Wisdom & Wellbeing: How do you manage yours?
‘The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.'
That time of year? If last year's February Inspire is anything to go by it does seem to be ‘that time of year' when viruses and bugs are everywhere and the majority of people you meet are either fighting off something, under the weather or just recovering (except perhaps for readers in the southern hemisphere who are hopefully basking in sunshine and heat!). Perhaps we need an annual reminder of how to take care of ourselves in order to keep on doing the things we want and need to do both at work and at play. Take a look at last February's edition:Do you know how to be ill and when to stop? What I will explore here is about our inner wisdom and our wellbeing.
I also seem to be in rhythm in writing about this as, in January, the Guardian Travel section was a Wellbeing special issue. Evidently there are now holidays you can go on to learn to sleep better, breath better, do yoga, learn fast walking (whatever that is!) and much more.
Do you practice what you preach? We can often be very good at telling others what they need to do to look after themselves, but don't necessarily practise what we preach. One of my overriding principles in my work and my life is to endeavour to practise what I preach. So one evening in January, having coached a client in Surrey, driven home to Oxfordshire and about to go to a networking dinner, I took time out to do my Buddhist practice and reflect on what was going to be the wisest thing to do. I had been feeling grotty for the last 10 days with some virus or something, soldiering on, but not getting any better. I then had to laugh at myself as in February I had been asked to run a workshop for managers on Coaching and Wellbeing. I realised that, as what often happens when I run an event, I was having my own personal experience related to it, giving me an ideal opportunity to practise what I preach. I therefore sat down, had a conversation with my inner wisdom – more of that later – decided not to go to the network dinner and to cancel a social engagement the next evening. Frustrating and disappointing, but if I was going to continue working and get better, something had to go. And I am pleased to report that taking those two evenings off, cutting myself some slack did lead to a sudden improvement in my symptoms.
Are there words of wisdom that you give to others that you don't follow yourself?
Wellbeing: what does this mean to you? Years ago, I remember reading a World Health Organisation quote about what is good health. They said it is not just the absence of illness, but about good physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Of course, there are times when we will get ill, either minor or major illnesses, but what can we do to strengthen our general wellbeing?
- What does good physical health mean to you? It does not necessarily mean that everything is A-OK if you have some chronic conditions. Often, it is about what you are able to do, the energy levels that you have, how quickly you bounce back from minor illnesses.
- What does good mental health mean to you? Is it about getting a good night's sleep because you are relaxed and not worrying about things. Is it about being able to react positively to the challenges that you face?
- What does good emotional health mean to you? Rather than being positive and upbeat all the time, is it more about being able to acknowledge and process negative emotions as they occur, without being overwhelmed by them. As well as being able to fully enjoy what there is to enjoy in our lives.
- What does good spiritual health mean to you? I always describe spiritual health as being in ‘good spirits', being motivated, having a sense of purpose. So what lifts your spirits, what gives you a sense of purpose? It is important to have a range of things, as otherwise if you only have one and you can't use it you are going to feel in low spirits. For example, I love cycling and being outside in the Oxfordshire countryside, even in winter, is delightful and lifts my spirits, but at times like this when I am under the weather and it wouldn't be wise to cycle it is fortunate that I have other activities that I use to lift my spirits.
What aspects of your wellbeing do you need to take better care of?
‘Beyond living and dreaming there is something more important: waking up.'
Tapping into your inner wisdom Having written a book titled: Master Your Inner Critic, Release Your Inner Wisdom, there are a number of processes and exercises that my clients and I use to tap into our inner wisdom. These are outlined in the book, click here for details. However, here are a few pointers to get you listening to your inner wisdom:
- Stop! It is actually quite difficult to listen to your wisdom when you are busy rushing around at work, at home, with the children. So having a time, place and space to stop regularly is essential. Even if it is taking five minutes each morning and/or evening. I am fortunate in having a Buddhist practice that I do morning and evening, which creates both the routine and the place where I sit down, stop, chant and reflect. So think about where you can have five minutes uninterrupted reflection time – even if it is locked in the bathroom! I read in David Kundz's book ‘Stopping' (see below) that a doctor working in a large hospital would take the time when walking from one end of the site to the other to breathe deeply and ponder what was going on for him.
- Breathe deeply. Take a few deep breaths and check in with how you are feeling physically, emotional, spiritually, mentally.
- Write it down. I, and many of my clients, find it useful to write down what is going on inside our heads. Getting it out of your head onto paper can start to quieten any runaway thoughts, and help you to work through what is going on for you.
- Listen. Listen to (and maybe write down) what the different parts of you are saying:
- What is your inner fearful child saying?
- What is your inner critic saying?
- What is your fun child saying?
- What is your inner wisdom saying?
- Acknowledge the emotions. The evening that I mentioned above when I wrote in my journal I knew what the wisest thing to do was, but I really wanted to go to the network event and the social event. I was frustrated, angry with my body (as I seem to either have allergies or viruses) and thoroughly peed off that my best laid plans for the start of the New Year for work, fun and exercise were being interrupted. Having just coached someone in the morning and said that it was OK for him to feel a range of negative emotions related to the situation he was in, I did the same to myself and said, ‘it is OK to feel all of those things, but not to allow those negative emotions to then cloud my judgement'. It would have been easy to think ‘to hell with it, I'll take another paracetamol and get on with it' – a strategy I had used so far to fulfil my work commitments that week. But that certainly wasn't working in terms of getting well.
- Rest. For many of us either due to work commitments and family commitments it is not possible to completely take time off. However, it is often about paring down our commitments to the bare minimum, saying no to a social event or asking for a friend to take the kids to school or an out of school activity in order to get some more rest. See my August 2007 newsletter where I recommend a book called ‘Stopping: How To Be Still When You Have To Keep Going' by David Kundz and what he says about Stillpoints during our busy days by clicking here.
What tends to happen if you don't stop, listen to yourself and rest when you are feeling under the weather is that your body will just shout louder with worse symptoms until you are laid low and have no choice to rest, which will often result in taking much longer to recover.
‘You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.'
What actions are you going to take to tap into your inner wisdom and take care of your wellbeing?