Category ArchiveHealth

Morning Success: How to Start your Day with Joy and Gratitude

So every morning I have a three part routine. Inspired by the likes of Tony Robbins and Hal Elrod, I developed a routine that works for me. Elrod has a five part routine which consists of silence (meditation), affirmations, visualisations, exercise, reading and scribing. Whilst he says to just do each one for 5 minutes (i.e a 25 minute routine), I find it hard to switch between tasks due to my dyslexia, so I felt his routine was a bit too complicated for most non-neurotypicals.

I therefore started my own take on this.

Mediation

I began my routine of meditating by using Headspace’s app, which gives you 10 days for free. This was the easiest for me to do, as I was able to be reminded by my phone. But once my free trial was up, I had to get creative if I was going to continue without spending money on this new habit. So, I spent some time searching for mediations online that made me feel comfortable and arranged them in a playlist in order of length. I did this so that even if I didn’t feel like meditating or didn’t feel like I had time to meditate, I would still do a minute or two. Here is that playlist. 

Hearing affirmations whilst exercising

Standing in front of the mirror ready to tell yourself that you are amazing can be very awkward, weird or even downright creepy for some people. I would also imagine that the idea of doing affirmations does not really excite most people. For me, it was also about time spent on this task. Therefore, I decided to do my 5 minutes of yoga whilst listening to tracks that did the affirmations for me. There are three that I use, depending on my mood. I have one for gratitude, one for financial affirmations, and one for general affirmations, depending on what has come up for me during my meditation. For example, if I find during my meditation that my mind is wandering towards worrying about finance then I choose the financial affirmations. I sometimes just listen, and other times I repeat the affirmations after I hear them. Particularly if I hear something that I do not yet believe to be true (either because it isn’t or because I am having trouble accepting it).

A jazz or story-time breakfast

I then go and make my breakfast and whilst I slowly savour my first meal of the day, I try to remain grateful that I am one of the lucky people in the world to wake up with food in the fridge / cupboard. I usually have a pink grapefruit and toast, musli with fruit, or porridge with cinnamon. During this, I listen to one of the audiobooks I am currently enjoying or my cheerful jazz playlist. I then write my ‘Most Important Tasks’ list for the day, if i didn’t do it the night before. And then I kick start my day!

This whole experience takes me between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on how much time I spend on each, but if I wanted to meditate for just a minute and then only do 3 minutes of yoga with affirmations, I would be able to do it in 15 minutes, including eating my breakfast.

Everyone has 15 minutes in the morning to take care of their needs. Invest in your own growth. Treat yourself to time to be alone with yourself and your thoughts. No-one else will.

Dealing with Exam Stress and Anxiety

Lots of people suffer with exam stress and anxiety but here are a few ways you can help prepare yourself for exam season. If you are in the midst of university finals, GCSE and A-Level exams, or if your children are preparing for the 11+ exams, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Time out – Whilst studying is important, it is even more important to keep a healthy work-life balance. What this means is making sure you take time out of your week to do things you enjoy, such as sport, music, relaxation and watching your favourite shows. Particularly the night before an exam, you do not want to be studying, but making sure your bag is packed for the day and that you are sure you have everything you need, and then do something enjoyable, before getting an early night.
  2. A healthy diet and lifestyle – making sure you drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and that you get enough protein, is important for your exam-ready brain. Often when we are stressed, our bodies crave sugar, caffeine or alcohol. Whilst we feel our bodies want these, it is actually the sensation that it provides for our bodies that we crave – the energy boost or the feeling of relaxation. Instead make sure you fuel your body with foods that will benefit you, and drink plenty of water.
  3. Aromatherapy – Many will agree that lavender essential oil can be relaxing, but some say rosemary helps with concentration and memory, too. I know many people who have taken a cotton handkerchief with them to an exam that they have previously dabbed lavender and rosemary oil on to keep them calm. Either way, make sure avoid essential oils if you are asthmatic or pregnant and check with your doctor if you are concerned.
  4. Breathing exercises and meditation – apps like Headspace which teaches meditation, and apps or Youtube videos of nature sounds (rainfall sounds, ocean waves, etc) can be calming and allow you time out from your daily life. Giving yourself just 5-10 minutes a day can be very beneficial to your health.
  5. Exercise – exercise is extremely important for realising the feel-good hormones that relieve stress and improve your mood. Exercise has been proven to help combat depression and anxiety and recent research has found that exercise that involves being immersed in nature has an even bigger effect. So hiking, camping, beach walks, digging over the allotment, gardening, visiting botanical gardens and other outdoor fitness activities such as running can greatly improve your mental health. Remember to always check with your doctor that the exercise you do is suitable for your physical health.
  6. Sleep – Making sure you are well rested and have plenty of down-time before bed is essential. The blue light from our computer, TV and smartphone screens sends a signal to the body that tells us to be awake. So apps like f.lux or Twillight can help dim your screens and get you ready for bed. Try to avoid watching anything too exciting, scary or mysterious before bed so you won’t be wondering as you try to sleep who the killer is in your latest crime drama! Try taking a hot bath, reading before bed and make sure you have a light snack, such as a banana or some toast, and a small glass of water before bed to avoid hunger and dehydration.
  7. Be prepared – Don’t stay up late the night before an exam. Be sure to start your revision with plenty of time (weeks or even months before your exam) and stop the day before at no later than 5pm. Have a nice dinner and do something relaxing and enjoyable with friends or family in the evening, pack your bag and make sure you get an early night.

 

Good luck and please feel free to get in touch if you feel you would benefit from tutoring or coaching by emailing me: [email protected]

 

 

N.B. Whilst I am an experienced tutor, teacher and coach, I am not a therapist, counsellor or mental health professional. If you are concerned about your mental health, always speak to your doctor, or if you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact a suicide helpline.

How to quit caffeine in just 7 days

Ever tried to give up tea and coffee? If so, you might have suffered from the awful headaches and not really known that these were linked to caffeine withdrawal. Yes there are symptoms! When I gave up caffeine in 2012, I’d been off the caffeine for around 52 hours (not that I was counting…) and had those dreaded headaches! But in a couple of days they were gone and I got on with my life, caffeine-free…

 

Why would you want to give up caffeine?

Well, most of you will know it is a stimulant and its effect only temporary, so you get a quick boost before feeling worse than ever. Before I gave it up, I hated the feeling that I was so reliant on tea and coffee to function. Does that feeling when you wake up in the morning and you can’t even see because you feel so tired sound familiar? (And yes, I was wearing my glasses!) Plus there is some evidence to suggest it disturbs sleep (especially if drank late afternoon onward) and has a diuretic effect (you are then likely to get more dehydrated), so it is best to avoid if you have problems with your waterworks! You are way better off with water or a healthy smoothie.


So, how did I quit?

Good question! I was on at least one cup of coffee a day and between one and three cups of tea, so probably your average subject.

DAY 1: If you are an excessive tea or coffee drinker (or both!) then get your intake down to just 4 cups in total.  I was already on 4 cups, so I just made sure I cut one cup out.

DAY 2: I got my caffeine intake down to 3 cups in total.

Day 3: I got my caffeine intake down to 2 cups in total.

DAY 4: I gave up the coffee totally – it started off being a treat to go to coffee shops and then became a daily habit. And an expensive one at that! So I also saved some money! If you can’t live without coffee you can try decaff coffee or, even better, No Cafwhich is totally caffeine-free and organic.

DAY 5: I went down to drinking black tea or coffee only with my breakfast. Anything after that I made sure it was decaff coffee or herbal tea, such as peppermint or lemon and ginger, (but not green tea as that has caffeine in).

DAY 6:  I switched my morning cup of tea for a rooibos tea. Rooibos is actually really nice (I was pleasantly surprised) and can be drank with milk or honey. Often known as Redbush, it is available in most supermarkets. You can try decaff black tea but I found it gross and decided I’d have been back on the caffeine habit in no time if it hadn’t been for Redbush! Plus, the processes they use to decaffeinate coffee and tea is not particular good for you either, so it is better to choose something naturally caffeine-free. If you feel you can’t manage this just yet, you could switch from black tea to green tea, which has properties that scientists believe can improve your health. ,

DAY 7: I was now caffeine-free – just had to keep it up!! When I came off the black tea, I was armed with some paracetamol to get me through the first few days (Days 7-10) of a head-achey caffeine-free life!

 

What about relapses?

I did have a relapse when I handed in my PhD, as I was working 19 hour days to finish my thesis edits alongside a full-time job and drinking 4 cups of strong coffee a day seemed the only way I would manage this. The effects were not good, however, because I had gone from living very healthily to not overnight. It did have a knock-on effect, in that I feel awful for several months but I made the wise decision to quit again but in a less rigid way.

 

But what about if you are visiting friends or family?

An excellent question. One of the main reasons people choose not to pursue an alternative lifestyle choice is because they don’t want to feel awkward or inconvenient to others. If this worries you, you can do a number of things:

  1. Always carry a spare decaff teabag / instant coffee sachet in your bag for emergencies.
  2. Drink water instead (oh extra bonus points, eh!?)
  3. Have an exception to the rule, that you will only have caffeine if you can’t get decaf!
  4. To easy people into this change, take a box of your favourite rooibos and say you have discovered something really tasty and want to share it with your loved ones.
  5. Leave your own supplies at your boyfriend’s/girfriend’s/ parent’s place, once they know you are quitting for good.

Voila, a recovering caffeine-o-holic has made it through five years already! Good luck if you decide to quit! Any questions, please contact me or leave a comment!

8 Simple Ways to Make Your Weekday Mornings Easier – Morning Lifehacks

More often than not in today’s fast-paced, commuter society, we hit our snooze button, go back to sleep and then wake up in a panic, wondering where our clean clothes are, and run out the door 10 minutes late, in a panic. So here are eight simple ways you can make your day a much easier start.

1. Stretch, Rise and Hydrate

As soon as your alarm goes off, stretch under the covers and stand upright. Have a bottle or glass of water next to your bed, ready to drink. You’ve been dehydrating yourself for about 7 or 8 hours, so it is important to refill on water before hitting that cup of tea or coffee. This entire routine only takes 1 minute and you will feel better for doing it! More long-term, it could help to give up caffeine.

 

2.  Organising Your Attire

If you haven’t already read my post on a Capsule Wardrobe, it might be worth a peek. Having similar or the same outfits for the working week can significantly reduce stress and allow you to get ready without thinking too much about what to wear. Either lay your chosen outfit out the night before, or take a good 20 minutes out of your Sunday evening to arrange 5 outfits for the week ahead.

 

3. Have a Workbag Packed

Have one bag for work, keep it filled with all the essentials you know you will need, and unpack anything you don’t need as soon as you get home. Make a healthy lunch (leftovers are perfect) the night before and have it ready in the fridge to grab in the morning.


4. Take Time for Breakfast

Breakfast can be a good “me time” if you allow it. Set aside at least 15 minutes to get a healthy breakfast such as porridge, fresh fruit, a smoothie, toast with a healthy topping, or whole-grain cereal or musli topped with banana. You can use this time to stare at your dream board, read a blog or the newspaper, or listen to your favourite audio book.

 

 

5. Clean Your Teeth in the Shower

Want to spend more time under the lovely refreshing water, but need to get out and clean your teeth? Simple. Clean your teeth in the shower!

 

6. List Your M.I.Ts in Advance

If you have prioritised your Most Important Tasks the night before, it will make it easier for you in the morning if you are still feeling sluggish after your leisurely breakfast and extra-long shower.

 

7. Write Down Your Gratitude List Next to Your M.I.T list

Try to think of at least two things you are grateful for this morning and note them down. It will lead to optimism and generally make your day seem more cheery.

 

8. If You Commute To and From Work, Use That Time Wisely

Listen to music or an audio book, read a novel, journal your thoughts, plan out your  week. Write a love letter to your partner, write your ‘Be, Do, Have’ list, write a list of of all the countries you want to visit in your lifetime. Make your commute your personal development time!