Travelling with a pet during COVID19

Wow what an intense month! We have finally arrived in Athens, Greece after an extremely stressful and emotional journey. We decided to move here from the UK back in September so it’s been a mad few weeks preparing for the move, packing up the house and organising our travel. I brought my cat Teddy too as there was no way I could leave him behind so I had to make sure he had all the right vaccinations and paperwork to travel too. I knew it would be a challenge but I wasn’t prepared for what was to come.

Our saga began on Thursday morning… the courier was coming any time between 7 and 10am so transport our stuff to Greece and I was up before 6am because I had too many things on my mind. I let Teddy outside and he came in about 15 minutes later crying and scratching at the door. I let him in and he ran straight under the bed to hide. I didn’t think anything of it because he was a bit anxious with all the activity in the house so I just put some food out for him and shut him in the bedroom whilst we loaded the van. After the courier had left, I managed to coax Teddy out from under the bed and realised he was limping and had a swollen jaw. I couldn’t believe he had got hurt the day before we we due to travel after 6 months of no issues at all!

He seemed pretty stressed and not himself so I called the vet who said to bring him in. I had already handed back my company car so I had to take him in a taxi. Thankfully everything was ok the vet told me had been in a cat fight and been bitten on the leg but he gave him some painkillers and antibiotics and said he was fine to travel. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed until 7pm when I was checking whether I should feed Teddy before the flight in the morning when I realised I had packed his pet passport and vaccine certificates in the boxes to Greece which he needed to fly. Only one word – NOOOOO. I was in such a panic as the vets was already closed and I didn’t think I would have time to organise it in the morning. Luckily, I called the vet just in case and he was still there and told me to come at 9am to pick up a new one. Although I would have to pay full price (even more than a human passport!) I didn’t care at that point.

So on Friday it was another early start and taxi to the vet but we managed to get it sorted and then our journey began. We set off at 10am and travelled to London St Pancras by train from Nottingham which was fine although a bit uncomfortable with the masks and everything. Teddy didn’t like the noise too much or being stuck in his carrier but he was ok and settled down. I used a Pet Remedy, a calming essential oil spray for animals, on his carrier and blankets and it seemed to help. Things were going well, until Yannis realised we hadn’t completed the Passenger Locator Form for COVID19 travel and that it had to be filled in the day before travel . He was stressed I was pretty calm because I was sure they would help us at the airport and it would be fine.

We changed to the underground to travel from St Pancras to Heathrow Airport. That was pretty nasty, it was more full than the train and some people weren’t even wearing masks. Teddy hated it and started shaking but I covered his carrier with a blanket and he calmed down. We made it to the airport around 1pm and grabbed some lunch before heading to the bag drop. Straight away we saw the sign “No QR code – No travel” and my heart sank. We couldn’t get the QR code without completing the Passenger Locator Form and the system wouldn’t let us do it because it was too late. We asked the attendant from Swissport if there was any way around it and she said no exceptions, you have to change your flight.

At that point I just collapsed and started crying, somehow having Teddy with us made it feel like even more of a big deal but also I was just emotional after all the stresses of the previous weeks. Luckily Yannis was there to support me and after a lot of argument with Swissport he managed to book onto 4.30pm flights the next day which cost us £500 as the flight was full. There was a 12pm flight too which would have cost £700! We were so frustrated at the system, especially because it was only Greece that had the day before rule and Aegean Air had only mentioned it in tiny small print at the bottom of the check in reminder email. There were two other groups in the queue behind us who had the same issue and the cashier told us at least 20 people per day were making the same mistake. This just made us even more angry!

We found a cheap pet-friendly hotel nearby with rooms available. It was a 5 minute journey and the taxi driver said it would cost £25 – insanity! We were in serious money saving mode now so we went there on the free airport bus instead. We spent the night in the hotel room, I went out and bought a chippy tea and some beers for us and some cat litter and used a cardboard box with a bin liner as a make shift litter tray for Teddy. He seemed ok just a bit confused but we were totally exhausted. Yannis checked our tickets and realised that Swissport hadn’t booked the luggage or Teddy onto the flight even though we asked three times and they assured they had. We called Aegean to fix it and they told us there was no space on the flight now but Yannis persuaded them to let us onto the earlier flight which had space at no extra cost.

So the next morning we arrived back at Heathrow for round two. When we went to the bag drop off and asked where the pet area was the attendants looked at each other confused and said they hadn’t been expecting an animal and that there was no space in the hold – WHAAAAT?! They said we could change our flights again or he could come in the cabin with us but they said his carrier was too big as I had bought him a bigger dog one so he would be more comfortable. That was the last straw, we were so annoyed and after more arguments we were adamant that we were taking Teddy on the plane and I would put his carrier on my lap. After all of that stress and money spent there was no way we weren’t flying to Greece that day.

The next challenge was getting through security. I have never travelled with a pet so I had no idea what to expect. We had to pass security ourselves then take Teddy to a search room and take him out of the carrier so it could be passed through the scanner. Yannis had to hold him for 5 minutes as the security officer said “whatever you do do not let him onto the floor”. Anyone who has met our cat will know he does not like being picked up and he will fight to the death so Yannis had to hold him Simba style while he was kicking and scratching and then had to get him back into the carrier after. Not an easy feat. After that he seemed really stressed and I felt so awful. We found a spot to sit in the waiting room and I sprayed more of the calming spray and played classical music on my phone next to his carrier. It might sound crazy but it did help!

Now for the final stressful part of the journey, actually getting on the plane. We had to take Teddy to the back of the plane during take off for safety reasons but then I could have him on my lap for the rest of the flight. He absolutely hated it. He was crying so loudly and trying to escape the carrier during take off and then he was shaking uncontrollably and panting for the rest of the 4 hour flight. I was so upset and scared he would have a heart attack or something, even though I know shaking is a natural reaction for animals who get scared. I was seriously doubting whether this was a good idea at this point, I had genuinely been optimistic that he might be a bit nervous but then would fall asleep once we were in the air. At least it was better than him being in the hold because I could talk to him and put my hand inside the carrier.

I will fast forward the flight as it was just me holding my breath hoping that Teddy would be ok. I couldn’t focus on my book or podcast I just sat there wishing for it to be over. Once we were on the other side, the wait for the luggage seemed to last forever but finally we were in a taxi on our way to Filothei. We got to the house and I let Teddy out of his carrier in the bedroom. He hid under the bed for 5 minutes but after that he recovered and was exploring the room as if nothing happened. He calmed down and ate some food and I could finally relax. We were both so knackered after the journey, we ate and went to bed around 10pm. I feel like I am still recovering but feeling much better now and Teddy is settling too although he is still not fully himself. I read that it can take up to a week and he has had quite the ordeal.

So now it’s time to relax and explore Athens. I can laugh now and the whole journey can become a distant bad memory. It was definitely worth it but I doubt I will ever travel with an animal again in my life – definitely do not recommend!

Emotions in motion

As I am writing this, I am on cycle day 33 and expecting to start my period any day. I can feel it coming in my physical, mental and emotional body. The last few days I have been feeling really lethargic and unmotivated, my body aches and even an hour walk left me in need of a nap. I’ve been feeling everything.. fear and anxiety around COVID19 situation and the future state of the world, uncertainty about how life will look in a years’ time, loneliness from not being able to see my family and boyfriend and the majority of my social connections being through electronic devices, boredom and frustration at not being able to go out and do things in the way I used to.

Not that I haven’t been feeling these things for a while, but at this time of the month they are so much more intense! It’s tempting to just distract from these things with TV or social media (and sometimes I do fall into that trap) but I know it’s also important to sometimes just feel things and let them pass in their own time. So I have been spending time just chilling these last few days, taking slow walks, lying on my bed listening to music and practicing gentle yoga. I realised that emotions aren’t static but they come in waves. If I watch them and make space for them then they move through pretty quickly. If I fight them and try to force myself to be productive or to engage with people when I’m not feeling like it then the mood can stick around all day.

After practicing menstrual cycle awareness for a few years, I know that the pre-menstruum is the time to surrender and let all of these emotions run their course. It can feel like I’m losing it sometimes as I shift from taking everything in my stride to being unsure and doubtful. I think without that knowledge and awareness of my own patterns it would be so much harder to comprehend and accept this. It definitely helps to know that the comfort and bliss of menstruation is waiting on the other side. Even though my period comes with some physical pain, mentally and emotionally I feel so much more stable and certain of myself.

In the last few months, my cycles have been unusually long which I put down to stress and worry as nothing else in my lifestyle has changed. This has meant a loooong pre-menstruum. I wonder if it is my bodies sign that it has more to process and needs to stay a while in that “inner autumn” state? Giving me the “gift” of fatigue to force me to stop and take time out. Unfortunately we can’t control our cycles and just have to let our own experience guide us and trust our bodies know what they are doing. It’s kind of fascinating really when I can take a step back and observe the patterns without getting too tangled up.

I haven’t had much time or energy to write my blog lately as there is so much going on in my life but I can’t wait to get back to posting regularly. I am moving from the UK to Greece in a few weeks time so I have a lot of planning and organising to do but once I arrive and get settled I’ll be back to it!

The power of a morning ritual during a crisis

I have known about the power of the “morning ritual” for a while now and it was a key part in my healing from hypothalamic amenorrhea and adrenal fatigue, but with work and other commitments its very easy for this to fall by the wayside. With the current global drama that is sweeping the planet right now, getting back to a morning routine has really helped to reduce my anxiety levels and help me to cope. It’s such a bizarre situation that I never would have imagined could happen in my lifetime but here we are.

In the first week of lockdown I was glued to the news, switching on the TV first thing in the morning to see the latest updates whilst drinking my coffee. I didn’t realise but this was the worst thing I could possibly do. Right after waking up, stressing out my mind and body with scary information and a caffeine hit on top sent me on an anxiety rollercoaster for the rest of the day. As someone with a sensitive nervous system, I tend to easily get overwhelmed and overstimulated. Maintaining my hormonal health is a priority for me so when I started noticing symptoms of cycle imbalance, I pretty quickly realised I needed to find a better way to start my day if I wanted to stay healthy and sane during this crisis.

However, I also can easily fall into a perfectionistic, over-controlling mindset so I knew that a prescriptive morning ritual was not what I needed. This is a really great time to embrace the intuitive, fluid feminine energy rather than the rigid, inflexible masculine. So rather than set out exact steps of what to do each morning, I thought about the building blocks that make up a healthy morning routine and now I use these as the foundation to create a unique ritual each morning to start my days off on the right foot.

  1. Hydration

Getting some sort of fluid into my body first thing in the morning always helps me to wake up and feel energised. I know a lot of people prefer to just go straight into breakfast in the morning but I always wake up with a dry mouth and I am so used to this now I can’t imagine staring my day without it. I don’t think it’s necessary to drink a litre of water or anything crazy but just a small cup of something is great to wake up my digestive system and feel refreshed. What I drink depends on the day but its usually either lemon water, green/herbal tea, a smoothie or plain water. I still drink a coffee most days but I make sure its later in the morning to allow my body to wake up naturally.

     2. Quiet time 

Having a moment of stillness and quiet is really important. We spend most of our days being bombarded with information either from the news or social media and it’s very easy to distract ourselves by constantly seeking stimulus. I’m not saying that we should (or could) avoid this altogether but giving myself the gift of 30-60 minutes of quiet time in the morning has done wonders for my stress levels during the day. Again it depends on the day but I will use this time either to read, play with my cat, write in my journal, meditate or just sit and watch out of the window. I just do whichever or a combination of these depending on how I’m feeling each day.

3. Movement

The last thing I like to do before getting on with whatever activities I have for the day is to move my body. I am generally not in the mood for intense exercise early in the morning but going for a walk in the park outside my house or a gentle yoga practice is a great way to refresh my mind, wake me up and reduce muscle stiffness after a night’s sleep. I was resistant to practicing yoga in the morning for a long time as I preferred to do it later in the day when my muscles were warmer and I felt less stiff. But I’ve started to enjoy doing a short practice first thing and then on the days I feel like doing a longer or more intense practice doing this at lunchtime or early evening.

I’ve actually enjoyed following yoga practices on youtube lately. Even though I’m a qualified yoga teacher there is something soothing about being guided through a sequence and it allows me to really relax and melt into the flow rather than thinking about what comes next. Plus it’s great to see other teaching styles and get inspiration for developing my own lessons for when this quarantine is finally over! Some of my favourite morning yoga flows:

The Mindful Movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQiMhQ9DO_A

Yoga Upload: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvfHJ9dJXak

Yoga with Adriene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-Q7H8afamg

Cat Meffan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFw7wOqLJO0

I hope this gives you some inspiration for how you can start your day off on the right foot. Let me know your morning routine or if there are any other morning yoga flows that you enjoy as I am always looking for new teachers to follow 🙂 P.S I look hench on this photo.. who said yoga is easy??

morning yoga