It’s officially spring!
But, let’s be honest – how many of us, I wonder, don’t get nature’s message about fresh beginnings, all giddy lambs, blossom and the happy chirrup of birdsong? We’re consumed by looking after our little folk, and generally being busier than the Easter bunny when it comes to putting everyone else’s needs first.
Yes, sacrifice goes with the motherhood territory, and we want nothing but the best for our children. But there is no wisdom in not giving yourself the time and healthy stuff we all want and need: it’s a true false economy in the long run. You simply cannot constantly be a good mum if you are beyond tired, malnourished, or out of shape. Yet it is what so many of us unwittingly try to do.
From wellness-from-within breakfasts, to infectious exercise, here are my favourite achievable ways to find your inner happy by nurturing your sense of self and feel-good thought patterns, plus achieving some much-needed balance…
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Our bodies are smart cookies! If you tune into its nuances, cues and sometimes not so gentle ‘nudges’ in the right direction for our mental and physical needs – think sugar cravings or skin that’s in bad condition – and respond accordingly, it can change just about everything. With nothing overwhelming, just a few tweaks here and there, you can see and feel some amazing benefits in your general state of wellness. The surprising thing, too, is that keeping healthy and happy needn’t take much time: by taking baby steps, and integrating small daily changes it’s much easier to succeed in developing new, wholesome self-care habits for yourself.
WALK THIS WAY
Sworn by the likes of Jane Austen and latterly cool girls Alexa Chung and Jennifer Aniston, a good brisk walk (or hike, even) in the fresh air helps immediately and is brilliantly life-affirming. Boosting circulation, releasing endorphins and blowing away cobwebs; it’s just as important for your skin, too, after a winter of enduring the parching effect of central heating, just a few miles regularly will oxygenate your skin, making it feel firmer, look brighter and perkier.
EAT YOUR GREENS
Hands up if you actually get any fresh fruit once the kids have had first dibs? Or actually remember to eat (properly) at regular intervals, rather than some snatched not-exactly-healthy snack just as we sense we’re running on empty? The closer you can eat to things in their natural, freshest and cleanest state, the better: they’re easier for your body to digest and absorb the nutrients from. You can easily ward off seasonal ills too by adding turmeric and ginger to your diet – they work especially well in curries and Asian food (personally, I love this hearty dahl). And as you would with your little ones, always carry healthy snacks for yourself too when you’re on-the-go: most supermarkets stock handy packets of nutty, dried fruit and seed goodness to nibble on.
GET A BUZZ
A simple switch you can make is to use honey rather than sugar as a sweetener. Manuka is the ultimate power honey, but even regular stuff has antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. About 80% of your immunity is down to your gut, so anything you can put into your system that supports this is a big bonus (and on that note, probiotics are fantastic carriers of good bacterias that helps with the process).
It’s pretty old-school, but staying hydrated is key to energy levels. It’s easier to sip little and often if you carry a flask around with you, and if like me, you loathe boring plain water, try adding some lemon slices or cold fruit tea. Worth remembering too, is that caffeine, citrus juice, hot chocolate and even (sorry) wine aggravates your bladder, so if you’re battling pelvic floor issues try to cut back to just one or two of these drinks per day – but do it gradually so you don’t fall off the wagon.
Our bodies change as we get older, and are far less forgiving. It’s important to take heed of these alterations, not so much because of how your body looks, but how it feels. Adding some gentle, stretching exercise to your routine just two or three times a week helps release internal tension, tone muscles and create core strength vital for daily lives charging round after – and carrying – kids. I love Ashtanga yoga (even though I’m awful at it), and the mean, but effective Ballet Beautiful DVD workout – which is broken into segments so you can fit in ten minutes here and there, and needs no extra equipment other than a bit of grin-and-bear it grit.
A really simple spot of mindfulness can be created just by following Doctor Weil’s ‘4,7,8’ breathing technique: inhale for the count of four through your nose, hold for seven, and exhale for eight through your mouth. Try sitting your tongue against the roof of your mouth to connect your chakras, or if that feels a bit bananas, when you exhale out do so pushing the breath with a ‘haaaaa!’ noise to help expel stress. Try this any time you feel frazzled, or when doing mundane tasks to encourage balance, and find your even keel.
UNLEASH YOUR INNER WONDER WOMAN
Brilliantly bonkers, but nonetheless effective, Harvard academic Amy Cuddy’s key finding about body language is that adopting the iconic pose of Wonder Woman: Legs apart in an A-shape, hands on hips, neck long: reduces cortisol – the stress hormone – dramatically when held for two minutes or longer. A sort of physical version of mindfulness, no doubt it will make you (and your kiddos) smile, too.
POP SOME PILLS
Since taking daily multivitamins since November, I have had one, very brief and feeble cough. Compared to the same time last year when I felt like some Victorian throw-back, all constant colds and skin the exact shade of greaseproof paper, taking vitamins seems to have turned my immunity game on its head. I’m just taking Boots’ own standard vitamins, but I’m thinking of giving The Fountain’s range a whirl.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
One of the simplest, nicest ways to love yourself is by getting a decent night’s sleep. We’re always told ‘sleep when the baby’s sleeping’ when our little ones are tiny, but even if we (rarely) manage this, any thoughts of ensuring we get proper rest too fall quickly from our priorities when they get a little older. Yes, much of our sleep is still determined by them, but the important thing is the quality of the sleep you’re getting when it comes to your mental health in particular. Set yourself up for a good night with an old fashioned mug of Horlicks, a liberal spritz of This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, and leave your phone downstairs so that you’re not tempted to look at it: the harsh light and flurry of data and social media updates is no catalyst for a soothing night’s sleep. Invest in an alarm clock, and only read from a book or softly-lit Kindle if you must.
Written by our Parenting & Lifestyle contributor, Sophie McCorry Day. Follow her motherhood-meets-design blog A Mothers Story.
Img via Nutrition Stripped