Time to be healthy: In the modern rat race, who has it?
Three jobs, two children and a home to manage – is it possible to stay fit and well too?
When footage emerged of Hillary Clinton collapsing and suspicions about her health flooded the internet this week I shuddered.
Hilary can’t get sick, the world is relying on her to keep up the fight and protect us from Donald Trump. I found myself willing her to get well instantly.
Now, admittedly I have nothing in common with the world famous presidential candidate. While she’s involved in high-level negotiations with other countries, the only dictators I tend to mediate between are the ones fighting for power in my own home. And I’m guessing dad and daughter disputes are slightly easier to resolve.
But her situation did get me thinking.
I was sick last week. Sweats, headaches, cramps, feeling faint, the whole works. But of course, like Hillary, I kept going. With four part-time jobs running alongside my main job of being a mum, I had no choice. So my cure, as always, was Berocca and one pre-midnight bedtime.
And I am not unique. Most women I know are doing the same – juggling so much while paying little attention to their health. And it seems my reliance on multivitamins and quick fixes is pretty normal.
I’d love to find the time to go to the gym, to pore over recipe books and hunt down the latest superfood to add to my dishes but I just don’t have it.
But Dr Jenna Alice Burton, who is the Group Health and Wellness Manager at Anglo Arabian Healthcare, says it’s time we started paying attention to our health.
She explains: “We need to remember that we are lucky to even be here and that life is a gift to be cherished, not abused. Health and happiness should take our number one priority in life.”
Nevertheless, says Dr Burton, keeping yourself in tip-top condition needn’t take over your life. Remembering the basics should ensure even the most stressed among us stay well.
She explains: “Drink more water - you are water and you need to continue to replenish it. It reduces hunger, nourishes your skin and cleanses your kidneys. [Also] eat unprocessed food. There are many diets out there but, at the heart of it, I believe in trying to reduce unprocessed foods. This reduces the risk of intolerances and bowel disorders. Plus it means everything that you are eating is feeding you. It will help manage your weight naturally and support your blood sugar levels.”
Can’t find the time for an exercise class? Take the stairs or jump on the spot while waiting for the kettle to boil – just do something to raise your heart rate, advises Dr Burton.
“Exercise is incredibly important to our wellbeing. It heals the heart, reduces our blood pressure, supports those with diabetes, encourages us to eat more healthily and the endorphin rush associated can even improve mental illness. Exercise does not have to be competitive or extreme – find something that you enjoy.”
On the flip side, find time to relax. Doctor Burton adds: “The saying goes that slow and steady wins the race. After years of heading out at high speed, we are beginning to realise this is not how our minds and bodies were meant to live and some have started to put the brakes on. Nervous breakdowns are a common side effect of our modern day pace.
“The world can get a little hectic from time to time and we need to learn how to ensure we still have room inside our heads to think reasonably. There is a fantastic mobile application named ‘headspace’ which teaches people how to free their mind from their thoughts and relax. Other methods can be reading, walking or just taking a break without checking your emails.”
Doing something that makes you smile or laugh each day is important says Dr Burton, as is avoiding too much sun and learning to manage your emotions and accept yourself.
At the end of the day, whether you’re trying to become president or just need to keep yourself well to feed, dress and drive your kids to school all before your 10 hour work day begins, you have to start paying attention to your health.
Dr Burton adds: “As a firm believer that true happiness is at the forefront of ensuring good health, the two should be treated as one. A fit athlete suffering with anxiety will have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, thus resulting in a reduced immune system, skin complaints and adverse effects such as hair loss or migrating rashes, along with increased generalized internal inflammation - a precursor to malignancy and chronic disease.
“Life is short and we need to learn to appreciate this as much as possible. You will never get this day again. Appreciate it and slow down.”
Your favourite health hacks?
While mine is effervescent vitamins, in our fast-paced lives it seems we all have at least one quick-fix that we rely on to keep us well. I asked women to share theirs:
“I have half a litre of water as soon as I wake up, exercise three times a week and spend 15 minutes before bedtime with my son talking about everything and nothing – that’s food for my soul,” says Lebanese mum Rania Yanneh Kfoury.
For British Nina Barker it’s an avocado a day.
“It’s become a bit of a religion! I started a high fat, sugar free diet last year and lost loads of weight by upping good fats.”
It’s aloe vera gel for Emma Rymer. The British mum is currently receiving treatment for breast cancer and says she never goes a day without her wonder juice: “I drink 100ml of it every morning. It helps keep my immune system strong and my gut clear of toxins. I should eat better and exercise more but, even throughout chemotherapy, I kept taking my gel and I didn’t fall sick once even though your immune system is virtually non-existent at some points in the cycle.”
For mum-of-two Hema Patel, it’s a natural alternative to hormone therapy. She says: “I have coconut oil in my cereal and lemon and hot water to drink every morning. I also have a tiny daily dose of bio-identical HRT based on Mexican yam! It really does the trick after two years suffering with hot flushes.”
And it’s exercise rather than food for Elizabeth Broomhall.
“Yoga has done so many things for me. I've lost weight and become more toned, stopped getting ill, I feel so much more agile and my posture has improved I think - all things I never got from going to the gym or running. It’s is just so good for zoning out and supposedly stops ageing. Sometimes when people ask me why it’s so good it's hard to explain exactly why it's so addictive - it just does something weird but amazing to your body!”