30 Day Cold Shower Challenge – Was it Worth it?

A while ago, I decided that I wanted to try taking cold showers. Insane, I know, but I heard about it on YouTube and had read about it online, and it seemed to bring a lot of benefits to the body, including:

  • Healthier hair and skin
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Mimics a caffeine boost
  • Increases productivity
  • Minimises susceptibility to stress
  • And many more…

But for me, the main reason I wanted to try it was because I used to really struggle with brain fog/tension headaches. So, back in February, I set out to take cold showers every morning, and this is a week by week review of how it went…

Week 1

I think I knew the first week was going to be difficult, but it was actually quite amusing taking on this challenge. Every time I stepped into the cold shower it was so freezing my initial reaction was to just laugh at how crazy I was for doing this. My thought process consisted primarily of ‘WHY IS THIS SO COLD’ and ‘WHY AM I DOING THIS’ (especially in winter), but I stuck with it. It felt really good to challenge myself and I definitely still think it’s worth a try.

Week 2

In a weird way, I’m slowly getting used to it now. The crazy laughing when I jump in the shower has stopped (I know, I was just as worried as you were), and I’ve been trying really hard to take deep breaths and relax under the cold water. I no longer feel like I have an initial “ugh not this again” reaction to taking a cold shower so I think that helps a lot. I’ve also been experimenting with how cold a cold shower needs to be, and I think having it on the coldest setting straight away is definitely unnecessary – it needs to be cold, but not so freezing that it’s physically impossible.

Week 3

It’s pretty much become a habit now. I don’t really have to think about it; it just happens. The only day I almost broke it was on Wednesday – I was up earlier than usual for my seminar and I was so freezing before I even got into the shower. The temptation to run warm water was so hard to resist, but I just about managed to – I’ve come so far, I didn’t want to ruin it!

Week 4

I think as the days are coming to an end, I’m thinking more and more about having a warm shower. It’s weird because, now that cold showers have become the “norm”, the thought of having a warm shower almost instils in me the fear I had when I initially decided to have a cold shower, and I have no idea why! It’s as if my head is thinking something bad is going to happen by me going back to my old habits, although I doubt it will be this drastic. It’s interesting that my thought process has changed this much! I will definitely be trying to cherish my last few cold showers.

 

The Aftermath

Trying a Hot Shower after ages

So I stepped into a hot shower and it felt unbelievably satisfying! It’s been 30 days since I’ve had one of these so I felt so much gratitude towards it – I could really appreciate something which before I took for granted. It didn’t have quite the kick that a cold shower has to wake me up, but I still feel fairly alert.

A Week Later

Second day into hot showers and I actually willingly ran a cold shower! It might have been because I’d done a bit of yoga beforehand, so I felt like something more refreshing, but either way it surprised me.

However, since then, I’ve gone completely back to warm showers (apart from the occasional switch to cold water at the end of my shower). It doesn’t feel as refreshing having a warm shower, but it’s the “easier” option, especially when the weather is cold outside. Perhaps in summer I will dare to go back.

Overall conclusion

It’s really hard to tell whether the cold shower had a positive impact, besides from making me feel more refreshed and alert. I feel like my brain fog has subsided more, but for other reasons (binaural beats, relaxation techniques, etc.).

I think to see the true benefits of a cold shower you’d probably have to do it for a longer period of time and whilst keeping the rest of your life in a normal routine (to see if it really plays a factor).

I’m still really glad I took on the challenge though – it’s a good way of proving to yourself that you can do the “impossible”. It also made me super grateful that we even have access to hot water, because there are people around the world who don’t.

 

Have you tried taking cold showers?

 

 

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

‘Reboot your Health’ by Sara Davenport [Book Review]

As you may have seen last week, I posted my book review of Reboot your Brain. Here is a review of another Sara Davenport book!

Reboot your Health includes ‘simple DIY tests and solutions to assess and improve your health.’ It’s a book for those who are struggling with a health issue they can’t solve, something their doctors can’t help them with, or for anyone who just wants reassurance in their goals towards greater health and wellbeing.

Honestly, I wish I had a book like this last year! I fell ill in February 2019 with fatigue and brain fog and no one, including the doctors, knew what was wrong. I think, when illnesses like these occur, it’s hard to know where to start on the journey to recovery – I certainly had no clue! So I really admire books like Reboot your Health that remind you that you can make a difference to your own health if you put in the work. By making small changes, you can really change your life for the better. And from personal experience, I know it’s true.

Summary

Reboot your Health is split up into different sections. The first section has a chapter on every single organ of the body, from your heart, to liver, to thyroid and more! I read the book from cover to cover, which meant that some of the details were a little monotonous (since they weren’t necessarily relevant to me), but it’s signposted so well that you can dip in and out of the sections that you need!

There are also chapters on food, exercise, sleep and stress. And my favourite part, which was actually the last few pages of the book, titled “Stay on Track”. These pages had such a great overview of what you can do to increase your health and wellbeing, from probiotics to laughter to remembering to say no, that I will definitely be referring back to this every now and again to make sure I’m staying on track!

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is willing to make healthy changes to their life, whether that is for mental health reasons, or physical reasons. We all need a bit of guidance sometimes, and this book is the perfect coach.

 

You can buy Sara’s book Reboot your Health on her website here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5

 

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

 

‘Reboot your Brain’ by Sara Davenport [Book Review]

This was a very fascinating read, all about the ways you can go about increasing your brain function. It’s for those who may suffer with Alzheimer’s, brain fog, headaches, loss of concentration, exhaustion and more. But it’s also for anyone who wants to optimise their brain and age well. For someone who fell hard with extreme fatigue and brain fog last year, this was a really interesting and beneficial read for me.

It covers absolutely everything you can think of – brain detoxes, viruses, emotional release exercises, supplements, the gut-brain, daily practices, therapy, binaural beats, and more!

The kind of books I like are the books that make you stop and think and this one certainly did. It is full of scientific discoveries – more information than your brain can take in all at once (which is ironic, considering the focus of the book) – but, if read in chunks, you can definitely learn a lot. I found myself writing down a list of things I wanted to try as I went along – certain remedies and exercises that I liked the sound of and wanted to try incorporate in my life, or simply wanted to research more about.

 

Parts I found particularly interesting:

  • How mould can affect your health, as well as metal (be that in teeth fillings, root canal work, etc.)
  • Exercises for discarding unhelpful beliefs, through letting go of emotional and traumatic memories – I really want to try these!
  • The effect UV rays from phone screens, TV’s etc. affects health, and how you can prevent this with protective sunglasses or screen protecters
  • The sheer amount of supplements mentioned in this book – there is something for everyone!

 

Parts I knew about already but recommend:

  • Daily practices – meditation, gratitude journalling, learning something new, prioritising sleep. I actually incorporated some of these into my daily routine last year during my healing process and they really have helped!
  • Binaural Beats – This is something I tried earlier this year and it did wonders for my brain fog. This book reminded me to revisit theta waves in order to access deep relaxation more often.
  • Probiotics – since I’ve been taking these, my digestion has felt so much better. It’s also fascinating how much gut health affects the brain and mental health
  • This book got me to consider some practices I’ve heard of before, but never tried, such as acupuncture, tai chi, resetting TMJ (clicking joints in the jaw) – perhaps it might be worth giving these a try at some point!

 

Overall, this is the kind of book where not everything will be interesting or relevant to you, but when you come across something that is, it really can change the way you look at your life.

You can buy Sara’s book Reboot your Brain on her website here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5

 

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You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

Join my Wellbeing Newsletter here.

 

5 Things I’m Grateful For This January (2020)

Here’s my monthly post on my gratitude for January!

 

Journalling

For the new year, I decided that I wanted to take up a consistent journalling habit. I was inspired by Dr Chatterjee’s book Feel Better 5 where he gave examples of good ways to journal at the end of the day. So now, as I’m winding down for bed, I get out my journal and write down 3 things that went well that day (something I enjoyed, something I’m grateful for, anything), as well as reframing a moment that I didn’t particularly like, explaining how it made me feel, how I can approach it next time and ultimately forgiving myself for it. For example, using my phone too much throughout the day, or not speaking up for myself. Not only will this help me actually put my stack of notebooks to good use (I’m a bit of a hoarder), but a lot of the time it drowns out the overthinking noise in my head and reminds me of the good parts of the day, so I can go to sleep in peace.

 

Books

One of my goals for this year is to read more books for pleasure, not just those for my degree. I’ve already read 2 books so far which is really good going for me, and it’s made me realise how much I appreciate the books that I have, the writers who write them, and my ability to read. I know for a fact that education has thrown my love of books all over the place, but this month I’ve reunited with that feeling. I’ve started a new bedtime routine where, after I have journalled, I read a book of my choice before I go to sleep, and I think it’s really helped to spark my enjoyment again, as well as improving my sleep.

 

Embracing Stillness and Rest

I’ve always been a bit of a typical introvert in that I love spending time alone to pursue my hobbies, such as reading, writing, blogging, etc. but I equally love being busy and doing things. I feel like this month I’ve just had a lot more space to breathe and I think that’s because I’ve taken more of a chilled out approach to things. I’ve taken the time I need to just sit and contemplate things and not feel guilty for resting. I find it so much easier now to say “no” to things I don’t want to go to, embracing the fact that sometimes I just want to stay home and chill and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It means that I have more energy for the things I do want to go to.

 

Playing Music

Since it’s nearing the last four months of my time at university, it got me thinking a lot about the societies and clubs I do here and how I will actually miss them a lot when I leave. One of these is playing the clarinet in Big Band. Although I don’t practice much on my own, I really enjoy playing as a group and creating music that others can listen to and enjoy. This month Big Band released a CD that we recorded last year and we had an album launch at the uni bar where we played some of the pieces and sold the CD’s. I listened to the CD when I got home and it just made me really happy and proud that I could be a part of something so great. It makes me really grateful that my parents encouraged me to start music lessons, particularly my Dad since he is musical too. I think it’s pretty cool that I can play instruments and I don’t remind myself of that enough.

 

Binaural Beats

This is something that I only started experimenting with during the latter half of this month, but wow has it changed a lot in my life. For those of you who don’t know, binaural beats, in summary, is relaxing music that is considered sound-wave therapy – you can find music that is based on different frequencies and waves, such as alpha, beta, theta, etc. Each type of wave has different benefits, but most of them promote relaxation, decrease stress/anxiety and in some cases pain. I found a theta wave video on YouTube for brain fog, since that is something I have struggled with for a year now, and I was absolutely amazed when, even after the first couple listens, my brain fog had just disappeared. I feel like the music is so relaxing, and makes my body feel so heavy and at peace, that it dissipates any underlying stress that is in my body, which a lot of the time I don’t even realise is there. I haven’t felt so present and aware of my surroundings in a long time, and for that I am incredibly grateful to binaural beats. I’m not sure if this is something that will work long-term, but I’m going to continue using it and see what happens. For now, it is a very reassuring sign of hope.

[If anyone wants me to send the video or share any more details about this, drop me a message in the comments or through social media – links below]

 

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What are you grateful for this month?

Let me know in the comments!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Post Viral Fatigue (my story over the past 5 months)

Today, I’m going to share something a bit more personal. It’s something that I’ve been struggling with for a while now and I want to just ramble a bit about what I’m going through in the hopes that it’ll help myself, but maybe also other people in similar situations. I find it hard to explain it all in person because it’s been super complicated, so hopefully typing it out will be easier and give myself a sense of perspective.

(Apologies this post turned out to be really long!)

Back in February was when I first started to feel unwell. I had a sudden onset of brain fog where I couldn’t concentrate or focus on anything properly, I didn’t really feel like I was in the present and living, and consequently I was exhausted. Around this time, I was extremely stressed out. There was a lot going on and it was a period of anxiety for me for sure. Perhaps this caused me to become ill, but I still can’t be certain.

Despite the brain fog and tiredness, I continued on with my life. Because that’s what you do when things go wrong, right? You just push through and hope for the best. But in this scenario, this really wasn’t the best thing to do. Weeks later, I became so fatigued I just didn’t know how to cope. I’d look in the mirror and I didn’t even look like myself. I was just so pale and exhausted and I was often crying out of frustration. I was at university at the time so it was super difficult trying to keep up with work and socialising when I was so ill. I could barely get up to do anything. There were many occasions where I pushed myself to get out the house to go to lectures or career talks, but I could barely make it up the street without feeling out of breath, like my legs were super weak and my throat feeling super uncomfortable (because my glands were so swollen). I remember sitting in a lecture room with my eyes barely even open and feeling like an absolute ghost of myself. I would go home and immediately jump into bed and sleep. But the worse part was that, even though I was so exhausted (exhausted beyond what I’d ever even experienced or imagined to be possible), I couldn’t actually fall asleep (I often struggle with sleep problems). And even when I did, I woke up feeling exactly the same as before: tired. Except the word “tired” now means something completely different to me. Before “tired” meant feeling low in energy and finding it difficult to do things. Now, “tired” means my body feeling absolutely drained, my whole chest heaving for breath, a heaviness to the way I feel and move, so much so that the extent of the tiredness sometimes makes me feel numb. It makes me wonder why I ever complained of tiredness before.

Honestly, the beginning of this illness was the most frustrating period of my life because I had no idea what was wrong with me. At one point I thought it might be related to my mental health since I have struggled with anxiety and mild depression in the past, but it seemed that whatever illness I was struggling with was causing symptoms of anxiety and depression, not the other way around. I would tell people I’m ill and they’d say “oh you don’t look ill” and I felt so helpless, because on the outside I looked healthy, but on the inside I felt like something was gnawing away at my insides, swallowing up all my energy. How could I make someone else understand when I didn’t even understand myself?

And the problem was that I went to the doctor multiple times and it got me absolutely nowhere. First time, they gave me antibiotics, thinking it was some flu-related illness due to swollen glands and a fever. I took the antibiotics, twice a day for a week, and if anything it made me feel worse. I felt so nauseous I had to force myself to eat and I spent a week in bed doing nothing, which is so hard for me because I’m such a productive person. So I went back to the doctors again. They thought I might have glandular fever so they gave me a blood test. I waited a week for the results to then ring up and find out that they didn’t have any results and I’d have to redo the blood tests. I was absolutely exhausted and did not have the energy to leave the house, but I had to force myself to the hospital to get them done. I think I might have ended up at the hospital twice because the results were inconclusive again, but either way, the blood tests came back completely clear and I didn’t have glandular fever at all.

At this moment in time, I was so conflicted about the results. Part of me obviously didn’t want glandular fever, but another part of me hoped the blood test would show something wrong because I was fed up of not having an answer. I had to keep telling my lecturers that I was ill and couldn’t turn up to class, and had to miss out on all the university societies I was a part of, but I didn’t know how to explain it when I didn’t have any proof. I felt like I was lying even though I knew it was the realest thing I’d ever faced.

Skip a month or two and I was back home for Easter break. I decided to go to the doctor in my hometown to get a second opinion. I was told to have another blood test so I did, and it all came back clear. I went to see a kinesiologist and she told me it was likely stress-related (which I’m unsure about since it’s summer now and I’m not stressed) and gave me some remedy drops. I took these four times a day for three weeks and I think for this period of time I did almost feel like my normal self. I somehow managed to complete my uni assignments and finished the year (hooray!) However, when I stopped taking the drops and started reading again, the illness came flooding back again. Every time I concentrated on something, whether that was reading or playing a game or even holding a conversation, brain fog and exhaustion hit. It felt like the slightest hope that I was going to recover was just pulled right out of my hand.

Fast forward to a month or so ago, I went to the doctors again. I took in a notebook and listed all my symptoms and everything that had happened only for the doctor to look at her watch halfway through and say “I don’t have much time.” You can imagine how distraught I felt to have gone through 5 months of illness to have a doctor totally disregard my attempt at an explanation. But she did give me one small piece of information that I’m holding on to for lack of any better explanation and that is: I might have post viral fatigue. I had never heard of this term before and honestly I don’t even remember having a virus back in February, but I guess these things can hit you without you even realising. The doctor gave me a sheet of paper for an online sleeping course to help my insomnia, and then told me she’d “send me information” about a consultant referral. She couldn’t refer me to a fatigue consultant herself since I was registered permanently at my university doctor (and only temporarily in my hometown).

As you would expect, I waited for the doctor to send the details, but no details were sent. I rang up to query it a week or so later and the receptionist told me “a temporary account only lasts 14 days so your account is inactive”. She then told me that I had to come back to the doctors to fill out a form before I could be given information. Why didn’t the doctor tell me this at the appointment? And how did I make an appointment a week ago if my account was inactive? It was absolutely ridiculous and by this point I had had enough.

So here I am now, with another doctor’s appointment booked at my university doctors for when I make a trip up there in a week’s time. I am determined to get a referral for a consultant appointment so I can finally get some support!

I suspect that with post viral fatigue it’s a case of resting and waiting for it to just disappear, but honestly I’m worried about when I have to start uni again in September. Although my fatigue is not as bad as it was in February, brain fog still affects me and my energy levels are still lower than usual. Every time I feel particularly exhausted my throat feels inflamed due to my gland (which seems to be permanently swollen) and I feel nauseous. A lot of the time my head is so cloudy I don’t feel like I’m really with it and it’s difficult to process things. I’ve noticed that sometimes I forget a word for something, or I type out a word that’s different than the word in my head, and it worries me. All I need is some reassurance and support from someone – a doctor, consultant – who understands what’s going on in my body so that I can make changes for recovery. It’s just been so difficult to even get to this point.

Honestly it’s been such a whirlwind of a year, but I’ve made it this far and I feel like, despite all this, I’m staying positive. If you’ve made it this far on this post, I’m impressed. Five and a half months of my illness shared in one post is a LOT to take in, but it feels good to share it out in the open.

If anyone has any advice for me, please leave a comment below (at this point, I will consider literally anything!) and I wish you all the best health ❤️

For an update on this: check out my post on stress/anxiety here.