Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog

Sunday, 22 January 2017

#SundayBest - A Linky For Your Best Posts!

Welcome back to #SundayBest - A linky hosted by myself and the lovely Sian from Quite Frankly She Said.


We want to keep things nice and simple, so there are very few rules and if we all play nicely then everybody benefits!

1. You can link up to 2 posts per week - the post can be about anything at all, but the theme is Best Posts so try to link up ones that you feel really showcase your blog. Posts can be old or new, as long as they haven't been linked here before.

2. You must add the Badge to each post that you link up

Sparkles & Stretchmarks Sunday Best

3) Please comment on both Host posts, and the post immediately before yours - and then do feel free to hop around and comment on as many other posts as possible - the more love you give, the more you're likely to get in return!

4) Please write #SundayBest at the end of each comment you leave so that we know you're joining in!

4) If you'd like myself & Sian to tweet your posts, just send us a link with the hashtag #SundayBest and we'll RT for you - you can find us on Twitter @Sparkles_blog and @QFSheSaid

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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Win 12 Months National Trust Membership

One thing I want to make sure we do more of this year is exploring our local area - we started to try to see more of it last year by making use of the many family focused tourist attractions close to us, and now that we've launched our own travel blog I want to make sure that we're really getting out there and exploring the best that Devon has to offer over the coming months.

We are so lucky to live in such a tourist focused part of the country as there is just so much to do here - one thing we haven't done much of yet is exploring the local National Trust properties, and lately I have heard a lot of friends talking about visiting Saltram House so that is definitely next on my hit list!

Speaking of the National Trust, I want to tell you about a fantastic competition brought to you by the lovely people at Sunnybank Forestry who are giving away a 12 month National Trust membership!

With more than 300 National Trust properties to choose from, you'd be really spoiled for choice when it comes to days out over the coming year!

If you'd love to win a 12 month membership to the National Trust, then head over to this page and make sure you enter! The competition is open until 20th March 2017  and you can  tweet about the competition again to gain extra entries! To enter and for the terms and conditions, head over now!

*PR collaboration but all thoughts are my own. I am not hosting the giveaway just sharing. 

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7 Things Not To Say To Someone With Anxiety Disorder

This is a first draft of an article I wrote for publication in Essentials magazine in September first ever published piece!..., but now that the final article has been published I wanted to share the original draft here on my blog too!


My palms are sweaty, my heart is racing, a feeling of dizziness overcomes me - "Oh no," I think to myself..."I'm panicking". I take a few deep breaths to calm myself, but a feeling of sickness washes over me. My stomach churns. "Everybody is staring at me" I tell myself.

In reality, I'm standing in line at the supermarket waiting to pay for my items - unless you really looked at me carefully, you wouldn't be able to tell how I'm feeling. I look just like everybody else. 

This isn't an unusual occurrence for me. Something as simple as buying milk can become overwhelming very quickly - as I stand in line I worry about every aspect of that simple transaction - whether I have enough cash in my purse (What if it's dropped out and I didn't realise? What if my notes are counterfeit? What if I try to hand the money over and drop it?), whether the cashier will try to speak to me and what I should say, whether I'll drop the milk as I try to put it on the counter. 

These worries plagues my mind constantly. No matter what I'm doing or how easy it may seem - my mind will always tell me that everybody around me thinks I'm stupid, that everything that could go wrong will go wrong. 

This is life with generalised anxiety disorder.

I've been living this way for as long as I can remember, I don't know how it feels not to worry about every single aspect of every single day.

It's exhausting. And it's not only difficult for me, but it's difficult for my loved ones too - to know how they can help when it's at its worst.

Anxiety disorders are said to affect around 5% of the adult population of the UK, although due to sufferers reluctance to seek professional diagnosis and help the true figure is believed to be much higher.

Here are some of the worst things you can say to an anxiety sufferer, and what to say instead.

"Pull Yourself Together"/"Snap Out Of It"

These kinds of comments are the most common to hear, and also the most frustrating.

Many people believe that "tough love" is the way to go when it comes to dealing with anxiety sufferers, but it really isn't helpful. 

When anxiety really has its grip on me there is nothing I would love more than to simply be able to "Snap out of it" - at it's worst anxiety can leave me gasping for breath, feeling (and sometimes being) sick, suffering with IBS symptoms, even screaming in fear - and those are just the physical symptoms. Why would I choose to subject myself to that if I could stop it so easily by simply "Pulling myself together" ? 

Asking an anxiety sufferer to "Just snap out of it" is the equivalent of asking an asthma sufferer to "Just breathe" - impossible, ridiculous, and cruel.

Instead Try: "Would you like to talk about how you're feeling?"

Talking is so underrated when it comes to anxiety, and quite often the simple act of talking through our feelings can be enough to resolve the situation.

"But you were fine yesterday" / "You can't have anxiety disorder - you're always out doing things!"

One of the most common things I hear when people find out that I suffer with GAD and social anxiety is this - peopleoften think that unless you lock yourself indoors every hour of the day you can't possibly be suffering. 

But anxiety, like most things in life, comes in peaks and troughs - some days I feel pretty normal, and I manage to socialise and have a good time. Other days just the prospect of opening the front door to the postman leaves me in tears.

Anxiety is unpredictable and ever-changing - which is part of what makes it so frightening to live with.

Instead Try: "Would you like to talk about it?"

Noticing a theme yet? Talking really is the key to dealing with anxiety, and it's so reassuring when somebody shows their support in this way.

"Calm Down"

What happens when you ask me to "Calm Down" from a panic attack is one of two things - either I will panic more because I'm trying so desperately to calm myself and am not able to, or I will manage eventually to swallow down the emotions I'm feeling - and in that situation you may think that your tough love has worked - but it hasn't. 

Because what happens is that those feelings of anxiety are pushed down inside me when what they really need is to be let out.

Think of an anxiety sufferer as like a bottle of fizzy drink - every time they have an anxiety attack the bottle is shaken a little bit more - and when you tell them to "Calm down" you're just holding the lid down tighter -  but eventually that lid will need to come off and the more times the bottle has been shaken without release, the worse it will be...

Instead Try: "What can I do to help you feel calmer?"

A lot of anxiety sufferers will have tried & tested methods of calming themselves down, if you ask how you can help they may just be able to suggest something practical that you can do to assist them.  
If you must suggest something, breathing exercises are a good thing to try - you can go through them together and it gives the sufferer something to focus on. 

What Do You Have To Be Worried About? / There Are People Much Worse Off Than You

Anxiety usually goes hand in hand with feelings of guilt, shame and self-deprecation - to trivialise a sufferers worries by comparing them to "more serious problems" is only going to worsen those feelings, which in turn will only increase the anxiety. 

It's unacceptable to belittle someone's suffering simply because "Other people have it worse"

One of the worst experiences I had with anxiety was when someone rolled their eyes at me and said "But you have a lovely life and lovely children...what do you have to worry about?" - all that did was make me feel embarrassed and guilty for not being able to choke down my feelings and appreciate my life more - it made me question what was so wrong with me that I was unable to do that. And it resulted in me having one of the worst panic attacks I've ever had.

If there's one thing you can count on, it's that an anxiety sufferer will already be worrying that you're judging them - don't make things worse.

Instead Try: "I'm sorry to see you're feeling this way."

Of course anxiety sufferers don't want to be showered with sympathy, but saying something like this shows that you're withholding judgement and that is so important to us - support and encouragement are the things we really need.

"Everyone Worries, It's Normal"

I completely understand why people say this - and they're right, everyone DOES worry and it's hard for people who have never experienced anxiety to understand the difference - but there is a huge difference between "normal" worry and anxiety disorder.

Living with anxiety is living with a constant voice inside your head telling you that everything you do, say and think is wrong and stupid. That you're failing at everything, that nobody likes you, that the worst possible thing you can imagine is going to happen. 

Think about those moments in life when you panic for a moment and you don't know what the outcome of a situation is going to be - like when you trip and fall, and there's that heart-stopping moment before you land where you don't know if you're going to be ok.

Anxiety feels just like millisecond of panic...but all of the time. 

Instead Try: "What usually helps you to feel better?" 

Asking somebody to think about things that have helped them in the past can help focus their attention on the positive and move forward.

"Everything Will Be Fine"

I know that when people say this, they're truly trying to help.

But when I feel as though my world is crumbling and fear has taken over, hearing those words just makes me feel more frightened and angry.

Because in that moment everything feels the furthest thing from fine - it feels as though nothing will be fine ever again, and hearing you say that it will be just scares me more. 

Instead Try: "I'm here for you"

It offers the same comfort and support that you intended to give, but you're not promising me things that you can't guarantee. Telling me that you're here for me will reassure me without worsening my fears.

"Don't Be Shy/Don't Be Silly"

These ones are usually reserved for children with anxiety. Often people don't realise that children and teenagers suffer too, so often anxiety in young people is misinterpreted as shyness or awkwardness.

My own anxiety began early in childhood, I couldn't begin to count how many times people passed it off as shyness or childhood silliness. Anxiety is a confusing, terrifying state of mind for anybody to be in and for a child it can feel all the more isolating when their worries are dismissed and trivialised in this way.

Instead Try: "It's ok to feel worried. How can I help you to feel better?"

Acknowledging a child's concerns and letting them know it's ok to have those worries is so important, and will help them to understand that they can talk to you about it without fear of being dismissed.

The most important thing to remember is that anxiety sufferers are already feeling self conscious and guilty, and they WANT it to stop. The best thing you can do is to not dismiss it, not compare it, not berate them. Just talk it out.

 It's an age old cliche but it's so very true - it really is good to talk.

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

How I Earned Over £18k From Blogging In A Year, & How You Can Too!

Last year I did a few posts around the subject of working with brands and earning an income from blogging which proved to be very popular posts indeed  (To read those, please see the links at the end of the post).

To this day I still receive questions about those posts on an almost daily basis...and so I thought I would address the subject again.

Again I want to point out that these posts are not written as an attempt to brag about my earnings - I am far from one of the highest earning bloggers out there, I know people earning 3 times what I do from blogging and I also know that many people who have been blogging for a lot longer than me haven't yet found ways to monetize their blogs to their anything in life these things are half chance and therefore nothing to brag about - the purpose of these posts is simply to let other bloggers know what is possible, and what kind of earnings can be within your reach.

I write these posts because I am passionate about my belief that we should all be helping each other, and I do not believe that secrecy or keeping schtum about fees and how money is made as a blogger are the ways to do that - when I was new to blogging, a few very kind people gave me pointers that got me started and I want to ensure that I do the same for other people as often as possible.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

This Checklist Will Help You Order Flowers The Proper Way

We have all had purchases made online. Something as simple as an e-book or a big package filled with miniature statues of our favourite superheroes. In fact, it seems online purchase is becoming quite the norm. Flowers are no exception, of course. A lot of florists now make the majority of their sales online too, for example Canberra flower delivery who get most of their business from online sales and like to go the extra mile to offer a fantastic service to their dedicated online customers.

Of course, even when making a purchase online, errors will occasionally occur. A simple mistake in the address or a letter on the recipient’s name is all that it takes for a delivery to get delayed. Not to mention the time it takes to rectify the mistake by going through the whole purchase process again.

Here is a checklist that you can follow when you are ordering flowers (or any other items!) online to ensure that it all goes without a hiccup.

Make sure you have got the right address

It is very easy to mess up with an address, mainly because it is such a mundane thing in our lives. We all know where we live, and pretty sure you would know where your loved ones lived. But often a simple mistake such a misspelled street name or the wrong house number written down can happen and it's not always straight forward for the company to be able to change the order once it's in the system. SO make sure to double check the address that you have typed in while filling out the information form.

Ask about a tracker code

When making a purchase, some businesses offer a tracking code so you can monitor the drop-off. You can always ask your online florists for a means to keep watch on the delivery. If they do not offer tracking codes or do not have a system that can allow you to track it, ask to be contacted before and after they have made the delivery.

Choose florists that are well within the vicinity of the recipient

Make sure that the recipient is accessible to the florist. You do not want your friend who lives in a certain place to receive their gift late because their flowers are still in other city. Or at least, choose a florist that is near to make it easy for them to make the delivery on time.

Provide more information about the recipient’s address

Make sure to add in landmarks, any visual clue as to where the recipient’s house is located. This is to ensure that even if their house is hidden from view, the drop off will still be made on time. Also take this opportunity to add in extra instructions like dropping it off at a certain time, and whatnot.

Ordering flowers online is quick and easy way to make someones day, so consider these tips and you shouldn't have any hiccups.

*This is a guest contributed article

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