Why it’s okay to not be okay!

14th March 2018 / Katy Moore

As I’ve grown older and had the opportunity to speak with people from 
many walks of life, the more I realise just how prevalent anxiety in our current society is, wherever you live in the world.

Although in my experience it can certainly decrease if you move from the busy and frantic concrete jungle city of London, to a calmer and more outdoorsy way of life in Sydney, however, it’s still something that can still bubble up from within. Not even a sunnier climate and sandy beach can cure it totally, unfortunately.

I guess it comes as no surprise that although technologically we’ve advanced dramatically in the last few years, our biological make-up hasn’t necessarily caught up and the ‘fight or flight’ mode remains strong, even if it comes in different forms now.

Anxiety and mental health is still a taboo subject, maybe it’s time we all started talking about it a bit more?

I know now what exacerbates my anxiety, but even when I write it down in black and white it seems so inconsequential; namely lack of sleep and those
 dreaded hungover blues, which I’m sure many experience but for me they can feel quite extreme.

Externally the triggers may seem small, but the feeling can be quite overwhelming and hard to rationalise. The best way I can describe my anxiety is a rising feeling in the pit of my gut, a shortness of breath and feeling tense all over with a particular tightness in my
head. It’s a feeling that jilts my normal secure stand point and makes me feel out of control.

Perhaps, I’ve made a mistake a work, or maybe I think I’ve said something hurtful to a friend, or felt like I just had a few too many drinks over the weekend and it suddenly takes a grip, like an iron fist
 clamping my brain and all of a sudden I feel paralysed, and the worry of
the original worry becomes bigger.

Then, the forecasting to the future begins and I think of all the things that could now unravel and start to go wrong. A bit like a nightmarish domino effect, and the worst part is that when it takes a hold it can really hit my self-esteem. I’d say I’m a pretty strong individual but it’s as if I lose perspective on the bigger picture and become blinkered
to the microscopic detail of the worry, which then spawn into worries, plural.

It makes me feel on edge, and un-nerved, out of control. Out of ‘control’ is a key word for me because I’m a perfectionist. I don’t think I’m alone either. In a society in which social media often portrays everyone else’s life as ‘perfect’, even if we all know pictures never
tell the full story, if you feel your own life is crumbling, it’s hard to keep it together! 
In a city full of millions, you can suddenly feel alone.

So what do I do to combat?



I try and sit with the feeling as I feel it rising up, which was really hard and uncomfortable at
first but has become easier over time. It’s like the experience of 
having a really bad physical pain but realising the fighting against is actually makes it worse.
There’s something about embracing the anxiety, an acceptance which has a kind of peace to it. Like being sucked under a wave and instead of thrashing helplessly, giving into it and just learning to float, going with the sensation of being swirled around without a clear idea of when you’ll come up for air but putting
your trust in yourself that
you will, eventually. Maybe I’ve lived in Australia too long, but the ocean analogy just seems to work!

Finding the things that pull my attention away from the anxious thoughts
and into something physical, like the gym, works well for me too. Often people give credit to exercise helping to decrease anxiety and it couldn’t ring truer for me! When I feel my body and muscles working and becoming stronger, I start to feel more in control of my mind and my wondering thoughts.

Maybe most importantly though it’s about being honest with myself, allowing myself to feel okay that I’m not okay. In a world where there is a lot of pressure to be consistently strong and ‘winning at life’, it’s a relief to admit vulnerability, which by the way, doesn’t equate to weakness.

After all, happiness is a temporary emotion, not a promised constant, and our life is to be lived within the whole spectrum of emotions. Striving always to be happy surely leads to unhappiness and more anxiety! Perhaps the key is not to strive for happiness, but a deeper sense of inner contentedness. So, whatever wave of emotion comes over you, underneath there is a calm to help anchor you, a peace inside, which is all yours and nothing can affect that space.

Anxiety is not something to easily dispel from life, but for me aiming to be more at one with it, knowing it’s just a thread, a part of my make-up, but only a facet, and certainly not the defining feature, makes it okay to feel not okay sometimes.

Maybe we need to start admitting this more to each other too, because behind some of those perfect social media smiles there might be someone else feeling not all that okay underneath the filter either.

Advertisements

Blocked shower drains alert! Why does our hair fall out in winter?

17th November 2017 / Gabriela Czwarnos 

I bloody love sharing a house with 4 girls; countless film nights in (usually with bubbles, let’s be honest), 3-hour long brekkie chats on Saturday mornings and clothes that circulate from room to room (you know, one person’s trash and all that). But there is one thing that is becoming a massive pain, especially lately: permanently blocked shower drains. Unfortunately, we’ve all noticed that we have been losing more hair than usual.

Let’s not panic yet though, according to scientists we are not going bold! Hair loss during cold months is completely normal. So here’s how it goes: your hair grows between 2 and 6 years. At any time, 90% of it is growing and only 10% is in a resting state for 2 to 6 months, before it finally falls out. The hair follicle then rests for approximately 3 months and the whole process starts again. According to researchers, we have the highest proportion of resting hairs in July and they start falling out around 100 days later, which means, now.

If you are like me and are a bit of a geek, then you probably want to ask – in the words of every 3-year old – ‘but, why?’ There are few theories… some scientists think that this seasonal hair loss is occurring to protect the head from harmful UV rays in summer by holding onto hair longer and releasing them once it’s cloudier. Others believe that this pattern might be evolutionary and it’s something we’ve inherited from our furrier ancestors.

In addition, according to doctors, when the temperature drops our body focuses on keeping blood going to the vital organs first, leaving the hair follicles to become its least worry, as we don’t need it to survive.

As you can see, we can’t really stop this process. However, there are things we can do to make sure our hair is in top condition all year round. We’ve asked Anabel Kingsley, Trichologist and Hair Care Expert at Philip Kingsley to share her top tips with us:

Keep it clean

You cleanse and moisturize your face in the morning with products for your skin type, so start your day by shampooing and conditioning your hair with products formulated for your hair texture. Physiologically, hair health is closely interlinked to scalp health, so frequent shampooing cleans and optimizes the scalp environment. In addition, clean hair also reflects light much better than dirty or coated hair.

Go halfway up

One of the most common causes of limp hair we see is an incorrect application of conditioner. Only apply conditioner to your mid-lengths and ends, where the hair is older and it’s needed the most. If you use it too close to your roots you will simply weigh them down.

Look at your diet

At least once a day we have someone sitting in our consultation room professing they are eating an incredibly healthy diet. They do not snack and have fresh fruit for breakfast followed by a salad for lunch with a bit of chicken or fish. While this may be fine for your body, it’s simply not enough for your hair – and the wrong diet is a very common cause of excessive daily hair loss.

While hair is incredibly important to us psychologically, physiologically our body could not care less. Any nutrients ingested first go to essential systems, with hair (a non-essential tissue) receiving whatever is left over. To help ensure you are in-taking adequate nutrients for hair growth, eat at least 120g of protein at breakfast and lunch as hair is made primarily of protein (think: eggs, fish, beans, nuts, cheese). Energy to form hair cells drops four hours after eating, so if longer than this is left between meals, snack on a nutrient dense carbohydrate, such as fresh fruit or whole grain crackers.

Brush it… up! 

Incorrect detangling can cause a lot of breakages, which can lead to thinner mid-lengths and ends. To detangle, start at your ends and gradually and gently work your way up. Brushing from the top can worsen tangles and snap strands.

Colouring done right

Colouring your hair can give it depth and warmth. Highlights may also make fine or thinning hair appear thicker as they add texture and swells strands. You just have to ensure that the benefits of colouring are not negated by damage. Try not to process your hair more than every 8 weeks, or you will notice your hair overlapping and breaking. To keep your hair healthy in-between colour, use a weekly intensive pre-shampoo conditioning treatment. However, there is no evidence to suggest that colouring hair causes it to fall out more, or lead to thinner hair diameters.

Gabs

 

 

10 tricks to help you de-stress

7th October 2017 / Gabriela Czwarnos

I swear I spend most of my spare time looking for my Oyster card. It begins on route to the station, then after a few minutes, I have to stop, drop my bag on the floor, look for another five minutes only to eventually find it hidden in my jacket pocket. FFS. It goes without saying, after all this kerfuffle, I usually miss my train. It boils my blood, makes me want to shout and scream. And I am not even a stressful person!

Thank God, I am not the only one. We sweat the small stuff more than ever. According to a recent study, things that send us over the edge include; lack of parking spaces, the printer showing ‘error’ when you are in a rush (office rule number one: never show your printer that you are in a hurry – it can smell fear) and discovering that you are out of the toilet paper whilst… sitting on a loo.

Add on top of all of that, there are real problems to deal with; like work, money, relationship drama … well, life IS pretty stressful, eh?

Ok, breathe in, breathe out. We’ve put together 10 top stress-busting tips:

Go out 

Brisk walking = more endorphins, which in turn, can reduce stress hormone levels. To de-stress yourself make sure you chose nice, green surroundings. Why? According to scientists, it allows your body to get into a state of meditation, it’s called ‘involuntary attention’ – the surroundings can hold your attention but your mind will start to drift away and calm down.

Go green

Green tea is an excellent healthy mood booster. It contains some caffeine that can give you a bit of a ‘kick’, but it also contains the amino acid called theanine. This magic ingredient boosts dopamine concentration in your brain which is responsible for rewards and pleasure.

Top your magnesium levels

Magnesium – often called the original ‘chill pill’ or ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ – regulates your nervous system and can help you to relax. Stressed to the max? Munch on foods loaded with this powerful mineral: almonds, avo, dark chocolate or pumpkin seeds.

Write it down

Do you feel like you are losing control over the situation? Make a list of what is and what is not a priority, then cross things out, one by one. Learn how to say ‘no’ if you feel that you have taken on too much. Your health must be your priority number one!

Runners high

Although going for a run is probably the last thing you want to do when stressed, your body and mind will thank you for it later. After working up a sweat you will get a sense of euphoria, all down to your endorphins, the feel-good chemicals, that will literally get you ‘high’!

Get a plant

Houseplants are definitely a thing in 2017. But apart from being trendy and beautiful air purifiers, they can also reduce anxiety – particularly chamomile, jasmine and lavender.

Stop snacking

Stressed? Three beautiful words always bring a relief: chocolate, coffee and crisps. However, although these foods may give you a temporary lift by raising your blood sugar, in the longer term they will act against you, by putting more strain on the adrenal glands, as they try to keep your blood sugar balanced. Avoid those sugar crashes and stick to snacks that don’t raise your blood sugar too quickly – peanut butter on some oatcakes (or, enjoy it straight out of a jar).

Have more sex

Those who have regular sex as well as plenty of hugs and kisses, tend to be much happier than those who don’t. No brainer. Why? It boosts your oxytocin levels, known as ‘the love hormone’ that induces feelings of optimism and increases self-esteem.

Eat yourself happy

Did you know that almost 60% of our brain is made up of fat?! And Omega-3s are the ones that build cell membranes. Unfortunately, even though they are essential, you don’t produce them in the body, so have to get them from food instead. Try to eat oily fish twice a week or snack on nuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds – fatty acids are great ‘brain’ food and can help fight mood swings.

Chew some gum

Scientists from Australia discovered that chewing gum can reduce the stress hormone cortisol in saliva by 16%. Every little helps!

De-stress starter pack

11

L-R – REN Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Bath Oil / Moleskin Notebook / Twinnings Green Tea / Pip & Nut Almond Butter / Nike Trainers / Ultra Magnesium Tablets

 

Gabs

10 things to get you through a booze-free October

Wednesday 25th September / Gabriela Czwarnos

Guilty as charged, I do love a drink (or five). Whether it be my favourite prosecco on summer days (and nights), gin and tonic when I am ‘OUT OUT’ or an espresso martini, well, I guess just for LOLs. If you have a big group of friends, and what’s more, love meeting new ones, it takes an ocean of booze to survive weekends.

Not feeling sorry for myself, but frankly my good old Halifax has been stretched to the max lately and my poor liver can’t handle the party as well as it used to. So here, at the Vaults, we are doing Stoptober (https://www.gosober.org.uk/) and saying goodbye to booze for 30 days. No jokes.

It seems impossible, so to help ourselves and anyone else out there who is swapping their wine for tea, we’ve put together some top tips of how to survive the hardest 30 days of year… you’re welcome!

1

Tell it to EVERYONE

According to The American Society of Training and Development, if you commit to others that you will do something, you have 95% more chances to actually stick to it! So, go on, tell your family, friends, and work mates. Also, chances are that they might stop the usual Friday nagging “go on, let’s go for a one!”.

It takes two

Let’s face it, you will need all the support and help you can get. Find yourself another brave soul that wants to stop drinking for October and text them whenever you feel like you want to give up. You can set a report time (7pm, also known as a wine o’clock) to give each other a pep talk call.

Join the gym

Since your Friday evenings are now freed up, as well as those Saturday mornings that are usually wasted on hangovers, you might as well get fit. Gyms and classes are usually empty on Friday nights/Saturday mornings and that leaves you with no excuses. Make sure you choose pre-booked classes, where they charge you if you don’t show up. Money is always the most powerful motivator.

Go on, treat yourself!

I swear this is what my credit card whispers to me when I am hesitating at Zara’s till. Quitting drinking is simply removing a comfort from your life, which – if not replaced – will probably affect your motivation. If you usually stay for three G&T’s after work on Friday, you are allowed that new top at the end of the week. Simple as that!

Boost your endorphins

There is an actual research that proves the obvious: alcohol does make us happy. How? It releases feel-good chemicals (endorphins) in a part of our brain often referred to as the ‘pleasure centre’. Since you are not allowed to boost them with a glass of wine look for alternatives. Scientists got some good news for us here: that includes having sex (it not only boosts your endorphin levels but also releases the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, which makes you feel all warm and jolly), gorging on chocolate (cocoa contains mood-boosting substances) or… lighting a vanilla candle (researchers found that this specific smell can help ease anxiety and make you feel more relaxed).

Out of sight out of mind

That wine bottle left in the fridge will be staring at you and calling your name, trust me. Get rid of any alcohol that is left in the house. There is absolutely no need to test your willpower right now.

Stay busy

Never leave your mind unattended, most likely it will start wandering off towards stupid ideas, like going for a drink. Join an art class, start learning a new language, go rock climbing, get sucked in a new boxset … whatever you do, just STAY BUSY. This is a perfect opportunity to do all those things you never got around doing.

Mocktail, anyone?

Most of us are ‘social’ drinkers – let’s face it, what else would you do than meet for a drink with your friends? There are many non-alcoholic options that will make you feel like you’re OUT OUT without getting tipsy. If you are a fan of gin just go for a tonic water with lots of fresh lime. Carry a small squash in your handbag and ask a barman to fill a wine glass with ice and soda water. Don’t forget about a straw. If it looks like a proper drink hopefully it will trick your mind into thinking it actually is! Every little helps.

Think: rewards

The rewards for surviving a month with no booze are endless.

Number one: health

You will sleep better as alcohol can disturb the two crucial parts of your sleep – Slow Wave Sleep, which helps your body to reboot, and REM Sleep, which is the part when you learn and remember.

Alcohol dehydrates your body generally, but you will see it first on your skin as it will worsen the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It is also packed with sugar, which causes the skin to sag and triggers spots (famous post-drinking acne). ‘Wine Face’, anyone?

Let’s not forget about your liver. That little trooper breaks down alcohol into carbon dioxide, water and fat. When you have one too many, the fat can build up, causing a “fatty liver”. Fortunately, the problem usually disappears when you stop drinking excessively.

Number two: money

Three drinks on thirsty Thursday and a night out on Saturday can easily add up to at least 100 pounds. Times four, it adds up to quite a nice sum – just enough to book tickets to Bali.

Number three: weight

If you didn’t get your summer body this year (yet), Stoptober is your best bet. Alcohol is packed with empty calories and sugar so it can easily ruin your healthy diet and fitness regime, one bottle at a time. To give you an idea, 3 glasses of wine (large, of course) are about 450 calories. Same as a Snickers or a double cheeseburger. Also, let’s face it – no one tucks into a salad after getting home tipsy. Add your after-party fast food binge to a bottle of wine and you will end up probably doubling your daily calorie allowance.

Make friends with non-drinkers

… ok, forget that we all know that’s just not going to happen.

 

Gabs