Elisabeth Grover

Author: thegard4 (page 1 of 5)

Why Do I Need Antenatal Education?

Like many others, I have been spending time in quiet reflection while watching the news, observing the events as they unfold in front of me. I am particularly interested in how we cope with the various setbacks and the impact that this has on our mental health.

The big family celebrations – 21st birthday’s, graduations, engagements, baby showers, weddings – all postponed. The family holiday (a big focus in my annual calendar) and getting together as a group with friends are no more.

What has also dawned on me is the amount of money we spend on these events, often without thinking about it. It certainly all adds up. The value we place on the big life events and the desire to control every little detail. The right venue for the wedding, the best photographer to capture the event. The party for the young graduate or the best hotel restaurant booked for the happy couple’s engagement. It’s a ‘Right Of Passage’ after all.

It seems that we have a ‘Holiday Budget’, a ‘Wedding Budget’ and even a ‘Baby Budget’ but does it include the money spent on antenatal education?

As a doula, I love seeing birthing couples blossom with confidence once they have been educated in the physiology of birth and the mental preparation for the event. This education offers the birthing parent options at every fork in the road, the freedom to make positive decisions and support with the options taken whilst deciding what’s best for them. Having someone walking alongside them on their journey can be so powerful and life-affirming.

Talking about positive birth and the self-confidence that having a good experience can bring is so important. Regardless of how you have your baby, whether it be caesarean section birth, a birth with intervention or physiological birth at home, there are many factors that add up to creating a positive birth. How you feel about the way you were treated and spoken to, whether you were included in the decision-making, treated with respect and your partner included in the process. Some of these aspects may not have crossed your mind.

It’s something I’d like you to think about it for a moment.

There are lots of classes that you can attend, in person and online and there are a plethora of books you can read. I can recommend my favourites but my point is that these books are MY favourite and they may not resonate with your point of view. The antenatal teachers all have a slightly different slant and emphasis and it’s important you find the one for you. There are podcasts and audiobooks so you can listen and absorb the information as you walk in nature or catch up on the news. My advice is to find a voice that resonates and immerse yourself in the key messages that your teacher brings.

It may be a different course or book that your friends are following but that’s fine. we’re all very different. Perhaps you can think of it as good practice for parenting in the early years. Your friends may differ greatly in their opinions and you find yourself either defending your position or sitting quietly nodding whilst absorbing the subtle messages. Keep the faith in your abilities as a parent – you are doing your best and that’s good enough.

So what is my take-home message today? It’s a simple one today. Prepare a budget for your baby and include good-quality antenatal education in that budget. Find a teacher who resonates with your ethos and values and immerse yourself with positive messages about how birth and the early days work. That way you can make decisions based on evidence and your intuition when the time comes. A big family party or a fun baby shower will bring happiness for a period of time in your life but the birth of your baby is in a different league. Let’s do what we can to create the best birth possible, one you can look back on with pride and joy and a brimful of confidence about just how amazing you are.

If I can help you to find the right antenatal education for you, or you’d like to hear about our bespoke antenatal packages at St. Albans Doulas, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can find us on stalbansdoulas@gmail.com and Liz: 07794351958.

A Silent Retreat

Last Sunday, I decided to devote a day to silence creating my own ‘Silent Retreat’. I had been drawn to using silence as a tool in the past but I never got round to booking a retreat. Life always seemed to get in the way. I had many conversations with Ruth from Mindful Pathway about the conscious use of silence as part of mindfulness practice and she had written a blog post for me (click here).  I felt that this was a perfect time to try a retreat with a view to recommending to my pregnant families in the future. As this is ‘Written in the Time of Covid’ (paraphrased courtesy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez), this retreat was taken at home.

Set the Date

I decided to spend a Sunday in silence as I felt that there were likely to be fewer distractions available for me. I know how easily distracted I am and this is something that causes me great frustration. One of the reasons I started a daily meditation practice was to learn how to live more mindfully in my day-to-day existence. I felt that by removing a form of communication could help with promoting a calm state. I am also not on-call at the moment and that fact helped me to decide on the day. When I am on-call I am very aware that I can be pulled away from the present moment at any time and my phone is always by my side. So last Sunday seemed like a good day for me to practice.

Talk to those around you

I am currently living at home with my husband, two children and my son’s partner. I explained to my family that I would be silent for the day and requested that they ask me questions only if needed. My children are adults now so, apart from laughing at another of mum’s hair-brained ideas, they respected the desire and the reason why.

It was nice to take the opportunity to talk about why I felt the need to spend a day without talking. The Covid times have slowed everything down in our home and I have really enjoyed this peaceful pace of life. My distracted brain really struggles with focus and so I felt that creating mental space in a period of twenty-four hours would help me to clarify what is important to me. During pregnancy, this delicious white space in your day could help you to work through your thoughts and feelings about birth and early parenthood.

Gather your Equipment

I thought about what I would need for a day of silence and I settled on a few things:

My journal
Watercolour paints and paper
Incense sticks
Aromatherapy oils
Hot water bottle
Herbal teas
Required reading for my journey – Transformed by Birth by Britta Bushnall

Advising my pregnant clients on what to take on their silent retreat, I would suggest similar things to these with the inclusion of a couple of large pieces of A3 paper, glue, magazines and pregnancy/birth/family pictures. This retreat is a perfect time to create your vision boards. A vision board for your labour and birth and one for how you would like your life to be after your baby is born. The time spent in quiet contemplation is very precious and finding images and words that resonate with your thoughts at the current time can be healing.

Just Do it!

So the day began. I wrote ‘Silence’ on my hand and arm to remind me but it wasn’t long before I got into the mindset. I’m lucky in that I have ‘Bumble’ my little therapy room in the garden, so I spent the day cosying up in my room with my blankets, cushions and hot water bottle. All very hygge! I lit my candle and I started writing my journal. The rest of the day I spent in silence, painting, reading, writing and meditating. It was simple and blissful.

My challenge came at night when I reentered the house but by that time my family had got used to my silence. I found the general noise quite challenging and I reflected on whether I would become more sensitive to noise pollution once I ventured out into our noisy world again.


My advice to you is to create a silent retreat in your home one weekend. You can do it alone or with your partner but make sure you don’t compromise your time. Be selfish.  Perhaps you’d like to create a purpose such as ‘preparing for birth’ or ‘preparing for parenthood’ and collect some items that will help the day run smoothly. Or maybe you’d like the day to take a free-flowing form. If you feel that a day is too long, perhaps you could devote a morning to silence. The practice has got to fit in with your life and if a morning works for you then try a few hours.

If I can help you to create a silent retreat in your life, please contact me at stalbansdoulas@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been on a silent retreat or if you’ve been tempted to create one at home. Let’s talk about silence!

St Albans Doulas is a team of experienced birth workers supporting pregnant people and couples in the Herts, Beds, Bucks and Greater London area. If you are looking for evidence-based antenatal education and a mindful companion for your pregnancy and birth, get in touch to find out how we can help.

A Quiet Labour

In the previous post, I talked about creating a quiet nine months by embracing positive introvert qualities. Today I am continuing along the theme whilst focusing on labour and birth.

In my experience of birthing four children, I found my introverted nature offered me a gentle self-confidence and an ability to dig deep into my soul when it really mattered. These are qualities that I still use in my daily life twenty-five years later. The very nature of my introversion helped me to prioritise my time and I found reading books on the anatomy and physiology of birth, mindful breathing exercises along with the spirituality of becoming a parent helped me to make sense of the changes that were unfolding inside my body and mind. Perhaps the most important lesson was to remove the pressure on my partner to behave in a way that he found very challenging.

Let me explain that last sentence. Since lockdown, and the news that women may have to birth without their partners present, I feel myself getting frustrated with the assumption that women are unable to have a positive experience without a partner.  As a doula, I know that it is beneficial to have a birth partner who is fully engaged and able to support physically and emotionally in labour. The research will back this up.  My frustration lies with never talking about the partners who can’t be ‘that person’.  For some, both male and female, birth can be extremely stressful and they are simply not able to draw upon the inner qualities that are required. My husband was that person.

I am conscious that there is so much pressure on partners to step up and be the strong, confident one during birth. They often bring their own baggage to the experience – stories they’ve heard from friends, films they have watched, the language that is used in birth and it can be very difficult for some partners to cope. My husband is someone for whom medical procedures cause a great deal of stress and I knew after my firstborn that when I have subsequent babies, I would be birthing alone.

He was physically present but, because we were at home, he was able to sit quietly on the sofa while I laboured in the living room using breathing techniques and other self-soothing measures. This may appear odd to some but I accepted the situation fully, and I put myself in the best possible position for bringing our children into the world.

How can I do this?

With positive birth planning and evidence-based education, I believe that the birthing person can acquire a deep inner confidence, fully appreciating that birthing requires a quiet, calm frame of mind with rhythmic breathing and ritual. Perfect for someone who has spent time reading positive books and educating themselves about the processes and the birthing hormones and how the human body is incredible.

Just like animals take themselves off to a quiet space away from the noise and hustle and bustle of their surroundings, a birthing person can do the same. They feel safe and allow their hormones to flow freely. These hormones contain natural pain relievers and, if encouraged to flow, can help to create a rhythm allowing the birthing person to cope with the strong sensations and the physical demands of labour.

Birth is a Sensual Experience

Remembering to anchor yourself in the senses that perhaps you wrote about in your Birth Story. A soft blanket, a pillow that smells of home, aromatherapy oils placed on a tissue on the radiator, gentle music in the background, a dimly lit room with minimal talking. These are all ‘Introvert Go-To’s’ in a birthing toolbox!

If your partner is comfortable within the birthing room, they could be given the task of protecting your birth space. This can be a vital role for them to play. Making sure that the talking is kept to a minimum in the room and absolutely no chit-chat! The lights are low and you are focused and strong. Just by being in the room, they can play a role, without adding pressure on them to perform outside of their comfort zone.

After Birth

The Golden Hour, where baby and parent spend time skin-to-skin enjoying the smells of birth and learning how each other feel against the bare body. Allowing the time to flow freely without interruption, mindfully, recognising the importance of this precious time. Introducing your baby to your microbiome and encouraging their microbiome to flourish by not wiping them clean before cuddling. This is a great time to allow baby to snuggle into your breast and the smells and sounds that make up their new family. Again, dimmed lights, quiet atmosphere with minimal talking. An introvert’s dream.

Take-Home Message

So, my take-home message to you today is this. If for whatever reason you can’t have your partner by your side, don’t panic. You can do this! Prepare yourself with the best antenatal education you can find, read your books, hire a doula to coach you to a confident mindset, and then trust your body.

If you have a positive and willing partner, then plan what they can do to protect the space you are birthing in. Talk to them, explain what you’d like. Explain what you don’t want too! Most importantly, remember to remain flexible. Hiring a doula in order to help your partner too. Having someone by their side supporting them so that they can support you is a vital role.

If you’d like to talk about how St. Albans Doulas can help you to find a confident and happy place in your mind, before, during, and after your birth please get in touch at stalbansdoulas@gmail.com.

Beautifully illustrated by local artist Olivia Braylin of Bear Paw Designs. You can find Olivia on Instagram @Olivia.Braylin.

A Quiet Nine Months

When I was pregnant and spending hours travelling to and from Kings Hospital where I worked, I spent time thinking about the changes I was about to face in my life. I reflected on my beliefs and values as I was about to find my feet as a parent and I came to the realisation that my introverted nature and the quiet confidence it gave me, really suited pregnancy and birth.

I read books and articles about birthing and trusting your body along with those about the qualities of introverts and found this content intriguing. It offered me comfort when making sense of how I viewed the world around me, especially at a time when I was bringing a new little person into it. I spent time reflecting on the positive qualities that introverts can bring to a situation and in particular, pregnancy. In this two-part series, I discuss some of the ways that I feel you can prepare your body and mind using the positive characteristics of quiet, solitude, creativity and inner-confidence.

I always felt that we live in a world that suits extroverts and wondered how (and why) the education system appeared to focus on groups and sharing activities while the quieter students in class listened while silently taking everything in. Life can be challenging for children who feel they have to adapt and conform to a world that enjoys noise and busyness.

Fast forward to adulthood and the same issues arise. Workplaces are filled with open-plan offices and people encouraged to attend team-building exercises and ‘share with the group’. But what about those who are quietly getting on with their work, perhaps not joining in vocally, feeling uncomfortable at the need to adapt.

I remember watching the TED talk by Susan Cain, which inspired me. It described people similar to me and I started to feel proud to be introverted. From the TED talk came an equally inspiring book called ‘Quiet’ and articles that spoke about the need to take a look at introverts and how they work. Rather than being seen as shy or perhaps standoffish, introverts need lots of time alone to decompress from the noisy world. The rich, inner life of an introvert doesn’t need lots of entertainment (unless it’s the quiet, bookish kind) and they can be very happy left alone with their thoughts.

Below I describe some ideas for you to try in your quiet time, ideas that will help you to create ‘A Quiet Nine Months’.

Take Time Out to Recharge

I appreciate that this is probably easier to do at the time of writing, during the Covid-19 pandemic when you are being forced to stay home, but perhaps you may be at home with small children. This situation makes it harder to take time away. My advice is to carve out time whenever you can and this is advice for those who have children, those who work silly hours and those who don’t. This is advice for everyone.

Make it a priority as you would make it a priority to see a friend. Aim for three times a day five minutes each. If you can make these mindful times a little longer, great. These little breaks are so good for you. I am telling you from years of experience bringing up four children but recognising the value in quiet time for mental health.

Create a Vision for Your Birth

Whatever this vision looks like to you. During your quiet time, read positive pregnancy stories and write the story of your birth as you wish it to be. Make it a sensual experience with a scented candle or some oils sprinkled on the page and sit and write. I talked about creating a little altar in your room in my last post, perhaps you could retreat to this to take time out.

Start from the first surges and talk about where you are and how you feel. Use all the senses to write this story. What can you hear (music, birdsong, nothing at all), or feel (soft pillow to lie against, a comforting blanket to wrap around your shoulders) taste (your favourite snacks). How strong and capable you feel. You have waited a long time for this and you are now ready. You can visualise for a caesarian section birth and birth by induction too. Use this story to inform your Birth Preferences too.

Birth Vision Board

Perhaps you could create a Birth Vision Board. All you need is a large piece of A3 card, some glue and lots of images from the internet and/or magazines if you have any old ones at home. This is your special time so enjoy the process. Lose yourself in Pinterest, finding images than resonate with how you would like your birth to be. If you have a small child with you, perhaps they could do one too. Cutting and sticking can be lots of fun together. Choose words that resonate with you. Affirmations that make you feel strong and capable.


Affirmations are short, personal statements that are written in the present tense with the subject ‘I’ or ‘my’. If you find it hard to write these, search on the internet and choose words and phrases that resonate with you. Once you have printed these off or handwritten some, perhaps you can paint some cards and write your affirmations down on the painted card? Maybe you’d like some stickers surrounding the words or images of you and your partner to make them extra special. You can find some lovely journal stickers on Etsy created from artists throughout Britain. It’s a great way of supporting small one-person businesses.

Virtual Baby Shower

As an introvert, the idea of being centre of attention may not feel like something that resonates but this is about making choices that suit you. A few close friends and some carefully chosen activities over an hour can be a lovely way to create a positive frame of mind. Ask a special friend if they can organise something for you, someone who knows you well and ‘gets’ you. Keep it short with a focus and enjoy the feeling of having a group of people surrounding you as you head towards motherhood.

Perhaps you could ask your friends to be part of a Facebook group for after your baby is born. Whenever you need some shopping or perhaps just a chat, you post in the group and one of your friends can pick it up if they are available. It helps you to feel supported and cared for at a time of isolation.

In my next post, I will talk about how I feel the qualities that many introverts share can help you during your birth and the hours after your baby is born. I will share my favourite books on why introverts rock too! Subscribe to my blog and keep up to date with my posts – reflections from one mother to another.

If I can help you access your inner quiet space through my work as a doula, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. St Albans Doulas is a collective of four experienced birth workers and we’d love to support you in a way that resonates with your way of being in the world. You can find us here  https://stalbansdoulas.com/why-do-i-need-a-virtual-doula/

We can work out your way of receiving positive messages and education, whether than be through text messaging and Whatsapp. Perhaps you enjoy a Zoom conversation or telephone is more for you. We can work around your personal way of communicating to find a way forward. So get in touch with us at stalbansdoulas@gmail.com.

My beautiful illustrations are created by local artist Olivia Braylin. You can find Olivia on Instagram @Olivia.Braylin or email: olivia.braylin@icloud.com.

Your Pregnancy Self-Care Tookit. Updated for Covid-19.

Although this post has been written specifically for the pregnant person in mind, the ideas I talk about can be easily translated for anyone. I have said on a number of occasions when asked how I am, I respond with a pithy statement. As an introvert, I have been preparing for this moment all my life! This isn’t meant to be flippant or insensitive, it is my reality. Time alone is something I relish and I would like to spread some positivity and a little happiness at a time when both appear to be in short supply.

Today, I’d like to share my Top Ten Self-Care practices for pregnancy and beyond.

1. Creating a Safe Space at Home

I felt that this should be number one as you will be spending most of your time there during the current pandemic. This isn’t a post about cleaning and tidying, do not fear! I’m talking about creating an area that is yours, perhaps somewhere where you can retreat to. It may just be a little altar in the corner of the corner of your bedroom with items that hold meaning to you. Pictures, affirmations, crystals. Whatever works for you.

The idea behind having a safe space is that you know it is there and you can go and retreat when you feel like the world is getting to you. I love having candles on my altar and my current favourites are Handmade in Harpenden, Bous and Pure Thoughts.

2. Music

I am a sensory person and I love the idea of filling my five senses in order to creating calm and order in my life. So music is a big part of that. Spotify has been a godsend to me. I have some favourite go-to’s in terms of playlists.

Spotify: Browse: Sleep: Dreamcatcher is a current favourite.

Spotify: Browse: Chill: Breathe is lovely too.

The artist I use in my reflexology practice is Marina Raye and I like ‘Rainbows for Breakfast’. I also use ‘Jessita Reyes’ as the music is quite similar. Margot Reisinger is also good for my treatment room.

 3. Painting

When I am sitting in Bumble, my little garden sanctuary listening to my playlists, I enjoy painting abstracts. This is a peaceful activity and all you really need is some watercolour paper and paints. You certainly don’t need anything expensive to make marks on the paper. It’s the activity that counts.

Maybe you can paint different coloured spots or triangles on the paper?

What colour resonates with you?

How does it feel to let loose with a paintbrush and no one judging the art you produce?

Perhaps you could see if your local art shop is delivering supplies and spend some time enjoying the moment with your paintbrushes.

4.  Aromatherapy

I have talked about my favourite oils in four previous posts (click here) and it goes without saying that I am a big fan of aromatherapy. But you don’t need to invest a lot to start a collection of oils. I am currently enjoying the blends from Holistic Kitchen as I love the quality of the oils, the beautiful branding and the fact that the company is a small UK based business. They have two specifically for pregnancy (Bloom) and birth (Birthing Blend) but there are many others that are equally as lovely. Just check that they are suitable for pregnancy before applying to your skin in a carrier oil.

5. Meditation

I could write an essay about meditation but there are many practitioners out there who are able to write about the subject. Being aware of your senses, as I have described in this post is a mindful approach to meditation. Taking five minutes out of your day, or even twice a day. Setting a reminder on your phone. Find your quiet, comfortable space, check in with your baby, listen to your music and light a candle. Nice deep healing breaths.
I heard an analogy that having these mindful moments in the day is like a runner spending time thinking about their run before the gun goes off. If the runner doesn’t know where they are going, or how fast the pace is, the run will not go well for them. Meditation is like this. Sitting in quiet contemplation alone is pressing that big red reset button. Allowing the thoughts to come in and flow out while you breathe. Make time for meditation today.

6. Reading

There are lots of pregnancy books that I could recommend but this isn’t a post about pregnancy books. Sitting down with a book can be in itself a mindful activity. Perhaps you have a garden where you can sit with your book and listen to the birds? Or smell the flowers? Feel the sun on your face? What kind of book would uplift you at this time? Remember that you are looking to increase the positive hormones at this time and all the things that I talk about in this post are there to help you find a positive, happy, confident mindset before you have your baby.

7. Journaling

I have written many posts on the benefits of journaling. Please click here to visit the old posts if you would like to know more.

8. Walking in Nature

I appreciate that this is more of a challenge than it has been in the past but it’s worth talking about here during these strange times. Getting out for 30 minutes a day is so important for pregnancy for a number of reasons. The exercise helps to keep you fit and healthy and the gentle nature of walking is a great form of exercise for pregnancy. Being outside in the open air can help you to feel connected with nature. Listening to the birds, watching the trees sway in the breeze. Or feeling the rain on your face and the wind in your hair. Remember to choose your times wisely as you don’t want to be out when the paths are busy with lots of people.

9. Boundary Setting

Ah, boundaries….boundaries. Where do we start?

What has happened to WhatsApp? It’s exhausting!

Ping!….message from the antenatal group….Ping!…..message from your mum….Ping!……your friend sends you a funny meme….Ping!….work needs you to look at some documents your manager has sent through. Ping!……..aarrgghh……

Boundary setting requires you to become clear about what you can and can’t do. What you want to do and what you really don’t want in your life. Start with home. Do you want your partner to take more responsibility with the domestic duties – ask them to help but be very clear and specific about what you’re looking for.

Social media. What apps do you have on your phone? Do they need to be there? Can you access them from your laptop during a set time so you aren’t tethered to your phone all day.

Moving onto WhatsApp and Zoom, our two new best friends. How can we socially distance from the content?!  Set boundaries around who you want to hear from and what you want to read. You have choices, you don’t have to listen to everything. Your friends will love you regardless of whether you respond straight away or you take a little time-out from the relationship until this has blown over. If they don’t understand, well….you know the answer.

10. Lastly, find your joy.

There is a lot of negativity in the world at the moment but it doesn’t mean that you have to get bogged down with it. Make space for some of the things that you have read about in this post and disregard the things that don’t work for you. Get really clear on what makes you happy and that will encourage the flow of endorphins, the feel-good hormones.

St Albans Doulas

If I can help you to find your joy then don’t hesitate to get in touch. St Albans Doulas is a collective of experienced birth workers reaching out to those currently pregnant or postpartum in a Facebook Group called ‘Your Virtual Village’. Free to join and full of like-minded people. It’s a pleasure to support our Tribe during these times. You can find out here how we can support you virtually during pregnancy and birth.  We’d love to hear from you www.stalbansdoulas.com.

If you would like more information about the beautiful illustrations, please contact artist Olivia Braylin at olivia.braylin@icloud.com

Five Tips from a Running Evangelist!

Are you looking for an activity that can help increase your fitness?
Something that will enable you to feel stronger, both mentally and physically?
An activity that fits in around other commitments in life?

I am a Running Evangelist, and I would talk about the benefits of running until I am blue in the face. “Why?” I hear you say, “It’s painful, tiring and hard work!” Yes, it can be all of those things, and that’s precisely why I love it so much! I have been on a running journey; indeed, I am ON that running journey, and I’d love to share that passion with you.


My running journey feels like a Very Big Adventure and one that I am thoroughly enjoying. The key message that I’d like you to take from today’s sermon is that you can do it too – if you want to. “That’s a bold statement, Liz!” Indeed it is, so, why do I feel so confident? Because I started at zero and I am now doing things I never thought I’d do, and I believe you can too.

I started running in Autumn 2017 after a long period of ill health. Beginning with walking and adding small periods of gentle running in between, I found it very challenging.  I understood that pacing correctly was important if I wanted to go further, and going further was the one thing I felt that I could do. At that time, I couldn’t run any faster as I still had health challenges, so I decided that I would add a little bit of distance at a time. I started running slowly for 200 metres and gradually built it up. I walk/ran three times a week and included a parkrun into this routine. I walked for most of my parkrun’s but added a few little runs in between trees so that I could get around the course in 40 minutes. I was happy with that.

The routine was essential to me. I kept my commitment to three runs a week and gradually built up the distance. I started to see small gains in the distance and, although my pace remained at around the 17min mile mark, I decided that I would work on running for longer as my first goal.

Top Tip No. 1: Commit to it

Commit to your running and stick to that commitment. Three times a week is a manageable amount, in my opinion, and if you include a parkrun, you can be walk/running three times a week for 30 minutes at a time. If this is important to you, you will find that time. Find your “Why?” and remind yourself of those reasons when you are struggling.

I joined Run Harpenden in March 2018 after hearing stories about how good it was to have a coach and a group of people who share your passion. I was the slowest in the group, but, at that time, I was just happy to be doing what I do. I loved the weekly sessions, enjoyed seeing what I could achieve if I stuck at it and met a wonderful group of people who I love running with now.

Top Tip No. 2: Get a coach

I used to run in my 20’s/early 30’s so I knew that I could ‘do’ it but having a coach has made so much difference.  I feel like I’m achieving things I wouldn’t have done had I not joined the group. Although mentally, I felt strong and capable, my body firmly disagreed with me! My head said “Do it! Do it!” my body screamed “Noooo!”. There was always a disconnect between what I thought I could do and what I could manage. Having a coach has helped my body catch up with my head.

Top Tip no. 3: Find your Tribe

Running in a group is a very different experience to running alone. I had always been a solitary runner in the past, my run time was my headspace, and that time was precious, but I have found a joy in running together that I didn’t think was possible. The encouragement and support from others have been life-changing, and we all look out for each other. When I watch the other runners, it gives me a place to aim. Being part of something bigger than yourself always feels good, and I love to encourage others on their journey.

Top Tip no. 4: Aim High!

As mentioned, I have difficulty with my mind thinking that I can do anything, and my body struggling to catch up. There must be a name for it?  This year has been an example of this ‘disordered thinking’. I ran my first half marathon in April 2018, a very wet and muddy Wimbledon Common Half. Following this, another half in June, along the Thames Towpath. August 2018 saw me celebrating my 25th Wedding Anniversary with a Family Half Marathon (disappointing that they all came in 50 minutes before me despite very little training on their part!!). The St. Albans Stampede followed In September and, a couple of weeks later, the St. Albans Triathlon – LOVED IT! October 2018 saw me step up a gear and tackle the Yorkshire Marathon followed by an Ultra in December. 2018 had been a good year.


I started 2019 in the same vein, January 2019 I ran the Fred Hughes 10 mile followed by the Canterbury 10 mile the week after. In February, the Marriott Way Trail Marathon and, for my 50th birthday, I had the pleasure of running the London Marathon. Two weeks later, another triathlon, a 53 mile ultra in June, 40 mile ultra in August and my third triathlon last weekend. In September,  I passed a goal of running 1,000 miles this year. My long term goal is to run 100 marathons by the time I am 65.

When I read the list of runs I have completed over the past 24 months, I feel so proud of my journey. Not because I am good at what I do, I am frequently at the back of the pack smiling at the tiny handful of spectators who have hung around long enough to see the ‘fun-runners’ arrive home. Neither am I particularly stylish when I run, fellow runners have asked me if I am ok as I shuffle along at snail’s pace. I am proud because I have put myself out there month after month, frequently at the very, VERY edge of my comfort zone and when I do a race, I am so happy to have got around the course. I have had tearful moments when I don’t feel as if I am improving, and that is very demoralising. I have felt very wobbly when it physically hurts, and I feel like I’m going to die, but I haven’t. I’ve eaten a large slice of ‘Man-Up Pie’ and carried on. This leads me to tip no.5.

Top Tip no. 5: Running is a Mind Game

Talking about the mind game is why I love running so much. Yes, it is a physical activity, and you need to train to enjoy the benefits; that goes without saying. But running is more than the physical; it is about the conversations you have with yourself about what you can and can’t do. Where are your limits? How will you feel when you hit that limit and reach for the next? Nothing feels as good as seeing those small steps amount to something. Your ‘something’ is different from everyone else’s, and there is fun in discovering what that something is. It might be five or ten kilometres; it might be longer. It’s for you to decide and that’s very empowering.

So, what’s stopping you?

Make that commitment to yourself, enjoy the time outside and expand your comfort zone a little. Do something that scares you. Book that 10k race and train for it. Go to parkrun and see if you can knock 10 seconds off your time the previous week. Just keep moving forward. You won’t regret it.


Take a look at these other blogs featuring my story:)

A Bump in the Road – Runr blog

parkrun blog

View at Medium.com

February Favourites

February is an interesting time of year. On one hand, we are in the middle of winter here in Hertfordshire with snow and sleet outside my window as I write this.

On the other, we are almost in March and the snowdrops are raising their little heads above the soil and this makes me very excited. I can’t wait for the beautiful bluebells to pop up in my local woods in the next coupe of months.

This time last year it was a very different story. My Facebook account brought up some images taken on my dog walk in February 2017, a couple of days before I was taken into hospital with sepsis. I hadn’t been unwell (these photos demonstrated that I was out and about with my dog) and I certainly hadn’t anticipated being critically ill so quickly and it was a shock for everyone around me. This episode has made me re-evaluate my life choices and has helped me to focus on the things that are important to me.

So what are my favourite things this month?



Part of my role as a Doula is an educator and I found this book to be a lovely addition to my Pregnancy, Birth and Post-Partum library. It’s beautifully presented using stunning images and reflective prose and talks about how we can care for the new mum without pushing her to get back to normal as soon as possible.

The First Forty Days

Even if your post-partum days are behind you, maybe you have a friend who would like a copy? I would recommend this lovely book for its recipes and ideas for taking life at a slower pace regardless of where you are on your childrearing journey.


Anatomy of a Scandal is a page-turner and I am loving it so far. It tells the story of a rape case told from different angles – the man who has been accused of rape, his wife and the prosecuting barrister. There are a few twists and turns along the way which really grip you and the writing makes this book unputdownable.

Anatomy of a Scandal

Thoughtful Living

I have been trying out new products in an attempt to ditch the plastic and here are my top four.

Bamboo Toothbrushes

Dental Aesthetics Bamboo Toothbrush

I have tried a few bamboo toothbrushes after ditching plastic ones last year but the ones I have used in the past are a little soft for my liking. These ones, from Dental Aesthetics on Amazon, have been my chosen toothbrushes for a few months now. They are nice and firm and have all the eco-credentials that I’m looking for in a bamboo toothbrush. Click on the title of the image to take you to the page.

My Bamboo Cup

Just take a look at this beauty! I was drawn to the William Morris styling and colours and the size is perfect for making sure that I take in plenty of water during the day. I carry this around with me in my bag and take it to the gym where I prefer drinking water from than the sports bottles that I have used previously.

William Morris Bamboo Cup

Sanitary Pads

I know that I may lose a few of you by talking about washable sanitary pads but bear with me if you can. As a society, we just can’t carry on throwing sanitary pads and nappies away in the rubbish without thinking about where they go after we dump them. The plastic alone is one reason to rethink our usage and, once you have seen images of the carnage that we are causing to our planet, I believe that we all have a responsibility to look at alternatives.

I buy mine from a company called Honour Your Flow who sell lots of different colours and materials to suit all women – including post-partum.  I have used reusable pads from them for a long time, I throw them in the wash and they come out clean and ready to reuse. They have saved me a fortune too.

White Vinegar

Lastly, my favourite friend. If you haven’t invested in white vinegar as a cleaner yet, please let me introduce you to this amazing product. Firstly, if you buy it in 5 litres bottles, it costs next to nothing.

Fabric Softener

I use white vinegar as a fabric softener in my wash. A cap full in the fabric conditioner section of my washing machine makes my clothes feel lovely and soft and doesn’t smell of vinegar at all. I often add a few drops of essential oils too. Check out my favourites here.


I use white vinegar to clean my sinks – put it in a bottle and spray onto any areas of limescale. Leave it for a few minutes and wipe it off. It cleans AMAZINGLY!

Descaling a kettle.

Descaling my kettle was the first time I found the many uses of white vinegar.  Chemical descalers were really expensive and white vinegar worked perfectly. Pour it in, bring the kettle almost to the boil and leave it for 15 minutes. It’s the only time that I find the smell a little off-putting but that’s fine if you’re saving pounds each time you descale.

Until next time….

I hope you have enjoyed my February Favourites. If you have any questions about moving towards a greener way of living, drop me a line and I’ll send you some resources that I have picked up along the way.













January Minimalism

I have been investigating minimalism over the winter period as I become more and more conscious about the stuff that I own. I am aware that in the past  I have flippantly bought more things because I just ‘felt’ like it. I have been looking at my need to buy from a number of angles – the ethical, the minimalist and the psychological and it’s been an interesting journey for me.


Ethically, I made the decision at Christmas that  I would buy from small businesses and that made life a lot more interesting. Previously, I  had always bought from larger businesses – pressing the ‘buy’ button on the Amazon app. made life easy but it didn’t feel right.

Buying gifts this year gave me a lot of pleasure, they were beautifully created and I knew that the person who had made them was a single trader or very small business. I think the gifts that I bought were well-received too. There is a real groundswell of support for the small business and it’s great to be involved in that from a consumer’s point of view.


On a minimalist front, I really think about the things I buy and I have been enjoying this way of life throughout January. I keep a simple budget and only buy things that give me pleasure or that I really need. I’ve been doing some research into minimalism and that brings me to some recommendations for you to read this month.

The Minimalists are Joshua and Ryan, a couple of young men who decided to turn their back on the corporate life and live by their values, getting rid of the junk in their lives along the way. I watched their film on Netflix over Christmas and it really resonated with me.  I have been reading the essays on their website and listening to their podcasts. I love listening to podcasts on my early-morning dog walk and The Minimalists episodes are all packed with thoughts and ideas to get your started. I would recommend them to you all.

I have also been reading essays by Joshua Becker who’s message inspires me and, coupled with The Minimalists, really helps me on my ‘less-is-more’ journey. I’ve got a long way to go but I’m making small changes along the way and these changes are helping me to feel more positive about my choices.

Remember that clearing the clutter isn’t just about making room in your house, it can mean clearing out the relationships which don’t serve you anymore.

  • Are their people in your life that you would like to see less of?
  • Do they drag you down and suck your energy?
  • What steps can you put in place to minimise your contact with them?

If you find it difficult to declutter your life space then this could be the most difficult step to take.


Psychological, I have been questioning why I buy so much stuff. I read a book a few years ago called Stuffocation and it resonated with me. I tend to buy art equipment and books so you could argue that they aren’t going to break the bank but all these little things add up. I buy books and store them to read at a later date but I now have a bigger pile to ‘To Read’ and it’s starting to feel a little overwhelming.

I am starting another Open University module shortly and so my time for reading for relaxation will become shorter and shorter. I’ve also noticed that my attention span isn’t as good as it used to be and I’m very distracted by my phone. It makes me sad that I am so distracted and it’s something I really need to work on.

I need to go through my books and take some to the charity shops but I enjoy being surrounded by them in my living room. I see them as old friends who have been there with me throughout and it gives me pleasure to see how my tastes have changed over the years. So I’m not sure what to do about it. If you have any ideas to help me deal with this conflict, leave a message for me in the comments.

Next Steps

The message I have taken from my research is to start where you are.

  • What one step can you do today to clear your life of all the junk and mess?
  • If you don’t have time to physically do anything to take you one step nearer the goal, can you make a plan to clear a space over the weekend?
  • Can you look through your books and take some of those to the local charity shop? (that’s one for me!)

I’d love to know how you get on but in the meantime, have a great January. I’ll be back next month with some February Favourites.







December in The Garden Sanctuary

I was thinking about a new direction for my blog posts and looking around at others blog posts I enjoy reading and reflecting on why I enjoy them so much. They tend to be centred around living a slower pace of life and savouring those special moments. The images are beautiful and the writing evokes happy memories.

I have looked back at some of the posts I have written in the past and I think that my favourite was the  ‘My Little Box of Comforting Things’. There is a theme running through and that is the enjoyment of all things peaceful and quiet.

I’d like to start a series of posts looking at some things that I will be enjoying this month.

My Non-Fiction Book of the Month – ‘Making Winter’ by Emma Mitchell

If you haven’t seen ‘Making Winter’  in your local bookshop, and you like a bit of art and craft in your life, I’d urge you to order it. Focusing on the slow life with plenty of prompts to make you wrap up warm and go outside, even in the coldest of days. There are some lovely ideas for crafts for you to browse through, even if you haven’t yet found the time for a bit of art in your life.



My Fiction Book of the Month – ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman.

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ is an absolute joy to read, a wonderful mix of humour, sadness, intrigue and the vagaries of life all in one volume. A debut novel by a fresh new talent, it follows the life of Eleanor who lives a very simple life. Written in the first person, we get a real feel for her character with the immediacy of what she is feeling and how she deals with the people she interacts with on a daily basis.

The book is about change and her relationships with those around her. It’s unpredictable and beautifully written.

Scented Candles

I have found three wonderful independent candle makers on my travels recently and I can highly recommend all three for service, beautiful scented candles and lovely Instagram feeds. 

The Botanical Candle Co.

Bous UK

The Bearded Candlemakers 

My Favourite Journal

Those who follow me on Instagram will know that I have quite a collection of journals. I like to have a different book dependent on my mood at the time and the many different ways in which I use my journal.

I have been a big fan of bullet journaling since I discovered it this year and my Scribbles That Matter is perfect for my needs. The dotted paper gives me the flexibility to create my monthly and weekly spreads and the thickness of the paper allows me to be liberal with my watercolour paints.

My Favourite Gloves

I was absolutely thrilled to win this pair of beautiful fingerless gloves from Moonlight Wovens in collaboration with Jessica Rose Williams. I was involved in a Twitter conversation about the best accessories for the winter photographer and I had an idea about creating My Hygge Clothing List so these beautiful handmade gloves came at a perfect time to include in my list. I’ll continue with some favourites next month.

My Favourite Blog

Finding Jessica Rose at Christmas is a perfect tonic to the busyness of consumerism. Her blog talks about minimalism and how to cut down on all the stuff we have that clogs up our lives and contains beautifully curated photographs of her life and work. The piece entitled ‘Embracing a Simpler Christmas’ is perfect for the stressed woman looking for some sanity.

My Favourite Shop

I’ve really enjoyed making better choices at Christmas over the past couple of years and this means buying gifts from smaller and local companies. I bought some gifts from Aerende last year and was really impressed with the quality of the products and the story behind each product (each item has been handcrafted by people who have been unable to access conventional employment). Emily’s website is beautifully curated too so take a look.

I hope you have enjoyed my little list of goodies, I’d love to hear about your gems so drop me a line with your thoughts and ideas and I will check them out. I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and New Year and I’ll see you ‘on the other side’! Here’s to 2018…





Vision Boarding for Beginners

For those who haven’t heard of vision boarding, I’d like to introduce you to this art form. Using vision boards for a few years now, I have found that it can be a simple method of seeing your goals come to life. I really enjoy the process too.

Vision boards can come in different forms and each one is as individual as the person creating it. I like to create a vision board in a book rather than a board so I have a Moleskine A2 watercolour book where I keep a few pages dedicated to my vision.

I create my pages as-and-when things change for me and my goals need to be tweaked. I’ll be doing another board this summer to adapt my goals after a winter of ill health.

Before you start

It’s important to think about your goals before you start. Otherwise, you will spend time creating a nice scrapbook and not much else. In order to create your list of goals, please check my posts entitled Living your Values . This link will take you to the first post so work through that one and then read the following four leading up to the conclusion.

These posts will give you an idea of the direction in which you are heading.



Creating a vision board can be quite reasonable – or you can spend a lot on various pieces of ephemera! If you are on a budget, I would advise you to surf the internet and take images from there to print off. If you have a little more ready cash available, invest in some magazines which resonate with you. 

By this time, you should know the areas you are looking at, so you may want to invest in some travel magazines or perhaps those dedicated to the home or health and fitness.

Perhaps you can buy a handful and then fill in the gaps with some print-off’s from the internet.

Board or book?

You can buy a board from your local art shop quite reasonably choosing the size you want. I think that A2 is a good size as A4 can be quite restrictive.

Perhaps you’d like to put your images on a cork-board instead?

I prefer to visualise in a book so I can use different pages for different themes. I also create mini vision boards in my journals to keep me on track but these are a lot smaller and more compact, printed off from the internet.

Pens, glue, stickers, scissors

Anything you can get your hands on to create an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment while you do your board.

If you are in the UK, you’ll find a shop called The Works is pretty good for stickers and glitter. I personally love Etsy for my stickers but they tend to be a bit more expensive.

You may not be a sticker and glitter type of person and that’s fine too.


Yes, I’ve put time on the equipment list! It’s the summer holidays and time is a little less restrictive. No checking the clock for the 3pm pick-up so you can create some space in which to do some work.

I think this is a great activity to do with your children. They can do their own while you do yours. Of course, there’s wont be goal-orientated but they will have fun sitting at the kitchen table cutting and sticking with Mummy.

But how do I do it?

I gather my equipment together and start by flicking through my magazines and seeing which images catch my eye. I cut them out and put them to the side ready to glue into my book.

Sometimes, I cut out images that may not seem to ‘fit’ with my ideas as I find it interesting to see why that picture resonated with me, Sometimes I don’t find the answer straight away but it’s when I go back to it that I discover what it is about that image that drew me to it.

I have a break for a cup of coffee at this point and relax for a little while before going back to my book.

When I sit down again, I put my images in some semblance of order. I have different pages for different types of goals and sometimes I have pages for values that resonate.

For example, I have a page that says ‘peace’ to me and although that’s not strictly a goal, I like to collaborate all my pictures together into one section so I can go back to it and remind myself what peace means to me.

This can sometimes take longer than the time available to you and that’s ok. Simply put the images in a safe place with the book or board and return to it when you next have some time to spare.

So what’s stopping you?

Pick up some glue and a notebook or board from your local newsagents when you are next in town along with a handful of magazines. Work out your life values when you have some time in the evening.

Grab a pen and a notebook and work your way through the short exercises instead of flopping in front of the telly!

I know you’ll find some nuggets of information from doing these exercises as it really helped me when I had young children at home and no time to myself. So give it a go and let me know how you get on.

I’ll be running some short workshops in the autumn term for mums with very little time who would like to work on their vision board. Or perhaps you’d like to learn a little more about journaling instead?

Why not drop me an email if you are interested in joining me in the Garden Sanctuary for a session of arts and visioning.

You can find me on elisabeth@thegardensanctuary.co.uk.

In the meantime, have a great summer break.









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