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A woman looking at sun

How to Fall Madly in Love (with Yourself)

Putting yourself first isn’t selfish.

Last Monday was centred around the celebration of romantic attachment, with people going all out to express their love for their significant other. But what about self-love? Are you madly in love with yourself? And does that question seem alien to you? Having worked with hundreds of women, I can safely say that womengenerally struggle to love themselves wholeheartedly. Some cannot even fathom what it feels like. Here, I’m going to show you what it looks like to be in love with yourself and provide you with tips on how to get started on that journey towards self-love. 

When I was nine years old, I remember feeling special and loved. Looking back, it was because I loved myself. I would wake up excited and eager to see what the day held for me. I would say what I wanted when I wanted. If I did not want to do something, I would simply say no. If I wanted something, I would ask for it. I was very clear with what I wanted, needed, what I liked, and what I did not like. I loved myself wholeheartedly. I was happy. 

Fast forward to my 20s, and I was filled with self-doubt. I would constantly censor myself when I spoke as I didn’t want to look stupid or sound silly. I always wanted to lose weight, regardless of how I looked. I would repeatedly criticise myself. “Why did I just say that?” “What must they think of me now?” “I can’t believe I did that!” “I wish I was thinner/smarter/richer.” It’s exhausting to just remember the endless barrage of self-doubt and judgement that seemed so normal to me at the time. 

When I hit my 30s, I decided that I’d had enough and wanted to return to feeling as good as I did when I was nine. At that point, I started studying the brain and was already a Master NLPpractitioner who was obsessed with being the best version of myself. What I noticed then was that I was not the only one who spoke so badly of myself. That’s when I started on the journey of falling in love with myself.

Observe Your Thoughts

Fall Madly in Love

We have thousands of thoughts a day and many of them are about ourselves. Most of us think that these thoughts just come from nowhere and, even though this is trueto some level, it doesn’t that we can’t control them. The first way to fall in love with yourself is to observe what you are thinking about yourself. When you look in the mirror, what do you say? What is the tone you use to speak to yourself? What are the words that you use? If you have never taken the time to really observe the thoughts you have about yourself, start noticing and start writing them all down truthfully.

When you monitor your thoughts, you will realise that it is generally filled with a lot of judgement. It’s natural and we all do it, but you also need to start challenging those thoughts. The easiest way I did this was to ask myself, ‘Would I say this to my best friend?’ Start talking to yourself the way you would to your best friend. Be kind to yourself in the words andtonality that you use. Praise yourself. Tell yourself that you did well and have compassion for yourself. This takes time and practice, but it’s by far one of the most important parts of starting the process of falling in love with yourself. 

Honour Your Needs

Fall Madly In Love with With Yourself

Another way to start falling in love with who you are is to honour your needs. For example, if you had a busy week at work and your friend asks you to help her move over the weekend, and you say yes – even though you’re physically and emotionally exhausted – then you are not honouring your needs. You’ve put your friend’s needs above yours. Learning to only say yes when you truly want to is one of the most powerful ways to honour your needs. Honouring your needs and wants as a woman means putting your own mental and physical needs before others.

As women, we tend to be people-pleasers and struggle to say no. And being a people-pleaser recoveree, I understand how hard this can be, but the power of being authentic and saying yes only when I really mean it has transformed my life. It means that when I say yes, I am not resenting doing what I have agreed to do. It means that I am not from an empty cup. It is not selfish to do that – in fact, it’s the most loving action you can take for yourself and the people in your life. Honouring your needs, both mentally and physically, is extremely powerful.

Love Your Body 

Fall In Love with With Yourself

As a woman, you might have a very complicated relationship with your body, and you could be very critical of it. Sometimes you might punish your body by overfeeding or underfeeding it. You could push your body to its limits at the gym or not stimulate it at all by living a sedentary life. A whole article can be written on this issue, but it needs to be mentioned here as so many of us base our self-worth on the size of a dress or the number on a scale. Learning to love your body, no matter what, is a big part of falling in love with ourselves. 

How do you do this? Love your body for how it is right now. Think of it like this: if you had an object you loved, respected, and honoured, how would you treat it? You would treat it with care. You would look after it with everything you had. Our bodies are the same. If you treat your body with love and respect, you will nourish it with food that you know will fuel it properly. Moving your body and fuelling it from a place of love and respect is also one of the key ingredients to falling in love with yourself. 

Surround Yourself with the Right People 

Self-Love Tips Every Woman

Finally, I want to talk about the people in our lives. Learning to surround yourself with people who uplift you, bring you joy, inspire you, and motivate you is also important for falling in love with yourself. Allowing someone into your life who constantly brings you down or is toxic and berates you is not going to do anything for your self-love. However, learning to distance yourself from them and finding people who have positive things to say and can improve your well-being is essential to falling in love with who you are. One of the most powerful things you can do as a woman is to fall in love with yourself because, the more you love yourself, the more love you can give to the world.

Was this helpful? Learn more ways to improve your health and well-being in our Wellness section.

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Mother and Daughter taking

Raise Your Little Girl to Be a Queen – Here’s How

Empower her in a male-dominated world!

Empowerment is not a buzzword anymore, but an imperative notion for positive change, evolution, and equality. Society at large has always discriminated against girls, their likes, their lifestyles, and their basic rights. So how can we bring a monumental change in the way we raise our girls to turn them into the torchbearers of this generation? Now, with International Daughters Day on the horizon, I would like to highlight ways in which we can raise and empower every little girl to lead the way in the future. 

Teach Her to Voice Her Opinions and Decisions

Allowing girls to express their opinions is key to raising empowered young women. Let her know that her voice matters and say, “What are your thoughts? I want to hear what you have to say. How do you feel about this?” Letting them speak their mind is particularly important in making them feel included, heard, and accepted. At home, parents should allow their daughters to debate big topics – even if it gets heated – as it teaches them to be assertive and holds appropriate boundaries around disagreements. Long story short: listen more and dictate less.

Encourage Her to Pursue Her Passion

It is every individual’s fundamental right as a human being to pursue what they truly love and, as women, it becomes even more vital. It is often observed that girls don’t speak up for themselves when it comes to their career choices. Letting girls fully engage with an activity that they love will give them the opportunity to conquer and master any challenge. This will also boost her morale, build resilience and self-esteem, and affirm intrinsic values in her (rather than limiting her to just beauty and body). 

Identify the Core Values of Your Family

Just as charity begins at home, so does empowerment. Creating an environment for girls to hone their values, yet live life on their own terms, is vital. Consider the ways in which you can convey values, especially by example. Think about what traits and strengths you want her to develop, such as authenticity and integrity, and what everyday life moments you can use to model and demonstrate such family values. 

Create a Safe Space for Them  

It is our responsibility to create a safe environment where she can express herself uninhibitedly, and not restrain her feelings. Allowing girls to show their full range of emotions is important in making them feel respected. We also need to teach young girls that when they feel angry or upset, it’s a signal that something is important to them and they should express it. Thus, creating a safe space for girls to stand up for themselves is very important. Safety is also a feeling that most girls and women never fully feel in life. This makes it important to educate men to learn to respect and treat girls the right way, so that girls can feel safe and don’t always have their guard up. Creating an environment where women are not treated as objects, but seen as equal individuals, is crucial. 

Teach Her to Say ‘no’ Without Guilt 

From a very early age, we are conditioned as girls to take care of others and their needs first, and not prioritise ourselves in the process. This leads to faster burnout for women as compared to men. Thus, it becomes vital to teach our girls as kids to say no without feeling guilty or constantly feeling the need to please others.

Allow Her to Be Adventurous, Daring, and Fearless 

Urge your daughters, cousins, and every other girl to get out of her comfort zone by embracing her authentic self. Help her face the fears that make her feel incompetent and make her realise that there is more to her than she believes herself to be! Let her take risks, stumble, and find her way – that will help her embrace her true empowered version. 

Exercise Equality, Irrespective of Gender

Most girls have witnessed gender bias at least once in their household, which always leaves some form of a scar in their lives. If you have boys and girls in the same house, it’s important to treat them equally, be it when they are in the middle of an argument, fighting, shopping, or even in terms of love, care, and number of hugs. Children have a tendency to observe everything and adapt quickly to actions, behaviours, and words. Schools must also step up to treat boys and girls equally, encouraging them to play together – especially in sports as that’s where most girls feel they aren’t as tough and strong as boys. 

Be Inclusive and Body-Positive

A lot of girls and women worldwide struggle with body image issues. What if this could be eliminated by taking action in one’s early days? Passing mean comments on a girl’s body (even jokingly), looking at their bodies with disgust, pressuring them to lose weight, and warning them that they will have a hard time finding a suitable boy if they don’t can contribute to women’s body image issues. Unfortunately, this practice still happens in countless schools and homes today. 

Kids – and girls especially – are bound to self-sabotage, question their looks, and think that there’s something wrong with them. To change this, parents can be mindful of how they talk and feel about their own bodies. If a girl sees her mother avoiding certain foods because she wants to lose weight or groaning at the weighing scale, that can send a certain message. In contrast, using positive phrases, avoiding negative comparisons, being mindful of how they talk about themselves and their friends, and not unnecessarily restricting them from behaving a certain way will surely encourage them to unlock their girl power.

Set Healthy Boundaries 

Teach her to establish healthy boundaries for herself, be it personally or professionally. This will help her to not be taken for granted. Not only will it make her understand her own worth, but also teach her to treat others with respect and harmony. 

Lastly, Celebrate Her 

Women are creators themselves, and should be celebrated at every stage of life. They are symbolic of grace, abundance, feminine energy, love, joy, and so much more. Always upliftyour daughter to be independent, push her to become a fierce woman, teach her to become self-sufficient, and never limit herself to her beauty and body. Let’s give wings to her aspirations! 

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Making Amends: The Journey to Healing

Read on if you’re anxious about a quarrel with a loved one.

Have you ever been anxious about a quarrel with a friend, sibling, or spouse? We’ve all been there. There is always guilt, but at the time, your fury overtook you and caused you to say things you didn’t consciously mean, and you wish you could take them back. 

You can’t take back what you’ve said after you’ve said it. It keeps you thinking about how you could wreck your relationship with them, which takes you down the overthinking spiral. There appears to be no answer, but there is one that may improve your situation – but what is it? Making amends. It’s the only way to get over it. After what you said, you may feel embarrassed and even guilty about contacting them again, but it’s never too late. A sincere apology may even improve the bond between you and your loved one.

The first step is to admit to yourself that you made a mistake. Making amends after wrongdoing can only happen once you’ve admitted and accepted your role in the situation, as well as the pain you caused them and yourself. There is no need to continue reading this article if the acceptance is missing. Being mindful of your triggers and starting the healing with yourself will lead to making amends and asking for forgiveness.

As specialists have discovered, the hardest part of the healing journey is asking for forgiveness and forgiving oneself. On the other hand, the healing process begins the instant you recognise your mistake and start to resolve the cause of the trigger, and are eager to correct it. Stabilising your mental health and manifesting positive energy can be difficult, but it is not impossible. It all begins with you.

To “See Through Their Eyes”

We’ve all heard the advice to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes or see things through someone else’s eyes to understand a situation better. However, this may be difficult since everyone has their own narrative about a scenario, and it’s difficult to discard that narrative because there’s always a bias, which is difficult to overcome.

Nonetheless, this is a critical step that you must not overlook. Putting yourself in their shoes or seeing things through their eyes is imagining yourself in their circumstances and changing your perspective to see things from a different one. In this manner, you can comprehend why you did something wrong and hash it out with the person. Furthermore, you’ll be able to empathise with their suffering and give them and yourself time to heal before continuing your connection.

Communication Brings People Together

Communication is the second most important aspect of making amends. It solves 50% of the problems when they are done correctly. The goal of communication is to eliminate any potential for misunderstanding. This way, instead of expecting to hear what you like, you can truly and meaningfully ask the individual what you can do to improve things. 

Their response could be very different from what you expected, making you upset and enraged. To summarise, you must accept their response with an open mind. If you truly want to make amends, you must mentally prepare yourself to accept what they say while putting selfishness at bay.

Processing the Apology

Giving the other time to accept your apology and giving yourself time to accept is crucial. You can’t immediately apologise and expect everything to go back to normal; forgetting and erasing the negative from memory takes time, and moving on takes time. However, forgiveness and acceptance are the first steps toward regaining control of your thoughts and improving your mental health.

Making amends is a way to make peace with oneself and start healing. It’s important to remember that your apology should represent your selflessness – not your desire to re-establish the relationship, but rather to help the other person feel better and improve the situation. There’s a chance the individual won’t forgive you, but you should let it go and see this as an opportunity to grow.

Liberate Your True Self

You must keep on track and not stray. Your apology aims to restore the other person’s faith in humanity and apologise for the actions you have shown honestly. It reflects your true self and allows the other person to comprehend your objectives better. If they don’t accept the apology, it doesn’t mean you’re abandoning the original goal – whether the individual forgives you or not, you should stick to your words. Making mistakes is inevitable in life, but failing to acknowledge them causes your character to deteriorate.

Asking for forgiveness is a healing process that can help you regain control of your life and mind as well as improve your perception of things. It should be a selfless deed to cure yourself and the person you have offended. It’s okay if you accidentally hurt someone and learn from it during your self-love journey. In contrast, what is not okay is being mindless about it. However, you are selfish if you purposely harm another person to benefit yourself. There’s a fine line between self-love and selfishness, and it’s up to you to draw it.

The Perfect Present

Researchers, mental health experts, religious leaders, and those in the recovery community all agree that acknowledging our triggers, healing our triggers and mistakes, expressing regret, and doing what we can to make things right may lead to immense benefit. Forgiveness is critical to the healing process because it allows you to let go of your anger, guilt, shame, grief, or any other negative emotion and move on.

Once you’ve identified what you’re experiencing, given it a voice, and realised that mistakes are unavoidable, you can go on. You’ll realise how liberating and forgiving it can be. Researchers have concluded that self-forgiveness is a “morally problematic area” and that “individuals may, at times, believe that they deserve to continue paying for their wrongs”, but they might be able to “tilt the scales of justice” if they make amends.

Aditi Vijay Chandani is a mental health coach in Dubai. Visit @therapywith_aditivc for more information.

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Ways to Plan an Eco-Friendly Wedding

7 Ways to Have a More Sustainable Wedding

Small changes equal big impact.

Here’s an inconvenient truth for all brides-to-be: your wedding, while designed to be the greatest day of your life, will inevitably have a hefty carbon footprint. Flowers will be discarded, as will excess food, paper decorations, and even wedding favours left behind by guests. It’s no wonder that more and more couples are opting for a ‘green’ – a.k.a. eco-friendly – wedding, which is easier to plan than it sounds. Here, with peak wedding season on the horizon, we share a few tips to get you started.

1

Instead of creating a wedding registry and accumulating more material possessions, direct your guests to a charity of your choice. Whether you’re passionate about animal welfare, fighting hunger, or protecting the environment, there’s a whole host of brilliant initiatives that your guests can support on your behalf.

2


Seek a stationer that gives back to the planet in some capacity. Ananya Cards, for example, plants trees for every wedding and event stationery order placed. It also uses cardstock from sustainably managed forests and recycled cards where possible. We also recommend posting information such as directions on your wedding website instead of using additional paper.

Eco-friendly Wedding Ideas

3

Floral centerpieces do wonders for the aesthetics of a wedding – not so much for the environment, though. A more sustainable substitute is using potted plants (like succulents) or flowers (like orchids or roses), which can be taken home once the big day is over. Alternatively, bypass the blooms in favour of more modern options like books, branches, and or sculptures.

4

An entirely vegetarian feast will inevitably make for a more eco-friendly wedding as plant-based meals consume fewer resources to produce – and harm no animals to boot. Looking to accommodate meat-eaters? Aim for a menu that’s 50% vegetarian. And if neither of these is an option, opt for plated dinners as buffets lead to greater food waste.

Green Wedding Ideas for an Eco-Friendly Celebration

5

Edible wedding favours are a no-brainer. For starters, your guests will likely be famished towards the end of the night. And let’s face it – they’ll probably prefer mini cupcakes or cheese popcorn over a candle with your wedding date on it. Bonus: you can support small, locally based businesses if you source your favours from Ripe Market or ARTE, The Makers’ Market.

6

Unless fancy soirées are a regular occurrence in your groom’s social life, suggest that he rent a tux instead of splurging on one – it will be better for the planet and his wallet. Based in Jumeirah, The Wedding Shop has both tuxedos and morning suits in cuts ranging from classic to contemporary for hire.

Ways to Plan an Eco-Friendly Wedding

7

You will need to arrange some type of transportation for your wedding day, especially if your out-of-town guests are staying at hotels far from the ceremony or reception venue. Providing post-event vans or buses is not only safer, but it also reduces the number of vehicles used.

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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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Dating in Dubai

In Conversation with The Dubai Matchmaker

Stop swiping left and listen up.

To say dating in Dubai is tricky is an understatement – with such a transient populace, not everyone’s seeking a serious, long-lasting relationship. Factor in long working hours, an emphasis on social status, the prevalence of ghosting, and all those headlines on scams carried out via dating apps, and you’re looking at a recipe for disaster. Enter: Christiana Maxion

Better known as ‘The Dubai Matchmaker’, the New York native is (you guessed it) a Dubai-based matchmaker and dating coach, passionate about helping the city’s singles find love. On a mission to rewrite the blueprint of the Dubai dating-verse, she’s also the host of the aptly named Dating in Dubai podcast that spans subjects like dating different nationalities, the perils of Tinder, and even her own UAE break-up story. We spent an evening chatting with this charismatic dating guru. Here’s what we learned.

matchmaker Dubai

1. Dating in Dubai is tricky, but it has its merits.

“You can argue both sides. I would say Dubai is definitely a place where you can have the most fun in dating because you can literally date the entire map. It’s such an international city – even New York City, where I’m from, has more of a homogeneous community in the sense that most people are American. But here in Dubai, you have people from so many different parts of the world, so it’s a really cool place to date. As for this mindset that it might be more difficult? I think that it’s a place where you can actually weed out what you like, where you can test the waters. And maybe it will take a little longer to find that person who you do connect or click with, but then again, dating is an experiment. It’s a game. You just have more options here, which I think is great.”

2. Not all singles in Dubai prioritise status when dating.

“It’s dependent on where you are. Of course, when you’re in Dubai – whether you’re visiting or you live here – you see the flashy cars, you see that it’s an expensive city. While there are ways to live in Dubai on any budget, it is a flashy city – but it’s about what kind of crowd you roll in, what kind of places you go to, where you meet different types of people. Also, different people define ‘status’ differently. For some, status is a nice car. For others, status is their family unit or the relationships with their friends. And I think Dubai is a place where you can make it whatever you want. If you want the city to be healthy or outdoorsy, you can do that – you can go hiking, you can join cycling clubs, you can join the gym. And if you want it to be super luxe, you can be out in DIFC or Downtown Dubai. There really are so many ways to experience and live in Dubai.”

3. Quality singles do exist in Dubai.

“I think there are so many quality people in the UAE, especially in Dubai, because it takes a certain personality to move here. It isn’t home for most people – close to 90% of the population is composed of expats, so it takes a certain mindset to leave a place that’s comfortable, a hometown maybe, and move to Dubai. And what I love about this city is that it breeds so much opportunity – people come here, they start new businesses, they maybe bring something that’s popular in their home country but doesn’t exist here. A lot of people have an entrepreneurial spirit, that ambition, that drive, which I personally find really attractive. So, yes, there are plenty of quality people here, but you might not find them on a dating app. Or maybe they are on a dating app, but they don’t come across that way on their profile, which is why I say to move more towards dating in the wild.”

4. Dating apps in Dubai – and everywhere else – are trouble.

“Dating apps in general are bad news. We’re in 2022, and the dating app market is really saturated – and with that comes a lot of fake profiles, a lot of profiles of people maybe who aren’t portraying their authentic selves. And in Dubai at least, the pandemic seems to be kind of over – we’re at least halfway out of it – so more places are open. There are so many different hobbies and interests that you can invest in and actually meet somebody in person. Besides, dating apps take away that vetting process, right? Would be curious to know more about a person based on an in-person interaction or a static photo and some words put together that might not even be true? I’d recommend Dubai singles to pursue more hobbies and go out there to meet people in person – or hire a matchmaker!”

Dating apps in Dubai

5. Meeting a partner ‘in the wild’ is more likely to yield the right partner.

“I think that meeting a partner in the wild not only narrows down the vetting process, but also the effort involved in the dating process. Yeah, it might take time to meet someone who you actually connect with, but at least you’re not blindly going on dates with people you know nothing about. You get that automatic feeling when you meet somebody in person, whether or not you’re curious to know more about them, or if you have a connection. You instantly know if you want to see where it goes.”

6. Demand for matchmaking services is on the rise across Dubai.

“I hear so many complaints from both clients and friends about the fact that people aren’t portraying their authentic selves. They go on a date, and realise the profile contained altered photos, filtered photos, photos from 10 years ago. Some people aren’t being honest about their relationship status, either. But when you join our database – either as a member or a client – you’re completely vetted. We interview every single person, and you have to sign a contract confirming that you’re actually portraying your authentic self. And when we do present potential matches, we tell you why you would be compatible with a particular person. As for those who trust the process? I tell everybody that even if there isn’t a romantic spark, it could result in a friendship or business connection.”

7. Overwhelmed by modern dating? A dating coach can help.

“Sometimes, what ends up happening in dating is you ask your friends for their opinions. Or maybe your past experiences have shaped your perception of what dating should be. Or maybe you’ve lowered your standards in some way. In contrast, I call the dating coaching that I provide ‘empowered dating’. It’s about breaking through past patterns by starting with a deep analysis of your most significant relationships. We then build your ideal partner – this is like the customised compatibility coding that I do with my matchmaking clients, but in even more depth. From there, we create dating opportunities, so based on this compatibility code, we determine what hobbies and interests you can invest in to meet or attract this partner in real life.

Coaching also entails learning how to put yourself first – date yourself first, get to know yourself, and put yourself on a pedestal. One of the things we do is create a unique selling point list – your USP list – and then talk about all your achievements and what you bring to a relationship. This is because once you start putting yourself on a pedestal, it’s easier to see both the green and red flags when you’re dating. You’re no longer going to settle for somebody who treats you lesser than. And a really big point that I emphasise when I work with clients is that you should be dating like you’re the CEO of your dating life – you wouldn’t hire somebody to work for you if they weren’t meeting your minimum requirements, right?”

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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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