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Helen’s Health

REVIEW: WHY I TRIED PRANIC HEALING

Why I tried pranic healing

Have you ever heard of the term pranic healing? I certainly hadn’t until I went to a Christmas Fayre held at my sister’s gym last year. We’d gone for a nose around the stalls in the hope of stumbling across some inspirational gifts and hadn’t planned to stay late as my health was playing up at the time and I felt permanently exhausted.

But then our eyes fell upon an elegant lady performing what looked to be a bizarre mid-air finger flicking exercise. Intrigued, we edged a little closer only to spot another woman doing exactly the same thing. Seated in front of the pair of them were two visitors with their eyes closed.

Perplexed, my sister and I looked at each other. What on earth was going on? “There’s a sign over there,” I whispered behind my hand. “It’s something called pranic healing. It sounds a little woo-woo but maybe, I should give it a go?”

Now, I’ve always been an open-minded person. I am well aware that alternative therapies such as reflexology and acupuncture work for some people and not others. It’s unsurprising. We’re all unique. And I say ‘good for you’ if you manage to find an alternative or conventional medicine or treatment that makes you feel better. At the time my health was spectacularly misbehaving, read the night it all began here, so I was suitably intrigued.

The lady who’d been performing the odd-looking hand movements smiled and politely introduced herself as Angela Rigby. For 14 years she’d run a business in the fire and flood restoration industry so was used to dealing with people overcome by stress and a sudden change of circumstance. However, in 2007 she was introduced to this form of no-touch energy healing and was so impressed that she decided to train in it a couple of years later under the Institute of Pranic Healing UK and Ireland and has been using the method ever since.

The complementary therapy, which has won praise from author and philanthropist Tony Robbins, was founded about 30 years ago by the late Master Choa Kok Sui, an internationally acclaimed author, healer, chemical engineer, businessman, spiritual teacher and humanitarian.

Stress, grief or trauma can cause blockages

His belief was that physical ailments first appear as energetic disruptions in the aura – the invisible bio-electromagnetic field around us – before manifesting as problems in the body. According to Angela, pranic healing, which is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘prana’ for energy, aims to free up blockages in the aura and increase and circulate this “life energy” around the physical body so that it can rebalance and in turn focus on repairing and healing itself.

Apparently, stress, grief or any kind of trauma can cause blockages disrupting the flow of energy between the 11 chakras – whirling energy centres – which can then result in physical problems.

“We need to keep the energy body clean in the same way we keep the physical body clean,” Angela explains. “It can become congested with our stress energies. For instance, if you’re the type of person that dwells on something negative, you can end up becoming quite overwhelmed.

“Your emotions like anger, frustration and irritation, can just take over and you become bogged down. You can’t think straight and your energy flow is disrupted. It’s similar to a blocked drain but then you unplug it and the water flows. Pranic healing techniques can help keep your energy system clear and help with physical, mental or emotional issues.”

My tummy was making loud gurgling noises

At the time Angela invited me to The Anise Wellness & Skincare Retreat in Reigate, Surrey for a session but I was here, there and everywhere with hospital appointments. Nonetheless, I recently took her up on the offer of an hour-long session with the hope that it might aid the healing process in my body and help get my bizarre tongue swelling and throat closing reactions under control.

So, what happened once the door was closed?

I was asked to lie down on my back with my eyes closed while Angela did her thing. She was working on my aura, so refrained from physically touching me. Even so, Angela warned that I might experience unusual bodily sensations. She wasn’t wrong. One minute I was hot, the next I was cold and much to my horror my tummy was making loud gurgling noises. Apparently, this is perfectly normal and a sign of energy shifts within the body. Bizarrely, I was overcome with a fit of giggles halfway through. Talk about embarrassing. I apologised profusely but Angela calmly explained that these things happen.

VERDICT:
Lying on a massage bed without being pushed, pulled or pummelled was surreal but I wasn’t there for that. The experience was relaxing in as much as I did absolutely nothing for an hour, which is most unlike me. Unbelievably, that evening I had an ENTIRE night of uninterrupted sleep – usually, I toss, turn and wake up at least three or four times. Needless to say, I was brimming with energy the following day.

Although the treatment did not reduce the frequency of my tongue swelling reactions in the weeks that followed, Angela did explain that a course of sessions is generally needed rather than a one-off. Regardless, I’d slept like a log so was thrilled.

Angela also encouraged me to look at the way I respond to situations and to become more aware of negative emotions and feelings that may not be serving me. I’ve since begun to notice patterns in the way I react to things and am working on becoming far more mindful.

For more information visit: http://www.ukpranichealing.co.uk/angela-rigby/

Relax Ya Self to Health was invited to try this session in exchange for a review

**Pranic healing is not intended to replace orthodox medicine but rather to complement it. Pranic healers are not medical doctors. They should not medically diagnose clients, prescribe medications and/or medical treatments or interfere with prescribed medical treatments.  

 

Helen's Health, Wellness

Review: Gazelli House Hypnotherapy Mind Massage

Gazelli House, South Kensington

“I’m sorry, he’s not here today. He never works on a Friday,” the hospital receptionist briskly informed me. “Sorry, what? I checked with the secretary a couple of days ago. She said I’d definitely be seeing him,” I replied. “No, she must have misunderstood. You’ll be seeing a nurse,” came the answer.

This was the situation that greeted me the week before last when I trekked from West Sussex to a hospital in the Capital. The referral letter to see a leading hospital consultant had landed on my doormat some months prior. Excitedly, I’d pinned all my hopes on this specialist drawing up the dots and telling me why my body had been behaving in such as bizarre manner for the for the best part of two years.

And so I hauled myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to catch a packed, peak hour train – paying an eye-watering sum for the privilege of standing up most of the way – to ensure I made the appointment in good time. To say I was disappointed at the way the morning unfolded was an understatement and I walked away feeling low and upset.

Fortunately, Gazelli House was on hand to turn those emotions around.

As luck would have it, I’d been invited to try a Hypnotherapy Mind Massage at this upmarket South Kensington spa on the same afternoon.  Founded by genetic scientist Dr Hamzayeva, the stylish Walton Street establishment is an oasis of calm in the Capital that provides an array of targeted face and body treatments. Cleverly, the charming three-storey Georgian building also doubles up as a members’ club and serves as relaxing space for people to work or hang out.

On arrival, I resembled a sweaty, flustered mess but the warm nature of my wonderful therapist Alexandra Lisiecka instantly put me at ease. She was about to perform a holistic massage tailor-made for those suffering from chronic stress, emotional imbalance, insomnia, chronic aches and pains, and migraines.

 

Gazelli House, London

Alexis Hamilton

 

Alexandra patiently listened as I droned on about the events of the morning before leading me into a stunning flower-tiled room, which would become my sanctuary for the 90-minute session. Following a thorough consultation, which took account of my physical and emotional wellbeing as well as my long list of allergies, I voiced my concerns about the ‘hypnotherapy’ element. A) I’d never been hypnotised and had no idea what to expect and B) the thought of being out of control was distinctly unappealing.

Gazelli House, South Kensington

As it turned out, I had the wrong end of the stick. Alexandra explained that a transcript recorded by life coach, hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner Rachel Coffey would be simultaneously played throughout the massage.  The idea is to help people switch off the chatter of everyday thoughts, encourage the subconscious mind to let go of anxieties, emotional blocks and tensions and help the body along on its healing journey – something I’ve desperately been trying to attain since my health started playing up. 

“We take you on this beautiful holistic experience,” Alexandra said smiling. “This is a fusion treatment that truly takes care of mind, body and soul. The massage releases muscle tension, but it’s mostly about bringing awareness to certain areas and letting go, moving on and feeling as relaxed and empowered as possible. It leaves you feeling very grounded. Don’t worry if your mind starts to wander, your subconscious mind will take what it’s ready to absorb.”

Now, regular readers will know that my mind flits –  it’s here, there and everywhere. I often find 10-minute guided meditation apps difficult to follow let alone 90 minutes but when I fleetingly manage to let go – even for 30 seconds – and find that ultimate point of relaxation, a state of pure bliss consumes me and I feel as though I’m floating in a warm, safe space of white light. Yes,  I’m aware that this sounds utterly bizarre but there’s no other way to describe it. It’s a delicious feeling and one I was hoping to rediscover again.

Gazelli House, London

Alexis Hamilton

Cocooned by Rachel’s soothing words, I melted into the bed underneath Alexandra’s firm hands and hot stones which moved in time with the rhythm of the recording. At one point, I was guided to breathe out to release uncomfortable, negative feelings as my therapist simultaneously pressed down on my body as if to help them on their way.

At the end of the massage, I was invited to select an affirmation. Mine was “Trust myself, to be myself and the very best of myself.” This was handwritten on a pretty pink card for me to pop into my purse to keep close at hand if I ever started to doubt myself. It was a lovely, uplifting way to end the session.

VERDICT: This treatment was like nothing I’d ever experienced and the 90 minutes passed by in a flash. I loved the holistic mind, body, and soul approach and floated out feeling wonderfully revitalised yet relaxed and balanced. Plus, I was far happier than when I walked in. It was as though my emotional baggage had been unpacked.  If you appreciate guided meditation and massages, this session is most definitely for you. In fact, Gazelli House is so welcoming I’d seriously consider moving in!

The Gazelli House Hypnotherapy Mind Massage costs £185.00 for 90 minutes
For further information visit: www.gazelli.com

Relax Ya Self to Health was invited to try this treatment in exchange for a review

 

Helen's Health, Wellness

WHY IT’S OK TO SAY NO

Lean how to say no

It’s official. I’m a giver. I like to help people and can never say no.  It’s the way I’ve always been. Except I hadn’t quite realised how much I take on until this week. It took the words of my friend’s aunt with whom I’m staying in North Devon for me to sit up and take note. “You’re like a sponge Helen,” she said shaking her head. “You absorb everyone else’s problems. You’re forever trying to help people and investing all of your energy in them. When are you going to stop and help yourself?”

Auntie Chris blurted out the words after I received two texts and one email within the space of ten minutes. Each message was from a different person and each asked me to sort out a situation they couldn’t handle. AC, as I fondly call her, disapprovingly shook her head. The night before my tongue had spontaneously started to swell in front of her eyes.

You’re like a sponge

Hours earlier she’d seen me battle through an extremely stressful day work-wise. I’ve always thrived on the adrenaline of deadlines and juggling numerous pieces but the last minute demands on this particular day were off the scale. So the plan that night was to chill in bed with a book but my throat began to tighten within five minutes of settling down. “I can’t be having a reaction,” I muttered to myself. “Just have a glass of water, breathe deeply. It’ll be OK in a minute.”

Except the situation quickly worsened and when I checked the mirror my tongue was three times its usual size. I necked my medication. And swore. This is why:

  • I’d made my dinner from scratch and hadn’t eaten any trigger foods
  • I hadn’t exercised
  • I wasn’t hot
  • I wasn’t sweating

All of the above can set off a reaction – something I’ve painstakingly discovered over the past 18 months. So why the bloody hell was I reacting just as I’d hit the sack? I acted swiftly. And the meds stopped my tongue swelling any further – although it would remain grossly enlarged for the next 48 hours.

The next day AC ​sat me down in the dining room of her beautiful ​200-year-old farmhouse and gave me a stern talking to. “I think stress is a factor,” she said with a beady look in her eye. “You had a nightmare of a day yesterday workwise. I’ve been watching you since you arrived. You’re supposed to be having a break but you don’t help yourself at all. You start work at the crack of dawn. Some days you don’t eat breakfast or lunch and you’ll be sat at your desk for between eight and ten hours. That’s not good.”

Learn how to say no

“But I can barely eat anything at the moment because of my reactions,” I retaliated. “It’s not good enough Helen. Your job, by its very nature, is stressful. You’re working for lots of different publications which place numerous demands on you at short notice, you’re constantly firefighting plus you’re working on your blog until the early hours of the morning. You put loads of pressure on yourself. It’s not healthy.”

I was lost for words (unusual for me). I knew I worked hard but maybe she had a point. Then my phone vibrated. “Who’s that?” she enquired. “My cousin,” I answered. AC noticed the worried expression that fell over my face. “I need to sort this out.”  The very next minute I received an email from a work colleague who was asking for help. By this point Auntie C was ready to explode.

“You really cannot take on the world’s problems. It’s nice that you want to help people but you’ve got enough on your plate. Your body wants to heal but doesn’t know how to respond because it’s being bombarded by stress in all directions. Of course you can still help people but for the time being you need to invest time and energy in yourself, not others. You really need to learn to say no.”

Her words echoed around my head. Then I remembered something my dad always said: “Helen Gilbert. Other peoples’ messes cleared up by appointment.” At that moment everything started to sink in.

“Turn off your phone now,” AC ordered. Reluctantly, I agreed and although I went to check it three times in the hour that followed, I did not turn it back on.

Then I switched my out of office on before heading to Saunton Sands for an evening in front of the surf. I sat contemplating on that beach for 2.5 hours. And I left with a plan of action. For the rest of my time in Devon I’ll open the emails just once in the morning and once in the evening. Likewise, the mobile shall only be checked three times a day maximum.

Learn how to say no

 

Going forward, I’ll start prioritising and saying no to people *eek*.  It won’t be easy. H​ow the heck do you do this when it’s in your nature to help and worry about others? It feels bizarrely selfish. But being pulled in all directions is just not sustainable with the way my health is right now.

I’ll let you know how I get on and whether I​ experience fewer reactions as a result  of simplifying my life. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you find that you spend a lot of your time sorting out the problems of others? Do people constantly offload on you but disappear when everything is going well in their life? How have you learned to say no and look after yourself?

Please do comment below or on Facebook , Instagram or Twitter. 

 

Health, Helen's Health, Wellness

A plea for help: Get me a diagnosis

Helen Gilbert seeks diagnosis for baffling condition

Do you remember that time my tongue started to swell up on a long-haul flight? Well, it happened again. Only, this time I was on my way back from Austria. “Would you like anything to eat?” the air hostess politely asked as we departed Innsbruck for London Gatwick. Ordinarily, I’d decline but didn’t on this occasion.

I’ve previously written about the need to be prepared if you’re travelling with allergies or, in my case, suffer from bizarre reactions that cause your airway to close up. Usually, I’m well-organised but I’d been on a press trip with a jam-packed itinerary and ran out of time on the last day.

Unlike my companions, I couldn’t eat at the airport because every option contained a trigger food. And by the time I’d settled into my plane seat, I was absolutely famished. So, I did something I would never usually do while cruising thousands of feet above the ground – I bought a packet of crisps. I quickly scanned the ingredients list; potato, sunflower oil, and salt and figured I’d be safe.

Uncomfortable sensations in body

“I’ll be fine with this,” I smiled, before quickly working my way through the bag and drifting off into the land of nod. Shortly afterwards, I awoke with a start. “We’re circling because there was a bird strike involving another plane and the runway’s being cleared,” our friendly host explained.

Being an animal lover, I’d usually feel for the deceased flock in a situation like this but my mind was distracted by the uncomfortable sensations in my body. “I don’t feel right,” I blurted out as beads of sweat trickled down my forehead. “Oh no, in what way?” the PR replied. “My throat feels sticky. It’s hard to swallow.”

Now, our host was well versed in the trials and tribulations of my baffling condition. Fortunately, I’d only had one reaction on the three-day press trip; that wasn’t particularly nasty so she immediately knew what to do. “Let me see your tongue,” she demanded. Her eyes widened. “It’s enormous,” she screamed before running off to get more water from the back of the plane.

Airway affected every time

As some of you know, my peculiar tongue swelling and throat closing reactions first took hold 20 months ago and doctors remain perplexed as to why they occur. Histamine intolerance – the body’s inability to metabolise the chemical histamine found in certain foods– is one possible theory. Symptoms mimic an allergic reaction – in many people these present in the form of a rashes or itching – but my airway is affected every time, which means I must carry an emergency kit of antihistamines, steroids and adrenaline pens wherever I go.

Trigger foods include lemons, limes, oranges, mature cheese, Marmite, alcohol, anything aged or fermented. Oh, and vinegar, which is in everything – from condiments and pickles to salad dressing and makes eating out and buying lunch almost impossible.  What’s more baffling is that my symptoms also occur when I get hot (which, incidentally also happened on the flight) or do any form of cardio, so I’m constantly walking on eggshells.

Yes, I was hungry on the plane but, with hindsight, I was immensely stupid buying those crisps. Vinegar may not have been listed as an ingredient, but the production belt at the factory could easily have been contaminated. According to my immunologist, antihistamines must be taken at the onset of a reaction to halt the swelling, which can become too difficult to control once set in yet I’d unwittingly wasted valuable time in the ten minutes I’d been asleep.

Vicious circle

“Here, drink this,” the PR instructed as I scrambled for my meds. I shovelled the pills down my throat before being ushered off the plane. The reaction was pretty horrendous – my tongue remained swollen for three days, the medication wiped me out and I suffered from severe brain fog and writer’s block – not ideal for the day job.

Despite being super careful with my diet since – the reactions are now happening again almost EVERY DAY. This requires more antihistamine to control the swelling which – in itself creates a vicious circle – as it can inhibit production of the diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme in the gut that’s responsible for breaking down the histamine in food.

Over the past year and eight months, I have deduced that certain foods, heat and exercise – even dancing – can set off a reaction but, astonishingly, nobody can explain why and my immunologist admits he has never seen anything like it in his life. He has now prescribed stronger daily antihistamine in the hope it will break the cycle of swelling, which he says is very unusual especially as it is always symmetrical.

I’m determined to try and carry on as normal but am equally desperate to raise awareness, find a reason and gain some sort of control. I’ll let you know how I get on but in the meantime, if you’re going through a similar experience or know someone who is, please do get in touch, share or comment on my post.

Someone somewhere must know the answer.

 

 

 

 

Health, Helen's Health

TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

Helen at Wimbledon

Don’t you just love a bank holiday weekend? Especially when the weather is fabulously warm and sunny. There was no lie-in for me on Saturday morning.  I sprung out of bed like a jack-in-the-box, stupidly excited, not wanting to waste a minute of the glorious sunshine.

Aside from the excitement I felt at the prospect of taking my first weekend off in almost two months, I’d woken up brimming with energy for the first time in yonks. This could only mean one thing. Tennis. A sport, I so dearly loved and missed.

Before my health took a turn for the worse, most of my Saturdays were spent at the tennis club so it felt incredibly reassuring and ‘normal’ to pull on my Serena-style dress.

Butterflies filled my stomach as I bent down to lace up my tennis shoes, and by the time I walked out of the door, racquet-bag over my shoulder, I was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I WAS OFF TO PLAY TENNIS.

Before I left the house I’d called my friend to let her know I was on my way. “The court’s booked for an hour,” she said excitedly. “See you soon.”

Arriving at the club, I spotted a league match in progress. It was a fixture I would, ordinarily, play but given the circumstances ‘Sick Note Gilbert’ was, of course, required to sit it out.

“Stepping out on court felt ridiculously good”

“Good to see you back,” the team captain said with a smile on her face. “Hopefully you’ll get on OK and can join us again soon.”  “I hope so,” I replied, glowing on the inside. “I’m feeling much better.”

Stepping out on court felt ridiculously good. My friend opened a new tin of balls to celebrate. Usually, we hit with used ones but this was a special occasion, after all.

We set about warming up the ground strokes before moving on to volleys and serves. My body felt fine. There were no aches and pains. And although my game was a little rusty , I was thrilled to be hitting once again. The endorphins were working their magic. I felt so HAPPY.

Moreover, the sun was still shining brightly so I was getting my Vitamin D hit at the same time.

Life. Was. Good.

And we were enjoying some hard hitting rallies.

“I became aware of an uncomfortable yet annoyingly familiar sensation”

Nonetheless, 25 minutes after the first ball had been struck, I became aware of an uncomfortable yet annoyingly familiar sensation at the back of my throat.

I’d barely had anything to drink and optimistically assumed I was dehydrated. So I quickly swigged some water before resuming my position at the back of the court.

A little thirst was not going to stop me playing after all this time. But my mouth was growing increasingly dry.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Karen three minutes later, “I need to drink again.” “Go for it,” she said. So I knocked back the water and returned to the baseline. Only it didn’t quench my thirst and swallowing was becoming troublesome.

Thoughts began spinning inside my head. “Surely, I’m not having a reaction?”  I hadn’t eaten any high-histamine food – which usually sets off a reaction – and the spontaneous tongue swelling (idiopathic angioedema) had been behaving itself for a good few weeks.

I ran to the net and stuck my tongue out. “Does it look normal?” I desperately asked my friend. “Um, I don’t know what it usually looks like but it’s rather wide and fat,” she said.

“I quickly took a selfie of my outstretched tongue”

I rummaged around for my mobile and quickly took a selfie of my outstretched tongue.

There were people on the court next to me. I didn’t care.

Over the past 18 months, the pictures on my phone have proven to be a handy a log for my immunologist, especially as each one carries the date and time. Yet again, there was another hugely unflattering image to add to the collection.

“Let’s stop,”  Karen said. “I feel bad about letting you down and cutting short the session,” I replied. “Your health is more important, come on,” she insisted. So we trundled off the clubhouse for some iced water and I dug out my medication.

“It’s bizarre,” I sighed. “I’ve not eaten anything I shouldn’t have.”

I tried to piece things together. The reaction took hold half an hour after I started playing.  I was extremely hot – sweating profusely in fact – which is most unusual for me.

“Could it be that the exercise had triggered the tongue swelling?”

I then remembered that the same thing had happened on a couple of scorching summer mornings last year. On both occasions, I hadn’t eaten. On both occasions, I was in a very hot car.

Could it be that the lack of food or exercise had triggered the tongue swelling? The heat? Or all three?

An hour later I left the club and as soon as I got home I made a note of what had happened.

I guess one way to test out the theory would be to hit the courts again in hot weather, although I obviously won’t be doing that until I’ve sought medical advice.

I’m due to see my immunologist in July so I’ll report back then.

The only concrete thing I know is that I’ll have to count myself out of a return to tennis matches for the time being.

Helen's Health, Tennis

WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT LAUNCHING A BLOG

So much to SEA in the blogging world

It’s been one week since the launch of Relax Ya Self To Health.  So what have I learned? That I am, perhaps, the biggest idiot that ever lived.

The plan had been to use the blog as a way of charting my quest to relax. But the stark reality in the run-up to the big reveal was that I worked myself into the ground, and my stress levels went through the roof. Oh, the irony.

Every spare minute was spent working on the site. The posts. The images. The social media. The technical bits and bobs. I refused to rest.

“I resembled the hunchback of Notra Dame”

And on the day of the launch I was still tapping away at my keyboard at 2.30am – having turned the computer on at 5.30am the previous day.

Even a fool knows that a 21 hour stint is not sustainable – by the end I resembled the hunchback of Notra Dame complete with square eyes and a fried brain.

This madcap way of working is something I’ve grown accustomed to during my 17-year career as a freelance journalist, which is famed for its ‘feast or famine periods’.

Whereas once I used to thrive on juggling news shifts and five commissions landing on the same day, my recent health troubles have forced me to re-evaluate. The whole point of setting up this site was to learn how to relax.

Evidently, old habits die hard.

Yes, the toil was worth it because the blog achieved a little mention in the Daily Mail here – *yay* as well as from Oxford University’s Mindfulness Centre.

What’s more, I received some quite lovely messages from a number of people – including a couple based overseas – thanking me for my posts.

I felt privileged to hear your stories. Some of you are in a similar situation health-wise, others are going through different but equally stressful experiences. Firstly, I’d like to thank you for getting in touch. Secondly, I’m here to let you know that you are not alone.

If it helps, I’m going to share two messages I received from a couple of friends at the end of last week.

“Your work is really important, but not as important as you. You need a break.”

“Can you do one thing for me, please?,” the first started off. “At some point today book yourself proper downtime over the next few days to relax. No computers, phones or anything else. Your work is really important, but not as important as you. You need a break x”

The second one stated: “Can you listen to your own bloody blog and get yourself some rest?”

I heeded the advice. On Friday afternoon I gave myself permission to have an afternoon away from my desk, which is unheard of for me. I arranged a meeting with a PR by the sea. Technically, I was still working but I was away from my computer. The sun was shining. It felt GLORIOUS.

“It takes 66 days to change a habit.”

Of course, I’m not perfect. The next day I immediately slipped back into my old ways – putting in another eight hour performance. According to a 2009 University College London study, it takes 66 days to change a habit.

As  I’m determined to build relaxation into my life, I plan to post a picture on Instagram every Sunday with the hashtag #chilltimesunday in a bid to stay on track.

I’d love for you to join me and hear how you relax!

Please feel free to tag me in your posts or leave a comment below.

 

Helen's Health

WELCOME TO MY BLOG

Journalist Helen Gilbert launches health and travel blog about ways to relax

Hello. Thanks for stopping by. My name is Helen Gilbert, known to my friends as Hels.

For the past 17 years, I’ve worked as a UK-based freelance writer and editor specialising in health, fitness, travel, tennis as well as celebrity interviews for national newspapers in the UK including The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Mail Online, and The Sun.  Click here to check out my freelance newspaper articles.

I’m a rubbish but enthusiastic surfer, slightly better paddle boarder (only just) and keen tennis player.  I ran the London Marathon once (let’s gloss over the time), am a massive fan of sunny destinations, especially Barbados (who isn’t?), beaches and love the great outdoors.

Oh, and I’m also a house bunny mummy to this little guy.

WHY NOW?

For as long as I can remember my friends have always said to me ‘you’re the busiest and healthiest person I know’. And they’re right about the first part anyway. It sounds cliched but I’ve always been a ‘glass half full’ kind of girl who thrives on being ridiculously busy. The tennis. The fitness. The clean living. The travelling. The socialising. The work. Especially the work. Oh, I’m also known as ‘Chief Agony Aunt’ among my friends and family. This is the way I operate. And I love it.

Except on the night of December 3 2015 my health took an unexpected and very frightening turn for the worst quite out of the blue. Read The Night It All Began here. The world I knew and loved was turned upside down and to this day I still remain a medical conundrum with doctors baffled by the goings on inside my body.

So now I’ve decided to blog about it. The ups. The downs. And everything in between. As well a platform for sharing my personal health story, Relax Ya Self to Health will be dedicated to all things new in the world of relaxation because, quite frankly, I’m rubbish at this. I even delay toilet breaks because I’ve too much on my plate. I know! *eye roll*.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT

As well as charting my quest to unwind, there’ll be interviews with well-known faces on how they cope with stress, tips on how to relax, reviews of wellbeing retreats, spas, healing holidays and the latest body-calming workouts.  Oh, and because tennis is a major source of relaxation for me (when I’m well enough to play) – there’ll be bits and bobs on this too. The plan is to help others who find it impossible to switch off, as well as those who are in the same boat health-wise.

I do hope you’ll join me for the journey.

x

P.S) I’d love to hear your stories and experiences too! If you’d like to subscribe to my blog, there’s a link here and you can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook by clicking on the icons below. Let’s chill together!

 

 

 

 

freelance, Helen's Health

THE NIGHT IT ALL BEGAN

The night my health took a turn for the worse

I’m no saint but on the whole, I’ve always tried to adopt a relatively healthy lifestyle. Although quite partial to the odd chocolate croissant and cappuccino, I’m one of those rather annoying people who would rather spend a weekend blasting balls on a tennis court or running outside than stuck indoors watching a TV Box Set.

I think nothing of blitzing up green juices and smoothies and at the risk of sounding like a total bore, I’ve never smoked, rarely drink alcohol and have followed a meat-free diet since the age of 13. Except on December 3 2015 my life was turned upside down when I was rushed to hospital with my first ever allergic reaction. It was a particular bad boy – life-threatening in fact –  and came on entirely out of the blue.

On the night in question, an old school friend had popped over for a drink and a catch-up.  I’d warned him in advance that I might be drooling – not in that way. Earlier in the day I’d had dental work carried out on an excruciatingly painful molar tooth which, it later emerged, was dying but by the time Stephen arrived at my house my mouth felt pretty normal and I was yakking ten to the dozen as usual.

“My mouth felt pretty normal – I was yakking ten to the dozen as usual”

Only, an hour later I became aware of a strange sensation in my upper lip. It felt heavy and tingled. “My lip feels weird,” I blurted out to Stephen, who was sitting in the armchair opposite me. He peered over.  “It looks fine to me,” he replied nonplussed.

So I let it go for the rest of the evening only when I went to wave him goodbye at the front door, I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror. Either my mate was being polite or needed his eyesight testing. Staring back at me was a massively swollen top lip.

By now it was midnight. I awkwardly brushed my teeth, negotiating the horrendous trout pout as I went, before climbing into bed, and prayed that the swelling would subside by the morning.

“I awkwardly brushed my teeth, negotiating the horrendous trout pout as I went”

Except, as I tried to nod off, I became aware of an intolerable itching in my throat. A voice inside told me to call 111 for advice – something I never do – but thank goodness I did. The operator was a calm and lovely chap who explained that the situation might be serious and he’d need to send a paramedic round asap to check me over. As I lived alone, he told me to stay on the line with him.

Within minutes a first responder had arrived at my house. He quickly injected me with antihistamine injection before calling an ambulance. Moments later two paramedics arrived at my door. “Ohhh, someone’s been in a fight with Frank Bruno,” quipped one, before turning serious when I refused to go to the hospital.

“There are people far needier than me, I wouldn’t want to take up a valuable NHS bed,” I exclaimed, before being told in no uncertain terms that I was having a severe anaphylactic reaction. “But I’ve never suffered from allergies,” I meekly protested as I walked up the stairs to gather my things. Precisely two minutes later my throat started to close up.

“Precisely two minutes later my throat started to close up.”

After this moment everything is a blur. I was pumped full of adrenaline twice  – first in the ambulance and then later on in the A&E resuscitation ward – before being admitted to hospital. Doctors asked if I’d eaten or done anything different on the night of the attack. I hadn’t.

The only thing I could think of was the dental work on the massively hyper-sensitive molar tooth earlier in the day but then I’d had a number of fillings in the past and had never experienced a reaction before to the anaesthetic. I was later given steroids, referred to an allergy specialist and sent on my way.

I shrugged the episode off as a random event, especially as I’d always been relatively fit and well. Little did I know then that my health – something I’d always worked so devotedly to maintain – was about to unravel in the most spectacular fashion. Read here.

 

Helen's Health

THE TONGUE TWISTER

A few months after the first hospital dash,  my sister threw a dinner party to celebrate moving into her new home. The evening had already descended into farce as her cooker had blown up before we’d arrived so she was forced to nip next door to prepare the main meal in her neighbour’s oven. Impressively, she managed to muddle through and all four of us had a good laugh about it as she served up the starter, which was a salad of green leaves, halloumi, pomegranate and balsamic vinegar.

I took one mouthful and became aware of an immediate itching – a sign of an allergic reaction – in my throat. I popped an antihistamine to be on the safe side. It seemed to do the trick. Except, a few hours’ later on the 15-minute drive home, my tongue began to expand at an alarming rate. Initially, it felt as though it were ‘in the way’, but by the time I reached my front door it had swollen to an enormous size and could barely fit inside my mouth.

I didn’t know it at the time but I was having what is known as a ‘secondary reaction’. As I opened the front door I felt dreadfully light-headed and dropped to the hallway floor; my blood pressure was plummeting. By now swallowing had become difficult; my breathing laboured.  I grabbed the phone and dialled 999 but it took forever to get my words out.

“Was I about to suffocate to death on my own? It certainly felt that way.”

Somehow the very patient operator understood what was happening and urged me to use an auto-adrenaline injector (commonly known as an Epi-Pen). Except I hadn’t been prescribed one.  “Is anyone with you?” she asked. “I – live – alone,” I replied in between gasps for air. “Open the front door now,” she instructed. “The ambulance is on its way.”  Terrified, I started to cry.  Is this what suffocation felt like? Was I about to die on my own? It certainly felt that way.

I counted every one of those ten minutes spent waiting for the medics to arrive.  They set to work immediately, administering adrenaline before rushing me to the hospital. The conclusion was anaphylaxis.

Again, steroids were prescribed and I was told I’d need to see the immunologist again at a later date.

So I waited patiently for my appointment to come through. Eventually, I returned for another set of skin prick tests for suspected food allergens as doctors tried to pinpoint the cause of my attacks. Again, the results came back negative. Why could we not find the trigger? My immunologist explained it was like searching for a “needle in a haystack” before adding that weird reactions like these can often disappear as quickly as they start. I held onto this hope. It soon faded.

“Each episode would affect my airway: either my tongue would swell or my throat would close up.”

Just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the allergic reactions began happening EVERY DAY. Each episode affected my airway: either my tongue would swell up, my throat would close or both.  Occasionally the reactions would be accompanied by an intolerable itching all over my skin and they’d occur for no rhyme or reason; in my sleep, on an empty stomach, when I got hot, and, I eventually deduced, when I ate certain foods; namely fruit – which being a non-meat eater translated to half my diet – marmite, vinegar, mature cheese and alcohol. Yet again the skin prick tests returned negative.

A daily double dose of long-acting antihistamine was prescribed to try and calm my overactive immune system, alongside fast-acting tablets to take at the first sign of a reaction as well as an auto-injector adrenaline pen, which I was instructed to carry on me at all times. This was to be used if the other drugs failed to work and I was struggling to breathe or speak.

“I was instructed to carry an auto-injector adrenaline pen at all times.”

By now I’d become too scared to eat and operated in a state of constant drowsiness – a side effect of the medication. My GP told me to rest. I didn’t and pushed on. Being self-employed and with a mortgage to pay, I was forcing myself to work every spare minute to make up for all the time and money I’d lost through the revolving door of hospital appointments.  I became a virtual recluse and felt utterly exhausted.

Questions whizzed around my head. Why was my previous good health falling apart at such an alarming speed? Why were the specialists unable to tell me what was going on? At least if I knew what I was reacting to I could regain a sense of control. Not knowing made me anxious.

Alongside this, I was also undergoing a number of MRI scans because between the first and second allergic reaction, my right foot mysteriously stopped working… Read here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen's Health

HOW TO TRAVEL WITH ALLERGIES: 7 MUST-READ TIPS

Ocean view Bathsheba, Barbados

I’ve always enjoyed travelling. ‘You’re always on holiday,” my friends used to quip, not realising that I’d been working 15 hour days and weekends to justify my, often very short, jaunts abroad every six weeks or so.

But when my health started playing up in December 2015, travelling was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to get well. Then, seven months after the first allergic reaction, a travel commission came in for Barbados – a country I love and know like the back of my hand – and I couldn’t pass it up. Incidentally, Relax Ya Self is a phrase often used by locals on the island and where I got the idea for the name of this blog!

I wrote a post here on how my tongue started to swell on the eight-hour flight home. One epic fail was not to having my emergency drugs within easy reach. I know, I’m an idiot. So, I decided to make a checklist for future trips, which may help others too.

DON’T BE SHY
Tell your friends, family and fellow travellers about your allergies. Knowledge is power. They’ll need to know what you’re allergic to, the signs and symptoms to look out for, where your emergency drugs are and how to use an auto-adrenaline injector (commonly known as an Epi-Pen) if you are unable to inject yourself.

ALERT THE CABIN CREW
In my experience, the crew bend over backwards to help those with allergies. I recently flew to Tenerife with Monarch. I explained the unpredictability of my reactions, that I wouldn’t be eating on the flight because of this and reassured them that I had my emergency drugs on me and knew what to do if my tongue started to swell. The aircraft was quite empty. Guess what? They ended up moving me to an extra legroom seat at the front of the plane. It was such a kind gesture and I certainly didn’t expect it!

PREPARE YOUR OWN FOOD
Because I react to all sorts of ingredients, I now prepare my own food (in plastic containers) and forgo the meals served up by the airline. This way I know I’ll never go hungry. And I make use of the tubs again during my holiday. Not only are they super-handy if I’m out and about during the day,  it’s good to know that I can tuck into home-made food if there are no options for me on a restaurant menu (which has happened in the past!)  I just make the food in the morning. (Remember to walk with an ice pack)

CHECK THE EXPIRY DATES
Ensure your antihistamines, steroids and your auto adrenaline injector pens are in date. Often, the latter has a short shelf-life of six months.

DOUBLE UP
To be on the safe side,  I walk with two lots of medication including adrenaline pens just in case my bag goes missing or one of the pens fails to work.   Ensure they’re within easy reach and walk with a bottle of water. And if you’re in tropical climes, you’ll need to protect your adrenaline pens from the heat so remember to pack an insulated wallet or bag. I use a pretty and practical cooling pouch made by Frio.

LEARN THE LINGO
Eating out in Tenerife was particularly troublesome because I had to avoid so many foods…mature cheese, citrus fruit,  alcohol and vinegar, the latter of which popped up in everything! Fortunately, the lovely receptionist at our hotel compiled a note listing all the ingredients in Spanish together with an explanation. I carried that piece of paper everywhere I went and it gave me the confidence to eat out in restaurants.

UPDATE YOUR DETAILS
Many phones, such as the Iphone 6, have a medical ID option. Here you can list your medical conditions, allergies and reactions and any medication you take, as well as your name and date of birth. Anyone can access this information, even if your phone is locked.

 

Helen's Health, Travel