Monday, 25 January 2016

Would you call yourself a workaholic?

No, neither would I. Not for years and years. Not despite friends and family frequently telling me that I worked too hard, for too many hours and to the detriment of my own health and happiness.

In fact especially not then. When they told me I worked too hard, I would simply think 'Too hard? I could work much harder actually' - applying 'anorexic thinking' to their claims ('Too skinny? No way, I could be much skinnier if I really tried').


But more and more of us do have an unhealthy relationship with work. And if you're the kind of person who skips lunch breaks pretty much as standard, is routinely the last one in the office apart from the boss and who feels anxious about work several times a week, chances are you're in the nominations list for a workaholic award.

'Big deal', you think, inhaling the heady smoke of burn out, 'I love my job'. Or even, 'I hate my job but times are tough and work isn't that easy to come by'. 'Get real', you may be shouting, 'this is the 21st century, we have to be 'on' 24/7 or we're not in the game'.

But, at the same time, I'm prepared to bet that there's a small voice, a tiny whisper at the back of your mind, a gorgeous, lovely little soulful thing that longs for work/life balance, that really would like to have more energy and to feel more joy.

To that voice I say a big 'Hell yes, there is another way'. And I say it as a recovering workaholic, one for whom that first missed lunch break is the equivalent of falling off the teetotal wagon and landing in a whole mess of alcoholic disfunctionalism and spiralling misery.


I used to work for an international corporate. I was promoted quickly early on and then at frequent intervals, much to my surprise. Some of my bad working habits are doubtless rooted in the sense of trying to prove that I really was capable of the next level up, that I was worth the pay rise. 

But as with any addiction I also got a real kick out of working myself into a state that I would call feeling 'stoned with tiredness'. It was then I got 'the click' (as Brick in Cat on a hot tin roof would've called it) in my brain. The moment when I was free, when I could allow myself (and this is the really scary bit) to do the things I really wanted to do without feeling guilty or anxious.

Terrifying isn't it? 

I left the corporate world, eventually. I had a sense that just changing the world around me wasn't going to be enough to stop me but I had to start somewhere. From that place I've found the working on the following questions enormously helpful, and you might too....

1) Assess your current situation
- Have family and friends made comments about you working too hard in the past few months?
- Do you feel stressed and tired regularly during your working week?
- Is it normal for you to skip lunch breaks and/or work late/at home/out of hours
- Would you like a different, healthier relationship with work?
If you answered yes to some or all of the questions then it's definitely worth rethinking how you work. If you're not sure this applies to you chat to family and friends to get their perspective on how you work.

2) Do some digging
It's worth spending some time figuring out why you've adopted these behaviours at work. And the answers aren't always obvious. A part of my weird mental package is that I'm an introvert who grew up in an extrovert household. Working hard and late (on homework originally...) was a really good 'legitimate' way to be allowed to spend quiet time by myself.

3) Who do you know who does work-life balance well?
Finding a role model is really important. Who do you know who has a really good sense of balance? What do they do that you feel envious of? Listen especially closely to the things that your internal voice says you couldn't possibly imitate: chances are even a pinch of whatever that is could be really really good for you. If you can't find real life role models there are a ton of books out there that can help - I found Arianna Huffington's Thrive: The third metric to redefining success and creating a happier life incredibly helpful.

4) Figure out what you're not doing (because of all the extra time you're spending at work/worrying about work) that you really want to do
This is a useful way of developing some positive motivation for change. I bet there's tons of stuff that you're interested in and you only have this one wild and precious life in which to get curious. Figure out what intrigues and interests you (again I recommend listening to the 'I couldn't possibly voice'. I joined a local drama group and acted in a couple of plays on one of my forays down a 'I couldn't possibly' path. It was awesome!)

5) Write a list of your values
This is an exercise I just did recently - thanks to reading Brene Brown's Rising Strong, another book I'd totally recommend. Writing down your values can help with #2 on this list and #4. I'd be surprised if working yourself into an early and lonely grave features on your list... It's worth thinking about whether you're really living and practising your values and where they fit in relation to the way you work. 

6) Write a list of your boundaries (and maybe pin them up somewhere where you can see them easily and check in with them!)
If your workaholism is anything like mine then I bet you don't have boundaries so much as 'flexibilities'. Now that's nice, but it's not healthy! I've always struggled with the idea of boundary setting but Brene Brown simplifies the idea as writing a list of 'What's okay' and 'What's not okay'. So a list of work boundaries might include: It's not okay to work extra hours as standard; it's not okay to skip lunch breaks; it's not okay to feel so stressed about work you want to cry: It is okay to say 'no' to additional work; it is okay to say 'let me get back to you' if you're asked to fit something (good for those of us who automatically say yes!); it is okay to ask for help etc.

7) Be SUPER KIND to yourself!!!
If you try to change your behaviours I can guarantee you one thing: along the way you WILL fail. But I have to say I've been failing differently and succeeding unexpectedly along the route of my recovery for the past five years. And I wouldn't trade places with the way I worked then to how I live now for anything in the world. 

The point is that embarking on this journey is the best thing that you can do if you truly want to live a more healthy, happy and fulfilled life...

SO, are you a workaholic? What's your story? If you were and you're not anymore what changed? What would be the one tip out of everything you've learned that you'd like to share with others? Write it below or mail me, I'd love to hear from you! xxx

#NewYearNewYou #workaholic #workaholicinrecovery #worklifebalance #whatsyourstory 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Yoga wobbles, or 7 things I learned on the mat yesterday

How I definitely DIDN'T look yesterday
Credit: Take Back Your Health Conference
My first yoga class of the year happened yesterday. It was different because it was a new class, in a building I've not been to previously and, whilst the teacher is a friend of mine, she’s never taught me yoga before.

I'm sure your Facebook and Instagram feeds are probably as clogged as mine with the beautiful and the graceful sharing words of yogic wisdom as they manage somehow to take a selfie whilst also doing a headstand or wrapping their ankles round their wrists as they bend over backwards.

Now, if you're the person posting these pictures, all I can say is, bloody well done! In all seriousness I am properly impressed with you're flexibility - hurrah for you! 

If however you're like me, more of a 'wobbler', on the 'you-want-me-to-put-my-leg-where?!?' path to spiritual enlightenment, then this post is for you. Because yesterday I discovered it is possible to learn any number of mighty lessons (useful both on and off the mat) without being the slightest bit graceful or beautiful....and here they are, #nofilter #obvs:

1) When I do something for the first time I apparently totally forget to breath. Thankfully the yoga teacher is able to remind me from time to time...

2) When I go at pace of the expert in the room (which I am not) I fall over

3) When I focus on wanting to ‘get it right’ I go too fast. And then I fall over

4) When I think too much about being balanced….guess what? I fall over

5) When I close my eyes, I stop being so self-conscious. Like a small child, because I can't see the other people anymore they effectively no longer exist. And then the magic happens and I start feeling my way through the pose.

6) Feeling my way through a pose or movement is such a nice experience! It’s slow. It makes sense (even though it's far from perfect). And I don’t fall over.

7) It turns out nothing bad actually happens when I fall over (in a yoga class at any rate). So that's one less thing to worry about...(see how yoga can help reduce stress in your life?)

In short I learned....I need to remember to breath as a priority at all times, to go at my own pace, not to think too much about the thing I'm doing, to close my eyes and feel my way through awkward situations and to never, ever worry about falling over. It's a (short) form of flying after all....

So, forget about your wobbles, or at least don't let them stop you from 'going yoga'.

#yoga #NewYearNewYou #yogaeverydamnday