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Taming the beast that is anxiety.

Anyone who has ever suffered from anxiety will understand why I refer to it as a beast, it’s presence in your life can feel large and looming and impossible to tame but I can assure you that having anxiety does not have to be a life sentence of misery, worry and fear. This article will share with you how to tame the symptoms of anxiety and ways to manage and overcome the effects of anxiety so you can get on with the simple act of living your life.

Anxiety is a simple word but the emotions and challenges that it presents when it is present in full blown range is extremely complex hence why I refer to it as a beast. Indeed, there are many that say you can never fully tame anxiety and perhaps that is true but I know you can certainly find a way to manage and live with it and actually having anxiety can have some advantages such as making you more resilient, more empathetic, more strategic in your thinking and planning.

Sometimes, people are unsure as to whether they have anxiety or are simply just overthinkers so here are some of the symptoms of anxiety. They can include but are not restricted to worrying obsessively, panic attacks, feeling nauseous and sweaty, feeling overwhelmed, procrastination, uncontrollable overthinking, depression, racing thoughts which may include feelings of dread, inability to concentrate, irritation, lack of appetite, inability to enjoy anything, feeling that something bad is about to happen all the time, feeling disconnected from or disassociation from yourself. These are just some common symptoms, there are many other symptoms which may point to anxiety. If unsure, please consult your doctor

One of the most common questions I get asked is where does anxiety come from or what causes it?. This can be a difficult question to answer as the causes are varied and it can also be caused by a multitude of factors. However, in general, anxiety is usually caused by some sort of trauma or negative experience that we are not able to get past.

Anxiety will usually be triggered by a big event such as a bereavement or a series of small events such as financial difficulties which get worse over time. It is important to recognise that what causes anxiety in one person may not cause anxiety in another as individuals have different levels of tolerance and resilience and also experience things in different ways. This is why it is very important to not compare your symptoms or the way you feel to someone else just because they have experienced a similar life event to yours. We all deal with trauma differently.

It is also worth noting that there are different types of anxiety e.g. social anxiety, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks and many more. I will be speaking in general within the context of this article about generalised anxiety disorder also known as GAD.

Feeling anxious, worried or scared is a normal feeling we get when we are facing something that we are worried about or is new to us such as going for a job interview, meeting new people, walking down a dark alley etc. When we are anxious, our bodies experience a physiological response commonly known as fight or flight. This response was very important for prehistoric man and for humans in general as it helps us to determine whether a situation requires us to flee or to fight and this is supported within the body by the production of a number of hormones primarily adrenaline and cortisol.

It is these hormones that are responsible for the physical symptoms of anxiety such as nausea, feeling faint, heartbeat getting faster, mood elevation, increased blood pressure and many other symptoms. This response is usually self-limiting and once the perceived threat is gone, the body adjusts itself. However, in a person with GAD or other forms of anxiety, their perception of what is dangerous may have become altered through a number of negative experiences and the body may interpret situations that are not dangerous or fearful as such therefore initiating the fight and fight response which will result in the physiological response and production of hormones. Continuous exposure to stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) damages the body and can cause a lot of illness, disease and malfunction.

In addition the fight and flight response in itself is only useful when there is a real threat, when there isn’t one you end up experiencing the quickened heartbeat, nausea, feeling faint and other physical symptoms which then make you feel unwell.

So what can you do to manage these symptoms?

Well the first and most important point to note is that if you notice that you start feeling unsafe in situations that are actually safe, it is because your brain has been rewired to think so (due to your experience of stress or trauma). Your first step is to work on changing how your brain reacts to situations and this comes from changing your thoughts.

Acknowledging you have anxiety is a good starting point, once you have done that, you may want to start writing down your experiences of your anxiety episodes and trying to identify the triggers and where possible avoid them. (E.g. watching news/consuming media can be a trigger, this can be easily avoided). In some cases, it will not be possible to avoid every trigger so you need to retrain your brain to see that the situation is safe by repeating safety mantras for example or reminding yourself of times when the said situation has occurred without any danger. (E.g. fear of driving in a car, remind yourself how often you have done this without any danger or the number of people who do this daily without danger, acknowledging that there are risks but they are minimal and more so, being trapped at home is not a way to live your life and you will find more happiness if you learn to overcome this and other fears is a line of thought that may be useful)

It is very important to remember that, your thoughts affects and creates your emotions and your emotions will determine what sort of behaviour you display. So if you can change the way you think then you can alter your emotions and hence your behaviour.

However, I know this in itself is not easy and can take time to master particularly if you have had anxiety for long periods, so here are some practical tips to help you manage your anxiety

  • Talk to someone. It is so important to speak to someone and express how you are feeling, this can make such a difference. If you don’t have close family or friends, speak to your GP or you can consider contacting any one of the hundreds of charities that support people with this. Alternatively, you may want to speak to a life coach or therapist.
  • Exercise has been shown from many studies to impact anxiety and depression positively, it will make you feel better about yourself and the feel good hormones that are produced when you exercise can negate your negative moods
  • Be careful what you eat and drink. Food is very powerful and what many people fail to realise is that the types of food you eat can harm you or heal you. Limit your intake of sugars, caffeine and alcohol as they can make your symptoms worse. At the other end, a Mediterranean diet which emphasises more healthy fats and comprises a good variety of fruits and vegetables, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, wholegrain and legumes has been shown to reduce the symptoms of anxiety
  • Spend time in nature, go for walks in the park or any green area or natural spaces.
  • Make time to do things that you love. Even if its for 30mins a day, always make time for yourself and choose to spend the time doing something that makes you happy
  • Try mindfulness meditation or yoga. Mindfulness is learning how to live in the moment, focusing on the moment and enjoying each moment as opposed to worrying about the future. Mindfulness practice has been very successful in treating anxiety
  • Try to improve your sleep as poor sleep has been linked to anxiety and depression. The body rests when you are sleeping and if you are not getting enough sleep this can lead to elevated levels of stress.
  • Practice Gratitude. Find things to be grateful for. When we practice gratitude, it can shift our perspective of things and give us a more positive mindset
  • Deep breathing can be important especially when you are feeling stressed, when we are anxious, we tend to have more shallow breaths which means oxygen is not distributed as well to the body and this can result in us feeling like we are out of breath or cannot breathe properly which causes more panic and elevated levels of anxiety. Deep and slow breathing, inhaling for 4 and exhaling for 4 can be helpful. Try to do this for a count of 10 times.
  • Finally, they say laughter is the best medicine. Find something or someone that makes you laugh. I usually turn to a comedy series that is guaranteed to make me laugh that I enjoy such as “friends”. It never fails to cheer me up. Find your own source of laughter.

I hope you find this helpful, feel free to add any tips that you find particularly useful in the comments as it may help someone else.

If you need someone to talk to, I am happy to chat, please contact me by email or direct message.

Tayo xoxo

Don’t let the scales dictate your self worth.

We’ve all been there, at least most of us women have. We get out of bed in a good mood and decide to weigh ourselves, we are hoping for good numbers, essentially lower than the previous day or at the very worst the same as the previous day. Instead the scale dispassionately informs us that we have gained a kilo in 24 hours.

We step off the scales in disgust and now our day is ruined. We wonder if we can spare an extra 30 minutes to add in a run today or maybe we will have to scrap that lunch meeting with friends we had scheduled. In effect, seeing those numbers set us on a rollercoaster of emotions, all negative. Constantly weighing yourself can be harmful if it starts to affect how you feel about yourself. It can lead to self sabotage or quitting from weight loss programs or diets because we feel demotivated and that our efforts have not been rewarded. One of the most overlooked facts is that even up to 8 weeks after starting a diet, the scales may fail to show significant drop in numbers so if you are expecting a massive change from day one or even day 10 of your new weight loss regime you may end up being very disappointed.

I decided to stop weighing myself obsessively a few years ago after I realised how much of a mind f*ck the scales were. This was an inanimate object that caused me so much distress and in the space of a few seconds could obliterate my mood totally. As a fitness trainer at the time, I was doing the exact thing that most of my clients were also doing, allowing the scales to dictate my self worth.

I realised the constant weighing had to stop as I did not want it taking over my life and with this realisation, I also knew I had to help my clients do the same and learn how to put less of a focus on the number on the scales and more focus on how they felt mentally, how their clothes fit, the improvement in their performance in the gym, the way they are now able to make better food choices or food swaps because all of these things were little wins which added together are all a sign of progress instead of just focusing on that one thing, the number on the scales.

So many women (and men) have a terrible relationship with the scales weighing themselves obsessively and letting their self worth and self esteem be tied in to whether they have managed to lose a kg/pound or not. Sadly, many women are bombarded daily with pictures in magazines and in the media of what an ideal body/figure should look like and their perception of what a normal body should be is perhaps skewed to a degree. The truth is that most of the bodies we ogle and admire have perhaps been photoshopped or altered in some way or have had cosmetic surgery. Even if that’s not the case, we have to remember that every single one of us is unique and our bodies don’t have to look the same. Our focus should be on our health and physical and mental wellbeing instead of aspiring to be a certain size.

It is fair to point out that the scales are not really the problem per se, it is how we feel about what we weigh that really causes the problem. Keeping track of your progress during a weight loss journey by checking your weight regularly is a good way of seeing how you are doing and knowing what works and what doesn’t. The problem is when the number on the scale starts to take over your life and affect your day to decisions and moods.

There are so many reasons why stepping on the scale can be harmful to your mental health and hamper your weight loss journey such as;

  • Stepping on the scales is a trigger for most people. I remember the feeling I used to get before I stepped onto the scale. My stomach would have butterflies and I would get really anxious. This is not healthy for anyone and if you are experiencing these sorts of emotions then you need to take some time away from the scales and find other ways of measuring your progress
  • As mentioned above, it may be useful to find other ways to measure your weight loss progress. Monitoring and tracking is an important part of a weight loss journey but it needs to be done in a way that amplifies all the hard work you are putting in not diminishing it. There are times when the scale alone is not a good reflection of all the work you’ve put in and other methods such as how clothes fit you may be more useful
  • If you do want to weigh yourself, only do it once a week. Many women weight themselves daily and sadly this is not useful at all. There are so many reasons day to day why your weight will fluctuate such as retaining water, hormonal issues, stress, lack of sleep and so on, therefore weighing yourself daily is usually quite inaccurate and will usually result in you getting frustrated.
  • Instead of being fixated on a specific number, focus on a range where you will be happy and make that your target. So ideally, I would love to be 65kg but I haven’t even come close to that number in many years. I have found my peace at a range between 68 and 74kg. It means anything within that number is fine and that makes it less stressful for me when I do weigh myself.
  • If getting on the scale is starting to affect your mental health, I would suggest getting rid of your scales completely, At a point in my life, I did not weigh myself for 2 years and guess what? nothing happened, I was totally fine and in fact, I have to say I was much more happier about my weight and the way I looked during this period. If getting rid completely is a big ask, then you could put the scales away and decide not to weigh yourself for a period of time and see how you get on.

If you need help with your weight loss or have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email or message me through one of my social media channels

Tayo xoxo

What it really means to “Do what makes you happy”

We have all heard that phrase at one time or the other, “Do what makes you happy” but what does it really mean and is it possible to live purposefully if we always do what makes us happy?

I have always struggled with these words, I am a classic overthinker and instead of just accepting words for what they are, I always tend to over study and overanalyse everything. This has its advantages and has served me well many times and has been useful in helping me grow as an individual. However, sometimes it leads me to decision paralysis as i spend too much time in the thinking zone and not enough in the doing zone.

When it comes to these words though, i am glad that I did spend time analysing and thinking about how this fits in with the notion of being the best version of ourselves. After all, if we always do what makes us happy, we could end up making bad choices or hurting people. E.g. being selfish and ignoring others needs, eating or drinking too much because it feels good at the time, not taking the time to exercise because it’s too hard and we would rather chill out and watch movies instead, having an extramarital affair etc., you get the gist.

The reality is we cannot always do what makes us happy because happiness in itself is a transient and fickle emotion. I have talked about this in many of my blogs and it is also the foundation of my first book “Screaming helps” which focuses on helping us find contentment as opposed to happiness because I see contentment as a more stable emotion.

What we need to understand is that doing what makes you happy so that you can become your better self does not mean being selfish, hurting others or being reckless. It means having the courage to step out and do something different because you would like the experience. It means being authentic and having the courage to be yourself.

It means not being shackled by societal norms to fit specific stereotypes of what is normal or what is expected. If you can safely say, doing what makes you happy will not hurt anyone and will not impact on your own long term happiness or sabotage your efforts at becoming better. So for example, overeating or bingeing might feel good at the point in time when you are doing it but with experience you realise that you usually end up with regret the next day and other negative emotions such as a sense of disappointment in yourself, guilt and perhaps shame. This shows you that even though overeating may have felt good for all of 30 mins when you were doing it, it does not make you happy in the long run. The short term thrill does not outweigh the negative emotions it brings.

So where does this leave you? you learn how to do many things that will enable you to exist in your authentic self such as;

Learning to say no and not feel guilty about it.

Learning to do more of the things that make you happy.

Learning to say no to toxic people, drama and any all round sh*t that doesn’t serve you.

This will bring you total freedom to be yourself and to truly be able to do more of what makes you happy.

Tayo xoxo

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Why does doing less make me tired?

I don’t know about you guys but I am struggling to be motivated. The less I do, the less I want to do. I find myself yawning mid-morning, struggling to sit up and watch a programme on TV to the end and just lacking in energy. Lockdown which initially seemed so cool, i.e. more time to chill and watch Netflix has become a complete drag.

I struggle to exercise and I have had to be especially strict with my routines to ensure that my home workouts don’t grind to a halt. It seems a bit of a mystery that now I am getting so much more rest, I seem more tired and I know I am not alone, many of my family and friends seem to also be struggling with this as are many people on social media. So what is going on?

Why are we more tired from doing less?

Well, the first thing is that with the current going-ons all over the world with the Covid Pandemic, many of us are mentally and emotionally exhausted. Mental and emotional exhaustion can cause us to feel drained and lacking in energy. Our thoughts affect our feelings which in turn affect our actions so if we are thinking about and focusing on all the negativity going on and let’s face it; it is very hard to avoid the negativity, then its not a surprise that our feelings are not going to be very positive which in turn means we feel demotivated, fed up and lethargic.

In addition, the less movement and motion we take, the more tired our bodies actually become. The science behind this is simply to do with blood flow. Our blood cells do the very important job of moving oxygen and other nutrients around all of the cells and tissues in our bodies. The less active we are, the more sluggish our blood circulation will be and inherently, it follows that we will not be getting delivery of oxygen and nutrients as fluidly as when we are more active. This is why when we spend all day sitting on the couch, it seems extremely difficult to get up to do even the smallest task. In addition, many of us are struggling to sleep with all the additional worries about jobs, finances and health and of course, less sleep means more tiredness.

All is not lost though, there are ways of combating this or at least of minimising the effect of the lockdown lethargy. The first and most obvious thing is to move more. Yes, we may not feel like doing it but if we can force ourselves to go for a walk, go outside for some fresh air, do some exercise be it gentle movements, some weight training or yoga then we will definitely feel better and if none of that appeals, put on your favourite song and dance around the room!. I definitely feel much more energised and more motivated once I have completed either my workout or my walk for the day.

To make this easier try to develop some sort of routine for your daily movement. I try to do a workout or a walk each day through the week and take Sunday off as a rest day. Once you’ve committed to a routine, its much easier to just get up and do it. If you can find a workout buddy to help you be more accountable then that will also help you to stay on track.

The final thing is to do some work around your thoughts. if you find yourself feeling tired and lethargic, as well as adding some movement into your day, spend some time analysing your thoughts. If you find you are mainly focusing on negative thoughts then try to change that narrative and remind yourself of things to be thankful for even in these difficult times. Replace what if negatives with what if positives e.g. If you have a thought such as “what if I cannot find another job” then replace it with “what if I find a better job than what I had before ” and try to ground yourself by reminding yourself that you are safe and you are okay currently as you are even if things are hard.

I hope this helps you. Do send me a message and let me know what helps you cope during these difficult times.

Tayo xoxo

Why we need failure tolerance.

Nobody likes to fail. There is some sort of stigma that we attach to failure and even just saying the word can bring some people out in a cold sweat. Failure makes us uncomfortable. Failure hurts.

Many of us have come to despise failure so much that when it does happen to us, it can completely derail us. We can feel shame, disappointed in ourselves, guilt and a lot of embarrassment worrying what people will think of us.

I remember when I had my first experience of failure with a business, I was so sad and ashamed when it failed, I withdrew into myself. I thought people would make fun of me and I would never be able to do anything else. Of course, that was nowhere near true. Yes, some people were not very nice but these people on reflection were not real friends and I did not need them in my life. I found that the people that truly loved me, my family and true friends did not care about the fact that I had failed. I was still the same person as far as they were concerned. Yes, they were sad for me because I was sad about the way things ended but nonetheless they still stuck around and were there for me. More importantly, i learnt a lot about myself and my own tenacity.

There may be situations where our failures causes us to lose friends or family, e.g. in a marriage breakup or a falling out with friends, even then we have to hold on to that fundamental truth that failure is okay and we will survive it. Yes, it is helpful to have support from others but this is not always going to be the case, there will be times when we need to stand strong on our own and be our own cheerleader.

This may also be the case in situations where we may have to go out on a limb by ourselves and the people around us may not be particularly supportive, When we fail in such instances, it can be a lot harder to pick ourselves up especially if we are concerned about what people will say or think. Reminding ourselves that failure is part of everyday life and that everyone fails at one point or another will be immensely helpful.

We all need to remember that failure is an inevitable part of life and I would argue that failure is a necessary experience for us as human beings. Failure is something that happens to everyone at some point. Even the most successful people in the world have failed at some time in their lives. If we are going to try new things and take chances, then it is most likely that some of our attempts at doing something different are not going to work out. That is totally okay and if we cultivate a mindset that accepts that failure is a possibility then it is much easier for us to be courageous in the way we live our lives.

It is understandable that failure has a negative vibe for most of us after all, we have all been conditioned to see success as the ultimate goal. We are constantly bombarded with images and stories of successful people and their lives. Interestingly, we only find out about successful people when they become a success. Social media is also really good at marketing success. No one posts about their failures on social media. All we see are what people have achieved, what they are good at, be it financial or material success.

However, we have to remember that everyone no matter how powerful, rich or successful they may seem, will have faced setbacks and challenges. It is in fact the challenges that help shape our future self more than our successes. Being failure tolerant means that we are able to accept that we will face a certain amount of failure at one time or the other.

I have had many failures in my life, and when I look back at each one, I realise, each of those failures came to teach me something very valuable about life and about myself. I have become emotionally intelligent, more resilient and self assured from each one of these experiences and I would not be the person I am today without all of my failures.

I am not going to pretend that failure does not hurt, it can be painful, humiliating and devastating depending on the level of the failure but it is up to us how much time we spend agonising over the failure. Once we acknowledge our failure, it is useful to take some time to process it and decide what lessons we can learn from it. This also gives us time to grieve any losses that we may have had as a result of the failure.

Once we have done that, we must accept that it is now in the past and we must avoid the temptation to fret or spend too much time worrying about it. If we stay too long in that space of worry and rumination, we will find ourselves trapped in a prison of self doubt and fear. This is a bad place to be as it leads to us procrastinating and unable to take our next steps into a different experience.

It is important to reflect on our failures but it is just as important to have realistic thoughts about a particular failure. We should be willing to take responsibility for our part in the failure and be willing to adapt and change so we are not constantly making the same mistakes over and over again but at the same time we should not let the fear of failure keep us from trying again.

This is the case regardless of what area of our lives we have failed in, be it in our career or business, weight loss goals, relationships or family. Let us learn not to see failure as the be all and end all, instead let us face up to our failures with courage and humility recognising that this is part of life, this is living and this is how we grow.

We cannot sidestep the pain that comes with failure but that is actually part of the process of growing from our failures, Failure makes us so much more resilient and empathetic. It teaches us what does not work and points us in the direction of what might work. Dealing with the pain and allowing that to be, is important but once that is done, you can move on knowing that you are stronger for the experience.

When you fail and you are able to survive the failure, you realise your own strength and that in itself can be so liberating. It reminds you that you can get through difficult things and life will keep moving on regardless. No one really cares about your failures as much as you care about your failure and if you can stop seeing failure as a big deal then you will not be afraid to try again.

No matter what you’ve failed at, be reassured that it happens to everyone and you can get through it. Your failures do not define you and when you do become successful, it will be all the more sweeter because of those failures.

Tayo xoxo