Unlocking the Benefits of Carb Cycling

Improved Metabolic Flexibility, Enhanced Athletic Performance, and Better Weight Management

Carb cycling is a dietary strategy that involves alternating between high-carbohydrate and low-carbohydrate days. It is a popular method among athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts who are looking to optimize their body composition and performance. Carb cycling offers a variety of benefits, including improved metabolic flexibility, enhanced athletic performance, and better weight management.

Here are some of the benefits of carb cycling:

Improved Metabolic Flexibility

Carb cycling trains your body to use carbohydrates and fats as energy sources efficiently. By cycling between high and low carbohydrate intake, you can improve your body’s ability to switch between fuel sources based on your body’s needs. This can help enhance metabolic flexibility and improve insulin sensitivity, which can aid in weight loss and overall health.

Enhanced Athletic Performance

Consuming carbohydrates is vital for energy and performance during high-intensity activities. By consuming a higher amount of carbohydrates on your workout days, you can provide your body with the energy it needs to perform optimally. Additionally, cycling carbohydrates can help prevent fatigue, improve endurance, and aid in muscle recovery after intense exercise.

Better Weight Management

Carb cycling can be an effective strategy for weight management. By consuming fewer carbohydrates on certain days, you can create a calorie deficit, which can lead to weight loss. Additionally, cycling carbohydrates can help prevent metabolic adaptation, where the body adjusts to a calorie-restricted diet, leading to a plateau in weight loss.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Cycling carbohydrates can help improve insulin sensitivity, which is the body’s ability to use insulin effectively to regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin sensitivity is essential for maintaining stable blood sugar levels, preventing type 2 diabetes, and promoting overall health.

Sustainable Long-Term Approach

Carb cycling is a flexible and sustainable long-term approach to nutrition that can be easily customised to individual needs and preferences. It allows for more dietary flexibility, which can make it easier to adhere to a diet long-term.

In conclusion, carb cycling is a popular dietary strategy that offers numerous benefits, including improved metabolic flexibility, enhanced athletic performance, and better weight management. It is a flexible and sustainable approach to nutrition that can be easily customized to individual needs and preferences. If you are considering carb cycling, it is essential to work with a qualified healthcare professional or registered dietitian to develop a personalised plan that meets your individual needs and goals.

Creating a Work-Life Balance: Strategies for Employers to Support Employee Wellbeing

Work-life balance is a critical issue for many employees, and it’s essential for employers to help create a supportive work environment that promotes this balance. A lack of work-life balance can lead to increased stress, burnout, and decreased productivity, so it’s important for employers to take steps to address this issue. Here are several ways employers can help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance:

Offer flexible working arrangements

Allowing employees to work from home or have flexible working hours can go a long way in helping them achieve work-life balance. By giving employees more control over their work schedule, they can better manage their time and responsibilities both in and outside of the workplace.

Encourage taking breaks

Encouraging employees to take breaks throughout the day, such as short walks or stretching exercises, can reduce stress and improve focus. Taking breaks can also help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance by giving them time to recharge and refocus.

Provide generous paid time off

Providing generous paid time off policies, including paid vacation time, sick leave, and personal days, can help employees manage their work and personal responsibilities. By having access to paid time off, employees are better able to take time off when they need it, reducing stress and improving work-life balance.

Implement wellness programs

Wellness programs, such as stress management workshops, healthy eating initiatives, and physical activity challenges, can help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance. By promoting physical and mental health, employers can create a supportive work environment that allows employees to thrive both professionally and personally.

Support family needs

Providing support for employees with family responsibilities, such as flexible scheduling, on-site childcare, or backup care options, can help them achieve work-life balance. By offering these resources, employers can help employees manage their responsibilities both in and outside of the workplace.

Set clear boundaries

Setting clear expectations for work hours and discouraging working outside of regular business hours can prevent burnout and promote a healthy work-life balance. By establishing these boundaries, employers can help employees maintain a healthy balance between their work and personal lives.

In conclusion, employers play a critical role in helping employees achieve work-life balance. By implementing flexible working arrangements, encouraging breaks, providing generous paid time off, implementing wellness programs, supporting family needs, and setting clear boundaries, employers can create a supportive work environment that promotes employee wellbeing and productivity.

Supporting employees going through menopause

Why it is important to educate staff and managers on menopause.

We are an aging population and are working into our later years of life.  This is thanks to the increase in retirement age and the ability to remain fit and healthier longer with modern medicine.  Whilst we are grateful for the life longevity, I can’t say there has been the same welcome for the increase in retirement age. But what does this mean for the workforce?

Menopause comes to all females at some point in life.  It’s a naturally occurring event that some sail through easily with very few symptoms, while others battle and struggle through the transition. 

Why is it important to address menopause in the workplace?

  • Menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce.- Professor Jo Brewis, co-author of the Government Report on Menopause.
  • 8 out of 10 menopausal women are working.- Faculty of Occupational Medicine
  • 45% of women say their menopause symptoms have had a negative impact on their work.- British Menopause Society

How menopause can impact on work

Many women don’t feel comfortable talking about the menopause or their symptoms, especially to managers. It can make a huge difference to employees when they are made to feel as though what they are going through is normal and there is an open culture in support.  Many menopausal women find themselves considering another employer, in fact one in four consider it.  But if the culture, support and systems are in place, this can greatly be reduced.


Providing workshops and resources to staff that inform them about what happens in the female body during menopause and what symptoms are associated with this, makes a huge difference.  We all know about the hot flushes but there are actually 34 different symptoms known to be caused through perimenopause and menopause.  When women have a greater understanding of what is happening to them and how to manage their own symptoms, they can swiftly get back to living a more normal life. Also, younger colleagues will be better able to support their menopausal co-workers.

Talking culture

Regular informal ‘check ins’ are great for maintaining good employee relations and can provide an opportunity to find out how the staff member can be personally supported.  Managers do not need to be menopause experts, but simply show a caring and open attitude towards menopause and signpost them to further support as needed.

Setting up support groups for your employees to meet other employees currently going through this phase, can be massively helpful too.  It makes them feel normal and less alone and they can share experiences and useful tips on managing symptoms.

What organisations can do

Menopause in the workplace should be part of the health and safety concerns for managers and handled with care and sensitivity. 

The changes need to come from the top when it comes to ensuring support for employees.  It’s recommended that organisations have something in writing that managers can refer to when it comes to supporting staff.

Other things to consider are the control of workplace temperature and ventilation.  How can they be adapted to meet the needs of individuals. Can you provide fans or cooler spaces for staff rooms? Sleep disturbances can be issue so can managers consider shift changes or flexible working hours if workers have had little sleep and feel unsafe to work. Providing access to cold drinking water at all times is also very helpful to manage symptoms and considerations could be made with uniform fabrics and styles. 

Anything that managers can do to make menopausal employees feel more comfortable through their working hours, goes a long way to ensuring that they retain valued staff members, who have years of training and experience.

For more information on Empowerplan’s Menopause Workshops visit our Workshops page and request a brochure.

Reducing the risk of suicide – Managers guide

What ‘if anything’ can we do to help those in desperate need for support?

Employees and individuals face many challenges in life and some are impactful and overwhelming on occasions.  Sometimes past events, trauma or limiting beliefs can snowball into darkness and overwhelm without warning or being aware of the actual trigger. Managing their rollercoaster of emotions along with stresses and pressures of work and family life, or illness and responsibilities, can be exhausting. Employees wellbeing therefore needs careful monitoring and attention.  It’s best to have consistent measures in place to educate and your staff, and therefore reduce the risks to health physically and mentally.

What we know…

  • There are around 115 suicide deaths each week in the UK (ONS)
  • 75% of the UK deaths are male (ONS)
  • 700,000 suicidal deaths are reported each year worldwide. (WHO)
  • 1 in 5 people will have thoughts about suicide (NHS Digital)
  • 1 in 15 people attempt suicide (NHS Digital)

There are so many little fires that we tackle on a daily basis, just trying to keep our families happy, careers growing and struggling to find some time along the way to add in a little self-care.  It’s not surprising that many people feel as though they are a sinking ship.

The cost-of-living crisis is adding additional financial pressures to many households.  This in itself is scary, as those who are experiencing financial stress are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who are financially stable.

Spotting the signs

It will always be difficult to know if someone is having suicidal thoughts, as many intentionally hide these thoughts very well.  Suicidal feelings and thoughts are very complex and the reasons and behaviours of each person are unique to them. That said there are some common behaviours that you can look out for:

What they say:

  • Talk of dying or life ending
  • Speaking of feeling hopeless or without purpose
  • Mentioning how much of a burden they are to others

How they behave:

  • Changes to usual behaviour
  • Substance abuse (including alcohol)
  • Not sleeping
  • Getting personal affairs in order
  • Saying unusually heartfelt goodbyes
  • Social withdrawal

How can managers help?

With so many people struggling to maintain good mental health at the moment, it is so important that support is provided by employers, employees knowledge is developed and safe and caring cultures encouraged.

Active and positive steps for managers:

  • Reduce stigma about mental health by speaking openly and providing mental health education to ALL staff.
  • Provide access to appropriate support and preferably before crisis point hits. Encourage seeking early interventions.
  • Regularly check that you are effective in supporting staff and address changes needed.
  • Create a caring and compassionate culture. Provide a safe and confidential channel for them to reach out to and listen well. Support groups can also be created within larger establishments.

Supporting through CLASS

C = Connect    Make time to check in and connect with staff

L = Listen        Let them speak rather than you leading the conversation

A = Assess       Have they made plans? Encourage thoughts of what makes life good

S = Support     Reassure them you are there for them and they are NOT a burden

S = Signpost    Signpost them to professional services such as their GP, NHS 111 or Samaritans

Alzheimer’s and depression, and how I evolved

I am Andrew and I am one of the Directors here at EmpowerPlan. Please allow me to share my own personal story, which will give you a brief insight into why I am so very passionate about my job, and how it can help various employers & employees across the UK. 

A few years ago, a family member and someone who is very close to my heart was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As his condition developed over time, and the repercussions of the disease were clear to see, it dawned on me that my best friend and the man I worshipped from being a little boy would never be the same again.  

Memories are what make up a person.

If you stripped someone of their memories, then what are they but an empty shell? Empty inside but with the same exterior being presented to the outside world around them. This is what Alzheimer’s does to people. Each day, their internal memories, that once made them look at you the way they did, slowly shrinking and eventually disintegrating.  And there is not an awful lot you can do to stop it at the moment.

My Father… My Hero

My hero

He was the man I called every other day, if not every day. He was the man I turned to for advice, my first port of call if in a crisis. He was the man who made me love Sunderland football club; and although this can bring with it much heartache, it was this love of sport that bonded our relationship.

Who would I call now after a win, a draw, or predominantly a loss? Who could I play golf with and attack the large bushes searching for our miss placed shots? Who could I cry with? Who could I reach out to? Why was this happening? To him… of all people… HIM? What had he done to deserve this cruel torture? As each week went by, a new condition would set in. It was brutal, heart-breaking and I was completely and utterly devastated to watch it.  

The impact

To cut a long story short, my mental health deteriorated, and this illness was one of the trigger points for a large period of depression. I didn’t realise that I had a mental health illness at first. I honestly thought the phrase ‘mental health’ was for people in ‘cloud cuckoo’ land. This wasn’t me.  I wasn’t crazy.  These were all misconceptions I had back then. I just felt like I was extremely sad.   I remember the fake smiles at work, which were exhausting. I just wanted to lock myself away, curl up into a ball in the toilet cubicles or something similar and cry. I remember doing this very act and plucking up the nerve to re-join the office, only to be criticised for being late out of the lavatory. When I finally informed my line managers that I was struggling, they had no idea on how to resolve the issue or support me in what I was going through. It was uncomfortable for them when I mentioned it, just as it was uncomfortable for me and therefore found little strength and reassurance from them.  It wasn’t their fault I suppose, they had no experience of mental health issues. They told me I could take days off; however, I wasn’t in the position to afford time off unpaid.  My company did not pay sick pay, especially for mental health conditions.  

Help me

I did as I was advised to and sought help from my GP and was prescribed medication… but no avail. I started to drink more. A lot more.  It took the heartache away, and dulled my pain. Or at least momentarily I was under the illusion that is what was happening.  I had no interest in my work at all. It was evident in my altered motivation levels.  And they offered little help in supporting me through this glitch, in what had previously been a very loyal, and well-presented career path. I was on a downward spiral, and something needed to change. 

I found my shining light.

My rock bottom

My behaviour became very erratic and I relished in causing myself physical pain to take away the emotional hurt that clung to me inside; relentless and unwavering.  Just there deep within me, drawing me down further into darkness that just felt consuming and claustrophobic.  My world felt as though it had crumbled around me and I was alone.  I was at rock bottom, but I found some light thanks to my amazing and supportive wife.

Rapid Transformational Therapy

When I was at my lowest point, I knew that I had no choice but to seek professional help.  I couldn’t keep denying what was happening and hoping it would pass.  My loved ones had spent so long trying to get me to go to counselling of some sort.  But I really did not want to sit in a room and talk to a stranger about my dad, and how his illness triggered such darkness and pain.  I didn’t want that pain and I wanted to supress it, not talk about it every week.  We each have our own needs and preferences and, this was something I felt I couldn’t handle at that time. After much discussions and convincing,  I decided to experience first-hand the power of Rapid Transformational Therapy. My wife explained how I wouldn’t need as many sessions as general counselling and the release would be impactful and freeing.  And boy, was she right. Little did I know, that the depression I thought was caused by my fathers illness, was only triggered by it.  The root cause happened much earlier on in my life experiences.  I know now after all the research I have done since, that the root cause of mental health conditions happens before the age of 18 in 75% of cases.  But before my session, I had no idea what I clung onto from my past and how my own memories had shaped my beliefs and manifested into depression.

Why I joined my wife in creating EmpowerPlan

For me, the opportunity to launch EmpowerPlan was a no brainer. I know first-hand what it feels like to be struggling at work. The support we can give businesses across the UK and to employees can be life changing. If employees are happier, they’ll feel more focused and motivated and they’ll use their time at work more effectively, which means they’ll get more done without sacrificing quality.

I feel like I am truly where I belong and actually making a difference.

Nutrition to support and boost mental health

We fuel our bodies with the food we eat and are generally aware of the benefits of re-fuelling with food that is healthy and nutritious – but what about the brain? 

We are very conscious about the fact that the foods that we eat could have an impact on our physical appearance and also the health of our internal body.  But what about other important factors that create balance in our overall wellbeing such as energy levels, mood, thoughts, behaviours and our ability to concentrate.

Feeling good isn’t determined solely by our physical appearance, in fact for many of us, this is only very small factor.

Go with your “gut feeling”

Have you ever felt that sensation inside when making decisions or had butterflies in your stomach when getting nervous?  At these moments, you are getting signals from your ‘second brain’. The gut. Your digestive system contains a link with mood, health and the way you think.  This is what scientists call the enteric nervous system (ENS).  This system consists of 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract. Should you compromise your gut health, this can put pressure on your brain function and lead to mental health conditions. 

“The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.” explains Jay Pashricha .M.D, director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Neuro-gastroenterology, whose research on the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says.

What are good brain foods?

These are generally foods that contains nutrients such as:

  • B Vitamins
  • Omega-3
  • Selenium
  • Tryptophan
  • Resistant starch


Slow-release carbs are good for maintaining energy within the body and brain. “Healthy carbohydrates that are minimally processed, such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and legumes, have been found to positively contribute to heart, gut, and brain health,” says Katey Davidson, a registered dietitian and founder of Taste of Nutrition.

Nutrition in the workplace

Nutrition is one area that is often overlooked with corporate wellbeing as many organisations and programs tend to focus on physical activity and mental health initiatives like mindfulness, and yet good nutrition is equally as important for your overall wellbeing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) found that optimal nourishment can raise productivity levels by 20%. Healthy employees are happier, calmer, more engaged, sleep better and get sick less often. 

It’s a ‘no brainer’ really that employers provide healthy food options for their employees to benefit both the individual and the organisation.

How can you improve employee nutrition?

  • Review what you supply and offer either in vending machines, canteens or cafes, and look at how improvements can be made.  Could you begin to include onsite lunches or food deliveries for meetings and events or provide a weekly fruit bowl. Small cost with big benefits.
  • Make filtered water available to your employees and encourage them to drink more of it.
  • And finally, offer healthy eating information and education. 

If we begin to understand the importance of nutrition how value it as much as physical fitness, sleep and mental health, then the key pillars of wellbeing will be well on the way to being met, and employees will be content and productive.

EmpowerPlan Employee Assistance portal contains numerous methods for educating employees on a great number of wellbeing topics including nutrition.  There are diet plans and recipes to help encourage and support your employees with their overall wellbeing.

Burnout! What is it, and why has this condition become a huge problem for so many employers? 

People are more frequently reporting issues of overwhelming stress and burnout within the workplace. But what exactly do we mean by burnout and how can you determine if you or your staff are struggling with burnout? 

Life can be hectic, especially when you must juggle high workloads, deal with short staffing, and feel pressured by up-and-coming deadlines. We very often feel physically exhausted and worn out on these occasions of high pressure, but when you or your staff start to show signs of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion it can become more serious.  

Burnout is not stress! 

A certain amount of stress can be quite motivational and provide that little bit of pressure to perform to our best ability. We all need to feel pressure to ensure we complete tasks with an appropriate level of urgency. If you are feeling stressed your engagement increases and emotions are heightened.  

Burnout is completely the opposite… 

People who are suffering from burnout become disengaged from tasks, people, and their environment. Their emotions are blunted and will feeling overwhelmingly hopeless and helpless. They have zero motivation to keep going and feel there is simple no point in doing what they are doing.  

What symptoms to look out for? 


Do they seem to be disengaging with their work and colleagues? Is there a disconnect from the team and their surroundings?  


Chronic stress and burnout can lead to further issues both in terms of mental health and also physical health. This will lead to more frequent time off due to sickness. 


The feeling of hopelessness can lead to being more irritable along with heightened anger due to the isolation they are subjected to. 

An increase in accidents 

Concentration levels are diminished, and the inability to pay attention can lead to a greater number of accidents occurring. Exhaustion and issues with sleeping are also a contributing factor to more accidents. 


If left untreated and unacknowledged, burnout leads to more complex and serious mental health conditions such as depression. Symptoms of depression include: 

  • Concentration and memory issues 
  • Fatigue 
  • Feelings of guilt  
  • Pessimism and hopelessness 
  • Sleeping too much or too little 
  • Irritability 
  • Restlessness 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies 
  • Overeating, or appetite loss 
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away 
  • Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment 
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings 
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts 

No two people are the same and symptoms may vary so these are just a few pointers and bits of information to watch out for.  

What is the cause of burnout? 

Unlike stress, which can be as a result of anything from family life, to work to situations, or events that are happening; burnout is predominantly work or school related for students. And this comes as a result of excessive and chronic stress within the workplace or college and of course work overload so too much work. Being unable to carry out all of the tasks within the time frame expected. Other factors that can also affect burnout are being put under excessive pressure, big changes within a company, not having any control over outcomes and situations within the workplace and feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities. 

So how can you help? 

The main thing that you can do is to remember that a happy healthy workforce will more often than not be a productive workforce. And want to make the changes needed for your staff.  

There are some simple measures that you can put in place… things such as: 

  • Encouraging more regular breaks,  
  • Regularly check in with your staff to ensure they are manging their workloads ok, and if not review together the measure you can put in place.  
  • Provide reassurance of your expectations so that they feel comfortable in their own limitations.  
  • Encourage better sleep and eating habits 
  • Provide flexible working hours or ways of working 
  • Engage in morale boosting activities and provide professional services such as an EAP platform such as the one provided by EmpowerPlan Ltd or counselling services. 

EmpowerPlan EAP services are designed to offer preventative measures and are very proactive in maintaining mental fitness rather than just reacting to a crisis as they develop within your employees. If you want to find out more about our EAP membership services wellbeing workshop’s please visit our website and book a demonstration call.  

Tap Into Your Innate Happiness!

How many times do we put off our happiness? How many times do we look back to happier times in our lives which are draped in nostalgia? We look forward to the weekend, to the next lunch date, the next holiday. We project our hopes and dreams on to some elusive future where everything will be perfect or we look back to our childhood, our wedding day, a time where we realised in hindsight, we once were happy. It may be that we try to find happiness in escapism through buying new clothes, going out for wonderful meals, enjoying a good bottle of wine and watching the latest movies. There is nothing wrong with these pursuits but are they really the most effective tools for lasting happiness? If we look deeper, it may be that we each need to carve out a life which we no longer feel we need to escape from.

Happiness is like a balloon drifting just in front or just behind us and we keep trying to grasp hold of the ribbon and bring it closer. We chase the balloon but are also mindful that is delicate and could pop at any time, our dreams of happiness vanishing into thin air. What if that balloon was held in our grasp all along, we just had not realised it?

The eight limbs of Yoga as described by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras provide a pathway towards peace and happiness. The second limb Niyamas consider how we deal with ourselves in the world around us. One of the Niyamas, Santosha or contentment teaches us that beneath the fluctuations of our everyday lives there exists an endless well of peace and harmony, we just need to know how to tap into it. Even more encouraging is that this contentment can be found amidst the challenges of our everyday lives, here in the now of this very moment!

This is liberating because it means the search is over! What we seek through external means lays within. Happiness is our natural state of being and the tools of Yoga can help us to uncover it.

We can stretch and feel better with each breath in our practice on the mat. We can let go of grasping for things and feel the contentment that comes from feeling we have enough. We can focus on the horizon as we walk and take in scent and sound in a moving meditation, the birdsong a gentle symphony to our connection with nature.

The eight limbs provide us with an arsenal of tools which allow the radiance of our lives to overflow from our hearts and give us the inner resolve to meet adversity with equanimity knowing that joy and pain are a part of life and that our natural state of happiness is not dependent on the shifting tide of emotions and experiences which make up our lives. It runs deeper. We run deeper.

We can choose to be happy now, amidst the bills, care of family and loved ones, whilst weeding the garden, whilst working through a ‘To-Do’ list, because this is the life lived now. Our birth right is happiness, comprised of moving moments of wonder if we take the leap inside and tap into our true nature.

By Emma Conally-Barklem

First published in Om Yoga & Lifestyle magazine August 2021

Grief through the matrix of yoga

Bereavement is a messy business. It chews us up, hollows us out and folds us in two. For me, the death of my mum and best friend continues to be the most painful experience of my life. Without the anchor of my Yoga practice, I’m not sure where I would be. Amidst great pain there exists great hope but this is not always apparent when you are in the throes of hurt, absence and regret.

The most prevalent narrative around grief in western society is that of the stages of grief. Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced her five stage grief model in her book On Death and Dying (1969). Her work was based on the study of terminally patients and their emotional response at the prospect of their own mortality. She identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages have come in for much criticism in recent years because of the false perception of their linear nature and chronology of the grieving process which many see as reductive. Kübler-Ross has stated since that these stages are non-linear and that people may not experience some if any of them. Still, however, this idea of grief which is able to be packaged neatly up into boxes is an enticing and persistent one.

The stages are familiar and I’m sure most people have experienced each emotion or process in relation to their grieving process at some point, they do not however allow for the immensity of emotional feeling which marks the grief experience which lays outside of language, an inarticulate knot of sorrow which evades any claim to rationality. It is here that yoga and grief intersect.

Yoga, like grief is non-linear and stands apart from the cage of language. If yoga students are asked how they feel after a yoga class they may say ‘calm’, ‘relaxed’, ‘chilled out’ but the stillness which emanates from them and the centred, mindful way they move belies a deeper feeling. Grievers similarly may say they feel ‘sad’, ‘angry’ but scratch the surface of these somewhat anodyne descriptions and a furled heart of pain which shifts shape and cannot be boxed into stages is evident.

Yoga is a holistic 8 limb path into self-realisation and healing. Rather than pushing emotions such as anger, frustration and sadness away, we learn to sit with the feeling, allow and observe without running away. Yoga practice is a natural fit with the grieving process as it is always a moving away from self-judgment and shame towards self-acceptance. Grieving in a grief-illiterate society is isolating and lonely. Unhelpful platitudes to ‘stay strong’, ‘move on’, ‘time heals’ can make the griever feel as though they are failing, that there is a time limit to grief when in fact the grief becomes a part of that person. Tears and emotional outbursts are seen as a sign of weakness when in fact such emotions are healthy indicators of the love the person had for the deceased and the necessary pain that loss means to the griever. The process is non-linear and best taken day by day. Like yoga, the present moment is all there is and we can live that moment fully without expectation and judgement.  We feel the samsaric cycle of birth and death in the birth of the inhale and the death of the exhale. Each breath a metonym for our brief precious time here on this plane of existence. We practice ancient ways to breathe which honour our hearts and cultivate peace whilst seeking out the resistance and aches in our bodies by either shaking them up or letting them rest and be. We practice ‘Wood chopper’ breath to release anger and anguish, feel the comfort of belly breathing to dispel anxiety and tension, we sit and follow the repetition of our thoughts and guide the mind gently back to the breath.

We read the poetic truth of The Upanishads which describe death and the circle of life. We study The Yoga Sutras which describe tersely our suffering caused by our fear of death and the loss of others. In this we feel ourselves to be part of a continuum in the ocean of humanity, our DNA and genes invisible traces of the lost loved one threading through our everyday existence. Some days we question, bargain, rage, despair, other days we laugh, relax, or our mind is just there. We learn to take these shifting sands of emotion in equal measure, a place beyond recrimination.

Here, we enter a vast space of all that is and all that is felt. We move beyond the efficacy and limitations of language to a place of pure awareness where the very fabric of existence compels us to feel the truth that all that was will always be.

 Grief is the flipside to love, and the love which connects all sentient beings, is yoga.

Author: Emma Conally-Barklem

Previous Publications: A Little Insight (online magazine)

Yoga in the Age of Covid-19 and Lockdown

The global pandemic has changed life as we know it and how we conduct our everyday lives. As such it has had profound effects on peoples’ quality of life and mental health.

 Our lives can be divided into the time before Covid-19 and the time after Covid-19. The time before seems like a technicolour dream of freedom and possibility. An existence where we would hug, share food, sing in crowds and come together in ways which now would seem careless at best, dangerous at worst.

L.P Hartley’s classic novel. ‘The Go-Between’ begins with the infamous line, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’(Hartley, 1953, p.5 ) The seeming distance of the recent past stands in stark reality to the new present which is framed in a new lexicon of shielding, aerosol transmission, home schooling, self- isolation, support bubbles, R numbers and social distancing. Our minds and our bodies are having to adapt to this new reality day by day as we collectively grieve for the past and yearn for a brighter future. So, how can Yoga help with this process?

Yoga is a philosophy for life with an 8 limb road map which details how we relate to the world around us and how we relate to ourselves. As the world and our choices have narrowed, Yoga points to the strength (sthiram) and comfort (sukham) which can come from our inner resources if we only know where to look.

 The one thing we can all relate to and a point for connection is the breath, we all breath. As we manage working from home, trying to supervise home schooling or running the gauntlet of supermarket shopping, how often are we aware of how we are breathing? We know when we feel anxious or worried or excited our breath becomes shallow. We know if we feel miserable or lacking in motivation or relaxed we sigh and take longer exhales.

The 4th limb of Yoga is breath control or pranayama. A simple resource we all have is our breath. We can’t control the pandemic, other people or the weather but we can control how we react and one way of gaining a mindful awareness of our reactions is by harnessing the healing power of the breath. Simply by observing the breath coming in and the breath moving out we can begin to feel the quality of our breath and our thoughts. This concentration is the 6th limb of yoga (dharana) and is a precursor to the 7th limb of meditation (dhyana).

 When we focus on our breath and our shifting thoughts we can begin to see patterns emerge. With self-knowledge comes agency, an ability to change the quality of breath to bring more ease to the mind. Yoga has a range of pranayama practices which can be helpful but the starting off point is the simple awareness of breath coming in, breath coming out. When breath awareness is coupled with movement, the 3rd limb of asana or posture, to release tension and stress then a body-mind-breath connection is established in a state of Yoga. Life is often overwhelming but the simple process of settling into the felt sensations of the body and linking this to the breath is a way to process the past, meet the challenges of the present and to make peace with the uncertainty of the future.

Author: Emma Conally-Barklem, EmmaLiveYoga December 2020, All rights reserved.


The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley, 1953, Penguin Classics, London

Improving gut health for night shift workers

In the modern era, many people are opening their eyes to the true importance of maintaining the health of their gut. Shift workers in particular struggle with gut health, considering the difficulty of maintaining good habits during a demanding schedule. Many night shift workers often find themselves more vulnerable to health issues and find certain eating habits can have a negative impact on their digestive health.

Here are 7 tips to IMPROVE gut health for night shift workers,

1. Eat your main meal before going to work

It is recommended to eat the main meal before going to work. This helps by allowing the body to process and digest the food before they begin their shift. Eating before a shift will ensure the body remains fuelled for the long hours ahead and will assist with maintaining energy levels.

We all get that lull after eating big meals that make us feel like a sedated sloth or make us want to put on our PJ’s for a nanna nap. Eating smaller meals or snacks whilst on shift will prevent that dip in energy.

2. Avoid high-fat, fried or spicy foods

Certain foods are much harder to digest, especially during the night time when the digestive system slows down. High-fat, fried, and spicy foods should be avoided as they could cause heartburn, indigestion, gas and constipation.

We all love a bit of spice in our lives but definitely best to leave the spice for the days off if wanting to avoid an uncomfortable shift at work.

3. Pack healthy meals and snacks

Our taste buds often cause us a bit of a dilemma. Its so frustrating to say this, but often things that taste the best tend to have bad implications on your health. To avoid being tempted by those delicious but not helpful snacks, pack more healthy options such as fruit, hummus and carrot sticks, hard boiled eggs, home made granola or smoothies with added protein.

Smaller snacks and lighter meals are better foods to eat during a shift, as they don’t cause as much distress to the gut when eaten, due to food being much easier to digest in small portions.

Soup is a great thing to eat during a night shift as the liquid form of the food means it’s already started to be broken down and puts less strain on the digestive system.

4. Substitute caffeine for water

Caffeine is a substance that many shift workers rely on, rather than the generally accepted glucose and good amount of rest. This is a bad habit to get into as caffeine causes distress to the gut, making digestion a needlessly painful experience.

Instead drink water when feeling the need for refreshment. This has notably better benefits in regards to not just general health but the gut too. If a pick-me-up is required, one cup of coffee is actually generally healthy, just best not to drink it in excess.

5. Skip sweet snacks

When the urge to buy and consume a treat comes over a shift worker, it’s best for them to avoid the sugar.

Research has shown that the pancreas doesn’t work as well during the night so it’s not able to manage the blood sugar. A healthier and more gut friendly option would be to reach for nuts, seeds and yoghurts.

6. Take ACTIVE breaks

An often forgotten part of gut health is the physical aspect. It’s not always about what you eat, but also how well your body is equipped to deal with it. Making the most of the break times and ensuring there is some gentle exercise throughout the shift will keep the body ‘well equipped’.

The best advice would be to take walks or go on a brief bicycle ride if possible, during break times – this helps immensely with both digestion and general health.

7. Have a light snack before bed

Another good way to maintain a healthy gut, similar to the first tip, is to eat at a specific time. On this occasion we are referring to before going to bed. Eating a snack before sleep keeps the gut active.

The reason why this is so healthy for the gut is because digestion, as a process, is better maintained with frequent action, rather than large periods of inaction.

Tips for a healthy home office

There are many positive aspects to allowing employees to work from home or adopting a more hybrid way of working. However there are some factors that do need to be considered that could cause a potential issue for those working in this way.

“The environment was beginning to make me feel rather burnt out as well as effecting my ability to function productively in my role.”- Admin Assistant

The best way to advise on how to improve a home office environment is to take a look at the downsides as opposed to working in an office environment. So what are they?

  • Poor seating and desk setup
  • Less resources and equipment
  • Switching off and setting boundaries is difficult
  • Less inclined to take set breaks and have actual downtime
  • Poor environmental factors 
  • Inadequate lighting 
  • Less communication
  • Lack of connection with others in person

The desk and seating

Whilst working on your sofa may sound amazing, the practicality of it that it can cause numerous issues with your back. It is always advisable not just for posture, but for state of mind to have a separate work space dedicated to your time of working.

Space doesn’t have to be an issue as you can actually set up an area in a small corner if you are clever about the choice of desk and chair. You could also make use of your dining table. And if you don’t have space for an appropriate ergonomic chair, you could use your existing dining chairs and add a sitting wedge to angle your pelvis forward and correct your posture. You can also get a backfriend or lumbar support.

Poor seating arrangements can cause so many musculoskeletal problems (MSK). Other equipment that can be purchased to ensure a safe set up are a peripheral mouse, a wrist wrest and a footrest. These simple and sometimes inexpensive items can make a huge difference to future physical issues for someone working from home.

Equipment and resources

‘Tech neck’ is an issue to watch out for; the stress caused to muscles in the neck, back and shoulders by leaning forward for long periods of time. This is exacerbated by using smart phones, tablets and laptops. To reduce this risk it is best to a desk top PC where the monitor height can be adjusted to eye level.

Offices are designed in such a way that everything an employee needs is available. When they start working from home; that equipment they once had to hand such as printers, stationery, other office accessories and also adequate internet are no longer accessible. There is nothing more frustrating if you don’t have the best Wi-Fi and the connection is continuously dropping out. Its enough to make the most placid person on the planet turn into a swearing lunatic who threatens the PC with actual physical harm.


Just 3% of UK employees want to work from home most of the time, according to research carried out by global workplace experts Steelcase in March 2021. The findings also revealed that nearly one in five (18%) reported a worsening level of productivity.

Not having that commute (however long or short) to the office can mean there is no clear divide between switching off from your home life to entering into the mindset of your working day. It is therefore imperative to ensure the worker is able to schedule in regular breaks away from their desk and screen to move around, go for a walk and just separate themselves momentarily. This will help to prevent any future burnout and issues with productivity.

Breaks and downtime

Employees should be encouraged to practice the 40-20 rule, which is to sit and work for 40 minutes, then move around and walk for 20 minutes. If this is not practical, encouraging the worker to take a lunch break walk will help instil some acknowledgement of self care and bring a sense of mindfulness as they walk, relieving and stress and built up tension.

Setting clear start and finish times is so important too as many have found they would be checking emails constantly and never actually switching off when they should be relaxing with their family.

Environmental Factors

Employees should be encouraged to cultivate a nice-looking home workspace. Somewhere a member of staff would choose to be, rather than be out of requirement. Therefore a good way to look at this and approach creating the space, is to make a home out of your workspace.

Similarly, the environment they work in should befit that of a respected person. Clean. Free of clutter, and decorated with personality (collectibles, stickers, statues). This way, a member of staff would feel relaxed, at home, and motivated. Ensuring your staff are aware of the importance of their workspace when setting up their office area is paramount.


The lighting around a member of staff can genuinely affect their mood and output a lot.

If staff are working in areas with weak lighting (broken lights included) – the staff are known to feel more lethargic, less motivated, and less driven to complete the tasks that are laid out.

Due to this, strong lights with warmer glows give a better sense of motivation to members of staff and are actually documented as having strong positive impacts on their mood; particularly if the source of the light is the sun. For this reason, setting up a workspace in an area with larger windows would be beneficial.


The greatest issue facing staff in the modern era is a feeling of disconnect between them and those who are supposed to be their superiors and also their colleagues. It is of the upmost importance to create a strong positive repour between staff members and management. This will ensure staff are not intimidated by situations where they may need to ask for help and can also gain assistance and guidance from their peers.

The best way to do this, would be to have some level of open chat between staff members. There are so many options available now for internal communications, and do not have to simply rely on email and calls. The members of staff should be encouraged to use all methods available to them that they are comfortable using.

It isn’t uncommon for members of staff who enjoy their jobs to mention their good bonds with their colleagues, as the main reason for this enjoyment. This is a good thing to keep in mind in terms of staff well being when home working is being introduced. Additional team building and bonding days should be increased to accommodate the changes.


In a similar vain to the last point, staff often feel limited in their capability to converse with colleagues. A limitation often born from mental blocks, making them worry they’ll be disciplined if they ever converse on topics that aren’t entirely topical to the job they’re doing. However, for the benefit of their motivation and enjoyment of their job, ‘chatting’ should be encouraged, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their output too much.

It also has a significant effect when it comes to reducing burnout. Having a chuckle at a fellow member of staff’s joke while working keeps morale high and motivation at its peak.