Strong, Healthy Women Interview Series: Rachel Simpson

Rachel is a women’s health educator and founder of Mana Women’s Wellness. She’s a physiotherapist at heart but she’s furthered her studies to become a recognised nutrition and health coach and a trained teacher in natural fertility because when it comes to working with a healthcare professional, she believes in a holistic approach. She offers private online consultations for women at all stages of life and empowers the women she works with to achieve long-term positive change.

Her mission is to empower curious women to tune in to their own body’s intelligence, understand what it needs and recognise when it is signalling that something is not quite right, because she believes that knowledge is power - when you truly understand your body, you are empowered to make informed decisions about your health.

Find inspiration as we talk to Rachel Simpson in our #StrongHealthyWomen interview.

Hi Rachel! Thank you for being part of the Health and Fitness Travel, Strong, Healthy Women Interview Series, where we are shining a light on the importance of self-care, not as an indulgence but a necessity to reduce stress and general health issues.

Is there such a thing as a typical day for you and what does that look like?

A typical day for me at the moment is super busy, as I’m still working as a physiotherapist while launching my women’s health education and coaching business, Mana Women’s Wellness.

I love routine and feeling organised, and I love waking up in the morning knowing exactly what I have to achieve for that day, so I try to stick to a morning routine even when I’m travelling or on weekends.

We have a new puppy at home, so sleep-ins aren’t an option at the moment! I love to wake up with the sun and start the day with 5 minutes of mindfulness practice or just sitting quietly and focusing on my breathing. I’ll drink a smoothie for breakfast then head to the gym for about an hour, where I’ll do a combination of cardio, strength training and stretching. Being a physiotherapist, I like to create my own workout circuits to keep me interested and motivated. I’ll shower, then head off to work and start my morning by writing out my daily to-do list while drinking a hot green tea and eating some yogurt with homemade muesli and berries.

I’ll either be working at the clinic, or I’ll be at my home office planning content, working on upcoming products and I’ll spend a couple of hours on private online coaching calls with my clients.

After work wraps up for the day, my partner and I will cook dinner together, then we’ll take our border collie puppy Bonnie for a walk in the woodlands park near our house to burn off some energy and chase the kangaroos - she never gets tired! We’ll wind down for the night by relaxing on the couch, having a chat or watching TV, then it’s off to bed for an early night. I’m a Nanna at heart and because I wake up early I love to be in bed before 10:00 pm to do it all again tomorrow!

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Recently I had the period from hell. #periodmonster 👹⠀ ⠀ Can you relate? Share in the comments below👇⠀ ⁠⠀ Normally my cycles are pretty ho-hum. Regular, predictable, maybe some mild cramps for an hour or two, maybe some extra zits…but otherwise extremely manageable🙏#gratitude⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ But this cycle, something felt very off🤦🏼‍♀️⠀ ⁠⠀ In the week leading up to my period (my luteal phase) I felt unwell and had cramps on and off. My mood was horrendous and I cried multiple times (we’re talking locked in the toilets at work on my lunch break!)⁠😭⠀ ⁠⠀ This isn’t me. I cry at tv and soppy advertisements, maybe during the family visit of Survivor... but real life and especially at work? Nope!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ When my period finally arrived it came with a vengeance 👹No subtle spotting as a warning it was coming. It arrived instantly. I had horrible cramps on Day 1 and continued to cry and feel horrible (lucky this happened on a weekend)🤢⠀ ⁠⠀ So once I finally got over my self-pity, I reflected on the last month to explore why this time around it was so bad. ⁠⠀ ⠀ 🌸Added stress and extreme frustration at work⁠⠀ 🌸Multiple late nights⁠⠀ 🌸A wedding where many Moscatos were consumed⁠⠀ 🌸A red eye flight to and from the other side of the country⁠⠀ 🌸Exercise…what’s that?⁠⠀ ⠀ 💡Ahh…that’s why…⁠💡⠀ ⁠⠀ I have always subscribed to the school of thought that I learnt from @fertilityfriday – your menstrual cycle is a vital sign and it sends messages to you about the health of your body.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ 🌟I got the message loud and clear🌟⠀ ⁠⠀ I have been stressed, I know that. And in only a month it has taken a toll on my hormone balance and the health of my cycle. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ So, I spent Day 1 of my cycle (when not curled up on the couch with a heat pack) doing absolutely nothing. I had a bath, gave myself a facial, practiced gratitude and meditation and did some Yin (restorative) Yoga with postures that would relieve my cramps🧘🏼‍♀️⠀ ⠀ I slept like a baby that night😴⠀ ⁠⠀ Stay tuned this week because I’d like to share some more tips about getting through the period from hell.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ For those who suffer from pms every cycle, I’d love to hear how you cope and what you do to manage your symptoms. Share in the comments below!💕

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Can you share a time when you felt your well-being was challenged in the past and what did you do to overcome it?

Absolutely! In my early twenties I was not healthy! I might have looked healthy on the outside, because I exercised and played sport, and I could get away with eating whatever I liked without gaining weight, but in reality I used the gym as a social hangout with friends, followed by coffee and cake. Throw in a toxic management job where I worked 12 hours a day, stress-ate and almost overnight I became really unwell. I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease with no family history and only one month of symptoms. It surprised and saddened me to realise that stress was the culprit.

In spite of my unsustainable work-life balance, I was tuned in to my body and quickly recognised that my pain, digestive issues and irregular menstrual cycles were a sign that something wasn’t right. I sought second opinions and stayed confident until I got answers.

I have always described my Coeliac disease and strict gluten free lifestyle as a blessing in disguise. I now have no choice but to think about every single thing I eat, and being so mindful about this has definitely broken my bad food habits. This huge life change steered me back to clinical work and an interest in nutrition that led me to become a qualified nutrition and health coach. As a physio, I’ve always been interested in specialising in women’s health, but this extra study as a coach really paved the way to completely immersing myself in the innate wisdom of women’s health. I’m now also a trained teacher in natural fertility education, because my interest in tracking and re-balancing my menstrual cycle fascinated me, and I’ve realised how little women actually know about their bodies.

While it’s definitely sad not to be able to enjoy a Tim Tam every once in a while, Coeliac disease has ultimately made me the person I am today and was the starting point on my path to creating Mana Women’s Wellness and sharing women’s health wisdom with others.

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I don't believe in new year's resolutions🎉 ⁠ Don't get me wrong, it's great to have goals. Goals are essential to improving and living your best possible life.⁠ ⁠ My problem is with setting resolutions that start on January 1. Like, what if you think of something you want to change or improve in November? Do you just keep up the bad habit until January 1? ⁠ ⁠ Why not make a change immediately?⁠🤷🏼‍♀️ ⁠ Instead of focusing immediately on how I want to live the next year of my life, I like to start by reflecting on the past 12 months.⁠ ⁠ I've spent wayyyyy too many new year's eves in the past listening to others moan about how this was the worst year ever...really? again?⁠ 🤦🏼‍♀️ ⁠ Every year, bad things will happen. (Bad things happen every day)⁠ So because, I'm a glass half full kinda gal, I encourage you to shift your focus on the positives!🙋🏼‍♀️ ⁠ Before you decide on your new year goals (goals, not resolutions) take the time to reflect on what you’ve learnt in 2019.⁠ ⁠ I’d love to hear from you. ⁠ ⁠ 👇In the comments below, let me know, in 2019…⁠ ⁠ 🌸What’s one thing you did that you’re proud of?⁠ 🌸What’s one mistake you made and the lesson you learned?⁠ 🌸What’s one limiting belief you’re ready to let go of?⁠ ⁠ Happy New Year #manawellnesstribe⁠ ⁠ Big things are coming in 2020⭐️💕

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What does 'being healthy' mean to you and how do you keep this at the forefront when life gets unavoidably busy?

To me, being healthy is all about balance. I’ve certainly experienced an unbalanced life and I’ve seen the direct effects that stress and poor work-life balance can have on all areas of health. When life inevitably gets busy and I find myself feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I am quick to change things up because I know how unwell it can make me. I take a step back from work and focus on the things that really matter in life – time with my partner and our puppy, family and friends and doing things that I love. I try to remind myself that the world will not end if I take a day off!

I truly believe that being healthy and staying on track is all about being organised, especially when it comes to nutrition. Fortunately I am the queen of organisation and to-do lists, so I plan as much as possible. I meal prep on Sunday afternoons so all of my breakfasts, lunches and snacks are done for the week, which means that I’m less likely to grab a last-minute unhealthy option when I’ve got nothing to eat. Fortunately the gluten-free thing comes in handy here, because takeaway and fast food aren’t an option for me.

We also like to plan our dinners for the week. Every Saturday morning, we enjoy a slow breakfast and a cup of tea together while writing out our weekly meal plan and grocery list. We buy everything we need for the week and usually prepare larger dinners that stretch over two nights, so we’re only cooking every second night. If you were to open our fridge on a Saturday before we do our grocery shop you will literally find butter, cheese and almond milk – we plan so well that there is nothing wasted!

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If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll notice that I love to harp on and on about getting your pelvic floor checked by a women’s health physio. (It’s kinda what I’m here for…)⁠💕⠀ ⁠⠀ Maybe you suspect you have a problem down there. But how the hell do you bring that up with your doctor?⁠😩⠀ ⁠⠀ Good news. In Australia, you don’t need a referral to see a physio🙌⠀ ⁠⠀ So right now, today, you can pick up the phone 📞and book an appointment.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ It’s that simple.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Maybe you already know this, but you’re totally not cool with having that area “assessed”.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Let me set your mind at ease about what actually happens during a visit to a women’s health physio.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room...⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ You will likely be taking your pants off during your visit.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Your physiotherapist will be assessing your vagina. Just as she would assess your knee or your back, she needs to assess your pelvic floor muscles to understand what could be causing your symptoms.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ I promise you this is nothing to feel awkward or embarrassed about. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Your physiotherapist will make you feel as comfortable as possible and encourage you to let her know if at any time during the assessment you are in pain, you are uncomfortable or you would like the assessment to stop.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ She knows that most women don't get around pants-free every day and she will work damn hard to make you comfortable.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ You are in control.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ The experience is similar to getting a Brazilian wax - only way less painful!! ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Yours is likely not the first vagina she has seen that day. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Trust me when I say physiotherapists practice with one another during their training - a lot!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Your pelvic floor assessment should not be something that causes panic or anxiety! ⠀ ⠀ If you’re really not comfortable having the assessment, talk through your doubts with your physio. It’s totally your call! A consultation may still be beneficial in addressing your problems.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ And don’t worry, she will ease you in to the process. You will not be expected to tear your pants off as soon as you enter the room (like you would have to with a Brazilian wax!)⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Continued in comments👇👇

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Have you ever taken a holiday specifically for your well-being? Can you share what the experience was like?

In my single life, travel was my number one priority. I was the girl who always had at least one trip booked and I wanted to go everywhere and see everything! If I went too long between adventures, I definitely noticed a difference in my well-being. For me, holidays are something to look forward to, to talk about and plan, then reminisce about when it’s all over and you’re ready to plan the next one. So in a way, every trip I’ve ever taken has been so important for my well-being and mental health – especially when I was working in a management role that I hated.

Now that I’m in a different stage of life and we’re ready to settle down and start a family, travel is still something that is important to us. Instead of month-long adventures around the world, we now enjoy long weekends and I’m loving exploring Australia and getting away more regularly. It keeps our relationship exciting and it’s nice to imagine those big adventures again when our kids have grown up!

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I am on a mission to find the perfect breakfast smoothie 🥤🍏🍌🥝🍍⠀ ⁠⠀ Can you relate? Comment below!⁠👇⠀ ⁠⠀ My Nutribullet is my number one all-time love in the kitchen. I use it every single day because #smoothiesarelife⁠ 🙏⠀ ⁠⠀ They are such an easy breakfast to whip up before heading to work (or the night before so I'm not waking up the man with the very noisy 1200W motor)⁠🤫⠀ ⁠⠀ I cram my smoothies full of leafy greens - spinach and kale 🥬 and mix it up with different fruits - berries 🍓pineapple 🍍kiwi 🥝 and of course (the smoothie staple) banana 🍌⠀ ⠀ Yum! My mouth is watering just writing this!⁠🤤⠀ ⁠⠀ I like to add fruits, seeds and nuts according to what stage of my cycle I'm at - berries for an antioxidant boost around ovulation, kiwi and pear to fight pre-menstrual constipation...the variations are endless.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ But I have a confession...⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ My enthusiasm for adding everything under the sun (so I've basically met my daily fruit, veg and wholegrain intake by brekky) comes at a cost.⁠⠀ ⠀ 😱⠀ ⁠⠀ My smoothies always end up a strange shade of brown that has been likened to baby vomit.⁠😭😭😭⠀⁠⠀ #epicfail⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ So tell me do you maximise smoothie goodness and keep them looking insta-worthy?⁠🤩⠀ ⁠⠀ I'd love to hear your fave smoothie combinations! Share in the comments below - I love experimenting with new smoothie recipes! 👇

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Every woman's idea of self-care is different, please tell us what does self-care mean to you? 

Self care is something I love to focus on with my clients. We are all busy and I work with so many new mums or women who really struggle to prioritise themselves and make time for their own self-care. As women, we are so much more comfortable looking after everyone else in our roles as mothers, daughters, partners and friends. I am constantly reinforcing that self-care is not selfish. It’s the little things that you make time for regularly that help you to avoid burning out and feeling overwhelmed. I’m guilty of spending far too much time on my laptop, so I have a rule to never work on a weekend. If my partner is working a night shift, I will always sneak in a bath with a face mask and a good book!

To me, self-care is recharging your body as obsessively as you would charge your phone. It’s turning off the TV and going to bed at a reasonable time because you prioritise a good night's sleep more than a Netflix binge. Self-care is making exercise a priority. It’s looking after your body, nourishing it with healthy foods and drinking more water. Self-care is saying no when it matters, and putting your needs before others, and it’s investing in the resources that you need to improve your health and your overall quality of life.

Self-care isn’t something you do once in a while when you’re stressed, burnt out and need to restore your sanity. Self-care is an essential part of your overall health and wellness that helps you to manage daily stresses without feeling overwhelmed, because without self-care, it is impossible to be all of the things we try to be for everyone else all of the time and it’s impossible to truly care for those you love.

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