the universe

The whole universe is slowly being connected up. Social media is rapidly extending our connections, relationships our geography. We can be in touch and always on, make new friends without ever having to meet them, we can have different identities, be different people, we can make our updates fabulously exciting even if we are at home watching the T.V but no one needs to know.

We seem to have less time than ever before and most of it is taken up with working, so much so that the LSE (London School of Economics) found that those that were in paid work are unhappy and this is closely related to work anxiety. Paid work has a slightly larger negative impact on being relaxed. How unhappy or anxious while working depends on your circumstances.

always on and always on the go
We are constantly on the run to be somewhere, there’s never any time just to think

Wellbeing at work depends on where you work, whether you are combining work with other activities; whether you are alone or with others; the time of day or night you are working; and your personal and household characteristics.

Work appears to have such an adverse effect on individuals’ well being, as if we didn’t know this!

Even though people are so positive about paid work when reflecting on the meaning and value of their lives, actually engaging in paid work comes at some personal cost to them in terms of the pressures and stress they face while working.

During periods of relaxation, working continues to be negatively associated with momentary well being in other words even when we don’t think of work, work has a negative impact upon us and we would rather be doing other things.

Is there time to relax? Or has it become a fleeting moment in our ever transitory lives.

As one aged gentleman said to me recently: “I feel sorry for your generation, you never stop, you never rest, you never seem to have time for fun. We did but we had less than you and there wasn’t the pressures on us like there is on you today. We wanted things but we had to wait until we could afford them. Your generation has everything almost, but none of you seem to enjoy what you have or enjoy life”

Makes me wonder what our children’s generation will face over the next few years?

What do you think? Are you always on? How do you make time to switch off from your job or life for that matter?

Is there a solution to all this if so please do share.

You’ll find us on the twitter channel and Facebook, or you can connect with us on Google+ and Linkedin.

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Just because I’m 50 doesn’t mean I’m dead YET. How to stay young at 50

Divorce
50 represents a milestone for men and women alike often resulting in a desire to unleash the ‘inner you’

I’ve never been a big worrier when it comes to my height, size of my boobs and the size of my feet.

Recently as I edge ever closer to the big ‘5 0′ I am feeling overwhelmed about the enormity of the age.

I know it’s only a number and the old adage you’re only as old or young as you feel’ rings true but there is a sense of finality about 50. As one good friend recently said to me it’s the gateway to old age, gateway to hell more like!

Cheers, thanks for that I hadn’t quite looked at 50 as my gateway to hell, I hope it will be the pearly gates of heaven.

After all, isn’t the sixth decade when ‘we’ come into our own, prioritising the needs of the family and husband is finally behind us. Hopefully we are calmer, more relaxed and at peace with the inner-self.

The challenges of teenagers, school runs and the provision of late night taxi services are all but over and the prospect of looking forward to quality time with a husband looms large and wide.

Fay Weldon accomplished author says’ women in their 50’s instigate divorce because they are bored and want to be single again.’ Divorce statistics show women in the 50-plus age group are ditching marriages to remarry, travel, set up home independently or start new careers.

What bought this in to stark reality was the article I read recently in the Daily Mail.

Kristen Scott Thomas one of the UK’s most treasured actresses admitted that she felt ‘invisible’ when surrounded by young actresses and that some people ‘just don’t notice’ women of a certain age.

Admittedly she was comparing herself to young actresses in the Hollywood back drop, an unhealthy environment that perpetuates ageless beauty, a life so far from reality.

She then went onto say that she will ‘just disappear’ now that she has reached middle age.

Ironically it would seem that men age gracefully whilst women appear to ‘just disappear’.

I have empathy for Ms Scott-Thomas and I find myself in unknown territory. I couldn’t help notice that perhaps there is credence in what she says.

She’s right, people do walk into you. I became more aware of this on a recent business trip to London. Men as well as women not holding the door open for me as I walked through it or bumping into me as though I was invisible.

In fact by the time I got into my car to drive home I really felt incensed.

Invisible that’s me, or was it just one of those days when you or everyone else seemingly get in the way.Holidays and families = frustration

Is 50 all that it’s cracked up to be?

Many women want more out of life, personal fulfilment, a new career, a new partner even if it means a complete disregard for personal security, marriage and family.

Two friends have recently hit the 5 0 one is having a meltdown as we speak the other is taking it in her stride.

What makes 50 such an important age defining moment?

Shoot me now I’m 50.

The challenges we faced as young women are in some respects even greater in our 50’s.

50 is synonymous with the ‘menopause’, another life changing moment for the female psyche. Empty nest syndrome, worries about securing pensions and planning for retirement are well on the list of things to be ticked off.

Why should 50 be any different from any other decade or age?

An empty home and only the 2 of you there is the sudden realisation that you’ve got more time than you had LBK [life before kids].

What the heck are you going to talk about the weather or the performance of the FTSE 100 index?

Suddenly you are faced with the prospect of having to go to bed with the same person you’ve been with for however many years and for some women and men this is when the thunder bolt strikes.

Time for new experiences, challenges and maybe a change in partner.

By 50 we have amassed a great deal of knowledge, life experiences and are able to do what we want to do.

There is a conflict for many men and women as there is the desire to abandon all that was once held true to embark on new challenges

Do I really want to spend the rest of my life with him or her?

Nothing has changed has it?

Slide1

Earlier this year Relate conducted a survey via Ipsos MORI of people aged 50 and over in Britain. 91% said the key factor in determining how happy our later years will be is our personal relationships and is very important to happiness in retirement.

DivorceInterestingly 1 in 5 over 50 [4 million] said they lacked confidence in forming new relationships which contradicts the trend of the 50 something to up sticks and try new things.

One of the joys of this decade is that you don’t have to give a damn about what people think of you anymore.

Ageing is a more prevalent issue but as children have grown and left the parental home our parents are still able to be independent of us making time to take on new challenges and make life changing decisions.

 

Age is just a number and life begins when you want it to and the media seem to be obsessed with age. Does it really matter if so and so did such and such and is 35 years?

Ageism has become an obsession both on a conscious and unconscious level.

The only way to stop this occupation with age is to stop referring to it in newspapers and magazines and to stop ‘labelling’ the 50 something brigade and get on out there and get on down.

This woman is not ready to quit yet and exchange her Louboutin’s for a pair of sensible boring M & S shoes.

Which is why M & S are failing miserably they seem to think we want to wear sensible clothes and shoes from the classic women range WRONG.

We are not dead yet, we want sensible clothes that befit our age that show our zest for life and not funereal wear.

I get that we need to dress our age within reason [that’s coming in my next blog How not to be your daughter]

Seven out of ten women feel overlooked by the fashion industry and three quarters of women believe they have gained an identity solely as ‘mum’.

This goes against the grain of the current ‘A-list’ 50 something beauties notably Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kim Basinger who seem to only get better the older they get.

 As far as I’m concerned 50 doesn’t mean you are DEAD it offers greater opportunities for men and women to forge more independence. Dr Pam Spurr says ‘after years of prioritising husbands and families, many women want more out of life as they approach 50. The urge to find personal fulfilment is overwhelming even if it means ditching security and marriage along the way’.
Whilst I don’t intend to leave my beloved YET I definitely intend to embark on new challenges.
50 represents the gateway to more fun and happiness. Moreover we only pass this way once so why shouldn’t we have fun, enjoy life and stop worrying about how old we really are.
After all we are all young at heart.

Let me know what you think about being 50? Has it stopped you from doing what you want to do?

How do you stay young at 50?

Have you completely changed your life or done something crazy?

Please share with us.

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Relaxation

Sit back and relax. Coping with stress at work?

Relaxation VS Stress
20 minutes in your working day to de-clutter your mind.

Relaxation life’s illusive elixir.

Coping with stress at work is the one aspect of life that seems to elude us particularly in the current economic climate.

In my last blog aiming to get the balance between work, family and life is practically impossible.

The demands placed on us daily are often insurmountable and impossibly difficult to accomplish.

Yet the more we put pressure on ourselves to relax the more the state of relaxation becomes a self-defeating prophecy.

Everyday our inboxes are inundated with new ways to manage stress headlines that titillate like how to de-stress naturally, 10 easy ways to relax, how to make time to relax.

Making us even more fraught and anxious as the need to relax adds more pressure on the way we live because we know that relaxation is key to managing stress. To thrive  and perform well at work we need to be able to switch off.

According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills UK workers are under more pressure than ever before. The latest findings from the 2012 report show that 40% of workers are required to work at high-speed and 60% work under the pressure of tight deadlines.

The lines between work and home have become increasingly blurred.

Relaxation
Workers can be contacted any time, night or day making it difficult to make time for relaxation. (Image courtesy of Veria.com)

Technology means that people can work from home, mobile offices, during their commute.

Workers can be contacted on holiday at weekends even when they are asleep and with the added fear of losing their jobs never has there been a time when employees feel so insecure in the work place.

Fear of losing jobs is at the forefront of employees minds with one in four expressing worry about being unemployed.

The report also found that technology has had a significant impact on workers lives increàsed accessibility to employees via technological devices because of increased competitiveness due to the recession and rising levels of unemployment have all had an impact on the balance of power between employees and employers.

In a recent survey conducted by Mother and Baby Magazine, six out of 10 working mothers felt guilty about leaving their children. Over a 1,000 women in the survey from CEO to retail assistant wanted to spend more time with their children.

94% said that going to work provided them with financial and emotional independence and they felt they were setting a good example to children but the trade off meant they missed out watching their offspring develop.

The impetus for women to return to work is the increased financial pressure as a result of the recession the UK is in despite rising costs in childcare.

The partners of the women respondents interviewed in the survey also felt they were missing out and wanted to participate in assisting with the upbringing of their  children by staying at home too but this is not financially viable as men still earn more than women on average.

The government’s child benefit changes which came into effect earlier this year have meant that the number of stay at home mothers has also fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.

If one or both parents have a joint income of over £50,000 a year no child benefit worth £1,752 for two children is available. Even if one of the partners earns nothing the entitlement is no longer paid out.

With the rising fear of job losses, decline in job satisfaction due to the constant high-speed pressures, loss of status in the work place and the added financial pressures on men and women alike to provide a joint house-hold income how do any of us make the time to relax in the face of such stark realities.

There are many well meaning articles on the importance of de-stressing from taking up yoga, SPA holidays, a lavender bath before bed-time, switching off all technology before retiring to bed. The list is endless.

As a working mother relaxation for me doesn’t come easy. I can’t sit still for too long as I fidget being an active person I’m always on the go so I find it difficult to switch off.

At the start of 2013 I decided that I needed to find some time in my working day to relax and de-clutter my mind so let me share with you what I do.

It works for me and I hope it might help you.

Schedule 20 minutes in to your working day at whatever time suits you.

Firstly, switch off all means of communication – mobiles, PC’s, laptops, take yourself off line. If you are a social media addict coming in my next blog then stay off it.

The world will not not end if no-one hears from you for twenty minutes.

Set an alarm on your watch, phone or clock. Stare out of the window, lie down, sit in the back of your chair, relax your head and neck, stare at the ceiling, stare out of the window, do not do anything work related and do not think about ANYTHING.

The kick is you must empty your mind.
Don’t read, write, make notes, listen to music. Do absolutely nothing, don’t plan, don’t visualise, don’t worry about the meeting with a client or a presentation that is looming.

Empty your mind of all the clutter. EMPTY IT.

I am sharing this with you as I speak from experience. It took me the best part of 20+ years to get deep into time/relax management and I now plan my week to allow for 20 minutes during my work day to do just what I have described.

Boy it took some discipline but unless it’s planned in to the diary then guess what I don’t do it.

At the end of my 20 minutes which I usually substitute as my lunch period I look out of my window and in the distance I can see the hills, blue or grey skies, trees.

I’ve learn’t to really see the world differently, notice shapes and colours more. Sometimes I close my eyes and I feel myself drifting which is why the alarm is important.

Your twenty minutes can be in your work day, or after you leave the office sit in the car put your seat back and relax for 20 minutes before you drive home, you’ll be surprised how much more attentive you’ll be when you walk through the front door.

It should be at anytime of your choosing away from distractions or from anyone who is likely to barge in on your 20 minutes but should be within your working day.

Although I’m a runner and exercise a lot sometimes I take a brisk walk out of the office watch the cars as they pass by and clear my mind I don’t use this time to think about work as it is defeating the purpose.

How has my work pattern changed?

I can see solutions to problems more clearly because I’ve completely switched off my mind and not allowed it to think of anything in those 20 minutes or so I come back to my desk with a clear mind and I feel calmer.

My breathing is deeper rather than the usual shallow breathing associated with stress.

But what has surprised me the most is having better clarity over things which at the time I thought were impossible but in reality were only small blots on the landscape.

It takes discipline. Discipline to make the time and ‘pen’ or program it into your diary and discipline to follow through.

The 20 minute mind rest plan should not be confused with leaving work and relaxing in the evening.

This is finding time in your work day to have a brief respite to clear and free your mind from worry and stress and when you come back to your work/desk you’ll realise that nothing is insurmountable.

After all what’s the worst that can happen ‘ýou lose your job’, you’re unemployed, it may sound awful and you maybe be fearful, but no-one has died have they, you still have a family, a home to go back too and the likelihood of it happening is remote.

Worrying at work to such a degree will impact your work and home life so severely that stress impedes your thinking, you lose sight of reality and what’s really important to you.

Twenty minutes helps you to switch off your mind, re-focus and then you come back to the desk and see problems in a different context.

Here’s a screenshot of one of my days.

Relax mind time
Make time to re-set your mind

It may not be the answer to all your problems and it is no magic wand but try it for a month and let me know what you feel at the end of it.

Remember you must make it a part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth or showering, it must become integral to you so much so that if you miss a day you’ll know you’ve really missed it.

What do you do to relax?

Share your comments with me by leaving a note in the box below.

Until next time.

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Social anxiety disorder – are you S.A.D?

Slide1

People who have social anxiety disorder have an irrational fear of being in the company of people, being watched, judged and are fearful of embarrassing and humiliating themselves by doing or saying something which causes acute anxiety and fear.

It is the third most common psychiatric disorder after depression and alcohol abuse and yet very little is known about the disorder and its negative affect on a person’s social well-being.

The anxiety and discomfort associated with SAD become so acute that people simply can’t perform the daily functions we take for granted like buying a newspaper, shopping in a supermarket or going to a restaurant with friends.

Social anxiety disorder or SAD is the subset of anthropophobia a generalised term used to cover a wide range of anxiety related issues such as a person who is paranoiac of being harmed or of being judged for the way they look. (Body dysmorphic disorder)

Sufferers with the disorder are worried about what will happen when they interact with people socially and their concerns are centred around how people view and judge them.

In fact the anxiety can be so extreme it can affect a person mentally and physiologically.

Jo, 52 years of age has struggled with the condition from childhood: “I knew these feelings I was experiencing weren’t normal. If I was invited to a children’s party to their house after school straightaway I had an automatic reaction of panic I was very anxious and frightened. I was terrified in case they noticed how nervous I was. I was frightened to death that I would stand out for all the wrong reasons”.

SAD is actually more common than you might think.

Surveys conducted in the U.S found that in a 12 month period 7% of people had SAD.

What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety affects 7% of people.

Over a lifetime it’s more like 12% of people who will experience the symptoms associated with SAD.

Professor Clark Founder of the Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma at Kings College London and University of Oxford says “that SAD in the general community tends to be more common in women, yet in the clinics he oversees, the prevalence of SAD is similar in men and women.”

What are the symptoms of SAD and how do they differ to shyness?

There are some marked differences between shyness and SAD and this relates to the severity and longevity of the symptoms that are experienced by the individual.

Shy people tend to be uneasy in social situations and Princess Diana was a classic example of a shy and reserved person. People with SAD  are extremely anxious in social situations.

Emotional symptoms include:-

  • an irrational, intense fear of a particular situation even before the event may have taken place
  • fear of an up and coming event weeks in advance
  • fear of being judged by others
  • worry of being embarrassed or humiliated
  • fear that people will notice your anxiety

Physical symptoms include:-

  • profuse sweating and blushing
  • rapid heart beat
  • trembling hands

In Jo’s case her symptoms range from stomach turning, heart palpitations, hot and sweaty, fear and panic.

“Until recently I couldn’t even answer the front door bell without experiencing all of the above symptoms, by the time I had calmed down and answered the door the person had long gone.”

Catriona, 47 years has recently been diagnosed with SAD. For her it was the relief of finally giving her illness a label.

“I hate labels but in this case having experienced the complete and utter terror of being in social situations even with family and friends, it was a relief to find out that I wasn’t the only one with SAD.”

For so many years I couldn’t understand why I dreaded friends or family visiting the home, why I would shake when I knew we were going out.

When friends and family visited I was obsessed with making sure the meal was perfect, the home clean and tidy, at the same time I felt sick and anxious and I would physically shake. It was like I was being judged in a competition. The relief I use to feel when people left the house was huge.

It didn’t stop there if I go shopping and I see someone I know, I run and hide behind the veg counter or disappear down an aisle so I can’t be spotted or have to engage in any conversation, often they are people I know. As for any social invitation my heart rate increases and I am anxious and sweaty.”

How extreme can SAD become?

Jo tried to take her own life, “I was suicidal in fact I took an overdose and ended up being hospitalised. At the time I was working as a receptionist in a Dr’s surgery. The whole environment pushed me to the limit of coping. It was a small working area and I felt trapped.”

Jo and Catriona know that their anxiety is out of proportion with the situation they are experiencing but for SAD sufferers its the norm and they are unable to take control of the anxiety and feelings of fear.

For Catriona, “Its frustrating because you look at the situation and you tell yourself that wasn’t so bad but the fear and anxiety is overwhelming. Afterwards I am physically exhausted.”

When?What causes SAD?

Professor Clark’s observations of adults being treated with the disorder concludes that it starts in childhood or adolescence. About half of the people who come forward for treatment say it started before the age of 13.

He points out, “In adulthood its quite a long time before its recognised and in the clinic the average age of adults coming forward for treatment is 33 years. It’s almost 2o years before people seek treatment and a very long time for people to be living with the problem.”

The evidence would seem to confirm this.

Jo recalls: “I was very clingy as a child and was terrified of being separated from my mum. But it wasn’t until I was 17 when I visited the Dr to talk about my anxiety. I was referred to a local psychiatric hospital but I couldn’t relate to the psychologist. It was a good ten years before I was referred again.”

Can a traumatic event trigger SAD or are we just born with this condition?

Research lead by Professor Clark at the University of Oxford Department for Experimental Psychology suggests that there isn’t a single cause but a combination of social experiences that a person has that could makes them pre-disposed to SAD.

The loss of Jo’s mother when she was a teenager made her anxiety worse but it wasn’t the main trigger.

Jo explains “my father had anxiety attacks so we rarely had people around the house because dad didn’t like it. I possibly think its genetic as I inherited the same characteristics.”

A contributory factor that affected Catriona was a specific event in her teenage years, ‘”I was only 14 years old and a good athlete, a coach at the athletics club I trained at happened to remark one day that I was chunky and strong and I interpreted that as big and fat.
Far from being fat or big, it seemed to trigger a vicious cycle of making me conscious of my weight and how I behaved in the company of people.
Even now I am so very self conscious being in social situations and of people looking at me it feels like I’m being judged, its a horrible feeling.”

Professor Clark suggests that parental modelling such as an overbearing or critical parent who is controlling and over protective, a child being bullied or teased at school, parent relocation resulting in a child losing friends and changing school, finding it difficult to fit in and being shy and withdrawn as a child are some of the other factors that increase the likelihood of SAD in a person.

There is also a genetic vulnerability that puts a person at a higher risk to depression, anxiety and SAD.

Although there are no distinct personality types that pre-dispose someone to being affected by SAD, the characteristics of the disorder include avoidant personality types and people who are fearful of finding themselves in socially challenging situations that might cause humiliation.

SAD sufferers tend to set the bar very high for themselves because it’s an issue of performance and how they are judged by others around them. They believe they should have many interests so they aren’t perceived as boring, they want to be socially ept, clever and fluent in conversation.

This makes it even harder for someone with SAD because the fear of humiliation and failure is greater whereas for most of us if we are inept in a social situation or aren’t as fluent or confident we don’t necessarily feel a failure.

How is S.A.D diagnosed and treated?

One of the reasons SAD is not diagnosed or recognised by general practitioners is because the sufferer may be reluctant to talk about it with their GP and are unaware that treatment is available.

In the last decade more research on the disorder and available treatments has proven fruitful.

SAD was first recognised as a medical condition in the 1960’s yet there is still much about the disorder we don’t know and Dr Clark says “we still think it is seriously under recognised by primary care and there are several reasons for that.”

Many people have lived with the condition for as as long as they can remember they’ve always been shy since childhood they assume that it’s a characteristic of their personality rather than a treatable condition and therefore are less likely to bring it up with the GP.

Diagnosis of the condition becomes more complex as many people who have SAD are likely to have depression or generalised anxiety not attributed to a specific disorder.

GP’s may not recognise the symptoms of SAD because a person feeling hopeless, frustrated, anxious is more likely to be treated for depression rather than examining the underlying causes.

The treatment of SAD is by a combination of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and medication.

Psychological treatments like CBT focus on SAD in the individual. For a long time it was widely believed that treatment in a group setting was more productive allowing the individual to share personal experiences and participate in practical exercises.

Medication can be prescribed in the form of SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and benefit people in the short term but CBT is highly effective in the long term and the preferred choice for SAD sufferers.

At the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, Professor Clark and his team are developing on line virtual therapy treatments for SAD and other related disorders. It is an internet version of face to face therapy where the recipient manages the process of getting better in their own time.

SAD is a life long disorder and many people who receive treatment whether CBT, medication or a combination of both do recover but it depends on the person. In Professor Clark’s experience treatment is a great help but for some sufferers they are able to manage their condition much better but the fear is still present.

Other sufferers report that life has changed, they can do their job and they are accepting of their limitations.

In Jo’s case, “I would like to get a job, travel, meet people and do normal things. I’ve not really had a life up until now. This is not a life choice, not something I’ve chosen to be, I think I’ve paid a big price for it.”

As Professor Clark’s explains, ‘we are aiming to help people discover that they can be accepted for who they are and not what they are’.

For more information, help and advice you can visit Anxiety.co.uk

or call their helpline on: 08444-775774

additional information can also be found at

The Centre for anxiety disorders and trauma Kings College London