Tag Archives: Nutrition

How has the first month of this new decade been for you? Helpful tips for moving forwards…

Well friends, tomorrow is the concluding day of the first month of 2020! A brand new year, a brand new month and a brand new decade. How has it been for you? Have you survived and / or thrived through all of the expectations that this ‘newness’ may have presented you with?

What have been your highlights, and your learning points? And are you excited to soon be starting a brand new month?

As you move forwards from here, let me share with you a few things to consider to make for a more fruitful month in February.

1. Be honest with yourself as you look back over the past month.

Oftentimes we feel the pressure from others, ourselves, society and social media messages to be ‘doing great’ at the start of a brand new year. At the start of a new decade, perhaps some of the internal pressures we place upon ourselves to ‘rise and shine’ and ‘live our best lives’ is even greater. Or perhaps such things don’t affect you all that much.

Either way, as we reach the end of the first month of this year, it is important to be honest with yourself. Most people start a new year with new expectations, goals and plans. Take time to think about where you have got to with yours if you had any. Also, be honest with yourself as to how the past month has actually been for you. You can think about things in the following ways:

Circumstances: Overall, were things good or bad this month? Accept what has passed and identify any issues that you need to resolve that have been difficult for you, both practically and emotionally. If things have overall been good, take time to reflect upon these, enjoy the memories of the experiences, be grateful for them and think of steps to climb even higher as you progress through the year.

Mental and emotional health and wellbeing: This is quite a personal one, and you hopefully will best know the questions to ask of yourself. Taking time to assess your mental and emotional wellbeing will help you and others as you move forwards, otherwise you can get stuck in a rut, or even pulled under if you don’t take time to address any issues that you may have that need your attention and care.

Think about how your mental and emotional health has been in January. Are there any triggering factors that made things difficult? Are there any things contributing to your positive mental and emotional health? What can you take forwards from here to build upon as you head into February?

Physical health: Time to think about your well being physically including in terms of activity levels, nutrition and other forms of self care. Are you looking after yourself or are there things that you can be doing better?

Sleep: After the time off during Christmas and the winter seasons, it can come as a bit of a shock to the system to get back into a routine. By now, most people are back ‘in the swing of things’ and sometimes this can mean powering full steam ahead which can be detrimental if you’re not getting the rest and sleep that you need. Check in with yourself and make sure you are not overworking yourself or wasting the precious rejuvenating hours that a good night’s sleep and rest can bring. Don’t worry if you struggle with this, you’re definitely not alone – it’s one of the biggest things that I need to work on!

2. Social connections, priorities and other people.

As well as taking time to think about how well you have been taking care of yourself over this past month (so that you can make improvements as you move forwards through the year), it is also important to consider your wellbeing in terms of a wider perspective. Taking care of ourselves on an individual level is one thing, but we also need to think about how connections with other people affect us whether positively or negatively, and to consider which aspects of these connections need to be nurtured, and which others need to be ‘pruned’ or cut away.

It’s important not to let yourself get swept up in the current of other people’s priorities, demands and activities where they don’t align well with your own. By this I don’t mean shirk your responsibilities and duties. Not by any means! If you have responsibilities to care for other people such as parents, children, dependants and so forth, it would be unethical to simply disregard their needs just because you want something different. No, what I mean is that being part of a society, the people we come in contact with may make requests or demands upon our time and attention and before committing to anything and everything you need to consider the longer term vision of your own life, and year, and not overcommit, especially to things that don’t align with your vision or values. Be open minded, but also be cautious – your personal, ‘free’ time away from work and family is such a precious commodity, you need to use it wisely, so don’t feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to everything. Equally don’t miss out on opportunities that you need to take.

Further to this, you also need to think about how you are spending time and who you are spending time with. Are there people in your life who are draining you? Are there those who inspire you? Are there others with whom you are mutually encouraged? Think about the specifics of your own situations and circumstances and be mindful of how you relate to people and the effect you allow them to have on you, and make more considered choices as you continue through the year.

3. Plans and projects.

You may have started the year with a whole host of great ideas, some of which you might have hoped to get off the ground or make progress with in January. Let’s (once again) be honest with ourselves. How practical has this been? Have you achieved what you enthusiastically set out to, or do you need to revisit your plans, projects, goals and timescales? Don’t be hard on yourself. Small steps all add up. Keep going, but also don’t tie yourself to something you have started that you now realise actually isn’t the right choice for your life. Take time to responsibly consider whether there are things you can let go of and how without negatively affecting other people as far as is possible.

What has worked and what needs improved upon or changed in terms of how you have approached your plans for this month? What lessons have you learned and what will you take forwards into February?

4. The bigger picture – Faith, and the people you love.

Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae or day to day routines of life that you forget to ‘look up’. Don’t forget to take time to appreciate, to be thankful, to consider the Source of all the good things and blessings in your life. Are you seeking Truth? Are you growing as a person? Are you gaining insights spiritually? And are you making time to simply be and spend time with the people you love?

Be blessed as you progress into a brand new month, and don’t be afraid to start afresh. x

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The Dream to be a Healthier You…

If like me you’ve suffered from health struggles over the years, then you know how valuable good health is. Thankfully I have persevered through these challenges and am now in a much better and healthier place, yet I know it’s not something to take for granted. Being healthy physically necessarily affects almost all aspects of our lives from our mental and emotional health to our mood, energy and activity levels, as well as our general outlook on life.

Wherever you are in terms of your health, you can improve your wellbeing. Perhaps you face major health challenges, which require specialist support, and I hope and pray you find all the help that you need. Yet we all on a daily basis need to think about two aspects of our health and wellbeing: nutrition and activity.

Good health isn’t maintained by accident. It takes thought, time and planning. And it starts with a single step, so don’t be discouraged if this feels ‘too much’ for you for where you are now. Make a start and keep going.

What we put into our bodies impacts our quality of life. Isn’t that a sobering thought? Often we get so busy we just do what is convenient and this has often been the case for me. However, yesterday I took a small step, that has set me up for a week of healthy eating, stress free: I meal-prepped! This is something that I used to do more regularly but fell out of the habit of. Although it takes possibly half a day of time, effort and preparation, it takes the stress off you for the rest of the week. You’ll be far less likely to make unhealthy choices because you’ve made healthy choices ahead of time. You’ll have less decisions to make and you’ll have more free time to use for other things because you won’t have to think about preparing a meal each day.

I won’t offer particular advice on what to eat, as that can be very personal. However, I can only recommend eating as many healthy, non-processed, natural foods such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds and plant based food.

Wherever you are, if you dream of a ‘healthier you’ this year, try taking this small step of preparing your meals ahead of time and even if you can’t do this every week to start off with, at least it will improve your intake of healthy food somewhat. Make some small and healthy changes, and keep going with them until they become part and parcel of your routine. I’ve started but need to continue, so let’s keep each other going!

Have a happy, healthy and blessed day and look after your health, it is of more worth than you know. x

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The Spice of Life….to overcome the common cold…

Life as it happens to be has seen me trying to overcome a cough, cold and sore throat over the past few days since new year. It can wipe you out, but a couple of things are helping me to ‘bounce back’, so I thought I’d share these natural ingredients with you.

Firstly, ginger tea. You’ll have probably heard how healing ginger is for the body, and thankfully when I got back to work on Friday I found a packet of ginger tea bags that I had left in my drawer. Perhaps natural ginger straight from the root has more beneficial effects, I’m not sure, but there is no doubt that it is good for a whole host of things from digestion, arthritis, skin, and general health and wellbeing. So I have been sipping on my ginger tea and have been noticing the difference. Also, I did some deep inhalation with hot water, and put a fresh ginger tea bag in the water – I felt the effects of cleansing and soothing almost straight away. I am sure that there are remedies, diffusers, infusers and such like particularly suited for breathing in, however, this was a case of making do with what I had at home while not wanting to leave the house with a cold when outside it was pouring with rain! But the makeshift remedy did certainly give me a bit of a ‘pick me up’ and left me feeling somewhat cleansed from the head cold, although of course it will take time to fully clear.

Another thing I have been consuming is chilli flakes in my food. I’m not a great fan of spicy food, but recently I have been reading of the health benefits of chillies and I do like chilli flakes, so that is an easy way for me to include them in my diet. It may seem counter intuitive but feeling that little bit of ‘heat’ on my sore throat was a welcome relief.

Of course, self-care has also had to include lots of sleep, rest, and taking a few pain-killers along the way. A warm shower, some ‘vapo-rub’ to clear the sinuses and a skin care routine has left me feeling so much better than at the start of the day. Here’s hoping to avoid catching it again from other people when I’m back for a full week of work from tomorrow.

So do you have any tips, tricks or remedies for recovering from a bad cold / flu? I’m sure I and many others would love to hear about them in this cold season.

I hope you all have a great week ahead, and manage to stay happy, healthy and well. x

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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (6).

Eating: During my times of severe depression, I found that I either ‘forgot’ to eat meals, was too tired or low to manage to eat, or on the other side of the scale would comfort eat. It can be really hard to take care of ourselves when we are struggling with our mental and emotional health, and how we treat our bodies inevitably has a huge impact upon our energy levels, our moods, mental health and ability to cope day to day.

Therefore my ‘quick tip’ is that you write down / plan some quick, easy, healthy and nutritious ‘go to’ meals and stock up so that you can prepare something for yourself to ensure that your body and mind is getting enough fuel to help you survive and cope with what you are going through. You can ask someone for help in advising you according to your specific needs – but even if it is something as simple as baked beans on toast, soup and bread, a baked potato with fillings, pasta, rice and veg, nuts, a sandwich, etc. these are all pretty easy and quick to put together – make sure you are eating well and regularly and your mind and body will thank you for it, and it will help you have the resources to power through this rough patch.

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Winter Survival Guide (8) ~ Eat Well.

We all need that reminder, don’t we? Most people have some kind of struggle, even if only a minor one, in their relationship with food, and obviously what we put into our bodies affects our health, wellbeing, state of mind, energy, mood and so forth on so many different levels.

It’s important to fuel our bodies well for the winter, to remember to eat, but also to be aware of the temptations towards over indulging, comfort eating, or eating too much unhealthy foods. By all means enjoy what you eat, but keep things in balance. Don’t neglect to eat enough, for you’ll need the energy, but also don’t over eat, and try to eat healthily and do all things in moderation.

I know for many people this seems too ‘glib’ and it’s not easy because of your deeper struggles. But remember you are important and worth taking care of, which includes in how you treat your body and in what you eat, so stay well, warm, healthy and happy. x

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Anxiety Superheroes! (Top 10).

Anxiety can leave you feeling pretty small. If you battle against anxiety, you know that this ‘nemesis’ can leave you feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, backed up against a wall, cowering in a corner with your hands over your face, wishing it all would just go away. But guess what? You lived to fight another day. And if you stay in training, one day you will find that you have the courage to step away from that corner, lift your head high, tell anxiety who’s boss, and win the battle as you take the next step to accomplish your goal however big or small that goal might be. Don’t get me wrong, anxiety like most opponents doesn’t give up easily…winning one battle doesn’t mean that you won’t face others in the future, but as you stay in training, build resilience and learn how to use your ‘armoury’ then you will become increasingly stronger and better prepared so that it doesn’t continue to overwhelm your every day life in such a debilitating way as it might be doing just now.

You’ll probably realise, and if you’ve read my previous blog posts on related issues then you’ll know, that I speak from years of painful experience in this regard. However, I have learnt a fair bit in this difficult journey, it certainly has been a battle against a persistent foe, but as small as we might be feeling when experiencing anxiety, panic attacks and related conditions, we can become ‘superheroes’ in our own way as we overcome our own battles, and use our increasing skills and strength to help others.

You are not alone

I know how debilitating living with Generalised Anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, etc can be. My heart goes out to you if you are overwhelmed by these things just now. I’d love to share with you some of the things I’ve learned that help me make progress on this journey. It continues to be a daily challenge, however, it does get better the more you understand. Actually, the reason I started writing this was prompted by almost having a ‘meltdown’ this evening because I couldn’t find an address that I needed, but I was able to ‘talk myself out of that corner’ that I felt backed up against.

Quick tips for your training to become a ‘superhero’ in your fight against anxiety.

  1. Arm yourself with knowledge – know your opponent.

You can’t really win this fight if you don’t know what you’re up against. I know the fear of feeling that your head and heart are about to explode, hyperventilating and feeling that you will be sick (or in my case, actually being sick a couple of times), collapsing physically in a heap, feeling dizzy, stressed, and worrying that you might be going crazy because of the relentless and unceasing bombardment of thoughts firing at you like arrows from all sides.

Knowing that these are ‘normal’ symptoms of a condition that many people share was one of the first steps for me for making sense of things and lessening the fear that something far worse was happening to me. So find some recommended resources – there are plenty out there such as MIND in the UK https://www.mind.org.uk/ but there will be plenty of others that can help explain to you what’s going on in your body, brain and nervous system. You’re not going crazy if you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks – you are in fact incredibly brave as each small thing that may seem easy or effortless to other people, is a monumental task for us.

2. Get support from a professional.

I am so blessed and thankful that living in the UK I have free access to health care, including support for mental health conditions such as anxiety. I had to face in myself the ‘stigma’ that I felt in reaching out for help but things had got to such a point that after years of stress my body was overloaded with stress hormones and I physically and mentally couldn’t cope any more. I needed support, and actually reaching out to get that, as scary as I felt it was at the time, and as reluctant as I was, is one of the best things I have done in my recovery.

Work at getting rid of and overcoming any stigmas you might have about getting help for mental health. Just as you wouldn’t feel ashamed about getting help for a broken arm, for diabetes or migraines or other physical conditions, you and I have no reason to feel ashamed if the chemicals in our brains, our hormones, nervous systems and consequently our thoughts are ‘not working properly’. Nor would you sit at home trying to repair your own broken arm, or at least I hope you wouldn’t, so learn from my mistakes of trying to get through things on my own for so many years, and losing out on quality of life and suffering more than necessary, by getting help from someone who knows and understands what is going on. If you live in a country where you have to fund your own health care, try to find out if there are charitable groups with a strong background in mental health that can offer you some support, phone a related helpline and ask if someone can help you understand what’s going on, access online resources, including YouTube videos such as those by licensed therapist Katie Morton – she is lovely and explains things very well. But don’t try to go it alone when you don’t need to. Even ‘Batman’ has backup, so why shouldn’t you? 🙂

3. Friends, family and a support network. 

Related to this, share with trusted friends and family members and try to build up a support network. You might not like the sound of this at first, but you won’t always be what you might feel is ‘the needy one’. You are strong too and can reciprocate help. Having friends and family involved to supplement the support from professionals, rather than feeling like you are overburdening people who might not have the resources to help, can be a big part of your recovery, and your training on your ‘superhero’ journey 🙂 Just knowing that you have someone who is aware that you might need a bit of encouragement when you both are walking into a crowded room, or going out with friends, or that you might need a bit of extra time as ‘leeway’ when leaving the house to meet them because anxiety can strike when you’re not expecting it, can help build and preserve understanding within these relationships. You might find that they also struggle and that you can be sources of mutual support to each other.

4. Breathe, breathe, breathe!

You and I really need to practice this regularly and stay in training. This is one aspect of becoming resilient that we cannot afford to neglect. Breathing properly is essential for life. It is also essential for quality of life. When we panic, we hyperventilate, we breathe short, shallow breaths, sometimes ‘gulping’ in air, or holding our breath, and we can breathe erratically and too frequently. Everything speeds up! We send our bodies and brains into fight / flight / freeze mode, adrenaline and cortisol go up, we might start pacing up and down, looking for a ‘way out’, sweating, crying or facing a melt down. An inevitable response is that we then have to contend with racing thoughts, mostly negative and self-deprecating, or ‘catastrophising’ about the situation and imagining the worst which means our anxiety goes up rather than coming under control.

This is why breathing properly is so essential. I know, I know, ‘it’s easier said than done’, right? That’s true, but it’s also not as hard as you think. You’ve seen in films how someone panicking might be given a paper bag to breathe into, and gradually the pace and intensity of their breathing calms down. You don’t need a paper bag, but you do need to breathe in a more helpful way. Try this – breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, breathing so that your belly rises on the in breath, hold the breath for 4 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of 5. There are different variations on this for the amount of time, but the main thing to remember is breathe in through the nose, hold, and breathe out through your mouth, allowing your tummy to rise and fall with the in and out breaths, and making sure that you exhale for just a bit longer than you inhale. This helps to regulate the oxygen and carbon dioxide in your system, calms the nervous system and get you out of the ‘fight / flight / freeze’ state into being more in control of your body and mind.

We need to keep practicing this though, daily. Start small, for a few seconds at a time if that’s all you feel you can manage, and then just build from there and keep going – it works wonders! At first I felt frustrated when doctors kept on at me about the breathing when I felt I needed something more to help me, but simplicity is really the key sometimes, and just trust me they know what they’re talking about when they prescribe ‘breathing’ properly as the medicine you need! Sometimes, as the saying goes, the best things in life really are free!!! 🙂

5. Medicine? 

This is a very personal journey, so ask for advice, information and guidance from healthcare professionals. Tell them what your concerns and symptoms are and consider whether taking medicine to help with anxiety, might be a helpful option for you, even if just in the short term to take the edge off things.

6. You are what you think?

Be transformed by renewing your mind. Challenge and intercept your negative thoughts, and grow in understanding of the connective cycle between thoughts, feelings, reactions and actions. You might need help with this at first, but it is essential, and as with breathing, it is a daily and lifelong training we need to maintain. Initially it feels impossible to rise up from the onslaught of negative thoughts incessantly bombarding our minds, and they seldom turn up alone. But if you can address and intercept your thoughts then you can gain mastery over your physical, mental and emotional reactions.

Stay in training even on good days, because if out of the blue anxiety strikes you will be better placed and practiced to talk yourself down into a calmer more rational state of body and mind, as I was this evening when facing a potential ‘meltdown’.

For example, if you have to walk into a room full of people, you might be indulging in negative self-talk such as “I’m so awkward, everyone’s looking at me, I can’t do this, I need to get out of here” etc. This leads to feelings of stress, anxiety, self-consciousness, fear, shame, awkwardness, distress, low self esteem, and so forth. You then might react with a racing heart, hypervigilance, wringing your hands, keeping your head down, avoiding eye contact, clenching your fists, while experiencing symptoms of dizziness, nausea, pain, etc. This leads you to take the actions of walking quickly to where you’re going, avoiding eye contact with others, or seeking an exit (don’t worry, I do this often but I’m working on it, and getting better gradually and you can too) or make excuses to leave. Alternatively, you might have a ‘fight’ reaction and snap at someone, become agitated in your movements, or you might ‘freeze’ like a rabbit startled by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, which is often what anxiety can feel like.

See how powerful a thought is! So, instead, focus on your breathing, arm yourself with new, positive and affirming thoughts such as ‘I can do this’, and keep practicing these and see how much better you come to feel over time. Basically, you need to learn to ‘be your own best friend’ in all of your self-talk and thought processes – it takes a lot of hard work, but we all need to keep at it to see the benefits.

7. Five, four, three, two, one.

A simple and helpful ‘grounding’ technique has been so beneficial to me, so please do try it yourself and keep practicing even on good days to train your mind. Observe 5 things you can see, four things you can hear, three that you can touch, two that you can smell and one that you can taste. This really helps get us out of our own heads, grounds ourselves in reality and helps us feel safe.

8. Brain training

You’ll be amazed at how much your brain is capable of when you put in the work to take care of your mental health. Brain training is a good and enjoyable way to start, and this might take the form of puzzles, cross words, card games, mind challenges, riddles, touch typing, learning a new language or skill, etc.

9. Exercise and Nutrition

Just as we need to exercise our brains for health and well being, physical exercise, even starting small at first for 5 minutes a day if you are not used to it can boost our endorphins, our ‘happy hormones’, lift our mood, help our bodies, brains and nervous systems and regulate our emotions, while fuelling ourselves with healthy and nutritious foods and water can boost our mood and also help us feel calmer and more balanced.

10. Sleep – Zzzzzzzz!

Good sleep is something I struggle with and have to keep working on. Often I feel anxious before going to bed and can’t settle, or my sleep might be interrupted. I need to work on this, we all do, but little by little, step by step we can make improvements so that we can reap the healing benefits of sleep and rest. Even if we can’t sleep, we can practice stilling our minds, and disconnecting from the overload of online information and chatter, so that we are in a more restful and rejuvenating state.

So that’s my top 10 for now. No one said it is going to be easy, but you and I deserve a better quality of life than we have with anxiety, and it is possible…we are superheroes afterall! 🙂 x

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Quick & Easy Healthy Vegan Recipe # 1

Firstly, my apologies for not blogging for a while ~ I have been keeping very busy and productive with my ‘Big Spring Clean’, decluttering and house renovation (not to mention a full time job!) ~ I am pleased to say that I have accomplished a lot of my household goals for February and March, which was no easy feat, and I will shortly continue writing my series that I began at the start of this year on home & lifestyle and will update you all with some lovely before & after pictures!

However, now that the cosy season of hibernation has passed, and the task of preparing my home for the year ahead is about 80% accomplished, I suppose it is a natural progression to turn the focus towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

So now that hopefully we are back in the swing of things, and keeping motivated to make the best of the year ahead, here is a simple, healthy, cost effective and very tasty vegan or plant-based recipe for you to enjoy! 🙂 x

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Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of Burgen soya & linseed seeded vegan bread (lightly toasted & cut into cute triangles 😉 ).
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes.
  • Sliced cucumber.
  • Reduced fat red pepper humous.
  • Mexican beans (canned) lightly cooked / stir fried in sunflower cooking spray, with lemon juice, cracked black pepper, herb ‘salt’, and red chilli flakes (add to taste depending on preferred hotness – after finishing making this dish I accidentally spilled *a lot* of flakes into my bowl – I don’t usually like very spicy food, but mixed this in, ate it all, enjoyed it, and actually felt good afterwards, despite a few more glasses of juice than intended 😉 . Remember to check out the health benefits of chilli and add a little to your diet every now and then).
  • Topping of green pitted olives.
  • Drizzled with vegan ‘sour cream’.
  • Pressed apple juice (not from concentrate).

I made this as an experiment using a few of the ingredients I had at home. It was quick to make, very filling, tasty, and surprisingly I noticed that I felt very good afterwards – I’m not sure why, as I had been struggling with my mood that day – perhaps the addition of chilli flakes (even for someone who usually tends to avoid spicy food as I do) perked me up a little, who knows  – but one thing is sure, healthy can be comforting, tasty and a real boost to your sense of wellbeing. xx