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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

 

 

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

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

Vegan Cacao and Peanut Butter Energy Balls

These energy balls are so gooey and delicious, I am currently obsessed with them! If you’re looking for an easy on-the-go snack to power you through the day, these are a great option!

They take just ten minutes to make and only need six simple ingredients.

Ingredients

100g pitted dates, about 6 large dates

45g roasted peanuts, about 1/3 cup

40g smooth peanut butter, about 2 heaped tablespoons

8g porridge oats, about 1 1/2 tablespoons

7g cacao powder, about 2 teaspoons

Method

Place the dates in a food processor and pulse until they form a smooth paste.

Next add in the oats, peanut butter, salt and raspberries and pulse again until they are well combined. Finally add in your roasted peanuts and pulse until they reach the consistency you desire – I like to have them a little chunky for a nice crunch.

Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Continue doing this until the mixture has finished.

Place the rolled balls into the fridge for around 1 hour before serving. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Rachel x

 

Please note: This recipe and image was taken from http://www.deliciouslyella.com, no copyright infringement intended just a huge fan of these energy balls. 

Home Is Where The Health Is

Home Is Where The Health Is

We spend so much of our lives in our homes, yet  do we ever really consider their role in supporting our health? Here are a few simple tips for making your home environment healthy as can be.

In the kitchen

Swap plastic for glass

It’s really important to swap all plastics out of the kitchen, Use glass or stainless steel water bottles, glass food containers and steel lunchboxes. Teflon non-stick pans should be swapped for steel or something from Greenpan (greenpan.co.uk) which makes brilliant frying pans. Plastic water bottles may contain bisphenol A which, we all know can be an endocrine (hormone) disruptor.

BPA has been proven to leach into food, enter our bodies and mimic the hormone oestrogen. Because of this some experts believe it may be fueling the rise in hormone-driven cancers. It’s also implicated in obesity, neurological disorders as well as thyroid problems, male infertility and asthma. Currently, the charity Breast Cancer UK is campaigning for a ban on BPA use in food packaging – it’s already banned for use in baby products in all EU countries and a total ban for all food products in France. Avoid ingesting this toxic health hazard by using glass containers to store food, and never heating, microwaving or freezing any food contained in plastic – always spoon food out into glass or porcelain. Some companies have stopped using BPA in tin linings, but the majority still do. If in doubt, google a tinned product before you buy it. Keep clingfilm away from food too. Try sustainable food storage Bee’s Wrap instead (£15, notonthehighstreet.com) and never heat food wrapped in tin foil – aluminium leaches into the food and this heavy metal is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

Swap regular for organic

And of course, what you put in your pans to cook is even more important: Organic food is higher in nutrients and lower in pesticides which may be toxic. If cost is an issue, concentrating on the dirty dozen and clean fifteen (the crops that have the most vs the least pesticide residue) is a very good start.

Swap white for brown

White bread, pasta and flour should be swapped for wholegrain as the nutrients and beneficial fibre is contained in the husk which is removed during the refining process.

In the garden

Swap out the weedkiller

If there’s one change you need to make it’s this: get rid of glyphosate. What’s that you ask? It’s the potent toxic ingredient in weed killers like Roundup and it’s implicated in all kinds of horrible diseases like Parkinson’s and cancer. Recent independent studies showed farm workers exposed to glyphosate or Roundup are at least twice as likely to develop lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). Roll up your sleeves and yank weeds out, or pour boiling water on them to kill them first.

In the bathroom

Swap antibacterial cleaner for natural

There’s a new warning about infertility, and your household cleaner is in the frame. Researchers at the University of California have found that exposure to common products damages human cells. Certain hand wipes, disinfectants and mouthwash contain things called quaternary ammonium compounds which kill germs by dissolving their cell membranes. But the latest findings suggest they do this by damaging the powerhouses of cells, known as the mitochondria, and they do the same to our cells too. This means the sex cells needed to start a family are at risk. Offending products named in the study include Tesco Fresh antiseptic disinfectant, Dettol surface cleaner and antibacterial wipes, Lemsip Max All In One Liquid, plus various Colgate mouth products. Also check all of your products for the ingredient triclosan – linked to cancer and used in Colgate Total, for example.

The solution? Go natural of course! There are hundreds of DIY cleaning product recipes online, or try Dr Bronner Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner (£8.95, dolphinfitness.co.uk), and all-purpose cleaner which you can use for laundry, cleaning surfaces, washing the dishes, mopping the floor, or to clean bathrooms and sinks.

In the living area

Swap man-made for natural

Embrace the principles of biophilic design, the idea of using natural materials to bestow wellbeing benefits upon inhabitants and improve the human connection to nature. It’s backed by science, with several studies proving that homes based on biophilic design has wide-ranging psychological and physical benefits, from improving sleep to reducing stress levels. Using natural materials, like silk or wool, or even water-based finishes, can do a lot to reduce toxins in the home, many artificial materials give off toxins throughout their lifespan, creating poor indoor air quality, and as a result negatively impact on the overall health and wellbeing of the occupants.

Throughout the home

Use eastern wisdom

A healthy home is one where the positive qi energy is flowing calmly and smoothly around each room, without obstruction. Large pieces of furniture that block doorways or routes around the house should be repositioned or removed. Systematically declutter under the bed, stairs and in any junk rooms or cupboards. Even if you can’t see the mess, it will still be stagnating the energy flow!

Boost natural light to stimulate the qi. Regularly clean windows and mirrors, and position mirrors to maximise the light in all rooms. Brighten darker rooms with lighter coloured paints, wallpaper and fabrics. Nature in your home will also uplift the energy. Use houseplants with soft, rounded leaves or fresh flowers. Avoid artificial ones and quickly remove any that are dying or dead. Natural, non-synthetic scents and oils will help stimulate or slow down a room’s energy. Carefully choose energising or calming fragrances to harmonise with the desired function of each space.

Rachel x

5 Minute Meditations To Change Your Life

Boost your happiness, recharge your confidence and get poised for success with these quick and easy meditations.

5-Minute Meditations To Change Your Life

FOR CALMNESS

This meditation for calmness strengthens the heart and lungs, leaving you feeling peaceful and better able to take conscious, heart-centred action.

Close your eyes and sit with a tall spine, shoulders back and chin level. Place the left hand on the chest, parallel to the ground with fingers together pointing to the right. Bring your right hand up to your side with palm facing forward. Bring the pinky and ring finger into the palm and hold down with your thumb, the other two fingers point up. Concentrate on the flow of the breath. Inhale deeply and fully and suspend the breath in for as long as possible. Then exhale smoothly and gradually and suspend out for as long as possible. Keep going for five minutes. To end, inhale and exhale strongly three times and relax. The suspension of breath should feel comfortable, do not strain. Focus on welcoming greater peace and tranquility into your life.

FOR SUCCESS

Staying focused requires attention and concentration. The key to improving this is not just trying harder to attend. The strategy of doing more of the same can sometimes have the opposite effect, leading to exhaustion from the strain. Instead, engage lightly with inattention. Get to know those moments of distraction and lack of focus intimately. Knowing inattention allows you to respond more quickly when you are distracted and bring the focus back to the task. The mindful route to success is one that knows both the attention and inattention and flexes the executive attentional muscle, switching between the two.

1) Choose your focus, set your intention.

2) Know that the mind will wander and distractions will arise.

3) When you see the mind move, that inattention of any sort has arisen, give a cheery wave to the distraction and refocus.

4) Repeat as many times as necessary!

FOR CREATIVITY

Sit somewhere quiet and peaceful and read the below words.

Within you there is a stillness, and in that stillness is the magic of limitless creativity – a sanctuary to which you can retreat and be yourself. Allow yourself to go to this place where there is stillness of mind so the wonder of life’s energy can work through you, allowing you to express yourself through creativity.

Alignment with yourself, others, the earth and the universe is eternally yours. Return to the stillness in your deep, gentle breaths and witness life breathing through you. As you read these words, allow the life force energy to enter your body with a calm acceptance.

Know that you are as one with the sun, the stars and the planet on which you live. Always return to the stillness in your breath. Float in the still waters of your greatness. Feel the ebb and flow of the world around you. Relax into the gentle rhythm of the dips and swells as the current carries you. Remain in the stillness of your deep, gentle breaths.

Take a deep breath in and create a sense of wonder that you once had when you were a child. Use this on your journey through life and enjoy the unfolding. Live now.

FOR CONFIDENCE

Authentic confidence comes when you believe something is worth doing, you know spirit is helping you and you know that spirit will enable you to handle events no matter what the outcome is.

1) Relax, close your eyes and take a couple of easy, deep breaths. Give your inner wisdom and spirit permission to be in charge.

2) Imagine a glowing ball of light out in front of you and let it represent your authentic confidence.

3) See a waterfall of beautiful golden energy washing the symbol and removing other people’s beliefs and opinions.

4) Let your spirit fill the symbol with wisdom, information and energies that will manifest and sustain authentic confidence for you.

5) Bring the symbol into the heart and let the energy spread to every cell of your body, your DNA, your chakras and into your entire energy field.

6) Let the energy fill your present and pour into your future. Now relax.

FOR HAPPINESS

Sitting comfortably on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, allow yourself to receive the support of the earth holding you. Breathing in to all corners of your belly, allow yourself to fully receive the life supporting you with your breath. In the centre of your heart imagine a beautiful flower effortlessly opening, revealing a vibrant light within. This is your inner light, your divine spark, the part of you that is connected to the flow of life.

When this light is turned on, it has magnetic qualities, drawing in everything that is meant for you. Imagine this happening. As you breathe and receive, your light gets brighter and brighter and those creations and experiences are effortlessly being drawn in by your magnificent light. Simply breathe and receive as your inner light effortlessly attracts what your heart most yearns for to you. And with every exhale, let go of what no longer is.

Rachel x

 

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