Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Knitting punctuation

My photostream is punctuated with knitting at the moment.
Starting a new project. Something I've been wanting to make for ages: a hat out of sock wool. #hat #knitting

There are so many good, big, things going on at the moment: birthdays, visits from small cousins, exams and essays (not just for me), high school open evenings and open mornings, meet-ups with grandparents and plans for my next placement.  And in between all these important things, I knit a row here and there, cast on, rummage through patterns and consider yarn choices.  I can lose myself in knitting more and more as I get better at it; and the ability to switch off, take some time for myself and be creative is so important for my mental health and general outlook on life.

Starting a new project..."cast on 254 stitches". Oh my.

Before I started my nursing degree, I rarely considered my emotional wellbeing - but now I am mindful of the very great stresses of the profession I am going into, as well as the more obvious stresses right now of a full-time degree, two children, four chickens and a husband trying to valiantly pick up all the pieces.  I also come across so many issues to do with people's every day mental health and wellbeing during my training.
Helping Mum select wool

I now consciously try to incorporate activities into my life which make me stop, think, slow down and enjoy things.  Running is great, walking as much as I can is very good too.  Photography (just snaps on my phone) is a great tool for observing the smaller, prettier, more interesting things about my day.

And knitting.  The soft squidge of the wool is so therapeutic.  The sense of accomplishment is enormous.  The colours and textures of what comes off the needles is both interesting and pleasing.

Helping Mum select wool

I'm not talking here about resolving serious mental health conditions by knitting and taking photos - mental health issues need trained nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals to treat them properly.  But rather, it is about everyday mental wellbeing.  So much is spoken about a healthy lifestyle in terms of stopping smoking, eating well, keeping your heart healthy, or your joints in good condition - but keeping your mind healthy is not discussed or promoted as much.

The NHS Choices website has a good basic article about 5 steps to mental wellbeing, and The Mental Health Foundation has some popular, free wellbeing podcasts as well as a good article on 10 ways everybody can look after their mental health.  They don't mention the healing power of squidging lots of balls of wool, but they still have some pretty good advice and tips.

What about you?  Is knitting the key to your mental wellbeing?  Do you consider your mental health alongside your physical health?  How do you switch off and look after yourself?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Whatever the weather

Last weekend's early morning walk through Epping Forest: sunshine, blue skies, Cam and Olivia for company.

Reflections in Connaught Water

Sunrise over Epping Forest

Autumn berries

This weekend's early morning walk through Epping Forest: rain, grey skies, Graham for company.

Epping Forest - rainy October morning
Epping Forest - rainy October morning

Epping Forest - rainy October morning

Both very different, but both very good.

Friday, 11 October 2013

10 things

  •        Olivia lost her Oyster card, which she needs to travel home from school by herself on the tube.  It is the third time she's lost it since the beginning of term.
  •        I lost my patience.  "Just. Stop. Losing. Stuff!" I yelled.
  •         How do you teach a child to be less scatty and forgetful?  I'm not sure you can.
  •         When her replacement card came through I really just wanted to staple it onto her in some way so she won't ever lose it again.  What I actually did was make a long ribbon lanyard to attach it to her school bag instead.  While not completely Olivia-proof, I am hoping it will make it harder to lose again.  Her house keys are already attached to a long ribbon lanyard in her bag.  If she carries on losing things, then eventually everything that is important will be attached to her with ribbons.
Her Oyster card is now attached to her bag
  •         We are friends again now.  She raided my button jar the other night and made this delicious bracelet.  Her mind is more often on aesthetic pleasures such as ballet, drawing, making and reading, rather than on practical things like Not. Losing. Stuff.
She raided my button jar #buttons #crafty
  •         I bought a Nike running skirt, after months of the wanties.  I ran for the first time in it yesterday, and loved it.  I hate getting hot when I run, and the knee length running tights I was wearing before were far too hot.  The skirt looks cute, and I feel much faster and more free when I'm wearing it.
Orange and white chocolate loaf cake, soaking up the orange & lemon syrup I poured over the top.  
  •      I am essay writing again.  Paper everywhere, and my head full of statistics and policies and care plans. I am distracting myself by thinking up cakes to bake.
  •         I went to Sweatshop, they measured my feet, analysed my gait and I chose my free pair of running shoes.  They are bright blue.  I love them.
Brand new running shoes! My prize from Sweatshop for being parkrunner of the month in September - VERY exciting! #sweatshop #parkrun #running #shoes

Sunday, 6 October 2013


There is so much about my running that is surprising; but still the biggest surprise for me is how much I love it.  

I've been running since May, so only five months, but it's now difficult to imagine my life without it.  I can now confidently and consistently run 5k in under 30 minutes and the longest runs I do now are about 7k.  Back in May the 60 seconds of running followed by 90 seconds of walking, which the Couch to 5k podcast begins with, were more than enough for me.  I guess a part of me is still surprised that I can run at all.

The nicest and most exciting surprise lately has been winning the September parkrunner of the month prize from my local parkrun in Hackney.  This means that I win a free pair of running shoes from Sweatshop - one of the sponsors of parkrun - which is incredible.  I have gotten so much from parkrun over the past five months that I feel like I should be the one giving a prize to them, not the other way round.  

Parkruns are free, timed, 5k runs that take place in parks all around the UK, and abroad, at 9am every Saturday.  They are entirely run by volunteers and welcome people of absolutely any age and running ability - the Hackney one which I go to each week has the fastest runners finishing in around 16 minutes, and the slowest between 35 and 40 minutes.  Everyone is welcomed over the finish line with applause and smiles from the volunteers and other runners.  Plenty of new runners run-walk the course, as Olivia and I did at first.  I try to run as fast as I can at parkrun now, because I love running fast, and I like the challenge of trying to get a new PB, but not everyone is a speed freak.

The exhilaration I get from running as fast as I can is another surprise to me.  I don't have any desire to run long distances like half marathons or marathons - I just want to be able to run a 5k as fast as I possibly can - eventually in 25 minutes I hope (at the moment my PB is 28:09, so 25 minutes is still quite some way off).  Mo Farah runs 5k in 12:53....

I am trying to do interval training once a week, where I alternate a few minutes of very fast running with a couple of minutes slow jogging.  It should make me faster, generally, and is also so much fun.  Thanks to the Couch to 5k Plus podcasts (designed for people who have finished the original Couch to 5k podcasts and who want to carry on improving) I have become much better at running to a beat.  I found that incredibly difficult at first, but it gets easier each time I do it.  I can now waste hours at a time compiling and fine-tuning interval training playlists that alternate songs of about 155bpm and 175bpm.  There are programmes you can download that will analyse the bpm on your entire iTunes library, but I just use a free metronome app on my phone and check the bpm of my favourite songs when they come up on shuffle.

I think what it all comes back to though, is not the music, or the speed, or even the friendships I've made at parkrun.  It's that I live so close to Epping Forest, which is a fantastic place to run.  Even though I enjoy it so much, running usually feels hard for me - yet what never fails to lift my spirits are the glorious expanses of skies and trees in this part of East London.

Sunrise over Epping Forest

Sunrise over Epping Forest

Epping Forest - Hollow Ponds - morning run

Epping Forest - Hollow Ponds - morning run

Sunrise in Leyton

Epping Forest autumn sunrise

Reflections in Connaught Water

Early morning runners in Epping Forest