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  • Caroline

How are you fuelling your mind?

I talk a lot about how you are fuelling your body through nutrition and movement and now it's time to turn our attention to how you are fuelling your mind. Because let's face it: as mums, we are often our own worst critic and all that negative self-talk and energy has to go somewhere.

Perhaps you no longer like the way your body looks and feels; maybe you long for the career you had prior to having children or maybe you're really torn trying to juggle work and being the parent you want to be. Becoming a mother is a big thing and it's a steep learning curve.

I first became interested in NLP (neuro linguistic programming) after I experienced postnatal anxiety and depression after the births of both my daughters. After a couple of years of taking sleeping pills and antidepressants (with limited success), I was determined to find healthier and more sustainable ways to soothe my frazzled, overwhelmed mind. I already knew from having had cognitive behavioural therapy that our thoughts impact how we feel which in turn impacts how we act (and react). I subsequently studied to become an NLP Practitioner so that I could help myself and others.

The mind is a fascinating thing. Are our thoughts the truth? Well, they are our truth ie our version of events. How many times has someone you know not said hello to you at the nursery or school gates and you think she's snubbing you, only to find out later that she had a heated argument with her husband the night before. Our brain is hardwired to delete, distort and generalise all the pieces of information that it receives each day and our beliefs, values and experiences amongst other things will influence how we interpret that information.

There is a lot of fascinating neuro science into the physiological processes that are triggered by our thoughts. For example, have you ever felt really anxious by for example the mere thought that something might happen to your child and immediately felt a tightening in your chest? Unless you have a heart disorder or similar, nothing is probably wrong with your chest, however your thoughts generated a strong and immediate physiological response. If you are suffering from chronic pain such as headaches or gut issues and nothing is wrong with you medically, maybe your mind is partly to blame.

But where to start? Before using any specific tools to deal with stress, anxiety or anything else that you need help with, it's important to come back to your breath. Why? Because most of us have sub-optimal breathing and it influences so many processes in the body including whether you are in your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) or the parasympathetic one (rest and digest). Has anyone ever said to you: take a big breath in and you've tensed your body and raised your shoulders in order to take a deep breath? It may have felt forced and like a lot of effort. Instead, try this:

Take a slow, gentle inhale through your nose for 5-6 seconds, followed by a slow, gentle exhale through your nose for 5-6 secs.

Did you notice a difference between the breaths? In NLP, language matters. So we focus a lot on choosing the right words in order to create a desired (often different) response. As busy mums, using the breath to calm our nervous system, improve digestion and reduce stress is not only highly effective but also something we have access to at all times. You can then incorporate some mindful meditation in order to deepen your new-found calm state.

Here are two more examples - read them out aloud to yourself and notice how your body responds in each case:

1. "My body is broken, I can't do anything, I feel ashamed and worry that I'm going to wee myself in public, I'm not able to exercise like I used to, I want to give up."

2. "My body has been through a lot, I'm putting effort in to help it heal and get stronger day by day, I know it will take time but I'm patient and I'm able to do this. If need be, I'll ask for help."

If you're still not convinced that language matters, spend a day noticing how you talk to yourself (in your head or even out loud). For example, if you eat a piece of chocolate cake, do you scold yourself for succumbing to sugar (yet again) or do you enjoy the occasional treat and savour it slowly? Keep in mind that our subconscious mind stores and retrieves data for us so you may be operating on autopilot without ever noticing some or all of what I'm talking about.

To finish off, I wanted to share with you another technique which can be helpful if you find yourself having frequent anxious thoughts. It's called self-havening and involves touch in order to calm down the amygdala (the part of the brain involved with emotions) and stimulate the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Sit comfortably on a chair with both feet grounded on the floor. Then cross your arms over the chest and rub the arms in a downward motion, from the shoulders to the elbows. Continue like this for a couple of minutes.

There are many alternative therapies such as self-havening that incorporate elements of NLP. At the end of the day, the name of the therapy or tool doesn't matter; what matters is if it's working for you. For example, I'm a highly sensitive person (HSP) and respond really well to grounding my feet in nature. This is partly why I love spending time outdoors all year around, including ‘wild swimming’ in winter.

If you've read all the way to the end of this blog and you realise that you could benefit from learning some techniques to feel calmer and be kinder to yourself, I'm running a special offer of 3 online Mindset Coaching sessions for £149 (to be used by the end of February 2023). This also includes a pre-session consultation where we discuss what you would like to work on and whether or not I can help. Book a discovery call today!

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