Dabbling in rest

As a busy scanner with lots of projects that light my brain up, engaging in ‘passive’ relaxation activities is not my ‘go to’. I often want to jam pack my ‘down’ time with painting, or writing, or gardening, or community projects. Which I love doing but eventually my body does need rest and quiet time. If I don’t give it the rest it needs sometimes it responds with exhaustion, illness, burnout or low mood.

It can be a challenge if we have a long list of ‘fun’ projects we want to work on. The fear can be that if we don’t work on them NOW when we have a day off we will never get to them.. we will never ever get them done.. and that it’s a ‘wasted’ day.

But just like sleep is just as important as awake to creating balance in our lives, so to is passive relaxation* a balance to active relaxation.

A book.

A bath.

A cup of tea feeling the sunshine on my face.

Laying flat on the couch and watching a tv show that isn’t wildly engaging.

A slow meandering walk with eyes really open to my surroundings.

Having lunch laying on the green grass of an inner city park looking up at the leaves of trees.

Being absorbed in music.

A brief nap.

 

Slow.

 

Not tied to productivity.

 

In and noticing the body.  

Through these activities I slide from a more activated and excited, engaged, ‘creative’ state into a more restful and calm state… even if just for a few minutes, a half hour. I soak in the essence of rest.

I recharge. I ‘refuel my tank’**.

I prevent exhaustion later by taking little sips of rest along the way.

This is part of how I aim to prevent future experiences of burnout, and keep myself working and playing steadily into the future.

—-

*I’m using the word relaxation synonymously with ‘leisure time pursuits’

** Terribly fossil-fuels-centric metaphor isn’t it? I ‘recharge my solar batteries’??

Forgiving ourselves

I think forgiving ourselves is at the core of moving on, moving forward and getting unstuck! The quote below speaks to me so beautifully of that.

“How do I actually learn best? How do I change? How do I grow? Is it through that kind of belittling myself and berating myself and humiliating myself? Or is it through something else, some other quality like self-compassion and recognizing the pain or unskillfulness of something I’ve done or said and having the energy to actually move on?
So where does that energy come from? It comes from not being stuck. And how do we get unstuck? In fact, it’s from forgiving ourselves and realizing, yeah, it happened. It was wrong. I’m gonna go on now in a different way ‘cause I’m capable of that. I am capable of change.” – Sharon Salzberg

This week I am practicing forgiving myself for all the times I feel tired or just ‘meh’ rather than 110% fabulous.
I’m forgiving myself for the paperwork that isn’t done, all the work ‘leads’ or possibilities I let linger and didn’t bring into fruition, and all the ways I don’t live up to some shiny imaginary super-entrepreneur vision I sometimes yearn to be. I also forgive myself for indulging in buying into the idea that there IS some shiny entrepreneur cookie cutter role I need to step into.
I am forgiving myself for not having it all figured out or having the ‘perfect’ clockwork business that somehow runs itself while I sip almond lattes and have international holidays.

I accept myself as learner, beginner, as well as expert, as bumbler and fumbler, as making-it-up-as-I-go-along. I accept myself as sometimes slob, sometimes stressed and overworked, sometimes exhausted, sometimes hermit, sometimes attention seeker, as sometimes succumbing to fears.

I forgive myself for all these shades of vivid human.

My shadow, my depth, my multifaceted shining me-ness.

I forgive myself.

I try to make room for these aspects of me that I am less proud of, try to shimmy over to make room for them. I try not to judge them, or deny them, or point an angry finger at them.

How about you?


Are there shadow aspects of your personality that you struggle to see and feel OK about? 

Are you working on forgiving yourself for anything at the moment? 

Have you had a self-forgiveness win? 

 

 

 

 

Feeling the feels – tired

Energy levels and what to do with them have been a big theme for my personal growth the past few years. (Oh hang on – is ‘personal growth’ a bit of a new agey cliché? By all means replace with ‘learning/ musing/ reflections/ new habits’ or whatever works).

What to do when I feel dead tired like a lump and have no oomph or get up and go whatsoever.

How to use energy when I have it.

What deflates me.

When I need to rest.

When I am tired in the mind versus tired in the body versus tired from a sugar slump versus tired from not enough sleep. When I feel icky from having absorbed complex emotional stuff that I need time to process. When I feel tired because actually I’m sad. When I feel sad because actually I’m tired.

Getting much better acquainted with what tired is.

I am finding my 100 words for tired like the fabled innuit and snow.

And finding a way to make space for it, accept it and make room for it without fear or judgement or ‘should’. Without fighting it and ‘pushing on’ or ‘soldiering on’ or ‘just doing it’.

I am trying to feel the rhythms of my body much more keenly and create a life that adjusts to them, respects them and works around them – not forcing my body to stick to routine and expected outputs that my mind makes up.

Because who am I to know what important work my body might be doing while I am tired and rest? Which cells might be tinkered with and replaced, which emotions are being sifted through, which memories stored, which ideas are growing in the subterranean dark of my subconscious. I am moving to respect my body’s wisdom much more – even if the Goddess of Efficiency and Productivity is no longer receiving her sacrifice.

Even if my sense of self (attached to energy, creativity and outputs) has to subtly shift over and adjust sometimes to make room for tired, not-creating, listless or idle me.

I practice expanding to embrace both. I practice feeling peace with it all.

Don’t wanna

It’s the end of the year and I don’t wanna!

I don’t wanna write the things I have too. I don’t wanna do my filing.

I don’t wanna pack my suitcase.

I don’t wanna wrap any more presents right now and find the freaking sticky tape AGAIN.

I dont wanna hear about other people’s end of year stresses and stressors.

I certainly don’t wanna deal with shopping centres where everyone else is annoying except me.

I don’t want to plan one more festive dish.

I don’t want to be alert and enthusiastic, I want to watch nordic noir over endless cups of tea and have my toes painted and dip them into the ocean.

I want long slow nothing to do summers.

I want go away and leave me to my paints afternoons.

I want quiet and slow and no deadlines.

I want social media to all go away just a little bit.

I want companionable afternoons working in the garden.

I want love and joy and peace on earth, and mince pies.

I wanna pop out in 2017 feeling refreshed and energised after Christmas elves have cleaned my desk.

Anyone else having waves of ‘don’t wanna’ as the year comes to an end?


On a more serious note:

For me a bit of a cry, foot stamp and some nice time with loved ones helped me find my mojo again after a stressful day. Mine is just a case of the ‘tireds’ and I am lucky enough to have time off on the horizon. I have a daily art practice and connection with some great creative communities to also keep me grounded. It reminds me to take some time out for self care in amongst the busy.

But…this can be a tough time of year for all of us, with extra expectations, costs, deadlines and social commitments.  Please consider speaking with a friend, your GP, a therapist, or a free counselling service to chat things over if you need someone to talk to. You are not alone, someone has been through or felt what you are feeling before – probably more of us than you think. Talking helps us feel less alone and feel more accepted.

Crisis support in Australia

LifeLine

Kids helpline 

Mensline

Information and resources

Beyond Blue

Black Dog Institute

Christmas related events and services:

Salvation Army Australia

Messy and OK

I want to talk about embracing our imperfections.

I have gone a long way from my early days in consulting where I thought I needed to ‘know’ everything and was terrified with not knowing the right things.

It felt like there was a vast and ever changing set of technical areas I was meant to be across, and for my highly creative, highly intuitive brain that doesn’t like memorising that was hard. Layer onto that anxiety and my inability to ask for help and I was a hot mess of fear on the inside while I continued to deliver more and more work at the standard I expected of myself. I frequently felt out of my depth and frequently worried that I was not ‘enough’.
Fast forward ten years and quite a bit of therapy later – and here I am running my own business in a completely different field. I have worked through and grown out of some of the old fears (thankfully) and life is far more peaceful now as a result. However I still notice a set of ‘shoulds’ emerging in my brain around work.

For example, I sometimes catch myself judging my messy desk and non linear way of working and thinking it is a ‘flaw’ – some deep character flaw that if I fixed would make my life better. I can feel anxious (not about the mess, I’m quite comfortable with a messy desk) at the thought that I am a messy person. There is some script that says ‘oh no! You’re not good enough like this. You need to change and be more tidy, predictable, ordered, and less exuberant’. And sometimes I believe this script and makes me feel despair. Because how am I meant to change this way that I am most comfortable in the world? And if I need to change this part of myself to be ‘successful’ what does that mean for my life?
So instead of running with these thoughts I notice the script and practice reminding myself that in fact I am fine as I am. I am happy as I am. I’ve achieved a lot as I am. I am intuitive and deeply connected with my energy levels, whims, opportunities and this is just as valid a way of working as being very orderly and linear.
I try to create more encouraging inner scripts that say things like ‘hey that’s ok, I have a super orderly mind, that’s why I can handle a bit of chaos on the outside’ or ‘oh well creative people are often messy’. I remind myself of my mentor Barbara Sher and how she says that you can be lazy and in a bad mood and still get what you want. That you can outsource the bits you suck at and focus on what you rock at. These gentle, encouraging messages help chip away at the old beliefs that I need to be ‘perfect’ (whatever that is) to be ok.
Do you have parts of yourself that you despair at and judge? Is there a more accepting way you could speak about them to make room for them?

 

Are you messy and OK like me? Or maybe super clean & tidy and OK?

Loud and OK?

A procrastinator and OK?

A bit of a control freak and OK?

A bit anxious and OK?

Kind of grotty and OK?

Forgetful and vague and OK?

Shy, a little bit awkward and OK?

Let’s celebrate all our OK-ness together!

 

What I wish I could say to every person in therapy

What I want to say to clients who have experienced trauma and are coming to me for art therapy:

You are wounded, not damaged – there is a difference. Wounds are something that have happened to you, not who you are. Wounds can heal.

Just because you feel worthless, doesn’t mean you are worthless, and these feelings can change.

These feelings are real and overwhelming but this is not how you will always feel.

You are not ‘crazy’ for feeling grief and loss and self doubt and pain.

You’re not a failure because these feelings are still here.

You are strong – you have survived and you are still here. You are in counselling – you are taking steps to make things better.

You can feel better, things can get better – there is hope.

You are not selfish for being here, talking about yourself – this is hard work, it hurts, avoiding it is easier, you’re here because you care about having good relationships, doing well in the world, feeling ok in the world. There’s nothing selfish about wanting that.

You are trying to shift your patterns of thinking and your own belief structures and sometimes your view of and relationship with your family. This is huge work that no-one around you may even recognise or be familiar with.

I recognise how much work this is, how undone you can feel in the midst of it as old pains are remembered and old feelings felt. As best you can, be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for this work that you are doing. As best you can, trust in the process.

You are unique – I don’t know how it feels to be you, but I can listen and try to understand. Together we might help you see yourself more clearly or with fresh eyes too.

I am here with you, we will go on this journey side by side and I will do my best to accept you exactly as you are, with kindness, and no expectation that you should be anything other than you are.

We may work together briefly or for a longer time, and I trust that whatever you choose will be right for you. A lifetime has many steps in it, and even a short journey taken with another can leave lasting ripples, or so it has been for me in my life.

I believe that you are on a path of healing, that something inside you is unfolding, and that you are oriented towards growth. I also believe you have the wisdom of the universe packed deep inside you, and that through facilitating art, meditation and empathetic interpersonal exchange I can help you access this wisdom. I don’t ask or require that you believe this, but I hold this belief deeply inside myself and it anchors me in our work together.

Even if you can’t see it right now, I see the beauty and wisdom and good in you.


Work with me? Contact me to discuss whether we are a good fit for one on one sessions, or whether group work might suit you better.

What goes up must come down – handling post event blues

Anyone expect to be dancing on sunbeams after an event only to find themselves tired and wanting to hide on the couch the next day? Have you ever wondered if it’s something other people experience too? And where does it come from? Is is perfectionism? Resistance to the next steps? Restorative? 

Putting it to the brains trust! This week I spoke to a number of coaches and trainers in my networks about whether they ever feel inexplicably ‘down’ the day after a workshop/ lecture/ training seminar, why they think that is, and how to handle it.

If you’ve ever experienced this and wondered if you were alone – you’re not!

They had some great tips on how to handle this and create space for it – what I now like think of as making down time for the ‘down’ time.

What they had to say….

This is totally and completely normal! It’s part of the creative cycle, especially when you’re running an event yourself – you put so much of yourself into making it amazing, OF COURSE you’ll be drained afterwards. When you know to expect it, you can plan for it so it doesn’t hit you so hard. Not just in the sense of scheduling down time after an event, but also in making sure that you amp up your self care *before* and *during* the event (so you don’t need quite as much down time). – Heidi

I think it is very nomal. Its an energy phenomenon. You give your energy to thers, but then suffer from a lack, which is why you are tired and have to fill yourself up again. The more workshops you have done, the less tired you will get, as you will learn to handle your energy. Take a look at master presenters like Barbara Sher. She seems to not to get tired as a result of her training, as she seems to get into a flow while a workshop. She deals perfectly with her energy. So maybe it would be a good think to learn something like energy balancing. but yes, it is definitely normal, while you are still learning to make workshops without losing your energy, but rather to to keep it or double it (like masters do). – Lisa

I think just like every actor needs to be a little nervous before each performance, in order to be good, so do presenters. Similarly we all will be a little worn out afterwards.  I guess it also has something to do with recovering, getting your strength back. – Carolina

I know this feeling, the after-workshop-blues. When I give a two-day-workshop I often feel sad in-between the two days. The day after the workshop is finished I leave completely free: I am only allowed to do crochet and I often book a massage. At the beginning I could barely speak after workshops (me!! someone who loves to speak), now it’s much better. I think that’s because I used to have to work much more to prepare and I had to deal with a great load of insecurity. I have also learned with time to let the participants do much more during sessions so that I am not 120% ‘on’ all the time. – Maria

knit-869221_1280

Thank you so much for bringing the topic up Jade! I always thought I have personal problem here. My after workshop blues is always a massive feeling of depression which I could never explain especially when things went very good and felt right! After a recent 2 days seminar in Germany I could hardly do anything the day after it finished, I felt very sad and sleepy at the same time. – Hajo

I have a similar experience: feeling completly empty after a success … and super excited and/or very tired. I meanwhile learnt and accepted the yin-yang-principle: after a lot of work you need a rest, after stress you need to relax – so after a weekendworkshop, I block Monday (and sometimes even Tuesday) as “day off” – and after a day-workshop in another town, I am too tired to drive home, so I will often sit in a cafe, do some windowshopping – even real shopping. After high performance you need a rest to recover, after a lot of stress, you need also a rest or another activity to reduce stress-hormons in your body, otherwise you risk your health longterm (burnout). It’s just like when you do sports to get more muscles – they grow in the rest period. The best would be to have better energy-management, to avoid getting too exhausted by being in a flow :- ) – Astrid

coffee-631764_1920

An ex colleague of mine made a wordgame in German long ago. I said: after a training (Lehre) I feel so…so… And she finished my sentence: empty? (leer?). So in German, teaching and emptiness sound exactly the same (Lehre/leere). Although I don’t tend to interpret too much in that, it is a good reminder that you have to fill your tanks up again after standing in front of a group. – Maria

I’m afraid, it is normal and you should only be proud of yourself and good to yourself, do what ever you love and celebrate your success. It is also important to let all the problems go, which are not yours. I sometimes shower with a little salty water or do other things to clear anything I may be holding onto from the group our participants. – Gabriele

woman-506120_1920

YEP! The same here! After a workshop I always need some time off. The “day after” is good for doing some small things and rounding up the training (How was it?) and that’s about it. – Claudia

It’s the same for me: after a challenging workshop I keep the following day free: too many new thoughts looking for a place and circle around – it must be quiet around me to sort all the new impressions I always bring from days like this. It’s like cleaning after a party – Hilke

Conclusions

It’s a common experience and you’re not alone! It’s certainly a pattern I’ve noticed personally after delivering training sessions or guest speaking, especially if there has been a lot of preparation or excited nervous energy – e.g. a new audience, or when it’s breaking new ground for me in some way. Coaching clients have spoken about the same thing, especially clients who identify as introverted or highly sensitive.

I think the fear that arises is that it may mean we’ve done a bad job or that we secretly haven’t enjoyed the experience (because if we did we figure we’d be feeling great), and the worry that this may reflect on our skills or abilities as trainers, speakers or facilitators. Instead it is helpful to consider the physical / energetic aspects of the post event slump. Be kind to yourself, cut yourself some slack, and see how everything looks a day or two later once you are well rested and your hormones and energy levels have evened up.

 

Snot, tears and breaking up from your job

Some changes come swiftly and with their own momentum, and you wonder how the new wasn’t there before it feels so right and familiar. And some changes come kicking and screaming and hanging on to the door jam as you try to coax them through.

Career transition has felt like the kicking and screaming kind for me.

As I sat on the threshold of leaving my solid, challenging, rewarding, stressful, ‘important’, clever and yes, well paid, job I found I could easily switch from coaxer to stubborn mule stay-put-er in a  moment. Even as the ‘me’ who longed for something new and who worked towards that something new began to dream that something new could be possible, when I switched perspectives and imagined actually cutting the ties, I felt bereft. Strong, confusing feelings would surface, in a primal pre verbal way. And they would be accompanied by tears, snot and some sobbing for good measure.

What were these feelings? Grief and sadness to be sure. Grief at the saying goodbye to an old identity, sadness and longing for the old half-dreamt dreams which now would not come to fruition within that role, grief at saying goodbye to a community, a familiarity and stability.

There was a tiny bit of regret and guilt for letting people down, but mostly I had felt and exhausted that one previously, when choosing to take leave for a period of time to recover my energy and consider change. By now I knew that they could do without me, and they were getting on fine.

The something deeper, as I dug around asking ‘What is this? Why am I feeling so upset?’, emerged as the feeling that I had failed. Strong grief and some shame at the idea that I had not managed to make work something that I could enjoy as much as others seemed to. I felt like I was somehow not good enough – had not tried hard enough, was not resilient enough, was not resourceful enough – to take on the challenge of my job and find a way to make it work and to thrive within it. I had failed. I was a failure.

The paradox was that this thing I felt I had failed at was something I no longer wanted to do. I had done enough work with a good therapist to see that I was wanting a fairly significant shift in my relationship to work, to creativity, to stress, and to productivity. I could see that almost 10 years of trying different ways within my role hadn’t created the lasting shifts I was hoping for. In addition, what I cared most about, what I was excited about learning, and my understanding of what I felt ‘drawn’ to do had changed over the years. I could see that this role didn’t light up my interest anymore or feel like a way of working that was compatible with maintaining good health, for me.

But despite this, the litany of failures ran on in my mind:  ‘failure to manage your stress, failure to endure, failure to make it work, failure to be a normal person, failure to be efficient and productive, failure to excel, failure to put aside your personal issues to do something for the good of the world, failure to be spectacular, failure to be respectable and admired, failure to be glossy and shiny and professional’. Imagine this litany accompanied by bass notes of sniffs and chorus of keening.

Never mind that for almost 15 years in my particular field I had done OK for myself: contributed to valued work, helped others, been promoted, been praised for what I had done. Never mind that I was leaving entirely of my own volition, after years of hard work and a list of projects so long it made my eyes hurt. Still I felt like a failure.

On the one hand, work I no longer wanted to do: that I was burntout from doing, that I was bored and stressed doing, that caused me bodily and emotional pain, but somehow kept the inner gatekeeper happy, satisfied that I was a valuable member of society and was worthwhile.

On the other hand, the great unknown: pursuing my interests (unstable fluttering interests that made no promises to stick around), stepping out into a new tribe that I wasn’t wholly sure would accept me, hoping for pieces of work that I wasn’t sure would come or that I would be good at.

It felt like:

Stability versus the fear of chaos.

Established versus beginner.

‘Worthy’ versus ‘self indulgent’.

‘Distinguished’ versus ‘dabbling’.

Credible versus ‘on whose authority?’

On the Heroes Journey map in art therapy we talk about the ‘medicine’ that can be found right in the deepest darkest moments of our descent into the unknowing. That here, as we sit in the pit, the nadir, we need to experience the metaphoric death of a part of ourselves (for example the leaving behind or changing of a mask, a way of acting, a way of seeing the world) and grieve that loss, and at the same time recognise that loss can be the medicine that helps us move up and out of this dark place and returns us stronger, more whole, and more authentically ourselves.

For me, I knew that next to this absolute fear of change, and the grief and feeling of loss at stepping out of this role and identity, would be my medicine.

Who am I without this thing I cling to?

What remains?

What do I see about myself when I see I can exist without this part of my identity?

What judgements about myself do I need to gently release to be able to move forward?

These weren’t easy questions. This wasn’t an easy time.

I had said yes to the new, but was not yet ready to say no to the old. I was carrying them both within me. It took time (months). And more time (months). And more tears, and a bit more uncertainty before I was ready to take the final step in the transition.

It also took love and support from people close to me, a cheer squad of fellow coaching students, and taking big tangible steps to follow through on building a new professional identity to feel confident enough that there would be something waiting for me on the other side if I did the unthinkable and left my old field.

Having come through the other side of this now, recent enough that these feelings haven’t faded in my memory, I know that I have learned a powerful and visceral lesson through experiencing this change. I now understand down to my very bones (in a way I didn’t before) that big life transitions that people struggle with are complex and have subterranean elements involving dreams for the future, family stories, personal identity, social identity, a struggle between hope and fear, grief and loss for the old, safety and security, and much more.

While it was happening I was very aware of the caterpillar-butterfly metaphor, and in particular the messy part in the middle where inside the cocoon the caterpillar disintegrates into cells and is a caterpillar-y soup before it is reformed back into butterfly. I kept thinking ‘am I still in soup stage? Have I grown my wings yet?’. That image helped me understand the feeling of unfamiliarity in the mist of change, and the inability to move, the need to be curled up safely while this change is taking place at the deepest most fundamental levels of ourselves.

Now that it has happened and some time has passed, I think more of a bridge in a mythical landscape. I see myself standing in a place where I once wanted to be but have grown tired of, looking out across dark waters and a rickety bridge to a slightly hazy and indistinct future me. The future me waves and a slight smile sits gently. She looks calm. To get there and become that version of myself I have to  somehow make it across the bridge, even though I am scared and feel like I will die to cross it, and I can’t even know 100% if the vision of myself over there is real or a mirage. I stand there wondering, ‘will I stay where I am and be safe, or will I go over the bridge even though the drop to the waters below terrifies me?’

And now maybe my gift from the other side, as well as a new landscape to explore and that gentle smile that comes from having honoured my own wishes,  is the powerful deep empathy for others exploring change. In therapy and coaching I will forever be attuned to these big symbolic changes, that can look straightforward or even mundane to the outside observer, but that take such courage, support and sometimes just time, for the person making them.