Radicalising Self-Care. "Know thyself" vs "Treat yo'self"

Radicalising Self-Care. "Know thyself" vs "Treat yo'self"

Self-care is a much needed medicine for our busy modern lives; but I feel the term is confused and often mis-used. For women, self-care is far too often reduced to A) activities of self-beautification... salon pampering, facials, bubble baths, or B) treating yourself... luxe holidays, a shopping spree or an afternoon on the couch watching netflix and eating chocolate, all in the name of self-care. ( Go search #selfcare on social media and you'll see what I mean!)

My premise is that self-care is the action we take to know ourselves so we can best serve our needs from a place of self-awareness and self-love. Once we take care of self-care we are then well equipped to support others and make a positive impact in the world.

7 Signs You Are At Risk Of Burnout

First of all, what is burnout?

Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. The problem is, if you’re an entrepreneur, or you’re juggling family and work responsibilities, or you’re driving yourself hard to achieve something difficult, prolonged stress is a common part of the package. The issue isn’t just the existence of stress – that can also be a sign of ambition and preparedness to go beyond your comfort zone – it’s how you relate to and manage this stress.

In other words, it’s all about how your practice self-care to balance and release your stress, to maintain healthy rhythms and to enjoy life!

If you don’t manage your stress you may end up burning out, which is where your ability to cope declines and the impacts spill out into other areas of your life.

So if you’re dedicated to doing something that is hard, your self-care practice is a core part of your journey.

But the first step to making changes is recognising you have a problem, so here are seven signs you may be at a risk of burn-out and quick and simple things you can try to shift your energy!

 

1. You are having trouble sleeping

You struggle to give yourself permission to go to bed – there’s so much to do – but even when you do, exhausted, you find your mind racing, preventing you from sleeping. You replay the day and what you wish had happened differently, or worry about things to come the following day or beyond. You go forward and backwards in time, everywhere but calmly in the present, which is where sleep happens.

Something you can do: Try yoga nidra guided meditation when you go to bed, which gives your mind something else to focus on.

 

2. You are having trouble not sleeping

Or, conversely, all you want to do is sleep. You are run down and lethargic. Demotivated. You wish you could spend all day in bed. You drag yourself out of bed but never really feel awake. You feel like you might have burnt out your adrenals, it’s so hard to get excited about things that used to motivate you. A lack of motivation for work you care about is a strong warning sign of burnout.

Something you can do: Daily exercise. This can be as little as a 7 minute workshop (download an app) or a twenty minute walk. Get your blood flowing. Yoga is great for this of course.

 

3. You are obsessively multi-tasking and having trouble focusing

Dangerous chronic levels of stress can begin to impair your cognitive functions, making it impossible for you to concentrate. Combine this with nervous anxious energy and a feeling that you’re not getting enough done and the likely result is flitting from thing to thing, opening up more and more windows as you think of more things you need to do, start them, then think of and move on to another, making almost no progress.

Something you can do: Get offline. Take your laptop to a café without internet access and turn off the social media on your phone.

 

4. You are procrastinating chronically

You are working longer hours but getting less done as you shy away from the hard work that is depressing you. You are spending more and more time on social media, chasing the dopamine rush of engagement or browsing only tangentially—relevant, at best, news and information.

Unlike the above scenario where you are over-stimulated, trying to do a lot but failing for lack of focus, here you shy away from your to do list. In either case, very little is achieved, and this drains your energy further.

Something you can do: Try the Pomodoro technique. This involves setting a 25 minute timer and trying to get a single task done in that time. Then taking a five minute break and doing it again. After four you take a longer break. You’ll be amazed at what you can get done in 25 minutes of focus.

 

5. You are cutting yourself off from your community

You have trouble sharing your struggles with anyone, thinking no one will understand what you’re going through, and daunted by the effort of explanation. Unable to really tell people how you’re going, distracted and anxious about work or chained to your desk you stop seeking our social contact, and become distant from people you care about. You may feel you just don’t have time, and that you will catch up with people when things slow down.

This becomes a vicious cycle however. The longer you go without seeing people the more daunting it is to “catch up.” Meanwhile your internal voice goes around in circles, with no-one to bounce off, making you more confused.

Something you can do: Seek out a friend you trust and tell them what’s going on. They don’t need to fix anything, just listen. Opening up to others won’t make you a burden, people will be flattered that you confided in them and it will make your friendship stronger. And crucially it will allow you to get out of your head and explore some of your challenges out loud.

 

6. You cannot switch off

Even when you’re doing something with family or friends, your mind constantly returns to the source of your stress. You might duck into the bathroom to check your phone at a social gathering, or ignore your kids at the park. You try to squeeze in a few minutes of work whenever possible, unable to enjoy the time away from it, scared of the consequences of any missed chances to make progress.

Something you can do: Take relaxation seriously. One of the best ways to create breakthroughs when you’re stuck is to step away from what you’re focusing on. By allowing your mind to wander you are more likely to find alternative ways of getting something done or innovative break-throughs. But even if you don’t your mind will be better-rested when you return to it.

 

7. You are unusually negative and cynical

You are beginning to feel like nothing you do is working, and so nothing you do matters. You feel more pessimistic than usual, and cynical about your own capacities and the possibilities of change.

Everyone gets down from time to time, but try to notice if this is becoming unusual for you, with these negative thoughts sticking around more persistently than usual.

Something you can do: Spend time with positive people. You don’t have to talk shop, just have fun and enjoy their energy.

 

If you need help establishing a self-care routine you are invited to join Radical Self Care Project starting February 1. Registrations close January 25th. Get more information and sign up here.

 

Taking Shelter - Self-Care and Life with Young Children

One of my favourite philosophers is a woman named Mary Midgely who lives in the North of England.  In her 90s now Mary is a retired Cambridge University Professor and still writes prolifically.  She’s also an animal rights activist and mother of three sons (now grandparents themselves!).  I had the honour of interviewing Mary a year or so ago and asked her about her parenting experience in the 1950s as a working mother.  She told me, ‘being a mother is great fun as long as two things are in place … one, practical help and two, something to stimulate your mind outside of motherhood.’


These words have stayed with me and perculated around in my inner world for months.  So simple and so wise.  Get some help, don’t try to pretend you can do it all yourself or feel guilty if you don’t:

Sometimes it’s OK to stick on the TV for your kids while you lie down to breath deeply for a moment.

It’s OK to use pre-bought cookie dough, or even eat pre-made cookies!

It’s OK to say no to a craft activity or a play date or reading the same book (that your two-year-old loves but you really don’t) for the 15th time that day.

It’s OK for our children to know that we are human too and that we have needs and dreams and experience burnout and impatience just as they do.

In general I try really, really hard to nurture my children’s creativity and independence and life ‘out in the world’.  But I also feel it’s my job to nurture their inner world too and that can take some discipline.  I do limit TV and screen time, I don’t allow violence (virtual or real), I apologise when I’m wrong and try to model best practice when it comes to these things (I read books and turn my phone off a lot when I’m at home, which is why if you call me I’ll almost always have to call you back!).

For a long time I totally boycotted social media.  Then I got into Instagram and in some ways I love it but overall it’s a total energetic drain and big black hole of mindless distraction that I know my life would be better off without and which I do plan to strategise boundaries around soon.  So I can go back to being present rather than present with my phone.

So help yes, and my own kind of stimulation, work of sorts, although these days I carefully select my ‘work’ so it’s nourishing to my soul.  Also books are a whole world for me just as the internet is for some, all of which keeps me sane as a functional ‘adult’. 

But I want to add something to Mary’s wise list.  And it’s this – knowing when to be in the world and when to withdraw from it.

There is a time for keeping silence, turning inwards and pulling up the draw bridge around the little castle of your family home.  My family is very social and outgoing, but this worldly family needs for retreat and quietude at times and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a mother is it will almost always be my job to implement that much needed taking of shelter from the busy, crazy world we live in. 

Sometimes I am the one saying ‘no’ to a fun social invitation or a day ‘over-filled’ or the request for more extra curricular activities.  It can be as simple as lighting a candle or the intention for the creation of sacred space in the home.  This can be done thorough fragrance, through together time (again reading is wonderful).  A time to reconnect to the heart calling and intuition where we are not being pulled into the world and distracted. This is as important for my four children as it is for my husband and I and we have found we are all so much happier for it.  This taking of shelter can also be practical – a time to catch up on cooking and nourishing craft activities. 

‘Taking Shelter’ in this way is what the yogi’s were referring too when they spoke about living a sattvic life – a life that is filled with sweetness and the joy of simplicity. 

By Katie Manitsas

Katie is the founder and director of Everyday Sadhana Yoga and Ayurveda, a yoga studio in Redfern, Sydney.  She is the mother of four young boys and the author of ‘The Yoga of Birth’ as well as a practicing doula.  Katie runs an annual ‘Prenatal Yoga and Doula Certification’ in Sydney as well as an Advanced Yoga Teacher Training.

5 Simple Self Care Practices For Your Menstrual Cycle

5 Simple Self Care Practices For Your Menstrual Cycle

I've been charting my menstrual cycle for about four months now, and I'm struck by how differently I feel about my period as a mother than before I had my babies. Pre-babies my period, to me, was unrelated to my fertility, it was just a bit of a drag. For around 3 days of each month I'd feel a super low ebb drift through me; moderate cramps hummed in my abdomen and I'd become highly sensitive and lose my, errr, social filter, meaning that any kind of interaction was a disaster waiting to happen.  So, I'd shove a tampon up there, pop naprogesic (pain killers), deploy water bottle duty to my partner and try grumble on without tearing any significant relationships apart.

Radical Community Care and Midwives for Peace

Radical Community Care and Midwives for Peace

What if we got as radical about community care here as we're getting about self care?

Consistently caring for another human being in ways that they cannot care for themself is an act of intimacy, love, kindness and... it's also pretty radical.

In a divided world, to lift up your tribe, to offer support and care to another is truly the work of the heart; it sparks connection, care and love.

 

Self Care Isn't Selfish: A Mom's Perspective.

Self Care Isn't Selfish: A Mom's Perspective.

In American culture, there is a prevalent myth that a good mother is one who is always loving, always kind, and endlessly sacrificial. Before crossing the threshold into motherhood myself, I had an inflated regard for those who had gone before me, and I imagined giving birth would instantly initiate me into this mystical sisterhood of Those-Who-No-Longer-Have-Needs.