Tag: emotional well-being

Sleep Matters

How exciting it is to be a part of the buzz around the importance of getting enough sleep. Yesterday we released our first ever podcast on the topic of sleep, UIO: On Sleep with Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.

While I am proud of all of our podcasts, I am especially excited about this one as it has the potential to help so many people, teenage girls and the rest of the family, too. It is brimming with hot tips and great advice on how to get good sleep, meaning sleep that refreshes and heals the body.

That’s right, though sleep might not be a cure-all, for all of our troubles, it is an important, natural resource, if you will, for prevention and intervention of physical and emotional health problems.

A few months ago, I tested this view for myself, though unintentionally. The night before I was due to appear as a guest on the Victoria Derbyshire Show, I did not get a wink of sleep.  Not a wink. An old pro, if you will, at media relations, I couldn’t understand what was going on and tried everything I knew to get a few winks in.  I read relaxing books, moved myself from the bed and then to the guest bed, meditated and prayed and all the rest. Still no sleep.

The next morning, I got out of bed as though I had slept. After happily showering and dressing, I made my way to the BBC’s studios and worked really hard to insert myself into the conversation about the rise in teenage girls and young woman having cosmetic procedures and in some instances surgery.  

After all, UIO had just released its Wait Awhile research, which agreed with the findings of so many other surveys. Thus, I wanted to get the word out. Not to mention the pressure I felt from having a publicist just outside of the studio doors.  Gulp! I succeeded.

Anyhow, after the show I met Paul for lunch to celebrate my achievements and shortly before lunch ended, I started to fade a bit, but I fobbed it off, thinking I will just get home and get in the bed. This can’t be that much different to jet lag.

Wrong answer.  By the time I made it home, I felt like I had been hit by a train, beyond feeling nauseated, and barely made it into the house and into to the toilet.  There I found myself in a pool of sweat, feeling deathly ill, though this feeling washed over in about ten minutes.

So glad I was able to get up from the floor and make my way into our bedroom, I thought I would just drop off to sleep.  Wrong answer and when I did get up, I had another problem—a bladder infection.  As I was in no shape to take myself to the doctor and Paul was not home, I made an appointment for the next day and commenced to hydrate myself, even if it meant pain.  Only then dd I realised that I needed to plan to ensure a good night’s sleep, as my body felt wired, like it was never going to sleep again.  Foolishly at lunch, I had a glass of wine—just one!

After deep thought, I decided to go for a run and afterwards come back and have a soothing bath and then read a favourite book. I have several stacked by my bed for times such as the one I was experiencing.

Anyhow, it worked. I relaxed and at last fell asleep and slept the night away.  When I awoke at 7 am, I felt like a new person.  And the bladder infection was history, too. Still I hightailed it to the doctor later that afternoon, just to be sure. Voila! I was well again and all it took was good sleep, having been deprived of a full night of it.

Every situation won’t be as extreme as mine thankfully, but the point is sleeping is integral to well-being. You don’t need to lose a full night’s sleep to feel sleep deprivation.

To this end, Dr Ramlakhan stresses that sleep preparation starts well before bedtime. Surprisingly, what you eat for breakfast could have an impact on whether you get a good night’s sleep or not, as well as what you eat throughout the day. Napping comes into the picture as well and of course, managing use of social devices.

If only I could wind back the hands of time to January to the day before I was due to be a guest on the Victoria Derbyshire Show—I would have been prepared.  Never mind, I am now and thanks to UIO: On Sleep, you can be prepared too.  Listen on Apple podcasts or where ever you listen to podcasts.




Finding Opportunities During Down Time

The timing never seems quite right to be out of action for one reason or another. At least not for me. Famous last words before the storm, right.

“Not now! I cannot afford to be sick… I’ll take a break after the this or that is over.”

Barring a sudden accident such as a broken leg, a torn ligament, a virus, etc…, which puts you out of commission whether you like it or not, often times you can limp through the storm, if you are anything like me. But is limping really developing your full potential? Like the time when shingles hit in between trips to the US to take care of my father. I remember saying to my GP, “I cannot deal with this now. My dad has a major surgery in just under two weeks and I have to go there.“

Calmly, he wrote out the prescription for a medicine that would leave me as high as a kite and faced his computer and began searching his calendar until he came to an appointment just before my air travel. “I will see you back here then,” he said. “And if you are fit to travel, off you go, and if not, someone else will have to step in.”

In a daze, I stumbled out of his office and made my way to a nearby coffee shop and did what came most natural—ordered a croissant and a coffee and commenced to ponder the matter. Never mind that I already knew that I had somewhat of a gluten intolerance. But as I tried to calm the noise in my head, I had a light bulb moment, something to do with taking a little more responsibility for the situation, reflecting on how I arrived in the tight spot in the first place, how I was going to get out of it and also, what I might do while in it to develop personally.

Upon reflection, I can see that my mind ran to the safety of personal development for answers, even if I didn’t understand fully what was happening. Suddenly, I realised that the food I was eating wasn’t necessarily helpful for the situation nor was the anxiety that I was courting and joining ranks with. What could I do to avoid such a crisis moving forward and if even if I couldn’t avoid it, how could I manage the situation to serve me, to get better, instead of staying in a dark or corner or causing further harm?

In this particular situation, I was able to keep moving as I wasn’t house bound or bedridden, though I was trapped in my mind and possibly in London, but I have had my moments of physical limitations, too. And upon reflection I’ve found that looking for the opportunity to grow personally while healing is a game changer. Doing so means coming back to the game, whatever it is, stronger and better. Here are some tips that have helped me:


1) Start the day on a positive note with some form of meditation. For me, that means a prayer. For others it might mean a session of mindfulness or full meditation.
2) Keep it moving physically. If you are able to walk, have a short walk. If not, find a way to do exercise from right where you are.
3) Eat foods that serve your body, not ones that are going to depress the mind and the body further. As Robyn Spens points out in our latest podcast, On Personal Development, go for whole foods. As much as I love croissants, the difference in my mental and physical capacity is amazing when I pass on them, any gluten.
4) Reflect upon personal goals. If you are on track, that is amazing! Look at ways to stay on track. If you are not, ask questions, loads of them. What are the hindrances? In the case with the bout of the shingles, I was so stressed that I was driven beyond what my body could do. I had to put the matter into perspective and then remembered a quote from a personal development trainer of sorts that I met early on in New York. “You can do anything you want but not everything at the same time.”
5) Take up a new activity. Ever fancied learning to draw or even knitting. Such activities require quieting the left side of the brain, the chatter box, and just letting things flow naturally.
6) Catch up on your reading and your UIO podcasts. Stretch the mind, use the imagination to live beyond your sick bed.
7) Write it all down. I highly recommend keeping a journal as many of the guests from our UIO podcasts suggest. Doing so gets your thoughts down and also teaches you loads about yourself.


When all is said and done, if you do these things and others that are healthy to healing, there will be less time for worrying about missing out on the game and keeping up with social media, for example. Sure, the odd moment or two to stay connected to the world is important but the most important thing is reconnecting to self and working on developing your full potential in the space you are in. And if that is on your sick bed, go for it and get well soon.

I did—the trip to the US was far more rewarding for both me and my father.

Don’t Forget To Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask

As I listened to some touching stories on the morning news of young people who are caring for adult loved ones (thousands are doing so) across England and Wales, I was reminded of how serious the business of caring really is and the impact it can have on well-being both physically and mentally.

Thankfully I didn’t face being a carer until I was nearly fifty after my father-in-law died and my mother-in-law came to live with us. Make no mistake about it, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

And though my husband insisted that we hire a carer to provide support, I took care of her primarily, night and day, and since then have been coined the most qualified unqualified nurse for miles around, looking after my mother until she died, with the help of siblings and a care team, and now I’m definitely one of the key carers in my father’s corner.

Like young carers, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to care for loved ones.  At times I have found myself doing little else but offering care, whether that is researching an illness as well as healthcare, spearheading communications with family members and care providers, managing special diets from making menus to cooking, cleaning, liaising with medical providers to schedule appointments and sadly starting a fire or two along the way, if you will, to get something done, and snuffing out others that have been unhelpful to the cause.

It’s an exhilarating yet exhausting responsibility to be a carer. On the one hand, I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to help create a better quality of life for my father, to give back to him, to keep him as healthy as possible for as long as possible. On the other, I don’t like talking about the exhaustion; it seems to defeat the purpose.  It feels a bit like moaning.

But here is the thing, it is crucial to mental well-being to take care of one’s self, even while caring for others. Make no mistake about it: I am not offering a green light for complaining and having a gripe session about all you do and so on. But what I am saying is don’t forget to put on your own oxygen mask  first! Without it, you cannot care for another.

In all of my care responsibilities over the years, this has been key to avoiding emotional tiredness, sadness, depression and even anger and frustration. But what does it mean to take care of one’s self while taking care of another?

Surely, we are given strength to rise above feeling tired or having needs, if only for a short while. We are not! Many carers find this out the hard way, making full-time care their norm and only fitting in living as and when they can to their own detriment and  risk becoming disgruntled or worse yet, ill. But take a few tips from me; there is a happy medium!


  • Shed the guilt. It is dead weight not only for you but also for the person you are assisting. Everyone needs self-care. You don’t need to feel guilty about understanding the importance of self-care.
  • Eat right, otherwise, both mental and physical health are compromised. So, while making a meal for your loved one, make one for you too. Avoid the crisps and soft drinks on the go. And the chocolate, too!
  • Get some sleep and that means more than a wink or two here or there. Sleep is so important to feeling refreshed and to thinking as Nicola Morgan points out in UIO: Your Online Wellbeing Inside Out.
  • Accept help! Sometimes it seems like no one wants to help, but most family members, neighbours and friends can and are willing to do something. They can’t always commit on the level you can, but many people are willing to pick up groceries, come around for a visit, take your loved one to a doctor’s appointment and so on. Also, don’t forget about the charities that offer support to carers.
  • Take a break! This is often called respite care. For me this came with having a carer come in, freeing me up to do other things. For others it has meant giving their loved one an opportunity to do something social perhaps during a day programme or something similar.
  • Live life! Don’t allow the wonderful concept of caring to rid you of living. Being altruistic is a good thing and makes us feel good about life, but if that is all we do, without reference to living, it doesn’t feel altruistic anymore. So remember the space you are in and that caring doesn’t have to be all-consuming. It can be a wondrous experience, creating precious memories and a lasting bond between you and a loved one.

In the meantime, remember taking care of yourself is like putting on your own oxygen mask first in the event of an emergency. It can be the difference in a healthy experience for both you and your loved one.

Lifting the Cloud of Stigmas Over Mental Illness

As a teen I remember knowing of a woman in the community who had some type of mental illness, specifically what I don’t recall ever being told. However, her illness was evident in the way she walked around in a muddle, sometimes ambling along and talking to herself. Hardly ever did I see her engage with anyone or anyone try to engage with her. The spoken or unspoken word was that she was crazy and that was the sum total of it.

At the risk of judging, I don’t remember anyone openly talking about what that actually meant and trying to help, but I do remember that she was stigmatised. Admittedly, she was sometimes treated with compassion but to my mind it was an alienated concern, if you will.

And although so many people are coming out of the closet nowadays to discuss mental and emotional health, hurray, I think there is still quite a bit of work to do to lift the cloud of varied stigmas hovering over mental and emotional health problems in some particular groups and communities.

In my own experiences two of the communities that I belong to—the Christian and black American community—are making strides when it comes to managing mental and emotional health problems but there is still room for improvement.  People such as Derrick Hollie, President of Reaching America, are sharing their own experience in hopes of eliminating the stigmas and saving more lives. His father committed suicide at age 49.

Sadly, his story is not an isolated one. Over the last couple of years, the stories of young black men taking their own lives have seemingly escalated. In the area where I grew up, I have heard of three unrelated cases. And other cases of teen girls who have self-harmed or attempted suicide as well.

And while I know that emotional and mental health issues are human problems, not exclusive to the groups and communities mentioned here, there might be common denominators as to why certain people are slow to get help, though like all the other humans, they are inherently prone to mental and emotional health issues.

As mentioned above, stigmas are one barrier. People don’t want to be alienated or isolated or stereotyped, so they maintain that they are well and their emotional and mental problems become a part of their norms, not only impacting them but their family and friends, too.  And the downward spiral continues. In suggesting help a time or two for people who are really dealing with heavy problems, living in unreasonable situations, the response is often “I am not crazy” and as in the article mentioned above, their religious beliefs, which are meant to be helpful, can sadly hinder healing.

First, owning a mental or emotional health problem is not about internalising stigmas and as for prayer, I pray about nearly everything as I end UIO podcasts with a simple prayer. I firmly believe in its power to shift thinking, to open doors that feel firmly closed, including state of mind. But I don’t think prayer or religious beliefs should be used as a crutch or an excuse to lead a mentally unhealthy life.

Another impediment to seeking help might be denial. I function in my job and family, so I can’t be mentally or emotional unwell. Surprise, surprise, emotional and mental health issues come in varied forms—everyone doesn’t have manic depression or schizophrenia, diagnosed or undiagnosed, that puts them out of work.  Admittedly, however, one’s ability to function optimally is likely to be impacted, no matter what the problem. Though I have had health anxiety for years and at least once had to leave work without my supervisor’s permission., it was not taken seriously. Though my boss was compassionate, others coined me a prima donna.

Back then my health anxiety, as it was when I was a teenager, was called hypochondria, a term full of stigmas. In short, it suggests  ‘you’ve made the whole thing up.’  It wasn’t until I started to have full blown panic attacks a year or so ago, perhaps after my mother’s death, that I was diagnosed with health anxiety. Unbelievable how real the physical symptoms are and how the mind takes over. But knowing the real deal helps me to cope and manage the situation. And I don’t care if I ever hear the word hypochondriac again. It is misleading.

Finally, yet another hindrance might have to do with resources. Particularly in small towns or villages, you might find it hard enough wading through the stigmas and accepting that there might be a problem in the first place, but if there is no help on the horizon, you might say why bother. The short answer is: it is the difference between being healthy and unhealthy.

Nowadays there are trusted resources online to begin with, which might offer referrals. Note that I am not promoting self-diagnosis and self-treatment but here is what I am saying: when something is not right mentally and emotionally, get help as you would for a physical problem. A tall order perhaps for a teen girl but not impossible. Resources include parents and guardians, teachers and coaches and peers. And remember that treatment is individual, as it is  with a physical illness.  Anti-depressants, for example, are not necessarily right for everyone. I declined. But for others, they provide a reasonable solution under a physician’s care.

It is all about lifting the stigmas and finding the way to healthier thinking, healthier living. It’s all about you inside out. Stay Tuned for UIO: Coping with Undiagnosed Mental Illness with journalist and mental health campaigner Eleanor Segall, coming this autumn.



Thin Line Between Sanity and Insanity

There is thin line between sanity and insanity. Big statement, eh? But one worth investigating nowadays, as life personally and publicly gets more dramatic and stressful. More debates than ever are cropping up over the difference between moral and immoral, right thinking and wrong thinking and right and wrong.

Sometimes I don’t understand the negotiation – not really. In my world, though having a different opinion about evolution is one’s prerogative, but having a different opinion about whether to operate outside of any parameters, morals, laws is not debatable, is it? It is all unnecessarily stressful, if you ask me.

In a conversation with a friend recently, we wondered if there is a decline in healthy, transparent, living, if you will, or if in our ageing we are simply paying more attention to what has always been.

Regardless, it all leads back to the state of one’s mental and emotional well-being. Are we personally and publicly paying enough attention to mind matters, making way for healthier living. Do we understand that a healthy mind is the key to healthy living? And that leading a highly stressful life can lead to dire consequences?

In this month’s Huffington Post blog, I suggest that it is time to get educated on the matter and put our learning into action, starting at home, if you will. But not so fast; hardwired myths and stigmas are blocking the way. What can we do to clear the roadblocks?

See what I have to say about it on the Huff Post. In the meantime, here is a quote for thought.

‘The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they’re okay, then it’s you.’ 

Rita Mae Brown, author and social activist