4 compassionate steps to take on the really bad days when your mental health is at its lowest

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For those times, when even the simple things feel impossible, try this

4 compassionate steps to take on the really bad days when your mental health is at its lowest

Good and bad mental health days are something many of us will cycle through at some point in our lives, and, usually, we have strategies in place to keep on going about our daily routines. But, when things get really bad, those usual strategies can feel out of reach, and the thought of doing anything can feel overwhelming.

When that happens, show yourself compassion, and try these four, basic steps for taking care of yourself.

1. Take time off work

In the UK, there is no legal difference between taking a sick day for a mental health problem, and taking a day off for a physical problem – and the process of arranging a mental health day is just the same; you simply need to follow your workplace’s usual sick day policy.

Legally, you don’t have to tell your workplace why you’re off sick, and a doctor’s note will usually not include any sensitive information. However, if you are comfortable speaking to your manager or HR about what you’re going through, it may help them understand how they can better support you on your return to work.

2. Basic hygiene

Letting personal hygiene fall by the wayside is a very common side-effect of mental illnesses like depression, PTSD, and sensory processing disorders. Even among those without a specific condition, habits and routines that might normally be second nature can slip down the priority list.

Of course, feeling better is never as simple as just taking a shower and washing it all away – but taking care of yourself on the outside can make a difference to how you’re feeling on the inside. Think about all the things you would usually do when you’re feeling better (i.e. taking a shower, putting on deodorant, washing your face, brushing your teeth). If that feels overwhelming, or if the thought of having to do all of it puts you off altogether, try to just do one thing, and see how you go from there.

3. Stay hydrated

When we’re dehydrated, our bodies start to shut down – and when you consider how mental health problems are caused by brain activity, and dehydration causes our brain functions to slow down, it’s easy to see how the two are linked.

The best way to get into habits is to remove all barriers to achieving them, so try to make sure that you have a bottle of water near you that you can take sips from throughout the day. Alternatively, suck on ice cubes, have some fruit juice or herbal or green tea, or set regular reminders on your phone to pour yourself a glass of water if you’re prone to forgetting.

4. Get some fresh air

Fresh air and exercise’ is a common recommendation for good physical health, and mental health is just the same. Numerous studies have linked spending time in nature to an improvement in wellbeing, and breathing in oxygen-rich air is invariably going to support our brain function.

Of course, on the really bad days, when energy is a finite resource, setting off on a 5K hike probably isn’t realistic. But if you can get outside, give it a go. If not, airing out your home by opening some windo

Asian Steak Marinade

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Asian Steak Marinade

We love our steak fajitas marinade recipe but I couldn’t stop thinking about putting an Asian twist on it, and thus, our Asian steak marinade was born!

We have a little secret with the steak too, so keep reading to get all the dets.

a photo of thin slices of asian marinated flank steaks stopped with chopped scallions with a side of cucumber salad.


The Secret is in the Steak

I couldn’t find plain skirt or flank steak at the store, so I bought carne asada instead. Just the store brand raw meat but it was already flavored. Worked amazing!!! So if you’re short on time, definitely go with this option. If you want to go totally homemade, I’ll include our own spice rub recipe in the recipe card below. You’ll apply the rub before putting the steak in the marinade.

Ingredients for Asian Steak Marinade

This dry rub and marinade is so easy! All you do is combine everything together and rub it on the steak and then pour the marinade on the steak in a plastic bag.

  • Skirt or Flank Steak – either one will work, and look for a pre-seasoned one for extra easy cooking

For the Rub

For the Marinade

  • Rice Vinegar – adds acidity
  • Pineapple Juice – adds a little sweetness and tang
  • Soy Sauce – low sodium, great for tenderizing the meat because it breaks down the tough proteins
  • Garlic – freshly minced
  • Ginger – adds that signature Asian flavor
  • Light Brown Sugar – adds sweetness and richness
  • Red Chili Flakes – adds a little heat, feel free to add more if you like it spicy
  • Scallions – for garnish

The full recipe with the measurements and complete instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Journaling: learn how to embrace the joy of text and harness its powerful benefits

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They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and for good reason. Seeing our innermost thoughts and feelings on the page can be a hugely beneficial thing, allowing us to express ourselves in a safe space, and process our experiences. Here, psychotherapist Bhavna explores the powerful practice of journaling, and how you can harness it, too

Journaling: learn how to embrace the joy of text and harness its powerful benefits

While it’s not a recent phenomenon, journaling has become a fast-growing staple of those curious to explore their inner lives. As a psychotherapist, one of the most powerful techniques I offer clients is an invitation to journal. Many people can be apprehensive of writing at first – some may have had traumatic experiences connected with writing, for example people with dyslexia, or those from an older generation who were severely punished for being left-handed.

Apprehension is absolutely understandable, however, the incredible power of using the written word to travel into the inner sanctum of your being is worth it. And, if it doesn’t work for you, you have lost nothing. But, if it does work, you have access to one of the most powerful self-help techniques created, for free! Writing as a form of therapy has transformed the lives of many hundreds of my clients, and myself.

A page is like a wise and non-judgemental companion, a witness to your most scared and private thoughts. Let’s look at why the act of writing (with a real pen or pencil, not a keyboard) can produce what feel like miraculous results.

Our memories are stored in our brain and body as chemical signatures. As you write, an incredible chemical reaction takes place in your brain. Those memories, made up of thoughts and feelings, are transformed in real time into words. Words that express, process, and translate what you are feeling and thinking. Sentences that describe, explore, challenge, accept, wonder, and question what is going on in your head. Words connect us to our soul, enabling us to communicate our joy, sadness, disappointments, triumphs, needs, dreams, and desires. Everything is made up of words!

Now, imagine taking control of this powerful organ, the brain, and beginning to understand how it works in your life. Learning its secrets through the written word, and seeing it come alive on the page before you; that is the magic of journaling.

Journaling: learn how to embrace the joy of text and harness its powerful benefits

My clients are offered many different forms of writing as part of our work. Writing for a few minutes daily allows us to connect with ourselves. Write whatever is coming to your mind: are you worried, angry, sad, happy, or excited? Write it down. As you do this, you will begin to see patterns emerge in relation to your thinking style. Are you generally positive, glass half full? You can then take the patterns – for example feeling anxious – and write about that, asking yourself questions such as: Why do I feel anxious? Where does it come from? When did it start? Why is it present in my life? Is it your ‘stuff’? If not, whose is it, and what keeps it there

Scientists discover a new way to treat chronic pain

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In what could be a breakthrough moment for those living with chronic pain, reachers from the University of Oxford have a new understanding of the mechanisms that cause chronic pain

Scientists discover a new way to treat chronic pain

In a study published in BMJ Journals, estimated that chronic pain affects between one-third and a half of the UK population, approximately just under 28 million adults – and that figure is likely to rise in line with the ageing population.

But now, a new study from the University of Oxford has made a discovery that could lead to the development of new treatments for chronic pain.

The researchers started from the understanding that repeated stimulation – for example, a sharp pin prick – can lead to a heightened sensitivity to pain. This is a process called ‘pain wind-up’, and it contributes to clinical pain disorders.

From here, the researchers compared genetic variation in samples from more than 1,000 participants in Colombia, and used these to see whether there were any genetic variants more common in people who experienced greater ‘pain wind-up’. What they found was a significant difference in the variants of one specific gene, NCX3.

The next phase was a series of experiments in mice, which sought to understand how this gene regulates ‘pain wind-up’, and whether it could be a treatment target.

“This is the first time that we have been able to study pain in humans and then to directly demonstrate the mechanism behind it in mice, which provides us with a really broad understanding of the factors involved and how we can begin developing new treatments for it,” says Professor Bennett, professor of neurology and neurobiology of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

“Chronic pain is a global problem, and can be immensely debilitating. We carried out the study in Colombia because of the mixed ancestry of the population there, including Native Indian, African and European populations, which gave us a broad range of genetic diversity to look at. This makes these findings so exciting because of their potential international applications.

“The findings imply that any drugs which can increase activity of NCX3 would be predicted to reduce pain sensitisation in humans.’

Of course, chronic pain affects more than just our physical health, and a study published in the Symposium on Pain Medicine uncovered a bidirectional relationship between chronic pain and mental health disorders. Chronic pain can trigger anxiety, depression, and stress. Furthermore, many can feel isolated by their pain, either because they are not able to be as active as they once were, or because of the social barriers that prevent others from empathising with their experiences.

While pain medication and holistic care currently go some way to support those with chronic pain, this discovery will bring hope to many looking for more answers.

Need support? Connect with a professional using counselling-directory.org.uk

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Strawberry and Blueberry Pretzel Salad

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Crunchy pretzels and a creamy filling are topped with piles of strawberries and blueberries making this Strawberry and Blueberry Pretzel Salad our favorite dessert for summer!

{No-Bake} Berry Pretzel Dessert! get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

Several years ago, my aunt introduced me to the ever-popular Strawberry Pretzel Salad. I’d never even heard of it before and I fell in love with it from the very first bite.

I think I may have eaten 3 servings that day, including choosing it over pie for dessert!

Strawberry Pretzel “Salad” isn’t a salad at all. It’s a layered dessert that starts with a pretzel crust, then a sweet cream cheese and cool whip layer, and it’s topped with a strawberry jello layer.

Strawberry and Blueberry Pretzel Salad

Aunt Judy’s Strawberry Pretzel Salad is absolutely delicious and no one can ever resist a slice of it. This Berry Pretzel Dessert is my twist on that recipe.

Made without cool whip or jello, this dessert is a much less sweet, but still completely irresistible cousin to the original.

It starts with a pretzel crust that is layered with a lightly sweetened creamy filling. Topped with an abundance of fresh berries, I found myself going back for sliver after sliver all night long.

Crunchy pretzels and a creamy filling are topped with piles of strawberries and blueberries making this Berry Pretzel Dessert a favorite dessert for summer! get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

No Bake Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Kitchen Tip: I use this spatula and this dish to make this recipe.

  1. Finely crush the pretzels in a food processor, blender, or with a rolling pin in a heavy zip-close bag. Place the crumbs in a medium-size mixing bowl.
  2. Add the melted butter and brown sugar and stir to combine. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar. Beat until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt.
  4. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Pour over the crust and smooth with a spatula.
  5. Top generously with berries. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. 

I loved the crumbling crust with bits of crunchy pretzels throughout, but if you prefer a more traditional crumb crust (that will also be more easily sliced) be sure to grind every bit of the pretzels into fine crumbs.

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