Category Archives: Love

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.

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.

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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?

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.”

sleeping J