Preparing for Labour | How to ditch the fear of giving birth | Pregnant in a pandemic

baby lying on white fur with brown blanket
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Well hello again everyone! I’ve been fairly quiet on here which is odd given that you’d think in lockdown I’d have had much more time to blog… but being pregnant in a global pandemic, having started a new job (my first fully qualified lawyer job) remotely and various other things have meant that blogging just hasn’t crossed my mind for a while.

Today, though, inspiration struck and I wanted to share some resources that I’ve used to totally change my mindset about giving birth.

This post will cover the resources I’ve used which I’d credit (alongside a lot of time investment on my part!) with taking the fear out of the prospect of giving birth for me, and also helping me prepare for birth generally and the postpartum recovery period.

*(Reminder nothing in this post is sponsored/gifted/other, it’s all stuff I’ve paid for [except the Maternity Collective course which they were giving free to everyone during COVID] and loved and 100% recommend!)*

Where does fear of labour come from?

Because let’s face it, I’ve spent my entire life TERRIFIED of giving birth, like many, many women.

What you see on TV – Rachel on Friends, for example – people lying on their backs, screaming, faces contorted, sometimes legs in stirrups, yelling for epidurals… and that’s just movies and light entertainment (I’ve never even watched One Born Every Minute).

In my ED days I was even scared of pregnant people because of their size – how messed up is that?!

Then you get the STORIES. The whisperings and ‘oh you wouldn’t believe how bad her labour was’, the horror stories, the drama, the nightmare scenarios that people like to tell you…

So as a base line, generally, as a culture, birth has become a very medicalised thing, and something to be feared.

Growing up, I swore that if I had kids I’d get an elective c-section. Now, because I know all the benefits for my baby, I want to try to birth vaginally (if allowed – I may not be able to because at the time of writing [28 weeks pregnant] I still have a low placenta and if this hasn’t moved by the time they do the extra scan to check it at 36 weeks, I will have to have a c-section due to it basically blocking the exit and also high risks of haemorrhaging!)

So what has changed?

Education, & losing the fear

Before trying for a baby, I started reading a lot about birth, pregnancy and all that jazz so I knew what I was in for (see this blog post here on my Pregnancy & TTC favourites which has a full list of the books I read).

If you want the short answer for how I overcame the fear, I guess there isn’t one – it’s a process that took time, effort and mental reprogramming! But a combination of education (and more education!), and taking elements of hypnobirthing which worked for me and my personality (not all – see below!) and basically using my previous study in mindfulness to create an approach to birth that worked for me. I didn’t go on any expensive course or find a magic bullet, I just put the work in.

Getting informed (but still scared!)

One of these books was The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill. Did it make me feel positive? HELL NO! I found it scary on first read. But I read it 3 or 4 times, alongside some other books which I’ll list below, because it took away the mystery and the unknown, and made me understand all the options for birth (location, pain relief, what interventions might be needed and why, induction, caesareans, pros and cons of absolutely everything).

While initially scary for me, getting educated was a key part of the process to make sure I was in control. Because guess what? You have to consent to everything. You do not ‘have’ to have internal examinations to check dilation. You do not ‘have’ to have an induction. It may be there is a good reason to have them, but knowing you have the choice, and knowing you should ask for all of the benefits, risks and reasons was a game changer for me.

Losing the fear – does hypnobirthing work?

I also read Hypnobirthing: Practical ways to make your birth better by Siobhan Miller, and Your Baby, Your Birth by Hollie De Cruz.

Both are hypnobirthing books, a concept I thought sounded a bit hippy but I’d heard people I admire and respect who didn’t seem completely ‘woo woo’ rave about it on podcasts, so I gave them a go.

I also used the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack (an online hypnobirthing course, which was discounted due to the lack of pregnancy support in hospitals etc during COVID 19).

Hypnobirthing is perhaps a woo name, but it’s not really all that woo and certainly isn’t to do with hypnotising yourself, or ‘out there’ practices (full disclosure: occasionally I found hypnobirthing does have a slight push towards home birth (which isn’t for me) which I found a bit annoying, and it could get a bit focussed on fairy lights and candles and prioritising natural birthing to the point it almost felt like it was saying non natural birth was negative [although they explicitly do state ALL births are valid] sometimes, but generally it is science based to help you ensure you stay calm to keep your body hormonally optimal for labour to progress smoothly, with less pain).

Some hypnobirthing fans recommend Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, which is a book I HATED because it was waaaaaay to weird and spiritual and hippy for me. But we’re all different I guess!) But if that’s not your bag, more practical and let’s say ‘modern woman’ rather than ‘earth mother’ approaches do exist, and those are the ones I’m talking about here that helped me.

I don’t for one second buy all of it, particularly that birth is pain free (some hypnobirthing teachers claim it doesn’t have to be painful, others state that they disagree with this like me!), but I do believe that naturally our responses to what is happening in our bodies (e.g. panic, fear, relaxation, understanding, acceptance) can influence that and how bad it feels.

I found that hypnobirthing is really an approach that focusses on empowering women to:

  1. understand your body during labour, how the muscles and hormones work to facilitate your birth and what you can do to keep these as optimal as possible;
  2. understand your choices during labour (you ALWAYS have a choice, and it is important to be informed and that you know you have the right to give or refuse consent for anything)
  3. learn relaxation techniques to keep adrenaline (which inhibits labour) at bay and maximise oxytocin (which makes labour happen) – these can also be used to keep you calm during interventions or caesareans, they’re not just for vaginal births!;
  4. understand natural techniques for labour e.g. using upright, forward and open positions to allow gravity to help you, instead of mindlessly following TV over medicalised assumptions that you should lie down, which really just helps doctors/midwives see what’s happening!; and
  5. essentially to feel empowered and have a positive birth experience, whatever path your birth takes (rather than feeling traumatised and like decisions were made for you, or that you were not in control).

Plus it helps guide your birth partner on how best to support you during labour.

Many of the relaxation techniques weren’t for me and my partner (if he even tried to read me a relaxation script we’d both die laughing!) but the breathing techniques, positive affirmations and emphasis on re-wiring my view of birth from something necessarily traumatic to something that can be a positive experience really helped me move past being scared.

Rewiring your brain

I was NOT up for watching videos where I’d have to see a baby emerging from a vagina. I’m way too squeamish, and not one of those women who thinks that sight is ‘beautiful’. Sure, babies are beautiful, I’m sure the experience of birth can be beautiful, but that’s too much gore for me personally.

Hypnobirthing advocates using positive birth stories, photography, videos, and affirmations to gradually re-condition how you perceive birth. Stop all negative input, and crowd it out with positive.

I didn’t really want to see pics or graphic videos, but I did use:

  • Reading positive birth stories in the two books above, and then the members groups for the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack, and also my Lucy Flow Yoga – Yoga For Birth prep members hub.
    • I started skipping ones which had trigger warnings that particularly worried me (episiotomies, tearing, forceps, ventouse, emergency c-sections) and just read ones that sounded smooth and simple.
    • As I did more hypnobirthing practice and read more of these, I became less afraid and started reading the more complicated birth stories too – this made me realise that even a complicated birth which has things go ‘wrong’ or not as planned can still be a positive experience. So many women wrote about births which on paper you might think could have been super traumatic, but because of their mindset, their hypnobirthing, the fact they were informed and in control and had prepared for all scenarios, they still felt empowered and that the overall experience was positive. This was a game changer for me. 
  • I also listened to the birth experience of my nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert on her podcast (here) which sounds very traumatic and happened during the height of COVID-19. I found it so interesting to hear that a lot of the stress comes from feeling things are going ‘wrong’, not knowing what happens for certain procedures and feeling like birth isn’t going to plan. This really brought home to me that being prepared for birth to take any number of unexpected courses is key and has helped me lose the fear in the build up to it.
  • Positive birth affirmations – the Positive Birth Company has a recording when you buy the pack, but my favourites were actually the free audio ones on the Dream Birth Company website.
  • Limited (!) videos – I watched a few you tubers talk about their positive birth experiences and hypnobirthing, as an intro so I didn’t need to see it. Then I found a couple of you tubers who vlogged their labour (but don’t show you anything too much!!) helpful – especially Kerry Conway’s third labour (no epidural) (part 1 here and part 2 here), and Jess Hover’s two births without epidurals (vaguely remember some brief religious mentions which I just ignored as that’s not my thing).

LucyFlow – Yoga for Birth course

Lucy is a little ray of sunshine I found at random on instagram. She has done a huge series of free IGTV talks about all things labour, birth prep, pregnancy and early days with a newborn, and I loved them so much and then signed up to her online yoga membership / yoga for birth course.

This was great for some pregnancy-friendly yoga for relaxation, and also learning more upright, forward and open optimal birth positions. She also had helpful resources on the fact that it is sometimes possible to be mobile even with an epidural or continuous monitoring – how to ask and how this can be done, which was really useful.

Lots of the yoga flows are designed to help ease pregnancy specific problems (back pain etc) and to prepare your pelvis to really open up. It was amazing to learn the facts about how you can get 30% MORE SPACE in the pelvis by not lying down and preventing the sacrum from moving etc.

It was also nice because membership comes with free access to her Member’s Hub where you can chat about all things pregnancy, yoga, other, ask questions and generally support other mums!

It’s super affordable and I highly recommend it. Check out her website here to sign up.

Maternity Collective Online Antenatal course

As I’d done so much reading and research, and the fact that due to coronavirus antenatal classes in person being cancelled, when I looked at antenatal classes charging £250+ for stuff I already knew, I didn’t see the point, especially as most people say the value is in making mum friends, and I didn’t feel like paying that much money to do that over zoom.

Then I found the Maternity Collective who generously offered free access to their online antenatal course (normally circa £80), again because of the lack of pre and post natal support for women during the coronavirus situation.

It was SO helpful because it was more medically / scientifically detailed than the hypnobirthing content on the physical parts of labour, pain relief, interventions etc.

It also had extensive sections on feeding options and newborn sleep, to help prepare for the part which comes after the labour!

Postive Birth Company – Post Partum Pack

PBC’s postpartum pack (an online course covering everything you need post-birth!) was also reduced to £20 because of COVID for a limited time, and I found this really helpful to prepare and swot up on breastfeeding, baby sleeping (or lack thereof!), maternal mental health, physical and mental recovery from labour, post partum rehab, exercise and yoga, and much much more! Definitely recommend this, especially if coronavirus or other things have prevented you getting to classes or having the normal amount of support with this.

Thanks for reading my ramblings!

I hope if you did stumble across this post as you prepare for birth that you found it helpful – everyone is different, and what works for one may not work for another, but I was so so so scared and anti the idea of labour before and now I’m so excited for it, so it is possible to have a complete mindset shift!

Best of luck with your pregnancy and birth prep if you’re at that stage of your journey, or if not and you’re curious ahead of time like I was… fab, I genuinely don’t think you can get enough prep in because these are things we can never ever be fully prepared for!

B xoxo

New rituals & health habits | my morning wellness routine January 2020

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So you may have seen on instagram I became a bit sporadic posting in early Jan this year, and then went offline for a few days with some health stuff.

Nothing like something feeling wrong with your body to make you focus on taking care of yourself, right?

I usually rely on my hardcore boxing workouts in mornings, but in giving my body a break I established a new morning routine that has definitely helped me heal and get better.

Sleeping in

Rather than a 6.30 start for hardcore workouts, I let myself sleep in til 7.30ish.

Yoga

I started trying to start 4 out of 5 working days a week with a 10 minute yoga flow. No videos, no structure, just listening to relaxing music, moving my body and finding what feels good a la Yoga with Adriene’s philosophy.

Cutting caffeine

I’d then, post yoga, wash up, clean my teeth, dress and make my way to the kitchen where I drink peppermint tea, a weak green tea, and/or plain old hot water to start my day.

Handful of spinach

I don’t eat breakfast until I get to work at 9.30 but during my morning down-time, I started grabbing a handful of spinach to munch on, so I know I’ve got a hit of some good stuff first thing in the morning. Spinach is amazing – just one cup contains, according to Medicalnewstoday.com:

Downtime

I’d then chill out and read a book, or watch an episode of One Tree Hill (guilty pleasure from my younger days!) before I have to leave for work.

Meditation

Some days I’d also do a 10 minute guided meditation (usually a Jody Shield one, or via the Tone It Up app).

Better breakfasts

Instead of being sporadic with breakfast at work, I’ve decided to opt (every work day) for something I know gets as many nutrients, antioxidants, a good burst of fibre and keeps my blood sugar levels steady with slow-release energy as possible – I make blueberry, banana & cinnamon porridge by microwaving plain quaker oats (1 sachet) with water for 2 minutes, stirring in a lot of cinnamon, a handful of fresh blueberries and chopping up 1 small banana on top. Voila! Even when I’m not hungry, I have this at my desk at 9.30 and it’s meant I’ve already got 3 portions of fruit & veg in (the spinach at home first thing included!) before lunch, and I don’t get hangry later in the day or crash out of energy.

Verdict?

So, while I do want to get my boxing back and feel better, putting self-care first and allowing my body the rest it needs has taught me some valuable lessons, especially how much you have to work at keeping your stress levels down! But I feel like all of these things have helped me de-stress, helped my body return to normal and I’m hoping my hormones should all be balanced out now.

I’m definitely going to keep up the caffeine free habit, the handful of spinach, and incorporating as much yoga and meditation into my day as I can.

I’m also going to keep up the better breakfasts, but some days I may swap the blueberry-cinnamon-banana porridge for raspberry, goji berry and maca or blue spirulina just to get a bit of variety.

Some other elements of my January self-care I’ve been loving (not morning-specific!) are:

  • being alcohol free;
  • warm baths with essential oils (rose and jasmine are my faves at the moment!) and epsom & himalayan salts;
  • focussing on getting as many portions of fruit and veg in per day as I can, as per usual but ramping this up to as near to 10 a day as possible!;
  • eating whole foods;
  • cooking from scratch as much as possible;
  • experimenting with new recipes, and being more adventurous with vegetarian recipes for Boy and I; and
  • making as many of our meals plant-based as we can

What are your January wellness routines or rituals (morning or evening!) that you’re hoping to hang on to for the rest of the year?

B xoxoxo

Anxiety & Overwhelm Toolkit: “Tapping”, or EMT – does it work?

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I’m going to review my experience of ‘tapping’ or ‘EMT (Emotional Freedom Technique)’ in this post, but first I just want to tell you a little bit about how I came across it, and share a kind of disclaimer!

I came across tapping via Jody Shield, who I first saw speak on a wellness panel at YellowKite Books with a nutritionist and fitness professional I highly respect (Rhiannon Lambert and Shona Vertue respectively).

Jody is not someone whose book you would expect to resonate with me (although I love it!), and was a bit different featuring on that panel I mentioned above of scientific, evidence-based women as a modern, new agey intuitive healer, spiritualista, success coach and meditation guide. While I’m always interested in religion and ritual and myth, I’m decidedly atheist, and not spiritual. Other than my foray into wicca and paganism like all teenagers who grow up around Glastonbury when I was about 13/14 (LOL!), I have never believed in a god, or new agey type stuff (though to this day I have an impressive crystal collection!) because I am fundamentally a big believer in things being evidence-based.

That said, placebo is well known to be surprisingly effective and many studies have evidenced this, so let’s suspend disbelief for a moment, shall we…

So, like my interest in ayurveda which I wrote about here, you may have to accept that this is hugely contradictory to my usual stuff, and yes it goes one step (or several!) beyond my thing for yoga and meditation, both of which have proven scientific benefits.

Because, I have to say, whenever I’m going through a tough time, mood wise, health wise, stress wise – I re-read Jody’s book Life Tonic (recently republished under the new title Self Care for the Soul). Yep, I’m a walking contradiction because it’s quite a woo book in places, although it has some really great practical tools too. I also find myself searching for podcast interviews with Jody and just listening to them again and again when I’m in a particularly dark spot – there’s just something so comforting, calming and uplifting about her energy and her voice, even if I don’t connect or rationally believe 100% in everything she believes in.

So what is ‘tapping’ or ‘EMT’?

Also known as Emotional Freedom Technique, the idea behind tapping is that, much like acupuncture is meant to do, EFT / tapping  focuses on the meridian points (think energy hotspots on the body – I know, I know, pseudo-sciencey right?!) to restore balance to your body’s energy. It is an alternative therapy technique, and proponents claim that stimulating the meridian points through EFT tapping can:

  • reduce the stress
  • resolve negative emotions you feel generally or from a particular issue
  • and/or ultimately restore balance to your body/mind’s ‘disrupted energy ‘.

For balance, I feel like you should read this snipped from wikipedia about it and the footnotes:

Advocates claim that the technique may be used to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological disorders, and as a simple form of self-administered therapy.[1] The Skeptical Inquirer describes the foundations of EFT as “a hodgepodge of concepts derived from a variety of sources, [primarily] the ancient Chinese philosophy of chi, which is thought to be the ‘life force’ that flows throughout the body.” The existence of this life force is “not empirically supported”.[2]

Wikipedia entry on EFT

EFT apparently has no proven benefits as a therapy beyond the placebo effect, or beyond any known-effective psychological techniques that may be provided in addition to the purported “energy” technique (see here). It has failed to gain significant support in clinical psychology (again, see here).

My thoughts

So, you can read the above and be like ok, sod it, it doesn’t work. But, to be honest, it’s pretty hard to find stuff that categorically ‘works’ for treating stress and anxiety. Fine, exercise, fine diet, fine therapy etc. etc. are all key but I for one implement all of those things and still suffer sometimes with stress and anxiety, and none of them are particularly useful in the moment.

So I have tried tapping. I think you can find videos on youtube for free on how to do it, or check out Jody’s book Life Tonic Self care for the soul for full instructions and diagrams, and examples of phrases you can use.

And while it may not have significant effects other than the placebo effect, if the placebo effect works – that’s pretty helpful and powerful stuff.

I have found it to not necessarily be revolutionary but it is something I find calming and a helpful distraction in the moment (even if you look a little bit weird tapping on different body parts!)

I find it needs to be accompanied by deep breathing, which of course does have a proven effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.

Harry got his Hogwarts letter, why can’t we? As Roald Dahl says, those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. This might not be a scientific trick at all, it’s probably all in my mind, but again as Dumbledore says – just because it’s happening in your mind, doesn’t mean its not real. Haha ok I’m being annoying. But basically… I’ll take the placebo, thanks! ❤

Have you tried tapping? Let me know what you think!

B xoxo

Further information:

Healthline.com – What is EFT tapping?

Interview with Jody Shield ‘From business director to spiritual healer’ – Stylist Magazine

Easy steps to clearer skin: Green Beauty & Organic Skincare tips

woman showing her purple lipstick
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You may or may not have noticed, if you’re with me on Instagram, that I’m loving all things Tara Mackey at the moment (music, books, you name it…! If you haven’t read Cured by Nature or WILD Habits, you totally should, and I’ll post about them separately as they’re totally life-changing!) Her new single ‘Level Up’ is literally on repeat in my earphones 24/7 at the moment. Her message of how to cure all kinds of ailments, and make all kinds of great beauty choices, the green, natural, eco and ethical way is a pretty cool one… and something I’ve been starting to explore.

Sick with stress

I’ve been ill with stress recently, and for only the second time in my life it’s taken its toll on me physically (as in literally my body is reacting weirdly AF) – dermatitis on my scalp and eyebrows and palms of my hands, stomach pain (not as bad as the end of last year when I had chronic gastritis with stress, but still enough to make me do a double take!) and even vomiting. I knew whatever I was already doing (diet, exercise, not enough meditation) to manage stress clearly wasn’t enough, because I was actually getting sick. Medical advice was to reduce stress, which is about as helpful as saying ‘just get better!’

Treating your skin (& stress!) the natural way

At just the right time, I turned back to two books on my shelf that I read and loved a year ago by the gorgeous goddess that is Tara Mackey, founder and CEO of her own organic skincare company, activist, blogger at The Organic Life, musician and best-selling author (oh, and she does loads of work with orphanages and under-privileged children too!). Using her meditations and taking some natural plant-based supplements that she talked about in her book that are great from everything to overall health, reducing inflammation, and nature’s antidotes to depression and anxiety (always consult your doctor or a nutrition professional to be safe – I did extensive research before dabbling) I feel like a new woman (no word of exaggeration!)

Finally feeling better and full of new energy, I wanted to carry through some of the nature-based living into my beauty routine. An advocate of natural, green and ethical options, I love Tara’s style and have been interested in trying to clean up my beauty products for a long time now, but, frankly, just too lazy to do it. The one problem – most of her lovely recommendations are US-based, and I’m over here in the UK.

Get the green glow

I am a firm believer that every little helps, so I’ve done a little research, and am ready to go green! I’m not throwing out old products as that will just cause waste, but as they run out, I’m hoping I can track down cleaner, greener alternatives and I’m always on the look out so hit me up with recommendations!

For now, though, I just wanted to share some of my favourites that I’ve found, because I’m so so excited about these – each one has been so worth it!

Swapping all the nasty chemicals out for clean, natural products has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my skin. Not only did it clear up my stress-induced skin issues, but my skin is the glowiest-dewiest-softest it’s ever been… I’ve discovered my new regime just in time for my upcoming Winter Wedding!

pink lipstick with green case
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Clean, green brands you can find in the UK

The Body Shop was an obvious one to try, known for not-testing on animals and great nature-based products, I thought I’d try them out, although I have to admit I was dubious about whether their makeup would be as good – oh my god was I crazy to be skeptical! Their lipstick is one of my firm favourites (just the right amount of moisturizing and staying power, and they have great colours) [I have this Colour Crush Lipstick in Corbodona Petunia and I adoooooore ittttt], and their eyeshadow palettes are GORGEOUS (this Own Your Naturals palette is my absolute fave, the colours are great). They also have some lovely skin-care products (I’m now using their camomile waterproof eye and lip makeup remover and loving it because it actually works but is so much gentler and more soothing for my skin!) Their Matt Lip Liquid in California Rose is also my new ‘feel-good-pick-me-up’ go-to when I need some cheeky Cali/LA vibes, I’m obsessed.

Then I went to Planet Organic and picked up this natural shampoo by Jason Natural Hair Care which completely solved my stress-triggered horrific scalp issues in a matter of days without any of the nasty chemicals or coal tar normally in these types of shampoos, along with bathing in warm water with added lavender and geranium oil, which I also picked up from Planet Organic.

Plus a favourite skincare brand of mine for a while now since I discovered it maybe a year ago is Pretty Athletic, as its formulated specially for active women whose skin needs that extra care, it’s natural, vegan and not tested on animals (plus they’re the best working skincare products ever – the cooling gel cleanser is a daily staple for me, as is a face massage with their Recovery Boost Cell Repair Serum! This delicious serum is actually my number one skincare product that I absolutely couldn’t live without!)

While we’re talking about natural and ethical products, I’d also be letting you all down if I didn’t share my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE part of my bath rituals – Lush Cosmetics Intergalactic bath bombs. They’re absolute HEAVEN. And while I stopped off to pick up a couple of others (for a really nice girly pamper beauty ritual style bath, I love their Goddess and Sakura bath bombs too!) I made a cheeky impulse buy at the counter… their lip balm in Rose Lollipop might be pricey at £7.50 a pop but MY GOD is it the most delicious, hydrating, moisturizing, magical product I have ever put on my face maybe ever. It literally smells divine… I can’t stop putting it on! And it’s all natural, not animal tested, all that amazing clean green jazz so you can feel like you’re doing good things for the planet as well as your face! I literally feel happy every time I put it on haha (no exaggeration!)

Get your glow[-up] on!

Here are my top tips for skin health and feeling glowy inside and out:

  1. Source natural, organic products as much as possible, for cosmetics as well as skincare. I felt almost an immediate different (and the planet will too!)
  2. Cleanse, tone, leave it alone! Don’t over do it. A mask or exfoliate of a weekend is fine, but a simple, sustainable routine is better.
  3. Swap moisturisers for natural face oils and self-massage. This is great for stimulating circulation and lymphatic drainage to keep your skin looking young.
  4. Reduce or cut out caffeine and alcohol. Sorry girls, but it’s the best anti-ageing tip there is!
  5. Drink loads of water! Hydration, hydration, hydration!
  6. Get your vitamins and minerals, especially B, C, D, E and the omega / fish oils! A well balanced diet with fresh veggies is best, but supplements can be used where needed (consult a professional!)
  7. Tara Mackey’s book Cured by Nature has been a game changer for me – I’d highly recommend checking it out!

What are your favourites? Do you have any green and clean beauty recommendations? I’d love to hear from you.

B xoxox

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6 natural ways to manage anxiety & mood (that aren’t meditation!)

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It’s no secret that pretty much the entire world is over-tired, undernourished, bombarded by stressful technology, media, internet, work requests 24/7… or even if not, anxiety is actually nothing new, we just live in a world which makes it more of an epidemic than ever because we’re so disconnected from the natural way of living our lives.

I’ve previously taken anti-anxiety medication, but I’m happy to say today I’m able to manage it entirely pharmaceutical free! Here are my top 6 tips for managing anxiety entirely au naturel! And I know some people get sick of always hearing meditate, meditate, meditate… so as big a meditation advocate as I am (I regard it as essential to my wellbeing and happiness!) this will not appear on my list of top tips… you’re welcome 😉

1. Your new (natural!) make-your-own-medicine

No need to pop pills – chamomile tea (available at any good supermarket or corner shop!) and 3-4 drops of Valerian tincture (available via this link at Planet Organic, and most good health stores) and you’re good to go! This works at least as well as if not better the drugs I was once prescribed (and took!) for anxiety… without any nasty side effects. It’s a life saver. I keep the tincture on my desk. You can add it to water or any herbal tea, but chamomile has calming properties and I find they work best together.

2. Movement – the right kind

Notice I didn’t say ‘exercise’ or ‘train hard’. If you’re stressed and anxious, hardcore workouts release quite a bit of cortisol (normally this is an okay dose and your body deals and it’s actually beneficial, but if you’re already frazzled it can be cortisol OD! Not good!) So I recommend mindful movement – 30 minutes of outdoor walking near as much greenery as possible per day (no excuses Londoners – Hyde Park, Holland Park, Victoria Park, Clapham Common, Hampstead heath, or even a leafy neighbourhood are great…!), things like yoga, pilates, cycling and swimming can all be nice, mindful, meditative and importantly they get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing without too much stress on the body.

3. Vitamin meeeeeee

Make sure you’re eating a diet rich in vegetables (all the colours of the rainbow, and don’t forget the leafy greens!) but if in doubt you may want to speak to a doctor or nutritionist and consider supplementing. Some mood-boosting (and general health boosting!) supplements I researched extensively and incorporate now include vitamins C, E, B12, Co-Q10, ashwagandha, ginseng, and olive leaf extract. I came across nature’s amazing pharmacy via the amazing book Cured by Nature by Tara Mackey (but always remember professional advice is key when supplementing! Don’t take my word for it. your body could be different, and always double check if you’re pregnant or on any medication with your GP if there are any issues with you supplementing). Most pharmacies and health food stores will stock all the ones I’ve listed above. Probiotics are also great (the gut brain strongly affects mood!) and you can get these good live cultures from kombucha, kimchi, or supplements.

4. Caffeine and alcohol (sorry folks!)

Cutting these out is good for your health anyway, but if you’re anxious and stressed, it’s super important. They’re dehydrating, they’ll make anxiety and mood issues worse (caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant) and so in difficult times, these are best avoided. They also disrupt your gut microbiome and so its no wonder they’re detrimental for mood, anxiety and stress! Try swapping for herbal teas – the calming ones are a much healthier swap for the over-anxious (peppermint, chamomile etc. and you can find all kinds of de-stress blends to help!) and if you’re missing alcohol, pop some kombucha (which feeds your microbiome the good gut bacteria and boosts your mood in the process!) in a wine glass – voila! No-one will know it’s not champagne!

5. Turmeric… gold dust!

Apparently studies show this can be as effective as some anti-depressants for mood (source: Cured by Nature). Even if not, it’s been used since ancient times for food-medicine for all sorts of things, and is a key spice in Ayurveda (an ancient Indian holistic health system). I drink it in the Yogi Tea Turmeric Chai herbal tea blend and add it to soups and salads. You can also mix it into juices, smoothies, sprinkle it on veggies or whatever meal you have, season meat, fish or veggie alternatives with it… and you can also buy it in capsule form online or from health food stores. It’s anti-inflammatory, and whether or not it works like magic, it’s placebo, or whatever… it’s great for your health, it’s the colour of sunshine and some studies do support its benefits so I’m totally in! No bad can come of incorporating this sun-dust into your diet.

6. Clary sage – so underrated! (lavender’s so last season…)

Everyone’s favourite essential oil for relaxation is lavender, and yes, it works… but if you’re anything like me, it reminds you of sleep. If you’re in the office and anxious in the middle of the day, you might like to sniff something else. I find clary sage oil to be the best calm remedy. Sniff straight from the bottle, or pop a few drops on a tissue and breathe in as needed. It’s calming, but less sleep-inducing than lavender. I’d also recommend uplifting scents like orange and lemon for a little energy boost!

I hope some of these help a little bit, or give you something to think about. There are so many more (I promised I wouldn’t say meditation or deep breathing, but those are great, but also reading, creativity, trying new things, journaling, finding inspiring podcasts and blogs, dancing… there are a million options we have to better manage our stress and anxiety!) Let me know some of your favourites if they’re not listed here 🙂 ❤

B xoxox

 

10 simple ways be kinder to the planet – Eco-Fitness & Sustainability

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Sustainability and eco-friendly everything have finally started becoming part of mainstream conversation, probably with many thanks to social media and influencers promoting these topics.

Some people have come under fire for this (I’ve seen a well known fitness blogger get attacked for suddenly becoming a sustainability activist!) but I don’t really understand why – making a difference surely depends on ALL of us making small, incremental changes, hopefully leading to bigger and bigger changes, and pressures on companies and governments to do and be better… it’s all about us as individuals taking the small steps we can. Lots of us doing it imperfectly is better than very few people being flawless (which in today’s world is hard to achieve! Let’s face it, modern society is built for convenience, at the expense of our planet, and these things have become part of the fabric of our every day lives so unless we all go and live in a rainforest and roam free, we’re probably not living as consciously and sustainably as we could be!)

I’m not perfect. I’m ashamed to say I used to be too lazy to recycle and because I’d been put off growing up near Glastonbury by crazy hippies, I was actually relatively hostile to conversations about the planet until the last few years, where Boy and I have watched documentaries and been so saddened to see wildlife dying out, where I’ve learned from influencers like @VenetiaFalconer, @ZannaVanDijk and @HannahRoseCluley about all kinds of things from more sustainable diets to fast fashion to animal testing in the cosmetics industry.

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So I’m trying to be better… and while I’m not claiming to be any kind of beacon or example, I just want to share some simple steps that I’ve found easy to implement, and you might like to try some of them!

  1. Sustainable eating – I’m far from perfect, but I lived 10 years of my life as a pescatarian, I tried veganism for a couple of months, and now I’m predominantly pescatarian – I try to be ‘plant focussed’ and base meals around that where possible. I’m not saying give up meat or go vegan, although if you want to, do so by all means! But I am saying our health as well as the planet’s benefits from reducing our meat consumption, so have a little watch of some Netflix documentaries and consider trying #MeatFreeMonday, trying to buy loose not plastic-packed veggies, and eat as seasonally as possible.
  2. Nix the new fitness clothing hauls and fast fashion! As if you’re following me you probably love working out as much as me, I know this can be a hard one. For years I’ve been seduced by new fitness clothing line launches! And I also realized my wardrobe basically IS Zara and H&M. But Venetia Falconer has done a lot of work to promote sustainable fashion recently and the idea of buying fewer clothes is so simple! Stop shopping for the sake of it! I also listened to some great podcasts featuring Livia Firth from Eco-Age with some great tips. Essentially, reduce your buying, try to invest in sustainable brands where you can, and make sure you buy clothes and keep them for a long time. OUTFIT REPEATING IS GOOD FOR THE PLANET! And give vintage a go or try up-cycling old outfits.
  3. Invest in sustainable and cruelty free products, and donate to charities who do work in this area. This is a very simple but powerful one, and while I know it’s hard to be 100% ethical here, do your research and make some simple swaps!
  4. Pledge to give up the takeout coffee cups! I struggled so much and I’m not 100% perfect now, but I’m getting better. I remember my keep cup 80% of the time now, and keep one at work too. Our office has also gotten rid of plastic takeout boxes and cups and provides keep cups and Tupperware in our canteen – why not suggest your workplace does the same? I haven’t figured out what to ask gyms like Kobox etc. to do yet instead of plastic protein shake takeaway cups but if you have ideas, let me know!
  5. Educate yourself. Documentaries on Netflix like ‘Chasing Coral’, ‘Blackfish’, ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Forks over Knives’ are great but so are the Planet Earth series – anything that makes you see how amazing this planet is and what we should be doing to take care of it. Also following people on Instagram who promote sustainability and eco-friendly brands is a great way to learn and show support. I’d recommend @ecoage, @VenetiaFalconer and @ZannaVanDijk to get started!
  6. DON’T WASTE FOOD! I argue about this with Boy a lot as he often forgets Tupperware in the fridge, and we’re trying super hard to not waste as much food. Did you know that 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK every year? This isn’t just a huge waste of food and money, it adds to the amount of CO2 being created in landfills. So there’s our incentive. No excuses!
  7. Fitness and bro food fiends rejoice – USE YOUR MICROWAVE! Apparently they’re much more energy efficient compared with conventional ovens.
  8. TURN IT OFF! Turn off lights. Skip the electric treadmill and run outside. Don’t leave the TV on all day for the dog. It’s honestly fine without it.
  9. Change your bathroom habits (and pick up gorgeous products in the process!) When it comes to keeping shiny and clean, there are several things you need to be careful to avoid for a truly eco-friendly lifestyle. The most damaging of these is microbeads, which are basically tiny bits of solid plastic which aren’t biodegradable and make their way into watercourses and ultimately end up damaging the environment by entering the food chain. They can be found in body wash, toothpaste, face masks etc. so make sure you double check your products… In addition to this, avoiding chemicals and opting for natural cleaning products  like those sold by Lush means you get their AMAZING almost edible (but don’t eat them) delicious products and keep the environment clean too!
  10. Remember: don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of progress. Lots of small steps by lots of people slowly but surely make an impact. If we all throw our hands up and say ‘f*** it, it’s too hard, what’s the point, I won’t make any difference anyway’ we’re defeating ourselves (and the planet!) before we even begin. Do your best. Make mini changes. Make a few more. Try to see what works for you and what you can keep up. It’s worth it! ❤

What are your top tips for trying to be more eco-friendly? Do you have any fave fitness or beauty (or other!) brands that help you do it? How do you recommend reducing plastic? Let me know!

B xoxo

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The new wellness craze… spirituality?

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Spirituality is slowly seeping more and more into the instagram wellbeing bubble – I’ve recently heard spiritual wellness coaches like Jody Shield speak at events alongside fitness and nutrition professionals, showing people that spirituality can combine with modern life and isn’t just for hippies in a field dancing naked wearing hemp and sandals.

Former ‘fitness only’ influencers have moved across into yoga, astrology and crystals (quite a few instagrammers, for example) and then there are the public figures like Mel Wells who has moved from food coaching into more of a ‘spiritual wellness’ space having launched her new membership product, The Goddess Collective… Figures like Jasmine Hemsley combine nutrition and Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science)…

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a new wellness craze! But none of these things and ideas are particularly new, it just seems they’re reaching a new market and being taken on by a new ‘generation’ almost…

Wellness and lifestyle bloggers are expanding the areas of content they cover from fitness, fashion, nutrition and health into the spiritual. And I guess that can be quite polarizing for some people, who maybe don’t agree with their ideas, or odd for others who haven’t encountered these ideas yet.

The Big Questions

Religion and myth have been a part of humanity for as long as we’ve been conscious – humans naturally crave explanations for things they don’t understand and the mysteries of the universe.

I’ve been asked recently in a Q&A I did on instagram if I’m religious, and if I think religion and spirituality can help mental health. I didn’t answer it on IG as it needed a fuller post to be honest, it’s a huge topic! So here goes!

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My two cents…

Let’s just get it clear that all of these things are deeply personal and we all have to respect that people won’t always agree…!

I am an atheist. I’ve never believed in a creator god, and still don’t. I was made to go to Christian Sunday school as a kid for a bit, but my parents aren’t really Christians either (my grandmother and former stepmum are) but I never believed in it.

I grew up near Glastonbury and so as a teen discovered paganism and Wicca and dabbled for a while for fun, but never seriously believed in it. Yes, I did a couple of Witchy Rituals following Fiona Horne’s books. It’s funny looking back on it now 🙂 However I did learn loads about the pagan tradition, gods and goddesses in all kinds of different traditions, crystals and new age philosophy, and all that jazz. I first started learning to meditate as a teen but stopped and didn’t come back to it til later in life.

I’ve also, with my other half, rejected a lot of the Glastonbury naval gazing and hippyisms as we’ve witnessed first hand how the lack of responsibility and drug culture can mess up peoples’ lives (particularly kids).

At university through literary criticism I discovered philosophy and found myself to be an existentialist. I don’t believe life has inherent meaning, I believe we create it, and have to work to create it and find meaning in things.

I went to Cambodia and Thailand in one of my uni summers and was OBSESSED with exploring the gorgeous temples of Angkor Wat.

I’ve always been interested in world religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism (and my mum was interest in Buddhism too so I read loads on it as a teenager). I’m fascinated by ancient cultures and indigenous peoples, and love to hear about myths in, for example, Aztec and Mayan traditions, and Japanese and Chinese beliefs.

I got diagnosed with depression in my 20s although I’ve had it my whole life. I remain an atheist and existentialist, but after years of work combining fitness, nutrition, medication and meditation to manage the condition, I started looking wider.

I’ve (in the last year or two) dabbled in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian holistic wellness system (and even did a mini course), I’ve read more widely on meditation, spirituality, Buddhism and mindfulness, and I’ve been part of wellness groups which incorporate spirituality (originally Jody Shield’s Tribe Tonic, which I left, and now Mel Well’s The Goddess Collective which at the time of writing I’m still in).

I’m also fascinated by the commonalities between religions, and the ways in which conquering religions like Christianity used existing Pagan holidays to persuade people to adopt their practices more easily.

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So where are you now? Do you believe in god or a creator? How does it work with your rational logical side? Does it help your mental wellbeing?

I’m still an atheist.

I’m still an existentialist.

I’m also a Scorpio with Capricorn rising…!

Do I rationally and logically believe in astrology? No. Do I match everything my chart says about being a Scorpio with Capricorn rising? Hell yes! Do I enjoy it intuitively? Yes. Is that a bit of a paradox? Probably, yeah! Whatever!

In Ayurveda, I’m very strongly the pitta dosha. Do I believe this is biologically, scientifically a thing? No… but I can still relate to it, enjoy it, use it to derive meaning and adopt self-care practices…

Not everything, for me, now, has to make clinical sense. At one point I’d have rejected all this. But I think it’s totally fine to do your own personal thing.

If I had to be labeled, I’d be nearer a Buddhist as they don’t believe in an active being, or creator.

I think you can create meaning and fun however you want. I enjoy hearing about different cultures’ believes, I enjoy astrology, I may not rationally believe in tarot but why the fuck not if you like that kinda thing?

Keats was a poet who wrote about ‘negative capability’ – the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts and beliefs at the same time, so why not do that?!

I think generally religion is two things – a source of comfort and guidance to people (nothing wrong with that!) and an attempt to explain things that science has not yet been able to. If you want to enjoy the fictions to bring meaning to life – why not?!!

Given that I don’t believe in a god, I don’t exactly have a being I feel comforted by, or ask for guidance from. But my foraging into meditation and Buddhism has definitely helped me get a grip on my brain and managing my thoughts, emotions and moods.

What are your thoughts?

Let me know what you think about how spirituality is really kicking off in the wellness field, and share your beliefs and practices if you feel comfortable!

B x

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#8 Inspire Interview Series – REBECCA KING – Lawyer (Associate at one of the Biggest American Firms in London)

Sorry it’s been a little while since the last Inspire Interview… today’s is completely different to the careers we’ve spoken about before, which is why I love doing this series so much… there are so many amazing people doing cool jobs in all kinds of different industries, and talking to everyone about it is great just for me to be nosey, let alone share with you!

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I know law is something I get asked about a lot – how do I fit fitness around life as a trainee, for example, so I thought I’d go right to the source and give you a fully qualified lawyer on how she balances all things work, life, workouts and play!

Today’s interview is with the kick ass Rebecca King, who I actually met through our mutual obsession with KOBOX. She very kindly answered some questions on life as a lawyer in one of the biggest US firms in London, and busts some myths about lawyer life, not least that you have to do law at uni  – she did THE COOLEST undergrad degree ever… so without further ado –

B: Can you tell us a little bit about the area of law you work in…

R: I work in Debt Capital Markets on bond issuances (for corporates, banks and sometimes sovereigns).

B: What made you become a lawyer? How did you get there – did you do undergrad law or convert later?

R: To be honest, I just thought I’d be quite good at it! I didn’t study it as an undergrad, as I wasn’t 100% decided and knew I had the option of converting later. I studied a subject I loved but doesn’t have much in the way of traditional job applications outside academia – Archaeology and Anthropology. I focused on Biological Anthropology, the study of how humans evolved – I even met Jane Goodall once when she gave us a primatology lecture. I also took papers in Ancient Egyptian Religion, which I’ve always been fascinated by, although I chose not to make Egyptology my main focus because I’ve never been great at languages. If you think French is hard – try hieroglyphics! (I did. I was crap.)

I combined that with some legal work experience and vacation schemes, and I was offered a training contract with my current firm just before I graduated from Cambridge – they then sponsored me through law school.

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of RK?

R: As you know, hours and work can be so varied! Officially our working hours are 9.30 till 6 and recently my department has been relatively quiet so that’s been about when I get in and out. I’m about to head to lunch, and today so far I’ve sorted out some postclosing matters for a deal that closed last week, had a kick-off call for a pro-bono matter, reviewed and updated our internal memo on listing procedures for the London Stock Exchange and attended our department quarterly meeting. A pretty average morning!

B: What advice would you give someone looking to become a lawyer? Any advice you were given en route that was helpful?

R: I’d say that the subject of your undergraduate degree doesn’t really matter but your grades and outside interests really do. If you’re a non-law undergrad like I was, you’ll need to prove you’re serious about law even though you actively chose not to study it for your degree, which can be tricky! Definitely get involved with your university law society early on and attend recruitment fairs and law firm presentations, and apply for vacation schemes or open days as soon as you’re eligible – once you’ve attended one, it’s easier to tick that “genuinely interested” box and be accepted for more.

Also – and I think this is true of any industry, not just law – it’s infinitely better to just submit five job applications that you’ve really thought about and tailored to that particular firm than fire off fifty identical cover letters and CVs. Believe me, these firms receive thousands and thousands of identikit applications and anything they think you’ve copied and pasted will be promptly set aside.

B: What are the biggest misconceptions about being a lawyer that you think are out there? Any myths you want to bust (or confirm!)

R: That all lawyers go to court! My sister is at a different firm that specialises in arbitration, and goes all the time. I’ve never set foot in a courtroom outside of a school trip aged 15. I work on deals, not cases!

B: Best and worst bits of the job? Biggest challenges?

R: I work with some great people! Almost all the lawyers I’ve ever worked with have been really clever, fun and interesting people. There’s definitely a certain drive and perfectionism we all have in common but my department is a great place to be and I met some of my absolute best friends through work.

I think the biggest challenge for me personally is the variability of hours. As I’m in a transactional area, I can have two weeks of past-midnight finishes followed by two weeks where I barely bill any time at all. When your bonuses and performance reviews put a lot of emphasis on whether you hit an hours target, slow weeks can be really demoralising and on the flip side busy weeks can mean cancelling really important plans. People tend to be very understanding but ultimately the client calls the shots, and if there’s work to be done and no one else can do it, you just have to put plans aside.

B: I’ve found that people really stress about training contracts (and I know the numbers are tough!) but personally I found being a trainee waaaaay tougher than the application process… any thoughts on coping with the journey to working in law, since it can be super long, super competitive, and of course isn’t always peachy when you’re on a very late deal…?

R: Personally, it’s easy for me to finish a tough week and just flop on the sofa for six hours straight on Saturday and binge watch a show because I’m tired. If you’re like me – my advice is to try not to do that too often, as I’ll then get to Sunday evening and feel like the weekend was wasted. I always try and spend some time with friends, do a workout class, book an event or, if I am sitting in front of the TV, I’ll work on one of my costume projects at the same time – it’s a creative outlet and making something gives me a sense of achievement, even if I did it while watching Netflix! It’s different for everyone but basically my advice is – if you don’t have much time off, really make sure that the time you get to yourself you’re putting towards something or someone you love, rather than just spinning wheels waiting for the next work email to come in or Monday to start.

B: How do you relax and wind down outside of work, and look after yourself generally? Anything that particularly helps you stay balanced?

R: I have a lot of hobbies and interests, and making time for those is really important to me. I love reading – history, true crime (I stayed up till two last night reading the Ted Bundy biography “The Stranger Beside Me” and barely slept a wink!), trashy regency romance novels, fantasy and sci-fi. I’m also listening to podcasts at the moment on my commute – my favourites include “You Must Remember This” (on the forgotten scandals of Hollywood), “My Favourite Murder” and “The Soundtrack Show” (which analyses film soundtracks). TV-wise I love Westworld, Game of Thrones and anything David Attenborough.

I’m also a huge Star Wars geek and in the last couple of years have got into cosplay, so I love researching and making props and costumes in my spare time and attending comic conventions, and I even take lessons in lightsaber fighting! It’s basically a fusion of kung fu and tai chi, except instead of wooden practice swords we use plastic ones that light up. Other sports and activities I love are Kobox (obviously!), skiing, diving, yoga, pilates, hiking and golf. Some weeks I’m busier than others, but for me balance is when I’m happily busy at work but with time for my interests and seeing friends and family.

B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?

R: Best: people don’t dwell nearly as much on the criticism they give you as you do. I think particularly in law, we’re such perfectionists that any negative feedback can really knock us. Take it, learn from it and try and move on – because the chances are that the person who said it hasn’t thought about it since they did!

Worst: “You can’t wear dangly earrings to work!!” My mum was an incredibly badass accountant-turned-banker in the 80’s when the City really WAS a man’s world, and any sign of femininity was seen as distracting or a weakness – this classic quote was from my first day at work when I was going to wear drop earrings. I don’t think she realised when I started my TC in 2015 how much the world, and corporate dress code in particular, has changed from “her day”. The fact our firm has casual Fridays continues to amaze her, as does the fact I never wear suits (stretchy jersey dresses for the win!)

B: Do you feel like workouts impact how productive you are at work?

R: 100%. I always try to work out in the mornings. It wakes you up, it gets your metabolism going, it clears your head, and ultimately I think it’s great to start the day with a bit of me-time – whether it’s yoga, running or, in my case, punching the hell out of something heavy to some really loud music.

B: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be and why?

I honestly don’t know! I always have loved writing and secretly wanted to be a novelist, but I realised early on I wasn’t suited temperament-wise to such a solitary and unpredictable job. I also occasionally daydream of being a guide at a safari camp! Spending all day in the bush and then the evening round the fire with a glass of Amarula listening to the sounds of the wild and chatting to guests from all over the world sounds pretty fun to me. Having said that, I’d probably make it about three weeks without internet access before hotfooting it back to London.

B: Any role models career-wise (whether in law or not)?

R: My mum! She was the first in her family to go to university and then trained as an accountant as one of five women in a class of over 100. She then went into banking and made way more money than my dad for the first 10-15 years of their marriage (which was very unusual then). She ended up giving up work completely to look after me and my sister about the time I started school, but my parents were married for 10 years before they had kids, so she fit in a pretty incredible career before deciding to make that change. People are always shocked to find out my parents’ house is in her name! She’s incredibly driven and hard-working and is an example I try (and fail, a lot of the time!) to live up to.

B: Fave restaurant in City – any great places to take clients you’d recommend people?

R: I go to the Ned a lot and really like their restaurants, but if I’m not eating there I’ll usually head back towards Chelsea to have dinner. Mossimann’s, which is a dining club set in a gorgeous converted church in Belgravia, is the ultimate favourite – unfortunately I can’t go without my dad, as he’s the member, but I always beg to go there on my birthday! I love Rabbit, on the King’s Road, which does incredible seasonal British food tapas-style, and nearly died of happiness when they opened a Sticks ‘n’ Sushi less than two minutes walk from me!

B: And finally, what does ‘success’ mean to you?

It’s kind of abstract but that little fist-pump moment you get when you’ve absolutely nailed something. Whether it’s at work or not, the aim for me is for life to have more fist-pump moments than “d’oh” or “loo cry” moments.

**Quickfire Round**

Fave KOBOX combo – I know you go a lot 😉

Uppercuts. When I hit the bag hard enough that it jumps up, it makes me feel like Captain Marvel.

Pancakes or full english?

Full English for sure, I’m a savoury girl!

Burpee or bear crawl?

Oh Christ. Is Miranda reading this? Bear crawl! Definitely bear crawl!

Nature or nurture?

You can’t ask a former anthropology student that question, she’ll spend three weeks agonizing and then give you a 12-page essay that doesn’t even answer it! Like any true-crime aficionado, I’d probably say mostly nurture. But as a cat owner, nature certainly can’t be discounted.

Martini or cosmopolitan?

Martini – I like a citrusy, dry one with a grapefruit twist. But I’d choose a good margarita over either!

Talent or hustle?

Hustle.

Fave latin phrase from law-school?

In vino veritas – definitely learned during law school, although not actually during lectures…

Chocolate or cheese?

CHEESE.

Louboutin or Jimmy Choo?

Louboutin, as long as I’m not walking far.

Fave legal drama?

Does Judge Judy count?! Funnily enough for a lawyer I’ve never watched Suits or The Good Wife or anything like that. But my mum always has Judge Judy on somewhere in our house so I have a soft spot for her.

You have to hug, marry and water-balloon 3 kobox instructors – which ones do you choose?! 

Marry Miranda, obviously. Hug Joe or Jesse. Water-balloon Jacob (This is 100% revenge and I reserve the right to revise this when he’s back on the timetable permanently!)

Fave movie?

Hot Fuzz!

It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you go for?

Christmas lunch followed by my mum’s EXTREMELY boozy raspberry trifle! With wine. Lots of wine.

Hope that was a useful insight into lawyer life – Bekky is definitely the coolest lawyer I know. Catch her at KOBOX in City most weekdays 😉

B xoxo

 

Staying Zen while spinning multiple plates! (Bust stress & anxiety for Autumn)

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Everyone gets stressed and anxious, some more than others, but pretty much everyone can relate in some way! It’s become such a ‘thing’ (people talk about being busy and stressed and anxious 24/7 these days!) that we’re all looking for easy ways to de-stress all the time. While there aren’t any magic solutions, there are some effective tried-and-tested techniques, all of which help me manage my mood and hopefully will help you manage yours too!

Zen-up your life & feel better for Fall

Sweat

  • Wake up early for a workout. This literally kickstarts your day in the best possible way, releases a rush of endorphins, boosts mood and creativity and is great for physical and mental health.

Snooze & hydrate

  • Make sure you’re getting 7 hours sleep a night, minimum.
  • Drink water! 80% of the human body is made up of water so it is ESSENTIAL!

Break free from the desk trap

  • Get away from your desk at any opportunity you can – easier said than done most days, but even a 20 minute walk at lunch, extra trips to the loo or to grab a coffee… movement and a change of scene always helps!

Get ruthless with social media – detox those screens!

  • Minimise social media usage if it’s making you compare yourself with others. De-toxify your insta and facebook by unfollowing and unfriending anyone who is making you feel bad – it’s not selfish to prioritise your sanity! An instagram cull can be so mentally cleansing if people’s content is irritating, making you envious or feel inadequate, or just isn’t what you want to see! It’s YOUR FEED. You decide.

Cut the caffeine (sorry!)

  • Reduce caffeine as much as possible – caffeine will amp up your stress levels and elevate your heart rate, and try to stop drinking it after lunch or it will still be in your system when you’re trying to go to sleep – true story!

Rewire your brain & delete ‘perfectionist’ from your vocabulary – rest is valuable!

  • Sometimes it’s okay to be good enough and not always work the overtime or volunteer for an extra project. Remember that, and rest up. You’re no good to anyone burned out!

Not just for New-Ageys… the science supports yoga and meditation

  • Yoga and meditation are amazing ways to promote what scientific studies have termed the ‘relaxation response’ – an alteration of your chemical state that is good for body and mind! They also help build resilience and flexibility, both mental and physical.

Fresh air ‘n’ breeeeeathe

  • Go outside – even just for 2 minutes – if you feel overwhelmed. It can totally shift your perspective, break up the day and give you a second to collect yourself.

Just. Say. NO.

  • Learn to say no – if you don’t want to go to that social thing, just get out of it and look after yourself. FOMO is so 90s. There’s no need for it!

Ditch public opinion & love yourself

  • Work on getting comfortable in your skin and not stressing about what other people think about you – whether you do this with yoga, meditation, journalling, sport, art, therapy, or all or none of these – honestly, it’s LIFE CHANGING. At 27 I had some mega realisations about living MY LIFE and liberating myself from being concerned with other peoples’ views of me… and it is honestly insane once you get there in the BEST POSSIBLE WAY. Obviously we’re all human and so relapse sometimes, but overall… I promise, you’ll feel amazing.

Re-prioritise… the good stuff

  • Recognise that work isn’t everything. Once you prioritise your relationships and your loves (be it a boyfriend, boxing, or family) you’ll feel so much more content with life. No-one dies wishing they’d spent more time at the office, however driven.

Nostrils, nostrils, nostrils (pranayama baby!)

  • Pranayama breathing, aka alternate nostril breathing. Sounds a bit mad, but I love this stuff… try it! It works. Go on. Give it a google.

Be curious!

  • Cultivate curiosity in new things, be it exploring, or learning a new language. Being stimulated in non-worky non-burnouty ways is so great for stress busting and feeling like you’ve achieved something, and re-invigorating your inspiration levels.

So, there you have it, my favourite ways to stay zen while spinning plates (or try to!) No-one is perfect and no-one can be chill all the time, but the nearer I get to 30 the more I realise what matters to me, and feeling happy and mentally and emotionally healthy is more of a priority than ever – I no longer have the obsession with beating myself up about things and stressing to the max… so I hope this helps you get happier too 😉

B xoxo

 

 

4 simple tips: become more CONFIDENT

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

Anytime I see posts and articles about this I find it SO INTERESTING because I feel like we all get insecure sometimes and want to be a little more confident.

I’m a super shy person. Always have been. But I am less painfully shy than I used to be, to the point where now often people don’t believe I’m shy (maybe they think I’m awkward instead hahaha…!)

Confidence is this weird thing, right? You see people who literally are just so free and don’t give AF and are able to share their ideas, boss something in the gym without embarassment or speak up at work… I’ve often wished I could buy it in a bottle (champagne doesn’t count if you wanna keep your job guys!)

In my first job at Vouchercodes.co.uk, a lot of ‘pitching’ was involved – and I had to deliver the pitches myself. I was 21, super shy, not at all confident, I felt inadequate and ridiculous, and could barely speak in internal meetings, let alone with clients! We also had to present in company-wide meetings weekly, and it nearly gave me a heart attack.

I’ve always hated public speaking. I’d shake – as in PHYSICALLY SHAKE. I’d feel sick. I’d cry on the phone to my dad every morning.

But you know what? Being forced to do it again and again means that 1) I know if forced, I can… I even gave a speech at a wedding a couple of years ago! and 2) where speaking in a meeting of 3-10 people used to terrify me, now I know how to do it.

How?

Practice, basically. I’d practice my pitches to my boyfriend, on the phone to my dad, I’d set up meetings with my boss to practice with her, I’d listen to her and make notes on how she did it… and then the worst bit was just making myself do it.

To help, I qualified to teach fitness so I had to stand up in front of a class so I could learn to do it somewhere I enjoyed. And it really, really helped. But you have to decide to put the work in.

All of that ground work is the only reason I could go to an interview at a magic circle law firm and get a job as a lawyer, because if I’d gone in post-graduation at 21, I’d have fallen to literal bits and been a nervous wreck.

I mean, I’m still an introvert, I like to recharge solo as much as possible rather than socialise, and that’s totally okay! I can still be awkward and weird hahaha… but I got over that crippling shyness and if I managed to, anyone else can too.

So here are my tips! And yes, ultimately it really is a case of fake it (or try!) until you make it!

1. Stop hiding behind the ‘it’s just my personality, I’m shy’

This is tough love, I know. I used to have panic attacks about doing public speaking, and I’ll never love it. BUT if you repeatedly practice exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations, you WILL adapt. Be gentle with yourself, do it gradually, you don’t have to be too mean to yourself. But the big key is to stop making excuses and decide to make a change. The way to start is to jump in and practice whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable. 

Set small goals initially. Baby steps. Then as you get into your stride, you can take the leaps and bounds.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

2. Physical strength builds mental strength

Did you see this one coming? 😉 Fitness is amazing for releasing feel-good hormones (endorphin pump is REAL y’all) but it also shows you the power of practice – little by little you increase strength and/or cardio fitness and it shows you change IS possible, which should give you the confidence to keep trying new things!

I did a Kayla Itsines leg workout the day of my training contract interview and it literally saved me hahaha!

3. Re-train your brain: the long bit!

How much time do you spend worrying about what other people think about you? I read an amazing book called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k and it suggested you have a think about the important things in your life that you DO and are WILLING to give a fuck about. Anything not on that list? It’s not within your fuck budget. Let that shit gooooooo!

How your life feels to you is more important than how it looks to other people

Trust your own choices and stop talking to yourself in a negative way in your head. Try just repeating (silently or aloud!) ‘I CAN do this’ or something similar. It sounds super American and cheesy but when your habit is to tell yourself you CAN do something instead of saying you CAN’T, it does make a massive shift in your mindset.

Too scared to try something in the gym? Feel stupid, watched, embarassed? Re-train your thought process to be like SO WHAT? What’s the worst that could happen? They’d laugh at you? (I guarantee the other people there won’t, they’re too busy doing their own workouts, but even if they did…) Worse things happen at sea, guys.

The ego likes to try and protect us from laughter or scorn from others, but I think as a result it goes into overdrive and makes us think 99% of the time people are judging us when actually they don’t really care or even notice what we’re doing! Your opinion and that of those you love (and maybe the person who pays you!) is the only one that counts. Let everything else go. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and you’re super embarassed – so what? Once you start approaching things this way, and not minding looking silly, you’ll 100% feel liberated.

I used to experiment with my hair tonnes as a kid, but my dad’s side of the family always made comments about it, and gradually I think I stopped wanting to experiment. I started to think I had to have long hair to prove I was a girl (?! wtf ?! seriously ?!) as comments would often be about short hair being ‘boyish’. As my EDs got stronger and my confidence got lower, I felt like I was way too ugly for short hair and needed long hair to distract from it. How crazy is that?!

So, recently, (and also once a year and a half ago!) I chopped all my hair off again from my boobs to my collarbone, and it’s super liberating… and I now don’t care what anyone else things, apart from me and my boyfriend basically!

Basically, work, fitness, gym, wherever… there’s a bit of work to be done on realising that you just need to go with your gut. And if it all goes wrong and you look silly… you’re not dying, you’re still alive and have soooo many good things going on… so focus on that ❤

Admittedly some of it comes with age too. The nearer  I get to 30, the better able I am to shake off anyone who bugs me and stick to my fuck budget 😉

Books for this process that I’d recommend (although you may have to take with a pinch of salt as they can get a bit too hippyish, but I do still love them!) are Life Tonic by Jody Shield and Hungry For More by Mel Wells.

4. Daily meds*

*meditations, of course!

Whether you hate the idea of meditation as woo woo, you’re a hippy spiritual moon-child or [insert other extreme here], meditation has been proven by various reputable scientific studies to have a positive effect on the brain due to its promotion of the ‘relaxation response’, a physiological change in the body as a result of the ‘relaxed’ state.

So. For the purposes of confidence, meditation’s mention here is twofold:

  1. it teaches you increased focus, which makes you better able to let go of nagging, negative thoughts like ‘I can’t do this, I’m too scared, I’m too shy, I’m too anxious, why is everyone else more confident/smarter/prettier/cleverer than me…’ and breathe, and master your emotions.
  2. it connects you better with yourself and your thought patterns, and by being more present with yourself, you eventually come to realise that you’re not your thoughts… you’re the observer of your thoughts. So you can actually create change and not let thoughts control you, but also it should increase your ability to spend time with yourself, feel good within yourself and actually (god forbid if you’re British) LIKE YOURSELF. Like, what is this madness?!

Also, her style may not be for everyone, but Jody Shield does a meditation series (with a track specifically relating to confidence) if you fancy giving it a try. Despite my atheist and decidedly not spiritual views, I really like her stuff – I find her voice super relaxing.

So, how are we feeling?

Hopefully some of these help a bit… Would love to hear any more you can add!

Also check out this piece on how to be confident by Rose The Londoner and this FREE fierce confidence workshop / livestream replay with Jody Shield to help you get started!

B xoxo

You may also wanna browse:

Ways to boost body confidence on bad days – without working out!

Careers section – Inspire Interview Series plus work tips, resources and confidence building

Body Confidence: talking about taboos, fat loss and some tips!

How to stay motivated to fit in workouts with an office job

Motivation 101: get it and keep it

Is it vain to have a fitness instagram?Is it vain to have a fitness instagram? + dangers of social media

Sparkle: resources to find yours

#Inspire Interview 5: MEL WELLS (actress, best-selling author, speaker, food & psychology coach!)