How often are you stressed out? Do you easily get overwhelmed and loose sight of the bigger picture? How do you confront conflicting ideas and problematic personalities? What is your internal stress-o-meter looking like?
I had the honour of sitting down with the founder of Mind Bright and got to pick her brains on all sorts of things from health, wellness and life.
She is an extremely inspiring woman and powerhouse when it comes to stress management.
Kristy works with individuals and organisations to help implement simple principles to soothe stress levels, encourage you to have fun and lead you to a happier state of mind! Her work is based on Neuroscience, Phychology and mindfulness.
What does health and wellness mean to you and how has your philosophy evolved over the years?
Health and wellness used to mean good exercise and nutrition, and it still does, but now I absolutely treat looking after my brain with as much importance as looking after my physical body. And I also take a holistic approach now – I believe the mind and body are inextricably linked.
What is your #1 health / wellness tip?
I would say learn to listen to and tune in to your body. All those little niggles like sore shoulders, headaches, feeling overwhelmed, tummy troubles and fatigue are warning signs that something about the way you are living your life needs to change. And take time to understand and educate yourself on how your body works.
Your thoughts on motherhood / being a mum: what does it mean to you?
Being a Mum has changed everything for me! It’s no longer just about yourself. I once read some research that people with children report higher levels of happiness. And whilst I also think they’d report higher levels of tiredness and stress (!) I can absolutely relate to this now, as all of a sudden, your life has a greater purpose than just serving yourself.
Sometimes I love my little Ava so much I feel like I could burst and I just love that when she came along she created a family for my husband and I.
Tell us more about the importance of creating morning and evening rituals?
How you start your day can be the difference between an OK day and a great one! As they say, “win the morning, win the day”.
If we start our morning in a calm, slow manner, it sets our nervous system up in rest and digest and helps us remain more centred and clear. This is versus if we wake up and check our phone messages and email and start rushing straight away. This sends danger signals to our nervous system and can tip us into fight or flight, meaning we start the day off in a panic.
Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness and moving slowly are all great ways to start your morning.
Evening rituals that induce calm, like yin yoga, a warm bath, candle light, soft music, are just as important to signal to your body and brain that it’s time to wind down and can help induce a restful, restorative sleep.
What does a balanced life look like to you?
To me a balanced life is making sure I am taking care of myself alongside my responsibilities. It can be hard as Mums to put ourselves first, but I truly believe that to be the best mothers and partners we can be, we have to make self-care a priority.
Carve out space for yourself throughout the week. I find being organised and getting my calendar out each Sunday can really be the difference between whether it happens or not.
Also, have the odd piece of chocolate or wine if it makes you happy! I think that is true balance.
You have quite openly spoken about your struggles and anxiety before starting Mind Bright. We believe it should be something spoken about always, to make it less taboo. What piece of advice would you share for others who struggle with a daily anxiety battle?
I used to believe anxiety was a sign that I wasn’t coping, but now that I understand how the brain works, I realise my brain was just doing its job and trying to keep me alive. It sensed a threat and got confused and thought I needed to operate constantly in fight or flight, which is not sustainable can end in anxiety, overwhelm, fatigue, health problems or depression.
In my case I suffered from chronic back and neck pain for five years after a spinal fusion in my mid-20s, whilst holding down a very fast paced corporate job. Because in my mind I believed I had to keep going and working at the same pace I always had, my body interpreted the constant pain signals and work pressure as danger and in the end, I didn’t heal.
Understanding how our brain works is so empowering as it gives us hope that change is possible and removes a layer of self-blame and suffering too. We are all wired the same!
I also believe it’s critically important to talk about mental health – one in four people in NZ suffer from high levels of stress or anxiety. I found the more I told my story the more other people felt they could share their journey too.
We need to treat mental illnesses the same we would a physical illness. People struggling deserve just as much compassion and support.
What advice would you give to anyone facing stress or feeling overwhelmed?
Stress is a very complex physiological process, which everyone experiences differently and has different triggers for. But I would say the key is to firstly be aware when your body is tipping into fight or flight, notice your warning signs, your heart beating fast, sweating palms, tight chest, sore shoulders, feeling overwhelmed etc
Then, it’s about regulating your nervous system by self-soothing. You can do this a number of ways, but some of the most effective include diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness and reframing negative thoughts.
I would recommend that anyone experiencing ongoing stress looks at taking on a daily meditation practice. This literally rewires the brain in as little as eight weeks, so that the stress response doesn’t engage as easily.
Tell us a little more about your Mind Bright.
I launched Mind Bright last year after 15 years in the corporate world, where I saw first-hand the negative impact the long hours and relentless rush was having on people’s health and wellbeing, mine included!
Mind Bright works with individuals and organisations to empower people to reduce stress and enhance their health and happiness, using science-based strategies.
Your favourite recipe at the moment…
I’m somewhat obsessed with Greek cuisine and we recently returned from the Islands so are constantly recreating dishes we tasted, all with lots of lemon, oregano from the garden, lashings of olive oil and fresh feta!