Has it ever happened to you to go out for a lovely walk in the woods or the fields, only to realise half way through that a squirrel could jump in front of you and you wouldn’t even notice as you are so deep in your thoughts?
We all do it.
We go over things that have happened in the past or we start thinking ahead to the future.
The result can be overwhelming
With so many thoughts going around your mind, no wonder that you feel tired, stressed and sometimes overwhelmed without really knowing why.
Mental fatigue is real!
What’s the solution?
Cultivating a habit of being present with what you are doing right here, right now is the best way to stop the overwhelm and the whirlwind of thoughts.
Not an easy one!
A good starting point is to pick one daily activity that you can do while being really aware of what you are doing. Such as brushing your teeth, or taking the very first sip of your tea/coffee/hot beverage of choice in the morning.
New video: Be here now
To help you along the way, I have just published on Youtube a 15 minutes video that will help you get out of your head and come back to your body and this present moment.
I went for a walk in the woods with the dogs yesterday afternoon. It had been a while since I had stepped in there. The last few weeks had been far too muddy.
So, there I was walking and looking around, when I noticed that the green leaves of the bluebells had started to come out.
Spring is around the corner. It’s now official!
And it made me think of you – and of me.
Over the winter, no sign of bluebells.
They are underground, chilling (literally!) until it starts to get warm enough to start peeking out.
They have their season.
And it is like that for us.
We have times when we don’t feel energised, when we feel like getting up in the morning is enough of an effort and we don’t really want to do much more with the rest of the day. The cold and dark mornings of winter really don’t help either.
But that’s ok.
For a lot of us, as the days start to get longer and sunnier, our energy levels start to rise.
We feel happier, more awake and more in the mood to actually do things.
So, don’t beat yourself up if (or should I say when) you go through a phase of feeling tired and not wanting to do anything.
You are resting.
Like the bluebells in winter, you can’t be expected to be at the top of your form constantly.
Our society is very much into doing-doing-doing but just because others are doing it, doesn’t mean you have to!
If you want to rest, rest.
If you feel tired, rest.
And don’t go calling yourself lazy, or anything like that.
You are not.
You are just nourishing yourself, replenishing your batteries before moving on naturally to doing other things.
What can you do if you don’t sleep particularly well?
The reason I’m talking about this is because so many of my clients after a class comment on how well they’re going to sleep that particular night. Which implies that other nights, the sleep isn’t quite as restful or quite as nice as after a yoga class.
And I remembered that before I first started doing any yoga, I went through a phase where I was not sleeping well at all. And that’s how I got started with yoga, basically.
It was just after Lara, my oldest daughter was born. I went through a phase of, despite being really tired, because I just had a newborn baby, and you know, juggling all of that. I just couldn’t sleep, I would lay awake at night. And you know, just turn and turn and turn. I wouldn’t manage to sleep. And it got to a point where I was busy during the day, I was tired in the evening. But when it came to bedtime and I had to go to sleep, it actually made me tense, because I just knew I was not going to sleep properly. And obviously, being tense about not being able to sleep just makes everything worse. So I just couldn’t asleep. So much so that I went to the GP hoping that she would prescribe a nice little pill and, you know, a nice and easy solution to help me sleep better. And that was that. When I got there, we had a chat.
My GP suggested I try yoga
Rather than just giving me the little pill, she asked me if I’d ever tried yoga, which I hadn’t. And she suggested that I try and find a yoga class. So I did, I found a yoga class. And I think the following Friday or so, off I went to my first yoga class. It was a mummy and baby postnatal yoga class. And I have to say that that was amazing. It was bordering on miraculous how well I slept that particular night. I still remember because I hadn’t been sleeping for ages. And then suddenly that night, I really slept.
And now when I hear my clients saying how, after a yoga class, they sleep so well. I thought, well, what can we do? What can we all do on a day to day basis so that we sleep properly.
Not sleeping is a kind of torture
You know what it’s like when you don’t sleep well. You don’t sleep and so you’re tired the following day. And when you’re tired, you feel uncomfortable physically. You feel colder, you can feel hungrier because you haven’t got as much energy since you haven’t slept well. So you feel the need to compensate by wrapping up warmer, or eating more. And you can feel a bit achy, because you’ve been tossing and turning, so your muscles are tense. Emotionally, you’re tired. So you’ve got a lot less patience, your fuse is a lot shorter, because you haven’t recuperated from the day before. So sleeping properly is really, really crucial to feel good. Just ask any mother of a young baby, not being able to sleep well is bordering on torture. And it actually used to be a torture method. People would stop inmates in certain prisons from sleeping and would keep them awake for days and days and days. And that was a torture method. Sleep is that important that if you take it away from somebody, you are torturing that person.
Try these 3 things:
Well, there are three things that I do every single day. And that helps me sleep peacefully every night. I’ve taught those techniques to some of my clients, and they’ve commented as well that they’ve been sleeping so well.
The first thing that you can do is move at some point during the day. A lot of us have got very sedentary lifestyles where we’re at home, we drive to work, we drive back home or if we work at home, we’re on a chair in front of a computer. If we don’t get out of our way to move, we can go a whole doing without doing any form of exercise. In order to sleep, your body needs to be tired, physically tired, not just mentally. So every day, try and find a time to move, it could be a 10 minute walk in the morning before going to work, it could be a nice walk after work, or going for a walk at lunchtime, especially when the mornings are dark, the afternoons and evenings are dark, going out at lunchtime is a great idea. If you’re finding it too cold outside, you can find a video on YouTube, do something at home, maybe use some weights.
Second thing you can do is establish some kind of a routine in the evening. For example, my routine is I go upstairs, I get ready for bed, I get into bed, and I’ve got my Kindle. Regardless of what time it is, I’m going to read a little bit, I’m going to put my Kindle down, I’m going to list in my head the three things I feel grateful for during that have happened during the day. I’ll get to that later. And then I switch off the light, and I go to sleep. So that’s my routine. And that works for me.
Having a routine will help your body and your mind to start to unwind. You know, it’s a bit like very, very young children. When you want young children to start sleeping, you establish a routine where they have their dinner, they have their bath, and then maybe a bedtime story. And then it’s time to for bed. And by keeping to those four elements, pretty much all the time, children get into a routine where they know that after dinner comes bath after bath come story after story come sleep. It’s the same for us. If we change our habits every single day, by the time we get to bed, we’re all alert because stuff has happened that wasn’t expected. Whereas if every day, you’ve got the same unwinding/getting to bed routine, you’re going to prepare your mind to switch off a little bit.
So find a routine that, day in day out, you can pretty much stick to regardless of how you’ve been doing today, regardless of how late you go to sleep at night.
Now the third thing you can do, and I mentioned when I was talking about the routine is gratitude. Because a lot of us spend our days solving problems. You can be problem solving at work, you can be problem solving in your family. So we spend your days finding things that need attending to, that need to be fixed in some way or improved on in some way. And that can colour your mind with a negative point of view. You can start looking at everything as needing fixing or needing working out in some way. We also all have we is called a negative bias, by which we remember the negative stuff a lot more than we remember the positive. It’s an evolutionary thing and kept us alive, but isn’t that helpful nowadays.
One of the most common reasons for people not sleeping well is because as they start trying to go to sleep, they start replaying their day in their mind. And they start thinking things like: I should have done that. Why did he do that? Why did that happened? And all of those why, why why that haven’t got any answers keep you awake. There is a place to review the day in a positive way and build on it. But there is also a place for gratitude.
And that’s what I do every night. I take the time to list three things that either have happened or that I’ve come across during the day and that I am grateful for. And it can be anything. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be flashy. Just three things that you’ve come across during the day, and that you feel, yeah, I’m glad that is in my life.
That is going to shift your state of mind to be much more positive. There will be a lot less worries because you can’t be grateful and worry at the same time. So if you focus on gratitude, you’re less likely to worry. So if you want, you can write those down those three things. Personally, I just list them in my head. And that’s it. But if you like journaling, you can have your journal by your bed, and you can write down those three things. That’s up to you what works.
So these are the three things that you can do every day:
Do some movement, every single day.
Create yourself a bedtime routine of some sort, that you stick to pretty much every day. And at some point in your routine,
Invite that habit of gratitude, and of looking back at your day with in mind to find three things that you feel grateful for.
There are other things that you can do.
Like for example, if you are the type to like and review your day, you can do that. But from a positive point of view. I’ve got a meditation for that, which is called the review the day meditation. It guides you as you review your whole day from morning to night, in a very specific way, that’s a lot more positive than just going oh, this this, this and this didn’t quite go well. And why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that. So that’s a really good tool. And for those days, when you really cannot sleep, what you can do is listen to a sleep meditation. A meditation that doesn’t wake you up at the end and that you can use to drift off to sleep. And that’s something I’ve got recorded as well. Those are two things that I do when really I’ve had a tough day and I’ve got too much in my head. Those two tools, reviewing the day and the sleep relaxation never fail to work for me.
I’ve also just created the Stress Less, Sleep Better course, on sleeping well. Because obviously, the more stressed you are, the less likely you are to sleep well. And in this course, you’ve got more tips on how to sleep well. You also get access to a seated yoga sequence that you can do in bed, the review of the day meditation and a sleep meditation that you can just listen to.
And you also get access to the waves of peace relaxation that you can do in bed before going to sleep. Finally, you’ve got a checklist that can help you establish a routine. It lists what you can do morning and evening to prepare your night’s sleep. And those elements, either put together or used individually, are going to make such a difference in the quality of your sleep, in the number of hours that you sleep and in how you feel the following morning. No more dragging yourself out of bed. You’ll be able to wake up feeling refreshed, feeling rested, feeling relaxed to start the whole new day again.
I remember a time in my life when I didn’t use to sleep very well at all.
I was particularly stressed and getting to sleep at night was a nightmare. I got to the point where I was fearing night time because I just knew I wouldn’t sleep. Obviously, that didn’t help!
I ended up going to the GP hoping for a quick and easy little pill that would just make it all better – but no. She suggested that I try yoga instead!
I was surprised. I knew that yoga was good to help you relax but between that and helping me going to sleep, I wasn’t quite convinced.
But I’m a good girl! And I tend to follow advise from people who usually know better than me!
So off I went to my first yoga class – and I slept like a baby that night!
So here I was, yoga can actually help you sleep better if you are finding it difficult.
So what can you do?
Do some yoga in the evening: we all store stress in our body during the day (even if we are not really aware of it), and that stress will stop you from being relaxed enough to sleep. So doing some yoga in the evening will help you release the stress, and help you sleep.
Stay away from blue light for at least 30 minutes before going to bed: the blue light produced by computer screens, phones and tablets stops the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. So if you are looking at your phone just before going to sleep, you might be making your sleepless nights worse.
Try Yoga Nidra: Yoga Nidra, also called yogic sleep, is a practice that relaxes your body and your mind. It helps you release tension at a very deep level and will leave you in the perfect relaxed state you need to sleep soundly.
My NEW Stress Less, Sleep Better course is full of tips to sleep well, as well specific yoga, meditation and relaxations to help you sleep well and wake up feeling rested and refreshed. You can find more info HERE.
I want to talk to you about the news and the impact of the news on your wellbeing and your happiness level.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with that, because how many people feel upbeat and happy after watching the news? Not many I should think. Actually quite the opposite. I know that from personal experience, and from talking to some of my clients, watching the news can be extremely anxiety and stress provoking. There is the cost of living crisis, the latest changes in the government, the war in Ukraine. And those are just the big ones. Those are just the big, big titles, and then you’ve got the smaller, horrible things that happened. And that gets to you. And then it gets to me.
I remember when COVID first started, you know, when COVID wasn’t completely in England, yet, before the first lockdown, the news were full of that airborne virus that was contaminating millions of people, killing 1000s of people first in China, then in Italy. Then in France, it came to the UK. And I used to have health anxiety. So you can imagine that an airborne virus that kills undiscriminately 1000s of people hit all the right buttons to get my stress level right up there. And it got to a point where I was in tears before the first lockdown. I just could not think, I was so scared. Because that’s all I could hear. That’s what the news were talking about. And I got into that weird thing of almost being addicted to watching the news. The news were full of COVID. Just hearing about it would make me stressed and anxious. And yet, I kept on watching the news again and again. And again.
Until a Saturday morning. I woke up and I was talking to my husband. I was so scared that I was in tears. He basically told me to pull myself together, which was a very good reminder that I can help myself. I’m a yoga teacher. I know yoga, I teach yoga, I can help myself. Why didn’t I think about that earlier? That goes to show that sometimes you have all of the techniques. And yet, you don’t use any of them. You need a reminder to remember that you can do something.
So off I went and I did some yoga. I did the earth sequence, which some of you know, and which is the stress buster number one. I did some mindfulness practice, I remember doing finger breathing and another mindfulness practice, which was to pick up the first thing in front of you and look at it. I remember it was a pencil. I picked it up and really looked at it. I noticed the colour, the texture and all the rest of it. None of those techniques take a long time. And they got me out of my anxiety and fear. Enough to realise that: “Hold that thought. You’re not helping yourself here. By watching the news constantly, that keep triggering all of the things that you know, are going to trigger you. What on earth are you doing? Help yourself a bit here?”
So at the moment, in the news, i there are different trigger points. Financial security, how much will the mortgage be, the inflation going up. It’s not great. Some of you must be feeling exactly how I felt that Saturday morning and going, oh my god, this is ridiculous. I can’t take this anymore. What do I do?
Because you can’t change any of that. That’s the situation in the world, in the economy in the country. You can’t change that. The only thing you can change is the way you deal with it. And I can help you in the same way I could help myself, and you can help yourself as well. You actually can help yourself to not feel so scared and so stressed because those are perfectly normal feelings, but they’re not nice. And when they start impacting you to the point where you end up like I was on that Saturday morning, where I was frozen, sitting in bed crying… You’re better than that, you can be stronger than that, right?
So the first thing you can do is obvious. And yet, it’s not always easy. Don’t watch so much news. At the time, before I took a hold of myself, I would have the radio on in the morning, I was constantly checking the Guardian website on my phone and when my husband came back from work he switched on the news. So whatever you’re doing now, if you feel that it’s too much, start to take it down. Obviously, you want to still be aware of what’s going on in the world. So keep it to one source of information: morning news, evening news, checking the newspaper, maybe in the morning and in the evening. We’ve got plenty of choice these days. So regulate the amount of time you watch the news.
The second thing you can do, is to do some yoga. For those of you who know it, the earth sequence is just amazing. It is the stress buster number one. There is a video on my YouTube channel for it. It’s such a great sequence if you feel stressed. The earth sequence is great, but any yoga will help. Because when you are scared and stressed, all of the stress in your mind translates into tension in your body. You’ve probably felt that, haven’t you? You’re worried about or you’re tense about something at work, and automatically, there’s tension in your shoulders, tension in your arms, tension in your lower back. Or you have an argument with somebody and when you step out of that argument, you realise that your shoulders are up towards your ears and that your stomach is clenched. So whenever you’re stressed, you can be sure that there is tension in your body. So do some yoga to release that tension. You can just do some twisting, either standing or sitting. You can do some side bends, which are really good as well. You can do some shoulder movements. Or you can do more of what you know. Classical postures, like the cat, are nice easy ones. Most people know the cat, where you are usually on all four, and you move the back fluidly from the base of the spine up into the neck, rounding the back like a cat and then stretching it the other way. You can also do it sitting. You can do it standing with your hands on your knees. Any yoga that you know will help you.
So first of all don’t watch so much news, then do some yoga, and finally the third thing you can do is: relaxation. As I said, when you feel stressed and anxious not only do you build tension in your mind, you build tension in your body. And it can impact the way you sleep. Either because you can’t sleep or because your sleep is agitated and not restful. Basically, you feel tired. And the problem when we start feeling tired is that we are more susceptible to stress. We are more prone to being triggered, to being anxious. So it’s a perfect storm: you feel stressed, you don’t sleep well, you get more tired, and because you’re more tired, you get stressed more easily, which will impact your sleep even more and so on and so forth. You see where this is going. So if you find that your stress level is affecting your sleep, it’s really important to do something because if you don’t sleep well and you’re tired, then you could get even more stressed and even more tense, which will have more of a detrimental effect on your sleep. And it gets worse and worse. So you really want to do something about that. And doing guided relaxation is brilliant for that. When you do a guided relaxation, you release the stress at very, very deep levels. First you release the stress from your physical body.And then you start to relax your mind, you relax your breath, you relax your whole being when you do a relaxation. A 20 minute relaxation is equivalent to two to three hours of sleep. It’s that powerful. So, find a 20 minutes guided relaxation, and do it. There are a few of those relaxation on my Happy Body, Happy Mind membership.
If you decide to sign up to the membership, you have immediate access to three or fours that are already there. And there are more coming up because more videos get added to the membership every month.
So those are my three tips to if you find that the news are really getting to you, and are impacting you negatively:
First of all, regulate the amount of news that you take in, if you know it’s getting to you. You don’t need to know all about it. You need to be kept updated of what’s going on in the world, obviously. So find one source of information that’s not too stressful, something that just gives you the facts. And look at that once a day, maybe twice, if you like.
Second one, do some yoga. As I said, those of you who are already yogis and yoginis, use it, do some yoga to release the tension from your body and from your mind.
Number three, relaxation. Relaxation is really going to help you to take that stress out of your system at a very, very deep level.
So to sum up, watching the news can be negative to your wellbeing and increase your stress level, but you can do something about it, as we’ve just discovered.
If you’d like more tips, and more ongoing support, then head over to the membership you can join here. It’s £25/month. You get access to a library of classes that are accessible to all abilities. They are short, the longest one is about 20 minutes. So they’re very easy to fit in into your day. You’ve got relaxation, you’ve got classes to energise and you’ve got classes to relax. And on top of all of that recorded material that gets added to every month, you also have every month a live yoga class and a live meditation class. So as soon as you sign up, you get access to all of that. So it will be great to have you over there. If you feel that you could use that ongoing support.
I remember when I was 18. I went to the GP for recurring headaches. After listening to me explaining the headaches, he asked me how I was feeling apart from the headaches. And out of nowhere, I started crying.
A whole lot of things came out, from worries about what I was going to do after uni, to worrying about death. It turned out that even though I had only noticed the headaches, I had been experiencing low-level anxiety for quite some time and it had materialised as recurring headaches.
So in one swift move, I learnt that anxiety is not just the obvious stomach wrenching fear or the panic attack. It can be a lot more subtle and you can actually do something about it before it gets to the headaches and the flood of tears when somebody asks you how you are doing.
There are several things you can do when you think that you can be experiencing that low-level anxiety that is pretty constant:
One of the first things you can do is do something every day that you enjoy, that makes you feel good. It is a little bit like putting your oxygen mask on first. As a woman, you are probably giving a lot of your time, attention and energy to the people who matter to you but you might not be refilling your own tank as it were. This will cause tiredness, stress, overwhelm and anxiety
Another thing you can do is to move. Your body is supposed to move and when you move, be it walking, running, gardening, doing yoga, you release stress simply through the movements. If you do it for long enough, you are also helping the release of the happy hormone endorphin, and you are spending time doing something that you enjoy. So movement every day will keep low level anxiety at bay.
Watch your breathing. The breath is the key to your mental wellbeing. If you breathe calmly and deeply, you are going to be calm and serene. On the other hand, if you breathe in a fast and shallow way, or if you hold your breath (as we often do when we are stressed or anxious), we are creating a perfect storm in which the shallow rapid breath causes your body and mind to get more and more stress. So, learning relaxing breathing techniques is a great way to control your anxiety and stop it taking over.
If you practise these 3 things, you will start to feel calmer and less anxious. I can promise you that.
But I’ve got a lot more techniques, which includes specific breathing techniques that I’ve used for calming anxiety, as well as mini yoga classes that you can do in just 5 minutes to help your body move and release tension on my membership.
Low-level anxiety is very subtle but can mount up to something that has a direct impact on your physical health and on your mental wellbeing.
You can easily keep on top of your anxiety by making some changes in your life such as doing something for you every day, including movements in your routine and watching the way you breathe, aiming at slow, long breath.
As I was growing up in Belgium, I got into the habit of starting a lot of my sentences with “Moi, je….”, which literally translates to “Me, I…”.
My mother used to pick up on it pretty much every time and reminded me that I shouldn’t be starting my sentences with Me and I one after the other, as it was making me sound far too self-centered.
With hindsight, I think she was mostly trying to correct my grammar, but it instilled me with the idea that I shouldn’t be putting myself first.
The consequences of not putting yourself first
And I grow up to become an adult that would put everybody’s needs ahead of herself. And that usually included the dog and the hamster as well as my husband, friends, work, household chores etc etc.
Result: I became tired (no surprise), overwhelmed (again, no surprise there) but also resentful of the people I loved.
I would resent my husband for going out with his friends when I was so busy doing things that I could have either turned down or chosen to do later.
I would pride myself on being “always busy” and I would look down on others who took it easy (in my eyes at the time: they were slacking off!).
And the price at the end of the tiredness, the overwhelm and the resentment was a diagnosis of anxiety and a constant reminder from GPs and counsellors to take time for me.
Reminder that I never listened to, obviously!
Does that sound familiar?
It was developing a yoga practice that changed things for me.
Yoga taught me the importance of taking time for me.
It also taught me to relax. A word that wasn’t part of my vocabulary before.
By putting myself first every day by doing some yoga, enjoying a relaxation or simply curling up with a book, I am a much nicer person to be around.
No more resentment.
No more anger.
And a lot less stress.
So take time every day, just for you. You deserve it!
How do you put yourself first?
If you are anything like me a few years ago, the very idea of putting yourself first might be so foreign that you have no idea where to start.
So here are some suggestions
Do at least 1 thing that you enjoy every day
Switch off your phone so that you are not tempted to answer emails etc after a specific time of the evening
Say NO more often (it might sound scary but people will only respect you more for it)
Every month, plan at least one outing that is purely for you
Do a daily guided relaxation. You can find a recording here.
Take a luxurious scented bath
Go to bed earlier than usual and read in bed before going to sleep
These are just some ideas. Let your imagination run wild with suggestions of things that you could do that would be really fun and enjoyable, even if not practical and useful. Especially if not practical and useful!