As part of our January Detox week, we have asked health and wellness coach, motivational speaker and the award winning author of wellness book “Minding Mum” Alison Canavan, how she balances her demanding career with home life.
Tells us about what you do?
I’m an author, health and wellness coach and a motivational speaker. I do talks and workshops, radio and TV as well. My background is in the fashion industry as I have also been a model for 23 years.
I became interested in real wellness after battling depression and anxiety for many years. After I had my son I had postnatal depression, which led me to really turn my life around and get to the root cause of my problems. I have since written a book on wellness and self-care for new mums called “Minding Mum- Its time to take care of you”
I am deeply passionate about helping and encouraging people to be the best that they can be and understanding that you can change your story and your life at any time if you really want too.
I have completely turned my own life around and I now live a life of peace and contentment instead of chaos and pain.
I now travel giving talks in different countries on wellbeing, mindfulness and meditation.
Where is home and who will we find there?
I travel a lot for work. My main base is in Dublin with my son but I spend on average 2-3 days during the week in London. My mum was brought up in London and my sister and extended family live here. I used to live here for 7 years during my early modelling career before moving to the states.
When I’m in London I stay in my sisters in Mile End. I love it there as it’s right beside Victoria Park and also near to Shoreditch and the city too.
In Dublin I live with my son James, in Castleknock in a cottage. I love it as its cosy and comfortable with a nice open fire for the chilly evenings during winter. I’m a big fan of wintertime and snuggling with a good book in front of the fire.
I’m a single mum so I have a great support structure in Dublin with my mum and sisters, which enables me to travel for work. James comes to London a lot too which he loves, as he’s a football fanatic and adores the natural history museum as well.
What’s the best way you’ve found to balance family and a career?
Awareness and presence! Before I had James I travelled all over the world as a model and my life was pretty crazy at times. Having James forced me to look at myself and work on myself and children also force you to be present in your life because they naturally are.
I have a great mum who James stays with and a wonderful group of friends. I’m also lucky that James travels a lot with me for work when he can.
I think it’s important to have structure and every day I get up early and meditate and write in my gratitude diary before my day begins. This helps to keep stress low and it keeps me focused too.
I have found that balance is not about ticking of a to do list but more about having more presence in my life during the day. There is no point in reading your child a story every night if you are not engaged and present for the story. Your time is the most valuable asset you have and the most valuable thing you can give to others so use it mindfully. When I’m with people I try and be with them rather than on my phone or distracted. This is hugely important to me as a mum when I’m with James. If I’m on my phone in the evening James will actually tell me its mum and James time and I put it away till he’s in bed.
It’s these small changes that have made a big difference in my life.
What three items help you juggle everything?
Face time is a saviour with James when I am away so my phone, meditation and my journal.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face?
Battling depression, anxiety and addictions and coming out the other end and living a life I never thought imaginable.
What do you most enjoy about your role at work?
Helping people. Receiving a mail or message from someone whose life you have affected positively even in the smallest way means so much to me as I know what its like to feel helpless and hopeless.
Is there anything you struggle with and how do you deal with it?
Like most people living a modern life I find it hard to switch off sometimes and can overwork and become stressed quite easily which is why it’s important to have my daily practise of meditation, mindfulness and gratitude.
I still struggle saying no to people when I should and if I’m honest being a single mum can be very lonely at times. I have no one to chat to about my day in the evenings and discuss what’s happening with James. No one sets out to be a single mum but life has a funny way of surprising you and there have been times when I struggle with it.
How do you spend any precious me time you get?
I adore reading and eat books! I love treating myself to a massage too. Its important to nurture yourself and practise self-care after all you can’t pour from an empty cup and let me tell you I learnt this the hard way.
If your planning a family holiday where would it be?
I love travelling and I like to explore. James and I have been to a few places including France, Spain and Egypt together. I like heading to the sun so maybe Spain for a week but I also like holidays based around wellness so nice family retreats are fun too.
How do you switch off?
Breathe and meditate. Our breath is one of the most powerful tools we have yet one of the most under used resources. Very often we miss the simple things and taking time to consciously breathe has enormous health benefits. A nice walk also helps me to switch off or a yoga class.
What exercise do you do?
I like a variety when it comes to exercise so I do yoga, Pilates, running, weights and long walks. If I’m travelling I take a class at a local gym or go for a run in the morning. When I’m at home I either take a class or do a workout at home.
What are you wardrobe fail-safes?
Dresses! I’m a huge fan of Karen Millen as the dresses suit my body type well. I love high street stores like warehouse, oasis and topshop too. I love Freddy jeans. They look great and are so comfy too. They are fab to dress up and for a relaxed weekend look.
And accessories you couldn’t be without?
My Alex and Ani bracelets and my crystal bracelets also. I couldn’t be without them as each one was gifted to me for a special reason. I’m deeply spiritual so I get great comfort from wearing them especially when I travel.
This can be anything from bags, watches, scarves and jewellery. Mention as many things as you like and try to mention brands.
I use essential oils and recently I have discovered www.balmbalm.com fragrance collection of which my favs are mandarin, bergamot, ylang ylang and lavender.
You’re hosting a dinner party – what’s on the menu?
I would have a soup for starters as I’m a huge soup fan and I also make my own home make organic nutmilks so I would use one of them as a base like a veloute and then add some spices like cumin and some garlic, onion and lemon and lime juice and then blend avocados into it so it becomes a creamy taste sensation as well as a stunning colour. I feel the colour and variety of food is important.
For mains I would do baked lemon and black pepper salmon on a bed of baby spinach sprinkled with mixed seeds and a side of homemade baked honey sweet potato fries and a selection of salads. I always have some kimchi at home too.
I would make warmed plums in orange juice with a fig cream and chocolate shavings for dessert. I would also make some raw dark chocolates with essentials oils like orange and peppermint or a raw cacao smoothie.
If you’re going out where is your favourite spot?
Dishoom in Shoreditch is my all time favourite restaurants. Ceviche near Old Street is another one and Roka is fantastic for sushi. All three has atmosphere and food in common.
Is there a woman you really admire?
I admire my mum as we lost our dad 18 years ago and she was left with 5 children. Every day since then she has done everything she can for her kids and her support since I had my son has been completely selfless and incredible. I wouldn’t have been able to return to college and study if it hadn’t been for my mum.
There are so many other women I admire. I’m a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey. To me she is a true champion of others. She had a tough time when she was young and has a huge heart. Her ability to bring spirituality mainstream and give it a platform and a voice has been a catalyst for so many people with programmes like Super soul Sunday, which aim to lift and inspire you.
Women who write to me and share their stories continuously inspire me. Life’s true heroes surround us each and every day. Those who have been through adversity battling a range of issues like cancer, depression, addiction, loss and more.
What’s the next big thing in your life?
I have just be invited to speak at a big mindfulness conference in America called Mindful Life in April which I am very excited about. I am working on my 2nd book idea now and hope to get started soon and I’m also working on some exciting projects and products too.
2017 is an exciting year of growth for me and I’m excited to see what happens.