Category: stress (Page 1 of 4)

Nurturing Wellness: Self-Care Strategies for Preventing Burnout in Healthcare

In the high-pressure environment of healthcare, self-care is often sidelined, yet it is crucial for longevity and effectiveness in this field. From Live Free From Stress this guide aims to offer you practical and essential self-care strategies to help balance your professional and personal life, ensuring you avoid burnout and continue to thrive in your demanding career.

Implement Self-Care Rituals

You must carve out time for activities that replenish your energy. Whether it’s engaging in physical exercise, indulging in your favorite hobbies, or cherishing moments with your family and friends, these activities are not just leisure; they are essential for rejuvenating your spirit and mind. Regularly engaging in these practices helps maintain a healthy equilibrium between your professional duties and personal life, ensuring neither gets neglected.

Mind Your Consumption

Being mindful of your caffeine intake is crucial for maintaining your overall wellbeing, as it can significantly impact your health. Trendy coffee and energy beverages, in particular, often contain high levels of caffeine, which, while providing a temporary boost in energy and alertness, can also exacerbate stress and anxiety levels in some individuals. To ensure you’re consuming a healthy amount, it’s wise to look up the caffeine content of your favorite beverages online. This simple step can help you make informed decisions about what and how much you drink, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of caffeine while minimizing its potential downsides.

Be Assertive and Establish Boundaries

It’s imperative to learn the art of saying “no.” Setting clear boundaries is not selfish; it’s a necessary step in managing your workload and stress levels. By politely but firmly declining additional responsibilities that exceed your capacity, you safeguard your time and energy, preventing the onset of exhaustion and burnout. This assertiveness is a key component in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Reassess Your Career Path

Earning a master’s degree online is an excellent strategy for those in a role that’s no longer challenging or for individuals ready for a career change. For instance, the benefits of a Master’s degree in nursing are substantial, offering a range of concentration options such as nurse education, informatics, nurse administration, or advanced practice nursing options. This level of specialization enables you to tailor your career to your interests and goals.

Online degree programs provide the flexibility to work full-time while keeping up with your studies, ensuring that advancing your education enhances your career prospects without sacrificing your current job. This approach to higher education, particularly in nursing, opens doors to leadership roles and specialized fields, significantly enriching your professional life.

Prioritize Mental Health

Acknowledging the need for professional help in managing stress and emotional challenges is a sign of strength. Seeking counseling or therapy is an integral part of self-care, especially in a field as emotionally taxing as healthcare. These services provide a safe space to unpack your thoughts and feelings, offering strategies to cope with the challenges you face, thereby fortifying your mental resilience.

Build a Supportive Network

Building a network with fellow healthcare professionals is invaluable. These connections offer a unique form of support, as they understand the specific pressures and challenges of the medical field. Sharing experiences, advice, and encouragement with peers can provide a sense of community and belonging, which is crucial for emotional well-being in a high-stress environment.

Consider Taking a Rejuvenating Break

Taking a sabbatical offers a valuable chance to step back, providing the rest and rejuvenation you need both physically and mentally. It’s an opportunity for you to reconnect with yourself and delve into interests beyond your professional life. Upon returning, you’ll find yourself re-energized, armed with a new perspective. These breaks can be transformative, often leading to a revitalized outlook on both your career and personal life.

In the healthcare profession, self-care is essential for maintaining both effectiveness and fulfilment in your career. By integrating these self-care strategies, you prioritize your well-being, a critical step in sustaining your dedication to healthcare. Ensuring your own health and happiness allows you to continue delivering high-quality care with passion. Self-care is the bedrock that enables you to care optimally for others. Remember, your ability to provide the best care for others is deeply rooted in how well you take care of yourself.

8 stress-busting tips for everyday life

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Everyday life has evolved in many ways, and as we continue to adapt to the world around us, this might continue to cause us feelings of stress.  Here are some things we can all do to relax and ease the pressure.

1. Be positive

It’s easy to slip into negative thinking when you are stressed and even small problems can cause anxiety. We can all think of situations where a small event tipped us over the edge because we were already overwhelmed by other things. With an effort, though, you can look at it the other way round.

“Try to be ‘glass half full’ instead of ‘half empty’,” says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at Lancaster University. He suggests writing a list at the end of each day of all that went well or was enjoyable and taking a moment to consider things for which you should be grateful that you may have forgotten. This is particularly powerful in times of national crisis as it reminds us all to focus on the things that are within our control.

2. Avoid information overload

Over-consumption of the news and social media can have a real detrimental affect on good mental health.

It’s important to stay connected but controlling what you consume while using devices will help to reduce stress and anxiety. Some tactics we suggest are only reading reputable news websites, consuming news just once a day and editing your social media feeds so you’re only following accounts that make you feel positive.

3. Have a cuppa

Something as simple as having a cup of tea can lower your stress level, studies have found. Aside from the comforting effects of a strong, hot brew, scientists at University College London found test subjects who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks had less of the stress hormone cortisol in their bodies. They were able to destress twice as quickly as a control group given a placebo. This is a simple act we can all can do in the current situation to help manage our stress.

4. Hit the sack

Stress is one of the most common causes of sleep disruption, according to Göran Kecklund, associate professor at the Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University. He says stress is part of everyday life and it is normal to experience occasionally disrupted sleep while under pressure.

“The dangerous situation appears when stress is causing chronic sleep disturbances,” he says. “Chronic stress is, in itself, a cause of many diseases, for example, coronary heart disease, and poor sleep is believed to be one of the key mechanisms linking long-lasting stress to severe health problems.”

These include high blood pressure and a compromised immune system. To counteract stress, Professor Kecklund first suggests looking at your work-life balance. “Everybody needs time for recovery and relaxation. The type of activity in itself is probably not important – as long as it is stimulating but not perceived as demanding.”

It’s easy to check emails at night when you’re working from home but we strongly advice you try not to. Work-life balance has never been more important and taking time to switch-off will help when it comes to reducing stress. 

5. Make time for you

Take some you time. Allocate one or two nights a week for activities you enjoy. Take up a new hobby, return to an old one, make time to see friends and have ‘date night’ with your partner. Recognise you deserve and need time for yourself. 

6. Take a different view

Chris Kresser, a specialist in ancestral health and paleo nutrition, advocates looking at stress positively and reframing your attitude to make it work for you.

He emphasises treating threats like challenges and looking to see if there is a long-term opportunity in something that initially feels stressful. 

He also suggests taking a long-term view. “Ask yourself whether what you’re upset about will matter in a month, a year or a decade,” he advises. “Will this event matter? Will you even remember it?”

7. Devote time to helping others

When you feel down, do some good. Donate to charity, offer to help a vulnerable neighbour with groceries or pop something in the food bank box the next time you’re in the supermarket.

“Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective,” says Professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University. “The more you give, the happier and more resilient you feel.”

8. Enjoy the fresh air

That being active is good for us is hardly news. Keeping fit protects us against a whole raft of diseases, but did you know it also helps our mental wellbeing?

Something as simple as going out for a walk can help ease mild depression and minimise anxiety. Physical activity causes chemical changes in the body which help bolster positive feelings. Check out our outdoor fitness ideas to get you started.

5 Simple Ways to Beat Blue Monday

A step-by-by step guide to surviving the January blues.

By Obehi Alofoje M.S.

“Blue Monday” refers to the weird third Monday in January—described as the most depressing day of the year—when people appear the lowest in mood. Apparently, this is due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights, and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills. Alas, this year’s date is Monday 17 January 2022.

5 Simple Ways to Beat Blue Monday

Is it real?

There is no real evidence to support this theory. The concept was first publicized as part of a 2005 press release from a holiday company that claimed to have calculated the date using an equation. However, the idea is considered pseudoscience, with its formula derided by scientists as nonsensical.

Now, having said that…

Are my clients generally underwhelmed after the Christmas and New Year holidays? Maybe.

Are they broke and just about hanging on for the next paycheck? Certainly.

Have they defaulted on that rather unrealistic New Year’s resolution? Perhaps.

Do they get stressed and overwhelmed by the return to a job they promised themselves that they’d resign from? Sure.

Whilst it might be tempting to indulge in a national collective “woe-is-me” day, it’s probably more helpful to focus on how to make your life better this year.

There might not be much evidence to support “Blue Monday,” but we could probably agree that some people might feel particularly low in mood this week, so let’s be compassionate and offer support to them as we would any other day of the week.

So, if you happen to experience the blues on Monday the 18th of January (or frankly, any other day of the week, for that matter), I invite you to try any or all of my top things to do when I need to beat the blue out of any bluey day! My clients love these, too.

Try any or all of my top things to do when I need to beat the blue out of any bluey day.

5 Simple Ways To Beat Your Monday Blues

  1.  Go to bed early on Sunday night. Your body will thank you for it. It’s important to prepare for sleep using a helpful bed-time routine such as having a warm bath and limiting blue lights which often radiate from mobile phones and tablets. If you really have trouble sleeping, I’d recommend you see your physician for some advice. However, to learn more helpful tips about sleep, my favourite specialist is Dr. Michael J. Breus—aka The Sleep Doctor.
  2. Plan your Monday schedule, as it’ll help you to feel more in control. Remember to incorporate time in your day for a proper lunch. If you find yourself feeling stressed, take a quick 5-minute break to practice being mindful. Focus on your breathing and allow thoughts to float in and out. 
  3. Meet a friend online and have a good laugh! Or organize a zoom meeting with a number of friends—better yet, friends you haven’t caught up with for a while, and have a really good laugh about all the silly stuff that happened in the past.
  4. Burn some energy. Go out for a run, cycle ride, or walk until you feel just a little bit better. The endorphins our body produces are our natural anti-depressants and will help boost your moods.
  5. Don’t pressure yourself. If you don’t fancy doing any of these, then don’t do it! Do something instead that you’d actually enjoy. There’s always Tuesday. It might be a much better day anyway!

How Essential Oils Can Support the Body in Stress

Understanding what actually triggers a stress response gave me the tools to help reduce it.

For example, nipping the thoughts that stir a stress response in the bud can help avoid it altogether.  Essential oils are uniquely suited to help us address, transform and clear negative emotions and thought patterns.

Our sense of smell, which is part of our olfactory system, is one of the most powerful channels into the body.   In fact, our sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 times more acute than our other senses.  Research has shown that scents can travel faster to the brain than other senses like sight or sound.  Perhaps for that reason, inhalation can be the most direct and effective method for using essential oils. The entire process from the initial inhalation of an essential oil to a corresponding response in the body can happen in a matter of seconds.

When we inhale essential oils through the nose, the odor molecules trigger receptor sites in our mucous membrane, which then sends the odor information on to the olfactory bulb at the base of the brain. I find it interesting that it is not actually the essential oil itself that is sent to the brain, but a neural translation of the oils.  These fragrance messages are interpreted and transmitted to the limbic system of the brain, known as the “emotional brain” because it deals with emotional and psychological responses.

As you may know, the limbic system serves as the control center in the brain for emotions and feelings, along with hunger, thirst and sex drive.  This helps explain how scent can influence appetite and sexual attraction. It also impacts long-term memory through our hippocampus which stores our memories.  The hippocampus is the area of the brain at play during those powerful experiences of smell triggering emotions or memories.  For me, the mere smell of mothballs transports me back in time to my grandparent’s apartment in Brooklyn, triggering a multi-sensory memory including both the visuals and the emotions that I experienced during our annual visits.

This powerful emotional reaction in the limbic system is triggered by nerve impulses which in turn trigger other areas of the brain that are responsible for secreting hormones, neurotransmitters and regulating body functions.  For example, the pituitary gland releases endorphins, which can help alleviate pain and promote a sense of well-being.

The theory of how this works centers on the idea that essential oils can stimulate or sedate the brain to promote or inhibit the production and release of various neurotransmitters which then impact the nervous system.

Because smells can bypass the thought center of the thalamus and connect directly to the emotional center of the brain, known as the amygdala in the limbic system, they can trigger us to react first and think later. All other physical senses are routed through the thalamus, which acts as the switchboard for the brain, passing stimuli onto the cerebral cortex (the conscious thought center) and other parts of the brain.

The amygdala plays a major role in storing and releasing emotional trauma. The easiest way to stimulate this gland is through the sense of smell. In other words – the emotional brain responds better to smell than it does to words that are read, spoken or heard. Our sense of smell links directly to emotional states and behaviors often stored since childhood.

This makes essential oils especially powerful tools for enabling us to access stored or forgotten memories and suppressed emotions, like anxiety, depression, fear, worry, grief, trauma, anger and self-abuse.  Once accessed, we can acknowledge and release them.  The word “emotion” includes the word motion, implying that are supposed to move through us and be released.  Negative emotions can that we hold onto can contribute to health problems.

As you may recall, emotions and thought patterns can trigger an ongoing stress response in the body (since our stress response cannot differentiate between physical or emotional and thought driven stressors) which impedes our ability to heal. Smelling essential oils can be a powerful tool for moving through and releasing these thought patterns. To learn more about different essential oil blends to help release emotions, click here.

Essential Oils as Tools to Relieve Stress

Armed with this knowledge that I could use essential oils to help balance my stress, and not need to abandon my job or my children, I incorporated several emotional blends (my personal favorites are Liver Support™ for my anger and Small Intestine Support™ for my boundaries), along with:

Parasympathetic™:  The first line of defense against stress is known as the “fight or flight” response triggered by the sympathetic nervous system.  We are designed to switch into this sympathetic state, flee from danger, then drop back into the balanced parasympathetic “rest and digest” state where we can rest, repair and heal. To help stimulate the Parasympathetic response, apply Vibrant Blue Oils Parasympathetic™ blend to the vagal nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone).  For more aggressive vagal stimulation, you can also apply at the base of the skull (where you feel a small indent).  Apply before meals to optimize digestion and up to 6 times daily to help reset the body into the Parasympathetic state.

Adrenal™: The adrenal glands help determine and regulate the body’s stress response by secreting hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Prolonged periods of stress can deplete our reserves of these hormones and exhaust the adrenal glands.  Applying Vibrant Blue Oils Adrenal™ blend over the adrenal glands (back of the body, one fist up from the 12th rib), may help to increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress and maintain healthy adrenal function.

Hypothalamus™: The limbic lobe can also directly activate the hypothalamus –  a pearl size region of the brain often referred to as the “master gland” which acts as the hormonal control center for neural and hormonal messages received from/sent to body and plays a key role in the body’s stress response.  The hypothalamus releases hormones that can affect everything from sex drive to energy levels. The production of growth hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, are all governed by the hypothalamus.   It is constantly reading blood the levels of hormones, and adjusting resulting signals sent to the body to maintain internal balance (homeostasis).  Chronic and prolonged stress can damage the hypothalamus’s ability to receive clear messages from the body which then impacts all outgoing endocrine and neural signals. Applying Vibrant Blue Oils Hypothalamus™ blend over the third eye may help reset the natural ability of the hypothalamus to send and receive clear messages to and from the body.

What are your tips for beating the Blue Monday blues? Please share in the comments below

Can blood sugar imbalances cause hair loss?

While multiple factors can trigger hair thinning – blood sugar imbalances can be a top contributor. 

When you’re experiencing hair loss, it’s essential to consider various factors, and high blood sugar levels could be the culprit behind your thinning hair. 

Elevated blood sugar can cause damage to your blood vessels over time, and poor circulation may lead to deprived hair follicles that are unable to sustain normal hair growth. 

Hair follicles require a steady supply of blood to maintain growth and health. However, with the impairment caused by high blood sugar levels, your scalp and hair follicles receive less oxygen and vital nutrients they need to thrive. The result is a slower hair growth cycle, leading to brittle hair and eventual shedding.

The Link Between High Blood Sugar and Hair Loss: Inflammation

Chronic, low-grade inflammation can impair the normal hair cycle, disrupting growth and leading to hair loss. Your hair has a defined growth cycle that includes phases of growing, resting, and shedding. This high blood sugar induced inflammation can cause this cycle to accelerate or stall. In particular, the inflammation can damage your hair follicles, where your hair starts its growth. When these follicles are inflamed, they may not produce hair as efficiently, leading to the excessive shedding.

The Negative Effect on the Immune System as Well 

When your body is dealing with long-term high blood sugar levels, the immune response can sometimes go into overdrive, which could escalate the inflammation around your hair follicles. And when inflammation is chronic, it doesn’t just stop with hair loss—you could see additional health issues like autoimmune disease, skin problems and a higher sensitivity to infection, which could further exacerbate hair-related concerns.

Remember, various factors influence hair health, and nutrient deficiencies or stress can also lead to hair loss. However, if you find that your hair loss aligns with symptoms of hyperglycemia—like extreme thirstfrequent urination, or blurred vision—it’s a strong indication that diabetes or high blood sugar may be connected to the issue.

The Key is Controlling Blood Sugar Levels

It’s essential to understand how blood sugar levels can play a significant role in hair loss. High blood sugar can interrupt the supply of nutrients and oxygen to your hair follicles, essentially starving the hair of what it needs to grow healthily. Keep in mind that the level of blood sugar control can make a significant difference. Optimal management may help slow down the hair loss process. It’s crucial to monitor your blood sugar closely (and quit eating sugar and simple carbs if that’s your issue) to help maintain a balanced blood sugar level, thus helping mitigate hair loss.

Improving blood sugar management could lead to a noticeable reduction in hair thinning, stimulating the regrowth of your hair. Remember, you’re also proactively taking steps to preserve your hair’s vitality.

7 tips on dealing with financial stress

Money concerns can place a strain on your mental health, and vice versa. Here are 7 tips to help you cope with financial stress.

In recent years, we have become more aware of the importance of looking after our mental health. And we have seen the negative impact events such as the pandemic have had. A survey conducted last year by mental health charity Mind, found that around a third of adults and young people said their mental health had significantly worsened since March 2020.

This added pressure has meant that more people are feeling anxious about their financial futures. Kerry McLeod, Head of Information Content at Mind explains the link between mental health and financial stress. “Poor mental health can make earning and managing money harder and worrying about money can make your mental health worse. It can start to feel like a vicious cycle.

“Certain situations might trigger feelings of anxiety and panic, like opening envelopes. Money problems can affect your social life and relationships too, and they can make you feel lonely or isolated, if you can’t afford to do the things you want to.”

While sorting things out might feel overwhelming, she advises, “learning how mental health and money are connected might help if you’re struggling. Try taking things one step at a time.”

Top tips

1. Ask for help

If you’re struggling because of money issues and related anxiety, talking to someone can be of great benefit – a loved one, a health professional like your GP, or an advice service such as the Government’s Money Helper service. Advice services can offer some help with next steps, such as any financial assistance you may be entitled to.

2. Spot the signs of financial stress

It’s important to manage financial stress, as leaving it unchecked can impact your health. Too much stress can lead to sleep problems, anxiety and depression. Physical symptoms, such as headaches and high blood pressure, or even unhealthy coping methods such as heavy drinking, which will likely make things feel worse. Try to manage your stress with free, regular exercise. Techniques such as mindfulness and healthy eating will also help. If you are concerned about your mental or physical health, talk to your GP.

3. Check your finances

It’s easy to lose track of what you’re spending. Note down all your outgoings and work out what you spend your money on, weekly or monthly. Try free, easy-to-use apps and tools such as Money Helper.

4. Get organised

Having all your financial information (bank accounts, bills etc) in one place can help reduce money-related stress. Also, schedule a regular time to deal with money tasks and plan a relaxing (and stress-busting) activity afterwards such as a walk or run.

5. Know your money and mood patterns

Keep a diary of your spending and your mood. Are there certain times when you’re more likely to spend money, which aspects of dealing with money make your mental health worse? Understanding your relationship with money could help you plan ahead for difficult times.

6. Take control

Make a plan to help ease your financial stress. Deleting apps and not saving your card details on websites can stop the temptation of impulse purchases. Hand over your cards to someone you trust or avoid debit/credit card payments by taking out a set amount of cash every day or week.

7. Get help with debts

Reduce your anxiety related to debt by talking to a free professional debt advice organization such as Citizens Advice. You may be able to get a break from paying debt interest under a Government scheme.

Remember that being afraid to open bills or check your bank account will only store up future problems and may potentially cause even more stress. It’s important to know that there are many people in the same situation, and that by asking for help, you are taking a positive first step to improving both your financial and mental health.

Managing the symptoms of the menopause

The menopause isn’t a health ‘problem’ or illness as such. It is a natural process that happens to almost all women as they age.

The menopause does, however, cause a wide range of symptoms that can be challenging and uncomfortable. Mood swings, depression, vaginal dryness, low sex drive, hot flushes and sleep problems are all common symptoms. As well as directly impacting those assigned female at birth going through the menopause, some symptoms like mood swings and behaviour changes can affect the people close to them too.

Whilst you cannot prevent the menopause, the good news is that there are several ways to manage and treat symptoms. Some people will benefit from hospital treatments, prescribed medication, or mental health support. Whilst for others, simple lifestyle changes could be enough to support their mood and improve any physical discomfort. It’s important to remember that the menopause affects people in different ways – it’s not a one-size fits all approach!

Some women won’t need medical treatment, but making some simple lifestyle changes can help manage milder symptoms before they get worse…

Adjusting lifestyle factors can help… 

Speaking to other people who are also going through, or have recently experienced the menopause themselves, can provide a great source of comfort and reassurance. Whilst everybody’s symptoms are different and the impact on their lifestyles will vary, knowing that you’re not alone and that symptoms don’t last forever can make a huge difference.

Eat a healthy diet

Lower oestrogen levels can increase the risk of heart disease as well as osteoporosis (a disease that weakens the bones, increasing the risk of sudden fracture*). Reducing saturated fats and salt will help keep blood pressure lower, and eating calcium-rich foods like leafy greens, milk and low-fat yoghurts can help maintain stronger bones. Vitamin D from oily fish and eggs improves bone health too.

Minimising alcohol, processed sugar and caffeine can help improve heart health and reduce the likelihood of low mood or mood swings too.

Exercise and keep fit

Regular movement, in addition to exercise, can help to manage feelings of anxiety and stress. Plus, weight bearing exercises in particular can improve bone health and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, which is a risk associated with the menopause. Keeping up a consistent routine, especially during the dark winter months, isn’t always easy! 

Sleep 

Lack of sleep can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Feeling irritable, depressed, forgetting things and making mistakes are all symptoms of being over-tired.

Cutting down on caffeine, especially after a certain time of the day, can help you to achieve a better night’s sleep. Try switching your phone off at a certain time or avoiding screens before bed. Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and consider lighter bedding if you’re experiencing hot flushes. Avoid eating large meals or consuming alcohol close to bedtime and avoid napping during the day if you can. Making these changes will improve your sleep quality.

Over the counter medication such as melatonin can also help. But it’s best to speak to your GP if you feel you’re unable to manage your sleep problems. Read our blog ‘how to get a good nights sleep’ for more hints and tips on improving your quality of sleep.

Keys to Maintaining Sobriety With Healthy Habits

Addiction recovery is a lifelong process. There will be bumps in the road, and you will always need to stay vigilant on your journey to a better life. That said, incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine can help make sobriety easier. Today, Live Free From Stress provides some tips on how to do just that.

Get Enough Sleep

A good night’s rest is crucial for both your physical and mental health. It can be hard to stick to a regular sleep schedule when you’re first getting sober, but you must try. A lack of sleep can lead to relapse and a host of other health issues. Here are some tips for achieving a healthy sleep rhythm:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will help your body regulate its natural sleep rhythm.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: Caffeine can keep you awake for hours after drinking it, while alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Avoid working or using electronic devices in bed: Working on your laptop or watching television in bed can make it harder to fall asleep and get the rest you need.
  • Get plenty of exercise during the day: Exercise helps promote good sleep hygiene by tiredness your body and making it easier to fall asleep at night.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable: Keeping your environment calm and stress-free will help you relax and fall asleep more easily.

Start the Day Strong

The morning is a critical time of day; it’s when we get ready for the day ahead and set the tone for how we’ll be feeling. Developing a healthy morning routine is important for ensuring we’re off to a good start. Some things you may want to include in your morning routine are:

  • Waking up early enough to have some time to yourself.
  • Getting dressed in comfortable clothes.
  • Making breakfast and/or drinking a healthy smoothie.
  • Reading or doing some quiet meditation or mindfulness exercises.
  • Spending some time outdoors, if possible.
  • Eliminating social media from your morning routine.

Having these things in place as part of your morning routine can help you feel more relaxed and centered as you start your day. It can also help set the tone for how the day will go, and give you the energy you need to take on whatever comes your way.

Eat Healthily

A healthy diet will help your body heal from the damage caused by addiction and give you the energy you need to stay sober. Avoid processed foods and sugar as much as possible, and try to get plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein. While you’re at it, limit your caffeine intake; too much caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and negatively impact your sleep.

Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. It also helps reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase energy levels. All of these things are essential to maintaining sobriety, so find a physical activity (e.g., running, cycling, weightlifting, etc.) that you can commit to at least four days a week.

Take Breaks

When you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you’re about to lose your cool, take a break. Step away from the situation and take some deep breaths. Doing so will help you avoid saying or doing something you might regret later.

Connect with Others

Isolation is one of the main triggers for relapse, so it’s essential to stay connected with friends and family members who support your sobriety. Attend meetings, join a sober social group, or volunteer — do anything that gets you around others who understand what you’re going through.

Conclusion

Sobriety is a difficult but rewarding journey. Incorporating healthy habits into your everyday life can make it easier to maintain your sobriety long-term. So get plenty of rest, establish a morning routine, eat healthily, connect with others, and implement the other tips above. Your recovery and your overall life will benefit significantly as you put in the effort!

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5 WAYS TO BEAT THE WINTER BLUES

Written by: Becky Bargh

Around two million people in the UK are affected by the winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, as the shorter days trigger many of us to feel more lethargic. While we can’t hurry winter along, we can give you some tips on how to navigate the colder, darker months. Here are just five… 


Like its predecessors, 2022 was a tough year for many people.  

But at the dawn of a new year, January brings with it positivity and plenty of promise.  

As we move through the winter months, however, the winter blues – otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – can start to creep in.  

SAD has been described as a “winter depression” that occurs annually during the winter months. 

While its cause is still debatedlow vitamin D levels and lower levels of melatonin are a few suggestions for the onset of SAD over the darker season.  

Symptoms are similar to that of depression and include persistent low mood, lethargy and irritability.  

The good news is that there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help to combat the winter blues, as well as treatments depending on the severity of the symptoms.  

Here are some suggestions.  

1. Get active

Described as a “miracle cure” by the NHS – the benefits of exercise are vast. 

It’s something that everyone can do to improve their health; whether it be little or a lot, you’re guaranteed to feel the benefits.  

To combat SAD, the NHS recommends exercising outside in as much daylight as possible. 

This could be something as simple as a gentle stretch or a midday walk.  

“Exercise release endorphins – chemicals that help us to feel good,” explains rugby legend, Jonny Wilkinson. 

“It also gets the body moving, the blood pumping and helps to avoid stagnancy. Completing goals and challenging limits are small victories that help us build momentum and a sense of self-worth.” 

However, we know it can be difficult to be motivated to get regular exercise in the winter months.  

We recently provided some inspiration on how to get active in the winter months and why it’s so good for our mental health

2. How your diet can help

Good health is achieved through a balanced diet. This doesn’t just mean eating a plethora of foods, but also in the right proportions.  

The Associations of UK Dieticians recommends eating regular meals to help combat depression, along with a healthy portion of protein at each meal, due to its high tryptophan content – an essential amino acid needed to make proteins.  

Sources include fish, poultry and eggs.  

Vegetarians and vegans should opt for leafy green vegetables and pulses.   

The Eatwell Guide advises to eat five portions of fruit and veg every day

Meanwhile, recommendation number one from The Eatwell Guide for a balanced diet is to get five portions of fruit and vegetable every day. 

Adding more vegetables to your favourite meals is one way to ensure you’re hitting the recommended allowance. Or swap out one of your less healthy snacks for a piece of fruit.  

A nutritious diet safeguards your mental wellbeing, it can improve your mood, boost your energy levels and help you think more clearly, according to the charity Mind.  

Meanwhile, Vitality’s Head Mental Health and Wellbeing, Belinda Sidhu, says that foods that are rich in vitamin D and B can help with energy levels.  

3. Light therapy

In an effort to simulate sunlight exposure, light therapy is becoming an increasingly popular method to counter winter blues. 

The act of light therapy itself involves sitting by a specific type of lamp for around 30 minutes to an hour, giving the illusion of more natural light throughout the shorter days.  

Studies have found that using light therapy it can effectively adjust users’ circadian rhythm, which improves our sleep. 

These lights come in a number of different forms, such as desk lights, screens and clocks.  

While it’s a compelling idea, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is yet to determined light therapy’s effectiveness. 

For more information, visit the NHS website here.  

4. Mindfulness and meditation

As mentioned above, theories around the onset of SAD come from a higher production of melatonin. 

This natural hormone is produced by the brain’s pineal gland and controls the sleep cycle.  

The body begins to produce melatonin when it gets dark, meaning it is produced for long in the winter months, and can disrupt our circadian rhythm.   

There is some evidence to show that meditation can be used as an effective tool to overcome SAD. Meditating helps to increase the body’s serotonin levels, which modulates melatonin to a healthy level. In turn, this can help change your thoughts around negative thinking, a common symptom on SAD. 

Mindfulness is another practice that can be beneficial in combatting SAD.

5. Speak to someone

A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes, and it’s been proven to an effective one, too. 

Research by Age UK found that around one in three adults share their worries and 36% feel better as a result.  

Meanwhile, Wilkinson says that, for him, speaking out is how he moves towards his goals:  

“When you feel like you’re overcome from the outside, it’s an opportunity to realise what you need to let go of in order to grow and face those challenges,”   

‘Brew Monday’, is also one way that people are reframing ‘Blue Monday’, whereby people grab a hot drink and have a chat with someone, in order to ask how they’re feeling about their mental health.  

But for those that are struggling with more serious forms of SAD, counselling can be a very positive form of treatment.  

The NHS offers psychological therapies without GP referral. 

Meanwhile, more severe cases of SAD might call for antidepressants as a form of treatment, however, this should be discussed with your GP.  


  

5 WAYS TO MAKE CHRISTMAS A LITTLE LESS STRESSFUL

The countdown to Christmas is officially on. From cost-saving tips to managing a full house since before the pandemic, here are 5 ways to reduce your stress levels this festive season.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year… so Andy Williams tells us in his classic Christmas number. But the Yuletide season comes with a caveat – it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year.

Between buying presents, cooking an overwhelming number of festive meals and entertaining the in-laws (not to mention the clean up after they leave), 81% of us think that Christmas is a major catalyst for stress.

So, given it’s the season to be jolly, we have laid out some tips on how to manage the pressures of the impending Christmas period, and why it’s okay to not always be full of festive cheer.

1. Plan ahead

There is little more stressful than leaving everything to the last minute.

If you’re entertaining, it’s helps to know well in advance exactly who’s coming to stay – and when they are going to arrive. Then you can start preparing the house.

You then can also think about the Christmas shop, which, if you’re ahead of yourself, can be done online.

Preparing the festive feast in advance will also help ease stress on the day.

Crafty tip? Think about making your stuffing or bread sauce a few days before and freezing it until you need it.

2. Trim back (on all the trimmings)

Here are some ways that people can trim back on how much they fork out during the festive season.

  • Buy a locally grown Christmas tree – a number of supermarket chains are offering cheaper trees that are grown closer to home, or opt for a sustainable one (and keep it alive for next year)
  • Choose chicken – if you have a lot of mouths to feed over the festive period, you could reduce costs by having a chicken on the big instead of a more expensive turkey or goose
  • Secret Santa – make Christmas mysterious by opting for Secret Santa with friends and family
  • Reduce paper prices – swap out expensive Christmas wrapping paper with brown paper. A piece of ribbon can soon spruce up your pressie

3. Have a cuppa

Consider cutting back on alcohol.

And switching up your drinking habits isn’t only good for your pocket, but it will also help reduce stress over the festive period aside from its other health benefits.

Alcohol has been found to enhance stress and anxiety, and if you’re drinking because you’re stressed that can also contribute to feelings of depression.

Mindful drinking has become more popular over recent years

“We know from clinical studies, that alcohol actually increases the amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, in our brains,” explains David McLaughlan, a mindful drinking expert and co-founder of JITAI.

“High levels of cortisol are neurotoxic, meaning it causes cell damage in specific parts of the brain which leads to low mood and anxiety.”

Mindful drinking, he says, can reduce the likelihood of “alcohol binges”.

Here are McLaughlan’s tips for drinking mindfully:

  • Always use a measure for spirits and wine. Free pouring makes it very difficult to know how much you’re actually drinking.
  • Plan drinking ‘check points’ into your evening. Set a notification or reminder in your phone to check in with yourself to make sure you are drinking in accordance with the intentions you set.
  • Avoid topping up glasses. Finish one drink before moving on to the next, this makes it easier to keep track of the number of drinks you’ve had across the night.

Of course, Christmas is a time for enjoyment, but a night off won’t do you any harm.

So, why not substitute your after dinner hot toddy for a cup of tea instead?


4. Keep moving


Even when it’s cold outside, exercise is a tried and tested way to release stress. Anything that gets your heart rate up, be it a spin class, sweaty gym session or run.

However, the busy festive period can mean that our already precious time is limited as friends and family, including St. Nick, descend on your doorstep. Thus, our stress levels can mount up, which can intensify if we don’t do enough exercise.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the fact you can’t do what you want to as you’re busy or because of the weather.

There are, however, a number of ways to get active during the festive period that won’t only just help relieve stress but may even bring the family together too. Something like heading out on a long walk in the countryside would be a great start or playing games with the family. Other ideas could be partaking in activities such as ice skating if there’s a rink close by or playing some doubles tennis, for example, if you have some courts nearby.

5. Be kind to yourself

Taking time for yourself can feel impossible during the busiest time of the year. Taking time out for yourself can help you to adjust to this transition and recalibrate, as we’re often drawn inward to reflect and contemplate the year that’s been and the new year ahead.

Taking time for a walk could help reduce the pressures that Christmas brings, this could be a great opportunity for you to figure out what helps you slow down.

Maybe it’s a visit to a museum, attending a live musical performance, going for a long walk or taking a luxurious bubble bath.

Whatever it is, add this me-time to your calendar and let your loved ones know that taking this time to relax will help you show up for them in all the ways you hope to during the holidays.

After all, it doesn’t have to be perfect. The most important thing is that everyone is together at the end of the day.


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