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Could this psychology app improve your life?

Could this psychology app improve your life?

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is a phrase that pops up on countless Instagram feeds.

And while the intention – aimed at helping us through the tough times and encouraging a positive mindset – is all well and good, it’s not always that easy, is it?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, 12.5 million working days are lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

Children, too, are struggling. Recent research from children’s charity the NSPCC, revealed that the number of kids and young people receiving help for anxiety has climbed by an astonishing 59 per cent in two years. Its Childline service delivered the equivalent of 38 counselling sessions a day in 2016/17, amounting to 13,746 over the year.

And while we’re often reminded that it’s good to talk; that a problem shared is a problem halved, engaging in a conversation with our nearest and dearest mightn’t always be comfortable. In fact, it can be a daunting prospect for those who are just about struggling to make it through the day.

Could this psychology app improve your life?

When my physical health unexpectedly and spectacularly fell apart in 2015/2016 I was immensely frightened. Doctors couldn’t tell me why I was having life-threatening tongue swelling episodes almost every day or why my right foot stopped working.

Scared of setting off a reaction, I became afraid to eat. At the same time, I felt constantly fatigued with horrendous shooting pains all over my body. It took all of the little energy I had to work throughout the day to meet the mortgage payments before collapsing into bed at 7pm most evenings. My once sporty way of life disappeared in flash and I withdrew from social circles.

And while my friends worried about me, some just didn’t understand.

“Why don’t you just pay to see a doctor privately and get to the bottom of it?,” one suggested on a Whatsapp group. By this point, I was a good ten months in and had seen a number of different specialists who were none the wiser. Furthermore, this WAS an option I had previously investigated. After all, I’d been researching the hell out of it but various consultants explained the problem was so complicated it was unlikely I’d find a concrete answer.

“We haven’t seen you in ages,” commented another. “When can you drive over for a visit or come out for dinner?” At the time I was on really strong meds that caused drowsiness, my foot wasn’t working and I could only eat about eight ingredients. I hadn’t broadcasted this fact, though.

I couldn’t see the supposed silver lining

So I quietly withdrew from social media, group chats and life in general. As for talking to my family, I didn’t want to worry them. They were just as exhausted witnessing my reactions first hand. Despite the fact that I’m getting on a bit, my mum was worried sick when she saw me lying in the resuscitation ward connected to all sorts of tubes and drips with a lip the size of a golf ball.

She’d always viewed me as a strong, independent woman but as the months went on I began to crumble inside. Why couldn’t doctors tell me what was going on? Was I going to get better? At the time I couldn’t see the supposed silver lining that everyone talked about. I was worried things would continue on a downward trajectory.

One of my best friends sent a text. “I couldn’t deal with what you’ve been through. You’re coping so well, it’s amazing how much strength you have.” Those words were so very kind but I didn’t really believe them. Each night I’d weep into my pillow, more often than not waking at 3am with a pounding heart, unable to get back to sleep. I became fearful of the future and saw no way out of the deep, dark chasm that had swallowed me up.

Then I noticed a pattern. Every time I saw a hospital consultant they’d mention the word ‘anxiety’ in their notes to my GP. I’d never been anxious before. I just assumed that this was a normal reaction for anyone living with anaphylaxis-mimicking symptoms with no clear trigger. With hindsight being able to talk to an entirely independent health professional would have been an enormous support; even better if I could have done so from the comfort of my own home.

Dr Saeema Ghafur

It’s a need Dr Saeema Ghafur has been quick to identify. The psychologist spent ten years working for the NHS in secondary care, community-based adult mental health services.

During her time she recognised a gap in the market for psychological therapy offered through live video calls so last Autumn she founded Psyma, an award-winning mental health mobile app that gives users access to an array of vetted and highly qualified psychologist and psychiatrists specialising in areas including post-natal depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, panic, phobias and depression.

“I wanted to create a service that would help people overcome obstacles to accessing therapy and set up a flexible platform that would enable them to book a session with a therapist at a time that suited them,” Dr Ghafur explains.

The pay as you go Psyma service, which adheres to NICE guidelines and standards set out by regulatory bodies including the BPS and HCPC, is particularly suitable for mums without access to childcare who might be suffering from post-natal depression, those living in remote areas, busy professionals, people with mobility issues as well as those with mental health issues who simply cannot face leaving the house to make a face-to face-appointment with a therapist.

Could this psychology app change your life?

It’s very easy to use. Even a technophobe like me can operate it. You simply download the app, register your details and then scroll through the comprehensive bios of the psychologists or psychiatrists before making your selection.

You can then book a free initial 25-minute secure online video consultation with your favoured therapist. Booking is easy and the service is very flexible – in some cases, an appointment can be made within 24 hours.

Could this psychology app change your life?

There are no subscription fees or hidden costs. A 25-minute psychology session starts at £40, while 50 minutes is £75. Psychiatry services are priced at £60 for 25 minutes and £110 for 50 minutes. (The psychologists offer talking therapies to counsel patients, the psychiatrists prescribe medication).

According to Dr Ghafur, the telltale clues that you might need therapy are when things become difficult or start to impact on your quality of life and stop you doing the things you were able to do before. “Maybe you’re finding it difficult to sleep, or you no longer enjoy the things you used to,” she says. “Constant worry, increased negative thoughts, an inability to go to work and avoiding social situations are also signs.”

Interestingly, we are all well aware of the importance of taking care of our physical health through good diet and exercise but how often do we take a moment to check in with our brain?

Therapy is one way we can help care for the condition of our minds and is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

*Psyma collaborated with Relax Ya Self To Health on this post. 

For more information visit: https://www.psyma.co.uk/

Helen's Health, Wellness

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

Review: ‘Smile’ meditation at London’s Inhere Studio

Inhere meditation studio, London

It’s not every day you’re invited to try out a meditation session at Inhere, a boutique space in the capital to help busy Londoners chill out. So imagine the disappointment at missing your original appointment due to circumstances beyond your control. Yes. This is what happened to me on Thursday.

Despite the driving rain and howling winds, I’d woken up in good spirits as I was off to The Big Smoke to see a new specialist about the weird, sporadic allergy-like reactions that cause my tongue to swell up. The hospital appointment was at 10.20am, my meditation slot at 1.30pm. Plenty of time. Or so I thought.

We all know that travelling by train to London can be a fraught affair, especially when commuting from the South East, so I’d factored in an extra hour and a half’s travel time to cushion any delays. As soon as I arrived at the station, the blinking information screens suggested something was awry. “What’s happened?” I politely asked the man in the kiosk.  “Trains are delayed because of branches on the line,” he replied staring into the distance.

“Bloody brilliant,” I thought. My mind raced ahead. “I’m going to miss my connection. I need to plan an alternative route.” Travelling on the tube hadn’t been part of the plan although now it was increasingly looking like I might have to. “But what if there are delays on the network? I’ll be underground with no way to inform the hospital?” A tide of anxiety washed over me. To be on the safe side I emailed the medical secretary explaining the situation. I’d waited so long for this appointment – I couldn’t miss it now.

I needn’t have worried. As luck would have it a much earlier but heavily delayed train pulled up. It only stopped twice. I made the connection and arrived at the hospital with half an hour to spare.  Wahoo. I was back on course. After checking in I regained my composure and waited. And waited. And waited. An hour and a half ticked by. Still, I hadn’t been seen.

Now I’m not one to grumble – the NHS has been kind to me over the past two years and hanging around is something I’ve grown accustomed to – except today I had one eye on the clock because of my appointment in Monument at 1.30pm.  I watched as mothers, grandparents and children ambled in after me and left before. This was clearly an efficiently-run clinic. Why was I still sitting here like a lemon?

Inhere meditation studio, London

I tentatively approached the receptionist who assured me I’d be seen soon. When I eventually sat down with the consultant the miscommunication became clear. Apparently one of the other doctors would have seen me at 10.20am but because I’d mentioned the specialist’s name – which was on the original letter – the time of my appointment didn’t stand as he was the lead chap running the ENTIRE clinic. This hadn’t been explained to me.

Regardless, the wait was worth it. The consultant was thorough. He took down my complex medical history in astonishing detail. He examined me. Usually, when I see a new specialist for the first time I’m in and out in 20 minutes but this was a rather comprehensive affair. “You’ll need bloods taken in another part of the hospital,” he said.

“BLOODS?!”  I was dangerously close to missing my next appointment. Sensing my anxiety, the doctor suggested I call the meditation studio. Of course, this was far more important but I detest letting people down. “I’m really sorry,” I blurted out to Inhere founder Adiba Osmani. “I’m still in Westminster. There’s no way I’ll get there in time for the group session. “Don’t worry about it,” she replied reassuringly. “We have individual slots available, just get here when you get here.”

Adiba Osmani, Inhere founder

Despite her kinds words, I felt terrible. With a cotton wool ball taped to my arm, I bolted out of the hospital and legged it to the nearest tube. By the time I arrived at Inhere, I was a sweaty, frazzled mess – ironically a perfect candidate for what was about to follow. The teacher-free drop-in meditation studio, described by Osmani as London’s ‘first’, is designed to help busy professionals stop, unwind and hear themselves again.

“The City is one of the most stressful and demanding environments, whether you’re a trader in a bank of a waitress in the Folly,” Osmani declared. “And yet there is nowhere to go for even a few minutes respite, to breathe, unwind and regain a sense of calm.”

Until now. The former corporate management consultant was inspired to set up the concept following a one-week stay at a retreat in Thailand where she witnessed the benefits of meditation first hand. “I was flabbergasted at the change I could see in peoples’ eyes after two days,” she explained. “I wanted to help people in London. I took a year away from the corporate world and learned about the scientific benefits.

“Research shows that meditating, even just for a few minutes at a time, can help us cope and manage stress better. It enables us to think more clearly, sleep more deeply, work more efficiently and live in a calmer, more considered way.” I looked at her and laughed. “I need to move in.”

Helen Gilbert, Inhere meditation studio, London

 

Those seeking headspace can book online or drop in and wait for a slot on their way to work, in between meetings or if they’re looking to unwind before they head home. There’s no need to “make small talk” because the sessions are teacher-less.

I was led to the luxe basement setting – all draped curtains, mood lighting and ambient music. I’d been due to join some city workers for the 30-minute lunchtime session known as ‘Steady’, one of seven options on offer. This programme is said to help you stay on track, create a positive space in your mind and learn how to put unhelpful thoughts aside.

Others include ‘Focus’ to help improve your concentration, ‘Rest’, a deep immersion relaxation, visualisation, and yoga nidra-style session to help you leave the day behind and ‘Smile’ – one of the studio’s most popular choices – to reverse negative thinking and cultivate acceptance and compassion for yourself and others.

Because I’d missed the 1.30pm group class, I had the room to myself and opted for ‘Smile’. “Before we begin, would you like to sit in a chair or lie down?” Osmani asked smiling. “We recommend that you sit up so that you don’t fall asleep.”

Damn. I’d already spied the floor cushions and blankets, which proved far too irresistible to pass up. “Second option please,” I grinned. With that Osmani disappeared and the lighting dimmed.

Helen Gilbert, Inhere meditation studio, London

 

A soothing female voice filled the room and proceeded to guide me through the next 20 minutes. Among other things, I was encouraged to think of a kind deed a friend or family member had carried out on my behalf and urged to focus on the warm, uplifting feelings generated before applying them to different scenarios. I couldn’t believe it when the lights came up signalling the end. The experience passed by in what seemed a flash but I was ready for more.

Just two days prior to my Inhere visit I’d moved house – one of the most stressful things you can do so this was just the welcome pit stop I needed to recharge my batteries. And despite the frantic morning, I felt remarkably calm by the end of the session. I’ll certainly be back for more!

Prices start from as little as £5 plus multipack and new guest offers are available. For more information visit: www.inherestudio.com

*Relax Ya Self to Health was invited to try this meditation experience in exchange for a review

Helen's Health, Wellness

6 quotes to help you cope

Motivational quotes

I have a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt pinned to my noticeboard. It goes like this. “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”

I cut it out of a magazine many moons ago simply because it made me smile and it’s remained above my desk ever since.

I know some people roll their eyes when they see inspirational words plastered over Instagram but over the past two years – ever since my health started to misbehave – I’ve become somewhat of a fan.

I spent much of last year grieving for the sporty, action-packed lifestyle I once led. I felt isolated. I was a shell of my former self and intensely fearful for the future, especially as doctors were unable to pinpoint what was going on. But eventually I found solace in motivational quotes.

Before long my mindset began to shift

I appreciate this may sound daft to some but it’s the truth. I made a conscious effort to jot down my favourites and most evenings before bed or whenever I felt a little down or struggled to see a way through I’d revisit them.

Before long, my mindset began to shift. Instead of resisting what was happening and longing for my old life, I began to accept what was happening to my body.

Those quotes – along with mindfulness – helped me focus on the here and now and taught me to take each day as it comes instead of worrying about how the future would unfold.

Positive about the future

Those quotes helped shine a light through the dark times.

Those quotes helped me count my blessings. After all, without this experience, my blog would not exist.

For the first time in 24 months I’m feeling positive about the future, so I’ve rounded up some of my favourite sayings below in the hope it might help others experiencing difficult times.

PS) Roosevelt’s words are still pinned to my noticeboard. If ever I start to doubt myself or feel weak I just glance up at that magazine clipping. It’s a pertinent reminder as to how far I’ve come.

Have motivational quotes helped you through a difficult time? Do you have one that you’d like to share? Please do comment below or over on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

 

“The best view comes after the hardest climb”

Word #transformationtuesday

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“So far you’ve survived everything you thought you wouldn’t”

 

For everyone who needs to see this today ❤️#keepgoing #mondaymotivation

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“A Sunday well spent brings a week of content”

Soooo feeling this quote today ❤️Sunday is traditionally a day for relaxation but for the past three hours I've been a busy 🐝 researching (again) & contacting various specialists & support groups in a bid to get to the bottom of what's going on with my body. I'm feeling hopeful! When my system went into meltdown 22 months ago, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome was dismissed yet having researched this further and speaking to fantastically informed people including @healing.histamine I'm seeking a second opinion. If you're suffering with histamine intolerance or mast cell issues and haven't done so already, please take a look at her brilliant, extensively researched blog. Thank you Yasmina for being such an inspiration and guiding me through this confusing maze. #smallsteps #iwillgetwell #sundayvibes

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“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Motivational quotes

Regular readers will also know how much Auntie Chris (my friend’s aunt) has supported me this year as well as her wonderful son  Sam Koval who helped design my website.

And because AC, as I affectionately call her, talks SO MUCH SENSE, I thought I’d throw in a couple of her inspirational nuggets of wisdom too!

“No matter how long the night, dawn always breaks”

“Don’t wait for the light at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself”

 

Wellness

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

7 easy ways to lead a stress-free life

7 easy ways to lead a stress free life

Did you know that today is International Stress Awareness day? And while we all need a degree of stress to be able to function well, modern life can easily become overwhelming. “Work, family, and social pressures can all conspire to make our lives too difficult to manage,” Dr Rafael Euba, a consultant psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre, explains. “A specific difficulty we encounter in modern life is that we are not expected to switch off. We are constantly connected and engaged but there are some things we can all do to avoid excessive stress.” Here, Dr Euba shares his top stress-busting tips.

MANAGE YOUR TIME
Don’t pretend the day has 27 hours and be realistic about how many things you can do in 24. Make a sensible to do list and don’t worry if plans change. A key way of managing your time is being comfortable in saying ‘no’ to things. Remember that a ‘yes’ to one thing, means a ‘no’ to something else. I also try to keep my leisure time as simple as possible so I don’t feel under pressure to constantly be achieving something.

DON’T MULTITASK
While you might feel as though you’re being extra productive, multitasking will only clutter your brain and make you less productive. Studies show that we’re not designed to “task-switch” and we function better when we are doing only one thing at the time. Researchers at Stanford University found that subjects who multitasked while performing cognitive tasks experienced significant IQ drops similar to those seen in individuals who skip a night of sleep or who smoke marijuana. Multitasking has also been found to increase production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Having our brain constantly shift gears pumps up stress and tires us out, leaving us feeling mentally exhausted – even when the working day has barely begun.

DON’T TRY TO BE A SUPERHERO
If you’re a busy mum, wife and climbing the career ladder all at the same time don’t beat yourself up if you’ve not been able to vacuum the house or forget your child’s clarinet lesson. Give yourself credit and focus on all the good things you do instead. We can often be our own worst critic, so if you feel this is you, then pretend it’s your best friend that is feeling this way. What would you say to them? We are often far more critical of ourselves than we would be of loved ones. This approach can help you take a step back and look at the situation in a better light.

IGNORE SOCIAL MEDIA
Studies show that too much time spent on social media can be linked to feelings of isolation and low mood. Part of the reason social media makes people feel socially isolated (even though they may not actually be) is the comparison factor and we make judgements about how we measure up. This kind of comparison is linked to depressive symptoms. One study found that more friends on social media doesn’t necessarily mean you have a better social life—there seems to be a cap on the number of friends a person’s brain can handle, and it takes actual social interaction (not virtual) to keep up these friendships. So feeling like you’re being social by being on Facebook doesn’t work. Since loneliness is linked to a myriad of health and mental health problems, getting real social support is important. Virtual friend time doesn’t have the same therapeutic effect as time spent with real friends.

KEEP A NOTEBOOK BY YOUR BED
Sleep has a big impact on our mood, with studies showing that having a sleepless night can make us more irritable, short-tempered, and vulnerable to stress. One study looked at how people who were sleep deprived responded to emotionally negative imagery, and it revealed that those who were sleep deprived had a 60 per cent higher stress response than those who were rested. Once you sleep well, your mood often returns to normal. But getting enough shut-eye is easier said than done when you are feeling stressed. If you feel like you can’t switch off, having a notebook on your bedside table, writing down any thoughts and allocating a time to go through them the following day will help to put your mind at rest. Dimming the lights and spending the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading will also help put your body in sleep mode.

APPRECIATE THE SIMPLE THINGS IN LIFE
Noticing the world around you and being grateful for the little things in life is linked to feeling happier and reducing feelings of depression. Research shows something as simple as going for a walk and spending time surrounded by nature can be a highly effective way to restore your sense of calm and boost your mood. But you don’t need to head to the Amazon rainforest to feel rejuvenated. Why not get your nature fix by joining a local walking group, going on a cycle ride or simply relaxing and enjoying the countryside?

ADDRESS YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Does your partner make you stressed and anxious? Look at the way he/she makes you feel. Ask why this might be, sit down and try to work things out or alternatively seek help from a counsellor. Remember that a partner should be a source of comfort, not stress: it might be that you’re no longer right for one another.

Finally…

If self-help methods aren’t helping, and if you’ve been feeling stressed, depressed or anxious for more than a few weeks and it’s affecting your daily life, it’s important to talk to your GP. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do I dread starting the day?
  • Do I have to multitask in order to be able to cope?
  • Am I always tense?
  • Do I have trouble sleeping, or digesting my meals?
  • Am I irritable with my partner?
  • Do I have problems concentrating?

 

Dr Rafael Euba is a Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre where he specialises in repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) for the treatment of depression, an alternative to anti-depressant medication. www.psychiatrycentre.co.uk

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

5 ways to relax in Austria

Austria's Jagdhof Spa Hotel, Neustift

Before this summer I’d never visited Austria. Famed for its ski resorts, I’d always thought of it as a winter destination and as I dislike the cold, I automatically discounted it.

Being rather accident prone – yes, I’m the idiot who required ankle surgery following an unfortunate encounter with a spin bike, tracksuit bottoms, and a swiftly-rotating pedal AND the fool who ended up with two black eyes following a collision with a surfboard in Barbados – I always thought it wiser and safer to stay away.

But when a travel press trip opportunity dropped into my inbox as part of the day job to visit Austrian village Neustift, with Inghams Lakes & Mountains, I decided to say yes:

A) It was June so there were no snowboards or skis in sight
B) It was a chance to tick a new country off the list
C) It was an opportunity to stay at the luxurious 5 star spa hotel – something I’d never done
D) I’d feel safe travelling in a group (regular readers will know that I’ve been struggling with bizarre reactions affecting my airway , which makes travelling and eating out quite tricky).

On the descent into Innsbruck Airport, I instantly knew I’d made a mistake in not visiting this green and pleasant land before. Flanked by towering mountains, the runway was the prettiest I’d ever seen.

Probably the prettiest airport in the world… #lastleg #homewardbound

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My love for this spectacular environment was cemented even further on the 30-minute drive to our accommodation as we weaved our way luscious landscapes and chocolate-box villages scattered with wooden chalets overflowing with vibrant ivory and violet blooms. And by the time we pulled into the charming 5 star Jagdhof Spa Hotel, I was positively speechless (rare for me). The residence, which has been run by the Pfurtscheller family for the past 40 years, was situated at the foot of the Stubai Glacier, and the scenic views from my spacious pine-pannelled suite were the best I’d ever seen.

Such a stunning sight to wake up to! #roomwithaview #takemeback

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Our action-packed itinerary included hikes and strolls through the 530 miles of beautiful marked walking trails within the Stubai Valley, visits to villages including Fulpmes, a Stubai Super Card giving us free daily return journeys on a number of mountain cable cars, and a trip to the beautiful 500-year-old late Gothic Tratzberg Castle, in Inn Valley. The only downside was that we had very little time to enjoy the hotel’s superb facilities.

Usually, when I travel my choice of room is generally cheap and basic. As long as there is air conditioning and a bed, I’m happy. I’d much rather be out and about exploring the country than cooped up in a hotel room and budget apartments leave more money for experiences, right? But this was a work gig (granted, a lovely one), I wasn’t responsible for the accommodation and staying in a fancy hotel for the first time really opened my eyes, so much so that I’m planning a return visit – now there’s an about turn!

Below, I’ve rounded up five reasons why you should stay at the 5 star Jagdhof Spa Hotel.

REVEL IN THE VIEW
At this hotel, you are rarely very far from a breathtaking view. Marvel at the magical peaks of the Stubai Glacier, listen to the sound of the fast flowing Ruetz River, breathe in that invigorating clean mountain air. This place really is a fantastically pleasant assault on the senses. And there’s no end to the vantage points to choose from. Try the outdoor hot tub, a giant hammock in the landscaped gardens, or a seat on one of two flower-filled sun terraces as you enjoy the complimentary traditional afternoon cake.

GRAB YOUR GOWN AND GO
Each room has a fluffy dressing gown, slippers and little wicker basket that you can pop your book or magazine into and walk with to the spa area. The most taxing decision you’ll have to make is deciding where to park yourself. There are more than 20 bathing, relaxation, steam and sauna areas – my eyes almost fell out of their sockets when I was chilling in an indoor whirlpool and a gentleman walked out completely starkers from the naked sauna zone. Up until that point, I hadn’t spotted the sign. Honest. Another thing that’s easy to miss is the meditation room, which is on your left as you walk out of the Joyful Wellbeing spa area. Romantically lit, it’s immensely calming with a water feature and comfortable padded seating. It’s also next to a blissfully peaceful area dotted with waterbeds that sit underneath a ceiling resembling a star-filled sky. Oh, and if you really fancy splurging there’s even a private spa suite for hire complete with giant swings, a lounge area and tea bar.

 

INDULGE IN A SPA TREATMENT
Facials. People rave on about them but up until recently I’ve always struggled with problem skin so have never been a fan. However, I tried a 60-minute !QMS Relax-o-firm treatment on my visit to Joyful Wellbeing area. My nerves evaporated as soon as my friendly therapist began speaking perfect English and gently guided me through what she was doing. At the end, I walked out with glowing skin and my colleagues commented on how well I looked. There are 13 rooms here offering all manner of pampering experiences, but they’re popular so it’s best to book in advance. Saying that, last-minute beauty deals are sometimes advertised on the day on a stand outside the spa, so it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled, too.

EXPLORE THE FRESH FRUIT AND FOOD
Eating out is very tricky for me these days due to my histamine intolerance and I was worried I’d spend my time in Austria permanently famished. Far from it. The hotel chef bent over backwards to accommodate me. Upon request, the kitchen caters for gluten-free and vegetarian customers, as well as those with food intolerances and on calorie-restricted diets.

Before I left, I asked a German colleague to write down every food ingredient I react to in her native language with an explanation of why it’s dangerous for me to ingest such food. Lemons, limes, oranges, alcohol, tomatoes, vinegar, fermented foods…the list goes on and on but she kindly did this and I simply handed the guide over to the chef. He ensured there was plenty of salad and vegetables for me to tuck into and whisked me up wonderful egg dishes too.

Meanwhile, my fellow journos enjoyed the five-course dinners on offer. One evening a crustacean soup starter was served with cognac cream, another evening saw a desert of pineapple soup with a melon sorbet and pomace brandy desert conjured up. It’s worth noting that most of the meals are prepared using home-grown and regional produce – the hotel aims to support local farmers. The other good thing is that complimentary fruit, nuts and seeds are liberally dotted around so if you’re feeling peckish, there are healthy snacks to hand.

EMBRACE THE TRADITION
The great thing about visiting new countries is embracing new cultures and traditions and I ended up wearing a dirndl! All the female staff working at the hotel were wearing this traditional type of clothing, which is donned to mark special occasions including weddings. I loved my turquoise number (borrowed from a member of staff) which comprised a blouse, bodice, skirt and apron although it was rather tight across the chest. Apparently, this is normal and if you CAN breathe in it, it’s the wrong size. No chance of that. I also adored the fact that the Jagdhof produced it’s very own newspaper every day containing weather forecasts, spotlights on hiking trails, that evening’s dinner menu, and useful tips.

VERDICT:
When I arrived in Austria, I felt burnt out, stressed and in desperate need of a recharge. 72 hours later I left looking and feeling like a new woman. Austria –  and a summer stay at the Jagdhof Spa-Hotel – was just the tonic I needed.

FACTBOX:
Inghams is offering a seven-night holiday on a half board basis at the five-star Jagdhof Spa Hotel in Neustift, Austria, from £1,429 per person, based on two sharing in Summer 2018. Price includes return flights to Innsbruck, private airport transfers, guided walks, hot and cold buffet breakfasts, afternoon cake and five-course evening meals. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/lakes-mountains-holidays or call 01483 791 116.

For further information on attractions in Austria visit: www.visittirol.co.uk and www.innsbruck.info.

Travel, Wellness

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