We met mum-of-two, Ushma, in March 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, when her five-year-old daughter was suddenly taken ill and had to spend five weeks in Great Ormond Street Hospital. This was a confusing and incredibly worrying time for both mum and daughter as specialists rallied around doing all they could for Ushma’s daughter whilst the country was going into its first lockdown.
In amongst the uncertainty, we were able to offer a glimmer of sunshine and distraction for Ushma’s daughter whom we had the pleasure of meeting when she joined our virtual art session one week. As she began to feel better, we were so happy to see her getting involved in our virtual magic shows and singing lessons too.
During the daytime, we could provide some distraction from the worries around her and help bat away the anxious clouds for a while. Yet, at night-time, these fears would return, and she would find it very difficult to get to sleep.
Ushma said: ‘As a mother, being alone in hospital with my poorly child was one of the hardest and most testing times ever. I just wanted to take her pain away and I felt entirely helpless. All I could do was show her love, compassion, and a huge smile whenever I was around her. However, when I was up at night with her, I wish I had someone to talk to or I wish that I could have helped her settle better to sleep amidst all the noises, traumatic experiences of the day and the anxieties of doing it all over again tomorrow.’
Ushma’s daughter was discharged with a diagnosis of AHUS – an ultra-rare autoimmune disease – and the support of an at-home nursing team. Although it was a relief to be home, the trauma of being so poorly in hospital continued to affect her sleep.
‘She would say to me: “Mummy, I have lots of tabs open in my mind, that’s why I can’t sleep, can you help me close them?” It was then that I started to explore all the ways I could help her switch off and release her anxieties.’
Ushma found reading detailed stories to her helped calm her before bed and soothed her to sleep.
‘That’s when I started to write and record myself reading mindful sleep stories and guided meditation and visualisation for other parents who were going through the same situation with their children. That was when The Mindful Almond was born. Now, both my children listen to the mindful stories before bed and it really helps them switch off.’
The Mindful Almond now offers a range of mindful sleep stories that parents can access to help their children who are having trouble sleeping. These stories sit amongst a collection of mindfulness resources that all aim to help bring some warmth and comfort to children at bedtime.
Laura Walter, Director of Services at Spread a Smile, says: ‘We are so supportive of the work the Mindful Almond does and are really looking forward to having her at our summer party. We’re pleased to say that families will also be able to tune into Smile TV for more videos on mindfulness from The Mindful Almond very soon, and we’re hoping to be able to bring bedtime story virtual sessions for children in hospital towards the end of this year.’
You can find out more information about the wonderful work The Mindful Almond does at https://www.themindful-almond.com/