Tips to Improve Your Well-being When Life Gets You Down

Tips to Improve Your Well-being When Life Gets You Down

Life is Getting Us Down in 2020

This year I’ve noticed many more people talking about how they’re feeling demotivated, distressed, fed-up and down in the dumps.  Many people have begun to let their healthy diet and exercise routines slide, and their waistline expand.  The affects of the global pandemic on our well-being are really starting to become apparent as it drags on with no end in sight. The uncertainty, isolation and risks to our health and lifestyle are all factors in causing this decrease in our state of well-being.

Our well-being won’t just miraculously improve if we don’t make an effort to change our routines.  We have to work at it because it’s all too easy to be lazy and get into bad habits.  Frequently people get into a rut and can’t see any end to their current situation.  It’s as if a black cloud is over their head.  A few down days can lead to depression.

Clinical depression needs to be treated by health care professionals such as psychologists and medical doctors. (I am not a trained professional in these fields. Please refer to my disclaimer. This article should be used for informational purposes only).   I’m not talking about depression in this article, rather the low mood that many of us are experiencing due to the current pandemic.  If your mood has not improved after a few weeks, please seek professional help. 

How I’m Working on Improving My Well-being 

I talked recently about how my long recovery from surgery has been affecting my well-being.   As time drags on and I’m still not well enough to go back to work, I’ve had days where I feel really down in the dumps.  What have I been doing to help myself deal with these feelings?  

I’ve had to be proactive and work at maintaining my mental health.  My tendency to shut down and go into a shell, wallowing in misery, didn’t work for me in the past.  Over time I’ve found there are activities I can do to improve my mood.

When Life Gets You Down Use all Five Senses to Improve Your Well-being.  The senses of touch (massage), smell (perfume, scented candles), taste (fresh coffee, healthy fruits), hearing (music, sound of water fountain), sight (scenery, sunset) can be used to improve your mood
When Life Gets You Down Use all Five Senses to Improve Your Well-being. The senses of touch (massage), smell (perfume, scented candles), taste (fresh coffee, healthy fruits), hearing (music, sound of water fountain), sight (scenery, sunset) can be used to improve your mood

How to Use All 5 Senses to Improve Your Well-being When Life Is Getting You Down

You can use all five senses to improve your mood and your well-being.   For example, who can deny that the fresh whiff of coffee in the morning doesn’t immediately heighten your sense of smell?  Or that a warm hug from someone you love doesn’t make you feel calmer and happier? I am a very sensory person, and I’ve found the following have helped:

  • TOUCH: I had a massage.  I normally have a remedial full body massage but I still can’t lie on my front so I had a sitting massage instead.  To make the most of it I used deep breathing techniques to relax my muscles.  These tiny Thai masseurs are so strong, you feel like you’ve done 3 rounds with a sumo wrestler!  But it works.
  • SOUND: Listening to uplifting music.  I was born in the 60s so I love 70s and 80s music.  I can sing as loud as I like to my favourite hits  and it’s always a mood booster.
  • SMELL: A splash of my favourite perfume lifts my spirits.  I don’t save my scent for special occasions.   I use it daily because it makes me feel better to smell nice.  Using scented candles and reed diffusers has also helped.
  • SIGHT: Taking time to watch the sunset, or admire a beautiful scene is uplifting.  While I’m out walking my dog every day I take time to look at my surroundings.   I’m lucky to live where I have lovely parks and waterways nearby.  My dog’s a social butterfly so we end up meeting lots of dogs and their owners.  It’s nice to say hello or stop and chat if they’re up for it.
  • TASTE: I’ve done lots of cooking.  It’s starting to show as the weight’s starting to creep up.  Only 1kg but since I lost 17kg last year I’m very wary of gaining any weight.  So I’ve gone back to basics and getting back on a healthy diet.  It’s easy to grab convenience food when you’re feeling low, but taking the effort to prepare fresh food will boost your mood.  Eating lots of fruit and vegetables,  quality protein and healthy fats will make you feel more energised.

Other Ways I’m Boosting My Mood

Sometimes we have to push ourselves to be proactive in improving our well-being.   I know what depression is like and it’s easy for me to slide into that state of mind.  Rather than just allowing myself to stay in a rut, I push myself to do activities that I know will boost my mood.  

I credit my improved sense of well-being to the following:

  • Putting a bit of make-up on every day.  Then I don’t feel so daggy.
  • I’ve had a couple of phone sessions with a counsellor.   Getting the perspective of an impartial person about my long recovery time has really helped.  My takeaway from the sessions – I’ve been looking after everyone else for the last 30 plus years so it’s time to look after myself.  And let others look after me (which I find hard to do).  
  • I’ve been spending time socialising.  My nature is an introverted homebody so I  tend to stay home where I’m in my comfort zone.  I know that the most uplifting activity for me is having meaningful conversations with people.  So I make an effort to meet someone to talk over coffee or a meal.  Phoning them is the next best thing.  It improves my well-being so much.
  • I’ve been de-cluttering and tidying.  Just one area of the house at a time.  There’s nothing better than a good cleanout!  I can’t do too much housework because it increases the pain and swelling, so I just do a little bit every day.
  • I’ve been spending time in my garden every day.  Spring is upon us in Australia and the spring growth has begun.  It’s been a very long winter because time has dragged by for me and I’m really looking forward to warmer weather.  We’re lucky to have a pond with fountains in our garden.  The sound of cascading water is music to my soul.
We have a pond with fountains. The sound of the water trickling is music to my soul. I love the sound and find it very calming

What ways do you use to improve your well-being?  Share them here so others can benefit.

Just a head’s up, I saw my surgeon a couple of days ago, and because my swelling and pain are ongoing he’s going to operate again on Monday.  I’ll be in hospital for a few days and have a drain for a few weeks.  While I’m in hospital I won’t be allowed visitors which will be horrible. Not having the support of my family will be really hard but I know this is necessary to assist my healing and prevent further complications.

Because of this, I may be a bit inconsistent with my blog for the next few weeks.

shared on Life this Week, a linkup by Denyse Whelan

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Beetroot, Spinach and Feta Salad Recipe

Beetroot, Spinach & Feta Salad Recipe

The health benefits of beetroot

We have a thriving garden this year.  One of the vegetables we’re growing is beetroot.  Beetroot is, as the name suggests, a root vegetable.  It has multiple health benefits:

  • Nutrients include folate (Vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron and Vitamin C
  • Improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure
  • Low in calories – one beet has only 43 kCal
  • Versatile – eat raw, cooked or pickled.  The leaves may also be eaten
  • Contains 8-10% carbohydrates, but doesn’t cause a sharp rise in blood glucose levels.  Therefore they are suitable for diabetics.  However they contain fructans, so they are not suitable for low FODMAP diets
  • High in fibre (2-3%)

Source:  Healthline

Beetroot growing in our garden
Beetroot growing in our garden

How to Roast Beetroot

One of my favourite ways to eat beetroot is roasted.  This retains the flavour and doesn’t add fat, salt or sugar to the beets.  Here are the simple directions:

  1. Cut off any leaves, stems and roots.  Scrub the skin with a vegetable scrubbing brush
  2. Wrap the beet in Alfoil.  Use a large piece of Alfoil – it should be enough to wrap the beet in two layers of foil 
  3. Bake in the oven for 45mins – 1 hour depending on the size of the beet.  This large beet took one hour at 200 degrees celsius.  I don’t roast beets on their own, I just put them in a tray and cook them at the same time as other food.
  4. Open the foil up carefully to allow the steam out.  Allow beet to cool
  5. Peel skin of beet with a paring knife
  6. Cut beet into cubes.  Add to salads for colour, texture and flavour
Roasting beetroot, step by step
1. cut off stems and roots.  Scrub skin with a vegetable brush  2. wrap beetroot in a piece of Alfoil (large enough to wrap beet twice)  3. Roast for 45 mins - 1 hour in oven 200 deg celcius  4. Allow to cool then peel with a sharp knife.  Cut into cubes
Roasting Beetroot – Step by Step
1. cut off stems and roots. Scrub skin with a vegetable brush
2. wrap beetroot in a piece of Alfoil (large enough to wrap beet twice)
3. Roast for 45 mins – 1 hour in oven 200 deg celcius
4. Allow to cool then peel with a sharp knife. Cut into cubes

Beetroot, Spinach and Feta Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 roast beetroot, cubed
  • 2 cups baby spinach, washed
  • 60 g Reduced Fat Feta Cheese, cut into small pieces or cubed
  • 20 ml Greek Salad Dressing or Vinaigrette
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, cubed
Beetroot, Spinach and Feta Salad - Basic Recipe
Beetroot, Spinach and Feta Salad – Basic Recipe

Optional Ingredients – choose one or more

  • 1 cup roast pumpkin or sweet potato
  • 20 olives
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, or sunflower kernels or pumpkin seeds (roasted)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup snow peas

Combine ingredients.  Serves two

Total calories per serve 130 kCal (for basic recipe)

Carbs 12.6 g

Fat 5.2 g

Protein 9.2 g

Beetroot, Spinach and Feta Salad with optional Roast Pumpkin
Beetroot, Spinach and Feta Salad with optional Roast Pumpkin

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The Roles We Have Help Form Our Self Identity

The Roles We Have Help Define Our Self Image

Our self identity is what defines us

Our self identity is what defines us.  Self identity is formed in childhood, largely by our parents.  It develops over time, much of it stemming from the roles we take on.  These roles may be chosen by ourselves, or inflicted on us by chance.  The roles we identify with most strongly are what makes us who we are, and form our self identity. My roles as a nurse, mother and wife are the ones I identify with the most.

One of my roles – My 30 years as a Registered Nurse

This month marks 30 years since I graduated as a Registered Nurse.  I was one of the last hospital trained nurses to graduate from the Mater Misericordiae Public Hospital in Brisbane.  Nursing has been an incredibly rewarding career, and it forms a large part of my self identity.

On my graduation day, August 1990. I graduated from the Mater Misericordiae Public Hospital in Brisbane, as a Registered Nurse
On my graduation day, August 1990. I graduated from the Mater Misericordiae Public Hospital in Brisbane, as a Registered Nurse

My nursing career has taken me to the Northern Territory where I spent a year in a tiny 10 bed remote hospital.  We did everything there – Accident and Emergency, Theatre, and nursing paediatrics and adults.  I even assisted the midwives deliver babies which was amazing.  We had our own plane and pilot so we did retrievals to remote outback areas, and down to Alice Springs.

Most of my career has been in surgical nursing in hospitals.  I did a stint in palliative care but got really burnt out – I’m not cut out for that kind of nursing and really admire those that are.  It’s a rewarding job but incredibly taxing on your body, especially the type of nursing I do.

Collage of photos of my time nursing in the Northern Territory, Australia in 1997.  My role as a Registered Nurse has given me 30 years of extremely rewarding work.
Collage of photos of my time nursing in the Northern Territory, Australia in 1997.
My role as a Registered Nurse has given me 30 years of extremely rewarding work.

What happens when a role that we identify with, disappears one day?

I’ve been unable to return to work for over three months, since my bilateral mastectomies.  Because of the demanding nature of my job, I can’t return to work until I’m able to perform CPR and all the requirements of working as a nurse.  While I’m glad I’m not pushed back to work before I’m ready, I’m finding it incredibly hard to wait patiently while my body heals.

Because I haemorrhaged the day after my mastectomies, I still have residual swelling and pain on the left side.  Even a small amount of activity like light housework and shopping, causes more pain and swelling.  There’s no way to tell how long it will be like this.  

Missing my role as a nurse

I was expecting to be able to return to week six weeks after my surgery.  It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know I’d be off this long as I would have seriously considered delaying the surgery.  That delay could have been detrimental to my well-being as my chances of getting breast cancer were so high.

I’m able to fill my days with other activities like writing (thank God for my blog!), and cooking, but I miss working.  Nursing is so much a part of me – a strong aspect of my identity – it feels like part of me is missing.  Nursing is such a fulfilling career.  There’s nothing better than being able to make someone more comfortable, and assist them to heal. 

I miss my colleagues too.  Nurses have a real camaraderie.  We can laugh and cry together, knowing that our job will make us feel so many emotions, usually all in one shift.  I know there are many healthcare workers working incredibly hard under stressful conditions at the moment because of all the extra precautions we have to take due to Covid-19.  To be stuck on the sidelines while my colleagues are struggling is frustrating.  I just want to help out!

Over the last few years my health has taken several blows and I’ve struggled with the workload and shiftwork.  Physically I’m struggling to cope with the demands of my job, but I still feel I have a lot left to give.  I really don’t know what the future holds but I know if I can’t return to work as a nurse in some capacity I will really miss it.

The roles we identify with may be learned from our parents

I’ve written about identity in the past, and I feel my strongest roles that I identify with are being a mother and a nurse.  This month also marks 28 years since I became a mother.  Being a mother has been incredibly rewarding.  I had a strong role model in my own mum, and I have tried to emulate her.  There is no way anyone could come up to her standard!  Our mothering styles differed somewhat – she was a stay at home mum for one thing.  I don’t know if she would have approved of me working throughout my kids’ lives (apart from 4 months’ maternity leave for each of them).  She passed away before she became a grandmother.

My husband and I will soon be empty nesters because my son is finally moving out!  I loved having them live at home but they’re well and truly old enough to spread their wings.  Because I left home for good at 19 so it’s extraordinary that my sons lived at home till they were 24 and 28.  I must have made it too easy for them!

My sons and I in 1997, Alice Springs.  Motherhood has been one of my most rewarding roles.
My sons and I in 1997. Motherhood has been one of my most rewarding roles.

Merging two families can cause conflict

My husband came into our lives when my sons were in their late teens.  He doesn’t have kids of his own.  He took the right approach and didn’t try to be their father, which wouldn’t have gone down well at all.  We’ve all lived together for about 6 ½ years so it’ll be nice for the two of us to finally have the house to ourselves.  We’re looking forward to it.

My husband and I on our wedding day, 2014.  Being a wife is one of the roles I strongly identify with.
My husband and I on our wedding day in 2014. Being a wife is one of the roles I strongly identify with.

Merging two families didn’t go smoothly all the time.  My parenting style was different to my in-laws’ parenting style. I was used to being independent and not having family around to help out.  My kids were very independent as well.  Phil’s family live 5 minutes from each other and spend a lot of time together.  I can go months without seeing my family (especially with the border closures at the moment) but Phil sees or speaks to his family nearly every day.

There have been rocky patches, particularly between his mother and I.  She couldn’t understand what I was going through when I was grieving my dad.  My husband was working away for days at a time, week after week and it was very hard.  I had a fall out with her that lasted a couple of years.

I sensed real concern for me this year when I was going through my surgeries, and that has helped smooth things over between us.  I’m so glad we’ve been able to patch things up because it put a strain on the whole family.  We’re having them over for Father’s Day brunch which will be the first time in a few years that they all come here.  

My relationship with the rest of his family has been much better. I gained his parents, brother, sister-in-law, two nieces and a nephew when I married my husband. I’m so happy to have a close bond with them because I no longer have my parents and sister, and I don’t see my brothers and nephews much (especially since the border closed between my state and theirs).

When one of our roles disappears, our self identity suffers

Mother, daughter, nurse, wife, sister, auntie, friend – many of my roles in life, and a strong part of my identity.  These roles have shaped who I am and when one of the roles is absent, I feel lost.  I’m able to compensate by spending more time in the other roles.  It’s been lovely having more time to spend with my loved ones, and not be constantly tired from shift work. The challenge now is to accept that I am still me, even though I’m not working at the moment. I can channel my desire to help people into this blog, and still feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.

My role as a mother is changing with my sons leaving home. I’m still their mother though! That will never change. I’ve done my part – they’re fully functioning adults. Now I can enjoy my role as a wife more. We’ll have more quality time to spend together without the distraction of young people around. It’s something I look forward to, as I want to grow old together with my husband.

The roles we have help form our identity. When one of those roles disappears or changes, it can affect our self identity. We can compensate by spending more time on our other roles, and adjusting the way we think of ourselves.

My sons and I in 2001,  Auckland New Zealand.  My role as their mother is changing now that they are adults, but I am still a mother.
My sons and I in 2001. My role as their mother is changing now that they are adults, but I am still a mother.

What roles do you identify with?  If one role disappeared, would you feel like part of you was missing?

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Healthy Breakfast Options to Start Your Day

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

It has often been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  A healthy breakfast can energise you and nourish your body with important nutrients so that you perform at your optimum capacity. 

The morning rush can lead people to choose convenience food which can be a poor choice, or skip breakfast altogether.  I have compiled a list of healthy easy breakfast choices to start your day, so that you perform at your optimum best.

Quick, Easy Breakfast Choices

  • Smoothies (see my favourite recipe below) – 340 kCal
  • Cereal with low fat milk, yoghurt and a banana (see below for the healthiest cereal options) – 300 kCal
  • Smashed avocado on sourdough bread 140 kCal
  • Fruit salad and yoghurt with a sprinkling of granola 250 kCal
  • Wholemeal toast with nut butter and sliced banana – 420 kCal
  • Boiled eggs (may be cooked ahead of time) on wholemeal toast – 270kCal
  • Microwaved porridge satchets – 130 kCal
Blueberry Smoothie Recipe - Blend blueberries, yoghurt, sugar, vanilla extract, reduced fat milk and nutmeg to make a refreshing healthy smoothie
Blueberry Smoothie Recipe (adapted from recipe in Canva)
Blend blueberries, yoghurt, sugar, vanilla extract, reduced fat milk and nutmeg to make a refreshing healthy smoothie

Healthy Breakfast Options that Require Preparation 

  • Poached eggs on wholegrain toast – 356 kCal 
  • Homemade granola or muesli 
  • Healthy feta and spinach muffins (see my favourite recipe below) 167 kCal
  • Rolled oats, skim milk and honey – 242 kCal
  • ½ avocado on a slice of sourdough bread with grilled tomatoes or mushrooms – 258 kCal
  • 2 slices Short cut bacon, grilled with a poached egg, grilled tomato and steamed spinach – 312 kCal
  • Overnight oats (see my favourite recipe below) – 160 kCal
Overnight Oats Recipe
Combine oats, shredded coconut, dried fruit and nuts, oat bran, milk powder, salt, cinnamon, Greek yoghurt and water.  
Leave overnight.  Make in batches, stores well in pantry
Overnight Oats Recipe
Combine oats, shredded coconut, dried fruit and nuts, oat bran, milk powder, salt, cinnamon, Greek yoghurt and water.
Leave overnight. Make in batches, stores well in pantry

Cooked Breakfast Options 

Many people prefer to start their day with a cooked breakfast but often choose fried bacon and eggs over healthy alternatives. Your serving of bacon and eggs can be made healthier by:

  • Poaching the eggs
  • Using short cut bacon
  • Use a non-stick frypan with a spray of olive oil
  • Drain the bacon by placing it on a paper towel before serving
  • Add cooked vegetables to the plate – tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms are popular choices
Spinach and feta egg muffin recipe
Whisk egg, milk and salt and pepper.  Pour over baby spinach and feta cheese.  Top with grated cheese and bake. Delicious hot or cold
Spinach and feta egg muffin recipe
Whisk egg, milk and salt and pepper. Pour over baby spinach and feta cheese. Top with grated cheese and bake. Delicious hot or cold

Healthy Cereal Choices

Cereal is a popular choice, but many commercial cereals are not healthy, because they are high in sugar and saturated fat.  The unhealthiest cereals contain up to 30g sugar per 100g cereal, or 3 teaspoons sugar per serve.  They may be sabotaging your weight loss goals on a daily basis.  Read more in this article by dietician Claudia Cramer.

A healthy cereal provides nutrients and leaves you feeling full for longer.  It is an excellent source of wholegrains, antioxidants and gut friendly fibre.  Many breakfast cereals are fortified with other ingredients such as B group vitamins.  Eaten with dairy products such as milk and yoghurt, they will also supply much of your daily calcium needs.

Choose cereal by reading the food label.  Look for cereals with the following:

  • Low in sugar – less than 10g per 100g cereal.  Watch for hidden sugars which may be listed as fructose, maltose, honey, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup, caramel or invert sugar, dried fruit
  • High in fibre – >10g per 100g.  Fibre is gut friendly and fills you up, leaving you satisfied for longer
  • 50% Wholegrains
  • A high health star rating
  • Low in saturated fat – <3g per 100g

The healthiest cereals in Australia are:

  • Barley + Freedom Foods
  • All Bran Kelloggs
  • Simply Fibre Muesli Food for Health
  • Active Balance Buckwheat & Quinoa Freedom Foods
  • 5 Grain & Seed Granola Carmans
  • Plus Fibre Uncle Toby’s
  • Shredded Wheat Uncle Toby’s
  • Organic Honey Roasted Almond Bircher Muesli Macro
  • Wholegrain Mini Bites Be Natural
  • Great Start 5 Grains & Seeds Woolworths
  • Gourmet Porridge Carmans
  • Guardian Kelloggs
  • 10+ Natural Muesli Sunsol

Your morning cereal should be served with protein such as Greek yoghurt to provide a healthy start to the day.  An alternative to cereal are my chocolate chia pots, which combine chia wholegrains with cacao and almond milk for a sweet healthy treat.

Choose healthy breakfast cereal - low in sugar and saturated fat, high in fibre (50% wholegrains) and high in health star rating
Choose healthy breakfast cereal – low in sugar and saturated fat, high in fibre (50% wholegrains) and
high in health star rating

RECIPES

Blueberry Smoothie

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

2 teaspoons white sugar

1 container plain yoghurt (227g or 8 oz)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup 2% reduced fat milk

⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Blend the blueberries, yoghurt, milk, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg in a blender until frothy

Scrape down the sides of the blender with a spatula occasionally

Serve immediately

340kCal per serve

Overnight Oats

⅓ cup instant oats

2 teaspoons oat bran

2 teaspoons milk powder

1 teaspoon brown sugar

⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch salt

1 tablespoon shredded coconut

2 tablespoons dried fruit or nuts of your choice

¼ cup Greek yoghurt

½ cup cold water

Mix all the dry ingredients well

Place in a mason jar or other container with lid until you’re ready to use

Mix in water and yoghurt.  Shake jar/container 

Leave in refrigerator overnight

Multiply quantities to make a batch (the quantities above are for one serve)

I usually make one week’s worth at a time

Dry ingredients store well in the pantry

Approx 160 kCal per serve

Spinach and Egg Muffins

1 egg

20g feta cheese crumbled

1 tablespoon shredded tasty cheese

¼ cup baby spinach

1 teaspoon milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Spray a muffin tin with oil spray

Heat oven to 220 degree Celsius

Whisk egg, milk, salt and pepper

Place feta and spinach in a muffin tin (it’s easier if the spinach has been wilted in boiling water and drained well)

Pour egg mixture over feta and spinach

Sprinkle shredded cheese on top

Bake for 20 minutes.  Serve hot or cold

Multiply ingredients and make in batches.  The quantities above are for one muffin (I usually make 4 – 6 at a time)

I also eat these at lunch time with a salad

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2020 – My Unpredictable Year

2020 My Unpredictable Year

2020: The Year That Changed Everything

Who could have predicted how 2020 would pan out?  This has been my most unpredictable year to date, and that’s saying something.  It feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under me, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. It has been an unpredictable year for many reasons, both personal and external. Change and uncertainty can add to the emotional burden of the other world events such as the pandemic.

“Life is What Happens To Us When We’re Making Other Plans”

Allen Saunders, 1957

At the dawn of the New Year I wrote a post Don’t Hold Back.  Full of optimism and excitement for the year ahead, I planned to learn new skills and apply for positions that would take my career into a new direction.  My older son, inspired by my enthusiasm, planned to travel and push his music career to new levels.  We often talk about how our year has not panned out in the way we planned it.

My son had to put his music on hold while we were in lockdown – he couldn’t drive to Brisbane to practice with his band, and gigs were cancelled for months while venues were closed.  He was extremely frustrated – musicians need to perform.  When their creativity is put on hold a major part of themselves is affected.  Travel is also out of the question.

"Life is What Happens to Us When We're Making Other Plans" Allen Saunders.  Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.
“Life is What Happens to Us When We’re Making Other Plans” Allen Saunders. Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.

Changes in the Family Home

The first shock of the year came when my other son decided to move out.  The Half Empty Nest is the post I wrote at the time when I was going through a grieving process as I came to terms with it.  As it turns out, I’ve coped very well with my son moving out and very soon my other son is leaving too, then I’ll be an empty nester for the first time in 28 years!  It’s wonderful to see my sons “adulting” – they need to move out for their own personal growth.

BRCA2 and its Impact on my Health

The next shock, in February, was my diagnosis of a genetic mutation, BRCA2, which increases my risk of cancer.  At the beginning of this year I would not have believed that I would have four operations, two of them to fix complications from the other two, and that I would have most of this year off work.  My recovery has been prolonged, and at this stage I’m looking at even more time off work. 

 As a Registered Nurse in a busy surgical ward, I am unable to return until I can complete my role 100%, including performing CPR and patient handling.  The loss of that role has been extremely upsetting to me.  I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years and it’s part of my identity.  It’s taking me a while to come to terms with that.  The impact of the surgeries and complications has also taken a toll.  My body is different now, and I have new issues to deal with that will remain with me for life.

Pandemic Pandemonium

March saw the Pandemic drive us all into lockdown.  I doubt if anyone in the world has not been affected in some way from Covid-19.  I’ve been isolated from some of my family since then, and unable to spend time with some of my closest loved ones.  Not being able to travel to be with family during life-changing events like a death in the family, has taken its toll on many of us.  

I’ve now been at home recovering since mid-May, and had time off prior to that for my first operation.  The only positive is that I’ve been able to spend time on my blog, and work on my website to get it the way I want.  I really don’t know how I would have coped without this to do.  I would have gone crazy with boredom!

New Home for Midlifestylist

In the last two weeks I have moved my website from WordPress.com to a different platform.  I’ve been busy trying to get my website back up and functioning.  In the transfer process the last seven blog posts did not migrate to the new host, so I’ve been republishing them.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.  

I am so glad I took the plunge and transferred my website.  The potential is amazing – I have lots of ideas on which direction I want to take Midlifestylist, so watch this space!

Ongoing Health Issues and the Emotional Toll 

In order to cope with massive life changing events and my health issues, my ability to cope emotionally has been under strain.  I’m not coping as well as I was a few weeks ago when I thought that my life would be back to normal by now.  I reached out and I’m going to talk to a counselor to help me to adjust.

I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that you need counseling.  When your sleep is getting affected, and you’re crying at the drop of a hat, it’s time.  I’ll be looking into other ways to assist as well, like meditation and mindfulness.  Being proactive with your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I hope this resonates with some of my readers, and they find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in feeling stressed by the unpredictable events of this year.  Our ability to cope with all that 2020 has given us has been pushed to the limit.  Seek help if you’re not coping.  Don’t struggle through on your own.

I need to follow my own advice and take time for self care.  Read my two articles If you’re feeling stressed – Prioritising Self Care and Journalling as a Self Care Activity.

Please share – someone may need to read this today.

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Know Your Family and Personal Health History

Know Your Family and Personal Medical History

This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. Please refer to the Disclaimer. It is recommended that you seek advice from your medical practitioner if you require specific medical advice.

Knowing Your Medical History is Essential

It is important to keep a track of your health history, especially your family’s history of diseases and other health issues. Your family’s medical history can reveal a pattern of certain diseases which may indicate whether there is a familial risk for developing a medical condition. Common diseases that can crop up in families are:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease – heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes
  • Kidney disorders
  • Diabetes and other endocrine diseases
  • Asthma
  • Genetic disorders such as haemophilia and Down syndrome
  • Some types of mental illness
  • Osteoporosis
  • Huntingtons disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Albinism

Some diseases are caused by mutations in a gene, while others are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as diet, exposure to toxins, skin damage by exposure to UV light, and substance abuse. Further information is available from Health Direct at this link.

It is important to know your family's health history because it may show an inherited disease.  This post includes a printable medical history form to record your personal and family health.
It is important to know your family’s health history because it may show an inherited disease. This post includes a printable medical history form to record your personal and family health.

My Own Family Medical History

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Sue Loncaric for her series Women Living Well Over 50. One of the subjects we discussed was the importance of knowing your family and personal medical history. I shared my own family history of cancer, and how it lead me to have genetic testing to diagnose me with BRCA2 gene mutation which puts me in a high risk for certain cancers.

My family also has a high risk of cardiovascular disease and I have a congenital heart defect which was inherited from my father. Knowing my risk meant that I could have increased surveillance and appropriate treatment at an earlier stage, before I developed cancer or cardiac issues.

Knowing your family history can guide your doctor to investigate and treat you for medical conditions in their early stages or even prevent them before they occur. For example, because I have BRCA2 I had my ovaries and breasts removed before I developed cancer. I also started on cholesterol reducing medications before I developed plaque which could have lead to blocked arteries (arteriosclerosis).

My family has a high risk for melanoma so I have taken my sons for yearly skin checks since they were young. My son developed a melanoma at 24, but it was diagnosed at stage 1 and he is now cured. This is due to the regular check-ups and knowing our family history. We both now have 6 monthly skin checks.

Knowing your family health history is important because it could highlight hereditary medical conditions or risk of disease. It can guide doctors to investigate symptoms further and even guide them towards choosing one form of treatment over another. Drawing up a family tree may help to pinpoint certain diseases in the family. Using my own family as an example, your family tree may look like this:

Example of a family tree showing important health history.  BRCA2 gene mutation has been passed down to two generations.  It has an increased risk of breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer and may also cause an increased risk of melanoma and other cancersMy Family Tree showing Our Health History

Keeping track of your personal health history is also important. I write everything down and update my records to keep a track of medications, allergies, illnesses and operations, vaccinations and the contact details of the medical practitioners who treat me.

The file is updated regularly and I carry a copy in my handbag in the event of a medical emergency. I cannot count the number of times I have had to refer to it. Keeping track of allergies, immunisations, medications and what procedures you have had done, is easy with this Personal and Medical Family History form.

Personal and Family Medical History

I have developed a useful printable personal and family medical history form that you may use. Print a separate copy for each member of the family and keep it somewhere safe. There is a printable version at the end of the post:

PERSONAL AND FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY 

Personal Medical Information

Name 


Date of Birth 

Place Born


Address



Next of Kin

Name


Contact No. Or Address


Medicare No.


Medical Insurance Policy: 

Provider:                        Card/Policy No.


Concessions


Social Security/DVA No.


Allergies 

MedicationReactionSeverity

Vaccinations

VaccinationDateVaccinationDate

Medical Conditions 

Medical ConditionDate Diagnosed

Surgical Procedures 

DateProcedureDoctorHospital

Medications

MedicationDoseFrequencyPurpose

Major Illnesses

IllnessDateDoctor

General Practitioner 

Name


Address


Phone


Medical Specialist

Name


Address


Phone


Surgical Specialist 

Name


Address


Phone


Medical Specialist 

Name


Address


Phone


Surgical Specialist 

Name


Address


Phone



Additional Notes









Family Medical History

Father 

Medical conditions 


If deceased – Age & Cause


Mother

Medical conditions 


If deceased – Age & cause


Children

Medical conditions 


If deceased  – Age & Cause


Brothers/Sisters

Medical Conditions 


If deceased – Age & Cause 


Grandparents

Paternal Grandfather – Medical Conditions 


If deceased  – Age & Cause


Paternal Grandmother – Medical Conditions 


If deceased  – Age & Cause 


Maternal Grandfather  – Medical Conditions 


If deceased  – Age & Cause 


Maternal Grandmother  – Medical Conditions 


If deceased  – Age & Cause 


Aunts/Uncles

Significant Medical Conditions


If deceased  – Age & Cause

Write significant hereditary medical conditions on this family tree

Printable Family and Personal Medical History Form

Download and print as many copies as you like. You will need one for each member of the family.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like to read:

Signs You Need to See a Doctor

Being a Patient in the Midst of a Pandemic

Beating BRCA2 – How it Has Affected my Life

Please share this article as it may help someone else.

2 thoughts on “Know Your Family and Personal Medical History”

  1. katey26 says: July 29, 2020 at 10:03 am Edit The form is a great idea Like Reply
    1. Christina Henry says: July 29, 2020 at 7:23 pm Edit Thankyou Katey. I’m glad you like it Liked by 1 person Reply
  2. Jo says: July 29, 2020 at 10:06 am Edit This is a fabulous resource Christine. Two of my grandparents were heavy smokers and died of lung cancer (paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother – at 94), my maternal grandfather passed from complications of a routine operation and my paternal grandmother died of old age (at 98). My mother (78) is as healthy and fit as a horse, but my father (82) has had prostate cancer, non TB lung disease and asthma. Number 6 in 8 kids he lost his eldest brother at 92, but all others are living. All of Mum’s siblings are still living. My husband, however, was adopted and we know nothing at all of his family history. You have definitely got me thinking. #MLSTL Liked by 1 person Reply
    1. Christina Henry says: July 29, 2020 at 7:28 pm Edit Hi Jo, somehow I think you will have a long life! It must be difficult for your husband at times, not knowing his family history. I had my DNA tested through Ancestry.com and found a new first cousin who was adopted. That’s one way your husband could find family if he ever wanted to know. Regards Christina Liked by 1 person Reply
      1. Jo says: July 31, 2020 at 7:56 am Edit Yes, we’ve done the DNA testing, but the closest matches we got were 3rd/4th cousins. We’ve also now got a birth certificate so the next step is to see if we can getthe records unlocked (Scotland). Liked by 1 person
      2. Christina Henry says: July 31, 2020 at 12:31 pm Edit Oh wow! Good luck with it. Liked by 1 person
  3. leannelc says: July 29, 2020 at 7:38 pm Edit Hi Christine – I take my family’s medical history for granted and keep forgetting about the diseases etc that took some of them early. My father died in his early 70’s but that was largely from poor lifestyle choices, however you’ve reminded me of the heart issues in my mother’s side of the family that I need to keep in mind as I get older. I’m grateful that overall we’re a pretty healthy bunch.
    #MLSTL Liked by you Reply
    1. midlifestylist says: July 30, 2020 at 2:45 pm Edit Hi Leanne, I unfortunately inherited some dodgy genes from my dad, so I envy you having a healthy family. Luckily all the creativity we inherited came from my parents so you take the good with the bad. Some people prefer to put their head in the sand with health issues but I think it’s better to keep family history in mind and get on to it quickly if anything worries you. Thank you for commenting, regards Christina Like Reply
  4. Debbie says: July 29, 2020 at 9:29 pm Edit Hi Christina, this is a wonderful resource and your reasons behind it are really informative. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. We are looking at issues with my grandson and family backgrounds are proving required information. Very timely to read your post #mlstl Liked by you Reply
    1. midlifestylist says: July 30, 2020 at 2:47 pm Edit Hi Debbie, I’m so glad you found it useful. I really hope it helps with your grandson. Thank you so much for your feedback, regards Christina Liked by 1 person Reply
  5. Helen says: July 30, 2020 at 12:34 am Edit This is so important! I come from a family that does not talk about family illnesses and It too a long time to draw the information out! It also helped remove some of the shame I was feeling when I realized that some of my medical conditions were not my fault, but actually due to family history. Like Reply
    1. midlifestylist says: July 30, 2020 at 2:38 pm Edit Hi Helen, yes I agree. The time for sweeping things under a rug is long gone. I still have family who choose to put their head in the sand where it comes to their health and I definitely disagree with that approach. It’s better to avoid illnesses or treat them in the early stages. Thank you so much for commenting, regards Christina Like Reply
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Gift Guide for The Older Gentleman In Your Life

Gift guide for Father's Day

How to Buy Gifts for Your Grandfather and Father

I have read that some people are already shopping for Christmas presents! That is incredibly organised, but with shopping still not the experience we are used to due to social distancing, it is understandable that people want to get their shopping done early, and online. We have Father’s Day coming up in September in Australia so I thought I’d make a list of gifts that would be suitable for the older gentleman (father/grandfather) in your life. They are notoriously hard to buy for, because they either have everything or are stuck in a time-warp and not keen to try new gadgets or technology. But I have some ideas that might hit the spot, having shopped for my father, father-in-law, brothers and husband who all fit the description.

When Choosing Gifts for Older Men, keep in mind: 1. their comfort, 2. their safety, 3. convenience, and 4. let it be an expression of your love for them
When Choosing Gifts for Older Men, keep in mind: 1. their comfort, 2. their safety, 3. convenience, and 4. let it be an expression of your love for them

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure.

Choose gifts for older men with the following in mind: comfort, safety, convenience and love

As my father and father-in-law have aged, their mobility and dexterity have decreased. Gifts that can help them with tasks like reaching or picking things up, removing lids etc. would be much appreciated. Try these ideas:

With age, many people suffer back pain and poor circulation. Add some comfort to their days with the following:

The safety of your older loved one is important, so make sure you look at the design of slippers and shoes. They should be non-slip and fit snugly to their feet so that trips and slips are avoided. Try these:

Gift Guide for Older Men - 1. non-slip socks 2. long handled loofah 3. heat pack 4. tray table 5. dexterity gadgets 6. magazines and puzzle books 7. weather station 8. Kindle eReader 9. lumbar support pillow
Gift Guide for Older Men – 1. non-slip socks 2. long handled loofah 3. heat pack 4. tray table 5. dexterity gadgets 6. magazines and puzzle books 7. weather station 8. Kindle eReader 9. lumbar support pillow

As my parents and parents-in-law have aged, they spend more time at home. In order to keep their mind active, and improve their quality of life, the following gifts would be appreciated:

What Not to Buy For Older Men

After many years of buying presents for older men, I would recommend that you avoid buying the following:

  • T-shirts and shirts. They usually don’t fit well, and are not to your loved one’s liking. For example, they may only wear crew neck, a certain colour or style, or spend their days wearing old t-shirts and not the beautiful button-up dress shirt you lovingly chose for them. Most shirts end up in the back of the wardrobe or as oil rags.
  • Shoes or slippers that are poor fitting or not safe e.g. scuffs. Slippers and scuffs are the cause of many falls which is detrimental to their health – elderly men don’t bounce, they break.
  • Anything to do with their hobbies, or a hobby that you think would be a good idea for them to try. For example the men in my family all love fishing and gardening but they have very specific requirements when it comes to equipment for their hobby. Likewise tool organisation – I bought my husband a work bench and tool organisation system and I have never seen him use it. The shed still looks a mess.
  • Lotto tickets or gift cards. One of my relatives buys these for every birthday, Christmas etc. as gifts – I personally think it’s a cop-out with very little thought put into it. The one actual present she bought us – a beautiful soft baby blue blanket – is memorable and very special.
  • Alcohol – This falls into the same category as lotto tickets. Alcohol is neither special nor memorable and why feed a bad habit?!
  • A coffee mug – he will still drink out of his coffee stained, chipped mug because it’s his favourite one.
  • Anything that is too technical, for example a smart phone. My in-laws both went back to their old mobile phones because they couldn’t get used to a smart phone.

I hope you can find something suitable from my gift guide for older men – feel free to comment if it has helped you choose a gift, or if you can suggest any other gifts that he would like. You may also like to read Gifts that Inspire a Healthy Lifestyle.

Gift Ideas for Father's Day - how to buy gifts for older men.  A complete guide to selecting the best gifts with his comfort, convenience and safety in mind.
Gift Ideas for Father’s Day – how to buy gifts for older men. A complete guide to selecting the best gifts with his comfort, convenience and safety in mind.
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10 Ways To Improve Your Wellbeing

10 Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing

Make a commitment to yourself to get back on track with your healthy lifestyle. The upheaval in all our lives with restrictions, lock-downs and changes to our daily routines has impacted our personal health. It is understandable that people have let their diet, exercise and self care routines go by the wayside, but now that travel restrictions and lock-downs are being relaxed in many areas we should be getting back on track in our personal lives as well. It doesn’t matter how old you are, the following ways will improve your well-being:

10 Ways to Improve Your Well-being

  1. Exercise at least 30 minutes per day preferably in the fresh air
  2. Drink at least 1 litre of water per day
  3. Eat the rainbow – include a healthy balanced diet to nourish your body
  4. Measure your waist and track it as it is a more accurate indicator of our health than what the scales say
  5. Get your chill on – use mindfulness, meditation or listen to music
  6. Listen to inspiring people – podcasts, vloggers or YouTube. If you prefer, read inspiring books
  7. Make yourself number 1 – prioritise your self-care
  8. Limit alcohol and fast food
  9. Declutter your life by dropping bad habits, belongings and relationships that hold you back
  10. Reach out to your loved ones. Don’t be isolated even if you can’t see them in person. Use the telephone, or video chat with them

The Global Pandemic has Impacted our Well-being

The global pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways. My dear friend John lost his wife this morning after a long illness – she was only 55. John is like a brother to me, I have known him my whole life. He was like a son to my father which was an amazing connection to have. My father lived in New Zealand while his children lived in Australia, so having John there was great. He grieves dad just as we do. He has been there for our family through the loss of mum, my sister and my dad and now, when he needs our support, we can’t be there for him due to travel restrictions. It breaks my heart. There are many families with stories like this, and it’s no wonder our well-being is being undermined.

On another note, I have been at home recovering from my bilateral mastectomies for over two months. I will soon start back at work on light duties which I’m looking forward to. It’s been a very slow recovery. I will be very tired at first and I will have less time to write, so may not be posting consistently for a while.

10 Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing

The Impact This Year Has Had on my Wellbeing

Editor’s Update: This post was originally published at the end of July 2020. In the following weeks I have moved my website Midlifestylist to another platform, and in the process “lost” six blog posts. My website is going through a total revamp as I learn the new platform.

An update on my personal life – I have not returned to work as my employer will only allow me to work if I am completely 100% back to full health. It is almost three months since my bilateral mastectomies and I still have some swelling. Moderate exercise and chores causes pain and more swelling so I’m not up to returning to my busy job as a nurse. This is tough for me because I’m so used to working and nursing is not only my role, it is part of my identity. Everyone keeps telling me to be patient and allow healing to happen, and I’m being very well supported to do that by my family and friends.

Some days I feel very emotional – my body has been through a lot this year (four surgeries). Queensland has once again closed its borders so I’m still cut off from my family. The pandemic continues to cause major problems for all of us and this feels like the longest winter I’ve ever had. I’m mindful of the fact that we have been very lucky to have escaped the high numbers of Coronavirus statistics that other states and countries have had.

Striving to Improve my Well-being

The ten steps I wrote at the beginning of this article have proven to be lifesavers. Having that daily walk, eating a healthy diet and taking time for self care have boosted my morale. Reaching out to loved ones has improved my well-being immensely. Relaxing with music, completing jigsaws, watching some great movies and series, and experimented with cooking different recipes have all helped to while away the days. Healing is a slow process but I feel like I’m healing my mind and spirit as well as my body.

Stay well everyone.

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My YouTube Debut – An Interview for Women Living Well Over 50

Staying Positive Despite the Setbacks in Life

I was interviewed by Sue Loncaric for her new YouTube channel on Women Living Well Over 50. This being the first time I’ve ever done a live interview, I wasn’t sure how I’d go. But Sue put me completely at ease and the conversation flowed freely! I had some notes written down but didn’t have to consult them once.

We talked about my recent surgery, my history of genetic and other health conditions, making health a priority and knowing your family’s health history, and how I lost weight despite having health issues. Take a look at the transcript of the interview on Sue’s website and her YouTube Channel, the links are as follows:

Be sure to check out Sue’s website, it’s an absolute wealth of information for living a healthy lifestyle in your midlife. Sue lives on the Gold Coast as well. She’s an inspiration to me, both in the blogging world and in what she strives for by living an active lifestyle and achieving her goals. I’d love to hear if you enjoyed watching my YouTube debut!

You can read more about my weight loss and other health issues I have overcome in the following posts:

My Weight Loss Journey

BRCA2 – How it has Affected my Life

Living the Healthiest Version of your Life

Interview for Women Living Well Over 50 - Staying Positive Despite the Setbacks in Life
Interview for Women Living Well Over 50 – Staying Positive Despite the Setbacks in Life

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Midlife – Why Label it a Crisis?

Midlife - Why Label it a Crisis?

Is Midlife Crisis an Accurate Label?

Look up midlife in any search engine and the top 10 or more results say Midlife Crisis. Why is that, when all the midlifers like myself are happy, secure and leading productive, full lives? Midlife is a time when we have passed the stage of striving for self improvement and career change, and are confident and happy with ourselves. We know ourselves well and have come to terms with our life choices. To me that’s not a crisis. Definitely not a crisis of identity. We’re not comparing ourselves to the younger generation enviously because we’ve been there, we’ve lived through it, and we don’t want to relive a time of developing our character and climbing the career ladder. Midlifers are already established and are looking ahead to retirement, an empty nest and freedom from a lot of the responsibilities of our younger years.

Midlife - why label it a crisis?  Midlife crisis is an inaccurate label as most midlifers are settled in life and have a strong sense of identity.
Midlife crisis is an inaccurate label as most midlifers are settled in life and have a strong sense of identity

The Labels we Grew Up With

I do not like the term midlife crisis. Come to think of it, I don’t like to label anyone at all. It stems from my youth, when I was labelled a geek, a nerd, a shy girl – all accurate but not fully describing me and pigeonholing me into this boring person. I brought my sons up with the message that they shouldn’t label themselves because it doesn’t allow them to fully express their identity. That didn’t stop them though, as I will explain later.

Hurtful nicknames hurled at me like gingernut (red hair) probably made me acutely aware of features that I was already insecure of. My self image plummeted in my younger years and there was too much emphasis placed on our appearance in our family. My dad was the worst – pointing out features like one crooked tooth or acne, and making us hate our bodies. He tried to lecture my sister about her outfit one day when she was over 40 and had her in tears with his cutting words. I jumped to her defense and told him he had no right to comment on our looks. No right to even comment on his wife’s looks either. I don’t think he realised how much his comments had affected my sister and I over the years.

I’ve never found a label to fully describe me – star signs are way off, I never fitted into the Catholic school girl mould even though we were brought up with those views. In my nursing training we had a seminar on Myers Briggs and that was the first time I ever came close to having a label that fitted me. My personality is rare – INFJ, and it describes me as introverted. Yep, that’s me. But I’m still much more than that. My new label is Previvor – because I have BRCA2, a genetic mutation that gives me an increased risk of cancer, I can now identify with that group of people who seem to wave the label around with pride.

In the author's view, if children are raised with a strong sense of identity, they will not have a midlife crisis in later life.
Raising Children With a Strong Sense of Identity

Raising Children with a Strong Identity

Being aware of the damage it could cause their self esteem, I tried very hard to bring my sons up with a strong identity. It didn’t always work though as I’m not the only one to influence their self identity. Even though I’ve tried to bring my sons up without the limitations of a label, that approach hasn’t always had the positive outcome that I would have wished for.

I found some old school photos not long ago and the change between one year to the next showed a marked difference in my son. He went from an innocent smiling boy to a sullen sneering pre-teen with black dyed hair and an ear-ring. I was brought to tears because I know that was brought about by my sudden separation from his father. He really struggled with it, and turned his angst into writing lyrics and starting a punk band. That was the start of his writing and his ability to turn his emotions and thoughts into the written word, which was eventually a good outcome but in it’s early days a reflection of the anger he was feeling.

He chose some pretty sketchy friends at that time and I could only sit back and hope he would eventually come to the realisation that these kids were no good. He has always been the type of kid you can’t push in one direction because he’s likely to go the other way. I was very relieved when he decided to go Straight Edge in his teens – they follow a death metal band called Parkway Drive and vow to abstain from drugs, alcohol and sex, so I thought “great, at least he’ll stay away from drugs!”

That stage lasted a while, and his self image improved over the years. His first foray into university was a complete letdown. I was hoping that he would benefit from all that university life has to offer, including the social aspects, but he felt incredibly out of place. The Gold Coast is very “clicky” and it’s hard to fit in unless you have a buff, toned body, are into the beach, surfy lifestyle and the gym. My sons are definitely not that way inclined and they find it hard to fit in here so they both dropped out of uni in their first year. That was so disappointing for me, but I completely understand as it would be hard to enjoy it if they’re constantly alone.

Struggling with Identity as an Adult

They’ve found their own way much easier as they’ve aged, and both identify strongly with the group of friends they now find them selves part of. My urging them to not label themselves worked in some ways as they’ve been able to mould themselves into confident adults. My older son is very secure in his identity, and even though he is heavily involved in the music industry, he hasn’t gone down the path of drugs and alcohol and is very staunch on that fact. He’s had a lot of pressure to conform over the years but it hasn’t swayed him at all. His music has taken him all over the world on band tours and he’s very much a part of that community. I’m very proud of the fact that he has such strong self image that he sticks to his principles and doesn’t care what people think.

My younger son still struggles with self doubt at times. He likes to express himself by his clothes and his eclectic music taste but he struggles to pick one path in life for his career. My family growing up was extremely conservative and there was often damnation if you tried to break away from the Catholic nuclear traditional mould. God help us if we turn out gay, get divorced or believe in something other than the Catholic religion.

My dad was praying for us till he died because he was genuinely worried about our chances of making it into heaven – me, because I’m a lapsed Catholic and divorced, and my son because he’s an atheist. I don’t want to go too much into my views on that because I fully respect everyone’s right to their opinions, but I feel sad for my dad that he could not see any other view from his own.

Parenting Children So They Can Express Themselves

Watching my kids grow up into adults with their strongly held beliefs and ability to verbalise those beliefs and express themselves has been a wonderful gift to me. I wanted them to grow up into adults with their own beliefs – I didn’t feel it was my place to impose my beliefs on to them and condemn them if their beliefs were different to mine. Who am I to say my beliefs are right? I don’t want my sons to become mini-me’s!

I do think it’s a shame that my son felt he had to move out to be able to express his sexuality freely. I’ve been waiting for the big “coming out” talk to happen for years but it never has. I think he’s still trying to figure it all out but he couldn’t do that while living here. It’s not my opinion that made him feel like that. My husband did not vote “Yes” in the vote for gays’ rights to be married. Obviously for someone who may identify as gay or bi, that would upset them even if there’s no outward animosity towards them.

Time will tell, as my son will declare himself soon enough. We’ve talked around the issue many times but I don’t think he really knows the answer and he’s still trying to work it all out himself. My extended family is not very open-minded on this issue and it would be hard to fit into unless you’re straight.

Midlife is a time when we are secure about our identity

Midlife - Why label it a crisis when most midlifers are settled in life, no longer care what anyone else thinks and enjoy multiple freedoms not available to younger people.
Midlife – Why label it a crisis when most midlifers are settled in life, no longer care what anyone else thinks and enjoy multiple freedoms not available to younger people.

We are all individuals but we like to identify with others as a way of finding community. Our sense of self is increased when we find like-minded members of our group. It strengthens our sense of self worth because we’re having reflected back at us the validity of our values and beliefs. It’s character building in one way, as long as we don’t lose part of ourselves in order to conform to other peoples expectations of us. Our self esteem should be strong enough that we don’t care what other people think.

A person’s midlife “crisis” is probably brought about by them finally getting to the stage in their life when they no longer care what other people think, and they’re sick of living a way that keeps other people happy. They finally want to be and do what they’ve known in their hearts is right for them. It happens in midlife because we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as our children are leaving home, we’re more financially secure and we’ve probably got as far as we can in our careers.

I just think “crisis” is the wrong word to use. It’s too negative and doesn’t express the positives that can come out of midlifers finally expressing their true selves. I sincerely hope that the next generation can break out of the barriers that were built in front of our generation, and they won’t need a midlife crisis to be able to express their identity.

If you enjoyed this you may also enjoy:

Midlife or Prime of our Lives?

The Half Empty Nest

Letter to Myself, Aged 17

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