As a Type 1 diabetic, one of the things that makes me anxious in the sweaty days of mid-summer is keeping my insulin cool. I’m out and about a lot, and climbing into a baking hot car with my insulin pen in my bag is always worrying, because I know that insulin denatures over 30◦C. The trickiest part, of course, is that there’s no way of knowing if your insulin has overheated and denatured, except by injecting as usual and getting higher than usual blood sugar readings. The worst!
For years I’ve tried to find a solution to this problem. I’ve put my insulin in cooling packs, tried to leave my insulin at home (which means not eating if I’m not at home – not a sustainable solution) and even wrapped my insulin in wet paper towels in the hope that it would keep cool! I hate wasting insulin, but I hate high blood sugar more – and if your insulin has denatured it just doesn’t work any more, so it has to be thrown out.
And then I found the ViViCap1, and I can’t tell you what a relief it is! It replaces the cap on your insulin pen and keeps the insulin inside at a steady temperature – no matter how hot it is outside. (I’ve been in 38◦C heat and it’s been totally fine.) It’s quite a revolutionary product, so I asked Matthew Wray from ViViCap1 to tell us more about it…
What is the ViViCap1?
ViviCap1 is a revolutionary temperature shielding device for insulin pens. It simply replaces the cap of the insulin pen and can travel with you, bringing you year-round peace of mind that your insulin is safe to use, even in extreme temperatures.
What makes it so unique?
ViViCap1 requires no batteries and no charging. There is a phase changing formula within the cylinder of ViViCap1. This is a NASA patented technology used to control temperature within the walls of spacecraft without using power. When your ViViCap1 and insulin are exposed to temperatures from 28◦C, the formula activates itself, turns from a solid state to a liquid state, rushes around and prevents heat from reaching your insulin. Even in extreme heat, your insulin will never exceed a safe 26◦C. As soon as the ambient temperature drops to 26◦C and below, the ViViCap1 regenerates itself. The ViViCap1 I endorsed by the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE).
Why is it so important for insulin to be kept cool?
Insulin is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature. If not regulated properly, the insulin will spoil and could prove very dangerous for the person with diabetes if the insulin has no effect.
Is there any way to know if your insulin has denatured because of heat?
The ViViCap1 has a green light indicator which assures you that your insulin stored in the ViViCap1 is safely protected against heat. If, in some extreme example, the insulin in the ViViCap1 has been compromised due to heat exposure, the light will turn red and that red light will serve as your warning that your insulin is now compromised and not safe to use.
How is the ViViCap1 different to a cooler bag?
A cooler bag will only keep things cool for as long as the cooler bag can stay cool. Ever been on a long road trip? Nothing stays at the required temperature for extended periods. The ViViCap1 will activate itself when the ambient temperature gets to 28◦C and if that temperature is constant for 12 hours straight (daylight), ViViCap1 will keep the insulin at 26◦C no matter what the ambient temperature is. A cooler bag has no stop/start mechanism and therefore can only lose heat.
Where can people find out more or buy one?
ViViCap1 is available at the CDE pharmacy and can be ordered by all CDE centres through the CDE pharmacy. It is also available at Clicks nationwide. Some Clicks stores may need to order for the patient, but most will have in stock. It can also be purchased online at www.tempramed.co.za through our online store. It is priced from R1300 with a two-year guarantee. Find out more at www.tempramed.co.za
Any questions? Email Matthew Wray for answers.
The 2nd annual Diabetes Frontier Africa conference is in Johannesburg this week, and has some big questions to answer. Medical researchers continue to highlight the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes on our healthcare infrastructure. Due to a lack of current prevalence data and worryingly low rates of diagnosis in sub-Saharan Africa, it is expected that the International Diabetes Federation projected 156% rise in the disease could well be short of the eventual reality.
How to educate the public about diabetes
In an effort to avoid this worrying outcome; government, medical professionals and social influencers will meet in November to discuss ways to educate the public and mitigate many of the challenges South Africa faces in dealing with diabetes. Diabetes advocates including Sophie Ndaba-Lichaba (entrepreneur and actress) and representatives from Gauteng MEC for Health, Gwendoline Malegwale Ramokgopa’s department will join global medical professionals at the 2nd annual Diabetes Frontier Africa conference. Key on the agenda will be the issue of developing societal shifts in SA to help alleviate the challenges of scarce resources in fighting diabetes.
Limited medical resources
Due to a myriad of medical complications, including organ failure, loss of sight and limbs as well as sexual dysfunction, diabetes casts a wide shadow of burden on already limited medical resources. This is especially problematic in low income and rural areas with limited medical staff and beds to deal with the supportive care needed to deal with diabetic complications. Complications which could be largely managed through a consistent and widespread campaign of awareness to fight myths and stigma in these communities.
The stigma around diabetes is particularly complex in SA as patients are not only judged for falling sick or becoming obese, but also for taking their treatment seriously. Insulin injections, exercise, maintaining a strict diet and weight-loss have all been linked with negative social response in many of the communities worst affected by the disease.
Recently, diabetes advocate Sophie Lichaba was at the centre of body shaming attacks directed to her and husband, businessman Max Lichaba on social media. Attacks that laid bare the very real problem of SA society assuming that obesity is a sign of affluence while weight-loss is an indication of terminal illness and bad lifestyle choices.
The expert panel led by top London-based researcher, Dr Louise Goff will join Lichaba to discuss challenges and strategies in citizen advocacy at the event that coincides with World Diabetes Day (14 November). Dr Goff’s research focuses on how ethnicity impacts on the pathophysiological development of Type 2 diabetes. Her research team are working on culturally-tailored self- management programmes for diabetes.
The role of technology and data science will also be highlighted with Dr Vukosi Marivate from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Mr Norman Moyo from Cumii Technologies expected to discuss ways that professionals and caregivers can leverage emerging technologies to help with diabetes care.
Diabetes conference line-up
Here’s the entire line-up of impressive names in diabetes:
Join global endocrinology researchers, nutrition experts, policy makers and top medical journalists for networking and collaboration in fighting this growing epidemic.
Conference chairperson: Dr Sundeep Ruder (Clinical Endocrinologist, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital; Lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand)
Speakers for the event include the following top experts:
Dr Bongi Ngema Zuma (Former 1st Lady of RSA and CEO – Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation)
Dr Gwendoline Malegwale Ramokgopa (MEC – Gauteng Department of Health)
Dr Louise Goff (Senior Researcher, Diabetes & Nutritional Sciences Division Kings College London)
Dr Bo Liu (Researcher, Diabetes Research Group Kings College London)
Dr Chibuzo Anaso (Diabetologist, Western Cape Department of Health and CEO Anaso Diabetes Foundation)
Mr Norman Moyo (Chief Executive Officer, Cumii Technologies – a subsidiary of Econet Group)
Dr Vukosi Marivate (ABSA Chair of Data, University of Pretoria and Senior Researcher, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research [CSIR])
Sophie Ndaba-Lichaba (Entrepreneur, Actress, Diabetes advocate)
Dr Charlotte Boughton (Clinical Researcher, University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories)
Today, our guest writer Maryna shares some tips and advice from her travels… Specifically, travelling with diabetes. She’s outlined 8 helpful tips for travelling with diabetes. Do you have anything to add? Comment below, or on Facebook!
Adventures with diabetes
I love travelling. I’ve travelled overseas, I’ve travelled to remote places in the country with no facilities, I go camping a lot – especially in summer. I love seeing new places, meeting new people and just basking in a foreign sun. Insulin and glucometer in tow, I’ve spent ten days in the middle of the Karoo without electricity or running water. It wasn’t an easy task and required a lot of planning on my part, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t exchange for anything.
Going on holiday should be an exciting adventure filled with laughter and fun. Unfortunately, if you have diabetes it comes with its own set of troubles. Besides that annoying feeling that you forgot half of what you should have packed, you have a few extra factors to consider when packing that suitcase.
Easier to travel with diabetes now
Travelling as a diabetic has become much easier than it used to be. In 2002 when I went to the UK for the first time, I was still using syringes and vials and the ensuing three-hour debacle at customs left me crying and embarrassed in a busy corridor in the middle of Heathrow Airport. I had a doctor’s letter, I had a letter from the medical aid, but trying to get boxes of syringes over the border ended up being far more difficult than expected.
In 2018, Customs isn’t a worry anymore, in most cases authorities don’t even notice the pens in my hand luggage and when I declare my medicine, most flight attendees are too scared to take my insulin away from me and keep it in the cabin like they are supposed to. I don’t really need a doctor’s letter anymore since it’s now a rarity to be asked for one, and even the strictest airports don’t seem to bat an eyelid at my luggage.
There are a few tricks to making your travel experience as easy as possible. Here are my top eight tips for travelling with diabetes:
1. Travelling with insulin
Firstly and most important comes the insulin. The ins and outs of travelling with insulin can be a bit tricky, especially keeping your insulin cold enough. My solution came from the fitness industry: www.sixpackbags.com. These bags are made for bodybuilders to keep and carry their eight meals of the day. The bags are sneakily lined with small pockets for ice-packs, you can line the whole bag with icy goodness, and the bags are insulated very similarly to a coolerbox. It’s saved my insulin on numerous occasions, especially during long-haul flights or long road trips.
Always remember to take extra insulin! This I learnt long ago when I went on a sandy beach vacation. I never considered that sea sand is fine enough to slip between the seals in my epipen, which in turn makes the pen useless as it can’t turn anymore. Lesson learnt! The panic was very real and only after a whole day of going from pharmacy to pharmacy and eventually the hospital, was my problem solved… At a price. Always take extra needles with you and keep a doctor’s letter on you for overseas trips to satiate that one-in-a-thousand strict Customs employee.
2. Remember your water bottle
Secondly is water, always have water with you. It doesn’t matter if it’s an eight hour drive, 12 hour flight or a leisurely stroll on the beach. Water is a great way to help your insulin do its work. Since diabetics dehydrate faster than the norm, it’s important to have your liquid backup prepared.
3. Watch what you eat
Take into account that sitting for prolonged hours is most probably throwing off your daily routine, so check what you eat and drink while travelling. I usually eat far less while on the road or on a flight or I’ll pay the price later with a high blood sugar reading. Once you arrive, it’s important to watch what you eat as well – especially when you travel overseas. Foreign food is one of the best things when travelling, I love tasting new dishes and experiencing local food customs, but don’t be shy to ask what is in your delicious food and how it was made. You’ll regret it later if you ate something that doesn’t play well with your diabetes.
4. Be aware of water retention
Holding back water is normal when travelling for long hours. It can be uncomfortable and at times even painful. Personally it affects me for a couple of days when I’ve travelled for long and I’ve had some instances where I would have made balloons jealous with my puffiness. Invest in compression socks, which you can get at any Clicks or Dischem. Trust me, the last thing you want is huge “cankles” when you get off the plane, waddling like a duck for the first two days of your holiday.
5. Be (medically) prepared
Always make sure that your medical information is readily available. It sounds obvious, but I have been surprised by the amount of people that don’t have any type of indication of their diabetes on their person. Get that MedicAlert bracelet and wear it.
6. Pack carefully
Comfortable, worn-in shoes are a must. It doesn’t matter if your holiday includes a lot of walking or not, make sure those sensitive feet are comfortable. Combined with the water retention that you may experience, you might have less feeling in your feet, so make sure to check your feet more regularly, especially for blisters. In the last couple of years I’ve also started covering my lower legs when camping in the veld or places with rough terrain. The last thing you want is scratches and scrapes on your legs.
7. Test your blood sugar more often
This is not a must, but I find that my routine is completely topsy-turvy on holiday. I eat differently, my activities are different, sleeping patterns are strange, so I test my blood sugar more often. I carry my glucometer on me at all times during my trips. Depending on how sensitive your body is, even a slight difference can affect you. So listen to your body and make sure you are always ready for highs or lows or just a crazy surprise sunburn.
8. Enjoy yourself!
Possibly one of the most valuable tips I can give here is to enjoy yourself. If you are prepared, there is nothing stopping you from having a fun-filled, adventurous experience. Be vigilant, but not obsessive about your condition. Enjoy the sites, smells and surroundings, meet new people, experience something different. Travelling is an enriching experience, make sure you get as much as you can from it!
It sounds like a lot of effort, many things to remember and just a plain inconvenience, but trust me: being prepared will make your holiday and travelling so much more pleasant.
Our regular guest writer Maryna has some advice to share today about work stress and diabetes. How do you cope with work stress? Maryna shares some helpful tips that have made it easier for her to stay calm.
Stress and diabetes
Life is stressful. In my experience, diabetes and stress don’t play well together.
There are many factors that cause stress, some of them we have no control over, but other factors we can control. Personally, work life is my largest source of a clenched stomach, short breath and continual headaches. Gone are the days when loyalty and hard work paid off: this utopia that my parents so often talk about, I have never encountered.
In my youthful ignorance I chose to pursue a career in advertising. Now, I can’t speak for other industries. But I’ve certainly spent my last fifteen years working eighteen hour days, sleeping badly, drinking too much coffee, fighting stomach ulcers and being guilted into working weekends and holidays.
Constant work pressure
Rising up the ranks didn’t make things any easier, as the work and hours didn’t get any less, but the pressure and stress multiplied exponentially.
Don’t misunderstand me: I love what I do and I’m good at it. Most of my fellow creatives are amazing, brilliant people and the fact that I can wear what I want to work is a massive plus in my eyes! I’ve achieved what many others in the industry never do and enjoyed a career that has given me many opportunities to grow, but what did I sacrifice in the process?
It’s difficult coping in these high stress, high output environments, both physically and mentally. Adding diabetes to the already toxic mix makes it even harder. Looking back at the last couple of years, I can’t say that I would do everything over again and not regret it. My body and soul have taken a beating in so many ways and I certainly have the scars and stories to prove it.
Stress coping mechanisms (for a diabetic)
How do you cope in this crazy stressful world as a diabetic?
It’s taken me many years to learn this, but firstly: come to terms with your condition. I have this innate drive to not admit that anything is wrong with me. I spent years thinking that my diabetes was a weakness. Many of the things that my co-workers do effortlessly leave me in a near catatonic state for days. I have to sleep, I have to eat, some days I’m exhausted beyond measure, I get headaches, my ankles swell up, the list goes on and on, but it doesn’t make me a lesser employee.
Yes, I have issues, just like every other person around me. You have nothing to prove if you work at your best and deliver good work.
The secret here is that you can’t work your best if you feel like a half-asleep zombie all the time, and that’s a message that needs to come across to your superiors. Don’t let anyone guilt you into over-stretching yourself, don’t let anyone tell you that your diabetes is a problem. You can be just as productive as anyone else if you are responsible and give your body what it needs.
Be responsible for your diabetes
That brings us to point number two: be responsible. You, and only you, know your limits, and it’s different for all of us. Say STOP when you need it, and if your boss has a problem with that, then he’s most probably not a very good boss.
Look after your well-being, not only physically but mentally, I have found that your mental health has a lot more to do with healthy blood sugar levels than we are led to believe.
I am a strong believer in meditation and it has helped me to control my raging stress and emotions over time. This might not be true for you, it could something as simple as going to the gym every day or as complex as building a ten thousand piece puzzle. Find that thing that makes you calm. Find the space that gives you time to contemplate, analyse and solve your problems.
Educate others about diabetes
Thirdly: make sure those closest to you at work can recognise the signs when you lose the plot. Over the years I have become a master in casually talking about my diabetes, not in an aggressive or “feel sorry for me” way, just a casual chat. Educate those around you about your symptoms. I’ve found that at times I get so distracted by my work or a specific problem, that I don’t notice what my body is telling me. We’ve all had that unpleasant surprise hypo, that sneaks up from behind and leaves you a blubbering, confused mess.
Fortunately, or rather unfortunately for those around me, I turn into the proverbial bear with a thorn in its paw, so it’s obvious when my blood sugar is on the low side. Always make sure that there is at least one person who can recognise the signs and make you aware of them before you get into trouble.
Lastly: if your gut is telling you something is wrong, there’s most probably something wrong. Go to the doctor if you feel anything odd is going on in your body. Stress does strange things to you: I’ve had everything, from odd circular dry patches on my skin to a septic ulcer that landed me in hospital with a sugar count of 48 mmol/L and a near-death experience. Needless to say, that experience taught me that you can never be too careful or vigilant when it comes to your diabetes.
Our bodies tend to react a lot more violently to issues that most non-diabetic people just brush off as nothing. Learn to know your body and how it reacts to different situations.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with stress. Be aware of what your body is telling you and take responsibility for that. Learn what helps you deal with your circumstances and practice that. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground and defend your own health. Care for yourself and your work will surely flourish.
Have you heard about the Cape Town Diabetes SA Children’s Camp? Don’t delay, register today! Here’s all the info you need, from Shelly Schutte, one of the organisers. She posted this on the Diabetic South Africans Facebook page:
The Cape Town Diabetes SA Children’s Camp is now just a few weeks away and we are getting all the preparations in place! It will be held from the 31st of August to the 2nd of September. We have a mix of new and more experienced leaders for the upcoming camp and had a fun training morning on Saturday the 4th of August. All leaders were guided through the programme and given advice and training on how to care for children on camp responsibly while also making sure everyone has fun! Please note we will have a doctor and dietitian at the campsite throughout the weekend.
Diabetes Camp is such a special opportunity for children, teenagers and adults to meet others who just ‘get’ what makes Diabetes both a challenge and a gift. It is also a chance to have lots of fun while learning more about how to manage Diabetes.
If you haven’t got your camp form in yet, please email Margot as soon as possible.
The cutoff for camp forms is the 15th of August. The camp is open for 9-14 year olds and costs just R200. If you are older than 14, you are absolutely welcome to come along but may be asked to assist the leaders in some way.
See you at camp!
Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you can’t unwind and relax. Charis Le Riche shows us how.
Studies by the international research company Bloomberg found that South Africa has the second highest levels of stress in the world. Stress can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep problems and irritability – and although it’s a killer for anyone, it has a major effect on your blood sugar levels. That means it’s even more important for diabetics to keep their stress levels in check.
Luckily, you don’t have to quit your job and go on a meditation retreat to do so! There are a number of ways to unwind during your lunch break. Here are five of our favourites.
We all know that yoga is a great way to relax your mind and body, but you don’t have to bring your yoga mat and leotard to work – there are short mini-meditations that you can do while sitting at your desk. Simply stop what you’re doing and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and focus on your breathing: count three full inhales and exhales, and then slowly open your eyes again. You can do this exercise throughout the day and it will only take a minute of your time.
I don’t mean skipping rope (unless you want to!) but getting away from your desk is one of the best things you can do to combat stress. So put down your pen and step away from the computer. Head outside and take a walk or find a spot to sit while you sketch or write. Do whatever you enjoy best – as long as it means you get away from the office for a bit. You’ll be amazed how problems seem more manageable when you have a moment to clear your mind.
It may seem like a cliché, but laughter often is the best medicine, especially in the work place. Sometimes you just need some comic relief in a high tension moment to relieve everyone’s anxiety. So share some funny stories with colleagues or watch a silly video. Anything that lightens the mood is a good thing!
Hit the gym
Another sure way to beat stress is to work it out through exercise. Any kind of exercise will help relieve stress, so you can pick something you know you will enjoy and are comfortable with, whether it’s yoga, pilates, spinning, swimming or running on the treadmill. As long as you’re working up a sweat, you’re doing your body (and mind) some good.
Enjoy some “me” time
If you can’t get away from the office, try to enjoy a little “me” time while at your desk – even if it is only for 20 minutes. Put on your ear phones and listen to your favourite music (music is a great anti-stress tool) and take some time out to doodle or browse Pinterest or Instagram. This can help improve your attitude about the work at hand and put things in perspective. Never a bad thing!
Fancy a cup of tea?
In many situations – at home or in the office – a cup of tea is just the thing you need to calm you down. Many cultures have been using tea for medicinal purposes for centuries. Here are a few teas that can help you combat stress:
- Chamomile: A firm favourite among people who need to relax.
- Green: Not only high in antioxidants but also contains theanine which is known to help with stress (it does contain caffeine though, so look out for the decaffeinated kind).
- St John’s Wort: Known for its ability to treat depression, this tea also helps with anxiety.
- Lemon Balm: Great for helping you sleep, Lemon Balm tea helps overcome depression, anxiety and nervousness.
- Lavender: Another tea that helps with sleeplessness, lavender is known for its soothing qualities.
Looking for inspiration beyond your front door? Claire Barnardo has some great ideas for enjoying the outside more.
- Unwind in nature
Whether it’s rain or shine, heading outdoors can be inspiring. Try the beach, or climbing a mountain, walking through a forest or playing in a park. There’s no better way to relax than by being in nature.
- Magical markets
Looking for a new way to do breakfast or lunch? Meet your friends at a market and indulge in something fresh, organic and delicious. While you’re there, you can shop for arts and crafts and stock up on your holiday gifts too.
- Open air concerts
Another way to celebrate the outdoors is by booking to see a concert outside. Whether it’s musicians in the botanical gardens, a weekend festival, or a play in an amphitheatre, there are all kinds of musical treats to choose from.
- Picnic perfection
Picnics are the best way to meet up with friends and family. Shake things up by changing the time of day – have a breakfast picnic or a sundowner picnic somewhere with a beautiful view. Keep the kids busy with games while you put your feet up and enjoy a holiday read. Don’t forget to pack healthy snacks!
- Fruit picking
Want to spend the day on a farm? Plan a self-picking adventure and pick your own cherries, strawberries, figs, or peaches. This is a fantastic way to enjoy fresh air and seasonal fruit. Just be sure to check the weather beforehand!
- Raise your glass
Why not make your own diabetic-friendly iced tea, lemonade, or ginger beer? You could also arrange a tea-tasting for friends in your garden, with a selection of flavoured teas in pretty cups. Or toast to life with sugar-free champagne!
Why not declutter your life more by using the KonMari Method? Charis Le Riche shows us how.
Living with diabetes is challenging enough as it is, which is why it’s so important to take stock of your life, simplify where you can and get organised! Clutter in our home can not only be a distraction, it can also cause restlessness and stress.
Developed by Japanese organising consultant and author, Marie Kondo, the KonMari Method aims to help you declutter your life, so that you can make space for what’s really important: living a healthy, better life. Though it may sound simple, it can be a really challenging exercise. But stick to it! The results are amazing.
Step 1: Tidy all at once
You need to commit to tidying up all at once. Marie says that it’s important that you declutter all in one go, as opposed to cleaning over a period of time. Decluttering over a period of time never works, as you’ll start accumulating things again and you’ll end up where you began. By decluttering all in one go, you’ll find that you’re more motivated about the challenge at hand.
Step 2: Letting go
Secondly, according to Marie, you need to visualise your life without the clutter. Don’t look at only the material things – how a room will look once organised – but try to imagine what living a clutter-free life will mean for you.
Step 3: Does it bring you joy?
It’s not about just throwing things away. Marie says that you should only keep the items that truly bring you happiness and discard the rest. Hold the item in both of your hands and ask yourself: “does this spark joy?” It is important to hold each item – if the answer is yes, then keep it. If the answer is no or you hesitate, then throw it away or donate it.
Step 4: Organise by items, not location
Instead of decluttering room by room, Marie tells us to declutter by items. So, for example, when you’re doing clothes, you need to get all your clothes from all the various places you store them, place them in one pile, and then sort them out from there. Start with tops, then do jerseys, then pants etc etc.
Step 5: Stick to an order
Marie tells us that there is an order that needs to be followed when organising: start with your clothes, then books, papers, komono (miscellaneous), and finally sentimental. This way you build up organising muscles for the really hard stuff – sentimental things.
Step 6: Finish, before putting away
Don’t put anything away until you have discarded all you can from that category – discard first and then put it away. A good tip: check out the KonMari Method of folding – your closets will never look the same.
Step 7: Recycle and donate
You’ll be amazed at the sheer number of things that you are willing to get rid of, and the feeling of being surrounded by only things that really make you happy. If you’ve been holding on to things because you think you might wear them again or might be able to use them one day, it’s time to let go. That day will never come. You’ll feel liberated and exuberant once you have either recycled or donated your unused and unwanted possessions. In South Africa there are so many people who need anything we don’t that it’s an act of charity to tidy up and clear out.
It’s difficult not to accumulate clutter: we tend to hold on to things that made us feel a certain way when we bought them, or remind us of a certain period in our lives. Clutter can also make it difficult for us to let go of those memories and move on with our lives. Our minds can’t relax.
Once you make the decision to get rid of the things in your life that no longer bring you joy, it brings a change to other parts of your life. By living a clutter-free life, we free up time for the things that are really important in life – our family and friends – which makes us feel more balanced and peaceful.
Do you struggle to let loose? Here are 10 great ideas from Claire Barnardo that show you how to really relax…
When did life get so busy? Sometimes it can be hard to find time to unwind, but with a little imagination (and forward planning!) there’s really no excuse not to. Here are our top 10 ways to chill out:
- Give a foot massage
Getting a foot massage might sound more relaxing, but giving one not only makes someone else happy, but helps you to relax as well. Don’t forget to use some soothing lotion, and check out our top tips for giving foot massages below.
- Go for a walk
Exercise is one of the best ways you can loosen up. It’s not only fun and gets you moving, it also has tons of physical benefits. Plus your mood improves because of all the feel-good hormones. So get moving – even if it’s only a short stroll around the block…
- Run a bath
There’s nothing more relaxing than lying in a hot bubble bath (with a scented candle burning). It’s the perfect way to de-stress and let your mind wander and unwind from the day’s activities. Try lavender drops in the water for a good night’s rest.
- Have an (unlimited) coffee date with a friend
Make a date to meet a friend for a lengthy cup of coffee (or a pot of tea). Chatting things over without any time limits is a great way to chill out (and share worries). Especially if it includes a few laughs!
- Play a board game with your family
Get everyone together and play your favourite board game. Whether it’s 30 Seconds, Charades or a game of cards, games are an ideal way to check out of the day-to-day drill and enjoy each other’s company.
- Read a book
Escape into another world through the pages of your favourite novel. You’ll not only be using your imagination, but exercising your mind too. There’s no better way to relax than a good book on a comfortable chair (or bed!)
Research shows that people who meditate greatly reduce their stress levels. Plus it results in improved memory, decreased anxiety and generally makes you feel much more positive. Even a short five-minute meditation can have a good effect on your mood and your stress levels – and if you start with a guided meditation it won’t be too difficult to switch off. The easiest meditation of all? Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed, sit comfortably and focus on your breathing – in and out, in and out.
- Pay it forward
Try being kind as a form of relaxation. Whether it’s smiling at a stranger, letting a car go before you in traffic or planning a special treat for a friend, being nice can make you feel good too. Remember that charity begins at home, so try starting with your family.
- Go gardening
You don’t need flowerbeds to enjoy the relaxation of green fingers. Even trimming a houseplant or potting a new pot plant will take the edge off. Studies show that the sensory experience of gardening is what really calms the mind and puts you back in touch with yourself.
- Close your eyes
Instead of pushing yourself from one deadline to the next, try taking a short nap to recharge. Even a 20-minute sleep can help to refocus your brain and energy. What are you waiting for? Time for some zzz…..
Need to make more time for your family this year? Why not do it in style and have some fun too? Claire Barnardo leads the way…
4 Top tips:
- Time it
One of the greatest gifts you can give your family and friends is your time. Simply add it to your schedule: an hour or two over the weekend to make memories together.
- Plan it
Don’t leave finding a child-friendly, cost-effective play option till the last minute. Do your research and plan ahead of time so play time is actually spent playing!
- Price it
There are lots of cheap and free ways to have fun. Using your creativity can turn a simple picnic into a magical adventure for the kids.
- Weather it
Always check what’s in store weather-wise if you are heading outdoors for the day so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
Do you remember how much fun games were when you were young? They still are! All you need is your imagination and a few bits and pieces to make staying at home together an absolute treat. Try out these old favourites:
- Play dough
- Tent building
If you’re in town, then look no further than these gems for a free and fun outing:
Green Point Park, Cape Town
If you haven’t already been, then you are missing out on one of the most fantastic parks in the country. It’s the perfect place for a good stroll, whether you’re pushing a pram or riding a bicycle. Or plan a family picnic and take along your own games – there’s plenty of space. There’s also an outdoor gym and play parks with top equipment, so all you need to do is get there and play time is yours!
- At: Granger Bay Boulevard, Green Point
Emmarentia Dam, Joburg
If you’re looking for the urban version of outdoor fun then head to Emmarentia Dam for the day. Right next to the Joburg Botanical Gardens, the dam is not only a dog’s best find for a walk and a swim, but also the perfect place for families to picnic, braai and relax. Or just sit and watch the windsurfers and canoeists on the water.
- At: Olifants Road, Emmarentia
Durban Botanic Gardens, Durban
If you haven’t been to the Botanic Gardens for a while, you’re due a visit! The park has always been the perfect spot for a family picnic, with its lake full of ducks for the kids to feed and the orchid house for the older kids to explore. And as always, the tea garden is perfect for an afternoon cuppa or a toasted sarmie.
- At John Zikhale (Sydenham) Road
Don’t forget to pack!
- Snacks and juice
- Books for the car ride
- Change of clothing (you just never know!)
- Camera: for those priceless moments
Staying young at heart is easy with these great activities. Charis Le Riche gives us some ideas…
Though you might not be able to turn back the clock, you can always feel – and act – young at heart. Here’s how to lighten up and be more youthful.
Nothing makes you feel younger than having a good laugh. Laughter also helps you feel less anxious, less tense, boosts your immune system, protects your heart and can even make you look younger. Be sure to surround yourself with cheerful, happy people and seek out opportunities to have a good giggle together.
Sing out loud
You don’t have to be pitch perfect to belt out a tune, and children definitely don’t let being in tune stand in the way of their performance! Even doctors recommend singing out loud, as a means to release endorphins which make you feel good.
Build a fort
Dismantle the couches and build yourself a fort right in the lounge. There is nothing better to cheer you up on a rainy day than putting together a fort made out of couch pillows and sheets for you and the kids to play in – or maybe for a romantic candlelit evening with your partner.
Play board games
We seem to have forgotten that there are better things to do with our time than sit in front of the computer or TV screen. So switch off all your devices and get a little competitive with board games. Whether it’s 30 Seconds, Pictionary or good old Monopoly, you’ll be amazed what fun a board game can be.
Not just for kids, colouring in (and painting!) for adults is all the rage at the moment. Colouring in is a stress-free activity that will help put your mind at ease. Choose from one of the many adult colouring in books and whatever crayons or kokis you need to get your creative juices flowing and make you feel young again.
Claire Barnardo gives us 14 ways having children in your life makes you happier all round… (even if they’re not your own… And even if it’s not all the time!)
- Be young again
Spending time with kids allows you to relive your youth again: everything you did and didn’t get to do. Playing with toys, reading your favourite children’s books and playing at make-believe are all some of the day-to-day activities with a child.
- Keep fit
Have you spent an afternoon with a two-year-old recently? It’s one quick and sure way to get in shape! They will have you running around in no time.
- Laugh aloud!
Children say the funniest things all the time. They can also be quite profound and real in understanding the world. It’s cute, amusing and special all at once.
- Social butterfly
You get to meet a whole new group of friends through play dates, school, the library, and family time at parks. Being a parent is a unifying experience.
- New view
You can experience the world through new eyes and fall in love with life all over again. There are so many first experiences that you can share with a child. And this time around you get to buy the toys you really want…
- All better
A child can change the worst of adult days into something bright just by saying one sentence, or giving one little hug.
- Get creative
Kids are at their creative height the younger they are, so you can flex your creativity too. Play-doh, paint, dancing, singing, storytelling… The possibilities are endless.
Kids enjoy life in full doses. Whether it’s exploring the garden or baking, building tents or drawing, it’s all one big adventure when you’re around a little one.
Looking after a child gives you a greater sense of direction and purpose in life. You are able to be your best self around them.
They also remind you about what’s really important in life… and it’s not the laundry, or the dishes.
- Deep answers
Children are inquisitive and won’t settle for a simple explanation. They test your general knowledge and understanding constantly, which is a great way to keep your mind active.
Spending time with a child is one sure way to refine your patience and your ability to do things slowly and one at a time.
In our busy world of screens and meetings, it is a great joy to be able to focus on someone as they learn their way in the world.
- Love, love, love
Children really do make your heart grow bigger and more beautiful. They rub off a kind of joy that makes you smile more easily and look forward to things you might have taken for granted.
Kids in need of quality time
If you don’t have your own children, don’t worry: there are plenty who still need you. Why not volunteer at a children’s home, hospital or as a kangaroo carer and give back to a little person?
There’s no better way to learn more about the world, go on an adventure or unwind than to spend some time reading… Here are our favourite reasons to turn the page.
Why reading is good for you:
If you’re not much of a reader, you might still be thinking of your junior school teacher telling you that you have to read a chapter every day to get smarter. But there’s actually a lot of research about how reading is good for your health…
- It helps you de-stress. In a study* reading was found to be the best way to beat stress, even better than listening to music, drinking a cup of tea or taking a walk. *At Mindlab International at the University of Sussex
- It keeps your brain sharp. If you choose mentally stimulating activities earlier and later in life, you’re more likely to have less trouble with memory decline as you age. *According to research published in the journal Neurology.
- It makes you smarter. Your junior school teacher was right! As well as increasing your vocabulary, memory and writing skills, reading boosts your brain function, the same way exercise boosts your muscle function. *Research was carried out at Emory University in the USA.
Where to find a good read: For most of us, buying new books is too expensive to do every month, but there are a number of other ways to get your hands on a good read:
- Join your local library: Every town has one (and in fact, most suburbs have one!). Joining your library is free and easy, and you are allowed to take out anything from 2 to 5 books at a time, many of them new releases. What are you waiting for? Go and get your card today!
- Start a book club: If you and a few friends want to start reading more, make a plan to meet up every month and share books. You can either swap books that you already own, or put some money into a pool that lets you buy a few new books each month. Most bookstores offer a 10 to 20% discount if you register as a book club.
- Find a used book store: The joy of books is that they can be read over and over again – instead of forking out money to buy new books, why not pop round to a used book store and stock up for a fraction of the price?
- Get your fix of magazines and newspapers: Books aren’t the only way to get reading – it’s just as relaxing to sit down with a newspaper or magazine (as long as you aren’t only reading bad news stories and gossip!) There are no rules here: whatever gets you turning pages is what you should do.
Here are four fun games to play indoors with the whole family – laughs included. We’ve got something for everyone, young and old.
30 second charades
This is like the board game 30 Seconds, but even more fast-paced and fun! It’s a great game for all generations to play together.
How to play:
- Each person gets 3-4 squares of paper to write down the name of someone or something famous, i.e. Nelson Mandela or Table Mountain.
- Divide into teams of 2-4 players (girls against boys is always a good idea!).
- One player per round has to get the rest of the team to guess exactly what the paper says. Each team can choose as many folded squares as they can get through in 30 seconds.
- The first time around, you can use as many words as you like.
- The second time around, because you’ve heard all the answers once already, you can only use two words.
- The third time around, you can’t use any words and have to mime the clue – just like charades.
- Don’t forget to keep score of how many squares of paper you have at the end of each round… Add them up and you have your winner!
Why we love it: You can get everyone from Granny to your six-year-old cousin involved, because they get to write some of the game.
You might remember Twister from when you were a kid – but it’s just as much fun as an adult! The only difference is that the Twister mat is a little smaller these days…
How to play:
- Choose two people to play against each other.
- Spin the Twister spinner to decide where they have to put their hands or feet (the spinner is divided into right hand / left hand / right foot / left foot and the four colours).
- Keep spinning until someone either falls over or lets their knee or elbow touch the mat.
- It’s a good idea to have a dedicated “spinner” for each round, because it’s most fun when the changes happen quickly.
- Once you have a winner from the first round, let another two people play, and then the winners can play against each other.
Why we love it: It promises to be “the game that ties you up in knots” and it is – whether from playing or from laughing as you watch other people play!
2s and 8s
If you love the card game UNO but don’t have a pack of UNO cards handy, don’t worry! Here’s how to play it with a normal set of playing cards.
How to play:
- The rules are simple: combine two sets of playing cards, shuffle them well and deal seven cards to each player. The top card of the deck is flipped over and becomes the first of the throw-away pile.
- Each player takes a turn by throwing away one card that matches the suit or number of the card on top of the pile. If they don’t have any that match, they have to draw the top card from the deck, and play that card if possible, or skip a turn.
- There are special rules about certain cards: instead of matching colours like in UNO, you match suits (diamonds, hearts etc.) Either the suit or the number / picture has to match.
- A Jack card is either a reverse or a skip for the next player.
- A Queen means the next player has to pick up 2 cards.
- A King lets you change the suit and can be played at any time.
- An Ace lets you change the suit and the next player has to pick up 4 cards. It can also be played at any time.
Why we love it: It can be a very simple card game or a very complicated one – depending who is playing and how good their strategy is.
Part of what makes this game so funny is that it involves sticking Post-It notes on your face… But it’s also a great general knowledge game.
How to play:
- Each person gets five sticky Post-It notes and has to write down five famous people’s names – anyone from Mickey Mouse to Baby Jake Matlala, Britney Spears to Brenda Fassie.
- These are put in a pile, upside-down so that nobody can read them.
- When it’s your turn, you close your eyes and pick a Post-It from the pile, and stick it to your forehead.
- You then get to ask 10 questions – with a Yes or No answer only – to try and figure out who you are.
- It’s harder than it sounds!
Why we love it: It’s a fantastic group game because there are no limits to how many people can play.
Nothing beats the feeling of a great laugh. Claire Barnardo reminds us why laughter should be part of every day.
Laughter has been called the best medicine (apart from insulin, of course!). And it’s no surprise why. Bursting into laughter is an immediate stress release. It relaxes the mind and body and instantly lifts your mood. With such great benefits, there are plenty of reasons to keep laughing out loud.
Laughter and your body
It’s not only fun to laugh, it’s also great for your health. One good laugh does all this to your body:
- Increases your heart rate and oxygen, which gives you more energy.
- Normalises your blood pressure and improves circulation.
- Releases lots of feel-good hormones called endorphins.
- Activates digestive and immune systems.
- Improves your mental state and lifts depression.
- Reduces stress levels immediately.
Besides being good for your health, laughter also has other benefits:
- Laughter increases your self-confidence and motivation.
- It brings people together and creates bonding between groups.
- Laughter encourages creativity.
- It increases your natural wellbeing, meaning you’re less likely to get sick.
- Laughter can help you connect with your children, and bring out a sense of fun that’s easy to forget.
- It’s free and can be done any time!
Finding light relief
In our busy, stressful lives, laughing is not always a priority. But making time to unwind and see the humour in situations can have a big effect on your attitude. Need a quick fix? Here are some ideas.
- Watch a funny movie.
- Go to a local comedy show.
- Read the jokes section of the newspaper.
- Hang out with funny friends.
- Do fun or silly activities like putt putt or jumping on a trampoline.
Always wanted to grow your own greens? Claire Barnardo gets you started this season.
How often have you wished you could simply pick vegetables from your own garden, instead of having to go to the shops? Well that’s entirely possible, no matter what size space you have. Not only is growing your own veggies a good health choice, it’s also more affordable and very satisfying as well. We’ve decided to get started with growing your own salad. Get into action with our starter guide!
Sun, soil and seeds:
- Find your spot
Vegetables grow best in a sunny position. Start by preparing your soil, digging it up, mixing in compost and keeping the soil moist.
- Know your space
You can go green whether you’ve got a garden or not. Here’s how to match your space to the right vegetable choice:
– If you have a garden…
If you’re lucky enough to have a spacious garden then you can look at growing more rambling types of vegetables. Try cucumber, courgettes, patty pans and watermelon.
– If you have a small patch…
For a more compact garden area, try lettuce, spinach, leeks, beetroot, bush beans and aubergine. These veggies also make good borders as they grow in a contained space.
– If you have a window box or pot…
Chillies make beautiful pot plants, as do small cherry tomatoes. It’s also a good idea to grow tomatoes in large pots (20 litres) and train them up a trellis, or try other runner plants that do well in pots with frames, like peas and beans.
- Sowing seeds
Planting from seed is far more affordable than seedlings. The gardener’s secret is to use about three seeds at a time. Make sure that the soil is moist enough at germination (when the seed is sprouting) and sort seedlings when they are big and strong enough to be separated. You can store leftover seeds in a packet in a dark space.
- Lettuce and rocket
With many wonderful types to choose from, growing your own lettuce is the way to go. Find a sunny spot and prepare the soil. Sow seeds in short rows and cover with netting to protect from birds. When the seedlings are about 2cm big you may need to space them out more. Lettuce is also ideal to grow in window boxes – try variations like iceberg, cos or wild rocket for a more vibrant taste.
– Continue to sow seeds each week for four weeks to have a constant supply throughout the summer.
– Make sure that you choose a spot that gets afternoon shade: full sun in the summer is too hot for lettuce.
Reliable and quite easy to grow, tomatoes enjoy warm and sheltered spots. Make sure you match the variety you choose to your space and location. They need good soil, regular sun, compost and water.
– Sow seeds thinly as most start sprouting within two weeks.
– To keep tomatoes at a contained size, pinch out the growing tips so that the plant produces fruit.
- Peppers and chillies
Peppers and chillies love to grow in sunny pots. Sow seeds thinly on top of a composted soil pot, water and wait a week. You may need to transfer smaller seedlings to bigger pots as they grow.
– Support larger plants with a stalk and some twine.
– Water often, especially in hot weather, as these veggies get thirsty often.
And why not make your own compost!
The best compost comes from organic waste – things that are found right in your home.
- Save vegetable and fruit cuttings from your kitchen (everything except citrus, which is too acidic for compost).
- Also set aside used tea bags and eggshells.
- Add it all to your compost heap.
- Turn the compost heap regularly.
- Make sure it gets a lot of sun.
Want to make a difference in your community? Claire Barnardo shows you how to get involved.
To change the world you don’t need to make big gestures. Simply do one good act at a time, and you can set great things in motion and be an example to others.
Charity does begin at home. Start by sorting through your cupboards. Collect any clothes, shoes, or appliances that you haven’t used in the last year and that are still in good working condition. Contact your local charity organisation and donate them to a better cause. Get your kids involved and ask them to put aside any toys and books they no longer love, to give to an orphanage or hospital unit.
- Bin it
The next step is to get involved in recycling your refuse. Remember this slogan: reduce, reuse, recycle. All you need to do is set up a simple set of dustbins at home. You can label or colour-code them according to what is stored in them: paper, glass, tin, and plastic. Make sure you rinse out the containers before you recycle them. Then when your bins are full, drop them off at a collection site in your area.
- Helping hand
Why not volunteer your time to organisations that need extra help? Whether it’s serving food, visiting an orphanage or old-age home, or sharing your special skills, you will be adding to your community hands-on. Encourage your children to get involved in any community projects at school.
- Plant a tree
The best way to reduce your impact on the environment is to find something that absorbs carbon dioxide and turns it into oxygen. You know what that means? Plant a tree! Studies show that it takes 16 trees to supply the oxygen for one person’s life, depending on the size and lifespan of the trees, and the lifestyle and carbon footprint of the person.
Need a quick fix?
- Save electricity – did you know that tumble dryers use the most electricity? Use fresh air and sunshine to dry your clothes whenever possible.
- Pick up litter in your neighbourhood and encourage your neighbours to do the same.
- Support your local shops and buy fresh fruit and vegetables as locally as possible.
Here are some great ways to celebrate all things South African, by Charis Le Riche.
Food, glorious food
One thing you have to say about South Africans: we know how to cook. Not only have we mastered the art of international cuisine, but our local dishes are a hit too.
In Durban you have the humble bunny chow (a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry); in the Cape it’s the Gatsby (a super sandwich sold as a footlong roll or in quarters); for those with a sweet tooth there’s the koeksister – Cape Malay style (traditionally balls of cooked potato, fried, soaked in syrup and covered in coconut) or Afrikaans-style (deep-fried plaited dough soaked in syrup). And for those who are more adventurous, there’s a township delicacy – the smiley: a cooked sheep’s head.
Say hello in 11 languages
SA is so diverse and varied that we have 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Because of this, you’ll find that most South Africans speak at least two languages. There are unofficial languages also recognised by the constitution: the Khoi, San and Nama languages, sign language, Portuguese, Hindi and indigenous creoles. We also have our own slang that can be a little confusing to outsiders (like the use of “shame” which can be applied in any situation – good or bad), but is very useful once mastered. Especially knowing the difference between “now”, “now now” and “just now”!
Every activity under the sun
South Africa is one of the few places where you can enjoy the perks of city living and country life all in one place. You can go shopping at world-class boutiques and then hike up Table Mountain within 20 minutes. We are spoiled with some of the finest wildlife reserves full of the Big 5 and more. For adrenaline junkies, there’s abseiling, sky diving, bungee jumping and even diving with Great White sharks. While those who want something more laidback will find plenty of wine farms, festivals and markets to choose from.
SA offers the world in one place. We’ve got rolling mountains, pristine oceans, roaring rivers and breathtaking urban cityscapes. And we’re blessed with some of the world’s most stunning landscapes: from the peaks of the Drakensberg on the border of Lesotho and the lush Tsitsikamma forests in the Eastern Cape, to the reef of Sodwana Bay and Limpopo’s Lake Fundudzi. This country is filled with wonders like God’s Window and the Blyde River Canyon (on the border of Mpumalanga and Limpopo province), Table Mountain in the Cape and the Valley of Desolation in the Eastern Cape.
The braai and the shisa nyama
And, of course, last but not least – our passion for braais! Though most of the world enjoys this activity, calling it a BBQ, South Africans have made the braai a national pastime and we even spend our Heritage Day celebrating it (in Braai Day style). In townships there’s nothing like a shisa nyama – if you’re looking for one, keep an ear out for the sound of music, laughter and plenty of conversation.
Like every country, South Africa has its challenges. But we also have a lot to be proud of… And what better time to celebrate than right now.