Level Up Your Yoga Practice

By guest contributor: Sheila Johnson, Founder of WellSheila.net

Yoga means “unity” in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. Invented by yogis, spiritualists who wanted a direct experience of the spiritual beyond cultural rituals, they developed a way to become one with mind, body, and spirit. Through daily practice, yoga uses postures and breathing to help you grow more in tune with yourself.

With yoga, you don’t just gain the physical benefits of circulation, muscle tone, and flexibility. You also gain a deeper sense of yourself. You become unified. Through personal unity, you become focused, actualised, and stronger in yourself.

A Few Minutes a Day

Some people dedicate their entire lives to yoga like the ancient yogis, but you don’t have to live your life meditating in a cave to gain the benefits of practicing yoga. If your life is busy, Treehugger explains you can still achieve focus, fitness, and a greater sense of personal unity by setting aside as little as seven minutes for yoga every day. In fact, you don’t even need to get yourself to a yoga studio to learn from an amazing teacher and follow guided lessons through the positions and routines that will free your body and mind.

Stream Your Yoga

One of the greatest things about modern technology is that even though our lives have sped up, relaxation has become more accessible. You can easily use a streaming device to access yoga lessons directly from your living room. What’s more, even if you only have a few minutes each day to practice, you’ll have an expert guiding you every step and position along your yoga journey.

If you’re going to be practicing at home when you’re not in the studio, your home needs to be a relaxing and positive space. Clean and open your windows to let in fresh air and extra light, sweep up messes, and toss out any items you’re no longer using.

Find a Well-Trained and Enjoyable Teacher

There are many options for yoga lessons on the internet and through apps. The key to your own enjoyment and progress is to find an online yoga teacher that you can really connect with, whether online or in-person. For in-person classes, a well-trained instructor can offer words of encouragement to inspire you, sensibly explain poses, and help you make adjustments to get the most out of your practice.

Gear-wise, many enthusiasts find it helpful to invest in a couple of pieces of equipment, especially if an instructor isn’t there to help with their poses. There are yoga mats that can help you with alignment, and a bolster can assist you with posture in difficult poses.

Set Intentional Yoga Goals for Yourself

Even with a short amount of time per day, as Metta Yoga points out, you can and should set yoga goals and strive to meet them. Don’t just follow along, challenge yourself to achieve greater form or get further through a routine each day. Challenge yourself to greater balance and flexibility. Challenge yourself to meet the goals you set even if it’s difficult. You will find yourself in your dedication to meet the goals you push toward.

Find Your Unity Through Yoga

Whether you join a yoga class or stream lessons in the privacy of your living room, yoga will help you find that spiritual unity with your mind, body, and soul. You will learn more about your body while strengthening your muscles and balance. By daring to strive beyond failure, you will build your resolve and become stronger in yourself. Through the meditation and focus that yoga brings, you will get in tune with your spiritual self, in whatever way you define it.

Yoga means “unity” in Sanskrit for a reason. Look for ways to push yourself to the next level, and you will find it. Through even brief daily practice of yoga each day, you will experience a strengthening unity with your inner self.


ABOUT SHELIA

Sheila Johnson left the corporate world and long hours behind to start her own business. She’s seen so much personal success with her health and wellness routine that she wanted to share it with others. By creating WellSheila.net, she hopes that sharing her story will help people put their physical and mental health first.

Five easy tips to build a meditation habit

Want to build a meditation habit without effort? The team at Silatha tell us how.

The new year is almost upon us and it’s an essential time to look back and reflect on the crazy year it has been. Starting 2020 with gusto and positivity, many of us took the small things for granted and the normality of life we always trusted being there. Then all of a sudden our securities were upended. Feelings of anxiety, stress and worry inevitably crept in with the lack of childcare, compulsory home-schooling, working from home as well as many being removed from the support bubbles of parents and relatives. Just as you thought the worst was behind, another lockdown became reality.

So how does one stay sane? Our recommended way to survive the current uncertainty is through meditation. But how do you fit meditation into your already jam-packed day you ask?

Here are 5 tips to help you build a meditation habit that sticks:

  1. Use every free minute
    We often think that we need to allocate 20 minutes or more in order to get some ‘meditation’ time in, but this isn’t true. Even one minute can make a difference if you start doing it regularly. Use the time when you’re waiting in line, the first minute after waking or when you’re next put on hold over the phone. With so many moments that we let pass today, often frustrated, make it a habit to utilise these mindfully, and simply focus on your breath for that short moment.
  2. Connect it to an existing habit
    One of the difficulties of creating a new habit is remembering to do it. When you link it to another habit that is already in your routine it becomes much easier. For example brushing your teeth or
    making a cup of coffee – train yourself so that before taking your first sip, you take ten slow, deep breaths or straight after brushing your teeth, you sit for two minutes and do some breathing exercises.
  3. Use a meditation app like Silatha that is designed to help build a habit
    Get supported by using a meditation app such as Silatha. The special method has been fine-tuned over many years and promises to increase your chances for success, as well as being 6 times more successful than any other meditation app in creating a habit that lasts. The method includes linking your personal intention to a tangible object which then becomes your reminder. So, when a stressful moment happens during the day, you hold your object (called your ‘Gem’) and you will go back to your intention. This is not the only technique Silatha uses to build a lasting meditation habit as the guided meditations range in length, support topics and ensure you acknowledge the positive steps toward change you’re taking, congratulating you along the way.
  4. Find a buddy
    Are you the kind of person that thrives alongside others or perhaps needs an extra push? Many of us do, so if that’s the case for you, get a meditation buddy who can keep you excited and on track. Align on a time of the day that you both will meditate and keep each other
    accountable. It’s always easier when done together. You can also join a group, so you meet like-minded women and you’ll stay reminded and inspired – join the Silatha Tribe here.
  5. Have a tangible reminder
    Invest in yourself with a tangible reminder. This can be a beautiful piece of jewellery (check out the Silatha collection here, where each piece has a special intention linked to it already), or create a warm space in your home with some candles and flowers, where you feel calm and
    relaxed. Make sure there is a tangible element in your daily surroundings that helps you remember that you want to sit for a few minutes, so you can’t forget.

With a combination of the above suggestions you will be well on your way to building that healthy habit you desire, so then whatever 2021 may bring, you’ll be ready! You will certainly notice you’re more calm, focused and perhaps start to feel that you have your life under control and are heading in a positive direction.

And lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Go bit by bit, remembering that building a meditation routine is a marathon, not a sprint and great things take time, so don’t rush. Build day by day and if you miss one, don’t be too tough on yourself, just smile and pick it up the next day.

We wish you well and hope you’ll enjoy the Silatha method, here you can find more information:the Silatha app [Android & Apple], website and on social.


About Silatha

Silatha Founder, Veroniek Vermeulen, is on a quest to break women’s mental health taboos and support women through their mental health issues with meditation. Veroniek enjoyed a long career as a Senior level marketing expert. At some point in her professional life she realised that status and money weren’t making her happy. A life changing experience amidst the beautiful surroundings of the Himalayas got her in contact with meditation and this led to the creation of Silatha, a company that wants to improve the mental health of women harnessing a special meditation
method that becomes a long lasting habit.

www.silatha.com

Postpartum Psychosis

After an incredibly brave, humbling and eye-opening conversation we had with postpartum psychosis survivor, Eve Canavan, we wanted to share some information about this rare but serious mental health illness that often goes un- or mis-diagnosed, so that you as a Mama, or you as a partner or friend of someone who experiences this can tell the signs and know how to help.

Eve is coordinator of the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week for the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, and as you’ll hear in her story even the health professionals she sought help from where unable to recognise postpartum psychosis, and when they did, not all of them knew how to help her. Please help spread the work about this severe and sometimes frightening illness, so that no women have to suffer alone or for long.

The below information was provided by the Action for PostPartum Psychosis (APP) website. For more information please visit: app-network.org


WHAT IS POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS?

Postpartum Psychosis (PP) is a severe, but treatable form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby. It can happen ‘out of the blue’ to women without previous experience of mental illness. There are some groups of women, women with a history of bipolar disorder for example, who are at much higher risk. PP normally begins in the first few days to weeks after childbirth. It can get worse very quickly and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Most women need to be treated with medication and admitted to hospital.

With the right treatment, women with PP do make a full recovery. Recovery takes time and the journey may be tough. The illness can be frightening and shocking for both the woman experiencing it and her family. Women do return to their normal selves, and are able to regain the mothering role they expected. There is no evidence that the baby’s long term development is affected by Postpartum Psychosis.

The period after childbirth can be a devastating time to experience a severe mental illness. For women who experience PP, their partners, friends and family, it can be hard to find high quality information about the symptoms, causes and treatment.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

There are a large variety of symptoms that women with PP can experience. Women may be:

  • Excited, elated, or ‘high’.
  • Depressed, anxious, or confused.
  • Excessively irritable or changeable in mood.

Postpartum Psychosis includes one or more of the following:

  • Strange beliefs that could not be true (delusions).
  • Hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling things that are not there (hallucinations).
  • High mood with loss of touch with reality (mania).
  • Severe confusion.

These are also common symptoms:

  • Being more talkative, sociable, on the phone an excessive amount.
  • Having a very busy mind or racing thoughts.
  • Feeling very energetic and like ‘super-mum’ or agitated and restless.
  • Having trouble sleeping, or not feeling the need to sleep.
  • Behaving in a way that is out of character or out of control.
  • Feeling paranoid or suspicious of people’s motives.
  • Feeling that things are connected in special ways or that stories on the TV or radio have special personal meaning.
  • Feeling that the baby is connected to God or the Devil in some way.

There are a great many other symptoms that can be experienced. For more information see mums’ and dads’ personal descriptions of PP.

WHAT’S THE DIAGNOSIS?

Postpartum Psychosis is the label used by most professionals for an episode of mania or psychosis with onset soon after childbirth. However, other names can be used and this can be confusing. You might hear the terms: Puerperal Psychosis; Postnatal Psychosis; Mania or Bipolar Disorder triggered by childbirth (this doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner will develop ongoing Bipolar Disorder); Schizoaffective Disorder with onset following childbirth (this doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner will develop ongoing Schizoaffective Disorder); Postnatal Depression with psychotic features.

There are many other mental health conditions that occur following childbirth, including Postnatal Depression (PND), severe anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is important that these conditions are not grouped under the term ‘Postnatal Depression’. PND is much more common than PP, but tends to require different treatments and has different causes and outcomes.

WHAT’S THE CAUSE?

Unfortunately we know little about the causes of PP. Research points to biological, probably hormonal, factors related to pregnancy and childbirth but many other factors are likely to be involved.

For further information about PP take a look at APP’s Frequently Asked Questions, read their Insider Guides, see the Royal College of Psychiatrists PP patient information leaflet which APP have helped to develop, read the personal stories of APP members, and find out about the research APP are conducting to help understand more about the condition.


ABOUT ACTION FOR POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS

APP’s Peer Support network helps women and families affected by PP feel understood, supported and less isolated. With the support of world-leading academic and clinical experts, an amazing, supportive, peer-led, lived experience community has been developed. The Peer Support community has been described as “life changing”, “lifting me from the shadows of a life half-lived” and a “good and precious resource to all who have been affected by PP”. Our evaluation shows that the service saves lives and improves recovery outcomes. It is the only PP support network in the UK, and the largest in the world with over 900 members. 

Our workshops, conferences and arts events enable women to articulate their experience of PP and develop information to help other women and families. We facilitate ground-breaking research into the causes of PP at the universities of Birmingham and Cardiff and produce ‘Insider Guides’ and other expert literature to support affected families and health professionals caring for those with PP.

APP is a collaborative project run by women who have experienced PP, specialist health professionals and academic experts from Birmingham and Cardiff Universities. Our project is based within the Mood Disorders Research Group in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham. We are very grateful for their support.

Postnatal Depletion

By contributing writer: Clare Young, Registered Nutritional Therapist and Founder of Seed Nutrition.

You have most likely heard of postnatal depression, clinical depression involving the lack of pleasure or joy from a situation. Your midwife may have discussed the signs and symptoms with you and your doctor may have asked you a few questions surrounding your mental health in your six week check-up. But has anyone discussed postnatal depletion with you? And what even is it?

Postnatal depletion is a relatively new term coined by the Australian Doctor Oscar Serrallach. He describes a collection of symptoms from hormonal, physiological, psychological, mental and emotional changes that happen to a mother after she gives birth. Although the term is relatively new, I bet every single Mumma reading this can relate to at least one, or more, of these symptoms included in postnatal depletion even if you gave birth
10 years ago:
– Intense fatigue and exhaustion
– Anxiety
– Hypervigilance (feeling constantly wired)
– Easily startled and sensitive to bright light
– Difficulty concentrating (baby brain)
– Poor libido
– Poor Immune function (mastitis, catching every cold going, reoccurring infections).
– Loss of confidence and self-esteem
– Feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope

Your body goes through immense changes externally and internally from the moment of conception. The nutrients used while your baby grows, during childbirth, the postnatal healing process and breastfeeding are on a much larger scale than pre-conception. If your baby is taking your stores of nutrients in the womb and you don’t replace them with nutrient dense food, supplements and rest, you are likely to feel exhausted once your baby is born. This is also coupled with sleep exhaustion, which has a huge affect on your physiological and emotional health. Then topped off with adjusting to your new Mum life, potential social isolation and looking after a tiny human.

Our Western culture attributes pressures to the modern mother that other cultures do not. We are expected to open our doors to friends and family days after baby is born. We feel we must lose the baby weight and bounce back to our original jean size in a few months. We must be super mum and keep the house tidy, make cake and tea for visiting guests, appear
in control at all times, and look after a new-born baby! Other cultures employ traditional practices that involve the new mother resting for up to 40 days whilst she takes care of her baby and relatives take care of her.

So how can we prevent postnatal depletion in our modern Western World?

The key is in the preparation before the postnatal period, known as the fourth trimester. Ensuring you have a nutrient dense diet during pregnancy will not only supply your baby with the correct nutrients to grow but it will keep your stores topped up so you are not running on empty after the birth.

Our current health care system classes ‘postpartum’ as 6 weeks after childbirth, but actually postpartum recovery can take up to 2 years and postpartum depletion can exist for even longer.

These are some tips to consider for positive postnatal health:

SUPPORT
Help you can organise before the birth;
– To ensure you get some rest and time with your new family pre-warn friends and family that you don’t want any visits in the first few weeks.
– Ask close relatives to drop off food parcels for you. You will appreciate having a nourishing meal ready prepared.
– Someone to help do your house-hold chores. Anyone who visits needs to bring a meal or do the washing up!
– You may receive endless bunches of flowers and cards but why not plant the seed to friends and family that they could contribute towards a gift voucher for a postpartum massage or acupuncture and osteopath appointment.
– Sign up to a regular an online food delivery service to ensure you have a constant flow of ingredients to keep you going.
– Employ a doula who can help with many of the things listed above as well as emotional support and a wealth of knowledge. https://doula.org.uk/

NUTRITION
Everyone’s health is individual but here are some general tips to support post-partum recovery:
– Replenish depleted nutrient stores with a multi vitamin from a reputable company. I like Terranova, Wild Nutrition and Cytoplan as these all have high quality food source supplements.
– Eat when you are hungry and when you need it. Don’t wait until breakfast time if you are hungry at 3am. Keep some oatcakes or an apple by your bed so you can eat something nutritious that will keep you going until breakfast.
– Think nourishing foods – soups, broths, protein smoothies, overnight bircher muesli, dahl.
– Reduce sugar, caffeine and processed foods as these spike blood sugar levels, which if regular will contribute to hunger, tiredness and weight gain.
– Snacks like nuts, seeds, oatcakes with nut butter or guacamole, vegetable crisps, hummus, energy balls and natural fermented yogurt will nourish you and provide energy.
– Focus on the macronutrients in every meal – protein, healthy fats and slow release carbohydrates.
– Replenish important micronutrients -Vit D (supplement), Zinc (nuts and seeds, lamb), Iron (spinach, red meat, lentils – eaten with Vitamin C rich foods), B Vitamins (beef, chicken, yogurt, eggs), Magnesium (spinach, kale, nuts and seeds, legumes), Calcium (leafy greens, oily fish, dairy)
– Stay hydrated, especially if breastfeeding.

WELLBEING
– Gentle exercise like going for a walk, yoga, pelvic floor exercises (if signed off by a doctor)
– Introduce a sleep hygiene routine with ways to wind down before bed (Epsom salt bath, lavender essential oil, sleep tea, eye mask, yogic breathing, black out blinds).
– Nap when you can to restore energy especially in the early postpartum phase.
– 4-7-8 Breathing technique to vitalise and improve energy
– Keep socialising to a minimum in the first few months and spread out meet ups to allow rest days in between.


About Clare

Clare is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and founder of Seed Nutrition, focused on supporting women during pregnancy and postpartum with personalised nutrition plans which tackle common health complaints in motherhood.

She is also the founder of The Nourished Mumma Box, a new venture creating supplement and wellbeing boxes to support pregnant and new Mumma’s that Nourish, Relax and Restore.


You can find more information and recipes for postnatal recovery and free downloadable wellbeing guides on Clare’s website at www.seednutrition.space.

Investing in Yourself, as well as your New Arrival.

Supporting Mamas is what we’re all about! So we caught up with Lara Russell-Jones, founder of Apparently Kids – an online directory of trusted antenatal and postnatal professionals – about the realities of postnatal care in London (UK), what inspired her to start the business and her advice for expecting Mamas.

What inspired you to start Apparently Kids?

Like many new parents I found the transition to being a mum hard. My son arrived early, so I finished a very busy city job and before I knew it, I was rushing into hospital and was out again just a few hours later with a new baby. My husband and I had read the books, attended antenatal classes, got the birth plan prepped, but in hindsight I don’t think we had really thought beyond the birth. When we arrived home, it really hit us that we didn’t know what to do and we suddenly had a very vulnerable baby dependent on us.
I was so fortunate to have been recommended a wonderful private midwife for postnatal care. She arrived the following morning and over a few weeks guided us through a number of complications. My son had a tongue-tie, reflux and I had significant tearing. Over the first few months I was put in touch with some amazing professionals without whom I would really have struggled. In particular, I hadn’t known about specialist women’s pelvic health physios. I saw a fantastic lady who over the course of three appointments and regular homework exercises helped me regain control of my pelvic floor, tighten my diastasis recti and build confidence in my own body again.
It was only when I met my antenatal class and other new mums that I realised how lucky I had been to have found these professionals. When a close friend ran out of a baby class 5 months in, due to incontinence issues, I suggested she go see a women’s pelvic physio. She also had never heard of them before and thought mild incontinence ‘was part of having a baby’.
It was then I realised how many women were in this position. We’re so incredibly lucky in the UK to have our NHS, however they can only do so much. In London especially, we’re also lucky to have so many fantastic ante and postnatal professionals to support us, however it seemed to be a lottery if you were recommended to one. I want to remove the lottery and give all new parents a single platform to find and access the diverse range of ante and postnatal professionals in their area.

You’ve spoken to lots of expectant and new Mamas –did you see a common concern regarding the levels of ante and postnatal care they’ve received?

The overwhelming feeling is that our NHS is a truly wonderful service, but it’s inconsistent. On average new mums have 12 antenatal appointments, but very few mums saw the same midwife twice. Postnatally, mums had just two midwife checks and health visitors, again rarely seeing the same person.  Some mum’s felt that common issues (such as difficulty breastfeeding or tongue-tie’s) were missed or not discussed/seen due to time constraints.
New parents also felt unprepared by some of the antenatal classes they had attended. Common feedback is that classes focus too much on the birth itself and gloss over the postnatal period as ‘the wonderful cuddles with your newborn’. Especially when sleep deprivation kicks in, many parents wished there was more emphasis on this period and access to formal support.

What would you recommend expectant Mamas to consider?

It’s natural that new mums are completely focused on preparing things for the baby, but I really recommend mums consider investing in themselves to prepare for the new arrival. In particular:

  1. Book an infant-specific First Aid course for yourself and your baby’s main caregivers to do before the birth. You will feel so much more prepared and confident. We have some fantastic ones on our website, they’re not expensive and it could make all the difference.
  2. Book a specialist women’s health physio appt for 6-8 weeks after your birth. No matter what type of birth you’ve had, they will be able to properly assess your pelvic floor and posture, supporting you with rehabilitation exercises. It’s so important to look after your own body so you can properly support your new baby.
  3. Think about what support or help you may have access to. Have you got friends or family nearby who might be able to help for the odd afternoon? It’s amazing how little things like someone cooking, cleaning & running a wash can make all the difference. If you don’t, consider a postnatal doula who can act as an ‘extra pair of hands’ to help you. For a little extra help, you could consider private midwives or maternity nurses.
  4. Think about how you intend to feed your baby. If you’re keen to breastfeed, seeing an IBCLC lactation consultant within the first couple of days of birth can be really helpful. Our mum’s say that IBCLCs were able to immediately spot tongue-ties and support them with correct latching and feeding positions which set them-up for their breastfeeding journey.
  5. Finally – consider a few things closer to home. Stock your freezer with your favourite meals, your fridge with healthy snacks (especially for those 3am feeds when you’re a bit peckish too) and queue up those guilty-pleasure Netflix series!

What’s been the best and toughest thing about starting a business as a new mum?

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of starting this business which gave me something to focus on and think about which wasn’t necessarily when my son last fed or did a poo…! Meeting all the wonderful professionals in the area and hearing their stories has to be the best thing. The toughest element has been working in nap times. I felt like I was reducing my free time even further, but it’s been more than worth it.

How are you finding juggling work in lockdown life?

This is definitely the tricky part. My husband has a full time job and a month ago I also went back to work 4 days a week. We’re now looking after our little one in a shift-pattern to make sure we both get enough time. A colleague recommended just blocking out your diary with childcare commitments two weeks ahead so that colleagues know when they can book you for meetings or not. This advice has really worked for us and we’re pretty strict on it.
It’s challenging to create ‘me-time’ with kids in lockdown, so we’re trying to be creative. I’ve started taking a kettlebell to the park so I can do some circuits whilst my son plays in the shade. He absolutely loves watching me do burpees and giggles away – not sure if that is a complement to my technique or not!

Finally, what’s the one thing you’d say to any new parent?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, in whatever form you need. I think becoming a parent is possibly the biggest transition you’ll ever make in your life and you can’t be expected to know everything and be perfect at everything straight away. You can be the best parent in the world, but it always helps when someone is there to pop food on the table, clean the house or hold the baby so you can take a shower!


www.apparentlykids.co.uk

How to make Working From Home work for you

  1. Create your workspace. Establish where your workspace is at home, and then treat it like so. Clear the space of any unnecessary distractions. If you can, get a chair with a back so it’s comfortable and better for your posture and maybe move a table lamp if you need better light.
  2. Set your agenda. Working from home isn’t the time for running your online errands. Write yourself a to-do list of your working day’s tasks and start ticking them off.
  3. Keep having conversations. Whether it’s via Slack, Skype or another form of communication your company uses, make sure you interact and chat regularly with your colleagues. Keep having meetings and calls to ensure you still feel engaged and keep business chugging along as usual.
  4. Take breaks. Set yourself work hours and break times, and only take breaks within the allocated slots you’ve given yourself. It’s really easy to become distracted when you’re at home, but it’s also important to make sure you stretch those legs, get some air and fill up your water glass or make another cup of tea.
  5. Clock off as normal. Working from home doesn’t mean you have to over-compensate your availability. If you’ve worked well and done all you need to do for the day, don’t let work eat into your personal time. Close your inbox as you would leave the office, and begin your post-work routine.

Yoga Pose: Cat Stretch

The ‘Cat’ stretch is a simple and highly effective yoga stretch which helps warm up and strengthen the spine.

It can be practiced first thing in the morning if you wake up feeling stiff or at any time during the day. It’s also fun to do with your baby lying between your hands looking up at you.

The pose helps release tightness in the muscles across the upper back and improve mobility through the spine. It also gently strengthens the abdominal muscles and massages and stimulates the internal organs.

How To…
1. Start on your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line.
2. Look down towards your baby or at the floor beneath you.
3. As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling and lift your head to look straight ahead.
4. As you exhale, round the spine like a cat stretching, pressing into the hands and the tops of the feet, drawing the lower abdomen up towards the spine.
Repeat 10 times.

Recommended by yoga instructor and pregnancy yoga teacher trainer Tara Lee.

Tara will be taking a “Tension Release” class at our event on Saturday 8th Feb. Limited spaces available. Class price £30 includes a full day of talks from baby and toddler experts as well as hot drinks, lunch and a goodie bag! Book here.

Beating Burn-Out: 5 tips to keep you sane

Our founder, Arianna Radji Lee, shares her five tips to keep you sane when juggling more than one job.

You might have heard the term ‘burn-out’ used over recent years as a term to describe feelings of being physically and emotionally run down. You may have also seen, felt or even found yourself rolling your eyes at yet more millennial jargon.

But, as of 2020, the phrase ‘burn-out’ has officially been recognised as a global medical condition since it was added to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases. Their definition of the term is ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’

I started this year with three jobs under my belt:

1) As a freelance event consultant where I am currently working for my client 3 days a week;

2) I also teach spinning at boutique spin studio, PSYCLE, four times a week, and

3) Most recently launched Pachamama to support women’s transition to motherhood by offering pre and postnatal health and wellbeing events

Now this might sound strange coming from someone who works in events, but I don’t deal well with stress. Like, at all. Ever since my father died 5 years ago, my levels of anxiety have risen to the surface and are only ever an aggravated email away. Over the years I’ve had to find coping mechanisms to help keep my anxiety at bay; and now, more so than ever with three jobs on the go, I’ve really had to focus on the best ways to navigate my stress-levels without compromising on the work itself or my own well-being.

Full disclosure and as irony would have it, as I write this, I have a stress-induced stye on my left eye, so I’m certainly no expert in self-care! I’m also well aware that the jobs I’m referring to are all business-related and there are many other forms of jobs, such as parenthood. Whatever you’re juggling though, here are some of the things I have found useful when managing multiple things on the go. Some of my advice will resonate with you, some certainly won’t. Take what you can or what you need and start small. No one is going to have time to implement everything at once. I’d suggest picking one that you can add to your weekly schedule and try it. Once that becomes habit and routine, add another, then another. And whatever you do, don’t berate yourself for not having the perfect self-care regime. It doesn’t exist. The fact you’re even considering making yourself a priority is a massive step in the right direction.

Let me know how you get on and please do share any self-care rules and regimes you have that work for you.

1) Set your non-negotiable. Whether it’s at home or at the office, be crystal clear on your working and lifestyle norms so that both you and others can make sure you stick to them. For example, if you’re a working mum, your non-negotiable might be that you need to leave work early on a certain number of days to pick your kid up from nursery. If you’ve vocalised and established that rule with your employer, you won’t end up feeling guilty or concerned about leaving when you need to, and your colleagues can adapt and adjust to support you achieve that.

2) Start with the things you love. Everyone’s got a to-do list. Mine is ginormous and is all over the place – I write notes on my phone, I have an app to help manage tasks, I email myself things to do and I set calendar reminders. For someone who’s so organised, the way I structure that organisation isn’t great, and when I look at the number of things I’ve got to get through it can be ridiculously over-whelming. When faced with a long list, most people tackle the hard jobs first and save the enjoyable ones till last. Well, I reverse that.  Behavioural change specialist and friend, Shahroo Izadi, taught me that it’s much easier to make a start on the harder tasks when I’m feeling good about myself. So now I start my day with the things I enjoy the most or that are the easiest because they make me feel capable and confident enough to take on the tasks that I find more challenging.

3) Dial-down the digital. A lot of my work means having a social presence. As a spinning instructor I use Instagram to help build and celebrate my community of riders; and as a small business owner I use it to increase brand awareness. I’m also in about 20+ active WhatsApp groups that are a constant source of notification, even when muted! There’s no doubt that technology is incredible, but if we’re not careful, it can be incredibly harmful. The feeling of always having to be ‘on’ and available is exhausting, so here are some of the parameters I’ve set to protect myself:

  • The days I’m working for my client, I set my personal phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’. You can set a handful of people who, if they call you instead of text, can get through, but otherwise that phone doesn’t make a sound.
  • I’ve switched WhatsApp, Instagram and Mail notifications off. I know I will be opening these apps at certain points throughout the day regardless of getting notifications. So why have the added nuisance of getting reminders?
  • I allocate time for Instagram. If I didn’t, I’d be on it way more than I need to be. How many times have you found yourself unnecessarily scrolling through when bored or just to kill time?
  • No walking and texting. So many times I’ve almost bumped into someone on the street or worse, wondered how I wasn’t run over because I didn’t check the road properly before crossing. Instead now, I listen to a podcast on my walk to the station or speak to my mum. It’s amazing.

4) Proximity is power. Last year I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a seminar by world-renowned life-coach Tony Robbins, which was a bizarre, wonderful and life-changing experience for me. One of the most significant lessons I took away from it is the idea that the people you surround yourself with and spend time with are ultimately who you become. He explains it here (yes, he does talk that quickly in real life!), and whilst he’s talking about it from a business perspective, I applied it to my personal life. I surround myself with family and friends who are loving, supportive, smart and successful in the hopes that I, myself, become all of those things. Having friends who not only support my business goals, but who don’t make me feel guilty when I need to put work first, is incredibly rare and refreshing. So find people that lift, bolster and encourage you when the going gets tough and be sure to recognise it when they need it in return.

5) Sleep is a healer. I think that if everyone had the ability to sleep as much as they needed, we’d be so much healthier. But of course, with work, kids and other commitments, hardly anyone has that luxury. I’m also not a good sleeper. I find it hard to switch my brain off at night so it sometimes takes me hours to fall asleep, and when I finally do, it’s always disrupted. I find tiredness adds to my levels of stress and anxiety, so in order to help manage it, I plan my working week (where possible) and weekends to ensure there are at least one or two nights that I know I’m able to get eight to nine hours of sleep. I read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep which claims that you can’t ‘bank’ sleep, which is probably true. But just knowing that there is even one night in the entire week that means I can ‘catch-up on’ the sleep I’ve missed out on, has massive psychological impact and in turn makes me feel less anxious about working late or waking up early on  the other days.

Q&A with Women’s Health Physio, Jenny Constable

Jenny Constable is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Six Physio. We spoke to her to learn more about postnatal physio check ups, find out why they are important and what women need to look out for.
Jenny will be speaking at Pachamama’s upcoming pop ups on 25th Jan, 1st Feb and 8th Feb, addressing subjects including postnatal care regarding pelvic floor, abdominals and sex. For more information on our events and how to book, click here.

What can women expect when they book their first appointment with you, post-birth?

I always start by asking about their birth history to find out if they’ve had a vaginal birth or a C-section. I find out whether they are breastfeeding, as that has an implication for returning to exercise. We then go through any aches and pains that they have, and talk about their bladder and bowl movements…the nitty gritty stuff. The question that I always ask, which I genuinely never expect to be answered with a yes is: have they returned to sex? I ask that as it helps to know what their expectations are in terms of returning to sex, and I can help alleviate any problems or concerns they have with that.
I then tend to go through what exercise they’ve done pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy, and whether they are doing anything now or what their goals are. This ranges from women who just want to do a class, to others who want to feel more fit; then there are the more extreme cases when a woman already has a date in the diary for her next run.
I would then look at their body, starting with their posture; posture is key. Mothers have gone from nine months of being in a pregnancy posture and they have a tendency to stay in that position which can really impact their tummies.
Once I’ve looked at posture, I will look at that abdominal muscle separation by having them lie down and having a feel of their tummy. At Six Physio we use a real-time ultrasound machine which is exactly the same machine that looks at babies, but I’m looking at stomach muscles to show me if a woman is working her inner core stomach muscles properly. I find a lot of women will grip with their obliques which creates a flat belly with a bulge below the belly button, that then a lot of women work even harder to try to get rid of, which only makes it worse.
Then, if the woman allows it, I will move onto a vaginal assessment, where I’ll ask them to undress from the waist down, cover them in a towel for modesty, to look at them doing a pelvic floor squeeze. I will also look at their stitches if they’ve had a vaginal birth to see for any tears, and potentially have a feel around those muscles to feel if there’s any pain on the outside. Then, with a gloved hand and lots of lubricant, I will go inside the vagina and feel for muscle strength as well as any discomfort.
It’s just like any other routine physio assessment, it’s just that the muscles we’re looking at are harder to access without getting up close and personal!

And how long does that assessment typically take?

That all happens in a one hour session. At the end of the session I’ll go through a couple of exercises – the do’s and don’t’s. A typical one is seeing if they are able to do a double table top (lying down on your back with both legs lifted an a table top position) to check whether they can do this whilst keeping good control of their tummy. If they can’t I can let them know that they can attend their Pilates class, but mustn’t do the double table top yet. It’s about making sure women have that control over their body and knowing what to look out for.

Have you found that there is a popular goal that women are working towards post-birth?

Everyone’s got different goals, but overall I think that women just want to feel like they are doing the right thing and that they are not doing any harm to their bodies.

Are there any common misconceptions that women have about their bodies after birth?

The main misconception, I think, is that women think they should snap back after having a baby. I think that’s because they’re not told much about their post-pregnancy body in their antenatal classes or they see celebrities in the media that have just had a baby and are wearing a tight skimpy dress.
Another misconception is that women think that as soon as they’ve had their six week postnatal check with their GP, they can go straight into running. Generally from what I’ve seen, I would say they can’t.

What would you say is the most important part of your body that you need to be looking after once you’ve given birth?

That’s a tough one! It all works together so it’s hard to pick out just one part, but I’d say your pelvic floor. We know that if you’ve got a pelvic floor that’s functioning nicely, i.e. it can contract and relax, it isn’t painful and it’s strong, that in turn leads you to doing more intense exercise more comfortably.

And what’s the best way to look after your pelvic floor?

Coming in to see a physio of course! We would check that you’re doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly and measure how strong it is.
Then once you’re doing your exercises it’s things like avoiding constipation. Straining can put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor, so ensuring you’re getting enough fruit and fibre.
Also making sure you poo in the right position. You can do this by making sure your knees are above your hips. If you have a small stool at home, just pop it under your feet when you’re on the toilet.
Avoiding heavy lifting is another way to best look after your pelvic floor. This can be very difficult when you’re a mum, especially if you have a newborn and a toddler, so it’s about seeking advice on when to lift and how by looking at different lifting techniques.

We’re seeing a few fem-tech products that are on the market, for example the Elvie Trainer, which helps strengthen your pelvic floor at home. Would you recommend using those?

There’s lots of things on the market, all varying in different price ranges. The Elvie, for example, is good for what we call ‘bio feedback’, which is basically giving you information on whether you’re squeezing the right muscles. The device can detect pressure and it’s been very well designed in that it usually tells you if you’re doing the wrong thing. It’s a small, wireless device that goes inside and connects to an app on your phone via bluetooth.
The Elvie Trainer is on the more expensive end; there are products like The Educator which has an applicator and is little bit more fiddly, but a lot cheaper.
At the end of the day if you’re doing the correct technique when you squeeze with or without these contraptions, you will get the same result.

Typically, how long do you need to do these kinds of exercise before you start seeing progress?

Any muscle in the body takes eight weeks to get bigger, and normally the guidelines say doing pelvic floor for three months, three times a day should give you enough time to see a progression in that strength.

We’ve focused a lot on postnatal recovery, what are some of your top tips for someone who is pregnant?

I think it’s knowing that there are different educational classes out there that give different advice when it comes to the antenatal and postnatal period. Some are very focused on the labour, breastfeeding and baby care, but don’t talk a lot about looking after the mother and getting her body ready. So I think it’s important that when you’re investigating which antenatal classes to do, just to be mindful of what they’re talking about.
I see so many women who come in with an element of a prolapse – which is when the vaginal wall gets a bit soft and sometimes the bladder or the bowel push into it. It’s quite common – around 50% of women at some point in their life will have a prolapse – but it can be prevented through education.
A lot of the women I see who have a prolapse tell me that they were never told that could happen after having a baby. Knowledge is power. Women should be told these things beforehand so that they are aware of what could happen if they don’t look after themselves properly.
Unfortunately, I think there is a normalisation of the problems you can have after having a baby. For example, you can see an advert about wearing liners because you’re leaking and that will lead you to think that it’s ok, it’s an ‘oops’ moment and it’s fine to do that. When actually it’s not fine. It’s common, but it’s not normal. And we need a lot more education around all of this.

Jenny Constable is Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Six Physio. She will be speaking at Pachamama’s upcoming pop ups on 25th Jan, 1st Feb and 8th Feb, addressing subjects including postnatal care regarding pelvic floor, abdominals and sex. For more information on our events and how to book, click here.