Category Archives: Mummy health and wellbeing

Hojicha – super yummy green tea

We all know that green tea is packed with antioxidants, making it great for our health. Sometimes though being good for you doesn’t equal nice tasting. In the case of green tea, unless you are super careful with the way you brew it, then it becomes very bitter. I am one of those people that brews a cuppa, walks away and totally forgets it. By the time I come back it’s ruined. 

Fear not, there is an alternative to the standard green teas sold in supermarkets: hojicha. Hojicha is my very favourite green tea. It is made from the leaves or twigs of the normal green tea varieties, but after picking is roasted in a clay pot to give it a nutty, smooth taste. It also lowers the caffeine, meaning it can be drunk all day long. I love to make a pot and drink the whole thing, cup after cup. 

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Hojicha tea (image from wikimedia commons)

Hojicha is quite robust, and can stand up to 3 infusions from the same leaves, making it perfect for pots. The best brewing time is 2-3 minutes, but you can forget about it and return 10 minutes later and it will still be drinkable. 

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The brown coloured leaves are characteristic of hojicha (image from wikimedia commons)

The antioxidant effects of this tea are lowered, as the catechins are partially reduced by the roasting process. It still contains approximately 60% though, leaving it on par with black tea overall. The EGCg and EGC levels are only slightly less compared to sencha though, so it will still give you fantastic health benefits. If you want to boost the absorption of the catechins, pop a slice of lemon in too. 

I buy mine from T2. You will not find it at supermarkets, but it is worth searching local tea stores for.

Happy drinking. 

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Filed under Herbal medicine, Mummy health and wellbeing, Weight loss

Ten tips for beating the baby blues

**This post was written a really long time ago. Before I even had Lillypilly! This was my list of strategies to avoid PND. Well we all know that didn’t really work, so I never bothered to post it. In reality this is still a great list, and I have continued to use these strategies alongside my medical treatments. For mild PND or just in general this might be a good resource to help you get through. Always remember that if this is just not cutting it for you, you may need some extra help, and that’s okay too**

1. See a naturopath

There are numerous effective and safe natural medicines that can provide significant relief from depression and anxiety. Natural medicine got me through my pregnancy, and I still use it now alongside my medication. Always work with a qualified naturopath to ensure safety.

2. See a counsellor and make a plan

When I was about 36wks pregnant, I went to my GP and got signed onto a mental health plan to give me access to free counselling. I found a counsellor and had my first appointment before baby arrived. This gave me a chance to meet my counsellor, find the clinic and get some advice before I had to cope with two kids. This was an even better decision when I realised my first person wasn’t right for me as I had time to find another. I think having a counsellor in place is really important even if you’re coping quite well. Post natal depression can hit hard and fast. Better to be prepared.

3. Get out in the sun and fresh air

This was so important for my AND, and is something I still do now. If I feel overwhelmed and unhappy, I bundle the kids down the stairs and get out into the yard. Spending some time with the sun warming my body and looking at the sky really calms and refreshes me.

4. Exercise

I find this so tough to do but the research is pretty clear on this: exercise improves mood. Lately I have found that even tiny bits of exercise add up. I think it is easy to think that unless you are at some crazy bootcamp every morning, then there’s no point. I recently dropped a couple of kilo’s just by doing a couple of 30 day challenges. They took me hardly any time, but they built up my muscle mass which helps burn fat. Every little bit counts.
5. Have a daily routine

I had a really interesting experience while pregnant; I woke up one morning feeling just awful. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I felt so overwhelmed with responsibility and I was so low. Over the past year I had created some routines to try and bring my chaotic life into order. On this lowest of days I just automatically started doing this routine of little things, cleaning ‘that’ bench that acquires all the junk, putting the washing out, wiping the benches etc, and all of a sudden I realised I felt much better. My day had started to take shape, little niggly jobs were getting done and getting through the day seemed more achievable. At that moment I realised the value of a daily routine (even just a morning one). So write a routine, even if it’s a basic as get changed, wash breakfast dishes, clean the messiest room in the house. You will be surprised by its effect. (If you need some help to do this check out FlyLady)

6. Get some chores done

When you have a baby, everyone tells you to ‘forget the housework’. The problem is when you are tired, depressed and sitting on the couch breastfeeding all day that mess can be pretty irritating. I am so not a neat freak but it drives me wild. My advice is to get a few chores done if you can. You’ll feel much better if you know at least the floors are swept or the washing is out. You won’t be able to do everything, but doing something will help. The best option is to hire yourself a cleaner for 3 months. If you are worried about money ask people to put in for that instead of baby gifts. But if this is not an option for you just do one thing a day.

7. Eat well, eat often, eat protein

This is so important, but perhaps one of the hardest. I’ll be honest, my diet is no where near what I want it to be. Often I’m grabbing a muesli bar at lunch time while holding the baby under my arm and stopping the toddler from breaking something with the other. However do your best to eat good nutritous food at every chance. Sugary processed food will give you a short energy boost, but once it wears off you will feel even worse. Eating regularly keeps your blood sugar stable which is important for mood regulation. Low blood sugar makes you feel shaky and anxious, as well as low on energy. Protein foods provide essential amino acids used in the creation of neurotransmitters. These are responsible for our mood.

8. Have a support network

I believe as a mother you need two types of support: people who can help care for your children, and other mums. These aren’t mutually exclusive, but usually family or close friends can be trusted to look after your angels, while a broader group of mums to share advice, tea, and the occasional whinge session are also important

9. Lose yourself in child’s play

Playing with your kids can give you a huge boost if you really lose yourself in it. Children find everything joyous and magical, and that can be infectious. I find imaginary games the best. Anything that involves mess can become stressful, so grab a box and pretend to be pirates for an hour.

10. Keep up the grooming

We are all guilty of those days when we live in our pajama bottoms, and our hair doesn’t see the brush. However spending every day like this will just make you feel dowdy, and you will lose sight of who you are. First thing in the morning brush your teeth, hair and get changed into clothes that you would wear to the shops to get milk. You will feel better, and if you do have to leave the house unexpectedly it won’t be such a hassle.

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Filed under Mummy health and wellbeing, Post natal depression

Going sugar free

Today I started to give up sugar. Hooray!

You might be thinking that a naturopath giving up sugar is not exactly blog worthy news, but I have a dirty little secret. I am a closet sugar abuser. Note that I didn’t say addict. I actually don’t think I am an addict per se (is that something an addict would say?), but I do have a sweet tooth and I use sugar as an emotional crutch. Being currently sleep deprived and having PND means I am using that crutch A LOT at the moment. I don’t feel my healthy best any more and as much as I have excuses for why that is, valid excuses in some cases, my diet is a big contributor. So it’s time to kick the habit.

What really spurred me on was this fantastic plan I found for quitting sugar. The steps are basically as follows:

  1. Replace all refined sugars with natural sweeteners
  2. Increase good fats in your diet
  3. Stop buying any pre-made foods with natural sugars, but you can make your own
  4. Reduce daily sugar load (from natural forms) to 36grams or less

Now this is a plan I can follow! The idea of going instantly sugar free is just too traumatic to me, and unrealistic given my current situation. The tradie is also a terrible sugar junkie, so I feel this plan is workable for me given that temptation lurks in our fridge and cupboard.

So today is the big day, and so far I already have two tips to share.

  1. This one comes from my very good friend, who has advised me to eat, eat, eat! Making a diet change requires lots of will power at any time, but try it on an empty tummy or on ‘diet’ sized portions and you are asking for trouble. This little tip has already paid off me today. At morning tea we attended a kids party. The sight of all the cupcakes and treats almost had me changing the start day to tomorrow! However I filled up on the healthy sandwiches and the sugar cravings came under control.
  2. Prepare your house. Learn from my mistake; clear ALL the temptation out of your house before you start. Not only do I have all the tradie’s treats staring at me when I open the fridge, there is 2 types of juice, home made gingerbread, and an amazing rhubarb compote all begging to be eaten. If I had any sense I would got rid of all this stuff. I’ll be honest, I’m probably going to eat the compote (it’s rhubarb compote people!), but the juice and gingerbread have to go. If, like me, you have a sugar addict in the house who is not quitting with you, then ask them not to buy your favourite treats in the early stages.

So what natural sweeteners?

I have chosen three to start with. I might write a post comparing some of the natural sweeteners another time if people are interested. For now I’ll keep it basic.

  • Honey: raw unprocessed honey is such a super food and a favourite with my kids. When not heated it has antimicrobial and healing effects on the body.
  • Maple syrup: most maple syrup is organic and wild crafted. It goes through minimal processing: basically just extracted from the tree through a tap, filtered and warmed slightly.
  • Jaggery (also known as palm sugar, which is not to be compared to coconut palm sugar): jaggery is another unrefined sweetener normally extracted as a juice from palm trees and evaporated to make a crystalline solid. I grew up eating palm sugar, so I really wanted this one instead of similar alternatives like rapadura or coconut sugar. Another reason it that it is so much cheaper. You buy it in a block, and just grate it or buzz it in a processor to get a fine sugar.

I’ll be blogging a lot on this topic, as I feel there is so much I am going to learn and be able to pass on. I hope you might even join me!

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Filed under Mummy health and wellbeing, Nutrition, Sugar free

Surviving a really awful day

NOTE: I actually wrote this post months ago. I have been meaning to edit it and post it, but life just gets in the way. Today, I had a crap day. It made me realise how much I rely on these strategies, and that it was time to share them….

A few months ago I had a hideous day. It was one of those days I truly didn’t know how I was going to get through. When you have kids you can’t just call in sick, and lay on the couch all day. You still need to feed them, change them, play with them and stop them eating bugs and hitting each other. There is no day off. The day started bad, and got worse. I felt so overwhelmed. I have learnt a trick or two now, and I’m going to share them in the hopes they help others just starting their PND journey. I can’t promise they will, as each Mum experiences PND differently, but these do help me.

Just do one little thing

I woke in the morning to unwashed dishes, clothes overflowing from the basket and toys everywhere. As a whole it looked insurmountable. So I just washed one bowl. Then I wiped a small part of the bench. Next I picked up the blocks. Then I ate cake. Then I put a plate in the dishwasher. By only doing one teeny tiny little job I was able to muster the energy to actually get it done. It sounds equal parts simple and ridiculous but it really works. After awhile I had gathered some motivation and got the house somewhat tidy. That’s a win.

Seriously, TV won’t kill them (or lower your perfect values)

If you read this blog regularly you know I am passionate about not letting my children watch TV, especially in the early years. One thing I have learned over the previous year is that high ideals are fantastic when you are coping well, but not so much when you are super depressed. The research does suggest that TV is harmful to kids, but you know what? A stressed out Mum who is losing her cool is also harmful. Using TV for an hour while you get breakfast on is sometimes a really good way to reduce the pressure of two grumbling kids.

Eat the best food you can with the resources you have

On a really bad day it is so tempting to eat lots of sugary foods and quick carbohydrates, but this will make you feel worse and make the kids act like little terrors. Try to make the meals more protein based, and very simple. My two standby meals are boiled eggs and baked beans. It might not be gourmet, or meet the fresh vegetable requirement, but these two things are quick to make, easy to clean up and will help keep everyone calm.

Get out of the house

This will not work everytime, but often leaving the house will give you a chance to enterain the kids, and distract yourself from your thoughts. For me the best outing is visting friends with kids the same age as Boo (going to visit babies with a toddler is not the best idea, you need kids the older one can play with too). The kids can play together, and you can collapse on the couch with some tea, and chat to your friend.

Get dressed as early as you can manage

When I am having super crappy day I just want to stay in my PJ’s. All day. I have found though that this makes me feel worse. There’s also the universal truth that someone will drop in, or you will need milk if you stay in your pajama’s. Getting yourself changed into clothes that you would run to the shop in will make you feel better, and mean that leaving the house to get the milk will be slightly less traumatic.

When you have post natal depression (or any depression really) there will be days that are just so difficult they seem insurmountable. Drop your perfectionism, and just muddle on through however you can. One thing I have learned is that each day is a new opportunity, so get through the bad ones, and there is hope for the new day.

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Filed under Mummy health and wellbeing, Post natal depression

A thank you, and a promise

The response from my last post has been overwhelming. My blog had double the amount of views than I had ever had, friends and strangers sent messages of support, and the whole experience was very positive for me. It also made me realise how important writing about my experience with post natal depression is. So I have made the decision to continue to write about it. When I first started this blog, I wanted it to represent the journey I was on, and what I was learning. The truth is, the major part of my journey now, is trying to overcome post natal depression. Home made play dough, and teething rusks are all well and good, but to be honest some days my journey consists of trying to survive the day without committing myself to hospital. If I truly want to share my journey, I must also share this part.

I truly hope that in doing this other sufferers of mental illness may find support, ideas, comfort and hope. I use the general term sufferers because it’s not just mothers with PND who I write for, it’s everyone who has ever had to struggle to live under the shadow of mental illness. Maybe I’ll even find a measure of peace for myself in writing about it.

I will still blog recipes, fun play ideas, and other aspects of motherhood too. Those things are also present in my life, and deserve to be shared. I want to thank everyone who read the last post though, for showing me the kind of support that allows me to put my journey out there and show motherhood in all its aspects. Much love and gratitude to you all xx

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Filed under Mummy health and wellbeing, Post natal depression

Hi. I’m a Mum, and I have post natal depression.

With RU OK day just around the corner, I have decided it’s time to write this post. I have no idea how to start this, what to say, or whether this is a terrible idea, but I feel like it’s important I share my story, and maybe it might help someone else.

Deep breath..

I have blogged before about developing antenatal depression in my second pregnancy. At the time of that post I was feeling pretty good, but things got a lot worse during the pregnancy, and by the end I was severely depressed. I had a wonderful natural birth, and brought a gorgeous little girl home, and for a few weeks things were good. The new baby bliss was not to last though, and over the next few months my mood went up and down, and slowly it got to a crisis.

I thought I was okay. I thought it was just normal fatigue, that I was still in my pajamas each day at 3pm because I had a new baby. The truth was I was so depressed I wasn’t functioning. My toddler, Boo, would beg me in the mornings to give her breakfast, and I was so depressed I would give her a packet of sultanas, or a yoghurt. I literally could not move off the lounge room floor. This was nothing compared to the anxiety. It manifested in strange ways: screaming at Boo, excessive anger, a paralysing indecision that left me rooted to the spot wondering how I was going to look after the kids. I would open the fridge door, and see all the food but had no idea how to put it together into a meal, so I’d close the door and just cry. The weirdest thing was that I STILL did not realise how unwell I was.

The turning point came when I could not leave my house one day. I was supposed to visit a friend, but had a stream of panic attacks so intense I could not move. My phone was next to me and I called my good friend, and naturopath for help. She asked me to come to the clinic, took one look at me and took me straight to the doctor. I believe she saved my life.

The next month was hell. It was obvious I needed medication. I had been taking natural medicines this whole time, and it just wasn’t enough. The doctor prescribed some Valium and an SSRI, and I committed to try them. It did not go well. My super sensitive, breastfed baby reacted badly. I stopped taking the medications. I thought her health was more important than mine, and I was committed to breastfeeding. It took me two days to be completely dysfunctional again. It was then I realise I had to be on medication, even if it meant weaning. I felt like a failure, and was absolutely devasted.

At this stage I was recommended to see a psychiatrist who specialised in PND. This was the turning point in my journey. This wonderful doctor found me medications my baby could tolerate and that were effective. She pulled strings to get me into a brilliant psychologist. She saw me weekly, and charged me a reduced rate. Finally there was hope again. It took months to get my levels right, and to start feeling better. But, it did happen.

Am I okay now? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Today I am anxious and sad. A week ago I felt amazing. In another week, I’ll probably feel amazing again. My life is up, and down. My family suffers through my moods, and our lives can be chaotic. Slowly the down periods are getting less, and the happy periods are really good. Even when I’m down I can function now, and I am a good Mum again. Life has hope, joy and is constantly improving. I know one day soon, I will be able to answer that question with an unequivocal yes. That feels good.

Post natal depression is a serious issue. It’s sneaky, and devastating to families. It is driven by hormonal changes, and is not just about the woman worrying about daily stressors. It also has nothing to do with how happy the mother is with her new life. I adore my girls. They give meaning to my life that I have never known. They are the best thing that ever happened to me, but that did not stop me developing PND. If you think you have PND, I want you to know that you are not alone, and that there is help out there. And, there’s hope. Because one day you will look back and realise you have left the dark behind and reemerged into the light.

This RU OK day, ask your Mummy friends how they are; how they REALLY are.

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Filed under Mummy health and wellbeing, Post natal depression

The honest Mum

Today is one of those days. All Mums have them, but rarely are they talked about. My girls are sick, I’m freaking exhausted, we visit a childless friend only to have to leave early once the toddler spills tea all over her nice rug and the baby won’t stop crying. Can I get off the ride yet?

I’ve been reading a refreshingly honest blog called Renegade Mothering. I adore this woman. You must read her work. Her blog has inspired me to share some of the less brilliant moments in our house. Yes I’m a crunchy, hippy, buckwheat loving mother. I also like TimTams, crap TV and would drink like nobody’s business if I wasn’t breastfeeding. I’m a real person with real failings, and this includes my parenting journey.

After our crazy morning at my friends we had to do some errands, and by the time we got home both girls were tired. I changed nappies, gave the toddler some milk and collected all 7 teddies that MUST be in the cot at bedtime. Boo went to her cot and I took the baby for a feed. I was starving, stressed and exhausted. I’d also let The Husband shop alone last night. He bought twisties, and I found them and ate them. The shame.

Three minutes into feeding the baby, I hear the toddler talking to herself. Cute, I think. About two minutes later it starts; ‘Eat, muma eat’. Christ on a cracker, she’s HUNGRY’. I ignore it, but it doesn’t go away. I check the fridge for easy snacks and come up empty handed (thanks to hubby’s hopeless shopping). What to do? Dissolve into tears of course.

I sobbed, and I sobbed some more. In my fatigue and with nothing more than twisties fueling my mind since breakfast I could not think of what to feed her. I felt useless, hopeless and like the worst mother ever. I cried some more.

I went and collected her from the cot. Her sweet voice telling me that I ‘need tissue’ and ‘Mummy sad’. I cried some more.

Eventually I spied eggs on the counter. We had no bread, as I make my own and hadn’t made a loaf yesterday. More crying. In the end, I fried 5 eggs, cut them into little pieces and sat on the lounge room floor with her while we picked at them.

It was a shit parenting moment. It was a shit life moment. But, it was an honest moment. I was honest with myself about my limitations. I was honest with my daughter by letting her know that sometimes Mummies get overwhelmed and cry (and that’s okay). And now I’m honest with you, by letting you know that while I do try my best, I’m only human.

And that’s okay.

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