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What is Somatic Movement?

Somatic movement is the movement of the body as a whole, or of individual parts of the body. It includes both voluntary and involuntary movement and can be either purposeful or non-purposeful. It is an important part of human development and is essential for maintaining physical health and well-being.

A Movement for healthy living

There are many benefits to incorporating somatic movement into your life. Somatic movement can help to improve your overall physical health, as well as your mental and emotional well-being. By improving your physical health, you can reduce your risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Furthermore, somatic movement can help to improve your balance and coordination and increase your flexibility and range of motion. Additionally, practicing regular somatic movements can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your quality of sleep. Ultimately, incorporating somatic movement into your life can help you to live pain-free and reverse some of the postures we typically associate with old age.

Why somatic movement is so important

The human body is designed to move. And yet, in our modern world, we often find ourselves sitting for long periods of time – at our desks, in our cars, on our couches. This sedentary lifestyle can lead to all sorts of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Somatic movement is any kind of movement that is intentional and mindful. It can be as simple as taking a break from sitting to stand up and stretch, or it can be a more structured form of movement with a qualified practitioner.

The benefits are many. It can help to improve our posture, increase our flexibility, and reduce stress. It can also help to improve our cardiovascular health and increase our overall strength and endurance.

The great thing about somatic movement is that you can do it almost anywhere. So why not make a commitment to incorporating some somatic movement into your daily life? Your body will thank you for it!

Interested in Finding Out More – Special Offer

Hi I’m Alison
I help people who are in pain, feel better again. I recently moved to Great Wakering and set up my local studio, and in celebration, I am giving a special offer on Somatic Movement one-to-one sessions until the end of August.
So if you
  • Wake up tired or in pain?
  • Notice you cannot move like you used to?
  • Somatics is the answer; It goes to the root of most chronic muscular pain.

It works for everyone, both young, and old, and everyone in between! Retrain your brain to relax and release chronically tight muscles and move easily and flexibly.

Give me a call on 07768 493157 and we can have a chat about how I can help you.

 

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 talking about the “hidden gift of menopause” and what positive elements can come from the experience.

Why do we view menopause so negatively?

When many women think of menopause, it is most likely negatively. We always hear about the dreaded menopause and its nasty symptoms. Not to mention the changes and the stress it causes. It is almost like we view it as a tragic, inevitable end to our youth. But is it all negative, or are there actually some positive elements that the whole experience can bring to us?

One thing we might think about, when we approach menopause, is that we will lose our youth and beauty. By today’s beauty standards, it is almost as if we must stay young to be desirable. Western culture seems to glorify beautiful, youthful women and dismiss others, which consequently puts pressure on women to stay young and pretty no matter what. Menopause is seen as a threat to that, which is where the negative narrative surrounding menopause lies. It is important to remember that this is just how Western culture views it, and that in other cultures and countries it may be seen in a completely different way. And that also, it is not just physical beauty that matters.

How do other cultures view it?

While we may suffer with the negative views and taboo around menopause in Western countries are plenty of cultures that have completely alternative perspectives on what it means. For example, the Japanese culture does not worry about menopause at all. While we associate the word menopause with symptoms and unhappiness, the Japanese do not. In fact, their word for menopause is ‘konenki’, which broken down means something much greater than just menopause. Ko means “renewal or regeneration”, nen means “years”, and ki means “season or energy”. In English, it does not translate to something quite so inspirational as this. And in China they have a similar attitude, calling it the ‘Second Spring.’

Indigenous cultures, such as the M?ori in New Zealand, have a beautiful take on menopause. Instead of being something to dread, they see it as the transition from being a member of society, to becoming a spiritual elder. Mayan women believe that entering menopause gives them their access to shamanic abilities and healing powers. They have ceased to have children and will now focus on taking care of their children’s children and the community. Therefore, becoming a well-respected and useful member of the community. There is a quote that Native American and other Indigenous people say which is “The blood you no longer bleed is retained as wise blood.” Perhaps we could learn something from them and change how we personally view menopause? You can read more about different cultures surrounding menopause here.

What is the hidden gift of menopause?

We have all been through difficult situations that left us feeling stronger or wiser. Many women feel that menopause has the same effect. All the unresolved difficulties that we have papered over during our life, to be able to survive and carry on, are magnified in menopause, forcing us to deal with them. As a result, often relationship crises are a ‘side effect’ of menopause. And any past physical symptoms can also come up to be addressed.

Another way of looking at it is that we start out in life as a caterpillar. Menopause is the chyrsalis stage, where we transform into our original blueprint – a butterfly. The shift in hormones challenges us to give up old, unhealthy caterpillar attitudes and behaviours, and become our True Self.

This explains why many women come out the other side of menopause saying they’ve never been happier or more fulfilled. It’s when women come into their power, worry less about what others think, become more assertive, and find their voice. Some even make serious life changes according to what it is they need or want to really thrive. Some learn to stop giving so much of themselves to others and focus more on their own path.

Another medical term for menopause is ‘climacteric’. It is used to describe the decline in fertility in women during this time. And in botany this term denotes the time when a fruit reaches its full ripeness and sweetness. This is a perfect way to view menopause: A ripening into a mature, wise woman, full of life.

So really, there are many positive things we can take away from menopause. It is not all doom and gloom! I hope we can start normalising conversation about menopause, and teach those who have yet to go through it, that it is not something to fear. That it is something to embrace!

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

 

 

 

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.

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 acupuncturist and Shiatsu practitioner, Dan Thompson for his experience with using acupuncture and Chinese medicine to manage symptoms.

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. It 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. 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.

Women who take HRT for more than 1 year have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who never use HRT. The risk is linked to all types of HRT except vaginal oestrogen. “The increased risk of breast cancer falls after you stop taking HRT, but some increased risk remains for more than 10 years compared to women who have never used HRT”. For Further information in this area see the link about HRT on this NHS Website.

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. Ultimately, 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.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Acupuncturist Dan Thompson told us that he sees many women turning to Acupuncture and Chinese medicine to manage perimenopausal symptoms. Hot flushes, fatigue and irregular periods are just some of the many symptoms that people use Acupuncture for. It is a practice in which thin needles are placed in certain points of the body for a number of beneficial effects. Acupuncture is about stimulating the right pressure points with needles based on symptoms or diagnosis.

In Chinese medicine, the general aging of both men and women can be referred to as ‘Kidney Yin Deficiency’. Certain symptoms may also present as a depletion of Kidney essence. According to the Yin/Yang principles, Yin encourages the cooling process and Yang provides the warming function. Both Yin and Yang play a significant part in health, therefore diagnosing and treating signs and symptoms is prevalent in menopause. Stress and aging can cause disharmonies and depletion of our yin which can induce symptoms like insomnia leading up to menopause. Through this important stage of life, both yin and yang need nourishment to maintain a healthy balance of all symptoms during the menopause.

Why should we use them?

Our bodies and hormones are in a natural state of flux throughout the aging process. Symptoms will present themselves because menopause is a natural process. We have to go through it regardless! Managing naturally might come with a sense of accomplishment. But it is important to look after yourself with nutrition and exercise too. We have to adapt our health and lifestyle habits as we get older. The needs of our bodies change so it is important to change with it. So using different management methods that suit our individual experience with menopause is really good for us.

We should also keep in mind that symptoms are not just physical! Emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression can also be associated during this time. Managing emotional health goes hand in hand with looking after our physical health. One of the goals of using Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is to regulate hormones and reduce excess symptoms. Utilising all of these natural therapies to treat menopausal symptoms creates a healthy balance physically and within our mind.

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.

Next week we will be looking at menopause from a scientific point of view.

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

#TheBigShift – Are people are quitting city living?

I was delighted to be asked by Andrew Seaman from LinkedIn News about my perspectives on “The Great Resignation.” People are not just resigning from jobs, they are resigning from city life and looking for an existence with more balance, clearer air and less stress.

With companies being more open to working from home or the hybrid ways of working, partly in office or at home, employees are resigning from the cities and moving out to the suburbs or the country. No longer faced with the five days a week commute many people are thinking about living further away from the office.

Many are changing their lives entirely , they’re subsequently quitting their jobs and looking for something entirely different. Some are driven by the desire for a different lifestyle, others driven by necessity because their employers have ceased trading. However some are just thinking that their employers might be looking at redundancies or may cease trading in the near future.

Managing stress during change

Times are very uncertain and it is important to bear in mind that moving home and changing job are two of the most stressful. You only have to look at the Holmes and Rahe stress scale and add up the scores for the potential areas of change. You can see a subset in the table at the bottom of the article. Anything above 150 points and you could be at risk of stress related illness or other ailments.

So what are you doing to protect your wellbeing? Whatever the change it will impact on your stress levels to varying degrees!  However this will depend on your ability to cope with stress, your resilience levels and ability to bounce back.

When we are stressed our heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. We are ready to act. It is how we protect ourselves, we call it the “Fight of Flight” response. As stress continues the reactions of sympathetic nervous system effectively puts it foot on the gas pedal and presses down hard. This keeps us in stress overdrive! As a matter of fact what we need to do is invoke the parasympathetic nervous system – the body’s natural brakes. As a result this allows everything to calm down and lets us think clearly and rationally.

What can you do?

There is lots that you can do to destress and different people prefer different ways of relaxing. Firstly, the most important thing is that you do find time to decompress. This will help you when you need to put your foot back on the gas pedal again. It’s a bit like driving a car or a motorbike. If you keep your foot on the gas, you will eventually run out of gas! Logical right? Our bodies work in the same way, we need to refuel.

I am also one of those people that quit the city and I am rethinking my business as a result of Covid. The best advice I can give is that you remember to take your foot of the gas from time to time so will have enough energy left in the tank for when you really need it.

I am aware that many people are feeling the effects of stress or overwhelm at the moment and just need some clarity or someone to talk it through with. I am currently offering a complimentary 30 minute call, to help you get the support you might need just now. Just click this link and book your appointment. Alternatively call me on 06678 493157.

 

Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale Subset For Moving and Changing Work Circumstances

This month we invite guest bloggers Fola Ademoye and Narayani to talk about taking care of your own health.

If there is just one thing we learned in 2020, it is just how important being and keeping healthy is. Yes, that means looking after you! According to Public Health England, many women have suffered from mental distress as a result of covid and accompanying increases in workload.

So, we asked Soroptimist East London wellness experts Fola and Narayani for their top tips for taking care of you (without spending lots of money or time) in 2021 and will write them up in a number of blogs. First, we talk with Fola and Narayani and explore their top tip 1: get outside – even if it’s just stepping out the front door! 

Top Tip 1: Get outside, start your health and fitness journey!

After the events of 2020, it’s become evident now more than ever just how much good the outdoors can do for you. Especially if that time is used to do some exercise.

Fitness and Pilates instructor Fola Ademoye suggests: Get outside and keep physically fit!  She explains that even if gyms are closed, or access limited, there are still plenty of ways to gain or maintain a reasonable level of fitness and have fun at the same time. She suggests trying interval walking – with or without a friend.

Interval walking is simply where you walk at your normal pace for, say, 3 minutes and then do a quick burst of walking fast for 2 minutes. You only need your normal walking shoes and a watch with a second-hand. It is quite fun to see how many of these you can achieve over a few weeks. For example, you might do 5 blocks on day one (one block = 3 minutes walking normal speed and 2 minutes walking fast).  You will have accomplished 25 minutes without even noticing. Ideally, says Fola, increase your blocks by adding just one per day. Within a week you could be doing a 60 minute interval walk. Even if you added one block every other day or every third day, you would make significant progress.

“Set yourself a challenge and see how you get on” says Fola.

Get Outside and Shift Your Focus, Shift Your Mood!

girl walking Yoga therapist Narayani agrees that getting regular exercise is a great way to counter stress.  She suggests if you don’t feel up to interval training how about a walk around the block or to your nearest park. There’s plenty of research showing that just being in nature is good for our health. But even if there’s no green space near you, being outside you’ll get some vitamin D from the natural light.

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, Narayani suggests that one helpful technique is to focus on your feet as you walk. As you step forward with your right foot, mentally say “right” and then mentally say “left” as you step with the left foot. As a result, this simple walking meditation technique can help refocus your mind from worries to what is practically happening in your body at the present time. It can be very grounding since you are focusing on the feet.

When we’re feeling blue, just getting out of the house, even for 5 minutes can be great medicine. If a walking meditation doesn’t appeal or is not accessible to you, how about a quick “looking meditation”? Take 3-5 minutes and look around you, notice the colours, the shapes. If it’s helpful, imagine you are like a tourist visiting for the first time – who knows what you might see!  Narayani explains, many people are strongly visual so what they see can impact on how they feel – for example,  think about how you feel if you see a baby or a puppy. Looking at something different may temporarily distract you from worries. It will give you a break, and you might see something which makes you smile.

Narayani says there are many forms of meditation. Meditating on a regular basis even just for 5 minutes can help maintain our centre when life feels rocky. And remember, it’s not selfish, it’s necessary, to spend time taking care of you.

Want more wellness tips?

If you’d like more tips about getting & staying well, contact Fola or Narayani.

Fola originally started teaching fitness classes in 1985 and has continued teaching virtually non-stop. She spent most of her fitness career working closely with groups and individual clients to develop personalised health and fitness plans for them, including programmes for weight loss, muscular gain, and rehabilitation etc.  Contact Fola at fola.ademoye@gmail.com and check out her website here!

Narayani is a yoga therapist (C-IAYT) with over 15 years’ experience. She helps people find ease in their bodies, peace in their minds and happy, useful lives even in tough times. She teaches group and individual classes with a focus on health concerns and building resilience and coherence in life. Contact Narayani at yoganarayani@gmail.com and like her on Facebook and Instagram!

 

Interested in Soroptimist East London?

Soroptimist East London is a women’s organisation that empowers women for positive change and sustainable development in East London and around the world. We do it through volunteering, mentoring and advocacy. We work in partnership with other organisations and Soroptimist clubs near and far. Members come from a wide range of professional backgrounds and live, work or have personal connections to East London. We’re part of Soroptimist International a worldwide women’s volunteer organisation. We have clubs in 121 countries around the world and consultative status at the United Nations.  You can find out more about what we do and how we do it by reading our blog “What Does Soroptimist East London Do?” and check out the rest of our website too!

If you’d like to find out more or join, please contact us by clicking HERE!  We’re a vibrant and friendly group and new members are welcome.

 

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

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.

 

 

How important is your health to you, more specifically your physical health? Now what do we mean by physical health? Well physical health means that you’re free from illness or injury.

Physical health is critical for overall wellbeing. Some of the most obvious and serious signs that we are unhealthy appear physically. Addressing physical health is crucial for sustaining overall health and wellbeing.

While physical health consists of many components, here is a brief list of the key areas that should be considered:

  • Physical activity – includes strength, flexibility, cardio vascular and endurance
  • Nutrition and diet – includes nutrient intake, fluid intake, and healthy digestion
  • Rest and sleep – includes periodic rest and relaxation, along with high quality sleep
  • Hydration – keeping the body hydrated with fluid

Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.

Physical activity

Most healthy people should be active on a daily basis. This should be a mix of both leisurely physical activity and structured exercise. Examples of leisurely physical activity include gardening, housework, hiking, biking, dancing and walking. Examples of more structured forms of exercise include strength training, running, and swimming.

If you are new to exercise then do find someone that can help you plan a routine that is good for you.

The best form of exercise is the one that you enjoy doing.  Nutrition and diet

A well-balanced diet should contain carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Hydration is a key component of physical health and mental acuity and should be. Water should be consumed throughout the day. Meals should be regular and portion sizes should be sensible. Restriction of sugar is recommended and consumption of food in it natural form rather than processed.

And it can be quite hard, when you’re feeling stressed, to think about eating healthy. You just want the quick hit; you just want something to be easy. It can be quite difficult to look after your physical health when you’re in a high-stress work environment, but when you’re highly stressed, that’s when you really think about good nutrition and getting exercise and fresh air. That is what will support you back to balance.

If you are really busy then one of the best things you can do is sit down and plan your meals.  Maybe cook several meals on the weekend that you can take out the fridge or freezer and reheat. It helps move you towards a healthy diet.  Also, plan your breakfast and maybe think about things that you can prepare the night before. Keep it simple.

Like everything, experiment, have fun, find out what works best for our body, whether that is a high protein diet, vegan, high fibre, etc.

Rest and sleep

Too little sleep has the same influence on brain as too much alcohol.  You can end up feeling groggy and have trouble co-ordinating and concentrating.

While regular activity is essential for physical health, allowing the body to rest is just as important. Spending time relaxing or taking short naps can help rejuvenate the body. Sleep should take place in a quiet, dark environment and should last approximately 7-9 hours. Sleep, quality as well as quantity is really important.

Hydration

Hydration is important for the body to function. Lack of hydration affects mood, energy levels, reaction time, memory, co-ordination. Make sure you drink water or eat foods that also hydrate you.

Making Changes

Massive action can feel overwhelming. Making small changes are much easier to manage and will help you towards your health goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, 80% of your results will come from making just 20% of the changes. Reducing sugar is key change. Make some small changes to your sugar intake. If you want to improve your fitness get  off the train or bus a stop early and walking a little each day. You will be amazed at how invigorated you feel.

“Uninterrupted sitting constitutes a substantial risk to physical and mental health,” according to a study by Dr Alexander Mussap. Take regular breaks and walk around.  Get out in the fresh air if you can. It will help you feel energised, help you sleep better and help improve your mood.

Focus on building up fluid intake slowly too.  If you are not used to hydrating throughout the day, then it is a bit like watering a flower pot that the soil has dried up.  It just goes right through the pot! Taking electrolyte hydration can help the body absorb fluid and rehydrate the body.

Remember, progress not perfection is key!

Written by Alison Charles and Reyhana Jano

 

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.

 

Young people and mental health

This really shocked me recently, how much youngsters are suffering with mental health issues, even really young children as young as 5. According to research for BBC School Report, half of teenagers with  issues try to cope alone. And a third said they were not confident enough to speak to a teacher. Teachers say they are given no awareness training on mental health issues and how to help students. UK figures revealed that Childline gave 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016-17 – a rise of 11% over two years.

It was good to see that some forward thinking schools are training parents, pupils and staff how to cope with stress. The aim is to provide early intervention before mental health problems develop.

Mental Health and Schools today

I wondered why .health issues are so much more prevalent that when I was at school and what had changed. The problem seems to be several fold from the concerns expressed by the teachers I spoke to.

  • With a continuous focus on how schools are performing, this is translating to pressure on pupils to be continually tested throughout the year to prove performance.
  • Social media is a massive contributing factor, with pupils continually focussed on how well their peers are doing and then putting pressure on themselves to do better. Then there is the cyber bullying.
  • There is a worry about good grades to get university places and jobs thereafter.

What can you do?

I am not saying I have a solution for all the mental health problems that teenagers are experiencing right now. However, I can advise how to cope with the pressure they feel, whether it is any of the above circumstances or ones that I have not listed.

Try these

Try teaching this short meditation to your children and perhaps give it a try yourself, it really helps promote good mental health manage stress.

  • Find a comfortable spot, where it is quiet and you feel safe.
  • Put on some gentle music in the background that helps you feel calm and grounded.
  • As you rest your body now rest your eyes. Take your hands and make a cup so that the tips of the fingers cross over. Place the palms of your hands comfortably one over each eye so they block out all the light. The crossed fingers should lightly touch the forehead. Take a few moments to rest the eyes and just focus on the dark inky blackness and then close the eyes. (It can be more comfortable to sit on a chair to do this. Rest your elbows on the table to support your arms comfortably or if you are sitting on the floor support your arms with a couple of cushions)
  • Now focus on your breath as you breathe in and out.
  • As you breathe in say, in your mind, the word “SO”.
  • As you breathe out say, in your mind, the word “HUN”.
  • Breathe gently and focus on diaphragm gently rising and falling.
  • When you are ready open your eyes and come back into the room.

Spend just 5 minutes each day at a time that suits you. Slowly build up to about 15 to 20 minutes each day. More if you want to. You will find this helps still the mind and resets the body. You might even find that you feel refreshed and energised afterwards.
This exercise is very good to do if you are studying. Take a break every 90 minutes and do a few minutes resting the eyes and focussing on your breathing.

My day

I do 30 minutes myself to look after my onw mental health. I have a music compilation on my iPod that the tracks add up to 30 minutes. That way I know that I can completely relax and when the music is finished my 30 minutes is up and I am ready to go back to what I was doing. Sometimes I prefer to do this in the morning before I start a busy day, sometimes in the middle of work to take a break and sometimes at the end of the day to wind down. Occasionally I might do it at different intervals for a shorter time.

Take care fof your own mental health. If you spend more than 90 minute segments working on something then most of the time you might notice that you become less effective. You will be amazed how much more receptive your brain is to revision or work after taking a break.  You will be surprised at how often the answer will just suddenly present itself during a meditation.

Well I am off to follow my own advice and spend 30 minutes!!

 

 

What is the verdict about 28 days of juice?

This is a personal journey of a month of only drinking home made juices and smoothies. Of course plenty of healthy avocado,  spinach and other nutritionally balanced ingredients Juicemaster style. 28 days later and how do I feel?

A key component of mental wellbeing is physical wellbeing and nutrition plays a key role.  Keeping yourself and your staff healthy is a vital element of a healthy and productive business.  Just how much of a part does nutrition play though?

What I noticed in my own body is that nutrition and exercise have a massive part to play, so this year, by way of self-experimentation I want to see exactly how I feel when changing gear to a new level of care of my physical health.  I want to see exactly how that effects my mental health and my overall wellbeing.

It has been a month since I did my 28 days on juice.  The whole point of this experiment was to be able to see what effect diet had on health generally, stress levels and mental acuity.  I noticed a massive difference in energy when I was juicing and this is still true.  My energy levels continue to be pretty good.

Was 28 days on juice worth it?

After 28 days of juicing I was very happy to be eating again and the transition to food was great.  I focussed on smaller portions, less coffee, limiting myself to just 2 cups a day, healthy soups and salads and very little alcohol.  As time has passed and my diary has been really busy and lots of lunches and dinners, at least 4 per week sometimes more, I have made some sensible choices and some unhealthy ones.  It is very much about balance for me.

Whilst the juicing might have stopped, regular visits to the gym continued, combining Pilates, cardio and some classes at our local gym, Third Space.

What I learned from 28 days

What has been really interesting is that I am much more clued in to what my body has to tell me about what I am eating. I am able to feel exactly what my body wants and what it considers to be unhealthy.  Some things I eat and feel great, others I eat and I can feel the effects. I had scampi and chips one day and the chips were floured before cooking to make them crisper.  The following day my knees were really achy and rheumatic.

This last week I have been eating a larger than usual amount of bread.  I do feel bloated and heavy.  Also, being away, I have not been to the gym.  Did the change of diet really make the difference or was it the reduced exercise?  Don’t know is the honest answer, but probably a little of both.

I also note that a little bit of sugar as in chocolate or dessert seems to be ok but a couple of days in a row and the sugar cravings start to come back really quickly.  I also notice that if I overindulge then I feel quite tired and struggle to wake up the following morning.

Craving some healthy juice

Interestingly, I do find that I am craving healthy juice, so I have planned in 3 days of juicing next week.  Perhaps I should do a quick top up of home made vegetable juice.

I am experimenting with my diet to see what longer term changes work for me.  I am seeing how different foods affect me.  Not only how do they affect my mood but what other changes do I notice like motivation, focus and energy. It is going to be a journey over the next 12 months and I will be mentioning progress periodically.

All of this, at the end of the day is to see how food and nutrition plays a vital part of overall wellness, both physical and mental.  Its all about balance and finding what is right for you.

Certainly my conclusion so far is that good nutrition plays a critical role in mental health as much as physical health.  Just from the differences I have noticed within myself when I have no stress, it is clear that food plays a key part in both mood and energy.  If you are stressed the temptation can be to comfort eat, which actually will make you feel worse.  If ever there is a time to have a good healthy diet to support yourself, it is in times of stress and difficulty.

I have kept the weight off, but more importantly the health benefits have continued.

 

 

This is a personal journey of a month of only drinking home made juices and smoothies. Of course plenty of healthy avocado,  spinach and other nutritionally balanced ingredients Juicemaster style. I have to say, I feel juiced!

A key component of mental health is physical wellbeing and nutrition plays a key role.  Keeping yourself and your staff healthy is a vital element of a healthy and productive business.  Just how much of a part does nutrition play though? Can you get juiced too?

What I noticed in my own body is that nutrition and exercise have a massive part to play, so this year, by way of self-experimentation I want to see exactly how I feel when changing gear to a new level of care of my physical health.  I want to see exactly how that effects my mental health and my overall wellbeing.

What can I say I am physically and mentally juiced. I feel great.

I did actually have a small meal part way through the week. Being out at a business meeting early and there all day, I had not taken the time to plan properly. I had my breakfast smoothie and then ran out thinking I would find something for lunch that was suitable. I didn’t, it was an important lesson in planning! Good health, like everything else, takes time, effort and planning. I am beginning to realise that when I plan my business week and my personal dairy that meals and exercise are an integral part of that plan. I am going to start doing a meal plan that can be flexible to suit my business diary, and keep me moving forward with my health goals. Still feeling juiced though.

This week also highlighted that life is about choices. Having a goal is great. Sticking to that goal needs commitment, and that may require a little more effort than is desired at a particular moment in time. Taking the easy choice might mean that your goal takes a little longer. It is up to you which option you take, but which ever choice that is, live with it. Complaining you did not achieve that particular milestone that week when you made choices that could have made a difference, will not help. Take it as a lesson and move on and do it differently next time. Juiced will have to wait!

This is a personal journey of a month of only drinking home made juices and smoothies. Of course plenty of healthy avocado,  spinach and other nutritionally balanced ingredients Juicemaster style.

A key component of mental wellbeing is physical wellbeing and nutrition plays a key role.  Keeping yourself and your staff healthy is a vital element of a healthy and productive business.  Just how much of a part does nutrition play though?

What I noticed in my own body is that nutrition and exercise have a massive part to play, so this year, by way of self-experimentation I want to see exactly how I feel when changing gear to a new level of care of my physical health.  I want to see exactly how that effects my mental health and my overall wellbeing.

I am really feeling the difference now. After the Pilates class on Monday I really felt that endorphin rush, I felt completely invincible and ready for anything. I can’t actually remember the last time I felt this good. Still sticking with just juices and smoothies, four a day in total. I can honestly say I have not had a single hunger pang so far, having sat though business lunches dinners, happily drinking my smoothie of juice and hydrating with water. I am beginning to realise that I really do not drink anywhere near as much water as I should. After a day of juice I am thirsty so I am ensuring that I am now including more water. I feel that as my body is more hydrated it is more able to absorb the water.

I am beginning to notice some really interesting side effect now. When I sit down to write everything seems easier. Words seem to flow and I feel really calm. Writing has sometimes been a bit of a chore, but it would seem that good health means I am much more in flow and therefore in touch with my creativity. How wonderfully unexpected!

I also have a great bonus that I really look healthy on the outside too. I am not seeing the usual ravages of winter weather and indoor heating. My skin is really glowing and looks nourished. It feels softer too.

A key component of mental health is physical wellbeing. Nutrition plays a key role.  Keeping yourself and your staff healthy is a vital element of a healthy and productive business.  Just how much of a part does nutrition play though?

What I noticed in my own body is that nutrition and exercise have a massive part to play, so this year, by way of self-experimentation I want to see exactly how I feel when changing gear to a new level of care of my physical health.  I want to see exactly how that effects my mental health and my overall wellbeing.

Well the fact that I have lost 10lbs already is awesome, but what is truly amazing is how differently I feel. My brain is more awake. I am not a morning person but I am now getting up with out issue. I feel more focussed, more energised and lighter. No I am not referring back to the weight but it is a sense of emotional lightness of being and a sense of freedom.

It was time to start working out at the gym this week too. That was a bit of a shock to the system. First week was hard. Started with Pilates on Monday in the studio, using the Pilates machines. That was great. Tuesday tried the Pilates mat class. That was considerably more challenging, and the fact that I had trained the day before made it more so. Wednesday was some gentle cardio and Thursday was a circuit training class. Wellbeing on track!

After I left the Army I truly would have laughed at anyone that said I would voluntarily do another circuit class. I have to say thought that it was really fun. Well who would have thought it? Mind you, today is Sunday and I am still hurting. Onward and upward!! My own wellbeing is worth the effort.

 

This is a personal journey of a month of only drinking home made juics and smoothies. Of course plenty of healthy avocado,  spinach and other nutritionally balanced ingredients Juicemaster style.

A key component of mental wellbeing is physical wellbeing and nutrition plays a key role.  Keeping yourself and your staff healthy is a vital element of a healthy and productive business.  Just how much of a part does nutrition play though? Could juice be the answer?

What I noticed in my own body is that nutrition and exercise have a massive part to play, so this year, by way of self-experimentation I want to see exactly how I feel when changing gear to a new level of care of my physical health.  I want to see exactly how that effects my mental health and my overall wellbeing.

Started the year with a 28 day detox “Juice master” style.  I am one week in and doing ok.  Actually it is a lot easier than I expected.  The first few days detox headache were pretty nasty but they went soon enough.  I made sure I hydrated and exercised and kepth healthy.  I did have rather a lot of over indulgence towards the end of last year to make up for too and had particularly noticed that I was feeling sluggish, was suffering a lot of indigestion and had put on a few pounds.

I should mention at this point I am not doing this with the intention of then suggesting this to clients.  I am not a nutritionist and would advise anyone wanting specific help to see someone qualified.  However, if this blog inspires you to take action in your own life or maybe change your direction then great.  Do let me know.