Stress Recovery & Hormone Health | Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
Author Archives: Merly Hartnett
With a background working in occupational rehabilitation and recruitment as well as running her own business as a mum, Merly understands the importance of being able to work and live in flow with our women's cyclical nature in order to thrive in business and do meaningful work.
Merly is a certified Women's Health Coach helping women to reduce their PMS symptoms, balance their moods and recover from chronic stress.
Only the other week at 3.30 am I was shuffling my kids into the shower, wrestling my 4-year-old to wash his hair because his 1-year brother had projectile vomited into his face.
Between cleaning up vomit and gag-worthy poo-ey nappy, my work plan for the week went straight out of the window.
Although I’m grateful my business affords me the luxury to work from home, I also know being productive and staying motivated isn’t always easy especially when the whole family are coming off from a week recovering from gastro.
Being self-employed for 5 years and being a mum of two little boys, I often get asked how do I manage to do it all. So today, I wanted to share with you the one thing you need to do to stay motivated when working from home.
It doesn’t matter if you’re self-employed like me, have a job that has flexibility or a mum building a side hustle, this all applies to you, so read on.
Creating Structure and Routine
Yes I know, this doesn’t sound very sexy but hear me out.
There’s a misconception that having structure ad routine can feel suffocating especially for those spontaneous and people-loving personalities who will contest that it stifles creative energy and workflow. How do I know? Some of those are my clients.
Yet when we establish structure and routine, we create freedom.
We no longer need to carry thoughts that can weigh us downin our short term memory. Instead having structure and routine allows us to put processes and systems in place on AUTO-PILOT.
In other words, it allows your brain to go on cruise control.
I have a client who blatantly told me that structure and routine just isn’t “her thing.” My response was ahuh. But before our coaching journey was done, she’d become a structure and routine queen and here’s why.
She was doing life haphazardly wondering why she wasn’t able to accomplish all the things she wanted to do. She told me her health was a priority but she didn’t know where to start.
So we implement structure and routine and now she’s meditating, journaling and exercising all before her son wakes up before taking him to school because it’s become habitual, she’s on auto-pilot.
Sometimes it can feel very overwhelming on where to start. You don’t need to pull up a spreadsheet or calendar only to look at it blankly. Often removing distractions and things that cause you stress can help you prioritise what needs your attention first. Download this free Stress Audit to help you discover what obstacles could be in your way and then fill in the blank:
Today I’m going to _______________________________________________,
When it comes to the night-time routine with putting our kids to sleep, hubby looks after our eldest and I take care of the baby. As of late, hubby has been struggling big time with an injury so he’s been on bed rest and I took care of both boys last night.
I ended up falling asleep with them at about 8pm and so of course I woke up at 3am wide awake panicking that I didn’t put my alarm on for my morning run.
So I got out of bed to charge my phone downstairs and not long after that I hear my youngest start crying and my eldest say “what happened!” quite a matter of fact.
When I turned the lights on, both kids were blinded by the light but I was blinded by the sheer fact that my eldest face and hair was covered in vomit. It took me a few seconds to figure out who’s vomit it was.
My poor baby had an upset tummy.
Hubby being a light sleeper came to the rescue and in the early morning hours, we found ourselves showering the kids who were defiant and putting a load on in the washing machine only to find that the vomiting episode came as a series.
So while the sheets got washed and put in the dryer, we carted the boys downstairs to watch telly and keeping them vertical with our fingers crossed.
I left my hubby and still went for my run with my crew and planned to pick up supplies for the family on the way back.
The Importance of Structure and Routine
Driving to our meeting spot, the rain got heavy.
Torrential. I could barely see through the window even though my windscreen wiper was going at 100mph.
I texted Nyree “We’re crazy!”
Next minute I’m running, listening to Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre and feeling amazing.
The thing is, when you have kids and you’re a working mum, life is constantly throwing you curve balls and you can either get hit and complain about it and give up or you can get hit, realised it hurt and focus on a new strategy to anticipate the unexpected.
That’s the importance of having structure and routine with inbuilt flexibility as a working mum. Have a plan but know that nothing ever goes to plan so have a plan B too.
After the run, I popped into Woolies, grabbed the supplies I needed and went home to be a full-time mummy.
My Saturdays morning is when I work on my business, fat chance that was happening today.
However having structure and routine for the majority of the time helps me stay focused on my business, holds me accountable and also allows for wiggle room on the off chance it doesn’t go to plan, like today.
At first, some clients are apprehensive about having structure and routine. Ashley was against the idea of structure and routine because she thought it would be too restrictive.
However after I told her that it’s quite the opposite, she gave it a try.
Having structure and routine is quite liberating and frees up your energy and time from constantly thinking about the future when instead it allows you to put certain things on AUTO-PILOT.
She wakes up to journal, meditate and exercise all before her son wakes up and has the rest of the day to pursue her passion projects and studies.
Why having inbuilt Flexibility is not only Important but Necessary
Once we become mums, our lives are forever changed because we put our children before our own needs.
As a result, we’re in a constant tug-of-war between prioritising their needs and fulfilling ours. This ultimately puts us at risk on the road of chronic stress and burnout.
What I see is more effective is doing the opposite.
What use are we if we are not role models of what it is to be a happy and healthy working mum?
We want to teach our kids that happiness is an inside job and that begins with prioritising ourselves. That isn’t to say we neglect our children, in fact, we actually have more to give.
Having structure and routine is a way we honour prioritising our needs and having flexibility around this is how we can fulfil our children’s needs at the same time.
Here are 5 Ways to Adopt a Healthy Balance of Having Structure and Routine with inbuilt Flexibility that Prioritises You:
Decide your office hours, the number of hours you work every week and block out this time in your calendar so you have a visual representation of your working week, you can do this also with your study commitments. Once set, commit to this and be intentional with the time you do have.
Create appointments with yourself in your calendar for your meditation, exercise and other activities you know that helps with your mental, emotional and physical health – these appointments are non-negotiable.
With the time you are with your children, declare that you will be 100% present and they have your undivided attention – this means no mobile phone so their love cup is full and can learn to appreciate the need to have focused attention when you have allocated time to work. I find timers are particularly useful when your children are old enough.
Have a journal/notepad that you can write in always at a arms reach away, when ideas and thoughts come to you when you’re with your kids, write them down for later. Don’t spend energy remembering things that will distract you from being in the moment.
When planning out your week, decide on your minimum and maximum hours you want to dedicate to work and set S.M.A.R.T goals so that you feel confident and on fire by the end of the week. Sometimes we can set unrealistic goals and set ourselves up for failure if we’re not working towards well thought out realistic goals in the season of life we’re in.
Recently my favourite quote is
Change your pace, not your purpose.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or stressed and don’t know where to start, apply for a stress assessment and we can arrange a time to chat about strategies on your next step forward.
I often get asked by other mums who have kids the same age as mine, how do I manage to do so much?
Honestly, it’s because I love what I do.
2020 was the year the world was turned upside down with the news about the Wuhan Virus aka Covid19 and it was also the year I had a newborn to look after.
So between changing nappies and breastfeeding, when Axel was 5 months old, I decided to get back to work because I felt that it was my contribution to help make the world a more positive place.
The World Needs More Health Coaches Right Now
You would think with economies collapsing, people losing their jobs, businesses shutting down and healthy people imprisoned in their homes, health coaching wouldn’t be a business that would be flourishing right?
However, with the events of 2020, people suddenly took more of interest in their health, they started to realised that staying healthy and building a strong immune system can’t be injected or bought, they learnt they needed to make positive behavioural changes with their diet and lifestyle and make conscious choices to go out for a walk, turn off the TV and eat more mindfully.
In fact, my clients were more motivated to make changes, I saw women change jobs, start a business, end relationships, release weight, start running, move house, go back to study and so many major life decisions amidst the chaos of the political world.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”
Study Where and Whenever You Want
When I decided to go back to study, my firstborn was 9 months old. I breastfed on demand and we’re also a co-sleeping family. We didn’t follow any particular routine so when it came to studying I needed a way to study that fitted with demands of my then lifestyle.
I found my sweet spot was between 9pm and 12 midnight a few times a week and I had other friends who also decided to study with me, one had a day dedicated to studying and had a family to mind the kids and the other just studied during her daughter’s day naps. Download a free sample class and see how you can work it in your week if you’re curious.
Learning New Skills and Adapting to Change
In a world where there is so much uncertainly and change, one thing that has kept me feeling sane is having routine and structure outside of my primary role of being a mummy. Other than building a career in health and wellness, this journey has been so rewarding as I learn about entrepreneurship and getting to know some amazing people from around the world.
In the USA and parts of Europe, there are opportunities to for a company however the majority of health coaches that I know started by running their own business.
Some work as a health coach while others use their qualifications to write books, create health and wellness products and do other great business ventures but regardless what you discover to be your jam, it’s a deep dive in your own personal growth.
I’ve made some amazing new friends who are health coaches who live on different continents and have gotten to connect with other health and wellness professionals as a result of the work I do.
But what’s been amazing is being able to make an impact and help my clients achieve their goals, become happier and healthier versions of themselves regardless of what’s going on in the world.
If you’re curious about becoming a health coach, you can attend a free webinar with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to learn about the field of health coaching and why health coaches are in demandd right now.
Emotions can be all-consuming. You only need to look at a toddler to see the intensity of an emotion when something goes wrong.
It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it may seem, for them, it’s the end of the world.
I remember reading that kids are just little people with big emotions. They’re emotions are valid and to be respected. As we grow up, we learn to process those emotions so that we can still function in society.
Just imagine having a meltdown in the supermarket because the store ran out of bananas, wouldn’t that make for an interesting day.
However many of us still act this way internally even if we don’t show it. So it’s important we develop the ability to process our emotions so that it doesn’t create dis-ease in the body.
This week my work is a balance of doing 1:1 health coaching and administration. Admin encompasses everything from marketing to accounting. It’s not my favourite part about having a business but it needs to get done.
So each week, I dedicated office hours for actioning my admin tasks. But for some reason, my family just assume I can drop everything to spend time with them because I work from home.
As much as I love the work I do, I will always prioritise my family so when I’m put in a position to choose, I feel this pang of guilt.
So today I was feeling really frustrated because I’d been interrupted for a few weeks in a row and I was getting fed up but I didn’t say anything.
My stomach getting all twisted inside because I wasn’t expressing how I was feeling.
When I did try to, I couldn’t find the words.
So I used a method that helped me process my emotions so that I could communicate with my family in a way that didn’t make them wrong.
I was able to set boundaries lovingly so that they understood that they were still important but they had to respect my time too.
So what’s the method Merly?
It’s called the NOW method.
N stands for name
One of the fundamentals of processing our emotions is to be able to identify and name the emotion we’re feeling.
To help you find the vocabulary for your emotion, you can refer to the emotion wheel.
Once you have named the emotion, notice how it feels in your body.
Do you feel hot or cold? Heavy or light? In your mind’s eye does it have a colour and shape?
The more you can describe it, the better this exercise works.
O stands for open
Step 2 is about opening up and allowing the emotions to be.
Open up your body to allow the emotion to be there for as long as you need to.
You can use your breath to visualise where the emotion is residing, it could be in your shoulders, jaw, fist and stomach.
Where do you feel you lock up, tense or experience the feeling most?
W stands for write
Lastly, once you have observed the emotion in your body, write it down.
Explore with curiosity and enquire within. You can ask questions like what caused the emotion to rise, how is the emotion impacting your thoughts and where to now?
The NOW Method is such a useful tool to help us process our emotions and begin to reduce some of the stress in our daily life.
I mentioned in this post that there’s a myth that humans, particularly women are great multi-taskers. Although yes we can multi-task but at what cost?
A study of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD using a neuroimaging and cognitive testing showed that when our brains are distracted it impacts our ability to focus and reduce productivity.
But you don’t need to have ADHD to know that.
My husband who proclaims he’s such a great driver with amazing spatial awareness says that it’s only when I’m in the car he seems to lose his pizzazz.
As I was saying, I don’t know about you but often when I walk into a messy room or office, I immediately felt overwhelmed and it’s usually because I feel all over the place, I don’t know what to do or where to start.
One of my mentors, Milena would say “what’s the most important thing for you to focus on today?”
It helps cut through the chaos and gets straight to the root of what’s important now.
Have you ever tried to just sit and think nothing?
No matter how hard you try to think absolutely nothing, a thought will pass by, sometimes it’s thought about thinking nothing!
It’s a perfect example of how our brain is continually scanning your internal and external environment even when you’re focused on a task. For example, you’ve decided to sit down and read a book before bed and whilst engrossed in a chapter, you remember you need to turn the light off on the front porch or set your alarm on for tomorrow.
So what can you do?
The ABC Method
One neat little hack you can do to help you maintain focus and prevent distractions is to use the ABC method.
A stands for aware.
When you thought comes into your mind you are aware of your options to either focus on the distraction such as stop reading the book and set your alarm or you can choose to let the through drift by.
B stands for breathe.
Take a deep breath and consider your options.
C stands for choose.
They make a decision; will you stop to set that alarm?
I did a poll in my community support group about what you would guys would like to know more about and I got a yes for cervical wellness, HPV and pap smears.
So here goes!
Firstly, do you even know what your cervix looks like?
Honestly they only time I ever thought about the cervix was in sex edu class in highschool or when I was going to have a baby. Seriously, it blows my mind that my child’s head come out that way. That’s the magically thing about it all, how everything just comes back together.
So we’re told the cervix means the neck of the uterus in Latin. It’s the passage way between the uterus and the vaginal canal. It’s about 2-3 cm long and cylindrical in shape.
What’s the purpose of the cervix?
Good question! Some people say is a gateway to the uterus for sperm to travel up when you’re ovulating aswell as a barrier to keep unhealthy stuff out of your body. But the cervix is more than just a door.
Did you know that your cervix feels different than the walls of your vagina? The cervix is firm in texture similarly to the tip of your nose while your vaginal walls feel more like the inside of your mouth where your cheek is.
It’s a place where transformation happens.
Quite literately. The cells of your uterus travel throughout the cervix and transform into different cells and this process is very delicate. If you can imagine a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, this is a vulnerable stage in the process. When women are having a pap smear, the test is checking for abnormalities is cells transformation that haven’t quite got it right.
HPV stands for human papillomavirus which is a common sexually transmitted infection that can disrupt this delicate process and increase the chances of developing cervical cancer too.
Choosing to get a pap smear is a personal choice. For many women, it can be a very uncomfortable or even painful. But if you are concerned about your reproductive health and have concerns about fertility, you can request the service of a female midwife to do this test.
As someone who has had some really painful and uncomfortable pap tests, I know how vulnerable and even degrading it feels when you get a practitioner who isn’t sensitive to how it feels for the patient. Personally, I’d prefer a midwife.
Can you touch your cervix?
Many women don’t know that they can touch their cervix. In fact, your cervix rises and falls throughout your menstrual month. It’s at its lowest position when you are menstruating.
I recommend you start to get to know this part of your female anatomy and develop a connection to it. It’s a part of the body we don’t see and it’s difficult to feel the sort of sensations you might feel when touching the back of your hand. Symbolically it represents the circle of life, death and life plays out each month with each menstrual cycle. When you view it from this perspective, like I said, it’s not just a door!
Mindfulness Practice to Tapping into Your Cervical Wisdom
Right now, take a moment and bring your awareness to the mind’s eye inside your head. Imagine a small round rose quartz crystal emitting beautiful energy from that place. Then image this crystal drop straight down to where your uterus is, then deeper into the bowl of your uterus. This is where your cervix is. Bringing this awareness can get quite grounding and a way to bring healing attention especially if you’re wanting to balance your hormones and boost fertility.
If you think this seems all too woo woo, then check out The Connection doco that details the science between the body and mind connection when it comes to health.
3 things you can do to increase cervical wellness:
Self-examination – It’s important to know what your cervix looks like. Just seeing it can give you a sense of connection to your body by simply acknowledging it. If you choose to have a pap smear, ask to see it with a small mirror. Curious to see what a cervix looks like? Click here to see photos.
Self-exploration – If you’ve never felt your cervix, have a feel. This part of the cervix is what we call the face of the cervix. Being able to feel your cervix, you can start to get attune to sensations and developing more of an awareness to that part of the body. The cervix sits within the root chakra and is responsible for your sense of safety and security in the world. When there is an imbalance, people can experience anxiety and fear. Using the mindfulness exercise above, is all about bringing awareness to this place and begin to clear any sexual or birth trauma and fear of infertility as well as the actual act of giving birth.
Boost your immune system and reduce stress – When you have a strong immune system, you are giving your body a fighting chance to kill any harmful bacteria and viruses from your body. When it comes to food, think about eating the colours of the rainbow. Stress not only lowers your immune system but what most people don’t know is that the vagus nerve connects your brain, throat, heart, uterus together and terminates at the cervix. Studies have shown stress increase the risk for women developing cervical cancer and I believe it is because of the relationship of these organs have with each other. Happy mind and heart leads to a happy cervix!
If you’ve enjoyed exploring this topic on cervical wellness, share with me what you found helpful in the comments below and say hi!
It’s 10.59pm and I’ve been staring at my computer on what to write because I got caught up with blogging the “right way” and went into a big rabbit hole of self-doubt.
Can you relate?
Well this is my blog, so I can blog anyway I like and so I’ll just keep typing and hope for the best!
But it does bring me back to one of the regrets of the dying explored more deeply in a book written by Bronnie Ware, where they wished they had the courage to live a life true to themselves and not the life that others expected of them.
So imagine, you’ve come face to face with the knowing that you’re on your last days on earth and you hear yourself say “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
I want you to take a moment, close your eyes and imagine this scenario clearly.
Say these words out loud to really feel the gravity of these words.
Then come back.
Life, at least the way I know it is chaotic and busy with two little kids. It’s so easy for me to get swept away with the day to day life that the year can feel like it flew by. My mind constantly somewhere else other than right here in this moment.
That’s why bringing my attention to the breath, my senses, what I can see, feel, smell and hear helps bring me back to the here and now. Incorporating mindfulness helps me stay true to my compass.
Being mindful can give space in our day to get present to areas of our life that we want to honour.
What are our dreams, desires and aspirations that are deep within that has been supressed because we’re too consumed about what others might say or think?
Maybe you’re in a job that is literately destroying your soul but you stay because of the money, you could be in a toxic relationship but preserve because it’s not the “right time” to leave or you find yourself late at night loading your body with all the stuff that’s triggering you to have major health problems but stress is to debilitating that you need the quick fix just get through it.
You’re waiting for the right time to change, whether that time comes, who knows.
I don’t have the answers for you and that’s the most powerful thing about this because only you can create a life that is true to yourself.
How do you know when you’re not in control?
It just feels icky because everything is hard and not in flow.
I’m actually thinking about my client who told me last week that she’s feeling like she’s found her frequency! You can read more about her recent testimony she wrote half way through her health coaching program with me.
So coming back to reading this sentence again, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” I really get that no one can live my life except me.
Who knows maybe in the future, we can transport our consciousness into another body but right now as far as I know, this mind, body and spirit has me at its command.
So I dare you to just explore perhaps in a journal this week, is to imagine yourself at the end of your life and start writing just a few things you regretted not doing on the left hand side.
Then on the right hand side of your journal, pick one and write small actionable steps to making some of those things a reality for you.
For example, maybe you always wanted to learn to speak Spanish, play the piano, write a book, get a tattoo, be on stage at a TEDx talk, go to uni in your 30’s or live in a tiny house.
What’s one thing you could do tomorrow that brings you that one step closer to making it a reality for you?
For more support on how you can use mindfulness to help you overcome the overwhelm and get present to designing a life without regret, join my 5 day challenge click here.
I tried to name this smoothie based on it’s content and well it was just a bit too hard so instead you just got Merly’s Superfood Smoothie Bowl.
I’m writing this up because I got a few requests on my personal Facebook and Instagram so here goes!
Below is serving for 1 person, which you can make in a Magic Bullet / NutriBullet Blender or similar, otherwise you can just multiply the ingredients depending on how many you serving in a normal size blender.
smoothie bowl Base
Ingredients for smoothie base:
1 cup of plant based milk of your choice – we used almond milk
1/2 of a large avocado
1 serving of pea protein powder
1/2 cup of frozen mixed berries
1 scoop of wholefood superfood mix with marine greens – I like to use Green Qi
Optional – add any crushed supplements, here I used Immune Health for my son (this is our family’s herbal medicine ESSENTIAL that can be given from age 2 years)
Blend the ingredients and pour into a bowl.
Side note, you could add honey or soaked dates in the smoothie base however I prefer to have control of the level of sweetness with my toppings instead.
Toppings you can really put anything you like but here is what I used:
Shredded coconut and chia seed to sprinkle – as much as you like