Browsing Tag

wellbeing

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

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 VIP tickets to an ‘adult playground’ in London

Adult playground

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

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

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

“Giant swings, slides and see-saws”

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

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

“Play is in our DNA”

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

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

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

“We grow old because we stop playing”

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

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

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

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

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

For more information visit: http://9ninebrand.com

 

 

Competitions, In the news, Wellness