My first experience of acupuncture and cupping

When I discovered that one of my oldest friends had recently qualified as an acupuncturist I was very interested in learning more about the practice.  For several months I've been meaning to go to her clinic to try and solve some of my issues such as lower back pain and low energy, but recently with the added stress and anxiety of my personal situation I knew it was the perfect time to try it.

Acupuncture is a component of Chinese Medicine that can help with a wide range of illnesses and conditions, from chronic pain, migraines, infertility and stress and anxiety.   I had no idea it was so deeply rooted in Chinese Medicine and thought it was just something had to target sore muscles or chronic pain, so I was fascinated to find out more and experience it myself.

When I arrived at the clinic we started off with a consultation where we talked at length about a variety of areas such as my sleep patterns, eating habits, medication, energy levels and how I feel on a day to day basis.  As my friend knows me well she was able to connect a lot of this to the five Chinese elements - mine being water - which indicates certain temperaments, moods and illnesses and helps an acupuncturist decide on treatment.  My 'water' type means I can sometimes be fearful and anxious, hard and detached.  Water types typically suffer from lower back pain, tiredness and kidney and bladder issues.

Acupuncture works by inserting tiny, thin needles into specific channels on the meridians of the body that are linked to our different organs.  My friend started by putting needles into my feet and ankles - I was actually quite nervous at first but I was quickly reassured when it didn't hurt at all.  It was actually an odd sensation - even though the needles were just placed into the surface of the skin, it was a very deep feeling of relaxation that felt as if something stirred from far below the surface.  She also then placed needles into my hands, forehead and ears.  Each needle she added intensified the feeling of release and relaxation.  For most of it I kept my eyes closed and it was almost a meditative experience - added to by the soft, calming music and the aromatherapy oils being gently steamed into the room.  

One of the things I wasn't expecting is that my friend then added something onto the end of the needle which could be lit, and set the needles on fire! (This is called Moxibustion). This produced a warm sensation that radiated all throughout my legs and felt even more relaxing.  It was like the warmth was flowing all through my body.

She then took the needles out and I rolled over onto my front for the next bit of the treatment.  I've been getting a lot of tension in my shoulders, with frequent neck pain and headaches over the last few weeks.  She advised that 'cupping' would be a good way to stimulate the blood flow, release toxins, increase circulation and improve my energy levels.  She placed cups with suction at the ends on the shoulders and upper back, and 'clicked' them to increase the suction.  The skin is then drawn into the cup - the ones on my shoulders were slightly sore but all the rest felt fine and it was a really odd experience! My neck has been clicking a lot and feeling very strained and sore and my friend advised that the cupping should completely eradicate that.

The whole session with the consultation included lasted around 1.5 hours and I left feeling very relaxed and a little tired, which is apparently very natural.  Since my session I've definitely noticed myself feeling less anxious and stressed and my whole body feels less tense and somehow 'looser'.  I also noticed that my mobility and flexibility in my yoga class and at the gym the next day were much improved.  Although I'm still struggling with my sleep (I've been waking in the night and finding it difficult to get back to sleep) I'm finding this is getting better every day.

I'm booked in for my next appointment on Tuesday and I'm hoping to have acupuncture and cupping at least every two weeks for the time being as I can see that it would yield a huge improvement in my stress levels and the tension, neck and back ache I've experienced.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the long-term results and am already excited for my next session.

Have you ever tried acupuncture? 


Morning pages, and realisations

I've been doing three things religiously over the last couple of weeks - writing in my gratitude journal in the morning and evening, writing in my 'one line a day' journal, and writing 'morning pages' (there is a good article about what morning pages are here).  It might seem an odd time to be dedicated to documenting my days but I think it's important to notice the happier times, be grateful for the many wonderful things I do still have in my life and to just get things out of my brain and onto the page. Morning pages really helps with this as it involves just writing longhand, freehand, stream of consciousness, preferably for about three pages (though I don't force it if it isn't coming).  It acts as a 'brain dump', a way to get things out of your mind and onto paper.  Apparently you're not supposed to look back on your morning pages, but I often do, especially lately.  It makes me realise that deep inside, the words that come out onto the page are very positive and hopeful even if I don't always necessarily feel like that.  I often find myself writing intentions or plans for the future and I find them incredibly helpful to look back on and realise that my intuition is trying to guide me forward.  Looking back a few days ago I can see that I wrote:

'Walk more. Be outside more. Be 'tov' - imperfect, messy {link to podcast here}. Take time out for you. Take time to listen to birds.  Take your hands off the wheel and let the universe decide.  Roll  your yoga mat out.  Read more, learn more, nourish and find joy.  Do not try to fill space - learn to love the space.  Be someone known as being relentlessly positive.  Make quick decisions and move things forward.  Embrace uncertainty and learn to love the questions.  Trust the process.  Enjoy the simple pleasures and invite and celebrate joy.'

I wasn't really thinking as I was writing these things, they were just spilling out onto the page.  They seem like useful things to pay attention to.

This weekend I was with friends in their beautiful house in Wiltshire, where they have a teeny baby, chickens clucking around and a dog that bounds out to their front gate to greet you.  In many ways they have everything that I want, and though I could have been green with envy, I just felt full of love and happiness for them and their situation.  As I was stood in their stunning bathroom looking at their antique tiled floor, luscious green plants and huge rain shower, I realised that being on my own now isn't a barrier to me having these things (well, okay, maybe the baby).  In my head I had equated being married, or being in a relationship with being able to have the happy, comfortable life, but for now I just need to focus on being kind to myself and enjoying being a Rosie.  I can still have a lovely home and a happy life even if I'm not sharing it with someone else just now.


Health and Fitness Update + Protein Powder

Since moving back to my parents' house I've tried not to change too many of my routines to keep a bit of normality in my life amidst all the changes.  One thing I've been determined to do is keep my health and fitness regime ongoing as I know how much better it makes me feel when I go to the gym, and how much worse it makes me feel when I get into bad eating habits (daily packets of Daim Cadbury Eggs I'm looking at you).  Even though most mornings I'd rather be staying cocooned in my quilt than getting up and going to the gym, I've kept up my personal training appointments and also tried to fit in a few runs as the post-exercise endorphins really give me a boost.  Here is a totally narcissistic blurry phone photo in my gym socks from before I went to the gym a couple of weeks ago, because why not?

I've actually got out of some of my better habits and put on a few lbs since after Christmas so I'm determined to up my training and nail my eating habits to get to where I want to be.  I was away with work last week and found myself ordering room service and drinking more wine than I usually do but I've accepted that things aren't always easy to control and to be kind to myself and just go with the flow.

Although I've got out of the habit of tracking on MyFitnessPal, one thing I always fell down on is not eating enough protein.  I'm not naturally a great meat eater and most of the foods I'm naturally drawn to (hi there bread and potatoes) are not very protein dense.  Because I've been focussing on building muscle in training, protein is important for building lean body mass and so it's not really ideal to be lifting weights and surviving on toast (more's the pity).  For that reason I tend to have a protein shake after the gym or with a meal if it's one without much protein in it.

For the last few weeks I've been trying out the Herbalife Formula 1 Sport which is a protein shake which can also be used as a meal replacement shake.  I'm not an advocate of meal replacement shakes or anything that suggests swapping out meals, but as it has 18g of protein it's an easy way to get a hit of protein after a workout without having to eat a load of chicken!

Herbalife Formula 1 Sport*
I have it with almond milk or cashew milk (cashew milk is SO nice) and the vanilla flavour is really yummy, I'd definitely recommend it.  I don't think you can actually buy Herbalife 'off the shelf' but if you go on their website you can fill in a form and get one of their reps to contact you who can help you select the products that are right for you.  I also tried out their protein bars which are absolutely lush.  They're another product that are perfect for after the gym or as a mid-morning snack - they're only 140 calories per bar and have 10g of protein.  I'm definitely going to find a way to re-buy them as I finished the box really quickly and I'm going to miss them in my gym bag over the coming weeks!

I'm really focussed on keeping to my plans over the next few weeks (whilst allowing a bit of balance too of course).  I've found a yoga class near me that I really like, I want to run a couple of times a week and also carry on with my personal training.  I went swimming last week which I really enjoyed  and I'd like to find a nice pool near me that I can swim at before work but I'm quite particular about the cleanliness of the changing rooms - what a snob! Still, it was a good excuse to stock up on some cute mini shower gels and get a new washbag - especially as I had some money off vouchers for Boots!

Do you have any health and fitness plans at the moment? Is it just me that's totally seduced by all the Easter chocolate in the shops...

On being not okay

I'm at the dinner table in a hotel and the people I'm with are chatting about their husbands and families; reflecting on how things might be going back home whilst they are away.  My workmate is describing how her husband will hang washing out, but refuse to put it away, and so piles of clean clothes amass around the house.  Another colleague is laughing at her husband's inability to properly load the dishwasher, and how often she ends up re-loading it after he has cleared away after dinner.  I smile and laugh along, but under the table I am digging my nails in my hands and trying not to cry; biting my lip and glancing around the restaurant to wait for the emotion to pass.  For someone who used to cry maybe once or twice a year, I have perfected the art of only 'just about' avoiding crying in public over the last few weeks (as well as several very much failed attempts at avoiding it).  The thing is - I want so badly to have my own, current tales of domestic monotony to share at dinner but I have none.  In the end, the things you miss are not the big things, they are the small things.  Chatting about your day in the kitchen whilst you wash up, going through your list in the supermarket and discussing what you might have for dinner, rifling through the washing basket and washing the things you know they'll want to wear the following day.  I took all of these things for granted and now all I want is normality, to fit in with what I feel most 32-year-old's lives look like, and what I always wanted mine to look like at this age.  I imagine a parallel universe where I will be leaving the hotel and going back to cook dinner, put children to bed and go to sleep in a home in a leafy suburb, instead of going back to unpack my bag in the back bedroom of my parents' house.  How can I have messed up so significantly that this is my life now, instead of that one?  I always thought that I was ambitious; a dreamer, someone who shot for the stars, but what I long for now is just normality and familiarity.  I don't want a six figure salary or a wardrobe full of designer handbags or a round the world plane ticket (well, maybe that one), I just want Netflix and a takeaway pizza under a blanket with someone I love.

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to 'get on with things' - work hard, see friends, carry on living even though I feel broken inside.  But in the last few days the wheels have stopped turning and the cracks have made their way to the outside.  I just can't do it any more.  I can't hold back the tears, the tide of emotion, the feelings of sadness that sit like a permanent lump in my throat.  I have had to wave the white flag and admit that, put simply, I am not okay.  I have been struck by how many people haven't asked how I am; friends who haven't been in contact; people who don't seem to express much concern at someone explaining that they no longer live in the house that they owned with the person they were married to.  But I realise now that if you look like you're okay on the outside, people assume you are okay on the inside (and I get that people are nervous to ask and think you might not want to talk about it, which is sometimes true).  It has taken a lot (for someone who prides themselves on being rational, measured and strong) to admit that I need help and support.  I lay in bed yesterday morning and messaged friends to explain how I was feeling, and not one person made me feel unreasonable, or weak or as if I shouldn't be feeling like this.  I messaged my boss and she has helped me find space in my work life to allow me to heal and recover.  I allowed people to help me and to offer advice and send love.  All of a sudden, bottling it all up doesn't seem that sensible any more.
img credit: Ijeoma Umebinyuo via instagram

I've never been sure whether to share these things on here, for fear of looking like a 'whinger', or an 'oversharer'.  Blogging (and particularly social media) often feels as if it should be about the best bits, and all I seem to share lately are the worst bits.  But it feels important at this time to open up about the darker days in the hope that others feel less alone when days like these arrive for you also.  I have been angry with myself for not being able to cope - for days when my brain won't seem to work and I forget things, for days when even just driving home from work seems complicated and tiring, for days when my brain just replays images over and over until I cannot bear it any more and have to numb it with sleep/wine/giant bars of chocolate and other vices.  What I have learned is to show myself kindness and allow these days to happen, knowing that there are brighter days around the corner.  As my friend said, 'these days, or weeks, or months are just a dropped stitch in the tapestry of life'.  Here's to just the hope of more colourful, well rooted stitches that are a little further along the pattern.  When glimpses of hope arrive, they must be clung to.


Review: Showcase Cinema de Lux Southampton

Going to the cinema is one of those activities that I always really, really enjoy when I do it, but I often don't think to do.  This year I definitely want to make more time to see the films that come out that I decide I want to see (rather than seeing a trailer, promising myself I'll go and see it, and then only realising I didn't when it comes out on DVD).  One of the things I love about the cinema is the whole experience of going - the warm popcorn, the tray of nachos (okay, okay, I tend to fixate on the food...), the atmosphere and the excitement as the lights go down - it's just not the same as watching something at home on Netflix.

So when I was invited to take a look at the new Showcase Cinema De Lux in Southampton, I jumped at the chance to tick off one of my aspirations for the year.  My friend and I popped along on a Tuesday night with two tickets to Fifty Shades Darker (I know, I know, but we wanted to switch our brains off for a bit!) and an appetite for a bucked of popcorn.

I was not prepared for just how amazing the new cinema is.  There's ten screens, with laser projection and incredible sound (the wall to wall screens are just humongous!)

There's a VIP bar especially for Gallery customers (as well as a Lounge Bar for everyone else) so you can grab a glass of wine on the way into the movie.  It felt very civilised sitting watching a film with a cold glass of wine in hand! Gallery tickets are around £15 but you get to sit in reclining leather chairs and they also bring you a 'bento box' which had popcorn, chocolate sauce and marshmallows, sweets and all sorts of other treats in it! The reclining seats are just incredible, I can't think of much better than lying back in a chair and watching a film in ultimate comfort.

Now I know how amazing this cinema is I'll definitely be making more trips to see all the films on my list.  Lolling back in a comfy chair with a glass of vino and a tray of nachos is a pretty amazing way to spend an evening and one I intend to do as often as possible...

PS - Fifty Shades Darker was exactly as I expected - total trash, completely ridiculous and a good way to give your brain a rest for a couple of hours!

Have you been to the cinema recently?

Getting back into running

There was a time a couple of years ago when I used to run every day before work.  Running was the first real exercise I got into after about 12 years of doing almost no physical activity whatsoever, and so it will always have a special place in my heart (I even wrote about how I ran to Nottingham - well, kind of).

An awful lot has changed since my days of running 5k most mornings before work, not least the fact that my commute is currently around an hour rather than the 10 minutes it was back then. Nowadays I tend to eschew cardio in favour of lifting weights, and whilst running kick-started my weight loss and fitness journey, I'm more focussed on building muscle and toning my body.


Whilst seeing my shoulders and biceps grow and watching the fat on my legs slowly (so slowly) turn into muscle is pretty exciting, there really is nothing quite like a run along a windy seafront, the breeze swishing your ponytail, your trainers pounding along the promenade.

And so it was that a new pair of rather jazzy new Asics running shoes* came into my life, and my old, battered but much-loved Asics runners were sidelined to the back of the cupboard (one cannot simply just throw out running shoes, you understand).  After not running since November, I took them on a trial run (okay, jog - it's been four months) along the seafront on Tuesday morning.

Asics Gel Kayano Running Shoes, £145*, John Lewis

Now, if there is one thing I have learned since running, it is that you should try and at least vaguely plan some sort of route or distance before you set off.  And always remember the golden rule - if you run a certain distance away from home, you have to then come that same distance back (I know, it's a complex one).  I did not really pay attention to either of these rules, which is how I found myself merrily jogging along 2.6 miles from my house and then realising that five miles is a little distance to run when you haven't actually pulled your running shoes on since before Christmas.

I think the exhilaration got me a little bit - that feeling of being totally powerful, in tune with your body; like you could achieve anything.  However my body did not feel like quite the same slick, well oiled machine yesterday when it could barely achieve walking down stairs or getting into the bath the following day.  Lesson learned - running is bloody amazing, but don't overdo it!  One thing I do know is that the one thing that held up throughout the run even when other parts of me were trying to gently give me a nudge that I might have slightly overdone it, was my trainers.  I massively recommend Asics trainers, and John Lewis have a fab range of running shoes whether you're a total beginner or a seasoned running pro.  Running is such a great sport to get into and now it's coming into Spring, which brings with it lighter mornings and lighter evenings, it's the perfect time to dig out (or seek out) your trainers and rack up a few miles.  I'm going to start fitting one or two runs a week into my routine - partly to add in some cardio and partly because I really do find that the fresh air and the act of running outside really clears my head and makes me feel absolutely great afterwards.

Are you a fan of running or do you prefer other activities?

*Post in collaboration with John Lewis, all opinions are my own


Making waves with the ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand

My hair is naturally slightly wavy, and lately I've been leaning towards wearing it in loose curls rather than straightening it all over.  I might have mentioned it before, but my hair is quite broken due to over-straightening it and I've been trying to re-condition it and build it back up again with deep conditioners, supplements and only straightening it every couple of days.  I find that curling it means that (with a lot of hairspray), it stays in for a couple of days (even if they are more like dropped waves the next day) which negates the need to straighten it daily.

I've been trying out the ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand (£120*) over the last week or so to create different styles, such as curls or waves, beachy hair or big curls. 

I've had to really get used to how to use the wand as I've previously used stylers with a clip that you clip the hair in with and then wind up to the root.  However, using the creative curl wand you wrap the hair around the barrel of the wand and then hold the wand vertically.  I did find it a bit fiddly at first but I quickly got the hang of it.  It turns on via the button on the wand (and makes a really satisfying noise!) and has an in-built stand for when you're not using it.  

Like with most curling wands or stylers, you can create waves or curls by simply sectioning your hair, wrapping 1" sections around the wand and holding it in place for 5-8 seconds, and then alternating curling the sections away from or towards your face.

I still need a lot more practice and where my hair has layers or broken bits it doesn't look quite as neat as some of the vloggers who do YouTube tutorials who have long, luscious locks, but I'll get there! I've been watching this video to get the hang of using the wand, can I have hair like her thanks please?

Do you use a curling wand to create waves or curls? Have you tried the ghd Curve wand?

*ghd Curve Wand was a gift but all opinions are my own