Investing in Safer Self Care

My life is crazy.

I wear a ton of hats (literally and figuratively because I live in Alaska!), so I feel like I’m always running from one thing to another with no downtime in between.  I pretty much live on coffee and brightly colored sticky notes. 

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Sound familiar? Yep, that’s what I thought.

Despite what Pinterest boards tell us, life is not supposed to be like this. Our bodies are supposed to have ample rest and recovery time for the purpose of good health. And even though we live in a society which seems to reward the overworked and over busy, we all need to put more focus into truly taking care of ourselves. If we want to maintain these busy lives and do ALL THE THINGS, then self care must be a priority on our to-do list. 

Repeat after me. Self care is not a luxury. Self care is a necessity.

Now write that on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror or your computer screen. Or everywhere. As a woman, a mother, a military spouse, a nutritional therapist, a Pilates master trainer, and a wellness blogger (I’m probably forgetting a few jobs), I have learned that this area of life has to be absolutely, 100% non-negotiable ... because it’s the only way to be the healthiest and happiest version of me. And like they say — if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. 

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Now this is where most blogposts on this topic would begin to address all the things you can do for self care, but I’m going to put on another one of my hats and go in a slightly different direction. 

When I ask my friends what they do for self care, it often involves products of some kind. Nail polish and lotions while getting a pedicure, bath salts and bubbles for those relaxing baths, masks and skin care at the day spa, or hair products at the hair salon. And I am totally down with all of those things! Give me a day at the spa and I’m a brand new woman. Scrub the dead skin off my feet and I can take on the world. 

But as a safer product advocate who counsels people on how to reduce the toxic loads in their lives, I am going to get on my safer soap box and encourage each of you to choose better when it comes to self care. 

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A little back story on myself and why this topic is really important to me — 1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage in her life, and I am one of those women. I had seven miscarriages in a row with no medical explanation for why they were occurring. Missed, standard, chemical, ectopic … I had them all. I knew my body was capable of having a healthy baby because I had one with my first pregnancy. I also knew my body was not healthy even though doctors continued to tell me there was nothing wrong with me. Not only did I have miscarriages, I had depression, crippling anxiety, panic attacks, and chronic pain. All I knew was that I refused to stay in that place of darkness — so I changed my life with real food, healthy movement, and safer products. Not only did I restore my body to good health, I was able to have another beautiful and healthy baby. Because of all those dark days, I get to do all the amazing things I do today with my blog and business. So for me, it’s very personal. And I am crazy passionate about educating people so they can live healthier lives. 

So back to that pedicure.

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Unfortunately, our product care industry is highly unregulated. Just a few statistics to help you understand what we’re dealing with when it comes to the safety of our products:

  • The last major law passed in regards to our personal care industry was in 1938. (No, that’s not a typo.)
  • Over 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our world of commerce since WWII, and less than 10% have been tested for safety. (Not all chemicals are inherently bad! Water is a chemical after all. But lots of them are questionable.)
  • The European Union bans 1400 ingredients from products for being possibly harmful and toxic to the body. Canada bans 600. America only bans 30. THIRTY!
  • It only takes 26 seconds for the chemicals in products to be absorbed into our skin and bloodstreams.
  • Companies are not required to disclose all the ingredients in their products. 
  • There are loopholes in our legislation which allow companies to hide hundreds of ingredients behind seemingly good things like, "fragrance."
  • The FDA does not have the power to recall products from the market.
  • Chemicals which are linked to breast cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, and many other health issues are allowed in the products we use everyday.

The average woman uses 12 products daily, which exposes them to approximately 168 chemicals. 

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Cue the doomsday music. Sad face emoji.

I know that seems depressing, but it doesn't have to be. I just want everyone to know about this issue so we can all choose safer. Knowledge is power! When we know better, we choose better. We can’t worry about what we’ve used in the past when we didn’t know better. So don’t get caught up in any of that could have/would have/should have junk. Be like Elsa and let it go. 

But here’s the thing. The whole purpose of self care is to prioritize our health and well being to be the healthiest and happiest versions of ourselves. When we make the effort to take care of ourselves, we are able to be better spouses, mothers, employees, business owners, etc. So to turn around and slather our largest organ with products which contain harmful ingredients that have great potential to wreak havoc on our hormones and endocrine systems is a bit counterintuitive, don’t you think? 

Let me guess. You’re already thinking that safer products and finding said safer products are going to take a bunch of time and money. Nope, that’s not true. I’m going to give you some tools to track them down and how to use your money wisely. Or you’re thinking that you’ve been using the same stuff for your entire adult life so what’s the point in changing now? Well, my friends, that’s a load of crap. I am begging you to truly value YOU and make these changes. It is the accumulation of toxins over time that causes health issues. Take a look around — how many women do you know struggling with anxiety or depression? How many of your friends have thyroid issues or see an endocrinologist regularly? How many of you have battled unexplained infertility? Who hears the phrase “adrenal fatigue” thrown around when discussing the chaos of life? This is NOT the way things are supposed to be, you guys. 

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So when you’re taking the time to practice self care, give your body that extra love by using safer products. Here are some ways to find the things that will be safer and kinder to your bodies:

  1. Learn which ingredients to avoid. Check out this blogpost for a list to keep on hand: http://www.mywellbalancedlife.com/2017/06/7-common-ingredients-avoid-personal-care-products-2/ 
  2. Download the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database on your phone. Scan or enter your products to receive a rating of 1 - 10. You want products that are low on the rating scale! I aim for 1s and 2s with the occasional 3s. EWG Verified companies are ideal.
  3. Look for companies which disclose ALL of their ingredients. This is not required by law so companies that do this are showing you their willingness to be transparent. 
  4. Do not assume. Just because a product is in a health food store or on the “healthy” aisle at Target does not make it safe. Although we have come to identify words such as “natural”, “organic”, and “plant-based” to be good and safe, they do not hold any weight because there is no real regulation for those terms in the industry.
  5. Prioritize the products that should be switched out first based on which things stay on your skin the longest. Think deodorant, lotions, makeup, laundry detergent, and nail polish. Swap out one thing at a time, and before you know it your vanity will be filled with safer options.

So when you head to that pedicure, bring your own safer nail polish and lotion. You just might be surprised at the significant changes in your health when you give your body a break from all those toxins. Weight loss, more regular cycles, clearer skin, increased mental clarity, and hormone balance are all very common side effects of switching to safer products. Don’t you wish all side effects were that awesome? Where are the commercials about that???

Self care is about valuing YOU. You are worth the time, the money, and the investment, so please do not skimp on this important aspect of your health. I for one am looking forward to that safer pedicure in my near future. I've already got it scheduled on a hot pink sticky note.

*If you are looking to make the switch to safer and would like some guidance, please subscribe to my Safer Beauty email series. I will walk you through all the ingredients to avoid as well as provide info about how to choose safer products from deodorant to sunscreen and laundry detergent. By swapping one thing at a time, you are taking significant steps to a healthier life for yourself and your family. Let’s do this, you guys!


Learn More about Amanda.

 

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Amanda Koch is a Nutritional Therapy Consultant, Pilates Master Trainer, Director with Beautycounter and blogs over at My Well Balanced Life.  After dealing with personal health challenges to include infertility, multiple miscarriages, chronic pain, depression and anxiety, she made healing changes in her life with real food, healthy movement, and safer products.  She strives to provide resources for women to live well balanced lives which are realistic and effective.  She currently lives in Alaska with her Air Force husband and two boys — healthy, happy, and well.

Website: www.mywellbalancedlife.com

Email: mywellbalancedlife@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mywellbalancedlife

Instagram: www.instagram.com/mywellbalancedlife

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/mywblife

How to Find Your Fitness Tribe

How to Find Your Fitness Tribe

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Working on your health and fitness can be a very personal thing. For some it’s hard to open up and be vulnerable about this topic, for others it’s downright embarrassing and even making the decision to work on your health can hit you on a superpersonal level! When you start something with such high stakes in a place where it is so easy to stumble, pick yourself up and stumble again (it happens to everyone!). Still, I see so many women try to tackle this huge task on their own. But think for a minute, what would change if you took a risk and opened up for other women to be on this ride with you? I'll tell you what happens...you set off a domino effect of momentum.

Now that we have established that including others in your new mission can be huge for you, how do you go about finding this tribe?

Maybe finding other women on the same schedule as you is hard, or maybe you are just an introvert and would rather do it alone, that's ok too. But, if you are motivated by others and you thrive off of the energy around you, here are a few steps to finding your fitness tribe.

 

It starts with a nudge.

Just the simple move of picking a confidant or two is a powerful motivator. When you verbalize your goals (or your fears) to another person, they will be there to push you and to keep you motivated and staying the course. Sometimes that's all we need, a positive word or a high-five.

And that creates a tipping point.

Even a little bit of accountability can go a long way.  This accountability has a huge impact on altering your mindset to push past the fears and hesitation and really kick up the importance you give your goals. This spark will give rise to new things like wearing workout clothes that make you feel sexy and powerful. Where the mind goes the body will follow, enjoy this new boost and take advantage.

Now, you are on a roll.

When you are sharing your goals with other driven women (people), suddenly those hurdles don't seem so big and those setbacks aren't so devastating. Now you are a part of something bigger, you are now part of a large group effort and you realize you are not the only one with struggles and hardships, you are not the only one who tripped over that invisible bump in the road because you’re in this together.

Wait, did this just become a party?

When you have finally found your tribe, you will feed off of their drive and determination, you will receive their energy and they will receive yours. Motivation is contagious, catch that shit! When your little group starts to generate more and more energy, everyone will feel it and it will just keep circulating. The more you tap into this new power, the more you will be able to harvest this new energy and take it with you everywhere you go.

Don’t forget to take your victory lap.

The greatest triumphs come from putting your goal to the test.  When you hit your first small goal, celebrate it. Your tribe will feel that victory as much as you and it will make you realize nothing can keep you going strong like success.  Let your tribe in on your accomplishment whenever you cross a finish line to lean into that energy and excitement. Next thing you know you'll be looking for higher mountains to climb.

 

This can look many different ways for you. Maybe your tribe is at the local gym, a CrossFit box, or maybe they meet in the park every morning, maybe you meet at the track or virtually online. There is no right or wrong way to find your tribe, the real step is just opening your eyes to find them, reach out… get vulnerable, after all, that's where the magic happens.  

 

Leave me a comment below if you have found your tribe, or if you are on the hunt!

You can also join my small tribe for our  FREE month-long Harvest of Happiness Challenge which will begin on October 1st but you can jump in at any time.

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HOW TO SET A GOAL YOU’LL ACTUALLY STICK TO

Goals.

What comes to mind when I say the word, goals?

Depending on your past experience with goal setting and reaching, you might have some negative feelings toward the word, and other words such as failure, frustration, inconsistency, or others might come up.

Take a moment to think about your past experience with setting goals. Do you have primarily good experiences or bad experiences?

Whatever your relationship to the word “goals”, you can find joy and success in creating and reaching them. And today, I’m going to show you how!

Because self care is one of the best things you can spend your time on, let’s talk about goals as it relates to the care of your physical health.

Creating a goal does not have to be a huge, drawn out, detailed process. That’s where many of us stop because we feel like we have to start out perfect. But, the joy of setting and working toward a goal is also about learning to appreciate the entire experience, including the ups and downs.

So, today, throw out all your preconceived notions about goals. Get rid of the negativity you’ve experienced with goals in the past. Start fresh with me right this moment. Today, it’s all about showing yourself consistency. Staying consistent with your dreams in life.

If you’re ready, make sure you grab the “stick to your goals checklist” I made you. It’s a super easy way to get started on the right foot with your goals, and a template you can keep coming back to as you continue to set and reach goals throughout your life.
 

HOW TO CREATE A GOAL YOU’LL STICK TO AND LOVE


STEP 1: PICK YOUR PASSION

Before you do anything, you need to choose a goal that excites you. Don’t settle on a goal that someone else is working toward. Choose a goal that lights a fire in you. Choose something that makes you want to achieve it today.

Picture the end result of this goal. What are the emotions? What are the sights, the sounds, the feelings that come?

I know I’m going against the grain by saying this, but your goal does not have to be perfect. It doesn’t always have to be super specific, or have a timeline, or have exact outcomes. For right now, the only thing you need from that goal is a feeling of excitement, a feeling of looking forward to getting closer each and every day.

Of course there are times when specific and measurable goals are absolutely appropriate, and it depends on what your goal is. But just know that right now, your goal does not have to be perfect.

Write down something that fuels you. Have you always wanted to run a marathon because it seems almost impossible for you and you can’t imagine the feeling of accomplishing something so huge and amazing in your life? Go for it. Do you want to be able to wake up every day with energy and passion for fitness? Write that down. Do you want to feel toned, tightened, and happy with a healthy body? Get started on it.

The first step to reaching any goal is to write it down first. And when you write it, the words should excite you, fuel you, and give you something to look forward to.


STEP 2: START WHERE YOU ARE

Ah, the most important step. The step we all seem to miss.

You are unique. Your goal is unique. Where you start with a goal will be completely different from where someone else starts.

The key to successful goal setting is to start where you are. Start where you are at this very moment. That is your step one.

If you want to lose weight, it will require a mixture of consistent exercise and nutrition changes. Don’t overhaul your entire diet in one night, or start with a 6 day per week plan at the gym.

Instead, start one step ahead of where you are right now. If you don’t exercise at all, find 2 days per week to start exercising. If you struggle with overeating, start by reducing your portions at one meal, or dropping a few nights of your late night snacking each week.

Start where you are right now. You will find success in consistency, one day at a time.


STEP 3: TAKE BABY STEPS

Once you’ve found that first step, now I want you to head alllll the way to the end of the goal. To the outcome. To the finish. What does it look like? What kinds of habits have you created and what are you doing consistently to stay at that outcome? This could be exercising daily, eating fruits and veggies at every meal, doing yoga daily, etc.

Look at the habits you’ll be following once you’ve reached your goal and work backward from there. Work backward in steps until you reach day 1. Then, start with day 1, step 1.

The key is to set a tiny habit. A habit that seems almost impossible to fail. That’s where most of us struggle with our goals and staying consistent. We set habits that are just too hard to stick to. Pick something that is so simple you’d be embarrassed if you didn’t stick to it. This could be starting with just ONE day per week of walking.

I know it sounds like it could take forever to reach your goal at that pace, but my years of coaching others through their goals have demonstrated that this is the most successful path for everyone to take. To create habits. To create consistency.

Be consistent with your first habit. Then when you are ready, take that next step. As you are consistent, your progress with start to grow exponentially.

If you pick something too hard and you struggle staying consistent with it, go with an easier habit until you are ready to move on.

A lifetime of healthy habits begins with one step at a time.


STEP 4: EVALUATE & REEVALUATE

Last but not least, evaluate.

Consistently check in. Ask yourself how you’re doing. What things are you finding success with? What are you struggling with?

Failure is a completely normal AND good thing. You will have ups and downs on this journey. The best part about the failures is that they give you some incredible learning opportunities. You learn exactly what works and what doesn’t work for you.

Stay consistent with your goals even when it doesn’t go well. Don’t give up. It’s completely normal to have setbacks. Expect them, appreciate them, learn from them.

Set goals that challenge you, that help you grow, and that mold you into the person you want to become.

You can do this. Show up for yourself today. Find something that fuels you, and go for it!




Learn more about Elizabeth Dall.

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Elizabeth Dall is a certified exercise physiologist and wellness coach. She specializes in helping women and mothers build confidence and love for who they are, build a better relationship with food, and reach their health and wellness goals. As a mother herself, she’s learned how important it is to find ways to nourish her body and soul to give the best to others and her family. Her message is one of self-compassion and a simplified, well-rounded approach to health.

You can find more goodies, info, and join the community at:

Website: elizabethdall.com

Facebook: @elizabethsdall

Pinterest: @elizabeth_dall

Instagram: @elizabeth_dall

What I learned from being robbed.

It was a Monday morning, around 6:15 AM, when I discovered my backpack and purse were missing from the front seat of my car. I was supposed to be on my way to work, yet I found myself standing in the front yard talking to a sheriff about the belongings that were missing.
The whole day (actually, even a few days after this incident) I had a complete mix of emotions from my body. The first feeling was the feeling of utter violation. I felt everything from scared to angry, sad (I even shed few tears), to just flat out feeling sorry for these people. Throughout the day I had to pick myself up a few times.  I had to find the good in what had happened because I couldn't wrap my mind around why it happened. I've been working really hard on my mindset, and instead of going down the negative route I chose the positive. I could have beat myself up for leaving my belongings in the car. I could have blamed myself for not locking it. I could have told myself all the negative things I was thinking, however, I didn't. I changed the conversation with myself. I tried to figure out how I could fix it and keep it from happening to myself or anyone else and move forward.


Something I learned is that throughout life we will be handed things that are unexpected and that can literally knock us off of our feet, but how we react to these times is what is so telling about our personality and our strength. I felt like the rug was pulled out from under my feet. I felt like I was slapped in the face with a harsh reality. I felt very vulnerable and heartbroken. While I was so upset that my entire purse which contained my very identity and my brand-new laptop that I had worked so hard to buy was just gone, I also knew that it could've been way worse. I was safe, my family was safe and these things, these belongings that were taken from us can be replaced. I realized that for some reason my things were chosen, perhaps it wasn't by accident, perhaps that was for me to gain a better understanding, maybe it was just to share this story right here. 

I know how truly powerful the mind can be, therefore I've been using it on my behalf through this experience. In life we cannot change the past, we can't change the things that happened to us, but we can change the way we deal with them and the way we move forward with the future. I cannot change the fact that my belongings were stolen and my space was violated.  I cannot change the fact that I am at fault. I take full responsibility for leaving my stuff in a place that somebody could take it, I take full responsibility for my actions and therefore I will take responsibility on moving forward as well. I will pick up the pieces where they lay and I will not let this evil bring me down. They may have knocked me back a few steps, but they will not keep me from moving forward.  

These thieves gave me proof that I am surrounded by a tribe of amazing people. The support and love I received after sharing my news was overwhelming.  I felt like I was wrapped in a cocoon heading away from the rest of our sick world. My eyes were open to the fact that while evil lurks, there is still plenty of good. Karma will catch up to them, but it's out of my hands, I will leave it up to God from here. I will be OK, after a while of fixing what they have essentially tried to destroy I'll be back to normal, I'll be living and thriving. I could have let this whole experience break me but it won't, it won't break me... it's only going to make me stronger.

This week I am focusing on one thing... 

My brand new program! The doors are opening to my eight week self-care group coaching program on MONDAY AUGUST 14TH. 

I am so excited to get back to my group of amazing women, lifting each other up and learning to cope with the daily stresses, trials and tribulations that try and slow us down. We are in this TOGETHER ladies.

If you want more information on this amazing program check out all the details here. Or lets hop on a call and hash out the details. Schedule your free chat here, this just helps with the back and forth, we can both find a time that works. 

Your Personalized Key to Unlocking A Life Filled with Freedom & Flow

“You have within you more love than you could ever understand”  ~ Rumi

When we look deeper down to the core of who we are and to the core of what need to survive, we find a deep longing to be loved, heard and seen for exactly who we are, as we are.  This deep rooted desire keeps us moving through life looking to fill this void within; one that our current societies and cultures keep counteractively expanding, rather than filling.

Deep down in our heart of hearts, when stripped bare of all the busyness and drama life brings, we just want to feel happy, content and free in the moment.

We want to feel free to explore, to expand, and to love wholeheartedly, while feeling loved unconditionally ourselves.

We want those feelings without the crazy ups and downs which in themselves are life, because after all, as much as we try to tame it, predict or pin it down, life is chaos.

So how do many of us cope? We create schedules and formulas, we buy things, and we accumulate friends and lovers; all that will give us the high we seek in the moment,  which is nice for the moments when those things and people are available in the form we desire.

But what happens when they aren't?

What happens when we aren't able to find those outside fixes for our inner issues?

What happens when we are in the midst of the daily grind, filled with all the shoulds and roles that don't feel aligned, yet society expects from us in order to play a part in it?

You see, all these outside adventures, materialistic things or even self improvement programs we've subscribed to in order to “be our best self” or feel as if we are  “acceptable” or “enough” to love ourselves or for those around us to desire or love us, is a whole lot of energy and effort heading in the wrong direction.

In your purest form
In this moment
You are
A unique expression
of the energy of
Love
And the void you feel
Day in and day out
Comes from
Forgetting this truth.
 

This is why self love is your personalized key to unlocking a life filled with freedom & flow.

Creating a solid base or platform of self love to live and experience your life from is the only way you will be able to find the peace in each moment that naturally sets the atmosphere to the perfect conditions where you see the world through eyes of appreciation and abundance, that in turn allows for the freedom and flow you seek to arise from within. Then, through inner practices and expressions that originate from unconditional love; practices like

  • Presence
  • Gratitude
  • Patience
  • Play
  • Heart Centered Perception
  • Passion

(Which are all very powerful practices) are able to be used to help us grow and experience life through our unique essence in a free flowing and genuinely joyful way.

Why? Because we first filled our void with the unconditional love of self we have learned to practice.  Unfortunately, these practices, if not grounded through a strong solid base of self love, will keep us going in the same circles as we were when we were using materialistic things and other outside influences to try and fill our void.

A few pointers to get you started with your personal self love practice:

  • Radical Acceptance of what is.
  • Love and accept all pieces of you; the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Accept with an open heart all that comes to you in each moment, even if it doesn't feel great or isn't what you desired, because we can't necessarily choose what or how things happen to us but we can choose how we decide to view them.
  • Setting up dates in front of the mirror, and practice saying I love you (you'd be surprised how uncomfortable you might feel at first doing this)
  • Rediscovering who you are and what makes you tick and how you can bring those into more of your moments
  • Tuning into what feels true for you, and honoring those truths in your life
  • Creating clear boundaries for yourself in order to help create a safe container for you to feel comfortable and at home as yourself in, regardless of where you are.

True freedom is about feeling at home with oneself in order to feel full in the moment.

  • Full enough to not need to seek outside approval or things.
  • Full enough to not need to lose ourselves while seeking love from others because we've found it in ourselves.
  • Full enough to freely give the unconditional love that emanates from within us, to those around us without worrying about whether or not our love is good enough or if we will receive love in return.
  • Full enough to not need to drown our exquisite, one of a kind beauty with materialistic things or hide behind masks in fear of showing our true selves.
  • Full enough to be, as is, and be ourselves boldly

Because when we aren't searching to fill that void, we aren't in a battle with our soul; instead, we are always home, we are always whole and we are always able to open up through love, and freely flow.

 


Learn more about April.

April Williams is a self love and conscious creation coach, as well as a dreamer, a believer, a mother, a lover, a nature admirer, reality inquirer and hope infused inspirer from Upstate New York. Besides her love for writing she also enjoys time spent amongst nature, helping people rediscover their power within, and dance parties. She is a true visionary who can usually be found weaving whimsical words with visions of vibrant futures for all.

For more of her mind's mutterings head on over to www.visionfuturenow.org

And for those interested in further exploring the question Who Am I?, Rediscovering the Power of You, & delving deeper into the practice of self love, you can join April in her Facebook group Rediscovering You for additional support, inspiration & freedom filled fun!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/RediscoverYou/

Instagram: www.instagram.com/brightyellowsun33

Why online quizzes are all the craze!

Why take a silly quiz? 

It seems like taking online quizzes is the rage over the last few years. So why do we spend time taking these silly quizzes that may or may not have any relation to the results? 

Well obviously because it breaks up the monotony of scrolling Facebook and they, of course, it's fun to tell your friends what kind of pizza you would be, but psychologists agree there is more to it. 

There is a theory of narrative psychology that helps humans make sense of their lives by organizing events into stories that will fit together over time. When we can create these “biographies” that help explain who we are and where we come from it goes into our own developing stories and helps make us the hero. These quizzes also go along to reaffirm the perceptions we have already made of ourselves. 

Quizzes also give us a new setting to look into ourselves. Our Ego is constantly searching for self-assessment and self-awareness and it is much easier to let a quiz be the inward mirror than it is to look within. 

Social media adds a separate dimension to these quizzes because as humans we are always wondering what other people think of us. After taking a quiz and sharing the results we can silently wait for our friends and followers to comment and respond to our answer making quizzes an easy and non-threatening way of finding out what others think. 

Plus, who doesn't want to find out what their unique self-care love language is and share it with the whole world (or at least the social media world). 
If you haven't already, take the quiz and discover your self-care love language TODAY! 

And then what do you do after the quiz? 

Well, I am glad you asked! 

After you discover your love language it is time to nurture it. The perfect way to do that is through my self-care group coaching program. The doors are opening very soon. So check out the details and let me know if you have any questions. 

Simple Daily Pregnancy Exercise Routine

I imagine that the title alone evoked curiosity in expecting mothers from a varied background when it comes to approach to fitness.

“I’m already athletic and confident in my fitness regime, but hey, never hurts to get new inspiration!”

“Oh good, I’ve been looking for someone to tell me exactly what to do in terms of fitness while pregnant - I want to be active, but am not sure what I should be doing.”

“Do I really have to exercise? I’m more tired than ever and didn’t exercise regularly prior to pregnancy, so why bother starting now?”

As a birth doula, I regularly encounter all of the above responses and more.  Here’s the great news: the tips that I’m about to share with you are things that anyone CAN do and everyone SHOULD do in order to prepare your body for birth.  This won’t be your typical list of cardio and resistance exercises, but it is vital to enabling your body to birth more easily.

WHY

Think of preparing for birth as preparing for a marathon.  It’s called labor for a reason! Would you show up for your first marathon without training? Of course not! Similarly, the way that you train matters as much as training at all.  

Although women have been birthing babies for thousands of years, our current society is incredibly sedentary, which has direct implications on our ability to birth easily.  Ab muscles that we need to be strong are weak, muscles and ligaments that need to be relaxed are tight, and all of this impacts our baby’s specific position in the womb as well as our body’s ability to coordinate efficiently and effectively during birth.  

Did you know that the average first time mother could be in labor 17-20 hours including both early and active stages of labor? Who wouldn’t want to shorten that time frame?

WHAT

According to Spinning Babies, the three most important principles to help you labor more easily are balance, movement, and gravity.  The following exercises intentionally incorporate these principles.

Walk

Yup, it’s really that simple.  Daily walking will help keep your cardio in shape, loosen stiff muscles, and engage your full body.  The pelvic movement that occurs helps keep your lower back strong and walking keeps psoas muscles stretched and flexible too.  Aim for 30 minutes daily, but if you can’t do it all at once, break it up into 2 shorter sessions.  

Psoas Release

Speaking of the psoas muscles, if they are tight, you will be uncomfortable and your baby won’t descend easily.  The simplest way to stretch it is to lie on your back with your feet on a chair or couch, so that your knees are at 90 degree angles, thighs vertical, legs horizontal.  Relax and breathe deeply for 5 minutes, then slowly return to a sitting position.  For a deeper look at ways to perform psoas release, check out this Spinning Babies link.

Pelvic Tilts

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These combine gravity, movement, and balance, so you get a lot of bang for your buck here.  Position yourself on all fours, with knees and hands evenly balanced, legs straight behind you.  Imagine pressing your belly button to your spine as you curve your back and move your hips/pelvis forward.  Hold for a moment and release your breath as you return your back to a neutral position.  This is similar to calf/cow in yoga, but without the sway back.  Start at 20 reps and build your way up each week.  For maximum effect, perform 1 set at least 3 times per day.  

Forward Leaning Inversion

It’s especially important that you check with your care provider before trying this position, as there are a few conditions that are contraindications to using it.  This makes use of balance to aid the ligaments that support the lower uterine segment in relaxing. Kneel on a sturdy surface such as a couch or large chair.  Carefully walk your way down to your arms, so that your butt is high in the air and your head is resting on your forearms.  Maintain the position only as long as you are comfortable and then slowly come back to an upright position.  For safety, have someone in the house who can spot you while you do this one! Alternatively, you can have your partner support you with a blanket or sheet under your baby bump and around your hips while you lean forward on the floor.  

Hip Circles on Exercise Ball

You’ll need an exercise ball for this one - make sure it’s inflated enough so that there’s an even line from your hips to knees when you sit. Simply sit with a wide leg stance and move your hips in a wide 360 degree circle - feel like you’re ready to win a hula hooping contest! Make sure you feel your butt going all the way behind you at one point of the circle and tucking underneath you as you come back around. This will help a LOT with hip flexibility as well as core strength.  Start with 20 per side at least twice per day. 

Squats

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The famous midwife Ina May is known for saying “If you squat 300 times a day, you will give birth very easily.” You may not reach that high number, but any squatting is beneficial! Squatting helps your low back, core, creates a “hammock” space for your uterus, which relaxes supporting muscles and ligaments, and prepares the perineum for birth! It also shortens the birth canal when squatting in labor, so being comfortable with squatting by labor is a major plus!

For a proper squat, be sure to have knees wider than your hips, toes pointing forward, and keep your feet flat on the ground.  Have something nearby you can grab if you lose your balance or use the wall for support against your back - no falling! Be sure to stick your butt behind you and push through your legs on the way back up.  Hold each squat for 20-30 seconds and breathe deeply.  Try 3-5 per set. Check out this video for a good squat demo. 

Belly Sifting

Belly sifting may be new to many readers, but it feels oh so good! Do this right before bed and you will fall into a dream sleep.  All you need is a small sheet, thin blanket, or shawl and a partner to assist you.  Kneel on all fours like you are about to do pelvic tilts.  Have your partner place the blanket completely around the baby bump and hold the excess in their hands.  They will gently lift up, so that you feel your belly supported by the tension of the blanket.  Your partner will move their arms in a gentle sifting motion as you relax.  Try this for 2-5 minutes, or as long as your partner’s arms will hold up. ;) When finished, your partner should stop sifting and THEN gently release support pressure through the blanket. 

Taylor/Asymmetrical Sitting

Back to that “we sit too much” thought...if you’re going to sit, sit well.  When sitting in a chair, make sure you’re actually sitting on your sitz bones, you know, the bony part of your butt, and not your tail bone.  This puts your uterus/baby in a better position and uses more abdominal support.  If you sit a lot for work, consider bringing an exercise ball to work and sitting on that instead of a chair - you virtually can’t sit wrong on that and it will help with hip flexibility too! Chilling at home for the evening or on the floor all day with littles? Use taylor sitting - sort of like criss cross applesauce, but without crossing your legs.  Just let your hips and knees fall open and feet touch so that your legs make a diamond shape, which keeps your hips in a nice open position.  From that position, you could also stick one leg out in front of you for an asymmetrical position - both are good postural positions and keep your hips and pelvis from getting too tight.  

When

All of the activities above are recommended for daily use.  You’ll get the most benefit from pelvic tilts, hip circles, and squats if you do them multiple times a day.  Want even more? Check out Spinning Babies’ post on Daily Essentials.  Or better yet, hire a doula! Doulas are there to support you through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and many are trained in pregnancy fitness, including Spinning Babies, and can guide you through these exercises and much more.  

Drink, Drink, Drink!

Finally, remember to hydrate! You need to be drinking MUCH more during pregnancy than you did prior to pregnancy.  That whole 8 glasses a day thing? Think of that as a bare minimum guide to how much you should drink each day.  Check with your care provider regarding your own health, but a better guideline would be 75-100 oz daily.  For best hydration, the majority of this should be water, natural fruit juices (not concentrates) or herbal tea.  Adding lemon juice to your water helps your body absorb it and stay hydrated longer, or you could try coconut water for additional electrolytes.  Get creative with fruit infusions! Bonus: staying hydrated often helps reduce Braxton Hicks and means you’ll be less likely to need an IV drip for fluids at the hospital

How will you start incorporating prenatal fitness into your daily routine? Have a prenatal workout you’re already using? We’d love to hear!  

**note: the advice in this post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical care provider.  Always check with your own doctor or midwife before incorporating new exercises, particularly the forward leaning inversion discussed above.**


Learn more about Melissa.

 

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My Professional Organizer Taught me Self Care

I am guilty of squeezing productivity out of every moment often to my own detriment. I work full-time, run a business, am a mother of three, a wife and occasionally require food and sleep, so much so that "over scheduled" doesn't even begin to describe it. I had gotten to the point where friends started mentioning to me the current Buzzword in mom circles: "Self-care." Self-care. The modern mama is so over scheduled and overwhelmed that there is an entire movement around "taking care of self." I totally saw the importance. My third pregnancy left me with a beautiful baby girl and postpartum anxiety, so I immediately decided to find ways to incorporate self-care into my life.

My first few attempts were totally unsuccessful. I cleared my schedule, sat on my couch and looked around and thought, "Am I self-caring yet?" My mind started racing to all of the things that I could be doing. The guilt crept in and I realized like using a breast pump and riding a bike, self-care was a skill I would have to learn. It wasn't until I hired a professional organizer to clear out my catch-all office and craft room and organize it in a way that nourished my life, that I understood the steps it would take to clear and organize my schedule so that the way I was spending my time left me feeling...well...cared for.

Step One: Empty the Room.

The first step to organizing my office was to completely empty the room. The organizer had me take everything that was in the room out of it without inspecting the items and deciding what to keep and what to toss. We needed to clear the space so that we weren't making room for things that didn't serve me. This is also the first step to self care for the unpracticed. Clear your schedule. Find a day, or even half a day, to be alone. 

This may require some emotional heavy lifting. You may have to ask a family member for help with the kids or admit to your boss that you need the day off. Whatever it takes. Take the time.

Step Two: Decide what to keep, throw away, or donate.

This can be really hard if you are the type of mama that is use to doing it all. During your day alone observe yourself. Do you take a nap? Are you bored? Do you think about your work? What are you relieved that you don't have to do? Is there something you used to do that you miss doing? Make your observations and then decide. Decide what you will keep in your schedule. Keep the things that you love...absolutely love. Keep the things that absolutely only you can do and your family can't do without. Decide what you will stop doing. Decide what you will "donate."

Donating or delegating things that you don't love to do is sometimes hard work. You will have to come to terms with the fact that your 7 year old will not fold the dish towels exactly like you do, or your husband may not feed the kids the exact dinner you would, but you have to let that go and exchange it for time to do the things that make you feel alive.

Step Three: Put the things that you need and that will nourish your soul back into the room.

This is the third step. The step that requires the largest shift in mindset. When rebuilding your schedule, put yourself and the things that you have identified as important on the schedule. Did you decide that you want to get back to yoga or kickboxing? Put it on your schedule. Tell your partner about it, schedule childcare around it, take off work for it, do whatever you would do for anything else. Making self-care a part of your life requires you to see yourself as an important appointment. Treat the time that you have cleared for yourself the way you would treat a business meeting or a doctor's appointment. Don't cancel on yourself.

Full-disclosure: I am still in recovery for my "over-schedule-aholism." I occasionally relapse and put myself off more than I'd like to admit, but I know for sure now that the world doesn't stop when I do. Making time for self-care has lessened my anxiety and helped me enjoy my children...and that is a benefit worth re-organizing for.


LEARN MORE ABOUT CRYSTAL.

Crystal Harris has made it her mission to make life easier for pumping moms. After she nursed her two sons as a work from home mom, the birth of her daughter (during an on-site contract that could not be breeched) led her to invent the Brauxiliary hands-free pumping band. She has three "amazingly gorgeous children" John IV (5), Bennett (3), and Josette (1) who "look and act just like their mama", and is married to her husband John III, a man who "understands and celebrates her particular neurosis." Church, Dunkin Donuts, solo grocery trips, and the fact that all three of her children were born on Sunday mornings make Sundays her favorite days. Her family resides in Charlotte, NC. 

Link to website: www.brauxiliary.com

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www.facebook.com/brauxiliary

www.instagram.com/brauxiliary

Twitter: @brauxiliaryband

Youtube: Search "Brauxiliary"