Four questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed

There’s so much going on in your 40s. You may be starting to experience symptoms of perimenopause, and if you’ve had children they could be going through their own hormonal changes. Combine that with caring for ageing parents, keeping a long term relationship alive or not (40-49 is the most common age group for separating) and climbing the career ladder, your fifth decade can become the perfect storm leaving you feeling overwhelmed.

And it’s no surprise that juggling all these responsibilities can feel overwhelming. When I feel overwhelmed, I feel a tightness in my chest and break out in a sweat. I find it hard to focus on anything and just don’t know where to start. So I don’t. I procrastinate and I do the ‘easy’ things that aren’t going to make a difference to the big projects I need to move forward.

(As a side note, I love this Ted Talk by Tim Urban on procrastination, which I found when I was putting off doing something!)

So, next time you notice that you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to ask yourself these questions…

Where are you focusing your energy? 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may think that taking the time to look at the bigger picture stops you making progress. But when you’re deep in overwhelm, it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. So take time to list out and prioritise everything you’ve got on. What’s necessary? What can you reschedule or delegate? What’s driving any deadlines? Some clients like to map their tasks into an urgent/important matrix to make it really clear. 

What support do you need? 

For tasks that can’t be delegated, what support do you need? A shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen, or something more practical? Which friends or family can help you? Where else can you find support? A coach or therapist can help you get clarity, or if it’s causing medical issues speak to a doctor or healthcare professional. 

How are you fuelling yourself? 

Food, exercise and sleep are all so important for your body and mind to function well. But when I’m feeling overwhelmed they are the first things to go. 

If, like me, feelings of overwhelm and stress lead to you standing in front of the cupboard or fridge, how can you encourage yourself to pick up the healthy snacks instead of the crisps or biscuits? I create little snack packs at the beginning of the week. A little pot of nuts and fruit, some carrot sticks and a portion of hummus, a ready peeled boiled egg. If I make it easy to grab something healthy (and hide the biscuits right at the back of the cupboard) then I know I’m fuelling my body with healthy energy. 

As for exercise, I have a couple of friends that I love running with. During super busy times I may only go once a week, but it’s running (at a speed I can still chat) and it feels cathartic for me. What can you do to get moving and get out in the fresh air? 

Sleep for me is still a work in progress. Reminding myself to settle my mind with a book instead of my phone. Not taking my phone into the bedroom. Writing down anything that’s swirling around in my head before bed. I’m getting there, slowly. 

What is good in your life? 

Different studies have proven that practising gratitude can lead to deeper and healthier sleep, reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), reduce negative emotions, and change neural structures in the brain to help us feel more content. 

So, before you go to sleep at night, think of three things you are grateful for that day. Some days it’s really easy, and the things are big, like my daughter bouncing through the front door after an epic first day of secondary school (fingers crossed for September!). Some days it’s harder – my slightly aloof cat deciding to sit next to me. Going to sleep thinking of the good things can help you wake refreshed and ready for the new day. 

The first step with anything is noticing. So when you do notice feelings of overwhelm, return to these questions. 

If it’s hard to stop, find a way to come back into the moment. The 54321 tool may help. Sitting with your feet planted on the floor and breathing deeply, think of 5 things you can see, 4 you can feel, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell and 1 you can taste. Utilising all of your senses is very grounding. 

And a final thought. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend.

Sophy Wells is a ICF certified coach, helping people reflect, refocus and reconnect to what’s important, and feel inspired about work and life again.

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.

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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Benefits of yoga: Why you should add yoga into your everyday routine

We now live in a world where self-care, health and wellbeing are being prioritised, and actually, are actively encouraged – which is something that we haven’t seen until recent years. And one of the very best ways to practise self-care in our humble opinion is through yoga and meditation. Here, Victoria Cranmer, founder of health and wellbeing travel firm Mindful Escapes, shares her thoughts on the benefits of yoga and why yoga should be added to our everyday routine.

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There is a global increase in people battling burnout, and time is of the essence, therefore practising as little as 10 minutes of yoga as part of your daily routine can be a beneficial addition.

People have never been as busy as they are today. Whether it’s juggling work and business with family life or struggling to find the time to relax and unwind, people are continuing to battle the feeling of burnout.

Yoga enables and releases feelings of anxiety, stress, worry, self-doubt, fatigue and the feeling of burnout with each and every breath.

Much more than deep breathing and stretching, yoga is an act of healing – both physically and mentally.

benefits of yoga

Benefits of yoga

As a great source of healing, yoga has many benefits and can work to support everybody in an entirely unique and different way.

Whilst not medicinal, yoga is the ideal way to incorporate gentle movement to your day and improve mental and physical wellbeing.

Improves strength, balance and flexibility

The regular movements and breathing techniques of yoga can aid the improvement of your strength, balance and flexibility by increasing blood flow and warming up the muscles. As well as this, yoga can improve posture, which in turn, reduces back pain and enhances comfort.

Reduces aches and pains

For people with illnesses such as arthritis, or those that suffer from aches and pains, yoga makes for the perfect form of gentle exercise. The stretching and breathing of yoga eases pain and discomfort and is a great way to manage bodily aches and pains without medicinal intervention.

Reduces stress and benefits heart health

When practised regularly, yoga can help people to feel less stressed, thus reducing inflammation and contributing to a healthier heart.

benefits of yoga

Relaxes to aid sleep and boosts mood

With yoga comes a sense of calm and can therefore be a great way to end your day and wind down before going to bed. For a better night’s sleep, alter your exercises to encourage relaxation, but to kickstart your day, yoga can make for the perfect mood booster – simply select exercises that require a little more energy and that make you feel awake and raring to go.

The ultimate self-care tool

Yoga is the ideal way to take care of yourself. Whether it’s 10 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour – yoga can be practised in such a way that works around your day, providing you with some well-deserved ‘me time’ whilst supporting stress management and encouraging mindfulness.

Getting started

It’s important that people practise yoga in a way that suits them – after all, we all have entirely different needs.

Whilst you will receive maximum benefits from adding yoga to your everyday routine, some people prefer yoga retreats to fully immerse themselves and to create the ultimate experience.

A retreat can be the perfect way to prioritise yoga and its healing benefits in your busy life without any distractions from the outside world. For more information on yoga retreats and its benefits, visit: https://mindfulescapes.uk/

Image by rawpixel.com

How to heal emotional trauma

I have spoken to so many women in their 40s recently who are struggling. If you have some form of emotional trauma from somewhere in the past, the absolute truth is that eventually, somehow, someway, it will end up catching up with you. I know this to be only too true from my own personal experience at the beginning of the pandemic during the depths of the first lockdown. The emotional trauma from my childhood caught up with me in a pretty major way. On the break of utter self distruction and about to take everyone I love down with me, I realised I needed to go for therapy and it was one of the best decisions I made in my life.

I had been pretending thus far that the emotional trauma buried deep inside me did not exist, that I didn’t need help, and I certainly didn’t need therapy. Boy, how wrong was I!

So when I heard about Anna McKerrow’s The Path to Healing is a Spiral: One Woman’s Journey to Emotional Healing, I just knew this was something we had to talk about openly on 40 Now What. If more people acknowledge, open up about, and address their emotional trauma, just think how much lighter and happier we would all be.

And so let us start with this. A deep dive on all things emotional trauma – triggers, origins, recognition and of course the very hardest bit – taking that first step to healing your emotional trauma.

What is emotional trauma? Can you give some examples of triggers?

From a psychological standpoint, emotional trauma happens when either a person is involved in a current traumatic situation (anything from the death of a loved one to experiencing war, childbirth difficulties, baby loss, a terrorist attack, a humiliating experience, rape, mugging or climate change-related traumatic experiences) or witnesses it (this might include police officers viewing violent crime or abusive video footage, or someone working with the survivors of sex trafficking or some similar support role). It also refers to historic trauma experienced in childhood that an adult may (or may not) have blocked from their memory, but which is causing problems in their adult life. Last, something that causes ongoing stress, such as a heavy workload or a stressful relationship, can cause trauma. Any of these experiences can also lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

The symptoms of trauma can include depression, re-experiencing the traumatic event in flashbacks, insomnia, emotional detachment, loss of self-esteem, despair, self-destructive behaviours (i.e. drug taking and alcoholism), panic attacks, nightmares and intense anger among many others. Conventional treatments for trauma and PTSD currently include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) medication and counselling.

The holistic point of view agrees that trauma is caused by difficult life situations, but differs in the way that it conceptualizes what trauma does to a human being. In a variety of therapies, trauma is considered to be psychically “held” in the body and the energy field around the body, rather than just inside the brain, as in the more conventional psychological view.

The energetic model of healing explains that we are made up of a number of linked “bodies”, with the physical one being the densest. The physical body is (of course) visible to the eye. Around that, the emotional body surrounds us for several inches, followed by the mental and then psychic body in similar layers, growing ever more subtle in terms of vibration. When people see auras around the bodies of others, they’re seeing the denser levels of the energy body, most likely the emotional or mental energy body, often dominated by the colour of the chakra that person is most “in” at that time.

When trauma comes our way – be that some negative energy or a virus or a traumatic experience – the energetic model states that it will make its way in from the psychic energy body, to the mental, to the emotional and finally the physical where it will manifest as actual disease or pain. Similarly, when we heal, the trauma is sent back out through the system in the same way.

I was taught an interesting concept about the healing of the physical body under this rationale, which is that the dis-ease (symbolizing a virus/bacteria/trauma, etc) makes its way out of the physical body from the core and out to the extremities before continuing to depart through the emotional, mental and psychic bodies. For example, an illness might begin with sickness (core), but as the healing body pushes out the intruder, it becomes a rash that starts at the chest, moves down to the legs and then out through the toes and feet. It’s an interesting theory (and I’m not sure if it’s got the scientific seal of approval) but I have found it very useful to think about how people’s symptoms often morph over time.

Sometimes an emotional problem can even become a physical one or, sometimes, when emotional problems are dealt with, then physical symptoms disappear.

Following the energetic model to its logical conclusion, dis-ease will continue to go deeper into the body until it hits the bones and the internal organs, causing more serious complications. From a holistic viewpoint, then, it makes sense to ward off the nasties before they get that far, with regular deep healing of emotional trauma as well as psychic self-protection.

heal emotional trauma

Where does emotional pain/trauma come from? Why is it important to heal and recover from emotional trauma?

Trauma comes from being human and living life, in my opinion. I think it comes from big, one-off things like bereavement, illness, rape, miscarriage, loss, sometimes relationship breakups, all manner of things like that. But it also comes from ongoing situations like bullying, coercive relationships, domestic violence, addiction, ongoing illnesses, being a carer perhaps for an ill relative or partner over a long period of time, living in a war zone, working in a toxic environment, battling gender identity issues – the list goes on! Things that can wear you down over time and create traumatic responses and stored pain.

I personally have worked with resolving trauma resulting from my mum’s illness with cancer and her passing away; my own childhood; poverty and debt; motherhood; my son being seriously ill when he was little, and a lot about just being a woman in a sexist world too.

There are so many reasons why we need to heal emotional trauma. Holding onto it means that we have less energy or capacity for other things; we might avoid making good life choices out of fear, based on something bad that has happened to us before. We might also just not have the bandwidth to progress in our lives and leave relationships or jobs that aren’t really right for us, because carrying that emotional trauma makes us so bloody exhausted! In my book I say:

“When we release trauma, it gives our systems more energy to get on with everything else. Imagine carrying a really heavy box. Once you’ve put the heavy box down, it’s much easier to think about what you need at the shops, right? If you take the heavy box to the supermarket, all you can think about when you’re walking around the aisles is Christ, this box is heavy. It’s hard to focus on what’s the best wine to go with chicken.”

The other thing to consider is that emotional trauma, or emotional stress, starts to have an impact on the body after a while. We know that stress is bad for our physical body as well as our brains.

The first step is always the hardest. How can someone go about becoming aware/acknowledging/identifying that they have experienced emotional trauma?

I would say that most of us have, so it’s almost a given. I think it’s important for everyone to get healing. You shouldn’t actually wait until physical symptoms manifest, or until you have a breakdown. In an ideal world, everyone would have regular healing, whether that’s reiki or breathwork or whatever, and head off the problems before they become too troublesome. It’s a bit like how your dentist tells you to floss to avoid having a filling later on. Healing should be like flossing: preventative as well as transformative.

The other thing to say is that you’ll probably know if you’ve experienced a traumatic experience. In my experience, people usually know: it’s more that they just ignore it and think, if I just get on with life, this will go away! I’ll just forget about it! That’s when the problems happen, when you sit down and talk to people and they say, I don’t know why I’m crying all the time. And then further on in the conversation you find out that they had a miscarriage last year and never talked to anyone about it.

There are, of course, traumas that we might have consciously decided to forget, and can be affecting your life with, say, self-destructive behaviour or another difficult thing which is coming from the unconscious, which definitely hasn’t forgotten. All the more reason to do some healing just as part and parcel of your normal life.

In the UK at least, I think people are quite averse to the concept of emotional healing. Most people will say they don’t need it, or they don’t believe in it. I would say that healing works whether you believe in it or not, because most alternative healing modalities aren’t psychological, they’re working on a holistic model of the body-mind and the body’s energy systems which is different to psychology. That said, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, as they say, and no healing professional would ever make anyone have whatever therapy they were offering, because everyone is on their own path. But if you are open to it, then pursue those instincts because it’s very worth doing and nothing to be scared of.

My other advice to people is, don’t assume that you can think your way out of traumatic experiences, and don’t expect to just get on with your life afterwards without needing to process and heal that experience. We have a very intellect-focused culture and most people think that, if they need to do anything, they need to rationalise a traumatic experience to understand it. I don’t think you do, actually. You need to feel it, and express your emotions as fully as possible. Emotions are not thoughts. They are much more primal and physical, and they won’t go away until you have allowed yourself to feel them in totality, whatever that means: screaming, punching a pillow, crying, whatever.

heal emotional trauma

What steps can be taken to alleviate the burden of trauma and heal emotional wounds?

There are many things you can do, and my main advice is try something out. If you hate it, then try something else. The worst thing you can do is nothing. I personally tried lots of healing techniques and therapists – some worked for me, some not so much, but overall, the best ones were the ones that held a space for me to cry and process my emotions in a safe environment. I didn’t like gong baths, but that might be your thing! And I have never had acupuncture, but I hear it’s great.

The other thing to say is that it’s important to share your experiences with other people. Sometimes, finding a support group of people who have experienced the same thing as you can be super helpful. I had a hysterectomy in 2020 and I found it really helpful to join a hysterectomy support Facebook group. I also joined one for endometriosis and adenomyosis sufferers, which was really helpful. I think there’s something very useful about sharing your story but also learning about what other people have experienced, and realising you’re not on your own.

Can you share a list of examples of alternative therapies you tried to heal your emotional traumas?

Yes! Reiki has been in my life for many years now. I started having reiki in 2004 and then became a practitioner myself, and then became a Reiki Master in 2021 (I was busy in the pandemic!). I’ve had shamanic healing, BodyTalk, reflexology, angelic healing, spiritual healing (they’re pretty similar tbh), crystal healing, I’ve done breathwork, all sorts. Plus I consider yoga to have helped me a lot too.

Were there some that were better for certain emotional wounds than others?

I have to say that Breathwork was probably the most profound in terms of processing really deep emotions that I’d been holding for a long time. It’s a breathing technique you do with a qualified therapist who guides you through the whole experience, and the way that you breathe puts you in a kind of trancey state where it’s easier for your emotions to come out. A session lasts about an hour or an hour and a half, and in that time you might “breathe through” a number of traumatic experiences or feelings, with the therapist supporting you gently. Like, they might hand you a pillow to hold, or they might say something very simple and non-intrusive like “it’s safe to feel this now” but really the focus is on you expressing these very deep emotions and breathing. Very powerful stuff.

heal emotional trauma

What does freedom from emotional trauma look and feel like?

Ha! I’ll let you know when I get there.

The thing is that even if you’ve done a lot of healing work, life still happens, so it’s not like there’s a point where you can become a guru and start wearing robes and all that, because there’s always a need for it. It’s more that you can find a greater sense of peace by clearing out certain emotional “weights” that you might be holding, and that we should have an awareness that engaging in a regular healing routine will be beneficial for us, whatever that looks like for us.

I think also that greater freedom from trauma looks like someone who is happier with the life they have, and is invested in making positive choices for themselves.

What advice would you give to people who are carrying an emotional wound – perhaps unknowingly – on how they can address their emotional health and needs?

Like I said before, the best thing is to actually do something! Thinking about it won’t change anything. Go to a reiki practitioner, do a breathwork session, find a support group, talk to someone, journal your feelings. Doing is the best thing, and my recommendation is do something that makes you cry a lot in a safe space. I’m a big fan of crying.

The other thing to say is look at your life, dispassionately, and think about whether you have any recurring themes. Like, do you always attract the same kind of partner, or do you have the same repeating issue happening to you at work? If these are things that you find to be negative experiences, that might be a sign that shows where an emotional wound is lurking. That emotional wound is creating a need that you are fulfilling with these dynamics in some way.

The thing is, I’ve found with emotional healing, it doesn’t really matter if you understand or deduct the reasons for your trauma intellectually or not. You might have a deep emotional trauma from a childhood experience you’ve consciously forgotten, but you discover when you heal it. The important this is that you heal it by doing rather than thinking, and process the experience.

Anything else you would like to add – words of encouragement/wisdom/inspiration?

You’ve got this! Any moment is a good moment to start investing in your emotional health – it’s never too late, and everyone needs to do this. Healing doesn’t mean you’re weird or seriously disturbed, it’s just something we all need as humans, living our human lives. I’ve found it truly transformational.

Anna McKerrow’s The Path to Healing is a Spiral: One Woman’s Journey to Emotional Healing is out on September 14th priced £12.99 and is available at all good book stores. Anna McKerrow is a YA author and Reiki Master. Connect with her on Instagram.

Photos by Alena Shekhovtcova, Monica Turlui, Liza Summer, Andres Ayrton

Difficult mother? Here’s how to heal your mother wound

It’s no secret that many of us have a difficult mother. The thing is – growing up with a difficult mother is not something you manage to just leave behind when you enter adulthood. It’s a burden you carry with you throughout your adult life. Whether you have a needy, co-dependent mother, a controlling mother, a narcissistic mother, a jealous mother, or an emotionally unavailable mother. The mother wound is a very real phenomenon which can spill over into every thread of our being, the way we live our lives, the decisions we make, and how we conduct our relationships.

So for everyone out there who has a difficult mother in their life, here Charlotte Pardy, The Meditative Counsellor – an award-winning psychotherapist who specialises in working with women who have difficult mothers – shares her tips for healing your mother wound.

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Dear Daughter of a difficult mother,

Mother wounds can happen for a lot of reasons, mum may be depressed, bereaved, traumatised, addicted, have mental health issues, or a difficult relationship with her own mother that’s never been resolved.

It’s this difficult relationship caused by her emotional absence that is often at the heart of a mother wound, because the criticising, controlling and at times competitive behaviour takes its toll on you.

You’re just too sensitive.

I never said that.

I’m only trying to help.

This is for your own good.

I wouldn’t do it like that if I were you.

That’s nice, but everyone loves my…

Comments like these undermine your confidence and self-worth, they may drive you towards perfectionism and people pleasing, you may struggle at work and in relationships, you may even worry about passing it on.

I see it so often where women hide their mother wound and try to take it to the grave, they often feel ashamed of not getting on with mum, that there’s something wrong with them, but it’s just not true.

Culturally we tend to put mothers on a pedestal, they can do no wrong, and they always try to do their best, but it’s a fantasy.

Mothers are just as flawed as anyone else

The more we brush it under the carpet the more we allow our mother wounds to thrive, because it stops them, and us from seeking help.

Shame keeps us stuck in the pain and hurt, and it’s time we brought the problem into the light.

You see this hidden hurt can leave us dissatisfied with life, feeling like we can’t achieve our dreams, and by the time we hit our 40s, like it’s too late to change things.

Yet there are women I see in their 60s and 70s who are filled with regret that didn’t do something sooner, especially now they are feeling so much better.

The truth is it’s never too late, you just need the right help and support.

Many women wonder if they can do anything if mum has passed, they often feel left with their mother wound unresolved. I want you to know that healing is possible regardless of if you have contact with mum, are no contact, or even if she is no longer with us.

Acknowledging and dealing with the issues allows us to break the cycle that often goes back generations, meaning we don’t have to hold onto the pain or pass it on to our family.

It takes courage to face the fear, shame and hurt we have been through, it takes faith to know we can come out the other side feeling calmer, more confident, and happier in ourselves.

So, if you are ready to step up and not carry the burden what can you do?

Here are five simple proven strategies I use with clients in my practice.

  1. Recognise that you are feeling shame. You can tell the difference between guilt and shame by asking the question: Can I fix this? If it is guilt the answer is yes, if no, then you are feeling shame. Shame doesn’t belong to you, it has been given to you so give yourself permission to feel shameless.
  2. Understand that you can only fix you. It can be hard to know that we can’t help mum, that if she wants help, she needs to reach out for it. Know that by going through the process yourself that you are showing her it’s possible.
  3. Find your internal compass. If your value and self-worth are always dependant on mum or others you will always be at the mercy of their moods. Find other ways to value yourself such as measuring yourself against virtues or principles you aspire to.
  4. Stop pretending. It’s ok to not be ok is a phrase we hear often, but we also need to stop pretending things are fine when they are not. You’ve probably lived a lot of your life being what you think others want to see, now is the time to put down the mask and be real.
  5. Learn to love yourself. Just because mum struggled to show you the love and care you needed doesn’t make you unlovable. All it means is she couldn’t show you. Let yourself listen to and take onboard compliments, love, and affection not only from others but also from yourself. I promise you, you won’t get ‘too big for your boots’ but you will start to develop your self-esteem.

Healing your mother wound can feel daunting but know you are not alone, there are thousands of us out there.

The five strategies will help you to shake off the shame and start to invest in your self-worth.

Do you have a difficult mother in your life? Are you longong to heal your mother wound? Leave a comment below and share your experience and connect with our community on Instagram here.

Leaf photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

I tried naked yoga and here’s what happened

It seems that being naked is having a bit of a moment. From naked yoga, to the rebirth of the nudist beach as well as influencers baring all on Instagram, slowly being naked is starting to not only be something you do whilst in the bath.

I actually grew up in a household where being naked wasn’t a big deal. As weird as it was being confronted with my mum’s drooping boobs and catching sight of my dad’s penis aged 8 on a daily basis, I actually have a lot to thank my parents for. Being naked in front of me was probably one of the best things they ever did for me in terms of my body image and self-acceptance. Thanks to them I never felt that weird about being naked, even in front of other people. I continued this trend in our house, even to this day.

But even still, when The Naked Yoga Effect by Doria Gani landed in my hands, my daughter part-balked and part-sniggered at me with disbelief that I was entertaining the idea of doing yoga…..naked.

What’s the big deal – I thought – doing naked yoga in my own home? I wondered whether doing yoga naked could really feel that different. After all, a sun salutation is a sun salutation, naked or not…..or is it?

The Naked Yoga Effect

Doria Gani wrote The Naked Yoga effect having overcome a critical illness (cancer), having experienced first hand the liberating effects of practising yoga naked. It was the day after my dad had told me that he had a mutation in his BRCA1 gene widely known to be a cause of various cancers including breast cancer. I had a fifty percent chance of having inherited the gene and would also need to be tested. I was feeling ill at ease in myself having already had to have my entire thyroid removed due to the existence of pre-cancerous cells over a decade ago. I needed to feel free from the mental prison I was currently trapped in.

My experience of naked yoga

And so I grabbed my copy of The Naked Yoga effect, and flipped over to The Beginner’s Yoga Guide. I stripped off all my clothes there and then with purpose – relishing in the moment. That act alone felt so unbelievably freeing.

I instantly felt the difference as I moved through the sun salutation sequences. It felt amazing to not have a single piece of material on my body – feeling the gentle air against my skin. I felt more in tune with my body – and indeed myself – during a yoga practice than I had ever been.

I didn’t mind seeing my breasts swinging down underneath me, or seeing the folds of my tummy from my vantage point. For I was doing something mighty and I could see every single bit of it – every single movement and muscle working away without anything blocking my view.

I think part of the reason naked yoga feels so empowering is that you are doing something you might ordinarily do, in a way you wouldn’t ordinarily do it. So it’s not something completely new and hairy scary, but the fact that you are doing it completely bare makes you incredibly aware and mindful of everything. It also puts you gently out of your comfort zone. It’s a beautiful feeling! Just you, and yoga without any barriers, annoying bits of material or limitations. I honestly never realised that being naked could be such an inspiring and positive act.

Is naked yoga for you?

If you want to feel more comfortable in your skin, practice self-kindness, reconnect with yourself after some form of personal struggle, feel stronger and more confident, more positive or be more mindful that take off your clothes, and get on your yoga matt….because you’ve got nothing to lose apart from the clothes you are wearing.

What’s next?

I loved the feeling of having this special, private practice all to myself. Would I do it in a group class? Well, never say never, but for now, I’m happy to practice naked yoga just by myself. Just me, my body, and I.

Do you think you could give naked yoga a try? Do leave a comment below and connect with us on Instagram here to keep the conversation going.