Becoming a parent is such a huge transition on so many levels, it doesn’t just have to be your first – every baby is unique.
It is without a doubt, in my experience, simultaneously the most incredible and exhilarating, yet terrifying and stressful rollercoaster I have been on.
It has been a heady mix of desperately wanting to fall asleep when my first born eventually fell asleep, but the postpartum anxiety keeping me awake-but not wanting to sleep either, because watching him sleep was perfection. As a first-time mum my new hobby was: watching my son, either directly in front of me or on my phone screen, swiping through the pictures.
After months of not sleeping with a colicky baby who had cow’s milk protein allergy and silent reflux, I constantly felt like I was failing him for not being able to help him. This huge sense of Mum guilt was having such a negative impact on me. So, I started to explore ways to help me find a sense of balance and calm. It was only when I was studying to become a Holistic Health Coach that I started to really put into practice all the things I had learnt. I knew after having my daughter that I wanted to find a way to support other Mums, to not only find more ways to look after themselves, but also to get the sleep we all need to thrive. All the suggestions I make are things that can fit into your existing day, only take a few minutes, but can have a huge impact.
Firstly, I am going to introduce the Circle of Life or the Balance Wheel exercise. I came across it via The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) during my training. It’s a tool I use myself and I tend to do it every 6 months, just to check in and see where I am at. I also use it with my clients when I work with them as a Health Coach. It’s so simple yet very powerful.
For those who might want to complete this exercise online, you can follow the link: https://www.integrativenutrition.com/circle-of-life
1. The Balance Wheel
It’s straightforward to do, for each segment of the circle, place a dot on the line to indicate your level of satisfaction in each area. A dot towards the centre indicates dissatisfaction and a dot towards the periphery indicates satisfaction. For example, if your relationships are abundant, place a dot on the line somewhere towards the outside of the circle.
Once you have placed all your dots in the segments, draw a line connecting them.
Tip: If it looks a bit like a pac man – don’t worry that’s totally normal.
The Balance Wheel gives you a powerful representation of the areas of life that you feel are out of sync or guidance on where to focus your efforts to make improvements. These could just be small incremental changes, such as drinking more water every day, making a monthly coffee date with a friend, to getting outside for more fresh air and daylight. Even these small steps can lead to positive changes. It’s important once you have highlighted where you are feeling imbalance, to take steps to improve those areas, if you need help finding ways to do that, just reach out, I am happy to support you.
Mindfulness means different things to different people. Simply put, for me it is certain practices, exercises or techniques used that help us to regulate our emotions and bodies – physically and mentally. I refer to it personally as what I do to give myself ‘head space’.
Believe me, on days I don’t do any mindfulness practices I really notice how much of a challenge I find it to maintain my calm when both my toddlers are being toddlers, or how quickly I get snappy if I’m hungry.
Having a mindfulness practice in your life will have long lasting benefits to your health and wellbeing, being able to use them effectively to not only manage emotions but support your body to stay healthy by reducing the negative effects of stress.
One of the most underrated yet effective practices is Deep Breathing, also called Intercostal Diaphragmatic Breathing, or even Belly Breathing.
Breathing – why is it so effective?
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system – which is your body’s rest and relaxation system. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, you are automatically suppressing your body’s sympathetic nervous system which triggers stress responses. These stress responses over time can affect your immune system, blood pressure, and mental health. Whereas the benefits of deep breathing exercises to name a few can be:
- Reduced Blood Pressure
- Reduced Anxiety
- Reduced Pain
- Improved Sleep
My go to breathing practice and one I now incorporate into my daily routine is the 4-7-8 breathing technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. He refers to it as a “natural tranquilliser for the nervous system”.
Aim to do this exercise twice a day to begin with, though only in four cycles each time. Once you have been using this breathing technique for a while you can work your way up to eight cycles.
How to do the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
- Sit comfortably with your back straight
- Place your tongue against the back of your top teeth and keep it there
- Exhale through your mouth, making the air go around your tongue, it should make a whoosh sound. Tip: sometimes pursing your lips can help.
- Close your mouth, inhale through your nose to the count of 4.
- Hold your breath for the count of 7.
- Exhale completely as before to the count of 8.
- Repeat three more times to complete four cycles.
- You may feel lightheaded to begin with.
Finding a mindfulness practice that works for you is important. Everybody is different, for some people it might be meditation whilst others find journaling powerful. Try out a few different ones until you find one that suits you and your needs.