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Wellness My Way - Emily Armstrong

The juggle is real...

Curious about what wellness really means to us all, we’re on a mission to uncover how small and seismic wellness shifts can change our everyday lives - from attitudes to rituals, products to mindsets, treatments to movements, we’ll cover it all with some (not)guilty pleasures thrown in for good measure. Because wellness isn’t a fad, it’s a commitment to yourself, and to feeling healthier and happier for life.

This month, we asked Emily Armstrong, Editor of The Seedling, Brand Director and mother of four to share her approach to wellness and the endless juggling act…

What does wellness mean to you? 
I'm beginning to think of wellness as a constant movement, a verb rather than a noun, a work-in-progress of being kind to myself in body, mind & spirit. I'm not sure I'll ever embody 'green-goddess-Gwyneth' type wellness but for me, if I'm in a good wellness rythym then I go to bed feeling peaceful and wake up feeling grateful. Whatever the day throws at me in between I can mostly handle if it's bookended with those sentiments.

How do you approach wellness? 
I approach wellness from a realistic point of view, probably a 70/30 rather than an 80/20 ratio of moderation, with curiosity about mindsets and methods, a pinch of skepticism and a sense of humour. I pick and choose what I like most - at the moment, I think Tim Spector is the guru, as he says coffee is not only okay, but beneficial! 

Any tips on fitting a wellness ritual into your busy schedule? 
At this point in my life there isn't much spare time to schedule wellness even though I know I should, but I'm all about little moments/choices in the day or week that serve overall wellness. A run when it makes the dog walk faster, a handful of nuts instead of a mars bar at 3pm, a tech-free wind down before bed that sets up for good sleep. Trying to be proactive rather than always reactive is my greatest challenge. Movement is key for me - it gives me energy and is great for shifting my mood to a more motivated, positive and calm mindset. But if I can't fit it in (harder when the days are shorter as I love to exercise outdoors) then it's not going to break my stride. 

Of all the wellness areas - mind, body, spirit, which are you drawn to most?
They all feed each other. Mind is increasingly important to me and effects everything else. Looking after my spirit and listening to it helps my mind. I'm pretty into the spirit thing and as they say, 'the vibe don't lie'! I try to be in tune with my intuition and those niggly feelings usually mean something, and result in me realising if certain situations are not right for me. As I get older, I'm increasingly aware that health is wealth. I had my youngest child in my early 40's so keeping fit and healthy in mind, body and spirit is top of my agenda.
Do you regularly exercise? What do you do for exercise? 
I love to run. But there are times when I am injured or get sick, when the practice slips for a bit. I find if I don't leave it too long I can get back to it without having to build up the fitness again. It's free, it's quick (sometimes only 20 mins) and it's efficient as I get a run in while exercising the dog too. A total win/win. During the pandemic and especially when home schooling it became a necessity for my mental health and my family began to literally push me out the door for a run, as I was undoubtedly a nicer person to live with post-run than pre-run. For me, the magic happens with the endorphin trifecta arising from a certain level of exercise (heart rate high enough), being in nature and my favourite music. It's so uplifting and sets me up for the day. I adore yoga and everything it represents but need to get back into a regular practice... that's not all about the 'Savasana'! I also love tennis but am not good, and my husband and children are, so I hope to up my game...

Nine+ years between oldest and youngest and a lot of sleepless nights...

How does nature connect to wellness for you?
It's the key to wellness for me. I find nature cathartic and poetic, and increasingly so as I get older. I have never been able to exercise in a gym. Being outdoors, running free, seeing my dog run free is such an expansive feeling and really serves me as I'm quite claustrophobic. I grew up in Australia with a strong connection to both the 'bush' and the beach. I love wide open spaces and cherish living in the countryside now after years in London, Sydney & Singapore. We neighbour a 700-acre National Trust farm and so that gives me plenty of nature to connect with. I do, however, miss the big sky, warm weather and beaches of Australia.

Do you meditate? Or what’s your version of ‘you time’ to get away from the noise and to-do lists…?
I don't meditate - I wish I did! One day I will. In the meantime, I am trying to carve out moments of me time even if they are currently a dog walk or if desperate a drive on my own with my own music or a podcast and no children in the car! Seriously though, a walk on my own in nature usually sorts things out - if I'm feeling particularly stressed or trying to work though an issue I will go without my phone and just listen to the sounds of nature without distraction which I find super grounding.
A treatment, practice or ritual that has changed your life?
A practice that's linked to gratitude for me is the notion of reframing 'I have to do this' to 'I get to do this'. It's a small semantic shift but makes a big difference to me, checks my privilege and gives me perspective. I've just finished a month without alcohol and that was really beneficial for noticing the habit of reaching for a glass of wine when I really don't need one, and finding ways to unwind that are more wholesome, and am interested in the Sober Curious movement. I am also fascinated by the benefits of sleep. After a few years of terrible sleep (my youngest only slept through the night for the first time when she was 3 due to obstructive sleep apnoea) I realised how it can negatively effect so much, so now I do what I can to prioritise 7-8 hours of sleep a night and it's a total game changer. 
Facialist? And any recent treatments you’ve loved?
A quote that made me laugh - 'the closest I get to a day spa is when the steam from the dishwasher smacks me in the face'. That is so me as I rarely make time for a facial but I plan a skin peel treatment this side of Christmas! I have high hopes to emerge looking a little more fresh-faced...
A book or author that you’re inspired by in wellness?
Thrive by Arianna Huffington first introduced me to the idea of a holistic mindset embracing wellbeing, wisdom and wonder back in 2015. Weirdly it felt revolutionary at the time, while similar conversations are everywhere now. I love listening to podcasts with a wellbeing bent now - Diary of a CEO has lots of wellness ideas to ponder, and I really like Mel Robbins podcast (as corny as she may be sometimes!).
What foods do you love to eat/prepare that make you feel your best?
It's all in the mix - I dearly love coffee and sourdough with salted butter - I recognise it's not ideal but it makes my heart sing especially in winter and that's something. I try to balance with lots of vegetables, grains, and heathy fats like avocados. I regularly eat eggs as so quick snd easy and love grilled fish and meet. Eating early in the evenings and increasing the fasting window a couple of times a week help my digestion and energy. But I adore food so I will never deny myself anything really and am very conscious of showing a love of good food to my children and never ever mention 'dieting'.
Any tips for nutritional snacking?!
I genuinely want to be inspired for me and my children. The best way I know how to keep nutrition on the agenda is to make my own (batch cooking if possible) instead of having anything out of a packet. Nuts, vegetable crudité, peanut butter on apple slices, seeded oatcakes are the go-tos. But I've got to be honest, we have a fair rotation of croissants to go with our coffees in the office (and the occasional Itsu dark chocolate rice cake!). And the children do get quite a lot of Maryland biscuits when I collect them from school! And I love a ginger nut biscuit!
What daily beauty products do you swear by?
I am relatively minimal when it comes to products but currently loving all things Beauty Pie. I struggle with beauty 'overwhelm' after years working in magazines, I always had so many products to trial so rarely stuck to a brand or regime. That's why I love Beauty Pie. They have the latest innovations and ingredients, it's a one-stop shop and are really clear on how to use and layer products. My go-tos are the Japanfusion cleanser, YouthBomb serum and the very best SPF I have ever had (and now my teenage daughter also uses as I wish I had when I was her age).
Do you take any regular supplements? 
I started taking HRT earlier this year and it's been so beneficial for me. I feel like myself again and I know it's not a 'supplement' but it's a big part of my wellness and I think it should be mentioned more often. There are lots of natural ways to tackle the symptoms of peri-menopause but personally I've found HRT to be the answer. I also take vitamin D daily. I found out earlier this year my vitamin D levels were almost non-existent (another hallmark of peri-menopause and lower oestrogen levels) so not taking any chances now, particularly at this time of year. I also take Vitamin C daily and (my kids take the sambucal elderberry dummies). I take a wonderful Icelandic collagen supplement, Amino Marine Collagen (in my Lions Mane mushroom coffee!) and have noticed a difference in my skin, and hair too. Talking of the mushroom craze, I really have noticed a difference to my focus and energy but not sure if it's the mushrooms(!), better sleep or HRT - possibly a combination. I also take a daily Biome probiotic but am thinking of subscribing the whole family to Symprove. I am fascinated by gut health and its effect on physical and mental health, and currently have us all on a Kefir yoghurt (we all love this one) + seeds + fruit regime for breakfast!
What’s your typical morning ritual (on a good wellness morning)?
A typical morning is about as real as it gets here - not sure it provides any wellness inspiration! But from a mind point of view, getting up before any of my children is essential to starting the day on top! It's a fast and furious ritual of warm water with apple cider vinegar, unpacking the dishwasher, peeling some warm school uniform bits off the aga if I've remembered it all,  then some dry body brushing, a quick, hot shower (I wish I could embrace the cold shower thing but can't face it!), applying serum and some half-hearted gua sha face sculpting, and then I can face the challenge of getting four children up and ready for school! An instant coffee hit of Dirtea's Lion Mane coffee with muhroooms (yes, really!) and I'm ready to go...
Evening ritual (on a good wellness day)?
It really depends on the season but in winter it's all about eating as early as possible (since the pandemic we've mostly eaten together rather than meals for children then for parents as I don't have the bandwidth for both and it's a lovely moment for us all - or just me and the kids if my husband is not home, to be around the table together, however chaotic). Then it's the bath and bedtime circus, then my own bath/book/bed and sometimes I am in bed at the same time as my older children! I am fairly minimal in terms of beauty in the evening - I do take any make-up off (promise!) and sometimes do some skincare layering when the little girls are in the bath - I seem to have more energy to do this than before bed. Before I go to bed on weeknights, I have a cup of Snore & Peace herbal tea and often have this with my eldest daughter which is a really nice ritual as it makes her stay and talk with me a bit (quite rare at the moment!).
A weekly ritual you have made or intend to make that is just for you? 
I intend to get back into yoga and riding and get into London more regularly to see old friends and new exhibitions, and get my London fix. I love my Friday coffees/walks with friends. And my chats to friends and family in Australia fill up my cup.
Fave workout gear...?
Tory Sport (the tennis collection makes me determined to get better at it!), and The Upside, a fabulous Aussie brand. I love my Asics Gel Trainers that have heavy duty tread for running through muddy fields.
Dream travel + wellness escape? 
Bali and Ibiza are my two favourite places for some hippy-dip escapism - a heady mix of sunsets, treatments & tunes! I would also love to go on one of yoga teacher & writer, Nicole Croft's retreats in Cornwall, Greece or Marrakech.
Quote or Mantra? 
"It's a good day to have a good day."
Your (not)guilty pleasure?
Ginger nut biscuits! And salty crisps with wine.

Emily lives in Oxfordshire with her husband Tom and four children. She grew up in Australia where a love of travel was encouraged. After graduating from university there, Emily lived in London for 15+ years, and then in Sydney and Singapore with her growing family. She has worked in women's lifestyle media for 20+ years - primarily at British Vogue and alsoVogue Australia, Grazia Australia, and The Grace Tales; and founded her own brand, The Paradise Catcher. Follow @emilyflorence_

Main photo credit: Julie Adams for The Grace Tales.