De-clutter and De-Stress: How my Home Affects my Anxiety

It is by putting one’s own house in order that one’s mind-set is changed”
Marie Kondo

I must have spent the first four or more CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) sessions I attended for generalised anxiety disorder, discussing the dire state of my house.  Obsessed with the never-ending monotony of tidying away toys, emptying dishwashers, and loading washing pile after pile, only for the house to look in a worse state than I first started.  I was never able to make any progress, and there was never a reward.  No sense of satisfaction that lasted beyond a few minutes, before the tiny tyrants were un-doing all my hard work and the washing pile was back to Mount Everest scale proportions. To say it was soul destroying felt like the most major of understatements, and there days when there was just no end in sight.

After several months of therapy I now recognise the state of my house as being one of my main triggers when it comes to my anxiety or feeling out of control, and my biggest red flag as to when I need to take some time out.   

But it’s just a few toys on the floor?  Some loose change and old receipts piled up on the side or a collection of dirty shoes at the door? Right?  Well yes and no. 

Of course I needed a change of perspective.  Number one, I have three small people at home who quite literally couldn’t give a monkeys that there is yoghurt on the walls or that mummy has picked up the pens and the paper for the fifth time that day.  They just want to have fun, and rightly so.  They are just kids after all, and I would hate to think their little lives had been peppered with mummy’s daily outbursts because milk had been spilt on the sofa…again. 

Number two, I’m pretty certain that on my death bed I’m not going to wish I had made time to clean out the fridge that summer back in 2019, or that I somehow magically found a way to make the kids keep the toys “in the bloody play room!” As far as I’m aware, the world hasn’t stopped turning because the dried washing remained on the sofa for a week, or the kids’ happiness hindered because I hadn’t found time to put away the winter coats. 

However, I truly believe that when the stars align and the house feels clean and tidy (be still my beating heart) I really do feel happier and my mind feels clearer.  I feel calmer and more organised, and much more productive and ready to face the day. And I don’t think I’m the only one (am I?)  What do they say; a cluttered house equals a cluttered mind?  

As I’m learning, with most things in life, there has to be a balance.  When it comes to nap time, and you have one blissful hour to yourself, do you reload the dishwasher or relax with a good book (or an episode of Made in Chelsea?) #MiC every time!  The dishwasher can wait and that hour has to be about you and whatever allows you to refill your cup. 

But can we learn a few simple systems to help reduce stress, or dedicate a couple of hours to de-cluttering that will pay dividends in the long-term?  Not to try and create a show home (it’s never going to happen), but to help improve our mental wellbeing and mind set?  Hell yes!

This is why I am super excited to be working with Organisational Guru and all round lovely lady Sheila Azouji-Benjamin, founder of Tidy Me Please, who will be co-hosting my next Calm Mamas Brunch Club on Monday 24thJune at the yummy Salway Cookhouse.  Tickets cost just £25 each and include a delicious brunch and hot drink or juice, the workshop with Tidy Me Please, an exclusive Calm Mamas Club goody bag, and a 10% donation to the PANDAS Foundation UK – who provide crucial support to parents who are suffering from pre and post natal mental illness. 

To purchase your ticket simply visit and while you’re there, why not sign up to our newsletter to be the first to find out about Calm Mamas Club events, offers and discounts. 

Finding your new “normal”

Don’t worry, you’ll get back to normal soon.”  Said a well-meaning relative a few days after having my first baby. Only my “normal” pre-pregnancy meant working past 8pm most evenings in my fast paced PR job, and if I managed to get out any earlier, bashing back a couple of bottles of Sauvignon with friends and doing pretty much whatever else I fancied. 

The reality was that my life was going to be nothing like my old “normal” for quite some time, and that is, in fact, completely normal.  After all, I had just squeezed a human being out of my body and my husband and I were now solely responsible for keeping that tiny being alive. In my world, there was nothing normal about that, but something quite extraordinary.

Yet it didn’t stop me striving for my old version of “normal.”  It didn’t stop me walking miles to a local café with my family literally the day after I gave birth and had an episiotomy, because everyone else wanted to get out and about.  Leaving me with weeks worth of antibiotics for an infection downstairs, and developing a particularly stubborn case of nipple thrush to match. 

It didn’t stop me piling the pressure on myself as I desperately tried to get my baby to take a bottle, even though I had thankfully established breastfeeding, because I felt like if I didn’t go out with friends for a boozy night out I would be forgotten.  

It didn’t stop me lining up a PT exactly six weeks to the day after I had my second 9lbs 7 ounce baby because I wanted to get my “body back,” leaving me with weeks of back pain and a hefty physiotherapy bill to boot.  

As with most expectant parents pre kids I had perhaps naively imagined that the new babies would just slot into life, as I knew it.  Not that my life would be turned upside down, and that I would spend the next six months and beyond trying to turn it right side up again.  Never quite realising that the old life I was so desperately trying to cling onto, as I had previously known it, no longer existed. But little did I know this was no bad thing. 

I should have allowed myself to fully float in the beautiful baby bubble, rather than worry about what others were thinking and allow the weight of that worry to hold me down.   To concentrate on my new “normal” and what I needed, as a mother.  Rather than solely focus on the baby and getting her into a routine so I could try and reclaim my life and time as my own again.  After all, let’s be honest, it was a battle I was never going to win.  In the last six years, it has been rare for me to visit the loo without a companion. 

However, third time round, I’ve become much more accepting of life as a new mother and all that it brings – both the baby joy and the inevitable, but temporary, limitations.  Self-care has been crucial in retaining some balance, particularly carving out time for myself in a noisy house of five, and taking note of what my mind and body need. Whether it’s escaping for a few hours to go on a solo-shopping trip, or inviting a friend round for that bottle(s) of Sauvignon and a takeaway, when going out for an evening feels impossible.   

But despite all of this, retaining a sense of self and who you were pre-kids is also incredibly important.  Remembering all the things you enjoyed before the stoppers were temporary put in place, and finding time to do them again as soon as the time is right, is vital in order to retain our sense of identity, which can so easily be lost under a pile of pampers and nipple cream.   

I guess what I’ve learnt is key is to listen to myself more, and to try and switch off the outside noise and influences.  To even out the priority list, with myself at the top alongside my partner and babies, and to find your “new normal” once you’re ready. 

How to find your squad as a second-time mum

Ever since Swifty’s Bad Blood music video was released officially featuring her ”squad”, women everywhere have taken the opportunity to praise their own tribe/squad/pack of pals. Photos have been tagged, features have been written and female friendships have been celebrated (and Amen to that). But what about those who are yet to find their tribe, or in my case, are having a tricky time finding them second time round?

Before I continue I have to say I have the best NCT group a girl could ask for thanks to baby number one. As with all the finest mummy mates, it wasn’t long before we were sharing birth horror stories in much the same way I used to divulge my drunken antics to my bonkers work buddies. We overtook cafes in a pack – buggies parked, breasts out – and it wasn’t before long we were meeting on a weekly, if not daily basis. These women, who I would have walked past in the street just a few weeks before, suddenly became my lifeline and the saviours of my increasingly delicate sanity (mummy meltdown anyone?)

But as the babies got bigger, our little group got smaller, as one by one each mum finished her maternity leave and returned to work. As the only stay-at-home parent in the gang I suddenly found myself alone with a small person to entertain and a lot of time to do it in. One baby soon became two (very thankfully) and once again I was up to my eyeballs in crappy nappies and coffee cups, but this time with a toddler who could suck energy more efficiently than Dracula can suck blood, and none of my squad on hand to save me.

Being brave enough to bounce up to other parents and make friends when you have one kid is hard, but meeting mostly new mums on maternity leave when you have a loud, scream-y toddler in tow, that’s nigh on impossible. Of course there are my fellow stay-at-home mums to hang with but its not as easy to form friendships as some may think. Much like the early days of dating there is certain etiquette to be followed and pulling a Sharon from Catastrophe simply won’t do. There are also the mums who are lucky enough to still have their squad, who appear in playground in pairs or more, deep in conversation and as likely to share a friendly word, as theyare to share their hot Starbucks.

They’re even up to it online. Social media suddenly became awash with women celebrating other women whether it be their friends or other females they admired. Of course women should be bigging up other women (I am a big believer in this), but for all the lovely ladies out there feeling lonely who AREN’T included in these lists, these features can only serve to make them feel a little bit sad and their day a little bit shit.

But I’m not quite the Belinda-no-mates I have painted myself out to be. Whispered chit chat with other mums whilst singing Old MacDonald has turned into real friendships, which now involve nights out and wine (hallelujah). The old NCT bunch are now pushing out their second sprogs, meaning a whole new wave of maternity leave fun and frolics to enjoy. The work buds are still bonkers and I have my very best pals from university, school and beyond. So what I am trying to say? I’m saying that not everyone is lucky enough to have a Swifty style squad to rely upon. That being a mum is a bloody lonely business. That even if a mum appears to have their shit together,they probably don’t, and at some stage they would have felt the same crippling loneliness to some degree too. So the next time you’re in the playground with your mate, sipping your hot Starbucks (and screaming at little Jimmy to stop jumping off the top of the bloody slide), try and say hi to that mum on her tod with her toddler and new baby. At worst, you would have made her day a little better, and at best? A new mummy mate to hang out with, and we can never have enough of them.

Anxiety & Me: How Self-Care Saved My Sanity

“I can’t do this.” 

This thought ran through my head over and over again for years, but particularly the months after the birth of my three amazing babies.  Interspersed with feelings of unparalleled love and deep devotion, came waves of frustration, of being overwhelmed, unable to cope. Then of course came the inevitable exhaustion, irritability and the all-consuming guilt for not being “fun mum,” “happy mum,” “care-free, easy-going mum.” 

I had more “Arthur Fowler” moments than I care to mention.  After leaving a fast-paced career in PR, being a mum was my full-time job.  But even the long hours I had previously ploughed into my career had nothing on this new 24/7 role.  Every day was devoted to providing my children with, what I considered to be at the time, the best possible care.  But amongst this almost obsessive need to tend for my growing family I had forgotten one person that also needed looking after.


Not only had I lost sight of who I was, but I had also started finding it impossible to dedicate any time to myself.  Instead I tortured myself with never-ending to-do lists and impossible expectations. No wonder I felt like a failure, I had raised the bar so high it had become unreachable.

I am thankful to say that through the fog I had a moment of clarity and reached out for help, and this has been in the form of regular CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions.   This has been a game changer for me.    I had first become aware of the term after a friend had undergone treatment herself, and after confiding in her, she recommended I self-referred.  I have now had eight sessions with my therapist on a weekly basis. I had suffered from anxiety and depression before and had sought help, but this form of therapy was different.  Rather than delve into past experiences and spend hours unpicking childhood events, CBT was able to give me clarity on my core beliefs, which helped to explain why I was feeling the way I did.  Finally I could truly understand that in order for me to look after my family, first I had to take care of myself.  Whoever said, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” was in fact bang on.   

Over the course of the last few months I have made significant changes to my lifestyle, which I want to share with you today.  Now I have to state here that other than a very basic counseling course back in my 20s, I have absolutely no psychotherapy training and I am not in a position to treat anyone suffering from mental health issues.  Please, please contact your GP or an appropriate advice line such as the Samaritans or PANDAS Foundation if this is the case. 

But for those who are perhaps feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, these tips have really helped me and I hope they help you too.

Sod the housework – this sounds ridiculous, but at the beginning of my treatment I could not stop banging on about the state of the house. Nothing set me off into a rage quicker than stepping on a piece of Duplo ten seconds after clearing it away. Often I would spend every spare minute in my day, of which there weren’t many, tidying and cleaning, only to find the house in a worse state post teatime than it had been in the morning. Soul destroying.  Now, if my baby gives me a half decent naptime I watch Grey’s Anatomyand inhale a sarnie on the sofa. Instead I do the tidying at the end of the day – if I can be bothered.  Yes my house isn’t a show home but I’m a darn sight happier for it.

Give permission to enjoy yourself – Ah mum guilt, we’ve all felt it. But loving your kids does not mean having to spend every minute with them.  You’re entitled to a girls’ brunch, a date night or simply an extra half hour in the bath to read your book.  In fact, it’s vital.  Book yourself that trip to the cinema or cheeky massage and give yourself permission to enjoy it.  You really do deserve it.

You’re not surviving, you’re thriving – I’ve often walked into a therapy session and declared I’m in survival mode, particularly after a crap night with the baby.  First off, survival mode is just fine.  Of course you want to sit on the sofa and eat biscuits whilst the kids watch a Nick Toons Loud Housemarathon when you’ve had bugger all sleep.  But chances are, you’re not just surviving, you’re thriving.  Are you kids loved and safe?  Are they happy, warm and well fed?  Examine the evidence and you’ll find you’re doing a stellar job.

Postpone your worries – When my anxiety is particularly bad, I can lose days worrying.  I just can’t shake it.  Obsessing about hypothetical ‘what if’ scenarios that most likely will never happen. I have learnt (although it is never easy) to postpone my worry by writing it in a notebook, distracting myself with something different, then dedicating a quiet time, when the kids are in bed, to concentrate on my worry later.  If it’s a genuine problem, I will try and tackle it in a practical fashion. If it’s a ‘what if’, the distraction has often worked and I have moved on.  Although nothing is a fail-safe method, this has saved me from reaching fever pitch a few times.

Don’t search Google – Name a mum who hasn’t googled their baby’s symptoms late at night, bleary eyed, desperate to find a solution or answer. Only to be scarred witless by what they find.  For someone who is also prone to a bit of health anxiety, Dr Google is the devil’s work. Be kind to yourself and trust your own judgment and intuition.  A mother’s gut is rarely wrong.

Talk – Anxiety can be so isolating, and it’s so easy to believe the voice that tellsyou everyone else is coping apart from you.  It’s lies. And this is from someone who has spent far too long listening to my own internal critic.  Please talk to your friends, partner or parents, or GP if needed.  You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence and sometimes just voicing these concerns out loud can help relieve some of the worry.  Please believe me when I say you are not alone, and talking is thevery first step to feeling better

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