How To Embrace The Most Stressful Time Of The Year

festive

Edward Pola and George Wyle might have called it ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, but new research suggests that over 45 percent of us feel more stressed and anxious in December than any other time of the year. So much so, 16 percent of Brits would rather submit a tax return than see family at this time of the year and just over a quarter find Christmas Day more mentally draining than a job interview, according to a poll by Deichmann.

“It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but this research highlights how incredibly anxious people become in the run up to Christmas,” says Josephine Soei, marketing manager for Deichmann. “So much is expected of us and it’s a busy time of year. It’s ironic that we’re all supposed to be having a ball and yet nearly half of adults say it’s the worst time of the year.”

The spiralling cost of everything is the main source of stress for Brits. However, getting the right food in and making sure everyone is having a good time also add to our anxiety. So, how can you get everything done and keep your stress levels in-check?

Make a list: It’s one of the most simplest things you can do and yet when we’re up against it most of us forget to take a couple of minutes out and write a to-do list. Not only will it help you create a plan of action, but it will also ensure you don’t forget anything… as long as it’s on the list. 

Calm your nerves: In the most stressful moments our nervous system can be sent into overdrive. At this time of the year most of us aren’t getting enough sleep either, which makes us feel more jittery. While Magnolia Rhodiola Complex won’t cure this completely, the clever blend of herbs and extracts will help your body relax and manage spikes in your cortisol. 

Stock-up on magnesium: When we’re stressed and tired our magnesium supply can take a battering. While bathing in magnesium flakes might be one of the best ways to absorb the mineral, you can also take Neuro-Mag by Life Extension supplements or massage Better You’s dreamy Magnesium Oil Original Spray into the soles of your feet before your go to bed.

Embrace self-care Sunday: It’s a word we have heard a lot this year, but engaging in a little self-care each week, especially at this time of year, can really help calm your mind and refocus your thoughts. For this, we love nothing more than slipping on a Spacemask for 10 minutes. It lives up to its tagline and offers ‘interstellar relaxation’. 

How Can You Relieve An Itchy Scalp?

scalp_care

Having a sore, itchy scalp is never fun, but at this time of the year when we’ve all cranked up the central heating and the weather outside is cold, wet and windy, it can feel even more uncomfortable. Scalp pruritus, or an itchy scalp, is a common issue and is usually caused by psoriasis, dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, which can be caused by stress and seasonal changes.  Read More…

December Newsletter

Catching a falling star

Well here we are and this is it. The final newsletter of the year and it’s the VH Awards, that annual event where I dole out the accolades to the brands, products and people who have shone like the brightest stars in the sky. As ever, nobody has voted and I rather like it that way. This gives me free reign over all and everything, including the treats and gifts that are mentioned throughout this newsletter, of which there are several.

But truly, what would a newsletter be without the launch of new products and that is where I am going first. Actually it’s rather a big launch, huge in fact and it’s from Ameliorate. Always expect the unexpected is what I think and I’m not sure that any of us saw this coming, but here it is, the global and exclusive launch of Ameliorate’s Scalp Care: Read More…

The Best Christmas Gift Ideas

Blue paper shoppign bag with blue tags on blue floor with one single red tag visible

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s a shift away from Christmas presents this year. Lots of people we know are going without, or giving to charity – which is lovely, and has its own feel-good factor, of course. And we kind of get it. Both of us have received too many presents over the years which just aren’t ‘us’ – and soon after Christmas make their way to a carrier bag near the door, waiting for the next stroll past Oxfam. (Or in Jo’s case, the boot of her car – it being safer to transport unwanted gifts to the next town, lest her friends spot their rejected presents in a too-local charity.)

But this, for us, is where beauty ‘treats’ score, as gifts. Chosen well, they simply don’t hang around for long enough to gather dust. And over the years, we’ve learned which gifts are pretty fail-safe choices. Mostly because they’d please us, and we love a bit of pampering and self-TLC, and have spent enough time in this business to know what’s worth asking for, and what’s worth giving.

This year’s best Christmas gift ideas

Bottom line? We’d happily put any or all of these on our own ‘Dear Santa’ lists. And we suggest you might like to do the same.

Lixir Skin Good Skin Trio Mini Set, £34. From the genius cosmetic formulator Dr. Colette Haydon (a woman behind more beauty brands’ offerings than many of us have had hot dinners), three of her own bestselling products in generous travel sizes: Electrogel Cleanser, Universal Emulsion (which can be used on the body as well as face), and glow-getting Vitamin C paste. We could literally survive being cast away on a desert island, skincare-wise, with this lot.

Aromatherapy Associates Ultimate Bath & Shower Oil Collection, £65.What can we say? Hearts leap, smiles broaden, foreheads un-crinkle upon opening a gift box of Aromatherapy Associates Bath & Shower Oils. Multi-award-winning (including countless Beauty Bible Awards), they’re still the most effective mood-shifting oils we’ve ever used, and in this set, find 10 x 9ml sizes including classic Deep Relax, Inner Strength and Support Equilibrium. We know NOBODY who wouldn’t be thrilled with this. (Except Gill, who’s allergic to essential oils!)

Lebon Orange Gift Set, £29. Toothpaste, we hear you chorus? Toothpaste for Christmas? Well, this isn’t any old toothpaste: it’s Lebon organic toothpaste, created by perfumers in Grasse, and is basically the Chanel or Gucci of oral care. This set includes three fabulous flavours: mint and cinnamon Villa Naocarlina; mango, mint and papaya Back to Pampleonne (with brightening papaya enzymes), and pineapple/rooibos/mint Tropical Crush. We promise it’ll make the recipient smile – and that bit more brightly.

Lanolips Coconutter Cracker, £10.99. Well, the contents of this cracker sure beats a bad joke and a party hat: a pair of Lano’s coconut butter-enriched skin treats – 101 Multi Balm Coconutter (which excels at pretty much any skin challenge you throw at it), and the lavish-before-bedtime Coconutter Hand Cream Intense. Wafts of tropical coconut, but not enough to tip the product into the realms of Bounty bar sweetness.

ilapothecary Beat the Blues Ritual, £85. Definitely the priciest present on our shortlist, but if you’ve someone who really deserves something special and is perhaps having a tough time, look no further. Denise Leicester’s aromatherapy blends are astonishingly powerful – transformative, actually – and this features three products to be used alone or synergistically: Beat the Blues Rollerball (always in our handbags – frankly you could wear this tuberose-rich oil as a perfume, and we know people who do), Beat the Blues Shower & Bath Oil and Beat the Blues Room Spray. They are spectacularly good for anyone suffering from SAD, BTW, also featuring clary sage and geranium (for confidence and self-esteem), and petitgrain which is just a little ray of sunshine in its own right, as an essential oil.

This Works Choose Sleep, £10. Formerly known as the ‘Can’t Sleep Kit’, the most brilliant little Christmas stocking or Secret Santa gift, featuring 5ml sizes of Deep Sleep Stress Less (could come in v-e-r-y handy on Christmas Day itself), and Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, which is clinically proven to improve your zzzz’s. Right up there with the loaves and fishes in miracle terms, so far as we’re concerned.

Temple Spa Quietude, £25. Can we just recommend this for anyone who’s expecting a frenzied household over Christmas? You might suggest they open this early, to spritz this into the living room before the chaos of present-opening, actually – because this zingy, aromatic blend of lavender, cedarwood, cypress, clove, vetiver, orange, patchouli, frankincense and chamomile dials down the stress level immediately.

Beauty Bible Lip Balm, £6. Last but not least – and what can we say…? We honestly think this stocking-stuffer-sized balm is the best we’ve ever tried and are chuffed to bits that entirely independently, so did the diligent testers whose scores earned it a Beauty Bible Award. It’s big, it’s fat, it’s luscious – and our lips can’t get enough of its all-natural formula. Now, where’s that mistletoe…?

How To Heal Your Liver

Human Head bust made of aalcohol bottles

At this time of the year one of the biggest concerns spoken about are the elevated amounts of alcohol that people may indulge in. Many people will try to justify excess alcohol consumption by stating that they do not drink excessively throughout the year.  But is this argument justified?  Regardless of seasonal festivities, many of us indulge in an excessive consumption of food and alcohol, both of which can have an impact on the liver.

It is estimated that there are over 100 types of liver diseases which may be caused by genetics or by factors such as viruses and excess alcohol consumption. The most common signs and symptoms of liver disease may include:

– Lower abdominal pain
– Fatigue
– Irritated itchy skin
– Loss of appetite
– Nausea
– Swelling of the legs
– A yellow tinge of the skin and the eyes

Tips on how to heal liver damage

One of the most important facts about the liver is that it is self-healing, just like our skin. A good example is if you cut yourself, the wound eventually scabs over as you heal and sometimes a scar is left behind. The same process occurs in the liver; as cells die scar tissue develops. If the aggressors, such as alcohol, remain constant then the scar tissue continues to build up until the liver cannot function properly.

Eating the right foods

Eating the right foods can have a great impact on the healing of damaged liver cells. Eat plenty of antioxidant and fibre rich foods. Some of the best foods for the liver include blueberries, cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, sprouts and cauliflower, oily fish, olive oil, grapes, grapefruit as well as nuts. Reduce the consumption of saturated fats, processed foods and sugar laden foods. Incidentally, coffee appears to be good for the liver. It is thought that coffee provides protective antioxidants as well as encouraging the production of liver enzymes which help to rid the body of toxins.

Avoid weight gain

Try to maintain your Body Mass Index within the normal range, between 18 and 25, by eating healthily and by exercising regularly. This may help decrease your chances of liver concerns. If you are overweight and drink regularly then cutting back on your alcohol intake will not only safeguard your health, but will also help you to lose weight.

Quit smoking and avoid chemical toxins wherever possible

Smoking can cause liver scarring and damage. Cigarettes contain hundreds of chemicals that have to be processed by the liver increasing the risk of liver damage. Abstaining from smoking will therefore encourage the healing process.

It is difficult to avoid environmental toxins, but you can definitely reduce the exposure to chemical toxins from aerosols and chemically laden body care products.

Cut down on your alcohol intake

When the liver attempts to break down alcohol, the chemical reactions that occur can cause inflammation leading to damage to the liver cells, which causes scarring and often a build-up of fats. Moderate consumption of alcohol is generally considered as safe and routinely men should not consume more than three drinks a day and women no more than two to prevent alcohol-induced liver disease.

Prevent and Protect

Hepatitis is one of the leading causes of liver damage and can be transmitted from blood or sexual fluids. If you get manicures or pedicures, then please ensure that this is from a reputable shop or person.

Consider Supplements

According to WebMD, “antioxidant vitamins such as C, E, and beta-carotene, minerals such as zinc and selenium, B-vitamins that aid alcohol metabolism and herbs said to cleanse the liver such as milk thistle, dandelion root, and schizandra, might help protect liver cells while ridding our body of poisons.”

A supplement that I would recommend is HealthAid’s Milk Thistle Complex. This supplement contains a trio of liver cleansing herbs including Milk thistle, Artichoke and Dandelion as well as nutrients such as beta carotene and B vitamins for their varying roles in helping to heal damage to the liver.

How To Be Less Miserablist

Hoola Hoops or various colours close up

It had been a while since I’d played this game. Maybe even half a century. It’s nighttime, a comfy 30 degrees and we’re at a party that’s progressed into the pool. I have one foot on someone’s shoulder – David? Thomas? Richard? It’s difficult to distinguish between them as I heave myself into the clutches of Liz who’s waiting for me to complete the human pyramid. Finally I’m up and for a few seconds we are a triangular mass of wobbling post-youth bodies that then crash into the inky water, shrieking like the children we once were.

That was last month at a reunion in Bahrain where we all grew up together in a Californian-styled township in the desert, a story for another day. As these pewter grey November days close in, quick, quick, spit spot – name the last time you really goofed around? Like blaaah, head shaking, arm-waving crazy? See. Long time. Too long.

Yet in these not-so-cheerful times, it turns out George Bernard Shaw was right about fooling around being seriously good for you.“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” wrote the Irish playwright. The benefits? Manifold. Adult play relieves stress, boosts feel-good endorphins, improves brain function, helps relationships, keeps you feeling young and energetic and may even improve your resistance to disease.

In my forsaken executive life of being at my desk at 8am, 10 miles from home, I was deemed “lugubrious” by one of the fashion team. He was right. A tendency towards worry and a diabetic child to keep alive was lethally mixed with fierce weekly deadlines.  Something had to give and for me it was the lightness of being. A later bout of working with optimistic millennials did little to help.

Yet in this of all years, life’s become inestimably brighter, slipping those surly bonds of gloom.

What gave? Frankly even I was bored of having a resting worried face. But the turning point came down to a cat, two yogis, one run and two WhatsApp groups. Mostly the latter.

Sky the Siberian Forest kitten arrived to remind us of the joy of stroking and the fun of felines leaping for ping pong balls.  The last year has been like living with an amusingly furry two year old.

Then there was the physical fillip from a weekly run and two yoga sessions.  Emerging from a cotton cocoon to lollop around Wormwood Scrubs for 5km every Saturday at 9am does not induce laughter – but its after effects do. (News reports last month said one shortish run a week is all it takes to reduce the risk of early death, no matter how slow you go.) Ditto the two £10-a-go weekly yoga sessions that melt calcified fascia, lull the mind and mean you can embrace the freelancer’s 5/2 wardrobe – two whole days of never having to be properly dressed.

But the biggest spike in my annual lol activity came from spending more time, that most illusory commodity, with family and friends generally, and two groups of women specifically.

Here we need clarification – spending time at play is about more than just having fun. Renowned American shrink Stuart Brown has done a rather brilliant Ted talk on the subject, which if you can’t be bothered to watch says this: we need to retain our neoteny. Our what-eny?  Make it your word of the day because it means the “retention of juvenile features in the adult animal”, which translates into keep goofing around throughout your life. Because Brown is clear on one fact  — the opposite of play is depression.

He spent years studying prison inmates and almost every one of them suffered play deprivation as children. They missed out on the give-and-take learning that comes from play. “Normally we play,” says Brown.  “When we don’t, something has gone very, very, wrong, and non-players will suffer a number of effects.” He quotes field biologist Marc Bekoff, a former university professor, who says play is “training for the unexpected”.  Which makes it pretty essential in the sand-shifting era of Trump and Brexit.

Beyond playing the usual array of sports (abandoned tennis racket – one day I will return), the adult play market is now huge business, with the Lego trend a prime example. Last month ‘Build Yourself Happy: The Joy of Lego Play’ was published  as a manual for wellness while at John Lewis you can buy the 5,900 piece adult Lego Taj Mahal for £279.99.

Not for me, but let me tell you about those WhatsApp groups.  The ‘girl’s night’ one began several years ago with eight of us getting together whenever we could agree on a date, but which has progressed to added playtime. There was a recent wine drinking and pottery making evening, a perfect getting-your-hands-dirty combo,  with the resultant crusts of unglazed clay still rattling around in the back of my car.  Next up is a poker night in January with a real live poker teacher who’ll hopefully instruct us on how to arrange our flaccid faces into inscrutable masks. Cannot wait.

Meanwhile, a reunion reconnected me with three of my first friends, the ones I’d grown up with in primary school, had played spin the bottle with as a teenager and fooled around with in swimming pools. We are now scattered across Australia, Florida, London and Portugal but every Saturday sees us together again on a WhatsApp video grid, our latest quest being to learn to virally hoola hoop. I’m pretty good thanks – Sara, doll, it’s all in the hip thrust.

We definitely all need to play more.  To put down those  perfidious phones and dig out that frisbee or pack of cards.

The dream? A poker-playing, hoola-hooping pool party.

OMG lol, as only an Ok, Boomer would write.

How to be less of a miserablist in 2020

  1. Delete your Mail Online app pronto. Child killer/Kardashian tales are no longer needed.
  2. Buy Rummikub, the perfect board game as it can last less than 30 minutes. (Habitually losing inures me to the pain of real life.)
  3. Revisit Season 1 of Friends. Basically be more Chandler. Step away from Newsnight.
  4. Ask for ‘Funny Ha-ha’ in your stocking – 80 of the funniest stories ever written, out this month and edited by veteran wit Paul Merton. Leave the Booker prizewinners to gather dust.
  5. Purchase a cheap hoola hoop and eat latkes (hello Gill) or crisp sarnies with friends who make time to see you. Money does not = good times.
  6. When it’s all going south, listen to Baccara’s “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie”, the 1977 best-selling single of all time by a female group (18 million).  Joyfully awful lyrics, but it’ll  make you laugh and dance at the same time. Dream pastime.