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.

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(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!

4 of my Favourite Super Smoothies

I love a good smoothie, and will happily have one for breakfast, as a post-workout refuel, or as a liquid afternoon snack. Smoothies can help you increase your daily intake of fruit or vegetables, allow for a light meal on the go (note: light meal, I don’t use smoothies as a meal replacement apart from breakfast) and also help with hydration levels. Having recently spent an evening with John Lewis Retail, talking all things blender related, I thought I’d share some smoothie facts, and some my favourite recipes, with you all.

smoothies, health, nutrition

Did you know that the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables has increased? It is now advised that adults should consume 2 portions of fruit, and a whopping 7 portions of vegetables per day. If this sounds like a little too much for your dinner plate, then smoothies are the way to go. Increasing the amount of vegetables as opposed to fruits helps to control sugar intake and the effects of acidic fruit on the teeth and stomach acid / gut health. The liquid element of a smoothie also helps with hydration especially if, like me, you’re not so good with drinking plain water. Just a 2% decrease in hydration level can affect performance in work or exercise, and stimulants such as tea or coffee only exacerbate the dehydration in the body.

smoothies, health, nutrition

When Should I Have My Smoothie?

There are many schools of thought as to when the optimum time should be to pre-fuel, or re-fuel before or after exercise. I am going by what I learnt while studying for my nutrition diploma, but there are other feeding methods out there!

Pre-workout: at least an hour before exercise, with essential fatty acids for energy.

Simple Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 2 tablespoons oats
  • Oat / almond / coconut / dairy milk to desired consistency

 

Green Elixir

  • 1 handful kale
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 cup pineapple, cubed
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Splash honey & superfood powder (optional)
  • Coconut water to desired consistency

 

smoothies, health nutrition

Post-workout: within 30 minutes of a workout, with a form of carbohydrate to replenish the glycogen storage without causing a spike in insulin levels. Depending on the type of exercise, protein can be added however, protein should only be used if the workout was high intensity or strength training!

Banana Boost

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder
  • Oat / almond / coconut / dairy milk to desired consistency

 

Berry Blast

  • 1 banana
  • 1 handful raspberries
  • 1 handful blackberries
  • 1 mango
  • 1 large handful kale
  • Coconut water to desired consistency
  • (1 scoop vanilla protein powder if required)

 

smoothies, health, nutrition

These are my personal favourites, but the choices are endless. A good rule of thumb when experimenting with smoothies is 1/3 fruit, 2/3 vegetables, but it really depends on your personal preference. If I fancy something sweet, I’ll crank up the berries and save the veggies for another day. As long as you’re balanced in your approach (as with life in general), a little extra sugar occasionally won’t be the end of the world.

There are plenty of pre-made smoothie kits available now, my favourites are from Pack’d as they include a little sachet of super food powered to boost your smoothie. New smoothie company, Pure Smoothie Box, can even send you a box of ingredients straight to your door, all portioned out with recipes ready for your week ahead.

smoothies, health, nutrition

Pure Smoothie Box

So why not experiment with some smoothies next time you have the 3pm energy slump….or tell me your current favourite smoothie, and I’ll give it a try myself!

Top Tips for Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are particular buzz words in the wellness industry at the moment. In fact, it’s not just limited to health and yoga folk, but it’s seeping into the corporate world too, with companies finding that employees are more productive when they have a calmer, more mindful approach to work.

Mindfulness is not something that I’ve really delved into a lot, finding it hard to switch off the constant chatter in my mind. I’ve found that yoga has helped greatly, but taking a calm mental state from an hour on the mat, to everyday life is no mean feat! There are various apps available now to aid meditation, giving hints and tips and also guided meditations, though I’ve never tried one, I know people who have found success using them.

meditation, mindfulness

When meditation cushion company Basaho asked if I’d like to try one of their meditation cushions, I thought it a great way to encourage me to try a little more mindfulness. That, coupled with some very peaceful meditative moments on my recent yoga retreat, have given me a bit more guidance into finding a meditation practice that works.

Here are a few of my top tips for starting a meditation practice (bear in mind, I am far from an expert):

1. Get comfy. Whether you intend to spend 5 minutes or 25 minutes in stillness, having to fidget because your knees or hips hurt is only going to break your concentration. Few people have the hip or knee mobility to sit in ‘lotus’ position to meditate, so forget about that before you even begin! Lifting your seat with a meditation cushion, like mine from Basaho, or even a pile of books, allows your knees to relax at an angle lower than your hips, much more comfortable for your joints. The wedge shape I use not only allows my hips and knees to stay in a safe alignment, but also prevents me from slouching and curving my spine.

meditation, mindfulness

Poor posture with no support.

meditation, mindfulness

Good posture with a Basaho cushion.

2. Don’t try to empty your mind. The typical view of a meditation is that of completely emptying your mind of all thoughts. Near impossible I say! Instead find something to focus on, such as sound. My favourite way to meditate is to music, either gentle piano music – Ludvico Einaudi is my favourite – or electronic sound such as Marconi Union, supposedly the most relaxing music ever. Every time my mind wanders I bring it back to the music, the beat or even an individual instrument.

Another way to incorporate sound into your meditation is to sit in silence, but observe each sound that you hear. It could be a dog barking, a car passing your window or the hum of electronics. Again, it’s simply about focusing on something other than the internal chatter of your mind.

3. Remember, your mind WILL wander. Thinking that you’ve failed at meditation every time your mind has a little wander is a sure-fire way to end up more stressed than when you began. Accept the thoughts that enter your mind, acknowledge them but let them pass. My mind constantly creates stories and scenarios that can be really hard to control, so that is always the focus of my mediations, to allow the thoughts in, but instead of dwelling on them, allowing them to pass through as I refocus on my music.

Another favourite way to help my mind to calm down is to watch the ocean, a lake or river. I could stare out to sea forever, and have been known in the past to get in a car during particularly stressful times, and drive out of London until I find a coast.

meditation, mindfulness

4. Meditation or mindfulness doesn’t mean sitting doing nothing. There are so many ways to be mindful now, the newest craze being adult colouring. Here, the focus point is the precision of colouring in the lines resulting in not only taking your mind away from that internal chatter, but also encouraging creativity. You can find adult colouring books everywhere now, from forest scenes to mandalas and even tattoo designs.

meditation, mindfulness

Thank you Basaho for encouraging me to continue to find a meditation practice that works for me. With a wide range of cushions and designs, you can find one that suits the way you sit, your flexibility and your living room colour scheme! The best news is…the cat loves it too!

meditation, mindfulness

Do you have your own approach to mindfulness and meditation?

Basaho kindly gifted me a meditation cushion in return for this post. All words my own, please see Disclaimer for more information.

My Supplement Selection Box

The topic of supplements, and whether supplementation is necessary, provokes lots of discussion in the health industry. I’ve studied vitamins, minerals and subsequent supplements not only in my recent Advanced Diploma in Nutrition,  but also through my own research. I’m never going to say that the following post is gospel, but this is what works for me body and its particulars.

supplements, vitamins, health

Healthy Bones and Joints

So, in addition to having joint hypermobility syndrome, I also have a vitamin D deficiency and bone demineralisation. More on that later, but along with the supplements that I’ve been advised to take by my GP, this post is going to cover the extras I’ve chosen to take, and how I find them to be beneficial. Having a joint condition whereby my joints are too supple, the common Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements ‘healthy, supple joints’ seen in stores are no good for me!

Vitamin D

Now, it’s known that many people in the Northern Hemisphere are lacking in vitamin D (love the British summer) due to lack of exposure to the sun resulting in suboptimal levels in the blood. I was given a big vitamin boost from my doctor last year following blood tests, and advised to continue supplementing my vitamin D in the future. Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium, essential for strong bones and teeth, and there is also evidence to suggest it helps to protect the body from certain cancers and multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D also helps to regular the body’s insulin levels, helping in the management of type 1 diabetes^.

It’s thought that 800 IU of vitamin D per day reduces the risk of fractures by 20% in the elderly and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Bearing in mind that osteoporosis and arthritis runs in my family, and I have the addition of early bone demineralisation, it’s super important for me to supplement my vitamin D. It’s a fat soluble vitamin which should be taken with a fat containing meal.

Poliquin D3 Excellence – tiny soft gels that are easy to swallow. At 5,000 IU per tablet, it’s a high dosage that I only take 3 times a week.

WHC UnoCardio & Vitamin D – at 1,000 IU this is a supplement that can be taken daily and remain under the upper level recommended, which is 4,000 IU per day^. This also combines the vitamin D with fish oil and Omega-3 fatty acid for a more varied supplement.

supplements, vitamins, health

Calcium

I can’t really talk about vitamin D without talking about calcium too! Although this is easier to find in food, and I am not deficient, I do take a small supplements, especially as I have had a fair few bone fractures in my time! Typically found in dairy produce, it’s also present in broccoli, spinach and nuts as well. Although calcium is usually associated with bone health, it also plays a role in muscle contraction, including the heart muscle, and blood clotting.

Poliquin Calcium D-Glucarate – 500mg of calcium per tablet is 50% of the recommended daily intake, as it’s so prevalent in food, supplementing any further isn’t needed unless the diet is low in dairy (vegan for example) or the body is deficient in Vitamin D or phosphorus.

ZipVit Calcium & Magnesium – 400mg per tablet and combined with my favourite supplement (up next), these come sin a handy zip lock bag that easy for travelling.

supplements, vitamins, health

Magnesium

I swear by magnesium! I’ve recommended it to so many people, all of who have reported back having seen the benefits themselves. It’s also a favourite of barrecore founder Niki Rein! Stored primarily in the bones, muscles and soft tissue, magnesium plays an important role in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Although commonly broken down in the process is wheat refinement, it can be found in wholegrain, oats, nuts and seeds.

Magnesium, amongst other things, is essential for muscle relaxation, neuromuscular transmission and also plays a role in the synthesis of fatty acids and proteins in food. A deficiency in magnesium can result in muscular cramping, insulin resistance, coronary heart disease and other ailments. I take it to help combat the muscle fatigue and nighttime cramps I get following intense weeks of teaching and training. The recommended daily allowance for adult women is between 310-320mg per day.

supplements, vitamins, health

Simply Supplements – 100mg per tablet with 2-4 tablet taken daily, this gives me the chance to vary my dosage depending on how heavy my week has been. This is my current choice as I do notice a difference in my aches and pains.

Better You Magnesium Oil – this super concentrated spray contains a 31% concentration of magnesium, and direct contact with the skin allows for fast absorption into the cells. Using this as a nighttime massage is great for giving tired legs a bit of a boost.

Realmag Legs – with the addition of Vitamins E and B6, this daily capsule gives not only the benefits of Dead Sea magnesium, but also the metabolism boost from Vitamin B6, and cell protection from Vitamin E.

ZipVit Calcium & Magnesium – with more than 50% of your daily recommendation in one tablet, these zip locked supplements are a good boost while travelling or simply to throw in your gym bag.

Omega 3 Fish Oil

A hero supplement in my eyes, Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential part of human health. They cannot be synthesised by the body and must be found in food or supplementation. Sourced from fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut as well as in algae, krill and some nut oils, studies^ have shown that Omega 3 fatty acids contribute to brain heath and can help with chronic issues such as osteoporosis and arthritis. These essential fatty acids also work to reduce inflammation in the joints. A lack of Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet can result in fatigue, poor memory and skin or heart problems.

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, I take Omega 3 supplements on a regular basis. The impact my hypermobility has on my joints and bones means that i do suffer from inflammation, it’s important I keep that at bay as much as I can.

supplements, vitamins, health

WHC UnoCardio & Vitamin D –  a high concentrate of 1,266mg deep sea fish oil with 1,200mg Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, these soft shell capsules are from sustainable fish sources. Compared to other fish oils, UnoCardio contains fish gelatin, instead of bovine gelatin, and a higher percentage of  fatty acids.

ZipVit Omega 3 – containing 1,000mg fish oil and a small proportion of Vitamin E, these are also in a handy zip locked bag to keep the fresh and to save space when travelling.

Rosehip

This last supplement I’ve yet to try, and thought I’d share my research with you before I do. There haven’t been a lot of studies with enough clinical trials of rosehip extract to fully assess its benefits, but Arthritis Research UK believe it can ease inflammation, joint pain and join damage. Rosehip extract contains polyphenols and anthocyanins, and it also rich in vitamin C. These two combined can override harmful molecules (free radicals) which can cause tissue damage or disease. Other studies have found that rosehip can reduce the production of specific enzymes that break down cartilage. As someone who’s has a fair amount of cartilage damage in my knees, hips and spine, I’m really intrigued to try rosehip!

supplements, vitamins, health

Simply Supplements Rosehip Extract – Arthritis Research Uk recommends 5g per day and at 2,000mg per capsule, just 2-3 of these is all you need.

As a complementary supplement, it’s always worth remembering that there is not a lot of research or clinical trials for rosehip and what works for some might not work for others. If unsure, speak to a specialist.

Remember, these are the supplements I take for my joint conditions, if you’re living with a chronic condition, it’s always wise to consult a qualified nutritionist or doctor before supplementation. Together Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium and Omega 3 Fish Oil reduced my pain, inflammation and discomfort. It’s by no means a quick fix, and nothing can replace a good diet, but a little helping hand is useful for me!

Thanks to Simply Supplements, Entice Communications, ZipVit and Realmag Legs for the samples. Poliquin and Better You purchased myself. All words my own, research sources below.

^ Sources:

PACK’D Into A Week

Smoothies are one of my favourite things for a quick refuel. I have them for breakfast, post-workout and for a liquid afternoon snack. Although I’m getting a taste for protein smoothies packed with oats and peanut butter, my favourites are still packed with fruit and vegetables. The one annoying thing about making smoothies though, is the time it takes to prepare each ingredient. More often than not, I freeze my fruit and, if I remember, pop it all in the blender to defrost overnight, and blend before work in the morning.

packd, frozen smoothie, health

Photo Credit: Will Patrick

That’s where PACK’D comes in! Ready chopped and portioned, frozen smoothie kits, with additional superfood sachets, there couldn’t be an easier way to get your 5-a-day. I recently spent a week in frozen smoothie heaven, fitting each smoothie into my day. PACK’D Frozen Smoothie Kits come in three different varieties, Defence, Detox and Energy, each packed (see what I did there?) with fruit and veg ready to blend. Each kit has two bags of frozen ingredients, and two superfood sachets. Easy as that.

pack'd, frozen smoothie, health

Here’s how I spent my week with PACK’D.

Sunday: I started my PACK’D week with a Detox smoothie, perfect for just a little hangover! Full of delicious greens including spinach, kale and pineapple, I blended with apple juice for extra sweetness. Finally I popped in the powder sachet giving final smoothie a boost with spirulina, wheatgrass, chlorella and barelygrass for extra nutrient goodness.

packd, frozen smoothie, health

Monday: Having had a relaxed start to the day, I gave myself a burst of energy in the afternoon with the PACK’D Energy kit. Blended with coconut water, and undoubtedly my favourite, the berries, banana and spinach (plus added flax, maca, cacao and guarana) was a great pick-me-up before an evening ballet class.

packd, frozen smoothie, health

Tuesday: Back to the green today for a post hot yoga Detox smoothie!

Wednesday: An early morning, and a chilly day, getting caught in the rain called for an immune system boost with the PACK’D Defence kit. Full of goodness, this smoothie contains papaya, mango and ginger as well as flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plus baobab.

packd, frozen smoothie, health

Thursday: My longest working day, and a very early morning, it’s a quick Energy smoothie for breakfast.

Friday: The final day of a long week, my last smoothie is a Defence boost to set me up for the weekend ahead.

I’m so pleased to have discovered PACK’D Frozen Smoothies. Having everything portioned out and ready to blend such a good idea, and super convenient.

packd, frozen smoothies, health

Photo Credit: Will Patrick

Thanks to PACK’D, I am hosting a giveaway of a box of PACK’D goodness! All you have to do is enter below and keep your fingers crossed!

EDIT: due to an error (my stupidity) the previous rafflecopter competition was deleted. I happened to check the entries before this occured and ALL ENTRIES will be added manually. No need to re-enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was gifted these smoothie kits by the lovely people at PACK’D, all opinions my own.

My Winter Wish List

You’ve seen my Wellness Gift Guide, now it’s time for me to share what’s on my very own wish list this festive season. I’m lucky enough to have already received a Lululemon voucher from my wonderful boss, so taking that into account, here’s what I’m hoping Santa will bring me this year…I’ve been a good girl!

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1. Lululemon Passage To Prana Jumper
How cosy is this? I can imagine wearing this on Christmas Day visiting relatives or on Boxing Day tucking into leftovers. I love the wine colour (it even matches the bag above) and it’s firmly on my wish list. At £138 it’s most certainly a big treat.

2. Lululemon Follow Your Bliss Bag
I am constantly searching for the perfect bag, and short of designing one myself, I just keep buying them until I cover every possible scenario! I’m particularly after something that includes a yoga mat carrier, and can carry my laptop safely for those days where I need my entire life with me. This nice, roomy bag has a padded laptop pocket and loops for my yoga mat. Plus it’s smart enough for the days where I’m not head-to-toe in lycra. At £98, I’ve got my eye on it for when I spend my gift card!

3. Bose Soundlink Colour
A bluetooth speaker is really handy when it comes to teaching my non-studio clients. Going into a client’s house, I need to provide some music for the session, but not be carrying around something that weighs a tonne. This cute speaker comes in a range of colours and is £119.

4. Cuisinart Waffle Maker
As if my kitchen doesn’t have enough gadgets in it! I do love a waffle though and I think this Cuisinart one, at £54, would be perfect for making Sunday morning treats. Made with buckwheat and topped with fruit of course….not a jar of nutella in sight…hmm?

5. The Happiness Planner
Each year I try to keep a journal for gratitude or happiness but I never succeed. I lose my focus, forget to allow the extra 15 minutes at the start of my day and it ends up collecting dust in my room. This year is no different, I want to begin 2016 with The Happiness Planner and aim to keep up with it. Let’s see what happens! At £25, this is a little cheaper than some of the other books.

6. Topshop Midi Dress
Who said it all needed to be fitness related? My mum and I go to the ballet every Christmas, and have done since I was 6 or 7. I always try to find a new outfit for the occasion and, although unusual for me to choose orange, I love the style and colour of this dress.

So there you have my Winter Wish List! I’m ignoring the realistic option of admitting that I really need a new laptop…perhaps save that for my 30th Birthday Wish List in April!

What are you longing for under the tree this Christmas?