Life is stressful. Even the good parts. Having a baby? Hooray! Now you can start worrying about pregnancy health, scans, doctors’ fees, kitting out a baby room, spending a year’s salary on diapers. Finally bought your dream home? Awesome news! Now you can add bigger mortgage payments, insurance, and maintenance costs to your list of things to worry about. That’s life. Stress is part of it. I recently sat down for an hour with Jeanne Booth to talk about mental health for professionals. But (and this always seems to be the case), an hour with Jeanne is a total tonic. More about her later. Specifically, I wanted tools for working people to handle stress at work. And then to work through it so that, at the end of the day, they could unwind, recover, and enjoy a life. Actually live.
Here’s what she had to say:
Why should working people be more aware of their mental health?
When we’re stressed, we activate the fright, flight, or fight response. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our bodies thrive on adrenalin when we have to do a presentation in a boardroom or approach our boss for a raise. But, when we’re in that state, our body’s goal is purely survival. It’s not thinking of creative ways to talk to your boss or deal with a client. It’s in complete “tiger after me in the jungle” mode.
What’s different between us and our predecessors is that, once that kind of situation is over, they would go back to harvesting vegetables, or being with the family around a fire. But, now, this work model means that there’s constant stress hitting us. There’s always a deadline, financial issues, relationship challenges, health problems, the environment, and so on. There’s no respite that allows our body to do an automatic reset.
When we weren’t exposed to environmental toxins (cellphones and waves from all our technology), our body was able to reset when we went to sleep or exercised. So, we were able to manage stress a lot easier. This happens less and less now. Even in sleep, we aren’t allowing our bodies to catch up and recalibrate.
There has to be a far more conscious decision of how to manage the balance between stress and rest. Because it’s insidious and long lasting, with no respite, we are becoming dredged with stress. We’re becoming heavy and sluggish, and we aren’t able to perform.
How do you recommend balancing work and family life, and overcoming the guilt attached?
When we are in that triggered stress response, we are unable to separate the child leaving the towels on the floor, and having to go shopping, and make sure that the washing dries, and do supper, while husband is having a drink at the 19th hole. We are unable to get that perspective. It’s when we can put steps in place to nurture and nourish ourselves that we can see the real picture.
If we consider ourselves important enough to nourish and nurture first, then our ability to care for our family becomes much easier. A great illustration for this is the oxygen mask on the plane – you have to put yours on first so that you can help your children. If you take care of them first, you may not survive, and you’ll never be able to care for them again.
1) What are the patterns that I’ve learnt from my parents?
If your dad was lazy, you may start to work yourself to a standstill; vowing to ensure that your children will never be without clothes and food. If mom was a loud, controlling autocrat, you may swear that you will never speak to your children in anger. But, this often has negative results (like the children walking all over you, speaking to you with disrespect, and so on)
2) How much do I respect myself?
Children mimic, they will respect you if you respect yourself. If your home is full of screaming, harsh words, and blunt retaliations; maybe you need to re-establish that respect for yourself so that everyone else follows suit.
As far as our kids are concerned, they didn’t ask to be brought into this world. The fundamental truth is that we brought them into the world. Take responsibility. And the greatest gift we can give them is our example.
So, taking care of ourselves and cultivating good qualities (integrity, respect, cooperation, kindness, etc…) have to be our priorities.
They need role models. Are exhausted, burnt out women with failed relationships and eating disorders the best thing that they have to look up to? Or the demanding dad that pushes his children to be the best at everything?
Take a step out of the story. This human life is an adventure. If this “here and now” is an expression of what it is to feel human, with all of its gloriousness, perspective can change. Then, we can be fully in grief, fully in joy, complete. Imagine that you could teach your children that it is ok to love themselves completely, to know that no amount of grief or trauma could shake their belief that they were loved, accepted just as they are, important, valuable, contributing.
If that is your core essence, then asking your boss for a raise becomes a whole lot easier. You’d value yourself enough to know that “I am the most important person in my universe. I have to do what is important for me”.
By thinking that this is selfish, you are shaming yourself. In that shaming (which works along the same lines as, “You have to eat your broccoli, there are hungry children in Eritrea”), there is a message of “you’re not good enough, you’re bad. Those starving children are more important than you are. You don’t deserve a raise.”
A lot of the guilt of working parents is that we don’t feel good enough. Shame is the densest, most negative frequency we can vibrate at. It takes lots of consistent work to shift it. The emotion that it the least dense is gratitude. So, when we work with a sense of gratitude, we can shift things and make a real difference.
How can meditation and affirmations help?
This is a tool to alter your state. It doesn’t mean assuming a lotus position. It’s purely using your time in a very conscious way to use your body and change its state.
So, a highly competitive CEO under constant pressure, sleeping five hours a night with his cellphone next to his bed, and playing a hard game of squash is changing state, but this is not meditation. It’s not detaching from what’s going on.
Meditation becomes a reflective state. It alters our state so we can detach from what’s happening in the outside world. This allows us to get perspective on what’s going on around us and, from that space, we can re-engage.
Simple gratitude meditation can be very powerful. In this, explore one aspect. For example, you can’t ask for a raise because you feel ‘bad’. Ask yourself:
- How does it make you feel? (Nauseous, stomach pain, headache, heartburn)
- What do you believe about yourself when you feel that? (I don’t work hard enough to expect a raise / My boss doesn’t like me enough to give me a raise / I need to land a new account before I can validate asking for a raise)
- What do you believe about the world? (People that have been to university can ask for a raise / My boss would rather give the raise to Derek)
Then, explore more positive beliefs, which will help you to start changing your state
- I trust that I put my all into my work
- Even though I sometimes have these negative feelings, what if I could just be kind with myself today?
- I’d like to believe that I can feel more confident about the value of my work one day.
These are good in themselves but useless if they’re icing on a mud cake. You can’t just use them with no foundation. It can actually be counterproductive because it can bring up all the resistance to the ideas. So, if you don’t think you’re very good at numbers, but you use an affirmation along the lines of “I AM good with numbers, I WILL learn this”, you enter into a very negative space of dealing with a liar. Affirmation works when there is no resistance. So, we have to use one that we already agree with.
For example, “I work hard and deserve the money I earn“.
When we can say that with a sense of pride and belief, it works. Then, we can work on that and build on that (maybe escalating to “I think I deserve a raise”). Once we believe that we deserve a raise, we can work on an affirmation that will help us to ask for one.
Affirmations can also expose where you don’t believe what you’re saying, which gives you the opportunity to change a belief. A belief is just a thought you’ve thought often enough to believe it’s true. So, it can change.
What are some affirmations that you’d recommend for working people?
These are the best ones to start to break the resistance down:
When we give ourselves choices, we feel empowered. So, these affirmations allow us to choose. Have a look at some of the excellent videos and advice from Dr. Joe Dispenza.
What other tools would you recommend?
- Emotional Freedom Technique
- Craniosacral therapy
- Regular massages
Wrapping it up
- We need to be more aware of our mental health because we are become dredged in stress. There’s no respite unless we engineer it.
- There is an overwhelming need to rest, nurture and respect ourselves before we can function properly at work or in the family.
- Meditation, the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping), and similar exercises are crucial to taking back our mental well-being in professional and personal ways.
This blog post has been quite different to my usual style. But, as a working professional with my own family, I know I’m not alone in this boat. I know that I share this need to handle my own stresses and insecurities with 1) reality and 2) being and doing my best for the people I love. EFT has been a tremendous help for me.
Jeanne Booth is my go-to when I’m fritzing out. She knows me well enough to know that I steer clear of airy-fairy, feathers, and dreamcatchers. But, she’s got skills, and I trust her to find that spot (you know the one) and give me the tools to deal with it.
Jeanne uses Energy Psychology techniques such as EFT and Matrix Reimprinting, as well as balancing and stress-releasing body work to give her patients the tools to deal with anything from the daily stresses of life to major trauma. She is also a doula and fertility coach. Jeanne runs retreats both locally and abroad that are specifically designed to take you on a journey to discover your Inner Authentic Self and face beliefs that are driving your life’s decisions. She is currently writing a book about conscious conception and the journey to empowered fertility. Her website has loads more info on her.