Tayla Hunter: Empowerment through fitness

Welcome to my first blog in a Health and Wellbeing series which looks at what ‘feeling good’ means to all of us.

Back in January I wrote a blog all about my personal journey but rather than go on about my experiences, I’m keen to share other people’s stories. I want to gather together the experiences of different people with varied interests in the hope that we can inspire or provoke better discussions about physical and mental wellbeing – for everyone.

My first interview is with Tayla Hunter. Tayla is a Crossfit champ and has recently placed first in her first Bikini Body Building competitions. Tayla and I worked together a long time ago at British Home Stores and I have been in awe watching her health and fitness journey unfold on social media. You can check it out on her Instagram: @Taylahunter_.

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Tayla’s level of commitment to her own self-care is pretty inspiring so I was eager to find out more about how she achieves this in a world that’s centred around junk food and junk thoughts. When you look at a photo of Tayla today – it’s hard to imagine that this person was ever ‘just like me’: someone who was intimidated by the gym, unable to focus, and dealing with disordered eating. But like all of us, Tayla’s journey starts right at the beginning:

When I turned seventeen, I joined the gym. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was too scared to touch any weights as I felt really intimidated in the gym and had absolutely no confidence in myself so I stopped going.

So how did Tayla go from having no self-confidence to competing in Crossfit and bodybuilding competitions?

After giving up on the gym the first time around, Tayla continued to struggle with her body image and unhealthy patterns of eating. It was only when she went to study in America and gained weight that she decided she’d had enough:

I felt really low about myself and totally shut myself off from the world.

Tayla made the decision to put herself first and started teaching herself about training and nutrition. It started off simple: googling ‘leg day’ or ‘shoulder day’ to discover more about weight lifting. Fast forward a few years, Tayla was training hard and eating well.

But how do you sustain something like that? I know from personal experience that motivation is easier when you’ve got a big goal to work towards but quite quickly consistency and dedication can turn into bad habits and laziness. After losing the weight, Tayla felt like she plateaued and was bored of training on her own so in 2017 she joined Crossfit BIA 2.0 in Kilmarnock and fell in love.

Coach Scott Dickson pushed me out my comfort zones, got me lifting heavy weights and pushed me to be the fittest, fastest and strongest possible version of myself.

Within a year of starting Crossfit, she entered the Rainhill Trials competition in Manchester with no expectations other than taking part:

I worked my butt off training six times a week (sometimes twice a day). I was super nervous on the day of the competition as I was up against some females who had been training for years.

However, Tayla defeated her own expectations and placed first on the day.

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From an outside perspective, one of the key questions I had about Tayla’s journey was how she stays motivated. It’s so easy nowadays to get distracted with a bombardment of emails, scrolling through social media or trying to keep on top of housework. It’s difficult to make your health a priority. Tayla’s advice is fantastic and something that I think anyone can incorporate into their routine, including a sloth like me.

I write myself a power list every day of 5 things I want to achieve by the end of it and since I’ve started that, I’ve became so much more productive.

I love lists and think the idea of a ‘power list’ is inspirational. It made me ask myself ‘what would empower me today?’ This might be fitness goals like achieving a personal best on a particular weights machine at the gym or mastering a new pose at a yoga practice. But a ‘power list’ could include anything that makes you feel good. Eating a nutritious meal? Taking five minutes to meditate? Calling a friend to catch up?

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At the end of the day, fitness should be about self-care and self-love. Something Tayla herself has struggled with. Like many young women, she has dealt with “disordered eating patterns and body dysmorphic behaviour” from a young age. Wellbeing is ongoing and ever-changing, I don’t think anyone gets it right all of the time but Tayla says education is her number one tool for combatting self-doubt and negative habits.

I began to further educate myself thoroughly on nutrition and exercise. Listened to podcasts, read books, opened my mind and started to believe, that with the right tools, I could make a positive change in my life. I’m now clued up on foods, exercise and fitness. And I’m now in a much healthier and happier place. What’s best of all – I am not controlled by food anymore and I don’t exercise purely out of ‘guilt’. It’s been a long process for me, but with consistency came change.

That’s a beautiful thought: eating to satiate your body, not being controlled by cravings or fad diets, and exercising because it feels good not because you want to burn off the pizza you ate last night.

So what’s next?

Tayla refuses to get complacent and since our interview she placed first in the Nabba Scotland Bikini Figure 2019 and PCA Scotland Bikini Trained 2019.  In the future she would like to start her own personal coaching business.

“I’m so passionate about health, wellbeing and fitness and I know that I can help others in their own journey to a place of healthy body and healthy mind. I’m not at the point in my life right now where I feel I am able to provide the best service due to my own training commitments, but when the time is right, I’ll be ready to give back to those who have supported me throughout my own journey.”

Well, I for one, have been inspired by Tayla’s journey. I don’t think I’ll ever be a Crossfit champion or entering bikini competitions but Tayla’s story proves that if you educate yourself and you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. I’m excited to see what challenges she takes on next!

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Tayla’s top tips

Be consistent

  1. With consistency comes results
  2. Changes don’t happen overnight – you need to be patient with your body.
  3. Log your training sessions – what did you do that day? How many sets and reps did you do? Did you lift heavier than last time? Did you run a little faster than last time? If so… your improving!!

Don’t over complicate things

  1. Baby steps – even if it is just tracking your steps on your phone at first. You don’t need to join a gym straight away.
  2. Find something you enjoy doing whether that’s a Zumba class, a spin class, a running club, Crossfit, swimming etc

‘Diet’s’ don’t work.

  1. You need a change in lifestyle in order to make sustainable progress.
  2. These fad diets set you up for failure straight away from the beginning.
  3. Follow a lifestyle that you can be consistent with – It’s all about balance – eat nutritious foods, train hard too but also have that chocolate bar if you want it and don’t feel guilty about it. Life is for living.
  4. Stay away from the magazine ’14 day bikini body’, diets and the devil herbal drinks and fat loss shakes – they do not work – they are a temporary solution that will not allow sustainable progress!
Follow Tayla on Instagram to keep track of her competition prep. 

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

Breaking Up With The Internet

I’ll be the first to admit I am addicted to the internet. Like most people my age, I have become entangled in the worldwide web and it’s pretty impossible to extract my ~real~ life from the one I live in front of a computer screen. And while the internet is a wonderful and life-changing piece of technology, I can’t help but think we have gone too far. There are whole lanes dedicated to Pokemon hunters in shopping centres and just the other day I was at the train station when I heard an announcement about keeping your head up from your smartphone on the train platform to avoid accidents.

The Internet isn’t all bad. Social media has been connecting people around the world for years. I can keep in touch with family who live all over the world at any given moment. Oh and the internet is an incredible educational resource! I swear I got my degree from Google.

But is it information overload? I’m not the only person that Wikipedias an entire TV series plotline while I’m watching it – crazy, right? And with new Facebook features, I can actually locate all of my friends (and acquaintances) pretty much at all times. Spooky.

So while there are many amazing things on the internet, I think it’s time we all stepped back into the real world and here’s the little things I am doing to try and be more present:


1. Set Time Boundaries.

Limit the amount of internet you consume every day. I have decided any time before 8am and after 9pm should be internet-free. I mentioned the blue light in 5 Tips For A Better Sleep and turning your phone off earlier at night to help get a better sleep. Switching your phone off earlier means you begin to unwind quicker therefore you get a higher quality sleep at night. It’s win-win.

To make sure I stick to it, I turn my phone on to airplane mode at night and don’t turn it off until 8am the next day. This also means I’m less distracted when I’m getting ready in the morning. How many of you get out the shower and sit on the bed for like 30 minutes scrolling through your news feeds? Just me? Okay…

2. Turn Off Notifications.

This is something I tried recently and it definitely works. Go on to the notification settings on your phone. Switch off all notifications for any apps that aren’t important. I’ve kept them on for phone calls, text messages and emails but everything else (yes, even Facebook) are now switched off. That means I can only access the information when I actively go into the app or visit the sites on my laptop. When your phone is constantly lighting up every time someone likes your photo or a funny tweet you are being overly stimulated and getting sucked into the cyber world every time you check the time on your phone. Be kind to yourself; remember that not every text/tweet/email/like/comment notification needs to be dealt with straight away.

3. Swap Your Apps.

Try swapping toxic, time-wasting Internet habits for more positive and life-affirming ones. Ditch your Facebook app or online games and swap them for more positive apps and websites. There are many online apps for fitness, diet, meditation and creative thinking which will all help towards a happier and healthier life. Remind yourself that you don’t need the constant stimulation of other people’s lives when the one you’re living is so important! Every time you think about checking your Instagram or Facebook why not take 10 minutes of “me-time” instead.

Try apps like 30 Day Squat, Calm or HeadSpace. Download the free Kindle app and read a chapter of your favourite book whenever you want to cruise the internet. Also use websites like StumbleUpon which allow you to find new websites catered to your interests that will feed your brain rather than turn it into mush. Let me know what your favourite healthy lifestyle apps and websites are! Are there any life-affirming blogs that you just love?

4. Create No-Internet Spaces.

Another good tip is to have “no internet zones” in the house. For example, no phones at the dinner table or keeping the internet out of your bedroom.You don’t need to know what Sarah had for her lunch or what a great holiday Tom had while you’re cosying up to go to sleep or enjoying a meal with family and friends. I’ve never been allowed a phone at the dinner table because it’s a time to unwind and talk to your family about your day. Try these 3 Fun Ways to Avoid the Silent Dinner Table post from oprah.com.

Similarly, keep your phone far away when you’re out with friends. I’m getting increasingly annoyed when I go to a party and see everyone (including myself) fiddling on their phones instead of talking to each other. We are a generation obsessed with letting everyone online know how much fun we’re having instead of actually having fun in real life. Turn off mobile data if you’re out with friends or switch your phone on to airplane mode for that extra boost towards an internet free day. If you’re feeling really brave just leave your phone at home!

5. Discover What You Really Love.

Spending less time on the internet gives you more time to cultivate good habits and discover hobbies that make you really happy. What do you enjoy doing? What did people do before the internet? Go for a walk or a cycle. Join a new fitness class you’ve always wanted to try. What about something creative like crocheting, drawing, painting or writing? If you’re not sure what gets your blood pumping, here’s 16 Hobbies That Will Improve Your Quality of Life. When you step away from the screen and take the time to remember what you love you will start to enjoy life a whole lot more! I recently saw this lovely image on the Happiness Planner Facebook page and it really resonated with me:

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Yes, the ironic thing is that I’m writing a blog about simplifying your relationship with the internet on an online blog and as part of blogging I have to spend a lot of time on social media outlets on a daily basis. However, I’m trying to separate the time spent productively using the internet for blogging and the time I spend scrolling aimlessly through statuses and photos from people I went to school with and wouldn’t even say hello to me on the street. The Internet can be an incredible tool if you use it wisely but don’t let it take over your life!

However, if you are browsing the Internet on your break… why not follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?

 

Other Resources

Monday Morning, you sure look fine.

Am I the only person that sings Fleetwood Mac as another hazy Monday morning welcomes you to the working week?

Here I am, it’s 6.50am on a dreich Monday morning in Ayrshire. (For non-Scots dreich definition) But today is different from other Monday mornings because for once I have time to sit and blog. Why? Because I woke up at 6.15am instead of 7.15am. Why? Why would I choose to get one less hour sleep in favour of enjoying the grey and overcast views from my bedroom window?

Well, I recently read an amazing blog by Sarah Whyte from Whyte Happened Next about waking up one hour before you need to get up and give yourself some precious “me” time every morning. I’m a serious sleepaholic and would do anything for 5 minutes more so I was intrigued to see if getting up an hour earlier would actually increase my daily happiness. ‘Cos that’s what it’s all about after all.

Scientifically, early risers are associated with success:

The early bird catches the worm.

According to a 2008 Texas University study, students who identified as “morning people” earned a full point higher in their GPAs than their “night owl” classmates. Harvard Biologist discovered in 2008 that early risers are more proactive and feel “in charge of making things happen.” You can read more stats here but you get the picture.

So I’ve been convinced to ditch my 7.15am and rushed morning routine in favour of a slow and easy morning starting at 6.15am. Bonus points for fitting in an extra cup of tea and some reading time. Here are the three things I hope to gain from waking up early and I’ll write a blog at the end of the week.

1. Preparation

Like most people, I scramble around in the morning trying to squeeze in a shower, full face of makeup, breakfast, reading my Facebook timeline and just generally making myself look like a functioning human being before 8am. Something always falls by the wayside as time runs out and that’s usually food preparation. Getting up earlier means I can prepare a healthy lunch to take with me to work and a hearty breakfast that will keep my fuller for longer.

2. Alertness.

I go to bed early every night. You can read my top tips for a good night sleep here. My tiredness every morning cannot be attributed to a bad sleep because I sleep like a log most nights. So I’m hoping that waking up an hour earlier every day will give me more time to come to my senses so that by the  time I get to work at 9am, I’m not reaching for another cup of coffee just to feel human.

3. Happiness.

This is probably the main reason I have for adding an extra hour into my day in the morning. Allowing yourself some “me” time every morning might sound very new-age hippy-dippy to some people but the idea of starting your day with a good book and the gentle tinkling of your favourite radio station sounds so much more appealing than crash landing into my shower half-asleep. I hope to set aside time in the morning to meditate and practise mindfulness!

What about you? Are you an “early bird” or a “night owl”? Let me know on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Top 10 Tips For Acne-Prone Skin

Hello and welcome to my first beauty post. It felt appropriate for me to start at the basics with skincare and to go with something personal like spotty skin because I’ve suffered from breakouts since I was about 15. I am not a dermatologist or a dietician. I don’t have any formal training but I have been through a long process of trial and error to get my skin to a state that I’m happy with. Yes, I still have breakouts but now I know how to control them and why they happen. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last 7 years – I hope it helps!

1. You are what you eat.

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If I could give only one piece of advice about looking after your skin it would be: turn to your diet. Skin is susceptible to change due to many things including hormones and the weather but more often than not you can reduce your spots by cutting down on refined carbs, sugar and trans fats. For me, it’s pizza. If I eat pizza, my face literally looks like a pepperoni pizza the next day. Keep a food diary and whenever you have a breakout, ask yourself what foods did you have the day before and try to eliminate them from your diet. Now, I do still eat pizza but knowing that I will face the consequences of a bad breakout the next day!

Skin healthy foods: Lots of green tea and water. Fresh fruit and veg packed with vitamins  and antioxidants like tomatoes (check out recipes like Huevos Rancheros), kale (you could throw some into my Quadruple Green Sweet n Sour dish) and yellow bell peppers (dice them into Classic Lasagne) Check out this list of 25 Best Foods For Your Skin.

2. The drugs don’t work.

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Okay, that’s a bit harsh. A lot of medication does work. I’ve spent years being prescribed different drugs but, more often than not, they only provide short-term solutions. My skin would clear for a few weeks but my spots would soon fight back with a vengeance. Having said that, Roaccutane will clear severe acne undoubtedly. I have never used it but know many friends who have clear skin now as a result. It comes at a price though: mood swings, dry and flaky skin, sore bones and joints… It just depends on how severe your acne is if you’re willing to try it. If you are really suffering from your bad skin, do go to your GP. They will offer a sympathetic ear and hopefully provide you with some form of solution to your problem. My only advice is to follow these other tips in conjunction with medication. Don’t expect a drug to fix it all if you’re not looking after your skin in other ways too.

3. Let it breathe, let it breathe…

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If you don’t need to wear makeup, don’t. If you’re off work for the day then avoid putting any makeup on; cleanse and moisturise skin as usual and let your skin breathe. On days where you can’t avoid make-up, clean your face immediately when you get home. Don’t wait until late at night if you don’t have to. Likewise, wash your face thoroughly after gym sessions and don’t wear makeup when you’re working out. Taking your makeup off as soon as you can is really important to let your skin breathe and heal itself. On this note, try to avoid really heavy-duty foundations. I know it’s tempting to cover up with a heavy slick of Double Wear – been there, done that – but you’re only prolonging the issue. Try a lighter coverage, even a tinted moisturiser if you feel you can, with some concealer on problematic areas. See my next tip for my favourite and least favourite foundations for spot-prone skin!

4. Start at the foundation.

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I mentioned Estée Lauder Double Wear because it is the holy grail of heavy coverage. When my skin was really bad, I felt more confident covering myself up with a thick layer of this foundation. I used it for a year plus and thought it was amazing but I’ve since realised that the heaviness was only worsening the issue. Heavy foundations will clog up your pores and prolong the inevitable. The best foundation I’ve ever used for my skin is Arbonne Perfecting Liquid Foundation. It is made with really natural ingredients which soothe your skin rather than damage it with nasty chemicals and it still gives a great coverage. Bonus points: it contains an SPF 15 for sun protection and it’s vegan-friendly.

5. Back to basics.

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There is no use in applying a chemical-free foundation if you are damaging your skin with a disagreeable skincare regime or, worse, not using one at all. If your skin is prone to spots it is important to find a cleanser, exfoliator, toner and moisturiser that work for you. Start with your cleanser. Don’t use make-up wipes. I love Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser with their muslin cloth. It’s a cleanser that will remove makeup, clean impurities and act as a gentle exfoliator at the same time. I have never found a better cleanser and have repurchased several tubes. For me, nothing works like it. I’m trialling and enjoying Emma Hardie Amazing Face Lift & Sculpt Moringa Cleansing Balm at the moment so I’ll let you all know how I get on with it. It smells lovely and feels very luxurious so hopefully, it clears up my current breakout. I love Liz Earle for toner and moisturiser too. All their products are very light, enriched with skin-loving nutrients and leave my skin feeling soft, radiant and clean.

6. Be prepared for change.

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When I first went to the doctor about my skin, she explained that a woman’s body goes through a hormonal overhaul every 7 years. Not just puberty. That means every 7 years, your skin can change dramatically. You may have crystal clear skin all through your teens and twenties but could wake up with acne in your thirties. Do not get complacent with your skincare routine! One of my friends had been using the same moisturiser for years when suddenly her skin took an adverse reaction to it and she experienced redness on the sides of her face. She gave it up, swapped it for a different moisturise and the redness quickly disappeared. What I’m saying is: don’t be afraid to change. What was once your knight in shining skincare armour could quickly become your worst enemy. Similarly, the weather has a dramatic impact on your skin.  You might find your skin gets uncomfortably dry in the wintertime so you have to opt for a more moisturising regime. Likewise, the heat of summer might cause you to sweat more and, in turn, cause breakouts so you need to be wary of any oily makeup. I go between Liz Earle‘s moisturisers for Normal/Combination and Combination/Oily skins depending on how my skin is feeling at the time.

7. Don’t be afraid of moisture.

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It’s a common misconception that you want to dry your skin out to combat spots. I never moisturised until I was like 19 because I believed it would make my skin oilier and therefore spottier. I was so frightened of adding any moisture to my face but I later discovered that my skin was severely dehydrated in some areas especially under my eyes. You should moisturise morning and night. Period. Look at your skin: is it oily? is it dry in some patches? is there redness? Like I said, there are moisturisers to suit your skin needs so use them! If, like me, you have combination skin then apply your moisturiser first in dry areas, like your cheeks, and blend out to your oilier areas, like your t-zone. If you’re really fancy you can use different products for different areas but that’s expensive!

Moisture surge products I loveESPA 24-Hour Replenishing Eye Moisturiser and CREME FRAICHE DE BEAUTE masque.

8. Get ready to fight back.

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Have a go-to emergency regime when you have a really bad burst of acne but don’t have a lot of time for slow healing. There are plenty of tips online but I think one of the best things you can use to combat a bad breakout is tea tree. Bodyshop does a great range of tea tree products. I’ve trialled several of them including the foaming cleanser, scrub, toner and night lotion. Do not overdo it with tea tree products because they will really dry out your skin.

My emergency regimen: The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Foaming Cleanser or my ordinary daily cleanser using a slightly abrasive muslin cloth to gently exfoliate my skin. After cleansing, I splash my skin with cold water to close my pores and gently pat it dry. Once my skin is dry I’ll sweep The Body Shop Tea Tree Toner over my face with a clean cotton pad and moisturise as normal. I then apply a small amount of Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream (for nappy rash) with a clean cotton bud on any spot breakouts. The next morning I find the pain, redness and unsightliness have reduced dramatically and I can return to my usual less-intensive routine.

9. Treat yo’ self.

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When your skin is really bringing you down, your self-confidence can plummet so it’s nice to pamper yourself once in a while. Why not book into a spa for a deep cleaning facial? It’s a good way to lift your spirits when your self-esteem is low. It will leave your skin feeling totally refreshed and recharged and you’ll get the chance to talk to a professional about your skin problems. Beauticians often have a lot of skin-loving wisdom to pass on. I’ve received some amazing tips from beauticians over the years and they certainly know a lot more about dermatology than me! If you don’t have the time or money for a spa trip then set aside some cash for a luxury skincare product once in a blue moon.

My Future Splurge Products: Elemis Skin Buff and La Roche-Posay Effaclar 3-Step Anti-Blemish System (I was recommended La Roche-Posay by a beautician and adored their products but have never justified the price again since I ran out)

10. Learn to love your skin as it is.

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This is easier said than done. You can buy all the fancy skincare and beauty products in the world but there is no telling that your skin will ever completely clear up. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to anyone suffering from spot-prone skin is to learn to accept it. Spots may be a physical problem but the emotional turmoil they can cause can be awful, especially in your teenage years when you are so preoccupied with your looks. My self-esteem has been greatly affected by my bad skin over the year. I was always envious of my friends with perfect skin and perpetually worried about the redness and bumps all over my face. By no means am I saying that I like having spotty skin now. There are days when it drags me down but more and more I have come to accept it and not let it bother me as much. Now I can go out without makeup and feel comfortable enough in my own skin because the truth is the stress caused by worrying about spots will only make your spots worse! Remember: there are a lot worse things in the world than spots and while I try to reduce them as much as I can it’s important to remember that your complexion is not a reflection of how much of a funny, intelligent or kind person you are!

So what are you skincare secrets? Do you have any fool-proof ways of clearing spotty skin?

For more beauty and skincare updates, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

5 Tips For A Better Sleep

I love to sleep. Alongside reading, it is my favourite hobby and, as luck would have it, it’s actually really good for you too. Before I give you my super fantastic tips for the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have, take a gander at some of the cool health benefits of catching some proper uninterrupted Zzzzzz.

Health Benefits

[source: health.com]

  • Longer Life-Span – who doesn’t want immortality?
  • Decreased Inflammation Pain– if you suffer from aches and pains in daily life then one thing you could be missing is a proper snooze at night.
  • Get The Creative Juices Flowing – studies have shown that the strengthening of emotional components of a memory during sleep can actually increase creative thought. Perfect for all you bloggers out there with writer’s block.
  • More Stamina – whether it’s on the tennis court, football field, or maybe in the bedroom (hey, I won’t judge) the more sleep you get the less fatigued you will be during the day (duh) so your athletic performance will improve.
  • Become Super Brainy – sleep deprivation = impaired learning. So go to bed early during exam time guys to avoid all that exam time stress.
  • Focus – if you’re finding yourself being inattentive and distracted all the time, you might not be getting enough sleep.
  • Help Weight Loss – apparently, you feel hungrier when you sleep less. The evil hormones that send your appetite through the roof increase as you get sleepier. If that’s not a reason to go to bed right this second then I don’t know what is.
  • Decreased Stress Levels – this is one of the huge benefits I experience from getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep reduces levels of stress and anxiety which in turn decrease your chances of so many other nasty side-effects of stress like heart disease or depression.

My Five Top Tips For Catching Zzz’s

1. Step Away From the Blue Light!

Never heard of the blue light? Well, it is probably the reason you’re struggling to fall asleep at night. If you want the science behind it then read this interesting article from Harvard Health on the dark side of blue light. To summarise, the blue light which is found in all of your electronic devices, like mobile phones and tablets, is like artificial sunlight to your brain. This means that your brain never truly realises it’s nighttime and, therefore, time to go to sleep. It basically attacks your body’s natural biological clock and your sleep will suffer as a result. Since I first discovered more about the dangerous blue light, I’ve tried to cut down my exposure to it about 30 minutes to an hour before I go to bed.

In a world of social media addiction, what can you do? Text your friends or tweet that you are going to bed well before you intend to go to sleep so that nobody bothers you while you unwind. Set your alarm thirty-forty minutes before you go to bed and put your phone out of arm’s reach. No laptops or TV either. Try reading a book (there are plenty of good book reviews on my site if you’re struggling for ideas) or if you’re in a relationship try talking to your partner until you fall asleep.

2. Try a Little Lavender.

Okay, since reading and watching Outlander I am slightly perturbed by the uses of lavender oil but before I knew about the menacing Captain Jack Randall, I was using lavender essential oil to soothe me to sleep. It’s a very simple and natural solution for anyone suffering from mild insomnia. It has calming properties and has been used throughout history for treating anxiety and nervous tension. It’s ideal for those bad days when you’re really worked up and stressed out.

What to do: Sprinkle 1-2 droplets of lavender oil on your pillowcase before you go to sleep at night. Don’t overdo it; you will regret it when your bedroom smells like your granny’s perfume for the next two weeks. Alternatively, put 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your evening bath to relax your muscles and get ready to sleep. Try lavender scented candles too! The Lavender and Chamomile candle from Love Scottish Candles is a great bedtime treat. For more information on the health benefits of lavender, click here.

3. Cut Out the Caffeine.

Up until this year, I took almost no caffeine in my diet other than the trace amounts of caffeine in green tea and even then I wouldn’t drink it before bedtime. I hated coffee and energy drinks so I never had to worry about how this everyday drug could be affecting my sleep. Then I discovered caramel lattes and now I am a self-confessed coffee addict. My body does not react well to caffeine. If I have too much, I get anxious, my heart races and, worst of all, I realised that my sleep was suffering as I was drinking more and more coffee. Studies show that your sleep can be affected by caffeine if you drink it anytime up to eight hours before bedtime!

How to avoid caffeine: Try to stop drinking coffee at lunchtime if you can and switch to decaffeinated for the evening (most cafés offer a caffeine-free option) Drink an alternative hot drink like milky tea, hot chocolate or a malt based drink which are all great for inducing sleep. My secret sleep potion is a cup of chamomile and honey tea. Like lavender, chamomile is a natural relaxant which can soothe aches and pains and promote a good night’s sleep. For more health benefits of chamomile, check this out.

4. Zzz is for Zen.

Some of you may be apprehensive about meditation. There is an abundance of health benefits to meditating and, contrary to mainstream belief, meditating does not need to be a religious experience. Myth busting: you don’t need to be a yoga superstar or a Buddhist to reap the rewards of meditating. Basically, it is just sitting in a quiet and peaceful place and breathing. If I’m really restless or anxious, I find a peaceful moment before I go to bed and listen to the sound of my breathing and float away for a few minutes. Meditation helps to alleviate the stress that has built up on your shoulders throughout the day or week and you can totally unwind.

Meditating for beginners: If you want to create a meditation habit then zenhabits.net have a wonderful guide to practising meditation here. I’ll pick out a few thoughts and I sincerely hope you forget any preconceptions you might have and give it a go. Sit in a quiet place. Breathe deeply. Forget what’s going on around you or what you have on your to-do list and just exist. Count your breaths and scan your body all the way from your toes to your head. What are you feeling? Personally, I like to imagine a little orb of white light which fluctuates with my breathing. It really calms me if I’m struggling to fall asleep.

5. Regular Exercise and Healthy Eating.

I am definitely guilty of not following my own advice here. I’ll give you an example of how your diet and exercise affects your sleeping pattern. Have you ever overindulged on a takeaway? I’m talking large-Domino’s-pizza-to-yourself-food-coma. Visualise that horrible ache in your stomach after you’ve over-eaten and how awful you feel as all the greasy, doughy food lies at the bottom of your gurgling stomach. Think of the wine and chocolate induced heartburn or that kebab-shop nausea. Bad food = feeling bad = bad sleep. It is not rocket science.

What to do instead: Ditch the heavy, fatty and rich foods for fruit, veg and healthy carbohydrates like wholemeal pasta, couscous and rice. Be aware of the food you eat and how it might have an effect on your sleep. Check out this article on the five best foods to eat for a healthy sleep. Aaaaaand, EXERCISE! Go for a long walk at night when the weather’s good or try a new exercise class. Your body will burn up all that excess energy, your muscles will tire out and you will probably fall fast asleep when your head hits the pillow.

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night – William Blake

Give some of these a go and see how you feel tonight. I promise you there is no cure quite like a proper sleep at night.


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