TRANSITIONING BACK TO WORK AFTER MATERNITY LEAVE

Are you pregnant? Currently on maternity leave? Or perhaps one day want to start a family? Emily Pocock, a health visitor, former Paediatric Nurse within the NHS, Baby Counsellor and Founder of Baby Confidence sheds some light on how you can transition back to work after maternity leave. Over to you Emily...

Frequently parents have to deal with the practical, and emotional element of returning to work after Maternity Leave.  Being at work all day long can feel like a distant memory after settling into life with a new baby. Some parents are often excited, others worried, or experiencing a mixture of both.  One thing is certain, the transition requires planning. Here are some areas to consider:

Rights on Returning to Work

If you are returning to work after 26 weeks or less you are entitled to return to exactly the same job you were doing before the start of your leave. If you are returning after more than 26 weeks’ maternity leave you still have the right to return to the same job but if your employer has a good business reason why you cannot return to the same job, your employer can offer you a suitable alternative job on the same terms and conditions. 

Flexible Working

Flexible working is a great option for parents to help meet their family’s needs, and often reduces childcare costs. It allows for things such as job sharing, working from home, staggered hours, compressed hours and part-time hours.

Any employee is entitled to request flexible working (Children’s and Families Act 2014). You are eligible if you have been with your employer for 26 weeks, and you are allowed one application in 12 months.

The application must be in writing, and your employer has three months to give you a decision.  

There are multiple benefits of flexible working to the employer; increased productivity, reduced burnout of staff, higher staff retention and increased staff morale are just a few.

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Childcare

Firstly, take some time to think about what is the best option for you. Families tend to use either; nurseries, child minders, a nanny or family members. They all vary in cost and have different benefits.

A good service to use is the Family Information Service (FIS) - each local authority will have one.  Each FIS can be found online, with a list of all the registered nurseries and child minders, with links to their OFSTED reports.

A lot of nurseries can have long waiting lists, so it’s important to start thinking about this as soon as possible. Some employers also provide on-site nurseries.

Most childcare will offer a period of settling in time, which is beneficial to you both.

 

Phased Return

A phased return allows you to gradually adapt to work, and is generally a lot kinder to yourself as a whole. It also allows your child to gradually get used to the change. Most employers will give you an entry interview which allows you to discuss any anxieties. It is also a good time to set new goals, objectives and identify any learning gaps.

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Child Sickness

It is very common for children to get unwell when they first start childcare due to being exposed to other children. This is a normal part of developing their immune system. It’s important to familiarise yourself with your contract so you know your rights regarding taking carer’s leave. Some employers offer a certain amount paid, others do not.

Emotions  

Parents often feel guilty about returning to work and leaving their child in someone’s care. 

A common worry is that returning to work can harm the child. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2010) completed a study which found that returning to work after a year can benefit the entire family.

It is normal to have some level of anxiety regarding the transition; this comes with being a parent. Talk to your support network about how you are feeling, often people close have been through the same thing.  If you feel the anxiety is preventing you from sleeping or starting to get out of control, seek health advice. Often Health Visitors are a great resource for this.

Be prepared for some tears, they might happen in the planning stage or perhaps once you get to work. A lot of parents have a sudden feeling of panic on their first day; it’s completely normal. Just be reassured it will pass, be kind to yourself and have someone ready to talk to for support.

Remember this is also an exciting time, your child is likely to be surrounded by new friends. They will be learning lots of social skills and developing in new ways. It is also a time for you to get a bit of your identity back, away from being “mum”. It’s a good time to start thinking about your own personal goals.

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Routine

Take time to think about what the new routine will look like. It’s a good idea to start doing practice runs so you know how long it will take to get to childcare in peak times. Think about what time you need to wake up?  Will your child minder be giving breakfast? Give yourself time to think these things through.

It’s a good time to look at your child’s routine overall, because dependent on their age, this will vary.  A lot of parents use their remaining maternity leave to work on routines for the child night and day. A good resource to use for help and advice is a Health Visitor.

Returning to work can feel daunting, but planning definitely helps this process run smoothly. Parents are often amazed how quickly their child adapts to the change.

 

Useful Resources

ACAS offers advice on employment rights and early conciliation. You can call their helpline on 0300 123 1100 for more information.

 

About Emily

Emily is a writer, Health Visitor, Paediatric Nurse, Baby Counsellor and Founder of Baby Confidence. She has over 10 years’ experience working with children and families.

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Emily is on a mission to help parents be their baby’s expert, in a non-judgemental, strength based space. She provides services and packages to parents and companies. Understanding the needs of the employee with family and how best to support them.

 

 

HEALTH FIX: NUTRITION TO DE-STRESS

Stress is an overriding theme in our busy modern lives. Whether it’s pressures from social, emotional or work sources, we are living in an age of anxiety that affects us all. There often seems to be a weary acceptance that high stress is simply a part of life. Although that is true to some extent, the notion that we have no control over our stress levels, or its effects and management thereof, is not correct. Taking the time to look after one’s self, investing in our health and what we consume has a very direct and tangible effect on stress relief.  This week, Antonia Magor, Nutritional Therapist, mBant rCNHC, who sees clients in London and Wiltshire sheds some much needed light (especially given the time of year), on her top nutrition tips to help with stress. Over to you Antonia...

Our modern lifestyles are contributing to higher levels of stress and anxiety

Our modern lifestyles are contributing to higher levels of stress and anxiety

What does stress do to our bodies?

Stress is a physiological response we experience when we face a threat we do not feel we have the resources to deal with. In our most basic form we are wired to the “fight or flight” response of our caveman ancestors. Short, sudden shocks & stressors activate the adrenal glands & nervous system to pump more blood around the body to make us move faster, be more alert & release glucose from our liver to give us a shot of energy.

The problem is that although this was how we survived when we were cavemen, our bodies haven’t evolved as quickly as our lifestyles and diet. We often live in states of chronic stress triggered by everything from a traffic jam to our phone. This constant state of stress ends up in a “wired but tired” style of life as our adrenals and nervous system are overly exhausted. This can lead to fatigue, disrupted hormones, weight gain and digestive issues.

Nutrition helps tame stress in several ways, whether it’s by stimulating a comforting hormone or reducing the dominance of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Good nutrition also acts as a counter balance to the toll stress takes on us and builds our natural defenses.

 

Complex Carbs

All carbs stimulate the brain to produce the feel good hormone serotonin. Complex carbohydrates like wholegrains, beans and legumes take longer for our bodies to digest, which not only stabilizes blood sugar levels, but maintains a steady supply of serotonin. So don’t be afraid to include good portions of carbohydrates in each of your meals and snacks.

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C is often thought of as the go-to nutrient during cold and flu season, when we want to strengthen our immune system. However it actually works in several other ways within the body. Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties help repair the damage and aging stress causes to our cells. It has also been indicated that Vitamin C aids in returning levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) to their normal state after a stressful task. Supplementing Vitamin C during the winter season can help support your health, otherwise including healthy portions of brightly coloured fruit and veg daily, supplies us with plenty of vitamin C.  

So often people think oranges are the best source of vitamin C. In fact, bell peppers contain much high levels of vitamin C!

So often people think oranges are the best source of vitamin C. In fact, bell peppers contain much high levels of vitamin C!

Magnesium

Magnesium is nature’s calming nutrient. It counterbalances our stress response and helps relax muscles and restore cells. However we are becoming more and more magnesium deficient, with the excess of adrenalin and cortisol depleting our reserves and our diets becoming less magnesium-rich. Magnesium deficiency can be a cause of stress as it can magnify the stress response.

To get more magnesium in your diet add dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, swiss chard or cabbage; try and include 3 portions daily. Almonds and small oily fish such as anchovies are also good sources.

 

Essential Fatty Acids

We hear a lot about essential fatty acids for heart health but they may also help in cases of depression and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and at lower levels in nuts, seeds and oils act to prevent surges in stress hormones balancing our fight or flight instincts. Oily fish, or cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and fresh tuna are particularly high in omega 3s and 6s; aim to include a variety twice to three times weekly. 

Ensure you're getting two portions of omega-3 rich food per week. Good sources include: sardines, salmon, mackerel and other oily fish. Vegetarian and vegan options include flaxseed and chia seeds but are much smaller quantities.

Ensure you're getting two portions of omega-3 rich food per week. Good sources include: sardines, salmon, mackerel and other oily fish. Vegetarian and vegan options include flaxseed and chia seeds but are much smaller quantities.

Quit the Sugar Habit

We are all beginning to understand just how bad excess free sugars are to our health, but when the 3pm slump hits and the biscuit tin beckons, we can sometimes forget this. Biscuits, cakes, sweets, sugary drinks all give us that quick peak of energy and blood sugar, however it is followed by a slump. This constant rollercoaster places a strain on our body and disorders our hormonal response, making us tired and grumpy. So focus on limiting sweet treats and if you do want to include something sweeter make sure you combine it with protein and fat to prolong the energy release.  

Stressing about nutrition?

With everything we have to balance in our lives the pressure to eat well can become just another stress. However good nutrition and eating well should be a part of enjoying life and looking after yourself, not an extra strain. If you feel that this is becoming a disordered and unenjoyable relationship do consult with a professional, there is always someone who can help you restore the balance.

Check out Antonia's website at www.antoniamagor.com or contact her directly on: am@antoniamagor.com or you can find her on twitter and instgram @antoniamagor. Antonia is available for consultations in London or over Skype.

SPOTLIGHT: SUZY READING, SELF-CARE EXPERT

Today marks the first day of Self-Care week, an annual national awareness week that focuses on embedding support for self-care across communities, families and generations. This year’s theme is all about engaging and empowering people, something we wholeheartedly believe in at Well Aware. The strap-line for Self-Care week this year is Embracing Self Care for Life and what better way to mark this week and find out how to create some space for ourselves than with the Self-Care Queen herself, Suzy Reading. This week we are shining the spotlight on Suzy to find out her top tips for carving out 'micro moments of nourishment' in our ever increasing schedules.

Briefly Suzy, can you tell our readers what you do? Where did it all begin and how did you get to where you are today?

Suzy Reading, the Queen of Self-Care

Suzy Reading, the Queen of Self-Care

I’m a psychologist, yoga teacher, writer and corporate speaker – the one thread uniting all these roles is empowering people with the tools of self-care. My passion for this, while underpinned by all of my disparate studies, was really set into motion by my life experiences: motherhood coincided with the terminal illness of my father and for a time there, I really struggled. Self-care helped me claw my way back to vitality and now this is the toolkit I share with my clients; helping them to cope with and heal from stress, loss and change, boosting resilience in the face of future challenges and enabling them to become the people they aspire to be.

As the Queen of Self-Care and what with it being Self-Care week, we thought it fitting to find out your top self-care tips…

I have so many little gems I want to share with you! Here are just a selection from my book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’:

~      Self-care needn’t be grand, elaborate, expensive or time consuming. Be on the lookout for ‘micro moments’ of nourishment that allow you to de-stress, soothe, energise or focus in an instant. Think along the lines of music, scent, movement, physical softening of tension, a mantra or just being with your breath.

~      Be clear on what self-care really means. Self-care is nourishment for your head, heart and body. It delivers what you need right now in this moment, AND it also nourishes the person you are becoming, your future self. This is a useful distinction to make. One glass of wine savoured in the evening might be self-care but more than that, leading to a late night, and you’re future self won’t be thanking you. Don’t confuse self-care with pampering either. Sometimes self-care is gentle, soothing and relaxing, sometimes it is going for that run that you really don’t fancy. Sometimes it is taking an honest look at emotional baggage you’re lugging around. Self-care is not always comfortable but it always takes you closer to the person you aspire to be.

~      Be proactive and write out your self-care toolkit so it’s there at your fingertip reach when you most need it. When we are stressed, self-care often drops away because we are fatigued, frazzled, time poor and our usual means of replenishment become unavailable to us. We are also at our least creative and resourceful in coming up with new, accessible options. Writing out a broad toolkit of soothing, healing and energising practices that resonate for you is like forming a psychological contract with yourself, helping you take swift action and get back on track sooner. I give lots of inspiration for self-care activities in my book and my instragram account @suzyreading.

~      If self-care feels indulgent, ask yourself, what have you got if you don’t have your health? Two mantras for you: ‘self-care is health care’ and ‘it’s not me first, its ME AS WELL’. Please nourish you! When we tend to ourselves with love and care, we are all calmer, kinder, more compassionate people – it is the ultimate win win!

At Well Aware, we are all about helping our clients make long-term positive changes to their health by encouraging small changes to your daily habits over a prolonged period of time. Are there any things you incorporate into your daily routine to boost your mental and physical health?

Absolutely, for me the cornerstone of my self-care practice is reflected in the framework I created, called The Vitality Wheel. There are 8 spokes to the wheel, each representing a different way of nourishing myself. I use at least one of these spokes every day to boost my physical, emotional and mental health. They are:

1.     Movement and nutrition

2.     Sleep, rest, relaxation and breathing

3.     Mood boosters

4.     Social connection

5.     Physical environment

6.     Goals and accomplishment

7.     Values and purpose

8.     Coping tools

What’s the first you do every morning? What are your morning rituals or routines?

Before I get out of bed, I think of one thing I am looking forward to it my day. This always cultivates a feeling of zest. I spritz my Neom Organics ‘Feel Refreshed’ room spray and take 6 yoga mountain breaths, repeating a mantra that cultivates how I want to feel. It can be as simple as ‘I am ready’. I choose an outfit, colour, piece of jewellery or swoosh of lippy that I love and I hit the ground running, feeling nourished and present.

And bedtime rituals? How do you switch off and ensure you get restful sleep?

My mantra is ‘sleep for sanity’… I revere sleep so I have a strong ritual to unwind in the evening. It’s a digital detox for at least 30 mins prior to bed, some soothing yoga poses on the floor, like childs pose and pigeon to disentangle my body from the busyness of my day. I might journal with a braindump if my mind is still whirring or do a gratitude exercise if my mood is subdued. Reading Psychologies Magazine is another way of focusing my mind on something constructive. I use a magnesium oil spray that definitely promotes better sleep and lastly my favourite Neom Organics pillow spray has me floating off to sleep.

As specialists in workplace wellbeing, one of the common issues we get asked about is sleep… do you have any tips on this?

Yes! Design your own pre-bedtime ritual and cultivate a positive relationship with sleep. It can be as simple as wearing PJ’s you love or using the 4/7/8 breathing technique when your head hits the pillow. Most adults need 7 – 9 hours sleep to function well so get to know your sleep needs, give sleep the priority it deserves and get some decent shut eye! Just about every aspect of health is improved when we are well slept, so think of it as time well spent.

We are big on personal development at the Well Aware HQ, helping our clients unlocking their full potential and boost performance. Do you have tips you can share with us that you’ve picked up along the way?

I think my favourite tip is to get clear on who you want your future self to be. What would they say, how would they move, what choices would they make. How does it feel to be in their skin? I love cultivating a relationship with my future best self. I ask, what would she do? Every time I make that choice I know I am taking a step closer to being this incarnation of myself. Tune in with yours and you’ll find great wisdom, resolve and a healthy dollop of self-compassion there!

Quick fire round…

1.              Coffee or tea? – a savoured cup of coffee in the morning, green tea in the afternoon and a soothing herbal blend to unwind in the evening.

2.              Early bird or night owl? Early bird by virtue of my figure skating days

3.              Introvert or extrovert? Introvert mostly, with some extroverted moments

4.              Rural or urban? Rural, preferably seaside please

5.              Adventurous or cautious? Mindfully chosen adventure

6.              Hiit or yoga? yogahhhh

Join Suzy’s Wellbeing Community at:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/suzyreading/ 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SuzyReadingPsychologyAndYoga/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SuzyReading  

Suzy's first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster, is due out 28th December 2017 and available for pre-order now.

Suzy's first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster, is due out 28th December 2017 and available for pre-order now.

SPOTLIGHT: BONNIE STOWELL, FOUNDER OF SPRING GREEN LONDON

This week to mark World Vegan Day and Sugar Awareness Week, we put the spotlight on Bonnie Stowell, the founder of London's top plant-based food delivery service, Spring Green London

Hi Bonnie, great to speak to you today. We thought as it was Sugar Awareness week it would be great to find out more about you and your wonderful service. Briefly, can you tell our readers what you do? Where did it all begin and how did you get to where you are today? 

I trained under a Michelin-star chef and always loved cooking and food. It wasn’t until my father developed type-2 diabetes that I started cooking for him, to help alleviate some of his stress. Over several months his blood sugar levels normalised and it was from this first-hand experience of seeing the amazing transformational benefits of food that Spring Green London was born.

Bonnie Stowell, founder of Spring Green London

Bonnie Stowell, founder of Spring Green London

Wow, love this! What a fantastic and inspiring story! At Well Aware, we are big believers in the small habits that you do everyday that inform your long-term health and this is real proof!  Can you tell us about the philosophy behind Spring Green London?

We want everyone to look and feel their best. We trust in the power of fresh, nutrient-rich, multitasking foods and use innovative ingredients from around the world, all with a plant-based focus. We pack as many superfoods as we can into our daily boxes and avoid added sugar at all costs as there are enough sugars found naturally in fresh fruit and vegetables. Sugar has a terrible effect on the collagen in your skin and more worryingly type 2 diabetes.

We also want people to learn new habits and recipe ideas, forming a fresh new approach to a balanced healthy lifestyle.

Amazing! We too share this mission about habits and are all about helping our clients make long-term positive changes to their health by encouraging small changes to daily habits over a prolonged period of time. What are your top three tips for maintaining healthy eating habits?

1. Meal prep. The night before make yourself a nutritious breakfast by mixing chia, almond milk + vanilla in a bowl and cover. The next morning you can pack it to have at work.

2. Be Snack Savvy. Keep a tupperware on your desk and fill it with your own trail mix so you’ve always got a healthy and protein-rich snack available. You can add any type of nuts or berries, coconut chips (toasted are delicious), cacao nibs. 

3. It comes down to meal prepping. Organisation really is key I find when it comes to maintaining healthy eating habits. I dedicate half an hour a week to chop some veg so that I can have with a dip or just so they are ready to stirfry and cook up some quinoa and keep in the fridge. Quinoa goes with so many things!

What’s your go-to dinner recipe when you’re short on time?

If i haven’t planned what i’m going to have for dinner, I can always find lots of unfinished veg in the fridge that I can throw in a pan with some sesame oil, soya, garlic and chilli with some frozen peas and fresh herbs.  It is so easy to make it taste delicious, I will often cook up some black rice to have with it.

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What’s the first you do every morning? What are your morning rituals or routines?

I always drinks lots of water when I wake up. I do like a coffee, which I have with coconut milk, I have one a day and really enjoy it.

And bedtime rituals? How do you switch off and ensure you get restful sleep?

My favourite thing to do before bed is to read. I am reading Nancy Mitford The Pursuit of Love at the moment which is brilliant.

We are big on personal development at the Well Aware HQ, helping our clients unlocking their full potential and boost performance. Do you have tips you can share with us that you’ve picked up along the way?

Trying to find a balance, which is hard, but make time for yourself. Try to switch off from your busy day and do something for a couple of hours that you really enjoy.

Quick fire round…

  1. Coffee or tea? Coffee
  2. Early bird or night owl? Early bird
  3. Introvert or extrovert? both
  4. Rural or urban? Rural
  5. Adventurous or cautious? Adventurous
  6. Hiit or yoga? Hiit

For £20 off your first order, use the exclusive code 'WELL AWARE20'

Our Philosophy: Small Changes, BIG Impact

At Well Aware, we believe it's the small things you do everyday that have a BIG impact on your long-term health. Otherwise known as the marginal gains theory, this approach is embedded throughout our services and we believe is part of the reason for our client's success stories. We do not advocated fads or quick fixes, rather we believe that by tweaking your daily habits and trying to improve them by just a small margin (i.e. one percent), big changes really do happen.

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To put this in context, imagine if you went to bed an hour earlier and adopted this habit for the long-term. Imagine how much better you would feel, how easier it would be to focus at work, make decisions and resist the temptation of unhealthy quick-fix foods. The knock-on effect of this could be that you actually lose weight as you're getting adequate rest and your body doesn't feel like sugar to give it a quick energy boost.

What small change can you adopt today that could have a huge and positive effect on you in the long run? We would love to hear from you so tag us online @well_aware.