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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Pasta Evangelists

My favourite food is PASTA. As a vegetarian, I’ve found Italian food one of the most versatile. So when my friend recommended Pasta Evangelists – the fresh pasta subscription service – I had to try it. Here’s my review and if you want to try some yourself then follow this link to get your first order for as little as £3.

Unlike many food subscriptions, Pasta Evangelists food doesn’t feel like your average ready meal. This pasta is fresh, handmade and it tastes amazing. The options are always diverse and the veggie menus on offer have been really exciting. So far I’ve had mozzarella tortellini, arrabbiata fusilli, pesto gnocchi, pumpkin ravioli, mac and cheese… and I’ve got Porcini, Wild Mushroom & Chestnut Tortelloni with Thyme Butter & Hazelnuts, Tagliatelle with Ligurian Basil Pesto & Pine Nuts  and Pumpkin Lasagna on the way. I can’t wait to try them!

The ordering process is very simple. Choose a one off order or opt for a subscription to save money. There are three subscription offers: Vegetarian, Variety and Gourmet. Then pick:

  • the number of dishes you want to receive
  • the frequency (weekly, fortnightly etc)
  • when you want your pasta delivered (I go for Tuesdays so I have the delivery at the start of the week)

I like the subscription model because I can be a bit lazy cooking through the week and it’s handy to know I’m always going to have some yummy pasta stocked in the fridge for nights when I’m feeling a bit tired or uninspired.

As for delivery, the fresh pasta comes packed with cool bags and insulation.  I was really impressed with the thoughtfulness of their packaging and the best part is that you can send it all back to Pasta Evangelists for recycling so it ticks the sustainable box too.

And when the food arrives, everything is super simple. Each pasta dish comes with its own recipe card and the different elements are colour-coded so it can be easily sorted out. Typically, there are only about three or four steps to follow and they take about 10 minutes to make and the finished product is Insta-worthy.

I’ll be honest. The big downside of Pasta Evangelists is that it is a little on the expensive side. It’ll cost you about £7 or £8 per portion of pasta although you do save on the subscriptions. Having said that, I do think it’s worth it because it is restaurant-quality and the average ready meal in the supermarket costs about £3 anyway and tastes no where near as good.

And if you want to save some money you can get your first box from as little as £3 with my family and friends referral or simply quote ‘April Smyth’ at the checkout. You get cheap and delicious pasta and I’ll get a free box too. Win, win!

P.S. I’m not affiliated with Pasta Evangelists and this isn’t a sponsored post, I just really love and believe in their products.

Keep up-to-date with my favourite things on Instagram @the.fourth.month.

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

Friction Free Shaving razor subscription

I’ve been meaning to blog about Friction Free Shaving’s razor subscription for a while because I think more people need to know about it. This post is in no way endorsed or sponsored by FFS; I just love their products!

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Friction Free Shaving (FFS) is a genius service that you need in your life.* This is a life-saver if, like me, you’re a bit low-maintenance or forgetful. Using old blades is so bad for your skin; is unhygienic; and prevents you from getting a really close shave. With monthly or bimonthly deliveries, I never have to remember to pick up fresh blades at the supermarket and my legs can be silky smooth at all times. Plus it’s really good value for money (you can get 25% off your first order here).

*if you choose to shave! The choice is totally up to you, of course, and you should never feel obligated to remove any of your body hair. If you rock natural hair, good, If you don’t, good. Your body = your choice. 

When you first order from FFS, you get to choose from three razors ranging from £5 to £9 (Rose, Silvia and Frankie). You can even get your razor engraved for ultimate personalisation and pick some add-ons like pre-, post- and during shaving creams and balms. The more luxurious options include a stunning rose-gold metal razor with 6 blades and the world’s first chrome razor designed especially for women. I went for the basic Frankie razor with 3 ceramic coated blades and a lubricating vitamin E strip for extra moisture. It feels heavy and sturdy and the blade has 90-degree movement, which is great for around the ankles and knees.

Once I received my first order (the razor and a set of 4 refills), I could choose to have my refills delivered straight to my doorstep at a frequency that suits me (every month or every second month). I get the Frankie blades delivered every two months, which suits me perfectly, as I can change my blade every two weeks. But if you would like to change them weekly, you could go for the monthly delivery.

I’d also like to point out that the customer service at FFS is amazing. I have to admit that I considered cancelling my subscription during winter because, let’s face it, your shaving frequency is significantly less than during the summer months. However, instead of cancellation, the lovely Amber at Friction Free Shaving offered to put me on their ‘winter setting’ which allowed me to either swap my next set of blades for one of their tubed products or postpone my subscription to give me time to use up the blades that I currently have. I thought this was a great personal touch because I didn’t want to cancel forever but I didn’t want to waste my cash on surplus refills. 

So if like me, you are always looking for ways to maximise productivity in your day-to-day life, subscribe to FFS and you’ll never have to remember to buy fresh razor blades again and you can feel safe in the knowledge that you’re getting a super hygienic, smooth shave every time.

Click here to get 25% off your first order

How to be a Badass and Win at Life

I’m really excited to welcome another guest blogger to The Fourth Month. Karishma has written an insightful how-to guide to boosting your self-confidence with inspiration from scholars to Queen Bey. Follow these top tips if you’re needing a boost during the dark wintery nights and the assessment period at University.

There is a TONNE of material out there that highlights the importance of self-confidence in helping you achieve your dreams and I have read, watched and listened to most of them…Yep, I was once plagued with a lack of self-love, fear of failure, inability to speak to more than one person at a time and general anxiety where my brain repelled every positive thought like it was poison.

OMG, he stared at me for a whole two seconds. Is something wrong with me? This will haunt me for three years!

I think I want to change my style up a bit and try out some new clothes. But wait, I don’t want people to think I’m trying to be cool… 

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Sound familiar? Even if these aren’t your particular fears, you can probably relate to the feeling of being so unsure of yourself that you’re terrified to even try. Take a minute and think about how CONFIDENT you are in yourself? Now rate yourself between one (lowest) and ten (highest). Before you do this, you might ask:  what is confidence anyway? Why is it so important? Does being confident result in success? If so, can I become more confident and how?

Time for a little psychology lesson. There are a wealth of different theories out there but we’re going to use Albert Bandura’s (1977) definition of the term “self-efficacy” which despite the distinction he made can be interchangeable with the term “self-confidence” and describes “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” Let me put it this way, if you had an opportunity to perform with your favourite artist on stage, would you take it because you believe that you can handle it? Or would you refuse because you’re too scared that you might end up making a fool of yourself? If your confidence rating is under five, then it’s safe to say you would probably pass up this awesome opportunity. But fret not if you have a low rating because you can improve all the way up to a ten!

One of the mistakes I made during my journey to a more confident individual was confusing self-esteem with self-confidence. A lot of sources tend to use these terms interchangeably but self-esteem reflects your personal worth – it is a judgment and attitude toward oneself. How inherently valuable do you think you are? Do you think you deserve happiness? Do you think you deserve forgiveness? Do you like yourself? Self-confidence, on the other hand, is based on ACTION and related to external accomplishments. You can have a low sense of self-esteem but be highly confident or vice-versa.

For example, if you’ve always been a popular individual – straight A student, smokin’ hot and told by everyone that you could definitely be the next Taylor Swift – then this could result in self-belief fueled by approval which you tragically become addicted to. Now, you may have achieved self-confidence but because you seek external validation you have low self-esteem.

On the other hand, you can read all the fluffy Tumblr quotes about loving yourself as you are and make Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” your anthem song but it won’t help much with self-confidence unless you strive to actually achieve something concrete. Ideally, you need both self-confidence and self-esteem to be high so you can live the best quality of life possible. But, self-esteem is a deep and complex topic that I shall leave for another day.

So why should you bother with the effort to become more confident? Because confident people are attractive, interesting, more likely to be successful and generally more fulfilled individuals! Self-confidence is POWERFUL and leads to EXTRAORDINARY living.

It doesn’t have to be a temporary feeling provided by alcohol or other substances. It can be grounded in reality. It is a skill for you to achieve.

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Below, are the eight practical steps you can try (short and long term) that work for me in building and boosting self-confidence.

  1. LIVE FOR YOUR EULOGY, NOT YOUR RESUME

    Figure out who you are and then set goals that align with your strengths, personality, and interests. WRITE them down and stick it in a place where it is the first thing you see every morning and work on it every day or as often as possible.

  1. LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD

    This is a bit of outside-inside thinking. I feel better about myself when I eat well and workout. People who put effort into their physical appearance seem like they’re well prepared and ready to conquer the day! Looking confident on the outside makes you feel more confident on the inside.

  1. THE WONDER WO(MAN) PLUS THE MIRROR TECHNIQUE

    I encourage you all to go and watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on “Fake it Till You Make it” – it will change your life. She is a social psychologist who talks about how “power posing” – standing in certain postures regardless of how you feel before it can increase testosterone levels, making you more confident and even affecting your chances of success. Every morning, adopt the wonder wo(man) power pose: stand with feet apart, hands on your hips, and chin tilted upward, look deeply into your own beautiful eyes and say positive things to yourself for few minutes. Be it empowering lyrics, feminist slogans, or just plain old self-affirmation that “I can do this”.

  1. TO FAKE IT OR NOT TO FAKE IT?

    It depends on the situation. As a nurse or a doctor working in an emergency setting, faking confidence in your job will probably result in a patient’s death. It’s obviously better in certain situations to realise your limitations and ask for help. But, say you’re a teacher who needs to give a presentation on a subject you’re knowledgeable about but lack confidence in public speaking, then go ahead and pretend you’re Martin Luther King Jr. all you want.

  1. ADOPT A GROWTH MINDSET

    Your mindset determines your belief about your own abilities. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, identifies that people can have either a “fixed mindset” – belief that one’s ability is stagnant and cannot improve, or a “growth mindset”- belief that ability of any kind is not fixed but rather subject to change and growth. You can become your ideal self: smarter, faster, or even to be able to play the recorder with your nose. What type of mindset do you have?

  1. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

    Confidence, I’ve learned, is a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. You need to cross that bridge of discomfort because the only way out is through. Repeat as often as you can whatever it is that you’re scared of attempting – be it dating, swimming, or talking to strangers – until you’re comfortable with it. In the famous words of Beyonce:

I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it.

  1. COMFORT ZONE CHALLENGES

    Your psychological response to a situation also affects your confidence. Despite mastering the necessary skill – say now you can play the recorder with your nose and want to do a little street performance- you find that you become increasingly nervous or are constantly worrying about what other people think. Comfort zone challenges are one way to minimise fear and maximise courage. It is a contemporary form of exposure therapy and is also where the popular “Lay down on the street for 30 seconds” challenge originates from.

  1. CUT OFF NEGATIVE PEOPLE

    According to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, you are the average of the five people you most spend time with. Do you respect the friends you surround yourself with? Do they inspire you? Even if they don’t necessarily bring you down, if they don’t contribute to your growth as an individual, let them go. Instead, develop a community of like-minded people – ones that encourage you by example to aim high.


What do you guys think? What kind of fears are holding you back and what will you do about it? Do you have any suggestions to add? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s discuss! Tweet Karishma @karishma_roy and follow her blog This Curious Girl.

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.