Exam Stress Time

Why are school children still judged on their English Maths and Science grades – who decided this? Why and when? I love this letter from a Headteacher to his student’s parents.

There is so much depression and anxiety amongst our teens that exam scheduling and methods seem to be so antiquated, stressful and cruel. Isn’t it time that they were challenged? In the meantime, let us all look after our children going through this for the next couple of months with space, kindness, consideration and love.

Yes I Can

Opportunities rarely just come along. We create them. By putting ourselves out of the comfort zone and taking a moment to allow opportunity in … it really does just happen. Faith in our own ability waivers so badly. As women we are born questioning our own selves: can I? Am I? Why me?

I have been told so many times recently I am great at this and that, praise is so hard to accept and not because I am totally humble. Far from it, I am a Leo after all and seek praise and affirmation constantly.

No, praise is hard to accept because I am my own harshest critic. And I have noticed this about all my girl friends and female clients also. I don’t really know when it happens, whether its nature or nurture but it is so hard to believe in yourself and MAKE an opportunity. I do know this though, from my own experience over the last week when I consciously made a decision to seize the day, put myself out of my comfort zone and promote myself, I was rewarded with time and opportunity. I have exciting times ahead, not because it just came along, but because I made space for the ‘luck’/ opportunity to develop.

Next time your gut tells you ‘no you can’t’, let your head be louder and win and say ‘yes I can’.

Mindful Body Check

Do you ever do a mindful body check? I do this at the end of teaching a Seated Strength & Stability classes for Seniors asking ‘if we don’t know how each part of our body feels right now, then how can we know if it is better or worse than last time?’.

Take some time to quietly sit in meditation – this will mean different things to all of us. Close your eyes, supported in a chair, feet flat on the floor, or laying if you prefer and breathe. Concentrate on your slow breath coming into the body through your nose and leaving through your mouth. Do this at your own speed. When calm washes over you, start at your crown and ask yourself how does my head, jaw, face feel today. Take time to note if you feel tense, if you are congested or your throat is sore. Follow this all the way down your body: neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, back, hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet.

Take stock of your self.

Are you someone who would reach to the medicine drawer for ibuprofen when your joints ache, or a gel if you have muscle soreness? Open your mind and read up on “rolling”. There is an amazing alternative out there using various size and hardness of balls and techniques that can literally change your quality of life. I recommend “The Roll Model” by Jill Miller as it is comprehensive and tells you which balls to use and how. Dr Kelly Starrett is very well known to CrossFit community as is his book The Supple Leopard, his stretches and use of balls and rolling methods will astound you. And you will not need pharmaceuticals again. Sometimes just the breathing will alleviate stress. Our bodies are truly amazing, designed to survive most general aches and pains without 20th century medicine so give it a try.

Tune up balls for Rolling aches and pains away
Roll aches away

Vital Ingredients to my Recipe of Life

I have recently seen the same GP a number of times for insomnia, which, ironies of ironies, is caused by stress and causes me more stress (go figure). She rarely takeS the time to look me in the eye, and the last time I visited she walked ahead of me into her office without holding the door which nearly knocked me out. Half way through me describing the blackhole of my insomnia, she started moisturing her hands; a clear indication that her thought process was more along the lines of ‘my hands are dry, oh I must moisturise them, now, right now’ rather than which medication and approach may help poor weary-teary Karen.

“A yawn is a silent scream … for COFFEE!”

So 3 days in to the new meds I had a ‘funny turn’. I experienced my first and hopefully last episode of BPPV (fancy name for a type of Vertigo) “common in older people” – wait a minute, I am not old, I am 51 and a big bit! It may or may not have been caused by the meds, it may just be a one off, only time will tell. But its not serious nor ominous.

I am sharing this because the GP I saw today has made a difference. If I was given one wish, it would be to make a positive difference to each and everyone I encounter . She did this in less than a 4 minute appointment. She had taken the time to read my note on why I needed the appointment and was prepared; she didn’t need to ask ‘what seems to be the problem’. She already knew and had read my notes. She looked me in the eye. All of a sudden this GP had given me a value. She has changed the meds to one that will help the vertigo with the added side effect of sleepiness and I have exercises to do to move the crystals in my ears that are in the wrong place.

But here is where she made a difference: referring to my notes and that I had been seen for insomnia and stress related anxiety, she wrote the name of a book and personalised the appointment by telling me she too experienced this unpleasant condition and that hers came on with stress. She related that the mind and body work together to conspire and to fulfil our lives. I have left the surgery determined to get over this nausea and take control of my life with a different approach. I’m going to have a curfew on mobile devices 90 minutes before bedtime. I’m not going to drink coffee after 12 noon (that is actually going to be very hard!). I’m going back to the Mindful Apps that I recommend to my clients, because quite simply, they are brilliant and a lot of them are free.

There are definitely areas that GPs neglect – mental health training is NOT a part of their training in any significant way yet thousands of work hours are lost to ‘stress and anxiety’ sick notes every year in the UK. Our younger people, for whatever reason, have very poor mental health. As a Mum of 3 beautiful and accomplished young adults, they all have experienced serious debilitating anxieties/ depression. I have worked with teenagers and this is a REAL issue. An individual’s perception of what is stressful and causes them anxiety may not seem consequential to another but to them it just IS.

If we all think about the four things that make or break us they are : Diet, Exercise, Mental Health and Sleep.

They are all different and immense subjects on their own but they all work together within our bodies. Look at all four and see if their are any changes you need to make – do you walk and get fresh air and sunshine, do you exercise and challenge your strength & fitness, do you eat a variety of whole foods as much as you can, do you spend hours on devices when you could be walking, talking and engaging in living? And finally do you sleep, really deep fluffy cloud sleep?

These four ingredients are the only ones we need to pay attention to for our Life Recipe.

What do you to clear your head?

I live in a flat and have done for nearly two years. I can see outside, I can step on to a balcony. I can hear, smell and see the town. But it does not bring me peace. For all of us it is something different.

A couple of years ago I hugged a tree for the first time in my life. Having chosen the exact tree, drawn to it like a puppy in a rehoming centre. I took a moment, breathed in deeply and wrapped my arms around its all-knowing geriatric trunk and Nature herself coursed through my body.

A tree has seen so many seasons; grows, sheds and shoots year in year out. It just IS. When you wrap your arms around a tree you become just a being. Not a ‘Karen’ with a perceived hundred-thousand stresses and issues to sort, texts/ emails to send, people to impress or let down. Just one human BEING.

I have found the same solace sitting in my local park. With eyes closed I listen to the birds and wind blowing through the leaves. And by the sea – literally sat at the tides edge, eyes closed, listening to waves as they ebb and reassuringly whisper ‘sssssssh’ along the shingle.

Mother Nature places her hand on my forehead, holds me to her breast and strokes my hair, I am saved and I am safe and my head is cleared.

#definitionirrelevance

What do I mean? I mean I do not need to know if you are a woman, a man, black, white, old or young. I do not need to know if you are heterosexual or homosexual.

The only thing I will judge, ever, is whether you are a good, honest and open person. Therefore your definition is irrelevant to me. Represent your self. I represent myself only.

Mind Your Language

Be honest with me: How many times a day do you curse and rebuke yourself? And how many times do you say this aloud? I know that I tell myself I am stupid, fat, lazy, ugly on a daily basis. It has become a second inner language that I very often speak out loud. I use language on myself that I would NEVER use on another human being. In the company of my daughters as children I was so careful not to use this derogatory language about myself. But somewhere in their teens it became acceptable to put myself down – often incessantly. “Oh you look pretty Momma” “But, I think I look fat/ugly in this”.

It needs to stop. We fulfill the language we use, especially on ourselves. I am aware that using negativity BREEDS negativity and I can literally talk myself out of going out. When any of my clients tell me they are ‘sorry I am so slow’ ‘sorry I am a div’, ‘I’m so fat/ lazy/ greedy etc’ I stop them and remind them that they would not dream of ever saying this to anyone but themselves.

So please, stop and mind your language. Tell yourself you are beautiful today. That you are positive today. That today is one step closer to where you want it to be, if you want it enough.

I will if you will.

Lift to Live Longer

Another study has confirmed what most of us knew : lifting weights make us stronger, to live longer.

We now have a virtual ‘slave’ in our homes: Siri, Alexa, Google et al can turn the lights on or off, switch the heating up or down, close the blinds and curtains, answer the phone or change the channel on the tv – all things that we used to physically do. We don’t even have to get up to answer the phone anymore, it is usually less than 12 inches from our hand at any given time of day. We used to use our functional movement muscles, and just do it (ironic slogan).

There is biological proof that extra weight bearing makes our bones stronger and our hearts work harder. If you apply what we also know to be true “use it or lose it”, then it stands to reason that if you don’t use your legs and arms to get out of a chair then they will get weaker.

Amazing technology, once the incomprehensible dream of authors, exists for us to make life easy (read EM Forster’s The Machine, if you don’t believe me). It is foolish to even suggest that we reverse advances to become more active again but what we DO have to do is … become more active again. Walk, run, lift weights, walk up stairs, collect the shopping and (mercy me) carry it home. We as older adults will make our lives longer by doing these things. And if we nurture this into our children, it will be in their nature to prolong their lives in the same way also.

Just doin it – in my lifters!

It is undeniable – we do have to ‘just do it’.

TABATA Tidy Up!

If you are not familiar with it, TABATA is 4 minutes of 8 rounds of exercises: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest. I recently came across TABATA WOD (coach) on Spotify and feel compelled to share. I suggested to a couple of clients that it was a great way to get their children moving but I cant imagine this would work with teens!).

Choose one of the tunes and the coach countdown begins. I suggest getting children to pick up their toys or tidy the room and see who has done the most at the end of 4 minutes. I have had good feedback that smaller kids love this!

Let me know if you try it and how the children react to the music and the countdown … adults could always try a TABATA exercise too – wall sits vs plank for the 4 minutes, while the children hurry about tidying!