My first book Minding Mum is all about understanding that self-care is not selfish in fact it’s probably the most selfless thing you can do.
I learnt this lesson the hard way after I had my son James who is now just nearly six. I completely neglected my own needs post birth and was certainly not Minding Mum. I pushed myself way too hard, didn’t eat properly and it came at a huge cost to both myself and my son as I became very ill with postnatal depression. What I have realized the past seven years on my wellness journey is that if our own tank is empty we have no strength and energy to give to others.
Once I started to value myself enough to eat well, exercise, talk kindly to myself and practice daily happiness habits I began to understand the power of self care. I learnt what it truly means not only for ourselves but for those we love.
I now have more time (believe it or not), patience, energy and vitality for James since Minding Mum. Practicing self-care does not mean you are shirking your responsibilities. In fact as a parent there is no better way to instill confidence and self-esteem into your kids than to be a healthy and happy role model.
I know the first thing mums say is that they have no time for Minding Mum and since they have had their children they can’t even go to the bathroom alone anymore. The only time I have had a shower alone without 20 questions is when I’m away.
I was an impossibly stubborn Mum and thought this too. However when I was unwell I found it incredibly difficult to get dressed most days and knew something had to change. There is real power in self care and even more power in taking small steps to get there.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and sometimes we need to relearn or learn in my case to like ourselves and value ourselves. The small changes I have made over the past few years have led me on a path of true wellness. Not only that I have discovered the true contentment I have always craved but never been able to find. After I had James I stopped placing my worth in external things like property, boyfriends and job status but I started to look within and face my fears.
It’s been a rocky road and some days I’ve felt brave and others scared but every day I have been giving life my best shot. I am now living an anxiety and depression free life, which is something I never thought, would be possible. I have daily happiness habits and if you scroll through Facebook for 10 minutes you can do this too.
TIPS FOR MINDING MUM:
Say thank you every morning as you wake and keep a gratitude diary. This should take no more than 3 minutes each day. Recent research from Harvard happiness researcher and author Shawn Achor says that if you pick 3 different things each day that you are grateful for not only does it help your optimism but also it actually rewires our brain. This is one of the most powerful tools I use daily and this habit helped to drag me out of some dark times. Sometimes we can become too focused on what is going wrong and miss everything that is going right!
2. FIND YOUR WELLNESS FORMULA
We’re all different which is the beauty of life and what’s works for one will not work for another so have fun and find a formula that works for you. In life we tend to focus on just one area at a time like diet or exercise but what I have found is that a little of everything is better than a lot of one thing to help you find that balance. (PG 23 in my book)
3. EAT REAL FOOD
We’ve made food very complicated and there are thousands of diets out there now. My advice is keeping it simple so eat fresh wholefoods. Remove the word diet for your life, as they simply don’t work! Steer clear of processed foods and ease up on sugar. Stay on the outskirts of the supermarkets (usually where fresh produce is) cook and freeze for the week if you are short on time and try to eat a variety of colour.
4. KEEP HYDRATED
You will never realise how bad you feel until you start to feel good, and hydration or dehydration can be the cause of so many illnesses [so too much hydration could make you sick too?]. For the past fifteen years I have started my day with lemon water. It all started at a photo-shoot one day, when my skin was bad as I suffered with adult acne. A make-up artist told me that drinking warm lemon water every morning would help. It is something that I have done ever since and since studying nutrition I have come to realise that the benefits are far greater than I could have ever imagined.
So my first tip for hydration is to wake up your body with a glass of warm water and lemon each day. This will kick start your digestive system and metabolism. It’s small changes like this that will make a massive difference to your health. Just think of how dehydrated you are after a night’s sleep. Does it not make sense to drink fluids first before putting more food in? When I take a break from drinking warm lemon water in the morning I really notice the difference in how efficient my digestive system is and I also notice a difference in my energy levels.
Lemons are great because they contain bioflavonoids, potassium and Vitamin C. Bioflavonoids are super antioxidants that contribute to good heart health and have powerful anti-carcinogens. Potassium stimulates the brain as well as helping keep your blood pressure under control and the antioxidants from the Vitamin C will really help your skin (healing, especially after a C-section). Vitamin C is required to produce collagen, a protein that plays a critical role in the structure of our bodies. Collagen is the framework for our skin and our bones and without it, we would quite literally fall apart. Vitamin C also aids the absorption of iron and if you live in a big city just look at Vitamin C as a giant fire extinguisher for all the pollution and nasty toxins out there.
TOP TIP: Get more water into your day by keeping a bottle with you all the time and by drinking herbal teas (caffeine is a diuretic). Eat your water by including water-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet, like cucumber and watermelon.
5. CATCH NEGATIVE THOUGHTS AND SWITCH THEM TO MORE POSITIVE ONES
This sounds easy but some of us are in a pattern of consistent negative thinking without even realizing it and it’s a habit that we can break with practice. I use my STOP- CATCH – CHANGE formula which is Stop your negative thought, catch it and change it to a positive one. This might seem unnatural and hard in the beginning but it becomes easier with time. I use it to catch negative thoughts about myself, others, work and life in general. Building good self-esteem means appreciating yourself and treating yourself with compassion.
6. FIND AN EXERCISE YOU ACTUALLY LIKE
Fitness is meant to be fun and if it’s not for you then try something new. Life is hard enough without dreading our exercise class or the gym. There are 100’s of options to keep moving and keep fit. I get bored so I switch it up all the time from yoga to Pilates and the gym. You need to feel good about what you are doing as our body, mind and spirit are all connected.
7. MY TOP BEAUTY TIPS ARE
Keep it simple and keep it real. Make up should be used to highlight your features and I’m definitely a “less is more” girl. From a health perspective I have also started to use more natural and paraben free products after all, a lot of the chemicals in our beauty products are absorbed by our skin and enter into our bloodstream.
When I was recovering from depression and anxiety I started to understand that the products we use disrupt our endocrine system and our hormones, which is all related to mental health. (CouleurCaramel.ie and Phyts are great brands) Try switching up your deodorants to a more natural alternative too. It’s the cumulative effect of all the products that causes the problems as our bodies are actually very good at detoxing naturally but they just can’t cope with being overloaded with environmental toxins, product toxins, bad food and a bad lifestyle!
8. ALWAYS CLEAN YOUR SKIN PROPERLY AND WASH YOUR PILLOW CASE REGULARLY
I have suffered from adult acne so my rule with my pillow is
So you sleep on one side, then turn it over the following night and sleep on the opposite side, and then wash it. It’s simple and effective.
9. USE YOUR BREATH
Stress is our biggest killer these days and using mindfulness and meditation can help. Its simple, if you can breathe you can meditate. Our breath is our most powerful asset yet it is the most underused resource we have and its free and available all the time. As a busy mum you can feel overwhelmed quite often and very often just taking a moment to stop and breathe can make all the difference.
Stop, breathe and be
10. STOP JUDGING AND START SUPPORTING
I have one rule and that’s always try and be there for another mum who needs you. All mums are working mums whether you stay at home or go out to work. There is no ideal situation as each one of us are completely different. To create a good work/life balance you need to do what’s right for you. There is a full chapter on PND (post natal depression) in the book, which is honest and offers great tips on asking for help and helping yourself!
There are many more tips in my book ‘Minding Mum’ which you can buy here which you can buy here.