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.

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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

 

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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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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? 11 – Jody Shield

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 11 – Jody Shield

I’m literally grinning from ear to ear writing this post as I’m so excited to share with you the words of wisdom that I’ve been offered from this latest wellness guru/expert/shining light.

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Jody Shield needs no introduction arguably, but for those of you who may not have heard of her yet, she is a modern-day healer, a meditation teacher, spiritual mentor, a guiding light for the spiritually curious. If you’re feeling lacklustre, like your life is chugging along on a track you weren’t quite sure about but you’re not sure how to find the turntable to find a new direction, she has a wealth of tools to empower you, to change or to simply take ownership of the choices you’ve made and view life more positively: inspiration to spark action.  She’s meditation ambassador for Lululemon. Oh and she’s also written a kick-ass book called Life Tonic. 

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Her Instagram bio encourages you to “Find your voice & ROAR 🐯 be fearlessly you!” which the tiger in me loves.

Jody agreed to talk to me while I was making bolognese for my two boys at peak potential witching hour post-school run, when they were whining in the background (along with an incessant PAW Patrol soundtrack…). It shows her professionalism and grace that she put up with me saying “what do you need sweetheart?”, “yes, you can watch the next episode”, “Do you need a wee?” and “Have you done a poo?”  intermittently during in our conversation without batting an eyelid or losing her flow.

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This is our chat, hastily scrawled in my notebook while creating dinner with the other hand, so some of her answers may be generally paraphrased through the mists of spaghetti, but the gist is there, even if I lack some of the eloquence (forgive me Jody).

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Life Tonic is a “modern toolkit to heal your life and soothe your soul”. I love how the tools are easy to dip into in the moment, or explore on a  deeper level. What tool would you recommend for someone experiencing heightened levels of anxiety in their day to day?

When we experience anxiety, we lose all sense of our rational being, the logical reality that we’re in, and instead the world becomes a very scary place. We tend to want to escape our body in that moment, to flee from whatever is scaring us. So, it’s good to have a tool which will bring us back into our body, and back into the moment.

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A great tool for this is from Emotional Freedom Technique: make a fist, and with your fist, begin tapping on your collarbone. It brings you back into your body in that moment; it’s calming – it can bring you back to a space where you were a baby being soothed by being patted on your back.

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Often anxiety is a manifestation of a fear of lost control: by tapping, we feel like we’re regaining a sense of control over our body and our emotions. It sends calming signals to the Amygdala structure of the brain – the area that controls emotions, feelings, memories. When we’re anxious, the amygdala sends us into fight or flight mode, creating a whole load of emotional and physical stress responses.

Tapping resets your energy, and brings you back into the present moment. It’s also really easy to do: you can do it anywhere, at any time.

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[by the way I tried this tool with Maurice when he was having a 5 year old anger explosion, and it really worked. Magic]

The Ego mind is like a badly behaved puppy, it’s slightly crazy and energetic, and you wouldn’t want it to be in charge of your thoughts and feelings. By tapping, you can regain control over your yappy dog.

Another tool which takes a bit longer to explore, so more useful for a deeper connection to your anxiety rather than for using in the moment, is this: When I’m feeling anxious, I place my hand where I can sense my anxiety rising. For me that’s often my belly. I actually take time to feel it, to hang out with it. I don’t want to suppress it or ask it to leave, I actually give it space to release on its own.

This, of course, is really uncomfortable. It’s not fun to sit with emotions which cause you discomfort, so we usually push them away. Sitting with it, observing it, offers it a real space for growth and might spark some understanding of action you need to take, changes you need to make. Or simply give you the understanding of your emotional response in a more rational, calm way.

That’s all anxiety is: it’s like excitement but with more unknowns. Basically our bodies are excited and the Ego starts to question it, and as there are no immediate answers we read it as fear and label it negative. It’s in that potential room for growth where we are most scared, which is why we avoid it. Raw emotional responses make it feel like a bad thing. When actually, if we soften our response and sit with it, it can actually bring great things forward.

 

I love that. I’m going to try to sit with challenging feelings to allow them to release and see what stems from that from now on! Another emotional minefield that tends to plague women is imposter syndrome. What would you suggest to someone who is struggling with feeling like they are a fraud who can’t quite compete, doesn’t match up to her colleagues/fellow mums?

These feelings and thoughts come from a deeply held belief system around your worth. Your narrative which links all of your experiences together, creating a story woven around your outlook on life. Imposter syndrome, and feeling like you fall short of ideals, is a symptom of your outlook and your own narrative thread.

When you’re in a moment of doubt, saying things out loud, like “I’m here!”, “I’m back!” enables you to notice the negative patterns of thought, and brings you back. Grounds you.

Also – it’s so important to understand that we’re ALL figuring things out. Everyone is struggling on some level, about something. Just do the best that you can. Show up. Be vulnerable. Lift yourself out of negative patterns by reframing the energy that you’re putting out around things.

I always try to reframe by being grateful for these challenges: for that difficulty, that “stuckness”. A grateful acceptance that this means that things are moving and growing, pushing you. Struggling is ok  – it signals growth and change. Reframe it as curiosity and challenge: doors are opening. You just have to choose to go through them.

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I love the idea of reframing responses to reactions. What are your own personal non-negotiable wellness tools? Things that you never allow yourself to shirk?

For me, meditation is without doubt the non-negotiable. I make time to meditate every day, without fail. For me, it’s almost a directional piece: I begin to meditate without concrete intention usually, and use it as a mind space to allow what’s troubling me to speak up and find room to release, to ask myself questions, and to find those answers offered up.

Meditation is, above all, about creating space. We are so bombarded with ideas, with jobs, with busy-ness. What we all need to cultivate is some calm and space so we can observe our creativity and allow ourselves room to grow. Meditation offers that space.

 

Jody is a true inspiration, not least because she is an unashamed tree-hugger and I love her for this alone. Find out more about her events and speaking, and her book, here. And connect with her on Instagram here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wellbeing hacks for busy mamas

Wellbeing hacks for busy mamas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Route 66 – setting intentions and the S word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Check out Supercharged Club here