Posts Tagged ‘diet’

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Veganism – a step towards a more compassionate world

December 11, 2012

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The human race in the 21st century seems to pride itself on its sophistication and civilisation. My belief is that we’re far from civilised and are, as Bill Hicks pointed out, only half-evolved:

 Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right? There’s another 90 percent of our brains that we have to illuminate.

In the same way that we can now sneer at our ancestors for believing the sun was a god and that the earth was flat, and express horror at the fact that kids were hanged for stealing apples and women were burned as witches for being different, so our descendants will deride us for our primitive behaviours. Fighting over territory, satisfying lusts for sex, blood and power – behaviours which are occurring, albeit in small and often petty ways  on a daily basis in each of our own little worlds, not just on a global level. We may be able to walk on two legs, communicate using a complex language system and create some amazing stuff, but underneath all that we’re still just driven by base animal instincts and ruled by those lower chakras.

 So how is this relevant to veganism? Here are some quotes from people far more eminent than myself who articulate this far better than I ever could:

 * “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Pythagoras, mathematician

 * “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.” Leonardo da Vinci, artist and scientist

 * “To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime.” Romain Rolland, author, Nobel Prize 1915

 * “If a group of beings from another planet were to land on Earth — beings who considered themselves as superior to you as you feel yourself to be to other animals — would you concede them the rights over you that you assume over other animals?” George Bernard Shaw, playwright, Nobel Prize 1925

 * “What is it that should trace the insuperable line? …The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Jeremy Bentham, philosopher

 * “In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.” Isaac Bashevis Singer, author, Nobel Prize 1978

 * “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” “To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.” Mahatma Gandhi, statesman and philosopher

 And finally, my original point summed up beautifully:

 * “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” Thomas Edison, inventor

 The reason I feel there is a connection between the way we treat animals and our evolution is this. For many years I was a very strict vegetarian, then briefly I lapsed – not a lot, but enough. And with hindsight I can see that the reason I had this lapse and lost sight of the truth for a short while was because I was temporarily ‘asleep’  due to being in a very dark place in my life, and therefore living through my ego, my life ruled by fear rather than love. As I reawakened, opened up my higher chakras, and rediscovered my authentic self, I found myself naturally drawn to total vegetarianism again and the final turning point came when I stumbled upon a video online similar to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeJfY5CXTM0

The actual video I watched, which is no longer available, was entitled ‘If you eat meat, you can watch this’. Now, I am one of those highly sensitive types who can’t bear to witness violence of any kind, so I tend to avoid this kind of thing as I know it will literally haunt me for the rest of my life. But I thought the challenge was fair enough, so I forced myself to watch it (though I had to have the sound turned down, and keep scrolling up and down). What I saw was so horrific that it was enough to convince me that I would never touch any meat product again. It seems abhorrent to me that an animal should suffer such a terrifying and violent death – and in many cases, an entire lifetime of suffering –  just so that a human can eat a meal which he or she probably doesn’t even appreciate that much anyway. When you grab a burger in your lunch break, your only concern is to satisfy your temporary hunger, and then it’s forgotten about. Yet in order for you to eat that meal, a sentient being gave his or her life. I could never again eat something knowing that in its original form, this food was a creature who lived a miserable existence treated as a commodity and spent his/her last few moments on Earth shocked, frightened and in pain. (And on a purely energetic level, is this really the kind of energy you want to be ingesting?)

I’ve since extended this to all animal products, having researched more on dairy and egg production and been horrified at what I found. I also no longer use cosmetics, toiletries or cleaning products which use substances such as glycerin taken from animals, or any product which is tested on animals. This also extends to my clothing, shoes, bags and any other object I purchase. Becoming vegan has been a really exciting life choice for me (and it IS a lifestyle choice, not just a diet) and is the only logical step for anyone wanting to lead a compassionate and ethical lifestyle. Plus, the food is yummy – since becoming vegan I’ve eaten a wider range of delicious and healthy foods than I ever have in my life – and I’ve really surprised myself with my cooking skills!

 As you cut through the swathes of negative conditioning and beliefs which have masked your authentic self, achieving inner simplicity and enjoying the fulfilment, harmony and serenity which come from opening up your higher chakras and finding meaning in your life, you will probably also find yourself gravitating towards a cleaner, purer and more ethical diet in other ways. As well as becoming vegan, you will probably find yourself naturally rejecting such things as nicotine, excess alcohol, recreational drugs, too much sugar, salt and caffeine and processed foods. Most addictions to these substances are due to a lack of meaning in your life, so it makes sense that an improvement in your emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing will result in these habits naturally falling away. Where the mind and spirit go, so shall the body follow.

If you are interested in committing to a compassionate lifestyle and becoming vegan then there are now many great resources on the internet  – type ‘vegan starter pack’  into your search engine and you will find loads of interesting material to get you started.

I can also highly recommend Liz Cook’s book ‘So what do you eat?’  for some fabulous vegan recipes. They’re really simple and yummy and the book is beautifully illustrated, and it’s a great introduction to vegan cooking. It really helped me and my family to make the transition.Check it out here.

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On Being An Empath (part two)

May 30, 2012

Part Two – The Delights

Empathy: the state of identification of personalities in which one person feels into the other as temporarily to lose his or her own identity. It is in this profound and somewhat mysterious process of empathy that understanding, influence, and the other significant relations between persons take place.  – Rollo May

In part one of “On Being An Empath” we examined the difficulties of being an empath. In this second part, we’ll now explore how to take care of yourself once you’ve recognised you’re an empath, and the delights which being an empath can bring.

TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF

Now you’ve recognised that you’re an empath, the most important change you can make is to take care of yourself by minimising the number of negative influences in your life. As discussed in part one, as an empath you are susceptible to the detrimental effects of negative energy, whether it’s surrounding energy or your own.

This susceptibility affects your life in a number of ways. Firstly, you will be unable to tolerate an unhealthy relationship at any level. Some people are able to exist in such a relationship for many years, perhaps by operating as though it were simply a business arrangement, but as an empath you are unable to do this. Indeed, if you do attempt to follow this course of action, you will end up becoming physically, emotionally or mentally sick – I have know more than one empath who has become suicidal when stuck in a loveless marriage. I have also known other empaths who have ended up becoming completely numb – unable to cope with the negative energy, they simply cut themselves off from ALL energy and feel nothing at all. What a horrible (non) existence. Consequently, the aware empath would rather remain single than be in a negative relationship.

You will also be unable to tolerate work which is meaningless – what Barry Jaeger in Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person calls ‘Drudgery’. Though many people are able to tolerate a dull job purely for the money, you are not one of them and if you make such a sacrifice, you will ultimately pay for it with your emotional, spiritual and physical health. The aware empath values their time, their well-being and meaningful work far more than they value money and consumer goods. Sadly, our society revolves around the masculine principles of economics whilst the more feminine attribute of empathy is often derided and neglected. And whoever dreamt up the work ethic certainly did not have people like us in mind – and was definitely not an empath.

The empath’s preference for meaningful work means that you will find many of us working in creative fields – the writer, the musician and the artist will often have this trait to some degree. Creativity is food for the soul for the empath and I personally find it vital to my well-being to use creativity in my work. I’ve done many jobs over the years but this is the only work I’ve truly enjoyed – even the more stressful and tedious aspects are easier to cope with when your work means something more to you than just a way of paying the bills.

As an empath, you will also benefit from periods of solitude to recuperate after any energy bombardment. In part one I discussed the difficulties for the empath of being in an urban environment. As I’ve got older (and empaths often become more sensitive to energies the older they become) I find that if I spend the day in a nearby town, I can only last a few hours before I have to get the hell out of there.

I also used to have what I call ‘brain in the jar’ moments. Before I recognised my trait, I would spend too much time amongst other people and become so overwhelmed, that it literally felt as if my head would explode. I would also find myself becoming overwhelmed by stressful situations or issues in my life. Whenever I felt like this, I would comment that I wished I could ‘take my brain out of my head and put it in a jar’, as a way of giving myself a break. At some subconscious level, obviously I knew what I needed – complete and utter sensory rest.

Fortunately I eventually recognised this need so I now make sure that I regularly recharge my own energy by spending time alone, meeting my need for time to contemplate, read, write and generally take care of myself – and my ‘brain in the jar’ moments no longer occur. I also realised that, for the same reasons, empaths need more sleep than most people. If you have commitments such as work and family, this can be easier said than done, but at least try and take half an hour to nap or lie in a dark, quiet room during the course of the day to revitalise yourself.  Some empaths are so unable to cope with energy onslaughts that they become recluses or hermits, but for most of us there is no need to go to this extreme, although time spent in retreat for a few days can be a positive thing now and again. This can be particularly useful for urban empaths, as time out in a tranquil rural environment can really give you a boost as well as indulge your passion for nature, which occurs naturally for many empaths.

Finding a pastime which absorbs you is also a good way of giving yourself a break. My personal favourite used to be jigsaws – you’ll find that  ‘geeky’ pastimes like model-making or stamp collecting are particularly good for this, as are creative pursuits such as gardening, painting, sculpting, or cookery. So long as it takes you out of your conscious mind for a while to give you time to balance your energy, any pastime you choose will do.

Basically then, the rule is to be your own best friend – take care of yourself, eat and sleep well and give yourself little treats now and again. Time spent relaxing with a good book in a local friendly coffee shop is my idea of bliss and is a really cheap and simple way to give yourself a lift and recharge your batteries. And remember to talk kindly to yourself – empaths tend to analyse everything and can end up being hypercritical of themselves. Whenever you catch yourself judging yourself harshly, ask yourself ‘Would I speak like this to my best friend? Would I tolerate my best friend saying this stuff to me?’ If not, then perhaps you need to reconsider.

Ultimately, self care is crucial. The more you nurture yourself, the more you will be open to the following benefits of being an empath.

 UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE – TELEPATHY, SYNCHRONICITIES AND DREAMS

Because of your high level of resonance, you will probably be tuned into the ‘universal energies’ or what Jung called the collective unconscious. This gives you a deep sense of knowing – you just ‘know’ things despite there being no rational explanation as to how you know – as well as a strong feeling of connection, which can lead to the spiritual belief that separation is an illusion and ‘we are all one’. This connection and knowing also opens us up to the ‘universal guidance’ which is contained within these energies, which is why many empaths are natural problem solvers, able to resolve any issue which they put their hearts, souls and minds into.

I mentioned in part one how my daughter and I are so close that as soon as we’re in each others energy range, I start to feel her physical symptoms. This energetic connection with others, often referred to as telepathy, is one of the fun aspects of being an empath. As well as those little tricks which many of us do such as thinking about someone just as they call you, or bumping into someone you haven’t seen in years the day after you thought about them, you may also find yourself connecting energetically with people in other less obvious ways. I find that I often tune into people I’m close to through my dreams, perhaps because my mind is more relaxed and therefore more receptive. For instance, if my daughter wakes before me in the morning and reads a book, I often have a dream which reflects the contents of that book in some way. A recent example was a dream I had about Glastonbury music festival one morning shortly before I woke. When I asked P what she had been reading, it turned out that there was a character in her book that had the nick-name ‘Glastonbury’! Even more bizarrely, I have even on occasion had the same dream as my daughter or my partner.

I also have prophetic dreams which you can read about in my blog entry The Magical World of Dreams. Empaths are often fascinated by dreams and we are natural dream analysts, due to our ability to see the deeper meaning in things and make lateral links using subtle details. This ability also works in the waking world too and helps us to interpret signs, symbols and archtypes, as well as synchronicities. Aware empaths delight in synchronicities and as our understanding of ourselves and our connection to the universe grows, we find that the universal guidance which appears in the form of synchronicities becomes ever more fluent and clear. You can read more about synchronicities in my blog entry So What Is Synchronicity?

PEOPLE AND OTHER ANIMALS

The aware empath is often described by others as ‘a beacon of light’. You will find that people are drawn to you and babies in particular will adore you – I often notice little children staring and smiling at me from their pushchairs when I’m out and about.

A similar thing can happen with animals. Empaths have a deep connection to animals and love to be around their energies. You may even find you prefer their company to that of people, as you feel animals – and their energies – are simpler and don’t have an agenda. Perhaps those ‘crazy cat ladies’ who prefer to live alone surrounded by felines are actually misunderstood empaths.

As an empath, you will also be able to resonate with the emotions of animals and unlike most people, you will view them as sentient beings who should have the same rights as humans. Because of this, many empaths become vegetarian or vegan at some point in their lives.

As far as people go, the empath makes a great friend for life, as we are loyal, warm and, humorous as well as very loving and affectionate. We are also good listeners, who are unembarrassed by strong emotion as well as being pretty much unshockable. However a healthy empath will have no tolerance for drama queens who seek attention through emotional behaviour. Though we are highly expressive about our feelings and ourselves, with the ability to share openly and honestly, we are also natural peacemakers, so prefer calm discussions to overwrought emotional spectacles or aggressive confrontations.

If you befriend an empath, then they will probably be your greatest champion. Empaths recognise your inner potential, so are able to identify your positive attributes and will remind you of your strengths when you forget you have them. (Paradoxically though, they often find it hard to take a compliment themselves.) They may also subtly alert you to any negative patterns in your life in a helpful and non-patronising way, as your empath friend has the ability to sift through all the confusing emotions you are experiencing which may be clouding the issue, to help you achieve clarity and find the root cause of your problem. And should they ever feel angry with you, you can rest assured that they will express this without attacking you personally – empaths are not judgmental and they recognise that just because a particular behaviour is bad, it does not mean that the person is bad too.

YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND

Being an empath means you have the ability to sense the truth behind someone’s facade. You intuitively know when someone is attempting to mask a negative emotion. One theory is that when we are in the presence of an emotion we have personally experienced, we recognise it and feel it within ourselves, due to our high level of internal resonance. The empath is also able to read body language, mostly at a subconscious level – you will pick up on things like tone of voice, body movements, the words people choose when they speak, the words they avoid, the logic they use – all factors which help you to tune into others and know things about them which other people probably miss. This also makes you very difficult to lie to! Not only are you able to detect a lie, you can also tell whether the intent behind that lie is malicious and selfish, or whether it’s a white lie, told in an attempt to protect someone else.

Empaths are also highly expressive themselves. They project an incredible amount of energy releasing their emotions, with many gesticulations, and as they are so open about themselves, the empath is usually the person of whom it is said that you can ‘read them like a book’. We also delight in using our bodies in a sensual way – empaths can literally become ‘lost in music’ when they dance, their bodies becoming one with the music to create one wonderful mass of  flowing, sensual energy.

NATURAL HEALERS

As you become aware of your empathy, you will recognise more and more how sensitive this makes you to the energies around you. The fact is that as an empath, energy is literally absorbed by you far more easily than more thick-skinned folk (hence the expression) so by increasing your awareness, you will be able to be more selective about which energies you allow yourself to absorb. This also means you will be able to experience a high level of resonance with another, without being overwhelmed by a multitude of outside influences.

When you have achieved this level of balance and awareness, you will find that all your empathic qualities as discussed above – your deep inner knowing, your connection to the universal energies and so on – make you a natural healer and counsellor. Indeed, for an empath a good way of sublimating the energy we talked about in part one – which attracts the energy vampires and lame ducks – and drawing boundaries around your own propensity to give of yourself to others, is to channel it into training in a helping or healing profession.

Being counselled by an empath is an amazing and life-changing experience. After just a few hours of conversation, you will feel as if the empath knows you inside out. This is due to the afore-mentioned ability for high emotional resonance, which allows the empath to tune into your energy and emotional state, giving them an uncanny ability to pinpoint what you most need and want. They will also ask the questions others may be afraid to ask – if you’re willing to face up to some possibly uncomfortable truths about yourself and your life and recognise your negative self-destructive patterns in order to grow and be true to the real you, then working with an empath will change your life.  An empath will not shy away from talking about feelings of loss either, and will help you to gain perspective on your issue as well as heal from emotional wounds, past and present.

In addition to helping you to heal, the empath will point out strengths and abilities you perhaps never realised you had. Personal empowerment is very important to the empath so they will always respect your courage and sense of determination to survive and will trust in your ability to heal and take care of yourself. All this creates a very safe environment with a high level of trust and a strong intimacy. The relationship between an empath and their client is more than just a business transaction – an authentic and caring relationship will be formed between you as the empath helps you to be your best self and to live the truth of who that best self is.

Empaths may also find themselves being drawn to other types of healing work directly involving energy, such as Reiki. With our natural ability to tune into the universal energy, learning to channel this energy through ourselves to help others is a path which many empaths naturally gravitate towards.

I do hope this article has helped you to understand your trait a little better. If you feel that anything here resonates with you, do please leave a comment – I would love to hear from you!

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Burnout Pt.3: Prevention and Cure

December 3, 2010

In the final part of our series on burnout, we explore some of the methods you can employ if you have recognised yourself in parts one and two, and feel that you may be suffering from this syndrome.

In order to recover from burnout, it’s important for you to commit fully to healing. There is no instant cure and you need to be aware that the healing process will take some time, depending on how far down the burnout path you’ve travelled. Clearly, the sooner you are able to spot these symptoms developing, the sooner you can turn your life and your general wellbeing around.

Be selfish!

This is the first and possibly the most important message to take on board if you are suffering from burnout. A good analogy is the advice given to parents during air travel, to put the oxygen mask on themselves first in an emergency so that they are then in the best position to help their child. In the same way, it’s vital for you to realise that you will not be fit to take care of anyone unless you first take care of yourself. So until you have recovered, it’s time to put you first for a change, beginning with your physical wellbeing.

Rest

In our busy and stressful society, so many of us believe it’s acceptable to operate on five or six hours sleep. However, if you are showing early signs of burnout, then it’s important to commit to getting a minimum of eight hours sleep a night and preferably at least 10. Going to bed early may feel like a drag, but is surely preferable to the alternative of running yourself so far into the ground that you’re unable to get out of bed at all.

Relaxation

Though it’s healthy to spend some of your leisure time enjoying your hobbies and pastimes, it’s also vital that you make time to practise specific relaxation techniques, such as meditation. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated – try this simple breathing exercise. Take long slow breaths in and out, focusing solely on your breathing and saying silently to yourself  ‘in-two-three-four’ on the in breath, and ‘out-two-three-four’ on the out breath.

You could also try this simple relaxation exercise. Work your way down your body from head to toe, focussing on each body part. Tense that part for a few seconds, then release all the tension until it is completely relaxed, before moving onto the next part. You’ll probably be surprised at how much tension you’re already holding in your body.

Complementary therapies can also be very effective – I’ve found reflexology and reiki to be particularly beneficial. Massage of any kind, be it Indian Head massage, Swedish massage or aromatherapy with oils is also a wonderful way to relax and will help release any knots in those tense muscles.

Nourishment

When we’re heading towards burnout, we often find our diet suffers as we snack on fast foods or overdo the stimulants in an attempt to boost our energy levels. However our body is crying out for nourishment, so the best thing you can do for yourself is to give in to its demands. The best nutrition you can give your body at this time is vegetables, protein and unprocessed foods, as well as fibrous foods and healthy carbohydrates such as jacket potatoes, wholemeal bread and pasta and brown rice. Warm foods such as nutritious soups and stews are ideal in the winter months and salads are great for the summer.

You can also supplement your diet with a select range of vitamins and minerals. Particularly good ones are: multivitamins, B vitamins (especially B12), vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, calcium and zinc. Omega 3, co-enzymes and amino acids such as lysine are also good and a DHEA supplement (DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands) can also be beneficial. However, if you take prescribed medication, do consult your doctor first before taking any of these supplements.

As well as considering what we do ingest, it’s also worth being more vigilant about what we don’t. Sugar, salt and fats should be limited, and it’s best to avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and recreational drugs whilst suffering from burnout.

Exercise

As mentioned in part two, too much exercise can be counterproductive, particularly if you’re already on the path to burnout. The key is gentle exercise – a short walk everyday or a few light chores would be more than adequate at this stage, beginning with maybe five minutes a day and increasing the time as your energy levels rise.

Back to nature

You can of course combine this with your daily exercise, particularly if you live in a rural area – a walk outside every day will do you the power of good. Alternatively, if you live or work in a more urban setting, a lunchtime stroll through a park can be just as effective.

Being out in the sunshine also helps, though I am aware that we don’t see much of that in the UK! However the best time of day to be outdoors in the colder months is still around midday, so that lunchtime stroll is well worth the effort.

Another positive thing you can do for yourself is to take a break in nature – perhaps an afternoon in the countryside or by the sea, relaxing in the natural world away from the hurly burly of modern life.

Time Management

Burnt out people often have way too much on their plate, so basic time management skills can really make a difference in your life. You could try: making lists to organise your time more effectively; delegating, by passing on some of your tasks to others (too many burnt out people are perfectionists who erroneously believe that no-one else can manage to do the job quite as effectively as they can); and taking regular breaks, e.g. for every hour of work, take a 10-15 minute break.

Eliminate EMFs

As mentioned in part two, and in particular for highly sensitive people, EMFS (as well as other forms of geopathic stress) can be a huge issue when it comes to burn out. If you feel these are affecting your health, try some of the following: turn off and unplug appliances when not in use; minimise computer and mobile phone usage; switch to an analogue phone (cordless ones are available); and if you live near mobile phone masts or pylons, consider moving if at all possible. (You can read more about this and about the effects of geopathic stress in the book You Can Heal Yourself: Bio-Energy and the Power of Self-Healing by Seka Nikolic.)

Find support

As we saw in part two, negative relationships of any kind can contribute to burnout. Shun those energy vampires and naysayers and spend some time with positive and supportive people who appreciate you. It can be tempting to withdraw from others when you’re burnt out, and whilst time spent alone can be beneficial (see my article on solitude), when you’re feeling low, you can easily lose perspective and become overly critical of yourself. Sharing a cuppa with a true friend can help you bring much needed clarity and levity into your life.

Dump your baggage

Whether it’s emotional, psychological, mental or physical baggage, clearing out the stuff in your life which is holding you back and dragging you down is always a positive move and extremely revitalising. For more on this, check out my articles on de-cluttering here and learn how to let go of those unwanted elements which belong firmly in the past.

Personal Development

Burning out can be the precursor to a time of positive transformation in our lives. One of the ways that we can facilitate this is by focussing on our personal development and learning new, more functional ways of being. Perhaps a lack of assertiveness has been an issue for you or maybe you’ve struggled with low self esteem. Take the time to explore who you really are and find out what you need to grow and transform yourself in a positive way. Reading through some of the entries in this blog could be a good place to start and there are many other resources similar to this which can be found across the internet and in libraries.

Learn the lesson

Finally, as I mentioned in part two, look for the lesson which your burnout is trying to teach you. Regaining your physical wellbeing, freeing yourself of your baggage, discovering your authentic self through personal development work and making the most of your supportive friends are all positive steps towards transforming your life by clearing the way for the voice of your intuition. By listening to this voice we can find out what it is our soul really needs and make our way back to our true path and our life purpose.

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Burnout Pt.2: The Causes – and why it may be a blessing in disguise

November 13, 2010

In part one, I described some of the many symptoms of burnout. In the second part of this article, I look at why burnout is not necessarily a bad thing and list some of the causes of this increasingly common syndrome.

Firstly, however, we will briefly discuss the possible physical cause of burnout. It is usually attributed to a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system and the adrenal glands. The autonomic nervous system is a combination of nerves, connections and glands which works in conjunction with practically every other system in our body. All of our body’s regular activities are performed by this system, such as breathing, digestion and so on, and it is this system which acts as the body’s thermostat,  ensuring that it adapts accordingly to external forces – for example, adjusting your breathing and heart rate if you walk up a hill.

Your body can also interpret your external environment using the five senses – sight, sound etc. These perceptions are then transmitted through the brain, which ensures that the appropriate response is activated by the nervous system.

Problems begin when the part of the brain which controls the ‘fight or flight’ stress mechanism starts firing at an abnormally high rate. This can occur when we overanalyse potential danger and perceive threats where in fact there are none, or suffer stressful events which feel like danger because they threaten our sense of self or wellbeing. The adrenal glands begin releasing hormones such as cortisol to deal with the stress, but if this stress is overwhelming then too many of these hormones are produced, swamping the nervous system. This results in autonomic overload, as well as depleting the adrenals, leading to adrenal burnout – and resulting, ultimately, in the symptoms described in part one. (You can read more about this in Coping with a Stressed Nervous System by Dr Kenneth Hambly and Alice Muir.)

Of course, if you are a HSP (highly sensitive person) or an empath, then you will have been born with a nervous system which is already hypersensitive to external stimuli, making you more susceptible to burnout than others with a less sensitive system. This is why HSPs and empaths need to practise self-care a good deal more diligently than most. However, even if you were not born with a sensitive nervous system, you may find yourself becoming increasingly sensitised if you have had a particularly stressful or traumatic life.

As we have seen from the symptoms, burnout can be extremely distressing. However surprisingly, there is a positive aspect to burnout. It can be viewed as a transformative event in our lives – a turning point, a wake-up call and a cry from the soul. Somewhere deep within the heart of us, the barely discernible voice of our intuition is trying to inform us of what our soul really needs and put us in touch with our authentic self. If we listen to this voice then we can transform our lives immeasurably – but if we fail to heed the warning, then the outcome could potentially be fatal. (Viewed in this more positive way, it is also then no coincidence that the symptoms of burnout are so reminiscent of the symptoms of awakening.)

Dr Dina Glouberman talks about this in more detail in her book, The Joy of Burnout: How the End of the World Can Be a New Beginning:

The area in which we eventually burn out, whether at work, with our children or parents, in an intimate partnership, in a social or political group or elsewhere, has two defining characteristics. It is where:

* We invest our creativity, our passion, our heart and/or our ability to contribute.

* We earn a sense of identity, value, belonging, purpose and/or meaning.

As long as the situation we are devoted to is working and our contribution is effective, appreciated or rewarded, we remain wholehearted. Our energy is high and vibrant and our life probably seems positive and successful both to others and to ourselves. But if anything upsets this picture, we become candidates for burnout.

At some point, something changes either in us or in our situation or in the relationship between the two. Our heart goes out of our situation. There is a dawning awareness, often hardly conscious, that there must be another way, that it can’t be right to continue as we are.

Some of us listen to this feeling and make significant changes in our lives – a new job, a new relationship, or a new approach to our old job or relationship. In this way, we stop ourselves from continuing on the burnout trail.

But those of us who keep going, denying everything that contradicts the path we are on, are likely to head for a major burnout. Driven by fear of losing what we had rather than positive intention, we are no longer in a flow with ourselves or with our lives. We cut off from our bodies, our feelings, sometimes our friends and family. We become divided against ourselves. Our head, heart and soul are not in alignment. We operate like a car with the accelerator and the brake working at the same time and the tank down to empty.

 

So what kind of scenarios, experiences, traits and behaviours can lead to burnout? Here are some examples:

Trauma

If you suffer from one or more traumas in your life, then you are increasingly at risk of burnout. Initially we can feel that we have handled the trauma well, but find ourselves burning out further down the line when our life seems to have settled down again, as the effects on our nervous system catch up with us.

 

The ‘drip-drip-drip’ effect

Often it is not one major trauma but a series of minor stresses, disappointments and frustrations which can slowly drive us to burnout. Several years ago, I moved house and for six months, found myself plagued with petty problems which involved me making numerous phone calls to a variety of call centres. Anyone who has ever had to ring one of these places will know how frustrating it can be, particularly when the issue you are trying to resolve requires you to call back again and again and again, due to the company’s incompetence. If you’re a sensitive, you probably also know how difficult it can be to make these calls, particularly when you’re already under stress. Needless to say, after six months of dealing with this on almost a daily basis, I was on the verge of complete burnout.

 

Lifestyle

If your lifestyle leads you to neglect your self-care, and you’re not getting enough sleep, not eating or exercising properly and are using stimulants to keep yourself going, then you’re going to be much less able to cope with the issues life throws at you. Living a fast-paced, high-stress and/or fear-based lifestyle is also a sure recipe for burnout. You can also burn out from too much exercise – after a very stressful period resulting in several warning signs such as fatigue, weight gain and emotional problems, Louise embarked on an intensive training regime to try and boost her health. Unfortunately this was the last straw as far as her body was concerned, and the excessive exertion hastened Louise’s decline into severe burnout.

 

Work issues

Overworking and perfectionism, or alternatively job dissatisfaction and lack of challenge can ultimately lead to burnout symptoms. Everyone has heard of the phenomenon of the business man who, when he finally takes a holiday, immediately falls ill. And working day after day in a job which fails to challenge you in anyway is simply soul destroying. Our society is increasingly economically focussed, and sadly this seems to be at the expense of our wellbeing. If you don’t have a sensible work-rest balance or if you are doing a job you hate simply for the money, then you’re a high-risk candidate for burnout.

 

Feeling unappreciated or unrecognised for your efforts

This can be in any relationship, whether business or personal. Joanne is a busy mum of four, who also runs her own business and is studying at college. Already finding herself feeling increasingly tearful, she finally broke down when faced with her teenage daughters’ filthy bedroom. Her frustration and disappointment at the constant lack of respect and appreciation shown by her family for her efforts at keeping the home and family life running smoothly became too overwhelming and Joanne was in great danger of burning out.

 

Lack of social support

Even when we lead busy lives and are constantly surrounded by people, we can feel unsupported and isolated. On the path to burnout, it can feel as if no-one understands us, has time for us or truly cares for our wellbeing.

 

Negative relationships

Nothing will drain your energy more than being around negative people. Abusive and/or violent people, energy vampires, people who are critical or contemptuous towards you, or people who constantly fight or bicker with you are the kind of people who will slowly but surely drive you towards burnout.

 

Lack of confidence

If you lack confidence in yourself, then you will find most situations outside of your usual comfort zone difficult. Being crippled with self-consciousness makes events which would be a breeze for most people a total nightmare. Some people are born with this lack of confidence but others lose their self-confidence later in life, perhaps due to a difficult experience or a health problem.

 

Lack of assertiveness

At work and in your relationships, a lack of assertiveness can create difficult situations for you, as you fail to communicate to others your wishes and needs. Constantly sacrificing your own needs and being unable to say no to the needs of others will inevitably lead to feelings of disappointment and frustration, and to feeling unappreciated and unrecognised, the forerunners of burnout.

 

Unhealthy responses to stress

If you have ineffective coping strategies, you will be more prone to burnout, for example if you have a tendency to worry, get angry or anxious, or if you try and avoid potentially stressful situations.

 

Unhealthy attitudes and thinking habits

The way you think about life, people and the world in general can affect how likely you are to burn out. Are you overly hostile, aggressive, or suspicious? Are you pessimistic, withdrawn, or negative? Or perhaps you have too high expectations, of yourself and of others. All these attitudes are liable to increase your chances of becoming overloaded.

 

Unresolved emotional issues

To prevent yourself suffering from burnout due to accumulated emotional baggage which, as we have seen, can make your nervous system hypersensitive, it’s important to spend some time dealing with this and resolving any remaining issues you may have from the past. Living constantly with feelings of rage, bitterness, resentment, hatred and fear will in time almost certainly result in chronic burnout.

 

People who give too much

This is particularly an issue for empaths and others who work in caring professions or roles, particularly if part of the reason for us giving is the need for appreciation. We can find ourselves becoming over emotionally invested in people – friends, family or clients – which can lead to disappointment when the person fails to appreciate our efforts or respond to our help in what we feel is an appropriate way. We can also find ourselves suffering from ‘compassion fatigue’  if we are working regularly with traumatised clients or are spending time with anyone suffering from trauma, be it physical or emotional.

 

These, then, are just some of the ways in which burnout can creep up upon us. If we are willing to take the time to heal, however, we can turn our experience into a positive one by using it to increase our knowledge of our inner selves and find the way to our true path. In part three, we’ll look at how we can heal ourselves when suffering from burnout and explore how we can prevent it from happening to us now or in the future.

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Burnout Pt.1: The Symptoms

November 3, 2010

In my article ‘On Being An Empath‘, I emphasise the importance of self care. Today we’re going to look at what can happen if you fail to take care of yourself – or if life simply makes that impossible to do and overwhelms you.

In our technological, fast-moving society, with its plethora of loud noises and bright lights, toxic chemicals and preservatives, pollution and EMFs,  and its emphasis on money and material acquisition above compassion and empathy for our fellow man, it’s hardly surprising that burnout has become so prevalent. And sadly, if you are an empath or HSP, or spend much of your time healing, helping or caring, you are even more susceptible to this syndrome.

There are many symptoms of burn out, and in part one today, we’ll take a closer look at them. Though this is quite a comprehensive list, it is by no means exhaustive as burnout can affect everyone in very different ways.

Physical symptoms

* Fatigue – one of the main symptoms which is likely to affect everyone is exhaustion (emotional and mental as well as physical) which is not alleviated by sleep or rest. The outcome of this, should it continue, could be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as ME.

* Sleep disturbances – you may find you are no longer able to drop off at bedtime like you used to, or perhaps you are waking up in the night, once or several times, and are unable to get back to sleep.

* Vivid, disturbing dreams – if you do manage to sleep, you may wake up feeling like you’ve run a marathon, after a night of overactive dreaming.

* Inability to relax – when at leisure

* Aches and pains – back pains, stiff neck, frozen shoulder, head aches and chest pains (including tightness in the chest) are all potentially symptomatic of burn out. You could also have severe joint or muscle aches, which could develop into fibromyalgia.

* Physical weakness – due to low energy and weakened muscles. Even climbing the stairs can feel like an ordeal.

* Numbness, tingling, pins and needles – particularly in your arms and legs, and hands and feet.

* Digestive problems – you could suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or other gastro-intestinal disturbances.

* Loss of appetite – resulting in extreme weight loss.

* Food cravings –  in particular sugar or carbohydrates, due to low blood sugar levels. This could result in significant weight gain, which you find impossible to shift.

* Operating on ‘low’ – like a weak battery, all your body’s systems could be running low. As well as low energy and low blood sugar, you could also be suffering from low temperature and low hormone levels, including low cortisol (stress hormone).  Low cortisol is also another cause of weight gain around the stomach area.

* Faulty thermostat – you could find yourself always feeling cold and suffering from chills and/or overheating and suffering from hot flushes.

* Lowered immune system – suffering from chronic and/or recurring low grade infections.

* Allergies – skin rashes, chemical sensitivities, respiratory difficulties and sinus problems, such as rhinitis.

* Toxic build-up in the body

* Pre-menstrual problems and period pains

* Decreased libido

* Fertility problems

* Sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights

* Tinnitus

* Sore throat

* Swollen glands

* Bladder problems

* Tremor or general feeling of shakiness

* Excessive yawning or sighing


Emotional and psychological symptoms

* Depression, despair, suicidal tendencies

* Lethargy, apathy, inertia

* Anger, irritability, resentment

* Anxiety, fear, worrying

* Guilt, shame, nervousness, apprehension

* Feeling helpless and hopeless

 

* Emotional deadness

 

* Mood swings

 

* Low self-esteem

 

* High self-criticism

 

* Overly introspective

* Compulsive and obsessive-compulsive tendencies

* Addiction – to over-stimulating substances such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, or activities such as excessive exercise, sex, loud music or other forms of excitement, in an attempt to stimulate the adrenal glands.

* Cognitive difficulties –  Memory loss, confused thinking, inability to concentrate. One of the scariest symptoms of this kind is ‘brain fog’, when you find yourself unable to remember something which you should easily be able to recall, for example, where you live or what your home looks like, or the name of an immediate family member

* Increasing sense of being cut off from ourselves and other people – feeling trapped, distant and disillusioned.

* Negative attitudes towards others, self and life in general – losing your sense of humour

* Defensiveness, pessimism, cynicism and/or intolerance towards others.

* Loss of interest in friends and family – withdrawal from others. You may find yourself using avoidance tactics when it comes to socialising, as you prefer to engage in solitary – and not necessarily healthy – activities such as isolative substance abuse, watching too much TV or spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet.

* Feeling that the world is an evil place and losing faith in humanity

* Where work is concerned, you may find yourself losing interest with the result being that your performance suffers, you are frequently absent or late, and you participate in negative activities such as gossiping.

* Decreasing ability to be effective at doing what we have always done, either at work or at home

* Poor attention – speeding up without increased effectiveness

* Lack of assertiveness

* Indecisiveness

Do you recognise yourself  or someone you love in any of those symptoms? If so, in part two, we’ll be exploring the possible causes of burnout.

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