“Let me sleep and dream of sheep”

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On any given evening I don’t know what the night holds for me. Will I fall and stay asleep or will I be thumb twiddling at four a.m?

I have struggled with bouts of insomnia and poor sleep most of my adult life and having tried various things I now have a routine that seems to be helping and although my sleep isn’t perfect, it is much better than it has been. Whether you are a serial insomniac like me or just suffer occasionally here are a few of my tips for a restful night :

  1. Bookend your day with exercise: I start the day with a walk in my local area or spend some time on the cross trainer followed by an invigorating flow yoga practice. At the opposite end of the day I like to do a short Yin Yoga practice to help me wind down for the day. I, like most of the world subscribe to Yoga with Adriene on Youtube and have found it to be an amazing resource. I have linked my favourite sequences down below.
  2. I love coffee and historically was second only to the fictional Lorelei Gilmore in my consumption of it. These days however I limit myself to 2 cups per day, both of which are consumed before 11 am.
  3. Research has shown that magnesium is important for aiding with restful sleep. I prefer to boost mine by eating lots of lovely magnesium rich foods throughout like Kale, spinach, buckwheat, quinoa, avocados, almonds, cashews, chia and pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate. Legumes (lentils, chickpeas and beans) are also a rich source but I have to be more careful with these as they are high FODMAP and really don’t agree with my tum. Bananas are also an excellent source and are my supper of choice.
  4. Post my evening yoga practice I don’t have any interaction with screens – phone, T.V or laptop. This is my official wind down that lets my brain know that I am preparing for sleep. In this time I take apply a lavender body oil. Sometimes this will be homemade blend of fractionated coconut oil, a few drops of lavender and either a drop of patchouli or frankincense or a ready made product like the bath and shower drops from The Scent to sleep range by Neom Organics. Once the oil is applied I jump into the shower where the heat and steam helps to release the essential oils that aid a restful night. I then do all the usual skincare ablutions and brush my teeth.
  5. I jump in to my Pjs (I find natural fibres are better for sleep) and make a warm. I know many people swear by a milky drink at bedtime but they just don’t do it for me and I prefer a herbal tea. I’m currently drinking one from Neals Yard Remedies that has the herbs chamomile, lavender and valerian in it. I do really like it but I also love the super affordable chamomile tea from Aldi and the Pukka Night Time Tea. Valerian, chamomile and lavender are know soporifics and through personal experience can vouch that I sleep better when I have had a tea with them in. I have also read some great research regarding the benefits of lemon balm for aiding sleep, however I haven’t tried it because it interferes with my thyroid medication.
  6. I pop some lavender essential oil into my diffuser and climb into bed between 9- 10 pm. I like to read for a short spell while I drink my tea. I tend to read fantasy fiction in the evenings because A. it is my favourite genre and B. I have found that it is more restful than other genres; for example If I read non-fiction books my brain tends to whirl all night.
  7. The last jobs of the night are to turn off my diffuser and  to spritz my pillow with a sleep spray. I’m currently using the Deep Sleep Pillow Spray from This works; it was a thoughtful gift from my sister, Victoria and I love it. I do sleep noticeably better and I think that’s because it contains a blend of yummy essential oils rather than just lavender.

If you struggling with sleep – which given the current anxiety surrounding the Covid -19 pandemic isn’t surprising – then just implementing some of this routine might help you too.

I’m aware that I have mentioned a number of proprietary products in this blog and want to reassure you that I am in no way affiliated with any of the companies mentioned. These are the products that I have found genuinely help me and I have supplied links to either good offers and reliable suppliers

Love and light

Stella

Image by Vladislav Muslakov

Yoga with Adriene:
https://youtu.be/RQyX48NtDrQ

Fractionated coconut oil https://mothernaturesgoodies.co.uk/fractionated-coconut-oil-pure-natural-authentic-base-carrier-aromatherapy/

Lavender Oil https://www.nealsyardremedies.com/aromatherapy/aromatherapy-oils-and-blends/essential-oils/2182.html

Patchouli Oil https://www.nealsyardremedies.com/aromatherapy/aromatherapy-oils-and-blends/essential-oils/2135.html

Frankincense Oil https://www.nealsyardremedies.com/aromatherapy/aromatherapy-oils-and-blends/essential-oils/2237.html

Neom Organics https://www.neomorganics.com/products/perfect-nights-sleep-bath-oil

Pukka Tea https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/pukka-night-time-tea-60097652?skuid=097652&brandId=344

Neals Yard Remedies Herbal Tea https://www.nealsyardremedies.com/wellbeing/herbal-remedies/herbal-teas/8360.html

Pillow Spray https://www.thisworks.com/sleep/sleep-category/pillow-sprays/deep-sleep-pillow-spray-1145.html

 

The Holistic Glow-Up Part 4: Manifest

Today as a part of our Holistic Glow-Up i’m going to invite you to create a vision board. This may be a familiar practise for those already conversant with “The Secret” and the Law of attraction. For those new to this idea I here cite the philosopher and author, Bob Proctor: “The Secret gives you anything you want: happiness, health and wealth.” The premise is that whatever you want should be asked for in the affirmative “I want abundant health” because when you ask in the negative “I don’t want to be ill” the universe doesn’t hear the ‘don’t’ and proliferates the poor health.

Even if you are a sceptic and don’t believe in the law of attraction there is scientific evidence demonstrating that those who create vision boards tend to be successful at fulfilling there dreams and ambitions by the virtue of being confronted by their board regularly; ergo receiving a daily reminder of what they are striving for. The reminder motivates.

The things you will need for this project are: a piece of paper – the size is up to you-, scissors, images and quotes that really resonate and inspire you, glue, paper (to write quotes and the purpose of your board on) and pens.

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I like the idea that if I put something out there into the universe in a positive way, the thing I need will come to me. Personally I have no interest in using the law of attraction to gather material things to myself but many people do and seemingly with great success. The theme of your board therefore, is entirely up to you. The images you choose may relate to the home and lifestyle you would like, to finding the perfect partner or success at work……you get the drift.

Once you have all the materials for the board have a play about with the images and find an arrangement that is pleasing and inspiring and start cutting and gluing. Be sure to include something handwritten, whether that be a quote, an affirmation or a positive statement outlining the purpose of the board i.e I feel happy and have abundant health. I feel that something handwritten in addition to any printed quotes you may have is a direct statement of intent, it is an active act.

Below is a quick hyperlapse video of the process I used for my health and well being board. When you board is complete place it where you will see it daily and take time to look and reaffirm what you wish to receive.

I know there will be those who think “what is she on about, has she gone mad?” Perhaps I have, but I leave you with the wisdom of Kate Bush commenting in her song ‘Strange Phenomena’ on the occurrence of deja vu, synchronicity and by extension the law of attraction. A great many of us will have experienced the events she describes and who is to say how these events come about: coincidence? Manifestation? Well; that’s entirely up to you.

 
Strange Phenomena

Soon it will be the phase of the moon
When people tune in.
Every girl knows about the punctual blues
But who’s to know the power behind our moves?

A day of coincidence with the radio
And a word that won’t go away.
We know what they’re all going to say.
“G” arrives–“Funny, had a feeling he was on his way!”

We raise our hats to the strange phenomena.
Soul-birds of a feather flock together.
We raise our hats to the hand a-moulding us.
Sure ’nuff, he has the answer
He has the answer
He has the answer, be-duh-be-duh-be-duh-be-duh…
“Om mani padme
Om mani padme
Om mani padme hum.”

You pick up a paper. You read a name.
You go out. It turns up again and again.
You bump into a friend you haven’t seen for a long time
Then into another you only thought about last night.

You hear your sister calling for you
But you don’t know where from.
You know there’s something wrong
But you don’t want to believe in a premonition.

We raise our hats to the strange phenomena.
Soul-birds of a feather flock together.
We raise our hats to the hand a-moulding us.
Sure ’nuff, he has the answer
He has the answer
He has the answer, be-duh-be-duh-be-duh-be-duh…
“Om mani padme
Om mani padme
Om mani padme hum.”

The Holistic Glow-Up Part 3: Tending your Garden

Holistic Glow-Up Part 3 – Tending Your Garden.

We started the holistic glow up process by looking within ourselves, finding our passions and truths and then showing gratitude for all those blessings. It is now time to look without. It is time to be selfless and guide our energy into making a difference. It doesn’t matter how small the gesture may seem; we all know the truism “mighty oaks from little acorns grow” and sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.

_MG_4644We are all moved by different things, some of them may be concerns for friends, family and neighbours who are having to self-isolate at the moment due to their age or health conditions. They may be vulnerable, frightened and feel alone with worries both practical and emotional. A small gift would make a huge difference to that person’s health and wellbeing, the gift of time – something some of us have an abundance of right now, through our own isolation.

There are safe and powerful ways you can help lift that gloom, a chat across the street or on the phone, picking up groceries, helping with minor tasks. Making a difference doesn’t have to be a macro deal. Micro is good too.

Many of us are living in a lockdown bubble which has, in the main resulted in greater kindness and compassion towards people. I do hear neighbours shout across hedges to one another, offer to pick up shopping; and all those good things I mentioned earlier are easy, and come about easily enough.

Every week a large number of us stand at our windows and doors to clap and show support for our hardworking NHS staff, and YES it is a beautiful way to show appreciation for all those hard working people, and gives us a sense of community, and shared appreciation. It makes us feel good too. But it shouldn’t end there. It is as important to be aware of their needs, the challenges they and other key workers face right now, and – most importantly – are they being met. Just as you would ask a neighbour how they’re doing and what they might need.

Bringing about positive change is easy, just like shouting ‘hello’ over the fence. Once you understand the issues, the concerns, you can take to social media to raise their profile, sign and share a petition, write to your MP. Every small action grows into a bigger one. Our healthcare and other key workers need our appreciation more than ever, they also need our informed support.

Tending your garden, metaphorically speaking is about giving your energy and care to something outside of yourself so that it can flourish. It is about freely giving care and energy to wider societal and environmental issues at a local and global level. Take a positive stance and be proactive, help the vulnerable in your area, support the work of charities by getting involved or donating, fight animal cruelty, buy sustainable and organic – there are so many ways to make a difference. I believe all of us doing the small things, adding our voice to a chorus is more effective than a few going all out. Tending your garden is a life long pursuit that should continue long after the current crisis is resolved. Give of yourself in a sustained act of care, attention and devotion to the world beyond you.

Above all, be kind.

The Holistic Glow Up – “This above all: to thine own self be true”

Re-connect and Ignite

“This above all: to thine own self be true”

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Many of us have more time on our hands during this period of lock down in the UK and may be feeling stressed, anxious and frankly, a little lost. As the frenzy of modern life is halted we may feel the pull to embrace interests and passions long cast aside, and to reconnect with our true selves. With many external distractions stripped away you might feel like you’re raising your head from the slumber of homogeneity and wondering “how the hell did I get here?” Never has there been a better time to take time to reflect on and sit quietly with oneself as now.

In this first day of our holistic glow up, I invite you to take this journey of self re-discovery, to meditate, reflect and implement changes that will, when this current craziness is over, re-ignite the essence that is uniquely you, and you alone.

Find yourself an empty notebook that you can dedicate to your journey, it doesn’t have to be fancy it’s what you place in it that matters. On the very first page write something that you have read that has resonated with your soul. It could be a poem, a line from a novel or film, a mantra or words of wisdom passed to you from a loved one. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it touches you.
If you are a visual person you could if you wish select an image instead, this could be a painting, a place or photograph that reminds you of a time when you felt most connected to yourself. Equally, there’s nothing to stop you adding both written word and imagery. In fact I encourage to make this journal incredibly personal throughout.

When you have a quiet moment to yourself I invite you to recall:

1. What were you passionate about at in your late teens and early 20s?
2. What was it about that thing that put fire in your belly
3. Does it still resonate with you now or do you feel it was a childish fancy that you simply outgrew.
4. What are you passionate about now? Is it related -even tangentially- to the passion of your younger days, if ‘yes’ think about how, and if no ‘think about how they differ, are they indicative of growth, stagnation or apathy?

Find a quiet place and meditate on these questions, remember what it feels like to be ignited and driven by a passion. Tap into the concomitant emotions and then just sit with them for a while. Take a few minutes at the end of your practice to note down in your journal the answers. Remember, this is your journal you can keep your answers as long or as short as you like.

We can, I acknowledge have been a bit idealistic and fanciful in our younger days, but you can’t deny how great that vigour and passion was. We felt like we could change the world…….. and so you can now in your own way.

I’d like to close today’s post with the wonderful and very poignant words of Walt Whitman:

The untold want life and land ne’er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

 

Image Credit: Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Wellness and the road to equilibrium

I haven’t been great at blogging over the last couple of years, with the number of times I post dwindling to about once or twice a year.  I assumed it was due to waning interest and a lack of things to say on my part, but it transpires that my apathy was medical and not indifference or laziness. In March I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, not exactly life threatning I know, but debilitaing when left untreated. Which it had been for over 12 months. Given that both my Mother and late Grandmother also had the condition you would think I would have recognised the signs. But I didn’t. What I saw was weight gain and assumed my diet was to blame, so went on ever stricter diets to counteract it. I was sleeping poorly so embarked on a mission to eliminate all stimulants such as caffeine. I was fatigued all the time; just walking upstairs would leave me so exhausted I would have to lie down for a while. My mestrual cycle became erratic, so I assumed I was going through early menopause and spent a fortune on supplements to help ease the transition. I ached and assumed it was my age.

It came as a relief when I discovered what was actually wrong.  It took about 8 weeks for ther thyroid medication to enter my system fully, but I did notice changes after 2 weeks.  I have been slowly building up my activity from about then, and have adopted a proactive approach to my health and wellbeing in the months following diagnosis.  I think the activity that has most impacted on my wellbeing both mentally and physically is my Yoga practise. Having practised at home for years on and off,  I decided it was finally time to seek out proper instruction so that I could get the most out of my practise. Fortunately for me our local Health Centre has just moved into a beautiful new purpose built building and offers an array of activities including Tai Chi, Pilates and of course Yoga.

Twice a week I do a Kundalini Yoga class and the once a week a Yin Yoga class. Both present enormous challenges for me and are helping me with both my physical limitations – years of HIIT training and weight training has left me with short tightened muscles, likewise an injury sustained in dance as a teen has resulted in a very sore and tight left hamstring-  but also my emotional and mental wellbeing.  Kundalini is very breath focussed and is cleansing and uplifting, whereas the Yin is concerned with holding each Asana for anything up to 5 mins, so isn’t the most comfortable experience but is incredibly rewarding. Interestingly both practises have stirred up emotions concerned with my past that I thought long forgotten, but as the tension in my hips, back and chest is released so are the negative emotions. Slowly with the help of my practise I am able to let them go and feel for the first time in a long time I am starting to find my equilibrium.

 

The Blackbird by William Morris

 

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 The Blackbird

Listen to the blackbird singing
To the red flush in the west!
Of all that sing the spring in
The blackbird singeth best

O! how the music swelleth!
As he flutters there hard by,
For joy of the tales he telleth,
For the song that shall never die.

The young lime where he singeth
Will remember all his song,
When on his trunk time bringeth
The mosses clinging long.

To the bees by the blossoms humming
The leaves will tell the tale
In the summer that is coming
As they flutter in the gale[.]

 His singing riseth higher
To the small clouds overhead,
It goeth on to the fire
By the small clouds that is fed.

Sunsets will keep his singing;
When the lime is on the ground.
In the ivy about it clinging
Will thoughts of the song be found.

William Morris
unpublished Draft in B. L. Add. MS 45,298A, ff. 34-34v, in what may be Morris’ hand; see 3.

 

 

Sleep Play Move

Being in my forties has been amazing. I’m happy in my own skin. I say pfft things that used to really bother me, I’m braver with my clothes and generally much more confident. That being said, I’ve noticed that my health and wellbeing – things I took for granted before- need a little more TLC than they used too.

indexI’ve always struggled with poor sleep and just accepted it as part of my lot. However over the last year I’ve been more proactive about improving it, not least because I’m not as resilient I was in my twenties and thirties. A bad night’s sleep these days = a really crappy day.  The road to better sleep for me has been a combination of inclusion and elimination.

First on the elimination list was caffeine. I’m not exaggerating when I say I used to drink an obscene amount of caffeine loaded drinks everyday….coffee, cola, tea…I did them all in ridiculous quantities and had the jitters to prove it.  I read so many horrendous accounts of caffeine withdrawal  that I expected mine would be a living hell,  but you know what….It wasn’t too bad. I had a terrible headache for a day or two and then felt a bit tired for about a week but that was it and the improvement to my sleep was almost immediate. Having replaced caffeinated drinks with decaff and herbal teas I drop off to sleep these days without too much trouble. My sleep is by no means perfect but at least I don’t spend most of the night staring at the ceiling like I used too.

ec2a0fdb6c8afab838cc0383f162511d_playing-children-clip-art-group-play-kids-clipart_519-525In my twenties and thirties I was a total stress head. I worried if I was doing the right thing, what other people thought of me, what other people were doing and constantly compared my life and achievements with other peoples and found my own wanting. Much of my insecurity stemmed from one toxic friendship. This person made me feel like all my achievements were insignificant and my tastes, hobbies etc. inferior. I removed the person from my life and learned to celebrate all I had achieved and love. I really appreciate the small group of good friends I have for their honesty, caring and support. They taught me to play with wild abandon and I love that we do some slightly bonkers stuff together.

imagesThe sight of me in my exercise gear is not always a pretty sight but I don’t let that stop me. Every day I hit the sitting room floor for either, cardio, strength or flexibility work. It’s not always easy but I stick at it because I know the difference daily exercise makes to my mood. I’m brighter, more optimistic and the aches and pains I get in my hip if I’m too sedentary, disappear. Plus I have the joy of finding ever brighter, ever crazier exercise wear. It’s a win, win.

Foraging and Making: My First Attempt at Crab Apple Jelly

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Last Sunday while out on our walk through the forest my partner and I decided to visit one of our favourite foraging spots. In addition to being incredibly pretty it is also replete with Elder, Blackthorn and most importantly at this time of year, a sizeable crab apple tree.

To our delight the crab apple tree has an abundance of ripe fruit this year. We collected about a kilo of fruit, leaving behind a feast on the tree for wildlife and other foragers to enjoy.

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Usually I use crab apples to make blackberry and apple jam. The high level of pectin in them ensures a good set without the need for adding a specialist jam sugar. This year however I decided to give making crab apple jelly a go instead. I could see in my minds eye as we gathered the fruit, jars filled with gorgeous clear jewel toned luciousness.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been a resounding successs. The amount of jelly is far less than I would have hoped and is very cloudy. In my haste to get going I didn’t pay enough attention to the recipe and suspect that I cooked the apples in too little water and for far too long.  After leaving the mixture to strain through a jelly bag there was so little liquid that squeezing the mixture to get every last little bit liquid out was my only option. As a result the liquid was very cloudy and not the jewel like clarity I was dreaming of.

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Being cloudy already I decided to throw caution to the wind and add a teaspoon of ground ginger, added sugar and heated the mix up until it was at setting point. There being such a small quantity it didn’t seem worth sterilising a jar, so i’ve decanted the jelly into a small bowl and plan to use it up over the next couple of days.

I’m hoping that it will make a nice accompaniment to bread and cheese (or to some ‘Gary’ for my vegan days) or maybe giving my breakfast porridge an extra zing by adding a spoonful.It seems I’m big on options but alas low on jelly. That being said, nothing is wasted. I’ve learnt a new skill and with some tweaks it will be better next time. But for now, i’m going to savour every mouthful of the little I have and enjoy it.

If anyone out there has more experience of jelly making and could give me few pointers it would be great to hear from you!

Autumn Song by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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Autumn Song

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
Laid on it for a covering,
And how sleep seems a goodly thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems – not to suffer pain?

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the soul feels like a dried sheaf
Bound up at length for harvesting,
And how death seems a comely thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?