Mindfulness for mums – meditation for perinatal wellness

Mindfulness for mums – meditation for perinatal wellness

I’m so delighted and proud to say that I have passed my first level of Teaching Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy with the British Mindfulness Institute. My own mental health as a mum has been so powerfully enhanced by MBCT techniques in the writing of The Supermum Myth (such a huge learning curve for me and one that definitely has changed my life!), and I can’t wait to bring this knowledge and insight into my pre- and postnatal workshops and classes. I’m also launching my MIND-BODY for Mums toolkit next year, so watch this space.

Here’s a mini meditation which you can do daily (multiple times a day if you need to!), to check in with your body, your mind, your tension, your heart. Even just building in awareness day to day can help ease any pressure and allow you a bit of insight about how you’re doing, which can keep the pot from boiling over. A mini mediation is perfect for feeling like it’s not something ‘extra’ to add to your To Do list but something that you can slot into the gaps. 2 minutes here, 3 minutes there. Can be done anytime, anyplace – at softplay, in the playground, wherever you are.

woman in grey pants holding black and purple stroller
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

Mind, Body, Heart Mini Meditation

Sit up a bit taller. Softly close your eyes, or gaze down at the floor. Take 3 deep, slow, conscious breaths. As you breathe:

Mind: Take a moment to notice what thoughts are here. Stories, images, planning, memories, critique…what is the narrative that is most loud today? Notice your thoughts, and imagine each as a butterfly. Are there thousands of butterflies jostling for space? Can you notice them, and allow them to release? Are there some that just stick around refusing to budge? Try not to get caught up in your thoughts, simply let them be noticed. See them as separate mental events, not as part of you. Try not to judge or label: they aren’t good, or bad, they just are. 

Heart: What emotions are you feeling? Can you identify what is the ‘loudest’ emotion present? Anger? Sadness? Happiness? A mixture? How strong is the energy from your emotion? Do you feel any physical sensations related to it, once you’ve noticed it?

Body: check in with your body. Notice what’s happening – what’s the weather like? How do you feel? Tension? Aches, pains? How’s your energy level? Don’t try to change anything or judge what you notice, just be open to it, listen to what your body is saying.

Now, continue to breathe and expand your awareness to your whole self – what are you feeling right now in mind, heart, body, breath. Breathe, deeply, fully, here for as long as you have available – be that 1 minute or 20.

Allow this spacious awareness to continue to take in sensations, thoughts, emotions as they arrive and as they leave, like waves onto the shore.

Yoga and Mindfulness
Yoga and Mindfulness Retreat in Andalucía

Pregnancy workshop this week

Join me for a pregnancy workshop in Peckham this Thursday introducing a toolkit of tips to help you release anxiety and soothe your body as you enter the next phase of your life.

Your Confident Mothermorphosis

This workshop uses techniques from Pilates and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to connect to your body and calm your mind and spirit, enhance your feelings of self-compassion and confidence in the journey ahead. Including a guided meditation and breathing techniques which will equip you well both for your birth experience and into early motherhood.

I’m a pre- and postnatal Pilates and wellness coach specialising in pelvic floor and diastasis recti. I’m also a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) teacher, weaving together body–mind work to help alleviate the mental health issues that motherhood and pregnancy can present, such as anxiety, self-doubt and overwhelm. My mission is to help mums feel stronger, happier and calmer.

My books include Pregnancy, The Naked Truth, The Supermum Myth: Overcome Anxiety, Ditch Guilt, Embrace Imperfection, and my latest book Pilates for Pregnancy.

Get in touch – are you pregnant, or a new mum? Do you suffer from anxiety or a constant feeling of not quite achieving enough? Are you feeling physical under par? I think I can help – you’re not alone x x

The Supermum Myth
Anya Hayes’s two books Pregnancy: The Naked Truth and The Supermum Myth
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Pregnancy and Postnatal mindfulness and core strength workshops

Pregnancy and Postnatal mindfulness and core strength workshops

I’m excited to be adding two monthly workshops to the schedule in the new year. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you’re in south London, come along!

For mums to be

Your Confident Mothermorphosis

A workshop introducing a toolkit of tips to help you release anxiety and soothe your body as you enter the next phase of your life. This workshop uses techniques from Pilates and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to connect to your body and calm your mind and spirit, enhance your feelings of self-compassion and confidence in the journey ahead. Including a guided meditation and breathing techniques which will equip you well both for your birth experience and into early motherhood.

For mums

Pelvic floor and core restore

Pilates for postnatal rehabilitation. This workshop focuses on breathing, alignment and pelvic floor awareness, releasing tension and finding your deep inner strength – suitable if you’re suffering from diastasis recti. Find out how to connect to your centre in your day to day activities rather than make time for “pelvic floor exercise”. Rebuild your foundations to feel more energised in your mothering day. We’ll finish with a short (baby-friendly) guided meditation to leave you relaxed and uplifted.
How do you feel about your pregnancy and early motherhood experience? I’d love to hear. Get in touch and tell me your story xxx
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My book Pilates for Pregnancy is available now
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The Supermum Myth Anya Hayes
The Supermum Myth
How to restore your pelvic floor, in less than 3 minutes a day

How to restore your pelvic floor, in less than 3 minutes a day

One of the things that new mums tell me almost more than than anything else, is that they wish they had fully understood how important pelvic floor health was, and they wish they had taken the time to focus on it a bit before baby came – as let’s face it, once baby is out and you need to do the work more than ever before, it’s when you have the least brain space to think about it.

Pelvic floor health should be something that we seamlessly coordinate into our day, like brushing our teeth. You no doubt dedicate at least 4 minutes of your day, every day, to your pearly whites. The idea of not doing that would be fairly grim for the long term. So, why is it so hard for us to factor in pelvic floor health if it could be within that time frame? It’s not a time issue, is it? It’s a human self-sabotage issue.

woman in grey pants holding black and purple stroller
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

For a start, pelvic floor health is intertwined with how you breathe, move, and carry yourself day to day. So, ultimately no amount of occasional hopeful squeezing will be effective if your body held in bad posture most of the time or if you’re not breathing consciously, as your pelvic floor works in a finely choreographed balance with your diaphragm and other abdominal muscles. It’s not really worth sitting and squeezing once or twice a month, but placing loads of pressure on your pelvic floor through your postural habits day to day and not addressing that. We need to be curious about our  bodies and take our strength and health into our own hands.

What you do and how you move day to day impacts so much more on your muscles than one hour in a fitness class a week or the occasional “pelvic floor exercise”.

Your pelvic floor health is crucial for your mental health into your old age. Incontinence brings with it issues of fear of exercise, embarrassment, depression. Prolapse can make you feel like an old woman, can cause discomfort and anxiety. But working your pelvic floor CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE to your pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms, and prevent incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse postnatally.

So first: think about your alignment, then breathing. THEN, connect.

It’s as easy as A, B, C. 

  • Stand or sit tall with your ribcage stacked above your pelvis: your heart centre balanced directly above your womb centre.
  • Breathe in through the nose, deeply, wide, full, low: imagine a “360” breath around all sides of your torso opening wide out through the ribs and down to your low belly. Allow your lower belly – and pelvic floor – to fully soften.
  • Sigh your breath out through the mouth as if you’re fogging a window in front of you.
  • Draw up into your back passage as if you’re trying to stop breaking wind, then pull the engagement forward and up. Hold for up to 10 seconds – no tension in your jaw, buttocks, inner thighs – then fully release with a deep wide breath in.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Then – sigh out, then lift up and pulse squeeze 10 times quickly. Then breathe in to release.
  • Do this 3 times a day.

So remember your A, B, Cs

Elaine Miller, also known as @Gussetgrippers, Women’s health physio and stand up comedian is spreading the hashtag  We won’t pee with 10 10 3.

10 lift and hold. 10 pulses. Three times a day.

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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Honestly that’s less than 3 minutes of your day. How can we sex it up to make it something you don’t continue to avoid?

I’d love to hear from you – get in touch and let me know your thoughts, I’m really keen to find ways to get women to engage with their pelvic floor health, so let me know what your barriers to focusing on it are. It’s boring? You’re not sure how to do it? You never remember? Let’s work on this together.

#wewontpeewith10103

 

Welcome to Motherhood

Welcome to Motherhood

I did a lovely live chat last night with Lauren, an inspiring author and motivational speaker, on her Facebook page This Girl is Enough. We talked about self care and wellness for mums – about how mums are so keen to put ourselves at the bottom of the care-for list, somewhere far below the neighbour’s dog.

The thing about looking after your mojo and wellbeing is that ultimately it benefits everyone around you. I know, quite simply, that I am a better person if I am calmer, if I’ve had some headspace, if I’ve done yoga or had a walk, gone for a swim. I feel triumphant when I prioritise my own wellbeing even if just for a morning stroll and don’t agonise over the things I “should” be doing instead. One of the things that Lauren quizzed me on when I talked about my meditation practice is “how do you manage to take 15 minutes to do that and not feel guilty?”…well, the honest answer is that the gain of that 15 minutes of breathing is way more powerful than the 15 minutes which might have been spent going through emails or checking something off on my to do list only to frantically remember that I have to put another 7 things onto it. And a refreshed spring in my step is nicer for my family to be around. I’m more patient… I have more empathy for my children’s huge emotions rather than feeling explosive and fractious in response. I’m more productive. I’m more energised. I’m … nicer.

Anya Hayes at a yoga and mindfulness retreat

This morning I taught my lovely group of Welcome to Motherhood mums, with their fourth trimester babies. We talked about Dr Oscar Serrallach’s brilliant The Postnatal Depletion Cure, and about just how much challenge physically being a new mum is. Yes, the rewards are high – you only have to hear that tinkle of a new baby’s laughter to struggle to feel like there is anything wrong in that moment – but the demands are huge.

I will be launching my new Motherhood Mojo Toolkit soon – drawing from my Pilates postnatal healing programme which I will be revealing in book form next year, I am creating a holistic mind–body programme which combines life coaching activities from The Supermum Myth plus elements from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), to help you feel like the calmer, more balanced less frazzled mum that you would really like to be. She’s in there. I’m going to help you find her.

Anya Hayes with her two children

Watch this space. How are you feeling today?

xxx

You can buy The Supermum Myth here

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World Mental Health Day – how are you?

World Mental Health Day – how are you?

It’s World Mental Health Day today. You wouldn’t feel ashamed to tell anyone you had sprained your ankle or had a sore throat. Yet we still layer our mental health with taboo and cultural patterns of secrecy and stiff upper lip.

woman carrying baby near grass
Photo by Creation Hill on Pexels.com

❇️According to figures from the World Health Organization – depression and anxiety are set to become the world’s 2nd biggest health burden by 2020. That’s basically now. A crisis matching heart disease for its effects on society. And yet, if we are allowed to begin to SEE our mental health in the way we’re encouraged to see our physical, perhaps we can help ourselves move away from this crisis by empowering ourselves and – crucially – noticing in others and coming from a place of support and understanding.

❇️ Everyone has physical health. Everyone has mental health. You might experience blips in each of these, throughout your life. And for each, it’s about learning the tools to keep them optimum in your day to day. It’s ok – normal – not to be ok all the time. It’s how you handle it long term that affects your mental health. You can control what you take on board in your mental challenges just as you can your physical. And you can aim to work on your mind as on your body. If you have an injury, go to phsyio. If you have a mental health crisis, find some way of counselling your way through to heal.

❇️ Lengthen your spine through Pilates, stretch your brain through mindfulness. A star jump here, a gratitude list there. Medicate and/or meditate. There should be no shame.

Happy world mental health day. How are you today? What do you do to maintain your mental health?

My essential mental health toolkit is:

❤️ Green space

❤️ Movement

❤️Meditation

❤️ Gratitude

❤️Being OK with not feeling OK all the time

❤️ Connection – seeking support rather than hibernating in hermit land (which is often what my mental health gremlin tells me to to do when feeling low).

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Look at some wonderful sources of wisdom, Emma @thepsychologymum, Suzy @suzyreading, Zoe @motherkind.co. You’re not alone ❤️

 

Brain gym – exercise to tone the brain

Brain gym – exercise to tone the brain

I’ve just had the great fortune to have been to a wonderful Mindfulness and Yoga retreat, where we had daily guided meditation and soothing yin yoga, to nourish body and mind. And I’m now at the beginning of an 8-week course in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) with the British Mindfulness Institute, so that I can weave in more mindfulness benefits to my Pilates teaching – and my life! I’ve found recently that I’ve allowed myself to become a bit weighed down by worry and stress. A Chinese Medicine-based treatment at my recent yoga retreat revealed to me that I was depleted generally and taking on too much worry about the world and my place in it. So, it’s divine timing it seems that I am starting this course now, to help me combat the effects of cumulative over-worry.

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It’s fascinating, truly fascinating, the tangible benefits of a regular mindfulness practice. Increasingly I think we need to look inward, not outward, in terms of validation and proof of our contentment. Not the stuff, the Pinterest-worthy house, the car…but how you feel day to day. Whether your mind is cluttered and jangly, or whether you genuinely experience a sense of calm and pervasive sense of peace. We’re human: “inner peace” will always be a recalibration day to day and there will always be stress in our lives, but it’s the overwhelming sense of balance and the response to stress that brings that sense of contentment rather than depleting angst, I think. And even just two weeks of practising mindfulness consciously every day has lent me a sense of space. increasing the space between stimulus and response.

We have to be kind to ourselves: as women, our mood will wax and wane with hormones and the moon, and this flux has to be taken into account. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts defines Mindfulness as: “The awareness that comes from paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.” It’s the “non-judgmentally” bit that resonates most with me. We are so hard on ourselves! There is no “getting meditation right”, there is simply giving it a try and placing it firmly within your regular daily toolkit. It could be meditation = breathing. Meditation = looking up at the sky for a moment. A snack, rather than a full 3-course meal.

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Here are some things I have discovered:

  1. Mindfulness improves focus, empathy, emotional control and increases happiness:

After 8 weeks of Mindfulness training researchers were able to show through brain scans there was an increase in activity in the area of the brain which has been identified as being key in attention, memory, emotional regulation and empathy for others (Holzel et al).

This is borne out by a study known as “The Waiting Room Study”. People who had attended an eight week Mindfulness training course were brought into a waiting room, along with an equal number of people who hadn’t attended Mindfulness training. A woman entered on crutches, a medical boot on one leg. She winced, sighed uncomfortably, and leaned against the wall because there were no free seats. The researchers found that 50 percent of people from the Mindfulness training group gave up their seat, whereas only 15 percent of the non-Mindfulness trained people did.

  1. Mindfulness increases generosity:

Neuroscientist Helen Weng took individuals with no prior Mindfulness training and offered them two weeks training. This experiment was conducted to determine whether this short training would result in an improvement in their abilities to become more compassionate towards themselves and others. The training was conducted over the internet and lasted approximately 30 minutes each day. Each participant was required to make responses over the 30 minutes and listen to what is known as ‘Loving Kindness’ Meditation. This form of meditation asks the participants to extend feelings of compassion towards a loved one, an acquaintance and someone with whom they have had difficulty.

Before and after the two week training, the participants had fMRI brain scans. While undergoing the scan they were shown a series of images depicting people in pain – a child crying and a burn victim. At the end of the two week training the participants were asked to play an online game to measure altruistic behaviour. The participants who underwent the training were twice as generous as those without training.

  1. Mindfulness improves mood and boosts immune system:

In a research study entitled ‘Alterations in Brain and Immune Function’ researchers studied participants who had undergone an 8 week programme of Mindfulness meditation. fMRI scans of brain activity were taken before and after the programme. At the end of the programme the participants were injected with a flu virus. From the fMRI images participants were shown to have significant increases in left-sided anterior activation (brain circuitry related to a positive mood). The participants also had a higher white blood cell count. The conclusion of this study was that after only 8 weeks of Mindfulness training, participants had more positive moods and a more positive immune system.

  1. Mindfulness in the Workplace:

Mindfulness has also proved extremely beneficial in workplace settings. A mindfulness-based programme offered to workers at Transport for London resulted in major changes to the level of health-related absenteeism. Days taken off due to stress, depression and anxiety fell by over 70% in the following three years. Course participants also reported significant improvements in their quality of life – 80% said their relationships had improved, 79% said they were more able to relax and 53% said they were happier in their jobs.

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Worth a try, right?

Have you got a mindfulness/meditation practice in place? Even if not a formal one – do you notice day to day how you’re feeling? Do you breathe, fully and deeply, as a way of consciously combatting stress? I’d love to know. Feel free to comment with your thoughts and experience! xxx

The Elastic Brain – benefits of meditation

The Elastic Brain – benefits of meditation

“Mummy I never change my mind. I always keep the same mind.” Maurice said this to me yesterday, when I suggested that he *might* change his mind about a sartorial decision.

It made me think about the elastic brain. Up until fairly recently we thought of our minds as “fixed”, set in place in our early years: our character traits, core beliefs, personality all shaped and moulded forever. Our bodies were seen as the only thing we could potentially “work on” and change the shape of.

It’s true that our core beliefs tend to feel fixed: developed in early childhood and through formative experiences, one-off comments that brand you deeply into your soul like livestock branded by a cattle prod, etched into your psyche, immovable like a chicken pox scar. An internal stone manifesto. “I’m not popular”, “I’m crap in social situations”, “I’m really bad with money”.

And this fixed belief can lead to lowness and depression when internal Criticism FM is turned up to full volume and ignores any other evidence around. You might start to dislike aspects of your personality and despair that you’ll “always be like this”. But recent research has shown that through cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness therapies you can “re-wire” your brain to improve everything from your mental wellbeing to your perception of your quality of life and how content you are.

It’s not just rethinking stuff – it’s re-experiencing things. Changing the way you see things: experiences help to require your brain and form new beliefs, over time. And, just like that 5am boot camp to get a toned bum and honed waist, it takes hard work – and is easy to shirk. It’s much easier to settle in on your stone manifesto and think “this is just the way I am”. It’s challenging not to believe every thought you think. But it’s worth it. Thoughts are not facts. The more you calm an anxious mind by disciplining the stream of automatic thoughts, the more positive you’ll feel overall.

Challenge your mental habits, and your behavioural habits. In the same way that Pilates encourages you to lengthen out of bad posture/ingrained habits which create tension and aches and pains – you can overturn mental aches and pains by gently overturning behaviours that aren’t serving you well.

A meditation practice is the first step in redrawing your mental patterns. By setting aside some time to focus on your breath, on organising your thoughts and letting them bubble up like when you open a sparkling water bottle – you are releasing your body out of fight or flight mode and into rest and repair. Even simply doing that has profound effects on the ability of your brain to access the more reasoned area, allowing for calmer responses to situations and events. Over time, the amygdala, the brain’s fight or flight pilot, actually appears to SHRINK over time with meditation practice. So you are much less likely to get yourself all tied up in knots as you’re already rewired to react slightly differently.

I’m loving the Calm app at the moment, it’s fab for enabling you to fit in bite-sized easy meditation pockets in a normally chaotic day. I’ve been trying it a lot during this half term – so if that’s not a litmus test I don’t know what is! But even taking a few moments to breathe deeply, soften your body and tune in, listen to your internal thoughts, is enough to kick start a soothing meditative habit.

My book The Supermum Myth, written with clinical psychologist Dr Rachel Andrew, offers lots of ways to begin to notice your internal dialogue, and plenty of activities to try and shift your perception, retread those paths in your brain creating new positive furrows. It takes practice and just because it sounds simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. As with any physical fitness programme, we need to stick with it – which human beings find quite tricky don’t we, we’re constantly on a quest to self-sabotage…. But committing to working on our inner peace – and knowing it’s alway a work in progress – is always going to reap benefits by making us happier and more balanced day to day, and crucially make us a nicer person to be around, so I reckon it’s worth a shot, right?

Do you currently have a meditation practice of any kind? Movement meditation, breathing, walking…? What is your go-to meditative habit? I’d love to know! xxx

Model Method Online: Week 1

Model Method Online: Week 1

Week 1 of the Model Method Online – tick!

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It’s amazing how even just a week of upping your exercise routine can start to make you feel like you’re changing and energising. This week I have worked out 5 times rather than the 6 I was assigned – I skipped two evenings because I was working, such is the freelance self-employed mum juggle – but I did go swimming too which was a bonus on top of the model method workouts. There’s a ripple effect – commit to a small amount and in time your vitality will ensure that you actually start doing a little more.

The workouts are a combination of HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training – basically bursts of sweaty powerful movement followed by periods of lower intensity Pilates mathwork and movement, and dynamic Pilates. My abs have been burning with each session – something I haven’t felt for a long time as I clearly simply don’t push myself very hard when working out on my own, and I haven’t been able to find a Pilates class near me that works in my life. As much as I adore yoga, I feel like it’s an entirely different workout experience to really feeling the burn in your muscles with Pilates. It reminds me of when I was 18 and as a diversion from A-level stress I found solace every evening in doing the Y-Plan workouts which are delightfully dated in appearance now (think bright and shiny blue and pink lycra high-legged leotards, nice…) . Short workouts (15-30 minutes), which make you feel like you’ve worked hard but haven’t involved much more time than it normally takes to faff around making a cup of tea while glassily scrolling on social media.

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I feel like my Pilates mojo is being fired up and I’m looking forward to each session, even though those sessions are generally having to be done after the boys’ bedtime, which is prime flopping time usually (pre-teaching or working in the evening) . If there’s a sense of accountability – i.e. you’ve signed up for a programme, or a future event such as a 10k, you really do have something else to be responsible for which means that you’re more likely to stick to it.

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In the next week I’m going to start to focus more on the Nourish part of the programme. This week I’ve been purely focusing on the exercise. It’s a well-known life coaching practice that change should be implemented in small steps: don’t try changing everything in one go as you’re only setting yourself up for failing. It’s also true that the self-saboteur may start to rear its ugly head…oh I’m too tired for exercise tonight….I can’t see a difference so I’m just going to quit….I don’t have time to do it this evening… But pushing through the difficult moments can mean that ultimately the habits you establish are going to be stronger and more long-lived. One of the motivational emails that Hollie sends out to participants this week said

“Do something today that your future self will be grateful for”

So it’s all about delaying gratification, to think ahead about why you are doing this. What is it that you want out of it? For me: to feel energised, to feel more positive have more vitality to deal with the general chaos of life with small children with a bit more grace and humour. And, I do want to whittle my waist and not feel so heavy.

So I decided to have a big push on the exercise side of things before even looking at my eating habits. And generally once you’re focusing on your movement, you naturally begin to seek more nourishing practices when it comes to your eating. For me: my eating habits revolve around eating mindlessly (hoovering up my children’s leftovers), and not planning effectively therefore not having the ingredients for the healthiest meals to hand. Step by step I’m creating change in my habits, and I’m hoping to set myself up for long-term vitality. Looking forward to seeing what Week 2 holds!

This programme is pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and challenging my ability to stick with something until it really is ingrained as a new, healthy, positive habit for life.

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 13 – Nicky Clinch

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 13 – Nicky Clinch

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Balance. Wholeness. Purpose. These are the three overarching themes which greet you when you visit Nicky Clinch’s website. Comforting words in themselves, which reflect her mission as a Transformational Life Coach, Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Chef. Her Instagram feed is full of inspiration and deliciousness for heart, body and mind.

She shares her wellness journey and tools with me here. Enjoy. Let me know what you think!

Tell me about yourself, what is the “day job”, and how did you come to do what you’re doing?

My official work title is Transformational Life Coach, Macrobiotic Counsellor & Chef.  Which I know is the longest work title in history and makes me giggle often!

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I am also a teacher, public speaker and a qualified Specialist Healing Cook, which means I am qualified to cook for people who are trying to naturally heal from illness.

So as you can imagine, my day job gets pretty versatile and certainly keeps things interesting.

In any given day I may be giving one-to-one Counseling/ Coaching Sessions, teaching one of my Being in Heart Workshops or my 6-week Feed Your Inner Warrior Programme.  Creating Recipes or writing, either for my website or for other brands. I now have an amazing team of 3 beautiful powerful ladies that work with me, and we are just starting to build some urban and international retreats, which I can’t wait to share with everyone soon.

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How did I come to do what I do?  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  When I look back on everything I realise I couldn’t have ended up doing anything else, I do what I do because I can’t NOT do it.  It is just what I am meant to do.

After about 15 years of recovery from my own drug and alcohol addiction and eating disorders, working hard to overcome some very destructive habits and patterns, I came to a crossroads in my life: my step-father died very suddenly.  Just one morning he didn’t wake up, and it broke my heart.  I came away from his funeral with a real sense of awareness that my life wasn’t permanent and could end at any moment.  I decided then and there I wanted to do something that really meant something to me, and started looking into going back to school to retrain as a healer in some form.  I ended up training at The International School of Macrobiotics to qualify as a Macrobiotic Chef, Counsellor and Coach.

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Since then I regularly continue my training and growth. I even flew myself off to Peru back in 2009 and spent 5 weeks working in the jungle with Plant Medicine, Ayahuasca and Shamans. I can never stop learning and growing in myself, and the more I do that the more I can help others.

Do you find that modern life is increasing people’s sense of disconnect with their bodies? Tell me about the 3 Pillars of your philosophy. 

Absolutely.  I think in this day of social media and phones, Facebook and iPads we are more and more disconnecting from our own bodies and living much more from our heads.  To connect with others through a screen is instant gratification, but energetically can really disengage the actual physical body and heart.

I mean we’ve all done it right?  Scrolled and scrolled for hours on our screens. There is nothing more eye-opening is there than putting the phones down and turning the screens off and just coming back to being in our own bodies.  Connecting: connecting to our own breath, our own feelings and needs, through our own conversations, our own hearts, through touch and actual person-to-person connection.

That is why I love to teach people my three pillars because they all bring you back into the body and to begin really ‘being’ with all that lies there.  In my experience the real transformative shifts can happen only once someone is really back home in their own body.  To feel and be, to breathe and be present, to reconnect to where the energy is stuck in the body or where it is flowing.

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My three pillars are simple, but not necessarily easy.

  1. Conscious Cooking – Introducing wholefood cooking back into your life. Not only reconnecting to natural seasonal produce which allows us to reconnect to nature and the environment we live in, but the cooking itself slows us down.  There is a difference between throwing a meal together and cooking.  To really cook can be simple, it doesn’t need to be cordon bleu, but it forces us to be back in our bodies and back in the moment.  To cut and prep veg, to stir a simmering pot, to create a nourishing meal which we will then feed ourselves with.  It slows us down back into our earth energy and our body and can be very grounding and nurturing.
  2. Relationship to Body & Movement – Moving the body regularly or daily. You’d be surprised how often we ‘exercise’ in a way that we use it to disengage our body.  Trust me I did it for years in my eating disorder days.  Running on the treadmill for hours so that I didn’t have to feel anything.  What I’m talking about in this pillar is to spend time each day to be present in our own body, to move it, stretch it, be connecting to our breath.  To be in relationship with our own body so that we are not strangers to each other.
  3. Emotional & Spiritual Wellbeing – This one for some reason tends to get missed out the most, and yet to me seems to be one of the most important. But it is our emotional wellbeing and spiritual wellbeing that tends to dictate everything else. If we are bypassing this part we are disengaging from ourselves.  But if we can really allow ourselves to feel again, to be present and available for our emotional needs and spiritual callings, then we can really begin to feel much more empowered in this relationship we have with ourselves and begin to feel much more peaceful and joyful in our lives.  What’s the point in being physically healthy if we are full of anxiety all day underneath, right?


What are your own non-negotiable tools within your personal mental health/vitality toolkit?

Since becoming a mamma things that used to be non-negotiable for me have now had to become more flexible!  Any mother reading this will understand that!

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What is non-negotiable is this constant inner dialogue and check in I have with myself each day to stay connected to where I really am and what I may be needing.  Each day may be different: some days I may need to get up early and meditate, do yoga, journal, other days I may really need to negotiate a lie-in with my hubby.

Regular tools I always ALWAYS come back to and are touchstones for me are cooking something nourishing, getting on my yoga mat or moving my body, journaling, meditation and sharing my heart honestly with someone I trust (friend or hubby).

The biggie: How do you balance work/life/motherhood and family? 

The honest answer is each day is really different and there is NO perfect answer to this.  There is a piece of advice that I was given when I went back to work as a mother that really helped me:

“The more you really own who you truly are Nicky and the more you take care of yourself, the better example you are setting for you daughter”  
I was told this when I went back to work and I was racked with ‘mothers-guilt’ for not only going back to work but actually LOVING my work.  I kept feeling guilty whenever I needed to take time to take care of myself or whenever I got excited about starting a new project that inspired me.  When I was told this advice I finally relaxed.  I surrendered to the fact that I personally am a woman that both loves my work and loves my daughter.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Owning who I am, taking good care of myself gives me the opportunity to teach my daughter how to also be a girl/woman who follows her heart and takes care of her needs.

And so the balance of work/life/motherhood changes each day depending on what needs to most attention.  One rule is when I’m with my daughter I try to be fully available with her and not half in my work, and when I’m working I try to be fully available with that too.

And when I need to take a bit of time to take care of myself I actually explain it to my daughter telling her why and that it’s important to me, and she understands.  One thing I do want to say though is I couldn’t do any of this without the support and care of my amazing husband who is a great father and is always supportive to hold the fort if I have to work long hours.

To connect more with Nicky, head over to her website www.nickyclinch.com or enroll for one of her amazing transformational workshops:

Being In Heart is taking place Friday 15th September and her next Feed Your Inner Warrior 6 Wk Program starts Thursday 14th September.  Click here for more info.

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How to create space and unclutter the mind

How to create space and unclutter the mind

One of the things we most crave as mums – as modern humans – is space.

When I chatted with the lovely Zoe from @motherkind_zoe for her podcast I said if I could give mums any gift in the world it would be the gift of ✨ space ✨.
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❇️ Physical space – solo trip to the toilet, when you’re feeling too much of the touchy feelies?
❇️Headspace – distance from the bubbling over capacity cup of work to do lists, parents evening reminders, immunisation appointments, sleep deprivation.
❇️ Breathing space – a regular gentle reminder just to breathe: slowly deeply fully consciously ❤️ .
❇️ Space to find the clarity to love our children truly madly deeply ❤️.

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This picture is of me on the final day of @ibizaretreats yoga retreat that I went on for my 40th birthday. Freddie was 15 months old and I hadn’t slept longer than 2 hours for 15 months 😬😱. I had 3 nights of B L I S S F U L sleep, yoga, stillness, time with my best friend. Oh my. For me, this 👆🏼 is the epitome of how I feel when I have space. Rested. Calm. Capable. Joyful. Resilient.

We’re always available on our phones. Constantly bombarded with bad news, opinions and rants on Twitter. Occasionally questioning whether our living room will ever be stylish or tidy enough judging by Instagram.

When you can rarely even go to the loo alone, suddenly there seems like there’s no avenue of your life that isn’t road blocked by your child’s need, want, whim.
When you start to feel like these blockages are making you bubble up with resentment and frustration – coming out in heightened anxiety, anger, worry, frustration, sadness, it’s time to press pause. Build SPACE into your regular habits, and you should begin to see that you don’t meet those road blocks quite so often.

How do I create space within the PJ Masks and the Lego Ninjago and requests for snacks? Three ways:

1. BREATHE. Fundamental to creating space is literally allowing there to be space within your body. Often we collapse our lungs and slump in defeat without really noticing. Begin to notice and honour your physical state by properly, fully, truly, consciously and mindfully breathing every day. Any breathing technique will do – simply pause and take 5 deep breaths. One of my favourites, which can be whipped out as a tool in emergencies such as at soft play: Breathe in through your nose for a count of 7. Breathe out through your mouth for a count of 9. Repeat 4 times. Space.

2. A little bit more time to spare? MEDITATE. Meditation seems complex. We might try it and think, er…is that it?? Nothing happened!? Or, too much happens and your mind goes into overdrive – But my mind is chattering, clearly I can’t mediate I won’t try again. But the chattering is the process. It’s like shaking a dusty rug out. No shaking, no dust ever releases. The dust is the process, you have to let it go and give it space to release, and with it you’ll find clarity and be able to organise your thoughts and find patterns and resolutions more easily. Meditation can be simply 1 minute in the morning of focusing on your breath. If you have more time, great. But 1 minute is a good start. We all have 1 minute, don’t we…? Meditation allows you clarity, serenity, when developed into a longer term habit it’s even proven to have a positive effect on your immune system, your resilience, lessens anxiety and helps with decision making. It’s a gift for the modern world. Try it. And then try it again. Keep trying it!

Breathe. Once you are settled into your breath, mindfully scan your body for tension. Soften. On your in-breath, silently say the word SO. On your out breath, say the word HUM. Repeat. So….Hum…..So….Hum…..if your attention drifts, this is only human – you are not “bad at meditating”. Simply return to the mantra, So….Hum…So….Hum.

You should emerge from your meditation after a few minutes feeling still and calm, able to take this space into your daily activities.

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3. DISTANCE – lastly and when you can properly carve out time for mama self-care: give yourself some space by creating distance between yourself and your home, your commitments, your children. Escape to a yoga class on a Sunday morning. Go swimming on a Wednesday evening. Walk in the park early morning before work. Whatever it takes, whenever you can, commit to it weekly and you will begin to see an easing in the bottlenecks of tension and stress that can build up when there is no space.

Try it – give yourself permission to find space. Let me know how it goes – did you feel a difference? Did you notice any inner peace making itself quietly felt? I’d love to hear in the comments below how you find space within the chaos xxx