Mental health is front and centre this week – here’s why.
SUNDAY, MAY 2
In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, Thrive Wellbeing Centre launches online platform Thrive in 5 today, making access to mental health and personal development more affordable and approachable. Four courses are currently available – Managing Anxiety, Perfectionism, Avoiding and Managing Burnout, and Communicating as a Couple – each conducted online in order to ensure the utmost in privacy. Priced at AED 474, they’re also considerably more affordable than a regular one-to-one session.
MONDAY, MAY 3
Sunshine is a great mood-booster and keeping your vitamin D levels topped up is a proven way to counteract depression, so how about a family day at the beach to keep everyone happy before it gets too hot? The Family Daycation/Beach and pool day passes at Dubai JBR Hilton’s Wavebreaker Beach Club offer brilliant value for money at just AED 129 per person, with full F&B redeemable credit on weekdays.
Better still, kids under five benefit from free entry, whilst children aged 6-12 years get a 50% discount on the entry fee. With several water activities on offer, a volleyball court, and a kid’s playground right in the sand, there’s lots to keep everyone entertained – as well as plenty of opportunity to laze the day away on a sun lounger with a good book, should you so wish.
Available Sunday-Thursday from 8am-7:30pm, call 04 318 2319 to book, or e-mail [email protected]
TUESDAY, MAY 4
For the duration of Mental Health Awareness Month, The LightHouse Arabia is offering a variety of free-of-charge online support groups. Starting this Tuesday from 3:30-4:30pm, and every Tuesday until May 25, Clinical Psychologist Dr. Robert Chandler will host Emotional Health During Times of COVID-19. This adults-only group meets to discuss emotional and mental health concerns, along with stress-related issues caused by social isolation, self-quarantine, and other implications of the pandemic.
We all know the benefits of exercise on our mental health, so if you’re yet to join a gym this year, now is the time to do it as the latest Fitness First has officially launched. Moving to a new location in the centre of Dubai Festival City Mall, the brand new club boasts an array of industry-leading concepts, pioneering workouts, innovative equipment, and an extensive range of group exercise classes – all set across a whopping 20,000 square feet of training space.
Centred around four outstanding Fitness First workout concepts, along with dynamic strength and cardio freestyle areas and a dedicated ladies-only section featuring state-of-the-art equipment, the new location offers dynamic boxing classes that provide a sensory knockout, immersive indoor-cycling experiences that draw on data visualisation technology and online gaming, a Hot Studio powered by an infrared heating system that warms the body directly rather than heating the air, and a modern GX Studio with over 200 weekly workout sessions to choose from.
Add that to luxurious changing facilities, steam rooms, and a members’ lounge for guests to unwind and refuel, as well as MYZONE to help track workout efforts in real time and Fitness First’s ‘Good Vibes’ app (a member-exclusive lifestyle rewards programme that offers unlimited access to exciting discounts from over 900 brands), and we’re sold.
We’ll see you there! Click here to get a free day pass.
Us men can seem like a bit of an enigma at times, appearing stoic, emotionless, carefree, and perhaps even cold and indifferent. The keyword here though is ‘appearing’. The truth is that we feel more than you think. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that the expression of emotion equals weakness – unless it’s related to sports or video games, of course.
I write this as a man who has struggled to express his truth with women for many years – a man afraid of reaction, rejection, judgement, and the truth I might hear reflected back at me. So instead, I lied, suppressed my truth, and consequently caused a lot of pain to those close to me. The battle between the man who wants to express his truth and the woman who wants him to when they both lack trust in each other is ongoing.
As you read this, you may think that it’s normal for a man to lie and hide the truth – and whilst I might agree with you, it does not make it okay. The reality is that men want to be honest. A man wants to unburden his troubles, but the conditions need to be psychologically safe. Most men fear that their truth will hurt the person they want to be honest with, so they decide to say nothing. They fear rejection, and their ego struggles to accept it, so they avoid being vulnerable altogether.
To the women reading this: you are the conductors of this journey and the experts of emotional expression – and we need your help. It’s not easy for us to switch between our emotions, especially with some of the vulnerable ones. They don’t feel nice, and we don’t know what to do with them. Most men want to escape a negative state of mind as quickly as possible, which is why we try our hardest to block our emotions or numb them.
So where do we go from here? It might sound cliché, but communication really is key. I’d like to share with you some ways in which you can create psychological safety for the men in your life in order to encourage open and honest conversations together. Of course, there are many men who are comfortable being vulnerable, but this article is written with those who are emotionally closed off in mind.
Before you read ahead, know that I fully understand there are times when the things I list will be difficult to do, perhaps because your own emotions may be heightened or the topic you wish to bring up has been on the table for quite some time. Every relationship is unique and relationship goals may vary. This is a journey and it will take time, but I promise that if you really work on creating safety, the man in your life will begin to open up.
Is this the time or place?
He’s just come home from work or hanging out with his friends, and you’re ready to talk to him about something that’s been on your mind all day – after all, you’ve had all the time to go over it and now you want to let it all out. But this is not the time. This scenario does not create safety. As mentioned before, it is difficult for a man to switch between emotional states and after having just come home, he’s in no state to talk about his feelings, so give him time to truly settle.
Talking to him just before sleeping is also a bad idea. Most men just want to sleep once their head hits the pillow. I can fully appreciate that you may have something on your heart and mind – possibly something that’s been bothering you for a while – but if you really want to have the best shot at an open conversation, find the right time and place to do so.
Are you really ready to hear his truth?
Before embarking on a journey to create safety for him to open up, ask yourself if you feel safe with yourself to receive his truth. Are you ready to accept whatever he says with an open heart, to listen and not react? What is your intention for the conversation? What do you want to achieve together? Check in with yourself to recognise if there has ever been a time where he has attempted to express his truth and you mishandled the situation, emotionally hijacked the conversation, or even used his vulnerability against him. It doesn’t take a lot for a man to shut down and never attempt to speak his truth again.
Be patient with him. Understand that he won’t always know what he’s feeling, Many men have been conditioned not to feel and he may need time to find his words. Try not to jump in or finish his sentences and just listen. It may even be necessary for him to go away and reflect on the topic and come back to you, so be prepared to hit walls.
Commit to holding space for him – even if his truth triggers you.
This also means a commitment moving forward that you will not use his truth against him. It’s important that you work to ensure that safety is maintained within your relationship. Try your best to remain open and take your own time to process anything that triggers you. Be mindful of jumping in with advice or rebuttals. We already get a lot of advice from other men, so what we want from you is to feel seen, heard, and understood. Turn up the dial on empathy and approach with curiosity. Use phrases like ‘I hear you’ and ‘tell me more’ to encourage the flow.
Approach with Loving-Kindness
Think ‘how can I open his heart?’ rather than “I want him to be more expressive’. Use physical touch to show affection, allow him to see and feel your presence, and reaffirm that he is safe. Use this as a moment to bond with him and build your connection. To foster more openness, you could even express your own truth and fears to show your vulnerability. I find that when working with men, they are far more likely to open up when I share a story about myself with them.
Ask Better Questions
Avoid asking big questions like, “Where do you see this relationship going?” It’s a very direct and important question, but such questions can be incredibly daunting to a man who finds it difficult to open up. If your aim is to create safety and encourage openness, start by asking softer and more specific questions like, “When do you enjoy connecting with me most?” Be playful and ask questions that he can answer. If a man begins to feel pressured or overwhelmed, he is likely to close and retreat. Try not to let him feel that he can’t keep up with the conversation.
Catch him doing it right and reinforce the behaviour. When he is opening up, let him know that he’s heard, thank him for his vulnerability, and tell him that it makes you feel good when he opens up to you. Men love to feel that they’re doing a good job, and positive reinforcement will create new neuro-associations in the brain that will likely encourage him to continue opening up.
If you’re not quite getting the response you desire, do not punish him. Instead, speak from your heart and express how it makes you feel when he struggles to express himself – but do so in a calm and loving way. This is more likely to elicit a response from him, but also be prepared for no reaction.
I know this can appear intense, but I cannot stress to you how hard it is for men to open up about their feelings. Real safety is so important in making a man feel comfortable. If we sense even the slightest bit of disingenuity or judgement, we’ll either stop talking altogether or get into our heads and begin disguising or playing down our truth.
It’s a Journey, Not a Destination
I have an exercise for you to try. This is something I used to do on a weekly basis in my last relationship. We would have a ‘check-in’ every week on Thursday at 7pm with the intention of creating a safe space for us. We’d used it to share how we’re feeling in our lives, towards each other, and the relationship. By having it at the same time every week, it allows you both to mentally and emotionally prepare yourselves for the connection – this is especially important for men. Here’s my check-in guide:
Pick a day and time that suits you both. Put it in a diary and honour it.
Both of you must take ownership in creating a safe environment. This can mean lighting candles, putting some music on, opening a bottle of wine, or burning some incense – whatever works for you both.
Sit facing each other and spend around five minutes looking into each other’s eyes (you can blink!) and settle yourself into the moment.
Next, take turns expressing how you’re feeling, knowing that anything can be said. The one listening can only listen, and is then to repeat back everything that their partner said. Try your best not to paraphrase and use their words. The aim of this exercise is to make each other feel heard and seen.
After each share and reflection, say thanks for listening to each other and embrace.
If there is anything that needs further discussion, continue with loving kindness while taking care to maintain physical touch and openness throughout.
If you would like support or are curious to know more, follow Adil Hussain here.
Astrology has been around for two and a half millennia, and traces its roots to the Babylonian Age. This ancient craft was devised by the sages and the seers of those times to consult and strategise on behalf of rulers. Today, the worldwide collective consciousness has shifted from just spirituality to radical technology, social justice, and acceptance of the self through the rise of astrology.
On one memorable trip to New York for a women’s leadership training program, I had the strangest encounter of my life. I met with a psychic who told me something I’d never forget. At that point, I was at my lowest, both emotionally and physically, even though my life seemed perfect from the outside. I was exactly where I’d worked hard to be – at the peak of my journalistic career – and yet I wasn’t happy. When I visited the psychic, she said, “Don’t listen to the voices.” I was startled. “Voices, what voices?” I asked. She replied that I shouldn’t listen to the voices that tell me to kill myself. I had no idea that, at that moment, I’d begun the quest of my life by listening to the guidance of stars instead of those voices.
Fast forward to six years later, I am now a certified Applied Astrologer through the Debra Silverman School. I discovered myself, my potential, possibilities, and ultimately my soul’s journey. All the clients that I work with come to me with burning questions about their lives. They find themselves confused and torn amidst the internet’s takeover of astrology. They may have their entire astrological chart on an app, but they seek deeper knowledge about the cosmic imprint of their soul.
Astrology, Then and Now
The earliest known astrological illustrations were found 20,000 years ago. Some of the most striking ones include over 600 carvings found in France, which have the same symbols for the 12 zodiac constellations that astrologers still use today. Many cultures of the time believed that planets were forces of nature or representatives of the divine that shaped the life of every individual on earth. Whatever pattern constellated in the heavens, the study of it was always conjugated and never abstract. It was considered a necessity with life-and-death implications that required understanding the divine and mystical.
Before the advent of science, everything was connected to nature and its signs, climate, calamities, disasters, new comets, and eclipses. In the age of information, all major publications throughout the globe have a dedicated astrologer penning horoscope columns daily. The first one was published in 1930 by Sunday Express. While it was Ptolemy, an astronomer and mathematician who introduced ‘natal’ astrology, today, its sister science astronomy has split away from it, pushing many cynics to call astrology a pseudoscience. Regardless of the opposition and disbelief in the science of astronomy, questions about the millennial’s place in the universe are often comforted by astrological memes. And somehow, in this process, we feel connected to the community and end up feeling like an unique individual – a one in a billion.
Astrology, a Healing Art
Astrology as a healing art has come a long way from the Sun Sign Astrology found in newspapers and websites to a certified astrologer today, who studies a snapshot of the sky at the moment of your first breath – just like how they used to in the old times. The exact position and placements in the sky will let them have a look into the map of your soul. Just like how all psychotherapists do not work with you the same way, each astrologer looks at your chart differently.
The position of all the planets will reveal the nature of your life, almost like a neutral mirror. The map can guide you towards your true purpose. The natal chart works like an anchor for me as an astrologist, while I solidify a client’s unique qualities, challenges, possibilities to the future, as well as opportunities so that I can assist and guide them to truly live the life they were born to live.
Each planet is like a member of our counsel – almost like a spirit guide – that’s watching over us. Our lives are full of mystery and magic, and astrology as a healing art works best with time and layering of information. So, yes, grasping all there is to your life in a single session might be a far-fetched idea. Astrology is a symbolic language that appeals to both our conscious and subconscious mind.
Astrology Seeds to Sow
This healing art can speak to you when you need it most. It can actualise your destiny, and you can live out the potential of your entire being. It will illuminate the archetypes that you are living and the lessons that you are being taught. It can let you channel all energies to blend and translate into your life. Each sign within us and the planet where it plays out is the seed that we actualise and grow as we take care of it.
A story in The New York Times talked about how psychotherapists have now started learning astrology to understand their clients. Many shared that numerous clients were now using astrology as a reference point in their lives. Another article reported that venture capitalists were now investing in zodiac-focused start-ups as, according to them, astrology is having a cultural moment. I believe these factors indicate that with its rise as a constructive navigating tool for people from all walks of life, the whole debate about astrology being a pseudoscience is slowly dying out.
Transformation through Astrology
I use Applied Astrology as a healing art almost as much as an energy healing work. I practise it as a strong starting point for each client’s work with me. The natal chart acts as a roadmap into the transformation to make each puzzle of their lives finally make sense. This healing process is not for the faint-hearted and those interested in future predictions. Applied astrology requires us to comprehend where we are in our lives and to put in work for ourselves.
I create a sacred space for those who are committed, introspective, contemplative, and curious about moving into their lives with ultimate power. The tools of astrology – the planets, the positions and placements, the mystery of the skies – must be held in utmost respect for their power. There should be an understanding and awareness that it takes time to understand what these influencing factors are trying to communicate to us and what they are capable of in our lives.
If there’s anything on-trend right now, it’s inclusivity, diversity, and gender – the media is practically screaming at us about! Some may say it’s about time, while others may question what the point is. That being said, there is no greater time to be a woman and define who you are on your own terms than now. Be it a businesswoman, a female entrepreneur, a mumpreneur, or a solo sister – anything goes! However, does this freedom create stigma, confusion, or even judgment amongst our fellow female counterparts? If this question got you thinking, then I welcome you to the concept of ‘gender bias’. Let me explain.
Have you or a friend ever judged a woman based on her weight, job, fashion choices, food choices, or comments? Ever commented, “I can’t believe she did that/said that/wore that!” If yes, it could indicate that you may have a bias towards the female gender, which means there is an unspoken expectation of what or how a woman ‘should’ speak or even act. These ‘shoulds’ are societal female expectations that make women base their relationships on persona and conduct – all of which relate to the self. Men, meanwhile, typically base relationships on performance, influence, and goal orientation in the workplace.
But fear not; everyone has a ‘bias’ towards something, and this is indicative of our upbringing, culture, environment, job role, and relationship status. However, by being aware of our biases, we can come to a place of acceptance and therefore become open to building stronger connections that will benefit our personal life and career.
Women offer so many skills and, in fact, the new term ‘soft skills’ (which includes empathy, a strong sense of emotional intelligence, the ability to make others feel heard, and a sense of perspective) are all skills that I believe women inherently possess. And we have all this whilst taking on 70% of household decisions! We sound truly unstoppable, right? But it comes at a cost – USD 160.2 trillion to be exact. That’s how much money was lost due to gender inequality in the workplace. In fact, the same report on the cost of gender equality estimated that full gender equality can increase the world GDP by USD 28 trillion by 2025.
Companies can transform million dollar ideas and concepts into trillions by checking their bias and focusing on the strengths and the incredible skill sets that women can offer. It can do this by allowing flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, part-time working options, and female mentorship programmes that create a space for women to talk about their performance and collaborate with others.
Let’s now start small and check your bias to allow you to look at a new perspective. When you think of a CEO, who do you think of? A male or female? When you think of a parent, do you think of a male or female? When you think of the breadwinner of a household, do you think of a male or female? If you’ve answered male to most of these questions, this shows that you may share the societal bias towards one gender over the other. It’s powerful and impactful to know our mindset as it puts us in a place of awareness, collaboration, and exploration. It can also make our experiences and relationships stronger and more meaningful.
According to a study conducted at Cornell University: “Women tend to underestimate their confidence, whilst men will overestimate their abilities.” Another study found that men will apply for a job role with only 60% of the credentials, compared to women, who will apply for a role with only 100%. Here are ways to check your bias and thrive with confidence if faced with a job opportunity.
What can I offer this role?
If confidence or self-belief wasn’t holding me back, what would I do?
What’s holding me back?
What impact would I make if I had this role?
Why not me?
If You Own a Business, Consider the Following Questions:
Could the company benefit from a different perspective?
How gender equal are we in this company?
Is our team stronger in one gender than the other?
What gaps need filling when it comes to gender equality?
These small insights and perspectives can offer a host of knowledge about what sets us back. Remember ladies, we all are worthy of achieving our goals and dreams – and 2022 is truly our time – so be proud, make a stand, and show the world who you truly are. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “I was once afraid of people saying, ‘Who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to say, ‘This is who I am.'”
In a world where influencer fatigue is all too real, one woman by the name of Emma Armstrong – a.k.a. The Naked Doula – is using her platform to revolutionise birth and help pregnant women worldwide. The award-winning birth influencer has dedicated her life to educating women on how to have an empowered birth, turning tragedy into triumph.
“For me, being a birth influencer is helping women to find their power and influence their birth experience,” she explains. “I’ve always been a cheerleader for women, but when my mum passed away during my pregnancy, I was inspired. I took the grief and powered it into something truly special – and with that came my mission to inspire others globally!” Today, Emma not only conducts the Visual HypnoBirth Course that’s rooted in visual information to change the way women perceive childbirth, but she’s also the creator of fun yet informative flash cards designed to guide women from pregnancy to the early days of motherhood.
As for what she believes an empowered birth entails? Well, it starts with you. “Only you can empower yourself,” she asserts. “I don’t empower women – I give them the tools and motivation they need to find the power inside of them and relight a fire to feel confident and in control of their birth experience by making informed decisions.” As the realm of childbirth remains riddled with myths and misconceptions, Emma says she wishes that women would stop believing that they have to do what they’re told. “We often have no clue that we have the right to full body autonomy and can decline anything – we can make all the decisions about our bodies and birth!” Here, she shares seven of her top birthing hacks.
“Drinking from a straw whilst in labour instantly relaxes the masseter muscles, which you find on each side of your face. Once we are able to relax these muscles, its connection to our pelvic floor means this relaxes, too. In turn, you have a relaxed vagina and more elasticated perineum. It also means that, during contractions, our uterus has the space and room to do its job without restriction as our pelvic floor muscles are relaxed!”
“Extra-virgin olive oil is extremely beneficial in pregnancy and birth. I recommend women use this on their perineum whilst doing perineal massage as it doesn’t affect your vaginal microbiota – so basically, it won’t affect your pH levels or that wonder bacteria we need! Doing this regularly from 34 weeks decreases the chances of tearing in childbirth.”
“Dates, as mentioned in the Quran, were used at the birth of Jesus! Mary ate them to help ease the ‘pain of childbirth’ and there is definitely truth in this. If eaten from 34 weeks daily (x6 medjool), dates are linked to an easier labour. This is because they strengthen the uterus muscles, have a positive effect on the cervix, and have been shown to help women dilate quicker and with less discomfort, so they’re an all-round winner.”
“Singing is such a beautiful tool to use whilst in labour. There are a few benefits to this. The first is that as soon as we start singing, we activate the vagus nerve, allowing our brain to switch into a state of calm. Feel-good hormones are released and, generally, we feel amazing. It’s also been theorised that, as we sing and our voice box vibrates, the cervix/vagina has these same vibrations. The term ‘cervix’ comes from the Latin word for the neck. Also, the vagina and the throat are almost identical to each other in structure, so the more we sing, the more we dilate – in theory!”
“The phrase ‘Floppy Face Floppy Fanny’ was originally coined by American midwife Ina May Gaskin many years ago, when she shared how the face and bottom are connected. As I studied this, I found that it’s actually everything to do with the vagina – the face is connected to this area in so many ways, starting from when we’re embryos. With the word ‘fanny’ used for vagina in the UK, it made sense to create this mantra that women could chant during birth. Not only does it have an extremely powerful impact, but it’s literally changing the way we birth worldwide. In turn, it’s become a solid favourite in my community and something that I’m recognised for.”
“While the position at birth should always be instinctive, laying on your back goes against gravity. It also increases the chance of intervention tearing and overall loss of control. Instead, being upright or even laying on your side can bring your baby into the world a lot easier and with less need for intervention. KICO – a term I coined that means Knees In, Calves Out – is a technique where you’d bring your knees inwards and feet and calves out. If you can’t do this, then just bringing your knees parallel makes the difference. This way, the biomechanics of the pelvis means that the outlet space opens, giving the baby optimal room to turn and be born.”
“The environment is one of the most important things when it comes to birth, and we can influence this wherever we are! Start by thinking about the environmental factors of the womb that your baby is in warmth, trust, safe, familiar sounds, darkness with shades of red, hydration. Now think about how you can alter your environment to match this. Turn down the lights, wear an eye mask, listen to music that’s familiar to you, and take items that are of sentimental value or hold wonderful memories.”
What is victim mentality? The word ‘victim’ is thrown about a lot these days, but most people aren’t aware of how and when it should be used, and do not understand the impact it creates in our lives. Here, we’re going to delve into who a victim is to reduce all this confusion.
A victim, in this context, is a person who is at the receiving end of a bad incident or emotion when it comes to mental health. Not everyone is a victim till they allow themselves to be. You would have likely seen people give advice to take responsibility for our actions, no matter what the situation is. But most of us don’t know how to do it and what impact it can have.
How is this related to victim mentality? Consider this. Have you noticed that your life is circling the same path over and over again? Why is someone else always around you to trigger certain emotions – be it happiness or sadness? Why can’t you have a peaceful mind? Why is happiness always a short-term thing for you? If you have been thinking in this direction, congratulations! You are now one step closer to identifying the victim mentality in you and finding an answer to the problems that have been with you all your life.
How can victim mentality take over your entire life?
Let’s start with an example of victim mentality and how it turns into a cycle. If a friend hurts you and you are upset about it, you are now feeling sad because of someone else’s actions. This can cause you to feel like you were the victim of that incident. With the rise of this feeling, you are now giving your power to someone else. It’s like allowing them to be a trigger in your life. You give the other person the power to control your life.
Being a trigger, they can control your unconscious mind and make you think, do, or act as they like. By giving the conscious mind and thinking power away, you are entering a very scary path where this process repeat and become a pattern. It means that you’ll come across similar people who will trigger you and make you sad because that’s all that you know and are familiar with.
This is where you need to take responsibility for your actions. You have to tell yourself that you cannot react to another person and you must maintain control of your conscious mind. Now that we have decoded victim mentality, the same thinking can be applied to happiness, too. If you start relying on others for your happiness or the outside environment to make you happy, you are letting yourself be dependent on it – and not learning to be truly happy.
Whether it’s creating a cycle of sadness or depending externally for happiness, these habits can make life very difficult, very quickly. You cannot find long-term happiness or peace within yourself with such an approach as you’re letting yourself be a mere puppet. So what’s the solution? Believe that just as outside factors can control you, you can control the outside world, too.
If you can let your inner self control you – including your sadness, happiness, and all other emotions – then you will feel that the people around you cannot actually control your mood, especially with such intensity. You might still be sad or happy because of others, but they are no longer in control, and you know how to make yourself feel better.
How can you make yourself feel in control?
Changing your attitude is not going to happen overnight. You’ll have to undertake a lot of learning, unlearning, decoding, and adopting new habits while dropping older ones. All of this effort will help you in personal development and identifying a path that you can follow. Once these things align in your life, they become what many call coincidences and opportunities – though in reality, they are simply the results of your effort.
You have to realise that you are the power centre in this change. If you give your power away as a result of victim mentality, you’ll lose everything. In comparison, if you learn to control it, you can manipulate how you feel, what happens in your life, and how things align in your life – all of it will be in your control. The condition to gaining this power is to let go of victim mentality.
Therapy is one way to approach this as it helps you analyse your behaviour and thinking patterns and gives you the tools and techniques to change and decode them. You have to fight the situation. Let the conscious mind take control and utilise its creative and logical parts to make you believe that you deserve a really happy life – and before you know it, you’ll create it.
Vitamin C seems to be everywhere these days, from multivitamin supplements and cosmetics to skincare routines – but what’s all the fuss about? Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is not made by the body, making it is an essential dietary component as well as a helpful skincare staple.
The Benefits of Vitamin C
Oral vitamin C is needed to make collagen, which is necessary for healthy connective tissue, cellular growth, repair, and wound healing to produce nerve-transmitting chemicals, neutralise cell-damaging free radicals, and support our immune system. It’s also needed for the absorption of minerals, such as iron from plant foods.
Severe vitamin C deficiency – now rare in the developed world – leads to a condition called scurvy, which is characterised by severe fatigue, connective tissue weakness, and bleeding. Smokers and those with suboptimal diets are at risk of this deficiency. There is also data to support vitamin C’s role in cancer prevention and treatment, cataract formation, eye degeneration, and heart disease prevention.
How to Get Vitamin C
Great sources of vitamin C include fresh fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, capsicum, and broccoli. Note that the cooking and prolonged storage of such foods can reduce their vitamin C content. Eating raw fruits and vegetables, and steaming rather than boiling vegetables, is also better for preserving their vitamin C content.
Dosing of oral vitamin C is personalised by age, gender, medical history, and current symptoms. What we do know is that the best way to get adequate vitamin C is through a healthy diet. The Institute of Functional Medicine advises more than nine portions daily for optimal health and well-being. Prolonged excessive oral vitamin C doses of 1 gram or more can contribute to kidney stone formation.
Vitamin C and Skincare
Skincare products feature vitamin C for a multitude of reasons. It offers some protection against UV light and pollution, supports skin brightening, evens out skin tone, and aids collagen formation (which in turn helps with wrinkles, fine lines, and creating firmer skin). Topical vitamin C is tolerated well by most people. However, minor skin irritation can occur with high potencies or those who have sensitive skin.
When choosing a vitamin C skincare product, always aim for potent subtypes that include L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. Ideally, the product should be in a slightly acidic water-free formulation – which makes serums a great choice. Starting with concentrations of 10% should be well tolerated by most individuals.
Meanwhile, combining vitamin C with other antioxidants can be a great way to see results. The formulation bottle should be opaque and airtight as vitamin C easily loses its antioxidant properties when exposed to heat, light, or air. Vitamin C undoubtedly possesses a powerhouse of supportive ingredients. For personalised medical advice, though, always speak to your family doctor.
Follow Dr. Preya Patel, a UK-trained Family Medicine Consultant and Functional Medicine Doctor, on Instagram.
Water is an essential element for optimal health, comprising 75% of body weight in infants and 55% in the elderly. According to Harvard Health, it assists in a variety of bodily functions. While there are countless health and wellness benefits of drinking water, several myths about water and how to drink it also persist.
Before we continue, it’s important to understand that the human body is a complex unit. It will also comfort and empower you to know you are well protected by the complexity of your body. It’s not as fragile as it’s made out to be by people who want to sell their services or products using fear-mongering as a marketing strategy, so here, we address five myths about drinking water.
MYTH 1: Water can dilute stomach acids.
An often-asked question is if drinking water can dilute stomach acids. To explain this a little more, let’s look at two scenarios. The first is drinking water on an empty stomach. Water is absorbed in about approximately five minutes, and there is no release of stomach acid when water alone passes through the stomach to the small intestine. So, in this case, there is no dilution of stomach acid happening simply because none was released in the first place.
The second scenario is when water is consumed with a meal. Water helps lubricate the food we swallow, especially when we are eating way too quickly with minimal chewing. The mix of food and water adds volume, which leads to the expanding of stomach walls and releasing of digestive juices simultaneously. The stomach releases stomach acid (also called hydrochloric acid or HCl for short), which creates a highly acidic environment in the stomach with an average pH level of 2. There are hardly any studies that seem to indicate that the presence of water leads to the dilution of such acids.
One study on 12 healthy subjects showed that drinking water (which has a neutral pH of 7) increased the stomach pH to ≥4 in less than one minute, and this alkalising effect of water disappeared in three minutes. Perhaps, this is how people got the idea that water dilutes stomach acid, but even though water can minimally and temporarily change the pH of our stomach acid, it is insignificant in the grand scheme of things as the contents of our stomach are constantly monitored to adjust to different components of our meals.
A related misconception is that water will ‘flush’ our meal out of our stomach. Yes, liquids do go through our stomach faster than solid food, but this doesn’t impact the solid parts of our meal. It just stays in our stomach until it’s digested enough to move along to the next part of our digestive tract.
MYTH 2: Drinking lots of water with meals helps with mindfulness.
When it comes to mindful eating, it’s best to avoid taking water with your meals as it can be a cue for us to ‘cheat’ on chewing our food, which helps to physically break down food and gives enough time for the mouth to mix food with saliva, thereby starting the digestion process. Drinking water with your meals may lead to a reduction in chewing as the water can aid in pushing the food down. While sipping on water (as needed) when eating your meal is fine, taking large gulps may not be a good practice for mindfulness.
MYTH 3: Drinking water with a meal can cause weight gain.
It’s standard for nutritionists to advise clients trying to gain weight to avoid water with meals to help them take in more calories, but that doesn’t mean having water with food directly causes weight gain. In fact, for those who are trying to lose weight, water with meals could be a positive habit that will help some to slow down the rate at which they eat as well as reduce their food portions, thereby helping them achieve a calorie deficit.
MYTH 4: Drinking water while eating can make you sick.
In most cases, drinking water with meals shouldn’t make people sick, but it may trigger reflux symptoms in those with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). This can happen as the extra water can add volume to your stomach, and more volume leads to more pressure. This pressure can then allow acid to move back up the wrong way in some people.
Those who have gone through bariatric surgery are also asked to avoid having water and food at the same time because of the surgical changes to their digestive system. They often have to work on the timing and quantity of water they consume to avoid difficulties.
MYTH 5: Children’s stomachs are too small to drink water with their meals.
I still remember my mom telling me not to drink water with my meals. Years later, when I asked her why, she said it was to make sure I didn’t fill up my stomach with water, which could lead to food being wasted. Admittedly, children do have small stomachs that tend to get filled quickly, but again, this need not apply to all the children. If your child is able to eat enough whilst having water with their meals, then that’s absolutely fine.
Having been on a journey with meditation, I can hands down say that it’s a life-changing experience! I turned to meditation when I had nothing else left. My first experiences of ‘trying’ to meditate were around seven years ago. I had been living in Dubai for a year and fancied going on a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka. I’m a very talkative person, and I met a woman just like myself at the retreat. We both struggled to take meditation seriously and confessed that we simply couldn’t switch off, sit still, and control the thousands of thoughts racing in our minds. When I asked for advice, all I was told was that it was about the breath. Unable to progress any further, I ended up giving up.
Several years later, I found myself in Thailand after a breakdown and turned to meditation again. This time, I trained myself to meditate and the results spoke for themselves! The thing to remember here is that the brain is a muscle, and it needs training like any other muscle. The more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. I started with five minutes and now meditate, without fail, at least six days a week for a minimum of 20 minutes. I assure my coaching clients that if I can do it, anyone can – after all, I have always been someone who can’t sit still, someone who’s always on the move.
Daily habits and rituals are crucial for a happy, fulfilled life. In my line of work, I interact closely with women who want to learn how to be confident leaders. From my experience, everyone wants to learn the skills to be a great leader, but it’s the inner work that makes us shine – I call this the inner hustle. We live in a culture that rewards hustling, hard work, and long hours to be successful. This is an outdated system that leads to burnout, stress, and ultimately feeling unfulfilled. But there is much more to life than hustling!
I believe the new way is the conscious way – doing less and attracting more. It’s all about being in flow and alignment. We often feel that unless we are pushing and controlling, we aren’t productive or successful. I’ve found that when I am in this state, I make mistakes, have the wrong vibe, and end up doing more damage than good. It is only when you’re in the right space that you can attract the right people at the right time – and it all stems from feeling good.
When I work with women, I often see the same patterns, so I start by delving deep into how they spend their mornings. You can set your day up for success with the right habits and rituals. More often than not, we jump out of bed, rush to get ready, swig a coffee, and leave for the office. “I just don’t have time,” women say to me. We have to carve out time specifically for our morning habits and rituals to be successful. I can assure you the results will be outstanding if you do so. It’s the small, daily steps that lead to big breakthroughs. Meditation results in you feeling happy, calm, and in sync, and contributes to your overall wellness.
Meditation doesn’t have to be spiritual or ‘woo woo’ either – there is lots of scientific research to back up its benefits. When we meditate, we access what is known as Alpha brainwaves, which ignites creativity, inspiration, solutions, and problem-solving. There have been countless times when I have meditated and come up with ideas for my work right after. The fact is that 95% of life is created from the subconscious mind, and we can access it through meditation.
Meditation also reduces stress, gives clarity, increases focus, and promotes happiness. It is normal for thoughts to keep entering our minds as we meditate. The key is to get into the present moment, the space where we aren’t thinking of anything at all. This takes practice and the easiest way is to count your breath. Two thoughts can’t co-exist, so by counting, you are present. Here are my three tips for fruitful meditation.
Tip 1: Daily habits and rituals can be life-changing.
Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier each day and start with an inspiring podcast. Go to YouTube and look up ‘guided meditation videos’, especially ones that focus on positive energy. Pick one you like the sound of, lie back, and listen. I prefer to lie flat, though some people like to sit up. There is no right or wrong way, so do what works for you.
Tip 2: Count your breathing.
Count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale and 1-2-3-4 as you exhale. Remember to be patient with it. It’s called meditation practice as it takes practice – so stick with it. After some time, you’ll notice that you can do it for longer and longer.
Tip 3: Implement this daily, along with a gratitude journal.
We all have things to be grateful for. Every day, start with, ‘I am so grateful for…’ Combine these two things to elevate your vibration or mood. There have been times when I have woken up irritable and groggy, only to feel like I had another 10 hours of sleep after meditation.
Have you ever found yourself holding open the fridge door, peering in, and blankly looking at its meagre contents in the middle of the night? Your baby might have been up for what feels like a gazillion hours and you can actually count the minutes you’ve slept with both hands. Looking into the fridge, you might be starving or bored if your baby is finally sleeping – or even both! You might feel like you can’t be bothered to whip up anything healthy and nutritious.
Instead, you’re wishing and hoping that a giant tub of ice cream or a mouthwatering bar of chocolate would fall into your hands. And then you remember all those food delivery apps on your phone! At the click of a button, you can now satisfy all your cravings. Hello sugar high, and hello sugar crash! Ah, motherhood – where poor sleep leaves the nights long and the days even longer. Sleep deprivation is part and parcel of this journey, but what we often don’t realise is that with sleep deprivation can come strong food cravings. Thought you were over the cravings from when you were pregnant? Think again. Here are some ways that you can crush them.
Get Some Sleep!
When sleep deprived, our body creates a hormonal imbalance of Leptin and Ghrelin, which can affect the regulation of hunger cues and cause us to overeat or reach for foods that are a lot higher on the calorie count. And in some instances, it can even make us not want to eat much at all!
When we are tired – okay, exhausted – from being up all night, rocking and shh-ing the baby, reaching for that sugary ‘quick fix’ is generally what most mums find themselves doing when we have a minute to ourselves. Then, 12 months postpartum, we wonder why we look almost the same as we did the day we gave birth! I was on the same boat, too. So what can you do to stop yourself from reaching for the sugar rush?
The Sleep Foundation in Australia recommends that the average adult get eight hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night. Now, with a newborn, it is highly unlikely you’re going to be getting that, so if your baby is on a schedule, take a nap when they take their longest nap. If you aren’t quite there with a schedule yet and are a bit more relaxed about sleep times, observe your baby’s cues and choose one or two of those nap times to get some rest yourself.
The standard recommendation of the amount of water we should drink is between six to eight glasses per day. Active mums, those of us living in the Middle East or hotter climates, and those who are breastfeeding may need to up their intake of water by one or two glasses. Sometimes, our bodies will think we are hungry when we’re actually thirsty.
If water is not a regular go-to drink for you, then try some alternatives like super smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to keep hydrated, boost energy, and curb sugar cravings. To make it quick and easy, I usually add frozen fruit and baby spinach. I also freeze some bananas when they are looking a little too old. This is my go-to energy boost smoothie:
1 cup almond milk (or any milk of your preference)
1 cup of water
½ frozen banana
1 cup of berries (I often use blueberries, but you can also get a mixed bag)
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of peanut butter
¼ cup oats
1 cup frozen baby spinach (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a blender.
Blend until it’s smooth.
A word of warning: the spinach can make the smoothie look more like a blended frog, but the honey helps cut through some of the bitterness and makes it taste better than it looks.
I know the last thing you probably want to think about when you are already using toothpicks to keep your eyes open is exercise, but doing a few minutes of gentle exercise can not only help perk you up, but also distract you from reaching for those sweets! Training was always very important for me, so I did this on a daily basis anyway, but when the sugar monsters called, I’d sometimes put on music and dance to distract myself. And once I was done, I’d be smiling, my cravings have subsided, or I’d have distracted myself enough that I didn’t feel like it anymore. All I’d have was simply drink water to quench my thirst.
Be Careful of What You Add to Your Cart
Always leave the treats for someone else to buy. Steer clear of the aisles stocked with chocolate, ice lollies, and ice cream, filling your trolley with wholesome fruits and vegetables instead. However, if you do fancy a sweet quick-fix for an energy boost, then I highly recommend the Slim Secrets Bare Bar Double Choc protein bar. They’re keto-friendly, packed with almond protein, and covered in mouthwatering chocolate.
Don’t Feel Guilty
Okay, so you haven’t done the food shopping yet and the only thing in the fridge is ice cream and chocolate, and your mouth is watering, so you grab the ‘not so healthy’ option. If that happens, that’s okay! Own it! We all need a little pleasure in our lives from time to time. This new mum business is tough stuff.
Just try not to eat the entire pack or tub, and remember that moderation is key. The more sugary food you eat, the higher the calorie content and the harder it is to get those extra kilos off later. Being a mother is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding things you will ever do. Love yourself and love your body. Fill it with good stuff and you will feel so much better.
The Dubai Food Festival is set to return for its ninth edition, the programme featuring two weeks worth of culinary events across the city. Our pick? The Vegetarian Chef’s Table from May 2 to 15 at Avatara, the first and only all-vegetarian fine dining experience in Dubai. Here, the menu is inspired by humble seasonal ingredients that are pure, clean, natural, and energy-boosting, translating into a reincarnation of soulful Indian food.
Catering to fans of classical music, the InClassica International Music Festival returns to the city for its eleventh edition. Taking place at Dubai Opera and running from May 8 to June 2, the series of concerts will showcase renowned soloists, orchestras, and conductors from across the globe performing works by the likes of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart.
Start your day deep in the dunes with the Al Qudra Desert photo walk led by Gulf Photo Plus. With the assistance of a professional photographer, participants will be challenged to capture the essence of Al Qudra desert and Al Qudra lakes, gaining exposure to the colours, textures, flora, fauna, and atmosphere of the desert.
Laughter has been proven to strengthen the immune system, diminish pain, and protect from the damaging effects of stress, so attending a citywide comedy festival spanning 11 days feels like a no-brainer. That’s right – the Dubai Comedy Festival is back after two successful sell-out seasons, bringing with it stand-up gigs by acclaimed comedians like Russell Peters and Jo Koy alongside variety shows and activations like Comedy Bazaar.
While the term ‘metaverse’ remains both vague and complex, it is indicative of a major shift in how we interact with technology. Case in point: the Digital Extravaganza exhibition at Theatre of Digital Art. Taking place from May 13 to August 31, the exhibition invites visitors to imagine themselves as travellers on a multisensory narrative journey, exploring unknown lands before finally immersing in the Metaverse gallery, thereby witnessing different perspectives of visual art.
Because May’s full Moon is a total lunar eclipse and part of a set of eclipses falling along the Taurus-Scorpio axis (from November 2021 to October 2023), it is one of several cosmic pushes towards understanding and improving our attachments, financial state, and intimate life. Enter: the Lunar Eclipse Chanting session led by Eda Gungor at Seva. Incidentally, ‘man’ means mind and ‘tra’ means wave or projection, and putting it together translates to the sound current that controls mental vibration.
Family relationships are some of the most complex ones out there, often riddled with conflict and miscommunication – and that’s where the Family Constellations workshop at Illuminations comes in. Led by holistic psychotherapist Irina Khanna, the day-long session will help you heal on a deep energetic level, addressing painful family situations and releasing blocks in the unconscious mind that limit growth, health, and happiness.
Coping with the breakdown or end of a committed romantic relationship is never easy, and there could be collateral damage, but healing is made a little easier with the free Heartbreak Support Group at The LightHouse Arabia. Designed for men and women over the age of 21, it’s led by a clinical psychologist and aims to provide a safe space to share, connect, seek support, and explore the challenges that come with break-ups.
The Palestine in Plasticine Painting workshop invites anyone looking to get creative with their hands to paint the map of Palestine in plasticine, a non-drying modelling clay that’s similar to playdough in texture, and fun and easy to use. Led by leading artist Farah Nasrawi, this highly therapeutic activity will take place at Kave in Alserkal Avenue, with guidance provided throughout the duration of the workshop.