The benefits of playing poker in your 40s

Turning 40 opens up a lot of new opportunities for people, but it also presents its fair share of challenges. We talked about how to make friends in your 40s here on the 40 Now What blog, but there are plenty of other new developments that pop up as you get older.

Your 40s are the perfect time to put everything you’ve already learned to work for yourself. Insider.com shared some of what they enjoyed about entering their fourth decade, such as learning to do what is best for their health, even if others disagree, and the simple pleasure of turning down an invitation to a party or social gathering.

As you get older, it is important to continue picking up new skills. Poker might not be an obvious choice, but there are plenty of advantages to picking up the hobby a bit later in life. With live tournaments recently making their return after a long hiatus and films like Molly’s Game keeping poker in the spotlight, many might have the urge to try the game out for the first time or get back to the table after a long time away.

Besides simply being a fun hobby to pick up, there are plenty of reasons why playing poker in your 40s is good for anyone. Here are just a few ways the game can keep you alert, grounded, and happy.

Money management

playing poker

Even with the disposable income that comes with having a few decades of work under your belt, it can be tough trying to budget yourself. This is true in your personal budget or at the poker table. Whether you’re playing with real or play money, there is nothing worse than getting knocked out of a game early. This is why bankroll management has always been a key skill for any poker player, and, as Poker.org details, it is the biggest reason people fail at the game. If you can control your spending at the table, with all the tension and drama of a big pot just within reach, you’ll be able to keep yourself in check when you’re next shopping.

Socialising with other players

One of the biggest challenges that comes with turning 40 is the fact that it is tougher to make friends. Many parents find themselves suddenly with more free time now that their kids are more self-sufficient and want to fill that time with new social activities, which is a great way that poker can help them. Even the most competitive of games is an inherently social game. Whether they are trying to pick up on any tells or bluffs that the other player has or simply congratulating them on a successful hand, poker provides plenty of opportunities for players to make friends and socialise. Just don’t expect your new friends to go easy on you at the table.

Memory skills

playing poker

We’ve all had moments where we just couldn’t remember what we were about to do or walked into a room only to forget why we went in there in the first place. Memory issues can be a struggle for many people over 40, but the best way to combat them is to flex your cerebral muscles regularly. Poker relies heavily on memory, whether it is learning the poker hand rankings or keeping track of the odds of certain hands coming up. It is a great way to keep yourself mentally active in a fun way that doesn’t feel like studying.

Self-Confidence

The last few years have been tough for everyone’s self-confidence. It is easy to feel down on yourself when the world is moving so fast or you feel left behind by your friends or family as they go off to do new things. Poker is a tough skill to master, but one of the most important aspects of it is to learn to trust your instincts. With hours of practice under your belt, you will learn new strategies and ways to approach the game, which will lead to you gaining more confidence in yourself and your decision-making abilities. Knowing when to trust yourself to make a tough decision is key in life and can only be gained with a healthy sense of confidence in yourself.

What hobbies have you taken on in your 40s? Let’s carry on the conversation below or connect with us over on Instagram.

5 biggest myths about cervical screenings you shouldn’t believe 

Following on from our previous article around cervical cancer awareness, we got advice from Dr Tim Woodman, Medical Director at Bupa UK, who shared with us the following information about cervical screenings.

He says; ‘Regular health screenings have been neglected during the pandemic – there are currently 4.7 million people with cervixes in the UK who haven’t been adequately screened for cervical cancer. It’s more important than ever to book your smear test – and to encourage your friends to do the same.

Our previous research found that 1 in 5 women say they wouldn’t visit their doctor if they had pelvic pain or an unusual discharge or bleeding, and 1 in 3 women say they wouldn’t see a doctor if they had bleeding outside of their usual menstrual cycle. 41% of women wouldn’t go to a GP if they had an unusual discharge.’

From believing screening is painful, to the ‘embarrassment’ of seeing your doctor about gynaecological issues, there’s lots of common misconceptions about cervical screening that we shouldn’t believe. These myths could prevent you from attending your screening, or visiting a doctor for any unusual symptoms, such as abnormal bleeding or painful sex.

Here are the most common myths about smear tests you shouldn’t believe:

Myth 1: An abnormal smear test indicates a high risk of cancer

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer – it is used to help prevent cancer. A sample is checked for certain “high risk” types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). If these are not found, then nothing further is done, but if these types of HPV are present then the cells from the sample are checked for any changes. If any abnormal cells are found and these are left untreated, it could lead to cancer.

Having regular cervical screening will identify any abnormalities – these may not be cancerous, and mild abnormalities don’t always need to be treated.

Myth 2: A cervical screening test is painful

cervical screenings

It’s a common myth that a cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a painful procedure. For some, it can be an uncomfortable procedure, especially if you have endometriosis, vaginismus (when your vagina suddenly becomes tight) or vaginal dryness.

Breathing exercises and distraction methods (listening to music or counting to 100 during the procedure) can help to calm your nerves. You can also ask your nurse about using a smaller speculum (the instrument used during the test) – they come in different sizes, and it can help to ease any discomfort you’re experiencing. 

It’s important to explain any worries you have to your healthcare professional, as they should take additional steps to make the experience less stressful. 

Myth 3: I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need to check my health

We have an excellent cervical cancer screening programme, which can detect early abnormalities which can lead to cervical cancer. 

Even if you’re showing no unusual symptoms, you must attend your checks as these can detect abnormalities before you start showing any symptoms. Early detection is key to effectively preventing and treating cancers; attending all appointments – even if you’re feeling well – is vital.

Myth 4: Seeing the doctor about gynaecological issues is embarrassing

cervical screenings

Do not worry – every doctor or nurse in your local clinic will have seen more vaginas and heard more intimate stories than you could ever believe! They understand that everyone is an individual and will not be uncomfortable or bothered by talking about sex, vaginal bleeding, discharge, or painful intercourse. 

Performing intimate examinations is part of their everyday activities, and they want to do this to the cause of the problem you’re having. Try and be as open and honest about your symptoms or concerns as you can, as this will enable your healthcare professional to give you the best care they can. 

Myth 5: If I am worried I can go for a smear test, which will rule out any cancer

No, this is not the case. The cervical screening test only looks for signs that you may be at risk of cervical cancer. It is not a cancer test, nor does it assess the health of your vulva, vagina, womb or ovaries.  A cervical screening test is only suitable if you have no symptoms of concern. 

If you have unusual bleeding, pain or other symptoms you should discuss this with a healthcare professional, who will decide with you what steps need to be taken to assess your gynaecological health.  

Are you up to date with your screenings? Comment below on your experiences or connect with us on Instagram

The importance of cervical cancer awareness

17th – 23rd January 2022 marks Cervical Cancer Prevention week. We’ve joined forces with the experts, bringing you this guide, to raise awareness of cervical screening. If you have a cervix, this one is for you.

Here, Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy talks about the importance of not delaying cervical screening when invited but also to see if there was anything we could be doing to avoid this type of cancer.

Did you know?

  • There are around 3,200 new cases of cervical cancer each year in the UK.
  • Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer in the UK.
  • Cervical cancer can be prevented by having regular cervical smears.
  • The most common age group for women to be diagnosed with cervical cancer is in women aged 30-34 years.
  • Since the 1990s, the incidence of cervical cancer has fallen by around 25%. This is likely to be due to the success of cervical screening.
  • The number of cases of cervical cancer is predicted to fall in the coming years due to the success of HPV vaccination.
  • Around 850 women still die each year in the UK from cervical cancer.
  • Since the 1970s, the death rate for cervical cancer has fallen by around 75%. Again, this is likely to be due to the advent of cervical screening.

Risk factors for cervical cancer

HPV – 99.8% of cervical cancers are due to infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This is a sexually transmitted virus. There are over 100 subtypes. HPV 16 and 18 are high-risk subtypes, and these are the target of the current HPV vaccination campaign. Low-grade HPV subtypes, including those which cause many visible genital warts, are not a risk factor for cervical cancer.

Many women with HPV infection never develop cervical cancer, meaning other factors are also important for the infection to progress. Cervical cancer is more common in those who also had an early age of first sexual intercourse, before the age of 14, or who have had 6 or more sexual partners. Cervical cancer risk is lowered in women whose sexual partner has been circumcised.

Women with genital herpes are also at an increased risk of cervical cancer.

Smoking – 21% of cervical cancers are attributed to smoking. The risk of cervical cancer is increased by 46% in current smokers as compared to lifetime non-smokers.

HIV –  Cervical cancer is six times more common in those infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, this risk is significantly reduced in women who are taking highly active antiretroviral therapy (HART).

Family history – The risk of cervical cancer is 74%-80% higher in women with a first degree relative, such as a mother or a sister who has had cervical cancer, suggesting there may be some genetic susceptibility.

Oral contraceptives – Up to 10% of cervical cancers are thought to be associated with the use of oral contraceptives. However, the risk is only attributable after five years or more of use. There is no need to panic and stop taking the pill. The benefits of taking the pill are considerable and should not be underestimated. Pill users should not be unduly concerned but are strongly advised to attend for their cervical smears regularly, and to try not to smoke.

Ethnicity – Cervical cancers are more common in ethnic groups who are reluctant to come forward for screening. This means cervical cancer is more common in women who are Black, Hispanic, Asian or from low-income households.

Women who were given diethylstilbestrol (DES) – Some women were given DES, a potent synthetic estrogen, between 1940-1970,  to try and prevent miscarriage. This is known to increase the risk of cervical and vaginal cancers.

The UK Cervical Cancer Screening Programme

One important aspect of cervical cancer is that it has a very long premalignant phase, during which it is possible to identify abnormal cells – by having a cervical smear. These abnormal cells can then be treated. Doing this prevents these cells from transforming into cervical cancer cells.

The NHS Cervical Cancer Screening Programme was started in 1988, and since then there has been a dramatic fall in the number of cases of cervical cancer.

Adult women aged 25-64 years are invited to have a cervical smear once every 3-5 years in the UK. Those aged under 50 are asked to come once every 3 years, and those aged over 50, every 5 years. Trans men (who were female at birth) are not automatically invited but can request a cervical smear if they still have a cervix.

The smear itself is also tested for the presence of HPV. If HPV is present, you will be invited to have smears more often, or referred to colposcopy, where your cervix can be examined more closely with the aid of a special instrument called a colposcope. This gives magnified images of the cervix.

What is a cervical smear?

cervical smear

A cervical smear is a simple test, in which a plastic spatula is gently rubbed over your cervix (the neck of the womb) to collect some cervical cells. These are then sent to the lab to be looked at down the microscope.

To be able to do this, the doctor or nurse taking the smear, needs to see your cervix. This means you do have to remove your underwear, lie on the couch, and allow them to insert a vaginal speculum. This is an instrument, made of plastic or metal, which looks like a duck’s beak.

The secret is to try and relax as much as you can. This helps the smear taker to be able to manoeuvre the speculum as they need to, to get a good view of the cervix. Try not to get too anxious. Doctors and nurses who do smears are very well trained and will do all they can to put you at your ease. It can be uncomfortable having a smear, but it shouldn’t be painful. It usually only lasts – perhaps 30-60 seconds. This is a very short inconvenience for a test that could save your life. You can watch a video of how a cervical smear is taken here.

How many women have not had a cervical smear?

It is very worrying that in 2019, 1 in 3 women aged 25-64 had not had a cervical smear. In a survey conducted by Jo’s Cancer Trust, 2000 women were asked about their experiences of having a cervical smear. An incredible 915 had either never had a smear or had delayed an appointment to have one. 71% said they felt scared, 75% felt vulnerable, 81% were embarrassed, and 67% said having a smear would make them feel out of control. 58% were scared it would be painful.

Having taken cervical smears for over 30 years, I can tell you, taking a smear is a straightforward process, that for the vast majority of women, is easy, quick, and almost painless. The smear taker will respect your dignity, cover you with a blanket, ask permission to start the procedure and stop at any time if you ask them to stop. You do not need to feel out of control. Doctors and nurses who work in sexual health or GP surgeries, spend all day looking at female vulvas and vaginas – they are perfectly used to it, and nothing will surprise or shock them. You can feel completely at ease with these medical practitioners. Any female doctors or nurses will no doubt have had a smear test themselves and know how it feels.

What is far more of a worry, is not attending for your smear, but having to come to the clinic in the future, with a possible undiagnosed cervical cancer.

Getting your smear results

cervical cancer

You should get a letter in the post about your results, usually within 4 weeks. If your smear is normal, you will be told to have another smear in 3-5 years depending on your age. Sometimes, there may have been difficulty interpreting the smear, and it just needs repeating in 3 to 6 months. If you do have abnormal cells, you will be referred to the Colposcopy clinic so a Gynaecologist can take a closer look at your cervix. If HPV is present, but your cells look normal, you will simply be asked to have another smear in 12 months. The important thing is to follow instructions and attend for your subsequent visit as requested.

How accurate are cervical smears?

It’s important to remember that no tests are ever 100% accurate. There is always a small chance the smear could show an abnormality that isn’t cancer, or, could be wrongly classed as negative, meaning something abnormal was missed. In between smear tests, if you have any symptoms such as bleeding in between your periods or after sex, or abnormal vaginal discharge, it’s important to see your GP or go to the Sexual Health clinic without delay.

Prevention is better than cure

After a detailed look at the statistics, experts believe that for a woman aged 33 – 64, attending for cervical screening will reduce her chance of developing cervical cancer over the following five years, by 60-80%, and reduce her chance of advanced cervical cancer by 90%. However, cervical screening is less effective in younger age groups. In general, doing cervical smears in women under the age of 25 has not been found to be beneficial.

If you have any concerns about your smear test, you could book an appointment with your GP or practice nurse, just to discuss the situation and take a list of written questions. They will be happy to help you. You can take a friend or relative to your smear appointment with you.

You can also ask for a doctor or nurse of the sex of your choice to take your smear, although you may be asked to come back on another day if this can’t be actioned at the same visit.

You will also be offered a chaperone when you have your smear. You can accept or refuse – some people prefer another person there to hold their hand, while others prefer as few other people in the room as possible.

Try and find out all you can about having you smear before you get to the clinic. Knowledge is power, and it will help you feel more confident. For example, take a look at Jo’s Trust – Cervical Screening.

What can you do to reduce your risk of cervical cancer?

You can have a smear at any time so long as you are not bleeding. In the past, smears were preferable around midcycle – on day 14 – but these days this is rarely needed. If you are on a form of hormonal contraception, you will not be ovulating anyway, and will not have a day 14. This might be needed in older women, who are having natural cycles, if it has been hard to get enough cells on the smear in the past. But don’t let the day 14 issue confuse the situation.

If you are aged 40 plus, and find smears uncomfortable, you might benefit from using some topical estrogen in the vagina for 4 -6 weeks before your smear test. Ask your GP or the sexual health doctor or nurse about this. You do need to stop using the cream or pessaries at least 2 days before the smear test.

HPV vaccination

In the UK, HPV vaccinations are offered to girls and boys aged 12 and 13, when they are in year 8. They then have a second dose 6 -24 months later. The idea is to create HPV antibodies before they become sexually active and encounter the HPV virus through normal sexual activity. HPV causes cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, penis, as well as some head and neck cancers.

Between 2009 and 2018, over 10 million doses of the HPV vaccines were administered. The vaccines have been proven to be safe and highly effective. In a recent 2019 study, which included over 66 million young men and women, HPV vaccination showed an 83% reduction in high-risk HPV in teenage girls and a 66% reduction in women aged 20-24. There was also a 51% reduction in precancerous changes to the cervix in teenage girls and a 31% reduction in women aged 20-24.

Don’t smoke

cervical cancer

Some studies suggest the viral load of HPV is higher in the cervix of women who smoke than in non-smokers. The reasons for this are not well understood, however, a toxin in cigarette smoke known as Benzo[a]pyren has been shown to stimulate HPV multiplication.

Protect yourself from HPV by using a condom

Consistent and careful use of condoms can help prevent the acquisition, not just of HPV infection, but also other STIs. It can also help cause regression of abnormal cells if they are present on the cervix. However, having sex with an HPV  infected partner, even once,  without a condom, is likely to result in the transmission of infection. Most UK adults will be infected with HPV at least once in a lifetime.

The best sexual health advice at present is that women should use a condom for STI protection as well as, not instead of, a reliable method of contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. If a male partner will not use a condom, women do have the option of using the female condom, the Femidom.

Cervical cancer is linked to an increased number of lifetime sexual partners. For good sexual health, you should try to avoid multiple partners , or overlapping partners, as this is associated with increased risk.

References:

Gov. UK

Cervical screening NHS

HPV NHS

The Guardian

University of Oxford

US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health)

National library of medicine

Helen Baker founded and runs  We Are All Smear Ready, a craftivism campaign to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and addressing the barriers of body image and embarrassment, two of the main barriers to attending appointments. She says;

‘With body image and embarrassment being two of the main barriers to attending a smear test, this Craftivist campaign spreads the message that you don’t have to be beach ready to be smear ready, we are all smear ready. It really doesn’t matter how your lady garden looks, nurses have seen all varieties and don’t care what yours looks like.

With so much focus on the external aspect of our bodies we can often overlook how important it is to look after our bodies internally but these mini handcrafted pants as a gentle reminder that cervical screening and HPV vaccines are the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer. By making and sharing mini pants and boxers during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, we can help to spread this important and potentially life-saving message to anyone with a cervix.’ 

You can follow her campaign here

When was your last screening? Join in the conversation by commenting below or following us on Instagram.

Luxurious ways to treat yourself

When was the last time that you did something to treat yourself? So many people don’t put any time into treating themselves and really, you should be. Closing your eyes and dreaming about your definition of life is exciting, and living a life that is packed with luxuries is something many of us strive for. Of course, luxury means different things to many; some believe just having a hot meal at the end of a long day is a luxury and it is.

However, there is a whole level of elite luxuries that you can involve yourself in, from buying a Bentley to treating yourself to a personal chef on your birthday. There are so many ways that you can enjoy luxuries that are just for you, and we’ve got so many suggestions to ensure that you enjoy a little luxury from time to time. Bring a touch of luxury into your life with these treats you just cannot say no to!

Order flowers

treat yourself

Really, when was the last time you bought yourself some flowers? Flowers make everyone happy and you can make you happy, too. You want this to be exciting and so scheduling yourself to have a flower order arrive at least once a month will be a game changer for your mood and your home. You’ll add a pop of colour you didn’t know your home needed and you can keep the flowers in your price range, too! It’ll make you feel fancy, and everyone can stand to feel fancy from time to time.

New wheels

Order a new car. You might not be able to get that luxury car, but you might still be able to upgrade and buy a new car instead of a used one. That in itself can be the luxury that you didn’t know you needed. You can really enjoy something new when you do this, and it’s going to be something you use every single day, too, so it’s an investment. 

Subscriptions

Subscribe to new magazines. It’s often the little luxuries in life that make you the happiest, and subscribing to your favourite magazines can do this for you. We’re always online, so having pretty magazines in the house can make a nice change and the glossy, thick magazines are a luxury option!

Treat your tresses

Book a monthly hair appointment. It can feel opulence to sit in the hairdresser’s chair, but that’s exactly what you can do when you have the chance to treat yourself. A hair appointment makes you feel good about yourself, and you can indulge in added options like a deep conditioning and a manicure if you want to, too.

Travel

treat yourself

Go on a holiday. The ultimate luxury; a holiday abroad. Sure, the pandemic has stopped that for most people right now. You can book a cruise to visit new places, or a ski trip to see the world from a whole new angle. You can look at holiday experiences that you can’t get anywhere else, and you’ll appreciate the time you spend abroad and learning new cultures, too.

What do you do to treat yourself? Let us know in a comment below or connect with us on Instagram.

3 habits that can help simplify everyday life

Between fast-paced work deadlines, household chores, managing your tax returns, and all sorts of other things, life very often seems to become quite complex virtually of its own accord.

Today, in addition to all of the normal sources of stress and complexity that we face in everyday life, everyone is also bombarded by an unprecedented amount of information and stimulation, through their digital devices and the all-encompassing information infrastructure that surrounds us all.

It’s hardly too surprising, then, that so many people are yearning for a bit of simplicity. The kind of simplicity that means that DIY projects get done quickly and smoothly with clarity of focus, energy, and robust resources such as those sold by Glue Guns Direct. The kind of simplicity, also, that means there’s actually the opportunity to wind down at night and to do some quiet reading before bed.

Here are just a few habits that can really help you to simplify your everyday life.

Start finally taking your sleep seriously

everyday life

Chronic sleep deprivation is at epidemic levels as we speak, with huge numbers of people all around the world getting far less sleep than they need each night.

According to leading sleep researchers such as Matthew Walker, this is a catastrophe, as even just modest sleep deprivation leads severe impairments to overall health and well-being, in a range of different ways.

One of the many insidious things about sleep deprivation, is that makes it significantly harder to properly assess information, to remain focused, and to be both calm and productive.

If you are currently sleep deprived, in other words, life will always seem far more complex and chaotic than it would if you were well rested.

By beginning to take your sleep seriously, and finding ways to get more and better quality sleep on a daily basis, you are very likely to find that your life largely seems to “simplify” itself.

Get in the routine of mindfully doing just one thing at a time

A major part of a sense of overwhelming complexity, and lack of control, often comes from simply trying to do too many things at one time.

Although many people consider themselves skilled multitaskers, researchers have found that when individuals attempt to multitask, they’re not only less efficient and effective at any one thing they are doing, but they experience significantly heightened stress levels as a result.

If you want to do your best at whatever it is you’re doing, while also feeling more in control, and simplifying your life, try to get into the habit of doing one thing at a time, mindfully.

Come up with one thing to focus on first and foremost each day

everyday life

Knowing what you want to achieve each day – and identifying your priorities – can help to free up a lot of energy and to relieve a lot of stress.

On any given day, you may need to do a bunch of different things. But if you could identify one thing that would make that day a “success” if you accomplished it, this can simplify the day as a whole, significantly.

What do you make sure you do everyday? Leave a comment below or reach out to us on Instagram.

The ultimate survival guide to 2022

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

New Year, same you? Don’t worry this is the only survival guide you’ll need. There’s no quick fix. There’s no wake up and magically be 10lbs lighter. We’ve got the expert advice to show you how you can softly, calmly and slowly emerge from the overindulgence of the past few weeks. You’ll be able to grab 2022 by the balls and show it who’s boss!

Go for a daily walk

Penny Weston, fitness, wellness guru and nutrition expert reveals, Walking doesn’t just make you feel good while you’re doing it, studies also suggest that it may reduce your risk of developing a cold or flu by boosting your immune system. It does this by increasing the amount of white blood cells circulating in your blood. These are the cells that fight infection and disease as part of the body’s natural immune system.

Make an immune boosting smoothie

survival guide

Making fresh smoothies is a great way of incorporating ingredients into your diet that can boost your immune system. A favourite of mine is this vitamin rich super smoothie. This smoothie is a powerhouse for the immune system, containing blueberries and spinach that have great immune-boosting properties. It will have you glowing from the inside out, and contains nearly every vitamin and mineral your body needs and giving you a natural boost of energy. And it actually tastes delicious!⁠

There is so much goodness in this smoothie. Use a frozen banana and less milk for a thicker texture:

2 cups Frozen Blueberries

1 Banana

1 cup Spinach

1 cup Kale

1 tbsp Chia Seeds

1 tsp Spirulina

40g Vanilla Protein

Topped with Almond Milk

Meditate

Meditation is an ideal way to reduce stress over the festive period and also throughout the whole year. Meditation helps to relax the mind and body, and focus your thoughts and attention in order to eliminate the thought overload which can often result in stress. This will not only help you to de-stress but also help you learn to be strong for all that is coming  in the year ahead.

Exercise

Regular exercise is the key to staying both physically and mentally fit, healthy and happy. When we exercise the body releases chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine which boost our sense of well-being and suppress hormones that cause anxiety and stress. Fortunately there are now a bigger range of exercise classes and sports out there than ever before and thanks to virtual and on demand training it’s never been easier to exercise at home or when travelling, so even if you’re away with work or family during January there’s no excuse not to be able to exercise.

Create a morning ritual

Start the morning with a ritual that lets you hit the ground running, make the most of your day, stay positive and in control and most importantly stress free! All of our rituals are different, but the key is that by setting them we are taking control of our morning, and therefore our lives. This will help to significantly lower stress levels.’

Ditch the moisturiser

survival guide

Dr Rekha Tailor of Health & Aesthetics says ‘I don’t recommend moisturisers for anyone because I agree with Zein Obagi, M.D, a dermatologist and founder of ZO Skin Health. He suggests that moisturiser is a waste of time and also that it is potentially damaging to the skin. He suggests that when you use moisturiser every day, you run the risk of making your skin older, not younger, because of the fact that skin will become sensitive, dry, dull and interfere with its own natural hydration functions.’

Personally, I’m a big fan of The Ordinary Amino Acids. It’s affordable and leaves my skin feeling totally hydrated.

Get outdoors

Celebrity facialist Lisa Harris, says ‘You can see (safe) sun exposure as your free dose of vitamin D. Feeling sunlight on your arms, hands and face for just 10-15 minutes a day in the UK can boost your mood and energy levels through the release of endorphins. As well as perking up your skin, it will also wake up your mind as the sun reduces the level of melatonin (AKA the sleepy hormone) in your body, giving you energy, inside and out.

Detoxify your tissues with face yoga

Just 60 seconds of a DIY face massage can make your skin look more alive. Using a creamy cleanser or moisturiser, make small circles with your fingertips – this will boost your circulation, bring oxygen to your cells and give you an instant glow.  If you’ve been a little congested, face yoga can help to remove any toxins from your tissue, helping you feel better too. You can supercharge your face yoga routine with our 3D signature facial, which relies on HIFU to restore skin vitality and improve skin health and luminosity.

Put down the needles

While it’s often easy to think that Botox and Fillers are the answer to looking younger and healthier, there’s a safe, non-invasive alternative to Botox and fillers helping you to achieve healthier, younger looking skin with long lasting results. Radio Frequency and ultrasound waves from treatments like Collagen Wave heat up the skin, encouraging your fibroblasts to produce new collagen and elastin – something we all need if we’re looking a little tired during the winter months.

Get more sleep

Sleep is a natural reset button for our brain and body, which is even more required these days because of increased work pressure and stress. Our face is the index of the mind and so naturally a skipped sleep is easily identifiable on our face.’

Choose your cleanser wisely

Consultant dermatologist Dr Ophelia Veraitch says ‘In the mornings and days you aren’t wearing makeup just use a gentle cleanser. When wearing water based coverage makeup you can use an AHA cleanser such as one with glycolic acid. When wearing heavier oil based makeup use a BHA cleanser such as one with salicylic acid.

Take vitamins to support healthy hair growth

survival guide

To maintain healthy looking hair, go for hair vitamins that have relatively high concentrations of the nutrients we know that are needed to support hair growth. Iron and zinc are both very important for hair, but when taken together they don’t absorb well. So a carefully thought out hair vitamin programme (such as mine!) is ideal. If in doubt about the cause of hair thinning or loss, seek an expert opinion.

Check the ingredients of your skincare carefully

Due to lack of regulation in the industry many marketed skincare products don’t have ingredients in them that will be effective despite claims, so don’t and won’t work. Tailor active ingredients serums according to your skincare needs. For example ivermectin is great for redness/ rosacea, azelaic acid/niacinamide/ salicylic acid is great for acne, Tretinoin / antioxidants such as vit C/E for anti ageing and hydroquinone/ Kojic acid/niacinamide for pigmentation etc.

Use almond oil

On the days I’m not going out I massage almond oil into my scalp and hair and onto my children’s scalp and hair too. 

It’s the best way to naturally hydrate your scalp and hair and help both to retain moisture.

This ritual comes from my Sikh background where having uncut hair (which I haven’t stuck to!) and importantly looking after your hair is a sign of respect to personal attributes that are considered god given. It’s common for Asian and Mediterranean cultures to put oil in the scalp and hair like this as a natural and effective way to moisturise our scalp and hair! Massaging almond oil into the scalp and hair like this helps to reduce frizziness of the hair and improve the condition of the scalp too. You can use coconut oil but I find this is smellier and harder, alternatively argan oil is thinner so it’s better for people with finer hair.’

Stop licking your lips

Nina Prisk, AKA ‘The Lip Nurse’, an award-winning cosmetic nurse says ‘When you lick your lips it’s usually to try and moisturise them. However, saliva actually dries them out and creates damaging friction. Sometimes it can become a bad habit which you can help to break by doing something else with your mouth such as chewing gum.

So it’s best to avoid licking your lips as much as you can. Biting and picking them should be avoided too because the lips are made up of delicate skin that can be damaged easily. Usually picking and biting happens when there’s already damage to the surface of the lip, try to resist the urge to pull or bite the rough or lose bits of skin and instead apply a treatment to moisturise and hydrate them.’

Eat more omega 3

Consultant oculoplastic and ophthalmic surgeon Dr Elizabeth Hawkes says ‘Omega-3 fatty acids are important to the health of the macula (the part of the eye that’s responsible for central vision) and the health of the skin, including around the eye area. So trying to incorporate more foods containing essential omega-3 fatty acids helps to keep your vision good and also to maintain healthy skin around your eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatories.

Research suggests that the fats protect skin cells against sun-induced inflammation and help control how the body responds to UV rays, thereby mitigating damage. Eating a diet high in good fats and oily fish can help to promote good skin health because they are rich in Omega-3 which is a key nutrient for helping to repair damaged skin cells. Omega-3 fatty acids are responsible for maintaining healthy membranes around our skin cells. If we’re deficient in these it reduces the skin’s ability to absorb and retain water, causing dehydration or dry skin.

Upping your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help improve hydration by boosting the skin’s natural barrier. Omega-3s may also help to protect our skin against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays because studies have shown that supplementing with a combination of certain types of Omega-3s may reduce the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays.’

Look after your gnashers

survival guide

We all want our pearly whites to be whiter than white. Cosmetic dentist, Dr Hanna Kinsella says ‘My Icy Bear whitening toothpaste is shown to not only brighten the smile but also to protect the teeth against cavities. Icy Bear is an earth conscious brand – palm oil free, SLS free and animal cruelty free and all of the products are produced in the UK adhering to strict industry guidelines. 

The unique toothpaste has a rare ingredient combination containing the finest diamonds. Thanks to its extremely low abrasiveness, tooth surfaces are gently cleaned and stains reduced with no damage to the tooth surface. Designed for twice-daily use for complete oral care, the cult product in the making uses diamond dust to effectively reduce stains – the diamond dust is a natural abrasive agent that reduces staining whilst polishing the surface of the enamel to restore teeth to their natural whiteness.’

What are your self-care plans for bossing 2022? Let us know by commenting below or reaching out to us on Instagram.

Fun with social media (when you’re not a teenager)

Some people can think of social media as something that’s for younger people. Even if you use some social media, you might feel like some apps are meant for young people while others are more suited to people over 30 or 40. Maybe you shy away from TikTok because it seems like it’s for teenagers and you can’t let go of Facebook because all of your family and friends are on there. Social media can be a lot of fun but it can also be a pain if you’re not using it in the right way. If you want to use social media more, there are a few rules for having fun.

Find Which Apps Are for You

social media

Not everyone will find every social media app or site enjoyable. You might think Facebook is too full of older relatives with terrible opinions or that Twitter is far too shouty. But most people can find a social media app that they do like. Think about what sort of thing you’re looking for and why you want to use social media. Is it to view and share funny videos and images? Do you want to have conversations with other people or engage in a community relating to your interests?

Learn to Find the Content You Like

Once you’ve got started on your chosen platform, you need to know how to get the best from it. If you’re not using it in the right way, you might just find it boring or annoying. Being able to find the content that you want will help you to make your experience better. Depending on the platform, this might involve following the right people, following hashtags or topics, or searching for the right things. As you engage with different people and topics, you’ll also be presented with new content through the platform’s algorithm.

Play with Ways to Post

Creating your own content is part of the fun of using social media, but it’s something a lot of people might feel unsure about. You’re not a teenager posting about your day, so what are you meant to post? But there are lots of things you can do, whether you want to document your life or make funny or interesting content for entertainment. Try exploring different ways to post, such as how to do voice effects on TikTok or using different filters on Instagram. There are different post types you can explore or ways to engage with people, such as stories or live streaming too.

Find Your Community

social media

One of the best things about social media is that it allows you to engage and connect with other people. It can be a great way to find new friends and discover a community based on your interests. Whether you’re obsessed with a TV show, you love to knit, or you’re a history nerd, you can find other people with shared interests who can help you have even more fun.

Discover all of the fun you can have with social media by finding your space and all the ways you can use it. Follow us on Instagram to see how we are trying to get down with the kids and make fun reels!

Feel at ease with your body with these top tips

At the end of the day, every single person on the planet wants to be the best possible version of themselves. In order to be the best version, we need to feel at ease with ourselves first. We need to look at ourselves and know that we’re confident. If you feel good in life, then you’re going to be able to perform better in whatever you do.

One thing that a lot of people – especially women – do in this life is worry about their bodies. The good thing is that we can all put our minds in better places regarding our physical selves. We can also put in the work to put ourselves in better positions. If you’re willing to alter your mindset and adopt new habits, you can achieve anything – and this is just another one of those challenges. Here are a few top tips so you can start to really feel more at ease with your body: 

Recognise That You Are Beautiful As You Are

top tips

You don’t really need to make huge changes to your life or to your body. You need to know that you’re wonderful as you are. One huge change will be to your mind. You’ll want to do all you can to boost your confidence and your self-esteem. If you do look to mate improvements, know that they’re for you and not imperative in order to achieve anything. 

Put Effort Into Your Physical Fitness

This helps your physical side and your mental side. You deserve to be happy and comfortable in many different ways, and exercising will put you in an amazing position. You’ll get to a point where not exercising feels a little wrong. Before you know it, you could be looking into the likes of DSIP and all kinds of other supplements to make yourself into a finely tuned athlete. 

Date!

If you want to feel better about the way you look, then dating is a genuinely fantastic idea. You’ll head out and meet people that find you attractive. You’ll get to know people who might want to spend a lot of time around you. These people will lift you over time. They’ll respect your boundaries while wanting to see you more and more. And, hey, they might even want to hop into a bed with you and see that wonderful body in all its glory!

Learn How To Cook And Figure Out Nutritional Tips 

top tips

Learning how to cook prepares you for life in a much better way. You’ll be more competent in the kitchen, which is such a confidence booster. It makes you feel so much more useful and attractive. The more you learn about food, the more clued in you become in terms of what’s good for you and what certain meals do for certain parts of you. 

Surround Yourself With People Who Lift You

We touched on this previously when talking about dating, but you just have to be around people that make your life so much easier. If you’re with positive people who say wonderful things about you and push you to be even better, then life becomes a lot better and so much more fun. Don’t surround yourself with negativity. 

Are you more comfortable with your body in your 40s? Let us know by dropping a comment below or connecting with us on Instagram.

Are there benefits to tracking your menstrual cycle in your 40s?

When was your last period? Do you know? Have you ever tracked your menstrual cycle? Have you ever wondered why some months it’s like a crime scene and others it’s just funny brown sludge (Or is that just me!) I called in the experts to find out what benefits there are to tracking your cycle.

Women’s therapist, menstrual cycle & menopause educator Susanna Guest, (50) has helped hundreds of clients to live a life more in tune with their natural cycle through a combination of coaching, retreats and workshops. Now, she has collaborated with her friend and client, Liz Berwick (41) to create The Wild Wisdom Journal and raise awareness of emotions, creativity and energy throughout the menstrual cycle, menopause, seasons and lunar phases.

It is beautiful. The illustrations are stunning and it’s a very gorgeous journal to read through. It has been designed to be a space to gather your insights whilst keeping an eye on the phases of the moon. This journal is for anyone who wants to track their cyclical ways. If you menstruate, you can chart your moods and tendencies according to your cycle. If you no longer menstruate, have very long cycles, or do not have a womb, then you can use the moon cycle as your guide. What a fantastic gift for Christmas huh?

Intruiged

I’ve always tracked my cycle since coming off birth control five years ago and was hugely intrigued to see how my cycle was synced to the moon phases and, blow me down, it was spot on. I’ve realised that’s where the discrepancies have been. The odd month where things weren’t quite right, they actually coincided with a full moon. Absolute game changer for me to monitor my feelings and hormonal well-being. Especially in the run up to the big M!

So what’s the deal with menstrual cycles? I reached out to my friend and soul sista, Katherine Crawley who runs the AllWoman mentorship program.

Internal feminine compasses

menstrual cycle

‘As women in our 40s, we are the daughters of a career and success-orientated society. We were raised to believe that happiness means adopting a persona of charismatic success, that we must seamlessly integrate motherhood and work all while flitting from one social gathering to another.

Not an easy persona to uphold is it?

And when the cracks start to show – usually around 40 – sometimes through mental breakdowns, but equally simply via an overwhelm of stress and anxiety, aches and pains, illnesses and even serious disease, the question is, where do we turn?

Well it all starts here, with our menstrual cycles. Our cycles are like our internal feminine compasses. They are the foundations of who we are, as women. They enable us to really know ourselves.

We are nature

Tracking our menstrual cycles and reconnecting to the natural cycles of our bodies is deeply healing. It centres us, it grounds us. We remember that we are not separate from nature, but that we are nature. As we know our own cycles, we have a deeper understanding of the Earth’s cycles; our seasons mirror Her seasons; our moon mirrors Her Moon.

This process of ‘remembering’ gives us a newfound sense of wholeness. We reconnect to our intuitive wisdom and from a place deep in our wombs, we feel the power of our Womanhood rising.

So are our 40s going to see us continue to dogmatically search for internal fulfilment outside of ourselves? Or are we going to realise that our real embodied health and empowerment comes from taking time to understand who we truly are, as women? If we have the wisdom and courage to follow the latter, then cultivating an intimate and loving relationship with our menstrual cycles is the way in.’

Why can tracking our menstrual cycle be beneficial?

Cosmetic doctor and intimate health expert, Dr Shirin Lakhani says:

‘The menstrual cycle is a complex journey of the hormones. Estrogen levels rise and fall twice during the menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels rise during the mid-follicular phase and then drop precipitously after ovulation. This is followed by a secondary rise in estrogen levels during the mid-luteal phase with a decrease at the end of the menstrual cycle. But technically there is no stage during the cycle when the hormone levels aren’t surging or plunging in some way; In the first week estrogen starts out low and begins to rise, with it you become more optimistic and positive, in the second week estrogen and testosterone rise until they peak – making you braver and ready for a challenge, the third week is more complex because for the first half the progesterone rises while the estrogen and testosterone drop – this is when you experience a mood drop, but by the second half of the week estrogen rises again putting a stop to the PMS symptoms. The fourth and final week of the cycle sees the estrogen and progesterone plunge, dragging your mood down with it.

Tracking your menstrual cycle in the 20s and 30s is common because it’s often used as a way to either get pregnant or to avoid pregnancy.  Traditionally tracking menstrual cycle in the 40s probably isn’t as common, however it can be beneficial for a number of reasons and is certainly becoming more popular as a result.

It can help to prepare and plan for when mood changes are likely to occur and spot patterns in this. It can also be helpful for exercise. For example the follicular phase change in hormone levels that often results in a boost of energy and can see mood improve. Some people find strength training more effective at this time of the month. 

Tracking the menstrual cycle in the 40s is also an effective way of identifying changes in cycle lengths and regularity which may be indicators of the peri-menopause.’

Indicators for the Peri-menopause

menstrual cycle

At 41 I’ve already started to notice some slight irregularities thanks to tracking that may well be indicators for the peri-menopause. Dr Ghazala Aziz-Scott, specialist in integrative women’s health and bioidentical hormone balancing for the Marion Gluck Clinic highlights why this might be:

‘In our 40s, most women are going through the perimenopause, a period of several years leading up to the actual menopause (classified as an absence of periods for 12 months) and during this transition, women can experience a myriad of symptoms of hormonal imbalance. The perimenopause often results in anovulatory cycles, where the monthly egg is not released from the ovary and this results in a decrease in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is our natural calming hormone, hence the happy mood of pregnancy where it is elevated, and leads to insomnia and heightened anxiety. Tracking your menstrual cycle will help you assess if your cycle pattern has changed and understand any symptoms you may be experiencing. There are many apps that can assist with this and in our busy lives, it is easy to lose track.

It is a time in life filled with other responsibilities, juggling careers and domestic life so insomnia and anxiety can often be attributed to life stressors when it is in fact hormonal imbalance. Other symptoms of the perimenopause include hot flushes, brain fog, memory changes and very heavy periods. The hormone estrogen can often be higher in perimenopause causing symptoms of estrogen dominance such as weight gain, migraines and breast tenderness.

If you notice any changes, seek appropriate medical advice as assessment- testing can be done and you can get the support you need. Too many women are put on conventional HRT which has both estrogen and progesterone and can therefore feel worse as it is only the progesterone they need. Progesterone support in perimenopause can make a great difference to quality of life through this change.

Don’t forget to maintain a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruit, minimise stress, take regular exercise and get a good 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep – lifestyle also influences our hormone balance.’

Do you track your cycles? Let us know what you do by commenting below. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram here

The ultimate guide to trusting your instincts

Have you ever had that feeling when you just KNOW something isn’t right? That distinct feeling deep in your gut telling you that you should be trusting your instincts? Rewind to the middle of summer. Hubby was in the shower and I noticed a red mark (I regularly perve on hubby in the shower. Jokes, I was having a wee as we only have one bathroom).

Anywho, he said he’d noticed it too but it wasn’t hot, itchy or doing anything. Over the next week, it got bigger. He filled in an e-consult form and after sending in pictures, was advised by the GP to use a steroid based cream. It actually worked for about a week and the redness was fading. And then it wasn’t. In fact, it had doubled in size. It was baffling us. Mainly because it was just a big red mark.

Baffled

Over the next 6 weeks it grew to a massive 12 inches across his back. Like a port stain. He had various Push Dr appointments, he spoke to many pharmacists, he tried all the recommended lotions and potions. Eventually the GP agreed to see him. Away he came with yet another potion. Frustratingly, it didn’t work. Finally he was referred to a dermatologist but I realised the waiting list would be lllloooonnnnng and at this point I’d had enough. I KNEW something wasn’t right.

I called the GP and insisted, while we were waiting for the dermatologist, that blood tests needed to be done. Thankfully, he agreed. Less than a week later, we had a text message at 8pm on a Monday night informing us there was an urgent prescription waiting for us at the local chemist which must be taken immediately. The blood test was positive for Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The rash alone should have triggered the prescription for antibiotics and blood tests aren’t reliable when it comes to this disease.

You can only imagine my f*cked off-ness. I pretty much sprinted to the chemist in an exasperated panicked and stressed-out fashion. Meanwhile I started researching Lyme disease. The worrying thing is, it’s such a complicated disease and is regularly misdiagnosed.

I was talking to Nutritional Therapist, Karen Preece Smith, about the impact of Lyme disease as she works with many clients with long term illnesses. Karen sent me some resources to help me research the treatment plans in case the initial dose of antibiotics didn’t work. The scary thing was, the rash disappeared BEFORE hubby started the antibiotics so by the time we’d have gotten to the dermatologist, there wouldn’t have been any reason to test for Lyme and it would have gone undetected for years. At which point, the effects could have been devastating.

trusting your instincts

Pushing back

I KNEW when to push back at my GP and I’m comfortable doing so. I know how important it is trusting your instincts. But what if you’re not? Who better to talk to than my favourite NHS GP, Dr Sarah Yelland, who is passionate about evidence based lifestyle medicine and informing and empowering others to live their healthiest lives.

‘How do I feel about patients coming back for a second opinion?- honestly I’m good with that, in fact I am more than happy, because it probably means there’s something that hasn’t been addressed, hasn’t been disclosed or has been overlooked. After all the few minutes you get with your doctor is pretty limited and the possibilities are enormous. So, of course, there will always be times when taking a second look could lead to a more accurate diagnosis, a better treatment or improved outcome. It’s not just the patient who wants this, but doctors too, because really that is the heart of medicine- we want to help, heal, serve and do our very best along the way.

We are generally perfectionists don’t you know!

Absolutely- there will be times when more tests or medicines are simply not helpful or more importantly can be harmful, and times when patient expectations are not within the realms of reality…. But if you have left a consulting room without a reason or explanation that you understand or accept then ask again (nicely) and don’t be afraid to share your why.

Understanding needs to work both ways. Health is a partnership- and health improvement needs both parties to do their bit. 

This is why one of the skills doctors are increasingly taught is to identify the patients ideas, concerns and expectations:

Ideas

What YOU think is going on- because believe it or not most of us are fairly intuitive when it comes to our own bodies.

Concerns

What you are especially worried it could be, and even though you may be thinking it’s highly unlikely (because it probably is highly unlikely), its that niggling worry that just won’t let you settle.

Expectations

What you think the doctor should be doing- whether it’s tests or referrals or medicines.  I know you may not feel confident to share these thoughts, many feel they can’t because I’m not the Doctor’ or feel silly for suggesting something they saw on Casualty. However, we are influenced by what we see or read or hear. And how do you know the doctor didn’t consider it, maybe it’s a totally bonkers idea but what if it was brilliant one that the Doc just hadn’t thought of yet.

When it comes to medicine YOUR story is the most vital- diagnosis is 80% history, 15% examination and only 5% testing- or something like that.

So it’s less about being a good or bad doctor, or a good or bad patient- mostly its about getting your doctor on the same page as you, or you on the same page as your doctor- because that is usually where the best medicine happens.’ 

Trust in your gut

Ray Sadoun is a mental health and addiction recovery specialist for OK Rehab. I asked for his thoughts on instincts and here’s what he had to say:

Why you should trust your instincts

‘As much as it’s important to logically work through our issues, sometimes we get a powerful intuition about something and we should not ignore it. For example, you may get an instinct to call a friend you haven’t seen in a while, only to discover upon calling that they are in a very bad way. Sometimes, I get this instinct with my clients; recently, I felt as though one of my clients wasn’t opening up to me properly, and after some respectful probing, they revealed that they were battling a huge issue they hadn’t yet brought up in therapy. It’s important to trust these instincts as it is often our subconscious warning us about something.’

The importance of practising caution when trusting your instinct

‘As much as I advocate for trusting your instincts, it’s always important to practise caution as your intuition can be wrong. This is particularly true for people with anxiety, as their fear of a certain situation can deceive them into thinking the situation should be avoided. For example, one of my clients with social anxiety often reports a sort of premonition before every social event; she feels as though she shouldn’t attend as something bad is going to happen. However, this is her anxiety playing tricks on her as her fight and flight mode is often in overdrive and wants to protect her from the perceived danger. This is an example of why we should carefully consider our intuition and not make any hasty decisions based on it.’

trusting your instincts

Knowing how to push back and ask difficult questions 

‘If you trust your intuition and you believe you need to act on it, communicate it with people around you. This can be particularly difficult in the workplace as you may fear judgement, but I would always recommend being open and honest in this situation. You don’t have to make any exaggerated comments, but simply saying something like ‘I don’t have a great feeling about this’ will help people to understand that you aren’t comfortable.’

So how can you communicate confidently and graciously in situations when you feel uncomfortable pushing back, either personally or professionally?

Janie Van Hool is a communication expert and author of The Listening Shift: Transform your organisation by listening to your people and helping your people listen to you (Practical Inspiration, 2021). She was happy to offer these very helpful tips:

‘Firstly, take space… breathe out, count to 5, look them straight in the eye and acknowledge or appreciate their view, or perspective. Use phrases like ‘I can see the sense in your point of view…’.

State your case

‘On this occasion, I’m going to have to disagree and here’s why…’. Share your reason for disputing their position. 

Offer choice

Finish with a question that starts with ‘Would you be willing… (e.g., ‘to consider this as a route forward?’) This inquiry offers choice – and because most people want to be seen as agreeable, they’ll most likely agree!’

Finally I reached out to very awesome Joanna Howes. She is an award-winning performance and leadership coach who we’ve worked with before on our article about imposter syndrome. Here she’s offered her brilliant insight for this piece,

‘In my work I’ve definitely agreed to things when I knew my gut said no and I ended up kicking myself. The reason I said yes was that I felt uncomfortable challenging and didn’t want the other person to think I didn’t trust them.’ 

Be true to yourself

‘I have also interviewed many leaders who say you need to learn to trust your instincts and then also be okay if it doesn’t work out but at least you followed your path.  It’s about being true to yourself. There is a balance between checking in with your analytical mind and not just relying on feelings alone, it’s about accessing all parts to drive great decision making.’ 

Have you ever been in a situation where you KNEW something wasn’t right? Tell us about it by commenting below or reaching out to us over at Instagram.