Wellness is not just about Abs and Avocados

After spending a week in the wellness research rabbit hole, it struck me that most articles and information about wellness is staying fit, eating right and participating in Ukraine gymnastic-like yoga. I like you try my best to get it all right, from supplements, to spinning and from meditating to not drinking a bottle of wine each night. And most of the time I do okay. But I think wellness is a more 360 affair, and about appreciating the shadows of our lives, as well as the Instagram, razzle-dazzle. How many of you have woken up and felt pretty crappy, often for no particular reason?

I like to call it a case of the Debbie Downers. It is not as severe as depression; it’s just about not feeling that great. There is nothing definitively going on to contribute to this event of the Debbie’s. Perhaps the thought of a chaos and drama free day is a cause. As an ex-drama and chaos junkie, this used to be a real trigger for me. Perhaps its the thought of going to a job with an intolerable boss. Whatever the reason at times like these, having the added pressure to be on top of your Wellness game and eat right for me is often not a priority. When Debbie comes to town, don’t fight her, embrace her and invite her along with your day. You know what she is like, she comes and goes willy-nilly, but if you fight your unwelcome guest, she tends to persist for stronger and longer.

On days like this self-care is number one. I have one meal where I eat whatever the hell I like, I may have a nice fat glass of red wine, even on a school night and horror of horrors I may even forego a visit to the gym on that particular day. Honouring these days mean you will have a wellness plan that works. As long as these Debbie downer days are not coming too frequently, you are just going through what everyone goes through. Sometimes when I scroll through my feed, I start to feel the dreaded guilt that I am not living such a holy-than-though life everyday like the people in the images before me, but of course, people are only taking pictures of the good stuff. Maybe we should be posting more honest snaps of ourselves exercising all the points of our wellness plan. You never know my next picture might be of me in the dark under the duvet watching How to get away with Murder on my iPhone eating a whole packet of chocolate digestives. I wonder how many likes that would get?

Here are six tips to help you when you are feeling miles away from Spirulina, spiralizing and Spinning.

Acknowledge

When you realise you are not in the place of wanting to get up at the crack of dawn to hit the early morning pilates class and that the nutribulltet beaker of green smoothie that you made last night for today is not going anywhere near you this morning. Acknowledge it. As long as this is a one-off day and not a pattern that is beginning to emerge then just go with it.

Accept

Acceptance is a continuation of above. I tend to try and fight feeling when they come up, but something which is far more powerful is to accept it and let it sit with you. Go about doing the things you need to do, but life is all about feeling the many emotions that come up, and as long as they are not debilitating then just let yourself feel the way you do.

Plan

Rather than having the wheels fall off your carefully curated healthy eating plan totally, commit to having one meal where you eat what you like. Try not to overdo it, but perhaps replace one or two things which would typically be healthy, like switch sweet potato with some fries. The other day I did just that, and it felt like such a treat to go into the store and by some oven baked chips. I had some grilled chicken, salad and veggies and then a big pile of steaming fries. Perfect.

Binge watch

Doing the old Netflix binger has helped me through some anti-wellness days. When you get back from work, put your pyjamas on, put your hair up, cook you dinner with that plate of steaming chips and then snuggle under a blanket and watch a good handful of your favourite new shows in blissful escapism.

Congratulate

Pat yourself on the back for getting through the day and pray, plan or hope (whichever is your thing) that you will have a better day tomorrow.

Sleep

Sleeping is the most healing remedy of all. If you want to try some quick and easy foods which will help you sleep you can find them here. I have read many articles on the best time to fall asleep, and I thought what this Doctor said to be the most helpful. Dr Allison Siebern who is consulting assistant professor at Stanford School of medicine Sleep centre says that our genes predict what time we feel the most comfortable going to bed. I find that if I am bed by 10 pm, I get a good nights sleep, and when I come in late from a dinner out or take the Netflix binge-watch a little too far (just one more episode!) my night is not quite a restful. I do swear by this Magnesium product to help me ease into the land of Nod. You are the expert on your sleep patterns so on all nights and especially nights such as these, try to get as much shut-eye as possible.

Obviously as I say in all my writing about mental wellness, if you are feeling down often and struggling to cope. Please visit Mind which is an excellent helpful resource.

Lorraine

Ps: If you spot any typos let me know and I will correct them.

Pic by Anna Pelzer

I wonder why we don’t have a mental health five a day?

 

I went to borough market the other day, London’s most vibrant food market. Thursday to Saturday are your best bet to visit when it’s all whistles and bells, and all the stalls are open. Take a trip there then, and you can see it in its full technicolour sweet and savoury beauty. I came across a fruit and vegetable stall bursting with just unpacked produce called Ted’s and happily spent the best part of a tenner there. As I sat on the circle line home with a 1 metre long purple sprouts stem sticking out of my bag, I started reading an article in the Metro about mental health.

I thought about how this once stigmatised topic is finally coming out of the shadows thanks to more information, technology and people in the public eye talking about it. Having suffered from both anxiety and depression in the past, I am happy and very grateful that the conversation is finally gaining more media momentum. It would be even better still if the subject was broadened out to address some of the many other mental challenges which people bravely face but I realise this path will be one step at a time.

I spilled my swag out on to the table. There was Purple sprouts, purple kale, kalelettes (a broccoli/sprout hybrid,) purple sweet potato, blueberries and a few other deeply hued veggies for my upcoming Instagram-worthy lunch plate. As I finished putting together my edible rainbow, I thought there was for sure more than the recommended five a day here. Then with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, some pepper and probably too much salt, I sat at my dining table alone, fork in one hand, iPhone in the other scrolling through peoples feeds, and it struck me why do we not have a mental health five a day?

We all know that eating certain foods is not good for us. We have that drilled into our heads on a daily basis. We know we should not drink too much alcohol even down to the number of units to consume, we know that eating chips, a slice of chocolate cake and a bacon buttie every day is probably not a good idea. And of course, that if we get five fruit and veg a day, a decent amount of grains, lean proteins, good fats and eight glasses of water into our bellies then we have done very nicely for our physical health thank you very much.

We know this because it is common knowledge. It pours daily out of every media orifice and is drummed into children at school and rightly so. But why is there not the same level of education and awareness for all aspects of mental health?

I enjoy speaking in places like schools and prisons about my story, the challenges I have faced and the way I have learned to deal with them. I also love learning from the feedback they give to me. And in between playing with food, being a mum and going to the gym, I like to write and research the topic of Wellness in all its forms.

Thankfully there are lots of websites, groups, professionals, forums and phone lines to help people with the many mental health issues that they face. I do realise however that lots of people do not have access to these resources and that wait lists to see someone one-to-one can be painstakingly long. I have used a few of them for various reasons from research to my personal use, and I am grateful for the help they bring to myself and countless others.

What a blessing it would for the Government to give us some daily strategies to implement to help us navigate the sometimes razor-thin edge of balanced mental health. And for them to shout about them as loudly and as frequently as they do with physical health.

If you are reading this and you are struggling, I empathise and urge you to reach out for help today. The charity MIND is a brilliant first point of call with lots of information which may help you right now.

We are all trying to manoeuvre through this often mad, crazy, beautiful, self-obsessed, iWorld together and from time to time some of us need a little extra help. If you were in charge of compiling the Five things people should do daily for optimum mental health. What would they be?

Lorraine x

 

Ps: If you spot any typos let me know and I will correct them.

 

 

 

 

20 ways to overcome your fear and procrastination of exercise

Happy new Year to you all. I hope that you had a good one and things went according to plan. That’s the challenge on New Years isn’t it? We put so much pressure on ourselves to have a good time, to dress up and to go out when often all we want to do is curl up at home with some good food and a movie.

I was married in my early twenties and had my wonderful daughter Ella who is now 21. At the time I was still modelling and really keen to get back into pre- pregnancy shape. I didn’t do it the right way. I tried to Lose the weight so quickly by not eating the right foods at first. I was hit with post natal depression and was thrashing around in the darkness of that too. I didn’t want to take anything to feel better so My GP suggested that the gym would be a good idea. At first I was thought the gym would be a great place to go for me to lose the weight, Of course that helped but it gave me so much more.

In the past when I have peered through the window of gyms, I thought that people always looked so together. Perfectly kitted out, expertly using the machines or wrapping their legs around their heads in a yoga class looking super Zen. This just put me off. I had no experience in the gym and I simply didn’t feel good enough to go in there, especially with my tummy and body still weighing in at 30lbs heavier than 9 before I was pregnant.

I still had this urge to go, and I saw my main hurdles as not feeling good enough, not looking good enough and not knowing what to do when I was in there. Sounds a bit like life! Does any of this resonate so far?

Being a determined person I wanted to find a way around it and so bought myself some basic kit and a very baggy t-shirt and walked through those gym doors. I started off the first few days on just the treadmill, walking at a slight incline at first. But my main goal was to watch other people as they worked out and see what they were up too. After a week I was exchanging friendly nods with some regulars and it only took about 7 visits until I became more comfortable. After a week, I booked in with a trainer for a consultation and orientation of the gym which really helped. The first session was complimentary and she gave me a programme to work on for the month. We set some achievable fitness goals and also discussed some healthy eating ideas for me too.

Setting the goals and realising where I wanted to be, in addition to acquainting myself to the gym first was what changed it for me. I knew I wasn’t happy where I was then physically and I knew that this, on top of healthy eating would really help me reach my new goals.

But then after a few weeks of going, something else changed. My post-natal depression started to lift. I started to feel lighter and brighter about things. I was ecstatic about the birth of my daughter of course and I loved spending time and playing with her but there had been a kind of heavy rain cloud over my head for sometime which caused me to lose a little of the spring in my step… but it began to lift.. bonus!

To this day I know how important going to the gym is for me to feel positive and happier. There are times, of course when I don’t go for a while due to work, a cold or just for a couple of weeks rest. But exercise for me is now a gift, something which I feel very grateful for and that I see as something wonderful and an act of self care and self love rather than a chore. I hope this list below will help you begin and stay with an exercise routine:

1. Write a list of reasons and goals that you want to exercise including why it will be good for you. If you have exercised previously and have now stopped remember how good you felt before

2. Have a look at social media accounts such as #myfitnessjourney and hashtags like that and look at peoples inspiring fitness Journeys that you can relate too. Perhaps follow some that resonate with you

3. Get a post it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror and write on it “I’m good enough!”

4. Get a gym kit together that you know you’ll be comfortable in. If it’s new, pop it on and move around your house a bit. It’s super important to make sure that your kit is comfy. For a starter Kit which is really well priced and fits well, H and M do great gym stuff

5. Pop down your local gym and see what they have on offer. Do you fancy classes? (I am not a fan, but many people I know love them). Do you want to try boxing, spinning, yoga? Have a nosey around and look into classes to see which ones look appealing to you.

6. Find a staff member, someone with a friendly face to talk about your goals and questions.

7. If you have settled on an actual gym Pop in and just walk on the treadmill and scope out the joint. Do this for as many times as you need to until you feel comfortable. I know if when your arrive you may not feel like going in and just going home but do something awesome for yourself and go!

8. Book in a session with a trainer to help you with equipment and what you need to do to reach your goal and Remember that everyone was new once and everyone has to start somewhere.

9. If you’re going to go in early morning set your alarm, get all your clothes, water for the gym etc ready the night before so that when it’s time to get up everything is easily accessible when you’re all sleepy and discombobulated first thing.

10. Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break if in your head your are not feeling that confident. It’ll come. Talk to yourself the way you would a good friend who was in your position and give yourself a boost.

11. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who can go with you then go together. If you don’t have someone who can go with you enlist a mate to be your motivator on the phone. If that doesn’t work then put motivational quotes as reminders on your phone to pop up at times during the day every day for inspiration to exercise and to feel more self-confident like “you can do this” “fitness is not about being better than someone else, it’s about being better than you used to be” “fit is not a destination, it’s a way of life” ”

12. Give it six months to really get into the swing of it. It may take a while to find your exercise groove and the kind of sessions you want to do but always remember why you started and keep on pushing through.

14. Schedule in your exercise time. Put it in your calendar like an appointment so you make the time rather than find the time to do it.

15. If money is a barrier, there are lots of videos on YouTube and Instagram with home exercises which you can do. Always make sure it’s a trained professional telling you how to train that beautiful body of yours.

16. I workout in the mornings some days and when I do, if I am feeling super tired, I have a matcha green tea or a shot of espresso to get me going

17. Be patient whilst you wait for changes in your body. And remember it’s 80% diet and 20% exercise. Both need to change consistently before you see results

18. The gym can seem intimidating especially when it’s busy, but just put on your headphones, remember that you have just as much right to be there as everyone else.

19. We are all fighting some kind of battle and have some kind of struggle going on, some people are just better at covering it up than others so you just go confidently in that gym, be the first to crack a smile at others here and there and do your thing.

20. Think of who you’ll be inspiring when you get into a regular routine. They’ll see how much happier you feel and how much more confident you’re becoming and family and friends may want to start exercising too, especially if you start logging your fitness and health journey on social media. This will help motivate you and others too!

Remember that if you can physically exercise, it’s a privilege denied to many. So See it as a precious gift embrace it and go for it!

Big love

Lorraine xxx

Ps: if you see any typos let me know and I will correct them. Thank you

How to meditate- part 1

I’m not a meditation teacher. Like so many things related to wellbeing and self-care, I prefer to call myself a researcher and an experiencer. I like to delve deep into things, experience them for myself and then share them with others. My meditation journey began three decades ago when my friend drove me up to the blue mountains in Sydney to do a 10 day meditation course called Vipassana. No talking, no phones or anything for 10 days. At the time I was only 16 and I was silent for the whole three hour drive up there. And when we arrived I quietly announced that I couldn’t do it. My friend who had done it 8 times before, did a U-turn and drove me back again in silence. I didn’t look back into meditation for several years after that.

From that experience I realised I didn’t want to attend a long retreat with no talking cut off from the world to learn meditation. I know this works well for others but for me it wasn’t right. I simply wanted a way to calm my then CPTSD brain which, due to childhood challenges and experiences had always been in a near constant state of fight or flight. When my mind sensed even a small similarity in a present day situation of something traumatic from my past, my brain would think that the trauma was happening all over again and I would experience the same physical and mental sensations, thoughts and feelings of when the trauma happened originally. It was literally as if it was happening all over again which of course it wasn’t. But logic does not prevail when the brain is in this state. I call this being ‘triggered’. When this occurred I would be pumped full of adrenaline and cortisol and this constant cycle resulted in my baseline state of mind being hyper-vigilant; Always too aware and suspicious of my surroundings and of people and always on edge and always easily ‘triggered’.

I know that many of you have experienced and continue to experience so many challenging things, events and people. And there doesn’t seem to be a moment in life to stop what we are doing and just ‘take a moment’. This is where meditation comes in. Meditation is one of the many tools that can help towards you feel like you are thriving rather than just surviving and to make you feel like you’re winning in life a little more. I of course found other help too with professionals who over the years have helped me form new neural pathways and learn new ways of responding through talking therapy including the very powerful body mind therapy, when I get into this state. I’m not touting meditation as a cure all, and of course if you’re really struggling please do reach out and seek professional help.

Science has proven how powerful meditation can be and how it may help with things like; Lessening anxiety and depression, helping you become more focused and calmer, reducing blood pressure, even helping to slow ageing! There’s always room for more research but initial studies are encouraging. Speaking from personal experience it’s helped me so much. I feel much calmer, and happier, I’m less in fight or flight mode, I sleep better (still not a great sleeper but it’s a good deep sleep), I’m less anxious, I respond to situations rather then just reacting without thinking and I’ve a big aversion to drama and dramatic people now. As drama becomes less and less appealing and less familiar.

I’ve done all sorts of meditation types and they all have their benefits. I’ll do many more posts on meditation as I explore different ways and learn more about it. So as a start, here are 10 ways to get into your own easy meditation practice today.

1. Forget the popular thoughts on meditation which are that you are trying to stop thinking all together or that you are trying to empty your head of all thoughts. That will come in time, as a result of what you are doing. It’s not your primary focus right now at all.

2. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than you would usually get up.

3. Go to the toilet if you need too so you are not thinking about how much you need to do a wee when you’re meditating 😊 and drink a little water if you feel thirsty

4. Prop yourself up in your bed. Put pillows behind you if need be so you’re really comfortable. Sit cross legged or with your legs out straight.

5. If you’re in bed with your partner who is still asleep and you think it may be distracting to you then, sit on the sofa or on the floor against the sofa with a blanket and cushions. You can also do this on a chair with a supportive back if that’s more comfortable.

6. Set the alarm on your phone to go off in 7 minutes, try to avoid reading any stuff on your phone. Double check the alarm so you know it will go off. Turn the volume down a little so it doesn’t startle you when it goes off but obviously make sure it’s loud enough so that you can hear it.

7. Read the rest of the points through and then close your eyes. With your hands resting lightly in your lap or on your knees as in the pic of me in the brown bikini above. Just make sure your arms are uncrossed so it’s nice and comfy.

8. Listen to the sounds around you outside for a moment, the ticking clock, the windows rattling in the breeze or perhaps the birds singing or the traffic outside.

9. Then bring your attention to you and identify any areas in your body where there may be tension, is your jaw clenched? Shoulders tight? Start at the top of your body and then go all the way down to your feet checking that everything is relaxed.

10. In your head (not out loud), say the word ‘peace’ or ‘calm’ gently over and over. Pick whichever one suits. Keep saying the word you have picked over and over slowly. Every time your mind starts wandering (which it will, many, many times) or thinking about your day or what to eat or ‘am I doing this right’ just bring your mind back to your word. You may need to bring your mind back 50 times or more per session in the early days and weeks of meditating. If you do have a cheeky check of your phone to see how long you have left, that’s okay, try not too but we are all human, Just get straight back to your word. And if the alarm goes off and you realise you’ve spent the whole time obsessing over how rude that person was to you on the train the other day, or even if you fell asleep, hey guess what… that’s okay too.

And congratulations… you’ve completed your first session! It’s not unusual sometimes to feel quite emotional after meditation. But it’s also not unusual to feel no different at all. Meditation has an accumulative effect, so it takes a little while for the benefits to come. Feeling moved didn’t happen to me when I first started at all but I know that for some people it does happen. If it happens to you, just put your hand on your heart for a moment or two, acclimatise yourself with your surroundings and congratulate yourself for the fabulous person you are and for what you’ve achieved today. And when you stand up, get up slowly so you don’t feel dizzy and then carry on with your day.

Try this for 7 days. First thing in the morning is normally best as the mind is already calmer, but anytime works too. Comment below and let me know how you get on with it, I would love to learn from you too! Thanks so much for reading.

<<<

Big love

Lorraine

Ps: let me know if you see any typos and I’ll correct them.

Hosting the The Social Worker of the Year Awards

As some of you may know I spent a  bit of time in foster care as a child. From birth to to 18 months and then later on as a young child. Social workers were a consistent in my life right up until around 16 years old. So I was honoured to be asked to be the host and to become a Patron of the Social Worker of the Year Awards.      

The only time we normally hear about Social Workers in the media is when bad things happen. Very little air time is given to the tireless work they do on a daily basis often in tricky conditions and with limited resources. There is no off button when you are a social worker. Whether you are getting a phone call late into the night about a child whose parent has overdosed and cannot look after their baby, or the young girl who has run away from an abusive home where no one else will believe or listen to what is going on behind closed doors; Or the young child who has been moved several times to different families and needs some form of consistency in her life, Or perhaps the elderly person who does not want to leave their home but is now not safe to live alone as the dementia becomes worse causing them to become a hazard unto themselves.

I arrived quite early so I could get my bearings and familiarise myself with the mic and lectern.

And my placement was next to Lyn Romeo The Chief Social Worker for Adults at the Department of Health.

The food was served and then we got down to business, honouring the incredible people in the field of social work who do so much for our society. The awards started with a little speech from me, its a couple of minutes long and you can watch it above. I love public speaking and hosting but I always get that healthy dose of nerves when I am on stage.

Tim Loughton MP did a wonderful speech and he called Social Workers ‘the fourth emergency service’. Brilliant.

James Rook one of the trustees of the Social Worker of the Year helped me give out awards to the inspiring people throughout the night.

Categories such as mental health social worker of the year, children’s social worker of the year, Newly qualified social worker of the year and a whole plethora of other awards were handed out. People came from all across the country for the evening.

The overall Social Worker of the Year award (adults) Went to Vidhya Biju seen here with James Rook and Beverley Williams MBE. Beverley founded the awards in 2006. The evening went incredibly well with lots of laughter, happy tears and joy. The evening is a good reminder to us all to remember the unsung heroes that we don’t hear much positivity about, but who do so much to keep society together when the secure glue of daily life becomes unstuck. Some people do not have the family, the money or the resources to keep things together the way so many of us can when life hits us with a curveball or when we are struggling to cope. To Social Workers, I thank you and congratulations to you all whether you won a gong or not.

Big love and thank you so much for having me as part of your charity.

Lorraine xxx

Ps: If you spot any typos/errors please do let me know and I will correct them x