Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 10 – Eminé Rushton

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 10 – Eminé Rushton

I met the lovely Eminé last night at a Psychologies event at the Neom store on the Kings Road  – a place I would gladly while away many hours, its array of scents and general atmosphere of space and serenity are good for the soul. Eminé has an ethereal beauty about her, and a calm wisdom about all things wellness. I wanted to tap into some of that wisdom, to share with you wonderful people. Enjoy!

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Tell me about yourself – what’s the day job?

I’m Wellness Director at my favourite magazine, Psychologies. I took the role 7 years ago, when it was ‘Beauty Director’ and swiftly engineered it to include health, and then, last year, moved the role, and our content, into whole-hearted holistic wellbeing, which is where my heart is too (never been a ‘beauty’ girl!).

I’m now also running my own little conscious consultancy, LEAF, which is all about helping the most ethical natural brands find a voice, and working to get them out into the world in intelligent and thoughtful ways. I also run the wellness blog, The Balance Plan with my husband Paul – a home for our recipes, ideas, beliefs and a fresh look at living Ayurvedically (which we are passionate about) in the modern age.

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I love your Psychologies 360me campaign, encouraging people to become more aware of their health in a truly holistic way, Tell me more about that. Do you find that people are more keen to nurture their souls, more aware of their mental health nowadays and understanding of modern life’s potential effects on it?

The shift in our collective conscience, in just these last few years, has been remarkable. People only ever used to talk about health in relation to weight loss, dieting, bikinis… it was ad infinitum and ad nauseam and wholly disheartening.

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When I launched #360me, the aim was to focus on how we would all FEEL, not look, and to understand that we are not just a body – we are a nourishable soul/spirit, a beautiful mind and a complex gut too… wanting to knit all the pieces together, to say ‘I shall aim to join these dots within me, to enjoy doing so, to celebrate my variousness and all of my multitudes’, was the starting point. No diminishment – no diets, calories, formulaic exercises. Our health should never be based on a formula!

The reception to it has been utterly amazing. I think it’s so rare to find a magazine that talks in a solely wholly celebratory way – that offers practical advice without making you feel insecure in any way. There is so much more conversation around our mental health these days – we’ve seen a huge conversation starter with the royals, and it’s being picked up over and over again.

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We’ve long known that 1 in 3 people experience significant mental health challenges in their lives, but it’s never been the case that 1 in 3 would openly TALK about it. We’re not robots, we’re ever-shifting and changing beings, and it makes perfect sense that we will all experience extremely trying, upsetting, challenging things and go through dark and sad times.

There should never be any shame in that. It’s also about realising that some very small things can have a very big impact on how good we are able to feel. Being kinder to yourself. Creating a sleep routine. Eating nourishing food in season. I think we’ve woken up to the fact that we can’t batter our bodies and bruise our spirits and then expect to make it all better with a spin class and a multi-vitamin. We have to start from the ground up – inside our selves.

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When I became a mum, one thing that immediately slipped by the wayside was my skincare regime. Up until then my skin had been something I nurtured and loved to look after, so it made me feel quite low that my skin really suffered from the lack of sleep/care/time and hormonal storms, suddenly my face was something I was ashamed of, and wanted to hide  from the world (which is quite hard to do…). Skin is the first thing that starts to show imbalance in body and mind. As a qualified facialist, what would your top tips be for sleep-deprived busy mums to try and keep their skin at its optimum (under the circumstances)?

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Oh I know that very well, as someone who was sleep-deprived without respite for 3 entire years. I was lucky I suppose, as worked in the industry, so would still make time (even on a lunch break) for a facial, massage or an infrared sauna… and these things helped keep me feeling more well than I would have done without them. I also found that if I was able to continue to nourish my skin through my diet – lots of omega 3, vitamins, antioxidants (and topping up with Wild Nutrition or Pukka too), my skin saw the benefits.

But let’s be honest: when you’re exhausted and very low on sleep, not much can replicate what you’re missing. I learned the art of napping, several times a day, with my youngest (I took 8 months mat leave), but with my first, I went straight back to work and didn’t get a full night’s sleep for almost 3 years… no pot of cream will help with that! So, when I could, I took magnesium baths, practised a bit of yoga, and got to bed as early as humanly possible.

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Even if I was woken 3 or 4 times (or 10!), I’d still have had a bit more sleep at the start of the night. Lack of sleep also really raised our cortisol levels and can imbalance our hormones, so I’d also recommend taken pure and high grade Ashwaghanda (an adaptogen that combats stress) and Shatavari (which balances the female reproductive system), every day. Pukka and Wild Nutrition, are, once again, my go to brands here.

What are your personal mental health tools in your own toolkit?

Learning to meditate with Will Williams, last year, was a big turning point for me. Prior to that I had attended this retreat at 42 Acres with Tony Riddle and Carly Grace and Alan Dolan, and meditation came into my life at a time when I really needed it. The difference I felt after a few days’ rest, meditation, breath work and sound baths, at 42, was unbelievably profound. I could have taken every single spa trip over my 15 years as an editor and the level of wellness I felt after just 3 days at 42 Acres was deeper and more powerful than the whole ‘spa’ lot put together. That’s when I really realised that I was missing a big trick – that pampering, spa-ing, eating well, are all wonderfully salubrious and relaxing, but to really make a big change, and one that then flows into every other part of you, it needs to work on another level – you need to get into the mind, in a significant way.

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I’ve since done long meditation weekends with Jody Shield, have taken up more regular yoga with a great online company, Movement for Modern Life, and meditate every single night, in bed, just before sleep. Meditation levels me out and buoys me up more significantly than anything else. It’s my ultimate tool, and I recommend Vedic Meditation to anyone who’s struggled with other forms… it’s the simple repetition of a sound, over and over, in the mind, which gives you a focus and makes it so much easier to allow that wandering mind to free itself from the unrelenting babble.

The big question: How do you balance work and life?

Oh my, I am still trying and learning, every single day. Some days I nail it – but that often relies on the kids playing ball – going to sleep on time, not waking, and all of us being happy and sympathetic to one another! There are some really simple things that do help… trying to wake up with a smile, ‘hey, I get another day! lucky me!’ and waking the children with positivity too. We always sit down to a family breakfast – that’s my husband in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, while I get kids dressed and ready for school. Sitting down, eating, chatting about the day ahead, is a nice way to begin. Arguments can easily kick off between my two children who are both pretty fiery and headstrong, but sometimes I’ll do something funny, like open a window and tell them to waft their worries and whinges outside, and that can diffuse things!

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I work very dedicatedly all day long – some days I am at my computer for hours – stopping only to stretch or eat – but I try to balance this with days where I am very mobile and in meetings, hotfooting it across London. If I have to work in the evening, I’ll do no more than 90 mins once the kids are tucked up, and then it’s a real strict shutdown. I turn my phone off, laptop off, and leave them upstairs in my study. I then light a Neom candle downstairs and get the diffuser going in my bedroom, so that soothing scent starts to waft through our space, as I potter around tidying, washing, organising, cleaning… then lights go off, candles flicker, I may bathe or do a short yoga class, but I am strict about always doing my 20 minute meditation just before bed… I may fall asleep mid-med, which is lovely too… the biggest thing that derails me is feeling overwhelmed. That sense of HOW ON EARTH AM I GOING TO MANAGE ALL OF THIS?

What life has taught me is that I do manage. That the time it took to worry and dwell and fear is much better used DOING. Even just making a list can help you feel as though you’re a bit more in control. Sometimes too, the things you dread doing are almost pleasurable once you get down to them – there’s always a sort of satisfaction to be gained from the action – so much more satisfying than the hypothetical phase of worrying about it! Being very strict with my diary is another one. Some people must think me so rude – they’ll email to ask to meet up (and I love meeting up with interesting people!) and I’ll say that I can’t see them for two months. It’s not that I am so utterly busy every single day, but that I need to build breathing space and non-travel days into my life too.. days when I can sit at home, write, think, mull, create… rather than go into another day of back-to-back meetings.

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That’s working for me, with two big work roles to balance  (and that doesn’t include motherhood!), and a sense that I don’t want to be swallowed whole by it all. Pace is important I think and we don’t tend to give it much thought – but I’ve learned that if I have one very busy on-the-go rushing day, I like to follow it (if I can) with one calmer and stiller day.

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Wellbeing hacks for busy mamas

Wellbeing hacks for busy mamas

We all have those days where the rhythm is just “off” and from start to finish things seem to be on the wrong trajectory.
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I’m on Day 6 of my 66-days to positive habits – it takes an average of 66 repeated acts for humans to create habits (and sadly, much fewer to break them) and as part of creating a positive atmosphere around my daily decision making and mindset I’ve been immersing myself in positive wellbeing podcasts such as MoxieCast and the Supermum Podcast.
It’s making me much more conscious of how i can get a positive mindset back on track quickly so as not to be derailed for the entire day. It’s so easy to “write off” a day that’s started diabolically (zero sleep, lost keys, children refusing to put shoes on, more insanely awful news on the radio GAAAAAAHHH) and allow the frazzled state of mind to just gather momentum as the day progresses.
This frazzled mindset can lead to bad decision making in terms of thinking “sod it” to that packet of crisps that you don’t really even fancy, or ploughing through an entire bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate on a Tuesday evening, or staying up until way past midnight scrolling your social media or working when you could be connecting with your partner, or nourishing your soul by sleeping.
What we need for those FFS! mothering moments are:
5 easy hacks to get back on track 
1. SCENT 
I’m a big fan of squirting, swooshing, rolling and spritzing scent to uplift and energise. Thats because scent can transport you to another world in an instant. A happier, nicer smelling world. So when I’m feeling low of energy I have a few wonderful scents in my toolkit:
  • Anything by NEOM is always gratefully received by my senses.
  • Scentered roll on balms are simply amazing. I first discovered them at a Jody Shield event, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My favourite is the Sleep Balm at night, and during those testing moments during the day, Escape: a mixture of Oud, Frankincense and Sandalwood which instantly creates a tranquil atmosphere of a Balinese spa.

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  • Earth Mama Angel Baby Happy Mama Spray saw me through both pregnancies and I still use it as a room spray for my Pregnancy Pilates classes. It’s a happy blend of energising and uplifting essential oils including lime and ginger
  • Absolute Aromas Equilibrium blend of essential oils which includes Rose, Frankincense, Bergamot: one sniff and it instantly soothes and balances.

2. BREATHE
Such a simple hack this one it shouldn’t even need saying, but, well, simplicity is key to a balanced life, no? Breathe.

In those moments where you’re having to go back into your house for the 5th time to retrieve something else you’ve forgotten, your toddler is having a meltdown and your 5 year old is cross with you for making him wear suncream, and you wonder what happened to your old life where things seemed peaceful and in control…? Those moments. Soften into the moment. Take a 5 second inhale, and allow an 8 second exhale. Ahh.

3. SMILE
You’re never fully dressed without a smile. OK, sometimes legitimately you really don’t feel like smiling you feel more like growling, and that is totally normal and to be expected from a healthily balanced life.

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But, just occasionally, notice if you’re wearing your woes on your face without even realising it and it’s causing your soul to feel sullen and woeful too. I suffer from Bitchy Resting Face syndrome – so does Kate Moss, I’m in good company – but sometimes I allow this to linger into my internal dialogue, and it can be shrugged off very easily simply by smiling. When you smile, you fool your brain into stimulating the happy hormone response, and so it gives you an instant boost, even if it’s just a placebo. Say, CHEESE! Being goofy might then trigger an actual smile because you feel like a wally doing it.

4. CHECK IN WITH YOUR POSTURE
Notice if you’re slumped forward, not breathing (see above…), tucking your bottom under, rolling your head down and squishing your heart and lungs. Open, unfurl, lengthen, look up. LOOK UP. Revitalise by imagining the effects of water on a wilting plant.

You can encourage yourself to unwilt, by opening your chest, lengthening your spine, breathing wide and full into that new space that has been created in your torso.

5. FACE PALM
There is a magic spot used in Traditional Chinese Medicine which is the point in between the brows, the third eye chakra. I once spoke to an Acupuncturist friend of mine who used to work with violent criminals on a rehabilitation programme in prison.
He said he favoured this pressure point when treating these men, which sent even the most aggressively fraught man into a blissed out space.
Karen Cannon, a blogger, wellbeing & self-love junkie, and “wisdom guru” (I love that title) interviewed psychologist Suzy Reading (who has featured here on What’s in Your Toolkit)  on her blog recently and her answer recalled my acupuncturist friend’s anecdote about this spot:
What is your go to thing for comfort when it all gets too much?
Think of Homer Simpson saying d’oh! He instantly brings his hand to his forehead. When we experience shock, this is the common place hard-wired response – to either bring the back of your hand to your brow, or if you are sitting, you rest your head in your hands. It is instantly soothing for your parasympathetic nervous system and helps mediate the stress response.
This is the first thing I turn to when I need comfort. It may be in the form of earthing my brow if I am seated at a table, if I’m on the go, I will make two gentle fists and press them into my forehead as if I were massaging imaginary horns or I surrender in a yoga childs pose. Try it!
Feel how it connects you with a feeling or peace and ease. Physically it softens your eyes and jaw and tension melts away.
So there you have it people. 5 easy hacks to get your mindset back on track.
Let me know how you get on!
Route 66 – setting intentions and the S word

Route 66 – setting intentions and the S word

It takes 66 repeated acts for the human brain to register a new habit. So, I’m on a 66-day mission to create positive body habits and beliefs. Join me on Route 66!

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Day 4: Today: setting intentions. I woke up this morning shivering, despite it being 27 degrees C in our bedroom due to this heatwave we’re having in London Town. A raging sore throat and swollen glands. A recipe for feeling low and crappy? Well, weirdly, I don’t feel as bad in spirit as I do in body. And I think that that is the emerging resilience that has been developed over this past year of understanding and working with my internal dialogue a bit more positively. Through therapies I learnt while writing The Supermum Myth, through mindfulness and generally caring for myself a bit more through yoga and self-compassion.

For me, the mind is definitely on board. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to put that into action so that my body will catch up. But that’s what Route 66 is all about.

So today I woke up perky of mind if not of body. A lot of the perkiness is due in part to Freddie having learnt finally to sleep at age 2 and a half…I’m always wary of bandying the S word around with mums, as if you’re suffering from sleep deprivation reading this it can make you want to bash the screen in with frustration and envy. it’s such an emotive time when you’re having your sleep sabotaged either by small people or by anxiety-induced insomnia. Freddie has been sleeping relatively reliably overnight now for about 3 months, and the difference it has made to my resilience is profound and palpable. So, if you are feeling sleep deprived and exhausted – give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself. It is HARD to have any resolve or resilience when you have lost the cloak of armour which is a good/reliable night’s sleep.

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With that in mind: for me, setting an intention for the day, which I became aware of as a yoga practice of sankalpa (setting an intention and dedicating your yoga practice to someone or something else) is a powerful way of creating a positive trajectory for your mind and behaviours for the day. I’ve gradually started to see benefits of visualising an intention at the beginning of the day.

This morning, feeling groggy of body, I decided that my intention was to feel as positive as I could today. I took lots of deep breaths, then coughed a lot at that effort, and lifted my spine which immediately creates positivity. Often our posture reflects our emotional and physical wellbeing in a way that we don’t even notice. Collapsed shoulders and sunken chest depict low mood and squish your heart and lungs. So, open, breathe, nourish your heart centre. Even if you’re exhausted and sleep deprived, this will help you to feel more open and positive.

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Setting this intention has meant that every decision I’ve made in terms of the choices about nourishment etc for my body have been influenced by this. My throat is full of razors so I’ve made myself a banana smoothie with coconut water, to nourish and soothe. I’ve tried to drink a bucket of water – not least because it’s bloomin’ hot.

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Setting intentions encourages you to be more aware of the details of your daily life. To notice the silver linings and foster a grateful attitude, which can build your resilience for the days when everything seems to be derailing and you wish you’d never got out of bed. It means you’re more likely to be able to see what’s in the half empty cup.

What intention will you set today, tomorrow? It’s an empowering tool to add to your vitality toolkit.

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I’d love to know how you’re doing on your 66 days to vitality and wellbeing!

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Route 66 – love your body TODAY

Route 66 – love your body TODAY

It takes 66 repeated acts to create habits. I’m on a daily mission to incorporate positive habits and mental strategies to create an empowered positive life.

Day  3 – love your body NOW. Today. Don’t put off loving it for when it’s fitter/slimmer/less achey/a unicorn.

Cultivate self compassion by connecting mindfully to your body each and every day. Imagine your body is a small child you need to nurture, hug, love. Or you can imagine your body as a wise elder, knowing what’s best for you if you choose to listen to what it has to say.

These two pictures of me are from 8 years ago, in Sri Lanka. I felt heavy and thought I looked like a man. What a wally!

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Appreciate your body for its myriad strengths and power NOW, every day. Life is too short not to.

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit 9 – The Supercharged Club

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit 9 – The Supercharged Club

It’s time to get Supercharged! I first met Mary and Emma from Supercharged Club last summer, at an Instagram mums meet up. I love their energy and vitality, and the camaraderie and joy they seem to spark off between each other.

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Searching for mojo, I signed up for the mission at the end of last summer. And it totally changed my mindset, altered my understanding of my habits and behaviours that I had never really considered being patterns. It’s not a diet, but a holistic mind-body recharge. They have 6-week missions which help mums to get back into their minds and bodies, to bring back their sparkle and establish good habits to serve them well for the rest of their lives. No fads here. I wanted to find out what was in their personal bumbag of wellness tricks.

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Tell me about Supercharged Club. How did you come to be? 

Supercharged Club was born from conversations whilst Mary was studying Performance Coaching and NLP, Emma was struggling to understand why her clients were doing fabulous work in her classes and 1-2-1s but not making long term changes. The answer was in their minds! So combining forces of BODY POWER and MIND POWER plus the two of us sharing our own unique adventures right alongside clients is the magic we now call Supercharged Club. Our online 6 week missions get called ‘LIFE CHANGING’ and us two get called ‘Supercharged Power Duo’ there is nothing like Supercharged Club out there, which is what makes us different!

The connection and community that you manage to create in the missions is a little bit magic. What’s do you think is your secret ingredient which makes mums find that connection between mind and body and start to make positive changes?

The secret ingredient is US! Being honest, raw, brave with our adventures in overcoming binge-eating, excess alcohol drinking, relationship issues, bulimia, distorted body image, depression, both of us regardless of our differences sizes have all been drawn in by clever marketing, societies ideas of ‘perfect’. We are funny, compassionate, passionate about what we do, kickass at inspiring and motivating, and not forgetting totally badass!

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What are your own tools in your mental and physical health toolkit?

Different for us both, at different times but currently Emma’s go to tools are the power of thinking before taking action, reflection, playing back videos of herself having captured messages from herself in different states (hungover, and hangover free) helps drive her behaviours and decisions. For Mary its the power of the pause, feeling her feelings, (there has been a lot of tears recently!) journalling, yoga, and meditation.

These work for us at the moment, but we have hundreds more waiting in our imaginary bumbag plus we do every 6 week online mission right alongside some badass women who inspire and motivate us daily to live our best lives and age in health.

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Check out Supercharged Club here

Route 66 – daily steps to awesomeness

Route 66 – daily steps to awesomeness

it takes 66 repeated acts to create habits. It might not be easy, but 66 skilful brush strokes need to be made in order to lay the groundwork for the piece of artwork that is a more vital positive life: to be maintained and enriched every day after, a living and breathing piece.

So today is Day 2 of my 66-day challenge.

Today started with my 2-year old coming into bed at around 6am (this is a lie in and I am GRATEFUL that he is generally sleeping overnight now which has been 2 years coming and I know may not last but I’m savouring it while it does). Having this 66-day intention has powered me up, I want to check off every day and most importantly have a sense that I don’t want to  break the momentum and miss a day.

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Yesterday I was doing my son’s home learning with him and he got really upset over a drawing of a monkey, and kept saying “I’m not good at drawing, I can’t do it, it’s difficult” I found myself saying to him, “everything’s difficult until it becomes easy. You CAN do it, you just have to practise. There’s no such thing as can’t”…

It stuck me how powerful the words that we utter about ourselves are. “I can’t do it.” Well, no you can’t, of course not, if you say you can’t. You’re building a huge I CAN’T fence for yourself that you then have to find the strength and wherewithal to climb over. Better to say “it’s challenging but I’ll practise and I’ll give it a go”, which is finding the gate (or stile) that lets you through to the other side.

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This is why AFFIRMATIONS are so powerful and they are formulating part of my toolkit for my 66-days to vitality.

 You are what you think: your life truly grows from the seed of your thoughts. Our spoken words and our internal dialogue crafts our future.

Affirmations help restructure the dynamic of our brains: if you can articulate it verbalise it and give it a voice and a tangible quality, then you can begin to envision it, and lay the bricks down to create it – it seems that nothing is impossible.

The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, originally meaning “to make steady, strengthen.”

Affirmations help us believe in the potential of an action we want to manifest. When we verbally affirm our dreams and ambitions, we are instantly empowered: our desires may become a reality because you’ve voiced it and put it out there in the universe. In the sequence of THOUGHT–SPEECH–ACTION, affirmations are so powerful because they break patterns of negative thoughts, negative speech, and negative actions.

Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains.

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No words are empty words.

If you constantly say “I can’t,” the energy of your words will push back against you, like rowing against the tide.

But if you say “I can!” it’s like giving yourself a motor on your rowing boat to power on through.

Here are some great affirmations to try every morning.

You may feel like a bit of a wally saying them out loud at first, but go with it and you’ll actually begin to fizz with energy instead.

Today, I am brimming with energy and overflowing with joy

My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil.

I possess the qualities needed to be content and successful

My ability to conquer my challenges is limitless

I am courageous and I stand up for myself

My thoughts are filled with positivity and my life is plentiful

Today, I abandon habits that don’t serve me and take up new, more positive ones.

I am grateful for my incredible family and wonderful friends.

I acknowledge my own self-worth

My future is a manifestation of what I envision now

 

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TRUST

MANIFEST

TRUST

MANIFEST

Pregnancy: What should I pack in my hospital bag?

Pregnancy: What should I pack in my hospital bag?

This week, excitingly I was featured as an expert in Mother & Baby magazine. What should you pack in your hospital bag? Or, birthing bag if you’re planning a home birth – always good to get all your gear together in one place, and makes for a great nesting ritual.

Here’s a taster. For the full article, go to Mother & Baby.

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What should I pack in my hospital bag?

  • To wear in labour: comfy things like a vest top, slouchy T-shirt, comfy robe. You might prefer to go primal and take it all off. You may want a bikini top if you’re in the pool, but chances are you won’t really care.
  • Hair bands, a headscarf or a wide head band to keep your hair out of your face.
  • Facial spray or rose facial spritz: it doesn’t have to be an expensive brand, but it’s great for refreshing and cooling you down during labour, but also for the postnatal ward if you feel you need a pick-me-up.
  • Lip balm: gas and air can make your lips dry so make sure you have some to hand for later.
  • Lavender oil and a flannel: Lavender oil has multiple uses. It can be used for your partner to massage your lower back or neck. It has a comforting and uplifting scent which can have amazing powerful effects for relaxing and calming you down during labour. A few drops on a flannel draped across your forehead can also help to shut out the world around you if needs be, and help you to get into the zone with deep breathing. It’s also an antiseptic, so a few drops on your maternity pad post-birth can help to soothe your perineum. It’s a proven antidepressant as well, and aids relaxation and sleep: so postnatally a few drops on your pillow or dabbed behind your ears can be magic for the soul.
  • Other essential oils such as Frankincense and clary sage can also be comforting during your labour, but make sure to always check oils in advance for whether they are suitable for pregnancy.
  • Lavender wheat bag: they are amazing for relieving tension, and can be placed over your eyes, face or lower back. A hot water bottle can perform the same function for the lower back, easing pain and tension. They’re great postnatally too if you’re on the ward, as a lavender wheat bag over the eyes will help to send you to a zen place.
  • Yesmum cards or other positive affirmations that you’ve made for yourself. Never underestimate the power of the mind in labour. Surround yourself with positivity.
  • Load up some podcasts, a guided meditation or hypnobirthing relaxation onto your phone.
  • A pillow or pillow case, as it’s comforting to have something that makes you feel relaxed as if you’re in your own home. It’ll allow you to soften into your labour if you don’t feel like you’re in a totally unfamiliar environment.
  • A dark-coloured towel.
  • Nightie or open front pyjamas: anything you feel really comfy and cosy in, with a high, loose waistband and easy access for breastfeeding. You need to feel comfortable. Dark colours are best – it’s maybe not the time for your Cath Kidston flowery white stuff, as you never know what kind of bodily fluids from you and your baby are going to be spilling all over it. You might fluctuate between being boiling and being a bit chilly, so have something that’s easy to take on and off, or maybe bring yourself a scarf you can throw over your shoulders for those chilly moments.
  • Warm furry or fluffy slippers: they’re much nicer than flip flops, as even if it’s the middle of summer, the floors might be chilly as you’re pottering around the postnatal ward, and it’s another nice item to make you feel at home.
  • Lightweight dressing gown or some kind of robe you can throw on if you’re birthing in a pool, or if you have a few days’ stay at hospital and you’re going to the loo and back a lot.
  • Big knickers. Always think big with the knickers. You’ll need to have wear maternity pads for a while after your baby is born, and if you’ve had a C-section you really don’t want anything touching the scar area. Granny pants a go-go!
  • Pads, both maternity and breast. Lots of each. Your milk might not fully come in during your stay in hospital, but it might, so it’s best to be prepared.
  • Nipple balm: you may not feel sore with the initial stages of breastfeeding in hospital if your baby takes to it like a pro, but you’ll need vats of it during your breastfeeding journey anyway so it’s best to have it to hand.
  • Earplugs: postnatal wards aren’t generally that peaceful, and don’t worry about not hearing your baby cry. We have a sixth sense for these things. Earplugs might just allow you a bit of valuable rest.
  • Frozen Ribena, or anything you can drink with a straw. Chuck loads of cartons of Ribena in the freezer in the days before you go to hospital. Then when the moment comes to go to hospital, throw them in the bag. They’ll be cold and refreshing throughout your labour, and it’s useful to have drinks with a straw so that if needs be, your partner can help you to drink and you can be hands-free. If there are any left over once the baby is born, it’s great for making sure you keep hydrated and keeping your blood sugar levels up.
  • Some kind of survival snack pack for the postnatal ward if you need fuel in the middle of the night. Dark chocolate is the healthier option, but this isn’t the time to berate yourself if all you fancy is a Mars bar.

You can order my book Pregnancy: The Naked Truth here.

Route 66 – What does it take to create good habits?

Route 66 – What does it take to create good habits?

There are some amazing body confident campaigns going on in social media right now. Clemmie Hooper, midwife, mum of 4 and author of How to Grow a Baby and Push it Out@mother_of_daughters, inadvertently kicked off a massive swell of solidarity by sharing some of her post-children body worries, and there was an amazing rally of women loving the body they have and sharing and celebrating on Instagram.

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Another Instagram influencer, Natalie Lee aka @stylemesunday is championing body positivity with her Warrior Woman campaign through her blog and on instagram, which aims to get women loving themselves again, in her words: “to inspire mums to celebrate their uniqueness, share their struggles and experiences, and to show that there’s no such thing as perfect and anyway perfect is boring.” So true!

We’re conditioned to be dissatisfied with the way we look, and as I get older I really understand how disempowering this is, and such a pointless waste of time. I look back on pictures of myself pre-kids where I was toned and fit of body, but my mind wasn’t confident and clear enough to embrace and celebrate it. What a waste!

Over the past few years since having Maurice I’ve started so many different different plans for rekindling my mojo and possibly shedding a bit of podge so that I feel more vital and bouncy: Green and Lean, the Supercharged ClubMind Body Bowl. All amazing programmes, which I’ve learned a lot from. But I’ve never stuck to anything long term as I allow the daily trudge of children to give me a loophole for old habits and let me off the hook. I’m exhausted, they’ve been properly challenging today, I haven’t been to the supermarket to be organised, I deserve this extra glass of wine, I’ll just finish this pasta as they haven’t, I’m too tired to go out for a run…

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I listened yesterday to a podcast with Suzy Reading talking to Mandy Lehto about Willpower, and self care. Willpower – that elusive and powerful beast, that evaporates at the end of a long day when a bottle of wine is calling you. Suzy had some amazing tips about how to capture and harness your power of WILL in ways that don’t make you feel like you’re failing. Small chunks adding to your will power bank so you’re not constantly feeling like you’re withdrawing and ending up bankrupt.

She talks about honouring your future self with how you want to feel, rather than constantly serving the instant gratification of your depleted frazzled self.

I read somewhere in my research for writing The Supermum Myth that in order to create a habit the human mind generally on average has to repeat behaviour 66 times in order for it to stick. For me, I tend to lose puff after the first week or so of a new vitality plan.

Improving willpower is the surest way to a better life. Mandy Lehto looks into this more by talking about how hard it is, how we have to work through discomfort in forming new habits, like a wriggly reluctant toddler we’ll have to hold it down to get it in the habit buggy by making it non-negotiable. When it’s non-negotiable, it doesn’t deplete our willpower. As an aside, I once said to Maurice aged 2 about something I wasn’t willing to let go – choosing battles – road safety, brushing teeth perhaps, etc “it’s not negotiable little man” and he said adamantly “it IS A GOSHADLE!!”. This is what your comfort zone will try to say to you.

Try not to let your comfy habits kick up a fuss and wriggle out of new practices by simply not giving them a loophole. Be consistent, plan, creating rituals. Non-negotiable. It’ll feel unbearable, then uncomfortable – then you’ll feel unstoppable.

But look after yourself and your willpower as you do your toddler: are you hungry? Tired? Look after these details mindfully and commit every day to microhabits of positivity and self care change. Small details: I will breathe for one minute everyday. There will never be another day when I don’t breathe mindfully. Set up the bare minimum and ultimately – clever this – you’ll naturally do more as you feel better.

All change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.

So I’ve decided enough is enough of being lily livered, self-sabotaging and low of mama mojo. I’m committing (and accountability is a BIG thing) and sticking to the little but often 66-day idea. Every day for 66 days I am going to MOVE MORE, do just a little bit more Pilates, some meditation, some breathing, positive mental tools, gratitude lists. And after 66 days this will be so ingrained into my behaviour that it will be harder to let it go than to carry on.

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Who’s with me?! Every day I’ll be checking in on the baby steps challenge. For 66 days! That sounds epic. But it’s just 66 days of noticing life a bit more.

Today: this morning I woke up and despite feeling lethargic and tired and wanting to sleep in while the boys watch Paw Patrol, I got out of bed and put on my running clothes. It helps that it’s a gorgeous day, but I’m off out for a walky-run to charge up my energy levels for the day and start off on the right foot.

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I’m excited about my 66-day reboot! Let me know if you fancy joining in. Let’s get our kicks on Route 66…

xxx

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What is ‘Wellness’?

What is ‘Wellness’?

Wellness. This blog is a ‘wellness toolkit’. Well, what exactly is wellness? What does it mean to you?

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At the Yellow Kite Books panel event recently, four Instagram ‘wellness influencers’ were asked to define what wellness meant to them. Whatever it is, it’s something that has sparked off a whole industry, myriad fads, brands and communities.

The two nutrition-based experts, Harley Street-based Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert and junior doctor and PT Dr Hazel Wallace focused on the link between the quality of the food you put in your body and your mental wellbeing. And more importantly about educating yourself about the facts around your own wellness, what is unique to your needs and not to be found in fads. Making choices based on how you feel, not just immediate gratification desires about what you want to look like. A long-term mind-body connection to fortify you for your golden years, not just a bikini image to get likes on Instagram.

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Shona Vertue, a yoga teacher and Personal Trainer who has created a mind-body fitness system The Vertue Method, described it as ‘a deeper connection into what your mind, body, spirit needs.’ Jody Shield, a ‘modern-day healer’ and author of Life Tonic, developed that further by adding ‘SOUL’ into the mix. Listening to and nurturing what your soul is calling for.

In 1948, the World Health Organisation defined ‘Health’ as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition hasn’t been amended or added to since – because it’s pretty perfect, right? Health – and this for me is Wellness – is not just being free from physical illness, it is being wholly and fully well, in body and mind: actively seeking a balanced healthy state in a dynamic process retuned day to day month to month, according to changing external influences and circumstances. You can have a banging ‘bikini body’, but be anxious and depressed inside which dulls your senses and ensures that you don’t notice or celebrate it positively.

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Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a fulfilling life, a resilient mind, a healthy body, strong relationships with those around you.

Modern humans live with a fraction of the physical strength that our prehistoric ancestors needed in order to function in their daily lives. We sit too much. We atrophy. We see our bodies as separate from our minds. And then we wonder why we become so depressed and anxious. We’re not allowing our bodies the movement and oxygen that it needs to function optimally, or giving conscious attention to the thoughts we’re filling our minds with.

Modern life has become a blocker for so many natural inherent magic aspects that the human body and mind possesses: Rhiannon Lambert described how, if you eat food while you’re looking at a screen: be it TV, iPhone, computer, you are actively blocking the natural triggers for your digestive system: we look at food, the brain processes what food that is and the correct enzymes are magically produced in order to digest that specific food. The human body is truly awesome. Now, we inhale food without even glancing at it – unless perhaps to photograph it before posting on Instagram… And then we wonder why our systems aren’t functioning perfectly.

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Why does wellness matter?

Maintaining an optimal balance of wellness is crucial to being able to live a higher quality life. Wellness matters because everything we do, every emotion we feel, every thought that we think, relates to our wellbeing. In turn, our wellbeing directly affects our actions and emotions. Our body is continually communicating with us through our aches, pains, stiffness and niggles. Listening to our bodies and offering our bodies the movement and nutrition they are asking for is an essential step in proactively seeking wellness. Mind-Body-Mind: It’s an ongoing circle.

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If everyone took small steps every day to achieve optimal wellness, stress levels would lower,  and the risk of illness is also lessened, relationships would benefit because of more positive interactions between yourself and your body, and by a lovely domino effect, between yourself and everyone around you.

“…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
– The World Health Organization

“a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.”
– The National Wellness Institute

Heart and Sole

Heart and Sole

Last night I went to the Yellow Kite Books inaugural summer event, The Exciting Future of Wellness. It was a panel discussion involving 4 major influencers in the “wellness” scene: Jody Shield, Hazel Wallace (aka The Food Medic), Shona Vertue – founder of the body and mind-honing Vertue Method and, I was happy to discover last night, a strong feminist and coffee devotee, and lastly Rhiannon Lambert, a Harley Street nutritionist specialising in eating disorders and mental health–nutritional links (who, incidentally, used to be a classical singer). All highly inspirational (INSPOGRAM) influential women with fascinating and varied stories to tell about how they came to be in the wellness industry. All passionate about educating the masses and offering them tools to take their health and wellness into their own hands.

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I’ve been a huge fan of Jody Shield for a while, and have been using her Life Tonic tools for a while to help lift my spirits and connect to my soul. I’ve always been a bit of a hippy, unashamedly so. And something she said last night reminded me of a blog post I wrote 4 years ago after Maurice and I had returned home after having spent 2 months in Canada, mainly running around barefoot. Coming back to London concrete as opposed to Canadian soil made me think about connecting to the earth with bare feet.

Last night Jody was talking about one of her favourite wellness tenets being kicking off her shoes, walking around on the earth and hugging trees. Shona Vertue talked passionately about how we all need to MOVE MORE and humans simply weren’t built for sitting at desks all day. Functional, playful, life-affirming movement. The kindred spirits on the panel made me smile and reminded me of my blog post: So I’m sharing it again here:

We’ve had a busy time since being back in Blighty. Maurice got the bends quite badly on landing back in the city from PEI, he seemed discombobulated at not having a football-field sized-expanse of green to run around and the freedom of the windswept red cliffs right on his doorstep. I’ve been feeling quite mournful that in London we haven’t got a garden and so haven’t been able to offer him the same delicious joy of running around unfettered, with nearly no boundaries and plenty of cats to disturb. So we have filled our days with plenty of trips to the swings, soft play areas, and generally anywhere that Maurice can feel joy in being active and unfettered. Unfettered, within limits…

It’s made me think a lot about the way that we connect with the earth in the city… or don’t. A few years ago I went on a yoga retreat in the south of France, near Perpignan. It was run by the lovely Vicky Oliver at Whyoga (whyoga.com), who I used to have the pleasure of practising yoga with every week when I lived locally to her classes (Wandsworth). My sister and I booked ourselves on this French yoga retreat as a frivolous indulgence. But when the time came around, I had had a bit of a shocker of a year, within 6 months my best friend died and I split with my boyfriend of 8 years, and the retreat hove into view on the horizon as a real form of relief and healing.

Every morning, Vicky took us through a walking mediation in the dewy sunny gardens of the beautiful chateau we were staying in. We had to walk barefoot, silently, for half an hour. Connecting to the ground through the soles of our feet, and to others only through eye contact and no words.

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I personally have always found meditation quite tricky as an activity whenever I’ve tried it. I’m the kind of person who has to really work hard to stop the buzz and hum of thoughts, worries and to do lists from whirring around my brain. In a yoga class setting, stationary meditation has always left me feeling slightly like the dunce in the class, not able to quite lock onto the same groove as everyone else and constantly flittering and fluttering between thought paths and trying to rein my brain back to the point. [Which – as Jody Shield affirms, doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong and should give up: no no, you just have to give your mind time to release the stresses it’s built up inside]

This walking meditation actually took me by surprise. Walking bare foot with care and attention on the soft wet grass every morning, making full contact with the earth, felt like a very soothing and calm way to begin each day. There is something inherently grounding about connecting your body to the world via bare feet. It makes you feel better. You are, quite literally, providing an earth for yourself, bringing your electrons back into order.

PEI allowed us to return to this every day, wandering around Country House and its grassy setting, or on the beach in bare feet, it seemed like an unnecessary chore ever to put socks on again. And I realised that it’s just so wonderful for Maurice’s developing feet to have had that pure unblocked contact with the ground, allowing his muscles to react to the undulating landscape under his feet.

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This has amazing health potential, doing this every day…without being too hyperbolic about it, the Earth can offer amazing healing powers and is possibly the best antioxidant you can access. Apparently connecting through to the ground reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream, reduces inflammation, brings a levelling effect to your heart rate, encourages good sleep patterns (this didn’t appear to be the case for Mo…). And yet, in our daily life in the city, you’re so much less likely to connect to the earth without the barrier of concrete or shoe sole.

I can’t offer Maurice a daily walking meditation on grass while we live in this flat in Peckham, sadly. And I suspect it would have to be a running meditation with him anyway. But, I am trying to make sure that all of his walking around at home is done in bare feet while his little feet develop and beyond. At least so he maintains a connection to the ground underneath him, directly feeling the ground beneath his feet which physically and metaphorically will hopefully encourage him to feel grounded not floating…and which will encourage good development of the muscles of his feet.

Whenever I practise and teach Pilates, this is done barefoot. Working barefoot offers greater challenge for your muscles, working all the muscles around the ankle joint and leg, and challenging your balance and coordination. It means that you need to work everything a little bit harder than if you were wearing chunky trainers. But it also means you have to connect with your feet in a way that you might never think to in your daily life. My Pilates teacher used to spend about 20 minutes at the beginning of each session on foot exercises. Isolating the mobility of your toes, working the arch of your foot. We have the same number of bones in our foot as in our hand, so technically can achieve the same dexterity within the muscular structure. But how often do you do play the piano with your toes?

Try a mexican wave with your toes now. Even if you’re wearing shoes (although it’s better without), try to create a mexican wave from big toe to little toe. You may be surprised by how difficult this is. My Pilates teacher always used to say that any lack of mobility in the feet over time travels up the body and creates a shuffling old person with a humped back. Alarmist, maybe. But possibly also there is truth in it.

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So, every day, try and have some consciously barefoot time. Connect through to the ground, even if that’s through to wood/tiling/laminate. Connect and lengthen all ten toes down. Then lift them all up and wave them down individually. Draw up through the arch of the foot as if you’re trying to suck something up from the ground, that lifting feeling connects directly to your central pelvic floor engagement. It runs with the idea that Pilates delights in, that there is no superfluous element of your body’s muscular system, everything is equally important and contributes to good movement patterns and a healthy supple body and mind.