Omar Sherif: Mindful self-induglence

Welcome to the second post in a series of blogs about health and wellbeing.

This post follows on from my interview with Tayla Hunter about empowerment through fitness – which has had a fantastic response.

I’m shifting my focus from physical fitness with Tayla to mental wellbeing with Omar Sherif,  an aspiring entrepreneur and business development specialist, who has recently set up a podcast called Mindful Self Indulgence. 

The podcast provides a beautiful insight into social behaviour and mental health in today’s world. It covers topics from cognitive psychology to mindful chats with guests. Not only are the subjects fascinating, I find the podcasts soothing to listen to, especially when I’m feeling frazzled. The gentle background music and Omar’s voice are so relaxing.

I was excited to hear how this podcast came to be and discover a little more about the creator behind it. I hope you enjoy it too.

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Omar’s podcast began as what he describes as a personal learning project. It all stemmed from opening up about his own mental health on Facebook.

I would sometimes write a status and then delete it, this time I chose not to. Once I posted the status; the support and interactions just blew my mind.

I think many of us can relate to the feeling of wanting to open up  about our suffering but fearing judgement or shame. What if they think I’m weak? What if they think I’m weird? What if they think I’m just feeling sorry for myself? I’ve been there and I’m sure you have too.

Like many of us, Omar has suffered at the hands of anxiety and depression. Fortunately, he has been able to control some of his anxious feelings to become a happier and calmer person. For Omar, this meant understanding the why behind these anxious thoughts and challenging them. This process is something he wants to share with others through the podcast.

There is still so much work left to do in normalising the chat about mental health. About men being able to talk about their mental health. I decided that I want to be a part of this journey.

In the last year, I’ve noticed a lot of young men suffering tragically with mental health and the stigma surrounding it. In 2018, 784 suicides were registered in Scotland and an astounding 74% of those were committed by men. There has to be a link between these troubling statistics and the lack of safe spaces for men to actually talk about mental health.

I wondered if Omar could offer some insight into why the men around us seem to be suffering so deeply in silence.

Anyone who has been told their whole life that they need to bare strength no matter what. That they have responsibility that will bare them down but have to carry on and has had to watch or see their parent figures do the same will find themselves facing a problem when mental health issues arise.

In an effort to open up that stigmatised conversation, Omar embarked on his podcast journey with the intention of creating an ‘audio hug’ (inspired by one of his favourite podcasters, Blind Boy from the Rubber Bandits).

The aim is to bring the listener out of their world and into a hug-like audio bubble where they can relax or even meditate.

What about that title? Mindful Self Indulgence. I wondered if in today’s world self-care has become an indulgence or a luxury? When I asked Omar about this, he explained that the burden of poor mental health can make self-care feel like an indulgence or a luxury for many people in this fast paced world. We both agreed that this attitude needs to change and mental self-care should be given the same priority as physical self-care.

If you don’t take care of your self, your health will deteriorate until you develop an illness.

Omar’s podcast is just one tool among many which could be used to combat a fear of self-care. By looking at human psychology, Omar hopes that listeners can better understand why they behave or react in a certain way and, ultimately, start to unpack the stressors and triggers in their life.

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As I mentioned, Omar is a business development specialist so he has plans to use the podcast as a platform to discuss mental health in business. I was curious about how this would play a part in the wider discussion he’s having.

Business is where human beings interact with each other and place their passion more than any other aspect of their lives. Our employees, employers, directors, managers, customers, share holders, etc. have a huge impact on our mental health.

So what does Omar see as the solution to poor mental health in the workplace?

Many successful businesses (mainly ones with a modern management outlook) are looking more and more at what motivates us to be efficient. How to set out their business model so that they can get the most out of their employees through passion and personal commitment rather than compliance. […] If we do not learn how to tackle our mental health issues in work (this includes being a student or learning something that has to do with your career) we will end up creating and facing more problems and issues than need be.

I’m excited to see how Omar’s podcast is going to evolve with time and which avenues it is going to go down. The most recent episode I listened to looked at the psychology of colour and the cognitive impact colour can have on us. It’s a fascinating discussion and provided a much-needed audio hug for me during a tumultuous time.

Visit Mindful Self Indulgence here


Omar’s advice

  • I am a big fan of self-help and self-therapy. This may not be what works for everyone but it was a huge help for me
  • I recommend people look at Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and speak to mental health professionals about other self therapy techniques
  • I would love to advise meditation as the benefits of it are unbelievable but again, different things work for different people
  • The one thing that is a constant across everyone is that we need to be kinder to ourselves. We need to understand that we base so much of our self worth on perceptions and assumptions and man-made concepts that are sold to us as being the essence of our lives. They are not!
  • When you go to sleep at night, don’t ask yourself if you have made tomorrow easier, don’t ask yourself if you fixed what you broke, ask your self if you are happy. If you are generally at peace there and then with everything as it is, as it has turned out to be and as it continues
  • Aim to find your peace here, right now, right this second as you are reading this

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Health

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the festive period and are now moving into 2019 feeling positive and excited for what lies ahead. I’ve decided to write a blog which is quite out of my comfort zone but that’s a good thing. I’m writing about…HEALTH.

Time to face the facts. I am quite an unhealthy person. I am addicted to junk food, I don’t exercise at all and my mental health is often quite poor. I’m frequently fatigued, feel low and get out of breath just walking up stairs. Yikes!

At the age of 24, this is NOT where I want to be. So I’ve decided to set myself some healthy and realistic goals for 2019 and want to invite my friends and family – and anyone who is interested – to join me on my journey.

Goal sharing

The main reason for sharing this very personal journey with you right now is because there are proven benefits of goal sharing and I am much more likely to achieve if I have said it out loud. Mostly because it keeps me accountable for my actions. I see you all as my accountability partners. If you’re interested in the psychology behind goal sharing I found this blog a helpful read.

What do I want to achieve?

  1. Activity. I don’t intend to join a gym and go to 4+ fitness classes a week. I have tried to throw myself in at the deep end in the past and failed to achieve consistency several times. I want to increase my activity by walking more, driving less, getting the stairs instead of lifts and generally standing more. After all, standing is the new smoking. I would also like to attend yoga for both physical and mental reasons.
  2. Nourish. I am NOT on a diet. I have been dieting on-and-off since I was about 16 and so far I am still overweight. I’ve tried Slimming World, Cambridge Weight Loss, Ketogenic diet etc and, personally, I find they work in the short-term but I gain weight quickly after. I’m not disparaging those who find this works because I know it does for lots of people. In 2019, I want to take a non-diet approach which focuses on adding lots of healthy, colourful and nourishing food to my diet and where possible ditching high processed carbs and sugary foods. I’m not restricting myself and I’m not punishing myself or attaching morals (‘good’ and ‘bad’) to food because it’s incredibly unhelpful to me. I’m sure you all know how it feels to be on a diet then fall off the wagon with a Chinese or pizza and you beat yourself up about it and make yourself feel like a failure. Not good. If you want to know more about a non-diet approach to eating, have a read at this blog.
  3. Relax. Stress is a huge factor in all of our lives and it’s something I want to become better at managing – mostly through my first goal of activity but also through regular meditation practices. I will also work on using social media less because this is a huge factor in feeling a bit rubbish about myself. I wrote a blog called Breaking Up With The Internet a while ago which talks about this in more detail.
  4. Sleep. I have been fortunate to never really suffer from insomnia. Unfortunately though I have had long bouts of hypersomnia where I find myself needing to sleep for 12-14 hours every day to feel remotely human. To work on having better quality sleep I plan to reduce my caffeine intake, reduce time spent in front of a screen and create a positive sleep routine which I follow as much as possible. I actually wrote a blog about sleep a while ago which you can read here.

What to expect

I want to write regularly about my health journey and share tools and resources that I have found helpful along the way.

I would also like to share the stories of friends and family who have successfully managed to change their health for the better using lifestyle so please do get in touch if you have any tips.

Love April x