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Get started with essential oils

July 6, 2019

The power of smell can have a real effect on our wellbeing; helping to reduce stress and lift our mood. It’s linked to our limbic system, which is part of the brain that controls mood and emotion.

One of the easiest ways of doing this is through essential oils, which are a concentrated scent of the plant they come from.

However, there are over 90 commonly used essential oils, each with their own health benefits so the choice of what to buy can be overwhelming.

How do you know what’s going to be right for you?

Then, what do you do with them?

Here’s an introduction on how to get started with essential oils. 

how to get started with essential oils
Essential oils contain the scent of the plant they come from

How do you use essential oils?

There are several ways to use essential oils: topically (where they’re applied directly through the skin); inhalation; and in beauty and household products. 

Here are a few ideas to help you get started with essential oils.

Diffuser (inhalation)

One of the easiest ways to use essential oils is with a diffuser. All you need to do is add a few drops of essential oils into water and the scent fills the air. There are various products on the market; I use this bamboo diffuser which works really well and turns off automatically when the water runs out.

Massage (inhalation and into the bloodstream) 

Add a few drops of essential oil to around a tablespoon of carrier oil such as sweet almond, jojoba or coconut oil for a full body massage.

I also add lemongrass to a carrier oil and use to massage my legs to increase circulation after spotting some potential varicose veins (the aging process is so fun. Sighs…).

Candles

There are so many essential oil candles on the market. However, look for ones that are essential oil based rather than the scent. Essential oil based candles are more expensive but they’re not made out of synthetic chemicals and so are much better in my book. Try looking on Etsy for ideas.

Beauty products

One of the easiest ways to create a home spa experience is to add a few drops of your favourite essential oil into a hot bath. Job done. For added luxury, also add 1-2 cups of epsom salts (to help ease achy muscles) and a tablespoon of carrier oil (to soften your skin) and then mix before you get in. 

Household cleaning

Sweet orange cleaning spray

Did you know a number of essential oils are a natural disinfectant? Tea tree oil, eucalyptus, lavender or any citrus fruit based essential oils can be used for general household cleaning. Just mix into a spray bottle with water or white vinegar (the cheap stuff).

I also love this DIY natural fabric conditioner with mandarin which leaves your clothes smelling better than any shop bought products. I promise. 

Treating minor ailments 

Cuts and grazes, plus insect bites can all be treated with tea tree essential oil. Always make sure you dilute with a bit of water before using to avoid your skin becoming irritated if it’s particularly sensitive.

What are the best essential oils to get started with?

I would always advise people to think about what scents that you’re attracted to. I’m not naturally someone who goes for rose or more floral smells, however, I love citrus and woody smells like sandalwood. 

Here are some ideas to help you get started with essential oils.

Please note, each of these oils have several uses so I’ve just highlighted some of them.

Eucalyptus 

Use for coughs, blocked noses, as a rub for aching muscles and as a natural disinfectant. 

Fill a sink with hot water and add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to steam away a blocked nose.

Lavender

Use for almost everything: skin and beauty products, household cleaning, headaches, sleep, mood enhancing and can even be used for sunburn.

Try adding a few drops to your pillow to help with sleep.

Sweet orange

One of my personal favourites. Sweet orange is said to help lift your mood and give you a sense of calm. As it’s a citrus fruit, it can also be used for cleaning products because its antimicrobial (gets rid of bacteria).

Add a few drops of sweet orange essential oil with bergamot and water into a spray bottle for an uplifting mood spray.

Bergamot

Bergamot is an invigorating essential oil which reduces stress and tension. It can also help you fight tiredness.

Mix with lavender in a diffuser and enjoy a moment of calm.

Peppermint

Use for digestive problems, colds and bronchitis.

Try spraying around ant invasions (not at the ants themselves…) to discourage them from coming into your home.

Tea Tree

Can be used to treat insect bites, cuts and on your skin and hair to reduce oil.

Add to water and put into a spray bottle for a natural insect repellent.

Basil

Basil is a calming essential oil, which is great for mental fatigue and to help you relax.

I make my own hydrating body spray with lime, basil and mandarin similar to that of a well known beauty brand… Recipe is here.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is another of my favourite essential oils. It’s so multi-purpose and I love the smell. It’s great for the nerves, can be used in household products (its antimicrobial), and is great for the skin also.

Use as a natural deodorant by diluting with water. It’s also supposed to be good for cellulite (mix with a carrier oil and massage affected areas.

Rosemary

Use to help reduce stress and boost the immune system.

Massage 5 drops of rosemary essential oil into your scalp to help your hair grow.

Juniper

Use for digestive issues, skin problems and heartburn. It’s also good for helping to balance out emotions.

Add a few drops into a carrier oil and use as a massage to help reduce fluid retention.

How do you create essential oil blends? 

Essential oils can be used on their own or blended together.

Here are a few basics to help you get started with essential oil blends.

Oils from the same family tend to blend well together. For example, flower based essential oils (rose, geranium, jasmine); herbs (basil, rosemary, marjoram); and spices (cinnamon, ginger).

Spices and citrus blend well together, such as ginger and lemon, cinnamon and sweet orange.

Woody scents and citrus work well. Examples are rosewood and bergamot, cedarwood and lime.

There are some oils which dominate and take over any scent combination. These are: peppermint, fennel, tea tree, clove, thyme and camomile. Although camomile may be lightened with lemon.

Menthol and flowery scents don’t tend to work well together.

Here are some essential oil blends to try

Uplifting energy blend

2 drops eucalyptus; 2 drops peppermint; 8 drops lemon; 1 drop cinnamon leaf; and 1 drop cardamon oil.

Memory enhancer for studying blend

1 drop clary sage; 6 drops lemon; and 10 drops rosemary oil.

Relaxtion blend

1 drop lavender; 1 drop ylang ylang; 1 drop bergamot and 1 drop patchouli oil.

Sleep inducing blend

10 drops sandalwood; 10 drops lavender; 15 drops bergamot; 2 drops ylang ylang and 3 drops frankincense oil.

What are carrier oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated so only a few can be applied directly to the skin without being diluted. They can either be diluted with water or with a carrier oil.

A carrier oil is also essential for massage as otherwise it would be painful on the skin and muscles.

Here are a few different options to help you get started.

  • 1. Grapeseed. This is a popular and easily available oil of a medium texture made from grape seeds.
  • 2. Almond. It’s more expensive but very kind to the skin with a delightful aroma.
  • 3. Apricot Kernel. Recommended for use on the face and neck, light and easily absorbed.
  • 4. Sunflower. A popular choice for body massage as it contains Vitamin E and easily available.
  • 5. Soya. Especially good for oily skins and easily absorbed.
  • 6. Avocado. More expensive but rich in texture and ideal for dry skin, containing Vitamins A and B.
  • 7. Wheatgerm. This is made from the germ of the wheat and contains Vitamin E. Excellent for dry skin but very rich – it may be used in combination with another lighter oil to prolong the life of the oil.
  • 8. Sesame. Again very rich with a nutty aroma. Best used in combination with another lighter oil.

Where to buy essential oils? 

Always buy essential oils from a reputable brand because some of the cheaper products can be mixed with other ingredients so they’re no longer pure.

I buy either Baldwin’s or Tisserand essential oils.

What’s the best way of storing essential oils?

Essential oils should be kept in dark brown glass bottles and away from direct sunlight.

Keep the lids on tight.

If stored properly, they should keep for 1-2 years.

Things to note

There are some essential oils which aren’t advised to be used on young children or pregnant women so I would always check best practice first if this applies to you.

I’ve also added some affiliate links to products, which I’ve bought myself and have been happy with. I’m not saying this is the only place to buy them from – am just sharing in case its useful. 

I often think the power of smell is underrated compared to other sensory experiences such as listening to music and the impact it can have our emotions. However, research shows essential oils can reduce feelings of anxiety and aid sleep and they’re a reasonably cheap way of lifting your spirits.

I hope you find this post useful.

self-care

10 quick and easy self-care ideas

July 31, 2018
quick easy self-care ideas

Self-care for when life gets busy

I fall into bad habits quickly. Lack of time means I reach for junk food instead of eating a more balanced diet and rushing around means I forget to think about my needs altogether. When life gets busy, self-care tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. The irony being that when life gets hectic, we need to look after ourselves more than ever. There are only so many hours in the day, and of course, there are times when self-care can’t be prioritised. So here are 10 quick and easy self-care ideas to consider for when time is short.

10 quick and easy self-care ideas

  1. Prioritise small life admin tasks. I’m the queen of procrastination and push any small admin tasks as far down the list as I can. It’s easy to delay something that isn’t urgent but the reality is, it still hangs over you as something to do. Give yourself sense of achievement and stop the list from building up.
  2. Declutter. There is a lot of evidence which shows a clearer space is good for the mind. It gives you room to think and breathe. Prioritise one room at a time and objectively clear things you don’t use or need anymore.
  3. Take time out from social media. Sure, social media can be fun. However, it can also be a time hoover and leave you with feelings of inadequacy. Switch your phone off for a set period of time and always unfollow or mute anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Check in with your body. How are you really feeling? Do a full body scan and notice signs of aches and pains. Do you need to rest? How is your mood? Understand what your emotions are telling you.
  5. Breathe. There may not always be time for mindfulness practice but there is always time to breathe… Take 3 deep breaths and use the moment to pause and reflect in a busy day.
  6. Pay it forward. This may not sound like a self-care strategy, however, doing random acts of kindness helps uplift us and feel more positive. Try leaving a bottle of water for a homeless person in summer or buy a coffee for the person in front of you. Small acts can make a big difference.
  7. Gratitude. My gratitude practice often falls to the bottom of the list when I get busy. During those times, take a few minutes out of the day to notice what you feel grateful for.
  8. Walk outside. We should all try to have 15 minutes outside to make sure we’re getting enough Vitamin D. I try to take some time away from listening to music and really notice the world around me. It’s important to see the beauty in everyday life.
  9. Give yourself permission to take time off. I will sit down to read a book and within minutes get up to start putting the washing away or some equally innocuous domestic task. I struggle to make time just for me. It’s important to remember, we all need breaks and no one’s energy is limitless.
  10. Do something just for you. I know baths and candles are a bit of a joke when it comes to self-care. However, there is something in the idea of taking time out just for yourself. We all deserve a break.
wellbeing

Why does sunshine make us happier?

May 6, 2018

The first days of sunshine in London and it’s like the city becomes a different place. Strangers talk to each other and people walk around with smiles on their faces. My energy levels lift completely with a few sunny days and the start of light evenings. Suddenly I feel I have more time to get things done rather than thinking about bedtime from around 8.30pm. My experience is pretty common. So why does sunshine make us happier?

In my case, it’s not the cold weather which tends to affect my mood, but the lack of daylight, which leads to feeling tired and run down. For people who work in offices and start and end their day in darkness, these feelings are even worse. I have to remind myself to go out at lunch just to make sure I see some daylight.

Why does sunshine make us happier?

Sunshine is a natural mood boost

Time in the sun is thought to increase the release of serotonin, which boosts our mood and helps us feel calm and focused. This is one of the reasons why we’re encouraged to go out in during the day to ensure we’re seeing daylight and getting a natural serotonin boost. It’s also good for our circadian rhythm (the part of our brain that makes us feel tired at night and awake during the day).

It’s a natural form of vitamin D

Exposure to sunlight also gives us a daily dose of Vitamin D which can be hard to get from foods alone. Vitamin D promotes healthy cell and bone growth, reduces inflammation, and helps to stimulate our immune function. Just 20 minutes of exposure to sunshine a day has real health benefits (people with darker skin need longer). Exposure to the sun can lower blood pressure, help create stronger bones and teeth, reduce the risk of some cancers and can help with skin conditions.

Sunshine encourages good habits

The sunshine makes us want to be physically healthier, as well as emotionally. Salad starts to become a viable food order instead of just a garnish. It spurs us on to start exercising – if only because it’s nice just to be outdoors.

Let’s take advantage while we can.

wellbeing

Why laughter is the best medicine

May 5, 2018

I went away with friends recently and laughed and laughed and laughed. I laughed until my stomach hurt and tears rolled down my cheeks. And even though I’d been burning the candle at both ends – I came home feeling happier and lighter than I had done in a long time. It turns out laughter really is the best medicine and studies show it benefits almost every area of our lives.

Why laughter really is the best medicine

Laughing makes us happy

Laughing releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals inside our brains.  Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland measured the ‘endorphin rush’. They studied 12 healthy men to see the after-effects of watching 30 minutes of comedy clips together. They found social laughter caused pleasurable feelings and significantly boosted endorphins and other opioid peptides in the brain.

Laughter is Contagious

Research has shown laughter really is contagious. Scientists played a series of sounds to participants to see how they responded to positive or negative sounds. They tested the movement of facial muscles afterwards. The study found that people tended to smile when they heard laughter.

Laughter helps create long-lasting relationships

Laura Kurtz, a social psychologist from the University of North Carolina investigated how much shared laughter influences the success of a relationship. She studied 77 heterosexual pairs (154 people total) who had been in a relationship for an average of 4 years and did video recordings of them recalling how they first met. The couples who laughed more together in the videos reported having happier relationships.

Laughter boosts our immune systems

A study by Indiana State University Sycamore Nursing Cente divided 33 women into two groups: one watched funny videos and the other a video on tourism. They found the funny video group reported a significant decrease in stress and their natural killer cell levels were significantly higher than those who watched the other video.

Laughter acts as pain relief

Scientists at Oxford University looked at if laughter helped with pain relief. Participants watched funny video clips and a live comedy show during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Participants were tested in groups and alone. They were then asked to take part in pain tests until they said they couldn’t take anymore. The study revealed that laughter considerably increased participants’ ability to tolerate pain – particularly when they were in a group. Turns out laughter actually is the best medicine.

Laughter looks after your heart

It also helps to look after your heart. The University of Maryland examined the circulation in the blood vessels after watching different types of films. One group watched stressful segments from the war film ‘Saving Private Ryan,” whilst the others watched parts of comedy ‘Something About Mary’. Scientists found that the blood vessel lining constricted and circulation decreased in those who watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Whereas for the vessel lining dilated and circulation increased for those watching the comedy.

Laughter can help with depression

Italian researchers found that laughter appears to stimulate brain regions involved in depression and mediating stress. Their study, published in 2010, also noted that both the immune system and social relationships can be strengthened by laughter, leaving individuals more able to cope with their mood disorder.

Laughter increases resilience

Being able to laugh at our shortcomings and failures has a positive impact on our resilience (the ability to overcome negative situations). Scientists asked 201 pairs of North American adult twins to complete a questionnaire on two positive (affiliative, self-enhancing) and two negative (aggressive, self-defeating) humour styles. Participants also were asked about how they felt about eight mental toughness factors: commitment, control, emotional control, control over own life, confidence, confidence in own abilities, interpersonal confidence, and challenge. Positive correlations were found between the positive humour styles and all of the mental toughness factors.

Ways to increase laughter in your life

  • spend time with people who make you laugh
  • watch comedies or read books which you know will make you laugh out loud
  • put yourself in social situations which involve laughing. Go to the cinema to watch a funny film or a comedy. night. Even if you’re on your own, being around other people who are laughing will still hugely impact on your wellbeing.
self-care

The five pillars of self-care

April 17, 2018
pillars of self-care

What are the five pillars of self-care?

The five pillars of self-care (emotional, physical, social, spiritual and intellectual) make up parts of our lives we need to focus on and nourish. In an ideal world, we should try to think about them regularly to see if we’re in alignment.

However, let’s be honest, it’s easy to let things fall by the wayside when we get busy or try to bury our head in the sand about issues we don’t want to face.

It’s fundamentally important that try to we ensure our needs are being met as humans. We should be prioritising our emotional, physical health and wellbeing to help us become the best possible versions of ourselves.

So it can be very worthwhile to probe deeper to try and gain an understanding of what areas we might be neglecting. And if we are, what can we do to resolve it?

Every month or so, it might be worthwhile to take a bit of time out to explore how you’re feeling in each of these areas and if there are any that you want to focus on more?

Or use the questions below to see where you are.

Are you in alignment? Measuring yourself against the five pillars of self-care.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

How are you feeling emotionally? How is your mental health? Are you overwhelmed, stressed, lethargic, down, close to tears? Do you feel anxious, depressed or flat? How are your relationships with others? Are they positive? Are you behaving with kindness or are you quick to snap/judge? Any of these factors may suggest you need to focus on your mental and emotional wellbeing.

Physical health

How is your overall health? Do you have any existing health conditions? Are you sleeping, eating well, drinking enough water and not too much alcohol? Are you showering, brushing your teeth, washing your clothes? Are you exercising? Do you have a preferred physical activity? Do you have any injuries or ailments? Do you have a regular routine and build in rest and relaxation?

Social

Do you have friends and/or family who support you when times get tough? Equally, do you make time for fun? Are you lonely? Is there more you could be doing to build a network? Are you also making enough time for other people (and not just focusing on yourself)?

Spiritual

Are you thinking about your purpose in life and the values and beliefs that drive you? Are you taking the time to reflect on what motivates you and what from your past may be stopping you from moving forward? Gaining greater understanding of your own self can help you to live a happier and more purposeful life.

Intellectual

Are you challenging yourself to learn and try new things? Are you thinking about your self-development and personal growth? Are you travelling and/or reading about different people and cultures? Are you expanding your horizons through film and literature. We all have to change and evolve throughout our lifetimes.

Do you need a self-care audit?

How to practice self-care

Have you thought about carrying out a self-care audit? I’ve created a template for you to work through so you can check in and understand how you’re feeling and if there are any areas you need to spend more time on.

It’s worth doing regularly because our circumstances and situations change. What matters today, may not be the same next week, month or year.

Many of us have a tendency to put ourselves last and we need to remember self-care is a way of ensuring we can look after others too.

you can’t pour from an empty cup

wellbeing

Seven quick and easy wellbeing ideas

April 9, 2018
quick and easy wellbeing ideas

As soon as I get busy, the first thing to fall by the wayside is taking proper care of myself. My daily diet becomes packet food and any activities I do to focus on my emotional health fall right down the priority list. I end up becoming sluggish, a bit fed up and start feeling bad about myself. I’ve made this mistake so many times, I’m determined to try and change my ways. This is why I’m putting some quick and simple wellbeing ideas in place so I can keep myself in balance.

Seven quick and easy wellbeing ideas

  1. Boost your diet with citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemons, which have a number of health benefits including improving the immune system. It may not stop you reaching for the takeaway menu (and we’re all allowed a treat) but it will help you feel like you’re putting some goodness into your body.
  2. I love the idea of yoga. I just don’t always think I have time. Sun Salutations are quick and still get the body moving and your energy flowing. This video from online yoga sensation, Adrienne shows you how.
  3. Mindfulness can be done almost anywhere such as on your commute or even when you’re walking. There are a number of Apps offering guided meditations including Headspace and Andrew Johnson. However, just being aware and tuning into your breath, can also make a real difference especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Try to see daylight and take a walk even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. It’s great for helping you get into a good sleep pattern because it sets your body clock to day and night.
  5. Keep hydrated by drinking water and herbal teas. Buy a water carrier to keep it with you and keep hydrated on the go.
  6. Practice gratitude. You may not have time to write a gratitude diary but you can still take 30 seconds throughout the day to check in with yourself and think about what you are grateful for.
  7. Scientists have found that smiling lifts our mood and boosts our immune system. So smile!
self-care

Get into good sleep habits

April 5, 2018

One of the most positive actions I take towards improving my wellbeing is to make sure I get enough sleep.

I wish I was one of those people who doesn’t need much sleep and can spring out of bed after a late night – but I’m not. Lack of sleep affects me greatly. It impacts my mood, energy levels, how proactive I am and even slows down my cognitive processing abilities (aka it takes me twice as long to get my brain in action…).

Basically I’m a hot mess without it.

Understanding what affects our sleep

We’re all different; and different factors affect our sleep. I’m not majorly sensitive to caffeine: although please note, I’m not necking late night espressos. However, alcohol has a massive impact on my sleep. Any more than two small glasses of wine and it’s game over; I can’t function the next day.

My sleep is impacted also depending on what else is going on in my life. I tend to reenact events of the day, thinking about what I could have said and done differently. My mind starts to race and I struggle to switch off. This is one of the reasons why podcasts are my best friend.

My sleep routine

I need a solid 8 hours sleep to function as a reasonably productive human being. I have a pretty standard sleep routine and I try to go to bed between 10.00-10.15pm every night. I listen to a podcast or a talking book before going to sleep and more often than not, I’m asleep by the end.

I try and stick to a good sleep routine. I give myself an hour to watch a TV programme or read before going to bed to put myself in the frame of mind that it’s night time. Or I take a bath with epsom salts and lavender essential oils giving myself the time to switch off.

Sleep can be affected by so many external factors that it’s not always in our gift to be able to change it; however, building in good sleep habits will help.

8 ways to get into good sleep habits

Follow these basic tips to get into good sleep habits.

  1. Have a consistent bedtime which is early enough to make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you. Guidelines recommend at least seven hours of sleep a night – but personally I think it differs from person to person.
  2. Wind down an hour before bedtime by taking a bath, reading, meditating and any other relaxing activities.
  3. Turn off your phone in your bedroom. Now, this makes me sound a bit hypocritical because I use my phone to listen to podcasts and audiobooks so I turn the light right down so it doesn’t disturb me.
  4. Make your sleeping area relaxing with a comfortable bed, clean sheets and soft lighting.
  5. Avoid caffeine and excessive alcohol, as well as rich and fatty foods which can all disrupt sleep patterns.
  6. Exercise at least ten minutes a day – even just a slow walk will make a difference.
  7. Make sure you get some exposure to natural light during the day to keep your body producing melatonin, which makes you sleepy at night.
  8. Keep your bedroom dark at night so your body clock (circadian rhythm) learns to differentiate between night and day.
mind

Feeling overwhelmed? Here are 8 ways to help

March 11, 2018

It feels ironic that this week has involved International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day given that I’ve felt like I’m failing in pretty much every area of my life. I’ve made silly mistakes at work through rushing to get things done and I’ve felt guilty for not being fully engaged with my child because my mind is elsewhere. I haven’t had time to do half the things I wanted to and have been feeling overwhelmed.

In my case, feeling overwhelmed triggers headaches and an inability to focus properly. I start to feel anxious and can’t concentrate. My mind then struggles to switch off, leading to a lack of sleep, which affects my ability to rationalise things the following day.

I then end up in a cycle of being overwhelmed and it usually takes a while to get out of this mindset. And let’s face it, no one enjoys being in a state of panic…

Impact of being overwhelmed on the body

It’s pretty much impossible to design a life which is fully stress-free.

However, it is important to understand the impact feeling overwhelmed has on the body. Stress affects our emotions and can make us feel angry, upset amongst others. It releases the stress hormone, cortisol which longer term can lead to health issues such as high cholesterol, heart disease, low immune systems and many, many others.

Whilst being overwhelmed is usually only in the short term, it does have a longer term effect. This is why it’s important to deal with it and put some self-care practices in place.

How can you stop the overwhelm?

There will always be moments where you feel more overwhelmed than others. Stress is a fact of life and difficult situations can help us grow.

However, it helps to have some self-care strategies to hand for when overwhelm hits.

Here are some ideas.

8 ways to help when you’re feeling overwhelmed

1. Respond rather than react

Your emotions cause you to react but try instead to respond. This is something I’m learning to put in place (admittedly I did shed a few tears in the work toilets last week). It doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence, just instead take the emotion out, assess the situation and consider the best response.

2. Look at what specifically triggered your feelings of overwhelm?

Where have these feelings come from? I know conflicting deadlines and projects going awry contribute to me becoming overwhelmed. I’m not very good at ‘failure’. I then overthink things, which affects my sleep and tiredness affects my ability to act objectively.

3. Prioritise

The Guardian journalist Oliver Burkeman describes the sense of overwhelm as, “the mismatch between all the things you’d like to do, or feel you ought to do, and the far smaller capacity of things you’re actually capable of doing”.

Look at what needs to be done urgently, what can be done in a few days and what really can wait. The likelihood is not everything needs to be done straight away.

4. Be kind to yourself

Feeling like I’m not on top of things leads to a pattern of negative thinking. I find it hard not to start telling myself what a failure I am. Actually, caring about doing something well is a really positive thing. Remember, you are doing your best and practice self-compassion.

5. Done is better than perfect

Sometimes you just have to accept there aren’t enough hours in the day for perfection. You just need to get it done and move on.

6. Ask for support

Don’t suffer in silence. There is nothing wrong in asking for help or speaking out. My sister in law took my son for a walk yesterday. In that hour, I finished two pieces of work and feel like I’m going to start the week on a more positive note.

7. Practice self-care

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I get busy, healthy eating (by which I mean good nutrition) goes out of the window. I’m eating packet food and craving anything high in salt and fat. That’s quite a normal response. Stress increases our appetite and so we immediately crave food which will give us a quick burst of energy. Longer term though, it’s not really doing us any favours.

Try to take time out just for you. Run a bath, read a book, watch TV – anything to give yourself a break. Better decisions are made with a clear head.

Here are some simple self-care ideas for when life gets busy.

8. And breathe

I can feel a bit teary when things get too much. If you do feel really overwhelmed, focus on your breath and take a few minutes just breathing in and out.

It helps, I promise.

Further reading

Unsure if you’re feeling anxious? Try this short test. Please note, your results won’t give you a medical diagnosis but might give you some insight.

wellbeing

Why you need house plants in your life

February 28, 2018
Why you need house plants in your life

I confess: I’m not a naturally green-fingered person. It’s a skill I continue to work on. Despite that though, nearly every surface in my home is covered with house plants.

There’s a myriad of reasons why I love about house plants so much. I enjoy seeing new leaves bud and grow. I like the fact I feel there’s some element of nature indoors. I get a kick out of coordinating their pots and thinking about how everything works together. Overall, they just make me happy.

However, I’m not just all about the aesthetic. Indoor plants are also proven to increase our mental wellbeing and physical health too.

Benefits of house plants

  • Plants improve your mood and reduce stress. Did you know lavender essential oil is one of the best oils for creating feelings of calm and reducing stress? Well the same goes for the plant too. The scent from a potted lavender plant will help your overall mental wellbeing. It’s not the only house plant either: try a snake plant or a red edged dracaena for a lifting boost too.
  • They improve the air quality. I vaguely remember learning in Biology GCSE about how we need plants and trees around us for oxygen. However, house plants do far more than that. There are some varieties of plants which purify the air in our homes and remove some of the toxins found in detergents and cosmetics. Try our old friend the red edged dracaena or a spider plant.
  • Plants can speed up convalescence for people in hospital. Plants also have a positive impact on our physical health. Researchers have found that patients near plants in hospital get better quicker than those without.
  • They increase levels in productivity for people working in offices. A study by the University of Exeter found that employee productivity increased by 15% just by being able to see a house plant from their desk.

Everything I’ve learnt about plants (or a beginners guide to indoor gardening)

  1. Plants need watering far less than you think. I’ve overwatered them until their leaves have gone brown or their roots have rotted. Try not to kill them with love.
  2. Stick your finger in the top of the soil. If it’s bone dry, then water the plant. Otherwise, leave it alone.
  3. Think about light. There are some plants that don’t mind shade but in my experience, most plants need at least some.
  4. Start with spider plants, snake plants or red edged dracaena, as I’ve found them pretty hardy and easy to look after. In other words, no matter what you do; they’ll probably stay alive.
self-care

How to do a self-care audit

February 24, 2018
how to do a self-care audit

What is a self-care audit?

Are you really fully aware of everything that’s going on in your life? All those underlying niggling issues and areas of discomfort? Are there areas that you’re kind of aware of but they’re easy to push to the bottom of the pile? Well, this is where a self-care audit comes in; giving you the chance to really assess where you’re at in life and put together a plan to take forward.

Tackling problems head on

I don’t know about you but I’m quite good at trying to block things I don’t want to think about. I try and bury my head in the sand and hope issues won’t surface by not thinking about them too much. The problem with this approach is that issues do manifest themselves. I’ve experienced sleepless nights, moments of panic and tried to use coping mechanisms (hello drinking a skinful and crying on the night bus younger me). You have to deal with things in order to move forward and this is where self-care comes in.

The importance of self-care

Self-care is essentially looking after ourselves – with the understanding that we need to look after every area of our lives. It’s almost an anchor in a way ensuring that when things get touch (because we know life ebbs and flows), we have systems in place to look after ourselves.

Self-care audit

We all need to factor self-care into our lives but how do we determine what we actually need?

I’ve put together this template for you to use to take stock of the six pillars of self-care. (emotional, physical, social, spiritual, intellectual and financial) and reflect on where you should focus your attention.

Use this self-care audit template and work through each area. Use it to reflect on where you’re at currently and where you need to focus more.

self-care

What does self-care mean and why is it important?

February 20, 2018
what does self-care mean

What do we mean by self-care?

Nowadays, it seems there is a whole lifestyle being sold on self-care with scented candles, luxury bubble bath and turmeric based drinks all designed to improve our health and wellbeing. Posts on Instagram portray carefully curated images of must-have products all selling the self-care dream. But if we strip all of this away, what does the phrase self-care actually mean? Is it just candles and bath oils, or something much more meaningful?

Having come of age in the 90s, the term ‘self-care’ is fairly new to me and something I always thought meant simply looking after yourself. And to a degree, that’s pretty much what it is. Self-care is any activity we do in order to look after our mental, emotional and physical health. It is key to keeping ourselves well; maintaining our immune systems and mental wellbeing.

yes, it may be as simple as running a relaxing bubble bath or lighting a scented candle; for others, it may be the key to getting themselves out of bed in the morning.

Why you need to look after yourself

Physical and mental health obviously differs from person to person. It also changes throughout our lives. This is where the concept of self-care can’t really be prescriptive: for some people, yes, it may be as simple as running a relaxing bubble bath or lighting a scented candle; for others, it may be the key to getting themselves out of bed in the morning.

On this basis, I do think it’s important not to dismiss self-care as just a luxury or a lifestyle aspiration. It can be critical to someone’s recovery from illness or being able to maintain to hold down a job. It’s also not just about wellness but ensuring lots of parts of our lives are in balance including our finances. As someone who has had my fair share of debts in the past, I know the stress it causes when you’re not sure if your paycheck will last you the month.

For me, I definitely know self-care is something I need to concentrate on more. My face takes on a greyish pallor when I haven’t been eating and sleeping properly. I also start to feel exhausted and run down. I need to get better at recognising that self-care is preventative action rather than something I do after running myself into the ground.

How to put self-care in place

One of the easiest ways to look at how best to support yourself is to do a self-care audit. This helps you identify what areas of life you need to focus on and to think about the actions you’ll put in place. It’s worth doing this every six months or so because life changes and your self-care needs will change with it.

body

Five ways to drink more water

February 10, 2018
ways to drink more water

As someone who is approaching middle-age, I can tell when I’ve not been drinking enough water. My skin looks tired and far more wrinkly. A night drinking vino shows on my face… Without enough water, I also end up feeling dehydrated and lacking in energy. So this is why I made a resolution to myself that I would make sure I drink at least two litres of water a day. However, as someone who reaches for a coffee first thing,  it’s not always that easy. This is why I’ve tried to think of new ways to drink more water.

So these are my five ways to increase your water intake.

  1. Start the day with hot water and lemon. It’s great for flushing your system out and rehydrates you straightaway. I cut my lemon up the night before to save time in the morning so all I need to do is add hot water and I take it with me in my KeepCup to the station.
  2. Add flavour by adding mint, cucumber, lemon, ginger etc. I’m actually really good at drinking water at work (due to point 3), just not so great at home. I’ve found if I add mint to a carafe, I find it a much more enjoyable and interesting drink (basically I try to kid myself I’m in a restaurant).
  3. Buy a large bottle with reminders drawn on it to remind you when to drink. This has been the biggest game changer for me: partly because we only have tiny glasses at work and I tend to forget to refill it; and secondly, it really prompts me to check how much I’ve drunk. I bought one from Hydratem8 but you could easily buy a plain bottle and mark it yourself.
  4. Carry water with you. If I’m out and about, generally I will wait until I feel ridiculously parched before I will go out in search of somewhere to buy it. I tend to fill my bottle half full (it can be heavy otherwise) and it really makes a difference
  5. Remember there is water in lots of other things. Cucumber, celery, tomatoes and fruits such as watermelon and grapes all contain water. I tend to go for a camomile tea in the afternoon, which is a great way of drinking water with other health benefits too.
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