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Emotional health

Support: The power of breathing

Support: The power of breathing

In times of increased stress and anxiety something as simple as controlling our breath can have a huge impact on both our mental and physical health. In this article chartered physiotherapist and yoga teacher Caroline Foster from Caroline Foster Yoga explains just how powerful the breath can be. (Previously published in The Scotsman)

For the first year or so that I attended yoga classes, when the teacher told us to breathe, I just thought '˜Well, I am breathing, obviously, otherwise I would be dead', or something along those lines, if I gave it that much thought at all. Yoga to me, at that time, was a nice stretchy exercise class with a wee nap at the end. It was only after a few months' break from classes that I realised the positive impact yoga was having on my life. And I wondered if maybe there was something more to all this '˜breathing'?

Now, after many more years of practice and having become a yoga teacher, I can verify that the breath really is the key to yoga. We can think of the breath as a secret passage into our nervous system. And, very simply put, we can think of the nervous system as the connection between the body and the mind.

Think of the body’s reaction to stress, any type of stress - whether fleeing a tiger or lying in bed worrying about some hypothetical future event - the body’s reaction is the same. The heart beats harder and faster, you perspire, your mind races, your guts churn, you take faster and more shallow breaths. Most of the responses are beyond our control (they are controlled by the autonomic nervous system). You cannot consciously stop your heart from thumping, you cannot tell your sweat glands to simmer down ... but you can control your breath, at least you can learn to. And this is the secret passage, the way into our nervous system.

If we can learn to control the breath, to some extent we are learning to control the nervous system. Some small studies have suggested that deep breathing can change brain waves, to slower frequencies that are associated with more relaxed states. This may be why a yoga class can leave you feeling so calm and relaxed, and why yoga (or just breathing exercises) can be useful for helping us with anxiety, pain, sleep disorders, the many physical symptoms of stress, and so much more.

Even if you attend yoga classes only for the physical benefits, by paying attention to (and working with) your breath, you will find that muscles are able to relax and lengthen much more easily - especially on the exhale, when the autonomic nervous system switches into ‘relaxation mode’ (the parasympathetic nervous system). The mechanical action of the ribs moving as we breathe helps to internally mobilise the spine, which helps us to move deeper into many postures, and by using the diaphragm correctly, we are also helping to build deep, internal core strength. There are also obvious benefits to the respiratory system itself.

From a yoga perspective, when we inhale, we absorb not only oxygen, but energy (prana), vital life force, from the atmosphere. In modern scientific terms this is thought of as electromagnetic energy; negatively charged particles. The yogic practice of pranayama, commonly thought of as breathing exercises, is actually designed to maximise the absorption and utilisation of this energy and may explain why we often feel energised after practicing yoga.

The breath is such an important aspect of yoga practice, and is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal to influence our nervous system, our state of mind and the tension we hold in our bodies. We carry our breath with us our whole lives, most of the time we barely even notice it. But by practicing yoga, by getting to know our breath and learning to control it, we can unlock the route to health and happiness.

Caroline is a chartered physiotherapist and yoga teacher . To help you look after your physical, mental and emotional health during these turbulent times she is currently offering virtual sessions of private yoga including focused breath work and meditation, modified physiotherapy, or distant reiki + guided relaxation. Find out more info here.

To join one of Carolines online yoga classes which are hosted via The Yoga Den Online Facebook group please click here.

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Support: Internal coping strategies

Support: Internal coping strategies

In this feature talking therapist and bodyworker Jo Warboys shares with us some valuable coping strategies and suggestions which can help during these times of uncertainty. 

It's all a bit up and down at the moment isn't it! Is that a massive understatement?!

I am guessing that the rollercoaster of emotions and feelings we are experiencing  during the COVID-19 pandemic are either feelings you are used to or a new way of experiencing your emotions.

Our brain is currently doing its job when faced with uncertain and threatening stuff.  A global pandemic is real and scary! It's job is to protect you. Heightening your senses so you are ready. That is brilliant and fascinating, however being aware of how we can manage that is useful.

Taking a bit of time to focus on a self care plan (more than a bubble bath - although they are rather fab at getting some alone time! #shutthatdoor) can help us recognise when we may need to plan to do something that calms us. Can we go from a 10 to a 6? This could be as simple as some long, slow, deep breaths to help us regulate any racing thoughts and slow our heart rate down.   A walk to the bottom of the garden to watch the birds flying about.

A plan to recognise internal signals that your body and brain are sending you. Can we take that signal as a marker to slow down and take some time for YOU?

I want to say how aware I am of the overload of information we are being bombarded with at the moment. The intention is that you can choose to read, use and follow up some or none of this. If hiding in the downstairs loo eating a mint club biscuit (!) is doing it for you then that is epic! One of the most valuable 'learning' opportunities during this uncertain time could be to tune into what works for YOU.

That's YOU and only YOU!

One of the areas we can choose to ponder on is our  internal coping strategies. These are things you can do on your own to move you towards feeling calmer, more in control....

Walking and being outside (garden, balcony, by an open window), gardening, writing a diary or a letter, taking a bath (!), sorting that annoying kitchen drawer out, reading, home pedicure, build a lego creation!

Anything creative engages a part of our brain that can build on feelings of focus and calm. Colouring, painting, knitting, crochet, baking, biscuit decorating, and making some bookmarks.

Below is a selection of online offerings; movement, guided meditation, yoga, mindfulness, creative makes and something for the green fingered out there!

These small businesses are adapting to bring you what you may need at this time. They are invested in looking after their clients; it is very uplifting! It seems a wonderful way of feeling connected at the moment.  How nice is it to receive something in the post knowing that a small business owner has prepared it for you? Seeing a movement teacher on screen supporting us through some activity. Perhaps some of these options may work for you?

Drawing

Yaz Illustration

How about an online life drawing class with Yaz Illustration? Click the image below for further details.

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Guided meditation

House of Wellbeing.

We give people the tools they need to look after their mental health 24/7, 365 days a year through our targeted guided meditation platform, confidential drop in clinics and powerful workshops.

Our platform hosts a suite of over 70+ Personal and Professional audios (called MindTALKs). These MindTALK audios have the power to help overcome a variety of mental health issues in the workplace.  We have proven results to show that issues such as stress and anxiety decrease in the workplace and 83% of people who have used the platform, say it has had a positive impact in helping them overcome unwanted issues and behaviours.

Click the image below for more details.

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Movement

Movement can be beneficial if it appeals to you. Feel good hormones increase when we move around a bit! There are many fabulous providers who have taken their offerings online.

Kate Smart Fitness

"Staying active whilst staying at home can seem easy to some and challenging to others. There's a plethora of free stuff online which is brilliant and thank heavens for technology, but it might seem confusing or off putting. I have switched to teaching my regular classes via Zoom as well as worked hard on putting together a membership area of pre-recorded sessions. For specific core and pelvic floor courses, whether you want to join a group (from your home of course) or work 1:1 with me via Zoom the options are also there."

Click the image below for more information.

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Chrissie  at Fitness refresh

Stop you stagnating and get to your health and fitness goals

- try for a month, and if you don’t like it, 100% refund available - weekly actions, accountability & support including three live coaching sessions to keep you on track- amazingly friendly and supportive people- based on coaching I utilise with world leaders London Business Schools Senior Exec program- weekly run program for runners out there & - 20% discount off personalised programs

For more info contact chrissie@fitnessrefresh.co.uk or click the image below for sign up details.

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TW12 physio and pilates

One on one Pilates sessions and group classes being held via Zoom.

Before starting the class participants are required to complete a registration form (in the current circumstances this is done over the phone) which comprises some questions about current and previous health conditions, medications, falls history etc. This is to be completed to ensure that everyone is safe to participate in exercise.

For more details contact tw12physioandpilates@gmail.com or click the image below.

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Curves Hampton/Teddington

Great for beginners.

Free easy-to-follow home exercise routines for beginner to intermediate fitness levels:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB_L9Gb2u76e0rxgCzgKtAA

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REWIND PHYSIO

Video consultations via Zoom as well as online Pilates classes.

For more info contact sarah@rewindphysio.co.uk or click the image below.

Yoga - mindful movement

Lotus and Laurel Yoga

Yoga is for everyone, no matter ability, flexibility, age or gender. So whether you are a practiced yogi or a first timer, come along. Yoga for all.

The lovely Tina has a fab selection of online yoga classes. Live and then available when you are ready. All levels catered for.

For more information click the link below.

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Ember Yoga

Whether you want to feel energised, calm or inspired, we have an exceptional range of weekly yoga, fitness and barre for everybody.  A range of online classes are available.

Going online is a huge but exhilarating challenge and we are working it out as we go along. 3 free classes every week, online classes are cheaper and there are 5 & 10 class packs to reduce the cost even further. In addition to that, every other day they will be sharing a pre-recorded class for you to enjoy.

For more details click the image below.

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Rebecca James Yoga

By slowing down, listening to the body and observing the mind we find more joy in life.

I teach gentle, mindful yoga for health and wellbeing. Every week I film two videos 1 x 10-minute and 1 x 30-minute for you so you can practice yoga at home at a time that suits you. You can subscribe through my website.

For more info click the image below.

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Pretty stuff

How about a bunch of flowers? Make a flower crown or even a succulent terrarium? I am going to try all 3! So, there I will be, wearing my flower crown, enjoying my flowers and hanging up my terrarium! It works for me!

Flower Tonic

Fancy a dose of flower tonic straight to your doorstep? Give yourself and your home a little flower tonic lift with fresh flower deliveries.  Click the image below for details.

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Flower Crown Magic

Bespoke flower crowns, Headbands & DIY flower crown kits. Their philosophy is to keep the prices affordable so that the maximum number of people can enjoy the benefits of the activity.

These are great fun to do and if you can't wear a flower crown now, then when can you!

For info about flower crown kits click the image below.

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The Little Hanging Garden Company

To create your own terrarium click on the image below for more details.

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Whatever you are choosing to do (or not do, that's a whole other blog subject!) :

STAY AT HOME. STAY SAFE. TAKE CARE. STAY WELL.

Author Jo Warboys.  is a talking therapist and bodyworker.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, she is offering virtual walk and talk, telephone and talking therapy via Zoom. She is also providing free telephone support for NHS & key workers. Find out more information here.

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Support: nurturing emotional health on your fertility journey

Support: nurturing emotional health on your fertility journey

Corinne Yeadon of Being Better private therapy practice in Skipton writes about the impact emotional and mental wellbeing can have on fertility.

Article originally published as a guest blog for Your IVF abroad. Your IVF abroad is run by former IVF patients and facilitates the best, affordable fertility treatment abroad, organised from the UK.

Nurturing emotional health on your fertility journey.

Writing this guest post prompted me to reflect on my personal journey.  I had two precious daughters when I was very young.  My youngest daughter was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 20 months old.  Following arduous chemotherapy and surgery she survived.  Given what my child had endured, I was completely terrified about the prospect of having another child and preoccupied that the same illness might afflict further children.  I went to my GP to discuss my concerns, which led to me being booked in to be sterilised.  This happened very quickly, within a month.  I was clearly not in a stable emotional or psychological state to make such a life changing decision and also I was a mere 24 years old.  

In my early thirties, my circumstances had changed, significantly and I found myself desperate to have a child.  This was not a desire but a need.  In addition to the overwhelming thoughts, I experienced physical feelings that veered from an aching emptiness to a yearning that caused knotting pain in my abdomen.  Then followed, expensive, private, painful surgery to reverse my sterilisation which resulted in short term horrific complications and a prolonged recovery.  Eventually I was blessed to have my wonderful third daughter, however, the two years prior to that were unbearable. This is the reason I was completely blown away by the possibilities, support and hope, ‘Your IVF Abroad’ offers people.  

"The impact of fertility issues on individuals can understandably completely take over"

Countless research has been undertaken evidencing how being emotionally healthy impacts positively on physical wellness and can only benefit you and support your fertility journey. As a therapeutic practitioner my purpose is to encourage and facilitate the emotional health and wellness of people.  The impact of fertility issues on individuals can understandably completely take over.  At the point of fertility treatment, it is a reasonable assessment that many will have experienced feelings of loss, hopelessness and helplessness prior to making decisions about treatment.  Although difficult, stages of loss, such as denial, anger, bargaining and sadness are crucial to arriving at a point of ‘acceptance.’ Acceptance is not about “giving up” or “getting over it” but accepting where you are at, which then allows responsive rather than reactive decision making and plans of action. 

Feelings of stress and anxiety are to be expected, however not conducive to fertility or positive emotional health.  I describe anxiety as, “fear of something that has yet to happen.” The reverse can be applied to hope, “joy and excitement of what is yet to happen.”  Fertility treatment symbolises hope.  Although within this there may also be a fear of, “getting hopes up.”  The reality is that existing in a state of hopefulness is far more agreeable than the alternative.  

Stress and anxiety are altered states which exist to keep us safe from harm but avoid us making considered decisions and can have a negative impact on our behaviour and relationships.  Sleep and physical health can be affected adversely.  The lions share of my work focuses on encouraging behaviours and practices to shift people out of that state whatever their presenting issue.  

Ways to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety

Introducing new habits and behaviours can be helpful in reducing or eradicating feelings of stress and anxiety:

  • Self expression: talking, writing, singing, dancing, art, crafting, music.
  • Yoga, mindfulness, complementary therapies, crystals, meditation.
  • Worry box and to offset also vision boards.
  • Exercise is widely accepted as effective in reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Self soothing, baths, pampering, tactile items.
  • Cuddles with pets, people and soft toys are comforting.
  • Create a peaceful space, candles, oil burners, music, soft furnishings.

Shifting your thinking to measured, reflective thinking, “What is concerning me?” “Do I have evidence for this thinking?” “Is this in my control?” “What or who could help?” This measured strategy to managing unhelpful thinking may feel awkward initially but with practice is beneficial in avoiding ruminating and catastrophising.  I often liken it to learning to drive, it feels mechanical and clunky initially but rapidly becomes second nature.  

Honouring your spirit can provide comfort and needn’t be about conventional religion.  Some of the listed tools and practices can help.  For many being outdoors and feeling connected and grounded in nature can boost emotional health.  

The outbreak of COVID-19 has meant that to a greater degree, life and all its plans have been suspended.  This can provide an opportunity to take stock and use the time to nurture all aspects of self care; mind, body, emotional, spiritual and social, even if in a constrained capacity.  It also allows time to make plans for when things return to ‘normal.’

The greatest gift and reward of fertility treatment is the potential of a small person in your lives, this is the goal.  As with any overarching goal, it is important to have treats and rewards along the way to bolster the journey.  Planning regular incentives can be done during this limiting time, to avoid being all consumed, which in turn can limit relationships and experiences.  The current environment provides space to prepare for change in terms of treatment and all that entails.  

Corinne specialises in addictions, is a life coach, motivational interviewing and NLP practitioner.  In addition to providing talking therapy in her private practice Corinne provides specialist therapeutic sessions at a female harm reduction service and residential rehabilitation facility.  Corinne writes a regular Being Better Blog, provides a wellbeing and lifestyle column for the Craven Herald Newspaper and has had blogs published in The Huffington Post, The Skipton Press, The Yorkshire Press and Become Menopause Clothing.  She has also published an E book, “Anxiety, Corinne Lifts the Veil.” A personal journey and self help guide.  Find out more about Corrine and her Being Better therapy practice here.

Find out more about Your IVF abroad here or find them on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @yourivfabroad.

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What the hell is ‘stress’?

What the hell is ‘stress’?

Here Naava Carman, fertility acupuncturist and founder of The Fertility Support Company, gives is the ins and outs on stress, oh so important in these extraordinary times.

The word stress has ceased to be meaningful. In fact, it has become a word which I experience as being inherently disempowering – how can we possibly cope with a concept which has become so big, and which has such a pervasive effect on our lives?

I want to take this opportunity to share with you my own experience. For me, time-management issues are right up there as a huge source of stress, and I cope by trying to be as creative as possible with how I use my time.

  • I use my understanding of my cycle and when in the day/week/month I write or treat or create best
  • I schedule my days tightly, helped by an email management system I created
  • I’ve become very good at delegating tasks I might previously have tried to undertake myself

These days, I’d describe these actions as enacting my ‘female power’ – focusing less on productivity and adrenalin-driven output (as I’m simply not wired anatomically or hormonally to function in the same way as a man), and more on self-care in order to achieve my objectives.  I learnt a lot about working with female power from a time-management course I did called ‘Be Fruitful‘ from the One of Many group, and I’d recommend this to all the working women out there struggling with the same issues as I describe above.  I also discovered (although why this is was a surprise to me I don’t know) that if I don’t go to bed around 10pm I just cannot do my life very well – I can only afford a couple of late nights a week before I crash.  How did it take me so long to realise the power of sleep?!?

Over the years I have also discovered that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else. I began to realise that I put on weight when I was working too hard and lost it when I rested (something that took ages for me to make sense of, see diagram below). I realised that my judgement was poorer when I was sleep-deprived, and that my communications skills with my family and clients took a nose-dive if I hadn’t had any time to myself.  So, even in my busiest periods this year for example, when I was treating, writing, lecturing, developing a course, mentoring and being part of my family, I took a day off each week and did…absolutely nothing! Or, as close to absolutely nothing as was possible.

OK, disclaimer, sometimes I had a vodka (Smirnoff Black from my freezer, neat, no ice, thank you) and a lots of Montezuma 73% dark chocolate, and I definitely caught up on reading for pleasure rather than work, and my favourite TV programme (Hello Outlander!). I also had a massage each week at home (thank you NicoleSkevi and Vicky) or an Acupuncture treatment as I realised that when I spent all of my week treating clients, someone else had to hold my stuff for me, as I do for others.

Before I begin to sound too smug, I want to share that these are hard-won actions, discovered over many years, and in some cases, are things I had to train myself and others around me to consider important.  I’m also grateful for the job I do being a vehicle that means anything I do for myself my clients benefit from; from that point of view, business and personal service intersect.

This year though, I thought a lot about stress as it related to female health, and I increasingly believe this ungraspable ‘thing’ we have in our lives in the form of stress affects us in a more concrete way than most of us realise. In an ongoing effort to understand more about the mechanics of what stress is, I listened to a lecture on Adrenal function by Dan Kalish as part of my preparation for a lecture on Assisted Reproductive Techniques and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This lecture crystallised the concepts of ‘stress’ and ‘self-care’ for me, enabling me to translate it into TCM terms and offering it as a treatment to my clients.  In practice, this can mean treating a PCOS lady to reduce hormonal and mental stress which in turn shortens her cycle, giving her a chance to conceive naturally. Sometimes, it is helping a mum who endlessly juggles her time to create more energy so she can do the work she needs to make space for herself in her life. Or, perhaps, it is helping one of my Canary Wharf-based clients to sleep better at night, and make better food choices, rather than tossing and turning all night turning over the same issue and propping herself up the next day with sugar and coffee.

I want to share with you what I learned about how adrenal function affects us in particular ways around issues with:

  • Weight-gain around the middle
  • Anxiety
  • Poor digestion leading to bloating, concentration and memory issues
  • Increased PMS
  • Fatigue

I’ve written before on my blog about weight gain, the gut and the brain (Part I and II) and about weight gain and inflammation, but in this blog I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to show you how life management techniques and TCM treatment intersect not to get rid of the stress (that’s just life!), but to help you become more mentally and physically resilient to its effects.  And, to make a profound difference to how you feel in your life:

  • More optimistic
  • More resilient
  • Less anxious
  • Less tired
  • Slimmer
  • Happier in your body

Effectively, this equals = Less Stressed!

Naava.

Read more about Naava Carman and The Fertility Support Company here.

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