I love Christmas. I love the food and being together. I love decorating the house and buying gifts. I love the opportunity to celebrate.But.There is a 'But'.All the expectations around what Christmas could or should be can make me anxious.Until a few years ago as December approached I would find myself starting to worry. Would everyone have a good time? Had I remembered everyone's presents? Did the house look festive enough?Pressure and stress built up as the list of non-negotiable (as I saw it at the time) events filled my diary. I would panic about the most bizarre things: would...

May is mental health awareness month. A time to share experiences and challenge stigma.And one thing you are sure to hear is someone to say: it is time to talk.Being vulnerable about your mental health can be beneficial and aid recovery, but to be brave and start a conversation often feels impossible.It did for me.My diagnosis with post-natal depression and anxiety took me by surprise. I didn't know what it meant. I felt ashamed and afraid of how others would react.Better to deal with this in private and keep my friends, than be honest and risk losing them, I thought.But...

It is New Year's Day.We are in Auckland, New Zealand and have stumbled across an international tennis tournament. The tournament is not under the radar, but we do not follow the annual tennis schedule so, to us, it feels like a gift. The luxury of no other plans allows us to stroll down, wait in line, buy tickets and take our seats to watch some of the world's best female tennis players. Such joy.As we wait for play to begin my mind wanders through the possibilities the coming year holds. I am relaxed, happy, looking forward. It occurs to me;...

Many people I know choose a 'word for the year'.A word they hope to orient their year around. A word they hope when they look back at the end of the year they will find has been the cornerstone, the theme underpinning all they have done.I have a word for this year. It has crept up on me. I think it came back from holiday with me in my suitcase.This year is a big year for me. My goals are bigger, my hopes higher.On 1st January I wrote (on Instagram):"I am looking forward to this new year. I feel excited,...

I was out and about somewhere this week, I forget where, and I could hear a toddler whining.The child wasn't very upset, but were obviously struggling to get their point across, to let the parent who was with them know exactly what they wanted. I then heard the Mum who was with this little boy, who must have been about two and a half, say a phrase I have said myself many times. She said,"Use your words."She wanted her son to stop his whining and tell her what it was that was upsetting him, or what it was he wanted....

For World Mental Health Day some truth from my head and my heart.This much I know:Mental illness does not and should not disqualify you. Do not disqualify yourself because of it. What you perceive as weakness might be the truth someone else needs to hear, or give you the perception to understand how someone else is feeling. You are not disqualified. For more: read this. You are allowed to do what you need or want to do. This is true always but especially when it comes to managing and protecting you mental health. You need to cancel an appointment,...

Recently I asked my email list* what they were struggling with.I don't have all the answers but I want to know my readers better and write about the things that are on their hearts.I was overwhelmed by the response and felt so privileged that so many took the time to share their stories with me.There were a few themes that emerged, common threads between the responses. So often we think the things that make us feel ashamed or scared separate us from everyone else, when actually it is these struggles that unite us. If only we knew how like each other...

Self care is not just for stressed-out grown ups. Self care is an important life skill we can and should be teaching to our children. And just in case you think I am going to be instructing you to spoil your child, to give them whatever they most desire all in the name of mental health, let me reassure you. My favourite definition of self-care (which makes it obvious it is a skill we all need is) - self care: proactively creating a life you don't need to regularly escape from*. Self-Care is about making sure we are able to enjoy our...

Last week for Mental Health Awareness Week, on Facebook and Instagram, I posted daily about my battle with anxiety and panic attacks.I have summarised these posts here. I hope they might bring comfort to you if you are struggling, and serve as a reminder that you are not alone.Part 1. RECOGNITION Growing up I never really thought about my brain. It was just there, ticking over, doing what I needed it to. As a straight-A student, education was not a problem and apart from a few (obligatory) crappy teenage years I was outgoing and popular. I was brought up to know I was loved...