Category: On Lifestyle

Using Self-care As Preventative Medicine

So, what is all this talk about self-care on a regular basis? You’ve heard it, too, right?  Is it the latest craze, a buzz word or a practice that supports a healthy lifestyle?

Though the volume has been turned up on emotional and mental self-care lately—perhaps a credit to the pandemic and other challenging events—it has been around for a long time.  From prayer to yoga to Tai Chi to fad diets, self-care dominates our minds particularly in January and during difficult periods in life. It sometimes offers a narrow path out of the darkness, if not ways to cope while in it.

But here lately, self-care talk is not just about the dark days but about all days—using the concept as a preventative measure instead of a reactive one.

I like the sounds of this and here is why. Self-care has a positive influence on maintaining a healthy mind and with a healthy mind, life is easier to navigate.

As I think back over the years, I have always understood the importance of self-care on some level. As a young PR director at a Girl Scout Council, I remember announcing to the team that I was going home early to take some time for myself. Life was a bit of a circus, putting it mildly and I was the feature tight rope walker.

Yet I’ll never forget the eyeballs I got and the suggestions that our boss ought to put a stop to what was perceived as prima donna behaviour. And he might have, had he not understood a little about self-care. Bless him, I think he must have.

This was more than 35 years ago. And admittedly, for many years I would only take time to get the rest I needed just before breaking point. But after the loss of my mother in 2016, my anxiety and worry stepped up a notch, getting me an official diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder.

Only then, did I truly come to understand the importance of daily self-care. Without it, it is easy to let one’s mental health go. And while there are ways to recover, as from a physical illness, it is far healthier to practice preventative medicine, if you will.

That for me often means several practices.  For example, honouring a strict social media diet is at the top of my list. As much as I love connecting with friends and family, it doesn’t serve me to binge on social media. One thing for sure is that everybody else’s business and problems makes its way into the chatter box in my head, along with the bad news of the day and so on.

In rushes anxiety, robbing me of any sense of calm and of course, sleep, which is a great segue to another form of daily self-care. I have developed good sleep hygiene, as the experts call it, which is all about setting a routine, not only for what time to go to bed, but also the time to begin winding down, and what to include in my diet throughout the day, particularly if I have had a bout of insomnia.

Other daily practices I use include saying ‘no’ to asks that either disrespect my boundaries or trigger anxiety; taking a daily walk, even if it’s a bit gloomy outside and that happens often in London; admitting when I can’t take on someone else’s problems because I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with them; and practicing mindfulness throughout the day, if only for a few minutes to focus on what I am grateful for. 

Gosh, it sounds so selfish, or does it? On the surface it might, but underneath self-care has a dominant element of selflessness. As one expert puts it, self-care is as much for loved ones as it is individuals. It simply makes us better, healthier people, which enables us to show up for ourselves and for others, not only during the best of times but also in the worst of times.

Considering what self-care is all about, I, for one, am hopeful that more of us will infuse it into our daily lives as we do other remedies that nourish us and act as preventative medicine, if you will. After all, good health is the key to better living.

For more information on practicing self-care to manage anxiety, check out UIO podcasts On Social Anxiety with Claire Eastham and On Undiagnosed Mental Illness with Eleanor Mandelstam (formerly Segall). To learn more about getting good sleep, listen to On Sleep with Dr Nerina Ramlakhan and for more insight on setting and honouring boundaries, check out On Girls Rights with Lindsey Turnbull.

Our podcasts offer great tips and timeless advice on many contemporary issues. Thank you for listening!

 

 

Feeling Age and Looking Ahead Anyhow

When I turned 50, I didn’t feel any different to 40 to be honest or 30 and remember saying as much to one of my mom’s distant cousins who was a youngish 70 something.

Instead of receiving my words as arrogant as so many had, he gazed at me with a scrunched smile before telling me a short, funny story which marked his feeling of age.

Back in the day, he had an elderly auntie who taught him a thing or two about ageing. He didn’t say how old she was, just that she used to complain about aches and pains incessantly.  Auntie, for the sake of privacy, we’ll call her, could lift things that intimidated him, stand on her feet all-day and cook, fuss like a debate champion, and out run you if she needed to. You did not get sassy with her.

Still, she complained about her aches and pains, vehemently insisting that it all came with ageing.

“Auntie knows she don’t have all those aches and pains,” he and his cousins gossiped and giggled. “Ain’t nothing wrong with her.” They shook their heads at her and bored of her moaning.

Fast forward to his late 50s right into his 70s, though he looked to me much younger than his age and a perfect picture of health, he had somehow become his elderly auntie, he teased.

No way, I protested. And with a twinkle in his eye, he left it at that. But if looks could talk his would have said “you will get there, too, if you are blessed to live long enough.”

Well, here we go. I am blessed! The big day has come and gone; I have turned 60. On some level I feel like I have hit the jackpot with so much trauma and tragedy in our world but on another, I somehow know I’ve hit the marker that my mom’s cousin told me about some ten years ago.

Sure, 60 has numerous benefits and I will end on some of those, but it has certainly brought more than its fair share of superficial changes, more grey hair, wearier eyes, spreading hyperpigmentation—not to mention other things that are spreading.

And also, it has brought more substantial changes, too. These are the ones that keep me lying awake at night, not the superficial. In short, it is the reality of one’s new lane in life.

Out of the fast and into the slower lane, not the slowest yet, as I’m far from an old lady much like my cousin’s aunt. I am on the go as much as I was ten years ago, if not more, and I continue to welcome my personal trainer twice per week and my Pilates instructor once.  And no matter what you’re thinking, let me be clear. Pilates is not for old folks. If you don’t believe me, give it a try for yourself.

But in this slower lane, I am so much more aware of everything, including my niggles. And when you have a track record with health anxiety like I do, having every discomfort intensified is exhausting.

Still one acquaintance reckons that 60 is the bullseye for the feelings of ageing because it puts us intensely closer to our own mortality.

Another corroborates. You have lived more life than you likely have left. And it is this awareness that gets us noticing a creaking body that has been creaking all along, albeit not as much. And a squawking mind, too.

Enough of the downside of ageing, what about the upside. For me, it means less tolerance of things that don’t serve me. Even a few years ago, I would turn myself inside out to accommodate requests that would add to my insomnia and so on.

Still a very sensitive person, I have moments where I consider things that conflict with my values and just like that the phrase life is too short doesn’t sound nearly as trite as it used to. It rings true.

Another big bonus of ageing is that the need to control things that have nothing to do with you lessens. It does not fall away, let me tell you, but it capitulates when it knows that persistence is more harmful than helpful. Let it go!

In short, I am marginally more relaxed and more intentional at the same time. Sometimes this feeling my age has got me wondering why I wasn’t like this earlier in life.

And then something inside, inherently a part of ageing, says never mind. Look forward. It is the only way from here on out. Nothing new there, but it sure feels like it.

UIO: A Lasting Resource

There is something about coming to the end of a story that is satisfying yet bittersweet. You see, the thing about a timeless story is that it continues spreading joy and serving as a resource for generation after generation.

Good books have that power and nowadays a timeless podcast can do a similar thing. That is my hope for UIO podcast—that its 37 podcasts will continue to be there for teenage girls and their guardians and supporters, as and when they need them.

Though I have taped and aired my last official podcast as far as I know, ending with the U Matter campaign, comprising four podcasts, it gives me great joy to see the stats continue to rise on podcasts as far back as 2017.

My first podcast ever, Your Confidence Inside Out with celebrated businesswoman and coach Cheryl Grace, continues to serve as a great resource to girls until this day. It is our third most popular podcast ever.

The second most listened to podcast taped in November 2019 with bestselling author Claire Eastham covers the ageless issue, social anxiety.

And the top podcast in our changing world was taped in October 2020, a few months into the global pandemic. Dealing With Grief with Kristi Hugstad came at a time when so many people needed it and continues to work for many UIO listeners.

That’s the idea behind all our podcasts—that they are there when you need them. Like many wonderful podcasts, ours are available on most podcasting platforms, including Apple, Google Play, Spotify and all the rest. And of course, here on my website, too!

May our podcasts continue to be a great inspiration and resource to teen girls the world over because as UIO guest Anj Handa points out, the only thing we can really be certain of is change.

So even though the subject matters are timeless and ageless, each generation will face challenges through the lens of their time, which feels like a lot of change. To this end, good resources are invaluable.

As for me, though it’s a wrap for podcasting for now, I expect my work on behalf of teenage girls to continue to manifest in varied ways. Watch this space.

In the meantime, keep listening and taking care of yourself inside out. And do feel free to drop in anytime here or on any social platform. And remember, it is U I Owe.

 

 

 

 

Seeing The Benefits Of A Blended Family

Until I married more than 20 years ago, I had only known a traditional family first hand, even if three of my siblings lived out their teenage years before I made it to high school. Still, we moved through life to the same rhythm, albeit it in different generations. Still, we knew one set of parents, one household.

Nowadays, however, my immediate family navigates several households if you will. Our grandchildren will reap the benefits of belonging to a blended family.

Yes, you read that right—benefits, though a blended family, sometimes referred to as a stepfamily gets a bad rap, particularly the stepmother.  Remember, the Cinderella story? Who can forget it. Anyhow, I divert.

The point is blended families don’t have to be difficult or distort one character to make a happy ending for another. Furthermore, to belong to a blended family does not necessarily put a person at a disadvantage.

In some ways there can be advantages. For example, a blended family can in many ways broaden the horizons of its members and can also increase emotional intelligence, according to Understanding Stepfamilies author Dr Lisa Doodson, guest of Your Family Matters podcast (out tomorrow).

That I can vouch for.  Planning where and how to spend a traditional holiday, for example, can be challenging for most families with different schedules, interests and so on and once you consider an added component such as a stepparent and a step sibling, the task can feel even more overwhelming, as it did for Cinderella.

But it need not be this way. If we rely on sensitivity and effective communications, for instance, we bring an openness to the table rather than the closed mindedness that can squash opportunities.

No one needs to be marginalised or feel snubbed. But everyone must bring willingness to the table. In Your Family Matters, Dr Doodson and I have a great chat about situations that can cause stumbling blocks such as the acceptance of a new partner, new siblings, understanding roles and the use of social media and how it impacts family life.

It is a must listen podcast for everyone who wants to improve their family relationships and particularly those who are navigating new territory—the blended family.

When it is all said and done, whether traditional or blended, your family matters. Check out the podcast from September 27 on Apple, Spotify, Google Play, sonjalewis.com and wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Steps to Coping With Bullying

I can’t tell you how many times I have said under my breath, I cannot believe that this is happening to me. And for a split second, I’m tempted to ignore the situation, not even entertain it. Fair enough since a key thing to do when dealing with bullying is not to let the brutal words in.

Still, it is important to acknowledge what is actually happening–call a spade, a spade, accept that it is unhealthy and then talk about it.

Check out this snippet from Your Wellbeing Matters, offering great advice on how to cope with bullying.  And do listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify and a host of other great podcast platforms. And when you are there leave a review to spread the word.

No matter how you look at it, bullying is unacceptable because the thing is, your wellbeing really matters.

Don’t Let It In

I love Cat Williams’ advice ‘Don’t Let It In’ in our latest podcast Your Wellbeing Matters. The UIO two-time guest, a seasoned rapid transformational therapist, is, of course, talking about the unhealthy words of a bully.

Shame I didn’t fully understand this as a teenage girl all those years ago but to be honest, I don’t remember any consistent episodes of being bullied. There were the people who picked me out to pick on me, sure, but I managed to shake them off rather quickly somehow.

I would be fully ensconced in business–well sort of, it was my first real job–before I experienced real bullying, which can be self-esteem eroding at the very least. And because I didn’t understand the important concept of not letting other people’s misconstrued perceptions get into my head, I fled as fast as I could.

This would mean a different career path for me. My hopes and dreams of becoming a seasoned journalist who would walk straight into a writing or publishing career took a rather crooked path and frankly never arrived at its originally intended destination.

To this end, I have come to understand that tremendous emotional and mental unrest comes with taking responsibility for someone else’s unhealthy behaviour or words, no matter how powerful that person is or seems. Don’t believe them.

In my case, the person held all power at the place where I worked so it wasn’t a bad idea to pack my bags and leave. My mistake was taking the unnecessary baggage with me.

No wonder I can’t get Cat’s advice out of my head. Of course, there will be missteps–that is part of personal growth. But lessons needn’t take years to grasp, thanks to varied  resources such as UIO podcast.  So, if you haven’t listened to Your Wellbeing Matters yet, now is the time to check it out.

And whether you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, or even stumbling into a place where you are the bully, share the podcast for more advice on how to cope with bullying and keep life moving in a forward-facing direction.

When all is said and done, remember the words that serve you and the rest, don’t let it in.

Why It is Important to Study

When I was in school, granted that was a long time ago, I didn’t always think studying was about me, but rather about what someone else wanted me to do–the teachers and my parents mainly.

In hindsight, my thinking was flawed because studying is about seizing the moment and living your best life in the moment. In this snippet from Your Education Matters, expert counsellor Donna Morgan explains why studying is important, particularly for girls. Watch here. 

Of course, boys need to study, too, but the point made in the podcast focuses on historical facts–opportunities exist for girls now that simply did not exist, even a few generations ago, perhaps in informal education as well, as mentioned in our podcast, Your Voice Matters.

And though you don’t have to study for life lessons (you only have to heed them), studying or formal education really matters.  Check out the full podcast here.

 

How To Voice Your Opinion

Sometimes voicing your opinion can be downright tricky, especially when the situation is intense.  Our latest podcast, Your Voice Matters, offers great advice on how to get your point across.

Bestselling author Cai Graham says in a nutshell, it is about getting people to listen to you.  Check out this snippet from Your Voice Matters, offering succinct yet spot on advice on how to voice your opinion. 

Listen to the full podcast where ever you check out your favorite podcasts or subscribe to the show from this website.

 

Having Your Say In the Right Way

Not speaking up has a negative impact on your emotional and mental well-being—at least it does mine.  It’s a bit like carrying around dead weight, weight that pulls me down in the dumps but as soon as I have my say, I feel uplifted.

Let’s be clear about what having your say means and what it does not mean.  First, things first! It does not mean blowing off steam or telling someone off at the top of your voice or engaging in a futile argument with someone about politics, religion, or morality for that matter.

It’s more about saying and doing what is healthy and right for you. And how you say it matters too, according to bestselling author Cai Graham, guest on UIO’s podcast, Your Voice Matters.

In our chat the author of The Teen Toolbox and I agree that having your say is not always as easy as it sounds. It can be tricky when there is looming peer pressure, for example. That’s why it is important to understand the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence and use them both effectively to get your point across, particularly when it matters the most.

In a nutshell, self-esteem is about how you feel about yourself in a particular situation and self-confidence is believing in your ability to do something.

Makes a whole lot of sense to me, which takes me back to my first point. Often when I am feeling low about myself or a situation, upon review I will conclude that I didn’t have the confidence to have my say. Owning and understanding this gives me the confidence to put it right and it often gives me a segue to the right words.

For example, I might say, you know I was thinking about our recent conversation and, I prefer we agree to disagree about women’s rights, political beliefs, whatever it is that has caused the upset. I need you to respect my views but as and when this is not possible, let’s not talk about it. Otherwise, it is a strain on our friendship, whatever the relationship is, and because I value it, it is imperative that we avoid these explosive conversations.

Now that’s confidence.  No screaming, yelling and naming calling, just putting your point across, remembering that your voice matters.  The namesake podcast is out September 6. Listen here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

The Power of Change in Relationships

Healthy Relationships are key to healthy living. No matter how independent we are, we simply cannot live in this world alone.  We thrive on interaction with our family members, peer groups and friends, especially the latter in our teenage years.

Upon reflection, I remember how important it was to have friends and the impact healthy friendships have had on my growth and development. Recently, I reminisced about athletic friends choosing me for their teams even though they knew I could not help them win.

How mature of them and forward thinking to look out for my emotional well-being, when the very system in place did not. But what about when they weren’t around. I was the last one selected. Never mind! I do hope picking teams has been scrapped for the sake of good self-esteem.

Anyhow, the point is relationships can reveal key information about who we are and our friends, too, not only when we are in the relationship but also after the relationship has passed.

I know, I know. Who said anything about passing? Don’t good friendships go on forever? Sometimes they do and other times, they do not.  In either case, one thing is for sure, people change.

And understanding this change is one of the basics of maintaining healthy friendships and another is knowing when the friendship has run its course, whether it is a love interest or simply a good friend.

So, what is a girl to do when her best friend changes right under her nose? Or a love interest, well, is no longer interested. Suddenly the activities that you shared are no longer exciting and the crowd that you have both worked hard to avoid have brought your friend or love interest into their inner circle.

I hear you. No one wants to feel left out, so it might be something to consider changing, too, for acceptance.  Not so fast; consider the tips below:

  • Recognise the past has passed. No point in hoping for a better past. It is gone. Let bygones be bygones! Grow from it!

  • Instil boundaries! When friendships are evolving, boundaries can come in quite handy. They can be the security you need to steady yourself.

  • Respect the boundaries of others. Give them their space, their new life. Take what you have learned and let the rest go!

  • Stay true to your values. Though we grow and evolve, we all have fundamental values deep within. Let them rise to the surface when they need to. They will never steer you wrong.

On my most recent long-haul flight, in one of the movies I watched, a teenage girl took up smoking because her friends were doing it. But her romance with smoking was short lived once she worked out that she didn’t value it and really didn’t enjoy it.

This revelation led her to realise that her friendships had become toxic. And that perhaps the friendships had run their course, and that it was time to make new friends.

On the other side of change, however, I know of two women who grew up together but took very different paths in life, yet they stayed in touch and continue to count each other as close friends. Congrats to them!

Undoubtedly, change continues to influence their relationship, as it does all relationships. It is just a matter of understanding its power and knowing how to manage it.