Is stress a friend or foe?

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of why managing it is not just a luxury but a necessity for your overall well-being. I’ve got some hints and tips that’ll not only inform you but also add a sprinkle of fun to your stress-busting journey.

So, picture this: stress hits, and your body turns into a chemical factory, churning out adrenaline and cortisol. Now this might sound helpful in a crisis, but when these things stick around for too long, trouble brews. Your body starts releasing glucose, prepping you for an escape, but in our modern world, it’s more likely you’re escaping deadlines than trouble.

Now, here’s the kicker – prolonged stress levels can wreak havoc on your body. Your metabolism goes haywire, storing more belly fat and making it a stubborn companion. It’s almost like stress is the unwanted guest that rearranges your furniture and leaves you with extra weight to carry around.

And if that’s not enough, this can also affect your appetite. Suddenly, you’re reaching for fast food and milkshakes instead of a well-balanced meal. It’s a craving carnival, and cortisol is the ringmaster. Or in my case, the chocolate and wine were my nemesis. I don’t do that anymore though.

But wait, there’s more! Stress isn’t just playing havoc with your waistline; it’s also giving your gut a rollercoaster ride. Short-term, it messes with your appetite and slows down digestion, while long-term stress can trigger gastrointestinal dramas like constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion. Talk about a gut-wrenching situation!

And here’s the twist – a stressed-out gut isn’t just about physical discomfort. It can mess with your mind too. Stress and anxiety can trigger gut symptoms, and having a digestive condition can amp up your stress levels. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario, and neither is particularly enjoyable.

when I was off work with burnout in 2011 I went from fit and healthy to comfort eating. I gained over 3 stone in the process, so I know just how damaging stress can be when left unchecked.

How can I overcome stress?

I’ve got some simple tricks up my sleeve to help you reclaim your Zen. Try diving into a yoga class, embracing mindful meditation, or indulging in some deep breathing exercises. Learn the magical art of saying “no” more often – it’s liberating, trust me.

And don’t underestimate the power of self-care! Whether it’s a 15-minute escape or a luxurious hot bath, find what works for you. It’s not just about beating stress; it’s about embracing a lifestyle that keeps stress at bay.

So, let’s flip the script on stress, have some fun along the way, and reclaim control over our bodies and minds. You’ve got this!

In the hustle and bustle of the modern world, sleep is often the first casualty of our busy lives. Stressed professionals, in particular, frequently find themselves sacrificing sleep in favor of work, meetings, and endless to-do lists. However, this relentless pursuit of productivity often comes at a steep cost. Quality sleep is not just a luxury; it’s a non-negotiable component of optimal performance and well-being. In this blog, we will explore the importance of quality sleep and offer practical tips on creating a sleep-friendly environment. As a professional coach, my aim is to help you reclaim your sleep and, in turn, your vitality, focus, and overall success.

Lack of sleep has the same symptoms and feelings as being very drunk. Not just tiredness but also the inability of the brain to function properly. Almost like a brain fog. After prolonged bouts of bad sleep the body also starts to feel achy and tired.  All in all, a very bad place to be.

The Importance of Quality Sleep

Enhanced Cognitive Function

Sleep is when our brain processes and consolidates information acquired throughout the day. It is the ultimate cognitive reset button. A well-rested mind is more alert, creative, and able to make sound decisions.

Improved Emotional Resilience

A good night’s sleep equips you with the emotional resilience to handle stress and challenging situations. Without it, stress can become overwhelming, leading to burnout.

Physical Health Benefits

Sleep is vital for physical health. It aids in the repair and regeneration of cells, enhances immune function, and helps maintain a healthy weight. Lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Increased Productivity

Contrary to the popular belief that sacrificing sleep leads to higher productivity, consistent, high-quality sleep boosts productivity and efficiency. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish with a rested mind.

Creating a Sleep-Friendly Environment

Establish a Consistent Sleep ScheduleWoman sleeping comfortably

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

Optimize Your Bedroom

Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for resting. Ensure your room is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Invest in a good quality mattress and pillows to provide optimal comfort and support. Make sure your pillow gives adequate neck support for the position you lie in most often.

Limit Exposure to Screens

The blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets, and computers can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Aim to avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime. I also advise against having a TV in the bedroom. The temptation to watch it while falling asleep is too great. Watching TV before sleeping can also affect your sleep quality. It is one of the things we changed when we moved. No TV in the bedroom.

Watch Your Diet

Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. These substances can interfere with your quality of rest. I find that alcohol in particular is very dehydrating so I do not sleep as well if I have had alcohol in the evening. I do drink lots of water but I can still feel the subtle difference. Also women in menopause, if you are like me, the alcohol will lead to hormone imbalance and make any hot flushes worse when you go to be, so a double reason to limit alcohol. Everything in moderation.

Develop a Relaxing Pre-Bedtime Routine

Engage in calming activities before bedtime, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practising mindfulness or meditation. These activities signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. A foot soak with some Epson Salts is also great for relaxing and helps rebalance the body. All you need is a bowl, some warm water and some Epson Salts, which you can get in any supermarket. It is a great way to wind down. You can even listen to music or read at the same time.

Manage Stress

Stress can keep you up at night, so it’s crucial to manage it effectively. Engage in stress-reduction techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, or journaling, to ease your mind before sleep. Journalling is particularly good as it gives the brain the opportunity to download everything you are thinking or worrying about. It allows the brain to release all those thoughts. It is also a great creative pursuit.

Get Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality. However, avoid intense exercise close to bedtime, as it may energize you and make it harder to fall asleep. An early morning walk is particularly good for resetting your body clock and helping you sleep at night. HAve a listen to Michale Mosley’s just one thing on BBC for more info. Early Morning Walk

As a professional coach, I understand the immense pressure and demands on your shoulders. But sacrificing sleep is not the solution. Lack of sleep can exacerbate the challenges you face. To perform at your best, you need quality sleep. By implementing these sleep hygiene tips and creating a sleep-friendly environment, you can take a significant step towards improving your overall well-being and professional success. Prioritise your sleep, and watch as your vitality, focus, and resilience soar to new heights. Remember, in the pursuit of success, quality sleep is amost valuable asset.

In the fast-paced world of professional commitments and personal responsibilities, achieving a harmonious work-life balance has become an elusive goal for many. As a stress management and well-being coach, I understand the challenges individuals face in juggling demanding careers and personal lives. In this guide, we will explore practical strategies to help you strike a healthy work-life balance, preventing burnout and promoting overall well-being.

Set Clear Boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life is crucial. Define specific working hours and resist the temptation to bring work home. Communicate these boundaries to colleagues, friends, and family, helping them understand and respect your designated time for relaxation and personal pursuits. If you absolutely must work outside of hours then make sure it is only for a defined amount of time or you will start to feel the effects of burnout. Everyone needs some time to rest and recuperate. the body is not designed for full-on all the time.

Prioritise Self-Care to Achieve Balance

Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day, and engage in activities that rejuvenate your mind and body. Whether it’s a short walk, meditation, or a hobby you enjoy, these moments of self-care are vital for maintaining balance and preventing stress from accumulating. I am looking forward to completely disconnecting until 8th January. I have planned a craft day, meeting friends for coffee in the local village, having everyone around for Christmas Day and Boxing Day and looking forward to some quality family time. The rest of the days will be spent in quiet contemplation, taking a walk in the local countryside and chilling out with some favourite Christmas movies and some mulled wine.

Effective Time Management

Efficient time management is the cornerstone of a balanced life. Prioritise tasks based on urgency and importance, and be realistic about what you can achieve in a given timeframe. Utilise productivity tools and techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique, to maintain focus and prevent burnout.

Learn to Say No

One of the most challenging aspects of achieving work-life balance is the ability to say no when necessary. Assess your commitments and avoid overloading yourself with tasks. Politely decline additional responsibilities that may compromise your balance, ensuring that your energy is directed toward priorities. Can be a little more tricky if you are self-employed. turning work down can feel very risky. Still equally important though. When you are the only person in your business it is even more important to look after yourself.

Create a Dedicated Workspace

If you work from home, establish a separate and dedicated workspace to create a clear distinction between your professional and personal life. This physical boundary can contribute significantly to mental separation, allowing you to “leave work” when you step away from your workspace. Even go as far as putting on work clothes, walk around the block and come back in, sit at your desk. When you finish, do the opposite and then change into your loungewear. It can help the feeling of separation between work time and personal time.

Unplug and Disconnect

In the age of constant connectivity, it’s essential to unplug regularly. Set specific times to disconnect from work-related emails and messages. Establishing digital-free zones, especially during meals and before bedtime, can help you recharge and foster better relationships with those around you. Now that we all have email on our phones, the temptation is even greater to just quickly check to see what has come through.

Invest in Personal Relationships

Nurturing personal relationships is paramount to a fulfilling life. Allocate quality time for friends and family, and make an effort to be present during these moments. Building a strong support system outside of work can provide the emotional resilience needed to navigate professional challenges.

Regularly Assess and Adjust

Work-life balance is dynamic and requires regular assessment and adjustment. Periodically evaluate your priorities, goals, and commitments. Be willing to make changes to your schedule or workload as needed, ensuring that you maintain a balance that aligns with your overall well-being.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is an ongoing process that requires mindfulness, dedication, and self-awareness. By implementing these strategies, you can proactively prevent burnout, enhance your overall well-being, and create a life that harmonizes professional success with personal fulfilment. Remember, it’s not about finding a perfect balance but rather creating a sustainable and fulfilling rhythm that works for you.

Somatic movement refers to a type of movement therapy that focuses on improving the mind-body connection and releasing chronic muscle tension. It involves a series of gentle, mindful movements that aim to retrain the brain and nervous system to restore natural alignment and relieve pain.

How Somatic Movement Can Help

Here’s how somatic movement can help align the body and potentially alleviate pain:

Sensory Awareness

Somatic movement practices emphasize developing sensory awareness of the body. By paying attention to subtle sensations and movements, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their body’s patterns, tensions, and imbalances. This increased awareness is crucial for recognizing areas of misalignment and pain.

Release of Chronic Muscle Tension

Somatic movement techniques often involve slow, gentle movements designed to release chronically contracted muscles. These movements help to reset the resting length of the muscles and alleviate habitual patterns of tension that may contribute to pain and misalignment.

Neuromuscular Re-Education

Somatic movement aims to retrain the nervous system and brain to restore optimal movement patterns and alignment. By engaging in specific movements that target areas of dysfunction, individuals can improve coordination, balance, and posture, leading to better alignment and reduced pain.

Mind-Body Connection

Somatic movement practices emphasize the integration of the mind and body. By incorporating mindful attention and intention into movement, individuals can develop a more conscious relationship with their body. This mind-body connection allows for greater self-awareness, self-regulation, and the ability to make conscious choices that support alignment and pain relief.

Stress Reduction

Chronic pain can often be exacerbated by stress and tension. Somatic movement practices can help individuals relax, reduce stress, and release emotional and physical tension. By calming the nervous system and promoting relaxation, somatic movement can contribute to pain reduction and overall well-being.

While somatic movement can offer significant benefits, it’s important to note that it may not be a cure-all for all types of pain. It’s always advisable to consult with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or movement specialist, to address individual needs and develop a comprehensive pain management plan.

Why I Became a Teacher of Somatic Movement

As a teacher of somatic movement, I chose this path after overcoming personal stress and chronic pain. My journey began with a deep desire to find a way to heal my own body and mind. Overcome the relentless grip of chronic pain.

For years, I had been trapped in a cycle of physical and emotional suffering. The weight of stress seemed insurmountable, manifesting itself as tension, anxiety, and a constant sense of unease. At the same time, chronic pain was an uninvited companion that followed me everywhere, dictating my movements and limiting my abilities. Nearly three migraines a week! Sciatica that just would not go away!

In my quest for relief, I stumbled upon somatic movement. Through gentle and mindful movements, I discovered a profound sense of release, both physically and emotionally. It was as if I had unlocked a secret door within myself, leading to a realm of freedom, vitality, and resilience.

Delving Deeper

As I delved deeper into my own somatic practice, I couldn’t help but notice the transformative impact it had on my life. I felt empowered, no longer a victim of my circumstances but an active participant in my healing journey. My chronic pain diminished, replaced by a sense of ease and grace in my movements. Furthermore, stress no longer controlled my thoughts, as I learned to cultivate mindfulness and presence.

The realisation that somatic movement held the key to my liberation was a pivotal moment. I felt an overwhelming urge to share this profound gift with others who were suffering, just as I had been. Therefore, I wanted to guide them toward the path of self-discovery, helping them uncover the innate wisdom of their bodies and unleash their own potential for healing.

Becoming a teacher of somatic movement was a natural progression in my personal healing journey. It allowed me to fuse my passion for movement, mindfulness, and compassionate guidance into a purposeful vocation. Witnessing the transformations in my students’ lives. Watching their pain subside, their stress dissolve, and their bodies awaken to newfound freedom. Additionally, it’s a humbling and gratifying experience.

The Resilience of the Human Body

Each day, I am reminded of the incredible resilience of the human body and spirit. I am inspired by the courage and dedication of my students as they embark on their own healing journeys. Consequently, through my teaching, I strive to create a safe and nurturing space where individuals can reconnect with their bodies. I help them cultivate self-awareness, and tap into their inner wisdom.

I chose to become a teacher of somatic movement because I believe in the power of this practice to liberate individuals from the shackles of stress and chronic pain. My personal experience has taught me that true healing comes from within. I am honored to be a guide and witness to the transformative potential that lies within each of us.

Unlocking Resilience: How Coaching Can Help You Navigate Stress

Life can be filled with exciting opportunities and inevitable challenges

Hey there, fellow small business warriors! Life in the world of entrepreneurship can be exhilarating, challenging, and at times, downright stressful. As a resilience coach, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the incredible power of coaching in helping individuals manage and relieve stress. Today, I want to share with you why coaching is an amazing tool for stress relief and how it can benefit you as an employee in a small business setting. So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, sit back, and let’s dive in!

  1. Understanding the Stress Beast:

Stress is a sneaky little creature that can creep up on us when we least expect it. Tight deadlines, high expectations, and a never-ending to-do list can all contribute to stress. But fear not! Coaching provides you with a safe space to explore and understand the sources of your stress. It helps you identify your triggers, recognise patterns, and gain clarity about what really matters to you. By shining a light on the stress beast, coaching empowers you to take back control.

  1. Crafting Your Stress-Busting Strategies:

Coaching isn’t just about understanding stress; it’s about taking action. Through thought-provoking conversations and powerful questioning, your coach can help you uncover your strengths and resources. Together, you’ll develop personalized strategies to manage stress effectively. Whether it’s setting boundaries, practicing mindfulness, or honing your time management skills, coaching equips you with practical tools to combat stress head-on.

  1. Nurturing Emotional Well-being:

In the fast-paced world of small businesses, emotions can run high. Coaching offers a non-judgmental space to express and process those emotions. Your coach will listen attentively, providing empathy and support. Ultimately, acknowledging and validating your emotions, coaching helps you build emotional resilience. You’ll discover healthy coping mechanisms and develop a deeper understanding of yourself, which ultimately leads to a more balanced and fulfilled life.

  1. Enhancing Self-Care Practices:

As employees in small businesses, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and neglect self-care. Coaching serves as a friendly reminder to prioritize your well-being. Your coach will encourage you to carve out time for self-care activities that nourish your body, mind, and soul. Whether it’s taking regular breaks, practicing self-compassion, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy, coaching empowers you to invest in yourself. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup!

  1. Building Resilience for the Long Haul:

Running a small business is like riding a rollercoaster—full of ups and downs. Coaching focuses not only on stress relief but also on building resilience. Your coach will guide you in reframing challenges as opportunities for growth. Also, they’ll help you cultivate a growth mindset, strengthen your problem-solving skills, and bounce back from setbacks with renewed determination. With coaching by your side, you’ll develop the resilience needed to navigate the unpredictable twists and turns of entrepreneurship.

Coaching is a transformative tool for managing and relieving stress. It provides you with a supportive partnership, empowering you to understand the sources of stress, develop effective strategies, nurture emotional well-being, prioritize self-care, and build resilience. So, don’t hesitate to seek out a resilience coach who can guide you on this incredible journey. Remember, stress may knock on your door, but with coaching, you’ll confidently show it the way out.

Stay resilient!

Starting a new garden from scratch

Gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, and it can also be a therapeutic activity that helps reduce stress and promote relaxation.

When we moved into our new house last year, I had no idea I would end up completely redesigning the garden. That was certainly not my plan. But it sort of evolved from changing a few things to doing a complete redesign. It was a daunting task but has bought me so much joy to see the plans all come together. There is still a lot to do, but it is a project that will continue to evolve over the next few years. Of course, any gardener knows, you are never ever really finished anyway, there is always something new to try.

Gardening also has many practical benefits, such as providing fresh produce for your family or beautifying your home. I did have an allotment when I lived in London because the garden was so small. Now I hope to be able to combine beauty, a lovely outdoor space for entertaining, and a space for fresh produce too. It won’t have rectangular beds with produce in military rows though, but more an idea I picked up from watching Alys Fowler from Gardeners World. The idea is that vegetables and herbs can be beautiful too. A little bit of creative companion planting can work wonders.

I am delighted to say that the front garden is completed, except for regular maintenance. We have the most beautiful scented roses growing over the front of the house. some wisteria too. Spring and summer are an absolute joy!

If you have never gardened before

If you’re thinking about starting a garden, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • First, you’ll need to choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight and has good drainage.
  • Then, you’ll need to select the right plants for your climate and soil type.
  • Once you’ve got your garden started, be sure to water it regularly and keep an eye out for pests or diseases.
  • With a little care and attention, your garden will soon be thriving!

Small Spaces

If you only have a small space then never fear. A few well-placed window pots or some pots dotted around to add colour and variety can be fabulous. Here are a couple of books that inspired me when I had a tiny garden. If you have a larger space then all the better.

Vegetables in a Small Garden: Simple Steps to Success

The Small Garden

Where to find inspiration and help

One of the biggest challenges can be knowing where to start so a couple of good books to help you along and give you some ideas can be terrific. Visiting some of the RHS gardens, if you have one near you, can be a great way to get inspiration, as well as great help and advice. They run short courses now too. This summer I attended one because I want to create a flower bed in the back garden. I wanted to know a bit more about planting borders. I thought I wanted to create a cottage garden, but I learned that the type of planting I like is actually called a herbaceous border. Good to know! It is still in the design phase, but that is the thing with gardening. There is no rush and if you try it and it does not work you can change it.

So why do I love gardening?

Well, for starters, it’s a great way to get some fresh air. And who doesn’t love breathing in the sweet, earthy aroma of fresh plants? Plus, gardening is also a great way to get your hands dirty – and who doesn’t love that? Plus, there’s just something satisfying about seeing your hard work pay off in beautiful flowers, herbs and vegetables.

It is great for exercise. Gardening can be a challenging and physically demanding activity, but it sure is worth it when you see the results in a healthy garden. Knowing that it was all your own work is very rewarding.

Gardening is great for your mental health. Gardening can be a solitary activity, but it can also be a rewarding experience when you share your garden with other people. I can get lost in the moment when I am in the garden.

It is a fantastic way to express creativity and individuality. Gardening is a great way to show off your unique flair and create something beautiful from scratch. There is something about seeing a garden that was created with love and care that just makes my heart happy.

So, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned gardener, I encourage you to give gardening a try! You will not be disappointed.

As the year draws to a close and the nights drawn in, its time to relax and practice some self-care. Self-care is a phrase coined by psychologist Dr. Richard J. Hillman in the early 1990s to describe time spent looking after one’s emotional, social, and physical needs to prevent or reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Self-care includes healthy eating habits, exercising, having enough sleep. Self-care may also include more creative pursuits such as meditation or crafting. This is what Alison and Sophie will be getting up to take care of themselves. What will you be up to?

As we get further into winter, there is nothing better than spending your nights indoors and cosied up. But perhaps this is the time to be practising some much-needed end-of-year self-care. You have worked hard this year after all! Something as simple as reading a good book can really relax your mind, or if you have a little more time to spare, maybe try getting into aromatherapy? This is a great way to combat those feelings of anxiety, depression and improve sleep when stress levels are high. This blog by Katie Brindle offers some great information on the benefits of aromatherapy, the Hayo’u Method, and using it for a night of relaxing and nurturing.

How we are spending the holidays

Alison

I am looking forward to taking time off for the two weeks straddling the Christmas and New Year period.  It really helps to disconnect from work and take some family and some me time. I really love cooking so I will be cooking the Christmas roast this year. I crank up the Christmas tunes and bop around the kitchen while I baste the turkey and peel the spuds. By the time everything is cooked, I feel relaxed and have a Holiday vibe.

Its also time for me to get creative. I knit for family and friends, or maybe some sewing. It helps me decompress. I find that the creative pursuit is enough for me. I get fully immersed in it and feel great by the end of the two weeks.

If the weather is kind, then I get plenty of walks in. Getting fresh air is so important, especially when using that time to do exercise. Though we have now headed into the shorter and colder days, wrapping up and going for even just a short walk in your nearest park can do you so much good.

This year, having moved out of London to the countryside, I am also thinking about getting a real Christmas tree for the first time ever. I want to decorate it with traditional decorations, like tied up bundles of cinnamon sticks and dried slices of orange. Perhaps a few sprayed pinecones for good measure!!! I am also popping into our local florist to make a real wreath this year so the front hall will smell or pine and spice whenever someone comes to the door.

What do you do with your time off?

Have a wonderful holiday season

Alison

Sophie

This year has been full of firsts for me. My first long term job that is developing into a career. My daughter going to school for the first time. Finding my first long term home, in which myself and my daughter have had so much fun decorating, and I’m overjoyed to spend our first little proper Christmas together here. I’m not much of a cook, but that’s not to say I won’t give cooking my first Christmas dinner a go. Fingers crossed I won’t burn down the new house!

The festive period is also a time where I can get a little bit creative, especially with my four-year-old. Making Christmas cards for her new school friends, making paper chains and cutting out paper snowflakes to stick on the windows are staple childhood Christmas activities, and even my inner child can’t wait!

As well as the new home and settling into a new job, I will also be preparing to take on studying again while continuing my work with Alison. So, I am going into the new year full of hope and security, and with great tutelage from Alison and a lot of learning, I can only imagine what 2022 will bring for me. What are you looking forward to in 2022?

Have a happy holiday season.

Sophie.

 

 

The festive period is a time for joy and celebration, and for many of us it’s a time for family and friends, giving gifts and eating wonderful food. However, for many it’s also a time of increased stress, from shopping, to cooking for the family, there can be a lot to do. Managing Christmas can easily become overwhelming, and it may seem like there is no time to destress. This blog will offer tips and advice on how to minimise stress during the holidays.

While the holidays are usually supposed to be a time for being with family and friends, last year was a little more difficult due to COVID restrictions. As this still might be the case for some families, it is still a major cause of stress for everybody. This added with the pressures of organising the perfect Christmas can be tough. But there are some ways that you can seek comfort and manage stress over this stressful season.

Holiday activities to manage stress

First thing first, get organised! There is so much to do in the lead up to Christmas, you might feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to get everything done in a few short weeks. Especially if you do not have too much time off work. Make a list of everything that needs to be done over the coming weeks. Such as shopping for presents and food, wrapping, decorating the house, and making any holiday preparations. Once you are a little more organised, you will feel that weight lifted knowing that you do have time to complete everything for a perfect Christmas.

Not everybody is lucky enough to have time off over Christmas. If you do, then this is an important time of the year to enjoy spending time with family at home. Even if you do not have a significant amount of time off, you should make time to do holiday activities with them, especially if you have children. It is the perfect time to get the entire family involved in decorating the tree, or making your own decorations. Put on a Christmas music playlist, get the family together and let go a little.

A great creative pasttime is to bake some holiday treats together. Perhaps get the kids to bake some holday treats with you. Even if you live alone, getting involved in some holiday baking or learning that perfect recipe for Christmas day can be almost theraputic if you enjoy being in the kitchen.

Coping with restrictions and loneliness

Of course, we cannot ignore the stress that the pandemic has brought. Unlike last Christmas, we are not yet stuck in another lockdown (fingers crossed!). But with the pandemic still happening and certain restrictions still in place, it can be difficult to spend Christmas with all of your loved ones. This can prove for an extremely lonely and anxious Christmas for some. While you may not be able to spend Christmas with family in person, thanks to social media it is somewhat easier to still be in touch with them. Set aside some time for a zoom call with your loved ones. Perhaps organise a Christmas quiz night or something similar to experience that united holiday feel. Call your friends and wish them happy holidays, you don’t have to spend Christmas completely alone!

If everything is proving too stressful, it may be time to practice some self care. Have a relaxing bath at the end of a long day to wash away the stress. Switch off from the pressures of the holidays for an evening, turn off your phone and have some ‘me’ time. Do something you can shift your focus on like reading a book, or sewing. Practice meditation or yoga to switch off and reset your mind. This way you can think more clearly about the next few weeks.

Regardless of how you are spending Christmas, be mindful of your stress and wellbeing this year. For more tips on managing stress, visit our other blogs.

 

 

As a female in today’s society, it is an unfortunate fact that you have to be on your guard when it comes to being out at night. With the recent reports of drug spiking being on the rise, women are trying to be more vigilant than ever. And we are all asking the same simple question: Just how safe are women in today’s society?

I’m Sophie, I work for Alison Charles and have taken on this blog to bring some awareness to the dangers of spiking. As well as discussing the issues surrounding drug spiking and women’s safety, I will also be sharing my personal experience with an unprecedented drug spiking that happened to me only a month ago.

What are the dangers of spiking?

It almost goes unspoken, the ritualistic process in which women must take in order to ensure a safe night out. Making sure that you are not walking alone at night, covering your drink at every given moment, or phoning a friend when you get home to let them know you are alive. These precautions which have shockingly become normal to us are vital for our safety. We must be consistently on the lookout for danger. Unable to enjoy a simple night out with friends in case we end up under the influence of GHB or another unwelcome drug.

In a recent survey by The Tab on Instagram, around 23,000 students responded to the question “Since the start of the year, do you believe you have been spiked?”. Of these people, 2,625 answered yes. When asked if they knew someone who had been spiked, 50% (around 12,000 people) also answered yes. The newest issue that we are seeing all over the media now is the use of needles to drug women. There have been multiple reports of girls feeling the effects of spiking with no idea what happened. Only to find a pinprick-type wound later. As women become increasingly aware of their drinks, it seems the culprits are finding new ways to target women with drugs against their will. In my case, this could have been in the almost unheard-of form. A cigarette!

My experience of being spiked

On the 15th of September this year, just a month ago, I was spiked in London. The details I have of that night have been told to me by the people I was with, as I have no recollection of anything whatsoever. I know that I was fine until my vision became very blurry, I felt confused and nauseous. Within minutes I was on the floor, vomiting, convulsing and unconscious. During some of it, my mind was completely aware, but I had no control over my body movements at all. I had paramedics and strangers in the street helping me, I never saw their faces.

After many hours, and trip to the hospital, I was able to get safely home. My mum drove over an hour to find me sat alone and shivering at a hospital. It did not end there, for the next two days I was incredibly sick, dehydrated, and nauseous. The pub I was visiting took no responsibility. Therefore, this has gone completely unsolved, and I am left with a harrowing memory of that night. And now, the added fear of enjoying a night out with friends ever again. Having experienced this, I will forever take drug spiking seriously and try to bring awareness as to how terrifying it can be. I am also horrified at the new information of needles being used, especially with the risks of contracting unwanted diseases or infections.

How to know if you have been spiked

The problem with spiking, and how to stop it, is that it is completely out of a woman’s control. It should not be down to us to stay safe when we are not the culprits. We are just the victims of disgusting, predatorial people whose end goal is both terrifying and sad. With most culprits being male, it should be down to the those around us to help ensure our safety. Make your friends aware. And if you see a woman in trouble, try to intervene or ask if she is safe. As women we can still only do the bare minimum. Stay vigilant, cover your drinks, be mindful of who you are with. Even with all those measures in place it still doesn’t guarantee total safety.

Not everyone is aware of the signs of drink spiking. It can go completely unnoticed until it has already happened. However, if you do notice anything strange about your drink, such as an off smell or taste, let friends or staff know. These are some of the effects that drugs such as GHB (Rohypnol) can have and to be wary of. Remember, if you experience any of these, let someone around you know so you can get adequate help:

  • You have not had a lot to drink, but feel too drunk already
  • Blurred vision or black outs
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lack of awareness or confusion
  • Lack of control over body movements
  • Unconsciousness

What can venues do to keep us safe?

At the moment, there is a lot of talk about how local venues can make sure we are safe. How many more cases do there need to be for someone to take it seriously? A petition, started by Hannah Thompson from Glasgow, has been put forward to the government with over 140,000 signatures already. This petition is asking that nightclub venues should legally search everybody on their way in. In addition to this, women up and down the nation have planned “Girls Night In”. This is a day planned for the 27th of October where women boycott nightclubs and other local venues in order to stress just how seriously spiking need to be taken.

A few nightclubs and bars have already acted by some having “spiking strips” behind the bar. These are strips of CYD that analyse your drink and give an indication as to whether it has been tampered with. It picks up drugs such as GHB and Ketamine. However, only a few venues offer these. But they are extremely easy to get hold of, so it might be a good idea to take some with you yourself, just in case. But again, why is this our responsibility? We can only look out for ourselves until somebody steps in.

It is important that we keep raising awareness for the many women who have fallen victim to spiking, so if you want to make others aware, please share. Hopefully one day women will feel safe enough to enjoy a simple drink with their friends without fear.

 

Over the course of six blogs, we are looking at Menopause. Why? Because so many women go through it, without understanding the changes, and how they can manifest. I was diagnosed with burnout back in 2011. I realise, with hindsight, that menopause was a major contributing factor to my symptoms and mental state. Are you in a similar situation? We can have a much better transition if we have a better understanding of menopause. We can learn to work with our bodies and find our personal path.

In this blog we will be looking at menopause in the workplace and why it is such an important issue. What needs to change about the attitude towards menopause and symptoms in the workplace?

How menopause affects women in the workplace

Did you know that 13 million women in the UK are going through menopause at any one time? 80% of them are at work? While we all know that menopause physically affects only women, when it comes to the workplace it can affect everybody. In any job where there are female employees present, it should be taken into consideration that the possibility of them having symptoms, while at work, is very high. There are a possible 49 symptoms of menopause, and any number of them can affect productivity and performance at work.

If you think about your current job, and whether you are going through the menopause, would you say you are comfortable in your workspace to cope with it? According to a survey by Forth with Life around 90% of women say that their workplace does not offer any help to menopausal women. 72% say that changes need to be made to accommodate menopausal women in the workplace.

How symptoms affect women in the workplace

If you have experienced menopausal symptoms, then it will be no secret that they can disrupt your daily work life. 41% of those same surveyed women said that their poor concentration and forgetfulness causes them to make mistakes and underperform. Menopause can also cause difficulty concentrating, depression and anxiety during work and employers can easily dismiss that too as underperforming. If your employer has experienced the menopause themselves they may be a little more uncerstanding. However, those who have not been taught how to deal with it can easily misunderstand how serious these symptoms are.

Managing your menopause is a great first step to coping. Finding natural solutions such as ones we have discussed in our Natural VS HRT blogs may really help you. Maybe you have a co-worker going through a similar experience? Could you ask anyone around you for support?

How does this affect you as an employer?

As of 2019 studies show that there is a huge rise in employment in women between the ages of 50 and 64. This is prime time for menopause to be an issue, and although some are choosing to stay in work, many feel as though they cannot cope with the symptoms and stress. This results in possibly leaving work or a rise in absence. One in four women have considered leaving work because of menopause, and according to BUPA around 990,000 already have. If a woman quits work due to unmanageable symptoms it will cost the company money. Replacing an employee can cost anywhere between 90% – 200% of what it originally cost to pay that employee. For exmaple, if they earned say £25,000, that could cost anywhere up to £50,000. This is before taking into consideration other elements such as:

  • Expertise, skills and experience lost
  • Recruiting, interviewing and training a new employee
  • The client relationships they built
  • Cultural impact
  • Loss of productivity

What can you do as an employer to help?

When it comes to the wellbeing of women in the workplace, topics such as menopause should be taken seriously. Simply talking about menopause, raising awareness to all employees and normalising it is extremely helpful. Especially when employees might feel embarrassed to address it or made to feel like it is a taboo subject. In addition, here are some things employees can introduce to better the help and understanding of menopause in the workplace:

  • Training for all line managers
  • Support groups
  • A safe place to talk in the office
  • A quiet rest area
  • Flexible work hours and shift arrangements
  • Facilities for physical symptoms such as showers, fans and clean bathrooms
  • Introduce a menopause policy

The government are currently investigating a manifesto for menopause at work. This was put forward by the CIPD in order to bring more attention to the lack of awareness and support surrounding menopause in the workplace. Bringing a menopause policy into organisations would ensure the wellbeing of employees, and help shed the negative talk surrounding it.

If you would like to stay ahead of the curve and think about your wellbeing strategy to incorporate a menopause policy now, contact Alison Charles, Wellbeing Consultant:

Tel: 07768 493157

Office: 020 3290 3157

Email: alison@alisoncharles.co.uk
Twitter: @alisonjcharles
LinkedIn: Alison Charles
Facebook: Alison Charles: Wellbeing in the Workplace

 

 

Why talk about Chronic Fatigue?

Today let’s talk a bit about chronic fatigue, what it is and how you can manage it. We spoke to Dan Thompson from Southend Acupuncture to hear his perspective on chronic fatigue and how you can include acupuncture and exercise in your routine to help with symptoms. Chronic Fatigues is very akin to Long Covid and many of the things that help chronic fatigue also have been found to help Long Covid.

I burned out in 2011. When I came back to work I knew I was really struggling to concentrate, but I did not know why. I felt tired and really struggled to concentrate. Luckily the works doctor spotted that all was not well and sent me to St Thomas Hospital for an assessment. I had a chronic fatigue syndrome called Fibromyalgia. Finally everything I was feeling made sense. From here I embarked on a journey of discover, recovery and resilience.

What is chronic fatigue?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a long-term illness and is very common. There is an estimated 250,000 people who are affected by chronic fatigue syndrome in the UK alone. It usually develops between the ages of 20-40, and it is recognised more in women. It is recognised by a case of extreme tiredness that is not relieved through bed rest and is not related to any underlying medical condition. Although the main symptom is fatigue, that isn’t the only common symptom. Other symptoms can include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Brain fog
  • Pain in joints and muscles
  • Headaches
  • Sleeping problems such as insomnia
  • Extreme tiredness

A range of different symptoms means there is no one way to treat or manage chronic fatigue, it cannot be generalised. It is very different for each individual, therefore dealing with the symptoms needs a flexibility and combination of things in order to help with the illness.

How can you manage chronic fatigue?

When figuring out the best solution to dealing with chronic fatigue symptoms, there are a lot of factors to think about. You must of course take into consideration your nutrition and diet, hereditary factors, constitutional factors and emotional factors. These all contribute to long term chronic fatigue syndrome. Additionally, trauma can be a trigger. Trauma triggers a physical response, and this can result in your body going into a fight or flight response.

When dealing with a negative emotion or unresolved trauma, our bodies will naturally go into a fight/flight state. This is where the sympathetic nervous system is triggered, starting a whole host of chain reactions throughout the body. The brain sends a trigger through the nervous system and our adrenal gland will produce adrenaline and noradrenaline. This can induce an increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweating and shallow breathing. These responses are actually vital to how we learn to cope with uncomfortable or negative situations. The fight or flight response is part of our body telling us when we are in danger and preparing us to act on it. We tend to react with the options of fleeing, freezing or fighting, hence the name “fight or flight.”

However, our body cannot always tell when a threat is real or not, so even if there is not any actual danger we still respond in this way. Some people have a little more sensitivity to these situations, such as those with anxiety, PTSD or in this case, Chronic Fatigue Sydrome, which is why the fight or flight response is triggered more than usual.

How can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture can actually help regulate your fight or flight. By putting a needle into the right pressure point it triggers our rest response right away (The opposite of fight or flight). By having regular treatments to help regulate the fight or flight, your body will soon start regulating your other organ functions and bringing a natural order of health. It improves your sleep pattern, energy and also your mindset. By having a healthy mindset you gain more clarity and focus, and in turn brings that back to you wanting to do more exercise despite feeling like you couldn’t due to chronic fatigue. By opting to do acupuncture and exercise regularly your metabolism improves, making you want to eat the right food. All of these are subtle changes that day to day will push you towards feeling better.

Treatment is carried out with Acupuncture, based on the symptoms that are demonstrated. The needles will be used at different points at different times based on presentation, and, as all symptoms can present themselves differently, they will be used whenever or wherever required during the session.

What exercise can you do?

As muscle pain and joint pain are present in chronic fatigue, doing muscle or joint heavy exercise probably not possible. Start by walking, and it doesn’t have to be a mile long walk every day. Maybe start out with a walk around the block at first depending on how you feel! A couple of days later you could go a little further. The more you do it the better you will feel. But remember not to push yourself too far, you do not want to hit that wall of tiredness again. It is your personal journey, it is up to you to find your limits and have total control over feeling better.

For someone with chronic fatigue, just simply getting out of bed can feel too difficult. But once you do, and you take that first step to becoming more active you will feel a whole lot better. It is entirely possible to do that, and once you start to do more physical things such as walking on a regular basis, you will notice the increase in energy and motivation that you have.

What about Pilates or Somatic Movement?

I tried Pilates. It is a gentle form of exercise that can help the pain in the joints and muscles. I started slowly at first, and to be honest it really did not feel like I was doing much. Pilates is a very deep muscles level exercise but this only really becomes apparent as you become more connected with your body and more experienced at the movements.  The more I did the better I felt, the better I felt the more I did. More recently I discovered Somatic Movement and have chosen Somatic as the movement that I teach others. It is absolutely fantastic at helping regain control of the body and dissipate stuck stress.

It’s important to remember that chronic fatigue does not come on overnight, and neither does recovery. It will take time to recover, it is a marathon not a sprint! As long as you are feeling like you are on the right track to feeling better in yourself then you are on the right track. Just take one step at a time!

Thank you to Dan Thompson from Southend Acupuncture for sharing his expertise with us. If you would like to know more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine, you can visit Dan’s website or contact him here.

menopause

Over the course of six blogs we are looking at Menopause. Why? Because so many women go through it, without understanding the changes, and how they can manifest. I was diagnosed with burnout back in 2011. I realise, with hindsight, that menopause was a major contributing factor to my symptoms and mental state. Are you in a similar situation? We can have a much better transition if we have a better understanding of menopause. We can learn to work with our bodies and find our personal path.

In this blog we’re talking about natural ways to deal with menopause vs HRT. We spoke to natural menopause expert Sarah Davison.

What is HRT and Natural Therapy?

How much do you really know about treatment in menopause? It is safe to say that there is a lack of education when it comes to why, when and what different remedies we can use for managing menopause symptoms. Menopause tends to blindside women when it hits because they know very little about it. So what is HRT? HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) simply replaces the oestrogen and progesterone that our bodies are no longer producing so much of with synthetic substitutes. It’s best known for managing hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings. There are many forms of HRT such as tablets, skin patches or gel. These can only be prescribed by a doctor.

 

However, according to the Women’s Health Concern (the patient arm of the British Menopause Society) 95% of women would rather try natural alternatives over taking HRT. Although not risk free, it is most likely because there are fewer risks involved in natural treatment. It could also be that as menopause is a natural process, women like to get through it with natural or alternative medicine. Natural remedies do not replace hormones like HRT does, but instead relieve symptoms by balancing the hormones at their new lower level. Types of natural medicines for managing menopause symptoms include Herbalism, Chinese Medicine, Homeopathy, Ayurveda and Naturopathy.

How do people feel about HRT?

The main concerns women have surrounding HRT are the risks and side effects that could possibly derive from it. Side effects can be anything from migraines to weight gain, thought the newer bio-identical hormones delivered through creams and patches are gentler on the system. It can take a little while to find the right dosage for an individual.  How your body reacts to it is important when deciding whether to carry on with the treatment.

When deciding to go down the path of HRT, a GP will take into consideration a persons medical history, such as high blood pressure, blood clots, liver disease and previously having or being at high risk of breast cancer. Although a very rare occurrence, HRT has been linked to women developing breast cancer. Many women are scared off by these risks, but with good professional advice it can be a solution to managing menopause symptoms. HRT is a generalised medication. A single solution for a possible 49 different symptoms. It is not tailored to the individual, meaning that it may help some symptoms and not others.

Are there risks in natural therapy?

Just like HRT, natural medicine can be very hit and miss without professional guidance. While many women opt for natural solutions to manage symptoms, it could take some trial and error to find exactly what it is we need. How many of you have turned to google when looking? Who has self-prescribed evening primrose oil or  some herbal remedies? However, what works for one woman may not work for another, and so much trial and error could ultimately end up making symptoms worse or lead to women giving up and turning to HRT. For instance, there are 551 possible homeopathic medicines for hot flushes alone. Finding the right one involves a complex case-taking process by a professional homeopath.

A professional practitioner can help you find the right solution for your symptoms. Sarah offers a deeper look into homeopathy for menopause on her website, which you can access here. https://thrivehomeopathy.com/homeopathy-for-menopause/

Unfortunately I had not met Sarah when I started with my perimenopausal symptoms. I did not try over-the-counter medication. I went to Neal’s Yard in London, and they put together a herbal remedy for me, based on my symptoms. Not quite as tailored as Sarah’s offering, but I was lucky, it helped me manage my hot flushes. And when they came back, following and oophorectomy, I consulted with Sarah who dealt with them homoeopathically.

The importance of the liver in menopause

Another thing we must take into consideration when looking to treat menopausal symptoms is the function and state of our other organs. Menopause symptoms are not always caused by a drop in sex hormones, some can be caused by issues with tired adrenal glands (which produce our stress hormones), a congested liver, a low thyroid or an unhappy gut.

The liver is something that can greatly affect the way our bodies function during menopause. For example, if someone has spent their life not looking after their liver, perhaps consuming too much alcohol and sugar, then it can cause issues such as fatty liver. The liver gets rid of old oestrogen, it’s like the dustbin of the body. If it is not working properly, then it will retain that old oestrogen and exacerbate the hormonal imbalance, making symptoms harder to manage. This is why seeing a professional, perhaps a homeopath like Sarah, is really beneficial towards managing menopause properly.

There are pros and cons to both conventional and alternative treatment, and the different options each one offers. Being educated and informed is vital to making the right decision for our own bodies. We don’t need to suffer!

Thank you to Sarah Davison for the contribution and information. Sarah can be reached at thrivehomeopathy.com.

Sarah offers a free perimenopause assessment that allows you to check how many of the 49 possible symptoms you have. Click here to take the assessment. You do not have to suffer alone! You can also follow her on social media at @naturalmenopauseexpert

Next time we will be looking at menopause from an acupuncturists point of view.

Over the course of six blogs we are looking at Menopause. Why? Because so many women go through it, without understanding the changes, and how they can manifest. I was diagnosed with burnout back in 2011. I realise, with hindsight, that menopause was a major contributing factor to my symptoms and mental state. Are you in a similar situation? You can have a much better transition if you have a better understanding of menopause. You can learn to work with your body and find our personal path. I wish I knew then what I know now, and I wish I had met Sarah when I first started experiencing symptoms. My experience would have been very different. Your experience, if you are not post menopause already, still can be.

How should we deal with stress during menopause and what are the effects it has on symptoms? We spoke to natural menopause expert Sarah Davison to understand what menopause is, how to prepare for it and how to manage symptoms.

Why is menopause so stressful?

Menopause can be a very stressful time in a womans life. Coping with all of these mental, emotional and physical changes is difficult enough. It is not just the transition through menopause that is stressful. Menopause comes at a time in your life when you have a lot of stress for other reasons.

At the age when menopause hits there are also a lot of other factors contributing to how we deal with it.  Women do it all. We have children, raise them and care for them. We have to deal with the stress and loss of them leaving home when the time comes. Some women have children later on in life, so can you imagine dealing with young children and perimenopause at the same time? Another responsibility that seems to naturally fall on women at this age besides looking after children, is the possibility of looking after sick or dying parents or relatives. As you could imagine, or even have experienced, all of these responsibilities weighing on you can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re trying to balance work too! stress

Did you know that certain other organs besides the reproduction ones also have a part to play in menopause? As your ovaries are slowing down the production of progesterone and oestrogen, your adrenal glands (that produce the stress hormones) take over and produce those hormones. Your body is designed for survival, and will always put that first above anything else. This means that while your adrenal glands are producing a lot of stress hormones they can’t produce a sufficient amount of sex hormones.

So there is an overlap between symptoms of adrenal fatigue, which results from chronic stress, and symptoms of perimenopause. Such as exhaustion, depression, weight gain, insomnia, low sex drive, digestion problems and back pain.

Managing stress

There are plenty of ways to manage stress, even in menopause, such as simple breathing exercises or meditation. It’s also a good idea to make sure your body is getting the right nutrition. This is different for everyone. Find a nutritional specialist if you need help finding out what is right for you. Perhaps monitor how much sugar you are consuming, and get a sufficient amount of protein.

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. However, if you overdo exercise you can release too much cortisol. Hard exercise is not for those with adrenal fatigue – it will make it and your menopause symptoms worse! Everything in moderation. Go for moderate exercise. Make sure you do something you love too. It can be a nice walk, a bit of gardening,  or maybe dancing is more you groove? Anything that gets you moving on a regular basis.

Thank you to Sarah Davison for the contribution and information. Sarah can be reached at thrivehomeopathy.com.

Sarah offers a free perimenopause assessment that allow you to check how many of the 49 possible symptoms you have. Click here to take the assessment. You do not have to suffer alone!

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the other elements of menopause.

  • Taboo and Ignorance
  • Natural VS HRT
  • Menopause in the Workplace
  • The Hidden Gift of Menopause

 

 

Why are we talking about menopause

Over the course of six blogs we are looking at Menopause. Why? Because so many women go through it, without understanding the changes, and how they can manifest. I was diagnosed with burnout back in 2011. I realise, with hindsight, that menopause was a major contributing factor to my symptoms and mental state. Are you in a similar situation? We can have a much better transition if we have a better understanding of menopause. We can learn to work with our bodies and find our personal path.

Why is the menopause such a taboo subject? Is it the lack of accessible education and information, albeit that there is an abundance of information if we look online? We spoke to natural menopause expert Sarah Davison to understand what menopause is, how to prepare for it and how to manage symptoms.

Stigma

There has always been somewhat of a stigma around talking about women’s bodies, and even more so when it comes to menopause. Perhaps, in a modern world, certainly in western civilisation, everyone strives to hold on to youth and no one wants to talk about aging. The word alone can be fear inducing to women, and even more so to men!

I was watching Breeders on TV the other day, and this was illustrated so beautifully. (Warning spoiler alert if you have not finished watching the series yet!) Ally, the main character is 42 and thinks she is pregnant. She is not sure she really wants another baby. She goes to see the doctor, only to find out that she is perimenopausal, which can give a false positive on a pregnancy test. Ally says she feels like an empty husk, mourning the baby that will unlikely never be born. She becomes depressed and start behaving erratically. It’s an important stage of our lives as women. We need information before we hit menopause, so that we understand what is happening and how to deal with it. What are our choices? We will talk a about treatment in more depth in a later blog.

Ignorance in the workplace

It is estimated that around 13 million women in the UK are currently going through the menopause at any given time. Around 80% will be in work. 81% of women have noticeable menopause symptoms. That means around 8.4 million women are dealing with symptoms while working! Employers should start thinking about providing help and support to employees as they go through menopause. It is not just women that need education and information but everyone around them too. Some women do not even know that they are experiencing menopausal symptoms. In our experience many, if not all women feel like they are unable to talk about menopause at work. The taboo needs to be broken!

Hot flush?

Have you ever sat in a meeting having a hot flush and a colleague said something about you looking embarrassed or made a funny comment about heat? I have experienced exactly that! This is why more education is required in the workplace, to help others comprehend some of the symptoms and be more understanding and supportive. I learned to make a joke before anyone else could comment, but I should not have had to do that.

Symptoms

There can be many symptoms during menopause. Some of those symptoms can include anxiety, stress and physical and cognitive symptoms that can interfere with our ability to work. For me it was hot flushes, feeling like I had an axe through my head and going to get something and then forgetting what it was I had gone to get, or forgetting a name or a word. Perhaps, if we had more information at a younger age, it would give us time to prepare. Even the medical profession needs more education. My GP did not even consider or discuss the possibility that I could be experiencing symptoms of menopause when I was diagnosed with burn out. While it might not have been the full story it was certainly a contributing factor.

Why don’t we talk about it?

There is a massive lack of knowledge and misinformation surrounding menopause. Women are unlikely to be given literature about it. Completely uneducated and unprepared, most women end up doing their own research to find more information. For instance, we get education around periods, pregnancy and the pill, so why not later life stages?

Clinically Speaking

Clinically speaking, the menopause is just one day. The day that falls a year after you had your last period. Did you know that? For around 2-14 years, women may have what is called perimenopause symptoms. Did you know there are as many as 49 possible symptoms you may experience? With the millennial generation now hitting 40 they are going into perimenopause without even knowing or recognising the symptoms. Perhaps you can help them by sharing this post!

Thank you to Sarah Davidson for the contribution and information. Sarah can be reached at thrivehomeopathy.com.

Sarah offers a free perimenopause assessment that allow you to check how many of the 49 possible symptoms you have. Click here to take the assessment. You do not have to suffer alone!

Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring the other elements of menopause.

  • Stress
  • Natural VS HRT
  • Menopause in the Workplace
  • The Hidden Gift of Menopause

Mindset

Why is uncertainty stressful? Uncertainty is stressful because of the fact that it is the unknown. The only certainty is that life is uncertain! That’s probably a phrase that you have heard more than once, specially recently. We all know it, but do we truly believe it? Do we strive to control the uncontrollable and how can we feel in control in uncertain times?

What is a mindset?

Your mindset is the way you think or perceive things, your outlook on life and yourself. It’s your general attitude to what shapes your thought habits, and these habits consequently impact the way you make sense of the world and how you think about you. Having a positive mindset is extremely important when it comes to stress and uncertainty.

Not everybody’s mindset is the same. What you might personally find stressful, someone else might not. It might be a good idea to look to other people in times of stress to see how they would perceive it. How would they deal with it? Why don’t they find it stressful? Be influenced by other people’s mindsets to change your perspective!

Developing a positive mindset

  • Change your perspective – speak to colleagues or friends, use their experiences and mindset to change your own.
  • Get rid of any negative self talk – what are the negative things you are telling yourself and how can you change them?
  • Develop a positive attutide

Take this peom for example. Read it through.

 

Now read it with the lines from bottom to top. You see how important words are and how they make you feel? How changing the words can change your mindset?

Developing a positive attitude stress

Stop catastrophising – are you turning something into an “end of the world” situation? Think of the last time you were worried. Did the thing you were worried about happen? If it did was it as bad as you thought? Probably not. We can have a tendency to blow things out of proportion and put unnecessary strain on oursleves. All you end up doing is adding to your stress.

Is there any part of the situation you can control? If there is do what you can to manage the situation in the best way possible. Focus on what is in your area of control and responsibility. Learn to let go of the things out of your control.

Change those negative thoughts into something positive. Focus on where you hear the voice. Put your hand in that location. You may feel it in your body or close to it. Now see if you recognise the voice. IS it your voice or that of someone you know?  Now change it to a really silly voice, like Donald Duck or something and move it away from you.  Can you still take yourself seriously?  Of course not.  Now use that technique whenever you notice that unhelpful self criticism creeping back in.

Positive affirmations can reinforce a positive image of yourself. Ask yourself what are you good at? What dare you doing well at the moment in your job or otherwise? What happens in your mind is reflected on your body. So feeling grateful for what you have at uncertain times and reminding yourself about the good things is a step forward to gaining some control over yourself and your situation, especially when you’re feeling anxious or uncertain about things.

This blog has been all about mindset. See my other blogs about uncertainty. Just click the links below.

 

Reduce Stress

Why does uncertainty cause stress? Uncertainty causes stress because of the fact that it is the unknown. The only certainty is that life is uncertain! That’s probably a phrase that you have heard more than once, specially recently. We all know it, but do we truly believe it? Do we strive to control the uncontrollable and how can we feel in control in uncertain times?

The key to making changes is to first recognise that we are feeling stressed. Keeping a journal can really help. By writing down the information surrounding a stressful event we get clarity and understanding around what made it stressful for us.

Keep a journal and note:

  • Triggers – what happened
  • Behaviours – how did you react both physically and mentally
  • Circumstances – surrounding the event
  • Note physical signs of stress

If writing is not something you enjoy a text or recorded note on your smart phone will work equally well.

Short Term Strategies

The best thing you can the minute you are aware that you feel stressed is to take some good deep breaths deep into your belly. Remembers Primatives Amn’s Response to Stress for Part 1? Takeing a deep breath sends messages to the brain that there is nothing to worry about. It tells your body to start resetting, which can take up to an hour. When you are stuck in fight or flight mode you physically cannot take a deep breath because everything is tense, so the body knows that, the fact you can take a deep breath, everything is resolvable.

For some ideas on breathing and other exercises please do take a look at this video.

Longer Term Strategies

It is useful to challenge your thoughts and remind yourself of other times when things have worked out ok or when the things you have been worried about have not come to pass.

Think of the situation that you are finding stressful:

  • What signs might you be aware of?
    • Interrupted sleep patterns
    • Feeling on edge
    • Feeling inexplicably angry or tearful for example
  • What changes could you make?
    • Physical changes like breathing deeply
    • Mindset changes – we will cover more about those in part 3
  • What would be the consequences of the changes?
    • How might the changes help you feel more resourceful?

It is useful to refer to your journal notes when thinking thi s through and write down your answers to the above questions. I am sure you know the saying “Do what you have always done and you will get what you have always got!” So do something differently, make a change and you will change the outcome.

In other words change your behaviour!

This blog has been all about reducing stress. See my other blogs about uncertainty. Just click the links below.

 

Why is Uncertainty Stressful?

Why is uncertainty stressful? Uncertainty is stressful because of the fact that it is the unknown. The only certainty is that life is uncertain! That’s probably a phrase that you have heard more than once, specially recently. We all know it, but do we truly believe it? Do we strive to control the uncontrollable and how can we feel in control in uncertain times?

Firstly a Note on Stress

Definition of stress

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them.  It arises when they perceive that they are unable to cope with those demands.  It is not a disease, but if stress is intense and goes on for some time, it can lead to mental or physical ill health, EG; depression, nervous breakdown, heart disease or other physical ailments.*

What is Pressure?

Pressure is often used interchangeably with stress but actually the two words have quite different meanings.  Pressure is in fact a positive aspect of life and work for most people. Many of us need to have standards, targets and deadlines to push us towards good performance. Pressure is what most people feel as the need to perform – and everyone has an optimum level of pressure that brings about their best performance. It can be seen as pressure when you feel that it is achievable. You might have to work hard, take some risks, challenge yourself, change or accept new things – but it is manageable. You feel a level of control over the situation.

Of course what feels like pressure for one person can feel like stress to another.  Too much and you can burn out, not enough and you can rust out!

In other words, pressure is good, stress is bad!

Our brains give us fits when facing uncertainty because they’re wired to react to it with fear because it is unknown and uncontrollable. When this happens our bodies go into the stress response. We need engage the rational brain to reduce stress and convince ourselves that uncertainty is normal and manageable. Our stress response is hard wired into our bodies.

Primitive Man’s Response to Stress

Why uncertainty is stressful

  • The front of the brain receives stimulus from eyes, ears etc.- aware of danger.
  • The hypothalamus of the brain activates.
  • The pituitary gland releases hormones.
  • The involuntary nervous system sends signals via nerves to various parts of the body.
  • This causes the adrenal glands to release hormones; adrenalin, nor-adrenalin and cortisones.

These lead to the other changes:

  • Mentally alert – senses activated.
  • Breathing rate speeds up –nostrils and air passages in lungs open wider to get air in more quickly.
  • Heartbeat speeds up and blood pressure rises.
  • Liver releases sugar, cholesterol and fatty acids into the blood to supply quick energy to the muscles.
  • Sweating it increases to help cool if the body.
  • Blood clotting ability increases, preparing for possible injury.
  • Muscles of bladder and bowel openings contract and non-lifesaving activity of body systems ceases temporarily.
  • Blood is diverted to the muscles and muscle fibres tense ready for action.
  • Immunity responses decrease. This is useful in short term to allow a massive response by body. It is harmful over a long period.

The “fight or flight” response is easily recognized in a fear provoking situation. This is how the body goes into lifesaving mode.  Very appropriate for primitive man, but what about humans today, living in this always on culture and the uncertainty of the current pandemic?

This blog has been all about setting the scene and understanding why uncertainty is so stressful. See my other blogs about uncertainty. Just click the links below.

*Health and safety executive 2001

Uncertainty can be stressful

Uncertainty can be stressful

With the current Covid-19 Pandemic, life is more uncertain than ever before, especially for employees. So what can you, the employer do, to support employees during this uncertain time? It’s all about embracing uncertainty.

I was listening to the BBC news the other week. I was particularly drawn to a story about a bakery that had managed to reopen, even with the 2 metre distancing rules.  They had one major challenge. One area of production required two people to be working in close proximity at all times.  Management couldn’t come up with a solution to this problem.

Overcoming Challenges

What did they do?  They asked their employees to get creative and think of ways round the problem, so that they could reopen.

The solution: A husband and wife worked for the company in different areas of the business. They lived together so the social distancing did not apply. They were happy manage that particular part of the production on a temporary basis. Problem solved!

Engage with Employees

In these challenging times, many companies are facing a restructure or administration. As a leader, you may feel solutions have to come from the top. Perhaps telling employees just how uncertain the future of the company is, might make them anxious or stressed. You want to protect them. That is understandable.

In reality they are probably already worried about the future. Lack of communication usually leads to speculation and greater levels of anxiety and stress. Recognise that it is a difficult time and encourage employees to think about what “surviving-well” might look like.

Be honest and consistent with them. Tell them exactly what you do and don’t know. Tell them what the organisation is struggling with. Facilitate open forums for employee input.  Give them time to mull over the challenges and collectively come up with solutions.

There is no guarantee, but there is a chance that, like the bakery, their collective creativity will find a solution that might just solve the problem.

Focus on areas that they can influence. Remember to share what is positive as well as what is challenging. Make sure to recognise their hard work and resilience during “tough time”. Employees need positive reinforcement more than ever.  If they are working remotely, they don’t have the usual physical ques and casual conversations that tell them they are doing well.

Embrace new ways of doing things and be open to all ideas. Be as flexible as possible. Enable employees to juggle work, life and family commitments in a way that works for everyone.

Communication is Key

Communication is always recognised as being critical, but often underestimated and inadequate.  It is easy to get bogged down in the challenges and forget to tell employees what is going on.

  • Communicate with employees often.
  • Use a variety of media.
  • Present to the whole company, divisions and teams at different times and in different ways
  • Enable forums for Q&A.
  • Make sure solutions are captured, input is recognised and ideas are met with an open mind.
  • Send updates on items discussed.
  • Throw out old expectations and create new ones.

Risk Assessment

Carry out a risk assessment across all levels of the organisation and ensure that employees are engaged as part of the process. Plan for specific scenarios before they happen! Communicate early and often. This is a must do even for sole traders and micro businesses.  It allows the possibility of a Plan B, minimises the impact of risk and takes advantage of opportunities.

Lead by Example

How you react will influence how employees perceive the situation. Be the steady helm to lead through the troubled waters.

The language you use is particularly important.  Any attachment to certainty will increase stress and anxiety. Use of the words like “hoped for”, “expected outcomes”,  “right” and “wrong”, will stifle creativity.

Listen and pay close attention to your employees.  Use words like “might”,” possibility”,” I wonder” and “maybe”. You might wonder if a particular scenario is workable, and you might wonder if that is the right solution.  It might be right, it might be wrong.  That’s the thing about uncertainty – you can’t be sure.  Keep an open mind.

Create and share key learning moments. Change your mind if you need to.  Employees will understand if you communicate. This is all about your personal mindset. Let go of the need for certainty and embrace the new.

Employees are our greatest asset. They can help us find solutions for readiness, response and recovery. The instincts and actions that will see us through the current global crisis will also make us stronger as we face the longer term challenges.

I have a book coming out in 28th September in collaboration with Charlotte Valeur. It is called Effective Directors QTA. In my section on health and wellbeing I talk more about the importance of supporting employees, giving you key questions to ask to improve your wellbeing strategy. Click here for a copy.

Today lets take a look at managing social interaction virtually and why it is important for your mental health and wellbeing. Many people are still worried about meeting in person. Thousands are still working from home. So how can you help?

Many people reading this are under lockdown due to Covid-19, so here are a few ideas of different ways to connect with family and friends. Social Interaction is limited at the moment, although if you are local you can at least meet and go walk, while still observing social distancing.

The Social Phone Call

Yes a good old fashioned phone call can brighten someone’s day. Keep in touch with friends and family as regularly as you can.  Since we went on lockdown I have been speaking to my Mum twice a day and it really helps her feel ok.  We lost my father to illness late last year and the phone call is a real lifeline for both of us.

The Planned Video Conference

There is nothing like being able to see someone and have a social chat.  Grab a coffee, a glass of wine, a glass of water, whatever you prefer and sit togehter and just chat about your day as you would if you were meeting in person. You could even agree a recipe to all cook and sit and virtually have a dinner party together.  Many applications like zoom, skype and the hundreds of other that have suddently appreared on our horizon since lockdown are all great for this.  They all have their pros and cons so just pick one that you all have and use that.  Even whatsapp can video conference with 8 people now.

The Casual Conversation

You canot go for a social visit yet, so how do you manage that change conversation.  Well this is another great way to use the video conferencing.  Set up a meeting with family and friends, start the meeting and keep it open it a prominent position like the kitchen.  That way, every time you pass by and another friend of family member is around, you have a quick converstaiton.  With did this with my mum is Southend and my husband’s parents in Saint Lucia and it was lovely to just have these chance conversations between everyone.

Remember Work Colleagues Too

Remember all these things are just as important with work colleagues. It keeps relationship building even though you might all be working from home and it supports the team. Check in with each other, make time for social chit chat and talk about how things are for everyone.  Parents are particulary challenged at the moment, trying to juggle kids, work and family.  People in shared accomodation are equally challenged.  Make sure you know people’s personal circumstances and do what you can to support them and schedule meetings that work for everyone to help reduce stress.

Virtual Games Nights

So many people doing a quiz night via social media.  It is a great way to chill out and relax.  Just make sure to balance on screen time with other things like fresh air and exercise or persuing a hobby.

Quiet Space

Yes it is great to connect and social interaction is important but so is having time out.  In a shared house of family home set a corner to be the quiet space where people can chill undisturbed, whatever chill means for them. Leave them unhampered to decompress. All of us are going a bit stir carzy or feeling the pressure of worry from time to time.  Just acknowledge it and allow space.

 

Today lets take a look at food how it can boost your immunity and benefit your mental health and wellbeing.

In this blog I want to focus on plants and how it they can boost immunity by making adding them to your food or by making some home rememdies. During this time, with many people at varying degrees of lock down the best thing we can do for our health is boost immunity to be as reslient as possible. If you knew you could easily and effectively enhance your mood, energy levels, brainpower, and build immunity to give your body more chance to be able to fight off viruses what would it take for you to do it?

The immune system is our body’s defence system, protecting us from external threats like harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins – as well as internal hazards such as rogue cells and free radicals.

Herbs and Spices

Knowledge of herbs and spices enables us to transform our lives. They help us live longer, slow-down the aging process, increase brain power, and enhance our overall performance. Plant medicine has been around for centuries and is still widely used in the East to boost immunity. Some of these are plants we know and love, like turmeric and mushrooms, are incredibly medicinal.

Take this opportunity to uncover powerful healing herbs and sacred medicinal practices. These are things that can help you heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually and how some of these healing plants may even be growing in your garden.

Lets look at 9 herbs and spices that fight inflamation and boost immunity:

Turmeric

A vibrant yellow/orange spice most commonly used in Indian cuisine. Turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes to treat infections, wounds, colds and liver disease for centuries. Turmeric is arguably one of the most powerful herbs on the planet. It has over 6,000 peer-reviewed articles proving its benefits.

Incorporate turmeric into your life by:
Add to scrambled eggs or on top of roast vegetables.  My favourite is to add it to chicken stock when I make a noodle soup.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a wonderful aromatic spice.  Who loves cinnamon buns or has cinnamon on their frothy coffee?  However, you may not have considered that the teaspoon of cinnamon is doing you more good that you realise. Studies have shown that cinnamon could assist with boosting brain function, fighting cancer, aiding in digestion, supporting weight loss and fighting diabetes.

Incorporate cinnamon into your life by:
Chai tea is wonderful, using cardamon, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. What about sprinkling ground cinnamon onto your granola or adding a sprinkle into your next bowl of porrige or overnight oats? My personal favourite is chopped apple with cottage cheese and a liberal amount of cinammon.

Rosemary

Rosemary has a scent similar to pine. It is used in Mediterranean cuisine to accompany lamb dishes. Rosemary has a handful of health benefits including immunity boosting properties. The potential health benefits of rosemary include improved memory, relieved muscle pain, improved digestion and reduce areas of inflammation.

Incorporate rosemary into your life by:
Add a sprig of rosemary to your tray of vegetables or sprinkling onto homemade potato wedges before roasting in the oven. Add to your roast. Try home made foccacia with rosemany, garlic and black olives.

Cayenne

For centuries, ancient cultures have embraced the healing benefits of cayenne and other hot chili peppers. All chillis contain a naturally occurring component called capsaicinoids. So capsaicinoids are the secret ingredient within chilis that gives them their anti-inflammatory properties. It is these anti-inflamatories that help boost immunity. Chilis can assist in digestion but they also host another array of benefits. These including reducing arthritis symptoms, relieving headaches, preventing blood clots and assisting the body’s naturally occurring detox system.

Incorporate cayenne into your life by:
Adding a dash of this spicy chili to your favoring soup or stew, or spice up your guacamole with a sprinkle of cayenne. Duck with Chinese 5 spice and Cayenne paper is a personal favourite.

Sage

Sage is frequently used in Mediterranean cuisine. Renowned for its ability to soothe menstrual cramps and digestive discomfort because it increases circulation. It is also known for its naturally occurring antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Incorporate sage into your life by:
Adding 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves to your favorite herbal tea, or infuse sage leaves into your olive oil to give it a flavor kick and nutritional boost.

Ginger

Pungent, aromatic and a little spicy, ginger is a zesty addition to many Asian dishes. Nutritionally impressive and packed full of nutrients. Because of this it also offers a vast array of health benefits. Ginger has been acknowledged for its anti-inflammatory effects that boost immunity, and as a safe and effective relief of nausea and sea sickness. Therefore it is often used during pregnancy to help with morning sickness. Ginger can give your overall immune system a boost.

Incorporate ginger into your life by:
Adding fresh ginger with lemon and raw honey to make a natural tea, or add to soups for added depth of flavour and an asian twist. This is a staple in the winter for preventing colds in our house.

Oregano

The plant has tiny leaves that lend a pungent aroma and strong flavor to a variety of savory foods. Oregano contains a powerful substance called beta-caryophyllene. As a result it helps fight inflammation. Can benefit people suffering conditions such as osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis. On top of it’s anti-inflammatory properties, antibacterial and antifungal properties can also be added to the list of what make oregano one of our top picks.

Incorporate oregano into your life by:
You can add to pasta sauce, sprinkle over pizza. It goes well with lemon on reast potatoes.

Garlic

Garlic has a long list of health benefits. Try it to ease pain of arthritis, reduce nauseous feelings, reduce inflammation and blood pressure as well as detoxify the body of heavy metals.

Incorporate garlic into your life by:
Add garlic to dishes to add depth of flavour. For example, already mentioned above is the foccacia.  So infusing garlic in your olive oil for a more subtle flavour. Just about any tomato based sauce can benefit from garlic, of course often with basil added too.

Cloves

Extensively in india and china because of their many health benefits, cloves are a punchy wonder. Because they help in keeping blood sugar in check and helping block the growth of bacteria, they aid in better digestion. They have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as for boosting the immune system and therefore immunity.

Incorporate cloves into your life by:
You can easily incorporate ground cloves into many dishes. So adding cloves to hearty soups and stews or chai teas as mentioned above. Like pushing them into a ham before baking, they’ll bring a warm, distinctive flavor to desserts, curries, or chutneys. You can also simmer whole cloves in boiling water for 5–10 minutes to make a soothing cup of clove tea.

Which Herbs And Spices Do You Enjoy Adding To Meals?

 

 

Good Hydration Today lets take a look at hydration how it can benefit your mental health and wellbeing.

Many people reading this are under lockdown due to Covid-19, so many of us are rediscovering the big outdoors.,How many of us remember to take water out with us and remember to hydrate as much as we should?

Why should we hydrate?

Scientific reviews have researched the effects of mild dehydration on cognitive function in both men and women. These studies found that women were more likely to be dehydrated than men, with women reporting headaches and confusion while being mildly dehydrated. Men are affected too though. If you are experiencing feelings of tiredness, headaches and are perhaps struggling to focus it might not be just the current situation and the stress of it all. It might be that you are dehydrated, so hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Perhaps you are not used to drinking much water, so if you suddenly start drinking two litres a day you might find that you are running to the bathroom rather too frequently.  If you garden at all, think about what happens if you forget to water a pot plant.  The compost dries up.  The first few times you water the plant, the water goes straight through. Then after a few times of a good soak, the compost slowly expands again.  Well the body works in a similar way. But you might want to slowly increase every few days, starting with a pint of water and building up from there.

Good Hydration

Good Hydration

 

Is water just too boring to hydrate?

I speak to many people that think drinking water is boring, but what could be better that pure, clear water to hydrate with? Still not convinced, well lets jazz it up a bit.  Get a nice jug, add your water and put some slices of lemon or a bit of mint, or even both. Leave in the fridge to chill and you have a nice refreshing beverage. It looks so nice too and feels more like a treat.

Taking time over presentation of what you eat and drink can totally trasnform how you feel about it. The benefits of adding lemon is anecdotal but it could also give you added vitamin C, be good for your skin and may wake up your digestive system.  Good to have first thing in the morning. Mint is also considered a good digestive aid. Vitamin C also boost immunity.  Boosting immunity is also a key to staying health both emntaly and physically.

If you want to vary it maybe add orange, limes or cucumber, with of without mint.  For a bit more flavour add tumeric or cinnamon and if you want a little bit of sweetness, add a little raw hone, which may also boost immunity. Make sure it is raw though.

If that does not float your boat how about adding some fresh fruit like strawberries or raspberries?  You can even freeze them and add them for some extra chill as the weather gets warmer.

If you want a bit of a tang add some raw apple cider vinegar. Again health benefits are anecdotal, but certainly it adds flavour and does no harm.  If it gets you drinking more water then totally worth it.

Add some fizz to hydrate

Lastly how about a little fizz.  Either using natural carbonated water like Perrier or San Pelligrino or using something like a soda strea, without adding the sugary sweetner. Carbonated water works just as well with all the above to hydtrate, and has the added benefit of making you feel full, may improve swallowing and has benefits of digestion. Carbonated water may have beneficial effects on your cholesterol, inflammation, and blood sugar levels, potentially reducing your risk of heart disease and boosting immunity. However, more studies are necessary.

So enjoy the sunshine and go make some liven up you water.

HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE

Why exercise?

Today let’s take a look at exercise and how it can benefit your mental health and wellbeing.

Many people reading this are under lockdown due to Covid-19, and let’s face it, exercise can be a challenge. Dashing around people, motivation, missing the sports and gym. But we all know it’s good for us don’t we!! Finding a way to keep up the exercise is a must and for many people is a first, forced by the need to just get out of the house. I do hope that those that have just started will keep it.

Well if you need to change it up for a variety or just want some fresh ideas here are a few.

1. Cardio and Aerobic Exercise

Make exercise fun

Make exercise fun

Cardio exercise is about increased heart rate, while aerobic exercise entails increasing oxygen intake. However, many activities achieve both of these at once. So how can you incorporate running, jogging, walking, bicycling, swimming, gardening or dancing into your routine and why is it good for your mental health?

All of these are things you can do right now. Well, maybe a little chilly for swimming. The sea is still a ways to go to warm up enough for most people. You know the saying, dance as though no one is watching.  Even in the smallest space, you can turn up the volume on your favourite jam and dance around the room. Maybe with headphones on if you want it really loud or you live with others.

Cardio and aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce both anxiety and depression by doing the following:

  • Increasing blood flow to the brain
  • Endorphins are released into the body, helping reduce pain and improve mood
  • Positively affecting parts of the brain that impact motivation

Getting outside is excellent for your mental health in a variety of ways. It’s surprising how a gentle stroll surrounded by nature can give you a completely new perspective. Sometimes it’s simply the change of scenery that helps. Here are some reasons why getting outside is beneficial for the mind as well as the body.

Vitamin D

Make exercise fun

Make exercise fun

According to Public Health England, adults and children over the age of 1 should have 10 micro-grams of vitamin D every day. Getting outside in the sunlight will give you a much-needed vitamin D boost. Vitamin D is connected to your mood, and if you’re lacking in it, your mood may be affected.

There’s a reason why people feel happier in the sun because it can really improve your mood. So, if you look outside and the sun is shining, like today, pop out for a bit to soak up some rays (but make sure you protect your skin with sunscreen, even at this time of year you can still burn and remember to moisturise the skin afterwards). We are allowed now!

The fresh air helps too. Fresh air helps to send plenty of oxygen through the blood and allows your lungs to work at full capacity. Plus, oxygen to your brain = more brainpower.

My husband and I have taken up running here and there but walking is our favourite at the moment.  It is amazing what beautiful places we have discovered on our own doorstep that we did not know were there.  Normally we would drive somewhere like RHS Wisley.

High Intensity

Simple High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is also possible at home. Great for a quick workout with maximum benefit. There are lots of different ideas available but I have found one of the simplest and most effective was one promoted by Dr Michael Mosely on his Truth About Getting Fit series:

2. Strength Training

If you go to the gym regularly you are probably, like me, missing it a lot.  You already know that high you get from a good workout. Of course, a stronger body helps release muscle tension, increases strength and helps reduce pain. There are some simple exercises you can do at home to increase strength that are good for beginners and advanced alike.  Try Yoga or Pilates. There are many online resources you can accessand apps you can download. Also, many gyms and gym instructors are providing virtual classes via zoom. That way you can still get the personal support and have your posture checked.

Many of us are sitting a lot more than normal. Working from home brings many challenges. Are you sitting on uncomfortable for long hours? Are screens are ergonomically placed?  This is leading to stiff back and back and neck pain. Targeting the muscles with strenth exercise will help, either more traditional strength training or postoral based training.

I love Somatic movement for reducing tension and relaxing the body after sitting at my desk but I still do some pilates and yoga moves as well.  I love variety. What is your preference? I also take a break every hour and move around. This is also good practive.  Pain and tension will reduce your ability to focus.  Most people can only focus for a maximum of 90 minutes, so take a break before you max out.

Not to worry if you dont have any equiment at home.  A tin of beans can double as a light weight for many exercises. There are also many cheap items that can help, like exercise bands to provide resistance. Have a look on your tube too for inspiration.

3. Flexibility and Stretch

Flexibility is good for overall health and is achieved through stretching.  The jury is out about whether to do this before exercise and after, however every training instructor will advise you to stretch to release tension.  Performing stretches on a regular basis may improve your circulation. Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness.

Hopefuly I have inspired you.  I am remember an old TV show that was on when I was a child.  “Why Don’t You!”

Why Don’t You? or Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?

 

Being a bit more zen can help you get through the day

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More people than ever are suffering will ill mental health, due to the ongoing covid pandemic and other associated problems. Learning a technique that can help you feel more chilled and more zen can really make a difference. Learning to meditate can reduce stress, decrease anxiety and improve mood. Scientific evidence show that meditation can be helpful in fighting illness, including depression, heart disease and chronic pain.

Trying to reach a state of zen when your messages keep bleeping and someone wants your focus, or kids want your attention is a challenge at the best of times, but with everyone in the house trying to stay busy or keep working is particularly challenging. There are a variety of different meditation styles and finding the right one for you can be a bit of a minefield, so here is a simple guide to help you decide which one is right for you.

History

The far eastern countries are well known for being zen. Of course that is where the word comes from. It literally means meditation. See this article in wikipedia for more information. Meditation was first developed in India possibly since 5000BC. The oldest documented evidence is wall art in the Indian subcontinent from about this time, showing people seated in meditative postures with half-closed eyes. During this time and for centuries before, all learning and knowledge was passed on by word of mouth. Almost all the Hindu religious books talk of meditation in some form or the other. So we can safely assume that meditation was also an integral part of the knowledge that the Gurus were teaching their students, and all this was done via the oral tradition. And because it was oral, it is not documented and hence gets very difficult to tell how old meditation really is.

Meditation is the practice of thinking deeply or focussing ones mind for a period of time.  This can be done in silence or with the help of chanting or other aids. Lets have a look at a few different practices, old and new.

1. Mindfulness

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Mindfullness meditation is very zen and very now! It is all about being aware and present and in the moment. It can be done anywhere. You might prefer to find a quiet spot and sit with your eyes closed, focussing initially on your breath and then just noticing what you notice. Allowing sounds to pass you by without judgement. Perhaps while you are running or walking you find yourself in flow, which is another way of thinking about meditation. (In positive psychology flow or a flow state, or in the zone. Characterised by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time. Named by by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975).

A form of mindfulness is involved in most kinds of meditation. Breath awareness encourages you to be aware of your breathing, while progressive relaxation draws attention to areas of tension in your body.

2. Loving-Kindness Meditation

A particularly good one to include to help you be a bit more zen is kindness. The goal of this meditation is to cultivate an attitude of love and kindness toward everything. Cultivating kindness towards oneself is really important for good mental wellbeing. While breathing deeply, open your mind to receiving loving kindness, then send  of loving kindness out to others. You can focus on specific people or situations if you wish. Repeat the message over and over.

It can help dispel feelings of anger, frustration, resentment and conflict and increase positive emotions.

3. Body scan or progressive relaxation

Body scan or progressive relaxation meditation, is where you sit in a relaxed comportable position and can your body for areas of tension. The goal is to notice tension and to allow it to release. It is challenging to instantly obtain relaxation so purposfully tensing the area and then relaxing helps send the right messages to the muslces to relax. Start with your feet and work up the body.

Progressive relaxation can help invoke feelings of calmness and relaxation. It may also help with pain, because it slowly and steadily relaxes the body, some people use this form of meditation to help them sleep.

4. Guided Meditation

Guided meditations can be very helpful in many situations.  Having something to specifically focus on to guide you through can help you relax and focus. It can invoke sounds, textures and images though use of words, music, sounds of nature or bells, chanting and many more.  Guided meditations can also be used to focus on specific issues like improving self confidence, weight loss, general relaxation any many more.  It is just a case of finding the one or ones that appeal to you.  I know quite a few people use the headspace app. This can be a great place to start.

5. Breath awareness meditation

Breath awareness is a type of mindful meditation that encourages mindful breathing. Breathe slowly and deeply, counting your breaths or otherwise focusing on you breath. You can use sspecific sounds repeated in your head as you breathe in and out. So hung works very well and one I use personally. The goal is to focus only on breathing and to ignore other thoughts that enter the mind. A way to do this is acknowlege them and promise to focus on them later so you can move on.

As a form of mindfulness meditation, breath awareness offers many of the same benefits as mindfulness. Those include reduced anxiety, improved concentration, and greater emotional flexibility.

6. Yoga Meditation

The practice of yoga dates back to ancient India. There are a wide variety of classes and styles of yoga, but they all involve performing a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises meant to promote flexibility and calm the mind. The poses require balance and concentration.

it is a physically active form of meditation that blends movements with deep breathing and mantras. People usually learn from a teacher or do a class. However, someone can learn the poses and mantras at home, although best to have a check in with your GP first. It can improve physical strength and reduce pain. It may also improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.

7. Zen meditation

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Zen meditation is a form of meditation that can be part of Buddhist practice. Usually studied with the guidance of a teacher because it involves specific steps and postures. The goal is to find a comfortable position, focus on breathing, and mindfully observe one’s thoughts without judgment.

Again, this form of meditation is similar to mindfulness meditation but requires more discipline and practice. People may prefer it if they are seeking both relaxation and a new spiritual path.

8. Chakra Meditation

Chakra is an ancient Sanskrit word that translates to “wheel,” and can be traced back to India. Chakras refer to the centers of energy and spiritual power in the body. There are thought to be seven chakras. Each chakra is located at a different part of the body and each has a corresponding color.

Chakra meditation is made up of relaxation techniques focused on bringing balance and well-being to the chakras. Some of these techniques include visually picturing each chakra in the body and its corresponding color. You may may choose to light incense or use crystals, color coded for each chakra to help you concentrate during the meditation.

9. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a spiritual form of meditation where practitioners remain seated and breathe slowly. The goal is to transcend or rise above you current state of being. You focus on a mantra or a repeated word or series of words determined by your teacher or perhaps you choose your own. This more contemporary version is not technically Transcendental Meditation, though it may look substantially similar. A practitioner might decide to repeat “I am not afraid of public speaking” while meditating.

People who practice Transcendental Meditation report both spiritual experiences and heightened awareness.

In Summary

The various meditative disciplines encourage a focus on heightened awareness, slower breathing, and increased acceptance. Meditation is not a results-focused undertaking. Indeed, fixating too much on the results can provoke anxiety that undermines the benefits of meditation.

Research shows that meditation can work very quickly. Many people who practice meditation report an immediate improvement following a meditation session. During meditation, it is common to feel calmer and less stressed. Over time and with practice, these sensations may continue outside of meditation sessions

There is no right or wrong way to meditate and nothing that says choose just one option. Any meditation is better than no meditation. If your only want to meditate once a week, do so. If you want to try different forms, do that too.

Meditating around the same time each day can make meditation a habit that is easy to incorporate into daily life. If meditation is helpful, it may be beneficial to increase the frequency to twice or more per day or to use it to reduce stress whenever needed.

 

 

Boost your mental health with creativity

Today lets take a look at 5 creative pastimes and how they can benefit your mental health and wellbeing.

Many people reading this are under lockdown due to Covid-19, so here are a few ideas to use your extra time to start or restart a hobby, or learn a new skill. Its a smart way to boost your good mental health. Studies show that learning something new creates new neural connections in the brain, which improves memory and performance and makes us feel better.

1. Drawing

Whether is just doodling, colouring in colouring books made for adults, or drawing and painting it does not matter.  Anything that gets your creative juices flowing and gives you time out to relax the mind. If you are new to drawing and dont know where to start I have always found this a great way to get started and would recommend it.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. It is the  is the world s most widely used drawing instruction book. Whether you are a professional, a student or enjoy art as a hobby Betty Edwards practical set-by-step guide to drawing will give you greater confidence in your ability, deepen your artistic perception and provide a new way to appreciate the way you perceive the world around you.

Or perhaps a colouring book is more your speed.  There are loads specifically created for adults and readily available on amazon. I love mixing it up between high quality colouring pencils and fine tip staedler pens. Ah so many choices.

2. Cooking

Cooking can be fun and creative. It is also an ideal way to improve your physical health, learning to cook nutritions but fun new meals.  I think I have yet to cook the same meal twice in the last few months.  We have a regular organic veg order and finding new ways to cook delicious local and seasonal produce has been great fun. Yes it has been ocassionally challenging and there have been some veg we would have never considered buying so it has stretched our adventuresome spirit too. It has also saved money, cooking with what is delivered, rather than designing the recipe and going and buying the ingredients.

Baking is also a great skill to have.  This week and I have been learning to bake bread and scones.  Focaccia this week.  Tasted fabulous.  Now the challenge is to not eat too much of it!!! Luckily a lot of these things can be put in the freezer for a treat another day.

3. Music

Learning a new instrument, learning to read music or learning to sing are all fun things to do. Whether you sign up for Gareth Malone’s virtual weekly choir or decide to learn to play an instrument there are multiple benefits.  Just because we are on lockdown does not mean that these are unachievable. There are so many online resouces available from eLearning to You Tube or many apps.

If you started in your youth but gave it up now is a chance to rekindle your passion. Learning an instrument relieves stress and also improves brain power.

Remember that listening to music can completely change your mood.  Something to make you dance round the room or something to help you relax or meditate, it does not matter. What is important is that we do.

4. Writing

Writing is a great way to be creative, whether it is journalling or creating a novel or poem. It can be with a beautiful book and pen, a structured journal, a typed note or a captured voice message. Journalling as a fabulous way to reducing anxiety by getting thoughts out of your head and on to the page. I personally love to have a special note book around to doodle and write in when the mood takes me, but I also use a structured journal to help think through things or for personal evelopment.  One of my favourites is Daily Greatness.  A structured journal can also be great for thinking about what you are grateful for and what life afirmation can boost your mood.

There is plenty of room to get creative and there any many online resouces to help you. If an app is your preference try Masterclass or if eLearning suits you best try FutureLearn. Of course reading a book on the topic can also be inspiring. Not everything has to be online.

5. Learning a Language

Learn a new language

Where we live is becoming more and more multicultural.  In our small block of 5 houses alone we cover Easern Europe, Asia, West Indies and UK. Whether you want to be able to converse in the language of your neighbours or have your eye on the prize of the next holiday, when allowed, why not prepare and extend your vocabulary beyond what’s required to order food and ask directions. Duolingo seems like a great way to start. It makes games out of learning, and games are always fun right! It is also free if you don’t mind the ads. You can also graduate to having practice sessions with friends with a glass of wine or a virtual coffee via zoom.

 

Makes you just want to do a little happy dance doesn’t it!

 

 

Lets talk about stress

Feeling stress is a natural reaction in the body, that feeling of fight of flight.  However the body is designed to deal with the danger and then reset.  In the modern world we live in though, we rarely get the time to properly destress, and so the stress builds and builds.  It is really important to take the time to help the body reset. Here are some really simple exercises you can do that take just a few minutes.

Try them out and find out which one works best for you.

Firstly is the rescue breath.  This is a deep breathing exercise to help you dissolve stress and restore calm. It helps calm the mind and slow the heart rate.  It is great to use in the moment.

Then there is the reset ritual, to help you release stress and tension and give you a boost.  You will feel relaxed and energised.

Thirdly is Tactical Breathing, which is a technique, taught to the military and emergency services, and another easy method of calming the parasympathetic nervous system.

Lastly we will show you a tapping technique called Through Field Therapy (TFT).  We will show you a specific series of meridian tapping points in a pattern called The Psychological Reversal Triangle (PRT), which can help calm you and reduce stress and anxiety.

It is so much easier to demonstrate them than to try and explain them so enjoy watching and have fun trying the techniques yourself.

Written by Alison Charles and Reyhana Jano

Do you struggle to cope with the amount of change you experience around? Is change a constant at work?

Change is a fundamental fact of life. You cannot stop the onward march of change, but you can manage how you react to it. There are things you can do to cope with it personally and plenty you can do as a business owner or manager to support people and help the transition.

It is inevitable, change, but you can actually deal with it, and you can actually develop some coping strategies. You can also do some key things to make it less scary.

Dealing with Change on a Practical Level

On a daily basis within the businesses, change can be anything. When we think about change, we think more about the major change, such as restructuring, people buying over businesses, people losing their jobs but there is minor change as well.  For example: going on a training course has an impact in terms of the where and when you’re going to be doing your work. This means you also have to think about change within the work space.

What about change in our personal life and what impact does it have on our daily activities within the work space?

We need to look at at change holistically and not compartmentalise it in terms of work and personal life.

We spend much of our time at work and change here has a major impact, but is change necessary? Businesses have to change to keep up.  We need to juggle changes in technology, requirements of different generations of staff, differing client requirements and staying ahead of the game to stay in business.

The impact of change on the employee wellbeing

Change, for most people, tends to be quite an uncomfortable place to be. It means that there is uncertainty. It could be that there job might change or disappear altogether for example. Employees are likely to be worried about the new role, whether they’ve got the right capabilities in place to be able to deal with it.

Somebody might be worried about whether they’re actually going to have a role with the changes that are coming – there will be a level of uncertainty about what’s going to happen – “am I going to have a job in the future”.

Even if you’re working for yourself there’s still a massive level of uncertainty around change. You’re constantly on the lookout regarding your client base, what’s going to happen tomorrow and I’m going to have enough money to pay the mortgage. You know when you’re working for yourself you tend to get those peaks and troughs so actually responding to all those demands is what makes things worrying.

It doesn’t just impact employees but it impacts sole traders and business people as well.

Are our leaders resilient enough to manage change?

Communication, communication, communication is key. It doesn’t have to be a complicated strategy that you’re putting in place. It can be something simple, but tell employees why change is happening. Explain to them the impact it’s going to have on them.  Much of the worry will be because employees do not feel informed or included.  Make sure to get their input too.  They might think of something you have not. We think we need to come up with the solutions ourselves but often your employees have the answer.

Giving employees the opportunity to ask questions and including them as part of the process helps reduce the stress.  Communication is very important.

Communicating with customers or clients is equally important.  It might be that their needs are driving the change too.  Keep them in the loop and work with them to deliver fit for purpose solutions.

As a small business owner it can be quite isolating and change can feel that much more stressful. You need support around yourself.  You need to think about where can you get that support. Reach out to others and get their input.

If you’re working within a co space environment there will be other people that are sole traders as well or start-ups.  See if you can get a network group going within that environment and how you can help each other.

A coach can also be a great benefit to help manage change.  They are a great sounding board, listener and trusted advisor.

Mindset

Many people worry about what the outcomes might be, and have a tendency to catastrophizing and in their minds that things will be a lot worse than they are. You have to find people around you that you can go and talk to, to actually talk about your fears and worries, and to go through a process that they can help you with, where you are given the space to think about what the worst-case scenario will be.

  • Is that really likely to happen?
  • Have I been in this situation before?
  • Was it as bad as we expected?

Going through this process will help put it into perspective, and nine times out of 10 things are never as bad as you think. Even if it is worst case scenario, and you are working for a company and is facing redundancy; you never know what sort of opportunities are going to come along.

Mindset and how you approach things, looking for the positive can make a massive difference about how you feel internally. Try reframing any negative thoughts and see how you can make it into a positive one.

Find techniques that help you destress, make sure you take time for yourself and do something fun.

For further ideas go to https://www.facebook.com/ProsperThroughPeople/ where you will find a growing number of videos to help you.

It is very easy to keep pushing, which can lead to burn out so self-care and care of your employees is really important.

Making change personal

If you want to make changes on a personal level, one of the key things is to really understand where you’re at. So for any change to happen, you really need to know where your starting point is.

Journaling is really useful to actually be able to look internally and see where you are at and what your mindset is. So start to do things like, say for example, if you find a particular situation stressful, start to make a really short journal. It doesn’t have to be pen and paper we’ve all got smartphones these days, it’s really easy to get an app to do journaling on. It doesn’t matter where you do it you can also record messages there’s apps like mental snap where you can record your mental state.

The important thing is to actually have that inward reflection and start to look at; okay I’ve got a bit anxious about that. What was the trigger? And then start to look at, what was it something external, was it something that I didn’t understand, was it that I didn’t have enough information, was it me reacting to it to somebody else, and just really understand what the triggers are and what makes you feel that the worst is going to happen in the first place.

Once you’ve done that journaling, you’ll start to understand and dig under your own hood a little bit as to what makes you tick, and what actually puts you into that, we like to call it sort  of catastrophizing, where you always think the worst is going to happen. And then you can start taking steps to think about well actually is that really, really the case.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Change is a journey. I hope you enjoy your journey.

Written by Alison Charles and Reyhana Jano

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is an awareness day observed on 10 September every year, in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. There are various activities around the world.

What’s the campaign?

The campaign is a joint collaboration between the World Health Organisation, the World Federation for Mental Health and the International Association for Suicide Prevention.
Working Together to Prevent Suicide is the theme this year, which will be retained for WSPD in 2019 and 2020. The theme was chosen as it “highlights the most essential ingredient for effective global suicide prevention – collaboration”.

Every 90 minutes a life is lost to suicide in the UK. Globally a person dies every 40 seconds by suicide and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt. Therefore many have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has attempted suicide.

It touches the lives of people in every corner of society – from builders to doctors, actors to the unemployed and homeless. It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35 and men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

“It’s rarely talked about, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice”.

Unfortunately, my own cousin committed suicide 28 years ago.  I still feel sad when I remember him. I still feel said when I think of him. He was a gentle soul, taken from life too early. The aftershock on family, friends, colleagues is very traumatic.  What could we have done differently we wonder.  It is just as important to get help and support of you have suffered a loss and are struggling.  It is important for you to talk to someone too and also ask for help.

There are a number of different organisations that can help from your GP and local charities with qualified professionals.

How can you help?

When stress, depression and anxiety hit so hard that someone feels suicidal, reaching out and asking for help can be the hardest thing in the world to do. So we have to continually reach in. Just reaching out to someone and offering a helping hand and some comfort can make a difference. So many people worry about what to say or that they may say something that makes the situation worse.  However, in reality, the listening ear of someone with compassion, empathy and a lack of judgement can help restore hope.

Taking a minute to reach out to someone in your community could change the course of another’s life. A family member, a friend or a stranger, just reach out.

What to look out for

We need to look out for those who are not coping. Individuals in distress are often not looking for specific advice. Warning signs of suicide include: hopelessness, rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge, acting reckless or engaging in risky activities – seemingly without thinking, feeling trapped like there’s no way out, increased alcohol or drug use, withdrawing from friends, family &  society, anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time and dramatic mood changes.

What can companies do to help?

Today is a great day to remind people of what help and support is already available to employees. So perhaps an Employee Assistance Programme, a chat with HR or their line manager or a wellbeing programme. Think about what can help the most. Have a variety of options available.

These are all ongoing activities, not just ones that are focussed on for Mental Health Awareness, Stress Awareness and Suicide Prevention Day. Remember to focus on it all year round.  While the focus is on suicide prevention, in social media and on the news, it is a good time to raise awareness.

I would love to connect and discuss the topic further. Perhaps you have a particular issues you wish to discuss.

Here’s my calendar link to make finding time easy.

 

 

Is Your To-Do List a Challenge?  According to a recent study commissioned by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) you are likely to have an average 33 tasks to complete each week.  Is this manageable?

According to the survey, about 60% feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks.  Sorting finances feature quite strongly but day to day tasks like looking after pets and taking care of the household chores are also on the list.

Two-thirds of the people surveyed feel like they are operating on autopilot, meaning to-do lists left as to-do and a never-ending list of tasks just get added to the bottom while others are there so long they fall off altogether.

Many people are planning to use the long bank holiday weekend to tick things off their job lists.  I have to admit, I will be too. My to-do list includes a lot of fun things as well as some household chores. It is really important that you get a balance and remember to schedule some rest and relaxation time.

Is Your To-Do List a Challenge? Here are some simple tips to help get that list sorted.

  1. Categorise the tasks into Urgent, Important, Waiting on someone else, delegate, decision
  2. Focus on the urgent ones first.  Put them in order of urgency.
  3. If the task itself feels large and overwhelming then break it down into a series of smaller, manageable tasks.
  4. Regardless of how long the task takes, do them in the category order.
  5. The more urgent ones you tick off the better you will feel
  6. If you are waiting on someone else, go give them a nudge now
  7. If you can delegate do so

Good luck with your list.

If you are interested in finding out more about how to overcome stress then I would love to connect.

Here’s my calendar link to make finding time easy.

Shocking number of people work while ill; stress at work rises. A new report carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) was released today, just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month.  The statistics are shocking.

People working while ill has tripled since 2010

The Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey was carried out at the beginning of 2018. Respondents to the survey said they had they had observed presenteeism (people working while ill) in their organisation over the last 12 months, compared with 72% in 2016 and just 26% in 2010.  This is their 18th Survey, so there is now a wealth of data to compare with.

Fewer Companies are Challenging “Presenteeism” and “Leavism” than in 2016

Even despite these shocking figures, only a very small number of firms are taking steps to tackle the issue.  In fact 50% fewer companies are taking steps to tackle the issue in 2018 than in 2016.

As well as “Presenteeism” being a problem, the new buzzword is “Leaveism”.  This is when people use their annual leave to work.  This is also highlighted in the report with only 27% of companies that see this behaviour, doing something to discourage it.

Working while ill bad for the individual

Shocking number of people work while ill; stress at work rises. Neither Presenteeism nor Leaveism is good for the individual or the company.  Everyone needs downtime and some R&R.  If staff are using their annual leave to get work done that is bad news.

Work is more pressured than ever and so many people are worried about job security. They show up because they want to be seen and want to give no reason to be first in line for redundancy.  In the longer term this can lead to more serious illness and a lot longer on sick leave.

Bad for Business

As well as impacting the wellbeing of the individual, it will also have a disastrous result for your company productivity.  People who are struggling are not working at their best or fullest capacity.  In fact, they are probably operating well below par. The longer this goes on the less productive they will be.

What Can You Do About It?

There is a direct link between presenteeism/leaveism and increases in stress-related absence and other mental health related illnesses like depression and anxiety.  These are still among the top causes of long-term sickness absence.

If you recognise this behaviour in your company, that people are working when ill in particular, then a focus on employee wellbeing as a whole can reduce unhealthy workplace practices.

Senior leaders are key influencers and must support wellbeing.  They also need to act as role models within the company.  Managers within the company, at all levels, need the training to support employees and often themselves.

“In order to tackle these unhealthy practices within your company, it is vitally important that you invest in a health and wellbeing strategy, and that the strategy is at the core of your values.  I am in no doubt that if you do invest in a health and wellbeing strategy you will absolutely see the benefits.” Pam Whelan, Director of Corporate, Simply Health

I will be taking a deeper dive into different aspects of the report in future blogs.

Need Help?

If you need support in implementing your wellbeing strategy or changing behaviour in your company, or perhaps you are interested in finding out more about how to support your employees then I would love to connect.

Here’s my calendar link to make finding time easy.

 

Employee wellbeing is a hot topic at the moment, but do you really understand how to look after your own wellbeing when you work in a high-stress environment?

Any role that is customer facing is stressful. The Service Desk Institute realise how difficult it can be for Service Desk staff to know how to cope with stress and how critical it is to have the right support in place.

I joined us as one of our leading breakout speakers at The Conference for Service Desk Leaders 2018 to discuss the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.

What are the 5 Pillars of Wellbeing?

I particularly like the phraseology of Dr. Rangan Chaterjee in his book “The 4 Pillar Plan.  How to relax, eat, move and sleep. Your way to a longer, healthier life”.  The art of wellbeing or being well is to have all of these four elements in balance.  The one extra I would add is mindset.

As well as the stress of dealing with people we live in an age where we are overwhelmed by data and deadlines and we are on fully connected overdrive.  How many of you get up in the morning and the first thing you do is reach for your phone, check your social media and your emails?

Our adrenal glands get overstrained. The adrenal glands secrete adrenaline to help your body respond to stress, but they also regulate many vital processes in your body, such as metabolism.  Constant stress is like putting your foot on the accelerator all the time, at some point you are going to run out of petrol. It is also like overloading a PC with different processes.

It is absolutely critical to give the body a chance to reset and engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the equivalent of putting your foot on the brake, or if you think more in PC terms, a reboot.

Here are some ways to consider that might help you look after your employee wellbeing. Always check with your GP or other suitably qualified medical professionals about a lifestyle change or before embarking on exercise.

Relax

Every person is different so everyone will find different activities relaxing. The important thing is that you do take some time for self-care.  This allows the body to do that essential reboot. A morning meditation session, where everyone knows not to disturb you, might be your relaxation.  Maybe it’s that hot bath with a good book, last thing at night.  Perhaps you have a particular hobby or interest that is your “YOU” time.  If not, learning something new is a great stress buster and has numerous other benefits for the brain too.

If you are at work and you have a particularly difficult customer, then how about resetting right after the call.  I personally love the Hayo’u Method.  Try this reset ritual:

https://www.hayoumethod.com/the-rituals/reset-ritual/

If you can’t leave your desk then some slow deep breaths can really help.  Put your elbows on the desk and cover your eyes with your hands and block out the light.  Leave a gap between your hands and eyeballs, like a cup. Breathe in 4 counts.  Hold 4 counts. Out 4 counts. Hold 4 counts. Repeat. If 4 does not suit then find your own rhythm.

Eat

Eating a healthy diet is critical to overall wellbeing.  However, I am not about to prescribe a particular eating regime.  Your GP or a qualified nutritionist is the best person to approach.  They can help you find what works best for your lifestyle and body type.

The tendency, when we are stressed, tired and busy, is to choose convenience foods, alcohol and sugary foods.  All of these actually put more stress on the adrenals and therefore make the body more stressed.  Make sensible choices but be kind to yourself, an occasional reward is also good for you. It keeps you motivated and keeps levels of enjoyment high.

Make sure you encourage your employees to take a proper break at lunchtime and eat appropriately!

Move

Exercise is a great way to relax and de-stress so it might be your choice of relaxation too. It releases endorphins, which gives a feeling of wellbeing.  The key is to find out what you enjoy.  If it is fun then you will keep doing it.  Whether it is pumping iron at the gym or taking a class.  Following a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) programme, running with a group in the park or doing a dance class it all helps.  If that all sound a bit energetic then slower exercises are also great.  Try Tai Chi, Pilates or Yoga.  There are some great online resources if you don’t want to go to a gym.  If you are embarking on exercise for the first time do check with your GP.

If you don’t have much time then there is a lot of research about short workouts with maximum benefits.  Watch “Trust me I’m a Doctor” on BBC for some ideas.

What about taking your employees on a walking meeting. Encouraging people to walk round the block if they are working from home.

Sleep

A good nights sleep is so critical for feeling energetic and healthy.  Stress can mean you spend the night lying awake trying to sleep and watching the minutes tick by, then waking up in the morning feeling tired and grumpy.  If you suffer the occasional night of bad sleep this might help.  If it is more prolonged then do have a chat with a qualified medical professional.

Choose your preferred relaxation method to help you switch off.  Leave any phones, tablets, TV’s off and preferably out of the room altogether.  Even reading can hinder more than help.  If you do find yourself running through things then get up and write them all down and then go back to bed.  Getting them on paper can help clear the mind.  If you wake up several times in the night, then try going to bed slightly later and getting up slightly earlier. It can help reset the body clock.

Mindset

Above all be kind to yourself. Think about how you would talk to a loved one and treat yourself with the same respect.  Keeping a journal or diary can help uncover unhelpful behaviour.  Half the battle is recognising it, then you can do something to change it.  Look for times when you are stressed and you have no control of the situation.

Perhaps you are driving and there is a traffic jam.  Can you change it? “No”.  What you can do is take the time to do some deep breathing exercises, listen to your favourite music and enjoy the scenery. Well that feels so much better, right?  Keeping a journal of instances like that can help you notice patterns and stress triggers.

A journal can help you make changes that will lead to a more resilient you.  Greater resilience means greater capacity to cope with stress and with change. It means you are more likely to do something that you are fearful of and try it anyway.  This in turn builds confidence, self-esteem and resilience.  It directly impacts your ability to feeling and being well.

Now over to you

What changes are you going to make to improve your own wellbeing?  What are your goals?  Go write them down.  Now create an action plan made up of small steps to achieve your goals. Small steps lead to constant wins and are the most sustainable.  Remember your wellbeing, your way.  Be Well!

If you are interested in finding out more about how to manage stress then I would love to connect.

Here’s my calendar link to make finding time easy.