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Time to heal

Time To Heal

Time to heal - not the usual style of title I would have chosen for this blog, as it doesn’t seem to mean much. But this very phrase has been on my heart for over a week now, coming into my head almost on repeat, and I feel like “something” has prompted me to say it out loud…

I’m very aware that we whirl from subject to subject over in this corner of the internet. You see, I’ve never been much of a “planner”, especially when it comes to content. I much prefer to see where the wind takes me and share what’s on my heart. I’ve never thought of my writing as a business, as I know some bloggers do. It’s probably a bit stupid really but I don’t want my passion to turn into a “job” as it very nearly did, which is why I might need to “heal”, but more on this later…

We have a wonderful post coming up next week that I’m working on in the background, but the little nudges to get this one out first are downright punches to the gut right now. So here we are.

---Sitting once again at my dining table with a cup of tea and laptop in front of me, writing you, I’m overlooking a garden that is functional but not pretty. It does its job of course, and I am grateful for it, but it’s definitely lacking a certain beauty. It needs a lot of TLC, and a lot of love so it can bloom into its full potential as it moves into a new season - I find myself feeling the same.

Wholesome Lifestyle BlogOn Monday this week I was in one of those moods where you could just cry at any second, but you aren’t quite sure why. There wasn’t anything “wrong” that I could put my finger on. Do you ever get that too? I had a lump in my throat all day, and said to my husband that I needed some time with him to sift through my emotions, so we took a gentle walk along the river and stopped for a coffee.

He admitted he felt the same. Life has just been so busy, and we are both the type to pull our socks up, jump in, and just crack-on with things (“keep calm and carry on” springs to mind), that we often find ourselves a little burnt out at the end. Like swans, on the surface we have it all together, steady and strong, smiling through it all - but underneath we’re working like crazy!

The conclusion to our feelings was “shellshocked”. Though moving to a new country isn’t exactly akin to a war, the battle in order to do so has taken its toll on my nerves especially.

Many families undertake years of planning to move abroad, but we did it from start to finish in all of 6 months, from decision - to selling up - landing here - and setting up. Getting stuck into the practical stuff is just what we both do, sometimes to the detriment of “rest”. The amount of life admin, and paperwork was overwhelming and gruelling. Beneath it all, I had emotional battles grumbling and bubbling away under the surface too, and they need addressing.

I know you might not have had the exact same experiences as me recently - like moving abroad, becoming a media pariah, and the emotional upheaval of leaving everything you are familiar with to move 10,000 miles away - but I wonder this, and I feel I’m prompted to ask…

Are you holding yourself back from healing because life, and the house, and the children, and work, and all those people relying on you, is getting in the way?

Do you need to do some emotional housework?

I don’t claim to know the answers, as I am in the middle of it all right now myself, but I really felt it on my heart to ask you to stop and take stock today. To sit with your feelings and perhaps take a little time to think about your own caretaking for once.

As housewives and homemakers, we really do sacrifice a lot. The job isn’t a “9 to 5”, and we are always, always “on”. Ready to spring into action at the drop of a hat.

Midnight bedwetting that requires a whole new set of sheets for your children, a last minute costume for school, a stomach bug that comes at the most inconvenient time, a cluster-feeding baby that has you up from 2am to 6am. A husband returned from work who has had a stressful day and needs to download and have your listening ear. An ageing grandparent who you have agreed to care for and the emotional load and practical requirements that brings in addition to your own. A house that needs picking up multiple times a day. A kitchen that requires your creativity, careful budgeting, and time to get food on the table, even when you’re so exhausted and feeling under the weather. You crack-on. You do, because you love… all of this whether you’re a “full time” housewife or not.

In amongst all of this, what did you do to take care of yourself today? Are you taking the time to heal what might need your attention?

I might not know exactly what’s going on in your heart dear friend, but I’ll share what is going on in mine and what I’m doing to heal it. As I said, these aren’t the “answers”, but perhaps you might recognise something in yourself that needs your attention and a bit of caretaking. Because we need a bit of self-care that slots in between the duties of daily life.

It’s not always practical to swan off for afternoon tea and girly weekends, but the little things can (and do) help.


Are your hormones in check?

I’ll assume that like me, you might not be what is called “a spring chicken”.  I know many mothers, grandmothers, and ladies over the age of 35 are part of this lovely community, and might recognise that being called “hormonal” used to be a bit of a joke in recent years, didn’t it? Being a woman of age and experience came with quips at the expense of our changing, evolving, and maturing bodies. If women dared show their emotions or behave a little less than lovely, we’d be called “emotional” or hormonal. Men grow cold, as girls grow old… However, in recent years I’ve really noticed a shift toward positive talk about hormone imbalance.

I’ll be 40 in 18 months time, and while that is still quite young for peri-menopausal symptoms, I have definitely noticed a shift in how my body is behaving, and things haven’t felt 100% over the past year. Not all GP’s are clued-up about the way in which our hormones change as we get older, but finding a menopause specialist might be a good place to start if you find yourself feeling a little “off”. There is a lot of talk about peri-menopausal symptoms being written-off as, and treated as depression. There is no shame in any mental health issue, but sneaky drops in oestrogen can mess with your emotions and look similar to depression and low mood.

Personally I noticed some weight gain in my tummy and hips (where I’ve never carried it before), and the usual “tricks” to lose a few pounds just did not work as they used to. The brain fog I experienced this time last year was also jarring and was not an experience I’d like to repeat. Some days I’d find myself staring into space, forgetful, and just not as alert as I once was. Let’s not even talk about the hot flashes at night!

I explored the medical options with my GP, but I have always leaned slightly “crunchy” and have decided at this early stage to look at things from an holistic point of view. Back in the UK I started taking these supplements, and they definitely seemed to help with the brain fog. Here in Australia, I made an appointment with a Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist at our local organic shop and she recommended Fem21 (not an ad), which is a herbal drink I take every morning that is said to balance your hormones.

It’s a lot cleaner than traditional tablet and capsule formed supplements, as it has no fillers.

Fem21 Hormone Balancing DrinkWhile it tastes like grass clippings (I think it’s the Thistle and Wheatgrass in it), I got used to it very quickly and now it’s somewhat enjoyable! I make sure it’s the first thing I drink every morning and I definitely feel better already. I know lots of people think things like this are snake oil, but if you’re like me and prefer to try a natural alternative, then I’d recommend doing so wherever possible. As a disclaimer: Yes, I do believe there is also a place for medical options too -  but even aspirin is made of plant extracts from Willow and Poplar trees, so that’s where I look to first. In the future I may decide on a further course of action if necessary.

It was also suggested I make sure I’m getting protein at every meal which will help with weight loss, and muscle strength, which is particularly important as we age. Speaking of strength, she also suggested working on strength training and said to opt for Pilates and Yoga to keep joints supple. Hard exercise may not be good for those who have raised cortisol levels which I certainly had.

There are lots of things that can stress you out, it’s time to recognise them

Living through the pandemic wasn’t hard for me. Lots of things remained the same, we were always home anyway and I’m thankful that my family are all in good health so we didn’t need to worry about shielding. However looking back at the “tradwife” media furore that coincided with it - I realise I was living in a state of fight or flight.

I chose to fight! As you know, it’s my calling to support women who want and choose to stay home, and those who wish to live a gentler way of life (whether she’s always dreamt of it, or realised later). I have never minded sticking my head above the parapet, but oh my goodness, the emotional blows I took during that time!

Some attacks from the media, and other women were laughable. Some aimed to be personal, and others were just downright confusing. I’ve never taken it personally really, as I’ve spilled my own guts about my past in Ladies Like Us, so they’re just silly women gossiping about old news. However the “why” of why women behave like that has really unsettled me.

Sometimes I would lie in bed awake at night really troubled that grown women would behave in such a way. Trying to understand their mindset. I never got answers, but I knew it took its toll on my cortisol levels. I even had a full hormone panel done a while back and my levels were through the roof. It’s a big reason as to why I left Instagram, as it was additional pressure and stress I didn’t need.

Stress also masked itself in subtle ways - suddenly thrust into the spotlight, people in my circle reacted in different ways. Some friends walked away from me, seemingly, “disgusted” by my anti-feminism (even though my feelings on the subject were never a secret, it was just public now). Others were impressed by my apparent “success” and as such I felt a bit under pressure to keep it up lest it look like I had failed for not being flavour of the month all of a sudden. I also felt incredible pressure to get the answers right and try to “convince” people of this way of life in every interview - and there were hundreds of them!

I also battled with the fact that I didn’t want to wear the weight of this argument on my shoulders alone, but “tradwife” started trending and people used it for traction and momentum for their own personal gains (usually followers and free stuff), while I took the fall.

Your experiences are probably wildly different, but our personal life experiences can harbour undertones that on the surface may seem like minor things, or even great to those on the outside looking in - but might be quietly troubling you. Not all “stress” is immediately apparent, to you and others. Also please note that you should never allow someone to diminish your feelings or belittle what might cause you to feel stressed, by telling you how easy you’ve got it, or sharing their own troubles to make yours seem insignificant. We are all different.

Taking time to reflect on what might be causing you to feel less than your best is never time that is wasted. My go-to is usually a walk in the countryside. The slower pace of life, fresh air, open spaces (and less people) usually help to bring me back into alignment with my thoughts and feelings. Taking myself away from the distractions of home and “doing” all the time really helps to clarify what feelings I am ignoring. I don’t always find a solution, but usually the first step towards it is revealed.

A Walk In The CountrysideChedworth Cottages, England
Is there something stressing you out? Perhaps it’s something you feel you can deal with by just ignoring it, but you should listen to your gut instinct when it tells you something isn’t right. Is there a person, or a situation you need to remove yourself from? Do you need to get something checked-out health-wise that you’ve been ignoring?

Cortisol and other hormones (or lack thereof) can have an affect on your physical and mental health, and some are such slow burners that it’s not “obvious” right away. Please take a few moments to sit with your thoughts for a while and acknowledge where you might need to edit (be it people, or just saying no when you are feeling overwhelmed). Or supplement your diet adding in good wholesome meals, or maybe doing something gentle and mindful to reduce your cortisol levels.

There are probably many people who rely on you, and you owe it to yourself to take proper care of your own wellbeing too.

Learn to enjoy the little things

I used to love, and really enjoy the big moments in life. I couldn’t wait to get married and have a wedding. I dreamed of the day I could have a nice house to decorate, going to London for a fancy Afternoon Tea was an exciting event, not to mention saving up for and finally buying a few luxuries I had always dreamed of owning. These are the big things that make it all exciting, but I don’t think it’s healthy to always be looking, searching, reaching, grabbing…

It might manifest itself in other ways for you. Holidays, parties, a new outfit, the next 10k followers on social media… If we build our lives based on numbers, owning things, and dates on the calendar, we put ourselves at risk of missing out on the little moments.

Moving here has forced me to be separate from a lot of things that were at risk of becoming an idol for me, or things I used as a crutch to mask certain emotions.

Not everything was unhealthy however. I realised lots of things about myself, and took time to reflect on what makes me truly happy and the answer is surprising!

Growing up, I was forever looking forward to being older and having the ability to do “grown up things”, and now? The things that bring me the most joy, are the things I did when I was little! Largely it’s what some people would call “old fashioned” things.

Go figure!?

Vintage Home BlogNesting, dressing, reminiscing. I'm building a home to reflect my loves, not fashions.

As a girl, I was drawn to spending time in the garden with my grandparents. Morfar (Danish for grandad) had a vegetable patch, Mormor (Danish for Mum’s Mum) filled her part of the garden to the brim with all sorts of flowers… seeing blue star-shaped Borage flowers floating about in a sparkling Elderflower drink she made for me is a standout memory. The smell of Morfar’s Banana Bread. Family dinners by candlelight around the old round pine table, an Irish Stew in Autumn, Roast Chicken on a Sunday, Morfar’s homemade chips…

Choosing something cosy to read from the vast bookcase - never a modern book, always set in some “past time”. Sitting in the rocking chair in the conservatory with my black and white cat purring in my lap, and just spending some quiet time looking out on the garden. Butterflies drifting by. Watching and waiting for the frogspawn to hatch in the pond. Enjoying the scent of freshly brewed Earl Grey tea leaves in the morning. Colouring in the endless mermaids that were drawn in my sketchbook. Watching ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ while tracing my fingers over the crochet doily on the coffee table made by my great grandmother (that proudly sits on a table in my home now).

The tradition of camping every August Bank Holiday on the Jurassic Coast, playing in the woods next to the campsite with my cousins all day. Climbing the hill to Corfe Castle. Early mornings creeping out of the tent when the grass was still wet with dew. Days proudly spent with wild unbrushed hair, wearing leggings, wellies, jelly shoes, and warm but slightly damp Aran jumpers heady with the scent of woodland and campfires.

Visiting sweet museums like The Wareham Bears, or the Tailor of Gloucester, and charming little seaside towns. Renting cottages with no TV and an open fire, falling asleep with my head in my grandmother’s lap listening to her stomach gurgle (not something easily done now, but the simple joy of it is my point).
Beatrix_potter_shop_gloucesterThe Tailor of Gloucester shop (gosh I miss it)

Saturday mornings at the garden centre, shopping at “Past Times”, visiting historical buildings. Monty Don on the TV in the evening. Never putting on the “big lights”, instead living in a home that is always bathed in a warm glow. That home, not perfectly decorated - but curated to reflect the loves of the people who live within its walls.

These are the things that I’m coming to recognise as the things that bring me such joy - and not one of them is unachievable. They aren’t things that are glossy, or glamorous. They are the things that make a home, and help a person feel at-home within it.

Maybe it comes with age, but recognising that the best things in life happen in the in-between moments is what matters. It’s the space that holds the true blessings and weave the story of your life.

I’ve really been leaning into my own girlhood of late, and rediscovering my joy in these small things. It’s a post for another day as it’s a topic worth exploring at greater depth, but I want to encourage you to think back on “little you”. What did she love that you have forgotten or laid aside since the business of life, being a wife, a mother, routine, working, and adulting took over?

Growing up we forget to dream, and whimsy gets set aside for pressing matters and practicalities - and I think it is very easy to lose ourselves in this process. Especially as we focus ourselves on raising a family…

Me? I’ve decided to build a Beatrix Potter inspired garden. They are the earliest books I remember reading, gardening meant so much to my childhood, and flowers and homegrown vegetables bring me joy. I’m not perfect at it, but its the experience that matters anyhow. We’ll be bringing two “Tom Kittens” into our lives this wintertime when life slows down a little, and I’ll be dusting off a sewing machine that was kindly gifted to me to see if I have inherited my grandmother’s talent for quilting.

Beatrix Potter Inspired GardenMy old garden in England, I'm inspired to do the same in my new one.

I’m also going to pick up crochet again. I got started on it a year ago but moving abroad meant putting it aside for a while. I might not ever be good at it, but the “achievement” isn’t always what life should be about anyway. Too many times I have put myself off from trying something because of the fear of not doing it right. Missing out on the experience by looking too far into the future. Not everything needs an outcome in order to experience joy.

The little things in life are what can heal you and bring you back to yourself. In many ways, I think we do ourselves a disservice by separating ourselves from the dreams, joys, and wonders of our childhood selves.

I’m just really glad I never let go of mine to have a family and build a home even though many things tried to distract me from it. I still need a few extra feathers for my nest to make it the best place to keep our hearts whole, happy, and humble, but I’d be unable to build it quite as well if I forget to take care of myself in the process.

What do you need to heal within yourself, darling? Think on it please…

With love as always,

Alena x

A little bit of housekeeping...

If you haven’t stopped by in recent months, you may have missed the news that we moved to Australia. I’ve also written about how I’m finding homemaking in a new country. My wonderful husband has managed to get the email list back up and running so all new posts (after this one) should land directly in your inbox.

Please feel free to email with suggestions of what you’d like covered here on the blog - after all, this is made for a community! I also love to hear from you, and while I can’t reply to every email, please know I do read and appreciate every one.

As always, I am incredibly grateful to the Patrons of The Darling Academy for their continued encouragement and kindness. If you like our values and found this post useful or inspiring, would you kindly consider supporting the blog.

I hope you have a wonderful Easter break!


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