They say we teach what we need to learn and I know that to be true.
I’ve been teaching people about self-love and self-care for many years, first informally, by supporting others who were on a similar healing journey to me, recovering from eating disorders and other self-harming behaviours, and then professionally, through my coaching, writing and speaking business.
But it’s come to my attention that I need a paradigm shift in my life.
I need to step up my self-love and self-care, big time.
You’ll know if you’re a regular on this blog or follow me elsewhere that I’ve come a long way in this area. I no longer binge or starve or compulsively exercise or drink myself into a stupor or work 12-hour days or fall into bed with random strangers, all of which I did for many colourful and painful years.
So much has changed. I have worked hard on my healing.
But now I need to go deeper. I need to go further.
I have come to understand, thanks to my ongoing personal development journey and the excellent support I have from a therapist and various other people who are on my side, that despite the huge transformation that’s occurred, I have continued to engage in unhealthy behaviours that harm my body and my mind.
Primarily, I have frequently fallen into a flight routine, which is one of the coping mechanisms we adopt in response to traumatic events in our lives – the others being fight, freeze and fawn (these are the main ones – there’ll be more). I fall into these other three patterns too, but flight is my primary response.
Flight involves constant activity of the body and mind – always doing, always busy, always pushing, constantly trying to prove, trying to get somewhere or be something, alongside over-thinking, obsessing, worrying, planning and doubting.
Gosh, I’m exhausted just reading that back.
Again, all this is so much better than it used to be.
Back in the day, in my early to mid-30s, I would board a jet plane with the prime minister and a pack of fellow journalists and fly around the world, crossing numerous time zones and skipping sleep in favour of work. Always working. Never resting. Always worrying and second-guessing. Bingeing on sugar and carbs and drinking excess alcohol in a desperate bid to stay awake, to stay afloat and to cope with the terror I carried around inside. Did I deliver the right story? Did I beat the competition? Will they find out I’m an imposter, a fake, a fraud? Will I make a mistake and be told off?
In contrast, I start many of my mornings now with spiritual readings and meditation. I exercise most days (even if it’s just a dog walk or two), swim in the sea as often as I can and sleep a reasonable number of hours (except when the puppy is playing up). I eat pretty healthily, as a general rule, and try to avoid gluten because it irritates my tummy.
So far so good.
But sometimes, as the day goes on, I find myself wrapped up in too much activity, too much work, racing against the clock and battling against a feeling of overwhelm. How on earth am I going to get everything done in my business, around the home and with the pup? My stress and adrenaline levels start to rise and I grab handfuls of nuts, which I see as healthy snacks, on the move.
On some days, I buy a gluten free cake from Milko, the vegan cafe down the road, because I’m in need of a pick-me-up.
And on bad days, when the stress and adrenaline get the better of me, I throw the gluten-free diet out of the window and eat whatever I like, generally suffering afterwards with bloating, pain and digestive issues, which I now know contribute to other health complaints I’ve become aware of in recent years: a high degree of inflammation in my body, compromised immunity and joint pain.
Yes, dear Reader, I may look healthy on the outside (especially when I’ve just come out of the Saltwater Sauna, which we enjoyed on my Love Retreat a few weeks ago) but on the inside, my 50-year-old body is suffering from the effects of decades of high stress, high adrenaline, high anxiety and constant activity.
And it’s telling me that it’s time for change.
My digestion has been my weak point ever since I was a little girl, as it often is for those of us who experience any level of trauma in our childhoods. [As an aside, trauma takes many forms and if you relate to my writing on the flight, fight, freeze and fawn responses, I suggest you check out an excellent book by Pete Walker called Complex PTSD – From Surviving to Thriving.]
I remember sitting on the loo as a small child and my mum holding my hand as I struggled with constipation and I remember the diarrhoea that hit me on the mornings of my school exams. I couldn’t tell you what was happening to my gut and digestion during all the years I was bingeing, starving, abusing alcohol and vomiting because I was in deep denial. But it can’t have been pretty, can it?
I’ve been working on my diet and my digestion on and off for two decades, ever since a homeopath suggested I give up sugar and caffeine on my return to England after ten years of living abroad. I had a serious candida overgrowth and a bad case of labyrinthitis, an inner ear disorder that caused me to lose my balance.
But my attempts to heal my insides have generally been half measures and I haven’t sufficiently addressed one of the biggest causes of my digestive issues – my high adrenaline and stress levels.
I can’t put it off any longer.
If I want to resolve my joint pain and digestive issues, or at least improve them, I need to stop rushing and pushing and I need to prioritise calm and create space and time in my life for joy, for food preparation, for even healthier eating and for the right forms of exercise.
And to do so, I’m going to need to give up something that I’ve always been trying to get.
Giving Up the Impossible Dream
You see for years I’ve been trying to get what I didn’t get as a child – the kind of love and attention and care that I needed and wanted, a feeling of safety and security, a feeling of being seen and heard.
It’s this constant yet futile search to get what I didn’t get that set me up to push and strive and achieve and try to be the perfect journalist, author, blogger, coach, retreat host, friend, lover, wife, housekeeper, you name it.
It’s like a drug – this idea that if we can just be perfect or achieve something amazing we’ll get what we missed out on as a child is addictive. It’s hopium, as my therapist Paul Sunderland calls it. It takes us hostage until we finally become enlightened enough or defeated enough to set ourselves free.
I hope I’m getting there. I hope that I’m ready to let go entirely of the hopium and, in the process, slow down my life even further and give myself all the things I wished for as a child but didn’t get – reparent myself in other words, mother myself.
But I’m also a realist and I know it’s not going to be a straightforward path. I’m still ambitious and there is so much more I want to do – courses to run and retreats to host and books to write and knowledge to share and collaborations to explore. I have gifts and talents and I want to use them. I want to contribute to the world.
And I know many of you will feel the same. You have so much to give and offer and there just isn’t time.
You feel constantly overwhelmed, crowded and crammed, like you’re running a marathon while chasing your tail, like you’re surviving, barely, but not thriving.
And we so want to thrive, don’t we?
So where do we go from here?
Giving from the Overflow
In my case, I first have to fully accept that my desire to work and produce courses and books and have a positive impact on others has to come from the right place. I can’t allow the hopium to drive me anymore because if I do, I will burnout or fail. I have to stop looking for what I didn’t get, relax, kick back, create space, make soup and do my thing in a calm, balanced way, letting go of the outcome, letting go of the results, letting go of any need for you or anyone else to like me or to love me or to see me as I was never seen.
Because while it’s hard for me to let go of controlling outcomes and trying to control how others see me, I do actually believe that I will thrive if I let go – that my business will thrive and my clients will thrive and my writing will thrive and my body will thrive and that beautiful things will come.
And I believe the same for you.
I will leave you with the three priorities I have chosen for the near future – for the rest of this year and beyond.
Joy – I commit to focusing on fun and to saying Yes to all the things that make my heart soar, which include singing with others (I’m booked into a Christmas singing workshop with Sarah Warwick), doing disco yoga (I’m going to Groove Om with Pip next month) and dancing and laughing as often as I can.
Soulwork – I commit to deepening my connection with myself and my breath and to making choices going forwards that are guided from within.
Nurturing – I commit to making space in my life to nurture and nourish my body and my mind with healthy food that I prepare with patience and loving care. I intend to actually follow the advice my friend and health coach Kim Talbot has shared with me, actually watch the nutrition videos on the Change the Change course I won a place on and dust off my school friend Dr Hayley Tait’s plant-based cook book and a few others I have on the shelf. Yes it’s time I learned to cook, an activity that I’m sad to say always seemed such a waste of time when I could be working.
And now it’s over to you, dear Reader. Do you need to step up your self-care? And if so, what are your three priorities going forwards? Comment below. I’d love to hear.
PS In the interests of self-care, I’m posting this blog before it’s ready, without a final edit, trusting that my 80 percent is good enough. Would you like to do the same today – believe your 80 percent is good enough?
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