workplace

Moving from a linear to a cyclical lifestyle - benefits and challenges

More and more people discover that there is something wrong with the way we use our energy. In an era where burnout is rampant, we are called to reflect on how we treat our body and our energy reserves. It seems like while we are having more resources available than ever before, we can’t use them the right way, or do something with it that makes us feel drained and depleted. 

While I was suffering from burnout myself, it felt like a prolonged winter. I had been working hard for years and years and I was expecting that to pay off for me in a big way. Instead, I became sick and my body and mind weren’t able to function normally anymore. 

At first, I didn’t get it. I did everything I was told to do to become successful. “Work hard, don’t be lazy, the effort you put in over time will have a result.” But it didn’t. I felt like a total failure and tried to figure out what was it was that I did so horribly wrong to end up like this, on the couch, unable to take care of my own children, get dressed, get groceries, let alone to go to work.

As I was searching for the answer, I felt like I was in a prolonged Winter and that somebody denied me the next Spring. 

That seasonal analogy and the loathing I felt for this forced Winter broke something open in me. How on Earth was it possible what I had done? I had lived my life like there was no Winter, for decades. And of course, that’s not possible. We are not above Nature. We are Nature.

From there I started to recognize that I had been using my energy in a very linear way. Push, strive, and over time you will see results. I discovered that this way of thinking about success is an illusion, and has its roots in the industrial era, where input x time = output. There are two things that can influence output in this equation, input and time. We cannot bend time (yet), but we can influence input, by doing more, and doing it faster. 

By living my life in a linear way, I separated myself from my cyclical nature as a human, but especially as a woman with a hormonal cycle influencing my personal energy. Setting goals, working as fast as possible towards them, striving and pushing without rest was characterizing my study and career. The irony is, that the last 3 years of my career in healthcare as an operational excellence manager, I was responsible for efficiency and production within the company I worked with. 

I was convinced that pushing is the only way to success and results. Thinking that resting equals ‘being lazy and unproductive’. And I was taught (by men) that ‘waiting time’ equals ‘waste’. In a production process, that might be the case. But for our personal energy, health, and creative processes, it’s a lie. 

I am sure I am not the only one who has been severely conditioned in this way, and the burnout epidemic is showing us exactly that. We are not machines or factories, we are Nature. Nature shows us every day that growth happens within cycles and seasons. Winter is necessary to fertilize the soil for the next growth cycle. 

Now I live my life in a cyclical way, I keep track of where I am in my menstrual cycle and what the Moon phase is, and I take the season into account. The embodiment of Cyclical Living is very personal and takes practice to find out in what ways this works for you. We are not used to living this way, as a society, as women. But the benefits are huge:

-      have more energy and feel rested

-      don’t feel drained, exhausted, or depleted anymore

-      health issues connected to depletion, fatigue, or stress can heal, subside, or give you fewer symptoms

-      no more pushing past your limits

-      less stress, less resentment, and therefore better relationships as a partner, mother, friend, and co-worker

-      established and internalized self-care routine based on your personal hormonal cycle

-      move from creative block to creative flow

-      space to receive inspiration and ideas

-      reach goals effortlessly

-      use your energy towards the things you want to do and create instead of swimming upstream

-      have more impact with less effort

-      make decisions that support a sustainable lifestyle

-      be in touch with your body

-      a deeper connection to Nature.

It’s interesting to find out what your conditioning is around work and success. Changing your lifestyle from linear to cyclical can be challenging, depending on your old stories and behavioral patterns. Dive into the challenges with an open mind, and an open heart. Journal about what comes up for you. The payoff will be a life with more energy and health, less stress and fatigue, and effortless results.

Resistance

Even reading this article may have you thinking that it doesn’t work for you, or that you don’t need it. Or that it’s too difficult, or too weird. That’s resistance, and it’s normal when we are confronted with something different. 

Daring to rest

We have been told that rest is unproductive and lazy. Taking breaks should be short and kept to the bare minimum. We see this in schools already, cutting back on recess. This belief is deeply ingrained in modern life and a real challenge to overcome. Recently, Arianna Huffington and Elon Musk got into a Twitter discussion about this topic, which makes so clear that skipping sleep and rest is treated as a badge of honor in our culture. However, rest is pivotal to growth and inspiration and should be treated with respect and be allowed and even promoted. 

Troubled relationship with your body

From a young age, most women have felt that having their period is annoying, dirty, painful, or makes them incompetent. What we didn’t grow up with, is the power that lies in connecting with this personal energy cycle. Lots of women have been on contraceptives to ease menstrual pain, heavy bleeding, or don’t want to have a period at all. It takes time and self-care to connect to your body in a loving way and feel the power in the feminine cycle. Living with the cycle instead of ignoring or denying it, may even help to relieve symptoms.

Limiting beliefs and deep conditioning

You will find that some beliefs around success, work, and energy are deeply ingrained and take time to break down. You will find that when you are able to look at it with compassion and from a perspective of self-love and self-care, it’s easier to handle and change. And it takes time to create habit changes. New pathways and neural connections are being formed which doesn’t happen overnight.

Other people's expectations

When we change our habits or lifestyle, we will be different as a person. This can create challenges in our relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, because the dynamic changes. People expect you to react or behave a certain way, and if you don’t, it causes confusion. Make sure to explain what you are trying to do, but don’t fall into the trap of defending yourself, or trying to convince that this is the way to live. Focus on what cyclical living does for you and people will see the difference in your energy and maybe they want some of that as well. That’s the moment to discuss it in more details with them. 

Work life

One of the more difficult things when it comes to change from linear to cyclical living is how to move with it the workplace. There is so much linear conditioning in work that you can be pulled back into it easily. The 9-5 rhythm is based on the masculine, solar (daytime) energy cycle and we have to move with it in a way when we are an employee. For self-employed women or entrepreneurs, it can be much easier to implement cyclical living, and it can be taken even further into projects (which also have a growth cycle) or marketing strategy (e.g. based on the Moon cycle). If you are an employee, make sure that you are at least aware of your hormonal cycle and honor that as much as possible. For example, if you have the chance to schedule your appointments or plan important meetings or events, try to line them up with your mid-cycle and avoid them during your (pre-)menstrual days.

As said above, cyclical living has many advantages, but can also be challenging to leave the old linear lifestyle. Journaling and meditation can help to discover resistance and patterns. It’s important to find other women who are on the same journey of honoring the body and their cyclical nature. When you feel stuck in dismantling limiting beliefs around success and rest, you may find it helpful to get a coach, to help you to move forward into a more effortless way of living. 

Discover your blocks and limiting beliefs to heal from burnout

During my career in psychiatry, I worked with many depressed and anxious patients who were stuck in patterns that kept them locked in. It was frustrating for them because they could feel how blocked they were but weren’t able to see what the blockage was. Usually, it took a while until they recovered and were able to reflect on their thoughts and emotions without getting extremely upset. 

When I found myself in severe burnout in 2016 after a series of extremely stressful life events, health issues, and surviving almost 3 years in a toxic work environment which caused me PTSD, at first, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt awful, extremely tired and exhausted, and I had severe cognitive problems, causing me to get lost in the supermarket, and how to get dressed.

I recognized that something was very wrong but I didn’t know what it was. When I was told it was burnout syndrome, with severe physical and emotional depletion, I didn’t know what to think of it.

I have always been a firm believer in our capacity to shape our reality and manifesting our intentions. In my private life, I lived with the Moon cycle, and every New Moon I journaled about my intentions for the month. Usually, my intentions were focused on the things I wanted to accomplish. And usually, I did. 

While in this burned out state, I felt like a total failure. How could I have created this mess myself? I must have done something wrong because I clearly never wanted to manifest the health problems, traumatic work environment, divorce, and the stressful life I was living. How could I unconsciously have wanted all these things?

I remember telling my husband that I was convinced that “this was all happening for a reason although I couldn’t see why yet”. 

What I didn’t know yet was that this way of looking at the situation was my lifeline. It was a form of surrender, enabling the transformation to start.

During my recovery process, I found out that the old way of living wasn’t sustainable anymore. The old way of striving, pushing, achieving, always making deadlines, following orders, and forgetting myself, my health, my body, my spiritual needs. I needed to do things very differently.

This was when the hard work started. Doing things differently, but how?

I wanted to live a different life, and I started to try new things. Some worked fine, but some threw me back into exhaustion, grief, and despair. 

While reflecting on every change I tried, I found out there were certain patterns surfacing. Patterns related to my thoughts and feelings, that were vital for my ability to change and grow. I began to notice some major blocks I must have had all my life, but I had always navigated them without really seeing what I was doing, causing major energy leaks (this became clear to me because I was so depleted and needed every shred of energy.)

With my clients, I can see similar blocks. These are usually beliefs, deeply ingrained in your system, that are difficult to look past or challenge by yourself. The blocks are always ready to defend their existence because they made you survive difficult situations in your life. The pay-off was disconnecting from a part of your Soul. Sometimes, after years of living this way, leaving you with nothing, the connection between you and your Higher Self severed. 

In my opinion, this is what burnout really is. Separation from your Higher Self, from the Universe, and from the Life Force itself.

As long as you are in a stressful situation, this will go on. Stress is a sign. It is telling you that the situation you are in isn’t serving you. That it is taking something away from you. 

Of course, stress is a part of life, but it is first and foremost a NORMAL response to an ABNORMAL situation. Changes need to be made.

For me, that meant: walking away from relationships, setting clear boundaries, quitting a toxic job in a broken health care system, and caring for my body.

Stress is survival. However, when the challenges are over, you don’t need to shut down the vital parts of you anymore. The problem is, after years of stress (childhood trauma, difficult family situations, work-related stress), the survival strategy can become a habit. And it created beliefs that this is the only way to survive. The beliefs are so strong that they become blocks in your life, preventing you from changing and living your best life. 

It is very important to discover the blocks in yourself if you want to shut them down and live the life you want, in alignment with your true empowered Self, led by your Inner Voice.

What I discovered was that I was constantly trying to fix a broken system, a toxic environment, destructive relationships. There was no space for my Self to flourish while I was busy trying to fix everything. Unfortunately, what I manifested in years of trying to fix everything, was separation from my Soul, separation from the Universe, separation from others, broken relationships, and a body-mind disconnection. Also known as burnout syndrome.

What I found out through deep soul searching was that I was blocking myself with major limiting thought patterns. And I now see them in my clients too. I made a list of four big blocks that are often present, some of them I had to overcome myself. They usually start with “I am…”, followed by something negative or conditional.

Four major limiting beliefs that can lead to burnout:

  1. I am alone. This one comes in many shapes. For some people it is perfectionism, thinking that things will only be done perfectly if they do it themselves. They don’t let others help them or take over. Others have experienced interpersonal trauma, an unavailable parent, or loss, and believe they have nobody to support them, or if they ask for support, they will lose it. And consequently, they do it all themselves.
  2. I am unsupported. This is related to the first one but goes deeper. When we felt unsupported or not taken care of as a child (food, shelter, unconditional love, attention) this created a deep spiritual wound. It may even go as far as not believing there is an Omnipotent or Divine presence (God, Mother Earth, Source, the Universe…) to help and guide you, causing you to work very hard and trying to create your life all by yourself. This belief prevents us from collaborating, helping others, and asking for help, and it creates feelings of loneliness and disconnection. What if the truth is that there is always Divine guidance and support available, and you just have to ask for it?
  3. I am successful only when I work hard/all the time. This is a very destructive belief, that many of us have been brought up with. Stories of working hard in school, being ambitious, and only receiving praise when coming home with good grades install this belief. What if the truth is that if you are doing something from the heart, with passion instead of pushing, you will be way more successful? Another way how this shows up is reluctance when it comes to rest and recovery. To be productive and successful it is vital to rest and restore our energy as well. However, if the belief is that only hard work is leading to success, it’s very hard to surrender to rest and downtime.
  4. I am not worthy. This is a very common block that prevents us from receiving. If we feel unworthy, we are constantly trying to show our worth by over-giving. Over-giving is the main cause of depletion. This belief is very common in women, caused by our patriarchal culture and the heritage of centuries of gender oppression. If you hold this belief you might have issues receiving compliments, help, suggestions, advice, love, health, abundance, energy, Divine guidance. What if you are inherently worthy, and using your skills and talents and being you is enough to be of value? You can’t give from an empty cup. You can only give from the saucer when the cup is overflowing with abundance.

Of course, there are many more blocks that can be very individual. But usually, they can be grouped into one of those big four. 

Try to find out which one(s) resonate(s), and journal about them. Also, write about your fears and doubts and you will discover what is beneath them. 

What really helped me in releasing the blocks was working with several coaches and theta healers. Coaches can help you see what you are missing, unearthing the limiting beliefs you might have. Theta healing is a powerful way of releasing limiting beliefs, using the energy in the body to untangle them. Some say it even affects you on the DNA level, which makes it a very powerful healing tool that can even affect your health, and the health of generations that come after you. 

The coaches/theta healers I worked with are:

Darling Allegri (USA) - XOXDarling who starts a great new group program August 27th, 2018, around releasing your biggest limiting beliefs to help you past the blocks that prevent you from stepping into your best life. Early bird enrollment until August 8th.

Yvonne Dam (UK, NL) - Amaze Yourself who is a great life and career coach.

Jocelyn Mercado (USA) - We Are Sacred Planet who is a business coach for inspired people who want to serve the world in a purposeful way. She will start a new group business coaching program in September, I will keep you updated on that one too. I followed it and started Elemental Life because of this program and never looked back!

If you feel called to share your blocks and limiting beliefs in the comments, please do so. You can always email me (email address at the bottom of the page) as well, or book a call to see how I can support you in your healing journey. 

#metoo - witnessing sexual harassment in the medical workplace

#metoo - witnessing sexual harassment in the medical workplace

The Truth must be uncovered to heal the wound. In this blog post, I recalled my experiences with sexual harassment in the medical workplace, inspired by a medical colleague who walked away from the healthcare system years ago (Dr. Lissa Rankin).