A Solid Investment

I’m pretty sure all of us are very good at investing our hard earned $$ in the latest trends or that new lipstick but how much do we invest in our own wellbeing? Two years ago if you gave me the choice of spending £25 on a top or a personal training session, I’d have went straight to Topshop..every time!

It isn’t until something goes wrong with our health we reflect back and wish we had perhaps invested in ourselves a bit more.  The old saying, prevention is better than the cure is very apt.

I have made a few changes in the past year which have had a really positive effect. I am happier, healthier and have more energy. If you know me personally you will know 2015 was a pretty tough year for me and my health but I’m now on the other side and I want to share with you some super simple things I have done that have improved my quality of life and hopefully will benefit yours too.

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Lean in 15, Bodycoach.

The food we eat is our fuel…you wouldn’t put rubbish fuel in your car so why do it to yourself. If you load up on rubbish, you will in turn feel rubbish. Buying the Lean In 15 book was the first step I made in improving my diet. I have so many recipe books but most of the meals in them are complicated, expensive and take ages to cook. After a hard day at the office the last thing I want to do is start making a big dinner.  The Lean in 15 books are full of super simple, quick and yummy recipes that are easy to put together in the evening. With lots of veg and lean ingredients it’s had a really positive affect on my diet. I haven’t strictly followed the books plan but I do make a majority of my weeknight dinners and lunches from it.

Personal Training

For me this was a bit of a luxury, as I am sure it would be to you as well. Two operations on my abdomen in 2015 left me with pretty poor core strength, zero body confidence and had left me with a feeling that things were pretty much beyond the point of repair.

I was pretty anxious about starting back into exercise again after a year off and so I researched pretty hard about the best way to do so without hurting myself or landing back in hospital. I started off with a Yoga class to break myself in gently.  After attending Yoga regularly for a number of weeks I felt confident enough to up the ante a bit. I started Personal Training at a local gym, going on a Saturday morning and then also attending a class on a Monday evening. My personal trainer was great and tailored workouts specifically for me so that I don’t overdo it or put too much strain on my core. Even with that, initially the whole ‘exercise’ thing was a bit of a shock on my body and I found it reacting in various ways to all of this exercise it wasn’t used to. I listened to it and took a break as and when I needed to but I’ve since built up my stamina again and now attend twice a week without fail and I haven’t looked back.

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Mindfulness

If you have  been following my blogs you have probably heard me banging on about ‘Mindfulness’ a few times. When I was ill, I spent most days in constant discomfort and pain. Medication did it’s part to provide relief but some days it just wasn’t enough and so I started to look for alternative ways that I could manage the daily discomfort and it was through this search that I found ‘mindfulness’.

‘Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique..’

I started with one of those pretty adult colouring books and although it seems silly, it was very effective  at helping me get through those really tough days. I have continued to practice it and having had such positive results I have also started to promote it to my patients in my job as a Psychiatric Nurse. It isn’t just a way of relaxing but can have very real benefits for those suffering from mental health problems as well as physical conditions.

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Massage

This is a recent addition to my portfolio of managing my condition in the long term and one of the most empowering. I have begun attending a specialist Physiotherapist in Belfast who specialises in helping woman manage health conditions including Endometriosis. She  provides therapeutic massage and gives specialist nutrition, exercise and lifestyle advice and I have to say the result has been fantastic. She has has made me feel like I am in  more control as I have a number of things I can do to help manage my symptoms on days when I am in a bit of pain and discomfort.
In addition to the really helpful advice the benefits of the therapeutic massage are amazing. Massage has the obvious of helping managing stress which can bring its own issues and it can have a positive effect on your lymphatic system and it can even boost your immune system.

Whilst I appreciate that everyone is different and our path to a better wellbeing is unique to each individual experiencing it, I feel that these are some tips that mostly everyone can adopt.

My hope is that we all start taking care of our insides as much as we do out outside and we can all have that natural glow that comes from within.

Much Love,

Judy xo

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Minding Your Mental Health at Christmas.

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Christmas can be an exciting time for some and a stressful event for others. Whether you suffer from a Mental Illness or not it can be a difficult time of the year.

It may be your first Christmas without someone special, maybe you find the busy crowds a bit overwhelming or you feel the self inflicted stress trying to get everything done for the ‘perfect Christmas’.

Money

Of course we want to get our friends and family the presents they deserve, but setting a budget that is within your means and sticking to it can help avoid unmanageable credit card bills which could impact your Mental Health further. If you need financial advice you can get some information here.

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Alcohol

Of course with Christmas comes more parties and social drinking. Although alcohol can help us feel relaxed, it is also a depressant. Drinking excessive amounts can lower your mood. Stick to the recommended unit intake and you should be able to maintain better physical and mental wellbeing.

Food

We cant help ourselves during the festive period and we do tend to over indulge. This in turn can prompt lower self esteem and body image. Alternatively if you have a history of an Eating Disorder, the quantity of food and the focus on food may be stressful.

Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can improve your mood and can work towards preventing symptoms of lethargy and low mood that many of us feel during the busy festive season and dark winter months.

So, here are some ways to help look after yourself this Christmastime. 

I get by with a little help from my friend…

Helping others is good for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your mood, increase self-esteem and happiness and even benefit your physical health. So visit your elderly neighbour (John Lewis raised awareness this year with their advert for Age UK), volunteer some of your time at a local charity or community initiative.

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And Relax

I always find you do not realise how exhausted you are until you have a few days off. If you are luck enough to have some time off over Christmas, have some ‘Me Time”, try out mindfulness techniques (I’ve written about some in a previous blog post), go for a walk or a long soak in the bath. Go on you’ve earned it…

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Catch some zZzZz…

With all the parties and disruption yo your normal routine and sleep pattern, it’s important to ensure you remain well rested. It’s a well known fact that sleep quality is linked to better mental wellbeing. So take a look at your sleep hygiene, as an increase in alcohol, less physical activity and increase in stress can have a big impact.

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I hope you have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year, but if you need a little more support over the next few weeks, I will add some charities below.

Much Love,

Judy xo

The Samaritans

BEAT- Eating Disorder Charity

Debt and Money worries- Citizens Advice.

Help with Alcohol- Alcohol Support Services

Mind

Simple Steps to Improve your Mental and Physical Wellbeing!

Hey Frenchies!

With all this miserable weather at the moment, we probably aren’t getting the ‘boost’ we need from the summer sun! If you were lucky enough to go on a holibob to the sunniest of destinations, you might be in a bit of a slump coming back to reality *sigh*.

As I have discussed before, a positive mind equals a positive life, and we all need that little reminder and much needed top up once in a while wether we are prone to a little slump in our mental health or not.

My five simple tips for you all are;

  1. Talk to people– Shock, horror. Talking to people? In this ever social media driven world we are more isolated than ever. Instead of chatting to your friend over WhatsApp, use it to make arrangements to meet for a coffee, get out, talk and enjoy the social interaction. Joining local groups, getting involved in the community, striking up a conversation with a neighbour, it all helps.
  2. Mindful or Mind-full?- You may have read my post a while back about mindfulness, if not you can find it here. Take that important me time to reflect on the positive things in your life and practice mindful awareness of the here and now, trust me it works!
  3. Keep Moving- This, I cannot stress enough. Exercise releases the happy hormones and research shows that it has a positive effect on those with depression and anxiety. Grab you coat, the kids or the dog and head out for a brisk walk, if exercise is tough for you try your best to find an activity that is suitable for you.
  4. Keep on Learning- Striving towards personal goals, rather than external rewards will give you the best sense of satisfaction and will last far longer. It also encourages interaction with others and increases your self esteem, so how about signing up for that course you’ve been thinking about for the last four years? Go for it!
  5. Give a Little, Get a Lot- Random acts of kindness are good for the soul. It could be as simple as helping an older person out of Tesco with a weeks shopping, volunteering your time, taking a meal over to your sick neighbour, whatever it may be your actions will have a knock on effect to others, in turn making them feel good and creating positive social interactions! One of my favourite phrases is, ‘It is nice to be nice’.

I hope you enjoyed reading my 5 steps! Is there anything that you would advise? Is there anything that has helped you? I would love to hear from you.

Much Love,

Judy xo

Mindfulness: Finding the Balance.

Mindfulness has become quite topical and almost trendy of late but it’s most definitely not a new concept. It is derived from Buddist practice and has been coined by Psychology in the past number of years. 

As part of my job as a Mental Health Professional, I talk about mindfulness a lot to my service users as one of the many tools for them to use from their toolbox for coping with whatever Mental Illness they are experiencing.

There are numerous different types of ‘Mindfulness’ from meditation to breathing or Yoga.

To define it, Mindfulness is a way of managing your thoughts through different techniques to help you focus on the present moment.

In sure most of you think it is a lot of mumbojumbo, however it has been extensively researched and is a preventative method as well as a coping method for anxiety and depression.

When stress and pressures hang over you like a rain cloud, it is very easy to get caught in that negative thinking patterns, which can be a vicious circle and hard to break. Being mindful is accepting this stress, and catching those negative thoughts and challenging them before they drag you down.

So what do you mean by challenging your thoughts? Basically that little internal voice in your head needs retrained, observe the comments without criticising , learning to be compassionate and kinder to yourself.

Some ways of being in the moment and focusing on the here and now are:

Yoga– I recently took up UndaYoga as I felt I needed that 90mins a week for true me time, focusing on nothing but my practice and breathing.

Walking– get yourself out and about at lunch time. Being cooped up at a desk, taking stressful phone calls…escape from that for 30mins and focus on your steps, the trees, the sky or breathing. You will feel so much better for it and come back refreshed to tackle the rest of the afternoon.

Watching your thoughts– If you are like me, I have a constant stream of thoughts of things I should do, should have done and as I talked about above, getting caught in negative thinking cycles. The trick is noticing when you are doing this. Say STOP to yourself internally and focus on your breathing for a moment (Breathe in for 5 and out for 5 until you are completely refocused). This will refocus your brain on the present moment.

Colouring in- Yes, you heard me right! I recently bought a colouring book off Amazon called ‘The Mindfulness Colouring Book’ it’s a great way to switch off for 10 minutes and focus on the picture and colours. They are quite intriquite drawings so require a lot of concentration!!

  
To finish, let me reiterate, mindfulness is always work in progress. It is also unrealistic to walk around in a bubble all the time and be blasé about life. We have to remember in this mad world, we have to look after ourselves, including our mental health.

If you have any questions or would like to know more, drop me a line.

Much Love,

Judy xo