4 Things I Do To Help My Anxiety

I’ve never hidden the fact that I suffer with anxiety, and I think it’s super important to share what I’m going through with friends, family and followers, not only to get the support I need during the low periods, but also to celebrate the little wins that come with the territory. My anxiety rears it’s head in various ways, from middle of the night panics, or tears on Oxford Street when the constant over-stimulation becomes too much, to creating very-realistic-although-has-never-happened scenarios in my head, to sitting alone in my flat assuming that everyone I know is angry at me for some unknown reason.

I will also never keep it a secret that I have sought out counselling for my anxiety. My best friend has always reminded me of this… You break a bone and you go to hospital, get an X-ray, pain killers etc. So when my brain decides to attack itself, or my sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive and I spend days in the adrenaline fuelled ‘fight or flight’ against my own body, seeing a therapist and getting treatment should be an obvious option. It’s a stigma that needs to be addressed and removed from society.

lifestyle, mental health, anxiety,

(Photo credit – Emma Pharaoh)

Through the therapy, I was very lucky to get 10 sessions on the NHS, I’ve been learning some techniques and skills to help, and thought I’d share some of my favourites with you. I cannot stress enough, this is what works for me PERSONALLY, and might not for everyone. I share only because something I mention might strike a chord with you, and if my writing can help just one person make one small change, then I’m happy!

1. Write It Down

If I’m having intrusive thoughts that I can’t switch off, I have found that writing them all out helps to calm my mind. I might start writing in floods of tears, but as I get it all out onto paper, I feel a physical relief. I may never look at what I’ve written ever again, or if I do, it’s with a fresh perspective and the worries I had at the time of writing are either less intense than I remember, or more manageable.

During therapy, I became conscious of writing becoming a bit of a negative outlet, no matter how beneficial it feels at the time, so other way I use writing is as a daily positivity tracker. At the end of every day, good or bad, I write down three positive things that happened in the day. That way, even if it’s been a highly anxious day, I go to sleep with positive thoughts in my mind.

2. Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are very much ‘wellness buzz words’ at the moment, and it’s taken me a while to dive into the wealth of apps that are available for this purpose. The main ones I’ve come across are Calm, Buddhify and Headspace. I began my meditation journey with Headspace which has 10 free introductory sessions. Aside from these, there are lots of single guided meditations for specific purposes such as Sleep, Exam Stress, Sporting Competition and more.

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A more recent discovery is Buddhify, who have kindly gifted me a complimentary subscription. This guided meditation app has so many options for all kinds of practise, from specific emotional states, to meditation for travel and sleep. I’m just getting to grips with it but really enjoying it so far. Head to my instagram to hear more about it.

3. Exercise

As someone who’s been through low periods, I know that sometimes the very last thing you want to do is go to the gym or to an exercise class. I’m not about to tell you that ‘exercise is going to help all your problems, so suck it up and go to the gym’, but if you’re feeling up to it, then exercise can help greatly. I noticed in the time after my knee surgery, that the point at which I felt better in my head was when I was allowed to start gentle exercise again. For me, it makes a huge difference. Exercise increases the production of serotonin, the happy hormone, in the brain, and can lift your mood in an instant. There are explanations for this based on neuroscience of course which I could write an entire post on itself. Take away the science for a moment, with exercise, be it gym, running or yoga, there is an element of distraction playing a part here too, which leads me on to my next point.

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(Photo credit – Elle Linton

4. Find Some Distraction

Taking my mind to a non-anxious state is not easy, but I’ve discovered some things that work well for distracting my mind and letting me get on with every day life. The first is podcasts. Listening to podcast on my daily commute sometimes needs to be a necessity if I’m feeling overwhelmed. The type of podcast varies depending on the extent of my anxiety. Mostly I’m listening to something informative, or knowledge based, but if I’m really needing distraction and cheering up, then my go-to choice is comedy, and more specifically ‘My Dad Wrote A Porno’. If you’ve not heard of it (Mum, if you’re reading this, it’s not as bizarre as it sounds) and fancy a laugh out loud tube journey, then tune into Jamie, Alice and James as they narrate Jamie’s father’s hilarious attempt at erotic literature.

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(Photo credit – Elle Linton

Other means of distraction for me are baking, taking an exercise class, or working. It may sound strange but give me a food diary to analyse, an exercise program to plan, or something similar and I’ll happily delve in and distract my brain. Whats often more of a problem with these distractions is actually starting them. When anxiety is high, the urge to hibernate with Netflix is strong (and actually doing this is OK too, without a doubt). I find that once I get past that initial ‘OK Tash, get off the sofa now’ phase, these distraction methods can turn around my whole day.

Whilst these 4 points are things that help me, remember that everyone is different, and anxiety appears in different ways for each individual. I hope that reading what helps me might give you some pointers for when you’re in a low mood, or maybe they can be suggestions for someone you know. You never know what might hit the nail on the head!

How I Get Fit with Decathlon

There are lots of reasons you might want to improve your fitness. Whether it’s for mental health, family fun, losing weight, getting into shape, feeling great in your body or simply because you love moving, the team at Decathlon are on hand to provide anything you might need for your fitness journey. Finding time for fitness is no mean feat when you’ve got a busy lifestyle with an increasingly long to-do list, so Decathlon and their blogger community, including me, are determined to help their customers incorporate sport and fitness into their every day lives. Since getting injured, I’ve noticed how quickly my strength has seemingly disappeared, and I’m making it a priority to get it back.

Incorporate Fitness Into Your Commute

Before it became clear I needed knee surgery, I was all set to start cycling to work with my beautiful new B’Twin road bike*. Cycling is a fantastic way to increase your cardiovascular health, and avoid the squash of the crowded tube trains. If your commute is too long to cycle, consider riding to a nearby station instead.

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If cycling isn’t your thing, you can still make you daily commute active. It’s an old school recommendation, but getting off the bus or train one stop early, and walking briskly the remaining distance would be a great start to your day.

10 Minutes is Better than None

If you’ve just got 10 minutes to spare at home, then try a quick HIIT workout. High Intensity Interval Training takes short bursts of cardio, interspersed with short rest periods, and will get your heart rate lifted in no time. Try this little circuit below:

  • High knee runs
  • Star jumps
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Squat + side kick
  • Jump lunge changing

As many as you can for 30 seconds, then a 15 second rest. Repeat two or three times for a brilliant, but speedy workout.

Not wanting to miss out on using my new bike, I’ve invested in a turbo trainer so I can use it in the house. Right now, 6 weeks post surgery, I am only using it on a low resistance to get the mobility back in my knee, but I hope to move on to interval training on the bike very soon.

Revisit an Old Favourite

There are so many new studios and class around, particularly in London, and the choice can be overwhelming. Why not go back to your childhood and revisit one of your favourite sports or activities. I loved swimming as a child, and it’s always one of the first things I return to after injury. I’ve been using the app PayAsYouGym to find local pools I can drop into and get some lengths in. I set myself the goal of completing a Swimathon for Cancer Research at the end of April, which is a good incentive to get me training! Decathlon has a wide range of swimwear and pool accessories which I’ve been putting to good use.decathlon, sport, fitness, swimming decathlon, sport, fitness, swimming

Swimwear, towel & pool buoy from Nabaiji – Decathlon. Googles – Speedo.

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Bikini from Tribord – Decathlon. Goggles – Speedo. Pool Buoy – Nabaiji – Decathlon.

Maybe you want to get back to dancing, martial arts, netball, football or whatever you fancy trying but maybe didn’t get the chance when you were younger, the possibilities are endless and you could meet a whole new friendship group! Decathlon have teams of expert staff who can help point you in the right direction if you’re needing guidance.

Check out my lovely Decathlon Blogger Buddies to see how they choose to get fit. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try something new this Spring!!

*I was gifted vouchers from Decathlon towards to cost of this bike, all other products bought myself. No brand other than Decathlon is associated with this post.

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A Quick Kettlebell Circuit

Arrived at the gym at peak time all the resistance machines are taken, no space in the free weights area? Grab yourself a kettlebell, and follow my simple circuit for a quick workout with minimal space or equipment required.

* First things first, make sure you warm up with a 4-5 minute cardiovascular pulse-raiser, and some mobilising stretches for your shoulders, knees and hips.

  • Back Lunge with Overhead Press (bell in same hand as foot that steps back) – 10x each side
  • Side Lunge + Knee Lift (bell in both hands at your chest) – 10x each side
  • Oblique Windmill x10 each side
  • Single Arm Snatch – right side x10, repeat other side x10
  • Kettlebell Swings x10
  • Russian Twists x20 (not pictured)

Repeat the whole circuit two or three times depending on your time (and strength)!!

  • Finish with Turkish Get Ups (if you’re familiar with the technique) or Changing Single Arm Kettlebell Swings.

kettlebell, workout, fitness, natasha wynn pt, personal trainer

 

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Finding Rejuvenation, Focus and Relaxation with Apex Hotels

Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, for days or weeks, hotels should feel like a little home away from home. It’s not always easy though, with unfamiliar surroundings affecting your sleep perhaps, or a lack of your normal amenities resulting in disruption to your everyday routine. Does anyone else find that hotel stays can sometimes feel a whole lot less relaxing than they’re intended to be?! The team at Apex Hotels have teamed up with Registered Dietitian and wellness coach, Celynn Morin, and have been working hard at changing this, ensuring all their visitors spend their time away from home feeling rejuvenated, focused and relaxed. I was lucky enough to experience their Warmer Welcome scheme last month, enjoying a much-needed night away from busy London.

The Hotel

A 15 minute walk from Bath station, a surprisingly speedy 90 minutes from London, you’ll find Apex Hotel City of Bath. Walking into the lobby, you’re greeted not only by friendly reception staff, but also a variety of places to sit and relax before exploring the historic city. Once checked in and settled into your room, you’ll find a plethora of things to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

Nearly every hotel room in the world provides basic tea and coffee making facilities, and a mini-bar of crisps and chocolate, but the first thing I noticed about Apex was the different options available; a Nespresso coffee machine, a variety of teas, and in addition to the usual kit-kat and nuts, healthy snacks such as popcorn and nutritious energy bars.

A quick peek into the bathroom, and I was amazed to find not only a huge bathtub, but a large wet room style shower too! A good range of Elemis products is available for use during your stay, as well as a fluffy robe and slippers should you need them. However, I can’t talk about the bathroom without mentioning the very cool Apex Rubber Duck you can take home!!apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

A hotel in Bath wouldn’t be complete without a little nod to Bath’s most famous historic artefact, and the underground spa at Apex didn’t disappoint. With a spacious pool, various massaging jets, as well as steam and sauna rooms, I could have easily spent my whole visit relaxing in the warm waters!

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

Rejuvenate, Focus and Relax

In every room, you’ll also find the main focus of Apex’s campaign to make hotels more wellness orientated. Designed and created with Celynn to go alongside Apex’s new podcast, inside each little booklet are tips and tricks to make your stay at Apex as beneficial to your wellbeing as possible. Here are some of my favourites from their ideas:

Rejuvenate – Keep On Moving – It’s easy to let your usual healthy ways slide a little when away from home, and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break from your fitness routine, it’s still helpful to keep active on your travels. If you’re travelling for business, the temptation to haul up in the hotel room and work until all hours of the night can be strong. Finding time to have a quick workout in the gym, or going for a walk to explore the city, will stimulate the blood flow, getting more oxygen to the brain, and actually increase your alertness, and you’ll be more productive!

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

Focus – Breathe – With so many distractions, staying focused in a busy hotel can be tricky. When everything a little overwhelming and the parasympathetic nervous system is overstimulated, taking a moment to simply breathe can settle things down, and help you find your focus again. Celynn recommends counting alongside some deep breaths. Inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3 and so forth, up to 10. If needed, repeat! I use this technique to help me quiet my mind if I’m anxious, and I find it works a treat.

Relax – Time for Tea – I find that having a quiet moment with a cuppa tea is one of the best ways to relax, and with a wide selection of teas on offer at Apex, you never know, you might find a new favourite! If it’s sleep you’re after, then chamomile or red bush is going to be your best option. It’s thought that even the ritual of preparing a warm drink helps to wind down after a busy day, preparing the mind and body for rest, so you can wake up rejuvenated!apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

The City of Bath

I’ve lived in the UK my whole life, and this was my first visit to Bath. It’s such a beautiful city and I’ll be sure to return one day. A gentle stroll from the hotel, and you’ll easily find yourself amongst the stunning buildings steeped in history. My favourite was the Royal Crescent and surrounding streets, not only because my favourite childhood musical, Oliver!, was filmed there, but because the sweeping architecture is wonderful.

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @cakevsscales)

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcome

If you only see one thing while in Bath, I’d recommend the Roman Spa of course! For a reasonable £16.50 per adult, you can discover the history of the natural spa as you walk through the museum (audio tours are free), and walk around the ancient baths themselves. If you’re keen to mix the modern with the historic, then just around the corner is the Thermae Bath Spa, a luxury spa facility with both rooftop and underground baths. That’s on my list for next time!

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcomeapex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

So, a big thank you to Apex Hotels for treating me to a couple of days away from London. Not only did myself and the other bloggers have the most relaxing evening, but we also benefited from a morning wellness workshop courtesy of Celynn herself. I returned to London feeling like a new woman, ready to take on the rest of the week. If you’re keen to find a little more wellness in your life, whether you’re travelling or not, check out Apex’s new podcast series, with lots of helpful hints from Celynn.

I received a complimentary 1 night stay at Apex City of Bath in exchange for this post. All views my own. Photo credit belongs to me unless otherwise stated.

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3 Beaches in Portugal That Aren’t The Algarve

Whenever I tell people I’m visiting Portugal, their first thought is usually The Algarve, Portugal’s Mediterranean coast, popular with sun seeking tourists, nightlife and hotel resorts close to the action. Or they think Lisbon; the vibrant capital full of colourful culture, shops, and plenty to see and do. While both those places are beautiful and special in their own rights, I want to share with you my favourite places on Portugal’s Silver Coast, where the land is shaped by the wild Atlantic Ocean.
My love affair with Portugal is a fairly recent one, as my father retired there just over two years ago. Since then I’ve visited many times, in summer, winter and spring. He lives in a small village 15 minutes inland from the beach town of Nazaré, but whenever I visit, regardless of the weather, I make sure I spend a bit of time at each of these beaches below, simply watching the world go by and finding my calm happy place.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beachSo, if you’re looking for a quieter place to spend you precious holiday moments, where the pace is slower, the views are phenomenal, and the whole place has less of a ‘Brits Abroad’ kinda feeling, then here are my recommendations.

Nazaré

Arguably the surfing capital of Europe, if not the world, I’m not joking when I say that 100ft waves have been witnessed and surfed on the infamous Praia Do Norte in Nazaré. Caused by an underwater ridge and high cliffs, whether you’re a surfer or not, these waters will simply blow you away. If you don’t believe me, check out this video and see for yourself!

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beachVisit in January and February for the epic waves and Big Surf competitions. The weather can be unpredictable, so pack layers, but you can also catch Nazaré Carnival, and one of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the area.

Head over in the summer for temperatures that soar above 30 degrees, a refreshing sea breeze and plenty of little shops and bars to explore on Nazaré’s beach front promenade. My favourite is the Farol Gin Bar, named after the infamous Farol de Nazaré (Nazaré Lighthouse) where the best waves can be viewed.

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Looking South to Praia do Nazaré and Nazaré Town

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Looking North to Praia do Norte (on a calm, no surf day)

Sao Martinho do Porto

Head South along the coastal road, through cute villages and aromatic pine forests, and you’ll end up at Sao Martinho do Porto, a small coastal town with a lot of charm. Beautiful, white sand stretches around the bay here, and while it can get busy with locals in the summer, the water is calmer than at Nazaré and perfect for a paddle.

The beach front is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants and there are always activities in summer to occupy children of any age. If you’re an intrepid traveller, on one end of the bay is a large caravan and camping site where all you need to do is cross the road and you’re on the beach, ready for a picturesque sunset.

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The Southern End of the Bay

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Sao Martinho from above.

Foz do Arelho

Finally, a little further South, after stopping at what I think are the most amazing viewpoints in Portugal, you’ll arrive at Foz Do Arelho, and more specifically, Obidos Lagoon. This is my absolute favourite beach in the region, and I will happily sit there in summer or winter.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

Taking in the view en route to Foz.

With just one restaurant on the beach, Cais da Praia, serving anything from snacks to steaks, in the summer I’d recommend taking your own picnic, pitching up an umbrella and settling in for the day. If it’s not too busy, give Cais da Praia a visit too, as the staff are always friendly and the food is great.

In the wilder winter days, you’ll find kite surfers at one end of the lagoon, and I’ve been told, there are also flamingoes in the area. Being a lagoon that, at low tide, you could potentially walk to the other side of, the waters are calm (most of the time) and shallow.

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Obidos Lagoon

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As Dusk

I’d recommend hiring a car to explore Portugal’s Silver Coast. All of the places I mentioned can easily be reached in an hour or less from Lisbon airport. There are so many more beaches and seaside towns to explore in the area whether you’re looking for a surfer’s paradise, a relaxing soak in the sun, or something a little more local and touristic.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

Sunset at Foz

So next time you’re looking for a mini break away and want something a little different, maybe have a look at some of these spots. Who knows, maybe we’ll be there at the same time!

This post is in no way sponsored by anyone! I just wanted to share my Portugal hotspots with you all. All photos my own.

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How to Stay Sane When Injured

As you probably know by now, I am injury prone, and just had surgery to fix an ongoing problem in my knee. Throughout my career as a dancer, and now a fitness professional, I’ve faced various amounts of time off due to injures, and have slowly learnt to accept that when my body says stop, I need to listen to it. Being that my job has always been physical, time off often means a lot of time at home on my own, which can have a psychological effect too. Injuries can be so frustrating, but I’ve found some ways to stay sane when I can’t do the thing I love every day.Health, fitness, injury

Don’t Rush It

Hands up, who’s pushed an injury too far and needed to take more time off than was originally necessary. Yep, me too. As frustrating as it is, doctors and physiotherapists usually know what they’re talking about. If they say rest, then rest. By all means, smash out your rehab exercises, but don’t run before you can walk…literally.

Train What You Can

On the flip side of resting when you’re told to rest, do think about what you can do that won’t affect the injured part. For example, if you’ve broken your ankle, you can still do some light upper body work, maybe some core work too. If it’s a dislocated shoulder, then as long as you can keep your balance, get some lunges or squats in or pop into a static bike. Be cautious though, raising your heart rate can increase swelling in the injured area as blood rushes around the whole body. Keep an eye on it, and stop if you experience any throbbing or excessive swelling in the area.

Find a Non-Active Hobby

Take up something new, or dust off your old guitar, paint brushes, or knitting and practise something that doesn’t require physical exertion. You won’t just exercise your brain, but you’ll also find a means of distraction from pain, discomfort or boredom. If you’re really laid up, then something as simple as mindful colouring might be enough to stop the endless Netflix binge, just for an hour or two. If you can stand and cook, then try a new recipe, or bake a cake. You’ll be proud of your achievement, and who knows, you might discover a new talent.

Be Mindful

I don’t just mean be mindful of your injury, but be mindful of the world around you. If you’re forced to walk slowly, instead of being frustrated by this, take it as an opportunity to see the world around you as you walk. Take it all in, use all your senses and you might find a renewed appreciation for your local park, or even your daily commute. Practise meditation as well. If you’re stuck at home, potentially on your own, it’s going to be a time where anxious or negative thoughts are harder to dispel. Take 15 minutes each day to meditate, use an app if you need to, and you’ll find you can approach your injury and recovery in a more positive way.fitness, health, injury

I’m trying to apply all these things to my current knee injury, and it’s not easy! There are days where I’m grumpy, frustrated and bored, but that’s ok too. Life isn’t always calm, serene and blissful, but if you try and roll with the punches, be kind to yourself and accept what’s happening, you’ll come out the other side calmer and able to see the positives.

Photo credit: Elle Linton.