What is your post birth plan?

You’ve written your birth plan but what happens next?

You’ve come back from hospital (if you were at hospital) and now left to your own devices. That to me is the scary bit.

So before it happens, did you take a moment to go through those first few days, weeks, months with your partner or whoever is helping you. Did you stop to think about what is important to you, what would you like to safe-guard, what’s in your ‘selfcare package’, what are you concerned about, and share it with your partner so you’re on the same page?

I knew this was so important when my husband said the words…’so it’s an open-door policy right’ when talking about visitors after the birth. He is Greek after all. Absolutely not I said!! Of course I want friends and family to visit, but when you have no idea how the birth is going to go, I wanted to safe guard some quiet time or rather alone time first. I certainly wasn’t going to plan for loads of visitors.

I’m the sort of person who needs space, that’s just me. I know I’m going to need help, I know I’m going to need my Mum as I feel clueless, but if I’m feeling like a bus has just driven over me physically and mentally I think I will need a bit of time.

I know from others they were overwhelmed when the wider family turned up at the hospital. But then I know others who insisted. So we’re all different. (I’ve made it clear to Nick too that he is to share no photos unless i’ve seen them!)

These sorts of chats can evolve too. You can change and adapt but it’s worth having the chat in the first place! You may have had a birth plan that had plan A B C D and more options on, so why not again ensure you and those around you know what you think you will need when the time comes.

The immediate hours post birth…

Some people I know have included the immediate hours post birth in their plan, this might already be part of your ‘birth plan’. Things to consider are the delayed cord clamping, Vitamin K, skin on skin time with the baby. I was even told by friends that they felt it was important that the partner told me whether we had a boy or girl and not to let the doctor/midwife do the honours, so there’s lots of little things that between you and your friends/partner you might be discussing, some will be relevant to you, some not so. BUT for the purpose of this POST BIRTH PLAN I’m focusing on what happens when you get home…

Potential Key Areas:

I’ve included 3 key areas… but you may have other ideas too.

  • How you will protect your time/space.

How will you manage your visitors, when are you allowing visitors, are you giving yourself a couple of weeks first before the wider circle arrive? Is this of any importance to you? You may want to spend more time alone as just your immediate family. You’re mainly want to be in your PJs potentially and there are lots of midwives coming round, so do you need anything else? We’re all different.

I have no idea how I’m going to feel, so I want to be in control of the space. Are you and your partner on the same page to visitors? Remember, nothing is set in stone, it’s just a discussion.  Within protecting your space, have you discussed the idea of support group vs visitors?

Remember, there’s a difference between visitors and a support group. So who can you turn to, rely upon? Who will come and make you a cup of tea or hold the baby whilst you shower or do the washing. Has your partner taken time off work? In our case, the answer is no. There is no classic 2-week paternity leave for Nick so if he’s not around, who is helping me! Mum you’re on standby!

  • Food

I’m always thinking about food. You might be more excited about the arrival of the baby. I was more excited about prepping the fridge and freezer.

  • What will I eat, how and when?
  • What do I like, what’s easy to eat, snack on?
  • What’s nourishing for me right now?
  • Who will be around to feed me, cook?

This is NOT about following a meal plan or thinking about losing weight, but the practicalities of eating, you will need to keep energy up, and presumably you want to feel as good as possible albeit potentially battered and bruised, emotional and tired.

I love biscuits and cakes and I can eat them all the time. But all cake baking ingredients are out of the house. There are no biscuits in the house. And I don’t want to fall into the trap of just eating crap. I repeat I love CAKE though and by no means am I abstaining if someone brings it round!! And I will happily eat it for breakfast. Haha. I removed the cake making ingredients too because despite everyone telling me you won’t have time to cook, I know I can whip up brownies in 10 min with eyes shut, so it’s safer that there are no ingredients in the house!

I know that being tired and overwhelmed will lead all us of to sugar. Further depleting our energy, fluctuating our mood and making everything just a little bit more difficult. So I want to know I have more nourishing options around me so that the nearest thing to me could be more fulfilling snack and potentially I could make a better choice.

Just to be clear, I’m not putting any pressure on myself to be perfect, I’m not forcing myself to eat in a different way, there are no rules (other than no cake baking in the house) and there is no pressure or guilt when I put my head in a bag of donuts. However, I’m also not trying to win the award of ‘haven’t eaten all day’ or ‘I just survived on biscuits’ which I have heard a lot. This will be my first child. So who knows how I will feel. But I do know what if I have a packet of biscuits in the house, I eat the whole lot. Just saying.

So I’ve batch cooked some healthy no sugar muffins and oat loaf, (won’t last long) and I’ve got the first two weeks of dinners in the freezer ready. Nick will be at work a lot, there’s no classic paternity leave for him, so if I can organise some easy things for lunch too then if I’m peckish I can grab an option. Maybe. Or maybe the whole plan goes out of the window and I just make my way through a box of dairy milk. But I might as well start with a plan…Who knows…ask me in few weeks how this side of things went!  

  • Movement  plan.

I’ve called this section movement but I’m including breath work, and let’s be clear, this is not about losing weight or rushing to post onto Facebook about squeezing back into your old jeans. If anything, this is about understanding the needs of a post-natal mind & body. That rest and recuperation are paramount and will now be your priority (along with looking after a baby). That you might barely leave the house for first couple of weeks, or that potentially you’re in PJs all day means you might have to re-evaluate your expectation on what you thought you were going to achieve in those early weeks. This is thinking up front about how you will feel, what you might be able to do, but without the pressure to be ‘back to your pre pregnancy’ size. That’s the least important thing in the early weeks.  

Many people ask when they can start exercising again and a whole post needs to be saved for that. However, it’s also about knowing that there are things we can do in the early weeks if we have the capacity, inclination, and once you’ve processed the birth. Many start with walking. Walking should be slow, controlled, and built up in the right way, remember your body has been through a lot. Alignment and strength may be up the creak. You might be in pain a lot too! So although walking is great, take it easy and again think about it as getting some fresh air at first and stay close to home. However, there are lots of fundamental work that can be done on the mat on the floor at home. Learning to use glutes, breath work, and in time working on that core restorative work. I’ll be sharing as much as possible of what I feel ready to do when the time is right. So whilst I’ve got the time, I’m making sure I have my own programme ready and my expectations worked on.

Across the 3 key areas I mentioned above we could interweave the idea of ‘Expectations vs Reality’

Some of the biggest challenges us humans experience are when our expectations and reality is out of whack. Everything from growing up thinking a man will being us our entire happiness, that the next pay cheque will just really sort us out, that the holiday will bring us such triumphant joy. We constantly think we need more and when things don’t go to plan, everything comes crashing down.

A bit like with birthing plans. Many feel guilt, heart break, failure when the ‘plan’ didn’t go to plan. I’ve heard of people distraught months later by having a C section, not because of the physical pain or longer recovery process but because they saw it as a failure, it wasn’t what they wanted. This constant juxtaposition between expectation and reality is something us humans need to be more confident and competent in exploring and understanding.

Talking about how the practicalities of the first few months will go is key. Talking about how you think you will fee; even more important. Knowing if one of you has concerns, worries, is crucial. Have you asked your partner what they’re concerned about?

I’m an odd ball. I’ve not felt excited the entire 9 months.  I know I’m odd. But sometimes I’m far too pragmatic for my own good.  When Nick has got excited, I remind him that the beginning stage of being a parent is hard work. I remind him that I’ll be tired and emotional. That he needs to get up at 4,30am and go to work, “so you’ll be tired too”. I repeat to him that the baby won’t want the dad for a bit, that you’ll feel useless and the whole thing is going to be rubbish. Haha. No really that’s how I’ve been talking. The opposite though is thinking everything is going to be jolly and rosy, nothing will be difficult and nothing changes. The reality is that it’s probably more in the middle. So whereas I need to be less ‘we’re doomed’ others may need to address that It is going to be tough. How you roll with the punches is down to the dynamic of you and your partner or whoever is involved in the day to day handling of the child. But understanding expectations vs reality will always be key in life. Start the conversation early!

Likewise, we can apply the ‘expectation vs reality’ concept to our relationship, our social life, our life, our day to day. Whatever is relevant to us.

Use the pre baby time to discuss with partner all these aspects.  It’s not so much about a plan of action, but more talking with an aim to explore and realise that things do and will change. Rather than assuming everything stays the same, is it not better to talk about how it will evolve?

Remember…

It’s a positive plan! Stay positive.

This is a discussion with your partner in a positive light.

And as with the birth, stay open to change and be flexible as we know a life with babies rarely goes to plan.

Integrative Fitness & Wellbeing? Say what now?

Do you look at your fitness & wellbeing as an integrative methodology? ey? Ha?

You might already subconsciously be doing it or you may have no idea, either way listen up! Basically, i’m talking about taking an increased awareness of the much-used phrase mind-body-spirit unity. and how you can unite them all in a system that works for you.

Exercise truly is medicine. It should be done in some form every day. I.e our bodies are meant to move. But millions don’t follow the much-quoted advice. Mainly because it hasn’t resonated with people in a way that works or is meaningful for them. When you think of fitness in a mind-LESS sets and reps fashion for many, (not all) it becomes tedious and boring and soon is disbanded.

You see, there is no one size fits all approach for clients, it’s not about following a prescriptive course of exercise. It’s about finding your fit. Until you become active in the process and present with this increased understanding and awareness you won’t be unlocking your potential. I say finding your fit, but really it’s finding a whole host of wondrous things that work for you, and putting them all together, in your ‘holistic’ plan that adapts and changes as you adapt and change in life.

When you apply a more integrative approach to your fitness and wellbeing you’ll find an enjoyable mix of styles, ideas, techniques. You’ll learn to be more present in the movement, prevent injuries, chronic pain, you’ll be less stressed, and your movement choices will truly help you de-stress and find relief from an overcrowded schedule or tough day.

Finding your integrative fitness, wellbeing, movement methodology (not that you would give it that formal title) will aid in your positive psychology, promote positive body image for you and discover your human potential.

So, in short what sort of movement do you do? There’s no right or wrong here. Are you an intense hit work-out kind of person, do you run, do you do cross fit? Could you add yoga or Pilates? Could you add dance? Martial arts? Walking? Trekking? Swimming? Do you do breath work? Massage? Stretching? Have you tried relaxation techniques that don’t involve watching the TV? Have you tried reflexology, acupuncture, cold water therapy, or maybe you’re more into visualisation, positive self talk or meditation to round off your total wellbeing methodology?

When you start looking at your overall health and wellbeing of you, your whole self, you’ll be learning the fundamental skills to your own development. You’ll taking charge and engaging in active participation of your health, and taking responsibility for your own individual health maintenance and personal development. When you live a more integrative wellbeing lifestyle you’ll find more energy, physical and mental, greater resilience to overcome adversity, and you’ll find it clearer to map our your goals, your future. You’ll be enjoying day that little bit more.

Have a look at the next set of questions. Treat them as bigger picture ideas across the board of what you do, rather than trying to dissect one gym class you go to and hoping that one class involves all these things. Look at everything you do. And don’t do! It’s worth pondering on these for a while and see how your attitude to your health and wellbeing fits in with these areas of integrative fitness.  

Are you present in the moment? Are you cramming your exercise in as you feel you must train or can you work on creating a little ritual around it, set the mood, be in the here and now?

Are you aware of the breath and its power through the movement of your choice?

Are you coming at it from a point of view of caring, kindness, and compassion? (to yourself and others). Rather than movement as a chore or pain, can you find joy? Note, this is joy in what you’re doing and whilst I’m very competitive, don’t make your happiness be because you think you’re superior to others on an elite field. (unless you are and you’ve won a gold medal, then hats off to you!)

Can you find an inner sense of calm or potentially a flow like state? Is there great satisfaction without the ego? Is the whole self and being involved? For me the most flow like state is when I dance. You can’t think of anything else when dancing, except moving the body to the music.

Where is the variety? Can you visibly see that your movement and styles, energy and tone is varied across everything you do? Movements are big, small, short, long, fast, slow, is there power, strength, endurance, mobility etc. Is the brain involved, are things challenging, creative? Do you laugh?

REST & RECOVERY

There are people out there who over plan their rest days, and there are people who don’t rest enough. That’s why I find this topic so interesting. I meet people who have overly scheduled in their rest days when they’re not actually doing enough to warrant such amount of rest days and I meet those who wouldn’t dream of having a rest day.

If you have a pulse then you need to move. That’s a given. But if the intensity is too high, too rapid an increase, or you’re not sufficiently nourished in the right way, you can end up fatigued, broken and then just give up.  

When striving towards your fitness goals we don’t want to be running on empty. And I mean both in terms of food, but also mentally and emotionally. Attempting to fast track yourself down an intense fitness plan without the foundations is a recipe for disaster.

Everything comes back to educating yourself on taking ownership; take responsibility, educate yourself, ask the right questions, be active in the learning process of health, movement, wellbeing, so that YOU know what works for YOU, on any given day. You’re not blindly following a plan that states MONDAY you do this, eat that, think this, etc. You’re in control because you know what you need, whether that’s a form or rest and recovery or more stimulating movement or creative outlet.  

So, I always talk to clients about their week and what they’re doing. From a movement point of view we’ll discuss their activities and then of course what they consider rest and relaxing. We talk about their sleep patterns, the quality of the sleep and we talk about hobbies and creative opportunities.  With regard to sleep, insufficient sleep will hinder the body’s recovery process overnight, reduce the benefit of the hormones released during sleep and will hamper our bodies ability to function. Yet it’s often not someone’s priority. Ever not slept properly and then noticed the inability to communicate, concentrate, or focus on driving? Realised you’re not short tempered, find it difficult to remember details, stay positive or chose to eat a more nourishing choice of food?

I say rest for short, but in terms of applying this to a more integrative approach to overall wellbeing, I’m talking about the umbrella term of yes, resting from intense exercise, (but rest can still be movement)  but also I include nourishing your soul, sleep, taking time out from an over active mind, the daily grind. Rest doesn’t mean just binging on TV but maybe it’s learning to eat slowly, engaging in community, conversation, painting, meditating, and all of the other low impact things we can do. It’s resting our bodies, quietening our minds, and nurturing our souls.

Just recently a friend said to me she had finally realised the power of sleep, and time out of work and was starting a new 3 days working week. She’s happy to take the financial hit, as she realises her health is far more important. Up at 5.30am to commute to London, to be in a negative office space that was draining her emotionally and physically, she was returning home, late and deflated. Eager to keep up her exercise, she would smash out a workout in the sitting room, before going to bed exhausted, having not engaged with partner or friends and the result was complete mental and physical fatigue, poor gut health, irritable skin and a feeling that life was all a bit unbearable.  Learning to prioritise sleep, friendships, community over an intense workout could be what someone needs. Learning to prioritise quiet alone time or sitting down and eating slowly could be the missing factor in your plan. Or maybe it’s working on more yoga and restorative breath work or connecting with nature that is the missing link for you. Someone else in similar situation has also realised that a 4 day week despite the financial hit is better option for their health, they’ve also joined the borrow a dog scheme because everyone knows how cute yet powerful hanging out with a dog can be! And has taken up art and drawing as a new means to find inner calm, peace and creativity.

We are all different and unique.

My objective as a coach is to help you find your integrative approach and methodology, open your mind to the endless possibilities so that movement feels natural and you find your seamless fit suitable your preferences, personality, and style of life.

Interested in WELLBEING COACHING?

Linking Movement & Mood

For those that already embrace exercise they’re already saying that they exercise to feel good, and they understand the connection between movement and mood.

But for many, the connection hasn’t been made and they’re struggling to know what is wrong with them or what they can do, and equally I get plenty of women coming to me with low mood, low self-esteem, low energy and high anxiety that want to learn how to move safely and in a way that will support them.

It’s probably obvious that our feelings can influence our movement. When we feel happy and excited, our body mirrors that and when we feel sad or sluggish notice how that walk isn’t as sprightly anymore.

However, it’s perhaps not as obvious to some that movement can impact your feelings too. Your body and brain are working back and forth in a 2-way street and therefore that means your movement choices can influence your brain too!

I often say go for a simple walk. But have you ever altered your pace and noticed how that makes you feel. A slow drag, kicking your heels will automatically affect your mood as opposed to a more purposeful step, even keeping to a beat, however moderate a beat.

Exercise to improve mood disorders

It is well documented that regular exercise can reduce anxiety making your brain’s “fight or flight” system less reactive and when exposed to the physiological changes they fear, such as a rapid heartbeat in anxious client, through regular aerobic exercise, they can develop a tolerance for such symptoms. In addition to add further science, regular exercise has been shown in studies to boost the production of a brain protein called BDNF, helping nerve fibres to grow, cells to grow and develop, which in turn is led to increase mood, and mood regulation, as well as cognitive functions like memory and learning. Elevated BDNF is shown to improve overall brain health including the reduction of depressive symptoms. (ongoing human studies trials are always looking at the optimum intensity of exercise to brain health ratio)

When we turn to look at more Meditative movement, anyone who has experienced a restorative yoga or yin yoga class, tai chi or participated in Meditation will have left that space with a sense of calm, positivity or clarity, and research has been shown this style of movement is linked to alleviate depressive symptoms.

What this is teaching us it to understand the body, paying close attention to the sensations, space and breath as you move. By changing your posture, breathing and rhythm you can alter the way the brain responds, thereby reducing stress, depression, and anxiety. This ultimately leads to a greater feeling of well-being.

Community movement or synchronising your movements

When clients come to me it’s about working through their needs and priorities and supporting them with a movement practise that works for them, their lifestyle and their current state of mind. Not everyone will want to join a team sport and not everyone wants to go for a long walk on their own.

Personally, I’m a big fan of both. I love to be with people and equally I’m very happy taking myself off on a long walk on my own. But I recognise the changes in the two, and how when alone I become much more reflective. That is no bad thing per se, but there’s certainly for me a time and a place for both. Too much alone time spent contemplating for certain individuals may undo the magic that exercise can bring, which is why I prefer to make movement something that is shared, even a walk with just one friend or partner.

I’m a big believer in moving your body and being active in the community to boost mood. Being part of a group, making friends, learning new skills together can be so beneficial for this overall body and brain health. The coming together in a group and uniting is so powerful.

There are also now studies on the power of moving in synchronicity with someone else as a tool to improve self-esteem and overall mood, which would explain how Tai Chi is such a component here. Equally though have you even just been in a gym class where everyone is working together, weights lifted, movements synchronized and felt how the energy lifts? The drive, the purpose of the movement heightens? To me this all comes together even more so with dance. The learning of a dance through to the performing of it as a group, all in unison, flowing, expressing, moving as one is a powerful uplifting feeling, which is probably why dance movement therapy is becoming a popular tool to help patients with depression.

All you need to remember from this, is that the MIND and BODY are connected, and whilst your brain is the master control system for body’s movement, the way you move can also affect the way you think and feel.

MIND & BODY

More and more movement therapies are now often used as additional treatments for depression and anxiety when mental effort, psychotherapy, or medication is not enough, (and along side medication) and I hope that this continues to lead the way.

You may have heard of having gratitude practise, or maybe a friend has simply said to you to ‘be more positive’ but when you’ve exhausted those thought control strategies or perhaps too exhausted to try, movement can serve you here. It can change your state instantly. So, whether you chose to walk alone, or whether you prefer to synchronise your movements in a class, or hit the gym, movement can be YOUR way to access and address a positive mental change that YOU need, want and desire.

Exercise, Emotional Eaters and Pregnancy.

You’ve a history of disordered eating, or low self-esteem. And now you find yourself pregnant. There’s a running commentary from friends, family, colleagues, those you meet in the supermarket about your appearance, your growing size, the bump, the glow, or lack of glow…and so you start to recoil into yourself and stick to your comforter of choice. Food.

When you’re already struggling with body image, and engaging in disordered eating prior to pregnancy, getting through pregnancy and then the navigating through being the ‘new mum’ is another layer of pressure. It’s scary.

One of the one hand you ‘know better’ and have read all the books and know you shouldn’t be damaging yourself in this way, you know you want to find food freedom; but you’re still at odds with yourself, still rely on old favourite tactics and habits and now the prospect of your body changing drastically and quickly, as well as the hanging out with other mums and the constant comparison is terrifying you. Yet you’re supposed to be telling everyone how excited you are, whilst walking around cupping your bump? But you don’t recognise yourself. You’ve tried being invisible and now as the bump grows, that’s impossible.

Recovering from disordered eating and journeying into new motherhood is possible, but like everything in health, it takes time, self-compassion & kindness, and a support network.

The pressure:

When it comes to pre & post-natal ladies the pressure is on.

  • Pressure from within, a history of difficulties with self image resurrects itself
  • Pressure from doctors and midwives checking weight.
  • Pressure from peers comparing size when they were pregnant
  • Pressure from social media, seeing other pregnant ladies at same week as you & the list continues.

As mentioned at the beginning, there’s a running commentary on the size and development and even though it’s coming from a place of love and kindness, if you’re struggling with your self esteem and body image, you won’t be able to see that it comes from kindness. On top of that, there’s a constant comparison to other mums, with the language around how mums are doing focused on size, figures, and food. Fear of getting bigger, not being able to stay in control, fear of everything changing is scary, and is more likely to further than negative relationship with food.

NOTE: the severity of behaviours around food can be a vast spectrum, and it’s crucial you speak with your health practitioner if you’re noticing an eating disorder developing or reoccurring.

Excessive Exercise

A common trait alongside the disordered eating is a disordered relationship with exercise. (Although one can exist without the other)

At a time when your body is changing and everything feels so much out of your control, the two areas you can control are eating and exercise.  Prior to pregnancy you knew how to manage your weight with exercise, hiding food, being secret. Being pregnant now makes you feel very exposed and vulnerable.

Working with a professional over time you can work through the healing process. In time finding pleasure in movement and food again. Learning how they can support you. Learning strategies to combat this difficult period.

Why do you exercise?

The women that I work with whether pregnant or not, very often exercise because they think they SHOULD.

  • They’ve lost sight of exercising for enjoyment.
  • They don’t understand what would be good or feel good for them. Everything is a chore
  • Or they exercise to burn calories, undo the ‘damage’ of what they’ve eaten.

But I thought exercise was good for me?

Whether you chose to exercise or not, we all know it’s good for us. If you love it you’ll know it feels good, makes you feel alive, happy, strong?  If you don’t exercise, you probably know deep down you should, but something is holding you back.

What makes exercise a concern in this context, is our ‘attitude’ around it.

Even without a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, women tend to fall into a few categories….

  • Those who were exercising before getting pregnant and like to think of themselves as healthy and fit and so will seek to continue.
  • Those are using the pregnancy as an ‘excuse’ / opportunity to get fit
  • Those who are using the pregnancy to excuse their lifestyle choices and continue to not eat and live healthily

During pregnancy and after, all 3 will require understanding how to adapt exercise to suit their needs, level to be safe and healthy.

But when we’re talking about the excessive exercise & emotional eaters, then negative approaches like these are often present:

  • Obsessively completing same exercise regime almost like a ritual.
  • Exercising becomes the sole priority over all other activities whether it’s friends, families etc
  • Exercising out of guilt or punishment over the food choices made that day.
  • Exercise and identity being the key component

We all need to exercise but when exercise gets in the way of normal life engagement, we can see that a problem has been identified.

And unlike with binge eating that is often done in secrecy; obsessive exercise, if spotted, is still so often praised. Others look on with admiration of your abundance in energy, admire that you always seem to have time to exercise. But comments like these can still trigger shame for the individual as they know why’re they’re truly exercising, whether it’s to run away from something, ‘burn it off’, or fill a void. Whilst this cycle continues, you’ll never truly be able to explore more about who you are, and the recovery process will of course be slower.

Exercise during pregnancy as well as after is essential, just as it is when not pregnant, but adopting the right positive mindset and approach, that exercise is for long term health, for you and the baby is paramount.

Of course, this is hard to foster and not something that happens overnight. But it can be done. It’s crucial to work with a professional and learn to move safely for you.

So what can you do?

If you find yourself in this situation then well done for acknowledging it in the first place. The process takes time. There is no overnight ‘cure’, or 5 step solution, but there’s plenty that can be done.

  1. Please speak to your midwife and GP first.
  2. Ensure you have spoken to your partner or close friend/family member, find a way to share how you feel as early as you can in the process.
  3. Putting a support network together as soon as you can is vital. Don’t suffer alone.

The healing process will start by accepting that you’re ready to put your health first.  With help you’ll take a period of time to observe and acknowledge what is going on. You’ll learn to document your thoughts and feelings & observations You’ll work through one behaviour at a time, so it’s not overwhelming, moving you from a place of hurt to a place of living for health.  You’ll learn how to find and understand acceptance. You’ll learn in time to find JOY. 

Read on to find out more about joy and acceptance. But contact me for advice and coaching. 

What do you mean FIND JOY?!!

I work over a period of time with clients to help them FIND JOY!!!!  Joy In movement, joy in food, joy in knowing you’re looking after your health. Find JOY in YOU.

When you find joy in moving your body. It ends there. The cycle doesn’t finish with a period of guilt, and it wasn’t movement created through trying to punish yourself. You’re finally working with your body and not against it.

I work with clients to help them differentiate the difference of moving your body for happiness and moving to change their bodies. Exercise is great. Great for anxiety and stress. Perfect in the right forms, during pregnancy and during your post-natal recovery. But maybe your exercise needs to just be tweaked?

Ask yourself this:

  • What movement do you enjoy?
  • What movement fits into my current schedule? And what will be sustainable?
  • Am I willing to fuel my body to be able to exercise?

It’s important to understand your current relationship with food and exercise & your history in these areas in order to be able to sustain recovery.

The sooner we can address this relationship before pregnancy the better. But of course, we can start the process at any point.

ACCEPT ACCEPTANCE

During pregnancy there’s going to be a lot of acceptance to be learnt.

Acceptance about the lack of control over the body changing shape. Accepting there will be different emotions throwing you off kilter. Accepting that others around you may say something, do something, that normally would trigger you.

When it comes to exercise there’s an acceptance that our exercise regime will change. There’s so much we can do still! So for active people do not panic! Being active is an amazing gift and we can still move our bodies daily. But again, comes down to that approach and mindset.

  • For those with a history of excessive exercise, a period of not exercising potentially be beneficial
  • Or simply reinventing the exercise from that constant running to a long walk through nature.
  • Others might switch or include more breath controlled relaxing states like yoga and meditation.
  • And living by the sea I’ve recommended sea swimming to all of my clients.

Breaking FREE!

Breaking free from a cycle of over exercising and disordered eating is possible, but help must be sought. *Although I talk about joy and acceptance, the process can be a long one and the individual strategies are not listed. It would potentially over-simplify the process, a process that is personal to the individual, and it’s key that professional help is always sought. Everything starts though with understanding what the problem is though. Taking a period of time to observe and reflect, write it down, without judgement. Getting to grips with the current problem in hand. To get from self-sabotage, to eating and moving for health, is not going to be an over-night success. This article is by no means a replacement for you speaking with your midwife, GP and support network. Everyone is different and at different stages and it’s important to work with a professional to give you the help you need, that’s right for you.*

Pregnancy – A spiritual journey or a pain in the butt?

Apparently being pregnant, is the most exciting time, the most beautiful time, the happiest of times. Apparently being pregnant, means you’re supposed to walk around just simply glowing, and world can keep telling you on repeat how amazing you are for bringing another child into the world, and people will just keep smiling at you…

You find out your pregnant, and when you get around to telling people you’re greeted with an ever increasing crescendo of shrieks. You’re surrounded by faces with beaming smiles who are expecting you to be beaming back, everyone is touching you and crowding you, yet inside you haven’t quite worked out how to feel or respond, so say nothing, and now the group thinks you’re a weirdo because you don’t seem to be sharing in the same level of celebration as the surrounding group.  

But what if you’re not having a spiritual journey whilst being pregnant? What if you’re just, you know, neutral?

We all will respond differently to finding out we’re pregnant. There’s those who are jubilant and those who cry, those who are anxious, those who are hopeful and there’s plenty of crossing over and overlap along the spectrum from despair to sheer overwhelming joy. Due to our fluctuating hormones I’m sure many feel like they’re sliding up and down the scale at different stages of the pregnancy!

Whilst I’m not walking around cupping my belly saying this is the most amazing precious time of my life, nor I’m walking around with aches pains, crippling desperation, and a feeling of hopelessness. I’m actually in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, this week I’ve been a little emotional. But overall, I’m neutral. I haven’t reached the excitement stage, too busy building a business, but nor am I waking up dreading it as I’m fit and healthy and haven’t had any problems (so far). I haven’t bought any baby bits and I live in a rented flat so I’m not planning on painting or creating a nursery (we don’t even have space for a cot).

It’s a peculiar response I know. Maybe we’re more use to the extremes of the spectrum. We’ve all known people who are ridiculously happy and excited and we all know people who are having a tough time. Perhaps it’s harder to understand someone just sat in the middle.

I would call myself pragmatic.

I’m responding in a practical way. I’m focusing on organising my business, whilst I’m physically still able to.

I’m also cautious because I know anything could happen and so until the baby arrives I do fear getting overly excited.

I know I’m healthy and fit so I’m not stressing about that and as a trainer I know what to do that’s right for me, and although I train other pregnant and post natal women, I’m now putting my own skills to practise as I train myself.

Being pregnant is one aspect of life. A huge one of course! And of course I want a happy pregnancy because ultimately I want a happy life.

But when you read articles on ‘being happy in pregnancy’ and hearing ‘it’s the most joyeous’ time, maybe I’m too British, makes me cringe. I so it really depends on your definition of happy and your association with the word as language is so important as it is throughout our lives.

I am happy in my life and I want my friends and clients to be so too. This for me doesn’t mean you have to always be at 100% total euphoria. There is a spectrum with everything, and my happiness during this pregnancy comes from being me, understanding acceptance, staying healthy, continuing to work and grow a business, adapting to this new relationship with husband when we become 3, and learning about the stages and how that makes me a better trainer for others.

But that’s just me. For others it’s about buying every baby toy and painting the spare room.

So how to be happy in pregnancy?

Like with everything in life, when you focus on the things you can control, like fueling your mind and body in the right way; you’re on the right track. Chuck in a great support network and you’ll in prime position.

Mindset. Wherever your starting point is when you found out you were pregnant and we’re all different, you will need to work hard to channel your mindset to ensure you do have a happy pregnancy, in the same way, you will want a happy and fulfilling life when not pregnant. They’re one and the same. But being pregnant can throw up plenty of uncertainties and insecurities that you may have been masking before when your weren’t not pregnant.

Each trimester will present its own set of obstacles to overcome and by laying good strong foundations you’ll be in the best possible place to tackle them. So whether it’s morning sickness that is crippling you, or more seriously the fact you weren’t sure if you even wanted children; or maybe it’s the anxiety around the finances or home, or simply the arguing over the choice of names, knowing that your happiness, and your strength to get through this time, and in all troubling times in life lies within, is in itself, empowering. When you think hormones have the better of you, remember you’re in control.  Nurturing a positive mindset isn’t this ‘woowoo’ concept. It also deserves it’s own huge blog post. But without working on this first, how in life can anything else follow. Simply being aware of how you feel right now is a good starting point. and then chosing to pick the path of strength (even if it’s a difficult path), will allow you to have the best possible pregnancy and life.

HEALTH

Use this time as an opportunity to put yourself in the best possible health. So whether you were already healthy, eating right and exercising or you’re using pregnancy as an excuse to get fit, then embrace this moment. When we fuel our bodies and mind with the right food and movement, we’re in a much better position from within, to tackle the difficult times. The more you eat and live in a healthy manner, the healthier and happier you’ll be. Someone said to me the other day ‘but i’m scared to reinvent myself’. No one is saying reinvent yourself over night or next month? It’s taking small actionable steps. One at a time. So if getting to grips with your health is scary, speak to a professional about small steps. This isn’t about going hell for leather on a fitness regime that is not what I mean. But putting the ground work in now one step and a time. No one likes feeling tired, irritable and constantly fatigued so we have to help ourselves starting with the right nutrition and movement plan for us as individuals. When the baby is born it’s going to be challenging and the more we can understand how health, what we eat, how we move, and how we think directly influences our actions, feelings and state, the more we’ll make it a priority. More specifically on this to come in the Facebook Pregnancy group. Always seek advice from a professional before embarking on anything new, but if health wasn’t your priority before, this is a great time to start thinking about how you eat, move, and how you look after yourself. Treat it as a great chance to learn, educate yourself and not just a crash course in dieting.  

Just BE

Many have told me to embrace pregnancy, and whilst I’m up for going to all the pre-natal classes, I wouldn’t say I’m embracing it.  Acceptance? That’s probably a better word. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of gratitude around the pregnancy & my health, but I suppose it’s more of an acceptance of the situation. If you allow yourself to just be, accept the accept the changes and work with them not against them, then you’ll be happier. Even accepting that your exercise regime will change will ensure you stay positive. I’m accepting that I’m in this current situation, and whilst that presents financial worries it’s not helpful to layer up every problem as one.  I accepted that in my 1st trimester I wanted to eat more carbs and chocolate milkshake than my normal diet would encourage; I’m accepting that my relationship with my husband will develop and adapt, as we grow from 2 to 3; that my selfish nature of doing what I want and when I want, will adjust. I’m learning to accept that when people in classes I teach say ‘oh my god you’re getting so much bigger’ or when my father in law goes to touch my belly, it’s all said and done out of a place of love, kindness, excitement, curiosity even, but not malice. I don’t know how I’ll feel after the birth so let’s not worry about that now; I’m accepting that as of today I’m 24 weeks and 2 days that I have a long way to go, that I don’t know anything about babies and that’s ok; that right now It’s not a priority to read every book, I’ll save that for September.

Breathe & Relax

Too busy to relax? Too busy to breathe? Most people say they’re too busy for most things, but if you don’t put yourself first now and get into these good habits, potentially setting yourself up for problems later. This is a chance to focus on you! Enjoy it!

With relation to breathing, a pelvic floor expert told me she could tell I did a lot of fitness as I wasn’t allowing myself to move my belly and was in a permanent state of bracing. Dancing, being a Pilates teacher and vanity means I was always bracing. She has encouraged me to really breathe deeply. Being pregnant is not a time to be holding your belly in and some decent belly breaths will do you wonders!

We breathe in and out all day long but actually learning to breathe and relax is so important. In life, when times are tough simply stopping and properly breathing can have an incredible positive impact on your mind & body, changing your state and bringing you back to the present moment. You’re able to tackle those obstacles with a renewed energy and life becomes just a little bit simpler. How you find your method to breathe and relax is up to you. Whether It’s yoga or meditation, attending a class, or practising alone, find something that works for you. I’ve enjoyed the relaxing floating in water in my aqua natal classes and concentrating on the breath in calm pregnancy Pilates and yoga classes. I find that being in a class format allows me to focus on breathing, as I like being the student in a class. But there’s plenty of tools out there to breathe and relax at home.  I also love taking myself off for long walks listening to a podcast but find what works for you and make it a priority. Sometimes just going to bed isn’t enough (although do get plenty of sleep too!!) Sleep is so important, but so is what I call ‘active relaxing’.

Enjoy the process

For some, as soon as they found out they were pregnant they were buying baby things and organising baby showers and making plans. If that works for you then great! That’s not me. But that’s not to say I’m not enjoying the process, we just all respond differently. I’m enjoying my pre-natal classes; I’m enjoying hearing my friend’s babies stories; I’m going to enjoy our weekend away just before the baby is born. So whilst I’ll not be saying ‘I love being pregnant’ I’m taking each step as it comes which is my pragmatic way of ‘enjoying the process’. So again wherever you are on the spectrum of positivity and embracing the process, just take it one step at time.  

Talk to someone!

If you’re in a stable relationship, then great! If you’re on your own, make sure you have a good friend to talk to or even a therapist. Being able to talk to someone about your fears, anxieties as well as hopes and dreams during this time is essential. I’m lucky I have a loving husband who understand the emotional complexities for us women, and he’s also a paramedic who has delivered babies before so I’m covered on the emergency front haha but it’s having someone to talk to, so you can explain simply ‘I feel a bit emotional today and I don’t know why’ (*cough, that was me last night) . Whether it’s the finances or the changing of the body that concern you, having someone to talk to, will be a great asset!

Delegate work/ make a plan

I am self-employed and my husband has about 6 jobs, so we need to plan, delegate and understand each other’s expectations for what is going to happen for the rest of the pregnancy and after. You might both be in high powered corporate jobs, or you might be the bread winner, so leading on from talking to partner, is talking about work, finances and the plan. What do you expect to happen, want to happen, & is it ‘aligned’ with each other’s thoughts? There’s no right or wrong way to do this in 2019, but the more difficult scenario will be where two people’s expectations are at odds! So use this time to have open discussions. Us women usually have lots of other women we can talk to, or have listened to their stories before yet men haven’t had this so much, or chose not to, so it’s important to me that I speak to my husband and let him in on what I am thinking, and feeling. It’s also for him so he doesn’t just have the burden of ‘I must provide’. As two self-employed people without maternity or paternity pay we have to work in our own unique way to make this work.  Just word of warning — don’t embark on this chat on the same night you have opened the conversation with ‘I’m feeling emotional’. Save it for a more rational evening!

So what in a nut shell to do?

Chill out.


Don’t over complicate everything. Don’t over complicate your exercise, your food. Don’t stress out about every minute detail. If listening to friends is stressful don’t do it, if you find you’re learning loads from them, great! Don’t see everything as one big giant bundle of stress, break down everything, what is today’s obstacle to solve?

Educate yourself so you can eat and live a healthy life most of the time, and you’ll be on the right path to living a healthy, happy life, whether you’re pregnant or not.

To sweat or not to sweat

woman stands on mountain over field under cloudy sky at sunrise

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Monday January 7th, a week into January. Most people who started ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ would have ‘failed’ them already. Why is that? Lack of will power? Why do some people seem to be motivated and others don’t? Can you learn the tools?

YES you can learn the tools, and NO it’s not Will Power.

Where are we going wrong with the mixed messages in the media, the pressure to be doing something that you don’t enjoy, the ‘ALL OR NOTHING’ approach that January exudes.

When I am working with Wellbeing Coaching clients, we explore their fitness history, beliefs, we learn the tools to break the vicious cycle of ‘perceived failure’. We learn to understand our why, our motivation & build some resilience. We learn to prioritise our self-care, integrating one behaviour at a time, turning ‘it’s a chore to it’s a gift’, rewiring our minds, so we can build consistency. Ultimately, we learn to start enjoying life.

BELIEFS

It all starts with how the majority think, and what they believe. So many people think of food and physical movement NOT as life essentials, that can give pleasure, but as ‘DIET’ and ‘EXERCISE’. These are felt as ‘SHOULD DO’ things, that eat into normal leisure time, they’re ‘CHORES’ and there is PAIN associated with it. We’ve separated our daily world away from movement. As a society in the modern world we’ve separated movement from our daily life so much so, that it’s a struggle to not see it as a chore. Modern living means people aren’t walking to work or the shops, they’re not walking back with bags of food it’s being delivered, they’re not even walking to school. Maybe they are going to the gym twice a week, but the rest of the week is sat down, weekends with box sets, weekdays of sitting.  Which sadly means those 2 times a week must work really hard, to get you the results you’re after. But our bodies were meant to move. If we’re lucky enough to have limbs, then let’s learn to use them.

START LIVING LIFE.

When a client comes to me that is tired and exhausted of trying everything, thinking nothing works, going to the gym, trying all the plans and has had enough, I say stop. Stop TRYING. START LIVING LIFE. We live on this amazing planet, and so the first thing to do is to enjoy it. You’ll probably screaming thinking WTF! Stop going to the gym? My answer? Is it working? Are you enjoying it? No? You’re frazzled, you’re drained; we need to stop, re-calibrate, and reset.

What does EXERCISE mean to you?

Something I ask my clients right at the beginning is this very question, what are your beliefs on exercise? ‘For it to count, how many minutes do you have to exercise for?’ and ‘Do you have to sweat to make it count?’. When you explore these questions, you start to build up and understand the journey with exercise to this point, the emotions behind it, the pain, the story they’ve/ we’ve told ourselves, again about ‘what it should be’.

ENJOY

Doing what you enjoy is key to success. When it comes to exercise and movement, slogging it out in the gym or even attending a class you don’t like won’t cut it. Ask yourself, Am I exercising/moving in a way that I like? Is it relevant to my life?

To reap the extensive list of benefits from physical exercise, it’s not about the amount of sweat. Radical statement I know, but I work with clients where we are working to find joy. They may come to me with an initial goal of ‘weight loss’ or ‘fat loss’ but ultimately we are trying to find joy, joy in the daily activities, joy in getting out of bed and walking to the shops, joy in what we eat, joy in preparing food, joy in how we interact with people, how we use our body from moment we wake up until we go to bed. Once we’ve found joy, the commitment will come.

WHY?

But where to start? The best question to ask is why? Why am I starting to move? To lose weight? To be slim? To prevent disease. All our answers, but are they enough? Is that enough to sustain lifetime commitment. Is that enough to stop seeing movement as an ‘add on’ in your life, and to see it instead as integral, an integrate part of your day, week, month, life? We’re all different and are all motivated by different things with different lives. The key is to find YOUR RIGHT WHY.

Once you’ve found your way, it’s key to then ensure your goals match with the level of commitment you can currently give? Without an action plan, the new year resolution, (or the pre-holiday promise, or whenever you make this sweeping statemen about health and fitness) is not different to the promise the previous year and will get stuck once again.

It’s a gift

Learning to turn the feeling that movement is a ‘CHORE’ into a ‘GIFT’ is key to your success. Learning to reset the mind and to understand and feel the benefits, the gift of more energy, less stress, productivity, mood, self-worth will allow you to sustain this commitment for life. Once you’ve replaced the chore with a gift, once you’ve replaced the wrong way with the right way, you’ll want to start immediately with another dose of ‘self care’. Once you’ve transformed physical exercise from that chore to a gift, your relationship with movement is changed forever.

Self-care

I don’t have time? I have a family? I work!

Yes that is true. So do others. We all have 24 hours in the day.

Sound harsh?

It’s not supposed to be. When you make movement a gift, when you understand your why, when you’re moving that is relevant to you, fits in your daily life, and you have joy, you’ll be prioritising it too.

Ask yourself…Am I prioritising my own self care? Has caring for others taken over from caring for ourselves. Are we putting everyone else first? Are we using everyone else as an excuse to not look after ourselves? How do some people seem to have more time?

Learning Mindset

Remember when you were a child, and there’s that sense of curiosity, wonder, and learning.

Could you now as an adult approach life with a sense of that wonder, curiosity, and learning. With learning a mindset, you’ll have the strength and the tools to persevere, be resilient when faced with adversity and challenges. If you focus on learning how to sustain the behaviours that create our desired outcomes, long term success will be achieved.

Don’t think of change as a quick fix, it’s an ongoing pursuit, it’s a lifetime of movement and self- care. It’s a lifetime of living and a lifetime of joy.

Change your beliefs, Change your behaviours, Change your life.