0 In Cast of Creatives

Wedding Industry Mental Health and Bipolar Disorder with Donna Benini, PT, Health and Wellness Coach

James Pearson
Hello, welcome back to Cast of Creatives, the series dedicated to exploring creative work and the impact that this has on mental health and well being. So, I’m James Pearson, I’m the founder of Wedding Industry Mental Health and Wedding Espresso and I’m really, really, really excited today to be joined by Donna, who I’m going to get to introduce herself in just a second. So, Donna, would you like to share with everybody a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Donna Benini
Okay, no problem. Well I landed here from Mars and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 23 years old. After having quite serious behavioural problems through my teens, into my early late teens, early 20s, I was displaying signs. But eventually it came to fruition when I had my first hospital admission. So then, from there, I spent the next 23 years working within mainly the fitness industry. I have done a little bit of care, end of life, and I did a little bit of hairdressing. But I’m back with the fitness industry now. I’m very happy to stay here. So, that’s basically me.

James Pearson
That’s brilliant, a brilliant introduction thank you. So Donna, I’m sure a lot of people are very interested in hearing from people who are open to talking about difficulties that they’ve had, or challenges that they faced. So, in a kind of a nutshell then could you share with everybody a little bit about what it’s like living with bipolar disorder and the effects that it has on daily life?

Donna Benini
Yes. So, the most prominent thing I battle with on a daily basis is my hypersensitivity, or it’s now being named “empath” or “high empath”. It’s because it’s a mood disorder, bipolar, it’s not actually anything wrong with your brain, it’s a mood disorder that’s psychological. So, your being sensitive to things out there. You feel it, probably 100 times more than somebody who isn’t being diagnosed with bipolar. It’s like you’ve got no skin sometimes. So not only do you feel pain, yourself, so you can get a little bit sensitive around things like, “oh, I wonder if they meant to leave me out”? Or “I wonder if they haven’t reacted because they hate me”, you know, you can start to really talk to yourself and start to get what I call paranoid. Just for no reason at all. It’s just you! Because of your sensitivity, reading everything as I’m a bit defensive with the world.

Donna Benini
Another symptom of that is you feel other people’s pain. So, you don’t even have to be in the same room, it depends on what level you’ve got. I can look at a profile, I can log into something and I get in that energy through and that sets my mood. If that makes sense? So what I feel, sets my mood. Now, to get into a happy place, to try not to let these things grind you down, because these can make you very poorly, you can start rolling down in these thought processes, and start getting really paranoid. So the first thing you will do is be good at talking to yourself, you need to tell yourself, is it really a threat. Do they really intentionally look like they mean something against you. And it’s about trying to come back to some kind of reasoning, that makes sense, rather than making all these accusations and thinking the world’s against you. It’s a really difficult one to master. Because it can make you feel like you don’t want to show you face to the world. You feel like what is it going to do? And it can really affect you if you stay in that state… goodness knows where you will end up. So when it comes to feeling other people’s pain as well, you feel their energy.

Donna Benini
So say I’m on a call with somebody and I could be really excited and confident. And then I go whoosh straight away because their energy is telling me I’m not in a good place. I don’t actually know what’s going through their mind, I can’t read thoughts, but I feel that energy and I presume.. I know something’s not right. So that affects me instantly and I treat that person differently. I go and I lose my cool a little bit. I’m not as confident now or excited, let’s find out what’s wrong. It changes my whole mood and everything. but you do feel it, you feel your body and your mood change as well. So, being sensitive to other people and also your own self and your own little feelings can interrupt your moods quite a lot. If you’re struggling with bipolar, I don’t take medication either, so I feel the raw feelings. So basically with me, how I cope with those two prominent ones are, I kept my music calm. I self talk a lot, you really need to get good at self talk. And I do try and keep away from certain people and environments, and things I know that may make my mood swing. Yes, those are the main things I cope with.

James Pearson
It’s very interesting because I think there’s a world of things going on there that you’ve just described, and I imagine that it could be quite difficult. Because, above all, it sounds like you really are a person centred person, you’re a real people person, because you feel them so much and you’re so connected to their energy. It must be difficult when you show up to present in a certain way and you have that very high energy, and then, like you say, you might butt heads with somebody who doesn’t share that energy with you, and then that affects you in a very negative way. But I think that, over and above all, that is quite a nice way to experience life, if you have that connection with people. It has something in the plus column there surely?

Donna Benini
It’s amazing, but it’s a pain at the same time. I don’t need to care about the whole world. And when I do see things, I start caring, and I might have to tell myself this a lot, It’s not your area, somebody else will deal with that. Because I suddenly start becoming concerned and think I must do something about this. Because when you get things into your heart, that is your seat of motivation, essentially. So when things reach that stage they make you want to do something. And that is where I’m trying to stop myself, because I’m not… you haven’t got the answers Donna. You don’t know what you’re doing. There are plenty of other people qualified to deal with this, and this is part of self talk. There are plenty of other people qualified to deal with this issue. You just need to mind your own business and take care of yourself. This is not your area. You know it’s not your problem to solve, darling, so please mind your own business, take yourself away from it, don’t read it. Don’t get involved, because you’re going to, it’s all or nothing.

James Pearson
Dialled up or dialled down, I understand that. I imagine that being a very disciplined person, pursuing a very secure career of discipline has actually been very, very helpful for you. And how would you say that things like the training and the health and the wellness thinking, how do those help support you?

Donna Benini
Yes, so the training side, the physical activity is extremely beneficial for when you’re a bit high. When you’re a bit high, you’ll notice you’re not sleeping as well. You’ll have tonnes of energy, you’ll be able to decorate four rooms in a day and teach classes. So the exercise burns that energy off. So that helps to bring you down a little bit. When you’re on the other side, you’re a little bit depressed. The exercise works beautifully because after five minutes of the music being on, I’m moving, I feel absolutely fine. And this is how I mapped my career, and why I chose this, which essentially was teaching classes to begin with, because that gave me a safe distance. I wasn’t getting too involved with people. The music and the movement either burned energy, or brought me up, or brought me down, so to speak, so you can use it for both. And that’s how I coped with doing that job and this illness, without the medication. That’s what I used it for. I used it to aid those swings of feeling really energetic and then really quite low. And it helps to keep you at a balance. If you keep regular exercise, it will do that. You will start to feel more balanced, provided the other stuff is working as well, so diet is important too.

Donna Benini
You need all your vitamins and minerals. It’s a fact that if we lack something, we will display a symptom. Now with mental illness, with Alzheimer’s, with brain disorders, the recommendation is Omega 3. It’s absolutely champion.

James Pearson
So that’s your fish oils?

Donna Benini
Yes! And your B vitamins which are your water soluble vitamins that do, unfortunately pass through every day. People with schizophrenia, mental health problems and Alzheimer’s need a lot more than the recommended daily amount, to make that difference. So you have to make sure you’re covering your vitamins and minerals, particularly those ones. You will notice a big difference without them. You really will.

James Pearson
Yes, I have a belief Donna that our modern day society lends itself very well to not eating well and not having good nutrition. I honestly believe there’s a link between this and the ongoing mental health crisis out there, because people are just becoming bodily deficient, right? So, any tips for just overcoming a general sense of body deficiency, what should we be doing as a baseline?

James Pearson
Baseline is my favourite! You need to get as much nourishment into your body as possible. You can smoothie it because eating it all physically can be impossible, as with some things you’re not covering your daily recommended allowance. You need to mix it up and to eat that much kale or spinach, it becomes a bit of a task. So just a smoothie, and I swear by a couple of spoons of oats, they’re full of nutrition, and your beta glucan fibre, brilliant for slowing down the digestive system, keeps you full for longer. And it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, it’s brilliant stuff. Just basic oats are about 50p per bag. A bit of kale in there for lots of different reasons. It’s my number one, my kale, you don’t taste it by the way, if you put freshly squeezed orange juice in there. This helps with the kale, absorbing the vitamins and nutrition from the kale. And then I’ll pop a bit of fat in. So either coconut oil or olive oil for the oleic acid for the brain, which is very good for the brain. And it also really helps with craving, if you put a tablespoon of fat, good fats into it. It won’t put weight on and equally helps to satisfy you for longer, it stops cravings. Then I will put in either a pineapple or some blueberries or other fruits, but my main three are oats, kale and freshly squeezed orange juice… and almond milk as well. To that I will add maybe banana, apple, pineapple, I try and go for what I can get my hands on. And so I just pack in as much as I can. Now, in the morning. If you start your day with something like that, nice vitamins, minerals and everything… I also take my omega three supplement, I take a 36 fruits and plants with six medicinal mushrooms in it as well, but these are supplements that I use to help with obviously the brain, but also the problems I had with inflammation.

Donna Benini
So I am on supplements, but I don’t do meds. Another supplement you can buy is ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is amazing for getting rid of your cortisol levels. When cortisol levels become high, we tend to put on a bit of body fat around stress. So it gets that stress down because if you are bipolar, you’ll find you get stressed more easily than somebody who’s normal. So ashwaganda! If you buy it online somewhere, make sure it’s good quality and add it to your smoothie. I have a blend of a supplement, but the main one is your ashwaganda, holy basil. And the beauty of online is you can find these things now, you don’t necessarily have to look for them in the shops because they ain’t there, but they’re online. Do your research and you try them for yourself, see how you get on, and I’ve been okay with them, no stress. You know I still can’t believe that stomach, it used to be always quite… I used to feel everything going in through my stomach. I haven’t had that now, I’m pretty 100% sure, it’s my diet, what I put in my body, and the exercise that I have to do to keep myself on that level. You get up in the morning and you might feel a bit sluggish, or sometimes you feel really good. Either way it works, yes exercise. Definitely I’ll say number one is your exercise and diet, then look at your environment. Things like that, as well. Triggers. You have to really get to know yourself, and I find the best way is do it is when you are not on medication. You really need to understand how your whole ecosystem works.

James Pearson
Interesting point, yes. I must say I’ve had a brush with ashwagandha because I was recommended it for stress management. But I do always do a lot of reading before I do anything. Yes, I read up on it and discovered that it’s been used in India for 1000s of years. It’s strange how this information isn’t so widely available here in the UK and you have to go shopping for it, but it is there, and it’s not expensive and is accessible.

Donna Benini
You see mine is a blend, and mine has been put together by scientists, doctors, they’ve involved homoeopaths to get it to the right level and it’s been tested. I shouldn’t say this actually, but it’s almost already dosed for me, ready to have one sachet. The other thing you’ve got to look at is potency. I only looked at potency when I joined a wellness company and I saw the difference between my supplements, and the ones in the shops. It’s something like 600% higher than what they’re offering, which is probably why I function so well, so I’m having the real stuff, it’s non synthetic, and it’s not chemically preserved. And so that’s why I trust that because for me, it means a lot. I need something that I can rely on. So I’ve found mine, but everybody is different.

James Pearson
I love the idea that you brought up with kind of “know thyself”. I think that is a really really interesting, interesting one because, yes, if we rewind, five or six years now, I was filming weddings like mad, and to get through the day, I’d just be eating heavy carbs – just chocolate and crisps. I didn’t really have time to stop to eat, so I was just downing packet sandwiches, I was drinking coke for sugar, and by the end of the day, boy was I strung out. And then slowly but surely, especially when Rachel came on board to film with me, we changed out the crisps for fruit. We started drinking bottles of water, we gradually got better at it, and found that we were just more capable throughout the day, having sustained the energy levels and the attention. And when we came home we weren’t quite so wrecked. These were all steady improvements, and then the exercise I started really trying to build up an exercise regime, because I am, possibly, the world’s worst person when it comes to exercise. Because I just don’t like it. So I have to force myself to constantly concentrate on core exercises. I’m getting a bit older now and it’s becoming a bit harder on my body. So where do we start with basic exercise? Because working in the wedding industry is hard work!

Donna Benini
Well I say keep it nice and simple, do it at home. I have so many ideas in my group. I do my abs on my bed, I do everything either using my bed, sofa, table. But I would say stick to a nice easy strength, endurance programme to start with, get some muscle. Best if you do it gradually, because what you want to avoid is the burnout. You don’t want to go lifting hundreds of weights and burn yourself out, have over done it. Don’t go mad, start with a nice light weight, and as you’re doing your strength, focus on all muscle groups. You can’t do singular movements really with muscle, so usually two or three movements are involved, but what I mean by that is, if you’re going to do a bicep curl, stick to bicep curl. Get your form right, get your shoulders back, and make sure you do it correctly. Now, if you keep your weight low, and your reps high, so if you do 15 reps with a low weight, comfortably, do four sets comfortably, you’re not going to be aching like mad the next day, or the day after. You gently triggered those muscles, and over time, you become more resilient. Then you put the weight up. You might want to decrease the reps, and do it that way, and grow muscle.

Donna Benini
But the point is the beauty of strength, the beautiful side effect is, you burn a lot more calories post workout, than you would if you were to do something cardio. A lot of people will say, long sessions of cardio, you don’t need it. You need about 10 minutes to get your heart rate to a certain point where you almost can’t talk, and then recover it. That takes five to 10 minutes every day. Unless you want to do long obviously marathons and long distance running, then you don’t need to do 100 miles a day to get fit. It really doesn’t take that. Simple strength, a bit of cardio, 10 minutes is fine and if you want to do 20, It’s up to you. The other way around it is to do the high intensity interval training, which does take a lot of energy. I don’t recommend you do an hour of something like that. Anyway, I’d say, stick to another 10-15 minutes. If you do that, not every day, you will need a recovery. So after a session, a strength or a hit session, not cardio, you need to be aware, your immune system is now compromised for up to 72 hours. So you will need to be taking it steady in between. Then do another session of intensity. So what I say to people if you train Monday, and you do a good strength programme, an all over body programme, then you rest Tuesday and Wednesday. But Thursday, go for it again, rest, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So you want two full body, or four splits. So you either do two leg workouts and two upper body. It depends what your timings are like. And then in between, you will do little things like cardio. And then on the Sunday, or possibly the Saturday, depending on how you feel, you start with your five minutes hit. Just incorporate that once a week to start with. So start and then you know once you’ve kept that going, that same programme, for two to three weeks and still managed to do all your other activities that you like, I would say then consider upping it. Remember if you burn out, you overdo it, you over stress, you’re putting your health at risk. You need to be sensible, and you’re less likely to get back to it. You’re less likely to progress. I like to see people progress gradually. It depending on fitness levels and depending on what they do beforehand, but if you’re going to just start from nothing, that’s my advice. Definitely. And always if you’re ill, check with a doctor about intensity and frequency. That’s not my decision if you’ve got an illness or disease, they need to help you to make that decision.

James Pearson
Certainly! I think wedding suppliers in particular, come from a certain stock. We’re very, very creative people, and as a result of that, kind of run a little bit higher, at times, and also, you’ll be familiar with this kind of feeling, always wanting next, next, next. So it’s really difficult to to dial down that noise and find time for ourselves, because we’re constantly on the go. Whether it’s actually doing the job, or prepping for the job, or thinking about the job. Yes, mind running all the time. And one of the challenges for me was definitely stopping and taking stock of things like hydration, basic things, hydration and fitness. Very, very important things that we need in our lives, you know, forget the job and everything else, we need these things to live. So are there any tips for dialling that in, when you are an incredibly high productive, super busy turbocharged kind of personality.

Donna Benini
Yes, so when I’m in those moods, my intensity goes right up. So I think the best thing in that state is to just get some great music on that you love, and work it out of your system. It clears your head, because your head can be going super quick. It’s all going on and you’re excited, and you don’t know what to do. Forget that! Go and do a bit of hit, thrash yourself a little bit, this is when I do recommend you do this, but be careful as well, so five minutes. You might feel like you’ll do 15 to 20 minutes in that state, but your mind will feel refreshed. You go hard. It does help calm down the mind, but not strength in that state. Strength in that state is still good, you might lift heavier weights but I’d rather do a hit and blast the body, and it just works better for me. I think because with strength, I could go to bed at night… I’ll save my arm workout for bedtime and I’ll sit on my bed and just do my arm workout in the mirror, because it’s not as energetic as the hit. It’s quite relaxing and actually will help you go into a nice sleep, providing you relax and go in the bath, do your stretches. It can be a really good bedtime routine, however hit at bedtime, will keep you up all night. So when you’ve got those high energy moods that come in moments, that’s when you can attack the hit, you think right, I’m here. Let’s go with a flow, whack the music on, let’s do some burpees, some jacks, so you’re doing between 30 and 40 seconds of a compound exercise, and then 20 seconds rest, it’s really about just letting it come up, relax, slow down a bit lightly, but then your mind and your body actually feels like, “oh, that’s better”. And then you can start to refocus a bit better again.

James Pearson
So, any tips for people like me that don’t like exercise?

Donna Benini
Yes! So if you really don’t like exercise, you have to look at what activity you actually do like. Because you’ve got to stick to something to help prevent burnout. Now, even when you like a certain activity, maybe it’s golf, maybe it’s cricket, maybe it’s football, whatever it is, I still have to say this, we all need a really good strength programme. So it’s a case of looking at your results rather than the journey, what is the outcome going to be? I’m going to feel super strong. I tell you, you’ll feel amazing, you feel super strong, super confident to cope with anything, stress doesn’t really talk to you that much when you really trained. Pain doesn’t feel as bad, moods don’t swing as much when you train. Because you’re feeling like a machine now so that is something that will keep you inspired, watching your body change, feeling the changes, seeing how far you can push yourself. You know you are a project, you’re your own project. You can build yourself into a Porsche, Mercedes, whatever you want, and that’s the beauty of it, you don’t have to do the same thing and stay the same, you can change. You can manipulate your diet. So I want to do a bit bodybuilding, Well, then go for it, manipulate the diet, do the regular, you’ll get there, there is no difference between me and you. There’s nothing that you can’t do that I can. Your body will achieve results in the same way your mind does with self belief, determination, commitment and enjoying the results, rather than thinking about the pain side.

James Pearson
I love the idea Donna of just, where do you want to be, that’s the place to take your mind.

Donna Benini
That’s where you focus. You don’t see it in the mirror immediately, but if you have it in mind, you go “this is why I’m doing it, I want to look like that, feel like this, and be in control of my health and body”. Because when you’ve got control of your mind, health and your body, there’s not a lot really can touch you.

James Pearson
A superpower?

Donna Benini
It is a superpower, exercise is definitely my superpower. Definitely. Yes, and I don’t find it that interesting sitting there doing it, but I whack my favourite songs on, and I know why I’m doing it, I know if I don’t do it my back could go again, my joints will get weak, I’ll age, I don’t want any of that ageing. Exercise also lengthens telomeres. This is another benefit this will spur you on, telomeres are at the end of the DNA. So if you imagine a shoelace, at the end of a shoelace you’ve got a little plastic bit that keeps the shoelace from unravelling and going wild. Your DNA is being copied all the time and at the end of your DNA will be a telomere, which is like the end of a lace, it stops unravelling and going wrong. The problem when the genes go wrong, is you become susceptible now to disease. So any of those diseases that you hear about that come when you’re ageing, you are now susceptible to them. If you exercise, you keep your telomeres long, it wards it off. So it’s a very, very, very beneficial thing you can do for yourself is exercise, it will stop you, prevent you from later on in life, relying on care homes, medication, all that sort of thing. If you just write it down, it takes a very simple piece of writing, ticking it for how many times you’ve done it, and just do it twice a week, or four splits. And then, if you think about it, if you just commit in the morning right let’s do 10 minutes. Do it. You’ll do it because you’ll know you’re going to make yourself live longer, feel better, look better, build confidence and self esteem.

James Pearson
I’m going to add actually that maybe if you only get to six minutes, just be kind to yourself and accept those six minutes, because you can always try 8 minutes tomorrow, so it’s not the be all and end all, is it?

Donna Benini
It’s not, it’s about you, you’re you, you need to look after you. You don’t have to do what Linford Christie does, because he’s Linford Christie, you’re looking after you, your lifestyle is different to his. So you’re a videographer, you already expend energy. You don’t want to be doing two hours of cardio just to try and keep up, it’s not necessary, it really isn’t. Science will tell you, bring the heart rate up, and then get it to recover. Do that every day for five minutes, even in two minutes, people can do it, it depends on fitness level and things, you’ve got to stay safe. So I would say, heart rate monitor on, keep your heart rate at around 70% or 60% of your maximum heart rate, which will be 220 minus your age. That’s what you do, 220 minus your age, then keep your heart at that, you should be okay to not burn out. Beginners between, I’d say somebody like you, between 60 and 70%. Yes, 80 and 90% will be quite high intensity. So I would say between 60 and 70% for somebody like yourself for cardio. But you wouldn’t need to do hours of it, keep it minimal, you know, it’s not your favourite thing, keep it minimal. As long as your hearts up a little bit, the heart is a muscle as well.

James Pearson
Well, Donna we’re fast approaching the top of our little half an hour here, in fact we’ve run over but that’s okay. We like that. I feel that we’re scratching the surface of a very, very deep issue and I think we can go for hours, it’ll be a nice one to return to I think. That as a gentle introduction was amazing, I think that’s really, really good. I liken it to the holy trinity of mental health, it’s your nutrition, your hydration and then your mental wellness in terms of thinking about what you want this to be, and how you want this to work for you. Put those three things in, I think you’ve got the makings of that superpower. Thank you so much for sharing.

Donna Benini
Yes, it’s been a pleasure.

James Pearson
Brilliant. Well, once again, thank you very much for joining us. It’s been great to have you on the show, and we’re definitely getting you back on if that’s okay, because I think there’s places we could go that we haven’t yet been, so I’m excited for what’s to come.

Donna Benini
Yes, definitely James, definitely.

James Pearson
I love it. Right, well, Donna, thank you very, very much again and I’ll speak to you soon. Okay. Take care.

Donna Benini
Yes Bye bye.

James Pearson
Bye for now.

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: