Why everyone over 40 should do pilates and how to start

Are you eager to prolong the strength and flexibility of your body and live your best life for many years to come… Yes? Well Pilates is for you and in this article with Romanas Pilates Expert, Kirstin Ferrie we’re going to share why everyone over 40 should do pilates and how to start.

If you have never had an introduction to Pilates, it’s never too late to start! With an increasingly ageing population and so many of us determined to live longer and stronger than ever before, strength and conditioning habits like Pilates, are high on our daily agendas and are a big reason why everyone over 40 should do pilated. With the additional holistic benefits of breath work and mindfulness, Pilates is a fabulous way to increase fitness, protect ourselves from injury, maintain flexibility and prolong the lifetime of the things we enjoy most; whether that’s intense sport, staying active with the family or simply enjoying optimum core strength and good posture. 

As our bodies age, we’re more prone to; weight gain, muscle loss, and stiffening up in our joints. Pilates is a fabulous way to combat all of these. With the use of the springs and our own body it is the perfect form of exercise to do after 40. For women as our oestrogen levels decrease we need to this type of exercise to keep our joints and bone density healthy. Pilates makes everything else we do easier so for those still wanting to continue contact or impact sports this method is a must after 40.

Romanas Pilates is the classical method of Pilates, named after Romana Kryranoskwa, who took over running the original studio after Joseph Pilates’ death. The Pilates method is based around reshaping and strengthening the body, strengthening the core, realigning the body and posture and improving flexibility, without stressing the joints. It’s all about strength, stretch and control.

If you’re just starting out on your Pilates journey there are some great habits to consider and get you started:

Fresh air and breath work

If I had to pick one exercise from Pilates mat work, one that ticks all the boxes is ‘Hundreds’ – this exercise focuses on breath, strength and gets circulation pumping. Joe (Pilates) always said to get out and get some fresh air.

Listen to your body

You know your body better than anyone, listen to it. More often than not you’re right. If you are tired, rest. If you know you’re just feeling lazy, a short walk in the fresh air will get all your endorphins going and you’ll probably find yourself more motivated as a result. Allowing yourself to feel is really important and we encourage that within Pilates. We cannot separate ourselves out, so whilst we might think the main aim of our work is physical, the emotional and mental benefits will be evident too. If it feels good and right it will always be beautiful. 

over 40 should do pilates

Find a recommended instructor

One of my personal aims is to establish a centre of excellence in the North, because when Pilates is taught properly, it can be life changing. I want to invest in instructors so that many more people can access Pilates in its purest form. You should have complete confidence in your instructor!  Romana’s Pilates has a network of teachers around the globe, as do other classical schools. When searching for teachers and studios in your area, the main things to look out for are class sizes; they should always be small. Ask where the teachers are trained and how long this took them. On average a fully qualified teacher will have been actively in a program for at least 18months, but most are over 2 years. If you are going for an injury, make sure the teacher has experience with this and you are confident. Pilates should always be safe, other than normal muscle working feeling you should never ever feel pain. A matwork class is not suitable for most injuries, you need to be seen privately first before joining a class. Any good teacher will welcome your questions, I am always happy to answer or help someone and quite often get DM’s to our Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/purepilatesilkley ) asking for advice both from clients looking for a teacher or from people starting their journey to become a teacher.

Keep moving

You just can’t beat really simple Pilates mat work done well – if you just did the basic seven exercises, you are definitely going to release endorphins, work out and stand up off that mat with beautiful posture, standing tall and feeling confident. 

Be prepared to throw yourself in

Pilates classes can become your community. It’s not surprising to find yourself laughing and crying in a class, because Pilates is a deep and meaningful exercise, connecting your heart, mind and body; therefore strong bonds are developed and friendships formed. The more you are prepared to invest in yourself and your journey, the more you’ll benefit from a healthy body, a happy heart, and a mind at peace,

over 40 should do pilates

Consider food and nutrition

If I eat well and fuel my body properly, I feel better. Putting the good stuff in means feeling better in every sense. Taking the time to cook and enjoy food, rather than it being a purely functional exercise or eating ‘on the go’ benefits my overall wellbeing too, so that the hard work I’m putting into Pilates is reflected in every part of my life.  

Pilates has the power to restore us to ourselves. Pilates can provide us with an holistic rhythm for life, positively impacting every part of our lives; emotionally, physically, mentally and even socially as our body confidence soars. 

Pilates has taught me that the best way of living is holistic living and I like to think that, when we look after ourselves and one another we all stand to gain.

Romanas Pilates Expert, Kirstin Ferrie, 42 is a passionate Pilates Instructor and the Founder of Pure Pilates, having herself followed a robust journey of training and development having travelled worldwide to learn from the very best; Kirstin is Romanas Pilates trained, following in the footsteps of the creator of Pilates, Joseph Pilates. With over 20 years experience, having taught Pilates around the world she has a long list of impressive clients including well-known names from the worlds of sports and dance, celebrities and royalty. Kirstin is passionate about highlighting the true power of strength-based Pilates for mind, body and soul, working with strength, control and stretch techniques, which ultimately give her clients renewed confidence and agility. To find out more about Kirstin please visit her website or connect with her on Instagram. 

4 natural remedies for PMS and how to use them

PMS is often an unwelcome but inevitable accompaniment to periods. However, some people experience particularly bad symptoms that can thoroughly disrupt day-to-day life. Painkillers are the most common go-to treatment for PMS symptoms, however there are some powerful natural remedies for PMS including natural botanicals that can ease PMS just as well, if not better, than manufactured chemicals and consequently are better for your body overall. This article explores the four best natural remedies for PMS and ingredients you can use to combat PMS and how to use them effectively so that you can stop dreading ‘that time of the month’.

4 key natural ingredients

Chaste tree berries, evening primrose, red clover and Dong Quai are four natural ingredients and powerful naturl remedies for PMS which can be used individually or combined in a tea or tonic to help with pain, mood swings and headaches. Although you can buy over the counter medication, these botanicals contain an active natural ingredient which can be purchased and can be used as a natural product by itself.

How to make

To use these natural remedies for PMS, firstly, to make a tea which combines all 4 of the above ingredients you will need; 2 cups of organic peppermint tea, 2 tablespoons of organic chaste tree berries, 2 tablespoons of dong quai and 2 tablespoons of black haw. Now for the easy bit; all you need to do is blend the ingredients together and store in an airtight container and your prep is done! When it comes to using the tea, what you need to do is use 2 tablespoons for a pot and one teaspoon for a cup and drink it hot as a tea. Pour boiling water into the pot or cup and let it brew for 2-4 minutes then drink once cool enough to do so. Do this every morning and night a few days before your period is due and during to ensure you get the best benefits. Alternatively, you can store it in the fridge and have it as a shot, again every morning and night before and during your period. This method is perfect for when you’re on the go and don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea.

The power of evening primrose

As aforementioned, these natural remedies for PMS can also be used individually to treat isolated symptoms of PMS. For example, evening primrose oil can be purchased in easy to swallow vitamin form which you can take orally. This can be incorporated into your daily vitamin intake, and you can take in the morning or evening with food for the best results. Alternatively, evening primrose oil can also be purchased as an oil, 15 drops of which (1ml) can be taken daily with food. Evening primrose oil is specifically good for treating mood swings which is a common symptom of PMS, furthermore this natural ingredient can also be highly beneficial for those going through menopause, as mood swings can also be a severe symptom here too.

Spotlight on red clover and dong quai

In addition, red clover and dong quai can also be made into individual teas. Red clover is highly beneficial in maintaining estrogen levels which can be disrupted during PMS and your period. The same method can be applied here, simply fill a jar with red clover blossoms and fill to the top with boiling water. Let this brew for 4-10 hours then strain and enjoy 2-4 cups a day. Dong quai is excellent when dealing with cramps and bloating, arguably two of the worst symptoms of PMS. Dong quai is alternatively known as female ginseng as it is widely used to treat female reproductive health problems including PMS as well as the menopause. Dong quai can be found in supplement form which can be taken orally, however if you are looking for a homemade remedy, you can also make Dong quai tea. Dried Dong quai root can be purchased from a wide range of health stores and herbalists and you can boil the root for 2 to 4 minutes then strain to make your own homemade Dong quai tea.

A great tip which can be applied to all of the above remedies for PMS is to spice up your tea and add other flavours to make the tea more to your taste. Some other naturally sweet ingredients include liquorice, cinnamon, ginger, verbena and lemon.

In conclusion, there are many natural remedies for PMS and alternatives which you can use to help alleviate symptoms of PMS as well as the menopause. They are easy to use and have the same if not stronger effects on your symptoms. It’s called mother nature for a reason!

Charlotte Rasmussen is the author of From Earth: A guide to creating a natural apothecary, published by Rockpool Publishing, on 4th August 2022, priced £18.99.

natural remedies for PMS

Understanding your anxiety symptoms + how to break the cycle

If you’re experiencing anxiety symptoms, it’s vital to understand the root of the problem. As someone who has battled with my own anxiety for the last decade, I know very well from first hand experience that in order to break the cycle of anxiety, you have to understand the cause and how to break it. It was onlt when I went for therapy that I truly understood the triggers for my anxiety (like many others, they stemmed from my childhood). If you’re struggling with anxiety symptoms, this Mental Health Awarness Week then today Love Island’s wellbeing and mental health coach Kamran Bedi – author of The Anxiety Antidote – shares his incisive tips for understanding your anxiety symptoms and how to break the cycle.

The importance of self awareness

Self awareness is the main ingredient for breaking the cycle of anxiety, but the determining factor that is key is being aware of HOW to break the cycle.  Most people are aware that they feel anxious, but no so much for how to make any sort of change. So I guess an increased awareness of how to make changes is what I offer in my work and through the Anxiety Antidote book.

Becoming more self aware

In my book one of the areas I guide the reader to consider is the ‘cause’ of their anxiety. Quite often people can get lost in the feelings and emotions, the physical changes and challenges that can feel overwhelming, but it can be very straight forward in identifying the cause of the anxiety and then dealing with the cause. It usually falls into two areas. Firstly, the cause could be mental and the anxiety is being formed through the persons thinking, secondly it could be a situation that is present in the person’s life that they need to address and deal with for the anxiety to be reduced or eliminated. The cause is always a key aspect to become aware of to then work on, whether its mental or actual.

The key to breaking the cycle of anxiety

The key to breaking the cycle is with working on the cause. If it is a mental cause and a set of thoughts, then interrupting the thought patterns and developing a more positive relationship with the mind can be key to breaking the cycle. I outline a variety of methods and awareness in the Anxiety Antidote that can really help readers become and feel more present, more mindful of their thoughts as well as how to take action anywhere inside their own headspace, to have more positive power and influence over their thoughts.

Staying mentally present

Mindfulness is the key to addressing anxiety symptoms as is awareness. In developing a daily practice of mindfulness, readers can learn to incorporate it into their daily lives so they are not then held captive to their thoughts that can often feel overwhelming.

Patterns of anxiety

There can be both physical patterns as well as mental patterns of anxiety. Usually on a physical level the body can enter into fight, flight or freeze. A person may have a fast heart rate and short fast breaths. This can usually be accelerated by the thoughts that cause this to literally switch on in the body, as what you think, you will feel. The mind has a very powerful influence over the physical and emotional state of the body, and in changing the thought patterns or even stopping them and then being more mindfully present, the person can end or reduce the anxiety experience and quite quickly.

Techniques and strategies for self-action to address anxiety symptoms

In my book, I cover how to work with your inner voice, how to be present and mindful, how to breathe to calm your nervous system, how to stop any mental movies playing over and over in your mind and also how to work with anxiety triggers in my book. The in-depth knowledge and the clear steps outlined in the book will really help any reader increase their awareness and improve how they think, feel and live and quite quickly.

Changing mindset

It’s important to work on the thoughts and anxiety and not avoid it on a daily basis. A lot of people will keep anxiety  inside of them and not deal with it, which can make the anxiety grow in strength. The key is to use the methods available in the book and to work on your mind on a daily basis. A daily practice of mindfulness and working with your thoughts and anxiety is as important as brushing your teeth twice a day.

A pep talk for those living with anxiety 

My advice from personal and professional experience is to work on, with and through your anxiety and to not avoid it. I see too many people who have suffered for years who have not worked on their anxiety. The trouble is for many, they have lived with it and lost out on years of their lives. Anxiety can stop you from travelling, being social, and it can affect your relationships and your health. In working on it with the methods available in my book, you can increase your understanding of what is happening in your mind and body but really transform your life.

Hereditary Cancer Awareness Risk: Why you should know your risk

This week marks Heriditary Cancer Week. If you’ve been following 40 Now What you will know that last year I discovered that I had the genetic mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which means that I have a high lifetime risk or developing breast and ovarian cancer.

The last year has not been easy and has involved a lot of research, medical appointments, discussions with my support network and soul searching.

The honest truth is that a year down the line beyond having a surgery scheduled to have my fallopian tubes removed and having a good old check down there for any signs of cancerous tissue I am still not certain of my course action or any precise timelines of action.

But what is certain that I know that I am at greater risk, I am in the system and being monitored by some of the best professionals in the world, and I am being checked routinely. And that in itself is worth its weight in gold. I know I am incredibly lucky to have that knowledge, and often think about all the people who might also have this mutation, but do not know. Especially as we are now in our 40s and before we know it we’ll be in the age bracket where general cancer incidence rates rise steeply (from around age 55-59).

The role of genes in cancer

According to Cancer Research UK, our genes play a big role in our risk of cancer. It’s estimated up to 10% of all cancers diagnosed are linked to a genetic fault that can be passed from one generation to the next. Ovarian, breast, prostate, pancreatic and bowel are some of the cancer types you’re more likely to get if you carry a BRCA mutation or Lynch syndrome.

But despite the hereditary cancer risks, according to Target Ovarian Cancer’s latest research 75% of the general public have never heard of BRCA and 84% of people have never heard of Lynch syndrome. What’s more many are unaware that a family history of cancer could put them at risk of these genetic faults. It’s time to change that.

What can you do

Use Target Ovarian’s risk tool

Knowledge is power, and using the tool will help you understand your risk and what to do next. So take a few minutes to complete it here. It could change your life and help you take control.

Be mindful if you’re of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage

People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying a BRCA mutation, making them 10 times as likely to carry a BRCA mutation as someone in the general population. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you have BRCA1/2 mutation then there is a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to your children, whether they are boys or girls.

Check out Target Ovarian’s newly launched hub to give anyone with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage all the information and support they need – stories from those who’ve had to make difficult choices, important information about your risk and what do next, and videos to help you understand more about your risk.

Spread the word about hereditary cancer

Awareness is key here. I know just how important it is to know your status, and then be in the system and be duly monitored. By sharing this article, raising awareness or mentioning this to somebody today, you could be making a life-changing difference.

Useful links about hereditary cancer

BRCA & Lynch syndrome FAQ

Facing Our Risk website

Inherited genes and cancer types

NHS guide to predictive genetic tests for cancer

Have you heard BRCA or Lynch syndrome? Or have you ever had genetic testing for hereditary cancer?

Life advice for your 40s: how to rewrite your story

Our 40s are a period of reflection. As we come up for air from the first half of our life, we then begin to wonder what we should do with our lives in the next half? There are lessons to be learned, changes to be made, and a whole bunch of potential awaits, for both late-bloomers and people who have been living it large already. So what’s the life advice for your 40s you need to know? We spoke to, Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, master storyteller, who has devoted her life to helping others rewrite their stories whose latest book Storytelling Legacy: Everyone Has Stories—What are Yours? to get her essential life advice for your 40s, as well as her perspective on what being a woman in her 40s in today’s world looks like with the benefits of hindsight.

What are some things you would go back and tell your 40-something year own self? 

At 40, be very good to yourself. Self-care (sleep, regular eating, lots of exercise and healthy connections) will determine how the rest of your life will go.  40’s and 50’s are “turning point” ages. 

What are some of the biggest issues women in their 40s are facing today? 

Overwhelm, not enough time, clock ticking in relationships, life is operating “at its peak”. 

What can we do about them?

Remembering that overwhelm is simply a sign of “not” making enough choices, clutter is about “not making choices” and not enough hours in the days is about “not making enough choices”.  Theme here, “go forward and choose along the way”. It means getting comfortable with “letting go “ of people, activities and things. 

advice for your 40s

What are some life lessons you’d like to impart on women turning or progressing into their 40s? 

Simplify.  In order to find all the good things and the things that make you happy, your job is to “make room” by living more simply. 

What is the best way to conquer your 40s? 

Don’t see them as “something to conquer”. I see the forties as rich time to change direction and look forward to each decade as it comes along. Sometimes the best focus for the 40’s is to turn the sail of your private ship and decide which directions (s) you want to go. 

What are some of the things we should do before turning 50?  

The best tools are daily exercise goals, getting one’s body ready for the next few decades, let go of worn out relationships and make plans for the next chapter in life.  The 40’s are the perfect evaluation, choices and directions you want for yourself as the ships starts sailing in a new direction. 

What should we stop doing in our 40s? 

Hanging on to old relationships from which one has grown, hanging on to lifestyles that aren’t preparing for a healthy future.  Buying things that one will need to downsize from in the 40’s and 50’s.  This is not a good time to accumulate. It is a time to evaluate. 

advice for your 40s

Any advice for women wanting to totally rewrite their own story in their 40s?

I would suggest that the 40’s is a perfect time to rewrite one’s life.  Take each of your past experiences. Choose to either celebrate it, document it (pictures, videos and stories) and hang on to them, and also know what, who and how to eliminate what you don’t want to repeat, take along or plan to enjoy.  This is the evaluation decade. 

Do you have any particular story you would like to share which you think would resonate with our readership?

My forties were the end and the beginning of many things.  It was the end of accumulating things of no current value or sparks of joy. It is important to understand that I have kept many things and some are reaching vintage.  However, I don’t keep anything that doesn’t invoke a “spark of joy”.  

The forties were also the time that I cemented in my “need to exercise and move”.  Whether I was in my neighborhood, along a country road, living in a city or sailing on a ship. walking each day became as regular as brushing my teeth.  I still walk 2 miles a day and if all my miles were laid out in a row, maybe I’ve walked across the US.  It is as familiar as breathing. It was the time that I decided to never work again. Mind you, there have been many 12 hour days of work, but I don’t consider it work IF I love what I am doing. That way my activities become my passion and I am very passionate about life.   

One of my favourite stories is:  Walking through an airport in Chicago, a little boy came running up to me and said, “you are the lady in the red dress”.  I said “yes, I am”.  At that time, I had made a movie and made a decision to always wear something bright and different in each major presentation I made publicly. I could repeat the outfits, but each was chosen for a reason.    Never again, did I wear grey, brown or anything dull.  Later in life, I kept the same plan for zoom calls, interviews, family movies etc.  Women and children may not always hear or be interested in “what you said”, but they rarely forgot what you wore. I was also the lady with the striped green and white dress who wore glasses that also had green and white frames. The moral of this story is “stand out, own your space and enjoy it”.  You matter! 

Anything more life advice for your 40s to add? 

Enjoy the 40’s and remember.  “You are the captain of “your ship”.   Sail away! 

Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse has devoted her life to helping others rewrite their stories, and is a master storyteller. In her latest book, Storytelling Legacy: Everyone Has Stories—What are Yours?, Sharon finally shares her story, with tales of celebrity, culture, humor, spirituality, travels and much more. She is a nationally known consultant, family therapist and author of 23 books on everything from personal development to relationships to caregiving.

Staying strong and fit in your 40s and beyond

As we move into our forties there is a lot to celebrate! We have seen quite a bit of life, and as a result, we are wiser, more centred, and are ready to conquer the next half of our lifetime. But in the midst of all of this empowerment, our bodies are changing. As our hormones start to fluctuate we can experience disrupted sleep, night sweats, bloating, fatigue, and recurring muscle aches and injuries. Often we feel that despite our exercise and eating patterns not changing, our shapes are, particularly around our middle and this can be disheartening when you are trying to stay strong and fit in your 40s.

What is happening and how can you stay strong and fit in your 40s and beyond?

Your regular menstrual cycle starts to change in your forties where our hormones are in a state of flux, with oestrogen becoming dominant. We start to have more anovulatory cycles, meaning that as an egg isn’t being released, there isn’t the stimulus to produce progesterone, so causing a hormonal discrepancy. This is where we start to feel those confusing changes in our bodies, and the closer we get to the actual cessation of our periods, the worse these become.

How does this affect our training and body composition?

Oestrogen often promotes inflammation. This leads to an increase in total body inflammation, and a poor ability to adapt and respond, with a predisposition to things like iron deficiency, sore joints, puffiness, picking up respiratory tract infections and so on.  We also have a decreased sensitivity to insulin, and how they moderate blood sugar control. This is what can cause that storage of belly fat.

What can we do?

We should approach this as the new, positive chapter in our lives that it is. Women do have the capacity to continue to be strong, powerful and fit in your 40s and beyond. However, if inactive, around 3% of lean muscle mass can decrease each decade from the age of 30. 

But the good news is, it is never too late to start, we just need to look at ways to train and maintain that neuromuscular stimulation and muscle integrity. Here are some key considerations we need to take into account when planning our training so you can stay strong and fit in your 40s:

Lift heavy

We really need to build in some quality resistance training, low-rep heavy weights. Not only does this help with neuromuscular action, it also increases the stress on the bone and helps with bone turnover, increasing or preserving bone density. Here we are looking at exercises like squats and deadlifts, to a maximum of 5 or 6 reps.  Safety is a key factor here of course and you should work with a professional when you are learning to do this to ensure you are lifting correctly.

fit in your 40s

High intensity interval training 

One of the best ways to stimulate muscle production, these short, sharp interval workouts prompt your body to build lean muscle and shrink visceral fat more effectively than a slow burn endurance workout. It also helps your body to process insulin efficiently, making you less prone to insulin resistance, or becoming overweight. These intervals can be built into most types of exercise, from running to cycling, rowing etc and work with very short (20 to 90 seconds maximum) of high intensity exercise, followed by longer recoveries. The good news is that if these are done correctly, the total workout shouldn’t last more than about 30 minutes.

Plyometrics 

These exercises include exercises like jumping, hopping or bounding, or otherwise giving your bones and muscles the extra stimulus that comes when you push off against gravity and land back down. The key here is the multi-directional aspect rather than running, with exercises such as jumping jacks, side hops, skipping and so on which improve muscular strength, bone health, body composition, posture and physical performance.

fit in your 40s

Do less volume and more intensity 

This is the area where a lot of people struggle. The tendency at this time is to push harder and longer to get rid of this newly acquired body fat, but ultimately that backfires, putting you into a state of low-energy, high stress cortisol cycling. Encouragingly, women have that inherent ability to go long because of the sex differences within the muscle enzyme activity, as well as the body being predisposed to endurance. So if you want to keep in those long, social workouts, make them just that, keeping in your lower heart rate zones where you can still hold a conversation.

In summary

All of these specific interventions work to not only to decrease visceral abdominal fat, increase our insulin sensitivity, increase our lean-mass development and the way our muscles fire, they also build stability around the joints. When we do this, we increase the ability of the muscles around the joint to withstand heavy weight and withstand the pressures of lifting and moving through resistance, not only with exercise, but everyday life.

fit in your 40s

Working with a coach

If you are keen to work towards a goal of staying strong and fit in your 40s, or simply be the best version of yourself in your forties and beyond, then it is worth considering working with a coach. Denise Yeats works in a very holistic way, advising on diet and nutrition in tandem with exercise, and constantly listening to her clients and the way they are adapting not only physically, but also mentally to the training she is setting them. 

Denise Yeats is a triathlete and IRONMAN Certified Coach with a passion for personal development of women in the perimenopausal and menopausal stages of their lives. Find out more at www.deniseyeats.co.uk.

8 signs you’re drinking too much and what to do about it

I knew I was drinking too much when every single day I would wake up feeling shame, regret and hungover. I was 41, fed up, feeling stuck, carrying more weight than my 5’2” frame allowed, I was worrying that my drinking was making me a bad mum, and I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. All the signs were there, they had been there for a while in fact but I either couldn’t see them or chose not to. On March 28th 2018, I could no longer ignore the signs and haven’t had a drink since.  

Perhaps you’ve got the niggling feeling that something is not quite right, the excesses of summer are taking their toll and you feel like you need another holiday to recover from the holiday you’ve just had or maybe, just maybe, the idea of taking part in Sober September this year doesn’t sound quite as crazy as it used to. 

These are just some of the signs that you might be drinking too much. Below are more signs that it might be time to take a look at your drinking behaviours and some tips on what to do if you’re worried about your drinking or want to take a break from drinking.

How much is too much?

When it comes to alcohol, there is no completely safe level of drinking, but according to the NHS guidelines it is recommended not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, that’s around six glasses of wine.

Regularly drinking more than the recommended units of alcohol, poses a serious risk to our physical and mental health, but you might not be aware of just how many units you are drinking on a weekly or daily basis. 

It’s not just the amount of alcohol that can be measured in units or glasses that tell us we’re drinking too much, it is worth being aware of the more subtle signs that your drinking habits might be taking you down a path you don’t want to go down, so you can do something about it if you need to.

Here are 8 signs that you are drinking too much

You’re always thinking about drinking. Is thinking about drinking starting to take up too much space in your head? Worrying how much you had the night before, how much you will have tonight, planning the shopping trips so you never run out, calculating when is a respectable time to start drinking, how much others are drinking, how much you can drink without raising concern and what on earth you will do when you can’t drink for whatever reason, are all signs that your drinking habits might be starting to take over. 

You feel happy when you can drink

Similarly, when you know you have a night alone to drink without being judged or having to ‘moderate’ you feel the thrill of excitement. You might also find yourself looking forward to events and nights out because of the drinking that might be involved, not because of the evening itself.

You start to hide your drinking

Drinking in secret, lying about how much you had, hiding the empties, buying from different shops and taking the recycling to different places is definitely pointing to an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Suddenly one bottle is turning into two

The trouble with alcohol use is that it sneaks up on us. We don’t go from having our first sip of cider and black one day to drinking two bottles of wine a night the next, that’s why the actual quantity and units alone are not enough to tell the whole story. That being said, if you are drinking more and more to get the same effect than before, then you are building a tolerance to alcohol and that is a sure sign that you are drinking too much.

The thought of not drinking makes you feel uneasy (or scared)

Before I quit drinking I desperately wanted to not drink yet the thought of having a whole day or weekend stretched out in front of me without alcohol in it, terrified me. If you can’t imagine an evening or a Sunday afternoon without a glass of wine or few, or the very idea of it seems impossible or miserable, this is a sign that you are drinking too much.

You’re doing all the things to ‘be healthy’ but still feel something is not quite right

Sure, you might yoga and drink the smoothies, go to spin class, have spar days and massages. You might even run, meditate, journal and regularly enjoy ‘self care activities’ but you still feel stuck. Maybe the weight isn’t coming off, perhaps you are still drained or numbing out at the end of the day or despite all the good things you are doing, your still feel meh and your anxiety isn’t getting any better.

This general feeling that something is missing, that you just don’t feel like you should, your energy is low and you’re getting through the days when you should be loving your days is a sign that alcohol is getting in the way of you enjoying your life in the way you deserve. This means you are drinking too much.

Drinking or recovering from drinking is getting in the way of your daily life

Do you try not to plan anything after 5pm? Do you feel resentful if you have to be a taxi driver for the evening? Do you find yourself making excuses, cancelling plans or not showing up as your true self because you are drinking, or recovering from drinking? These are all signs that your drinking is taking over your life and it might be time to take a break.

You’re can’t stick to your own rules around drinking

Probably the most eye opening sign you are drinking too much is when you constantly break your own rules when it comes to trying to drink in moderation. Rules such as, ‘I’ll only drink beer, I’ll only drink when I go out. I’ll only drink at the weekend and then I’ll only have one or two glasses.’ This is soul destroying and you don’t deserve to treat yourself this way. I promise, it is much easier to not drink at all than to put yourself through the pain of trying to moderate.

What you can do if you’re drinking too much

If you recognise your own behaviour in some or all of the above signs then the most important thing is to be super kind and gentle with yourself. Do not beat yourself up, otherwise you will only feel worse and as women we are too hard on ourselves anyway. This must stop.

Worried you are drinking too much – so what can you do?

Start to be aware 

Begin to notice how your drinking is making you feel, tune into why you are drinking, what feeling you are trying to enhance or escape from and how you can be kinder to yourself in the moment.

Get more information

Read as much as you can about sobriety, quitting drinking, how alcohol affects your mind and body so you can begin from a place of feeling empowered and in control. Connect with other women already on this journey, ask questions and listen to their stories.

Find a way to be inspired and stay motivated

There is so much life and joy on the other side of drinking but you have to find your own version of it. What do you want to do? How do you want to feel? What will keep you inspired and motivated to stay alcohol-free when life gets challenging?

Put yourself first and ramp up the self-care

Probably the most powerful thing you can do for yourself is to really look after yourself. You deserve health, happiness, kindness, love and support so start by giving that to yourself. One of the reasons that as women we drink too much is because we’re so busy tending to everybody else we forget about ourselves, drink wine and carry on. You deserve to put yourself first, so start.

Commit to taking some proper time off

Having a goal in mind is really motivating and far less scary than saying I will never drink again. Having a timescale or milestone gives us something to aim for. Pick something that feels good to you such as 30 days or three months and then really commit to it. And decide how you will stay motivated and accountable for the time you plan to be alcohol-free for.

Get support

It is so much easier to stay motivated and on track when you have support and accountability, no matter how long you plan to stay alcohol-free. Get a coach, join a support group, enlist the support of a friend or take part in a challenge like Sober September.  Sober September  was created by Cancer Research UK to encourage people to take a month off booze while raising money for charity at the same time. Being part of a community or even just doing this with a friend is a brilliant way to begin this journey as you will have your person or people on your side, cheering you on and supporting you all the way.

Changing your relationship with alcohol is life changing. It can be the hardest, yet most rewarding thing you can do. Sober September just might be the springboard you need  towards finding a healthier, fitter, happier you.

Gayle Macdonald, sobriety coach and addiction therapist and alcohol-free since March 2018, is the founder of Sober Bliss, helping women to change their relationship with alcohol in a way that feels good through uplifting and empowering coaching and community. Find out more at Sober Bliss and book a free call to talk about one to one sober support here.

How to be your own boss and take the plunge

Self-employment has boomed in recent years; it’s no easy option but deserves careful consideration to ensure it’s the right choice for you if you’re thinking you want to be your own boss. Self-employment offers a route to independence, enables you to take charge of your own destiny while you pursue a meaningful career path. Want to be your own boss? We outline key considerations as well as how to take the plunge.

Be your own boss: The basics

As of April 2022, there were around 4.21 million self-employed workers in the United Kingdom. The largest percentage of those are between 45 and 54 years of age, with the 35-44 age group representing the second largest group.

For some, it is a lifestyle choice achievable by:

  • setting up a business, either on a full-time basis or alongside a part-time job;
  • working as a freelancer or contractor;
  • buying into a franchise.

There’s a high level of commitment involved in starting a business, so you need to take a careful and realistic look at yourself to see if you are ready for such a challenge. Auditing your skills and personality and building a support team of family, friends and advisers is as important as your idea and motivation.

Important things to consider before taking the plunge to be your own boss

In traditional employment it is usual to work on a predetermined range of tasks and projects. As an entrepreneur, all the work falls to you. Do you know what tasks you will need extra support with? Can you handle the finance, accounting, IT issues and all the related administration?

You will probably have to work long hours with limited financial rewards, at least at first. There may be times when you doubt yourself and the wisdom of embarking on this venture. A support system helps you through tough times and may be a big factor in your success.

You need to be someone who can meet and deal positively with challenges. With plenty of confidence in yourself, and the energy and mental toughness to get to cope with difficult times, which you will inevitably face.

be your own boss

Some drawbacks

Most people go out to work because they like meeting people; when you work for yourself, until you are successful enough to start taking on staff, you have to do the scut-work as well as the executive decision-making and all without the water-cooler moments. If you need regular feedback and validation, if you find it hard to motivate yourself, self-employment may not be your best option.

Be aware, it’s hard work when you end up doing the VAT at the weekend – it’s this sort of thing that can drive people back to traditional employment. It can take 18 months or more to establish yourself, and a large percentage of small businesses fail in those first months. All the decisions and responsibility will fall on you; you will have to sort out all the mistakes and problems.

The most cited drawbacks are social isolation and insecurity and those who give up self-employment so, by and large, for these reasons:

  • Insecurity and unpredictability of income;
  • Missing the sense of identity that a role in a corporation provides;
  • Lack of the social camaraderie that an organisational role provides, this is very significant for many people.

Plan and prepare

If running your own business is a serious ambition, start planning as far ahead as you can. Work on developing skills which are relevant to self-employment and focus on building the skills, experience and contacts you will need. You will have to rely on your own entrepreneurial energy to win work and to establish new income streams, while building your value proposition.

If self-employment is a potential option then you should consider:

  • personal and financial assets and liabilities;
  • lifestyle aspirations;
  • support systems and commitments.

Do a risk assessment, it takes commitment to succeed. People who are self-aware and know when they need to call on others for help, support and guidance are most likely to succeed as entrepreneurs.

be your own boss

Be your own boss: Taking the plunge!

Think of the many benefits of self-employment – as your own boss, you work when and where you want to work, and you work for those you want to work with control of your time, energy and life.

If you can identify your USP, are professional and resilient, and confident with the skills to build your client base, perhaps it’s time to think about registering with HMRC as self-employed. You’ll need a business bank account and insurance. You’ll have to decide on a company structure, acquire accounting software and design a marketing strategy.

Launching a business may be a good career move. It’s not without its challenges, but if you reflect on your needs and work preferences, research your options and assess the challenges and benefits of setting up your own venture, you’ll be well equipped to make an informed decision about being your own boss.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore is the Co-founder and Director of 10Eighty,  helping individuals and organisations to maximise their potential.  To excel your career., improve performance and give a sense of focus in terms of career direction why not get a coach? Find one here.

Pelvic floor in your 40s and beyond

I have to admit, I have really noticed a change in my pelvic floor and my ability to control my bladder since I hit my 40s. There, I said it. But it’s not a truth most of us would never be bold enough to admit, until someone else did. And although there has been a lot in the news lately about pelvic floor health in the menopause, very little has been said about it in decade before. So what happens to your pelvic floor in your 40s and what we can do to address some of the issues we might face when it comes to pelvic floor health? We get the lowdown here with Karin Goldschmidt, Pelvic Health Senior Physiotherapist at The King Edward VII hospital.

How does your pelvic floor change in your 40s?

Pregnancy and childbirth will have put a major strain on your pelvic floor muscles, but an increase in body weight can make this even worse.

Menopause usually starts when you are in your late forties or early fifties, however in some cases it can happen earlier or later than this.  As the body starts to produce less oestrogen, many women find themselves putting on weight much easier than when in their 30ies. In fact, fat mass can increase as much as 44% during menopause. When a person has a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) of 26 or above, their pelvic floor has a consistently heavier load to support. Body fat presses down on the bladder and bowel and can result in difficulty controlling the release of urine, faeces or wind.

Skeletal muscle atrophy and associated weakness are inevitable as we age, and the pelvic floor muscles are no exception. Once you reach 40, you ‘ll lose as much as 5 percent of your muscle per decade. This decreased strength and muscle mass is related to myriad pelvic floor dysfunctions, including stress UI, pelvic organ prolapse, faecal incontinence and sexual dysfunction.

What changes/symptoms does this mean women in their 40s might experience

Common symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor or bladder dysfunction are:

  • Leakage of urine when coughing, sneezing, bending, laughing or lifting weights which is called stress incontinence.
  • It is also common to leak when hurrying to the toilet, hearing running water or even when putting a key in the door when arriving home, this is called urge incontinence.  
  • Many women experience a dragging or aching sensation around the vagina or anus which can be due to a prolapse of the pelvic organs.
  • Problems in controlling wind or bowel contents which often is associated with constipation due to difficulties in emptying your bowels causing a need to strain.
  • Painful sex or decreased sensation due to vaginal dryness.

A perhaps less well known issue, although also common, is tightness of the pelvic floor muscles as a result from rarely relaxing them. This can lead to pelvic pain and trigger other symptoms.

Why is it important that women in their 40s make pelvic floor health a priority?

In our 20s and 30s women might not have paid too much attention to their Pelvic floor and thinking that issues such as leakage and Prolapse are symptoms one just have to learn to live with. However it is very important to understand that as we age, if not looked after, the Pelvic floor is likely to become weaker and therefore their issues could potentially become worse and hugely affect ones quality of life. The good thing is that, if given the appropriate attention and care,  these symptoms are often reversible.   

How can women in their 40s protect their pelvic floor – and is it all about kegels?

Kegels are very important indeed, as well as staying generally healthy with consistent exercise, a varied fibrous diet and drinking lots of water, there are other important ways to look after our Pelvic floor.

Posture

The posture of your body changes the way your pelvic floor muscles work. If you’re sitting slumped, it’s hard for your muscles to do anything to help you. If you sit taller, supporting your head and neck up better, your abdominal muscles can work much more efficiently and your pelvic floor is not as switched off and compromised by the pressure. When standing, if your posture is poor, you can end up tilting your pelvis which will also impact how your pelvic floor muscles work. When standing with a better posture, your abdominals, bottom, pelvic floor and leg muscles are allowed to work together in synergy.

Breathing

This is something that comes completely natural to us yet most us don’t do it the as efficiently as we are meant to. We tend to hold our breath when concentrating doing our pelvic floor exercises  as well as not breathing properly down into our tummy and not expanding the breath into the side of our ribs. As your diaphragm ( breathing muscle) moves, so should the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is not a rigid structure, meaning it should move up and down in synergy with our breathing. As we breathe in, the pelvic floor moves down. As we relax, it moves back up. It follows the movements of your lungs and diaphragm.  

The knack

Get into the habit of tighten your pelvic floor muscles the second before any activity which involves a rise in intra-abdominal pressure – coughing, sneezing, lifting, carrying, bending – even laughing sometimes!

Toileting position

Using a step or stool under your feet while on the toilet helps create a squatting position which will reduce pressure into your rectum when passing a stool. This will reduce pressure on the ligaments and muscles in this area. It is also important to ensure you always sit and relax on the toilet and not get in a habit of hovering as this does not allow your pelvic floor to relax completely while you empty your bladder.

Can you share a recommended pelvic floor exercise routine? And how often should women aim to do this?

I often recommend to download the NHS Squeezy app for help with visualisation and motivation. However you can do this routine anywhere  without any equipment at all.

Pelvic floor muscle exercises  should include long, held squeezes as well as short, quick squeezes; ensuring that you let the muscle ‘go’ or ‘relax’ after each squeeze. You should work the muscles until they tire and do the exercises regularly to help the muscles become stronger and more effective. Always remember to breath out as you lift the pelvic floor and breath in as your relax. Also start the lift from the anus, then the vagina and finally a gentle drawing in of the lower part of your tummy to activate your deepest of the abdominal muscles.  

Long squeezes         

Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold them tight, then release and let them fully relax. How long can you hold the squeeze? Repeat the squeeze and hold until the pelvic floor muscles tire. How many times can you repeat the squeezes? Aim to be able to do 10 long squeezes, holding each squeeze for 10 seconds.

Short squeezes

Quickly tighten your pelvic floor muscles, then immediately let them go again. How many times can you do this quick squeeze before the muscles get tired? Always let the muscles fully relax after each squeeze.

You may need to start with ‘little and often’ if you find that you can only hold the squeeze for a short time, or only do a few before the muscles tire. Aim  for 10 short squeezes.

It’s great if you manage to do your pelvic floor muscle exercises at least 3 times each day, however we all lead busy lives and this obviously might not always be possible, however remember than little is better than nothing!

You may find it easier to do them when you are sitting or lying down. Build up your exercise routine gradually over the weeks and months. You should notice an improvement in 3 – 5 months and then keep practising your pelvic floor muscle exercises once a day to maintain the improvement.

Is it ever too late to work on your pelvic floor health?

Absolutely not, better late than never. Your pelvic floor health is for life! Just like any other muscle group in the body, the pelvic floor muscles can always be improved in strength and in their ability to relax. And your bladder and bowel are adaptable too and responds to various trainings.

Any other advice you can share on looking after your pelvic floor in your 40s?

Sadly, too many women suffer from pelvic floor issues unnecessarily, often due to little knowledge that support exists or too embarrassed to seek help. However please be assured that passionate  women’s health professionals are here to help and there is no need to suffer in silence, there is nothing we haven’t seen or heard before! And on a very positive note, with the right support (and a little bit of patience and determination) many pelvic floor issues can be treated and symptoms improved greatly.  On a final note , always take your time to urinate and poo, never strain!

So how is your pelvic floor doing ladies?

Photos by MART PRODUCTION

Toxic positivity – when “good vibes only” can actually put you down instead of raise you up

Have you heard of toxic positivity? What about “good vibes only” – one of the most popular captions on social media.

These days we can even buy posters of ‘’good vibes only’’, there are glasses, neon signs, t shirts, and massage tools with the slogan. The whole culture of the ‘’good vibes only’’. There are ‘’good vibes only’ gurus, shamans and mentors – people who are preaching positive thinking as a remedy for everything and over anything:

‘’You are what you think right?! That’s how the law of attraction and law of vibration work, so you better cheer up!’’

It is enough to scroll through Instagram or Tik Tok which are full of coaches and gurus telling us we must be positive, and only positive at all times.

Can this culture of ‘’being happy and positive’’ and always ‘’vibrating high’’ be damaging to us?

It’s not natural to be happy all the time

Oh yes, if applied in a wrong way it is very unhealthy. Do not get me wrong, I am a mindset and high performance coach and I work with my clients to help them to optimise their performance through expansion of their mindset. Yes, having a positive, creative and grateful mindset is a fantastic thing but it is impossible and not natural to be happy, with the good vibe only at all times.

By definition, toxic positivity is the overgeneralisation of a happy, optimistic state that results in denial, minimalization and invalidation of the authentic human experience.

Why is it so unhealthy? Because by forcing ourselves to constantly be happy and positive we are suppressing or denying our own emotions, but  we can feel lots at the same time. For example, I can be very satisfied and positive with my career but sad and hurting at the same time with the grief of losing a close family member.

Dealing with sadness and grief should not involve pretending that everything needs to be positive and happy but it should involve getting in touch with our own feelings and emotions and living through them. That’s the healthy way. Of course, going into another extreme and focusing too much on the negative emotions and events is unhealthy as well as the nature loves a balance.

The guilt trap

Toxic positivity can also cause guilt which is then causes stress, anxiety and depression which in turn affects our self esteem. When we are feeling under strong pressure to be ‘’positive’’ at all times, we then feel guilty when having sad or moody days. And those days happen to all of us, even  ‘’happiness gurus’’ from social networking sites.

Being positive doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think of bad things which can happen, rather it means we are clear on and focusing on the best possible scenario and that’s where we focus majority of our energy. Is like getting into a car for journey. You assume and prepare to get to your destination. You don’t actually plan for a traffic accident, rather you check the map, put a post code in and buckle your seat belt.

To compare the same journey in line with ‘’toxic positivity’’, you would be as getting in a car drunk, with sunglasses on at night driving up the motorway against the direction of traffic as nothing negative existed or could harm us.

Recognising toxic positivity

Here are some signs on how recognise when our positive constructive approach is becoming ‘’toxic positivity’’:

  1. You are masking and hiding your feelings – that smiley face with ‘’everything happens for a reason’’ should not be the response to trauma or upset. Get your emotions out, don’t supress them, feel them and  look for the lessons after that event.
  2. You feel shame and guilt for not being positive, or seeing the bright side in the particular situation. Being guilty for feeling down will not uplift your emotions, actually will put you down. It is helpful to talk or journal about what you actually feel. Allowing yourself to go through it and giving yourself permission to feel is powerful too.
  3. You brush things under the carpet and pretending they don’t matter “It is what it is”) . This behaviour is toxic and when you recognise doing it, it is good to stop and consciously reflect on what actually bothers you. Feel it, think about it. If is a dilemma you are avoiding instead of avoiding it, use a very helpful positive psychology exercise and write down minimum five various scenarios for your outcomes. You will feel the shift immediately.

Toxic positivity can also come from others: Here is how to recognise it:

  1. When someone is trying to minimalise your experience with ‘’feel good’’ quotes and statements. I once listened to a self-proclaimed positivity coach who was telling everyone that they need to be positive and affirm it all the time, throwing quotes and sayings as that would be the only way to deal with their challenges. In reality she was dismissing her own and others feelings emotions, and experiences, and making people feeling guilty and frustrated. When someone is trying to do this to you, please remember it is ok not to be ok, and move away from them.
  2. At times people will try to give you the perspective that it a ‘’could be worst’’ approach. They are dismissing your feelings and emotions by indicating that there are other things you should be happy for. The truth is that trauma and hurt are very personal and we can not compare the impact it makes on each of us. The event might seem more or less severe but your emotions are yours and no one should disrespect it or force you not to feel because they think you should feel otherwise.
  3. Shaming others for feeling frustrations, fear or sadness – basically anything other than positive emotions is another sign of “toxic positivity”. We are humans and we are designed to feel all emotions -they are fantastic indicators for us. Of course it is not healthy to be focussing or intentionally dwelling on the negatives but you don’t need to feel obliged to ‘’cheer up’’ because someone told you so.

The importance of acknowledging feelings and emotions

Several psychological studies show us that hiding or denying feelings leads to more stress to the body and increases difficulty in dealing with further distressing thoughts and feelings.

That’s why it is so important for our mental and physical health to acknowledge our feelings and emotions, feel them, and verbalise them.

That’s what keeps us balanced and healthy. By honouring our feelings, we embrace and accept all of ourselves, and live as authentic us.

It is good to manage your negative emotions but make sure you don’t deny them. We need to be realistic about what we feel and at tough time practice self-care, not “good vibes only” attitude. Notice and be aware of how you feel and listen to others, and show them support. Remember we don’t have to act on every emotion. At times we need to sit with it, give yourself some space to reflect and if possible, vocalise it by talking to a friend or journaling. Learn to notice ‘’toxic positivity’’ and give yourself and other permission to feel both positive and negative emotions. We need to make sure we live our life in balance, feeling and allowing all of our emotions while maintaining a healthy and positive mindset.

Olga Kublik is a Mindset and Performance Coach, find out more at olgakublik.com.

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