As I write this, I’m sitting on my couch, still in my PJs, hair unwashed, binge-watching Barbie episodes on Netflix with my feverish, and very unwell three year old by my side. We’ve been awake since around 10pm last night. It’s now 11am. I’m certain I can officially write this entire day off. Not a thing will be achieved. I’m pretty sure I won’t even stack the dishwasher.
Stuck on the couch with a sick baby.
Today, I’m cool with that. I”m certainly not thrilled. I had stuff to do today. Work stuff. Home stuff. In fact, I was looking forward to several unscheduled hours to tie up a few loose ends. That’s all out the window now. No creating new resources for work. No writing modules for my new teen girls life skills program I’m currently creating. No decluttering the kids’ toy boxes. After two nights of broken non-existent sleep, I’ve got no energy to do anything but lie on the couch and mindlessly scroll through my Instagram feed. But, like I said, I’m taking it in my stride today. It’s not the end of the world…
But if it had have happened three months ago, or even this time last month, it might have been a different story.
You see, the past several months have been hectic, crazy busy, intense. And I don’t say that in a “look at me, I’m so busy and important” attention seeking kind of way. i actually say it in an “I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t been taking any of my own advice for at least the past year” kind of way.
It hasn’t been pretty the past several months. My clinic work hours have been long, My in-the-house work hours have been even longer. My husband and I had fallen into the woeful routine of “High Five Parenting”, exchanging barely barely more than a high five with each other as one of us walks in the door and the other walks out, our schedules so tightly packed and co-ordinated that I’ve even colour coded our respective schedules on my Google calendar.
The children, I hope, have remained relatively unscathed – I, on the other hand, have not. Coming off a period of adrenal fatigue from 12 to 18 months ago, from which I’ve never fully recovered, for these past few months I wasn’t managing well. I simply had too much to do and couldn’t do all of it. I also simply couldn’t shake this low level cold/flu/sickness that extended across several months. Coupled with a lack of motivation and energy this resulted in missed deadlines, forgotten emails, un-returned phone calls, turning up late to appointments, and a general feeling of letting people down. Which of course led to guilt, so much guilt. Plus a few little bouts of anxiety – such as the time I woke up at 4am, convinced I had left a candle burning in my clinic, and unable to get back to sleep. It wasn’t until I did an intentional drive-past at 8am on my day off, to check that the building hadn’t burned to the ground, that I could let that worry go.
None of this is like me. Not the real me. But it’s unfortunately too indicative of the “too much on my plate” me. It’s also exactly what I support women through in my work. I know, irony, right. Like I said, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been taking nearly enough of my own advice. With a diet consisting of way too much sugar and processed foods, and too may days consisting of too little physical movement, but still not enough (contemplative) stillness, my lifestyle has been totally at odds with my message.
That’s a particularly hard thing for an allied health professional to admit. I’ve struggled to say it out loud – for fear that if I admit to not looking after myself it will somehow render me unprofessional or incompetent. A health professional who doesn’t look after her own health? A health professional who has put on 20kg and can’t shift it? Oh, the shame. But it doesn’t make me any less of an OT or Pilates instructor, and it certainly doesn’t make me any less of a person. But what it does do is simply prove that I’m human. It also gives me a greater insight into just how effing hard it can be sometimes. For people who’ve never experienced this kind of exhaustion, fatigue or anxiety, they simply can’t understand that total lack of ability to get out of bed in the morning – even if it’s for something you love, or have been desperately looking forward to for weeks. That bone-aching tiredness that prevents you from moving your legs at more than walking pace, even when you so genuinely “want to want” to go for a run. That incredulous feeling of overwhelm when you have so much to do and don’t know where to start, so you simply choose to do nothing. Unless you’ve been there, you might be able to empathise, but you don’t truly understand. It’s a very bizarre and unsettling feeling. It makes you question your worthiness as a person, and makes you wonder when, or if, the “real you” might ever show herself again.
This isn’t a situation that’s specific to any one group of people, but I have seen it so, so much in working mothers lately – particularly in those mothers who run their own business. Being a business owner / mum is a struggle every single day, and for those of us in the midst of it, it can seem that no-one else sees exactly how hard it is, as my wonderful friend Carly from Sass Place so eloquently explained in this blog post.
But, luckily for me. It has all finally seemed to turn around in the past month. Since about mid September I’ve felt like I’ve finally come up for air. That i can come home from my day at work without contemplating another few hours on the laptop to finish some important task. That I can take a full day off work without feeling the pull of what else I “should” be doing. That I’m no longer rushing – everywhere and everyone. That I can go to bed at night without a mind frustratingly going over everything I didn’t tick off my “to-do” list. So what’s changed? In short, I started heeding my own advice.
I made a concerted effort to say “no” and “yes” in a more considered fashion. Better boundaries with working hours and additional requests that required a “no”, for which previously I may have said “yes”. And more “yes” to extra quiet time, earlier nights, screen time limits, meditation, and the reading of real, actual books. I had several big events I was committed to in the past few months, including three interstate trips in five weeks. Some of them were non-negotiable, some of them I brought upon myself and potentially shouldn’t have. I’ve certainly learned a lesson about over-committing myself.
I asked for help. I outsourced tasks within my business. I booked a few sessions with a counselor. I had an art therapy session. These things all helped. Yes, they all cost money. But for me, they were worth every penny – and more. I had to invest in myself. What I was saving in terms of dollars, I was paying for in my dwindling wellbeing.
I stopped pushing so hard and accepted a level of consistency in my business.There’s no magic solution for this one unfortunately, for those of you in the slog of a start up phase of a business. Maybe I always had to put in the hard work I have done over the past two and a half years to get my business to the point where it is now running comfortably and I’m about to start a waiting list. But what I do know now is that I’ve resisted the urge to add an extra clinic day to my caseload or add more after hours sessions, when previously I would have done just that – eager to provide more services. Right now I know that’s not the right move for me. It’s time to put a boundary on myself. What I also know is that while I perhaps couldn’t have brought my business this far with less work, I could have (and should have) implemented better self care strategies. There were absolutely habits and behaviours that I overlooked which could have made a big difference to my wellbeing.
I stopped mentally beating myself up for not achieving my self-imposed expectations.The big “aha” moment came when my counselor asked me – “Have you always placed these kinds of high expectations on yourself?” It’s a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees. I can spot a chronic over-achiever a mile away, but I couldn’t identify it in myself. What I’d always told myself was simply hard work, commitment and drive, was actually, in fact, great expectations and setting myself up for a fall. I just couldn’t see it in myself. I expected more of myself than I’d ever expect of anyone else. Who else can say that about themselves?
Which brings me back to today – as I sit here, trapped on my couch by an overheating toddler. This moment, a mere month ago, would have sent me into a tail spin. I would be trying to finish presentations or balance my expense account while caring for a sick child, getting distracted, making mistakes, and ensuring whatever tasks I tried to do only got done half as well, while taking twice the time. It all came from a place of fear. That my business, or perhaps my world, might fall apart if I didn’t keep pushing. When in fact it was the opposite. It was the push that was causing the cracks to deepen.
I’m not saying there won’t be another time where its appropriate for me to start pushing again. But I know that right now, is not the time. A forced slow down is exactly what I – and my family – need right now.
So today, as i sign off from this blog post. I’ll turn this laptop off, switch Netflix over to re-runs of the Gilmore Girls, now that munchkin is sleeping and just embrace today as a day when nothing will get done. Because the world won’t fall apart., my business will still be standing tomorrow, and I’ll still be good at my job after a day off.
If you’ve been hanging around the personal development world at all recently, you’ll know it’s a bit of a buzz word out there right now.
But it’s SO MUCH MORE than a buzz word. It’s actually a really important factor in figuring out who we are as people, what makes us tick, what lights us up, and what we should be doing with our time.
Now, just for the record, in this post, alignment is all about purpose and living a meaningful life, in accordance with your own values, needs and wants. We’re not talking today about the biomechanical alignment of your body parts (though that’s just as important! This is another reason I love the concept of alignment – you get double the bang for your buck with this one little word.
I often see that poor life alignment is “the missing link” for many people. Sometimes, even when everything is “going right” in our lives and we seem to “have it all” with a coveted job, gorgeous partner, happy kids, beautiful home, solid nutrition, great movement habits and focused mindset, we can still feel like something is missing. We can still be unhappy, miserable, anxious, frustrated, even angry. And then of course there’s the guilt. “I have so much, why am I still unhappy? I shouldn’t be so ungrateful, I should try harder to be happy.”
It’s really quite frustrating because outwardly there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong – but we still have that gut feeling that something isn’t quite right. It can often come down to living a life that isn’t in alignment with your core values as a person, and which doesn’t provide you with meaning or fulfilment. It’s something that’s difficult to truly understand, until you start to really dig deep into your own heart and soul, and figure out what you truly WANT out of life, and what truly FEELS right for you, both physically and mentally.
In OT speak, we call this “Meaningful Occupation” – doing the things and roles that are meaningful, purposeful and enjoyable to the individual. In personal development land, they call it alignment. It’s one and the same.
I recently caught up with the wonderful Soli Goodes, Dream Life Coach and owner of Business Goddess to talk all about alignment. This interview was recorded as a bonus feature for the participants in my Busy Woman’s Stress Makeover program, but again I’ve decided to share it for free with everyone. I’m so excited to bring this interview to you as we had so much fun recording it. Honestly, we could have sat there for a couple of hours chatting away, but we’ve done you a favour and kept it to around 20 minutes!
Soli Goodes, Dream Life Coach and director of www.businessgoddess.com.au
In the interview we talk about:
What alignment is
How to tell if you’re living a life out of alignment
How to get back on track to being IN alignment
So grab yourself a juice or a cuppa and get comfy to have a listen. And don’t forget to let us know what you think, either in the comments, or on the Bloom Wellbeing facebook page.
Until next time, keep well and live your best life.
I’ve got something special for you on the blog today. Remember ages ago when I told you about the book The Parent Manifesto by psychologist and parenting expert Jodie Benveniste? I blogged about it here in case you want to check it out.
Well a few weeks ago I was super-excited to be able to record a Skype interview with the completely awesome Jodie, which I’ve used as a bonus goodie for my Busy Woman’s Stress Makeover program.
Jodie Benveniste of www.parentwellbeing.com
However, I had such a great time interviewing Jodie, and she provided such great information, that I really wanted to share it with all of you. So that’s what I’m doing!
In the interview we talk about why this women’s stress epidemic has become such a huge problem, particularly for mothers, and how we can help free ourselves from stress by creating our own parenting style, in line with our own values.
It’s such a great interview – despite the interruption midway through from my curious daughter – please excuse that, but that’s what happens when you work from home!
Don’t think clutter impacts on your wellbeing? Think again!
I’m sure we’ve all watched those episodes of Hoarders and thought to ourselves – “How can people live like that?” Piles of decades old newspapers lining the hallways, stuffed toys stuffing every single closet, rusty saucepans spilling out of kitchen drawers. Ugh – it sends most of us non-hoarders into a tailspin! Often in these shows, there’s some sort of documented psychological issue that precipitated the hoarding – the compulsive need for “things” often comes from a place of deep unhappiness, anxiety or trauma. It really is quite a serious condition, and if you, or someone you know fits this category, I’d highly suggest looking for some professional assistance to help you work through it.
But I’m not talking about that level of clutter today. What I want to talk about is our everyday, run of the mill clutter. The type of clutter that the vast majority of us DO have in our homes, and which doesn’t come from a place of mental distress. It just comes from a busy life, full of stuff and things, and potentially with limited amounts of time and space.
Overflowing wardrobes, toys sprawled across every single room in the house, bathroom cabinets teeming with expired beauty products, cans of corn with expiry dates of October 2013. You get the idea. Most of us have clutter. And most of us just put up with it, perhaps telling ourselves that we’ll get around to clearing it out “someday”. Right?
Apart from the mental health aspects, the thing that always strikes me about the people on those Hoarders-type shows is how physically unwell they generally always are. They often complain of having multiple health conditions, many of which disappear once they get on top of the cleaning, clutter and chaos.
As with pretty much everything in life this falls on a continuum. We don’t have to have floor-to-ceiling clutter to be affected by it. Even your average run of the mill clutter can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. All the more reason to make that “someday” today, and take action on clearing your home of the unnecessary “stuff”.
Here’s just a few ways clutter affects your physical health,
Increased respiratory stress – due to dust, allergens and airborne particles
Increase falls hazards – not to mention the intense pain of stepping on a stray Lego piece barefoot – youch!
Mould. This stuff is toxic. Don’t just think about the mould growing on your shower curtain. How about the mould you didn’t know was growing on your winter boots, or that suitcase you put away slightly damp last winter?
But it’s not just about physical wellbeing – it never is! We already know that our physical health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to our emotional health – mind-body connection, right? So these physical health issues will certainly affect our emotional wellbeing.
But there’s also more direct correlations between clutter and emotional and social wellbeing.
Blocked chi – the ancient Eastern practice of Feng Shui sings the praises of clean, uncluttered open spaces. This is because clutter is thought to block the flow of “Chi” throughout a space. “Chi” is the life force, we want it to be able to move freely and swiftly for optimal health, we don’t want it to become stagnant or stuck. When Chi can’t move freely, our energy and stress levels can be negatively impacted. Not convinced? Close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine yourself walking into two rooms. The first, bright, breezy, airy, lots of natural light, plenty of wide open spaces. The second room, piled high with books, clothes, bags, shoes, too much furniture shoved into the room. Maybe you’ve already been in two rooms similar to this. Close your eyes and focus down into your body – in which room do you feel the most comfortable? The least stressed? The happiest and calmest? I know which one it is for me. In fact, I use de-cluttering as one of my stress management techniques. You know I’m getting stressed when you see me emptying my collection of Women’s Health magazines into the recycle bin!
Financial stress: Bills that get misfiled and forgotten so you attract late fees, food that gets wasted as it’s stuck at the back of a cluttered fridge. Having four almost identical black clutches because you can never find one as it’s stashed somewhere at the back of your wardrobe so you just buy a new one. Clutter costs us money, and that causes us stress.
Guilt – when faced with clutter in our homes, or our lives, many of us experience extreme guilt. “I really should sort that mess out”, “I really need to clean out that spare room”, “I really need to take those bags of old clothes to Vinnies”. We instinctively know that our clutter is detrimental to our health, so we feel guilty about it, which simply amplifies the negative emotions we’re already feeling.
Not to mention how clutter affects our ability to manifest the life of our dreams – it’s all about abundance and the law of attraction. This part is pretty new to me, but the total expert on it is Denise Duffield-Thomas from luckybitch.com , check out her website to see how clutter impacts on your lucky (or unlucky!) life. There’s also lots of correlations here to financial stress – just as I mentioned above!
This is seriously one of my favourite things to do in the entire world. (I know, I’m strange – sorry!) But I simply love the feeling that comes with clearing a space, and feeling the fresh energy flowing through. I always feel calmer and more focused in a de-cluttered space, and I seriously struggle to focus in a cluttered, messy office. So yes, I’m struggling a bit now, as my office has gotten pretty disorganised towards the end of this year, due to a pretty hectic last few months! But don’t worry, I’ve already got a few days over the Christmas break set aside to declutter, clean and sort out my office!
In fact, I love de-cluttering so much that at the start of 2014 I set myself a New Years Resolution – to declutter 2014 items from my home! Sounds impossible? Nope, it’s not. In fact, I’m so, so close, to 2014 items. I’ll blog about it when I hit my target. (And no, I didn’t start with a Hoarders-style situation!)
My de-cluttered bookshelf.
But if you’re not a seasoned de-clutterer, don’t despair. There’s a million and one resources out there about de-cluttering so feel free to Google away and find one you like, but a couple of my favourites are listed below:
(ps. No affiliate links here, I just love to share the people I think are great!)
So over to you? Are you a de-clutterer? Do you do a yearly de-clutter, or are you more of a de-clutter daily type of person? Or are you just drowning in a sea of kids toys, tupperware containers and “one day I’ll fit back into them” clothes? I’d love to hear your story – let me know in the comments below!