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back2basicsliving

How My Yoga Practice Has Changed: Early Pregnancy

Currently I am 19 weeks pregnant, almost half way. So far, the journey has been full of changes and surprises, not all bad.

Usually I am a very active person. My favourite forms of exercise are Yoga (Hatha, Vinyasa & Kundalini), hiking, walking, snow shoeing & snowboarding. The mentioned are the exercises I gravitate towards and enjoy doing. They have been tried and tested and for me are easy to do & go to regularly. Until pregnancy.

The biggest difference for me since getting pregnant is my lack of drive to want to do a more physical Yoga class. The walking, hiking and snowshoeing no problem but going to a tough Vinyasa or sweaty Kundalini does not appeal to me right now. Before, these were my favourite classes. (By the way snowboarding has been postponed until next year. I fall a lot and I’m too scared of doing something damaging to my body or the baby)

Yoga was a huge part of my exercise routine, on average I would practice 4 times in the studio and self-practice once or twice at home. I also teach, however that has been postponed since December as my student is away on vacation until the end of January.

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Currently I am attending 2 classes a week, a prenatal class and a Yin or soft Hatha class. Both classes are very relaxing and I feel really safe. That’s the thing its not that my body is not able for my usual yoga class it’s my mind freaking out that I may be doing something that might hurt the baby. I have gone to my usual classes and felt anxious and uncertain of how I am feeling. So weird. I know that is ridiculous but I cannot help the way I feel……it’s so strange. There are some poses that do not feel good right now, like extending my legs into the air and staying in downdog too long, the blood pressure in my head gets too much.

Yoga for me was as much about the physical as it was about the mental. However, these days its definitely more about the mental. I love the reassurance from Theresa the prenatal teacher on how you can feel whatever you feel and its ok. She mentions that we as pregnant ladies should take moments each day of self-compassion, speak nice to ourselves and give ourselves a break. This advice can apply to all of us, not only pregnant ladies.

We all might be going through a big change it doesn’t have to be pregnancy, maybe the go to workout routine doesn’t work anymore, maybe focusing on the softer, lighter more reflective activity maybe what our bodies need. Maybe it’s my body telling me its ok to take it easy for the next while even though my brain is saying, you are getting lazy, you need to be working out more, don’t be one of those pregnant ladies who blames the lack of doing on their physical state!

This is where I can go down a rabbit hole and where I need to listen to my teacher’s advice of having more compassion for myself. The fact that I still want to practice yoga is great, the fact that I go walking everyday (yes at a slower pace) is healthy for the baby and great for me too.

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This is where I have to let go of my judgements and start supporting my decisions to slow it down. Maybe this is what I need right now, embrace it and enjoy my moments of fresh air & reflection before the arrival of a baby.

My promise to myself moving forward is to show myself more compassion, meditate, reflect, get as much fresh air as possible on my walks, breath, practice my 2 yoga classes and be ok with that. Be thankful I can do all of that and be grateful for a healthy body which is carrying such precious cargo.

Would love to hear if you went through similar experiences or you have completely different experiences during your pregnancy.

Thanks for reading.

Chat soon.

Theresa xx.

Are You A Multi-Tasker?

Do you consider yourself a good multi-tasker? Can you multi task? Think about it for a minute before you read further.

I don’t think there is such a thing as a good multi tasker. In fact, I dont think multi tasking is even possible. Here’s my thoughts.

I try not to take my day job home, but sometimes it is necessary. Wheb I had to do this I would play Netflix in the background while going through emails on my laptop. Multi tasking. Watching a movie while working.

The truth is that I concentrated on neither task fully and I would have been much better off working with no distractions to completely finish my task and then sit down to enjoy something on TV.

The lesson here is that multi tasking does not lead to productivity. Single tasking does.

In other words, we need to concentrate on the task at hand until we have successfully completed it or reached a milestone where we are happy to move on to something different.

This is something we find very difficult to do nowadays. There is so much additional stimulation that we find it difficult to concentrate on one thing for any length of time. Even as I write this I feel the urge to check my smart phone.

In my opinion this is connected to the current smart phone / screen addiction. Maybe the effect of short term gratification from todays technological gizmos are wiring our brains to multi task more. I am willing to bet that multi tasking is a relatively recent phenomenon since the invention of screens and phones.

Todays technology also makes us more accessible to interruptions, forcing us to multi task. In some circumstances these are unavoidable but you can put measures in place like putting your phone in flight mode, closing your door or telling people to f*** off (JOKING – maybe don’t do that, we all about distressing and getting along here).

I think that we are also over whelmed with too much information these days. Too much information gives us too much to deal with and so we feel the need to multi task. The result is that you do not put your full attention into these items.

We also have the illusion that we will achieve more through multi-tasking. The brain rewards us with a dopamine hit when we complete a task but the satisfaction would be far greater if we complete a task knowing that we have given it our full attention.

We also have to deal with the ASAP syndrome. As an experiment in your professional life, take note over the next week of what the response is when you ask somebody “When do you need this?” I am going to guess 80% of the time the answer will be yesterday or asap. This encourages our desire to multi task. Outside pressure forces us to jump straight into action mode, rather than taking a breath to assess where we are at and what are our next actionable items.

The term, “jack of all trades, master of none,” applies to multi tasking. We certainly cannot be experts in anything when we spread ourselves too thin. Jacks of all tasks, masters of none. We are juggling our work load, but just like a juggler, we have a couple of different balls in the air, but we are only touching one at a time. In other words, we may think we are multi tasking but we are actually rapidly switching between tasks. It is this rapid switching which prevents from concentrating fully on any one task.

Put down the balls and pick up one at a time. When we attempt to multi task it may actually take 40% longer than putting our full effort into it. This brings me back to my Netflix / work example. I could have worked single mindedly for half the time rather than splitting my attention between two tasks.

According to Clifford Nass, a communication professor at Stanford, the more we multi task, the more difficult we find to learn, concentrate and be nice to people. I can think of many times where I cut somebody off or was rude because I had too many things going on at one time.

Nass says that if you think you are good at multi tasking, you aren’t. “People who multi task all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.” This is something I struggle with my self. I find it difficult to filter out the irrelevant and shut out the distractions.

Just as practising self control and meditation re-wire our brains, multi tasking also rewires our brain. These scattered habits have a similar scattering effect on our brain and our attention span.

Many studies support the fact that humans cannot multi task, we rapidly shift attention between tasks which does not allow us enough time to give these items our full concentration. This effects our proficiency and dilutes our abilities.

It is my intention to try to devote my full attention to everything, single mindedly, whether it is reading a book, answering emails or having a conversation with someone in a bar. If we take the time to pause, we can clearly define our next goals and the next task we need to address, making it easier to avoid hopping from one task to another and back again in quick succession.

Remember to focus. F.O.C.U.S.

Follow one course until success.

If you liked this blog, please share it.

Peace,

George

The First Trimester: A Personal Experience

For the past couple of years, I have been tracking my period on a monthly basis. Logging in my bullet journal the date my period started and the date it ended. The reason why I started doing this was to understand my body and my emotions better. The week before my period I would crave sweets, be moody as hell and generally not be myself. By logging my period, I prepared myself for the changes and understood why I was craving certain foods and feeling a bit sad. It was so better knowing it was my hormones and not me who was the crazy one.

To make a long story short my cycle was exactly 26 days each month. It’s crazy how like clockwork my period would arrive. When myself & George were in Cuba on holidays and my period did not show I knew there was something up. We wanted to get pregnant but just couldn’t believe that it happened so soon! Believe me I am not complaining and I know how lucky I am, still I felt a little un prepared.

Before leaving for our month trip to Cuba and Argentina I went to see our Doctor to explain to him that we were planning on having children in the near future. I was looking for his advice on how should I prepare my mind & body before getting pregnant. He mentioned 2 things, to take folic acid and to avoid getting pregnant in Cuba (something about catching the Ezekiel Virus there).  I purchased the folic acid and was actually pregnant already so I didn’t really break any of his rules. Lol!

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Taking a snooze in the middle of the day in Mendoza, this was one of those emotional, I want to go home days…So unlike me!

After the first week in Cuba we knew I was pregnant, no period and my boobs were sore and swollen. We decided not to take a pregnancy test until we got back to Vancouver a few weeks later, as we wanted to confirm the news in our own home.

During the first month on holidays I experience a few moments of slight queasiness particularly after eating eggs. I stopped eating eggs and the queasiness occurred less. To say I have a sweet tooth is an understatement, at any other time in my life Buenos Aires would have been a dream come true, cakes and sweets on every corner. My body obviously was not having any of it as cake made me queasy. (let’s hope it continues after pregnancy…best diet ever!)

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In my PJ’s at 6:00pm reading a great book, fell asleep sitting up! So funny how I had no control over how tired I felt in the evenings. Out like a light. George always ready to take snaps of his sleeping wife!

Foods I craved in the first Trimester were hummus, beans, lentils (We are vegetarian), any plant-based protein really and lots of vegetables. Honestly my diet improved in the first trimester. My appetite increased and I was gaining weight. In the first trimester I gained 7 lbs.

Emotionally I definitely was not myself. On holidays I occasionally felt anxious to get back to Canada and would have little moments of panic to go back home to Ireland or Vancouver. This is extremely strange for me as I am not one to panic, I couldn’t really explain it. My personality was off, George would ask “are you a bit out of sorts?” I couldn’t explain it better myself, I would have moments or periods of feeling a bit out of sorts, not sad, mad, happy or anything in specific just a bit bland. Again, not like me.

My energy levels changed too. I was tired so early in the evenings. I would want to go to bed at 7:00pm. However, in the morning & during the day I had my normal high energy levels. I really don’t have much to complain about as I didn’t have morning sickness and I could go to work as normal after returning from a month holiday. I really did feel good.

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Normally I would do my exercise in the evenings, usually a Vinyasa or kundalini yoga class where I could build strength and sweat, this changed and has remained so since I got pregnant. In the first trimester I was so tired in the evening that I couldn’t think of exercise. The only exercise I got in was my 1 hours walk on my lunch break every day. It’s something.

Usually I would take photos for my Instagram account, work on my blog during free time in the evenings and at weekends but I lost all drive to work on these areas of my life. Its only now in my second trimester that I want to go back working on my blog and Instagram. Honestly, I just lost all interest in those projects I cannot explain why but I did.

The above are all the changes I personally went through and cannot be compared to any other experience as we are all so different. With the above changes there were some really cool moments in the first trimester too.

Highlights of the first trimester:

  • Deciding to call our baby Pebble until its born
  • Seeing the positive result on the pregnancy test
  • Seeing our baby for the first time at our first scan at 11 weeks
  • Hearing the babies heart beat at 11 weeks
  • Telling our parents, the happy news
  • Telling our brothers & sisters the happy news
  • Telling our friends, neighbours and relatives the happy news
  • Receiving so much love and well wishes from everyone who we told
  • Meeting my midwife for the first time (I was on a waiting list so I was relived & happy to meet Clare)
  • Hearing our babies heart beat at 13 weeks
  • Thankful I could still fit into most of my clothes at the end of the trimester (delaying buying maternity clothes for as long as I can)
  • Both of us deciding we want to find out the sex at the next scan
  • Seeing how excited George is throughout the whole process & how much he loves Pebble already

 

We would love to hear about your experience or any great advise you would have for new parents!

 

Have a great week,

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xx

 

The Productivity Project, By Chris Bailey: A Review

Chris Bailey is young, well younger than me anyway, maybe that’s not so young anymore.

When I saw his fresh face on the inside cover of his book on Productivity I wasn’t sure he had the experience to be a “productivity guru.”

Experience he has, a whole year which he spent trying every productivity technique under the sun.

The book is an easy read and full of useful information. My favourite tips are as follows.

  1. Meditate.
  2. Drink water.
  3. Get enough sleep.
  4. Nap.
  5. Turn off notifications.
  6. The rule of three.
  7. Keep your work week under 50 hours.
  8. Catch your ideas.
  9. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it.

I had some of these practises in place before I read the book, but here’s how I put them into action.

Meditation:

Chris explains that one of the results of meditation is to create space in your brain and that regular practisers create approximately 30% more space for memory, leaving you with more “battery life” to concentrate.

I started small, with 5-10 minutes a day and built up to 30 minutes a day at one stage. 30 minutes didn’t work with my schedule and routine, but here’s the key, instead of not meditating, I just cut it back to a manageable time. That’s 20 minutes for me and I have stuck with that consistently for probably three years now.

I think that’s a great rule you can apply to almost any habit. If you feel you are struggling with it then instead of abandoning it, just reduce the time you are putting into it.

Drink water:

This is not something I have worked at as consistently as I should, but what I try to do is start the morning with a pint of water with some lemon juice in it. It helps you wake up quicker as you are dehydrated after a nights sleep. Lemon is also a great way to hydrate.

It’s helps to prepare this the previous night. As I have said in my previous blogs, a successful morning starts the night before.

Get enough sleep:

As I just mentioned, a great morning routine starts the night before (Click here to see my previous blog on this subject).

Getting enough sleep is so important. Chris compares people in today’s society who are sleep deprived to hoards of mindless zombies, roaming around, unable to operate at full capacity.

I have also read that a good nights sleep depends on the amount of sunlight you receive during the day, bringing things full circle. Sleep depends (somewhat) on sunlight, and daytime alertness, productivity and mindfulness depend on sleep.

Chris also talks about blue light and caffeine. Blue light – ie. screens should be avoided at least an hour before sleep. There are blue light glasses you can buy and filters for your devices if you really need to use them before bed but my general rule is no screen time after 8:45pm. The same applies in the morning, the only screen time I have before 7:00 is to use my meditation app (insight timer).

Caffeine is another one to watch out for. It will stay in your system for 8-14 hours so you should avoid drinking caffiene after 11:30am. Chris also recommends using caffeine strategically, as in timing it so that it will carry you through the low energy parts of the day. I was never into coffee so my caffeine intake is a cup of green tea early in the morning.

Napping:

I was once asked in a team building exercise what my superpower is. My answer – the ability to fall asleep anywhere. We had a 10 hour layover in Toronto once, so we had time to explore downtown and as Theresa browsed the shops I sat down on one of the display couches and slept.

The author talks about the value of a short nap throughout your work day to boost your productivity or energy levels. For me the optimum time is about 12 minutes. Each time I put my head down for the “12 minutes” I feel like I will not sleep yet the alarm always wakes me. I say 12 minutes because it is not long enough to fall into a deep sleep and you will not have that groggy, heavy feeling when you wake.

Some people just can’t nap, but napping, in my opinion, is a skill that can be practised and learned, just like meditation. It started for me, years ago when I used to drive to different building sites all over Ireland. I might have a 3-4 hour drive home after a though days work. I always made sure to pull over before I felt too tired. A 10-15 minute nap and I would be good to drive safely for another hour and a half or so.

One word of caution, napping will not replace deep night time sleep as your body will not regenerate and repair as it does throughout the night.

Turning off notifications:

This ties back in to my morning and evening. Apple iPhones now have a great system called screen time, which will either limit your phone time or app time or lock you out completely. I restrict my phone so I cannot use it during the night or early morning. I can still receive phone calls if there is an emergency, but my phone will be in do not disturb mode. Another great feature which you can turn on automatically.

 

Screen shot of Screen Time from IPhone settings

Screen shot of Do Not Disturb from IPhone settings

One thing that annoys me a little is apps that constantly offer to turn on notifications. It’s not my thing. I have almost all notifications turned off. The author talks about the amount of time (25 minutes) it takes to get back into the flow of work after you have been interrupted,whether that be a device or another person.

I really believe that multi tasking is a fable, you simply cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time. My own personal example is that when I’m in the office working away on something and an email pops up in the lower right corner I will immediately open it, lose my work flow and actually start working on the email. (There’s the start of 25 minutes to get back into the flow).

What I like to do to combat this is to put outlook into offline mode and only update my inbox at specific times or when I have fully finished a specific task.

The Rule of Three:

This simply means identifying three things you want to accomplish during the week ahead and also the day ahead. I only use this on a daily basis rather than a weekly basis, but when I sit down at my computer in the office I list my three most important tasks. Indeed, like everybody, we probably have one hundred and seven things on our to do list, but identifying the three most important let’s me see what the priority is. I also have a sense of achievement when I get through them, rather than feeling overwhelmed with the amount I have left to do.

These three tasks may take me an hour or the rest of the day but once they’re complete I can move onto something else or head home knowing I achieved something.

Keep your work week under 50 hours:

This can be a tricky one to put into practise and stick to. Sometimes you cannot avoid working over 50 hours, especially when you work for yourself or if you are a full time parent but the authors experiments (along with other independent research) showed that any work over the fifty hour mark was not productive.

In other words the same amount of work was acieved in 80 hours as was achieved in 50 hours.

I try to stick to this in my own working life by getting out of the office between 5 and 6 every day and not engaging in work (unless absolutely necessary) at home. France has actually made it illegal for companies to contact employees outside of work hours.

35-40 hours is your most productive working time for the week.

Catch your ideas:

Make lists. Many people (Richard Branson among them) carry a notebook everywhere to write down ideas (I suppose everyone does nowadays with a smart phone).

This frees up space in your mind rather than having your brain work away in the background to remember tasks.

I write everything down and have done so for years now. Probably 90% of what I write down is never used but the other 10% consists of important things I need to remember and also creative ideas (like my pending historical fiction novel and these blogs).

I also catch all my work tasks electronically so I am not spending brain power trying to think of what I need to work on. It is easily accessible in my calendar or email with reminders set up to ensure it gets done.

SIRI or voice memo is a great way to note things which pop into your brain when your driving. Just record it or ask SIRI to send yourself an email.

This makes a big difference to our overburdened brain. Have you ever gone to the supermarket without a list and found yourself overwhelmed by everything on offer?

You can also (if possible) address easy tasks right away. Why put it on a to do list if it isn’t worth it? David Allen (author of Getting Things Done) recommends that if a task takes less than two minutes then it doesn’t go on a to do list.

My caution here is to make sure it does not interrupt your work flow. I do not recommend jumping off something you are in the middle of to address a two minute task as the interruption to your work flow is a lot more than two minutes.

If it doesn’t work, don’t do it:

Another really interesting thing I learned from this book is that if it doesn’t work for you then don’t do it.

The author struggled to get up at 5:30am for some time before coming to the conclusion that it didn’t work for him. Many productivity “gurus” talk about using the morning time to your advantage but this isn’t necessarily what will work for you.

Determine your most productive and energy filled times and use them to your advantage.

 

The verdict:

Overall The Productivity Project is an quick and easy read and has lots of useful info. It’s also written for real, everyday people rather than CEOs and Hedge Fund investors (Whatever the hell that is), though the advise does apply to everyone.

I recommend this book if you work a regular 9-5 job like me, or if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have in your general life.

If you want to know more about Chris Bailey and his productivity experiments have a look at his blog by clicking Here.

Peace,

George

P.S. If you like the blog it would be very much appreciated if you left a comment or shared it.

Meal Planning: How it Saves You Time & Money

For the past couple of years, we have planned our meals (lunch & dinner’s) a week in advance. We do not include breakfast in this process as we usually eat the same thing every morning (Granola & fresh fruit) except for the weekend which is either pancakes, avocado toasts or scrambled eggs.

Usually on a Sunday (Occasionally on a Saturday) we will sit down to plan out what we will eat for the following week.

We like to make the process as enjoyable as possible. We carve out 30 to 50min in the morning on a Sunday to dedicate the time to the planning. By dedicating this time, we can just focus on the one task and not get distracted by other activities. We like to make a pot of tea and have a nice snack during this process.

Generally, we use 2 methods:

  1. Look through our cookbooks for ideas for lunch and dinner or
  2. Look up our favorite vegetarian YouTube channels and bloggers

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We like to eat a balanced diet full of vegetables and plant-based protein. For each meal we want to ensure we have enough of whole grains, protein and vegetables to keep us nourished and full of energy throughout the day.

If we choose a larger meal for lunch, we will have a lighter evening meal, or if our lunch is lighter, we will have a larger evening meal.

We usually choose 2 lunch options and 2 dinner options for one week (Monday to Friday), weekends are open to whatever we feel like on the day or if we want to treat ourselves out to lunch or dinner. 😉

After we have chosen our meals, we will create a list of all the ingredients we need. Once the list is created, we ensure we have none of the ingredients in our cupboards or fridge (usually we have salt, pepper, spices, herbs, olive oil and condiments in stock) If there are any items on the list, we have we will cross them out before going shopping.

On our fridge we have a white board which we list any items we ran out of or are low on for that week e.g. toilet roll, soap, apples, deodorant etc. All of these are now added to our list.

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Before going to the grocery store, we will ensure to bring our reusable shopping bags and smaller produce bags. We will pop our list and a pen into the bags also.

At the grocery store we will buy only what is on our list which is basically a week’s worth of groceries. Any items we can buy in bulk we prefer and we try and steer away from packaging as much as we can. This time of year, though it is really hard to find berries without packaging.

The list prevents us from picking up unnecessary items and spending money on items we do not need. By making our own breakfast, lunch & dinner we don’t have to spend money every day eating out, which can add up very quickly. We bring our own tea mugs to work so we do not have to buy take-out tea’s during the week.

Once we have the groceries bought, we will bring them home and put them away. Later that Sunday we will prepare the first option for lunch on Monday, sometimes we might do this on a Monday morning before work if Sunday gets too busy. Monday evening, we will prepare the dinner for the next couple of nights. We never spend more than an hour preparing and cooking each meal.

We usually prepare the other options for lunch & dinner on a Wednesday evening or a Thursday morning.

We love food, having healthy delicious options for our meals is important to us. However, the idea of cooking every day is too much and besides we want to have spare time in our evenings to do other activities.

In total we will spend 4 hours max cooking each week (Mon-Sun) with 30-50min planning our meals.

The pro’s to meal planning are:

  • Creating time & space in the evenings to do other activities
  • Avoiding decision fatigue every evening to decide on what to eat
  • Keeping your shopping within budget
  • Saving money from not eating out for lunch & dinner
  • Having a balanced diet
  • Reducing food waste
  • Prevents impulse shopping
  • Avoiding eating unhealthy fast options to curb hunger as food is always prepped & stored in fridge

We highly recommend planning your meals in advance. Especially for those evenings when you come home from work exhausted, the idea of just heating up a yummy meal is so comforting. The temptation to order take-out is eliminated saving you from all the unnecessary calories and keeps your money in your pocket😉

Please leave your comments below & any suggestions you have on meal planning.

Have a great week.

Chat soon,

Theresa