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mental health awareness

MCAS: The truth behind my Instagram photos

MCAS and Instagram

Everybody has their own way of dealing with MCAS [Mast Cell Activation Syndrome].

Some document their symptoms and share pictures of their reactions.

Others discuss treatment options that have helped or made them worse.

Personally, I either disappear off the face of the earth – that’s when I’m truly struggling – or pretend that everything’s okay because I’d rather not concern my family or friends.

But seeing as it is World Mental Health Day [10 October 2018] and we’re being encouraged open up for the sake of our mental wellbeing, I’m going to share a secret.

I’m not always fine. In fact, more often than not, I’m petrified of this frustrating horrible disease and just internalise it.

Of course, you wouldn’t know it by looking at my recent Instagram feed which is filled with images of stunning Bajan beaches – the snaps were taken on my most recent holiday. (Regular readers will know I struggle to relax but Barbados, which was the inspiration for the name of this blog, is the one place in the world where I truly switch off).

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The calm before #stormkirk #pink

A post shared by Helsy/Relax Ya Self To Health (@relaxyaself2h) on

However, the pictures only tell half the story because behind the scenes I was also dealing with very nasty tongue swelling and throat closing episodes that left me feeling frightened, groggy and anxious.

I thought I was beginning to beat this damned condition. [Read more about MCAS here] The month before I’d gone for 10 days without a serious reaction, managed to play two tennis matches – popping a super strong antihistamine beforehand as a precautionary measure – and even reintroduced certain foods.

I was beginning to feel like my old self, especially as I was returning to activities that used to bring me such joy.

But a couple of days before the holiday, my trusty car stopped working. Just like that… Turned out a cambelt (no, I had no idea what that was either) had gone, there was engine damage and I needed to buy a new vehicle. WTH? I was strapped for cash (having moved house earlier this year), and still chasing invoices from publications that hadn’t paid me for four months.

My head began to spin.

I started panicking about the car being stranded at the garage while I was away, the storage fees it might incur, how I’d commute to the news shifts I had booked in immediately after my holiday (I live alone) and whether I’d be able to find a car within one day of my return.

Then boom…my mast cells decided to throw a party gifting me a tongue swelling reaction the night before my flight.

It happened again on the plane – despite taking meds as a precaution before the journey – and then every day of the trip bar one – in some instances occurring twice in 24 hours.

On the last two nights, intense palpitations – another symptom of MCAS – were to be my wake-up call, not the sound of the ocean.

Although I refuse to be defined by this condition, the truth is that living with MCAS is exhausting and frightening.

When I’m in a continuous flare, the thought of suffocating to death (or my meds failing through overuse) is never far from my mind.

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Take me back… #beachbum #serenity

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Even if I manage to control a reaction, I’m left wiped out for days. The accompanying brain fog is a joke – I struggle to formulate words – not great when I rely on them for a living. The stabbing pains in my joints aren’t much fun either.  Oh, and every day I wake up with a sore throat or feel as though I’m fighting something.

So why am I telling you this now?

Well,  when the going gets tough I stop speaking – I AM a chatterbox so this is out of character for me.

I vanish from social circles and, seemingly, stop blogging. (Apologies for the dearth of recent posts – now you know why)

I’ve since recognised this withdrawal trait in a couple of my (non-MCAS) friends. I suspected one was struggling recently so I sent a text to let him know how grateful I was to have him in my life and thanked him for being amazing.

He responded saying he had woken up to my message, texting back a row of love hearts. He was having a hard time and thanked me for making him feel better.

This MCAS journey has taught me about anxiety – something I never used to struggle with – and how to identify the individuals who might be struggling with their own mental wellbeing.

It’s made me realise that if someone is behaving out of character or is being non-committal that there could be more to their actions – or lack of them – than meets the eye.

We shouldn’t judge but simply be kind. A simple ‘are you okay’ could make all the difference.

For more articles on mental health and wellbeing you might like to read our interviews with Jonny Wilkinson and Gail Porter.

And meet the man who is turning barbershops into safe havens to prevent male suicide

Helen's Health, Wellness

Meet the man who is turning barbershops into safe havens to prevent male suicide

Top Chapman, founder of suicide prevention charity The Lions Barber Collective

Tom Chapman was devastated when he lost his friend to suicide in 2014.

“I’d seen him just days before and suspected nothing,” the barber from Torquay said. “We shared small talk. I didn’t recognise there was anything wrong with him. [At the time] I was completely unaware of any suicide prevention or mental health charities. If I hadn’t heard of any and I had been affected directly, I thought how many people out there were suffering or worse without any knowledge of resources available? I remember saying to a group of my friends at the wake: ‘We have to do something, something has to change.'”

Within a year he had set up The Lions Barber Collective – a men’s mental health awareness and suicide prevention charity that empowers barbers to make their chairs ‘safe spaces’ for male clients to open up and share their feelings and concerns.

And, in 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May awarded Tom a Point of Light Award – which recognises outstanding individual volunteers.

On World Suicide Prevention Day [10 September], Relax Ya Self To Health caught up with Tom to find out more about his movement and how his training programme is teaching barbers to recognise, talk, listen and signpost clients to the services, like the Samaritans, they might require.

Why is the Barber’s chair so important for opening up the conversation around men’s mental health?

We did a survey with Bluebeards Revenge (male grooming brand) which discovered that over half the men would prefer to talk to their barber than their doctor when it comes to mental health. The barber’s chair is a unique place in society. It is completely non-judgemental and non-clinical everyday environment. Clients trust us to touch their face, necks and ears and make them look good for the foreseeable future. The relationship is often built up over years. As there is very rarely interaction between the barber and client outside of those four walls, there is a level of confidence in the confidentiality of any conversation. There has always been a bond between those in the chair and those behind it. Since publicly letting people know that it is safe to talk to me, as we encourage many other barbers to do, many, many more men feel comfortable to open up and offload.

When did you realise you could make a difference in the area of men’s mental health and male suicide prevention?

Instantly. When we decided to raise funds for suicide prevention and mental health it just clicked. It was obvious. There are very few opportunities for one-to-one human interaction without interruptions. TLBC was set up in 2015 and started with a lookbook of men’s hair images to raise money for charity. Since then it has grown with global interest and we also spend a lot of time raising awareness to break down the stigma and taboo surrounding mental health and suicide.

Can you share an example of someone you’ve helped who was not coping well with life?

A long-time friend of mine Paul sat in my chair. He told me how he felt, how down he was and how he was struggling and mostly I just listened. It was pretty early on into The Lions Barber Collective and I was unaware of how bad he really was feeling. In my eyes, I had always seen him as successful and a phenomenally driven character but it was much worse than I thought.

How did you handle the situation?

I spoke to him about The Lions and what we were doing and how we encouraged people to tell others how they were feeling to try and avoid suicide. Paul went out by himself and was ready to take his life, ready to end it all. But he didn’t. He told me that when he felt like suicide was the only option, he thought about what we were doing and it encouraged him to drive back to his parents and tell them everything. That started his road to recovery. That is why he is still with us. He has publicly said that if it wasn’t for The Lions Barber Collective he wouldn’t be here today and I would have lost another friend. I have actually built a strong bond with so many because of stories like this. Yesterday, I had a phone message from a young lad to thank me and tell me that he is in a good place. He wants to help others and doesn’t want to kill himself anymore. There’s not much that feels better than that and it makes me even happier for his family who love him so much.

Top Chapman, founder of suicide prevention charity the Lion's Barber Collective

How does the Lions Barber Collective work in practice?

Our goals are to raise awareness, encourage barbers to create a safe space for men and an opportunity to open up and offload and educate barbers through BarberTalk Lite, which is now available for free on www.thelionsbarbercollective.com. It will give those who complete it some basic awareness and signposting knowledge, as well as put them on our Lions map on the website letting those in their community know that they have a place they can go, talk, be listened too and not judged in a safe non-clinical environment. Hopefully, through listening and connecting with our clients with empathy we can save another life, and another, and another. The full BarberTalk, which is currently in development, will provide an online modular program which will go into depth on key skills such as non-judgmental listening. I know for a fact we can save more lives.

How do you keep manage your emotional and mental wellbeing?

Through TLBC we’ve built up a network of caring peers who are there for one another. I also have a very supportive family and wife who I know will be there for me if I need them. A support group around you is essential.

What tips would you give to anyone who wants to help someone who is struggling but is unsure how to broach the subject of mental health?

Let them know you are there for them. Don’t tell them you know how they feel but be willing to let them explain how they feel without judgement.
Also if they give you the signs that lead you to suspect that they may be suffering or contemplating suicide, ask them directly. ‘Do you want to kill yourself?’ or ‘Are you contemplating suicide?’ It may be a difficult question, but it won’t make them more likely to take their life. It may give them the opportunity and green light to talk about something that has been causing them a lot of pain. Samaritans and GPs are great places to signpost to.

How did it make you feel to be received the Point of Light award?

In shock! It’s not every day you get a phone call from the highest office in the land say that the PM wants to give you an award. It made my family very proud and I know my grandad, who is no longer with us, would have been too. It is great to be recognised for the work we have been doing, especially when it is not an awards ceremony that people compete for, but a surprise recognition.

Lastly, how do you unwind and manage your mental health?

I like to spend time with my family, watch movies and taking advantage of nature and the countryside that surrounds our home. I also enjoy an hour at the gym as well as some meditation with my Calm app.

FACT BOX:

  • In 2017, there were 5,821 suicides, according to the latest ONS data on suicide rates in the UK.
  • Three in four of those recorded (4,382) were male, accounting for 15.5 deaths per 100,000 – the lowest rate since 1981.
  • The highest suicide rate by age bracket was 24.8 per 100,000 among males aged 45 to 49 years and 6.8 deaths per 100,000 among women in the 50 to 54-year-old group.
  • Worryingly, a suicide occurs on a railway approximately every 36 hours.  (Read more about the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign and what you can do to help, here. )

HELPFUL MENTAL HEALTH AND SUICIDE PREVENTION CONTACT NUMBERS:

Samaritans
If you need a response immediately, call the Samaritans which is open 24 hours every day of the year. You do not have to be suicidal to call them.
Call 116 123.
https://www.samaritans.org

Mind
This mental health charity provides information, support and details on local services.
Call: 0300 123 3393 (Weekdays 9am – 6pm)
https://www.mind.org.uk

YoungMinds
Children and young people can find information, support and advice at YoungMinds. Concerned parents of those aged under 25 can also speak to an advisor
Phone: 0808 802 5544 (9.30am-4pm – Monday – Friday)
https://youngminds.org.uk

The Lions Barber Collective
The Lions Barber Collective, as profiled above, is an international collection of top barbers which have come together to help raise awareness for the prevention of suicide. Learn more about their training programme here:
https://www.thelionsbarbercollective.com

Tom has also teamed up with British male grooming brand The Bluebeards Revenge to create a specially branded Hair Gel, with 50p from every tub sold being donated straight back to the charity. Alongside this product, the insides of The Bluebeards Revenge cartons have been rebranded with powerful messages to support The Lions Barber Collective.

If you found this post helpful you might like to read our chats with rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson and Gail Porter who have both opened up about their previous mental health struggles. 

In the news

How to stop feeling lonely as a freelancer

How to stop feeling lonely as a freelancer

18 years. That’s how long I’ve been a freelancer. On the surface, the journo lifestyle might appear glitzy and exciting but the reality is it is also flippin’ stressful.

Waiting months on end to get paid *and forever chasing invoices* is no fun when you’re the only one paying the mortgage and can only vent at four walls and a house bunny (albeit a cute one).

Plus, working solo behind a desk for weeks on end can leave you feeling somewhat disconnected from the outside world. So it came as no surprise when I saw the findings of a poll of 1,000 freelancers published by Epson this week.

Most of the respondents (91%) worked from home at least some of the time and almost half (48%) felt lonely.

Although 54% found this lifestyle liberating, 46% confessed to feeling ‘isolated’ and a quarter said they had experienced frequent periods of depression.

Worryingly, around a fifth of respondents claimed that the loneliness of remote working had caused them to have suicidal thoughts.

The findings were released by the printer brand to mark the launch of its Epson EcoTank Pop-Up,  a creative space in London’s Covent Garden that is hosting free talks, interactive workshops and panel sessions from work, parenting and lifestyle experts throughout September and October. The venue is also giving freelancers, bloggers and other self-employed people the chance to work and access free Wi-Fi, drinks and printing.

How to stop feeling lonely as a freelancer

According to Mind, feeling lonely isn’t a mental health problem but it can have a negative impact on your mental health.

“People usually describe feeling lonely for one of two reasons: they simply don’t see or talk to anyone very often or even though they are surrounded by people, they don’t feel understood or cared for,” it states. “Deciding which is the case for you may help you to find a way of feeling better. It can be helpful to think of feeling lonely like feeling hungry. Just as your body uses hunger to tell your body you need food, loneliness is a way of your body telling you that you need more social contact.”

The charity, which has lots of useful advice on how to combat loneliness here, also reiterates that being alone is not the same as being lonely and there is nothing wrong with being on your own if you are comfortable with it.

I guess I’m lucky in that I’m mostly quite content in my own company (must be the Scorpio in me). Even so, I’d rather not spend 60 hours a week holed up in my study so below I’ve listed some of the tips that help me feel less isolated.  I hope they help.

Are you a freelancer? Do you work from home regularly? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

MIX UP YOUR FREELANCE WORK

The prospect of spending an entire week working from home is not one that fills me with glee especially as I’m a bit of a workaholic. If I’m not careful I can end up stuck upstairs for 14 hours straight (as I put the hours in on the blog around the day job) and by the end of the week, I can feel utterly drained. Your home should be a place of rest and relaxation, not something you want to escape from. For this reason, I schedule in PR meetings, news shifts, media training/consultancy work and celebrity interviews around my features to ensure I do not have days on end on my lonesome. As they say, variety is the spice of life. (To find out how to work with me click here )

LEAVE THE HOUSE FIRST THING

Even if it’s just for five minutes. I don’t know about you but I can procrastinate with the best of them. However, I’ve found that rising an hour earlier and establishing an early non-work morning routine – either a quick swim or nipping to the shops to buy the papers – puts me in a positive mindset and gives me the social interaction I might not encounter for the rest of the day. I’m then raring to go by 9am and strangely focused. I also check on an immobile elderly neighbour to see if she needs anything. As well as helping others, good deeds are a great way to lift your spirits.

JOIN INDUSTRY GROUPS OR FREELANCE FORUMS FOR ADVICE

There are plenty of social media support forums for freelancers which can be a Godsend if you feel isolated or unsupported. As a freelance journalist, much of your life can be spent tackling unfair payment practices or challenging companies that try to grab your copyright. Then there are the IT issues (awful for a technophobe like me), tax returns, the list goes on. However, supportive groups can help you find answers to questions quickly and give you some much-needed solidarity especially when others have experienced similar difficulties. (I’ve also found this to be the case with chronic illness groups, too)Just don’t get drawn into negative, time-wasting debates which can raise your stress levels. Click here for 20 stress-busting tips.  

HAVE A FRIEND ON THE END OF A PHONE OR ON WHATSAPP

My go-to work buddy who has since become a good friend is Rachel Spencer, a fellow hack who has been in the industry for the same length of time. We didn’t know each other before last year when a chance job brought us together and we ended up bonding as it emerged we were both launching blogs at the same time – if you’re a dog fan check hers out here . We support each other through thick or thin. I mentioned that I was penning this post and she kindly gave me the following tip…

GO FOR A WALK (WITH A DOG IF YOU HAVE ONE)

Loneliness can be difficult when you’re a freelancer and you can end up having no contact with the outside world. I got a dog in 2009. I was single at the time and working from home a lot but Daisy changed my life. I’d take her for walks in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evening. It was great. I’d get chatting to other dog walkers or run into people I knew and would feel liberated. I used to think of stories when I was out, write them in my head and bash them out as soon as I got home. The walks broke up my day and made me far more productive. If you’re not a dog owner you can go on Borrow My Doggy and find out how to spend time with one in your lunch break. Thanks Rachel!

 

In the news

Win a Rescue Remedy hamper worth £60 + How to stop feeling fearful

How to stop feeling fearful + win a Rescue Remedy hamper worth £60

Right now plenty of young people will be feeling fearful about the future. They may be anxious about starting university, nervous about their career or worried about not making new friends.

I know I experienced all three of the above when I packed up my things and headed off to the South West of England to start my new life as a university student many moons ago but things didn’t exactly go to plan when I dropped out after just one month (see below).

Back then university ‘care packages’ weren’t a thing but I think they’re a brilliant idea, especially if they’re filled with items to help get you through testing moments. For this very reason, I’m thrilled to team up with Rescue Remedy to give you the chance to win a hamper of goodies worth £60.

Designed to provide support in times of emotional demand, the original Rescue Remedy is a blend of five different flower essences discovered by Dr Bach in the 1930s. The products can be used to help keep you calm or stay focused during stressful situations such as a move to unfamiliar surroundings.

The good news is this competition isn’t only open to students. Anyone – including empty nesters or those going through stressful times – can enter the draw!

Win a Rescue Remedy Hamper worth £60

One lucky winner will receive the following:

  • RESCUE® Pastilles (Orange & Elderflower and Blackcurrant) worth £6.45
  • RESCUE PLUS® Lozenges worth £3.99
  • RESCUE REMEDY® 10ml dropper worth £8.49
  • RESCUE REMEDY® 20ml dropper worth £10.99
  • RESCUE REMEDY® 7ml spray worth £7.99
  • RESCUE REMEDY® 20ml spray worth £11.49
  • RESCUE® Night 20ml spray worth £10.99

To enter simply tell us what is stressing you out at the moment and why the prize will help. For a second entry simply like and share our Facebook post.

The winner’s name will be drawn out of a hat at 8pm (GMT) on September 16 2018.

Good luck!

Terms and conditions apply. The competition is only open to UK residents.

Life after dropping out of university

I always knew I wanted to become a journalist – a job I’ve been fortunate to do for the past 18 years. Only, my careers adviser had other ideas.

“Everyone wants to be a reporter,” he insisted. “The industry is too hard. You’re better off doing a media studies degree, not journalism. It’ll give you more choice.”

Being young and impressionable I accepted his advice but by week three of university I felt awkward, alone and on a course that held little appeal. Deep down I knew I’d made the wrong decision.

Weeping and trembling with fear, I called my dear mother from the phone box  – we didn’t have mobiles back then – and apologised for letting her down. I felt like a worthless ‘drop out’ but my mum was brilliant and not upset in the slightest.  The weight on my shoulders instantly lifted.

In the months that followed I contacted numerous consumer magazines and newspapers for work experience but they knocked me back time and time again. The reason? Oversubscription.

I pasted every single rejection letter into a scrapbook.

Was I disheartened?

Yes.

Was that careers adviser right?

Maybe.

The competition was fierce but deep down I knew I wanted to be a reporter. I didn’t give up.

I then contacted my local newspaper. The editor called me in for a ‘work experience’ before eventually offering me a part-time job. My life changed in an instant.

During that gap year, I cut my teeth on local news stories. I then secured a place on an accredited journalism degree course at a different university and the rest, as they say, is history.

Even so, I’ll never forget the fear that consumed me when I made that initial call home. Or how I beat myself up for thinking I was a complete and utter failure. I felt lost. I had no idea how my life would pan out. And I even remember standing in the street looking at an elderly couple thinking: “I wish I was their age and retired.”

Yes… I was THAT concerned.

So how do you stop feeling fearful about the future?

How to stop feeling fearful + win a Rescue Remedy hamper worth £60

How to stop feeling fearful + win a Rescue Remedy hamper worth £60

The  lessons I’ve since learned are:

1. Take one day at a time and avoid thinking too far ahead or worrying about a situation that might not unfold *This is far easier said than done*
2. Talk to someone if you’re feeling uncertain, low or unhappy. It’s cliche but a problem shared is a problem halved.  Check out the websites of Mind and Young Minds which are filled with lots of helpful advice.
3. Always listen to your gut instinct and have confidence in it. It is, in my experience, always right.
4. Follow your dreams and never give up. You can DO it.  *It took me three attempts to pass my driving test!*

Are you looking for further ways to manage your stress levels? If so, you might like to read the following:

20 ways to relieve stress
Review: How a tapping session helped my anxiety
Review: Gazelli House hypnotherapy mind massage
Review: Chilston Park Hotel Wellness Retreat
Could this psychology app improve your life?

Or read the health and wellness tips of stars including Katie Piper and Jonny Wilkinson below:

Jonny Wilkinson reveals how he unwinds
Katie Piper talks anxiety, babies and self-care
Gail Porter talks hair loss and hope
Pat Cash talks Coco, Reiki and his pneumonia scare

 

 

Competitions

REVIEW: How a ‘tapping’ session helped my anxiety

How tapping helped my anxiety

I’m sitting in an East Sussex conservatory rapidly tapping various parts of my body. I do not have fleas. I’m not at an ape imitation school. And nobody has sprinkled itching powder under my shirt. So what the heck am I doing?

It’s a complementary therapy called EFT, (Emotional Freedom Techniques), also known as tapping and I’m under the expert guidance of clinical hypnotherapist and EFT practitioner Liz Davies, a sunny character with a smile bright enough to illuminate Brighton Pier.

Often referred to as ‘psychological acupressure’, the approach fuses elements of the Chinese meridian energy system with modern Western talk therapy and is growing in popularity as a way to treat stress, anxiety, fear, insomnia and chronic pain.

If it sounds a little new-age you’re right, but last Autumn it emerged that the Duchess of Cornwall had reduced her fear of flying by using the technique.

In the same year researchers at Australia’s Bond University also scientifically demonstrated that the approach could help rewire the neural pathways of obese patients.

So, when Liz – who goes by the name of the ‘Miracle Coach’ – invited me to try a session I jumped at the chance.

How tapping helped me

Tapping is said to help release blockages within the energy system, which are the source of emotional intensity and discomfort. Ongoing upsetting or stressful situations or traumatic events that may have occurred in the past can all be contributory factors which, if left unresolved, may manifest as symptoms including physical health problems, limiting beliefs, anxiousness, emotional disharmony and feelings of being stuck.

In a nutshell, tapping aims to clear the emotional attachment that our subconscious clings onto, to help us lead more fulfilling and positive lives.

“Often people end up in cycles, perhaps in relationships that aren’t necessarily good for them, as the subconscious tries to recreate the past to make it better again,” Liz points out.

“Tapping helps address the subconscious, clear the energy and enables you to see the world with fresh eyes. There’s no emotional triggering so you can choose people, activities and things on the basis of what’s really good for you rather than a trigger that’s just pulling you along.”

At the start of the session, Hove-based Liz asks me to set some intentions. “If you could wave a magic wand, what would be your goal at the end?” she enquires. “To be able to go to a restaurant and eat and drink whatever I want without worrying about having a tongue-swelling reaction,” I reply.

“Great, are there any others?” I rattle off a few more before I’m asked to list them in order of priority. “It’s always best to go with what you instinctively feel is the strongest – tune into that feeling,” advises Liz helpfully.

I hone in on one that has been causing me immense worry and fear.

“Where’s the feeling in the body?” she gently asks. “The pit of my stomach,” I reply. “On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate it with 10 being the worst?” “10.” “What colour and shape is it?” “It’s a dense circle – maroon brown.” Liz continues:  “Does it feel like it’s moving around or stuck?”
“It’s stuck.” “And how would you describe it?” “As fear and unease.”

Your subsconscious is saying ‘thank goodness you’re listening to me’

Liz explains that colours and shapes are used because they’re the language of the subconscious. “Once you start talking in those words it creates a clear communication. Most of the time what we do is we try to ignore what the subconscious is telling us because it feels uneasy or unpleasant so we avoid it. Instead, we use our conscious mind, which is rational, but what we need to do is talk to the subconscious because that’s where the emotional stuff is.”

Then something peculiar happens.

We haven’t even started the tapping but I feel as though the ball has already shifted up from the pit of my stomach. “Yay,” Liz replies. ‘It’s because your subconscious is saying thank goodness you’re listening to me, you’re paying attention to me. That’s perfect.”

How tapping helped me

We embark on the first round of tapping and I follow Liz’s actions and copy her words.

Using three fingers I tap the karate chop point of my hand seven times and repeat after her: “Even though I have this dark maroon brown feeling stuck in my tummy, I still love and accept myself anyway.”

My eyes dart around the room – I wasn’t expecting that.

Next, I’m tapping the crown of the head….“All this fear.”
Followed by my eyebrows…”In my tummy.”
Then the side of the eyes…“This dark maroon brown fear.”
And the top of the cheekbone… “Stuck in my tummy.”
Underneath my nose… “All this unease.”
Followed by the middle of the chin… “I feel unease,”
Then underneath the collarbone…“I don’t like it.”

The process continues and I’m tapping again just beneath my armpit…“All this fear.”
Then the wrist…“This round dark fear.”
Followed by taps on the side of each fingernail…“This fear in my tummy, this maroon brown fear, this uneasy feeling, I don’t like this dark fear.”
Before finishing at the karate chop point… “In my tummy.”
Liz asks me to take a deep breath in before breathing out slowly. Round one complete.

How a tapping session helped me
“Can you rate the intensity of the ball now?” I’m lost for words and start laughing hysterically. “This is ridiculous,” I blurt out. “I can’t believe it but it feels lighter, like a three. Weirdly, it feels as though it’s shifted up into my heart area. It’s transparent and kind of an oblong shape. It no longer feels like a ball.”

“What emotion would you give it now?”

I smile again. “I’m sorry, I can’t…it feels insignificant.”

It sounds like you’ve had a one minute miracle

Liz nods: “Basically what you’re doing is processing your feelings by speaking them out loud and accepting them. Tapping at the same time is physically allowing the emotion that got squished down in your body to come up and release. It sounds like you’ve had a one-minute miracle. This does happen.

“When positive words come out or you can’t say anything negative that means the energy that was holding you back has cleared and your real true self, your bright spark is able to speak louder. When you can hear yourself clearly everything else starts to flow easier because you’re not driven by fear anymore.”

I celebrate yawns

We embark on the second round of tapping. Halfway through I experience an intense surge of excitement – butterflies if you will – in my stomach and for the first time in an age, I feel as though I’m truly alive again. Embarrassingly, though, I stifle a huge yawn at the end.

Liz doesn’t mind. “I always celebrate yawns. It’s also another way of release. And the butterflies…wow. That’s your real self coming up. This is what tapping does and why I say it’s so magical.  Sometimes just hitting on what needed to be said and tapping at the same time can be so effective.”

I hug Liz at the end. I’m feeling incredibly relaxed and also as though I’ve been given a new lease of life.

Sceptics might argue the placebo effect but I definitely felt a physical and emotional shift.

Besides, if tapping helps to improve our outlook, positivity and induce a state of calm – whatever the reason – it has to be worth a try.

Relax Ya Self to Health was invited to try this session by Miracle Coach Liz Davies in exchange for a review. As always, reviews are based on my honest opinion.

If you liked this article you might like to check out my other reviews on pranic healing, a weekend meditation retreat, a hypnotherapy mind massage, and the Inhere meditation studio.

Or check out the health and wellbeing tips of your favourite celebrities: Katie Piper, Jonny Wilkinson, Pat Cash, Andrew Barton, Gail Porter

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

WHY SMALL TALK SAVES LIVES

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

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

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

Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives

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

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

So what can you do to help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

*Sarah’s name has been changed

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