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Nurturing healthy habits as we move outwards after lockdown


flower in adversity

Certainly a lot has changed in the world and in our own lives in the past months. Our work and work spaces, our mobility and shopping experiences, our relationships, social life and habits around fitness and entertainment have all shifted dramatically.

And when our world is shifted upside down, when the ground seems to be disappearing underneath our feet, it can be scary, disorientating and challenging.  That said, these challenges also offer clarity on what is important and possibility for growth and expansion. With all our habits transformed, there has been this incredible opportunity to move out of our comfort zone (hum despite being mostly in the comfort of our home, strange paradox), shift out of automatic pilot and create new habits. So as we carefully take steps towards moving outwards again, what new habits have you consciously created that you want to hold onto? Or maybe you’ve not consciously created habits but have been busy binge-watching Netflix, that’s ok, no judgment here, really😊 That said it is never too late to invite the reflection in: what new habits do I want to invite into my life and nurture? Make intentions, write it down, remind yourself daily, whatever helps you keep these in focus! 

Personally, I’ve taken on some new habits that I want to nurture: practicing yoga and meditation every morning, daily walks, gardening, spending more time cooking nourishing meals. I even started running again. I am really not a disciplined person and my motivation comes not from pushing myself but because I’ve experienced how great I feel when I do these things and notice the difference when I don’t. Now and again I get caught up in less helpful habits especially when I am tired: mindlessly browsing social media, spending too much time on the computer without breaks or comfort eating – all of which makes me feel more tired. As long as this is occasional it is ok for me but I do less and less of it as it is everything but nourishing. Make sure that the habits you choose or things you actually really enjoy and make you feel great, joyful and alive rather than things you feel you should do. Whatever brings joy and vitality to your day will be more likely to stick.

“Just being sentient and in a body with the sun coming up is a state of rapture.” – Rumi

 

A special thought and meditation for expecting moms

To all the mothers bringing new life into the world right now this is an awareness of breathing and body practice to support your well-being. Now more than ever is the time to trust in your amazing body, inner wisdom and strength, and ability to birth freely and nurture your child. It has always been there but the noise of the world and the dominance of the patriarchy sometimes make it difficult to see and feel. Sending you love and well wishes.

Well-being in Corona times: Radical Self-Care & Finding my Tribe

RADICAL SELF-CARE

woman heart mom mindfulness
radical self-care

It is been 2 weeks of working from home and home-schooling and I have to say I am starting to become somewhat adjusted to, even comfortable in this new normal. I know I am not alone in this as many around me have expressed the same, sometimes we need more time, it is a process! The capacity for human adaptability never ceases to amaze me, this just goes to prove how we are capable of so much more than we bring ourselves to believe we are sometimes.

Also collectively, it is amazing how we can all press on the pause button in the face of a global health threat, albeit an invisible one. Why we haven’t been able to do this yet in the face of climate change, an immensely bigger threat, also keeps me busy. I suppose it is because this disruption is less immediate, more gradual and our systems are reactive and better equipped to deal with short-term threats.

Anyway, narrowing the lens and transitioning from the macro to the micro, coming back to little me. The first week of this situation was a major adjustment for me, as for most of us. I didn’t dwell in fear and went straight into acceptance as there clearly wasn’t any other option that would serve me well. I didn’t really think over things much and activated doing mode to take the necessary actions to adjust to these changes.

I digitalised my mindfulness and mindful birthing courses despite having major resistance with switching to online, there just wasn’t any alternative.

I was brutally aware that this situation of uncertainty, this threat to our health and life as we know it would bring about a lot of suffering. Plenty of fear, anxiety and worry around falling ill or losing loved ones, isolation and loneliness, depression, financial insecurity, etc. I immediately felt the urge to help. I thought “How can I be of service?” “What is this situation asking for me”, “What do I feel called to do?”. I felt ignited with purpose.

I also felt somehow immediately excited about the opportunities that come with such a shift. This situation is like a forced retreat, we are cut off from external distractions, invited to pause, reflect, slow down, do and appreciate things differently. This space to reflect has the potential to bring us in touch with what really matters, to connect to ourselves, our loved ones, our families, to heal ourselves and our relationships. To rethink how we live. To live in the moment, to recognize the sacredness of each moment, because more than ever we don’t know what the future will bring (we actually never did know but now we are reminded of this!). There is an opportunity for us to awaken, to live from our hearts, because that is where peace resides. To come into being. The practice of mindfulness and self-compassion are powerful tools to do just that.

I started weekly mindfulness and self-compassion meditations to support others to stay grounded, loving, peaceful and in the moment in these times. These sessions are donation-based, every Thursday evening. You can join us by registering on Facebook or send me an email.

As a mother, mindful birthing teacher and doula, I also feel passionate about supporting expecting and new parents. Being pregnant, giving birth and becoming a parent can be scary at the best of times but is particularly challenging right now. I have set up weekly meetups with a group of mothers & doulas to support expecting and new parents in this vulnerable phase. Please join us or pass this on to new families.

Finally, I’ve been really busy taking care of my kids, creating a home-schooling schedule, supporting them in their work, but also making sure to balance that with having fun, playing, connecting and safeguarding their well-being.

We are thankfully blessed with health and all doing well. But it has not been easy repurposing the work I do to online AND offering extra support sessions to support my community’s well-being (which means working more than I usually do) AND juggling this with home-schooling and motherhood. I am sure any parent, working or not, suddenly finding themselves in a position of home-schooling can concur. My partner is a lawyer and has continued with his hectic work schedule at home so he’s been on conference calls incessantly and the care of the children has fallen mostly under my responsibility.

The first week of this situation I was in survival mode, busy with everyone but myself. At the end of the week I was useless and completely wired adjusting to these big changes. I had a good cry on the Sunday, to release all the tension and adrenaline in my body caused by the stress of the situation and all these new responsibilities I had taken on. After that, all I could do was sleep for the rest of the day.   

I realised if I was to stay sane, healthy and in a place where I could meaningfully support my family and others, I’d better take care of myself more seriously. Of course, I am aware that taking care of myself is important as I am in care roles, as a mother and mindfulness coach so I do make space every day for the practice of mindfulness in some form or another. However, I realised that what I am already doing wasn’t going to be enough to carry me through these times. I needed self-care more than ever if I am going to be a center of peace and sanity:  RADICAL SELF-CARE.

So I asked myself what does radical self-care look like? This last week has been the process of exploring what that means for me and what that looks like and here is how far I’ve come.

          Negotiating with my partner to have 2×1 hours slots to myself in the day, one in the morning and one after lunch. And he often takes over from 19h to put the kids in bed as I have mostly evening courses.

           Starting each morning with a walk in my nearby Vondelpark, coming back for a long sitting meditation, sometimes followed by journaling if time allows.

           During the day, taking time for breaks and nourishing activities with and without the kids – regularly checking in with myself “how am I feeling, what is it I need right now?”.

          I’ve been dancing and singing more throughout the day, with and without my girls

           Taking time to cook nourishing food, also with boosting the immune system top of mind

           Stretching and doing yoga throughout the day with my girls often joining in

           Going out to play for a couple of hours with the girls every day

           Having max a couple of hours where I am really available for / working with the kids and the rest of the time encouraging them to work independently

           Family quiet time after lunch where we spend 30 minutes to an hour reading

           Doing something relaxing and/or creative every day with the girls, I took my painting material out again after years of being in the boxes

           Not checking in with the news unless there’s something I feel I need to know or understand, asking my partner who is a serial news watcher if I missed anything of importance.

           Ending the day with some reading or listening to something inspiring, practicing a body scan meditation, sometimes self-massage, lighting candles, soft music, bath, gratitude practice.

           Going to bed no later than 22h and making sure that I switch off my devices by 20h

I’ve been practicing what I preach more than ever and I am starting to feel wonderfully peaceful. I have less time to myself and somehow, I feel like I have more space. How bizarre? I’ve been even more connected to my body and how I am feeling than usual and connecting more to my children. Not having external pressures and all sorts of social and kid’s activities is very relaxing I find. Of course, I miss giving courses in person and human contact. But I must say I am feeling more peaceful than I have in a while and I can give this gift to my children and others.

find your tribe

FINDING MY TRIBE

My partner is an introvert and talking about emotions, feelings isn’t his cup of tea. Reflecting around both the challenges and opportunities that this time brings on an individual and collective level which I find fascinating, really isn’t his thing either. His idea of winding down after a busy work day is watching news and TV shows and action or thriller movies, as well as thankfully the occasional comedy show. The saying that men and women are from different planets really resonates in my home. I know I am not alone in this. But I did feel a bit lonely being at home and not having anyone I could connect meaningfully with when I really needed to more than usual. So there is probably some work to do around my relationship and this situation is forcing me and many of us to be confronted with that fact. I see  that as a much needed opportunity. In need of immediate support,  the other question was “How can I build meaningful connection in these times?”, “Who can carry me so that I can care for my family and hold space for others?”

So I started looking for support, looking for my tribe in this new online reality. I found support in so many places, many of which were unexpected. Firstly, the courses I host create a collective learning community so definitely the deep sharing there has been precious. I’ve attended a women circle which was a healing experience and intend to continue looking for this sacred feminine connection. I have been doing online dance and yoga sessions. My doula community has been a huge source of nourishment and meaningful exchanges. I’ve also been strengthening the bonds with my community of mindfulness trainers.  I’ve had chats with the neighbours and many friends far and near. Lots of Whatsapp exchanges and hilarious videos shared. With one group of friends we’ve been sending one another our funny dance videos.  I’ve been connected to my family more than in the past and I’ve initiated weekly zoom reunions (my parents are divorced so this frequency of ‘seeing’ one another is completely new for them).

I’ve been receiving tons of inspiration to stay healthy physically and mentally in these times as I am sure you all have. Wisdom and support is exploding from everywhere. And actually it is a bit overwhelming just how much inspiration is out there. Staying on top of it all can be stressful in itself. Too much input even wise is just too much. So even if there are tons of resources that I want to tune in to now, I have decided to tune in to something no more than 30 minutes a day and to do my best to choose wisely amongst this wellness offering overload. On the weekend if there is space and will I allow for more time for this.  

I really value just being with myself and with my family. I realise that there is as much depth within me than there is breadth out there. It does feel good to hear things that resonate with my own experience or the occasional new insight, new way of looking at a situation. So this tuning in supports me in my own process but it is a fine line between support and overwhelm.   

So these are some of my reflections from 2 weeks of this ‘social distancing’ or ‘pausing and staying within’ situation. Ready for week 3!

I’d love to hear what radical self-care and finding your tribe looks like for you so please send me a message or join our sessions.

Wishing you health and strength 🙂

There’s more than Corona in the air : Spring is here!

Spring is in the Air! A week back we had the Spring Equinox. With the Corona pandemic continuing to spread physically and also invading our psyche you may not be feeling particularly cheerful, light and in sync with Spring season.  

That said, it is a blessing that this situation is happening in this season for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. We can use the energy of Spring to support our own energy. To begin with we can take in some sunshine, vitamin D raises our serotonin production, boosting our mood and energy, which we can use right now more than ever.

And we get to witness nature awakening in all its glory. In the past few days, it is incredible to observe how nature everywhere is blossoming. Yes certainly it is Spring you may say but it is much more than just that. Nature has been having a pause from human activity and if we go outdoors or even just hear the glimpses of good news for the planet here and there, we can begin to see how beneficial that is. It seems like mother Nature is trying to give us a message.

Everything is so much calmer. If I look at my small little corner of the world in Amsterdam, there are barely any cars on the Overtoom or noisy scooters, minimal trams, no planes flying above our heads. How amazingly restful is that? There is less noise, less busyness, we can breathe in the streets instead of smelling car fumes. This makes it easier to see and feel, to connect with our senses. And connecting with the senses is exactly what is needed right now to get out of our heads and into our bodies. In my closeby Vondelpark, nature is blooming, flowers and buds are popping up everywhere, the smell of flowers is pungent, there are more birds than I have ever seen in the past. I’ve noticed a couple of species of birds I had never seen before and their song seems louder than ever. Nature is shining bright and being nourished by this break in human activity.  The air quality in Amsterdam and in many places on the planet has improved. The water quality is improving, look at the canals in Venice, the return of the fish and even some dolphins! Who knows, what may happen to the Amsterdam canals. The Earth can finally breathe, rejuvenate, have a restorative, regenerative break and reclaim its space. Can we do the same? We are having a break, like it or not, so we might as well make the most of it where we can. Take a deep breath and slow down, we may use this time to recharge our batteries after perhaps a lot of unnecessary busyness and to explore what brings us balance and joy day by day in these trying times.

Maybe we can learn to fully appreciate the beauty of nature around us and understand the importance of taking care of it. It seems like our planet is trying to give us a message. I know this may feel far-fetched for some but I believe our planet is a conscious self-sustaining organism. I like to refer to her as Mother Earth because she is really. She is our home, a massive womb providing its many children with everything they need to flourish. Children who sometimes take, take, take and always want more. Who forget to give back and be thankful. “Our house is on fire” says Greta. Yes Mother Earth is putting her foot down and asking us to wake up. To stop rushing head down in excessive doing, the excessive greed and consumerism, the competitiveness, more speed, more efficiency, faster, harder, etc. the need for always more, heightened experiences, more entertainment, the relentless striving for the next thing, etc.

We need to explore different ways of living for our own survival. We’ve known that for a while now but now we have a window of opportunity to reflect. The Earth is showing us what is needs! It needs us to slow down and do things differently. Can we hear that message or are we too focused on our own suffering?

We need to slow down for our well-being, our relentless striving and craving for more is only causing suffering. True contentment isn’t linked to our external circumstances but can only be found within and in the present moment. Life isn’t better in the future, right now is the only moment we have to live! Our very challenge is to find happiness right here in the moment, in the midst of adversity.

“Our psychological well-being may depend on being able to find some place in nature where we can go and just hear the sounds of the world, without the sounds of human activity, of airplanes, cars and machines” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

The time has come to nurture our planet. To nurture ourselves and each other. To find a way to live in harmony with one another and our Mother Earth. Peace begins within. If we can be at peace with ourselves, we can create a peaceful environment around us, harmonious relationships. And begin to respect all life, everyone and everything around us is sacred. We are all interconnected, living miracles.

Nature has its own intelligence and so do we. We need to pause to listen. When this external world quiets we can not only hear nature but we can hear ourselves. We’re caught up in systems and structures that are not in sync with the natural world but with these on pause there is an incredible, exciting opportunity to listen within. To create our own rhythm, our own environment, to get in touch with what it is that we really need, what actually really matters.  We can get in touch with our own deep intelligence and inner knowing. For our well-being, we can intuitively feel we need to be aligned with nature. When our natural rhythms are not in sync with nature we experience stress and disease. 

We have never been separate from the Natural world. We are nature. We are one interconnected whole. If we are hurting our planet, directly or indirectly, we are of course hurting ourselves. Unfortunately, most of us are unwillingly hurting our planet because the choices we are given as consumers are a large majority of non-sustainable products. Having 30 brands of shampoo, shower gel and sugary fizzy drinks to choose from for instance is largely unnecessary. How there can even be a luxury industry when so much of the world is living in poverty is insane in the first place.

Our whole value system is flawed. We privilege profit, material possessions and excessive doing over being, people and planet. If we do not bring being and doing in harmony, as well as make profit in ways that actually benefit the people and planet, we are doomed as a species. If how we spend our time is about making money in a system that doesn’t contribute to our well-being or our environment then we are probably doing more harm than good willingly or not. We may be well-intentioned but misaligned. Instead of starting a new project or initiative because there is an opportunity to make money we should ask how can I serve? A lot of the multi-million dollar industries out there are simply useless and don’t add any value in terms of human or planetary well-being, in fact just the opposite.

Enough ranting, but you get it… We are being called collectively to evolve. It begins with us. From inside out. What choices will we make today for ourselves and others? How can we be a center of peace, sanity and well-being right now? When we are at peace, we can begin to place our energy in serving others with the gift of who we are and our unique skills. When we are suffering and self-absorbed a lot of inner work is needed, our task is first healing our own mind and body before we can contribute in a meaningful way.

And let’s not underestimate the importance of being connected to Nature for our own healing. We can find solace in Nature. Can we let ourselves be inhabited with Spring energy? If you are blessed with the freedom to go outdoors, take time for plenty of mindful walks in nature and savour it with all your senses. This will help calm and ground you in these uncertain times.

Spring represents a new beginning, the return of the light, a fertility reset. “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” (Lao-Tzu). Spring is a good time to reflect and reset which is what we are being called to do right now in the current circumstances. As you watch everything grow, also notice what arises in you moment by moment. See if you can  let your experience be your teacher. 

flower in adversity Spring is also a time of expansion, of getting out of your comfort zone and into creativity. What wants to grow in you and what can be let gone of so you can move towards expansion rather than be contracted in fear or worry. Changing  our habits and routines dramatically as has been the case in the past weeks, brings with it a lot of opportunity to do things differently. To let the new in whether it be starting a new project, hobby or decluttering your home. So get in sync with Spring and let your heart sing even in the midst of intensity! (and singing, releasing your jaw and making your voice heard, is certainly deeply healing too right now!). 

 

 

 

Finding the good in the situation – NL Corona Lockdown Day 2

Strange times aren’t they? There has been such a sudden shift in life as usual and many of us are still in the midst of processing, making sense of what is going on and adjusting to these new parameters of working remotely, closed schools and social distancing.

Yesterday on Day 1 of the NL Lockdown I facilitated my first ever mindfulness session on Zoom. It was an amazing experience, the experiences shared were deeply touching and insightful. I am very grateful for the opportunity to hold space and guide communities through the process of mindfulness especially right now. I went into this online format with some resistance certainly. And on the other hand, I felt ignited with purpose knowing that staying connected, mindful and grounded is more important than ever.stay presentThese times are challenging in many ways, a significant rise in disease & death is certainly no light territory, many face financial hardship or even collapse. And … these times are also fascinating in so many ways. I’m sure you hear enough about the concerns in the media and we cannot ignore or dismiss the bad. However, my mission in this post is to help you focus on the good and the lessons that we can learn collectively in this time of transition.

We are forced to surrender our illusion of control and reminded how vulnerable we are. The only power we really have is to choose how we relate to this situation. The rise of solidarity, community and connection, random acts of kindness is moving. Awareness and deep learnings come from pausing and these give us immense clarity on what it is that really matters : enjoying good health, well-being and feeling connected. LOVE is at the core of our humanity, this is what makes us feel alive and happy. We all want to be healthy, happy, peaceful and be loved and many of us have lost the roadmap to experience this in modern life. We need to find our way and mindfulness can provide us with focus and direction to cultivate a supportive mindset.

With every change comes opportunity. With chaos comes creativity. Any major transformation comes with its challenges and is also a huge opportunity for growth and healing.

Resisting the situation by denying it, not taking it seriously, numbing, indifference, fighting, resisting, judging, complaining, being a victim or a bully, getting caught up in fear or anxiety isn’t helpful. We may experience these emotional reactions at times, understandably with the overwhelm of the situation, but it is also quite intuitive to see how these reactions are simply not helpful and causing more suffering. These are stress reactions and stress and anxiety supress our immune systems making us more vulnerable to disease.

“To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain, and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain” – Howard Cutler

The mindful attitudes can serve as a compass to find the good in the midst of obstacles big or small. They can help reframe our perspective and navigate turbulent times.  

Beginner’s mind – We are being faced with uncertainty. Our minds don’t do well with uncertainty. Uncertainty brings fear. The more we are afraid, the more we need to exert control over our environment.

“We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety. Certainty breeds tremendous smugness. “– Gunilla Norris

When we learn to become comfortable with not knowing, our minds open, becomes more perceptive, we see with fresh eyes. This expansive state brings us into our creativity.  

beginner'smind

Non-Judging – We are constantly formulating judgment about ourselves or others. This is deeply harmful, unnecessary and limits us in many ways. In this situation, while there has been huge displays of solidarity, there has also been “othering”, racism, judging of cultural approaches and ways of handling the situation. Everyone has an opinion on everything it seems. Some don’t feel threatened personally by the situation and disregard completely national guidelines continuing to hug, kiss and shake hands defiantly for instance. It is our collective responsibility to protect the most vulnerable. These are not only the elderly but also a much larger group, those already battling with disease, cancer, cardiovascular, auto-immune diseases, etc. I found out in the last days that a few of my friends are asthmatic, have chronic bronchitis or have contracted serious lung disease in the past, I had no idea until now. Not everyone enjoys the same level of health. We are all invited to realise how interconnected we are and to practice caring for the most vulnerable. This is not a time to be self-absorbed but to wake up to our unity. The actions of one impacts the whole. “It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us” – Jackie Mutcheson

Trust – Trusting in ourselves and trusting life. Trusting in our resilience. Trusting that even if we don’t have a clue somehow things will work out. Something good will come out of all this. Trusting others. The current atmosphere of social distancing can bring mistrust, with others potentially being “infected” Other aren’t the enemy. When we get trapped in fear, there can be no trust and no empathy.

Taking time to listen within, to our intuition, to what we are being called to do. How can we serve? This is a time that is inviting us to be more internally focused and less reliant on the external world for guidance. There is opportunity for us to create our own structure, tune into our own rhythm, listen to our needs, follow our curiosity. What is it you need? Surrounding ourselves with positivity is important in these times, reading or watching news headlines multiple times a day probably isn’t serving you and just creating more anxiety. How much information do you really need? Notice what triggers your stress response vs what grows your trust. Make sure you are privileging the latter.  There is much to discover if we can apply curiosity and see this as an opportunity to discover something new!

Patience – This situation is temporary and invites us to slow down and look inwards. Can we take this moment for self-exploration, stay curious rather than become impatient? This moment will pass just like everything else in life will. Life is impermanent. Being in a rush creates restlessness and unhappiness. We are only here for a short while, what are we sprinting for? As best we can, trying to appreciate the unfolding moment and what is here to learn in difficulty rather than wanting to be somewhere else. Beauty can come from the darkest and deepest places if we just are patient and remain strong “no mud, no lotus”- Thich Nhat Hanh

Non-Striving – in modern life, we are often in a striving mode. We are most often trying to get somewhere. This creates in us, a state of unbalance, of relentless striving and struggling for the next thing. We can become very absorbed in how we should be, what we should be able to do, what we should achieve, etc. rather than just allowing ourselves to be as we are. We are being forced into BEING and presence, taking things day by day. Mindfulness invites us to be present with what is and embrace things as they are, with all their imperfections. To try and be as content as you can now, because now is effectively the only moment you have to live. 

Acceptance – Acceptance is clear seeing. It is allowing the situations to be as it is because that is the reality. It is not about passive resignation but simply recognising that fighting what is, is not only draining but a lost battle. Acceptance of things as they are brings with it a certain peace. We can focus our energy on being with what is and creating from there rather than resisting it which is completely wasted energy and potential.

Letting Go – Once we accept what is, we can surrender to it. This situation is calling for us to surrender. And when we do, it can feel quite liberating. Many experience this slowing down as a relief to an extent, a chance to reset and recharge. The pace of life is quite hectic and pausing can be deeply nourishing. Often we don’t allow ourselves to slow down because we feel guilty, that we shouldn’t take it too easy, we compare ourselves to others and their achievements or we try to meet or even exceed other’s expectations. Being given the permission to slow down is a gift. Also knowing that we are not alone in this can release feelings of guilt or fear of missing out. We are all in the same boat (albeit some may have a more comfortable seat).

Kindness

More than anything this situation calls for kindness and compassion to ourselves and everyone. It is a time to connect to your heart and practice radical self-care. The more you care for yourself, the more you can be there for others. I need to keep reminding myself of this too personally. I have a burning desire to be of service for others, my family but if I don’t have enough personal space that becomes challenging.  

we stand together

Even if we practice social distancing, we can smile and greet people in the street. I’ve had more people pause and smile back at me today than in a long time. I’ve also spoken to more of my neighbours than I have in the last year. This situation is connecting people in new ways. Many of us are spending more time with our family. Sometimes this may be online if they are far or vulnerable. And some elderly or younger single people may be feeling on the contrary very lonely and isolated which is a recipe for depression. Plenty of online support groups and communities are popping up here and there to support those who are alone and in need of support. Many companies are offering their services free to support working at home and kids out of schools. Tonight at 20h we clapped for 3 minutes to celebrate the amazing work done by caregivers to look after our sick, the sacrifices they are making, the risks they are taking, the importance and vitality of their work _ their dedication is simply amazing.  

It is beautiful to witness how this crisis is bringing out the best in many of us. What an amazing opportunity for us to evolve collectively.

“Whatever you frequently think and ponder upon, that will become the inclination of your mind” – The Buddha

We all have this incredible capacity to use our mind to become self-aware as humans yet it is often underutilised unless consciously cultivated. The core qualities of mindfulness, non-judging and kindness among others, are essential pillars to become better versions of ourselves, more fulfilled and shape a brighter future in which we understand and nurture the interconnectedness of everything. 

I hope these mindful attitudes can help you focus on the good and find the hidden gems in this situation.  I’ll be facilitating many sessions online in the coming days and sharing more recordings to do what I can within my community to support people in staying mindful, compassionate and positive. Please stay tuned on my website, Instagram or Facebook. 

Hope to see you there. I’d love to hear how you are experiencing this, what you find challenging as well as what the lessons learned are for you so far. 

Wishing you well and sending you love.

Reduce stress during the festive season

Here’s a special blog post I put together for Lorna from Wilson’s Workouts about reducing stress during the festive season

Is the end of year stress getting to you? Well you are certainly not alone.

On one hand, December is a very busy time of year with all the festivities and family reunions involving plenty of preparation, extra planning and shopping in what is for many of us an already pretty busy schedule.

On the other, the lower amount of natural sunlight can significantly impact our mood, sleep and energy levels. Many of us can find ourselves experiencing winter blues, feeling more lethargic and down overall.

This combination can leave us feeling run down and stressed. The good news is that there is a lot we can do to nurture ourselves and preserve our well-being in the midst of Winter.

Firstly, some acceptance of the reality that our environment affects us profoundly and we don’t have quite the same energy in winter than we may do the rest of the year is key. Winter is a season to slow down so getting more rest and adjusting your schedule to your energy level where possible may be wise and leave you feeling healthier and happier. Not overdoing it, letting go of whatever isn’t crucial or serving our well-being can help in any time of year but especially now, giving yourself the gift of imperfection ?

Starting your day without rushing or checking your phone but instead taking time for some gentle stretching and/or a few minutes of mindful breathing can support you to start the day with clarity and vitality

To preserve your energy and clarity throughout the day, try to insert restorative breaks every now and then whether it be breathing, stretching, walking. Make sure you plan these in as it so easy to get caught up in being busy, neglect our basic needs and go over our boundaries.  

Going for a brisk or mindful walk (ideally in nature) is guaranteed to recharge your batteries and combat the winter blues by maximizing your natural light intake. Spending time outdoors and walking increases serotonin production, reduces anxiety and supports better sleep.

Whenever you feel you are getting wound up or overthinking, this 3-step breathing space practice is only 3 minutes and it is a powerful way to give yourself a vitality boost and step away from stress. 

When our mood is low and we experience stress, we have a tendency to engage more easily in negative thinking and self-criticism, often variations of feeling insecure or inadequate in some way. While this is pretty common it certainly isn’t helpful and actually makes it harder for us to deal with what is stressing us in the first place. Countering this natural tendency with some self-compassion can work wonders. When you notice you are stressed, pause, acknowledge how you feel and ask yourself “how can I be kind to myself in this situation?”. It is not easy at first and requires a conscious commitment but if you can practice this for a few weeks you could actually transform stressful situations into a self-care moment and in doing so boost your performance, confidence and resilience.

Finally closing the day with a gratitude practice can reframe your thinking, give you a mood boost and facilitate a peaceful, restorative sleep. Most of us have a natural tendency to focus more on what doesn’t go right and focusing on that actually makes it grow so doing the opposite can bring radical transformation. Just writing down 5 things you feel grateful for every night and leaving space for feelings of gratitude to emerge is one of the healthiest habits for well-being. You’re actually inviting more of what you feel grateful for in your life to emerge! 

And as this is a celebratory time, you may want to take some time to also celebrate yourself. It is easy to get caught up in all the things we don’t do right or haven’t yet achieved but how about shifting that and taking time to acknowledge all the little things that have gone right and in particular what you feel proud of or have achieved, no matter how small. In this end of year also taking time to reflect on all this has its own significance as we transition into a bright new year. Celebrating actually rewires our brain.

All the warmest wishes for this festive season, may it be mindful, peaceful, bright and restorative!