Why Do I Feel So Ashamed To Be Struggling?

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Shame. It’s probably one of my least favourite words, yet it has been on my mind for the last few months. The reason, I think, is because I am currently feeling it more than I ever have in my entire life. It is a scary thing for me to see these words typed out on my screen, but it’s a truth I need to talk about because I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with mental health issues and felt ashamed over it.

This constant feeling of passive shame is something that has been building for the past couple of years. As a woman, I have definitely experienced short-lived bursts of large and small shame throughout my life, but this has been completely different. This feeling is now something that has become so much a part of who I am and I think part of the reason I wanted to share this is so I can finally face it.

For context, this all began in 2016 where things in my life started to very slowly, but surely spiral in a way I had absolutely no control of. I had multiple family members die in quick succession, I was moving around a lot for work and also dealing with a long term relationship break-up. At that time I would have said that I was managing things ok, but I wasn’t. I was depressed without even fully realising it and even though I was able to carry on as “normal” for the most part, I remember feeling increasingly sadder and disillusioned as the months progressed. Then of course the election happened and I cannot pretend that this did not affect me because it did and still does today.

With everything going on personally and globally, I suddenly found that I no longer felt like myself. I looked around at my life and my world and I just could not believe what I was seeing. Every day I tried to tell myself, “tomorrow I will feel better” or “next week will be different”, but I never seemed to be able to get to that sunnier place. I wrote about my struggles a few times last year in The Serious Side of Self-Care, Time – The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself and 28,000 Retweets Later: Letting Go and Looking Forward and it has been interesting to look back at those articles now.

Re-reading the last one in particular, I have to laugh a little bit. Besides not giving up my Twitter addiction (I’m currently at just over 41k retweets), this year has somehow managed to be worse than last! I don’t know why I find that funny, but in this moment I do. I think it’s because I remember having all these grand ideas about how to make this year a good one (I’m an eternal optimist), but it all went wrong from the first second as we rung in the New Year at the hospital because my mum badly broke her wrist three hours before midnight.

If I thought last year was a challenging one, 2018 has superseded that in spectacular fashion. Besides all the global/political events, I now feel worse than I ever have, but not just mentally, I’m also physically ill (it relates to the reproductive health issues I dealt with a few years ago) and have been since March. This year has been a blur of weekly hospital visits and doctor’s appointments, first for my mum and then for me.

As a result of my health and everything going on, this year I have worked less (shame), missed birthdays and weddings (shame), avoided social gatherings (shame), struggled with my skin (shame), haven’t made time to dye my newly sprouted grey hairs (shame), watched too much Netflix (shame) and not really done much of anything “normal” (shame) as well as more things I’m not comfortable mentioning (shame, shame, shame), which has lead to a lot of awkward conversations with friends and colleagues about what I’m “up to” (more shame).

This has also been my most unproductive year ever and of course I can’t help but feel ashamed about that. I have let a lot of people down and said yes to things in the hopes that having an activity or getting back out there would help me feel better, only to find myself unable to go through with them. Home has been a source of safety and comfort for me, but that has meant that I have increasingly withdrawn from socialising both online and in real life.

On the beauty related side of things, I have the longest list of unfinished blog posts and unreviewed products. I know that I am not a professional blogger, but I do feel a sense of responsibility once I accept a product. I hate the idea that I am letting the brands/PR agencies down as well as my readers by abandoning my blog and Instagram account. I also haven’t been able to produce an article for every newsletter this year and when I have done, they’ve usually been late, which I always feel ashamed about when it happens.

I am disappointed in myself (more shame) on top of all the other things I already feel and overall I think I feel ashamed that I can’t just snap out of it. In this fast paced world, having a problem for more than a week feels like a lifetime. I hate how much time I have “wasted” feeling like this and a recent conversation with a colleague just reinforced how impatient we can be when others are struggling. When asked how I was I mentioned that I was still not feeling great and the response was, “oh, you’re still sick?”. This was accompanied by a confused look that instantly made me feel ashamed, which then made me angry for reacting in that way over something that is happening to me.

Society does not give women enough credit for the things we have to deal with on a daily basis and one of them is managing our reproductive cycle and how it relates to our mental health. Depression affects more women than men, but not only that, our monthly cycle affects our hormones and thus our moods, thoughts and emotions. Linked to that, we have the pain associated with our reproductive system like cramps, endometriosis (please read the brilliant article Endometriosis And Me by the lovely Bianca Presto), cysts (what I’m dealing with) or heavy bleeding. Often times we are not facing the world as whole, healthy, happy people, yet we are too ashamed to admit it. I know I was.

I have never been comfortable speaking about private subjects publicly, but that reluctance to open up has also led to more shame and stress as I evasively try to explain my social absence or lack of communication with people without getting too personal. Saying that, those I have spoken to have been immeasurably helpful with their words, support and understanding. If you find yourself in this position in any way for whatever reason, please talk to someone. I truly believe I got as sick as I am now because I tried to hold in everything I was thinking and feeling.

In the end, what these past couple of years have taught me is that I need to communicate more and also be kinder to myself. These things happen and putting so much pressure on myself to carry on like normal just made things worse. I’ll likely (and hopefully) never have a period of time like this again where everything goes wrong all at once, one after the other for so long (coincidentally at the same time as a two year series of eclipses in my sign and opposite sign for all you astrology buffs out there), but if it does, I will not feel ashamed about whatever I am dealing with or for needing help.

Shame is a word I hate because it is almost always unfairly assigned to women and for unjustified reasons. We will all struggle at some point in our lives and that has to be ok because it’s happening to so many people out there right now. Collectively we all need to do better, for ourselves and each other. More kindness, compassion and understanding and less commitment to the wildly outdated and impossible to live up to societal measurements for happiness and success.

I don’t know if I have fully made it out of my “shame spiral” yet or if I can say I feel like myself again, but I am doing some really interesting metaphysical work that has been extremely enlightening and I will talk more about in my next article. I am slowly getting better and I will say that talking does help so if you can, please confide in someone. From the people I have chatted to it is clear that I am far from alone in feeling this way and if you’re feeling the same right now, then you’re not alone either.

Could Tapping Reduce Your Stress Levels?

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We all have those moments when everything mounts up. For some it lasts for mere moments, for others it can go on for days or weeks. It could be a mammoth project at work, a renovation at home, or an amalgamation of overwhelming things. Even the toughest, most mentally and emotionally stable people waver on occasions. A tightness in your chest that takes more than a couple of deep breaths to loosen or a racing mind keeping you up until 3 am.

There are around three million people in the UK who suffer with anxiety disorders. While there are prescription medication that can ease anxiety, there are also plenty of natural remedies that don’t have any known side effects. Magnolia Rhodiola Complex, £26, is the one that Shabir recommends time and time again as the blend of herbs not only helps you to relax, but also makes your body more resilient to stress.

Over the past year or so, another technique has been receiving a fair amount of attention, tapping.

What is tapping?

Tapping, or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is essentially like acupuncture but without the needles. Instead, you use your fingertips to tap on the meridian pressure points outlined in Chinese medicine to help release blockages of energy.

While tapping is heavily influenced by traditional Chinese medicine techniques, it wasn’t invented until the 90s by a man called Gary Craig. Since then some practitioners have suggested that the technique can help ease phobias, chronic pain and addictions, as well as help reduce anxiety and stress levels by lowering your cortisol levels.

So, how do you ‘tap’?

Not everyone is going to feel comfortable about tapping various parts of their body in public, but there are a couple of options that can be done discreetly on a crowded bus. It’s also surprisingly easy to mentally get into it. Unlike meditation where you’re encouraged to focus on blank space, when it comes to tapping you hone in on the issue at hand and target the negative emotion or stress. At the same time you tap up to seven times on the key meridian points.

If you’re not au fait with Chinese medicine, the key points to ease stress are found on the side of your hand; the inner section of your eyebrows; to the side and below your eye socket; underneath your nose; on the crease between your lip and chin; your collar bone; just below your armpit; and the top of your head. If you want to follow a specific routine, it’s worth looking up The Tapping Solution, which offers short video tutorials and help finding tapping experts near you.

What are the alternatives?

For those who still remain unconvinced about tapping parts of their body, there are plenty of other methods to relieve moments of stress and anxiety. Breathing properly sounds very straightforward, but most of us don’t do it correctly. The result is higher stress levels and poor posture.

Getting enough sleep is obvious, but if you’re stressed out it’s likely that you struggle to drift off too. A lot of experts recommend partaking in at least two hours of good cardio exercise each week and avoiding eating at least two hours before bed.

There’s also some research to suggest that setting out a structured sleep routine can help. It might sound ridiculously simple, but when you think about it, do you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day? If you need a little extra help, Shabir recommends Sleep Tight, £25.50. It goes without saying that combining it with some light tapping could be just the ticket to help you drift off…

How Much Sleep Should We Be Getting?

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Eight has always been deemed as the magic number when it comes to the amount of hours we’re supposed to sleep each night. Yet most experts cast the net wider and suggest anywhere between seven and nine hours will ensure you look and feel good. While some of us are lucky to get six hours of shut-eye a night during the week, earlier this year scientists revealed that you can catch up on lost sleep by pressing snooze at the weekend.

But, before you get carried away and whittle away your Saturday morning in bed, this week a new study revealed that you don’t need as much sleep as you think. According to new research presented at the ESC Congress, between six to eight hours of sleep is the healthiest amount necessary to ward off heart disease and strokes.

The study found that those who had less than six hours of sleep were 11% more likely to develop coronary issues, while those who got more than eight hours were 33% more likely.

Author of the study, Dr Fountas said: “Our findings suggest that too much or too little sleep may be bad for the heart. More research is needed to clarify exactly why, but we do know that sleep influences biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation — all of which have an impact on cardiovascular disease.”

So, how can you ensure you get the right amount of sleep regularly? Here’s some helpful tips…

How can you get a better night’s sleep?

First and foremost, stop worrying about the amount of sleep you’re getting. The more you stress about it, the less likely you are to drift off. If you struggle to switch off and stop your mind from whirling, we recommend taking Magnolia Rhodiola Complex. It’s a natural remedy to help reduce anxiety and relax your mind.

Other tricks, such as keeping your bedroom cool and banning any digital devices at least an hour before you go to bed can also help. Upping your magnesium levels will also help. Despite being a key mineral, a lot of us are deficient in magnesium, which can affect our mood, energy levels and sleep patterns. The best way to absorb magnesium is by taking a bath with flakes. If you don’t have a bath, try Better You’s Magnesium Sleep Lotion and massage it into your feet before bed.

What are the best natural remedies for a good night’s sleep?

Shabir has written several pieces on Cherry Night by Viridian and regularly recommends it for the simple fact that it works. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and the lightly flavoured powder helps to top up your natural levels over time. You do need to persevere with this supplement though as it takes at least two weeks to feel the benefits.

If you prefer taking a capsule, try Sleep Tight by World Organic. It has a blend of magnesium, magnolia and tart cherries to help you relax, unwind and drift off. You just need to take two capsules an hour before bed.

What if you’re getting too much sleep?

When it comes to sleep the focus is often on not getting enough, but there are some people who feel like they can sleep forever and yet still wake up feeling groggy and tired. “This is often because you have too much cortisol, the stress hormone,” says Shabir. It’s worthwhile taking Magnolia Rhodiola, or looking into adaptogens, which help to reduce stress and boost your energy levels. “Moringa helps increase resistance to stress, whether this stressor is physical, chemical or biological,” says Shabir. “It also helps to bring the body back into balance no matter where the stress is coming from and it does not interfere with the body’s normal functions.”

Adding a couple of spoonfuls of Moringa Green Superleaf Powder to your morning juice or smoothie will help you feel a little more energised. And, you can sprinkle it on your salad or mix it into your soup to recharge throughout the day too.

My Skincare And Wellness Supplement Routine

small coloured powder piles

After last month’s article all about how I use supplements as part of my skincare routine (here), I decided it was time to share exactly what I use and why. Like skincare, I fully believe that supplemental therapy is very personal, but there are so many vitamins, minerals, herbs and plants to choose from that it can be very confusing and overwhelming. I wanted to explain my routine in the hopes that it will help anyone out there experiencing the same health issues or skin concerns that I am.

My supplement routine revolves around three key linked elements that I believe are essential for overall wellness and healthy skin. I aim to support the gut and liver, balance my hormones and reduce inflammation. Generally most women (and even men) could benefit from focusing on these three areas as modern life can really have an affect on all of them. Things like stress, an unbalanced diet, lack of sleep and not enough exercise have really been taking a toll on my health this year and the supplements I take have helped support my body from the inside out.

As I said in my previous article, one of the most important things to remember when choosing supplements is deciding which delivery method is right for you. For me, after many years of taking supplements in pill or capsule form and not liking the process one bit, I found that switching to liquids or powders has changed everything. It has made things quick, easy and painless and as a result, staying consistent is virtually effortless, which is paramount in order to get the most out of what you’re taking and to see tangible results.

For me, the gut is one of the most important organs in the body and how well it operates can affect our whole body, inside and out. Not only that, how well and how often we “eliminate” the waste from our bodies can make all the difference in our overall wellness and the health of our skin. I also think that without actively looking after your gut, taking vitamins could be a waste of time and money. An unbalanced and improperly functioning gut microbiome usually leads to poor digestion, which means the supplements won’t be absorbed making them useless.

Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes work to break down the different compounds in generally hard to digest foods like dairy, red meat and sugar helping them pass through the gut in the best way. They also help reduce inflammation and could help improve food sensitivities or intolerances. I choose a supplement that focused on my specific food issues and now I find that when I eat foods I previously didn’t digest well, I don’t experience the same negative side effects.

My supplement is a capsule (which I don’t mind in this case) and that is pretty standard for enzymes as many have to be taken around meal times. I keep some in my bag so if I happen to go out for lunch or dinner I won’t forget to take them. So far these are one of the best additions I have made to my supplement routine and I highly recommend trying these if you often experience food sensitivities, bloating, gas/belching or indigestion.

Probiotics
The main benefits of probiotics is their ability to boost the “good” bacteria that will help promote a healthy gut and improve digestion, but that is just the beginning. I have been taking them on and off for years, and now in conjunction with the enzymes I am seeing the best results. I have always had quite a sensitive stomach and probiotics have helped soothe and strengthen my gut microbiome. I have tried capsules, powder and liquid probiotics with different strains and strengths and it’s all about finding the right combination for you.

Glutamine
This is a relatively new supplement for me, but over the past few weeks alone it has made such a big difference. It supports the GI tract, boosts gut cell regeneration, improves gut barrier function and aids gut repair. This is so important for better digestion as well as proper absorption of vitamins from food or supplements. I would recommend starting with this to make sure your gut is healed and ready for everything else. Most glutamine comes in powder form and this is what I use.

Milk Thistle, Turmeric and Glutathione
For liver support my go-to supplements are milk thistle, turmeric and glutathione. These three help reduce inflammation, aid detoxification and support optimal functioning. Not only that, I saw the biggest improvement in my skin when I started supporting my liver and it’s because the body was now properly dealing with waste removal. All three supplements are good for the body and skin, but glutathione has the added benefit of reducing excess melanin production, so it is worth investing in. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of your liver. It is the largest internal organ beyond the important “cleansing” role it plays, it also impacts our hormones, which brings me nicely to my next category.

Hormonal Support
Supporting and balancing hormone function has been a big priority for me over the past few years for a number of reasons. They function as the messengers relaying information all over the body, which means it is a big deal when they are imbalanced or disrupted. I started to have hormonal issues in my mid-twenties and even now it is still literally a balancing act (no pun intended) because daily stressors like diet, lack of exercise, sleep and stress can impact how well they function.

Agnus Castus
Known as vitex or chaste berry, this medicinal herb has been key in improving my PMS symptoms and I have recommended it to so many people. I used to take capsules of this for years, but I am currently testing out tinctures to further reduce my pill intake. I cannot recommend this enough and swear by it for better menstrual cycles as well as less hormonal breakouts.

Thyroid Complex
The thyroid is one of the largest hormonal glands and is actually linked to digestion because it “regulates how fast your intestines process food”. When it is not functioning properly you could experience issues like heavy periods, disturbed sleep, fatigue and dry hair. I take a capsule supplement which also contains a mix of nutrients and minerals like iodine, selenium, zinc and olive leaf to support optimal thyroid function and improve my general health.

Vitamin D
Technically more of a hormone than a vitamin, this is important due to the links between chronic illnesses, depression, immune function and cell mutation. When I was at my sickest, test results revealed extremely low levels of vitamin D, so now I use a quick and easy to administer oral spray and I have seen a big difference in my stress management.

Vitamin B Complex
B vitamins are another supplement that provide more than one health benefit. They are involved in the production of hormones, but also release energy from food and support overall health. For example, B2, B6 and B12 work with the liver, Niacin boosts skin health and estrogen metabolism, B5 aids production of steroid hormones and B9 can be mood boosting. I take a liquid form that goes in to water or juice and is quick and easy to swallow.

Magnolia Rhodiola
This adaptogen works on stress reduction by balancing the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body. Magnolia extract and rhodiola rosea work together to lower stress and promote a more calm/relaxed feeling. Reducing stress could help the skin a lot as cortisol can affect other hormones, possibly leading to acne. Not only that, in a roundabout way this supplement is excellent for inflammation because that isone of the effects stress can have on the body. I have been taking this as a capsule for years and it has made a big difference to my skin and mental health.

Inflammation Reduction
For many years I had no idea what inflammation really meant or why it was so important to reduce the levels in my body. When I used to think of inflammation I typically imagined angry red spots or back/head pain as seen in typical pain medicine ads. I never realised that inflammation could be occurring all over my body, affecting everything from digestion, menstrual issues and general wellness. I also never really paid attention to how the foods I ate either increased or decreased inflammation. Now I know better and believe that reducing inflammation is vitally important for long lasting great health and skin.

Omega 3
I have been taking some form of Omega 3 for years and can personally attest to how well they can work for the skin and general wellness. When I used to suffer from cystic or stubborn hormonal breakouts this supplement helped so much to calm everything down quickly. I saw my blemishes heal better and over time I actually stopped breaking out with the same level of severity and frequency. I am now taking a liquid Omega 3 form and if liquid oil supplements make you gag then opt for the traditional gel capsules. This is one of my top three vitamins that I recommend to everyone, especially for healthy skin.

Turmeric
This ancient Ayurvedic medicine has been used in India for many years as a fabric dye, in food and drinks and as a natural remedy to a variety of ailments, and I take it for the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits it provides the body. I feel like this just helps me to feel well and especially when it comes to my digestive system I find there is less uncomfortableness and pain. There are many ways you can incorporate this potent supplement depending on if you like the taste or how much you want to take. I have an oral spray and that works very well for me as turmeric isn’t my favourite spice.

This year I have finally found my “groove” with supplemental therapy and now actually enjoy this previously gag-inducing step in my routine. That alone is a very meaningful change to me because I genuinely feel good about what I am doing. I know this might seem like a lot to take, but for me my health is my number one priority that I would much rather invest in over topical products.

What I use is just a tiny tip of the iceberg and there are many more great ingredients out there and it’s all about finding what’s right for you. As always, please do your research and talk to a doctor before starting on any supplements. It’s what I did and I feel so much more informed and confident in my choices. Shabir is also a wealth of knowledge and besides having already written about every supplement here, he has also written about almost every health concern under the sun.

Of course, the most ideal way to take care of your skin and health is through a well rounded diet full of colourful, fibrous and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, while limiting inflammation causing and stomach upsetting (for some and most definitely me) foods like red meat, dairy, sugar and grains. Pretty straightforward in theory, but not always easy to stick to even with the best of intentions, which is where supplements like a good multi-vitamin (which I also take in liquid form) comes in.

I know that a full supplement routine can be expensive to maintain, but compromised health isn’t cheap either. If I was to recommend one area to start with I would say any of the digestive support supplements because the gut really does influence just about everything and a healthy gut can be the first step to overall wellness. There are lots of other things you can do too like get more sleep and exercise, work on your diet, drink plenty of water and practice self-care. Supplements are just one way to improve your health and skin.

Is The Hot Weather Giving You Rage?

Heat Rage

Last week we called it a heatwave, but with the high temperatures set to stay for at least another week it looks like we’re in the midst of the summer we’ve all been dreaming of for the past 20 years. While most of us have been thoroughly enjoying the bout of hot weather with BBQs, picnics and paddling pools, you wouldn’t be alone if you’ve found yourself struggling in the heat.

Whether someone nudges you on the tube, undertakes you on the motorway or jumps the queue in Sainsbury’s, it’s likely to irritate you more than it might usually as your your patience could be more frayed. In fact, there are plenty of studies to show that the heat really can bring out the worst in us. One such study in 2001 found that hot temperatures increase aggression by directly increasing feelings of hostility. Last year, a study revealed that retail workers are 50 percent less likely to actively engage with customers if it’s hot outside.

How can you reduce this rage? The obvious answer would be to stay away from human beings for as long as the heat lasts and relax in that paddling pool. In reality, it’s about keeping cool, calm and hydrated. Scientists believe that dehydration could play a key role in increasing irritability in the heat. In 2012, a study showed that women who lost 1.5 percent of their body’s normal water content were tenser and more anxious.

We’ve recommend Physicool Rapid Cooling Mist, £12.99, several times over the past couple of weeks for the simple fact that it’s inexpensive and cools you down almost instantly. You can mist it over your face, across your pulse points and onto your ankles and feet.

It might also be worth investing in Florassist Mood by Life Extension £26. While taking a probiotic to help keep your rage in-check might sound a little far-fetched, there are links between our nervous system and gut. Florassist Mood helps with the signalling between the two and can genuinely help balance your mood. And with no end for the hot weather in sight, it’s worth taking them now.

How To Keep Hold Of The Post-Holiday High

Post-Holiday High

Whether you’ve spent a week hiking through the Peak District or lounging by a pool in Spain, a holiday is a sure fire way to kick back, relax and reduce your stress levels. But how long does that post-holiday glow last for when you’re back in the swing of things? According to new research it takes just three days for us to lose that new lease of positivity and energy. Read More…