Monday, 16 October 2017

Bullet Journalling for Health & Wellbeing.

My General Life | I love bullet journalling, and so today I thought I'd share some ideas around how your bullet journal can be helpful for promoting health and wellbeing.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have noticed that I'm rather partial to bullet journalling. If you're new to bullet journalling I have written a couple of posts on it in the past (although these are super old and I'm in the process of updating them), but to get you up to speed, you can head here to see how to get started.

Anyway, one thing that I love about the flexibility of a bullet journal is that you can use it to keep track of whatever you want. It's your journal and is set up however you want it to be, which gives you the freedom to use it in whatever way brings value or meaning into your life.

For that reason, I think bullet journalling offers opportunity to work alongside various health and wellbeing focused practices.

HABIT TRACKING

If you're trying to work new activities into your daily and weekly habits or are keen to see how often you're managing to engage in health and wellbeing promoting activities then habit trackers are a great place to start. They're totally flexible and you can keep track of as many or as little habits as you like. 

I personally find having a visual list of things that I intend to engage in can encourage me to do them that little bit more (although this doesn't always work). I feel it offers an opportunity to keep yourself accountable, but also to be honest with yourself in relation to how often you actually participate in something.

Plus if you want to get all fancy, you can seriously jazz them up by making pretty patterns within your tracker (this is clearly for people like me who have far too much time on their hands!).

I have a whole board dedicated to habit trackers over on my Pinterest which you can peruse for some inspiration!

My General Life | I love bullet journalling, and so today I thought I'd share some ideas around how your bullet journal can be helpful for promoting health and wellbeing.


MOOD TRACKING

For me, being aware of my mood and emotions is an important part of practising self care and compassion. Mood trackers allow you to keep a log of how you were feeling on a particular day which might then allow you to make links with how you feel and what you do (particularly if you're habit tracking alongside this). 

There are lots of different, creative ways to track your moods, ranging from a simple chart to prettier geometric designs to the slightly more complex but beautiful mood mandala. 

GRATITUDE LOG

One thing that has been shown to help in improving wellbeing and quality of life is practising gratitude. The bullet journal allows you to capture this in visual form in a variety of ways, for example through pictures, collecting mementos and written daily gratitude lists. I personally like to try to write a line or two a day of the things I'm grateful for. I find this a very grounding task that encourages me to reflect on the positives in my day, even if the day itself hasn't been the best.

MEAL PLANNING

If you're trying to make more positive food choices as part of improving your health and wellbeing, then your bullet journal can be used to either plan meals or track what you're eating and drinking. This doesn't necessarily have to be a separate tracker, and could easily be worked into your habit tracker or daily/weekly spreads. I personally work a menu into my weekly spreads (although admittedly this is more for organisational/preventing food waste purposes), alongside logging my water intake on my habit tracker.

My General Life | I love bullet journalling, and so today I thought I'd share some ideas around how your bullet journal can be helpful for promoting health and wellbeing.


EXPRESSING CREATIVITY

Bullet journals are a great way to let your creativity flow. It's a space to create your own rules and try new things. We all saw the huge boom in the use of colouring books for promoting mindfulness and wellbeing, well a bullet journal can be your own personal colouring book, but you create the designs too. Engaging in creative activity has been linked to improved problem solving and coping skills. For me a bullet journal is a perfect blank slate, and if you don't like something, then you just do it different next time - it's no biggie.

Let's start a conversation:
If you use a bullet journal, what's your favourite way to journal for health and wellbeing? And if you don't use a bullet journal, is this something you'd consider in order to bring more focus on promoting positive wellbeing in your life? Why not leave your thoughts below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan 

My General Life | I love bullet journalling, and so today I thought I'd share some ideas around how your bullet journal can be helpful for promoting health and wellbeing.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Importance of Sleep [PLUS] Sleep Tips ft. Emma*.

My General Life | Let's talk sleep, why it's important and what you can be doing in order to get the best nights sleep possible...

Sleep. I'm sure many of us will hold our hands up right now and say we don't get enough of it. I know I don't a large proportion of the time. I think it's a culmination of modern life, constant pressures to be connected and this need to be killing it/bossing it/winning at life at all times.

Anyway, one of my goals for the 30 Days of Self Care that I ran in September was around making sleep more of a priority and trying to ensure that I not only got enough sleep, but that it was good quality sleep too. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP

There's a plethora of research into sleep and the impact that poor sleep can have on our ability to function alongside on our overall health and wellbeing. Research shows that sleep deprivation negatively impacts cognitive functioning (ability to concentrate, problem solve etc), motor functioning and mood. It can also increase the experience of chronic pain, increase risk-taking behaviour and reduce the ability to self-regulate and control your emotions. As well as this, sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of developing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression.

So what happens when we sleep that makes it so vital to our day to day functioning?

Well, considering we spend a third of our lives asleep, the reason why we sleep is still somewhat of a mystery in many ways. Some ideas of why we sleep are around restoration and repair, memory consolidation and an opportunity for complex problem solving and creativity. I found this TED Talk on sleep rather interesting as it discusses that sleep is an opportunity for the brain to clear out all of the waste products produced throughout the day.

I think sleep has almost become a bit of a dirty word in modern life. In many ways it's become a competition around who can function on the least sleep, almost like a badge of honour. This is a bit of a warped way of thinking considering how integral sleep is for positive overall wellbeing. 


So what can we do to promote sleep as an integral part of our daily life?


PRIORITISE IT

Phrases like "I'll sleep when I'm dead" are really not that helpful. Yes, we should be making the most of life, but personally I know I can't do that in the way that I want to unless I'm feeling good. And I'll tell you what definitely doesn't make me feel good. Lack of sleep. 

I really feel that if you want to take care of  your health and wellbeing AND live your best life then you need to be making sleep more of a priority. That's doesn't mean that you can't go out and have fun at night, but it's about being conscious of the impact this will have on your sleep, because that will ultimately have some form of impact in the days that follow, particularly if you're someone who consistently doesn't get enough sleep.

This might mean having to be really strict with yourself. You know when you go on those Netflix binges and just have to watch one more episode of Gilmore Girls (I'm pointing the finger at myself here, but I'm sure you can relate), that is the time to intervene. Gilmore Girls will still be there tomorrow, and think of how much more you'll enjoy it if you're feeling well rested, alert and rejuvenated. 


ESTABLISH A ROUTINE

Humans are creatures of habit and our bodies use our regular routines in order to go about every day bodily functions. For example, do you find that you wake up early even on your day off? That's because your body doesn't know it's your day of and it's in the habit of stirring at a particular time in order to start the day. The same goes with night time, if you consistently go to bed at the same time, your body starts to go with this and it causes you to slow down and feel more relaxed and tired around  your usual bedtime.

So how do you go about establishing a positive night time routine? Well the key is consistency. It might feel unnatural and a bit of an effort at first, but the wonderful thing about habits is that they soon become almost like second nature and require minimal effort on your part to go about them.

Your night time routine should include activities that promote good sleep, such as relaxation, spending time in a darker space, putting down Instagram, that kind of thing. Try to make it something that's achievable and allows you to engage in activities that you get some enjoyment out of too.


SWITCH YOUR HABITS

There's been lots of discussion and research around the impact of technology such as phones, tablets and laptops on our ability to drift off to sleep. It's thought that the light emitted by these devices reduces the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep cycle. They also increase alertness, which let's be honest, isn't particularly productive when you want to be switching off.

As much as being on your phone or tablet can be a time filler (I'm hugely guilty of this, particularly at night), are there activities that you could choose to engage in that would be more helpful? For example reading a book (although be careful with eReaders that emit light as these can have similar effects to mobile devices), engaging in a relaxation technique, giving yourself a hand or foot massage, journalling or taking a warm bath or shower.

Another habit to switch might be swapping your evening cup of tea or coffee for a caffeine free alternative. Caffeine affects people differently and I'm sure there are people who can't drink tea or coffee past a certain time, and there are others who could drink an high caffeine energy drink and still sleep (I'm in the latter category personally). But in the interest of promoting good sleep and healthy habits, there's no harm in switching to a caffeine free hot drink as this can then become part of your sleep promoting routine - my favourite is Snore & Peace from Clipper Teas.


CREATE YOUR ENVIRONMENT

Do what you can within the limits of what you're able to control in order to create an environment that's conducive to sleep.  That could be about the physical aspects of your room, like your bed, alongside the sensory aspects of your room, such as lighting, noise and scents. For me, a productive sleep environment is about gentle lighting in the run up to bedtime, soft, cosy bedding, and a comfy mattress.


Emma* very kindly sent me one of their mattresses to try out and I have to say, it's completely changed my sleep environment for the better. The mattress itself  is made up of different layers of materials including cold foam, memory foam, pocket springs and Airgocell® foam, which all layer together to create an adaptable sleeping surface that offers comfort and support. Honestly, it's how I imagine sleeping on a cloud would feel like.

My General Life | Let's talk sleep, why it's important and what you can be doing in order to get the best nights sleep possible...
My General Life | Let's talk sleep, why it's important and what you can be doing in order to get the best nights sleep possible...


Since switching to the Emma mattress I've not once woken up with a sore back (something that happened on a regular basis previously) and although the mattress is soft, I can feel it supporting me in all the right places. The only real downside that I've found is that is that it's harder to get out of bed once I'm in it because I'm so damn comfortable. Coupled with my cosy duvet it makes for one seriously relaxing space to sleep.

The Emma mattress comes vacuum packed in a box that can be unwrapped and on your bed within just a few minutes. It was actually far easier getting my new Emma mattress in the house and on the bed than it was removing my old conventional mattress.

What's even better is that Emma offers you a 100 night trial of your mattress, and if after 100 nights you find that it's not for you, you can send it back free of charge for a full refund. For me, this is the best test too see if the mattress is going to help enhance your sleep environment. Because let's be honest, you can't really get a feel for how a mattress is going to impact your sleep whilst lying on it for 5 minutes in a brightly lit showroom. You need to be able to actually sleep on it, in your own space, surrounded by the other aspects of your bedroom environment in order to see if it's going to make a positive overall difference. 

Let's start a conversation:
I'd love to know of any of your favourite sleep related tips and tricks that help you to ensure you're getting the most out of your sleep. Why not leave them in the comments below or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan

*these products were very kindly sent to me for review and promotional purposes. All thoughts are my own.


Let's talk sleep, why it's important and what you can be doing in order to get the best nights sleep possible...

Monday, 9 October 2017

5 Inspiring Ted Talks for Wellbeing.

Hands up who loves a TED Talk? Here I'm sharing 5 inspiring TED Talks on the topic of wellbeing. Click to read more!

Hands up who loves a good TED Talk? I know I do, I often listen to the podcast versions on my drive to work (although admittedly many are better watched due to their visual components) and I think they're a great opportunity to learn about different thoughts, concepts and points of view. I personally feel that TED Talks can be very inspiring - maybe it's seeing and hearing someone talk with passion and energy about a topic they're clearly very interested in, but for me, I always find myself becoming so engrossed in what they're saying and the importance this holds for them.

Because of this, I thought I would share some of the TED Talks that I have found inspiring in relation to promoting wellbeing.

WANT TO BE HAPPY? BE GRATEFUL - David Steindl-Rast

In this talk, David Steindl-Rast puts forward the idea that happiness is fuelled by being grateful. He talks about grateful living and and how each moment is a gift and an opportunity to be grateful for something.


THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN HAPPINESS - Emily Esfahani Smith

Emily Esfahani Smith talks about searching for meaning and how this can positively contribute to you overall wellbeing and improve your quality of life. She discusses that happiness comes and goes, however meaning is your reason to keep going in both good and bad times.

This talk by Andy Puddicombe discusses the importance of taking time to look after our minds through being in the present moment with the use of mindfulness and meditation. Puddicombe talks about the use of meditation to change our experience of life, to see things from a different perspective, to be in the here and now rather than being lost in our thoughts. He also scores extra for the use of juggling to illustrate his point!


WHY WE ALL NEED TO PRACTICE EMOTIONAL FIRST AID - Guy Winch

This is a really interesting talk on how we should be taking time to prioritise our psychological health just as much as our physical health. Guy Winch encourages us to pay attention to emotional pain and catch unhealthy psychological habits so that we can change them in order build emotional resilience.


HOW TO MAKE STRESS YOUR FRIEND - Kelly McGonigal

Now, I personally found this TED Talk really fascinating as it talks about how reframing the way you think about stress can change it's impact on your overall health and wellbeing. It discusses that how you think and act can transform your experience of stress and that stress can be viewed as being helpful rather than something negative. It's a really interesting discussion as it goes against everything we're taught about stress including the negative outcomes that come with it.

Let's start a conversation:
I'd love to hear of any TED Talks that you personally find inspiring or thought provoking in terms of your own wellbeing and outlook on life. Why not leave any recommendations in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan

Hands up who loves a TED Talk? Here I'm sharing 5 inspiring TED Talks on the topic of wellbeing. Click to read more!



Friday, 6 October 2017

Linking Veganism & Sustainable Living.

Let's talk about how I went from veganism to sustainable living, alongside sharing some thoughts around how you can live a more sustainable life too.


For me, transitioning towards living a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life feels like it's come about very organically following going vegan almost 2 years ago. My switch to veganism was initially very much about the animals. Calling it a moral awakening sounds a bit cliche, but it really was the catalyst for becoming aware of far more than just myself. And I don't mean that to say that I was self-centred or didn't think of others before, because I've always thoughts of others, that being people, probably too much and to my own detriment at times. But I never really considered my impact on the Earth. 

It's like I was in a little human bubble and then I started to consider the lives of animals and how modern society and agriculture uses them and the bubble popped. And when the bubble popped I couldn't wear my blinkers anymore. I couldn't not see the impact that our lives have on the planet. The plastic wrapped everything that will taken hundreds of years to degrade and fills both landfill and the oceans. The mass production of products driven by consumerism and the need for more. The intensive farming of animals that produces almost 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions each year. The poor living and working conditions that others were having to deal with in order for me to have my "nice" things. 

Life would be far easier if I didn't acknowledge all these things. But, you see, now I've become far more aware of them I can't not acknowledge them or my contribution towards them. This has led me to make more conscious choices around my actions - as we're seeing now with veganism and the increased availability of vegan products, your voice counts. And so as demand for less plastic and more sustainable and ethical products increases, the availability of these should increase, making it easier for more people to make more sustainable choices too.

I'm not here to tell you that you should go vegan or zero waste or only buy ethically source products, because I appreciate that isn't feasible for everyone. I also completely appreciated that you have to do what is best for you and for your life. But our planet is for everyone and I believe we all have a moral responsibility to do what we can to preserve it for future generations. To do something that's above and beyond ourselves. Be that through reducing waste, recycling more, stepping away from consumerist or fast fashion purchasing, or even reducing your intake of animal based products one day per week - all of these things will have some impact on the planet, and a small, positive impact is better than no impact at all.

Am I perfect? Hell no. I still produce far more waste than I would like and still struggle against modern day consumerism telling me I need all the things. But I'm making conscious choices everyday and finding more and more ways that I can reduce my footprint. I really aspire towards leaving the planet in a better place than I found it - so for me even teeny, tiny baby steps are progress.

Let's start a conversation:
I'd love to hear your views on sustainable living and how we can be working towards a more environmentally friendly life. Why not leave your thoughts in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan


Let's talk about how I went from veganism to sustainable living, alongside sharing some thoughts around how you can live a more sustainable life too.


Monday, 2 October 2017

Curried Cauliflower & Pepper Soup [VEGAN].

Get ready for October with this autumn inspired curried cauliflower and pepper soup - warm and comforting it makes for the perfect quick dinner for when the nights start drawing in. Plus it's vegan to boot.

Now we've made it to October my Autumn feels are most definitely out in full force. All I want is to wear cosy clothes surrounded by blankets and candles whilst eating cosy food. When I say cosy food, I mean food that feels like a hug for your insides. Anything warming and slightly stodgy will get a big tick of approval from me.

Although saying that, this soup definitely isn't stodgy by itself. Although those three slices of bread that you might eat with it could just tip it that way. What this soup has is an autumnal colour palette with a warming kick of curry that makes for the perfect autumn dish. Best served with crunchy leaves on the ground and a chill in the air if you ask me.

This soup would also be perfect for a Halloween themed dinner a) for the colour - could you get more Halloween? and b) because you can make a spiders web out of plant cream on the top, what more could you want?

This has definitely been my go to, simple dinner over the last few weeks. It's pretty cheap to make, tastes divine (even if I do say so myself) and can be pulled together in no time. I personally like to cook soups in my Instant Pot - which is my most used kitchen gadget. It's versatile as you can use the pot to fry off your veggies first and then pressure cook, meaning your soup is ready in mere minutes. Perfect for a quick, mid-week dinner. Obviously, you can cook the soup without an Instant Pot and I'm sure it would taste just as delicious, it will just take a wee bit longer to cook.

WHAT YOU NEED:

♥ 1 onion
♥ 1 medium cauliflower
♥ 2 peppers (1 yellow & 1 red makes for the perfect autumn colour )
♥ 2 garlic cloves
♥ 1 large potato
♥ 1.5 litres vegetable stock
♥ 2 tbsp curry powder
♥ salt and pepper
♥ optional - plant cream to serve

Get ready for October with this autumn inspired curried cauliflower and pepper soup - warm and comforting it makes for the perfect quick dinner for when the nights start drawing in. Plus it's vegan to boot.


WHAT TO DO:

♥ Peel and chop all the veggies into medium sized chunks.
♥ Fry the onion in either a little oil or water until softened, then add the garlic and peppers and again fry until softened.
♥ Add in the cauliflower and potato and stir well.
♥ Add in the curry powder and stir until it coats the vegetables.
♥ Add the vegetable stock and stir well to combine all the ingredients.
♥ If you're cooking the soup in an Instant Pot then cook on manual for 7 minutes.
♥ If you're cooking the soup on the hob then bring the stock to a gentle simmer, pop on a lid and simmer away for around 15-20 minutes or until all the vegetables are well cooked.
♥ Once cooked blend until smooth and season to taste.
♥ You could stir a dash of plant cream into the soup before serving, or get fancy with a plant cream spiral - you can then use a knife or skewer to drag the cream in lines outwards from the centre, this will create a spiders web look - spooky!

This soup also comes with Obi's seal of approval as one of the first times I made it silly me left it in the Instant Pot with the lid half off - the little toe rag only managed to nudge the lid off and eat the soup out of the pot #bigdogproblems - honestly, nothing is safe!

Get ready for October with this autumn inspired curried cauliflower and pepper soup - warm and comforting it makes for the perfect quick dinner for when the nights start drawing in. Plus it's vegan to boot.


Let's start a conversation:
If you make this soup then I'd love to know what you think! I'd also love to know what your favourite autumnal soup flavour is - drop me a comment below or tweet me @_hellojordan

[This post contains affiliate links. It costs you nothing to click on these links, however, it you are to purchase an item through the links I will earn a small percentage at no extra cost to you]

Sunday, 1 October 2017

30 Days of Self Care - Round Up.

Just a quick recap for the 30 Days of Self Care and general thoughts about the next steps for My General Life!


Well there we have it, we only went and bloody did it folks - 30 days of dedicated self care practice later and here we are. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling rather pleased with myself for sticking with it and seeing it through.

I hope that if you received the emails each day that you found some value in them, and thank you so much to all those that shared their journey's on social media. I found so much joy in reading how you were getting on and knowing that you were in it with me. 

I'd love to build on the 30 Days of Self Care and maybe develop it into something that can be used at any time, not just for the specific 30 days. But we'll see. For now I'm excited to get back to my blog and get some new posts out to you all - something which I know has fallen by the wayside a little whilst I was focusing on 30 Days of Self Care.

Another thing I am also going to do is bring back my newsletter. I'm not too sure how regular this will be as of yet - I'm not sure I can commit to weekly so it maybe fortnightly or monthly. I think it'll be a fun way to share a little bit more of what's goes on in my head and maybe even some behind the scenes snippets too. If you have any thoughts on what you'd like to see in my newsletters please let me know!

Thank you all so much again for joining me over the last month, it's been a pleasure to have you on board and I hope we can continue our self care journeys together for many more months to come! If you've just stumbled across this post and are gutted you've missed out on the 30 Days of Self Care fear not, because I put together a Pinterest friendly graphic for you to use to do your own 30 Days of Self Care whenever you please (hover over the image and click the Pinterest button to pin straight to your favourite board!).

Feel like you need to show yourself a little more compassion? They why not take 30 days for focus in on your self care? Follow my daily prompts and actions and take the time for you - you deserve it!


Let's start a conversation:
What would you like to see more of here at My General Life? Do you want more wellbeing focused posts? Or maybe more posts on sustainability and living a more environmentally friendly life? Or even more regular recipe posts? Please leave any thoughts in the comments below or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Practical Anxiety Management Techniques.

Practical Anxiety Management Techniques - let's talk about some of the things that you might consider trying in order to feel more in control of your anxiety. We talk about what anxiety actually is, how it works and how you can work on reducing the impact it has on your life in order to promote positive health and wellbeing.

Anxiety is something that can easily make you feel completely out of control. It might start off small, but it has a knack of worming it's way into your life and taking up far more space than it should. It also has a habit of spiralling, catastrophising and making you feel generally awful about even the smallest of things. 

We all need anxiety. It's built into our DNA. Anxiety is a safety mechanism, it tells us not to do certain things because it knows that there might be risk involved that could potentially put us in a dangerous situation, for example, walking out in front of a car. But anxiety can also get a little bit too big for it's boots. It can get good at convincing us that there's danger ahead, when really there isn't. Well, certainly not life threatening danger anyway.

So how do you take control back from your anxiety and start feeling more like you're in the driving seat again? Well it can be really tough and don't get me wrong, it's not an overnight job. Anxiety management takes work and commitment on your part. And it may be that your anxiety continues to live with you, but more in a way that serves you, rather than limits you.


First of all, let's take a minute to look at the physiology of anxiety.


When something triggers anxiety your body kicks your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) into action which sets off the fight or flight response. The sympathetic nervous system is generally an all or nothing response, so when it kicks in it really kicks in.  It sets off  the release of adrenaline and other hormones which increase blood flow to your heart and limbs and increases your heart rate, blood pressure and respiration rate. It also increases sweating, reduces saliva production and diverts blood flow away from digestion which can cause that uneasy feeling in your gut.

Because your body is a clever little bean it, of course, has a system in place to counteract the SNS's fight or flight response - the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS aims to restore order and calm. It's always there to stop the fear response, which means the feelings you experience with anxiety will not continue forever. The two systems can't function at the same time and so activating the PNS ceases the fight or flight response from the SNS. The PNS slows down your heart and respiration rate. It also redirects blood flow away from the limbs and back to your internal organs. It basically has the total opposite effect of the SNS.

The experiences happening in the body when the fight or flight response is triggered can often cause an individual experiencing this to become even more anxious and panicked by the sensations. This can then fuel a vicious cycle of fear which keeps the SNS firing and can make you feel really out of control. And so an important aspect of anxiety management is looking at how you can switch on your PNS in order to reduce your anxiety

So what can you do in an attempt to take control back from your anxiety? Here are three practical techniques to get you going.

Practical Anxiety Management Techniques - My General Life

Breathing is an automatic response, something which requires zero conscious effort. But are you breathing in the most effective way?

Many people actually breathe more shallowly into their upper chest without even realising it. The fact that you're breathing this way can actually induce anxiety, as your body can recognise the shallow breaths and likely increased respiration rate that goes with this as mild hyperventilation, something which comes as part of the fight or flight response from the SNS.

Breathing with the proper use of the diaphragm (also known as diaphragmatic or belly breathing) allows more air into the lower part of the lungs, which means that full oxygen exchange can take place. It also induces the PNS to spring into action and take the control back from the SNS. Because remember, only one of these systems can function at any given time. And so, if you can't do anything else, trying to take control of your breath by retraining yourself to use diaphragmatic breathing is one thing you have within your power to aid you in managing anxiety.

The way to start with altering the way you breathe is to practice at times when you're not in a heightened state of anxiety. Place one hand on your tummy and one hand on your chest. As you begin to inhale through your nose, focus on expanding your stomach as if it were a balloon. You should notice that your stomach moves ever so slightly before your breath actually starts, this movement is what creates the space for your lungs to begin their expansion. You shouldn't be feeling any movement in the hand that's on your chest - this breathing technique is for normal, everyday breathing and the aim isn't to consciously breathe deeply - that's more for relaxation which we'll come onto soon.

Aim to practice belly breathing regularly throughout the day. You could set yourself a goal of trying to practice it every hour, or every other hour, just for a minute or two whilst you're going about your day to day activities. Try not to stop what you're doing in order to practice, as the aim is for breathing into your abdominals to become a natural and automatic way of breathing so that you're actively encouraging the PNS to stay in control.

Practical Anxiety Management Techniques - My General Life

This is not a case of someone telling you to "just relax" because that isn't going to fly. But relaxation, when practised regularly, can be a fantastic tool to have in your anxiety management toolbox for maintaining the function of the PNS over the SNS. But the key is in the practice. Because the more you practice, as with most skills, the more effective you will be at implementing the relaxation when you really need at - at times when you're anxious.

We've already talked in detail about the breath and it's ability to set off the PNS. But the breath is also a great tool for supporting relaxation, as it's something that you will always have with you to use as a focus point. If you want to practice some deeper diaphragmatic breathing, you should notice that after your belly has risen, as you continue to take a deeper breath your chest will then rise slightly as your lungs fill up right to the top.

A relaxation technique that can aid in anxiety management is muscular relaxation. This involves tensing and releasing your muscles in order to physically encourage them to relax. You see, when the SNS is activated, your muscles become tense because they're getting prepared to either fight or run away. If your SNS is running the show for a prolonged period, this tense feeling becomes normalised so you're less likely to notice it. And so actively tensing and releasing individual muscle groups can help you physically feel more relaxed alongside reminding you what it's like not to be tense all the time. You can use this method alongside a body scan, which encourages you to pay attention to how your body is feeling and notice areas that are feeling more tense than usual and could use some physical relaxation.

You may also find that visualisation techniques can help you tap into your PNS as you can visualise being in a safe space that allows your body to recognise that that it not longer needs the SNS to be active. I have gathered up a collection of relaxation spaces over on my Pinterest which might provide some inspiration for visualising a safe haven that you can escape to as you relax.

I can't reiterate enough how important it is to practice. Why not set aside 5-10 minutes each day to dedicate to relaxation? Start at a time when you feel reasonably calm in order to make it easier to begin with and allow you to feel more confident in your technique. Try not to judge yourself if there are occasions when you find it more difficult, but be consistent and keep trying. 

You might find that having someone guide you through the process of relaxation is helpful initially. There's lots of relaxation resources available on Youtube, plus many free apps that you can download. I personally enjoy Calm and Stop, Breathe & Think, both of which have many different relaxation techniques that you can explore in order to find what works for you.

As your practice develops, you can start to try out relaxation alongside your breathing techniques at times when you're more anxious, which will allow opportunity for the relaxation to work it's magic on your PNS and provide some positive feedback and reinforcement. 
Practical Anxiety Management Techniques - My General Life

Graded exposure is a process of gradually introducing yourself to anxiety provoking situations, environments or objects in a gradual, more manageable manner that aims to reduce experiences of overwhelming anxiety.

Many people use avoidance or leaving an anxiety provoking situation as a means of managing, as when the SNS fires up it's about fight or flight, so it's natural to want to remove yourself from the perceived danger. But this doesn't help you work through the anxiety and the reasons you might be experiencing it. This means that the next time you're in that situation or environment you will experience just as much anxiety as you did the previous time.

Remember, the PNS ceases the fight or flight response. Although anxiety and the SNS in itself is a safety mechanism, the PNS is an extra safeguard to prevent the SNS from causing harm or wearing out. This means that no matter how awful you feel, your body isn't going to break as a result of the anxious response and your PNS will kick in at some point in order to protect you.

The purpose of graded exposure is to take gradual steps towards the anxiety provoking situation that allows you to experience just enough anxiety and to remain in the situation for long enough for the anxiety to subside, which it will do because your PNS will kick in. Your body cannot maintain high levels of anxiety for prolonged periods, and so in time, your anxiety level will come down on it's own.

Graded exposure is not an easy out, it requires hard work and determination because as part of the process you do have to face your anxiety head on and ride it out. But it works on breaking down the anxiety, retraining the SNS and PNS response to whatever is triggering it and making the process feel far more manageable than just chucking yourself in at the deep end.

These techniques are by no means an exhaustive list. It's important to explore what works for you and remind yourself that everyone is an individual, so what works for one person might not work for another. Most importantly, treat yourself with compassion, always.

Let's start a conversation:
If you experience anxiety, I'd be really interested to hear what your management techniques are? Why not leave a comment below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan?


DISCLAIMER: none of the information in this article is intended to be medical advice and is for information purposes only. It aims to encourage people to take controls of their health and wellbeing and make positive choices around this. If you are struggling, please seek the support of the appropriate professional.

Practical Anxiety Management Techniques - let's talk about some of the things that you might consider trying in order to feel more in control of your anxiety. We talk about what anxiety actually is, how it works and how you can work on reducing the impact it has on your life in order to promote positive health and wellbeing.



Monday, 11 September 2017

Reflection as a Tool for Self Development.

Reflection is a great little tool to help you on your self development journey. In this post I talk a little more about what reflection is, plus the process that comes with it alongside sharing 5 tips to help you utilise reflection more effectively in order to guide your self-development.

Reflection as a tool is something I started using during the very early days of my occupational therapy training. During the process of the degree you’re required to use reflection as a learning process to develop skills and clinical reasoning and to learn from experiences.

Initially I saw it as a necessary evil. I felt like I was, at times, reflecting for the sake of reflecting. And it’s true, I was doing that, particularly in the early days when I would write a reflection on any old thing. At that point, I hadn’t really twigged that the purpose was to reflect on something useful and relevant that would enhance my thinking, learning and benefit my practice. Well that penny did drop eventually, and reflection suddenly became a whole lot more meaningful.

So, what is reflection? Well in an informal sense, it’s something I’m sure we all do on a regular basis. We reflect on our day, reflect on situations and how they might have gone differently, reflect on our behaviour and the behaviour of others. It’s a process of evaluating your experience and learning from it. For me, this kind of reflection is done in my head, or maybe out loud on occasion, but usually in my head.

And then there’s the more formal reflective methods that I would use as part of my professional development. It’s not always written, but it’s usually guided by some form of reflective model and involves drawing in the evidence base in order to ensure that you’re critically analysing your activity against what the evidence reports. There are several reflective models, including Kolb, Gibbs and my personal favourite Borton. The reason I like Borton over the others is because it’s so simple, consisting of just three questions; what, so what and now what.

For me, the simplicity allows for flexibility and honestly, I personally find that far easier when guiding my reflective process than a more complex model like Gibbs. I find that the simplicity also lends itself well to being able to implement reflection whenever I need to, even if it’s just in my own thought processes. But, it’s important to remember that everyone is different and so what works for me might not work for you. I’d recommend, if you’re interested in reflection, that you spend a little time researching the different models out there and considering which one might fit better with your mindset and goals.


So how can reflection help on our self-development journey?


Reflection aids self-awareness. It encourages awareness of our own behaviour and actions, of how we respond and where we’re at in our journey. Self-awareness helps keep you accountable when working towards your goals. It allows you to know where you are, consider where you want or need to be and allows you to start to make positive steps in the right direction. Without self-awareness, you can’t acknowledge where you’re at now and what you feel needs to change. And in order to gain greater self-awareness, you need to reflect.

In the pursuit of self-development, the use of reflection isn’t always going to be pleasant. It might highlight particular circumstances where your actions or attitude didn’t align with where you want them to be. It’s important to be honest with yourself, although that might feel a little uncomfortable, but you have to work through those more negative feelings in a non-judgemental way as part of your journey. The purpose of reflection is to evaluate and then question “now what?”. What will you now do differently in order to ensure that your actions next time align more with your beliefs, values and future goals? And that, ladies and gents, is the start of self-development.

And so, the question is, how do you start to make reflection part of your regular routine?

1. Identify a method of reflection that works for you.

As I mentioned earlier, everyone is different and so in order for reflection to be meaningful it’s important to do a little work around the best method for helping you achieve your goals. Also consider whether you would prefer to reflect in your own head or maybe write it down – go with whatever helps your thought processes the most as ultimately this will be more beneficial when it comes to development.

2. Know your goals.

What is the purpose of your reflection. What are your trying to develop or work towards that would benefit from increased self-awareness and a reflective guide?

3. Set aside time.

Particularly in the beginning. It could be daily, weekly or even monthly depending on your goal and your journey. From experience reflection can easily fall by the wayside if you’re not actively making time for it as part of your regular routine.

4.  Be honest, open and non-judgemental.

If you’re looking to develop and increase self awareness then it’s likely you’re going to get uncomfortable at times. But that’s OK, it’s all part of the process. Allow yourself to be open to change and growth and try your best not to judge yourself. Remember, it’s a journey.

5.  Enjoy the process.

Reflection is all about learning. Through reflection you are growing and inching ever closer to where you want to be. And if that’s not a wonderful thing then I don’t know what is. Like I said, it won’t always be easy, but I’d like to hope that it’ll be worth it in the end.

Let's start a conversation:
Do you intend to bring more reflection into your life? If so I’d love to chat about how you want to go about it – leave your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan

Reflection is a great little tool to help you on your self development journey. In this post I talk a little more about what reflection is, plus the process that comes with it alongside sharing 5 tips to help you utilise reflection more effectively in order to guide your self-development.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Simple Switches to Reduce Waste.

This week (4th-8th September) is zero waste week. Five days that are dedicated to raising awareness of the environmental impact of waste alongside encouraging people to do what they can to reduce the amount of waste that they produce. 

Zero waste is something that I've been interested in for a fair while now, although in all honesty, implementing it is not as easy as I thought it would be. We live in a world wrapped in plastic and the reality I found is that it's hard to avoid. I feel this is a particular issue in mainstream supermarkets where the waste free options can be quite limited - even when it comes to fruit and veg. 

I know that many zero wasters shop at bulk stores where you can buy package free dry goods e.g. grains, oats etc. The unfortunate thing is I don't have anything like this nearby, nor have I managed to find a good greengrocer to buy my fruit and veg from. 

It blows my head that virtually everything you throw in your bin ends up buried in the ground. We only have one Earth and we are literally filling it with rubbish. Alongside this, the oceans are also teaming with plastic. Around 8 million tonnes of plastic is being dumped into our oceans each year, to the point that it's killing off marine life and if you eat fish it's ultimately ending up in your food chain.

The thing is, this culture of throw away, single use plastic is not sustainable. So I'm keen to do what I can to reduce my waste and work towards living more of a zero waste lifestyle. Today I thought I'd share a few simple switches that you can make to your everyday life that will help to reduce the amount of waste you produce and ultimately help you take small steps towards helping the planet.

Today marks the start of zero waste week, and so I thought I'd share some simple switches that you can use to help reduce your waste


DITCH THE PLASTIC BAG

Take your own reusable shopping bags to the supermarket rather than purchasing single use plastic bags. I think the 5p charge placed on plastic bags in the UK has really helped in reducing the number of plastic bags used since it came into effect in October 2015. 

I always aim to take reusable bags with me - I have some stored in my car and I even have a small fold up bag in my handbag for if I just pop to the shop for 1 or 2 items.

I also try to ditch plastic bags for fruit and vegetables where possible. When buying loose veggies I try to weigh them myself and put them into my own reusable bag, rather than the plastic bags provided by supermarkets. 

CHOOSE RECYCLABLE

If you can't ditch the packaging altogether then try to locate items in packaging that is easier to recycle e.g. card and glass. This means that once you're finished with your item you can pop the packaging into your recycling bin, rather than in a bin bag that will end up in the ground. 

I try to recycle as much as a possibly can and that's not just for food items but for other items too. Rather than putting items in the bin, I'll take them to my local recycling centre if I know they'll accept them. I'll also drop unwanted items such as clothes, trinkets and lightly used household items at my local charity shop rather than binning them.

SWITCH SANITARY PRODUCTS

A woman will use on average 11,000 disposable sanitary products throughout her reproductive life. That's a huge amount of waste that could be avoided by the use of reusable sanitary products. No only do sanitary products contribute to waste, but they're also chemically processed and bleached which is honestly not something I want in close contact with my lady bits. 

In the last year I've switched to fully reusable sanitary products in the form of a Mooncup and cloth sanitary pads. Both of these items can be used time and time again and are honestly far more comfortable to wear than traditional sanitary pads and tampons. I simply wash them after use and store them away once my periods finished until the next month. They even take up less space than packs of pads and tampons.

Another item I'm trying to replace with a reusable alternative is cotton wool. I purchased some reusable makeup wipes that are made from fabric off cuts to use in place of this when removing making and cleansing my face. They're so much softer on my skin and I just pop them in the wash in a little laundry bag each week.

CHOOSE REUSABLE

There are many ways you can utilise reusable products in order to reduce waste. Some of the things I  try to do include reusing packaging where I can e.g. jars. I don't by singe use plastic water bottles as I have my trusty 2.2l dual bottle that comes with my most places (although admittedly this is plastic, I guess aluminium would be better). I've switched to an aluminium safety razor with replaceable blades rather than disposable plastic razors (the blades last SO much longer too). I use a bamboo toothbrush that is fully compostable, even the bristles. And finally, I'm currently waiting on a Keepcup too which I intend to take with me when I grab a coffee and ask them to pop it in the Keepcup rather than the non-recyclable cups.

COMPOST

Composting my food waste has definitely helped cut the amount of rubbish I place in the bin. Last year I purchased a compost bin and ever since I've been collecting my food scraps and popping them in, alongside garden waste. As I eat a vegan diet, the majority of food I tend to prepare can be composted, which means there's very little food waste that actually goes in my bin. I know some areas in the UK accept food waste with the bin collections, which unfortunately my local area doesn't do, however, if your area does then make the most of it!

Alongside food you can also compost brown paper, egg cartons, toilet/kitchen roll tubes and pet hair (amongst many, many other things).

Like I said, these are just a few simple switches that require minimal effort and can easily become part of your regular routine. I really encourage you to consider ways you can reduce your waste and reduce your overall footprint on our gorgeous planet. 

Let's start a conversation:
Is there anything you already do to try reduce your waste? Or is there anything above that you're keen to try out? I'd love for you to leave your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan. You can also join the zero waste conversation this week by using #zerowasteweek


[Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. It costs you nothing to click on these links, however, if you are to purchase the item through the link I will earn a small percentage at no extra cost to you.]

Friday, 1 September 2017

Ooey Gooey Vegan Brownies.

There's something about brownies that sends me into a little bit of a frenzy. They're just so chocolately and, well, delicious. They're not something I'd made myself since going vegan, and so a few weeks ago I decided to delve into the realm of vegan friendly brownies. What a delight that's been!
I've tweaked this recipe several times over recent weeks and I'm really pleased with how it's turned out. It's got that deliciously chewy crust with a soft, gooey centre. How have I managed to achieve this I hear you cry? Well, the secret is something you may not expect. Aquafaba.

If you don’t know what aquafaba is, then don’t worry, I didn’t either until a few months ago. Aquafaba is the name for the leftover water from a can of cooked chickpeas or beans. It’s made up of a mix of carbohydrates, proteins and other soluble plant solids which has the ability to foam, whip, thicken and bind and makes for an egg-cellect (Christ, I’m hilarious) egg white substitute.

Aquafaba (aqua meaning water and faba meaning bean) as an egg white replacer was discovered by a French chef in 2014 and, as such, has opened up a whole new, accessible realm of vegan cooking. It can be used to make meringues, macarons and marshmallows amongst other things, but today we’ll be using it to make gooey brownies.

Now, I don’t want to toot my own trumpet. But a work colleague told me that these brownies were the best cake he’d ever eaten. I know, my head is so massive I can’t fit it through the door. But seriously, this is a reasonably easy recipe that will knock the socks of anyone, and they won’t for a second suspect it’s vegan.

A reasonably simple recipe for vegan brownies that a fudgey on the outside and gooey in the middle. Made using a slightly unusual ingredient - aquafaba!


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

♥ 160g plain flour
♥ 50g cocoa powder
♥ 200g caster sugar
♥ 120ml flavourless oil (e.g. rapeseed or vegetable)
♥ 125g dark chocolate (vegan friendly, of course).
♥ 250ml aquafaba (approx 1 cup)
♥ additional 125g melted dark chocolate for the topping (optional)

WHAT TO DO:

♥ Heat the oven to 180°c and line a square cake tin with greaseproof paper.
♥ Place the aquafaba into a large mixing bowl and begin whipping with an electric beater on a medium speed until it starts to bubble up.
♥ At this point gradually add in the sugar (I usually add it in thirds) and continue beating on a medium speed. The aquafaba should start to thicken and change to a white, silky mix.
♥ Continue to beat until the aquafaba forms a medium peaks consistency (a la egg whites). 
♥ Once the aquafaba is mixed, melt the dark chocolate (I just do this in the microwave).
♥ Then sift the flour and cocoa into the aquafaba, alongside the oil and the melted dark chocolate.
♥ Gently fold until the mix is all combined. Once mixed pour into the lined tin and pop in the over for around 20-25 minutes or until a knife/skewer comes out clean (ish - by clean, I mean not wet).
♥ Once cooked allow to cool and add, if using, the melted chocolate to the top (ideally whilst still in the tin).
♥ Chop into squares. Best enjoyed with vegan ice cream and a cuppa.

A reasonably simple recipe for vegan brownies that a fudgey on the outside and gooey in the middle. Made using a slightly unusual ingredient - aquafaba!

Let's start a conversation:
I'd love to know if these are something you'd make? I'm keen to do more experimenting with aquafaba (although I need to find a use for all the chickpeas) so please let me know if there's any recipes you think I need to try. I'd love to hear your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan