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The 9 best skin and hair supplements for women 2020

The best skin and beauty supplement
The best skin and beauty supplement

The 9 best skin and hair supplements for women 2020

When it comes to our skin and hair, we’re willing to spend the money to make them look good. In fact, it’s estimated that us women spend over £250 a year on skin, hair and makeup products!

While most of us think nothing of slathering on an expensive moisturiser or slapping on a pricey hair mask, there are other ways to ensure your skin is glowing and your hair has that glossy, just stepped out of a salon feel.

In fact, what we put into our bodies can impact on both of these things as much as what we put on them, and while most of our diets are full of the vitamins and minerals our skin and hair need, sometimes they may need a little boost. That’s where supplements come in.

How long do hair and skin supplements take to work?

Good things come to those that wait – and it’s no different with supplements to boost your skin and hair health!

With hair supplements, it can take years to transform your entire head of hair, as hair only grows at about half an inch per month, so persistence is key.

The same goes for skin supplements – although you should see the benefits a bit quicker, perhaps four to six months. In fact, vitamins on the whole only work for as long as you take them, so this is a long-term solution. As soon as you stop, you’ll stop reaping those benefits as well.

Can supplements alone transform your skin and hair?

One thing to keep in mind is that there is some debate about whether taking supplements, such as collagen, can improve skin on their own.

Dr Shaaira Nasir, a Consultant Dermatologist at sk:n says that while there is evidence that collage supplements can increase elasticity and collagen density, more research is needed in this area.

“Collagen supplements are generally safe and have no adverse effects,” she says. 

“Amino acids are the building block of collagen, therefore a diet rich in protein will provide amino acids needed for collagen production. This can be found in food such as meat, nuts, beans, egg and dairy products.”

Dr Nasir says that topical treatments such as dermal fillers, micro-needling, retinol and products containing antioxidants will all help the condition of the skin, however, it’s also important to remember sunscreen.

She recommends choosing one containing SPF30 and covering both UVA and UVB. 

“This will prevent photo-ageing from the sun,” she says.  “I would recommend Heliocare 360 Sunscreen Gel.”

 

And with that in mind, here are some of the supplements we’ve tried and tested in 2020.

Perfectil hair and nail supplement1 Perfectil Original, £9.15

As the number one beauty supplement brand in the UK, these were an obvious choice to try. They’re packed full of skin and hair loving vitamins and minerals such as zinc, which helps with the growth of healthy hair and nails, and Riboflavin, which contributes to the maintenance of your skin.

Our verdict: These are a great all-rounder, however, while our tester noticed a bit of a difference to their skin (less dull, more glow), they had little to no effect on their nails and hair.

Pukka glow skin supplement

2 Pukka Herbs Glow Organic Supplement, £12.69 

Turmeric has long been a buzz word in health and beauty – and in fact has been used for centuries has a weapon in the search for glowing skin. It’s packed full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that contribute to healthy, glowing skin and help fight acne.

Our verdict: Our tester definitely saw the difference in taking these herby wonders. She reported that she had lots of comments on her glowy skin and that her dull lockdown skin had been transformed into that healthy, just got back from holiday skin.

Biotin skin_hair_supplement3 Holland & Barrett Biotin Tablets, £7.49

Biotin is a vitamin B that is found in foods such as pulses, nuts and fish and supports the maintenance of hair and skin. It’s especially useful to take a supplement like this if you don’t use those Vitamin B boosting foods or if you take HRT or the contraceptive pill as these can both be depleted by those medicines.

Our verdict: Our tester didn’t initially notice a difference until she finally went for a much-needed manicure and her beautician commented on the length and strength of her normally weak nails. She also saw a difference in her chemically treated hair, which was much shinier than normal. 

patch_it_sleep_patches4 Patch it Sleep Patches, £4.99

While not actually a supplement or anything to do with beauty, getting a good night’s sleep is essential if you want gorgeous skin. If you have disrupted sleep, this can raise your cortisol level, which in turn depletes essential collagen. These patches, which contain a blend of essential oils known for helping relaxation, are worn on the feet overnight.

Our verdict: These were a bit of a pain to use and our tester had to wear socks to keep them on – not ideal during a heatwave! While she said they didn’t take immediate effect, and she took a while to get to sleep, once she was asleep, she didn’t wake once and felt instantly refreshed on waking. The only downside is the cost – at £4.99 for one night’s worth of patches, it would be expensive to use these every night.

boots_maca_root5 Boots Adaptogens Maca, £8

If you suffer from hormonal breakouts, then it may be time to reach for some Maca root. Added to smoothies or baking, it works to regulator your hormones, which will hopefully put an end to spots. One study also found it can help protect the skin from UV rays, which makes it a great anti-ageing choice as well. 

Our verdict: Our tester added the supplement to her breakfast smoothie about a week before her period and reported that she definitely saw an improvement to her monthly breakouts. While she still got the odd spot, they were less ‘angry looking’ than usual and also went quicker. 

6 Collagen Peptides, £16garden of life - collagen powder

Many skin products contain collagen as it has known benefits for keeping skin plump and healthy looking. It can also help improve hair condition, especially thinning hair, and may even slow down the greying process. While there has been much debate as to whether it helps when taken as a supplement, if you go down this route it’s better to choose a grass-fed variety to ensure it’s clean and free and of any anti-biotics.

Our verdict: This supplement got the instant thumbs down from our tester because it was so disgusting when mixed with water – eventually she worked out that it’s best taken with smoothies or used in baking such as pancakes! However, after taking for a couple of months, she saw little or no difference in her complexion, so is sticking to a less yucky collagen moisturiser from now on!

MRL Coll-Force 60 Caps, £24.997 MRL Coll-Force 60 Caps, £24.99

A more palatable way to take your collagen is in a tablet form! These capsules by skin expert Marie Reynolds, not only contain collagen but also a huge variety of skin-loving extras including Vitamin C, zinc, copper and biotin. The collagen in these tablets come from marine sources, so isn’t suitable for those with fish allergies.

Our verdict: Our tester said their nails were much stronger and their thinning hair seemed much thicker after taken these tablets. They didn’t make much difference to her skin, however, she felt less tired than normal and attributes these with giving her a boost!

8 Philip Kingsley PK4 Soya Protein Boost, £30Philip Kingsley PK4 Soya Protein Boost, £30

Philip Kingsley is the doyenne of all things hair. A tub of his infamous hair repair Elasticizer is sold every two minutes worldwide and what he doesn’t know about follicles isn’t worth knowing. This supplement has been created by trichologists and contains soya, which provides hair follicles with a concentrated protein boost and is especially helpful if you’re on a low-protein diet.

Our verdict: After taking these for a couple of months, our tester found their very chemically damaged hair to be much softer and shinier. The new hair that was growing in also seemed thicker. Her only negative comment was on the price and that it would be too expensive to continue taking these in the long-term.

Ancient and Brave Cacao and Collagen9 Ancient and Brave Cacao and Collagen, £20.99

If you want a tasty collagen drink, try this delicious chocolate drink, which contains skin-boosting collagen, as well as Siberian ginseng, beetroot and vitamin C rich baobab. It’s the healthiest hot chocolate you’ll ever drink.

Our verdict: This was a great alternative to coffee and helped our tester wean herself off her eight cups of coffee a day! While she didn’t notice a huge difference to her skin, she did notice a big difference to her mood – thanks to the ginseng – and also her dodgy knee joint, meaning she could exercise once more

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The best SPF makeup that makes sun protection easy

The best SPF makeup 2020 that makes sun protection easy
The best SPF makeup 2020 that makes sun protection easy

The best SPF makeup that makes sun protection easy

We all slap on the sun cream when we hit sunnier climes, but how many of us protect our skin – and in particular our faces – all year round? A sun screen with a 50 SPF is actually one of the best things you can have in your arsenal against ageing but it does mean adding another step to your skincare routine every single morning. This is where SPF make up comes in.

While experts say the SPFs in this hybrid makeup alone won’t really help protect your skin, layering them up will add some protection against those ageing rays.

Don’t go lower than a SPF 15 and remember that while this SPF makeup can help look after your skin when you pop to the shops or go for a quick walk, if you’re lazing around in the sun, even if it’s just your lunch hour, you’ll need a higher SPF sun cream with both UVA and UVB protection.

With that in mind, here are a few of our favourite makeup products with added sun protection.

Facial sunscreen

Every dermatologist will tell you that the one thing you should splash your cash on is a SPF50 sunscreen – not only does it help prevent your skin from getting burnt, but regular use helps reduce all the signs of sun damage and ageing.

Some creams though are really heavy and can clog pores but new formulations mean that there are some that are all brilliantly light and a great daily addition to your daily routine.

Skin Defence Lotion SPF 50+
£18, The Body Shop

Having tried many, many facial sunscreens, this one is now my absolute favourite. It’s super light, so doesn’t clog up you pores – who needs summer acne? – and sits well underneath makeup. The Body Shop have now released a bigger size, which brings me much joy as I slap this bad boy on every single day – yes, even in winter!

360 Fluid Cream SPF50+ 50ml 
£17.96, Heliocare

This cream is a staple in our founder, Andrea McLean’s, makeup bag. Not only does it protect the skin but adds an extra wallop of hydration, which is never a bad thing if you’re after glowy skin! A little also goes a long way, so the tube lasts a long time.

Garnier Ambre Solaire Ultra-Light Sensitive Sun Protection Face Fluid SPF50+
£7, LookFantastic

While this may be the cheaper of our favourite SPF sunscreens, you’re still getting a quality product. Not only does it protect you from UVA and UVB rays, but it also comes packed with the beauty buzzword of the moment – Hyaluronic Acid – to add moisture to your skin. It’s a great budget buy.

Foundation with added SPF

Using a tinted base with SPF is a great idea in the hotter months as there’s less chance of a foundation sweat slide happening. 

Many foundations and tinted moisturisers only contain a SPF of 30, but we’ve happy to report that this is gradually changing. 

Don’t forget about powder either – The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying powder with a sponge as the particles in it do provide a little protection from the sun, plus it will help keep your base products in place.  

SPF makeup IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream

IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream Original SPF 50+
£32, Boots

I always love a recommendation, and this gorgeous CC cream has been recommended to me by three separate people – so you know you’re onto a winner. It makes your skin look like yours but better! It feels super light on the skin and has a high SPF factor so you can relax knowing your skin is being protected against those rays.

Powder-me SPF Dry Sunscreen
£36, Jane Iredale

I’ve always steered clear of tinted moisturisers as I find in the heat, they just slip off my combination skin! Thankfully, I’ve discovered this powder, which comes with SPF30, and can be used on the face, body and hair. Yes, I’ve got fair hair and my scalp burns easily so I’ve used this on my parting before! A good product for travelling as well as there’s no chance of spillages.

SPF makeup No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED All in One Foundation

No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED All in One Foundation
£17, Boots

We all have those days when we need a little bit more cover, which is where this foundation comes in, but it doesn’t stop there. Not only does it have a SPF 50 built in, but it also contains anti-wrinkle peptide technology (whatever that is), which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s my go-to foundation – wear a little for every day, build up the coverage for a night out! 

Eye makeup

Have you ever had burnt eyelids? Trust us it’s not pleasant! An easy way to protect your eyes is to apply a SPF cream on your eyelids and then apply makeup over it, but if that feels like too much faff, there are products with added SPF in them. All the SPF eyeshadows we’ve found come in really light, easy to wear shades, making them perfect for when you’re posing poolside. 

And don’t forget your under eye area as well – this area is very thin and delicate and prone to burning, so a concealer with added SPF is always a good summertime buy!

SPF Makeup Studio Finish SPF35 Concealer £16.50, MAC

MAC Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer
£17.50, Lookfantastic

The skin under the eyes is really fine and delicate, so you want a concealer that glides on and doesn’t drag. Thanks to the added Vitamin C and E in this Mac concealer, applying it is a dream! Plus the added SPF35 means you won’t burn those delicate areas. I’d also suggest using it as a base for your eyeshadow and on your nose for extra sun protection!

Supergoop! Shimmer Shade SPF 30
£22, Revolve

Touted as the very first eyeshadow with SPF30, this shimmery delight is the perfect holiday accessory. Just sweep over your eyelids for a subtle shimmer and more importantly, protection from a hybrid of mineral and chemical actives that protect from UV rays.

No7 Anti-Ageing Shimmering Lip and Eye Screen
£4, Boots

I love a double duty beauty product, especially when going on holiday! This beauty by No7 adds a subtle shimmer to lips and eyes and helps protect them thanks to the built in SPF30. I used it non-stop on my holiday last year, and the shimmering texture is super pretty day and night.

Lipsticks that prevent burning

Cracked, sunburnt lips are not a good look, however, while we might slather our face and body in SPF, we often neglect our poor old lips. Sun destroys collagen – the stuff that keeps our lips nice and plump – and not only does this not look so great, but it also can lead to skin cancer, thanks to the skin thinning. 

While there are plenty of non-coloured lip balms with SPF, choosing one with a bit of colour is a nice way to protect your lips and up your pout game – plus save space in your makeup bag.

Lanolips Tinted SPF30 Balm in Rhubarb
£8.99, Lookfantastic

I love Lanolips and have them secluded in various parts of the house (and handbags!) so I always remember to use. This tinted one is a super glossy, super cute pink, which is perfect for those lazy summer days. I’ve been known to use it to add a subtle sheen to my cheeks. It’s a must-have in my makeup bag!

SPF Makeup FRESH Tinted Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15

FRESH Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15
£19.50, Cult Beauty

I love a bright lip in the summer, so this tinted sunscreen in Sugar Coral makes it to the top of my must-have summer makeup list. This beauty not only protects your lips but provides super hydration and is available in a range of gorgeous summery shades. 

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Sheer Tint Sunscreen SPF 15
£20, Boots

Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream is a classic for a reason and their tinted lip version, with added SPF, takes it to another level. Don’t be afraid of the bright hues it comes in – it goes on with the sheerest of tints and makes lips feel so soft.

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5 secrets for a successful energy boost

5 secrets to a successful energy boost
5 secrets to a successful energy boost

5 secrets for a successful energy boost

Our life-force is precious currency, yet many live in energy poverty. We can own expensive bags, cars, watches but we cannot consider ourselves wealthy if we do not own our energy. 

Many people struggle to live a full enjoyable life due to chronic energy deficiency. The problem is widespread despite the increased availability of treatments, supplements, yoga studios; sadly people are still trapped in their exhaustion, continuing to drag their feet trying a vitality promising practice from one to another. Perhaps it’s time to ask if something is wrong with our energy-boosting approach so we can get off the never-ending carousel of energy boost-sabotage-lethargy

“Throughout my 25 years of energy healing, many people have asked me how to boost their energy level, but hardly ever anyone has asked about the prevention of losing it in the first place”

Yet, the upkeep of energy is one of the fundamental pillars of a successful energy boost. Before contemplating ways to increase your energy and vitality, you must, first of all, identify where and how do you waste it. Otherwise, it’s no different to putting money into a pocket with a hole.

It’s important for you to identify the energy ‘thieves’ in your life; don’t be surprised if that thief is actually you! Remember, every time you commit to something that goes against your inner truth, it will rob you of energy.

For example, we often choose to see people socially or keep them as friends even though we’ve grown out of resonance with them. This can be a very expensive habit for our aura. It’s essential that we surround ourselves with people with whom we connect or ‘click’. In short, we need to find our tribe. 

Find your tribe this girl is on fire

In my book “Own Your Energy“, I provide a comprehensive list of the most common “wellness saboteurs”.  For instance, many live in a state of chronic energy deficiency because their quest for wellness is fuelled by the fear of disease or ageing. 

“Fear will prevent you from healing as it’s a very low-frequency emotion that will often attract the very same thing you are fearful of.”

Your motivation for wellness should be a positive one. Choose wellness rather than an escape from suffering.  Instead of being motivated by the statement: ‘I do not want to become ill’, choose ‘I deserve being well. I love the feeling of being well’ or ‘I choose wellness as a natural state for my body’.

Many carry a subconscious belief that they don’t deserve an abundance of energy. They use their energy to prop somebody else up while having accepted their place is in the shadow of somebody else’s light. Your aura will be a forever donor for someone else. It doesn’t matter how much energy you will acquire, it will never be for your own benefit.

During the Covid-19 lockdown a number of people are commenting on how much more relaxed and energized they are feeling by the absence of the fear of missing out (FMO); the need of being seen at the right parties; or at the trendy holiday spots.  Many have realised the extent they have been investing their energy just to impress or please others. ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ lifestyle carries a very expensive ‘energy price tag’ because your energy is controlled by somebody else’s approval; by some imposed template of expectations of how you should ideally look. I hope the lockdown will wean people off this energy-zapping race to impress.

 

“Our approach to energy boost must be holistic. We are often unsuccessful in our quest for more energy because we focus only on one area of our being, completely overlooking another. “

Our energy field, the aura, has a multi-layered structure encompassing: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies. These layers are interconnected and affect one another. In seeking to boost your energy you must simultaneously find a way to lighten up your body, emotions, thoughts and to uplift your spirit.

Take care of your diet. Pay attention to the quality of the food. I do not like deconstructed produce, such as: decaffeinated coffee, fat-free dairy, ‘almost butter’ spreads. I feel these products possess a ‘Frankenstein’ type of energy.  I would always advocate for real and best quality unprocessed food. It’s good to remember that your intuition is one of the most valuable tools in creating an authentic lifestyle and vitality. However, intuition is the first to leave the body when you become toxic. Maintain respect for your body with a good diet so the inner compass of your intuition can navigate you towards the healthy choices.

“Take care of your energy daily not only when you are in the SOS mode!”

Start to improve your energy levels by attending to the channels through which you leak your energy and see how much better you will begin to feel!

Tips:

  1. One of my tips for protecting your energy during energy vampire’s verbal attack is to slow down the up-flow of your inner energy. To do this, hold your breath or significantly slow down your breathing while the insults are being thrown at you. This will act as metaphysical earplugs for your aura and will prevent energy loss.
  2. Every morning commit to being radiant -look at your eyes in the mirror, put the palm of your dominant hand on your solar plexus and say: I am in charge of how feel and today I choose to glow”.
  3. You attract not only what you wish for yourself but also what you wish for others.
  4. Let go of always having to be right- choose peace over the worthless fight for being a winner in an ego game. It will save you so much energy.
  5. Simplify your life to amplify your energy.
Alla Svirinskaya

Alla Svirinskaya is a medically trained, fifth-generation energy healer who was coached secretly in Soviet Moscow by her mother and is now considered one of the world’s top experts in holistic wellness. She has acted as a senior consultant to leading spas around the world, and counts numerous celebrity and royal clients among the thousands of people she has helped. www.allasvirinskaya.com

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8 simple steps to a nutritious life post lockdown

healthy eating post lockdown
healthy eating post lockdown

8 simple steps to a nutritious life post lockdown

As the current lockdown measures are slowly relaxed and some of our freedom returns, what does that mean for your old routine? Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing friends while savouring the taste of my favourite ramen. You might be feeling a bit nervous about venturing out and worrying about the risk of infection still. Are there any steps you can take to adapt to this new norm, and support your immune system too?

These are my 8 simple steps to a nutritious life:

1. While there is evidence in the laboratory that corona virus 19 can survive on food packaging, so far there have been no reported cases that have actually been caught by contaminated food. This is most likely because the heat of cooking kills the virus, and so does the low pH of stomach acid if you were to ingest it. Instead it is important to regularly wash your hands, so that if you do touch any contaminated surfaces you minimise accidently touching your face and risking infection.

This might be a great time for you to buy a reusable cup, to reduce any possible risk of contamination, while also being more sustainable for the environment. Likewise taking a packed lunch has the benefits of being cheaper, more environmentally friendly with less packaging, and you have full control over the ingredients. Instead of a takeaway sandwich, why not treat yourself to a trendy new lunch box, (I love https://black-blum.com), and take a healthy salad out. This brings me onto my next step.

2. Eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables. Not only are these packed with polyphenol chemicals, which are antioxidants and protect against damage, lowering your risk of death, cancer and heart disease, but they also are key factor in gut health.

 

healthy eating post lockdown

3. Your gut plays a vital role in immunity and general health. Inside your gut, you have trillions of micro-organisms, including bacteria. Aim for 30g of fibre a day to help nurture your friendly gut bacteria and support your immune system. Fermented foods such as vegetables, kefir, kimchi and kombucha are also a great way of helping your microbiome.

4. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is primarily produced in your body with exposure to sunshine. Deficiency is common during autumn and winter in northern latitudes above 20 degrees (including the UK) and southern latitudes 20 degrees below the equator. The NHS and NICE advise all adults living in the UK should take a daily supplement throughout the year of 400IU, while younger people with known deficiency and those older than 60 should take 2000IU during winter as well. There are side effects of taking prolonged supplementation at higher levels, so this should be avoided.

While there is evidence that vitamin D deficiency might play a role in progression to a more severe illness with corona virus 19 infection, there is not yet evidence as to whether vitamin D supplementation could reverse this. However, given vitamin D plays such a crucial role in our bodies, it seems sensible to ensure that you have sufficient levels.

vitamin D

5. Terms such as ‘boosting your immunity’ are unscientific and generally used as clickbait. Serious infection with covid19, is thought to be due to an inflammatory cytokine storm, produced by an over active immune system, that causes collateral damage, while overzealously attacking the virus. Imagine then if you could ‘boost your immunity’ through food and supplements, the end result might be rather different to what you hoped for. Instead you can support optimal functioning of your immune system, by ensuring that you have a healthy diet. There is no evidence that items such as bone broth affect your immunity, (hear more about this on my myth busting course).

6. As well as eating a range of fruit and vegetables, enjoy whole grain carbohydrates (brown bread, brown rice, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, spelt, and millet), lean protein, a handful of nuts a day, legumes and pulses (beans, lentils), sprinkling of seeds, fermented food and healthy unsaturated fats such as avocado, and extra virgin olive oil.

7. From the current evidence, the people at greatest risk of serious consequences of covid19 are those with high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Improving your diet and following the tips I’ve outlined, can help improve these conditions.

8. It might be tempting to stock up on supplements such as vitamin C in the hope that they might prevent you from getting sick, but do they reduce your risk of getting a cold, or you to get better quicker? Sadly, for the general population there is no evidence of preventing infection, but it might help reduce the duration by approximately half a day of illness. More vitamin C does not equate to better protection, as excess vitamin C is not stored, but eliminated in the urine and may also cause abdominal cramps, nausea, headache, diarrhoea, and a possible increased risk of forming kidney stones.

Dr Harriet Holme – The Healthy eating Dr – studied medicine at the University of Cambridge and only deals in the science around food, not the fads.

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The 5 Sense Method to feel calmer and happier

5 steps to be calmer and happier
5 steps to be calmer and happier

The 5 Sense Method to feel calmer and happier

Feeling out of sorts but can’t quite put your finger on why?

Think about yesterday, last week or even the last month.

The 5 sense method is a tool Dr Sarah Vohra Consultant Psychiatrist has developed to try and work out what might be going on. It will help you pinpoint your life stresses more easily, develop a toolkit to manage them and help you feel calmer and happier.

Pinpoint your stresses

 You experience the world through your senses: your sight, hearing, smell, sense of touch (feel) and taste. So it makes sense that when you are feeling on edge or down, you use these senses to ask yourself if there is anything you may have seen, heard, smelled, felt or tasted (not necessarily all at once) that could possibly provide an explanation.

It may be that you have seen something negative on social media (SEE) or spent the afternoon with an overly critical boss (HEAR). Maybe you overlooked your usual daily breathwork (SMELL) or woke up feeling less than perfect (FEEL). Perhaps it is only mid- morning but you’re on to your second double espresso to get you through a particularly busy work shift (TASTE).

By doing this simple exercise, you can slowly piece together the jigsaw of the day and identify possible stresses.

Ask yourself:-  what have your senses come in to contact with that could explain why you feel the way you do?

1. SEE – Anything you have seen? This may include:-

a) Spending too much time on your screen

b)Scrolling highlight reals on social media

c) Seeing an ex partner.

2. HEAR. Anything you have heard? This may include: –

a) Your inner monologue telling you that you’re not good enough

b) Struggling to listen to your internal no

c) Criticism from a boss or partner?

3. SMELL. Anything you have smelled. This may include:-

a) Not managed to go outside and smell the fresh air.

b) Struggling to smell the BS. Are you getting pulled into people’s ideals on social media?

c) Not taken any time out to practice self-care?

4. FEEL. Anything you have felt? This may include:-

a) Feeling worried constantly?

b) Feeling under pressure? Have you taken too much on?

c) Feeling less confident adjusting to a new way of life?

5. TASTE. Anything you have tasted? This may include:-

a) Recent change in diet? Are you eating more than usual?

b) Consuming more stimulants like caffeine or energy drinks?

c) Perhaps you have not been eating enough?

5 steps to be calmer and happier

The 5 sense toolkit; empowering you to create ways to feel calmer and happier

Depending on what stresses come up for you, create yourself a 5 sense survival toolkit for each day. Here are some suggestions on things that might help.

See – do you need to set a limit on your screen use? Curate your social media feed? Or say no to meet ups/Facetime with certain individuals? You might choose to Facetime a positive family member/ friend, read a book or curl up with a good box set


Hear – do you need to practice regular positive self-talk? Exercise your inner no so you’re not feeling overwhelmed? Perhaps call a friend, listen to an inspiring podcast or audiobook?

Smell – do you need to set regular time aside to go outside and take in some fresh air? Have some time out to run yourself a nice bath, light a candle or practice mindfulness or meditation?

Feel – is there anyone you can call upon to lighten the pressure you put yourself under? Can you delegate tasks so you are not taking on too much? If you are feeling worried, Dr Vohra has a helpful tool “The Worry Dump” over on her Instagram Page and within the book which looks at how we can park our worries and stop them from snowballing out of control.

Taste – take the time to plan out your meals and snacks for the day. Think about cutting down your caffeine and alcohol consumption which may be ramping up any negative feelings you may be experiencing.

Be sure to check in with how these changes have made you feel at the end of each day, week and month of consistently putting them into practice.

Dr Sarah Vohra Consultant Psychiatrist, Author of ‘The Mind Medic’

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Essential mindful walking tips you can use now

what is mindful walking
what is mindful walking

Essential mindful walking tips you can use now

We’re all currently allowed out to exercise as much as we like, so why not replace a jog with a mindful walk instead?

 

Mindful walking is tuning in to the environment around you. It’s time to ditch the headphones and start paying attention to what’s around you. Listen to the birds tweeting. Pay attention to how the light catches the tree. Hear what you don’t normally when you’re rushing between place to place. Take your time to truly appreciate your surroundings.

Mickey Monroe, founder of yoga brand Active Pada, is a big fan of mindful walking and how it can improve your mental health.

Mickey says “Mindful walking is essential as it not only means you’re getting some exercise, but it also ensures you enjoy the same benefits of a meditative practice that you might otherwise do indoors

It’s about stepping away from all that noise – whether it be the negative news or too much social media chatter – and literally grounding yourself in nature.”

The benefits of getting outside

Getting out and about in nature has not only been proven to release stress, it’s also been found to strengthen immunity, something that’s essential right now.

A 2010 study evaluated the effect of forest bathing – a popular Japanese past-time where families all spend time in the great outdoors – on immune function. It found that those that did this had elevated white blood cells, crucial for a healthy immune system.

There are also many other proven benefits from increasing your concentration, which many people are struggling with while in lockdown, to improving your memory.

And breathe

Puressentiel, who create gorgeous essential oils, conducted a survey that showed that two out of three adults had experienced changes to their breathing when stressed.

GP Dr Gill Jenkins, an advisor for Puressentiel, says “it’s important to pay attention to your breathing in times of stress. She says that taking deep controlled breaths, especially while out for a walk, is beneficial to both our physical and mental health.

Achieving a more relaxed state of mind brings a host of beneficial changes in blood pressure, heart rate and body chemistry,” she explains.

“It also means our muscles and joints can function properly. Often when our bodies are stressed, our muscles and joints can get stiff, causing movement issues and this sometimes can lead to minor injuries as a result.”

If lockdown has got you feeling strung out, try this NHS recommended breathing exercise next time you’re enjoying a walk outside.

  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
  • Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
  • Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.
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The ‘must have’ accessories for your next Zoom call

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

The ‘must have’ accessories for your next Zoom call

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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7 essential bedtime habits to improve your day

7 essential 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

Meditate

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

Read

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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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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