Tag Archives: wellbeing

Health | The budget spa experience you have to try

13510960_10153587157897617_7263956946886594826_nI’m pretty good at living on a backpacker’s budget now, but sometimes you just fancy a bit of luxury. I’ll never be the kind of girl who wants to spend thousands on an expensive getaway when I could make my money spread a bit further and still treat myself. For me, the real luxury is being able to escape and live well for longer instead of enjoying a short blast of freedom, but not everyone has the option of taking a year out to go backpacking, nor does everyone like the idea of budget travel. Now I’m back in the UK, I don’t plan to stop travelling and until my return to Australia, I’m breaking up my time with trips away. Before I went away, my mum and I used to have regular spa days together, every few months we would head away for a day of complete rest, relaxation and a heavy dose of pampering. Both working stressful jobs, it was lovely to just have a day where we didn’t have to think about work, or anything else other than where our next massage was coming from. I really believe in the importance of looking after your own health and well-being by keeping fit, eating well and allowing time to really relax and recuperate. Visiting a spa is a great way of really giving you a day off from life, a chance to turn your phone off and really get some space.

I’ve posted about this spa experience before but I still can’t believe how many people don’t seem to know about the amazing deals available. Even when you need a day of pure indulgence, there is always a great offer that can help you get the most out of your money. So, what am I on about? I’m talking about Aqua Sana Spa at Centreparcs, now it may not be the first place you think of when you start planning a spa retreat but perhaps it should be. I’m not usually one for chains but in this case I’m happy to make an exception for such an amazing experience, I have yet to find a spa that rivals the quality I’ve found there, and trust me, I’ve done the research. We always go to the Elveden retreat, which is our closest, and I convinced it’s the best one after experiencing the Sherwood spa and finding it a bit lacking. Surrounded by woodland and beautiful countryside, even the drive there is relaxing, and from the second you walk in the door you are being endlessly pampered by the amazing staff there. We always say it must be a wonderful place to work, so relaxing. We always check out the deals available at the time on the website, but usually end up paying around £100 each for a full day in the spa, with breakfast and lunch included, and a luxury treatment.IMG_6553This time, we went for the Brighten and Glow spa day for two, which gave us the chance to try out the Elemis skin brightening facial and luxurious Frangipani hot stones massage – and yes, it is every bit as fabulous as it sounds. I love that the treatment pampers every bit of your body and uses only products not tested on animals and using minimal parabens – it’s much better for the environment and it’s much better for your health. Before our treatment, we were treated to a delicious breakfast in the Vitale cafe where we indulged in pastries and coffees before hitting the spa. We had a few hours before our treatments so we decided to start with a swim in the outdoor heated pool, this is always such a treat when the weather outside is rubbish. We stood with the high pressure jets massaging our necks and floated around the empty pool before heading into the steam rooms. Now this is the bit that sets Aqua Sana apart from all other spas I have experienced, it offers 15 different spa experiences including a range of steam rooms with essential oils and herbs from all over the world and saunas. My favourite rooms are the Japanese Salt Steam room, the Balinese and the Indian steam rooms – I just love the gentle floral aromas and they really feel like they’re doing your skin good. You can rinse off afterwards with one of the multi-sensory showers to rejuvenate your skin and refresh before checking out the meditation room or zen garden.

When you’re taken through to your spa treatment, the ladies give you a completely relaxing experience tailored to your skin type and preferences. They’re extremely attentive and some of the best beauty treatments I’ve had have been at the Aqua Sana, with sensitive skin like mine it’s important to have a therapist who listens. The whole experience is utterly luxurious and you come away feeling like a new woman, my skin felt like a newborn baby’s and my muscles were finally relaxed after two years of hostel beds. After a tasty lunch, it was time for a waterbed nap – always a highlight of the day – especially if you can score one of the bigger outdoor beds which are especially nice when you’re wrapped up in your complimentary robe. Throughout the spa, there are several stations where you ca reapply products throughout the day and test others, sometimes the therapists will also bring round products for you to try which is lovely. Everything is thought of when you are at the spa, you don’t spend a single second thinking because everything is already as special as it could be. There are limited numbers allowed in the spa, which really helps to keep the exclusive feeling as some just come for a morning or afternoon session.IMG_6625One top tip not to miss out on during your visit, the Discovery Sessions are something I had never attended until my most recent visit but are something I wouldn’t miss in future. These short sessions take place periodically throughout the day and led by a beauty therapist, they teach you about the Elemis and Decleor products and how to apply them. As a big beauty product lover, this was a good excuse to try out some of the other amazing products they have to offer. But it also meant we found out about an amazing deal on a Decleor multipack of products – normally selling at over £50, it was reduced down to £19 with further discounts for attending the session. It was an amazing deal, so I treated me and my mum to a pack each – we would never have known about the dramatic price reduction had we not been in the session, so they’re definitely worth attending for discounts on the ranges. All in all, it was a fabulous day, and long overdue as a birthday present to the both of us. If you ask me, you can’t beat a mummy-daughter day spent eating delicious food, being pampered and relaxing on waterbeds. Click here to book your spa experience at Aqua Sana, or to read more about what treatments are available.

Can you recommend any other luxury spa experiences for those on a budget? What’s your favourite spa treatment?



Guest post: Writing Therapy, Self-Help & Bereavement

Picture by Julie Jordan Scott

Picture by Julie Jordan Scott

I thought I’d share with you a recent guest blog post that I wrote for the Youth Service at the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust. I was really pleased to be asked to contribute to their new Youth Blog – an exciting platform, which will feature on the service’s website. Over the next few months, the new blog will include advice, information, musings and real-life stories from special guest bloggers, to support the emotional health of young people in the region. I hope you like my post and if you’re interested in becoming a guest youth blogger too, there’s more info at the end of this post. You don’t need to be an existing blogger, nor do you have to be from the region, you just need to have an interest in supporting the wellbeing of young people. You can also read my guest blog post here.

I’m pretty lucky to have not suffered any mental health problems in my life, but I do know a surprising number of people who have suffered with anxiety, agoraphobia, depression and various other conditions. And with two parents who used to work as mental health nurses, it is an issue that is never far from my mind. Not being any kind of expert on the medical side of the subject, I thought it was important to take a look at ways of coping with the struggles of being a teenager. All too often, teenagers come to attention for the wrong reasons because they don’t know how to cope with the emotions and struggles going on in their own lives and end up misbehaving or acting out. What is important, for all of us regardless of age, is to have an outlet for our stresses and worries. For me, I love to write, to go to the gym, and to be by the sea – these are the things that help soothe me. This post is all about writing as therapy and helping yourself to cope.

Picture by Erin Kohlenberg

Picture by Erin Kohlenberg

“Being a teenager isn’t the easiest. Take it from someone who knows, someone who has been there and done, or seen it all. I was lucky, I had a good group of friends and a great family around me to see me through it all, everything from bad boyfriends to constantly changing friendships and grieving for loved ones, but not everyone is that lucky. It’s one of those times in our lives that, when you look back on it, flies by, but at the time can seem never-ending. All those petty dramas, fall-outs and rows can seem life-changing and devastating at the time, no matter how much your parents or teachers tell you it isn’t the end of the world. Well it is for you, and sometimes it is hard to imagine a life the other side of the wall that has built up in front of you, and is holding you back.

Trust me, you’re not alone. I’m now 24-years-old and I still feel like the world gets a bit much sometimes. The problems are still very much the same – boyfriend dramas, worries over friends and family, trying to do your best at school or work but failing… But now we have a whole load of other ones to deal with as well, like money, buying houses, unemployment… the list goes on! My point is, we are all dealing with our own dramas and worries, and while it is easy to get caught up in our own heads sometimes, it is important to realise that others do understand what we are going through. It might not be easy to talk to them about the problem, but knowing they understand can help make things a bit easier by offering some small comfort.

So what happens if it all builds up and you can’t cope any longer? It’s important to have an outlet for all this worry, stress and anger, otherwise it will only take over your life. I let things get too much earlier this year and had to take a big step back from everything because I just couldn’t cope with even basic stuff any more. I let it take over my life and it started to ruin my life – don’t make the same mistake. I turned away from my passion for writing when actually it was journalism and blogging that helped bring me back to reality and to get my life back in order again. Writing is such a release for me – for some it is music, poetry or art but for me, writing is the most soothing of all. Despite being pretty articulate, I’m actually terrible at expressing my emotions in person – typically British! My boyfriend and I will row better over text than we do in person, because otherwise we just laugh when we try and explain the problem to each other!IMG_6816I’ve always found it easier to write down my feelings and thoughts, and it provides me with such a sense of calm. It’s almost like I’m counselling myself by putting pen to paper and just writing down the problem. I find it actually helps put the whole thing in perspective and that it helps me see a light at the end of the tunnel. When my nan died it was a shock for me. She had been ill for a while with cancer of the throat, but how poorly she was had been hidden from me and my sister so she could enjoy her last few months with us. I wasn’t fully prepared for her to go so quick and when she died I really struggled to cope. What got me through was taking it upon myself to plan the memorial service and writing a tribute to her, which I then read out in church. Reading it out is, to this day, still one of the hardest things I have ever done, but the writing of it really helped me to say goodbye in the best way I knew how.

Writing can be such a great tool for coping with your problems – that’s why I became a blogger, to fill the void left alongside journalism. Blogging helps me to deal with issues and problems in life, alongside writing about my passions. Whether you write a public or private blog, it is a great way of keeping a diary in the modern age – you can access it anywhere at any time – when you need it most. And sharing it with others can really help those who are suffering or struggling, just like you.”

Would you like to be a blogger for the day? Perhaps you have a story to tell or something you’d like to voice about a mental health issue? Well, now is your chance. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the NSFT Youth blog. The Youth Service is not only inviting young people in the region but also teachers, mental health experts, parents, carers, service users, friends and the local community to talk about a range of topics including: recovery, stigma, therapeutic interventions, loss and bereavement, self-harm, friendships, stress, anxiety, bullying, eating disorders and any other issues affecting young adults and children. For more information about the Youth Service, click here, and if you’d like to contribute, contact the team of editors to find out more.

What helps you to cope with struggles and problems? Do you find writing therapeutic?

Ab Lucy sign off

Feel the fear and do it anyway this Halloween


Meet my pumpkin, Stanley


A time for our greatest fears and our worst nightmares to come out of the darkness and haunt our waking moments? Or just a time when we dress up as slutty cats and use it as an excuse to get drunk, while really wishing we were out trick-or-treating and getting masses of free sweets? Whatever your experience of Halloween – I felt it was only right for me to write a special spooky post for you guys today. I love Halloween. I loved the days of trick-or-treating with my sister and our friends around the town, of getting home and stuffing ourselves silly with sweets and carving pumpkins with scary, or just plain cute, faces. But I also loved the later years of dressing up for Halloween parties and getting rip-roaringly drunk while throwing spiders and making each other jump – any excuse.

I’m not sure what your plans are today, but I’m actually really excited because I’m doing something a bit different this year. Tonight I’m going to the cinema to see the live theatre screening of Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature. It does mean I won’t be dressing up for the first time in years, but I think I might get told off by the person sitting behind me if I don the cat ears or devil horns. But I’m really looking forward to trying something a bit different, and I haven’t missed out on the pumpkin carving – as you can see my mate Stanley pictured above. We even had a kids party at the pub when I was at work on Sunday, so I had an excuse to get my face painted Day of the Dead style – see the pics below.hallI’ve seen loads of posts about Halloween make-up, fancy dress, activities and food, but I haven’t seen any yet that talk about the essence of the day. I did a bit of reading into the meaning behind Halloween and traditionally it is to do with confronting the power and fear of death with humour and ridicule. A bit more reading left me thinking about our greatest fears and why we’re afraid of what are often such silly things we have no control over. After years of conversations with friends, family and even complete strangers, it seems to me that the three things people seem to fear most are the following:

  1. Looking silly
  2. Being alone
  3. Having regrets

These three fears come up time and time again, people worrying they will look back on their lives and feel they were a waste. Those who worry that people will think they are foolish for trying something new and taking a risk. And those who worry that taking these risks and chances will see them left alone at the end of their days. I know so many people who are terrified of one or more of these, yet have no reason to worry. They are amazing, witty, intelligent, brave, exciting and adventurous individuals who should be fearless in their decisions. They are the people I admire for taking chances and not being afraid to admit it when they screw things up, to learn from their mistakes and be glad they took the risk. Surely these are the ones who should be least afraid of looking back in disappointment?

fearI remember having a phase where I worried about looking silly and having regrets, and it was a horrible time. I was second-guessing myself at every opportunity and started slating my own decisions before I had even tried. I reached a point where I realised that my fears were starting to hold me back and my doubts were pinning me to a life I didn’t want – by listening to these doubting devils in my head I was actually creating a life I would regret. So what did I do? I stopped worrying about looking silly, and I stopped thinking about regrets – I started living in the moment and making each decision based on my gut instincts. Did it help? Well, it helped me make the choice to quit my job, leave behind friends and family and travel the world – a dream come true. What do you think?

The point of this post? Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks, stop worrying about what future you will think. Fight that doubting devil on your shoulder and stop listening to those second-guessing spooks that follow you round. Be the person you were supposed to be – be that idealised version of yourself – give 150% all the time and don’t be scared of making the wrong decision. You have to make a lot of wrong decisions sometimes before you’ll make the right one, but when you make the right one, you’ll know.life-begins

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.

Marianne Williamson

What is your greatest fear and how have you tackled it? What are you doing to celebrate Halloween?

Ab Lucy sign off

Mind full or Mindful? How you can regain control of your life

sunset 2As you guys will have gathered from my posts, I’m a pretty busy person. I work two jobs now, but it was four not long ago, and I have been constantly busy either at car boot sales, with friends and family, blogging and planning my travels along with anything else I can cram in. Ever since booking my flights, I feel like time is running out faster and faster, and yet I still have so much to do – so much to prepare for travelling, and so many people to spend time with before I go. I’m not quite at panic mode yet, but I’m definitely feeling the effects of going full pelt all the time. Luckily, I’m quite good with managing my time, and I am Little Miss Organised, to the extent that my friends call me “Monica Gellar” from Friends. But that doesn’t take away the fact that you are constantly on the go with no real time to spend reflecting and unwinding. I guess I’ve kind of postponed that until next year when I know I will have a lot of time on my hands to relax.

At least, I had postponed it until a blogger friend of mine sent me some details about an NHS Wellbeing Service that works in the area and is holding a series of free taster workshops for those who are busy and stressed out, and are in need of time to unwind. Well it sounded perfect for me and knowing how many others are, like me, in a situation where they have to give 150% every single day with no let up, I thought it only right to share these Mindfulness workshops with you guys. So what is Mindfulness all about? And how will it help us to feel more in control of our life?

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment by using meditation, yoga and breathing techniques.

It involves consciously bringing awareness to our thoughts and feelings, without making judgements about them.

By paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in this way, we can become more aware of them, less wrapped up in them and more able to manage them.

sunset 1

Remember my post from the start of the year about when life became a bit too much? Well we’ve all felt that way at one point or another, and it is how we deal with these times that often defines the type of person we are. Some shy away from the problem, push away family and friends and bury their heads in the sand. And others take a break from the situation, give themselves a chance to rest and put things in perspective, them make a decision about where they want their life to go. These are the more mindful in society, and according to research they are the ones who are less likely to suffer from psychological distress, including depression and anxiety. Basically ,I think the message is that problems don’t just go away if you ignore them – I’m sure we all know someone who likes to avoid their problems, perhaps by just not talking to a loved one after a fight, but it always catches up with them eventually.

By using the Mindfulness techniques suggested, you can help yourself to keep your problems in perspective, to keep control of your decisions rather than being forced into panic or impulsive decisions. So it seems that as well as helping you to chill out and get a moment’s peace to reorganise your mind, you also have the chance to save yourself from worsening the situation by not rushing into making the wrong move. There are three main techniques for introducing Mindfulness into everyday life:

  1. Observe Mindfully by taking mental notes of everything around you, indulge your five senses by thinking about what you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Every day, make the effort to notice and appreciate an object of beauty, whether it is your child, your car or a natural wonder. It only takes a few minutes a day, but can make all the difference to your overall happiness.
  2. Walk Mindfully when taking your daily walk to work, or around the park at lunchtime. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to focus purely on the movements of your body and the feeling of walking, giving your mind a chance to clear of all the stresses and worries of the day. Plus some fresh air is great for you.
  3. Eat Mindfully when scoffing a piece of fruit, chocolate, or even a bowl of soup. Take in every detail of the food you are eating, the colour, shape and size, the feel of it in your mouth and the flavours. So many of us just grab a sandwich while continuing to work through our lunch breaks and it is really bad for our health. We need this time to enjoy our food and to have a break from working.


All of these are so simple and can really make a difference to your day – trust me, I’ve spent the last week trying them all out and it really has helped me to see how trivial work, money and personal stresses really are in the grand scheme of things. It really makes you appreciate the things your body does on a daily basis – the things we are usually completely oblivious to because we are so caught up in everything else. Not only does it make us appreciate ourselves more, but we appreciate others more because we take the time to take in every detail, to share food with them and to really listen. For those who have more time to dedicate to the practice, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi are also great ways of taking the time to to take a deep breath, relax and be mindful. I used to love yoga and used to do it at home alongside pilates classes, but I just don’t have the time any more unfortunately. But I would really recommend it if life is getting on top of you and you want a way of both relaxing and exercising at the same time. I’m definitely planning on a lot more time spent on all three next year when travelling.

If you like the sound of these techniques – why not give some of them a try this week and see the difference they make to your day? For those living in Norfolk and Suffolk, there are a series of tfree aster sessions and stress-control workshops available, plus telephone support (0300 123 1503), group therapy and short-term one-to-one therapies. Find out more about all of these here. For my local readers, there are upcoming free Mindfulness Introduction workshops taking place in Attleborough, Norwich, Lynn and Cromer this month, with a Lynn session at Providence Street Youth Centre on Monday, October 20, at 6.30pm-8pm.

Do you struggle to keep on top of things? How did you find these techniques helped your daily life?

 Ab Lucy sign off