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The Little Things Count

The Little Things Count

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I’m not sure if this is a post about branding and the customer experience, or a reminder that we can facilitate significant changes with small actions. Perhaps it’s about both in this little true story.

I met a new young female entrepreneur at an awards ceremony that I had been a judge for – she was accompanying her Dad who was a winner. We got chatting, and it turns out she is a dance instructor who specialises in showing people how they can use dance to improve their situation when dealing with depression. We had a lovely chat, and she was very clearly at the top of her game, and so I invited her onto the radio show to talk about helping with mental illness as well as her experience so far as a business start-up. Like most of us, she wasn’t that confident about her business capabilities as she should be.

So that’s that, she’s booked, and we are now into the admin of it all. As part of the boring usual incidental admin stuff, we send off an email. Job done, apart from the show of course.

But the content of that email was screen-shotted and tweeted. It turns out that this simple admin email was an important part of her business journey, perhaps because it was her first interview invitation? I’ll make sure to ask her.

So, yes every experience, every touch point however small it may seem, can influence your business.

If there are times it seems you’re just treading the boards, you may not be aware of how the smallest actions, play out as a much greater impact on the lives you touch.

So, what can we take from this? Well, I’m going to be reviewing all of the emails I routinely send with a fresh eye to check they brighten the day of the recipient.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Today I’m up at the Inspired Women Event in London and one of the speakers is talking about decisions; how important they are for our business and how we often delay making them, even without realising we’re doing it.

Making speedy decisions will have a massive impact on your results.

Think about a successful person you know about but don’t know well.  So Richard Branson would be mine.  Now, imagine how they make decisions. Generally, they are going to be making decisions FAST!  And here’s the thing, sometimes it doesn’t matter if you make the WRONG decision – as long as you make A decision, there will be action, action brings results and results mean feedback.  If you have made the wrong decision then at least you know and can take more action to put it right.  No decision means no action, no results, no feedback.  Nothing, Nada, Nil Zilch!

Why We Delay Making Decisions

Are you putting off making a decision because when it’s done you will have to start doing the trickier stuff in your business like selling and delivering products and services?

Let’s consider how we are making a decision now.

Are you making decisions made based on fear?  Are you making decisions based on loads and loads of analysis?  Are you making decisions based on your gut instinct or your intuition? Which do you think is the most powerful.  The last one, don’t you think.  The trouble is that when we don’t trust ourselves, how we are running our business, our lives, or our relationships then it can become tricky to trust our instincts.

Are you making decisions made based on fear?  Are you making decisions based on loads and loads of analysis?  Are you making decisions based on your gut instinct or your intuition? Which do you think is the most powerful.  The last one, don’t you think.  The trouble is that when we don’t trust ourselves, how we are running our business, our lives, or our relationships then it can become tricky to trust our instincts.

Trusting yourself and your instincts is a much bigger issue and will take a while to drill down into so what can you do if you need to start making decisions right now if you’re going to move forward?  I suggest the following…

Decision Making Template

  1. Put a time limit on making your decision and stick to it.
  2. Ask yourself (and write down the answers in a table) the following questions…

 

What will happen if I do?

What will happen if I don’t?  

Won’t won’t Happen if I do?

What won’t happen if I Don’t

You should now have a little grid of answers, a structure, to work from.  It’s almost like a mini risk assessment.  If you need to, then bring in a second or third party, but remember you have your deadline and stick to it.

 

 

 

How To Have Better Sex After Breast Cancer

How To Have Better Sex After Breast Cancer

What If You Could Have Better Sex After Breast Cancer Treatment?

There isn’t a one-stop shop approach to resolving problems with sex after breast cancer treatment. This is mainly due to the broad range of diagnosis and treatment options for breast cancer. Mainly though we are concerned about a lack of sex after breast cancer!

Sex after breast cancer treatment is not normally raised as an issue by the medical profession who are understandably rather more concerned with saving your life, than you having a good bonk after it’s all done with. Perhaps it’s understandable, and all that really means is that you need to identify and be proactive in resolving the situation for yourself.  The key word here is IDENTIFY.  I’m saying that because the upset ( a bit of an understatement I know) caused by the diagnosis and treatment tends to throw your life off balance.  One of the effects of this is not recognising when things are still off kilter, and of course, if you don’t spot a problem, then you can’t take action to put it right can you.

There are so many different reasons why your sex life can go down the pan after breast cancer, and there are too many to cover in the one article.  So, here we are going to focus on YOUR reduced sex drive and suggest a few ideas for getting it back again.

So, why could you have a reduced sex drive? Here are some possible explanations:

1. Hormone treatments like Tamoxifen and chemotherapy can reduce your sex drive so you just don’t fancy it.

These drugs elicit a physiological effect much the same as inadequate food or taking sleeping pills. Your overall performance is reduced and your sense of health and well-being suffers.  Interestingly, radiotherapy doesn’t appear to have the same effect.

2. The after effects of surgery, such as numb boob and non-functioning nipples, or no nipples and no boob, can mean that a previously sexual part of your body has become a no-go zone because having it touched doesn’t feel nice anymore.

3. Both partners can feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about changes to your body.

You may also have to deal with letting go of the old parts (pun intended here) of your sexual routine. For instance, your partner may have loved nuzzling in the gully created by your breasts and that little comfort zone has now gone.

Sometimes there is more than this physical gap to overcome.

4. Vaginal dryness leading to reduced pleasure or even pain during intercourse. Dryness is often attributed to the after-effects of chemotherapy and ongoing treatment by Tamoxifen. Vaginal dryness is also a symptom of the menopause and the first step is to ask your doctor for help.

Each of the above will have its own set of potential remedies but they can also combine to create the general feeling of not fancying sex or can’t be bothered. Here are a few tactics you can use to get it back again…

1. Much of our sexual desire is based on our visual, auditory and kinetic systems. So, you get a picture in your mind’s eye of an exciting sexual encounter, you remember sounds, or someone speaking sexy words to you, and finally, you recall, and may even rekindle a feeling in your body. This ability to conjure up desire by visualising and remembering pasts events is crucial. And you can try it now by recalling a sexy moment you either experienced personally or watched in a film. Do you get a bit of a tingle in your tummy, or somewhere else? No, well give it time and keep practising.

If you can’t remember anything right now then you can also induce it by using an outside stimulus. This is where porn is useful and remember, it must work because it’s one of the biggest markets in the world.

Just use the tools you’ve got (not pun intended). Start conjuring up real past experiences, or inventing new ones to induce that state of desire and get going right now. In a few days, you could be cooking.

You may find keeping a diary useful. Use it to record any sexual feelings which crop up. Note down the time of day, what you thought about, what you saw in your mind’s eye, heard or felt, and if anyone was with you. If you review after a month or so, you may see a pattern emerging.

If nothing’s coming up for you when you use porn or erotica, it’s ok, you will be able to find something to suit your personality and that of your partner. Of course, you may have to go hunting around.

2. Are you feeling fearful that when you’re having sex your partner will be touching bits you don’t want to be touched anymore? Perhaps there’s other stuff you just don’t want to do as before such as undressing or hanging from the lampshades. That’s normal if you’re still feeling physically or psychologically sensitive to the changes and these underlying fears could be dampening or seizing up your desire.

You must tell your partner what has changed. What do you want now and what do you not want them to do? You’re reinventing your sex life after breast cancer. Your partner will not just get this stuff by osmosis and you have to spell it out otherwise they will get it wrong. How can they not? If they avoid your boob area then you’re likely to think they no longer want to touch or look at that part of you. On the other hand, if they steam in like before, but this time it’s into your numb, oversensitive and uncomfortable bits, then instead of erotic, we have painful. My left boob area didn’t rejoin the rest of my body until a whole year after my radiotherapy ended.

Your partner will need proper information to get it right. Going rigid when you’re touched in the wrong place, or grimacing uncomfortably as they start to peel off your nightie really isn’t going to help the cause. Here are three suggestions to help you transition into a new sex life:

Grit your teeth and SAY exactly what it is you want.

They will be doing their best to get it right so TRUST them.

FORGIVE when they slip back into old habits because sometimes it can take a while (around 30 days) for a new habit to be formed. Get over it and get back on the job!

Your partner is making adjustments as well as you. REMEMBER this.

3. Attend to the small details and make an effort to create the right atmosphere. A sickness or upset can knock us off track and sometimes we seek out the comfortable. I mysteriously started wearing big knickers to go to my radiotherapy. Goodness knows why. The thing is, I was still wearing them months later whilst the skimpy strings I’d been sporting for years had somehow slid to the back of the draw. So, are you still in grannies knickers?

Start relaxing back into your sex life again. Hunt out and rescue those naughty knickers. If you didn’t have any in the first place then perhaps you should go and buy some! Light some candles, have a bath, play Marvin Gaye, massage each other – whatever does it for you. You’re getting back into your sex life again by releasing all tension which might be building up around it.

This your chance to introduce new and invigorating elements into the old comfortable stuff of your courtship.

4. Visit a couples sex shop and just have a look around. Anne Summers stores can now be found in shopping centres so just pop in.

5. It’s a quirk of nature for many women that the less sex they have, the less sex they want. Once you get back in the saddle then you could be off again.

So the final part is to get lubed up and JUST DO IT.

Tamoxifen And Anxiety.  Is There A Link?

Tamoxifen And Anxiety. Is There A Link?

tamoxifen and anxietyI don’t know about you, but to me the list of side effects from taking Tamoxifen just seems to keep on racking up and up.

Up until now I’ve avoided reading the list of POTENTIAL side effects on the packet, for fear of attributing every ache, pain and niggle to it, but it’s time to have a proper look.

Tamoxifen and Anxiety

Anxiety, and depression, is given as a side effect on the leaflet of my packet, but I’m not at all clear what normal anxiety is, which may sound a bit loopy.  The trouble is that after breast cancer there is stuff to worry about. Fears about recurrence,  problems with the medication, fears about it popping up somewhere else.  EEK.

I’ve also read about tamoxifen takers experiencing panic attacks – which is different to a general feeling of anxiety.

Right now my womb is being looked into and so I’m on tenterhooks whilst all that’s happening.  So is the churning in my stomach and the mild panic attacks over really inconsequential rubbish could be happening because of that, or is the anxiety genuinely out of proportion to the problem, and merely a chemical manifestation of the Tamoxifen? Who knows.

However, if you are dealing with anxiety, it can be useful to understand that it might arise from the Tamoxifen.  If the anxiety is not your fault, or out of your control, this means you can stop beating yourself up and trying to resolve it from within, and focus your energy on just dealing with the side effect, because you’re off the hook as far as being the cause goes.

Is The Anxiety Due To A Menopausal ‘Side Effect’ Caused By Taking Tamoxifen?

Another suggestion is that the anxiety is a hormonal, menopausal type response. In other words, taking Tamoxifen creates a menopausal situation in your body, and any anxiety is due to the menopause. However, do be careful if you decide to take stuff to help, because many of the supplements to help with the effects of the menopause are contraindicated for anyone taking tamoxifen.

Do Doctors And Onco’s Acknowledge A Link Between Tamoxifen And Anxiety?

Doctors are still people and so have differing opinions and prejudices.  When I asked my pharmacist if Tamoxifen was linked to anxiety she told me a definite NO.  When a new chemist shop opened in our village and I went to pick up my prescription, that pharmacist told me it was a well known side effect.

Whilst some patients report their doctor immediately made the link between Tamoxifen and anxiety, others were told it didn’t exist and sent away. Given the subjective nature of anxiety, this is perhaps understandable, although it doesn’t help much when you’re trying to deal with it.

What Could Anxiety Due To Tamoxifen Feel Like?

  • Over-reacting to minor disturbances or being easily startled. I believe this can sneak up on you and you may need to delve deep and think back to before all of this started.  If you are jumping out of your skin just because the dog barks or the kids are shouting, would you have reacted like that before?
  • A churning of adrenalin which won’t subside
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feeling light headed and dizzy
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Feeling too hot or cold
  • A sense of foreboding – there’s something wrong@! But goodness knows what.
  • Worrying about trivia.  By trivia I mean things like the bank wrongly applying charges to your account.  It’s usually sorted out, it’s a part of life and shouldn’t induce fear or mild panic.

Basically – are you sweating the small stuff?

Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a definitive answer about how to distinguish justified anxiety, which understandably takes over from time to time, from a tamoxifen induced anxiety.  Neither is there a clear solution, although the following ideas did come up in my research:

  • Take the tamoxifen at night so that some of the symptoms have dissipated by the morning
  • Take 1mg of Diazepam to relieve the symptoms of anxiety
  • Lexapro, Effexor and Celexa are antidepressant type drugs which can be taken with Tamoxifen.  There were a number of posters on the forums who reported Lexapro helped them
  • Rescue Remedy is one of the Bach Flower Remedies.  This particular one is for comfort and reassurance and there’s also a night-time formula
  • Aromatherapy
  • Split the dose in two and take it in the morning and the evening, instead of all in one go.
  • See a Healer or Reiki therapist to help you deal with any negative energy which could, apparently, make it difficult for the positive thoughts to penetrate
  • Use candles (not like that!). Turn off the lights, light some candles and have a long soak in the bath, or relax in bed.  A glass or two of wine helps as well, but the soothing light of the candles are the key.
  • Relax your muscles, especially around the eyes.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds because tense muscles is a habit which needs to be reformed into relaxed muscles.  Eye muscles use loads of energy which makes the effort of relaxing worthwhile – if you get my drift.

WARNING: The above is not medical advice and you should always check with your doctor before you do any of these.  If your doctor is prescribing something to help you with the anxiety, do remind them that you’re taking tamoxifen.

 

 

Can I Interest You In A Tea Cosy?

Can I Interest You In A Tea Cosy?

life after breast cancer craftingThis is about another surprising turn since I started sorting out my life after breast cancer.

What’s that got to do with tea cosies? Well it’s all about being ready to take a different path, do something different and in my case something creative.

I’ve always been a corporate woman, writing out my reports on time and speaking the gobbledygook of corporate land.  I know what a KPI is (and they’re not fun).  I got used to earned my living (apart from a brief spell as a Saturday Girl in a hairdressers when I was 12) using my brain, its always been about my brain organising services and spewing it all out the other side in the local government format.

After the main part of my breast cancer treatment ended and it was just me and the Tamoxifen, I tried to hop back into my same old mould. But it wasn’t working.  It took me weeks which started creeping into months, to work out that maybe I needed to try a different approach by doing something practical and, yes, crafty. Creative if you will.

Perhaps I would have arrived there eventually but I do wonder if hitting the doldrums after breast cancer was a godsend because it forced me to re-evaluate what I was up to.  A boot up the arse to kick me into a completely new direction.

I didn’t actually end up making tea cosies (but that could be next if I find the right market) but I did start making rugs, which is possibly feeding my annoying hoarding habbit.  Instead of throwing out old clothes and fabrics I can now recycle them into wall hangings, cushion covers and, yes, tea cosies.

Along the way I dispelled the myth that I’m no good with my hands because it turns out I am.  I also discovered my talent for matching colours.  So that’s two good things which have come out of my life after breast cancer.

Forgive me if this article makes it sound as though I was sat in the chair feeling a bit glum and 2 seconds later decided that something creative would spur me into action and found a set of rugging tools lost down the back of the settee and off I went. Sadly it took a lot longer than that.  But what have I learned?

  • That when you’re looking for something different in your life, the tendency is to kid yourself that you’re taking a totally new direction, when you’re really just trying out the same old weed in a different pond.
  • That when you take a new path in life you learn new things about yourself.
  • That bringing something to life using colour is a joy and that 30 minutes sitting in silence whilst your handy-work gets one step closer to completion is the best stress buster ever.

And the tea cosy. Well that’s thanks to my sister-in-law Karen, who came up with that idea for my cottage industry.

And I do like a good cup of tea.