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Zoom chic: The accessories that will make you look so together

The best accessories to wear for zoom calls
The best accessories to wear for zoom calls

Zoom chic: The accessories that will make you look so together

If you’re working from home, or just socialising with distant friends and families, chances are you’ve already taken part in a fair number of video calls. There’s something inherently weird about looking back at your own face so much, especially with bad lighting and bad roots. It’s nothing however, that a good accessory can’t fix. 

In this case we also recommend you ignore the infamous advice from Coco Chanel of ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off’ because a) you’re not leaving the house anytime soon and b) more is more when it comes to video calls.

And, don’t be afraid of being a bit quirky with your accessory choices either – they can be great conversation starters!

Hair accessories

A good hair accessory can not only make you look more together, but it can also help hide a multitude of hair problems created by not being able to get to your hairdresser. 

Cover up your pesky roots with a large, turban style headband. Use over-sized hair clips to get that over-grown fringe out of your face. Not had time to blow dry your hair before an emergency work Zoom call? Whack it in a ponytail and plop a headband on top for a totally polished look that says ‘I so meant to look like this’…

Statement earrings

If you’re someone who loves to get dressed up, then lockdown is not your friend. it seems wrong to wear your best clothes to the supermarket and let’s be honest, while a pastel suit may be the ultimate in cool this summer, it isn’t  the comfiest thing to wear while working. 

Thankfully there’s something that can dress up even a T-shirt and jeans. Yes, we’re looking at you statement earrings. Go large or go home! Oh yeah, you’re already there…

Colourful necklaces

For necklaces to make an impact on video calls you need to ditch the long, boho pendants. Instead, you’re looking at cool collar necklaces or smaller pendants. The one thing that can help drawn attention away from your dodgy lockdown skin is a super bright necklace.

Rainbow colours will light up the screen and show your support for the NHS, while if you choose the right shade for your skin, it can even take a few years off you. BONUS!

A bright lip

Unless you’re a twenty-something influencer, it seems pointless rocking a full glam makeup look, even if you do have 15 Zoom calls to be on. It doesn’t mean though that you can’t inject a touch of colour and fun into your everyday look. 

A bright slash of lippie can really be your friend, glowing out of the gloom that is the eternal bad lighting of a video call. This is no time to be timid – bright pink and red look great on the screen, make you look younger and will make you feel cheerful.

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Immune activating meditation for all the family

Immune activating meditation for all the family

We are so happy to be able to offer you two FREE video meditations from Britain’s leading hypnotherapist Marisa Peer, who has gifted these meditations to This Girl Is On Fire community to help us all feel healthier in our mind and our body during this stressful time. 

As we continue to work through life in lockdown, our bodies and minds are having to become accustomed to new ways of behaving, and that can cause a great deal of stress within us. Even as we deal with our everyday needs and challenges, this deeply-buried stress is still there, disrupting our immune system.

In these powerful meditations, Marisa talks you through the simple ways that you can use the power of your own mind to boost your immune system, by showing you how our mind and body works for us when we tell it exactly what we want it to do.

Simple but extremely powerful, both these videos will shift your mind away from draining negativity and promote feelings of positivity and wellness. 

So find a quiet place to just sit and let Marissa take you through her guided meditation:

It’s not just us adults that are struggling through this pandemic. A recent study by charity Young Minds found that 85% of children with an existing mental health condition were struggling to cope.

School, and the routine it brings,  are important coping mechanisms for young people with or without mental health issues. When schools are closed, they lose this anchor, which is where meditation comes in.

This short video will show your children how to use their imagination to destress and boost their immune system.

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Your day starts the night before: Bedtime habits to improve your day

Your day starts the night before: Bedtime habits to improve your day

Mornings can be the most hectic or stressful part of any day, so why not make like many a successful person and start your morning the night before?

Sounds confusing, we know, but what it really means is making the most of your evening to review, prep and revive, so you start each day ready and raring to go.

Prep for tomorrow

Did your parents used to nag you when you were younger to pack your school bag the night before? Sorry to say, but they were right to do so! Evenings are usually a lot less frantic, so it makes sense to prepare for your day ahead.

While at the moment, this won’t necessarily mean making packed lunches for school or laying out your work clothes, it can mean having a good tidy up, laying out all the home-schooling bits and bobs or making a quick muesli pot for breakfast or perhaps some healthy snacks for during the day.

These little actions also help signal the end of the day, preparing your body and mind for relaxation, plus means you’ll start the day ready to do what you need to.

Reviewing your day can help you be more productive the following day

Review your day

This is a little bit like prepping for the next day, but with a pen and pencil instead.

Look back at what you’ve achieved. See what still needs doing. Think about what the day ahead holds. Then make your new to do list.

It doesn’t have to contain everything you need to do that day, but writing down such a list can help you be more productive, especially if you’re juggling many hats at the moment (such as teacher and worker!).

Each day you can review just how much you got done and then you’ll also have a better idea of what is realistic every day. Obviously, there’s no issue with trying to challenge yourself, but you don’t want to be a slave to your ‘to do’ list and feel stressed trying to tick everything off.


Woman meditating inside her house


Many successful, productive people end the day with a spot of meditation. Actress Jennifer Aniston is a huge fan and says when she doesn’t do her daily spot of evening meditation, she really feels the difference the next day.

“It just centres you and your stress levels are just down,” she told Popsugar. “You find yourself interacting in the world easier and better, in a calmer way.”

Don’t dismiss meditation if you’re not a high-flying A-lister though.  Various studies have shown that not only does it reduce stress and anxiety, but it also reduces memory loss, can help with pain control and improves sleep – all of which, can only improve each morning. If you’re new to meditation, try Andrea’s introduction. It’s definitely a useful tool during uncertain times like now and can help you quell any worries you have by focusing on the present.

And even the kids can benefit. Try an app like Bright Horizons before bed for a gentle introduction to meditation – we guarantee they’ll fall asleep quicker!


Woman doing an online yoga class

Do some gentle exercise

While many of us often hit the gym in the evening, this time of day is actually more conducive to less cardio and gentler exercise. Yoga is the perfect exercise to choose as not only does it stretch your body, getting rid of any kinks caused by long days sitting, but it also works on an emotional level.

Yoga not only helps with flexibility and muscle tone; it also helps keep your heart healthy. Practising regularly, especially in the evening, means you’ll be able to jump out of bed much more easily, minus any usual aches and pains!

The great thing with yoga is that it also works hand-in-hand with meditation, so you can combine the two, and if it’s been a super busy day and time is of the essence, a ten-minute yoga session can still be beneficial.

New to yoga? Try an app like DoYouYoga or Yoga International, who feature certain sessions that help with stress release and sleeping better.

Woman reading in bed


It’s so easy to fall into bed with your phone, scrolling through social media. Or bingeing on a box set while you snuggle in bed. However, there’s been many studies to show that banning screens make for better sleep, so if you need to unwind, read a book instead – and preferably an actual one at that, rather than on a screen!

Many successful people from Bill Gates to Barack Obama have always read in the evening. Whether you choose self-help tomes or ‘escape from everything’ fiction, reading allows your muscles to relax and your breathing to calm down.  If you think about it, it’s a lot like meditation – your brain is in the here and now, reading text and imagining the scenario you’re reading about. It doesn’t leave a lot of space to worry or stress or imagine worse case scenarios.

Reading can also boost your brainpower – imagine it as a workout for the muscles in your brain – so getting into the habit of doing it nightly, will only improve your mental prowess the following day, right?

A flat lay image showing a good bedtime routine

Follow a bedtime routine

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and author of The Sleep Revolution, really believes in a sleep routine. This is not only to prime you to get the best night’s sleep, but also to ensure you wake up raring to go.

While her sleep routine includes advice to change into PJs, avoiding caffeine after 2pm and making your bedroom as dark as you can, it’s up to you to find the routine that works for you.

For actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow, her wind-down routine involves a soak in a bath full of Epsom salts and using essential oils on her pressure points. Epsom salt not only act as a relaxant for your muscles, but thanks to the high magnesium content, it can also help boost serotonin and reduce anxiety making it a great addition to any nightly routine.

Whatever your ritual is in the evening, try and keep to it as strictly as you can. Your body will know that it’s time for bed, meaning you’ll sleep better and be more rested in the morning.

Inside a gratitude journal

Practise gratitude

This is a favourite of our CEO, Andrea McLean, and is something she’s been doing for a while now.

“This is something that Nick and I have been doing for years now,” she says. “It was first introduced to us by my friend, the life coach Pete Cohen, and it has just become part of our normal night-time ritual.

“It hugely helps to reframe the day you have had if it has been a difficult one, and it makes you take the time to appreciate the things that have gone well.

Like Andrea does, you can make a mental list of those things that have gone well, or you can jot down your thoughts. Any pen and paper will do, but we also have a free downloadable gratitude journal to help you start on your journey.

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Five tips for staying positive

Five tips for staying positive


Wouldn’t it be lovely if every day we woke up positive and raring to go? That’s not reality though is it so on those days when you need a boost, Andrea has shared her top tips…

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Nine ways to deal with overwhelm if you’re a highly sensitive person

Nine ways to deal with overwhelm if you’re a highly sensitive person

These are unprecedented times; society is in lockdown and many Highly Sensitive People are feeling highly anxious or completely overwhelmed right now.  In a roundabout way, I’m used to lockdowns. I worked in a prison for ten years, which is a bit of a paradox considering I’m also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

What’s a Highly Sensitive Person?

One in five people – or 1.4 billion globally – are born with the trait of high sensitivity. This innate temperament trait is also known as sensory processing sensitivity, because of the depth of sensory, environmental and information processing that happens within the biological nervous systems and brains of Highly Sensitive People. So, what does that mean in simple terms?

HSPs experience their emotions more deeply than non-HSPs and they process them for longer. They are more reactive on an emotional level to events in their life or to the positive and negative emotions of others and they can pick up on subtleties that others are not aware of.

They also get affected by environmental and sensory stimuli that others don’t notice or are simply not bothered by. Things like too much noise, sirens or alarms ringing constantly, strong smells, doing too many things at once, dealing with crises in frontline jobs or being surrounded by negativity for example, can lead to overstimulation in their sensory nervous systems.  And if there is too much, this can lead to over-arousal and HSPs end up feeling overwhelmed.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?

In addition to the main indicators above, the list below highlights a few other aspects of the trait, it may help you to recognise if you are one:

  • Do you often have comments from those around you that ‘you are too sensitive for your own good’ or are told that you need to ‘toughen up’?

  • Are you reflective and a deep thinker?

  • Are you deeply compassionate and very intuitive?

  • Do you start to feel overwhelmed when in a crowd or around large groups of people and need to withdraw?

  • Are you highly empathic but tend to absorb other people’s feelings like a ‘sponge’ which then leaves you feeling weighed down or saturated/full?

  • Does your nervous system feel frazzled if you don’t get any quiet time alone or if you can’t spend time in nature?

If this sounds like you, you may find the following tips and strategies helpful as an HSP.

Nine natural ways to deal with overwhelm

1 Energy Protection: With emotions running high on a collective level at this time, especially fear, anxiety, loneliness and grief, many HSPs are struggling to work out which emotions are theirs and which are other peoples because of their high levels of empathy. Learning how to protect their own energy is therefore one of the most important daily disciplines for HSPs.

A simple visualisation method such as the ‘Golden Light Technique’ can strengthen their energy field (known as an aura) and help them to stop becoming empathic sponges, hence reducing overwhelm.  It is recommended that HSPs do this first thing in the morning as they are getting dressed.

Start by bringing your awareness to your heart centre. Using your creative imagination, see, sense or feel that you have a miniature sun deep inside your heart. Imagine it shining brightly, just like the sun in the sky and its rays of golden light radiating through every cell and every atom in your body, filling every part of you from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. See, sense or feel this golden light expanding outwards now, above your head, below your feet and out the sides of your physical body, until it surrounds you completely, forming a protective bubble of golden light.

2 Focus on your breath: It’s important for HSPs to become aware of what happens to their breathing when they get overstimulated. Most tend to either hold their breath or breathe shallowly.

If you are a ‘holder’, focus on letting the breath go. If you are a shallow breather, focus on inhaling and exhaling from deep in your belly. HSPs underestimate the effects of breathwork, but it is one of the best strategies to reduce over arousal.

3 Grounding and being in nature: The government is currently allowing us to go outside once a day for a walk or some daily exercise. If you can (i.e. you are not symptomatic or self-isolating) this is vital for our physical and mental health, and for HSPs to reduce over arousal/overwhelm.

Everyone’s bodies have electrical systems running within it, the two most powerful are the heart and brain. All electrical systems need to be ‘earthed’. Unfortunately, by wearing shoes most of the time, especially rubber soled shoes/trainers, it means that we are totally disconnected from the best earthing available to us – Mother Earth!

Walking bare foot on grass, even for ten minutes a day allows your body to maintain the same negatively charged electrons as the earth and infuses the body with negatively charged ions which it needs. Grounding and being in nature for HSPs also helps to discharge free radical stress and radiation from electromagnetic fields from things like mobile phones, wi-fi and computers, which they seem to be more affected by.   

4 Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and focussing fully on what you are doing in that moment. HSPs find it difficult to switch their minds off and they tend to overanalyse things. Being in the NOW can also stop our mind from racing or worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future and can help to reduce anxiety. If you’re new to this, Andrea’s guide on mindfulness meditation might come in useful!

5 Meditation: Just twenty minutes of meditation will help to prevent or reduce over arousal. There are many types to choose from, such as transcendental meditation, repeating a mantra or guided meditations. HSPs need to find which method works best for them. Some are effective in ‘emptying the mind’ of thoughts, others such as guided meditations are good for HSPs who have overactive minds.

6 Essential oils: Effective essential oils for overwhelm include Lavender, Bergamot, Chamomile, Ylang Ylang and Jasmine.

Essential Oils can be inhaled by adding a few drops onto a handkerchief, an oil burner or they can be added to a bath for a deep relaxing soak.

Aromatika chamomile oil, £11.99, Amazon

Bach Rescue Remedy, £10, Boots

French lavender oil, £15, The Body Shop

7 Flower essences: Elm and Rescue Remedy are effective flower essences for reducing over arousal. Simply place four drops directly on the tongue or in a small glass of water, up to four times a day.

8. Self-care/Nurturing yourself: Nurturing means to care and give attention to your needs daily, and on all levels -physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

This can include taking the time to cook yourself a nice meal, listening to your favourite music, (music can change an emotional state) or doing some gentle exercise like yoga (there are lots of free online classes to do at home).

You can also do something creative like painting or journaling – the latter is great for getting your thoughts down on paper and switching off your overactive mind.

Most importantly make sure you get some deep sleep, so the body can rejuvenate itself.

9 Emotional Freedom Technique: EFT involves tapping on the body’s different energetic points, known as acupressure or meridian points in Chinese medicine, with your fingertips in order to clear energy blockages and restore your natural state of wellbeing.

It works by literally ‘tapping into’ your body’s own healing power. It can be used to release emotions and to stop the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response in the body’s autonomic nervous system and hence stop feelings of overwhelm. It can also help shift negative thought patterns, limiting beliefs, or any challenging issues that you are dealing with. You can read more in my book The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People.

What I also learned from lockdowns at the prison…

I consider those ten years of working at the prison a huge part of my own personal development and spiritual journey. For eight of those years I was a prison governor. When I faced challenges, I learned to find the gifts in them.

When I felt frustrated because I couldn’t get on with my normal day to day work, the gift was learning about ‘acceptance’.

When I felt anxious or overwhelmed because lockdowns were linked to incidents or potential riots, the gift was learning about faith and trust. Not just in my colleagues that were trained to deal with it, but in a spiritual sense that I was looked after and protected.

Part of my job was managing a 12-step programme, and every day prisoners would recite the ‘Serenity Prayer’ as part of their recovery, it goes:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Years later, I find it still pops into my mind at times of uncertainty and helps to restore some inner peace. Maybe it can help you in these uncertain times too.

We may not be able to change what is happening in the world right now, but we can change our thoughts and how we respond to the challenges that we are facing. When we change our thoughts, we change our feelings.

So, I’ll leave you with a positive affirmation that you can repeat throughout the day:

‘I am safe, I am healthy, I am sending healing thoughts to everyone in the world right now.’ 

Mel Collins is a qualified therapist, healer and author of ‘The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People’. Buy it now from Amazon.

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Easy workouts you can do at home

Easy workouts you can do at home

Now the lockdown is in effect, we can only go out once a day to exercise, but there will be times when you won’t get to leave your house to get fresh air or you may be self-isolating, so that’s when fitness at home comes into its own.

If the last fitness at home workout you did involved The Green Goddess or Jane Fonda, then you’re seriously behind the curve!

First up, thanks to technology, no-one uses a DVD anymore. There are apps, live streams, virtual classes – in fact, there’s so much choice, you’ll wonder why you ever joined a gym!

However, trying fitness at home for the first time, can be a minefield – do you need equipment? How do I know if I’m doing it right? How do I get motivated?

Hannah Verdier, a PT who dubs herself ‘your friendly personal trainer for gym haters’, believes fitness if for everyone. She’s especially keen to ensure people know its fitness for the mind, as well as the body, something we all need in these uncertain times. Here are her top tips 

Top tips for working out at home 

1. Use what you have

Hannah says there’s no need for splashing out on expensive equipment.

“You don’t need any equipment to work out at home – there’s loads you can do with your bodyweight,” she says. “If you still want to build muscle, use this time to perfect your press-ups.”

There’s always equipment you can find around your house as well.

“A pair of tights or a cut-up old swimming cap can double as a resistance band. You can use them around your ankles when you’re doing sit-ups or to add resistance to your donkey kicks (all fours, kick one leg out),” Hannah says.

She also suggests using bottles of wine (if you have any that you’ve not drunk) two litres of water or bags of flour as dumbbells. 

2. Make it easy for yourself

Despite her job, Hannah herself says she often finds it difficult to get motivated to work out at home. If you’re used to the motivation that you get from attending a gym class, it’s important to get into a routine. Mark out the times when you will be working out – just like you would if you were going to a class or the gym.

“The best tip I heard was to leave your workout clothes in front of the toilet, so you have to step over them when you go for a wee!” reveals Hannah. “Put them on first thing, then you’ve set your intention to exercise at some point.” 

3. Make a playlist

If you need an extra boost to get going, music is your friend.

“Music is a massive motivator,” says Hannah. “I know it sounds obvious, but picking half an hour of your favourite uplifting songs really does get you through. I’ve put some playlists on my website to get you started” 

4. Take it online

If you still feel like you need some instruction on what to do, Hannah’s recommendation is to search out some of the best online course.

The Body Coach – aka Joe Wicks – is the king,” she says. “If you’re home schooling, do his PE in the morning. It’s not just for kids – it’s a really good half-hour workout.”

Her other favourites are Popsugar and Fitness Blender, which is good if your like Pilates.

5. Get the kids involved

If you’re home-schooling while working, it can seem impossible to try and fit in fitness as well. Hannah’s suggestion is to get them involved. Try the Joe Wicks workout for starters – Hannah also firmly believes that we need to lead by example

“Kids are nosy by nature,” she says. “The best example you can set is to show them how much fun workouts are – so you might have to fake this! Don’t force them to join in, let them come to you.” 

6. Make it short and sweet

Something is better than nothing, so if you can’t face an hour long workout, Hannah says try HIIT – a high-intensity interval training technique where you give all-out effort for a short period of time, followed by a shorter period of rest.

Here’s Hannah’s HIIT workout – do 40 seconds of work, 10 seconds rest

– Kettlebell swing and goblet squat/push
– Mountain climbers and plank
– Bicep and tricep curls with a wine bottle
– Push-ups and plank
– Plank walk outs and wall sit
– Crunches and leg raises
– Hip raises and holds
– Hip raises and holds – one leg 

Got a taster for this home workout lark? Here are a few of our favourite online fitness classes

The School Of Strut

The TGIOF team enjoyed a night out at one of Zoe McNulty’s ace Strutology classes and now, thank the lord, she’s bringing her own particular kind of joy online to a device near you. Not only will you get an ace workout, but you’re feel pretty darn sassy by the end of one of her classes!

Yoga International

We don’t all want to jump and down thank you very much Joe Wicks! If you want something to help soothe you through these strange times, yoga is definitely the way to go. Yoga International has a whole heap of classes to follow, including courses and meditation.

Aaptiv TV

Struggling to get near a screen during this lockdown? Us too, thanks to small children and partners being at home. This is where Aaptiv comes into its own – it’s audio fitness so you just need headphones or a speaker and you’re good to go. Comes with a free trial as well.

Studio 305

In New York, this is the place to go to do the coolest, most energetic dance classes in the city. Now they’re bringing them to You Tube for free twice a day. Tune in, pretend you’re Arianna Grande for 15 minutes, and feel much happier about life.

Fiit TV

This is our one-stop shop for all sorts of classes. From strength training to yoga, the classes are led by a variety of well-known faces from the fitness world including celeb trainer Matt Roberts. You can also go head to head with your friends on a leader board, making it even more social in these very anti-social

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The sugar babe

The sugar babe


The key here is not to swap one source of sugar to a better source of sugar but to catch the trigger that create the need for the sugar hit in the first place. Otherwise you just stop one thing for another. 

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Our top 10 immune-boosting tips!

Our top 10 immune-boosting tips!

The coronavirus pandemic is doing so much more than sending us into isolation – the stress of job losses, money worries, food and vital necessities being whipped off supermarket shelves and dealing with cooped-up children and parents is enough to make any of us ill. These are just some of the things that we are forced to deal with right now, and there has never been a time when we have needed our immune system to be up to the job of keeping us healthy and strong.

Some of you will be used to the idea of keeping on top of your immune health and will already be making sure that you are staying in tip-top physical shape to get through the coming months. For those of you who haven’t given it much of a thought before now, it is never too late to start but it’s really important that you do. 

Here are our top 10 immune-boosting tips to make sure that you are doing everything you can to keep your immune system ticking over:

1. Start looking after your gut

You’ve probably seen the adverts with funny little bottles of pro-biotic and wondered what they were all about. They are drinks that promote Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the bacteria that live in our gut and help our immune health. Look for a probiotic that contains these, or try adding any of these fermented foods to your diet: sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso and kombucha. 

2. Avoid antibiotics

Antibiotics by their very nature wipe out the bacteria in your gut so try to avoid them if you can – it takes from three to six months for your gut health to return to a normal healthy level after taking them.

3. Up your Vitamin D

Self-isolating can mean you are not getting outside as much as you need and your levels of Vitamin D can therefore drop. Make sure you start taking a supplement to increase it; this is vital for a healthy immune system. 

4. And Vitamin C

The same goes for Vitamin C, which our bodies need to help fight off colds and other infectious diseases. 

5. Make soup

There’s a reason your mum always made you chicken soup when you were poorly – bone broth is incredibly good for your immune system! This is simple to make – try our Nana’s special soup recipe.

6. Invest in magic mushrooms

No, not that kind, these ones have magical properties when it comes to antiviral properties. Try Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake – you can buy them in powder capsules from most health food stores.

7. Spread some honey on it

Manuka honey is a natural anti-inflammatory and supports your immune system. A little spread on your toast goes a long way to boosting your health, naturally.

8. Keep moving

While it’s tempting to sit and watch TV all day if you’re self-isolating, it’s the worst thing you can do for your immune system. Even moderate activity improves your circulation and your body’s response to infections. 

9. Get some shut eye

Try not to let the stress and worry of your situation keep you awake at night, sleep is as vital to maintaining a healthy immune system as keeping active. Try to get seven to eight hours and go to bed at the same time each night as routine helps the body stay calm.

10. Stress less

It may seem impossible right now, but try to keep your stress levels down. The stress hormone cortisol affects not just your gut health, but also the body’s natural defence against illness. Meditation has been shown to help lower cortisol levels, so even if you’ve never tried it before to calm the mind, do it to calm your gut – and help you stay healthier for longer. 

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Five signs you’re suffering from work burn-out

Five signs you’re suffering from work burn-out

How are you. Really? More often than not, when someone asks us how we are, our response is that we’re busy, tired – or a combination of both. We wear our busy diaries like a badge of honour in our attempt to juggle like a pro and ‘have it all’.

Family life, work life and everything in between means we’re stretched – and stress is taking its toll. Thankfully, we’re living in an age where our mental and physical health are a hot topic of conversation and finally, it’s okay to say when you’re not okay.

However, if your career is your kryptonite and you’re taking on more than you can manage – these are the signs to watch out for and when to ask for help.

1. You find it difficult to concentrate

Let’s face it, the amount of information we process in a day is pretty different to that of an adult 100 years ago, even 20 years ago. We carry the internet in our pockets and recent studies suggest we’re exposed to upward of 5,000 ads in one day.

With so much on our minds and our brains processing more than ever, it’s no wonder we find it difficult to concentrate. That, and the brain fog caused by anxiety and depression can make crafting the simplest of emails an overwhelming task. Take desk breaks, take any kind of break. And know when it’s too much.

2. You’re overtired and seriously low on energy

You’re feeling bloated, lacking any kind of energy and coffee is the fuel keeping you going. Feeling sluggish and tired can be a cause of a poor diet. Are you grabbing a quick fast-food lunch or ready meal? When did you last eat well, or get a good night’s sleep?

Listen carefully: you’re not a robot. You need nutrition, you need good sleep and you need to take care of yourself. Try the Calm app or the Clementine app for free bedtime meditations and sleep stories. If you really feel unwell, please go and see your GP.

3. You’re cancelling social plans to work late

Of course, there are times when a big project or deadline takes over and you’ll need to put in the extra time. But making this a habit only sets an ongoing standard that you won’t be able to meet. Again: you’re not a robot.

Making time for yourself, whether that’s family time, exercise, hobbies, or even reading a book in the bath means your mind will be well-rested and able to perform better. See your friends, get some fresh air, go out for dinner. They will all help you in the long run.

4. You feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day

There may be times that you feel so busy and overwhelmed, you feel like you can’t breathe. That there aren’t enough hours in the day.

There’s a fantastic book called Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson that explains how you’ll never finish your to-do list. And you won’t. When you leave this planet, the house will still need to be cleaned and your inbox will still have unread emails. Try making a ‘done’ list instead or fill out a daily gratitude journal. Flip that negative thought on its head. You have 24 hours in a day and that’s enough. You are doing enough.

5. Aches, pains and high blood pressure

Is it worth it? A study by HSE showed between 2018-2019 a mind-blowing 28.2million working days were lost due to work-related ill health. That includes stress, anxiety, depression and musculoskeletal disorders.

On average, each person took 15 days off. Listen to your body. Go to your GP. Take your annual leave, even if you aren’t going away. You aren’t invincible and if your body is telling you to stop – at the very, very least – slow down. Make more time for you. You are more important than your job.

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Stop that procrastination! How to stop thinking and start doing

Stop that procrastination! How to stop thinking and start doing

We’re starting off this feature with a small physics lesson. Yes, stay tuned as it will all make sense! Newton’s First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.

Translated into real life that means our bodies will stay at rest until they’re compelled to actually get their arses into gear! Basically, we’re all destined to be procrastinators, which is probably why it can feel so difficult sometimes to get a move on and tick off those tasks on our ever growing to do lists.

So, if you find yourself saying ‘I should’ a bit too often, then procrastination has got the better of you and you need these top tips…

Do just five minutes

Big tasks can feel so overwhelming, but it’s better to at least start something than just let it fester and get you annoyed. One of the best ways to beat procrastination is to say you’ll tackle something for five minutes.

Set a timer and just begin. Once the timer goes off, you can stop, but more than likely, you’ll find yourself absorbed with the task and carry on. Even if you do stop after five minutes, you’re more likely to go back and finish the task later as you’ve actually made a start on it.

Do one thing on your to do list

Does your to do list get bigger and bigger every day? Then pick one thing from it and just do it. The joy you’ll feel from ticking it off the list can then often spur you on to the next thing. Perhaps start small though – filing away a few bills is more achievable than painting your bedroom. You can build up to those bigger tasks!

Understand that your to do list will always exist

In other words, stop trying to be a perfectionist. Perfectionism sounds great but in reality, it can be disabling, stopping us even trying to do a task before we start. What counts is the effort you put into something, not the perfect end result.

Think of it this way… Your to do list is infinite. It will never end. Even when you die, there will still be things on that list you haven’t ticked off. So chill out, do what you can and stop letting the list overwhelm you.

Break it up

If the task you have to do is herculean, such as sorting out your loft full of 30 years of stuff, you need to break it down. The thought of something so huge means you’ll never get it done, however, if you create smaller, more manageable steps, there’s a chance you will start it – even if it does take a few weeks to finish. So, with that big loft, your first step may be as small as literally going up there to look at everything followed by a second step of sorting out two boxes. Carry on that way and you’ll have your task done in no time.

Do something every day

We’re not saying you can’t take a day off and just chill, but it’s better to keep on top of things and do something small every day, rather than have a huge task staring at you come the weekend. This may mean, a quick 15-minute tidy every day or 5 minutes daily spent sorting out paperwork. Find out what your quick win is and do it. Not only will it make you feel more inspired, but you’ll also start ticking off that to do list much quicker.

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To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to your family, to bring peace to all, you have to be disciplined & control your mind. #SelfBelief ??

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Give yourself a deadline

Have you found that you deal with urgent tasks easily? Something that just HAS to get done, just gets done. A deadline can give you the push you need, but it doesn’t have to be something that is forced upon you.

One study conducted by Duke University, North Carolina showed that students setting their own deadlines, rather than their teacher, still kept to them.

The secret is to not to just write it down, but to also tell your family and friends about your deadline – that way you’re more accountable and therefore more likely to actually get it done.

Understand your peak ‘to do’ time

Do you have more energy first thing in the morning? Or perhaps you’re more of a night owl? Work out when you’re feeling your best and use that time to do those things you’ve been putting off. When we’re feeling good, we have more energy to tackle tasks that are a bit more challenging.

Schedule in downtime

Do you find yourself losing 15 minutes every day as you get lost down an Instagram hole? Instead of trying to avoid it, schedule in some time to do just that. Yep, every day at 3pm, allow yourself to scroll away to your hearts content, like some pictures of puppies, and then get on with the task at hand.

Our suggested procrastination reads

The One Thing, £7.64, Gary Keller

Get Your Sh!t Together, £11.99, Ruth Field

Atomic Habits, £14.99, James Clear

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Living with borderline personality disorder

Living with borderline personality disorder

There are so many public health campaigns about different illnesses and diseases, but when it comes to mental health, we often lump everything together under the one heading. To really understand people’s experiences, this must change.

From quite early on in my life, I felt like I didn’t fit in. I was often unhappy, and I struggled with things that other people found easy. Fitting into the world was difficult and scary, but I kept those feelings hidden and put on a front. I made it look as though I fitted in.

Fast forward to today, and I’m just coming to the end of more than a decade spent in psychiatric hospitals following several suicide attempts and many more incidents of self-harm. I am 36 years old, and when I was in my mid-twenties, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

When I was diagnosed, I had absolutely no idea what my new label meant, and, to make matters worse, I wasn’t given any information on BPD either. I understood that diagnoses were useful – in terms of the kinds of therapies I might need and the medication I might take – but I felt as though, all of a sudden, I became BPD, and was no longer me.

It’s not a great collection of words, borderline personality disorder. ‘Borderline’ can make people believe you are ‘borderline unwell’ and not really struggling. And ‘personality disorder’ feels like an assault on your character.

In some ways, though, these labels are helpful. They provide us with a common language and allow us to relate to one another and really understand the different kinds of experiences involved across the wider spectrum of mental health problems. 

The ‘other’ mental health conditions

However, while mental health is openly discussed, and common mental health problems like depression and anxiety are spoken about regularly, more complex mental health problems are not as widely understood. This was apparent through a recent survey carried out by NGI Solutions, and commissioned by St Andrew’s Healthcare, where I was an in-patient for many years.

The research showed there was a good understanding of depression, for example, where over two thirds of respondents were able to correctly identify three or four of the symptoms listed. However, when it came to Borderline Personality Disorder, only a quarter were able to correctly identify three or four of the symptoms listed, and 38% incorrectly stated that BPD involved having a split personality. 15% said they didn’t know what it was.

This rings true with my own experiences. I remember going into a hospital and the staff placed pictures on the walls of celebrities who had spoken out about mental health problems. I can’t recall seeing a single image of a celebrity who had spoken about more complex mental health problems such as BPD or schizophrenia.

It’s a similar picture when you think about film, TV, news and documentaries– with only soaps such as Hollyoaks really showing sympathetic, realistic and responsible storylines. 

But on the whole, in popular culture, if you see a fictional character exhibiting symptoms of BPD, it’s rarely named or even referred to as a mental health problem. This makes it appear as though the individual just has a bad personality. 

If a character had cancer, it would be recognised as cancer. Why is this not the same with mental health problems?

Removing the stigma of mental health conditions

With this in mind, is there any wonder that when I tell someone I have a diagnosis of BPD they seem nervous of me? They either don’t know what it means, or have an unrealistic idea relating to my personality or simply think of me as being ‘crazy’. I’ve also been called ‘attention-seeking’ which is really upsetting and can further damaging to my mental health.

At St Andrew’s I felt privileged to be given the opportunity to blog about my mental health condition, so I could share my experiences in order for others to benefit. But blogs like mine are few and far between.

If the Government is serious about ensuring that more patients like myself, living with complex mental health conditions, can be cared for in the community, then removing this stigma and opening up the discussion should be part of that plan. Among other things it will make the transition from a hospital setting to the community less daunting.

Instead of talking about mental health under an umbrella term, in 2020 we must focus more on individual experiences and diagnoses and take our conversations beyond depression and anxiety.

It’s time to talk more frankly and openly about more complex mental health problems and break the taboo that surrounds them. 

Then and only then, will it help people, like myself, feel less isolated and ashamed, and ultimately aid us on our journey to recovery.

For more information or mental health support for yourself or someone you know, contact

*Not her real name  @star_welsh

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Ten signs you need to take a duvet day

Ten signs you need to take a duvet day

As a nation, we’re a bunch of workaholics. We work the longest hours in Europe, a whopping 42.3 hours a week, which is fine but is it ultimately sustainable? We’re not robots after all, so perhaps today is the day to take a sickie. Yes, we know it’s naughty but sick days shouldn’t be just for our physical health, especially with one in five women reporting mental health problems.

What is a duvet day?

The official dictionary definition of a duvet day states it as being “…an unscheduled extra day’s leave from work, taken to alleviate stress or pressure and sanctioned by one’s employer.”

Many employers now offer so many duvet days as a perk and have seen a spike in productivity and a work-life balance.

Talking to the Metro, Ross Tavendale, 30, managing director of Type A Media in London said an introduction of a four-day week to his company has really helped motivate employees. “Our charts show that, since the introduction of four-day weeks in September last year, we are burning really hot with focus on output,” he said.

However, while employers are becoming more open to flexibility and protecting the mental health of their employees, very few actually officially allow duvet days.

This is where the unofficial duvet day – also known as ‘the sickie’ comes in – and while your boss may be annoyed when you call in sick, there are many benefits to be had!

Benefits of having a duvet day 

The benefits of taking a break from your normal routine are many. Think about how good you feel after a holiday – well you can have that feeling from just sneaking an odd day off work as well!

So to ease your guilt of that ‘I’m ill and not coming in today’ call, here are some reasons why a duvet day may just help today…

Signs you need to take a duvet day

You’re exhausted

In a recent survey, 36% of respondents cited tiredness as the main reason they’d take a duvet day. If you feel like you need matchsticks to prop open your eyes, consider taking a day off. Being able to rest and get decent sleep will make you more productive back at work, so you’re actually doing your boss a favour…

You just need to be alone

‘Me time’ is a foreign word for most working mums. You go to work and do stuff for other people. You come home and do stuff for other people. So when’s your downtime? If you’ve had a busy period in your life, taking a spontaneous day off work, and hiding from everyone, can really help your mental wellbeing. Imagine all those hours when you can just satisfy your needs – bliss!

You need a tech-free break

Use your duvet time to have some time away from technology. Don’t feel tempted to log on and answer work emails. Put your phone down and step away from the social media networks. Log out of your Netflix account and stop the binge watching. Unplugging from technology has been scientifically proven to recharge you and improve your sleep, meaning you’ll be bouncing back to work, full of beans after your duvet day.

You feel stressed

A survey by Perkbox revealed that 59% of people cite work as their main cause of stress. If you’re dealing with work difficulties, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re in the midst of everything. Taking a breather away from the office (and weekend commitments) can give you some clarity on a situation. Write down a plan of action on how to ease your stress levels and go back into work with the gumption to sort it out.

You need some motivation

Being on a treadmill – commute, work, commute – can tire even the most enthusiastic of people. When everything gets a bit humdrum it’s hard to muster up the passion you once had for your job. A day out from you routine can really revitalise you without the need of an expensive spa visit. Pull on your PJS, snuggle into bed and enjoy giving your body and mind a break. 

You hate your job

We’ve all been there – stuck in a job we hate, but unable to find our way through. When you’re on the treadmill of life, it’s difficult to find the time to look for other jobs or get your head into the right place where you can start to look for something better. A day off will give you time to focus and apply for other jobs. It may just be one day, but use it wisely and it could be the start of a whole new life. 

It’s time to rebel!

Do you have good girl syndrome? A desire to please and toe the line? If so, then you need to step outside the nice girl and release your inner rebel! Sure if you take loads of sickies (especially if they’re every Monday) you may get into trouble, but one day off work isn’t going to stop the world spinning. Being a rebel means leaving behind what feels safe and comfortable, so if you always say yes, try saying ‘sod it’ and see what happens. It may give you some perspective and inspire you!

Your brain needs a rest

Is your weekend crammed pack full of ferrying children around to various clubs and social events, sorting out the housework, catching up on the laundry – and also possibly responding to work emails? If so, your brain is going to suffer. Research has shown that downtime actually makes you a better worker. Working long hours will eventually cause your brain to dry up – and if you’re going through the menopause your brain fog is probably already hindering brain function! Take a day to literally do nothing and see how much better you feel the next day at work.

It’s cold outside

When winter hits, it suddenly seems so much harder to get out of bed in the morning. And the thought of hitting the gym after a day in the office? No thanks. In fact, you probably feel like you just want to curl up in your bed and go to sleep, so why not go and do just that? While as humans we don’t have a natural need to hibernate, it is natural with the shorter days and colder weather to feel sleepier and less inclined to go outside.

Embrace the Danish way of living -hygge – and spend a day cosied up in blankets, sipping on hot chocolate and you may find that it’s easier to spring out of bed the next day. Obviously if you feel this way for a length of time, it may be that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so make an appointment with your GP.

You’re actually sick!

Yeah, of course you can actually take a sick day because you’re poorly. But where’s the fun in that?!

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