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boosting energy and mind

How To Strengthen Your Mind, Body, And Soul In Partial Lockdown

This is how I am putting up a fight against COVID-19. How about you?

Since the lockdown was announced it has been a rollercoaster of emotions these past few weeks. Some days are up, some down; and in between there is that eerie numb feeling. Even with the easing of restrictions, we all have a long time to go before we can comfortably venture outside as we used to ‘before’.

It was all kind of surreal initially and took me a while before I could fully process it all. At the time, I was fixated on adapting to the sudden changes – from stocking-up on groceries, to setting-up new working spaces, to arranging homeschooling schedules. These initial tasks kept me physically busy and my mind occupied throughout the day. But as the days went by and reality started to sink in, I couldn’t help but wonder…

What happened to our freedom?  Is freedom just a concept that we will soon barely remember? Is this the new normal? How long is this going to last?

And right there alone in my thoughts I decided I will not be a victim of this silent dictator. I will wake up every day determined to make the most out of what I have, to enjoy my days at home with the people I love the most and to empower my optimistic self and everyone I can because… This too shall pass.

Yes, COVID-19 this is personal, and I am putting up a fight against you!

In this post, I want to share with you some advice on the different ways to increase your body’s defenses, cheer yourself up and take on a more positive outlook in the days ahead. You can easily incorporate these tips into your daily routine and build a happier, relaxed and more optimistic outlook during this time. So sit back, read on and contemplate your plan of attack to enjoy your vital self-care time. Remember, you deserve it!


BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY

…WITH DIET

healthy diet plan

“We are what we eat”.

The time is now to focus on feeding our bodies with the best quality, nutrient-dense and antioxidant-packed foods. Paying close attention to our diet is essential to staying in our best physical and mental condition.

Choose your meals wisely – always go for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, healthy fats and avoid processed options. I am a big believer in nutritious immunity booster smoothies, a very easy and convenient way to load up on great ingredients in your daily diets.

Now if you are loving the smoothies and healthy eating plan remember to always keep a balance. Indulging in certain foods from time to time is okay.  Who can say no to chocolate, right? Just make sure it doesn’t become a habit.


…WITH SUPPLEMENTS

food supplements

If you find the variety of fresh produce to be dwindling as the lockdown continues and your diet has become somewhat restrictive, supplements are an effective option to make sure our bodies are getting all the necessary nutrients to keep our defense system working at its best. Vitamins C, E and B6, and minerals such as Zinc are immunity-reinforcement powerhouses that enhance our body’s anti-inflammatory response. As always, do consult with your doctor before introducing any new dietary changes into your regiment.


…WITH FITNESS

fitness training keeps you fit

Keeping yourself active is essential to staying healthy. Exercise is not only beneficial for your physical wellbeing but also for your mental health. Working out regularly reduces stress and anxiety, it regulates your serotonin levels keeping you from mood swings and poor sleeping patterns. If you are restricted from going outside, you can choose to walk around your house to achieve your target of steps per day, or tap into the many IG Lives provided for free by fitness experts.

Check out @dubai_calendar on Instagram for upcoming schedules of fitness programs on offer.


…WITH REST TIME

adequate sleep time

Sleep is fundamental for your body to strengthen your immune system and crucial to help fight any environmental aggressors that could wreak havoc on your body. So prioritize getting at least a good 8 hours of rest daily to keep your immunity in an optimal state. Structuring your days by keep a regular schedule goes a long way here. Also, shutting off screen time at least half an hour before going to bed is essential to avoid disrupting sleeping patterns.


BOOST YOUR SPIRIT

…WITH SELF CARE

practice self-care habits

Create an at-home Spa experience and practice some self-care habits like applying a home-made face mask , using a DIY body scrub,  grooming your nails or trying hair treatments.  The mere ritual of taking the time to look after yourself will instantly make you feel better and have you looking great.


…WITH MAKEUP

self-expression with fashion

Fashion and makeup have always been my sources of inspiration and self-expression. Getting dressed up and ready are therapeutic ways to trigger yourself into a more dynamic, back-to-normal mode. The more you stick to your regular routine the more efficient and centered you will remain. I wear makeup as a way to cheer me up (you can watch a video tutorial here). Staying in your PJ’s all day is not going to motivate or inspire you to become more productive. So, go ahead and start your day by presenting the best version of yourself!


…WITH LOLs

watch comedy show or movie

We all need a good laugh! Watching a funny show or comedy movie completely resets my mood. It is incredible what the power of laughter can accomplish. Try it and you won’t be disappointed. Alternatively, leverage technology and embrace video conference calls to keep your stay-at-home life socially active with your family and girlfriends! Whilst social distancing is the need of the hour, we do not have to be anti-social.  By creating girls’ night zoom calls with your sisters, girlfriends and other family members, you won’t feel as distant after all.  


BOOST YOUR MIND

…WITH AFFIRMATIONS

healthy positive thoughts

You are what you think.

It is ok to feel overwhelmed, stressed out, confused and even scared under the current COVID-19 circumstances.  Many of you have been at home for over 6 weeks, lost your job, had your salaries reduced or have a loved one in quarantine. The list of impacts on your life are deep and wide. The difference lies in how you deal with it.  It is all about your “state of mind”.

The more you insert healthy positive thoughts and verbal affirmations into your life the better it will make you feel.  Affirmations strengthen your mind and promote self-improvement because they reset your brain. Just like exercise, positive thinking and affirmations increase your level of feel-good hormones.

state of mind

The difference lies in how you deal with it.  It is all about your “state of mind”.

The more you insert healthy positive thoughts and verbal affirmations into your life the better it will make you feel.  Affirmations strengthen your mind and promote self-improvement because they reset your brain. Just like exercise, positive thinking and affirmations increase your level of feel-good hormones.

Affirmations can be as simple as saying “I can” instead of “I can’t”.

Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains. Much like exercise, they raise the level of feel-good hormones and push our brains to form new clusters of “positive thought”.

Try some of these affirmations:

  1. My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil.
  2. I have been given endless talents which I begin to utilize today.
  3. Happiness is a choice. I choose to be happy from this moment on.
  4. I am blessed with an incredible family and wonderful friends.
  5. I deserve to be employed and paid well. Each day, I am closer to finding the perfect job for me.
  6. I am a powerhouse; I am indestructible. I can do this.
  7. Though these times are difficult, they are only a short phase of life.
  8. I wake up today with strength in my heart and clarity in my mind.
  9. My fears of tomorrow are simply melting away.
  10. I am at peace with all that has happened, is happening, and will happen.

You could even create your own affirmations.

Affirmations do indeed strengthen us by helping us believe in the potential of an action we desire to manifest. When we verbally affirm our dreams and ambitions, we are instantly empowered with a deep sense of reassurance that our wishful words will become reality.


…AND WITH MEDITATION

practice of meditation

The practice of Meditation even a few minutes a day is a helpful tool to process everything, drown out the noise of everyday life, acknowledge reality and redirect strong emotions through the right channels. You can start your meditation practice for 2-3 minutes initially and gradually increase your time.

This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction for those who have never meditated:

  1. Sit or lie comfortably. If you opt for the sitting position, do ensure your back is straight and supported, with your hands gently placed on your knees and a soft bend in your elbows. If you opt for lying down, use a yoga mat so your body is adequately supported.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe naturally; make no effort to control the breath.
  4. Focus your attention on your breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly.  Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.

As you meditate, you will encounter thoughts coming in, simply acknowledge and observe these thoughts and release them. Then re-center your focus on your breathing to achieve a clear mind again. By prioritizing a few minutes to be alone with your thoughts each day you fuel your days with productivity and contentment.

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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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Guide to Alzheimer's Disease

Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease?

Let the experts guide you.

Today marks World Alzheimer’s Day, annually uniting people worldwide to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that persists around Alzheimer’s disease and all types of dementia – many still wrongly believe that dementia is a normal part of ageing, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2019. As for the unsung heroes in this picture? The caregivers who take on the burden of creating a safe living space and helping their loved ones with everyday tasks, inevitably experiencing stress in the process.

It’s the early days of caregiving that are arguably most overwhelming, which is why we tapped not one, but two experts from Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health for their insights. Dr Lucille Carriere (LC) is Clinical Health Psychologist, while Dr Jennifer Pauldurai (JP) is a Behavioural Neurology Fellow. Collectively, they address the key aspects of Alzheimer’s disease – behavioural symptoms, communication challenges, maintaining adequate nutrition, the importance of establishing a routine, and more. Above all, their advice is a reminder that you, as a caregiver, are doing the best you can.

Understand what your role entails upfront.

LC: “In comparison to non-dementia caregivers, dementia caregivers often provide more daily hours of care and higher levels of care (assist with the likes of dressing and feeding), which may increase their risk of experiencing mood and physical health symptoms. Additionally, the roles and tasks of caregiving gradually become more intensive and time-consuming as the disease slowly progresses, thus heightening feelings of social isolation. 

Alzheimer’s disease affects not only a loved one’s cognitive functioning, but also their sense of self, personality, and behaviour. In addition to providing daily care, caregivers also experience loss and grief over the loved one they once knew and cherished. They may also have to learn new skills to manage behavioural symptoms such as agitation and hallucinations in their loved ones.”

A healthy lifestyle can slow the progression of symptoms.

JP: “Staying physically active and mentally engaged is very important to maintaining quality of life and daily function. Consider taking your loved one on a daily walk in the park or regularly participating in hobbies, such as yoga or craft-making classes. There is also evidence that optimising our lifestyle, such as our diet and sleeping patterns, can help slow the progression of cognitive decline. Consume a diet rich in varied fruits and vegetables, and low in processed sugars and red meat. A regular routine for daytime activities can promote rest at night.”

Alzheimer's Disease Guide

Establishing a routine is key for you and your loved one.

LC: “Daily and predictable routines become an important tool to help individuals with Alzheimer’s feel safe, supported, and engaged since the environment around them becomes scarier and more unfamiliar as the disease progresses. It’s important to incorporate meaningful and stimulating activities into daily routines, which allow for opportunities to experience positive emotions and interactions. 

Activities should ideally be tailored to the individual’s interests, cognitive and physical abilities, and preferred time of day to optimise the benefits. Because the responsibilities of a caregiver are endless while the number of hours in a day are limited, routines help to remove some of the guesswork out of how to organise the day for both their loved one and themselves. And it’s okay if your loved one is having a ‘bad day’ and necessary changes are made to the routine – remember, there is always tomorrow.”

You can help your loved one maintain some of their independence.

LC: “Even a mild decline in cognitive abilities can negatively interfere with the responsibilities of an individual living with early stage Alzheimer’s, but finding creative and practical ways to compensate can help boost their confidence and sense of purpose. Caregivers can help them maximise independence by maintaining daily routines, providing verbal reminders, encouraging use of memory compensatory skills such as note-taking, or reducing clutter at home. Patients may be more open to trying new compensatory strategies if they’re tailored to their preferences and abilities, so discussing this directly may be helpful in the early stages.”

Patience is key when it comes to communication challenges.

JP: “Alzheimer’s disease causes changes to the brain’s ability to store and retrieve information (memory) and to communicate (language). Over time, you may find that your loved one has difficulties in finding the right word or name to say. Others may have trouble following a complex conversation or understanding how a familiar object is used. Use different methods of communication, like whiteboards or scheduling notes on the phone. Offer to work on activities together to help reinforce ideas. People with memory trouble generally remember feelings better than fact. Communicating with kindness and patience is always more important than getting everything right.”

A Caregiver's Guide

Be mindful when responding to behavioural symptoms.

LC: “It’s important to first understand the potential causes of behavioural symptoms like agitation or aggression, such as physical (illness, pain, discomfort) or environmental contributors (too much or too little stimulation). Such individuals may have trouble communicating their physical or emotional distress, which may manifest in disruptive behaviours. Discussing concerns with your loved one’s medical team may be helpful in ruling out medical reasons. 

For caregivers, remaining patient, calm, and reassuring in reaction to behavioural symptoms is important. The content of your communication may be less important (or understood) than how you communicate. Being mindful of your non-verbal communication style (posture, tone of voice, touch) can be helpful in de-escalating stressful situations. Additionally, it may be helpful for caregivers to engage their loved one in a relaxing and enjoyable activity, or physical activity (going for a walk) to reduce agitation and depressive symptoms.”

Putting your own life on hold isn’t necessary.

LC: “Incorporating regular self-care into a caregiver’s daily routine is beneficial for their emotional and physical health. Support groups and mental health counselling may provide avenues if you’re seeking additional emotional support and problem-solving skills. Caregiver skills programmes have also been developed specifically for caregivers to provide dementia education, behavioural symptom management, and caregiver wellness strategies. Opportunities for respite, or short periods of relief from caregiving responsibilities, can also be beneficial. This can range from asking a friend or family member to sit with your loved one while you run a quick errand to utilising an adult day centre a few days a week.”

Adequate nutrition can improve their quality of life.

JP: “Ideal nutrition intake should be three well-balanced meals that include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Berries and nuts, such as walnuts, provide healthy antioxidants. Whole-grain foods and plant-based meals that are low in processing provide healthy energy to the brain without more toxins. In contrast, the likes of sugar and processed foods introduce chemicals that our body has to metabolise and eliminate. The MIND diet and the Mediterranean Diet are two great plans for incorporating healthy nutrients, but be sure that they’re accompanied by lots of water, especially in the heat of summer. Dehydration and poor food intake can worsen confusion and brain fog.”

Adequate nutrition can improve their quality of life

Be alert for a sudden and persistent change in activity.

JP: “There may be fluctuations in a patient’s cognition and behaviour, so some days will be better than others. Look out for excess confusion, sleepiness, or decreased responsiveness that persists, which may indicate that their condition is worsening. Falls, head injuries, new abnormal movements, and changes in balance should also get medical attention. Increased (or decreased) urination, coughing, diarrhea or constipation, change in appetite, or shortness of breath may indicate a new illness or infection. Remember, your loved one may not be able to communicate discomfort or might not remember an injury, so be observant and check for signs of something wrong (bruising or cuts, fever, unusual odours). Trust your instincts and seek help if something feels off.”

Lastly, never doubt or underestimate yourself.

LC: “The role of a dementia caregiver is multifaceted, dynamic, and ever-changing. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for caregivers to doubt or underestimate their personal strength and resiliency at any time point along the caregiving journey. With the aid of a care team – consisting of both personal and professional support – caregivers can feel more supported, equipped, and confident in their role.”

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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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Health Benefits of Microgreens

Why Microgreens Belong in Your Diet

Small, but mighty – meet microgreens.

Over the past few decades, there has been a growing demand for a more sustainable, accessible, and nutritious food supply. There has been increased interest among governmental and private sectors in controlled environment agriculture methods, including vertical farms, greenhouses, hydroponics, and aquaponics. These approaches enable crops to grow in closed spaces and allow for factors such as climate, lighting, and water supply to be controlled. Microgreens are an important example of crops that can easily be grown using controlled environment agriculture approaches.

microgreen crops

What Are Microgreens?

Microgreens are immature green vegetables harvested after the cotyledonary leaves have developed. They differ from baby leaves (cut greens for salads) and sprouts (germinated seeds with entire roots). Growing conditions (soil vs hydroponic) can impact the growth of the plant and the levels of phytonutrients and minerals. Microgreens are being recognised as functional foods with potential health benefits.

They have become increasingly popular as a culinary ingredient due to their distinctive flavours, attractive colours, delicate textures, and high nutrient density. Microgreens can be produced from many vegetables, herbaceous plants, aromatic herbs, legumes, and grains. Common varieties are grown from mustard, cabbage, radish, buckwheat, parsley, pea, kale, spinach, and broccoli. These are often added to enhance salads or edible garnishes on various dishes.

microgreen garnish on food

Nutritive Content and Potential Health Benefits

Microgreens may be considered better alternatives to sprouts due to their rich nutritional content and stronger flavour. Research has shown that microgreens may also be superior to their mature counterparts as they have been found to contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. For instance, cucumber and spinach microgreens had greater vitamin C levels than their mature stages. Moreover, microgreens had higher levels of several trace minerals such as copper, zinc, and selenium. 

These minerals play an important role as cofactors in producing powerful antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase. Phytochemicals, such as carotenoids and phenolics, which have strong antioxidant properties, are also abundant in microgreens. There has been growing research in studying the potential value of microgreens in preventing chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. 

The high bioaccessibility of bioactive compounds like polyphenols and glucosinolates in microgreens such as the Brassicaceae family (kale, red cabbage, kohlrabi, purple radish) may provide anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-microbial, and anti-diabetic benefits after digestion. One study indicated the antiproliferative effects of kale, radish, mustard, and broccoli microgreens on colon cancer cell development. Other microgreens – such as red cabbage – can positively regulate lipid metabolism, reduce cholesterol levels, and reduce liver inflammatory markers.

microgreen on chopping board

Optimising Nutritional Content in Microgreens

Due to the delicate nature of microgreens, several interventions are being implemented during the pre-harvest and post-harvest stages to optimise nutritional content and prolong shelf life. For example, light exposure before harvest is critical to promote plant growth and nutrient composition. Moreover, post-harvest interventions – including packaging, storage temperatures, and lighting – can impact nutrient concentrations, extend shelf life, and enhance the appearance, texture, and taste of microgreens.

harvesting microgreen

Any Potential Risks?

While they can benefit health, there may be some concern about the risk of contamination of some microgreens with bacteria such as Escherichia coli. Sources of the contamination may include irrigation water and the soil (or another medium) in which they are grown. When buying microgreens from the supermarket, ensure they come from a reputable supplier and check the sell-by/best-before date. The shelf life of microgreens varies from 10 to 14 days after harvesting and are best kept in the fridge at a maximum of 5°C.

microgreen made into a drink

Adding More Microgreens to Your Diet

Microgreens are versatile and sustainable crops from cultivation to consumption. Due to their rich nutrient profile, microgreens are a great way to boost a meal’s vitamin, mineral, and phytochemical content. Moreover, they can enhance colour, add texture, and elevate the flavour of dishes. Unsure what to do with microgreens? Here are some ways to add more of these potent plant foods to your diet:

  • as a garnish on salads, soups, and omelettes
  • in smoothies and smoothie bowls
  • in sandwiches and wraps 
  • to your favourite pesto sauce

Farah Hillou is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. For more information, please visit @wellness.in.colours or connect with her via LinkedIn.

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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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Pelvic Floor Exercise for New mothers

Why Pelvic Floor Exercises Are Crucial for New Mothers

Recover from childbirth more quickly.

First things first: what is the pelvic floor?

Kegels, squeezes, pelvic floor exercises – whatever term is familiar to you, the pelvic floor is essential for all women, especially if you are planning to have a baby, are pregnant, or have a baby already. Now is the time to start thinking about the muscles down there! If you are like me, the pelvic floor didn’t even enter my radar until I was pregnant. Also, if I’m honest, I had no idea what I was doing when I tried to strengthen them.

Yes, I’m a pelvic health physiotherapist now, and the pelvic floor is my life and passion, but back then? They were just another group of muscles – muscles that I could not see and, therefore, difficult to connect with them. I am a visual learner, so what helped me understand where they were and what they did was understanding the anatomy and educating myself about their function and movement. Educating and knowing about the pelvic floor can be a game changer in our journey as a mum and beyond.

The pelvic floor muscles are a sling or group of muscles that span the whole base of your pelvis, attaching from your pubic bone to your tailbone and both sitting bones. It wraps around your orifices – anus, urethra, and vagina – and acts like a sling or a hammock, supporting our pelvic organs (bladder, bowel, and uterus). 

Pelvic Floor Exercises Are Crucial for New Mothers

Why are the pelvic floor muscles important?

These muscles are a powerhouse and have many impressive roles in our body, or the five S’s:

  • Support: They support your pelvic organs against gravity and against an increase in abdominal pressure (like coughing, sneezing, jumping). When pregnant, they support your growing baby.
  • Sphincteric: As they wrap around the opening of the bladder and anus, they help us control wind and urine, especially with increases in abdominal pressure. They also relax to allow you to empty your bladder or bowel.
  • Stability: The pelvic floor is part of your ‘core’ along with your deep abdominals, diaphragm (breathing muscle), and deep back muscles. They act to support your pelvis and your back.
  • Sexual function: These muscles are essential for orgasm and sensation during intercourse and, if too tight, can cause pain during intercourse. 
  • Sump-pump: The pelvic floor acts to pump lymph and blood in the pelvis. Lack of this action can cause congestion or swell within the pelvis.

When any one of these functions is compromised, it can lead to dysfunction. Here are signs to recognise when the pelvic floor is under stress or not working well:

  • Urinary leakage with coughing, sneezing, movement, exercise, or on the way to the toilet. Urinary frequency and urgency, when the number of times we run to the toilet increases (>8 times), or we feel high urges to pass urine and need to go urgently
  • Bowel symptoms such as constipation, leaking, unable to control wind
  • Pelvic organ prolapse – when one or more of the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel, or uterus) descend into the vagina or rectum
  • Sexual pain
  • Painful, heavy periods
  • Pelvic pain

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is a must to visit your OBGYN and see a pelvic health physiotherapist to help you on the road to recovery.

Pelvic Floor Exercises Are Crucial for New Moms

What happens to the pelvic floor during pregnancy?

Pregnancy and delivery can put significant physical stress on your body. The growing baby’s weight during pregnancy puts pressure and stress on the pelvic floor muscles and the surrounding connective tissue. They have to work much harder than usual to support your baby and can become weaker. 

Emotionally, pregnancy can be a joyous and beautiful nine months, but for some, it can be a challenging and anxious time. Many women can hold stress within their pelvic floor, leading to tension and tightness. Your pelvic floor muscles will be affected, whether you have a vaginal birth or a C-section. Pelvic floor issues during pregnancy can lead to urinary incontinence, pelvic girdle pain, and pelvic organ prolapse in some instances. 

I encourage all pregnant women to start pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy to help prevent dysfunction, and the guidelines agree. However, it can be hard to know how to do them. In some ladies, the pelvic floor may have increased tone, and pelvic floor exercises will need to be altered and tailored to focus more on relaxation initially. I highly recommend seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist who will assess and coach you on how to do the exercises correctly. More on this is coming up!

Pelvic Floor Exercises for New Moms

What happens to the pelvic floor during delivery?

“The pelvic floor is your baby’s door” – I love this saying by Diane Lee, a physiotherapy guru. During vaginal birth, the pelvic floor needs to be able to relax and lengthen considerably during delivery to allow your precious baby to pass through. Vaginal births (especially those with forceps) stretch the pelvic floor, ligaments, and connective tissue, and therefore may cause tearing. These tears will often heal naturally. However, more serious tears can affect the pelvic floor muscles or muscles around the rectum, complicating recovery. 

If you experience bladder or bowel control issues, pain, or heaviness vaginally post-delivery, you must talk to your OBGYN and get referred to a pelvic health physiotherapist. If you had a C-section, the nerves, skin, and fascia (connective tissue throughout the body) are affected and may contribute to symptoms after delivery. When immersed in new motherhood, putting yourself and your health and emotional needs on the back burner is easy. However, focusing on your pelvic health will be worth it. I always recommend seeing a pelvic health physiotherapist from six weeks post-partum

I believe that this should be as routine as seeing your OBGYN at six weeks. We thoroughly assess your body – posture, movement, strength, abdominal wall, and pelvic floor. From this assessment, we can guide you on what’s best for your body. We provide an individualised, tailored, and achievable home exercise programme focusing on your goals and needs. Your health and strength are essential when seeing your baby through infancy and beyond.

I’m planning on getting pregnant in the future. Should I do pelvic floor exercises?

Yes! The more awareness and connection you have to your pelvic, the increased likelihood of success with pelvic floor strengthening. However, research has shown that over 50% of women perform them incorrectly under verbal instruction. Therefore, I strongly recommend getting a pelvic health physiotherapist assessment to guide you along the right track. 

How do I do my pelvic floor exercises?

  1. Firstly, I recommend familiarising yourself with the pelvic floor and what it looks like. Visually knowing where the pelvic floor muscles are can help with the connection. You can also use a hand mirror to look at your external anatomy, aiding in connection. 
  2. Lie down with your knees bent in a comfortable place with no distractions. Start with a connection to your breath. Your pelvic floor works in unison with your diaphragm (breathing muscle at the base of your rib cage). Therefore, connecting with your breath can help connect to the pelvic floor. Inhale into the bottom of your rib cage, shoulders relaxed. Imagine your ribcage like an umbrella, gently opening as you breathe in, and air fills your lungs and closes as you breathe out. Please do not force your breath. Aim for relaxed breathing in and out.
  3. After a few rounds of relaxed diaphragmatic breathing, bring your awareness into your pelvis and visualise the pelvic floor muscles. On your exhale, think of stopping passing wind and urine. You should feel a gentle squeeze and lift of the pelvic floor. If unsure, place your hand on your perineum (area between the anus and vagina), and you will feel a lift as you perform the exercise. You can also use a mirror to see the perineum gently lift. Inhale, let go, and relax. Other analogies I like to use are gently lifting a blueberry or blackberry with your vagina or thinking of your tailbone, pubic bone, and sitting bones moving towards each other.
  4. Once happy that you can connect and hold for the exhale, hold for 5-10 seconds, and repeat up to 10 times. It is crucial not to hold your breath; tighten your buttock, thigh, or abdominal muscles as you perform the exercise.

Pelvic Floor Exercises
  1. The relaxation is as important as the contraction. Therefore, in between repetitions, the relaxation phase should be as long – if not longer – than the contraction time. During this time, relaxed breathing and thinking of the tailbone, pubic bone, and sitting bones gently moving away from each other or visualising the pelvic floor like a sling or a hammock, soft and relaxed.
  2. The pelvic floor consists of two types of fibres: slow and fast twitch fibres. Therefore, we also need to perform quick contractions to train the fast twitch fibres. These fibres react reflexively or under conscious control to increased abdominal pressure like coughing, sneezing, or jumping. Perform these quick contractions for one second 10-15 times.
  3. Once happy with your contractions (both slow and fast), performing pelvic floor exercises in different positions and functionally is a must. Start with lying, then moving to sitting, four-point kneeling, standing, and movement. Your pelvic floor physiotherapist will guide you on this.

As a woman, your pelvic health will play an important role throughout your journey through life. Your pelvic floor is essential, and it’s never too late or early to begin your pelvic health journey. 

Neasa Barry is a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at Heal Hub Rehabilitation Centre. Visit @herphysio and @healhub_rehab for more information.

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5 Drinks Holding You Back from Losing Weight

Meet the biggest culprits.

As a Culinary Nutritionist, I’ve done nutrient profiling for thousands of recipes. Beverages are the ones that have almost always managed to surprise me – to say I was shocked when I worked out the calories of a matcha frappe would be an understatement! 

For the quantity of matcha served (about 300ml), it had 600+ Kcal, which is the equivalent of a meal. And most people would have an additional consumption or bite with this. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, except when it’s consumed by someone who’s got a generally sedentary lifestyle – and the majority of us fall into this group unfortunately). Your drinks could start from the 0-5 Kcal black coffee to a 1,000+ Kcal milkshake (at times even more), and everything in between based on the ingredients used and quantity served.

It’s a total letdown considering these are marketed with an illusionary health halo. People miss the point that these are sometimes even higher in calories than a meal, especially when presented as containing the goodness of trending ‘superfoods’ like matcha, turmeric, and dark chocolate.

1. Specialty Coffees 

We agree that the real deal with coffee is black (Americano) coffee. If you are going out to meet a friend for coffee and end up ordering a frappuccino, then it’s basically like you went out for dessert. Let’s say you went out thrice this week to Starbucks (using them for illustrating the point since its nutrition information is easily available) and ordered the Coffee Frappuccino (294 Kcal). That’s an easy 882 Kcal in total for three of them, if you are unaware. 

We often would also order a bakery treat with this, and let’s assume you went with the Triple Chocolate Cookie at 377 Kcal twice, taking it to a whopping 754 Kcal. Add it all in, and you’ve easily clocked in 1,636 Kcal. This will be pretty much the same scenario with most coffee shops. Everyone loves a good coffee, but if fat loss is a health goal and you aren’t seeing much progress, you may want to audit these drinks that are part of your weekly energy intake. 

2. Smoothies

There is a common misconception that smoothies are inherently low-calorie and often marketed as a weight loss tool, thanks to them being heavily showcased by social media influencers, whose underlying message is ‘eat like me to look like me’ (#saynotodietculture). The truth is far from this. Some smoothies can easily pack over 1,000 Kcal depending on their size and ingredients.

Imagine a tall glass with a smoothie composed of avocado, dates, banana, peanut butter, milk, and honey – all ‘healthy’ ingredients that can easily take a person out of a calorie deficit if they are not fully aware of their nutrient profile. Smoothies are an excellent choice for those who are in a rush, but want to stay on top of the game when it comes to their nutrient intake. All you have to do is keep blender blunders at bay and not jeopardize the calorie-deficit principle, which is the most crucial for fat loss.

The usual blender blunders are adding in excess amounts of high-calorie ingredients like avocado, nuts, and seeds, as well as all types of sugar, honey, and maple syrup. When speaking about weight loss, it is important to remember that smoothies need not work to everyone’s benefit. Some folks see them as an easy way to monitor food portions and stay on top of their weight loss goals, while many don’t feel satisfied when they drink their calories rather than eat them. Smoothies are to be individualised for better outcomes. 

3. Milkshakes

Moving on to milkshakes – we are not talking about the Monster milkshakes or Freakshakes clocking in at 1,600 Kcal, which are a trend thanks to their Insta-worthy appearances. One glance, and you know they’re calorie bombs. From whipped cream, sprinkles, lollipops, doughnuts, and waffles to cookies, brownies, and chocolates, they feature a whole lot of sugary ingredients that are easy to stockpile.

In my opinion, it is the regular milkshakes that most of us tend to misjudge for their actual calorie content. These can provide the same energy as a meal if we aren’t mindful around them. For the purpose of illustrating this, let’s take the case of the peanut butter milkshake from Five Guys that clocks in at about 1,002 Kcal, the chocolate shake at 594 Kcal from Burger King, or the peanut butter banana protein smoothie from Jamba Juice with 650 Kcal… now who would’ve thought we’d talk about healthy outlets and fast food joints in the same sentence? 

4. Sodas and Sugary Drinks

By now, everyone knows these provide empty calories, but most folks cannot fathom how quickly a few over a week can add up. People who drink these don’t feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food. Research indicates they also don’t compensate for the high caloric content of these beverages by eating less food. It’s a rare person who will remember a glass of soda or fruit-flavoured drink downed with a grilled chicken sandwich. 

Unfortunately, sodas and sugary beverages are a regular drink of choice for millions around the world and a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Adding to this is the rising portion sizes over the past 40 years – a standard soft drink bottle was about 200ml during the 1950s, and now it’s easy to get the same in 1-litre bottles.

5. Speciality Cocktails and Mocktails

These may sound fancy but can be heavy on calories, especially when you don’t make them yourself. The mixers like soda, juice, and pre-made blends are the ones that pile up the calories. Additionally, it’s not too difficult to down a couple of these when the food and company are good. When counting calories, many people will meticulously track their meals, but often forget to take drinks into account, which could wreak havoc on their healthy eating plans. Approach all of the above beverages with awareness to suit your health goals.

I’m not here to tell you that you should avoid these completely, but it’s important that you are aware that many of them have more calories than a meal and you will likely still be hungry after having liquid calories such as these beverages. Remember, they add up quickly and taking them seriously is hard, which is why they have stealthily contributed to the obesity epidemic. I hope this will help you make informed decisions when it comes to your choice of beverages.

Lovely Ranganath is a licensed clinical dietician. Visit @good.food.guru for more information.

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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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