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

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Dry January: The impropriety of sobriety

Dry January: The impropriety of sobriety

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Dry January – are you doing it? Have you done it? Normally the driest my January goes is a dry white wine. I’ve always been a bit sniffy about abstaining from alcohol for a full smug month – not to mention the fact that January is chock full of family birthdays which means there is a high level of refusal willpower needed around the lunch table when the prosecco is flowing. And willpower isn’t always my greatest gift.

I have always said to myself that as long as there is moderation, and that there are a few days a week with no alcohol, this is fine. And I do agree (with myself, which is a good thing) that generally moderation trumps abstaining as a general rule. But I have started to become aware and uncomfortable about the fact that I ALWAYS have a drink of an evening from Thursday to Sunday. Some evenings only one glass of red, savoured, but often, usually…two or three if it’s a weekend and I’m out or sharing a bottle with my husband. You know that you’ve got a reputation of a lover of the grape when people express surprise if you’re not drinking, or if they affectionately refer to you as a drinker. My mother in law has a lovely artist’s print on her wall, of a woman drinking a glass of red wine. My then-2 year old once pointed at it and said “MUMMY!!!”. Which made my face go as red as the vino.

I once read somewhere that if you’re conscious of a feeling that you might need to get a handle on your drinking, then you’re probably right. I certainly don’t get drunk very often, but I do drink often. And it’s such a habit and intrinsic behaviour – wine o’clock, a glass of prosecco to salute the weekend, a confidence-boosting crutch at an event where I don’t know anyone, a reward gin and tonic after a crappy day, a glass of red to celebrate the end of a long evening of children’s mayhem followed by teaching, a lunchtime glass of rose with a friend….. all of these situations sometimes feel hollow without that alcoholic prop. Which makes me cringe a bit, like a vegetarian hearing a meat eater say a meal isn’t complete without meat. Which is why I feel like I need to kick the prop away and question what exactly I am propping up.

I also am curious to see the effects of nil alcool on my digestive system, my skin, my sleep (although until Freddie stops sabotaging my sleep this one will be harder to decipher). There are myriad benefits that skipping alcohol altogether have going for our wellbeing and health. Alcohol is a proven hormone disrupter, and messes with the delicate balance within our systems. So I want to see when these benefits start to make themselves known, and if they compensate for the lovely full-bodied taste of a glass of Shiraz.

But abstaining from alcohol brings with it societal umbrage. Unless you’re pregnant (and any skipping of alcohol from a woman is often assumed to be related to that), you’re not often given a get out of jail free pass when it comes to being allowed to not drink without causing raised eyebrows and offence. Shining a light on other people’s discomfort about their own drinking? Or just being a party pooper? Drinking is sanctioned by society as the joy bringer, and the uniter. Which it undoubtedly is. But it’s funny how we can be judged for not wanting to – and I’m including myself in the judging panel here.

This is an exercise in self-care and restraint for me. A real challenge to see if I can actually do it. It’s not a judgment of drinking or a suggestion that anyone is wrong if they are continuing with their moist lubricated January. It’s just for me.

So, I did have a drink on my husband’s birthday on 2nd January, and my dry January began then. We’re only 4 days in but I already feel like it’s been aaaages, which is quite amusing and telling. I got through a Friday night post-first-week-back-at-school without a congratulatory glass of fizz or a glass of beer with the curry I had with my husband, even though his beer looked delicious and complementary to our meal. I felt such a childlike sense of achievement that I almost feel sorry for myself. But I am also buoyed to go forward and carry on.

Is anyone else doing Dry January? Do you have any tips and tricks? Have you given up booze for good? Do you miss it? I’d love to hear.

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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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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? 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

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Series: What’s in your toolkit? 2 – @thepsychologymum

Series: What’s in your toolkit? 2 – @thepsychologymum

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@thepsychologymum burst onto our Instagram squares of awareness two months ago, and has made a huge impact in a short time with her recent campaign with @mumologist – howcanIhelp? I for one identify so strongly with everything that she has to say about juggling work, children, emotions, while trying to keep afloat within the general swell of life mayhem. She is funny, and wise, and I just have an inkling that she would be a LOT of fun to have a beer with. I wanted to find out more about what makes her tick. Reading her responses made my head nod repetitively like the Churchill Insurance dog. Enjoy!

  1. Tell me about yourself!

I’m a Doctor of Clinical Psychology, working in the NHS. Currently I run a service for people who are experiencing psychological difficulties after a neurological condition, such as stroke, MS etc. I worked until recently in child and family services for over ten years, but found that balancing a split post was difficult after having children. I’m still passionate about early intervention and promoting positive mental health in young people, from pregnancy and birth onwards.

  1. How/why did you start thepsychologymum on Instagram?

I wanted to make the psychology I use in a clinic room accessible to a greater number of people, and use social media as a tool to promote positive mental health, and destigmatise mental health. I was initially very wary about the pros and cons of social media, but found a few other psychologist also using instagram which increased my confidence about using it as a professional tool. I felt that, used effectively, social media could be seen as a widely available early intervention. I also love photography, so used it as an excuse to get a new camera and really get going again with a hobby I love, but have not done much of since having children.

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  1. The campaign for starting the conversation about mental health, hashtag-how can i help? has been a really powerful one, getting people really involved and chatting about these important issues. How did it come about?

I was listening to Radio 4 (Woman’s Hour helps me stay mentally healthy!) and I heard the interview by Bryony Gordon with Prince Harry. I’ve been talking for years about reducing the shame and stigma around mental health, and it made me so happy that someone so famous was speaking about it so openly. However it was the comments from the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Simon Wesley that really got me thinking. He said that Prince Harry had achieved more in 25 minutes than he had achieved in 25 years.

I really felt we were on the brink of a potential seismic change of attitudes to mental health and wanted to harness this in someway, which resulted in the idea for the howcanihelp campaign as I wanted to keep this conversation going with ordinary folk.

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Emma (@mumologist) had contacted me on instagram a few days before. The last time I met her was at her sister’s party in Glasgow, and my street cred was at rock bottom as I had just been to a MeatLoaf concert (I didn’t admit it that night, but I actually really enjoyed it!). I thought it would be more powerful to have more than me involved, and I wanted to bounce the idea off someone. We got in touch and the howcanigelp campaign took shape. We had no idea if it would have any effect, or if there would be any interest. I had a couple of local bloggers interested as our first respondees, but one told me at the last minute she was too busy, which made me doubt it. I then asked @the_Positive_Planner, and her response was so enthusiastic I thought, let’s just go for it.

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The response so far has been overwhelming, with people opening up on their pages so insightfully, and sometimes for the first time. One mum wrote that she had never told anybody before how anxious she got, and the comments back were so supportive that she told me it felt therapeutic to open up about it. This made me think that the howcanihelp conversation taps into not just attitudes about mental health, which we were aiming to do, but was actually having a positive effect at an individual level too, which I hadn’t really expected but was so pleased about.

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

I have two very bad sleepers and I like my sleep, so this has been difficult for me. Getting a (mother’s) lie in (i.e. what would have been an early wake up before!) really helps me, and my husband is brilliant at helping with this.

Noticing and recognising when my thoughts become unkind, and remembering what I  tell other people in sessions also helps, as well as a hot bath and a good magazine.

For me, finding the balance between being sociable and having time to myself is also key. It’s taken me a few years with kids to realise I like to have a (kind of) blank day, where we have no obligations to be somewhere or do something. Having time to myself is also important… I just need to keep an eye on that ugly mother’s guilt troll that can creep up when I do, and also make sure I don’t put too much pressure on myself to do the unrealistic mother of all lists, thereby spoiling the time I have!

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  1. How do you balance kids and work? 

To be honest Im not sure I do! I find it a constant struggle and there are days that I think I’m doing okay and other days that I feel that I’m getting the balance totally wrong – those are the days that I don’t even have fishfingers in the freezer so rake around to put together a ridiculous mash up of food, exhausted after a day of work, trying to convince the kids it is a culinary delight (they see through me completely. “Mummy why have we got fruit, peas, noodles and tomato sauce?”).

You have to keep guilt at bay, and the morning struggle to get ready and everyone to four different places stresses me out more than work. Sometimes I wonder if that, and the evening meltdowns after nursery are worth it, but I get so much out of my work and I like having a role other than being a mum. But when it’s a struggle I really have to remind myself why I am doing this often seemingly impossible balancing act.

  1. What would be your top tip for keeping your mental health on track throughout pregnancy and early motherhood?

Watch out for guilt! The nasty little guilt troll appears as soon as we have a baby, often he even creeps up in pregnancy.  He needs a good kick where it hurts as nobody can be the perfect mother, often its about surviving! Find those other mums who think similarly to you… you know the ones when you catch their eye and you know you are thinking the same silly thought.

They will tell you that you are doing okay, but often just by telling you how crap they think they are doing, with stories of letting their prams roll down hills (that was me – Anya. You’re welcome), eating play dough accidentally, shouting when stressed and finding this motherhood malarky pretty dam tough, when you think they are doing marvellously; making us realise we all feel the same and its perfectly normal to not feel okay. None of us are perfect and none of us are immune to emotions!

Also realising that looking after yourself is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It is important for you and your children, so remembering to remember yourself and your own needs in the midst of the chaos of having children.

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Series: What’s in your toolkit? 1 – @mumologist

Series: What’s in your toolkit? 1 – @mumologist

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New Series Klaxon! For the next few weeks I’ll be featuring a few of my favourite wellness, coaching, psychology experts asking them to share what’s in their mental health toolkit. 

There’s been a healthy swell of conversation about mental health matters over the past few weeks, and I for one am heartily applauding. Anything that brings mental health out of the shadows and into the sunlight has to be a good thing in my view. Fundamental to this new tide is the recent interview Bryony Gordon conducted with Prince Harry, where he spoke about his own experience of bereavement and the mental health issues that that provoked. Couple that with the Duchess of Cambridge talking with confidence and strength about how challenging motherhood is, and we’re undoubtedly witnessing a sea change.

One of the biggest cheerleaders for this movement is @mumologist, who, along with @thepsychologymum, have championed a new campaign on Instagram called HowcanIhelp? inviting people to get the conversation started about their own mental health and how they nourish and notice it day to day. I chatted to @mumologist to find out what’s in her personal mental health toolkit. 

1. Tell me about yourself!
I’m Emma Svanberg, and I’m a clinical psychologist and hypnobirthing teacher. I worked for the NHS in primary care mental health services before I had children, working in Children’s Centres and GP surgeries with pregnant women and parents with children under 5. I left the NHS before having my daughter five and a half years ago.
I trained as a hypnobirthing instructor 7 years ago. After having worked with so many women struggling to come to terms with difficult births, hypnobirthing seemed the most effective way of preventing birth trauma and encouraging a positive experience. We spend time talking about the couple’s relationship and upcoming changes, anxieties around birth and parenthood, focusing on self-care and how to protect mental health.
Since my youngest started preschool last September, I’ve been gradually building up my business and have returned to therapeutic work. Eventually I’d like to have a  service fully supporting pregnant women, new parents and their families throughout the transition to parenthood and all the stresses (and joys) that encompasses.
I also run our local Positive Birth Movement group (www.positivebirthmovement.org ) – an amazing FREE meet up for pregnant women and their partners to discuss birth in a positive way (whatever that means to them). And, two years ago, I set up a local support organisation called The Village. I host monthly meet ups for parents, with the emphasis on creating a supportive environment for parents to share their current thoughts and challenges. Next in the pipeline is a weekly group for new mums.
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2. How/why did you start mumologist on Instagram?
The mumologist was originally a blog (www.mumologist.com) which I started when I was pregnant with my daughter in order to have a space to voice my thoughts about being pregnant, but also to discuss some of the ideas that came up time and time again in my work with pregnant women and parents.
Psychology can feel very mysterious – often we work behind closed doors – and it’s always felt important to me that we share the experience and ideas we come across to people outside the therapy room.
I started my Instagram initially just to share photos of my kids, but when I saw this tremendous supportive community of mums growing on there, I made it solely about my work. I absolutely LOVE Instagram. It makes the information and support new parents feel so in need of is very quickly and concisely accessible. I’ve very recently started trying to post short vlogs and posts rather than concentrate on the blog, and I love that this seems to be the way things are going. When you have a new baby, or even a toddler and a new baby, or more than that – you just don’t have the time or headspace to always read a blog or an article, so short sharp ways of conveying information seems much more helpful. It also feels really easy to connect with people on Instagram, and I’ve found it an incredibly friendly and morale-boosting community.
 
3. The campaign for starting the conversation about mental health, hashtag-how can i help? has been a really powerful one, getting people really involved and chatting about these important issues. How did it come about?
All credit to Emma M (thepsychologymum – next up in the series) on this one. Emma is a friend of my sister’s – they trained together in Glasgow – and we hadn’t been in contact for about ten years after a particularly raucous party at my sister’s flat!
I’d heard through my sister that Emma was also interested in making psychological ideas and approaches more accessible. I’d just started stepping up posting on my social media so it was all perfect timing. I found her Instagram page and stayed up far too late reading every single post, her page is BRILLIANT, completely hilarious and so wise!  I connected with her on Instagram and we had a chat about starting a campaign after listening to Bryony Gordon’s wonderful podcast with Prince Harry.
We were both very keen to promote positive mental health and continue that conversation that Bryony started – to present mental health as a normal, everyday subject that we should all be concerned with. After batting ideas back and forth we quickly came up with our key question and the how can i help hashtag was born! We have been really overwhelmed with the response – but it just goes to show people are really ready to talk about this. One of the things I really took from my training was that mental health and physical health can’t really be separated, and if we can talk about feeling rubbish with a cold, we should be able to talk about feeling rubbish with stress.
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4. What are your personal mental health tools in your own toolbox?
I’ve always kept a diary, I used to write in it daily but now it’s more like once a month. It’s my opportunity to get my scrambled thoughts down on paper and sort them out a little bit! Before kids, I used to find I needed to balance any stress by having fun – going out with friends, going dancing, going to gigs. That’s changed since children, as I can find the daily noise and physicality of parenting very overstimulating. I find now I need regular silence. Even ten minutes just sitting in quiet is completely necessary for me just to reset myself.
For the past year and a half I’ve also regularly seen a psychologist for my own therapy. Once the chaos of the early days of parenting died down a little, I found I really needed time to process all the changes I’d been through. I think everyone should have that opportunity, to talk to a professional when times are difficult, and without having to wait weeks for the chance to do that.
5. The $5,000,000 question: How do you balance kids and work? 
 
Well, for a long time I didn’t! I completely gave up work, apart from the occasional hypnobirthing course for friends, for the best part of five years. When I was considering returning to work, when my eldest was 1 year, my NHS role had changed to a general primary care psychology role and the national spending cuts were really starting to hit our very stressed service. Not to mention I (unexpectedly!) had no desire to leave my daughter and return to work.
Through work, I had spoken to so many women struggling to balance work and childcare, and I am so ‘all-or-nothing’ I knew I would find that a huge challenge. So I decided not to return, and had another baby instead. It was a tough decision but I don’t regret it, I’ve really enjoyed being at home with them although that does bring it’s own challenges – financially, emotionally and physically!
I did struggle a lot when I first stopped working, missing the feeling of reward and validation I got from being employed. I found out about maternal feminism through groups like All Mothers Work and that helped me feel ok about being economically unproductive for a while.
What’s always struck me – through my work as a psychologist, through meeting other mums and reading about other mothers’ experiences – is just how isolating and difficult being a mum can be. Joyful and exhilarating too, but really hard work.
I’m talking about mums in particular, as while there are many dads out there taking on childcare responsibilities, generally speaking those first weeks at home fall on the mother’s shoulders. In our society, there’s a lot of emphasis on getting our recognition from the other roles in our lives, particularly work.
 It means that ‘just’ being a mum is never enough – whether you’re a working mum or not, it’s as if being a mother isn’t the thing that’s allowed to validate you – it’s all the other stuff that defines your identity. So when you’re at home with your children, especially in the early days of mothering, you inevitably end up questioning your sense of self, who you are now related to this little person and your new role. And if we allow ourselves to be absorbed into the task of mothering, which is so healthy and important for both the mother and the baby, we are seen as losing our ‘selves’. Plus, for many it’s not possible to allow that absorption to happen, because it’s just too expensive, or because the door wouldn’t be held open in their careers.
But that can be a  period of tremendous growth, if we’re allowed to admit how important our children are to us, and to our sense of who we are, and if we’re supported in losing and then re-discovering ourselves for a little while.
Now, since my littlest was old enough for his 15 hours’ free childcare, I’ve really enjoyed getting back into work. I do lots of work on my phone, and try and make the most of the three hours a day I get to myself! I see clients in that time, or evenings and weekends, which involves a bit of juggling with my partner but so far it’s working.
 
6. What would be your top tip for keeping your mental health on track throughout pregnancy and early motherhood?
 
My top tip is to embrace the chaos! One of the most interesting things about pregnancy is that you suddenly turn from being an ‘I’ into being a ‘we’. It’s a very strange feeling, and often we try to avoid it. We carry on as normal, not letting the pregnancy slow us down. Similarly, in the early days of motherhood it’s really tempting to want to ‘get back to normal’ as fast as possible.
For me, weathering those first months is about accepting there is no normal anymore. When you have a newborn, everything changes – the way we view time changes, the way we view ourselves and our relationships change, it’s not an understatement to say that the whole world is turned upside down. If we can just ride that out and accept it as a time of transition, not try and control it, then we can look forward to seeing how it all lands again.
7. Anything else you want the blogosphere to know about you? Favourite books? Wellness strategies? Instagram accounts?
 
My gift to new parents is always The Wonder Weeks, it saved my sanity on many occasions. I also love What Mothers Do by Naomi Stadlen. I’ve just finished reading Milli Hill’s The Positive Birth Book and think it should be given to all newly pregnant women at their first midwife appointment – it’s that good.
I’ve recently discovered the Quility app, with mindfulness exercises for mothers. There are so many different exercises to choose from. My top Instagram account is thepsychologymum! She always has something useful to say, and she never fails to make me laugh.
But I think really it’s all about finding your own way and what works for you, and not being swayed by the current trendy wellness strategy. For some people yoga is essential, for others watching a boxset – it’s so personal.
The long kiss…hello

The long kiss…hello

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Sometimes having children can be like watching a time-lapse video. It takes my breath away how quickly phases seem to have passed in retrospect, despite feeling like a hundred years when you’re in the thick of them: explosive nappies, potty training, sleep! Please, please, fricking sleep. How can this day NOT BE OVER YET? In the relentless days of riding the parenting rapids, life can feel like a tumble dryer of wishing time away…and then mourning its loss once it’s gone and you didn’t have the head space to say goodbye.

We packed away our cot this week. It has served us well for the past 5 and a bit years. Often as a handy receptacle for washing, random toys, general bedroom debris… but occasionally performing its rightful duty by housing a small person •overnight (•for a bit of time at the beginning of the night). But now, we have moved to bunk beds. The cot is officially redundant in our household.

These are the moments where you need to find the time to pause and reflect, to absorb the stage you’ve passed through, as the train is chugging out of the station. For example… learning to talk. You plough through the hair-pulling often delightfully comic days of thwarted communication, the tantrums (on both sides) when you misunderstand the helium-voiced jibber jabber. You celebrate when stealthily the inscrutable turns to actual words – even more so when hearty exclamations such as “big dick!” can be translated with relief as “Peppa Pig stickers”. The triumphant feeling when the earnest demand for “Dom Shen!” is finally understood as “Thomas and Friends”. And then seamlessly, imperceptible like the tide turning, one day you’ve lost toddler speak forever. You may say “Dom Shen” in camaraderie with your child, only for them to say “it’s THOMAS, mummy!” in the tone of an eye-rolling teenager, at 4.

I’m currently (literally – he is draped across my chest right now) still breastfeeding my 2-year old. I didn’t start out consciously planning to breastfeed for so long. A tumultuous and short breastfeeding journey first time round meant that I hadn’t really thought about playing the long game this time. Boob is my second’s very favourite thing in the world. There are moments where I am desperate to have my body back, to have some personal space and not be groped constantly when I’m with him. To be able to wear nice clothes and not consider whether there is “access”. To maybe lose the extra padding I have gathered around my middle due to breastfeeding exhaustion and sugar craving.

But simultaneously, I’m clinging on to his love of it and his need for closeness to my bosom, because I know once I let it go then…well, it’s gone. It’s easy to become marooned in a habit of mourning and lost goodbyes, without properly greeting and welcoming new phases in life.

I was listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 recently discussing dealing with change, and how transition times in adult lives can lend themselves to sorrow and depression…that what we feel in these episodes is a sense of lost control of our lives.

This almost regresses us back emotionally to the frustration and desperation felt when we were babies/toddlers, experiencing no autonomy in terms of how anything in our lives is run, not being able to fully articulate how it’s making you feel, as if in a straightjacket (it IS so unfair how mummy doesn’t let us eat chocolate for breakfast/jump off the top bunk/shave the dog!). Acknowledging these times passing is important: embracing how it makes us feel, even if those emotions are settling along a spectrum of happy-sad.

My eldest started school last year and before I could fully register it he has shed his toddler cocoon and is now a boy… up, up and away. I gaze at my 2-year old and I’m aware of pre-empting a latent sense of sorrow as he moves beyond his toddlerdom, anticipating these baby years slipping into that timeless pool of memory, clutching at them softly before they’re plucked away. That beautiful moment where a blossom is at its most perfect, just before it falls from the tree. That’s what these memories are.

I’ve just turned the corner into my 40s (wtf?). I’ve been feeling a sense that there are now things that are lost to me as opportunities… clearly I won’t be a pop star now… maybe I really won’t ever learn how to blow dry my hair properly… Realising that, even though I don’t want any more children, I’m entering a stage in my life where that decision will not biologically be mine to start with.

It’s easy to get stuck on a track of eternal postponement: I’ll feel better when I’ve lost weight/got properly fit/sorted myself out professionally, when I’m living in my “forever home”, when I’m not so tired, when I have more money to have more time to have more patience… eternally suspended in stasis, in looking back or looking forward.

Often we look at the past and the future as separate countries to the one we’re living in. But actually it’s the same country. Same postcode. Here and now. It’s not a long kiss goodbye to each stage in life, it’s a new hello.

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

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