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Baby loss Self-care

Self-care, baby loss & pregnancy after loss with The Fitness Dad

May 22, 2019

Today on the blog we have Jonny Stacey, also known as The Fitness Dad. Jonny’s a personal trainer based in Amersham in Buckinghamshire and he works with everyday people to help them get fit and healthy. We first connected through Instagram following our experiences of baby loss and I invited Jonny to share some of his self-care wisdom for #thebigselfcareshare.

Jonny Stacey self-care

Tell us about yourself, Jonny.

I’m a father of three; Arthur, Henry and Maggie. Arthur and Maggie are here with us and unfortunately, Henry was stillborn. I also have one four-legged pooch called Ben and an amazing fiancé, Katie.

As a personal trainer, I work with a lot of parents in particular as I can relate to their common everyday problems and help them find some time to work on themselves and solve those problems. I also have a YouTube channel where I put out Vlogs on fitness, baby loss and general family stuff. I have also written a blog all about our experience with stillbirth called ‘Don’t forget about dad‘.

What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care, to me, is about looking after yourself so you can give your best self to others. I believe that if you aren’t truly happy, you can’t serve and make others happy. I believe we all need to spend some time focusing on ourselves, especially as a parent otherwise it’s just all give, give, give.

How do you practice self-care?

I incorporate self-care through exercise and I think daily movement is hugely underrated. The endorphins from exercise are like no other. As a parent, I also think it’s hugely important to set an example of leading a fit and healthy life for your children. Exercise has played a huge role in every stage of my life and it’s what I have turned to, to help me cope, especially after the loss of our son Henry. I also think spending time doing things you love is incredibly important.

Eating well can make you feel good too and there is some truth in ‘you are what you eat’. If you eat rubbish all the time you feel pretty rubbish and if you eat healthy food you feel good.

I also try my best daily to just be a good person and think there is something very empowering about being kind to others.

I also try my best daily to just be a good person and think there is something very empowering about being kind to others. Be polite to people, including strangers. And I like to try and have a very positive outlook on things which was hugely tested with what happened to Henry but I have managed to somehow cope. I think a positive outlook has helped and your circle of peers are incredibly important for this; you need to surround yourself with nice people.

They say you are a by-product of the 5 people you spend the most time with so if you spend your time with positive, happy people you are likely to feel that way. If you spend your time with people who complain, moan or constantly put others down, you too will feel down and also start to do the same to others.

Tell me, how have you found the process of opening up online about your son and your experiences?

Opening up online about Henry has been one of the best things I have done in terms of coping with his loss. I have met people I never would have otherwise and we have been able to share our experiences.

I originally created my blog as a way of expressing to everyone I know about how I truly feel as I found it hard to open up to family members and thought well if they read it then they can see how I feel. I also thought a male voice and opinion was lacking and since opening up I have had people from all over the world, as far as Australia, say “thank you, you have helped my husband” or “I now get how my partner feels thanks to you”. The fact that my sharing my experience is helping others is helping me too.

I have some huge fundraising plans for charities related to stillbirth and I also have big plans to keep my son Henry’s name and legacy known for years to come, hopefully for long after I myself am gone.

You’ve recently welcomed your daughter. How was pregnancy after loss for your family and what advice can you offer to those going through this?

After losing Henry we knew the only way we could truly feel somewhat healed (we never truly will be) was to get pregnant again. For anyone who is at that crossroad, I’ll be honest, it will be the hardest 9 months of your life. Anxiety can be at an all-time high and so my advice is to make sure you and your partner communicate and tell each other how you feel. But also, be as patient as possible with each other.

Katie’s anxiety was like nothing I had ever experienced and at times I felt pretty helpless which just made me feel frustrated and at times I took that out on her. A situation like this really tests your relationship. We had two pregnancies with just a three-month gap between them and both were very stressful situations to be in. But I used exercise and walking with the dog to help clear my mind.

If you are on edge and scared about going through it, you just have to tick off the milestones as you go along. The fear will never go away no matter how long you wait, it will always be scary. It is so worth that pain when you get to leave the hospital with a baby and we will always miss and love our Henry but we can’t let that hold us back from growing our family. He deserves to be a big brother too.

We were very afraid of getting our hopes up but tried to get as excited as we did in our first pregnancy.

We were very afraid of getting our hopes up but tried to get as excited as we did in our first pregnancy. I thought, we should get excited when we see tiny baby clothes at the shop, we should think of what to call her, we should dream of bringing her home like we did her biggest brother Arthur. With Henry, the only time we got to spend with him and get to know him was in the 9 months he was in Katie’s belly and Arthur and I used to sing silly songs to the bump and rest our heads on it at night. That was the only time I got to spend with my son and god forbid if it was to happen again I didn’t want to look back and think we didn’t enjoy the time getting to know our baby because that could have been the only time we had with her.

Talk, breathe and try to enjoy the pregnancy as best as you can.

Thanks so much for your contribution, Jonny, and for sharing your experiences of losing Henry and of pregnancy after loss. I’m sure your words will offer so much support and encouragement to those going through or embarking upon what can be a fragile time.

If you’re struggling with self-care after baby loss or during pregnancy after loss, or indeed any aspect of health or fitness, you can follow Jonny on Instagram or visit his websites:

www.the-fitness-dad.com
dontforgetaboutdad.wordpress.com

Mental health Self-care

Maternal Mental Health Week – support & community

May 5, 2019

Secondary school friends, Shelley Lawrence and Sophie Taylor, launched hi mama in 2017. In their contribution to #thebigselfcareshare for Maternal Mental Health Week, they talk about their own maternal challenges and how this inspired them to create a digital space for other mothers to share their experiences.

Maternal Mental Health Week - hi mama

Tell us about yourselves

We both found motherhood more challenging than we expected, so we wanted to create somewhere for mothers to share their experiences in a place of no judgement, to help others to feel less isolated and alone. Letters have a poignancy and an intimacy and give you the freedom to explore your feelings honestly, especially writing a letter to your past-self. It really allows the writer time to reflect, so they can also appreciate how far they have come. We have now created a digital library of almost 150 letters on many motherhood subjects, including miscarriage, maternal mental health, single parenthood, birth, feeding, sleep and baby loss. So many readers and writers have told us the letters have helped them and we are determined to reach more mamas with the project.

What does self-care mean to each of you?

Shelley – It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine that, as a mum, generally revolves around a lot of other people before yourself. Self-care is something I am starting to consciously think about, be it getting up 20 minutes before everyone to do some exercise or taking time to plan and think about my passions. I see self-care as something I do for me that makes my heart sing and boosts my mood, that is separate from my family’s needs.

I see self-care as something I do for me that makes my heart sing and boosts my mood, that is separate from my family’s needs.

Sophie – Self-care is hard to achieve when you’re busy and sometimes I feel like I’m nearing a breaking point before I remember it’s needed. I went for a spa morning by myself when Felix was quite little and Shelley, another friend and I went to a spa on Saturday and it was so relaxing it honestly felt like a holiday. But I can’t rely on a spa to deliver my self-care! I think it’s accessing time that’s really yours and particularly at this time of life, as a working mum, it has to involve some kind of relaxation, even if that’s getting into bed just half an hour earlier.

I first discovered you through Instagram and found writing my letters so therapeutic. Tell me, what do you think the benefits of writings a letter are?

Shelley – Before we launched we both sat down and wrote our own letters to ourselves (which you can find on the site). My letter was about my first emergency C-section. It took me there, but instead of feeling like a failure as I had always before, it allowed me to step back and see how far I had come since that time. There’s something about talking to your past self with hindsight that really allows you to congratulate yourself in a way we just don’t do in general. It feels freeing.

Sophie – I think it’s how cathartic it can be to revisit a time that you found difficult and exonerate a lot of the ghosts or bad feeling. My first letter was about my son’s lack of sleep in the first year and writing about it made me realise how hard it had been but also what kind of mother I was and how proud I am now to have got through it.

If you could offer a tip on getting started with writing your own letter, what would it be?

Shelley – I’d say plan to have some time alone to think about it first, some peace to really revisit how you were feeling in that time and what you would say to yourself.

We want to hear as many voices of mothers as possible as they are all important, relevant and worth sharing.

Sophie – It doesn’t have to be perfect or have an epic journey – it’s your letter and is your experience of motherhood. We want to hear as many voices of mothers as possible as they are all important, relevant and worth sharing. And we publish every letter we receive.

Can you each share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you in the path to being kinder to yourself?

Shelley – I’m not one for giving tips or advice as I’m still figuring it all out myself, but that has been key for me the last few years… knowing that everyone else is too. I think once you accept that everyone is just trying their best, we are all just figuring it out as we go, it allows you to stop comparing and be kinder to yourself. For me, it’s finding the time for self-care, so I’d say schedule it in – it’s time well spent!

Sophie – I’m going to follow what Shelley said and also work out how I can replicate that spa feeling when I’m at home!

Thank you, Shelley and Sophie, for taking part in #thebigselfcareshare, and for telling us more about what inspired you to create hi mama. You can read their digital library of letters by visiting the hi mama website or by following them on social media:

www.instagram.com/hi_mama_letters/
www.twitter.com/hi_mama_letters
www.facebook.com/himamaletters

Fertility treatment Mental health Self-care

Maternal Mental Health Week – preparing for IVF and motherhood

May 4, 2019

Earlier this week I tentatively reached out to fellow Instagrammer, Lauren, about the possibility of creating a piece about IVF and her path to motherhood for Maternal Mental Health Week.

While days and weeks dedicated to causes such as mental health can bring people together, they also carry the risk of excluding others. It’s not always possible to include everyone but it occurred to me that Maternal Mental Health Week also applies to those who are trying to start their families and yet I haven’t seen many conversations about it.

Lauren is openly sharing her fertility struggles and here, as part of #thebigselfcareshare, she talks about how she’s supporting herself with a whole heap of love and laughter.

Lauren - supporting your fertility

Tell us about yourself and your fertility experience.

I was born and bred in Surrey where I now live with my husband and 2 cats – Simon, Bruce & Maverick. The 3 loves of my life. Closely followed by wine. I used to always hear people saying “there’s never a good time to have a baby” but I have since learned that this is something only the super-fertile, super-fortunate say. My husband and I have felt SO READY to start our family for about 3 years and have been TTC since 2016.

Shortly after the first year of trying, we went to visit our GP who ran some tests and eventually gave us the news that there was a male factor issue making it pretty difficult for us to conceive naturally (in spite of all my efforts with ovulation sticks, thermometers, sperm-friendly-lube, bedtime handstands, pineapples for breakfast etc).

We were totally knocked sideways by the result but a lot of learnings came out of it.

We were referred for our first round of IVF in February which sadly ended without any embryos to transfer. We were totally knocked sideways by the result but a lot of learnings came out of it and we’re now looking ahead to our second fresh cycle which we hope will begin this summer.

What does self-care mean for you and how have you been looking after yourself on your fertility journey?

For me, self-care is about finding time for the things that make me feel like Lauren. Infertility – in all its forms – can be exhausting and miserable. Whenever I feel either of those things, I know I’ve been slacking on the old self-care. Being around my friends and family is my go-to remedy most of the time. Laughter heals me so I do everything I can to surround myself with people who make me LOL and LMAO and ROFL.

I’ve recently made a playlist of tunes that take me right back to that happy, exciting time in my life.

Music is another thing that really brings me out of a bad bubble. I spent years training as a dancer (my true passion although I have long since lost all technique) and I’ve recently made a playlist of tunes that take me right back to that happy, exciting time in my life. Some other fixes for me include sunshine, yoga and bubble baths – with wine and candles in emergency situations.

We first discovered each other through Instagram. How have you found the fertility community?

In short, incredible. It was September last year when I first “came out” about our struggle conceiving and discovered the online Insta-Sisterhood. Before that, I’d felt SO ALONE. Like I was the only one having a hard time getting pregnant. The people I’ve connected with on here make me feel stronger, more positive and more clued up about fertility. I love you all. I honestly don’t know how I’d be coping if I hadn’t found this wonderful tribe.

I believe our maternal mental health needs to be considered well before we have children. Is this something you’ve considered on your path to parenthood?

Absolutely.

As much as I don’t want to believe it, infertility has changed the way I think. It’s like my brain has sort of rewired itself to associate babies/pregnancy with a feeling of pain. I’ve had my low points but I’m determined to get myself into a stronger frame of mind ahead of our next IVF cycle.

We need to look after ourselves to make sure we don’t burn out the moment we cross the finish line. Because, in reality, it’s actually another start line.

Rumour has it that the pregnancy/motherhood malarkey is no walk in the park and, ideally, I’d like to enter that chapter of my life feeling ready for the challenge. For those of us dealing with infertility and IVF – that challenge starts a long time before conception. Making a baby this way takes BALLS (excuse the pun), unrelenting commitment and a whole heap of love. We need to look after ourselves to make sure we don’t burn out the moment we cross the finish line. Because, in reality, it’s actually another start line.

Lauren, thank you so much for creating space for those experiencing fertility struggles during Maternal Mental Health Week. At your rawest, you’re supporting others and I’m sure it’s a self-care piece that will touch hearts!

You can find out more about Lauren by visiting:

www.instagram.com/laurenifen
www.thedinkyblog.com

Baby loss Mental health Self-care

Maternal Mental Health Week – baby loss & early motherhood

April 30, 2019

Louise O’Donnell created her blog after a traumatic experience of pregnancy and early motherhood. In her contribution to #thebigselfcareshare for Maternal Mental Health Week, Louise shares the steps she’s taken towards finding support within a community of like-minded people on her challenging path to becoming a parent.

Louise O'Donnell - maternal mental health week

Tell us about your experience of pregnancy and loss.

I had a twin pregnancy where we sadly lost one baby at 28 weeks. Our surviving baby had to come prematurely to stay safe and was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 9 weeks. I remember feeling so angry and cheated that we had experienced such a sad loss – this isn’t how pregnancy and motherhood are in the fairytales. I also found early motherhood so full of anxiety and doubt.

I feel passionate about reaching out and helping others through our actions, however small.

I set up my Instagram account and blog because I didn’t want anyone else to feel like they were alone in experiencing loss, prematurity and generally not knowing how to navigate being a new mum with all its pressures, especially guilt and comparison. I feel passionate about reaching out and helping others through our actions, however small.

We first discovered each other through the online baby loss community. Tell me, how have you found writing about your experience of motherhood?

I started, as many do, for cathartic reasons and to try and find like-minded people. I was dubious about starting an Instagram account as I know there can be lots of crazy negativity but in the loss community, I’ve found so much warmth and support. It’s one of those situations where you would give anything to not be in the club of bereaved parents, but you also get to meet the strongest most inspiring people.

…through writing about my experiences I’m more confident in how I navigate grief and know I’m not alone – that is an amazing comfort.

For me, I felt so alone in my grief as I experienced a less common form of loss, but through writing about my experiences I’m more confident in how I navigate grief and know I’m not alone – that is an amazing comfort.

Where did you find the most support following the loss of your baby and as a new mum to her twin?

Because I had a twin pregnancy, I used the charity Tamba (Twin and Multiple Births Association) through the good, the bad and the ugly, from the first scans to the loss. After the loss, I used their bereavement befriender service to get me through the early raw stages of the grief. The lady who I was matched with is now a close personal friend who I cherish more than I can say. In terms of Instagram, there is such a wide community of parents who have experienced loss in many different ways and I have found the ones who I can relate to. Grief is so personal and I’ve learned you need to connect with those who ‘get it’. I’ve also recently attended Baby Loss Hour Live hosted by Jess, The Legacy of Leo, and this was hugely significant for me in meeting other parents and again reaffirming that I’m not alone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

How would you define self-care and how have you prioritised it during this time?

To me, self-care isn’t going to the nail salon or having your hair done (although both are lovely!). I think it also includes looking after your mental health and wellbeing – like going for a walk, taking time out for yourself, picking up the phone and calling a friend. I try to set a realistic self-care plan that I know I can achieve – right now it’s to cut down on alcohol, cut out coffee, make sure I get outside every day and before bed I write a gratitude list and meditate. Usually, I try to make an effort to reboot if my resources are low rather than just taking easy routes of shutting off in front of the telly and pouring a glass of wine! Saying that what counts for self-care for one day might not cut it the next so I stay flexible!

Can you share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you on the path to being kinder to yourself as a new mum?

I would say the thing I find most helpful is getting outside every single day (illness aside). If I don’t have any plans for the day, I get the pram, put on a podcast and pop my earphones in and just walk. It doesn’t matter where. There are times as a new mum where you get to mid-afternoon, you haven’t got dressed, all the day has brought is poo explosions and screaming (from the baby…hopefully!) and you just feel like you’ll go under.

…feeling a loss of identity was a huge thing for me as a new mum and you need to bring the old you back out whenever possible.

Just get out, even if it’s around the streets a few laps! I also think its really good to book out baby-free time ahead in your diary with friends so you can reacquaint yourself with the old you – feeling a loss of identity was a huge thing for me as a new mum and you need to bring the old you back out whenever possible. As much as I cherish being a mum I was someone before that too!

Thank you for your raw and honest contribution to#thebigselfcareshare, Louise, and for sharing your story and the inspiration behind your blog.

You can find out more about Louise by visiting:

www.instagram.com/helpamummyout
www.helpamummyout.co.uk

Self-care

Kat Nicholls on self-worth & upping your self-care game

April 24, 2019

Kat Nicholls is a writer, blogger and coach who wants to help people discover their self-worth and up their self-care game. In her contribution to #thebigselfcareshare, she talks about learning to accept and love who she is and helping others to do the same.

Kat Nicholls on self-worth

Tell us about yourself.

In my teenage years, I struggled with an eating disorder, low self-esteem and didn’t think I was worthy of, well… anything. Over the years, with the help of therapy and a lot of self-development work, I’m happy to say this has changed.

I’ve learnt to accept and love who I am and to believe in myself. My aim is to help others do the same through writing and coaching. Monday to Thursday I work as a writer for a company that runs mental health and wellbeing websites and Happiful magazine. I fit my blogging and coaching work around this, which can be quite a lot of work! To keep my mental health in check, I have to ensure I practice what I preach and prioritise self-care.

What does self-care mean for you?

For me, self-care is all about tuning into what my body and mind need – and giving it that. Sometimes that means saying no to a social invite because I need to prioritise rest. Sometimes it means dragging myself out of the flat for a walk because I know my body needs movement.

I consider being creative an essential act of self-care.

As well as the more ‘stereotypical’ self-care practices like meditation, yoga and baths (which I love!), I consider being creative an essential act of self-care. Having the space to write and take pictures helps me express myself, something that I think can get forgotten when we talk about self-care.

I first discovered you through the Creatively Human podcast. Tell me, what inspired you to build a career as a coach?

I’ve always wanted to be able to help and support people, but I was beginning to feel a little restricted doing this solely through blog posts and articles.

Self-care and self-worth are incredibly personal things. We all have different circumstances, different histories, different experiences. This can make it difficult to create a blog post or magazine article that’s tailored – you have to keep things quite generic.

Through coaching, you have dedicated time with one person. You’re able to listen to their experiences, their obstacles and help them find a way forward. This is why it appealed to me, so I did my training, got insured and launched my services! To me, it’s felt like a natural evolution from what I was doing through the blog.

How do you make sure you’re looking after yourself each day?

I like to take time on a Sunday to plan my week ahead and always make sure I include self-care on my ‘to-do’ list. I know that if I don’t carve out space for self-care and rest, I can get overwhelmed and my anxiety can spike.

Because I know the consequences of neglecting self-care, I give it the same weight of importance as any other task on my list.

Because I know the consequences of neglecting self-care, I give it the same weight of importance as any other task on my list. As well as having this time scheduled in, I check in with myself daily through journaling. This just helps me stay aware of how I’m feeling, what I need more of and what boundaries I need to put in place.

You talk a lot about self-love. Share a tip, something that’s helped you on your path to loving yourself a little more.

A tool I used when I was recovering from my eating disorder, and one I still use today, is having an ‘evidence bank’. Back then it was a tiny notebook I filled with compliments from other people. Every time my eating disorder voice tried to make me feel worthless, I referred back to my evidence bank and argued back.

These days it’s a photo album on my phone filled with screenshots of lovely messages, emails and comments I get that remind me what I’m doing is making a difference and that I’m on the right path. Set up your own evidence bank in whatever format works for you and start to use it to argue with your inner critic.

I really enjoyed reading your contribution, Kat. And the concept of an ‘evidence bank’ is one I’ve heard of but it’s great to know how it started for you and how you continue to use it. Thank you for taking part and for giving us such an honest perspective of your self-care routine.

You can follow Kat on Instagram and Twitter and find out more about her self-worth coaching at Blue Jay of Happiness. Kat also has a brilliant blog, newsletter and works at Happiful Magazine.

Mental health Self-care

Why IT’S OK TO FEEL S.H.I.T with Susie Aitken

March 16, 2019

Next in my series of self-care posts for #thebigselfcareshare is Susie Aitken, founder of parenting and lifestyle blog, So Happy In Town / S.H.I.T. She recently launched the #itsoktofeelshit t-shirt campaign to raise awareness and funds for Young Minds, a charity striving for improved mental health support for young people. Susie and I first encountered each other on the Selfish Mother Masterclasses – it was only recently that I discovered she’s an Edinburgh lass too – and here she tells me more about her blog, the inspiration behind her campaign and, of course, her approach to self-care.

Susie Aitken and why IT'S OK TO FEEL SHIT

Tell us about yourself.

I founded my blog two years ago because I wanted to write about the rollercoaster that is parenting – the good sh*t but also the not so good sh*t – with the main ethos being that we’re all in this together. I’m originally from Edinburgh but moved down to London in my early 20’s and now live in West London with my husband, Mr S.H.I.T. and our three children, the little S.H.I.T.s – I did run this by them by the way!

What does self-care mean for you?

Self-care is something that we’re all guilty of not prioritising enough. It’s really hard when you’ve got children and you obviously put their needs (and often that of your partner) ahead of your own, which most of us can’t help but do. Self-care to me is quality time to yourself, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. I know even 10 minutes a day can seem like a mean feat when you’re juggling a million other things, but it really is so important to have some quality me-time for our own mental health.

How do make self-care a part of your daily routine?

I make sure I go to the gym regularly as this helps my headspace so much – I’m like a different person afterwards. I also use the Calm app every day to meditate, as that 10 minutes each day, having quiet time to myself, is so important and clears my head. I’m someone who definitely needs time on my own, just to be me, whenever I can grab it.

Share a tip, something that’s helped you on the path to being kinder to yourself.

Sleep! I know it’s not rocket science but once I’d got the children to bed (which gets later and later now as they older), I used to start frantically trying to get lots of things done that I hadn’t managed to do in the day. Then I’d crawl into bed utterly exhausted, not giving myself enough time to unwind, and before I knew it would be morning again and time to get on the hamster wheel again. I was frazzled, irritable and broken most days. Now I make sure I’m much stricter and get to bed by 10 pm, reading for a little bit before going to sleep and giving my body and mind a really good chance to recharge overnight.

I’ve started to think of one or two things a day that I’m grateful for. Even when I feel I’ve had a rubbish day, there’s always something good that has happened.

Also, before I go to sleep, I’ve started to think of one or two things a day that I’m grateful for. Even when I feel I’ve had a rubbish day, there’s always something good that has happened, however small, and this little ritual really helps to leave my mind in a positive place before that day is done. I get my children to do it too so that positive thoughts fill their heads, even when they’re not feeling it.

Tell us about the S.H.I.T. t-shirt campaign you’re running for YoungMinds.

I started the #itsoktofeelshit t-shirt campaign, with 100% profit going to YoungMinds because I feel passionate about young people’s mental health having first been hit myself by depression and panic attacks in my early 20’s and not knowing or being told it was ok to feel like that. I thought I was a freak who would be ostracised by society if I told anyone how much I was struggling when it seemed that everyone else was coping so well. But even more so, because we, as a family, have been affected first-hand and we are very much not alone – one in five children will experience a mental health difficulty at least once in their first 11 years, and many adults with lifetime mental health issues can trace the symptoms back to childhood. I really wanted to do something to raise awareness and to let kids know that it really is ok and it’s good to share.

Where did the idea for the slogan #itsoktofeelshit come from?

I know it’s slightly controversial but I wanted to play on my blog name and seeing as it is called S.H.I.T. it seemed the perfect slogan. And it totally sums up what I wanted young people to feel – that it’s ok to feel shit and there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Mental illness is just like physical illness and it’s so good to talk about it.

Susie, thank you so much for your contribution and for sharing more about what prompted you to start the campaign. I love your self-care tips and your approach proves that sometimes the simplest things can help you cultivate a supportive, everyday self-care practice.

If you’re quick you can buy one of the remaining t-shirts from www.sohappyintown.com/shop. 100% profit from every single tee sold goes to YoungMinds, who are fighting for an era where there is mental health support available for every young person who reaches out.

You can also find Susie on the following social media channels:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/sohappyintown
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sohappyintown
Twitter: twitter.com/SoHappyInTown

And visit her website: www.sohappyintown.com

Self-care

Francesca Geens and the HappySelf Journal

February 22, 2019

Today on the blog I’m delighted to feature Francesca Geens, founder of the HappySelf Journal for children. She is so passionate about giving kids the opportunity to explore and support their mental wellbeing as early in life as possible. My daughter, Cora, has always been curious about my writing and so I invested in a HappySelf Journal to help us talk about her day and her thoughts and feelings. It’s been a great tool for us as a family and so I invited Francesca to share some of her wisdom and thoughts behind the product for #thebigselfcareshare!

Francesca Geens on journaling & happiness

Tell us about your business

I founded the HappySelf Journal as a way to bring the science of happiness and growth mindset principles to children in the format of a beautifully illustrated daily journal. I believe it’s really important for children to develop the positive skills they need to support their own happiness. Through just a few minutes of filling out their journal children are able to reflect on their day, develop their emotional intelligence, boost positive thinking and develop positive habits. Parents and teachers are reporting better sleep, improved behaviour and emotional skills and less anxious children. The journal brings together so many things that matter to me and nothing makes me happier than having a positive impact on children’s lives.

HappySelf Journal for children

What does self-care mean for you?

For me it’s all about having time to myself whether it is to take piano lessons, spend time in the morning with the Headspace app and my journal, going for a walk or doing an exercise class or to treat myself to a massage or facial. Self-care is precious time out from the usual routines of work and family to recharge and make sure I can be my best self.

Self-care is precious time out from the usual routines of work and family to recharge and make sure I can be my best self.

What do you find most challenging about self-care?

Time is always the challenge. There is always something else that needs doing so it is hard to stop and take time out. However, my productivity is always boosted when I do so I know it’s worth doing even when it feels counter-intuitive!

How do you create time?

I book it into my diary in advance so that other commitments build around self-care. It goes into the calendar first each month – regular classes, lessons, appointments, morning routine, anything like that so work and client calls aren’t accidentally booked in at the same time.

Share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you on your path to being kinder to yourself.

I love reading The Daily Stoic and accompanying journal. I read this as part of my morning routine straight after doing 10 minutes of Headspace. The combination of Stoicism and Meditation has done wonders for my anxiety levels and ability to be clear as to what I can and cannot control and how to focus on the here and now. Getting my day off to a good start is for me the best way to feel grounded and ready to take on the day with clarity and purpose.

Thanks so much for your contribution, Francesca. You can find out more about the HappySelf Journal and follow them on social media at:

Website: www.happyselfjournal.com
Instagram: instagram.com/happyselfjournal
Facebook: facebook.com/happyselfjournal
Twitter: twitter.com/HappySelf_

Self-care

Amy Holland on self-care that works for you and your family

February 4, 2019

Amy Holland, 34, is a single parent to two boys and a lover of high waisted jeans, sausage rolls and hot green tea. She had PND with both of her children and set up I Can Cards after finding affirmations a really powerful tool to manage her mental health. Amy is also the co-founder of Single Parents Wellbeing and Warrior Women Events. Her contribution to #thebigselfcareshare covers the steps she’s taken towards creating her businesses and finding a self-care practice that works for her.

Amy Holland self-care

What’s brought you to where you are?

The affirmations that were out there seemed very cheesy or the subjects weren’t so meaningful to me. I developed the first pack with some single parents as they had so many pearls of wisdom. I met them through the Wellbeing Workshops I manage for the Social Enterprise I co-founded, Single Parents Wellbeing. That snowballed into other affirmation cards covering subjects such as depression and anxiety and even I Can Children packs. There are seven packs in total and two new ones are to be released this year around health and work.

Everything I do is centred around wellbeing, empowerment and positivity, something that led me to create my business and run events.

How would you define self-care?

Self-care to me is the small things that we do throughout the day to make sure we’re keeping our cup filled up. That could be a hot cup of tea, a cuddle, checking in with our emotional wellbeing or choosing an affirmation. Daily rituals are essential to keeping our mental health in check.

Daily rituals are essential to keeping our mental health in check.

Of course, it can be huge things like climbing a mountain or long-term counselling, but that tends to be needed when I’ve let things go too far. But generally, self- care is diverse and individual, and not everyone likes a hot bath, a face mask, yoga or chocolate. Find out what methods of self-care make you happy and do it daily.

What do you find most challenging about self-care

Being a single parent, I hear a lot about the time element. But if you recognise that you can do this with your children then it’s not instead of doing something, it’s ‘as well’. My children hear me a lot saying ‘I just need 5 minutes’, and they respect this. They know that I’ve reached a point where I need that time. It is more difficult, logistically, for parents to work around self-care. But it shouldn’t stop anyone. I also build weekly yoga into my working week. So look at other ways that will work for you.

How do you incorporate self-care into your daily routine?

I always start with making sure that my phone is in another room, and I don’t check any social media until at least an hour after I have woken up. I prioritise a cuppa and an I Can Card, where I take the time to absorb how I am feeling that day. My children do this ritual with me, we all have a drink and discuss our I Can Cards.

Loving these self-care tips! Thank you, Amy, for taking part in #thebigselfcareshare, and for telling us more about what inspired you to create I Can Cards. You can find out more about Amy’s businesses, events and projects by visiting:

I Can Cards:

www.icancards.co.uk
www.instagram.com/icancards

Single Parents Wellbeing:

www.singleparentswellbeing.com
www.instagram.com/singleparentswellbeing

Baby loss Secondary infertility Self-care

Self-care during tough times

January 28, 2019

Today on #thebigselfcareshare we have Kate Meakin and her husband Phil. I first encountered Kate on Instagram and we connected through our struggles with secondary infertility and recurrent loss. Here she opens up about her husband’s recent cancer diagnosis and the couple’s approach to self-care during a challenging time.

Kate & Phil Meaks self-care during tough times

Tell us about yourselves.

Phil and I been together for 17 years, meeting when we were just 21. We finally married 11 years after meeting and are blessed to have a beautiful little boy Austin via IVF. We are just about to embark on our 5th IVF after enduring 3 miscarriages since our son was born.

Infertility has been a major part of our marriage and I started blogging and sharing our story after our first miscarriage. Writing is very cathartic for me and I will always try to help break the silence around baby loss and infertility. Last year, at the age of 38, Phil was diagnosed with a brain tumour. This was devastating for us all, so this year is all about getting Phil fit and well and taking care of ourselves as we try to complete our family.

What does self-care mean for you?

Phil admits he has never really thought about self-care, but what it means to him now is looking after yourself and having more awareness around when you need to make the time for it. Before his cancer diagnosis working a 60 hour week was the norm so self-care wasn’t high on the priority list.

To me, it’s not self-indulgent to care for yourself, it’s a necessity to keeping fit and well.

As a stay at home mum, I have more opportunities to focus on self-care, especially when Austin is in nursery. I make sure that on one of those days nothing is planned so I can enjoy a very quiet day of writing or resting at home. To me, it’s not self-indulgent to care for yourself, it’s a necessity to keeping fit and well. Now with Phil’s diagnosis, there is even more emphasis on self-care; radiotherapy is gruelling for Phil and I need to make sure he has the time to rest, just as do I. It’s about keeping us both healthy, physically and mentally.

What do you find most challenging about self-care?

For both of us, the challenge is setting time aside for self-care when life gets busy. Austin keeps us very busy and we both love to spend time with him, so it can be difficult to prioritise. Phil works hard for his young family and because I’m at home it’s easy to think I’m resting but choosing to dedicate that time to self-care is isn’t simple.

How do you incorporate self-care into your daily routine?

Since his cancer diagnosis, Phil understands now more than ever how important self-care is. The biggest side effect from radiotherapy is fatigue and so we always make sure that he’s well rested so he sleeps for as long as he needs to and takes daily naps. It’s also important for him to keep fit during treatment so it’s recommended that he walk 30 mins a day, which has now become part of his routine.

It’s rare that there’s a single day where there isn’t some sort of treatment or appointment and physically they can be quite demanding. Even the journey to and from the hospital can be gruelling for both of us, and with our next round of IVF now underway it’s essential that we both live and eat well; good fuel is so important.

I have dedicated a day for myself too; a day to write and allow myself the opportunity to speak the words my mouth sometimes struggles to say.

I have dedicated a day for myself too; a day to write and allow myself the opportunity to speak the words my mouth sometimes struggles to say. And taking 5 minutes to just quieten my mind through breathing exercises or a heated face mask is bliss.

On the days Austin is in nursery, Phil and I do simple things together like go out for brunch or a nice walk.

Share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you on the path to being kinder to yourselves.

For Phil, it’s about letting others know when he needs time to rest. The fatigue caused by radiotherapy means relaxation is important and by telling us when he’s tired Phil’s less likely to be interrupted and will get the rest he needs. For me, it’s making self-care a part of every day and not just when I feel exhausted. Prevention is the best cure and so I make sure that self-care is a part of my routine.

Thank you, Kate and Phil, for taking a moment to openly share your experiences. I know your honesty and approach to self-care will benefit others going through their own struggles, fertility or otherwise.

You can follow Kate on Instagram and visit her website where both she and Phil contribute: www.mrsmeaks.com/blog

Self-care

Talking positive wellbeing with the founder of Isabella & Us.

January 16, 2019

Lancashire-based Emma Cottam, 27, is wife to Chris and mummy to one-year-old Isabella. She’s a full-time photography teacher as well as being the founder of her own business, Isabella and Us.

Here, Emma tells us about the meaning behind her business and how it’s driven her to support and inspire other mums with their maternal mental health. In her contribution to #thebigselfcareshare she also talks about taking the time for herself and meeting her own needs.

Emma Cottam of Isabella & Us.

What’s brought you to where you are?

I set up Isabella and Us. when Isabella was four weeks old as I wanted to share my experiences with other mums and help them feel less alone. Through Isabella and Us. I promote positive wellbeing in parents and help to raise awareness of maternal mental health.

The business originally launched as an online gift shop and is the home of the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums. Issue 3 is now on pre-order and issues 4 and 5 are in progress. I love being a cheerleader for mothers and celebrating our parenting wins!

How would you define self-care?

Self-care for me means looking after myself and putting myself first when I need to. It’s something that I try and incorporate into every day as before having Isabella I never really made the time for it. But when I became a mum I very quickly realised that if I didn’t meet my own needs then I would be no good to anyone else.

How do you incorporate self-care into your daily routine?

Every day I make sure that I find some time for me, even if it’s just 5 minutes to sit, to enjoy a shower in peace or to watch my favourite TV program. I’m also trying to exercise more and eat better to help look after my body.

Every day I make sure that I find some time for me.

One of the best things I do for self-care is to think about what I’ve achieved each day and how I’ve been winning as a mummy.

Share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you on your path to being kinder to yourself.

My self-care tip would be to do something every month that’s for you! Whether it’s quality time with your partner or with friends, or just a long soak in the bath or getting your nails done, plan that time for you in!

What’s next for your business?

It’s an exciting time for Isabella & Us. and I’m getting 2019 off to a strong start by building my team and searching for brand enthusiasts. I’ve also launched a range of new products, started two blog series and can’t wait to distribute the next Positive Wellbeing Zine.

Thanks for taking part in #thebigselfcareshare, Emma, and for telling us more about what inspired you to create Isabella & Us. You can find out more about Emma by visiting Isabella & Us. on Instagram and the Isabella & Us. website.