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Hey, Let’s All Be Goal Diggers!

Struggling to reach your goals stops here.

As we’re well into the second half of 2021, now’s a good time to reflect upon how we’ve progressed towards the goals set at the beginning of the year. My guess is that you’re on track with some of them, whereas others may be collecting dust in one of the dark corners of your mind. 

With the world still undergoing significant change and many of us facing uncertainty, the question of how we can be most effective in our lives – regardless of circumstance – becomes even more important. What I have realised is that goal setting is half the battle in moving towards your ideal future, but it’s just as much about the process of getting there as actually achieving it. 

Would you take a magical pill if it guaranteed that you would achieve all of your goals overnight? 

It might surprise you, but I would not. The process of developing who I want to be is what I’m really interested in. Of course, I want to accomplish the goal. That’s the point, after all. But who I must become to do that is the biggest gift.

How do you think you’ll feel looking back on a hard day – when you were taking micro steps towards your goals even when you just weren’t feeling it – compared to now, when you see how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come along? It’s a whole lot more fulfilling when you finally get to tick the goal off your list than if you had been handed the end result overnight with no effort at all. 

When going through this process of becoming, you’re receiving not only the gold, but also other treasures – the diamonds, the pearls, and the tiaras. So yes, I definitely choose to be a goal digger over a gold digger. Here are five simple keys that are often missed on the journey to goal achievement – but require no magic pills:

  1. Ensure they are SMART goals: Most of us are aware of the smart criteria (SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound), but when it comes down to setting our goals in life, they often can be a bit wishy-washy.
  2. They are not ‘should’ goals: A mentor once reminded me to not ‘should’ on myself. Make sure your goals are fully aligned with your ideal future and not something you feel you ‘should’ be striving for. 
  3. They are big enough: There is a distinction between big and little goals. Little goals are really ‘don’t wants’ – they are not going to keep you committed and consistent in the long run.
  4. You are willing to take responsibility: You must be committed to give it your best shot. If you’re not willing to do that, scratch it! You will need heightened focus to achieve goals, so get rid of the ones you’re not going to take responsibility for. 
  5. Write them down and look at them regularly: One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to write down my goals every day. It keeps your eyes on the prize and signals to your subconscious mind that you mean it! 

Look back at what you set out to do at the beginning of the year and see how far you have come. Give yourself a pat on the back for any progress you have made, and adjust your goals to incorporate these five tips so that you can smash them effortlessly and be rewarded with the full treasure chest. 

Beate Sifkovits is a Transformational Mindset Coach based in Dubai. Learn more about her and how to being a successful goal digger on her website, allboss.me.

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How to Be an Empathetic Leader

The Dos and Don’ts of Being an Empathetic Leader

Empathy isn’t reserved for your personal life.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that it weeded out the weak and ineffective leaders, and spotlighted those who exhibited good leadership skills. Good leaders were able to navigate their companies through uncertain waters while maintaining employee morale and productivity.

While these good leaders possess many qualities, the one that we will focus on here is empathy, as that was the one brought into sharp focus over the past few years – because even leaders with the best strategy and roadmap for the company will not be able to get everyone to share that vision and own it if they don’t have empathy. And everyone knows you get further and faster when everyone is equally motivated by the end goal.

That’s where an empathic leadership style comes in. It can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale, and loyalty. When a colleague has an issue, for instance, they may be frustrated and just want you to listen to them. By something as simple as letting them tell you all the details before responding, you can show them you value what they have to say. And Gallup surveys have consistently revealed that people value being valued more than increased salaries!

Teams with empathetic leaders are more innovative and push the boundaries more, as they feel safe in the knowledge that they won’t be blamed for failures in these experiments. Leaders benefit from empathy as it helps them to understand the root cause behind poor performance and address it constructively.

Ways You Can Improve Your Empathic Leadership Skills

Let’s Dig Deep About Empathy

Empathy is a hard skill to quantify, but leaders who have it are generally able to lead through challenging times more successfully. Good leaders know how to collect input and suggestions from everyone, make a decision that is best suited for the organisation, and fulfill the (reasonable) requirements of the majority. 

In order to recognise the qualities of being empathetic, it is important to understand what empathy means. According to Wikipedia, empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. 

Given the divide between management and the rest of the organisation, it’s a given that executives cannot understand the issues faced by the rest of the employees. By being empathetic, leaders bridge this divide and connect on a human level, strengthening loyalty and pride in being a part of the organisation.

Empathy is a key factor in Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ), which measures an individual’s abilities to recognise and manage their emotions and the emotions of other people, both individually and in groups. An empathetic leader with a high EQ will know which of the three aspects of empathy – cognitive (head/thinking), affective (heart/feeling), and behavioural (action/doing) – to use in a given situation.

A Few Dos and Don’ts of Being an Emphatic Leader

Empathetic leaders can steer a company through turbulent times by providing employees with the understanding and recognition they need to navigate the crisis. It’s not all woo-woo and fluffy stuff, either. In fact, the quantifiable benefits can be seen in the level of innovation, employee engagement, and retention rates – not to mention employees who are brand ambassadors, building up your reputation as an employer of choice.

Empathetic leaders understand the consequences of their decisions on everyone in the company. They are able to look beyond whatever is happening at the moment, inspire, encourage, and strategise in ways that will motivate employees at all levels.

Empathetic leadership style

So if we were to condense all this into a quick checklist for empathetic leaders:

  1. Show genuine interest in others and their situations.
  2. Be willing to support team members with their personal issues.
  3. Schedule one-on-one meetings to stay connected.
  4. Keep an eye out for work burnout.
  5. Implement employee analytics.
  6. Validate how the other person is feeling.
  7. Develop your listening skills.
  8. Challenge your biases.
  9. Build a great culture to generate speed. 
  10. Approach problems from a different perspective.

A few behaviours to avoid:

  1. Don’t ask people to “earn your trust”.
  2. Don’t neglect those who are making the transition to a management role. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to understand better.

The skills that make an empathetic leader can be learned through training and coaching, and are a worthwhile investment. You will reap the dividends through increased employee engagement, higher morale levels, and a corresponding increase in productivity and quality of work. These skills will also serve you well in your personal life, but that’s another article for another time!

Bina Mathews is an Executive Master Coach and Communications Consultant at Bina Mathews Consulting FZE. Visit www.coachbina.com or @coachbina for more information.

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Sleep Management Tips for Over 40s

Over 40? It’s Time to Revisit Sleep Management

Sleeping peacefully or counting sheep?

If you’re reading this, then you are probably looking for some answers as to why can’t you sleep. Any age can experience sleepless nights and insomnia, and often, this can be traced back to external life stressors like work, personal issues, or illness. Unfortunately, around the age of 40, we have another equation to factor in: menopause. 

Menopause can send in what feels like a speeding train, derailing any blissful sleep pattern you ever had. Difficulty sleeping and sometimes insomnia can leave you tossing and turning, waking up at 3am with your mind racing or in a pool of sweat. Not a pretty picture, I know, but it happens. 

These are among some of the earliest signs of perimenopause. 61% of women suffer from sleep problems during menopause because of hormonal fluctuations, according to the Sleep Foundation – so you are not alone in counting sheep. Let’s take a step back and explore why getting a good night’s sleep is important to staying fit and healthy in our 40s.

“Sleep is the best medication.”

– Dalai Lama

If you are a night owl and don’t go to bed early, here are a few reasons why working on your sleep hygiene and hitting the sack earlier, especially as we head into our 40s, is so important. You can see that stage 3 is deep sleep. This is where all the good stuff happens. All the repair and regeneration occur here because we produce the majority of our HGH (Human Growth Hormone), which: 

  • helps fat burning (if this is not a reason to go to bed, I don’t know what is)
  • stimulates tissue growth to help build muscle
  • aids recovery
Sleep Management Tips 40+

Most of your body’s HGH secretion happens between 11pm and 1am. Getting to bed early to take advantage of this production, especially during menopausal years, is a big plus in aiding repair and regeneration.

Other Reasons to Rewire Your Sleep Patterns

  • Sleep well, and your body’s circadian rhythm helps regulate healthy hormone production
  • Hormone levels fluctuate during sleep stages
  • Melatonin promotes high-quality sleep
  • Growth hormone, produced during a good night’s sleep, supports bone and muscle health
  • Good sleep reduces our cortisol stress hormone levels
  • Good sleep regulates healthy leptin and ghrelin levels – our appetite hormones – which stops us from overeating 
Sleep Management Tips

Why Menopause Affects Our Sleep

Two words: declining hormones. For starters, the role of estrogen is as follows:

  • Increases our deep sleep (REM) and helps in serotonin metabolism. It also decreases how long it takes us to fall asleep. 
  • Estrogen also decreases the number of times you wake up during the night.
  • Increases total sleep time and quality.
  • Helps regulate the stress hormone cortisol to stabilise sleep.
  • Helps regulate the internal thermostat and body temperature, so the decline in estrogen can lead to hot flashes and disruptive night sweats.

Women also produced less melatonin, the key hormone for regulating sleep and helping the body cool down to trigger optimal sleep. As for the role of progesterone? It helps control stress and helps us relax. The decline makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The level of stress hormones like cortisol (which women already struggle to keep in check) can stay elevated at night. Short sleep slows this decline of cortisol down, messes with your moods, and plays havoc with your insulin resistance, leading to increased abdominal fat storage – which we don’t need at this stage of life!

How to Sleep Better as You Get Older

Who would’ve thought that, at the age of 40, we need to learn how to sleep again?

Sleep is essential and needs a multipronged approach to taking back control and reaping from all its health benefits. Putting some sleep hygiene habits in place and learning to manage the challenges presented should be on top of your priority list. Let’s start with these basic strategies that create new habits for a good night’s sleep.

  1. Re-train: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. It might be hard at first, but you will adapt. Getting yourself into a routine is crucial to start improving your sleep.
  2. Keep your head cool: Hot flushes and hormonal mayhem are the culprits for a bad night’s sleep. Simple things you can do straight away:
    • Keep the room temperature as cool as you can manage.
    • Wear light clothing or none and light sheets that you can kick off.
    • Put a fan near your head to keep the pituitary gland (temperature regulator) in your head cool.
    • Take a cold shower before bed.
  1. Put a cork in it: If you have a tipple at the end of the day to wind down or make you drop off quicker, it’s a temporary fix. It lessens the quality of sleep you have. 
    • It shortens your REM cycle.
    • Can increase hot sweats.
    • Makes you restless.
    • Your liver is working overtime to get rid of the toxins.
  2. Calm – dark – quiet: Create a calm, relaxed environment in the bedroom. Soften the lights, light some candles, spray the pillow, or use a diffuser with essential oils like camomile, lavender, and ylang-ylang.
    • The production of melatonin starts around 9pm. This is when you want to start reducing the bright lights around you. Avoid watching TV or looking at your phone one hour before bedtime. Create a new habit: read a book with low blue light. 
    • Stimulation from all the light and noise stimulates the brain and suppresses melatonin production. Block all the switches that have a light attached to them. Make the bedroom as dark as possible. 
  1. Coffee fix: Reduce your caffeine intake before bedtime. Try to avoid it after 2pm, allowing it to be removed from your system, which can stick around for about six hours (depending on the size of your pick-me-up). Need something to drink at night? Try drinking cold cherry tart juice instead; this aids sleep.
  2. Sugar baby: Reduce or quit your sugars and starchy carbs three hours before bedtime. Eating this type of food will disturb your insulin production, which will then compete with the production of your sleep hormones.
  3. Eat early to sleep more: We do not want our digestive system to work overtime during the night by trying to digest large, heavy foods that we have eaten so close to bedtime. This has an impact on all the other systems in the body, including the parasympathetic (calming) system.
    • Also, if you suffer from night sweats – your body temperature naturally increases around 8pm. This is in sync with our 24-hour circadian rhythm. 
    • Try reducing your protein intake late at night. Protein is a thermogenic food (produces heat when metabolised), the last thing you want if you are suffering from hot flashes. It increases your body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.
    • However, protein must be a staple in maintaining muscle mass during menopause, so it shouldn’t be eliminated from the diet. Eat light and at a reasonable time, so you avoid bloating, reflux, and overall fullness.
    • Try something like a banana, oatmeal, or other foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid needed to make serotonin and melatonin, the chemicals that make us sleepy.
  4. Exercise: Exercising at the right time and intensity is crucial to a good night’s sleep. Exercising late at night and too near bedtime can keep some people awake, especially if they are stressed and cortisol is already at an all-time high. Try to experiment with different training sessions. Introduce yoga and meditation to your daily routine.
  5. Take a breath: When you relax in your nice cool dark room, try some deep breathing exercises before settling into sleep. This calms the mind, lowers blood pressure, removes the body’s stress, and helps you sleep tight. 
  6. Wakey wakey: Wake up in the morning, take a walk, get natural sunlight into your eyes, or sit and have a coffee outside (no sunglasses). You don’t have to look directly at the sun – just sit and enjoy a peaceful moment or two with open eyes. This helps with the production of our happy hormone, serotonin

How To Get Better Sleep After 40

Sleep Support

I am a big fan of measuring things, and love this quote: “You can’t change what you don’t measure.” If you are having trouble sleeping, here is a tool you can use to monitor your sleep

There are plenty of wearable trackers and smartwatches that you can use to monitor your sleep. I personally use Whoop because it helps me understand the recovery and sleep needed for training. I also found it got me into a daily routine of going to bed to get the right amount of sleep that I need to perform well, and it taps into my physiology. I also find that these work well and allow you to monitor and see the results of the significant changes you make.  

Elsewhere, montmorency cherry tart juice concentrated is high in sleep-promoting chemical melatonin and enhances your melatonin production. It is also rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. Drink a nice ice-cold glass 30 minutes before bed. Additionally, there are plenty of supplements on the market. I suggest you research them or chat with your GP before taking them. I can only recommend the ones I take, which are the good old magnesium.  

Remember, adopting new healthy sleeping habits and kicking out the old ones can be hard, but don’t stress about it. Go at your own pace. Don’t be too tough on yourself as you work towards your goal of better sleep health. Changing habits requires taking small steps and repeating them many times over until they feel second nature. If you try changing everything all at once, you’ll probably have a lower chance of success. If you only adopt or improve two of the healthy sleep habits listed above, that’s a big step to better sleep – and with time, you will get there and sleep tight!

Sharon James is a woman’s health and well-being coach, specialising in menopause wellness. Connect with her via Instagram, Facebook, or email.

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Postpartum anxiety symptoms

Is It Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Anxiety?

Understand the differences – and how to tackle it.

Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression share many symptoms and very often accompany each other. The extensive range of thoughts, emotions, and behaviours it can encompass means that it is not one size fits all. The good news is that these conditions can be navigated with the right treatment that’s unique to you. Some of the common symptoms can be found here. Please note that the symptoms documented are not exhaustive nor always present. Let’s now delve into what anxiety and depression are. 

I refer to anxiety as the body and mind going into fight or flight mode. This can include worrying, feeling stressed about the future, and panicking. Depression is the low seemingly never-ending hum of sadness, lethargy, and darkness – often accompanied by thoughts of the past or feeling stuck. They are like the yin and yang of mood disorders. Both are equally exhausting and debilitating, especially when you have a new child to care for. Awareness and acknowledgment of how you are feeling are key to tackling it. 

Postpartum anxiety symptoms

If there is any part of you that feels there is something amiss following the arrival of your new child, then please do not disregard it. Seek some support whether that is from your healthcare provider, doctor, partner, family, friends, therapist, coach, or counsellor. Maternal anxiety and depression can impact families, regardless of whether it is their first child or not. Circumstances such as finances, childcare, career, and social expectations can all contribute. Previous mood disorders should also be taken into account as some emotions, thoughts, or behaviours may be triggered during this time.

Sharing your thoughts and concerns with family and friends can be difficult as fear of judgement, opinion, or advice may prevent full transparency. During my own experience of postpartum depression, I did not fully share how I was feeling with my family and friends, and as I was living overseas and did not want to worry them or appear like I was not coping. It’s in cases like this where having an impartial listening ear and creating an arsenal of practical tips and tools to look after yourself can prove to be invaluable. It was following my own experience of postpartum depression and anxiety, when my son was born in 2017, that I decided to study as a coach and offer support to other families.

I now provide a safe space to talk and give oxygen to the thoughts and concerns faced by those impacted by the arrival of a new child within their household. During those first 18 months of my son’s life, I would often have a feeling in my stomach that I likened to the feeling you get when running late for something that is really important – that was anxiety. It’s extremely common to experience a level of anxiety when bringing a new child into your home, and it’s not something that only affects birth mothers, but also fathers, partners, adoptive parents, foster parents, step-parents, siblings, and anyone within the household. Here are some indicators of anxiety and depression as they present  physically, emotionally, and behaviourally:

Postpartum Depression Or Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum Anxiety

Anxiety can present itself physically as:

  • Restlessness (the same feeling can be experienced if your caffeine intake is high, so aim to reduce it if this rings true to you)
  • Disrupted sleep 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea 
  • Shortness of breath

Anxiety can present itself emotionally as:

  • Feeling on edge
  • Irritability
  • Finding it hard to relax or feel calm
  • Brain fog (finding it difficult to focus or being forgetful)

Anxiety can present itself in behaviours such as:

  • Avoidance of people or places
  • Checking things over and over again
  • Being overly cautious about situations or care for your baby (for example, extreme worry about your baby being in someone else’s care)

Like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety can be influenced by various factors – emotional, physical, social, biological, financial – as well as any previous mental health issues.

Anxiety is often a F.E.A.R-based emotion:

  • F-uture
  • E-vents
  • A-ppearing
  • R-eal                                                                                         

This is manifested in thoughts anticipating that something negative is going to happen.The following are some examples:

“I can’t leave the baby with anyone else in case there is an accident and my baby gets hurt or injured.”
“What if someone hurts or attacks my baby?”
“I am worried someone may try to take my baby.”

These concerns can be valid, but if they’re becoming intrusive, obsessive, or irrational, then it’s best to discuss it with a professional who can provide you with tools to gain a balanced perspective as this can become unhealthy for your and your baby’s well-being. An example of a useful tool is the ‘Thoughts on Trial’ worksheet that can be found in the Stepping Into Parenthood online programme. It’s designed to challenge negative thoughts by putting them on ‘trial’ as if in a courtroom. You become the defence, prosecutor, and judge, and thereby encourage multiple perspectives. Writing your thoughts down will also ’empty’ your head and give you the benefit of being objective.

Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression symptoms

Postpartum Depression

Depression can present itself physically as:

  • Tearfulness
  • Headaches
  • Tired, lethargic
  • Sleep problems 

Depression can present itself emotionally as:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless
  • Irritability
  • Angry
  • Frustrated

Depression can present itself in behaviours such as:

  • Sleeping more
  • Avoiding social interaction
  • Being irritable
  • Using alcohol or drugs

A word I often would use at the time of my postpartum depression was ‘disconnected’. I felt like I was watching myself, but not truly experiencing my life with my gorgeous baby boy. Thankfully, I received some support from a life coach, which began my healing journey that was the catalyst for me paying it forward and helping other families. I strongly believe that treatment lies within the individual and, in ensuring that, they are meeting their own human needs.

Medical treatment such as antidepressants should also be discussed with your doctor. Again, every person is unique and therefore so is the treatment. A collaboration of medicine and personal development was how I was able to help myself. Whilst I no longer require medication, I am grateful for the ‘springboard’ it provided at the time. Unfortunately, there can still be a stigma surrounding medication – which needs to be changed. If you are diabetic, you take insulin. If you have a headache, you take aspirin.

Likewise, if you are struggling mentally, please talk to your doctor and educate yourself on the options available to you. Researching on the internet can be overwhelming. Trying different methods without success can leave you feeling hopeless, and they may not be the right treatments for you. That is why there is power to be found in simplicity. Introducing small changes is much easier to sustain (particularly if you are already feeling overwhelmed) and therefore more likely to have a long-lasting impact. 

For the last four years, I have implemented and worked on creating changes like having a simple morning routine, focusing on time-management and scheduling, meal-planning, being aware of external stimulants and their impact (such as what I read, watch, and listen to – this can also mean reducing social media), creating boundaries with the people I spend my time with, prioritising relaxation and exercise, and peppering my day with things that bring me joy. There are many ways to incite joy by using your senses. You can connect with nature, eat foods that nurture your body, listen to uplifting music or podcasts, and shower or bathe with your favourite scents.

Opening the narrative on expectation can also prove to be useful in restoring some calm. Often, we push ourselves to be and do everything, and scrolling through social media does not always help as it promotes a world where people appear to have it all together when in reality they don’t. Like a TV show or a movie, much of what you see is either fictitious, staged, or simply a highlight from their life – not the full picture. As Theodore Roosevelt put it, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Do not compare your life to that of others, as everyone parents differently, so turn down the volume on the opinions of others.

The expectation of other members of the household is also something that should be discussed – ideally before the arrival of the new baby as a means to reduce anxiety. Delegation of the day-to-day running of the home can also release pressure, create inclusivity, and provide a sense of control and significance for everyone involved whilst providing a safe and happy environment for the new arrival. Look at budgets, chores, cooking, and outsourcing. Form flexible routines and mindfulness, and shift your focus to gratitude, joy, and happiness – this will leave less space for anxiety and depression.

Maternal mental health – like all mental health – has been impacted by the covid-19 pandemic, leaving mothers with a baby in isolation at a time when support is essential. At such times as ever, the internet is a double-edge sword. When looking for resources, information, and support, you can be just a click away from a vital lifeline. However, it can also heighten overwhelming feelings and confusion as the information can be conflicting and inaccurate. 

As the world reconnects, take a moment and reconnect with yourself first. Understanding what makes you tick is the key to unlocking the best practices for you to navigate any anxiety or depression you may be experiencing. And remember, you are not alone. There is support. And you are doing a great job!

Nikki Steele Osborne is a life coach. For more information, please follow @thescottishsoulsister on Instagram or Facebook and visit scottishsoulsister.com.

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How to Cope with Grief

Coping with Grief? Let the Experts Guide You

Help is here, courtesy of Raymee Grief Center.

Few things in life are as misunderstood as grief – not only is it immensely personal and often complicated by several factors, but everyone’s response to grief is also likely to be different. Factor in that bereaved people pressure themselves to ‘get over’ their loss and move on with life (only to discover that grief does not flow in a smooth, linear fashion), and you’re looking at a reality that affects us all, but isn’t addressed nearly enough. 

“The natural reaction that a person has to loss, grief involves the emotional as well as the physical, cognitive, behavioural, and spiritual responses to loss,” says Ronette Anna Zaaiman, a Clinical Psychologist at The LightHouse Arabia. The community mental health and wellness institution houses Raymee Grief Center that’s run by expert clinicians and grief specialists, and offers free-of-charge services to both individuals and groups. Here, Zaaiman delves into how this grief support centre can help you cope with loss and what we all should know about the always painful – and often confusing – grieving process.

Grief brings with it both physical and emotional symptoms.

“Common physical reactions to grief include a hollow feeling in your stomach, tightness or heaviness in your chest or throat, increased sensitivity to stimuli such as noises or bright lights, decreased energy, and breathlessness as well as nausea and digestive problems. The most common emotional reactions, meanwhile, are sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, loneliness, shock, relief, and numbness.”

There are many misconceptions around grief.

“Grief within itself exists in a paradox of being something we will all experience in our life, yet being something that we know little about and avoid speaking of. As a result, individuals often find themselves confused and overwhelmed in their experiences of grief. Although nothing can truly prepare us for grieving the loss of a loved one as everyone’s journey through grief looks different, misconceptions can leave us feeling isolated and like we’re completely losing ourselves to grief. One of the misconceptions is that acceptance is the final stage of grief – we often consider ‘acceptance’ as an indication that we’ve ‘moved on’. This view can invalidate our grief process, and overly simplifies the impact of the loss on our lives. Rather than acceptance, adjustment and learning to live alongside our grief becomes our goal.

Another misconception is that being ‘strong’ means overcoming your grief. Oftentimes, individuals do not allow themselves to feel the emotions and process the thoughts that come about as a result of grief. Messages we may have been taught growing up – that we ‘must be strong’ – result in these feelings often being equated with ‘being weak’. This view can greatly invalidate and hinder one’s grief journey. There is immense strength in creating space for yourself and honouring the feelings that come with grief. Lastly, it’s untrue that grieving someone always involves deep sadness and crying; grief is as unique as a fingerprint and each person’s experience is different. Some may cry, others may not. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.”

Coping with Grief and Loss

There are ways to cope effectively with your pain.

“Have realistic expectations of yourself. Give yourself grace in this unpredictable process. There will be moments that you feel good, and moments that are particularly hard – give yourself permission to feel everything you feel. When we do not allow our feelings, they will find different avenues of expression, such as through tension in our shoulders, headaches, or even anxiety, depression, and physical health problems. Have healthy outlets for your emotions instead. 

This may involve sharing with a trusted friend or family member, writing in a journal, prayer, meditation, crying, joining a grief support group, or individual psychotherapy. It’s also vital to take care of your physical health. When grief-stricken, it may be difficult to maintain everyday healthy routines around eating, sleeping, and exercise. Try to ensure that you eat regular healthy meals, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and engage with some physical movement each day. Avoid using substances such as alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings.”

The five stages of grief are often misunderstood.

“The five stages of grief, as developed by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, has been very helpful in opening up the conversation about grief. This theory, which predominantly focuses on patients with a terminal illness, may be misleading in giving the impression of a chronological order and a particular endpoint to grieving the loss of a loved one.

Meanwhile, William Worden has proposed four tasks of grieving, which is helpful in giving grievers a sense of what they may expect to experience going forward and involves ‘tasks’ – something that can guide them in engaging with their own grief journey. In this theory, it is also emphasised that these tasks can co-exist, and one may move back and forth between negotiating them. They are: having to come to terms with the reality of the loss, experiencing the pain of grief, adjusting to an environment with the deceased missing, and finding an enduring connection with the deceased whilst embarking on a new life.”

Coping With Grief

Grief does not have a timeline.

“We do not forget or ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one. Grief does change form over time, though – the intensity of the feelings and the frequency of big grief waves tend to decrease with time. The depths of our grief is an expression of the depth of our love. It is through honouring our grief and the multitude of emotions we feel that we can facilitate our own healing.”

Raymee Grief Center provides plenty of support.

“We are honoured to offer a range of free-of-cost grief support groups for the community. We also offer a one-off individual grief consultation session that’s free of charge and serves as a gateway to our grief support groups. The grief support groups we offer include the Motherless Daughters, Partner Loss, Little Lifetimes, Surviving After Loss to Suicide, and Adult Grief Support Group. Most of these services are currently offered online. If you are interested, please contact us by sending an email to [email protected] or calling 04 380 2088. We believe no one needs to grieve alone. We are here to help.”

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How To Overcome & Get Things Done

Are You Constantly Worrying about Your To-Do List?

It’s time to address that invisible emotional burden.

Have you brought the washing in?

Is dinner for today and tomorrow planned? 

Do you remember that you’ve run out of milk? 

Do you know when the kids’ next vaccine is due?

Of course you do! You see, us women are extraordinary human beings. Not only do we do everything that men do on a day-to-day basis, but we also do a million more things. Most of these tasks are invisible – they include things like the mental shopping list that is updated on an automatic basis. We know exactly what ingredient in the fridge has been used up, what needs to be bought right away, what needs to be purchased soon, and what household items can be added to the next big shopping trip. We know when the detergent is about to run out. We know which washing powder to buy because the other one causes our child to have rashes. We know what each child likes in their lunch box. How one child only wants cucumbers, and how it needs to be peeled or they won’t eat it. Or how our other child only eats a tuna wrap for lunch with popcorn for snacks. Keep in mind, the first child hates tuna, so you need to be careful not to mix up the lunch boxes.

Exhausted just reading that? I bet. This is what goes on in the mind of a woman – especially mothers – every single day! In essence, it is our invisible emotional burden that is the main differentiator between women and men. Of course, this doesn’t happen all the time, but you would be hard-pressed to find it the other way round. You see, it is not just running the household that us women take on – it’s the extras. It’s all the little things, like remembering what day the kids have library to make sure to put their library books in their bag or remembering that it’s World Book Day and making sure the kids have their outfits planned. 

Let’s delve into a simple example of what it’s like each day. The school sends you an e-mail a week or two in advance that it’s World Book Day. Mum, who is most likely the only parent who actually opened this e-mail, makes a note in her diary or marks the day in her head. Mum then asks the child what character said child would like to go as. Mum makes a note of this mentally. Mum then needs to arrange how to put that outfit together so that her child looks as close to that character as possible. Mum needs see if what they have at home is sufficient enough for the outfit. If not, then mum needs to either order it online or go to a shop and buy it. Once mum has bought the outfit, she then needs to check into her mental calendar to ensure she gets the outfit out on the day of World Book Day. Funnily enough, on the last World Book Day, one of my son’s friends came into school in his PE uniform. I asked my son why he didn’t dress up, and he said his dad forgot to dress him up for the day. 

How to Overcome Your To-Do List

Here’s another true story for you and, as hilarious as it is, I was not laughing when it actually happened. My husband said he’d pick up the kids from school one day. Can you can see where I am going with this? I thought, ‘Great! I can get on with some work then.’ We spoke at 1pm and on the phone and he confirmed that he would pick them up. I looked at my phone at 2:40pm – they need to be picked up at 3:05pm and I thought, ‘Shall I call to remind him? Nah, of course he would remember.’ Clearly, I was in an optimistic mood that day. Come 3:12pm, I get a call from the after-school club. As it rang, I looked at my phone. No. Surely not. Yup, he forgot to pick up the kids from school. I called my husband and asked where he was. Let’s be honest, it was more of a shriek than a question with some expletives thrown in. Naturally, he was in a meeting and forgot. 

Now, I truly believe that he failed to remember and, of course, did not do it intentionally, but the point here is that a mother does not forget. Women do not forget. We remember what needs to be done all the time. And yes, sometimes we do let a ball fall. We are both extraordinary and human. We are not robots. We are not meant to be perfect. Yes, we put that pressure on ourselves on top of carrying this invisible burden. Yet, we are so hard on ourselves. That is why I am such an advocate for women to be their own best friends. Just look at how much you did today! Look at all the things you have achieved, so if the ball falls, that’s fine. Do not give yourself a hard time. Going into why it is that women have the pleasure of carrying the emotional burden is a whole other article – or even a whole other book – but for now, the point I am trying to make is how extraordinary us women are. 

We are magnificent. Never tell yourself otherwise. 

Noona Nafousi is a leading life coach based in Dubai, offering workshops to both corporations and individuals as well as conducting one-on-one coaching sessions.

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Inspiring Emirati Women

10 Trailblazers You May Not Know – But Should

All hail these heroines.

Forget everything you think you know about Emirati women because, in 2022, this is a demographic defying stereotypes and shattering glass ceilings in the fields of film, fashion, sports, aviation, and more. Case in point? Every single woman on this list.

Here, The Gaggler reveals 10 Emirati women who are trailblazers in their fields and how to follow them – in honour of Emirati Women’s Day, of course. For the uninitiated, Emirati Women’s Day is celebrated annually on August 28, with this year’s theme being ‘Inspiring Reality… Sustainable Future’, reflecting the UAE’s commitment to a green future that prioritises gender equality.

1. Amna Al Haddad

Youth mentor? Check. Published author? Check. Mental health advocate? Check again. As for what earns Amna Al Haddad a spot on this list? Not only is she the first female Emirati weightlifter, but she also became the first Arab and GCC national to compete in the Reebok Crossfit Asia Regionals in South Seoul – and did so wearing her hijab. Today, Amna is an inspirational speaker, using her unique journey from depression to dumbbells to imprint hope and determination in the minds of her audiences.

Follow her here.

2. Amna Al Qubaisi

Conquering a traditionally masculine field is Amna Al Qubaisi, the first Emirati female racing driver. Incidentally, Amna trained as a gymnast, but it was her father – Le Mans racing driver Khaled Al Qubaisi – and his passion for all things motorsport that steered her in a new direction. At only 18, she became the first Arab woman to take part in a Formula E test when she drove for the Envision Virgin Racing team back in 2018 and the rest, as they say, is history. She went on to win her first F4 UAE race at Yas Marina Circuit in 2019 and make her F3 debut in the Formula Regional Asian Championship earlier this year, setting her sights on Formula One in the long run.

Follow her here.

Amna Al Qubaisi
Image: Courtesy of Guido De Bortoli

3. Fahima Falaknaz

Another pioneer in a super-masculine world? Fahima Falaknaz, the first Emirati female boxer. Citing Bruce Lee as her idol growing up, she made history when she became the first Emirati female boxer to represent the UAE in the Asian Boxing Confederation Championship in 2019. Today, she’s determined to see more women in the ring, joining Real Boxing Only gym in Al Quoz to coach ladies-only fitness classes and dispel the myth that martial arts are only for men. Not only is she a vocal proponent of the mental and physical benefits that come with boxing, but she also uses her platform to speak up against bullying.

Follow her here.

4. Hanady Alhashmi

There’s mountaineers – and then there are mountaineers with a purpose. Meet Hanady Alhashmi, who is celebrated not only for summiting five of the world’s Seven Summits, but also for being the first Emirati woman to successfully climb Denali in Alaska. Even more impressive are her efforts to raise awareness around Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, as part of the #ClimbforMS initiative. In fact, when lockdown prevented her from conquering the remaining two summits, she ‘scaled’ Everest at home, using a treadmill at varied inclines to simulate its height of 8,848 metres in order to highlight how both mountain climbing and living with MS require resilience.

Follow her here.

5. Latifa Al Shamsi

Long before the word ‘influencer’ entered our everyday vernacular, Latifa Al Shamsi was sharing her favourite fashion pieces, dining outlets, and travel destinations with her followers – a figure that now exceeds 393,000 on Instagram. While her claim to fame is the fact that she’s the first Emirati fashion and lifestyle blogger, the tastemaker has only garnered a whole new fan base between navigating motherhood and running her fashion events company, Events by Latifa Al Shamsi.

Follow her here.

6. Nayla Al Khaja

Filmmaker, motivational speaker, brand ambassador, and cultural consultant – Nayla Al Khaja is the definitive multihyphenate. As the first female director in the UAE, she has made her country proud. She has been recognised for her work at numerous international film festivals such as the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) and the Italian Movie Award, Pompeii, and her films have taken part in more than 42 festivals around the world. She’s even received the accolade of Best Emirati Filmmaker. Her most recent film The Shadow will be turned into an international motion picture titled Three, which is expected to be released in 2023.

Follow her here.

Nayla Al Khaja

7. Areej Al Hammadi

Long before interest in female football picked up in the UAE, Areej Al Hammadi was determined to follow her passion. She earned her first cap for the country back in August 2015. Since then, the international footballer has had over 40 caps with the UAE national team, is a Guinness World Records holder, and is a proud Adidas athlete. She aims to inspire other Emirati women just like her to embrace sports and challenge the cultural barriers around it. 

Follow her here.

8. Rafeea Al-Hajsi

Rafeea Al Hajsi officially became the first Emirati model in 2016, making history as she strut the catwalk at Arab Fashion Week. And she hasn’t looked back since. Today, she’s also an artist, an actress, and a TV host – and continues to reign as a runway model. Delving into the behind-the-scenes struggles that she has faced, the striking beauty has admitted that it hasn’t always been easy in the industry, citing online trolls, social taboos, and staying true to her roots as factors. Nevertheless, Rafeea has persisted and walked the runway for the likes of Laura Mancini and Aiisha Ramadan.

Follow her here.

9. Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum

Sheikha-turned-captain Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum is a trailblazer in the aviation industry, starting her career as a commercial first officer at Emirates airline in 2017, making her the first female pilot in Dubai. Shortly after, the princess – yes, she’s part of the Al Maktoum family – went on to become the first woman to be appointed as First Lieutenant Pilot at Dubai Police. As for her ultimate focus? Gender equality in aviation. Sheikha Mozah founded the Women in Aviation Association (SHEHANA) in 2019 in order to accelerate the development of women in the aviation industry not only as pilots or crew members, but also as lawyers, engineers, and other vital roles.

Follow her here.

Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum

10. Zahra Lari 

Figure skater Zahra Lari has stolen hearts everywhere for so many other reasons: she’s the first woman to have competed internationally while wearing a headscarf, she’s the reason UAE became the first Arab country to join the International Skating Union, she was inspired to take up figure skating after watching Ice Princess. A five-time National Champion, she has been an ambassador of the Nike Pro Hijab line since its launch in 2017, making her a source of inspiration for young Muslim women worldwide. She’s also the founder and CEO of Emirates Skating Club – did we mention she’s only 27?

Follow her here.

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Guide To a Successful Entrepreneurial Journey

Real Talk: What to Expect on the Entrepreneurial Journey

According to someone in the know.

There may never have been a better time in history to be an entrepreneur than now – especially in the burgeoning city that is Dubai. But starting your own business is no easy task, and most people tend to face several doubts and challenges along the process. Today, following the return of World Entrepreneurs’ Day celebrations on August 21, I share some of the most common things that I’ve come across throughout the start-up cycle.

“I feel like I want to start a business.”

The incessant impulse or that initial desire to create change in your life or the market, that lightning strike of creativity and innovation, or simply the passion to move a community forward – are all different versions of the same signal to me. It’s the signal that indicates a call to adventure. Honouring that call requires an act of courage and willingness to take a risk and venture into the unknown.

Tip: Search and create an honest inventory around that impulse. What is the deepest aspiration you have for your venture? Don’t be shy in vocalising and share the big dream, not just the intermediate steps towards it.

“Oh no, I just quit my job and I might fail!”

Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey

The early stage of entrepreneurship is a vulnerable period. Fear, confusion, self-doubt, dissolution, and disappointment are all part of the starter package. For me, the only path through these feelings has always been to focus on work. Think action and forward motion. I don’t know any entrepreneur who hasn’t felt that way and, while some deal with it better than others, I was not one of them. My business career has had numerous regrettable encounters, but here I am, finally unscathed. 

Tip: The marketplace is a busy and crowded space. However novel or noble your venture, success will almost always involve time, persistence, blind alleys, and wrong turns.

“Should I get a co-founder?”

I may be biased when it comes to this because all my business adventures have always involved co-conspirators. Not only did it help propel my ventures forward, but it also promoted a balanced attitude, thinking, and approach. There are, of course, drawbacks and considerations to founding teams. The wrong fit in a team will sink a venture faster than anything else. If you do not want a co-founder, you can achieve the same result through a variety of ways such as creating an advisory board or a board of directors, finding angel investors, or creating strong option plans for early-stage employees where applicable.

Tip: In the beginning stage, treat every relationship with extra care and attention. Partners, early clients, investors, and employees will have a significant impact on your growth. Make sure your values and visions are aligned and nurture those relationships.

“My business hit its first milestone!”

Make sure to enjoy the moment – but not for too long! As your business starts hitting its stride, your entrepreneurial role shifts towards a leadership role. As a leader, maintaining focus and discipline on what’s around the next corner is a priority.

Tip: As a business matures, the creative and energetic qualities of the entrepreneur can often become counterproductive. It’s important to be in tune with the needs of the business as it shifts towards administration, optimisation, quality, and performance.

“I didn’t sign up for all this paperwork!”

Freelancer Permit

Depending on the country, there can be significant administrative overhead to building a business. It can come in the form of licensing, HR laws, data and privacy, taxes, and industry-specific legal requirements to name just a few. Most countries, however, distinguish between small businesses and large corporations, maintaining different thresholds of regulation depending on the size and maturity of the enterprise. In my experience, Dubai has some of the most start-up friendly culture and governance frameworks compared to other countries I have worked in.

Tip: Check out the Freelancer License. It’s a low-cost, low-risk way to explore the world of freelancing and a first step towards building a business.

“Someone wants to buy my business.”

Congratulations! You are at what investors refer to as “the exit”! It’s very useful to think about the end of your entrepreneurial story before even starting. It’s not necessarily something to plan for or focus on in the beginning, but it’s useful to keep at the back of your mind. It should also influence the types of choices you make early on as it will impact everything from branding to business strategy and corporate structure. Are you building something that will be franchised? Sold to a larger company? Is yours a social enterprise that will be handed over to a community board of trustees?

Tip: Not all businesses need to have an exit – some can be lifestyle and even generational. Whatever the end of the story, it’s worth considering the options before you start.

“Prepare for a journey, not a result.”

Prepare for a journey, not a result

When people ask me about my business, I generally speak about the journey – the people who I’ve met and worked with, and the places that I’ve travelled to. I don’t think my kids know a single one of my business accomplishments, and I like it that way. Having gone through a full start-up cycle from an idea hatched in a coffee shop to a global technology business, I get to now reflect on the experience, and it has inspired me to start a new adventure as a writer.

My first book Man in Motion captures love, wisdom, relationships, and creativity, all while trying to run a business and keep the lights on at home. When I look back and see where I am now, what I cherish most has been the freedom to succeed or fail, to make decisions and be accountable for their consequences, to explore the world, and live my own journey.

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Postpartum Depression Causes

An Honest Insight into Postnatal Depression 

You don’t have to suffer alone.

Postpartum depression is not discussed enough and is way more common than statistics reflect. But what is postpartum depression? It is the terminology used for an episode of depression experienced by parents following the birth of a child. Postnatal depression, although often used in the same context, is in reference to feelings of depression associated with the baby.

Postpartum psychosis should be considered if symptoms present include hallucinations, paranoia, hyperactivity, or if the mother seems delusional. Medical intervention, hospitalisation, and administration of appropriate medication for the safety and well-being of the mother and baby are required in these circumstances. It’s estimated that this affects one in every 1,000 birth mothers.

Postpartum depression is not a reflection of you as a parent and can be navigated with the right information and support. Keep in mind that this isn’t just something that affects mums – even fathers can be affected. Let’s delve into the emotional and physical changes that impact birth mothers following the birth of a child to understand more.

Day 1 to 3 = The Baby Pinks

Elevated hormones during pregnancy drop after birth and may result in tearfulness, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, and sensitivity. The baby pinks can also present on the other end of the spectrum as feeling euphoric, overly thrilled, and having difficulty sleeping due to not wanting to miss any time with the baby.

Day 3 to 90 = The Baby Blues

Tearfulness, anxiety, fear, insomnia, and feeling emotional are experienced at this stage. It affects at least 60% of birth mothers.

Day 90 to the First Two Years = Postpartum/Postnatal Depression

Anxiety, lack of joy, loss of interest in social activities, lack of interest in sex, difficulty in concentrating, changes in appetite, and feelings of disassociation characterise this stage. Please be aware that these are simply guidelines, and individual cases may vary in symptoms and timeframes. There are many factors that can contribute to parents experiencing postpartum depression, although the exact cause is still unknown. Some of them include:

Physical Factors:

  • Previous history of mental health issues
  • A traumatic birth experience
  • History of miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Social isolation

Emotional Factors:

  • Worrying
  • Overwhelm
  • Feeling that one’s own expectations of themselves as a parent are not being met

Social Factors:

  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Less time for family and friends
  • Separation from work colleagues and social activities

My Journey with PPD

During the 18 months that I suffered from PPD when my son was born in 2017, I was extremely teary. I am a pretty emotional person normally, but this was on a different level! In the early days, I assumed the hormones were just wreaking havoc and it would all calm down. The fear of being judged or labelled as ‘not coping’ and my inner voice (which was lying!) telling me I was not being an amazing mum meant that many of those tears were cried behind closed doors.

When finally making the decision to talk to a counsellor over a Zoom call following a heart-to-heart with a friend, I repeatedly used the word ‘disconnected’. I described this sensation as “watching my life unfold in front of me, but not always feeling present”. My body language portrayed my feelings as I kept touching my head. When asked why I was doing this, I said, “Because it feels like my head is going to explode.”

The longer these feelings and thoughts plagued me, the more ‘shame’ I felt. After waiting so long to have our son (we tried for three years and I was 40 when I fell pregnant), here I was, wasting all of this time feeling sorry for myself. This train of thought did not help one bit, of course, but contributed to the spiral of depression instead. I was confused as we had so badly wanted to have our baby and the research I often came across referred to symptoms such as “difficulty emotionally connecting with the baby”. This could not be further from the truth!

If anything, I felt such overwhelming love and connection with my son that it made me question my own abilities and confidence in being the best mother I could be. I now understand that rather than not connecting with my baby, it was in fact some much-needed connection with myself that was required. Like so many other people who have experienced this, I did not fully acknowledge the issues I was facing. It was not a consistent feeling and, therefore, I believed that it was all getting better – until that dark cloud would descend upon me again.

Circumstances played a hand, too. Living overseas saw us begin this new chapter without the proximity of our families and, whilst supported through video calls and messages, it was not the same as the physical connection and ease of simply ‘popping in for a coffee and a chat’. The Zoom call with the counsellor was the catalyst I needed to begin the journey to showing up as the mum I knew I really was.

Postpartum Depression & Causes

Around the same time, a friend of mine who was a life coach was hosting a retreat close to our home, and I decided that it may be beneficial for me to attend. Little did I know that it would change the trajectory of not only my personal life but also my professional life. Having that space, tools, and learning new things would lead me to a pivotal moment whilst sitting by the water with my son a few days later. I remembered to breathe!

It was at that moment I decided to study as a coach and provide much-needed support for other families. A trip to the doctor saw me begin to take antidepressants to ‘springboard’ me to a place of being able to get back on my feet. I hold no judgment over taking medication. However, I strongly believe that the answers do not lie solely within that pill. Creating a toolkit of habits, behaviours, and awareness of your own needs should go hand in hand with a prescription.

The last three years have seen me furthering my education and training in Life Coaching and Post Natal Depression Awareness, creating an online programme called Stepping Into Parenthood. Most importantly, I’ve implemented all I have learned to create a support system for my own mental health, where I no longer need medication and have the ability to navigate the down days.

Normalising Talking About PPD

It is now my mission to share my learnings, raise awareness, normalise talking about the challenges of being a parent, and provide a safe space for anyone who needs it to talk. Giving oxygen to the thoughts and emotions that occur after bringing a child into the world, to me, is one of the best ways to provide self-care. 

It can be difficult to be truly honest with family and friends as their intentions to help with advice and opinions can add to the overwhelming feeling. That’s why having a coach, therapist, or counsellor is one of the best investments you can make for yourself. Yet, it’s unfortunate that this can still carry a stigma or feeling of embarrassment. Look at it this way. 

Postpartum Depression: Diagnosis, Symptoms, Treatment

When learning to drive, we all have a driving instructor to help us understand the workings of the car and the rules of the road. We then have to pass a test before being allowed to drive. Nothing like this is required to become a parent. When starting a job, there is usually a training period to learn how to do the job and what’s expected of you. Again, nothing like this is required to become a parent.

When playing sports, there is usually a coach to teach you best practices and support you as you learn. At one time in the UK, you were required to have a license if you wanted to own a TV! Of course, nothing like this is required to become a parent. What I am saying is that we need to normalise preparing to become a parent – both physically and mentally. The fundamental contributors to this chapter in your life are:

  • Being aware of your own human needs and how you can meet them.
  • Welcoming evolvement rather than the often discussed need to ‘spring back’, whether it is to pre-baby weight, career, or lifestyle. Of course, these make up your identity and it is important to have goals, but remember to be a little kinder to yourself. Allow some flexibility and reduce inner conflict by embracing this new version of yourself.
  • Personal development will help you to identify any inner work that needs to be addressed as well as strengthen your relationship with yourself – which, of course, will impact your relationships with your loved ones.

I now realise that my obsessive need to clean the house was to meet my driving human need for certainty. I am someone who is routine-orientated, systematic and does not do so well feeling out of control. Another massive contributor for me was that I was not meeting my own human need for growth. I naturally immersed myself in all things baby, and therefore stopped reading, listening, or watching anything that challenged or elated my own brain. When I began studying, it was like a big switch being turned on! Self-care makes you the best parent you can be for your child.

Nikki Steele Osborne is a life coach. For more information, please follow @thescottishsoulsister on Instagram or Facebook and visit scottishsoulsister.com.

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Effect of Casual relationship on Mental Health

Can Casual Relationships Be Good for Mental Health?

It’s complicated.

A casual relationship can be applauded, cherished, criticised, envied, or considered taboo depending on the situation, social group, and public perception. Some people may carefully consider its advantages and disadvantages, while others take the idea of a casual relationship – well, more casually. For some, the humiliation connected with physical intimacy runs deep, while others dismiss it and enjoy the pleasure. 

Though many people have strong feelings about whether it’s a good idea or not, these feelings tend to vary when life circumstances – and relationship statuses – change. Whether you prefer to go with the flow or delve into the details, it’s helpful to examine the cultural context and potential mental health impacts (both positive and negative) of a casual relationship when choosing whether it’s right for you.

Casual relationships are now more accessible than ever. There’s no shortage of people looking for a physical relationship, with the option of meeting potential partners both in-person and through various dating sites and apps. But that doesn’t mean these relationships are not without critique. 

The Risks and Benefits 

The pros and cons of a casual relationship are entirely dependent on the circumstance. People lament the prevalence of hook-ups – particularly the lack of commitment and emotional connection and the mental toll it takes. At the same time, however, it can have many advantages like sexual satisfaction, attractiveness, maybe even finding a future partner, and so on. 

The disadvantages, which include emotional pain from desiring more or regretting it, are often attributable to your expectations and history of relationships. It would help if you evaluated whether you can embrace or reject any shame, negative sentiments, or trauma that you may have encountered. 

Benefits of Casual relationship on Mental Health

It should be kept in mind that a casual relationship offers considerable health risks if you do not follow safe sex practices (including the possibility of STIs and pregnancy), thereby requiring caution and awareness. Individuals interested in a casual relationship should consider their wants and seek medical advice about safe sex practices. On the other hand, the emotional implications can be devastating, primarily if a casual relationship is used to bury or escape your feelings or hurt someone else’s. 

Thus, it’s crucial to consider how likely you are to enjoy yourself as some societies are more accepting of or enthusiastic about casual sex, while others consider it taboo. There can also be a strong stigma attached to sexual agency and expression. But what if consenting hook-ups aren’t necessarily bad? What if you are told that a casual physical relationship can benefit your mental health? What if you didn’t have to let casual physical relationships ruin your mental health? 

Exploring Yourself 

From experience, we know that many people enter these partnerships expecting to have fun. However, they may become disappointed, connected, deflated, and disturbed. Others may be pleasantly delighted by the experience and their capacity to enjoy a physical connection. Casual relationships therefore have the potential of a beneficial influence on most people’s mental well-being. What’s the key? The correct preparation and a respectful and compatible partner. 

If your intentions for physical intimacy are to get even with a former partner or satisfy someone else, this could negatively influence your mental health. However, if your motivation is for pleasure or to explore yourself, you may be less likely to experience negative feelings afterwards. Exploring oneself may have beneficial effects on your mental health because physical contact releases ‘feel good’ hormones. Hence, if the deed is done with positive intentions, you will feel pleasure and self-satisfaction without any negative thoughts lingering in your mind.

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Self Esteem Body Type

Why Your Body Type Shouldn’t Dictate Your Self-Esteem

Loving yourself has no boundaries.

The body positivity movement has grown in popularity on social media over the last few years, aiming to increase self-esteem and promote general body acceptance. It encourages love and acceptance of the body to enhance body image. This differs from the body neutrality movement, which emphasises the body’s function over its outward appearance. 

Body Image and Self-Destruction 

Body image refers to how you see your body in your mind – not merely in mirrors or pictures. Body image is the sum of a person’s ideas and feelings about their physical appearance, including how it feels to move in their body, how they perceive their body form, and how they think about how they look. These beliefs regarding physical appearance are frequently linked to one’s sense of self-worth and capacity for self-love.

Sometimes, having a negative body image can ruin your self-esteem, thereby negatively impacting your general health. Media portrayals of unrealistically thin bodies as being beautiful feed our imaginations. Additionally, it gives individuals an erroneous impression because these are the body types praised by the media and deemed attractive.

We develop a mental image of ourselves as being petite, and we want that body type in order to be desirable and meet beauty standards. However, doing so could be harmful to oneself. People who follow strict diets to achieve this unrealistic body shape lose vital nutrients from their bodies. In the long run, this may lead to significant health conditions.

Body Image and Mental Health 

Negative thoughts about your physical appearance don’t necessarily convert into negative thoughts about your overall self right away – but they can do so relatively quickly. Mental and emotional well-being can suffer as a result of this negativity. Low self-esteem – which can result in problematic habits like obsessive exercising, excessive dieting, or social withdrawal – is frequently a result of having a poor body image.

Working on self esteem

Low self-esteem can create anxiety and loneliness, raise your risk of depression, interfere with your relationships, and negatively affect your performance at work or school. A study of 563 women found that 40% of those with severe depressive illness or any anxiety condition had at least one incident of disordered eating, compared to 11% of those with no history of depression or anxiety.

8 Ways to Achieve a Healthier Body Image 

Here are a few habits you can develop for a better lifestyle: 

  • Instead of trying to control your body shape, eat and move in a way that makes your brain and body happy.
  • Be in the company of supportive friends and relatives. Unfollow anyone on social media that shames others for their bodies and favours one body type over another.
  • Consider your feelings and the source of your emotions when you have negative thoughts about your appearance. Do you feel tense? Anxious? What’s happening?
  • Take care of yourself and constantly remind yourself that you deserve kindness and love.
  • Dress in comfortable clothing that fits the way you want it to.
  • Consult with friends and family for help.
  • Never evaluate yourself against others.
  • Recognise when you think negatively about someone else’s body and change it to good thoughts.

The Benefits of Body Positivity 

Let’s face it, we have all assessed a particular part of our body at some point in our life as not being good enough when we looked in the mirror. However, you risk developing a distorted body image if you start dwelling on your apparent imperfections. Your mental health might be harmed by a desire to be thinner, shorter, or taller. And that’s why body positivity is important.

1. It strengthens mental health.

Your mental health is impacted by how you feel about your physical appearance, which influences your self-esteem. The difficulty with negative thinking is that once you begin to contemplate one aspect of your life, it becomes much simpler to do so for other factors.

The next time you think negatively about your physique, take a moment to assess your emotional and mental state. Are you currently feeling stressed or overwhelmed? If so, what aspect of your life – and why – is making me feel this way? Work on the answers to these questions to build up your mental health. 

Mental Health

2. It puts social media beauty standards to the test.

Viewing a barrage of flawlessly sculpted male and female bodies when scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter has become the norm. These idealised yet unrealistic representations now define the ideal body. Be cautious when seeing such photos online.

Social media content is not always accurate. In truth, many images are edited and tweaked to make subjects appear younger and leaner. To transform their bodies in the hopes of being accepted, many men and women end up paying for body modification surgery. Understanding this and accepting yourself for who you are is a brave disavowal of social media standards. 

3. It encourages self-love.

We live in a world that is fixated on the body and thrives on unrealistic ideas of what the ideal body should look like. Unsurprisingly, many people are led to believe that they should be embarrassed by their bodies. They embark on a lifelong quest to ‘repair’ themselves rather than learn to appreciate and accept themselves as they are. Accepting one’s body is a bold act of self-love. It extends past what the outside can see. Never believe that you need to alter a part of who you are to fit in.

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