For many, Christmas is about family, but what happens when your family has been separated by divorce? Often, what has been your Christmas tradition for many years is now off the table. Divorce will all too often see a dramatic reduction in numbers of those you call family and friends. Many married men count the husbands of their wife's friends among their closest mates and divorce will often see them alienated as they break ties with their ex. Not to mention the loss of your ex's family from within your inner circle. Of course, the hardest part is having to split your children's time between you and your ex. It matters not if your children are young or grown up with families of their own, not being able to spend Christmas with them, hurts.
The Festive Season can be a time where many people will feel alone, with feelings of worthlessness and depression creeping in. It is also a time for socialising and work/office parties, a time when you may well be talking with people that you only see once a year. People like, colleagues from other offices/sites, the partners of workmates and friends of friends, people that may not know of the changes that have taken place in your life over the past year ( or so). These once a year acquaintances, in an attempt to be sociable, may well ask after your ex without knowing of your divorce/separation. Such situations can bring emotions to the surface, emotions that you had thought were under control, but now find yourself battling with. Many men having gone through divorce will try to abstain from socialising in an attempt to avoid questions of their relationship, however, during the festive season there is often a sense of obligation for you to attend. Combine all this with the presence and consumption of alcohol and it can become a dangerous time for anyone dealing with emotional issues. Alcohol and depression do not work well together, so if you are finding things tough this Christmas, watch how much you drink.
Dealing with a smaller social circle over Christmas
With divorce comes a reduction in the size of your social circle. A breakdown of a marriage or relationship will see a division and separation of assets and while most think of this only from a financial point of view, it is important to understand that in most cases there is also a separation and division of your social circle. Your ex's family will for the most part, tend to break of social ties with you, ( This doesn't necessarily mean they don't like you) and while it is quite understandable, it can still be hard. However it is the loss of the friends you shared as a couple, that can hurt the most. Unfortunately for all concerned, these common friends will often feel obligated to choose sides between you and your ex. It is an unfortunate fact that for the most part, your married friends will tend to side with your ex. The reason for this is actually quite simple. Think back to when you were happily married and imagine if you, as a couple, had to make that decision about some friends. Say what you will, but your wife would opt to stay friends with her "bestie" and whilst you could argue the case that you could remain friends with the husband, your wife would see it as betraying the trust of her friend. So, given the choice between your wife and her "bestie's" ex, the wise man chooses his wife.
The festive season is a time when we will feel the loss of these friends. Especially when it comes to those who you regularly saw at specific times. For instance, you may have, for the past 15 years spent Christmas Eve at a social gathering with a particular couple. Your ex remains very close friends with them and most likely will spend Christmas Eve with them again. So now, your left with not only a loss of some friends, but with the realization that you shall not be going to their houseparty again on Christmas Eve.
My advice is to accept that your Christmas Eve tradition is a thing of the past, move on and start a new tradition. This however does not mean you have to break all ties and civility with your friends. By all means send them a Christmas card, keep in touch via social media and even give them a quick call or text to wish them all the best for Christmas and New Year. Sure, they may no longer be part of your inner circle, but there is usually no need to cut ties as friends completely. They no doubt miss your friendship as much as you miss theirs.
The situation can be more complicated when you were very good friends with members of your ex's family. Again, for the most part there should be no harm in at least sending a Christmas card.
Sharing your children at Christmas after divorce
This is when it gets really hard. Like during the rest of the year, it is crucial that you never use your children as pawns in your battles with your ex. For most men in their 50's, their children will likely be adults and living a life of their own out of home. In this case then things are a little less complicated, much of the decisions on when you are to spend time with your children will be dictated by them. Many though, will have a partner of their own and so will be wanting to spend time with their partners family as well.
If however, like me, your children are younger and still at home then you will need to discuss seeing your children, with your ex. My teenage child lives with their Mum and so I am thankful that even though she has remarried we remain on good terms. For many of us without custody of our children, the festive season and particularly Christmas morning can be very difficult. I myself am a shift worker which makes scheduling visits even harder. The way you go about arranging to see your children over the Christmas period will very much depend on the relationship you have with your ex. My advice though, would be to speak with your children about what they would like to do and to not expect to have your children every year for Christmas day. One compromise that has worked for us, was for me to have my child until Christmas morning. This way both parents got to spend some of Christmas Day with them.
Something else that can get forgotten, is your family. Don't forget that your family will no doubt want to see your children over Christmas as well, most especially your parents. So please remember to allow your parents to see their Grandchildren over Christmas. I mentioned earlier that I had my teenager on Christmas Eve, what I didn't mention was that we spent that night at my parents. This gave my entire family the chance to see them and share gifts with them on Christmas morning.
Reboot your Festive Season
So what do I mean by "Reboot your Festive Season"? Your Christmas period is now going to be different to that of recent years, your divorce has made certain of that. So now is the ideal time to make the changes you want to make. Sure, you may not get to spend the season exactly how you would like, but then again, who actually does? So push that reset button and make the most of the opportunity to change. I myself love Christmas time and it is a wonderful family time. Now, ( if I am not working) I get to spend Christmas with my family and not having to share my time with my ex's family too. For those of you with Grinch like sentiments of disliking the whole Christmas thing, your single, make your own choices, book yourself on a cruise, go on a holiday, the choices are endless and yours alone to make.
Allow yourself to enjoy the season, don't hide yourself away at home. Go to those work parties, put up Christmas decorations and don't wallow in self pity. ( Plenty of time for that during the rest of the year)
Just remember though, not to go overboard with the Christmas spirits. Now that you no longer have a partner to watch how much you drink, remember to drink wisely. If you are still having a hard time dealing with the breakdown of your marriage, keep in mind that alcohol can make depressive thoughts much worse. So keep your self respect and dignity intact whilst enjoying this Festive season.
A long term relationship, whether married or not, should see a healthy compromise between the two people concerned. Whilst this should never mean a complete change in you character, it usually means a subtle change in priorities. After all, you intended on spending the rest of your life with your partner. However, combined with the passing of years and your advancing age, when a separation occurs, most men are left either reverting back to who they were before the relationship began, or wondering "Who am I now?".
To answer this, we need to look at a number of factors and ask ourselves a few more questions. First of which is "Am I Happy?", which for most of us post divorce the answer would most likely be no. Next is "Am I acting my Age?",it is all too easy to revert back to the person you once were, which whilst that sounds like a good idea, a 50 year old acting like a 30 year old is simply not right. Other questions to ask include, "What do I want from my future?, Do I care how others see me?, What defines me as a person? and What about me would I like to see changed?"
Am I Happy?
After my own separation and subsequent divorce, I will admit to being in quite a "funk", I certainly was not in a happy place. However, it was not until I asked this of myself that I realized that things could be different. I knew that my life was never going to be the same as it once was, but that did not mean that I couldn't be happy again. It dawned on me that now I was single, the onus was on me and me alone to decide what I wanted to do. No longer was I required to consult anyone before making decisions. In other words, no more did I have a ready made excuse to talk myself out of doing things I actually wanted to do. I started going out and seeing live music and comedy shows again and whilst I was still having some down days, being myself was certainly having a positive affect on my state of mind. This led to the realization that not only could I be happy again, but that I had the opportunity to rewrite who I was and do some fine tuning,
So I made a decision then to be who I wanted to be, not who I was becoming due to the expectations of others. Did I know who it was or what it was I wanted to become? Nope! I had no idea at all and that is part of the journey. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, my infamous red suede shoes became something of a catalyst of change. I saw them in an outlet store and was immediately drawn to them, although it was about 2 weeks before I finally succumbed to purchasing them. The knock on effect however, was that I felt the need to dress myself in a way that befitted these new shoes and so began my interest in dressing well and fashion as it relates to a (soon to be) 50 year old man.
Did I know or expect the knock on effects?Not at all. I started researching online and on social media to gain an insight into both what I liked and what was considered to be a "good" look for someone approaching his 50th birthday. This in turn lead me to an understanding of how I wanted to dress, what felt right for me. Soon I was purchasing sports coats, long sleeve button down shirts, an ever expanding collection of shoes and accessories. Dress well and you feel good, so my darkness was subsiding and people began to notice that I was more relaxed and comfortable in myself. I was beginning to get an idea of who I was.
What Defines You As A Person?
The answer to this is of course complex in its nature and much of it relates to the way others see you. Ask yourself this. You are talking with a friend and she mentions that she has began dating someone. What is it that you now want to ask/know about them? For many, the first thing is often , " What do they do?". Certainly a persons occupation can often give an insight into who they are, but we also possess a mindset of stereotypes that can all too often, result in an incorrect and often negative biased assumption. For instance I will quickly list a few occupations and I feel certain that everyone of us will in their minds will picture the very same stereotypes. Lawyer, driven by success, very materialistic and with a tendency to be morally flexible, Teacher, frumpy but caring with a heart of gold, Architect, drives a Saab and wears Turtlenecks, Bricklayer, drinks an excessive amount of beer, swears too much and smokes at least a packet of cigarettes a day. Now I'm sure that these stereotypes hold true for the odd individual, but to define someone based on a stereotype is just wrong.
For many of us, we are working in jobs that we "fell" into after deciding on a career change earlier in life. I for one am working in an occupation that is far removed for where my working life began. Whilst in school I realized I wanted to be a chef and did so for about 10 years before having had enough of a very dog eat dog industry and left. With no job/income, I began casual labouring as a way to pay my bills, this led to my getting full time employment in the mining/refinery industry. So did the essence of who I was as a person change radically with change in my employment history? Was the Chef me, a different person to the one who worked in a soft drink factory or the one who spent his working hours pouring gold bars, of course not. So what then defines us?
Who Do You Want To Be?
So if we shouldn't be defined by our choice of occupation, what then does define who we are and how does that play into knowing who we want to be? I know it is a cliche but who we are is more about our interactions with others and our choices in our own free time. When talking about rediscovering/reinventing yourself post divorce, I am not talking about making radical changes to your core personality traits (Unless you have negative traits that do then require changing). In this instance I am referring to changes that will make you happy, happy in disposition, happy with who you are and happy with your life in general.
This means identifying, who/what you wish to be and what sort of life you want to lead. Be aware that this may well be a process of evolution and that one change may lead to another until you arrive at the destination you didn't realize was there. I discovered early on, thanks in part to those redshoes, that I wanted to dress better and take better pride in my appearance. I also was aware that as a person , I liked who I was, so my core character traits I was happy with. Whilst I knew I enjoyed my own time alone, I was also aware that finding love again was something I wanted, to achieve this, I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone and actually meet people. So began my experiences with speed and online dating.
After divorce or the loss of a long term relationship, we should all take stock of our lives, learn what our priorities are and rediscover who we are as individuals. I guess it really comes down to identifying those elements that you would wish to change, those that will make you happy and allow you to move forward with your life and then working towards making those changes happen.
Divorce is a time that will see us at our most vulnerable, this is amplified somewhat by the complexities of going through it at around 50 or older. There is a rule of thumb which applies to the time taken in getting over divorce. The person who initiates the divorce will get over the divorce quite quickly as usually they have spent a few years building up to initiating it and it is in these preceding years that they are at most risk of depression and mental health issues. Whereas the partner who was not wanting the divorce (and likely blindsided by it ) is forced to come to terms with so many things in an instant and as such will often find that during the already traumatic divorce and separation proceedings that they may well struggle with their mental health.
Such was my own situation. I was in my mid to late forties when I was informed that my marriage was over and that there was no hope in its resuscitation. Thankfully for our teenage child, we have remained on very good terms. So does the fact that our divorce was without the animosity so often seen, mean that my state of mind was saved from mental health concerns? Yeah Right!!!! I still struggle on occasions, however thanks in part to my own previous experiences, I am able to not allow "the Black Dog" to take hold and am also aware of my early signs.
So lets have a look at what are some of the issues that can affect our mental health when going through divorce as we approach our Fifties and beyond. To begin, there is the obvious, the very fact that your relationship has come to an end. Unfortunately, many of us still feel they are in love with their partner and so the very real grief over the loss of them in your life is often enough to send your mental health spiraling down. Thoughts of " how am I going to live my life without them" are to be expected. Compound that with thoughts of why did they leave me, what did I do wrong, can I be happy ever again? ( Of course you can), whats wrong with me? etc and you are beginning to concoct a dangerous cocktail. Of course these things apply to any relationship break down at any age whether married or not.
Going through a divorce in and around your 50's, brings with it more questions and complexities. You would have been expecting to be growing old with your partner and so now your future has changed. A divorce closer to 30 will afford you a glimmer of hope for your future in your own mind.( Of course you won't think that way straight away, but knowing you have many years left will eventually fill you with hope). First of all, unless you are 120 years old or more, you still have the opportunity to find a new future and live a wonderful happy and contented life. The age of 50 need not be a stumbling block, if people such as Colonel Sanders, Ray Kroc and Morgan Freeman can become household names after 50 then surely, finding happiness again, is just a matter of living life again.
Homelessness is something, like suicide is a very hushed up dirt secret of divorce. Some figures suggest that 10% of divorces result in homelessness. So often people are left without they ability to pay rental deposits, even if they are working full time. Of course for most, this is only temporary. In most cases, unlike mine, those in and around their 50's are more financially secure so the rate of homelessness decreases.
The financial strain of divorce and the separation of assets, is very real and something that is far easier to deal with when mentally prepared for its onslaught. In my own situation, once I had to deal with the fact that I was to be divorced and would see less of my teen child, I had the separation of assets to deal with. This resulted in what was for me, one of my lowest times in my life. I faced financial ruin, due to factors beyond the control of myself or my ex. Whilst I will not offer up my financial figures, I shall give an overview of the unfortunate events that took place.Whilst I know there are many far worse than I, it is important to know that divorcees at 50 can and do bounce back, just like myself. My ex and I had originally agreed on a 50/50 split of assets, however due to laws unique to my State we were unable to utilize a private agreement. This meant that standard legal forms, the court system and lawyers were required and a 34/66 split was the best option. The intent was always for me to keep the house which was heavily mortgaged. However, luck was not on my side, a woefully high initial housing valuation, the courts taking way too long to process our application and a massive plummet of housing prices in the mean time saw me paying out 93%. ( The dollar amount remained the same but my net worth had plummeted resulting in the higher percentage) To compound my anxiety, I was legally required to pay a specified amount, an amount that was proving hard to obtain as the new house valuation meant that no lending institution would offer me a loan. My house was worth less than I now owed my ex. However, thanks to some miracles performed by my mortgage broker ( If your in Western Australia and want a great broker, let me know) and help from family I was able to narrowly avoid bankruptcy. Again, this is not meant as a "woe is me" story, but an example of the pressures divorce and separation can bring and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Another factor that comes in to play for divorcees in their 50's and beyond, is the fear of growing old alone. Whilst you have many years left, a common fear is to be frail , old and alone. Let me assure you that you will have many years and opportunities to rectify being alone if you want to. For every Man that gets a divorce there is a Woman doing the same thing. Sure the dating scene has changed and is intimidating, but opportunities abound. Take a look at my blog post on Ready To Date Again and you will see that the future is indeed yours.
How to deal with all this stress?
Well, I can only talk from my own experience, but as a survivor I have learnt a few things. Firstly, I would say, accept that it may be a rough ride for a little while, allow yourself time to grieve. Try to avoid spending too much time on your own to dwell on the worst case scenarios. Spend time with the right friends and family. It is vitally important that you chose carefully who you spend time with whilst in a vulnerable state. Avoid those people who whilst they maybe great friends and good people, may have a tendency to be negative. Instead, spend time with those who are great listeners, those who can listen without the need to express many of their own opinions. Resist the urge to turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to combat the way you feel and of course avoid those people who will want to become drinking buddies, the temporary relief is NOT worth the longer term effects. I am not suggesting you go all teetotal, but be aware not to see your drinking increase. Seek out friends and family who are active and sociable, having a beer or two at a mates BBQ for instance will allow you to think of things aside from your current woes. Don't become a hermit and hide away, go to the footy, visit friends, watch a movie or see a live band. What you need to be doing is avoiding the temptation to overthink things, "stew in your own thoughts" and become more depressed.
Listen to your sensible friends if they suggest you see a doctor. Do not ever feel it is a sign of weakness to seek out professional help. For most people, depression brought on by a single event ( like divorce) is both treatable and temporary after seeking help. The best place to start is your local GP who can in many cases treat you themselves, if not they can refer you to those who can.
Of course professional help need not just be medical. Don't be afraid to seek out help or advice from those in the know. Basic divorce advice can be obtained online from both government agencies and other organizations. Places like the Citizens Advice Bureau or Relationships Australia are a great place to start. But it is more than simple divorce advice that may be needed, so don't be afraid to seek advice from Divorce Lawyers ( You will need one) or Financial Advisors. It is quite likely that you may feel trapped, overwhelmed and confused so getting advice from varying experts as well as research online is a great way to clear the fog and lift the weights weighing heavy upon you.
Divorce is a new beginning, not the end.
My own post divorce journey is far from over. Yes I am still single and my financial debt could be far smaller, but I have well and truly moved on. I am, for the most part very happy. I have had the opportunity to rediscover myself and to blog about it.
I am not saying that your post divorce life will be easy, but rest assured it is far better than it seems when your in the middle of it. There are some major hurdles to face whilst going through divorce and separation, all of which you will get past, it is simply a matter of if you choose the bumpy ride or the trek through mountainous rainforest inhabited by dangerous wildlife.
I'm sure that most people are well aware of R U OK Day. For those that are not, R U OK is an organization in Australia that promotes discussion on Mental health and suicide. At its core, is encouraging people to ask friends, family and workmates if they are O.K and in doing so, help to prevent suicide and to offer a friendly ear to those in need of help. There are a number of wonderful organizations that are available to offer help to those dealing with fragile mental health and R U OK is but one. I will post links to some other organizations throughout this post.
The reason I brought up R U OK first is I too am hoping to encourage discussion. Like so many men post divorce, I have had my share of dealings with the what Sir Winston Churchill referred to as the Black Dog. In fact, for much of my life, like so many people, I have had my fair share of battles with depression. However, for now I shall discuss how mental health affects both divorced men and men in their fifties.
Of course, for many men of my age, admitting that you are struggling with some mental health issues would be a sign of weakness and non manliness. The first thing we need to understand though, is that this is far from the truth, after all we find it quite acceptable to claim that we are in fact dying when struck down with "Man"Flu, yet when struck down with an illness that claims an alarmingly high number of lives, we expect ourselves to toughen up and push on through it. It is important to note, that I am not a Mental Health professional, but someone who has lived through bouts of depression and seen loved ones struggle with their own battle.
Divorce and the breakdown of any long term relationship, can be expected to leave anybody in a fragile mental state. Going through divorce, even one as amicable as mine was, is a harrowing experience at best. Your sense of self worth is likely to be at an all time low, your life has been turned upside down and all too often your financial security is under threat. From my own experience I recommend that anybody going through divorce, a relationship break up or any other traumatic experience, seek some advice from your regular doctor or at least get in touch with one of the many mental health services available online or by phone. Chances are that you will be fine, but why risk seeking advice too late. Most individuals who get diagnosed with depression, regret not seeking help sooner. The fact is that "feeling sad" is only one of the symptoms.
It is also important to understand that it is quite normal to have days when you feel down occasionally and that having the odd down day is not necessarily an indicator that you are depressed, it just means your are normal.
Now do not get me wrong, I most certainly enjoy a good cup of coffee, but for me, Tea is my caffeine source of choice. I have always been a tea drinker. In fact among the wonderful memories I have of my paternal Grandparents are ones of tea and porridge. My parents were like many Australians, coffee drinkers, yet my Grandparents whose families came from Scotland and Wales, preferred a good pot of tea. I recall with joy, after staying the night at my Grandparents house sitting at the kitchen table whilst Pop made porridge and Nanna brewed tea in a blue Aluminium tea pot. As a child/teen we were never really allowed to drink tea or coffee, however there was one exception each year, fruit picking season. My Grandparents/Parents had a small plum orchid, so come January we would be up by 6:00 and in the orchard picking plums, as the day warmed up ( January in Perth is the middle of Summer and with an average of 31*C( 88*F), would regularly get to 38*C (100*F), we would move to a corrugated iron shed where we would start grading and packing the fruit. The heat was stifling, but come morning tea time, we would all sit down and enjoy some cake accompanied by a pot of tea. How I enjoyed that tea. Since that time,I have always found tea a perfect summer drink and my happy place.
To be honest, strange as it may sound, making and enjoying a good cup of tea is quite calming. There is a certain ritual element to making tea, follow that with sitting down and taking the time to savour your cuppa and you can feel the stresses dissipate. It can almost be meditative.
The thing is, as most tea drinkers will attest to, very few people know how to make a good cup of tea, even tea drinkers themselves often cannot make a good cuppa. Insipid, pale, milky and lukewarm, often with a teabag still in the cup to counter the fact that they know full well that it looks awfully weak.
So how then do you go about making a good cup of tea? Well for starters, like anything else, it begins with wanting to, if you simply cannot be bothered then your tea will be warm watery milk. Of course as many will be aware, Tea can be purchased in one of 2 ways, Teabags and Loose leaf, both of which require slightly differing approaches when using. Whereas I do prefer loose leaf tea, there really is nothing wrong with teabags. So lets explain the difference.
Teabags will usually be made using lower grade tea, using the fines and fannings. So basically what this means is that the tea in teabags is a lot finer, much smaller particles and so therefore more surface area is exposed. This results in two things, firstly a much faster rate of evaporation of the essential oils in the tea which means less flavour and secondly, a lot more of the tannins coming out when steeping(brewing). The tannins are responsible for the bitterness and astringency in tea, much like they do in red wine.
Loose leaf tea on the other hand is made with either whole leaf tea or at the very least a much larger cut. So while this means less tannins and bitterness, it does mean that a longer time is required to steep your tea. There are however, some basic rules that will apply to both.
Types of Tea
There are also a number of differing types of tea, all with variations on their making. Tea is made from the leaf and leaf buds of the Camellia Sinesis plant. Herbal teas like chamomile are not actually a tea but a Tincture. Most tea as we know it, is Black Tea, which is a fully oxidized tea, unlike the partially oxidized Oolong or the unoxidized Green, White or Golden Teas. There is also flavoured teas, the most well known of which is Earl Grey, a Black Tea flavoured with the herb Bergamot. As a general rule of thumb, the more subtle flavoured teas like Green and White are served without milk, whereas as the stronger Black teas are served with milk as an option. I myself am a Black Tea drinker with a small dash of milk, however the best tea I have tasted was a White tea from Elmstock called Golden Tips, but it is a bit too pricey for my daily consumption.
Making the Perfect Cuppa
I will focus on loose leaf tea, but the very same rules apply to teabags, the main difference is due to its smaller size, the steeping is much faster. So what do you need? Tea leaves, Water, Kettle and a Teapot.
Tea leaves. Just like coffee, there is a large range of teas, all with varying strength and flavour, single origin tea, tea from different countries and climates, all with their own characteristics. It is up to you to find what type of tea you like. Personally I quite like a stronger and better quality tea like Elmstock Great Grandfather Tea ( a Single Origin tea from Sri Lanka) or Ceylon Pekoe. There is also different grades of tea, for instance, Orange Pekoe (OP) are the young tips, Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) smaller broken tips or Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP) which is a truly premium quality tea.
Water. The important things to know about water is, fresh water is paramount. Never reboil water, a good pot of tea requires oxygenated water, and boiling the water removes oxygen. So empty your kettle and put fresh water in each time. Filtered water is much better too, tap water tends to contain chlorine and the like which affects the end result. My grandfather used to always take a thermos with rain water as he disliked tea made with tap water. The other thing to know, is temperature. Most black teas are best brewed at 90-100*C (194-212*F) whilst White and Green teas are best brewed at between 65-80*C (150-180*F). Oh and do not over boil your kettle, wait by your kettle and make your tea, don't wander off and do something else and comeback and make your tea. The reason to not over-boil, is the longer your water boils, the more oxygen is removed from your water.
Kettle. The thing to remember with your kettle is to ensure it is clean and to not over boil the water. You can buy Kettle Cleaner or you can use Bi Carbonate Soda and vinegar every now and then. Using a kettle cleaner usually involves adding the cleaner, filling with water, boiling it , let it sit and reboiling. Then reboil with fresh water and rinse.
Teapot. Teapots come in all sorts of materials, glass, ceramic, aluminum, stainless steel, porcelain and even enamel. Something to bear in mind though is the thinner and lighter the teapot is, the faster it will cool down, whereas the heavier pots will retain their heat. I personally use a glass teapot, whilst it does cool down, slowing down the steep, I am fine with it, as I don't drink my tea piping hot anyway. The glass teapot, doesn't need pre-warming and of course you can see through it so it is easier to judge the colour of your tea.
The steps to making a good cuppa.
It really is quite simple.
1- Preheat your teapot (or cup if using teabags)
2- Bring fresh water to a slow boil and pour over tea leaves (1 teaspoon per person) immediately for black tea or cool slightly before pouring for Green tea.
3- Allow to steep. Always follow the times on your packet, but a good guide is Green Tea- 2 to 3 minutes, Black Tea- 3 to 5 minutes and White Tea- 5 to 7 minutes.
4- If your pot doesn't have an in built strainer, use a tea strainer to remove the tea leaves when pouring into the cup.
5- Milk and/or Sugar can be added to the cup before or after if desired.
A couple of extra points. If adding milk, never use UHT or skim milk. I personally use HiLo milk which has a lower fat content than full cream milk because I find full cream just a bit too creamy for tea.
The way you store your tea is crucial as well. Store your tea in an airtight container, somewhere dark and dry. Exposure to light and air will oxidize your tea, and avoiding any humidity will prevent it being tainted by mould. However, one aspect of tea that many people are not aware of, is that tea is Hygroscopic, which means that it will readily absorb both moisture, odours and flavours. So store your tea by itself, all alone. My Mum used to store all her teabags in one jar. Which sounds OK right? Well not if your mixing black tea, with green tea and peppermint tea. The bags of black tea, tasted horrific simply because they were absorbing the green tea and the peppermint flavours. So ensure your container is clean and is not tainted by the odour of anything you stored in it previously and is not going to allow light or moisture in.
Another point is choose your cup carefully, no need to have one of those little teacup and saucer sets unless you desire to do so. However, choose a thin walled cup, ideally fine bone china or porcelain. It may seem like an odd thing, but it certainly makes a difference. Drinking tea from a thick chunky coffee mug is far less enjoyable. The cups I use at home are very fine walled coffee cups, I use coffee cups because of their size, I like a good sized cuppa.
So now, go and put the kettle on, make a pot of tea and sit quietly and enjoy it and let the world go on without you for ten minutes.
I have been drinking Elmstock Tea for many years now, and naturally I would recommend trying their tea if you are looking for a good cuppa. Elmstock tea is not available through normal retail outlets, but can be purchased through their website and offer a large range of teas, both loose leaf and teabag.
Grooming products for your face? Yes Guys, you need to establish a grooming regime and one that will at the very least incorporate these five essential products. By the age of 50, the signs of ageing will have started to become apparent, but I can assure you, that it is never too late to start a skincare routine.
In an ideal world we all would have started our routines in our early 20's, but for most of us, myself included, it was never exactly high on our list of priorities. We are all aware of the simple fact that our skin ages, this ageing process generally begins in our early 20's, a time in which our bodies slowly start a decrease in the natural production of things like Co-Enzyme Q10.
Having a few lines on your face at the age of 50, is not only to be expected but adds a certain amount of character and charm to our appearance, but a basic grooming routine enables us to slow down the degeneration of our skin, projects an air of someone who whilst comfortable with natural ageing, takes pride in himself , as well as makes us feel better about ourselves.
A couple of points before you raid your girlfriend's/wife's bathroom cabinet. The first thing to understand is that men's skin, differs from that of women. The first and most obvious difference is facial hair and our need for regular shaving.
However, as men, we produce more testosterone and this results in our skin being tougher and up to 25% thicker. So, rule number 1 is to use products designed for Men, the added bonus of course is that any fragrances used will be more masculine and wont leave you smelling like your Grandmothers garden.
The men's skincare Industry is growing exponentially and offers a great variety in both quality and pricing, but most women will tell you, don't automatically assume that the more expensive the product the better. Quite often the benefits of a product 5 times or even 10 times the price of another are so negligible that the value is simply not there.
Many of the products I myself use are what I shall call supermarket brands and as such are significantly cheaper in price than the high end brands. Of course you are free to spend as much as you wish, but if you are only starting your grooming regime, you may see the prices on some of the products and wonder how you can justify the expense and so simply give up on the idea of a skin care regime altogether.
The following product types are what I consider the basics,the products every man should be using. I will likely discuss additional products that I recommend using, in a future blog. But for now lets start with the basics, a starter pack if you will.
So lets begin with something that unless you posses a fully hirsute face, you will be familiar with. Shaving. I will begin by saying that I hate shaving, and generally only do so a couple of times a week. I can get away with this because one, I am single two, I quite like how I look with a few days growth and lastly, my job is not one whereby appearances are important.
I myself have sensitive skin and suffered for many years with regular and rather bad shaving rash. I would often have to apply a cortisone based cream just to eliminate the red raw rash and inflammation on my neck. This continued, until I discovered that using a shave oil, as well as a shave cream/gel provided the extra lubrication needed to eliminate shaving rash.
The issue with using a shave oil is that by its very nature it is oily. My neck was always oily, and my bathroom sink was always left with a thick oily residue, however as I no longer was suffering from an appalling shaving rash, I tolerated these inconveniences.
So what is the purpose of Shaving Cream/Gel? For the most part there are two tasks that it performs. The first is to hydrate the facial hair, which has the effect of softening it and therefore making it much easier for your razor to cut.
The second reason is to provide a cushion of lubrication to protect the skin against the friction of your razor blades. The end result is a closer and more comfortable shave,with less complications from shaving rash, ingrown hairs and infection.
With the exception of a few products on the market like shaving soap, this lubrication is done with either a shaving foam , a shave gel or a cream. All perform the same basic role and so it really does come down to a personal preference.
I personally prefer a gel as I find that the thick white foam does not allow me to see how well I'm shaving unlike the more transparent and thinner gels. After years of either shaving rash or oiled up bathroom sinks, I have discovered an Australian Premium Men's range that has a shaving gel that leaves me with no rash even without the use of oil.
Black Leopard Skin Boosting 2 in 1 Shave Gel Cleanser, is a premium product and so more expensive to buy than a supermarket brand, however I feel this to be one product where paying the extra for a premium product is worth it.
If you are anything like most men, you will either think using a Facial Cleanser is too girly or you have no idea at all what it is. A facial cleanser is exactly what it sounds like, a product specifically designed to clean your face.
So why use a specialist face cleaner rather than just soap? Well to be honest, you are better of removing that bar of soap all together, but for now I am talking about your face.
Part of your skins defense, is it's natural pH level of about 5.5. Which makes it slightly acidic, now regular soap is slightly alkali, which means using soap on your skin, especially your on face will change the pH level of your skin resulting in a neutral or worse still an alkaline pH, allowing bacteria and disease to take hold. We see the results of this with at best, minor blemishes and acne.
Your skin produces a natural oily substance called Sebum, which does a number of different things, it helps to maintain your skins pH, controls moisture flow both in and out of the skin, it aids in moisturizing your skin and it also acts as a protection against bacteria and disease. Soap however is too harsh a cleaner, ridding the skin of its Sebum.
Ironically, by riding your skin of this natural oil you are increasing the likelihood of blackheads and pimples. A Facial Cleanser on the other hand is pH balanced to match your skin and whilst it does a great job of eliminating dirt, grime and oils, it leaves behind an ideal amount of sebum, ensuring your skins natural defense is still intact.
Unlike my recommendation in Shave Gel, I have found the cheaper supermarket brands to be more than adequate and just as good as the premium branded cleansers. I have tried a number of different brands and including Primal Earth, Bulldog and Nivea Men.
Primal Earth is a New Zealand based company that produces a range of inexpensive Men's skincare products that use plant based ingredients and avoid harsh chemicals and artificial colours, they also proudly do not utilize animal testing.
Post Shave Balm
As a guy with sensitive skin, I know first hand the benefits of using a Post Shave Balm. However, don't get Post Shave Balms and Aftershave confused.
Aftershave is an alcohol based fragrance that will dry and inflame your skin whereas a Balm will soothe and moisturize your skin. Lets be honest, dragging a razor across your skin may well cut your facial hair but it aggravates your soft facial skin,leaving it exposed to bacteria and disease.
Most balms contain ingredients like Aloe Vera which helps to soothe and calm the skin as well as mild moisturizers and cleansers to clean and replenish your skins moisture levels. My sensitive skin has a tendency to flare up with shaving rash if I don't use a balm afterwards , even when using a great shave gel like Black Leopard.
Again my own experience has seen me using one of two products, Black Leopard After Shave Balm or the less expensive Nivea Post Shave Balm Sensitive.
Whilst the very act of shaving with a razor has an exfoliating effect, it is still recommended that we as men regularly exfoliate. Now it is important to note, that it is crucial that you use the correct type of product, that is a Facial Exfoliate designed for men.
You see that there are many exfoliates on the market that are designed for the body and hands, great products and the use of which I recommend, but not for your face. Exfoliates contain small sand like particles that act a bit like sand paper.
Products designed for the tougher skin on your hands and chest tend to contain larger particles often made from things like ground nut shells, whereas for your more delicate facial skin the particles are far smaller, smoother and much less abrasive. Think of them like car polish, instead of using a harsh Cut and Polish compound, use instead a light polishing cream. Both contain a fine grit but one is far more aggressive and damaging if used wrong.
Again, much like car polish, the job of an exfoliate is to remove dead skin cells ( or dead paint in the case of your car). By doing so, not only does your skin look fresher and healthier, but it is removing pore clogging dead skin and encourage new skin growth.
It is also important to note that this is not a daily routine, once or twice a week is all you need, any more than that and you risk doing damage to your skin. Because of its harsh nature, I would recommend buying a better quality product here, as they tend to contain a finer and smoother grit compound. A product like Black Leopard Hydrating Face Scrub is a good example of a premier quality scrub.
Some would say the key to maintaining your skins health and vitality is the daily use of moisturiser. Ideally you should be using 3 separate moisturisers, a moisturiser with a sunscreen after your morning shower, a heavier moisturiser at night before bed accompanied with an eye cream. The reality is most guys are not even going to consider doing that. I personally only use an eyecream and one type of facial moisturiser
A daily moisturising routine will obviously supply much needed moisture to your skin, the results of which are, smoother and softer skin, less obvious wrinkles and a slowing down of visible ageing. To be honest, you would be amazed at just how much better you will feel after a only a month or two, your face will feel less tight and you will look more alert. I can honestly say that you will be glad to add this to your daily routine.
As for what to get? first of all find a product you like, most cheaper moisturisers work primarily by using oils to prevent moisture loss, whereby most of the premiere products use ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid and Aloe Vera, which whilst expensive, help to draw moisture into the skin itself.
My moisturiser of choice is yet again a Black Leopard product. I do like their Anti Shine Moisturiser. However, I did not start out using it but began with a simple supermarket product. I found the Loreal Men's range to be quite good but like many moisturiser ranges there is quite a choice.
Moisturisers are often tailor made for differing skin types and ages. As a man rapidly approaching his 50's, look for products that say things like " age defying", it is not just marketing hype, but rather the products are designed with the differing needs of ageing skin.
The single most important thing to remember about moisturisers, is to use them on a daily basis, after washing your face with a good Facial Cleanser.
Unfortunately, as we grow older our bodies develop aches and pains that we scoffed at when in our 20's. For many years I have had the "pleasure" of enduring the occasional tension headache.
Today, was one of those days. I woke this morning, after a late night of live music and a few drinks, to a sore neck and a head that felt like it was in a vice, even the slightest of movements or bright light sent my head pounding and my stomach churning.
Whilst it is certain that my ageing body has made me more susceptible to such headaches, it is worth noting that, for the most part I should be able to prevent them from occurring or at least lessen their severity.
Tension headaches are perhaps the most common of all headaches and whilst the root cause may vary, the common factor is still the same, tension. So, it makes sense then to ascertain what the cause of any tension headache is so that it can be combated.
In general, a tension headache is caused by tension in your neck and shoulders, but what causes that tension can vary. Overuse of your neck and shoulders, poor sleep, especially with a poor mattress or pillow choice, extended time spent hunched over looking at your computer screen, smartphone or even a book. Other contributing factors include stress, anxiety, depression, bright lights or noisy environments.
In my case, whilst their may be several contributing factors, I find that if I get over tired and therefore sleep "heavily" I will often wake with a sore neck and a headache. Last night was a case in point, I did have a late night and slept very soundly after spending the evening, listening to loud music whilst hunched over leaning on a railing and having spent money on a number of drinks at the bar. (p.s. No! I wasn't hungover, but a few drinks coupled with a late night ensured a heavy sleep).
So aside from taking some anti-inflammatories, with food of course, what were my options? Well I could have spent the day moping around being a grumpy old man for the rest of the day, but that was not going to be very productive.
So I started with a hot shower and whilst any movement was unbearable, I performed some basic stretches on my neck and shoulders with the hot water on my back. Personally I always find that a hot shower followed by a good pot of tea, improves everything. (Pot of tea? See I am getting old. )
Whilst I did feel a little better , I was still not in any shape to hit the day running. My next step was to get out my tube of fisiocrem. Fisiocrem is a wonderful herbal solution that was recommended to me by two Physiotherapists and contains the like of Arnica and Calendula. I have found it more effective than any other over the counter product for use on muscle aches. This time however, like the shower, it helped but not enough for my liking.
My next approach was to jump in my car and head to my nearby shopping centre/mall, where there is a small shop offering massages. I feel certain that you are familiar with the type of shop I refer to, an Asian massage shop with curtained off booths offering a basic massage service.
I have been to this shop a number of times and whilst I know not to expect the quality deep massage one would get from a professional sports/therapeutic masseuse, I for one find them to be a good entry level massage. Rather than just getting a neck massage I chose the neck/shoulder and back massage. I did so as quite often, lower back issues can manifest higher up, resulting in neck and shoulder problems.
In this instance it was money well spent, whilst I still feel a little tightness in the neck, my tension headache has abated and I am feeling great. I firmly believe that such massage shops offer a good service, however I will make a point of saying that should your symptoms not ease, a trip to a medical professional, be that your GP or a qualified Therapeutic Masseuse is in order.
Of course prevention is always better than cure, so how do you go about preventing tension headaches in the first place? Well, for me I know that losing weight is always going to help, and that is a work in progress. However, exercise and stretching is perhaps the best thing you can do to prevent any muscle related ailments.
One of the best forms of exercise, both for combating tension headaches and simply for men in their 50's, is Yoga. For many guys, you will no doubt have the idea that yoga is for women and its not a serious form of exercise. On both counts I can assure you that is not the case.
I myself, over the past 6 months have attended a number of yoga sessions and have been surprised at just how intense even a beginners session can be. Plus, at none of the sessions was I the only male there. The attendees have all been of a wide variety of ages and of both sexes.
The benefits of yoga are many and varied, but improving your flexibility, your core strength and your overall fitness, are the most relevant here. It is also a good social gathering, which is always a bonus for us single men, who knows who you may meet.
There are many types and levels of yoga ,so I suggest you simply start with a beginner level. A quick search online or even a phone call to your local council should reveal a number of local yoga classes. Many gyms hold yoga sessions, with non members attending on a pay as you go basis.
By the way guys. Embrace your age, do not pretend you are still 35. Whilst we are not all as genetically gifted as the likes of George Clooney or Nick Wooster, we can still look good at 50 and beyond. For me, having grey hair in my 30's ( well actually my late teens) was not something I felt proud of, I am now happy to rock a head of grey. If the Clooney's and Wooster's can do it so can we.
As for wrinkles. Your supposed to have some, I mean how foolish do those 50+ year old men look with their post facelift skin stretched taut across their face. By all means avoid premature aging with the aid of a good personal care routine. All men should have a routine that involves the use of moisturizers developed especially for men.
Now the other thing that I am yet to mention regarding reinvigorating your look, is for those who like myself are starting to date again, surely it makes sense to look your very best. Dressing up, rather than down not only imbibes you with more confidence but it also exudes a more confident air.
You will appear to be someone who has their life in order, someone who takes pride in himself and therefore others too. The end result is quite simply, you will appear far more attractive, which after all is the whole idea when dating.
I have over the past 2 years, started to get back into the dating scene again and whilst I am still at the time of writing, single, I have met some wonderful people. The dating scene has changed a great deal over the past 10 years and it is only natural that a 50 year old, enters this scary new world with trepidation.
Online dating is something that I have tried, along with speed dating and more traditional ways of meeting people. One thing my experience has taught me is that not everyone is ready to date again, regardless of having an online dating profile or their presence at a speed dating event.
Looking back, I for one, was not really ready when I first put my self out there. It would seem that for many, myself included, dabbling in online dating can at first be a way to "test the waters", a right of passage without having to dive head first into dating and risk being hurt.
We all know that it takes time to move on from previous relationships, especially when the decision for it to end was not our own, and nobody wants to be hurt again. It simply doesn't matter if we are 20 or 50 , our instinct is to be cautious and wary about opening ourselves up too soon.
However, just as our natural instinct is to remain guarded, most of us also fear being alone and crave the companionship of a special someone. The end result of these conflicting instincts, is for many of us to re-enter the dating scene before we are totally ready.
The first thing I wish to say is that, understanding that this in itself is both normal and a part of your journey, is the first crucial step in your search for love again. Over the past two years, I have met many lovely women who unbeknownst to themselves, had a protective wall built around them.
It is of course almost impossible to gain much of a rapport or connection with someone who is not willing to open themselves up, the end result being that we would both not feel the desire for a second date. I should add that, 3 months, 6 months even a year later, things may well have been different.
Knowing and accepting whether or not you are fully ready to date again is crucial , for if you are still in that initial stage of dating where you are building a protective wall, then your dating attempts are likely to be unfruitful. This of course then leads to a negative headspace, "Whats wrong with me", "Am I unlovable" etc.
So instead of filling your head with self doubt, ask yourself, " Am I genuinely ready to start dating and open myself up to possibly being hurt again, or am I still being overly cautious and guarded?" If you feel that you are indeed not allowing yourself to be fully open, understand that this is OK, the very fact that you are trying the dating scene again says that you are half way there.
Do not take it a a sign to drop out of the dating scene all together, rather, keep going, get out there met new people, practice your dating skills and know that your very next date may find you both ready to date and in the company of "the one". Accept that all this is part of the journey and your road to finding your special someone.
Since my 20's, I would rarely spend money on clothes, for the most part, I simply did not have the money, then when I did, I had a mortgage and a family of 3 to support. However, now single, I am certainly not rolling in the money, but my priorities have altered. I now have a desire to dress well, believing in the adage that "It is better to dress up than down".
Of course the blogosphere is full of male bloggers saying that all men should own at the very least a well tailored navy blue suit and then they continue to talk about work wear in the form of business attire. I do NOT wear a suit at work, my work wear is blue overalls, work boots and a hard hart. So I cannot really relate to those demanding I purchase a Navy suit.
So how did my journey into an interest in style begin? Well, with my red suede shoes. Now bright red shoes are not the usual choice of most middle aged men and they certainly draw a lot of comments.
Truth be told it took be 3 weeks of not being able to forget them, before I relented and purchased, what was then the most expensive pair of shoes I had ever bought. Every time I wear them, I feel a smile form on my face and I feel good about myself, so I guess you could say that they were indeed a fantastic investment.
To begin with I had figured that this was where my spending on clothes was to end. After all, my new shoes could be worn equally well in a casual or semi formal setting. What more could a guy need? It soon became apparent to me that my usual attire of blue denim jeans ,t-shirt and hoodie, not only looked tired and lazy but were not really all that age appropriate for someone closing in on 50.
So after time spent looking online at blogs and social media and I soon realized that I wanted a Sports Coat/Blazer that could also work in a variety of settings, something that paired well with dark denim jeans and smart dress pants.
After much research online, I headed off to the city totally confused about what I wanted to buy with my limited budget. I certainly found and tried on, a large number of fantastic jackets but the numbers on the price tags were causing heart palpitations.
Then, on walking past the Hugo Boss, Ted Baker and Country Road attire, I spied a rack of heavily discounted menswear. Of course, I am not a man of slender proportions, I have broad shoulders and midriff which is disproportionately large for my height, this in turn meant that much of the discounted jackets wouldn't fit.
There was however one that did, Navy blue in colour and made from velvet, not something that I was looking for. I let that jacket stay on that rack on and off all day, before eventually returning and laying claim to the 70% discount. I will admit that as I rode home on the train, I was experiencing some buyers remorse and doubted my choice of material. I mean its VELVET, what was I thinking?
Of course, like my beloved red suede shoes, I now love my jacket. I don't wear it that often now as my wardrobe options have expanded somewhat, but it stills does pair well with jeans and my red shoes or with dress pants and polished brogues.
These two items of clothing, altered the way I saw myself. Not only did I feel better, but I felt the desire to dress better on a daily basis. With the obvious exception of my overalls and work boots at work. I began to do more research and get a feel of what I liked, what I felt I needed to replace and most importantly for me, how I could do so without breaking the bank.
Sure, I've made some less than ideal purchases and am much wiser for it, the end result however is I now possess a great wardrobe of clothing, suited for all occasions and have an understanding of my own personal style and taste in accessories. By the way, I still haven't bought a Navy Suit. I also have an abundance of advice gleaned from my own experience on do and don'ts and ways to save money on purchases.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.