“I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow.”
- Elizabeth Von Arnim
Although I’ve always been interested in the whole concept around personality type, and had done the Myers-Briggs test on multiple occasions as required by HR departments of former employers, it was only when going through an intense period of self-development that I really discovered how to use it to better understand myself, to make more of my uniqueness in a positive way and, crucially, how to look after myself in challenging times.
As an INFJ, the rarest personality type, I fit every single one of the traits:
Often deep in thought and reflection
Believe we have a greater purpose
Value deep, authentic relationships
And because of all that, here’s the kicker: Prone to Burnout
My favourite meme – and the most accurate visual representation I’ve ever seen - for the INFJ personality type shows a light switch with ‘completely obsessed’ at the top and ‘uninterested’ at the bottom.
It’s like that single image explains absolutely everything I’ve ever felt.
I’m either all in, 100% committed, obsessed, not thinking about anything else, or I haven’t even noticed it.
The irony of it all is that, for the last 12 months or so I have struggled to balance my consultancy business, with home-schooling, with setting up my social enterprise, with looking after myself.
The result: Burnout. Big time.
And so, in building a company - a company set up to encourage self-care (!!) through creativity and connection, I have failed on the self-care, not written any new songs, and been quite disconnected from friends and family.
I became obsessed with this concept I was building a business around. I’d experienced nothing short of an epiphany moment when I returned to my love of music a few years ago and I felt a real sense of purpose to help others do the same.
So I’ve been running my workshops, filming courses and coaching clients, and in all of those settings I talk about self-care – a lot.
I love the topic and I believe 100% in everything that I advise and share and coach. But I don’t always take my own advice. I sometimes (often) get it wrong and then I burn out and have to start all over again.
So, whether you’re an ‘all or nothing’ type or not, we all feel this sense of responsibility, of obsession, of getting caught up in something for the greater good.
So how do we find a sense of balance within all this?
The short answer is…I’m still working on it, but this is what I’ve learnt.
Balance is not:
Managing to do everything you’ve said yes to but not enjoying those things
Completing everything that has been asked of you but feeling burnt out
Having to tick everything off your ‘to- do’ list before you can finally rest
Schedules that make sure you fit everything in except time off
Being so fixated on achieving something that you become inflexible to other ways of getting there
Setting yourself a perfect but impossible-to-maintain self-care (or workout) routine
Intuitive – listening to your body and your mind
Taking a rest when you need to
Saying no more often
Letting people down
Not setting yourself up to fail
Here are some small things you can try, to find a little balance:
Get clear on what balance means to you, what your priorities are, and what compromises you are willing to accept
Establish a simple morning routine that includes a couple of minutes of silence to set your intentions for the day
Schedule in rest time, exercise, meal times and conversations with friends into your diary, just as you would a meeting
Make time every day to do something that makes you feel like you
Spend some time outdoors each day, even just taking a coffee break in the garden, or a walk outside the office at lunchtime
End the day in gratitude. Focus on what went well, and go easy on yourself if you didn't get everything done
Ultimately, it’s about living to your own agenda and not anyone else’s.
I’m taking a week off shortly (somewhat enforced by my partner); something I haven’t done since I started my new business. If I didn’t have to work on self-care and balance so hard myself, I probably wouldn’t be so passionate when I talk about it.
We’re all still learning.
I might not always practise what I preach, but I have been through the cycle enough times to know what works and what doesn’t, and my advice to other people is always to start small; to start with one small change.
I have been putting a self-care course together for a while, but I’ve been holding off sharing it until now, firstly because I wanted to make sure it was truly tried and tested, and that only the habits, and changes, and routines that really worked were there for you to try. Secondly, because it’s really personal – this is the actual routine that has helped me get through the last few years of a lot of personal development and changes that I’ll attempt to write about articulately at some point in the future.
I certainly don't claim to have all the answers, and I definitely don't always get it right, but I do know what to do when it goes wrong, and it's to get back on track with this exact routine.
Remember that you can love yourself exactly as you are and still want to change.
One of the first online courses I ever signed up for, many years ago, comprised of a motivational email and a quote every day for a month. I’ve since spent a lot of time and money taking endless online courses and training, yet that one mini course, each day bringing a tiny moment of clarity and an idea that had never occurred to me, made more of a difference than all the others put together.
My hope is this course does that for someone else.