How to tame Rushing Woman’s Syndrome

It’s that big exhale you take after sitting yourself at the steering wheel. It’s the pressure that builds when you count how many minutes you’ve got left until you need to run out the door. It’s the gradual tension that builds in your neck… in that same hard-to-reach spot. That’s your energy levels talking – and it’s not saying nice stuff.

For me, my energy (vibes, feelings, mojo; call it how ever you feel it) is a very, very important indicator of my health. As a general rule I think about my overall health in terms of a transaction – energy in, energy out. Whether it’s food, movement, social gatherings, housework, work-work or just quiet moments to myself. All are moments in time that either replenish or diminish my energy levels. The key I’ve found to managing my overall health and wellbeing is committing to an awareness of my body’s energy and honouring what it needs. Admittedly I get the ‘honouring’ part mixed up a bit.

I don’t think I need a scientific statement here to say that as women, we tend to be in a rush to do everything and be everything to all people. And when we rush we tend to get less connected to the way we feel and more connected to what we’re chasing. Or rather, the perceived need that we must chase at all.

In a bookmark worthy article over at The Whole Daily, Dr Libby Weaver author of Rushing Woman’s Syndrome (and one of Australasia’s leading nutrition specialists and weight loss experts) put what I’ve been trying to grapple with about my energy levels for years into a nice and simple, here’s-why-this-really-happens, tidy little sentence:

“Not that long ago in human history women were given the opportunity to do what had traditionally been their father’s jobs, while maintaining what were traditionally their mother’s responsibilities and what has unfolded for too many women is a frantic double shift, of working day and night, with very little if any rest.”

In short – we can’t do everything yet we feel like we must. And pronto!

A Mumma’s day often transitions from work-lady to home-lady; both are jobs. So we’re wired, 24×7, to get things done as quickly as possible usually with the goal to feel ‘complete’, ‘done’ or may be even just ‘free’ to have damn rest? As Dr Weaver explains, in the evolution of her book, she had never before witnessed so many females in a rush to do everything and be all things to all people.

Enter the Rushing Woman.

In my last few weeks at work I was determined to beat this buzz. I found myself making a new revisiting the previous week’s goal every Sunday: ‘No rushing, no striving – just flow’. But in the Monday morning after the night before of washing dishes, folding laundry, bathing baby, balancing books, paying bills, phone calls from it takes-half-an-hour-to-say-‘Hi’ relatives – truthfully – I was left uninspired by my Sunday mantra.

So I ask myself: ‘What am I doing wrong?’, ‘How can I be so clear on an intention only to be over-run by an intense feeling of overwhelm and lost time?’

If you’re gelling with these scenarios (and before you fly into another session of scolding yourself for what you didn’t get done today) take a moment to think about how you’re using your Third Space.

Let’s park the idea that we should probably focus on letting go of the hellish to-do lists altogether – sometimes our list of non-negotiables fall within one day. And here’s a concept that can help any lady rushing through it.

I first stumbled across leading educator and researcher in human performance, Dr Andrew Fraser, a few years back. His work on (or more appropriately in) the Third Space featured in an article in Madison Magazine a few years back. The concept stuck with me. Here was a whole ‘nother space in time I wasn’t using!

While I’m not advocating (and I am in fact guilty of) giving into a need to set and conquer a ridiculous list of tasks each day maybe we can use the Third Space to manage the huge amount of energy this type of rushing woman syndrome? After all, as Dr Fraser points out, it’s not what we do that matters. But what we do between what we do that counts.

So here’s a couple of Third Spaces to try to help with the transition between your different roles and environment. It’s all with the intent to help you find time and space to manage that precious energy resource that is you.

Your AM Moments:

  1. The kettle or smoothie ‘stand-off’: Rather than run away after flicking the switch use this time to stop to stand still and gather your thoughts for the first part of your day ahead.
  2. The car ride to calm: No radio, no music and 6 deep breathes will help with a reset (best served up after the school drop-off). Perfect for the transition from home-lady to work-lady.
  3. Toilet Time-Out: You gotta go at some point. Use the time at the basin mirror to take in your mornings mishaps and what you don’t want to carry forward into the arvo.

Your PM Moments:

  1. Let it go lunch time: Do yourself a favor; never deny yourself a lunch break and use the walk to get it or eat it as a time to reset. The 3pm munchies will thank you.
  2. Mindfulness Mailbox: Pause just for a second before you go inside the house. Head over to the mail box and ponder your way back before making you way inside to start back at your home role.
  3. Karma charge up: More of a mindfullness reminder before bed and great lead in to a meditation. Charge your phone, charge your mind. Resist the urge to scroll over to Facebook, phone down and eyes closed with a focus on reflecting on the day, resting the mind and resetting for tomorrow.

Images: via We heart it, via Pinterest, via We heart it, lamthanh via Pinterest

The Post-Baby Body: The Celebrity vs. You

loveyourlines

Admittedly I was kind of shocked. The #loveyourlines campaign on Instagram is pretty confronting stuff if you’re a woman who loves nothing more than to hide them. And I am one such lady.

I can only admire the almost 200 women who’ve hashtaged their personal struggles and stories with their post-baby body onto the page. With over 63,000 people following the trend it’s clearly a point of interest.

And I’m going to guess that’s because there’s strong support (and perhaps curiosity) for how so many women can dig a whole lot deeper to celebrate more than what’s stretched across the surface. In a world obsessed with the celebrity post-baby slim down here’s a bunch an army of women who not only can let-go of perceived perfection but are willing to declare it with a photograph for the world to see. Gutsy stuff.

I think it’s this gutsy sharing amongst women that has this campaign turning comparison on its head. When I first landed on the hundreds of images of ripples, rolls, scars and sags it kinda brought a feeling of comfort. You know that moment when you confess something to a girlfriend and she turns to you and says “Yep, I have that too.” There’s a bit of relief that you’re not alone. Or (and this probably isn’t in line with the spirit of the campaign – but) that yours aren’t as bad? It’s human female nature.

So comparison got me reminiscing on an article I wrote in my last year of uni titled The post-baby body: The celebrity versus you. It was around the time Miranda  Kerr stepped onto the catwalk three months after giving birth – and it was headline news.

I wanted to look a little closer at the celebrity-post-baby-body thing; why do we love it and hate it equally as much? Enter a switched on psychology researcher with some aussie-grown research on the ‘Yummy-Mummy’ and a recently new mum and gym instructor and I had full-term team of experts.

And for a bit of insight (and a flash-back to a short-lived interest in traditional journalism) it’s here for your perusing. And, as the article explores, whoever the comparison comes next to let’s keep it real.

THE POST-BABY BODY: THE CELEBRITY VERSUS YOU

Another celebrity post-baby body: Celebuzz.com features model Miranda Kerr returning to work on Malibu Beach, California on April 17, 2011. Kerr gave birth to a son Flynn January 6, 2011.

 

That toned and tanned tummy. Those ever so delicately defined arms. And that highly perched and perfectly rounded butt – it looks like it must have been poured into that bikini.

In a photograph taken just three months after giving birth Miranda Kerr’s beautiful body is no doubt that of a supermodel.

It’s hard for our eyes not to be drawn to yet another celebrity’s trim and tight post-baby body splashed across a cover page. Internet sites like People.com even include a body watch segment allowing you to compare a celebrity’s post-baby body before and after. But it’s this attraction to celebrity post-baby bodies that sparks a thought for any non-celebrity mum feeling pressure and expectation to lose the baby weight.

As a gym instructor said she had a horrible perception of mothers who still carried weight from their pregnancy. Laughing, Shannon said she questioned why they hadn’t lost the kilos.

“How mean is that? No sympathy what so ever…suck it up get out there and jump higher and you lose everything and that’s how it’ll work,” Shannon said.

Three years down her path of motherhood and just days away from expecting her second child Shannon is now more empathetic admitting to feeling the pressure to lose her own baby weight.

“Everyone said to me ‘You’ll bounce back straight away’. It took me a while and I thought with the fitness ability I had and the knowledge I had… I also thought a lot of people were judging me because of that. For me the expectations I felt were very high,” she said.

Despite those expectations Shannon refuses to compare her post-baby weight loss to that of a celebrity’s.

“I hate it when they bring out celebrities [as a news item]….because they don’t talk about the rest of their life.

When Miranda Kerr came out the other day and all my friends are sitting there saying ‘Wow she’s beautiful’ and I said ‘Yes she is and I take nothing away from her in regards to that however… she has a personal trainer, a chef, a baby sitter. Bring it back to reality. That is not what the majority of women can do.”

In 2008 a study titled Post partum women’s body image: The curse of the yummy mummy psychology researcher Lucia Bongiorno said over 68% of participants indicated it was comparing themselves with their peer group rather than celebrities that made them feel they should diet and lose weight during the post-partum period.

“The socio cultural accepted ideal of body image is that thin is good,” Lucia said.

“Think about it if you put on weight, no one says anything to you…you lose weight and people will go ‘Oh my god you lost weight you look fantastic’. Why is it that we feel we can comment on when people lose weight but not when they gain weight? Because the socio cultural expectancies say that the skinnier you are the better you are and therefore we praise it.

While the media exerted the greatest amount of pressure on women to maintain the ideal, it was actually comparison with their peers, other mums, that made these women feel bad about their bodies and made them want to lose weight,” she said.

However the study also identified that a trend in celebrity body bounce backs was developing a new ideal for post-baby body image.

“We’ve had a group of celebrities that have given birth

Lucia explains that over a period of time the term ‘has emerged to describe the celebrity post-baby weight loss trend. The yummy mummy is young, stylish, attractive and very slim and acts as an alternative to society’s thin ideal relevant to women having babies.

“The media stereotype of the yummy mummy places undue pressure on new mothers to perform to an unrealistic ideal.”

“You’re standing at the supermarketyou stand in line to pay for petrol at the petrol station it’s there. And you might have a quick scan of the cover while you’re next in line to pay. The message is there in our face, the beautiful body image.”

But for Shannon, the unrealistic ideal is only relevant if you let yourself be carried away with that celebrity image.

“Yes the instant perception is ‘My god she looks amazing, I’ve got to look like that,’ but then maybe a bit more reflection. Keep it real.”

 

Images: loveyourlines, DailyNews.com

 

Love to hear your thoughts on this one in the comments below! Or share if you another lady needing a little post-baby uplift x

Fears of a Working Mum

Nerves. Expectations. Answers. Avoid looking like an idiot.

These words seem rightly placed based on the expression on Marilyn Monroe’s face as she met the press back in 1956. While she may not be the poster girl for working mums I think this snap captures the feelings many women conjure up when we feel a little under the spotlight.

And by spotlight I mean situation. It’s that moment when we feel just a little bit judged. Like all eyes are on us. And our families, the houses we live in, the jobs we do or just our decisions about our ‘next move’. There’s a concern that what you do (or say) next is going to be scored, commented on and repeated in detailed descriptions by those close to you when they’re asked cookie-cutter questions like: ‘So how’s she doooooinnnng?’.

The feeling? Fear.

Personally I think it’s a pretty strong word for what most would describe as being ‘just worried’ about what others might think. But after scouring through articles about female fear and it’s ties to failure, perfection, self-doubt and life-paralysis it’s a serious description for a serious problem.

Bryce Covert’s article for The Nation details US statistics that indicate women are self-selecting out of ‘hard fields’ like Science, Technology, Economics and Math for fear of delivering imperfect grades. Catherine Clifford’s article at Entrepreneur.com talks about the fear of failure that stops women keeping pace with men in the entrepreneur stakes.

While I’m not lining up at uni to take on  astrophysics nor am I looking to kick the boys outta a self-start-up business I do get this trend.

My most recent fear-moment (and I have many of them) came this week when it reared it’s ever-so-fricken-huge head in a delayed realization of what returning to work from maternity leave meant for me.

(Hold in there for a sec for those without kids…)

Essentially in this situation – you’re again – the new girl. You’ve been out of it a while so you’re new in the sense ‘you weren’t here’, as your colleagues say, when that major event that seems to be consuming everyone (else) happened. You’re playing catch-up.

Fear 1: You’re behind in your job. And others know it.

You’re also forever working to a deadline. The deadline to leave home, arrive at work, finish that report, get to that meeting and finally run out the door (while still looking like a committed employee) before your child is the last one left at childcare. Gone are the days when you can stay back to ‘catch-up on a few things’ or have brilliant networking chats in the hallway. Let’s face it: a working mum is a walking egg timer.

Fear 2: You’ll never be able to perform like you used to.

Then when the work days are over and you return to the sanctuary of your home you cant help but see the tired-toll smeared across your little one’s face.

Fear 3: I’m doing more damage than good.

Judgement. Perfection. Guilt. It’s all rolled into a messy lunch box that gets carried off to work and still stinks after you’ve washed it.

Now I’ve written before about the ‘having it all’ saga before but mother-of-two and PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, gave a beautifully refreshing take on something that this week was driving my fears. (The 2 minute video really is worth a watch if you’re want a bit of a laugh).

“We’re screwed. We can not have it all.” Nooyi says.

She explains that the biological clock and career clock are in total conflict with each other. We must make choices between being a wife and mother everyday, multiple times a day and find coping mechanisms to do so.

I took comfort in this. If we’re screwed what do I have to be fearful of? If Nooyi’s observation is true then there’s a pretty high likelihood that, yes, at times my fears will be realised. I might have to play catch up for a couple of months at work, I’m probably going to have days (and weeks) that are far less promotion-worthy than those before I had a child. And yes, there’s probably some form of loss, damage or missing out that’s happening on some level of my little girl’s growing awareness.

And I actually feel better already.

Hear that? It’s acceptance. And I think it’s just the ticket women need to cope with fear. Whether yours is tied to kids, your job, your relationship status or bank balance I think accepting what we’re afraid of, in fact, makes it less scary and helps us take back the power.

Enter ACT.

Not our nation’s capital but an emerging therapeutic activity known as Acceptance and Commitment Theory. ‘Act’ as it’s pronounced is basically about building our resilience to failure and fear by accepting the, well, shitty feelings. Accepting what’s out of your personal control and committing to action that improves the situation – your life.

This makes sense to me. Accepting the fear, the out-of-our-control and committing to doing our best to get the job done is enough. And better yet, it’s freedom. If we stopped putting so much energy into avoiding what we fear most and put more energy in to what we want more you’d see a lot more female entrepreneurs around the place.

We can let go of fear. You have at some point before. We all have. If I had never of let go of fear I’d never have gone back to work. I’d never of had a child, started this blog, moved interstate, traveled overseas or married my husband! So accept your fear, find it, feel it and let it lead you to what you really wanna do.

Images: via PinterestLamsweerde and Vinoodh MatadinZephyrance Lou

 

Have versus Happy

I don’t usually get attached to news readers. In fact I’m often guilty of having a chuckle at their expense. I find it a little funny when they turn to their co-host (pearly whites gleaming) and their beautifully blow-dried locks remain anchored in place. I especially love it when the vision and the teleprompter get mixed up. We hear the serious tone detailing the Rudd/Gillard leadership challenge but we see the rough play of cute and cuddle pandas at Melbourne Zoo… it could work I guess?

But this week when Georgie Gardener announced her departure from the Today Show, citing family reasons and the presence of a ‘Grumpy Mummy’, I was kind of taken back. “Wow, she actually admitted it,” I thought.

When someone like Georgie bravely comes out and admits she can no longer balance what many of us might see as a she-has-it-all kinda life, my mind begged the question: can we actually have it all? Is Georgie’s decision just the bare truth staring us in the face that we can’t? Or is it that we can but the ‘all’ part is just a stage we reach, possible only for a point in time, ending when one of the plates we’re balancing just gets too heavy?

I needed answers. I needed to research. I needed to Google.

My girlfriends will laugh at this who know I can’t help but research the hell outta something until I get the answer. And this question I couldn’t let go.

My ‘having it all’ search brought back:

  • ‘Why Women Can’t Have It All’ (Glamour.com)
  • ‘The Secret To Having it All’ (Forbes.com)
  • ‘When Women Have It All’ (Telegraph.co.uk ); and my personal favourite
  • ‘Women, Quite Bitching, You Just Can’t Have It All By 30’ (Telegraph.co.uk )

And then I stumbled on this over on Levo.com:

And after tut-tutting my initial ‘Great. Celebrities giving life advice,’ response I read it. And I wasn’t completely bummed. Despite sitting on different fences of the question these 10 very successful, wealthy and very different women had a theme to their comments: choices and happiness. ‘Yeees,’ I thought. There’s good stuff here but I needed more.

Then, going back to Georgie, I found a great article from iVillage editor, Holly Wainwright, talking about the effect Georgie’s admission had on her. I couldn’t help but connect with Holly’s comments.

Yes, at times (in my weakest and most self-indulgent moments), I do think:

  • that I am working towards a point in time when I’ll have the perfect work/life/family/me-time balance;
  • that other women have already achieved that balance and therefore it does exist and it can be done; and
  • that other women who have this balance are doing it perfectly. Ergo, they have it all. 

But as Holly rightly points out, Georgie called us both out on this.

Maybe what we can’t have is the ridiculous expectation that there are people out there who are ‘Having it all’ and doing it perfectly. Because they’re not. You’re not. I’m not.”

Amen, Holly.

And here it is, our old friend, Comparison. Whether you’re juggling a high profile career and kids, building a business, studying or simply working towards your greater good I think many of us struggle to let go of two things: comparison and the assumption that others are doing it bigger and better than us. I think we can all recall at least one person we’ve placed in the ‘she has it all’ category. I’m guilty of this. And when I do there’s usually a little bit of admiration, a good dose of how-does-she-do-it? and a slight sprinkle of jealously dumped together in a bowl of this bad-as-all-hell-for-you recipe.

Where is ‘She’ for you? Maybe on your newsfeed, all wrapped up in pretty Instagram filters, ‘lovemylife’ hashtags and seemingly perfect images. ‘She’ could be that Mum at school drop-off that drives the fancy car with the fancy-looking husband, the oh-so obedient children living in the oh-so-lovely house. Or ‘She’ might even be your best friend. And because she’s real, and doing it all the way you’d like to you just can’t help but think she’s so much more sorted than you.

Let’s step awaaaay from the life, body, work, business and little-green-monster comparisons. They’re addictive (I see you there, Instagram stalking), they trash your self-confidence and feed more fear and doubt about yourself into your mind than you’re consciously aware. We’re setting ourselves up for failure because it’s impossible to ‘have it all’ if we’re comparing ourselves to others. We’ll never be done.

So my wee little verdict? ‘Having it all’ seems whack. I find most who are asked about it talk about the struggle and the hardship of trying to do it. The articles written about it are a combination of yes, no, maybe, sometimes or it depends. The concept sits on shaky ground. So let’s try this:

Let go of ‘have it all’ and grab on to ‘have me happy’.

Sounds simple, and yes a little ‘Really, is that it?’, but this we can do. As a worry-wart kid I was often distracted by things, other people or anything that wasn’t in sync with what I was doing at the time. ‘You just worry about what you’re doing,’ were my parents’ words and should have been recorded on a mixed tape for how often they had to repeat it. But it’s true. If we’re focused on what we’re doing to make ourselves happy, there’s little time or energy wasted on how we’re comparing to others.

Now, the getting happy part. I get this ain’t always easy, believe me. But in each moment I do know it’s possible to get a little closer to it. Right now, what’s gonna make you happy? What do you really need to do? What’s your mind and body craving? A nourishing meal? Good conversation? Sleep? To say sorry? Inspiration? Maybe even a little help or direction. Step towards it, in anyway you know how. Let go of what others are doing. Just ‘do’ for you, just for now.

It was getting my eyes of other people’s progress and focusing on my own that lead me to practice these baby steps back to happiness. The more I focused on what made me happy, in the moment, the less I felt pressured and frustrated. I felt more energy and had better ability to suss out what was good for me and what was good for the me I thought I should be. It helped break down what to me looked like a marathon into a series of short and delightful strolls. And for this lesson I’m forever grateful.

So take a stroll, right outta ‘have’ and back into ‘happy’.

Images: News LimitedLevo.com, Becca Allen, twitter.com

 

Time to reset

I need one of these. A go-to reset button that gives my mind, body and soul a much needed refresh. But like anything that’s worth doing a reset takes effort and it’s usually in the form of giving ourselves permission, organising the diary and the guts to bloody well just do it.

Admittedly when we’re busy scattering ourselves across our multi-layered lives it seems unatural to stop. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and before we know it the year’s almost out and we’re not far off burn out. When I get caught up in the rolling sphere of life I have this sense that I’m almost there. There’s lots of “Have a day for yourself next week,” and “Do this, then you can do your stuff,” swirling around my head. I resist the time for me. I often put off making that hair appointment, or date with myself to just sit in a cafe with a mag on my own (weird I know, but the introvert in me craves this) or even just going for a walk. I let these things go because there’s always something more pressing, more important and more valid than my own space.

In actual fact this is BS.

There is nothing more important than your mental health. Our minds are the control centre of our universe. They house our perception and guide each step we take throughout the day. Mindset gets us to work, tells us to work-out, to eat, sleep, cook, make coffee and drink green juices – it holds all reason for all things. Let that get outta whack and the many worlds you occupy will know about it, quick smart.

And here’s how it happens. The tasks of you’re normal day-to-day routine aren’t the big deal. School drop off, opening shop, responding to emails or writing a letter – millions of women tackle their to-do list every morning. We’re super stars at this stuff. But say you have a few newbies this week. The washing machine breaks down. That’s annoying but manageable. You can handle looking at multiple washing baskets for a week. Then your boss might catch you in the hall and ask for a briefing on your projects “in an hour please,”. With heart pounding and brain in overdrive you keep the briefing on your less-than-fabulous progress on these projects up beat and positive. She goes straight to the hard questions, is disappointed with the answers and pissed. Not a great outcome. Later that week you’re running late (to one of your many commitments) traffic is stupid and you left on a bad (and loud) note with your partner who just doesn’t get why you’re so upset that you have nothing clean to wear. So you’re extra pissed at the guy doing 60km in an 80km zone. He cops a finger and you cry as you arrive in the car park greeted with no free spaces. The acronym FML come to mind.

Yes, these are first world problems, and ones we should probably be grateful for, but for many of us they still trigger our body’s stress response. Whenever we get going (feeling worried, overwhelmed or in desperate need of a deep breath) our brain gets trigger happy. It releases chemicals like adrenalin and cortisol which gives us that heart pounding energy burst we need to to get ‘it’ done. Like most drugs a little at a time can be an enjoyable buzz but a chronic use and you have a problem.

Don’t dismiss the stress you’re feeling because you think your problems are less than anyone elses. No matter the size they’re valid, real and most likely making you unhappy. In fact you’re probably joining the one in seven Australians who reported feeling depressive symptoms according to a national survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society last year. And no surprises that the top five sources of stress were money, family, personal health, issues maintaining a healthy lifestyle and the health of those close to us. Our modern lifestyle is sending us all a little cra-cra.

So whether you’re a CEO or a cleaner everyone has valid reason to take time out. So here’s my go-to list of mini (uses less time and money) and maj (uses more time and money) resets I like to indulge in. Trust me, the world looks much better on the otherside any of these…


Mini: Buy flowers

This takes five minutes in your lunch break or during your grocery run but it literally means you stop to smell the roses (or whatever flower takes your fancy). Choosing a bunch of these beautiful stems is a great way to break a spell of busy and get you present and in the moment.

Maj: Make a garden.

This brings me back to earth, literally. Something about getting dirty with soil, watering the plants, being outside and making something pretty. Make a morning of it: plan out your area (pots or a garden bed), take a trip to the nursery, get some gorgeous plants and get dirty. You’ll be as proud as punch with your new little flower nook.

Mini: Drink a cup of tea

See there’s a process to enjoying a good cup of tea. Boil the kettle, let the tea leaves steep, drink it hot and sitting down. A good session of tea and a book can chase your troubles away.

Maj: Bake and share

Cooking, for me, seems to involve hurrying around a kitchen to get something on a plate for the troops to eat. But baking, baking I do with love. It takes more time and organisation but I think it’s the creation of something from scratch and sitting down with friends and family to eat and chat that’s good for your soul.

Mini: Take a bath

If you have one, use it. Dave Hughes makes a joke about how boring this is (I think it’s a male thing, my husband says the same) but if you’re in need of some quiet time away from the pack this is my no. 1 go-to. Add some candles, relaxing tunes (and in my case another mag) and there’ll be no need for the following.

Maj: Visit a day spa

This takes time, money and organisation but it’s oh-so worth it. When a major reset is due this a guaranteed way to switch off, recalibrate and completely disconnect from the norm. You’re not usually allowed mobile phones so you’re temptation to check Instagram or Facebook is removed. If you’re local my favs are Decadent Hair and Beauty  and Lotus Waters Wellness Center. And if you happen to be tripping up to the Gold Coast I can attest the spas at the Phoenician Resort and Pallazzo Versace are da bomb! Note: I’ve only suggested those spas I’ve tried.

 

Mini: One episode of Sex and the City

You know what I’m talkin’ about. Just searching for an image to place here makes me want to grab the SATC DVDs, turn off my phone and snuggle into the couch and start that whole love-hate relationship with Mr. Big again. The frustration was enough forget anyone’s problems!

Maj: The entire box set of Sex and the City

A rainy weekend, hot cup of tea and a packet of Tim Tams. Nuff said.

Mini: Walk on grass with no shoes

My husband swears by this and it turns out he’s not wrong (dang it). As well as helping you to reset and clear your mind, Mind Body Green notes there’s a few extra health benefits too.

Maj: Go for a run

Yes I hear the groan but it works. Try committing to just 20 minutes, even if it’s a jalk (alternating between jogging and walking). Getting your heart rate up, breathing in outside air (I hate running in gyms) and having your mind focused only on taking that next breath is a cleanse like no other. I know it hurts but it’s a good one.

And when all else fails (and this is soooo true) just spend 5 whole minutes doing what you were born to do.

 

Image 1: RosieSandz.com Image 2: Mackenzie Horan Image 3: Lushome.com Image 4: Contesse du Chocolat Image 5: Dailycandy.com Image 6: Vianna Image 7:  Schoone Oordt Country House Image 8: Danielle Knighton  Image 9: Esquire.com Image 10: Özkan Yıldızhan Image 11: Hollywood Physique Training Image 12: kushandwizdom

Strong women say no

Are you doing this? Running rampid through town, around the house and thinking about what you need to get done tomorrow – right now? Yes, I’d be happy rocking these pins too, but let’s see how far the chase actually takes you.

I’m the first to admit to an OTT work ethic. While it’s paid off many times in the past, it’s like a drug. I know it’s bad for me, I’ve tried to kick the habit but on some level the chaos feels good. See it all seems to stem from a list. On the fridge, in the diary on a pretty piece of kiki-k ‘To-Do’ stationery (I’m a sucker for those) the list of tasks looks so structured and organised, even complete, on paper. It sits as a beautiful compilation of all the things I’m going to get done that day. There’s a mindset that it it’s on a list it’ll get it done, I’ll remember to do it.

The thing is I never actually forget. Remembering isn’t the problem. The list morphs from the paper into my head and becomes tattooed onto my brain, not as a friendly reminder (the tone of these lists get nasty), but as a constant reinforcement of what I haven’t achieved that day.

My mantra this week has been ‘Get.Your.Shit.Together’. Last night I laid myself to sleep planning out the day ahead of me. How organised I would be to have vacuumed the whole house in the hour between Harper’s bottle feed and breakfast. I’d have a whole ‘nother half-hour to hang some washing, get dressed, make the bed, do the breakfast dishes, pack Harper up and drive to the gym by 9.30am. Anyone with a child will be shaking their heads at this and not be surprised when I say I got no-where near that list done. And so that’s all I thought about… what I didn’t get done.

If someone kept telling you about all the things you’d forgotten to do, had given a half-arse attempt at doing or just ran out of time to do in the midst of chaos, that is your day, wouldn’t you tell them to back off? Wouldn’t you tell them that the reason your lounge room floor looks like a creche and your car appears to have taken on a 4WD track is because you just haven’t had a spare hour to dedicate to these jobs? Or maybe you’d whip out your diary? It’s jam-packed with work meetings, doctor, accountant and school appointments, just-need-a-decent-coffee-with-an-adult appointments and let alone tackling you’re daily sort-yourself-out schedule. Wouldn’t this be your instinct?

So do it. Tell yourself to back the fuck up.

Let’s just be a little bit more realistic. The ‘list’ does not control you. You control the list. And no matter how hard or fast you work there will always be something on the list. So it needs to be managed.

A very smart and endearing CEO once said to me, “If I see you here past 5.30pm, I don’t see that as you doing a good job. I see that as you not being able to manage your work load.”

Ouch. This knocked my whole perfectionist work ethic out reception’s front door. Fear was my first instinct and I had trouble comprehending his words. In my mind working harder, doing things faster and staying up late to fit more in was a way of life, especially in a (often egotistical) corporate world.

It’s taken me many years, a breakdown, a couple of therapy sessions and much willingness to ‘let-go’ but I now understand what he was trying to instill in his team.

Your list is your workload. Managing your workload means managing the unnecessary, staying focused, prioritising and most importantly saying ‘No’. Now this isn’t another take-control-of-your-life-and-quite-your-job kinda post. It’s a simple reminder that day-to-day we run the list. We manage the workload. We say ‘Yes’ and we should also be saying, and be ok with saying, ‘No’.

And ‘no’ this very word is not weakness, a can’t-hack-it attitude or a cop-out. It’s a conscious uncoupling of you from the list (thanks Gwenyth and Chris). It’s permission, it’s empowerment and it’s ownership. Take yourself back to a time when someone said no to you. Didn’t you feel like they had the power and the say-so? Didn’t you feel like you had to check back with them if it was ok?

So here’s three ways (another list) to try to start taking back your say-so.

1. Keep making the list. But pick only three items for that day.

My lists are epic. They’re comprehensive, detail oriented and completely unachievable. Don’t do this. Set yourself up for success and choose only three that you can achieve.

2. Verbalise it.

Say it out loud to yourself, the cat, dog, the baby – whoever or whatever. The most important thing here is that you put it out there. It’s no longer just a thought, you’ve part-way actioned it.

3. What’s the worst that will happen. Really?

Is it that bad? Will it really be the end of your world (or someone elses) if you say no? Put your big-girl pants on and give yourself a reality check on the situation – there’s a likelihood you could live with the outcome.

So, with every email, phone call, load of laundry, trip to the shops or errand you run – take back your say-so. Say yes when you can and say no when you can’t. Be honest. Don’t ignore the deep inhale when you know you’re taking on too much. You are a superwoman. But even she didn’t have super powers to do it all.

 

Image 1: via Vaunte.com Image 2: simplyseleta.com Image 3:  Lilian Ricano Image 4: webjunkiesblog

 

Why you do what you ‘do’

Rock bottom. Ever hit yours? Ever crashed and burned into a complete heap? There’s a build up. A heaviness, like the calm before the stress-storm. It’s when your body says screams ‘it’s too much, too much for right now,’ but the mind says ‘you must’. Or maybe you’ve all of a sudden found yourself in the situation? You lost your job, someone broke-up with you (or you can’t escape them) or your cash-flow is getting pretty damn low? You’ve felt chained to the bottom (wherever that is).

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s good. Damn good. Get-excited-and wish-it-would-happen-to-you type good. In fact it’s a gift. While I didn’t know this at the time (and it hurt like crazy) my rock bottom gave me more than I could have ever gotten from a self-help book, Tony Robbins seminar, meditation retreat or whatever life-guidance tool I was grasping to at the time. (P.S No offence Tony, I’m sure they’re great, I’m just taking the piss.)

My rock bottom was the complete inability to control my own mental state. It broke me. Key words: inability to control. In that moment everything in my world was bad. I hated the State I was in, the house I was in, the job I was in and even the clothes I was in (given the latter a healthy amount of retail therapy kept me afloat there for a while). I could not stop stop the negative. Of course when you’re looking at your life through a perfectionist’s eyes, comparing it against a standard of rules and expectations, nothing will ever be good enough. And so, with nothing meeting the mark, I felt like I’d failed. I’d convinced brainwashed myself into believing that there was no way out, that I was stuck in this vortex forever and I should just give-up and accept the cards I’d been dealt. Depressed much?

What a drama queen. Really, why was my brain functioning like this? I used to be such a positive person. When I looked at the facts I knew logically that  life wasn’t as bad as I felt emotionally but I just couldn’t shake the overwhelming, all-consuming cloud that haunted me every day.

The thing about rock bottoms is that everybody’s is different. And each is justified – no judgement here at all (and like I’m in a position to judge!). For me it was loosing control. For others it might be having to ask for money, for help or taking a less-than-desirable job. Some things just seem like the end of our world as we know it.

Needless to say it was a ‘Hail-Mary!’ moment when, with the help of a professional, I could actually see why my reactions were my reactions. Why I saw the world around me in black and poo-colours and no longer in rainbows.

“In times of stress we revert to the opposite of our type,” my therapist said.

“You’re not crazy, you’re just not yourself right now,” she said.

After a quick Tom-Cruise-jump-on-the-couch type moment and a shout of relief that I wasn’t sentenced to this state forever, she handed me a Myers-Briggs Personality Type test. Seeing my natural tendencies on paper brought me peace and pride.  ‘I knew this was who I was,’ I said with tears in my eyes. Suddenly the why I was doing what I was doing started to make perfect sense.

Fancy knowing yours? You can take the test here.

Me? I’m an INFJ. I get my energy as an introvert, I favour intuition when considering new information, I use my gut feeling to make decisions and I structure my world by judging decisions quickly, planning and organising accordingly.

If you’re also this type it might resonate with you that we can be determined and passionate, have a creative flair, seem to be able to ‘gel’ with people easily and, as such, seem to be able to talk them into whatever we’re passionate about at the time. Those are strengths.

However, here are some danger zones. Without a goal or direction INFJs loose their sh*&*. What’s the point if we can’t see it, right? If we’re not moving towards a ‘worthy’ goal then that’s just whack. As natural perfectionists we try to match everything to the beautiful and unrealistic picture in our head. It must be ‘just-so’. Which is great, until it must be ‘just-so’ everywhere. At work, at home, at the gym, with our bodies, our outfits, our cooking for Christ’s sake! We fight for the ideal. Always.

This is why I was so crazy, tormented unhappy. I couldn’t see a clear link between my job and my career goal. Nor could I connect the state I lived in to the environment I wanted to raise my family in. I felt like I couldn’t ‘organise’ my way out of the situation so I tried to perfect it instead. I became obsessed with the facts of eating right, to the point where I’d decline dinner invites to avoid ‘bad’ food. I’d prepare the house every morning to a standard Martha Stewart would be proud of. I’d stay back hours at work editing, reviewing and trying to perfect reports sometimes days in a row. And I felt compelled to be out-and-about with work, friends or family events. I was becoming extroverted, super-sensitive, over-thinking basic information and could not commit to a cupcake. The complete opposite of my natural type.

The lesson? My rock bottom was heavily related to the way I’m wired a.k.a my personality type. Without first understanding why I do things, I didn’t have a hope in hell of getting out of my big, over-inflated, depressive rut.

So if you’re toes are touching the bottom, you’re second guessing your thought patterns or you’re just curious about yourself then start on a new little adventure – get to know your type. You’ll be kinder to yourself because you’ll know what drains you. You’ll be happier because you’ll find what feeds you. And most importantly you can be at peace with what you do. Say hello to the naturally perfect you.

P.S I’d love to know what you thought of your type so post your ponderings in the comments below!