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.
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.
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.
I recently recorded a podcast with the gorgeous Tamu Thomas, founder of Three Sixty and one half of the founders of Motherhood Reconstructed. I love Tamu’s ethos about life: “It’s time to recognise that we are valuable and create lives where we take time to feel our value. I believe that when we feel our value we evoke a grounding sense of contentment and can appreciate everyday joys that tell us we are living rather than existing.” I can so identify with this, too often are we rolling along through life waiting for affirmation from external sources about our success or happiness? Tamu and I chatted about my experience of going through a huge bereavement when my best friend died 14 years ago. From that point onwards, I’ve always tried to forage around for moments of pure happiness, small spots of sunlight to pick out of even the greyest day. I guess that has been my way of picking myself up out of deep sadness/depression.
I hadn’t ever labelled this “mindfulness” until recently, but now studying Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction the idea of noticing and consciously counting the small nuggets of joy is coming up a lot. In The Supermum Myth we talk a lot about gratitude and how this can do huge things in terms of turning up the contentment levels in your life, gently and gradually filling up your reserves and building resilience in life and fostering an ability to see the silver lining, work through problems to find a way forward without being buried in your emotional response or weighed down by negative habits.
The Science of Gratitude
Current research from the University of California, has been studying the effects of gratitude on over 1,000 people. The participants in this research ranged in age from eight to 80, and were split into two groups. One group was asked to keep a journal, and to write five ‘gifts’ that they were grateful for each day. The other group had to write down five ‘hassles’. Some examples of the ‘gifts’ people noted were generosity of friends, and watching a sunset through the clouds. Examples of ‘hassles’ were things like difficulty in finding a parking space, waiting in queues or train delays.
Researchers found was that those who had consciously focused on gratitude on a daily basis experienced significant psychological, physical and social benefits: a 25% improvement in overall health and wellbeing in comparison with the group focussing on what had gone wrong each day.
So, this is a very quick daily exercise which will have a very powerful effect on your day. It’s a good habit to get into doing first thing in the morning or last thing at night. In that way, the grateful thoughts are more easily imprinted into your unconscious.
Bring to mind 10 things which you appreciate in your life today. It’s important to get to 10 things, even if at first you struggle to find one! This is exactly what the exercise is about – consciously bringing into your awareness the previously unnoticed smallest and specific elements of good in your day and life. And because your mind can only think of one thing at once, while you are focusing on the good aspects of your life you literally are unable to focus on anything that may be bringing you down or annoying you.
So, an example:
- I’m grateful for my children/parents/friends
- I’m grateful for my home, the roof over my head
- I’m grateful that it’s been a sunny day
- I’m grateful that I’ve got my health
- I’m grateful I’ve got eyes to see
- I’m grateful that my work provides a chance to interact with other people and socialise
- I’m grateful that I have food on the table when I want it
- I’m grateful that I had a nice cup of tea today
- I’m grateful for my favourite song coming on the radio
- I’m grateful that I had lots of compliments about my lovely shoes today
It may take time, drawing out 10 things that you are happy about. But once this becomes a habit you’ll actively be seeking and noticing in the moment things that you will later call upon in your gratitude list. Imagine doing this every day, that’s 70 things you appreciate a week. And what about a year?
If you think about it, it’s easy to see how this can have a very positive effect on your thought processes and the way your brain works, your mental habits. Imagine how that could have an immensely positive effect on your life – and happiness levels?
Often we don’t even know how much we have. It’s a cliche but we take so much for granted in the modern world: clean running water, shops to buy things at our convenience, transport, household appliances…we become so blind to the things that make our lives easy and so our happiness levels simply don’t take them into account. It’s time to start noticing the small things again. #everydayjoy
Do you practise gratitude consciously? Could you? Does it appeal as an idea or does it sound like a lot of work for not much payback? I’d love to hear from you
I have been on a few yoga retreats in my life…and looking back, they’ve always been at transitional or turbulent moments of my life. My first experience of a yoga retreat was in December 2004 in Thailand….my best friend had died 6 weeks before, and I was in the deep visceral clutches of bereavement and waves of grief. I felt a real pull to a yoga retreat I had seen signs for on the beach in Koh Phangan (a beach where I had been a few times since 2001, always noticed the sign, never plucked up the courage to answer my curiosity and see where it take me), and doing yoga on a gazebo in the middle of a coconut jungle was exactly what my broken heart needed at that time. And also where I decided that life was too short to waste time, so had an epiphany to train as a Pilates teacher.
Retreat number 2 was in France the following summer, 2005, and happened to be booked to coincide with the day after splitting up with my boyfriend of 8 years. The week of barefoot walking silent meditation, secluded corners to read books and ponder life, within a beautiful chateau’s garden, daily yoga, gorgeous food and wine was, looking back, definitely the right place to be going through the very early phases of surreal heartbreak. Yoga to heal the broken soul, once again.
Retreat number 3: Ibiza Retreats for my 40th birthday. Four nights of blissful peaceful sleep, after 15 months of having been woken every hour or two by a beautifully sleepless Freddie babe. Not so much broken in soul but definitely in spirit. Heart full but mojo AWOL, identity muddled, the new mum survival mode phase of motherhood where everything is like pieces of a puzzle scattered around the floor with no real time or focus to put them in the right place. This few days gave me a bit of puzzle-orientation.
And now this retreat I’ve just had the pleasure of being on, in the rolling hills of Andalusia, Lunar Lemon Retreats. I can’t describe how nourishing and soothing this retreat was. Run by gorgeous Brighton-based yoga teacher Mel Melvin who weaves in her experience in dance, movement therapy, mindfulness, this retreat was a tonic for body, mind, spirit, soul. Two yoga sessions a day, the morning one was energising and strengthening, the evening was the purest of Yin yoga, nurturing, balancing, calming. The food at the villa was beautiful to look at and to eat. And my days were spent reading, swimming, enjoying the exquisite peace….I feel lighter and rejuvenated from 4 days of being cradled in the mountains around Malaga and I cannot recommend Mel’s retreats enough.
Have you ever been on a retreat? What was your biggest take home memory/feeling? Mine has been to rediscover a love of that soft meandering summer holiday feeling of savouring a good book. And the wonderful feeling of waking up and honouring my body with yoga, breath, movement. Namaste…. xxx
“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
Week 1 of the Model Method Online – tick!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
My three pillars are simple, but not necessarily easy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
One of the things we most crave as mums – as modern humans – is space.
When I chatted with the lovely Zoe from @motherkind_zoe for her podcast I said if I could give mums any gift in the world it would be the gift of ✨ space ✨.
❇️ Physical space – solo trip to the toilet, when you’re feeling too much of the touchy feelies?
❇️Headspace – distance from the bubbling over capacity cup of work to do lists, parents evening reminders, immunisation appointments, sleep deprivation.
❇️ Breathing space – a regular gentle reminder just to breathe: slowly deeply fully consciously ❤️ .
❇️ Space to find the clarity to love our children truly madly deeply ❤️.
This picture is of me on the final day of @ibizaretreats yoga retreat that I went on for my 40th birthday. Freddie was 15 months old and I hadn’t slept longer than 2 hours for 15 months 😬😱. I had 3 nights of B L I S S F U L sleep, yoga, stillness, time with my best friend. Oh my. For me, this 👆🏼 is the epitome of how I feel when I have space. Rested. Calm. Capable. Joyful. Resilient.
We’re always available on our phones. Constantly bombarded with bad news, opinions and rants on Twitter. Occasionally questioning whether our living room will ever be stylish or tidy enough judging by Instagram.
When you can rarely even go to the loo alone, suddenly there seems like there’s no avenue of your life that isn’t road blocked by your child’s need, want, whim.
When you start to feel like these blockages are making you bubble up with resentment and frustration – coming out in heightened anxiety, anger, worry, frustration, sadness, it’s time to press pause. Build SPACE into your regular habits, and you should begin to see that you don’t meet those road blocks quite so often.
How do I create space within the PJ Masks and the Lego Ninjago and requests for snacks? Three ways:
1. BREATHE. Fundamental to creating space is literally allowing there to be space within your body. Often we collapse our lungs and slump in defeat without really noticing. Begin to notice and honour your physical state by properly, fully, truly, consciously and mindfully breathing every day. Any breathing technique will do – simply pause and take 5 deep breaths. One of my favourites, which can be whipped out as a tool in emergencies such as at soft play: Breathe in through your nose for a count of 7. Breathe out through your mouth for a count of 9. Repeat 4 times. Space.
2. A little bit more time to spare? MEDITATE. Meditation seems complex. We might try it and think, er…is that it?? Nothing happened!? Or, too much happens and your mind goes into overdrive – But my mind is chattering, clearly I can’t mediate I won’t try again. But the chattering is the process. It’s like shaking a dusty rug out. No shaking, no dust ever releases. The dust is the process, you have to let it go and give it space to release, and with it you’ll find clarity and be able to organise your thoughts and find patterns and resolutions more easily. Meditation can be simply 1 minute in the morning of focusing on your breath. If you have more time, great. But 1 minute is a good start. We all have 1 minute, don’t we…? Meditation allows you clarity, serenity, when developed into a longer term habit it’s even proven to have a positive effect on your immune system, your resilience, lessens anxiety and helps with decision making. It’s a gift for the modern world. Try it. And then try it again. Keep trying it!
Breathe. Once you are settled into your breath, mindfully scan your body for tension. Soften. On your in-breath, silently say the word SO. On your out breath, say the word HUM. Repeat. So….Hum…..So….Hum…..if your attention drifts, this is only human – you are not “bad at meditating”. Simply return to the mantra, So….Hum…So….Hum.
You should emerge from your meditation after a few minutes feeling still and calm, able to take this space into your daily activities.
3. DISTANCE – lastly and when you can properly carve out time for mama self-care: give yourself some space by creating distance between yourself and your home, your commitments, your children. Escape to a yoga class on a Sunday morning. Go swimming on a Wednesday evening. Walk in the park early morning before work. Whatever it takes, whenever you can, commit to it weekly and you will begin to see an easing in the bottlenecks of tension and stress that can build up when there is no space.
Try it – give yourself permission to find space. Let me know how it goes – did you feel a difference? Did you notice any inner peace making itself quietly felt? I’d love to hear in the comments below how you find space within the chaos xxx
Regular readers here will know what a fan of an uplifting scent I am.
Since my fully indulgent self-care gift of a yoga retreat in Ibiza with my best friend last year, where i had 4 NIGHTS OF UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP which was facilitated by a meticulous ritual of NEOM sleep sprays, balms, oils, I only have to have a waft of the NEOM sleep range and I’m transported back there, right to serenity, to sleepful balmy nights, to peace. Ooooommmmmmmm shanti.
Scent is so important as a visceral evocative tool to tap into for your well-being. Nothing is swifter than scent to send you to a moment in time where you felt a particular emotion, a moment in time suspended forever.
I always carry around with me on the go tools for uplift. If you’re feeling drab and low, a quick whiff of a zesty essential oil burst will give me a second wind and more of a spring in my step. At the NEOM Kings Road store you can take part in their Scent Discovery Test. This is way of checking whether your underlying wellbeing need is better sleep? Less stress? More energy? Or a general mood boost?
You inhale each of the essential oils blends, and the scent travels to the hypothalamus – a gland in your brain responsible for releasing the hormones which control how you feel. At the hypothalamus, your body is most attracted to the essential oil blend that it needs revealing whether you need sleep, de-stress, energise or lift your mood. My discovery test revealed that I wanted the Scent for Happiness overall – which, well, makes sense doesn’t it, wanting generally to be happy. And surprisingly, when you’re feeling shattered you might not necessarily need the energy vibes, you might actually need to listen to your body and indulge in the sleep vibes.
I was absolutely honoured to be asked to contribute to the NEOM well-being blog this week. You can read the full article here. Snippet follows below, enjoy and let me know what your favourite scents are for happiness, calm and uplift.
- At Neom we have a mantra – ‘wellbeing small steps, big difference’ – do you agree? why/ why not?
Absolutely agree. Sometimes we feel like our goals are a bit overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin when you just see a big mountainous goal in the distance, it’s all too easy to give up when it feels like an unachievable overwhelming task.
If you break it down into small steps, you set an intention to move towards the goal, like strapping on your walking boots, taking one step at a time, and before you know it you’ll be halfway up the mountain and it’s not half as intimidating.
- We believe that lack of sleep, poor energy, stress and mood dips are all related – do you agree? why/ why not?
Yes. it’s a spiral of negative mood/physical lowness which makes it harder to pick yourself up once you’re there. Lack of sleep is such a debilitating issue. When you’re exhausted, and especially if the sleep is taken away from you by a third party (hello, children!) you feel out of control, and your coat of armour for dealing with daily stresses is removed. Everything seems more challenging when there is a lack of sleep.
But we don’t offer ourselves the acknowledgement that it’s ok to take things easy when you are in the phase of life where small people are a chink in your wellbeing armour. We still strive to be “normal”. When actually, it’s ok to give yourself a break. The first step is noticing your internal dialogue in those exhausted days, and having a tool for calming the domino effect into stress and mood dip.
- What small steps do you think can help us? What’s the bedrock of wellbeing in your book?
1. – Breathing. The most important thing firstly is to pause, and breathe. It is the most fundamental tool in my own personal toolkit. Taking a long, slow inhale through the nose for a count of 5, allowing your abdomen to open and soften with the breath rather than breathing into your chest. Then breathe out through the mouth for a count of 8, as if you’re trying to fog a window in front of you. In for 5, out for 8. Soften into the moment. Even say to yourself, “I soften into this moment” can help to calm any stressed mental chatter like soothing a bristling cat.
2. – Notice any negative thoughts running like a loop around your mind. Calm your negative thoughts by telling yourself “thoughts are not facts”. Notice they are there, but don’t invite them in. Sort of like noticing clouds across the sky – don’t allow them to linger, gather and become storm clouds, allow them to pass gently without trying to ignore them or shoo them away.
3. – Smile. It makes you feel a bit silly, but you will fool your brain into creating fleeced endorphins if you smile, even if you least feel like it. Spread a smile on your face – even better, to yourself in the mirror, and you will soften your feelings in that moment.
4. – By the same token – it’s also important to allow your challenging moments to “be”. Too often we see weakness in feeling “bad” feelings and so we ignore or suppress them, and create a swirl of complementary negative feelings around it, guilt, anxiety, fear, worry… When actually, it’s part of the emotional spectrum of being human. A balance of dark and light, yin and yang. Without dwelling in a negative thought loop and allowing it to spiral, imagine calmly sitting down with your challenging feeling, inviting it to be, asking it why it’s here (or simply acknowledging that you are exhausted and your child has just thrown their dinner on the floor – it is normal to feel angry and at your wit’s end under the circumstances). Say to yourself that these feelings are natural, normal, healthy. And ultimately that will enable it to release itself, without being suppressed.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.