Category

Wellness

Woman reading for relaxation

Self-care is not the be-all and end-all

By | Community, Leadership, Mental health, Wellness
Woman relieving stress by meditation in the countryside

Photograph: Alex Tihonov/PR

While I’m a big advocate of self-care, there are a few problems with this idea. In a nutshell, it can be too easy to judge those who are struggling as not looking after themselves. We are in danger of blaming others for being strung out and for not ‘having their sh*t together’.

I remember a friend of mine telling me she went to a doctor when she was parenting a toddler–who as it turned out was later diagnosed with severe ADHD–and discussed with him that she was finding things incredibly difficult.

His response was something along the lines of, “you’ve just let yourself go. You’ve let motherhood get the better of you”. Really…?

This story is truly horrifying and, thankfully, most GP’s are much more insightful, compassionate and less chauvinistic.

Don’t get me wrong. Self-care is important. But let’s face it, when things get really tough it’s often the first thing that goes. We go into survival mode, where all we can manage is getting the essentials done. Time and energy for nurturing our own needs is nowhere to be found.

In reality, it is very challenging for many of us juggling family and work to find time to exercise, eat healthy meals, read a good book or get into the garden, let alone meditate. And as I found out the hard way, all the self-care in the world is not enough when parenting one child or more with special needs, and things are super tricky.

For many parenting solo, all or even part of the time, or if your child has additional care needs, it’s virtually impossible to self-care.

This is where community-care comes in.

Caring for one another, reaching out when someone is having a rough time, offering to cook a meal, donating goods or time to good causes, looking out for neighbours who are elderly or live alone.

Woman reading for relaxation

Photo by Amanda Vick on Unsplash

Self-care as self-preservation

The concept of self-care is, unsurprisingly, very self-oriented, very individualistic, and has a fascinating history as this Guardian article explains:

“It was first used in 1988 by black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde, while fighting against cancer and the political status quo. She wrote ‘caring for myself is not an act of self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare’”.

This is how I thought of self-care – putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can positively impact the world around you – until I researched the popular use of the term further.

The article goes on.

“Self-care was very appealing for women who were overwhelmed, women who were sick, women who were crushed under the weight of the emotional and physical labour of running a household and working and maintaining a family and friendship, women who were burning out. Which is basically most women.” Oh yeah, I sure can relate to this.

However, in the contemporary context it appears to have morphed into something else. When I checked Instagram just now, there are 24 million posts (!) with #selfcare mentions.

Scrolling through the top posts there are dozens of inspirational quotes of the self-improvement kind and a whole host of young women posing provocative selfies, a few face-mask shots and, refreshingly, one with two men in it. But, otherwise, the theme here is clear. #Selfcare means women should strive to be youthful and flawless inside and out.

So, in fact, what I’m often on about—caring for yourself as if you were caring for a treasured loved one—is perhaps better described as self-preservation. Although even this makes me think of eternal youth as being the goal, but it’ll do.

My little family has been through some tough times over the last few years and self-preservation has been entirely necessary or I seriously have zero idea how I’d have got through it. But, really, what I needed more of in these times was community care—or what The Guardian article quoted above refers to as ‘collective care’.

Things are so much better for my little family these days. Harry, my autistic son, sleeps through instead of waking at 1, 2 or 3am and not getting back to sleep, night after night. He’s not having up to fifteen major meltdowns a day and spitting, kicking, biting and shitting everywhere.

I needed my community to step in so badly in at times. Sadly, it was thin on the ground when I really needed support—someone to help with my son when I had had no sleep and his behaviour was horrendous day after day after day.

It was an extremely traumatic time and the stress I was under is hard to put into words. I didn’t even know it at the time but I had become a carer of a pre-schooler with complex special needs. All the while I was also turning up in my business, trying to convince myself as well as everyone else that I was fine.

There was good reason for why I didn’t get much help. Half my family lives out of town, my dad was very unwell and my mum, who was caring for him, was the priority for the one sister who does live nearby.

When Harry was ill, sometimes for weeks or even months on end—the worst times in which he had a number of large seizures—we’d be almost quarantined, barely seeing a sole. Even though I had family nearby, I was incredibly isolated.

I survived this period because of phone calls with sisters and my dearest girlfriend. But when it came to practical support, my closest friends also have incredibly full lives with multiple kids, full-time jobs and some with their own children with additional needs.

The way we live in the Western world, in the nuclear family or in single parent families as is the case with us, and with how busy we all are, is often very isolating. It can be very difficult to get or give the help you or others need.

We all go through periods of grief, trauma or crisis at different times in our lives. Some are more obvious than others. When a family member dies or we are diagnosed with a sinister illness or we get divorced.

Others go on for years and play out under the radar. It’s in these times that we need to try to have the courage to ask for help. However, we also need to ask how people are—like really ask. And when someone replies that they’re struggling, that generally that means things are really bad.

Ask them in these situations: What can I do to help? What do you need? My lovely eldest sister has helped out with my son as much as she could. Once a month or so she will babysit or pick him up from kinder for me. And I am super grateful for this.

But I was so frazzled that more often than not if my sister had Harry for a couple of hours, I’d just go to the supermarket, as it was so much easier to get the shopping without him!

My Godmother has also been a Godsend, having looked after Harry once a week since he was a baby so I can teach yoga. Solo parenting and running a business would be impossible for me to do without my ‘village’.

I am lucky to have had this support during an incredibly trying time, because, the truth is, no amount of self-care is going to be enough when circumstances are so difficult for true wellbeing to be possible. Not without community support.

When I could, I kept up meditation, exercise and tried my best to nurture myself. But no amount of these practices—breathing, yoga, gardening and reading—would have been enough.

As things have gotten a little easier, I’ve found the time and energy to contribute to the community myself. I admit I’m very discerning when it comes to what kind of support I will give. It must align with where I’m at, taking into account my capacity at the time.

I have two causes I’m currently supporting which are both personal endeavours but are also aligned with my businesses philosophy. You can read about them here.

One thing is tree planting, which is such an awesome thing to do with kids and, obviously, supports our beautiful natural environment. I also support women in crisis during the festive season by facilitating the donation of preloved beautiful jewellery.

The cool things is, when we give it is good for us and the recipient! And it’s doesn’t have to be hard. Sticking your hand up to do a good deed once in a while is doable for all of us. And we may be the ones who need a hand one day.

Acts of kindness like volunteering are good for us and others. We are social creatures and our wellbeing is absolutely dependant on the quality of human connection in our lives. So collective care really does make a LOT of sense.

I’m still an advocate of for making time to just be, to meditate, exercise, have fulfilling hobbies and time with loves ones. But I also think that in this world where so many of us are crazy busy a fair whack of the time, we need to consciously make choices that connect us to our communities.

And when we have the capacity, to contribute to our community. Now that my little family is in a much better place, 2020 for me is all about not only contributing to community, but building community.

Women laughing and relaxing together

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Stepping up because community is everything

Some of you will have read that the Director at my son’s kindy, Rose, was killed in a horrific car accident late last year, tragically leaving behind her 10-year-old son. Our kinder community was devastated.

Rose was a community builder through and through. Last weekend was her memorial service, which I MC’d at, along with an educator. While I was very flattered to be asked, I wasn’t sure, at first, that I wanted the role. Then it hit me: she inspired me to step into this leadership role, and to step up in general.

Her untimely death made me see so much more clearly how there are opportunities to build connection and community in small ways every day. I am now the parent rep. at kinder and am attending Co-op. meetings and am getting more involved in the Australian Conservation Foundation activities as my capacity allows.

So how can you step up and contribute to, or even build, community? Or perhaps, especially if you are a primary carer for kids, someone with special needs or an elderly person, how can you reach out to community and ask for support if that’s what you need right now? Perhaps you need to give yourself a little self-preservation.

I share my personal story because I want people to appreciate that even those of us who meditate and dedicate our lives to conscious living, also sometimes have (very) stressful lives. While the skills and practices of conscious living have saved my sanity many times over; as I said earlier, sometimes even they aren’t enough. Not without community. Community is everything.

Over feeling stressed? Is it time to learn to meditate once and for all? Private 'Meditation and Mindfulness 101' one-hour sessions can get you on your way to less stress. To schedule a 20-minute free chat to find out more CLICK HERE

STAY IN THE LOOP

March 3, 2020 in Community, Leadership, Mental health, Wellness

Self-care is not the be-all and end-all

Photograph: Alex Tihonov/PR While I'm a big advocate of self-care, there are a few problems with this idea. In a nutshell, it can be too easy to judge those who... Read More
December 19, 2019 in Community, Compassion, Leadership

The most challenging times can deliver gifts

In three weeks, over this November-December, I sadly experienced the loss of two immensely important people to me and my family. Unsurprisingly, this has led me to a massive amount... Read More
September 10, 2019 in Mental health, Nutrition, Wellness

Want to be well? Consume with care.

Avoiding putting ‘junk’ into our bodies is not just about the food we eat—though avoiding food that is terrible for our health is not as easy as we might like... Read More
April 15, 2019 in Mindfulness, Stress management

Learn how to be less stressed

Creating a life in which you are offsetting the stressful times we live in and countering the distractions we are all dealing with day to day is not difficult but... Read More
March 26, 2019 in Stress management

Your beliefs about stress could be killing you

The title of this post might sound a bit dramatic, but hear me out. While I am a huge advocate of creating a lower stress lifestyle it turns out that... Read More
December 6, 2018 in Mindfulness, Stress management

Relieve stress, embrace doing less

I am an expert at saying no. It’s been my default for a really long time. When the incredible power of present moment awareness became so remarkably obvious to me,... Read More
August 28, 2018 in Mindfulness, Stress management

What lead to the creation of Lilo Wellness?

I spent years travelling the world, trying to fix really complicated problems in communities, met incredible people and, by many measures, was doing really well. At the same time, though,... Read More
August 16, 2018 in Anxiety, Mindfulness, Stress management

Can mindfulness reduce anxiety?

You know the feeling. You’re cutting it fine, or are just plain running late and there’s tightness throughout your whole body. This story of mine takes the cake! It also... Read More
July 24, 2018 in Stress management at work

How to reduce workplace stress. The evidence.

I have written before about an insanely toxic corporate workplace I worked in for three years… Looking back, for the life of me I can’t work out how I managed to... Read More
Graphic image of 2 heads represented by green vegetable and meat

Want to be well? Consume with care.

By | Mental health, Nutrition, Wellness
Graphic image of 2 heads represented by green vegetable and meat

Avoiding putting ‘junk’ into our bodies is not just about the food we eat—though avoiding food that is terrible for our health is not as easy as we might like to believe (more about that in a moment).

In a world of unprecedented information-overload, helping people access positive information about how to offset our busy lives and stay well is super important to me. I love being a conduit to help cut through the noise for other people, so I’m always trying to mindfully consume a good amount of good news, too: we can’t just be hearing bad news all the time. It’s so bad for our wellbeing. But it’s easier said than done to avoid it!

Which is why I can’t recommend my friends at Future Crunch highly enough. They are all about good-news-focused media! ‘Intelligent optimism’ they call it, at its finest. So, if you need a good dose of good news on a regular basis sign up to their newsletter pronto!

For a seriously incredible, in-depth look at ‘the information diet’ most of us are on and how we can improve it, I recommend gobbling up this article by the boys at Future Crunch. (And, yes, they are friends of mine, so I may be slightly biased, but their work really is phenomenal!)

Man relaxing reading a newspapaer

The good, bad and the ugly

I consume as much good news as possible, because just like what we eat and drink (I’m getting to this, I promise), what we take in mentally is incredibly important to our wellbeing. But simply avoiding all the bad news and junk out there is not an option—we still need to be informed about what’s going on in the world. But, like everything, we can manage how we consume news by choosing to be aware and intentional in how we consume it.

While I try to mainly share good news and to stay positive as much as possible, we also need to have a balanced diet. To that end, and without sounding too alarmist about it, I’m recommending a pretty scary article that explains some of the ways we’re being manipulated to consume more ‘junk’ news by tech companies through our social media feeds. Please do read it, it has been a big wake-up call for me.

The big takeaway for me is that we need to be ever-mindful that all of the information we receive online is curated for each of us based on huge amounts of data that tech companies have collected on what keeps us scrolling online. And what they’ve learned is that bad news and especially divisive content is what sells.

Like I said, it’s pretty scary stuff and worth being aware of.

The not so good news

As I’ve said, when it comes to our information diet and our mental health, consuming news is one of the most problematic issues we face every day. We already know that bad news sells but unfortunately it also effects our mood in many negative ways. Hardly surprising given that news coverage us “increasingly visual and shocking” as this  article explain.

It goes on to say that what’s really concerning about how we consume news these days is that it is being broadcast wherever we are—on our phones, on our social media, even at the petrol station and in the elevator. So why are we addicted to bad news?

Loretta Breuning, a former professor of management at the University of California and author of Habits of a Happy Brain, believes that, “In a state of nature, our survival depends on finding rewards and avoiding harm, but avoiding harm takes priority.”

Breuning goes on the explain that our brains are attracted to bad news because they’re wired to detect threats. “This can make it hard for us to ignore the negatives and seek out the positives around us, our brain is predisposed to go negative, and the news we consume reflects this.”

The way to combat this is with awareness. Intentionally choosing what news we consume, and where and when we consume it.

A variety of healthy fresh fruit and vegetables

Why wholefoods are king for wellbeing

Finally, to change the topic completely though building on the consumption theme, let’s talk about whole foods; that is, foods that are as close to their natural form as possible.

While it’s not rocket-science that eating as many foods as possible that are as unadulterated as possible is a good idea, it seems that this is NOT what most of us are doing.

When I do sessions in workplaces about healthy eating, I usually cover this insanely vast topic in under an hour. But, what to include?

While this is an ever-evolving area, with new research coming across my screen all the time, I try my best to give a broad overview of the main principles of healthy eating and I get each participant to reflect on the principles they need to work on.

I have lately come to believe that in this day and age, perhaps the most important principle is this:

Eat as little food with numbers and difficult to pronounce words in the ingredients as possible.

My own journey in relation to my wellbeing and that of my son has taught me just how incredibly bad for us these man-made ingredients can be.

While some ingredients sound completely harmless, such as anti-oxidants, and are in things as inane as water crackers, they can turn my son (who has autism) into a wild animal, kicking, biting, spitting etc.  We both also have some crazy-restrictive intolerances that, thankfully, are finally slowly improving after having worked on this over a very long period of time. Needless to say, this has all made me acutely aware of what’s in our food.

‘Eat food, not too much mainly plants’—Micheal Pollon.

These days we eat virtually no additives, and it makes a world of difference to my son’s ability to manage his emotions, participate, learn and enjoy life across the board. So, it’s timely that in the last few weeks, I have learned about “ultra-processed foods”, which, yes, sound incredibly sinister!

Yet, unless you’re what most consider to be a health nut, you are probably eating them day-in-day-out with barely a thought. (I know I warned you off bad news, but at least this is bad news you can do something about 😉.) Firstly, this ABC article ‘Ultra-processed food link to disease and death grows’ is a great place to start.

Hot on its heels was another ABC article ‘What is ultra-processed food and how to avoid it’. The definition it gives is that ultra-processed foods is those that, “undergo a multitude of processes including many that couldn’t be recreated in the home, such as hydrogenation, extrusion, moulding and pre-processing for frying”. They contain little, if any, intact whole foods. In other words, they are not really food.

Here is a list of ultra-processed foods. Chances are you’re eating at least some of them regularly:

  • Sweet or savoury packaged snacks
  • Ice-cream, chocolate, lollies
  • Mass-produced packaged breads and buns
  • Margarines and spreads
  • Biscuits, pastries, cakes, and cake mixes
  • Breakfast ‘cereals’, ‘cereal’ and ‘energy’ bars
  • ‘Energy’ drinks, milk drinks, cocoa drinks, ‘fruit’ yoghurts and ‘fruit’ drinks
  • Meat and chicken extracts and ‘instant’ sauces
  • Infant formulas, follow-on milks, other baby products
  • ‘Health’ and ‘slimming’ products such as powdered or ‘fortified’ meal and dish substitutes
  • Ready-to-heat products including pre-prepared pies and pasta and pizza dishes
  • Poultry and fish ‘nuggets’ and ‘sticks’, sausages, burgers, hot dogs, and other reconstituted meat products
  • Powdered and packaged ‘instant’ soups, noodles and desserts.

The article goes on to say that, “Ultra-processed foods make up a substantial proportion of the Australian diet…probably accounting for close to half of our energy consumption, on average”. Let that sink in.

So, I hope that this has at least been food for thought! Because what, how and where we consume both information and food have a profound impact on our wellbeing.

And if you like what you’ve read here, sign up for more juicy morsels below.

STAY IN THE LOOP

March 3, 2020 in Community, Leadership, Mental health, Wellness

Self-care is not the be-all and end-all

Photograph: Alex Tihonov/PR While I'm a big advocate of self-care, there are a few problems with this idea. In a nutshell, it can be too easy to judge those who... Read More
December 19, 2019 in Community, Compassion, Leadership

The most challenging times can deliver gifts

In three weeks, over this November-December, I sadly experienced the loss of two immensely important people to me and my family. Unsurprisingly, this has led me to a massive amount... Read More
September 10, 2019 in Mental health, Nutrition, Wellness

Want to be well? Consume with care.

Avoiding putting ‘junk’ into our bodies is not just about the food we eat—though avoiding food that is terrible for our health is not as easy as we might like... Read More
April 15, 2019 in Mindfulness, Stress management

Learn how to be less stressed

Creating a life in which you are offsetting the stressful times we live in and countering the distractions we are all dealing with day to day is not difficult but... Read More
March 26, 2019 in Stress management

Your beliefs about stress could be killing you

The title of this post might sound a bit dramatic, but hear me out. While I am a huge advocate of creating a lower stress lifestyle it turns out that... Read More
December 6, 2018 in Mindfulness, Stress management

Relieve stress, embrace doing less

I am an expert at saying no. It’s been my default for a really long time. When the incredible power of present moment awareness became so remarkably obvious to me,... Read More
August 28, 2018 in Mindfulness, Stress management

What lead to the creation of Lilo Wellness?

I spent years travelling the world, trying to fix really complicated problems in communities, met incredible people and, by many measures, was doing really well. At the same time, though,... Read More
August 16, 2018 in Anxiety, Mindfulness, Stress management

Can mindfulness reduce anxiety?

You know the feeling. You’re cutting it fine, or are just plain running late and there’s tightness throughout your whole body. This story of mine takes the cake! It also... Read More
July 24, 2018 in Stress management at work

How to reduce workplace stress. The evidence.

I have written before about an insanely toxic corporate workplace I worked in for three years… Looking back, for the life of me I can’t work out how I managed to... Read More