Thursday, 24 March 2016

Shutting out the 'shoulds'

I'm a pretty sure-of-myself kind of gal. If I make up my mind on something, I'll stick to it - unless I do more research and flip to a new perspective which I'll likely hold just as strongly to... Yeah, I'm one of those.

Even so, I'm a real victim of the 'Should's.

You know those voices that undermine your choices or make you feel guilty for not changing something?

From the simple examination of my new frown lines (my fringe grew out and there they were) comes the helpful 'I should moisturise more'. A quick chucking away of some plastic whilst out and about chides me with 'I should have taken that home to recycle it.'

And then there's every less-than ideal parenting moment in each and every day, all with their own 'should' tags. All those moments when I didn't manage to mentally step away from the situation and reconnect with my child as is the general advice I read, but instead either evoked Banshee-mama or the delightful short-tempered and snippy Moodymummy to parent on that occasion. I feel guilt and failure as I look back on them once the moment has passed and hear the reproachful Shoulds murmur their disappointment.  A really bad parenting faux pas can get put on repeat as my head hits the pillow, the Shoulds warding off sleep that I desperately want.

And it's so completely and utterly pointless.

At the moment I have a 9 month old who seems to be on sleep strike unless my boob is wedged in his mouth. I am currently lying on his mattress, feeding him to sleep again because the last three times he fell asleep, my boob fell out before he was deep enough in dreamland not to notice and we went back to square one. The Shoulds in this form an endless patter of mental background noise. I should be:
trying to break the association of feeding with sleep
allowing him to feed to sleep without resentment if that's what he needs
encouraging more independence and slipping away before he's fully asleep
enjoying these cuddles because they won't last forever
using this time to pray or read my Bible, not scroll Facebook
using this time to sleep given I'm not getting enough at night
leaving him to cry out with my husband instead...

The list is endless. All Shoulds. All, essentially telling me that my reality is wrong in some way, either in action or thought. That I'm getting it wrong. That I'm failing.

I have recently learned that all these Shoulds form a stick that I beat myself up with. Endlessly. If you physically beat yourself up every day, you'd have bruising, breaks and soreness. It didn't occur to me until someone else pointed it out that this is the case emotionally and mentally too.

I'm having a hard time with this stick. I'm trying to put it down more, and my aim is to eventually break it up and use it as kindling, but it takes a lot of energy to put it down. Conscious energy, and self-awareness, and compassion, and there are too many days when I don't seem to have the resources to do it. Frustratingly, on the days I find those reserves from somewhere, I have more energy. I find more joy. I feel lighter. It's almost like the investment adage, you have to spend money to make money. I have to spend energy to make energy. And it's hard.

If I break it down though, it starts with just saying, 'Hush' to each Should that starts to tap me on the shoulder. Telling it that actually, right now, this is OK. In this moment, or in the moment where I was less than I would like, I was as much as I could be. Maybe I wish that I could have been more, but tomorrow is another day, and I'll give it everything I've got, just like today.

Some days, I don't have as much to give as I wish I did. I am less than I would like. And I am working on believing that that is OK.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The baddies in our bathroom: unleashing your inner hippy without compromising on quality stuff

When I was a teenager, I had one friend who lived differently to me - and to everyone else I knew. She and her siblings were homeschooled, their mattresses were all on the floor, they kept chickens, made their own bread and their house had a lovely earthy yet botanical smell to it. I loved it there. It was a warm, welcoming home full of warm, welcoming people. I was curious about the way they lived but, as many a teenager who also adored sloping about in Boots would have, I was mostly intrigued by their toiletries.

As I went into my twenties, I did enough research to know that I didn't want to be cramming my body with processed food or covering it with chemicals and some of my findings in my friend's house encouraged me to look out products that would support this aim. However, I didn't really want to compromise on the lovely things I liked best, so Tom's toothpaste and Neals Yard shampoo sat alongside a Clarins cleanser and some beauties from Benefit... I've relinquished ore and more of the lovelies over the years, mostly due to budget rather than ethics, I'm ashamed to say, and have grown quite fond of my local Green Shop. I even  make several a few products for our family from scratch. But what if you're not a fan of 'green shops!?

For some, lavender just isn't a preferable scent. I get that. That earthy yet botanical scent that somehow fills all wholesome, natural (and, being honest, slightly hippy) shops and homes isn't a comforting and enjoyable bouquet for everyone. So what if you fancy less chemical yuck in your bathroom cabinet or make-up bag but need it to smell less 'essential oil' and more beauty counter?

It's totally do-able without breaking the bank and lots is available in your standard high street or supermarket. (Of course, you can always rely on that brilliant of 'buy everything you possibly need from your armchair / bed / other snuggly place' using the internet.) The biggest challenge, I think, is in identifying the products that are genuinely yuck-free as opposed to marketed as such because they have a bit of 'organic this' or 'ethical that' else in their creation.

This isn't a blog on what the nasties are, or why they're nasty, so you'll need to do your own research if you want that info. Just have a Google: there's a good number of blogs highlighting problem ingredients or questioning whether they're all that bad, so you can make up your mind what you think. If I'm honest, I don't fully know half of what some of the nasties do. 

But I do know that the more basic and natural you go, the less likely it is that someone will say in 20 years' time: 'We're banning X, it seems it turns you purple.'

So, some easy pointers to prove that actual nice-to-your-body toiletries are out there next to your shopping basket, complete with pretty packaging, yummy scents and genuine quality...
  1. Happy Hair Days shampoos and conditioners - found in Sainsbury's - are rather lovely, smell good (I'm using a yummy macadamia nut smell at the moment), lather well and don't build up at all. I'm a fan. They're SLS, paraben and phthalate free. They're also only about £2.50 a bottle - it's nice when there's not a silly mark-up for wanting to take care of yourself!
  2. 'Yes to' is a range of fragrance free skincare from San Francisco that Boots now stock. It's paraben, phthalate and SLS free and showcases different core ingredients depending on your skin type - Yes to cucumbers for sensitive skin, Yes to carrots for normal to dry skin, Yes to blueberries for aging skin, etc. It's reasonably priced, and lovely make-up artist Lisa Eldridge recommended Yes to cucumber's sensitive cleanser in a recent YouTube post on good cleansing products. (I like it too...)
  3. For little people, Child's Farm is stocked at Boots and is SLS, paraben and phthalate free plus dermatologically tested to be suitable for eczema-prone skin. It smells nice in a kiddy kind of way - think Body Shop's fruit ranges - so if you like that kind of thing, there's no reason it should be kiddy-only!
  4. Boots and Superdrug both stock paraben-free stuff including Palmers, Aveda, Weleda and BareMinerals. 
  5. Neal's Yard stuff is no longer only sold in Neal's Yard, Covent Garden which is handy, although the Internet means online shopping is easier often. It's also pretty pricey now it's so well loved :(

A couple of online finds include Jelly Pong Pong, which is good make-up (from the bits I have) in fun packaging (think Benefit style) but works hard to be as natural as possible. I like. Mineral Fusion gets the stamp of approval from a few beauty gurus too, though I've not tried it. None of these have any of the 'health food shop' about them. Promise.

If this has got you thinking but you want more options, there's some great articles and blogs rating toiletries, makeup ranges and perfumes - a couple of Huffpost ones on top skincare are handy and rate brands like Trilogy (Princess Katherine is a fan, apparently) which you can get at Boots or online.

By digging a little, it seems there's a whole host of options from budget or affordable to high-end swit-swoo products none of which are reminiscent of claggy or greasy moisturisers or rustic soap. And with not a whiff of patchouli or lavender, no-one need even realise that you're secretly a bit of a hippy.