23 Easy Ways to Better Yourself

Feel like you’re in a rut?

Feel lost and don’t know what to do with yourself?

Time for some self-reflection.

Here’s a list of 23 things I am trying to do in order to improve myself as a person. I’m happy to say that I’m not on top of most of these although there is still some way to go before I complete the whole list. Hopefully it will inspire you to write your own list 🙂

  1. Develop a regular sleep routine – this significantly improves the quality of your sleep and can help you overcome insomnia. I now sleep between 1030 and 0630 every day and feel much better for it. See Tackling Insomnia: The Importance of Creating a Bedtime Routine.
  2. Start rising earlier – I’ve taken to getting up at 0630 which gives me time to get ready calmly before leaving for work. I also get up at 0615 some days to do a short run before work.
  3. Set a daily to-do list – I try and write a to-do list as soon as I get into work, before I start my clinic. This includes things I need to do at work, in order of importance, and then things I need to do at home. I need to work at actually ticking everything off by the end of the day, still not managing that all the time.
  4. Take up a regular reading habit – managing 15-20 minutes of reading before bed each night which I never did before. This is great as I’m getting through books quite quickly and getting better sleep because of it. I’m also attending a monthly book club.
  5. Declutter your email inbox – I haven’t got around to this yet. My inbox is screaming at me to sort it out. There’s literally thousands of messages in there that need either deleting or filing.
  6. Start a cash-flow spreadsheet – I really need to keep track of my spending in order to save for a house deposit. I have no idea where my money goes and I really need to keep and eye on it.
  7. Contact your family at least once a week – I’m pretty good at this one although my sister has been living in away from home for some time and I realise that I’m pretty bad at updating her on what’s going on in my life.
  8. Take up regular exercise – On Sunday I have a 10km run which I’ve managed to train for pretty regularly. I’m planning to keep the running up after the event too. See my guide to creating a running habit.
  9. Achieve 10,000 steps a day – working on this one as it’s a bit hit and miss. I’ve purchased a Fitbit to keep track of my steps. I’m also going for a walk in my lunch break at work.
  10. Limit your internet consumption – I really need to sort this out. I spend so much time online. Whether it’s watching catch-up TV, emails, blogging or social media, I end up spending most of the day on my phone and on the computer.
  11. Take up yoga – I know how to do it and I’m pretty able, I just never make the time for it. If you’re interested in getting started then here’s my guide to starting your yoga journey.
  12. Cook a meal from scratch on a regular basis – I’m still living at home and get back from work at 7pm. My parents have usually cooked the dinner by this time. I really need to be cooking for them at least one night a week.
  13. Go a month without alcohol – I don’t drink all that much but I do probably drink more than I should. It’ll help me lose weight and improve my running if I can keep it to the minimum. I need to give my liver a rest.
  14. Drink 2 litres of water a day – I’m currently in the process of doing a 30-day water challenge. Will post on this next month!
  15. Reduce your television/Netflix watching – I’ve managed to limit y TV consumption to about 5 x 1 hour shows a week, which fortunately are not on at the same time of the year. I think I average about an hour a day of television at the moment. I find I have so much more time for the other things in life now.
  16. Start writing – I’ve always loved writing. I’m so proud of this blog as I feel it’s helped me greatly. I hope t’s also helped other people. I’m now also writing a local events blog for my home city, Bristol. See www.welovebristol.net
  17. Have one vegetarian day a week – both my mum and my sister are vegetarian so there’s plenty of opportunity for veggie meals at home. It’s healthier and cheaper than eating meat. Plus, go veggie one day a week helps the environment.
  18. Teaching someone something – I’m currently holding a series of medical teaching sessions for local groups of first aiders. They are very enthusiastic as they have chosen to be present rather than being forced like at school!
  19. Clear out your wardrobe – I managed to get rid of a whole bin bag full of clothes and shoes and sent them to the local charity shop. There’s still so much clutter in my room though, will need to make time for round two soon.
  20. Narrow down your circle of friends – I’ve always been one to have a close group of friends rather than a large group of acquaintances. I find I prefer to live my life this way. I have multiple people I could go to in a crisis. Plus I have very few friends I would feel awkward spending time alone with.
  21. Volunteer – I would like to volunteer on a regular basis but I am struggling to find the time. I know this is something I should make time for. As above I’m doing some ad-hoc teaching sessions with the local first aid groups.
  22. Eat your greens –I’ve started taking salad to work every day which is a great improvement on all the bread I was consuming through sandwiches. I’m pretty good with fruits too, just need to sort out the vegetable aspect of my diet.
  23. Meditate regularly – when I was unwell I was meditating 5/6 times a week. Now I’m well and busier, I’m struggling to manage it twice a week. I want to get to a point where I’m meditating for 15 minutes three times a week. As mentioned in my previous posts, using the Calm App has helped me tremendously.

So these are my current goals, think it’s going pretty well at the moment!

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4 Key Concepts for Improving Your Sleep

Taken From Pick The Braim
Taken From Pick The Brain

Well, I am very excited to have had my first guest post accepted! I’ve written an article on the Pick The Brain self improvement website and it is currently one of their ‘featured’ articles and can also be found in the ‘health’ section. The title is ‘The 4 Key Concepts for Improving Your Sleep’. You can take a look using the link below:


6 On-The-Go Slimming World Lunches

Working full time can make sticking to a set diet rather difficult. As flexible as the Slimming World plan is, it can be as real effort to keep on track during the working week, especially if you have to grab lunch on the go. The temptation to stock up on high-carb, calorie-dense foods is difficult to resist and often there are no healthy options available as an alternative.

Setting aside some time on a Sunday evening to plan your week-day lunches can prove invaluable. If you can organise yourself to create healthy lunches in advance, then you’ll watch the pounds drop off in no time. Here is a list of healthy low-syn lunches that you can take to work with you every day:

  • Felipe Escobar/Flikr
    Felipe Escobar/Flikr

    Sushi – gaining in popularity, sushi is a fun and healthy way to eat lunch on the go. All of the well-known supermarket chains offer pre-made sushi packs which are available in their lunch section at the front of the store. There packs available for vegetarians as well as for meat-eaters who are not fond of fish; that way everyone can still enjoy their sushi experience. A sushi lunch will set you back between £1 and £5 depending on the size of the pack and the store you choose to shop in.

  • Salad – clearly the healthiest option on the list, but only if you do it right. Avoid high fat additives like cheese and be careful with the dressings that you choose to put on top. Salad can get boring very quickly so remember to mix it up. Add in things like pickled beetroot, mini gherkins, chicken pieces, tinned potatoes, grapes…the list is endless. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • Homemade Pasta Salad – as we all know you can eat as much pasta as you like on Slimming World. Be careful buying pre-made pasta salads from shops as you never really know what’s in them unless you  really scrutenize the packaging; beware of hidden syns! If you have leftovers from the night before then great, use them as your packed lunch. Alternatively you can cook up a batch of penne pasta, mix it with natural yoghurt, peppers, ham and maybe a bit of grated cheese and there you have lunches sorted for the week, easy!
  • Slimming World Quiche – this is very tasty and filling! Slice up tinned potatoes and line the bottom of casserole dish. Pre-cook some sliced mushrooms and bacon bits (minus the fat) and layer these over the top. Mix half a tub of quark in with 4 eggs. Pour this mixture over the mushrooms, bacon and potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes in the oven. This should be enough to last you for lunches all week!
  • 7727090884_ce52a21b22_m

    Homemade hummus and crudités – whizz up some chick peas in the food processor to make you own syn-free hummus. You can add in flavours such as garlic and tomato to make it a bit more interesting. Chop up some carrots, cucumber and bell peppers into slices and enjoy with your homemade hummus.

  • Mug Shots – if you are really struggling for time then a Mug Shot is a good option. These come in a variety of flavours and contain either noodles or pasta. Add in boiled water leave for a few minutes, but remember that only the 1% fat flavours are syn free.

This pretty much sums up my packed lunch experience at the moment. I find that I don’t get bored and because I am not eating sanwiches all of the time! Plus the lack of bread in my lunch means that I still have my healthy B option available to use either for breakfast or for a treat later in the day.

Also, if you are struggling for breakfast ideas then here are 9 Slimming World-Friendly Breakfasts You Can Make in 10 Minutes.

More ideas for Slimming World lunches? Post me a comment below.

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5 Easy Mindful Activities You Can Try at Home

Credit to the University of Rochester for this photograph
Credit to the University of Rochester for this photograph

When I suggest mindfulness and meditation to patients in my clinic, for the most part I see their eyes glaze over. I know that anything I say after this point is futile as I’ve already lost them; which is a real shame as meditation has the potential for much greater healing than any of the medications that I can prescribe them. What people want is a quick fix for their problems, and what most people do not realise is that just a few days of meditative practice, you can feel a whole lot better in yourself. Medications on the other hand can take weeks or even months to kick in, and often come with a long list of side effects.

Who will benefit from mindfulness?

Well the simple answer to this is anyone and everyone, but there are certain groups of people that will find that it helps for health reasons; these are people suffering with mental health issues such as anxiety and panic attacks, depression and sleep disorders. Meditation has also been shown to help lower blood pressure.

Otherwise meditation is great for the simple reasons that it allows you to get some alone time to focus on yourself and learn more about who you are as a person. You begin to see much more clearly, snap yourself out of autopilot and that way you can get much more out of your day-to-day life.

How do I get started?

It can be difficult to know where to begin with mindfulness practice and so I found that having someone talk me through what I was doing really helped, these are known as guided meditations. There are hundreds of different guided meditations available on YouTube, some lasting 10 minutes and some are much longer. That is a good place to start, especially if you do not want to pay to attend a class.

calm-app1Personally I have found that using a meditation app has been incredibly helpful. I love the ‘Calm’ app which I actually stumbled upon on Facebook. Click here for my review of the Calm app. There are several other meditation apps available, most notable is Headspace which also has both free and subscription sessions on it.

Now if you don’t want to sit there are meditate in the traditional way then there are many other ways of achieving the same effect. The objective in meditation is to become ‘mindful’ which is essentially to become aware of your thought process and bring your mind back to the present moment whenever you notice that these thoughts appearing. Only then can you learn to fully appreciate the here and now.

So, what mindful activities can you do today? Here’s a short list of things that you can try at home to get you started…

  1. Read a book – when engrossed in a good novel you have to stay focussed on what you are reading otherwise you will lose the plot of the story. When your mind wonders, you notice and you go back and re-read anything that you might have glossed over whilst you lost concentration. This is a particularly good activity just before bed so try to include it as part of your bedtime routine.
  2. Knitting – when you start out with knitting the concentration it takes to ensure that you start and finish a row with the same number of stitches is truly immense. You have no choice but to concentrate otherwise you’ll end up re-doing a lot of your work. At the end, you’ll have a nice scarf (or other woolly item) to show for it.
  3. Play a musical instrument – listening to music is a calming activity (sometimes thing depends on the music!) but playing an instrument you are familiar with can be a great mindful activity. Now, I’m not suggesting you go and learn an instrument, as this learning process can be ever so stressful, but if you have access to an instrument you are already able to play then give it a go.
  4. Colouring – adult colouring books are all over the place now. The process of colouring in intricate designs without going over the lines takes a lot of concentration. Sitting there with a colouring book and crayons also allows you to revert back to a childlike state providing instant relaxation.
  5. Yoga – this exercise combines stretching and breathing using a series of poses known as ‘asanas’, the process of moving into the poses and then perfecting your breathing as you hold the pose leaves little room for your mind to wonder. If you are interested in starting out in yoga then click here for my beginner’s guide.

Well there are five good ideas for you to try out. It’s a non-exhaustive list but gives you somewhere to start. Try and make time for a mindful activity every day, even if it is just 15 minutes of reading before bed. You’ll notice the benefits in no time.

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6 Brave Scientists Who Experimented on Themselves (Or their Families)

17077174669_357961e65b_mFrom injecting cocaine into their own backs to infecting themselves with parasites, these brave souls have risked their own health (or sometimes the health of their own families) in the name of science…

1 – Chloroform – James Young Simpson

Sir James Young Simpson (1811-1870) was a Scottish obstetrician who rose to fame due to his discovery of chloroform, an anaesthetic agent.

Previously nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, and ether had been used to provide pain relief during childbirth but this new substance had a greater pain-relieving effect than either of them.

Simpson asked around his chemist friends for new substances that they thought might induce anaesthesia and tested them in the best way he knew how. Along with two of his colleagues Simpson, indulged in anaesthesia parties, sampling the substances in various doses and noting their effects. In 1847 they decided to try out chloroform, which after initially making them feel in good spirits, caused them to collapse, regaining consciousness again the next morning.

Simpson met with harsh criticism following his new discovery, many saying that the use of anaesthesia was unnatural and that God had meant for childbirth to be painful. His cause was helped by none other than Queen Victoria herself who used the substance during the birth of her eighth child, Prince Leopold. Suddenly it became fashionable not to be in agony whilst giving birth, surprise!

In 1850 Simpson was elected as head of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh. He died in his home aged fifty-eight in 1870 and as proof of his respect and popularity his funeral was attended by 100,000 members of the public, with 1700 of his medical colleagues taking part in the procession.

2 -  Smallpox Vaccine – Benjamin Jesty

Benjamin Jesty (1736 -1816) was a farmer living in Yetminster, a town in Dorset. He is notable for his experiment in 1774, using cowpox to immunise his family against smallpox.

The medical doctor Edward Jenner is credited with the discovery of the smallpox vaccine, following the publication of his work in 1794. Jesty however, immunised his family against the disease some twenty years earlier, only he did not publish his findings.

There were frequent smallpox epidemics in England in the eighteenth century and it was well known that milkmaids who had suffered from cowpox, a relatively minor ailment, did not then go on to develop smallpox.

Jesty had suffered from cowpox in the past and when and epidemic of smallpox came to Yetminster, he decided to try and immunise his wife and two eldest sons, by infecting them with cowpox. He took them to a local cow farm known to have the disease, scratched their arms with a needle and then transferred some of the pus over from the cow’s infected wound (lovely, I know).

Despite becoming mildly unwell with the cowpox disease, they made a full recovery quickly. Jesty’s experiment did not go down well with the locals however as predicted, none of his family went on to contract smallpox.

3 – Schistosomiasis – Claude Herman Barlow

Schistosomiasis is an ancient disease resulting from infection with a parasite called S. haematobium. It is endemic to Egypt and destroys the kidneys and bladder, causing blood to be present in the urine. Shistosomes have been found to be present in mummies dating back to as early as 1250 B.C. During the Egyptian campaigns of the Napoleonic wars troops suffered terribly from the disease.

Following the First and Second World Wars there were worries that American soldiers might bring the disease home with them, causing infection across the United States. Attempts to transport samples of the parasite for study in America failed so in American physician and parasitologist Claude Barlow (1876 -1969) deliberately infected himself with schistosomiasis and then observed the development of shistosome ova in his own semen. This meant that viable eggs could be brought across the world for further study in Johns Hopkins University.

4 – Spinal Anaesthesia – August Bier

August Karl Gustav Bier (1861 – 1949) was a German surgeon and the first to perform spinal anaesthesia.

In August 1898 Bier performed his first operation using ‘cocainisation’ of the spinal cord, meaning that he injected cocaine into the spinal fluid. He then performed the procedure on five more subjects before trying the procedure on himself.

August Hildebrandt performed the procedure on Bier, but unfortunately placed the needle incorrectly, causing spinal fluid to leak out as a result the procedure failed. Later that same evening Bier performed the procedure on Hildebrandt. Following injection of cocaine into the spinal fluid, he found himself temporarily unable to move or feel anything from his waist down. Both then experienced post-spinal headaches, with Bier’s lasting nine days, likely due to the incorrect placement of the needle.

Professor Bier eventually became Chief of Surgery in Berlin and pioneered intravenous regional anaesthesia, known as the Bier block.

5 РX-rays РWilhelm R̦ntgen

Wilhelm Conrad R̦ntgen (1845 Р1923) was a German physicist who produced the first X-rays on the 8th of November 1895. This earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.

On the 8th of November he was experimenting with cathode rays. He accidentally put a piece of cardboard covered with fluorescent mineral near the rays and noticed that it began glowing in the dark. The 8th being a Friday, he then spent the weekend experimenting at home, sitting in a darkened room, passing rays between the discharge tubing and a photographic plate, placing objects of different thicknesses between the two.

Anna Bertha's Hand X-ray - you can clearly see her wedding ring
Anna Bertha’s Hand X-ray – you can clearly see her wedding ring

The very first X-ray he took was of his wife Anna Betha’s hand. In this X-ray you can see clearly that she is wearing her wedding ring.

Röntgen died in 1923 from cancer of the intestines.

He even has his own element, roentgenium, element 111, the name of which was chosen by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry in 2004.

6 – Cardiac Catheterisation – Werner Fossman

Werner Theodor Otto Forßmann (1904 – 1979) won the 1956 Nobel Prize in medicine along with two of his colleagues for their contribution to the development of cardiac catheterisation. This procedure is used nowadays in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who are suffering with ischaemic heart disease.

In 1929 he risked his own life in the name of research, putting himself under local anaesthesia and inserting a ureteric catheter into the vein of his arm. These are much larger than the catheters that we would use to catheterise someone’s heart these days but nevertheless, he was successful and catheterised his own heart. He instructed the nurse who was assisting him to call the X-ray department and an X-ray was taken demonstrating the tip of the catheter lying in the right atrium of his heart.

Following experimentation of the procedure on several patients at the hospital he was then dismissed for continuing his research without permission. He ended up quitting cardiology as his reputation was in tatters and ended up as a urologist, but was later appointed as Chief of Surgery.

Needless to say, do not try any of the above yourself!

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6 Easy Weight Loss Hacks You Can Try Today

Personally, I hate the word diet. It implies that there is a quick-fix to losing weight, giving you permission to go back to old, unhealthy habits as soon as the ‘diet’ is over. Weight loss, and subsequently maintaining that healthy weight, requires a lifestyle change. You need a change in your attitude towards food and a change in your attitude towards your health in general.

Don’t panic, this article is not just about eating fruit!

Here’s a list of some simple lifestyle interventions that you can start today. They require little or no effort but used in combination can have a dramatic effect on your health, allowing you to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Remember that healthy weight loss takes time. Crash dieting should be avoided at all costs as it will cause you to yo-yo back up to your original weight within no time, and often causes weight gain in the long term. Read the tips below and pick one to start today, when that becomes habit, add in another. It won’t be long before you are on track to reach your goals.

Write down everything that you eat – we are great at lying to ourselves when it comes to what we eat. I have patients tell me they hardly eat at all and yet when I calculate their body mass index, they fall into the obese range. Unfortunately that does not happen by itself. Try keeping a food (and drink!) diary for one week and you’ll be surprised about how much sneaky eating you had totally forgotten about. Remember to include everything, be detailed; include the little things like dressings, cooking oils and condiments. You will be surprised at all of the hidden calories you find. There is no need to show this list to anyone else, this exercise is purely to educate yourself. Only once you know where you are going wrong can you begin to put it right.

Drink a glass of water before each meal – staying well hydrated has many benefits on the body (as mentioned in my previous post: 12 benefits of drinking water). Much of what our body interprets as hunger is actually thirst. Remember that around 60% of your body is made up of water so you need to maintain this in order to keep your body in balance. Drinking a glass of water before you eat will fill your stomach up, reducing the urge to eat so much and keeping you well hydrated at the same time. With each meal you will consume fewer calories and over the course of the day this will all add up.

Switch to green tea – as mentioned above it is important to keep hydrated when trying to lose weight. Some studies have shown that green tea can boost your metabolism, allowing you to burn extra calories; having said that you do need to drink several cups a day to see the benefit. The effect of green tea will be different with each individual but it is also rich in cancer-preventing antioxidants and tastes great too (especially the green tea with pomegranate).

Get your Zzzz on – sleep is an important factor in maintaining a healthy weight. Lack of sleep causes your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, to rise. This stimulates your appetite, meaning that you will consume more calories and put on weight. By getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night you can regulate your cortisol levels and shed abdominal fat quicker. Click here for 9 Simple but effective tips for improving your sleep.

An apple a day – now we all know that the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables is at least five portions a day, but for those who are strangers to the greengrocer, reaching this target can be a real challenge. Start off by setting yourself the target of eating an apple a day for one week. After that, pick another fruit and add that into your regime. Find things your like, build them up one by one and soon you’ll be hitting that 5-portion target without even thinking about it. Who knows you might even enjoy it.

Reduce your alcohol intake – a glass of wine will contain between 85 and 120 calories depending on the colour of the wine and the size of the glass. Two or three of these over the course of the night and the calories soon stack up. Two glasses of wine amount to around 10% of your daily recommended calorie intake. You need to ask yourself if this is really worth the calories, if yes then that’s fine, just cut down elsewhere.

Try it out, one at a time or all at once, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll see the difference 🙂

6 Reasons Why Imposing the Junior Doctor Contract Will Cause the NHS to Implode

I rarely post anything political, particularly on my blog, but now that I have a soapbox I wanted to use it to get my voice, and the voice of thousands of my junior doctor colleagues heard. This week was a sad time for us. For the first time in the history of the NHS there was an all-out junior doctor strike, meaning that for two days, between the hours of 8am and 5pm, there was a removal of all labour by junior doctors including emergency care. Fortunately our consultant colleagues have been very supportive and covered for us during this time so that unwell patients could still receive the world-class care that the NHS is known for.

Having spoken to members of the public and members of my own family it has become clear that very few people actually realise what a junior doctor is, let alone how the imposition of this new contract will affect us. So here is a simple explanation of who we are and what we do…a junior doctor is not a medical student, we have medical degrees and we are ‘real doctors’ and ‘fully qualified’. We are the first to see your family member as they come in to A&E. We care for them on the wards. We do your operations and see you in clinic. We prescribe your medications and write your discharge letters. We are doctors in-training to become consultants and general practitioners, only it takes a number of years to reach that end-point. The minimum time that you will spend as a junior doctor is 5 years, but given long training schemes and time out for research, working abroad or family circumstances, you can be a junior doctor for a good ten plus years.

Our beloved health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, would have you believe that this dispute is because we don’t want to work on Saturday and we want more money, but this could not be further from the truth. We are opposing this contract because it can only be described by one word, dangerous. It puts not only the health of patients at risk, but the health of the medical staff too. It has over-tired medics working longer hours with shorter rest periods in between on-call duties. It would have us switching between day and night shifts without enough time to recover a normal sleeping pattern. You wouldn’t let a pilot fly a plane after that sort of shift working, yet we would be expected to look after a ward full of patients. It’s not safe and it’s not fair on the staff or the people that we look after.

And so here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why this junior doctor contract is a really bad idea:

Junior doctors will start working abroad instead – I personally know at least six junior doctors who will be spending next year and possibly the year after in Australasia. Now it is not uncommon for trainees to take some time out to gain experience abroad but where is the incentive for them to come back afterwards? It costs the government around £300,000 to train a doctor through medical school and so if they were to leave the UK permanently then that is a huge loss for the NHS.

Training posts are being under-filled – personally I only know ONE doctor who will be going into speciality training in August. The British Medical Journal recently published data that in 2015 there was an 82% fill rate after the first round of speciality applications. In 2016 this figure dropped to 79%, that equates to around 100 doctors across the country. When places on training programmes are under-filled this then leaves large gaps in the rota. This puts even more strain on the poor trainees that did decide to take up their posts. Meaning…

‘Training’ posts have started becoming ‘service provision’ posts – the idea with a training job is that you see your patients on the ward, treat them and then spend time learning from them. This could include learning to perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures under supervision, undertaking audit projects, research projects or receiving teaching sessions from your seniors both on a ward or in the classroom. One key part of training is to spend time in outpatient clinics and for surgical trainees, essential time in the operating theatre. With overstretched rotas for ward cover, time for the above is severely limited, if not completely unavailable. This is worrying because who wants a surgeon that never had the time to practice operating while they were a trainee?

Burnout rates will sky-rocket – ‘burnout’ is a real issue amongst the medical profession. There’s an attitude of ‘just getting on with it’ regardless of whether it is safe to be doing so. We feel that we don’t want to let the team down and so we struggle on until we break, or even worse, a patient comes to harm. Less staff = more burnout = less staff = ….you see where I am going with this. Which brings me to…

Spending on locum and non-training grade doctors will increase – so we have a National Health Service that cannot fund itself already, but now we have to spend more money on hiring locum doctors to fill the gaps created by dis-illusioned staff leaving and the remaining staff becoming unwell themselves. These positions are non-training posts meaning that the experience does not count towards career progression, which will eventually leave us short of consultants and GPs when the current senior staff retires.

It makes Medicine a less appealing career for the next generation – so not only do we have the current junior doctors leaving; we then have no one to replace them when they leave. Before this dispute even started, the government upped tuition fees to £9,000 a year, meaning that the average medical graduate will leave university with £50,000+ worth of debt, and that’s just tuition fees, not including the money they will have to spend to feed, clothe and house themselves during their time at university. Who on earth would want to sign up for that and THEN have to work the new contract they are planning? Working longer hours for less pay and more stress, leaving themselves in debt for the vast majority of their medical career. The answer Jeremy, NO ONE.

As I said this list is non-exhaustive, just a post that I managed to knock up during my lunch break between surgeries. I dreamt of being a doctor since I was a child but the low morale the government has infected us all with is slowly turning that dream into a nightmare. I worry for my future and the future of my friends and colleagues. More than that I worry for the future of our free national health service. As Aneurin Bevan said The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.’ Support your junior doctors, one day one of us might save your life. #notsafenotfair #juniorcontract

Why You Should Download the Calm App Today

When it comes to technology, there are two things that I generally don’t do: 1) Click on Facebook advertisements and 2) Pay for extra features on apps. For this, the Calm app, I did both of these things and I have no regrets!

calm-app1As mentioned in previous posts I had been having a hard time with anxiety and insomnia following a bout of night shifts several months ago. I wanted to meditate but was finding it difficult to get into it by myself. Adsense must have clocked onto my anxiety-related internet searches because a Facebook ad popped up on my feed for the free Calm App for iPhone. I downloaded it immediately to give it a try.

There are several features about this app that I love. Firstly, it is free. You have your basic calm screen which I will tell you more about shortly, and then a number of different guided meditations. The app keeps track of your process and can send you reminders every day to have your ‘calm time’. There were extra features that I particularly wanted and so I paid around £30 for a year’s subscription to unlock these.

Secondly, the voiceover on the guided meditations is not annoying. I have done many guided meditations in the past where I have found the accent or the tone of voice being used quite distracting, meaning that I finished the meditation feeling less than chilled out. This app has a female American voice guiding you through your meditation, changing the tone of voice to reflect the aim of your session e.g. calm, sleep, confidence.

Calm App Screen

Thirdly, you can personalise your homepage. The homepage is your basic calm page. This can be changed according to what you find the most calming. Personally I love the image of wet leaves with the sound of pouring rain. Every now and then I will switch to the beach scene with calming waves. There are a number of different scenes you can download for free according to personal preference. A lot of the time I will just sit there listening to the calming sounds, without even entering in to a meditation session.

Finally, you can tailor your sessions according to your specific needs. So far I have completed the 7 Days of Calm course and have now moved on to the extended 21 Days of Calm. I am also working my way through the 7 Days of Sleep course. All of these courses focus on the theme of ‘non-reactivity’ which means to observe what is occurring in the present moment and not to react to it. It teaches you to learn to accept what is happening e.g. not being able to get to sleep, with the aim of getting you out of the cycle of not sleeping, getting frustrated that you aren’t asleep, and therefore you don’t sleep.

The 7 Day of Sleep course has the further feature that there are also night-time sessions which are to be used in conjunction with the 7 daytime sessions. The daytime sessions focus on teaching you long-term tools for remaining calm in your day-to-day life such as the above mentioned non-reactivity. The night-time meditations focus on relaxing the mind and body, ready for bed. There are progressive muscle relaxation sessions and ‘body scans’ which focus on observing what is happening within your body in the present moment.

I only focus on the sleep sessions as it was the reason I paid extra to unlock the 7 and 21 courses. There are many more sessions available on the Calm app. Here are some examples of the guided meditations available (there are too many to list):

  • Emergency calm
  • Deep sleep
  • Community
  • Loving-Kindness
  • Gratitude
  • Compassion
  • Confidence
  • Energy
  • Focus

Many people are put off of meditation through lack of understanding and not knowing where to begin with it. This app supports you as you begin your journey and best of all, it’s free.

Visit their website here: www.calm.com

Available through itunes and google app stores.

5 Easy Ways to Sneak Exercise into Your Day (No Gym Required)

The guidelines for how much exercise we should be getting seem to change all the time. One minute it is at least an every hour a day, then it is twenty minutes at least three times a week. Honestly, now I don’t even know what the current guidelines are. In reality, very few people have time to be dedicating a whole hour a day to a specific exercise. This is especially challenging for those who are working full time or busy running a family. Here are a few easy ways to sneak exercises into your every day, without working up a sweat:


  • Change your bus stop – I was struggling to stick to my usual running pattern once I went back to working full time. I used to run 2-4 miles, three times a week. I also found that with the amount of time I was having to spend sat at a computer at work, I was only managing around 6,000 steps a day instead of the recommended 10,000. I decided that by leaving for work ten minutes earlier and walking to the next bus stop along I could get myself closer to this target. By doing the same at the other end of my bus journey, I could double the amount of steps I was taking during my daily commute. I now average 10-12,000 steps a day which is a vast improvement!
  • Make a cup of tea –what can you do during the time it takes to boil the kettle? A few squats? Some lunges? How you choose to fill this time is totally up to you. Over the course of a single day us Brits spend a good 10-15 minutes waiting for a good brew (I know I do), this is precious time you could be using to do a sneaky bit of exercise.
  • Take the stairs – forget waiting for the lift, increase your step count by taking the stairs. The uphill climb is great for toning your lower half. If you are not used to exercise then you can build yourself up at your own pace. First try taking the stairs up and the lift down. Or take the stairs up half way and walk the rest. It’s up to you but you can easily build up your stamina in no time. Don’t attempt seven flights of stairs on day one or your will just end up putting yourself off altogether!
  • Watch your favourite television show – If you really dislike exercise then watching a television programme can act as a great distraction. Stretch out with some easy yoga poses and within a week of Coronation Street episodes you’ll be as bendy as you like. Plus the vast majority of television channels have commercial breaks that last around 5 minutes. That’s five minutes of potential calorie burning. Get up and walk around the house, do some jumping jacks or burpees if you are feeling adventurous.
  • Cook up a storm – turn on the radio and have a good dance around the kitchen whilst you are cooking dinner. You won’t even notice the calorie burn. The time it takes for your pasta to soften, or for your rice to steam is a good opportunity to get in some pre-meal exercises. You’ll burn off your dinner quicker too!

Well, go on then, get moving!

6 Tips for Achieving Glowing Skin

Stress, make up, fast food. Is it any wonder in this modern world that we struggle to maintain healthy skin? With the busy lives that we lead, skin care is not our top priority and many of us lack confidence when it comes to looking at ourselves in the mirror. Here are a few easy tips to help you achieve glowing skin in no time:

  1. Lose the Make Up – Leaving make up on for long periods of time will cause your pores to become blocked, leaving your skin more prone to spots and blackheads. Be sure to remove all of your make up when you get home, or at the very least before you go to bed. Better still, reduce the amount of make up you wear altogether. Wearing less make up will help you escape the vicious cycle of: bad complexion = need for make up = bad complexion…and so on (you’ll also save yourself a lot of money in the process!).
  2. Don’t forget the SPF – use a daily dose of sun protection factor to prevent your skin from burning. Even during the winter months sun damage can affect the skin, and this build up can eventually lead to the development of skin cancers. Using a foundation or a tinted moisturiser with SPF 15 is a good daily habit to get into. Of course in the height of summer you will have to up your choice of SPF according to your skin type.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Diet – Your skin is a good indicator of your general level of health. Being far removed from the circulation, your skin gets the last bite of the apple when it comes to receiving nutrients. If your diet is deficient in essential vitamins and minerals then your complexion will reflect this. Try cutting out processed sugars and do your best to consume at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day.
  4. Stock Up On Vitamin E – As mentioned previously, diet plays a large part in the health of your skin. Vitamin E is a naturally-occurring anti-oxident which helps to prevent cancers and aids the body’s healing process. You

    can boost your vitamin E intake by including certain foods in your diet. These include nuts and almonds, red peppers, leafy green vegetables and avocado. You can try this avocado and almond milk smoothie for an instant vitamin E boost (see: www.almonds.com ). In addition, The Body Shop do a range of skincare products specifically designed to boost the amount of vitamin E in your skin (see: The Body Shop Vitamin E ).

  5. Keep Yourself Well Hydrated – If you are dehydrated then your skin will be too. Whilst applying a daily moisturiser can help to maintain a healthy complexion, keeping yourself well hydrated is the real key to vibrant skin. Aiming to drink two litres a day may seem unrealistic but spread out throughout the day it is completely doable.
  6. Catch Some Zzzs – During the deeper stages of sleep is when healing of the skin occurs. If you fail to get enough sleep then the period of time you spend in a deep sleep will also be cut short. This can lead to dull, lifeless skin which will heal less effectively. For help with getting a better night sleep, see: 9 Tips For Improving Your Sleeping

Taking the above advice into account, you can see a significant improvement in the condition of your skin in a short space of time. Set yourself a challenge for a week of good skin habits and you will be amazed with the difference 🙂