The thought of ‘starving myself’ is unappealing. I’m sure you feel the same. However with all the discussion about intermittent fasting (IF) I’ve been excitedly drawn to the idea and in the past week have been experimenting (while doing my gentle cleanse). ‘What’s taken me SO long?’ I hear you say.
Hmmm thoughts like, how do I do it? I’d starve myself! I’ll get it wrong, It’s not for me etc etc!
Yet across the world in different cultures, some form of fasting has been practiced for spiritual and religious reasons for centuries. Touted as a way to refocus the mind and body, sometimes lasting 24 hours or more. Then go back a few hundred thousand years and fasting was a part of our day to day existence. It’s in our DNA.
An ancient practice or way of life that’s become the ‘new thing’ and in our world of abundance and over consumption of food perhaps for good reason.
If you have or you’ve been interested like me, here’s what I’ve discovered, but first… what exactly is it and what is autophagy?!
Traditionally a fast is not eating food for consecutive days or even weeks. Intermittent fasting however, involves not eating food for just 12 to 16 hours a day and reducing the window of time you eat to an 8 to 12 hour period. That’s it.
The ideal timeframe for health benefits seems to be 16 hours.
The benefits to be gained are when fasting happens consistently over a longer period of time i.e. no quick fix (sorry)!
• promotes healthy weight
• improves blood sugar
• helps a healthy heart
• reduces inflammation
• reduces appetite
• protects cognitive (brain) health
• helps fight stress-induced cravings
“Intermittent fasting is hypothesised to influence metabolic regulation via effects on (a) circadian biology, (b) the gut microbiome, and (c) modifiable lifestyle behaviours, such as sleep. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28715993
It simplifies a healthy lifestyle by reducing the food choices we need to make every day. As a Mum this is especially attractive!
Abstaining from food for longer than normal means we give the body a break from constant digestion, more time for rest and repair.
It’s easy. Intermittent fasting is straightforward. It doesn’t require any extra thought to menu planning or long shopping lists.
It kickstarts ketosis. A state that happens when we no longer have glucose to use as a fuel and we resort to burning fat for fuel so ‘retraining’ our systems to burn fat stores for fuel – our natural state. (as Naomi Whittle, Author & CEO says – “it is nature’s reset button”)
How it works.
One of the most exciting ways is a process called autophagy.
If you haven’t come across this term, in Greek auto means ‘self’ and phagy means ‘to eat’. Autophagy refers to a self-eating process within our cells that encourages the proliferation of new, healthy cells.
‘Fasting is a crucial component that ultimately controls inflammation in the body and activates autophagy’ ~ Yoshinori Ohsumi, 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Imagine, as our bodies aren’t working on digesting so much food, they get the chance to tend to cellular functions. Functions that include removing waste and toxins from the body. It gives our digestive system and body a chance to rest and repair. In doing this it takes ‘stress’ off the bodies important functions.
Without food, insulin levels in the blood decrease and can keep the body sensitive to insulin, which gives better blood sugar control. With blood sugars being managed better, and the stress on the body reduced, the body can then start to burn fat.
Hence it’s easy to see how IF helps with;
• Weight management and consequently
• Better sleep (and all that goes along with these improvements)!
Note: enjoying nutrient rich drinks in the fasting timeframe, especially mineral rich drinks and some healthy fats, such as bone broth may assist the fasting benefits.
It may not be for everyone.
It seems that if our hormones need some love and attention or there are other imbalances, fasting may backfire e.g. I’ve worked with clients who fast and after losing weight initially their energy and weight can plateau. As soon as they introduce smaller more regular meals, their energy increases and sleep improves.
Support your liver and kidneys well before fasting. This is important. If our detox pathways are clogged, not detoxing efficiently we don’t want toxins recirculating throughout the body causing unwanted trouble.
And if you have trouble metabolising fats then it may be important to start very gently e.g. a 12-hour window of fasting rather than 16 hours and see how you feel.
We are all bio-individual and while something may work for one it may not work for another at a particular time and place. Listen to your body and do what’s right for you and always consult with your health practitioner.
One more thing, food and the preparation of food in our homes has magical qualities in how it brings us together and nourishes us. It’s important we always continue enjoying food in this way and the love, thought and preparation that goes into sharing it with those around us.
It takes time. While the lure of immediate weight loss is attractive, it’s not healthy. Far better to do it gradually and IF seems to have the good results when done over a longer period of time and while still enjoying a nutrient rich, real food diet, without ‘empty’ calories.
Personally, at the end of the week I’ve enjoyed a renewed energy, clarity of thought and calmness. I love my gentle cleanse and do it a couple of times a year. This time I did it with my hubby which was a really great experience and more enjoyable. Just until this Sunday the 13th of February, 2019 you can download the cleanse manual for free here and join me on a LIVE call as I walk you through it for even better outcomes.
And now I’m looking forward to experimenting more with IF and seeing how it works best for me. If you’ve fasted before or done my cleanse let me know how it went? I’d love to hear.
https://www.naomiwhittel.com, ‘Glow 15’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bAkvnvX0W8 Yoshinori Ohsumi
‘Is giving up the carbs’ something you’ve committed to? Are you feeling an extra need for carbs with the change of seasons & maybe feeling guilty?
Cutting back or giving up carbs is something we know we need to do BUT… in reality is hard! (Especially those sneaky mid afternoon chocolate fixes)?!
Carbohydrate (carb) cravings might feel like;
So how do we kick these cravings and live a little more?…
Great. So how do we do that?!
Firstly let’s look at blood sugars.
We understand how simple carbs can send our blood sugars on a crazy rollercoaster ride – you know the ones i.e. pasta, rice, pizza, bread, biscuits, generally highly refined and processed foods and grains that the body can use quickly for fuel.
This conversation with my son and analogy about twigs v logs will help.
Twigs v logs.
I’m not sure how the conversation started. We were sitting at the family dinner table when our youngest stated he wanted to eat more pasta and pizza because it was good for him?!
He was ‘fishing’ for a bite that’s for sure. I reckon he got a bit more than he could chew!!
Stay with me because this might help your family too.
About to jump up and down and correct his misguidance, I caught myself and kept quiet for a moment (not so easy to do)!
With my hubby’s support, I explained …
It’s like keeping a good fire burning.
To make a good fire what do we use? ‘Logs and twigs’.
What gets it started, by making it burn fast and hot? Twigs.
So what makes the fire burn steadier and for longer? ‘logs’.
What happens if we used just twigs and no logs? ‘We need to keep adding twigs constantly’!
So there are 3 types of energy our bodies use for fuel; fats, carbs and protein (macro nutrients).
Fats and protein are like the logs – add them to the fire, or our metabolism and they give us good, sustaining, steady energy for a longer time.
Simple carbohydrate is like the twigs. When added to the fire (or our metabolic system) alone, they’re burnt up super quickly. We need to add more and more twigs to the fire to keep it alight!
It’s an over-simplified analogy of energy production but he totally got this. And maybe it’ll help you and your family too.
So getting back to our blood sugars. It’s like the twigs.
The twigs burn quickly, and quickly need to be replenished to stop the fire going out. It’s the same for us. Eating a lot of simple carbohydrates means we need to keep replenishing the fire. If we don’t, our blood sugars swing and cravings kick in (we need energy). It’s almost always leading to excess energy and fat storage i.e. weight gain.
Eat more sustaining fuel i.e. protein and fats and our blood sugars are more stable, (this doesn’t necessarily apply to type 1 diabetics).
An interesting fact about these sources of energy is that fats and protein are essential to our diet. We need to get these energy sources from our food. Carbohydrate on the other hand is non-essential i.e. our body metabolises (makes) glucose (a product of carbohydrate) from fats and protein as and when required. Carbohydrate therefore is a non-essential dietary fuel – i.e. we actually don’t need much in our diet.
Secondly, what’s driving the craving?
Let’s assume you’ve stabilised your blood sugars but you’re still guiltily reaching for the bowl of pasta or slice of cake! Stop. Before eating the cake, take a moment to think about WHY you’re reaching for it? Is it boredom, tiredness, stress, lack of movement, self care, time outside, the need for comfort etc? Or is there a microbiome imbalance driving the need for simple carbohydrates & create further imbalance? This article, ‘parasites, the silent epidemic‘ might help answer this for you.
When we crave foods, it’s more likely there is a deeper spiritual or emotional need not being met. To help identify this though we need awareness and we can only have awareness if we stop, slow down and take a moment to notice or feel what it is our bodies are really asking for?
Thirdly, is it seasonal?
Through the winter months and the transitioning of the seasons, we can naturally crave more comforting, heartier or starchier foods. It may be that your body needs a few more of these whole foods and complex carbs such as basmati rice, sweet potato, quinoa and other unprocessed, gluten free whole foods. At times women (and our hormones) can especially benefit from adding more of these foods into the day. If this resonates for you, perhaps experiment and see how you feel.
So in summary HOW do we manage cravings?
13 ways to kick the cravings.
The body is complex and there is a lot to consider other than food alone in the production of energy and to curb cravings, (something I go into far more detail in my 21 day foundational program, ‘Get-up & GLOW with Kate‘)
Commonly these 12 ideas make a great difference;
Cravings can infact be an invitation to continue our personal evolution to becoming the best version of ourselves.
Try any one of the above for 2 – 4 days and the cravings will pass. As you nourish your mind and body more deeply, blood sugars will begin to stabilise and your mood improve as your body returns to balance or homeostasis.
Making change and new choices is more enjoyable and successful with community, knowledge and accountability. If you’re looking for a super quick reset grab my free copy of A Gentle Cleanse and register for my upcoming call! Grab it and register here.
Or for more lasting lifestyle unleveling join me in my next round of Get-up and Glow! Where we go into this topic in more detail and create new healthFUL habits for life. We start on the 30th of August for 21 days to inner and outer radiance. It’s our foundational detox program. You can join me through this link!
And, ‘never give up because great things take time’.
Along with the excitement and busyness of this time of year there’s a potential danger ahead!
In fact it might already be ‘weighing’ you down…
Unfortunately those healthier choices you’ve been enjoying and worked hard at, may start to go by the wayside (or is that weighside), leaving you bereft and a few too many kilo’s heavier.
That’s not how you want to start a New Year!
So how in the world do you stay on track while STILL enjoying this special time of year?
… By feeling good.
It’s not about denial or deprivation. No way. It IS about how you FEEL about your choices, and, feeling good within yourself.
You might be thinking, ‘hmmm… easier said than done!’
It’s true but my 12 simple tactics make it easily said and done.
1. Rather than do … be.
Rather than busily or distractedly eating and drinking try being more in the moment e.g. sipping your drink slowly, chewing mindfully – taste and think about it – challenge yourself to being fully engaged in conversation at the same time.
Being more present and aware means we absorb our food better, feel full quicker and consequently eat less. And most importantly have far more engaging interactions with friends and family – win, win, win.
2. Stay hydrated + Wedge.
If you’re having a drink, remember to wedge in a glass of water in between drinks and remember how good you’re going to feel tomorrow. Stay well hydrated with good quality water – always.
3. Fuel up.
When you’re going out take time to fuel up with good wholesome food throughout the day or prior to going out. You’ll be less hungry and won’t feel the need to fill up on foods you know don’t work for you. And you’re going to feel good the next day. For lots of quick snacks and great ideas visit my website https://www.katebarnes.com.au
4. Stock the pantry.
You’ll be on the go, shopping for holidays and festivities, finishing up work commitments and going out. Keep the pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with essentials so you can create healthy food choices quickly and easily.
5. Commit to activities that make you feel good first thing in the morning.
When we do this we immediately put our mind in the right space and feel more in control, making good choices easier.
Other choices that will lift our vibe and strengthen our mind;
6. Resting or napping.
7. Getting quality sleep.
8. Spending time outside and in the sunshine.
9. Guarding time.
Time is our most valuable asset especially at this time of year, question choices. Do we really need to attend that event? or go shopping at that time? clean those windows now? Question your choices, say ‘no thank you’ when you can, we understand.
If you feel your body is going to need a vitality boost there are a couple of supplements that can help manage stress and deplete when we’re busy e.g. a good quality magnesium, b vitamins, vitamin c or msm (natural sulphur). Always check with your health practitioner before supplementing.
Using essential oils such as frankincense, vetiver and serenity can also be great for getting us out of our busy minds and into our bodies.
11. Stressing less.
Then if sticking to ‘the plan’ is stressing you then please try not to. It’s so much more important to thoroughly enjoy the choices you make and the special time you have catching up with family and friends.
No guilt or regret – those feelings are worse than that bowl of christmas pud or that extra glass of champers!
When we’re busy it’s easy not to. However it’s possibly the best and quickest hack to feeling good. Remember to breathe – deeply.
It’s easy to neglect these fundamental ‘feel good’ choices when there’s lots on, yet it’s actually the most important time to commit to them.
These simple choices will position your mind in a way that makes it easier to cope with stressors and/or self sabotage when they come to play and in many ways are inevitable at this time of year.
Be prepared and I hope you … feel good!
What one, simple choice that you know is right for you, can you commit to? The one thing that’s non negotiable because it makes you feel good and you’re going to enter the New Year feeling healthy, happy and light – mind and body!
‘If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath’
~ Amit Ray
We’ve all heard it or said it, more often in a state of worry, frustration, anger, or to calm the kids or our nearest and dearest…
‘take a breathe’
It’s only been in the past couple of years I’ve realised HOW potent this simple act is.
You may be thinking, ‘Of course, it’s automatic, it’s the basis of life, what more?’
It’s just that.
Breathing is so automatic and instinctual it’s easy to take this healing force of nature for granted.
When was the last time you took a moment to really notice HOW you breathe?…
Take a moment now.
Do you breathe through your nose or through your mouth? Does your tummy or does your chest raise when you breathe? Do you have a shallow or deep breathe? Is your breathe long or short? How often do you sigh or yawn? Then, for those of you with children, how do your children breathe?
Your answers will give you clues as to whether your breathe is optimising or diminishing your wellbeing. (And if you or your children have difficulty breathing optimally and haven’t explored a root cause, perhaps see a health practitioner who can help).
Among many healing attributes our breathe also helps us tolerate stress, improve our brain function and increase our energy reserves.
Movement is the mechanism, the essence of who we are as human beings and our moving breathe helps enable this essential mechanism.
In Hindu, prana refers to breathe & ‘life force’.
We know this but it’s easy to neglect our breathe, yet our breathe may be the missing link to very simply managing our full & often stressful lives.
When I learnt that shallow breathing from the chest and mouth breathing initiates the sympathetic nervous system i.e. the fight and flight or stress response and that deep, diaphragmatic breathe or through the nostrils initiates the parasympathetic nervous system i.e. rest and digest – I started paying close attention.
Can it be that simple? Yes.
If we allow it, how we breathe has the power to mitigate stress in an instant. It can bring us into the present moment, quieten our minds, give objectivity to our thoughts, change our state of mind and importantly allow us to enjoy & sense each precious moment.
A friend and colleague, Silvia Gonzalez-Quinones at the fabulous, Be Alive Physiotherapy has this analogy,
‘Our breathe is the gateway to the nervous system’. It’s true.
When 90% of illness can relate to stress (in its many different forms), a quick hack to reset our nerves (& stress) can be the golden ticket.
When our nervous system is balanced i.e. in homeostasis, our health and wellbeing elevates. We;
In doses, stress is good for us, however in todays world it can be unrelenting. For example;
Along with other emotional and mental stressors, these can all place stress on our body at any one time. So if we can manage stressors that can easily be controlled / managed in any given moment, it’s worth doing.
Three quick 30 second stress hacks using the breathe…
1. 3 deep breathes.
Take 3 long, deep breathes through your nostrils, into your diaphragm, (so it distends), and with each breathe lasting approximately 10 seconds e.g. in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, out for 3 seconds.
2. The 4-7-8 breathing exercise by Dr Andrew Weil:
3. While doing an activity on ‘auto-pilot’ try to come back into the present moment by focusing on HOW you breathe. Long, slow, deep breathes through the nose, into the tummy and out e.g. next time you’re driving, walking, listening to the kids, in a meeting, packing lunch boxes, folding washing etc.
Try one now. Choose one of the three above and give it a go.
Then importantly, when you finish take 5 seconds to notice how you FEEL. What do you notice?
Other ideas that take a bit longer and I love;
There are lots more. If this feels right and you know it can help, make it happen, it can take 30 seconds and feels great.
“When we breathe, we feel. When we feel we heal”
I first heard about ‘The Mental Load’ only recently from a friend. It’s a term that resonated with me. Then I received an email, ‘We need to talk about the mental load’ from my “Business Chicks” networking forum. I googled it and was surprised to find a lot of commentary on it. It’s a ‘thing’.
After I wrote this I shared it with my hubby and the kids. It created a very animated discussion and I actually ended up adding a few things, with thanks to our male family members.
The mental load can affect all of us, disrupting our wellbeing and depleting our energy and happiness in the process – if we allow it.
In this post I share my thoughts on this familiar and heavy topic. Yet does it need to be? Perhaps not. We have a choice, so bare with me while I share the background, a perspective that’s not being talked about and 15 simple ways to lift the mental load.
First up – what is it?
This is an excerpt from the article I read, ‘Understanding the mental load, what it is and how to get it under control’ by Leah Ruppanner on the ABC News site, http://www.abc.net.au/news/health
“The mental load is ‘all the mental work, the organising, list-making and planning, that you do to manage your life, and that of those dependent on you. Most of us carry some form of mental load, about our work, household responsibilities, financial obligations and personal life; but what makes up that burden and how it’s distributed within households is not always equal.
The mental load includes the planning work required to ensure the children make it to Bollywood dancing, the refrigerator is stocked for dinner and the smoke detector battery gets replaced. It’s incessant, gnawing and exhausting, and disproportionately falls to women”.
The term came to light earlier this year when a French cartoonist by the name of Emma gave form to the concept in her cartoon “You should have asked”, (which went viral).
The written advice I read focuses on letting go or outsourcing house and family duties e.g. dividing the ‘to do’ list, deferring responsibilities to house members, allowing men to step in and do ‘things’ there way, as well as for us to care less, worry less. A simplified summary.
The mental load is real. Yet does it need to be? Perhaps not. We have a choice, bare with me while I share some background and explain.
As we discussed in the car …
Men carry the mental load too and it’s a heavy load but with a singular focus, whereas for women it’s multi layered and faceted. Lots more thinking and pondering, it’s simpler for men. And assuming there is a partner and the chance to share the load with them. Which may not be the case. Making the load more difficult to lighten for many.
• For women the mental load is coupled with an emotional load. Something men tend to carry far less e.g. worrying over the childrens’ wellbeing, when they get sick or IF they get sick. Worrying if we’re mothering right or doing enough for the kids? Worrying if we’ll be able to get back into a career? Worrying we’re not doing enough at work? And so on… Exhausting in itself.
• For women these loads are especially heavy in the early years of transitioning into motherhood. When can experience a sense of loss of independence coupled with a gnawing doubt over if we will ever return to a successful career. All while immersing ourselves in self-doubt as to how to mother, what our babies and children need to thrive and surviving on little sleep if any. On top of this is coming to terms with a new sense of self and place in the world with very little, if any, support.
• The health consequences. If this load for men and women is left unattended it can trigger dis-ease, stress and burnout, autoimmunity, a lack of productivity, feelings of de-motivation and unhappiness and commonly for women post-natal depression, post-natal depletion or even, chronic illness.
While many of us have worked out how to lift the mental and emotional load, which is fantastic and I hope freeing! For others it’s not so easy and you’re not alone. Personally, it’s something I’ve been working on a lot in the past year and a half. Before I get to that though let’s understand why women are more susceptible.
My recent reading suggests;
• We take more on, and with an attitude of ‘if we don’t do it, who will’?? (See below for some answers)…
• we are conditioned as children to be the ones responsible for the housework and managing the home, given dolls and vacuum cleaners to play with etc…
• we are expected to stay home with young children and, while we are home, we might as well put on a load of washing and tend to home duties etc… ” It’s on our minds.
Yet I reckon there are bigger societal pressures at play and they’re not being talked about.
1. The digital age. We inherit and role model behaviour from our Mothers who did it all and it was certainly busy for them too, however they weren’t raising families in the digital age. An age that has sped up communication and life, astronomically. In general, at the same time our communities and extended families have shrunk. There is less support for us while we are working longer hours outside the home and our children are more active outside the home. Understandably, we have a LOT more on our mind.
And importantly, the war…
2. The world wars. The wars that removed men from our lives. Leaving women to quickly enter the workplace, often fulltime. It was something we’d been longing for, but it came at a cost. All of a sudden we were carrying the responsibility for finances, child rearing and managing the home. A lot to bare.
When the war finished women had stepped into the shoes of men and at the same time discovered a financial freedom they hadn’t known personally or professionally. The financial gains were important to maintain, however, what I see is that after the war women maintained their dual roles that were traditionally split. At the same time when men did return home, there was the emotional and mental scarring of war, which probably meant women had to continue their dual roles to support their men through this incredibly difficult time.
It was a pivotal time in our history that might also help explain some of the heavy mental load we carry today. A load we’ve inherited and role modeled from our incredibly strong and capable female ancestors.
But times are very different.
It’s time to lighten the load and stop ‘soldiering’ on.
It starts with me.
It’s up to me as an individual to take responsibility for dismantling my mental load and to show my children how to do it or to not carry it in the first place. No-one else can do this. Just me.
Here are a few things helping me lift the mental load. If you can relate, I hope it helps you too;
1. Awareness. Stopping and taking time to slow down and be aware of how I’m feeling. What am I thinking that’s causing those feelings? If we’re busy running through our ‘to do’ lists it’s difficult to have this awareness. Taking time to stop and take a couple of deep breathes, meditation, a morning routine and The Happiness Hunter Bootcamp has helped.
2. Spring cleaning and decluttering. A cluttered home and environment adds to our mental clutter. De-cluttering frees mind space, boost energy and works wonders. A month ago I had a BIG clean up of the kids craft area. It was on my mind – then gone. I also had a lot of work coming up. I knew I had to clear that area to clear my mind and be as productive as I could be. Check out Fiona Reddings recent video on de-cluttering and Lisa Corduffs upcoming de-clutter challenge. It’s time for a spring clean!
3. Taking a leaf out of the same book my husband is reading! Taking it one (or a couple) of things at a time, trying not to multi task.
4. Embracing my femininity and the incredible energy that comes with that. Qualities that came to the fore when I had our children. It’s a natural uplifting energy that’s powerful in its ability to nurture, nourish and heal if we allow it.
5. Natures medicine. Spending time outside everyday and being present to the miracle and wonder of Mother Nature. It helps put life into perspective. It’s calming and grounding.
6. Enlisting a support team. I’m not designed to do this alone. I’m continually learning how to quiet my mind from my amazing coaches and mentors. Asking for help where I need it, (the hardest thing I’ve learnt to do). It’s very hard and not as much fun doing it alone.
7. Energy medicine. Helps release old self sabotaging beliefs and stuck emotions that can trigger dis-ease. I use kinesiology, chiropractic and other modalities that help immensely. Regular exercise, meditating and a beautiful early morning routine also helps my energy and lift my mental load.
8. Above all else, being kind to myself. Showing self-compassion, including meditating, walking, regular exercise, prioritising these and the things I love to do and make me happy.
Other things that have helped;
9. Lowering expectations of what I expect others to do.
10. Sharing the load. Communicating with my hubby about how I’m feeling, what I’m juggling.
11. Journalling. Writing it all down, prioritising, delegating and dismissing as much as I can.
12. Freeing the guilt. Making new choices guilt free, as hard as it is. Guilt is often an inherited belief we need to let go.
13. Saying ‘no thank you’. To invitations that we can say no to or we don’t want to do or have time to do.
14. Less worrying about doing it all. Trying one of these ideas listed here instead. (and how does worrying help anyway)?
15. Outsourcing where possible. Cleaning, home deliveries, child-care, coaches and mentors. What can someone else do or help you with.
As women the mental load we carry about our families wellbeing is one of the heaviest. It was for me. It’s why when I work with individuals I invite husbands and partners to join us in our sessions and vice versa. It shares and lightens the mental (mother) load a little. It shifts the responsibility to shared responsibility and places everyone on the same page, working as a team. It’s important and it accelerates results. It’s strategies like this I share in my short coure, ‘Our Happy Children’ and mentoring programs.
As my friend said, something has to give and most commonly it’s looking after ourselves either with healthy food, exercise or sleep. But does something have to give? Perhaps trying a few of the ideas above first, just might help. And if not please seek professional help or coaching. Life is a gift to short to be weighed down mentally and emotionally.
The mental load is tiring, stressful and occupies expensive real estate in our minds. It comes at a cost to our health, our relationships, our sense of purpose and our inner happiness.
Yet, dare I say it, it offers a wonderful opportunity for personal evolution… if we allow it.
Now I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on the mental load?
‘When we give ourselves compassion, we open our hearts in a way that can transform our lives’
~ Kristin Neff
In recent years there’s been lots of talk on ‘self love’ or ‘self care’. It’s an important practice to help restore emotional wellbeing. It’s something, especially as Mothers and being busy, we easily neglect, and to be honest, something I’ve found difficult to grasp.
Until self compassion came along.
I recently went to a talk on self compassion. The presenter, Amy Finlay Jones, is an academic with personal insights into self compassion after suffering a chronic illness in her youth.
She shared the more self compassionate we are, the more emotionally well we are. The more self compassionate we are the better we manage stress and the more resilient we are to stress.
Managing stress (emotional and neurological wellbeing) is one of the 3 pillars in my approach to wellness. I was intrigued to learn the strong connection between high stress and low self compassion and vice versa.
Stress is a close companion of dis-ease.
It’s easy to conclude the more self compassionate we are the happier and healthier we are.
Amy shared that self compassion is actually more important than a current hot topic in the wellness world… Mindfulness. Here’s why;
Self compassion is defined as, ‘extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering’ i.e. it’s like extending the same care and concern towards ourselves – that we would to a close friend. To feel compassion for another or for ourselves (rather than mere pity), means that we realise that feeling of suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience i.e. we are not alone. This in itself can give a feeling of relief and a lightening of the mental (mother)load.
This really came home to me. The way I talk to myself sometimes actually a lot of the time, is not the way I would talk to a close friend – ever! ‘Can’t’, ‘Won’t’, ‘Lazy’ ‘Stupid’ etc etc… Rarely a kind word. I’d never say that to a close friend, so why do I say it to myself? I’m sure you can relate. Then imagine how that makes me FEEL?
I’m reminded of Fi Redding, The Happiness Hunter who talks a lot about awareness – and for good reason.
First, we need awareness.
With awareness we are present enough to hear what the voice in our heads is telling us i.e. what we’re creating within ourselves and our lives everyday. Which is then when mindfulness, meditation, walking etc comes into play. The perfect tools to help us become aware of the conversation in our minds and to therefore consciously upgrade it.
Take a moment to check-in with how you’re talking to yourself? Are you being kind or beating yourself up? If you’re like me, and for most of us, I suspect it’s the latter. You’re not alone. Most of us verbally ‘beat ourselves up’ and it’s actually an evolutionary survival mechanism we’ve developed to protect ourselves. However in our busy modern lives this mechanism no longer serves us and if we don’t act on it, can actually sabotage our emotional wellbeing and our happiness.
Personally I’ve found it’s easy to be happy when I’m kinder to me. It starts with me and – it’s an inside job.
11 simple ways to cultivate awareness of thoughts and self compassion;
Do what you know brings you back into the present moment. Whatever works – practice more of it. Notice how you FEEL in those moments? What’s that little voice saying and orchestrating? And allow yourself to feel feelings (not brushing them aside and moving onto the next thing). Be kind.
What about our children?
The talk I went to was in regard to cultivating self compassion in our kids as a way to safeguard their mental / emotional health. They’re less likely to relate to the first 5 ideas above, however what we can do is;
It’s not rocket science, however it’s hard and it needs practice.
We are human beings. Not human doings.
With it’s similarity to kin, I wanted to know the origin of the word kind. The word “kind” is one of the oldest in the English language. It originally meant “nature.” Kindness is our nature. It is innate. It is … natures medicine. I love that.
The psychologist Blair Justice wrote,
“Letting ourselves feel that sense of wonder that surrounds us every single minute is what elevates our hearts beyond a mechanical pump and turns them into instruments of love and kindness.
Last weekend I went along to Ian Gawler’s one-day workshop in Denmark, Western Australia. For anyone unfamiliar with Ian, he is an Author & Advocate for mind, body, medicine and meditation. Almost 40 year ago, while working as a Vet he was diagnosed with Cancer, Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. In 1976 doctors gave him weeks to live. After following conventional treatment Ian adopted a regime of intense meditation, (up to 5 hours each day)! He followed the Gerson Diet and an intense program of research and personal development. In recent years controversy has surrounded Ian for various reasons, that aside he has survived a terminal diagnosis of Cancer and is alive and well today. I was intrigued to learn more, and especially about the power of the mind and his intense approach to meditation, which appears instrumental in his recovery.
There were 6 key messages I took away from the day:
Regular meditation isn’t easy, it takes work and practice, but now having this knowledge – why wouldn’t we commit to taking at least 5 minutes out in our day and start the process of rewiring some of those hard wired neurons. In doing this we lower our stress levels, increase our immunity, activate happier thoughts, positive energy and perhaps some much needed clarity and perspective. It seems to be a fundamental strategy to put us back in the drivers seat and take back control or our own health.
Want to get started, but don’t have time, or not sure how? One of the simplest ways to start, even if you take just 5 minutes, is to find a comfortable spot to sit, then place continuous thought on one subject e.g. to focus on your breathe or the sounds you can hear off in the distance, really listen out and aim to be present in the moment. When I take even 5 minutes to stop and centre my thoughts, I notice that afterwards my energy levels have lifted, my mind is calmer / clearer and I am more productive. Meditation, or even just being still and centereing my thoughts is something I’m doing more of and aim to build up the amount of time I dedicate to it.
Ian also shared an entertaining cricket analogy, ‘In 1874, the first ‘testicular guard’ or ‘box’ was used in cricket. In 1974, the first helmet was used’! Now that’s something to get our minds around…
And, check out this great infographic on the power of our amazing brains;
What works for you? What helps you tame your mind when it gets a bit monkey minded? Please share, we’d love to hear and learn.