Tag Archives: health

Bend me, I won’t break

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Bend me, I won’t break

I think we all have moments when we worry about our physical abilities – after an accident or injury, after too many drinks (!), when pregnant, when especially tired. For the most part, these are well founded fears – our brain’s way of keeping us safe and uninjured. But sometimes, they’re the result of unfounded or exaggerated anxiety and recognising these worries as different to the reasonable, justified ones, can be tricky.

As anyone who has read the blog knows, I’m currently pregnant. 31 weeks pregnant. Pregnancy is a time when you absolutely have to be careful and aware of your body and how you’re feeling (please note this careful disclaimer to avoid a horde of angry midwives at my door). However, I think sometimes we can get so caught up in our anxieties (particularly when we’ve suffered prior complications or losses), that we miss out on opportunities to get stronger, healthier and better prepared for what’s coming.

I’m one of the worriers.

After two previous early miscarriages, and despite a normally good amount of common sense, I was terrified of everything. Eating the wrong thing, lifting too much, sneezing too hard (completely serious), passive smoking, exercising.

Now, all of these things can absolutely be a danger to a pregnant woman and her unborn child (except the sneezing thing, that was just daft) but they also all require a bit of reason.

Food guidance is there for a reason, and it should be observed. But it should also be understood. The risk of getting food poisoning from soft cheese or uncooked meat is the same as it’s always been. You’re not necessarily suddenly more likely to get it. The danger is, that should you be unlucky, the damage will affect more than just you – it can affect your baby too. I followed everything my midwife told me – ensuring that I stuck only to her advice (not the forums online filled with fellow unreasonable worriers, not family, not friends). This served me well and quickly quelled my worries. It also meant I could eat medium rare steak.

steak

When I was about 18 weeks pregnant, I picked my friend’s little girl up without thinking – she had no shoes on and we were popping out to say hello to my husband, who was waiting in the car. Picking her up was the logical thing to do. As we later drove away (having deposited my little friend back to her mum – we’re not child snatchers), I turned to my husband and said, anxiety stricken, with crazy, manic eyes and a wobbly voice, “I shouldn’t have lifted her, should I?!”. To which he held my hand and sensibly replied, “Mums with more than one child all over the world continue to pick up their toddlers throughout pregnancy. Stop panicking, you’re fine.”

I have very little to say about passive smoking, except that walking behind a smoker on the street once or twice during your pregnancy will not have an impact. Something I had to convince myself of, despite being a normally reasonable person.

And now, exercising. For any Sex and the City fans out there, I had a Charlotte moment. I panicked that any exercise would somehow pull the wrong muscle, causing my comfy, cozy womb to become a dark, dank cave that any self-respecting baby would quite rightly up sticks and leave. So despite recently starting Pilates and enjoying it, I stopped the moment I found out I was pregnant…just in case. It was only upon reaching 24 weeks that I decided I’d be brave and try the antenatal Pilates class instead, something I could have done weeks earlier. I checked with my midwife, who told me any strengthening exercise run by an individual who is trained in supporting pregnant women, would be a great thing to prepare me for birth. 7 sessions later and I absolutely love it.

charlotte yorke

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, of course there are times in our lives when we feel more fragile, more vulnerable, less sure of our bodies and their capacity to continue to support us. But you know what? As long as you’re sensible and listen to medical advice; 9 times out of 10, the things we’re most scared of sit within two categories: Utterly ridiculous, or exactly what we need.

And to my fellow pregnant women – it’s OK to be frightened. But you’re not a fragile, delicate crystal, you’re a diamond – tougher than most grown men, and doing something absolutely incredible with your body.

Be brave, try that exercise class, get involved in decorating the nursery, eat that steak. You are so much stronger than you know.

Aspiring to bigger things than a piece of paper

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Aspiring to bigger things than a piece of paper

For those who haven’t spotted it on their Facebook feed or via online news sites, the A4 challenge is a new trend in China which encourages women to slim down until their waist fits within the width of a 21cm-wide piece of A4 paper. So. Weird.

While this doesn’t seem to have taken off outside of Asia yet, I have no doubt that it will. And that’s what makes me sad.

Why are young women’s aspirations no bigger than a sheet of A4 paper (literally)? Aspiring to be 21cm wide is not a goal, it’s a health concern. Our aspirations should be to cure cancer, to design the next architectural masterpiece, to travel the world. It got me thinking about the role models and media onslaught that young girls are exposed to every day. And sadly, helped me to understand why a tiny waist might be considered ‘an achievement’.

Naked Kim and friends

I refuse to reshare that picture of Kim Kardashian. Suffice to say that if that’s what young women perceive as beautiful, it’s no wonder they’re considering crash diets, crazy ‘at home’ lip jobs and pieces of paper as waist width measurements.

While I’m sure a lot of young women are savvy enough to realise that there’s very little that’s natural about Kim K, it’s nonetheless a concern that every time she posts a photo of herself in the buff, it goes global. Whether you admire her or hate her, there’s nothing to kick your self-worth in the teeth when you’re having a bad day like a glance at a stretchmark-less, made-up, teeth-whitened celebrity who looks flawless in the nude.

We’re quite good in the UK at highlighting our talented women (and natural beauties) – Holly Willoughby, Jodi Ann Bickley, Fearne Cotton and Dawn O’Porter to mention a few of my favourites. All three are beautiful women with different body shapes, unafraid to share ‘real’ photographs of themselves and in addition, (and importantly), intelligent, driven, funny, ambitious, creative and principled.

I can’t imagine a single one of them would even consider the A4 challenge. Because it’s ridiculous. But sadly, for a lot of young women, these celebs don’t get a look in when compared with looks-focussed YouTubers and global celebs famous for simply being famous. And with all that personal-trained, photoshopped, made-up -ness to look at; it’s all too easy for bizarre food and fitness crazes to sneak in under the guise of the solution to our body and self confidence problems.

Call to action

So here’s my request, think carefully before trying a ridiculous fad diet or unrealistic fitness craze. First and foremost because you should take care of yourself – that means getting fit and eating and living well in the right ways.

Secondly,  bear in mind that for every one of us, there’s a friend, a sister, or someone we don’t even know who might see our content as endorsement that these ridiculous trends are a good idea.

And finally, think carefully about who you follow on social media (famous or otherwise) – if they’re not making you smile, encouraging you to live well, to be kind, and to be healthy; perhaps it’s time for a fan/follower cull. And to be honest that goes for real life too!

Let’s raise the bar – no more silly size challenges, just good old fashioned encouragement, pride and sisterhood.

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Superheroes in scrubs: Celebrating Nurses’ Day 2015

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Superheroes in scrubs: Celebrating Nurses’ Day 2015

Superheroes in scrubs: Celebrating Nurses’ Day 2015

Until the last year I didn’t have much experience of the daily grind of a nurse’s role. I mean, I’ve obviously been to see a nurse for holiday vaccinations and such, and I have friends and family who nurse. But I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never thought much about what it means to be a nurse.

Since my dad’s accident last August that’s all changed. He spent a month in Kings College in London, followed by five months at Darent Valley in Kent. He’s now finishing up time at a neurological rehab centre in Kent. At each of these facilities we’ve met kind, warm, tough, patient and bloody hardworking individuals who go above and beyond to make sure their patients are safe and comfortable.

For the purposes of this blog I’m also referring to care assistants since they play a huge role in the day-to-day needs of patients like my dad.

Not for all the tea in China

Before I start, you should know that I’m not a wuss. I can handle blood and gore and I’ve held friends’ hair back in a number of bars over the years after one too many vinos. But the crap (often literal) that nursing staff have to deal with is phenomenal.

Dispensing medication and performing regular observations are only the tip of the iceberg. While supporting my dad I’ve seen people winch him out of bed to sit in a chair, sit and chat to him when he was talking absolute nonsense, complete funding paperwork for his move into rehab, explain said paperwork to me and my family, flush out his PEG tube, clear up various bodily outputs (for want of a cruder phrase) and answer my family’s incessant questions.

I consider myself pretty tough, but I couldn’t be a nurse.

A fair and equal society it ain’t

Bear with me for a second (if you haven’t already tuned out in disgust at the use of the word ‘ain’t’). For a moment, just imagine you’re alien to this planet. You land, you get used to our society, our facilities, our services, our jobs. You visit a hospital and watch what nursing staff do and how hard their job is. Then you learn more about our economy, and find out that someone who kicks a ball around a few times a week for 90 minutes, gets paid approximately £25,000 – £30,000 per week, while a graduate nurse earns the same per year. If we’re talking health care assistants, their starting salary is likely to be between £15,000-£18,000.

As an otherworldly alien (we’re still role playing, stick with it) – does that make sense to you?!

Uncertain times

And with a new Conservative Government it doesn’t seem likely that these superheroes in scrubs will be justly rewarded anytime soon. While the Tory pledges for the NHS are more generous than those made by Labour, their track record on delivering when it comes to our incredible National Health Service is somewhat shaky. It’s a worrying election result when media outlets are hailing it a positive outcome that the Conservatives have promised the NHS ‘the spending it needs to survive’ – wow, how very lukewarm.

We salute you

But Government support (or lack thereof) of the NHS and its hardworking staff is nothing new. And yet these incredible men and women work long hours, for rubbish wages, with very few benefits, just to do the right thing by their fellow man. When the media, social media and the world outside depresses you for its sheer greediness, shallowness and lack of respect; remember these incredible people and know that the world isn’t a lost cause just yet.

Tomorrow (Tuesday 12 May) is National Nurses’ Day in the UK. You can share your support for nurses by joining the Thunderclap, adding a Twibbon to your social media account, follow the #whyInurse hashtag to hear more about why these marvellous people do what they do; or do it the old fashioned way and buy a nurse a cuppa and say thank you.

 http://nursesday.rcn.org.uk/