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Body

The Block's Shelley Ferguson shares her exciting new venture and how she healed her hormonal imbalance

Developing a much closer relationship with her mind and body has given Shelley a whole new lease on life.

By Erin Fisher
As a TV host and interior designer, it's easy to imagine that Shelley Ferguson would be the trendy mum, pulling up to school drop-off each day looking absolutely immaculate.
Yet soon after we sit down, she is laughing about how she waved her two boys off to school from behind the wheel, still dressed head-to-toe in her pyjamas.
This is a woman who knows not to take things too seriously, but it's been a lesson hard-learned, from challenges along the way.
This year is Shelley's fifth season as host of The Block, supporting the four teams as they compete against each other to renovate and transform a historic Auckland firehouse into high-end apartments for auction.
It's a high-stakes environment, but Shelley's relaxed, keep-it-simple style shines through in each episode.
Her own home is a Palm Springs-themed abode, where she lives with hubby Steve and sons Flynn, seven, and Jett, six.
When she's not busy with work or the kids, she is Steve's number one supporter; he has competed at the Olympics in swimming and canoeing, and at the world champs for surf lifesaving. In recent news, he has landed himself a spot as a grinder on the Emirates Team New Zealand sailing squad, defending the 2021 America's Cup.
Their busy schedule can be a lot to juggle, but for Shelley, everything comes back to the people she has at home.
Her fun-loving spirit and family-oriented approach to life were summed up perfectly in an interview on the show, when she was asked what three things she couldn't live without.
Her answer? Family and friends, wine and laughter.
"I guess you always look back to your upbringing to get a sense of who you are," she tells Good Health & Wellbeing
"I grew up in South Auckland. We had a lot of family around there and not much money, but we had everything we needed and plenty of love."
Yes, her younger years were spent surrounded by the love of family; however, it was a chapter of her life also laced with challenges – a chapter which has profoundly shaped the way she approaches life today.
"Mum was a bus driver and dad was a builder. My mum was the most positive person, she was always positive about tiny things, until she had a nervous breakdown. It was pretty scary. I found her on the bathroom floor; she had just kind of given up.
"Both she and one of my brothers came out as gay that year, which I was incredibly proud of them for; however, it was quite a challenging year for them. The pressure of her decision to come out and how that might be received broke mum for a little while unfortunately."
Where most teenagers are impossible to get to the dinner table each night, Shelley soon became the one cooking meals and carrying as much responsibility as a 14-year-old could.
"I thought, right, I'm going to be peacemaker, stay positive like she has taught me, and do whatever I can to try and step up.
"While that was hard, I also think now that I'm looking back on it, it was something special. You go through certain rocky periods when someone in your family has mental health issues, and I'm grateful that I actually had to learn about it. Those experiences back then really formed a basis for what's important to me and I still look back on that now," she says.
"Every family has their thing. Actually, every person has their thing. It might not be mental health, it may be something else, but we've got to try to be compassionate."
Motherhood for Shelley came with its own set of trials, with fertility treatment for her first born, Flynn, and a bout of crippling anxiety after her second baby, Jett, was born.
Amid juggling a toddler and a newborn, her own wellbeing was put on the backburner.
"When you have kids, you sort of go into survival mode. You're just hustling through, caring for those gorgeous kids, trying to do the best that you can, and a lot of personal things go on hold. Now the kids are six and seven, there's suddenly more breathing space to think, 'What about me? What do I need?'"
Unable to shake a terrible case of tinnitus and a few other health niggles, she recently sought out a hormone specialist, naturopath, and had blood tests, to discover she had oestrogen dominance.
It was a sign to tune in, slow down and take the time to really get to know her own body.
As she's married to an Olympic athlete, I assume that when she says "needed to slow down", she means from all the workouts she and Steve are doing together, or some world-champ fitness plan he has whipped up for her.
She laughs and tells me the reality is quite different.
In fact, the only thing they tend to be working out together is what to watch on Netflix.
Shelley used to be a keen runner, but those trainers have been traded in for yoga and reformer Pilates, something she says now serves her brain and body much better.
For her, positive energy and human connection are the bedrock of a happy life, and finding ways to nourish those areas of life will be different for everyone.
"When I talk about the importance of good energy, sometimes for me that means a yoga class, but sometimes it's being with friends, drinking champagne and dancing around the lounge to our favourite music. You've got to have fun, right?" she says with a smile, laughing about how even though she's got two young boys, she still feels like a teenager herself.
Developing a much closer relationship with her mind and body has given the 39-year-old a whole new lease on life and a fresh perspective.
"I love my age and stage of life, because you do get a real sense of self. I've learned to be really comfortable with every way that I feel," she reflects.
"I really love the Dalai Lama's approach – if you rely on external forces to determine your mood, you'll be in a total flux. If you can practise more positive thought processes, just by small habits each day, it helps you to feel much calmer. Yes, some days I might be nervous or anxious about something I'm doing, but I'm now much more at peace with those feelings so they're not a big deal.
"You can actually train your brain a bit to get into that positive mindset for yourself. That's what I try to do, but obviously it's not always how it goes," she laughs.
"Especially at home with the kids – any parent will know how that can go!"
Alongside family, food, movement, mindset and music, Shelley is a big believer in the power that the environment can have on how we feel.
"I'm a classic Sagittarius, so I have a very strong connection to nature. I'm not religious, but I always think of nature as my god. Spirituality for me is more about nature; I get a lot of calmness from it."

Earlier this year, she made the decision to leave her role in magazine publishing to pursue a long-held dream of starting her own interior design business.
"I'm very, very excited. I have nice little butterflies," she smiles. "My interior design aesthetic will be 'natural luxury', so beautiful pieces layered with those personal treasures."
While she is looking forward to the flexibility and enjoying more moments with her children and husband, her affinity for being in more natural, outdoor environments is a significant part of it.
"I remember when I was much younger, reading The Celestine Prophecy. It talked about the natural environment having energy fields, and I thought that was fascinating – but of course they do! How can we think that we're not affected by, or connected to, the natural world or what's around us?"
Eating well and staying active are always going to be essential foundations for health, but having a nourishing environment is an element we tend to overlook.
In Shelley's experience, making small changes to your space can have a massive impact on your wellbeing and energy.
"You don't have to have a lot, but you have to set it up so it has positive benefit for you," she says, reminiscing about the days when her mum would take her to second-hand stores as a child, or around the streets to rummage through the inorganic collections, searching for discarded gems.
Simple touches can spark the biggest joy, and all these years later, Shelley still drinks from her favourite ceramic mug – a treasured token she bought on one of their thrift-store adventures.
From her upbringing and travels, she has a deep understanding that it's not about having the best and most beautiful things, and that many of the happiest people on the planet are those who have simple lives. What's more important is living a life of meaning and gratitude – cherishing those nostalgic, vintage and pre-loved items, and appreciating what you love about your friends, family
and community.
"It can be very easy to think we don't have enough sometimes… but I guess one of the things we can do is work on that mindset of challenging what we think we need to actually make us feel happy."
For Shelley, working in high-pressure creative industries for many years has also cemented the importance of staying true to yourself and having the courage to follow your heart. In a world that praises hard work and getting ahead, it can be all too easy to lose sight of who you are in the process.
"It's funny, we are the closest people to ourselves, yet sometimes we can be the furthest away," she says.
"We tend to hustle along every day, so in terms of questioning things, I've done a bit of that in the past six months. It's your life, and it's not a long one. You've got to find the ways to get out of life what you need to make it a life that you're happy to have.
"You don't have to be perfect, none of us are, but you have to be yourself."

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