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

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