Hot yoga & the perimenopause – a survival guide

The sweating begins with me unrolling my yoga mat and reaches profuse with the inclusion of ‘ujjayi’ breath. At 35C, 90 minutes becomes a survival exercise, a constant battle to mop sweat and hydrate between poses. Slippery arms and feet fail to grip or balance as my clammy limbs slide inelegantly out of eagle or tree pose.

Loud drips of perspiration hit the mat as I forward fold and my mountain pose leads to temporary blindness as my saturated head band can no longer stem the flood from my forehead.

And yet here I am aged north of 45 decked out in the aptly named Sweaty Betty, not so much flowing as still going but in an oddly satisfying mindful sort of way.

As a youngster my lack of flexibility and strength frustrated any yoga ambitions. Now, at least I have a modicum of core and endurance to see me through 60-90 minutes. Meanwhile the heat seems to help me bend and stretch a little better than I ever recall at room temperature.

So I’m getting hooked on hot yoga, but with an imminent and inevitable oestrogen decline how will practice feel? Will my vasomotor issues in class be compounded? Can you get away with a hot flush exercising at 35C? Have the wicking properties of sports fabrics reached their technical limits?

Pre-empting the peri-menopause here are my Hot Yoga tips (applicable to most hormonal states).

1. Put water in the freezer.

My sports bottle is semi frozen at the start of class, which means those, critical early drinks help to cool my core.

2. Keep drinking.

There are cardiovascular risks to exercising at hot temperatures and hydration is essential to mitigate this. Be wary of any instructor who discourages drinking either explicitly or tacitly (by not pacing class to allow drinking).

3. Leave your ego at the door.

Practice according to your own body and level of fitness not what the nubile 20 year old on your left or the seasoned lifelong yogi on your right are doing.

4. Don’t be afraid to take a breather

This could be in ‘child’s’ pose or even ‘Shavasana’ (a.k.a. corpse pose!). I’ve witnessed many yoga instructors doing this mid class.

5. Modify or omit poses that might exacerbate existing injuries.

Tell your yoga instructor pre class if you have any niggles so they can help you with modifications. Right now I’m nursing my lower back so I adopt ‘sphinx’ during tricky floor poses like ‘superman’. I like to think it makes me look enigmatic.

6. Don’t be tempted to wear shorts in classes with balance poses.

Leg sweat can be contained with a nice wicking pair of leggings. With trial and error I’ve found the Skins range skins.net to be best and their A400 compression leggings seem to support my wobbly ‘standing leg’.

7. Try not to overheat covering up.

Tempting as it is to use layers and baggy bottoms to mask sag and bulge without a breeze you will only feel hotter. Instead try lightweight yoga bras from sweatybetty.com with sheer tops and work your way up to a crop (if you failed to pull this off in the 80s don’t worry no one did)

8. Forget makeup.

It will only slide off your face, stain your mat and combined with cactus arms make you look like a circus act. Tinted brows and lashes are a better option.

9. Arrive early if you can and the studio is free.

Stretching out for 5-10 minutes will help ease the old soft tissues into class and create the illusion of proficiency.

10. Props are fun tools not cheating aids

Embrace them (as I frequently do with my favourite bolster). Straps help with ‘binding’ and tendon stretching. Blocks assist with positioning, alignment, balance and flexibility Supported Bridge is one of my favourite restorative poses and can help progress with shoulder stand (last achieved in gymnastics class circa 1979).

So with some careful mopping, propping and cropping you will end up sopping but hopefully not dropping or flopping as you end up adopting Hot Yoga.

Physical healthIS

Hot yoga & the perimenopause – a survival guide

The sweating begins with me unrolling my yoga mat and reaches profuse with the inclusion of ‘ujjayi’ breath. At 35C, 90 minutes becomes a survival exercise, a constant battle to mop sweat and hydrate between poses. Slippery arms and feet fail to grip or balance as my clammy limbs slide inelegantly out of eagle or tree pose.

Loud drips of perspiration hit the mat as I forward fold and my mountain pose leads to temporary blindness as my saturated head band can no longer stem the flood from my forehead.

And yet here I am aged north of 45 decked out in the aptly named Sweaty Betty, not so much flowing as still going but in an oddly satisfying mindful sort of way.

As a youngster my lack of flexibility and strength frustrated any yoga ambitions. Now, at least I have a modicum of core and endurance to see me through 60-90 minutes. Meanwhile the heat seems to help me bend and stretch a little better than I ever recall at room temperature.

So I’m getting hooked on hot yoga, but with an imminent and inevitable oestrogen decline how will practice feel? Will my vasomotor issues in class be compounded? Can you get away with a hot flush exercising at 35C? Have the wicking properties of sports fabrics reached their technical limits?

Pre-empting the peri-menopause here are my Hot Yoga tips (applicable to most hormonal states).

1. Put water in the freezer.

My sports bottle is semi frozen at the start of class, which means those, critical early drinks help to cool my core.

2. Keep drinking.

There are cardiovascular risks to exercising at hot temperatures and hydration is essential to mitigate this. Be wary of any instructor who discourages drinking either explicitly or tacitly (by not pacing class to allow drinking).

3. Leave your ego at the door.

Practice according to your own body and level of fitness not what the nubile 20 year old on your left or the seasoned lifelong yogi on your right are doing.

4. Don’t be afraid to take a breather

This could be in ‘child’s’ pose or even ‘Shavasana’ (a.k.a. corpse pose!). I’ve witnessed many yoga instructors doing this mid class.

5. Modify or omit poses that might exacerbate existing injuries.

Tell your yoga instructor pre class if you have any niggles so they can help you with modifications. Right now I’m nursing my lower back so I adopt ‘sphinx’ during tricky floor poses like ‘superman’. I like to think it makes me look enigmatic.

6. Don’t be tempted to wear shorts in classes with balance poses.

Leg sweat can be contained with a nice wicking pair of leggings. With trial and error I’ve found the Skins range skins.net to be best and their A400 compression leggings seem to support my wobbly ‘standing leg’.

7. Try not to overheat covering up.

Tempting as it is to use layers and baggy bottoms to mask sag and bulge without a breeze you will only feel hotter. Instead try lightweight yoga bras from sweatybetty.com with sheer tops and work your way up to a crop (if you failed to pull this off in the 80s don’t worry no one did)

8. Forget makeup.

It will only slide off your face, stain your mat and combined with cactus arms make you look like a circus act. Tinted brows and lashes are a better option.

9. Arrive early if you can and the studio is free.

Stretching out for 5-10 minutes will help ease the old soft tissues into class and create the illusion of proficiency.

10. Props are fun tools not cheating aids

Embrace them (as I frequently do with my favourite bolster). Straps help with ‘binding’ and tendon stretching. Blocks assist with positioning, alignment, balance and flexibility Supported Bridge is one of my favourite restorative poses and can help progress with shoulder stand (last achieved in gymnastics class circa 1979).

So with some careful mopping, propping and cropping you will end up sopping but hopefully not dropping or flopping as you end up adopting Hot Yoga.

Learn to check your StressOmeter before a crash!

Ever had that feeling that you have too many things to do, all of them important, that you don’t quite know where to start? That feeling that if someone asks you to do one more thing, you are not sure that you will respond in a “constructive” way. You feel keyed up, your chest tight and heavy.

I felt like this recently one Saturday morning; that sense of approaching Red on the dial of my StressOmeter. I’m in “High Amber Alert.” I need to get myself back to Green.

I take a deep breath, focussing on my breathing. I do this a few times, in for four and out for eight, and feel calmer.

The StressOmeter is a new and wonderful discovery for me. Visualising stress like this makes it feel more manageable. It takes it out from inside me and into a problem that I can solve more objectively.

I use it to draw a mind map of all my stressors, the things that are sending me into the red zone, both at home and work. Seeing it all out on paper somehow makes it seem less overwhelming. And no wonder the dial is up. Like most of us, I am juggling a lot. I realise that I need to prioritise: not everything needs to be done now. And what I do take on doesn’t have to be perfect (another topic!). There are a few things that I can put on hold and I can certainly share a few more tasks at home.

I draw another mind map of the activities that keep me balanced, in the green zone. There are many – but am I actually doing any of them regularly? Prioritising some of these, integrating them into everyday life so that they become unconscious micro-habits, is what I need to focus on.

The Exhaustion Funnel

When we are busy, or things are getting on top of us, the first things to go are the activities that seem optional; the activities we enjoy; the very things that energise us, keep us buoyant and thriving.

If the stress continues, our circle narrows further: we rest less, and we sleep less. We drop the chores at home, and so we are then left with work. However fulfilling our work may be, this alone is unlikely to nourish us, particularly in the current climate or if we are in an uncaring, unsupportive environment. So we are left joyless and exhausted, at risk of burnout or worse.

So, how do we keep buoyant on top of this funnel and prevent getting sucked down?

1. Recognise & minimise stressors

Some stress is good for us. We often perform better under short-term stress. But too much for too long is not healthy, both for our physical and emotional health, as well as for those around us.

Much in our personal and work lives is not changeable, so it is not worth wasting our energy on these. This is clearly easier said than done, but once we do reach some sort of acceptance with these, instead of clinging to them or fighting them or being consumed with anger, regret and other negative emotions, we waste less energy.

It is far better that we focus on the areas that might make a difference. This might be leaving a toxic work environment or an unhealthy relationship, or something smaller, such as looking at what you can do as a team or at home to make life easier all round.

2. Invest in the activities that allow you to re-charge and have fun.

What makes you laugh? What makes you happy and feel good? Have fun with this. It is important to be honest with yourself.

There are many things that we do that we know ought to make us feel happy, but in reality, don’t or can actually leave us feeling worse. For example, dashing off on a Friday night for a weekend away to ‘recharge’. The reality often being that we put ourselves under more pressure to get away from work on time, with a tiring and stressful journey there and back.

Athletes and coaches have long recognised the importance of rest and recovery after intense training. This oscillation between stress and recovery is key to better performance.

This is the same for us all. We need to truly invest and value the activities that keep us buoyant. We need to be honest about what really does keep us in the green zone and what doesn’t. And to do what is in our power to reduce our stress so that it is not too much.

What can we do once we notice the dial is up?

Dr Rick Hanson observes that:

“The body can switch from Green to Red in a heartbeat. Then it takes a while to return to Green since stress hormones need time to metabolise out of your system. Even in Yellow and Orange, the effects and thus the costs of stress activation are present. So as soon as you notice the needle of your stress-o-meter moving into Yellow and beyond, take action.”

Taking action is not about doing. It is the opposite – it is slowing down and taking a step back and grounding yourself. This might be going outside, getting some fresh air and moving; it might be listening to music, or taking a few deep breaths, with the inhale twice as long as the exhale or 4,7,8 breathing – whatever works for you.

So what changes have I made?

To keep in the green: committing to 10 minutes meditation a day and 30 minutes of purposeful activity a day. The activity in one go – a 30 minute run or a cycle on the exercise bike (whilst watching a box set with dinner in the oven) – but more often than not in bite size chucks that feel far less daunting and are much more manageable – a 10 minute brisk walk home from school drop-off on the days that I do it, a 10 minute brisk walk to clear my head when at work and 10 minutes of squats and steps whilst watching the news.

To stay out of the red: to allow 20% contingency so there is space to comfortably absorb that one more thing.

And so starting with this, if I manage to hit my green goal 80% of the time, then I have done well.

What changes could you make?

Summer cycle tips and routes for you and your family

By Michelle Sharland

Michelle is a local cycle coach for both adults and children and founder of  Michelle Rides.

It really is time to make the most of summer and these glorious summer days and long evenings. I have a few tips and routes to get you and your family out on your bikes to enjoy our beautiful countryside. We are lucky to live where we do!

For Starters

Make sure all your bikes are in good working order!

  • Pump the tyres (a foot pump is good for this). If you are going off-road with your children, make sure their tyres are slightly softer to absorb some of the bumps.
  • Oil the chains. Just a small amount of oil to lubricate the chain makes a big difference to smooth running of the bike components. A good tip is to oil your chain, turn the pedals a few times and then wipe the chain with a dry cloth. This removes excess oil as you only need it in the links.
  • Check the brakes. This includes that they both work when you pull front and back brakes – even them out if they are not the same. Brake pads should be clean, evenly worn and still have some life in them. Also, check they are well aligned to the rim of the wheel so they don’t rub against the tyre.
  • Make sure the gears work properly. Kids bikes have less gears than adult bikes so make sure they are able to use them all. There is nothing worse than riding a bike where the gears are stuck or are difficult to change. If you don’t know how to do this, ask a cycling buddy or get the bike serviced. Sometimes the cables need replacing as they have stretched.

The right equipment is important for a successful outing.

  • A helmet that fits well!! Need I say anymore?? I often see children with helmets that are too big for them or with very dangly straps and their helmets flopping around on their heads. You want to know that your children’s heads will be protected if they fall or bump their head on a low lying branch.
  • Cycling gloves or mitts help protect little (and large) hands should we fall. Most children have grip-shift gear changers and after a while of changing gears, their hands get sore and their enjoyment of riding decreases accordingly.
  • Cycling padded shorts are a bonus. You can get inexpensive padded shorts from www.wiggle.co.uk and they make a huge difference to us all. Just remember – no underwear….. (yip! That’s right… it causes chafe. Most unpleasant and please don’t share your shorts with anyone else)
  • Snacks – or as we call them in my household…. ‘motivators’… it’s great to see what your small ones can do when they have some incentive. It also helps to keep their energy levels up. Don’t forget lots of water!
  • Take some small spares with you. Hand pump, inner tubes that fit your bikes, puncture repair kit and some tyre levers. Make sure you know how to change an inner tube too. Youtube.com has lots of good tips.
  • A first aid kit is probably not a bad idea either. It doesn’t have to be your whole kit but a few essentials may come in handy (hopefully not needed….. but best be prepared). Wipes, plasters and perhaps a bandage. Also consider Antisan and sun-cream. The nettles are ripe and stingy now. 
  • Plan your route and ‘quit while you are ahead’. You ideally want to get home with your little ones asking for more! Start small to gauge their interest and ability. Maybe a little pootle down the railway path to the Barley Mow could be a good start (for young children who are starting out on family cycles). For older children, head to the Queen’s Head, Clandon through Hatchlands Park or try out any of the routes below.
  • Remember: Grassy or off-road paths are harder work than smooth tarmac. Uphill is harder work than flat – even small undulations can be energy sapping.

Tried and tested local routes

The routes below have been mapped out on the Strava App. Click on the link and it will take you to the route. If you want it to navigate for you, you will need to download the app and then you can follow the route from your phone. Easy! (Any problems, I can help you…)

The River Wey Tow Path: (Ripley to Guildford)

Distance: 15km

Start / End: Ripley playground to Guildford

Pros: Away from traffic. Lots of river activity and locks along the way. You can’t get lost. Flat (except for a few bridges). Happy children!

Cons: Not many facilities along the way so be self-sufficient. Can be a bit bumpy. The path at times is close to the water’s edge.

Other: It can get busy but take your time. Give the kids and ice-cream in Guildford and hop on a train back home. They may wish to cycle back too.

https://www.strava.com/routes/12483026

Hatchlands Park

Distance: 7km

Start / End: Hatchlands park (Ripley Lane Entrance)

Pros: Lovely easy trail and suitable for most bikes. Pub in Clandon.

Cons: Crossing the A246 TWICE! (walk please)

Other:  You can ride to the entrance from anywhere in Horsley – if your kids have the endurance.

https://www.strava.com/routes/14111755

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Sitting really is the new smoking

By Dr Kate Little

We all know that exercise is good for our health and overall wellbeing, but what many of us don’t appreciate is that sitting for prolonged periods is actually harmful for our health even if we are optimally active the rest of the time.

Being inactive is believed to responsible for 1 in 6 UK deaths – at population level this is comparable to smoking! Hence, the saying

“Sitting is the new smoking“.

Evidence shows that sedentary behaviour increases our risk of heart disease and many cancers, and at least doubles our risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This clearly has great implications for those of us that have desk jobs,  use motorised transport or sit a lot when at home.

We know that we are more active, we can help reduce the risk of many conditions including:

  • Cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes
  • Breast and colon cancer
  • Alzheimer’s dementia, depression, and musculoskeletal ill-health.

Being more active has also been shown to improve quality of life through better symptom control, as well as helping to treat over 20 conditions, including certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, lower back pain, asthma, depression and anxiety. 

How does physical activity reduce our risk of disease?

Chronic low-grade inflammation is thought to be the root cause of many disease processes. Being active reduces our overall inflammation through two main paths.

  • Firstly, it reduces our visceral fat. This is that fat usually hidden around our organs and in our muscle tissue and is pro-inflammatory.  This visceral fat is lost preferentially over our subcutaneous fat (the fat we can see and feel) when we exercise and so reduces our overall inflammation.
  • Secondly, when we exercise, we increase our muscle bulk and in turn this releases more anti-inflammatory hormones which also reduce that inflammation.

Being sedentary increases the release of free radicals in our body. These damage our cells and promote that toxic inflammation which is linked to all those diseases. When we are active we limit that damage and actually protect our cells.

 

so How often should we be getting up and moving?

There are no guidelines on this yet. The best thing to do is to get up often – every 20-30 minutes if you can or at least every hour and move about, stretch a little, before sitting back down again.

And thinking in energy terms:

 Standing for 3 hours a day burns the same amount of calories as running 10 marathons over a year! 

 

Top tips for sitting less

Standing desk from Healthy Home & Office *

At work consider:

  • Investing in or using a standing desk. I bought mine (above) from Healthy Home and Office * in Ripley. They have a great range there and are incredibly helpful.
  • Walking meetings with clients or peers – you might actually have more constructive conversations and better outcomes, a bit like when you are side to side in a car. One colleague I know does this particularly when stuck on a creative project. Another works as a mental health nurse and finds that it works really well for the clients too.
  • Standing meetings – sometimes used in the city to make decisions quicker, but great for our health too.
  • Walking or standing calls – watch Dr Muir Gray’s clip on this here.
  • Get up to chat to colleagues rather than pinging a text or e-mail.
  • Get outside for a walk or break when you can.
  • Use the stairs rather than the escalator or lift
  • Drink lots of water – as well as being good for your health (within reason of course), it might get you up to use the bathroom.

 

At home consider:

  • Doing your weekly or adhoc food shop in person. Or even better, walking to your local shops and supporting our local businesses at the same time!
  • Cooking from scratch – keeps you on your feet for longer than a take away or ready meal.
  • Having frequent breaks when you are watching TV or a film. What about going that one step further and using the breaks to do some quick strength building or cardio exercises?!
  • Setting rules on your screen time – read more on the benefits of unplugging here. 
  • Meeting friends or family for a walk to catch up rather than for a seated coffee or tea. You can always bring your coffee with you!

There are clearly many more ways that you can be less sedentary, the key thing is to find ways that resonate with you and that you will stick with.

 

“This whole life is an art of knowing when to sit and when to stand up!” 
Mehmet Murat Ildan 

What ways could you move more and sit less?

**** Healthy Home and Office are offering a 10% discount to members of Horsley Hub. Offer lasts till end of August 2018.*****

5 second rule e1530453026241

The Five Second Rule Book

By Sarah Miller

Sarah is a local mum and styling consultant. You can check Sarah out on her website or follow her on Instagram @sarahmillerlife.

So, on my never ending quest for knowledge on how to live out my best life with my 2 little girls I came across the book ‘The 5 Second Rule’ by Mel Robbins.  Admittedly it is about the hundredth self-help style book that I have read in the last 3 years as a single mum but I think that Bridget Jones was definitely on to something…I just need to up my wine drinking levels and find my Mr Darcy.

Anyway, back to the point, it turns out that The 5 Second Rule doesn’t only apply to dropping food on the floor but can also be used as a motivational tool to overcome procrastination, fear and anxiety! Awesome news as these are definitely things that I suffer with and Mel; the author, discovered the 5 second rule when she was going through a really dark time in her life where everything was falling apart and she couldn’t seem to get motivated to sort her shit out.

It is such a simple technique and she does waffle on rather a lot about all of the success stories but it is something that actually really helped me get my act together on the days when I would rather stay in bed (we’ve all been there!)

Not only that, but it gets you out of your comfort zone (not just your bed) to do things that perhaps you talk a lot about doing but haven’t got the confidence to get on and do.  It actually opened up an amazing opportunity for me to do some talks at Anthropolige in Guildford about a subject that I am really passionate about and I am sure I will need to use the technique to get myself to even open my mouth and speak!!

The other major result of reading this book is that she offers a technique for those who have a fear of flying (MEEEEEEEE!!! And I love to travel! Agghh) As I read the book whilst I was on a weekend away in Spain I got to practice the technique on the way home and it really helped and I learnt so much about my mind and what a beast it can be if you let it run riot.

I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling to make changes in their lives and stick to them.  To be honest I think I might read it again now because I have forgotten it too quickly and it is super, super helpful.

Let me know if anyone finds any success with it.

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The importance of unplugging and why you should become a Digital Rebel.

By Dr Kate Little

“Mummy, you’re not listening” my son says.

Mmmm. Sorry, I have just got to reply to this e-mail and I’ll be right with you…

Only I get side-tracked and the next thing I know, I am checking the WhatsApp and Facebook notifications on my phone. An argument breaks out at top volume around me.

Sound familiar?

The problem is that we all feel negative after this. And when I reflect back, the whole episode was my own doing. But what is it about our devices that makes them so compelling and addictive that we lose touch with real life going on around us?

The Digital Age and Inf-O-besity

We now live in a fast paced, information-overloaded digital world. It is an age of “Infobesity” with multiple competing demands on our time and attention.

More and more people are working flexibly or from home and with that, the boundaries between work and personal life have become increasingly blurred.

Research has shown that the average person checks their phone at least 150 times a day, an average user touches their phone 2500 times a day and a high user, well over 5000 times! It is perhaps no surprise based on these statistics that the average e-mail goes unread for a mere 6 seconds!

We get sucked in, often without realising it. But the design is intentional and it is based on slot machine psychology.

The Ludic Loop

Ludic is Latin for playful. The Ludic loop, coined by anthropologist Natasha Dow Schull, author of Addiction by Design, is a cycle of repeating the same activity, impelled by occasional random rewards.

Schull studied users of slot machines in Las Vegas. She found that users get drawn into a repeating cycle of inserting coins and pulling the handle in the hope of hitting the jackpot. Because the reward is not predictable, the gamer’s attention is grabbed and the behaviour becomes compulsive. They don’t want to miss that slim chance of a win.

We may not all be gamers and gamblers but we are all vulnerable to a similar loop in our use of e-mails and social media. Think about this scenario: You pick up your phone – it has been at least 5 minutes after all – you glance at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and then take a peek on your email. Once you have done that, a few more notifications appear on Facebook so you check that again. Before you know it, 30 minutes has passed. You return to what you were doing, but the lure is there at the back of your mind. What if someone has replied? So you start the cycle again. You are in the loop. The product designers are playing on our fear of missing something important and our need for social approval and reciprocity.

The Attention Economy

In his article, How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind – from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist”, Tristan Harris explains how product designers “play our psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against us in the race to grab our attention.”

We think that we have free choice, but in reality it is the product designers who are controlling our choices. They do this upstream by designing the menu of options that we are offered.Our news feed, the Auto-play on You-tube and the suggested programmes on Netflix are all chosen for us.

According to Adam Alter, author of “Irrestible – Why we can’t stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching, we enter a zone of “Flow” when we use these products, a zone where we become so immersed in the task at hand that we lose perspective of time.

The trouble is, there is no longer an end point. In his TED talk Why screens don’t make us happy,” Alter argues that it is because they “rob us of stopping cues,” that signal that it is time to move on to the next activity. Before the inception of “on demand TV”, we would watch a TV show, and when it ended, we would have to wait until the next week to watch the next episode. Now, we can stay up all night and watch the entire series in one go if we want to.

Why does this matter?

As Alter observes, much of our screen time is not making us happy. And the problem, as we have seen, is that we are on our devices a lot.

Digital natives (those born into the world of laptops and mobile phones) spend on average 8 ½ hours a day exposed to digital technology and brain scans are showing that this negatively affects emotional aptitudes such as empathy.

Our pocket slot machines are with most of us 24/7. Young people check their phones on average 10 times a night. We go to bed with them. We wake up to notifications that we check before we have even got out of bed.

We are constantly high alert and this has consequences.

Excessive screen time is linked with introspection, depression, anxiety and reduced sleep. Have you ever checked your e-mail late at night and then lost sleep afterwards? I certainly have.

Reduced sleep affects our mood and behaviour and the way we eat so that we make less healthy choices, and so a vicious cycle develops. There are effects on our productivity: people are distracted through the working day, when at home and through the night, further affecting sleep and performance.

To compound the problem, products like Facebook can fuel our insecurities further as we compare ourselves unfavourably to others who post images of their “perfect” lives. We see the parties and social events that we perhaps weren’t included in and this can exacerbate our already fragile egos.

Most of us are already aware of the addictive power of our screens, and of cyber-bullying and exclusion, particularly in young people, but perhaps less aware of the impact on those that we care for. A health visitor I know observed recently how more and more children are commenting that they wished that their parents weren’t on their phone so much. Perhaps it is not just our children’s use of screens that we should be monitoring, but our own too.

So what can we do about it?

 Here are some hacks to becoming a Digital Rebel:

#1 Unplug

  • Take regular breaks to go offline even for a minute or two.
  • Spend some time in nature every day, unplugged. Notice the colours. Listen to the sounds. Move about.
  • Actively connect with people face to face, unplugged.

#2 Set a Digital Sunset

  • Set a warm filter on screens in the evening.
  • Invest in amber glasses to reduce the blue light if you do have to use your screen.
  • Invest in an old fashioned alarm clock with no LED display.
  • Leave your phone outside your bedroom.
  • Stick to no screen time one hour before you go to bed.

#3 Alter the set-up of your phone

  • Create an essential home page screen, moving distracting apps like Facebook and e-mails to the second page.
  • Stop notifications or hide them in folders.
  • Launch your apps without unlocking your phone by swiping up the Control Centre like you would do for your camera. This way your phone remains locked, reducing the chance of distraction.

#4 Set rules

  • Set a timer on Internet browsing time.
  • Ban phones at the table and in the bedroom.
  • Delete the most time-consuming apps. Replace them with more productive ones.
  • Put your phone out of easy reach when working.
  • Schedule blocks of time at specific times of the day to check your e-mails and social media.
  • Set your phone on airplane mode when you don’t want to be distracted.

The Power of Unplugging

Our screens are miraculous inventions. But the way we use them does not always make us, or those around us, happy.

So, become a digital rebel. Step out. Unplug. Go outside. Feel the grass beneath your toes. Listen to the birds. Enjoy the sun on your back and take a deep breath in. Life will be richer.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

 Appendix

How do you know if you are a high user?

On Apple, you can check your % usuage of apps and time since the last full charge in your Settings / Battery / Usage. You might be surprised by just how much you use it.

 Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

Carrots

#LoveFoodHateWaste

Evidence shows that over 1/3 of all food produced globally goes to waste and that in most developed countries, over half of all food waste takes place in the home. This costs the average UK household an estimated £700 per year ($2,275 in the USA).

The annual cost of food wasted globally is $1 trillion and25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten. Nearly all the world’s one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe!

So what can we do at home to reduce #FoodWaste?

Please add YOUR suggestions by commenting on the forthcoming Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts, or by contacting us here with the tag #FoodWaste.

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Celebrating the arts: from Surrey to Zambia

This month we celebrate the arts, with local artists opening their doors and welcoming you in to view their work as part of Surrey Artists Open Studios. Look out for the orange signs in and around Horsley, Ripley, Effingham, Bookham and other Surrey villages and take pleasure in the paintings, sculpture, glass and other work that our talented local artist community have produced this year. For more information on Surrey Artists Open Studios, click here.

If you think that local Surrey art is all about uninspired landscapes and predictable still life, then think again, because our local community is brimming with exciting talent in an array of mediums. In an age where our lives are all about output (how many emails we can send and receive in a day, how many extra-curricular activities we can slot into our children’s week, how we can fit exercise into our already jam-packed routine of work, kids and domestic upkeep), there is often little time and headspace left for creativity. However, local artist Liz Hauck, is a passionate believer in the power of art when it comes to both education and emotional health and wellbeing. Liz, who is known for her expressive abstract oil paintings and excellent workshops which she runs from her home studio in West Horsley, is teaming up with Adam Aaronson, internationally renowned glass artist, to exhibit their work in June.

This exhibition is about more than just viewing art, though. Liz gives all the proceeds from both her workshops and the sale of her paintings to charity. Her proceeds from this exhibition, together with 20% of Adam Aaronson’s sales, will go to the Visual Arts programme at Tujatane, Tongabezi Charitable Trust School in Zambia, a venture that is close to Liz’s heart and that she has sponsored for the last two years.

Liz’s enthusiasm for inspiring children’s creativity in art and crafts and underpins her commitment to Tujatane. The programme has gone from strength to strength, with the children’s artwork winning prizes in exhibitions. Building on this success, the programme is now planning to build an art centre for the school and the surrounding community. “It is a privilege to be involved with Tujatane and it is wonderful to be able to encourage the children’s natural creatvity,” says Liz following a recent visit to Zambia. “The school is situated alongside the River Zambezi and earlier this month I ran art workshops at the school helping the children to create a large collage painting of the river. The children come from very poor families and mostly live in one room huts. Yet they come to school every day in freshly washed uniforms. Being involved with the art programme at the school is very rewarding.”

If you are interested in viewing Liz Hauck and Adam Aaronson’s work and supporting Tujatane in the process, click here for dates and further information about their forthcoming exhibition.

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Living with Peanut Allergy – a Personal Story

interview with a local mum by Dr Kate Little

My daughter was three years old when she was diagnosed with a peanut allergy.

It all started when we were on a family holiday in Ireland. I had eaten a bag of nuts when we stopped for a break on a family walk. I stroked her back and within minutes she was screaming in pain and had severe hives all over her skin. Skin prick tests and blood tests at the hospital confirmed peanut allergy and we were advised to avoid all nuts until she was older.

Every year since then, her allergy levels to peanut have been rising. She is now eight years old and they are now grade 6 (the highest level) so there is a real risk of a serious anaphylactic reaction if the allergen comes into contact with her mucus membranes (eyes, nose and mouth). Thankfully, when I ate nuts and touched her she only got a really nasty localised skin rash, which made her feel unwell and uncomfortable. Anaphylactic reactions are much more dangerous.

How has this affected her life?

Having such a severe allergy affects the whole family and we have to take numerous precautions in our day to day lives.

As well as avoiding all nuts, she now has to avoid any product that says, “may contain nuts”. This warning represents a real risk that there is a trace of nuts in the factory. For example, a factory that makes fruit and nut chocolate may clean its system and then make chocolate buttons. A trace of nuts may be present in the first few batches, but the consumer cannot know which batch they will get.

My daughter knows that she needs to wash her hands properly with soap before she eats anything and not to put things in her mouth (or up her nose!) if she doesn’t know what they are.

We carry the anaphylaxis kit everywhere we go and constantly check and double-check everything that we as a family consume.

When we fly, we have early boarding so that we can wipe surfaces down beforehand. You can never be sure that you will eradicate every potentially harmful thing, but you can only do your best.

She can’t eat anything in cafes and restaurants. A small thing like using the same tongs to pick up almond croissants and plain croissants, would be enough of a cross contamination to potentially cause a serious reaction.

At home it is easy to avoid nuts as we cook from scratch. On the plus side, it means that she eats less junk! It is trickier though, when she goes to other people’s houses. She just has to be really vigilant and we rely on people to decontaminate their home environments.

We always ask people whose homes she is visiting, to wipe all surfaces with antibacterial spray and make sure that everyone washes their hands properly with soap. This is enough to denature the protein.

It is also important to make sure that any dishes she is eating off, come straight out of the dishwasher, as otherwise dust from products containing nuts like muesli, may come into contact with something that she might put in her mouth. For example, my parents eat muesli that has hazelnuts & almonds in it. When the packet is closed, a dust is released, which can land on a glass or mug that she might later put in her mouth.

How has the nut allergy affected you?

I live my life on a knife-edge trying to manage the fear of something serious happening, whilst being aware that we can only do our best. I also find it hard to manage the social element and how easily parents or schools or my family might perceive me as being neurotic.

I try to make sure that when I talk to people about the precautions we need to take, I get my point across without spreading fear or panic that might make people stop listening, or stop trying, or exclude her. One of my biggest worries is that she doesn’t get invited to social events or on play dates, because it is too much responsibility.

Is your daughter aware of your concerns?

No I don’t think so. I think that we are lucky with her personality. At the moment it doesn’t seem to bother her that she is a bit different.

The allergy itself does frighten her though and this is getting more apparent the older she gets. The hospital have said that they will put more support in place for her as she gets older and have recommended some great on-line resources too.

We have learnt from some near misses that we all have to check what we are eating the whole time. For example, I once bought what I thought was some Kinnerton chocolate (which is always nut free) as a treat. My son (who was two years old at the time) had a meltdown when I didn’t check the ingredients because this is so ingrained in our routine. To pacify him I checked the packet and to my horror, it clearly said “Not suitable for nut allergy sufferers”. It turned out that it wasn’t Kinnerton chocolate at all, but another company that used similar packaging.

So this has wide reaching consequences for you all. That carries it’s own weightiness…

Yes, and I am the sort of person that cares far too much what other people think. I have to wrestle with knowing that this is the right thing to do for my daughter and the feeling that I don’t want to always ask the routine questions that are necessary for her safety, for fear of upsetting anyone. It is bizarre really that such trivial concerns go through my head when I am dealing with something as serious as this, although of course, when it comes to it, I will always put her health first.

It sounds uncomfortable

Yes, and I don’t want it to be uncomfortable for other people or to make them feel embarrassed. The more we do it though, the less that is apparent.

How has it been at school?

School has been more of a challenge than I thought, but I guess that the staff are learning at the same pace as everybody else.

Take for example the junk modelling they do in the classroom, which involves old packaging that people bring in from home. When she first started school, people were sending in packets from Bakewell tarts and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, where there is a very high chance that dust from the nuts may be present and then transfer onto the kids’ hands.

School trips are also a challenge, so I usually go on the trips which the teachers seem to prefer. I can then make sure that surfaces are wiped down especially around where she is eating her lunch and that someone is sitting with her to remind her to wash her hands before she eats things.

My biggest fear about school is bullying. I know that’s a bit of a strong word, but that element really worries me, particularly when she goes to secondary school where everyone brings in his or her own lunches. For example, a boy at school recently said to her “I want to give you a nut to see what happens.” It took all my strength to stop myself from going to speak to that child and their parent. I had to reflect and remind myself that it is just kids. So the worry is real and that is scary.

I reassure myself that because she is so feisty that might keep any bullying at bay but then again, it might also attract it. We are lucky though that the year group that my daughter is in is generally a really caring bunch and they all look out for her.

If you are constantly on this knife-edge, managing 2 children and working full-time, how do you look after yourself?!

I don’t know. Sometimes I feel that this is what a nervous breakdown feels like. I’m holding it all together all the time. I can only describe it as being like a teddy bear holding in its stuffing while one little seam is going. If I let that seam go, then the whole lot is going to fall out. So I am constantly patching up, and patching up, and making sure that we are all fine.

If she was having anaphylactic reactions all the time, then my anxiety levels would be through the roof, but thankfully she isn’t, so we seem to have managed it well this far. The allergy specialist said to us the last time we were at hospital that we are the only family that she knows whose child has a Grade 6 allergy and hasn’t been in casualty or ICU with anaphylaxis regularly. So it makes us feel that whatever we are doing, we are doing it right and that is really empowering.

It sounds so hard and most people just won’t be aware of just how difficult this is for you. Thank you for sharing your story.

 

For more information on severe allergies, see the following resources:

  • Anaphyslaxis uk
  • Allergy uk – this is a telephone line for advice and safe airline travel
  • Facebook –it can be useful to join relevant groups, to post queries and seek recommendations.
  • Jexco.uk provides really helpful information on epipens and how to use them. There is a kids area with games that normalises it for the children.