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Category: Love

What are the fundamentals of self-care?

yoga as self care

I’ve been talking a lot recently about self care: how it’s in my view, not a trend, but a sustainable way to listen to and have respect for your body.

 

Self care means different things to different people, which is where some of the confusion comes from. In essence, it’s about taking the time to do the things that refresh and recharge YOU.  For me, this is about making sure I get enough sleep, spend quality time with friends (and not just texting them), eating enough veg every day and making sure to practice yoga and deep breathing every day.

 

For you, it could be something completely different.

 

As with everything, there are some fundamentals to self care: eating well, maintaining good personal hygiene, moving your body everyday, finally quitting smoking and being in nature.

 

Everything in your body is connected and a daily self care practice tends to your mind, body and spirit. Which is one of the reasons I called my business Eat Love Move: a lifelong journey of health addresses all of these areas.

 

Of course, I’m not perfect and I need to take my own advice. I pulled back from a lot this past week as I was feeling drained, down and generally a bit out of sorts. I blamed it on needing a slow start to 2018, but really, I wasn’t taking care of myself properly. Not sleeping enough, skipping meals and feeling a bit overwhelmed.

 

I went back to basics and focused on eating almost all of my meals at home, sticking to a daily yoga practice, going to bed earlier and doing my alternate nostril breathing when anxious feelings started to creep up.

 

So tell me. What do you think about self care?

Do you set intentions for yourself?

have you set your intentions for 2018 yet?

I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions and intentions this week.

 

January rolls around and a lot of us put pressure on ourselves to build a list of resolutions that are mostly about things we should improve about ourselves. Problems we should resolve about ourselves.

 

But what if we accepted ourselves as we are?

 

What if we set intentions instead? Intentions are a common way of starting a yoga session, a positive way of focusing the mind for the practice ahead.

 

Daily, weekly and monthly intentions are a lovely way to focus on the present and the good things you want to do for yourself.

 

My intentions for 2018 are to live in the moment and remember all the things I’ve achieved (it’s easy to forget these things, isn’t it?).

 

What are your intentions for 2018?

6 ways to take care of yourself this weekend.

flowers in autumn

It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?

 

The news has been overwhelming recently, with stories of loss, craven abuse of power, sexual misdeeds and stories of utter bravery.

 

It’s a lot to take in, and for many of us, these stories unearth old memories that we thought we had tucked away.

 

So be gentle with yourself this weekend.

 

Here are a few ways to practice self-care and healing.

 

1. Find an affirmation for the week to that you can say to yourself when you need to be lifted up. This was my affirmation last week.

 

2. Take a deep breathe (or two or three) and let the week wash away.

 

3. Get outside and enjoy the autumn foliage.

 

4. Take an hour or two to plan out and cook some of your meals for the week. Knowing you have a plan to nourish yourself well when things are hectic can take some weight off.

 

5. Have a good belly laugh. Or have a good cry. They’re both a form of emotional release, which helps.

 

6. Have a long hug with a loved one.

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Are you more stressed than you realise?

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How do you feel right now? Check your breath. Is it shallow, taking short, little breaths through your nose? Check your hands and teeth – are they clenched? Check your shoulders – are they tensed up towards your ears?

 

If you answered yes to two of the above questions, you might be more stressed that you think you are.

 

Stress is a funny thing. One day, you can feel it, in your head, in your stomach, in your jaw. Then the next day, you feel like you’ve gone back to your normal self. That’s the thing about stress:  it’s adaptive. In its fight to maintain stability, the status quo, your body adapts to stress. It produces more hormones to keep you on an even keel, so that the stress level that’s got you all over the place one day, could feel normal the next.

 

But all that stress that you’ve adapted to has a negative effective in the long term. When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol, a stress hormone. When your body produces high levels of cortisol on an ongoing basis, i.e. when you’re constantly stressed, bad things happen. Your immune system doesn’t work as well, you put on weight around the middle, your ability to get pregnant is reduced and your mood is affected.

 

So now that you know about stress and how your body can adapt to it, how can you keep it under control?

 

1.  If you can’t reduce stressful events in your life like work, school or family, you can change how you react to these stressors. Being gentle on yourself and having perspective on what really matters can help reduce your response to stressful things like a big work project, a looming school deadline or unruly children (or parents!).

 

2. Take a deep breath. This is a quick thing you can do when you feel overwhelmed. Deep breathing supports your nervous system and gets your body back into parasympathetic mode.

 

3. Don’t reach for the biscuit tin. Sugary foods will exacerbate your stress. Nourish your body and eat foods that boost the happy hormones like avocado, wild salmon and almonds.

 

4. Take a break. Take 5 minutes from your desk and go for a little walk (leave your mobile at your desk too). Your emails still be there when you get back but in the meantime, you’ll have stretched out your legs and gotten a little perspective on whatever’s troubling you.

 

5. Stretch it out. A regular yoga or pilates practice will support the release of endorphins and happy hormones like serotonin and melatonin.

 

6. Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. Fatigue can change our perspective, push us into negativity and make stress worse.  After a good night’s sleep, the things that are causing you stress may not have disappeared, however being rested will hopefully give you a better perspective on how to tackle your stressors.

 

7. Develop a good self-care routine. Everyone’s self-care routine is different but having one is a must. Doing small things for yourself is a fantastic way to lower your stress. Take a hot bath, light a lovely candle, have a long conversation with a good friend, go for a nature walk. Find a way to do something that makes you feel good and that doesn’t add to your stress levels.

 

How do you manage your stress levels?

Get in touch to book a free 20 minute health and energy review  with me to find out more about how you can improve your health and wellbeing and reduce your stress.

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What’s your self-care routine?

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Self-care has become a hot topic these day, as people search for a way to keep grounded in what feels like crazy times.

 

Self-care, as in the act of taking small moments for yourself, in order to uplift, centre and increase energy, is not the selfish act it’s sometimes made out to be.

 

I had a big watershed moment last summer when I realised that I was doing too much and not taking care of myself enough. It was then I understood how important rest and a sense of peace are to my own self-love, self-care and ability to love others.

 

For parents especially, we’re guilty of neglecting our own self-care in service to our families, children and loved ones. I’m sure many of you can think of specific moments where you sacrificed something for yourself in order to give to your children, whether it be time, food or emotional energy. That’s par for the game as a parent.

 

But in order to keep doing that, we need to make sure we keep our own ‘cups’ full. That is, we make sure we are rested enough, nourished enough, energised enough and calm enough to keep giving.

 

That’s where self-care comes in. And to be clear, this has different manifestations for different people. For some people, self-care is being able to have 20 minutes of extra time in bed in the morning, for others, it could making sure that they can get to their spin class at lunchtime. It could be taking a long bath in the evening  or it could be noodling away at a piece of woodworking. It could simply be making the time to feed yourself nourishing food at every meal and eating it in a mindful way.

 

My self-care routine has evolved over the last few years. Now, for me, it means:

  • Being able to do some yoga (even if it’s just 10 minutes with my son jumping through my legs during downward dog) every day
  • Lighting my favourite Daylesford candle and enjoying the smell and the flame
  • Doing my deep breathing exercises when I feel overwhelmed
  • Having a little smooch with my husband
  • Having a big belly laugh with my son
  • Making meals from scratch at home and making sure there’s always something good to eat in the fridge

 

What do you do for self-care? Has your routine evolved or changed depending on what’s going on in your life?

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Don’t forget to breathe.

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In those moments of anxiety and panic, when your mind is racing, your heart is beating at 100 miles an hour and you’re not sure if you can get through the next 10 minutes, let alone the rest of the day, just breathe.

Yes, this seems obvious, but is it something you do to help manage your anxiety?

Try this exercise:

Take a deep breath in through your nose for five seconds. Then out through your mouth for five seconds. And again. And again. And again.

Do this until you start to settle, your heartbeat slows down and you feel like you have a little more perspective on the situation that was troubling you.

Even though breathing is essential, most of us spend our days shallow breathing, taking short, shallow breaths that don’t really allow us to take in enough oxygen and breathe out enough carbon dioxide. And for those of us that suffer from anxiety, this shallow breathing can exacerbate moments of anxiety and panic.

Deep breathing allows us to move from the sympathetic nervous system, which is activated in ‘fight or flight’, high stress moments (frankly, this is the system most of us, with our busy, highly stressed lives tend to rely on) to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is activated in calm, ‘rest and digest’ moments.

Have you used breathwork to manage your anxiety? Has it helped?

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Life with anxiety.

spring flowers at kew gardens

I’ve written a bit about anxiety on the blog before, but never really told my own story. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, here in the UK, it’s time for me to share.

I recently ‘outed’ myself in a consultation with a friend at nutrition school.

She asked to describe how I felt when I felt anxious.

I described a fist clenching, gut wrenching experience, at its worst. A feeling that makes it necessary to prep myself for everyday situations, such as meeting new people, meeting new friends of friends. A feeling that makes it necessary to give myself pep talks to get through situations I would ordinarily be able to manage. A feeling that makes everyday situations seem insurmountable.

I don’t have anxiety, everyday, all day.  It’s at its worst when I’m not taking care of myself, when I’m drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, indulging in all of my food cravings. It’s during these times, my anxiety gets better of me and I go into crisis mode.

Over the years, I’ve learnt how to manage it. Eating well and getting enough sleep are key. Eating well to me, means eating at least 7 servings a day of vegetables (especially green leafy and cruciferous veg!) and fruit, adding in some nuts and seeds in different forms, getting good quality protein, mainly meat and some fish. It also means not having much sugar and drinking lots of water, some kombucha and lovely, warming  herbal teas.

I’ve discovered recently that alcohol exacerbates my anxiety. Which makes sense, knowing that alcohol depletes vitamin B6, a key vitamin for the production of serotonin, the feel good hormone. I was sad to say goodbye to my evening glass of red wine, but even happier to spend the day on an even keen mentally.

How you manage your anxiety? The more I research, the more I discover. There are so many different tools that folks tend to use, from deep breathing techniques, to CBT, to adding and subtracting food to and from their diet, to taking various supplements.

I supplement with a good women’s multivitamin, an omega-3 fish oil with a good DHA to EPA ratio and magnesium, which helps me relax and ‘unclench’ a little. On the advice of a collegue at school, I’ve recently started supplementing with inositol, a substance produced by plants and animals, that belongs in the B family of vitamins. It helps mood regulation and can reduce anxiety.

Fingers crossed, my cobbled together approach seems to be working well so far. What do you do to manage your anxiety on a day to day basis?

What’s your morning routine?

What are your mornings like? Are they chaotic and rushed? Calm and serene? Or a mix of the two?

I often read articles where they talk about calm and easy morning routines with a mixture of awe and envy, and think these women are either supremely organised or lying!

As much as it’s nice to have a calm start, it’s natural to wake up with a spike of cortisol, as your body attempts to get you kick started for the day. That’s the ‘jump out of bed’ feeling that you see in children – once they’re up, they’re up!

In a ideal world, I would jump out of bed at 6am, do 20 minutes of yoga and kettlebells, before jumping into shower. Then I would slowly get dressed, letting my moisturiser (I’m obsessed with Egyptian Magic) fully sink in, before doing my hair and make up (RMS is one of the best natural beauty brands I’ve found) over a coffee, whilst listening to Radio 4. I would finally go downstairs, make breakfast for the whole family and then wake up little J, so the three of us could eat together as a family before heading out to work / school / nursery.

The reality is a little different.

My alarm goes off at 6:15am and I lie there in bed for a bit, contemplating getting up and whether I have enough time to snooze a bit longer. You know, sleep math – if I sleep for x more minutes, then I have y minutes to get ready and be out the door on time. Hands up if you do sleep math too? 🙊

After forcing myself out of bed, I grab a quick shower, get dressed and made up, while M goes downstairs to wake J and make coffee and his own breakfast. When I’m ready, we then hand off and I stay in the kitchen with J to get him to eat whilst I make my morning green smoothie and drink my turmeric tonic. I get J dressed and we hustle out the door by 8:00am to get to nursery and then work in time.

I would love to have a gentle morning routine, and probably with a bit more planning the night before, I could. I love the honesty in Veronica Webb’s account of her morning routine: “Of course, this is my morning routine in a perfect world. No matter how disciplined I try to be, I am married and have four kids, and I work as a freelancer—so every day is unpredictable. Sometimes what I want to accomplish by 7 a.m. doesn’t get accomplished until midnight, but a girl can dream!”

What’s your morning routine? What are your tips and tricks to get little ones ready and get out the door on time?

Stop telling me to be nice.

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I wrote this on Instagram this morning and wanted to expand it out a little.

In the last three days, I’ve been seeing many posts talking about the need to ‘be nice’ to others as we all process the result of the US election. These posts frustrate me.

What I wonder is – how does it help, in moments of grief, of anger, to hear calls to ‘be nice’, to ‘turn the other cheek’?  It strikes me that these calls to ‘be nice’ are a way for people to hide their discomfort with what’s happening around them. It can be hard to grapple with an uncomfortable conversation about the true beliefs and inherent biases in those that surround you, to hear challenging words, words that may challenge core beliefs and biases.

Rather than ‘being nice’ and sweeping things under the rug, I’m a firm believer that people need an opportunity to process their emotions, especially in these macro moments of shock and horror. Let them feel what they need to feel as long as they’re not hurting anyone.

When you see the increase in racism and xenophobia, it’s hard to hear ‘be nice’. People are suffering and we need to take care of each other.

We need to try and to understand each other more. Let’s constructively challenge assumptions and build new understandings, that are based on truths. Change is messy, uncomfortable and not very nice. But it can be incredibly effective, life-changing, even. Let’s try.

The importance of self-care.

There’s been so much depressing, upsetting news recently that sometimes I feel like shutting off my phone and laptop and burying my head in my pillow until it all goes away.

 

But it’s not going away, is it? Between Brexit, the US election, even the abuse that Meghan Markle is getting, makes me feel really sad for the world. There’s so much hate bubbling under the surface, hate that’s now fully out in the open, tearing apart families, friends and communities.

 

Obviously, hiding away isn’t an option, which is why self-care is so important.

 

We all need to take time out of the relentless news cycles, the phone alert and screaming headlines to slow down and appreciate the small moments in life that bring us joy.

 

It feels more essential than ever, if we stand a chance to keep moving forward in our lives.

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What do you do for self-care?

 

I find myself drawn to beautiful bouquets of flowers, the vivid sunrises and sunsets we’ve been having recently, slow meditative cooking and long walks in nature, breathing in fresh air.

 

I’ve also talked before about how switching off and staying away from news sites & social media has become an essential part of my self-care. I don’t want to shut the world away, but sometimes I want a break from the bad news and bad behaviour. Is that selfish? Is it indulgent? It feels necessary to avoid emotional burnout.

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Have you ever been health shamed?

Have you ever been health shamed?

I have, but at the time didn’t have a proper term to describe what was happening to me. It’s hard to pin point exactly what it is, but it’s generally those times where you’re talking about something new you’re trying (food / exercise / meditation – delete where appropriate) and you get a crazy look or a scoff in response.

In these moments, it never fails to amaze me how moralistic people can be about food and wellness, turning everything into a n=1, ‘it worked for me, therefore it will work for you’ non sequitur. And when you dare to think differently, especially when you eschew the false dogma of ‘moderation’ and ‘balance’, there will be questions.

I read this profile of Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon recently and was struck by how often she gets health shamed.

What’s fascinating though, is her attitude to it. She says:

“The greatest thing to ever happen was the health-shaming that went down—you wouldn’t believe all the hits we got on our website. If even 2 percent of that traffic made a difference in someone’s life, if they learned just one thing, I’ll take it. Health shame me all day long!

I actually think it’s quite a good sign that it is happening. It means there are parts of the collective consciousness that are being triggered by this, and I think that’s actually a sign of massive change to come. There are going to be people who aren’t happy or healthy right now and [my lifestyle] is confronting for them. I don’t take anyone’s reactions to be anything other than great news that we’re reaching people who aren’t looking for us.”

“If they learned just one thing, I’ll take it.” I love this. She takes what could potentially be a negative, crushing experience and turning it into a positive.

And that’s the moral of the story, isn’t it? For those of us in the natural health community to remember that some people might react negatively, but you must keep going (lots of evidence and research helps too!) and your message will eventually breakthrough.

Have you ever been health shamed? What did you do?

An ode to self-care, rest and reflection.

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I talk a lot about food on this blog, a bit about fitness and a smidgen about love. The eat, the love and the move.

 

What I’ve been realising this summer is how important rest and a sense of peace are to your own self-love, self-care and ability to love others.

 

calo-in-mallorca
By September this year, I was feeling a bit done. Burnt-out on all of the demands on me, my time and my spirit. I felt like I was giving a lot and not getting a lot back.

 

I’ve come through to the other side of this feeling with a reminder that there are lots of seasons in our lives. There will be seasons of unrelenting busyness and there will be seasons of peace and reflection. There will be times that you give a lot and you don’t get a lot back.

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We need to give ourselves permission to go with this, knowing that these are the ebbs and flows of life. Living at an unrelenting pace is just not sustainable.

 

Our trip to Mallorca a few weeks ago gave me a enough distance not only from the UK, but from my everyday life to remind me of all of this. It gave me a chance to take a deep breathe, get away from the rush of London and listen to my own rhythm for a while. It also reminded me that I love taking photographs with my DSLR and that I should do more of this!

 

What is your self-care routine? What do you do when the rush of the city, of life gets a bit too much?

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Motherhood right now.

bear and thomas

My little boy turns 3 in two weeks. 3!

I know what motherhood is with a baby. It’s a steep learning curve, moments where you’ve never loved anyone this much and in this way before, indescribable exhaustion, a new sense of self as a woman, wife and mother.

And then all of sudden they’re no longer babies and want nothing to do with babyhood.

I’m now learning that life with a little boy toddler is joyful, heart stopping and exasperating in equal measure. But that’s motherhood.

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It’s those moments where they test the boundaries, along with your patience.

The moments where they strain to assert their independence in the most amazing ways (Mama, I will get it. Mama, I will put my shoes on. Mama, I will put the alarm on(!)).

The moments where their total lack of fear and sense of danger send your heart into your throat.

And those little, sweet moments that make everything worth it. When they give you an unprompted thank you, an unprompted kiss. When they turn to you and say, “Mama, I love you so much, I like you so much.”

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Healthy Christmas gift guide.

Christmas is just around the corner! If you’re stuck for gift ideas, here are some with a healthy spin. See what I did there? 🙂

1. Class Pass is a lovely way to try out a variety of fitness classes in large cities around the world.

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2. Or you could be VERY generous and give them a block of Psycle class credits. It’s been almost a year since my first class and I’m still obsessed!

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3. The gift of learning a new cooking skill in one of the amazing classes at Leith’s will last a lifetime. Corniness aside, there is a huge variety of classes on offer and Leith’s sell gift vouchers, which takes away any indecision.

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4. Since attending a Knife Skills course at Leith’s a month ago, I’m a huge advocate of having a great set of knives that get sharpened regularly. I love Henckels knives.

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5. Have you heard about the new Canadian knitwear brand Kit + Ace? Their clothes are made from technical cashmere and are very practical and luxurious. Anything from this shop would be a treat.

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6. A book / iPad stand is lovely for the kitchen and a real help, especially when cooking from massive recipe books. Etsy have a number of great customisable options.

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7.  The new cookbook from the Hemsley sisters looks great. I regularly use their first book The Art of Eating Well and their book Good + Simple looks like another winner. Pre-order it for a late Christmas present, since it’s out in February.

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8. An introductory Abel and Cole fruit and veg box would be a lovely surprise and could help nudge your loved one into better eating habits in 2016.

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What I’m reading: Overwhelmed

 

My summer of reading continues, with the excellent Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte. Chock-full of information, research and case studies about gender roles at work, home, love and play, this book, predominantly aimed at women, dissects why so many of us feel so overwhelmed and frazzled so much of the time.

I have to admit that the first chapter made me feel a bit anxious and panicky as I was reading it. Brigid runs through all the ways she feels stuck in what she calls, ‘the overwhelm’, that state of not having enough hours in the day to accomplish the endless to-list that comes with having a busy work and family life. She describes in forensic detail, how much she has to do, how late she stays up to accomplish some of what’s on her to do list and the endless guilt she carries around with her. It struck me how much she was trying to accomplish on her own and how much long-term resentment she held against her husband for not being more of an equal partner at home.

I could relate to the stories of being a busy parent, trying to fit everything into the day. What I couldn’t relate to was the endless guilt. Guilt about not working enough, guilt about not being there enough for her children – so much guilt. This guilt that mothers tie themselves up in knots about, that creates this endless worry and anxiety. There’s a great quote from one of the expert the book, Terry Monaghan, who says, “so much of our overwhelm comes from unrealistic expectations…and when we don’t meet them, we think we’re doing something wrong.” It’s this unnecessary pressure that we put on ourselves.

A large section of the book is devoted to unpacking the relationship that men and women have with work, how both genders would generally like to work in a more flexible way, but how the the myth of the ‘ideal worker’ – the person who is always available to take meetings, jump on a plane, stay late – can hold people and companies back from making real change. The benchmark, the country that seems to have it all figured out in this area is Denmark, where couples share parental leave, overtime is frowned upon and people maximise their leisure time as much as possible. When I read some of the case studies of American women and maternity leave, I realised how good we have it in here in the UK and in Europe. A strong parental leave policy backed by government subsidised and regulated child care means that women can spend longer with their babies with generally good childcare options to fall back on.

Brigid talks a lot about the ambivalence that American mothers tend to have around work. Towards the end of the book, she realises that she “would never be able to schedule [her] way efficiently out of the overwhelm. [She] had to face [her] own ambivalence about trying to live two clashing ideals at once.”  She realises that she has to figure out how to embrace her own life with passion, in the face of ambiguity. I really relate to this. I admit that I still feel some ambivalence about being back at work, despite being freelance and really enjoying what I’m doing. I feel torn about putting my son in nursery, despite me knowing that for his three days a week there, he has a great time and has made some lovely little pals. Before reading this book, I thought this ambivalence was a natural part of being a mother – wanting the best of both worlds.

It’s clear that it’s time to let go of this ambivalence and start fully enjoying what I have and that I am privileged to be able to make my own choices – the choice to freelance part-time, to study towards my dream career part-time and to have two full days with my son to myself in the week.

 

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