Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Adopting a healthy bedtime routine

It’s not unusual for many of us to experience disrupted sleep, with one in three of us suffering from sleep deprivation. There are several factors that can impact our sleep, these include:

  • Stress 
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive noise
  • Bedroom temperature
  • Caffeine or alcohol
  • Shift patterns
  • Mental health issues
  • Certain medicines

A continuous lack of sleep has many implications on our wellbeing and can cause us to feel bad-tempered, agitated, impatient and lacking focus. But there are also more serious side effects that can take a toll on our mental and physical health, which can result in diabetes, heart disease and traffic accidents. By creating a bedtime routine and making small lifestyle changes, it becomes easier to unwind, relax and sleep better.

Why we need bedtime routines

Adopting a bedtime routine where you get into calming habits such as reading, taking a bath or meditating 30-60 minutes before you go to sleep can really assist your body and mind into knowing when it’s time to go to sleep. So, what are the benefits of a healthy bedtime routine and better sleep?

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves memory and focus
  • Improves mood
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Reduces risk of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes

In a study undertaken by Jessica Lunsford-Avery, an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, it was found that “The more irregular these sleep patterns, the higher risk for obesity, hypertension and elevated blood sugar, and the higher the projected risk of developing heart disease over the next decade.”

How can we adopt a healthy bedtime routine?

1. Stick to a set time to go to bed

It’s important to train your brain into knowing when it’s time to go to sleep and when to wake up, which we often call our body clock. By sticking to the same routines, your brain will soon become accustomed to bedtime and will automatically let you know when you are tired.

2. Switch off electronics

All electronic devices, including televisions, mobile phones and computers emit a blue light that fools your brain into believing that it’s daytime, thus producing less melatonin. This will ultimately keep you awake and prevent you from falling asleep.

3. Have a light, healthy snack

While it’s widely known that eating a heavy meal before bedtime can cause acid reflux and indigestion, a lighter healthy snack and a warm caffeine-free drink can settle your stomach and induce sleep.

4. Have a warm bath

Slipping into a warm bath an hour before bedtime will increase your body heat, and once you step out of the bath, it then begins to cool, making you feel more relaxed and sleepier.

5. Practise meditation or breathing exercises

Both meditation and deep breathing exercises help promote relaxation. As well as relaxing your muscles and helping you let go of any tension, it will quieten your mind in preparation for a good night’s sleep.

6. Listen to relaxing music

Not only can music distract you from everyday stresses, but it can also help both your body and mind relax, easing you into a more peaceful sleep.

7. Prepare your bedroom

It’s important that your bedroom is a calm and tranquil space where you feel comfortable and at peace. Make sure it’s the correct temperature, quiet and dimly lit. You could even light a scented candle to add to the calming ambience, but ensure you extinguish it before you fall asleep.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Herbs and spices for a healthy body and mind

Owing to their healing properties, herbs and spices have been used for centuries as holistic remedies for physical health. But it’s only been in more modern times that studies have shown their benefits on mental health. As well as being used to season food and treat aches and pains, they are now more commonly used to improve cognitive ability and reduce the effects of stress and anxiety.

Benefits of herbs and spices

Many herbs and spices contain antioxidants and other powerful properties, and they have a wide range of health benefits such as:

  • Helping to promote weight loss
  • Controlling blood sugar levels
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Improving heart health
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • Easing stress and anxiety
  • Aiding insomnia

Herbs and spices and their healing properties


One of the most popular spices used for its health benefits is turmeric. A study published by Science Direct showed that this spice is most effective as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. It’s also often used to minimise free radicals and reduce the physical symptoms of stress on the body. More recent research shows that turmeric may improve brain health and ward off Alzheimer’s disease.


Used by ancient civilisations for thousands of years to treat illnesses, cinnamon is still popular today owing to its therapeutic properties. It contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties and provides many health benefits including reducing blood sugar levels and improving cognitive ability.


As well as being a popular aromatic spice used in cooking, cumin is rich in antioxidants and is used to assist weight management, lower cholesterol, and manage the effects of stress. Studies have shown that cumin has antidiabetic properties and can reduce blood sugar levels following a meal.


While peppermint is often consumed for its vibrant flavour, it also has a wealth of health benefits. It can relax the digestive system and reduce pain from bloating and indigestion. It’s often used to lessen the symptoms of IBS and prevent nausea and vomiting.


Packed with antioxidants and healthy compounds, this vibrant spice is used for both mental and physical health. Ginger is great at fighting off stress, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and reducing the risk of heart and lung disease. Its anti-inflammatory properties also mean that it is often used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


This sweet-smelling herb is more than just a pretty flower, it’s used for a whole host of mental and physical health benefits. As well as promoting better sleep, lavender is also widely known for alleviating the effects of stress, anxiety and depression as it can help to reduce blood pressure and lower the heart rate.

Popular herbs used to ease symptoms of stress and anxiety

  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Turmeric
  • St John’s wart
  • Lemon balm
  • Passionflower
  • Basil
  • Nutmeg
  • Kava kava
  • Peppermint
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
Note: herbs and spices can be potent and some can interfere with other medications or can exacerbate medical issues. Please check out any contraindications before taking any remedy. 

Friday, 8 July 2022

Signs your friend is hiding their stress

Friendships play an integral role in our lives, not only for sharing the good times but also for the times when we need a shoulder to cry on. However, there are situations where we might not want to admit, even to our closest friend, that we are struggling with our mental health. So, although on the outside our closest companion may appear to be happy and confident, behind close doors they might be suffering in silence.

Most of us will experience stress at some point in our lives but how we deal with it can impact both our physical and mental wellbeing. Confiding in a close friend can really help us in our times of need, but what can we do to help those who are suffering alone? Stress can affect us in many ways, from our physical appearance to our actions, but sometimes it’s hard to recognise especially when people hide their emotions.

How to recognise when your friend is stressed

If you notice any of the following, it could be that your friend is suffering from stress:

  • They are short tempered, impatient or irritable.
  • They fidget more than usual, perhaps bite their nails, or appear nervous and scared.
  • They struggle to make decisions and don’t seem to pay attention when you’re speaking. According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, “stress activates some physiological systems, such as the autonomic nervous system, central neurotransmitter and neuropeptide system, and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, which have direct effects on neural circuits in the brain involved with data processing.”
  • They seem unhappy and unable to enjoy themselves.
  • They lose interest in the things they usually enjoy.
  • They forget things more easily and struggle to concentrate.
  • Their food habits change and either they eat too little or too much.
  • They smoke and drink more often or they start to use recreational drugs.
  • Their spending habits increase.
  • They either exercise excessively or stop their usual routines.
  • They don’t want to socialise, and withdraw from friends and family.

Reasons why a friend may hide their stress

One of the main reasons that people hide their stress is because they don’t want to look like a failure, and they worry about what others may think of them. Although mental health has become much more of an open topic in recent years, people still find it difficult to let go of their pride and ask for help when they’re struggling. On they outside they might appear to have it all, but on the inside they’re fighting a constant battle to carry on as normal.

7 ways to support a friend who is suffering from stress

If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms above and you’re concerned that your friend is going through a stressful time, the best way you can support them is simply by being there and listening to them. By lending a non-judgemental ear and perhaps letting them know that you’re there for them no matter what, it might encourage them to open up and release their feelings. It’s likely that your friend won’t thank you for any advice as they just need some friendly support and maybe a distraction from their internal thoughts and emotions. Some of the ways you can help your friend is by:

  1. Enjoying a night together listening to your favourite music and reminiscing about past times.
  2. Encouraging them to take part in an activity with you, whether it’s a sport or something creative.
  3. Offering to help with their workload if possible or even basic household chores such as cooking, shopping or cleaning.
  4. Depending on what your friend might need help with, offering to organise their appointments, research information for them or simply be by their side when they need you.
  5. Listening to how they feel and being patient with them when they’re angry or bad tempered.
  6. Reassuring them that they won’t always feel this way and that things can improve.
  7. If they’re willing, trying relaxation techniques together such as yoga, meditation, or just walking in the countryside.