Lourdes 2017 – a transformation

Last time I went to Lourdes I really struggled with my anxiety and decided I wouldn’t go back. But being the stubborn person that I am, I refused to let my anxiety rule my future and decided that with the help of mindfulness I would be able to go this year.

Reasons to hike on your birthdaySunday

On Sunday I woke up to open birthday presents & make sure everything was packed. When I awoke I was really shocked not to be feeling really nervous – as soon as that thought popped into my head I noticed it – and reminded myself that there was no need to be nervous and that I would take everything one moment at a time. I opened every card and present with attention to every detail, every texture, every word, every smell and it is incredible the difference being all there makes to your gratitude and enjoyment of receiving gifts. It was as if every word meant more, I noticed all the little things and the thoughts behind them.

When it came to lunchtime I made my way to the airport and sat inside waiting for the coach to arrive with the others. I chose to get a lift there rather than go on the coach to try and minimise the travelling as I get claustrophobic. I sat on the bench and I started to feel feelings of anxiety so I closed my eyes and took deep breaths. I used a grounding technique to calm myself down and I focused on my breathing.

Once I was checked in I helped one of the assisted pilgrims to go and get something to eat and then helped her through security. Usually, the worst part of flying for me is going through security. I’ve always had this huge fear that someone has planted something on me and I will end up in prison, totally unrealistic although in my mind totally plausible. This time though, I did not have one feeling of anxiety. I went through security, smiled and I felt on top of the world.


In the morning we worked the early shift and got the assisted pilgrims up and ready for breakfast and the day ahead, we cleaned their rooms in the hospital and then made our way down to the Grotto for the opening Mass. It was pouring it down and I wish I had packed my umbrella. I could have been miserable but I decided to me mindful and enjoy the rain, taking each drop as the first.

In the afternoon we had a procession and it began to wear us down that we had been in the same wet clothes since 6am; it was then that things began to unravel for me because when we asked if we could just go and change clothes we were told we had to stay. Something just clicked in my brain; you are trapped – you can’t leave. Although we were in a huge church – the underground basilica it was like the walls were getting tighter and I started to panic. Although I knew I could just walk out of the door, although I knew I was a 23 year old adult who had the right to leave, the fear just consumed me, I began to shake, the cold spread through me and I felt sick.

I panicked – I thought “this is it – I knew I shouldn’t have come”.

Luckily, after we finally got to go back and change I managed to return myself to mindfulness and I didn’t dwell on how I had felt.


On Tuesday we took the assisted pilgrims down to the domain and did the stations of the cross and walked through the grotto. Walking through the grotto is one of my favourite parts because it is so mindful – people walk slowly through, feeling the smoothness of the cave walls and feeling the water run down. The sound of the water is beautiful. I love seeing the flowers that are left and it just feels like such a special place full of love and compassion.


On Wednesday we did the torchlight procession; it was not the best I’ve ever been to as it decided to rain! But it was still wonderful. I had the honour of pushing my friends grandmother in a wheelchair whilst a friend pushed her grandfather next to me. It was so wonderful, the whole way around their candles kept going out and so they spent half of the time trying to re-light each others candles – it was so wonderful how they laughed together and it was quite the challenge trying to push their wheelchairs at the same rate so that they didn’t end up setting fire to one another!


On Thursday we had international mass and group photographs. In the morning we got a chance to lie in (until past 7am!) so we got crepes together – but of course being the one who can’t eat gluten I decided to take some time out and I sat on a bench by the river listening to my meditation CD – I did a whole 17 minutes of meditation and I felt so proud – in the middle of all the hustle and bustle I managed to stay totally mindful for 17 minutes – this may not seem like a big deal but it really is for me!

Thursday evening was so emotional. We went down to the Grotto to light our candle – something we do every year. The candle had all of our names on. This is the time that everyone has a cry and lets out all of the emotions they’ve been holding in. Lighting a candle you pray for those who need it, for family, for those you’ve lost and it brings such strong feelings and emotions. One thing that strikes me every single time I go is how every single one of the youth supports the others, nobody is left out, everyone comforts everyone, like one big family – but a family of choice, where we all choose to love each other.

After lighting the candle, Lucy and I walked back to the hotel and on the way circled the statue of Mary three times. It is believed that doing so whilst saying the Hail Mary means that you will return to Lourdes.


Friday was a sad day -the last day! We cleaned the hospital, helped the assisted pilgrims to pack and had the closing mass. The flight was due to leave at 7pm, but got delayed until 3am – it turns out Mary wasn’t ready for us to leave!

Although I am still not recovered from the tiredness – I wouldn’t have changed getting to spend an extra 8 hours with my friends.

Until next year,

Louise x

Being a doula

One of the most intense, emotional and amazing things I have done, was being a doula.

doula              /duːlə/            noun
 – a woman who gives support, help, and advice to another woman during pregnancy and during and after the birth

My friend was planning a home-birth and as she knew I was very interested in midwifery and knew I had a good relationship with her other children she asked me to stay with her for a few weeks in preparation for the baby and when the baby was born.
The idea being if she needed to go into hospital I would be there to look after the other children.
The most amazing part of the experience was that everyone made me feel a part of the family and I still can’t believe I held this little baby so soon after she was born. It felt like a huge privilege to be included and to get to be one of the first people to hold this beautiful baby.
The baby came in the middle of the night and as I let the midwifes do their job I sat in anticipation in the other room; as soon as I heard the baby cry I burst out in tears. It was just indescribable.
It was a bittersweet time for me, because I enjoyed so much spending time with my friend and her children and cuddling this new baby, but not being able to have my own child made it difficult at times to not feel sad for myself.
Although my anxiety was rife and I was really struggling I carried on with a smile because they were so much more important than my anxiety was. The things is, however scared of something I am, if someone needs my help I won’t let my anxiety stop me.
This experience is one I will always remember and it brings up so many emotions. I will be thankful to my friend for including me and thinking me worthy of this role.
When I tried to persuade my friend to let me do a bump cast, she went along with it and now she has two, beautifully decorated. She even read a book I bought her on hypno-birthing which meant a lot because she valued my thoughts.
I am so grateful for this experience as it may be my only experience of birth and what an incredible experience that is.
Louise xo

Important lessons I have learnt

Life can bring with it difficult times but it also brings with them valuable life lessons.

The Terrible Twos.png

  1.  You don’t have a clue what is going on in other peoples lives. It is so easy, especially when you have anxiety to just presume that people don’t like you or can’t be bothered to be your friend. It is so important to stay mindful to the fact that there could  be something huge going on behind closed doors. This is a mistake I have made too many times. Thinking my friend didn’t like me anymore, when really she was battling depression of her own. Thinking someone had fallen out with me when really they were just going through hell at home after losing family.
  2. Choose kindness over bitterness. It is all too easy to choose the bitter route when you are treated badly, especially if it isn’t the first time. But in the long run, the person who suffers most is you – and you don’t deserve that. So choose kindness – choose compassion not only for them but for yourself.
  3. Your reaction IS a choice. You may not have any control over a situation, but you do have control over how you react to the situation.
  4. Your feelings and thoughts do not define you. Thoughts are like a bus – you can choose whether you get on or just let it pass. Your thoughts are not you, you have thousands and thousands a day – most of them you don’t even consciously realise – they do not define who you are. If you have a nasty thought it does not make you a nasty person – it is your choice whether you let that nasty thought pass by or whether you choose to embrace it.
  5. Fear is dependent on you for survival – you feed it. It is an internal fight. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes fear is important, we evolved to fear certain situations which was important for our survival. The only problem is is that now we have the same reaction to getting an unwelcome email as cavemen did to have to fight off a tiger – it isn’t a suitable response and it leads to a build up of stress so it is important to develop the tools to deal with these responses.
  6. The inner-terrorist can cause more damage than any other bully. The difference is this bully can be with you 24/7, talking you down and belittling you. It is important to recognise these thoughts and remind yourself what they are.
  7. Self-care and self-compassion is to me, the most important thing in mental health. It took me 12 years of depression to realise that I am worth it, I deserve to be happy, I do have a purpose. If you would be kind and compassionate to others – why do you treat yourself with contempt?
  8. Whoever someone may be, whether they be a friend or a relation, nobody has a right to abuse you. Physically, emotionally, psychologically. Although you can feel sorry for them and understand why they treat you this way, you need to step back and be compassionate to yourself too. It is not your job to save everyone, and you can’t help anyone if you don’t look after yourself first. I’m not saying you should be mean to anyone but you need to take care of yourself.
  9. Sometimes the people that seem the happiest are actually the most insecure. Don’t judge anyone as the chances are you don’t know the full story.
  10. Not everyone is going to like you. It really hurts when you find out that someone doesn’t like you – but you have to remember that there are so many different people and the likelihood is that you’re personality is going to clash with someone.
  11. Your past doesn’t define your future. I have spent many a night laid wide awake replaying silly things I have done, fall-outs I’ve had and regretting my behaviour. We all make mistakes, nobody is perfect. Don’t let it weigh you down, as long as you are sorry and you are trying your best there is no more you can do.

Love Louise x

The importance of Play

How important is play to children? Do they get anything out of it or is it a waste of time? Some believe play is crucial to development…

The importance of Play.pngI never really realised the true importance of play for children until I went to university. In first year we had a module all about how children learn from play. I’ve got to be honest, it turned me into a bit of a hippy and now I have a dream that I will teach one day or home-school my child and take them on marvellous adventures…

Reggio Emilia

This child-centred learning approach began in a city in Italy – Reggio Emilia. The whole philosophy is based upon children being able to learn through experience with control over the direction of their learning, to explore material things and relationships with others and to be able to express themselves. The natural pace of development is central to this approach as is the child’s citizenship – their rights and their right to reach their potential.

In Reggio Emilia, parents, teachers and the community all play a vital role to make this philosophy work, some parents volunteer in the school and many take home the schools principles too. This form of learning by doing is supported by Piaget who theorised that children learn best this way.


If I were to send my child to school I know that a Montessori school would be my first choice. Montessori is again from Italy, Maria Montessori developed this philosophy emphasising the importance of holistic well-being and social, psychological and physical development.

Montessori schools often have mixed age group classrooms which I think is great – the older children can help the younger ones by scaffolding their learning (Vygotsky) and Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum theory whereby children can tackle the same topic in age appropriate ways expanding their knowledge each time.

It is also usual for children to get to choose an activity from a prescribed range so although it is more limited that Reggio they do get a choice – and I’m sure from working with children myself that children get much more from the activity if they’ve gotten to choose it.

They also follow Piaget’s constructionist theory whereby children learn from discovery and children have freedom to move around the classroom.

I think the reason I love this method so much is because it treats children like individuals and citizens in their own right where they given choice and trust which I think will really help them to develop into responsible citizens as they grow older.

Forest schools

The clues in the name really! I did a couple of lessons in our own forest at university, it was great and you can tell why children absolutely love it. It’s all about developing emotional intelligence, social skills, teamwork and informal play – another child led approach. Another reason I love it is because I really do care about nature and the environment and this instils knowledge about the environment, sustainability and global citizenship in the children.


The main reasons I love all of the above:

  • Child centred not teacher led
  • Child enjoys learning
  • They learn how to be an active citizen rather than passive
  • Socialisation
  • Children are allowed to be unique
  • Children are taught to think for themselves

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with many amazing teachers in state schools, and they are amazing at their job and they care so much for the children – but there is only so much they can do when they are so restricted by the governments legislation which is made by people who have never been near a primary school teaching post.

When it comes down to it, teachers are expected to have evidence for everything they do, be inspected on a regular basis, force children to do standardised testing even at such a young age… all on top of teaching, listening, answering questions, caring, giving pastoral support, giving encouragement, managing behaviour, training, planning, etc. etc.  If teachers were trusted and allowed to teach, inspire and spend time with the children then the children would gain so much more, and teachers wouldn’t have to leave the job with stress! Oh and don’t get me started on the adult:child ratio!

Oh dear, doing this blog is really making me want to go back to university! I had better stop now. Thanks for reading 🙂

Louise x

The trick with bricks

I use this technique I learnt in CBT and it really seems to help.

the trick With bricksI thought I would show you how to use this CBT Visualisation Technique.

  1. Draw a picture of yourself and imagine that the there are bricks on your shoulder weighing you down.
  2. Then fill in the bricks with different things you are worried about – you can go into as much depth as you would like – obviously I’ve kept mine quite general and non-specific as I am putting it online.
  3. Now you have done this, take each brick at a time and break it down into smaller pieces
  4. Look at each piece and try to see if there is a way you can work through this, if there is anything that can help to take the weight of this brick off your shoulders. e.g: I chose America as one of my biggest sources of anxiety, for my husbands career it makes sense to move there for a few years so we are trying to address some of those fears.IMG_1232I hope this helps!

Louise x

p.s Massive thank you to Lucy who helped me out with some of these solutions!

Time to talk with Miss Campbell

This is my best friend Amelia!


L: Hi Amelia! How are you today?

A: I’m good thank you, having a nice relaxing Saturday.

L: That’s great, what do you normally enjoy to do on weekends?

A: I like to spend time in my favourite cafes or sit by the harbour with a good book. I also like to spend time with friends. Sometimes I end up working because there aren’t enough hours in the week.

L: What job do you do?

A: My main role is working in the NHS supporting service improvements but I also work for a charity which ensures mental health services users and carers are involved in treatment design, implementation and monitoring.

L: Wow that’s amazing. Why do yo do what you do?

A: I’ve seen so many people struggle to get access to adequate mental health services so this is doing my bit to try and help. It is also something I’m really passionate about, and one day I would like to see parity of esteem between physical and mental health become a reality.

L: That is the dream for me too! Why don’t you tell everyone a bit about how we met!

A: We met in Lourdes didn’t we? We met whilst volunteering with the sick in France as part of the Welsh National Pilgrimage to Lourdes. Louise was in my team, her brother Chris was our leader! That was 6 years ago!

L: I can’t believe it has been 6 years. What is your favourite animal?

A: I can’t pick one, can I give you a list?

L: Go on then!

A: Dogs, cats, elephants, baby seals and Pygmy goats.. actually just goats in general.

L: I’m not surprised dogs are at the start of the list when Harvey and Junior are cwtched up asleep in front of you!

A: They are far too cute for their own good!

L: I know! What is your favourite quote?

A: “Stop seeking approval for what you have built, from those who didn’t help you build it” – so say as a team you worked on something, as long as the team is happy and it works for people, there is no need to seek approval from other people.

L: I love that quote, you are so right. I know like me, you are a big fan of self-care in improving mental health, what is your favourite thing to do to self soothe?

A: Make a pillow fort and watch Netflix with a cup of tea and some of my favourite snacks, or go for a walk.

L: Both sound lovely, I can tell why you choose them as your favourites. How excited are you to see the finished Mindful Millie?!

A: So excited!!!! As soon as Louise told me about it, I was so excited, I think it is such a lovely idea, and something that is much needed.

L: Thanks Amelia! It’s been great to chat.

A: Anytime!




25 things to do as self-care

Self care is so important. Here are 25 ideas of what you can do.

25 ideas for self careSometimes it’s hard to even get out of bed. Self-soothing or self-care can really help to make you feel better. Give yourself some TLC. Some will work for one person and not another – do what you enjoy and what makes you feel good.

  1. have a bath
  2. brush your hair
  3. get dressed
  4. read a good book
  5. paint your nails
  6. use a face mask
  7. do some colouring in
  8. write a diary
  9. write yourself a kind letter
  10. try out some hair tutorials
  11. pluck your eyebrows
  12. watch your favourite tv programme
  13. message a friend
  14. cuddle a hot water bottle
  15. have a nap
  16. go for a coffee
  17. hide your phone for a few hours
  18. have a day free from social media
  19. go for a short walk
  20. write a list of what makes you happy
  21. moisturise
  22. paint
  23. have a spring clean
  24. do some gardening
  25. do some exercise

louise xx

a-z of mindfulness

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a for autopilot – how often do you realise that you have gotten to another room without even thinking? how often have you done a task and not even been able to recall doing it? we do so much automatically that we aren’t living in the present.

b for breath – if you are someone who panic’s like me, there is something we always have with us to help us keep calm – our breath! Breathing techniques can be used mindfully to bring yourself to the present moment.

c for compassion. Within mindfulness compassion towards others and oneself is a key component.

d for daily – if  you practice for two minutes daily – say every time you brush your teeth, you will gradually find it easier to bring mindfulness into other parts of your life.

e for empty – mindfulness is not about stopping having feelings, emotions or thoughts. It is about noticing the ones you have, and leaving them alone, accepting that they are there without prejudice.

f for forgiveness – one of the most important things when you learn mindfulness is to be forgiving especially to yourself! Nobody learns it overnight. It will take a lot of practice. If you sit there and try focusing on your breathing, don’t get annoyed with yourself for getting distracted. Once you notice you have been distracted just bring yourself back to the present.

g for gratitude – make sure you take time every day to be grateful and thankful for the people you have in your life and your opportunities.

h for holistic – mindfulness is a holistic approach as it encompasses mental and physical health, both are so entwined that improving one helps to improve the other.

i for identify – mindfulness can help you to identify your thoughts and feelings.

j for judgement – what being mindful has done for me has made me take a step back before judging others, I look at the situation mindfully and put myself in their shoes.

k for kindness – learning to be kind not only to yourself but to others, sharing your compassion and being mindful of other peoples feelings.

l for listen – go and sit by a river, by the sea or on a bench, shut your eyes and listen. Focus entirely on listening. What can you hear? if  you feel yourself getting distracted don’t be frustrated, just bring yourself back to listening.

m for monkey mind – this is a term used in Buddhism for being restless, indecisive and unsettled. Use mindfulness to tame your monkey mind.

n for numbers – you can use numbers to help you to be mindful of your breath. The 7/11 exercise involves counting up to seven on an in-breath and then counting to eleven on the out-breath.

o for object – choose any object. You can use anything to practice your mindfulness. Pick up a pencil, hold it in your hand. What colour is it? how does it feel? is it heavy? is it sharp? what does it smell like? try colouring with it. You are right there in the moment, you are not distracted you are focusing on the present moment.

p for present. As Kung Fu Panda wisely says, “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery & today is a gift – that’s why they call it the present”.

q for quit – quit beating yourself up for something you did in the past. Everyone makes mistakes. Use mindfulness to stay in the present.

r for repeat – the best way to make mindfulness a part of your life is to bring it in and repeat it daily at specific times, that way it becomes a habit.

s for scan – take the time to do a body scan. You will notice so much about your body and you will be more in tune with yourself.

t for thoughts – your thoughts do not define you. We all have so many thoughts every day, thousands upon thousands, thoughts are like busses, you can choose whether you want to get on.

u for useful – mindfulness can come in useful every day, whether it be to enjoy an exciting moment and to truly be there, whether it be keeping calm at an anxious time or keeping the focus on the present rather than the sadness of the past.

v for valuable – your time is so valuable – make the most of every second.

w for why? – why practice mindfulness? well, it has been shown to offer health benefits to those with anxiety, depression and chronic pain. Mindfulness isn’t suitable for everyone but the main draw for me was that my anxiety is the future and depression is the past, therefor when I practice mindfulness I am in the here and now and do not have to worry, I take everything by the second. In terms of chronic pain, mindfulness teaches that we notice everything and leave it as it is, we accept how we feel with no prejudice. You know the pain is there and you accept it. When you stop trying to change it you enable yourself to focus on other things.

x for xylophone – this is a cool technique you can use, especially with children to make you realise how often thoughts and feelings come into your mind. Label different notes on the xylophone with “feelings” and “thoughts”. Whenever one comes into your head hit the note. You will then be mindful of how much is going on in your head.

y for yoga – yoga really helps me to stay in the moment and focus on my breathing. If you stay in the moment whilst practising yoga and notice the way your body feels during the movements and focus on your breathing it can really help you practice mindfulness.

z for zone – when you first start practising meditation it can help to go to a distraction free zone. Just at the beginning when practising meditation it can help to be in a quiet place. You can then build on this and practice elsewhere.

My top 10 favourite books

A list of my top 10 favourite books ever. Let me know what yours are! I would love recommendations.

*Disclosure: some posts on my site contain affiliate links, this just means that if you go through to make a purchase from my link, without any extra cost to you, I will earn commission.

And here goes, a list of my top 10 favourite books ever. Let me know what yours are! I would love recommendations.

Denim on Denim

10. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

I absolutely loved this book! What an intriguing character! If you haven’t read it yet you totally should – what a classic. 


9. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 

Ok this may be cheating a little bit as it’s a play script, but I LOVE IT!!! I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the rest of the Harry Potter books, but it was amazing and it cleared up so much. It is the fastest I’ve ever read a book, I couldn’t put it down. 


8. The Queen’s Fool – Phillipa Gregory 

I really really enjoyed this book! It was great and not like anything I had read before. It had a historical and a magical element and I found it so easy to put myself in the character’s shoes. 


7. The Cottage – Erica James

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were portrayed beautifully. The scene was set so well I wish I could have been inside the book. The Hidden Cottage sounds idyllic. 


6. A Place of Greater Safety – Hillary Mantel

This book is huge. And I mean huge. But it is so good! I think I only love it so much because my favourite topic in school was the French Revolution and this book really brought it to life. I got to know the characters, she writes in such an interesting way. 


5. To the moon and back by Jill Mansell

I really enjoy Jill Mansell’s books because I just love the detail she puts into each character and location and how she sets the story. 


4. Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

I just love the way she writes too. I find her books so easy to read and enjoyable! The good thing is I don’t find any of her books too samey which I do find when I read some other author’s books. 


3. Sophie Kinsella’s shopaholic series 

I think these books are just fun, they are easy to read while relaxing in the bath. They give you that feel-good feeling. 

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2. The Truth About Melody Browne

I don’t even know what it is about this book, I just really enjoyed reading it. I don’t usually like books that are in the slightest bit sad but there was just something about this one. It was weird, but good. 


1. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling 

I just absolutely love these books. As soon as I pick them up I am transported into another world, one full of magic and excitement where I can forget all of my worries and dream of chocolate frogs, butter beer, castles and magical creatures. 



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Louise xx