Rebirth post-caesarean

Rebirth post-caesarean

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This month is Caesarean awareness month.

First time round, I had that blissful naivety that as long as you “planned” your birth, in the organised and methodical manner that you planned other stuff in your life, and you were “relaxed enough”, everything would be great. I hadn’t yet learnt the very fundamental motherhood lesson that, from the moment you see those lines on the pregnancy test, this is a ride on the rapids. You can research everything about rapids riding before you get in that canoe, but essentially most of the time you’ll just have to cling on and get swept along. My first birth was my first, indelible, lesson in this fact.

I wanted a “beautiful”, calm birth, where the baby arrived when it chose to, emerging with a hearty wail as it took its first breath and was delivered straight to mummy’s breast. Doesn’t everyone…? While we’re fantasising, it would have been great to have looked instagrammably radiant to pose for pictures afterwards too…

My reality was slightly different. Maurice didn’t seem to want to come out, he was quite happy slumbering inside…it turned out my placenta was failing and he wasn’t thriving, so probably simply didn’t have the oomph to try to push and squiggle his way out.

Induction at nearly 42 weeks preggers was followed by a 2-day labour, and Maurice’s heartrate slowed dangerously – a sound that is imprinted in my soul. Nothing in my mental preparation had imagined my birthing room being suddenly rushed by medical staff with such a sense of urgency, being sped down a corridor on a trolley so that you can be prepped for surgery and have your baby pulled out within 15 minutes of the call being made. He wasn’t breathing when he was born, and the following minutes of waiting to see how the dice rolled remain pretty much the worst of my life.

He was very tiny due to my grumpy placenta’s failure – everyone thought he was a premmie at a scrawny 5lb 12. I was also very ill, and couldn’t touch him for the first 8 hours of his life, which meant that his first days were fraught and filled with fear and tears which set the tone for our breastfeeding journey and first challenging months.

Hello, ripeness for PND and PTSD anyone?

Quite apart from the physical, there is a huge mountain of emotional issues that confront you after a caesarean, particularly if it’s been an emergency and you maybe hadn’t allowed yourself to contemplate it as an option prior to the event – a c-section would be a cop out, a failure, right? We set our expectations on each other and ourselves unbearably high throughout this birth and motherhood party.

I talked to many caesarean mamas in the aftermath and there was a common theme, that with emergency C-sections particularly, you have a sense that, although you have a baby, you didn’t actually give birth to him. Like your body has let you down completely, and that you’re a bit of a failure, you didn’t do it “right”. Particularly if you allow yourself to feel jealous/envious of other friends who can recount “perfect” birth stories involving steady progression and dilation, birth pools and no drugs (albeit also a lot of screaming, swearing and threatening to jump out the window no doubt…), where the natural order is preserved and things are as they should be.

For me, my frightening and shocking caesarean birth laid the foundations for the spectrum of PND and PTSD which influenced and framed the early months/year of motherhood. Heightened anxiety, painful feelings of bitterness and anger when hearing of better birth experiences, that everything was a barb intended towards me and my failure to get any of this right. Feeling like suddenly I had been stripped of a protective top layer and was exposed and sensitive to anything thrown at me. Thrown in with an unhappy (similarly traumatised?) colicky baby who cried all the time and didn’t sleep at all like “newborns are supposed to”, there are potential dangers of feeling more than a little bit of the “baby blues” in this time.

The wound heals and the scars eventually fade: it’s the emotional healing that is the challenge in the long term. This kind of experience tends to be locked down into your fibres and lead to physical aches and tensions even if you no longer acknowledge it as a current influence. If not addressed, it gets packed down under many layers, but distantly, constantly remembered in your muscular and emotional tissue. That pain in your neck, the dull ache you have in your pelvis.

If you’ve had a difficult birth experience, you can be left thinking, “I wish I’d done this instead”, and this can lead to ruminating over the same parts of the birth that you are unhappy with. “I wish I’d said this…”, “I could have done more”, “I could have tried harder”. Underneath these thoughts can be the core belief, “I’m weak”. It can be helpful to think about the birth in a different way. Were there times during the birth when you showed warrior strength, no matter how small? Some women describe trying to move or speak (even if they couldn’t due to medication) or trying to control their own minds – by taking it out of the situation, shifting their focus or telling themselves, “It’ll be over soon.”

Accepting the birth story that you had is essential, and reconciling yourself to the way it turned out, not comparing it to other “better” experiences, and embracing it as a legitimate birth as any other. Letting go of any fear, anger and disappointment that might have unfurled from the experience, and living in the present, the success.

I personally decided to take it day by day, practise mindfulness, offer myself time to breathe regularly (as much as having children allows that…), to try and soothe the emotional wound as the physical was also gradually healing. It’s often only in retrospect that you fully understand the depth of an experience and can appreciate how much of a warrior you were to get through it all.

I powerfully believe in the remedial magic of Pilates – for strengthening after abdominal surgery it’s unrivalled but particularly post caesarean. But not to be underestimated is the emotional power of reconnecting to your body through movement and breathing, and rediscovering a faith in it which may have been lost.

The Supermum Myth is out now.

You can buy a copy of my book Pregnancy: the Naked Truth here

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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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Keeping mum mighty – the importance of self care

Keeping mum mighty – the importance of self care

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There are some wonderful things going on on social media to champion the cause of self-care, encouraging us all to take a bit of ownership of our lives and not let ourselves be buried underneath piles of laundry and self-imposed internal negative stress.

I’ve been an avid listener to the Supermum Podcast, Mindset Tips for Busy Mums, since discovering it a couple of weeks ago when i started my Route 66 journey of 66 days to create positive habits. (ahem, how’s that going by the way? I haven’t blogged about it every day but it’s been gently there powering away on the back burner. How are your habits going?)

And on Instagram i’ve connected with Sara from Keeping Mum Mighty, a wellbeing blog aimed at mums, showing them how to navigate nappies and meltdowns with calm and positivity. I’ll be contributing to her blog in the future, and as part of that she asked me to answer a few questions for her about the importance of self-care and what it means to me. Here are my answers! let me know if any of it resonates with you.

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In your opinion, why is it important to Keep Mum Mighty?

Because our life is how we feel today, not how we want to or think we’ll feel tomorrow. We scramble through some days as mums kind of wishing our lives away, waiting for bedtime, waiting for a moment when we feel calmer, when things are smoother, when we have our shit together, when we’ll be a better mum. And actually, that’s a perpetual displacement of living life: postponing to a future fictional time where we’re suddenly Topsy and Tim’s inanely positive mum all the time. We only have today, yet we sometimes live our lives as if watching through mottled glass, rather than actively taking part: on survival mode, just getting through the day.

So taking small steps to create that better life, mindfully, through living your intentions, simply makes you enjoy calm within the craziness a bit more. Our children don’t want stressed shouty mama, and she is more likely to be present when her tether is pulled away. We are human, we will be shouty and stressed, but if we notice and develop strategies for dealing with this natural normal human behaviour we can catch it before it spirals into self-criticism and feelings of failure. We can live with our behaviours without clinging on to the negative responses that we develop about them. And in turn, this will make sure that the “negative” behaviours may start to visit us less often, and we’re more like to be on an even keel more of the time. Win not just for us, but for our kids too.

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We’re always modelling behaviour for our children at heightened moments possibly more than at any other. So by developing strategies to deal with what craziness life inevitably throws at us with a bit more awareness, grace and poise (occasionally) will be a great learning tool for them to carry through as well.

Your identity is pulled and stretched and reshaped when you become a mum. Sometimes you don’t recognise yourself in your reactions, your emotions after having children. Keeping Mum Mighty is essential as a way of maintaining that connection to yourself, to who you are, to how you are. Being able to ride the stormy weather with slightly more grace and humour. For your and your children’s sake, not for perfection’s sake.

Have you always been good at prioritising self-care? If not, was there a trigger?

I have possibly always had an awareness of nurturing self. I’m basically a hippie: yoga, peace and love and transcendental meditation, man, and I probably am most at home in a hammock in Thailand. I have an inherent tendency towards Buddhism: this too shall pass. I used to tell myself before exams etc that “this will be over, tomorrow is a new day”. I’m naturally empathetic and very (arguably too) sensitive. All of those traits are very positive and nurturing but can also mean hyper alert, hyper self-critical, painfully self-aware/conscious. So it took a while to throw a more caring spotlight to myself fully.

I experienced a seismic bereavement when I was in my late 20s, my best friend died suddenly. And that absolutely gave me the insight that life is precious and brief, and that you need to try and foster and notice moments of pure happiness when they arise, because ultimately all we have in life is moments: dark and light, yin and yang, in balance. And full appreciation of good moments is like creating a big lifeboat of resilience for when the waters are more choppy.

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A happy life is not necessarily a life that doesn’t experience low points. That is unrealistic. It’s how you deal with these low points which characterises whether or not you’re “happy”.

Since having children, it’s been a harder journey of prioritising. I had a traumatic birth, and then a few miscarriages, one of which was very traumatic. I was in “keep calm and carry on” mode and didn’t offer myself any respite – I am self-employed which I think sometimes doesn’t help with the self-care prioritising though, when work tends to have to usurp self-care in moments of non-parenting duty. But after this particular miscarriage experience I was anaemic, depleted in body and spirit, and severely run down.

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I continued to teach pregnancy Pilates classes which, looking back, was the purest form of self-flagellation. I ignored my body’s whispers of suffering, then shouts. I got a shoulder injury. Then a knee injury. I had a persistent cold which just got worse rather than better. And I finally dragged myself to the doctor where I was promptly told I was suffering the worst ear, chest and throat infection she had ever seen, and given industrial strength painkillers. She suggested that she wasn’t sure how I’d even got myself to the surgery that day. My immediate thought even then was that I was supposed to be covering a whole load of Pilates classes that week for some other teachers and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to cancel and let them down. I felt that being clearly sick wasn’t a “legitimate excuse”, and worried that people would be upset with me.

That was a big red flag for me that I had (necessarily) been striving to create an income for myself but without an adequate support structure for what I was taking on, and without listening to my body when it was unhappy.

It made me realise that, occasionally, something has to give and THAT IS OK. Sometimes you have to ask for an extension of a deadline, you have to say that you won’t be able to help someone, you have to admit that you need more time. That you are vulnerable. It’s not a sign of failure.

So now, I recognise immediately when I am getting to the point where I have reached full mental and physical capacity. I notice when anger starts to visit me more frequently. When I start to let a negative thought loop twirl around with gusto in my head. I see when I’m beginning to feel shattered, when my reactions to my boys are heightened with frustration and without gentleness. And I give myself a bit more of a break about it. I hate cancelling classes, but I have learnt that to cancel one class due to feeling under the weather is much better than soldiering on and then having to cancel two the week after. I feel like I hit a kind of Amber WATCH OUT phase, and rather than allow myself to run towards RED without noticing it, I am able to pull back, tell my husband that I’m feeling too stretched, articulate what it might be that is pushing the accelerator towards depletion and see what steps can be taken to slow it down.

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What are your top 3 go-to self-care essentials and how do you fit them into your busy life as a mum?

Without doubt for me the Number 1 is movement: when I’m rolling towards the Amber warning sign, one of the first things I notice is that I haven’t made even 3 minutes to do any Pilates over the course of the previous few days. I ALWAYS do at least 5 minutes of Pilates a day. It doesn’t have to be a full class. Just daily snacks to check in with body and mind. And inherently Pilates is inextricably linked to my number 2 which is: breathing. Taking full, mindful, deep breaths. I can see it with my clients that they arrive slightly burnt out and stressed but they leave rejuvenated and energised yet softened. That is the effect of movement and breath. It’s a non-negotiable.

My number 3 is SPACE. So whether that’s getting out to my Sunday morning yoga class which I try to diarise (although writing I have actually missed the last 4 weeks because life gets in the way sometimes), getting some green therapy with a run (•when I say “run”, I wish I was a runner but often I am just a brisk walker. I’m working on it…) in the park or by the river. Or if you can’t actually escape the house, taking time to have a hot bath when the kids are either not there or are in bed. No phone. SPACE. Creating some mental and physical space. I have recently been dipping my toe into meditation, and for me that is about creating the mental space, allowing feelings to be, to release or assimilate rather than linger and fester.

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If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your pregnant or new mum-self?

…..Oooph. So much. But mainly, in a nutshell: be kind to yourself. You’re doing ok. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you’re being judged. Be kind to yourself.

 

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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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 – 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

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 6 – Nicky Duffell

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 6 – Nicky Duffell

Nicky Duffell is one of my favourite Instagram wellness accounts: so uplifting, calming and aesthetically beautiful. Her blog is even more inspirational – I could spend hours browsing there if given the luxury, so I was really excited when she said she would take part in my series and to hear more about her various strands of work.

1. Tell me about yourself! Tell me more about your job(s), how long you’ve been doing what you do. 

I’m a registered nutritional therapist. I qualified in 2009 and in 2015 I set up my business Nicky for Life. I specialise in looking after Mums. There’s so much emphasis on our little ones (as there should be!) and I encourage Mums to look after themselves so they have the energy and wellbeing to look after their little people and to deal with life in general.


2. Do you find that people are more keen to nurture their souls, more aware of their physical and mental needs nowadays and understanding of modern life’s potential effects on health and vitality?

I think there’s a huge emphasis on health and wellbeing. Social media has definitely impacted and it’s changed a lot since I qualified in 2009. I think Mums put so much pressure on themselves to be the perfect Mum, work, run the house that they can actually forget to look after themselves and their health can impact. Mummy guilt comes in there too.


I think the impact social media has had on health is great. But there’s a downside as there’s so much misleading information out there now. I always say, trust yourself, find what works for you and your own body as we’re all so different. And be careful about what you read in the media!

3. What are your personal physical and mental health non-negotiable tools in your own toolkit?

Yoga is my number one non-negotiable. I have a session with my wonderful teacher Shelley Bloom every week and I do that without fail. The other things in my toolkit are meditation, acupuncture, Alexander lessons and homeopathy. I’m also a big believer in having fun, so going out with friends, having date night and doing something that brings you joy, no matter how big or small – a couple of my things are enjoying some chocolate and buying some beautiful fresh flowers.


6. How do you balance work, motherhood and life?

This one is always tricky, for anyone, myself included. I make sure I set clear boundaries. I don’t over commit myself. I say no when I need to. And I listen to my body, if I’m starting to feel tired and run down, I rest. The other thing I try to do is have some me time, I’m the kind of person that needs my own space every now and then.


And I want to say that it’s OK to be you sometimes. Not Mummy, wife/partner, work colleague or any other hat we wear, just to be you. I think you can sometimes get a bit lost in motherhood and it’s good to find yourself again.

8. What are your favourite things/wellness tools and  strategies? Instagram accounts that you follow?

Here are a few of my favourite things:

Favourite breakfast: a smoothie, I love a smoothie!

Favourite time of day: coming home to my kids after a day at work

Favourite book: so many to choose from but I love ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo.

Favourite place: home

Favourite instagram accounts: @theyesmummum @jigsawnutrition @drjessamy (a lot of love for these ladies)

Favourite food: I think I have to say chocolate. Food should be enjoyed, there’s a good balance to be had in eating well and enjoying the things you love (health is so much more than food).

Favourite quote: She believed she could, so she did

Favourite word: balance


I’m so passionate about women looking after themselves. I’d love anyone to get in touch and say Hi. I love to chat and meet new people, so if you have anything you want to talk about you can find me in Instagram @nicky_duffell (my favourite place to be) and Facebook but feel free to drop me an email too nicky@nickyforlife.com.


And if you need any inspiration, have a read of my Strong Women series on my blog. I interviewed 5 amazing women about their journeys in motherhood and through adversity. And I also shared my story, warts and all.

Wake up Mama! – Energy Boosters

Wake up Mama! – Energy Boosters

Happy Bank Holiday! Remember May bank holidays before children? Usually involved lots of sunny Sunday drinking in beer gardens, languidly cutting loose in an act of sheer abandon as there was no alarm clock to wake you up the next day. Yep. No more. This morning I had a 5am starter – although, framing it positively, he has only just started sleeping through aged 2 so I’ll take 5am over all-night boob any day.

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I’m feeling slightly less than my best this morning. A bit crumpled in face and body. So I’ve got a few tips for instant vitality that I’m going to do myself…once I’ve finished my coffee…

  1. Dry body brushing – brush all areas, always brushing in towards the heart. Be gentle around your belly and chest, but with gusto everywhere else. Makes your skin sparkle, boost circulation, turns you from ploddy elephant to sprightly gazelle. Be gone, befuddledness.
  2. A burst of cold in the shower – sounds hideous but this one really absolutely truly works. In the shower, take a deep breath and turn the water on to cold, freezing is best but try as cold as you can. Enough to make you go WAAHH! Stay under the water for 30 seconds at least. Then back to warm. It stimulates lymphatic drainage which can become sluggish through lack of movement,  and wakes you up in an instant which weirdly makes you feel really positive. Try it.
  3. Tapping the crown of your head, and massaging the earlobes. Tap tap tap, either drumming your fingers or tapping all together. Then massage all around your ears. Wonderful wake up and energy boost – and this one you can do anywhere, in the office, on the street, at soft play…

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The best antidote for lack of energy is breathing and movement. The idea of “doing exercise” when you’re feeling low on energy reserves is always an unappealing one. 

Small snacks of Pilates never fails to revitalise me. Literally 1 minute or even 30 seconds. It seems counterintuitive, but, if you’re feeling tired, moving your body to massage the internal organs, get the blood flowing and stretch the limbs will always give you a boost. Obv if you are actually feeling under the weather, listen to your body and give yourself some rest and TLC, but if it’s simply tiredness and weariness (hello 5am wake up call), the body and mind will respond better to movement than sloth – plus you get to congratulate yourself for getting up and doing something, which is a great feeling in itself.

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Humans were built for movement, not to be atrophied and tensed by hunching over desks or sitting in cars. But as an adult the idea of “exercise” becomes infused with ideas of work, chore, slog, prefaced with shouty goals such as “LOSE WEIGHT” and “DESTRESS”  – something that you “should” do rather than seamlessly do without thinking, as part of your daily routine.

I found a great titbit in a book called The Source that I worked on as an editor.  Research showed that if you put a running wheel in a mouse’s cage, mousey would run 4 to 5 km a night, and eventually become a better problem solver than its neighbour with no wheel. I love this image for many reasons, not least wondering what mouse problems there might be that needed to be solved.

Movement creates vitality, giving you a physical boost, and also a mental one.

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Leafing again through Joe Pilates’s book Return To Life, he notes “All in all, we do not give our bodies the care that our wellbeing deserves”. Given that this was written in 1945, it shows that us humans haven’t really got any better at this, generations on. He points out this notion by saying that if you just do 5 minutes of movement if you’re feeling tired, you may well feel that at the end of the 5 minutes you crave carrying on, and thereby retraining yourself on a molecular level to become a vital being again. You begin, Mr Pilates says, to reawaken muscles by encouraging more oxygen and blood flow, and therefore also reawaken brain cells, and your whole being is benefitted.

To quote him directly (I love his style, but there aren’t many commas, so take a deep breath…): “Make up your mind that you will perform your [Pilates] exercise for ten minutes every day without fail. Amazingly enough, once you travel on your Pilates ‘Road to Health’ you will subconsciously lengthen your trips on it from ten to twenty or more minutes without even realising it. Why? The answer is simple: the exercises have stirred your sluggish circulation into action and to performing its duty more effectively in the matter of discharging through the bloodstream the accumulation of fatigue-products created by muscles and mental activities. Your brain clears and your will power functions”. So, in a nutshell, movement begets more movement, and a positive glow.

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So, if you’re sitting down now, stand up and walk around for a bit, allow your thigh muscles to lengthen, stretch the arms back behind you to open the chest. No self-respecting cat or dog would get up without a good old stretch. 

Roll down through the spine to bring your head below your heart and allow your blood to rejuvenate and give you a healthy rosy flush. Jump and jiggle about. Release the shoulders into your back and realign the neck with the spine, eye focus forward.

Breathe, deeply and fully, and sigh the breath out through the mouth. Really breathe and return to life.

I’d love to hear your energy-boosting tips for those sluggish days. Comment below or DM me! x

My book, The Supermum Myth, is available for preorder now.

Pregnancy: the Naked Truth, is out now!

Series: What’s in your toolkit? 4 – Suzy Reading: Part 1

Series: What’s in your toolkit? 4 – Suzy Reading: Part 1

I first connected with Suzy on Instagram last year, when I sensed a kindred spirit in her posts, an understanding of the relentless pressure of modern motherhood and life, and a tendency of all of us to slip down our own lists of priorities while we juggle the day to day. Suzy’s instagram feed is always a shining inspiration to look for nuggets of positivity even in those inevitable days where you struggle to find the light in the shadows. Suzy had so much amazing stuff to say that I’ll be adding a second part to her blog later in the series.

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  1. Tell me about yourself! Tell me more about your day job, how long you’ve been doing it, how you came to be in the field you’re in.

I’m a mummy of two, a psychologist specialising in wellbeing and facilitating sustainable healthy lifestyle change, a yoga teacher, and writer. I’ve always been passionate about health and helping my clients nurture themselves head, heart and body, but it was my life experience of motherhood colliding with my father’s terminal illness seven years ago that brought the disparate threads of my training (psychology, yoga and fitness) into one coherent offering – empowering people with the tools of self-care.

After witnessing my father’s breathing failure, a week of ‘last goodbyes’, the act of giving birth floored me and I began life as a mother at energetic rock bottom. I don’t know if it was PND, grief or just plain exhaustion and I don’t think it really matters. At the end of the day I’m human and I really struggled in the face of some traumatic times. I worked with an amazing PND counsellor who introduced me to the concept of self-care and it led me to my calling, the work I’m doing now – the silver lining to my suffering.

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I love that my career is still evolving with my life experiences. As a result I work with birth trauma, PND, helping people navigate the transition to parenthood, grief, loss, stress and coping with change. I also relish working with people who want to use self-care as a means of becoming the person they aspire to be.

Most of my work is one on one, but in the last few years I’ve branched out to offering workshops and corporate speaking on mental health and wellbeing. I’ve made my home in the gym environment, yoga studios, ‘walk & talk’ sessions on Manly beach and now in the woods of Hertfordshire, consulting rooms, auditoriums, schools and the corporate arena. Right now there is a real interest in promoting mental health and I love that I can bring my whole toolkit to the table – mind and body, because there really isn’t any separation between the two.

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  1. Why/when did you become a yoga teacher alongside being a psychologist?

I began my professional life working as a personal trainer in London. An eight week holiday to visit family in the UK from Sydney accidentally turned into a longer stint and I fell back into the work I was doing while I was at university. I first discovered yoga while I was training as a figure skater and working in the gym environment, teaching every kind of exercise class under the sun, I was drawn to teaching yoga. I took my teacher training qualifications and soon found that yoga was a wonderful bridge between the mind and body and I loved that this allowed me to work with my client’s emotional, energetic and mental health without leaving the gym… therapy by stealth!

I prescribe some kind of yoga for all my clients because of its therapeutic power and its ability to help us breathe better. Honestly, breathe better and you’ll feel better and it can be as simple as one pose a day.

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3. Tell me more about being a Neom ambassador. What are your top Neom products for wellness and self-care?

I adore working with Neom and love that they’re genuinely passionate about empowering people with little steps that make a big difference.

Neom products have a huge impact on my wellbeing and I incorporate them into rituals of nourishment dotted through my day. I use them as an affirmation of self-worth and like to pair different scents with different mantras, channeling a particular energetic effect. My favourites are the room sprays, candles, body scrub, shower oil, hand creams and pillow spray. You can use their scent discovery kit to find your tonic – for me it’s energy boosting and promoting sleep. Self-care in an instant!

  1. You are a shining champion for self-care and the importance of prioritising your own mental health. Recently there has been a lot more light shone on perinatal mental health, getting people really involved sharing their stories and chatting about these important issues over social media. Do you find that people are more aware of their mental health nowadays and keen to nurture it?

I learnt the hard way what happens when we stop nourishing ourselves and that experience of energetic bankruptcy taught me some big lessons. If I don’t care for myself, I’m pretty rubbish at nurturing those in my care. I want everyone to have access to those same tools because life is hard! No one is immune! Parenting is challenging. We all lose people we love. Work demands can push us to our limits. There’s no avoiding being tested by life, so the solution is to lovingly tend to our energy bank balance so we are best placed to cope.

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

I’ve developed a framework of self-care which I call the Vitality Wheel – it is based on research from positive psychology, health psychology, mindfulness, CBT, acceptance and commitment therapy, the yoga tradition and my experience as a personal trainer. I categorise self-care into eight different ways we can nourish ourselves – eight spokes of the wheel if you like. These are:

  1. Sleep, Rest, Relaxation and Breathing
  2. Movement and Nutrition
  3. Stress Management and Coping Skills
  4. Your Physical Environment
  5. Social Connections
  6. Mood Boosters
  7. Goals and Accomplishments
  8. Values and Purpose

These categories help me to think about self-care more holistically, so that I am nurturing myself mentally, emotionally, energetically as well as physically. When I need a boost I turn to the Vitality Wheel and consider which strategies are most accessible and resonant in that moment.

What works for me and most people, is aiming for micro moments of nourishment and these are my go to’s:

  • the skills of savouring, gratitude, kindness and compassion
  • immersing myself in Nature or anything I find awe-inspiring
  • I love a mantra for anchoring my mind and cultivating an intention
  • focusing on the sensations of my breathing and using mudras (hand gestures) to work with my breath
  • prioritising soothing activities and watching my levels of stimulation like a hawk. My nervous system needs TLC – so a careful visual diet, one coffee savoured per day, and the occasional few glasses of wine.
  • intrinsically joyful movement is vital for my mood – after years of working in a gym I prefer walking and jogging in Nature’s beauty, rolling out my yoga mat at home or dancing up a storm to Ed Sheeran with the kiddliwinks. There’s always a way to squeeze movement in there.

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  1. How do you balance kids and work? 

Sometimes things need to be car parked – it’s just not possible to do everything all at once. I took about a year out with Charlotte because we had so much going on with my father’s illness. With Ted I was back coaching and teaching after eight weeks but with a greatly reduced schedule – it was very limited because he wouldn’t take a bottle. It’s about getting creative too and doing things differently. I made the most out of every second of Teddy’s nap time and wrote my book while he slept. That was my way of making progress on the career front while still being available for him.

I sometimes wish I had an employed role to go back to. Being self-employed and building your own business is like a baby in itself so I have struggled energetically trying to keep all the balls in the air. The flipside to the challenges of being my own boss is that my career is adaptable – I offered Skype coaching after the kids were in bed rather than face to face sessions, or taught workshops on the weekend when my hubby could look after the kids. It is such a juggling act and compromise is essential. Sometimes I still feel like I’m not doing anything particularly well, but you’ve got to be realistic with the resources you’ve got and make your own call on what is most important to you and your family – this varies hugely so give yourself permission to do what is right for you and your family and own it.

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Suzy is a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, Health Coach and mother of two. She specialises in stress management, wellbeing and teaching tools of self-care. Want to boost your vitality, reclaim a state of calm or achieve better balance in life? Get in touch with Suzy. She is available for wellbeing coaching via Skype wherever you are in the world.

Drop her a line today: suzy@suzyreading.co.uk

Sign up for free wellbeing tips delivered straight to your inbox at www.suzyreading.co.uk 

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Series: What’s in your toolkit 3 – Emma Cannon

Series: What’s in your toolkit 3 – Emma Cannon

Emma Cannon is a fertility expert, author,  natural conception and IVF support acupuncture practitioner, and has been supporting women in their fertility journeys for many years. I had the great fortune to work on Emma Cannon’s first book, The Baby-Making Biblewhen I was working for the health and wellbeing publisher Rodale at Macmillan, in 2008.

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Liz Gough, then Rodale Publishing Director and now Publisher at Yellow Kite Books, came into the office having had a meeting with Emma, full of ideas and buzzing with inspiration. She said to me, “you would LOVE this woman, she is amazing: inspirational, a true wellness expert. Absolutely beautiful too.”

Working on her book was a total privilege: all of her wisdom resonated so powerfully, and planted itself somewhere deep inside me, a little internal seedling in case I needed to draw from it at an as yet unseen point in time. When I subsequently had my own fertility issues, suffering several miscarriages, I always had a copy of her books by the bed for a calming reassuring source of support and feeling of taking ownership of my own fertility destiny. I’ve lost count of the amount of copies I’ve bought for and lent to friends, and not just those looking to become pregnant, but if feeling generally under par, depleted, out of sync, the practical tips and understanding of how to achieve hormonal and emotional balance through our monthly cycle are indispensable.

While newly pregnant with my first baby I was serendipitously working on her second book, You and Your Bump. Before the age of Instagram postnatal support networks, this book provided me with the confidence to trust my instincts and provided solace in those newborn dark days.

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Her new book, Fertile, is out now. I’m kind of sad I don’t have a legitimate reason to buy it! Maybe I’ll have to in the name of research…

Emma is a passionate advocate of the fourth trimester: a period of time to honour the seismic shift in circumstance and nurture new mothers  – taking it slow, being gentle, nourishing the body properly, resisting pressure to “get back to normal”. Emma’s poise and wisdom, drawing from her years of supporting mothers, and the wealth of understanding of mind-body balance from millennia of Chinese medicine teaching, is something that we could all do well to cultivate in our own lives.

An understanding that a life well lived will always, inevitably, experience highs and lows: where there is light there is corresponding dark – and this is natural, to be expected and not feared. Her books offer women the tools to take control of their wellness in preparation for becoming a mother. I talked to Emma about what she considers to be her essential wellbeing toolkit.

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1. Your Instagram account is calming and inspirational. Tell me more about what you do day to day.

I work Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday morning in the clinic seeing patients. I have spent many many hours in clinic listening to women’s stories.
I spend Tuesday writing and doing a yoga class. Friday is yoga and meeting people or doing ‘cures’.
I keep myself well by exercise, doing the Viva Mayr Cure once a year, and cooking and entertaining friends and family.
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2. In your experience, are people becoming more aware of the impact of stress on their health, and keen to nurture their souls and combat modern life stressors before pregnancy?

Yes people may be more aware… but they are also more stressed than ever. There is a lot more awareness but there is also a lot of inauthentic stuff out there – wellness spiritualism has become very commercial, and with that comes the charlatans.

3. Recently there has been more of a spotlight shone on perinatal mental health and the challenges of motherhood, with the Duchess of Cambridge opening the floodgates to get people really involved sharing their stories and chatting about these important issues. Do you find that mums-to-be are more aware of their mental health nowadays and understanding of pregnancy’s and early motherhood’s potential affects on it?

Oh yes, this whole area has really opened up into an industry now. When I was pregnant with Lily (now 21) there weren’t even pregnancy jeans! On the mental/emotional side I think there is growing support and awareness. Yet still, mental illness is a taboo area and one that people shy away from.

For me, the fourth trimester is very important – it is a time a woman’s health really can take a turn for better or worse, and how well supported she is in that time will determine how well she thrives and adjusts emotionally and physically to motherhood.

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

A calm mind: I think too many people give in to obsession – but having the ability to deal with what is in front of you without worrying about things that have not happened is a gift. Sometimes it takes discipline – having the strength of mind just not to go there – being able to bring the mind back and not catastrophise.
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5. The eternal question – How do you balance kids and work?

Well, my children are 21 and 15 so they are much easier now, and I’ve been juggling for so long I don’t remember any other way of living. For me the key to this is flexibility; know that what works one day, or month or year will change – arrangements need to be revisited and changed from time to time.
I laid really good foundations with my children – the first year is critical.  I think it is important to work out what works for you and your family and make that the priority – I am my own boss so I know I am lucky. I made it up as I went along – I was the only person I knew with a child and I needed to work – but I have been able to grow things organically around my family so it has been great like that.

6. What would be your top tip for keeping your mental health on track throughout your fertility journey, pregnancy and early motherhood?

Develop your intuition; do not obsess and become a google addict.
Have belief, and build your resources.
Have a good support team: acupuncture, meditation, friends who make you feel good, and don’t say glib things like ‘I just know you are going to be alright’.
Don’t compare yourself to other people – this is really unhelpful and causes a lot of anxiety. Everyone is entirely different and has a unique set of circumstances.
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7. Who are your personal wellness gurus/favourite books/mantras to live by?

I believe that the time of the guru is dead and we should all be our own guru.
Be your own guru…
However, I have been working in this field for 25 years and of course I have my heroes… I love Peter Deadman’s book Live well Live Long.
Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
Women’s bodies Women’s wisdom by Christane Northrup.