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.
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.
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.