Over the last three years I have experienced a whirlwind of change in my life. I have divorced, moved home to a different town, moved my children’s school, started a new relationship, a new business and created a whole new existence for myself.
Each one of those changes brought with it the inevitable stress and worry you would imagine. In fact, when I write it down and think back to how much really has happened as well as how much positive change I have achieved, I sometimes wonder how I did it all.
In a few weeks I will have lived in my new home for a year. The children are established at school, with my youngest just starting in September and I have slowly built a new and lovely friendship group around me, all of which makes me feel settled and connected to this life I have created.
Much of the last few years was focussed on changing my situation, which ultimately left little time for looking inwardly. Although much of my outward changes are manifestations of my inward thoughts, they left little time to think about my overall health.
Moving into my new home felt like the end of my life in limbo and uncertainty. I had a solid base from which to build a hopefully solid future but I was also conscious of the impact the stress of the last few years had likely taken on my body, mind and soul, in the effort to get there.
Finally, I was able to address the lifestyle changes I had been wanting to make for sometime. I wanted to embrace a more holistic lifestyle that didn’t just challenge one area of my life but all areas.
My first change was to my diet. I switched to a predominately plant-based diet, cutting out meat, fish and almost all dairy, along with processed food as well as dramatically reducing my sugar intake. Instead my new diet consisted primarily of vegetables, legumes (beans and lentils), fruit, grains, nuts, and seeds, along with tasty dairy alternatives.
I was amazed at how easy it was to give up meat and how incredibly fresh and healthy my diet had become. I lost 5 lbs in one week but then my weight stabilised. I continued on this path for a good few months but eventually reintroduced occasional fish back into my diet because I missed it so much.
Much as I hate putting labels on how I eat, I guess you could describe me as a ”vegan flexitarian(!)” but ultimately for me it’s all about eating clean whole foods…
Why Making Time the Enemy is Unhealthy
Time, for me, like many people, feels like a precious commodity and something I never have enough of. I can’t remember the last time I said ‘Oh, I simply don’t know what to do with all this time I have on my hands..!’ In fact, since having three children, those words have never entered my head, let alone left my mouth!
Time never feels like it’s on my side, because like many others, my life is divided into so many different roles, that it’s almost impossible to get everything done in the timescale I realise I’d been putting myself under pressure to achieve.
When you’re trying to keep so many plates spinning it can often lead to stress and anxiety, as feeling like you just have too much to do, can quickly become overwhelming.
That was certainly the case for me at times, until I had a sort epiphany one day. Like many working mums, I realised that I was putting too much pressure on myself to do it all and normally by the end of the day!
I am now working at not being so hard on myself and taking things more in my stride because if I don’t get it all done in a day, it probably meant I gave myself unrealistic goals in the first place.
My New Positive Relationship with Exercise
I wish I could say I have always been someone who embraced exercise into my life, that I relished the thought of a morning run or a session in the gym, but frankly that wouldn’t be the truth. I have had many bursts at traditional methods of keeping fit but I either eventually got bored very quickly, never had enough time or simply lacked the motivation. I lived with the notion that if I ate a healthy diet and had a generally active life and I still fitted into size 8 clothes then I was doing ok. I realise now that despite that being a good start, it really wasn’t enough.
I had always planned to incorporate exercise into my routine when Jake started school anyway but it was watching the BBC’s ‘How to Stay Young – How are you Ageing?’ that really flicked a switch inside me and totally changed my mindset. On the programme, they showed a woman who was relatively slim but who was effectively ‘skinny fat’. When doing a body scan it revealed that although she looked fine on the outside, she actually had significantly low muscle mass and instead her body was 44% fat! This made her body age several decades older than it really was. However, by changing her lifestyle and starting exercise, within only 3 months she had already increased her muscle mass, reduced her fat and brought down her body age. They also showed how exercise increased the blood flow to your brain, which keeps your brain younger too!
There was so much interesting evidence to support the benefits of exercise that I realised that exercise was no longer a choice for me, it was a necessity. My mission is not to lose weight but to transform into a stronger more defined version of myself. I now do five classes a week, including yoga, pilates, kettle bells, strength training with weights and a workout that uses a range of moves and stances from self-defence and martial arts disciplines. I am pleasantly surprised how a simple shift in my mindset now has me loving exercise and looking forward to each class. Not only is it good for my body therefore, but my mental well-being too!
Finding My Inner Yogi
I was recently chatting to a yoga instructor friend of mine about the importance of living a holistic and balanced life and what it meant to her to be a ‘yogi’. She explained that practicing yoga went far deeper than simply sitting on a mat a few days a week, performing postures and deep breathing. It is a way of life, how we treat others, how we treat our own bodies and mind, what we eat, how we talk and what we talk about and how we think.
Known as ‘Ahimsa,’ this is the first and considered most important principle of yoga. Gandhi dedicated his life to this key principle and was a great example of a yogi following a yoga lifestyle.
If you go to a yoga class but push past people when the class has ended in a rush to get back to the reality of a stressful lifestyle, you are not living a yoga life. In order to fully embrace a yoga or holistic lifestyle, you need to create balance in order to keep your mind, body and soul, calm, cleansed and nourished.
After a period in my life that was much like finding my way through a fog, it feels so enlightening to finally be seeing into the clearing and to opening my mind to a more fulfilling way of being. There has always been much to feel grateful for, but by creating a more balanced life, I am much more likely to cope with any challenges life throws at me, whilst also appreciating all that I have and all that I have to look forward to!
6 Ways to Live a Holistic Lifestyle
- Eat Clean foods – eat as much fresh, home cooked food as you can, including plenty of vegetables and fruit. Avoid processed food and cut down your sugar and dairy intake.
- Get plenty of sleep – (if at all possible where children are concerned!). Sleep helps your body and mind recover from the day and plays an important role in physical and mental health. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and kidney disease not to mention increasing your risk of anxiety and depression! Getting enough sleep therefore, really is the best medicine!
- Practice Mindfulness – I have talked about mindfulness many times before and it’s something I try my best to exercise. Mindfulness is a key principle of living a holistic lifestyle. It’s about living in the present moment, a state of awareness that observes what we are thinking or experiencing at that time. It allows you to train yourself to recognise when unhealthy thought processes are taking over and to have some control over them by simply distancing yourself and accepting them as ‘mental events’.
- Look after you body and mind – Exercise is great not just for the body by making it stronger and healthier, helping increase your chances of a longer life, but it’s also great for the mind and is proven to help improve your mental wellbeing.
- Slow down! Life always feels like such a rush sometimes and like we’re all racing through it. Much of my stress in life has been related to time and the urgency to get things done. Where possible, it’s good to take the foot off the gas mentally and slow your brain down. You can still get things done without making yourself crazy stressed. Take things in your stride and do your best to do what you can with the time you have and if you don’t get it all done, don’t beat yourself up either – it will still be there tomorrow!
- Focus on positive relationships – Having positive relationships in our lives is so important to our physical and mental wellbeing. We have, no doubt, all experienced the physical and mental affects of a negative relationship and how that has affected both our happiness and confidence. Don’t be afraid to distance yourself from people who are a negative influence in your life and instead focus your energy on those relationships that encourage you, help you grow as a person and give you positive energy. Likewise, develop a positive relationship with yourself. We are often all our own worst enemies but learn to love yourself (if you don’t already!). Finally, treat others in a way you’d like to be treated – with consideration, trust and respect.
Activewear by Asquith London
Having recently taken up yoga, I was really pleased to collaborate with clothing brand Asquith, whose clothing is featured in this post and who make organic activewear not only for yoga and Pilates but also for living in. They also provide a range of accessories, from yoga mats to Pilates and yoga DVDs.
Using only the best quality, eco-friendly performance fabrics: organic cotton and bamboo, their collections are ethically made in a European factory. The quality of their clothing is clear when you first open the packaging. I wore the whole outfit to travel in, to our villa holiday in Portugal and found them really comfortable to wear.
The black bamboo yoga pants are a dream to wear not just inside the yoga class but make great lounge wear too. The grey batwing star top also looks great with jeans so also incredibly versatile as well as stylish and the black vest top has a built-in bra making it feel really supportive.
You can find out more about Asquith here.