Life and Health
I used to be someone who was always exposing myself to challenges in order to be the best that I could be, pushing myself physically, mentally and professionally. This included achieving my PhD by the time I was 28, completing my Masters at Imperial College, running marathons and even ultra marathons! So you could say I liked to keep busy. However, this sort of lifestyle isn’t necessarily healthy. I had little time or consideration for rest, recovery or recuperation, it just wasn’t something that sat comfortably with me. So it eventually it all caught up with me.
In 2016 I experienced burnout, exhaustion, low mood and anxiety. I was not sleeping more than 4 hours a night, struggling to get out of bed in the morning but wired at night meaning I couldn’t sleep no matter how much I tried. This was a strange situation to be in because I considered myself to be a fit person, I ran a lot and went to the gym and ate well, but pushing myself physically and mentally made me feel very unwell. Eventually I was diagnosed with chronic stress and adrenal fatigue.
The more I learnt about my situation, the more I realised that it wasn’t just due to the odd stressful day or week, it had been caused by a build up of stress over more than 12 years. Here’s why…
‘The Perfect Storm’
Unfortunately in 2004 whilst I was in the middle of studying for my PhD and training for the London Marathon, my father died as a result of a sudden cardiac arrest despite me trying in vain to revive him with CPR. Losing my father in such a shocking way meant that I’d spend the next 14 years with my nervous system on high alert, experiencing flashbacks and dealing with anxiety (otherwise known as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD). These symptoms in combination with a hectic lifestyle led to what I now call ‘the perfect storm’ for burnout to happen.
My perfect storm consisted of being a new mum to two boys under 3 years of age, a University lecturer, and a keen amateur runner spending most of my spare time training for long distance races varying in distance from 10km to 100km. I have always been a keen runner and knew based on research evidence that exercise and running was beneficial for mental health, and I also knew that I felt better when I ran. So I ran. And yes, running is most definitely beneficial for mental health and stress (just not if your physiology is totally exhausted due to chronic stress, as it was in my case because you can't see the damaging effects of stress).
Stress exists in the background for a long time before it effects us mentally and physically. I knew I felt tired and overwhelmed but I was simply doing what I believed was helpful, which was exercising and keeping fit. But training stress on top of lifestyle stress leads to physiological and psychological overload. So I essentially went from being capable and organised to overwhelmed, exhausted, depressed and burnt out. My body and brain were at full capacity but I had I kept asking them for more.
How I recovered from BURNOUT
I started by looking closely at my lifestyle and realised quite quickly that despite being 'fit and healthy' on the surface, I had plenty of room for improvement.
So, I also learnt as much as I could about the impact my lifestyle was having on my adrenal glands (the glands responsible for releasing stress hormones in the body) and the syndrome I’d developed called adrenal fatigue. I wanted to improve my resilience to stress and repair all of the damage that I had already endured due to stressful work and life circumstances using lifestyle intervention alone.
To achieve this, I dug deep into the academic literature, read many books on stress, depression and functional medicine. I also signed up to study Nutritional Therapy so I could learn which foods provide the best nutrients to combat poor blood sugar control and inflammation caused by stress. Finally worked closely with a running coach and applied my experience as a Personal Trainer to refine my running plans to include a lot more rest and recovery.
Probably the most significant improvement I made was to take time off work and incorporate a much better sleep routine. Sleep is such a vital part of health and stress management because it is when we are asleep that our body repairs damage and inflammation caused during the day.
All of these lifestyle required a great deal of financial, mental AND physical investment. BUT it was so worth it.
Just nine months after burning out I was back on my feet and feeling more like my old self again. I had more energy and my mood had significantly improved. I was sleeping better and nourishing my body rather than constantly depleting it. My experience with stress and burnout became something I not only wanted to recover from myself, but LEARN from, so that I could change the way I worked with clients in the gym and create my own business specialising in STRESS COACHING. For the past 18 months I have lived a life that is full of balance. I work part-time as a health coach and spend the rest of my time looking after my family and actively managing my stress using self-care.
HOW I CAN HELP YOU…
Stress management and good health isn’t something that can be achieved overnight but using my experience AND expertise I can help you get back on track much quicker than you will ever on your own.
I have designed my REVIVE COACHING PROGRAMME for you. I understand what it feels like to be ‘the strong one’ and ‘the last person’ expected to burnout. I understand how difficult it can feel to have to tell people that you’re not coping. I know how lonely and isolated it can feel due to having no energy to socialise or spend time with friends and family. BUT most importantly I know how to get you back on track. I have a firm understanding of the science of stress and psychology of behaviour change and will use these to coach you through a gradual but effective programme that will help you feel like your old self again. Let’s get started.
My Qualifications and Experience
16 Years as a Senior Lecturer in Health and Exercise Science BSc, MSc
PhD in Sport Psychology from The University of Wales
MSc in Preventive Cardiology from Imperial College London
BSc (Hons) in Sport Science and Human Biology from The University of Surrey
Exercise Referral Specialist (working with individuals referred from their GP for exercise on prescription/programming tailored to their mental or physical health needs.
Nutritional Therapist (in training)
Motivational Interviewing Practitioner
Areas of Expertise
Physical Activity for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and obesity