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MY GUILTY SECRET – MATCHA LOVE!

MY GUILTY SECRET – MATCHA LOVE!

 

 

Ok, so most of you will know how I love my coffee & how easily my intake can go waaay over what it should if I’m not mindful of it – but where did this matcha love come from?! My advice to clients who are trying to cut down on coffee is often to try to find an alternative hot drink. In the past that would have been hot water & lemon first thing in the day, or perhaps herbal teas later on, but now things have changed: move in matcha!

This bright green, traditional Japanese health drink has become my latest love in the kitchen. From its fabulous green colour (green being another of my loves), to the endless goodness it provides, to the ritual of making it – it’s a win-win! Both the Chinese & the Japanese have been drinking matcha for centuries (they also use it in cakes, desserts, & infuse it into creams, but that’s another story for another time…)

 

WHAT IS MATCHA?

  • Matcha is a finely ground powder made from green tea leaves. The leaves are laid out to dry, then they are de-stemmed, de-veined and stone ground to become the characteristic bright green powder that is matcha. More specifically:

matcha preparation involves covering the tea plants with shade cloths before they’re harvested. This triggers the growth of leaves with better flavor and texture, which are hand selected, steamed briefly to stop fermentation, then dried and aged in cold storage, which deepens the flavor. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder”

  • The powder can be made into a simple hot matcha drink (by whisking the powder into water that is approximately 70 degrees centigrade). Other alternatives are matcha latte or iced matcha, or if you want to be a little more adventurous a matcha smoothie or a matcha milk shake!

 

WHY IS IT GOOD FOR US?

  • Matcha is a high quality tea made from “tencha” which in itself comes from the Camellia Sinensis tea bush. (It should however be noted that now that matcha is so very fashionable sadly not all matchas will match this high quality).
  • With other green teas components from the leaves are “steeped” – that is they are left to infuse in hot water to release both the flavour and the nutrients. With matcha, you actually ingest the whole leaf (see above) so you are getting a much more potent ‘punch’ of all the nutrients.
  • Matcha is packed with antioxidants, and especially with polyphenols which have been linked with many positive health benefits (amongst other things polyphenols are believed to combat inflammation, which is the source of so many health issues today).

 

matcha drink alternatives

 

 

GREEN TEA & CAFFEINE…

I’d like to believe we are all aware of keeping an eye on caffeine intake – and of why we should. Matcha does contain caffeine, so it is not a caffeine-free alternative. In fact, because you are ingesting the whole leaf rather than the steeped residue caffeine levels are higher than green “teabag” tea. However, matcha fans will tell you that the caffeine ‘hit’ from matcha is quite different. It is described as a:

“clean, calm and focused energy boost”

…which lacks the jittery-ness and the spikes and crashes of a coffee-based pick-me-up. It’s a similar comparison to the effects of “good” and “bad” carbs. A slower, more prolonged boost, as opposed to a quick ‘high’ and equally quick crash. Hence, the fans insist, whereas coffee will make you “wired”, matcha will gently ease you into increased focus and ‘cradle’ you whilst you are there…

 

MY MATCHA LOVE

There are many things about this drink that I personally love. It has a somewhat bitter after taste which sort of resembles the after taste of coffee. If I “latte it” with my beloved frothy milk on the top it feels like a treat which is more than comparable to my frothy coffee. On top of that I have to confess it’s the ritual that I love. If you make your latte the traditional Japanese way the whole experience becomes much more mindful – almost meditative – (and that in itself will increase our awareness of how much we are drinking).

 

 

So what are my own ‘must haves’ for my matcha love? Here goes: 

  1. a quiet 5 minutes to enjoy the actual process of making it
  2. a bamboo scoop and whisk to make the matcha in the traditional Japanese way
  3. a bowl as opposed to a cup
  4. frothy milk (personally I prefer latte to plain…)
  5. a quiet 5 (or 10!) minutes to enjoy the results…

 

matcha ritual with bamboo scoop and bamboo whisk

 

So if you have yet to jump on the matcha bandwagon then why not go ahead and give it a go? There are undoubtedly many actual health benefits, but as I say, for me it’s more than that. The whole process and the slightly ritualistic quality of creating this drink makes my matcha love more mindful, so that my afternoon drink becomes a part of my stress management and self care (as opposed to a jittery coffee-based ggrrrrr!)

 

MY TOP TIPS FOR A GREAT NIGHT’S SLEEP!

MY TOP TIPS FOR A GREAT NIGHT’S SLEEP!

Creating a bedtime routine can be incredibly powerful. We know all about doing this for our kids, why shouldn’t it work for us too? Establishing a peaceful atmosphere can help induce relaxation, and a regular and calming routine can send powerful message to the brain that it is time to unwind and switch off from the day’s happenings.

 

As someone who once experienced horrendous sleep problems, I had to work hard to discover the routine that worked best for me. So here are the habits I’ve established – and I truly know how effective these can be…

 

MY TOP TIPS 

1. No screens for AT LEAST 1 hour before bedtime. This one is all about melatonin production & how we can utilise understanding of this to enhance our sleep.

2. Consider alternatives to TV as a pre-bed activity. Although some TV can be a great switch off, it is sometimes over-stimulating. Reading a book, listening to a podcast or simply listening to music are all options which may be more relaxing.

3. Enjoy a warm drink. My preference would be a cup of chamomile tea. For some warm milk does the trick (it contains both tryptophan and melatonin) but for some it can have the opposite effect: try it out yourself before making the decision.

 

relaxing chamomile tea

 

4. Avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime, but do consider something calming such as yoga, with its emphasis on calming and relaxing.

5. Even if you don’t want to do a full yoga workout, I thoroughly believe in the benefits of a few yoga stretches before bed. Although we may think we’ve become physically relaxed during our evening, we usually tend to sit in one position – whether watching TV or reading a book – for some time. We then get into bed & lie pretty much in one position for many hours, and this combination can lead to waking stiff and achey. Instead, try a few gentle mobilisation exercises such as some shoulder rolls, a Pilates roll down, and a yoga cat stretch before getting in to bed to ease out sore muscles.

6. Make your cleansing routine – however simple or complex it may be – a calming ritual. Think of massaging the skin as you remove make up, take in the scents of your products & focus on your breathing throughout. I would add here that it’s worth thinking about the products you use near to bedtime. Using natural products containing essential oils can aid relaxation and sleep.

7. A quick spritz around your bed or over your pillow with an essential oil based Pillow Mist will leave a waft of lavender or whatever your chosen scent may be, and can be a fabulous way to induce sleep

8. If you have difficulty sleeping, a few drops of cedarwood essential oil on the soles of your feet can work wonders for insomnia.

9. All the many benefits of essential oils can be enjoyed best by using a diffuser, and it is my own absolute preferred bedtime soother. Choose your favourite from the many scents that can aid relaxation: lavender, frankincense, cedarwood, marjoram, chamomile, vetiver…

 

FRANKINCENSE

 

10. If with all of this you are still struggling to sleep, or if thoughts are still racing around in your head, try Belly Breathing whilst focusing on relaxing the body rather than on sleep, until you drift to the land of dreams…

MY SELF CARE MORNING

MY SELF CARE MORNING

 

“Self care” can cover so, so many things, so that sometimes just fitting it in can seem like a marathon of a task. But actually, if we get in to the habit of putting a few simple steps into place daily, we will find our Self Care Ritual becomes both easy & enjoyable!

So, what are my recommendations for self care? Well, how’s about I tell you MY way of doing it…

 

MY SELF CARE START TO THE DAY 

1. Belly Breathing – before actually getting out of bed. This is so powerful. As I am just “coming to” in the morning, I roll to lie on my back, direct my thoughts to my breathing and do just 1 or 2 minutes of abdominal breathing. It is such a great way to start feeling energised and refreshed for the day ahead.

2. Step-by-Step Gratitude. This is adapted from Rhonda Byrne in her wonderful book “The Secret”. My own version is that when I get up in the morning, as my first foot touches the floor I name (out loud) one thing I am truly grateful for; as my other foot touches down I name another; as I walk into the bathroom I name a third. That’s my 3 gratitude journal entries done without the need for a pen & paper – it is such a game changer for a positive start to my day.

 

3. Diffuser ON. I choose which essential oils I want according to the mood I feel I need to create – something citrus-y for vitality, geranium for balance, or maybe rosemary for focus. Whichever I choose, those gorgeous scents fill the air & really can switch my mood (and they encourage me to breathe mindfully too).

 

4. DON’T go to my Phone! This is really important. I stopped having my phone in my bedroom at night a long time ago, but it took much longer to break the habit of looking at it as soon as I came downstairs. But nowadays it’s an absolute: no phone until breakfast is done and the kids are all out at school. It may sound simple (though I confess it wasn’t simple to achieve it) but it is so powerful.

 

5. Hot water & lemon. There are many advantages to making this the first thing that goes into your digestive system in the morning, but for me it’s also about mindset. If the very beginning of my day includes consuming something that is nourishing me and specifically good for my health, I am oh so much more likely to continue that way for the rest of the day.

 

 

AND THE REST OF MY DAY…

My personal choice is that these 5 steps have to happen in order. Then the following 3 will happen at some point during my day: exactly when will vary each day of the week, depending on my other commitments.

 

6. A truly mindful coffee (or a herbal tea if I’m being “good”!) Instead of grabbing that #onecoffeeaday on the hoof, I try to take ten minutes to stop and pause, and to really enjoy it. It enforces a break from my pc, or my sessions or whatever I may be racing at (& that pause is so great for my mental health), and it also means I enjoy the coffee so much more – and that in turn helps me to stick to just one-a-day!

7. 20 minutes of reading – either a novel or a personal development book. If it’s a novel it’s usually for pure escapism, if it’s personal development…you guessed it, it’s for personal development!

 

8. Between 10 & 20 minutes of meditation. This is another true game changer for me: discovering meditation very literally changed my life. It really does only need to be 10 minutes a day, and whenever I slot in those few moments of utter peace I feel I can get off the merry-go-round of life, just for a little. As a note, I am not perfect(!) so there are days that I don’t manage to fit it in…and on those days I feel the difference and I truly feel so much less “in control”.

 

 

 

 

This list isn’t exhaustive, and it certainly doesn’t provide a “one size fits all”. These are simple strategies that work for ME: some will resonate with you also, others may not. What matters most is that you take the time to consider what will work best for you, and then you carve out the time to make it happen. Taking that step to find the time is undoubtedly the first step towards #selfcare – and surely one of the most important. 

 

MY TOP TIPS TO MANAGE HORMONAL IMBALANCE

MY TOP TIPS TO MANAGE HORMONAL IMBALANCE

 

Hormones!! They control most of our body’s major systems, and they determine almost everything in our body, from growth, mood and behaviour to metabolism, digestion and fertility…so they’re pretty important! In order to stay fit and healthy, we have to ensure we maintain HORMONAL BALANCE. Like any balancing act, this requires constant fine tuning:

“Think of hormones like a cake recipe. Too much or too little of any one ingredient affects the final product.”

So, what can we do to help achieve this balance?

HERE ARE MY TOP TIPS:

1. Check your nutrition. The energy and nutrients in your diet provide the building blocks your body needs in order to produce hormones, and to fuel your body effectively. This is a huge topic in itself, but in simple terms aim to eat digestion-friendly protein (which helps build hormones), fruit and veg for antioxidants (to balance hormones), healthy fats and complex carbohydrates (also to balance hormones), and probiotics to maintain gut health. 

2. Avoid inflammatory foods such as refined carbs, sugar, coffee and alcohol. The inflammatory response is directly connected to hormonal balance.

3. Get active. Exercise affects dopamine and serotonin levels (both of these hormones are mood boosters), and also levels of testosterone and oestrogen. The recommendation is for a a combination of strength training and cardio-vascular workouts to gain maximal health benefits and to boost hormone levels. (We must remember however that excessive exercise can create hormonal imbalance, so considered exercise is key).

4. Practise stress management to help keep stress hormone levels in check. Again, this is a huge topic, but typical strategies (aside from the others in this list) include abdominal breathing, journaling, getting out in nature, and meditation or mindfulness, all of which will help balance these vital hormones.

5. Watch your coffee intake. There are many studies showing just how detrimental coffee can be to our hormonal balance, affecting cortisol, dopamine, oestrogen-to-progesterone and insulin. Admittedly different individuals have varying reactions to coffee, but taking into consideration all of the above, plus the fact that caffeine causes inflammation and can damage the gut lining (all related once more to hormones) it’s surely worth cutting down!

6. Think about plastic pollution. Whilst plastics are slowly destroying our planet, they can also be highly detrimental to our own health, and disruptive to our hormones. Just one example is “Bisphenol A”, or BPA. This is a synthetic chemical found in many plastics, which can either be ingested or absorbed through skin contact.  Various studies have shown that once in the body BPA “mimics the action of the hormone oestrogen and disrupts the endocrine system – the glands that produce hormones regulating, among other things, metabolism, growth, sexual function and sleep”. Surely this is reason enough to cut back on plastic

7. Check your bathroom cabinets. Chemical preservatives used in many commercial cosmetics may cause changes in reproductive hormones in women. We should be especially aware of products containing parabens, as these widely used preservatives have been shown to mimic oestrogen. Do stop and think and do the research before you next buy a new cream, potion or lotion. Choose wisely: there are many alternative products which are genuinely natural and chemical free.

8. Experiment with essential oils. Swap your cosmetic products for those containing essential oils (some of which actually help to balance hormones according to aromatherapy), or alternatively, pop those oils in a diffuser! This is a real double-whammy: essential oils are natural preservatives (so avoiding the need for parabens and such like), and they are also full of anti-oxidants which will aid hormonal imbalance (see point 1 above).  

9. Get enough sleep. Give full value to your bedtime routine and sleep patterns, & be sure that when you do get to bed you are experiencing good quality sleep. Without this, every one of the above suggestions will be less effective…

 

WHY BOTHER? 

Balancing our hormones can be a long process, but the potential results are endless. Achieving hormonal balance can help to:

“reduce mood swings, depression, anxiety, and irritability; increase energy and reduce fatigue; boost happiness, mental clarity, and focus; reduce weight and decrease hot flashes and night sweats; and eliminate acne and hair loss.”

I’m pretty sure there is something on that list that most people would like to achieve, so why not make a start today? Don’t try to do it all overnight: choose which of the above tips feel more “doable”, and start putting them in place bit-by-bit. And remember: if we wish ANY of the above to be genuinely effective, we must ensure that the tweaks and adaptations we make become ongoing LIFESTYLE CHANGES. A flash-in-the-pan attempt to change your health in any way is never going to create lasting results. Instead it MUST be an ongoing commitment to honour and cherish your own health…

 

 

 

MUMS MATTER

MUMS MATTER

 

As mums, if we don’t take care of ourselves, there is little chance of anybody else doing it for us!!

By nature it is mum’s job to nurture and protect her young, but in this day and age there is so much more going on too.  We often seem to end up juggling our kids, our partner, our dogs, the goldfish & the neighbour’s cat(!) and this can very definitely take its toll on our health. If we don’t practice a little #selfcare along the way, we can end up making ourselves ill, or suffering from burnout.

 

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Taking a little time out for YOU is so valuable in terms of “topping up” your own health – both mental and physical. It also provides a powerful message to our kids. We are all aware of giving positive examples to our kids by ensuring they see us eating well and/or keeping active, but do they see us taking care of our mental health too? If we can start putting small steps in place to do this ourselves, we will become role models for future generations. This can be the first move towards kids, tweens & teens creating their own toolbox for a positive outlook, and for true #connectivity (with their family and not with a screen), which is so very important as we watch statistics on youth mental health worsen daily…

 

MY TOP TIPS

  1. Get out in nature – enjoy being out in the open & walk, run or simply sit and breathe.
  2. Take a mindful shower or a bath and pop in a few drops of essential oils.
  3. Read a book.
  4. Find some calming music to Just Breathe, OR grab your fave dance track and SHAKE IT!
  5. Take 5 minutes to try out relaxation techniques – download my audio aid here.
  6. Go through your cupboards and/or your shopping list and make sure you have some positive Mood Food to hand for your daily snacks.
  7. Get creative! Create a masterpiece or simply doodle, get knitting or bake a cake!
  8. Grab a pen and start a journal – write down 3 things to be grateful for each day.
  9. Choose a task you do daily to practice mindfully – drinking your coffee, showering, taking a walk.
  10. Think about your sleep patterns: give value to the slot of time BEFORE you sleep and be sure to create an environment that is genuinely relaxing so you make the very most of this chance to truly relax & recharge.

 

The most important point in all of this of course is to carve out a little time to achieve this self care daily. It really does only take ten minutes a day, and the benefits are immeasurable – for you and for all those around you. So make the decision TODAY to give a little back to you…

 

As a mum I truly do know how overwhelming it can seem just to find those ten minutes a day. If you are struggling with this and feel you’d like a little more help in structuring this in and truly making it happen, grab my FREE DOWNLOAD here

 

 

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