How Stress Can Effect Us

We are taught to put a bandage on a wound to stop infections and we are taught to brush our teeth daily to prevent tooth decay. Right from the very first day of our lives we are taught how to keep our bodies safe and healthy. But what are we taught to prevent our mental health from declining?

This week is mental health week, something that effects many of us; whether that is directly experiencing mental health problems ourselves, or maybe it has effected somebody close to us. This years focus is based solely on stress. Stress is a term thrown around daily, but it can lead on to serious mental health issues. We have all had stressful periods in our lives, and we often just brush them off, but how are we really coping with the rising pressure of society?

A recent study by the Mental Health Foundation showed that the younger generation (18-38 year olds) feel more under pressure at work, with a quarter of the 4500 people questioned stating they are expected to work through stress at work. Only 14 percent of those questioned said that they felt comfortable talking to their manager about their stress levels. The study also showed that 75 percent of people have felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed and unable to cope, with a third of people in the UK also experiencing suicidal feelings as a result of stress. So to sum things up, this is a big problem in today’s world.

Stress is a very individual thing. Peoples tolerance to situations is different. In some instances stress can be helpful, it can push us to perform better and it can help us through nerve wracking experiences. Often we can return to normal after short moments of stress without any negative effects on our health. However, sometimes we are exposed to stressful situations for a lengthy period of time and depending on our resilience, our genetics, our environment and our experiences it can have debilitating effects.

Without getting too scientific, stress effects our hormone levels. We activate our ‘fight or flight’ response when faced with difficult or challenging situations and this elevates our cortisol levels. When this is at a high level for a prolonged amount of time it can have a very negative effect on our physical and mental health. Physically in can effect blood pressure, our heart health, our energy levels and our immune system. But mentally it can also have a huge impact, and this is only just being recognised.

Depression and anxiety can be caused by stress. Being exposed to high pressure situations or feeling like you cannot cope with things can deeply effect your mood and your every day life. Our ability to stay positive and bounce back from difficult situations is impaired when we are under high amounts of stress. Depression and anxiety are incredibly serious conditions that effect individuals in many different ways. The problem is that these issues are often over looked, or often not really taken seriously. Doctors are quick to prescribe anti depressants but this doesn’t really help us build up our resilience or address the root causes of our problems. We still live in a society that pushes us to our limits and celebrates being busy and overworked.

So how can we manage our stress levels and take control of our mental health? Well the answer is different for everybody but here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy mind and prevent stress getting the better of you.

1. Recognise the warning signs. If you are getting sick often, feeling tired, feeling demotivated and struggling to cope then these are the signed that you need to act on. If you catch yourself not quite feeling your usual self then it is key to take some time and figure out what is causing this. This enables you to take action and prevent the situation from getting worse.

2. Make time for the things you love. This could be anything! Spending time with loved ones, going to the gym, watching your favourite box set, going for a walk – anything that truly makes you happy. This allows your body to relax and distracts you from any stresses that you have in your life.

3. Talk. Whether that is to your loved ones or to a professional, talking through your worries and issues helps a lot. This can help you see things from a different perspective and can help you to think a little clearer.

4. Get moving and eat well. Exercise and diet can have a huge impact on your health and well-being. Eating plenty of fresh fruit and nutrients helps to keep your body healthy and exercise is known to bring stress levels down. It is so tempting to slob out and eat rubbish when you are feeling low but it is so important to give our bodies the nutrients that it needs.

5. Go easy on yourself. Now I always say it, but it is key to be kind to yourself. We are often very hard on ourselves, however when you are feeling low and stressed kindness is key. Beating yourself up for feeling they way that you do will only make things worse. Treat yourself in the way that you would treat your best friend.

These are just a few little tips that I have felt helpful when experiencing stressful situations. They key things is to take control of your situation and your life. We are the only ones that truly know what is best for ourselves. There are plenty of other ways to manage mental health and prevent issues from building and you can find the full study that MHF did here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/file/3432/download?token=709ABkP8

Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of and I urge you to speak about your experiences and ask for help, you will never be alone!

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The Things That Make You Feel Alive 

You know all of the things that truly make you feel alive. The things that make your heart race with excitement. The things that can’t help but make you grin from ear to ear. The things that ignite that fire in your belly. The things that bring you pure joy and happiness. The things that make you feel like you. Yep, all of those things – you NEED to do more of them.

We live incredibly busy lives nowadays. Work takes up hours of our days, life admin builds and builds and lets face it – social media procrastination is part of our daily routine. As I’ve discussed in a previous blog – being busy is seen as being productive and successful, but we all know deep down that it isn’t really the case. 

We all have a lot of pressure on us; be that from financial situations, or from social expectations. But too many of us just accept that and settle. We settle for jobs that make us unhappy, we settle for relationships that aren’t really what we want, we settle in the situations that we have built for ourselves – situations we know aren’t right for us. Why is this the case?

Some situations in life cannot be avoided, but we must accept responsibility and create the best from the hand that we have been dealt. Change creates fear amongst us, the unknown makes us uneasy. I cannot stress enough how important it is to accept and welcome change into our lives. If we stop viewing it as a negative thing, change will bring plenty of positives. So will self belief, having the confidence in yourself to follow your gut feelings and follow your dreams will also only create positive situations. 

The point I am trying to make is that why spend 90% of your life doing things that make you unhappy? Life isn’t supposed to be something that we dread. Life is a gift that we need to make the most of. We need to make changes in order to better our lives. We need to think selfishly at times (whilst remaining kind and considerate to others). We need to make time for the things that make us truly feel alive and joyful- no matter what those things are and no matter what others think. 

Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone is the best thing that ever happened to you. Stay true to yourself, welcome the changes that life brings and learn the lessons that come along with them. Create your happiness. 

My ‘Why’

Today somebody questioned why I do what I do – why I post pictures of myself on social media. A few hours later I was also asked to fill out a questionnaire, one of the questions was ‘Why did you decide to get into the fitness industry?’

The simple answer to both of those questions is: I am so passionate about helping others gain self confidence and motivation to enable them take control of their own happiness and health. 

Being self aware, having self confidence and self belief, showing yourself kindness, learning to love and accept yourself, are all traits that don’t come easily. They require practice and they require patience, especially in the world that we live in today. These things do not equal arrogance, they equal anything but that. There is nothing selfish about taking care of yourself. As the saying goes – you cannot pour from an empty cup. 

Just like there is nothing wrong with being body confident. Embracing your insecurities and accepting your flaws is a huge step towards an easier, happier life. What is good about being ashamed of ourselves? What is good about being so hard on ourselves? 

When I was about 14/15 I hated the way I looked, I thought I was fat (I wasn’t). I used to starve myself, I used to compare myself to others and I over exercised. My periods stopped and I was very underweight. I remember walking up the stairs felt like walking up a mountain. Clothes hung off of me and a was constantly cold. Magazines and perfect pictures of celebrities were definitely partly to blame for my warped perception of myself. 

I was lucky enough to have plenty of people around me that cared for me and helped me to realise that this wasn’t ‘normal’. I had counselling and spent a lot of time reading self development books and blogs. This did me the world of good. However, I still didn’t have a healthy relationship with myself. I binge ate huge amounts of food, because deep down I still hated myself. I had huge anxiety for years and struggled with some relationships. All of these things have taken a huge amount of time and effort to overcome. I still have wobbles every now and then but they don’t bother me anymore; I simply forgive myself and show myself kindness. Looking back at the old version of me makes me feel sad and sorry for that girl. But equally I feel incredibly proud of who I am now and what I have overcome. 

My decision to become a personal trainer was simply to help others. I never ever wanted anyone to feel the way that I had – to walk around each day loathing yourself and spend hours picking yourself apart. That is not how life should be lived, so I made it my mission to help others better themselves. 

We are all up against so much in today’s society. Men and woman have tonnes of pressure on their shoulders to perform in a certain way, to look perfect, to make ‘sensible’ choices, to squash their beliefs – the list could go on and on. The message I will always try to send out, is to be kind to yourself. Follow YOUR own path. Do what is right for YOU. And take care and respect YOUR body. As I have said before, this isn’t selfish, as long as you always show others kindness and respect their journeys too. We all deserve to feel empowered and confident within ourselves. 

Our bodies and minds are the only things that will be staying with us right until the end, so it is time we invested in them. 

Start Being Happy

How many times have you heard someone, or even yourself, say ‘I’ll be happy when.. X, Y or Z happens’? 
How often have you heard someone, or yourself, say ‘I wish X, Y, Z would happen’? 

(Obviously changing the X Y Z part, that would be weird if someone actually spoke that cryptically). 

My point is, so many of us put off happiness, so many of us put our dreams on hold. We wait for things to happen in a specific order, hoping that these ‘things’ will bring us joy, but the reality is – we already have everything that we need. 

Happiness isn’t about what materialistic objects we have. It isn’t about how in love with your partner you are. It isn’t about how together your life is. Happiness comes from within you. Now I know this all might sound a bit airy fairy. Obviously sometimes life throws you some real troublesome times – but you CAN still find happiness through those times. 

Accepting yourself, and accepting life for what it is can really help you on your journey to happiness. Not everything has to be perfect for you to feel content. Knowing that things maybe aren’t as good as they could be, but accepting that will surprisingly make you feel a lot better. The moment that we stop putting so much pressure on our lives is the moment that life seems to get a little bit easier. 

If we are always looking to others for acceptance, love and reassurance we are missing the point. We have all of those things inside of us. Having the courage to follow your gut instinct is important. Being self aware and strong is different to being arrogant. Learning to love and respect yourself is one of the most valuable lessons in life that you will learn. All of these things help you to realise that we are responsible for our own feelings and, of course, our happiness. 

If we are constantly focusing on the negatives, or at least what we perceive to be negative, how can we expect anything good to happen? It’s no secret that like attracts like – negativity attracts negativity, just like positivity attracts more positivity. Again, yes, it may sound like nonsense but trust me, it’s true. We all spend so much time complaining and moaning, we are just drawing our focus and attention to all the bad shit in our lives. If we flipped that mentality on its head and focused more on the good, not only would we attract more good, we would start to let more happiness in. 

Start being kind to yourself. Start accepting life. Start showing yourself and others a bit more love. And start realising that we can be happy NOW. 

Does Stress Equal Success? 

We like to make life complicated. But why?

Why is stress seen as success? Why is drama seen as excitement? Why is working long hours looked upon as being more productive? Why don’t we ever switch off? 

Exhaustion has become fashionable and being ‘busy’ is everybody’s default setting. 

The problem with sauntering through life like this is that we are actually missing out LIVING. Being constantly stressed can have detrimental effects on our health and wellbeing. Not only that, we also miss out on some of the most magical moments. The best times in life often happen when we slow down, be fully present and absorb what is happening. Who said that we have to be stressed and miserable in order to be successful? Does that really equal happiness? 

Stress is not always our enemy, it can be beneficial. It can boost productivity and it can drive us forward. However, being self aware is key to managing stress levels. Learning when it’s time to take a back seat is so important. Your body and mind will thank you for it, and so will those around you. 

Everyone is different. We all enjoy varied things, so there is never going to be a generic recipe for relaxing and de-stressing, but it is crucial to tune in and find out what works for you. Take time for yourself, your loved ones and for the things that you enjoy the most. Never feel guilty for being selfish when it comes to slowing down and respecting what your body needs. Respect others when they make that decision too. 

Mediation, yoga, cooking, reading, exercise and spending quality time with my friends and family are just some of the ways that I deal with stress, but your list will probably be completely different! Whatever it is that brings your joy, do more of it! 

Be kind to yourself! 

A Little Update 

Since the beginning of May I have been following a stricter diet and training plan. I wanted to see how hard I could push myself and what results I could get. This challenge is not just about what physical changes I can make, it is about pushing myself mentally too. Since travelling I felt like I needed a bit more motivation and structure to my life and this, along with a new job has given me exactly that. 

Now, I have made it no secret that in the past my relationship with food as struggled. During my teens I was obsessed with losing weight and became very unhealthy, which only lead to binge eating in my late teens and early twenties. Up until last year I still struggled with binge eating at times, especially during stressful and emotional times, but it was far less frequent. 

I have always been scared of counting macros or tracking what I eat as I know that as a 15/16 year old I got too wrapped up in a horrible cycle of eating less and less. However, over the past few years of working in the fitness industry and working ona lot of self development I felt like I wanted to give it ago. Before I started I made sure that I asked myself the relevant questions. Why do I want to do this? Will this be a healthy approach for me? Do I know when to stop? And then I asked all of those questions again, and again. 

For me, as this challenge is about so much more than just aesthetics I am giving it ago and throwing myself into it, and so far it has been great. I feel amazing. I haven’t lost any weight which is good, but I can see my body changing. I feel focused on my training, excited to train as I can feel myself getting stronger and fitter. I feel focused at work too. I have had good days and bad days, but that is normal. And I haven’t stuck to the plan 100%, because I am human and I love chocolate. When my life is organised and has a bit of structure to it, I thrive, and for a while it has lacked that. 

Be really clear when goal setting. Make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Do it for YOU, not for others. Yes, use others as motivation, but focus on your own journey. Try not to set goals revolving around unhealthy beliefs or views of yourself. Set yourself realistic goals and be kind to yourself!

This also applies to anyone that helps with goal setting, for example personal trainers. You’re job is to help others achieve THEIR goals, not your goals for them. On many occasions you will make recommendations for your clients and guide them towards a certain goal, for example, postural or nutritional. But be patient when training someone and getting to the real reason they want to achieve certain things. Make sure everything you do is to benefit them. 

I will be writing a little more about exactly what I have been doing over the past month training/diet wise next week, just to bore you all. Have a good day! 

Self Belief 

One of the first motivational books that I read was ‘The Secret’. The message that book carried has stuck with me ever since. 

Each and everyone of us has aspirations, dreams and hopes. But most of us believe that those things will never become a reality. This is something that I have never quite understood. We are the only ones that put limits on our lives. 

This relates to so many aspects in life. Especially when it comes to training and nutrition. We can all dream of shedding some fat, gaining some muscle or whatever your goal is. But the bottom line is, if we don’t believe that we are actually capable of achieving it, we won’t. 

Now there are many reasons for this lack of belief that we have, and everyone’s reason is different. However, in order to achieve goals we must stop listening to that negative voice we have in our minds. It is imperative that we change our mindset and start saying that ‘we can’. Of course things don’t happen over night, the paths to our goals are very bumpy and take a lot of hard work. There are bound to be frustrating times and ups and downs. But once we start approaching life with a more positive mind, more positive things start to happen.

Ok, yes I know it sounds cliche and a bit cheesy, but it really does work. Once we stop telling ourselves that there are limits on our achievements, dreams actually start to become a reality. So start believing in yourself a bit more! 

What is Progress?

We often measure our progress on our physical appearance successes; how much weight we have lost, how many inches we have lost or how much muscle we have gained. But are these the most important changes? 

The ‘progress’ that we celebrate is normally to do with aesthetics, but are we forgetting the most important parts of our journey. Changing your physical appearance can be done in about 10 million different ways, some are healthy some are not. You can lose 3 stone, but still be deeply unhappy. Or you can add 10kg of muscle and still feel small. In a world fixated on appearance we regularly overlook what is going on inside of us – we forget about that personal journey that we have with ourselves and our mental health. 

A large part of the population are overweight, however, losing weight in unhealthy ways doesn’t make it sustainable and certainly doesn’t mean that all of your troubles and worries go away. Just like if you are underweight, putting on weight isn’t the answer to all your problems. You need to get deeper than that. You need to get to the bottom of your ‘why’. 

Why are you over weight? Why do you want to change the way you look? Why are you underweight? Why are you unhappy? There are so many questions that you need to ask yourself. Now, on some occasions, genetics and health reasons are the answer to some of those questions so fixing them in sustainable way will help you to have a healthier body. However, people often have deeper reasons for wanting a change. 

The relationship that we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we have in our lives. It has a knock an effect to everything we do. If we view ourselves negatively how can we expect to lead happy lives? If we are extremely hard on ourselves how can we relax and enjoy life? In a world fixated on social media and vanity it’s easy to get swept up in it and have superficial expectations of ourselves, but we must not forget the important things in life. 

Our mental health is crucial to having a happy life, not how many abs you have. So just remember to understand WHY you are doing what you are doing. Get deep, you don’t have to tell anyone else, but you need to understand yourself. Celebrate the mental achievements and improvements as well as the physical changes. Progress isn’t all about how great we are looking, it is also about how great we are feeling on the inside. Be a little kinder to yourself. 

New Challenges 

Hello again! It has been quite some time since I have blogged, I have almost forgotten how to do it. The past few months have been jam packed. Life has been interesting to say the least. I have always been a very positive person but the beginning of this year tested that a little. However, life has taken a turn for the better and I have lots of things to be excited about. 

Writing, along with health and fitness, is something that I love so I thought it was time to get back to blogging and hopefully create some content that someone out there finds interesting! 

Over the next month, with the help of a friend, I am going to be following a slightly stricter diet and training programme and I am going to use this blog to document my progress. I will also be writing about some other health related topics. Like always, I will try and keep my blogs short and sweet! 

So basically today is the first day of my new programme. I am a huge believer in balance, but I feel like I need a bit of a challenge, I want to see what my body is capable of. To get things straight, this isn’t just about aesthetics, I am not unhappy with my body. It is about seeing what my mental capability is like too. Training is what I love. I look forward to working out, I love my job, I love helping others improve their health, I enjoy teaching my classes and being active is just a habit. However, recently I have felt like I am not pushing myself enough. I want to develop my abilities further and learn more about how my body responds to certain things. It is basically like a little experiment on myself. 

I’ve taken some unposed/unfiltered photos as a starting point. Like I said, I am in no way unhappy with my body, I have learnt to love it and appreciate it! This new programme is not about depriving myself or losing weight, it’s about seeing what I have got in my locker, how hard I can push myself, and what results I can get. My blogs have always been very honest and open, and that won’t change. The purpose of my blog is to inspire and help others, but to also be as ‘real’ as possible.  Hopefully these pictures won’t offend too many eyes! And yes, my face really is as pretty as this flower. 

New year, new me?

I haven’t written anything for a while. After travelling I have kind of felt like I wanted to take a step back from the social media world. I wanted my life to be MY life. With so many new things happening in my world, I feel like I don’t really want to share it with absolutely everyone anymore. Sharing special moments with my family and close friends is what is important, not how good my life looks on Instagram or Facebook.

That being said, I still love to write and there are plenty of things that I am still very passionate about. Health being one of those things. At this time of the year everyone is on their best behaviour and on a serious ‘health kick’. It’s a great thing that people make an effort to better their lifestyles, however there can also be a darker side to this seemingly bright new year attitude. 

From personal experience and from working in the fitness industry for years I have come across all kinds of people. Surprisingly (or maybe not) the things that many people have in common is a lack of self belief, a tendency to be very self critical and a lack of love for themselves. This applies to men and women. I’ve seen big huge body builders criticise every single part of themselves and I’ve seen teenage girls tear themselves apart (and everyone in between). I am also very guilty of all of this. 

It’s no wonder that many of us feel like this. We are all under immense pressure to look a certain way. Whatever is on trend, we pine for it. Even if it isn’t natural for our bodies to do certain things, we give it a bloody good go. Instagram fuels this heavily. On a good day we can be inspired to get to the gym or to drink a green smoothie and it can have a positive effect on us. However on a bad day it can lead to us comparing ourselves to millions of other people, leading us to think that we aren’t good enough. It is a vicious cycle. 

So many of us vow to be healthy to change our bodies and to look like this or look like that. We often forget what is going on INSIDE of our bodies. It is crucial that we take care of ourselves and feed and treat our bodies right. Starving yourself (to get skinnier) or stuffing yourself (to bulk up) with unhealthy food isn’t going to make you FEEL better. Ok, so you may reach your aesthetic goal, but what does that matter if you feel like crap? It is not sustainable. 

Anyway, my point is, we are forgetting what healthy really is. We are forgetting that we are all different. We are forgetting that it is ok to do what you really want to do and you shouldn’t feel judged or guilty. Life is meant to be fun. Our bodies are meant to be fuelled with nutritious food. We are meant to move our bodies, but in a way that we enjoy. We aren’t all meant to look like supermodels and we certainly aren’t all meant to never eat a slice of cake. We weren’t created to stare at screens comparing ourselves to half naked Instagram people.

We are supposed to get out there and live life.