Passive v’s Active Relaxation

Inspirational15

I have a dirty little secret which I’m feeling strong enough to tell you about… I love, and I mean LOVE, trashy reality TV. The more dramatic, immoral and outlandish the better. I consider a night in front of the Kardashians, ‘The Real Housewives’ and if I’m lucky, an episode or two of ‘Geordie Shore’ to be pure heaven.

Trash tv

For years I used to think that watching TV was considered to be a way of relaxing and have only recently admitted to myself that after I gorge on TV I never feel in anyway relaxed.  Then I came across this lovely piece on ‘Self Care’ by Kris Carr and I started to realise that there’s a difference between Passive and Active relaxation and it all started to make sense…

The Science Bit

Taking it back for a moment to why we need to relax – basically throughout the day our bodies react to stressful situations by releasing the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormone Cortisol.

It’s called this as back in the day this would give us that extra rush of energy and clarity needed to allow us to, say, leg it from a hungry looking Sabre Tooth Tiger. However, today stressful situations come in so many shapes and sizes- traffic, queues, deadlines, presentations, technology crashing at inopportune times, cold calling… (Gaaah, I’m stressing myself out even thinking about it all!) which our body treats like Mr Sabre Tooth and sends constant shots of Cortisol around our system.

saber-tooth-cat

While small, well timed shots of Cortisol can be lifesaving, it isn’t good to have it sloshing around our system 24/7 as over time it adds pressure to our adrenals, hinders our immune system, negatively effects our digestion and messes with our delicate hormones.

It turns out that some people’s systems are better at reacting to the release of Cortisol then others, these magic people can counteract a stressful day by engaging in passive relaxation methods (e.g. TV watching) and feel great afterwards, while others (me!) need ‘active relaxation’ to counteract the effects and stabilise their system.

Active Relaxation

I know ‘active relaxation’ sounds a bit like an oxymoron but it’s referring to relaxation which you actually have to be engaged in, like a yoga class, taking 30 minutes to unwind in a hot bath, meditating, concentrating on deep breathing, going for a walk- whatever it is that makes you feel zen afterwards. For me it doesn’t involve sticking on the box, slumping on the couch and watching trash TV while checking my iphone/ ipad every 60 seconds, I end up feeling more hyped up after that then beforehand!

Therefore when I’ve had a stressful day I’m now trying (trying being the operative word here!) to set aside some ‘active relaxation’ time by getting on my yoga mat, going for a walk or doing a Chakra Cleans (Ha! How ‘woo woo’ does that sound?! I’ll tell you more about it another time!) and stabilise my system… before I get stuck into that bottle of wine and Kardashian reruns!!  😉

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September: A month for a fresh start

Boy, oh boy, did I have a good summer- friends weddings, mini city breaks, a week-long holiday in Italy, lots of wine and bread, dinners, nights out and lots and lots of sugar, salt and delicious toxins!

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As much as I’ve loved the summer and all the indulgence, it’s left me feeling a bit ‘off’. My skin is back looking rubbish, my energy levels are bottoming out again- I long to be back in bed most days, my brain fog is creeping back, my mood is also defiantly darker and my old tumtum is playing up a fair bit.

I’ve always loved September, for me it brings with it a sense of ‘fresh starts’ – more so than January does. I associate January with being broke, cold and depressed while September for me is the time of new books, shiny new shoes, hikes on crunchy Autumn leaves, hearty meals, routine and new habits. In fact it was this time last year that I first decided to stop just ‘investigating’ wellness and holistic health and actually start living it.

(Basically, last September, after a particularly fun night out with friends I decided to walk the whole way home, a 30 minute walk,  at 2:30 AM, down quiet, deserted streets, all alone –  just so I could get cheese and garlic chips from my local chipper. I know, I know, so dangerous, such a flippen eejit.

I woke up the next morning, with a horrible hangover, eye make up everywhere, the remains of the chips on the coffee table and I decided I had had enough. I decided then and there I didn’t want to be ‘that’ girl no more and gingerly set out to become the person I wanted to be).

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So, on this note I’ve decided that this September is again going to be my wellness ‘fresh start’. I’m going to go back to:

  • Drinking lemon and hot water each morning
  • Reducing my coffee intake to 1 skinny latté every other day
  • Doing a big veggie/ fruit shop each week so I’m more prepared for the week ahead
  • Eating at least 5 different fruits/ veg a day
  • Dry body brush before my shower everyday (not just at the weekends!)
  • Drinking 2 liters of filtered water a day (…must buy a filter!)
  • Get my body moving for at least 20 minutes every day– more yoga, get out and start walking in my lunch break, using our new gym.
  • Meditate more often (perhaps I’ll start a meditation class?)
  • Consciously work on silencing my ‘ego’ or ‘negative DJ’- she’s getting awfully loud and agressive lately
  • Reduce my reliance on cheese and bread and actively seek out and make new alternatives
  • Drinking either a juice or smoothie everyday
  • Cut out all beer and cocktails, they seem to be making an unwelcome return
  • Reduce my reliance on Facebook and Daily Mail… those bloody sites will be the death of me!!
  • Replace all my supplements which have long run out
  • Buy a vegan cook book and become more confident with vegan recipes
  • Take more time to Skype all my BFF’s living in far off places- I always feel 100% times more connected and grounded after a good old natter!

Yup, I think that is enough to keep me going! Here’s to feeling back fit and healthy by Christmas!

Orange Peel

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My dimply, bumpy, orange peely, cellulite is my greatest shame. I’ve tried all the ‘passive’ recommended solutions, I no longer drink fizzy drinks, I dry skin brush most days, I drink a 2 liter bottle of water everyday and I’ve massively reduced my caffeine intake. I’m sad to report seeing only a slight improvement and still having a cellulitey bottytot.

Wellness isn’t just about healthy eating, meditation and green smoothies- it’s also about having a healthy, fit body and being happy in your own skin.

That’s why I’ve decided enough is enough and it’s time to call in the big boys- the killer squats- and tackle this dimply mess once and for all!

I’ve come across the below Facebook link, which sets a ‘100 Squats a Day Challenge’ for the month of April (if you haven’t guessed already, I love a good challenge!!).

https://www.facebook.com/100SquatsaDay

It recommends breaking the squats into 20 reps and starting of with 2/3 sets at a time and thereby splitting the 100 squats out across the day. The great thing about squats is, when done right, they not only tone your backside but also stomach and entire lower body.

I’m going to do it for the month of April and will hopefully see a great improvement come May… who’s with me?!

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The Blood Type Diet: Real or Rubbish?!

Bloodtype

I’m a sucker for most ‘categorising’ things, like I love astrology (a Cancerian, in case you’re wondering!) and will spend hours on any type of personality test or quiz (…a Type A/ Expressive). So when I heard of The Blood Type Diet (BTD) I was all over it as the BTD states that a person’s blood type can influence what foods they should and should not eat in order to flourish, what exercise is best suited to their bodies and even what personality traits they may have… Have a gone a step too far?! Stay with me just a bit longer!

I began reading James D’Adamo’s (a naturopathic physician) teachings on the Blood Type Diet and a lot of what he was saying and recommending made sense to me.

Take me for instance, I’m a Type A and according to the BTD in order for me to be in tiptop condition I need my sleep and quiet time and my body prefers calming and centring exercises like yoga. It says that I also have a very reactive liver and need to be careful with stress… All of which are 100% correct! It also recommends a vegetarian diet, which is funny as I’m trying out vegetarianism this month and I feel great, like really really great! So I seem to be a classic Type A.

Take a look at the following (taken from the amazing ‘Wellness Warrior’s’ website) and see for yourself if you agree or think I’ve lost the plot on this one…

Type O

Traits: Strong, hunter, leader, self-reliant, goal-oriented

Strengths: hardy digestive tract, strong immune system, natural defenses against infections, efficient metabolism, shorter small intestines, less chance for cancer

Weaknesses: Low tolerance for new diets and new environments, immune system can be over-active and attack itself

Health risk: Low thyroid, inflammation, arthritis, blood-clotting disorders, ulcers because they get overly acidic

Diet profile: red meat, strong enzymes to digest meat, high protein, vegetables, fruit

Weightloss: Reduce: wheat/corn, baked goods, kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard. Increase: kelp, seafood, salt, liver, red meat, kale, spinach, broccoli

Supplements: Vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, iodine, licorice, kelp

Exercise: Intense physical exercise, such as: running, aerobics, contact sports, martial arts, power yoga

Type A

Traits: Cooperative, sensitive, orderly, settled, cultivator

Strengths: Adapts well to changes in diet and environment, little need for animal food, immune system preserves and metabolises nutrients more easily

Weaknesses: Sensitive digestive tract, vulnerable immune system, open to microbial invasion

Health risks: heart disease, cancer, anemia, liver and gallbladder disorders, type 1 diabetes

Diet profile: classic vegan, vegetarian, vegetables, tofu, seafood, grains, beans, legumes, fruit

Weight loss: Reduce: meat, dairy, kidney beans, lima beans, wheat. Increase: vegetable oil, vegetables, pineapple

Supplements: vitamin B-12 for vegan type, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, hawthorn, Echinacea

Exercise: calming, centering exercises, such as: yoga, tai chi

Type B

Traits: Nomad, flexible, creative

Strengths: Strong immune system, versatile adaptation to changes in diet and environment, strong nervous system, tolerates chaos

Weaknesses: No natural weaknesses, tendency toward auto-immune breakdowns and rare viruses

Health risks: Type 1 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, auto-immune disorders: Lou Gehrig’s disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis

Diet profile: omnivore, meat (no chicken), dairy, grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit

Weight loss: Reduce: corn, lentil, peanuts, sesame seeds, buckwheat, wheat. Increase: greens, eggs, venison, liver, licorice tea

Supplements: Magnesium, licorice, ginkgo, lecithin

Exercise: moderate physical, with mental balance, such as: hiking, biking, tennis, swimming

Type AB

Traits: Rare, enigma, mysterious, highly sensitive

Strengths: Designed for modern life, rugged immune system, combined benefits of Type A and Type B

Weaknesses: Sensitive digestive tract, tendency for over-tolerant immune system that allows for microbial invasion

Health risks: Heart disease, cancer, anemia

Diet profile: Mixed diet in moderation: meat, seafood, dairy, tofu, beans, legumes, grains, vegetables, fruit

Weight loss: Reduce: red meat, kidney beans, lima beans, seeds, corn, buckwheat. Increase: tofu, seafood, good quality dairy, greens, kelp, pineapple

Supplements: Vitamin C, hawthorn, Echinacea, valerian, quercitin, milk thistle

Exercise: Calming, centering exercises, such as: yoga, tai chi. Combined with moderate physical exercises, such as: hiking, cycling, tennis

I’ll leave you make up our own mind on this one but if you are interested in finding out more, here’s a link to the ‘official’ BTD website

www.dadamo.com

Or for more info and recipes to suit your blood type, check out Miranda Kerr’s health blog

www.koraorganics.com/blog/category/live-in-my-skin/nutrition/other/eating-for-your-blood-type/

2013 The Year of Doing, February

2013 has been christened the ‘The Year of Doing’ by myself and my friends. It’s the year to stop talking about doing things and actually do them. To get the ball rolling I’ve broken the things I want to try ‘give up’ and things I’ve always wanted to ‘take up’ into different monthly experiments! Each one will last for the month before I report back on how it went. This is my review of how my 2nd month went…

Give Up: Caffeine

I love my coffee, love the smell, love the smooth yet intense flavour, love the rush of energy that comes after drinking a cup and also the social side, the gossiping over a frothy latte! A few years back I tried to give up caffeine as I felt I was becoming too dependant on it, go cold turkey and I turned into a caffeine crazed monster.

coffeeBut not a smiley happy one like that little guy… I experienced raging headaches, was exhausted, snappy and basically a total nightmare to be around. My moaning got so bad that one of the girls I was working with at the time got fed up and snapped, ‘my God, it’s not like caffeine is heroin, just shut up and have a cup!’. That was when my resolve broke and I chugged back a cup of Nescafe, no questions asked… Until this month.

Yes it’s not ‘heroin’, but it’s still a stimulant and the rate I was knocking the stuff back was in no way healthy. This month’s caffeine ban wasn’t as hard as my previous attempt as I had already massively cut back on my intake and had lots of herbal tea at the ready to sub in.

Side note: this isn’t supposed to be a scare mongering blog but I can’t help but share a few dodgy side effects of caffeine which I’ve come across:

Weakens the immune system: coffee hinders the body’s natural ability to effectively and completely regenerate, which results in a weaker immune system. So if you feel like you’ve a cold coming on, step away from the coffee.

Increases stress levels: Coffee aggravates already overworked adrenal glands and also it stimulates production of the mean stress hormone, cortisol. So if you are having a stressful day in work, the very worst thing you can do is reach for the coffee- it is just going to intensify your stress levels.

Hydration Hater: Coffee is a known diuretic and contributes to dehydration. This can have such adverse effects as fatigue, muscle weakness, poor concentration and dizziness.

Reduces energy levels: Shocker, but caffeine doesn’t actually add energy to your system, it just burns up your reserves at a faster pace. You get a short-term boost at the expense of long-term jitters and fatigue.

Fertility and PMS: This is a complicated one to explain but I’ll try break it down as much as possible. Caffeine has been proven to increase the levels of the hormone estrogen and also exhaust our adrenal glands. When these things happen our liver cannot effectively remove the excess estrogen from our systems and estrogen dominance begins to build in the female body. This excess estrogen increases symptoms of endometriosis and other fertility issues. So if you suffer from any PMS symptoms it is recommended you steer well clear of caffeine.

Verdict: I love my skinny lattes too much to keep this up in the long run and can see no reason why a cup once in a while would have any lashing negative effects. However I now know not to touch the stuff when feeling sick, stressed or PMSy as it will only aggravate my system more.

Take Up: Running

running

I’ve always loved running. I used to love coming in home from work in the evenings, sticking on a t-shirt, jogging leggings and runners and heading out with my Nike Running app on my iphone and pushing myself until I was about to vomit. That was fun to me. Therefore I thought this would be a triumphant return to pounding the streets… How wrong was I?!

My aim is to comfortably be able to do 5 KM in under 30 minutes, however I find each 30 minute run to be more boring than the last and the adrenalin high isn’t as rewarding as I used to remember it being! I just am not getting the same kick as I used to get. I think my pace of life has changed and I appreciate activities that don’t entile a large rush of cortisol as much as I used to.

Verdict: I do think it is important to engage in some weekly cardio so I’m going to keep this up for the time being and have signed up to these Saturday morning 5 KM runs in Marley Park with a friend, just to inject a bit of fun into what can be a very serious and sombre activity. http://www.parkrun.ie/marlay/

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