What Is All The Fuss About Adaptogens?

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You might have noticed adaptogens have been popping up in health and wellbeing articles and posts recently. But, you’re not alone if you’re not entirely sure what an adaptogenic herb is and why people are hailing them as energy boosters and stress relievers. Here’s a straightforward guide to adaptogens and their health benefits.

What are adaptogens?

They are natural herbs that help to support and balance our hormonal equilibrium or our hypothalamic pituitary endocrine axis as it’s technically known. This equilibrium is split into three sections or axis, your brain adrenal, brain thyroid and brain gonadal. All three have to be balanced to ensure your mood, metabolism, immune system, libido and energy levels are all functioning optimally.

Who can take them?

Adaptogenic herbs have been used to help rebalance hormones and improve overall wellbeing for centuries. They’re generally deemed as safe for everyone to take. However, we recommend consulting your health practitioner if you’re taking medication or are pregnant.

What are the key adaptogenic herbs?

Maca

Wellbeing gurus and hipsters have helped boost the profile of this adaptogen with maca lattes. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll get the same energetic boost from the sprinkling you get on a coffee as you would from mixing a couple of teaspoons of good quality powder into your morning juice. Maca is renowned for helping to supercharge energy levels and the root is also thought to help with fertility and libido concerns.  

The supplement: Organic Maca Root Extract by Viridian

Moringa  

Another great option for those who want an energy boosting pick-me-up, moringa is the healthy alternative to your mid-afternoon caffeine fix. It also helps your body deal with stress, and impressively contains more than 90 nutrients and over 40 different antioxidants. It’s no surprise that it’s also known as the miracle tree. Moringa powder has an earthy, peppery flavour, which makes it perfect for mixing in with soups and juices.     

The supplement: Moringa Green Superleaf Powder by Aduna

Astragalus

If you find that you’re always feeling under-the-weather with depleted energy levels, it is worth looking into astragalus. It’s renowned for its immune-boosting powers and helps to increase your interferon and white blood cell counts. Shabir recommends taking an astragalus supplement from autumn through spring to fight off any colds and infections.

The supplement: Astragalus Extract by Swanson

Ashwagandha 

This wonder herb helps support your HPA (brain-adrenal axis) and regulate your cortisol (stress hormone) levels. It’s also thought to help conditions such as arthritis thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits. Ashwagandha should be your go-to if you’re battling with stress and anxiety. While ashwagandha won’t give you the instant high that prescription drugs do, you will notice a difference in a week or so if you take it consistently.  

The supplement: KSM-66 Ashwagandha Plus by Wild Nutrition

Rhodiola 

Another good adaptogen for those who suffer from stress regularly is rhodiola as the herb helps your body deal with physiological and psychological stress. Small studies have shown that rhodiola can support your brain when you’re stressed and reduce mental fatigue. 

The supplement: Magnolia Rhodiola Complex by VH

Holy Basil

Also known as tulsi, holy basil has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and helps to boost brain power. If you struggle to concentrate or regularly get a foggy brain, holy basil could help improve your cognitive function.

The supplement: Wholistic Holy Basil by Pukka

How To Cope With Anxiety Over Christmas

Festive Anxiety

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for at least a third of Brits the festive season can be tarred with high levels of stress and anxiety. It’s not just the stress of Christmas shopping and higher workloads that stresses people out, it’s also social anxiety over the endless festive get-togethers and parties. Read More…

Shabir And Trinny On The Best Supplements

Trinny and Shabir

If you find the world of supplements overwhelming then watching this 20 minute video will help. Shabir and Trinny explore the best supplements and explain what they’re good for and why you might benefit from taking them…

Read More…

Could ASMR Be The Key To Easing Stress?

four pink soap bars

If you haven’t yet heard of ASMR chances are you’ve at least come across it whilst scrolling through cyberspace. Technically it stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ but loosely speaking it’s those oddly satisfying videos of people unwrapping boxes, cutting up soap, or, moving into pure ASMR territory Read More…

Is Overtiredness Stopping You From Sleeping

Clocks Going Back

Whether they go forward or back, the change in the clocks can often impact our sleep. This weekend, they’re going back so we can all enjoy an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning, but be warned, the days are about to get shorter and the cold, dark nights are going to become longer.

Sleep, or lack of it, is big business. In the US, its been reported that some have resorted to paying anywhere between $1100 and $5000 a month on sleep coaches in a bid to ease their insomnia. On the other side of the pond, since the clocks went forward in March, there has been plenty of discussion about sleep – how much we should be getting, how to get more et cetera.

But more recently, experts have been suggesting that overtiredness could be impacting the amount and quality of shut-eye we’re getting. Physiologist and sleep therapist, Nerina Ramlakhan told the Guardian, ‘We have become restless as a society – and that places more demands on us when we get into bed at night.’

‘We have lost the rituals and practices that gave us little respites during the day. In the past, you would go to the supermarket and, while you were waiting in the queue, you’d daydream, be a bit bored, look around,’ she says. ‘Now, any window like that will be filled by looking at your phone, answering some emails, sorting out your Amazon account.’

How can you reduce overtiredness?

The obvious answer might appear to be get more sleep, but as Ramlakhan has explained, too many of us are in constant overdrive during the waking hours that we’re too wired to relax at night. We should be looking at ways the tweak our lifestyle and introduce moments of respite throughout our days.

While it is easier said than done, limiting the amount of time you spend on your phone can help. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that those who don’t switch-off from work-related emails and activities at home struggle to relax and recharge for the next day.

The iPhone Screen Time app is a good way to introduce time restrictions on emails, social media and various apps. Putting your phone on DND (Do Not Disturb) between the hours of 6 pm and 7 am can also help ease you off late night work emails and mindless scrolling of your Instagram or Facebook accounts.

As with every article on sleep, we had to drop in meditation and yoga. Both practices are good at helping you to switch off and reconnect with yourself. If the idea of an hour of Vinyasa Flow feels you with dread, try swimming or joining your local bouldering club – both require you to leave your phone in the locker and keep your mind focused on the activity at hand.

If you get those moments of tightness in your chest or want something to help ease your stress, look to Magnolia Rhodiola Complex, £26. It’s a supplement we recommend time and time again for the simple fact that it does genuinely offer some relief. Interestingly, new research has also suggested that your other half’s body odour can also help you to de-stress, so keeping a T-shirt aside could potentially do the trick too.

What if you still can’t sleep?

If you’re still struggling to sleep after introducing pockets of rest during the day, it might be worth looking at your bedroom environment. Is the temperature cool enough? Is there any light coming through the curtains? And, is there a noise that could be silenced? None of these things are particularly ground-breaking, but a lot of us don’t have good sleep hygiene. For instance, not eating an hour or two before bed, or partaking in an intense cardio class too close to bedtime.

Upping your levels of melatonin (sleep hormone) can also help you to drift off (Cherry Night, £25.95, by Viridian is a good option). But, this does take a week or so to take effect. If you want a little helping hand in the first instance, look to Sleep Tight, £25.50, which contains a range of relaxing and sleep-inducing herbs, including magnesium, oat straw and ashwagandha.

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.