Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Burnout Recovery Programme

If you've ever looked around at your life and asked yourself 'is this it?' -  or you feel like you've spent years climbing a challenging mountain only to get to the top and discover it's the wrong mountain, then it's pretty likely you've hit Burnout.

Burnout starts out innocently enough as a coping strategy to handle stress and challenges by pulling back, shutting down, numbing out: a little drink at the end of the day, a few hours on facebook to chill out, escaping worries with a visit to the shops...until one day you wake up to realise that despite the people and achievements in your life, you are not happy.  You feel weary, weighed down and exhausted.  Burnt out.

It can creep up on you so quietly you don't even realise it.  It isn't exclusive to age or gender, income or background.  You can live with it for years believing it's normal to feel so flat -  and at the same time judging yourself for being a miserable, ungrateful wretch.

It takes huge reserves of energy to keep going when you're in Burnout.   First it takes effort to keep all those negative feelings and thoughts at bay, then you have to work even harder to find a way to enjoy life.

You're not living you're dying of exhuastion!

Burnout saps your energy, eats away at your confidence, damages your well-being and makes you question your relationships.  If left unattended it can plunge you into crisis - where you make rash decisions about your life, your relationships, your job and end up throwing away everything you've worked hard for in the mistaken belief that a new life/job/relationship will make things better.

How to recognise Burnout:

1. Emotional exhaustion and physical depletion: 
  • Writing endless to-do lists and only ever crossing off the jobs you've already done.
  • Spend hours browsing the internet, chatting on facebook etc and then go to bed feeling empty and dull.
  • You know what you need to do but lack the motivation, energy, enthusiasm or willingness to change.
  • Comfort yourself with shopping/eating/wine to take the edge of the dull pain of deep boredom that is your life.
  • Find yourself thinking (almost hoping) that perhaps your lack of enthusiasm for life is due to a serious hidden illness.
  • Starting new projects with great verve only to lose interest - all the time beating yourself up for not seeing things through.
  • You're run ragged, feeling stressed like you're trying to keep all the plates spinning. 
  • 'Living dangerously' makes you feel you're alive - regardless of who you hurt.
2.  Loss of Empathy
  • Whilst you might call it trying to maintain standards others accuse you of being a perfectionist.
  • Find it hard to be around people, easily irritated and intolerant of other's behaviour.
  • Feel driven and competitive - at the expense of relationships.
  • Keep yourself distant from others and withdraw from social activity.
  • Even though you may want to help, you feel empty, like you've nothing more to give.
3.  Loss of Confidence and Competence.
  • You keep having accidents - dropping things, forgetting appointments, losing important objects.
  • You find yourself withdrawing from the people who matter the most to you.
  • You've lost the confidence to speak up and communicate how you feel.
  • There is an inner voice constantly criticising yourself and/or others.
  • No matter how hard you work/how much you help others - you don't believe you're any good.
The lack of self-worth and self-compassion that accompanies Burnout can mess with your head, convincing you that since you've made a mess of things, you deserve to suffer.  

Read on for the 
Burnout Recovery Programme!

1. Rest
The first stage of recovery from Burnout is recognising the symptoms and giving yourself permission to rest.  Research has shown that if we don't allow ourselves to rest from the pressures of everyday life, our bodies can't process stress effectively and we put ourselves at risk from heart disease or other illnesses.

2. Play.
'The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression'.  Burnout addicts think play is
childish, but play really means giving yourself permission to do things for the sheer enjoyment of it.  Walking, gardening, cooking, tinkering in the shed, painting, knitting, dancing the tango: it doesn't matter what it is so long as it feeds the tender, vulnerable creative part of you.

3. Nurture
Old habits die hard so its important to learn to create a new way of relating to the world that makes space for your well-being, happiness and creativity.  Give yourself permission to slow down, kick back and re-boot your joie-de-vivre.

As the saying goes: Seek what gives makes your heart sing like a man with his head on fire seeks water!

PS. Reading this back I've realised I've been experiencing the symptoms myself!   I've decided its time to take my own advice and so I'm off on sabbatical to rest and play and nurture - just like I suggested. 

It already feels great to have given myself permission to change direction. 

I'll keep you posted! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Crying Shame

I met someone the other day who last saw me when I was a little girl.

"Oh, I remember you," he said.  "You were always crying."

"I still am."  I replied.

I obviously showed a talent for it from an early age because I cry for a living now!

Don't get me wrong, I don't go round howling and sobbing, in fact I'd say most of the time I'm pretty chirpy, but these days I'm as comfortable with feeling tears of hurt as I am experiencing tears of laughter.  I've overcome the shame I used to feel as a child and the confusion and frustration I experienced being told to stop crying or that my feelings were wrong.  I've learnt to honour feelings of hurt, rejection and heartbreak and no longer feel shame or judge myself as weak or stupid if I feel vulnerable - I just see crying as point on my emotional spectrum.

With the right approach crying can help gather intelligence about a situation, it can feed back information about your circumstances and help you make better sense of your world.  Emotional intelligence isn't about controlling, naming or talking about emotions, it is the intelligence we gather from FEELING our emotions.

People often don't allow themselves to cry because being vulnerable brings up feelings of shame.  Many of us have been punished, teased or humiliated as children and make a solemn vow never to be be that vulnerable again.  As a result we either employ something like the Great British Stiff Upper Lip or we cry alone behind a locked door - and hate ourselves for it.

Crying, like love, is better when there's someone to share it with.  

Crying is an art and, like any new skill, can feel awkward at first.  The results can be a bit messy until you get the hang of it.  Now that I'm so good at crying I teach people how to do it.  Its actually very easy and can lead to something rather magical.  One of my clients calls it 'crying club', I think it is a source of creativity and like any creative art it needs practice and can be fun to do in a community of like minded people.  It also gives you membership to a laughter, creativity and friendship club.

This place inside, the crying place, can be a source of inspiration.  Poets, musicians and artists have used it to fuel their creativity.  Some don't want to heal their dark side for fear of losing their muse, but they have misunderstood the nature of their pain.

When we're out of practice and have a lot of 'cry' in us, we cry and all the other hurts try to escape at the same time, making the whole thing a little alarming.  However, with time and understanding you can get so good at it that there are few tears and little drama, just profound heartfelt emotion.

Being comfortable with your own vulnerability builds empathy and helps strengthen relationships.  Accepting your own emotions builds stronger bonds with others and understanding your feelings gives you the confidence to communicate better.

We don't realise that the strategies we use to hide our tears are so effective they block off the good feelings too; when we shut off our tears we deny our tears of laughter.

And that's a crying shame.

Family@Heart  starts September 2014.  Feeling your feelings and do it anyway!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Three words to poison a relationship

Do you know which three words will strike terror in the heart of a man?

"Can we talk?"

The moment a man hears his beloved say these three words he mentally paints a target on his chest as he awaits the dreaded, deadly pointed finger of blame.

I am no saint.  I am guilty of the same crime.  I spent years not understanding why my husband wouldn't talk about things that weren't working.  He couldn't.  He was too busy hunkering down trying to avoid the missiles I kept launching at him.

Then there came a day when I said it differently.  Instead of 'Can we talk' I said "I need to talk to you, I don't think its going to come out right but I'm not saying it because I want to fight, but because I want to sort it out."

Not elegant, not articulate but he UNDERSTOOD.  He actually says that was the moment he was able to hear I was trying to work something out and he didn't need to defend himself any more.

So many women say to me "We just don't talk and when we do it always ends up in an argument." or 'He won't talk to me'.

Let me explain something.  He doesn't know how to talk to you.  And actually - you don't know how to talk to him either.  If your man can't communicate with you then you need to work on your communication skills.  

Women are born communicators.  We're naturals.  Its just that we forget how to speak a language men can understand.  We're trying to get them to speak Woman.  Speaking Man doesn't work for us either so, as the leaders of communication women need to work on the ideal language for relationship, Love.

It can start really simply.  Just a couple of words that are without blame and criticism.  A smattering of appreciation. A few sentences where you own your feelings and take responsibility for your own happiness.  You have to make it safe for him to open up - and you'll be amazed at the results.

I can hear you already.  "But, why do I have to be the one to do all the work?'

My answer is always the same.

Because, sister, you are the Leader of the Relationship.  If you can see something isn't working, then you are the one who can provide the solution.  Beside,  the skills you need to help your relationship are skills that will help every area of your life - so it ends up win win win!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Breaking out of the relationship coma

You know you're in a relationship coma when you feel flat, bored, miserable, unhappy, resentful, overwhelmed, sexless, fat, old, uninspired, angry.......  Need I go on?

And of course its easy to blame old Whatisname - after all wasn't he supposed to be your Prince, wasn't he supposed to make all your dreams come true?  

In the beginning it was all Rose Petals and Romance.  All Hopes, Dreams and Love's True Dream.

Now? You're Flatlining and what you need is CPR.  

Creative Personal Research: 5-steps to waking up from a relationship coma.

1.  What's the Story?
Write down what your fantasy relationship looks like.  You know, the one you've been telling yourself since you were a little girl.  The fairy story where you get to live happily ever after.  If everything was going well it would be like what? What is your Fairytale?  How does the Princess spend her days?  What does her castle look like - full of beautiful things, well-behaved children, a dashing Prince?  How does her Prince look after her?  Does he protect her and slay any Dragon that threatens her happiness?

2.  Get Real.
What is actually going on in your life now?  Are you living the Dream or have you become the Dragon your Prince is trying to fight?  Is your life full of enchantment, flowers and Romance?  Or is there silence, misery and coldness at the heart of your relationship?  

3.  Take a Break.
One of the best things I did in my marriage was leave.  We were living overseas and I realised I was living a life that didn't include my needs and desires and pretty soon it wouldn't include the kids either as they would have had to go to boarding school to maintain their education.  I awoke from my coma and thought 'this wasn't what I signed up for'.  I realised I was living the wrong life and took the courageous step of reclaiming myself and moving back to the UK to embark on a life that included me.  I remember clearly saying to my husband 'I'm not leaving you, but I am leaving this life'.  

We're celebrating our 32nd anniversary later this month!

I'm not saying leave - but I am advocating that you break out from your coma.  Wake up to your old self and explore the life you had before you became bogged down in relationship.  What were you like before you met?  What were your passions, your hobbies, your dreams?  Did you paint, did you love to read for hours on end?  Did you have wild adventures? Did you laugh like crazy with your girlfriends?  Its time to reclaim those lost parts of yourself and introduce them back into your life - they're what made you irresistible in the first place and they contain the magic to make your relationship fizz!

4.  Stop Fooling Yourself.
Still not sure you've lost your way?  Here are some signs:

1.  You think of something you'd love to do and then immediately come up with reasons why you can't.
2.   You cook his favourite food and never stock the house with the foods you love.  
3.  You spend most of your days wearing clothes that are 'comfortable' and 'practical'.  
4.  You'd never fit those other clothes anyway - you feel too fat, too old, too past-it.
5.  You're fed up most days, some days you feel so dissatisfied you'd even bite your own face off. 
6.  You're scared that any kind of personal enquiry will open a can of worms, so you do anything for an quiet (coma-like) life.

5.  Get Going.
Like they they say on the emergency drill on the plane, place your oxygen mask on first.  
Then you'll be able to breathe life back into the relationship.  A divorce lawyer is very expensive therapy. Find a community of like-minded people, do a course in something that inspires you, that makes you smile, that brings you joy.  Get the support and encouragement you need to help you awaken to life and love again.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How big is your Brave?

You know when you have a really good idea and then all the doubt and fear come creeping in, eating away at your confidence and courage?  Me too!  I’ve just scared the life out of myself by having a wonderful idea, a huge vision for the future.

So you know what I did?  I downloaded the song ‘Brave’ off iTunes (okay it took some time ‘cos I’d forgotten my password), played it full blast in my kitchen and danced my socks off.  The dog loved it – even my husband was impressed!  Its going to be a PowerBoost song for the times when I feel doubt and fear overtaking me and I’m definitely playing this Saturday at the workshop, cos that’s when I’m going to be working on my new, crazy, amazing, exciting idea.

There are a couple of places left if you want to join in the creative playtime this weekend.

Watch the video, crank up the volume and dance.  I dare you to not laugh and cry at the same time.

As it says in the song, show me how big your Brave is!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Love is in the air!

I recently spent a glorious sunny morning making hydrosols from the Roman Chamomile (anthemis
Roman Chamomile
nobilis) and rose-scented geranium (perlagonium graveolens) harvested from my garden.

I love the fact that even in the deep winter I will be able to go to my very own Apothecary Store and bring out amazing therapeutic waters to use at home, in the office and with clients.

I use the hydrosols in a diffuser to create a calm, soothing atmosphere in my treatment rooms, it is also wonderful to use in a spray for an anxious child.

One client kept the lavender hydrosol mist spray I made for her in the car for the school pick up, creating a calm space for the kids to off-load stress.  It's proved so popular all her children now have their own bottles - and one has all her friends at school asking for some!  I love the fact that children are discovering the gentle power of natural aids to well-being.
My 'Muji' Diffuser

Another client going through chemo uses her hydrosol spray to settle her when she feels fearful and has found it also  helps her with the nausea.

Being a big advocate of the power of dreams, I've also blended a Sleep Mist to help create a relaxing, calm environment for deep sleep.

Hydrosols can be added to lotions, skin products (rosewater face mask!), soaps and laundry. These therapeutic waters are gentle and safe to use with children and babies. plus they can be used in food dishes and even cocktails (quite keen on trying the martini recipe I've found)!  I'm also having fun at the moment researching and developing products for babies in anticipation of my first grandchild!

The Apothecary is open!
They used to be thought of as the by-product of making essential oils and were often disregarded as waste after harvesting the oil that gathered on the surface of the water.  Recent research however, along with some ancient texts has confirmed the healing properties in the water soluble aromatic compounds contained in the plants.

Making hydrosols from my own chemical-free plants is one of my favourite things to do in the world.  As I watch the process unfold and breathe in the amazing aroma of each distillation I am filled with gratitude and wonder for the natural world.

So when you come to the Relationship Training Centre, you'll know by the gentle aroma that love really is in the air!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Who is leading your relationship? And is it going in the right direction?

We were on Module 4 of Family@Heart last night, entitled 'Can we talk?'.  Last week we did 'I'm all ears' exploring the many different ways of listening - which set us up beautifully for this week's module on communication.

We did some amazing group exercises, working on places where relationships get stuck and there were many 'aha' moments as the evening unfolded.

All relationships get stuck, its what happens, but that's just the surface event.  Discovering why and what to do about it requires a little more work and a bit of courage.  The work is around understanding the hidden dynamics that are running and the courage is being willing to be the one to change things.

'Why do I have to be the one to do all the work in the relationship?' is a cry I often hear.  My answer is always 'because you are the leader of the relationship'.  Leadership in relationship doesn't mean being the boss or in control, it means being willing to learn and grow in order to lead the relationship to a better place.

Resolving a problem in a relationship has three stages.

1.  Talk about it with the other person - if its sorted easily, job done.

2. If that just turns into another argument (the familiar dance of relationship death) then the next stage is to work on yourself.  Not give yourself a hard time, or give up on yourself - but begin your own inner work on self-worth and confidence.

3. With greater confidence and understanding you will be equipped with tools to go back and communicate more effectively, plus you'll have more inner- strength and self-belief to handle any outcome.

One of the biggest 'aha' moments for the group last night was the realisation that when there is a problem the most powerful and effective route to resolution is to get to the deepest feeling - and when they did so they recognised that it was exactly how the other person is feeling too.

Learning how to do this is a group and practising the skills in a safe, supportive environment has really boosted their confidence and given them the courage to communicate at a whole new level.  That's Leadership.

Next Family@Heart starting September.  Join the revolution!