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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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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




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

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

Is this the most stressful job at Wimbledon?

Wimbledon: Stringer Glynn Roberts talks us through his hectic schedule

Glynn Roberts knows a thing or two about tennis rackets. The 40-year-old Briton spent a decade working as an on-site stringer at Wimbledon before joining Priority One – a stringing business that counts Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic among its clients – in 2008.

Here Glynn talks Relax Self to Health through his hectic Wimbledon schedule and  how he manages to stay calm under pressure.

Glynn, you always seem as cool as a cucumber yet your job is quite demanding. Can you talk us through a typical day? 
If one of our players (Priority One also takes care of Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, John Isner and Marcos Baghdatis) has a match, we’ll wake up at either two, three or four o’clock in the morning to start stringing rackets. We tend to look after two players each at Grand Slams. Here, I’m stringing for Andy and Novak. On match days I can end up stringing between 20 and 25 rackets, on training days it can be anything between ten and 12.

Crikey, how long does it take?
I allow around 30 minutes per racket. That includes everything – replacing grips, stencilling strings, and popping them in the plastic bags. Our days our shaped by how many rackets we’ve got. And at smaller tournaments we may have one stringer for three or more players. If I have to start work at two or three in the morning, I’ll try to get to bed by 10pm the night before but that’s not always possible.

That’s not much sleep. How do you maintain your wellbeing?
With lots of naps during the day. It’s not uncommon for me to have a three or four hour kip. Dinner time is usually work time for us too. Sometimes we’ll start stringing at around four or five in the afternoon to work through our allocation. There’s a saying that stringers are very fast eaters. If we do go out for dinner we’ll finish very quickly because we’re always thinking that we need to get back and finish work so that we can get some sleep before getting up early the next morning! It’s a tough habit to get out of. Even when you’re not working you always end up finishing your meal before everyone else.

Do you find time to exercise during Wimbledon?
With our schedules, it’s tough to work fitness in but here there’s lots of hill walking! We stay in a house just off Wimbledon Common. It’s about a 20 minute walk to the All England Club and at any one time I could be carrying up to 30 rackets on my back. Each one weighs 300 grams or more. That’s a lot of weight. So I guess that counts. [Laughs]. I’ll do a drop off in the morning, wait around for the players to finish practising, collect the rackets again, walk back up the hill and then it starts all over again. If a player doesn’t finish play, say because it’s been rain-delayed or they didn’t get on because of long match, I’ll still need to restring the rackets because they lose tension. So I can be up and down the hill three or four times during the same day!

Are Grand Slams the hardest tournaments workload-wise?
Grand slams are probably the easiest because they’re held over two weeks and the players get a day off in between unless, of course, it rains. When that happens everything goes out the window. With the one week Masters events the matches are back to back so they tend to be a little bit harder.

How long are you on the road for? 
We each do at least 100,000 air miles a year. We work the four Grand Slams, nine Masters tournaments, plus I’ll do at least two Davis cups a year as well as additional tournaments like Dubai, Doha, Queen’s, and Basel.

So, how do you handle long journeys?
On a flight I put on Bose noise cancelling headphones and am asleep before take off. Once there was a fire in the cockpit on one of our flights and it had to be diverted to Hawaii. I didn’t know a thing about it until we landed. 36 hours in Hawaii made up for the inconvenience.

What stresses you out about your work?
In our job surprises are bad so we try and keep it as boring as possible and eliminate potential issues. We make sure we get up early enough so that if anything goes wrong for whatever reason, we’ve factored in enough time to correct it. Missing machines cause stress. It’s happened before – where a machine has taken two days to arrive at the hotel. We always show up a week before the Slams so if the machine doesn’t turn up for a couple of days in the practice week it’s not so bad. Back to back tournaments are obviously tougher to work out logistically.

Can you recall a very stressful moment?
There was one time when a camera crew wanted to film us stringing and the machine decided to misbehave. On that day I was trying not to freak out in front of the cameras. I was calm on the surface but not inside.

What do you do to relax?
Close my eyes. As soon as my head touches the pillow I’m asleep. I also watch NFL and support Everton, although I’m not sure how relaxing that is. This season coming should be fun. If my schedule allows, I’ll go to a concert here and there – I highly recommend Welshly Arms. I also take pictures of the city or place I’m in. I enjoy editing and trying to make something good out of the pig’s ear of an image that I’ve just taken.

If rugby’s more your sport, be sure to read our interview with Jonny Wilkinson here, or if you’re a fan of A-list fitness trainers check out our chat with James Duigan here. 

celebrities, In the news, Tennis

Win VIP tickets to an ‘adult playground’ in London

Adult playground

Can you remember the last time you played on a swing or whizzed down a slide? Or, an occasion where you fell about laughing after doing something silly?

If the answer is no, then it might be time to inject some fun back into your life.

According to Richard Wiseman, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, every adult could ‘benefit from an afternoon in a giant playground’.

“Giant swings, slides and see-saws”

“Research shows that being playful makes us happier, more open-minded, gets the creative juices flowing, helps us bond together and can even help those suffering from depression,” he explains. “Humans are hardwired to play, and this doesn’t stop in childhood.”

Well, now you have a chance to step away from your screen and have a jolly good time recreating the memories of yester-year because seed food brand 9Nine is setting up The Playground, a play area for adults with giant swings, slides and see-saws. Yes!

“Play is in our DNA”

The free event is being held at London Fields in Hackney between 29-30 July and will give grown-ups an hour on the equipment, as part of a move to raise awareness around the benefits of play on happiness and wellbeing. There’ll also be DJs, refreshments and 9Nine snacks.

“In a world where our actions are usually dictated by what we have to do, we wanted to provide a place where people could come and let go and feel happy and free without any stress or rules,” explains 9Nine marketing director, Kerry Collinge.

“Happiness is at the heart of our brand and while we feel we have nailed the nutritional side of things, we wanted to do something that gave physical presence to a topic that we believe needs more column inches. Play is in our DNA – we’re simply bringing the right tools to the table.”

“We grow old because we stop playing”

The event runs between: 11am-10pm on Saturday 29 July and 11am-9pm on Sunday 30 July

But Relax Ya Self to Health has a pair of tickets for the exclusive VIP launch night on Friday 28 July.

To enter the competition, please comment on this post naming your favourite childhood game and subscribe to my blog here so that I can contact you should you win.

The draw will take place on 12 July. Good luck!

As George Bernard Shaw once said: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

For more information visit:



Competitions, In the news, Wellness

Win a skincare hamper worth £100

Wimbledon, The Championships

Who’s excited for Wimbledon 2017? I certainly am.

So, I’ve decided to mark the occasion with our very first competition. And it’s a good ‘un.

We’re serving up an ace box of summer essentials designed to protect your skin and keep you feeling fresh should the temperature start to soar.

Our Champion’s Chest, (RRP: £103) contains:

  • Ladvial Sun Protection (in three different SPFs)
  • Solero Cooling After Sun Lotion x 2
  • Dr Organic Aloe Vera Lip Balm
  • Sukin Hydrating Mist Toner
  • Dr Organic Aloe Vera Wet Wipes
  • Soft & Gentle Cool Boost Antiperspirant
  • Miaroma Citronella Pure Essential Oil

Only one lucky winner will walk away with this fantastic prize but as this is our first giveaway  – and we’re mad about tennis – we are giving you SIX opportunities to enter this fantastic draw.

All you have to do is name the players you think will triumph in the  Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles.

It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong  – as our draw takes place on Saturday 8 July – during the first week of the tournament.

This is just a little fun to get you into the Wimbledon spirit.

And if festivals are more your thing, that’s OK too – as you can see, the hamper is ideal for gig-goers too, as well as seaside day trippers.

Remember, you can enter the draw up to six times to be in with a chance of winning this fantastic hamper of summer essentials (RRP:£103.00)



Each of the below counts as one entry.

  • Comment at the bottom of this blog post
  • Visit our Facebook page here and share the competition post
  • Comment underneath our Facebook competition post
  • Visit our Instagram page and comment underneath the competition picture
  • Tweet us your answer
  • Subscribe for free to Relax Ya Self To Health by popping your email in the box underneath my bio which is to the right.


Competition closes: Midnight 8th July 2017
This Prize Draw is open to residents of the UK aged 18 or over.
Click here for full terms and conditions

Competitions, Health, In the news, Tennis


Phone addition: 5 signs to be aware of

Are you forever checking your devices?

Recently, I wrote a piece on six ways to calm the mind, after Bupa research revealed that only 5% of the nation takes a break during the day, compared to 60% back in 1997.

Worryingly, the poll found that most of this time is used to check social media, emails and catch up on WhatsApp conversations – so it’s no surprise that so-called digital detox events are surging in popularity.

This Sunday 25 June marks the third National Unplugging Day, which urges parents around the UK to #GoGadgetFree.

The event, which is being held at the Riverside Cottage and Yurt in Barton Stacey, near Winchester in Hampshire, encourages families from Hampshire and the South East to reconnect offline by taking part in fun and exciting activities.

Dr Richard Graham, technology addiction lead and consultant adolescent psychiatrist at London’s Nightingale Hospital, asserts that there is an ‘unhealthy dependence’ when children (and adults) display severe distress and agitation when separated from technology.

“When people feel an uncomfortable sense of withdrawal when not online, we know that the relationship with technology is not being managed properly,” Dr Graham says.

“It is important that we can find the right balance between maximising the benefits of new technologies without forming an unhealthy dependence. When electronic devices start to have more influence over behaviour than anyone else or anything else, that is the moment when really you need to start changing things.”

He urges parents to ask the following:

“5 signs of phone addiction”

  • Does your child argue with or feel criticised by you for the amount of time they spend online?
  • Does your child ignore and avoid other activities to spend more time using devices?
  • Does your child constantly ask when they will be allowed to go back online when they are offline?
  • Does your child feel tense or bad if they can’t get online – a feeling which noticeably disappears when they are allowed to reconnect with technology?
  • Does your child hide or become defensive about what they do online?

Nightingale Hospital has a free online test that determines whether technology use is abnormal or problematic.

Personally, I can testify to the benefits of taking a tech-break. Back in 2015, I gave up my mobile for an entire weekend when I went on a digital detox retreat with Push Mind and Body for a newspaper article. I had a comprehensive Nuffield Health body MOT before and after to monitor changes in my stress levels and body.

The results were impressive – you can read the feature here.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by tech, why not make a conscious effort to do something about it this weekend by following Dr Graham’s top tips below:

“5 ways to go tech free”

  • Tell everyone that you are doing a digital detox, since the more people you tell about your detox, the more people will be watching you – and the less you will want to fail.
  • Create fun offline activities which can distract you from feelings of technology withdrawal and enable you to actually look forward to detox days.
  • Abstain from technology for 72 hours before reintroducing devices in a controlled manner. Establish a maximum daily time allowance for periods spent on your gadgets.
  • Store phones and tablets in a different room to your bedroom overnight. This will stop you using them before turning in for the night and immediately on waking. Also, turn off all screens two hours before going to bed.
  • If necessary, lock your devices away.

Fancy giving these suggestions a try?

I’d love to hear from you if do, once you’re back online of course!

Feel free to leave a comment below or tag someone who might find this article helpful.

Alternatively, feel free to share the post by clicking on any of the social media icons below.

And, if you’d like to subscribe to my blog (it’s free) simply click here and pop your email address in the box underneath my picture and bio.


Health, In the news, Wellness


Six ways to calm the mind

There’s nothing quite like the excitement in the lead up to a holiday. For me, the anticipation is as much fun as the break itself.

Except, there were no butterfly-in-the-tummy moments last weekend because The Fredster (aka house-bunny) decided to stop eating for no reason at all. (Why do animals decide to get ill when you’re due to go away? It’s like they have a sixth sense!)

As a rule, this lively little chap follows me all over the house, up and down the stairs – even into the bathroom! But on this particular night he was hunched in a corner, refusing to move, eat or drink.

In rabbits, this can be serious and push them into a state called GI Stasis, which can kill them unless swift action is taken to get their digestive tract moving again.

Of course, it was a Saturday night. Of course, my usual veterinary clinic had closed. So, this required a hell for leather dash to the emergency out -of-hours vet, 25 minutes away. The conclusion? His gut wasn’t making the sounds it should and he’d need to be admitted overnight. GREAT.

“In between the bunny burrito wrapping, I had three features to finish & 500 emails to clear”

The next morning he was discharged. Unfortunately his listlessness returned the following day. Cue another trip to the vet. Some £300 later *weep* I was told that I’d need to syringe feed him every two hours (not the easiest thing to do) until his appetite returned (this could take up to 48 hours) and he started to pass droppings.

Blimey O’Riley. In between the bunny burrito wrapping, I had three features to finish, 500 emails to clear, and a half-filled suitcase to tackle. Oh, I also needed to buy some snacks to ensure I wouldn’t go hungry on the 8.5 hour flight as my allergies meant I couldn’t tuck into the airline food.

The point of my ramblings is that I’m not alone when it comes to cramming things in.

“Only 5% of us take time to relax during the day”

According to a recent BUPA UK survey of 1,500 adults, our ‘always on’ culture means we try to squeeze an extra 90 minutes into our day just to cope.

And only 5% of us take time to relax during the day, compared to 60% in 1997, the research found.

Yet, constant multi-tasking leaves 90% of us feeling burnt out and more than half (54%) experiencing stress, fatigue, illness and injury.

Practising mindfulness – the act of being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings – can help.

I wrote about this for The Sun’s Fabulous Daily pages this week and spoke to Michael Chaskalson, author of Mindfulness in Eight Weeks, who suggested the following tips for calming the mind:

Overthinking can cause stress, especially if we’re focused on the future or situations beyond our control. Learn to switch attention to your body, which takes you away from compulsive thinking and brings you back into the present. As you’re reading this, pay attention to how your feet feel on the floor, as well as the body contact in the chair. This naturally stills the mind.

Mindfulness activity cards aimed at kids are a fun way of encouraging resilience, concentration and kindness and can help calm minds before bed or diffuse tantrums. Disability charity Scope has just launched a monthly series called Mindful Monsters, £7.50, ‘Huff and Puff’, one of the relaxation activities, suggests breathing like a snake, whale or dog and noticing how the sounds change. The cards are a great way of focusing the attention of easily distracted children.

Research shows that blue light emitted from devices interferes with sleep patterns, while constant notifications interrupt our concentration. But ultimately you’re in charge of your device. Decide in advance when you’re going to look at your phone, don’t let it drive you. Very often we check our phone mindlessly. Learn to recognise the impulse to check and practise choosing not  to. At work, try keeping your phone in a drawer and turn it off an hour before bed.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a list. Put the most important points at the top and aim to master two or three things by the end of the day. Pay attention to the way you feel when you achieve these goals and make progress. This well help you regain a sense of control.

If you’re feeling agitated breathe in for a count of seven and out for a count of 11. This is known as 7-11 breathing. Breathing this way instantly calms the body and mind and helps equip you with the skills to handle stress. Also, try and notice how your breathing changes when you experience negative emotions. This brings greater awareness and you can adjust your breathing accordingly. The great thing about breathing techniques is that they can be done anywhere. Ideally, sit with your eyes closed to enhance the experience.

Studies show that being outside is good for you. A walk in the morning sunlight can also help reset your circadian rhythm and promote a better night’s sleep. Use lunch and coffee breaks to get some fresh air or get off a tube or bus one stop earlier. Don’t use that time to make calls or check any devices. Appreciate your environment and enjoy the moment.

So what became of Mr Floppy Ears?  Thankfully, he picked up the night before I flew out and was merrily eating hay when I left. I’m checking on his progress every day and there’ll be a Facetime session tonight 🙂

In the news, Wellness


I thoroughly enjoyed watching the 2017 London Marathon on TV from the comfort of my armchair. Many moons ago I hobbled around that course. It was such a brilliant day. Boiling hot – perhaps not the right temperature for running the 26.2 mile route but I love the sunshine – and so many wonderful people turned up to line the course shouting out words of encouragement and support.

So I was thrilled to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry doing the same this year, as well as handing out medals and promoting the Heads Together campaign, which aims to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health. Earlier this month, they were filmed in Kensington Palace discussing how simple conversations can change the direction of an entire life and covered topics ranging from the emotional changes new parents can experience to bereavement and the stresses of modern childhood.

“Listening to someone without judgement is crucial”

Listening to someone without judgement is crucial. Rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson, who has suffered from depression and anxiety in the past, made a pertinent point in this interview with Relax Ya Self To Health. “In my eyes, offering your own beliefs from your own reality to ‘correct’ someone who is struggling so badly in theirs was and always will be a dangerous game.”

Jonny practises meditation to help calm his mind. And it’s an exercise that’s being taken seriously in schools. More than 4,000 teachers in the UK are trained in mindfulness – the trendy word for meditation. In fact, Oxford University is currently investigating whether mindfulness can help 11-16-year-olds manage their feelings, prevent mental health problems, and promote resilience.

“More than 75% of mental disorders begin before the age of 24 and half by the age of 15”

The seven-year £6.4 million Wellcome Trust-funded study of almost 6,000 young people – the largest of its kind –  is also being conducted in collaboration with the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Exeter, and concludes in 2021. More than 75% of mental disorders begin before the age of 24 and half by the age of 15, according to the Wellcome Trust.  Their ongoing research is based on the theory that, just as physical training is associated with improved physical health, psychological resilience training is associated with better mental health outcomes.

By promoting good mental health and intervening in crucial teenage years, researchers are seeking to understand whether they can build young people’s resilience and help prevent mental illness developing.

“Mindfulness is a form of ‘mind exercise’ as it’s a way that we can improve our mental health,” said Professor Willem Kuyken, professor of clinical psychology and one of the study’s lead researcher’s. “Just as brushing your teeth or going for a run are well-known ways of protecting general physical health, mindfulness exercises develop mental fitness and resilience. What this project is trying to establish is whether teaching teenagers mindfulness techniques can improve their attention and resilience, two key skills for maintaining good mental health.”

“Mindfulness exercises develop mental fitness and resilience”

Dr Kuyken, described the preliminary findings on the benefits as ‘promising’. “We need to get more evidence that this is an effective way of helping young people. In this study, we’re randomising half the schools to mindfulness and the other half to normal good pastoral care. We’re then going to compare the two and see if mindfulness adds value. We want to establish whether the science bears out that it’s as promising as the preliminary evidence suggests.”

Earlier this year I interviewed Shaun Fenton, the headteacher of Reigate Grammar in Surrey, a forward-thinking school, which has trained all of its teachers in mindfulness.

I also spoke with pupils who had used the technique to cope with exam stress and the pressure of growing up in a digital age. It was fascinating listening to them and one of the girls even revealed how she had taught her mum a few breathing techniques to help calm the mind and body. Read the article here to see how mindfulness worked for them.

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