Browsing Tag

health

WHY IT’S OK TO SAY NO

Lean how to say no

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

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

You’re like a sponge

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

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

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

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

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

Learn how to say no

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn how to say no

 

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

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

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

 

Health, Helen's Health, Wellness

Meet our ‘adventure playground for adults’ winner

9NINE adventure playground for adults

“It was so much fun – I haven’t laughed that much in ages.” Those were the words of Melissa Bond, who won a pair of VIP tickets in our ‘adventure playground for grown-ups’ competition.

The 33-year-old took along her husband, Cliff, to the Hackney-based event, which gave adults a chance to rediscover their inner child on a raft of equipment including a giant climbing frame, six metre tall slide, log swings, space hoppers and ball pits.

More than 3,000 people attended the sold-out weekend – hosted by seed food brand 9NINE – which aimed to raise awareness around the benefits of play on happiness and wellbeing.

And it certainly worked for this Bexley Heath-based couple, who have two boys aged four and six.

“Cliff and I hardly get any time together out of the house as I work most evenings and it can be tricky to find babysitters,” said Melissa, who runs her own fitness business. “It was lovely to spend some quality time together. Cliff had an absolute blast and it was great way for him unwind after work.”

So what was Melissa’s favourite piece of equipment?

Nine adventure playground for adults

“I couldn’t decide between the swings and the see-saw. I felt free on the swings and loved seeing how high I could get towards the sky.  The see-saw was lots of fun too, although with my hubby being a tad bit heavier than me he had to do all the work and nearly sent me flying on a couple of occasions,” she laughed. “We were also lucky enough to enjoy some of the 9NINE products. The seed bombs were soooo yummy!”

I was able to enjoy the moment

The busy mum also learned a valuable lesson from her adventure playground experience. “I need to take more time out from work and home life and plan more activities that involve play,” she confessed. “For once I was able to enjoy the moment and not let my thoughts distract me from what I was doing.”

Melissa also had some lovely words to say about our blog, which she discovered after 9NINE published our post on the competition.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying the content and getting loads of ideas,” she said. “As a wife, mum to two boys and business owner finding time to relax is a challenge. The more I learn about health and fitness, the more it is becoming apparent that rest and relaxation are very important for body and mind.”

Thanks for your kind words Melissa!

This was our second giveaway. Amanda Johnstone was the winner of our ‘summer skin care’ hamper worth over £100.

And the good news is this isn’t last of our competitions  – we currently have another very exciting one in the pipeline, so watch this space!

If you’d like our blog posts delivered straight to your inbox, just pop your email address in the ‘subscribe’ box underneath my picture.

 

 

Competitions, Fitness, Health, Wellness

7 reasons to give e-biking a spin

E-biking up Box Hill with Inghams Holidays

“We’re going to cycle up Box Hill,” our  chirpy, energetic PR sings rather excitedly. I laugh hysterically and shake my head. “You’re joking, right?” “Nope,” she answers, in an equally cheery tone.

I know Box Hill like the back of my hand as I went to school in Dorking, Surrey. Many a lunch hour was spent at the top of the summit overlooking the North Downs and many a night was spent at the bottom of it throwing shapes on the dance floor at the Burford Bridge Hotel, the home of Sixth Form dinner dances and various parties.

And I can confirm one thing.

It. Is. Very. STEEP.

And you know what? This is the very same location that formed part of the road race cycling event in the London 2012 Olympic Games!

Now, I’m as competitive as the best of them. And I’m certainly not one to make excuses despite the battering my health has taken of late. But I’m no flippin’ Olympian. “You don’t need to be,” the PR laughs. “We’ll be going up on e-bikes.”

This is music to my ears although I’ve never seen an electric bike before let alone ridden one. Ray Wookey, founder of Cycling Made Easy, an e-bike retailer in the UK, gives our group a quick demonstration.

Although electric bikes have a battery pack, you still have to pedal otherwise you’ll fall off. But it’s good to know that I have three ‘boost’ options to help navigate the trickier parts of the hill. I get to grips with my bike in the car park of Denbies Wine Estate and merrily pedal along before tapping the magic box next to my handlebars. Whoosh – there’s instant power. It feels rather exhilarating.

We file out of the car park and head straight to the base of Box Hill. My legs are burning within minutes of tackling the steep ascent so I tap the booster box – moments later I’m hurtling up the track at breakneck speed. It’s fan-bloody-tastic and in no time at all I’m admiring the view from the top.

 

Yes, I’m slightly huffing and puffing –  you still have to cycle – but I’m not drenched in sweat. No wonder then that Berchtesgaden in Germany, Kranjska Gora in Slovenia and Alta Badia in Italy are popular e-biking destinations. It really is a rather fantastic way to get about.

According to an Inghams Lakes & Mountains poll of 2,000 holidaymakers, almost two thirds would try a new activity on holiday. And nearly a quarter said they’d be motivated to return to a destination if it offered plenty of activities they hadn’t tried before. I’m with them on that one.

If you’d have told me at a month ago that I’d be cycling to the top of Box Hill, I would never have believed you. Bradley Wiggins I am not. But with an e-bike it seems anything is possible and I was left giggling like a schoolgirl all over again.

 

7 E-BIKING MYTHS SMASHED

Below Ray Wookey, who sells E-bikes from his Cycling Made Easy stores in Coulsdon and Tunbridge Wells, talks us through the common e-biking myths and gives seven reasons why you should give it a go. 

IT’S NOT EXERCISE
E-biking is in fact very good exercise. The motor doesn’t do anything unless you are pedalling. Just like on a stationary bike at the gym, you can choose the level of physical effort you wish to put in, simply at the touch of a button. Of course, the advantage of an e-bike over a stationary exercise bike is that you can get out and about. E-biking out in the beautiful British countryside beats sweating it out in a gym. Our own research shows that people go out on their e-bikes between three and four times a week, which matches up to recommended exercise guidelines.

IT’S EXPENSIVE:
A reliable e-bike starts at £899 but most people will spend around £2000. This might seem a lot at first, but the cost of e-biking is front-loaded. Ongoing costs are minimal. Charging the battery from flat to full takes no more electricity than the amount used to boil a kettle – about 10 pence worth. As e-bikes are classed legally as bicycles, you don’t have to spend money on insurance, MOTs, nor will you have to worry about petrol prices or parking charges. Many of our customers have stopped buying train season tickets, because there are e-bikes which cost less, and are a more reliable way to get to work.

IT’S FOR THE ELDERLY OR MAMILS (MIDDLE AGED MEN IN LYCRA)
There are as many types of people who use e-bikes as there are bikes themselves. Young professional commuters like the convenience and money saving aspect, experienced mountain bikers enjoy the fact that they can cycle as aggressively uphill as they do downhill, and then there are many people who use e-bikes as a way to cycle together. With e-assistance, no-one gets left behind. You can always lean on the bike to help you keep up with more experienced riders.

IT’S FOR THE UNFIT
Most people will find that an e-bike has a positive effect on their fitness. Cycling is a low-impact exercise anyway, and with adjustable e-assistance, you can take the pressure off your joints – especially your knees – and still get a cardio workout. You would certainly find you go out cycling more often on an e-bike than a conventional bike, because they help you overcome so many barriers.

IT’S CHEATING
‘Cheating’ is something often thrown at e-bikers. It’s only cheating in the same way that escalators are the ‘cheat’s version’ of stairs. Most e-bikers are not looking for a way to get out of exercising. It’s quite the opposite. They want to ride something that encourages them to cycle more often. It’s not cheating if you are choosing two-wheels to get your errands done, to get to work, to explore on holiday, or countless other reasons.

IT’S COMPLICATED TO OPERATE
If you know how to ride a bike, you can use an e-bike. Changing the e-assistance levels is no more complicated than pressing up and down buttons on a little panel on the handlebars. It is probably more difficult to ring the bell. The computer systems inside the motor and head display do all the clever stuff. All you have to do is choose your power level and start pedalling.

IT’S HEAVY
Most good e-bikes are around 20kg. This is lighter than a Boris bike. There’s a lot of variation depending on the components on the bike. Full-suspension adds a few kilos, but sportier models will have lighter frames. The magic of e-bikes is that no matter how heavy the bike, they feel like incredibly light bikes when in motion, as the e-assistance handles the weight. Conventional bikes suffer under extra weight. Often cyclists will forfeit the convenience of a rack and panniers, the security of a heavy-duty lock, or the versatility of bigger tyres, because they’re worried about weight.With an e-bike, all these options are open to you. Weight simply doesn’t bother an e-bike.

For more information visit:

www.inghams.co.uk/lakes-mountains-holidays

www.cyclingmadeeasy.co.uk

 

Fitness, Travel, Wellness

Champneys unveils new Marine and Wellness Spa

Champneys Spa, Tring

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

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

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

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

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

Champneys hydrotherapy pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

Champneys salt and oxygen chamber

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

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

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

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

Champneys energy cocoon

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

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

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

There are four different experiences to choose from:

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

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

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

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

Each journey costs £129 per person

For more information visit Champneys Tring.

 

 

 

In the news, Wellness

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)

GOOD LUCK!

HOW TO ENTER

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

TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

Helen at Wimbledon

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stepping out on court felt ridiculously good”

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

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

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

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

Life. Was. Good.

And we were enjoying some hard hitting rallies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I quickly took a selfie of my outstretched tongue”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen's Health, Tennis

WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT LAUNCHING A BLOG

So much to SEA in the blogging world

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

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

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

“I resembled the hunchback of Notra Dame”

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

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

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

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

Evidently, old habits die hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It takes 66 days to change a habit.”

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

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

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

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

 

Helen's Health

JAMES DUIGAN: HOW TO HANDLE STRESSFUL MOMENTS

James Duigan

Wellness guru James Duigan has forged a career out of doing what he loves. It’s been a decade since the Bodyism founder and celebrity trainer began spreading his Clean & Lean philosophy.

But it hasn’t always been plain-sailing for the father of two, who counts the likes of Elle Macpherson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Lara Stone, among his advocates.

The Australian knows what it’s like to be homeless. And he “threw up every day for six months” after enduring the heartache of watching his father pass away in his arms.

Here, James tells Relax Ya Self To Health how he copes with stress and how there are lessons to be learned in every situation.

JAMES, YOU ALWAYS APPEAR SO LAID BACK. WHAT’S YOUR SECRET?
Haha. I’m not sure about that. I think I probably present a calm exterior. I’m shy by nature. I’m a human being after all so I do suffer from worry and I get anxious every now and then.

HOW DO YOU COPE WITH STRESS?
I’ve found that having a calm exterior is a great way of massaging yourself into a calm interior. My default reaction to things is to take a breath, maintain a calm face and understand that drama in a situation doesn’t help ever. This helps keep things in perspective. I’m lucky, it’s kind of my default setting. Any time I’ve ever given in to worry, overreacted or lost my temper, it’s never worked that well. There’s a great saying that goes: ‘My life has been full of disasters and calamities, most of which never happened.’

WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST FRIGHTENING MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?
I’ve been homeless, afraid and hungry. When I first got to London at the age of 21 I had 50 dollars and a sleeping bag. With hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest of plans. For two months I slept in bus stations, on night buses and searched bins for food. I was lucky though, I was just having a tough time. I wasn’t suffering from a mental illness and was able to pull myself out of it. One day I scraped together some money to buy a suit that smelled like garbage from a second-hand shop. I put cardboard in the bottom of some old shoes that I found and went for a job interview at Harrods. I got the job. It was so good to get that first pay cheque. Now, whenever I’m in a difficult situation I think at least I have a roof over my head.

AND THE MOST STRESSFUL?
My dad passing away from lung cancer.  He died in my arms and there was no way for me to make that OK or find anything good about it at all. I felt a huge amount of shame and guilt that I couldn’t save him, so dealing with that and letting it go was a big thing. I threw up every morning for six months. I just got up and did that. I was devastated by grief. At the same time, I found out that a friend had been stealing from me. I felt betrayed humiliated and stupid.

HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THAT PERIOD?
It’s a bit of a blur but I remembered the things that I’d say to other people. Be kind to yourself and let go of shame. I used them as mantras. I kept it simple. I exercised every day, and didn’t fall into abusive eating patterns, or numb myself with any drug. I thought hold steady, do these things because you know they’re good. That’s all I knew.  A couple of years later, I found a lesson and gift in losing my dad. It made me become so much more present with my own children and so much more grateful for every moment I’ve got in the world. It made me more committed and aware of my own health. It’s given me a really powerful ‘why’ and reason to stay healthy.

YOUR BODYISM EMPIRE IS EXPANDING AT AN ASTONISHING RATE.  SURELY, THIS CAN BE STRESSFUL AT TIMES?
Stress is a fact of life now. Unless we can all retire, go live on a hill and go play guitar to each other we’re gonna have jobs, we’re gonna have kids, we’re gonna have things that stress us out. For me, it’s less about avoiding stress and more about coping, dealing with it and having strategies to help. I eat foods that really make me feel good and work for me rather than foods that are addictive and poisons as this makes me so much better able to deal with stuff. I don’t numb myself with alcohol or drugs. I’m much more present to things. It’s all simple stuff. It’s funny when people question it and ask ‘Isn’t it boring without alcohol?’ I’m like, ‘Holy s*** you just don’t get it. The world’s amazing. Why would you numb yourself to it?’ Boring is having to have a drink in order to loosen up.

HOW DO YOU UNWIND?
I exercise every day. Movement is medicine. I do yoga or lift weights. If I’m by the ocean, I’ll go for a swim or surf. The sea calms me down. When I’m in London I’ll go for a walk in the park. I also spend an hour and a half each week doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu with people who try to choke me [laughing] but it keeps me completely present because while that’s happening I just can’t think about anything else. So it’s like meditation. It’s so liberating for me.

DESCRIBE YOUR ULTIMATE BLISSED OUT DAY?
I’m grateful for every day, I genuinely am. My absolute happiest moments are with my children. They take me to a place I didn’t know existed, I just love being with them but then I get so much joy from what I do for work. That comes to this place that I create where people are treated well and happy. My job is to help people, I can’t imagine anything better. This is a dream.

WHAT IS BODYISM?
Bodyism the idea that we can change people’s lives and remind them to be kind to themselves. We nourish them through movement, through food, through how they think, and through what they say. It’s beautiful and it’s growing wonderfully. We’ve got our beautiful flagship studio in Notting Hill, London and a number of others including the Maldives. We’ve already started building Miami. It’s amazing, an absolutely breathtaking dream come true.

FINALLY, ARE THERE ANY BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
As a kid, I read a book called The Celestine Prophecy. It spoke about the energy in the world that we don’t see and it really opened my eyes that there might be more than what we just see and feel. I loved that book. Another author who interests me is Louise Hay. She talks about physical things that might have an emotional or spiritual cause. Simon Sinek, is a fantastic guy and brilliant speaker who explains how you’ve got to focus on why you do what you do. It’s transformative and inspirational for me.

Celebrity interviews, Wellness

THE NIGHT IT ALL BEGAN

The night my health took a turn for the worse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Helen's Health

JONNY WILKINSON REVEALS HOW HE UNWINDS

Jonny Wilkinson
©Marius Bukis

Rugby icon Jonny Wilkinson, CBE, the former international fly-half, who kicked the last minute drop goal that would seal England’s victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup, is widely regarded as one of the sport’s best players of all time.

The 37-year-old hung up his boots almost three years ago but throughout his career struggled with self-criticism, anxiety and depression.

Here, Jonny, an ambassador for Puressentiel, a natural healthcare brand formulated with natural ingredients, tells Relax Ya Self to Health how he has found a life of balance and contentment since retiring.

 

WHY IS RAISING AWARENESS AROUND MENTAL HEALTH SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I’ve suffered from depression throughout my life. For me, there is no such thing as weakness or strength in talking about feelings or problems. In fact, there is only one thing that is important, which is living life to the full and being able to fully express yourself.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL?
For me, this means joy, peace, passion, connection, inspiration, spontaneity, challenge, opportunity, revelation, learning, and growth. If there is anything that is stopping me from living life this way or any time that I feel the opposite then I definitely seek help by talking about it and challenging it in order to find helpful perspectives and different interpretations that get me back to my best as soon as possible.

CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE JONNY WILKINSON FOUNDATION?
I am building a foundation that aims to reduce the negative stigma attached to the apparent ‘weakness’ involved in talking about feelings and support people in uncovering their true potential. Saying that, I know that, at its worst, it is in no way just as simple as asking people to talk about their issues and feelings. Sometimes that can make it a lot worse.

HOW CAN PEOPLE HELP THOSE WHO ARE STRUGGLING?
The key for me has always been a lack of judgement from others. When people have space in their own values and being they can offer pure unconditional support. 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. The Jonny Wilkinson Foundation aims to positively impact the cause, treatment, prevention, understanding, education and support of mental health issues and those affected. We are in the process of researching and refining the philosophy at the heart of the mission and developing the delivery strategy to ensure we make the greatest difference to as many people as possible.

HOW DO YOU RELAX?
An amazingly powerful relaxation technique I use is slow walking. I often head out into the countryside. Slow walking makes it almost impossible for the mind to work quickly and shifts my energy vibration. It’s a phenomenal way to rebalance and find a higher perspective. By relaxing joints and muscles and just letting the arms hang, I gain a sense of control and suddenly helpful solutions to any problems just seem to appear. I use the same state of being when I sit down to eat. This relaxation allows for greater digestion and cellular function. When I was playing I used to eat standing up or moving around whilst packing my bag, thinking about the game etc. I don’t think this brought out the best in me or my performance.

WHY DO YOU LIKE THE OUTDOORS?
I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors and sunlight is hugely important for me for Vitamin D production, boosting mood and for synchronising biorhythms throughout the body. It’s not surprising considering the role the sun plays in the survival of life on our planet that we should be connected in such ways. However, the risks of too much powerful sun exposure are well documented and need to be hugely respected.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER TECHNIQUES YOU’VE FOUND USEFUL FOR STILLING THE MIND?
Guided meditation. This simply means that you’re in some way talked through the process in a certain direction. Meditation can help better organise inner energies which can get a bit all over the place when you are not used to sitting quietly. Meditation takes me beyond my beliefs about myself and into the space of pure potential where I can consciously choose the way I prefer to feel and live in any situation regardless of expectations, desires and outcomes. In this space, there can be no such thing as stress.

DID YOU MEDITATE DURING YOUR CAREER?
I used to meditate before games but I was unable to embrace the difference between being at peace or trying to be at peace. As a player I probably allowed winning and other external factors, such as how others perceived me, to make being peaceful seem out of my control. I now understand that how I feel is my choice.

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR DIET?
Very. My wife Shelley is training to be a naturopathic nutritionist and does everything from making her own yoghurt from compassionately, ethically farmed raw milk to soaking and sprouting nuts and grains, and making sourdough bread. Healthy concoctions including smoothies, juices and raw protein bars are commonplace around our home. There is so much to be experienced and learned from food and nature and preparing things in the most whole and natural way. We are, after all, just a result of everything we have eaten and drunk.

WHY HAVE YOU TEAMED UP WITH PURESSENTIEL?
I have a huge respect for nature, as does the family behind Puressentiel. The brand is a perfect fit for me. I think we might be well served by continuing to listen and learn from our bodies and nature. There is a place for medicine for sure but, for me, it needs to support and assist the body, not try to dominate it. Quick fix solutions in medicine sometimes scare me especially when they alter or disturb natural processes. I have found that essential oils have a strong role to play in maintaining skin, hair, muscles and vitamins and minerals through diet and supplementation are great ways to ensure balance. Nothing beats open stress-less living though!

Jonny Wilkinson is brand ambassador of Puressentiel’s Muscles & Joints range. The French aromatherapy and natural skincare brand is the official partner of World Rugby until 2019.

Celebrity interviews, Wellness