Just Breathe

Ceri Elms
Written by Ceri Elms

Holistic wellbeing for pregnancy & parenthood (& life)

Pregnancy and parenthood are times of great transformation when we need to be looking after ourselves, or reaching out for support if we are struggling, so that we can look after others and acknowledge that we matter too. It is often an exhausting time as a new or expectant parent, with little to no sleep, running on empty and running around after children or trying to juggle work, life and find that all elusive balance.

It is also a time filled with much joy and excitement, perhaps hope and wonder too, a time to celebrate what your amazing body and mind are doing, have done and continues to do to grow, nurture, nourish and love your baby or children.

It is easy to forget ourselves as mothers, as parents, as people. We care for others and look after their health and wellbeing as our top priority, and often we forget about doing this for ourselves, or we simply don’t have the time, energy, space, or the brain power at the end of the day to recharge our own batteries.

Taking the time, whatever that time may look like for you, to honour and support your own holistic wellbeing is so important and should be a priority for all of us, no matter what stage of life we are in.  It may be 2 minutes in the morning before the rest of the house awakes, it may be a moment of peace and calm after putting the kids to bed, it may be an hour after work in the evening which you can claim for your own, or perhaps you can reach out and ask a friend, family member, partner or neighbour to watch your baby or kids for half an hour whilst you nurture yourself.

Self-care is not selfish, it is how we keep going, how we find calm, it is a coping mechanism. It is fundamental to our wellbeing and health, it is how we keep our cups full, we all know the familiar saying that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, so take a moment now to really think about how you can fill up your cup today. Not later on, not another time, not next week, but today. Who could help you, support you or how could you find this precious time and space for yourself? Write down options if that helps you to make it a priority, then promise yourself you will make it happen.

Next, take a moment to consider what wellbeing means for you and what practical activities you can realistically and easily do today that will nurture both your mind and body. Self-care and wellbeing does not have to mean luxury spas or treatments, though if this is what it means for you – go for it! It could be meditation, chance to rest, close your eyes and just breathe for a few moments, a restorative nap, some yoga or pilates, a walk in nature, a drive playing your favourite tunes out loud, an uninterrupted bath, visiting your favourite place with time to soak it all in, listening to your favourite podcast, reading a book in peace and quiet, meeting up with a friend or enjoying your favourite food or drink…what would fill your cup up today, and feed your soul? What does your mind and body need?

Photo by Bethany Beck on Unsplash

Now you have considered how to get the time you need and what to do within that space, don’t put it off or get sucked back into not thinking you are important enough. You are, and your wellbeing matters. It’s a wonderful thing for children to see too, they learn through our doing and if we show them that health and wellbeing is important and a priority for you, they will mirror this in how they look after themselves, so focusing on your wellbeing is teaching them how to care for themselves too.

When short on time or quiet, my go-to technique for finding peace, calm and a moment of restorative wellbeing for myself is to just breathe. This sounds so simple, yet it is one of the most effective tools at your disposal for switching on your relaxation response and tuning into the parasympathetic nervous system which is where we find peace and calm and reduce stress and tension. Day to day breathing is usually shallow, perfunctory and short. It keeps us alive. Harnessing the power of our breath to make us feel more alive, to oxygenate our whole body, to release physical tension and allow our energy to flow, to send signals to the brain to slow down, calm down and quieten our busy minds, is where the path to holistic wellbeing begins. I hope this beautiful breathing practice nurtures and nourishes you too.