It’s time women learned to be happy, not perfect (especially at this time of year): At just 28, POPPY JAMIE collapsed with burnout, now she’s turned that experience into a stress busting guide loved by stars and royals
- Poppy Jamie, 28, was diagnosed with adrenaline burn out at age 26
- At the time she had built a global career interviewing celebs and running a label
- She told how her experience let to her mindfulness app, Happy Not Perfect
- Princess Beatrice and thousands of others have raved about the app
- Poppy shared advice for managing and improving mental health
- Her tips include visualization, breathing exercises and finding your boundaries
Poppy Jamie was sitting in a make-up chair on a glamorous Los Angeles set when the first symptoms struck. Her stomach was a bundle of nerves. Physically, emotionally and mentally, she felt empty and all of a sudden tears came thick and fast.
Somehow she got through the shoot — a video promotion for her fashion label — but the next day things got much worse. ‘My body felt so beaten I could barely peel the duvet off myself. I was unable to move, every muscle pulsed and ached.
‘A cocktail of tiredness and sadness had seeped into each cell and I had absolutely no idea what was happening to me. It was terrifying.’ When she finally dragged herself to an emergency doctor, he delivered an unexpected diagnosis: she was suffering from adrenal burnout.
A hard-working middle child from Leamington Spa, Poppy had built a career spanning Britain and America. As well as interviewing celebrities for MTV, she’d launched an accessories label with best friend, actress and model Suki Waterhouse.
Poppy Jamie, 28, (pictured) who first experienced adrenal burnout at age 26 whilst balancing her career spanning Britain and America shared advice for improving mental health
At 26, she was successful, busy — and burnt out. Adrenal burnout is thought to occur when your adrenal glands can’t produce the levels of cortisol demanded by being continuously in ‘fight or flight mode’ because of stress and anxiety.
She was suffering from chronic fatigue, feeling sad, bloated, achy and ill. ‘I was finding life really tough. I think it’s the pressure, shared by generations, to be doing better, more, every day.’
She turned to her mother, Pippa, a psychotherapist, who with other medical professionals recommended lifestyle changes including rest, yoga, walking, breathing correctly and writing a gratitude diary.
‘It sounded very LA, horrifically smug,’ says Poppy, now 28. ‘But you’re training your brain to look out for things you’re grateful for.’
She was deeply thankful for her mother’s wisdom and expertise, but she wondered what everyone else did. ‘I realised I wasn’t the only one struggling,’ says Poppy. She was inspired to use her mother’s advice to create a new mindfulness and meditation app, Happy Not Perfect.
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It took Poppy three years of work with LA-based neuroscientist Alex Korb, 14 experts — and her mother — to develop the app.
It features short videos, presented by experts — clinical psychologists, meditation coaches, hypnotherapists — which help you manage issues such as feeling low, heartbroken or tense with breathing exercises, meditative practices and psychological advice. You download it to your phone, subscribe to access all programmes, and can instantly find a bite-sized therapy session on whatever’s troubling you.
Princess Beatrice recently raved about it and judging from the hundreds of thousands of messages of thanks Poppy receives, it’s resonating with all ages (one user is 87).
Breathing techniques are central — Poppy is a trained breathing instructor as well as being the youngest board member of the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital Advisory Board at UCLA in California, advising on student mental health.
Poppy (pictured) advises consciously taking time to relax shoulders and breathe into the belly when rushing around particularly at this time of year
‘When you’re rushing around, particularly at this time of year, working yourself to the bone, worried about X, Y and Z, you will probably be taking short shallow breaths from the chest, causing your shoulders to tense up,’ Poppy says.
If we consciously take a moment to relax our shoulders and breathe into the belly slowly, our body, through bio-feedback, begins to send signals to our mind to relax and move out of the stress response [the fight and flight state].
‘Belly breathing totally changed my life,’ Poppy says.
‘In a meeting I’ll be getting nervous, so I’ll put my hands on my belly, and begin inhaling and exhaling into the lower body.
‘This stimulates my vagus nerve [which carries messages between the brain and body, and can slow heart rate and lower blood pressure], helping my nervous system to calm down.’
Speed is also key to the app’s efficacy. While an avid reader of books on positive neuroscience, Poppy says it can take her 200 pages to reach a nugget of wisdom, ‘and most people don’t have the time. There’s a need for condensed information’.
How common is burnout?
51 per cent of UK employees have had anxiety or burnout in their job
In fact, whatever the situation — whether you’re stuck in traffic or a negative frame of mind, struggling with sleeplessness or so tense you could scream, Happy Not Perfect (HNP) can help you manage and improve your mental health. Here’s how . . .
FIND YOUR BOUNDARIES
If you’re drained because you always bleat yes when you want to say no, the app’s four three-minute sessions on ‘The Magic Of Boundaries’ are a revelation, teaching you how to assert yourself in the time it takes to peel the sprouts.
First answer these questions:
- How often do you worry about what others think?
- When did you last say ‘No’?
- What happened?
- What’s your physical response to thinking about that?
- Do you feel you need to be nice to earn respect?
- How does this get in the way of what you want?
- List ten things you like to do. l And ten you don’t.
- Consider what on these lists are, in your relationships, unacceptable, negotiable, or fine.
Every day, jot down your feelings. ‘When X happened, I felt X.’ Over time, you’ll notice patterns. Create more boundaries around what makes you feel angry or unhappy.
Poppy (pictured) suggests making a note of feelings each day and practicing positive statements to help build emotional boundaries
Practise statements like ‘thank you [for asking me to do this job]. Unfortunately [I don’t have time]. In future [please get in touch, and if I do have time I’ll do it].’
You might feel anxious, so tell yourself: ‘I’m not a bad person for having boundaries. That person has a right to their response. I have a right to boundaries.’
WHEN STRESSED, IDENTIFY ONE POSITIVE
Here’s a ritual you can complete in minutes. First, identify how you’re feeling. Stressed? Anxious? Poppy says: ‘Studies found that by labelling the emotion, you start reducing the negative emotion’s impact.
‘Whereas when you suppress an emotion, it becomes even more impactful on your mental health.’
After a 30-second slow breathing exercise to relax your nervous system — relax your shoulders, slowly inhale and slowly exhale — ask yourself why you feel this way.
Poppy says: ‘You start to explore: “Actually, that person’s comment annoyed me. Why?” We can’t change our behaviour if we’re not aware of our behaviour to begin with.’
Then, write down the reason. On the app, you tap it on to a blank ‘page’ on your phone screen, then release the angst by rubbing your finger over your screen, whereupon an image of flame flickers across it, consuming your words.
‘It helps you process your feelings and thoughts,’ says Poppy. (You can scribble it down on paper, before tearing it up.) Then complete this sentence, ‘Putting stress aside, I’m grateful for . . .’, to put the problem in perspective.
SHORTCUT TO STRENGTH
Give yourself one compliment about anything at all.
‘It’s so British that giving yourself a compliment feels awkward and uncomfortable,’ says Poppy. ‘We are not taught to boost ourselves so our self-esteem is at rock bottom levels. Your self-esteem is your armour.
Poppy (pictured) says it’s important to connect with emotions such as impatience and frustration instead of suppressing them in order to feel better faster
‘Say, you lose your job. Because we’ve not got into the practice of appreciating our strengths, we have a weaker ability to bounce back from challenging scenarios or setbacks. “I’m useless, of course they fired me”.’
This simple exercise is about trying to see that giving ourselves compliments is less about arrogance than about being aware of our strengths.
FIND INNER PEACE IN A TRAFFIC JAM
Being stuck in traffic is the perfect opportunity to become aware of your response, so you can better combat stress.
As Poppy says: ‘We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.’ So, connect to your impatience, frustration, anger. Don’t suppress these emotions. You’ll feel better faster.
‘How? Look at the traffic. Feel anger. Then take a deep breath in. Breathe slowly out. Gently make a fist, and tap on your heart, breathe in again. Gaze around, get a sense of how you feel now. Keep tapping until you feel calmer.
‘Like acupuncture, tapping is a technique that utilises the body’s meridian points. By tapping on them, you literally tap into your body’s energy and healing power.’
She adds: ‘Fist tapping hacks the nervous system, and shifts energy on meridian points.’
You can also try a visualisation (keeping your eyes open). Place a hand over your heart, breathe in, and focus. Look around at the traffic, taking slow deep breaths. Visualise the jam clearing, the cars moving. Feel that sense of flow inside your body. Wiggle your fingers and toes.
Sooner or later, the traffic will move, but you’ll already feel much calmer.
QUICK FIX WHEN IT ALL FEELS TOO MUCH
If you feel overwhelmed, take a few minutes to step outside. Find a place where you can access nature, be it a wooded area, park or garden. Touch the grass, the wood, the plants, the water, the tree, stone.
Breathe in the scents of the elements. Then close your eyes, and hear the sounds around you. Focus on your breath — in, and out. Smile. Raise your chin, and open your eyes.
Poppy (pictured) believes doing nothing at all is the best way to relax the body enough to drift off to sleep
DO LESS TO SLEEP WELL
We can’t recreate the soothing, mesmeric tones of HNP’s dashing hypnotherapist and meditation expert, Daniel Ryan, but a little of his wisdom should, in the nicest possible way, send you to sleep.
Many of us struggle to drop off, going to elaborate lengths to try to make it happen, but he says part of the trick is to do less or ‘nothing at all. Your body already knows how to drift off into a calm, relaxed state. It’s not an intellectual process’.
Take a deep, cleansing breath, then another, and make the last exhale twice as long. Make yourself comfortable, feel your body supported by your mattress. Notice the air on your skin. Notice any thoughts — and watch them pass, as if watching clouds drift past in the sky, until they recede.
Be aware of the temperature, how it feels to be in this moment. Notice the closest sounds to you, and the furthest. Focus on sensations, textures, feeling your breathing. Let yourself rest.
ENJOY THOSE NERVES
It’s necessary to face challenges in order to grow and transform and we’re conditioned to fear those situations.
But what if anxiety was actually excitement? Sense anxiety in your life, tune into it, close your eyes, breathe into it. Choose to feel it as a notification of an exciting event — and embrace it. Tell yourself, ‘I’m grateful for this.’ See it as a positive.
Poppy (pictured) advises practicing visualization in order to have a postitive start the next day
To ensure a positive start to the next day, get comfortable in bed. Take three breaths before you exhale, letting all the air out of your lungs. Imagine a wave of relaxation moving over your body, from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes.
Now imagine you’re sitting in the auditorium of a beautiful old cinema, gazing at the screen. On the screen, watch yourself beginning your day confident, with a relaxed open posture.
Study the details of your body language. Allow your mind to float into the screen.
Bring your awareness back to the auditorium, and the screen. Notice that you’re holding a remote control so you can play back the scenes.
Re-wind further, and watch yourself as you sleep peacefully. Rewind even further, and notice, as you see yourself prepare for sleep, that you’re laying the foundations of how you’ll feel tomorrow. Be aware of your sense of confidence, relaxation and ease.
happynotperfect.com monthly subscription costs £11.99
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