As I sit here writing this, it would have been my darling motherâ€™s 89th birthday tomorrow, and whilst it is now nearly three years since she died, as I sat looking through photos, I felt the familiar wave of grief rise up again.
Admittedly, my emotions have been on a roller coaster over the past weeks and months as the lockdown has continued and the massive disruptions have taken their toll on me, as with everybody, but more than that, I have been conscious of Motherâ€™s Day in the UK coming into view in a week or so.
Again, maybe because of the emotional highs and lows, but I have been feeling sad that I donâ€™t have my mother here to send her a card.
So when my very clever emotionally astute 17 year old daughter suggested to me why not write her a card anyway, it got me thinking about how important and helpful it can be to mark these occasions by doing something practical.
I immediately went online and added a Motherâ€™s Day card to our shop for next week and plan to write a lovely card full of love and gratitude to my mother, and already the thought of that makes me smile and feel happier.
So that turned my attention to Mumâ€™s birthday tomorrow and I decided to bake her a cake. You might laugh and think that is odd, but I love baking and was planning to experiment with a rhubarb, orange and almond cake today anyway, and again the thought that whilst it is rising (hopefully) in the oven now, it is dedicated to my beautiful mum, lifts my spirits enormously.
I think we have all struggled with our mental health in some form or another over these strange and difficult months, and I know for me it has been a daily challenge, which has been more successful on some days than others. But acknowledging them, accepting the down days and identifying things that can help you is so important. I shall certainly be baking a cake for Mum on her birthday every year now!
Well, what a year it has been, and what mixed feelings it provokes in me as I sit here reflecting on the year that was 2020.
I am struck by people around me seemingly sticking two fingers up at 2020, and saying good riddance to it. And for good reason of course, as for many it has been a truly terrible year, losing loved ones, suffering serious illness and/or facing financial ruin.
Somehow though, I dont seem to feel that way, despite the huge impact it has had on us as a family. Thankfully we have not lost anybody close to us and have remained healthy throughout, although we have had our fair share of trials and tribulations.
Peter lost his job in January and because of the instability and financial consequences of Covid, he has not yet got another one. We have ridden a massive rollercoaster of emotions, as of course most people have, as over the course of the year, he has undergone several job interview processes, only to have each of the offers snatched away, as either the company folded or put the job offer on hold as the uncertainty of the pandemic continued apace.
Billy had his A-levels cancelled and the last term of his school life expunged and so denied that rite of passage at the end of a long school career. Daisy has had to navigate much of her A-level years learning from a laptop in her bedroom, and despite having completed my course and passed my final exams to become a Kinesiologist, my new business has been thwarted as we all lead our lives under social restrictions.
And yet when I reflect back on the year, I am filled with the warm smiling energy of gratitude. Gratitude. We have so much to be grateful for.
We may have spent much of our savings on living expenses for the year, but we have our health.
We have family, and we have joy and laughter.
We have the most beautiful countryside with the river Itchen literally on our doorstep, and we are witness to the changing seasons, which this year seem to have been more spectacular than ever (or is it just me?)
And we have hope and optimism for the new year and for the future.
Hope and optimism is one of the things that I have come to value and treasure this year. I, for one, can’t live without it. I admit its not always easy to hold onto, and there have been times during the year when I have lost it for a few weeks, but it has to be a conscious choice, and I choose to live with hope and optimism.
So I am welcoming in 2021 with hope and optimism and waving goodbye to 2020 with gratitude.
I wrote this article for my local gymâ€™s weekly newsletter which was published today. They have been brilliant with their social media during lockdown and keeping in touch with all of their members – well done Mimi and team!
Vitamins, gut health & self-esteem by Polly Howard
We all know that it is vitally important to stay fit and healthy during these strange and for many, difficult times, as the fitter we are the less likely we are to catch coronavirus. And thatâ€™s where our immune system comes in. We need it to be in the best possible state â€“ fully functioning at as close to 100% as possible.
Much has been spoken in the press about the benefit of vitamins for your immune system â€“ particularly vitamin D, but also A, B and C, as well as zinc. But did you know that 50% of your immune comes from your digestive system and so therefore keeping your gut flora healthy right now is also of paramount importance. As well as trying to eat as healthily as possible and avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, you could consider taking a good probiotic which will nourish your gut.
One of the other key factors for boosting your immune system is taking care to maintain a positive attitude. Might not sound so simple right now, but your self-esteem is linked to your immune system so really critical to your wellbeing. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by everything going on or talking down to yourself, then you are making yourself more vulnerable to illness.
Try some simple affirmations every morning or when you feel your energy getting a bit negative. These are some you might like to try:
I am doing the best I can.
I accept the situation as it is.
I am grateful for all that I have.
Lastly, donâ€™t forget to nourish your immune with doing something joyful every day! Take regular exercise (which I am sure you are if you are reading this newsletter!), drink plenty of water and make sure you get lots of good replenishing sleep and rest.
Polly Howard is a systematic kinesiologist. Systematic kinesiology is a holistic way to help and support people to enhance and improve their emotional and physical wellbeing. It uses muscle testing to see what is out of balance in the energy system and then treat the whole body using a mental, chemical, physical, electrical approach.
I have been wanting to write a blog post for a while to share the journey I have been on over the past months or even years. And then I thought, what better day to do it than on International Women’s Day as there are so many amazing and inspirational women who have helped me on my way!
I want to talk about overwhelm. I bet that loads of you relate to overwhelm. It is something that I realise that I have lived with forever that I can remember. And in recent years, with the different situations that have arisen, from parents getting ill and dying, to moving house and countries, to losing jobs and income, I have certainly lost count of how many times I have said, I just feel so overwhelmed….
But all of that has gone now. And my life feels so very different without it. And actually it was quite simple to get rid of in the end. As many of you know, I started training to be a systematic kinesiologist 18 months ago shortly after my mother died. At that stage, I wasn’t really thinking in terms of a career change, but it was something I had always been interested in, and as I was feeling so lost and that my life had no purpose, encouraged by lovely kinesiologist friend, Katie, inspirational woman number 1, I signed up for the TASK (The Academy of Systematic Kinesiology) foundation course. I think the first few modules passed in a blur, not sure what I was doing there, fairly overwhelmed by it all, and by the end of those six months, I still didn’t think I would sign up to do the practitioners course the following year, despite being told by several people that I was a ‘natural’.
The turning point for me has been emotional work. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that I have done plenty of soul searching over the past 30 years or so of my life – in fact, I think I first went into therapy aged 26 or 27, and have spent many years dissecting past traumas, relationships, events, etc.
But last year I experienced EFT for the first time with the wonderful Connie, inspirational woman number 2. EFT, for those of you not familiar with the term, is â€˜emotionally focused therapyâ€™, or sometimes called â€˜emotional freedom techniqueâ€˜. In short, EFT uses tapping on specific meridian points around the face, which releases stored negative emotions. This may sound strange to some people, but I am a total convert, and it has no doubt changed my life. It has given me the confidence to make better choices for myself. So much so that I signed up for the TASK practitioners course last summer, which I have now very nearly completed.
In systematic kinesiology we also use a form of EFT which we call MTT – meridian tapping therapy. I had my first experience of this last October when on the full week of training for the course. It was the second module and needless to say, I was feeling completely overwhelmed with it all. Overwhelmed by the people on the course with me, overwhelmed by feelings of imposter syndrome (I’m not a therapist, I’m in food and wine – what am I doing here?), overwhelmed by lack of confidence that I would never be able to cope and learn all of this, overwhelmed that everybody else knew more than I did (or so I thought). The list was endless.
On the second day of that week, I had a meltdown. But I was in the right place for my crisis of confidence. Enter fantastic inspirational woman number 3 – Claire, principal of the TASK academy. She did some MTT on me, throwing lots of words at me, mostly about being completely overwhelmed, whilst tapping away on numerous points at the start and ends of various meridians. MTT is almost counter-intuitive as you are repeating lots of negative words describing how you are feeling but the idea is to scramble your brain a bit and almost take a pair of scissors metaphorically-speaking to snip the ends of the brain synapses that have been nurtured for so long with these false beliefs and negative emotions.
It is a not an exaggeration to say that this has changed my life. I no longer feel overwhelmed! Overwhelm is no longer a part of my life. I think I can count two occasions over the past seven months when I have started to feel overwhelmed, but then realised, and stopped, and said to myself and the overwhelm, no thank you, I don’t want you in my life, you are no longer a part of my life. I now love my life and am so much happier without overwhelm.
I have now got my final weekend of training coming up having passed my practical exam and scored 82% in my mock exam, and I am excited about the future, and where it is going to take me – a future without overwhelm.
I love kinesiology, I love helping people, and if I can help people to let go of some of their negative emotions and lead a happier and freer life, then mine will be a happy life well-lived.
I cant end a post about wonderful inspirational women without mentioning my beloved mother, who was brave, funny, vulnerable, kind and loving and would have been 88 on Friday. And so many other wonderful women who have helped and supported me along the way, from childhood friends to new friends and therapists met on all my travels in various countries over several decades along the way – thank you to you all – I wouldnâ€™t be where I am today without you 💜