How to Keep Habits | The Parenting Diaries

I’ve been wondering recently, can I think of a new way to help me to keep my habits? I’ve decided to start by making it public, putting it out there and allowing you, readers, to ask me how I’m doing!

I realised that habits were helpful things and also a bit of a lifeline when I was ill with depression (I have a hormone condition which gives me episodes). When my brain was dead and fuzzy and I struggled to look human, wear earrings, work, talk or eat, I was still able to a) have a shower and b) go to my church.

This was because they were ingrained habits, that ran themselves. For instance, I’ve been going to Church every Sunday, for twenty years, so even when I felt like crap, I found myself trundling up the hill, which ultimately helped me with my mood and lifted the fog for a short while.

So I looked further into habits. I am a great fan of Gretchen Rubin, and she’s written a book on habit keeping and understanding your personality type and how best to keep habits going.

Better than Before – Gretchen Rubin

If you can lock in a habit for 21 days then you won’t need any self-control or discipline to keep it going. I wanted a range of daily, weekly, monthly and annual habits, that would help me work with my hormone condition and remain well. To have things I do, without work, that are good for my well-being and run themselves.

Steve Jobs and Barack Obama had a habit of wearing the same thing everyday as it was one less decision to make, and gave him headspace for more important things.

I’ve worked hard to identify the motivation behind my resolution to keep habits. This is covered in my post about my ‘Who I’m becoming’ life aims, which you can read here, if you’re interested to learn more.

My habit type, identified in Gretchen Rubin’s book is that I need external accountability to keep a habit. So I’m putting on here what my habits are, what ones I want to adopt and which ones I find impossible to keep (which are in pink)

Disclaimer – mum/women-type issues discussed below!

Daily Habits:

  • Glass of water when I wake up
  • No mobile for one hour
  • Make breakfast for Mike and Isaac (husband and son)
  • Half an hour of prayer and worship
  • Ok here goes the honesty…pelvic floor exercises on app (the one I find impossible to keep, even though they take, like, one minute!)
  • Habit I’d like to add to my day and struggle to do – short physical exercises for me and Isaac for PC muscles
  • Get up and dressed
  • Brush teeth (wish I could get discipline for brushing Isaac’s at this moment…)
  • Tidy kitchen, water plants, tidy lounge
  • Check my inboxes
  • Lunch with Isaac
  • Do some work/ have some me-time (might involve watching Hollyoaks) while Isaac naps
  • Go for a walk and see a human being in the afternoon
  • Dinner with Mike and Isaac
  • Clear up dinner (if it’s my week not cooking) straight after dinner. (Sometimes do this, sometimes not, always regret it the next morning when I haven’t done it…)
  • Clear up toys with Isaac (with the most wonderful ‘Tidy Up’ song (sometimes we manage this and sometimes we don’t…)
  • Put Isaac to bed and brush his teeth
  • Collapse. No not really. Well, a little bit.
  • Do something friend/ date night/ TV (doh) based. (Although I wish I could spend this time doing more enriching things like editing my photos, baking, painting my nails – how, how to do this when you’re knackered by this point? And when I do manage it, I feel so much better for it.)
  • Do mindfulness and Examen in living room (so as not to fall asleep so easily…)
  • No phone in the bedroom. I have an alarm clock. 5 – 10 minutes reading
  • I wish I could nail the habit to brush my teeth at this point – I confess I don’t always manage this…
  • Glass of water

Weekly Habits

  • Plan my week on Sunday night (sometimes manage this, always better when I do!)
  • Phone my mum
  • Phone my closest friends
  • Do housework and a wash (who am I kidding, this is most days…)
  • Water the plants
  • Change Isaac’s sheets
  • Do work on a Friday
  • Volunteer for Mind Charity Shop
  • I wish I could go to a weekly core group to share my faith with other Christians. Hopefully sometime soon.
  • Have date night with my hubby
  • Go through my budget
  • Go through my photos on my phone
  • Do Lifemin. Hit and miss.
  • Go to Church
  • Have some time for me.

Monthly Habits

  • See my Spiritual Director
  • See my best friend
  • Have a family day with Mike and Isaac

Quarterly Habits

  • Have a work retreat day. I sometimes manage this and sometimes don’t. My business and cash flow always benefits when I do!
  • Have my hormone injection
  • Have a mini-break with Mike and Isaac
  • Go to a Theme Park to scream my head off
  • Enjoy being outside in the Seasons – i.e. bluebells, the seaside, fireworks and winter illuminations
  • Go to a gig?
  • Take part or host an art exhibition to show and sell my art
  • Go to my hormone clinic
  • Go to training events to grow my knowledge

Yearly Habits

  • Go on a hot holiday just before the busy Christmas season
  • Celebrate mine, Mike and Isaac’s birthday
  • Go and see my Dad and my step mum in France
  • Go to Spring Harvest
  • Go to the Mind and Soul Conference
  • Have my ‘Thanks’ party in grey January

Here’s the point of this blog post…

The reason I’m writing this blog post in the first place is that try as I might, I can’t ingrain the habit of doing my daily pelvic floor exercises. I don’t know why, because they only take a short while.

My motivations for wanting to nail this habit are:

  • Jumping on bouncy castles
  • Jumping on trampolines
  • Going nuts in a ball pool
  • Dancing like no-one is watching
  • Not having a ‘problem’ when I get scared or surprised or fall down a step (or trip up, let’s be honest)
  • Not having a ‘big problem’ when I have a stinking cold and am coughing all the time

Here is me doing some of my favourite things that are a lot less carefree and more difficult these days…

Bouncy Castle Habit Motivation!
Bouncy Castle Habit Motivation!
Ball Pool Habit Motivation!

So, I’ve put it out there. Said what every mum and or woman is thinking, probably. I’d love encouragement, ideas, stories etc on how I can really nail this one elusive habit!

I hope you might find something useful in this post, too.

 

My Framework for Growth – ‘Who I’m Becoming’.

I’ve been reading a book by Bill Hybels, called, ‘Simplify’. One chapter is about your schedule (or diary). There is a quote which I have really taken to heart:

'Who I'm Becoming' Quote from Bill Hybels.
‘Who I’m Becoming’ Quote from Bill Hybels.

This means that we put in our diary not what is coming at us, but the appointments, meetings and events that will help us become who we want to be in the future.

With that in mind, I have created twelve ‘Becoming Tiles’, which are in order of importance, to help guide me in my decisions and what I allow in my diary:

 

1) Be Happy and Healthy.

This means, put my physical and mental health before anything else. If I go down with mental or physical illness, then the whole family goes down, my work and ministry is affected and I can’t care for anyone.

These things need to go in my diary:

  • Doing mindfulness every day
  • Taking time out for myself
  • Having boundaries with friends, family and work
  • Making time for God and Church
  • Making time to be with friends and family
  • Doing exercise
  • Eating well
  • Having days off and holidays
  • Dealing with issues promptly and directly.

 

2) Always put Mike and Isaac first.

This means putting my husband, Mike and my son, Isaac, above all the other items on my list and in my diary.

These things will go in my diary:

  • Spending family time together
  • Supporting Mike in his ministry
  • Taking Isaac places and showing him things that will help him grow
  • Championing my family
  • Spending enough time at home
  • Date Night.

 

3) Prioritising Mine and Isaac’s Character.

This means considering my character in my decisions, and also helping Isaac to grow in character. When he’s an adult I want him to be a catch, a good employee, friend and a polite chap.

Things like these will go in the diary:

  • Regular time with wise friends and family
  • Imput into my discipleship, such as Spring Harvest, training days and workshops
  • Attending the ‘Mind and Soul’ conference
  • Reading books and attending talks on parenting
  • Seeing my Spiritual Director

 

4) Being Fully Me.

I don’t want to be anyone else. I don’t want to water myself down for anyone. I want to be fully me.

This means putting things in my diary like:

  • Being inspired by art, design and style
  • Taking photos
  • Being silly and joyful
  • Going to Theme Parks
  • Seeing plays
  • Going to gigs
  • Enjoying the seasons outside
  • Going to water parks
  • Singing Karaoke
  • Trying new things
  • Spending time on my hobbies, like gardening, calligraphy and nail art.

 

5) Be a Leader and Mentor.

I might be a vicar one day…it might happen. I’ve lead what was really a church in Harrow, Get Together, with forty guests a week and enough laughs and problems to start a sitcom…I have several adult Godchildren, who asked me to be that guide in their life. I am a mentor in my work and also in my Church. I run my own business!

To keep going in this direction, these things need to go in my diary:

  • Attending events at the City Hall to consult around diversity in the workplace
  • Being a mentor professionally
  • Offering my services as a voluntary Mentor
  • Having connections with young people
  • Helping out Mental Health charities
  • Going to Theology talks and Leadership events.

 

6) A Loyal Friend and Relative.

I want to put my friends and family before my work. I want to invest in particular in those that I support, and also support me. I want to be there for important milestones and celebrations. I want to rejoice and commiserate with those I love.

I want these sorts of things to go in my diary:

  • Regular time with my most closest friends
  • Regular quality time with my parents and in-laws
  • Celebrations
  • Time to meet new friends
  • Planning time for special events and celebrations.

 

7) A Kind Advocate and Activist.

I am passionate about standing up for justice and I’m not afraid to speak up. However, I am also a communicator and educator, so it’s important I do this kindly, in particular with those who need education around certain issues. I want to have increasing impact and really make a difference where I am.

These sorts of things will go in my diary:

  • Putting on Kickass Women events (my women’s networking group)
  • Investing in equipping women with the Kickass Women Facebook group
  • Attending events around equality, diversity and women’s issues, such as Leap, Stylist, Red events and Mind events
  • Speaking with my coach to learn how to communicate more effectively and hone my skills.

 

8) Always Curious.

I love learning and I want to keep putting aside time to learn new skills for my business and clients and also just widening my mind and inspiring me.

I want to put in my diary things like:

  • Going to workshops to learn new things
  • Going to art exhibitions
  • Attending Red, Stylist, Figaro Digital and Council events to keep my learning up-to-date.
  • Reading relevant books and articles
  • Going on retreat each season to think how to develop Joy Factory.

 

9) A Lifelong Adventurer

I love going to new places and having adventures. Going on holiday is very important to me, for my soul, my art and deepening relationships with my family and friends.

I want to make time for:

  • A hot holiday in the winter months to raise my family’s spirits
  • Half-term breaks to refresh us
  • A yearly weekend break with my husband
  • A week in France with my Dad and Bean
  • Weekends with my mum
  • Trips with ECC (my rollercoaster club)
  • Crossing places off my travel list, like New York, Helsinki and Sicily.

 

10) Doing Meaningful Work.

It is important to me to do my work with Joy Factory. I want to be a witness to Isaac, my son, to show a woman can carry on the work she loves and is good at, rather than waiting till nursery. I enjoy my work and it’s good for my wellbeing. And I work to be able to pay for holidays for my family to support my husbands’ small income.

That said, any work I do I have to want to do, as I’m away from my son. And also, work I enjoy with people I like is usually more profitable anyway. I go away each season to review the work I’m doing, partnerships and where I’m going.

I want to keep putting in my diary:

  • Seasonal Retreats
  • Priority time with key partners
  • Time in the Harrow Work Hub
  • Meeting with new clients and customers
  • Time to review feedback from clients.

 

11) An Active Artist.

I want to find more time in my diary to make new art. I’ve realised that when I do any art, it’s on my phone, doing digital paintings. I’m usually rushing as I’m with my family! I miss time spent playing with new media and experimenting. I also want to do new exhibitions, so I can sell my work to encourage me to make new work.

I’d like these sorts of things to go in my diary:

  • Sketching days
  • Studio days
  • Putting on or taking part in exhibitions
  • Thinking about other revenue streams, like Etsy and creating prints, etc.

 

12) Hospitable

I love opening my home to people and I love parties. People who come to our gatherings always meet new people., laugh, eat, sing, share and feel at home.

I want to keep these sorts of things in my diary:

  • Celebrating birthdays
  • Having a ‘Thanks’ party in dreary, grey January
  • Marking Advent with Christmas prep then celebrating all twelve days of Christmas
  • Having dinner parties and playdates
  • Playing board games
  • Having movie nights
  • Having a big do at my mum’s once a year, to give people a mini holiday and a chance to dress up!

So there we have it. My ‘Becoming’ tiles and my hopes and dreams for them. I hope this might have inspired folks reading to maybe do their own. Feel free to ask me how I’m doing!

I plan on posting on Social Media about my ‘Becoming’ list as a focus for what I use Facebook, Instagram for etc and also to create a conversation. I also have Pinterest boards I’m working on, which you’re welcome to look at – just search for ‘joyfactoryuk’ on Pinterest.

 

Pregnancy and Parenting Diaries…puke, panic, perseverance and prayer.

Here is my story of my pregancy and first six months of parenting. It’s been a rollercoaster. I share this as a record for myself, to be honest about mental health illness and to shine the light on some awesome services.

So, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a very long time. Perhaps it will be like cheese or wine, it will have matured and improved with age?

Where to begin. Perhaps just under a year ago, in April 2016. I was entering my second trimester of a much prayed for and wanted pregnancy after four years of depressive and anxious episodes (due to a hormone imbalance condition) and I had weathered a dear friend disowning me, a stalker, difficult neighbours and lastly someone smashing into our car on our drive.

Oh and I might mention, Mike, my husband, being made redundant and searching and finding a new job, and moving church after 15 years…and being sick every single day. (puke)

So yeah, April 2016. Sadly I became low and anxious again. I was then ill on and off until two weeks before my son, Isaac was born, in August. I have to say, the mix of having come off all my hormone treatment and crazy pregnancy hormones, I experienced possibly the worst episode I have ever had and some of the very worst, most scary days of my life. However, over the years I have built up resilience and was able to cope to a certain level – still saw friends, still went to church, got up and dressed every day and made all my appointments. (panic)

Panic monster is coming to get you
Panic monster is coming to get you

Some things that happened in that third trimester and after the birth that weren’t particularly helpful or good:

I was referred to the mental health team and was diagnosed but could not access any therapy (which I desperately needed). I was stuck going around and around some MC Escher endless staircase where I was lead from psychiatrists to mental health services to doctors and back again.

Going round and round the mental health system...
Going round and round the mental health system…

I had appalling administration for my prenatal care (although the midwives themselves were awesome) like not being shown through my yellow folder, not followed through with the Jade team (mental health), sent to wrong hospitals, sent wrong dates, kept waiting for hours…I have forgotten a lot of it as it was so awful (although I suspect Mike remembers only too well.)

I got wrongly diagnosed with gestational diabetes (because I was highly anxious during the test) and had to prick my fingers and monitor my levels every day…not a great combo with obsessive anxiety and panic attacks. And Mike lost hundreds of pounds of consultancy pay having to come to loads of unnecessary appointments.

After being well for two weeks before Isaac’s birth (with the most bonkers nesting thing) and a brilliant hypnobirthing birth (genuinely no pain), sadly I got Postpartum Psychosis and ended up in a mother and baby unit called Coombewood for three months, on and off.

But it wasn’t all bad.

Me and Mike are out the other side of a very difficult, challenging time having grown stronger as individuals and as a couple. We are forming a Christian ministry around mental health that would never have materialised if it wasn’t for our experiences.

I have built resilience through some very testing times. I grew reliant on watching my negative talk, daily prayer, mindful activities like jigsaws, walks, seeing friends, making things and doing things I enjoy. And actually, the most mindful thing in the world is Isaac. Even at my worst, when I was at Coombewood, the love for him shone through the black fog of mental illness and I was able to care for him, even though every action was like wading through tar. (perseverance)

Gotta hang on...
Gotta hang on…

We had the most awesome, overwhelming, love-conquering support from family and friends. I am certain there were tens of dozens of folk praying and thinking of us every day. We were given home-cooked meals after Isaac was born. Friends came over with food, took Mike out to support him, phoned, texted, visited, sent thoughtful gifts. Great queues of people came to visit me at Coombewood.

I had some amazing times of prayer and grew in my faith, having to rely on God like never before. Even Isaac’s name is a blessing and promise. ‘Isaac Caleb’ means laughter warrior, and if you’ve met Isaac, I think you would agree he’s a little bit of a joyful and happy chappie! (prayer)

My laughter warrior, Isaac
My laughter warrior, Isaac

I am loving being a mum to Isaac. He is a total delight. He sleeps so well and is such a happy, smiley, chatty little boy. I have made some wonderful new friends, learnt to be even more mindful through adapting to Isaac’s time, not squeezing him into mine. I love reading to him, staring at him, chatting to him, showing him off and going on adventures together.

And lastly, but not least – the amazing Coombewood Mother and Baby unit. Mike and I simply don’t know what we would have done without the blessing of this place and the amazing staff there. Mike would have had to defer our course to care for me and Isaac. The nurses there taught us how to look after our little boy, while they looked after me. It always felt a safe and homely place to be, full of encouragement and hope.

The wonderful staff at Coombewood Mother and Baby Unit
The wonderful staff at Coombewood Mother and Baby Unit

I am aiming to crowdfund £500 (an amazing £220 raised so far) to help Coombewood to fit out their breastfeeding room. Well, it was the milk room and is now the place where mums breastfeed, but it has odd chairs, bleak walls and isn’t exactly made for relaxing breastfeeding at the moment. I want to give them money to kit out the room.

So…if you’ve been moved, or can identify with this story, or are grateful for the care Coombewood gave Isaac and me, then please do donate anything you can to help hit the target. After all, mental health illness affects one in four people (one in three women) so it’s likely you or someone you know has, is or will be affected.

If you want to, then go here. Thank you.