Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Fibro and how self-care can help...

This is an interesting topic as Fibromyalgia can present with so many symptom combinations for sufferers, which can vary in intensity and length of recovery.

When a flare up of symptoms happens it can be a confusing time trying to find strategies to help, and often sufferers just don't have the energy to do the research, cook a different set of foods, try the different complementary therapies available, they just want to switch off for a while and let the flare up pass.

It's on good days that they really need to be looking for ways of managing their illness, put the ground work in, build the toolkit of self-care such that on bad days it's already there, you just need to open it.

So practically, what can you do? Well, that really depends on the symptoms you have. For example, if your flare up includes IBS symptoms dietary considerations are going to be more important than others so researching foods that are kind to IBS would be worthwhile, maybe having a few IBS-friendly recipes to hand that are quick and easy to prepare (as you don't want to be adding any stress at this point).

If you suffer with pain and fatigue are you able to hit the stop button (even if it's just for 24hrs), wrap up, have a sofa/duvet day - without feeling guilty about it! Even if you don't like being dependant on painkillers, some days you just need to take them, allow your body to relax and rest and then come back feeling better the next day.

Some people find regular massage can help, it acts to stimulate not just the muscles but also the nervous system - helping to reset and rebalance the signals, like finding neutral in your gearbox, and also stimulates the lymphatic system to help move any stagnant lymph - all of which can have a massive knock-on effect throughout the body to give a feeling of lightness and well-being.

Massage also has a wonderful side-effect of promoting a good night's sleep. Fibro sufferers often miss out on the deep, REM sleep that promotes recovery and allows you to feel refreshed the next day.

If you suffer with depression and anxiety it can be difficult to motivate yourself to do anything, especially if it's combined with other physical symptoms. Some people find that just getting outside in the fresh air, particularly somewhere green and natural (garden, park, woods, riverside) is a great help. You don't have to go hiking, or walk miles, just sitting on a bench, wrapped up warm listening to the birds in the trees can be the break that you need to change your mood. Make a flask of tea (or whatever your favourite tipple is) and enjoy the moment.

Some people find that having a friend who understands and they can call/message on a bad day who can then meet them for a chat/coffee helps too.

I think the most important thing to remember is keep it simple. Especially if you have family to consider as this can impact on them too. If they understand your flare ups and are made aware of what they can do to help too, it will take the stress off you. I know we are all programmed to look after our families, cook the dinners, do the washing and cleaning, food shop, sort the kids stuff out for school etc. But.... asking for and accepting help with these jobs can make all the difference.

Listen to your body and feel what it wants... if you need to sleep do it, if you need to cry do that too, releasing emotions can often help release the physical issues too. Find what works for you, let family/friends know what's in your "toolkit" and how they can help. Try not to isolate yourself, it's so easy just to shut down, think no-one else understands and hide in your own dark place. 

I've written this for Fibro, however it applies to many other chronic illnesses too, you just have to choose the strategies that work for you. And as with all chronic illnesses it's about managing them and not allowing them to get the better of you.

Stay positive, enjoy the good days, manage the bad, and most crucially - be kind to yourself. 💜

Sunday, 25 March 2018

From the heart...

My physical health had been playing up recently and I couldn't work out what was causing it. I assumed that all the recent stress and anxiety from sorting the divorce finances was the root cause, and it would sort itself out once resolved.

Other thoughts and feelings kept popping into my head but instead of paying attention to them I ignored them. It wasn't until going to see a therapist friend for a treatment that I realised it was something else.

For years I have blamed myself for not being able to have children. I have never forgiven myself for opting to have a hysterectomy, seeing it as a betrayal, even though without it my life was a cycle of pain to the point of not being able to work, let alone function on a daily basis.

I have always wanted children. I ache when I think about it, even now at the age of 50, 15 years after the hysterectomy, it still hurts. 

I feel empty in one sense, unfulfilled, but I have all this love stored up ready to give to my children that will never be. The sadness can be overwhelming, it's locked inside me. I seem to be keeping it there to hurt myself with, to punish myself for taking away the chance to be a mother and as a reminder of what could have been.

And now I need to stop that hurt, it's time to let it go, to forgive myself. It was not my fault, I had no choice, but now I have. Now I have a loving, understanding partner who deserves the love I can give her. The love that I have locked away deserves to be let out to see the light of day.

We are both worthy of that love - we can use it to pave the path to our future. It can free me from the hurt of the past. I deserve to be happy and I am worthy of the love I have been denying myself for so long.

Having a partner that gets me, who can read me like a book is so liberating - there is nowhere to hide so I don't need to any more. I can finally be myself, and with the love a support we give each other the future is ours to write.

Our pasts will affect our future happiness, how? Well, that's up to us... Me? I choose to be happy.


Love, it's just a word but it can have so many other labels attached to it.
Which is wrong. It's just love. We can't explain it, or justify it, it's just there.

You know what I'm talking about, that moment when someone enters your energy field and everything else just disappears. All you have is that intense physical attraction and overwhelming emotional connection to this other being and suddenly nothing else matters.

Something magical happens to us, it's like our energies are playing together, joining forces and merging together, talking on a higher level in a language we can only feel. I say ‘only’ but it's powerful stuff, it can feel like you've been hit by a bus, it takes your breath away and lifts you up to where your energy watches on, an amused look on it's face. You feel it all the way through your body connecting your chakras like joining the dots, and exploding out of your fingertips.

It only takes a second or two for this to happen, but it feels like a lifetime. A lifetime of waiting for this exact moment, not you, but your soul, waiting to meet its mate.

If you're one of the lucky ones who have the chance to experience this, just stop and listen for a second. Become aware of how you feel at that instant. Now you have a choice. Even if it's not ‘normal’ for you, would you listen to your heart and soul? Could you dance to the music that's flowing through your every fibre, every cell, making you feel so alive and so grounded for the first time in a long time? Are you brave enough to defy your mind thought and go with your heart, even though your head (which is based on influence, perception and judgement from others) is telling you different?

When we connect with someone this deeply does it matter if they're male or female, no I don't think it does. But society will still want to label it… homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, gay etc…. We are brought up with the judgements of others, we are always looking outwards instead of to ourselves. But does it really matter what others think? We are the ones responsible for our own happiness, it really is our choice. I choose not to be labelled, I choose to allow myself to recognise it when it happens, and let it connect with me when the time is right.

Why can't it just be called Love. That's what it is after all, just love, oh and beautiful and amazing and very, very special.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Are Himalayan Salt Lamps Beneficial?

Are there really health benefits to owning a Himalayan salt lamp, or are they just a glowing, earthy addition to your home? I’m glad you asked.

What Is a Himalayan Salt Lamp and Does It Work?

Real Himalayan salt lamps are actually solid blocks of Himalayan salt that have been hand-carved. Deep underground mines in Khewra, Pakistan, located on the western edge of the Himalayan Mountains, are the only source of true Himalayan pink salt. The color of Himalayan salt lamps ranges from a light pink to a pinkish orange with the hue a result of the mineral concentration. Within the hollowed-out center of this block of salt is a light bulb that emits both light and heat. A salt lamp is not a lamp at all if it doesn’t have the light and heat source within it. Without that, it’s just a block of salt.

Salt is hygroscopic, which means it attracts water molecules to itself. Being the big hunk of salt that it is, a Himalayan salt lamp works by attracting water molecules. This water vapour can also carry indoor air pollutants like mold, bacteria and allergens. Once the water vapour comes in contact with the salt lamp, the pollutants are believed to remain trapped in the salt. Since the lamp is heated, the salt dries out and is able to continue the cycle of attracting water vapor and pollutants, releasing the water vapor back into the air but holding on to the health-hazardous pollutants.

Just looking at the glow of a Himalayan salt lamp can be calming, which is therapeutic in and of itself, but what about the other health claims? To date, there aren’t any scientific studies focusing specifically on Himalayan salt lamp benefits. However, there is good reason to believe that salt lamps may provide some health benefits.

Salt is said to have the following health properties:

  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Loosens excessive mucus and speeds up mucociliary transport
  • Removes pathogens (ie., airborne pollen)
  • Reduces IgE level (immune system oversensitivity)

So What Are The Benefits?

1. Air Purification

Out of all of the possible Himalayan salt lamp benefits, air purification is often the quintessential goal for most buyers. Air-purifying house plants are often bought for this reason as well. There is not doubt that cleaner air in your home is better for your health.

As described earlier, a Himalayan salt lamp by its salty nature is able to easily attract water vapour to it. With this water vapour often comes indoor air pollutants, including allergens, mold and bacteria. When the water hits the heated lamp, the salt traps the pollutants but releases the water vapour. This cycle repeats while the lamp is on and warm. By removing pollutants from the air, the salt lamp leaves you with cleaner, healthier air.

2. Reduction in Electromagnetic Radiation and Airborne Infections

So many things around us nowadays release electromagnetic radiation in the form of unhealthy positive ions — things like your cell phone, computer and television. This electromagnetic radiation (EM) may be invisible but is believed to cause some serious long-term effects. Constant exposure to EM radiation is known primarily to cause fatigue, increase stress and weaken the immune system.

There have been more than 2,000 studies exposing the toxic effects of electromagnetic fields from all sources. Scientists have come to the scary conclusion that “chronic exposure to even low-level radiation (like that from cell phones) can cause a variety of cancers, impair immunity, and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, heart disease, and many other ailments.”

The best way to increase exposure to negative ions is to spend more time in nature, especially around water. Himalayan salt lamps are said to emit negative ions in small amounts and cancel out positive ones. By neutralising EM they may help reduce the negative health effects of harmful ions. Balancing positive and negative ions also may help reduce airborne infections.

3. Eases Asthma and Allergy Symptoms

Himalayan salt is now used in inhalers to bring relief to asthma and allergy sufferers. Salt therapy is also used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. 

Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated highly impressive salt therapy benefits, including helping:

  • 85 percent of mild and moderate asthma cases
  • 75 percent of severe asthma cases
  • 97 percent of chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis cases

Salt therapy for breathing problems is said to have begun with Siberian salt mine workers in the later 1800s who had a surprisingly small number of respiratory problems compared to people around them with less salty professions. Nowadays, you can find salt caves at various spas, and this salt cave experience is also trying to be re-created with the invention of salt pipe inhalers. Salt lamps are another smaller-scale way to bring the salt cave experience (and hopefully the health benefits) home.

4. Mood Booster and Sleep Promoter

Another possible health benefit of the Himalayan salt lamp is a reduction in anxiety symptoms. According to colour therapy as well as general human enjoyment, the warm pinkish to orange glow of the salt lamp is a calming and happy presence in a room. Additionally, as a real piece of nature, Himalayan salt gives off negative ions like a waterfall (but in much smaller amounts). Since Himalayan salt lamps release negative ions into the air, they can help reduce anxiety and also encourage a relaxing atmosphere for sleep. Many people like to keep salt lamps in their bedrooms for their calming effect.

So, despite the fact that we cannot say with any scientific certainty that owning a salt lamp is good for you, most owners agree that they are a welcome addition to their home.

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Thursday, 1 February 2018

Self-care - essential or indulgence?

For anyone who’s been looking for a good reason to book that New Year treat, consider this: You probably don't do it often enough, and putting "me time" on the back burner is a big part of why we can all feel run-down, stressed, and overwhelmed. This is where the much-used term self-care comes to the fore.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is any action or behaviour that helps us avoid triggering health problems (like increasing our risk for heart problems due to excess stress, for example) and benefits us by improving our mental and physical health. The benefits are numerous, from feeling more relaxed and happy, improved self-esteem and self-confidence, reduced pain and fatigue, improved sleep and less stress. All of these can work hand-in-hand to enable us to feel more balanced and able to cope in an ever-increasing, over-stimulating world. Self-care makes up an essential part of a healthy lifestyle that keeps us healthy, happy, and more in-tune with our minds and bodies.

The problem is, we probably aren't doing enough of it.

We feel guilty when we take time out of our busy schedules to just relax or enjoy ourselves. Even something as simple as taking a break away from our desks to enjoy a cuppa can be a massive benefit, but how many of us actually use this time to switch off for 10 minutes and check in with ourselves instead of checking on Facebook or looking at that email that just pinged in. But ignoring our needs has some dangerous side effects: It makes us more likely to get sick and can make existing conditions worse—not to mention the emotional toll of never taking a break. How can we expect to function to the best of our abilities, and look after those around us (whether that's children, family, work colleagues, friends) if we are not at our best?

That's why self-care is essential, when we take good care of ourselves, we're likely to see an improvement in many aspects of our lives, including our physical health, relationships, productivity and even our income. Plus, by making the choice to practice self-care, we have a tendency to care more for others—proving its importance for not just ourselves, but the world around us. As humans, we mimic each other, others will pick up on our moods and our emotions - as we improve, the effect can have a knock-on affect on those around us.

So what can you do?

Everyone is different, we all need a different solution, there's no set prescription for how or when to do it. That said, mental health professionals recommend taking at least 20 minutes a day to do something for ourselves, which is easy to fit into anyone's schedule. Don't know where to start? Below you will find some ideas to try, some are very simple you just need to take that first step and do them, others require a little more planning and thinking about, but they are all for everyone - you just need to take action.

1. Get outside.
Spending time out of doors, particularly in green spaces, is a great way to boost mental and physical health, making us feel more alive. Similar to meditation, spending time out of doors benefits the brain.

2. Exercise outside.
Why not move your exercise session outside too. Research shows that working out outdoors boosts mental health, and may decrease tension, anger, and depression.

3. Good deeds help us too.
By helping others, we actually help ourselves, too. Lending a hand not only boosts mental health, but may also lead to a longer life . Volunteering also positively affects self-confidence, self-esteem, and general wellbeing.

4. Breathe the right scents. 
We know that breathing techniques can help us relax. But what we breathe might be just as important as how we breathe. While the benefits of aromatherapy are debated, research suggests that citrus scents—orange essential oil in particular—can help slash stress and anxiety, and getting a whiff of rosemary may boost memory.

5. Be mindful.
Mindfulness has been championed in recent years as a way to reduce stress and depression. By focusing on the here and now—without judging how we feel and what we think—can be both a liberating and healthy practice. Mindfulness helps to quiet the constant chatter in our minds, helping us to relax and enjoy our surroundings, in essence slowing us down and allowing us to be present, which in turn can help us focus and be more productive.

6. Meditate.
Meditation is proof that it doesn’t take a lot of time to do our mind and body good. Just a few minutes of quieting your mind can help relieve stress. You can meditate anywhere, at any time, it does take practice and everyone finds their own level and technique that works for them. Everyone can meditate, there are numerous downloadable tracks and apps to help you learn. Stick with it, little and often and see what you can achieve.

7. Dance around.
Shaking your booty doesn’t 
just make for a fit physique. It may also improve both mood and body image, release those feel good endorphins, lead to a better outlook, is associated with a lower risk for dementia, and even help you make friends . Consider this your cue for a silly impromptu dance party.

8. Turn it up.
Everyone has songs that bring a smile to your face, make you tap your feet or play air guitar. Research shows that listening to music makes already positive emotions even more intense, and upbeat music in particular can do great things for your mood. Plus, jamming out can also improve heart health .

9. Eat more fruit and veg.
Adding more fruit and veg to our plate is a great way to practice self-care all throughout the day. Research shows that eating berries boosts brain health while noshing on peppers prevents Parkinson’s. And in case we needed another reason to load up on nature’s goodness, filling up on our five a day might make us happier.

10. F**k it theory.
Yes, I know swearing isn't always appropriate... but in the right scenario it is an easy way to blow off some steam. Research also shows swearing can reduce physical pain, and may even boost confidence and self-esteem. But timing is everything—so be sure to pick your moment to avoid embarrassment.

11. Indulge in some retail therapy.
If you love shopping, now's your chance to have a valid reason for hitting the shops. Shopping can help ease mild depression and make us more confident, according to some researchers. If you can afford to, buying something new can make us feel good about ourselves and lift our mood.

12. Sex.
From the feelings of pleasure, reduced stress, boosted immune system, the closeness with a partner (if you have one), the benefits are well documented. Take some time, get rid of all distractions, relax and enjoy.

13. Become a bookworm.
Reading is excellent for our health, keeping the mind sharp, enhancing creativity and imagination it's not just for the kids. Some people use reading as a way to wind down, to escape to a different world, promoting relaxation it can also help improve sleep.

14. Get enough sleep.
Getting enough sleep is crucial for our brains and bodies, a lot of the repair work and processing of the days activities takes place whilst we sleep. We regenerate our energy stores and the body refreshes at a cellular level. So when we don't get enough sleep - whether that's due to stress, pain or just staying up all night partying we put ourselves at a disadvantage the next day, leading to lower productivity, food cravings and lack of energy. Research shows that lack of sleep can be contributing factors in diabetes and heart disease and use of electronic devices before going to sleep affects melatonin levels - upsetting the body's natural sleep cycle.

15. Declutter.
Some researchers believe that clutter can stress us out and bring us down. Many people find that clearing physical clutter can also help with their mental health, helping them to feel calmer and more settled.

16. Indulge in a massage.
Set aside some time to experience the complete and total bliss of a massage. It soothes both the mind and muscles, improves sleep quality, and reduces stress. Touch is one of the most comforting sensations we can experience, making massage good for the body and soul. Studies show that people who have regular massage sessions sleep better, are less anxious and generally happier. Massage can also help to release emotional stress, we store negative emotions (anger, stress, hate, fear) within our physical bodies without being aware of this, massage helps to promote the release of the tension in our physical body, in turn releasing the stored emotional stress.

17. Unplug.
These days, it feels like everyone’s glued to a phone, laptop, or both at the same time. Deliberately taking a break from social media, e-mail, blogging, and so on can help us recharge and gives our brain the downtime it needs to work at an optimal level. Research shows that by switching off from our electronic screens an hour before sleep helps our melatonin levels regulate correctly, resulting in a better nights sleep.

18. Get away.
How many of us these days take regular holidays away from the daily grind? But skipping out on time away from the 9-to-5 does more harm than good: Studies show that skipping the family holiday is associated with a 
higher risk of heart disease in both men and women. Whether booking a trip to an exotic location or going somewhere nearby, time away from work can help refresh our focus, and being exposed to a new location or experience may boost creativity. Plus, everyone deserves a break!

So, maybe it's time to make yourself a promise... 20 minutes a day is all it takes to give yourself some self-care, we only have one body to live in, we need to start looking after it, we are the only one who can.