Learning to unplug

I was brought up to believe that I could achieve anything I wanted if I worked hard enough.  It was a belief I strongly held and yes, I have achieved lots in my life: good exam results, great career…but that did come at a cost – I did have to work really hard at it.

Not only that, when my career involved being an employed Director (employed by someone else, not my own business), it seemed that everyone was conditioned to work really hard: putting in as many hours as they could, skipping lunch, and running round the building like headless chickens whilst they demonstrated just how busy and important they were.  And yes, everyone was important, they were doing a great job – but the stress was so visible and a number of colleagues burnt out, including myself.

For me it was a wake-up call.  My burn out manifested itself in lots of illness that wouldn’t go away – my body was literally telling me to stop.  I knew that if I continued at the pace I was, my body might stop for good.  As a mother of two young children, it scared the hell out of me.

It taught me a lot – about the power of stress (and how at it’s worst it reduced me to feeling useless and helpless) but most importantly, about resilience.  I thought I was highly resilient – and I was.  That meant that I was seen as a good worker who delivered, which meant more and more work landed on my desk.  But what I learnt about resilience is that it’s all a balancing act – if our stressors exceed our resilience, then we will break (and everybody has a breaking point, no matter how resilient you think you are).

In order to become more resilient, we need self-care: we need to do things that top up our cup and make us feel good and happy. It really made me evaluate just how much I did for myself: very little.  I thought about all the things I love doing such as running, walking, reading, spending quality time with my boys, spending time with friends, taking a long soak in the bath and actually, I got to do those things infrequently.

Since then I have changed my life enormously.  I now have my own business which I have grown over the past four years – I spend my days coaching and training others in how to develop their business and make it successful.  One of the biggest messages I give, is that in order for us to be successful we cannot work at a hundred miles per hour all the time – if we try to operate like a machine, we will burn out (and actually who leaves their machines and gadgets on 24 hours a day? We all know they will burn out and go up in smoke!).  If we are to be successful we need to be clear on our strategy, focus on the important and we need to make time for ourselves; we need to unplug from the daily treadmill and do things that make us happy.  It is then we have the energy and focus to live enriched lives, to deliver what’s important and to be truly successful.

Learning to look after myself

As a Coach who spends time helping others, I used to feel that I needed to be in control of my emotions at all times and never allow myself to feel down.  Of course, in reality no-one  can control their emotions to that extent. I do have days where I feel out of sorts and sometimes pretty emotional.  It’s part of who I am: I am human (we all experience emotions) and I am an empath – I absorb others emotions as well as dealing with my own, so it’s completely normal for me.

What I have learned however, is that as a Coach I do not have to detach myself from my emotions – rather, I need to be very much aware of them.  I need to be in the right mindset to completely connect with my clients and hold their space so that they can think through their issues.  Therefore, if I’m struggling to deal with my own shit, I am not in the right space to deal with theirs.

So I have to be aware of my emotions and I have to acknowledge them – and early. So when I begin to feel out of sorts (as I have done today, incidentally), I have a plan to deal with it and get my feelings re-centred. What I have learned is that for me to help others, I really need to look after myself first.

So when I’m feeling crappy – what do I do?

  1. Simplify – there’s nothing worse than being overloaded when you’re feeling like crap.  So I look at my workload and remove anything that’s non-essential or that could be left for another day.  Yes, I know I usually recommend getting stuff done and  not procrastinating, but on these days it’s important to keep commitments to a minimum to allow myself to recharge.
  2. I exercise – I appreciate it’s not always what I want to do when I feel like shit, but it’s so good for me.  So I walk, run, cycle – or whatever I can that’s also outside so that I get fresh air and blow the cobwebs away.  The extra endorphins are good for me too.
  3. I relax (obviously can’t do 2 and 3 at the same time!).  But I love to read – and so when  I’m done with exercising, I love to curl up on the sofa with a book and have a few hours of self-indulgent, escapism.  And for me, a naff chick lit is just the remedy (those business books are not for days like these).
  4. Flower remedies – I love the Bach remedies! I always find a remedy that works for me, but they do work best over time so don’t expect an instant fix!
  5. Angel cards – I love these too!  I love the fact that whenever I ask my Angels a question, I get a relevant response. These cards remind me that I have Angels looking after me and that I am part of a bigger, infinite, unexplained universe of which human life is just a small part.
  6. Hypnotherapy.  Well, I am a trained hypnotherapist so it would be silly not to use it.  Using hypnotherapy to remind my unconscious mind that I am happy and healthy is always a good thing – and the rest will manifest itself.
  7. Anchors – I have anchors (or reminders) for confidence, happiness and calm and so using these are really important.  I just invoke my anchor (this could be holding two fingers together or holding a crystal or pebble – anything that can act as a reminder) – and allow the feeling to come to me. Easy!
  8. Affirmations – I am happy, I am worthwhile, I make a difference. Telling myself those things really help when I’m feeling crappy and doubt myself.  It happens to us all – so finding affirmations can be repeated so that our mind believes it, is a great step to move forward and out of negative feelings.

So it has been a learning adventure for me – but I have found things that really help and it’s important to have these in my toolkit to use when I need to (I’d love to say I practise these daily, but in reality I don’t have time). Knowing that I may succumb to negative feelings on occasions, but that I can use these tools to get back to feeling ok, is so reassuring.

So what can you do to get yourself feeling better?