The Daily Glow | Wanderlust Lite

Wanderlust lite

I love to travel…yeah I know, big whoop, doesn’t everyone?  But no, I really mean that (for the most part) I love every aspect of it – the flights, the trains, the metro, the trams and buses, finding my way around cities I don’t know (and this from someone with an appalling sense of direction) and usually toute seule.  This year’s storage cupboard/Harry Potter Air BnB incident, and Storm Emma drama not withstanding, I love it.  I once sat in a cafe in Melbourne, 24 hours after arriving in Australia, with a total of $200 and all my belongings on my back…and considered the notion that no one was expecting me that evening (I had nowhere to stay, and had eaten tuna out of the tin for dinner in a hostel the previous night), and that I could quite easily head off on a bus to anywhere  – and disappear, and nobody would even figure it out for days, or even a week or two.  I found the idea so compelling, I have never quite forgotten it.  I mean, when do you ever not have someone who would notice, even if it is just your boss or your mum?

The Daily Glow | Wanderlust Lite

Sunrise on Bondi Beach

Obviously enough, I found somewhere to sleep and eventually a job, and an entire grown up life (which I’m sure my parents thought was well overdue at that point), and a similar opportunity has not presented itself since.  But every airport, foreign city or port always reminds me of that feeling of how BIG the world is (so big it could hide a whole person, and quite easily) and how much of it there is still to see.

The Daily Glow | Wanderlust Lite

Santa Monica

Frequent travel has (fortunately) become a normal part of my life over the last couple of years, and consequently, so has living out of a carry on – while attempting to exercise regularly, make myself presentable for work, eat relatively healthily, and avoid Monica-from-friends-in-Hawaii hair on a daily basis. And, even attempt it with some pretence at that Gaulish elegance, where everything looks well put together but almost by accident (I kid myself, can anyone, anywhere, ever be as chic as the French? But I did have a conference in Paris, so it was duly added to the wish list). This, combined with my neat-freak side, has created a devotion to travelling light, without interrupting daily life too much.

 

Pack LIGHT
Aside from the one time I got stuck in London for a week with little more than a suit and my gym gear (once again, thank you to my brother and his girlfriend for literally giving me the clothes off their backs), this one rarely fails me – and makes travelling so much easier.  I once spent 10 weeks in Asia with just hand luggage, and seemed to have just as much to wear etc as everyone I was with (despite their bags being twice the size).  I find the key to this is packing simple clothes that can double up – like black runners that can be worn for exercise or with just about anything, or a casual white t-shirt that can be dressed up with jeans or worn for a yoga class ( I finally found one in Lululemon).  Black jeans are a staple of mine, and Zara also do a great range of stretchy pants that can be worn for work but are comfy enough to travel in.  And always remember you can iron or wash what you have with you (once again, Lululemon are great for fabrics that dry quickly, hanging in a hotel bathroom) – a new outfit for every day is rarely necessary.  The same applies to toiletries, even if you have a checked bag – if you don’t need a week’s worth of something, take the time to pop it in a smaller container.  My regular supplements and bulletproof coffee are probably the most important to me when travelling for work, training or exams, so I always squeeze these into my clear plastic bag too.

 

Wanderlust Lite | The Daily Glow

 

Bring the “nice things”
I spent so many years “saving” things for a special day or event (like the “good room” at home!), and really all I was doing was wasting them.  Now I bring the silk eye mask, the silk pillowcase, the expensive shoes or the cashmere scarf that makes the perfect airplane blanket – because life is too short, and far too enjoyable, to leave them behind in case something happens to them.  This includes toiletries – while you’re travelling and your body clock is all over the place or you’re not sleeping in your own bed is the best time to have your favourite moisturiser.

The Daily Glow | Wanderlust Lite

 

Get up early
Sunrise is one of my favourite things, and the pleasure that you can find almost anywhere early in the morning might surprise you.  From running across the Brooklyn bridge before it’s thronged with commuters and tourists, to a dip on Bondi Beach bright and early, I think some of my favourite memories are from those moments before the busyness of life begins.  I love to immerse myself in the daily life of whatever city or place I’m in, but I find the stillness before the hustle and bustle starts can be the most magical.  Also, exercising as soon as you can after a long haul flight can help your body adjust the the new time zone and minimise the effects of flying and jet-lag, so if your flight gets in at silly o’clock, a quick jog might be the best way to feel normal.

The Daily Glow | Wanderlust Lite

Sunrise in Chinchilla, QLD

 

Constant travel can be exhausting, no matter how much you enjoy it – hopefully some of the above can make it a bit easier.  As always, I would love to hear about anything that you do to make it more straightforward or enjoyable!

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5 health hacks that don't include a detox | The Daily Glow

5 Health Hacks – that don’t include a detox

Okay so I don’t know about you, but New Year’s day being on a Monday means none of the “January health buzz” starts until the following Monday…which is followed by “Blue Monday”, officially the worst Monday of the year…none of which make for the best start to the year.  Congratulations, you have made it out the other side (Mondays can only get better now!), and hopefully you still have some of your initial enthusiasm (too strong a word?  Resignation might be more accurate perhaps) for starting 2018 on a healthy note intact.  After the first few weeks however, I have found the combination of meal-prepping, going back to work and sweating it out in an over crowded gym (where do they come from?)  robbed some of the aforementioned enthusiasm (resignation, yes it’s resignation).  Below are a few ways I’ve found to propel me forward, no matter how low my motivational level has dropped.

 

  1. Listen to something to wake you up

I’ve recently started listening to podcasts instead of music in the gym and on the way to work – and some really help me find motivation and focus when I’m struggling.  My current favourite first thing on a Monday morning is Gary Vee, as he is one of the most energetic and inspiring people on the planet, but I also add in some Bulletproof Radio and Tony Robbins to balance it out a bit (Gary’s energy is infectious – but even on a good day I can’t keep it up all day long!).  If you line up the podcasts you want to listen to for the week on a Sunday evening, it makes it much easier to just press play while you’re half asleep – and once again, the bluetooth headphones I found in Penneys make it easy to go about your normal morning routine.

5 health hacks that don't include a detox | The Daily Glow

 

2. Put the kettle on

Any morning that I find myself struggling from the moment my alarm goes off, I have found that if I can just get out of bed, the rest of it is much more manageable.  So instead of scrolling endlessly through social media, or hitting the snooze button, I have started to pretend that I can go back to bed with a cup of coffee – I just have to go downstairs and put the kettle on.  Now, in theory this should be far too simple a trick to play on myself – but somehow, it works!  By the time the kettle is boiled, I am awake enough to keep going and get myself to the gym etc – I think it’s the physical getting out of bed that does the trick here, so hopefully I can keep falling for it.

5 health hacks that don't include a detox | The Daily Glow

 

3. Wash your face

Similar to the step above, this wakes you up enough to remember why you set your alarm for silly o’clock in the first place – and makes it harder to go back to sleep.  It also can help prevent wrinkles around your eyes, as washing your face is a far less damaging to the delicate skin in this area than rubbing them vigorously to remove any traces of sleep.

 

4. Detox your social media

This one is quite topical after the media storm surrounding some well-know Irish “influencers” this month, but if reaching for your phone and scrolling is how you start your day, it can have a massive impact on your mood and mindset for the whole day.  Not only is watching the world’s highlight reel first thing presenting you with a distorted perspective as you wake up, it’s also way too easy for minutes (and hours) to disappear without you even realising – and being late is certainly not going to help anyone feel better in January.  I tried a digital detox before, and couldn’t believe how often my hand automatically reached for my phone when it wasn’t there, and was shocked at how much extra time I had due to the lack of social media meandering.  Although I probably won’t go quite so hard core again for a while, unfollowing accounts that don’t bring me any net benefit has positively changed the time I do spend scrolling – so it turns out you can even Marie Kondo your instagram feed.

 

5.  Reward yourself

A common enough instruction in diet advice articles, this one can be very effective.  There are many different ways of implementing it – so whether saving money, losing weight or performing better at work are part of your goals, there’s always an appropriate carrot to be found.  At the base of a motivational slump is exactly when I find scheduling or organising something to treat myself works best – ordering a new pair of runners or signing up for a run (not everyone’s idea of fun, I’ll grant you) or planning a couple of hours off to use a shopping voucher I got for Christmas or meet friends for coffee are usually my go-tos.  Baking or exercising will also turn my mood around instantly  if I’m in a totally useless mood.

5 health hacks that don't include a detox | The Daily Glow

January 17th is apparently when most of us break our New Years resolutions, so if you fell off the the straight and narrow last Wednesday you were in good company – and you fell with me and my glass of wine.  But as the saying goes, it’s not falling down that matters, it’s the getting back up.  So whether it’s a healthy eating or exercise regime you committed to, decluttering your house (or your life), reaching for a goal that ignites your inner passion, or even just taking 5 minutes for yourself at the end of every day, know that you’re not the only one wavering and give yourself a break…just get back up after!

5 health hacks that don't include a detox | The Daily Glow

New Year...same old me | The Daily Glow

New year…same old me

I must admit, the whole “New Year, new me” thing really irritates me.  Just like when you reach a milestone birthday…you’re not really a whole lot different once the clock strikes midnight – but people tend to make a deal of it.  And yet, I do find those few days between Christmas and NYE (when nobody knows what day it is, what time it is, or if they’ve actually reached a lethal limit in food  intake yet) to naturally encourage me to reflect on the past year – please note that usually I would put this down to an extreme and intense case of the fear (induced by alcohol, lack of exercise and overconsumption of sugar), but this Christmas has been a bit different, and I’m still spending an unwarranted amount of time navel gazing.

New Year...same old me | The Daily Glow

This year I am spending Christmas and NYE in one of my favourite places in the whole world, in  south Thailand – the best thing you can do with yourself, if you are in any way curious, and just so you know, wearing a bikini for the best part of Christmas day, does tend to curb the over eating (somewhat).  So I have escaped the usual ten nights out in a row and most of the eating and drinking to excess, and spent some time with family and close friends…and yet I am still almost looking forward to a fresh start in January – new journal ordered (I’m a stationery freak, among my other attractive qualities), business plan for 2018 in the pipeline and already booking flights as my calendar is filling up.

New Year...same old me | The Daily Glow

My 2016 was about as great as the endless memes that likened it to the end of the world, so 2017 was better by a mile (it wasn’t hard!) – it really has been a great year, although primarily focused on work and study, my social life has been left to slide somewhat.  I read once that balance is possible – be that work/life balance, being health conscious, spending enough time with family etc – but just maybe not all at once.  There will be years where study or work are at the forefront, as you build your career, other stages where sleep is lacking and family takes precedent and so on.  Have you found the balance of your life slip predominantly in one direction over the last few years?  Whatever stage of life you’re in, it’s pretty likely that something has taken over, to the detriment of either your health, family or friends.  Have you reached the end of one stage, with the next on the horizon?  This year I will be doing my best to make up the balance of fun that may have been over looked over the past two years…so 2018, please hurry up!

New Year...same old me | The Daily Glow

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How to keep fit on the road | The Daily Glow

How to keep fit while travelling

Keeping up any kind of fitness routine or healthy diet can be tough at the best of times (and as we roll towards Christmas – yes I said it, I know, where has the year gone – with dark mornings and evenings, it’s getting even tougher), but constant travel, be it for business or pleasure can really be the tipping point towards complete abandonment of all reason, and genuine self-persuasion that Netflix really is a healthier pastime.

As I mentioned on Monday, I’ve travelled a lot over the past few months with work, conferences and lectures (plus some fun thrown in, in between) and have been finding it difficult to maintain any kind of healthy or normal lifestyle – which has left me feeling tired, bloated and just not quite myself.  Exercise of some description is my go-to solution for most things – stress, insomnia, misbehaving skin, overindulgence and recovering after festivals and the like.  However, this is one of the hardest things to sustain while frequently on the move from one place to the next.  But where there’s a will, there’s a happy Jenny, so here are some things that I’ve found make it a bit easier for me.

 

Buy black runners
This one can sound a bit odd, but when space is at a premium, and black runners are somewhat respectable with work attire (and tend to go with pretty much anything), it makes it much easier to use the hotel gym if you actually have some decent runners – although fair play to dude I saw in full on work shoes on the treadmill in the Hilton.  Credit where credit is due, but I don’t fancy the shin splints myself.

How to keep fit on the road | The Daily Glow

Get yourself some bluetooth headphones
Oh-so-handy for general life,  especially for those of you who have an overstuffed handbag with spare protein bars, tissues, pens and highlighters and every charger known to mankind (…not guilty) and occasionally find it tricky to locate your phone, even when physically connected to headphones (RIP said headphones).  What they are particularly useful for though, is online workouts  or workout plans on your phone/laptop/iPad – you can look at the screen, while listening to music, without having to take it out of your armband every 5 seconds (once again, totally not me).  These don’t even have to be expensive – I got mine in Pennys for about €15.

How to keep fit on the road | The Daily Glow

When all else fails…
Get a massage! To be fair, I haven’t done this nearly as much as I would like, but it was the only option after a couple of nights sleeping on the ground (the actual ground, a last minute ticket to EP has its downsides), made me feel every single one of my 30 years.  Hips and back a mess – sitting on a flight or in work, not to mind driving,  was frighteningly uncomfortable – and an extended massage fixed everything, officially attaining a place on my go-to solutions list.  A sports massage of some sort is usually possible to track down in most hotels, and even some airports – so if you have a heavy few weeks of travel, try and book it in when you know you’ll be at you most tired.  Or if you really need sorting out when you get home, pay Eileen a visit – she honestly is amazing.

Balancing everything when your day-to-day life is a little all over the place is hard, and if you think you’ve got too much on your plate, have a read of this for some inspiration – it all depends on why you’re doing it, not what you’re doing.  I know if I don’t exercise and load up on sugar, not only do I feel totally awful, but I am nowhere near as capable of thinking clearly and focusing on the things I love to do.  If you push yourself hard, why do you do it?  And how do you fit it all in?  I’d love to hear how you do it.

How to keep fit on the road | The Daily Glow

Travel Tips | The Daily Glow

Travel tips – keep your glow at 36,000 feet

In the last few months I’ve been over and back to London like a yoyo,  and up and down the motorway between Cork and Dublin more often than I can count, along with conferences and other events…so I am officially an expert at hand luggage and packing last minute (as despite my best intentions, last minute is always how it ends up).

Generally for short trips, clothes are not an issue – and if they are, I am definitely not the expert (I wear pyjamas,  aka scrubs,  for a living), but when you are limited to a single 1 litre plastic bag and 100ml bottles, cosmetics and the like certainly are.   Added onto this is the dehydrating effects of flying, the lost sleep that usually accompanies frequent travel and the less-than-ideal diet that seems to be my main travel companion (chips and hot chocolate for dinner, anyone?).

So, what can one do to ensure every trip, be it for work or leisure, doesn’t completely mess with your healthy lifestyle?  Because I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to have a cheat meal (cheat weekend, realistically) I’d like to spend it having fun with my friends or at a festival – not in the lounge at Gatwick airport.

 

Hydrate – inside and out

Easier said than done, but probably the most important factor.  Most of us don’t drink enough water as it is, and our digestive systems, skin and mental clarity can all be noticeably affected by this – especially when you’re then surrounded by air conditioning and heating all the time.  If I have an early flight I will always go to bed with a pint of water beside my bed, to be drunk on waking (before bed is  not the most ideal time, unless you’d also like to add bathroom trips to your reasons for lack of sleep).  I drink a green smoothie before I leave the house with flaxseed oil, cucumber and coconut water in it (among other things – those three on their own are not the most appealing thing to drink), and keep a dioralyte or two in my travel bag.

Travel Tips | The Daily Glow

Coconut oil is my go-to body moisturiser, and always make an effort to put some on the morning of a flight (just watch your clothes, especially if you’re wearing silk – you need to give it a few minutes to dry).  Elizabeth Arden’s iconic 8 hour cream really is all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to moisturising – fantastic for lips, cuticles and any dry patches, so along with a hand moisturiser from L’Occitan, I always have one in my travel bag.

Coffee and wine are both dehydrating, but seeing as I’m a shadow of myself without coffee, and CityJet offer a a complimentary glass of wine on their evening flights (I’m not realistically going to turn that down on a Friday evening), I’ve resigned myself to just working harder and hydrating myself and embracing the perks of flying with someone other than Ryan Air.

Travel Tips | The Daily Glow

Buy a silk eye mask

I’ve discussed my love of silk eye masks before, you can get mine on Amazon – and even if you have no trouble nodding off at night, you might want one for frequent travel.  Along with a pair of ear plugs, a comfortable eye mask is essential for catching up on lost hours of sleep on the train, bus or plane – especially if you’re lucky enough to be sitting near a few kids.  Even if I’m only away for the day, the evening light home can be ideal for a half hour snooze, so I always bring my eye mask in my handbag.

 

Exercise

Tim Ferris will famously go to the hotel gym shortly after touching down, even if his flight gets in at 2am – because he finds his jet lag, and the general “post-flight feeling” hugely reduced if he does so.  Now I am definitely not quite as committed to the cause (yet, at any rate) but wearing runners flying and trying to get some decent walking in shortly after landing helps me feel a little more normal (and tends not to be an issue in London, as there’s plenty of walking to be done anyway).  If I’m away for a couple of days I’ll always bring my running gear and try and fit in a short session at least once or twice – even if it’s just 15minutes, once I sweat to some degree I tend to feel better, and my skin certainly thanks me for it.

Travel Tips | The Daily Glow

I’ve learnt the hard way that eating a load of croissants and/or cakes in the departure lounge does not help me feel any better (especially if I’m flying for work), and sometimes it still happens…but the above tips do help minimise how sick I can feel, and definitely help me avoid that post-flight “look” with dehydrated skin and puffy eyes.  Have you found a way to resist the  temptation of the sugary pastries?  My schedule doesn’t look like it’s going to let up anytime soon, so I would to hear any advice you have for travelling or flying often.

The Daily Glow | Running on empty?

3 ways to tackle burnout

After a very busy (and long) week, I found my motivation dwindling…which is unusual for me, I must admit.  Over the last year, as I’ve started to change the focus of my career, and “detoxed” various areas of my life, to make way for elements I truly love, I am generally excited about most things I do (even studying…I know, the epitome of cool – that’s me).  However, this week nearly had me beaten.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a really good week – very productive, stimulating and interesting, time with friends and family, and even a glass of wine.  But I collapsed on the couch with a takeaway on Saturday evening, and really couldn’t do anything for almost 24 hours…except think, and coincidentally read this interesting article by Jennifer O’Connell, all about the rising issue of burnout.

Many people these days wear working hard, and long hours like a badge of honour, boasting about how little sleep they’ve had.  I don’t think that I do that (obviously I’m a bit biased though – maybe it can come across like that occasionally?!), I generally find it easy to motivate myself in areas I genuinely find interesting – and simply throw myself into it, 100%.  On the other hand, being self-employed and having a tendency towards perfectionism (which really, outside of dentistry, can be more detrimental than anything else) is a relatively robust recipe for burnout in itself.  I had always thought of burnout as being related to a job you hate, or working conditions grinding you down (which definitely can be major contributing factors) – but reading Jennifer O’Connell’s article really gave me food for thought.  You really only have a certain amount of resources, such as energy, focus and drive – so even if you love what you do, there must be a limit that you can push yourself beyond, and end up with the same physical and emotional exhaustion that occurs in the typical burnout scenario.

The Daily Glow | Running on empty?

So, as always, what to do?  I’ve written before about dealing with stress, and how I have found meditation helpful…but what about right in the moment, when your beyond tired and can’t motivate yourself to do anything at all?  Sleep,  “relax”?  Unfortunately not the easiest answers when my mind won’t calm down – and not the most straight forward time to meditate either (when I say I couldn’t do anything for 24 hours, I really mean anything – even reading a book was difficult to focus on for any substantial amount of time).  There are a couple of things I found useful though, and hopefully you might too, should you ever find yourself feeling like you’re running on empty:

 

  1. Remove “should”, “must” and “try to” from your vocabulary for 24 hours

And the most important part of this is THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD.  Give yourself 24 hours with no obligations, no to-do list and do exactly what you want.  If you find it hard to rationalise this, consider how unproductive and incompetent you are likely to be at any task you undertake in this state – so you really are better off delaying it for at least one day – and these hours are your recovery time, like after a workout.  If you want to lie on the couch in your pyjamas for 17 hours eating only Nutella, do; if you want to curl up in bed,  and not shower for the weekend, do (although you may regret that one when you wake in the morning), if you feel like you should be doing something, be it socialising, working, reading, going to the gym – let yourself off the hook.  The part that actually made this work for me, was having a time limit – I could let everything go as I knew I had some things scheduled the next day, and had a specific time when I would be facing reality again anyway.

The Daily Glow | Running on empty?

2.  Step away from social media

This can be pretty tough if you’re sitting on the couch, duvet and Nutella in hand, but no one around (I was lucky in this respect, I had a couch buddy!).  However, studies have shown that browsing mindlessly through social media is not good for your mood or self-confidence ( not to mind the hours that you can waste when you could be halfway through the second season of Gossip Girl or Narcos).  So , leave your phone in another room if you can (i know it’s not easy), find a movie or book that will absorb your fleeting attention and dig into the takeaway/chocolate/icecream.

 

3. Exercise – at the end

Yes, contrary to point one, above – this is not about a spinning class, or fitting in the workout you said you’d do.  It is simply to harness your body’s own mechanism for feeling better – endorphins.  I recommend doing this at the very end of your 24 hour vacation from reality.  Nope, not exactly what you feel like and really, really had to push myself into this one.  I resorted to a trick I used when I first started running – I promised myself I only had to run for 5 minutes, the necessary part was just getting out there.  and just like when I was a novice, and 15 minutes used to be tough, once I started, keeping going was much easier than starting (just like it is with anything).  The main effort involved is pretending to yourself that you honestly are only running around the block.  Likewise, you could organise to meet a friend or book yourself into an exercise class you like if you find that a better motivator.  But the endorphins work, every time.  Sweating, as I’ve mentioned before, is also fantastic for your skin – something definitely needed by the tired, translucent shadow I had turned into by Sunday.

Burnout is becoming far more common in our constantly “switched on” world, have you ever suffered from it or come close?  I’d love to hear anything that worked (or didn’t work) for you.

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The Daily Glow | Magnesium and Muscle Relaxation

Muscle relaxation and Magnesium

My muscles are currently burning, and it took me longer to get out of bed yesterday morning than I’d care to admit to – not surprising, considering over the past few days I tried crossfit for the first time, and ran a 4 mile mini marathon (plus the mile I had to run to the starting line due to a terrible combination of my embarrassingly bad sense of direction, with some poor timing).  DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness is a familiar feeling (if not name, that’s what that gradually worsening pain 1-2days after exercise is called) for anyone who’s started a new fitness regime or pushed themselves in a new physical endeavour.  And while yoga, stretching or foam-rolling can all help, there’s also a supplement that can encourage muscle relaxation – and bring some other benefits as well.

The Daily Glow | Magnesium and Muscle Relaxation

Triathletes, and all these other impressive serial exercisers, frequently profess the virtues of epsom salt baths…which are essentially magnesium.  This mineral is commonly deficient, but excellent for promoting muscle relaxation and sleep – both of which obviously enough support tired muscles.  But it’s not only this delayed onset muscle soreness that it can help, it can also:

  • reduce teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) and sometimes the associated neck pain, due to it’s action on the main muscles involved
  • aid sleep – this study shows improvements in sleep time, sleep efficiency and an increase in melatonin levels in the body after 8 weeks of magnesium supplementation
  • reduce stress – lower serum cortisol (the stress hormone) levels have also been noted, which can be further helped with some lifestyle changes

The Daily Glow | Magnesium and Muscle Relaxation

Getting enough magnesium can be a bit tricky, as not only do you have to have a diet quite high in magnesium to begin with (something fruit and veg grown in increasingly mineral-depleted soil may be lacking), but additionally, you need sufficient levels of vitamins B6  and D, and selenium for your body to absorb it. Oh, and excess fat, caffeine and stress hinder this process.

The Daily Glow | Magnesium and Muscle Relaxation

Yeah so not quite as easy to get sufficient magnesium by mistake, especially if you’re stressed and living on caffeine.  But, taking a supplement in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by your body, at a separate time to your cup of jo, can make it a bit more straightforward.  I find 150-300mg magnesium citrate (from a reputable brand like Solgar, Viridians or most types stocked in health food stores) taken in the evening, separate to food, works well for me and most of my patients.  Most magnesium tablets are giant bullets, so the powdered form can be easier to take, or you can add it to a smoothie.

*** However, please note that magnesium can increase the effects of other muscle relaxant drugs (like Botox or Valium), so if you are on any medications, please check with your doctor before adding this supplement to your daily routine.  ***

 

Have you ever tried magnesium supplementation?

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Meditation | The Daily Glow

Meditation and mindfulness

To say the last year has been stressful would be a slight understatement.  I’ve started a business, moved house, experienced numerous car issues (I am the previous owner of a  complete dud, that spent about 3 months in the garage during our brief relationship – and what I know about cars could fit into the head of a pin), made the dubious decision to go back and study, changed job and am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I’m not even going to qualify as being in my late twenties in just a few short weeks.  A lot of the above was motivated by the fact that I dreaded going to work, (the thought of continuing as I was for the next 30-40 years filled me with a sinking despair that simply refused to dissolve) and eventually realised I was actually now an adult – and no one was going to step in and change things for me, so I would have to do it myself.

This realisation, coupled with approaching the big 3-0, has forced me to consider where I am in my life (truthfully, I have no idea) and where I would like to be.  Comparing your life stages to your parents’ is ill-advised for anyone born from 1980 onwards, as we are technically the first generation documented to have a poorer quality of life than the one before us, and therefore is guaranteed to put you in a “it’s Sunday and all I did was drink gin all weekend” kind of mood – i.e. Fearful with a capital F.

Numerous “self-help” books and detoxes later (physical, mental and emotional – along with clearing out most of my stuff à la Mari Kondo), and I discovered that the consistent underlying thread of anything that wasn’t running quite as smoothly as I would like,  was simply my reaction to it – which realistically translates to stress.  The upside to all this navel-gazing has been the decision to find a more effective way of dealing with said stress, as everything else can be quite straightforward if this can first be overcome.

Meditation | The Daily Glow

Yoga and running have always been my stress relievers, but to date they have only managed to calm the voice in my head – not prevent it from beginning to shout in the first place.  Running in particular can put an end to hours of hamster-wheel-like pointless ruminating on any topic, but I don’t know if it necessarily reduces the frequency of occurrence.  Something that presented itself as a potential preventive solution, rather than cure, was meditation. Over the course of 6 months, meditation kept popping up – it turned up in a number of books I was reading, came up in countless conversations and even podcasts I was listening to, so I decided to give it a go.

Meditation | The Daily Glow

I had always been skeptical of meditation.  All my life I have tended towards being an anxious person when under pressure, and as a result have tried a wide selection of mindfulness courses, hatha yoga and breathing exercises.  The teachers associated with some of these practices very much embodied the stereotypical shawl-wearing, fuzzy-haired and “breathy-voiced” caricature that meditation can conjure up in one’s mind…not really something I can identify with on a daily basis, despite my green smoothies and apple cider vinegar.  However, the science behind meditation is intriguing.  Lower blood pressure and a reduction in size of the “stress centre” in the brain are just some of the benefits proven by studies from high calibre research sources such as Harvard Medical School.

Enter Dan Harris and his 10% Happier concept which totally appealed to me.  Here is guy who lives and works in Manhattan, most definitely does not wear a shawl and seems like he’d be good craic to hang out with. His book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story, has a pretty self explanatory title – and describes how he has used meditation as a tool to overcome panic attacks and anxiety, and improve his career as a newsreader and journalist.  I found his book very enjoyable as a read in itself, and his podcast by the same name is almost as convincing, for those of you that spend as much time travelling as I do.

Meditation | The Daily Glow

My meditation practice is not very advanced, it’s a few minutes (building to 15, or even 20 minutes on a good day) in the morning, on the floor next to my bed, focusing on my breath.  However the results so far have been noticeably less frequent trips on the hamster wheel, and and calmer, more logical responses to stressful situations, particularly in work.  I think the misconception with meditation is that you are aiming for this magical place where all your problems go away – but the more I learn about it, from seasoned meditators, and my own first hand experience, this is totally false.  There is no final destination, where everything eventually be complete, or perfect – just like in everyday life we can tell ourselves we’ll be happy “when” – when we go on holiday, when we lose those last few pounds, when we get that promotion.  “When” doesn’t exist, and meditation is the same.  My problems and difficulties are still there, but how I deal with them has changed quite dramatically, in a relatively short space of time.

There are a number of meditation “gurus”, like Eckhardt Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Anthony De Mello, but there are also a surprising number of “normal” people that meditate, along with some super achievers like Michael Jordan, Hugh Jackman and Ariana Huffington, that make it part of their daily life.  Dan Harris’s take struck a chord with me, as it felt particularly normal and relatable, so if the mysticism of meditation is what puts you off, it might be worth a try.

Meditation | The Daily Glow

Digital Detox | The Daily Glow

Digital detox – it was harder than I thought

I’ve been curious about a digital detox for some time now, and eventually, a couple of weekends ago, I got around to some semblance of it.  Now, being completely honest, I had study to do for the masters I’m struggling my way through (I am a self-confessed supernerd) which was online – but I resolutely refrained from checking my email (which I check at least 27 times a day), Facebook, Instagram or even general browsing on The Daily Mail etc (not easy when you’re sitting in front of a laptop).  I suppose it was probably more of social media/phone detox, and was further complicated by organising to meet my study buddy (Rach, take a bow, you didn’t kill me – despite how awkward I made it for you) and having my mum come to stay.  But with some forward planning it was possible to switch off my phone for the best part of two days – although it felt really old school organising my weekend on Friday evening and then turning my phone off!

Digital Detox | The Daily Glow

I lasted from 8pm on Friday evening until around 4pm Sunday – so almost 48 hours in total.  Not having a phone made me realise how many times I actually check my phone each day – and I realised that people checking their phone 157 times a day is distressingly realistic.  And that was just the initial “checking” – because we all know how easy it is to get lost on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest…and suddenly realise 35 minutes have passed, not 5.

Definitely the biggest bonus was how much more productive I became, not just from regaining the hours lost wandering through news feeds, but also because I was able to properly focus on each thing I was doing, rather than becoming distracted half way through.  Our attention spans are becoming shorter – according to the Associated Press, the average attention span for 2013 was a paltry 8 seconds, just shy of the 9 seconds that an average goldfish can boast (anyone else freaked out by that?).  This is also apparently leading to shorter memories – I know I need to write every appointment or task in my diary, or it simply does not happen, and previously I attributed this to the ageing process, or just being tired, but perhaps the multi-tasking, multi-screen habits related to social media and constant connectivity are partly to blame.

Digital Detox | The Daily Glow

I also realised how little time I spend alone – despite quite happily being an introvert (80% by the Myers-Briggs scale) and enjoying my own space, when the constant connection to the world and social media that is my phone was removed, I then understood exactly what “time alone” really means. Things I wanted to think about, and those I’d have preferred not to…there was no Huffington post article on Trump’s latest blunder to distract me, but there was also no perfect Instagram feed to make me feel like I didn’t match up.  So good and bad feelings associated with it – but no hiding from my thoughts.  I think in this day and age, it’s pretty hard to see the world clearly – there are so many filters and contrived perspectives no matter what direction you look in, and some space from this can only be a good thing.

 

Digital Detox | The Daily Glow

Are you as addicted to your phone as the rest of us?  I didn’t even realise I was quite so attached to mine until I went without it for a few days – and I’m still kind of shocked how hard it was.  Have you ever tried a digital detox?

How to manage stress | The Daily Glow

How to manage stress

Stress presents itself in countless ways – insomnia, headaches, nausea, general irritability and the inability to focus clearly.  None of these symptoms are particularly helpful in relieving the original stress, and sometimes the cause itself can be out of our hands – illness of of loved one, family drama, work colleagues or exams looming.

How to manage stress | The Daily Glow

Supporting yourself through times like this allows you to survive it, and hopefully come out stronger on the other side – with an new awareness of how you can recognise (and potentially avoid) a similar situation in the future.  Yoga, meditation, exercise and talking it through with someone you trust are all well-known methods for coping with stress, however there are also changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to maximise your resilience at a time when you need it the most.

Cut back on stimulants
It might seem counter-intuitive when you feel like you’re already running on empty, but caffeine, sugar and alcohol are temporary fixes that only propagate the stress response further in the long run.  The yo-yo effect on your blood sugar impacts your mood, your ability to focus and even your waistline (and stress hormones specifically predispose to weight gain around the middle). I am absolutely not advocating quitting coffee completely (God help anyone I have to work/live with or even talk to if I tried that when the pressure is really on), but attempting to reach for peanut butter instead of pick-and-mix, and ensuring I have a decent breakfast every morning have made a big difference when I’m burning the candle at both ends.

How to manage stress | The Daily Glow

Chromium and cinnamon can both help stabilise blood sugar, thereby reducing the frequency of blood sugar crashes – which inevitably lead to a determined hunt for anything chocolate-related every few hours.  I have an affinity for cinnamon that cannot be sated, and therefore am happy to lace everything from granola, to peanut butter and pancakes liberally.  However, chromium supplementation is a good option for those of you not quite as addicted to the spice as I am.

Up your B-vitamin intake
B-complex supplements encompass a large number of vitamins, including niacin, biotin, folate and thiamine.  Many of them are important for healthy skin, hair and nails, as well as your immune system and memory.  Even mouth ulcers can be helped with B vitamin supplementation – as they have been linked to iron and B12 deficiency.  As a previous vegetarian I know first-hand how easy it is to be lacking in some of these if you don’t eat meat, and as eggs are a major source in the typical western diet, vegans can find deficiency far too close for comfort without supplementation. Eggs, wheatgrass, almonds, dark leafy greens and asparagus are some veggie-friendly dietary sources if you’d prefer not to take a supplement.

Relax
I know, I know, it sounds patronising to say the least doesn’t it?  But you can actively make it easier for yourself with the help of magnesium, chamomile tea and lavender, and by limiting screen time.  Magnesium supplementation has been shown in clinical trials to improve both sleep time and sleep efficiency, and also helps with tight or cramping muscles – the epsom salt baths that triathletes etc rave about are essentially water and magnesium.  Magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate are two of the more easily absorbed forms, and the powder supplement can be a bit cheaper than the tablets (and easier to take – have you seen the size of some of those tablets?).

How to manage stress | The Daily Glow

A cup of chamomile tea and this “Deep Sleep” spray spritzed on your (silk!) pillow both help you to drift off, but definitely the biggest game changer for me has been switching my phone to airplane mode before getting into bed.  As I’ve said before, not only does it help you get to sleep, but the mental clarity this can give you is incredible, if you leave it off until heading out the door in the morning – and I have found my mind stops racing pretty much as soon as I change mode.  It has made me insanely curious about the benefits of a full blown digital detox – this experiment by Kovert Designs has seems to have been life-changing for the participants.

The above have all worked pretty well for me, but of course everyone is different, and you may find something else much more effective.  If you have any other suggestions I’d love to hear them!

<img src="How to manage stress | The Daily Glow“>