Fatigue… you’re so last year, hello Vitality!

Out of steam by early afternoon? Can’t stop yawning? Dreaming of bedtime before 9am? Many things from intense workouts to a bout of a flu can leave us feeling temporarily drained, and in such cases we’d best give our body the rest it needs. But sometimes we lack energy without any obvious cause. If fatigue becomes a regular occurrence, we may need to take a closer look at our lifestyle, while occasional energy slumps can often be remedied with a few simple and fun energy boosters.

 

  1. First, the basics

 

No quick fix will restore our energy levels if we aren’t meeting our body’s essential requirements for efficient energy production. Check you’ve got the basics covered:

 

Nutrition

We need proper fuel to keep us going: eat regularly and check that your meals include complex carbs (veggies and whole grains) that release energy slowly, protein and healthy fats (think nuts, seeds and “good” oils) as well as B-vitamins (try beans and lentils). If you’re constantly tired and get out of breath easily, you might be low on iron – speak to your GP.

 

Water

Even mild dehydration can cause a noticeable dip in our energy levels. So down a glass if you’re starting to feel fatigued – and set reminders if you keep forgetting to drink enough water.

 

Oxygen

We need a steady supply of oxygen to stay mentally alert and physically energised. If stress and tension is causing you to take shallow breaths, take regular mini breaks to breathe deeply. Check your posture too: sitting up straight allows more air into our lungs than hunching over the desk.

 

Sleep

Adequate sleep is vital if we want to feel energised during our waking hours. Erratic sleeping patterns as well as lack of sleep can really tire us out, so try to stick to a regular bedtime and make sure you’re getting at least seven or eight hours of shut-eye every night.

 

Exercise

While an intense workout session can leave us exhausted for the rest of the day, engaging in low-intensity physical activity on a regular basis can help banish fatigue and elevate our energy levels significantly. Try morning yoga or go for a lunchtime walk – and stretch and move a little at work too to boost your circulation.

  1. Quick tips and tricks

 

Get outside

Sometimes re-invigorating ourselves is as easy as leaving the stuffy indoors and stepping outside to breathe some fresh air. Sunlight helps us stay more alert too by regulating sleep hormones, so the second best thing is to work by a window.

 

 

Put on upbeat music

Music has been shown to have a number of beneficial effects on us. Upbeat music in particular can improve productivity and boost motivation, so put on your favourite high tempo tunes when you need a quick pick-me-up.

 

 

Energising scents

Certain scents have a refreshing, stimulating effect on the brain – try adding a few drops of essential oils like lemon, rosemary or peppermint into a vaporiser (or a small dish of hot water) when you want to shake off fatigue.

 

 

Cold water

Just as a nice warm bath can help us relax and wind down, a cold shower in the morning can jolt us into action mode (from less sick days at work, to help combatting depression and anxiety and an [Read more…]

“Shy”? “Too sensitive”? Or time to embrace who we are?

“Why so quiet?” “You’re too sensitive.” “Come on, lighten up!”, “Smile! It might never happen!” Through phrases like these, many of us learn before we’ve even toddled our way out of nappies that being chatty and outgoing is our golden ticket to a successful, happy life – whether it comes naturally to us or not. Western culture in particular seems to heap praise on the gregarious, outspoken, ‘life-of-the-party’ types, while often overlooking the contributions of those more keen on observation, deep thinking and quieter pursuits. Susan Cain (author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’) calls this preference for talkativeness and assertiveness the ‘Extrovert Ideal’.

But what should we do if we’re among the people who don’t fit this ‘ideal’? Buckle up, ignore our own preferences and push ourselves to enjoy attention and talk more? If that age-old thought sends a jolt of nerves up your spine then listen up… because it’s time we valued  the quieter more thoughtful people and celebrated the many strengths that come with them. The world needs gentle thinkers as much as it needs fearless leaders – so let’s celebrate the gifts the sensitive and the introspective among us have to offer.

  1. Five positives of not being the loudest person in the room…

While we’re all complex and evolving beings, research shows that many qualities often go together. And if you’ve more of an observer than a talker and enjoy your peace and quiet, you’ve probably got the following strengths:

  1. Ability to focus

Quieter types often enjoy being completely absorbed in a mentally stimulating project and can maintain their focus for long periods of time without getting restless.

  1. Keen observational skills

They’re also good at noticing small details and subtleties and processing a lot of information, which makes them great at in-depth learning and coming up with novel solutions to problems.

  1. Awareness of risks

The more cautious style of people who like to observe before they ‘jump in’ means they’re less prone to accidents and mistakes.

  1. Creativity

Those of us who enjoy our times of solitude tend to spend a lot of time looking inwardly and are often blessed with a vivid imagination and a rich inner life.

  1. Connecting deeply

Those who prefer to nurture a few close friendships over making numerous casual connections,  often demonstrate great empathy and listening skills, which  leads to very meaningful and long-lasting relationships.

  1. Create a life more suited to your needs

While gregarious individuals are energised by a busy social schedule, more introspective types require quiet downtime to recharge. But even in a world enamoured with networking and team building and dinner parties, those of us who thrive in calmer conditions can take steps to carve out restorative pockets of peace and calm in their day.

At the workplace

Many of our colleagues and our boss may well be the kind of people who love constant interaction – and they may not have considered that some of us  feel more productive and do their best work in different conditions. It’s worth proposing adjustments, whether it’s moving our work station to a more quiet corner in the office, focusing on tasks that are best suited to our talents, or even working from home once in a while.

Socialising on our terms

If we’ve internalised the message that socialising is better than solitary activities, our inner monologue may involve a lot of ‘shoulds’ when it comes to deciding how we spend our time and energy. But acknowledging that our needs are different to that of a social butterfly but no less valid can help us make decisions better suited to our preferences – like arranging to meet a friend over a coffee instead of agreeing to a big night out.

  1. Raising confident children

Kids, just like adults, are more confident when they feel accepted the way they are. And as parents we can help our thoughtful and gentle children to feel as valued as their more outgoing and energetic peers.

Diverse role models

At first glance, history books and popular culture seem to be populated with dynamic movers and shakers not afraid to speak their mind. But if we look closer, we see many introverted influencers from Rosa Parks (whose quiet tenacity made her a civil rights legend) to the actress Emma Watson (whose passion for empowering women and girls lead to her appointment as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador). We can help our kids value their unique strengths by exposing them to varied role models and showing them that there are many ways to live, succeed and change the world.

Gentle encouragement

It can be tempting to keep coaxing a child who hasn’t joined in a game or arrange frequent play dates to help them make more friends. Encouragement can be helpful, especially in a new situation – but we also want to [Read more…]

Beat the bloat… Our top four tips for reducing bloating and fluid retention fast

Did the end of year festivities leave you feeling a bit sluggish and puffy?  You’re not alone… the season of indulgence and partying tends to cause many a healthy habit to fall by the wayside. As a consequence, we may experience irregularity, bloating and fluid retention.

 

But fear not, a few lifestyle tweaks can do a lot to help you feel better – just be sure to chat to your GP first if your symptoms are severe or you’re pregnant.

 

 

  1. Up the (right kind of) fluids

 

Drinking more fluids seems counterintuitive when we’re trying to ease water retention… you’ve probably heard drinking up in fact flushes out waste as well as excess salt, which are often the reason why fluid accumulates in the body.

 

So up your intake of water, or try your hand at juicing. Besides having a high water content, certain fruit and veg – such as lemon, watermelon, pineapple, celery and cucumber – have beneficial effects on the intestinal system too, with natural diuretic properties, and can help keep us regular too. And if excess gas is the problem, herbal teas like ginger or peppermint are great to guzzle to banish the bloat. Limit carbonated drinks though, for obvious reasons…

 

  1. Eat for hormonal balance

 

That time of the month? Many women experience water retention and bloating a few days before they get their period: there may be an increase in fluids in the abdomen as well as hands and feet. The scales can climb up by as much as 10 lbs just because of the excess water.

 

To help balance hormones (and counter PMS-related bloating), make sure you’re eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Potassium-rich bananas are a good choice, and so are fibre-rich nuts, legumes and whole-grains. After an even bigger impact? Significantly reduce animal fat and protein; ditch the extra salt and processed foods and cut right down on alcohol (might sound like a chore but check out your ankles after a week and you’ll be skipping all the way to the celery aisle!).

 

  1. Get moving

 

Tied to the desk? A lot of time sitting down can slow things down (read: cause constipation) and lead to swollen legs. Movement counters this by stimulating the bowels, circulation and the lymphatic system, so get up for a stretch on a regular basis. Sweating is even better when it comes to getting rid of excess fluid, so schedule some fun cardio into your week.

 

  1. Soak up some magnesium

 

Few things are as relaxing as soaking in a warm bath, but adding two cups of Epsom or magnesium salts into the water can also boost your body’s ability to eliminate toxins and excess fluid. Relax for 20 minutes (don’t let the water get too hot) and repeat once a week if needed.

 

 

 

Inhale wellbeing, exhale stress …The power of proper breathing

How often do you think about your breathing? Probably no more than you do about blinking or swallowing, unless you meditate a lot… So it may come as a surprise that the way we breathe habitually can have a major effect on our physical and emotional wellbeing.

We’re all born breathing in the optimal way. But as we begin to spend more of our time sitting down (first at school and later, the office), face new responsibilities and stressful situations and are even encouraged ‘suck it in’ to make our stomachs appear flatter, many of us switch over time to a less efficient, shallower style of breathing. And the difference in the amount of fresh, oxygenated air our body receives with each breath can be huge: shallow breathing may use only about a third of our lung capacity (que lethargy, poor digestion, anxiety, negative moods, trouble sleeping…).

Fortunately, we can re-learn our natural way of breathing. And while it’s not a miracle cure or the answer to everything, the potential health benefits are so significant it’s no surprise that breathing features at the heart of many wellbeing practices, from yoga to meditation.

And gasp… it’s also free, requires no equipment and is available to us wherever we are!

1. The importance of correct breathing

Oxygen is essential to our wellbeing – every cell requires oxygen to function properly and can’t survive long without it. From digestion and detoxification of our immune system, breathing fully lets our cells and vital organs do what they do at maximum efficiency. Shallow breathing, on the other hand, taxes our body by pushing it to work harder and makes us more vulnerable to physical ailments.

Our mental wellbeing also gets a boost from proper breathing. Our brain functions best with a steady supply of oxygenated air which helps us stay more alert and focused and may also lift our mood.

2. The stress-breath connection

Stress and anxiety are best buddies with shallow breathing: the tightening, tension-inducing effects of stress cause shallow, quick breathing – and breathing this way makes it more difficult for us to relax again. But while we can’t avoid stressful situations, we can take steps to calm ourselves and break the cycle by consciously focusing on and changing our breathing. Slow, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping us relax and avoid a host of potential health problems.

3. Correct breathing, step by step

So how do we breathe correctly? The natural way of breathing is also known as belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing (after diaphragm, the main muscle involved in breathing, which is located underneath the lungs): the belly rises and falls with each inhalation and exhalation, while the chest stays relatively still. Natural breathing is also fairly slow and the lungs are completely filled and emptied with each breath.

If we’re used to shallow chest breathing, we may need to spend some time practising belly breathing. Making the change doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking, though: spend a little time everyday (maybe first thing in the morning and last thing before bed) focusing on your breath and adjusting as necessary, and repeat whenever you become aware of your breathing throughout the day.

Try these steps:

1.     Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly (this makes it easier to notice if we’re breathing with the chest or the belly)

2.     Push your belly out with each inhalation and pull it in with each exhalation

3.     Let your lungs fill in and empty out completely

With enough practise, breathing deeply with the belly should become effortless and automatic.

3. Breathe… as first aid for stress

Not only does correct breathing support our general wellbeing, but it’s also one of the best tools to get us over a those stressful humps during the day… There are plenty of breathing techniques to choose from when you want to induce some calm into the chaos of a busy day, but ‘tactical breathing’ is an easy one to remember. Used by the military and athletes to manage stress, the steps are super simple:

1.     Inhale for a count of four

2.     Hold for a count of four

3.     Exhale for a count of four

4.     Hold for a count of four

5.     Repeat four times

Want to see tactical breathing in action? Belisa Vranich talks about the power of correct breathing and demonstrates her breathing technique in this TEDx Talk.