Negative emotions can lead to procrastination?

Procrastination is really annoying. I have found myself falling into it’s trap big time this week and it’s been driving me crazy. Procrastination is the act of prioritising less urgent and more pleasurable tasks over the more important stuff that needs to be accomplished. Procrastination can arise out of habit or be intentional, it involves delaying starting or finishing a task despite the negative consequences it could bring.

For me, procrastination rears its ugly head when I fear doing something, because I’ve set myself unreasonable expectations, because I’m experiencing negative emotions or because I haven’t really accepted that the task is important and therefore worthy of my time.

I have written a previous post about how in the past, perfectionism lead to my procrastination. I am learning to accept that nothing is perfect, that producing something is always better than nothing. However, despite this, I have found myself procrastinating all week and if I’m really honest, I think that this week’s procrastination has been down to feeling frustrated and irritable.

The problem with this cause of procrastination is that it sets up a positive feedback loop. I don’t want to work because I’m not in the mood, so I distract myself with other tasks. I then feel guilty for ‘wasting’ time and not really achieving anything then I feel worse and more anxious than I did I when I put off the task in the first place!

Here are some ways to deal with negative emotions and rid yourself of the subsequent procrastination:

1. Accept that they’re normal.

Experiencing negative emotions such as sadness, anger or fear is all a part of being human. I think that now, more than ever, we are made to feel bad about ourselves if we are not always bright, happy and cheerful but this is unrealistic. Understand that negative emotions have an evolutionary purpose that would have been essential for our survival and good health.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Everyone has good and bad days, the problem with life nowadays is that social media acts as a highlight reel, reminding you of how fantastic everyone is feeling and how great their lives are. This can make your negative emotions seem that bit worse, but don’t be fooled, everyone has down days, they are just a lot less inclined to share them on social media.

3. Listen and give yourself permission to feel your emotions.

What are they trying to tell you? By stopping and listening to negative emotions when they first arise you could potentially prevent them from getting louder. Allow yourself to feel the emotion. Trying to ignore them and shutting them out could, in the long term, make you feel worse.

4. Consider taking action.

If you feel sad, frustrated or annoyed about something you can change, perhaps it’s worth changing it? If a loved one said something that hurt you, talk to them about it. If you don’t like your job, consider looking for another and if you’re unhappy with your sedentary lifestyle, start walking more. The only caution I would like to add here is that making hasty decisions whilst experiencing intense emotions is probably not a good idea.

5. Forgive yourself for procrastinating and move on.

Like I said, feeling negative emotions is part of the shared human experience. If these emotions cause you to have an unproductive day or week, don’t beat yourself up. Be kind, show yourself forgiveness and let it go.

Paula xo

Set up your environment so you can win

Before Christmas, I headed down to Cornwall with the best intentions. I was going to allow myself to indulge over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day and not restrict myself. However, I didn’t want to eat for the sake of it and be greedy, instead, I wanted to listen to my hunger cues and stop when I was full. When it came to alcohol, I thought, I may have one or 2 glasses of champagne but maybe not.

For the most part, I stuck to my intentions, I enjoyed those 3 days, didn’t feel over-full and had 1 glass of champagne on Christmas Day – which by the way, was enough to make me feel tipsy. The problem was, I couldn’t restart my usual eating habits after Boxing Day…The boxes of chocolates, left overs, cheeses and crisps were too damn tempting!

Ordinarily, I find it pretty easy to eat food based on how it makes me feel, not just off how it tastes, I enjoy sticking to my normal routine because it makes me feel good. I could feel that a lack of fibre and protein and an increase in sugar and processed foods was making me feel lethargic, constipated and crappy but I still didn’t stop myself.

As soon as I arrived back in Manchester, my old eating habits kicked right back in. I think the reason I struggled to regain my ‘normal’ eating pattern whilst I was in Cornwall was because I wasn’t in my environment. My environment is set up to help me sustain my eating habits, my mum’s house over Christmas was full of tasty, tempting treats. Habits seem to be heavily influenced by the environment you’re in. So many of my patient’s struggle to keep up with their spinal exercises when they go on holiday, even when they intend to.

Habits are easy to maintain when you don’t have to use will power, a habit is like a reflex, you do it without really thinking about it. Every time I walked past the open box of quality street, I was having to use will power not to grab one. I was fatiguing the decision making part of my brain when I went to the fridge and debated with myself over whether to have a turkey salad or a turkey, brie and cranberry sandwich.

Now, I know a week of eating ‘off plan’ is not the end of the world, in fact, eating in this way just reaffirmed why I usually eat the way I do. However if you want to form a new habit or kick an old one, are you setting your environment up to empower you? So, if you want to start eating more fruit & veg and not binge on biscuits every night.. But you keep filing a biscuit tin with your favourite biscuits and then expect to rely on will power not to eat them you’re setting your environment up to encourage you to fail. Instead, stock your fridge with pre prepared veg & fruit snacks and stop buying biscuits! That is a winning environment which will solidify your habits.

How could you change your environment to support your habits which will help you reach your 2019 goals?

Paula xo

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I know I haven’t posted anything for a couple of weeks but I decided to take some time out, to really be present with those who mean the most to me.

I thought I would kick off 2019’s blog posts by reflecting back, so here are the biggest lessons that 2018 taught me:

1. The greatest wealth is health, this year has confirmed that I should continue to prioritise my health and I am so very grateful for the good health of myself and my family and friends.

2. It is possible for your love for someone to grow, even when you thought you couldn’t possibly love them anymore than you already do.

3. Be kinder, to others but especially to yourself.

4. Don’t worry about things you cannot change. If someone is mean or rude, firstly, you cannot change the way others behave and secondly, that’s a reflection of them, not you, forgive them.

5. Happiness is a choice.

6. Gratitude is powerful.

7. If you want to get better at something, be consistent, more often than not, you don’t need to do anything drastic, its the little things done over and over that count.

8. Time spent resting or being creative is never wasted.

9. You don’t have to have an opinion on or an answer for everything. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know.’

10. Always choose discomfort over resentment. You’re allowed to say no to people or things that drain your energy or that aren’t congruent to you or your goals.

Pauls xo

How to end the year with positivity

I love December, sure it’s crazy busy and I’d love some more hours of daylight, but for me it is a time to be joyful and grateful, a time to enjoy good food with the people I love the most. I like reflecting on the previous year’s achievements and readying myself for what next year might bring.

I understand, however, that this is not the case for everyone. Some dread this time of year and December can feel like a difficult time. Perhaps Christmas is a heavy reminder of someone they’ve lost, or December may mark the end of another year where they didn’t feel fulfilled or entirely happy.

So here are some ways to stay positive over the festive season:

Stay present. I know I mentioned reflecting back and looking forward, but too much of this type of thinking can be a problem. We only ever have this present moment, the past has been and gone and the future isn’t guaranteed. So savour the present and try not to dwell on the past or worry about the future. We cannot change the past and we don’t know what will happen going forwards so don’t waste energy worrying about something you can’t possibly change.

Spend time with people that lift you up. I think at this time of year you can feel obliged to spend time with certain friends or family that you wouldn’t ordinarily chose to see. If this is because they usually bring you down or belittle you, you can say no. The temporary discomfort of saying no to something you really don’t want to do saves you feeling resentful or down later on.

Help someone else. Spending your time helping others who are less fortunate than you will make you feel good. True happiness and purpose is found in the service of others.

Be grateful. Our negativity bias will coax us towards what’s ‘wrong’ but you always have something to be grateful for. Life is a gift.

Realise you’re not alone. As isolating as this time of year can make you feel, you aren’t the only one. Acknowledging that your experience is shared by many others lessens the pressure you may be feeling.

I hope this helps! But if you are really struggling with negative emotions and are worried about your mental health, talk to someone, the charity Mind is an amazing resource and here’s the link to their website: https://www.mind.org.uk

Paula xo

Be patient & slow down.

If you want to know the answer to a question, there’s instant access to all the information you could possibly need within your smart phone. Want to buy something? Order it on Prime and get it the next day, no need to wait. Can’t possibly wait a week for that next episode? Well with Netflix you can binge watch an entire series! Craving some ‘summer’ berries out of season? The supermarkets have them stocked all year. You see where I’m going with this, we can get almost everything we want, when we want it.

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As a result of the fast-moving, instant access world we live in, we have developed into an impatient bunch. Being busy, rushed off your feet and exhausted seems nowadays to earn you some strange badge of honour. In contrast, our bodies, like everything else in nature, evolved slowly, over a reeeally long time. The human body has been the same for about 200,000 years! The world we live in has changed a lot in 200,000 years. Our bodies must therefore live in an entirely different world to the one they evolved to live in. They haven’t got the memo from us that we no longer have patience or time.

I think this conflict between our impatient attitudes and our body’s need for time and rest becomes most obvious when you get run down, sick or injured. Imagine you are recovering from injury or illness, perhaps you fell, broke a bone and needed surgery or you are recovering from a bad bout of the flu, or maybe you got overwhelmed with anxiety and had a panic attack. In all three of these scenarios it is easy, because of our impatient nature, to vastly underestimate the time needed to fully recover.

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It’s very tempting, to get frustrated that you aren’t making quicker process. You might find yourself becoming resentful of the fact that you can’t work, socialise or carry out everyday tasks that ‘should’ be easy for you. To avoid this frustration, focus on these 3 things:

  1. Self-compassion. Being patient with your body and allowing it the time it needs to recover, revitalise and reenergise comes from a place of kindness. As I have said before, talk to yourself as you would a friend. Would you call a sick friend useless or stupid or judge them? Of course not, so don’t allow anything less for yourself.
  2. An understanding that physiological processes like healing from an injury or illness takes time. Whether we like it or not, healing can and will take more time than we expect it to, the healing process hasn’t sped up just because the pace of our lives has.
  3. Trust in your body. It is always doing its best for you, so listen to it. When it tells you to slow down, do so and please do not feel guilty for being ‘lazy’ or ‘unproductive’. If you feel tired, rest now, it’s better to do so than to ignore the signal, stay busy and get sick. Our body doesn’t care that you ‘must’ get back to work, that you ‘have’ to exercise every day or that you can’t possibly miss the upcoming social engagement. Trust that it is prioritising getting you well again as soon as it can.

Paula xo

Just because something is common, doesn’t make it normal

We can probably all think of at least one person we know that has complained of either low back pain, neck pain or headaches. You may have experienced one or more of these in the past, maybe you’ve got symptoms right now as you’re reading this. The scary thing is, because these symptoms are so common, many people believe them to be a normal part of life. I can recount so many consultations where I have asked patients who have ticked the box next to ‘headaches’ to tell me more about them and they will say something like ‘Yeah, I get headaches, maybe 3 days a week, they’re eased with paracetamol, but that’s normal right?’….It’s definitely not normal.

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I have used the above examples because it’s what I see in practise, but you could use plenty of other symptoms/conditions that are so common they could mistakenly be considered as normal. Many people who experience allergies, psoriasis, insomnia, low energy and period pains may believe they have to just accept feeling less than average and manage their symptoms as best they can.

Symptoms shouldn’t be disregarded and ignored. Your body is designed to function optimally and symptoms are messages from your body trying to tell you something is wrong. It is tempting to cover up symptoms from our body, especially when it comes to pain. Acute pain can be effectively blocked by pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, naproxen, cocodamol, tramaodol. However, pain relief medication doesn’t actually fix the problem, it just covers up the signal and pain relief doesn’t always help when it comes to chronic pain.

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An analogy I like to use to help explain this is – imagine if you were driving and your ‘check engine’ light came on in your car…you could acknowledge that something wasn’t right and get the engine checked and have the necessary work carried out to fix the engine and tadah, the light is no longer on. OR you could stick a sticker over the light and pretend there’s no problem at all.  Your body is the engine and the light is the pain signal and the sticker is the pain relief.

People don’t just cover up pain, we take antihistamines for allergies, antibiotics for acne, statins for cholesterol, metformin for diabetes, the list goes on! Instead of accepting common complaints as a normal part of life and trying to cover up symptoms with medication, the root cause of the problem needs to be established and worked on. If you get rid of the cause of the problem, the body will no longer have to send you signals in the form of symptoms.

Paula xo

Fibre – what it is, why it’s important and where to find it

🙋🏼‍♀️ Hands up anyone who has ever experienced constipation and has been told to ‘eat more fibre’. When my doctor told me that for the millionth time, I remember thinking, what the hell does that actually mean? I used to assume that I got enough fibre from my bran flakes…it said ‘high in fibre’ on the box so why was I still constipated?! I now realise that A. I wasn’t getting enough fibre, B. this contributed hugely to my chronic constipation and C. despite what the clever labelling told me, there are much better sources of fibre than cereal.

Fibre is the bit of plants that is, for our human gut, indigestible. Although we can’t break it down and absorb it, consuming enough fibre is still really important for overall health. There are 2 types of fibre: soluble fibre will absorb liquids and is sticky. Insoluble fibre doesn’t absorb water and is rougher in texture.

Fibre, both soluble and insoluble promotes good digestive health. Our guts are long, thin tubes of smooth muscle, this muscle contracts in a wave like motion to move stuff along. Insoluble fibre adds ruffage and bulk to our stool which regulates bowel movements. Think about how difficult it is and how much you have to squeeze an almost empty toothpaste tube to get just a little toothpaste out and how much easier it is to get toothpaste out of a full tube. It’s the same for the muscles of our gut, having enough ‘bulk’ from insoluble fibre makes it easier for them to move the contents of your gut along to where they can be excreted.

Soluble fibre, because it absorbs water, helps lubricate the bowels. It is also a prebiotic, this means it acts as a food supply for our gut bacteria. Keeping the gut microbiome, which resides in our large intestine, fed and healthy is in our best interest. Soluble fibre is sticky when combined with water so it binds to things like excess cholesterol and other waste products the body wants to excrete. Without enough soluble fibre, these waste products can reabsorb through the gut and back into the blood stream.

Getting the right amount of fibre requires hitting a sweet spot, too little can lead to poor bowel regulation, either constipation or loose bowels. It can also leave you with poor appetite regulation, i.e. not feeling satisfied after meals or becoming hungry soon after a meal. Issues with blood sugar or cholesterol management have also been linked to lack of fibre in the diet. Too much fibre can cause abdominal discomfort, gas and bloating.

To get enough fibre, most of us could do with eating more veggies. Vegetables contain both types of fibre, are nutrient dense and low calorie so aim for 1-2 fist size portions of veg with every meal. If your diet includes a rainbow of plant matter every day, your fibre intake should be spot on and you will be able to enjoy all the perks!

Paula xo