Relaxation tips

Now more than ever people are suffering from anxiety and depression. Mental health problems have soared during COVID-19, due to lockdown, fears about jobs, loneliness, a feeling of hopelessness, fear and much more. Now is the time we really need to take care of ourselves.

1.relaxing bath WALK: Go for a walk – 20 minutes or so alone and preferably in countryside or in a park.

2. BATHE: Lie in a hot bath for 20 minutes with a fantastic combination of a handful of Epsom salts, (or other pure salts), half a cup of bicarbonate of soda, and 10 drops of lavender oil (or other soothing oil like geranium or ylang ylang.

3. YOGA: Stretching helps the body to stay flexible, but yoga has other elements as well. Relaxation and breathing mean that a yoga session is calming too.

4. BREATHING:  Try yoga breathing – alternative nostril breath or simply lie down, breathe in through the whole diaphragm to a count of four, and breathe out for a count of four.

5. MEDITATION: Learn to meditate. Just close your eyes, sit still and repeat a mantra or even one, two, one, two to keep your mind focused.

5. CALMING: Take Rescue Remedy after a shock or when you’re feeling generally anxious or stressed. The pastilles are good.

6. DRINKING & EATING:  Try to avoid stimulants with caffeine in (coffee) and too much alcohol. Eat healthy meals with plenty of fruit and veg.

7. LYING DOWN:  Lie in the semi-supine position (knees bent and a couple of paperbacks under your head). This is an Alexander Technique position, better done on the floor or a massage table. Close your eyes and let your muscles relax.

9. SLEEPING: At night put lavender drops on a tissue to calm you down and help you have a restful sleep.

10. T’AI CHI: Take up t’ai chi – moving meditation, which energises you and makes you feel calm.

TIP: When you’re feeling really panicky, try A. Vogel Stress Relief. It helps you to feel more normal without making you drowsy.

See Relax, Relax, Relax. 

Back pain

4.1.1In 2011 there were more days of sickness absence from work for musculoskeletal problems (including back pain) than any other illness or ailment. A whopping 35 million days were lost in total, and the cost to the NHS is mounting all the time, with many sufferers on painkillers.

Also read How posture affects your health, a guest blog.

Some of the main causes are:

  • driving cars
  • sitting at computers
  • doing housework
  • poor mattresses
  • emotional problems causing tension in the body

Rather than resorting to drugs to suppress the pain there is plenty you can do.

Although back pain is incredibly common there is no reason to put up with it. Although the causes of back pain could be medical in 85 per cent of back pain cases there is no underlying medical condition. The chances are that it has been caused by inappropriate ways of moving, lifting, sitting, standing, walking or running. Therefore there is plenty that you can do about it!

The causes of back pain

  • There may have been specific strain put on the back from heavy lifting, falling, a car accident or similar event.
  • There may be an injury such as a slipped disc.
  • You may be stressed and tensing up your shoulders and muscles causing extra strain on your back.
  • If you are overweight it puts extra strain on the muscles and can cause back pain.
  • Your vertebrae may be out of place and causing pain.
  • You may have arthritis.
  • In some cases back pain may be a symptom of a more serious illness, such as kidney problems or cancer.

What the doctor will say

With all these different causes for back pain there can’t possibly be one answer for them. It is important to see your GP if there is any chance that your back pain could indicate a more serious problem. However, if it is not a medical problem they may not have the answers. Some GPs will refer you to physiotherapy, osteopathy or chiropractic, but many will give you anti-inflammatories and pain killers which only treat the symptoms and do nothing to eradicate the cause. However, back pain clinics are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of the following therapies and may have one or more practitioners available from these disciplines.

What can you try?

The Alexander Technique is totally suitable if the back problem is to do with the way you walk, sit, lie, stand or take part in various activities including sport, playing an instrument or singing. Just about everyone develops bad habits in the way that they do things. For instance, we sit at desks all day long looking at a computer screen. Our shoulders are up to our ears, our backs are bent and our arms and legs may be uncomfortable. The Alexander Technique aims to make you aware of where you are holding tension in the body, shows you how to release it, consequently reducing tension and relieving pain. The Technique is a life skill that you learn and that enables you to improve posture and reduce tension for the rest of your life. To find an out more see Therapies/Alexander Technique.

Osteopathy is based on the premise that if the musculoskeletal system is out of balance it can affect the body’s vital organs. Osteopaths concentrate on the joints, tissues, ligaments and tendons of the body. Some of the treatment is similar to that of a chiropractor, such as making short thrusting movements to the spine to realign the vertebrae. This often results in a clicking sound that most people imagine is their bone clicking but in reality is a gas bubble bursting in the synovial fluid of the joint. As a holistic treatment the osteopath may massage and manipulate and suggest types of exercise to improve the back. It is a regulated profession and should (in theory) be available on the NHS. To find out more see Therapies/Osteopathy.

Chiropractic concentrates on the joints of the spine and the nervous system, The chiropractor needs to have access to the spine so stripping down to underclothes and sitting or lying on the couch is necessary. To correct misalignments the chiropractor physically manipulates the vertebrae, pelvis or other joints to free them and release tension. This usually results in a click as gas bubbles built up in the joints burst. McTimoney Chiropractic is a slightly different version with a lighter technique but the key to the success of the adjustments is that they are fast, light and accurate with no clicking. Chiropractic is a regulated profession and should (in theory) be available on the NHS. To find out more go to Therapies/Chiropractic and Therapies/McTimoney Chiropractic.

Massage always helps, particularly if you use some specific oils like rosemary, lavender or juniper, but it won’t cure the problem.  It depends on whether there is a physical problem that needs manipulation, or whether it is simply muscular tension in which case it may well ease with a good massage. If you can’t afford to pay for one, get your partner to massage you!

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Acupuncture was recently claimed to be the best treatment for bad backs. A German study found that half the back pain patients treated with acupuncture needles found relief for months. Only a quarter of those given drugs felt better. Acupuncture needles are inserted at specific acupressure points along the meridians, consistent with the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach. They are said to release blocked energy in the area where the needles are put in and encourage blood flow to the area. For more information and to find an acupuncturist go to Therapies/Acupuncture.

Herbal medicine may help with the pain because natural anti-inflammatories can be a good alternative to drugs. A registered medical herbalist can often help to find out what the problem is, or you could try Devil’s Claw, Bromelain (pineapple) or Turmeric to see if it  helps.  You must consult a doctor or herbalist before you take herbal remedies if you are on medication as they may not interact well together.

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Bowen Technique is a gentle technique that involves manipulation with the fingers and thumbs along the muscles and tendons. The aim is to stimulate the flow of energy or chi throughout the body enabling it to better heal itself. The practitioner works through clothing making light movements that encourage circulation of blood and lymph, increase mobility and release blocked energy. Read more about it and find a practitioner in Therapies/Bowen Technique.

Yoga comprises a series of postures which stretch out the whole of the body. It involves exercising, stretching, and breathing and has positive effects such as inducing a sense of calmness as well as releasing tension in the body. The postures are designed to massage internal organs, stretch the body and release tension. Learning yoga has beneficial effects for the mind, body, and spirit. For people with particularly bad backs yoga therapy is when postures are used specifically to deal with health problems under the guidance of a specially trained yoga therapy teacher. it is particularly suitable for stress, tight muscles, tension, arthritis and poor posture. To find out about Yoga go to Mind/Yoga or Yoga Therapy.

Pilates consists of small precise movements practised lying down or standing, which help you to become aware of the core muscles supporting spine. It helps to improve posture and flexibility, lengthen and tone muscle and strengthen joints, reduce stress, and ease pain. Although it is not as energetic as aerobics it is quite tough exercise but has proven to be very good for bad backs and is sometimes recommended by doctors or provided in pain clinics. It is particularly good for muscle tension and tightness, arthritis and poor posture. Read more about Pilates in Body/Pilates.

Live long, stay young and be healthy

Up to five million people are stressed by work and as many as 9.8 million working days were lost due to stress in the year 2009/10, according to a Health and Safety Executive survey. While most of this stress is described as work-related, in reality there are often many other contributing factors.

Stress is a fact of life so it’s impossible to avoid it. The only answer is to find ways of coping with it better, but it’s easier to start to build up our strength and ability to cope when we’re having a good time. Once everything appears to have gone wrong it’s incredibly difficult to be positive and try something new.

Experts agree that there are various ways of relieving stress:

  • Leading a sociable life and having good friends;
  • Having at least one person to confide in;
  • Plenty of exercise and time outdoors;
  • Healthy eating and avoiding junk foods which actually sap the brain;
  • Talking to a counsellor or stress management trainer;
  • Having regular massage;
  • Not overdoing alcohol intake;
  • Relaxation techniques and meditation;
  • Yoga and t’ai chi relax the mind.

Read Frances Ive’s book: Stress – The Essential Guide, £8.99, print or ebook from

Relaxation and Meditation

Twenty minutes of meditation a day is said to be equivalent to a night’s sleep so practising it every day makes you less tired, more full of energy, healthier and improves memory and concentration.

  • It prolongs the body’s anabolic process of cell production, growth and repair and reduces the decaying process.
  • It is believed to reduce blood pressure and it is claimed that if a roomful of people are meditating, anyone who passes by will also experience a slight drop in blood pressure levels!

Transcendental Meditation involves sitting quietly for 10 to 20 minutes with eyes closed and focusing on a mantra – a word in the ancient Sanskrit language – which is endlessly repeated to attempt to get the mind to still.

Some people can do this by just counting one on an in breath and two on the out breath, but most find that it takes some time before thoughts stop interrupting!

According to The Sivananda Book of Meditation, ‘After the age of thirty-five our brain cells die off at a rate of 100,000 a day; meditation reduces this decline, preventing or minimising senility.’

Relaxation Techniques

There are other ways to relax too:

  • Sit down and close your eyes for 10 to 20 minutes every day, and imagine a favourite place by the sea, in the mountains, or wherever, to refresh mind and body
  • Buy one of the many relaxation CDs to talk you into a relaxed state
  • Transcendental Meditation-National Communications Office, 08705 143733
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The Transcendental Meditation-National Communications Office, 08705 143733,

London Meditation Centre,

Inner calm and a perfect body are just two of the claims made for yoga, but in reality you don’t have to be Geri Halliwell or Madonna to benefit. Yoga suits people of all ages and sizes, and if you’re not supple it’s an even better reason to do it.
  • The roots of yoga go back thousands of years in Indian culture;
  • It is integral to the Ayurvedic system of medicine which has a holistic approach rather than a purely medical one;
  • The word yoga means union in Sanskrit, as its aim is to unite mind, body and spirit for health and wellbeing.

In a typical yoga class there are a number of different postures performed while standing, lying and sitting, as well as breathing exercises, meditation and deep relaxation.

Physical postures are designed to tone and strengthen muscles, stretch the body, improve the functioning of all internal organs and the cardiovascular system. They help you to

  • concentrate the mind;
  • sharpen the intellect;
  • attain inner peace;
  • and improve posture and balance.

The amazing popularity of yoga is reflected by the different types now available, the most common of which are Astanga, Iyengar, Sivananda, Hatha, Satyananda, but they are all based on the same concept and have similar far-reaching benefits.

Yoga enthusiasts claim that their body becomes supple and flexible, and that they can cope with stress better. Instead of becoming stiff and finding movement more difficult as they grow older, they feel fit and healthy and more in control of their mobility.

Yoga for Health

Joy Mankoo of the former organisation Yoga for Health which used to run courses and does remedial yoga for those with MS, cancer, ME, arthritis, cancer, breathing problems and Parkinson’s, explains:

Yoga relieves stress and calms the mind, improves muscle tone and posture and exercises the joints. Because of emotional and mental stress many people aren’t breathing well and their diaphragm does not move freely.

‘Stress becomes stuck in the muscles making them tight. In yoga full respiration is restored through both the breathing and stretching exercises. Breathing naturally and fully improves the flow of energy, relieves pressure on the chest and enables more air to be drawn into the lungs. Blood is naturally drawn back to the heart encouraging the circulation of blood and lymph, while slow, calm breathing also has the effect of calming the mind.’

British Wheel of Yoga, 01529 303233,

T’ai chi

Millions of Chinese people have been practising t’ai chi for centuries and they believe that it rejuvenates them and leads to a prolonged life. In the west it has gained in popularity as we struggle to find ways of dealing with our stressful lives.

  • T’ai chi means literally supreme ultimate which indicates the spiritual level which people practising it hope to achieve!
  • Originally a martial art it is frequently practised in a non-aggressive but gentle therapeutic way, as well as a method of self-defence;
  • Both t’ai chi and chi kung – which is similar but aimed specifically at improving health – consist of a series of graceful movements or ‘forms’.

The forms help to relax and calm the mind, body and soul, while gently toning muscles, improving balance and posture, boosting circulation and reducing stress. The slow gentle movements stimulate the body’s energy or chi, massage the meridians – the lines which run through the body in the acupuncture system, and give a complete inner and outer workout.

Linda Chase Broda, teacher of t’ai chi, explains, ‘Traditionally the doctor and the kung fu master in Chinese and other eastern cultures were one and the same and t’ai chi was associated with keeping healthy, energising and repairing the body.

‘The slow rhythmic movements performed in a long sequence allow the body to resonate with its own natural rhythm, heartbeat and breath. The gentle exercises stimulate circulation, but not at a fast pace like aerobics but more at a normal pace as if walking across the street.

Both T’ai chi with its long series of movements and Chi Kung with its shorter movements concentrate the mind, bringing awareness into the functioning and process of the body and begin to promote relaxation and a feeling of wholeness. Movements are not physically strenuous so you can start practising at any age and carry on forever.’

Linda claims that the gentle and graceful movements of T’ai Chi and Chi Kung:

  • Maintain suppleness and mobility of the joints;
  • Help to improve balance and stability which deteriorates with age – particularly helpful in fall prevention;
  • Are very good for concentration and untangling the mind – because you have to focus the mind and remember what comes next.

Linda Chase Broda is Course Director at the Tai Chi and Chi Kung Forum for Health and Special Needs, Manchester

For details of practitioners contact: T’ai Chi UK, 0207 407 4775,

Flower Remedies

There are a whole range of Bach Flower Remedies that help people to deal with difficult emotions, and they can provide a way of coping without the need for antidepressants. There are now plenty more flower essences and remedies from around the world, including Australian Bush Flower remedies to help cope with emotions.

The original flower remedies were developed by Sir Edward Bach to help people cope with a range of emotions. They are homeopathically prepared from plants and flowers and they help to balance negative thoughts and feelings which bring people down.

  • Star of Bethlehem is for times of grief and great unhappiness due to a shock or trauma;
  • Oak is for people who are struggling on in the face of adversity but need to be strong because others depend on them;
  • Sweet Chestnut helps to relieve extreme feelings of distress which seem absolutely unbearable;
  • Elm is for when someone feels that they are doing their best but they don’t feel that they can carry on;
  • Larch is for anyone who lacks confidence and needs a boost.
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Stay healthy and beautiful

It’s much easier to look lovely in your 20s when your skin is soft and smooth and you haven’t become weathered by time. So how can you maintain a shapely and toned body and good skin as you get older?

Live Long and Healthily

Living a long life may not always be a good thing – many people spend their final years in pain or virtually immobile.   Many people over 50 are on medication that they will take for the rest of their lives, which often leads to side-effects. Then the doctor may prescribe more medication to cope with side-effects, and so it goes on.

Instead of treating symptoms as they turn up a proactive approach to your health involves taking the right supplements, eating healthily and exercising to prevent major problems.

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Eating and drinking healthily:

• Drinking eight glasses of spring or filtered water a day flushes out toxins and lubricates all the organs of the body.
• Try to have three regular meals a day with plenty of (organic) fruit and vegetables.
• Cut down on sugar, salt, and refined foods (such as white bread).
• Drink less tea and coffee and try herbal teas instead.
• Try to stick to government guidelines on drinking alcohol – for a woman this is 14 units (glasses of wine) a week.
• Take a good multivitamin/mineral that is appropriate to your age.
• Don’t smoke as it ages your voice, makes your skin go yellow and can kill you.


Exercise mind and body: 

Remaining active is one of the best indicators for a healthy old age – both mentally and physically.

• Just walking for 20 minutes a day five times a week helps to prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and obesity.
• Keep mentally active by reading, doing crosswords, socialising, or taking up  a hobby.
• Take the herbal remedy Ginkgo regularly as it ensures a healthy blood flow to the brain.
• Pilates and yoga are great exercises for keeping the body toned and you can do them throughout life into old age.

Avoid toxic chemicals

• Many cosmetics and household cleansers contain harmful toxins – choose natural ingredients that help to keep you healthy.  You can find household cleaning products in the supermarket without phtalates which damage the environment and other harsh chemicals that aren’t good for your skin. Watch this space for more details on chemical-free cosmetics.

Having a positive approach to life and not storing up grievances helps people to be happier and healthier in old age.

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