Burnout - the product of mental, emotional and often physical exhaustion that comes from experiencing high levels of stress for prolonged periods. Stress in itself is not inherently a harmful thing in a short term sense, and is even an inevitable element of our work and personal lives. It is a vital warning system from the body that alerts you when the brain perceives a potential threat. Healthy levels of stress assist you in accomplishing tasks and even boost memory. But there can come a time when stress becomes problematic and you have exhausted your ability to cope. When the brain becomes flooded with stress and anxiety for too long, burnout occurs. While burnout can take many forms, it indicates one thing - your lifestyle is unsustainable. So what can we do to prevent it?
It is an undeniable symptom of the human condition that we search for meaning and purpose in our lives. We share the obvious tasks of survival, knowing that we require food, water and shelter. But at some base level we cannot deny that there is a difference between surviving and living. A person’s health and wellbeing is more than just ‘lacking illness’, or coping with their environment. Our health should be viewed as a tool for living a meaningful life, rather than the objective of life itself.
Finding the motivation to go to the gym, or go running or cycling or whatever type of exercise you’re in to, can be difficult sometimes, we all know that. We’ve also all see the quotes that the fitness influencers throw at us like; “when you need motivation, remember why you started” and such. But, why do we place so much emphasis on the starting reason being looks? Why is it so often about “improving the way our bodies look?”
When it comes to a self-care checklist, it’s great to look at one which meets our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs. At a time when mental health issues are on the rise it’s important that we start to incorporate our own self-care into our everyday routines. When building your own self-care checklist, the following ways will help in getting you started.
A bit like coffee shops and hair salons, yoga seems to be everywhere. Do you feel that too? But the great thing about this practice is that no class is really ever the same.
If you’ve not practised yoga before or if you perhaps feel as though it might not be for you, then my advice to you is to persevere and keep experiencing and experimenting with different classes - there will absolutely be one just for you.
When I first wrote that title I added: “aside from the obvious”. But then I realised, just because some things are obvious to me doesn’t mean they are obvious to everyone. And that’s the point isn’t it, on each of our wellness journeys some things that are considered so “obvious” that we forget to learn them, to explore them, or to make any real-time for them. So, here we go, 5 things you should be doing every day.
There are two types of people in this world. People who have admitted to messing up... and liars. We are all guilty of falling short, making stupid mistakes, and handling situations poorly. Whether it be in a work setting or within our relationships, we’ve all done something wrong. Our natural, knee-jerk response tends to be to make excuses, profusely apologize or be in denial that we’ve even messed up in the first place. But in any version of these extreme responses, whether it be apology or denial, we are failing to address the situation with intention or insight. These responses are more so coping mechanisms than solutions.
Written as I sit with a glass of wine in one hand, a packet of chocolate within arms reach and the same happy, healthy feeling that I have when I swap that for water and a sweat towel. How? Because I’ve learnt (unfortunately through many a breakdown, relapse and guilt ridden outburst) that true wellness lies in more than just food restriction and smashing out high intensity workouts.
Burpees and diet plans can play a huge role in your fitness and health goals and I love a good high intensity interval session as much as the next person. But, it really only takes one (maybe ten or eleven) injuries/burnouts to know that there has to be more. So, this is me giving you an early heads up that I didn’t get or possibly just didn’t listen to.
We ‘plug in’ to recharge ourselves in numerous ways. We eat food to give our bodies nutrients to serve a variety of critical functions and give us energy to operate as optimally as possible. We sleep at night to release hormones in the body that repair cells, which in turn restores intellectual and physical function. We plug our phones into their chargers to restore power. But what do we do for our social selves to recharge?
Sometimes, despite the best of our efforts, life can leave us feeling overwhelmed, out of centre or just off balance, and when that happens we often hear the word detox being thrown around. We’re not just talking about a detox in relation to nourishment, whilst of course, that can be part of it. But what about all the other factors in your life that make up you?
Before we dive into the specifics, what does the word detox mean to you? By definition to detox is to rid ourselves of unspecified toxins or substances which have accumulated in the body which may have both short and long term consequences on our health and wellbeing.
Art and science approach and explain emotions differently. Scientists don’t ask the ‘why’ we feel the way that we do, but rather focus on ‘what’ or ‘how’, proceeding with scientific method. When it comes to emotions, a scientist will look at what is going on in the brain, valuing measurable and logical patterns within the brain and behaviour. Artists are more interested in emotional expression, more willing to trust personal experience. Considering this, some may be led to think that emotions have no place in the realm of science. However, I have a difficult time accepting that emotions can ever responsibly be discussed while neglecting some scientific analysis.
Why is it that we live in an era where technology provides the opportunity to communicate with each other at the touch of a button, yet we still seem to live in an increasingly disconnected, divided world? It seems as if being constantly available to each other rarely correlates to our ability to connect and communicate. Or rather, connect and communicate well.
The story of Romeo and Juliet seems to be a common reference when we think of a ‘love story’. These star-crossed lovers have come to define much of how we view modern romance, as they are so ‘in love’ that they are unable to live without each other. We see all throughout literature and cinema the romanticised idea of finding ‘the one’, as if it were a person’s life’s work to find another person to complete them. We hear about ‘living happily ever after’ after finding this person, normalising the feeling of incompletion until this person is found. Once this person is found, it is then that our life begins and our happiness becomes contingent on the existence of that relationship.
When people talk about their life goals, being happy is generally always up there with the best of them. In our society, we are taught to continually chase what makes us happy, which often leave us feeling as though we are in some way lacking if we are unable to sustain it, but as we are becoming more aware of others and our own mental health generally, finding tools which we can add to our own wellbeing inventory which aid our happiness, is a fantastic place to continue the conversation around happiness.
Naturally boosting your feelings of happiness can help stimulate productivity, strengthen relationships, increase motivation and improve the level of life contentment people record.
“Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just get to work.” - Chuck Close
We talk about ‘motivation’ as if it were the force that makes the world turn. As if the spark of inspiration is what it takes to switch us into gear, and hesitating when the spark begins to dwindle. It becomes easy to attribute our successes to our feelings of motivation, and justify our lack of productivity to our deficiency in motivation. It’s as if we wait for our feelings to match our desire to do something rather than to just act.
They say we are creatures of habit. Now I may not be entirely sure who ‘they’ are, but I would agree that it is undeniable that humans do thrive in routines. We would not be able to reap the benefits of a functioning society if we did not adhere to rules, times, schedules and apply some level of discipline to them. It is through consistent practice that any person becomes good at any skill. To become educated or responsibly trained to work in a field, we must adhere to a schedule that allows us to do something over and over again until we become comprehensive in that field.
If there is a food, a product, ritual, trend or even an interpretive dance that’s rumoured to be good for your skin, believe me, I have tried it.
Having battled with my skin for most of my life I know how much it can affect your mood, self-confidence, emotions and every single thing you do every single day. It’s our face after all, the first thing people see, the way people recognise us and we want our awesome smiling personality to shine through it. We don’t want to be known as the one with the spots, redness or the dry skin. But, if you have skin issues it can really put you in a down mood and it can be so difficult to find products and a skin care regime that work for you.
For as long as we humans have walked this earth, we have sought to find greater purpose and meaning in our existence. For thousands of years, the question remains, is there a greater meaning and purpose to life or is the extent to which the human mind constitutes meaning and purpose entirely subject to the individual?
You are wired to be a problem solver. For survival purposes, the human brain is built to focus on what is ‘wrong’ in efforts to eliminate the issue. When we identify something as being wrong, our attention becomes directed to that problem as we seek out ways to either solve the issue or cope with it.
While this can be helpful, it can also become detrimental to the way we view ourselves and others. This can easily teach us to reframe our thinking in way that trains us to seek out what is ‘wrong’.
Ever find yourself hunting for that desire to go and workout? Searching for a reason to get up early and go for a run? Longing for that kick that will get you into a gym routine? You and 100% of the population feel that way sometimes. Here I’m going to talk to you about that shiny buzzword known as motivation – the electricity that gets us out of bed and on the pursuit of our goals. How do we get hold of it? How do we use it to our advantage and most importantly, how do we keep it if we find it?
It all starts with you. Your motivation process is going to be completely unique to you. That glorious motivation that you want lies within you already. To find it we need to observe and become aware of what we see and what we hear to reprogramme our thoughts, away from any negative ones, towards positive ones.
If there was a healthy magical supply of energy that we could reach for whenever we needed a pick me up, we would be grabbing at it with all possible hands, right? Well, then this next read is for you - how to get energised whenever and wherever. Before the gym, in the middle of your workout, in the morning before work, important social occasion after a full day of work? I’ve got you covered.
Body image is something very personal to each and every person. By definition, it is the perception that we have of our physical self and the thoughts and feelings that arise from that perception. These feelings can be positive, negative or both, and are heavily influenced by individual and environmental factors. So, what does that mean? We aren’t born hating our human containers, so, therefore, it’s something that we must inherit, grow and learn over time by messaging that may be subliminal or otherwise, that then go on to shape our reality.
When I was in university one of my professors assigned my class to take the Bem Sex-Role Inventory. This is a questionnaire that roughly determines one’s ‘amounts’ of masculinity and femininity. After answering the questions I was intrigued to learn that my personality registers as being 60% feminine and 40% masculine. Being a person who identifies as a straight woman, I was suspicious to discover that I was almost as equally ‘masculine’ as I was ‘feminine’.
Emotions, interpreted for their purest intentions, are messages. They are a complex conversation between your mind and body, seeking to influence behaviour as they inform you of how you feel/ think about a situation.
They’re the group chat between your physiology and psychology, as your body physically responds to your mental state and vice versa. An effective message sent with honest intentions, which I would like to believe is what our bodies are trying to do for our minds, would not send a message without any content. You would never purposefully send someone an empty email or blank text message. Similarly, our emotions should not be interpreted as ‘just feelings’.
The word vulnerability and truth have been two words that come up a lot for me this week. I've sat with some deep lessons and integrations that have shifted a part of my soul.
But what does it mean to be vulnerable? To be vulnerable can be defined as exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, be it physically or emotionally.
My question to you is how often do you allow yourself to feel vulnerable? How often do you allow yourself to be and feel, truly seen by yourself or those around you? It’s not something we practice or even know how to feel into, without expressing or experiencing fear. We tend to shut the vulnerability down and out before it has a chance to even be felt or heard. Often through fear of opening the flood gates and not being able to close them again.
The first thing that needs to be understood about your decisions is that it is a valuable resource. One of the greatest favours we can do for ourselves is to take time to understand that our time, effort and personal experience is valuable. For this reason, the choices we are faced with can weigh heavily on us. As their importance becomes emphasised, proportionately so does our stress surrounding those decisions.
I was recently asking during a podcast interview with Travis Barton what was in my wellbeing toolkit so it got me thinking. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years immersed (read completely down the rabbit hole and not coming out anytime soon) in learning about different wellbeing practices, techniques and working with a wide spectrum of practitioners. And much like anything, there’s been a huge amount of trial and error within that exploration. Some experiences have been wonderful, even life changing, and others, what have felt like a total waste of time and money. Whilst in reality, there’s no such thing, simply lessons learnt and experiences had, which had not met my own personal expectations of what that wellness modality or practitioner could or should have offered me. What is should anyway? A conversation for another time perhaps. Back to our wellbeing toolkits…
We live in a time where society in many ways, has lost its own alignment to the natural rhythms of life. We defy nature on a daily basis, no longer honouring the natural ebb and flow of each day, sunrise and sunset are swapped for long working hours, and commutes. Seasons are something we can skip altogether with the click of a button and an airfare ticket in hand. We’re contactable and ‘on’ around the clock, never really sure if we’re switched off, relaxing or exhibiting some kind of permanently exhausted pigeon vibes. Our consumerist culture continually reinforces the narrative to look outside of ourselves for answers and happiness.
Aside from our collective fragmentation to the natural rhythms of life, how can we tell if on an individual level we’re out of alignment?
New Year is a time for many to refresh, start over or begin something new. A chance for us to put into action and implement the many things that we want to do, see and achieve in our lives. It can also be an incredibly testing and tough time for many, as we transition out of holiday mode, Christmas and New year celebrations, the post festive splurge and often, lots of alcohol and sugary foods which can leave us feeling less than our best. Holiday celebrations and the start of a New Year can leave us feeling depleted, down and even questioning our life choices.
For some, it’s a winter in a literal sense, and for others, it’s merely a winter of mind.
We often associate boundaries with being guarded or unapproachable, it feels like a negative and heavy word, but through boundaries, we can lovingly show people how we are showing up in the world and the best part; we allow them the space to do the same.
When we have poor boundaries, we can feel overwhelmed, exhausted, overcommitted, we overextend ourselves and even start to feel resentful. From this place, it’s easy to enter a victim state of mind.
Learning how to set the foundation of loving boundaries takes time, kindness and patience to self - if it’s not something you’ve ever practiced, how can you even know what your boundaries are? It simply takes time and creating space to listen to yourself and what feels expansive or contractive and moving from that place.