Before having children, I didn’t realise how many ‘pillars’ I had to help keep my mental and physical health ticking along nicely. I had, I now realise, artfully curated a wellness toolkit without actually realising that that’s what it was. I taught Pilates and was a freelance writer and editor. I made sure that work and life had quite a nice balance, looking back. I taught all around London and cycled everywhere – keeping me fit. I made non-negotiable space for doing Pilates, enough time on my own, enough time for ‘joy’ in the form of meeting friends, going to gigs, listening to music, writing in my diary (now formally known as ‘journalling…’ in wellness speak)…whatever floated my identity boat. I had bad days, obviously, like any human with emotions, but I had a controlled network of tools which I always had on hand to keep me on an even keel.
Capturing the mindful moments
‘Controlled’ is the operative word here. Having children totally upturned this identity boat of mine by forcing me to relinquish that control. I was joshing around capsized without a life vest for ages before I really understood exactly what had happened and why I was so far out at sea. It took being plunged into the choppy waters to realise what my pillars had been, why they had been so important to me, and work out ways of trying to get them back, even in smaller bite sized forms. Some, I haven’t yet fully carved back. Babies and children need a lot of our time and energy, and sometimes, something has to give. Exercise is something that has taken a definite backseat since my second was born. Although I managed somehow to do the London Triathlon when he was 6 months old (the picture here is of me breastfeeding him shortly after finishing!) – something I might raise an eyebrow about if one of my clients wanted to do the same and ask her if she maybe wanted to focus on deep strength and rehabilitation before jumping into something that hardcore so soon – life has got in the way since and I simply don’t have the same amount of time or easy access to cardio that I had when cycling was my Pilates teacher commute.
I’m not a huge fan of running, and gym membership is expensive, so this one has eluded me for a while. Plus, when feeling the effects of long-term sleep deprivation and the physical (and sometimes emotional) depletion of extended breastfeeding, I’ve opted for nourishing restorative movement which is perhaps at the expense of creating ‘fitness’ in the way that I was used to.
Cardio fitness I have struggled to implement – partly if I’m honest because I’m also a bit lazy, so when I’m exhausted it is easily pushed to the back burner and I let myself off the hook about it too easily. I have tried a number of different options here, such as the Model Method Online, and the Mamawell Method which is specifically created for mums, for ways of building a hit of HIIT and exercise endorphins into my mothering day. I always have to push through resistance to create a habit – knowing that humans are wonderful and flawed, positive habits are hard to create and easy to break! But I persist with the intention, and sometimes that’s enough. Pilates and yoga though, I am now much better at making non-negotiable since I’ve realised that it has such a huge impact on my mental health when I give it a miss. I feel low, lethargic and negative mood habits become my norm when I’ve not managed to focus on my body with some intentional movement, even if just 5 minutes. I’ve had a subscription to Yoopod for 5 years now, since being pregnant with Freddie, and I absolutely love the range of Pilates, yoga and mindfulness classes that they have available, and the fact that you can really find a heart-pumping deep core workout in a 10 or 20-minute slot so for me that has been a real winner especially when the self-saboteur ‘I don’t have time/energy’ demon quietly whispers in my ear. And, as my Self-care toolkit suggests, even just occasionally taking the time for a mindful pause of 5 deep breaths is enough to reset the dial from Frazzled to (slightly more) Balanced.
I’m proud to be a Neom Organics Wellness Tribe Ambassador and I couldn’t be more delighted to be so, having been a massive fan of the brand since it first launched. Weirdly, I made a vision board 2 years ago and put centre stage a ‘Neom Organics Happiness Programme’ insert from one of their products as I had found it so inspiring and wanted to remind myself of small daily steps I could take for wellbeing… then I was lucky enough to establish a connection with the brand when they invited me to launch my book The Supermum Myth at their beautiful Kings Road store with the gorgeous Suzy Reading alongside me, a guru of all things Self Care. Later last year I was asked to be a Neom ambassador – so it shows that vision boarding is a really powerful way of manifesting your desires. Neom products are at the heart of my calming replenishing ‘I’m still me and I matter‘ routine.
I make sure that I have a magnesium bath every Sunday evening with Neom bath salts. I absolutely love the Scent to Sleep range, which I use almost obsessively, since it first launched and helped me achieve 4 nights of blissful slumber at a yoga retreat in Ibiza for my 40th birthday (when I hadn’t slept for longer than 2 hours at a time for over a year due to my second baby being a complete (albeit loveable) sleep vampire). Scent is such an important trigger for wellbeing, and for me it was something easily overlooked as a tool in my toolkit. But now I make sure I inhale deeply and savour scents, knowing their power for uplifting the mind. My favourites for an instant hit of happy are jasmine, rose and lavender. Every morning without fail I massage my belly using a Neom body oil. It smells amazing, which is a great way to start the day, plus, tummy massage is so so important for postnatal recovery: to stimulate pelvic floor function, to foster a sense of self-compassion for your body, and, if you’re post Caesarean, to help to break down scar tissue and enhance the condition of your scar.
It’s taken me a while to gather together the headspace to make sure that I gently bring back the control into my self care by making it a priority. Knowing what it was like to be at sea without a lifeboat anywhere in view, I needed to make sure that if that were to happen again, the life vest is already strapped on.
How about you? How have you found your postnatal recovery and your ability to carve time and space for your wellness? I’d love to know.