A New Health Event for Reading – It’s Your Life! April 2015

All of my working life has been concerned with health. I spent over 40 years in nursing – the NHS, private nursing and a charity. Observing over this length of time makes obvious what poor diet and lifestyle can do to a body – and most of us are aware of this even if we don’t always live up to it.

The price we pay when we take prescribed drugs

file000237973770The other problems that I have witnessed have come from drugs – legally prescribed for some ailment. It has to be remembered that in order to bring about help for an ailment, drugs must (or it happens coincidentally,) “poison” another anatomical or physiological part of us. Take arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used for pain relief and these damage the gastric lining. Antibiotics prescribed for an infection usually decimate all the bacteria living on and in our bodies, indiscriminately. Hence, the bacterium causing the infection is conquered – but so are our beneficial bacteria – leaving our immune system wide open to attack from opportunist micro-organisms, making us sick again.

There is a price to pay for having our ills treated. Don’t misunderstand me – I for one would not be here writing this if I had not had mega-units of penicillin after a cat-scratch hospitalised me! There is a place for medical intervention – as a nurse, I saw many lives saved.

Wellness not illness

Disease prevention is where I am concentrating now. I am not necessarily talking about early detection of ill-health – although some methods are a good idea. We are born to wellness (for the most part) – not a life of illness. What is needed is proper education to help people with this, hence the “It’s Your Life!” show at Rivermead Leisure Centre, Reading. Everyone needs to feel that there is choice when it comes to their health and I set about the organisation of the event with this is mind. Health education should be free so there was no charge for entry to the show and neither will there be in the future.

IYL 12th April 2015  172It was hard work looking for the right people to exhibit – but an absolute joy to feel people’s passion for it! What better way to spread the word about improving our chances of a long and healthy life than to have eighty stands, manned by knowledgeable and sincere people? The feedback from the public was extremely encouraging. Berkshire has obviously been waiting for this and we are going to deliver. Bigger and better next time!

The aims of the show

The main aim was to show healthier choices in Moving, Wellbeing and Nourishing – which all add up to our lifestyles. We had a yoga and dance demonstration; there was a Nordic Walking specialist; Rivermead’s gym manager was on hand to answer questions about their facilities. There were many natural and holistic therapists offering taster treatments; product exhibitors were many, selling natural foods, personal care and other products to help preserve and nurture our health and our planet.

Another aim of the show was, where possible, to find small local companies. It is good for the economy, the carbon foot-print, Berkshire dwellers and the businesses themselves. One of the new local businesses wrote a lovely review of the show and you can see it here. Those companies from further afield offered goods by mail order.

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This show will continue twice yearly for as long as I am able! There will be a Christmas show in November and you will see all the natural therapies and hear the health advice, but with the opportunity to do some shopping for gifts too. See you there!

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Photographs courtesy of Kathryn Fell Photography

Choices Choices…

What does “choice” mean to you? Every day we are faced with choices and we decide what to do based upon our experiences, knowledge, available time to contemplate a situation and our mood.

We make choices when driving – have we got sufficient stopping distance when the amber light shows or should we accelerate? Should we overtake the slow driver in front or sit tight? At what time is it safe to enter a round-about? In the main, it is experience that answers these questions but experience comes after we have passed our driving test and we have met these situations for real. Only then can we become safe, competent drivers making the right choices. In other words, we have to learn the basics before we can make safe judgements.

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How about your work? Were you given instruction prior to starting a new job? Did you have to get a degree in something in order to follow your career path? Did you then have to undertake further, more specific training? The point I am trying to make is that in order to make meaningful choices, we have firstly to be taught and then we gain experience. It applies to most things. You only once need to click on a dodgy email to find out what a computer virus is and how to recognize it!

“Illness for the large part is preventable

You have heard it before, but if you don’t have your health, you lose everything – your freedom, your job, your home possibly and ultimately, even your life. I know this sounds dramatic but as a nurse, I have seen this so very many times. Illness for the large part is preventable. I have felt sad and frustrated when patients are diagnosed with preventable conditions that are set to devastate lives. So what is your choice?

Most people “learn” about food by walking into a supermarket and selecting foods that they want not need. We are not altogether to blame for this. A supermarket layout is designed for their benefit, not yours. Your choice is being manipulated. So often I see mothers with children in the supermarket and the children are making the choices! Did you see an advert on the television last night that made you think “I must try that”?   Again, our choices are being manipulated.

If we do learn about the food we are eating, how can you be sure that the information is sound? We are bombarded with so-called health programmes – people losing weight, embarrassing bodies, fat versus sugar and so on. These programmes are entertainment not education. By watching them we learn that vegetables are important to health and of course they are, but what we are not told is even more important. Vegetables may have been sprayed with toxic pesticides and the food may have been genetically modified which has known, serious long-term effects. The other little gem we all think we know is about calories. Calories in versus calories out = balance. So now we are searching for low calorie foods and this is stated on packaging making it easy for us. Another of our choices has been decided. Oh and of course, we must look for low-fat foods as fat is fattening. The reason the Western World has epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancers is because we trust that the information given to us is correct. We weren’t let loose in a car in order to learn safe driving so why do we think that going to a supermarket will educate us in nutrition? In both cases, we are going to crash.

My advice is to learn. Read. Possibly the first thing to look for is vested interest. Are you going to learn about probiotics from yogurt makers? Do you hear vitamin information from breakfast cereal producers? Do you trust information about heart health from margarine manufacturers?  Will you learn about cholesterol from people who want you to lower yours? When these questions are asked, it sounds mad doesn’t it?

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I want you to learn about nutrition and health from people whose aim is education not profit and I am one of these! As a nurse I believe we all have a right to health and I want to share my knowledge so that we can all make informed choices – the way it should be.

A wonderful non-profit organization is the Weston A. Price Foundation. This site has a wealth of information from people who are well qualified and really care. It’s a great place to learn the basics of nutrition.

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B12 – The Finicky Vitamin

Along with the other B vitamins, B12 is responsible for releasing energy from food, healthy nerves, the formation of blood and other cells, mental health and much more. Deficiency at its worst causes pernicious anaemia, (possibly) contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, psychoses and heart disease. The symptoms that often present initially are mood swings, insomnia, lacking energy and tingling in the hands and feet.

1426234_63077721It is very easy to become vitamin B12 deficient today. Life is so very different to how it was one hundred or even fifty years ago when home cooking was all that was available and nothing as wasted. We are a “fast” society now and everything has to be pronto – many don’t cook anymore – preferring microwave meals. We eat on the hoof just to fill our stomachs quickly with scant regard for the food’s nutritional value or whether we will digest it properly. It is incredible to me that people complain about the cost of food whilst buying ready meals and takeaways and it will contribute to becoming B12 deficient in our modern times.

Even if you care about your health, it is possible to become deficient in this vitamin. Those who are vegetarian through choice could be at risk. Likewise those who are vegetarian or vegan for religious or other reasons often miss out on this essential nutrient.

Some illnesses prevent B12 being utilised. The reason I call this the “finicky” vitamin is due to its metabolism. Simply, a protein called “intrinsic factor” found in the stomach juices binds itself to B12 to allow absorption. Most foods are digested and absorbed during the long journey through the small intestine. Not B12 though! There is a small area between the small and large intestines reserved for just this purpose. Because of this rather complicated process, illnesses affecting the gut can disrupt it at all stages.

  • Fast foods; even if any B12 is present, they are consumed quickly with minimal mastication and washed down with a drink of some sort. If foods are not chewed thoroughly, they cannot be digested effectively in the stomach. When food is accompanied by large quantities of fluid, the stomach acid is diluted and therefore, the intrinsic factor will be also. This can lead to the use of…
  • Antacids, reflux and ulcer medicines; these lower the acidity in the stomach making the digestion of B12-containing proteins difficult to digest thereby preventing its release from the food.
  • Ageing; stomach acid naturally reduces as we age leading to a similar situation as above.
  • Gut disorders; people who suffer the diseases that cause ulceration of the gut lining and diarrhoea are at risk. This includes sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (IBD).
  • Other drugs; diabetes medications, statins, birth control pills and antibiotics. There is a more comprehensive list and lots more information here.

So what can we do to maximise our chances of maintaining optimum levels of B12? It 736236_94991508would be far too easy for me to say that those people suffering from illnesses should seek to become well again (and some of the diseases I have named here are reversible) but nonetheless, action has to be taken one way or another! The best way to supplement B12 is by injection thus bypassing the complicated metabolic process. Or by sub-lingual drops. This is necessary for vegans too, as useful B12 is only present and available in animal foods. For vegetarians – kefir, organic cheeses and eggs are essential. The best sources for the rest of us are organic offal meats, shellfish as well as the above. To improve the uptake of B12 chew food thoroughly, don’t drink too much with meals so as not to dilute stomach acid and eat slowly. To stimulate stomach acid, eat fresh sauerkraut as a part of your meals, or a spoonful just a few minutes before a meal. Apple cider vinegar can be used too.

Above all, if you don’t or can’t cook please do something about it. The health of families starts in kitchens!

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How Charitable are Charities?

America’s 50 Worst Charities Exposed

Doesn’t this make your blood boil? Most of us want to do something for those less fortunate that ourselves but when we do, we need to know that the gift we donate is being used for the purpose advertised. What a shock then, to learn that so much of our donation goes to the charity organizers and solicitors. This story is US based but make no mistake, this happens here too.

I know this is slightly off topic for me, but charities are businesses that are usually concerned with illness and this for me is the rub. No one – it appears – is looking for lifestyle measures that truly maintain wellness. Please someone, show me even one, that does!

Charities are often associated with big businesses – make no mistake about this. Just look at this list of “partners” for Heart UK – the cholesterol charity.  This is just one charity that I have selected at random.
1414425_74248645These are huge and very rich conglomerates (many of which are pharmaceutical and food manufacturers) using the charity as a “shop window”. Money paid into this charity will almost certainly be used for “research” that shows that cholesterol must be lowered thus promoting their products. Why are they there otherwise? With this charity, the first mistake is believing that cholesterol is an issue at all. There is a library’s worth of evidence showing the benefits of having cholesterol levels above 5mmol per litre of blood – but that’s another story.

Take a good look at the charities they you have supported. Check their websites and look for the clues. Do their sponsors/partners/trustees involve big businesses? Does the information supplied refer to specific drugs? Are particular branded foods recommended? Are disease “cures” being searched for? Are disease prevention medications and branded foods being advocated? This is the case with so many charities and I would urge you rethink how you donate your money.
The charities worthy of help are the ones that are searching for preventative natural solutions and those providing direct care to the sick, be they animals or humans. Local small charities are often the most needy as they don’t attract the multi-national companies. Please do your homework before donating.

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Prostate Cancer Testing in the News.

Prostate cancer is no rarity nowadays. It always was a cancer of elderly men and it has been shown that most men in their late seventies and eighties have cancerous cells in their prostate gland. Cancer here is usually slow-growing and diagnosis often made retrospectively, as death can be from an unrelated illness. Today, it is a cancer that all men need to know about as, due to lifestyle and diet, it is being diagnosed at an earlier age.

Testing for prostate cancer has become quite sophisticated in recent years. However as this article shows  – the tests are not perfect. Here is a short extract from the report:
“Of around 500 of the cases in which significant disease was present, just 50 per cent were detected during the traditional biopsy, compared with 68 per cent detection rates using the MRI-guided technique, the study found.

Not great statistics are they? We all need to take more responsibility for our health and well-being including our sexual health.

Firstly a bit of anatomy and physiology: The prostate (men only!)  is a walnut-sized and shaped gland which sits underneath the bladder and around the urethra (the tube to the outside). Its function is to form part of the seminal fluid.

Diagram manThe most common condition of the prostate is benign enlargement (or benign prostatic hypertrophy) which to some degree affects all men as they age. Very often it is a minor irritation, not a big problem. This is not cancer but if symptoms are felt, medical advice should be sought to exclude it.

The most common symptoms are urinating more frequently, not fully emptying the bladder and when passing urine, the stream is slow or weak. Benign enlargement is as far as is known, not preventable but cancer especially before old age, often is.

The best option is to take action now by changing your chances of developing cancer in the first place. These are the tips I would offer:

Ill-health does not happen by chance.  Most illness is brought about by incorrect diet and lifestyle so what are you going to change?

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The Price of Health – part 1

Success is always measured by money isn’t it? We all need money to live and I’m not knocking it, but cheap food is not a good investment in our health. Apart from anything else, if you haven’t got your health, you will have nothing – maybe not even the ability to work.

file0001911591111Many diseases are on the increase. Auto-immune diseases such as Crohn’s disease,  multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis; gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and food sensitivities; allergies such as asthma and to peanuts; even rickets (due to vitamin D deficiency) has returned and the list goes on and on.

What has happened? Why, when we “know” so much, are we seeing more chronic illness? The answers are simple but they are interpreted wrongly (accidentally or intentionally).  In so many instances, the information released to the public becomes very complicated.  It is usually given in sound-bites (eg. in newspaper articles) and the research on which information is given is often flawed. This of course means that the advice will change in a few years, by which time much damage is already done. (Remember how we were told to eat polyunsaturated fats instead of butter? Not now!)

Before I explore why good health has become complex and elusive and why you have to spend more money on food, I will itemise the reasons why I believe chronic illness is now a way of life:

1)    Our food has been tampered with

2)    Medications

3)    We have been told to stay out of the sun

4)    We have been advised to eat a diet which is largely unsuitable for human beings

5)    We over-exercise or not at all

6)    Famous people are putting their names to big brands

7)    Greed for money and power, has overtaken our population

8)    Smoking

9)    Overuse of germ killing household and personal products

There are many other factors involved but as I want to keep this reasonably brief, I will not be expanding on them. They include vaccinations which have been written about extensively – some articles are here.

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It may be interesting for you to see the pattern in the illnesses frequently suffered:

Wrong diet as children +
Lack of the sun +
Persuasion to eat wrong foods (No.4 as above) +
Too little exercise
Equals -
Insulin sensitivity – obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, poor circulation
and could equal
Loss of vision, infections, loss of sensation in feet, gangrene, strokes, heart disease etc.

Whilst treatment for chronic symptoms may prolong life, they will not cure. They will almost certainly produce side effects which range from unpleasant to downright dangerous.

Is this what we want? Or how about this one? – another frequently seen scenario:

Bottle-fed as a baby +
Carbohydrate (nutrient-poor) based diet +
Antibiotics for repeated ear/throat/other infections +
Lack of sunshine +
(possibly the contraceptive pill later in life)
Could equal
Asthma, food sensitivities, more infections/antibiotics, intermittent diarrhoea/constipation, thrush
Could equal
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), further sensitivities and allergies
c
ould equal
Autoimmune diseases – Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease
could equal
Dependence on steroid drugs and/or invasive surgery to remove part of the bowel and create a colostomy.

Part two next time, in which I will expand on those factors that have lead to chronic illness and why it is folly to buy cheap food.

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Winter Bugs

The cold weather is here! It can be miserable at this time of the year – no sun, it’s cold, windy and wet, Christmas is looming. We do not want to be ill! Here are a few precautions and some things you can do to head the bugs off at the pass!

Prevention: this is the most important aspect of your health and there is no substitute. To maximise the efficiency of your immune system, you should increase intake of fish and shell fish, meat and its fat, eggs, offal and green leafy vegetables. Make bone broth as a basis for soup and consider taking a supplement of krill or cod liver oil (preferably fermented). Remember that a diet high in carbohydrate foods, adds sugar to your body as all carbs are broken down to glucose – the simplest form of sugar. Having a constantly raised glucose level, slows down the action of our white cells, which combat infection.

Hand washing is imperative as a control of infections. In our daily lives we shake hands with people, open doors, use toilets, press lift buttons, use telephones, push shopping trolleys and more. These are all potential sources of infection. There is no need to be paranoid but we should all be careful. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly and frequently during the day, but always before eating or preparing food, after using the loo and when returning home from work, shopping etc. Perhaps wear gloves when out and about.

Have a couple of baths a week using essential oils to boost your immune system. Add a total of four drops from any of these; marjoram, thyme, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, and cinnamon. A mixture is best. Epsom salts in the bath will boost your magnesium levels – needed for immune health, and this can also induce sound sleep – another boost.

A few teaspoons of coconut oil and fresh sauerkraut each day will help balance your gut microbes – the foundation of the immune system.

So what do you do if you get a bug? Go to bed. Sleep as much as your body requires. Drink plenty of water/herb teas/broth and only eat if you are hungry. A teaspoon of raw honey -manuka, lavender, rosemary (but all raw honey can help) and a pinch of (Himalayan crystal or Celtic grey) salt dissolved in a litre of warm water is helpful if you have a stomach bug. Sip over 6-8 hours. If you are able, take baths as before. Try to stay away from others especially children, the elderly and those who have compromised immunity – eg. those who have been ill recently or are on medication.
If you feel you need something to help with symptoms, paracetamol may help but try to keep it to night time so that you get a good sleep.

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The body is quite able to repair itself and fight infection without help but if you are worried or the illness does not seem to be improving, get advice from your doctor by phone. You will not be welcome at the surgery!

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Wellbeing for the Mind – part 3

Stress -  “when life changes from normal to something abnormal to us”

Coping with life seems to cause us many problems. At the end of the day, this is what often causes our moods to change – when life changes from the normal to something abnormal to us – the life experiences. Here are some examples; illness, moving house, separation and divorce, the death of someone close and then life without that person, redundancy, retirement and so on. On an even more serious level, there is abuse, violence, deprivation, disability (although the impact of this will vary between individuals), homelessness etc.

All of these situations fit into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see part one) so in my view, the best way to tackle treatment is at this grass roots level. I am not a therapist with experience in this area and I believe that in some of these situations, help is going to be needed in one form or another and often from another person/people. Sadly, the usual sequence of events is that you feel out of control, you have time off work, you feel guilty about this so you see a doctor. You are given medication. This gives you hope and you return to work – who may be pressurising you to do so, but the very basic issues have not been addressed. It is highly likely that your problems will resurface at some time. The drugs have side effects which are at best unpleasant and at worst, detrimental to overall health. This report shows that drugs may not be necessary.

LotusWhen times are tough, be good to yourself. These measures do not have to be expensive. They don’t sound powerful in the way that drugs do, but their effects are far-reaching if you approach them in the right way. If you are given medication, you expect it to work don’t you? You must approach other measures in the same way – they will work and you will benefit but for the long-term, not just for the course of tablets. Time is a great healer and whether you are on a course of tablets or doing something less risky – putting space between you now and an adverse event holds the most benefit. You may as well do something positive for your overall health.

This is a passage taken from the link above, about the Key Factors to Overcoming Depression:
(“Me” and “my” refer to Dr. Joseph Mercola – not me personally)

 

Exercise – If you have depression, or even if you just feel down from time to time, exercise is a MUST. The research is overwhelmingly positive in this area, with studies confirming that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. One of the primary ways it does this is by increasing the level of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, in your brain.

Address your stress — Constant stress can lead to depression which is a very serious condition. However it is not a “disease.” Rather, it’s a sign that your body and your life are out of balance.

This is so important to remember, because as soon as you start to view depression as a “mental illness,” you think you need to take a drug to fix it (and so do doctors). In reality, all you need to do is return balance to your life, and one of the key ways to doing this is addressing stress.

Meditation or yoga can help. Sometimes all you need to do is get outside for a walk. But in addition to that, I also recommend using a system that can help you address emotional issues that you may not even be consciously aware of. For this, my favorite is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). However, if you have depression or serious stress, I believe it would be best to consult with a mental health professional who is also an EFT practitioner to guide you.

Eat a healthy diet — Another factor that cannot be overlooked is your diet. Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health. Avoiding sugar and grains will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another powerful tool in addressing depression. An important observation has been made regarding people suffering schizophrenia and their gut health. The same has been observed in people diagnosed with a condition on the autistic spectrum.

Support optimal brain functioning with essential fats — I also strongly recommend supplementing your diet with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil. This may be a very important factor in helping depression.

Get plenty of sunshine – Making sure you’re getting enough sunlight exposure to have healthy vitamin D levels is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. One previous study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders.”

I couldn’t have put it better so I have just cut and pasted it. I would add a couple of things too. Use your friends and talk to them – just as you have done for them and will do in the future. Revisit hobbies or maybe even go to an evening class. Not only will you make friends, but you will learn all the time – this is positive. Use distractions.To the diet recommendations, I would add fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir. These can help normalise the gut microbes. Dysbiosis (“difficult life”) in the gut is associated with many health issues, including the health of the mind.

For exercise why not just walk? It’s free and always interesting – whether it’s country or town. Observe all the while – don’t just look around you, really see the birds, gardens, people and so on. These give you connection and belonging. Don’t forget to greet the people you meet – this connection can make an enormous difference, not just to you but to them as well. Walking barefoot has huge health benefits too – a physical as well as spiritual connection to the earth.

There will be times when professional help is needed. It is of course, your choice where this comes from but do consider this – here is a link to the Human Givens Institute. Their help is very much based on problem solving and does not usually require more than a couple of appointments.

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Tips & Recipes for a Recession – part 1

I feel a bit like Marguerite Patten must have felt when charged with the task of creating food from very little during war time! I feel it as a challenge – and it does not depress me. Nourishing food can be inexpensive but thinking outside the box is essential, as is being creative, but look upon it as fun – not drudgery.

Healthy Eating

 

 

Been There, Done That..

When I started nursing in the 70s, I moved into a flat with two other girls and we were all novices where the provision of food was concerned. Steep learning curve! We had to learn and we did it by buying a fortnightly food magazine and trying things – taking it in turns depending on who was on the early shift. Money was incredibly tight but we were not starving and enjoyed the journey. At this time, we didn’t have lectures from nutritionists/dieticians as I remember, but diet was often included in lectures from the consultant surgeons and physicians. The 70s was very much a time of “add bran to everything” and the accent was very much on fibre cures all (but times change!). We were taught about the basic vitamins and minerals and why we needed protein, fat (the government had not intervened at this point – that was during the 80s) and carbohydrates.

We tried really hard to practice what we were to preach and for me at least, it gave me the passion to educate people in looking after their diet in order to look after their health. So here I still am, rather a lot of years on, trying to get folks to care for themselves! It does not cost a fortune, as long as you truly know what is good for you.

 

Not All Veg HAS to be Organic..

I usually advise organic food, especially during illness. This series is an exception as we are looking at saving money. Healthy bodies have an infinite ability to withstand less than optimum conditions for quite some time. All the food recommended here is good, but when the recession is over my advice is to return to mainly organic. (Grow your own?)

So with that in mind, my tip is to show you the best vegetables to buy during this time. Don’t be restricted by this list. It is my view that the beneficial nutrients you will obtain from all vegetables, usually outweighs the possibly harmful pesticides in them. (Even so, please wash all vegetables.) Your liver sees to the detoxing of your body and will get rid of chemicals that could cause harm in some circumstances. The list below comprises those that have not been tampered with too much and have the least pesticide residues:

Avocados
Broccoli
Cabbage (remove the outer leaves)
Frozen peas
Squash
Cauliflower
Aubergines

MFU0920

 

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Fight or Flight

Part One

StressWhat does the word stress mean to you? Sitting in a traffic jam when you have a meeting to go to? Having more work than you can reasonably cope with? Family arguments? Illness? Stress comes in many guises. Some stress is needed – call it motivation if you like – or we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning! When we feel the effects, it is usually due to repeated or continual stress. We become tetchy – even volatile; our concentration diminishes; our judgement becomes impaired; sleep is difficult or unrefreshing; skin problems emerge or our digestion suffers. I could fill this blog with the effects of stress. We don’t normally suffer from all the effects but many of them will come and go as stress increases.

We need to understand why this happens to us before we can control its effects. All animals experience this, because it serve a purpose. It is all due to the need to survive. You will have heard of the “fight or flight” reaction. For example, if you have a close encounter with a snake, given the right circumstances the snake will “leg it”, but if it is cornered it will strike.  Having too much work to do doesn’t, superficially, appear the same thing but as far as the body is concerned, the same chemical reactions are started up. The effects of this are inconsequential when it is an occasional occurrence. It’s normal and our bodies cope well. We run into problems when the effects are repeated or constant.

Our stress hormones set up numerous responses to help us with the fight or flight decision; we breathe more rapidly; our blood sugar rises; blood pressure increases; the nerves to bowel/bladder/stomach become less sensitive (we do not need to be rushing to the loo before we run!); hearts beat faster; tiredness disappears – again I could fill the blog with these effects. Over time these change to more serious problems – blood pressure and pulse rate rarely return to normal, we have constipation or diarrhoea or suffer indigestion and sleep is elusive. This is an over-simplification of what happens but hopefully, you get the point. The fact is, it’s a whole body experience and can have lasting effects on health. The solution is easier said than done. RELAX! I know this is not very helpful and therefore my next blog will be about how you can avoid stress, or at least control it.

Part Two

Chronic stress can be felt as being out of control.  The condition which gets us up in the morning we call motivation – hunger, needing the loo, getting the kids up, going to work etc. These are all fine most of the time but sometimes the pressure of all this “motivation” starts to affect our ability to function normally (see previous blog).

There are many coping strategies and you already know most of them. Why then do we find them so difficult to implement? It’s mostly to do with our fears: We don’t want to appear weak/incapable/untrustworthy/slacking/uncompromising and neither do we want to be unpopular. We have to learn to say “NO”  as well as time management/prioritising and delegation – both at work and at home.

For example: I don’t “do ironing”. A very good friend of mine (in her 60s) told me that she doesn’t “do ironing” and I didn’t believe her – she always looks so lovely. She puts everything in the tumble drier for ten minutes then gets it out, shakes it and it continues drying on the line or radiators. So now I do this – if it is not good enough for those in the house – they know where the iron is (but I don’t!). This is a great time saver and there are many others, too many to list here. A brainstorming session at home or at work will undoubtedly come up with lots of ideas; just don’t be afraid to do things differently. If the outcome is the same, does it matter how it gets done?

Prioritising work is also important. Once you have made a list, stick to it. If you have prioritised at work, bash out some short emails to those at the bottom saying that you have the work in hand and you will get the work done by ****(over-estimate). Then, make a note and get it done a week before that time. They will be delighted and you will be less stressed and get brownie points too! At home, get the teenagers cooking the dinner – they get to choose the menu. (You can have pizza once in a while!) When someone offers (or even ask them) to help with collecting kids from school etc. SAY THANK YOU – you can reciprocate when you have less on.

Sleep can be the first thing to suffer when you’re stressed. You fall into bed, completely shattered, and are still awake two hours later working out how to cope with tomorrow. Or, you go straight to sleep and wake up at 2am! Get a routine. We get our children focussed on the bedtime routine because we know they need it. But so do WE! Having a little relaxation time during the day can pay dividends at bed time. Some people find that yoga or uplifting music can be helpful.

Even if it is just a half hour routine, it can make all the difference. A warm bath (with essential oils if you like), a warm milky drink, a chapter of a trashy novel and into bed – with ear plugs if necessary. Make sure you are warm enough – a hot water bottle can be a real comfort. I think it is good practice in a partnership to sleep in separate rooms if one partner is having trouble sleeping. Actually, I believe it can be a relationship saver for some.

Take control now before it gets out of hand!

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