In a way writing a book is like re-writing your own personal story as there is often a personal journey that unfolds in parallel to the birth of the book.
My book is focussed on managing exhaustion and adrenal fatigue so it is not surprising that most of my experience in relation to the book so far has been around my personal experiences of fatigue and responses to stress.
Two years ago doing what I am doing now (writing a book and creating an online business, having a reduced income, having sold my home and business premises and moved to a new home) would have been a perfect storm for a burnout. And a couple of months ago the familiar signs were close but that space provided me with an opportunity to put all my tools into practice and gain more confirmation that what I want to share does work!
As I write a book about how to move from fatigue to flow I am experiencing a trial by fire and it has not been easy but has been very valuable. I felt it would be beneficial to put into words what I have become conscious of over the last couple of years but which has been forged into clarity through the writing process:
1) Trust divine timing. There is a reason why things are not happening
I booked a weekend away to spend time getting clear on the outline of my book as this first step was hanging over me. The weekend before the dates I had chosen my son was ill and I had about 6 hours sleep over two nights. I felt myself start to slip into a crash and was exhausted the following week. Recognising the signs, I had to give up my expectations and, disappointed, I took that weekend away to do NOTHING. The timing and setting were absolutely perfect. I slept and was still and two things happened…. Firstly, I had clarity on a whole new aspect of the book that I had not considered before and, secondly, I experienced much more energy than I had in a long time. In the past I would have pushed on and hung on to my plan but I have learned now to listen to my body and to go at the pace that life and my body dictates.
I have had expectations about what the writing process would be like, how long the writing would take and, of course, what the book would look like. All of these have been incorrect and limiting. When we try to control the process it is exhausting as we can get anxious that it is not going to ‘plan’. Furthermore, our expectations get in the way and create limitations to possibilities that we never even imagined were possible. Create a preference versus an expectation and have flexibility with your plan.
At around this point I started to work with an intention that has been very powerful for me. “I am exactly where I am meant to be.” No matter what is happening or not happening, and even though I cannot see the bigger picture, where I am at any given time is perfect. The struggle is perfect, and the timing is perfect – you just can’t see that as you are too much in it. But when you are done you will see it all happened exactly as it was meant to.
When I initially felt myself slipping into burnout mode it was because I was hanging on to my expectation about when the book should be completed by. If I had continued down that slippery slope I very likely would have crashed and it all would have taken much longer. Secondly, now as I am writing it is flowing so beautifully because the time I took in the ‘fertile void’ enabled everything to come together and it can just spill onto the pages. The fertile void comes from Gestalt therapy and refers to a time of waiting and not doing. It is the time to gather energy, gather info, get centered. Then when the time is right you just know it and it flows so perfectly versus the slog that happens when you go against the cycle and push at a time when you it is best to be.
2) It is impossible to create well from a place of fatigue or stress
Fight and flight or the stress response results in a shutting down of the frontal cortex and the body largely functions from an instinct to survive. There is no space for creative thought and the flow of ideas. The same is true when we are tired. The brain does not function optimally and the more we push ourselves the more anxiety and stress that creates.
We also need to be well-rested to get in touch with our intuition and true creativity is fed from right brain function and intuition more so than left brain intelligence. Creativity needs a well-rested grounding and the right brain thrives when we are relaxed, integrated and connected.
3) A daily practice of mindfulness is hugely beneficial to creativity.
For many years now I have practiced Qi Gong in the mornings but since writing and related to step 2 above, I started to create a quiet time before working so that there was space for ideas to flow into. Sometimes I really just want to dive in and do but this space is so very important for creativity. I have learned to get still and feel connected and then journal ideas that come up for me. It is amazing what can be accessed.
4) If you create the space you can access not only inner wisdom but universal wisdom too
This may sound a bit left field for some of you but when in flow and relaxed we can tune into a greater consciousness or universe of ideas. I always knew that I would not be creating the book but it would be created through me (and with me). When I let my doubts and noisy mind get out of the way and open up to whatever ideas arrive they really do arrive! As Marianne Williamson says: “You are the faucet. God is the water’. God in this case can represent any form of greater, shared consciousness.
5) There is never a perfect time when you will rest or stop. Create it NOW
When overwhelmed I, like many people I have worked with, can tend to become addicted to doing and feeling a sense of urgency to complete. This creates a sense of being more capable and in control. You may even recognise that this is happening but feel powerless to change it or you tell yourself that there will be a perfect time in the future when you can stop and rest. Perhaps when you have completed X or Y has happened. But the time never arrives as there is always more to do.
Unfortunately, often this leads to continued pushing and the cumulative stress builds to the point that you will very possibly compromise your health and wellbeing. Many people are then forced to stop as they are unable to carry on and the process is set back for a long time.
I was in this space for a few weeks (when I was holding on to expectations) and recognised I was heading for burnout if I did not slow down so I forced myself to take a whole week off and in that week planned how to integrate balance while moving forward. It was like I had pressed pause in a movie, changed the movie completely to a new one and then pressed play again. It gave me a chance to reset.
The time to rest has to be created and you may have to force yourself to do it.
6) Talk to other people and let them know where you are at.
Part of what I had to learn and what I share in my book is that many exhausted people have a default setting of self-reliance. Just because you have always been super-capable and managed so well without the help of others does not mean it is good for you. Recognise the space you are in and instead of managing on your own and holding it all together ask for help. For me the biggest step was just recognising “Oh, I am in that place again where I am actually not OK and need to ask for support”. Often, simply saying to someone “I am actually feeling pretty stressed and overwhelmed right now” can feel like stepping out of a fog of powerlessness and overwhelm into a place of empowerment again. Asking and receiving enable empowerment.
7) Any new project is about stepping into the unknown and requires trust.
Stepping into the unknown and facing something new creates fear, particularly around security and especially when money is involved. For those prone to easily stressing and to exhaustion security is a big source of worry so uncertainty is a big trigger. This is usually the inner child part that is triggered
Fortunately, I have become much more conscious around my inner child fears and triggers and when I found myself triggered at the start of the writing process it took me 3 hours instead of 3 weeks or 3 months to shift that space.
When we are conscious of what happens when we are triggered we can do something to shift that. I used the tools that I will be sharing in the book and was quickly back in my present day adult self, feeling empowered and confident. My child self has been triggered often during this process so I have had to employ compassion for this fear and trust in the process.
Birthing something requires time. The gestation period or fertile void is a very difficult place for those who are prone to exhaustion as it feels more comfortable to be doing then just being and waiting. I am truly blessed to be in this space of creation where I learn to be with me and my stuff in the process of writing a new story. I look forward to sharing this with you all once it is complete.