Anxiety & Me

Earlier this week, I watched Nadiya Hussain’s documentary ‘Anxiety and Me.’ it encouraged me to write this post. So, today marks the end of Mental Health Awareness week and although we have come a long way in removing the stigma around mental health, I have found from experience that there is still judgement and misunderstanding around mental health.

For as long as I can remember my default is to worry and to feel anxious. When my anxiety levels are high, I have a constant feeling of unease, I can’t relax and I cannot shake the feeling that something’s wrong. I feel irritable and emotional and I usually withdraw from social situations. When my anxiety is at it’s worst, the physical symptoms I experience include: shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations and dizziness.

I have found ways to dampen the intensity of my anxiety disorder but I don’t think I will ever be completely rid of it. For me, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, meditating, reading and practising gratitude all seem to have a positive impact.

I would class myself as ‘high functioning’ so despite the anxiety I feel, I’m able to achieve, to work, socialise and maintain healthy relationships. Like many others with anxiety, I am able to hide my inner turmoil behind a smile and a laugh. It is only my very closest friends and family that can see when I’m struggling.

I know that having anxiety does not make me weak, it does not make me delicate or fragile. I am strong. I am strong because despite the feelings of dread and doom, I push forwards, I do my best and I’m full of hope and optimism.

Have the courage to try again

I’ve been pretty much absent on my social media accounts over the past few months, I discussed the reasons why I took a step back in a previous post so won’t bore you with the details! I have wanted to get stuck back in again for a while now and start producing content for you all but I have found that the longer I left my social media pages, the harder it’s been to get going again…

I’ve noticed this with other habits too – particularly the daily habit of meditation! I think when you start a new habit the novelty of it keeps you going for a while until it becomes a true habit. But, if you stop a habit, for whatever reason, then starting it again seems harder. There’s no longer any novelty about it, you’ve been there, tried that before and failed to keep it up so no point in trying again, right?

Well if there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s that you’re perception and response to ‘failure’ matters. Being consistent over a long ass time is what gets you the results you want and nobody is perfect, so it’s impossible to maintain all your habits all of the time.

It’s okay to miss a habit for one day, a week or even a month or two – look at the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. What differentiates successful people is their courage to try again and again, to continue despite setbacks.

So if you’ve dropped a ball you’ve been juggling, firstly, don’t sweat it (remember, self compassion!) Then, if you want to and as soon as you’re ready, pick that mother fucker back up and get juggling again!

Paula xo

I am qualified in Exercise Nutrition!

I have been completely neglecting to produce any content as of lately. I have been challenging my energy into other pursuits and something had to give. As we entered into the new year, my prioritises changed – I decided that I wanted to complete my Nutritional Certification before March, our wedding planning stepped up a gear and Dan and I committed to doing a photoshoot in April, the lead up to which involves focused training and nutritional programming.

As much as I enjoy writing this blog, for the past month I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to be creative or find the time to sit down and write. In January producing content for the blog, wedding planning, studying, training, food prep, practising as a chiropractor and the usual day to day tasks just all felt too much. I was overwhelmed so I made a decision to reduce my load – I assessed my priorities and decided that my blog needed take the backseat. This decision wasn’t something at the time I felt good about or really wanted to do, but I am so grateful I did.

I think throughout life, we have to give ourselves permission to give up something that no longer serves us. It’s okay to reduce our workloads and to say no, it’s okay to quit. I am trying to lead an authentic life, to practise what I preach. Being stressed out, staying up late to get things ticked off the to do list and spreading myself thinly just lead to anxiety and worry. My mental health is one of my top priorities and I encourage everyone adopt behaviours that support good mental health. I cannot preach this and then abuse my own by taking on too much.

The decision to reduce my workload paid off and I am super happy to say that after studying for the best part of a year I have earned Precision Nutrition’s Level 1 certificate in Exercise Nutrition! It’s been a huge commitment, including reading THE biggest textbook ever, filling out a workbook, watching online videos and completing modular online exams. I am so grateful that Dan pushed me into doing this course – it was outside my comfort zone and was probably the biggest commitment to learning I had taken since graduating with my Masters Degree. Feeling that I am growing and learning is essential for my overall happiness so this achievement means a lot to me and I cannot wait to share valuable nutrition content with you all!

Paula xo

Save yourself

In the U.K. we are fortunate to have free access to healthcare, I’m grateful that my loved ones and I have somewhere to go if we get sick or injured and it baffles me that some take it for granted and some go as far to abuse it.

The very things that make the NHS what it is, free and accessible to everyone, seems to be resulting a population who feel entitled and take less and less responsibility for their own health. When the NHS was founded, it was done so for a smaller population with less complicated health issues. The NHS simply wasn’t designed to meet the demands of a chronically sick nation. For the NHS to survive and so that future generations get to benefit from the service, I believe we need to change the way we view and treat our health. We need to focus on prevention, on staying as healthy and independent as we can, for as long as possible.

The NHS already invests so much in helping those who are in ill health, it is estimated that the average adult in the UK will spend the last 17 years of their life in poor health. The government has pledged to spend more money on services that promote wellbeing and tackle the root causes of poor health. This is a step in the right direction but this alone won’t be enough. We need to take responsibility of our health, of our family’s health, we must own our decisions and do our bit.

There are diseases or conditions that cannot be prevented – these are usually present at birth or are inherited through faulty genetics. However, these are rare and do not account for the majority of NHS spending. The biggest killers and biggest costs to the NHS are all chronic, preventable diseases which arise from lifestyle choices. If there was less chronic, preventable disease, more money could be spent on services and resources needed by people who have no control over their illness, who were just dealt a bad hand.

I was recently sent the picture above and I love the message it sends. I would argue that it is the individual’s responsibility to maintain their own good health. Too many of us make choices every day that harm our health. We know that if we eat too much, smoke cigarettes, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, exercise too little, don’t prioritise getting enough sleep and fail to manage stress we are increasing our risk of developing a host of chronic diseases. I question whether these choices would be as readily accepted and adopted if the NHS wasn’t there to pick up the pieces.

Ultimately, our health impacts us more than anyone else. We have one body, take care of it, don’t wait until you’re already sick, act now and save yourself.

Paula xo

The importance of good friends.

Loneliness is known to be a threat to our physical and mental health, social connections are a crucial component of maintaining good health and wellbeing. It is estimated that there are 9 million lonely people in the UK. The lack of social connection they are experiencing is thought to be as damaging to their health as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

We have all felt the benefit that good friendships have on our mental health. Nothing leaves you feeling brighter than getting together with friends. Friendships are especially important if you are going through a difficult time and you need someone to talk to. Having connections with others lowers stress, decreases your risk of developing depression, boosts self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. The physical benefits of friendship are also just as incredible. Feeling loved and connected reduces your risk of developing chronic disease including heart disease and dementia. You are also more likely to maintain your independence as you age and have a lower use of medication.

While friendships can be a source of support, love and laughter, I think it’s important to be aware of negative friendships. In my youth, I tolerated friendships that dragged me down. I has so called ‘friends’ that would judge me harshly, criticise me and be anything but supportive of my goals. A true friend is understanding and encouraging. They see the good in you, even when you can’t, they lift you up and don’t tear you down. They applaud your successes loudly without a hint of jealousy. There is balance in a good friendship, you are there for each other equally.

I think that I tolerated bad friendships in the past because I didn’t have confidence to stand up for myself or walk away. If you find yourself with friends that do any of the following- they’re highly critical, they judge you or use you for their own gain, work on your relationship with yourself. If you build up your levels of self love and compassion, you’ll find that you no longer suffer the company of bad friends. Once you realise your worth I don’t think it is necessary to consciously confront people about their behaviour or cut people out of your life, you will just naturally drift away from them. Of course, if you really value a friend and they have been acting differently lately, have an honest conversation with them.

I’m very lucky to now have a small circle of friends that I can rely on. Here’s a gift I received from a friend recently, if this isn’t the sign of a great friendship where women empower women then I don’t know what is!

Paula xo

Respond rather than react

Last week I saw an article published by the BBC that frustrated me. I was tempted to write a post straight away but I would have ended up ranting and I’m making an effort to ‘respond’ rather than ‘react’.

Although they sound similar, there’s a world of difference between reacting and responding. A reaction is usually immediate, it’s driven by fear, biases and insecurities. Reacting can often make situations worse and you can end up saying things you later regret.

A response, on the other hand, is slower and based on values such as reason, compassion and co-operation. Before responding, you take the situation in and base your response on information. It also takes into consideration the long term effects of your words.

The opportunity to make a choice between reaction and response arises all the time. In life, there are external events that we cannot control and could have the potential to bother us. Your train might be delayed, a colleague may be rude to you or your kid might accidentally break something. Although all 3 of these situations have the potential for us to reaction straight away, we can learn to choose a response that will make the situation better and not worse. Responding saves you from feeling anymore upset in the moment or regret later on.

The best way to prevent a reaction is to pause. A few seconds may be enough but it could take longer, depending on the situation. A few deep breaths may diffuse a reaction from a small inconvenience but if something really upsets you, you may need a few hours or even days to process the situation and respond appropriately.

In case anyone is wondering what BBC article I found annoying it was the one pictured above. There were 3 main reasons for my dislike for this article. Firstly, it suggested that to get enough fibre in our diet, we have to eat grains and foods such as bread, pasta and cereal. While I agree fibre is important, there are much better sources than those listed in the article. The article fails to recognise that there are excellent sources of fibre that aren’t highly processed, are lower in calories, are easier to digest and contain essential minerals and vitamins. My particular favourites include vegetables, fruit, rice, oats and chia seeds.

My other 2 reasons for disliking this article are slightly less significant but I feel they are worthy mentioning. There is an incorrect use of grammar in the title: ‘less carbs’, surely the BBC should strive for grammatical perfection, and finally, the BBC using the winky emoji face gives me the creeps.

That was me trying to respond rather than react, hopefully I’ve managed to respond clearly and effectively and not just have a big old rant! So the next time something upsets you, takes a deep breath and try to respond. If you want to learn more about fibre, I wrote a blog previous blog post titled ‘Fibre – what it is, why it’s important and where to find it’, that you may find useful.

Paula xo

Is your pain normal?

Almost everyone will at some point in their life experience ‘normal’ pain from aching muscles. No one should have to put up with debilitating, chronic pain but muscle aches are super common and because muscle tissue is present all over your body, this type of pain can be felt practically anywhere.

A huge part of my job is reassuring patient’s that the muscle pains they’re feeling are normal and nothing to worry about. On further questioning, patient’s can usually attribute their muscle aches to a particular cause. The most common cause of muscle aches is from some sort of physical strain. Gardening seems to commonly cause aching muscles in the low back, going for a long walk can leave leg and buttocks muscles sore, prolonged sitting can make you feel achy and tight through the hips and shoulders.

Whilst physical muscle tension leading to muscle pain is very common, don’t underestimate the significance that emotional stress can have on muscles. A stressful period at work or at home can often leave people feeling particularly tender over muscles of the neck, head and jaw.

Although most muscle aches are a normal part of life you should see your doctor if your muscle aches do not go away after a few days, if your pain comes on suddenly for no apparent reason, your pain is severe or debilitating, the pain is accompanied by a rash, fever, vomiting or weakness.

Here are my top tips for managing muscle aches:

1. Use an ice pack. Ice is nature’s anti-inflammatory and it has none of the nasty side effects of anti-inflammatory medication. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas in something (a towel, pillowcase or old t-shirt all work fine) place the ice pack on the affected area for 5- 10 mins, reapply after 90 minutes off and repeat as needed.

2. Stay gently active. It may not be wise to repeat the activity that lead to the muscle soreness but staying gently active, a little walking or yoga can help prevent the muscles from getting too tight and seizing up.

3. Stretch the muscles. – Gently stretch muscles to relax them.

4. Use self massage techniques – a foam roller or a tennis ball are perfect self massage tools.

5. Get plenty of sleep. When we’re in deep sleep our bodies prioritise recovery and repair of tissues.

6. Use magnesium supplementation – magnesium is nature’s tranquilliser and you can apply it topically in a spray to ease sore muscles.

7. Stay hydrated – adults should aim for 2-3 L of water a day.

8. Eat a nutrient dense diet including protein, veggies and healthy fats. Your body cannot repair and recovery without essential nutrients.

9. Meditate. Get your body out of ‘flight and flight’ mode and into ‘rest and digest’ mode with a little meditation so your body is in a state that’s optional for healing and recovery.

10. See a professional. Book yourself a sports massage to really help break down any soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue and relieve muscle tension and soreness.

I hope you find some of these tips useful!

Paula xo