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In the quest for a fulfilling and stress-free life, there’s one crucial factor that often goes overlooked. As a well-being and stress coach, I’ve witnessed time and time again the profound impact of shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. In this blog, I’ll guide you through the importance of this transformation and provide you with actionable steps to make this empowering shift.

I have just started reading Ellen Langer: The Mindful Body: Thinking Our Way to Lasting Health. She is a mindset genius. It reminded me though, of just how much my mindset has changed in the last 12 years. I was a great one for catastrophising. After being off with burnout in 2011, I had a lack of self-confidence and was constantly worried about what other people thought. thus started a journey to health and well-being. One of the greatest tools I learned how to use – yes, you guessed it, a growth mindset.

Understanding Mindset

Before we dive into the transformation process, let’s clarify the two mindsets at the heart of this discussion: fixed and growth mindsets.

Fixed Mindset

This mindset is characterised by the belief that your abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits. People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges, shy away from effort, and are discouraged by setbacks. They may fear failure and often view it as a reflection of their inherent capabilities.

Growth Mindset

In contrast, a growth mindset is all about seeing your abilities as qualities that can be developed and improved through effort, learning, and perseverance. Those with a growth mindset embrace challenges, enjoy putting in the effort, and view setbacks as opportunities for growth.

The Importance of Shifting

Why does making the shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset matter so much, especially in the context of well-being and stress reduction?

Resilience in the Face of Challenges

When you adopt a growth mindset, you’re more likely to see challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles. This resilience is a vital asset in reducing stress and improving your overall wellbeing.

Continuous Self-Improvement

A growth mindset fosters a desire for self-improvement and lifelong learning. By continuously evolving and developing your skills, you increase your sense of purpose and fulfilment.

Reduced Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is a significant stressor for many. A growth mindset helps you embrace failures as learning experiences, reducing the fear associated with making mistakes.

Enhanced Problem-Solving

Shifting to a growth mindset enhances your problem-solving abilities. You become more adaptable and creative in finding solutions to life’s challenges.

Making the Shift: Practical Steps

Now that we’ve established the importance of shifting, let’s explore some practical steps to help you make this transformation:

  • Self-Awareness: Begin by recognizing your current mindset. Reflect on your beliefs and attitudes towards your abilities and potential. Self-awareness is the first step in any transformative journey.
  • Embrace Challenges: Challenge yourself in areas where you may have held a fixed mindset. This could be in your career, hobbies, or personal life. Take on tasks that push your boundaries and force you out of your comfort zone.
  • Cultivate a Learning Attitude: View every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. Whether it’s a success or a failure, focus on the lessons you can extract from it.
  • Replace Negative Self-Talk: Be mindful of the way you talk to yourself. Replace negative self-talk with affirmations that promote growth, such as “I can learn from this” or “I’m capable of improvement.”
  • Seek Support: Consider seeking the guidance of a coach, who can help you navigate this shift. They can provide valuable insights and support to accelerate your progress.
  • Practice Patience: Remember that changing your mindset is a process, not an overnight transformation. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress along the way.

Conclusion

In the realm of well-being and stress reduction, the journey from a fixed to a growth mindset is nothing short of a game-changer. By choosing growth, you empower yourself to embrace challenges, reduce the fear of failure, and continuously improve. Your newfound resilience and adaptability will not only benefit your overall well-being but also lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life. Start your transformation today, and watch as your stress levels decrease and your sense of empowerment soars.

A growth mindset has helped me rebuild my shattered self-image and regrown my confidence. I continue with growth and learning today. It is a never-ending journey. I am always looking at challenging my views and looking at what I can change for the better.

One of the key tools in my arsenal is journaling. We’ll talk more about that next time.

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.

 

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

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

How we are spending the holidays

Alison

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

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

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

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

What do you do with your time off?

Have a wonderful holiday season

Alison

Sophie

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

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

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

Have a happy holiday season.

Sophie.

 

 

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

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

Holiday activities to manage stress

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

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

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

Coping with restrictions and loneliness

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Would five hour work days be beneficial?

I came across a topic on LinkedIn in which people are discussing whether shorter shifts of five hour days would ensure a better state of wellbeing for employees and the companies they work for. The scheme is being tested in Scandinavian countries, the US and UK.

There are a lot of elements and things to unpack when it comes to an ideallistic image of working shorter hours, and after doing our own research we’ve realised there are both pros and cons. To anyone who works long and tiresome shifts, cutting working hours to five a day may sound like a dream come true, especially if you’re struggling to manage home life, work life and a social life. While many people love what they do and are happy to put in the extra hours do they really think about the impact on thier wellbeing and what about the company perspective? So could we benefit from working shorter hours and who would it benefit the most?

Balance, wellbeing and productivity

Work life balance

After reading the initial discussion and WIRED’s main article and what others had to say on LinkedIn, it seems that five hour days would mostly be benficial for those who struggling to maintain balance in all aspects of their life. They are in favour of , what they consider a better balance. Long hours sat at a desk every day can lead many people to being both mentally and physically exhausted. Especially with more work being virtual and on screen.

Productivity five hours

There has also been concerns about productivity, how much could really be done in five hours or maybe six? A 2019 survey showed that the avereage amount of productive work hours amount to two hours and twenty three minutes. The people they studied admitted to sometimes getting highly distracted – something that other research has shown could be counterblanaced by shorter hours. Companies that have tried this scheme found that some employees were able to complete tasks sufficiently without distractions. It also meant they could leave the office by 2pm after working through from 8am. Could it be that they are more productive because they are more focussed too? Do we have a tendancy to fill out the time we have with a task?

Who would benefit from five hour shifts?

While most of the research shows that there is a largly positive reaction to working shorter hours, it does mean that businesses would have to employ more staff to work those other shifts. The average business employee probably works 40 hours a week. If the company employes 20 people working 40 hours that is an 800 hour week of work. To replicate the hours it would mean employing 32 people 5 hours a day to reach an 800 hour week. However, if those that are doing the work are more productive in those hours maybe it would only mean employing an extra 7 people to get the same output? Would it mean slow task completion? Would it be a good idea to spread work out among more people? This would also mean possibly seeing a fall in umployment numbers. More jobs would open up to fill those extra shift gaps.

Then comes the question of salary. Working a shorter day would mean you are not earning as much as you would in a regular 40 hour week. In a household with two working people this might be doable. More freedom and better blance might be worth the salary sacrifice. For me it certainly was when I moved to a 4 day work week back in 2012, when I was working for corporate. For others it just will not be a manageable income so how do employers balance the needs of all thier employees.

Which industries would it suit?

This is certianly the million dollar question. According to CNBC several CEO’s sworse by it after introducing it in 2019. However, they lost quite a few employees as a result and some had to make some adjustments, like just offering it through the summer. For those employees who remained they did find their emotional wellbeing was higher, with more time to do what they enjoyed and more time with family and friends. They also noted that while the team had shrunk revenues had increased.

The important thing to remember is that the approach will not suit all employees and it will not suit all companies. The important thing is to start a dialog and see what it the best option for both. These are very challenging times and anything that helps the company the individual and the economy has got to be worth investigating.

 

#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.

 

Managing Ambiguity

Why is uncertainty and managing ambiguity 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?

This time we are looking specifically at managing ambiguity. You may have hard of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). While the focus of all the recent blogs is on uncertainty, ambiguity is an equally important. If something is ambiguous it means having more than one possible meaning, and therefore possibly causing confusion. The less information the we have, the more irrational and erratic our decisions become. As the uncertainty of the scenarios increased, the more our brains shift control over to the limbic system, the place where emotions, such as anxiety and fear, are generated.

How can we manage ambiguity?

When faced with uncertainty, our brain is pushing us to overreact and fall back on that limbic system. To conquer this you need to develop emotional intelligence or emotional quotion (EQ) to manage ambiguity. To improve your EQ you have to become good at making decisions in the face of uncertainty, despite our every instinct telling us not to. As we mentioned before, having a lack of, or conflicting information can force us to make poor, ill-concieved decisions, so fighting that is very important when facing abiguity.

It may seem impossible when your judgment is clouded by your emotions, however there are some proven strategies which can help you overcome this. Your first effort would be to quiet the limbic system and manage stress, and there are a few ways to do this; inner smile breath, tactical breathing and body reset. I will show you how to execute these instant stress relievers here.

Other proven strategies you can use to improve your EQ are:

  • Quiet the limbic system – manage stress
  • Admit what you don’t know and then get back to people when you do
  • Stay positive. Take a look at Uncertainty blog 3 where we talk about mindset
  • Embrace and accept what you can’t control, focus on what you can control
  • Decide on and focus on what matters
  • Let go of perfection
  • Have contingency, always have a plan B
  • Let go of the past, take the lessons forward and let go of the emotion
  • Breathe!

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

Why is Uncertainty Stressful?

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

Firstly a Note on Stress

Definition of stress

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

What is Pressure?

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

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

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

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

Primitive Man’s Response to Stress

Why uncertainty is stressful

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

These lead to the other changes:

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

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

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

*Health and safety executive 2001

Uncertainty can be stressful

Uncertainty can be stressful

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

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

Overcoming Challenges

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

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

Engage with Employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communication is Key

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

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

Risk Assessment

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

Lead by Example

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Social Phone Call

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

The Planned Video Conference

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

The Casual Conversation

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

Remember Work Colleagues Too

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

Virtual Games Nights

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

Quiet Space

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

 

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

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

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

Herbs and Spices

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

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

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

Turmeric

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

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

Cinnamon

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

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

Rosemary

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

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

Cayenne

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

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

Sage

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

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

Ginger

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

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

Oregano

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

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

Garlic

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

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

Cloves

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

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

Which Herbs And Spices Do You Enjoy Adding To Meals?

 

 

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

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

Why should we hydrate?

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

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

Good Hydration

Good Hydration

 

Is water just too boring to hydrate?

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

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

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

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

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

Add some fizz to hydrate

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

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

HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE

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

"Be

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

"Be

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

"Be

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

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

8. Chakra Meditation

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

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

9. Transcendental Meditation

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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

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

 

 

Boost your mental health with creativity

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

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

1. Drawing

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

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

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

2. Cooking

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

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

3. Music

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

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

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

4. Writing

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

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

5. Learning a Language

Learn a new language

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

How is flexibility perceived?

Many companies see flexibility working as an option, however it is not.  All workers within the UK have a legal right to request flexible working if they have been working for the same company for 26 weeks and the company has to review all requests in a reasonable manner.  However, there should be a sound business reason as to why they are not able to consider flexible working.

You can find more information on the ACAS website:ACAS: The right to request flexible working

Employers give many reasons why employees’ cannot work flexibly. These aregument do not stand up with current technology. Companies have no excuse with technology of today.

Get with the programme! Clearly all of these issues are easy to overcome.

Happier Employees

Flexible working can lead to a happier and productive workforce. It can have a huge impact on employee satisfaction.  Employees are more committed to their role with flexibility.  No one want to feel that management think they are skiving off work.

Research has shown that employees are less stressed as flexible working allows them to work around responsibilities outside of their job.  It helps them balance their work-life schedule better.  It in turn leads to improved employee health.

Flexibility works both ways.  Companies can save cost by reducing the need for office space. Employees are less stressed so overall health is better. Therefore better health equals less sick days equals reduced cost. It is a no brainer.

Helping to attract and retain employees

It is a good attraction tool if companies are looking to recruit potential employees.  Employess might not all want to work from home,  so not everyone will take up the offer. Employees can choose according to thier circumstances.

It improves the company’s rate of retention as employees’ would be less likely leave for a company who does not offer this benefit.

With the focus these days on sustainability and the footprint companies are leaving on the environment, work flexibility assist companies in becoming more greener – employees do not have to travel to work which leaves a smaller carbon footprint and as already mentioned, smaller work space is required.

Clearly there are benefits for both employers and employees by adopting flexible working. So by setting clear boundaries it can work.

Written by Alison Charles and Reyhana Jano

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

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

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

Dealing with Change on a Practical Level

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

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

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

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

The impact of change on the employee wellbeing

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

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

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

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

Are our leaders resilient enough to manage change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making change personal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Alison Charles and Reyhana Jano

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck with your list.

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

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

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

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

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

What are the 5 Pillars of Wellbeing?

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

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

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

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

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

Relax

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

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

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

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

Eat

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

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

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

Move

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

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

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

Sleep

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

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

Mindset

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

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

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

Now over to you

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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!