What to do when Stress is Engulfing you

I’m no stranger to stress and you’ll know all about my burnout if you’re a regular reader of my blog. Lately I’ve been under a great deal of stress and I’m really feeling the effects of it. I’m feeling that same fatigue I felt when I was really sick. I’m not sleeping well and I’m waking up feeling so awful that I’m nauseous. In the past few days I’ve been so stressed and anxious that I’m finding it hard to enjoy anything.

When I lack sleep, it has an inflammatory effect on my autoimmune thyroid disease. That means I feel more fatigued. I am also irritable and can’t be as patient with my children. I then beat myself up about being a bad mother and a horrible person to be around and it spirals even more. I worry that I’m slipping backwards into poor health, leading to reduced income and inability to function in everyday life.

stressI’ve also been feeling unsettled in that I’ve written this book, Avoiding Burnout, to guide people towards living a life of joy. And here I am buckling under the strain of a few stressful things. Then I reasoned that I can’t completely avoid all stress in my life from recovery onwards. There will be periods of great suffering and loss in my future. There will be stressors that I simply can’t avoid. The trick is to identify what’s happening and to work out how to address it.

The first step in my process is to identify the sources of stress. At the moment, I’m very stressed about changing schools for my girls. I am a people-pleaser and I want people to like me. I’m so uncomfortable letting people down and rejecting the school. I’m also stressed about the short-term impact on my children, knowing that this decision is causing them sadness to leave friends and the discomfort of knowing that they are not going to be part of next year’s events.

The change in schools costs money in the form of acceptance fees, new school uniforms and other unnecessary costs. Our family has suffered a great loss of income in the time that I haven’t been able to work. These are unplanned costs and it does create stress for us as we could be spending the money on other important things.

Another source of stress is my book launch coming up. I have planned an event for the end of November and if you’ve read my book you’ll know that the month of November is typically so busy and stressful already. My book has been out since August so I really don’t want to delay the launch any longer. It will trigger more book sales and enable me to sell my book for a few months at the store where I’m launching. In preparation for the launch I am also busy with my website which is a lot of work as well.

I’m also trying to finish my first five speeches in my advanced series of Toastmasters. This occupies many evenings and takes time to prepare. I also expend energy and increase stress levels with the anxiety of presenting a speech to an audience.

As mentioned, November also brings a lot of commitments: concerts, teacher gifts, dancing exams, my tax return, children’s parties, school galas and all the year end parties and demonstrations for extra murals. We have even made a rule in our house that we are not to have any house guests in the month of November. It’s just too busy and we can’t cope with the additional stress.

It feels that I’ve taken on so much at the end of the year and I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all. The school stress has been the most significant and it’s difficult for me not to overthink all the events and unpleasantness that comes with leaving. Rumination can be very harmful and it’s best to notice it and put an end to it as soon as possible. Click here for an article on how to address it.

The second step in my process after identifying the sources of stress is to think of benefits of the things I’m doing:

  • Leaving school: long term benefit to the girls to be in a place where they can be themselves and be valued for their own unique gifts and talents.
  • Book launch: increased book sales and hence income, as well as exposure for boosting my brand.
  • Website: I’ll be able to sell books to local customers which is of great benefit to me when I’m doing speeches and directing potential readers to my site.
  • Speeches: I’m becoming a better story teller and will allow myself to practice my professional speaking skills starting early next year.
  • November: It’s great that we made that rule about house guests as in the future we wont struggle as much as we have in the past.

I’m also ever aware that my health is incrementally improving over the long term. If I think back to three years ago, how I felt and how little I could manage, I realise how far I’ve come. Because of what I’ve been through in the past few years, I’m much more in tune with my body and I realise much quicker when things are getting out of hand. I’m able to correct course faster to ensure that I don’t get quite as sick as I once did.

The next stage for me is to apply techniques that I learnt during my recovery period. I learnt that meditation is an amazing stress buster and I realised that as I’ve been becoming busier, I’ve been sacrificing the meditation. In the past week I’ve made time for meditation, simply sitting still and connecting with my body and mind.

Stress

I was feeling so terrible on Friday that I skipped yoga and that’s a really bad sign for me. Yoga is truly therapeutic and it is a great way to bring calm to a frazzled mind. At the moment I’m trying to figure out whether yoga is good or bad for me because it can be pretty tough and intense at a time when my body is really struggling under the strain of stress. I’m spending this weekend doing very little and sleeping as much as possible in the hope that I’m strong enough for yoga on Monday and I can return to my usual routine.

Another really important remedy is enough sleep. Inadequate sleep has such a dramatic effect on my day that I really have to fight for more sleep. I made it clear that there is no story time for kids this weekend so that the routine is quicker and I get to bed earlier than usual.

Making loved ones aware that we are struggling is an important concept as no-one can really know just how awful you feel until you speak up. Asking for help is essential so that those around you can provide you with the support you need. I asked my husband to cook on Friday night and I insisted on afternoon naps this weekend.

It’s clear that boosting our happiness levels is a way to combat stress. There is a plethora of research showing that social relationships are the key to boosting happiness. Yesterday morning I met with a school friend and had a wonderful catch up after many years. I really enjoyed hearing all about the past twenty years and how she has connected with her passion. Even though I was very tired, this activity of connecting with an old friend brought me benefits.

It’s easy when we get very stressed to seek crutches or negative behaviours to help us to feel better. People often turn to alcohol, eating or other unhealthy patterns of coping. I have had to find other ways of coping because I had to change my diet so much as part of my recovery. I no longer drink alcohol, have caffeine or eat gluten so drowning my sorrows in wine, coffee and pastries is not an option for me. I have to face my emotions head on, understand where they are coming from and find healthier ways of combating stress.

I’m going to continue following these steps to address my current stress levels. I’m going to keep an eye on the sources of stress, think about how each aspect is benefiting my life and find ways to reduce stress levels and to feel better. The most meaningful of those are adequate sleep, asking for help, meditation and building social relationships.

What methods do you use when stress is overwhelming in your life?

When we Thrive, we can show Empathy

My eight-year-old daughter used to be such a happy child. She used to thrive in any situation and show such optimism. She has a natural sense of generosity that is often surprising to those around her. She has always relished her sister’s birthday and has made such an effort to give her a special day and celebration.

This year is different, however. She is showing jealousy and is having emotional outbursts that are most unlike her. One could argue that kids change as they get older and they go through various phases of development. For me, it seems out of character.

Thrive

She is extremely unhappy at school at the moment. She is in a school that has a high focus on academic achievement. There is a great deal of pressure to cover a lot of schoolwork, with piles of homework each day and her teacher complains that she is too slow. She is a creative child and a highly intelligent person. But she is very young for her year in that if she were born twelve days later she would be in a different grade. She is also an older sibling so has to be the trailblazer and has no one to copy in terms of school life and training her parents. (Yes, we do get better as time goes on.)

My assessment of the situation is that she does not belong at the school. She is not in an environment where she can thrive and be herself. She is not being nurtured and encouraged by teachers and peers who actually believe in her. Of course she is nurtured and encouraged at home but I cannot be in the classroom with her making sure she gets treated with patience and respect. She has become so unhappy and stressed that her health is affected.

Thrive

I have realized that I have to get her out of the environment. It’s difficult because the school does make every effort for families to stay and to give the school a chance. They also insist on a term’s notice and threaten to charge for a full term if you don’t communicate your intentions of leaving in time. The school fees are very expensive and I would certainly not like to waste any money, especially considering the fact that I haven’t been earning income for a few years.

I find myself torn between my child’s happiness and the practicality of not throwing thousands away. It is a difficult place to be. I know that my child’s happiness matters more than money. I know that this will not be a concern in a few year’s time and we will look back grateful for having made this change for her. But it is difficult nonetheless.

I have come to realise that her lack of generosity and kindness at the moment is linked to her happiness level. I know people who seem to have such difficult lives. They complain about the smallest things and everything is so hard for them. I think it’s because they are unhappy within themselves. I have noticed that it’s far easier to be kind and to show empathy towards others when you are happy within yourself. Once you find more joy, the small things don’t seem to matter that much.

I experienced a burnout about three years ago and have been recovering since. I decided to research happiness and to apply science-based strategies to make my life happier. It worked. I now do work that I love, my relationships are better (not perfect, but better) and I actively work on enhancing my quality of life. Of course, I share these lessons with my family and encourage my children to be mindful, grateful and to savour the joy of small things.

I also know from my experience that it’s impossible to build our happiness if our environment is negative and unhappy. If we feel rejected and disliked by those around us, we can’t thrive. My child is not thriving because because of her environment and a lack of fit between her and the school culture.

My only logical action is to move schools so that my child can be in an environment that is more aligned to her character. And the sooner, the better. I’m hoping she will thank me for it later, that we are avoiding depression, teenage suicide attempts, and eating disorders by listening and acting on her needs now. I don’t want to be filled with regret later because I failed her now. As difficult as it is to spend this money and take on the stress of such a change, it’s worth it in the long run.

What’s so special about me, anyway?

Yesterday I went to an event, a conference organised by a friend. It was a great chance for me to network and to meet some executives and business owners. These people could be my clients in that I’d love to speak at their organisations in order to reach more people about my message. I want to share with people my story of how I burnt out and how not to do that.

special

At the moment, I feel like it’s impossible. Thinking about the day and the people I approached to introduce myself, I thought about how these people don’t want to hear my miserable story about how I got sick. They think it will never happen to them. And I don’t blame them because thought the same thing. I thought my life would go on as it was and I’d just find a better way to cope. Or things would get easier as my kids grew up. But it didn’t. Things got harder and my health collapsed to the point where I could not function. I don’t think anyone really wants to hear about that. And yet it’s an essential part of my message.

I have been under a lot of stress lately. Especially last week and it’s showing up in my health. I visited my functional practitioner this week and the stress is evident in my body. In fact it’s evident in how I feel: exhausted. Too tired to really push myself out there into the world and to appear confident and capable of bringing a message like mine to the world. It takes strength to open people’s eyes to something they don’t want to see.

Yesterday as I sat at the conference watching the speakers, I thought “I can’t do this”. I’m just not strong enough. I can’t stand in front of these people and tell them it’s possible to live a life where we are thriving and enjoying our passions. It doesn’t feel true for me a the moment. Maybe that’s something that will resonate with people more. That I don’t have all the answers. But in seeing all these clever people who have achieved so much I felt small. I felt that I don’t have an interesting and successful story to share. What makes me special enough to get up on stage and talk? This is a question that is often asked by agents and marketing professionals and frankly I don’t have an answer.

Last month I sold about twenty books. I gained income for the first time in two and a half years. It’s a miracle and it felt amazing to collect money from friends and acquaintances who bought my book. I’ve received some great feedback in that many people find the story of how I burnt out compelling. Some are using the words “couldn’t put it down” which is fantastic. I’m super thrilled with the feedback and I am humbled and grateful for the support.

It’s such a pity that I feel so exhausted right now. How do I gather enough energy to recover from the stress of the past few weeks and still push my career forward? I feel like giving up and just resuming next year. I am so behind on all the demands of the school. There are about eight things I haven’t done and I’m so worried about forgetting something. I’m trying to organise a party for my six year old in ten day’s time and I’ve done nothing but the invitations. She’s so excited that she’s literally bouncing up and down and counting the sleeps. And I’m just not sure where I’m going to get the energy to offer her something worthy of her enthusiasm.

It’s just that I had such expectations. After publishing my book, I had visions of myself doing talks a few times a week and spreading my message to people so eager to buy my book. And here I sit at home, trying my best to muster enough energy to take my kids to a party later. My tank is empty and I have nothing left for my career right now.

special

I have realised that I need to slow down right now and recover from the stress of the past few weeks. I know that I’ll never get as depleted as I did before because I’m much more aware and I see it coming. I need to spend extra time on self-care and making sure my tank is refilled. That means saying no to some things and ensuring I put my well being first. I find that hard and frustrating since I’m so keen to be actively in my new job but it’s a reality that there are times when stress knocks us backwards.

It’s ironic that the conference I attended was one for diversity, about celebrating our uniqueness. I didn’t feel very special and unique at all but hopefully that’s just a factor of being a bit run down. Hopefully next week I’ll be stronger and able to conquer the world again. Hopefully I will have gained a bit more self-belief and pick myself up to do this work I’m called to do. But for now, I’m focusing on self-care and taking one day at a time.

Reconciling the Spiritual and the Business

I keep having this thought that there is friction between following a spiritual path and living in the real world. For me, it presents itself where I am at the moment in my career and my life. I’ve just published my first book as an independent author and I’m busy with sales and marketing. I’m having trouble reconciling my destiny with the everyday aspects of a business.

One of the most important things I did on my recovery from burnout was to change careers. It was clear that my previous job and environment weren’t doing me any good so I needed a new job. It took me some time but I eventually figured out that writing was it. I wrote my book about what brought me to burnout and what I did about it. A key learning was to connect with what I’m good at and what I enjoy doing. Key signposts that I’m on the right path are when I’m feeling light and joyful. I’m following my divine calling to do what I believe I’m here to do.

reconciling

Things were simple when I was connecting with my divine purpose in the solitude of my sanctuary. But now, I’m out into the world, working on marketing, my website, doing talks and selling my book. I’m encountering a lot of feedback about my book. People are telling me what they like, what they think I should have done differently and what I should do next. I love that I get to engage with the world and that my story is having an impact on people. I am always open to learning so that I can keep improving in my craft and work those improvements into my next book.

I keep wanting to respond to people who have advice on what I should have done, that I did what I felt was needed and what felt right. That doesn’t sound like it comes from a very rational place. It doesn’t. To get better I had to surrender to something greater than myself, let go of my inner critic and all the advice around me and do what resonates with me most. It’s quite hard to defend those decisions but I didn’t feel that I had much choice in the matter.

I’ve done the work for the foundation of my career in getting the book out but it doesn’t stop there. I’m arranging for my book launch, working on my website and doing some networking. I need to spread this message as far as I can because that’s what I’m here for. It’s not only the need to generate income from this investment I’ve made but it’s also about fulfilling my destiny. I don’t believe it’s enough that I create the book and spend the rest of my time meditating to allow the universe to deliver. I actually have to hustle to get the work done and not everything feels light and joyful all the time. This is quite confusing for me and leads to a lot of doubt.

For the first time, I have other people poking their noses into the work. And yes, I’ve invited them in to help me with various aspects of this new venture. But it’s tricky for me to discern which pockets of advice are useful and are aligned with my path. They won’t all be beneficial and I’m needing to return to my compass to figure out if this is really good for me and my task. I’m also being told to work on the next book as soon as possible. But I have other plans in that I’m working on my deck of cards and that brings me joy right now.

reconciling

The path to success and happiness is not simple and clear. It’s full of obstacles and some blessings disguised as obstacles. It’s hard work to follow your passion, to stay true to your purpose and to keep moving towards the future you envision. But I’m not giving up on this dream of mine. I’m stronger than I have been in years and I’m closer to the future I desire than I have ever been. I’m just going to focus on the next right step in front of me and to let rest unfold as it will.

What steps are you taking towards a better life?

Inspiration, awe, beauty and dreams

Travel offers so many benefits. The chance to see different scenery, cultures and lifestyles. It offers perspective and the opportunity to step back from our own lives for a period. I travelled to four new places recently and they all offered me something different.

The Lake District in a England is so beautiful. Flower pots hang from every store front and pub. The flowers seem to be on steroids – thriving from plenty of water and the right amount of sunshine in summer. It reminded me of when we are at our best. In flow. Thriving.

inspiration

We visited Dove Cottage where William Wordsworth lived for many years, writing much of his famous poetry. We also visited two attractions for Beatrix Potter, the author of many children’s books including The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It occurred to me how easy it would be to be inspired in such a beautiful place, and how important it is to spend time in an environment that makes you feel inspired.

Iceland was fascinating. So barren in many areas, with volcanic rock and black soil. It has natural wonders that are awe-inspiring. The people make use of nature’s resources to generate power in a way that leaves minimal or no environmental impact. We visited a waterfall with a story of a hero willing to sacrifice her life to save what is now a national treasure. We also visited the geysers that burst water into the air at intervals of around six minutes. People gasped at the joy of seeing the water shoot into the air. It left me with a sense of wonder for our beautiful planet.

We travelled to Scotland next and stayed in a community in Findhorn where the environment is respected and where you can feel the connection to the divine. The way the residents live in harmony with nature, creating masterful structures and systems is truly inspiring. I was able to attend group meditations and to learn about community initiatives. I felt envious of the children who grow up there, in that they live in an environment of acceptance, love and harmony. I felt such a sense of peace and harmony, knowing that there is a force greater than ourselves, offering us guidance if we’re open to it.

On the way home we stayed in Dubai for a few nights. The stark contrast of the desert with the lush greenery of Scotland was dramatic. It also felt barren, as Iceland felt, but on the other extreme. The heat is oppressive and there is little water available. And yet the people have built an impressive city including the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. I was reminded that humans can overcome great obstacles to create what once felt impossible.

The first 300 copies of my book arrived at my house the day I flew out for this trip. I could not decide whether it was good or bad timing. I’ve waited so long for this book to be ready that I wanted to get it out into the world. But perhaps I needed a holiday before I launch into my new phase of marketing my book. Perhaps I needed to step back and to absorb the inspiration from nature and from human feats before I start my new chapter. I feel so incredibly blessed and lucky that I have found my passion, I’ve started my career as a published author and that I have so much to look forward to.

inspiration

The Lake District flourishes and provides beauty and inspiration to anyone who is open to it. Iceland is covered in snow and ice for most of the year, yet the locals have used natural resources to create industry. The founder of the Findhorn Foundation followed the guidance she received and built something incredible from a simple piece of land. The bustling city of Dubai was created out of a desert.

Are you listening to the whispers of inspiration you receive? What will you create out of nothing?

Facing the Fear of Fruition

A while ago I wrote about how I was so frustrated with the waiting for my book to be finished. I know that patience is a virtue but I wasn’t blessed with a lot of patience. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease caused by stress two and a half years ago. It has taken me that long to recover. I have been without income and the confidence that comes with it for a long time. Finally, I want my hard work to come to fruition. I want my suffering to be worth something.

On the other hand, I do like things to be right and it’s important to me to honour my own qualities. I have perfectionistic tendencies that I regularly grapple with. I notice my children getting upset with themselves for making mistakes and I know exactly where that comes from.

fruition

I found two mistakes in the printer’s proof, the rough draft of my book. I wrestled with what to do about it. If I did the printer’s proof again, I needed to pay for it and wait another few weeks. I have an impending trip overseas that makes me feel that everything needs to be resolved beforehand. In the end, I decided to proceed with the two errors and just to be content with the book anyway.

Maybe I was trying to send myself a message that mistakes are okay. Or to let my readers know that I am indeed human and fallible but still worth something anyway. My oldest daughter was horrified that I sent the book out into the world with two known errors. I told her that I’m only human and that I make mistakes. It doesn’t make the book bad.

To be honest with myself, I went ahead with the print because I just couldn’t wait for my new life any longer. Now I’m regretting the decision, feeling uncomfortable about the end product’s feel of quality. I’m also wondering how authentic I’ve been in fighting my perfectionism. I’m all about authenticity and I went ahead and published something with mistakes in it. Is that really me?

My publisher is going ahead with creating the eBook and the release is imminent. And all of a sudden, I feel like finding excuses to halt the book going out into the world. Why would that be after all this frustration? I’ve also noticed my hip flexor muscles (iliopsoas) being really tight and shaky during yoga. In looking up their connection with emotions, it relates to a fear of the future. Why would I fear this future that I’ve been so eager to welcome?

Along with my book being released into the world, my personal stories come along for the ride. My childhood experiences, my relationships with my parents, siblings and husband are now being examined by strangers. It’s a scary feeling although I know it’s a necessary part of telling my story. I know that being honest and vulnerable is part of my brand. I feel naked and exposed now that my personal life is about to become public. My worst parenting moments, my failures and mistakes will be read by many, some strangers, some not. I’m not sure which is worse.

fruition

But, I do need to make peace with this part of the process. I need to trust that this is the first step in my life as a writer. My genre is non-fiction and I like to share my stories in the hope that they help other people. I can’t be someone I’m not. I can’t pretend to like writing fiction because it’s not true.

Before I had a chance to take a breath, I feel like my destiny is unfolding like a tsunami. There’s no stopping it now. Warts and all, errors or no errors, it’s happening. I have mixed feelings of sheer excitement one moment, and paralyzing fear the next. Perhaps it’s a good thing I’m going on holiday for three weeks. Whatever happens in my absence must simply happen and I’ll be relaxing with my family and waiting to see how the world receives my work.

Addressing the Underlying Cause

This week I had a meeting with my eight-year-old’s teacher. My child is doing well, understanding all the work which is reflected in the results of her tests. However, her teacher said that she’s lethargic and her pace is slow. She asked for a neurological assessment. What’s she’s really saying is that she wants me to drug my child.

underlying

To be honest, I’m appalled. I’m horrified that she didn’t ask if there’s something emotional happening that might be distracting her. I’m amazed that she didn’t ask about her overall health, how much sleep she’s getting or her diet. Her first call for action is to seek mind altering drugs. Is there anyone else who feels that’s unacceptable?

Two years ago, another teacher said the same thing. I asked for my child to see the school counselor because I suspected something emotional. Our family was in distress from my burnout and the resultant illness. It turns out that my daughter thought she had caused my illness by her noisy playing. She was carrying an enormous amount of guilt that was leading her to be distracted. She spent a few hours with the counselor and it was resolved. Her concentration was back and she could continue learning.

I knew my child well enough to know that something was not right. I know my child well enough to know that there’s nothing wrong with her or her brain. I remember how she was doing 100 piece puzzles at four years old. We marveled at how she sat through a ninety minute movie at age two. This is not a child with a brain injury or any dysfunction that would require mind altering chemicals. Last year’s teacher could not stop complementing us on our parenting and this wonderful child of ours.

I prefer to find the underlying cause of a problem so that I can address that instead of putting a band-aid on something I don’t understand. It feels to me that schools have become drug pushers. Some parents take the teacher’s opinion as gospel and follow instruction as if from an authority figure. I am my child’s primary advocate and I know what she needs better than anyone else. My daughter needs me on her side to make sure her best interests are met. She’s counting on me to make decisions that affect her career, health and well-being for decades into the future. The best way I can do that is by getting to the underlying cause of what’s troubling her.

I know this is a heated debate and there are many parents who have seen great improvement in their child’s behavior since medicating them. I understand that everyone must make the right decisions for their families. I just hope that every parent takes the time and effort to understand the underlying cause before making such a radical decision. We live in busy times where we want instant gratification but instant solutions are rarely the right ones.

It’s so clear to me from my experience of illness that conventional medicine only knows how to medicate. Doctors are merely trained to match the illness with the drugs. In the same way, if you visit a surgeon, they recommend surgery. If you visit a psychiatrist, they recommend drugs and if you visit a psychologist, they recommend therapy.

I see it as a great blessing that I found a specialist who advocates lifestyle change as the main treatment for my auto immune disease. I also feel blessed that I have experienced this major health collapse and through it found the gift of functional medicine. It focuses on finding the underlying cause of illness and addressing that. In so doing, the body can return to its natural, healthy state. I’m so lucky that I found it before the teachers convinced me to drug my child.

My daughter has a range of minor issues in her body that are easy to fix with natural medicines. It will take approximately four to six weeks until her body is restored to full health. That will allow her to function properly and to concentrate. Even in the past 24 hours, her energy levels are up and she is so much more buoyant. If I had not found functional medicine, I might have been convinced to put my child on medication that would affect her brain function, her personality and that she might never be able to stop without serious consequences.

I’ve also taken her for an independent assessment with a psychometrist who can advise whether she requires occupational therapy or any other remedies in the emotional sphere in order to support her. I really feel that the schools are far too quick to push drugs on parents as a suitable solution before investigating further.

I know parents are only able to do the best for their child as per their knowledge at the time. Five years ago I might also have taken the teacher’s advice as the right thing to do. It’s my experiences that have enabled me to fight for my child better. It was a combination of my own health collapsing, conventional medicine failing me and finding functional medicine that helped me be a better parent. I am her biggest champion and I’m doing the best I can, as we all are, to help her to thrive.

underlying

Until she is a parent, my daughter won’t know how difficult it is to make these decisions or how much we worry about her. I hope in ten or twenty years time that she understands that everything I’ve done for her is to support her health and to give her the chance to be the best person possible.

It’s okay that other parents think I’m flaky or weird for my approach that is non-conventional. My child will thank me in future when her peers aren’t thriving. My child will have her personality, her health and her passions in tact. And that is worth all the resistance from school, teachers and parents. My daughters have put their lives and well-being in my hands and I won’t let them down.

The Frustration of Waiting and Waiting

I’m waiting for my book to arrive from the printer so that I can check for any mistakes or issues before we print. It is an excruciating wait. I so enjoyed the writing part, but there is an enormous amount of frustration in the remaining processes of writing a book. There is a lot of waiting.

Waiting

Waiting for the editor, back and forth many times, waiting for layout, waiting for proof reading, waiting for the printer. As a major source of income I am so anxious to get this book out into the world. With all this waiting, it feels as if my life is on hold.

I know it’s not optimal to spend time thinking about the future instead of enjoying the present. I know this intellectually but I really want this book to be finished. I am a big fan of efficiency so for me, unnecessary waiting is really painful. I want to hold my book in my hands, and feel the reality of my new life in the 212 pages. I want to show people and to be able to sell it. I want to feel legitimate about calling myself a writer. I want to move forward.

This is an important milestone for me. It’s a symbol of the fact that I am no longer who I was before I got sick. This is the ‘after’. This is Kathy post-burnout. It is something real that makes the suffering worth it. And I can’t wait anymore. I just want it to happen so that I can move into my new life and career with enthusiasm and joy.

I don’t want to be the burnt-out business owner anymore. I don’t want to be the sick person who is too tired to do anything. I want to be the energetic writer who rose from the ashes of burnout. The phoenix who overcame. I want to live this new life I’ve created for myself instead of waiting for it to happen.

For me, the completed book, available for people to purchase is the proof that you can live the life you want. You can change your life for the better, even late in life. You can find and connect with a passion that has lain dormant in you your entire life. You can shake off all the expectations and obligations that other people place on your shoulders. You can break free of people and situations that break you down and hold you back. You can soar like the eagle you are. It is possible for all of us and I want to demonstrate that to the world.

Waiting

But instead I wait. I wait again and again for the symbol of this new life to be finished and ready. Perhaps I’m being ridiculous and should just be content focusing on what I’m doing now. I’m working on marketing and branding for me and my book. I’m working on the cards that are an accompaniment for the book and also a product in their own right. I’m knocking off everything possible on my personal to do list in the meantime. But it’s boring.

I’m going on holiday in a few weeks time and it looks like my book will not be ready by the time I go. So perhaps the 300 copies will arrive at my house while I’m away and I’ll have to wait a few more weeks for that moment of holding my completed book in my hands for the first time. What lessons am I learning from all this waiting? I’m really irritated and frustrated at a time when I thought I’d be thrilled that the work is done and the book is on its way.

Of course I’m also terrified that the rough copy arrives with mistakes and it takes me back a few stages to correct them. That will add a few weeks to the process and I’ll be devastated. I’m really hoping with everything I have that the book is perfect and that I can just give the go-ahead to print.

Perhaps this frustration is a sign that I’m ready for my new life and career. Maybe this shows just how far I’ve come in terms of energy. I’m no longer content with afternoon naps and hanging around waiting to get better. To be honest, I was never content with that, but this has reached a new level of frustration.

I’ve read that the level of happiness we experience for something we have anticipated for a long time tends to be high. Hopefully, the happiness I feel holding my book for the first time will make all this waiting worthwhile.

Relish the Quiet Times

I’ve entered a very strange and quiet period in my life. I’d say my recovery from burnout is more or less complete. I have figured out my calling and selected a path that is aligned with my strengths and talents. I’ve become a writer and I’ve written a book. My rough draft, which is referred to as a printers proof, is with the printer and on its way. I have one last chance to check for errors and then we are ready for print.

It seems like time is going so slowly, however, in this time while I wait for printing. I’d prefer to arrange speaking engagements when I have the book on hand to sell as to maximise the opportunity to sell the book. So this period of waiting is very strange. After years of recovery, I’m finally well enough to be working but I’m not very busy.

Quiet

In the few years it took for me to recover, I often felt that I really wanted to clean out the cupboards in my house but I lacked the energy. Now, I’m tackling a room or a cupboard every few days. It is a rewarding experience. I bought a few clear plastic containers to aid in this process and I must say I feel a great sense of accomplishment when the cupboards are clean, free of clutter and organised. I’m telling myself that this is the time to do it because life might become very busy once my book is published.

Occasionally I have this feeling of panic and guilt. Why is my inbox so empty? Why is no-one calling me? Why are the opportunities drying up? I have this voice in my head telling me that I should be working. In talking myself out of the panic, I realise that I have not been actively chasing many opportunities lately because I’ve been focussing on the final stages my book. Also, I have to keep reminding myself that what I’m doing is work. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m enjoying what I do in the day so much that it cannot be work.

I wrote recently about my idea for a deck of cards that accompany the book and I am having great fun working on them. It’s a chance to be creative every day and it’s actually work, which is awesome. My brain starts to get lost in the worries about the next steps. Who will help me with the box and the graphics? How much will it cost to print? How will I get it to look professional and not home made?

It’s really hard to stay in the moment and to appreciate what is happening right now. For years before my burnout I was so unhappy. For years of recovery, I was so frustrated about not being able to do the things I longed to do. And now, here I am, with enough energy to do many things in a day, including a hard yoga class. I’m clear on my life purpose, I love my family and home and I’m doing the work I love. I’m also weeks away from achieving a lifelong dream.

I have to keep reminding myself to slow down and to appreciate the moment. I need to remember to celebrate small things like the fact that I can clean out a cupboard without feeling exhausted. In the wait for printing, I’m spending more time meditating and trying to truly appreciate this time of quiet. I have no doubt that at some point in the future, I’ll look back and wish for days as quiet as I have now.

Sometimes, even if we are enjoying ourselves, we let our worries interfere with the moment. I’m letting my worries about waiting for the book, being idle and the logistics of the cards get in the way of the great progress I have made. I keep reminding myself that this is good and that all I need to do is to focus on the next step. Once the book is printed, I can get going on promoting it. Once the cards are finished, I will be able to find the help I need to take it forward.

quiet

Mindfulness is about focussing on the current moment and not worrying about the past or future. It’s something I have to work on at this time of quiet as I prepare to embark on this great new career I’ve created. All the pieces are falling into place and I have faith that the path ahead will be filled with excitement, fun and a challenge or two.

Are you celebrating the progress you’ve made or focussing on your current frustrations? Are you so worried about the future that you’re not enjoying the present? Are you able to enjoy the quiet moments without panic and guilt?

The Fight for Happiness is Real

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m passionate about living a life you love, about following your passion and being authentic. After my burnout, I took a long time to figure out what my passion was, even though the clues were there all along.

With some recovery and reflection I became a writer. I didn’t wait for my book to be published for me to call myself a writer. My new profession became clear and I didn’t need to wait for external validation to change my job title. In fact, it’s much more than a job title, it’s a calling. I felt compelled to write the book and I’m clear that there are people who can benefit from my message.

fight

I wrote about the unadulterated joy that I’ve started to experience as I get closer to fulfilling a lifelong dream of publishing a book. This joy has been marred by last-minute obstacles as I reach the end of this journey of getting my message into the world. It is a reality that there is a lot of struggle and suffering along the way to success. Living your passion can be rewarding but it’s not all plain sailing. There are challenges and circumstances that get in the way of your dreams and it is imperative that you fight to keep your dreams alive.

It’s possible that people will try to cling to your dreams as their own, or even worse, to sabotage them. When you start to be successful, people may attribute it to luck or their part in the process. In these final challenges I was reminded of Paulo Coelho’s words in The Alchemist:

“The closer he got to the realization of his dream, the more difficult things became.”

There is no-one who truly knows the difficulties I have faced on my way to launching this book. At times it has felt impossible to get my dreams off the ground. But I held the belief and I kept moving towards them. Now I am within weeks of my dreams coming true and I couldn’t be happier.

fight

I’m not going to let anything or anyone stand in my way. This book is happening and it’s going to feel fantastic for me to launch my work into the world. I truly believe that it will help people not to get as sick as I did, to improve their lives and to identify what’s dragging them down. I hope to help people avoid the depth of illness that I reached and I am certain that the book will have this impact on at least a few people in the world. To help people is a key value of mine and it’s so exciting for me to know that I can have an impact in this way.

I don’t know exactly what opportunities lie ahead but this book is a big part of my future. It is the foundation of my new career and of my dreams becoming reality. One thing I have learnt along the way is that it’s very important to focus on the next step. Don’t obsess about how a new career will unfold – just do the next step. And for me the next step is the final proof before printing. How thrilling to know that my work will be out in the world soon and I’m so ready to fight for it if I have to. My dreams are calling me forward and I’m doing my part to make them real.

Are you letting obstacles in the way of living the life you want? Are you fighting for your dreams? Are you focusing on the next step?