Posts Tagged ‘work’

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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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Wake up! Why our education system isn’t working

April 4, 2012

In my work, I talk a lot about ‘waking up’ and in this post I’m going to discuss how we end up becoming one of the ‘asleeple’  in the first place. Because the fact is, we’re not born ‘asleep’ – it’s a lifelong process of ‘training’ also known as ‘socialisation’, beginning as soon as we’re able to reasonably function in ‘civilised’ society. All young children are intellectually free and emotionally alive. But in our so-called developed world, it’s impossible to be an adult and retain the creativity and spontaneity of a three year old without being labelled mad or personality disordered – unless you’re employed as an artist of some kind. In fact, these childlike attributes are the cornerstone of mental well-being but instead, as soon as you can walk, talk and adequately use a toilet, these traits are beaten out of you and you’re indoctrinated into becoming a useful tool in our economic system.

‘Education’ is not really about teaching the things that you really need and want to know. What you’re learning is the stuff that the people who control everything ie the people with the most money, want you to know. These big business people who control our economy need a few highly educated people to do the brain work and a larger number of less well-educated people to do the grunt work. Therefore the system is geared towards churning out these two types, rather than catering for each person’s individual needs.

Look up ‘school’ in the dictionary and the definition will inevitably begin with the word ‘institution’. And this is exactly what school is – an institution, much like a prison or a children’s home, governed by a strict set of rules. (Whenever I refer to my school years, I talk about having ‘done my time’ because this is exactly how it felt – forced to attend the same place, day in, day out, and resigned to suffering bullying and boredom for years on end.) The rules are designed to make life simpler for the authorities by imposing their ideas of conformity on you – stand in line, no talking, short hair and other dress codes – and to teach you to unquestioningly obey authority. Teachers are given a lot of power over you and you are taught to obey them and all your ‘elders and betters’. The word ‘respect’ is used a lot – the teachers are apparently teaching you ‘respect’ rather than ‘obedience’ – but how can you truly respect someone who is showing little or no respect for you?

The problem with most teachers of course is that they too are ‘asleep’. Being asleep, they believe in the idea that everything is separate and have long since lost touch with their real selves. The focus is on competition – who is the best, who’s getting the highest grades – and the belief that true worth consists of being better and having more than the separate ‘other’. Consequently, children lose their intrinsic sense of the universal and their community values and learn instead to play the game of differentiation and dissociation, the punishment for refusing to play being abandonment and rejection. Their true self recedes into the shadow where it goes to sleep, often for the rest of their lives, and is replaced by a false self, developed to fit in with what others need you to be, but leaving you with a feeling of disconnection and dissatisfaction which can only be temporarily assuaged by external trappings, rewards for playing the game.

In school, these trappings take the form of grades and exams. Grades are used as a bribe to get you to do the things you don’t want to do – you work for the good grades and not because you’re interested in what you’re doing. Grades become an end in themselves, much like money in the outside world. The people with the best grades (or the most money) are perceived as the best people, regardless of the methods used to gain them and what they’re really like as people. In a similar fashion, exams don’t show how creative or intelligent you actually are – all they demonstrate is who is good at exams ie capable of trotting out parrot-fashion the information which has been drilled into them. During my time at school, I did many exams and received good grades in them all – and cannot remember a single thing that I supposedly ‘learned’.

And then of course, there is the ‘lower hierarchy’ – the one which develops amongst the pupils themselves. Here the trappings are social and psychological and the winners of this game are the ones who have learned to play the other game – the game of differentiation – the best. The children who have the least empathy – who are therefore more ‘separate’ – are the ones who will race to the top of this particular hierarchy. The less you care – or appear to care – about others, the more popular you will be. And the more you conform to the standards our society ascribes to be the best – for example, the more glamorous you are as a girl or the more sporty you are as a boy – the better your chances of being perceived as ‘popular’. Anyone who fails to play the game properly by being ‘too sensitive’ or ‘too different’ must be prepared to suffer the consequences. I am never surprised when I hear of yet another high school shooting. Doug Stanhope summed this up best in one of his stand-up routines:

“High school is horrible. I quit in ninth grade and it was the best thing I ever did. After every school shooting, parents come on television and say: `Rap music is the problem. And drugs. And the lack of metal detectors.’ No. The problem is that a lot of your kids are aggressive dicks and you won’t do shit about it. That’s the problem. You never hear these parents say: `It’s terrible that Andy Williams shot up Santana High School, but I accept it was also our boy Ethan’s fault, because he was a sadistic prick to that kid. Tell that to the cameras, Ethan. Tell them how you pulled Andy’s pants down, then pushed his head down the toilet.’ I never hear that on the news.
Williams was this frail little kid who was bullied, and shot up his school. George W Bush came on the news and called it `the ultimate act of cowardice’. “Cowardice? The ultimate act of cowardice is the fat-headed wrestling guy sitting behind the frail kid in math class, clipping him on the ear, saying: `What are you going to do about that, faggot?’ That is cowardice. When the bullets start flying past that jock’s saucer-shaped ears, that’s not cowardice. That’s payback.”

Ok, so I’m certainly not advocating that every bullied kid should get out there and start shooting the place up. But why are we so shocked when every once in a while someone is pushed over the edge because we’ve brought up our children to believe in differentiation and worship those who conform to our society’s idea of ‘the best’ whilst demeaning and rejecting those who don’t? When the people at the top of these man-made pyramids of power show little respect for those at the bottom, why are they so horrified when the people at the bottom show little respect for them? (You can read more on this in this blog post about last year’s riots in the UK here: https://empathicguidance.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/london-riots-remember-this/)

Home-schooling is on the increase, as is a form of education called ‘unschooling’ where the child’s natural interests are followed and developed. Unlike the school system, these forms of education consider the needs of the individual child, rather than just teaching them what the authorities feel you need to know to join the ‘asleeple’. School is simply a mirror image of our society, a society built on economic power, and a society which is founded on the idea that people exist for the sake of big business, not the other way round. The majority of changes which have taken place in this system are geared towards the people who have the power keeping that power. A recent example of this is the introduction of student loans. By taking on one of these loans, you’re effectively shackling yourself to the economic system before you’ve even dipped a toe into the waters of employment. Interesting, isn’t it, that these loans were introduced round about the same time that property prices zoomed into the stratosphere, making it increasingly difficult for people to be shackled to the system by a mortgage? The powers-that-be will always find a way to get you stuck in that dead-end job, the one that fills their coffers whilst simultaneously depleting yours, with no visible means of escape. Interesting, too, that this system was introduced after the people currently in power had already taken advantage of the ‘free higher education for all’ offered pre-1991.

The majority of degrees these days are not even worth the paper they’re printed on. A degree requires little more than a good memory and an ability to assimilate the academic orthodoxy of the day, which is why employers favour graduates, regardless of the field of study. As you’ve already proved yourself to be biddable and unquestioning, as far as employers are concerned, you’re ideal corporate material. And don’t assume that you’ll be financially rewarded either – graduates now earn only £140,000 more over their lifetime than non-graduates, instead of the £400,000 previously. They also pay back thousands more in tax than their degree will have cost. Furthermore, the higher the education, the cheaper the ‘citizen’ is to the government in terms of benefits (less chance of unemployment) and NHS costs (less illness). Increased levels of student debt, thanks to introduction of  exorbitant fees, also encourage graduates to go for the highest paid available job, rather than going into further study, volunteering or jobs that aren’t necessarily so well remunerated, meaning once again the economic system is the ultimate beneficiary. This introduction of market forces into higher education also results in the selection criteria of universities being based on a student’s bank balance not academic ability. Thanks to the creation of a two-tier education system, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots is widening more and more each day.

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What goes on in an Empathic Guidance session? Pt.1: A client reveals all…

March 7, 2011

Recently I’ve been working with a wonderful young man called Matt who I first encountered on Twitter. Matt went through an awakening experience back in July 2006 and after going through the ‘dark night of the soul’ which so often follows an awakening, he transitioned quite naturally to a more authentic and positive place. However, he still felt that there were a couple of areas which he needed to gain clarity in and so to this end, he put out a request to the Universe for a coach or mentor who might be able to assist him on his journey of discovery.

I was more than happy to oblige and have been working with Matt now for several weeks. I have to say that his positivity and enthusiasm for the work we do is infectious and I really enjoy our weekly Skype conversations. And as is always the way of these things, I feel I’m probably learning as much through him as he is through me!

As part of his learning curve, Matt is documenting his progress and part of this involves writing about our Empathic Guidance sessions. Here is the first of these which he published on his own website and which I thought may be of interest to anyone considering investing in a few Empathic Guidance sessions themselves. This particular session focussed on a dream which Matt had – we discussed this during the hour then I added further insights in the follow-up notes which I always send after the session has taken place, as I feel they’re a positive additional aid to the client’s personal development.

In this post, Matt talks about our introduction and in part two, he reproduces the notes which I sent him containing a detailed dream interpretation.

Inner Simplicity with Empathic Guidance

by Matthew Fry

For anyone who has joined me on this awesome adventure of awakening and has been following my journey thus far, you would have been aware that in January, around the time I celebrated my 24th birthday, I wrote a post titled “Infinite Possibilities” exploring the idea that there might be someone within my amazing social network whom would like to coach, guide or mentor me. The response to that post was astounding and I am deeply humbled that so many people came forward showing interest. One of those incredible people was Sharon Simpson “The Empathic Guide” and WOW, to say that Sharon has been a blessing in my life is a massive understatement…

As Sharon writes on her Twitter bio: “Empathic Guidance creates empathy and equality in our lives through increased self- and other-awareness. Join me and help to make our world a better place.”

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
~ Henry David Thoreau

In my first chat with Sharon I experienced the great miracle that Thoreau proposed. We seemingly picked up from where we had left off in some other lifetime, because the openness, sharing and deep sense of connection was so profound it truly felt to me as though we had known each other for a very, very long time. There was a high level of resonance and intuitive intimacy between us as well as a recognition of many parallels between our lives and awakening experiences which allowed for an exciting and thoroughly enjoyable unfolding. As our conversation came to a close I will never forget the Skype call-time clocking in at 44:44 – a synchronistic shout-out from the universe that there was something magical brewing. I was ecstatic when Sharon shared her mutual delight and recounted her own experiences with number sequences, at which point we both felt the tickling shiver that comes with goosebumps – or godbumps as I like to call them hehe – another awesome confirmation that we were at the right place at the right time. I came away from our first conversation literally bouncing around the house bursting with energy and enthusiasm. In an email the next day Sharon pointed me to a wonderful post she had written about number sequences, adding that:

“444 can relate to mastery and empowerment and there’s also this explanation by Doreen Virtue:

444 — Thousands of angels surround you at this moment, loving and supporting you. You have a very strong and clear connection with the angelic realm, and are an Earth angel yourself. You have nothing to fear—all is well.”

And so with universal blessings, we adventured on together, holding hands in the heart, setting out on a deep and wonderful healing voyage of discovery for which I am eternally grateful…

Empathic Guidance is a unique intuitive healing approach which can transform your life and empower you, leading to lasting positive change. As an empath, Sharon is very sensitive to energy, giving her the ability to intuit thoughts and feelings, and allowing her to fully experience, support and understand each person she works with. When she works with you, she tunes into your energy directly and guides you using the empathic feelings and thoughts which arise from the connection.

My first empathic guidance session with Sharon was in early February. During our previous connection Sharon had asked me whether I dreamed, to which I responded that I do dream, but not very often, and that I hardly ever remember my dreams upon waking. She then assured me that after becoming conscious of this and discussing dreams with her, it was highly likely that I would now begin to remember my dreams. The seed was planted in my consciousness and it was a prophetic moment; ever since I have been waking up each morning remembering many more details about my dreams and on one occasion, still half-asleep, I tapped in a dream-stream of ‘unconsciousness’ saving it as a note on my phone. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that dream was going to form the basis of our first session. Sharon is a phenomenal dream interpreter, just one of the many gifts that she has to share, and after a thorough and inspiring dialogue I had uncovered many aspects of myself and was able to elevate my awareness and to shine light into some areas of darkness, recognizing imbalances in my energy field, discovering much about my psyche, meeting some inner orphans who want to be loved and given a chance to grow up, as well as many other personal insights and awakenings, which I hadn’t previously been aware of – it was incredibly liberating to explore my dream with such an aware and empowering guiding light. A few days later I was completely in awe when the notes from our session arrived in my inbox. I’m going to share those notes with you now because I feel they serve several important purposes: one, I am able to reveal what an amazing guide Sharon is! two – it presents me with an opportunity to be totally authentic and share some deeper aspects of my self, my psyche, and other awarenesses and personal revelations 🙂 and also, someone else reading this post might have had similar life experiences and thus, the healing potential in sharing the notes I feel is quite profound ♡

So, let me introduce you to Sharon, the brilliant, the fabulous, the very insightful Empathic Guide….

Part two tomorrow

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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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Recession is a healer

September 8, 2009

family-having-fun

Following on from my Meaning of Life blogs, here’s an article by psychologist Oliver James which I could have almost written myself. More syncs too – before I stumbled across this article, I was working on a re-write of one of my earlier blogs which coincidentally includes the line mentioned near the end of this article ‘You may say I’m a dreamer’ – and over the last few days I’ve not only watched a number of documentaries about the Beatles, but yesterday (no pun intended) I also read a magazine article about them which mentions the classic song from which that line originated.

If you’re interested in reading more of Oliver James’ work on this topic, I’d recommend Affluenza and the follow-up The Selfish Capitalist: Origins of Affluenza.  I particularly resonate with the article below as it correlates with my intuitive feelings about the current recession –  namely that the economic collapse, rather than being the catastrophe our media would have us believe,  actually has the potential to free us from our increasingly oppressive/depressive state and the meaningless pursuit of ‘stuff’, which in turn will give us the opportunity to rediscover  what is really important and enjoy true meaning and fulfilment.  Here’s hoping…

Recession is a healer

By Oliver James

The implosion of the global financial system was as unexpected and rapid as the collapse of the Soviet Union. The good news is that we may be about to feel as liberated from oppression as the swarming crowds who celebrated in the eastern bloc in 1989.

The past 30 years have been a shop-till-you-drop, credit-fuelled consumer binge. Almost all of us caught what I term the Affluenza Virus — placing too high a value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame. This virus is very bad for mental health. People with the virus are significantly more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and substance abuse (booze and drugs).

But following the collapse of the old financial system in which both individuals and nations lived on the never-never, our Affluenza habit will no longer be affordable. Time for cold turkey. In the short term, as with any addicts cleaning up their act, there will be pain. At the most extreme, as recession bites there will be unemployment, which will be depressing for hundreds of thousands.

For millions of others there will be anxiety about job security. And yet within quite a short time, as our values begin to change, I predict we will start to feel a whole lot better.

When you stop to think about it, you have learnt to confuse real needs with wants: you do not really need an awful lot of what you buy, you want it. A real need is for things like emotional intimacy or to feel emotionally secure; a new flat-screen TV or a conservatory are wants stimulated in us by advertising and the desire to keep up with the Joneses.

Property is at the heart of our confusion of needs and wants. Take kitchens. Many of us have spent tens of thousands on “improving” ours, yet what do we really need from it? A cooker for cooking, a fridge to keep things cold, clean flat surfaces and somewhere to wash up. Likewise, most of us have houses larger than we truly need and have paid beyond what we can afford to live in more prestigious areas.

Enter the credit crunch and a complete reappraisal. Virus-free, we will start counting our blessings. If property prices plummet, we will not care — rather than living in an investment vehicle, homes are vital components of our existence.

We will also rethink our work lives. Nearly all the increase in family income in the past 30 years came from working longer hours and women joining men in the workforce. At last we will see that if you spend less, you do not need to earn so much, so can work less. Those with small children will start thinking twice about working such long hours, or if one partner is made redundant, think: “Actually, let’s just make do with less money and I will enjoy looking after the nippers.”

Affluenza values will be replaced by the pursuit of intrinsic pleasures. Interest, enjoyment and the stimulation of a real challenge will become paramount: things are done for their own sake, not simply to please anyone else. At work you will put promotion prospects and salary rises second to what you find really interesting. You will be like a child absorbed in imaginary play. Wherever possible, you will be looking for work that improves the state of your mind — not just the state of your bank balance or the index of your professional ambitions.

Cutting down on Having, you focus on Being. As you recover from the virus, your brain and body chemistry will rapidly change for the better. You will no longer be jammed in a permanent state of readiness for fight or flight by high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. As you spend more time with your partner, your children and your intimate friends, your levels of the love hormone oxytocin will rise. Levels of the depression chemical serotonin will normalise.

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I believe there is good reason to believe this version of our future. It is true that the poor are twice as likely to suffer from mental illness as the rich, but a recent British study proved that having a low income or unemployment does not in itself cause psychiatric problems. What was critical was how much a poor person felt themselves to be badly off relative to others — hard proof, as in many other studies, that if you can stop comparing yourself with others, you can be poor and happy.

Long before the credit crisis, downsizing (working fewer hours, seeking less competitive jobs) was already mushrooming among the middle-aged. Surveys reveal that young people are increasingly likely to reject “greed is good” workaholism.

Remember the title of the Christmas No 1 in 2003? It was Mad World. The truth is that we have been living through a crazy time in our history and we always suspected it. We should be grateful that the credit crunch is going to vaccinate us against the consumerist madness and that, nationally and individually, we are going to replace it with authentic personal fulfilment.

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