Sunday, 31 January 2016

Supporting a Cause

Image from Pinterest
How do you choose a cause to support?

This is a question I am considering at the moment. The most important thing to think about, I think, is what is important to you. There are many causes, charities and organisations who support a variety of causes whether it be people, research, animals or the environment. Have you or someone important to you been impacted by an issue or illness? Is there an area that you want to learn more about? What do you enjoy doing? What would you like to give? How much time do you realistically have to give?

Having searched Google for volunteering opportunities I have come across a number of responses for people of all ages, young people, under 18 and up to 25 as well as many opportunities for those of us who are 25 and older. I have found a number of organisations that promote volunteering and provide search engines that link voluntary opportunities and volunteers in their areas of interest and location. A well known organisation is do If this does not feel like the right approach for you, or you cannot find opportunities that interest you, you can always research local organisation within your community and contact them directly to enquire about voluntary opportunities. Sometimes they do not advertise roles on websites such as Do-it.

What is next for me? 

I mentioned that recently I have been asking myself the question of how to choose a cause to support, and although I have done it before, I feel as though I am at a place where I am questioning what is next for me. Where do I go from here?

I will continue to volunteer with the Night Shelter until the project closes in March for the year. If I follow my own advice and think of causes that I am passionate about, I think of individuals with disabilities, children and adults. I believe that individuals with disabilities should be valued within society for who they are and what they can achieve and contribute. I believe that society should be more disabled friendly and that adequate care and support should be provided that suits the individual, their needs and wishes. If you have seen some of my other posts you will be aware that my Grandad has a disability and I support my family in their caring role, perhaps this is where my passion comes from.

Another passion is family carers, from my own personal experience as well as what I observed while working as a home care assistant, being a family carer, although very rewarding, can be challenging and restrictive if you do not have the right, necessary support.

Next, the question of time. With my job at the moment I do not have a lot of free time, even if I leave work on time I won't get home until about 6.30. I could offer to volunteer for an evening a week from about 7-8 but is that needed or helpful to the organisation or the voluntary role? As I have done with the Night Shelter, I prefer at the moment to say I am available for a period of time at the weekend once a fortnight. This allows me to have some time off to relax, see friends and catch up on any household chores.

My Idea

Image from Pinterest
For ages I have wanted to spend more time with my camera, learning how to use it properly instead of leaving it on auto. I want to be more creative, raise awareness and make a difference. I am thinking that I could combine the two.

Have you done anything creative to raise awareness of a cause?

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Savouring Positive Experiences

Google images
As you may know I am a planner. I like to be organised and plan ahead. Having a few days off and some short weeks around Christmas felt amazing and I made the most of it doing things I enjoy, relaxing, spending time with friends and family and doing some voluntary work. I also made a huge effort to leave work at work and really appreciate my time and life away from it. Partly, this was because I needed the break and some time for myself and partly because I knew that January and February were going to be extremely busy. As soon as I found out that I had Christmas Eve off I contemplated treating myself to a little bit of time in a local spa. When I discussed this with a friend she suggested that we go together in the New Year, which we did on Friday evening.

Browsing 'happiness' on Pinterest I came across an article which mentioned Savouring. When I Googled this term further I discovered that there has been research and a new model proposed to increase happiness which looks at savouring positive experiences. An article from the Huffington Post talks about Savouring in three categories; anticipate, present and reminisce/reflect.

The idea of Savouring happiness is about making positive moments and experiences last longer, enhancing those experiences and the state of happiness. One of the reasons I like making plans with friends and family and making plans to do things I enjoy is so that I have things to look forward to, to anticipate.

Being present and mindful are terms that are commonly used and have links with happiness. Being mindful allows you to fully appreciate the experience instead of rushing through it. I was worried that time would restrict my ability to be present as I rushed home from work, fed my cats and grabbed items such as my bikini, shampoo and moisturiser and then rushed off again to meet my friend at Ufford Park Spa. Once I had made my way through rush hour traffic and arrived I began to relax. I felt my excitement as I left the reception desk and headed to the changing rooms and as I swiped the card to unlock the door to the spa area. I felt the temperature change as I stepped inside, the heat. The feel and sound of the water as I stepped into the hydrotherapy pool. I looked up at the glass windows above and could see my reflection in the many panes, the stillness and the colours projected through the water. We were the only two people in the spa at the time so it was quiet, calm. I joined my friend at the seated area and turned on the jets, feeling the air massage our backs. Beautiful. Just what I needed at the end of the week and start my weekend.

I met up with some other friends yesterday and shared what we have been up to recently so I spoke about my visit to the spa, I had also mentioned my plans at work on Friday so I will probably discuss it with colleagues during the week. I am also writing about my experience here so have opportunities to reminisce and reflect.

Writing this post has made me realise that I often savour moments such as these, however, the important moments I don't savour as much are the smaller everyday ones. I have noticed recently, since attempting to do Yoga With Adriene's Yoga Camp I do find that I am present during my time on the mat and I do reflect and talk to others about the positive effects I have noticed since starting the programme. These positive effects are what motivate me to make the effort to find time to practice, although, I am not able to do this daily at the moment I am doing my best.

I would like to hear your experiences of Savouring

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Caring: Trusting Others

I wrote a post here about a weekend I spent with Grandad. I mentioned that my Mum has taken on the role of his main carer, what I haven't mentioned is that we also have help from an employed carer as well.

Some people and families struggle with the idea of having someone else come in to fulfil the caring role. Our family struggled, I struggled with it. We struggled with feelings of guilt, that we should be the ones providing the care, we also struggled with trusting someone we did not know to care for a loved one. Although I supported my Mum to seek a needs assessment for Grandad and pursue a personal budget for him, I still find it difficult putting his health and wellbeing in the hands of someone else. Perhaps it is similar when parents leave their children in the care of others, I haven't had children to know what that feels like.

Luckily, we found a care agency who provided us with a lovely carer who we, as a family, get on well with. Most importantly so does Grandad. Grandad's carer comes in everyday from 9.30 until 2.30 to allow my Mum some time to continue some of the activities and routines that structured her life prior to Nan becoming ill. My mum, and other family carers, need this precious time for themselves, to remain their own person outside of their role as a carer, to retain their identity and resilience.

Due to the carers personal situation, she cannot continue in her role with Grandad so yesterday we interviewed for her replacement. This time we have decided to directly employ someone instead of going through an agency. This is not a straightforward process for individuals and families with no knowledge of employment legislation (luckily, my Dad has some knowledge in this area). However, there are organisations who can offer support to family carers; Carers UK or more locally to me, Suffolk Family Carers.

So, what do I want from someone caring for my Grandad? What sort of questions do I want to ask or be asked of those who apply for the position? What if we make the wrong choice and things go wrong? What worries me most is that Grandad wouldn't be able to tell us if something wasn't right.

I answered my questions by thinking about the values I feel are important for individuals who need support with daily tasks; respect, choice, independence, person centred and patience. These were the things I looked for, alongside how the individuals interacted with Grandad during the interview and their experiences.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

A January Update

January, perhaps not the best month of the year, the festive period fading into a distant memory fast, returning to work after a few days or weeks off, the dark mornings making it difficult to start the day and get motivated.

I have made a few small changes to try and increase my happiness and health. I have been using my journal to spend some time thinking about my day, to think about and appreciate things that have made me happy and things that I am grateful for. I have been listening to this guided meditation most mornings before work with positive affirmations. It is not only a lovely way to start the day but is also helping the shift in my perspective from defeatist to I can manage and enjoy today.

'Today is a great day'

I have also been doing Yoga Camp with Yoga with Adriene. I have tried to sit each day and follow the programme, however, this has not always been possible. I find it easier to make time for the shorter videos (20-30 minutes) and appreciate the time spent on the mat. The time spent moving into and holding different positions and stretches. Even time spent sat breathing mindfully with a scented candle burning is appreciated and I have been able to notice a difference in myself. I believe that the positive affirmations that Adriene has incorporated are helpful too. I feel stronger, that things are more manageable.

'I am capable'

The first full week back at work after Christmas was stressful but I don't think I can get away from that in the career I have chosen. However, as I mentioned above, I feel more capable, more able to manage it. Perhaps, beginning to have more faith in myself, my ability to manage and to do my job well.

To support my resolution to be healthier I have been making healthier choices when it comes to my meals, taking a balanced lunch to work most days and preparing and cooking for myself in the evenings. I have also been making the effort to not leave work too late so that I have the time and energy to show up for myself and follow all these things through. As well as this, I have also been making more time for friends. In the months leading up to Christmas I had no energy left after work to want to socialise, instead, I would just crash in front of the tv when I got home in the evenings and weekends. I suppose without realising it, this enabled me to withdraw a little.

I met a friend for dinner Wednesday evening at Chiquito and enjoyed a passion fruit mojito with my chicken fajitas and as we all need a treat once in a while I also had a banana fried in a cinnamon tortilla, yummy! I definitely think celebrating mid-week is something that needs to happen regularly from now on.

Friday evening a friend and I were invited to our friends birthday meal with her family where we along with her two sisters were asked to be her bridesmaids! What a great way to end the first week back after Christmas. I feel so lucky and thankful that another of my friends wants me to stand beside her on one of the biggest days of her life.

I hope you have all had a positive week and your resolutions, intentions or goals are going well

Friday, 1 January 2016

Starting a Journal

I had a diary once when I was younger, possibly after watching Bridget Jones' Diary, where I wrote pages and pages about my day, I'm not too sure that it was very reflective. I have seen blog posts about The Happiness Project and the Happiness Planner thought it was a great idea, but I'm not sure I could commit to it. Instead, I have decided to keep my own personal journal, a place to sort through my feelings from the day, a space to be reflective and grateful.

My wishes for the New Year are health and happiness and I believe that those two things are entwined, I think to be happy you have to have a healthy body and a healthy mind. Until recently I have focussed on the bigger things, achievements I have been working towards, goals reached. Some materialistic items also fall into that category, I feel I have worked hard to achieve and keep my home and my car. However, I still do not feel that happy. Looking back on 2015 it was a great year for me but when I reflect on it my strongest feeling is not happiness or elation, it is stress and anxiety. Achieving my goals, graduating from university and going on my solo road trip have only seemed to work for a short period of time in making me happy.

This year I want to learn more about happiness and how I be a happier person through reading, reflecting and listening. One part of this is about noticing and appreciating the smaller things. From a little while spent Googling this morning there many other things to try as well. So I will use this space to record my efforts and their outcomes.