Alternative Therapies, Complementary Health, Menopause, Mindfulness, Well-being

Dreaming of sleep

I tend to go at everything like a bull at a gate.  I have to do it now, I have very little patience and can’t really wait for the reward.  If I have a parcel through the door, I have to open it straight away, I struggle with learning golf because there is no discernible progress from one week to the next.  I like to be successful now!  How I ever managed to learn musical instruments or how to swim is quite beyond me!  

The same is happening with my year to fixing myself.  I want to do it all now.  I want to take all the supplements change my diet habits and to make myself better now.  Unfortunately, this will fly completely in the face of what I set out to do and to find out slowly what it is that might make me feel better.  

I have reached the end of my second month.  So far I have learned:

  • Alcohol does make my hot flushes at night worse.  It also gives me restless legs.  Now, if it weren’t 10,000 degrees in the UK at the moment, I might not be suffering from this quite so much!  I researched restless legs and the heat – the heat doesn’t make the restless legs worse – but more than likely does reduce the capacity to cope with them.  Either way, this alone is enough to stop me having a tipple!
  • I don’t drink enough caffeine as to make a difference.  I probably have two or three cups of coffee a week and otherwise drink green tea and a wide selection of herbal teas.
  • I love exercise and am grumpy on the days I don’t do it.  In addition it does improve my chances of sleeping.  I have managed to maintain my commitment to exercise and including walking have exercised a minimum of 5 days per week.  My mileage for the year is currently 922 miles, so I’m hoping to achieve my target of 1000 miles during August.  I’ve also really enjoying trying a range of different exercise classes at my gym.
  • I haven’t given up anything that would cause me any inconvenience, nor have I tried introducing something that I might struggle to commit to on a daily basis – I’ve gone for the easy option!
  • Gradually I am starting to change.  When I go to the fridge to get a snack I am tending to reach for healthier options as I increasingly feel awful if I eat junk.  I’ve also started to spurn cakes, as shop bought cakes just tend to be too big and too sickly.  I’m not sure if this change is due to being more mindful in my choices, or because I am writing a daily food diary and so am more aware of how foods are making me feel, but generally I would say I am starting to make better food choices.
  • Daily meditation does make a difference.  I feel calmer and more in control of situations as they arise.  I haven’t yet worked out how to manage the situations, but at least I am more aware of them as they happen!

I have done some research this month about being a lady of a certain age and the effects it can have on your body.  I’ve also read about the different supplements you could introduce.  However, I have decided that approach for the next few months is to tackle those things that I believe affect me the most. Exercise is a must, but besides that, the things that currently annoy me most are:

  • Sleepless nights – bit chicken and egg, not sure which comes first, the hot flush or the sleepless night, but the combination of both with the added bonus of restless legs drives me to distraction
  • Slugglish bowel habits – a bit too much information there!
  • Brain fog – it’s like I’m in a permanent daze – a prime example is putting my mobile phone on to charge and then five minutes later searching high and low, even ringing my mobile from the landline because I can’t for the life of me think where I might have put it.  If I’ve forgotten to take it off silent, the problem is compounded.

alarm clock analogue bed bedroom

As a consequence, I have decided that I would like to tackle sleepless nights next – to my mind having a decent nights sleep will improve the brain fog situation, if nothing else.  And so, I have researched what I need to do to improve my chances of getting a good nights sleep.  I referred to a book ‘New Natural Alternatives to HRT’ by Marilyn Glenville who recommends:

  • A good quality multivitamin for women of a certain age
  • Magnesium supplement – I was given this many years ago by a nutritionist who tested my magnesium levels, so it didn’t surprise me in the least that this could be a contributory factor
  • Valerian – to be taken alongside the magnesium one hour before bed time.
  • A camomile based hot drink prior to bed.
  • A hot bath with a lavender based bath oil – I might have mentioned that it’s currently 10,000 degrees in Bristol, so this isn’t currently an option!
  • Placing an essential oil on your pillow!  Lavender is a popular choice, but I do already have DoTerra Peace blend which was recommended to me by my kinesiologist.

aroma aromatherapy aromatic basket

This does also fly in the face of only trying one thing per month.  If I do all of the above, how will I ever know which was the one that helped me sleep.  I have to admit, I don’t really care!  I am so desperate to have a good nights sleep that I’m quite willing to throw the kitchen sink at it and see where it takes me.  By my thinking, if I sleep better I will be better able to cope with the brain fog, I might not even get it, and it is also a contributory factor to a healthy digestive system – so a winner all round!  I also so keen to get in to a regular sleeping habit that I have reached the point where I am quite prepared to take the supplements on a regular basis, I am quite determined to see the month out and am quite positive about the results.  I know there will be many doubters who think it’s all a load of nonsense, but at the end of the day, if I believe it will help me and I believe it will improve my life, then that’s all that matters.  It would be interesting to learn other people’s hints and tips for achieving a good nights sleep.  

Bristol, Cycling, Exercise, Walking, Well-being

Loving Exercise

I love exercise.  I’d forgotten quite how much I do enjoy exercising.  I’d also forgotten quite how much I  enjoyed using my bicycle for my commute to and from work in the past.  I’d forgotten that in a city like Bristol, more often than not, cycling is the most sensible (and quickest) form of transport.

Long Ashton Cricket Club

Take going to the gym.  It’s currently taking me in the region of 20 minutes to cycle there – depending on the heat and whether or not it’s before or after a gym class.  It regularly takes me this long to drive, particular the journey back into the city.  The majority of the cycle takes me along cycle paths, past a cricket pitch, providing a break from the busy city and beautiful scenes of a traditional Bristol.  I wouldn’t have found this gem if I hadn’t taken to my bicycle and needed to find an alternative route avoiding the A370.  It’s hard to believe such a busy main road is only 100 yards away from this peace and quiet.

I’m loving being back at the gym and having a wide selection of classes to choose from.  Whilst reading around Yoga I have investigated whether or not it counts as weight-bearing exercise (it does) and whether or not I still need to do cardio exercise.  There seems to be some debate over this, but I suspect that depends on how much yoga is going to become a way of life vs an additional form of exercise.  All I can say, is I can see myself how my cardio fitness has fallen off since I have been focussing more fully on yoga.  My benchmark was rowing 1000m on the rowing machine.  In the past, I have completed the distance in around 5 minutes.  This last week it took me 5 minutes and 43 seconds.  Evidence, if it were needed, that my cardio fitness has declined, and so according to my simple brain, just practicing yoga hasn’t maintained my fitness levels.  I’m hoping that through cycling more around Bristol and adding in additional classes at the gym I will start to see an improvement.

Unfortunately, the best way I can really judge whether or not the exercise has been of benefit is by a change in weight – or more specifically, a change in how my clothes fit.  I am also going to repeat the 1000m row each week to see if I can improve on my time.  And I still have my ultimate goal – to complete one un-assisted pull up!!!!  I don’t know why I have this goal, I just think it would be an awesome thing to be able to do!

According to the UK Government, the current recommended daily exercise targets are:  

Physical activity guidelines

I have also been doing research on exercise and menopause.  It would appear that strength training is recommended and so I am making sure I do one strength session per week.  Sometimes I have been doing my own thing at the gym and other times I have been going along to a conditioning class.  One thing I have learned over the years is that variety is vital to maintaining enthusiasm.

An added benefit of exercise, is that it does seem to help with my sleep.  Given the exceedingly hot weather conditions in Bristol at the moment, a decent night’s sleep is a bit of a struggle at the best of times, however exercise does seem to improve the amount and quality of sleep I am getting.  I am now also 95% certain that drinking wine has a huge impact on the quality of sleep I am getting, specifically, it seems to increase the incidence of hot flushes and restless legs, neither of which are particularly welcome when temperatures are in the very high 20s!

I am still managing to walk quite a bit.  I’ve walked 856 miles towards my 1000 mile target for the year.  I am using this year as a benchmark to be honest and so am not particularly pushing myself.  I have increased the number of steps in a day up to 12,500 as I was achieving 10,000 most days without really having to make that much of an effort.  By adding the extra steps it is forcing me to do some additional walking to achieve the target.  Although, it would appear that a steps target isn’t necessarily the best method to use.  Current research suggests that three or four 10 minute bursts of brisk exercise getting your heart racing is far more beneficial than achieving a steps target.  I am trying to combine both and hopefully achieve the maximum benefits I can from walking. 

At the moment, in Bristol, there is the added incentive of Gromit Unleashed 2.  The exhibits this year are fabulous and it feels like they’ve built upon the previous trails in the way it is organised – including availability of the replica models.  They definitely bring a smile to people’s faces and it’s amazing how many people just sit next to Wallace on a bench just to pass the time!  The only hiccup I’ve discovered thus far is that the app doesn’t work too well inside so I’ve not been able to register that I’ve visited a couple of the statues.  It’s great fun to do the trail and well worth visiting Bristol to take part, should you get the chance.

 

 

Bristol, Mindfulness, Well-being

What’s the story?

 

Everyone tells stories.  Stories to children to fire their imaginations, stories to friends and families about events that have happened in our lives, all of which are very positive and enjoyable.  But what about those stories that we might tell which aren’t so positive?  What about stories we tell others to cover up our own insecurities, or worse still those stories we tell ourselves which determine the direction our lives will take.

Earlier this week I returned to the Mindfulness course run by My Awareness, here in Bristol.  During one of the meditation sessions we were asked to focus on something which we found challenging.  Not so challenging that it would be impossible to tackle in a short space of time, but something which challenged us to some degree at this time.  I chose to focus on my hot feet!  Since this heat wave started I have had permanently hot feet.  I normally suffer from cold feet and so have been finding hot feet somewhat challenging to say the least!  Another affliction I suffer from is escalating a minor problem into a major problem in the space of 3 seconds.  So, quite clearly, I don’t have hot feet, due to the insanely hot weather, I must have something far worse than that – my hot feet must be an indicator of an underlying, far more serious problem.  I even googled hot feet – which every doctor I’ve ever met says is the worst possible thing you can do.  (Apparently, it convinces the brain you have something and so makes the situation worse).  My search did indeed support the fact that I had hot feet due to hot weather – just suck it up!

aged ancient asian buddhism

But back to the meditation, this was my chosen ‘challenge’ to focus on.  Away we went, through the usual motions until we reached the point where we were asked to focus on our challenge of choice.  And then the questions started.  ‘Is this you?’ or more precisely, ‘Is this your story’?  As we delved further into the investigation of my hot feet.  Where had my reaction to this challenge originated from?  What stories had brought me to this point?  At which point I definitely wobbled on my stool as I realised that no – this is not my story – this is my father’s story – the story of seeking a negative out of every situation!  Unfortunately, this has become my story and is the story that constantly runs around in my head, the story that I constantly respond to – rather than just accept things as they are I tap in to this story – ‘The worst case scenario’ story.

In some ways it made me quite sad – I don’t have my own story to tell.  I am stuck in a story from the past and one that has no bearing on the way I choose to live my life now.  Nor do I listen to husband’s story – which is infinitely more positive than mine.

person wearing pair of brown leather loafers

The good thing about mindfulness, as I discovered this week, is these stories don’t have to define where I go next.  I can’t change what I am now – this is the situation I find myself in.  I’ve arrived here due to stories I’ve received through my life, from family, friends, colleagues and even the media.  What I can do is change how I react to the stories, I can choose where which direction to take next.  When I hear myself repeating a story I can stop it, notice it, look at it as an outsider would and decide what I’m gong to do with it.  Is this my story?  Is this me?  If not, what am I going to do to change it today?

On top of this I have learned this week that technically I am classed as healthy.  At the gym I attend there is a Bodytrax machine.  I have to admit, I didn’t really understand the results it was giving me, and I don’t imagine for a moment that it’s 100% accurate, but this week I took the time to ask what the scores meant.  It would appear that weight is pretty irrelevant.  What are more relevant are the visceral fat measurement, which provides an estimate of the level of fat around your vital organs, and what percentage of your overall weight is fat.  My visceral fat score has been consistently at 6.  A quick search of the internet revealed a healthy figure is 12 or below.  For a lady of my age, a healthy percentage of fat is considered to be between 23% and 34%.  Mine currently lies at 32.5%, which is again within the healthy bracket.

the last bow book

Yet I consistently tell myself the story that I am too fat, that I am an unhealthy weight, that I need to change.  This, as much as anything, has shown me that the stories I continue to live by are outdated and no longer relevant.  In 5 or 10 years time, I’d be disappointed if I were still telling myself the same stories and really hope that I have replaced them with new more positive ones.  Of a life well lived, of opportunities taken and accepted, of laughter and love.   To be the healthiest version of me that I can be, but at least now I realise that I don’t have to strive for the impossible, I’m already healthy enough, whatever else I achieve will be an additional bonus.

Menopause, Well-being

Reflections on Alcohol

As June comes to a close and I embark on a new month, I thought I’d reflect on my month of cutting down alcohol.  I didn’t manage to cut it out completely, however I did cut down quite significantly.

  1. People are very disconcerted by someone who doesn’t drink.  I get lots of strange looks, as if I have multiple heads.  Followed by the obvious questions, ‘Why don’t you drink’? ‘Where’s the fun in not drinking?’ or statements along the lines of ‘oh, you’re very good’ or ‘Oh I couldn’t do that’.  Many people continue to justify to me why they drink, and tell me more often than not that they are the black sheep of the family and that no one else in the family drinks as much.  No one as yet has made a positive comment about the fact I am choosing not to drink.  It’s not generally the bar owners, they have been amazingly supportive, in fact, one bar that we frequent in Portugal has made virgin cocktails to brighten up the monotony of sparkling water.  Both of our favourite bars add a variety of fruit, or put sparkling water into a nicer glass so that it looks more special.  It’s generally the other customers who seem to have a real problem with a non-drinker in their midst.  This has got me wondering what would the situation be if I was genuinely an alcoholic.  This is a choice I have made because alcohol makes me feel a bit rubbish, it’s not an addiction I am trying to quit.  Are people generally so lacking in understanding that they think it’s acceptable to grill someone on their reasons for not drinking?  I can easily understand why anyone who was struggling with an addiction to alcohol would choose to avoid bars as it’s an incredibly tough environment to be in as a non-drinker.
  2. Generally, the choice of non-alcoholic alternatives in bars and restaurants is fairly rubbish.  Don’t get me wrong, many places do offer a full range of alternatives:  soft drinks, fruit juices, even virgin cocktails, however, these are usually fully laden with sugar.  Whilst sitting waiting for friends in a local restaurant I ‘googled’ sugar content of drinks – many alcoholic drinks have lower sugar content than non-alcoholic drinks.  Yes, I can hear you shout, what about the diet versions?  But what about sweetener – the effects of which are equally as bad, if not worse, than sugar.  So taking all of this into account, I am pretty much left with sparkling water.  You might argue I am being too picky – but I don’t see the point of going to all the effort of cutting out alcohol, just to replace it with a different version of bad (in my eyes).
  1. Drunk people can be rude, insensitive and invasive.  Some, not all.  For some reason, after some people have had a drink, it becomes their prerogative to interfere in all aspects of your life – suddenly no topic is off limits.  They know everything about you; they know everything you have done and have done it at least a million times better; they know what you need to do to fix / improve every aspect of your life; they become incredibly nosey and ask the kinds of questions that they wouldn’t dare ask when they are sober.  All of a sudden they are experts on each and every aspect of your life.  Now, this could be because I am now sober in the bar – but my capacity for dealing with this has diminished and I can feel my frustrations rising.  I can well understand that previously, I didn’t really hear, or really didn’t care due to the wine I had consumed myself.

As yet, I can’t say that there has been a startling improvement in how I feel or look.  In particular, I have been looking for improvements in hot flushes, tiredness and quality of sleep, all of which can be attributed to menopause.  As I mention previously, weight loss isn’t as high a priority for me as feeling and looking healthy.  

barefoot basket blooming blossoming

Hot flushes:  there has been little or no difference in the number / intensity of hot flushes, particularly over night.  Now, it is super hot in the UK at the moment – but still – no change.

Exhaustion:  I still have days when I feel utterly exhausted, like I am walking in treacle.  Clearly, having a glass of wine didn’t improve them, but it would seem they weren’t caused entirely by wine consumption.  I suspect they are more related to hormones and I need to continue the research to find a solution to this.

Sleep:  Still rubbish, and still very intermittent.  I still haven’t managed to sleep through the night without interruption, although I’m not sure how much the weather has been a contributory factor in this.    

There have, however, been some improvements:

  1. The restless legs have calmed down.  I haven’t been quite so plagued by my legs kicking through the night.
  2. I feel a little brighter in the morning when I wake up.
  3. I’ve recovered a little sense of myself.  I feel a little more like the old me, and am increasingly confident about walking into social situations knowing I am going to order non-alcholic drinks.  Because I feel more at ease, I am more relaxed and generally a happier person to be with.  I’m not putting myself under pressure to be someone I’m not, and as a consequence am enjoying going out much more than I was before.

aroma aromatic art artistic

I’ve decided that each month I will cut out one more thing and add in one thing.  As I only started exercising properly at the beginning of last week, I’m going to continue increasing the level of exercise throughout July.  The temptation to add in something else is immense, but I’m keen not to take on too much at once, which is something I find particularly difficult.

So, beside continuing to cut alcohol out of my diet I am also going to cut out caffeine.  Apparently, this is another contributor to hot flushes due to menopause, so we’ll see how this month goes!  Clearly, if the weather continues they way it is, it may not be the best month to be judging how effective it is to remove caffeine from my day!