Tag: Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

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!

 

 

Sleep Encounters

Most of us encounter sleep problems from time to time while others have constant problems sleeping. In UIO’s latest podcast On Sleep, guest Dr Nerina Ramlakhan gives three of the most common problems that people encounter with sleep. Also, she offers lots of tips on how to manage the problems.

First, there is sleep initiation, having a problem getting to sleep. This one, I am all too familiar with, particularly when I am wound up about something.  When I was a teen girl, however, it was more or less anticipation of something–whether dreadful or exciting –that kept me up at night. So often I would roll up at school, feeling a bit sleepy, a bit unwell.  In hindsight, I can now explain some of the niggles that I encountered over the years.

Make no mistake about it, I am not saying that sleep replaces medicine but as Dr Ramlakhan points out, we feel so much better when we have had good sleep, both mentally and physically. Not to mention the impact that sleep has on our confidence. It‘s a booster.

Next, there is sleep maintenance, waking up in the middle of the night and staying awake.  Argh!  I have experienced this one, too, probably equally as much as not being able to get off to sleep.

When I was writing novels, in particular, I would often collapse into a deep sleep at the beginning of the night, my brain so loaded with information, and surprise, surprise, after unloading in dreams and so on for a few hours, I would wake up abruptly.

One night I remember, bolting up to a sitting position and staring into space and repeating to myself, why do ghosts sit in chairs in the middle of the night and stare at us, and then there was the time when I was convinced that a conclave of dead writers, Shakespeare included, were trying to tear my door down.  Okay, so most people don’t have such disruption at night, but you get my point.

No wonder Dr. Ramlakhan stresses the importance of winding down such activity long before going to bed and reading something (writing in my case) nice and easy, like a feel good childhood book. The point is not to take all of our troubles, excitement, etc… to bed.

Finally, there is sleeping too much, otherwise known as hypersomnia. Occasionally, I sleep too much when travelling through time zones but according to Dr Ramlakhan, jet lag is not necessarily associated with hypersomnia. The latter is when someone needs to sleep a lot all the time.

All too often, I encounter parents who worry about how much their teenagers sleep. Not to worry, it is true that teenagers need more sleep than adults because of the growth and development they are encountering. It’s sort of an aid to getting it all integrated. But they can overdo it, putting a damper on health altogether, since sleeping too much is not good sleep either.

So whatever sleep issues you find yourself in, the key is to develop good sleep habits, ranging from what you eat, when you eat, how often you nap, when and for how long, and what you take to bed with you so to speak, including your device(s) or not,  and how you prepare your environment for sleep. Nothing wrong with creating a cosy, comfy room that smells good, too.

No wonder I’ve been off to a good slumber here lately. I have left the dead poets and writers out of my bedroom and the ghosts, too. For more tips on how to get your slumber, listen to UIO: On Sleep on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Voice Of Teen Girls Matters

Having a voice matters throughout life and sometimes it matters more when you are a teenager. In our podcast On Being A Teen Girl Now, our two guests stress the importance of being heard and understood, not only in family life but also in politics and other places where decisions are made and life is shaped.

We take their point and continue to work hard to advocate on behalf of teenage girls and bring them resources that lift their individual and collective voice. To this end, we are gearing up for the final three podcasts in our third series, focusing on three hot topics that teenage girls face today.

One of them is sleep. Surprise, surprise, surprise!  I was anyhow until I did my homework and had a wonderful conversation with sleep expert, Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan. Listen to UIO: On Sleep on October 9th for the real deal on what sleep has to do with wellbeing.

Not only does Nerina give us the inside scoop on how a good night’s sleep can address physical health problems, but it can do a a thing or two for mental health too. The mother of a 15-year-old daughter, this expert talks about the importance or role modelling, negotiating and working together for a better night’s sleep.

Next up is UIO: On Internet Safety, out on October 23rd.  As experts ramp up on how to keep our children safe on the internet, we had a brilliant conversation with Charlotte Aynsley, a pioneer in internet safety.

Though the biggest safety issue on the internet has to do with body image for teenage girls, Charlotte underscores lots of other concerns and points out ways for teens and guardians to work together for the overall better experience.

And the last podcast in the series delves into a topic that plagues teenagers disproportionately, particularly girls due to the pressure on them to be perfect all the time, as pointed by our two teen girl guests in On Being a Teen Girl Now.  Yes,  you guessed it: social anxiety.

Though a very common disorder, social anxiety can go undiagnosed for years as it did with our guest, award winning mental health blogger, Claire Eastham, who points out that getting a diagnosis is so key to managing and overcoming. Yet, another opportunity to team up with parents and guardians to share concerns and get the necessary help. UIO: On Social Anxiety is out November 6th.

Stay tuned for exciting upcoming series, and in the meantime, check out On Being A Teen Girl Now wherever you listen to podcasts.