How to soothe a cough at night

The magic trick to soothe a cough at night

This may well by the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the time of year when everyone and his dog seems to be suffering with bugs and coughs and colds.

School-age children in particular seem to like sharing germs among themselves, and then bringing them home for the rest of the family to enjoy.

What’s so frustrating about coughs and colds is that there isn’t all that much you can do to chase them away.

If a cough is keeping your child (and the rest of the family) up at night though, there is a slightly random trick that you can try to soothe it.


All you need is a tub of vapour rub and a pair of socks.

You can use Vicks VapoRub or you can use an own-brand version from the chemist, it really doesn’t matter.

What you need to do is put a good blob of the stuff onto the soles of your child’s feet at bedtime, and then put a pair of socks on over the top.  The socks are mostly important for keeping the vapour rub from getting all over the sheets, but I think they also help by keeping the feet warm.

What you should find is that this is enough to soothe their cough; letting them get to sleep, and stay that way through the night.


Now I’ve read a fair few articles about this trick since I first heard about it, and no one has any real idea why it works.

Some people think it’s just a placebo effect.

Others think it might to do with reflexology.

The theory that I think sounds most likely is that the vapour rub on your feet acts as a counter-irritant, so your body focuses on that rather than the tickle in your throat, so you end up coughing less.


Whatever the reason behind it, so many parents have tried this on their children and themselves with amazing results.

I’ve done it myself when we’ve had troublesome coughs disturbing our sleep and it has worked like a charm.


So next time your child brings some lovely germs home from school, give this trick a try so you can all still get a good night’s sleep!


Have you tried this trick before?  Does it work for you and your children?

major life events more stressful for parents

Are major life events more stressful for parents?

I remember my mum telling me not long after I had Rhys that you lose several layers of skin when you become a mum.

Not literally of course, but metaphorically.

You open yourself and your heart up to so much more when you have a child.  I was never particularly thick-skinned anyway but I know that some things get to me so much more now that I’m a parent.

Like how I can’t seem to watch a nativity play without fighting back tears.  Something so small just hits me in an overly emotional way now I have my own children.

So it makes complete sense to think that big life events can be more stressful, and more emotional, for parents than for people without children.


I think it’s partly to do with the different hormones that our bodies produce throughout pregnancy and in response to caring for our children once they’re born.

And while lots of people claim that baby brain isn’t a thing, I’m convinced that our brains rewire themselves as mothers.  Our priorities change, as we’re suddenly completely responsible for the wellbeing of this tiny person.


When it comes to big life events like moving house or making big career decisions, we’re not just thinking about ourselves any more.  We have to factor in how these choices will affect the whole family.

We have to somehow make sure that everyone’s needs are met, while dealing with potentially a lot of upheaval.

Moving house is quite often mentioned as one of the most stressful life events, along with things like the death of a loved one, divorce and imprisonment.  A study was recently carried out by Online Mortgage Advisor which asked 1307 people who had completed on their house about their experiences.  64% of these people said that the process of moving home was the most stressful thing they’d experienced in the last 5 years.

Another 30% of these people said it was in their top 5 most stressful experiences of the last 5 years.


What’s particularly interesting is that they found that parents were twice as likely than non-parents to describe their stress levels when moving home as ‘extreme’.    And women were more likely than men to experience stress in general during the process of moving home.


It does make sense though, that parents would find moving house particularly stressful.

There are so many more factors to consider when you have children.  Are you moving to a good school catchment area?  Will your children settle in well in the new house?  How on earth do you work out the logistics of packing up a house and setting up in a new home with children of any age under your feet?!

And while you’re working through all of these thoughts you’re also dealing with the emotional side of it all.  That thin skin that my mum told me about means that the slightest comment from a child about not wanting to move house can hit so much harder than it should.

You second guess your choices at every turn and worry that you’re doing the right thing.


It’s the same with making big decisions about your career.

So many women struggle with the decision to go back to work outside the home after having children.  It seems that whatever choice you make you feel guilty about it, and you worry about the impact it will have on your family.


I think the thing to remember is that this new level of worry and stress and just feeling everything ten times more is completely normal.

And if you’re worrying that the choice you’re making means you’re a bad parent then you’re almost certainly an amazing one.

The best thing you can do is talk it through.

If you’re going through a major change in your life find someone to chat to about it all.  Also, more and more companies are realising that they need to address the emotional impact of things like moving house too.

Online Mortgage Advisor have worked with a clarity coach to create an online wellbeing portal for homeowners, full of advice to help ease some of the stress tied in with moving home.

So if you’re thinking above moving, or are in the process of moving at the moment, that could help make things a bit less stressful.


Have you found that you’re more emotional and things hit you harder now that you’re a parent?  What big life events and changes have you experienced since having your children?


Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Get enough light to beat winter blues

How to get enough light to beat the winter blues

It happens every year, but somehow still surprises me every time.

The clocks go back and within a few weeks it’s dark in the mornings when we get up, and getting dark again by the time we’re coming home from school.

I generally quite like the dark afternoons and evenings, there’s something really cosy about it to me.  A lot of people find it really hard though.

The limited amount of natural daylight is a big factor in people suffering with seasonal affective disorder.  So making sure you get enough light at this time of year can make a big difference in how you feel.


Spending time in daylight has some massive benefits to our wellbeing.

It helps to reset our body clocks, prompting our bodies to produce melatonin which helps us get to sleep.  Daylight also gives us a boost in vitamin D which helps reduce the risk of heart disease and maintain a healthy weight.

Getting enough light is essential to our sense of wellbeing not only because it boosts our physical health, but because it does wonders for our mental health.

It helps us feel more alert, helps us sleep better so we have more energy, and makes us feel calmer and happier.


So what can we do in the winter months to make sure we get enough of the light we need?

The best thing to do is make time each day to get outside for a walk.

It might be a walk around the block on your lunch hour, if you work outside the home.  Or taking the baby out for a walk in the park each day if you’re a stay at home parent.  Try to get out in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest, even if it’s just for ten minutes.


Another great thing to do is set your home up to let in as much natural light as possible.

Clean all the windows and pull back the curtains to let all that light flood in.

If you have a conservatory then try and spend some time in there every day if you’re at home in the daylight hours.  The sunlight coming in through the conservatory glass will give you all the benefits of being outside in it.


If you’re only ever at home in the early morning and once it’s dark in the afternoons then you could get a daylight lamp to use.

These lights mimic natural daylight and are really great to use in the mornings to help you wake up and feel more alert before you head off to work.  Some studies have found that using one of these lamps for an hour a day can improve your sense of wellbeing in just a week.


A daylight lamp is also a great option to put on your desk if you work in an office.

If you don’t have a seat near to any windows, then make a point of getting out in the natural light on your lunch break.  Don’t just sit at your desk and eat, get up, get out and get some light on your face.


The winter months can seem so long, and when the daylight hours are so short it can really get you down.  But by making an effort to get enough daylight on a regular basis can really help to boost your wellbeing and fight the winter blues.


Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Boost your brain's happy chemicals

9 ways to boost your brain’s happy chemicals

Happiness, basically, comes down to chemical reactions.

Our brains react to certain things by releasing hormones and neurotransmitters that tell our bodies to relax, to calm down, and to feel happy.

These feel-good chemicals include things like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin and they all work to make us feel good.  And because our brains work on a positive feedback system, this initial boost in happiness generally leads us to more happiness.

The great news is that there are lots of different things we can do, none of which take all that much effort, to get our brains to release these happy chemicals.


1. Make the most of the daylight

Getting out into bright sunlight is a great way to boost the amount of serotonin that our brains produce.

It can be harder in the winter months, but make an effort to get outside in the natural light every day if you can, to give your mood a boost.  Another great benefit from natural sunlight is that it helps reset our body clocks.  It regulates the release of melatonin, which then helps us sleep better at night.

If you have a little one that doesn’t sleep well at night it might be worth a try to get them out in bright sunlight during the day as much as possible to see if it helps their sleep improve a bit.


2. Write it all down

When you’re feeling a bit low, try writing everything down.

Don’t censor yourself, don’t worry about making too much sense.  Whatever is on your mind, get it out and on paper instead.

Doing this is a great way to clear your mind, but there is another psychological benefit of writing about your emotions.  Studies have found that processing our emotions linguistically, as in writing them down, produces less amygdala activity than other ways of processing emotions.

The amygdala is the part of our brain that kicks into action when we’re in situations we see as dangerous.  It’s the root of the fight or flight response.

So when the amygdala is nice and calm, so are we.


3. Smile

Even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing.

When we smile, even if we’re faking it, our brains release those wonderful feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin.

Turns out that it’s not always a case of us smiling because we’re happy, sometimes we can end up feeling happy because we started smiling.


4. Go one better and laugh

Laughing works in the exact same way as smiling.

When we do it our brains react by releasing more happy chemicals.

So if you’re feeling a bit blue then try watching a film that always makes you laugh, or an old familiar series like Friends that is guaranteed to make you giggle.


5. Do some reminiscing

Try looking through old photo albums, listening to songs that remind you good times and playing back memories of amazing experiences.

When we think about happy times the levels of serotonin in our brains get a boost, and we feel happier.

So dig out those photos, write in a journal about a happy memory or chat about the good old days with a friend.


6. Hug it out

Grab your partner, your children, your mum, or whoever, and have a lovely long hug.

When we hug people our brains release oxytocin, which is the lovely feel-good bonding hormone.  It works to calm down the amygdala, and leaves us feeling happy and calm.


7. Try something new

You can start small with something like walking a different route home from work.  Or go big and do something you’ve never done before like bungee jumping.

Whenever we do something new our brains react by releasing dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter.  Dopamine boosts our mood and improves our attention and motivation to get things done.

So try doing something new as often as possible to get that dopamine hit.


8. Change up your diet

Eating foods that contain tryptophan can help when we need a feel-good boost.

Tryptophan is an amino acid, found in high-protein foods like turkey, that our brains convert into serotonin.  It works best when we eat these foods with carbs, so try a meal of salmon and brown rice, or a turkey sandwich.


9. Have a massage

It doesn’t matter if you go to the spa for a proffesional massage, or get your partner to give you one at home, the result is the same.

Massages give us a boost in both dopamine and serotonin, those lovely happy chemicals.  They also have the added benefit of reducing the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, that our bodies produce.


None of these things take all that much time or effort, but they can all have a big impact on how happy we feel, thanks to the feel-good chemicals our brains release when we do them.


How many of these things do you already do on a regular basis?


Which do you think would have the biggest impact on how happy you feel?
How to be more productive and get more done

5 ways to be more productive and get more done

Do you ever have days where it feels like you’ve been really busy but you’re not sure what you’ve actually got done?

Come on, I know it’s not just me that this happens to!

As parents we have so many things on our minds, so many things we’re juggling that it can be really hard to even know where to start some days.  There are a few tricks that I want to start using more though, to actually get stuff ticked off my to-do list.

If you could do with some help in that area too, then here are 5 interesting ideas of things you can try to be more productive and get more done each week.


Go into aeroplane mode

One of the biggest reasons I don’t get as much done as I could is that I’m always being distracted by notifications popping up on my phone.

I have all sorts of things set up to push notifications through, from Twitter and Facebook to emails and Instagram.  And then there’s things like ClassDojo and texts from the school keeping me up to date with various things.

When you need to put your head down and focus sometimes the best thing you can do is switch your phone to aeroplane mode.

This basically turns off your phone service and disconnects you from wifi.  So you won’t receive any calls or text messages and no pesky notifications will come through either.


If you want you can take this a step further and really drop off the grid for a bit.

Put a ‘do not disturb’ sign up on your door.  Shut down all unnecessary windows on your computer so you don’t see any notifications of new emails or Facebook posts.  Go as low-tech as you can and crack on with that to-do list.


Schedule in a power hour

This is just where you set aside an hour to focus on something.  To go at it with all your energy and just get. it. done.

Lots of people do this with cleaning their homes.  Pick an hour, put on some music and just whizz round getting as many cleaning jobs done as possible.  Don’t let anything side track you, just stay focused and crack on.


You can also use this power hour idea to get on top of all those niggly jobs that never seem to get done.

This is something that Gretchen Rubin has written about and I love the idea of it.  What you do is schedule in one hour each week to work through your list of jobs that need doing but have no real deadline to them.  Those little annoying jobs that need to be done but don’t NEED to be done so they end up, well, not being done.

You know the types of things I mean.

Jobs like actually taking that bag of clothes and books to the charity shop.  Sewing that button back on that fell off weeks ago.  Ordering prints and putting them in a family photo album.

Pick an hour a week, pick a job or two from that list and get them done.


Use the ‘one touch’ rule

This is something I learnt about in a random course I did when I worked an office job.  And while I don’t always stick to it, I know that it does make an impact on how productive I am when I do follow it.

The rule is this – only touch things once.

When the post arrives, sort through it and deal with each item there and then.  File anything you need to keep straight away.  Recycle junk mail immediately.  Respond to anything that needs a response there and then.  Don’t look through the pile and then put bits to one side to deal with later.  Touch it once, deal with it straight away.

The same goes for emails and text messages.

If you read them, respond to them at the same time.  If you know you can’t reply straight away then don’t read them yet.

When you read an email, then leave it to reply to later it sits in the back of your mind.  Draining your energy and taking a little bit of focus away from the other things you’re trying to do. So make an effort to only touch things once, either physically or metaphorically.  Deal with things there and then so you can put them out of your mind and move on to the next job.


Try narrating your life

This one is a bit more out there.

If you want to be more focused and, as a result, more productive then try narrating your day.  The idea is that you think ahead to how things are likely to go in your day, then pay attention and note to yourself how things actually go.

Studies have shown that people who do this are more focused and more likely to pick up on things that are out of the ordinary and react accordingly.


Get things out of your head

One of my favourite ways to get focused and tick more things off my to-do list is to do a brain dump of everything I need/want to get done.

Grab some paper and a pen and write down everything that is swirling around in your head.  All the jobs you need to get done, all the little things you’re keeping in your head to try and remember and keep on top of.

Once it’s all out of your head you’ll be able to think more clearly, process what’s important and urgent to get done and it’ll be much easier to actually do something productive and tick things off that list.


Which of these tips do you think will help you most with being more productive and getting more done?
Do you do any of these things already?
This post is linked up with KCACOLS.
How nature can boost our health and wellbeing

The easiest way to boost your health and wellbeing

We’d all like a quick-fix way to boost our health and wellbeing, wouldn’t we.

It’s why we buy multivitamins and sign up for the last fitness craze that promises us the results we’ve always wanted in record time.

When it comes to our physical health, mental health and overall sense of wellbeing though, there is something really easy that we can do to get huge benefits.


Spend time in nature.

It’s that simple.

Spending time in nature has been found over and over again to have huge benefits to all aspects of our health.


It really all comes down to the fact that being in nature relaxes our minds.

And studies have found that when our minds are relaxed then our immune systems get a boost.  So spending time outside in nature can help us calm anxious thoughts and feel less stressed.

This in turn boosts our immune systems which has positive effects on all sorts of things from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to high blood pressure.

It makes sense really, when we’re in nature, looking at trees and flowers and all the other beautiful natural features of the world then we do feel more relaxed.  Our busy minds start to quiet down. And when this happens our body uses its resources to boost our immune systems, instead of trying to deal with our usual anxieties and stresses.


We can get even more benefits by exercising outdoors in nature.

A yoga class on the beach, a gentle walk through the park, a fast-paced hike in the hills.  Whatever type of exercise you do you’ll see more benefits to your health and wellbeing if you do it out in nature.

The beauty of it is that you can get the benefits no matter your age or fitness levels.

Cycling for example is something that the whole family can do.

Little ones can hitch a ride on the back of your bike, or get all cosy in a trailer behind you.  Older children can ride their own bikes with stabilisers until they’re ready to move on to a bike without them.

And for grown ups who don’t feel steady on a standard bike you can get amazing tricycles, like these from Jorvik Tricycles so you can keep up with the rest of the family.


Exercise is renowned for doing wonders for our wellbeing.

As well as boosting our physical health, making us fitter and stronger, it also reduces stress, makes us feel happier, and boosts creativity and productivity.

So combining that with the wonderful power of nature is a really simple way to boost our health and wellbeing.

The key to making this work for you though is to find something you enjoy doing out in nature, so you make the effort to do it on a regular basis.

Have a look around where you live to find the green spaces you can access easily.  See if there are walking trails near you that you could try out.  Find a yoga group that does classes out in nature and go check them out.

Take some time to find a way to connect with nature that makes you feel relaxed and calm and you’ll start to reap the benefits before you know it.


Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post

Hobbies to make you smarter

5 hobbies to make you smarter

There’s something about the new school year that makes a lot of us want to make a fresh start.

To try something new.

If you’re thinking about taking up a new hobby, then here are 5 ideas for things you can try that will let you learn something new, and help make you smarter too.

1. Learn a new language

If your children are learning another language at school this year, then think about having a go at learning it too.

You can go to classes, find a conversation group to join or study online.

Learning a new language is a great way to boost your brain health.   A study carried out by Dr Thomas Bak, from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh found that people who spoke two or more languages showed significantly higher levels of cognitive abilities than they would expect from their baseline tests.

And the age at which you learn a second language doesn’t seem to matter, the benefits are the same.


2. Read more

Make a decision to switch off Netflix an hour before bedtime and read something instead.

Reading is a great way to reduce stress, and is the perfect way to wind down at the end of the day, away from the blue light of screens.

If you read a mix of different types of books, from fiction to biographies to poetry to non-fiction you’ll learn so much about different subjects that you might never otherwise come across.  You’ll pick up a much more varied vocabulary and open up your world to different views and opinions.


3. Take up a sport

There are so many benefits of regular exercise, including lower stress and better sleep.  But taking up a sport can also help boost your brain power.

Playing sports regularly helps to improve our coordination, confidence and responsiveness.  It also makes our brains more flexible and boosts our overall brain health.

And if you’re really not up for playing sports yourself, you can still get some benefits from watching it from the sidelines.  Watching sports has been shown to engage different parts of our brains, as we learn new sport-related vocabulary and game rules.  All of which leads to increased brain function.


4. Pick up a musical instrument

If you’ve not played a musical instrument since you learnt 3 blind mice on the recorder at school, then it might be time to give the whole thing another go.

Whether you decide to go with the guitar, the piano or the drums, you can either find a local teacher to have lessons with or teach yourself with the help of YouTube tutorials.

Studies have found that playing musical instruments increases our memory capacity, teaches us perseverance and improves our concentration.


5. Join a quiz team

Or get your friends together and start a new one, and head along to your local pub quiz night.

Testing your brain with quizzes is a great way to keep you sharp and boost your mental abilities.

If quiz nights aren’t really your thing then you can get the same benefits from doing things like crosswords, word searches, sudoku, and word puzzles at home.  These kind of activities help our brains to form new pathways, test our memories and improve our problem-solving and creative thinking skills.


Which of these hobbies do you think you might take up this year?

Do you find that the new school year makes you want to branch out and learn something new?