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Fertility

What that wet patch in your knickers is all about

You’ve probably noticed that once in a while a wet patch appears in your knickers, in fact, there can be a hell of a lot of fluid down there, enough to make you question if you have something weird going on. But what you’re feeling and seeing is cervical fluid and it’s a sign of good health. Thank flip for that.

In fact, it’s massively important when it comes to your fertility.

Ferning CFProduced in the lead up to ovulation, it works in several wondrous ways by:

  • Letting you know you’re getting ready for the big O (ovulation). Cheaper, and in my opinion, more effective than ovulation sticks.
  • Making sex more comfortable due its lubricating nature (though it is different to the love juice you produce when you’re turned on).
  • Creating a route for sperm to get from your vagina and into your womb via your cervix.
  • Literally speeds sperm up on their epic journey to your egg.
  • Produces a ferning pattern to guide sperm on their merry way. Non-fertile fluid during the rest of your cycle stops them in their tracks (one of the ways the birth control pill works is by preventing you from producing fertile fluid).
  • Nourishing sperm to keep them alive and in tip-top shape.
  • Providing an alkaline environment which protects them from the acidic nature of your vagina (it’s acidic to help prevent infections).

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Are you playing Russian roulette with your hormones?

ec2343600f68bb6724378029acd9573aThere are times when I find it really easy to skip meals, particularly breakfast.

If I’m in the flow with my writing or having a lazy morning in bed at the weekend, it’s all too easy for me to ignore my belly’s need for food.

Hours will go by and I’ll suddenly realise that I’m ravenous, and before I know it, I’m shovelling a pile of hot cross buns smothered in butter and jam down my gob instead of the sweet potato fries and poached eggs I had lined up.

And that, ladies, royally screws me for most of the day, because skipping a meal and then loading up on refined carbs means that my blood sugar levels can be as up and down as a whore’s drawers.

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How to recover from a miscarriage

photoThis post is largely borne out of my own recent experience (which you can read about here), as well as the stories of the clients I’ve had in the years I’ve been working as a women’s health practitioner.

My understanding of miscarriage from both Western and Chinese perspectives has helped me to accept what has happened, and has provided me with ways to recover and heal. It is those that I want to share with you, because let’s be real; miscarriage fucking sucks.

Every woman’s experience of miscarriage is different, and I encourage you to listen to your instincts and needs throughout the process. Do what you need to do to heal, and take the time you need.

You’re exactly where you need to be.

We often believe that healing is a linear process, one in which we gradually get better, until one day, we’re fine. But it’s messier than that, it can be two steps forward, five steps back. You may feel like you’re doing well, and then a whole new set of emotions enters your being, and with that, the possibility of having to find new ways to understand and work through them. Loved ones and colleagues may also assume that you’re doing well, and be taken aback by sudden changes in mood and wellbeing. It isn’t fun but it *is* healthy, and as a friend of mine says, you’re exactly where you need to be. (more…)

A legendary guitarist, my tattoos, and your fertility

I was already wearing next to nothing, but here he was, asking me to get naked for him.

My body felt like it was failing me; I couldn’t breathe let alone manage an answer. I looked at my friend Olivia, whose jaw had dropped in disbelief.

For once, it was a hot weekend in London, perfect festival weather. We had AAA passes (the perks of working in a renowned rock bar frequented by bands and those in the industry), and were sipping our warm beers, chatting to some band members that we knew.

Then Olivia clocked him.

She grabs my arm, spilling over-priced beer all over me.

“OH MY GOD” she quietly yells in my ear (in that way only girls can do).

Sure, I could have been annoyed at losing half my pint of lager, but I knew that if Olivia – who knows so many bands she probably can’t even list them – was saying this, then it was big.

“Don’t look now, but check out who just walked into that cabin”. So, being the queen of cool that I am (cough, cough), I casually turn around.

“HOLY SHIT” I reply. “We *have* to go and talk to him”

Olivia tries to tell me that the No. 1 rule when you see someone famous is not to pester them.

But I wasn’t having any of it. “But it’s hiiiiiim, we have to!”

“We can’t, my dad (a musician) always told me it’s the one thing you never do.”

“Olivia” I protest, as I grab her arm and start marching her towards the cabin, “is this likely to ever happen again?!”

“Oh my god, are we really doing this? Are you sure?”

But there was no deterring me.

Suddenly there wasn’t enough room in my chest for my heart to beat and my pulse was beating in my ears, not to mention the butterflies herd of miniature elephants in my tummy.

We approach the cabin and he walks out to find the two of us grinning at him like prize idiots, we manage to say hi and utter a few sentences of god only knows what. I honestly can’t remember what rubbish came out of our mouths, but all of a sudden he was telling me he really liked my tattoos and wanted to know if I’d get naked for him so that he could see them all.

It is a rare occasion when I am stunned into silence, but this was one of them.

Would you have stripped off for a legend?

I’m guessing that you fall into one of the following categories:

“No flipping way! What a pervert to even ask that!”

“Ummm, it depends, who is this guy? Is he hot?” (Answers coming up, I promise)

“Hell yeah! He’s a total legend!”

We all have our limits.

The same goes for your fertility. You may have strong feelings about how you conceive or you may be on the fence and need more information before you form an opinion.

Some of my clients feel certain that they don’t want to use any assistive reproduction techniques, such as IVF. Others are happy to use them but will only do certain procedures (such as IUI or “natural” IVF), or they place a limit on how many rounds of IVF / ICSI they will try. And others will keep going until someone or something stops them.

No judgement.

Regardless of where you are on your journey to conceive, you won’t find judgment here: I’m here to support you, and that means doing my bit to help make it a better experience, whether you’re getting ready to start trying to conceive, preparing / recovering from IVF, or looking for support during an IVF cycle.

It’s not my place to decide what the right or wrong way for you to have a family is. It is my place to help you to improve your chances and encourage optimum health through Acupuncture and Arvigo Mayan Massage. It is my place to offer you a safe haven, where you can take off your “everything-is-fine” mask and let go. It is my place to provide you with a space where you can really discuss your options.

Here I am.

And I’d love to hear from you if this has resonated with you.

If you’re full of hope and excitement.

If you’re fed up of keeping everything inside.

If you’re over everyone telling you not to worry.

If you simply need help.

Here I am. Just Holla.

Oh, and you wanted to know who he was, right?

Jimmy Fucking Page (of Led Zeppelin fame).

Watch out, it only takes one sperm!

I can remember my teachers laughing as they read my homework.

I didn’t get what was so funny. There I was, at 15 years old, sensibly describing how, once sexually active (insert groan here), I would be taking the birth control pill and using condoms. Because that’s what good girls do, right?

They laughed and asked if I’d be keeping my tights on as well.

Having recently visited a family friend who was dying from AIDS, I was all too aware of what not using condoms could result in, and I believed that the pill was necessary, because it only takes one sperm to get you pregnant.

spermQuestionable choices.

I may have been drinking Jack Daniels during my lunch break, and making questionable choices in terms of clothing (and men), but in terms of sexual health, I was a very sensible young woman. I was on the pill, using condoms, volunteering in an HIV day centre and sat on a committee which looked at the sexual health of young people. I mean, I could’ve been the flippin’ poster girl for any “how-to-remain-disease-free-and-not-get-knocked-up” campaign.

My first pregnancy test.

But there I was, hiding in the bathroom, waiting to find out if I was pregnant. Praying that I wasn’t, and that nobody would ask me why I’d been in the toilet for so long.

I had believed the it only takes one sperm line so much, that despite using two birth control methods at once, I was still convinced that I might be pregnant.

300 million sperm.

That’s roughly how many swimmers are released each time your guy has an orgasm, and it is true that only one is needed, so it seems as if our chances of getting pregnant are really high. Because that’s a hell of a lot of sperm.

Turns out, it’s not always that easy.

I see a common theme amongst my fertility clients: They, like me, were told in their sex education, whether it came from their school, their older sister or 17, that it’s easy to conceive. But fast forward a couple of decades, and they find themselves in my treatment room, thoroughly pissed off that it’s a lot harder than they thought it would be.

You were a good girl and did your best to avoid parenthood till you were ready for it.

Now you’re ready, so ready that it’s all you can think of, and it’s not happening. 

I want to share with you some of the things I suggest to my fertility clients:

But before I do, if you’ve just started to try, and you or your partner don’t have any known reproductive issues, I largely just suggest you both take a good multi-vitamin (see link below) and have fun trying!

However, if you’ve been trying for six months or so, then this is what I suggest:

  • Manage your stress levels and get a good night’s sleep. How can you have regular sex, as required for conceiving, if you’re tired from not sleeping well and only interested in getting some shut-eye? Or, if you’re so stressed that you can’t shut off and actually enjoy sex, so it becomes something you do just to get his sperm inside you (ooooohh fun!). There are various therapies which can help with this, hypnotherapy being one of them. Chloe Brotheridge has some great free videos to help manage stress and anxiety which I highly recommend.
  • Start charting your cycle so that you can figure out when you’re fertile. This involves taking your temperature first thing in the morning and monitoring how your cervical fluid changes throughout the month. It’s particularly helpful if you have irregular cycles or, for various reasons, regular sex is hard to achieve so the timing is important.
  • In addition to tracking your physiological changes, also note how you feel emotionally. The richness of this information can help you to reframe how you view your body when you’re in the phases you’re not so keen on (because it can be hard to appreciate your period when you’re not trying to conceive, let alone when you are). You may also notice certain thoughts and emotions in the lead up to ovulation, which you can add to the when am I fertile? calculation.
  • If you’re not taking them already, get yourself a good multi-vitamin and fish oil. Your man too.
  • If you’re over 35 and have been trying to conceive for over six-months, speak to your GP and ask for blood tests to measure your hormone levels. Your partner needs to get his swimmers checked too.

And finally:

Maisie Hill AcupunctureWhether you’ve just started to try for a baby, or you’ve been trying for four years, here’s how I can help:

  • Arvigo therapy (Mayan abdominal massage) helps by improving blood blow to the reproductive and digestive organs. It focuses on the abdomen and lower back, encouraging optimal position and function, and as it’s largely a self-care practice, helps you to get to know your body and gives you a way to be proactive with your reproductive health.
  • Many women find that acupuncture helps to relieve menstrual-symptoms that can cause fertility issues. It also sits nicely along IVF cycles. You can read about how acupuncture can help here.

If you’d like support in the way of treatments, get in touch as I’d love to help.

I feel the need, the need to … breed.

It took a while for me to come around to the idea of having little people in my life.

In fact, for years, I was resolutely “no-way, José” (just kidding, his name wasn’t really José) but then something changed. I can’t put my finger on what, exactly, but something did. I’ll come back to this in a moment but first of all, as I’m talking about women’s “need” to reproduce, I want to be super clear about something:

I’m not saying all women feel the need to have children … and there’s no judgement here if you don’t feel the urge to have kids. That being said, my standpoint is that we don’t just create human babies. Working on a project is akin to growing a baby; sending it out into the world is like giving birth. We all nourish “babies”, my business is a baby … my plants are my (withering) babies. So if you’re reading this and not into the idea of breeding, you may want to read it from the perspective of the creative process, because that is a need as well.

Back to me.

When I started working as a birth doula, I was 25, managed a  late-night rock bar in Soho, and was uninterested in having kids. Now, I’m 33, in bed nice and early, and game on the kids front (those sentences aren’t as linked as they seem). Did supporting families during the childbirth year influence things? I’m sure it did.

Missed opportunities.

Regardless of whether you’re trying to conceive or not, each period can bring with it a sense of loss or grief. Sound bonkers? I assure you, it’s not. I’m not trying to get knocked up, but once my bleed (my personal choice of terminology for menstruation) arrives, my spirit recognises that there’s been a missed opportunity. There’s one less egg in the box, and although I know there’s way more than a dozen tucked away in there, it’s a *little* unnerving to see them disappear down the toilet month after month, literally and figuratively.

For many women, the desire to breed is a biological need.

And that’s what people forget. It’s *not* a cerebral decision, it’s *not* about playing house, it’s *not* a desire that you can magic away. You are not a cliché with a ticking clock.

Men, and their balls.

Ladies, I’m sure you’re aware of this already (and if not, get ready for the newsflash), but men need to – ahem – release the pressure on a regular basis. Yes, they *need* to ejaculate. It’s mother nature’s clever way of ensuring the best guys are in the pipes, ready for action.

It’s the same for us.

Ok, so for the purpose of this post, I’m separating out sexual appetite and yearning for a family. I am *not* saying that the female equivalent of a man shooting his load is a woman having a baby. Hell no.

Evolutionary biology means that procreation has been hardwired into our physiology, so let’s not minimise or judge how craving a child can dominate a woman’s life. Because it can, in every possible way. Whether she’s fourteen or forty, once a woman decides she wants a family, the way she views and makes decisions about her life changes. Her relationship with herself shifts, as well as those with others.

Baby handsWanting a family.

It’s primal: There’s no getting away from it. By its definition, it is “of first importance”.

It’s painful: Longing for a family can physically ache, and it can be a factor in some women’s period pain.

It’s unreasonable: Inappropriate partner / no partner / broke / just got your dream job. Guess what? Your body doesn’t care. It just demands to know, “where’s the goddamn baby?!”

Got baby fever?

I’d love to give you five tips to help matters, but I don’t have five. I can tell you that before a baby is potty-trained, you will have to change roughly 7,000 nappies (diapers for the Americans), does that put you off? No, me neither. In fact, I’m guessing that some of you would probably jump at the chance to deal with the “richness” of a toddler’s poo-pancakes.

Something useful for you.

This is a juicy topic, and it’s not always an easy one to chat about with partners / friends / family, but talking can help to lighten the load, or at least get started on that path. I’ve had so many of my clients unload when they step into my treatment room; the “empty womb” bag is a heavy one to carry.

If you’d like to speak to me about your menstrual health and fertility, I’m offering free 20 minute consultations over the phone or Skype, and I would love to chat with you if this article resonated with you. There won’t be any hard-selling from me. What I will do (with your permission) is put you to the front of the queue for a new programme which I’m opening up next month, so you’ll get first dibs if it feels like a good fit for you. It’s also a great way to suss me out if you’re thinking of coming for some treatments.

Interested? Then head here and holla.

Dates for your diary: 

I’m away on residential courses April 28th – May 3rd & May 6th – 8th, so if you want an appt with me, you can come and see me at Sadhaka on the 5th (morning only) and 9th (all day). Back to normal week commencing May 12th.

May 10th & 11th: I’ll be co-facillitating a women’s health weekend at Sadhaka Yoga Centre. Keep your eyes peeled for the details.

Struggling to lose weight? Do this.

Everyone’s got an opinion on what we should and shouldn’t eat; paleo, macrobiotic, gluten-free, veggie, high-protein, raw, 80:20, low-fat, juices and smoothies, vegan … the list goes on.

Health websites are filled with articles telling us, “why-you-should-eat-this-hard-to-pronounce-new-superfood”, and whilst I love a bit of quinoa (keen-wah), I’m fed up with being told what to eat. How about you?

Being lectured at sucks.

A client (let’s call her Alison) came to see me recently, as she has been trying to conceive for two years. Her biggest hope is that she and her husband conceive naturally, but she’s concerned that it hasn’t happened yet, so they’re exploring IVF as well. The thing is, her doctor won’t put her on the local trusts list till she reduces her BMI. So part of the treatment plan we developed together is to help her reduce her weight.

Alison has been to see other practitioners; she’s been given numerous lists of what to include and exclude from her diet, and as we started discussing her meals and energy levels, I sensed she was dreading that I would come down hard on her for – heaven forbid – eating an occasional burger, with bacon (clearly she hadn’t seen my instagram feed). She was therefore a bit shocked when I started asking her about how she eats.

Does your lunch break look like this?

Alison explained that due to her high-pressured work environment, she doesn’t actually take a lunch break. It’s rare for her to leave the office, and most of the time she eats her food whilst keeping an eye on her emails or reading documents. As she explained this to me, it became evident that this really frustrates her, but because it’s what’s seemingly expected amongst her colleagues, she doesn’t feel she can do anything about it. Instead, she eats her lunch whilst she’s stressed, and this is what I asked her to change.

Let’s shift the focus from what we eat, to how we eat.

Intestines; one of the more stressful meals I've shared.
Intestines; one of the more stressful meals I’ve shared.

When Alison eats whilst she’s working, she feels a pressure on her chest, a knot in her stomach and tension throughout her back and shoulders. If an urgent email comes through she gets palpitations too. Yikes, this isn’t exactly conducive to digestion!

When our bodies respond to stress, our blood gets diverted to our major organs such as the heart and lungs, because as far as our bodies are concerned, we’re preparing to fight an enemy or run away from a scary beast. Blood gets diverted from our gut because digestion isn’t a priority when we’re in flight or flight mode.

This means that when Alison receives an email from her boss (who in our evolutionary tale of stress shall portray the scary beast) asking if she’s done something she hasn’t managed to yet, her digestive tract shuts up shop.

So here’s what you can do to aid digestion:

  • Get away from your desk and emails. Give yourself permission to take a lunch break. Chances are everyone else in your office wants to do the same, be the leader! My guess is that your boss would prefer you to take a proper break as studies show that they increase productivity.
  • Eat at a table. If you sit in a slump, say in front of the tv / computer, for example, your digestive tract gets squished. Sitting upright at a table ensures your gut has room to work.
  • Slow down before you eat. Before you delve into what’s on your plate – no matter how amazing your food looks and smells, or how hungry you are – take some nice big easy breaths. Doing this helps you to come out of the stress response by sending a signal to your brain to move your blood back to your gut. It also helps your diaphragm (the muscle we use to breathe) to relax, which in turn creates space for food to travel down the oesophagus and into the stomach.
  • Eat slowly. Sometimes I catch myself doing this and it doesn’t feel good, so I ask myself, “what’s the hurry?” am I really gaining anything (time, pleasure, nourishment) by rushing my mealtimes? The answer has always been a resounding “no”, so I take a moment, centre myself by breathing and coming into my body, doing my best to package away any stress whilst I’m eating. Much better.

So many of my clients come to me with digestive issues, and there are lots of ways I help them (acupuncture, Arvigo therapy and reflexology), but a lot of the time it’s the work they do on their own that makes the work we do together more effective and long-lasting. Developing good eating habits around the way we eat can go a long way to improving your digestion and overall health, and it costs nothing but a tiny bit of time!

Shameless plug: 

If you would like support with digestive / fertility issues, why not arrange a free 15 min phone call with me to see how I can be of service to you? I’m big on being upfront about if I feel I can help you or not, and it may be that one Arvigo session is all you need to get cracking with some nourishing self-care massage. If not, then I have a few different treatment packages, and between us, we can suss out what’s right for you.

Ever feel like your body is failing you?

Are you happy with your body? 

Maybe there’s a part you’re not so keen on, a part which causes you grief of some kind, from time to time, or all the time. Do you ever hear yourself thinking, “I wish my ovaries / digestive tract / dodgy knee would work properly, then I’d be able to have a family /  lose weight / not be in pain / get on with my life in the way I want to” ? I’m betting that most of us have something going on which interrupts life in a way which is significant.

I love my body … now.photo

It took me a while to love some parts; I spent my late teens and early twenties wishing for some miracle grow for my breasts, and am now very thankful that they have remained as nature intended. And yeah, I do regret stretching my ears, but I can celebrate my willingness to experiment (cough, cough) and at least I didn’t do this –>

There’s one part which I’ve struggled with more than the rest; my womb.

You may have read my recent post about the pain I’ve experienced and I kept it fairly physical, but as you probably know, there are many other levels to being in pain. I don’t know about you but my mind takes me to some interesting places when I’m in pain.

The mental chatter is *so* much fun:

Why does it hurt so much?
What have I done to deserve this? Is it because of that time when I was nine years old and had new scissors to try out so I cut a hole in Katie Seagraves’ dress? Surely having them confiscated was enough!
Does it have to hurt this much?
Why me?
Surely labour can’t be any worse than this?
Do they give epidurals for period pain? How about morphine?
What have I done to deserve this?
Why aren’t the painkillers working?
I wish I was a man.
What is my body trying to tell me?
My womb is useless.
There must be something wrong with me … there’s no way I could ever get pregnant.
WHY DOES IT HURT?

It’s hard to believe in your body when you’re in pain.

Feeling pain occasionally, let alone all the time, can make you to believe that your body is broken and that certain things won’t be possible. My personal belief, is that this creates more pain. My good friend Hilary explains it like this: When you work with a colleague who isn’t pulling their weight, you don’t get the best out of them by saying, “you’re shit, you show up late, do half-arsed work which someone else has to sort out, you create loads of tension and effect everyone around you”. You’re more likely to get the most out of them by working with their positives.

If you’re hating on part of your body, try showing it some love instead.

Someone once said to me, “it’s as if your uterus is a big fist, saying “f@*k you” to the world”. Rather ironically, my womb is actually slightly heart-shaped. I’ve taken this as a sign from my womb that she needs more love, so that’s what I’m giving her. She gets a massage every day, and no, I don’t mean an internal one (though she’s really into orgasms too); I massage myself every day using Arvigo techniques. I listen to her desires and complaints, and make changes where I can.

Listen to your body, ask it what it needs.

Pain doesn’t just show up for no good reason, it’s a sign that something needs to change. Tune in and listen. It’s not always easy, but it is important. There are times when I’m a big fan of painkillers, but they can silence the message your body is trying to whisper / scream at you, so you may want to consider ways in which you can lessen your need to take them (and by the way, acupuncture is pretty nifty when it comes to relieving pain).

Maisie Hill AcupunctureIf you’re struggling with pain and are trapped in a negative conversation with your body, try this one simple technique: Talk to it as if it was a child. In other words, with patience, respect and tenderness. Once you enter a positive dialogue with yourself, the rest will get clearer.

Shameless plug:

If you want some help with the pain in your life (I don’t mean your significant other), I have an offer running till the end of March; a full consultation and six acupuncture sessions, plus one Arvigo massage so that you can get some belly love, and learn how to treat yourself on a daily basis in addition to the work we’re doing together. That’s seven appointments in total and I’m offering this package throughout March at the reduced rate of £520 (£65 off my usual price). Holla!

Is being a superwoman screwing with your health?

Hello, lovers. You’re in for a treat this week; a guest blogger! Meet Dr. Rachel Sterry, who very kindly agreed to write this super helpful post. Enjoy …

headshot3I recently picked up a copy of, Crime and Punishment, written in Dostoyevsky’s native tongue and didn’t understand one damn word. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably tell you that I’ve never studied Russian.

Sounds a little ridiculous, I know. But how is it any different from understanding a diagnosis, it’s implications and recommended treatments with the guidance of a doctor who has 5-10 minutes to devote to your entire healthcare experience?

Having been on both sides of this coin I’m going to take a moment and offer an apology on behalf of all of the healthcare professionals out there who have made you feel ignorant and unheard.  Secondly, I would like to offer guidance so that the next time you’re confronted with health challenge you don’t suddenly feel like your body has started speaking a completely foreign language.

Specifically, I’d like to share what I can about the thyroid.

Not only because it’s one of the most under-diagnosed and underestimated parts of the body, but also because it’s an area that I’ve had to come face to face with myself.

In the interest of time and space I have chosen to touch upon the key points in understanding the thyroid gland. Have another area that you are burning to better understand? No worries, I’m only an email away.

Ok, back to the thyroid. This is an area that effects many women and is often skimmed over by the mainstream medical community, being treated with a pill, a recommendation for repeat lab work in 6 months, and a pat on the back. I’m not saying that this isn’t a valid means of dealing with negative symptoms, but I would argue that this is far from treating the root cause of the imbalance.

Here’s the translated version.

Your thyroid gland is a key player in the regulation of mood, temperature, digestion, metabolism…The most common condition effecting the thyroid is due to an autoimmune disorder (Hoshimoto’s hypothyroidism) that causes all of the above system to slow down, leading to symptoms such as depression, constipation, fatigue, and weight gain.

Not only is the incidence of this condition on the rise, but its’ occurrence is 10 times more likely in women than men. Let’s break that down a step further. The gland that ensures you are able to maintain homeostasis is 10 times more likely to be attacked by your own immune cells if you are a woman.

Why?

Well, if you’re like most women who walk through my office door, myself included, you can relate to how much easier it feels to put your head down and push through instead of asking for help. And, if you dig a little deeper you might also be able to admit that this tactic leaves you feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

As women we often pride ourselves on being superhuman…laughing in the face of balance, swallowing any frustrations or requests we might have to maintain the illusion of perfection. So, is it really any surprise that the thyroid, a gland sitting right in the middle of our throat, is so susceptible to self-induced destruction?

Just consider how it would feel to put the full force of your abilities behind yourself.

Think how it might change your daily experience if you made sure to take care of you in the same way you care for everyone else. There is no need to continue to stoically suffer in silence. Using your voice is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of incredible self-assuredness and strength.

For those of you shaking your head in disbelief I would ask you, how many times have you chosen not to say something because you didn’t want to upset another person, or thought it would be easier to allow things to continue rather than make a fuss in advocating for any changes?

If you found yourself nodding your head in agreement at anytime then I’m willing to guess that you need to start a practice in self-advocacy. A practice that will start right now, with your commitment to using the word ‘no’ at least once daily. This is actually harder than it may sound. It requires that you turn off autopilot and sit with the requests of others before contorting yourself to please each and every person that knocks on your door.

Take it from me, if you are unwilling to make yourself a priority no one else will either.

We all deserve to feel supported, loved and healthy and that starts by recognising the connection between each of our actions and the reactions they cause in all of the thousands of cells in our bodies.

My invitation to you, and millions of other women around the world, is to find the strength to stop doing it all alone. Ask for some help to allow for the support needed to do more than mask symptoms, the support needed to begin true healing.

Dr. Rachel Sterry is board certified Naturopath and Primary Care Physician in the State of Oregon. She has worked with hundreds of women who want to feel like themselves again without more medication. For more information visit: http://DrRachelSterry.com

When it’s ok to not be ok

photoI know it’s happened to you. You’re having a rough patch in life, like grieving for the baby you can’t conceive / the end of a relationship / miscarriage / death of a loved one / life just isn’t measuring up to your high expectations.

You see a friend, share a bit, and they say, “you’ve got plenty of time to have kids / it wasn’t meant to be / at least you know you can get pregnant / it’s going to be okay.”

And right about then is when you want to punch them. Grief sucks and we are taught in this society not to do it. Lost relationship? Chin up, pull through it….

But how do you get to self-care when you are smack in the middle of grief? When your heart is hurting it can be really fucking hard to take care of yourself, in fact you’re probably not even thinking about it. You’re consumed by what’s going on in your heart, and you’re falling to pieces.

When my world changed.

Several years ago, I realised that I could no longer be with the man I was with. No matter how much love I felt for him, my love wasn’t enough to fix him … and yeah, I know, how arrogant to think that my love could do that. He had issues (hey, I did do too), and when I found out the extent of them, the behaviours associated with them, I had to put my big girl pants on and get the hell out of there. So after five years of living together and a couple of years of fighting hard to make it work, I left. And it fucking sucked.

Then came the rapid weight loss.

When I’m stressed my stomach goes into lockdown; it feels like there’s a vice in my solar plexus. You know what I mean, when it feels like there’s a hand twisting your insides so you can’t breathe properly let alone eat. Unless of course you’re someone who binges to push through the tension, bugger all wrong with that, I just tend towards the no eating side of things.

How did I handle it?

I discovered Japanese rice crackers; delicious air, perfect for someone with a non-existent appetite. I coaxed my way back into eating by letting them dissolve in my mouth, a packet at a time. I also started training for the Caledonian Challenge. Twice a month I would do a 16-24 mile walk, and when it comes to stimulating the appetite, I’m not sure there’s anything better than exercise (other than smoking weed). In pretty much every picture of me walking, you’ll see a peanut butter sandwich in my hand (crunchy, never smooth), and bit by bit I regained the weight I’d lost.

A couple of years later, I realised that there were a few places deep inside where I was still holding onto this hurt, and it was seeing an Arvigo therapist which helped me to unlock and begin the process of letting go. Now I massage my belly every day as part of my daily self-care routine, it’s how I stop my stomach going into lockdown mode.

When you’re hurting, practice self-love above all else.

Give yourself some space to not be ok.

  1. Phone a friend. Let someone else in, tell one person what’s going on, let them hold your space. Text five friends and say, “hey, I’m having a shit time at the moment, I’d love it if you could check in with me once in a while or if we could hang out soon”. Be proactive in asking for help; I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve kept quiet till everything has been resolved, only to be reprimanded by friends months down the line for not allowing them to help.
  2. Get raw. Stick on the music which makes you feel all the hurt and loss. Don’t block it, feel it. Get lost in the emotion. I know it feels like it’s never going to end, but it will change, at least.
  3. Get your arse outside. Trees, rocks, soil; they’ve all been around a hell of a lot longer than we have, they can hold the energy we can’t (yes, I’m a hippy at heart). Let it go. Let your face be battered by wind and drizzle. Sob till your nose runs and then sob some more.
  4. Express yourself. Grab a notepad and write, if that feels uncomfortable, just write over your own words again and again so that nothing is readable, that way you get it out of you but there’s no way to revisit what’s come out, unless you want to of course. Buy some crayons and draw. Why crayons? We associate them with childhood, not grown up “proper” art, which helps to keep things playful and about expression, as oppose to producing something.
  5. Move. I have this theory that moving forwards physically moves you forwards mentally. So get walking, running or cycling. It needn’t be as extreme as a 54 mile hike, but if you get stuck on the sofa (been there), you’ll stay stuck in your head. Dance; surrender to the music, free that shit up and get it out of your system.

Need a kickstart?

Then come and get some love in the form of a treatment. It’s the first thing I do when shit hits the fan. Letting friends in etc is all well and good, but going for a treatment works on a different level. For a start, I don’t think any of my friends would be up for massaging me for longer than two minutes, if that. Mainly though, there’s something incredibly nurturing about doing something which is all about you.

Right now I have an offer on which will run till the end of January, and there are 20 13 8 spots left. It’s for a 90 minute Arvigo session, during which you’ll receive a nurturing belly and back massage, then I’ll teach you how to perform it on yourself, so that you can treat yourself every day. You can read about it in full over here, but here are the basics:

One treatment: £90 (£35 off)

Three treatment bonus offer: £250 (£125 off)

This offer is short-term, the price will increase to £125 per session as of Feb 1st 2014, and I’m only offering twenty spots at this amount. You must book and receive your first treatment by the end of January.

Next step?

If you’re ready to jump in, holla at me and let me know a few options with regards to times you can do in the coming weeks. Once we figure out a time, I’ll email you a pre-treatment form for you to fill in and return to me by email.