Building a relationship with reading….

downloadThe title of this post really has a double meaning and is inspired by the radio show Talking Books on 10Radio in Somerset. The guests today were in the relatively early stage of their relationship – newly engaged and very much in love. Clearly, they were not in need of our couples counselling, or Shaping Anger for Couples workshops but it was refreshing to hear that they were cementing their bond in a thoughtful and intelligent way. They had set themselves a challenge, a brave one, and it was something we thought you, our followers, might be interested in as a way to share ideas and subjects that are important to you with someone close.

Each person in relationship chooses five books for the other to read. It is as simple as that. Any genre, for any age. Yet it is so much more complex in reality. By choosing those books you are making a number of decisions and taking interesting aspects of your personality and relationships into account. Do you pick books you think will make you look clever? Or do you choose books that you grew up with and which remind you of key times in your life? Do you look over your shelves for books you think the other will enjoy? Or are you trying to trip them up? Are you being honest and authentic in your choices?

When you consider these points you can see it is not quite as easy as it first seems. How will each of you respond to the other’s list? What if a book that is your favourite is loathed by the other? Are you prepared to defend your choices in a constructive way? Or do you fear an argument? Have we put you off even considering this as a way to bring you together and offer opportunities for fascinating conversations?

We have, on this blog, often highlighted reading as a way to relax and to take you out of a stressful day. We have a page on the Local Bookshops site (see the link to the right) with a list of our favourite titles (we are always looking for suggestions) and our poetry for mindfulness posts are very popular. But we thought this was an additional way to make reading part of your whole life and at the same time learning a little more about someone you are close to. It doesn’t have to be a life partner – it could be a friend or work colleague for example. But we think it is a really interesting way to take you out of the routine of the day and into a conversation with a difference.

In fact, you could do it with music, or films. It will get you talking, and relationships are best nurtured by finding ways to communicate and make sure you are really understood and known by people who are important to you.

What do you think?

Beating the stress of exams with the NSPCC

CaptureEach year we nominate a charity to benefit from our fundraising events and because of our commitment to ending of child abuse and the need to support the mental health of children and young adults we have, for the past three years, supported the NSPCC. Their campaigns are always targeted and committed to the prevention of cruelty to children and the support they offer in practical terms is fantastic. So, as we were looking to add to the previous posts we have written on dealing with the stress of exams we were pleased to see that the NSPCC has produced a leaflet for young people facing a tough few weeks of GCSEs and A Levels, as well as University examinations.

‘Beat Exam Stress ‘ is a colourful brochure filled with top tips to get anyone through May and June as healthily and successfully as possible. It is also brilliant for parents, who can watch out for signs of overload and perhaps take steps to intervene if things get tough.

Of course it includes the obvious (so much easier to swallow from the NSPCC that from a parent one suspects!) – don’t leave revision to the last minute, don’t cram the night before, don’t avoid subjects you find tough and so on. But there are some less obvious hints which need support from the adults in the household:

‘Try to talk to your family about how they can make studying a little easier for you – for example, by agreeing times when you can have your own space, when they will try to be a little quieter around the house and when you’d rather not be disturbed (except perhaps for the occasional treat,such as a drink or snack)’

This is so important  – many adults forget how worried they were when they took their own qualifications and a little thought can make the environment for revision so much more positive. As can avoiding confrontation – it is likely that exam stress will shorten fuses and as an adult, stepping back and remembering that exams are over in a few short weeks can be the best thing you can do for a child.

The leaflet also offers hints for the big days themselves, with checklists of things to remember and strategies for ensuring you can answer the questions on the paper to the best of your ability. Tips for dealing with anxiety sit alongside healthy eating and learning to pace yourself.

So we think this leaflet is terrific, covering all the practicalities without ignoring the emotional impact of exam time. The last page offers websites and helplines if further support is needed.

Here at The Terrace we have written about ensuring you pamper yourself, take a break and eat healthily over the next few weeks, as well as dealing healthily with the end of exams, when it is tempting to adopt destructive behaviours in the name of celebration.

The best thing to remember is, however, that exams don’t last forever!

Guest post: A Little Play (dough) Goes a Long Way

imagesHere at the The Terrace we are always keen to promote ways to relieve stress and aid our general feeling of well-being. Play therapy is something we usually think of in relation to supporting vulnerable children, but in this guest post, written today by Sarah Cruickshank, we can see there is value in play for adults too. Her suggestions are mindful, her practice thoughtful, yet not overthought. It reminds us of the new ‘craze’ for adult colouring in – something French women in particular have done for years to relieve stress and take the mind on flights of fancy, offering release from tension and refreshing the spirit…

Here I am sharing something that makes me happy and relaxes me and as I am (almost) 47 years old it’s going to be something unexpected –  playdough. Not just playing with it, but making it and then playing with it.

I love thinking about what colour it should be (what season are we in, how am I feeling today, what might I make with it?) How it should smell (do I just want the smell of dough or do I want to add lemon or peppermint or lavender?) Am I feeling sparkly enough to add glitter? Do I want to make two different colours and explore mixing them together?

Playing with playdough is very much about the process and not the end product. Sometimes I make intricate little flowers or quite detailed little sculptures, and sometimes I just roll and flatten and make worms. I really like plaiting two different colours together and then making balls and sausages again and again to watch the colours marble and eventually blend together to create a third colour. Sometimes I see how I can make a blob by pressing it between my finger and thumb again and again until I can almost see through it (like perfect filo pastry).

I never keep my creations, I always crush them when I’ve finished, the end product doesn’t really matter, it’s just the feeling of the dough and exploring where my mind and my hands take me on a particular day.

The great thing about playdough is that you have to take your time with it, you have to knead it and get it nice and warm and you can’t work with too big a bit at a time because otherwise it just doesn’t get to that nice warm, flexible consistency you need to really be able to work it.

I recently discovered the perfect recipe, which I share with you here. Cheap ingredients are the best:

1 cup flour

½ cup salt

2 tablespoons cream of tartar

1 tablespoon oil

1 Cup boiling water

1 tablespoon poster paint (you can use food colouring but paint gives a much more vibrant colour)

flavourings (lemon, peppermint essence, etc)

Glitter

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and mix well with a spoon. It will look really sloppy to start with, but keep going and it will magically turn into a ball in the bowl.

Knead the mixture well.

Play with it to your heart’s content.

The mixture will keep for a few days in an airtight container of a sealed plastic bag.

You don’t necessarily need a purpose in mind when you start, just play and see where the experience takes you. If you really find yourself wanting to keep something you’ve made, the dough will dry out quite quickly, but it will be brittle.

Most important of all… Have fun!

Sarah

Sarah

Our thanks to Sarah, a Nursery Practitioner and Freelance Writer on family and well-being . Find out more at her website http://www.alifemorelived.co.uk/.