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UK Stress blogger

11 ways to remain resilient (in the face of chronic illness)

11 ways to stay resilient / Relax Ya Self To Health

It can be hard to stay resilient when you’re contending with a chronic illness, especially one that’s not very well recognised like Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

The symptoms can make everyday living downright exhausting plus you feel like you’re in the middle of a never-ending war. It’s a battle to see a consultant who knows about the condition.

It’s a battle to get a diagnosis. It’s a battle to take the meds or eat healing foods because you react to what seems like every flippin’ ingredient. It’s a battle to meet friends or travel anywhere because fragrances set you off.

Heck, even sitting in the sunshine – a joyful treat for most – is no longer the pleasure it once was because heat is now a damned trigger.

On top of this shizzle, you’re still trying to lead a remotely normal life, so it’s no wonder your mental wellbeing takes a hammering.

Anxiety creeps in. You isolate yourself. You become trapped in a cycle of negative thinking and the next thing you know you struggle to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

I know, because I’ve experienced all these things.

Before my health fell apart you can read the night it all began hereI’d always, fortunately, been pretty resilient.

But I can honestly say this pesky illness has turned me upside down and tested me every which way.

For much of the past 3.5 years, I’ve been wearing a cloak of disbelief, anger, frustration, fear, doubt and anxiety, threaded with immense sadness.

And that’s okay.

Because I was, and in some respects still am, grieving for the old life I so enjoyed.

11 ways to stay resilient / Relax Ya Self To Health

Nonetheless, with the onset of acceptance, my mindset has shifted somewhat.

Instead of getting caught up in fear and worry, which is so easy to do with such a dastardly and unpredictable condition, I’m now focused on what this experience is teaching me, rather than what I’ve lost.

And I now look at every challenge I encounter as an opportunity for personal growth be it mentally, physically or spiritually – an approach has helped me enormously.

So why am I telling you this now?

Well, it’s Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK.

Truth be told, I was in two minds about writing this post. A) because everyone has wildly different chronic illness experiences and B) being ‘vulnerable’ and open on a public platform is, well quite frankly, terrifying.

Nonetheless, if opening up in this way gives a little hope to just one person then it will have been worth it.

So, below I’ve rounded up some of the things that have helped me on my journey so far.  *Please be aware that we’re all different. What works for me may not work for you. If you have depression, please seek medical help.

BE FLEXIBLE IN YOUR THINKING

At Christmas, I started reacting to other peoples’ aftershave and perfume. It had never before been a problem. I noticed it on a commute one day and then when I was freelancing in an office I’d worked in hundreds of times before without issue. Thankfully, my editor moved me to a spare bank of desks and the meds controlled my tongue swelling but I started to worry about the implications for flights and travelling on public transport. I’m now looking to buy an air filtering mask which I can whip out in similar circumstances.

LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING AROUND EVERY CLOUD

A few weeks ago, I was involved in a pretty nasty car accident. Someone ploughed into the side of my vehicle causing it to spin and wrote it off. “You have the worst luck,” a colleague said to me a week later.  I was taken aback. I thought I’d been lucky. Yes, I had bruising, back and neck pain and had lost my car but at least I didn’t have any broken bones and was able to walk away. If the accident had happened two seconds earlier it could have been a very different story.

JOIN A SUPPORTIVE CHRONIC ILLNESS GROUP

Social media is great in the respect it can link you up with people who are in the same predicament as you and things like Facebook groups can provide some much-needed support, especially if you have a rare illness or ‘emerging/new’ condition. However, be mindful too. Some people might be in a worse predicament than you. If you’re prone to anxiety this may cause your thoughts to spiral and spark fears about deteriorating health.

RELEASE WHAT NO LONGER SERVES

Align with people who are on the same path and friends and family who support and understand you. Find coping mechanisms that work for you. If you like positive affirmations (which I do), great. If this isn’t your bag then that’s fine too. We’re all different and responsible for our own happiness so do what works for you.

BUILD AWARENESS AND PAY ATTENTION

I’m forever harping on about how beneficial I’ve found meditation but it really has had a seismic shift on my life. I use apps like Headspace and recently discovered the Muse 2 meditation headband (a review is coming soon). Regular practice has enabled me to tune into my body (which is helpful when I’m trying to pin down triggers), as well as observe and notice how I am responding to situations in other areas of my life. I’ve also become very aware of my internal chatter [see next point]. Whenever I meditate a sense of peace washes over me. Physically, it calms my stress response which plays an enormous part in managing my reactions.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK

While I’m always supportive and encouraging of others, I speak very harshly to myself – something that has been brought to my attention through meditation. Old narratives of not being good or worthy enough or being a failure are slowly being ironed out and I’m finally giving myself a break!

HAVE A MIND DUMP

I write down my thoughts at the start of the day. Everything. I just get it down on paper. Worries, fears, to do lists, dreams, goals, plans. Then I prioritise. The process mentally clears the space for me to get on with my day and I feel a though I’m not holding on to potential stressors in my body.  I’ve now started keeping a dream journal to help understand my ‘unconscious’ mind, too. My dreams have always been incredibly vivid (and on many occasion, I’ve had premonitions but that’s another post).

PACE YOURSELF

I’m Miss Reliable so what really frustrates me about this illness is not being able to commit to things in advance because, a night out for a friend’s birthday, say, will very much depend on how I’m feeling and if I’m in the midst of a flare. I’ve always been notoriously bad at relaxing but this illness has at least taught me how to pace myself and not overschedule on both the work and social front.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

I used to have a super active lifestyle and while I know I’ll never run the London Marathon again, dwelling on what I used to be able to do makes me unhappy. I’ ve now accepted it. I’ve since found yoga and forest walks and am looking forward to discovering new hobbies in the future.

PRACTISE GRATITUDE

Every night I write down ten things I’m most grateful for. It can be anything from having a roof over my head and food on the table to doing a yoga class reaction free or catching up with a friend.

NEVER GIVE UP

Advances in medicine happen every day. New tests are always being developed.  I remain ever hopeful.

If you think this post might help someone you know, please feel free to share. I’d also love to hear about any positive approaches that have worked for you in the comments below.

As always, thank you for reading

x

Relax Ya Self To Health is on Facebook, and Instagram and you can subscribe (for free) to our newsletter here. 

Health, Helen's Health, In the news

Always busy? 5 important signs you need to slow down

Always busy? 5 signs you need to slow down

On a scale of one to ten how busy would you say you are? Up until last week, I reckon I ranked at 20. As peculiar as it sounds, I’ve always been secretly proud of the fact that I am a ‘doer’ with a million and one things on the go.

But while being busy has its advantages in terms of being productive and staying motivated, it can become problematic if we never switch off and – in the worst case scenario – lead to burnout.

“While some pressure can be good, it’s less so if you’ve no time or thinking space to develop, be creative or just feel like you’re on top of things,” Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at private health insurance provider AXA PPP Healthcare explains. “It’s one thing to be firing on all cylinders but quite another to be constantly firefighting – ask yourself which camp you fall into.”

Last year a poll of 2,000 people found that Brits feel stressed for an average of nine days a month. The research, conducted by healthcare tech startup Forth, ranked money as a top concern. Meanwhile, an HSE report published last October found that 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18.

“When we’re stressed our sympathetic nervous system is activated,” Dr Winwood explains.“That’s our fight or flight response which is a normal part of our physiology but now we are micro-dosing ourselves with sympathetic nervous system alerts all day. The alarm clock rings so we’re jolted awake. We put it on snooze and the same thing happens again. We look at the emails that come in overnight and think oh my God I’ve forgotten to do that…another dose of stress. We might be rushing to get the kids ready for school, find ourselves stuck in a traffic jam or the lift might be full when we get to work and we have to wait.”

So how do we counteract this culture of busyness and help calm down our central nervous system, the ‘hard-wiring’ in our body responsible for how we respond to stress?

The first step is to become aware of our habits and actions. If you’re too busy to enjoy life, unsure how to cope with the demands of your busy schedule or can’t remember the last time you were happy, now might be the time to sit up and take note.

“We’re never going to not have stress and our body is built to manage it,” Dr Winwood adds. “Let’s not be fearful of stress but proactive in managing it every single day by putting in the downtime needed to engage our parasympathetic nervous system.”

If you suspect you have too much on your plate or think it might be adversely affecting your health, relationships and mood, check out Dr Winwood’s advice below on the important signs to watch out for.

He also shares some practical advice on how to build relaxation and calm moments into busy schedules.

Too busy? 5 important signs you need to slow down.

SNAPPING AT PEOPLE

It might be in your nature to snap at people. If it isn’t, this could be a sign. It’s really important to think about the changes you have recognised in yourself but also the changes other people might have mentioned they’ve noticed in you. We get a lot of information and feedback from others.

AVOIDING YOUR FRIENDS/FAMILY

You stop making plans to see people, make plans and then cancel or avoid places that you have the opportunity to sometimes unwind in.

PROCRASTINATION

Sometimes we fill our day full of distraction when we’re unable to focus. This is because our brain is avoiding something we’re fearing. It might be fear of failure or the fear of not being able to do something to our perfect levels if we’re perfectionists. It might be fear of losing our status or it could be to do with things that we’re stressed about.

FEELING DESPONDENT AT WORK

You might become very unproductive even though you’re spending longer at your desk. Work may no longer be interesting to you, or perhaps you’re resentful of the amount of work you’ve got. Ask the questions, ‘how have I changed or what’s different for me?’ which might tell you why you’re struggling.

NOTICING CHANGES IN SLEEPING, EATING OR EXERCISE PATTERNS

Perhaps you were once thoughtful about what you put in your mouth but now you don’t really care. You’re out of control and eating lots more junk, fast or sugary food. When you’re stressed you have a whole physiological response to stress which means your hormonal production changes and you start to have inflammation in the body. You might begin to crave fatty or sugary foods, or you might notice that actually you’re avoiding or not making time to go to the gym, not walking anywhere or becoming more sedentary or reclusive.

BREAKING BUSY: 7 STEPS TO HELP YOU SLOW DOWN

I’m a big believer in spending a little bit of time on our mental wellbeing. It’s important to turn off the busyness of the day. Often you can rush around like a maniac, flop into bed and expect to go straight to sleep but it’s not going to happen. I’m not suggesting you sit on the floor and meditate for four hours but you could try the following:

  • Build mindful moments into your day. Have an 11am coffee break with a friend or talk to someone face-to-face, not online. Tell them how you feel. Seeing friends that make you feel good and supported will help bring a bit of relief and a realisation that you’re not alone in your feelings.
  • When you get home take the dog for an extended walk or get off the bus one stop earlier.
  • Box breathing really calms our reactions and the production of stress hormones. Try breathing in for five seconds, hold for five, breathe out for five and hold for five or alternate this so that you’re out-breath is longer than your in-breath, which will engage your parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Try a two-minute mindful shower where you really notice the water and the way it feels.
  • Put your phone away during dinner and talk with your family
  • Have a golden hour before going to bed, a wind-down routine or ‘reverse lie-in’. Dim all the lights in your house. Turn your work emails off. If you can’t, at least download filters to counteract the blue light. Reading or watch something relaxing or listen to music.
  • Know that it’s okay to spend time ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’.Your central nervous system will thank you for it.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read:

Review: The CBT Journal (how to avoid feeling stuck)
The Surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy 
Can mindfulness save your relationship? 
Chilston Park Hotel Wellness Retreat
What really happens in a group meditation class

Wellness

REVIEW: The CBT Journal (how to stop feeling stuck)

The CBT Journal

Are you feeling stuck and procrastinating for England? Have you experienced  a seemingly never-ending run of bad luck and are now simply waiting for the next ‘bad thing’ to happen.  Do you just wish you could feel a little more ‘together’ in your life?

If the answer’s yes to any of the above, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT for short, may help.

The psychotherapy is commonly used to treat anxiety, phobias and depression but it can also assist those struggling with low self-esteem and anyone looking to improve their lives in general. CBT shines a light on the way you naturally think, feel and respond to certain situations by breaking down problems into smaller parts. In so doing unhelpful thinking patterns – like being overly self-critical –  are unearthed enabling you to develop ways to ‘unlearn’ this behaviour and pave a path to a happier and more fulfilled life.

“We often seek out ‘quick fixes’ when looking to improve things for ourselves but the crucial first step is looking inwards and exploring our internal environment,” explains Sarah D Rees, a CBT therapist and former mental health nurse who has worked in the field for more than 20 years.

Sara Rees, The CBT Journal

“If we’re constantly self-critical, we’ll build our internal critic up like a muscle and become very good at it. Self-criticism underpins a lot of psychological distress, illustrating how patterns of thinking can become problematic if left unchecked. The very act of having a thought or doing an action over and over again increases its power. Over time, it becomes automatic; a part of us. We literally become what we think.”

Now Sarah has created The CBT Journal, a self-help tool combining the elements of CBT with journalling, an activity which she claims has been linked to not only lowering depression and anxiety but strengthening immune cells called T-lymphocytes.

Designed to be used over a four-week period, the journal enables people to create awareness around how they think, feel and behave in order to understand their mind. “Through putting pen to paper we can begin to understand thought processes and patterns, making steps to change negative thoughts and feelings in order to cultivate the best version of ourselves,” says Sarah.

Sounds good to me!

I decided to give The CBT Journal a go: here’s how I got on.

REVIEW: THE CBT JOURNAL

I’ve tried to get my head around CBT books in the past and, in all honesty, I’ve given up due to the dry content but this journal was refreshingly free of jargon and written in such a friendly tone it almost felt as though Sarah was in the room guiding me through.

Although it is 43 pages long – I’d suggest settling down with a cuppa or two and allocating time at the weekend when you won’t be interrupted – it was by no means a chore to read. I particularly enjoyed learning about how the brain works – the part on neuroplasticity was fascinating – and the fact the journal was peppered with uplifting inspirational quotes.

The first section guides you through the basic concepts of CBT, the psychology of the mind, and covers aspects such as how to create a habit. There are also pages on thoughts, emotions, behaviour and gratitude and nuggets of helpful advice reminding you to be kind to yourself.

After filling in the daily diary pages (you’ll need to download these  so ensure you have enough paper and ink), I  discovered that I’m hugely self-critical. I knew I could give myself a hard time but was left aghast at how often phrases such as “you’re so stupid”, “you’re such an idiot”, and “you’re just a failure” seemed to tumble out of my mouth.

I quickly realised that when my body was in the middle of a tongue swelling episode  or recovering from a flare-up, I became unbelievably negative to the point that it affected every aspect of my life.  I’d be left feeling low and would chastise myself for being useless and weak.

Yet, on a reaction-free day, I’d be my usual, upbeat and bubbly self!

The next step involved learning how to change or modify some of my thoughts, feelings and behaviours by writing down the negative thought, the evidence for and against it before arriving at a more balanced one.

This exercise was fantastic because, on the whole, it really demonstrated how little evidence there was to support the negative thought!

Furthermore, after ‘”taking the thought to court” possible solutions began appearing before my very eyes and I was able to visualise a way around obstacles that once stood in my path. The upshot was I ended up feeling more in control – almost as though a weight had been lifted.

THE CBT JOURNAL: VERDICT

I often write down my worries when I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious but the CBT element proved to be a real eye-opener. I’ve been on this planet 43 years and can honestly say this is the closest I’ve ever come to getting to know myself and understanding my thinking patterns.  If you’re feeling stuck, lost or stressed out and unable to see the wood for the trees right now this journal might just be the perfect “helping hand” to help you get back on track.

For more information visit Sarah’s website here.

*Relax Ya Self To Health was invited to try out The CBT journal in  exchange for a review. As always, this post is based on my honest opinion and I would never recommend anything I do not believe in. Please note I am not a medical expert. This review is based on my own personal experience. If you have a medical condition, psychological or health concerns always seek medical advice from your doctor or registered healthcare specialist before undergoing any new treatments or techniques. 

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read:

The Surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy 
Chilston Park Hotel Wellness Retreat
What really happens in a group meditation class

 

 

Helen's Health, Wellness

How to meditate like Prince Harry: 5 mindfulness myths busted

Mindfulness myths busted

Mindfulness has long been popular with A-list celebrities. Katy Perry and Jennifer Aniston are said to be fans and this week it was reported that Prince Harry is practising it daily in preparation for parenthood.

But what the heck is it?

Put simply, it’s like a form of brain training where you give yourself the time and space to notice your thoughts and feelings without judgement. In so doing you become more focused on the present moment instead of getting lost in worries about the future or dwelling on events that have happened in the past.

As well as better focus and clarity of thought, meditation has been linked to reduced stress levels and improved mood and sleep patterns. What’s more, many schools are now training teachers in mindfulness techniques and passing on the methods to pupils to help them build resilience and equip them with skills to cope with exam stress and other triggers that may cause anxiety.

Never in a million years did I think that I could learn to meditate – especially as I have the attention span of a gnat – but I stumbled upon it quite by accident when my physical health unexpectedly fell apart . I’d become very fearful of the future and my thoughts were spiralling out of control.

Then I discovered the Headspace meditation app. I started practising in the bath for ten minutes every other night. Those sacred minutes took me to such a glorious, serene place, I started listening to sessions back-to-back because I didn’t want in that feeling to stop!  Since then I’ve tried a group meditation class, a hypnotherapy mind massage and have even been on a meditation retreat!

Of course, I’m still no expert but that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. There’s no competition involved because when you meditate you’re showing up and that’s just fine. There’s no judgement.

“When the mind is very busy we feel out of control, especially when we go into overwhelm and we’re just reacting to things and fighting fires,” Jennie Lichfield, mindfulness teacher and founder Bodhi Training, tells Relax Ya Self To Health.

“By slowing things down, we can be in a better position to see everything that’s going on and give ourselves the opportunity to decide or recognise the attributes in our life that are perhaps not helping us.”

Jenni suggests identifying ‘no extra time’ moments your day. “This way being mindful won’t feel like a chore and will become a habit you’ll create and keep,” she explains. “Try watching the steam rise as the kettle boils, or turning the radio off when you’re driving. This will give you the space to sit with your thoughts and bring awareness to how you are feeling.”

Still unconvinced or think you do not have the time?

Read on…

5 MINDFULNESS MYTHS BUSTED

I DON’T HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE TO MEDITATE

Try plugging in your headphones, downloading a meditation app and zoning in – or rather out – during your commute, or in your lounge, or garden (in the summer). It’s that easy.

MINDFULNESS IS TOO HARD

I used to think this, too, but if I can do it so can you! Head out for a morning walk and notice the sights and sounds around you. The crunch of gravel underfoot, the sound of chirping birds, the clouds of warm breathe lingering in the icy-cold air. Being aware of the present moment is being mindful.

I’LL NEVER EMPTY MY MIND OF THOUGHTS

We all have thoughts…this is natural, so don’t fret. As soon as you notice your mind dilly-dallying bring your awareness back to your breath. Sarupa Shah, a business coach at The Soul Agency suggests candle gazing. Place a *candle on your table at a safe distance. Look at the flame for a few seconds then close your eyes and hold the image for three minutes. If your mind starts to wander simply open your eyes and focus on the candle again. Then try again and eventually build up to ten minutes.
*Ensure the candle is on a heat resistant surface, in a stable holder and away from draughts.

I’M TOO BUSY

This was my excuse until I realised I could meditate in the bath! Another good tip is to check the screen time alert on your mobile device at the end of the day? If like me the number is creeping into the four-hour zone, it’s possibly a sure sign the endless email/social media/text checking or, in many cases, mindless scrolling needs to give.

I’LL NEVER BE ANY GOOD AT IT

Practice makes perfect. When I first started meditating I’d sometimes get frustrated. There’d be days where my mind would not switch off no matter how hard I tried. And then I’d be annoyed with myself for getting annoyed because you’re supposed to release all expectation and I couldn’t even do that. But then I likened it to a bad day on the tennis court…you’re never going to be on top form every day. And that’s okay!

Do you meditate? Or are you tempted to give it a go after reading this article? If you do I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments below. If you know someone who is feeling super stressed right now and could do with ten minutes of peace, please feel free to share or tag them in the post!

In the news, Wellness

6 ways to make your first ski holiday less stressful

Stress free ski holiday

Are you thinking about going on a ski holiday but can’t quite make up your mind? Then read on.

For as long as I can remember my friends have tried to coax me onto the slopes.

“You’ll never catch me on a ski holiday. I’d rather be on the paddleboard in the middle of the ocean,” I used to quip.

But my attitude did an about-turn last February when, as part of the day job, I ended up on the pistes of Patscherkofel in Austria on a travel commission for Top Sante magazine.

Despite my aversion to cold climes – one day the mercury actually dropped to  -20 degrees Celsius thanks to freak weather caused by the Beast from the East – I had an absolute blast on the four-day ‘taster’ ski holiday hosted by Inghams.

The package, as the title suggests, is a clever introduction for those hoping to learn how to ski for the first time, or perhaps for novices wanting to build up their confidence and rediscover the joy of skiing following a fall.

I don’t have a phobia of skiing (just the cold weather), but was attracted by the prospect of lesson-filled mornings (2.5 hour bite-sized chunks to stop information overload), followed by lunch and afternoons spent sightseeing and trying out the other winter activities the resort of Igls (pronounced Eagles) had to offer.

There was just one problem. Having never experienced a cold weather holiday before I had no idea what to pack for skiing plus the airline luggage allowance brought me out in a cold sweat – I always manage to exceed the limit when bikinis and flip-flops make up my staples let alone a pair of heavy snow boots and thick waterproof ski jacket!

What’s more, the thought of spending money on ski attire that might only be worn once held little appeal. The good news is I managed to find ways around the above and more so I thought it might be helpful to round up some of my discoveries below.

TOP TIPS FOR FIRST TIME SKIERS

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON SKI GEAR

Beg and borrow from your friends. One of my mates kindly lent me her Trespass ski jacket, waterproof trousers, thermal vests and leggings (I took three pairs) and a snood. Do invest in some decent ski socks (essential for keeping your feet warm and to prevent friction in your boots), Goggles (to protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays and to stop the snow getting in) or sunglasses, oh, and waterproof footwear. I managed to nab a pair of snow boots in the January sales, again from Trespass, reduced to half price. I chose a design that could be worn in the UK too, to really get my money’s worth. I also used packaging cubes – rather genius inventions for separating your garments. So I had underwear in one, thermals in another, tops in a third –  you get the picture. They were so handy and made everything so easy to find.

HOW TO AVOID EXCESS BAGGAGE FEES

Initially, I tried to pack my ski jacket inside my case but it took up so much room and the snow boots were heavy too. (I know, I’m an idiot).  Any idea that I’d look remotely fashionable on my travels (I never am at the best of times) went out the window when I boarded the plane wearing the full get-up but this freed up much-needed weight and space in the case. Thank goodness I did. It was freezing on disembarkation at Innsbruck Airport!

WALK WITH A BACKPACK OR BUMBAG

As well as certain ingredients, a rise in body temperature can set off my tongue swelling reactions so emergency medication and a bottle of water are always close at hand. I bought a tiny rucksack to store these, together with SPF 30 sunscreen to protect my face from the ultraviolet rays and snacks as I’m so limited in what I can eat. Whether you have allergies or not it’s also good to walk with a little something to eat to help keep your energy levels up. Skiing really does take it out of you, especially if you’re prone to the odd tumble. *Top tip: make sure the rucksack straps fit over your ski jacket.

LAYER UP WHILE SKIING

We had unusually freezing weather but layering up really helped me stay warm.  I wore thermal leggings, a thermal vest, a thermal tee-shirt, a Blaze Wear Heated Base Layer top, a fleece and then my ski jacket and ski trousers. I preferred gloves over mittens as I could grip the poles better. With my MCAS, I have to try and regulate my body temperature so it was good to know I could whip something off if the need arose. I always take a strong antihistamine before any form of exercise as a precautionary measure.

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A•L•P•I•N•E L•I•V•I•N•G

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ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME

Head to the slopes at least an hour before your first lesson. We were in the hands of our trusty instructor Stefan at the Ski and Snowboard Schule Innsbruck in Patscherkofel but before we could get up close and personal with the snow we needed to fill in forms, undergo ski and helmet fittings, and find our lockers. There are plenty of staff on hand to help but it can get busy so allow enough time so that you’re not rushed and feel comfortable, especially if you’re a panicky person like me.

CHOOSE A RESORT THAT HAS EVERYTHING ON YOUR DOORSTEP

The resort of Igls is just 12km drive from Innsbruck Airport which means you’ll be checked into your hotel before you know it. We stayed at the enchanting Sporthotel Igls, which dates back to 1889.  It has a spa area and pool – so don’t forget your cossie or trunks – and a grand roaring fireplace. The great thing about this location is that Innsbruck is just a ten-minute ride on the free J bus, which can be caught outside the hotel. It also takes you to Nordkette.

OTHER THINGS TO DO ON A SKI TRIP TO AUSTRIA

SNOWSHOEING

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the ski slopes try a winter wonderland hike through the forest wearing snowshoes – footwear that resembles giant tennis rackets.  We took a cable car to the summit of Patscherkofel and disembarked through Narnia-esque forest littered with fresh deer and rabbit tracks. Astonishingly, the magic continued to unfold when sparkling glitter appeared to swirl all around us. Our guide explained this was something known as ‘diamond dust’, a natural phenomenon that happens when it’s too cold for ice crystals to form snowflakes.

HEAD TO NORDKETTE

On the day we took the cable car up to Nordkette it was -22 degrees Celsius which made it all the more exciting for me as I’d been to Austria the previous summer and taken the exact ride up to the Seegrube restaurant at the top. Back then the view was of the lush green forest; this time around my breath was taken away by the fairy-tale snowy scene below. At the top, my group tucked into Tyrolean treats – like dumplings – and whipped-cream-topped hot chocolates, while I stuck to my boring but essential low histamine diet. We also ventured inside a ‘real’ igloo, which operates as a nightclub during the winter months.

GIVE CURLING A GO

A notable highlight was trying curling for the first time. The location was an outdoor ice rink, a 15-minute walk up the hill from our hotel; the soundtrack was 90s Eurotrance which brought back many a teenage holiday memory. It was tremendous fun and the sunset views of the mountains were simply stunning. Mindfulness at its best!

Try out the Olympic Bobsleigh Run in Innsbruck, Igls

Um, yes. We found ourselves on the Olympic Bobsleigh run hurtling down the track at 100km/h speeds. Most of us screamed the entire way down and it was over in around 60 seconds. I wish I hadn’t kept my eyes shut the entire time now but you live and learn.  It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted – if you’re an adrenaline-junkie you’ll love it.

Are you novice skier or a seasoned pro? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.  If you enjoyed this piece you might like to read our other travel posts on Barbados, South Africa’s Kruger National Park Austria (in the summer) and what happened when I tried cruising for the first time on the world’s largest cruise ship Symphony of The Seas. 

**Inghams offers a four-night ski holiday from £639, including flights, transfers and half-board accommodation at the Sporthotel Igls. Lift passes, equipment hire and tuition can be pre-booked through Inghams. For further details and departure dates call 01483 791 114 or visit www.inghams.co.uk. For more information on Igls visit www.innsbruck.info/en and for information on the region visit www.tyrol.com.

Travel

Win a Floatworks flotation pod experience worth £50

Flotation Pod experience

I don’t know about you but my plan for 2019 is to build rest and relaxation into my routine.

And by that, I mean schedule it into my diary.

It sounds extreme but I had this moment of clarity after my first ever flotation pod experience.

I rarely give myself permission to do absolutely nothing but that all changed on a recent visit to Floatworks in Vauxhall where I discovered the simple joy of lying in an enclosed pool of very salty water for an hour.

I never believed it would help melt away my worries or that I’d emerge feeling fantastically relaxed and recharged but it happened. And then some – if I could bottle the sense of peace that washed over me, I would!  (Read more about my experience – and the health benefits linked to floating – here)

So, I’m over the moon that Floatworks has teamed up with Relax Ya Self To Health to offer one lucky reader the chance to win an hour-long float worth £50.

Flotation Tank Pod, Floatworks

To enter, simply tell us why you would like to win in the comments section below or over on Facebook. For a second entry do the same on Instagram, give us a follow and also tag two like-minded friends.

The competition runs until 9pm on Tuesday January 15, 2018 and is open to UK residents aged 18+ only. Terms and conditions apply

Good luck in the competition and Happy New Year!

x

PS) Don’t worry if your comments do not instantly appear underneath the blog post. They have to be approved and may be held in a queue.

Floatworks 15% discount code for Relax Ya Self To Health subscribers

If your 2019 resolution is to unwind and relax, why not sign up to our newsletter here so you never miss a post. It’s free, we won’t bombard you with emails – as we’re all about relaxation – plus we’ll give you a discount code for 15% off your first float with Floatworks.

Relax Ya Self To Health reviews alternative treatments and retreats, posts about ways to manage stress and also feature interviews with well-known celebrities and inspiring people that lead a low-stress lifestyle like the lady who is using her MS to save the planet and the couple who chose to swap their four-bedroom house for a canal boat. 

Disclaimer: If you have a medical condition or health issues always seek medical advice from your doctor or registered healthcare specialist before trying new or alternative treatments.

Competitions