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The FlowStyler Articles

Nine tips to keep your mind healthy and brain in shape

How to find your Flow? Posted on 04 Jul, 2017 08:24PM

Talking about mental health
it seem is still an uncomfortable topic for many. There still seems to be a
taboo around mental health but also a poor provision of free and easily
available mental health services for those who need it, especially children and
young people in inner city gangs. I have dedicated this month’s Monthly Note to write about keeping the
mind and brain in shape and to have a look at the things we can do to help
ourselves and those close by to harness their mind and reach for their dreams
and aspirations.

My coaching training
in combination with my interest in psychology and mental health safeguarding
made me reach out in partnership with Mac UK (music and change) to create a
mental health game (‘The walk of Life’)
for vulnerable young adults in the hope to enable under 16s to also start to
explore and develop their passions and strengths and to create a career around
this information. This not only will make them feel empowered and fulfilled but
foster the belief they can and are contributing to the world with their unique
set of Flow(s) an maybe even help them
surmount some of the obstacles they have in their lives as Sir Ken Robison has found,
when creating a career in our Flow.

What is mental health?

Being mentally
healthy means you can make the most of
your potential, cope with life and play a full part in your family, friends,
work and community. Mental health thus doesn’t just mean you don’t have mental
health problems Mental
writes. Your mental health is as important as your physical health and both are
interlinked. If one is out of sync the other can suffer too.

Everyone feels down,
stressed or frightened at times and most of the time these feelings go away by
themselves. Sometimes however they turn into more significant mental health problems.
This can happen to any of us. We are all different and process things
differently and depending on what is happening in our lives our mental health
can change. – ‘Living with
mental health illness’
has listed some of the things that can trigger
mental health problems:


and Alcohol use,

of Sleep,



Work/school/college environments


about the future



and misuse of the internet

and relationship issues

and sexuality

Mental health problems
range from anxiety, depression, to phobias and OCD, bipolar to schizophrenia
and suicidal thoughts to attempts.

A good reference point
for all the different types of mental health problems, a brief explanation and
tips on how to cope can be found of the website.

What you can do to take care of your mental health

Here are nine tips I
have collated over the years that can help you too to keep your mind healthy so
you can better withstand the stressed of modern life and be in a place from
which you can fulfil your dreams and aspirations.

Winding down/Destressing

The brain needs to
wind itself down for many reasons; to be able to sleep, to be able to think
straight, to be able to visualize, to be able to be optimistic and make the
right decisions for yourself, to not get blue.. the list goes on. It thus needs
a place where it can destress and disconnect from the grind, the bad news,
negative people and problems of the world. A place it can recharge itself, find
calmness, hope and love and a way back to your own wisdom within.

Where is that safe
haven for you? Where can you fully wind down and destress your mind? Having a
space where you can come back to, recharge, find your strength and balance back
and forget the world and your worries . Your brain needs it. To some it might
be their home, the corner of your favourite sofa, nature, exercise, a hobby, or
being with friends and loved ones. Winding down can start already back from
your commute. Reading, listening to music, walking or cycling home (getting off
a few stops before?) all are ways to wind down and destress. What is yours? How
can you create more time in this space?

Find what you love to do

Immersing yourself
into an activity you love to do helps your mind to destress and focus on
something else than your worries or problems too. This is hugely beneficial. What
it does is it lets your brain rest from your internal mind chatter, lowering
your stress levels and the cortisol in your blood which is harmful to your
body. Even when we have created a successful career around something we love
(our Flows) the stress we experience as a results is different. Mihaly
talks about ‘Eustress’ that is generated instead and how
it is less harmful to the body.

Finding and following
your Flow is thus also an aspect of keeping your mind healthy and seems to
bolster against some of the things in life that you have no control over. This
is because when you are in your Flow you are using your natural and true
talents and passions to create something that is of importance and worth to you
(and others). In return this brings back joy and energy, confidence in the self
and a knowing you are on the right track and contributing to the world. But
most of all you are honouring yourself by doing what you are really meant to be
doing with the unique set of passions
and talents that you possess within. (Research
based on work Sir KenRobinson)

Meditative practise

Meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing exercises are all ways to help you relax,
be centered and gain the time and space to clarify what you want to achieve and
who you are. Yoga meditation and stretching helps your body be supple and
flexible, preventing injury and as some say open up your energy channels.
However meditative practice also reduces inflammation and even cellular aging. Nobel Prize Winner Elizabeth Blackburn
researched that that a 43% increase in the Telomerase Activity could be seen
through 12minutes of daily yoga mediation, slowing down cellular ageing. Harvard Professor Herbert Benson saw
meditation as an addition to tackling and prevent onset of depression through
the stress reductive qualities meditative practice generates. Through the
practice of deep breathing you can also activate the vagus nerve that produces
acetylcholine. It is like a natural tranquilizer that you can use when you need
it; Simply take a few deep breaths with long exhales. This conscious tapping
into the power of the vagus nerve fosters reducing in inflammation and helps
reach a state of inner-calm Psychology
writes. Just being mindful enables you to poke your head out of a
busy or stressful situation and reach for a better and mutually beneficial solution.

Supportive family & friends

They say
those with a strong support networks are more likely to withstand the pressures
of modern life. They know they have a team with them. It’s healthy to stay
connected and talk. Sharing your feelings is therapeutic and cathartic, lifting
the spirits as you share something about you, with someone who loves, cherishes
and cares for you.

However not
everyone has the luxury or need for strong family or friendship networks. This
does not mean you cannot feel you have a team around you. Maya Angelou puts it
beautifully; ‘When you walk into that room bring your people with you, all
those people who have ever been kind to you or loved you. They might be long
gone, you might never have met them but take courage and strength to know of the team that is behind you all the way’.
You are not alone.. Just as your mind can bring you down you can learn to help
your mind lift itself up and harness it’s positive qualities.


from the Great British Sleep Survey shows that people who have poor
night sleeps feel five times more likely to feel alone and seven times more
likely to feel helpless.

When we do
not have regular good night sleep, Dr Michael Breus, the author of
Beauty Sleep
has found, that we are more prone to illness – because our
body hasn’t had time to regenerate itself through sleep (in the dark). We are
more prone to stress – as our mood is affected and our minds are more fragile
and we thus have less control over how outside/or inside stimuli of the negative
type affects us, and find relationships more challenging. Additionally our
decision making is impaired and we are more likely to have traffic accidents. What
having good sleep habits does do is it improves our psychological health as Harvard
Medical School
has researched.

Our integrity is improved,
which helps us find our Flow (and keep following the right Flow) and not get
influenced by others opinions of us or what we ‘should’ do. When we are well
rested we are more likely to be in tune with ourselves and make decisions based
on what our values are and thus also pick up on opportunities that lead us
towards our goals ( if you focus your mind on a goal your brain is more likely
to pick up on opportunities related to this goal – a bit like your own search
engine –fabulous!).

If lack of time is concern : Arianna Huffington’s words
of wisdom, in her book Thrive,
come back to me – Treat your bedtime like an important appointment. Schedule
sleep in like one of your appointments.

Healthy Eating

Looking at the
research it seems more and more evident how beneficial a nutritious and plant
based diet is for us. It seems to be healthiest way forward for our bodies and
minds. Research confirms how eating vegetable not only heals your body, it
prevents you from all sorts of cancers and diseases, it lowers your blood
pressure and cholesterol, it keeps your arteries healthy, boosts your immune
system and reduces inflammation Science Online writes. This they say
maybe is due to the nutrients they contain, like antioxidants, which are the
ones that reduce DNA damage and reduction in some cancers, prevent heart
diseases and even early death. DNA damage prevention! Wowzer ! It is indeed
this that got me into reducing my meat intake and increasing my vegetable
intake daily.

And how does it affect
the mind: What I have noticed is that I do not feel so heavy and sleepy anymore
after eating, which in return means I am more active and make decisions with
more ease. What you eat you become.


Exercising regularly
boosts your self-esteem, helps you concentrate and sleep better but also makes
you feel better due to the natural feel good hormones it creates (the
endorphins) and of course the strength, balance and stamina you gain through it.
Now that I have a bike I drift off instantly when my head hits the pillow.

If you exercise in a
green space this increases self-esteem and mood of
participants (Institute
for European Environmental Policy research). People with pre-existing mental health conditions benefitted from the
increase in self-esteem considerably (Barton & Pretty 2010). To me doing my
two or three times a week 5km runs, daily 15 minute yoga stretching and cycling
to commute as often as possible really is a vital way to keep my mind and body
in balance. The difference in my wellbeing is significant to when I was not
exercising at all in my twenties.


I love nature. When I
work from home I go for my 2pm walks in a nearby park. Especially if I’m tense
or can’t seem to focus returning back from my walk enables me to get back and
do what I need to do. I am a firm believer nature is good for us in many
aspects. Research shows being in nature reduces your heart rate and makes you
feel good, increasing positive emotions and feelings of vitality in you, Tyrvainen et all 2014 found. has found that exercising,
being and working in nature has several benefits; it reduces depression, anger,
stress, improves your mood and increases emotional resilience. And working on
your allotment (with friends) couldn’t be better for you! The Institute for European Environmental Policy Research
saw doctors prescribe less anti-depressants in urban areas with more trees on
the street (by Taylor et all (2015)).
The access to nature can
reduce behavioural problems in children too such as hyperactivity, emotional
symptoms and peer relationship problems (Amoley
et all 2014
). Pregnant women who lived closer to nature and parks had lower
blood pressure. The amazing things nature does to us. When will you schedule in
your weekly nature walk? Find your closest park and start there.

Disconnect (devices)

How often do you switch
off your devices? If you check your devices before you even get up you are
allowing the outside world’s agenda to rule your life. If you want clarity in
your mind for the day creating a morning routine that does not include, TV,
radio or any devices that can distract you from You and Your plans is helpful.

In the evening take
care not to check your phone before going to bed as the blue light from the
devices also impair your sleep cycle and production of Melatonin in your brain
which regulates your internal body clock making it a less restful and
reinvigorating sleep for body and mind.

What I have come to realise over the years of striving
towards my goals and creating a life that I want to live is that I have much
more power than I initially thought possible in creating my reality. And the
power I have gained has been through first and foremost taking care of and
managing my mind and body. The vessel that will help you get there.

Until next month dear reader. Let me know what you found
useful in this article?

Big love

Petra xx

How to get your inspiration & focus back?

Aspiration Achievement Posted on 05 Jun, 2017 07:48PM

Goals are
not rigid – Allowing a shift in priorities

In March I
was back from my wonderful holiday to Finland; visiting my family and roots. I
felt relaxed, connected to myself and my goals and itching to get back to my
work routine. This time however there had been a shift in my priorities.
Whereas I had mainly focussed on my Flow Styler practise these past few years I
sensed that now was the time to re-shift my focus and make more space for the
ultimate reason why I started doing what I do; My love and secret deep passion
for the Arts.

Since I can
remember I have always been creative; drawing, story writing, singing, clay
making, creating games and directing imaginary plays with my childhood friends
but after a certain age I stopped as school became the prevailing focus. At
sixteen I realised purely by accident that I could draw exceptionally well
compared to my age group. But at the time none of this registered. I was
rejecting my creative Flow as it did not fit in with my internalised world view
of what constituted a valid career and what the criteria were to choose that
career. Deep down I knew I wanted to be an artist and work in the creative
field. It took me another ten years to actually start to dabble again in the
creative field, trying to find my medium to express my creativity in, and to slowly
believe that indeed they could come true.

Now you
might think; What has this got to do with
? Well, everything. Without my search and development of my Flow(s)
there would be no Flow Styler programme. I have found the journey to finding
and following my Flow(s) so fascinating and challenging that I wanted to reach
out and share the knowledge and research I have gained with you but also to find
others who have been or are in a similar situation. My Flow Styler programme
has thus been the end result of my owner search for my Flow(s).

Where to focus

When I talk
about Flow people many times say ‘I don’t have flow. I’m just not talented in
any area’. I did question this too at one stage. Paradoxically my belief has
also always been that everyone has potential, as Mihaly Csikzentmihaly, founding father of positive psychology writes
in ‘Flow – The classic work on how to
achieve happiness’
. It is just hard sometimes to see it in yourself, says Lucy Whittington – Finding your Thing. Everyone has their unique Flow – and we don’t always
just have one but several Flows, as Sir
Ken Robinson
author of the ‘Element’
believes. Finding your Flow is like finding natural resources, he says, they
need to be unearthed from the depths – of yourself (or the earth). This can thus
seem that you do not possess them. It is difficult to see them at times and
takes patience, trial and self-analysis. And once you find them you can make a
choice in where you put your most attention into developing and when.

What do you believe
are your Flow(s)? What would you want to be? What would you want to develop?

Goals are fluid

Once your
Flow(s) are clear you know what goals need attention. Being in tune with yourselves
and working towards connecting to yourself, you can sense when there is a true
shift needed in your focus.

My start of
year goals did not, for example, reflect my recent shift – focusing on my creative
work more strategically. This does not mean the goal wasn’t important it just
meant that at that stage I wasn’t ready yet and the prevailing focus was on
other things.

Goals are
fluid, reshaping themselves and growing as you grow and shift. If you have
found your Flow(s) – created by your passions and talents – you will know that your goals usually revolve
around these few areas that you have chosen to pursue, working on them on a day
to day basis, shifting and changing depending on the stage of development you
are at with them.

Where do you
see a shift coming? Is a shift in focus due or not?

What do you
do most of your day? What could you do less to inject what you really want to
get done in the daily routine?

Re-shuffle and re-prioritize

Going away
helps you to rise above the routine and mundane rut and can be used to reassess
if you are focusing on the right areas. That is why getting away regularly is
so important to me. It enables your brain to take the distance and reshuffle
the cards, draw out the most important next goals to work on and the most
important areas to focus on.

What do you
do to take distance form your day to day life? How do you help yourself to see
the bigger picture?


all devices is delicious. And it’s not only in Finland that I switch off the internet
or don’t check my phone hourly. When I am home or with friends my internet is
off and phone on silent unless I need it or am expecting a call. Immersing yourself
100% in the moment and being present for those you are with also releases the
brain from thinking about your actions. This is the time to let your brain
immerse itself into the new experiences and enable the creation of that
distance in your everyday reality at home and come up with new solutions.

When do you
disconnect from your devices?

Read my
article on sleep and see how unplugging helps you sleep. Here

Away and with friends

Taking time
off is a must on my list, even if it is not getting away from the country
staying away or being with friends in a place nearby can have the same
distancing effect. I love the seaside so Brighton is a great quick getaway for
me as are immersing myself in a great chat with a friend, exercise, nature
walks, inspirational talks or a gallery visit. Not thinking about home or your
goals helps to take that fresh new look at your actions and prioritize.

What do you
do to distance and get away? Is this something you do regularly? How does
getting away make you feel when you get back?

Gain new inspiration

Going away
also enables you to be re-inspired by the current projects and gain new
inspiration that feeds our passion and drive. We can’t leave out our own food just because we are feeding others.
In fact, this is when the whole idea of focusing on the self becomes so
important. When you take care of YOU first you will be happy and so will
others. Coming back from my holiday I had a bag full of energy and new insight
into what I will work on next and re-adjusted my goals for the next five months
to include more planned creative time.

What other
ways are there to get your inspiration back? What will you re-adjust?

Have an
amazing start to the summer…what beautiful weather we have had! I think it is
time for my next holiday soon!

If you liked
my article LIKE me on Facebook or
twitter and connect with me on Linked In.

I’d love to hear back from you about
the ways you help yourself see the bigger picture?

Big love


how to connect to Your tools of Success

How to find your Flow? Posted on 12 May, 2017 12:15PM

Recently I came across a selection of interviews with singer-song
writer, director and business woman Jada Pinkett Smith and what she said
really resonated with me. I wanted to give my take on three of the points she
talks about ‘how to create success’ in life. Jada Pinkett Simth has an amazing
energy and the right kinda attitude to life we can all learn from.
In one interview in particular she talks about ‘putting yourself first’ to her
young daughter Willow. I truly hope I will be able to pass that kind of wisdom
to my own children one day.

Listen and follow your gut

In today’s busy and overstimulated world we sometimes forget that the answers
do come from within. We are so busy ‘doing’ what is expected of us that we
forget to take the time to reflect on; why we do what we do, whether the things
we do are the right ones to pursue or not and what our guidelines are on making
the right choices & decision for us? How do you decide if a choice/decision
is the right one for you? One thing people who have found their Flow share is
their unfaltering ability to follow their gut or inner compass. When we learn
to listen to our inner compass it creates confidence in the self. We trust we
can make the right choices for ourselves and are not talked out of pursuing them.

Research shows that following our gut is much more accurate than thought
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio from the University of Southern California
believes that trusting your intuition in combination with facts helps better
your decision making and in return enables us to create a more happier and
successful life on our terms for ourselves.

We are all powerful beings and can cultivate and harness ourselves to
create amazing and previously unthinkable things. You know deep down what you
really want from life, whether you consciously choose to listen to it and
pursue it or not. One way or another life will make us listen, as I have
discovered myself. My journey to finding my Flow hasn’t been plain sailing but
it has been a most liberating and life affirming one. It also helped me with
overcoming depression. At the time I only listened to my intuition but it looks
like research is backing it up. ‘By setting out on the path to finding the
real you, you will accomplish more than healing your depression
’ write Rudolph
E. Tanzi and Deepak Chopra
in their book ‘Super Brain’. Mind
blowing! What I found after finding my Flow(s) has been far more than I ever
expected. Making those decisions based on your truth paves a path to an
authentic and happy life without pretence and the embracing of the sum total of
who you are.

Ask yourself these questions to break down your own thought
process for dissecting gut feelings.

  • “Do
    I feel good around this person or choice?”
  • “Does
    this person or situation give me or take my energy?”
  • “Do
    I feel empowered or disempowered?”
  • “Am
    I going toward an adventure or running from fear?”
  • “Am
    I listening to my lessons learned from the past?”
  • “Would
    I make the same choice if I had a million dollars in my pocket now?”
  • “Do
    I feel respected and valued?”
  • Am I
    trying to control the situation or am I leaving room for expansion?”

Focus on you first

When you respect and take care of yourself everyone else will follow suite and
respect it. When we know how to take care of ourselves and know what we want we
are going to be happier and find the happiness we want from within. No one else
can make us happy or satisfied with how our life is than we ourselves.
Focussing on yourself first is not selfish but a necessity for any self-respecting
woman or man to achieve their aspirations and feel in charge of their life.

Focusing on you first enables you to connect with yourself and know when
you are off course and when you are not following your true purpose in life. I
grew up seeing generations of women in my family focussing their lives on
raising children. Early on I knew I would not be doing this; until I had
figured things out for myself first. At that point I didn’t know I was talking
about uncovering and pursuing my Flow(s). It is wonderful if someone aspires to
be a mother if this is done out of choice. However the minute choice is taken
out of the equation problems arise.

Historically women have not had the same choice, encouragement and
opportunities to fulfil their aspirations and purpose in life. Society,
convention, cultural norms have a long time kept women in traditional roles,
putting extra boundaries in this search of the self and the maintenance of
these boundaries. Celebrating the achievements in change and raising awareness
to the issues women are still facing will be celebrated next week, to mark the 8th
March International Women’s day
, at my favourite spot the Southbank
Centre -Women of the World (WOW) festival

When we do focus on ourselves first we are able to better take care of others
too. Knowing and working towards what we really do want and what makes us happy
and fulfilled is just so vital for our wellbeing and also of everyone else
around us. In doing so you take on the responsibility for your own happiness
and achievements. Societies would have happier homes if everybody’s unique
potentials and passions would be fostered to grow.

Ask yourself : How will you focus on yourself today? How will you connect to
yourself today?


Have you ever heard someone say How they didn’t make it because of x, y or z …I
bet you have. Once you know that taking care of ourselves comes first and
takeing responsibility to maintain that stance lies upon us, the reasons x, y
or z pretty quickly disappear.
It might feel daunting to untangle yourself from the dreams, expectations and
wishes of others but once we follow our path and face our reality we are no
longer able to blame others. External events or circumstances no longer sway us
as we know we have the power within us to make a change.

Writer Annemarie Postma author of ‘The body is perfect’
and ‘Deeper secret says it so aptly: ‘’Many people watch reality
from the side lines, hoping that something from the outside will one day save
This kind of magical thinking makes sure you are in the thralls of
outside influences and therefore giving away your power to make a change in
your life.

Children believe others make decisions for them. Sometimes we can stay stuck in
this kind of thinking/believing into adulthood. Of course our circumstances
growing up play a role here. Taking responsibility thus also means working
through the issues that are stopping you form moving forward. The brain is like
a neural jungle. Old habits are sticky but we can learn to create new paths in
our brain that are more life affirming. This takes time but it very much
achievable with practise.

Accepting that you are the sole responsible for how your life turns out and how
satisfied you are with yourself lies in your hands. This belief enables you to
stay in charge of your life and not give away that precious power that lies
within to make the change. Make that pact with yourself that you are not going
to let yourself down and you will make it your business to find your way.

Ask yourself: How will you take responsibility for your own happiness and
centeredness today?

Listening to yourself and respecting what the self is telling you puts you
in a strong position to create a life on your terms. Finding and following your
Flow(s) gives you the confidence in yourself and your abilities to believe that
you can create a life on your terms. Trusting in your powers automatically lets
you be in charge of your life as you have the belief inside you that you do
have what it takes to make this the world you want to see.
Responsibility for the outcomes and yourself puts you in a position where your
powers stay with you. You no longer expect anybody else to make you happy (..or
whatever it is that you want to be, do or have). And as it happens when we are
happy and self-fulfilling from the inside this is also reflected on the outside
and we are able to give from a place of centred loved.

Big love,

Petra xx

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