Changes, changes, changes and lessons from the last 6 months

Almost six months ago I left off my newsletter with “See you after the school holidays”. Well, hasn’t a lot happened since then! So many things have happened that it’s hard to figure out the best place to begin. In fact I’ve tried starting this post so many times and through a combination of taking my own advice (about reducing stress by drawing better work/ life boundaries for better work/life balance) and just unexpected twists and turns in the plot that is my life, it kept getting delayed. (Technically, if I left this one for two more weeks, it’ll be after the school holidays;-)

So today, I woke up and figured “Today is the day!” To write and share some of the thoughts I’ve been having about health (life balance, reducing stress etc.) because, as it often seems to happen, my offline conversations with friends have been about these issues a lot over the last six months, so I figure they’re probably relevant to you too:-)

A little back story
Ok so for those of you who are new to these musings / newsletters, at the beginning of the year I’d read a book called The life changing magic of tidying up and another one called Work smarter live better. (I’ve actually got a whole set of books I’m going to go through slowly – I’m calling them the “life changing books”:-) I had toyed with the idea of creating a book club around this stuff but haven’t done much with it as I feel people are too busy and not in the right place at the moment). But anyway these were the first  two  “life changing” books I read and they had a MASSIVE impact. As a consequence of reading them I began to make big changes in how I was doing things. (You can read about those epiphanies here and here) but two concepts really struck a chord for me:

  1. The concept of “sparking joy” and
  2. The concept of making time for what is important.

For some context, due to working myself pretty hard over the last few years, having young kids, sleep deprivation and making a cooking show, I was burnt out, gaining weight, my hair was falling out in handfuls each time I had a shower or ran my fingers through it) and I felt like my default “screen saver look” (you know, the blank look you give when you’re not really looking at or thinking about anything) had gone from a smile to a dissatisfied, “I’m biting my tongue so I don’t say something I’ll regret” look.

So I began to make a few changes.
Actually first I had to figure out what I was doing and how things were out of whack and then I had to figure out what I actually wanted things to look like anyway.

Sounds so simple but isn’t really.

(To be honest I think this is a process you’ll continually revise as you go through life).

Firstly, I wanted to feel more joy (I wanted my default “screen saver look” to be a smile again) and secondly, I wanted to bring back that “lazy weekend feeling” I had as a kid. (You know that feeling you get when you look at the clock and its still 1pm on a Saturday afternoon and you feel like you have forever).

I was fed up with feeling frustrated, fatigued and frumpy. And I realised that in order to bring back that lazy weekend feeling (and have the time and energy to cook for fun again and exercise)  and generally enjoy life more I had to actually make that happen – which meant not working on a Sunday morning!!

I’ve made lots of other changes too since I last wrote here in April and I chat about some of them (like looking at my time table) here in this interview I did with Sarah Quinney a couple of weeks ago.


How I brought back more joy in my life
To bring back more joy I had a look at how I was spending my time. This is a much longer story (and more complex) but to summarise I realised a few things and gave myself permission to make a few changes.

One of the first changes to bring back more joy in my life came when one of my friends encouraged me to create an author page on facebook. I’d resisted it for so long because those pages previously were “public figure” pages and I found it a bit cringe worthy to be a public figure with a few followers (and I didn’t want to be a public figure in that sense of the word). Author yes, socialite, person in the media etc, no thank you. But anyway, I was part of this author group to help promote our cook books so (grudgingly) I did it.

The minute I created the page though, I felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I remembered a part of myself that got put into hibernation 7 years ago. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to write books and for awhile there (before I found out I had endometriosis and was told that we should start trying earlier rather than later if we wanted to have a family because it might not happen), I was working on my 3rd romance manuscript for fun with the hopes of publishing one day). It’s how I met Anne from Alternative Chef Kitchen (I did a “Write for Mills & Boon” course at the local WEA back in 2002).

I’ve always loved writing and reading and so around the time  I created that author page I decided to make some firmer boundaries with work / rest time and I decided to create a fiction-only-in-the-evenings-and-on-the-weekend rule. I was into chapter 3 of a Sarah J Maas book (Throne of Glass – which I got from QBD along with books 2, 3 and 4 in the series that Sunday) and I started crying. Brenton (my hubby) asked me what was wrong and I said “I can’t believe I’ve barely done this in 7 years?! I’ve missed it so much.”

How did I let my time get so out of hand that I didn’t have time to read a book when I used to read a book a day?

Ok, that was pre-kids the one book a day thing, but still. In the last 7 years prior to a few months ago I’d read 5 Game of thrones books and 2 JR ward books were the only fiction I had read. Everything else I have read has been about naturopathy, health, online business (for the show) and learning how to do things like use our camera, edit videos, independent publishing etc. And terms & conditions omg I have read a LOT of those in the last 7 years.

In contrast, in the last 3 weeks since making some simple changes to my schedule I’ve still written what I needed to for ACK, attended my CPE seminars and have booked clinic but I’ve also read 9 fiction books,  and I feel happier than I’ve felt in a long time (at least when I’m not missing my cat Giles who died unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago just before his 10th birthday).

(One of our more recent pics of my super snuggly cat Giles)

Creativity had space to emerge
Something else cool happened in this time. I had a fiction story idea come to me (for the first time in 7 years! I think my brain had just been so full of work and I’d been so sleep deprived that I didn’t have the energy to be creative, most of the time I wasn’t even remembering my dreams in the last few years). But once I took some time out, the energy for creativity came back… and so I started writing.

So what does this mean in terms of Clinic, Lisa White Naturopath (LWN) and Alternative Chef Kitchen (ACK)?
The funniest thing of all is that although I feel that things are completely different, they’re actually still very much the same!

After moving clinic to my home last year I am loving it. It’s great to have a lot of the things I’m chatting about with my clients at hand. We are still planning to build a proper space at home and we are getting closer to that (hubby bought an excavator!)  But the biggest change (which was pretty simple and logical really) was one I made earlier this year of changing my working hours to Thursday (all day) and Friday mornings (when needed). I really had to stop working on the weekend in order to have a weekend.
I love the 1:1 clinic aspect of helping people make and integrate lifestyle changes that will help them feel better, so I’m keeping clinic:-)

LWN clinic 2016

(my new clinic space until we renovate now sans cat)

Alternative Chef Kitchen
This is funniest of all.
Since making time for reading and writing and weekends and after school, I’m achieving the same amount of work for ACK as I was before!! In less time, with less stress, resistance and drama!!!
Read that line again. I’m achieving the same amount of results in less time!! I attribute it to what I call “the fishbowl issue”. Years ago I read somewhere that goldfish grow to the size of their tank. I think our schedules have a lot in common with this. If we have more time, we try to squish more into it. (I think the same is true for handbags too…;-)

So anyway I cover how I realised how out of whack my schedule was and some of the steps I took to change it in this interview with Sarah.

So what’s next?
I’m going to aim to write a newsletter and blog here once a month on this life stuff and all the lifestyle things I’m finding that are making a difference for my health and happiness (as I feel they’re relevant for you too). I’m also going to put these thoughts together in a book because it’s the way my brain works and I like to have stuff organised in one place. And I love books:-)

(Despite the popularity of it on other health sites, I’ll continue to resist writing about the latest popular acronym and the products or science regarding it. (I majored in molecular biology and biochemistry back when I did my degree so I’m not talking about this stuff because I don’t know how to – that’s an important distinction – it’s because I don’t want to and honestly I think it stops people from changing habits and making the lifestyle and diet changes they may need to make to increase the quality of life when they only focus on the latest fad).

Anyway that’s all for today. I’d love to hear if this has resonated with you and if you’ve found your joy or made more time for things you love.

P.S. If you want to suss out more about my fiction / author journey
Click here:
On there I’ll share a bit about my writing projects and path to publishing, the books I’m reading in my fun time and some other stuff I love when it comes to writing.

Yes, this is me:-) I was about 3 and I wanted to be Wonder Woman. My mum had stayed up all night making the costume for me for Christmas and I LOVED it:-)

Sparking joy: The other big epiphany from the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

some sparkle

I was umming and ahhing over whether or not this “big epiphany” was actually that big until about 3 different things happened through the last week that made me realise – yep. It’s subtle but worth sharing.

If you’ve missed my two previous posts about the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo  then you can catch up here and here.

How can surrounding yourself with things you love make you happier?

One of the things in the book Marie talks about is how to decide what to keep and what to throw away and it all comes down to this concept of whether or not something “sparks joy” for you. Eg. Whether when you look at it, hold it or wear it, it lights you up inside and gives you this happy/ good vibe feeling or instead gives you a sinking “ugh” kind of feeling.

At first it seemed like a bit of an arbitrary discretionary system but then I thought about it and realised she’s definitely on to something.

Eg. I had a top with a turtle neck neck line – but short sleeves (always an odd design combination because I figured if you’re cold enough to wear a skivvy then it’s cold enough to wear long sleeves rather than short? Anyway, for a variety of reasons from the colour, to the fabric to the shape I don’t like this top. It should be good “clinic wear” but I never wear it because it makes me feel frumpy and un-feminine.

I had a few other clothes I didn’t like as well like a grey stretchy lycra top that just doesn’t make me feel good, some t.shirts which I didn’t like and some 3/4 length cargo pants which in theory I should have loved but in reality – just didn’t fit me quite right and so I never wore them or felt uncomfortable when wearing them.

In another area completely we had some sheet sets. Some we inherited some we’d bought because they were inexpensive and available at the time. But every time I’d go into my bedroom and I’d see those brown sheets I’d think – I wish I’d taken the time to look for what I actually wanted rather than getting a “make do” solution.  So in a huge recent clean out of the linen cupboard (I’ll share some ah-ha’s from that down the track) I decided to give them away and just keep the ones we actually need and will use – that I do like and I took the time to actually find a set that I wanted and so now when I walk into our bedroom and see our plain white sheets with a simple quilt cover – I love it. It’s a very simple pleasure (and the sheets were a grand total of $35) but all it took was some discretion on “Is this actually what I am looking for?”.

Another tacked on “solution for now” we’ve done is a book shelf in our bedroom (which is doubling as a study as our kids were poor sleepers so they’re occupying the other rooms). And although this bookshelf serves a purpose and removes the piles of books and makes it a bit easier to work at my desk every time I look at it though – it doesn’t spark joy  – it sparks a “to do” feeling which isn’t really what I’d like to go for in my bedroom. So one of our plans was to build a book shelf in our lounge room on either side of our fireplace. Recently we rearranged our lounge room to begin to accommodate this and every single time I walk into that room I light up and feel that “oh I love it!” feeling (and it’s not even built yet! Just rearranging the furniture has made a difference!

Finally our pile of mail -we’d got into the habit of letting it build up on our bench and also on the fridge and every time I’d walk into the kitchen and see it there  it was another thing on the “to do list”. And gave a heavy heart rather than a feeling of being lit-up inside. So after the last big filming session last year when we were getting the book ready I put a moratorium on letting things build up in the kitchen so that the space felt clearer. Instead of putting everything back like I would previously after cleaning the kitchen for a filming session, I only returned things I loved (this was before reading Marie’s book – haha  it must’ve been my latent psychic powers kicking in;-) Anyway now whenever I walk into the kitchen and look at the fridge I see pictures that make me smile – every time I open the fridge I smile. Not seeing piles of unopened mail -makes me smile.

There are a couple of take homes for me from this simple concept.

  1. It’s a relatively easy way to feel happier more often – because when you take away the things that give you the “ugh” feeling there’s just less of that trigger occurring on a daily basis.
  2. It makes it a bit easier when buying new things – or making changes around the house too – because getting into the habit of asking yourself “is this what I actually need? Is this a tacked-on solution? or Will I actually wear this?” also helps to stop bringing in the “ugh” stuff to begin with. Especially with clothes. If it feels uncomfortable in the store, it rarely feels better when I get home I’ve found.
  3. The biggest epiphany I found was that a lot of the “ugh” feeling comes from things I’ve been given or inherited rather than things I’ve chosen for myself (although as described above – my radar has been off there too). But often with inheriting hand-me-downs especially well worn and used ones with odd prints, colours or shapes they’re just not the kind of thing you’d choose for yourself and they don’t often suit your exact needs and so you rarely ever use them and they just end up taking up space, collecting dust or making you feel “ugh” rather than “ah!” every time you look at them. (I’m not saying I don’t love being given stuff  because we’ve been given some really cool stuff too. But sometimes people give you stuff they don’t want but can’t throw away so they appease their guilt by giving it to you  and then they give you the guilt).

So to instantly feel lighter – get a pen and paper and take note of all the things you can see in the room from where you are currently sitting. Eg. for me it would be desk, chair, bed, bedside cabinet, filing cabinet, printer, tallboy, cupboard, bookshelf and dream catcher I made in a workshop with Sarah Wilder from The Fifth Element Life last year. Then go through each thing and think about if it “sparks joy” for you. Eg. I look at my desk chair and I love it. I look at our cupboard (now after doing the whole Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up cleaning thing) and I love it because it’s tidy.  I look at my bedside cabinet and see the book I’m currently reading and I love it. I look at the picture on our tallboy of the family and my hubby and I and I love it.  The printer, filing cabinet, desk and bookshelf need to move for sure but I look at the books on the bookshelf and they’re all books I loved reading or can’t wait to read so I’ve got that “ooh can’t wait to read those!” feelings when I look at it.

Now it’s your turn to give this a go:

Are you surrounded by things you love and that light you up and that make you smile a few times a day whenever you look at them? Or are you surrounded by things that make you feel flat, frumpy or fatigued?

Some of these things might be transient too – eg. the fluff on the shelves, or the floor needing a vacuum or the bathroom bench needing a wipe down etc. So it’s not so much a “thing” you need to buy, sell or pass on to someone in need who would love it, but a thing you need to start doing like creating a new habit around something or changing an existing habit and so we’ll talk about that next time!

I’d love to hear your experience with this. Are you surrounded by things that light you up or things which dim your sparkle? Have you recently given your living and work space an overhaul? Do you find you smile more? I’d love to hear about the impact its had on your energy levels and feelings of happiness or health.

Have a great week!



Why I put a moratorium on buying new clothes


So last week I told you all about how I came to read The life changing magic of tidying up. If you missed that post, just click here to catch up.

I had a few epiphanies from that book one was about “stuff”. Specifically – how we accumulate stuff and why the buddhist monks might be on to something.

You see, as I’ve been recovering from burnout  I’ve been paying a lot of attention to habits and what kind of things contribute to that feeling of overwhelm and fatigue for me (while also hearing my clients’ stories too and yep you guessed it, there are some common themes here). So one of the issues for me is the piles of “things to do”. It’s probably a remnant from my upbringing because my dad was a bit of a workaholic and he instilled that strong work ethic in us kids and one of those values was “not being able to rest until the jobs are done”. So consequently

  • I see the pile of dishes on the dirty side of the sink and I feel a sinking feeling.
  • I see cluttered surfaces and I feel like there’s no space.
  • I see a pile of washing and I feel the list of things to do – piling up.

All of a sudden the creative energy I had to do fun things with gets zapped by the time I’ve done the job.

In the last week as I’ve been stuck in bed with this mega cold it occurred to me yet again how much simpler life is with less “stuff” (and thank god we’d Konmari’d a lot of stuff at the beginning of the year).

Let me explain.

Have you ever gone through a period of wearing every pair of knickers in your drawer and getting to the stage where you literally have to do the washing or else you’ve got no underwear? Or socks, or your work or school uniform…. or clothes in general?

We’ve reached that stage a few times (especially since having kids – omg we had a few bouts of gastro where we were all so exhausted that “luckily?” we had enough clothes, towels and sheets to keep us going for a while. The downside? Well the last thing we felt like doing after a very draining week was all that washing and all that folding.

So after reading Marie’s book it occurred to me that having less stuff meant having less stuff to do because of it.

  • Less dust collectors on the mantle piece – literally means less things to collect dust (and it makes it a lot easier to do the dusting because I don’t have to lift up so many things).
  • Less dishes in the cupboard means less dishes to wash (and stack in the dishwasher).
  • Less toys the kids have – less toys to pick up.
  • Less clothes – less clothes to wash.

You get the picture?

So I decided to put a moratorium on buying new clothes. As it is, I’ve still got far too many for my needs and I think I could go through a Konmari round 2 and still have a full drawer.

Ultimately, the reason I decided to not buy another 6 pack of undies, or another 6 pack of socks and another couple of t.shirts is because I don’t want to have to be able to go another week before having to do the washing. Because what that actually looks like is a massive pile of clothes that needs to be washed, hung out on the line, brought in and folded. It looks like 4-5 baskets worth of washing, hanging out, bringing in and folding.

And I realised that with my waxing and waning energy levels at the moment, it’s actually more sustainable to maintain a smaller quantity of clothes for myself and the kids too. Less washing, less folding all makes the task smaller, less overwhelming and less of an energy zapper because it’s dealt with quicker.

There are other benefits too – like not contributing to landfill by creating more waste when these unnecessary extra things have run their course, saving money and being able to appreciate what you have even more because it’s not clouded and surrounded by all the extra stuff you really don’t need.

So I’d love to hear from you.  Have you come to this conclusion too? Or has this given you a light bulb moment?

I’m dedicating this year (or as long as it takes) to making changes that make a difference in my life and health, be they in terms of cleaning, cooking, making time for fun, making time for healing and other lifestyle habits. Because while the nutrition and biochemistry is important so is this other “stuff” because when it’s out of whack, often your health is too. I’m thinking of doing this by creating a “Books that change your life”  book club  to start working around these issues so if you’re interested in coming on this journey too, let me know.

That’s all for this week though, next week I’ll share the other big epiphany I had from The life changing magic of tidying up.

Happy de-cluttering!


Why I want to show everyone my drawers…

As a book lover, I confess when my friend fellow naturopath Anita Wayne from The Healing Room here in Adelaide, told me about this book I thought she was being a touch overzealous.

Don’t get me wrong, I know books can change your life. I just didn’t quite believe that a book about tidying up could pack that big of an emotional, psychological, life changing punch.

Well it turns out Anita was right. The book really did change my life.

You see, for the last few years where things have been so crazy busy over here, a lot of things have slipped. Cleaning slipped, cooking slipped, playtime with the kids slipped, exercise slipped, rest slipped, fun slipped.

The good stuff.

And while our house is generally a far cry from being an exhibit for the TV show Hoarders I found the clutter grew and I grew uncomfortable with it.

The pile of unimportant mail to be read grew, the pile of washing grew, the pile of folding grew, the pile of papers to sort though on my desk grew, the pile of kids clothes to sort through grew.

We ended up building a bookshelf in our bedroom so the pile of books and reference texts on my desk which grew could look a little tidier.

I also noticed that when we did have some time at home which could have been dedicated to cleaning or doing the things that needed doing, we’d go out for a drive or on an “errand” to the shops and then end up having 5 hours zombie sucked out the day before going home to do a bit more of the work that had piled up on my desk followed by the usual night time routine of putting kids to bed and then to sit exhausted in front of the TV with my hubby, usually getting my second wind by 10:30 and so we’d stay up too late by watching another episode or doing some work, and then we’d wake up feeling exhausted the next morning and the cycle would continue.

It’s not like I hadn’t tried to change things, but a lot like when I did the pantry challenge (which is still tidy by the way) and after I did Kristin Sweeting-Morelli’s course where I managed to clear the pile that was blocking the ensuite door, these habits, while I  maintained them,  were only small parts of the house.

And by going out on errands or creating errands to do it kept me legitimately busy from having to do the work I really didn’t want to do. After a while it kept me from doing some of the work I wanted to do too. And I realised that I was escaping the house because everywhere I turned I could see piles of things to do.


It was pretty stressful.

I was already enlightened to the fact that maintaining this kind of cycle of going to bed late and then avoiding the work that needed doing only to be further exhausted by the work that needed doing was fueling a lifetime adaptation to chaos. And so hormonally I was primed for having big to do lists.

Hell, at one time I even prided myself on my ability to juggle and multitask.

But I don’t value it any more.

I hear people talking about how they stay up late and drink coffee to make it through and I can’t help but thinking of how spot on the opening scenes of Shaun of the dead was. It’s like a cross between Shaun of the dead and The Sixth Sense. People walking around like zombies and some of them, don’t realise that they are.

So when Anita called me and said “Omg Lisa, this book will change your life. You have to read it. It’s amazing. Everything. The way she folds the clothes…..!”

She sounded as excited by this book as I get about the Arrow and Game of Thrones season finales. So last Christmas Brenton (my hubby) and I were out at my favourite shopping centre and I saw the title in Kikki.K. something triggered inside and I said to him “If we’re serious about making changes next year, we should get a book each and then we’ll swap them and apply it.”

He’s a patient guy and so he just nodded with that amused smile of his and so we got the book.

Christmas night I began to read the book and I devoured it. While Brenton was on holidays we got started on cleaning (I’m going to have to write a few more posts on this to do it justice) and then it was me ringing Anita saying “Omg. Anita, that book is amazing!” Then I rang my sister. “Laura, omg you have to read this book. It’ll change your life!” (My sister and I often chat about the battle with clutter). I tell my clients, I told my sister’s neighbour at our New Years Eve party, and I tell my friends when they come to visit I show them my drawers.

And you know what else is cute?

I get texts from some of the people I tell about it, showing me their drawers. Hahaha.

Because – It makes a difference!

So what is so magical about this book?

I’ll tell you one of the simplest most profound changes I made and I’ll write about more insights soon. Because this book has confirmed something about health I’ve been beginning to suspect for a while now so I’ll put that all in one discussion.

But the simple and profound change was folding my clothes differently. Marie encourages you to store them vertically rather than stacked horizontally. By storing them vertically you can fit more in a drawer, but even better, you can take them out without messing up the drawer and you can see at a glance where the top you want is.

I tell you I am a converted woman since applying some ideas from this book.


Her way of deciding whether or not to keep something is whether or not it “sparks joy” in other words when you look at it do you think “Oh:-)” or “oh:-(”

So in doing this I sorted 8 bags of clothes from our room to donate and I think I could easily find more if I were to do it again.

The best thing of all,  is that we’ve maintained it too (even the kids!).

While I love having tidy drawers, this exercise gave me a bigger insight and I’ll talk about it in the next blog post (otherwise this is going to turn into an ebook post).

So for now I’ll leave you with this pic of my t.shirts folded in the drawer.

So if you want to check out the book before we next chat on here, you can get a copy at your local Kikki. K. store, or bookshop. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. by Marie Kondo

kon mari

Now tell me, if you have already read the book…. ha s it changed your life?

Have you maintained the changes?

I’m eager to hear from you!


What would you do with a clean slate?

clean slate

Since signing up for an online business course a couple of years ago and my official induction into the world of business I’ve learned some really interesting things, and one of the recurring questions is “What do you actually want?” (from life, for your life). I’ve had small mentoring groups and I’ve had D&Ms with friends, some who have done the same course and some who haven’t and the struggle people find when they are first faced with this question and the absolute relevance it has to health isn’t lost on me. In fact when people say that starting a business (and having kids) is one of the most extreme self development courses you can take – they’re not joking. The questions, decisions and situations you’re faced with force you to look at who you are in a way that nothing I did before did.

So you wouldn’t expect one of the most provocative questions in these courses to be: What do you want?

You wouldn’t expect the reactions when people try to answer these questions too. The self doubt, applying limitations that aren’t there or the challenge to self confidence and self belief.

It’s funny that in our everyday life so often the problem is we don’t draw boundaries, yet when asked a question with potentially no limits or wrong answers we create all these rules and defining barriers to the imagination and the possibilities.

Is the problem having too much choice in this situation or doubting our ability to follow through? Or perhaps both?

If you had a clean slate and you could create anything from scratch what would you create?

One of my favourite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson and it is:

“Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Building a house, planning a wedding, starting a business, starting a course of study, changing jobs, planning a big holiday, producing a TV show, writing a book, and having kids are all situations where you can’t just go with the flow but actually have to actively choose and make decisions about where your path is going to go. How your outcome is going to look.

Making decisions can be exhausting and it’s not surprising that in many of these instances you can find yourself procrastinating and the resistance rising because it is really hard to choose some things! What do you want from your life and what is important to you (eg. your big rocks) are pretty big questions.

When asked what they want, most people say something along the lines of “to be happy and relaxed.”

Not many say “ooh, to be constantly stressed out and busy”

Yet when you take the time to listen to people talk about how they feel and how their life is, they’ll often tell you they are stressed out and busy.

Why are we setting our days up so that we are stressed out and busy rather than happy and relaxed?

Is it because we don’t know what happiness and relaxed really looks and feels like? Or is it because we don’t know how to make decisions?

Is it a combination of both?

And there is that ever present theme of being stressed and busy.

I was chatting with a friend who has an elderly, unwell parent recently and I couldn’t help but recall going through a similar thing with my mother in law a few years ago. Nothing I’d done, read or seen about health prepared me for really thinking about what I wanted for my future as much as seeing some of the other residents at my mother in law’s nursing home and equating the importance of health now to my health in the elder years. Yet, after a while it’s easy to “get busy” and while you don’t totally forget, you comfortably live in denial as though you have an eternity to make decisions about how you are going to spend your time.

But you really don’t.

Keeping busy doesn’t delay the inevitable.

It just reduces the amount of time you have to take any meaningful action.

It’s so easy sometimes to feel like you have no choices and that the path is set – so why bother? Growing up in the Italian culture (especially with older parents) I’m certainly no stranger to that feeling because there were certain cultural and societal expectations.

But I ended up doing things quite differently. One day I realised it wasn’t set. I didn’t have to finish the PhD. I could study naturopathy. I could create a cooking show (I drastically underestimated how much work it would be, the true costs and all that I would learn in doing that mind you but it was possible and I did do it. I realised I could do a romance writing course. I could work part time in clinic. I could go mostly plant based if I wanted to.

Sure there are some things it is unlikely I will ever do – like being a world class figure skater. There are going to always be some things you’ll have less control over (eg. sleeping through the night if your kids don’t or perhaps working part time isn’t a financial option at the moment) but there are still some things you can do. Like, look for another job if you hate your current one.

Years ago I was watching Home and Away and one of the characters was telling another character who was having trouble getting over his anger, a story about someone being dragged by a rope and how holding on to the rope was causing pain and they could have let go of the rope at any time.

Making changes is hard. Sometimes it’s easier to wait for change to happen to us rather than to actively create it.

It’s easier to wait for the other person to break up with you. It’s easier to get another job in the field with a boss you can’t stand rather than retraining and leaving that field which would take a lot of time, commitment and determination. It’s easier to wait to be made redundant than quit.

It’s easier to keep being too busy than to try to figure out what it is you love and risk getting it wrong.

Is that the crux of it all? We’re afraid of making the wrong decision so we make no decision and then ultimately leave ourselves no time to make a decision?

So this week I’ve been asking myself how I want to be spending my time. A few weeks ago things “got busy” again and I stopped my exercise routine (yet again) to try to catch up with the backlog of work – anticipating this time in the future where I won’t have >40 hours worth of work to do in the 15 hours a week I have to do it in. It means learning to say “no” more.

So this week I had a meeting with myself and I wrote out my goals for the year and then broke it up into my goals for each quarter and then I wrote out all the tasks to achieve, to complete those goals.

Next I tallied up how long each task would take and then I looked at my week and I looked at the hours I have been working and how many I had to work and I found there was a massive disparity. I hadn’t realised I’d been spending over 40 hours a week on what I thought was my “part time endeavour” and I hadn’t realised I was spending much less time on other things which were important to me, like cooking, hanging out with the kids, exercise and sleep and so I began to schedule some of the tasks in to my time table.

I’m keeping a picture of that time table as a reminder of how much time I actually have per day and practically how to fit in the things I want to do with my life in that time.

Have you done an exercise like this?

Have you thought about what you’re doing with your time?

Where does your path go?

Maybe thinking about the future is too big a step? What do you want to do for the next week? What do you want to do today? This weekend?

One of the big things I’ve wanted to do this year is clear out the clutter because clutter feels like a massive time waster and so I’ve began to make time to de-clutter my life but, more about that next time (If you’re not on the newsletter list, just enter your name and email address below:-)


Do you really need an extra hour in the day?

putting sand in the jarDo you really need an extra hour in the day?

I think that if as naturopaths we could teach our clients how to triage their busy schedules by helping them get better time management skills then we’d see a massive change in their lives. One thing I hear everyone say is “I’m so busy” (including myself). So often whenever the question is about doing something for your health the answer is “Oh I was going to – but I got busy.”

Sometimes being busy keeps us from doing the thing we feel we should do (but actually don’t want to be doing); it might sound convoluted, but this kind of thing really does happen. We might say we want to lose weight, but deep, deep down we aren’t really sure if we want the attention that would come with that. Or we might say we want to have more time so we can clean, do our taxes or hang out with certain friends etc but in reality – you don’t really want to clean with your only day off in a month, the thought of doing your taxes just doesn’t inspire you and catching yo with that particular friend leaves you feeling exhausted rather than renewed and so being busy is a legitimate way to avoid doing these things (I’ve talked a bit more about being busy in this post here recently).

Some people are really hard to say “no” to, they can be snarky, bitchy and manipulative and sometimes it can feel like you’re only armor against these people who would use all you have to give and “suck you dry” only to discard you when you’ve outgrown your usefulness is to actually be perpetually busy.

I had a counselor once say that these kind of people can be a bit like dogs, they can smell your fear (or in this case ambivalence, lack of confidence to say “no” and hesitation) and so if you can’t say a confident “no” and they can get a foot in the door and think they have a chance, they’ll keep asking until they get the “ok.” (The same could be said for telemarketers as long as you’re still on the phone, they’ll keep trying to sell and convince you to sign up for their product).

So do we really need more hours in the day or are the 24 actually enough?

One of the solutions to being busy and needing more time so there is time to relax and take care of our own health is to say something like, “Oh if I only had more hours in the day?” Have you said this? I know I have! So I was surprised the other night while reading a passage in the book Work Smarter Think Better where the author (Cyril Peupion) paraphrased a story about a teacher demonstrating a metaphor about time management to their class by filling a jar with large rocks, then smaller rocks, then sand and then water.  Basically it was a metaphor for being able to still find time to do things even when the schedule looks full.

Wow. As you know, I’m a fan of stories, metaphors and analogies and this one really hit home and I had a couple of epiphanies.

Firstly, the author explained that that story demonstrates the importance of doing the important tasks first because if your jar is full of sand and water then there is no room for the big rocks.

While I’ve heard this concept before, the image of the sand and the rocks really hit home for me especially with what he said next which was this: As he often hears people saying they’d like more time in the day, he asks his seminar attendees what they’d do with an extra hour if they could have an extra hour each day.

I asked myself what I would really do with an extra hour. Right now, as I am with my current “to do list” and list of goals, aspirations and desires and it was right then in that moment that I realised something – when I looked at my current diary and my adult life: We already have that extra hour; I’ve just been spending it on sand and water and small rocks or other people’s big rocks instead of my big rocks.

Imagine my surprise at that revelation!

24 hours in a day is enough. The problem is that we are trying to stuff too much into the days, weeks, months and years of our lives. And it’s not “big rock” stuff. Most of the time, for the really busy people, it’s not even our own “stuff” but someone elses!

So what would you do with an extra hour in your day today?

I was horrified to realise that if I actually got an extra hour at the moment, I’d probably be spending it checking email, figuring out the wording in a social media post, answering the interview questions for a project I agreed to help out with,  or doing one of the many other tasks that I’ve inherited, offered to take on or was delegated. Things which even when at the time I said yes “I had just enough time to do” but I hadn’t taken into consideration things that come up like the kids getting sick, pupil free days, worthy causes I’d feel like I should help out with and as a consequence that I’d be playing catch-up for the next month or more on my “big rocks” and I’d be scrambling myself to the point of burnout to get it all done.

What would you really like to do with “spare time”?

I asked myself what I would really like to do with an hour of spare time each day. I decided I’d like to read for fun again. In high school I was one of the students who’d read the most books in one year in my English class. I soon outgrew our library and began working through our community library and buying books until I went to Uni and joined a writers club. I’m eclectic and love to read everything from fantasy, paranormal and romance fiction to non-fiction. But over the last few years most of my reading is “for work”. I still enjoy it, like this book by Cyril Peupion, but it’s not the same as reading Harry Potter or the Black Dagger Brotherhood books which give complete escapism.

My husband gave me a book for my 37th Birthday (It was one of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward if you’re curious). I knew what it was and by a series of events on the morning of opening presents (kid dramas, running late for a family event followed by working on the show) the book stayed wrapped up until Christmas that year. On Christmas day I opened it as a matter of principle, and then I defiantly read a couple of chapters last year when I was stuck in bed with a bad cold. I’ve just turned 39 and I still haven’t finished the book. In the “old” days I would have read that book in 1-2 days.

I realised that over the last couple of years, at best I’m lucky to read a couple of pages of any book before bed each night, when I used to read a couple of hundred pages a day. And I’ve been putting the “for fun fiction” reading off until that magical time in the future when I have this “free hour” in the day.

Other things I could do when I create time in my schedule for this magical “extra hour” is exercise, cook, or sit and chat with my kids and my hubby.

So I’ll leave you with this thought – what would you do with an extra hour in the day?

Is there enough room in your jar for your big rocks?

When I went to the beach yesterday to take the photo for this blog post, I decided to create a couple of reminders about this particular epiphany so if you’d like to get the little worksheet I put together and the hi-res version of some of the images I took down at the beach to help prompt you to work out and remember the “Big rocks” in your life, just enter your name and details below and I’ll send you the link.



Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should

full diaryLast year I realised I was using the phrase “I’m so busy! I need more hours in the day!” quite a lot. I felt stressed out because I was always working to the last minute of a deadline (despite starting things well in advanced and making a good effort to be organised). This got me thinking…How did things get so out of hand? How did I end up with no time to do fun things?

Was it because I was taught that if I could help someone I should?

My mum was an especially good multi-tasker and re-arranger and with 4 kids and working full time, she had to be. It seemed to me growing up that things always got done. I don’t recall a week we didn’t do the cleaning and there were very few meals where we had take away as a kid: my parents just did what needed to be done. There was no “too busy” even though they were busy people. I now know they were very sleep-deprived busy people and that’s how they did it all. So perhaps it is some of the values they’ve instilled in me and my Italian upbringing but I had this innate feeling – that if you could help someone you should. If you had something and they didn’t then you should share – it was polite. Of course as an adult and parent I understand that there must have been so much that my mum went without because she was sewing a dress for a formal or making cakes for a birthday party, or taking me or my sisters to the hospital for tummy aches or migraines (and that’s even when she had one herself).

It actually makes me want to cry thinking about it. And so possibly because of the ethics I was taught, I grew up feeling guilty if I didn’t help out if I had the means to.

As an adult it’s taken a lot for me to learn that just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.

This is not one of those posts encouraging people to “put themselves first” which sadly nowadays has been translated to “Make sure you get what you need and then don’t feel obliged to honour your commitments”, but a cautionary tale for over-givers around the world. Some might question my IQ given that it took me 39 years to figure this one out, but if you save yourself some burnout and time from my lessons about managing my time (and other resources) I will consider it years well spent.

Bosses that take too much

I once worked in a retail store with 13 or so other staff. Myself and another worker managed 1/4 of the store each, the other 11 employees managed the other half of the store. It was just before I discovered I had endometriosis and I was getting run down in a big way. What made the whole situation worse though, was that we didn’t have a good manager: the other 11 would often gossip (quite loudly) about their social lives, their love lives, and all manner of other things. One morning, the other busy worker and I were taking a rare 5 minute chat while we were pricing objects when the boss walked over to us and said we should get back to work. I laughed thinking she was joking until I realised she wasn’t. So I took the her out the back for a chat. I found it both ridiculous and hypocritical to give us a talking to when the other 11 were still chatting and not even working while they did so! Her response was “Well Lisa, not everyone has the same work ethic that you do.”


Apart from being one of the silliest things a manager could say to a worker, it was also completely unreasonable.

My sister used to have a mug which said “This place is full of willing people. Some are willing to work, and the rest are willing to let them.”

Needless to say I left that job as soon as I could but unfortunately not before I was so burnt out that I pretty much had to spend a month in bed recovering before I started my next job.

Just because you can work yourself ragged, when it is not appreciated and no-one else does, should you?

‘Sharing is caring’ except when it is only one-way.

In another instance, I had a voucher for a free coffee so I shared it with the friend I was meeting (eg. we bought a coffee and paid half each for it). A few weeks later, when the same friend and I were at a conference and went for a walk, she suggested stopping for a coffee. As I rummaged through my pocket for some coins she asked me if I had brought my free coffee voucher? When I replied “no” (given that we had gone for a walk and not a coffee) she laughingly responded with “oh too bad, you’ll have to watch me drink my free one!” I thought she was joking given she’d happily shared my voucher not long before. But no, I was wrong  apparently for some people sharing is caring only when its you sharing with them.

There were more incidences like this with much bigger priced items and after a while I began to draw the line and say “No” and you know what is funny, she thinks I’m the unreasonable one!

Recognising that you’re the back-up plan.

In another instance I had a new acquaintance approach me to write a professional piece for a project they were publishing. I knew I didn’t have the time and I politely declined a few times until one day the acquaintance looked quite desperate and so I said “ok.” So I stayed up late to make the deadline and left 4 messages to see if my contribution was suitable as the guidelines were pretty vague. I didn’t receive a reply for 2 months until I was told that they had enough material now and as my contribution “wasn’t quite what they were looking for” it might go in a subsequent publication or when they had a gap because there wasn’t enough time for me to re-write the piece for the current publication.

I was annoyed because after hearing them complain about how no one was respecting their deadlines, I’d been given less time to create the piece to begin with, rearranged my entire schedule to get it done on time and put myself behind on my own important projects (which is why I’d said “no” in the beginning ).

I politely checked they had received my 4 messages (which they admitted they had). And after a few more questions I elucidated that they’d got some articles back from the original contributors and they didn’t want to include the article they begged me to write in such a short time frame.

They used the “too busy” excuse twice to get out of the situation they’d created: by being “too busy” to reply and by contacting me when there “wasn’t enough time” for me to re-write the piece.

I felt pretty upset with myself for falling for this one because my intuition had said a clear, loud “no!” from the beginning.

So the take home message is: Know when to stick to your “no”.

These experiences all confirm something to me, just because you can help someone out, it doesn’t always mean you should.

Now I don’t want this to sound like I’m mercenary and only want to give things to people when I can get something back – or that I’m advocating not helping people in need because that’s not it at all (I think helping people out when you can is a great thing to do). It’s more a rallying cry for people who find it hard to set boundaries because they don’t like to see people struggling or stressed out from being used and then get their kindness, time, efforts and expertise taken advantage of. I saw a great quote on social media the other day which said “Givers have to set boundaries because takers rarely do” and that is exactly what I am talking about.

How many times have you totally rescheduled your day to help someone only to have them cancel, arrive late, never be available to help you or take the credit for the work you did?

Historically I’ve been one of those people who feels like I can’t say “no” to someone if I could actually help them out. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve lost sleep and numerous weekends with my family, my kids have missed their sporting events and my husband has rearranged his schedule because ultimately it was do-able to help the friend in need.

And then I started to realise just how many people weren’t doing this back. I was in a project where one of the team members was totally dropping the ball. They came late, left early and generally were so unreliable things improved after they left the project. One particular part of the project was massively rescheduled because this “team member” couldn’t make the time that had originally been agreed on because they had a prior commitment. Imagine our surprise to see this “commitment” was tickets to a concert booked well after the original date had been set. They ultimately saw their commitment to the project as flexible and “Lisa will work around it”.

Another time I’d managed to block out our first weekend off in a long time and I was really looking forward to sleeping in because my kids weren’t sleeping well and I was feeling so exhausted. So when a colleague asked if we could reschedule a meeting to one of the days I’d blocked off because she couldn’t make the other time, I silently cried while saying “ok.” Because it wasn’t like I had a surgery scheduled, I just wanted to sleep in for the first weekend in a long time which seemed frivolous. So my sleep in would have to wait for another day. Anyway, at our meeting, to which she arrives late, I hear “Oh thanks for this. I’ve got a day off on the day of our original meeting and I wanted to sleep in.”

It’s possibly one of the reasons I now have a night guard to stop my teeth grinding.

In yet another example from my hubby, he was on a committee and had done a large part of the work for a project, including contacting the stakeholders in the event, organising a location, getting approvals, securing sponsors. On the day of the event, someone else took the podium and my hubby didn’t get any recognition for doing all the work making it possible in the first place.

Doesn’t that suck?

If someone takes credit for the work you’ve done,  or for example they copy your idea without giving you credit for coming up with it in the first place…steer clear of them because they will always think it is ok to take credit for your ideas and your efforts and you’ll be perpetually busy thinking up new things and starting from scratch.

I wish that I didn’t have so many examples of times I’d rearranged my day, added more to a workload I already knew was packed to the brim and carried the load for people who weren’t pulling their weight, but sadly, it’s taken me a long time to learn this lesson.

What’s all this got to do with time management?

Well because I was “so busy” helping people I’d left no time for myself and my own health and I left myself wide open for burn out and was too tired to live and enjoy my own life.

Too often I’d allowed the series of late, late nights, early starts, working weekends and rescheduling to fit in other people’s needs, usually cut into the time I’d cut out for myself to exercise, eat well, relax and play with my kids, or to catch up on my work so I wasn’t always feeling the pressure of looming deadlines.

So I ask you to really think about the following questions:

What does your schedule really look like? If you wrote down every commitment you had for a week (including the last minute changes you make to your schedule when you rearrange your priorities) what does this say about how you spend your time?

Do you consider commitments to other people more important than commitments to yourself?

Do the things you actually put first reflect what you believe is the top of your list of priorities in life?

If they don’t then we need to work on making sure we are prioritising the right things. Include self-care activities like exercise, giving ourselves the time to eat healthily and have time out (in an honourable way, ideally not at the expense of someone else’s wellbeing) and learning that it is ok to say no.  If you don’t value your time, unfortunately other people won’t either.



Triaging lifestyle changes is there such a thing?


When clients come in for a consult they usually have a list of things they want help with – usually the list is something like this:

  • more energy
  • lose weight
  • help with hair loss, skin issues like acne or eczema
  • help with bloating and other digestive upsets and food intolerances
  • help with erratic menstrual cycles and PMS and natural fertility/ preconception care
  • help with headaches
  • help with sleep quality
  • help with reducing anxiety

There are more, but these are the most common things I see clients asking for help with. Usually in my clinic because I’ve got a “plant-based approach” and follow a mostly plant-based diet (I’ll talk about this more soon if you’re curious) I tend to see these issues in vegetarians and vegans or people transitioning to vegetarian and vegan diets as well as those with mainstream diets.

At the end of the 90 minute initial consult I tend to have a list of things that I can see we need to tackle too like:

  • getting more sleep – going to bed earlier
  • getting more exercise/ some exercise
  • drinking more water
  • getting some sunshine and fresh air
  • balancing some nutrients based on blood tests – eg. iron or vitamin D or herbs
  • reducing stress
  • dietary changes like – adding in more fibre, more fruit, more veggies, more whole grains, nuts, seeds or legumes etc. depending on their diet style and what kind of issues are going on.

So as you can see between the two lists – the clients’ lists (the outcomes they want to achieve) and my practitioner list (the list of things which will help to achieve it) a bit of “triaging” needs to happen. It’s called a “practice” for a reason – because once you come out of the idealistic world of college and text books and start to work with real life people you soon realise a few things – what people want to do and what they can do aren’t always the same thing. Yet if they don’t see the results they want to see straight up they may not come back to give you a second chance. Perhaps for this reason, naturopathy seems to have taken a direction toward more supplementing and generally more “complexity”?

Anyway, the real problem is believing these issues even have a quick fix.

After a 90 minute consult we tend to find that each of these things on our “to change” list has its own special issues so it might look a bit like this:

  • getting to bed earlier – difficult because they work 2 jobs, or they have young children waking through the night. They get home from work late, eat late and consequently go to bed late.
  • reducing stress – stress from bosses at work – stress from friendships or relationships – eg their ex may be causing them stress, or they’re making good lifestyle changes but their friends try to guide them off track. They could be spending time helping family members just move from one drama to another.
  • making dietary changes – their kids don’t like it, their hubby doesn’t like it. They work long hours or 2 jobs and can’t get to the shops. Money is tight adding another dimension.

So “simply reducing stress” isn’t as simple as just prescribing a yoga lesson. That alone is a band-aid; the real problem is the boss causing excessive stress with unrealistic expectations at work or humiliating workers in public etc. A yoga lesson or even a term of yoga in this situation is not the “needle mover” that is going to make a huge difference to this person’s life in terms of removing the ongoing cause of stress and damage to health. In this example the needle mover would be changing the situation at work which is the problem.

So what do you need to change first in general to get the biggest “bang for your buck” so to speak when it comes to getting your health back on track? I’ve been thinking about this for a while and doing quite a bit of observation of it both in clinic, in my own life and chatting with other praccies: what I’ve concluded is that it isn’t changing diet, exercise or sleep first, because I’ve tried each of these approaches many times and I don’t see the long lasting changes I’m looking for.

Eating well certainly helps, but as soon as things start getting stressful, self care via diet tends to go out the window especially as people “run out of time” (you recall from this post).

Getting to bed early helps – but as soon as things get busy and multiple deadlines loom or cluster then people tend to catch up by having less sleep – they go to bed later to meet the deadline or get up earlier – or do both. Their exercise routine suffers (if they have one) and they cut down the meal prep time and opt for pre-made, packaged, take away or restaurant options.

Taking supplements can also help with energy but when the budget begins to feel a squeeze these are the first things to go – along with health consults. Health spending (such as for a pilates lesson or a consult) is ditched rather than discretionary purchases on jewellery, clothing, makeup or hair appointments. You might think I’m joking or generalising here, but there are many times I’ve had people tell me that money is tight, but then talk about their new DSLR, Dior sunglasses or new hairstyle.

With this in mind I have been writing a series of blog posts on this life changing stuff. It’s these seemingly simple, not-so-academic things on people’s lists (which in my experience have the biggest impact) which can be hardest to change.

By the way, I still know that diet is very important – and for those of you who used to love my nutrition posts – they’ll come back again but I think this lifestyle stuff is very important too as I’ve found it to be the reason other priorities come unstuck – it’s why I keep getting burnt out, running out of time to cook healthy meals and exercise and I see the same happen with friends, clients and colleagues.

So in my new lifestyle triage list – I think the #1 thing people need more help with is time management and understanding then setting their priorities.

Time management is a bit like managing a budget. Too many people have “champagne tastes” on a “beer budget” when it comes to their time. Their exhausted, stressed-out bodies are proof of just how far they are living beyond their means. Using the money analogy, so many people nowadays are exhausting themselves because they’re spending their time as though it is going on a credit card with no limit (and there is no tomorrow when they need to pay it off). They keep borrowing from time they really don’t have until the bank (their bodies) effectively shut down and say “Funds Unavailable”!

From what I’ve seen – poor time management exemplified by people taking on more than they really have time to do – leads to less sleep, exercise and home cooking or eating good meals in general – which depletes already-reduced stress coping as well as leading to nutritional deficiencies which tend to exacerbate that health cycle. It tends to add financial pressure because people don’t have the time to do it themselves so they need to pay for solutions, like eating out or getting takeaway, or getting a house cleaner, or gardener, dog walker, or buying more holidays, or they do more comfort shopping. All of this then tends to add more financial pressure so they have to work more and are more bound to their jobs which are often the cause of their stress to begin with.

That’s just one way poor time management can mess up your health.

So how do you help people manage their time better?

I’m still working on this, and it is why I began this blog series. Time management (and setting priorities) is as much a conceptual skill as a practical one. It seems to work better once people “get” it. A bit like losing weight. People can tell you you’re over weight, you can look in the mirror and berate your appearance for years. But one day, something “clicks” and you “get it” and things start to change.

These time management concepts are what I will discuss from a “user perspective” next.

Until then, I’d like to know if any of this resonates with you? Have you tried to change all of the other things first and found that it was hard to maintain when things got busy?

By looking at time management and priorities I think you can establish some skills to help you not over commit your precious time in the first place. While you can’t control everything and from time to time chaos will creep in, I think it is a matter of dealing with the chaos you can change rather than the chaos you have no control over.

So one of the most useful time management things I’ve found is to ponder on the statement: “Just because you think you can do something extra doesn’t necessarily mean that you should“.

Are your relationships a source of sustenance or stress?


Are your relationships a source of strength or stress?

Without a doubt. The relationships in your life can be your greatest source of strength and support or the most pure poison in the form of stress and the constant struggle to make them work.

And it occurred to me (yet again) over a dinner recently in a scene which could have been scripted from one of my favourite TV series (Sex and the city), as I had dinner with 2 other health care professional friends, just how much of an impact our relationships have on our health.

What started out as a conversation about our goals, became a conversation about our struggles with certain people in our lives. The troubles ranged from problems with our partners, to problems with our friends, problems with our families and to problems with our work colleagues.

Really the 4 big areas in your life you have relationships of significance.

These struggles had otherwise intelligent women agonising over what to do and how to solve them.

In one instance, the friend had no confidence that her job was secure as her boss would blame the staff for mistakes made by the boss. In another instance a friend was exhausted by trying to do her work and help support her partner who was going through a rough time. Between the two commitments there wasn’t enough time in the day for sleep and self care. In another situation, one of the friends had been let down by co-workers which had led to financial stress. In another situation a friend had been pulled into a drama against her will, unwittingly becoming the go-between in a dispute between 2 others and she was trying to extricate herself unscathed (otherwise known as the classic no-win situation).

The themes were betrayal, shock, mistrust, abandonment, desire to escape drama and overwhelm.

The effects of relationship stresses

The effects of these situations on one friend was an intense insomnia phase, on another friend, the brink of burnout and on another the financial uncertainty and lack of security had her right at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, unable to really do anything with the dreams she had before the current drama unfolded and instead needing to spend every waking moment dealing with the immediate crisis rather than having the energy and time to figure out how to get out of the situation and get some stability and security again.

These problem relationships in our lives had made us feel more like the target than the archer. Constantly reactive, too exhausted to do too much to flip the situation and get ourselves some more stable footing.

So as conversation switched from goals to challenges, it was obvious to me yet again, how useless information alone is.

If 3 health conscious healthcare practitioners were finding it hard to overcome the challenges which were arising as a consequence of their relationships, to the point where it was affecting their diet, sleep, weight, hair, self confidence and happiness, leaving us too exhausted for exercise, quality sleep, cooking and eating healthy meals, I couldn’t help but wonder… what chances the “average” person has? Or was I wrong to question the actual usefulness of some of this health information which is so abundant nowadays?

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has seen healthcare practitioners who drink and smoke and who don’t exercise enough due to the long hours they work. Sometimes, in helping others we run our of time and forget to help ourselves.

So how do we change the conversation?

From what I’ve observed, I think it’s hard to properly de-stress your life (so you can make better decisions about the people and dramas you allow to enter your life), until you get the basics down.

The first basic skill is learning how to recognise the  “red flag” people so you can avoid them. Eg. if you’re faced with someone who is always complaining about something, or someone who is always bitching about other people, back away cautiously and quickly where possible.

Secondly, when dealing with professional relationships, if you’re applying for a job, or hiring someone for the team make sure you read and write contracts with terms and conditions which are crystal clear (If you’re getting these written  see a good lawyer. If you’re signing them, read them too and get advice from a lawyer if you don’t understand them before you sign them). It’s amazing how many people I know don’t read the Ts&Cs and then find themselves stuck in jobs, rental agreements, and living arrangements that add extra stress to their life. So if possible, avoid the drama, know exactly what your rights are, know what the clauses for ending a contract are etc. Don’t be caught out.

Thirdly, I think there is a bit of chaos management involved here too. As we were chatting at dinner, I couldn’t help but notice each of us had at least one area in our life where chaos reigned. From clutter around the house, to a too-busy calendar. If you prefer to be a tidy person, and in stress and overwhelm you find things piling up, then the clutter tends to add to your stress.

Lastly, the fourth and final point for this post is about boundaries especially as they pertain to our general time management and priorities of self care (and self preservation).  Being able to say a confident “no” to situations which spiral into the ridiculous is important but near impossible to do as long as you’re always “on the back foot”.  Dr Dean Ornish says something along the lines of “On the days I think I’m too busy to meditate for 5 minutes, that’s the day I need to meditate for an hour”. There is truth in that notion. For many of us, on the days we are so busy, we work through lunch, skip exercise, order takeaway and find things literally piling up on our desks. It’s hard to feel confident enough to say “No” to people and to not get involved, when you’re rushing from one over commitment to another.

So that’s all for this week, next, I’d like to start a conversation about some of these “basic skills” so that we can plug some of those leaky boat holes. Which basic skills do you want to hear about first?






Recognising situations that cause chronic stress: Staying long after you should have gone…

alarm clock


It’s a warm summer night, but not too warm. The company is great, it’s all very relaxing and although you know you’ve got to get up early for work, you don’t want to be the first person to end the moment. So you stay.

You hate your job, but the money is good. The boss is a moron and your co workers don’t respect you but you’re scared about change and the upheaval a new job would cause. So you stay.

You’re doing a PhD, you know you don’t want to be a career scientist because the thought of living from 3 year grant to 3 year grant is a bit daunting when you have friends in their 40s with broken relationships and mortgages and no secure income. But you’ve already put 3 years of your life in and you’re over half way there, so you stay…

You’re in a shared space and your co-workers don’t respect your needs. You’ve brought the issues up a few times but keep getting ignored, your messages, notes and calls are un-returned and unacknowledged. You know deep down you should go because being “unheard” is making you feel terrible and you’ve gone so far out of your way to try to make the situation work, yet you stay…

You’re managing a team project. One of the team members is not a team player. They make the working relationship harder and harder. Their blatant disrespect for you, the team and the project erodes your self confidence. You know they need to go, but don’t feel like you have many options with your limited budget (and they know it too). So you try to make the impossible situation work by taking on more and more and more and more and more…. and they stay.

The elephant in the room
We’ve all done it, been there, stayed too long, or allowed someone to stay on our team, in our lives, or in our hearts too long.

It’s impossible to really talk about effective long term health and nutrition without addressing the elephant in the room: the situations, habits, stresses and relationships which are causing the havoc in the first place. Like in the leaky boat post a couple of weeks ago, if you aren’t aware of these situations, how to recognise them and how to deal with them then it doesn’t matter how much withania, rhodiola or siberian ginseng you take, you’re going to keep feeling and being depleted.
You’ll spend a fortune on B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, zinc and various other nutrients and blends for “adrenal fatigue”. You’ll take vitex till the cows come home and still have an erratic menstrual cycle. You’ll cut carbs, you’ll cut gluten, you’ll add carbs and cut animal products, but the problem will keep coming back, you’ll still feel tired, bloated, over-weight, underweight, not quite right. Because until you plug the hole in the boat you will just keep bucketing out the water while allowing the real cause of the problem to continue.

• Step 1 is recognising the leak.
• Step 2 is finding an effective way to deal with it.

So in today’s post I’d like to talk about recognising one of the ways you might be inviting drama in your life.

You might be wondering if I am drawing a very long bow here, really, how can staying too long at a pleasant dinner be contributing to your health issues? How can keeping a team member in a project for too long cause your hair to fall out?

Each of the situations above leads to stress especially over the long term. While one late night might not be a problem, a series of late nights can create serious havoc especially if your way to manage is to reach for a stimulant (of a legal or illegal kind). While illegal stimulants have their own set of problems, legal stimulants like caffeine, high energy food and other things lead to their own special kind of biochemical havoc.

Stress from worrying whether you worded your reply email correctly and the fatigue from perpetual late nights. Stress from having less free time because you’ve got to do the work of the team members not pulling their weight leads to a worsening and self-perpetuating cycle of comfort eating, weight gain or weight loss, less sleep, less exercise all of which only make it harder to get out of the situation.

So, no, I don’t feel that this is drawing a long bow.

Why we stay too long: Resisting change

Whether it is because we don’t want to pull away from the warm embrace of our partner or the deliciously squeezy cuddles from our kids in the morning, eventually there comes a time when holding on too long, makes us too late for the next thing.

It’s continuing to say “yes” when we should be saying “no”.

Why do we hang on longer than we should? Why do we continue to work with monsters and morons, stay in relationships which erode our self worth rather than strengthen it and continue to hope that people will respond differently than they do?

I think there are a few different reasons for this:

The two big ones I see are fear and not feeling like we have any other options. Sometimes it’s not just you being afraid to let go, but the other person making it hard for you to leave.

In my personal experience, and in the stories of my friends, and clients who experience similar things, the other person or people in these situations tend to know the “power they have over you” and reinforce the belief that – “if you leave here you’ll have nowhere else to go”.

To stay in the situation or to go? That is the question.

My personal opinion here is to recognise when to walk away and then do it (earlier rather than later). Ideally seek the wisdom of a counsellor or appropriately qualified healthcare practitioner for support with your specific situation and advice on the best way to go about it; but if something feels “wrong” and especially if “bittersweet” is becoming just plain “bitter” and you’re feeling angry, resentful and like you’ve been taken advantage of, then it’s time to do something about the situation before it really takes your health down.

Over the years I’ve had all kinds of health situations caused from the long term stress of staying in a situation longer than I should have. I’ve seen the same in my clients too, from weight gain to weight loss, to menstrual irregularities, fertility problems, hair loss, “adrenal fatigue” and many more.

In all those years and with all those experiences rarely have I seen a situation where holding on long after you should have let go, moved on or walked away has lead to more strength, better insight, self confidence, self respect and/or respect from the people who didn’t respect your boundaries to begin with.

Possibly it’s because you didn’t respect your boundaries either?

When the line was finally drawn in the sand, rarely has a letter been received saying, “Wow, I totally respect you for putting up with my selfish immature crap for so long. You’re such a fair person to have rationally explained to me the many times where I wasn’t acknowledging your needs and I really don’t want you to leave and so I’ve decided to change based on this amazing and evolved example you’ve given me.”

Generally the response is a little more like “I don’t care that you’re gone, but how dare you leave before I replaced you and your things.” And other variations of “You’re so selfish, you didn’t think of me.” To this I can’t help but think of a line from Aussie TV series Kath & Kym: “Moi, moi, moi, everyone’s so self absorbed, no one’s thinking of me!”

How can you prevent this happening again?

The first thing you can do is to recognise that a situation is moving into “chronic stress territory” so if you find yourself reaching for stimulants so you can burn the candle at both ends, or you find yourself reaching for a phone and hear yourself “bitching” about your friends or the people you work with or the work you are doing, then it’s a sign to stop and consider.

If you’ve done everything you can, like discussed the problem of the shared space with the space manager, or discussed the expectations of the team with the team members and been clear about what actions they were expected to take but they’ve blatantly ignored your emails and defied your requests then ultimately I think it all comes down to boundaries: Knowing when to say “No” and “Enough is enough”, knowing what your bottom line is, (actually having a bottom line is a good place to start too); then being willing to respect your own boundaries and move on.

The aphorism “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is applicable here. Ultimately the only person you’re really in control of is yourself and so if you’ve done everything you could do and you can’t stop the other people contributing to the stressful situation then it’s worth considering how you can take yourself out of the stressful situation.

I’d love to hear what you think. Why do you think people “stay too long”?