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My Mental Health Journey

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When we talk about mental health it is something that is still seen negatively and there is still so much stigma attached. However the health of our minds and the quality of our thoughts is crucial to our overall health and wellness.

I share lots of posts and tips about things that can help with anxiety, stress and have shared honestly about my physical health, but up until now have kept my mental health battles close to my chest.

I have suffered with depression and anxiety on and off since my teenage years, back then there was even more stigma attached and less open conversations about mental health. I have decided to open up and speak frankly in today’s post as it is a large part of my life and has informed so many of my decisions for many years, including leading me to discover yoga and meditation.

Once I had made it out of my angst ridden teenage years, by in large, my mood settled and I threw myself into work and socializing with friends and then when my physical health became an issue my mental health spiraled. I now know that this is because I was grieving for a life and an idea of myself that could no longer be and was worsened by my health removing me from my care free peers, as my time was taken up by frequent hospital trips, A+E admissions and needing long periods of rest.

Once the dust settled my grief turned to anger and a sense of betrayal, my body had betrayed me and left me devastated. I wasn’t able to work in the industry I had been carving out a career for myself in and I had to keep changing jobs as my physical needs changed due to my worsening arthritis.

During all of this I was then diagnosed with PTSD after the memory of a childhood trauma surfaced.

Despite it all I some how remained resilient and went with the flow – even though some days I really wasn’t much fun to be around! I started devoting more time to spiritual practices, going to the Buddhist centre, researching ways I could manage my physical health and avoiding situations and people that would distress me.

I found my groove, until I moved to Brighton and then my demons reared their ugly heads again and with vengeance!

When I first moved down I only knew my now ex -boyfriend and he was at work a lot, leaving me alone. I had no family close by and no friends in the city. I struggled to find work and moving my healthcare was a traumatic experience! My ex was also the first relationship I had been in since being diagnosed with PTSD, and at times I was triggered and my emotions were all over the place which placed an enormous strain on what had been a loving relationship.

Despite what is portrayed on Instagram healing and inner work is an ugly process!

Sadly my relationship fell apart, I am not resentful , my moods were erratic and I was difficult to live with.

Luckily with perseverance, talking therapies and spiritual practices my mental health has been improving. My ex has also been my rock the last few years I have lived in Brighton and things have been on the up.

I do still have bad days and can feel low, but mostly things for now at least have settled. I journal, blog meditate and look inwards to help on my bad days – Netflix binges also help!

Rachel x

 

 

Living Alone? You May Be More Likely To Struggle With Mental Health

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Living alone can be a freeing and positive experience for some. However, a new study in PLOS ONE shows mental health issues are more common among people who live alone.

Researchers used data from 20,500 individuals between ages 16 and 64 living in England who all took the National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys in 1993, 2000, or 2007. They were surveyed about their neurotic symptoms during the previous week to determine their likelihood of having a common mental disorder, such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or social anxiety. Across all three years, they found people who live alone were more likely to have some kind of mental illness, regardless of age or gender.

The main reason? Loneliness. The data showed loneliness explained 84 percent of the connection between living alone and common mental disorders. In the paper, the researchers explain loneliness can often lead to compulsively focusing on one’s own negative thoughts, social anxieties, phobias, physical symptoms like pain or fatigue, or addiction—all of which can lead to developing mental disorders as well.

That being said, living alone itself is not a surefire recipe for loneliness. Being alone does not equal loneliness, and many people who live on their own are, in fact, thriving and love it. Loneliness only arises when we lose connection with others and with ourselves, regardless of our living situation. Though as the study shows, that disconnection can be exasperated when we live by ourselves.

The key to avoiding loneliness is a healthy self-love practice, which ideally should take the form of mindfulness. Indeed, a 2019 study showed practicing mindfulness actually reduces loneliness in individuals and increases their social interactions. Loving yourself means getting fully present in your body with your feelings. It means turning toward them with compassion rather than avoiding them with self-abandoning behavior. It means wanting responsibility for learning what they are telling you about how you are treating yourself and for lovingly managing the painful feelings of life—the loneliness, heartbreak, grief, and helplessness that we all experience at times.

So if you currently live alone, don’t panic that there’s something automatically wrong with your mental health because of it. This study is simply a good reminder that, whether you love living on your own or you’re feeling isolated because of it, always remember to prioritize feeling connected both with yourself and others.

Rachel x 

Is Work Harming Your Health?

Is Your Job Harming Your Health?

Is your office environment taking it’s toll on your health and well being? Here are some common problems and health hacks to help keep you feeling well.

You don’t go out at lunch

Often there is a strong temptation to skip a lunch break to catch up with work, however this can be counter-productive; regular breaks have many advantages both physically and mentally and can also have a positive impact on individual and team performance.

There are many reasons why you should not skip natural breaks and especially lunch time ones. Mental performance drops if we don’t take breaks; decision making becomes slower, attention levels wane and thinking can become more rigid. You’re also more likely to eat unhealthy food when you stay at your desk, which can not only affect health in the long term but also impair your concentration later on in the afternoon.

We also tend to eat faster when at our desks, which means that the stomach doesn’t have enough time to send signals of fullness to the brain, causing us to overeat. We unfortunately consume more calories when we eat quickly.

Your boss is a nightmare

This one isn’t easy to resolve, but it could be time to seriously consider a new job if you’re being unfairly treated. A study from Sweden found that the chronic stress of a bad boss was linked to a raised risk of heart disease. Other research has linked working for a nasty boss to depression, sleep issues, high blood pressure and being overweight.

You don’t wash your hands

And I don’t mean just after visiting the loo! Commonly touched surfaces, such as door handles, printer buttons and the photocopier are all teaming with bacteria. Think about it – how often do you reckon the office cleaner wipes any of these? To avoid catching colds and flu, or even nasty food poisoning bugs, wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible.

You sit near the photocopier

It’s not always a choice you have, but if you can, avoid being close to the photocopier – if the filter isn’t changed regularly, deadly ozone can leak out. Laser printers can also release toner particles which can cause lung problems. Indoor air pollution can be very harmful and is blamed for thousands of deaths across Europe every year. Open windows wherever possible, and introduce some greenery – NASA recommends the following plants for removing air pollutants: English ivy, philodendron, bamboo palm and peace lily.

You don’t get up enough

We’re all aware that sitting is the new smoking, and it’s important to move around as much as you can while at work to avoid increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Here are a few moves to counteract the damage of a desk job:

  • Sit straight on your chair, knees over ankles. Place your right hand on your left knee. Inhale and lengthen your spine, exhale slowly and twist from the root of your spine to the crown of your head and place your left forearm on the top of the back of your chair.
  • Take five breaths on each sides, growing tall as you inhale and twisting your spine, looking over your back shoulder as you exhale.

If you enjoyed that, then move to the next variation of the pose:

  • Place opposite elbow to knee and your hands in prayer in front of your chest. Aim to align shoulder over shoulder by moving the top shoulder towards the back and lifting your top elbow towards the sky. Take five breaths on each side, lengthening the spine as you inhale, twisting your spine and looking over your shoulder as you exhale.

To release tension in your neck and my shoulders you need to stretch!

  • Interlace your fingers and place your hands behind your head. Gently bring your chin to your chest to add a bit more weight by using your hands. Take three deep breaths. Then bring opposite hand to ear and extend your arm on the side. Add a bit of weight with your hand to stretch your neck. Aim for three to five breaths on each side.

YOU DON’T BLINK ENOUGH

At work we’re often concentrating on computer screens meaning we naturally don’t blink as often as we should. This means our tears can evaporate too quickly and cause sore, gritty and dry eyes. We normally should be blinking eight times a minute but when we concentrate, we could be blinking as little as one or two times a minute. The best thing we can do to protect our eyes when on a computer is to take a break!

The 20:20:20 rule is a great way to rest your eyes between emails – every 20 minutes; look away for 20 seconds, at something 20 feet away. This is a good one to do at your desk, but it’s even better if you can get up for a walk over to the window. If your eyes are feeling dry and sore relieve the problem using a good preservative free eye drops to hydrate your eyes.

Rachel x

Why You Should Be Eating Organic

Glynis Barber: Why You Should Be Eating Organic

Back in the 80’s there was a furtive group of people who had a common purpose. Their numbers were small, and people scratched their heads when they heard about their ‘peculiarity’. This group consisted of some leftover ‘hippie types’ and Prince Charles. Their ‘peculiarity’ was that they wanted to eat organic food.

The naysayers in the 1980s sounded very much like the naysayers today – the main argument being that organic food has the same nutritional content as conventionally-grown food. In fact, research at Stanford University in 2012 famously showed this to be true. However, I’ve always been taken aback by this argument. I don’t eat organic food because of what it does contain, but rather because of what it doesn’t contain. It seems blindingly obvious to me that consuming chemicals on a daily basis is going to have an adverse impact on your health. And if by any chance organic foods do contain more nutrients, that’s a bonus.

Low and behold it’s now been found that organic fruit and veg contain higher levels of beneficial phenolic phytonutrients. They also contain more antioxidants which play a critical role in the prevention of diseases. Organic berries, for example, appear to suppress the growth of cancer. Organic foods also have much lower levels of cadmium, a known carcinogen that has a number of negative effects on human health. Eating organically-raised meat also reduce your exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria which in turn may minimise your risk of illness.

Pesticides, on the other hand, are associated with a whole host of medical problems. Research has shown an increase in allergic reactions and high sensitivity to foods and the carcinogenicity of pesticide-covered foods has led to concern and debate for many years.

There’s also another big benefit to organic farming – it improves soil diversity and the communities of life that exist within the soil. These are vital to our health and to the nutritional value of the food grown in the soil – It seems like a no-brainer to me.

My top tips

1. Buy organic versions of the ‘dirty dozen’

Apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, and potatoes.

2. Eat organic eggs

These have been found to be more nutritious than non-organic eggs which are also far more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria like salmonella.

3. Stick to organic meat and dairy

It’s been found that these contain markedly higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids. According to Professor Chris Seal from Newcastle University, diets high in this are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease and improved neurological and immune function.

Rachel x 

Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming Chronically Ill

Finding out you have a chronic illness — one that will, by definition, never go away — changes things profoundly, both for you and those around you.

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Seven years ago, I got sick and I never got better.

What I thought was me being run down from working shifts in a hotel and overdoing it in the gym turned out to be a whole host of autoimmune conditions that had not been picked up. That was until one day I ended up in A&E as a Heart Attack patient.

At the time I was twenty five years old – terrified! But thankfully had a wonderful team of nurses and doctors that saved my life.

Following that hospital admission I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, Asthma, Hypothyroidism (with a Goitre,) and Anemia.

Since that hospital stay, I’ve had Bronchoscopies, biopsies, CT scans, MRI scans, X-rays, DEXA scan, countless blood tests, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, COX-2 inhibitors, steroids, DMARD’s, biologics and many, many other tests, drugs and hospital admissions.

My conditions are still not completely managed and I am currently waiting to start a new class of medication called Jak inhibitors. 

When I was originally diagnosed, I didn’t realise how much my life would change. There’s no conversation about that foggy space between the common cold and terminal illness, where your disease won’t go away but won’t kill you.

None of us know what “chronic illness” means until we’re thrown into being sick forever ourselves.

Chronic illness not only causes painful physical symptoms, but also mental ones that linger even when the disease is well controlled. There is trauma related to certain aspects of illness or treatment, and fear of outcomes like death or disability, For many people, there are financial uncertainties. Plus, there’s anxiety over loss of autonomy and control.

Chronic illness also increases the risk of depression, a 2007 World Health Organization survey  found a higher likelihood of depressive episodes among those with chronic health conditions than without.

It’s hard to be a good employee when you need extended periods off. It’s hard to be a good friend when you cancel plans last minute. It’s hard to be a good partner when you barely have the energy to get out of bed. No matter how much you try to explain, people expect you to get better — and when you don’t, they resent you, consciously or not. Some relationships end entirely, casualties of an unfair, misunderstood and often invisible illness, while some get stronger as you find your true support system.

But most significantly of all, your relationship with yourself changes. You grieve a version of yourself that doesn’t exist anymore, and a future version that looks different than you’d planned.

You might have to give up career goals, hobbies and family plans, learning a “new normal” in their place. In trauma therapy this is called ‘integration,’ the task of integrating a new reality into one’s life and worldview. This emotional work can look a lot like grief therapy for a passing loved one.

Try to be patient as you get to know the new version of yourself.

People are compelled to offer advice about chronically ill bodies because they’re convinced a fix must exist. Here are a few of the things I’ve been told, unsolicited, to try over the years: yoga, meditation, essential oils, acupuncture, CBD oil, prayer, bone broth and [fill in the blank with the latest fad]. These work great in conjunction with medical treatment — my rheumatologist recommends regular massages, for example — but the advice is offered as a cure or a better alternative to whatever I’m already doing. And let’s face it, no amount of broth is going to fix my immune system or repair my joints.

Chronically ill people research their diseases like crazy! Often trying more treatments than they can count. In many cases, great scientific minds can’t crack a cause or cure. So unless someone asks for your advice, don’t offer it – period!

Maybe it’s because I naturally have a thirst for knowledge, but when I was diagnosed, I went straight into research mode . Learning as much as I could helped me feel a sense of control, so I bought books and spent hours reading studies and forums online. I made lists of questions for my doctors, I expected my friends and family to be as gung-ho as I was, but turns out, most of them never even Googled my disease. It was up to me to learn and teach — friends, family, bosses, partners — through conversations, books with passages marked, emails highlighting new research, and social media posts.

Chronic illness is really lonely.

Loved ones try their best, but your fellow “spoonies,” as they’re affectionately called, intimately know the challenges of forever sickness and thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to connect with them in support groups and chronic illness communities.

It took me five years to join an online community. I pridefully thought I could go it alone, but that was like being lost at sea and ignoring a rescue ship. Now, I tell all newly diagnosed folks to join a support group right away — it doesn’t just help you feel less alone, but it connects you with resources and provides a place to ask questions and share stories without shame.

Living with chronic illness makes every day a little harder, but it also makes every day a little sweeter. Though I don’t know what my future holds, I’m overwhelmed with a gratitude I didn’t have before my diagnosis — some days I marvel at just being alive!

The challenge is steep, but the mission is to grow into this challenge, create meaning, and be the best person you can be.

Rachel x

How To Detox For Better Brain Health

Detoxification is an essential cellular function. When the body detoxifies, it packages debris in the form of foods and toxins so that it can be easily excreted from the body. We eliminate this debris through various mechanisms such as our gastrointestinal tract, genitourinary tract, respiratory tract, and our sweat glands, and it requires the function of multiple organs such as the liver, lungs, gallbladder, skin, kidneys, and yes, the brain!

Why organs like your brain suffer most from toxins.

Our body’s detox pathways also require a variety of nutrients that act as cofactors for the enzymes involved in this multi step process. These include activation, oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, conjugation, methylation, and recirculation. Because it’s so complex, detox requires significant amounts of the body’s energy supply.

When our body is assaulted by the exposure to pro-inflammatory foods, alcohol, tobacco, medications, and foreign substances such as drugs, heavy metals, chemicals, persistent pollutants, and microorganisms, our natural detoxification systems can be overwhelmed and unhealthy metabolites can accumulate and ultimately trigger mitochondrial dysfunction, metabolic deficiencies, immunotoxicity, and resultant neuroinflammation (also known as inflammation in the brain). As a result, the body’s energy is diverted and metabolically active organs such as the brain, the heart, and the muscles start to suffer. It is then we start to feel unwell and experience not only chronic fatigue and weakness but slow processing and cognitive difficulties.

How to detox for better brain health.

So what can you do to start detoxing your brain from the effects of contaminants, toxins, and inflammation?

Here are some suggestions:

1.   Eat a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables.

Colors represent different vitamins and nutrients, so include ginger, turmeric, garlic, beets, broccoli seed sprouts, and herbs such as thyme and rosemary in your diet each day. Consume dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables regularly. Other important food groups include nuts, seeds, legumes, and fatty fruits such as avocados and bananas – .

2.   Include complex forms of carbohydrates.

While it’s best to stay away from simple and processed carbs, complex carbohydrates are an important energy source for the brain, as the glucose molecule—broken down from whole grain and starch sources by the intricate mechanisms with our body’s catabolic pathways—is the preferred energy source of the brain and its cells.

3.   Incorporate interval eating patterns into your meal plans.

Allowing the body to take a break from digestive duties will help divert energy from the gastrointestinal tract to the organs recruited for detoxification pathways. This can take the form of a simple intermittent fasting plan.

4.   Try to minimize exposure to toxins and contaminants as much as possible.

Eat organic when you can to minimize exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and farm chemical residues. Use eco-friendly cosmetics, personal care products, and cleaning agents.

5. Target your supplementation for additional detox capability.

You can do this with supplements like milk thistle for liver support, Coleus forskhii for respiratory support, ubiquinol and NAD+ for mitochondrial support, L-glutamine for gastrointestinal support, and N-acetylcysteine for additional antioxidant support since detoxification results in reactive oxygen species, which are damaging to our cells. For increased brain support, consider the use of plants such as Lion’s mane, Boswellia, and Macuna pruriens. For more information on how exactly to use these supplements and in what dosage, speak to an integrative physician, naturopathic doctor, or other supplement-savvy health care practitioner.

6.   Daily movement and exercise.

Run, walk, hike, go to a yoga class, dance, and cycle. However you can manage, sweat each and every day and it will support your detox pathways and your brain.

7.   Deep breathing exercises with episodic rapid breathing.

Did you know that breathing exhales waste by-products? It’s true. Rapid breathing (like in this video) also results in alkaline urine, which can help you better excrete other toxin metabolites as well.

8.   Maintain good hydration.

Fill up that reusable water bottle at least a few times a day. Proper fluid balance keeps blood and lymph moving through the kidneys and leads to better elimination of toxins through urination.

9. Aim for 20 minutes in nature each day.

Research is clear that immersion in nature improves mental clarity, decreases stress and anxiety, and has beneficial physiological effects such as lowered heart rate and respiratory rate and decreased blood pressure. These improved physiological parameters can only help the body during detoxification. So, go for a hike, walk through the park, or sit in your garden for a few minutes each day.

10. Sleep at least seven to eight hours each night.

During restorative sleep, the brain is able to repair cellular damage from toxins and other exposures. Make sure you’re giving your brain a chance to slow down and repair itself every night by getting enough sleep.

 

Rachel x

Seeing Thngs

As some of you know I am a brand ambassador for Seeing Thngs which is a movement designed to represent the importance of balance in our daily lives. Embracing all athletes, yogis, mothers, CEOs, and beyond to help encourage the world to live with a positive perspective, while having a solid grounded foundation. Incorporating an active lifestyle is the secret ingredient to the seeing thngs movement.

Their Symbol

The triangle represents harmony and stability, linking our past, present and future with a grounded foundation. The eye represents the window into our souls, reminding us to always follow our hearts with a clear vision. When we trust this symbolic accordance, the universe guides us to exactly where we are meant to be.

Their Mission 

Is to empower women worldwide. It is so important that, as women, we lift each other up and encourage one another to live our best lives. They embrace the female body with a positive mindset, remembering how essential it is to love everything about oneself. Believing that what you give, you get back, so for every item purchased they donate to women in need.

CHARITIES

Every time they receive a purchase they either donate clothing or a percentage of sales to charities that embrace and empower women. Aiming to donate 10% of profits. They choose a different charity each month that encourages, and uplifts women.

They are always looking for new charities. Send any recommendations to info@seeingthngs.com
       
Make sure to use my discount code racheld10 at the checkout to receive 10% off all purchases.
Rachel x 
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