Thriva Health Review

As a massive fan of both the scientific method and holistic health, being offered a free blood test from Thriva was the cherry on top of what was a successful week for me. Rather than advocating pseudoscience such as ‘Blood Type Diets’ or ‘DNA Diets’, you get given a test kit which, upon completion, is then sent off to a private lab for further analysis of your health.

 

The premise is in of itself an excellent one: due to long waiting times, unnecessary time off work, and long waiting periods, more and more people are becoming reluctant to take a ‘biological MOT test’ every now and then in the form of a blood test. In an effort to encourage people to be more aware of (and look after) their health, Thriva have created this system to promote convenience, healthy living - as well as doing an already highly-stressed NHS system a small favour. Having access to privately conducted blood tests – and I find from personal experience that they are actually cheaper than taking a test at a private GP – means you are more empowered to look after your health and understand what’s going on in your body. They do subscriptions of tests containing a plethora of factors which they measure - B12, Vitamin D, Thyroid function, you name it - but they sent me a sample, AKA the thyroid test, just for me to review.

You literally get the test within 48 hours, and upon sending it back, the timeframe is the same. You get your results with an extremely detailed report from a qualified GP, not only explaining in detail what each result means, but also offers lifestyle tips to getyou underway in improving your health.

Honestly, not as squeamish as it looks/sounds!

Honestly, not as squeamish as it looks/sounds!

Data is kept completely private, and even though I was freaked out by the concept of pricking myself and drawing blood, (ok, I admit, I did kinda imagine having to use a huge needle and fainting in my own bathroom – luckily none of these scenarios took place.) the process was painless (I do have a high pain threshold, so take with a pinch of salt) and so easy – albeit a bit weird seeing your own fluids drip slowly into a test tube.

Personally for me I’ve had a bit of a funky period of time with my thyroid, so getting back confirmation that my thyroid levels, despite healthy overall, were on a bit of a low side gave me the confirmation I needed to take sensible actions (such as committing to daily activity and increasing my carbohydrates). And, now, I definitely do feel a bit more energised and my hands and feet aren’t about to drop off from feeling cold or numb, so I have to give the process a big thumbs up overall!

I would absolutely recommend Thriva if you’re a bit concerned about any deficiencies or health issues you may have, but don’t have the time (nor patience) to take time off work or wait weeks for an appointment. Plus, you know you’re in safe hands as it’s all done so professionally (and by professionals) in a quick and timely manner. Let me know if you guys order a kit and if it shed any light onto your current lifestyles!

3 Reasons Why The Internet Affects Our Mental Health - And What To Do About It

Being part of 'The Internet Generation' has its highs and lows - the highs including instantaneous access to a world of awe-inspiring information, prosperous business connections, and heartfelt connection to loved ones living far away. Of course, the lows can be equally emotional driven, and in many cases, highly dangerous - comparison on social media, mobile phone addiction, disengagement with The Now, and facing unpleasant, sometimes downright nasty comments right in front of one's very eyes. 

Of course, this isn't to simplify the pros and cons of the internet (a debate for another day, I am sure!) but it should serve as a reminder that rapid, continual development of modern technology comes at a cost - a cost we may be unknowingly and unwillingly paying. 

As ambitious human beings, with any technological advance comes with it the desire to better our lives and, as a result of the benefits that come with it, our species overall. (Dunno what I'd do without you, oh loyal Spiraliser.) The aim is continual progress in a direction that benefits society - courgetti strands and all.

spiralizer.jpg

This is the ideal advance in modern technology.

You might not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like.

 

However, what if in this case, the result isn't necessarily progression, but a frightening regression in certain areas? I'm not talking about the communication of Memes. We have evidently reached peak evolutionary status in that regard. But let's take a closer look at what it means to live in a society where we are born into - or introduced to, at an impressionable age - an era surrounding internet technology - in particular, social media. We use such social media as Instagram incessantly. There's no contestation that we have the capacity to look up information, become more educated and empowered, and arrange our lives in ways that young people before us never could. But, of course, we have to remember that everything comes at a price.

As the established psychologist Jonathan Haidt notes, social media and intent technology may just have a huge impact on our overall wellbeing and mental health within society. Here are some different reasons why internet technology is harmful - but also, just to keep this post in a positive spirit, methods of counteracting them to keep ourselves happy and healthy.

 

1. Lack of human contact can be soul-crushing - or even mean-spirited and harmful.

While it may seem as though that off-the-cuff Insta DM promising utopian coffee and brunches 'sometime soon' is enough to fulfil your social needs quota for the month, take it from this introvert, it definitely isn't. We have swapped genuine, sincere, soul-nourishing human contact with the Meetupsoonitis - empty promises, consisting of vague pleasantries and the occasional uttering of the Hot New Place To Eat, do not a genuine friendship make. We are surrounded by constant voices from a thousand 'friends' yet become more lonely than ever, because we are programmed by now to think that bailing last minute or not following through with plans is perfectly normal and healthy. In reality, not only does this create a perpetual cycle of (ironically) antisocial behaviour, but we perpetuate the feeling of loneliness: instead of spending time with a handful of people who make our live precious, we attempt to spread ourselves too thinly in an attempt to boost our social kudos, or lie to ourselves that this person we've just met on Instagram through a mutual love of avocado really cares about me.* On the other extreme, we have the vicious commenting - not just from trolls, although this is arguably the most common 'nasty' scenario - but also from the psychological problem of anonymity; many studies are now indicating that people act in a ruder, more anti-social manner when their identity is masked, or when they are able to communicate through a computer screen. In short, the internet not only perpetuates loneliness, or demeans real human communication, but it also makes people a whole lot meaner to one another. Obviously, the two of these things combined makes for a potent cocktail in the scheme of longterm mental health issues.

2. Our fixation with the Mobile Phone.

It is no surprise that a recent poll found 50% of teenagers to be self-confessed 'addicts' to their mobile phones - pretty much everything that humans seek on a spiritual and emotional level can be now replicated (but never emulated) through the mobile phone - social approval, excitement, drama, relationships, entertainment, you name it. It literally becomes a crutch for us to fulfil our deepest needs. Such addictions are known to affect sleep, social interactions, and all kinds of other foundational aspects of daily life. And before you decry the notion of 'phone addiction', several studies are already pointing to it becoming a huge problem (not to mention that the brain's neurological process doesn't discriminate when it comes to sources of gratification) - more and more people are now citing 'feelings of anxiety' when they are unable to be with their phones at the dinner table, or during a meeting. The fact that people can no longer be without their phone for anytime longer than an hour is scary indeed, and a huge indicator that this advancement of technology is having a heavy toll on our mental wellbeing.

3. Taking away from The Now.

Put simply, our human ancestors were born and raised to be outside for much of the time - and various research indicated that humans 'feel most at home' when in nature, or tend to gravitate to places of natural beauty whenever possible. Even now, when we are outside admiring a beautiful sunset, we cannot but help feel the urge to take a photo or 'Instagram it, quick!' (and I am definitely guilty of this!) rather than just taking it all in, being present, and enjoying the moment for what is.

When in nature, we connect not only to ourselves but the present moment - we aren't preoccupied with our stressful day yesterday, or what to have for dinner, or for that big work presentation, but just enjoying 'playtime' and having an escape from every day stresses. This natural state of being present is being torn apart by mobile phones, through apps and notifications which keep giving us that dose of dopamine as those 'Likes' keep piling in - thus supplying us with a synthetic sense of validation; one that has a very short expiry date, and very quick supply demand.

 

So, what to do?

I never like my posts being doom and gloom, and certainly don't think mobile phones or the internet are inherently evil - far from it, they have given us a portal into new worlds and mindsets - hell, you are using the internet right now to read all about mental health and self-care! It is an incredibly powerful tool which, when used correctly, can change lives and make us better people. I am not saying that a certain way of using it is better than another way - but we cannot escape the slightly inconvenient truth that modern technology can hamper our mental health.

There are some simple little things we can do to just be more aware of how much we're using our phone; that is, how much of our energy we are pouring into fake, superficial, cyber lives. 

Imagine if we applied that energy into doing something worthy, just for that moment - smiling at a stranger, working on your business, helping your team at work with an important project, telling your siblings, parents, or significant other that you love them - imagine just putting down the phone for a few minutes and just being.

Here are just a few simple steps you can take at any given moment to reduce your internet time and 'unplug from the Matrix'.

1. Dedicate at least an hour a day without your phone. Tell your boss if you need to. Ideally, have the hour pff before bed so you get a better night's sleep. But always make sure that there are 60 minutes - out of 1440 in a 24 hour day - where you're taking your eyes off that glowing, hypnotic, rectangular screen, and doing something nourishing for the soul. Airplane mode will set you free, by the way.

2.  Bathrooms are for cleaning and pooping, and bedrooms are for sex and sleeping. Make sure your phone doesn't get in the way of your most basic human needs. Minimise phone interaction at night, or when you're taking care of yourself in the most fundamental way. Seriously! Bring a book to both bed - or bathroom, if you're gonna be there a while! - and get some goodness into your brain rather than noisy rubbish. Think of what you feed your brain as what you feed your body - you wouldn't stuff it with crap or junk food all day, so be mindful of what you give your mind, too, for optimum wellbeing.

3. Leave your phone at home sometimes. (WHAT THE HELL?! I know.) I've just said the unthinkable. I know. But you gotta conquer those 'where's my phone jitters' by actually reminding yourself that you'll bloody well live without getting your fix of fitness selfies or protein bowls on tap, and actually enjoy your time being among real life human beings and the great outdoors. In my view, this is the absolute best way to cut down on mobile phone time - and going 'phone commando' is the only way you'll learn that it's healthy not to be on your phone all the time, as much as normal society suggests otherwise.

A walk around the corner, or even meeting up with your friends for a coffee; having no phone stops being weird after about fifteen minutes. I swear, once you're engaging in the moment and actually enjoying what there is in front of you, you end up getting used to it. Then, suddenly, you'll actually enjoy the feeling of not being obsessed with looking at that hypnoscreen so much. Finally, when you do bring your phone out again, you'll be accustomed to not scrolling through it so obsessively. You’ll never look back, I promise you - this is the most freeing way of cutting down internet and phone usage. 

 

I hope this makes all of you more aware on how internet consumption and phone usage can affect our mental wellbeing - and that you're armed with easy tips on how to make your days and life feel far more fulfilled, and spiritually nourishing! :) 

 

 

 

Ways You Might Have Social Anxiety - And Ways to Cope With It

A harbinger of communicative doom, social anxiety can creep up on us in the most unsuspecting of ways: at your job, on a night out, or even when trying to order your gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, gender neutral chocolate soufflé from your local West London haunt. It is in spite of it being a fairly common mental health issue for the vast majority of us, that we often fail to notice the signs, fail to address it, and thus our interaction with others stagnates, makes us feel more insecure and inadequate, and consequently results in the "hiding away from the world" scenario which is commonly associated with this disorder (and sadly, exacerbates it.) 

Social anxiety affects most of us at some point in our lives - your mileage of how often and how much it may affect you will certainly vary, but if we can just avoid sweeping the symptoms under the rug for fear of sounding like a drama queen, then perhaps we can all be more understanding to one another should they face difficulties overcoming social phobias.

Below are some common symptoms attributed to social anxiety - I certainly haven't included all of them, and there will be a degree of variation in how you might feel during a social event. These are a mixture of anecdotal, personal experiences, in addition to others' testimonials and assented medical definitions.

You struggle to talk to others, or to make eye contact.

This is commonly confused with either shyness, rudeness, or tiredness - but the truth is, with social anxiety, sometimes your mind is flooded with such incoherence, insecurity and fear that the last thing you want to do is impinge your presence onto anyone else. There are so many reasons as to why you might become more isolated or worried during a social situation: to some, it might seem as though you're 'zoned out' or disinterested, when in reality your brain is screaming at you to avoid saying anything - hell, even breathing - in others' presence to avoid coming across as stupid, rude, annoying, useless, or all of the above. The amount of stimulants in an area - people talking, noises, groups of conversations - can prove to be so overwhelming for the individual with anxiety that we may just tend to shut off, and hope for the best that we're not in anyone's way or being an inconvenience.

The solution? The key to overcoming this is to start shifting your obsessive analysis of your own perceived shortcomings (which don't exist, by the way) and paranoia into objective observation of the outside world. The problem with social anxiety is that we see the world around us blurred by a fishbowl lens, distorted by our own paranoia, insecurity, and fear of who we are and how others perceive us. It's exceptionally hard, but once we start to see life and our surroundings objectively, with clarity and not tinted by emotion, we can see things for what they really are and stop projecting our fears onto scenarios which don't even exist!

You talk too much, too fast - and not in a coherent, conversational manner. ("Talkward")

This is possibly the most difficult symptom to deal with, because some people still associate 'chatterbox = happy, overconfident, boisterous' when in reality the underlying reasoning for talking too much can be sinister. This assumption means talking about your social anxiety can be difficult, especially if people perceive you to be loquacious. Talking too much can come from a helpless sense of urgency and fear, where your mind is going at a million miles per minute and is unable to process conversations properly as you're too busy thinking God, what if I say something stupid? I should try be nice. What if this person hates me? Am I being too annoying? Maybe I should apologise for how annoying I'm being. Or actually, maybe try act cool.  Or, essentially running on autopilot to try get you through the stress and worry of being in that situation. Or, even still, in your mind there is that chastising, telling yourself, be quiet, you’re talking to much, no one cares, everyone is judging you. Yet the threat of silence creates those made-up images in our head that the world is hostile and scary - so we go into word vomit mode to try 'protect' ourselves, and get us through that gaping abyss. Thus exacerbates need to talk more even though you might be dying of panic and anxiety inside. Not to mention - the quality of what you actually say is essentially drivel, and being aware of this as you speak ineloquently (but unable to stop it due to the anxiety itself!) can be really soul-destroying. After big social gatherings, it is not uncommon for you to need even days of recuperation, just to resettle your mind and get back to '0'.

The solution? Self-awareness - and self-kindness - are key in addressing this issue and learning to embrace the silence. Silence is uncomfortable because we are faced with those demons and monsters of nasty thoughts, telling us that we aren't worthy, that everyone hates us, that we'll never belong. Nonetheless if we never face those monsters we shall never be able to slay them! Techniques which help include yogic breathing (deep from the belly, steady and rhythmic) which help calm your mind to clear it out from the stimuli which provokes nervous speaking; regular meditation - another great one to help declutter the mind, and help you face the silence; and practical things such as counting from 4 to 0 after you've spoken in that 'break' when it comes to letting others speak before you (helps you avoid interrupting, and trains your mind to get used to 'the flow' of a conversation) as well as helping you take the focus off from your own thoughts onto the person speaking - a win-win, as you can actually connect to them and engage in a great chat (which they'll appreciate!) and you can help shift some of that stress away!

 

You feel absolute dread being in group scenarios, or large crowds.

When do I start to talk? Do I talk about this topic, or move on? Why are they laughing without me? Do I try to get involved? Do they hate me? The issue with a larger group, is that there are more stimulants surrounding us - which means, projections about who we are, are magnified fully until we can do nothing but stay meekly in the corner, wishing the minutes away. Teamwork can also become quite problematic - not because you're anti-social or selfish - because you compound everything that you hate: trusting yourself, being yourself, and essentially being vulnerable to yourself as you fear that the others will judge you, think you're stupid or a useless spare cog in the wheel. It also precludes that you might have to indulge in that one thing you utterly dread: small talk. Ain't nobody got time for that.

The solution? This tip can be applied to all of these symptoms, to be honest - exposure therapy is your best call to action; in fact, numerous studies have demonstrated how effective it is in terms of healing mental trauma and becoming more autonomous in one's everyday living. That means throwing yourself into activities where people and groups are involved; and slowly but surely building up the confidence needed, so one day you might actually - gasp - somewhat enjoy team building exercises or groups! If you really are struggling, always have a 'mental escape' to get you through the necessary bits of work - in just a few hours, I can curl up to a good book and reset - I know, naughty as it's not particularly mindful, but anxiety can be very crippling and sometimes you gotta do you gotta do! Another thing to remember: people are far too busy to be worrying about you. They're far more likely to be worrying what you are thinking of them.

You dread phone calls.

No body language, no chance to pause to think what to say, no idea when appropriate to say 'how are you' and 'goodbye' or 'how's your feng shui redecoration going?' - phone calls are any anxiety sufferer's worst nightmare (why oh why didn't you text, email, messenger pigeon for goodness sake?!) but in this day and age, both professionally and personally, it's imperative to find coping strategies so it doesn't hinder your growth in both aspects respectively - regardless whether you make a call, or receive one. You might have physical sensations prior to making a call: sweaty palms, nausea in stomach, or faster heart beat. You might do anything and everything in your power to avoid having to use the call, feeling sensations of terror or dread at the mere thought of picking a phone up.

The solution? Basic CBT such as mindfulness and meditation practice to help rid your mind of pervasive, incessant thoughts can help prevent rather than cure - and remembering to count the 'pauses' during the conversation to help guide you when speaking, so you feel calmer and more in control. Another tactic for those of you really affected is to literally rehearse your conversation - either write a little script, or just go through your head before what you want to say, how to say it, and potential responses. This sounds awfully childlike, but when it comes to mental health you really need to put in the self-care and basics necessary to improve and look after yourself.

You play with your hair, fidget, bite your nails...anything to relieve yourself from your nervous energy.

Whilst this isn't necessarily a hugely damaging symptom of SA, it can be damaging if left unattended as you use the behaviour/habit as a 'mask' for what you're really feeling. If you use it as a stimulant to try get you through the social event, then you may never actually be cognisant of the fact that you are anxious, and need to address it.

The solution? Fiddling occasionally is very natural and human - from foot shaking, fidgeting, to stretching in our seat. The problem is when we sort of 'zone out' as we fidget, as a means to distract ourself from the anxiety we are experiencing. It's important to try be as present as possible with how we feel, in order to address it and find ways of self-care to alleviate the pain.

You cancel plans last minute, very frequently, using dubious excuses.

I am definitely guilty of this one! SA sufferers are sadly mislabeled as 'flakes' due to their frequent cancellations of appointments and meet-ups. The truth is, days, nay, even weeks before an event, our brains can kick into overdrive and send us lovely little reminders of how the day could go horribly wrong; how you could embarrass yourself, or make everyone hate you, or how you're going to feel ostracised and totally out of it; people will point and laugh at you, you're such an embarrassment, you're going to look awful in that outfit you've bought, God why on Earth are you even going? That's when our bodies get tense; we start overthinking until our heart feels fit to burst; and we are at risk of anxiety/panic attacks even just by lying in bed thinking about the meet-up. Sometimes it's not even just a case of not wanting to go to their party - it's literally a case of, 'I physically can't go, else I will likely implode mentally and emotionally and have a breakdown in the middle of your Shoreditch flat balcony.'

The solution? If you are lucky to have understanding friends and family (thank God I do!) then explain to them your predicament, so they can help support you and encourage you to look after yourself, in addition to making the right baby steps in coming out. However, as discussed before - the world isn't a safe space, and you're going to need to step out from behind your four walls eventually, at some point. Well, we kind of need water and food...to live, and stuff. Set yourself goals and baby steps - ok, so you have four events this month, maybe that's too much, but why not aim to go to at least one and stay for two hours? You can build this up, as you realise it's not as scary as you one thought. Humans do thrive when surrounded by good, kind fellow beings - so it's a shame to miss out on occasions which will nourish your mind and soul. Plus, it's amazing to build character and help bring out that boldness in you. Always aim to break down those barriers you set up for yourself - the aim is to remind yourself of how limitless you really are, so baby steps are key in this.

You feel a general sense of awkwardness and unease socially - like you shouldn't be there, or you're annoying people.

This is the sort of chronic, dull ache which best characterises anxiety - the unshakeable feeling that you shouldn't be there. It can underline all that you do; your posture, actions, words and what you say to yourself. You then get yourself into a tailspin, creating a vicious cycle of endlessly overthinking, worrying, and denigrating yourself at the altar of non-existent self-esteem. Your words come out funny; you're physically more cumbersome because your mind is so busy focusing on non-existent worries as opposed to how you present yourself, your posture and general movements. It's a nightmare.

The solution? Seeing as this is an overall fitness and wellbeing blog, and given the fact I'm also a trainer, I think it pretty apt here to suggest training and proper nourishment to help offset anxious thinking. Having an hour to yourself where you're just moving your body, being mindful and really dedicating some self-care to you can improve your mood and self-confidence remarkably; it will clear some cobwebs and help you feel amazing, as you realise that, hell yes, you're bloody strong and marvellous after a session of challenging your mind and body. Similarly, gut health has been linked to mental health and calm; so be sure to stock up on fibrous green veggies, probiotics and gut-friendly flora and foods in general to ensure you're giving yourself the best fighting chance against your anxiety.

 

I hope this gives you guys a little bit of guidance and support when it comes to your anxious feelings - remember, I am by no means a professional, so always seek out help if you ever feel overwhelmed. Together, we can change the conversation and stop the stigma!

 

 

How To Approach Fitness When Dealing With Depression

It is a truth universally acknowledged (thankfully), that exercise can prove to be a hugely beneficial preventative for mental health illnesses and disorders alike, particularly common ailments such as depression or anxiety. Nonetheless, it is a tall, nay, Eiffel Tower-esque order to ask someone who suffers from depression to simply get out of bed, pop on their running shoes and suddenly expect to run a 10k or lift their personal best in the gym as easy as 1-2-3. Alas, the process of trying to exercise when you're depressed can actually turn out to be something like the following:

 

  1. Set your alarm to get up early for your not-so-eagerly anticipated 5AM run.
  2. Realise that, after sleeping for barely an hour that night, leaving your bed is no longer a feasible concept.
  3. Sleep through your alarm or hit snooze in an attempt to scrape a few minutes' extra sleep before getting ready for work (or having that inevitably stomach-churning call in for being absent.)
  4. Berate yourself, hate yourself, sob into a corner of your duvet and resume the spiralling self-loathing that comes part and parcel of your soul-destroying sickness for not being 'good enough' and instead are 'completely useless' for not even being able to get up that early, despite not being able to help your brain's chemical imbalance.
  5. Rinse, lather, repeat for the next few months until the idea of fitness flies out the window.

 

Of course, this set of steps will vary from person to person - everybody suffers from depression differently. In fact, for instance, during my depression, the only time I didn't feel deafening numbness or drearily  despairing and apathetic towards life itself was when I was moving; I felt somewhat empowered, even for just ten, twenty, thirty, then eventually forty, fifty, sixty minutes, that I actually was capable of something. I was a complete waste of oxygen on this earth, but at the very least, my squats and deadlifts were on fleek. 

 

The fact is, sometimes even just hitting your alarm clock can consist of your exercise routine for the day when you have depression. The numbness isn't just mental; physically, you become so exhausted from crying, from berating yourself, from the constant battle in your mind, physical workouts genuinely become beyond the pail of exhaustion. There are, however, some simple tips when it comes to approaching training, movement and health when you have depression - the key takeaways being a) be kind and gentle to yourself, and b) consistently congratulate yourself on being strong, empowered, and know that there is hope and light, always. You will get through this. And, sometimes, moving yourself can provide at least a little reprieve from the pain you are suffering right now.

 

It's ok not to be ok. Sometimes your workout *is* just rolling over out of bed.

It's ok not to be ok. Sometimes your workout *is* just rolling over out of bed.

  1. Don't think of it as exercise - think of it as movement. That way, you'll consider even the smallest of actions (going for a light stroll, stretching etc) to be part of your routine - and you'll congratulate yourself, rather than berate yourself.
  2. Surround yourself with support. Having someone there to encourage you to get out of bed and just go for a walk with you can often prove to be a powerful stimulus when you have no desire whatsoever to get moving. The power of having a loved one caring for your wellbeing cannot be overstated enough.
  3. If you struggle psychologically to get going, think about it this way: don't exercise for you - do it for someone you love. It sounds odd, but particularly when you have depression, shifting the thoughts to thinking about making your loved ones proud of you can help immensely, especially with low self-esteem and negative self-talk. With my depression, just thinking of how proud my parents and sisters would be seeing me actually get out of bed, and thinking of how concerned they were for me, made me move more and try to look after myself, even if I wasn't 100% perfect.
  4. Forget perfect. The last thing you want to do when you're depressed is overwhelm yourself even more - so don't. Break the workout down into the simplest, smallest of steps - stretching, walking, bodyweight lunges or squats, etc. Something just to get your heart racing and muscles activated, to make you feel proud of yourself. The stress of trying to fit in and keep up with the industry's 'trends' and intense sessions can be toxic for your mindset - remember, the perfect exercise is the one you'll actually do, and do consistently.
  5. Congratulate yourself. Simply for turning up, moving, doing something that will serve both of your body and mind in a way that's kind and loving to your health in the long run. Complete the workout? Awesome, congratulate yourself. Didn't finish it? That's amazing, too, pat yourself on the back for moving and being kind to yourself today. Remember, when you're depressed, the hardest workout possible is the mere act of surviving - or living. So, the fact you're still here...well, you're performing the hardest workout imaginable. Which is absolutely incredible. Congratulate yourself for that, every single day.

Tips from a Life Coach...

Whilst I always strive to give you guys good advice and tidbits of wisdom from my own experience when it comes to self-empowerment and mental health, as I always say, it's so important to have a professional perspective in your life if you need help.

Stephanie is an amazing life coach, who I have been seeing for a good few years now, and has helped me transform my mindset, and, indirectly, my life. Her wisdom, kindness, and inspirational, warm energy has helped me empower myself and also become a better person. She is based in Raynes Park, and her website can be found here. You can book in to see her face-to-face here.

 

Hi Stephanie! Thank you so much for being so lovely and willing to answer a few questions for the blog today. Just to get started, would you mind introducing yourself, what you do, and your message that you want to deliver to your clients and the world around you?

My name is Stephanie Byrne.   I am a Transformation Coach, Intuitive Healer and Life Awakener.

 

What I do :

I show you who you really are and the power and the capacity you have inherent within yourself to stop creating problems. 

I then teach you how to deliberately begin creating a more fulfilling life that delights and pleases you

 

How I Do It :

I connect with your Super Conscious Mind to

(1) understand what is holding you back from living your fullest life and to

(2) learn the details about the life that you really want from this part of yourself.

Afterwards, I communicate that information and together we instigate a plan to realise that New Life whilst also showing you how to liaise with your own SCM so you can do this for yourself

 

So many people think that they’re ‘not good enough’ or think that it’s ‘impossible’ to reach a goal in their fitness – and even personal – journeys. What do you think is the most important thing for people to realize when they hit obstacles such as these?

 

Every human being is uniquely amazing and beautiful and they are capable of so much more than they could ever imagine.  In truth, we have barely scratched the surface of what our race is capable of achieving and it is this estrangement with ourselves that causes us to doubt our abilities to rise above all circumstances and problems.

When we stop looking outside and stop comparing ourselves to others and instead chose to turn our love and attention inward, everything changes. 

We are then able to access a wellspring of resilience, love, trust and certainty that resides there and which carries us past any obstacles because we are our own cheerleader and best friend and we now know that there is nothing we cannot do with that support … we tap into our true nature and we focus it towards what we want, and not what we don’t want.

That makes the biggest difference because we work with our potential instead of fighting against it.

By doing this we tap into an immense resource that is just waiting for us to access it and unfurl an unlimited capacity to live fulfilling lives on our own terms.

 

Would you say that the link between mental health and physical health is an important one? If so, what can we do to empower ourselves and make sure we are at our optimal ‘selves’ in both mind and body? 

 

Yes, it is important for us to see ourselves as a whole integrated system wherein the body and the mind work in harmony with one another.

We must make a conscious choice to allow our minds and our bodies to support us in living the lives we have dreamed.

When there is no ‘war’ going on inside of us we are able to listen to the messages from our bodies about what is needed for us to access or maintain peak health.  We will be intuitively guided to the information, and the people, we need to achieve this.

It is possible, and encouraged, for us to take a stand and cease bullying ourselves or give into fears that only exist in our own heads and not in our physical world.  When we make that massive choice to stand by ourselves, just where we are at, ‘perfectly imperfect’ and make a commitment to never mistreat ourselves, to interact with ourselves as with another that we want to cultivate a lasting relationship with … every changes because we have traded fear for love and when we do that, consciously and consistently, our world is transformed.

There is a powerful Wisdom within us that will teach us how to develop this embryonic loving relationship and once it is established we take it out into a world that reflects back to us our inner truths and as a result … you ARE the change that the world has been calling out for.

You become the difference that makes the difference both in your own life and in everyone else’s by leading by example and teaching others how to treat you.  When we see everyone and everything, including ourselves, from a loving perspective there are no wars to be waged, no opinions to be defended… rather we are living in a world where we are able to recognize that the Other is really Us, and that we love, understand and appreciate them both.

 

We are given so many messages – both positive and negative – by social media and the media in general. How can we declutter our minds, and reconnect with ourselves to be more present in living and appreciate the world around us?

 

There is a big difference between going on a treasure hunt where you know there are definitely riches to be found and one where there is a nagging doubt that it is a cruel joke, a set up where we will be ridiculed and hurt.

The kindest thing we could ever do for ourselves it is to ‘create’ a belief , a certainty, that what we are seeking is out there seeking us, waiting to be found and that the world, and everyone in it, is on our side and wants the very best for us; that this is all about us and that The Game has been rigged in our favour … we just have to turn up and play full out… and enjoy the heck out of the mystery of what happens next!

When we are choosing a reality that works with us rather than one that scares us we notice that the going isn’t so hard, that things invariably work out for us and that there is less compulsion to be anyone other than the ‘I’ that we are building a strong and authenticrelationship with.

We find we are in that space that people often refer to as The Flow and that we intuitively know what to do and not to do for our best.  As a result of this, we begin to relax, we trust, we see the synchronicities, we let ourselves receive good things … we allow ourselves to be open to the conviction that this world is absolutely for us, and not against us … that we’re now playing a different game which is all about our growth, fulfilling our heart’s desires, delighting us and causing us to be excited about the next ‘twist and turn’ to come to light for us to figure out.

 

So many people have a preconception about mindfulness – that it’s inaccessible, time consuming, and at times impossible to achieve unless you meditate for hours on end! How do you break these myths and empower your clients to take on a better way of living in an effortless way?

 

We are built to thrive in this world.  There is no doubt about that.  When we start with that presupposition and live from There we find the inner resources to navigate our experience with humour, wisdom and curiousity.

Life is naturally guiding us towards our heart’s desires.  When we trust that Calling and follow It’s prompts we enjoy the twists and the turns of not knowing what’s coming next, and luxuriating in it because we have learned to trust beyond surface appearances to that connection we have to all of Life.

From that Connection, we are guided as what to do next … this may be to go for a walk in Nature; to paint; to cook; to run; to make love; to read a book; to meditate  etcanything that fully engages us into the dance of life and that we are fully There with … is a life lived consciously … where all we desire is found and satisfied in that full moment

 

And finally, what do you think is the best message for people to take away from this interview and to use in their everyday lives, as well as to achieve their fitness goals?

 

I would love if you would take a moment to really SEE yourself today.  To really evaluate all that you are.  To celebrate and honour all that you have come through to get here to this present moment and in so doing let yourself be praised and honoured for a job well done.

Sure there may be things you still need to do, dreams you’ve not yet set into motion BUT for this moment, make a decision to accept yourself right where you are now. 

To not argue about you and instead embrace the marvel that you are. 

High Five yourself to the heavens, laugh out loud that you’ve come through all the things you thought would have written you offlong ago and stand up in your own majesty knowing that you’re still here, and that you will continue mastering every challenge that you meet …

You are built to thrive, you are built to succeed, you are built to have an extraordinary life … you are meant to be in love with yourself … so let it begin to happen at the rate and pace that suit’s you best, but be insistent that it does.

Make this relationship your priority.

Make you the most important person in the world

Make yourself seen by you, first

Make you the One you’ve been waiting all your life for … because when you let yourself be ‘found’ by you … it will be like those deserts that spring into bloom … when the rains fall after years of drought and wherein the whole landscape is changed, utterly changed and a beautiful Beauty is born …

Remember, you are what matters most.

 

Thanks so much for your time and wisdom, Stephanie! 

5 minute workouts? Sign me up!

Feel daunted by training in the gym? Don't be - five minutes can sometimes be all you need to feel fitter and healthier for the day ahead.

Don't be put off by people telling you that if you don't spend an hour training, you may as well not at all. Sure, it's super important to be consistently active for longer periods of the day (studies show that moderate exercise, such as power walking or light cycling, for at least 20 minutes a day, is essential to improve our health and wellbeing, as well reduce our risk of so many chronic diseases.) But, life happens, and there will always be exceptionally busy days when it's just not feasible to get to a gym in the waking hours you have!

Doing something is always, always, infinitely times better than doing nothing. By moving your body, getting your heart pumping and blood flowing, you decrease 'brain fog', increase creativity, burn extra calories and increase mobility, as well as improving posture - but those five minutes to yourself are also a form of self-love, essential for any hectic day when your boss is shouting at you, or the kids are running around screaming.

This is my go-to sequence for when my days are busy; juggling clients, my business, and/or castings and shoots, sometimes an hour's session is just not in the cards for me. But what I can do is honour both body and mind by giving myself five minutes of the day to help me feel happy and energised, as well as keep me motivated to eat healthily and sustain a good exercise routine.

5 MINUTES FOR YOU TIME

 

Full Body Energiser

60 high-knee runs on the spot
Plank with opposite arm-leg raise, 10 reps each side
Downward dog to push up flow, 15 reps


Repeat until the 5 minutes is up, go as fast as you can and try beat your run for next time!

 

Mindful Movement

1 minute Kickthroughs/Capoeira Kicks

90 second bear crawls, front and back

Side plank with leg lift, 30 seconds each side

Repeat twice.

 

I Am Empowered - strength in 5

Incline tricep push ups - 10 reps

Bodyweight glute thrusts - 15 reps, 3 second squeeze at the top with your glutes

Standing to crawls and push up, 10 reps

Plank walks, 20 reps (10 each side)

Set the timer for 5 mins. Do as much as you can.

 

I am Speed

Lateral Ski Jumps - 30 reps

Frogger jumps from Plank position - 40 reps

In-and-Out squat jumps, 12 reps

Sprint all out on spot, 25 seconds

 

Set the timer for 5 mins. Do as much as you can.

Let's talk - Mental Health.

I write this post now in order to be accountable and 100% upfront with my followers, because I am all about breaking down stigma with mental health. Recently I have felt a wee bit more fragile, exhausted and have noticed spikes in anxiety holding me back not only in public, social events, but also in my day-to-day productivity levels and general outlook on my life. As all emotional ups and downs in our lives are, this is temporary, and thank goodness, and nothing of any major health concern at all, but merely a reminder for me to take some time out for myself! it then ignited a little fire inside of me, whispering to me, telling me to post something about my story with mental health, and how transforming my health physically became integral to how I felt emotionally, mentally and spiritually. So, here we are!

Thankfully I believe in self-care, productivity, and taking care of the things I can control - and so, will be fully back to my perky self in no time! In order to prevent any kind of emotional relapse (which can be up to 50% among those who have already suffered a mental illness!) I have decided to write this, not only to remind myself of how strong I am, but hopefully to inspire you to break down the taboo of mental health, start conversations, realise how amazing and loved you are, and also to offer my hand to anyone alone or suffering: you are not alone, you absolutely deserve to feel amazing, joyful and happy, and together, we can face adversity and strife as one.

If teenage me could see the present me, she’d be in disbelief that this would become her future self.

I’m quite different than who I was back then, and not just because I don’t dress like a scantily clad vampire anymore.

My life now has everything to do with my life then. I am no longer that depressed, over-anxious girl who was sure she was alone in the world; that girl who believed every day in her life was so painful, that it felt difficult to breathe; that girl who was caught up in such pain, sadness, and darkness, that she believed life was not worth living – that death seemed to be the only answer. It is because of that girl that I am on this mission – this mission to inspire others, especially vulnerable young people, to realize their own inner strength and happiness even in the darkest of times.

I know that being in such a place is incredibly scary – it feels as if you’re stuck in a clouded fish tank; being able to see the murky outlines of your surrounding world, yet feeling trapped, alone, distant and isolated all the same. Depression isn't just 'sadness', as some people like to make it out to be. Depression is paralysing numbness; an emptiness that corrodes your veins, and floods your once rosy cheeks and bright, intrepid eyes. Depression is that destructive, demon-eyed smog that resides in the very nooks and crannies and whisperings of every dark, sad thought you once had; it feeds off every doubt you have, every day spent despairing under the duvet; but, once overcome, makes you, truly, one of the strongest people alive.

And I truly believe that people can create change – within themselves. It doesn’t have to resort to self-harm or, even worse, suicide. Within all of us there is a potential ready to take on the world and make an impact in their own amazing, individual way. I want people to be able to get the support they need and feel incredible – and trust me, the way I was a few years ago,  never would have thought I would be able to.

But I haven’t always felt this strong – just as many others have overlooked their own inner strength and power. Nonetheless, I am grateful for it; I don’t think I would have ever taken this path in my  life now, had I never experienced what I did a few years ago.

In school, I suffered from severe depression and anxiety during my teenage years – a period of time absolutely pivotal in discovering who you are, make friends, and take advantage of what life has to offer. Things got worse and worse as life’s pressures took its toll, and I began to feel increasingly isolated from friends and family – as if I wasn’t good enough; like I didn’t deserve to be there; that I wasn’t even worth an ounce of oxygen. My crushing feeling of loneliness led to a perpetual numbness that could only be solved by the process of cutting myself; self-harming became a dirty secret, an addiction of some kind; the physical pain seemed to numb the mental anguish, and for once, having experienced the death of my elder sister and gnawing loneliness, I felt in control. I was beginning to regress into sheer emptiness, my heart entrenched in suicidal tendencies; and, let’s face it, to the outside world, as a bubbly, privileged young lady blessed with great things in her life, it seemed hard to believe I was feeling this bad.  and  So I never sought help, nor seemed to break any walls of miscomprehension of others – until my family found out about my self-harming and decided to take action.


Initially, I went to all my counselling sessions obediently, and trudged along, hoping it would be the solution I was looking for. At the time I was a fledgling to modelling, so felt obsessed with running and cutting calories to remain slim. Of course, my body hated the processed foods I was consuming, alongside excessive cardio and cortisol levels from my depression, and after some time I just 'snapped' and went completely the other way - so, inevitably, I began to put on weight. Desperate, and feeling more worthless than before, I begged my mum to sign me up to personal training sessions, thereby introducing me to the world of health, fitness and proper nutrition. It was a wake-up call.

From my first session I knew I had been doing it all wrong. Weights? But I thought they made you bulky! Sprints? But I thought running for hours was better! Avocado? But isn’t that fattening? All my preconceptions (read: the lies I had been told) about nutrition and training were slowly being changed; and it felt empowering. I began going to the gym on my own terms, being more proactive in my workouts and feeling the limits my body could push through in the most gruelling of workouts. For once in such a long, long time, I felt empowered, confident and fulfilled –and I became leaner in the process. I never expected to revolutionise my life and outlook through fitness. I thought I was going to ‘be depressed’ (god I hate that label) forever. Working out became my chance to shut out the world and concentrate on how strong I could be. It empowered me, made me realise that I deserved to feel healthy, happy, and be kind to myself - which in turn, created an antidote to all my anger and sadness inside of me. I would push my limits in those workouts and leave feeling accomplished and powerful, in turn translating to my life outside the gym.


Alongside therapy, I had finally found an effective channel to let out all the negative energy that festered inside me, and I began to feel strong for the first time in my life. It took me a long time, but one day I actually felt the heavy weight in my chest lift; getting out of bed seemed effortless and gave me joy and heady excitement; talking to other humans ignited curiosity, joy and kindness within myself as opposed to contempt and fear.

I felt so strongly about how fitness had changed my life that I wanted to share it with others, and help them change their lives, too. What was once a mere passion became a career, as I took the plunge to become a personal trainer, model, and advocate for wellbeing and mental health - as I fully believe there is a huge body/mind connection which is being missed by many big fitness brands in favour of chasing an aesthetic ideal. Even as a model, I realised the importance of self-care and looking after your mental health in an industry that judges you on appearances, and throws rejection towards you left, right, and centre. A Model Example is not just a holistic ethos I use to stay in shape for work; it is based on the premise that nourishing your body and soul, physically and mentally, will give you such vibrancy and strength you need for life itself.

There are days now where I may still get the occasional dark cloud from my past, temporarily lurking obscuring my empowered mental outlook, but the difference is that now I know how to cope and deal with whatever frightening symptoms comes by; I always know when to put up my hands and say "hey, you know what, I'm struggling, and that's ok, and maybe I need some help and love right now." I have learnt that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength - that you are so in tune with your inner self, you are able to look after yourself properly when the time calls for it. Realising that kindness truly is the answer - and that by being loving to yourself, you may also spread this good energy onto others. When you are able to connect with yourself, you are able to heal yourself quickly, rather than letting it derail into the sinister cycle I once found myself in.

And I always remember one thing: everything will be ok. It may be hard, but there is always light, hope – in short, everything will work out. My teenage years were full of loneliness. I grew up thinking that I was alone, or that nobody understood me or could help me, which consequently led me to stuff my feelings down in a knot of pain inside me – obviously, this did not help! I think that if I had been taught about this idea of hope; that everything would be fine one day, even if it all seemed dreary and hopeless now; that my life didn’t surround itself by arbitrary grades or behaving how society wants you to behave, I would have been a lot less unhappy. And so I hope that through my ethos I will be able to show people that everything is ok – that they are enough just the way they are, and have so much potential and strength within. Hope is real.

If you are reading this and feel as though you relate to some of the feelings I went to, know this: there is hope. You are loved, and everything will be ok. You are so special, and have the potential to change the world, even if it's just by smiling at a stranger in the street - or holding out the door for someone, or saying 'thank you' for others' kindness. All of these beautiful gestures add up into something magnificent. And, regardless of whether you've suffered full-blown manic depression, or simply facing a rough time at work, it's absolutely normal, healthy, and ok to feel sad, to have ups and downs, and to seek help whenever you see fit. We don't treat broken limbs with such a taboo, so why, when we feel hurt and sickly emotionally, do we shy away from discussion? It is absolutely worth having a discussion about this; after all, if you want to transform your body, you must first transform your mind.

Here are some very, very basic steps to start strengthening your life from the inside out. Remember, I am not a professional, so please, please, please seek help from one if you feel it is needed!


1. Acknowledge it.
The first step to creating kind of change – and you can apply this to diet, life, motivation, habits, training...anything you like, really – is requiring yourself to face what you want to change. A very useful method to do so is journalling. Try writing down anything that comes to mind when you ask yourself basic questions such as “what do I struggle with and why”, and “why do I feel this way”, and keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you get to the rudimentary basics of the issues. This is the ‘root’ that needs to be cut off so that the rest of the problem can wither away.


2. Take action.
Acknowledging your change is a huge step, so now you can think of ideas as to how you are going to deal with your issue. Write down things that you actually think you will enjoy and will implement – for example, if you have anxiety issues, it might be a particular book that gives you comfort and calm when you read it.


3. DO IT!
It’s all very well SAYING you are going to do something – but saying and doing are different things altogether! As the cliché goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’ You cannot expect to improve if you don’t be responsible for yourself and your actions. It may be completely terrifying – you might become a new person, you might gain a different insight to the world – and it’s hard, but it’s so worth doing. You cannot keep wishing for someone to save you. You and you alone are responsible for your life and happiness, so make sure you are in control.


4. Blow off some steam
It’s going to be stressful changing your life, so make sure you have an outlet. Personally, I have found that the gym and yoga are my go-to fixes; others include less physical methods, such as reading and drawing, or watching my favourite show or movie. Physical activity is so good for releasing endorphins and lowering stress levels, so if you are starting out I’d recommend maybe just 30 minutes a day dedicated to moving your body and being good to yourself. During workouts, set intentions: it could be as simple as being as ‘focused’ and present as you can be during that period of time, and concentrate on achieving that intention through your routine. This will really build up a sense of self-worth and love that you might be craving. You can even focus on your breath as you work out – training and meditation all in one go.

I hope this post gave some of you hope that, truly, there is always light at the end of the tunnel - so keep digging, and I promise, you'll be able to get out, even if it doesn't seem like it now.


 

3 Easy Ways To Get Healthier Instantly!

That grabbed your attention, didn't it?

The trouble with many people is that they assume 'health' equates to 'fat loss' or 'physical health' rather than looking at the overall picture. The thing is, in order to achieve your 'physical' health - or aesthetic goals, some might say - your mindset and mental health needs to be catered to, too.

So, let's not just think about the physical - it's fallacious to assume you can undergo a physical transformation or improve your health through diet and exercise on extrinsic motivation alone. 

Extrinsic motivation? Is that some sort of surgery procedure or latin name?

Not exactly; simply put, an external motivator could be any thing around you which drives your desire to improve your health or lose weight or gain muscle. This could be as simple as a certain celebrity, need to get healthier for your children, or deadline such as a wedding.

External motivation is like a candle; burns bright and boldly, but for a very short amount of time. Plus, it can become quite toxic quite quickly (see: unrealistic comparisons with other people, self-loathing, insecurity, potentially harbouring bad body image and awful relationships with food etc.) Sometimes, external motivation can be quite an impetus (like getting healthier for the sake of loved ones) but in other circumstances, can create more burn out and a 'back to square one' style of lifestyle. Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. For instance, you might want to become fitter and healthier not for reasons of enjoyment and life-fulfilment, but to look like a certain person or to get abs, or something along those lines. Whilst there's nothing wrong with having external goals, they tend to dissipate in terms of offering motivation, and what people actually need is more of a mindset overhaul in terms of healthy living.

To kickstart your health charge, I've listed 3 mental changes and 3 typical 'external' changes you can do, to give your fitness journey a bit of pizzazz and energy for longterm success, rather than relying purely on 'body goals', which is never a good way to improve your health and wellbeing.

3 EASY 'PHYSICAL' WAYS TO GET HEALTHIER

  1. Walk more - reach 10,000 steps a day.

10,000 steps a day for my clients is a non-negotiable. Along the many benefits of walking, such as better insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels and stronger bones, it helps enormously in effortlessly creating a calorie deficit, and making fat loss easier (plus, it's super enjoyable, and great for mindfulness.) 10k steps roughly translates to around 90-100 minutes walking, so this can be easily broken up in the day - park further away, take the stairs, or get off the bus a few stops earlier.

  1. Pack your meals (and save some cash)

Not only will meal prep save you major dollar, but you can control exactly what goes into your food, and make it to your preferences and taste. Love avocado but hate paying for extra guac? Lather that sh*z on your salad. (mindfully, of course!) Get that lethargic slump during the day? Crank up the protein and carbs a touch. You'll be surprised at how much you'll progress by having a prepped meal a few times a week.

  1. Make one of your daily meals veggie-based

Not only is eating more plants better for the environment and connecting to the Earth, it's an amazing way of eating more volume for less calories (and also, twice the amount of micronutrients and goodness to help you glow from the inside out.) I think it's a good habit to get into to not associate our meals with tonnes of meat, and means you can think up clever ways of getting your protein intake in via plants. It will also help you get more creative in the kitchen, as well as get a feel for balance - having more salads will mean you can appreciate moderation and the 80/20 rule, as it allows you to indulge more, guilt-free. (as it absolutely should be!)

3 EASY 'MENTAL' WAYS TO GET HEALTHIER

  1. Start meditating.

You don't have to be a Tibetan monk to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness and/or meditation. Simply sitting in silence, for five minutes a day, can be enough to calm your mind, give you focus and tranquility, and set your intentions for the day as well as ensuring you start the day off the best way possible.

  1. Forgive yourself, and forgive others

I think forgiveness is the most powerful, beautiful part of being human; and unsurprisingly, it takes guts to actually, formally, fully forgive either yourself or another person. Take the time to explore how you feel either about yourself or that individual. Allow feelings to rise and fall, and see where feelings of anger, hurt, frustration or sadness come and go. Once you are at peace, you will be able to let go of all guilt, shame, and bitterness, and begin to love unconditionally - which is the absolute key to inner peace and success.

  1. Begin journalling your goals, habits and emotions

I like to do this on a weekly basis, and basically it gives me the chance to see what was good about my week, what went wrong, what I did well in, and what I can do in the next week to develop myself, grow, and make myself happier. I love doing this as it helps me continually grow, learn, and explore myself as a person, in order to make my life the most abundant and successful it can be.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Wanderlust: Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park

Weekend Wanderlust: Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park

Feeling blue that the closest thing to blue seas and blue skies is, exactly that - feeling blue? Here's some local exploration inspiration to get you feeling like an adventurer even in Surrey or London.