Category Archives: Diet and nutrition

A beginner’s guide to finding the beauty in burnout

I have to confess. I let things get the better of me this week. There have been tears before bedtime. And after bedtime. And in the office loos. And even a little train sob or two (cunningly disguised with sunglasses).

I’m a woman on the edge. I’m not sleeping. My skin is in teenage breakout mode. I’m snapping at my kids. I’m anxious about everything. I can’t get my shit together. I feel completely drained.

Stress? That’s part of it. Anxiety? Nup — doesn’t quite cover it.

Burnout.

Yeah, that fits. Burnout.

Burnout is the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.

It’s a state of joylessness. And it feels pretty shitty.

I can’t tell you how to stop the burnout — I wish I could. But maybe, just maybe I can help you transform your thinking about burnout.

Rather than the idea of burnout as a failure or ending, try reframing it as the precursor to transformation and change. Burnout is a new beginning. A beautiful new beginning.

Here are a few steps that might help you uncover the beauty in burnout.

1. Take a break
When you’re in burnout phase, you actually can’t function, so if you don’t give your body, mind and spirit the chance to recuperate, you’re going to get stuck. If you can, take a holiday, a day or two off, or even just set aside some time to relax. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to ‘fix’ things. Take long walks. Take long baths. Meditate. Breathe.

2. Focus on the body first
When your body feels healthy and recharged, so does your mind. So eat well, exercise gently (but only if it’s fun), nap and get enough sleep. Sleep is critical. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on cognitive function, productivity, lifespan, and causes irreparable damage to our brains. Get some sweet sleep tips here.

3. Be good to yourself
When we’re in burnout we tend to beat ourselves up. I can’t cope. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like XYZ? Why can’t I get my shit together? Because you’re burnt out. Your body is trying to tell you something. Practice a little bit of self-love. Stop being a meanie.

4. Now you’ve given yourself some space, create
You’re rested. Now get up and change it up. It’s too easy to simply get back on the treadmill and get burnt out again. Try doing this stuff instead:

Set some boundaries. Whether it’s work or family, say no when you feel you need to. And mean it.

Dream again. Spend some time daydreaming and pose some “what ifs”. Burnout makes you feel stuck. Now’s the time to imagine life without limits.

Be inspired and create. If your burnout’s work-related, start taking baby steps towards doing work you’d love. Start a blog. Do some internet research. Sign up for a course. Contact someone you admire professionally.

Take responsibility. Your burnout is no one else’s fault. Sure your boss is an arsehole and maybe your kids drive you crazy but stop expecting them to change. No one else is going to fix it for you. Assume responsibility and take back your power.

Burnout can be beautiful. It can be the best thing that ever happens to you. Because it can be the first sign of a new beginning.

Take small steps. Brick by brick, you can create something incredible and rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of your beautiful burnout.

Like this blog post? Please share it, tweet it, pass it on. Do your funky social media thang. And while you’re here, please sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email. Promise I won’t spam you. I’m good like that. 

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Wine, wellbeing and why one glass is not enough

This is a difficult post for me to write (no, not because I’m drunk thank you). The truth is I love a glass of wine or two in the evening. That delicious slosh of shiraz hitting glass after the kids have finally gone to bed represents a little bit of ‘me’ time.

I work hard. I parent hard. I deserve it don’t I?

But recently, I’ve been pouring a glass while the kids eat dinner. Or sipping along to the nightly episode of Octonauts with my 4-year old. My 21-month old yells “mumma wine?” when I reach into the cupboard…

Oh dear.

I’m not saying having a glass or two of wine is a bad thing. Studies have found that red wine is good for your heart and could even contain cancer-fighting properties — although newer studies are refuting this claim (ignore those for now).

But when it becomes an unconscious, and nightly, habit, maybe it’s time to look at why you’re reaching for the bottle. And why it’s so hard to have a night or two off.

Here are a few tips to help keep your wine habit in check.

Identify your wine o’clock triggers
What makes you reach for a drink? A stressful day at work? Kids who won’t go to bed? Money worries? Identify each one of your triggers and be mindful of them before you next reach for the wine bottle.

Find an alternative, positive habit
Rather than having a wine after a bad day, take a walk. When the kids give you a rough time, take ten minutes to meditate when they eventually go to bed. Money worries? Make yourself a cup of tea in a proper cup and saucer. OK, it’s not the same but think about the cash you’re saving by not drinking wine.

Enjoy quality over quantity
I recently bought half a dozen drinkable cleanskin wines that were about $8 a bottle. All six were gone in just over a week. But buy a $20 bottle, and you’re much more likely to have one glass, savour it, and save the rest for another night. Also, don’t buy in bulk. If you don’t have wine in the house, the extra step of going out to the shops might help you have a booze-free evening.

Try not to drink alone
Again, this is a tricky one for me. When my kids are in bed and my husband’s out, there’s nothing better than a glass of wine to accompany an episode or two of Revenge or True Blood… But drinking should be a sociable activity. Regular solitary drinking has been linked to heavier drinking and more alcohol-related problems.

Keep you wine habit in check, but don’t go cold turkey
How many times have you said (usually with a hangover) “I’m giving up the booze” or “this month’s a dry month” then failed within the first few days and felt crap about yourself?

Once or twice eh? Me too.

Try baby steps. Buy less. Commit to an evening exercise class. See if your partner or housemates will cut down with you. Set yourself achievable goals, like three wine-free days a week. Just try not to reward your abstinence with a wine binge! If you lapse, don’t beat yourself up, but don’t give up. Give it another go.

I’m off to grab a coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in months. We’re going to a child-friendly cafe. There will be no wine. The afternoons are easy.

It’s the evening and the already open bottle of wine in my kitchen that will be the challenge. It’s just one night but you know what they say — abstinence makes the heart grow fonder…

I’ll let you know how I go.

How’s having a little less wine been for you. Did it bring the good? The bad? Maybe it brought out the plain old ugly? I’d love your comments. And while you’re here, sign on up to follow Wellbeing bites by email. You have to verify your email after you enter it but I promise your inbox will be happier for it….

*Even too much wine is not enough drawing by Sam Brown, explodingdog

Down to Earth


The best thing about summer is the food. I love basil and tomatoes, mangoes and peaches, berries and cherries and chillies.

But what I love most is feasting on food I’ve grown myself. 

The problem is that I’ve got a concrete backyard so I’m limited to a few pots and hanging baskets. I’ve also got decidedly un-green fingers.

But with the festive season leaving the family and me a bit out of whack, I did some research and found I could plant my way to better health. The ibook Grow Your Own Medicine: A Guide to Growing Health-Giving Plants in Your Own Backyard by Mim Biem has inspired me to give gardening another go.

So here’s a run down of the nourishing herbs and foods I’ll be attempting to grow in Bec’s backyard. 

Basil – goes with almost everything, but is also a powerful antispasmodic, antiviral, antibacterial stomach soother. 
Chilli – improves blood sugar levels, heart health and boosts circulation.
Fennel – aids nausea, bloating and helps digestion. The seeds are the richest source. 
Garlic – strengthens the immune system, good for blood circulation, colds and flu.
Lavender – soothes and calms (not a food I hear you cry? Try lavender scones – they’re delicious).
Mint – great for digestion, circulation and nausea.
Parsley – good for liver function, boosting the immune system and a source of iron and vitamin A.
Rosemary – antiseptic, antibacterial, cleansing and detoxes the body, supports the liver and combats cirrhosis.
Strawberries – full of antioxidants that also help to lower blood sugar levels.
Tomatoes – full of vitamin C as well as lycopene, which can prevent certain types of cancer.

By growing your own you’re being nurturing your body, your tastebuds, your planet and your wallet. What are you waiting for? Get down and dirty.

Merry Christ-mess

Ah, the festive season. Apparently ’tis the season to be jolly. Sorry if I sound like Scrooge but I’m just not feeling it.

The media’s hung up on fiscal stress this festive season but it’s not my pocket that’s suffering. I braved my local shopping centre this week. I got shoved in the lift, elbowed in Target and scowled at in the supermarket.

At home, heightened expectations of ‘family time’ or feelings of isolation, the pressure to shell out and free-flowing booze all add up to a serious health (and wellbeing) hazard.

So here are my ‘better late than never’ tips for a stress-free Christmas:

Be realistic. If you bicker with the family all year round, don’t expect Christmas with The Waltons. Keep family gatherings short, don’t discuss politics or religion or parenting. Don’t get too drunk. Send everyone on their way with a smile. Then bolt the door and breathe.

Say no. No, you don’t have to go to every Christmas party. No, you don’t have to buy presents for the cousins you haven’t spoken to all year. No, you don’t have to make a croquembouche. Cut yourself some slack.

Maintain healthy habits. Whether it’s alcohol or food, over indulgence is all too easy, but hangovers and an expanding waistline will just add guilt to the mix. Make “everything in moderation” your mantra, get plenty of sleep and make time for some green exercise.

Take a break. Christmas can end up being all about other people but its essential that you take some time for you. Meditate, take a walk, listen to music, read a book, breathe deeply.

Remember, it’s just one day of the year. Be good to yourself this Christmas. And please, don’t go shopping without full body armour.

Daily Bread

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it seems that more and more people just aren’t getting their daily bread.

Personally, I love bread and pasta and all things wheat-based, but it seems that a lot of modern bodies simply can’t process the grain that used to be a major diet staple.

Although I’m happy to make flourless cake and go bread-less when a wheat-intolerant mate comes over for dinner, it does make you wonder why wheat intolerance is increasing.

According to a report on NaturalNews.com, the wholesome content of our bread has dwindled significantly over the past hundred years or so. In the 1900s, bleaching flour became the order of the day and grains were no longer allowed to sprout before being milled. Today, some real nasties (including fungicides, pesticides, insecticides and chlorides) are used in the bread-making process to keep our loaves looking white and ensure they have a long shelf life.

It’s no wonder our bodies are reacting with symptoms such as cramping, diarrhoea, bloating, constipation, nausea and itchy eyes and throat.

The best breads to eat are sprouted grain breads that have to be refrigerated. You can find them in some health stores but they can be expensive. Dark whole rye and pumpernickel are also good choices as they have many of their nutrients in tact. Wheat-free grains include spelt, rice, corn, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth. And remember, wheat flour is often used as a thickener in other foods. Luckily, labelling laws are stricter than they used to be so look for products labelled gluten free.

So choose carefully and enjoy your daily bread.

Don’t Panic!

Anxiety – it lurks in the shadows and used to be something that no one admitted to. But many of us have fallen prey to it at some stage or another.

I remember when I had my first panic attack about a decade ago. I was on my way to work when my heart started to beat furiously. Then I lost my vision. I thought I was dying and grabbed at some poor commuter to help me off the train. After a couple of minutes, my vision returned but I felt like a freak. It scared the hell out of me.

Since then, I’ve equipped myself to deal better with my anxiety issues. I’ve also learned that I’m not alone. Panic Anxiety Disorder Association Inc. (PADA) reports that 12% of Australians will experience anxiety and panic disorders at some point in their lives.

Physical symptoms of anxiety and panic include muscle tightness, heart palpitations, chest tightness/pain, dizziness, numbness, tingling and panic attacks.

When I first experienced acute anxiety and panic, my doctor only offered me sedatives or anti-depressants. Fortunately, there now are numerous natural alternatives that treat the cause rather than the symptoms.

First, as always, look at your diet and lifestyle. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables with a little meat and fish. Foods containing L-Tryptophan, such as turkey, help the body to relax. Relaxation exercises and meditation also play an important part in healing, as does talking with a qualified therapist.

Bach Flower Remedies aid in relieving a variety of emotional disorders. St John’s Wort, Valerian and Omega 3 are said to relieve depression and maintain emotional balance, but consult a naturopath first. Anxiety can sometimes be the result of an iodine deficiency and it’s recommended that anyone suffering from anxiety and panic symptoms have their thyroid checked.

Deep breathing is the body’s natural defence against anxiety. Try this breathing exerciseYoga, acupuncture, holistic kinesiology and Bowen Therapy are also great ways to alleviate panic and anxiety.

When it comes to anxiety, the most important thing is not to suffer in silence. Get some expert advice and don’t let panic get the better of you.

Now check out part two of this article, Revisiting anxiety and kicking panic’s butt.

Taming the Tiger

Get ready to roar ladies and gents – on 14 February 2010, we entered the Chinese Year of the Tiger. The tiger is dynamic, powerful, unpredictable, courageous and explosive, so expect a turbulent year full of big changes.

In terms of your health, it’s a year to be proactive so you can ride out the storm.

In the Chinese calendar, 2010 is represented by the elements metal and wood. Metal corresponds to the lungs, colon, skin and immune system so this year you may be more prone to sinus problems, infections, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, bowel problems, rashes, compromised immunity, arthritis and eczema. The wood element correlates to the liver, gall bladder and nervous system, which means 2010 may be bring increased stress and tension, depression, anxiety, gallstones, hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Combat this by eating foods that cleanse the liver, such as green leafy veg, carrot, beetroot and soy beans. Herbs and spices like dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, peppermint, turmeric, basil, coriander, fennel, anise, cardamom, ginger and parsley all boost the immune system. And I know it’s boring, but reducing your intake of dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, wheat, deep fried and fatty foods, processed and refined foods will help too.

Regular exercise that strengthens the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, such as yoga and qigong, as well as breathing exercises and walking in the fresh air also can help you feel tip top at tiger time.

‘Til next time, take care tigers – it’s jungle out there.