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How do we help our kids return to school in our Covid world?

How do we help our kids return to school in our Covid world?

22 May 2020

Back to school is here!

Any relieved mums out there? (I suspect there are a few raised hands right now!)

Home school and work from home life has been TOUGH! Life has been a JUGGLE! Parents have shown they are ROCKSTARS!

As we go back to school, I wonder if kids are all feeling quite so excited. Sure they miss their friends, but kids are also a little scared by this strange thing called Covid that they don't quite understand. They have enjoyed the time at home with Mum and Dad, riding bikes and playing board games.

How do we help them to settle back into school?

As kids return to school, it is important to help them remember some of the things they love and miss about school. Maybe it is their friends, their teacher, or their favourite art class. Your child might like to connect with one of their friends again via Facetime before they return to school, to help them feel a little bit more comfortable on their first day back. They could arrange to meet their friend at the school gate so they have a buddy to go into the playground with! Our kids are worried about Covid too, so it is important to allow them "talk time" so they have the opportunity to discuss their fears with you.

You might remember that last week on the blog we talked about our "rush back to normal" and the parts of our current world that we might actually want to maintain. This applies to kids too! As they return to school, they might be sad about leaving behind some of the things they have enjoyed the past couple of months. Talk to your child about what they have enjoyed, and figure out together how they can maintain some of this. Maybe they would love a Saturday morning bike ride? Or Friday night Uno night? Maybe they want to help you cook dinner once a week? Or bake cookies for snacks on a Sunday afternoon?

Let's create our new normal.

x Tanya

Our New Normal

Our New Normal

15 May 2020

Covid stage one is here..

Restrictions are lifting, and parts of our lives are slowly returning to "normal". But what does that really mean? In a social media post this week, we shared the quote "in the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to." It really get's you thinking doesn't it?!

Covid has certainly been a confusing and scary time. The news has been scary, we haven't been able to see our friends or do the things we would normally enjoy doing, and lives have been lost. Undoubtably awful. But there have also been a few nice things about this time (there we go finding the silver lining again!) Family have enjoyed time at home together. We have been baking, gardening, enjoying walks in the sunshine, and having family games nights. Sports and after school activities have been cancelled, so we haven't had to rush around as much. Some of that has been nice hasn't it?

As we head into the next chapter of Covid, whatever that might look like, it is important that we continue to consider what we would like our lives to look like on the other side of this. What have you enjoyed during this time? How can you maintain that, even as school returns, you go back to work, and sports and after school activities resume? Maybe it is treasuring a morning coffee in the sunshine? Baking with the kids? Or keeping that Friday night family games night going?

I am definitely excited to see my friends, and visit some of our favourite local coffee shops, but there are definitely a few things I am determined to stick to.

Jenga anyone?

x Tanya

Coping During Covid - Top Tips!

Coping During Covid - Top Tips!

11 May 2020

Is anyone else finding the Covid restrictions and isolation hard? Us too! We have put together a few ideas below that have helped us. We hope you will find them helpful too!

 

In general

1) Do breathing or mindfulness activities to help manage some of the stress or anxiety you might be feeling. For example:

  • Notice where you are right now and what is happening in the moment rather than getting caught up in the "what might happen"
  • Do yoga to YouTube videos
  • Use apps such as Calm.com, Smiling Minds or Headspace.

2) Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. For example, you can:

  • Go for a walk or sit outside
  • Notice the colour of the sky, the breeze, the sounds of birds etc
  • Make a coffee and have virtual catch ups with friends
  • Watch your favourite TV shows or discover some new ones.

3) Eat healthily, get some exercise and sleep. Your immune system functions much better when it is well nourished, energised and refreshed.

4) Listen to facts rather than opinions. Watch and listen to reputable news and information sources. Look for positive stories and avoid sensationalistic social media feeds. Take a break from social media or the news if you need to!

5) At the end of each day, reflect on what you can appreciate or feel grateful for. Notice any positives about the situation in general or that may have happened that day. Try for at least 3 things. They don’t have to be big!

 

When self-isolating at home

1) Maintain a routine. Eating and sleeping at usual times. Schedule a variety of activities each day in your diary and do them! Made sure you include activities that help you to feel productive, that you enjoy, and that help you feel good.

2) Go outside each day if the weather permits. Sit in the sun, feel the breeze, notice any trees or flowers, hear the sounds of nature and, if possible, feel the grass under your feet or get your fingers dirty in the garden soil.

3) Maintain your activity levels. For example:

  • Do an online exercise class
  • Put your phone on the other side of the room so you have to get up to use it. Or better still, walk around when talking with someone.
  • Dance to some music - one of our favourites!

4) Embark on some projects, particularly if there are things you have been wanting to do. You could:

  • Sort through your photos and create some albums
  • Start a craft project like knitting or crocheting a rug
  • Tidy the linen cupboard, pantry or shed
  • Establish a veggie garden.

 

When working/researching at home

1) Create your work/research environment. Try to create an environment that you can feel calm and productive in. Place some items from your usual workplace e.g., plants or photos that you would usually have on your desk around you.

2) Set your hours, schedule lunch and morning tea breaks and try to retain your usual routine. If you ate lunch with a colleague each Tuesday or had coffee catch ups, do that virtually.

3) Develop a ritual for starting and ending each day. For instance, if you are working on your laptop at the kitchen table, place it on the table when you start and remove it when you finish. If possible, put it away where you can’t see it when you aren’t working.

4) At the end of each day, list what you achieved that day. You could also have an accountability partner whom you call each afternoon to let them know what tasks/activities you completed and vice versa. Also set your goals for the next day with them.

5) Be realistic about what can be achieved and adjust your goals and expectations taking into account that the environment may not be conducive to working as efficiently as you would like or that you may not have access to your usual resources.

 

Finally, be kind to yourself and others. Remember this will eventually pass!

 

Credit: a clever colleague of our Psychologist Aisa.

Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks

Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks

8 May 2020

With colder months arriving, lamb shanks are the perfect meal for those cold, winter evenings. They’re also perfect for days when you’re busy, because you can put this on in the morning, and a gorgeous, nourishing meal is ready for you at the end of the day. I particularly love lamb shanks because they are one of the cheaper cuts, but when cooked long and slow, are one of the sweeter parts of the lamb – and when paired with the perfect red wine, make for an enjoyable winter’s meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 lamb shanks – approx. 400g each
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 - 3 tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 onion , finely diced (or if Low FODMAP – 4-5 shallots – green part only)
  • 3 garlic cloves , minced (if low FODMAP, use Garlic infused olive oil above)
  • 1 cup carrot , finely diced (Note 2)
  • 1 cup celery , finely diced (Note 2)
  • 2 1/2 cups / 625 ml red wine , full bodied (good value wine, not expensive! Note 3)
  • 800g can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups / 500 ml chicken stock, low sodium (or water)
  • 5 sprigs of thyme (preferably tied together), or 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves (or 4 fresh)

To Serve:

  • Mashed potato, polenta or pureed cauliflower
  • Mixed green vegetables

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/220C.
  2. Pat the lamb shanks dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook lamb shanks in oven for 15-20mins
  4. Remove lamb onto a plate and drain excess fat (if any)
  5. Turn the heat down to medium low. Heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in the same pot, if needed. Add the onion/shallots and garlic (if using), cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Add carrot and celery. Cook for 5 minutes until onion is translucent and sweet.
  7. Add the red wine, chicken stock, crushed tomato, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to combine.
  8. Place the lamb shanks into the pot, squeezing them in to fit so they are mostly submerged.
  9. Turn stove up, bring to a simmer. Cover, then transfer to the oven for 2 hours
  10. OR if using a slow cooker, transfer to slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hrs, or high for 4 hours OR until suitably cooked
  11. Remove from oven, remove lid, then return to the oven for another 30 minutes (so 2 1/2 hours in total). Check to ensure lamb is tender - if not, cover and keep cooking. Ideal is tender meat but still holding onto bone.
  12. Remove lamb onto plate and keep warm. Pick out and discard bay leaves and thyme.
  13. To thicken sauce, add cornflour and water mixture to sauce and bring to boil on stove until desired consistency is achieved
  14. Serve the lamb shanks on mashed potato or cauliflower puree with plenty of sauce! Garnish with thyme leaves if desired.

Notes

1. Lamb Shanks - sizes vary considerably so make sure you get ones that will fit in your cooking vessel! 

If you don't have a pot large enough, you can switch to a baking dish for the slow cooking part, and cover with a double layer of foil if you don't have a lid for it.

You can also ask your butcher to cut the shaft so it bends if you are concerned, or to trim it slightly. 

2. Onion, carrot and celery is the "holy trinity" of slow cooking, creating a beautiful flavour base for the sauce. It's not a deal breaker to exclude the carrot and celery, but it does give the sauce an extra edge.

3. Wine - Use a good value full bodied red wine, like cabaret sauvignon or merlot. Shiraz is ok too. No need to use expensive wine for slow cooked recipes like this.

4. Sauce options: The other option is to blitz the sauce using a sick blender. The sauce will be thicker, and you'll have more of it (leftovers great tossed through pasta).

5. OTHER COOK OPTIONS:

Slow cooker - Follow recipe to step 7. Bring sauce to simmer, scrape bottom of pot to get all brown bits into the liquid. Place shanks in slow cooker, add the sauce. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove shanks, strain and reduce sauce to desired thickness on stove (if you blitz per Note 5, you won't need to reduce).

Pressure Cooker - Follow Slow Cooker steps, cook for 40 minutes on high. Release pressure according to manufacturer directions. 

Stove  - to cook this on the stove, cook for about 2 hours on low, ensuring that you check it at 1 hour then every 30 minutes thereafter to ensure there is enough braising liquid (because liquid evaporates faster on the stove). Turn the lamb shanks twice. You won't get the brown crust, but the flavour is the same!

6. Cauliflower puree - boil cauliflower florets until soft, drain and let steam dry for few minutes. Then puree with butter, milk or cream, salt and pepper. Use milk to adjust the consistency to your taste.

Alcohol Use and Covid-19

Alcohol Use and Covid-19

24 April 2020

Our Psychologist Ailsa answers your questions below about alcohol use and Covid-19.

 

1. Are you surprised that alcohol consumption has increased among Australians during the pandemic?
No. According to recent media reports alcohol consumption in Australia due to COVID-19 has increased by approximately 70%. Many Australians are feeling anxious, negative, stressed and unsure about the future since their lives have been turned upside down. As such, self-medicating with alcohol is not a surprise, particularly if people are no longer working, are experiencing financial problems, are self-isolating and have no regular daily routines. Drinking alcohol may help to relieve anxiety in the short term but not in the long term.
 
2. Why is this dangerous?
Alcohol is a drug on which people can become dependent which means more and more alcohol needs to be consumed in order to achieve a desired effect. Increased alcohol use may lead to a worsening of existing health conditions and increased risk of alcohol poisoning and/or alcohol-related harm. 
 
3. What are some strategies to help lower/take control of consumption?
Make a daily and weekly routine to structure your life which will help to establish a sense of normalcy, reduce the risk of boredom, keep attention focused on something, and offer distractions at times when people might be out and about around other people. 
 
Daily Routine:
Basic - make the bed, take a shower/bath and get dressed for the day
Nutrition - eat regular healthy meals and avoid snacking
Hydration - drink plenty of water
Sleep - go to sleep and wake up at regular times and stick to set sleep routine 
Sunshine - get outside in your garden or neighbourhood for some exercise as sun can also help your mood and sleep 
 
Weekly Routine:
Social connection - incorporate contact with friends or family on a regular basis, using phone or video calls when isolation requires it
Health - liaise with health health services and organise regular appointments in the week to maintain physical and mental health needs
Meal planning - write up your meal plan for the week and keep on track with nutrition. Advance planning will reduce the number of times you will need to go out to shop
Fun - get back into an old hobby or pick up a new one you can do from home, watch movies you have always meant to watch, catch up on shows you missed, pick up a book you never finished, get a new eBook online or download an audio book from your local library, play online games, play board games and card games. How about trying creative activities such as creative writing, drawing, painting or making music?
 
4. When do you know that consumption has become an issue?
There is no safe level of drug use. To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for healthy men and women it is recommended to drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. Binge drinking 6 or more standard drinks on any one day can be harmful and 2 alcohol-free days per week is recommended. A standard drink contains 10g of alcohol but many drinks contain more than one standard drink. Check the label on your bottle or container to check how many standard drinks are in it. If you are drinking a lot or finding it hard to control your drinking, needing to drink more to get the same effect, have a physical dependence on alcohol then you may have an issue. 
 
5. Where should one seek help if they have identified they need it?
The National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline 1800 250 015
Alcohol and Drug Foundation 1300 85 85 84
NSW Health Drug and Alcohol Service
Family Drug Support Australia 1300 368 186
Counselling Online 1800 422 599
Druginfo 1300 858 584
 
6. How does alcohol alter your mental state and why can this cause concern for people’s mental health?
Alcohol is a depressant so regular consumption of alcohol may lead to depression and anxiety, poor memory and brain damage, fluctuations in mood and poor sleep. Long term alcohol use may also result in physical problems such as fertility issues, liver disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. 
 
7: Anything else to add?
Why not turn COVID-19 into an opportunity to improve your health and well being, enhance and enrich your life? Why not sign up for Dry July and raise money for your favourite charity?

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