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MY TOP TIPS FOR A GREAT NIGHT’S SLEEP!

MY TOP TIPS FOR A GREAT NIGHT’S SLEEP!

 

Life today has taken us so very far from the life we were designed to be living. This allows us fabulous opportunities in terms of things such as technological advance, but it can also put tremendous stresses and strains on our bodies. This in turn often results in sleep issues, or at least in poor quality sleep, which means our bodies are not being allowed to rejuvenate as they should through the night.

 

If you are someone who struggles to get to sleep (or to stay asleep) you will be aware of this, but there’s more to it than that. If you are a “fall asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow” type, it is still worth taking a moment to ask yourself what the quality of your sleep is like. Do you wake feeling refreshed? Do you sense ease in your movement when you first get out of bed? Do you wake with a clear head? If the answer to any of these is “no”, then you too could benefit from the ideas below, especially because:

“Sleep is the golden chain

that ties health and our bodies together”

 

MY TOP TIPS

Creating a bedtime routine can be incredibly powerful. We know all about doing this for our kids: why shouldn’t it work for us too? Establishing a peaceful atmosphere can help induce relaxation, and a regular and calming routine can send a powerful message to the brain that it is time to unwind and switch off from the day’s happenings.

As someone who once experienced horrendous sleep problems, I had to work hard to discover the routine that worked best for me. So here are the habits I’ve established – and I truly know how effective these can be…

 

1. No screens for AT LEAST 1 hour before bedtime, and then be aware of using dimmer lighting as bedtime draws near. This one is all about melatonin production & how we can utilise understanding of this to enhance our sleep. If you feel you need a little help with getting “un-stuck” from those screens, download my FREE 10 Tips to Detox from Tech. 

2. Consider alternatives to television as a pre-bed activity. Although some TV can be a great switch off, it is still a form of blue light (and therefore suppresses melatonin production), and additionally it often encourages such a degree of engagement that it is sometimes over-stimulating. Reading a book, listening to a podcast or simply listening to music are all options which may be more relaxing.

3. Enjoy a relaxing warm drink. Various herbal teas are good, (my own preference would always be for chamomile tea), but for others warm milk does the trick (it contains both tryptophan and melatonin). Milk needs care though, because for some it can have the opposite effect: try it out yourself before making the decision. Whatever drink you choose, make sure that this too is a part of your calming routine: for example drink it whilst listening to something calming, and with the lights turned low…

 

 

4. Avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime, but do consider doing something calming such as yoga, with its emphasis on focused breathing and relaxation. If you combine a little mindfulness or meditation, you are also training the mind to become quiet and therefore still more ready to sleep.

5. Even if you don’t want to do a full yoga workout, I thoroughly believe in the benefits of a few yoga stretches before bed. Although we may think we’ve become physically relaxed during our evening, actually a day of postural imbalance followed by a tendency to sit in one position – whether watching TV or reading a book – for most of the evening can leave muscles and joints far from relaxed. We then get into bed & lie pretty much in one position for many hours: the combination of all this can lead to waking feeling stiff and aching. Instead, try a few gentle mobilisation exercises such as some shoulder rolls, a Pilates “roll down”, or a yoga “cat stretch” to ease out sore muscles and “re-mobilise” before getting in to bed. If you do this regularly you should start to see a difference to your movement quality in the mornings.

6. Make your cleansing routine – however simple or complex it may be – a calming ritual. Think of consciously massaging the skin as you cleanse it: take in the scents of your products and focus on your breathing throughout. Once again, you are making a pleasurable and calming event out of something which otherwise is just a “chore”. I would add here that it’s worth thinking about which products you use near to bedtime. Using natural products containing essential oils can aid relaxation and sleep, whereas other commercial alternatives may do the opposite. A great example would be a moisturiser containing frankincense. This essential oil has been used since ancient times to heal, strengthen, tighten and tone skin, whilst also inducing relaxation as it slows the heart rate…

 

 

7. A quick spritz around your bed or over your pillow with an essential oil based Pillow Mist will leave a waft of lavender or whatever your chosen scent may be, and can be another fabulous way to encourage relaxation and therefore enhance sleep.

8. If you have difficulty getting to sleep, a few drops of cedarwood essential oil on the soles of your feet can work wonders for insomnia.

9. All the many benefits of essential oils can be enjoyed best by using a diffuser, which is my own absolute preferred bedtime soother. Choose your own favourite from the many scents that can aid relaxation: lavender, frankincense, cedarwood, marjoram, chamomile, vetiver… If you’d like more ideas on which oils may be best for you, do grab my FREE DOWNLOAD to learn more about the many options.

10. If in spite of all these suggestions you are still struggling to sleep, or if thoughts are still racing around in your head, try Belly Breathing whilst focusing on slowly relaxing body and mind. If you struggle to focus yourself, you may find that listening to an audio guide for relaxation techniques helps, until you gradually drift to the land of dreams…

As you can see, every one of my suggestions above offers a NATURAL solution. We can choose from so many natural remedies that go back to ancient times – and those of you who follow me surely know my theory that to enjoy and prosper from the wonderful opportunities that this modern world of “tech” offers us, we have to find a balance between the ancient and the modern worlds. I truly believe that a return to those ancient and proven methods that originated when we lived life in the way it was intended can be a great (& necessary) antidote to modern life and its stresses – and to its sleep problems.

MY SELF CARE MORNING

MY SELF CARE MORNING

 

“Self care” can cover so, so many things, so that sometimes just fitting it in can seem like a marathon of a task. But actually, if we get in to the habit of putting a few simple steps into place daily, we will find our Self Care Ritual becomes both easy & enjoyable!

So, what are my recommendations for self care? Well, how’s about I tell you MY way of doing it…

 

MY SELF CARE START TO THE DAY 

1. Belly Breathing – before actually getting out of bed. This is so powerful. As I am just “coming to” in the morning, I roll to lie on my back, direct my thoughts to my breathing and do just 1 or 2 minutes of abdominal breathing. It is such a great way to start feeling energised and refreshed for the day ahead.

2. Step-by-Step Gratitude. This is adapted from Rhonda Byrne in her wonderful book “The Secret”. My own version is that when I get up in the morning, as my first foot touches the floor I name (out loud) one thing I am truly grateful for; as my other foot touches down I name another; as I walk into the bathroom I name a third. That’s my 3 gratitude journal entries done without the need for a pen & paper – it is such a game changer for a positive start to my day.

 

3. Diffuser ON. I choose which essential oils I want according to the mood I feel I need to create – something citrus-y for vitality, geranium for balance, or maybe rosemary for focus. Whichever I choose, those gorgeous scents fill the air & really can switch my mood (and they encourage me to breathe mindfully too).

 

4. DON’T go to my Phone! This is really important. I stopped having my phone in my bedroom at night a long time ago, but it took much longer to break the habit of looking at it as soon as I came downstairs. But nowadays it’s an absolute: no phone until breakfast is done and the kids are all out at school. It may sound simple (though I confess it wasn’t simple to achieve it) but it is so powerful.

 

5. Hot water & lemon. There are many advantages to making this the first thing that goes into your digestive system in the morning, but for me it’s also about mindset. If the very beginning of my day includes consuming something that is nourishing me and specifically good for my health, I am oh so much more likely to continue that way for the rest of the day.

 

 

AND THE REST OF MY DAY…

My personal choice is that these 5 steps have to happen in order. Then the following 3 will happen at some point during my day: exactly when will vary each day of the week, depending on my other commitments.

 

6. A truly mindful coffee (or a herbal tea if I’m being “good”!) Instead of grabbing that #onecoffeeaday on the hoof, I try to take ten minutes to stop and pause, and to really enjoy it. It enforces a break from my pc, or my sessions or whatever I may be racing at (& that pause is so great for my mental health), and it also means I enjoy the coffee so much more – and that in turn helps me to stick to just one-a-day!

7. 20 minutes of reading – either a novel or a personal development book. If it’s a novel it’s usually for pure escapism, if it’s personal development…you guessed it, it’s for personal development!

 

8. Between 10 & 20 minutes of meditation. This is another true game changer for me: discovering meditation very literally changed my life. It really does only need to be 10 minutes a day, and whenever I slot in those few moments of utter peace I feel I can get off the merry-go-round of life, just for a little. As a note, I am not perfect(!) so there are days that I don’t manage to fit it in…and on those days I feel the difference and I truly feel so much less “in control”.

 

 

 

 

This list isn’t exhaustive, and it certainly doesn’t provide a “one size fits all”. These are simple strategies that work for ME: some will resonate with you also, others may not. What matters most is that you take the time to consider what will work best for you, and then you carve out the time to make it happen. Taking that step to find the time is undoubtedly the first step towards #selfcare – and surely one of the most important. 

 

MY TOP TIPS TO MANAGE HORMONAL IMBALANCE

MY TOP TIPS TO MANAGE HORMONAL IMBALANCE

 

Hormones!! They control most of our body’s major systems, and they determine almost everything in our body, from growth, mood and behaviour to metabolism, digestion and fertility…so they’re pretty important! In order to stay fit and healthy, we have to ensure we maintain HORMONAL BALANCE. Like any balancing act, this requires constant fine tuning:

“Think of hormones like a cake recipe. Too much or too little of any one ingredient affects the final product.”

So, what can we do to help achieve this balance?

HERE ARE MY TOP TIPS:

1. Check your nutrition. The energy and nutrients in your diet provide the building blocks your body needs in order to produce hormones, and to fuel your body effectively. This is a huge topic in itself, but in simple terms aim to eat digestion-friendly protein (which helps build hormones), fruit and veg for antioxidants (to balance hormones), healthy fats and complex carbohydrates (also to balance hormones), and probiotics to maintain gut health. 

2. Avoid inflammatory foods such as refined carbs, sugar, coffee and alcohol. The inflammatory response is directly connected to hormonal balance.

3. Get active. Exercise affects dopamine and serotonin levels (both of these hormones are mood boosters), and also levels of testosterone and oestrogen. The recommendation is for a a combination of strength training and cardio-vascular workouts to gain maximal health benefits and to boost hormone levels. (We must remember however that excessive exercise can create hormonal imbalance, so considered exercise is key).

4. Practise stress management to help keep stress hormone levels in check. Again, this is a huge topic, but typical strategies (aside from the others in this list) include abdominal breathing, journaling, getting out in nature, and meditation or mindfulness, all of which will help balance these vital hormones.

5. Watch your coffee intake. There are many studies showing just how detrimental coffee can be to our hormonal balance, affecting cortisol, dopamine, oestrogen-to-progesterone and insulin. Admittedly different individuals have varying reactions to coffee, but taking into consideration all of the above, plus the fact that caffeine causes inflammation and can damage the gut lining (all related once more to hormones) it’s surely worth cutting down!

6. Think about plastic pollution. Whilst plastics are slowly destroying our planet, they can also be highly detrimental to our own health, and disruptive to our hormones. Just one example is “Bisphenol A”, or BPA. This is a synthetic chemical found in many plastics, which can either be ingested or absorbed through skin contact.  Various studies have shown that once in the body BPA “mimics the action of the hormone oestrogen and disrupts the endocrine system – the glands that produce hormones regulating, among other things, metabolism, growth, sexual function and sleep”. Surely this is reason enough to cut back on plastic

7. Check your bathroom cabinets. Chemical preservatives used in many commercial cosmetics may cause changes in reproductive hormones in women. We should be especially aware of products containing parabens, as these widely used preservatives have been shown to mimic oestrogen. Do stop and think and do the research before you next buy a new cream, potion or lotion. Choose wisely: there are many alternative products which are genuinely natural and chemical free.

8. Experiment with essential oils. Swap your cosmetic products for those containing essential oils (some of which actually help to balance hormones according to aromatherapy), or alternatively, pop those oils in a diffuser! This is a real double-whammy: essential oils are natural preservatives (so avoiding the need for parabens and such like), and they are also full of anti-oxidants which will aid hormonal imbalance (see point 1 above).  

9. Get enough sleep. Give full value to your bedtime routine and sleep patterns, & be sure that when you do get to bed you are experiencing good quality sleep. Without this, every one of the above suggestions will be less effective…

 

WHY BOTHER? 

Balancing our hormones can be a long process, but the potential results are endless. Achieving hormonal balance can help to:

“reduce mood swings, depression, anxiety, and irritability; increase energy and reduce fatigue; boost happiness, mental clarity, and focus; reduce weight and decrease hot flashes and night sweats; and eliminate acne and hair loss.”

I’m pretty sure there is something on that list that most people would like to achieve, so why not make a start today? Don’t try to do it all overnight: choose which of the above tips feel more “doable”, and start putting them in place bit-by-bit. And remember: if we wish ANY of the above to be genuinely effective, we must ensure that the tweaks and adaptations we make become ongoing LIFESTYLE CHANGES. A flash-in-the-pan attempt to change your health in any way is never going to create lasting results. Instead it MUST be an ongoing commitment to honour and cherish your own health…

 

 

 

MUMS MATTER

MUMS MATTER

 

As mums, if we don’t take care of ourselves, there is little chance of anybody else doing it for us!!

By nature it is mum’s job to nurture and protect her young, but in this day and age there is so much more going on too.  We often seem to end up juggling our kids, our partner, our dogs, the goldfish & the neighbour’s cat(!) and this can very definitely take its toll on our health. If we don’t practice a little #selfcare along the way, we can end up making ourselves ill, or suffering from burnout.

 

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Taking a little time out for YOU is so valuable in terms of “topping up” your own health – both mental and physical. It also provides a powerful message to our kids. We are all aware of giving positive examples to our kids by ensuring they see us eating well and/or keeping active, but do they see us taking care of our mental health too? If we can start putting small steps in place to do this ourselves, we will become role models for future generations. This can be the first move towards kids, tweens & teens creating their own toolbox for a positive outlook, and for true #connectivity (with their family and not with a screen), which is so very important as we watch statistics on youth mental health worsen daily…

 

MY TOP TIPS

  1. Get out in nature – enjoy being out in the open & walk, run or simply sit and breathe.
  2. Take a mindful shower or a bath and pop in a few drops of essential oils.
  3. Read a book.
  4. Find some calming music to Just Breathe, OR grab your fave dance track and SHAKE IT!
  5. Take 5 minutes to try out relaxation techniques – download my audio aid here.
  6. Go through your cupboards and/or your shopping list and make sure you have some positive Mood Food to hand for your daily snacks.
  7. Get creative! Create a masterpiece or simply doodle, get knitting or bake a cake!
  8. Grab a pen and start a journal – write down 3 things to be grateful for each day.
  9. Choose a task you do daily to practice mindfully – drinking your coffee, showering, taking a walk.
  10. Think about your sleep patterns: give value to the slot of time BEFORE you sleep and be sure to create an environment that is genuinely relaxing so you make the very most of this chance to truly relax & recharge.

 

The most important point in all of this of course is to carve out a little time to achieve this self care daily. It really does only take ten minutes a day, and the benefits are immeasurable – for you and for all those around you. So make the decision TODAY to give a little back to you…

 

As a mum I truly do know how overwhelming it can seem just to find those ten minutes a day. If you are struggling with this and feel you’d like a little more help in structuring this in and truly making it happen, grab my FREE DOWNLOAD here

 

 

HOW (& WHY) TO START A JOURNEY OF SELF CARE IN 2019

HOW (& WHY) TO START A JOURNEY OF SELF CARE IN 2019

What is this mania with “self care”? And what even IS self care??

 

Strangely enough, #selfcare means taking care of yourself!  But what I really mean is truly taking care of yourself with little acts of kindness to YOU. To my mind it is a huge comment on the life we are living that we have to consciously stop & think about engaging in self care: about being kind to ourselves, and giving ourselves a little hug…

That “little hug” can be anything that equates to giving a little special time to yourself. It might be stealing some time in the afternoon to indulge in reading a favourite book, or getting up half an hour earlier to start a practice of mediation in solitude, or treating yourself to a long ramble in the woods once a week. It can be ANYTHING that genuinely feels like a little “me time”. This fact is important: if you don’t actually enjoy reading, then reading a book will NOT constitute me time for you; if the thought of lying in the bath for 20 minutes just makes you feel frustrated and bored then that isn’t self care for you. Choose wisely: select something you will genuinely enjoy, and something which will be a true “switch off”. Time to “park” everything else for a while and simply focus on YOU: on doing something you like whilst not even thinking about anything else…

 

 

In today’s society our day to day lives are such that we are forever being pulled in different directions. We have constant demands on our time, from a work ethic that (largely due to our digital world) often demands 24/7 availability, to children whose clubs and hobbies have become a full time job, to the “MUST DO” habit whereby we MUST fit in exercise/meditation/self development too. It can all seem totally overwhelming, & it can feel nigh on impossible to fit in anything else, but I promise you it is possible to carve out an extra 5 or 10 minutes in your day if you set your mind to it. It is YOUR choice, and it has to be YOUR commitment: if you make that commitment, the benefits to be had are endless…

 

THE BENEFITS OF SELF CARE

Giving a little back to YOU makes you feel less resentful of ‘giving’ to everyone else. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there. That feeling that everyone always wants a piece of us: the kids, your partner, work, neighbours – even the dog! It is impossible to achieve this without some degree of resentment unless we find a way to give a little back to us too.

Breathing space: time to “switch off”. In a society of constant demands – from the “ping” and “woosh” of notifications on our phone, to the endless stream of info for our kids activities – the chance to “switch off” or “unplug” for a while becomes a luxury. It is a NECESSARY luxury: one we need to make time for.

Welcome release from from mind chatter. The idea of “mind chatter” goes back to the Buddhist concept of “monkey mind”. Buddhists observed the never ending restlessness of a monkey and compared this to our own restless minds. Our minds are never still, (it is believed humans have around fifty thousand separate thoughts each day), and when this is added to the stresses of modern day society, we can see how real a NEED we have for this release.

Improved health. Taking time out for ourselves will enhance both physical and mental health. When we are forever “on the run” our bodies and our minds feel the pressure. Both end up “running on empty” and this can lead at best to feeling a little run down, and at worst to burnout.

Lowered stress levels. If we are a little clever about which activities we choose as self care, we can succeed in significantly lowering stress levels (see below).

A chance to be mindful. There is a very good reason why “mindfulness” has become such a buzzword: it is SO very necessary as an antidote to what today’s world throws at us. But how easy is it to be mindful in the midst of our never ending day-to-day? Not at all! Giving yourself a few minutes each day for self care however can double up as an opportunity to be mindful as well.

Feeling better about YOU. Giving yourself a little time, a little kindness, equates to giving value to yourself. If we don’t believe we’re worthy of that, then we are really not respecting “self”: not awarding ourselves enough self worth. Committing to a regular practice of self care gives value to YOU, thus increasing self esteem.

AN EXTRA “PLUS”

An added advantage of elevating self esteem is that feeling better about yourself can be the first step to start to doing other (perhaps more challenging) things to make you feel better still: to make you the best version of you that you can become! So we’re talking the biggies like exercise and nutrition, which are themselves a hugely important aspect of your self care. If you start with simple “me time” activities such as those discussed above, this will get your self esteem back where it belongs. This in turn will do wonders for your ability to tackle the bigger challenges a little further down the line: just think what that might do for your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, and your ability to stick to them…

 

 

 

 

HOW TO “UP” YOUR SELF CARE TO THE NEXT LEVEL

If you can include some activities that are more specifically related to stress management, then this will enhance ALL of the above even more. Some examples might be:

  • Getting out in nature (scientifically proven to lower stress hormones)
  • Practising “Belly Breathing”
  • Starting a daily practise of Gratitude
  • Starting a daily meditation or mindfulness practise

Once again, ALL the above are pleasant things to do: I’m not asking you to go clean the house, I’m asking you to find the time to do something lovely!

 

I am well aware that for most of us, the most challenging part of this whole article is actually FINDING THE TIME. I get it: I’ve been there. But I PROMISE you that ANYONE can find five minutes extra in their day. It is about prioritising YOU, and that is the very first step in self care. There is a wonderful Zen saying which states:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy: then you should sit for an hour”

…no more need be said!

 

 

HOW TO PUT ALL THIS INTO ACTION

Your first step has to be believing you are worth it, remembering your own self value, and therefore finding that time. The second step is COMMITMENT: make the decision that 2019 is going to be the year that you give back to YOU – and therefore to everyone around you. Write down your commitment to a self care programme, sign it & place it somewhere you will see it regularly. Tell other people about it: telling others increases accountability. Then jot down a list of activities that you consider to be true self care for YOU.

If you’d like to take it all a step further and to engage in a daily 5 minutes of stress relieving self care, then do grab my FREE download here. This is where the real turnaround happens. The guide will take you through a simple, manageable, step-by-step process to carve out that time and practice self care activities that will truly address your stress levels as well. In the space of just seven days you will start to see the difference, and THAT is the turning point: the point at which you realise that SELF CARE WORKS: that it is oh so very worth putting in that time. And you’re not thinking it because you’ve read my article: you’re BELIEVING it because you’ve tried it yourself, and you’ve seen the results .

 

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