With the acceleration of online fitness classes and now that our gyms have entered our homes, it was only a matter of time before Apple – the royalty of things hi-tech and hip – launched their own fitness platform. Apple Fitness + launched towards the end of 2020 and is designed to be used in conjunction with the Apple Watch. it
So how does it compare to other fitness platforms such as the Nike Training app, and is it something we think we could actually stick to long-term? Susannah Taylor put it to the test.
What’s the lowdown?
The nuts and bolts of Apple Fitness + are this: Apple Fitness + is powered by the Apple Watch. Once you sync your watch up to your iPhone you will have the Fitness+ app on your phone. It is essentially an interactive series of videos led by amazing fitness and yoga teachers from around the world (more on them below) that interacts with your watch as you workout.
What exercise can I do on the app?
Basically whatever floats your boat – you can choose from HIIT, Yoga, Core workouts, Strength sessions, Treadmill classes, indoor Cycling, Rowing, Dance (really fun), and ‘Mindful cooldown’ sessions. Within each category, you can choose to work out with various incredible trainers who all have various styles. For example you can do a HIIT session with Kim which is HIIT dancing or you can train with Jamie-Ray who does an intense boxing-style workout.
How does the Apple Watch come in?
You can’t get Apple Fitness+ on your phone unless you have an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch syncs with your workouts and provides you with data throughout so that you don’t have to be peering at your phone/ iPad screen when you’re mid burpee. The watch face counts you down into the workouts and gives live feedback on your personal fitness data such as calories burned, heart rate, time left etc which can spur you on when you feel you’re flagging. If you are familiar with the fitness rings on your Apple watch (which monitor your daily energy expenditure), it gives you the chance to close the rings (and some!).
Who are the instructors?
The fitness trainers are mega – top of their game, they come from all over the world and are a variety of ages (the oldest being in her 60s) which is really refreshing as is seeing trainers of every nationality and body shape. Not every body is a size 6 thankfully, and each is incredibly inspiring (they definitely have what it takes for those days when motivations lacking). You can meet all the trainers on Instagram here.
Is the app easy to navigate?
Yes, very. The different categories of fitness run across the top as icons and if you hit on one then you are taken to a page of different workouts with an image of the video next to it.
Scroll down on the homepage and you can find popular classes, information on all the trainers, and if you’ve only got 10 minutes spare, there’s a section at the bottom for quick sessions from 10 minutes of Core with Sam to 10 minutes of strength with Kyle.
What if I’m a fitness newbie?
Then you will love Apple Fitness +. Apple have really taken beginners under their wing, which is great to see (and actually great for people like my teenage daughter who has an Apple watch and who has started doing workouts in Lockdown.) On the home page there is even a whole section devoted to ‘Beginners’ where you can find gentle, low impact exercise (also great for anyone after pregnancy or after a prolonged break from exercise).
Do the trainers use music in their sessions?
Hell yes! Of course Apple are making use of their Apple Music archives. Each trainer has curated their own playlist from Apple music and for sessions like Treadmill, Cycling, Rowing and HIIT, the music is perfectly mapped around the workout to motivate you just when you need it. The music is key – one of my favourite sessions so far is grooving with dance teacher LaShawn to throwback hits like ‘It’s Raining Men’ and Whitney Houston. What’s more, the tunes are played at just the right volume so you can hear the teacher but groove along at the same time.
Note: you don’t actually have to have an Apple music subscription to use Fitness+
Do I need equipment?
Yes and no. If you want to do the rowing session, obviously you need access to a rowing machine, and ditto for the treadmill sessions. The strength classes often require dumbbells, and of course you will need a great grippy yoga mat for most, but the majority of sessions just require yourself and a bit of solid determination.
Any other Apple-esque information I may need to know?
Obviously this wouldn’t be Apple if there wasn’t some seriously clever stuff thrown in too. One being that Apple use an intelligent recommendation engine that learns which workouts you like and starts to present you with more of it on your home page.
Another key point is that you aren’t restricted to watching the app on your phone – you can watch it on your iPad and on Apple TV which is an amazing experience. I found that the bigger the trainer is in front of you, the more inspiring the workout is and the more absorbed you are.
How much does it cost?
Once you have the watch and the phone, Fitness+ is pretty affordable. It’s $9.99 a month, or $79.99 per year with one month free. Currently there is a three-month subscription to Fitness+ included free with purchase of a new Apple Watch through to March 31, 2021.
What’s a bonus is that up to six people can access your subscription, which means your family members or housemates with an Apple Watch can use Fitness+ and stay active too.
Apple Fitness + definitely has my thumbs up. The next best things to having a personal trainer on our wrist, the instructors are engaging and motivating and they even manage to make a HIIT class fun. I love the fact that it’s appealing to people of all ages and all fitness abilities and that new classes are added all the time so you will never get bored of the same routine. I’m also a big fan of having a variety of length of workouts (there are many 10 minute, 20 minute and 30 minute workouts) as I’m forever looking for something I can cram in to time I don’t have. Importantly, it will be very valuable to us when we are allowed to travel again – it’s something we can all do in our hotel rooms, on a lunch break in the office or (please!) when we are pool-side on holiday.
One element that people might not be able to get their head around however is the fact that you have to buy an Apple Watch to use the app. I feel that some people will just want to do the exercises without the watch and if this is the case then maybe Apple should think about just making the app available separately.
If you loved reading this then check out Olympic Athlete and mother Jess Ennis-Hill’s guide to ‘Exercise for Busy women’ here
It’s the small things that count at the moment (and a little bit of self-gifting). From hemp infused skin patches to Ice Globe facial massaging tools and the latest lipstick, here are our latest feel-good beauty and wellbeing finds that will help you glow inside and out.
The Natural Boost – The Good Patch
Described as ‘plant based wellness patches for when the struggle is real’, the Good Patch was created in 2017 offering mood-boosting patches you stick on your skin infused with plant based ingredients and organically farmed industrial Hemp. Working steadily over an 8-12 hour period, you just remove the backs of the sticker and attach it inside your wrist. Whether you are frazzled, wired, need a pick-me-up, or a ‘put-to-bed’ there’s a patch for you.
www.thegoodpatch.com and www.cultbeauty.com
The Zoom Refresh – Chanel’s Rouge Allure Laque
If you’re as fed up as we are of looking at your own face on Zoom/ Teams/ Facetime, then may we suggest spicing things up with a new lip colour? We can’t wear lipstick under our masks right now so we might as well wear them at home. Chanel’s new Rouge Allure Laque is a lip product that imprints lips with shine and colour and lasts all day so you won’t need to reapply between video calls. Non-drying and in a huge variety of shades from luminous beige to raspberry pink, cherry red and brown, there’s one for everyone. Who said it’s all about the eyes right now?
Nail it – Kure Bazaar nails
One of our favourite nail varnish brands at 35 Thousand is Kure Bazaar (worldwide delivery at lovelula.com). Why ? We love the win-win combination of their eco formula combined with an incredibly chic and fashion forward colour palette. If you’re feeling a little low right now, I can definitely recommend painting your nails to add a bit of joy into all that work on the laptop. Our favourite positivity shades? Cherise (shown here – a cherry red) which instills us with confidence, Lily Rose (a dusty pink) when you need to be kind to yourself, and Bacio, (a soft red/ orange) which is bringing all the happy vibes right now.
The Atmosphere Changer – Heloise o’ Hagan candles
There are candles, and then there are Heloise o’ Hagan candles. This British interior designer turned candle maker has created a product called The Perpetual Candle which is a beautiful hexagonal, bone china vessel which you can buy refills for. Not only do they look incredibly sophisticated, they smell it too. Our favourites are No.4 Frankincense for some indulgent relaxation after a long day Zooming, and No.1 Neroli, Lavender and Rosemary which is fresh, vibrant and uplifting for daytime.
(Delivery worldwide heloiseohagan.com)
The body booster – Hermosa protein powder
There’s no point in all those at-home workouts if you aren’t fuelling your body correctly. Enter Hermosa, a new protein powder that is shaking off (excuse the pun) images of muscle competitions in favour of a protein powder that supports an active and modern lifestyle. Hermosa’s creators have been on a mission to create the best tasting and smoothest protein powder there is, using non GMO and responsibly sourced ingredients. In chocolate and vanilla flavours. Most importantly they taste amazing without any of the nose-holding graininess of other powders.
Worldwide delivery at www.livehermosa.com
The skin saviour – Frâicheur Paris
Fraicheur Paris Ice Globes look set to be the next big thing in facial massage. A glass stem with a liquid-filled ball on the end that you store in the freezer, the idea is that you massage your face with them to help invigorate tired Zoom’d out eyes, boost dull skin and help serums and creams absorb faster. Deliciously cold and soothing on skin and eyeballs, the way they work is that they constrict blood vessels so blood is taken away from the skin’s surface. After a while blood floods back to the skin with extra nutrients providing an amazing glow that over time helps the skin appear more youthful too.
Shipping worldwide from www.faceiceglobes.com and www.cultbeauty.com
Glow from the Inside Out – The Beauty Chef
Carla Oates, the Australian founder of The Beauty Chef first discovered the life changing powers of probiotics when she used them to fix her family’s skin problems. Using probiotic and lacto-fermented food, many of her friends would also ask her what made her own skin that glowy. Realising the gut-skin connection, Carla created the Inner Beauty Powder which has developed into a range of bio-fermented, probiotic-rich, wholefood supplements created by microbiologists, nutritionists and naturopaths. Our favourite is the Glow Powder, containing 18 certified organic wholefoods which you add to water daily.
Available worldwide www.thebeautychef.com
The Cult of Collagen Powder – Bamford
There’s a big beauty buzz about collagen powders at the moment, with many new brands launching onto the market. There is also a lot of debate as to whether all of them actually work. The one collagen that has been proven by dermatologists to make a difference to our skin is high grade marine collagen. The latest we’ve been trying out is from Bamford whose new supplement range is exceptional. The Beauty Blend contains purified hydrolysed collagen extracted from sustainably sourced wild fish off the coast of France. It also contains Camu Camu powder, hyaluronic acid for skin hydration and Acai powder. Since using it our skin looks like it’s had a spa break (in our dreams).
Shipping worldwide from www.bamford.com
If you loved reading this, then you will love our other beauty features from Tools of the Trade about the latest beauty gadgets to 5 of the best eyelash serums
As much as we here at 35 Thousand try to see the glass as half full, even we have been struggling lately. The enormity of the fallout of COVID-19, political unrest, lockdown 3.0 in many countries, home schooling battles, financial worries, WFH burnout, and being separated from loved ones , is enough to bring even the most upbeat human being down. To top it all off, in the UK, the 8th January is known as Blue Monday because it’s thought to be the coldest, darkest and most depressing day of the year.
If your normal pep talk isn’t enough to turn your mood around, then it’s time to call on the experts instead. Here’s how to hack negativity and find the blue skies behind the grey clouds, even if you can’t quite see it yet.
The Business Psychologist: Jan de JongE, Founder of People Business Psychology
(Jan has created the following positivity tips in association with online glasses and eyesore store Feel Good Contacts)
Have a healthy relationship with the news
Let’s be honest, the majority of the news doesn’t make for pleasant reading/ viewing right now. However many of us feel it’s essential we watch it in order to stay informed. According to Jan de Jonge it’s important to find a balance between being informed and being overwhelmed. “Try to limit stressors.” He explains “Whether you’re doom-scrolling or glued to the anxiety-inducing 24-hour news channels, it is important that you consume news in a healthy way. Limit news consumption to set times during the day and preferably not when you should be relaxing, e.g. during meal times or at bed time.”
Recalibrate your priorities
When talking to our friends and colleagues, ‘Overwhelmed’ seems to be the word of the moment. But maybe we are adding to the overwhelm without realising. It’s easy, in crisis mode, to head full steam all areas of our lives in a bid to attack it or charge through it. However De Jonge says it’s actually better to take a step back and ask ourselves if we are prioritising the wrong things. “Are you working too many hours? Have you said “Yes” too often and too easily? Have you booked up all your available time? Is everything important? Chances are you feel stressed and alienated from those close to you,” he says. In order to address this he suggests recalibrating your priorities and reviewing how much time you spend on each habitual activity and scaling back the ones that aren’t so important. “You and those around you will be happier for it” he says.
Limit screen time
Our screens are as present in our work lives at the moment as they are in our home lives. As a result our work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred says De Jonge. “Try to limit your screen time when you’re not working,” he says. “We all know how bad it can be for your health. Also, stress and sleep don’t mix, so it’s important to use the time before you go to bed to de-stress. Reduce your exposure to screens in the hours leading to bedtime. The blue light emitted from screens disrupts your sleep-wake cycle and can lead to wakefulness and lower quality sleep.”
Get off to a good start
When we hit the snooze button in the mornings, we tend to be late, and end up stressed, shouty with clothes on we don’t like.. De Jonge suggests we “Get up a little earlier, drink water and do some exercise. Prepare your breakfast without relying too much on processed food. Get some fresh air and try to absorb some natural daylight – it will help you sleep better. Decide which eight to ten tasks you would like to do today and make sure you accomplish the four or five most important tasks on that list. After all, tomorrow is another day.”
Stretch like an animal
Whilst so many of us focus on being fit, De Jonge says that stretching is just as important. “The multi-million-pound yoga industry is built around it,” he says “and animals understand this better than humans do. To wake yourself up after (hopefully!) having had a good sleep or sitting down for a long time, we get ready for movement and work by automatically stretching our body. It’s what’s called “natural pandiculation:” yawning, stretching your arms, arching your back, making yourself as stretched out as possible after first tensing your muscles. Try to become more aware of your own body by contracting your muscles, stretching out slowly and then releasing… it’s relaxing.”
The life coach and mentor: Susie Pearl, life coach, podcaster, author and cancer survivor
Make time for good nutrition
In times of stress it becomes all too easy to forget about eating well and going for convenience and processed foods. However, this isn’t doing us any favours whatsoever. In circumstances like the one we currently find ourselves in we should put making good, nutritious food at the top of our priority lists. Susie Pearl says, “Drop the sugar, eat light and healthy, prepare nice meals for yourself and family. Make this the time you learn a couple of new recipes.” If you think making your own food takes too long, then follow Susie’s advice, “I have a rule that recipes have to be less than 20 mins or I am not doing it,” she says. “Plan meals, eat balanced foods, avoid toxic intakes, try to avoid overdoing the alcohol, fizzy drinks, and sugar which will give you a false high and bring you back to earth with a bump.”
Get some routine
If you’re anything like us, since the start of COVID-19, it feels like the lines between work and home life have become somewhat blurred. Susie says, “Being at home means there is no structure to the day.” Her solution? To work out a plan and rhythm for your day and map it out.
“Get ready for the day time,” she says “With a meditation or a walk outside in nature if you can. Plan the structure of mealtimes, rest time, work time, children time, social online time, so that you get some variety and balance through the days.”
Next, Susie recommends planning in some fun things. “It could be partying and dancing with some friends online – whatever it is, keep the energy up and do what you like doing, even if that’s on your own.”
Don’t take on too much
Sometimes we have days when all we achieved was unloading the dishwasher and sending a few emails, and you know what? That’s ok. “Set small goals and feel you have made good strides – don’t try to overachieve right now. It is not the time,” says Susie.
Have strong boundaries
Difficult times call for being decisive – if you can’t have that hour long conversation with your best friend, it’s fine to tell her you’ll chat another time. If your boss asks for that presentation by tomorrow, tell them it’s not possible. “Whether it’s with work, family or friends, be clear on what is possible and what is not,” says Susie. “Dont feel bad about saying no to things. More than ever think carefully about what you say yes and no to.”
The neuropsychologist: Mara Klemich, founder of Heartsyles.com
Know that mindfulness is magic
“Mindfulness approaches are really helpful now” says Mara who has been helping front line medical workers lately to get through these unprecedented, tough times, “Practicing stopping and just noting one thing to be grateful for, no matter how small, is helpful to kick-start our thinking back into the positive” she says. Her examples are as follows “I love my sofa – sitting on it is so comfortable,” “I’m grateful for my neighbour who says hello through the fence/sends me a WhatsApp message to see how I’m doing,” or “I’m grateful for my plant/the trees in my garden or the bunch of flowers I bought at the supermarket”.” Treasure the small things.
Ask ’What is my true North?’
“When you have those times of feeling overwhelmed or you’re experiencing negative feelings – stop, take a couple of breaths and think “What’s my True North?”” says Mara. By this she means what is it that is the essence of you, that truly matters to you. “What I usually find is that it’s a main value I have, or Love. Whatever it is, stop – think about it, see it/feel it and take two breaths to anchor it in your mind and heart. This can help shift us back into positivity, or if not fully, then certainly it can conjure up some energy to keep you going.”
The clinical psychologist: Dr Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, LLC – Head of Therapy for self therapy app Bloom
Find mental moments of stillness
It’s important to check in with yourself throughout the day and remembering who you are rather than charging through everything mindlessly. Dr Seth Gillihan says “Let dark or anxious thoughts recede into the background as you find a closer connection with what’s real around you. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel in your body? Choose an activity throughout the day as a cue to remind you to come into the moment. Examples include waiting in line at the grocery, being stopped at a red light, washing your hands, mealtime, and bedtime.”
Practise the bedtime recap
One way of putting the positives at the forefront of your mind and building that positivity muscle is to write them down. Dr. Gilliham says “Put a pen and paper next to your bed so they’ll be waiting for you when you go to bed tonight. Before you turn off the light, write down three things that went well today. Make sure to include the role you played in why they went well. Allow these good things to fill your mind as you drift off to sleep.”
Bloom is a self the self-therapy app that uses personalised video sessions to help users cope with stress, anxiety and depression. Had to www.enjoy bloom.com £13.99 a month
Don’t let the world get you down. If you enjoyed reading this, then why not max out on the good mood stuff with our other articles How to be Happy and Going through the emotions
We all know that lockdown didn’t have the same effect on all of us. Some people thrived, others felt utterly overwhelmed, for good reason. However Mara Klemich who is a top psychologist, neuro psychologist and co-founder of Heartstyles.com an indicator tool that can help us make the absolute best of our selves at work and at home , says that the one common denominator between us all is that we all know what this means for us a second time around. “We all learned that it’s really important to focus and prioritise our mental health,” she says. Her advice is to really focus on self-care, which includes proper sleep, routine daily exercise, harnessing positive social connections and staying mentally stimulated. “The most important thing to bear in mind is that we know how to do this!” she says.
Whether you are already in lockdown or are in Limbo like the rest of us, we asked Mara and other top experts for their advice on staying sane over the coming months.
Learn from the first time
“Use your experience during the initial lockdown to your advantage this time around,” says Mara. “Back in March, we learned a lot about ourselves. We learned what we did well to get through the stress of lockdown and we learned what we didn’t do so well. This is a massive positive advantage, so let’s see it that way. Think back to that time and now be proactive, take those steps that you know you needed to do to help sustain you, whether that’s social connection or self-care or coping skills.” Mara suggests making a list of what you know works and what doesn’t, and be intentional about how you will take control of your life during this time ahead.
Choose nutrition over toilet roll
In March the lockdown took us by (relative) surprise and with hindsight we realise that our priorities were a bit warped. With hindsight, we know that we were never short of toilet paper, but that eating well had the ability to vastly improve our mood, our wellbeing and ward off any illness.
We all know about the importance of eating fresh food and eating the rainbow (as many different coloured fruits and vegetables as possible), but nutritional therapist Karen Cummings-Palmer says there is also a lot of nutritional value in many packet and tinned food. “When it comes to feeding ourselves and our families in these challenging times let’s focus on good and forget about perfection. Whilst highly processed food is unhealthy, minimally processed food – think tinned, jarred and frozen – can the source of fast healthy nutrient dense meals.
Her advice is to look for organic tinned food – it is not just about the contents (unlikely to have added sugar, preservatives and colours) but the context – some tins still contain low levels of toxic chemicals in the lining.
“Having a store cupboard filled with foods that last months or even years means we can whip up delicious nutrition in minutes and we are far less likely to make unhealthy decisions” she says. Her advice is to stock up on good quality beans, albacore tuna in olive oil, frozen peas and herbs, tinned tomatoes and pulses that you don’t have to soak overnight.
Research has shown that movement can seriously boost our immune system . According to immunologist Dr Jenna Macciochi, our lymphatic system (which carries the white blood cells around our body) only moves when we do. It is therefore vital that we get up from our desks to keep the lymph pumping throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be a full blown HIIT class – Jenna says that a walk will do – but it’s vital that we factor in movement into our day.
Note: it is also important to remember that moving too much and exhausting yourself can also deplete your immune system so use your common sense about how much is too much.
Be mindful of mornings
We don’t need to be told this (hello The Social Dilemma), but too much tech will fry our brains. Yet with Zoom now the norm, and with limited people interaction right now , it is hard to avoid spending more time on our devices than ever. If we exercised consistently day in and day out we would burn out and the same goes for our brains – it needs downtime in order to function at its best.
One way of limiting technology is to keep the mornings free of it for the first few hours of the day. Maeve O’Sullivan Chinese Medicine practitioner and co-founder of escapadahealth.com in Ireland says this is also something that follows Ayurvedic principles. “Traditionally, those following an Ayurvedic lifestyle would dedicate the first hour or so of the day, before sunrise, attending to their own personal wellbeing, making sure they awoke early enough and refreshed enough to slowly greet each new day. The way we spend the first few moments of the morning undoubtedly has a huge impact on how we feel the rest of the day, which is why so many cultures and healing traditions see this as a sacred time of day. This time could include journaling, meditating or simply taking a few deep breaths and thoughts of gratitude for the new day.”
Self care is not self indulgent
Life was hard enough even before COVID-19 enveloped our lives. Maeve O’Sullivan says, “We can mistake the feeling of being under stress for having energy and this feeling can become addictive, so you run from early morning until late at night, turning yourself into an energiser bunny. Between holding down a job, maintaining relationships, and caring for a family, we can often negate the energy we earn from sleep, good food and good company. When we constantly put our bodies into overdraft, our mental health and physical health suffer resulting in anxiety, depression and physical ailments like skin breakouts, low immunity, digestive issues and much more. Our bodies, especially at time of such uncertainty, crave nourishment, stability and routine.”
So how often should be take time for ourselves? “The simple answer is everyday,” says Maeve, “It can be so beneficial to attach selfcare to some of your favourite beauty rituals like meditation, body brushing, and jade rolling. Not only do these beauty rituals have a fantastic effect on our skin health, they also have a wonderful impact on our inner health. These rituals also allow us the time to pause in our day, check in with how we are feeling and give back to our body so we start to pay back the overdraft from times when our bodies have been under more stress than normal.”
Stretch for success
It’s all too easy at home to sink into our new working environment (both physically and metaphorically speaking), however according to stretch specialist and TED talker Robert Frampton, sitting for long periods can put unnecessary pressure on the spine, which is our essential piece of machinery that interacts with the brain. He explains that the spine can also squash our butt muscles and close the front of our hips leading to wrecked posture. So what can we do? Robert suggests dedicating 10 minutes a day to stretching the tightest parts of the body. He recommends the following:
The HIP Opener – Kneel on the floor with a wall behind you. Next, take one of your legs backwards so your shin is on the wall and you are kneeling on one knee. Then bring your other foot forward into a lunge position and there you have it, a strong feeling of stretch in the front of your back thigh. Spend 2 mins here each side. To make it easier bring the back knee slightly away from the wall.
Shoulder opener – Sit on the floor, legs outstretched and place your hands behind you, shoulder width apart, elbows bent with your thumbs facing forwards. Next walk your body away from your hands and push the rib cage open. When doing this you should feel a strong stretch in front of your shoulders. Back off if you feel any pain and remain here for 3 minutes. Aim to keep the elbow above the hands.
Stop the work traffic
For many of us, working from home is a blessing but it can also be a curse. With no ‘end of day’ finishing times, work and home life can become a blur, especially if you work for yourself. One way that we can draw a line is to instill a traffic light approach that many life coaches use.
It works like this: When you’re working you’re on green and are full-steam ahead. As it gets into the early-evening you stay on orange meaning you’re relatively alert and can pick up work if needed. But set yourself a deadline, for example beyond 8pm, you’re onto red meaning you ignore emails and calls. This will allow you to wind down for the evening and get work off of your mind right before bed.
Identify your coping skills
We have all had our moments in the last year – whether due to work, family life or the juggle of it all – when we’ve been overwhelmed and feel unable to cope. Psychologist Mara says it’s important that we identify three specific things we can do to cope with high-stress situations, and most importantly, to actively use them. “These are things that you do when you know the stress levels are going up and self-care isn’t enough,” she says “It could be things like breathing techniques, practicing gratitude by speaking it aloud or writing it down, a walk outside, listening to a specific playlist. Find three and use them intentionally and regularly.”
Whilst many of us feel like planning ahead is not something we are capable of right now, Mara stresses that it’s important to have a routine. “We learned that in the first lockdown,” she says
“So be intentional about scheduling your work time, and your socialising time, your exercise time, and your “just being” time.
Identify your trouble spots
We all had our individual stresses and triggers in lockdown. For some it was home schooling, for others it was 24/7 Zoom fatigue. It is key to identify your problem area (the one that triggers stress) and plan ways that might make it easier a second time round. For example for us we felt overwhelmed by relentless cooking and coming up with new ideas for the family. We’ll be investing in a meal delivery service from now on such as www.gousto.co.uk who deliver fresh ingredients for tasty meals straight to your door.
COVID-19 has hugely taken its toll on our mental wellbeing this year. From health worries to the stress of home schooling, worry for family and friends to financial difficulties, most people have run the gamut of emotions over the last 6 months. And for many, it is more serious than that – according to the World Health Organisation, who have conducted a study of the mental health of 130 countries, the pandemic has highlighted the devastating effect that COVID-19 has had on our mental health and also underscored the urgent need for medical funding.
And just when we got excited at the thought of throwing off our face masks and returning to life as ‘normal’ most of us are now in a state of limbo, wondering if we will go back into lockdown, or ever return to our old lives at all.
Here at 35thousand, in order to help raise your happiness levels, we have decided to do a series of articles that will delve into the various different areas of ‘mood-boosting’. Starting here with the benefits of eating nutritious food, we will also look into psychological, physical and therapeutic ways of lifting our spirits in articles to come.
Food for thought
In recent years , we have become far more aware of the link between the state of our gut and our minds. Scientists have now proven that our gut is responsible for producing a large proportion of our neurotransmitters, the chemicals that transmit information throughout the body and brain. In fact, it has been shown that as much as 90 per cent of serotonin (our so-called ‘happy’ hormone) is made in our gut, so it goes without saying that if the state of our stomach is out of whack, then our brains could well be too.
Not only that but scientists have shown that it’s not just our bodies that require fuel – brains get hungry too. Doctors believe that they use up about a quarter of our daily energy supply, consuming roughly 300 calories in the day and the same again at night. It is therefore vitally important says dietician Rachel Clarkson that we support the link between the gut and the brain (the gut/brain axis) by fuelling ourselves with optimum foods which may well help keep anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders at bay.
But it’s no good throwing a packet of probiotics into your supermarket trolley and hoping for the best. According to Rachel when it comes to the gut/brain axis there should be a multi-pronged approach. She suggests the following…
Eat seratonin boosting foods
We want to make sure that we have adequate levels of serotonin in our bodies explains Rachel, “This chemical messenger contributes to happiness and wellbeing, but in order for it to be produced it required the amino acid tryptophan to be present, which you can get through your diet by eating tryptophan-high food.”
Rachel therefore suggests eating tofu, egg yoke, salmon, turkey, and plenty of nuts and seeds. She adds, however, that it is important to know that tryptophan is enhanced when eaten with a carbohydrate (which is why, perhaps, she thinks we have sugar cravings). She therefore suggests pairing the above with, say, brown rice, quinoa, lentils or fruit. “You could have eggs on toast for example or a tofu stir-fry or maybe a turkey and cheese brown bread sandwich,” she says.
Focus on your gut health
Our gut microbiome has been the health buzzwords of the last few years, but for good reason – this flora of different bacteria lining our intestines has been proven to be hugely beneficial for our health if looked after correctly. “We want to support a vast microbiome as poor microbiome variety has been linked to stress, depression and anxiety,” says Rachel. “The gut brain axis is the interaction between the microbiome in your gut and the cognitive and emotional centres in the brain.”
What is key, she explains is that we all have a diverse range of good bacteria in our stomachs which will involve eating a diverse range of plant foods. In particular, she also suggests eating fermented foods or live cultures which will add beneficial bacteria and enzymes into your overall intestinal flora. She therefore suggests adding Miso, Kimchee, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, and yoghurt into your diet where you can. When it comes to yoghurt, however, look out for the words ‘active’ or ‘live’ on the label or mentions specific good bacteria.
You also, she explains, want to feed the Microbiome with prebiotics (this is the food that the bacteria feed on) ,and this involves eating a lot of fibrous foods where you can. Some suggestions would be beans, leeks, onions, artichokes and whole wheat bread or pasta.
As for probiotics, Rachel suggests that unless you have a diagnosed digestive/health issue, then it’s best to opt for naturally occurring probiotics in fermented foods.
Balance blood sugar levels
We all know what it’s like to feel ‘hangry’ when we are haven’t eaten, and how this can make us feel low or jittery, and anxious. What we don’t want, explains Rachel, is for our body to go into hypoglycemic mode, where our blood sugar is too low. She therefore suggests eating a healthy portion of whole grain carbs at most meals in order to maintain a steady flow of glucose. This she says, “Can be in the form of fruit, or quinoa, buckwheat, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and it’s important to eat wholegrain bread and pasta where you can.”
If you are suffering from low mood, Rachel suggests potentially steering clear of low carbohydrate diets which have been particularly popular I recent years. “Low mood can be associated with nutrient deficiencies such as B vitamins and selenium which are found in foods such as bread, lentils, cereal, milk and bananas, so a low carb diet may exacerbate these further,” she says.
Ensure nutrient deficiency isn’t present
It may sound boring and you are probably sick to death of hearing the word ‘balance’ from health professionals, but if you don’t have a diet that contains carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats, then you may be lacking in nutrients that are associated with mood. For example, if you are either low in iron or lacking in B vitamins you may feel low and irritable.
It’s incredibly hard to prescribe one eating plan for everybody as our bodies and goals are all so different but as a general rule, (and especially is you are susceptible to low mood), Rachel suggests including a wholegrain carbohydrate at breakfast, at lunch and a as snack, but keeping it optional for dinner. She also suggests eating protein at every meal and incuding a healthy fat too.
Other tips for supporting the gut brain pathway
Take Omega 3’s
There is evidence around the benefit of Omega3 supplementation for people with diagnosed clinical depression says Rachel.
Note: these should not to replace any medication.
Hydrate hydrate hydrate for a happy brain
Your brain can’t function unless you are well hydrated so you may feel fatigued if you don’t hydrate throughout the day. Aim to drink 6 glasses of water a day.
Tackle emotional eating
Rachel also highlights the importance of managing our emotions around eating, “It’s important to try to take away any feelings of guilt,” says Rachel, “So we feel happy and healthy in our minds instead of feeling shameful. If you do eat something indulgent then take a breath and acknowledge that you have enjoyed that food and then put it behind you move onto the next healthy meal.”
Buy this feel-good cookbook
Rachel Kelly is the author of The Happy Kitchen and The Happiness Diet. Having suffered from anxiety and depression for many years, it wasn’t until she researched and improved her diet that she realised how good much better she felt. Created with nutritional therapist Alice Mackintosh, they consist of gut and brain-boosting recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Here’s a sample recipe from The Happy Kitchen
The Tropical C Smoothie
Alice says ‘I have this for breakfast if I wake feeling whacked. Alice designed it so that I could get lots of energy-boosting goodness in one go. These fruits are rich in vitamin C and fibre, while the walnuts an avocado deliver protein and healthy fats to balance everything out. The oats and nuts add substance and slow down the absorption of sugar from the fruit and the cinnamon may also reduce sugar cravings.”
½ papaya and 1 whole mango
1 tbs oats
250 ml almond, coconut or oat milk
Cinnamon to taste
Peel the papaya or mango and remove its seed or stone
Chop it into medium-sized shunks and pop it into a blender with all the other ingredients. Blend until smooth
If you enjoyed this article then you will LOVE reading about what happens to your microbiome when you travel here
Notes on mental health
Please note that these tips are not meant to be a replacement for speaking with a licensed therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Please do not be afraid to seek help if you feel that you or someone else is struggling and could benefit from it. Contact your local GP, family doctor or insurance company and/or your local government/ council to seek other government funded resources for mental health.
Mental Health helplines
US – SAMHSA (Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
UK – MIND – Call 0300 123 3393 or text SHOUT to 85258 which is a crisis textile for support in a crisis www.giveusashout.org/get-help/
The other day I found myself staring at the walls of my office, head a little foggy (I know what you’re thinking – no I wasn’t hungover), yet I was unable to physically and mentally crack my own whip. I knew there was a lot of work to do, and a pile of admin to tackle but, I was struck with a mental paralysis that wouldn’t allow me to move forward.
It appears I’m not alone. Speaking to my friends and colleagues recently, motivation is hard to muster right now. Mindset coach Alister Grey couldn’t agree more and says that the current uncertainty in the air is causing us to flounder, “When there’s uncertainty, we tend to feel there’s nothing to look forward to and we can wander aimlessly through our work and our days.”
So how can we put the motor back in our Mojo? We spoke to 35 Thousand founder and executive coach Misty Reich as well as Alister about how to rediscover our enthusiasm.
Misty explains that there is no singular solution to reigniting motivation as it depends on the root cause . She suggests asking taking some time to really ask yourself where this lack of motivation is coming from. For example, is it because you are disillusioned with your job? Are you overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work on your plate or is your mood generally just low?
Below are some reasons that may affect your motivation levels and some potential solutions from our experts.
YOU MAY BE MENTALLY SPENT
Let’s face it, right now you probably have a lot going on. Whether you’ve been juggling the return to school shenanigans with a full-blown back-to-work schedule, or you’re starting a business, a new job, or looking for work, we all have a lot on our brains right now. The impact of COVID-19 has been enormous and your brain dip may be due to sheer mental overload, and as a result, exhaustion.
Solution 1: Find what makes your heart sing
Alistair says it’s hugely important to rediscover what makes your heart sing. “Finding motivation is about finding purpose,” he says, “It’s about finding the ‘why’ that drives you.” This he says doesn’t mean you have to try and find a ‘life purpose’ but to put your focus on a project or topic that inspires you. He is a big believer in the saying, ‘Where your focus goes your energy grows,’ “If we are focussing on the negatives then we aren’t going to feel motivated but more disempowered. But if we put our attention on the things that matter to us then the energy will come back.”
Solution 2: Walk it out
Misty has a practical tip for when she feels emotionally and mentally drained and that is to go for a walk which she says will “Consciously get oxygen to my brain.” If Misty is really tired then she finds that a short power nap will reboot her mentally and physically.
YOU MAY BE OVERWHELMED
Your child may be struggling at school, at the same time you may be having to cover three people’s jobs after a post COVID reshuffle, meanwhile you are working from home and the house chores and your work life are all blurring into one. Sound familiar? We can feel like a rabbit in the headlights when we have so many things to do and don’t know where to start .
Solution 1: Clear the Clutter
For Misty, simply clearing her desk or organising her office can give her a sense of organisation that will also unlock her brain and help her to think more clearly.
Misty’s other solution is to clear your mental space of clutter. When your brain feels like a washing machine, she suggests doing a mind map. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a diagram used to visually organise information. It is often created around a single concept which is normally placed in the centre of the drawing. Major ideas then branch off the centre piece and smaller ideas branch off those, “This” she says, “Can especially help creative people who don’t think in a linear way. I find I come up with ideas from a mindmap that I just wouldn’t with a list.”
Solution 2: Focus on one thing
For Alistair, his greatest hack is to be present and to focus on one task at a time.”Focus and get immersed in it,” he says “Multitasking is actually a myth as we are really ‘switch tasking’ and in the process we lose up to 40% productivity and get overwhelmed. If you focus on one task at a time and go through your day like that, then things flow more easily. It is the fear of how much you have to do that is stopping you moving forward not the actual task itself.”
YOU MAY HAVE A FEAR OF FAILURE
Many of us feel we don’t really want to start a project or a big task unless we can do it perfectly or guarantee it’s going to go exactly as planned.
Solution 1: Eat the Frog
For Misty, when she gets like that she decides to pick something she doesn’t want to do and she does it first. She recommends Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog (above) which is about doing the hard things first. If you force yourself to do this then there is a sense of achievement and breakthrough that will then lead you onto the next task.
Solution 2: Just take the first step
Fear of judgement or failure stops people making the next step explains Alistair. “ Just take the first step and trust it, when you take action and get in the game it’s not as daunting as you first think.” After the first step, he explains, the second step will then become clearer.
It may be psychological
Times are hard right now and it’s only natural that many of us feel down or low occasionally. The result is that you just can’t face doing anything.
Solution 1: Talk it out
Misty says that sometimes feeling low can stop her feeling motivated at work. She finds two solutions effective – the first is talking to someone, “Unless you think it’s necessary to go to therapy, it can also be very effective talking to a friend or a close colleague,” she says, “Find people you can create a network with.” Another remedy she has is to write down what she is feeling, “ There’s something about sitting down with a pen that separates you from it and allows you to see an issue from a different perspective.”
(Note: If you feel you or a friend are in need or professional help, please see information at the bottom of this article)
You may just need to kick your own butt
Occasionally you don’t need to dig around for a reason behind your lack of motivation, it may be that you are just being a bit lazy and need to admit it.
Solution 1: Tackle one tiny thing
Misty says she knows this is the case when she realises that it’s not that she lacks energy, “I’m just not doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says. If that’s the case then her top tip is to do her mind map and make a list of the things she has to do.
She also picks the smallest thing on the list that would make an impact on what she’s trying to accomplish, “I say to myself, what’s the easiest thing I can do? So I pick something really teeny tiny and it makes me feel satisfied that I have at least accomplished something.”
Solution 2: Set an intention
Alistair recommends setting your mind up for the day ahead at the beginning of the day. He uses affirmations to help him visualise himself having a successful day. “‘You have a choice,” he says “Tell yourself that you will choose for it to be great, that you will smash it and immerse yourself in it.’” Alistair says he also sets an intention for how he will feel the following morning such as ”Tomorrow I will wake up with full vitality and energy – it’ s amazing the impact this has” he says.
Be kind to yourself
It’s important if you don’t feel motivated that you don’t beat yourself up about it. “Don’t forget the importance of how you are going to define success in your day” says Misty. “Pre COVID-19 we may have squeezed every last drop of productivity out of our days, however life is really not normal right now and even if you are going back to an office, life will not be normal there either. If you actually only achieve one small thing in your day then anything else will be a bonus.”
Notes on mental health
Confidential mental health helplines
Please note that these tips are not meant to be a replacement for speaking with a licensed therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Please do not be afraid to seek help if you feel that you or someone else is struggling and could benefit from it. Contact your local GP, family doctor or insurance company and/or your local government/ council to seek other government funded resources for mental health.
US – SAMHSA (Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
UK – MIND – Call 0300 123 3393 or text SHOUT to 85258 which is a crisis textile for support in a crisis www.giveusashout.org/get-help/
If you enjoyed reading this, you might enjoy hearing what TED talker Mo Gawdat has to say on happiness here
If anyone knows how to fit exercise into a hectic schedule then it’s British Olympic Gold Medallist and World Champion Heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill . Between juggling her two young children, managing her fitness app Jennis as well as many other work related commitments, Jess is a master at fitting the most effective exercise into small timeframes. The Jennis app was created by Jess and the team that have worked with her throughout her career and who took her from birth to World Champion in just 10 months. With hundreds of videos of Jess completing each exercise, there is a Fitness section where you can focus on different body parts or the whole body, or follow a month-by-moth guide. There is also a Pregnancy section created by Jess and the physio that saw her through her pregnancies which demonstrates effective but safe exercise. Finally there is a Postnatal exercise section which Jess very strongly feels needs to be done slowly and carefully.
Granted, fitness-wise Jess is built differently to you and I, but those Olympic medals means she has the inside track (excuse the pun) on which exercises will reap maximum results. And those abs don’t just happen by themselves…
We spoke exclusively to Jess about her techniques for tackling fitness as a women in today’s busy world.
Organisation is Key
If there’s one thing we can learn from Jess, then it’s that exercise doesn’t just happen by itself , and if you don’t structure it into your life, it will fall by the wayside. She admits to personally being a super organised person when it comes to working out, “Something that I learned from being an athlete was to have a structure in my days and weeks, so I plan my exercise at the start of a week and lock it in my diary.”
When she was competing, Jess followed a rigid training programme nearly every day of the week, but now she maintains her fabulous body with just three workouts, proving that you don’t need to kill yourself in the gym to make a difference. “A normal week would include a minimum of one run and two circuit sessions, generally slotted in around school and nursery and any work commitments,” she says.
Be honest with yourself
Despite her clear superpowers on the athletics pitch, Jess is well known in the world of wellbeing for being incredibly relatable. This translates to her attitude to fitness, where she says it’s important not to overcommit, “I have to make sure I can physically, realistically and clearly see what I am aiming to achieve that week in order to stick with it.” She also insists that downtime is as important as ‘on’ time.
“Make sure you allow yourself rest days and build any exercise routine up so you get stronger and fitter gradually so you can maintain it and also keep motivation levels high,” she says. “To help my community out, I’ve created plans and challenges that help them structure their weeks – and my 30-day bum and ab challenge are proving really popular.”
In order to get body and fitness results fast within a short timeframe, Jess suggests quick but tough workouts, “I am a big fan of quick intense workouts that leave you feeling like you’ve worked hard and that give a great endorphin kick,” she says. The workout devised in Jess’ exercise app Jennis do just that – they are quick, body and brain blasting workouts that give you the maximum benefit in a relatively short time. What’s more she has set challenges to keep you on track and help when motivation is lacking, “ I have created 30-day plans and challenges that mean you don’t have to think – you simply have to sign in and follow that day’s session or have a prescribed rest day. There is something really motivating about following a programme and in the case of the Jennis challenges, no workout is more than 30 mins.”
Twenty minutes is enough
It is often thought that we have to work out every day for hours on end to get the results we crave, but Jess says that’s a myth, “I think so many of us have that feeling that we must work out for hours to feel we’ve worked ourselves hard enough or we feel that if we don’t have a full hour to do our workout then we might as well not bother. When actually you can achieve so much in 20 mins. In a 20 min HIIT circuit you can push your rep strength and aerobic strength and come away feeling as if you’ve worked extremely hard. It’s all about level of intensity,” she says.
No gym required
It’s also a myth that you need an at-home gym in order to get fit. Instead you can use the weight of your own body as resistance, “I think there are so many body weight exercises you can do at home and plenty of ways to adapt them to make them more challenging,” says Jess, Most of the circuits in my Jennis app are bodyweight focused and use minimal kit.”
Be kind to yourself
Jess knows all too well how tough it can be juggling motherhood with work, let alone trying to fit in exercise too, “Being a busy working mum is really demanding. If there is a week when things are so crazy that you cannot find time to train or simply just don’t feel like it, just make sure that it is a priority the next week, don’t beat yourself up” she says.
She also stresses the importance of finding an exercise you love else you won’t stick to it, “Trying lots of different types of workout is a good idea,” she says “Variety may suit you as a person too. As my son is getting a little older, I am able to go on bike rides with him and even short runs – I love it and it combines time with him with exercise. “
Examples of Jess’ workouts for the busy woman
It is essential you warm up pre any exercise to avoid injury. One of Jess’ warm up sessions involves 4 x warm-up exercises such as low level high knees, reactive bounces, hip flex into hamstring flexes, and arm circles. See her app for visual examples of warm up as well as cool down sessions.
When you have 5 minutes…
Jess says: “In my app I have a number of body blasts that are just 5 minutes. I get my community to do these 1, 2, or 3 times a day, depending on how they are feeling. Just a few minutes might feel like it’s not enough, but just getting a few minutes of movement in is really positive – and once you start you always end up doing more than you planned.” Here is an example of an Ab Blast that Jess says she does all the time (please check the app to follow Jess’ demonstration)
You will need: An exercise mat
How it works: 10 exercises and 10 reps of each
- Crunches x 10
- Flutters x 10
- Cross over scissors x 10
- Sit up and twist x 10
- Sit up and reach x 10
- Touch toes crunches x 10
- Classic sit ups x 10
- Double leg lowers x 10
- Side to sides x 10
- Russian twists x 10
When you have 15 mins…
Jess says: “There are 19 minutes HIIT circuits on my app that are really quick and effective and I have a 15 minute session that requires no kit and targets the whole body.” Here is an example of the 15 Minute Full body session but we recommend you check out the app to watch Jess in action.
How it works: There are 3 sets of 7 exercises. Set 1 is 25 seconds per exercise, then 10 seconds off. Set 2 is 30 seconds per exercise and 10 seconds off. Set 3 is 25 seconds on per exercise.
3. Squat jumps
4. Feet together crunches
5. Bum lifts
6. Plank crunches
7. Sumo squats
When you have 30 mins…
Jess says: “There are a range of 29 minute pyramid sessions in my app – all bodyweight and minimal kit.’ She explains Pyramid sessions like this “For your first set of seven exercises, I keep it slightly easier by keeping the amount of time we perform each exercise slightly shorter (20, 25 or 30 seconds, depending on the difficulty level). This first set is designed to warm you up and get the blood flowing to your muscles.”
“For the second set, it gets harder as we’ll do each exercise for longer (25, 30 or 35 seconds, depending on the difficulty level). Then, on the third, it gets easier again (we drop down in seconds) and so on. If you were to draw out the time periods for each set, you would see it creates little pyramids.”
Here is an example of a Full Body Intermediate session but we advise watching Jess on the app as you go.
What you will need: An exercise mat and a low table
How it works: There are 4 sets of 7 exercises each with a 10 second break inbetween. In the first set do 25 second bursts, the second do 30 second bursts, the third do 25 second bursts and the fourth do 30 second bursts again. Inbetween each set have a longer rest.
- 1 x set of full body exercises such as press ups (25 second bursts) each broken up by a 10 second rest
- 1 x longer rest
- 1 x set of full body exercises such as jumping lunges (30 second bursts) each broken up by a 10 second rest
- 1 x longer rest
- 1 x set of full body exercises such as situps with reach (25second bursts) each broken up by a 10 second rest
- 1 x longer rest
- 1 x set of full body exercises such as tricep dips (30 second bursts) each broken up by a 10 second rest
- 4 x cool down exercises
Jessica Ennis-Hill’s fitness app jennis fitness is available to download on iOS and Android for £9.99/ $12.99 per month.
If you enjoyed this article you might enjoy reading about how to create a portable gym here
Mo Gawdat is a Ted talker and a best-selling author on the subject of happiness. He has partnered with bath, body and self care brand Rituals to help them reinforce their mission which is to help people slow down and take a breath, especially in these difficult times, but essentially help them how to be happy.
Mo Gawdat wasn’t always a happiness speaker or a happiness author. He started out his career at IBM before moving to Microsoft and Google where he became Chief Business Officer of Google X which he said was ‘Probably the most innovative place on the planet.” With a beautiful wife and two children he felt he should have everything, but yet he says now he still felt depressed.
But then tragically he experienced the loss of his 21 year old son when a routine operation went horribly wrong. As unbelievably difficult as this was, Mo says ‘When you suffer this kind of loss, for many, it’s a defining moment which can lead us to avoid the world and into decay. But for others, like me, I found an opportunity.”
Mo’s daughter shared with him a conversation she and his son Ali had had a few weeks before his death. “Ali told his sister that he dreamt he was everywhere and part of everyone” he says. Mo saw this not just as a sign to create something good out of something horrific, but he also saw it as a goal. He ended up writing his international bestselling book Solve for Happy and gave himself a target for its’ message to reach 10 million people. But when Channel 4 did an interview with him that went viral, it reached 87 million viewers in just 4 days. Mo and his team then upped the target to make 1 billion people happy which led to Mo travelling the world to spread the word.
As part of his collaboration with Rituals (for which he is unpaid), Mo explains here the fundamentals of his beliefs in happiness.
Don’t mistake happiness for fun
“We have mistakenly understood happiness as fun,” says Mo. “Happiness is peacefulness, a calm inside you when you are ok with life as it is. When you have that feeling in you, you are able to perform better.” Mo goes on to explain that a study at Stanford university shows that people who are happy are in general 12% more happy in whatever they do.
Why is happiness important?
“People care so much about being healthy, and the reason for that is because healthy is the optimum mode we can perform in life,” Mo explains. “We don’t want to be unhealthy as it’s not an optimum way of performing or surviving . Similarly happiness is an optimum way of performing in life. People who are happy are proven to be more productive, they are more loved by their colleagues and clients and more engaged in what they do and report less absence.”
We need a happiness intervention
“People who aren’t happy are losing their lives – depression is at an all-time high, as are suicide rates” says Mo. ” Until 20 to 30 years ago it was very rare for a woman to take her own life. Today it is 10-15 times higher than that.”
Mo himself understands what it feels like to suffer depression through his own battles, “When I was in my late 20’s I really struggled ” he says. As an engineer and a mathematician and a self-confessed control freak, Mo admits he was probably overly critical with himself ” I think all the time, and I criticised myself all the time which made me constantly unhappy. I attempted to find a predictable path to happy.”
On the outside it would appear that Mo had it all – a beautiful wife, great wealth, two beautiful children – and therefore he figured there must be something wrong with the code of his brain. After his so died and feeling he needed to ‘debug the code in his head’ he set out on a mission to try to understand what causes unhappiness, to discover “What bugs where in my code” he says.
Happiness cannot be attained
The first eye-opening statement Mo discovered was very simple, that happiness is never going to be bought. “All the money, vacations, clothes, fancy gadgets and cars – none of it would make me happy because happiness cannot be attained,” he says. He goes on to explain that if you look at babies who are content (when they are fed, warm, loved, clean) you realise that we are born happy. “Happiness doesn’t come to us, it is within us, it is our default setting,” he says, “Babies don’t ask for X Box’s to be happy, or someone to like their butt shot on Instagram. Looking for reasons to be happy is not the answer, but looking for reasons that make us unhappy and removing them is.”
The happy list
Mo describes a very simple exercise that makes people really think about what makes them happy, something he says we don’t do enough of. It involves taking a piece of paper and finishing the sentence ‘I feel happy when…..’ five times. This he explains, could be as simple as having a good cup of coffee, a hug, or listening to music.
What Mo saw (and you will see if you do it at home) was that when you look at your list, you realise that most of the items are very simple. He goes on to suggest that it is a great practise to invite these things into your life on a daily or weekly basis.
The other observation he found was that “You won’t find all the things that society lied to you about on that list.” By this, he means that you won’t find “I feel happy when I’ve bought a Ferrari” on the list. “As a matter of fact,” he says “Very few people feel happy when they’ve bought a Ferrari for more than 3 minutes – most people who buy a Ferrari get inside and say ‘When am I going to get my Lambhorgini.'”
Mo also says that no one ever writes ‘I will feel happy when I win the Nobel Prize.’ ” In fact when you ask those that won the Nobel Prize they say they felt happier when they achieved the breakthrough that lead to the Nobel prize,” he says. The prize itself wasn’t what made them happy.
Comparison is the thief of joy
Mo also discovered that every moment in your lives we have ever felt unhappywasn’t because of what was happening in our lives but because of a comparison between your life and how you want your life to be. He gives an example about his experience of rain in the UK. “Rain doesn’t make us happy or unhappy,” he says “The reason we feel unhappy about rain is because it misses our expectations of how life should behave.”
The happiness equation
Mo realised that if he could find the reasons behind unhappiness he could list them down, or even better, as an engineer he could find an equation to solve it. He went about his mission as he would an engineering test. “When you get a system that gets results that seem unpredictable, you plot the results on the chart and attempt to find a trend line.” Which is exactly what he did. This is the equation he came up with:
Your happiness = to or is > the difference between the events of your life and your expectation of how life should behave
(Your happiness equals or is greater than the difference between the events of your life and your expectation of how life should behave) Translated: If the event surpasses expectations you will be happy, if it misses expectations then you won’t.
Fun is a painkiller
“Happiness is this peaceful feeling,” says Mo, “And yet we confuse it with going to the pub, dancing at a party or jumping out of a plane. We mix it up with a target – something we aspire to achieve. Fun is not happiness, pleasure is not happiness they are weapons of mass distraction” he warns. “They are things we have replaced happiness with. These are things that numb our brains long enough that we don’t solve the happiness equation. Fun never lasts but we use it as a painkiller, and whilst it’s a dose of numbness it doesn’t fix the problem.”
Side note: Mo also explains that there is nothing wrong with fun if you are already happy – it’s like a supplement or vitamin he says that can boost our wellbeing.
So how do we solve the happiness problem?
We have to first understand what unhappiness is. “it’s important to understand that unhappiness is a survival mechanism,” he explains, “Your brain is responsible for analysing the world around it and warning you if there is something that threatens your survival.” Our brains can create all sort of stories that will make us unhappy, “These cause pain emotionally or physically,” he says ,”They tell us things aren’t perfect and that you may want to take action. I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel the pain as life can be difficult, but when we play it over and over like the ‘Netflix of Unhappiness’ then that’s when it’s really damaging,” he says.
“Unhappiness in that case is a choice. It is a choice for me to play over the over the loss of my son which makes me suffer, but in reality I can choose to play over and over the birth of my son and the 21 beautiful years I was blessed with.”
Remember that the good in life naturally outweighs the bad
If you are struggling with negativity right now (and let’s face it who isn’t?) then Mo explains that, when you look at life, moments when everything is ok are many many more than when things are aren’t. “If you were born in 1900” for example “Then by 1914, 22 million people would have died in WW1. By 1922 50 million people would have died of the Spanish flu. By the end of WWII, 75 million people would have died, and by 1950 300 million people would have died by Smallpox. The truth is when you think about it we have been blessed in life.”
Mo has collaborated with www.rituals.com to set up a two week happiness challenge with tips and exercises to grow your happiness muscle. Until 19th September.
If you like this article you may like to read about How to Hack your own Motivation here
With more of us than ever before working in makeshift home-office set-ups (kitchen tables, worktops, on our laps) there’s never been a better time to consider the importance of good posture and its benefits to maintaining short and long-term back health.
Award-winning osteopath Anisha Joshi (who counts the likes of Professor Green and Rita Ora as clients) says, “Prevention is always better than cure: taking care of your body reduces the likelihood of suffering from debilitating pain and allows you to keep doing what you love for longer”. Osteopaths focus on musculoskeletal pain; using a combination of hands-on techniques like massage and exercise, they ease muscle and joint pains, stimulate better blood flow and enhance movement and flexibility, all of which contribute to the body’s physical wellbeing.
Anisha is passionate about back health, noting that “We live in a society where we’re all sat down”. She calls it “A seated culture,” with more and more clients (particularly young people) coming to her with back pain as a result. “Our bodies were created to run around – think about cavemen and women, hunting and gathering – and not to sit for so long”. With this in mind, it’s vital that when we are sitting, our positioning is correct. “Posture is important because it can predispose you to early onset of degenerative changes in the body or to injury”. Ultimately, a poor stance can have a knock-on effect, resulting in a bad back and other health problems.
“People underestimate the body; if you look at the spine, you’ll see it’s all connected, with thousands of muscles attached on to it. So, if you’ve been at your desk for hours, you might end up with a sore neck, which can cause tightness in the muscles and ricochet down to the lower back. It’s really about looking at the body as a whole,” says Anisha, acknowledging that the way in which muscles interlink can make it “A bit of a nightmare. Essentially though, the human body is a beautiful thing and it isn’t complicated; if you look after it, it will look after you”.
How to improve your work posture
Finding the right sitting position (be it at your desk or on a train) can be especially effective in ensuring excellent back health. Anisha’s tips for achieving this include “Not crossing your legs, which will make you sit up straighter”, improving your posture and preventing pain in the lower back caused by your pelvis rotating and tilting. You should also “Always try to sit with your bottom right up against the back of the chair” she says which helps to keep the spine properly aligned and reduces stress on ligaments. Anisha also recommends glute bridge workouts to strengthen the glute muscles, which in turn can reinforce the lower back, as well as gentle neck stretches which she says are great for when you’re on a plane. She also advocates taking supplements such as Omega-3.
Products that can help
A well-chosen pillow and mattress are a great place to start when it comes to maintaining a healthy back but there are also other products you can incorporate into your daily routine that can make a difference. With Anisha’s expert guidance, we’ve picked out the pieces you should be investing in, whether you’re working from home, back at the office or find yourself constantly on the move.
Height Adjustable Sit-to-Stand Desk, $179.95
“Whether you’re on a plane or at your desk, keep moving; it’s important to get up and keep moving a little bit,” says Anisha. A height adjustable desk like this one is perfect for encouraging desk workers to stay active, switching between sitting and standing to relieve muscle tension and, over time, decreasing back troubles.
The Monitor Stand, $27.99
Equally great for assisting with posture is a monitor stand, which will allow you to raise the screen up to be level with your vision. This way you won’t be bending your neck for prolonged periods – something that can negatively impact back health. Anisha also suggests keeping monitors close when working. She explains that the further away it is, the more you’re likely to slump into it trying to concentrate.
Ergonomic Desk Chair, $115.73
Although we’re all different and will benefit from varied techniques and products, as Anisha mentions, switching to a more ergonomic desk chair – one that suits the specific needs of your body – can have a positive effect on back wellbeing. Look for one that offers lumbar support, has an adjustable height, seat depth and tilt mechanism and flip-up arms for increased range and ease of movement. These functions promote good posture and consequently, better spinal health.
Memory Foam Seat Cushion, $23.99
Perfectly portable, a seat cushion (sometimes called a seat wedge), will help to lift the bottom up explains Anisha, thanks to its subtle forward slope, which brings the back into an upright position by tilting the pelvis forward. It’s ideal for when you’re busy at your desk and for maintaining proper posture whilst driving.
Daily desk stretches
Anisha’s Top 3 Daily Stretches
Stretches are excellent for both improving your posture and decreasing back pain; Anisha’s top 3 stretches are quick and easy, enabling you to keep on top of your spinal health on even the busiest of days.
Lower your bottom onto your heels and stretch out in front of you, reaching your arms forwards. A beginner yoga pose, it is effective in combating back pain, this is good for stretching the muscles in the lower back, aligning the spine and relieving tension.
The Neck Stretch
Sitting on a chair, place one hand on the opposite side of the head from above, and gently pull your head down towards that arm’s shoulder to stretch the muscles in the side of your neck. Great for reducing stiffness and soreness in the neck which can sometimes becaused by poor posture and is a potential trigger for back pain. This is a simple stretch with big benefits.
The Pec Stretch
Interlace your fingers behind your back and stretch out your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades behind you. A straightforward everyday stretch, this increases flexibility in your pectoral muscles, and can also aid you in achieving and maintaining the correct posture.
To make an appointment with Anisha Joshi go to www.osteoanisha.com
To create an at-home gym on a budget read our article here.
In part 1, yogi, author, actress, model and cancer survivor Sara Quiriconi (AKA @Livefreewarrior) told us how she finds her way out of a panic spiral, here she tells us how, on a daily basis she works to prevent an anxiety attack getting to that point.
“Feeling stressed out? You’re not alone. Whether you’re working from home, self-quarantined, you’ve been made redundant or you’re just feeling the effects of the information the news is pouring at us, with matters taken out of our control, anxiety is at an all-time high.
Even in times that you feel emotionally well, it’s important to use emotional maintenance tools to prevent anxiety from setting in. While therapy can be a useful option, it may not be at the moment for many reasons. However, the following tools are what I use daily to manage anxiety and emotions, and which can be useful in these unsettling times for staying as balanced as is humanly possible.
While we may not be able to control the world around us, we do have 100% control over what we put into our bodies. Every day I make it a point to eat a broad range of healthy, high-fiber and nutrient-dense foods. These particular foods help my moods and keep my immune system feeling strong and resilient.
It’s never a good time to get sick, but especially right now, keeping my immune system sharp is at the top of my priority list. I’ve been loading up on nature’s Vitamin C foods, such as berries, oranges, tomatoes, and other summer fruits, including watermelon, melon and cherries. Not only are they hydrating, they’re also packed with nourishing vitamins and powerful antioxidants.
In Ayurvedic medicine, when one feels an imbalance in their Dosha energies (there are three: Pitta, Vata and Kapha), it’s believed you can heal those imbalances with the right foods. Typically, in the United States, you’d eat these foods in the fall time, to help us ground with the change in seasons. I believe they have the ability to ground us now too. Which is why I’ve been eating more cooked root vegetables and cooked squashes, such as sweet potatoes, butternut and spaghetti squash, zucchini and beets. All of these foods are grown close to the earth and provide an inner sense of warmth and comfort.
Without a still mind, we are nothing more than a machine. A mind with constant chatter can be a very unsettling and loud, chaotic place, which is why I meditate.
I’m far from being the perfect meditator – often in fact I allow my mind just to wander off and see where it goes. Successful meditation isn’t about emptying the mind to be completely blank. Successful meditation is putting in that effort to be alone with yourself, with no additional external influences. It’s to have that space to SEE what comes to mind, to become aware of when your mind wanders off to other subjects, and to practice bringing your focus back to one point or target (typically your breath but it can be a candle light, or even a spot on the floor).
Every morning, I take 10 minutes in the morning to sit, breathe, think, wander, and practice, before checking my phone, and even pouring myself water or coffee. I practice bringing my thoughts back to my breathing, my body moving subtly with my breath, and focusing on my own personal mantra and power phrase that reminds me of my personal goals and purpose in life.
ALLOWING MYSELF TO BE
I’ve recognized at this point in my life, that being positive and happy all the time is just not sustainable. It’s human to feel sad, disappointed, hurt, upset and angry. To feel and have emotion IS to be human.
What do I do in those emotional times? I give myself to permission to be. I give myself permission to cry when I need to (however, I put a time limit on it) instead of holding back tears to be tough. I give myself permission to take it easy some mornings instead of ploughing through the to-do list on my calendar. I give myself permission to blow off the afternoon and watch something on Netflix for an hour if I’m inspired to, instead of working on the next client project. I give myself permission to self-preserve, and let go of the pressure that I need to achieve something incredible during this time period.
Give yourself to permission to BE too.
YOGA & MOVEMENT
Movement is a a non-negotiable for me in my day. In fact, I schedule in an hour in my calendar and day specifically for yoga, running, or some form of exercise. It doesn’t have to be the full hour, or it can even be split up in the day. For example, running in the morning, practicing yoga and abs later in the afternoon. Either the time or movement is a daily part of my lifestyle, no matter what.
I have a few mindset habits that help me stick to it: I leave my yoga mat out next to my desk to stretch whenever throughout the day. My running sneakers, headphones, and hat for running are by the door, ready to go for some outdoor air. And, I have a set run route and yoga practice that I complete, making this habit excuse-proof.
That consistency of doing something good for my body that leaves it energized, awakened, and renewed is empowering, leaving me feeling resilient for whatever stress the day brings my way.
You can do it to. With a bit of planning, it’s easy to make movement (and any of these healthy activities) a part of your daily routine as well.
MAKING A “REVERSE BUCKET LIST”
You cancelled your summer trip. Spring break just didn’t happen. Visiting the family last month is impossible with air travel bans. What the…argh!?
You’re not alone in this #FML feeling. We’ve all had to cancel our travel in some way or another, myself included. As a wellness travel content creator and actor, I missed out on a lot plans that were in the calendar and flight plans that now are just impossible.
Instead of dwelling on what I am not doing on my future bucket list, I’m looking back and creating a reverse bucket list. Where did I go in the past four or five years? Looking back through old hard drives and video files, what memories did I maybe forget or pass by? What locations did I surprisingly love when I visited? Who were some of the amazing individuals I was fortunate to connect with on my adventures?
Reversing this list shows me all that my bucket is already full. Suddenly, anything that can happen in the future now feels like extra cherries on top.
GETTING GOOD SLEEP
Quality sleep is related to our personal well-being in just about every aspect. There’s not one element of our well-being that isn’t correlated, so why not put more of a priority towards the activity we spend 1/3 of our lives doing?
In times of uncertainty, it’s easier said than done however – anxious thoughts are rob those precious REM cycles and Zzz’s in the night. Habits that help me get better quality sleep in difficult times are:
• going to bed and waking up the same time each day — weekends included
• no eating or snacking 2-3 hours prior to bedtime
• leaving my phone and other connected devices (email and social media, in particular) in another room after 9:30m
• creating the optimal sleep environment, including a cool temperature, light and noise blocking
• watching a relaxing series, reading a book before bed, and journaling in my gratitude journal (see below)
DISCONNECT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
It’s human to feel, and it’s human to compare. Social media gives us both of those elements. Except, looking and scrolling on social media endlessly won’t get you any closer to actually achieving your life goals unless you get off the platform and start doing them in your real life.
When I find myself getting sucked into the rabbit hole scroll, I take a pause, recognize what I’m doing, what I’m feeling and if I can, acknowledge why I’m doing it. Often I’m avoiding doing something else that I really need to get done and am procrastinating; or, feel the pressure to keep up with the comments, DMs, and what others are doing to stay “connected.”
To be honest, the only connection and ‘like’ that truly matters the most is the one I have with myself. When I give myself that pause to break away from posting, sharing or commenting, I have so much more creative energy to actually accomplish some of the other creative endeavors I’m truly passionate about. For examples, acting, learning new monologues or accents, developing the script for a short film, writing fresh wellness blogs, or editing a new travel “reverse bucket list” video. These are equally, if not more, important for my creativity and connection than social media. Then, the only person I need to compare myself to is to my own self that I was yesterday Remember that, and apply it to yourself as well.
DEVELOP PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE
“Always learning” is a phrase in my life that I take seriously. I need to be learning and taking in new information to feel alive, creative and involved in my artistic crafts to continuously be inspired. Plan ahead, so that you don’t feel stuck in the moments you need them the most. What I do is, instead of having to search for them, I keep a log, or playlist, that’s ready to just hit play. These vary, depending on the inner emotion or motivation I’m in need of in that moment, but here’s a quick list of examples I keep on hand:
For motivation, search “Simon Sinek” for an honest dose of motivation.
For creativity, I’m personally getting back into acting and have been listening to Backstage (in particular, Ricky Gervais & Giancarlo Esposito) for insights on the film and TV industry.
For learning, I’m a huge fan of both 12 Min (listen to best-sellers in 12 minutes, give or take) and MasterClass (learning a variety of crafts from masters in their art forms).
For more education and self-inspiration, I purchased both eBooks “Girl, Stop Apologizing” and my own “Living Cancer Free” eBook. And, in eMagazine version, I purchased an annual subscription of “Conde Naste Traveller” and “Travel + Leisure.”
These particular topics may not relate directly to your interests. But, I encourage you to look in various mediums and forms for tools that inspire you to keep your head high, informed and always learning too.
It’s no secret, expressing gratitude is the attitude of true wealth. Being grateful for what you already do have increases your feel-good emotions, and puts you into the present moment. Instead of wishing you had more into the future, or what you had in the past, gratitude shows you all that you already do own in this current moment.
What more would one need to fill our own cups full of thanks? Well, we’re tricky humans and always need or want more. And, that’s OK to want better for ourselves! However, when we only focus on more, or what was, that’s where the negativity and unsettling thoughts can creep in.
This is a newer practice for me, but every night before bed, I jot down in a beautiful journal I was gifted on a recent trip to Indonesia three things I’m grateful for from my day that has passed. That not only reminds me to keep a mental tally during the day to jot down at night, it’s also gives me something beautiful and positive to dream on.”
Read about how Sara manages emotions with different yoga poses here
Notes on mental health:
Please note that these tips are not meant to be a replacement for speaking with a licensed therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Please do not be afraid to seek help if you feel that you or someone else is struggling and could benefit from it. Contact your local GP, family doctor or insurance company and/or your local government/ council to seek other government funded resources for mental health.
Confidential mental health helplines:
US – SAMHSA (Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
UK – MIND – Call 0300 123 3393 or text SHOUT to 85258 which is a crisis textile for support in a crisis www.giveusashout.org/get-help/
Yogi, model, author, actress and cancer survivor Sara Quiriconi AKA @livefreewarrior has suffered from anxiety since her teens. She describes, in her own words, how she pulls herself out of a spiral of panic
“There’s no doubt, we’re all under a lot of stress at the moment. Challenging times can trigger even the most trained leaders and wellness experts, and anxiety inevitably stirs up a load of conflicting emotions in all of us. I’m no exception. The other day, I had an anxiety attack – in a ball, on my bed, huddled in a pile of pillows, drowning in my own tears. Instantly, the self critic chimed in, “And you’re the wellness leader, huh?” My immediate reply was to shut that inner critic up, which went along the lines of, “Yes! This is happening to me, and that’s OK. After all, I’m human too.
The truth is, I’ve struggled for years with anxiety. Since I was a teenager, I was prone to deal with stresses worse than most. In moments of great stress, or when I take on too many tasks, the familiarity of that panic comes on strong. I was anxious as a kid, and as teenage years crept in, it seemed to get worse in the peer environment.
Other empaths will agree that perhaps the world’s emotions always sit heavier on us than most. However, I have never accepted the idea that a mental disorder or issue has to be a life-long sentence. I believe that with awareness, education and will, anything is possible.
Fortunately, over the years, and through a lot of self-education, I now have better tools to cope and deal with those moments when anxiety builds to overflowing. Below is my toolkit for managing panic and next week (in Part 2) I’ll write about the daily maintenance I use to stay emotionally buoyant. These include Yoga, good nutrition, exercise and sleep, all of which I feel are required to prevent an attack coming back or having to live with underlying low level anxiety. Ever had the jitters having too much coffee? Then you know what I’m talking about.
HOW I MANAGE AN ANXIETY ATTACK
Time and experience have helped me to manage the symptoms of an anxiety attack. I am able to recognize what’s happening in the moment they occur. The feeling of my chest getting tighter, the lack of ability to breathe freely, and the flood of overwhelming thoughts all coming at once — they now feel quite familiar to me. I hope this can help those of you unfamiliar to the feelings.
The great news is that I am able to recognize these feelings and give them a name, such as ‘There’s panic.’ Once I can name it, I can slightly detach myself from it, then use the tools below that I’ve developed with time to help calm the panic.
Take the focus out of the fear
There’s a saying that goes, “Where your focus goes, your energy flows.” Wherever you focus your mind, your body will follow, which can be the upside and downside of the power of the mind.
If you focus on the fear of the attack, it will only increase it. Instead, it’s important to focus on something else such as your breathing – inhale and exhale slowly, and continuously and focus on the breathe coming in and going out. Say ‘breathe in’ and ‘breathe out’ slowly in your mind as you do so, or even say it out loud if you need to. Focusing on the breath, you’re able to see instantly what you can control, rather than what you can’t.
Focus around you
The mind is where the attack is happening, and the body’s reaction is the by-product of the thoughts. Look for inanimate objects around you, and say them out loud. For example, if you’re in the living room, see your sofa and literally say out loud or in your mind, “sofa.” Then, move on to the next object you find. And so on. This is taking you out of your head into the real world.
You’re now putting the mind to work on things it can focus on in reality that truly do exist. Giving the objects a name helps to create an image and connection in your mind of past knowledge and present situations, rather than focusing internally to what’s happening to you. This in turn gives your body and mind time to calm too.
Journaling helps me to see my fears out on paper and recognize the emotion, rather than stifle it. A common fear I experience is that I won’t be able to get out of the situation I am, or I feel stuck. That feeling of ‘no-way-out’ could be due to an overwhelming workload, emotional anger from a disagreement, or not being able to visualize or foresee an opportunity working out in the future.
All of these fears, when they build up to an anxiety attack, can leave me with a feeling of a giant rock or weight that’s compressing on my chest. It can result in a feeling that I cannot breathe, that I’m gasping for air, or that the thoughts keep pouring into to mind with no end in sight.
Journaling helps me to take those thoughts out of my mind, so that I can see an end, and begin to carve out a foreseeable path. Then, the fear doesn’t seem so scary after all.
Watch what you eat after your attack
Lowering the amount of caffeine I drink and eating plenty of greens helps to calm my body and my mind. In addition to what I’m consuming, certain Yoga poses help to soothe the anxiety as well.
My go-to poses are forward folds, reclining bound angle pose with my hands on my chest and breathing, and child’s pose. These all help to compress the heart, like a gentle massage while I breathe through the anxiety until it passes or subsides.
Don’t feel guilty about indulging in rest
Rest, and good sleep, is the basis and foundation for all of our personal wellbeing. When overload hits, sometimes the best thing I can do in the afternoon is close the laptop, and grab a book, or watch a funny show on Netflix.
When you’ve rested enough, move
Yoga and movement help to lower my stress levels and prove an inner, personal strength that empowers me. I always joke, when I’m feeling down, I always do abs at the gym to build a stronger core — physically, but more so, spiritually.
Don’t try to control it
Remember that feeling unsettled may seem out of your control, however, that’s an emotion and a feeling.Situations don’t control us, our reactions and emotions attached to them do. So, let them go, focus on what you can and be free from what you cannot. Admit that thought to yourself and you’re one step closer to feel settled in the here and now.
On a personal note, thank you to 35 Thousand for offering the space to share this personal, intimate experience and touch on these deeper emotions. If you, personally, struggle with anxiety, you’re not alone and there are tools that can really help. If you know of someone who is struggling, perhaps this article was insightful to you to understand what s/he is going through. Please do share with someone who could benefit from reading this. Together, we’re stronger, and empathy is a strength, never a weakness.“
Look out for Part 2 next week – How Sara maintains daily emotional wellbeing and prevents anxiety
Read about how Sara manages emotions with different yoga poses here
Notes on mental health
Confidential mental health helplines
US – SAMHSA (Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
If there’s one thing we’ve been frequently reminded about these last few months, it’s the importance of clean hands in minimising the spread of germs and keeping ourselves and those around us safe. But when there’s no running water and soap to be found – can hand sanitisers really step in and do the job without leaving our hands red and raw?
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (an American public health institute based in Atlanta), while soap and water remain the best way in which to guarantee germs have been properly eliminated from the surface of your skin, hand sanitisers can work too. In order to be a suitable substitute though, they need to contain ingredients with recognised pathogen killing capabilities and be used correctly. Unlike soaps – which are classified as detergents and will foam to help wash away microbes that could lead to infections – sanitisers are disinfectants. This means that although sanitisers can kill germs, they won’t actually remove them from your hands – which is why the right ingredients are so important in increasing your chances of destroying any disease carrying germs.
The most effective hand sanitisers should contain…
For most sanitisers on the market, the key agent is alcohol, although there are other options. As Nic Taylor, founder of skincare brand 47Skin, states, “Alcohol can dry out hands, leading to irritation or dermatitis”. Working for two years, his team developed Silver Spray, an alcohol-free sanitiser that can kill germs in the same way alcohol-based equivalents can. Launched just as Covid-19 became a global pandemic, the sanitiser was put through a series of verified lab tests, returning clinically proven results that it can wipe out microbes in just 60 seconds.
A “truly amazing” find, Nic credits the formula’s success to the brand’s patented blend of silver and Chitoderm, which work together to break down and destroy germs – without causing the skin to lose hydration. In fact, “Chitoderm has the added benefit of creating a lattice-like structure, supporting cells to naturally regenerate and protect the skin,” says Nic. This means Silver Spray “Sanitises whilst being kind to hands”, making it particularly great for those with sensitive or dry skin.
If going down the alcohol-based sanitiser route, there are some crucial ingredients to consider, so that your chosen product will safeguard against germs without stripping hands of moisture. To start with, formulas need to contain either ethanol or isopropyl (sometimes referred to as propanol or isopropanol, and commonly known as rubbing alcohol). Both types are regularly found in disinfectants because they are highly water soluble (improving penetration) and can successfully demolish the cell walls of microbes to protect against the spread of infection.
Of course, the percentage of alcohol found in sanitisers is equally important. Based on findings from various studies, the general consensus amongst healthcare professionals is that for sanitisers to succeed in killing germs, they need to contain between 60-90% alcohol. Concentrations which exceed 60% alcohol have been found to work quicker as well as eradicate a wider range of bacteria and viruses. Interestingly, the efficiency of alcohol appears to plateau at around 90%, which may in part be due to the reduced amount of water in the solution; this means finding the perfect balance is vital in maximising efficiency.
Although alcohol isn’t toxic, as noted by Nic and increasingly acknowledged within the skincare realm, it can be drying and may cause redness and inflammation, especially with repeated use. To combat this, always look out for sanitisers that contain soothing ingredients such as aloe vera or conditioning essential oils, which will help to both protect and nourish hands.
How to use hand sanitisers correctly
As with soap and water, it’s recommended that sanitisers are thoroughly worked into hands for around 20 seconds. Fingers and both palms need to be covered with the solution or gel and the product rubbed in until it’s been fully absorbed. Wiping off any residual sanitiser after application may reduce its effectiveness.
We have picked the following for their blend of bacteria-killing properties and hydrating formulas:
Subtle Energies Active Hand Sanitiser, £30/ 50ml
Subtle Energies was established on Ayurvedic principles and its Active hand sanitiser stays true to the brand’s holistic approach to wellbeing. Designed with 65% plant-based ethanol, which is kinder to skin than its chemical counterparts, the sanitiser is also enriched with essential oils like Kunzea, Tulasi, clove and black pepper. Known for their natural antibacterial and purifying benefits, they help make this a germ-killing sanitiser that won’t deprive hands of moisture.
Kloris No Rinse Hand Sanitiser, £30/ 200ml
A solid 60% alcohol content means the Kloris No Rinse hand sanitiser ticks the box for solutions that work, but thanks to added ingredients of aloe vera and 1000mg of CBD, using it won’t result in rough hands. Studies have confirmed that CBD strengthens the skin’s natural barriers while working with its receptors to reduce inflammation caused by harsh chemicals. Suffused with fresh bergamot for a calming scent, this will keep hands clean and soothed.
47Skin Silver Spray Hand Sanitiser Spray, £10.95/ 100ml
The alcohol-free Silver Spray from 47Skin defends against microbes without damaging skin. The brand’s unique combination of silver and Chitoderm is acclaimed for its conditioning properties and, even better, the sanitiser formulation has been found to generate an anti-bacterial, anti-viral film which can continue killing germs for hours. “Gentle on the skin and offering long-lasting protection,” Nic calls it a “double whammy of benefits”.
Margaret Dabbs Hand Cleansing Gel, £15/ 50ml
Fragranced with zesty mandarin and floral notes of geranium, the Margaret Dabbs’ Hand Cleansing Gel not only smells great, it also contains 65% alcohol, ensuring its success in destroying microbes. Other key ingredients in the antibacterial gel include hempseed oil – an anti-inflammatory that’s ideal for locking in hydration – and white water lily, which conditions and moisturises for softly cleansed hands.
Aesop Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash, £7/ 50ml
With a 58-62% alcohol-based formula, the Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash from Aesop is a good alternative for when you’re on-the-go and have no access to running water. The sanitiser is enhanced with rosemary and cedar atlas which help to calm irritated skin and mandarin (a natural antiseptic) that supports moisture retention. The result is a non-drying sanitiser with a pleasingly refreshing aroma.
How are you feeling right now? Anxious? Distressed? Sad? Lazy? Angry? Worried? Lonely? In this confusing, unprecedented Corona hurricane, many of us are experiencing emotions that we’ve never felt before in our lives, or have never felt them so intensely. These feelings can often overwhelm us, and if left unchecked can potentially spiral out of control especially if we are at home with little to distract us. However we can also take control and with a little guidance, we can help ourselves change the way we feel.
Mara Klemich is a Psychologist and Clinical Neuropsychologist and can help us to understand why we act the way we do. She is an expert in how our minds and hearts affect human behaviour and how to change for the better. Having worked within hospitals, within murder trials and leading trauma teams in natural disasters, she also brings neuroscience into the areas of leadership development, consulting, coaching and counselling, and as an executive coach, helps to develop leaders at CEO and senior executive level to bring about change both personally and professionally. Her recent book, which she has co-written with her husband Stephen (a Leadership and Culture Development Consultant,) ‘Above the Line – Living and leading with Heart’, is based on their model Heartstyles, a hugely successful indicator used by businesses that helps us to recognize the deep fundamental drivers of human behaviour (the indicator has been translated into 25 languages).
We spoke to Mara to find out how we can bring ourselves out of a negative emotional state. Here she gives us tips, both physiological (our brain and body) and psychological (our thoughts, emotions and behaviours) that can help all of us navigate these difficult times.
If you are feeling unfocussed
Strategy: Create physical spaces at home
With so many of us WFH at the moment, it’s inevitable that the lines can get blurred between home and work life. It’s easy to find yourself working from an armchair whilst watching the news for example, or even from bed in the mornings. However Mara says that it’s incredibly important to create places of work that gives us structure and certainty. “What’s happened is that we have been enclosed in a single space for quite a long time, and our neurological makeup doesn’t know what to do with that.”
Mara’s advice is to create a mental space for yourself by physically devoting an area to work. “The Coronavirus and its far-reaching effects has happened to us,” she says, “Which can leave us feeling out of control . It’s very important, as human beings, that we feel in control.”
She also suggests creating a ‘space’ for other areas of our lives, such as a place where you can exercise or keep your exercise equipment, “Creating spaces devoted to particular purposes can give us a sense of “different” places at home (like we’re normally used to when we have a free ability to get about.”
If you’re feeling worried
Strategy: Let go of trying to gain certainty (by worry) and try to gain clarity (by concern)
If Google search is anything to go by, searches for the word ‘anxiety’ globally are currently at an all time high. “Mentally,” says Mara, “We are pretty much in a constant state of uncertainty about every aspect of our lives right now.” Whether we are concerned about our wellbeing, our children’s schooling (or lack of it in some cases), financial security, our job, or our friends and family, this whirlpool of worry can hugely impact our sleep patterns and our mood.
“Uncertainty makes our brain search for answers,” explains Mara, “When we can’t find them, our minds will create scenarios going around and around trying to create a picture of certainty. That’s called worry.”
Of course, as we know, worrying doesn’t solve things. As long as we’re focusing on trying to solve questions with unknowable answers and circumstances outside of our personal control, this strategy will get us nowhere—apart from make us feel drained, anxious, and overwhelmed. Worry doesn’t actually change our circumstances. BUT it can change us, and not in a good way – it can spiral us into anxiety. This causes our brain’s usual blood flow in the frontal areas (where our mechanisms like insight, objectivity, analysis, logic are) to get pushed into the back part of the brain where our Fight/Flight areas are. This means that not only will our emotions be heightened by anxiety but our brain and body will also be on high alert. We will become psychologically and physiologically anxious, and will keep running scenarios around and around in our minds – trying to get certainty.” A bit like a hamster on a wheel, no matter how fast, or how hard it goes, it won’t get you anywhere.
So what is the solution? Mara says it’s very important to differentiate between worry and concern. Worry, she says, creates endless scenarios which are not normally grounded in facts, whilst concern allows us to be a little more objective. Concern, she explains, lets us discern facts and as a result, some good judgement to make decisions. Mara says that being concerned, can lead to a balanced assessment, whilst worry just leads to a messy vortex of anxiety. The more we can operate on facts instead of assumptions, the calmer we will be.
Problem: You are feeling anxious
Unless we can somehow manage our worries or fears then it can escalate into anxiety where you can feel a perpetual state of fear. Mara explains that anxiety is often not about what is happening to us in the present moment but more about things that may happen in the future. Fixating too much on these fears can send us into an anxiety spiral, which she says actually has a physical effect on our brains. She explains that it’s important to stay present, remember to breathe properly to re-oxygenate our brain blood flow back to those important parts right in the front of the brain, and to use mindfulness to help anchor us both physically and psychologically.’
Strategy 1 – Take low, slow breaths
A simple breathing technique can slow the heart rate and mitigate your body’s anxiety response. Mara says, ‘Sometimes the way we take deep breaths isn’t actually very helpful. If we take a really big breath in and then blow it out very fast, it can de-regulate our respiratory physiology. So instead take low and slow breaths, slowing down your breathing.”
Step 1 – Taking a normal size, comfortable breath in – as if you’re smelling a flower.
Step 2 – Then a long, slow complete exhale – as if you’re blowing out a candle.
If you’re feeling anxious or having a panic attack, Mara also has a helpful grounding technique to get out of your head and into your body using the five senses. Keep taking those breaths and:
- name one thing you can see
- one thing you can touch
- one thing you can hear
- one thing you can smell, and
- one thing you can taste
Strategy 2 – Disengage from your emotions
The problem with unwanted emotions such as anger, anxiety or feeling depressed is that they can often feel so powerful that we feel helpless in their wake. But don’t be fooled says Mara, “Be aware that you can infect yourself, or others, with negative emotions” she says. “You have the ability to control how you behave and what you think. That means disciplining ourselves to recognise when our emotions are negative and we’re getting into that fear, the negative spiral.”
“If your emotions are starting to go crazy,” she says, “The best thing we can do is give ourselves permission to disengage. You just interrupt the emotion/s immediately by moving from experiencing to observing it. Saying “Oh, that’s that uncomfortable feeling of…(name it if you know what it is)”. If you can’t name it, just say “My body is feeling uncomfortable”. Ask yourself: “What’s happening for me right now?” Allow yourself to get an answer. If you get “I don’t know”, then ask yourself “What if I did know? What would it be?”
The aim is to get yourself out of feeling the emotion, to observing the emotion. Then the brain will calm down physically and psychologically.
If you are feeling lonely
For many people, their newfound working from home life may not be the idyllic set-up that they had imagined, especially for those that are naturally quiet. Mara explains that whilst these people not may not be gregarious in character, it may be important for them to feel part of a friendly environment, whether that be through their work or their friends. Some people quietly thrive in an office environment so it may be particularly difficult at this time as they may descend into loneliness. “You may not know what you want or need until you don’t have it any more,” says Mara, “This could descend into helplessness, anger, anxiety and loneliness .” If this is you, you tend to be a ‘glass half emply’ person, then Mara has the following advice:
Strategy 1: Connect with others – getting support and giving support
“Don’t underestimate the need for human contact,” says Mara, “I think the most important thing is to reach out to people,” she says. “Connecting with others – either people you’re already with or virtually – can help, even if it’s just for ten minutes. Talking to other people can you help you to focus attention away from yourself and the social connection will make you feel re-energised.”
It is also worth remembering that we are all in this together she explains, “Even though there are a lot of very different circumstances for people, we are a community – “common unity” – all trying our best to navigate these untravelled waters. Doing it together will bring us all to a better place in our lives for the future. Start that process now, and you’ll start to feel that sense of purpose.”
If you are feeling negative
With the unknown and devastating effects of the Coronavirus globally and its implications on our health, wealth and work life, it can be very hard for some people to see the positives. Its important, says Mara, to recognise your thoughts and behaviour because negativity is about as infectious and the Coronavirus.
Strategy 1: Reach out
Mara suggests acknowledging how you feel and reaching out to people that you trust because two heads are better than one. However she states that it’s important that you are careful who you reach out to. “If you are prone to being negative, you may need to find someone who is not going to get into any negative talk. You should look for someone who can bring a bit of joy and gratitude.”
Strategy 2: Practice gratitude or journaling
Mara explains that it’s important to practise gratitude for all the things in your life that allow you to be who you are, no matter how small they are. “Make yourself a gratitude jar or get a journal if you prefer. For the jar, get some lovely paper and make a note for each thing you’re grateful for every day. At the end of each week (or on those less than good days in the evenings), take out a handful of notes and read through them. Allow yourself to recall the information on that note. Feel those good emotions flow through you. Life is made up of so many moments, that may seem less-than-extraordinary, but which, when you appreciate them, are magical.”
Note: You can also do this for someone else who may be feeling low. Mara suggests putting down on some pieces of paper the things you love/appreciate about that person. Give them the folded little pieces of paper, so they can put them into a jar/bowl and take them out when they want to. Sometimes when you don’t feel so good about yourself, it can be lovely to see what someone else sees in you.
Hold on to your values – live your top three daily
When the world feels overwhelming and all you can see are immediate worries, thinking about your core values will help you to see the bigger picture. Mara suggests that you come up with your list of your core values, then pick your top three, “No matter how bad things around you seem,” she says, “Find the values that you can hold on to, and remind yourself every day that you’re going to behave in accordance with those three values, not in accordance with your level of anxiety/anger/frustration/fear today.”
Like a sunbeam through dark clouds it can serve as a brilliant reminder that there are blue skies beyond the storm. Always remember, ’This too shall pass.”
Find out more about Heartstyles here
If you ask anyone who does yoga if it benefits them emotionally and mentally as well as physically, I guarantee the answer will be a resounding ‘YES.’ As someone who has practised Vinyasa yoga for about 15 years, I find, personally, that it has the ability to help better my mood, stop the never-ending To-Do list in my head, it helps me focus, and (for want of sounding like a proper hippy), it makes me feel connected with myself.
35 Thousand Yoga expert, Sara Quiriconi, aka @livefreewarrior knows all too well the positive effects Yoga can have on our mental health. “About 17 years ago I was going through cancer treatment and one of my nurses suggested I try yoga to help with the anxiety I was dealing with,” she says. “I laughed her off and said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to my gym workouts and weights – it burns more calories.’ Naive, and stubborn, I had no idea that the real benefit of yoga had nothing to do, really, with the physicality of the movement, but in the mental gains.
Years later, I did start practicing yoga on a daily basis after being laid-off from my job in advertising and needing an exercise that was more affordable and accessible. I honestly started practicing yoga for the physical exercise, but stuck with it for the mental relief and reduction I noticed in my anxiety.”
SO How does yoga help our emotional state?
The effects of yoga on our emotional wellbeing aren’t just anecdotal – there are more and more scientific studies showing the positive ways that yoga can help with our mental health. According to the Harvard Health Publishing papers produced by the Harvard Medical School, research shows that yoga can modulate the stress response. “Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practises suggest they can reduce the impact of an exaggerated stress response,” they report. “By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration.The scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent.”
Another 2018 study from Brown university shown in the scientific journal PLOS One states that “When compared to Psychoeducation (e.g. cognitive behavioural studies), hatha yoga showed more reductions in depression.” It also states that there was a “More decrease in symptoms of depression compared to a control group at 6-months follow-up.”
SO Why Yoga now?
“In times of great stress,” says Sara Quiriconi, yoga can help with the mental stressors such as depression, fearfulness, feeling stuck, being lonely, as well as anger. From my own experience of feeling those stressors in other situations in my own life, I can relate that those emotions are based on elements outside of our own control — yet we react to them. Yoga (the syncing breathing with sequential movement), is part of my daily routine that keeps me balanced and able to deal with any stress that life throws my way.”
Her advice about emotions is this: “It’s important to note that all emotions are valid and it’s important to give yourself the space to feel them. Try not to judge whatever it is you’re experiencing, or feel bad about it. Just allow the emotion to surface, and have your toolset of yoga postures, breathing and self awareness to help defuse them.”
There is an increasing awareness today about energy in our bodies, and many yoga teachers believe that if you move that energy with different postures then we can potentially change our mood.
Here is Sara’s guide to the yoga Asanas that have helped her and her students in troubled times or in dealing with uncertainty. She suggests that if you are struggling with a particular emotion then choose the relevant postures from the below list and do all three. Alternatively, she says, repeat one of the postures three times, holding for a longer duration, say 60 seconds to 3 minutes each. Ensure you research each posture tomato sure you are doing it correctly. You can see many on Sara’s Live Free Warrior YouTube channel.
if you are feeling DEPRESSED…
“There’s a meditative element to yoga that promotes mindfulness, and helps to decrease depression and anxiety. Yoga and deep breathing have a mind-body connective element, stimulating a calm, soothing effect on the mind and body.”
• Forward Fold (Uttanassana)
“Going inward, this pose relieves stress on the back, neck and shoulders.”
• Bridge Pose (Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana)
“This pose strengthens the back muscles, relieving a tired back. It also helps you to relax, and be more at ease.”
• Cobra Pose ( Bhujangasana)
“A chest opening asana which expands the lungs, allowing the heart space to open. It has an overall rejuvenating affect on the body.”
If you are feeling FEARFUL…
“Fear is based in the future,” says Sara, “It’s about the unknown and the anxiety around what’s to come. We can plan, but what will actually occur is completely out of our control. Anxiety stems from fear, and the lack of control over the unknown. Yoga helps us to be more present, grounding us in the now, and taking our focus out of the not-yet-occured future.”
• Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
“An Asana that requires great focus, grounding and core strength to maintain, this posture keeps you rooted in the present moment.”
• Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
“Another standing balance pose, ‘Dancer’ opens up the chest and heart, helping you to feel brave when faced with the unknown of what lies ahead. At the same time it helps keep you grounded and balanced.”
• Crow Pose (Bakasana)
“While there are many variations of crow, any arm balance will require upper body strength, which is a process of building trust in yourself, and focus in the present in order to maintain the posture.”
If you are feeling STUCK…
“Getting unstuck can start physically,”explains Sara, “It then later may evolve to manifest itself metaphysically and mentally. When we are moving energy in the body with postures and breath, we may start off feeling a bit stiff — think, the ‘Tin Man.’ However, with time, effort and persistence, we begin to become more fluid in our movements, oiling the system.”
“So, when you feel stuck on an idea, not sure where to go in a project, or you’re dealing with a cancelled flight, or feel creatively blocked in a decision, stop, drop the mat, and get to a down dog and see where it takes you.”
Recommended postures (Sequence these poses together, flowing with the breath between the two):
• Upward Salute to Forward Fold (Urdhva Hastasana to Uttanasana)
“This helps you to stay grounded in the present while flowing with breath to rise and bow.”
• Reverse Warrior to Extended Side Angles (Viparita Virabhadrasana to Utthita Parsvakonasana)
“Engaging in core strength and flowing with breath between these two postures can help to unstick your side and upper body.”
• Downward Facing Dog to Plank (Adho Mukha Svanasana to Phalakasana)
“Moving from downward dog to plank on the inhale, and vice versa, this combination creates a strengthening and calming flow when sequenced together.”
If you are feeling LONELY…
“Humans are social creatures,” explains Sara, “We are designed to interact with others. Current times, or even busyness, can leave us feeling disconnected, and often, at times, alone. Even in today’s digital era, social media and emails are no substitute for real, human connection.
However, true connection isn’t an outside job — true connection starts from within. By connecting our own self, our mind, and our breath to our body, we’ll realize that we’re never truly alone. We are at one with ourselves.”
• Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
“Low enough to the ground, this backbend prevents you from closing off. Instead, it opens you up to the world above and outside of you.”
• Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
“Mirroring a superman (ahem, woman) pose, imagine this posture to increase your confidence while strengthening your upper back as a strong, flying leader of the pack.”
• Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddhakonasana)
“Placing your right hand on your belly, your left hand on your heart, inhale and exhale deeply, feeling the breath move through your body in your hands.”
If you are feeling ANGRY…
“Anger can be caused by a multitude of outside experiences,” says Sara, “What can be agreed on, unexpressed or stored anger can be dangerous to those around you (resentment) and to yourself (potentially manifesting into disease).
The combination of movement and breathing are the key to releasing anger. When you exhale, let it become a release of the negative emotion through breath. Allow the exhale to be as loud, agressive or “angered” as you need it to be — it’s just breath, after all. Use this process to move the anger out of you, so that it doesn’t get stored within the mind or your body.”
• Boat Pose (Navasana)
“Any core strengthener can help burn off some inner heat – the agni – from within. Option to keep knees bent to prevent rounding of the spine.”
• Fish Pose with Lion’s Breath (Matsyasana)
“From the back, fish pose helps to open the back and throat and surrender the head. Lion’s Breath (a deep, forceful exhale given through the mouth with the tongue sticking out) releases the inner fire.”
• Headstand (Sirsasana)
“Any variation or form of this posture can guide blood back to the brain and ease from the body, bringing a relaxing calm over one’s self.”
Follow Sara on Instagram here and check out here YouTube channel here
Never before has our immune system come under such scrutiny and never before are there so many unanswered questions regarding our health. How do we stay well? How do we prevent illness? Is it possible to boost our immune systems and if so how? Which supplements should we be taking? These all questions we would like to know right now.
According to immunologist Dr Jenna Macchiocchi, who is on a mission to demystify wellness and disease prevention, there is not one particular ingredient, superfood or supplement that will keep illness at bay. It is more a case of keeping our immune system in balance, “Our delicately balanced immunity is easily compromised by our accelerating pace of life, with its relentless stress, pollution, overconsuming and under-moving,” she says.
This is a view also taken by Margo Marrone, a pharmacist, homeopath and founder of The Organic Pharmacy (theorganicpharmacy.com) “Immunity, mood, energy and sleep are all interconnected,” she says, so it’s highly important we pay attention to all areas of our wellbeing in order to give us the best chance of warding off illness and bugs rather than just going hell-for-leather at the gym or being obsessed with celery juice for example.
Margo’s holistic approach towards wellbeing has always been about stripping things right back to basics and doing the essentials well. Her basic rules for optimum wellness are these: eat organic and seasonal food, 80% of which she recommends are plant-based and wholegrains; cook your food from scratch as much as you can; detox your body at least four times a year; exercise at least 5 days a week to suit your body type, whether that be through yoga, walking, running or cycling. And he doesn’t believe that wellness stops at the neck either and is a big advocate of being mindful about what and how you think, ‘Your thoughts carry energy ‘she warns.
In an ideal world we would all be getting the vital nutrients we need from our diet, but we all also know that this is difficult, especially during COVID-19 lockdown when perhaps not all the foods we need are readily available. It is worth remembering however when you are searching through the thousands of supplements available online, that not all supplements are created equal. Margo’s rules are that they should be plant-based and organic wherever possible because your body is able to absorb them better. “The only exceptions,” she says, “Are the minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium and sometimes Vitamin C for higher does.”
And how do we know what we need to take? Surely we can’t take every supplement we are recommended? “The key is to be in tune with your body , the problems you may have and your lifestyle,” she says, “And to adjust accordingly.” However if you are in doubt she recommends talking to the team of pharmacists and homeopaths within The Organic Pharmacy stores who all offer complimentary advice.
There are however some basic supplements, teas and tinctures that Margo feels we all need in order to keep our systems in healthy balance. We spoke to her during lockdown to find out her essential supplements that address sleep, mood, energy levels, and immunity.
SLEEP AND MOOD
Sleeplessness was at an all-time high even before COVID-19 hit the world, however according to a national sleep survey by the The Sleep Council in the UK, close to half the respondents (43%) are finding it harder to fall asleep due to unease about the situation. COVID-19 is affecting sleep for three 75%, and alarmingly, 77% say that lack of sleep is affecting their ability to function in the day.
And it’s not just the way we behave that’s affected – according to a recent article on Arianna Huffington’s website Thriveglobal.com, getting good sleep is one of the few proven strategies to boost immune systems. Margo too places good quality sleep at the top of her wellbeing agenda. “I feel that as long as we have a good night’s sleep everything else is so much better,” she says. “There is now an abundance of scientific proof that sleep enhances the immune system, confirming the old wisdom that you heal whilst you slumber. In fact the science shows that many of our infection and cancer fighting cells peak whilst we sleep,” she explains. And that’s not even taking into account our energy levels or our mood.
To give yourself a better chance of reaching REM, Margo’s top recommendation is a basic cup of warm chamomile tea before bed. “Creating a bed time ritual can be very therapeutic,” she says “Chamomile is one of nature’s greatest sleep aids. Not only does it reduce inflammation (so also great for hay fever) but also it’s great for relieving anxiety.
Half an hour before bed prepare your tea and start to unwind and relax. As you sip it, do whatever you find most relaxing (reading, listening to music, a meditation post) and just let the chamomile do its magic.” We highly recommend Taylor’s of Comforting Chamomile by Yogi tea, $8 which has great purity and flavour.
if you struggle with sleeping and staying asleep Margo also recommends taking Magnesium, which she says is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’. “Magnesium helps regulate the sleep hormone melatonin and binds to special receptors in the brain to help the body and mind relax. It also helps prevent cramps,” she says. Margo puts Epsom salts in her bath which are naturally high in Magnesium “Soaking in a warm bath for 20 minutes is a great way to absorb the magnesium,” she says. “It does dry out the skin so I like to add a bath oil to this and my oil of choice is The Organic Pharmacy, Jasmine Bath Oil, $49.70. Jasmine itself is high in the molecule called Indole which helps send you to sleep without any drowsiness.”
Of course taking a Magnesium supplement also works so if you opt for this option take 500mg an hour before bed.” We are big fans of Wild Nutrition’s Food-Grown Magnesium $20.31 which is the same type of magnesium found in food so will benefit you in the same way as food sources (and they ship globally).
Energy and Immunity
There are many factors that help to improve energy levels and immunity including a good night’s sleep (see above), less stress, exercise and fresh, nourishing food. However there are also a few supplements that we could all potentially benefit from, especially now.
“Vitamin C is known as the energy molecule,” says Margo, “1000mg each morning is the very basic that I would recommend.” Dr Macciocchi also says that Vitamin C can be effective at helping you to recover when you get sick. Right now, Margo recommends Vitamin C with Beta Carotene which helps keep all the mucous membranes healthy such as the throat, lungs, nose, sinuses and gut. The recommended daily dosage of Beta Carotene is 15 mg per day. We recommend Wild Nutrition’s Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids, $26 which is taken from citrus pulp and contains no artificial flavourings or ingredients.
“Herbs are also excellent to keep our systems in balance and boost energy levels,” says Margo. In particular she recommends Rhodiola, Astragalus and Holy Basil which are three that really help reduce stress (stress also reduces the immune system, causes anxiety and sleeplessness). Margo made a homeopathic remedy with all the above remedies for The Organic Pharmacy called The Super Tonic, $21 which is described on the website as “Dedicated for all superwomen (and men), designed to support the immune system, the nervous system and the adrenal glands all in one.” It also contains Cats Claw (not, btw, the nail taken from a cat’s paw, it’s a plant which Margo says has anti-viral properties) and Elderberry which help boost the immune system too.
Dr Macciocchi is a big advocate of Vitamin D as is Margo who says she’s been advocating taking it as essential for the immune system for many years. Classically known for bone health, Margo explains that Vitamin D goes far beyond that. “A vitamin D receptor is actually expressed on the immune cells, so a deficiency increases our susceptability to infection. Since the majority of the population globally are D deficient, supplementation is important for a healthy immune system and it also has been shown to alleviate depression and regulate mood,” she says. It is important however to take Vitamin D3 which Dr Macchiocchi says is the most bioavailable to us (ie we absorb it better). Margo explains, “D3 is one step closer to the Vitamin D we need. D2 needs to be converted to D3 by the body, so it’s missing this step.” Try Vitamin D3 from Life Extension, $9.75.
St John’s Wort and Lemon Balm
Margo explains that low mood can potentially impact our immune system because she believes that negativity or anger carry bad energy. If you suffer from low mood she suggests St John’s Wort Tincture, $15, although you need to be careful combining St John’s Wort with some other medicines. Margo recommends checking here before taking.
She is also a big fan of Lemon Balm (which she says is best taken as a tea or tincture) which is also anti-viral and mood boosting, “it’s a great one’ she says. We love Herb Pharm Certified Organic Lemon Balm Liquid Extract $15.37
The Organic Pharmacy deliver Globally – Theorganicpharmacy.com
How to boost your immune system and keep it fighting fit, by Ayesha Muttucumaru
Staying healthy has never been more of a concern than it is right now. We’re all (hopefully) staying socially alert and following the government guidelines to protect the vulnerable. However, what more can we do to improve our health both now and in a post-lockdown future when the stresses of modern life threaten to deplete our defences?
A multi-pronged approach is needed, from exercise to de-stressing techniques and gut health-boosting foods, to support our immune system and give us the best chance of not getting run down and catching illnesses.
Here are our expert tips.
1. Keep moving
During lockdown it may have been tempting to just sit on the sofa and binge box sets. Don’t get us wrong, sometimes that’s just what’s needed, however, your body’s ability to fight off illness might suffer as a result. Making movement a daily priority plays a vital role in keeping our defences strong. What’s more, it also encourages us to get into a routine which experts agree can help boost mental health, should you still be self-isolating.
Regularity is key rather than intensity – even walking can be beneficial, says immunologist and author of Immunity: The Science of Staying Well by Dr Jenna Macciochi. This is because lymph (the fluid that contains white blood cells) relies on the movement of muscles to move around the body. White blood cells have an array of tasks, including a ‘surveillance function’ to detect anything harmful and help the body to repair itself post illness.
Doing exercises that maintain muscle mass is also important as it helps support the thymus gland, the organ responsible for releasing an important type of lymphocyte called T-cells. However, because muscle mass starts to decrease as early as in our 20s, immunity declines also. “Keeping muscles moving and looking after our muscle mass keeps the gland young,” says Dr Macciochi. So, as well as cardio, look to incorporate some kind of resistance training into your weekly regime too.
If you’re unable to get to the gym still, there’s an impressive selection of home workouts on YouTube to choose from – check out Popsugar Fitness for boxing, The Body Coach TV for HIIT, Yoga with Adriene for a workout for body and mind and The Fitness Marshall whose dance workouts are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
2. Avoid overtraining
Be wary of over-exercising though, Dr Macciochi warns. Combined with a full-on workload, commuting and the demands of a busy job, it can lead to an increase in levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which has an immunosuppressant effect. Overdoing HIIT workouts without allowing for adequate recovery is a situation that Dr Macciochi often sees with her patients.
The optimal amount of recovery time differs from person to person and depends on a number of factors such as age, sleep, fitness levels and how stressed you are generally. So it’s important to tune into your body, start slow if you’re new or returning to exercise and seek to vary your modes of daily movement – a mixture of high and low intensity exercise that balances regularity with recovery is the ideal scenario.
3. Protect against chronic stress
There’s a reason for why when we’re burning the candle at both ends and we’re more susceptible to catching an infection. It comes back to how stress elevates levels of cortisol which, if constantly raised, can cause the body to be in a state of chronic stress and lead to constant suppression of the immune system.
In addition to exercise, incorporating a meditation practice into your day and trying breathing techniques are effective ways of better managing stress levels in our experience. Download the Calm app for a range of guided meditations, relaxation playlists and nature sounds to help bring a moment of peace into your day.
That being said though, a cultural change is needed if we’re to see a long-term difference to stress levels on a global scale. “We need to cultivate work environments where we make it okay not to be working 100 per cent of the time,” Dr Macciochi says. “Work days are no longer 9 to 5 – emails are easier than ever to access on our phones. Work can be 24/7 if we let it.” Trying to set strict boundaries between work and life is a good starting point and recalibrating your phone settings to reduce the inundation of news and coronavirus updates you’re receiving. If that means switching off your WIFI, muting your email and Twitter alerts or leaving your phone in another room, find what works for you to make your relationship with tech a healthier one.
4. Prioritise sleep
We’re all aware of the short-term effects of a bad night’s sleep – a lack of focus, tiredness, being more irritable than usual – and getting enough shut-eye has been a problem for many during COVID-19. However long-term, it could have far-reaching effects on our mental and physical health. In fact, Dr Macciochi tells us that a lack of sleep can lower our immune system by a staggering 60 per cent. “Sleep is fortifying for the immune system which has evolved with us being active in the daytime and being inactive at night,” she says. “At night, sleep supports the immune system in fighting infection, and in helping the body heal and repair.”
The NHS in the UK states that most adults need between six and nine hours sleep per night however, as well as focussing on the quantity of sleep that you’re having, it’s also important to focus on the quality. Dr Macciochi explains that while there hasn’t been a lot of research in this area, what we do know is that we need both REM and non-REM sleep. REM sleep is the deeper type of sleep, believed to benefit memory, mood and learning.
In order to boost your REM sleep, Dr Macciochi advises implementing a daily wind down routine that supports the body’s production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, and reduces levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. “If you’re watching too many things that are stimulating or exposing yourself to blue light too close to when you’re going to go to sleep, these will keep you awake and supress melatonin levels. Strenuous exercise in the evening can inhibit this too.”
5. Go gently with jet lag
Whilst we may not be travelling right now, this is something to consider for when we do start again. If your slumber stumbling block is jet lag, unfortunately overcoming it will be even trickier. This is because, as Dr Macciochi points out, our biology wasn’t designed to travel through multiple time zones in such a short space of time.
Jet lag can wreak havoc with our circadian rhythm (the internal clock that controls our sleep/wake cycle), affecting the quality of our sleep and making us more prone to infection. Unfortunately, there’s no fast fix for recalibrating it. “You cannot reset your circadian rhythm but only reset it gradually, estimated to be one hour per day based on exposure to light,” explains Dr Macciochi. She advises easing yourself into your new time zone gradually and not depriving yourself of sleep if you need it, getting lots of natural light exposure during the daytime and limiting coffee close to your new bedtime. “Blue light blocking glasses may help with falling asleep at night,” she adds.
6. Get Fresh
Aim for between five and eight servings a day. Diversity is key.
Registered nutritionist Daniel O’Shaughnessy highlights the following as being particularly health-boosting:
Garlic, which contains a sulphur-containing compound called allicin that helps support the immune system.
Red bell peppers and citrus fruits due to their vitamin C content. This helps increase numbers of infection-fighting white blood cells.
Turmeric as its active ingredient is curcumin, a well-researched immune-supportive food.
Ginger has an anti-inflammatory effect due to compounds called gingerols, shogaols and paradols.
Green tea as it contains EGCG, a powerful antioxidant.
Shellfish which is rich in zinc to support immune cells.
Shitake mushrooms due to their beta glucan content which helps immune function.
Valuable food for thought, but be careful not to get obsessed with healthy eating. “Pleasure from food is also important – if you’re abroad and want to enjoy yourself and sample some of the local cuisine, do it,” says Dr Macciochi.
7. Go with your gut
The microbiome in our gut is one of the biggest educators of our immune system. What most people don’t know though is that much of it is shaped in early life – factors such as where and when we were born, whether we were breastfed and what we were exposed to as a child play key roles. As a result of this, our microbiome is actually quite fixed. That being said though, Dr Macciochi tells us that it can still be influenced to a degree by diet later on in life.
To help your gut flora flourish, she recommends eating a diverse diet rich in plant-focussed and fibre-rich foods in order to cultivate a diverse microbiome. ‘Good’ microbes convert fibre into health-promoting substances, which in turn help reduce infection and inflammation. She advises eating lots of fruit (for example, berries), vegetables, beans, legumes, herbs and spices. However, when adding these types of foods to your diet , take it slowly and don’t suddenly incorporate large quantities at once. If you’re not used it, it might prove a little too much for the body to handle.
Is it worth taking a probiotic supplement too? In Dr Macciochi’s opinion, it could help those with digestive complaints and for avoiding ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ when an abundance of different foods (and the different strains of bacteria that can be found on them) can disturb the status quo of your microbiome. However otherwise, it’s best to go with a food first approach. “As we don’t know what strains of bacteria people have in their guts, we can’t be sure of which probiotics to recommend,” she says. “Rather than focussing on specific strains, it’s more important to consider how the different bacteria work together collectively.” This is best supported through eating a range of different foods.
8. Be smart with supplements
That being said, there are certain supplements that are worth taking to support your immune system in times of stress and illness. “Vitamin D should be supplemented for those who live in the UK,” says Dr Macciochi. This is especially important between October and early March as we don’t get enough from sunlight. Furthermore, it’s difficult to get from just food too.
Look for a supplement that contains vitamin D3 as it’s a form that our bodies are able to process better than others. Try: Daniel recommends Nutri Vitamin D3 Drops, $14.22.
A vitamin C supplement is also worth taking. Daniel recommends taking 500mg to 1000mg per day which should be enough for reducing cold severity and duration. Try: Cytoplan Vitamin C + Bioflavanoids, $17.93
Selenium can help support the immune system, but as it can be hard to get through diet, is also worth seeking out in supplements. Zinc can be useful when fighting infection and has been shown to reduce duration (although more evidence is needed in this area). Try: Cytoplan Immunovite Beta 1-3 1-6 Glucan, $17.31, which contains vitamin C, selenium and zinc.
Echinacea could also be worth supplementing as it can help increase white blood cells, says Daniel. Try: A. Vogel Echinacea Drops, $5.56.
He also highlights elderberry as it contains antiviral properties and can help upper respiratory infections.
Try: Invivo ImmunoBerry Liquid Food Supplement, $64.23, which contains elderberry and shitake among other compounds that help support immune function.
9. Stay hydrated
Drink lots of water to keep cells hydrated and your lymph flowing, giving you the best chance of fighting infections and more able to flush toxins, germs and harmful substances from your body.
Dr Macciochi also points out that staying hydrated helps keep the mucus in our nose and respiratory tract and saliva in our mouth at the proper consistency. Think of these moisture barriers as one of the first lines of defence against microbes. For instance, saliva contains elements that restrict microbial growth, while mucus helps provide a physical wall against pathogens. The NHS recommends drinking between six to eight glasses (around 1.2 litres) of water or other fluids a day however, if you’re travelling to hotter climates, you might need more.
Until someone invents a pair of leggings that can successfully house a phone, a snack, some keys and a credit card , we are using a training fit belt.
We still find it baffling as to why leggings brands don’t create a pocket that you can actually fit a phone in, a credit card, and perhaps a snack and some keys. Obviously we don’t want to don’t want to rattle if we leave our hotel room to go for a run, but what do we do with our essentials if we are travelling alone or have no one to let us back into our hotel room? Or perhaps we are at work and head out for a run at lunchtime but need to buy lunch on the way back? At times we have been known to keep our phones and keys in our sports bras (and men their socks) which is hardly conducive to an enjoyable exercise experience is it?
However there is a solution out there – the ‘fit belt’ or ‘training belt’ as we like to call it. This is a rather unassuming stretch jersey band that fits around your waist which you can squeeze anything you like in. Flatter and more discreet than a bum bag they can also be used generally when travelling or getting around to store epi pens, or to carry money, credit cards or even passports if big enough.
These are our favourite fit belt brands:
Nathan Unisex Sports The Hipster, $35.84
This low-profile hipster fit belt is made of soft stretch jersey that you step into and it fits snugly around your waist. With multiple pockets all the way round, it fits most smartphones, and the individually separated pockets keep your essentials in place. Super discreet it lies flat on the body and therefore could even be worn under your leggings if you found yourself in an area where you need to be extra cautious.
Flip belt Classic Premium Running Belt, $34.62
The Flipbelt has quite a following, for good reason. A very simple, minimalist design, it is made of machine-washable Spandex/ Lycra, and has an internal pocket system which is accessible from the four openings around the belt’s exterior. Here you can tuck in your phone, headphones, snacks, keys and then when you flip the belt over, they are all locked in. There are no clasps or buttons, you pull it on like a pair of knickers, and it doesn’t bounce when you do.
The Flo Fitness Utility Waist Belt, $27.19
The Flo fitness belt is slightly different from the ones above because it has a Velcro strap at the back for tightening around your waist. With two quick access point at the front, one pocket is big enough (9”) to hold even the biggest phone or even a passport, whilst the other smaller pocket contains a small clip which you can attach rings or jewellery to. The Velcro at the back also ensures a non-slip experience even throughout the toughest HIIT class.
Yoga can benefit us both mentally and physically when travelling. Our new columnist, yoga teacher Sara Quiriconi (aka @livefreewarrior) gives her complete guide to the ways in which yoga can counteract the effects of flying.
Firstly, let’s talk about plane seats and posture. When we’re seated for long periods of time in the same, small, cramped position, our muscles get tight, short and lose their flexibility. We need this flexibility in order to stay healthy and mobile in our daily lives and normal movement, and in order to prevent injury and increase our longevity. Combined with dehydration in the air, being sedentary for so long sets us up for injury, low energy and poor performance when we land. However, moving our bodies in stretches gets the energy and fluids moving more effectively throughout your body, reopening those tight, still muscles once again.
Say yes to post-flight Yoga
For long haul flights, jumping time zones throws off our natural circadian rhythms, or, our internal clocks. When we stretch, do yoga, breathe and move in sync, this can help us reconnect to our bodies and our natural cycles again. If you’re looking to wind down when you reach your destination and you can find a practice, it will help you to sleep better, and calm your nerves. Alternatively, if you’ve just landed and need a boost of energy, I would recommend having a video sequence ready to go that will revive you.
When travelling I would recommend staying away from heated yoga, or Bikram. You’re already dehydrated from your flight and it’s better to recoup and keep those liquids in your body to balance and restore your system. If you’re incredibly low on energy, check in with your body first to discover what it really needs to feel good again. Maybe opt for a 60 minute flow rather than the 90-minute power vinyasa. Yoga is about self-awareness and connecting your mind and body, not over working it.
In addition to doing yoga, every hour you’re flying, drink a glass of water. This will help to counter the dehydration you experience from dry, circulated air in planes.
While you don’t necessarily need a yoga mat in order to practice when you travel, it can become very handy for an airport floor or local studio and you know it’s relatively clean.
If you’re seeking a travel mat that does it all, I highly recommend you invest in the Manduka Pro Travel Yoga Mat $71.71. This mat is foldable to fit in your carry-on and grippy enough to hold you in a downward facing dog. Weight tops in at a light 1.1 kg but it still has a 2.5 mm thickness to protect your knees in a lunge.
Here are five Yoga postures to do post flight that can help you feel vaguely normal again.
Downward Facing Dog
This pose helps to extend your spine after a cramped flight and improves posture in the upper back (your thoracic spine). Simultaneously, downward facing dog awakens and stretches the entire back side of your body, including the hamstrings which may have become tight having been so sedentary for so long.
Placing your hands shoulder’s distance apart on your mat, making an upside-down “V” with your body, and add a slight bend in your knees if it helps to lengthen your entire spine. Focus on extending your spine, and pedal the legs out one side at a time , synchronizing with your breath.
Lunges are a backbend, and help to open up the hip flexors, which lie at the front of our legs, connecting to our hip joints. These muscles, the hip flexors, become very short and tight from being seated for long hours. In addition, as mentioned earlier in this article, our upper backs suffer from the poor posture in airplanes. Lunges help to counter both of those problem areas.
Step your right foot forward, placing the knee over the ankle. Lower the left knee down gently to the floor. Reach your arms up overhead, lifting the chest bone higher towards the ceiling with each inhale. Gaze directly out in front of you, or slightly up if it feels OK on your cervical spine. Breathe, 5-10 breaths, then, switch legs and repeat.
Happy Baby Pose
Happy baby opens up your inner hips and releases your spine back to its natural positioning. In addition, it’s a playful and relaxing pose, so it can bring a smile if you find yourself feeling stressed by travelling or when you really need that emotional release.
Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your shoulders and head relaxed and connected to the ground beneath you. Place your hands to the back of your legs or, grab the soles of your feet with your hands so that your feet are directly above you. Rock, gently, back and forth, releasing the inner hips. Keep your feet flexed, which stretches your calves simultaneously.
Reclining Hamstring stretch
The main focus is our hamstrings in this posture, which get cramped and tight from being shortened when we sit in a bent knee position. Stretching your hamstrings and calves is crucial for circulation in the ankles and legs, which get severely compromised with air travel.
Lie on your back place the soles of both feet towards the floor with knees bent. One leg at a time, grab the back of the right quad while extending the right foot towards the sky. Depending on your flexibility, you may be able to extend your leg all the way, or if you are very bendy you could grab the sole of your foot with your hands.
The important aspect here is to keep the spine and head connected to the mat, without straining the neck, and stretching the hamstring. Hold and breathe for 5-10 breaths, then switch sides. If you are flexible, stretch the bottom leg out along the floor instead of keeping it bent.
Reclining Spinal Twist
Neutralizing the spine with twisting is a beautiful follow up to the reclining hamstring stretch. Twists can help to reset the spine and realign, releasing all of the muscles that run up and down the support of our spinal column.
Lie down and extend both legs out in front of you. Draw your right knee in towards your chest, take an inhale, and on the exhale bring your knee across your body to the left side. The knee does not have to touch the floor, but it is important to keep the shoulders connected to the mat. Extend your right arm towards the right side, and look up or over towards the right fingertips with your gaze. Breathe, 5-10 breathes, then switch sides.
Follow Sara @livefreewarrior
The more we speak to women who have travelled for work, the more we hear tales of unexpected and often frightening events on the road, from credit card fraud to theft, and worse. We spoke to Simon Rowland, CEO of Veritas International (who offer security services to families and businesses) for his top ten solo travel safety tips for home and away.
We’re not into scaremongering, but as they say, forewarned is forearmed…
1. It’s all about preparation
Unless you’ve had a bad experience personally or you visit dangerous areas or countries frequently, you may not think twice about personal safety. However according to Rowland, self-protection is all about preparation. Before you head off on a trip, he suggests that you always prepare by taking ten minutes to ask yourself how you are going to deal different situations. “It’s about how you are going to deal with potential scenarios or how to limit your exposure to them,” he says. “It’s all about asking yourself the ‘What-ifs’,” he says, “Thinking things through and finding a solution, so that you’ll be streets ahead of everyone else.”
Rowland also stresses that gender equality is not necessarily universal, and many cultures don’t share the same beliefs. “I would say adopt a sceptical approach to everything,” he says.
2. How to guard against a power cut
If you’ve ever been in a hotel in a power cut, you’ll know scary it is. Depending on their star rating, some hotels may have safety lights, but it’s best to be prepared just in case. Rowland says, first off, always look as to where the safety escape is. He says it also pays to work out how many doors down the corridor your room is until you find the escape stairwell.
Other advice? Always charge your phone in case you need to use it in the night, and we suggest making an exception to the rule of not having your phone by your bed. If we’re away from home we find comfort in having it right next to our pillow.
3. Prime your phone
Depending on which country you’re visiting (it’s vastly different if you’re going to an underdeveloped country), Rowland advises you put the most important numbers on the speed dial in your phone. He also suggests adding in the number for the consulate or embassy, the country’s emergency number if they have one, a trusted contact in the country you are visiting and the number of a loved one. Make sure you know how to access speed dial if it’s not something you use regularly on your phone. His other suggestion is to make sure that ‘findmyiphone’ is switched on at all times.
One of Rowland’s suggestions is to use an app called Life360 which his company use with their clients. The app can accurately track where colleagues or family are. It also has a panic button that will alert others in your ‘circle’ if you are in trouble.
4. Taxi talk
We all know the importance of getting into a registered taxi, but Rowland says, it’s also very important that you don’t share a taxi with anyone you don’t know. He says your gut instinct is very important (trust it) so if you do find yourself in a taxi with bad vibes, Rowland suggests sitting directly behind the driver where they can’t reach you and where you can make an easier getaway. If you are staying at a hotel, he also suggests always getting your hotel to book you a taxi rather than hailing one off the street.
5. Choose your hotel wisely
If your work are serious about looking after their employees, you should tell them that for safety reasons they need to put you up in a better standard of hotel. According to Rowland, the higher the hotel’s star, the more secure it will be, “Without a doubt, a higher standard of hotel will take security more seriously wherever you are in the world” he says.
6. Leave valuables at home
If an airline has ever misplaced your luggage and it contained valuable clothes or jewellery, you will understand the importance of not travelling with pieces that mean the world to you. Rowland concurs that in most hotels the duty manager can get into your safe, which may make you think twice about bringing valuables with you.
When it comes to your passport, it’s advisable to take a photo or photocopy of the important pages, and to store them elsewhere so you can take them straight to the embassy if lost or stolen.
7. Pocketing money
Whilst most of us carry payment cards, it’s wise to carry some cash in case your card fails or it gets blocked abroad. But where should we keep cash that won’t get pick-pocketed or stolen? Rowland suggests keeping it in a discreet money belt, or a hidden compartment in a bag or purse. “It’s important to keep your ‘obvious pockets’ free so people can’t find anything,” he advises. We recommend using a Flip Belt which is reviewed here.
And if you find yourself in an area that makes you feel uncomfortable, Rowland actually suggests keeping ‘Muggers money’ on you,“Some cash that you have in a prearranged pocket that you could hand over if you had to. Something like the equivalent of £150 will normally be an incentive for a mugger to leave you alone” he says.
8. Trust your intuition
There is nothing like gut instinct to tell you that a situation isn’t right. We are firm believers that we all have a sixth sense that picks up on tiny details or bad energy and sends alarm signals when something feels wrong. “Even though you can’t put your finger on it,” says Rowland, “You should always trust it .”
9. Don’t pick your room at random
Rowland is a big advocate of choosing where you want your room and not allowing the hotel to book you in anywhere. If you’re unsure about the area you’re staying in then he suggests that you don’t book a room on the ground floor to avoid potential theft. Our founder Misty also recommends that you never book a hotel room higher than the 5th floor in case there was a fire and the ladders can’t reach any higher.
And if you really like to feel really secure in your room, or your door doesn’t have a lock, then Simon suggests travelling with a lightweight plastic door stop to put on the inside of your hotel room door (available on Amazon).
10. Guard your cards
It goes without saying that it’s important to keep your credit cards safe, but Rowland says it’s important to keep them in your sights at all times. Card thieves don’t need to actually swipe your cards or take it away nowadays, “Many now use a card reader,” says Rowland, “They just need to place the card on top of it to steal all your details. If it’s covered up with a piece of paper, then you won’t even know they’ve done it.” He recommends you never, under any circumstances allow anyone to walk off with your card and if you go to a petrol station, pay at the pump if you can.
Rowland highly recommends travelling with a card protector in your wallet which will protect against RFID (radio frequency identification) and make ‘skimming, ’ as it’s known, impossible. He suggests slimwalletjunkie.com.
Main image by Annelisa Burro
The therapeutic powers of essential oils on our physical and emotional wellbeing are well documented. In simple terms, Aromatherapy means ‘Treatment by aromas.’ Consisting of essential oils, they work by passing through our olfactory system which is linked to the limbic system of our brains, the area that controls survival instincts and emotions. Scent has become particularly important in these troubled times and almost acts like a sensorial balm to our senses.
With essential oils consisting of very small molecules that can pass into our bloodstream either by inhalation or topical use, different oils are said to have different benefits. Lavender oil, for example, is well-known for helping reduce stress and inducing sleep (it is a sign of the times that lavender-based beauty products have increased by an astronomical 552% from January-April in 2019 according to a study by the NPD group, it would be interesting to see the difference now during COVID-19.) Frankincense also has potential nerve-relaxing properties and rose is anti-inflammatory, which is soothing for skin and senses and also is said to balance out our hormones.
Whilst brands used to focus on bath oils and body products, they are now focussing on travel-size tinctures and roll-ons that you can keep in your pocket when working from home or stash in your handbag and pull out when you’re stressed at the traffic lights. Here are some of our favourites for different therapeutic uses – we have chosen the them because of their efficacy, potency and purity, all of which is incredibly important.
For the over-tired
The Anatome Essential Oil Elixir Energy and Strength, $27.11, is a blend you can use during exercise, but we also love it for boosting our body and brain when we’re tired or jetlagged. Blended with May Chang and Lemon, both used in aromatherapy to awaken the senses, it will brighten and focus your mood minus the coffee jitters.
For inner peace and confidence
The Ilapothecary Speak your Truth Roller, $38.92 is a rich, feminine scent which combines the Mothers of Aromatherapy – Rose for soothing and loving, and Sandalwood for light and joy. Together they should make you feel more centred and instil a deep inner peace. Perfect for gathering your thoughts pre Zoom calls.
For all your emotions
Our feelings shift all the time, which is why we love the Feelings Gift Set, $152.00, from amazing plant oil skincare brand Votary. It consists of 3 beautifully scented rollerball oils named Detach, Desire and Drift. The first is fresh, grassy and vibrant with rosemary and thyme, the second contains orange, rose and almond oil to help you feel reconnected and renewed, and the third contains lavender, Chamomile and English Rose if you feel in need of unwinding.
For emotional protection
Altitude Oil, $37.09 De Mamiel, has become a beauty editor’s cult favourite and was created by aromatherapist and founder Annee de Mamiel to help ward off bugs and help her feel clearer when she travelled. With Peppermint and Lemon Myrtle to provide a powerful lift, Pine and Eucalyptus to help clear a fuzzy head, and Patchouli to help you feel grounded, it’s one powerful SOS product for any occasion you want to feel more together.
For the stressed out
Tata Harper’s products are well known for their use of high quality botanicals and dreamy scents. Her ‘aromatherapeutic’ Aromatic Irritability Treatment, $62.49 is a calming scent that eases an irritated spirit and helps dissipate negative feelings. Containing Meadowsweet, Lemon, Borage and Calendula flowers, her advice is to spray it onto hands or wrists, to inhale deeply and feel your shoulders drop.
For the terrified flier
Ginger Flight Therapy, $37.08 from Aesop is a pulse-point roll-on enhanced with Ginger Root, Lavender and Geranium. Soothing, but bolstering and confidence boosting it will assist and calm the flight phobic but can also be used generally in life when you feel nauseous, stressed or weary.
For calming your nerves
Inner Light Calm Balm by Therapie by aromatherapist Michelle Roques O’Neil, $46.98 is a soulful, fragrant solid perfume that will cocoon and sooth frayed nerves in a spirit lifting scent. Containing Sweet Marjoram to promote happiness, Neroli to dismiss negativity, Sandalwood for grounding, and Bergamot for positivity it will calm and resettle feelings of unease or nervousness.
For when you are ill
Whether you are ill or feel you are coming down with something, the Support Roller Ball, $22.26 from Aromatherapy Associates will provide relief. With Pine, tea Tree and Eucalyptus, it will ease breathing whilst refreshing and sharpening the senses.
For working from home
We are very much in love with the Neom Organics Wellbeing Pod, from $123.64. This beautifully designed aromatherapy diffuser will fill the hair in your home or office with incredible essential oils. Choose from different oils for different moods: scents to Sleep, make you Happy, Destress, or Calm & Relax.
For difficult times
The Inner Strength oil by Aromatherapy Associates was created and explained to me by Geraldine Howard, the founder of Aromatherapy Associates who sadly passed away a few years ago. Created as she was going through cancer treatment, it is described as a ‘Coping mechanism in a bottle’. With anxiety-reducing Clary Sage, Sandalwood for grounding and Geranium to balance scattered emotions, it is both comforting and reassuring. The roller ball version is $22.26.
For a mood lift
If you are feeling down in the dumps, the Tisserand Happy Vibes Pulse Point Roller ball, $7.73 contains zesty Lemon Tea Tree, refreshing Bergamot and cheering Nutmeg and may just help you see the brighter side of things.
For when you want to go to sleep
Famous for the quality of their essential oils, Neal Yard’s Calming Temple Salve, $8.04 is easily absorbed and contains Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Lavender, and Camphor to create a cocooning aromatic blend. Apply to temples in a circular motion.
Containing Chamomile, Lavender, Bergamot, this very gentle smelling Serenity Essential Oil Mood Oil, Ebo, $37.09 is like a warm hug in a bottle. Stash in your handbag or keep by the bed when travelling for moments you wake and feel wobbly or alone.
The Balasana Essential Oil Blend, $30.91 from Bamford has been developed by Bamford’s amazing Yoga masters. A 100% organic blend of Cajuput, Frankincense and eucalyptus, it provides an aura of safety and protection. Apply to pulse points and inhale deeply.
It’s a total myth that you need an entire gym – with hefty machines and monkey bars – to get fit. As the popularity of the Zoom workout has soared due to COVID-19 , many of us have also discovered that all you need is 1 metre by 2 metre space to lay a mat down (with a bit of room around it so you don’t kick anything over), perhaps a couple of small pieces of equipment and some great online instruction.
Fitness brands have become super savvy about creating simple, extremely lightweight portable exercise equipment that will fold up so small they could fit into your handbag or hand luggage so you can work out any time, any place, anywhere from your bedroom to hotel room.
Here are some of our favourite portable pieces of kit you can travel with or workout at home with and also pack away so they aren’t an eye-sore afterwards.
The packable yoga mat
Don’t listen to anyone that says a towel will suffice for a mat – it won’t. In fact I would say it’s probably the most important piece of fitness equipment you can own because a workout is transformed if you can grip on the floor. One of the best travel mats I’ve come across is the Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat, $89.02 which is light but amazingly grippy (and a yoga teacher favourite). Another favourite is the YOGO Ultralight Travel Yoga Mat , $71.71 Amazon which is made from eco friendly natural tree rubber and folds up small so can even go in your hand luggage.
A phone holder
Having spoken to a few people about their online workouts, the one bugbear that they have is that they can’t see their phone or tablet or that it keeps falling over mid workout. If this is you then you might want to invest in a phone holder. Some of our favourites are the Lamicall Gooseneck Flexible Arm Clip, $24.48 which will attach to a desk or chair and you can angle your phone however you wish. Alternatively if you prefer to put it in a flat surface then their Cell Phone Stand $16.95 will support your phone whilst you sweat.
The full body gym (that fits in your handbag)
There is nothing new about the TRX. Created by a Navy Seal Squadron Commander, Randy Hetrick in 1997, he created the first version of TRX using only a Jiu Jitsu belt and parachute webbing which he rigged up wherever he was in order to keep fit away from home. In 2001 he then created a proper version, selling it out of the trunk of his car. Today the brand is known globally as a trusted training system and is even used by the US Marine Corps.
Why do we love it? Because it negates the use of big machines. Just one very strong strap with handles, you attach The TRX Suspension Trainer to either a door frame, a tree branch, a football post, a hook or a beam and you are ready to work out with just your body weight. With a downloadable app to take you through a series of guided workouts, it can improve fitness, strength, core stability, and is a great all-over full body blast wherever you are.
The pocket PT
Stephen Pasternino (the P in P.Volve) is a personal trainer to Hollywood’s elite. The man behind many a Victoria Secret and celebrity body, Stephen has invented a unique way of working out, developed from years of training. “After years of study,” he says, “It was clear to me that other workouts were doing it wrong. They push muscles beyond their capabilities, whilst ignoring others, putting too much pressure on joints and creating pain and injury. You don’t need to hurt yourself to transform your body,” he says.
The result is a set of small, packable and almost weightless pieces of equipment – the P.Ball thigh toner which can be pumped up and deflated to save on space, P.Bands and the P.3 trainer which makes use of bands that attach to different limbs to increase resistance. It’s essential to follow the app in order to get the exercises right, but this is a whole-body workout designed to create a long, lean body. If it’s good enough for the Victoria Secret girls…
Go to pvolve.com to see a range of packages available.
The world’s smallest, lightest and cheapest exercise equipment
If you enter any gym these days or have a session with a personal trainer you will undoubtedly encounter the use of exercise bands. Originally used in physio rehabilitation, they are essentially very large elastic bands that you can use in a variety of ways to increase resistance and strength without the need for heavy weights.
The smallest, most portable, lightweight and inexpensive piece of exercise equipment there is, one of the most well-known is the Theraband.com, available on Amazon. Alternatively, the Wodskai resistant bands from $18.99 for 4 are a new type of band with added benefits. Coated in cotton they don’t pull, roll up or rub skin like some of the latex ones do, it is also made from environmentally friendly rubber and looks super stylish. Download the Virtual Trainer Resistance Band app for guided exercises.
The handbag trainers
Imagine a pair of trainers that are so light that you could roll them up and stash them in your handbag. There is such a thing – the Women’s Primus Lite Trainer Running Shoe from Vivo Barefoot, $140 is a hi-tech barefoot running experience that follows the natural shape of the foot without interfering with natural movement. With a recycled mesh upper that will keep feet cool and a rubber sole, they can also be rolled up almost to the size of a rolled sock. Yes really.
The suitcase-friendly foam roller
If you exercise a lot then you may use a foam roller for ironing out knots in your fascia. When travelling, the Blackroll Duo Ball Foam Roller, $18.53 is perfect for stashing in your overnight bag, is virtually weightless and really helps to massage and release all over muscle tension.
If you’re a bit lost when it comes to exercising on your own, then follow a tried and tested fitness app. Here are our favourites…
Best all-round fitness app
The Nike Training App is one of the best fitness apps out there. With 185 + workouts to choose from, the options in this app are endless. You can exercise different areas of your body such as arms or abs; take fitness advice and follow videos from world class trainers and athletes; choose boxing, yoga, strength, or endurance work; use bodyweight only or light equipment, and you can tailor the exercises from beginner level to athlete . What’s more (and the best bit), is it’s free.
The Yoga app
Whether you want to do yoga to lose weight, build strength, help you sleep, help develop a spiritual practise, become more flexible or just go with the yoga flow, then Asana Rebel is the one for you. When you have zero time, there’s a 5 minute workout, and when you have more, you can boost your mindfulness as well as your body with ‘Music for Focus’ . With specific yoga for men as well as meditation sessions, it’s one app everyone can benefit from.
For new mothers
Created by Olympic Gold medallist and Commonwealth champion Jess Ennis-Hill, JENNIS consists of the highest quality exercise combinations that get big results, even when you’re short on time. With in-depth training plans, each set is only 30 minutes and there’s a video of Jess running you through each one so beginners are hand-held throughout. As a mother of two herself, Jess has also created incredibly thorough pre and postnatal plans with the help of her physio who was by her side during her own pregnancy and beyond.
Pilates that packs a punch
If you haven’t heard of Zero Gravity Pilates then you are missing an ab-firming trick. Set up by UK based Chris Richardson, a one-time trainer of Claudia Schiffer, his cheeky persona will have you hooked after one session.With a following that has risen by 40,000 to 80,000 during lockdown, he regularly has 10,000 attend per class from all around the world and many British celebrities often tune in, from football star Rio Ferdinand to TV presenter Rochelle Humes both of whom he has done a live workout with and whom he pokes fun at throughout.
This body changing workout works by isolating the muscle he wants to work, then activating it so that it fires up, fatiguing it with a high number of reps and then stretching and elongating that muscle. Classes are 45 minutes long, start at 10 am GMT every day and are for all abilities and ages. What’s even better is that a subscription is only £3.96 a month. Go to zerogravitypilates.co.uk to find out more.
Other images credits: The Hip water bottle
You don’t need to be travelling to a third world country to upset your insides, even a trip to a country a few hours away can upend your system if you are eating foods that are foreign to your system. “Few activities are more disruptive to your body than travel,” says Ara Katz who is the Co-founder and Co-CEO of Seed which is a new state of the art synbiotic supplement (containing pro and prebiotics together). “Large and sudden shifts in diet can alter the composition of your microbiome in as little as 24 hours,” she says. “Even small microbial tweaks, like introducing a new herb or spice or something else you are not used to, can result in noticeable delays in the transit time of food through the bowels.”
It’s not just the food you eat that will upset your insides, if you’re travelling further afield to somewhere that might cause jetlag this, too can be very disruptive for your body. Ara says, “Jet lag occurs when your body’s circadian rhythms are disturbed which can also impact the microbiome. Not many people know that your microbes have circadian clocks, just like you, which, when out of sync, can cause issues from reduced gut barrier integrity to a suppressed immune response.”
Gabriela Peacock a London-based nutritionist concurs, “Different bacterial populations fluctuate through the sleep/wake pattern, and so the microbial metabolites that can impact our own circadian rhythms. By disrupting our Microbiotas clock, this could lead to foods being differentially digested and gastrointestinal problems.”
So how can we support our guts on the go?
If you want to feel your best when you’re travelling, it’s hugely important that when you pack your passport and your toothbrush that you spare a minute for your microbial community too. If you are there for long enough, Gabriella suggests trying to gradually adjust your eating times to line up with your new time zone, a little each day. She also recommends undertaking a fast while crossing time zones in the air and for a period of time in your new destination, roughly 24hours in total (she stresses the importance of drinking plenty of fluids such as water and herbal tea throughout). “If you do feel you need to have something whilst travelling,” she says, “Avoid salt-laden, sugar-rich plane meals and try taking your own high protein small snack/meal with you to have at a time that would be ‘normal’ meal time in the time zone you have just left.”
Should I take probiotics?
If you are worried about feeling unwell when abroad, or you’re heading somewhere that requires a lot of transport away from usual facilities, then Gabriella suggests taking a probiotic. “Fortunately, most travel-related disruptions to the microbiome will resolve themselves shortly after returning home. However, they can cause a lot of discomfort and hassle while you’re still on the road,” says Ara, which is where taking her Seed Daily Synbiotic can help.
What is the difference between a synbiotic and probiotic?
A probiotic contains ‘good’ bacteria that help our microbiome to work at its optimum. A prebiotic are particular foods that help the probiotics to thrive. Together they make a synbiotic.
How do probiotics work?
As transient microbes, probiotics travel through your colon, interacting with your immune cells, gut cells, dietary nutrients, and resident bacteria to directly and indirectly deliver benefits. Ara explains that it’s important to take your probiotic daily—like anything you ingest, they don’t stick around for very long. Seed, she explains, is a synbiotic that has been created with the help of scientists, doctors, innovators and entrepreneurs and it meets a new standard in efficacy and education.
“One of the primary roles of the microbiome is something called ‘colonization resistance’,” She explains, “Think of your microbes as a kind of ‘neighborhood watch’ program. They actively patrol all the major ecosystems in your body, day and night. These protective microbes can block pathogens from attaching to the lining in your gut, your airways, your skin or urogenital tract. They can block access to food, and can starve any pathogens at the site of the invasion. They can even produce toxins that inhibit certain invading pathogens. The more diverse and well-balanced your microbiome is, the more effective your body will be at colonization resistance.” In basic terms, a good probiotic helps prevent bad bacteria from taking up residence in your gut.
That being said, Ara warns that no probiotic or synbiotic will be a silver bullet in illness prevention, at home or abroad and she stresses the importance of taking additional protective measures such as travel immunizations, antimalarial medications, and using good old-fashioned common sense.
How should we take probiotics?
One of the popular misconceptions people have about probiotics Ara explains, is that they need to ‘colonize’ you in order to be effective. In reality, the vast majority of probiotics don’t contain enough new bacteria to alter the composition of your microbiome. Even if they did, we still don’t know enough about the safety of introducing colonizing microbes.
Probiotics don’t hang around for long in your system so you need to take them daily if you want results. If you’re only planning to take a probiotic or synbiotic while you’re on the road, Ara recommends starting your ‘course’ a few days, or even a week, before your trip begins. That way, your body can acclimate to the presence of these new visiting microbes.
How do you choose a good probiotic?
Ara explains that many ‘probiotic’ products don’t do what they say on the tin. Many, she says are not actually probiotics, scientifically speaking. “In order to meet the scientific definition of a probiotic, the formulation must reflect the specific quantities and strains that have been studied in a clinical trial, and be proven to deliver specific benefits,” she says.
When you are buying a probiotic she suggests seeking out the scientific research of the brand (this also applies to probiotic supplements, yoghurts and kombucha). If it doesn’t exist, or if there isn’t enough information to find out (watch out for probiotics that only list the species of bacteria), then there’s a good chance it doesn’t meet the definition of ‘probiotic.’
Finally, she says, it’s essential that the microorganisms inside the probiotic are actually alive, and capable of surviving digestion. Our digestive systems are designed to neutralize microbes before they get to the colon. Seed’s probiotics are encased in a Chlorophyllin outer capsule that cleverly houses the prebiotics which will be released first into the system. The p casing will then dissolve to release the probiotics. This method has been extensively tested so that the probiotics survive digestion.
Do probiotics need to be refrigerated?
That probiotics need to be kept in the fridge is a misconception too explains Ara. In actuality, new technologies offer many innovative ways to maintain shelf-stability of bacteria.
How else can we prevent illness when travelling?
Probiotics are only one part of being well when you’re away. Before your trip, check the Centers for Disease Control, Travel Health Pro, or GOV.UK websites to get up-to-date information on potential outbreaks and immunization recommendations for the area you’re travelling to. Beyond that, make sure you stay hydrated (with filtered water), eat well balanced meals (that have been adequately prepared), get good sleep, and exercise.
Should we stay away from particular foods abroad?
Rather than focusing on the actual ingredients of food, it will serve you better to know how it has been prepared. Gabriella says, “When travelling I would avoid any foods that have been kept warm or reheated, try to opt for foods you know are being prepared freshly for you or that you can see being cooked. Avoid ice in countries that do not have a reliable safe tap water supply, and if you are particularly sensitive also avoid salads that will have been washed in tap water, or fruits that do not have a removable skin.”
Whether you’re so jet lagged you don’t know night from day, or you’re in an unfamiliar hotel room with strange flocked wallpaper that’s weirding you out, we know all too well that being away from home can play havoc with our sleep. So what to do? Create a sleep travel kit.
Jane Chung, 30, is a software engineer in the San Francisco HQ of Calm, the world’s most popular sleep and meditation app. Jane also describes herself as a ‘sleep enthusiast’ and a ‘longevity expert’ and is on a mission to live to be 150. A self-confessed sleep geek, she explains that sleep is non-negotiable in her quest to live longer. “From the unfamiliar new bed, to the noise from the street or the next room, not to mention any time zone changes and jet lag, travel can up-end our usual sleep environment and routine,” she says.
According to Chung, we tend to sleep worst on our first night away because our body is thrown by the new environment it’s in. “Studies show that on our first night in a new environment, such as a strange new hotel room, only half of our brain sleeps,” she explains, “The other half remains alert, on the lookout for ‘predators’ (or their modern equivalent).” Fascinated and obsessed by the importance of sleep, Jane says that whilst she’s not a medical professional, she has a degree in bioengineering and likes to keep up with all the latest sleep studies. “I therefore know the fundamental importance of sleep on our general health,” she says.
With a very strict sleep routine when she’s not travelling, Jane takes sleep so seriously she sometimes wears sunglasses four hours before bed because of the role light exposure plays in regulating our circadian rhythms. She also fully monitors her sense of wellbeing when she travels and how her sleep is disrupted.
All this has led her to develop her own ‘Sleep Travel Kit’ that contains seven items that she now takes with her every time she travels. Thanks to this, she says, “I have been able to minimise the sleep disruption to my normal sleep routine and also avoid the drop in sleep quality on the first night away.”
What’s in a sleep enthusiast’s sleep travel kit?
35Thousand found out…
Sunglasses and Blue Light Blocking Glasses
“Light exposure plays a role in regulating our circadian rhythm,” says Jane, ”It’s important to get enough sunlight during the day and then to get less light – especially blue light, that comes from screens and digital devices – close to your bedtime. The decrease in light exposure helps your body produce melatonin, the so-called “sleep hormone”, which helps you fall asleep.
Whilst it might seem extreme to many of us, in order to block sunlight outside, Jane starts wearing sunglasses roughly four hours before her bedtime. She says, “Any sunglasses with dark lenses of reasonable quality should work.”
She then blocks out blue light inside, and dims the lights as well as wearing her blue light blocking glasses. Some that we are often recommended by experts are the Blublox brand. “I do this roughly two hours before bedtime. You can find these glasses online for $12.36-$98.91. I’ve found the cheaper ones work just the same; it’s the aesthetics of the glasses that change with price,” she says. “I realize that some people might consider this extreme or even weird but I find it a big help and know others who do too.”
Electrical Tape and Travel Scissors
When you stay in a hotel room, we discover all sorts of abnormalities such as a blinking red light on an alarm which keeps us up all night. For these sorts of lights, Jane travels with a small piece of electrical tape to put over it. (Make sure you take some nail scissors to cut it). She also uses towels or a pillow to block the light that seeps through the bottom of the door.
A Room Thermometer
According to Jane, the temperature your room is at is critical to falling and staying asleep and says that the room temperature that most people find best for sleep is around 18 °C (65°F).
She warns though that hotel room thermostats tend to be inaccurate, which is why she always travels with her own room thermometer. “Any thermometer will work,” she says, “I bought a standing one online.” Try this one from Lanhiem which is only $12.54.
A Pair of Sleep Socks
Jane is also a fan of wearing socks to sleep in because she says it is one way of lowering your core body temperature which again, can keep you awake. “Doing so helps your feet get more blood supply,” she explains “Which draws the blood and temperature away from your core.”
Any socks will do, some of our favourites are from toa.st/uk who do some amazing recycled, super soft cashmere socks for £24.
White Noise and/or Pink Noise
Research shows that noise and pink noise have both been shown to deepen sleep. Never heard of pink noise? Pink noise is basically a sound signal that contains all the sound frequencies that occur in a human’s hearing from the lowest frequencies to the highest but favours lower frequencies. It has even been shown to improve memory in older adults. Jane says that playing such noise while sleeping can also block any noise from the street and/or neighbouring rooms.
When travelling Jane uses the Calm app to play the pink noise soundscape during her sleep – but Calm also features a white noise soundscape, which some prefer.
“At home,” she explains, “I tend to prefer white noise (which is when all sound frequencies are played at the same time at the same density) over pink noise to sleep. But I’ve been experimenting with pink noise when I travel. If my sleep is not affected, I’d prefer to improve my memory as well.”
Jane also says that meditation is part of her sleep routine and that she usually plays the unguided meditation on Calm, before going straight to the pink noise soundscape.
A Sleep Mask and Ear Plugs
Key in Jane’s travel kit are also a sleep mask and earplugs in case she needs them.
“I’m not generally a fan of sleep masks,” she says, “Because waking up to natural light is best for your circadian rhythm. However, if the electrical tape does not do the job and the curtains don’t block out synthetic outside lights, I resort to the mask.”
“Personally, I find earplugs uncomfortable. But if there’s, say, construction or a loud party outside the hotel room and the white or pink noise at max volume doesn’t cover it, I then use them.”
A Pillow (optional)
Have you ever thought twice about hotel room pillows? We know that we have. And not just because of the idea that hundreds of people with colds and greasy hair have slept on them before you. “The key is to bring your own pillow, in order to minimise the change in your sleeping environment,” she says.
Jane says that it’s not just the gross factor that makes her take a pillow away with her. “The brand of pillow is not important but the “fill power”” she says is, “That’s the volume inside the pillow that one ounce of down will fill, which needs to be above 700 for back sleepers. Higher fill power tends to be both softer and better quality (and also, I find, lasts longer).”
After trying many pillows and taking advice from others, Jane has ended up with a simple down pillow which works best for her. This one from Ringsted, $45.73 is feather and duck down and comes in a travel size.
It goes without saying that Chung is also a fan of the app Calm which is the no.1 app for meditation, sleep and relaxation. With over 140 sleep stories, advanced mindfulness programs, a new meditation every day, and a new Calm Masterclass every month, it has been voted as Apple’s app of the year many times.
Long haul flights (and even short haul flights) can play havoc with our digestive system and circadian rhythms. Shifting time zones, in-flight meals containing food you may not normally eat, the potential of eating five meals in one day and the fact that your digestion doesn’t function optimally in the air, can leave anyone feeling totally out of whack. Not to mention the Magnums they bring round mid-flight these days and or the snacks you grabbed in WHSmith because there were no other options on your way through the airport.
Here, nutritionist Nicola Moore www.nicolamoore.com gives her advice on eating well as you traverse the world.
Stick to mealtimes
In order not to disrupt our digestion any more than we have to, nutritionist Nicola Moore suggests we avoid constant snacking in the air. Our digestions, she explains, is slower in the air so her optimum advice would be to stick to allocated mealtimes instead so your system isn’t put under any more stress than necessary. “Some scientists are now advocating the benefits of fasting during long haul flights as a way of reducing jetlag,” says Nicola, which would make sense because it stops your system getting stuck in a particular time zone. However she says, if you were to practise this then it’s incredibly important to stay well hydrated with water.
If you snack, snack smart
If however, fasting really isn’t an option for you or you really can’t last between meals then she suggests packing healthier snacks, not just grabbing whatever you can in the departure lounge. “Nuts are portable and don’t take up too much room,” she says, “Also blueberries are helpful for supporting the gut microbiome as well as being hydrating. I also like the Deliciously Ella Oat Bars which are less sweet than her protein balls – try the Cacao and Almond.” Others that are low in sugar but big on taste (and good for the sweet-toothed) are Livia’s Million Squares which are a healthier alternative to Millionaire’s Shortbread and use dates instead of sugary caramel www.livias.co.uk.
Take on for take-off
If you can’t stand the idea of plane food in any shape or form, then don’t think twice about making your own homemade food but bear in mind the restrictions over taking liquids on board. You may get stopped at bag check if you’re carrying last night’s Chilli Con Carne for example. Sandwiches may be portable but Nicola suggests using Pitta bread instead of heavy bread, which you can then fill with lots of goodness and they wrap up and store well in your hand luggage. “My ideas for fillings are: tuna and salad, chicken and avocado, hummus and salad or sliced falafel and salad leaves,” she says, “It’s amazing how much you can stuff into a pitta as an alternative to plane food.”
If you’re looking for a great non-spill lunchboxes and containers look no further than www.black-blum.com who have a fantastic array of steel and wooden ones.
The airport food edit
If you don’t have time pre departure to make yourself some food, then most airports now house a Pret a Manger which Nicola agrees sell a wide range of salads, often well balanced with protein, natural fat and fibre. “You can’t go wrong with them,” she says. Pret also offer healthier snack alternatives than many fast food outlets including nuts, fruit and pots of apple and nut butter.
For the bloat-prone
One fact of flying that not many people know about, is that your digestion doesn’t work as well at altitude. “The air pressure in the cabin appears to have quite an impact on your gut,” explains Nicola, “Most notably with regards to the Microbiome which can’t digest food as well.” If this concerns you, or if you suffer from bloating or just want to feel tip top on arrival, it could be beneficial to eat before you fly. “Consider having a balanced meal an hour or so before take-off,” says Nicola, “And eat again once you’ve landed.”
If you have to eat the plane food…
Often we are so hungry by the time the plane food comes round that we inhale whatever is put in front of us. However, it’s worth taking a minute to pause and think about making the healthiest choice. “I’d suggest going for the protein part of the meal first and avoiding too much of the bread-style elements,” says Nicola, “This should help keep you fuller for longer and reduce cravings for the rest of the flight.”
How bad is in-flight alcohol?
If you’ve ever had alcohol on a flight, you may well know that it goes to your head faster than on the ground. This is because our body and liver don’t quite function at full capacity when flying. Alcohol also, explains Nicola, has a big impact on the gut microbiome, which is a key area for performance and energy. Therefore if you want to be sharp for that meeting on arrival, it would be beneficial to steer clear of the G ‘N’ T’s (it can also make jetlag worse), but if you do want a drink Nicola suggests having it at meal times only and drinking at least one glass of water to every glass of alcohol consumed. Her healthier drinks trolley alternative would be a Virgin Mary which is filling, hydrating and low in sugars.
Hydration on high
We’re all aware of maintaining hydration in the air but do you know why? According to experts, drinking water actually helps to avoid the risks of deep vein thrombosis. Another reason for us to stay hydrated up high is because a well-hydrated brain works better cognitively. Nicola suggests travelling with a refillable water bottle (she likes Swell for keeping drinks hot or cold. ”I’d say that drinking water throughout your flight – especially if it’s a long one, is one of the most important things you can do.”
A nutritionist once told me a great piece of advice which was – if you can’t find anything good to eat whilst travelling, wait to eat until you do. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to eat an iced bun just because it’s put in front of you.