Woman meditating on a pier at sunset

5 of the Most Effective Natural Ways to Deal with Stress

With modern life becoming increasingly hectic and with time for relaxation being reduced in favour of longer working weeks, the modern professional has become subjected to higher levels of stress than ever before. Any tips and advice that you can implement to reduce the effect of stress on the overall lifestyle and wellbeing should be seen as long-term solutions,
and those detailed herein require nothing more than a few moments in the day. Before spending both time and money on any pricey quick fixes, it’s best to start off by looking at what you can do that will cost nothing and that you can start today, in fact, right now.

 

Be More Mindful

Meditation techniques have become varied and widespread, and of these, the most effective, proven way to reduce the effects of stress is the art of mindfulness. Being mindful of how you live your life instead of simply rushing from task to task and enjoying the small pleasures in life is the start to being mindful. Slowing down, actually thinking before you do things and before you react is the best way to ensure that you reduce your levels of stress.

It is proven that the best time for mindfulness is in the morning and being able to just sit and contemplate your day before it starts is a great way to simply tone down the pressures.

It is also advised that as you feel the onset of anxiety and stress related to a daily routine or work process and function, it is best to think these things through before you rush in and do them. Mindfulness is simple in the sense that it’s just about slowing down and being aware of the things that you do, and those that cause you some anxiety and stress will arguably require a little more time and thought.

 

Increase the Quality and Quantity of your Rest and Sleep

Ensuring that the body receives at least six hours of quality sleep a day and then trying to add to these hours whenever you can will be essential for both the mind and the body to recharge and heal itself. The lower limit of six hours is used herein, but this is because for many, sleep is the first thing to go out the window when stress rears its head. The constant worry about the things you should be doing can lead to many sleepless nights. Unless this is actively dealt with, it will simply build and develop further to create more stress and anxiety as the brain struggles to keep up without rest. Thoughts become foggy, the mood lowers, and many become quick to anger without the right amount of sleep. Listen to your body, and when tired, rest, ensuring that you sleep as much as your body needs.

If this aspect is a difficulty don’t be afraid to look for natural sleep remedies and supplements, as some of the old wives tales and the chamomile and lavender under the pillow may indeed help, ensure as with anything else you have enough information to make a credible decision and the same would be said for the use of CBD for improved sleep, just make sure that you have all the CBD info that you need to be able to choose the right strengths and through a reputable supplier.

 

Exercise

Being active will increase the body’s endorphins, and these will serve to distract you from your daily stresses. Also known as the runner’s high, any anaerobic exercise will serve to both increase overall health as well as providing the same feel-good emotions. Not only will it take your mind off the stress, but exercise also conditions the body to prepare for a stress response; the increased heart rate during exercise becomes manageable physical stress and will be the same for heightened periods of anxiety.

 

Laugh

Finding joy in the little things in life is one of the surest ways to lead a happy, fulfilled life. A positive change in mood can do wonders for your overall approach to the day or to a task that normally creates anxiety and stress. As stress levels increase, the body tenses up, and the smallest things can cause an emotional overload. The traditional saying that laughter is the best medicine is, in fact, true, and the best way to feel good about yourself and relieve stress is to laugh. Laughter is the release valve, and as you laugh, the muscles have no option but to relax. A good laugh can release muscular and physical tension for up to 45 minutes.

 

Spend Time with Family

Spending time with those you love, friends, and family provides a simple, readily accessed psychological relief. Talking about the stress experienced and perhaps finding solutions and getting advice is a great way to deal with stress and anxiety before it manifests in other more harmful ways.

Many people who need to find ways to reduce and relieve stress have even gone as far as finding others to help, and volunteering has become a great way to reduce your own stress levels. The accepted premise being that volunteering is actually good for your health and will generally cost you nothing. Whether it is doing a garden for an elderly neighbour or fundraising for your local charity, giving back to others who need it more than you do is a great way to always feel good about yourself. It must be noted, though, that it is imperative not to take any of the issues home with you.

The tips mentioned and discussed herein are all incredibly simple and thus cost-effective ways of dealing with what has become one of the most common health issues in the modern world. For many out there that experience stress and anxiety, who are always tense and struggle to relax, the promoted option has always been to medicate and spend on pricey new-fangled ideas and methods. When actually, the easiest, simplest ways to deal with and, in fact, reduce stress levels can be as simple as those items aforementioned and should cost you little to nothing.

Telecounseling concept, senior woman at home in front of a laptop making notes during an online video call with a female therapist

3 Important Advancements In Mental Health Treatment

As pointed out by various studies done across the globe, mental health illnesses are claimed to be one of the primary drivers of disability. The National Institute of Mental Health even reported that nearly one in five adults living in the US experiences a mental illness in any given year. Considering its prevalence, mental health prevention programs and treatments must be made accessible to society to meet these demands.

Gladly, over the past decade, there has been an increased participation of people getting interested to learn more about mental health. This increased awareness has encouraged people to address their mental health needs, and get immediate treatment.

 

Technology And Mental Health Treatment

Technological upgrades were previously esteemed for their contribution in physical disease detection and management. Today, advancements and new discoveries have paved the way toward improving how clinicians approach and deliver mental health care.

For instance, with the rise of pharmacogenomics, clinicians can now make refined decisions with regards to medication dosage and the types of drugs that work well with the patient. This breakthrough can truly help more clinicians to learn more in creating personalized treatment programs for their patients. 

 

Improvements In Mental Health Treatment 

All these promising upgrades in mental health aid and treatment aim to encourage people to seek mental health care. With all these, you might get interested to know about the important improvements in mental health treatment. To show you, check out the following innovations:

 

1. Telemental Health Services 

Traditional psychotherapy is unarguably effective for most people. However, with all these surrounding technological advancements, clinicians have learnt to leverage on these widespread platforms.

While telemental health isn’t new to the field, this advancement has truly contributed a positive impact toward mental health accessibility. This mental health service helps address geographical problems when it comes to receiving mental health aid. This bridges gaps between remote patients and psychologists, allowing them to receive real-time assistance in their personal devices. You no longer need to drive once a week to see your psychologist as you can attend your sessions in the comfort of your home.

For others, this can be a great jumpstart to exploring how therapy can alter the quality of their lives. Apart from making simple lifestyle changes, regularly communicating with a therapist can help you improve your mental health.

Today, telemental health is gaining momentum as other countries are still implementing quarantine and physical distancing measures. However, even if the world already has bounced back from the pandemic, this widespread advancement will continue to remain relevant as this can complement traditional therapy services. 

If more people maximize this opportunity and witness actual improvements, this might encourage others to seek therapy and treatment, too. Nonetheless, telemental health services might not be appropriate for people suffering from severe mental health conditions. It would be best to talk to your psychologist, and ask their opinion regarding this new innovation and how you can take advantage of this.

 

2. Online Support Communities

Mental health treatment doesn’t only stop between clinician and client. To strengthen progress, support systems and online communities may be necessary, especially to people who attempt to isolate themselves. 

These online communities are one of the most prevalent treatment trends as it helps people learn from one another, open up with their personal struggles, share practical insights with symptom management, and even offer encouragement to consistently attend their therapy sessions and follow their treatment program.

Moreover, connecting and talking about these shared experiences may also have a therapeutic effect, even if participants are physically apart. 

 

3. Self-Management Applications

Self-management apps are timely and practical as nearly everyone has a smartphone they carry most of the time. Its ease of use and accessibility can encourage clients to be more proactive in taking care of their mental health.

On the clinician’s end, self-management applications can help supplement traditional psychotherapy, and even blended counselling. On the patient’s end, this can help them become more accountable in following their medications, dietary plans, and other components of the treatment program. 

Every app falls into a specific mental health category. There are mood and symptom tracking apps, anxiety management, and even mindfulness platforms. For instance, if you’re suffering from chronic anxiety, a few reliable apps can help you deal with your triggers, and address them in a healthier way.

While every application has different perks and features, their collective goal is to help patients gain more understanding with their condition, make informed decisions, explore new methods for self-care, seek support, and more.

Furthermore, for people experiencing mild problems, these software programs can generally help improve the quality of their lives, and even debunk misconceptions regarding mental health treatment. 

However, there is still a handful of mixed notions regarding the efficacy of these apps. Some people may rely on these alone and abandon therapy altogether, which is impractical. Hence, before you explore these innovations, do more research and speak to a professional. 

 

The Takeaway

The above advancements in mental health treatment have opened new avenues for people to seek professional intervention, connect with their peers, and manage their symptoms. 

While you might tend to quickly hop into these upgrades, it would be best to consult an expert regarding the utility and efficacy of these advancements. Your mental health provider can offer you recommendations and insights on how to best maximize these for your benefit.

Cathedral Cavern in the Lake District

Top Places We’ve Gone for Walks Over the Last Year

If the last year or so taught us anything, it’s the importance of reconnecting with nature. Over lockdown, we had little to do but go for walks. To get out of the house and keep our minds and bodies stimulated, many of us returned to simpler times and were reminded of the beautiful views and good feelings we have when we’re venturing outdoors.

According to Sport England’s Active Lives Survey 2020, a strong upward trend in walking has been occurring over the last two years, even before lockdown. 20.3 million of the English population were walking for leisure last year, an increase of 1.2 million on the previous 12 months before that.

Having an active lifestyle, including regular walks, is a fantastic way to promote mental health and wellbeing. Self-esteem, mood, and sleep quality are benefitted while stress, anxiety, and fatigue are reduced. Walking is accessible and free and is the ideal exercise for everyday life.

Here, we’ll explore the most searched for walking routes to find the best places people have been retreating to over the best part of a stressful year. The UK is adorned with fantastic countryside walks and coastal views from the top of Scotland to the bottom of Cornwall. While the weather is often unpredictable, gorgeous walks are guaranteed.

We gathered Google search data from June 2020 to July 2021 to find out which walks experienced the highest per cent increase over the last year. We then created a list to help you find the best places to clear your mind – so get your women’s and men’s trainers on and get exercising. 

Most popular walks:

 

1. The Old Man of Coniston, Lake District

Searches for “Easy route up Old Man of Coniston” experienced the biggest increase with 2,100%. The Old Man of Coniston is located in the Furness Fells in the Lake District in Cumbria. It is a fell at least 2,632.61 feet high situated not far from the Coniston Water Lake. The entire walk is around 6.2 miles and takes around three and a half hours.

Coniston Water in the Lake District
Coniston Water in the Lake District

2. Severn Way, spanning across Bristol, Gloucester, Powys, Shropshire, and Worcestershire

 

The second biggest increase was “Severn Way circular walks” with an increase of 1,700%. Severn Way follows River Severn through Mid Wales and western England and is in total around 215 miles long. It can take 12 to 19 nights and can be a strenuous trek, taking you from the mountain landscape of Llanidloes, Wales, to Bristol.

River Severn in Bristol
River Severn in Bristol

3. Cathedral Cavern, Lake District

 

The third walking route with the biggest search increase was “Cathedral Cavern walk route” which experienced a 1,400% rise in searches. This is the second location in the Lake District to make an appearance on this list, situated in Tilberthwaite. A cave located deep in the woods is found after a fabulous and picturesque walk through the Langdale Pikes and two waterfalls. The Cathedral quarries open up through various tunnels.

Cathedral Cavern in the Lake District
Cathedral Cavern in the Lake District

4. Sgwd Yr Eria, Pontneddfechan

 

The fourth walking route which experienced an increase in searches was “Sgwd Yr Eria walk route” at 1,400%. Venture to Sgwd yr Eira from Pontneddfechan in the heart of Waterfall Country. This is a 4.5-mile walk out of a backtrail near Neath Port Talbot in Wales. You will pass a waterfall that you can even get behind and will be treated to plenty of stunning views along a river.

Sgwd Yr Eira Waterfall in Brecon Beacons national park, Wales
Sgwd Yr Eira Waterfall in Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

5. Malvern Hills, Herefordshire and Worcestershire

 

The fifth highest increase in searches was “Malvern Hills circular walking routes” with 1,400%. In the beautiful countryside of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Malvern Hills is an unspoiled walk in the Severn Valley with views of the Cotswolds. Hikers with a keen eye for beautiful flowers will be pleased to see the wildflowers growing on this trail as well as sweeping views of the English countryside.

Malvern Hills in Worchesterhire
Malvern Hills in Worcestershire

Reconnect with nature and explore some of the best locations in the UK for a quaint and picturesque view, and help with your mental and physical wellbeing.

Gut Health

9 Ways to Reset and Restore Your Gut Health

Your gut is more than just a place for digesting food. It’s believed to be home to trillions of microorganisms (also called the microbiome) that help with breaking down the food you eat. A great balance of gut microorganisms is what’s considered a healthy gut. Making sure your gut is healthy is important for your general physical and mental health. After all, as they say, you are what you eat.

Over time, the microorganisms in your gut may become unbalanced. If unhealthy bacteria overwhelm the healthy ones, then your health could be at risk. You, therefore, have to reset your gut every once in a while, to keep your health in tip-top shape. 

Without further ado, here are some ways to restore your gut health. 

 

1. Go Vegetarian

Research on vegetarian diets and their links to healthy gut flora documents that vegetarians are likely to have more beneficial gut bacteria than meat-eaters. It’s suggested that about six weeks of a vegetarian diet could significantly boost your microbiome health. As such, why not try vegetarian meals to reset your gut health?

It’s suggested that plant-based diets are rich in prebiotics, which could help boost the population of the good bacteria in your gut. This may, in turn, help with your weight maintenance and overall health. Vegetables are also believed to be good for your gut as they give indigestion relief, among other things.

 

2. Try Probiotics 

Restoring your gut health involves posting the number of healthy bacteria in your gut, and probiotics are said to do just that. Probiotics consist of live beneficial bacteria that are found in some food supplements. Some studies have revealed that probiotics can boost the number of healthy microorganisms in the gut, thereby improving intestinal functions in the body. 

Probiotics can be found in approved drug stores, health shops, and online platforms. Foods like plain yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, and other fermented foods are said to be probiotic-rich. You could try such probiotic foods to reset your gut health. They’re also said to be useful in reducing the risk of gut inflammation and other intestinal problems, like indigestion and heartburn

 

3. Take Prebiotic Fiber

Not to be confused with probiotics, yet equally important, are prebiotics. These are non-digestible carbohydrates and fibers which feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Eating prebiotic foods may be a great way to help restore your gut health. It’s believed that when you eat prebiotics, you encourage the healthy bacteria to multiply, thereby creating an ideal environment for a well-balanced microbiome. 

Food rich in prebiotics include:

  • Asparagus
  • Whole grains
  • Chicory
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Garlic
  • Bananas
  • Onions

If you thought eating whole grains was lame, this should be a good reason to change your mind. 

 

4. Avoid Eating Sugar 

Sugar may taste nice, but it can be hazardous to your gut health. Some experts have suggested that too much sugar can result in an imbalance of gut bacteria. Researchers have also concluded that artificial sweeteners may also cause an increase in bacteria linked with conditions like heart disease and diabetes. To reset your gut health, you may need to stay away from sugar for a bit.

 

5. Stop Stressing 

Have you ever wondered why you either get a bout of diarrhea or the urge to pee when you’re stressed? Stress has always been said to have a negative impact on health, including the gut. When you’re stressed, you could disrupt the healthy bacteria in your gut. 

Some studies have revealed that stress increases gut motility and fluid secretion. A few people also said that their usual bowel moments are delayed when they are stressed. 

If you want to restore your gut health, therefore, you have to stop stressing. How? You may wonder. Try the following suggested stress reduction techniques:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy food
  • Drink enough water 
  • Do the things you love
  • Talk to somebody 

 

6. Don’t Misuse Antibiotics 

Antibiotics are useful prescription drugs for dealing with bacterial infections. It may be necessary to take them sometimes when your doctor prescribes their use. Outside of this, it may not be a great idea to take antibiotics when you don’t have to. Apart from it being a recipe for antibiotic resistance by bacteria, overuse is also said to possibly affect even the healthy bacteria in your gut.  

However, if you feel you need to reset your gut health, stay clear of antibiotics unless you absolutely have to take them. It’s always wise, after all, to discuss the use of antibiotics with your doctor. 

 

7. Exercise 

Physical exercise is said to contribute to your overall health. It’s also believed to help with improved blood circulation and good weight maintenance. These, in turn, could contribute towards a balanced microbiome. 

To reset your gut health, therefore, you may need to start exercising. Experts suggest at least 150 hours of physical exercise per week. They also say muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week may be beneficial to your overall health. Just remember to do it all in moderation. 

 

8. Sleep Well

Experts suggest at least seven hours of sleep for adults per day. They say, when you sleep, you allow your body to replenish and rejuvenate itself. This includes gut activities and flora. As highlighted earlier, lack of adequate sleep is associated with stress, which could negatively impact your gut health. 

If, therefore, you are detoxing and rejuvenating your gut health, you could consider getting enough regular sleep. 

 

9. Quit Smoking 

Smoking is said to be hazardous to your health. They say when you smoke, you risk getting stomach ulcers and polyps. Ulcers are believed to cause internal stomach bleeding, which can reduce the health of your gut. 

If you quit smoking, however, you’ll stand a good chance of improving your gut flora. This, coupled with other healthy habits, could help reset your gut health.

 

Recap

Your gut is believed to be home to trillions of bacteria which can be good or bad. Good microorganisms are said to help with breaking down the food you eat. The bad bacteria, on the other hand, can have negative effects on your body. If you have too many bad bacteria in your gut, your health will be compromised. 

It’s advisable to boost your gut health now and again to keep your overall health on point. Some tips on doing so include taking probiotics and prebiotics, exercising, getting adequate sleep, opting for more vegetables on your diet, quitting smoking, and avoiding stress, antibiotics, as well as sugars.

Remember, you are what you eat. So, let your food be your medicine, and your medicine your food. 

Self-care

Best Ways to Look After Yourself in 2021: A Brief Guide

After a tough year of uncertainty, you should look into ways to look after yourself and return to some form of normality. Here’s some tips to get you started in 2021.

 

Socialising Where Possible

You’d be surprised at how much your day could be improved simply by having a conversation with someone. Socialising is good for you, because it helps stimulate your mind, reduce stress and combat feelings of loneliness, as well as help to boost your self-esteem, assuming the conversation is a positive one.

 

Protecting Your Mental Health

Something that a lot more people are struggling with in recent years, is managing and protecting their mental health. Some people don’t like to talk about it, just because it isn’t a physical ailment, but it’s arguably even more important, or at least just as important, than any other physical element of your body.

There are multiple ways in which you can look after your mental health, such as keeping yourself busy with friendly tasks such as nature walks or doing a hobby, or even trying something new. It’s important that you reach out for help when you feel like you need it, as you should never go through this alone.

 

Gym And Exercising

Physically speaking, you can vastly improve your wellbeing by working out either at home, outside or at the gym. The good news is that even physically working out could help boost your mental health, as it releases natural endorphins into your system, which help boost your motivation and productivity.

Whilst the gyms are a great place to consider working out, you may be hesitant to sign up until the end of COVID-19 is here. In that case, consider bringing the gym to your home, either in terms of like-for-like equipment of just the workouts you’ve learned.

There are plenty of options when it comes to equipment at home, from treadmills and weight machines, to fold away indoor bikes and free weights. All you really need, is enough space around you for when you stretch out your arms without hitting anything. This way, you will be able to complete a variety of workout routines without impeding yourself or anyone else.

 

Signing Up To Private Healthcare

One of the best ways in which you can look after yourself, is by getting the best advice and care that you possibly can. This could be done by signing up to private healthcare. There are many advantages to having private healthcare, mostly it helps you get seen quicker.

Often times, when you have an issue that needs seeing, you will have to wait a few weeks just to get seen. With private healthcare, you will be able to get almost instant access to a team of doctors and nurses who are on standby to assist.

If you have to spend any time at a doctors or hospital for longer than a day, then you will be happy to hear that these private facilities have plenty of luxuries available, such as Wi-Fi and private TVs for your room. Gone are the days of having to share a big room with multiple people, you will have access to private en suite rooms, giving you access freely to the toilet.

Of course, the food in these facilities is also top, with a wide range of freshly prepared healthy meals on a balanced menu. When it comes to visitors, people will be allowed to visit at any time, as long as you don’t need to be isolated for medical reasons.

You will most likely be assigned your own personal consultant who you will see over and over, ensuring that they can work with you over time to deal with a problem, so you don’t have to reexplain yourself over and over again. It also means you have more freedom in picking appointments to suit your schedule, rather than just be appointed anything that was available at the time.

With all those benefits with the facilities, the next thing you need to know is how to acquire yourself some private health insurance. Fortunately, there are a range of different providers out there that will have different policies for you depending on what you need. You can get a quote for your health insurance policy with Switch Health, who help you with comparing multiple providers to find you the best scheme available, helping to save you money.

 

Food And Nutrition In General

One of the most important things you need to do when it comes to looking after yourself, is by looking at what you’re eating. Whilst snacks such as chocolate and crisps are perfectly acceptable in moderation, it’s important to understand that too much snacking can actually disrupt your insides, leading to issues such as weight gain, insomnia, fatigue and longer lasting issues such as chronic pain or IBS.

These unhealthy snacks often times look small, but are packed with many damaging chemicals, as well as being small enough that you would eat multiple. Often times, a few bars of chocolate could potentially be higher in fats and calories than an actual meal.

That’s why you should stick to three meals a day where possible, to allow your body to get used to the times that it needs to eat. If you’re constantly snacking throughout the day, then that’s what your body will get used to. It’s all about moderation, so you don’t get carried away and get hungry throughout the day.

What your meals are filled with is also important to consider. Nutrition is crucial to a human’s wellbeing, so you should try to create a plan to stick to, so you know what you’re eating.

 

Ditching Fizzy Drinks For Water

On the topic of nutrition and food, you should also be thinking about what liquid you’re putting into your body. Whilst fizzy drinks can be a tasty snack, you should limit the amount you consume. That’s because they have sugary contents that are bad for your teeth, and chemicals that are bad for your body, that often leave you fatigued.

It’s also possible that you accidentally get addicted to these substances, which makes it even harder to quit the habit. What some people do, is switch to fizzy water at first, as this can fulfil their craving for pop, whilst limiting some of the chemicals. After some time has passed, you will be able to switch from that, to still water.

Water has a lot of benefits, from helping to carry crucial nutrients and oxygen to your body cells, to helping flush out bacteria from your bladder. It will also help your digestive system, with pumping the bad stuff out, and bringing in better chemicals. Your heart will also benefit, with your blood pressure improving, and helping to stabilise your heartbeat.

 

Online Services

Lastly, you shouldn’t underestimate the amount of support you can find online in terms of your health and wellbeing. That’s not to say you should Google everything that’s wrong with you and assume you the worst, as doom scrolling is always a bad idea. Instead, seek out expert advice from professionals about any issues you have, as they will be better suited to assist.

Yoga Poses

The Surprising Benefits of a Yoga Routine

As we begin to readjust to new routines following further easing of COVID restrictions, it is more important now than ever to take some time out of your busy schedule to focus on you. 

A daily yoga practice can bring together your mind and body, incorporating breathing exercises, meditation and poses designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress. 

Here, Marica Carleschi, european consumer marketing manager at INNOVO, and part-time yoga instructor, discusses the many benefits of yoga including how it can give you control over bladder leaks, improve your sex life and strenghten your core muscles. 

 

Reduce Stress

Yoga is known for its ability to relieve stress and encourage relaxation by combining many popular stress-reducing techniques, including exercise, breath control, the ability to clear the mind, and relax the body.

When we’re stressed we hold a lot of tension in the body, which makes us feel tight and can cause pain in certain areas. By stretching the body we release tension from problem areas, including the hips, lower back and shoulders. 

 

Relieve Anxiety 

Many people approach yoga for different reasons, but anxiety can often be a leading factor. Yoga gives us the tools to recognise the thoughts, feelings and actions that can cause heightened anxiety and enact effective self-soothing methods. 

Yoga helps us to learn how to regulate our stress response and build resilience to stress. The breath work we learn on the mat can be applied to any aspect of our lives, therefore in times of stress or heightened anxiety, taking deep meditative breaths can help us control our emotions and feel a sense of calm. 

 

Prevent Bladder Leaks 

A strong pelvic floor is essential for preventing bladder leaks. Situated in the pelvis, the pelvic floor is a key set of deep muscles that holds all of the pelvic organs (uterus, vagina, bowel & bladder) in place and supports the bladder to provide control when you urinate. Like any muscle group, these muscles need to be toned and strengthened in order for them to perform efficiently. 

Yoga is hugely beneficial for your pelvic floor muscles as a lot of exercises focus on strengthening and engaging your core. Different poses encourage you to lift and squeeze, strengthening those key muscles.  

 

Improve Your Orgasms 

Not only does a strong pelvic floor prevent bladder leaks, but it is possible that strong pelvic floor muscles could increase sensitivity during sex, giving you stronger orgasms. Yoga’s relaxing effects can also provide some sexual benefits as it teaches you to focus your attention on sensations and what feelings give you pleasure. 

 

Improve Quality of Life 

A regular exercise routine has an array of benefits including a boost in self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression and health problems. 

Yoga is the perfect exercise to help you unwind, boost your endorphins and put you first. 

 

Essential Yoga Poses to Kickstart Your Practice 

Not sure where to start with your practice? Try out these poses, perfect for beginners or full time yogis which will help you strengthen your core and target your pelvic floor. 

 

Mountain Pose (Tadasana) 

Mountain pose

To do this exercise: 

  • Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your hands resting at your sides
  • Place a yoga block (or a thick book or pillow) between your thighs. 
  • Engage your inner thighs and try to lift the block upwards.

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Chair pose

To do this exercise:

  • Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your hands resting at your sides
  • Stretch your arms upwards, lengthen the tips of your fingers towards the ceiling. 
  • Bend your knees, keeping your back as straight as possible, and push your hips back into a squat, as though you’re sitting down into a chair. 
  • Keep your heels connected to the floor, without your hips dipping any lower than your knees. 
  • Hold the posture for a couple of breaths. 
  • Try to lift your pelvic floor upwards, as though you were trying to hold in a wee. 
  • Straighten up again slowly. 
  • Repeat.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II

To do this exercise: 

  • Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your hands resting at your sides
  • Step your right foot forwards (with your front & back foot about 1 metre apart). 
  • Lift your arms straight out to the sides so they are parallel to the floor. 
  • Keep your right foot straight, but turn your left foot out slightly so that your toes are pointing away from your body. 
  • Bend the right knee over the right ankle, keeping your left leg straight. 
  • Tighten your tummy as though you are pressing your belly button to your spine, and pull up the pelvic floor 
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, then straighten the right leg. 
  • Repeat.
  • Try on the other side.

Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)

To do this exercise: 

  • Place a yoga mat or thick towel down flat on the floor. 
  • Lie on the mat on your back, and draw your knees in towards your chest. 
  • Hold on to your knees, inhale deeply & exhale. 
  • Grab the outside edges of your feet, or wrap your index and middle around your big toes, and pull your knees (bent) out to the side.
  • Try to pull the knees as closely to the floor as you can without causing any discomfort. 
  • Pull your feet back with your hands.
  • Tighten your tummy 
  • Rock from side to side to give your back a lovely massage. 
  • Hold 
  • Release your legs straight to the floor gently, with your arms at your side to relax.

Locust pose (Salabhasana)

Locust Pose

This posture works both the glutes, buttocks & the pelvic floor – 3 for the price of 1!

To do this: 

  • Lie flat on your tummy on your mat, with your legs together and your arms at your sides. 
  • Rest your nose & forehead gently on your mat. 
  • Inhale and lift your head, chest, arms, knees and feet off the floor. 
  • Squeeze your tummy muscles, glutes & buttocks to help lift everything up off the floor. 
  • Keep your legs straight out, hold for about 30 seconds, and then gently release back down. 
  • Repeat.

Boat pose (Navasana)

To do this: 

  • Start sitting on the floor with both knees as close as possible to the chest, hands behind the knees. 
  • Point the toes, feel the ground with both sitting bones, take a deep breath in and push the chest towards the knees, keep the shoulders away from the ears. 
  • Exhale and lift both feet up until parallel to the ground. 
  • Keep pushing the chest towards the knees. 
  • Stay for 5 breaths. 
  • Options: You can keep your hands behind the knees for support or extend both arms forward. You can keep the knees bent or straighten both legs.
  • Watch out: do not curve the spine and fold in, keep pushing the chest forward trying to reduce the gap between the chest and the thighs.

Yoga squat (Malasana)

To do this:

  • Start in your forward fold with both hands down, shoulder distance apart and feet hip distance apart. 
  • Turn the toes to face out 45 degrees angle. 
  • Bend the knees and lower your hips toward the floor. 
  • Lift the chest. 
  • Lift both hands and press the palms together in front of your chest. 
  • Push the elbows into your inner thighs and lift the chest a bit more. 
  • Remember to keep your spine long, keep your shoulders away from the ears, shoulder blades towards each other, and the neck is long.

Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Bridge pose

To do this: 

  • Start lying down on your back, arms alongside the body with palms facing down. 
  • Bend the knees and place the heels as close as possible to your sitting bones, feet hip distance apart. 
  • If you have a block, place it between your knees. 
  • Turn the toes slightly in. 
  • Take a deep inhale and on the exhale tuck the tailbone under, engage the glutes and lift your hips and chest up. 
  • Squeeze the block between the knees. 
  • Think about elongating your spine and start actively pressing the palms and the forearms down on the mat to find more lift. 
  • Look up at the ceiling. 
  • Five breaths.

 

The breath is king!

To breathe efficiently the pelvic floor must be involved, and to exercise your pelvic floor efficiently, the breath must be involved. Your pelvic floor moves in a dance with your diaphragm when you breathe. When we breathe in, the diaphragm moves down, and so does the pelvic floor; when we breathe out, they both move up. Start observing this connection and then start bringing the focus to your pelvic floor. Inhale and keep your pelvic floor relaxed, exhale and engage your pelvic floor by lifting it – How? Imagine you are holding a wee. With a bit of practice, you can begin to accentuate each end of the breath cycle, relaxing and engaging, relaxing and engaging,

Interested in some more pelvic floor exercises? Check out Innovo’s invisible workouts; a series of podcasts which can help you strengthen your pelvic floor no matter where you are. 

Food

‘Healthy’ Foods That Are Not So Healthy

According to Dr Michael Mosley in a world full of food manufacturers, with clever marketing and a lack of science behind their claims, it can often become confusing to know exactly which foods are healthy when you’re navigating the supermarket. With huge signs at the end of each aisle, telling you exactly why the latest products will turn your health around, it’s easy to fall into their well set traps and spend a fortune on “healthy” foods that are not so healthy. 

In this piece he provides a run through of those ‘healthy’ foods that may actually cause more harm than good, so you know what to avoid next time you’re navigating the supermarket. 

 

Vegetable crisps/chips:  Yes, there may be real vegetables on their ingredients list however, those thin slices of veggies – that are far too small to provide any real nutritional value – are fried in sunflower oil to get the crunch you’re so familiar with. Not to mention, their sodium content, mixed with their carbohydrates and fat content, makes them so addictive that you’ll struggle to stop yourself going back for more. 

Vegetable crisps, in reality, are no healthier than a standard packet of potato crisps. If you are looking to satisfy your craving for crunch, there are ways to do so without jeopardising a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, peppers/capsicum dipped into homemade guacamole or hummus. 
  • Nuts and seeds sprinkled over Greek yogurt with berries for a healthy breakfast.
  • Sauerkraut and kimchifermented foods bring huge benefits to your gut health and these specific ones are deliciously crunchy and crisp. Add to a salad or alongside your eggs in the morning.
  • Parmesan crisps – take a teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese and drop onto parchment paper in circles. Pop them into a preheated oven for 3-5 minutes, at 200℃, until golden, take them out and let them cool. They go perfectly alongside Bolognese or atop a Caesar Salad – just be sure to count the calories on fasting days (you can read about intermittent fasting on thefast800.com).
  • Prosciutto crisps – preheat the oven to 180℃, line prosciutto on a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until crunchy. Make sure to let them cool and then enjoy alongside salad. 

 

Low fat products:  Over the past few years, there has been an abundance of new evidence that recognises the health benefits of full fat products and from our understanding, the marketing strategy of low fat products is becoming exposed. A few reasons we should be avoiding ‘low fat’:

  • Low fat products are stripped of their nutrients and often laden with additives and sugar. This is to compensate for the flavour that gets removed in the process of making them fat free.
  • Products high in sugar and low in fat will spike your glucose levels and leave you craving more as there is nothing to prolong the energy release. 
  • Eating healthy fats, rich in mono and poly-unsaturates will not only satisfy your taste buds but curb your appetite too as they slow the rate in which the stomach empties, delaying its cue to signal for more food.

 

A study, carried out by researchers at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, tracked the diets of 20,000 women over a period of 20 years. The study found links between the consumption of full fat dairy products (milk and cheese) and weight loss. Over a ten-year period, the women who regularly consumed full fat milk saw a lower BMI.

This was backed by another study that followed 1,600 healthy middle-aged men over an 11-year period. The ones that ate butter and drank full-fat milk were half as likely to become obese to those eating low-fat spreads and skimmed milk. It is likely that the reason behind this is that full fat products keep you energised and full throughout the day, meaning the desire for sugary top ups is curbed. 

 

Margarine:  While once placed on a pedestal for being a ‘healthy version’ of butter, with the potential to improve heart health, scientific evidence is now saying the opposite. In fact, there was never much scientific research behind these claims to begin with. Yes, margarine has less saturated fat than butter however, saturated fat is not necessarily a bad thing.  

In the past, it was believed to raise cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease. However, scientists from Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard have found that this view had been overstated and new studies have found no direct link between saturated fats and heart health. 

Margarine itself is processed and made from vegetable oil. As vegetable oil is liquid at room temperature, a process called hydrogenation takes place, which resultantly creates trans-fat. Trans fats should be avoided where possible as there is a plethora of scientific evidence linking increased intake of trans fat with inflammation, heart disease, stroke and poor cholesterol. 

Alternatively, butter is made from churning cream, a natural whole food. As a concentrated dairy product, we’re not advising you to lather butter onto every meal; however, a small amount every now and then will cause far less harm than processed margarine and spreads.

 

Flavoured Porridge:  Make it yourself from rolled oats and water, or whole milk, and you’ve got yourself a winning breakfast. However, if you’re finding yourself with the “just add water” sachets, you may as well be having three spoonfuls of sugar instead as some brands have an astonishing 16g of sugar per serving.

 

Breakfast cereals:  It can often be overwhelming with the amount of options when it comes to the cereal aisle in the supermarket. As a result, most opt for the boxes that look the healthiest however, even cereal boxes with a 4-star health rating in Australia, or mostly green boxes if you’re in the UK, can contain up to 23% sugar. Be cautious as even the ones with high fibre ingredients, like bran and oats, are still laden with sugar.

Granola falls into the same category; quite often considered to be a healthy option, shop bought granola is incredibly high in sugars, carbohydrates and calories. Not only this, the recommended serving size is considerably smaller than you may think with most brands recommending 40g, which is the equivalent of around 3 tablespoons. 

If you enjoy granola or cereal for breakfast, always check the ingredients and avoid any with dried fruits and chocolate chips. Or, better yet, make your own and top with Greek yogurt and fresh berries. 

There are recipes for heathy breakfasts including Muesli and Chocolate Protein Porridge, which have both been huge hits with members of The Fast 800 Online Programme www.thefast800.com

 

Vegan and gluten free processed foods: Just because the label says gluten free or vegan doesn’t mean they’re instantly healthy. On Dr Michael Mosley’s recent Channel 4 show, 21 Day Body Turnaround with Michael Mosley, he met a “junk food vegan” who was putting her life at risk by consuming unhealthy vegan foods, high in trans-fat, sugar and simple carbohydrates. 

By swapping out processed, ready to eat meals for fresh, healthy whole foods with protein through sources like tempeh and chickpeas, Michael’s vegan volunteer was able to improve her Vo2 max score – a measurement of a person’s individual aerobic capacity – by 10 per cent, in just 21 days. 

 

Commercial salad dressing: You may think that the salads you’re eating each day are helping you achieve better health, however, they may be the reason you’re struggling to make progress. Not only do commercial dressings have a significant amount of calories per serving (and not many of us actually stick to the recommended serving of one tablespoon), they’re also packed with additives, to extend their shelf life, thickeners, hidden sugars and other nasties that simply don’t belong in your cupboard!  Instead of highly processed dressings, try a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or a glug of good quality balsamic vinegar (just definitely not the glaze!).

 

How to avoid “healthy” foods that are not so healthy

The best possible way to avoid these big brand claims and long standing rumours around ‘healthy’ foods is to cook fresh, whole foods each day that align to a Mediterranean-style diet. Or, if you are looking for convenience foods, find ones that are made up of only healthy and satiating ingredients, like The Fast 800 shakes.  If you do go for pre-packaged foods, always read the ingredients carefully and if you wouldn’t find the ingredients in your cupboard, or you’re not entirely sure what they are, it’s best to leave the item firmly on the shelf!

Doctor consulting with a patient about back pain

The Rising Problem of UK Back Pain: How to Stop Breaking our Backs with Bad Form

Back pain is sweeping the nation; Google searches for ‘back pain’ in 2021 have increased their search power by 157 per cent since 2011. But what is causing this back-breaking boom?

One primary cause of back pain is form. Form applies to activities that we complete every day, from taking the dog for a walk and powerlifting in the gym to how we sit in our office chairs and lie in bed. Poor form can affect how our muscles are stretched and how our bones are impacted. Here, we explore how your bad form is affecting your back pain and what you can do to recover from any spinal sores.

 

In the gym

 

So, you’ve joined the gym in hope of boosting your health. Great choice: exercise is one of the best ways to improve your back pain. When you exercise, the movement allows the disks in your spine to exchange fluids. These fluids direct nutrition to the spine and help reduce swelling that can cause tension and pain.

However, bad form in the gym can also be a leading cause of back pain. Anaerobic exercises with bad form can cause increased pressure and tension in your back. This is particularly true for impact exercises and weightlifting. Consider the weight you use during lifting exercise and consider where pressure is being applied. One common problem includes rounding. Rounding is caused when your hips are positioned at an awkward angle and can place stress on the ligaments around your spine.

Ensuring that your form and posture is good during exercise is essential for improving back pain. Speak to a fitness guru or trainer to understand how to improve your exercise techniques.

 

Bed habits

 

While we know that bad form during the day can contribute to back pain, have you ever considered how our night-time activities are adding to your problems? Yes, even when you go to bed, our sleeping routines and form can cause bad back pain. At a time when your body should be repairing, are you doing more damage to your body than you’re aware of?

Our sleeping routines can cause back pain through several factors, including sleeping positions and unsupportive mattresses. Poor sleeping positions put additional pressure on your spine, which causes its natural curve to flatten. This is likely to occur with people who sleep on their front, chest towards the mattress. Instead, it’s recommended that you sleep on your back or side.

An unsupportive mattress also causes uneven and additional pressure. This is because it can reinforce bad sleeping posture, strain muscles, and hinder spine alignment. Instead, consider using a memory foam spring mattress. These breathable and supportive mattresses help the spine and encourage good sleeping posture.

 

Working on it

 

In 2021, there are 261 working days of the year. Working for eight hours every day, we’ll spend a combined total of 2,088 hours in our offices or workspace. But is your work-life causing your back pain? Whether you spend long hours on your feet in retail or work from a desk in an office, bad form can be adding to your back pain.

Some jobs, such as delivery or warehouse jobs, may require you to lift heavy or awkward loads. Drivers may spend long hours in an uncomfortable car or van seat, and poor office chairs can cause bad posture.

Good form is essential for alleviating these problems. When lifting heavy objects at work, you should bend at your knees and not at your waist or back. Do this slowly and take regular breaks to alleviate built-up stress on your spine.

For those who sit down for the majority of their jobs, supportive chairs that follow the natural curve of your spine can help improve back pain. You can also ensure that monitors are placed at eye level, so your neck isn’t strained by looking up or down at a screen. You can also get supports for your office chair or car seat to help support your posture and form, improving the feeling of back pain.

Good posture and good form are crucial for alleviating back pain. From hitting the gym to hitting the hay, ensuring that your spine is supported is essential. There are so many factors that can contribute to tension and aches in the back, but the solution can be as simple as identifying the part of your lifestyle that may be contributing to the problem and changing your habits to alleviate the pain.

 

Beth Riley is a Content Manager at OTTY Sleep, covering topics surrounding sleep and the many factors that play a part in us getting the important deep rest needed to keep us rejuvenated and functioning at our best.

Open bullet journal on a wooden table with a coffee next to it

How Journaling Can Improve Your Mental Health

Something as simple as journaling can help you get a new perspective on your life and reframe it in ways that improve your wellness activities.

Read on to learn how to start journaling and stick with it long-term. With the right tips, you can make journaling a habit as well as a hobby.

 

1.Write for yourself

After you sit down to write your first journal entry, remember to write for yourself by staying honest about what’s on your heart and mind. Make your journal an example of your inner monologue. If you can’t think of anything to write about, you can always log things like your latest achievements, new recipes you tried or your plans for the future.

 

2. Schedule journaling time

Time is usually the most common problem people face when they’re starting to journal. It’s not something you’re used to doing, so you may forget about it while you’re busy with other responsibilities during the day. Schedule at least ten minutes to journal in the morning, on your lunch break or even on some days during the week so that it becomes a habit over time.

 

3. Find your writing style

If you start journaling and it does not feel right, you might need to find your writing style to create a journal that fits your needs or personality. You may write a stream of consciousness, record your prayers or log what you’re grateful for. There are many ways to journal, so try something new if you feel stuck.

 

4. Journal for mindfulness

When times are uncertain, ground yourself and improve your mental health with journaling mindfulness entries. This writing will focus on how your body feels in the moment and where your thoughts go. As you write, you’ll lock into your struggles or successes, slowly improving your mental health because you’ll learn when it’s faltering and possibly relying on old bad habits.

 

5. Reflect on your progress

The best benefit of journaling is the ability to reflect on your progress. At the end of every week, read through your past entries. Think about what was happening at that time. You will immediately remind yourself of specific thoughts and feelings you had so that you can learn from that experience. Otherwise, you may not remember details that encourage you to learn and make changes to better your wellness.

 

Don’t start with expectations

After you find a suitable journal that you can’t wait to write in, don’t start your journey with expectations. Give yourself room to try new things, reflect and grow from whatever you write about. You’ll learn how to enjoy every moment once you sit down and start writing.

Woman listening to music outside at sunset

5 Rituals to Help Improve Your Mental Health

Here are five daily rituals you can incorporate into even the busiest day to help improve your mental health:

 

1. Set goals — small ones!

By setting small goals, you give yourself something easier to achieve. Additionally, when you do reach these goals, it gives you a great boost of self-esteem and confidence, which can do wonders for your mental health.

 

2. Be accountable

Accountability does not have to be complicated. Tell a few friends that you need a buddy to keep you honest when it comes to your habits. You might even want to consider group therapy with individuals who can relate and motivate. Find someone who will check in with you on a regular basis — and, if necessary, someone who will light a fire under your rear end to get you going.

 

3. Keep a routine

One day you might jump out of bed and be ready to meet the day, while the next you hit your alarm, roll over and sleep until 3 p.m. For some people, it helps to have a routine that makes them happy. Whether it be washing their face, applying a nice lotion or even stretching before getting ready for the day.

Setting up the structure of a routine can be very helpful for your mental health. It can help you slow down on those days when you have a ton of extra energy, and help you pull yourself out of bed on those days when it’s harder. Set a routine for your mornings and another one for your evenings, so you’re getting enough sleep as well.

 

4. Practice gratitude

You probably say thank you to the barista who makes your coffee in the morning, but when was the last time you sat down and truly practised gratitude? Being thankful for everything in your life — the good things and the bad — is a concept that might seem like common sense, but it’s a little harder to understand than you might think.

Try picking up a notebook and start a gratitude journal. Spend a few minutes at the beginning or end of your day writing down the things in your life you’re grateful for. On days when you’re having a hard time or feeling discouraged, go back and read what you’ve written. You might be surprised at the things you find there.

 

5. Face your fears

Facing your fears stops them from negatively affecting your life. Just like achieving your goals, facing your fears gives you that sense of “I did it. I can win.”

Improving your mental health does not necessarily mean taking drastic measures. Every step you take toward improving it, whether that step is big or small, is a step that should make you proud!

Broken heart-shaped lollipop on a blue background

Dating After COVID: Why Social Anxiety Is Surging

The lifting of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions can only mean one thing, right? A summer of love. Scientists have even predicted a social phenomenon similar to the roaring 20s, where parties, socialising, and love are on the top of everyone’s list of priorities. For some people, however, jumping headfirst into the dating pool doesn’t sound quite so simple.

 

What’s holding people back?

After over a year of online dating, video calls, endless messaging, or, in some cases, a total dating hiatus, it stands to reason that many will be keen to meet new people in person again. However, after so long without dating, a lot of people feel pretty out of practice. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a stark increase in social anxiety coupled with rusty social skills. Between re-learning how to date and lingering nervousness about COVID-19, social anxiety is affecting many would-be daters.

 

“I gave up on online dating pretty early on in the pandemic,” says Ellen, 24. “The constant messaging with no real aim just felt tiring. So, I figured I’d wait until I could meet people in person again. Now I’ve got the chance though, I feel like I need to learn how to date all over again. I actually feel way more nervous [to go on a date] than I did before the pandemic. I’m definitely out of practice!”

 

Many people feel the same way, and this sentiment is reflected in search data gathered by diamond ring company Angelic Diamonds. Their Love Dilemmas data shows that Google searches featuring dating queries have surged over the course of the pandemic. For example, between April 2020 and March 2021, the term “What do you talk about on a first date?” increased by 600 per cent, “What questions to ask on the first date” increased by 75 per cent, and “Why is dating so hard?” increased by 57 per cent. Clearly, anxiety surrounding dating is on the rise, and this could put a serious spanner in the works for the predicted “summer of love”. This anxiety has even led to brand-new terms like “FOMU” (fear of meeting up) and “FODA” (fear of dating again).

 

Keeping dating slow and steady

From re-learning how to date to navigating COVID-related health concerns, it looks like it could be a while before our dating lives are back on track. However, experts are encouraging people to take their time. In conversation with Cosmopolitan, sex therapist Mia Sabar explained: “One of the biggest challenges we’ll face with dating as lockdown begins to ease will likely stem from re-entry anxiety. These emotions are completely normal, and there is no shame in feeling apprehensive about being around numerous people, or about meeting in person after months of communicating via a screen.”

 

In contrast to rushing back into dating in the spirit of the roaring 20s, some experts believe that we’re likely to see a continuation of ‘slow dating’. One study found that online daters were more likely to be looking for a deep emotional connection with a partner before a physical one. Judging by this, slow dating might be the perfect post-lockdown solution for many, especially those who are feeling anxious about jumping in at the deep end. For vulnerable people with health conditions or those who feel nervous about the lifting of restrictions, slow dating is a good option. Perhaps the end of COVID-19 restrictions won’t mean the end of pre-date video calls and a lot of messaging back and forth after all.

 

How to tackle dating anxiety

If you’re feeling anxious about getting stuck back into the world of dating, there’s probably one big question on your lips: how can you tackle dating anxiety? If you’re feeling hesitant about dating, it’ll probably take you a while to feel completely comfortable again. So, take your time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Taking it slow is more than okay. Remember, the person you’re talking to on a dating app is likely to feel the exact same way you do. Also, if they aren’t understanding of your anxiety, then they’re probably not the right person for you anyway. Communicate clearly with them before meeting up and don’t be afraid to be crystal clear about your boundaries. Some people might feel comfortable with physical intimacy, for example, whereas others might still feel hesitant about touching due to health concerns. Expressing your boundaries and respecting theirs is the only way to successfully navigate the post-pandemic dating world.

 

What’s more, just because you don’t have to stick to social distancing-style dates doesn’t mean you can’t choose to. There’s no reason to rush back to meeting up in busy bars if you don’t feel ready for that kind of social interaction. Plan dates outside, or even choose dates based around activities as an ice-breaker. That way, you won’t have to worry about awkward silences.

 

Getting back into dating might feel stressful, but remember, it’s also meant to be fun! Don’t rush yourself into anything. Take your time, and when you are truly ready to get back into dating, try to enjoy each moment without putting too much pressure on yourself.

Male counsellor in a session with a client

15 Habits of Highly Successful Counselors

As an aspiring counselor, the chances are you do not just want to gain your qualifications and lead an average career. Instead, you are likely dreaming of being a counselor with an outstanding resume and a long list of positively impacted clients. After all, if your goal is to help people, you are likely to go above and beyond when doing so.  

That is understandably not a walk in the park, though, so to help you get there, here are fifteen habits of highly successful counselors that you should adopt.

 

1. They Pursue Further Education

Highly successful counselors do not stop their education once they have achieved their bachelor’s. No – once they have gained their first counseling role, they pursue further education, such as their master’s degree and their Ph.D.

Of course, to get to that point, you will need to hold a bachelor’s first. If you are interested in starting your journey toward becoming an outstanding counselor, consider pursuing an online human services degree. It will give you an excellent range of knowledge on social issues, human psychology, and other social sciences to help boost your career. After that, you can go on to pursue a master’s in counseling and then even your Ph.D. in psychology or something similar.

 

2. They Are Always Prepared

You would not expect a successful counselor to walk into a session without access to the correct patient records or any other equipment they may need. Every time they host a session, they walk through the door prepared not only for the client’s meeting but also for anything else that comes afterward. So, to follow in those footprints, start practicing always being prepared. If you are doing an online human services degree, for example, always have your study notes, laptop, and textbooks whenever you suspect a study session may happen.

 

3. They Put Their Patients First

You probably know this already, but when you are tired from a long week of counseling clients alongside endless meetings and tons of notes, it can be tricky to put the patient first. You must always do so, though. After all, it is not your client’s fault that their appointment happens to fall at 2 pm on Friday just before your last meeting! While at work, you should always think about your clients first, no matter how you are feeling. If this ever becomes a challenge, it is time to address your stress levels.

 

4. They Learn and Adjust

There is nothing wrong with being a genius in your craft and knowing it. In fact, that is what the goal is! While highly successful counselors admit that they know their stuff, though, they are also always open to learning and adjusting their methods. That is because they are clever enough to understand that the world of psychology is ever evolving, and new methods and discoveries may help their practice. If your counseling goals are high, you will need to get on board with lifelong learning.

 

5. They Are Never Late

A counselor who is late is a counselor who cannot be relied on. When you have vulnerable clients relying on your guidance and assistance, you do not have the benefit of being late. Of course, an off day happens to everyone, but there is no excuse for a late habit. If you struggle with tardiness, here are some things you should try: 

Checking the Morning Traffic

Blaming the traffic once is OK, but having it constantly affect your ability to show up on time is not. If the traffic often catches you out, be sure to check what the traffic is like before you set off.

Prepare the Night Before 

If you are not a morning person, so as much as you can the night before, such as laying out your clothes, packing your bag, and preparing breakfast.

Reduce Your Morning Routine

A morning routine does not have to go on for too long, especially if you struggle to get up early. Instead of spending twenty minutes in the shower, for example, cut it back to ten.

Get Enough Sleep 

It may seem obvious, but it is a crucial step to always being on time. It is hard to get out of bed when you have only had five hours of sleep!

 

6. They Set Boundaries

Before becoming a counselor, you will likely never think that setting boundaries is a necessity. After all, your work-life differs from your home life, and you will have personal issues to deal with. The problem is, though, the lines become a little blurrier when a client’s story is overly emotional or your bond with them on an almost friendship level. In these situations, it is crucial to set boundaries.

Remember – as a counselor, you are the one in the position of power, which means it is your responsibility to make the client feel welcomed and safe while ensuring they understand the doctor-patient relationship that stands. If a client ever crosses a line, you must know exactly how to handle the situation respectfully and professionally. While bonding with clients is OK – great, in fact – you must ensure that it does not extend beyond the office door.

 

7. They Take Excellent Notes

Excellent note-taking is something you learn during school and further education like an online human services degree. As a counselor, these skills will come in handy, as you will have to take many notes throughout the day. To succeed, make sure these are always eligible, clear, and concise.

 

8. They Keep Their Mind Open

The best counselors are not the ones who are set in their ways; they are those who are always open to expanding their minds and changing their perspectives if necessary. This is especially important for counselors, as you are meeting multiple different people each day from various walks of life, and you must stay open-minded to those who live differently from you.

 

9. They Look After Their Own Mental Health

While successful counselors spend their day looking after the mental health of their clients, they also spend a lot of their time looking after their own mental health. When faced with so many clients with many upsetting situations, it is understandable for it to impact your wellbeing. To ensure this does not build, you must be able to find ways to heal from this, such as pursuing hobbies, doing meditation, and taking plenty of breaks.

 

10. They Laugh at Themselves

Counselors make mistakes. You will make mistakes during your online human services degree, when you are studying counseling, in your first year on the job, and even during your last ever year as a counselor. While it is necessary to learn from your mistakes, it is essential to laugh at them, too. After all, there are already so many uncomfortable and upsetting situations you will have to deal with throughout your counseling journey that you do not need to add on more. By having a better sense of humor, you will have a much easier time dealing with challenging days.

 

11. They Commit to Extra Learning

The best counselors do not just pursue further degrees – they also enhance their learning away from classrooms, like online research and good-old learning from books. Once they have packed up their office for the day, they do not always switch off and go home; sometimes, they will hang back to do some psychology research or to work on a project. To be successful, the career requires a lot more hours than the ones spent counseling patients.

 

12. They Improve Their Environment

Counseling is all about connecting with the client and it becomes much easier to do so in a positive environment. After all, no client will feel at ease in a cold, dark room! So, if you want to be a successful counselor, you must know how to adapt the environment to suit a session. Some tips for that include:

Soft but Bright Lighting

You do not want harsh lights blinding your clients, but you also want them to be able to see. Make the environment feel comfortable by using soft, layered lighting. Try to bring in as much natural light as possible, too.

Comfortable Furniture 

Your client will not want to open up while sitting in a chair that makes their back hurt, so aim to provide comfortable furniture for all.

Art Pieces 

Paintings and other art pieces around a counselor’s office inspire conversation. Plus, it looks pretty and improves the overall feel of the room.

Cleanliness

Above all, make sure any room where you are seeing a patient is as clean as possible. Your goal is to make the client (and yourself) feel comfortable, and that will not happen if the tabletops are covered in dust and the trash can is overfilled.

Fortunately, if you have done an online human services degree, you will have an idea of just how important a positive environment is for a workplace. After all, you will have needed to create a home office that works for you.

 

13. They Research Social Issues

Great counselors are not just interested in the people in front of them; they are also passionate about current social issues. After all, to understand those that they are counseling, they must understand society as a whole. So, if you are planning on becoming an excellent counselor, make sure you take a genuine interest in communities and social issues. An online human services degree would help you with that.

 

14. They Build a Network

Brilliant counselors do not stumble into their roles by mistake. As well as working hard at their degrees, they also ensure they build a network of people while they climb the ladder. By doing this, they end up being recommended for more prestigious roles in the future.

Whether you are doing an online human services degree or working in your first counseling role, make sure you work on building a great network of people. You never know when it might come in handy!

 

15. They Stay Passionate About Helping Others

One of the most important traits of highly successful counselors is their ability to stay passionate about helping others, even after years in the field. It is not easy, especially if you are feeling stressed or having a tough couple of weeks, but it is crucial for maintaining the high standard that you see in great counselors.

 

Are You Right for Counselling?

Before adopting these habits and starting your counseling journey, you should know for sure whether the career is right for you. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

 

Are You Prepared to Learn?

Counselors are constant learners. It does not end when you have earned an online human services degree or even when you complete your doctorate – there are always new methods to learn about and new developments in the world of psychology that you must know. If you are the kind of person who looks forward to a life-long career full of education, then counseling might just be right for you.

 

Do You Have Emotional Control?

Emotional control is crucial for counselors. After all, you cannot lose your cool when in the middle of a meeting with a client! Luckily, there are always ways to improve this.

 

Are You Interested in Human Psychology?

At its root, counseling is all about human psychology, so you better make sure that is a subject that you are interested in before pursuing it as a career. If it is, consider doing an online human services degree before going on to do your master’s and entering the world of counseling.

 

Do You Want to Help People?

The most important question you must ask yourself is whether or not you genuinely want to help people. If the sole reason you want to enter a psychology career is that you are planning on climbing the ranks and earning lots of money, then it is most likely not the career for you. If you truly want to help improve people’s lives, however, then you are the kind of person who would shine as a counselor. After all, it is the passion that pushes hard work and determination, which is exactly what is required in a counseling career.