It's been a little while since my last blog post, which is my first and only blog post so far. Usually I would have a go at myself internally about that. I’d say something like, “Gab, it's been a while since you've done your first blog post. You should have probably released a couple more since then…”
I tend to be quite hard on myself. Anyone who knows me quite well knows that. I have a tendency to be very self-critical. And I'm definitely a bit of a perfectionist in the things that I do, especially in the work that I undertake as part of my career, because I like to put out work that is a reflection of the effort and care that I put into it. But here's the thing… There's no such thing as perfect. And although I'm consciously aware of that, and that concept is something that I intellectualise and I can speak on, it's not something that I've recently embodied. In fact, recently, I burned out. In fact, I burned out yesterday.
Yesterday morning, after I said goodbye to my partner as she left for work, I turned around to be faced with a messy kitchen (which we both wanted to magically sort itself out, since we are both very busy people). I looked at all the dishes that had piled up, all the mess on the bench, the crumbs on the floor, the laundry to be washed, and I just thought to myself, if I cleaned this place the way I wanted to, it would take me all day today. I don't have all day to do this. Because I have a mountain of things on my list today. I need to research for my clients who are coming in this week. I need to organise people's prescriptions. I need to edit the podcast that I want to release today. I need to eat well. I need to move my body. I need to figure out what’s for dinner. I need to make sure that I connect with people and nurture my relationships. AND all the while making sure that I don't work too hard so I can create a nice work/life balance.
When I saw that mess, and thought all of the above, I just sat on the kitchen floor and sobbed. Sitting there in my giant panda onesie, on the grubby floor, among the dish piles, sobbing. I felt all the emotion that I had pushed aside over the last few weeks come up to the surface. I had been trying so hard to stick to the plan so I could achieve all the goals that I'd set for myself, and I had reached overwhelm.
I must laugh at the fact I burned out the day that I was planning to release an episode on The Revitalising Health Podcast about mental health. In fact, in that episode where I speak with integrative nutritionist Monique Stagnitti, one of the things she said really resonated with me. She mentioned that many patients she sees come to her with different levels of stress and mental health issues, anxiety, and depression, but she said by far the most debilitating emotion that people come in with is the experience of overwhelm, because overwhelm is where you have reached a place where you feel like you're stuck and you can't get out; you can't even take the next step. And yesterday, I realised that's where I went.
Overwhelm being the point where you can't even pick yourself up off the floor because you don't know what to do next. You don't know what you're capable of doing in that moment, right then and there, so you just stop. It’s the endpoint of a sequence of events and thoughts and instances where you ignore what your body is trying to tell you. You ignore the signals that you need to stop and rest, and so your body decides for you that you're going to rest because you're not listening.
I hadn't been listening to my body, and even worse, here I am having released numerous podcast episodes talking about the importance of listening to your body and being self-aware. Who the hell do I think I am, to not practice what I preach?
In short, I’m human. Yes, I’m a naturopath, and I’d like to think I’m decent at my job, but I’m also a human being who gets caught up in the shitstorm that is life in 2022. So, if you’re reading this, I want you to know – I understand. I get it. The commitments, the pressures, the sneaky tendency for things to pile up before you realise you’re headed towards overwhelm on the burnout express. But yesterday I reached the end of the line, so I was faced with a decision about where to go next.
Yesterday, I took the day off. I cancelled all things I had planned and cycled to my favourite local park, set up a picnic rug under a tree, and I just sat there. I brought my journal with me, so I started writing down thoughts, which at this stage were all just incoherent strings of words rather than fully formed sentences – a reflection of the state of my depleted mind.
I checked in with myself, and what was really interesting, was that every time I thought I’d worked through it and felt better, there were more tears and more emotion that needed to come up and flow through me. I realised then how much I had unconsciously pushed aside so I could do the everyday tasks – this process had become automatic. We all know what it’s like living on auto-pilot, but auto-pilot is survival mode, not thriving mode!
What resists, persists
I'll tell you now, when I took the whole day off, I was met with so much resistance. I was battling with myself, with my inner voice saying, “Yes, have a cry, have a journal... but after you've done that, let's go edit that podcast. Let's go do that client research. Let's go do that prescription. Let's go wash the dishes. Let's go vacuum and mop. Let's clean up the home office so you have a workspace that's free of clutter…”
This underlying resistance to stopping was so strong, and if you know anything about resistance, you’d be aware that the stronger it is, the closer you are to stepping away from the suffocating grasp of the egoic mind, so that you can be free to make more aligned decisions. Read ‘The War of Art', by Steven Pressfield for more on resistance and how you can understand it better.
We all have patterns we need to break. We all have limiting beliefs that aren’t serving us which need to be replaced with ones that do so we can live in a state of balance. I'm more balanced than I used to be, sure. But when I reach points like I did yesterday, I realise I've still got a way to go – and this is life. A dynamic process, a never-ending journey of growth, learning, and development. I am ready for it though, and every time I think I’ve reached the next ‘level’ of spiritual / psychological growth, I’m thrown right back into the reality where old mate Universe says, “hey! we ain’t done yet, time to level up!” and puts in me in my place to face some more obstacles.
I wouldn’t have it any other way though. When there is the option to power through life continuing to perpetuate the same patterns, getting the same outcome, if I am in a place to realise that’s what’s happening, I will always choose the other option. The other option being listening to what the Self truly needs to grow, expand, and flourish, which requires rewiring the brain and addressing those unhelpful thought patterns. Shout out to the amazingly resourceful Pia Kynoch for arming me with the skills and know-how to continue learning about how I can re-regulate my nervous system.
I am being met with resistance right now as I write this blog. The inner critic is going off like you wouldn’t believe!
“Don’t you dare publish this! It’s way too risky putting yourself out there like this. Just remain professional, maybe write something about immune support or detoxification instead…”
Sorry, mate, it’s happening. I feel in my heart and in my gut that this will be helpful to someone, somewhere and they will read it at a time when they really need to see it. To be honest, I'm probably the one who needs to read this the most.
Give yourself a break
For me to come out the other side and to be able to live my life and do the things I want to do, and be the person I want to be, I need to acknowledge myself and what I am experiencing. I need to give myself compassion. I need to give myself radical self-love. We're all entitled to that. And not only are we entitled to that, in order to thrive, rather than just survive, we actually need to love ourselves in this way. With deep self-compassion and care, we can radiate that outward to the work that we do, to the people that we connect with, and to the environment in which we live.
Acknowledge your experience. Sit with it. Don’t gaslight yourself. Everything you’re feeling is valid. Let it come through, let it surface and dissipate.
They say an emotion, if truly felt rather than suppressed, only lasts about 90 seconds. If that’s true, how many more emotionally equipped, self-regulated, resilient people would there be to help and support others, if we all decided to authentically express how we feel in the moment?
Burnout is a systemic issue
Burning out is a common story. I want you to know if you get to a state of overwhelm and you burnout, you are not a failure. In fact, if you allow yourself to get to a point where you can realise you’re heading that way, or have already reached that point, then you have the capability to stop and recalibrate. You can figure out how you need to nurture and nourish yourself so that you can minimise the chances of getting to this point again. And you might very well get to that point again, but each time you do, you learn something about yourself. You learn what you need, you learn what your inner child needs.
In this very busy western world that we live in, we are pushed to constantly strive. There is such a thing as over-striving. Because, where does it end? What is the end goal? If you're constantly striving, only to be working towards the ‘next thing’, when do you stop and get to enjoy the fruits of your labour?
Let’s all stop to smell the roses, climb a tree, or sit on the grass with no shoes on - whatever you need to enjoy the present.
I guess the point that I want to make in writing this is that I'm human. You're human. We’re human. We all have points like this where we feel like we've hit a wall. Especially with the last couple of years that we've all experienced. We're all trying to rebuild, trying to create something that is not only a fruitful experience, but something that we can be proud of, something that we can share with the world, and something that can benefit each other.
We try to live harmoniously, but we're living in a society that normalises burnout, one that normalises exhaustion, and glorifies working so hard that you don't have time to relax and to enjoy life. But I refuse to play into that system anymore. It does not align with the way we have evolved as a species and as part of a connected array of ecosystems within the greater world. I refuse to continue to burn out regularly.
There are many systems and facets of life in the society that we live in that need to change so that we can live harmoniously within our own bodies, amongst each other, and within the greater environment. But the way that we begin to start creating new systems and new ways of living sustainably, is by practicing and maintaining new habits and behaviours which are conducive to health and wellness, rather than disease, sickness, and exhaustion. And the way we begin to do this, is to acknowledge that we deserve it, and to provide ourselves with radical self-love, so that we can radiate that love, care, and compassion outwards, filling our cups and the cups of others. By doing this on an individual, local scale, we can expand this on a global scale, re-establishing balance to the Earth as a connected and fully functioning environment.
Get the support you need
In times where your resilience is being tested, it is really important to ask for help and seek support. When I was speaking to Monique in that podcast about mental health, I mentioned that I have a tendency to soldier on and do things myself rather than ask for help, or even accept support when it is offered. Yesterday when I had mustered the mental strength to tackle the dishes, I received a call from Mum (mums can sense when things are off, have you noticed?). I burst into tears and could barely speak, so she offered to drop what she was doing and come over. I could have, and almost did say no, I’ll be okay. What I realise after yesterday’s experience though, is that by denying someone’s intention to provide support, I am taking something from them. Although it seems like a generous thing to politely decline (because you may not want to put someone out for doing so), you take away the opportunity for that person to share their love, care, and compassion, and so this energy cannot continue radiating and rippling out into the world.
In cases where you genuinely need support, and the support is being offered, accepting this is a mutually beneficial exchange of energy. This is because as you gain the support you need to pick yourself up and start working towards feeling better, the other person can also fully express their compassion and care. So yesterday afternoon, an hour or so after I hung up the phone, Mum arrived with a couple of bags of groceries, an ear to listen, and plenty of hugs. While I recognise not everyone has the privilege of having such immensely helpful support as I do, I am so grateful that I have these sources of support in my life, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the support networks I do have.
My call for support
While I am now making a conscious effort to seek and accept support, I am taking an opportunity to do that right now…
The Revitalising Health Podcast has been a passion project of mine ever since the idea to start it entered my mind. It was the most exciting feeling to be able to start something that really felt like I could make a difference in the world, where I could share such meaningful conversations. What I didn't anticipate was the amount of time and energy I would need to direct towards orchestrating such a project.
For those of you who listen to the podcast, or intend to, thank you. I have and continue to run the project on my own. That includes figuring out the gear I need, acquiring it, learning how to record, edit, upload. Then actually the organising speakers, booking recordings, tuning up the audio files so they’re ready for release, creating all the social media posts to share the episodes, and so on! I thoroughly enjoy it, but I can see how doing all this (and more) got the better of me. I would love to outsource some of these tasks, but being a new small business owner, that isn’t something I can factor in at this point. So, I have an idea I’d like to swing by you…
If you listen to the podcast and have gained value from it in some way, I would like to provide an opportunity for an energetic exchange here. If the content from the podcast has provided value to you, if you feel called to, perhaps you could provide an exchange of value in one of the following ways:
Using one of my affiliate links to purchase one of the services or products I recommend
Donating a plant cutting or some seeds for me to grow in my garden (if you’re a local)
Sending me a voice message or written comment to let me know how the show’s content has benefitted you
Leaving a rating or a review on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to the podcast
Other creative ways, like showing support by sharing your unique skills or talents
There are so many ways you can help support me and the work that I do, and there is absolutely no expectation for you to provide anything in return for me publishing the podcast – it will always be free for you to listen to. However if you have the intention to show your appreciation and gratitude in a tangible way, these are some of the many ways you could show your support.
I will continue to offer value and support to people whether that be by providing podcasts, blogs, other content, or by working with people one-on-one to support and optimise their health. But I realise that in order to do this, to help and to care for others, I need to care for myself first.
Today I'm committing to myself. If you're still reading this, firstly, thanks for getting this far, and secondly, I hope this experience has resonated with you in some way. If it has, please feel free to let me know, and to share this with someone who you think could benefit from it.
Remember, to create those ripple effects in the world, start by filling your own cup. If I can do it, so can you.