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Ryan Sidebottom talks anxiety, cricket and ‘being Beyonce’

Ryan Sidebottom

Ryan Sidebottom, the former England and T20 world-cup winning swing bowler, recently joined Surrey County Cricket Club as a bowling consultant.

The jovial 40-year-old, who lives in Leeds, enjoyed a 20-year professional career before hanging up his cricket boots last year.

‘Siddy’, as he is often affectionately called, was famed for being one of the most renowned bowlers of his generation, taking 1,053 wickets in all formats and retiring with a first-class bowling average of 23.8.

Although the popular Yorkshireman is well known for his cheeky sense of humour, he has experienced bouts of anxiety since packing up the game.

Below, Ryan opens up to Relax Ya Self To Health.

You retired last summer. What have you been up to since then?
Getting my hands dirty and ripping out kitchens. I’ve got a small property business. Each year I buy a house, do it up and sell it on. I also use builders and technical people but try to do as much of the manual stuff, like gutting the insides, myself.

What do you miss about playing professional cricket?
I miss the camaraderie, constantly being around my best mates, getting fired up for a big match and the buzz of playing in front of big crowds. In cricket you have so many emotions. There’s the elation after a win, the adulation of people wanting to sit with you and buy you drinks. After a bad game it can feel as though the world’s ended but at least you experience it as a team and go through the ups and down together. When you retire there’s no adrenaline rush anymore.

How has retirement affected you mentally?
I do have some days where I feel quite worthless and have worries over the future. The anxiousness is always there at the back of the mind but I knew it might happen.

Why’s that?
My dad Arnie, had a 17-year career as a footballer for Manchester United and Huddersfield and then as a cricketer for Yorkshire but couldn’t find a job for a couple of years after he stopped playing. He really struggled with stress and the nervousness of not knowing what the future held as well as trying to support the family.  It’s ironic, as a young boy I’d always worry about my career and if I’d successfully make it as a pro. I put myself under so much pressure and believe this triggered the eczema and psoriasis on my scalp I had at the time. When you’re playing you become insular. Sport is the main focus. Back then I’d stress about having a bad game but now I know there’s more to life.

Ryan Sidebottom

Credit: SW Pix/YCCC

 

How do you cope if you’re feeling down?
I’ll meet a friend for a drink and try and get whatever is bothering me off my chest. I think men struggle with this because of the whole macho attitude but it’s not a weakness to open up and talk to people about how you’re feeling. I also like to escape my thoughts so I’ll get on the bike or go for a walk. I like the outdoors and the sights and sounds of the countryside lift my spirits.

How would you describe your personality? 
It’s changed over the years. When I first started playing I was really introverted, very quiet and insular but the team environment really helped to bring me out of my shell. Now I like a laugh, fun, banter, and practical jokes.

What’s the funniest cricket story from your time on tour?
There are many. In 2008, I was in New Zealand and out for dinner with some of the England cricket boys – Graeme Swann, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, and James ‘Jimmy’ Anderson. We were going through this stage of playing credit card roulette. This is where you place your card under your napkin. At the end of the meal, the waiter or waitress comes over and picks up the napkins one by one and the entire bill is paid on the card that’s uncovered last.  On this particular night, Graeme ended up eating my entire fillet steak. On seeing this, the waitress brought me another but I was too busy talking to Alastair. Then Graeme shoved the second one in his mouth! Of course, I lost at credit card roulette as well. So not only did I have to pay the bill for all the boys, I was bloody starving too.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I like fancy dress. Some years ago I was on Question of Sport and did a Beyonce mystery guest appearance. I was wearing some really tight shorts, a vest, a wig and lipstick and was dancing to ‘put a ring on it’ [Single Ladies] I love dancing and letting my hair down.

Ryan Sidebottom

Credit: SW Pix/YCCC

Speaking of your hair, it’s been a talking point over the years. It even has its own nickname, doesn’t it?
Yes. Darren Gough named me ‘Sexual Chocolate’ after the fictional band in the 1988 film Coming to America with Eddie Murphy and it stuck with me. I’m quite a poser. I love my products. I’ve got my Frizz Ease and am still very much attached to my toiletries bag. A few years ago, when I was playing for Notts, the physio stole it. We were playing away at Kent so a teammate and I put his car on bricks. He rang me about 100 times. I told you I was a practical joker!

Oh no, did you get the wash bag back?
It was never to be seen again. I had a right sweat on.

So, what’s your idea of a perfect holiday?
Somewhere I can unwind. I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to travel the world and see beautiful places – Sri Lanka is stunning. I like the beauty of Thailand. I usually travel around, hire a car, visit sites and take in the scenery. One day we went to an ancient Buddhist temple in a cave.  There were loads of monkeys around and one stole my ice cream!

You seem quite into nature…
Yes. I live a couple of miles from the shops so I’ll always try and cycle overtaking the car. I’m also lucky to live in the countryside with really nice walks and trails. It helps keep me fit.  When I was playing I used to do lots of weights, running, and gym work and towards the last five years of my career I took up yoga to help with flexibility and longevity. Now I do an hour-long class locally with a lady called Louisa Thomas.  I still also do light weights to keep me ticking over but I’ve barely been to the gym since I stopped playing. I don’t have that drive anymore probably because I did it for so long. Diet-wise, I try to follow the 80:20 rule although I do love fish and chips, KFC and takeaways!

You’ve just joined Surrey County Cricket Club as a mentor? Tell us more about that.
Yep. It’s great to be back in the game and I can’t wait to get out there working with the boys. I’ll be assisting bowling coach Geoff Arnold for the first half of the Specsavers County Championship season. I’ll be working with the squad on and directly before match days. It’s going to be interesting working with the team in the run up to a match but not actually playing myself. It’s a fantastic club. Hopefully, I can bring my experience to help support the team and staff as we target some silverware.

If you enjoyed this interview you might also like to read our other chats with Jonny WilkinsonPat CashKatie Piper , Andrew Barton and  Gail Porter  

If you’re a fan of Ryan, please share this post, comment below and check out his website here: https://www.ryansidebottom.co.uk/

 

Celebrity interviews, In the news

What Christina taught me: a tribute

What Christina taught me

Why? It’s a question I’ve been asking over and over since the sudden and unexpected passing of fellow journalist, Christina Earle, aged just 31.

Christina was The Sun’s health editor who helped tens of thousands of people through her campaigning journalism. Over the past four years we worked closely together. She was committed, dedicated and thrived under the pressure of a busy newsroom environment.

She knew her stuff, questioned the hell out of everything (a quality, I hasten to add), was always to the point and had this remarkable knack of finding a solution to any problem no matter how large or small.

We shared many a laugh – in the canteen, over a coffee, at Christmas parties. There was even that time we flew to Glasgow in a day and back on a job that involved us doing a ridiculous number of exercise classes back to back.

We could barely walk by the end of it but it turned out to be such a hoot. She even asked me to give her a tennis lesson when we got back home. That was in 2015.

We never got around to it because later that year my own health began to deteriorate. Doctors were baffled by the weird goings on in my body – from the frequent tongue swelling episodes to the foot drop that came on out of the blue. Being in and out of hospital, I stopped working shifts in the London office.

Then, Christina became more than just a colleague.

Christina Earle

©The Sun

She was determined to help me find an answer. From day one she was convinced I had a mast cell issue –  her suggested diagnosis is still being investigated. Heck, she even drew me diagrams of cells and the way they should and shouldn’t behave. Her knowledge was incredible.

And it was Christina who brought a certain prescribed antihistamine medication – which I now take and one that remains instrumental in my management plan – to my attention. She left no stone unturned in her mission to help, a quality that also applied to her work.

I learned so much from her.

As former health editor Lynsey Hope wrote in her fantastic tribute to Christina here it is thanks to her The Sun gave away thousands of organ donor cards just over a year ago. And it is thanks to her the paper launched its first Who Cares Wins health awards celebrating the NHS and its staff, as well as its Smiles at Christmas campaign last December, which raised more than £130,000 for kids with cancer with CLIC Sargent.

Right now this is just so raw and I cannot even begin to imagine what Christina’s family and close friends and colleagues are going through.

Her untimely passing reminds us why we have to cherish every moment.

Tell your friends and family you love them.

Kiss them hello and goodbye every time.

Be kind.

And always care…just as Christina did.

Helen's Health, In the news

Struggling to sleep? 8 tips that may help.

8 Tips to help you sleep

I have a good friend who can sleep anywhere. Cars, planes, trains. And the moment her head hits the pillow she’s out like a light.

Now I’m the least jealous person on the planet although I must confess I am slightly envious of her ability to instantly nod off because I STRUGGLE enormously.

Last week, on one particular school night, I hit the hay at 10pm. It took a good few hours to eventually drift off into what felt like a state of sporadic dozing. Then bam. At 3am I was wide awake. I tossed and turned. Went to the bathroom. Had a glass of water. Each act proved fruitless. At 4.30am I was still wide awake so switched on the light.

The previous week I’d moved house – one of the most stressful things you can do – and had a LOT on my mind so I made a list of all the things that were troubling me and jotted down possible solutions. I even composed an email. After 20 minutes or so I turned off the lamp. Guess what? I fell asleep instantly. Why I didn’t think of writing everything down before is beyond me as I always keep a notebook by the side of my bed!

Below Neil Shah, founder of The Stress Management Society, a not for profit organisation which offers practical help and advice on managing stress, shares his quick tips on achieving a better night’s kip.

KEEP A JOURNAL
Write down everything that’s on your mind. Thoughts, worries, problems, to-do lists. This can reduce night-time anxiety and could help you fall asleep faster.

HIDE YOUR CLOCK
Listening to a ticking clock or constantly checking your phone to see how many hours you have left before you need to wake up causes unnecessary anxiety.

Tips to help you sleep

VISUALISE BLOWING BUBBLES
Think of a situation that took your energy and left you feeling drained and tired or made you feel upset and uneasy. Visualise blowing a bubble and imagine putting that situation in the centre and letting it go. Keep doing this until you get your energy back, feel better or lighter. It’s a great way of clearing your mind.

USE YOUR BEDROOM FOR SLEEPING ONLY
Ban TV, phones and tablets from the bedroom. It has been proven that exposure to bright white and blue lights at night prevent our brains from releasing melatonin – the key hormone that tells our bodies that it’s time to sleep.

MEDITATE OR COUNT
Meditation allows us to centre ourselves and relax the body – studies have shown it decreases stress and lowers our heart rate. For beginners who are struggling to fall asleep try counting backwards from 100. If you lose track, restart and focus on the present.

AVOID  DAYTIME NAPS
Although many say that having a 20-minute snooze in the afternoon improves alertness, performance and mood in general, napping for longer has been proven to disrupt sleep. If your energy is flagging meditate instead.

ESTABLISH A WIND-DOWN ROUTINE
According to experts at Harvard Medical School a calming bedtime routine is essential for getting a good night’s sleep. It keeps your internal clock in check, which helps you fall asleep and wake up effortlessly.  Every parent understands the importance of preparing a child for bed so treat yourself with the same respect.

Tips to help you sleep

OPEN A WINDOW
Our body temperature drops as we fall asleep so having a cooler room to start with may help decrease the amount of time it takes to nod off.

Do you struggle to sleep or have you found a method that works for you? I’ve love to hear from you in the comments below.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like to read The Night It All Began, 7 Easy Ways to Lead a Stress-Free Life, Why It’s OK To Say No7 Top Tips for Beating Stress 

For advice on how to manage stress visit the Stress Management Society 

 

 

 

 

In the news, Wellness

6 Christmassy traditions I’ll miss this year

6 Christmassy traditions I'll miss this year

Barely a day goes by without another Christmassy survey being released but I almost spat out my porridge when I read an article in The Times this week reporting that British Christmas traditions were being lost in favour of trends imported from the United States and Europe.

Apparently, a third of people no longer leave out stockings and a quarter have stopped watching the Queen’s Christmas message although turkey dinners and decorating Christmas trees remain popular.

Call me old-fashioned but I love settling down to watch the monarch’s annual broadcast at 3pm (just me?!), along with Top of The Pops – no matter how bad the songs.

Personally, not doing this would feel peculiar, just as spending Christmas in a hot country would feel odd.

Yet, despite my penchant for Christmassy customs, I’ll have to (reluctantly) break a few this year because of my ongoing health issues. Here are the ones I’ll miss the most…

KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE
Okay. This one’s a bit misleading. Although I’m single, I do NOT go around snogging guys willy-nilly BUT I do have to be careful when it comes to exchanging kisses. Personal experience has taught me that I cannot lock lips with someone who’s been drinking red wine. This happened very recently with a guy I was dating.

One minute I was enjoying the moment, the next I was frantically looking for my meds to combat the tongue swelling. Grapes – a relatively high histamine fruit  – tend to set me off so I avoid eating them but I never imagined I’d react after an innocent kiss. M’s eyes almost fell out of his head when I pulled out my medication bag packed with adrenaline pens, steroids and antihistamine. Talk about passion killer.

DANCING ALL NIGHT AT THE CHRISTMAS PARTY
Yes. The old me would have been making a fool of herself on the dancefloor for most of the evening. But because sweat, heat and exercise seem to set off my reactions, I now have to pace myself. The night before last I was at a work Christmas bash.

My coping mechanism involved dancing for three songs, then heading outside into the freezing cold for a minute or two to bring my body temperature down. But it seemed to do the trick and I didn’t have a reaction! *Yay* I’m due to see a mast cell specialist in January and am hoping he’ll be able to explain why my body is misbehaving in such a bizarre manner.

ENJOYING A BAILEYS
So I’ve never been a big drinker. One glass and I’m tipsy. But I do love a rum and coke on holiday or a cheeky Baileys Irish Cream or Amarula on the rocks at Christmas. However, anything aged or fermented (high histamine) sets off my reactions so I’ve not had an alcoholic drink in a year and a half.

Even so, I managed to last until 1am at the Christmas do…on sparkling water. The truth is I had enormous fun with my sloshed colleagues and was simply grateful for the fact that I was there and managed to remain reaction-free for the entire evening. Two years earlier I ended up hospitalised with my very first lip swelling incident and missed the party!

FEASTING ON CHEESE…
Yes. It’s not exactly healthy but being a non-meat eater, cheese used to form quite a substantial part of my diet. Wensleydale with apricot, French brie, mature cheddar, oh how I used to love a festive cheese board. Sadly, these are all medium to high histamine foods (along with the grapes) so I have to avoid them. Saying that, I can tolerate mozzarella so all is not lost!

…AND CHRISTMAS DINNER
I’m not talking turkey but my celery and rice roast! It’s really not as awful as it sounds. I used to love rustling this up for Christmas dinner but as one of the key ingredients is cheddar cheese it’s off the menu. Sadly, I’ve not found a low-histamine substitute that would make the dish work. The good thing is I’m a fan of sprouts, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, parsnips and sweet potatoes so I’ll still feast well regardless.

INDULGING IN TERRY’S CHOCOLATE ORANGE AND CLEMENTINES
As a child, I’d always find a clementine or two hiding in my stocking. These easy peelers are by far my favourite fruit and I dearly miss their intense juicy tanginess. However, all forms of citrus are high histamine so they’re off Santa’s shopping list along with Terry’s Chocolate Orange – my FAVOURITE Christmas chocolate.

I’m not complaining though. These Christmassy traditions may have disappeared for the time being but at least I now have a management plan for the reactions. I’m no longer fearful of the future and ridiculously excited for the festive season.

Can you relate to any of the above? Do you have any food intolerances or allergies that will change the way you approach the holiday period? What tips do you have for coping ? I’d love to hear from you.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

xx

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Helen's Health, In the news

WHY SMALL TALK SAVES LIVES

I’m a chatterbox. Always have been, always will be. Often people will ask how I find it so easy to talk to anyone and everyone but I guess it’s just part of the day job – I’m intrigued by folk and their stories. So I was pleased to discover that this trait could be put to good use on my commute into work.

A new suicide prevention campaign called Small Talk Save Lives has been launched by the Samaritans, British Transport Police and the rail industry encouraging passengers to act if they spot someone who might need emotional support – worryingly, a suicide occurs on our railways approximately every 36 hours.

The idea is that a short conversation with someone who may be struggling to cope can go a long way. This is what happened to Sarah Wilson* whose story is featured in the video above. The 28-year-old decided against taking her own life on a railway after a stranger reached out to her.

Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives

As many as 69% of rail users understand that a simple question could be enough to break the flow of negative and despairing thoughts occupying the mind of someone who is suicidal, research conducted on 5,000 people found.

The research, carried out on behalf of the campaign, also showed that although the majority of people would be willing to act, only 44% would be encouraged to approach someone if they knew they weren’t going to make the situation worse. And nearly nine out of ten thought a person in need of support would find it hard to ask for help.

So what can you do to help?

Become aware. Look around. Take a break from your phone or tablet.

Notice if a person is standing alone or isolated, looking distant or withdrawn, on the platform for a long time without boarding a train, or displaying something out of the ordinary in their behaviour or appearance.

Although there is no single sign or combination of behaviours that mean a person is suicidal, if something doesn’t feel right, the message is to act and respond in ways that people feel comfortable and safe with, Small Talk Saves Lives suggests.

Try approaching the person, asking them a question to distract them from their thoughts, or alerting a member of rail staff or calling the police.

“Someone showing me they cared about me helped to interrupt my suicidal thoughts and that gave them time to subside,” Sarah reveals.

“The more that people understand that suicide is preventable, the better. I hope people will share the video and that the campaign will encourage people to trust their gut instincts and start a conversation if they think someone could need help. You won’t make things worse and you could save a life.”

Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives

 

Suicide is ‘everybody’s business’, according to Samaritans chief executive officer Ruth Sutherland. 

“Any one of us could have an opportunity to save a life,” she declares.  “Research for this campaign showed 73% of the public would expect somebody to approach their loved one if they were upset in a public place… The knowledge and skills to save lives in the rail environment can be applied to many other situations. We hope that Small Talk Saves Lives is the start of a much wider conversation about how suicide is preventable.”

Professor Rory O’Connor, a leading suicide prevention expert from the University of Glasgow, suggests it’s a  myth that nothing can be done to prevent suicide.“We all have a role to play,” he insists.

I know I’ll certainly make an effort on my train journey into London tomorrow.

Last year, I hit rock bottom when my health started to deteriorate. Read the night it all began here. But I was lucky. I had my mum, my dad, my sister and a supportive network of friends around to help pull me through. Not everyone is so fortunate.

If you’re catching the train today, take a look around you.

Smile. Make eye contact. Be kind. Talk.  You might just save a life.

 

For more information on Small Talk Saves Lives visit:  www.samaritans.org/smalltalksaveslives

*Sarah’s name has been changed

In the news

Gail Porter talks hair loss and hope

Gail Porter talks hair loss and hope

Gail Porter was working as a successful TV presenter filming Dead Famous in Las Vegas when her hair fell out overnight. The year was 2005 and the then 34-year-old had taken a shower when she became aware of water rising around her ankles.

“I looked down and realised it wasn’t the water, but all of my hair,” she tells Relax Ya Self To Health. “It was pretty much instantaneous.” The former lads’ mag favourite was diagnosed with a form of alopecia – a condition thought to be sparked by an immune disorder that causes the body to view hair follicles as the enemy and mistakenly attack them resulting in hair loss.

Understandably, the experience “crushed” Gail’s self-esteem and when her eyebrows and lashes disappeared too she was left feeling “rubbed out”. As part of Alopecia Awareness Month, the Scot, who is mum to Honey, 14, talks us through how she has dealt with the diagnosis, the stoic attitude of her family and how her semi-permanent tattooed eyebrows have helped restore her confidence.

WHAT TYPE OF ALOPECIA DO YOU HAVE?
I have alopecia totalis. Even my lashes and brows are affected, which I don’t think people realise. You feel as though you’ve been rubbed out when those features disappear. I have no hair anywhere on my body apart from a couple of baby lashes that come and go sporadically.

HOW DID YOU TAKE THE NEWS?
It was overwhelming at first. Telling my daughter I’d be coming home from America with no hair was hard. I thought she wouldn’t recognise me, she was only three at the time. I try to be strong, but obviously, it’s still hard. My self-esteem was crushed…you know, as a woman without hair. It is so difficult.

WERE YOU TOLD WHAT TRIGGERED YOUR ALOPECIA?
Well, it’s an autoimmune disease…I don’t know what caused me to lose my hair, I really don’t. Perhaps stress, but I’ve never really thought it was. I always say everyone in London would be bald if it was just down to stress. Some cases of alopecia are hereditary, which again, wasn’t true in my case. That’s quite frustrating in itself, the not knowing. I think it’s simply bad luck, and I pulled the short straw.

DID YOUR BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS COME AFTER THE ALOPECIA?
I was diagnosed as bipolar years before my hair loss. It didn’t come as too much of a surprise as I was always suffering from manic highs and lows. I was sectioned in 2011 after a manic episode. I was feeling very low and my boyfriend at the time was worried I would do something silly. Instead of talking to me, he called the police and they turned up when I was out having lunch. I didn’t react kindly and was rather abusive. They took me to the hospital and put me in a room, where I stayed for hours. By the time the doctor turned up, I was very unhelpful and angry. They asked for my boyfriend to sign a form to section me, which he did. I had no say in the matter. I didn’t see a doctor for days and once they eventually arrived, they let me out as they didn’t believe I should have been sectioned. While I was sectioned, I was just pumped full of drugs and had no one to talk to. No help at all.

Gail Porter with microblading expert Karen Betts

HOW SUPPORTIVE WERE YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ABOUT YOUR ALOPECIA DIAGNOSIS?
My family were very typically Scottish! Very stoic. My mum was pretty upset but tried not to show it. I think she felt like I had been through such a lot and she felt that losing my hair was another blow. She used to put her hand over my forehead and say “now there’s my Gail”. My brother pointed out that my dad had more hair than me. I know mum was upset as I did a documentary about my condition and when she was interviewed without me there, she cried. My dad didn’t say much. They just needed time to get used to it.

WHY DO YOU REFRAIN FROM WEARING WIGS OR HEADSCARVES?
Look, you’ve got to do whatever makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. I never really liked wigs…they were uncomfortable to wear, it just didn’t feel right. The thing that made such a huge difference for me was getting my brows back through microblading! You don’t realise how much of a difference brows make to a person’s face.

WHAT DID YOU HAVE DONE EXACTLY?
The procedure took about an hour. A tool which has up to 11 hair-fine ink-dipped microblades was brushed over my brow area and these penetrated the lower layers of the skin to create semi-permanent marks resembling eyebrows. I first had them done a year ago and recently had them topped up. I was always dubious about someone going near my face…but Karen Betts (a leading permanent cosmetic and microblading expert) is incredible. I trusted her. My eyebrows look so natural, I love them so much. I burst into tears of joy when I first saw them.

HOW ARE YOU DOING NOW AND HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE BEING DIAGNOSED?
You know what I’m doing okay – my life has changed massively. Of course, it has. My career changed overnight. But I always say, people are in worse situations than me. People everywhere have it hard, or they’re going through something terrible. You just have to be kind to everyone.

WHERE ARE YOU AT YOUR HAPPIEST?
In Scotland. Home always makes me happy.

HOW DO YOU RELAX?
Nowadays I’m very into my fitness – I love running, I always try to drink loads of water. I’m writing my book right now so that’s been an incredibly cathartic experience for me. I don’t go on holiday much but I remember going to the Maldives and feeling so incredibly relaxed. I slept well, loved the peace and quiet and could have stayed there forever. But to be honest, I’m happy on any holiday. The west coast of Scotland is always a total joy.

ALOPECIA AWARENESS MONTH: HELP SPREAD THE WORD
According to Alopecia UK,  1.3million people in the UK today will have had, currently have or will experience alopecia areata – a condition which causes patchy hair loss and affects both genders equally. (Alopeica totalis is a more advanced form which results in total loss of hair on the scalp). The charity is seeking to tackle the stigma and embarrassment attached to hair loss and is urging people to use the #GetTalking hashtag in the hope, it will encourage those that would benefit from some peer support to reach out and start the conversation.

“We want to help give those who are affected the confidence to know that hair loss isn’t something they should feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about,” says Amy Johnson, Alopecia UK’s communications and fundraising manager. “We hope that the more alopecia is discussed, and the more awareness raised, the easier it will be for those diagnosed.

“If the idea of talking to family and friends about your hair loss makes you feel anxious, consider talking to others with alopecia first. Peer support can make such a difference and can really help to boost self-esteem and confidence, perhaps allowing you to talk more widely about your alopecia at a later stage.”

To raise awareness about alopecia please SHARE this post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #GetTalking

If you enjoyed our chat with Gail, be sure to check out our other celebrity interviews with rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson here and wellness guru James Duigan here.

For more information on microblading and semi-permanent make up with Karen Betts visit www.karenbetts.co.uk

For information about alopecia, including details of how to find support visit  alopecia.org.uk

 

Celebrity interviews, In the news

WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS TO VEGFESTUK

Win tickets to VegfestUK London

There’s nothing quite like getting out and about at the weekend or learning something new to wash away the stresses of a difficult week, so I’m giving away a pair of tickets to popular vegan festival VegfestUK.

If like long-standing vegetarian Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn you’re toying with the idea of following a plant based diet,  this show at London’s Kensington Olympia on October 21 and 22 will help you make up your mind.

Here you can learn about vegan twists on American fast food classics from Jakes Vegan Steaks, discover vegan craft beers and cider from Pitfield Brewery, try indulgent vegan comfort foods from LazyBoy Kitchen as well as vegan sushi options from Happy Maki.

But it’s not just about food.

There’s a cinema, comedy corner, teen zone and kids’ area as well as numerous stalls selling non-food vegan goods.

“This year is seeing us hit London harder than ever before,” Alan Lee, VegfestUK organiser said. “Our previous dates in Brighton and Bristol were a fantastic kick off to 2017, and now we’re ready to take the capital by storm with beautiful food, fantastic traders and an all-round exemplary event that everyone can enjoy.”

If you’re looking to educate yourself about the vegan way of life, there’ll be talks given by industry professionals and the event is also hosting the Environment & Food Sustainability Summit.

To be in with a chance to win the VegfestUK tickets simply comment at the bottom of this post naming your favourite fruit and veg and why. Do the same on our Facebook and Instagram pages to gain a second entry, and retweet on Twitter for a third.

The winning name will be drawn out of the hat this Sunday and winners contacted via email so please do check your inbox.

Good luck!

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

  1. The prize draw is open to those based in the UK aged 18 or over.
  2. To be entered, participants are required to do one or all of the following – if they wish to enter three times: Comment on the bottom of this blog post naming their favourite fruit and veg and why. Comment on our Facebook and Instagram page to gain a second entry, and retweet on Twitter to gain a third. In total there are THREE opportunities for an individual to enter the draw if they participate in all of the above.
  3. This prize has no cash value and no cash alternative is offered. The prize is not refundable and can only be claimed by the winner of the prize draw published on Relax Ya Self To Health.
  4. The prize is non-transferable.
  5. Relax Ya Self To Health shall not be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages or losses suffered by the entrant or third party.
  6. The winner will be selected at random from all entries. The promoter’s decision will be final and binding. No correspondence will be entered into.
  7. The winner will be notified by the prize provider by email within seven days of the competition closing date.
  8.  The closing date for this prize draw is midnight on 17th September 2017.
  9.  Relax Ya Self to Health will make all reasonable efforts to contact the winner of the prize draw. If the winner has not responded to contact within one week, we shall offer the prize to the next randomly drawn entrant.
  10. By entering this promotion you agree that Relax Ya Self to Health is authorised to contact you to arrange delivery in the event that you are drawn as a winner of the prize draw.

 

 

Competitions, In the news

7 top tips for beating stress

7 ways to beat stress

Have you ever heard of the term ‘brain fade’? No, me neither until today. Apparently, it relates to accidental habits such as putting your keys in the fridge and leaving the milk on the side – something I’ve done before in times of stress.

The poll of 2,000 adults commissioned by Rescue to mark the launch of its new Rescue Plus Dropper and Spray flower essences range, found that 94% had experienced moments like these. More than two thirds (75%) blamed a lack of sleep, 60% attributed it to trying to do too much at once and a quarter cited being busy or under pressure at work as the reason.

I’m not sure about you but I can certainly relate to all of the above. And while we all know the importance of keeping our stress levels in check, it’s often easier said than done, so I asked Dr Marilyn Glenville Ph.D., a respected nutritionist specialising in women’s health and best-selling author, for her top stress reduction tips. Below is what she had to say:

EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN
Fluctuating blood sugar levels, common in women, cause your body to release adrenaline – the same hormone that’s triggered when you are under stress. Try and keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable by eating every three hours. A Mediterranean diet – rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and oily fish – can help. Blood sugar and insulin are closely linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Many experts now refer to the resistance to insulin in the brain as Type 3 Diabetes. One large study has shown that a Mediterranean diet is linked to a reduced incidence of cognitive decline.

NEVER DRINK COFFEE ON AN EMPTY TUM
Caffeine is a stimulant which activates your adrenal (stress) glands. Limit caffeine to one cup or avoid if possible and never drink coffee on an empty stomach. This is because it gets straight into the bloodstream, triggering the release of your fight or flight stress hormones. You don’t want them being activated in response to something you have drunk. Also, caffeine contributes to fluctuating blood sugar levels because it has a fast acting effect on the body.

GET MOVING
When stressed, our bodies expect action. The rush of energy we experience is caused by the release of adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, hormones which help us react quickly in dangerous situations. However, being permanently stressed is not a good thing as raised cortisol levels can lead to high blood pressure. Stress is also thought to be linked to the development of hypothyroidism as high cortisol levels reduce the amount of the thyroid hormone T3 and encourage your body to break down muscle to provide glucose for your brain resulting in a slower metabolism. If you’re feeling stressed go for a brisk 30-minute walk, go for a swim or find an exercise DVD you can do at home.

UP YOUR B VITAMINS
Some vitamins and minerals can help manage stress levels. B5 is good for stress relief and energy, chromium helps with blood sugar balance, while magnesium – found in bananas – is considered nature’s tranquiliser. Siberian ginseng acts as a tonic to the stress hormone-releasing adrenal glands, and L-theanine helps reduce stress and anxiety.  A good supplement I use in my clinic is NHP’s Tranquil Woman support, which contains all of the above plus more.

GET FRISKY
Sex is a mood booster. The release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, into the brain during is thought to be responsible for this benefit. A study of more than 6,800 people also showed that those who were still active in the bedroom had sharper cognitive function.

PLAY AN INSTRUMENT OR BOARD GAME
Stress is linked to cognitive decline and memory loss.  A 40+ year study of 800 women found that those who experienced the most stressful events in middle age had a 21% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s in old age and 15 per cent higher risk of developing other forms of dementia compared to those who didn’t. Unwind by reading, dancing, playing board games or musical instruments. These hobbies have also been shown to reduce dementia risk. Doing crosswords has been found to be particularly beneficial in delaying memory decline – by 2.5 years.

SLEEP BETTER
Refrain from looking at your phone, computer, or TV at least an hour before bed. The light from these devices can decrease melatonin levels which should be high in order to induce sleep. Try listening to relaxing music, reading a book, meditation or some deep breathing exercises.

I’ll certainly be taking these tips on board. How about you? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below or over on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter 

Dr Marilyn Glenville Ph.D. is the author of a number of bestselling books – her latest is Natural Solutions For Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Dr Glenville runs clinics in Harley Street, Kent and Ireland  www.marilynglenville.com

 

 

 

Health, In the news, Wellness

How a bath helped me take control

How a bath helped me take control

I’ve recently rediscovered the sheer joy of taking a long hot soak in the tub but it seems I’m in the minority. Only one in four of us takes a lengthy luxurious bath, according to a survey of 2,000 Britons. The poll, commissioned by beauty products firm Faith in Nature, found that more than three quarters prefer quick, functional showers with most people choosing to browse Facebook or watch catch-up TV after a busy day.

Now, I’m guilty of scrolling through my social media feed for at least an hour every night DESPITE being fully aware that blue light can disrupt sleep patterns by suppressing melatonin, a hormone which controls our body clock. It’s a habit I’m trying to break especially as I often end up feeling ‘wired’ by the time I’m ready to turn out the light.

Peter Kinderman, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool points out we could be making better decisions about how we spend our time. “The possibilities for enhancing our lives are endless and the choices are there for the taking,” he says. “The paradox is that people aren’t choosing things to make their lives better; they’re making mundane and easy choices, which essentially aren’t making people happy. I always encourage people to make conscious choices about how to spend their time.”

“Whether you have a spare 10 minutes or two hours, think about how you would like to make the most of this time,” he continues. “Whether the choice it to go for a run, to call a relative, bake a cake, or relax in a warm bath, it’s choosing things that enhance our lives that make us feel calmer, more relaxed, and happier.”

According to Joy Parkinson, Faith in Nature managing director,  the survey results show that we have forgotten how to relax. “Modern day life is busy and fast paced,” she insists. “Most people probably know that soaking in a warm bath provides a moment of calm for the mind and body, but they are choosing other ways to spend their time. Perhaps this is a lesson for all of us that we should all give ourselves more time to do things that genuinely make us feel more relaxed.”

How a bath helped me take control

I’m with her on this. Last year, when my health was spiralling out of control, I rediscovered the simple pleasure of lying in a tub. Back then I had numerous hospital appointments and doctors had absolutely no idea what was going on with my body. It was such a frightening time and my mind was running away with itself.

In order to cope, I needed to stay present and stop worrying about what else might unfold. Then I discovered the Headspace app. More or less every night, I’d lock myself in the bathroom and listen to the dulcet tones of co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe as part of a ten minute guided meditation session. Despite being advised to sit comfortably in an upright position, I found I could best detach by lying in a bath surrounded by candles (*do not do this if you have a habit of falling asleep or fill your tub to the brim!!).

At first, I found it difficult to meditate. No matter how hard I tried to empty my mind, thoughts would flood in but, over time, I learned to accept that this was OK – just noticing the thoughts was progress. And then one night it happened – a wonderful floaty feeling took over every fibre of my being. It may have only lasted a few seconds but I was elevated into a state of complete and utter relaxation and it was enough to get me hooked. Very quickly, the bathroom became my sanctuary. Now, whenever I’m feeling frazzled, I head there and almost always leave feeling zen a zen zen.

So, are you a bath or shower fan? And where are your favourite places to meditate? I’d love to hear from you.

You can comment below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

In the news, Wellness

Champneys unveils new Marine and Wellness Spa

Champneys Spa, Tring

I’m sitting in a room at Champneys Tring with my feet soaking in a milk bath. Two menthol-infused cotton buds are simultaneously waved in front of my nostrils.

This is not an alternative way to treat a cold, but preparation for my journey through the new Marine and Wellness Spa at the brand’s flagship premises in Hertfordshire.

The renowned health and wellness facility has teamed up with international marine spa beauty brand Thalgo to offer four new 2.5 hour pampering experiences – Wellbeing and Rejuvenation, De-stress and Revive, Detox and Cleanse and Slim and Tone – to suit your mood.

And I’m here on a whistle-stop tour to try out a number of taster treatments across all four journeys.

The cotton buds – coupled with a few deep breaths – are a simple way of clearing the mind ahead of my experience, although I’m slightly embarrassed about the state of my feet. The week before last I was on a travel job hiking up mountains in Austria and my toenails have certainly seen better days.

Champneys hydrotherapy pool

Even so, the skin softening milk bath seems to be working its magic. Others in my group are also merrily knocking back an energising ‘sea plasma’ shot. The concoction, I’m told, is easily assimilated by the body, antibacterial and great if you’re feeling tired and run down.

I’m both those things. Over the past few days I’ve worked well into the early hours trying to balance my day job with the blog – but my bizarre tongue and throat swelling reactions are happening again thrice weekly, so I pass up the shot because I have no idea how I’ll react.

Instead, I’m whisked off to another room for a Pressotherapy lymphatic drainage session and slide into what looks like a pair of padded dungarees. Air is pumped inside the trousers which cleverly massage the skin. This is said to improve circulation, eliminate toxins, helps sculpt the legs and aid muscle recovery after intense exercise.

Admittedly, it feels as though my body is being squeezed inside a giant blood pressure sleeve but the incessant hugging of my limbs and tummy is weirdly comforting and on the walk over to the infra-red heat chamber – where my next treatment will take place – my legs feel as light as a feather.

In this cabin heat is directly funnelled into the spine, which is particularly good for lower back pain and general aches and niggles. Suitably warmed, I make my way to a side room where another therapist politely instructs me to strip off and pull on a pair of disposable grey baggy knickers.

One exfoliating body scrub later, I’m robed up and ready for a spell in a pretty salt and oxygen chamber.

Champneys salt and oxygen chamber

This is where you breathe in vaporized Himalayan salt and oxygen designed help calm and cleanse the airways. If like me, you live in a polluted area or suffer from hayfever this is particularly useful – so desperate am I to fill my lungs with pure air, I resemble a discombobulated goldfish.

A float in a hydrotherapy bath – designed to increase circulation and eliminate excess fluid – follows and then I’m ushered off for a marine wrap except mine is mud.  This is because I’m on medication for my thyroid.

According to the therapist, certain marine treatments can interfere with tablets like mine because seaweed has 1,000 times more iodine than any land plants and the products used in the spa are highly concentrated.

But I’m as happy as the proverbial pig with the swap, especially as this type of mud is said to be mineralising. And when it’s finally washed away my skin is silky smooth.

Champneys energy cocoon

VERDICT:
I’m the type of person who gets bored very easily and very rarely book a beauty treatment – I get my hair cut once a year for goodness sake.

But a 2.5-hour experience like this has definitely changed my attitude. The different elements kept me interested. As funny as it sounds, I was more relaxed because I knew the experience would not eat into an entire day.

I was also impressed by the knowledge of the staff both in the spa and the restaurant – where I stopped for a spot of lunch. The head chef bent over backwards to accommodate my allergies . I can barely eat anything at the moment but nothing was too much trouble, which is good to know when you feel nothing but a pain.

There are four different experiences to choose from:

Wellbeing and Rejuvenation
‘The ultimate feel good experience for all round health and wellbeing’
Treatments include: collagen and hyaluronic anti-ageing supplement, mineral and vitamin algae foot soak to stimulate circulation, infra-red cabin session, marine scrub, salt room session, warm marine wrap, application of a moisturising balm and a serenity marine tea featuring silver lime and bitter orange extracts

De-stress and Revive
‘Relax and ease tensions, energise and uplift’
Treatments: energising sea plasma shot, milk bath foot soak, body scrub, salt room session, aromatherapy steam, application of a moisturising balm, a serenity marine tea featuring silver lime and bitter orange extracts

Detox and Cleanse
‘A mineral and vitamin rich experience, draining and detoxifying’
Treatments: algae and plant infused Activ’Detox shot, algae foot soak to stimulate circulation, infra-red cabin session, fully body marine scrub, salt room session, hydrotherapy bath, detoxifying marine gel wrap, an organic blackcurrant leaf marine tea

Slim and Tone
‘A firming and toning experience for heavy legs and stubborn cellulite on hips and thighs’
Treatments: vitamin and mineral infused marine shot, algae foot soak, marine body scrub, either a slimming marine wrap or an anti-cellulite Frigo-Thalgo leg wrap, Pressotherapy lymphatic drainage, organic blackcurrant leaf marine tea.

Each journey costs £129 per person

For more information visit Champneys Tring.

 

 

 

In the news, Wellness