Let’s Prance!

Somehow ‘Prancercise’ has passed me by…

Not entirely sure what planet I’ve been living on but it’s 2017 and I’m only just discovering it thanks to nice bloke Spencer who guest blogs over at Zeit My Geist.

In case you’ve also been living on another planet for the past few years..

This is Prancercise.

First time I watched it I thought the moves were similar to the ones yer Nan makes on the dance floor when she wants to throw some shapes to Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual but her corns are giving her gyp and she has to be mindful of keeping her Tena pad in place.

Second time I watched it I thought she may be one HRT patch short of a full packet.

Third time I watched it I came to the conclusion that she’s a BLOODY LEGEND!

So, what’s it all about?

Basically…it’s horses.

My interpretation of what’s said on the website is that instead of standing in front of a huge gym window sweating your bag off you can go and gallop around the park like a horse. You know, like you did when you were a kid? I can see the appeal, sort of, only I’m more seaside donkey than graceful horse..

Unsurprisingly, Joanna (the creator) has copped for some stick.

Apparently it’s “goofy” and she showed ‘the toe’.

That’s camel toe if you were wondering and lets face it.. if you own leggings (and you’re female) you’ve probably shown the toe too.

So, I may have had a giggle but you know what? I LOVE the Joanna’s of this world because they make the world a better and more interesting place. Also, it’s made her famous. AS IF she gives a pig’s nip who’s laughing, eh?

I don’t think I’ll be prancing around our local park anytime soon because I live up North and they certify people for doing stuff like that round here. Prancing would definitely be frowned upon unless it involves lobbing black puddings about and then it’s absolutely fine.

How about a Strictly Come Prancing? Now THAT, I would watch!

However, I am having a nostalgic pang for the carefree days of childhood when I thought nothing of prancing because most children are natural prancers. Not that I was ever natural at anything aside being weird..but, yeah, I pranced – kind of.

What a shame that there comes a time when society decides it’s no longer appropriate to prance. 😦

Not that Joanna cares about what society thinks and I say good on her! The world needs more of this!

PRANCE ON, JOANNA, YOU UTTER LEGEND!

If you happen to fancy a prance you could create a playlist like this to inspire you.

  1. Prancing Queen
  2. You Should Be Prancing
  3. Private Prancer
  4. Flashprance
  5. Rhythm is a Prancer
  6. Prancing in the Street
  7. Tiny Prancer
  8. Prancing on a Saturday Night
  9. Prance Away
  10. No Good Start The Prance (personal fave)

“NOW LET’S STOP TALKIN AND DO SOME WALKIN’!”

This post is dedicated to my lovely friend, Sheerie on this her ’42nd birthday’. *cough* LOVE YOU LOTS!

A Few Tips To Ease Your Anxiety Symptoms

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In the three years that I have had GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) I have trawled the internet and read countless books searching for ideas to ease my symptoms so I thought it would be a good idea to share what’s worked for me.

So, in no particular order..

Sugar

While diet doesn’t cause anxiety it’s fair to say that certain foods, like sugar, do aggravate the situation and making a few dietary changes can greatly improve symptoms.

When you have an anxiety disorder you can become hypersensitive to your body. Even small amounts of sugar can have a detrimental effect on the body because it’s absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This causes an initial energy surge but once it wears off the body has to increase the production of insulin in order to remove the sugar from your blood stream leaving you feeling like a bag of shite. Cutting down or eliminating refined sugar from your diet will address the imbalances which trigger panic attacks and will improve your body’s ability to cope with stress.

It’s a good idea to learn bout how much sugar is in the foods you are eating. There is a smart phone app called Food Smart which allows you to scan the barcodes to see exactly how much sugar is in a product. It’s been quite the eyeopener!

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Mornings

Our bodies naturally release cortisol in the morning as we wake from a prolonged period of sleep. This is known as the ‘cortisol awakening response’. Non-anxious people wake gradually over a few hours whereas anxiety cases (like moi) get woken abruptly with the cortisol screaming “WAKE THE EFF UPPPPP ARRRGGHHH!!!”

Imagine having Slipknot waking you up at 5am with their screamiest song (plus scary masks) and you’re somewhere near.

Normally, cortisol is present throughout the day but at a decreasing level, the lowest being in the evening preparing us for sleep. It will spike during short term stressors like an argument or a near miss with the number 57 bus then subside again. The anxious person has consistently high levels of cortisol throughout the day which is unpleasant to say the least.

The best thing I’ve found on waking is to get up and move about – even if it’s 4am. I find that walking helps to burn some of that excess energy off. Lying there only makes me feel crap and if I try to doze off, I only end up having insane dreams of headless horses or toilets that don’t flush. Freud would have a field day with me, no?

I blog. I clean. I use the energy to my advantage and GIVE ANXIETY THE FINGER!

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Dr Google Will See You Now

Not everybody who has anxiety will have health anxiety but a good number unfortunately do.

Me, for one.

The problem is that anxiety presents with such a plethora of symptoms that it’s hard to believe that you’re NOT dying of something particularly nasty but instead of making an appointment with a GP, the cyberchondriac makes an appointment with Dr Google whose diagnosis is usually terminal. The sufferer then curls up into fetal position and awaits certain death only moving as far as their PC in order to post on anxiety forums which are full of threads like..

‘Pain In My Toe. Cancer?’

And..

‘I’m dying’.

Occasionally some desperate sod will upload graphic pictures of his/her poo for reassurance that they are not dying but as much as I understand and empathise with health anxiety, I really don’t want to see someone’s toilet massacre on my PC at 6am!

Or ever.

My advice would be NOT to Google your symptoms but if you really must then type the word ANXIETY alongside whatever symptom it is.

Instead of trawling though pages about diseases you imagine you have.. spend a good few hours researching the condition you DO have? Learn about anxiety and why the body reacts the way it does. Educate yourself!  It will also remove a lot of the fear and once you’ve done that you’re on the road to recovery.

Google isn’t all bad though because you will find great anxiety websites and podcasts.

The Anxiety Guru and Anxiety Slayer  are two excellent podcasts which are informative and help to normalise anxiety symptoms. Well worth looking up.

Exercise

In my opinion, the WORST thing you can do with anxiety is sit on your backside and do nothing. That’s a sure way to keep you in the anxiety/fear loop forever and ever, Amen.

There is a link between being physically active and enjoying positive mental well-being. It causes chemical changes in the brain which positively alter your mood. Even a fifteen minute walk can make you feel better. ANY exercise is better than none.

I walk as much as I can and do yoga. I ALWAYS feel the benefit during and afterwards even if I might not feel like doing it to start with. It’s the knowledge that I WILL feel better that has me reaching for my coat or yoga mat no matter how crap I feel.

Your body WANTS to move. It NEEDS to move to keep all your bits functioning effectively.

You have all these stress hormones whirring away inside you and they need to be diffused so work with them and SHIFT YOUR ARSE OFF THAT SOFA! Go for a walk in the sunshine or a jog if that’s more your thing. Put some funky music on and flick the duster about. Whatever floats your boat. JUST DO IT!

Be well and think positive thoughts.

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Bend It Like Barbara.

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“So, we have the results of your Dexa scan and ooh, you have Osteopenia”

I thought, ‘WHAT THE SHITTING HELL?!’

I said, “Oh!”

My GP went on to reassure me that it’s quite normal for post-menopausal women like me..

Rewind a few weeks to a conversation with a GP where I mentioned that I was creaking and cracking like an old barn door. This conversation concluded in me being sent for a Dexa scan to measure the density of my bones. The result being that I have Osteopenia.

What’s Osteopenia?

Osteopenia is the technical name for thinning bones and it’s the stage before Osteoporosis. Not to be confused with the film Quadrophenia, as can sometimes happen with the menopausal brain, eh ladies?

Brrrring on the mobilty scooter!

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Ok, it’s a bit shit. I’m only 46. However, there are far worse things in life to deal with AND the condition can be slowed down by exercise and taking calcium supplements – only one of the complications they don’t tell you about with Osteopenia is that you run the risk of choking to death on a calcium tablet because they are the size of Wales!

So I went to see a dietician who advised me to start doing weight bearing exercise like yoga to protect my bones. I already do the school run and walk the dog most days so walking isn’t a problem. I bought a yoga DVD (for the over 50s) and a mat.

The yoga DVD is aimed at menopausal ladies like moiself and has routines targeting Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and strength building in general to support knackered bones. There is even a routine called ‘Gentle Yoga on a Chair’. So you can basically work out while sitting on your arse!

WIN and WIN!

The DVD itself is relaxing to watch. It’s set outside on a lush green lawn with the Glacier National Park in the background and a beautiful water feature. Of course, you have the sound of running water all the way through which makes having a pre-workout wee ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, unless you want to test your pelvic floor?

So the location is beautiful and instructor Barbara Benagh’s voice is calming. She’s also bendy as fook but she’s a yoga instructor so she’s meant to be. I mean, she’s bend down – straight legged – hands flat on the floor – bendy whereas I can only reach my knees but I can only improve from here, right?

When it comes to workout gear I opted for old leggings and my Breakfast Club tee shirt. I have some bingo-wing-age going on with my arms so much so that waving has become a health hazard so vest tops are out for the time being.

I did a few workouts in the living room then one day I decided to work out in the sun-room, sounds posh doesn’t it?

It’s not.

The sun-room (which overlooks the yard) is a small space but I can just about stretch my arms out without doing myself an injury. So, I’d set myself up and shoved the dog outside so I wouldn’t be disturbed..

I’d just got into the pose where you balance on one leg with arms outstretched (forget the technical term) when I caught sight of the lurcher in squatting position in the yard. Now, you have to hold the pose for a minute (closing eyes NOT an option if you want to stay upright) so I saw the entire performance of her dropping her load then doing the ski run across the hard flagstones to deal with her ‘cling on’s’.

OM. MY. GOD.

See what I did there?

Pretty much sums me up. Barbara gets tranquil sunlit mountain backdrop to work out to. I get the lurcher having a shit!

The problems with doing yoga at home are distractions of daily life (such as dogs ‘avin a poo) and the motivation that is required to do it regularly. The best way for most people would be to find a group and I have done this in the past but any benefit I got from the yoga was lost due to the stress of being in a group. I don’t do groups, you see. I prefer to go lone wolf and fortunately for me I can motivate myself well enough especially when I have a goal and my goal is to slow down the bone thinning process.

Bone thinning is a natural part of the menopause but many women are unaware of it until they have a Dexa scan or break a bone. There is much that can be done to prevent this condition and having Osteopenia doesn’t mean you will go onto have Osteoporosis. Every post-menopausal woman will have some thinning of the bones. Taking Calcium supplements and doing weight bearing exercise will help to protect your bones. If you are post menopausal, you REALLY need to start addressing it now. My GP told me that all post menopausal women should be taking a calcium supplement as we need around 1200 mgs a day along with Vit D3 which helps with absorption.

One thing about calcium supplements is that GPs prescribe them in carbonate form basically because it’s the cheapest. A lot of people (me included) have issues with constipation when taking it in that form so citrate is the better option.

Don’t take supplements without discussing it with your GP, especially if you take medication as some supplements can interact with certain drugs.

Finally, the BEST thing for bone health is sunshine. Lack of sunlight causes Vitamin D deficiency which affects the bones and the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Menopausal women generally need 800-1,000 IU daily and you can get that through a mixture of sunlight, diet and supplements. Get your calcium and Vit D levels checked about every six months via a blood test and you’ll know if you’ve got the balance right.

The effort you put in now will pay off in years to come keeping you active for longer and off that mobility scooter!

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Autism and The Boy – Four Years On

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It’s hard to believe that it’s almost four years since The Boy was diagnosed as autistic. The time has flown by and it’s been quite the journey so far..

The Boy’s problems were obvious from the age of two but the childcare ‘professionals’ where we lived were oblivious to the fact that he was still crawling LONG after all the children his age (and younger) had started to walk. His inability to cope with the slightest change and his meltdowns also gave them no cause for concern despite me voicing my concerns..

We moved from Cheshire to Lancashire just before his third birthday. We hadn’t had anywhere specific in mind except that it had to be commutable for OH’s work. We drove through many places but only one stood out and I still have the piece of paper where I treble underlined the name of the town with a side note. “HERE!”.

‘Here’ is an old Victorian mill town with bags of character nestled at the foot of the Pennines. It’s quaint but it rains a lot. Oh well, can’t have it all eh?

We’d only lived here for a few months when came time to look for nurseries. I looked at three in total, two of which were rated highly by Ofsted. They were clean and bright with new toys but they didn’t feel right to me. The third one was in need of a lick of paint and the toys were well loved but it felt right as soon as I walked in. The manager (L) was cradling a child on her lap and several others were hanging off her arms. All the children looked happy and I could tell that L was more about the children than the business. That sold it for me and he started that September.

Within two weeks, L took me to one side and said there was a problem. We’d made no mention of The Boy’s issues because we needed to see if they were picked up without our influence. She used the word ‘autism’ because she had experience with autistic children so she asked if we’d agree to the child psychiatrist seeing him. It was such a relief to know that it wasn’t just us being overly dramatic.

The child psychiatrist assessed him in the nursery over a few sessions and referred him for a multi disciplinary assessment in the local hospital. He was assessed over a twelve month period and by the time he started school a statement already was in place. He was diagnosed with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder aged four.

We had a choice of three schools but only one had a good reputation with special needs. If there was ever any doubt that we’d chosen correctly it disappeared the day the headmaster lay down on the playground floor (in his suit) next to my son who was starting to go into meltdown. How many headteachers do you know who would do that?

Our journey of assessment to diagnosis was smooth though I know this isn’t the case for so many parents. The Boy was assigned a special teaching assistant who worked with him for 3 hours at first then all day when it became obvious that he required full support.

There have been occasions where we have been called to school either to calm him down or take him home. This is also at our request. When your child displays such severe challenging behaviour in a mainstream school the headteacher has to tread a fine line between meeting that child’s needs and maintaining the safety of the other children and the staff. The good thing is that none of these episodes have come and gone without a meeting taking place to see what can be improved on. The staff are always using new techniques and strategies to help him and anybody involved with him, including playtime staff, are educated about challenging behaviour and how to deal with it. We work as a team and the relationship between us and the school is brilliant and we know that he’s loved there.

The Boy has worked with his one to one for almost four years now and they have a special bond. Also, she totally puts up with his shit and does it with a smile. For him she a familiar face who not only guides him but comforts him. She knows him as we know him and she comes to see him during the long summer holiday so that he doesn’t go too long without seeing her. She doesn’t have to do that. It’s not part of her job but I know that The Boy isn’t just a job to her and so when I see him rush up to her and hug her as tightly as he does me, I know he is exactly where he is meant to be.

The other week we had to go in and calm him down as he’d trashed the classroom. There was toilet roll all over the place, upturned chairs and tables at funny angles and me laddo was refusing to come out of the toilet. When I went into him he was stood on the toilet seat growling which is always a bad sign when he becomes non verbal. The school have been told to contact us in these situations if he won’t respond to them because he will respond to us, me in particular. It took 45 minutes to get through to him but we got there in the end..

The difficult part of my son’s autism is that he often loses control and can become disruptive but they never give up on him.

The Boy has gone through a few different obsessions over the years..numbers, Lego, owls, Ninjago, Minecraft and his latest..Pokemon. Anybody who has autistic children (or is autistic themselves) will understand obsession and the need for it in order to cope with a world which overwhelms. The school understand this and accommodate his needs incorporating those obsessions into as much of his school work as is possible to get him to engage.

The Boy will be 8 this year. He is one of the youngest in his class  and the differences are becoming more and more marked as I knew the would. He’s always stood out but there is much that autistic children can get away with in those first few years of school that they can’t as they head towards puberty. Hormones turn children into little shits and autism doesn’t exclude children from said shittery. It’s just a different kind of shit.

Aside some blips and attitudes from a few narrow minded parents at school, he has been a happy little boy who enjoys life and certainly brightens up the lives of others. My late friend may not have fully understood his autism but she accepted and loved him for who he is. If only every parent at the school was like her life would be so much easier.

As he gets older I become more wary. Not of him. Never of him.. but how the world will perceive him. Perhaps this is because I was constantly on the receiving end of bullying as a child and teenager but the point is that I know how cruel children can be especially to those who are different from themselves. The thought I cling to is that a big difference between The Boy and myself is that more things go over his head whereas someone only has to look at me in a certain way and I feel as if I’ve been GBH’d. In fact, one of the MANY things that I love about him how he is happy to be himself and be unaffected by how people see him and long may that continue..

All in all it’s been a positive four years despite my concerns for the future. In a perfect world people would embrace him as the unique individual he is but the most important thing is that he doesn’t try to hide who he is in order to fit a mould that was never designed for him.

For anybody who differs from the ‘norm’ – this quote is for you.

I’m not weird, my reality is just different from yours.

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Spectrum Sunday