building healthy foundations

It seems that I have to keep re-learning the importance of building healthy foundations for myself! There are a few things which are key to me feeling well, and sometimes I let them slide and then I remember why they matter, so here’s quick run-down so that I can remember quicker next time…and maybe it will help you too?

Feeding myself:

Since October last year I have made huge efforts around feeding myself well and it has made such a difference in how I feel and function on a day-to-day basis. For me ‘feeding myself’ well means:

  • home-cooked meals
  • lots & lots of veggies & legumes (I’m vegetarian)
  • starting the day with a really supportive breakfast (I go for happy tummy loaf with cheese or nut butter)
  • snacks which don’t trigger a change in other kinds of eating (nut butter – I like this one – nuts, brie…)
  • avoiding snacks which become ‘triggers’ for other kinds of eating (I find sweet or salty snacks have me reaching for more of the same, replacing meals with more snacks)

When I get the first four on my list right, the fifth one isn’t even an issue. If I eat well, I feel nourished & I don’t think about snacking. Sometimes though, life has a habit of throwing a curve ball at you, and the foundations start to slip away…

Over Easter, a family issue rocked my headspace A LOT and I didn’t feel like eating. And then when I did eat, I chose ice cream instead of food, and it didn’t take long before I started to feel really caught up in a spiral of poor self-worth, which then made me not want to eat… And then yesterday my head felt more settled, and I cooked all the vegetables in my fridge, and made mushroom burgers , and ate my first real meal for a week, and just like that, I feel ok again!

Putting myself to bed:

This has always been an issue for me! I was the youngest child and remember being sent to bed before my sister, and it always felt like I was missing out on something. And maybe that’s nothing to do with how I behave now (& maybe it does?) but I really struggle to go to bed when I’m tired.

I generally sleep fine once I get there, but the getting there is a hurdle. I like to finish the day sorted, so I tend to empty the dish-washer or hang up laundry on the way to bed, and then when I get there I’m wide awake!!

Yesterday I heard someone talking on the radio about how we would benefit if we treated ourselves like toddlers, and I really connected with that idea. Children tend to have a sleep routine – a bath, quiet time, a book, a cuddle, soft lighting…so why not do the same for ourselves?

I had a small win last night because I was falling asleep on the sofa and instead of staying there, I actually got up and went to bed. Maybe the toddler idea will be a big help going forward…

Movement:

This one is my fairly easy win!

I have a dog so he gets walked every day, no matter what else is going on., but he’s possibly nearing the end of his life so I wonder if I’ll walk every day once he’s gone. I hope I will, but can imagine that there will be days when it doesn’t happen. I love to hike so I am signed up to #walk1000miles and I also try to walk 100 miles and complete a round-Bewl walk every month, so those things are great motivators. I find it’s good to have movement goals, especially if you find yourself struggling to move more.

I’m lucky in that I move for my work so most days incorporate movement of some kind. I also try to include two spin-bike sessions each week but it’s very easy to let them slide when I’m not feeling great. Last week, feeling sad and poorly nourished, I didn’t find the energy to cycle, and I decided to be kind and let myself off, which is totally ok but not a long-term plan. I’ll be back on the back tomorrow for sure!

When we get distracted by life or injured or just don’t feel like it on the day, it is easy to let go of our movement habits, but often we’d feel better if we just did it any way. Sometimes going through the motions is what will get us moving again – we might need to adapt what we’re doing but doing something is always going to be better than doing nothing.

Being creative:

The act of making something – regardless of what it is – is such a good foundation for a healthy life. And it’s not about making something brilliant, it’s just about the doing of the thing and the distraction it provides.

I do a daily photo project on Instagram. It’s often a tiny moment in my day, maybe only using my iPhone (because the best camera is always the one you have with you!) and sometimes the prompts that I follow are really annoying!! But I haven’t missed a day since January 2016! And not having missed a day is what keeps me going because I do not want to break my streak now!

One day last week I cried about my photo because I didn’t have anything I wanted to post, but then I had a word with myself, posted what I had, and moved on. That simple act reminded me that we can always move on, there’s always another day/photo prompt just around the corner and what does it matter if the photo isn’t great anyway??!

Life is hard enough! Make sure you take some time to do something creative, for no purpose, just because you can – paint, draw, write, make pretty patterns with leaves, grow things, sew things, knit things…

Putting it all together:

The goal is never to feel like I HAVE to do everything, simply to recognise that when I do certain things, I feel more ‘me’.

These are my healthy foundations. There are others I didn’t mention – eg. not drinking alcohol, social connections, feeling valued at work – but these are the things that I keep coming back to when I feel off-balance.

Yours may not be the same – although I suspect that food/sleep/move is key for all of us – but I think it is important to find out what your things are, and then do those on a regular basis.

I’d love to know what your healthy foundations are – let me know…

Pilates in your everyday life (part 2)

Starting Pilates as a new activity can sometimes be frustrating because we tend to naturally want to push ourselves and feel that we are working hard, but the best results come when we work more gently.

Maybe you have been in a class and have found yourself rushing through progressions of exercises, believing that the ‘harder’ options are more beneficial? Or maybe you sometimes engage the muscles really strongly, without noticing that you have created tension somewhere else in the body?

Pilates works more effectively when we take time to build stable foundations. Focusing on the more basic versions of the exercises, paying attention to our breathing and being mindful of our alignment might not seem challenging enough, but they enable us to do the harder work later. This is particularly important if you have/have had chronic pain.

Coping with chronic pain:

If you have experienced pain in the past, it can be hard to come back to exercise without worrying that the pain may recur. It may lead to an avoidance of exercise altogether or it may result in you over-doing things when you’re having a good day, causing an increase in your pain symptoms.

In an ideal world we want to take a more consistent approach by setting some realistic, sustainable activity goals with sensible gradual increases over time.

If you are recovering from a previous injury or a pain condition, start by establishing your baseline for activity – ie. the amount you can do without causing any flare up of your symptoms. It might be a small amount to start with but it will form the foundation for your future progressions. Once you are moving without pain, you can gradually start to increase your activity levels, always staying within your pain-free volume and type of exercise.

Although chronic pain may still cause you flare-ups or setbacks from time-to-time, taking a more structured approach to exercise will help to off-set these issues and be of long-term benefit.

Ideas for daily Pilates practice:

Here are some ideas of how to bring Pilates into your everyday life as part of your daily baseline activity:

  • start with becoming more aware of your posture & alignment (see previous post)
  • practice engaging your core muscles in different positions – eg. when lying down on your side, your back or your front (you could try these before you get out of bed in the morning); or when standing (maybe waiting for the kettle to boil)
    • start by finding a neutral position for your pelvis
    • begin to notice how your body feels as you breathe in and out
    • on an exhale, add a gentle contraction of the deep abdominal muscles – imagine that you are wearing a corset – whilst gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles
    • on an inhale, let the abdominal muscles gently relax again
    • repeat for a few breaths
  • add some gentle stretching to your daily routine, keeping within a comfortable range of motion – try this or this for some seated upper body stretches

I hope that gives you a few ideas about how to bring the benefits of Pilates into your everyday life. It was never intended as something you only do in class – the magic happens when you fully embrace Pilates as a daily practice…

How to cope with self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic

If you’re currently working from home or worried about how to cope with self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, here are a few thoughts to keep you moving and keep you sane. I’ll add to them as new ideas spring to mind…

I made a short video today looking at some coping strategies to keep us going in the coming weeks. I grabbed a few books off my shelves in case you’d like to use this time to practice Pilates at home or include some soft tissue release work into your (new) daily routine…

There is so much we can do to manage our feelings at this time, but try not to get overwhelmed by all the suggestions that are circulating (including these!) Just pick one or two things that make sense to you right now and start with those.

We are in a brand new landscape right now (and will likely be for some time to come) so be gentle on yourself – breathe, move, eat, sleep and stay hydrated. If you have more time on your hands than usual, try to put it to good use but remember that doing nothing is sometimes good too.

how can I hlep

I’ll be back with more short videos & thoughts over the coming weeks – let me know if there is anything in particular that I can help with Jx

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