Vivien Leung, Founder, Verdant Alchemy
Sleep, Bathe, Love
Vivien Leung is the founder of Verdant Alchemy and a native Londoner who now lives in South London with her husband, Ben. After a decade of working in the advertising industry, leading the strategy on brands such as Lego and Microsoft, she now works on Verdant Alchemy full-time. Helping others rest, refuel and thrive. She launches the Self-Care Portraits | the necessity series with an interview on how she practises self-care.
What are the three things you live for?
Baths, sleep and love.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I used to live in extremes, either partying hard in Berlin or being a total grandma. I am firmly in the grandma space now. I love staying in, cooking, bathing, going for dinner with friends and drinking good wine. My husband has just given up playing amateur rugby 3 x a week, so I love spending the weekends with him going for walks in the park and grabbing brunch. I really want a dog!
What do you do for a living?
I run Verdant Alchemy every day. I used to work in advertising, leading campaigns for brands like Lego and Microsoft, as well as Adidas and Reebok. It was fun, fast-paced, but exhausting at the same time.
I am now fully dedicated to Verdant Alchemy. My day varies. Some days it is full-on production; we make all of our products by hand in our workshop in London which takes a lot of time. Nothing goes out of the studio without a 2nd or 3rd eye inspection from me, which means everything is a bit slow. But you know, I am a firm believer in slow living. However, more importantly, we do it so our customers and retailers receive the best product we can make. Other days I am managing the marketing and branding or speaking to my sales team about getting new retailers on board. My big love is new product development - designing new products and scents - I love those days.
What rule do you live by?
At least 8 hours of sleep. Anyone that knows me knows I love to sleep. When I was in my 20’s, I could sleep for 14 hours without interruption. Now I aim for at least 8 hours, and it helps me be more switched on during the day.
How do you practise self-care?
Self-care is about listening to my mind and body because they are connected, and they need to rest. That means turning the laptop and phone off even when I have too much work to do. Going to the gym and seeing the chiropractor when my back and body hurt. Deep breathing and meditating daily, so I am prepared when my anxiety and stress levels are about to go off. I am trying to be proactive rather than reactive to my pain and wellbeing, but it's hard; life gets in the way.
I try to have 2-3 baths a week to relax and de-stress; during this time I do nothing. I used to have music, but now I just listen to silence; it's so peaceful. I rotate the bath salts and oils based on how I am feeling. if I am feeling under the weather, the breathe in bath salts are a real lifesaver. I use these moments to take deep meditative breaths and to calm my mind and body before bed. I like to use the bath oils on weekend afternoons; it's a real luxury, and my skin is so soft and hydrated after.
Nutrition is a crucial element of my self-care practice and what you eat affects your mental and physical health. I used to have psoriasis, an autoimmune skin disease, so that made me really aware of what I put in my body. A lot of ailments come from the gut, so I got super geeky in gut health and the power of eating what's right based on your microbiomes. When I got diagnosed with psoriasis over a decade ago there was a lack of research and there definitely were no gut tests or anything like that. I had to do trial and error to figure out what foods to eat or not eat, but generally, clean-eating and managing my leaky gut syndrome was the way forward. My foray into gut health and clean-eating started because I had a skin problem. Now, there is so much more research on it and how it affects your mental health like anxiety and depression. Because of my experience and the continuing research into its effect in health, I recently invested in a gut test, so now I know exactly what foods are good for me. I also know what 'healthy' foods I should avoid as they could trigger inflammation, and what supplements I should take for maximum wellbeing and self-care.
How do you take care of your mental/ emotional health?
I do suffer from stress, so mineral bathing helps me with that as the magnesium and minerals help rebalance the nervous system. I also write down five great things that happened the day before (I guess that is like a gratitude diary) so I can go back and remind myself how good everything was/is.
The most important thing I probably do is talk to someone about my stress and concerns. Someone good at listening. For me, that person is either my brother or my husband. They are both very calming people and very helpful. If I didn't have people like that in my life, I would probably see a therapist, just to talk.
What is your biggest indulgence, and why is it important?
I have monthly massages, that is the treat for me. I have mild-moderate scoliosis (curve of the spine), so tension is concentrated at specific points of my back and shoulders. This needs to be released; otherwise, it will accumulate, and the pain would get worse. I also love getting massages!
What are your favourite life-hacks to improve your day-to-day?
I have a few:
The slow cooker. I put some pork with tin tomatoes, herbs and stock, and when I get home, I have a hearty and healthy ragu ready for dinner. For someone that doesn’t have much time, this is my perfect dinner hack.
Coffee ice cubes. In the summer, I put espresso coffee in my ice tray, so they turn into frozen coffee ice cubes. When I want an iced coffee, I would add milk or water to the ice cubes, and they will melt into an excellent (non-diluted) ice coffee.
Canva is a great business creative tool hack if you don’t have photoshop or InDesign. It makes making artwork and content so much simpler!
Mineral baths. So much more superior than a standard bath. And you know it’s doing some good, and you will feel amazing.
What does ‘thriving’ mean to you?
Thriving means doing what I love and doing it well. It means keeping my mental and physical health optimal so I have the energy and power to achieve my dreams.