We live in an era where we believe we can have it all, do it all and chase every dream. But striving to be superwoman (or superman) is exhausting and lonely, writes Rachel Grunwell.
We live in an era where we believe we can have it all, do it all and chase every dream. But striving to be superwoman (or superman) is exhausting and lonely.
And underneath those superhero capes, many of us are struggling; some of us are just better at pretending all is well.
I think we all need to focus more on the idea that our best is good enough. Then ask others for a helping hand when we need one.
I’ve personally been working on this. How it came about is I experienced grief so severe that it felt like I was freefalling. A family member was gripped by depression so tight that I was so scared I’d lose them. Every muscle in my body felt tense and my head felt stuck on a washing machine cycle.
By the way, you can’t just fix someone with clinical depression and it’s a heart-wrenching thing to witness and feel helpless to help. There’s no magic wand that can instantly break through that dark and numb abyss. Sometimes, medication and intervention is the only solution.
So, while I was trying to stay strong over this situation, I realised I needed support also.
One of the hardest things for me to do is to ask for help
It’s terrifying. I’m used to being so independent and staunch.
It took a lot of courage to reach out for help and expose my raw heart and honest emotions. Being this vulnerable is akin to standing naked in a mall.
But I sobbed and sobbed and let the words tumble out. Then my friends knew how they could pick me up and help me through this slow waltz that is life – this slow waltz that can trip anyone of us up on occasion. We are all vulnerable under our shiny superhero capes.
I want to share this experience because I want to inspire more courageous conversations.
I’m not alone. A lot of us fear being a “burden” by reaching out.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be bullet-proof and perfect. We hate being an inconvenience to others.
Ultimately, we all need to feel part of a community that truly loves us and “gets us” – not only in our polished moments, but when we feel afraid and lost. We need heart connections.
Let’s be honest, life is just about surviving a series of changing and shifting problems. So, we all need “a tribe” that can lift each other up.
So, let’s all work on strengthening communities.
One powerful way is to be a truly good listener – so you can tune into when others need help too.
I attended the World Women ’17 conference in Auckland where Dr Neha Sangwan spoke about the need in society for us all to have more honest conversations that create connection, health and happiness. She spoke about “heart listening”.
She said a good way to “get” how someone is truly feeling is to listen to not just the words that someone is saying, but also for the “underlying emotion”. Resist being distracted, interrupting the talker and give this person your full attention. Next, “get curious” and ask questions – “because “curiosity solves so much”, she says.
Then when you find out what is truly going on with a friend, the next step is to acknowledge their feelings and what they value (so they feel heard). Dr Sangwan says heart listening can be an “invisible bridge between hearts”. I’d agree because when you feel heard, you feel loved.
So, meanwhile I’ll continue working on being okay with opening up and reaching out. And I’m working too on my listening because communication can be a cure. This way, I can better help loved-ones too when they stumble in their “life waltz” and start freefalling.
Article originally published in Good Magazine
Rachel Grunwell’s guide to giving and being kind this season
Giving back to others and being kind is contagious. Share kindness and it will grow. The person who receives a kind gesture ‘catches’ the good vibes and is then inspired to spread these positive feelings further.
Giving back and being kind uplifts your happiness levels too.
I’ve been speaking at some wellness events recently, inspiring Kiwis with tips on health and happiness. A piece of the ‘happiness puzzle’ is giving back and being kind. Not only does kindness make us and others feel good, studies have demonstrated that the psychological benefits of kindness are actually reflected in the neural circuitry of the brain enhancing feelings of wellbeing and the flow of feel-good endorphins.
So don’t let caution get in the way. It’s normal to feel cautious about lending a hand.You may be concerned that some people may want more time, or resources, than you wish to gift. My advice is to choose a way to give that resonates with you.
Give on your terms. Never let your motivation be that you want something in return.Remember that even the smallest gestures can mean a lot and have a ripple effect.Can you recall an occasion when someone helped you in some small way? Like offering you a seat on a bus, or carrying your bag? This can release feel-good hormones and make you smile.
Consider ways to help. It may be helping a friend, family member, work colleague, your community, a school, charity, or even a stranger. It can be transparent or behind the scenes.
Do something ‘just because’. I became more attuned to the importance of giving back after I became a parent. I wish for my kids to be kind. One way to teach them is to lead by example. I have a young family, I’m busy with my own business and have a to-do list that never seems to end. But I make time to be a voluntary ambassador for the Achilles International New Zealand charity, which helps disabled athletes in running events.
During the years, I’ve helped disabled athletes through many fun-runs, half-marathons and marathons.
I have a pile of race medals by my bedside in a draw. I call these ‘dream tokens’. Each medal holds incredible shared memories of struggles, triumphs and sometimes joyful tears.
I’ll next help blind Auckland runner Tamati Pearse through the New York Marathon in November. I will be part of a team that guides Tamati among 50,000 runners, using a guide rope and verbal cues. I’ll make sure he has enough water and fuel, that each step is safe, and it’s done at a monitored pace.
I’ll describe everything I see to him. I know the sounds of 100,000 moving arms and legs, and almost three million supporters cheering him on will fuel moments of magic. Being part of this New York team helps me experience more than words can describe. I share a passion for running and so I deeply connect with this charity and this community.
Tamati and the rest of the team inspire me with their can-do attitudes. They teach me that any barriers we face in life are only the ones we truly set ourselves. And to do anything in life, it’s about finding your own unique way.
The Achilles charity has become like a family to me. I care about everyone involved and love it when each member is successful at reaching their goals and dreams. I can’t help all the members of this charity all of the time, but I can help sometimes. That can mean something to someone else and it gives me a meaningful purpose, too.
I spoke recently via Skype with American-based Orly Wahba, author of the Kindness Boomerang book.
She says: “You see the beauty in others and in yourself with kindness”. She also says that kindness can “leave an imprint in your heart”. It’s her dream to make kindness ‘trending’. She believes everyone has the power to make a difference. Whatever you do matters, sometimes profoundly so.
Article originally published in Good Magazine
Good’s wellness columnist provides some advice for falling up, not down, during life’s harder times
Life can be tough sometimes – for everyone. It is not always full of beautiful sunrises or perfect yoga poses. Not everything goes according to plan. Nor does every big idea we have result in a thunderous applause or success.
Everyday life is raw and real and isn’t always easy, or perfect, all the time for everyone. Only dogs appear happy most of the time.
Tough times can occur in all kinds of areas: career, health, personal relationships to financial issues.
In a crisis, you can fall down – freeze in fear, feel sorry for yourself, embrace “woe-is-me” and feel defeated. Or you can “fall up”. The latter, is when you look at opportunities instead of what you lost and work at moving positively forwards to thrive.
By the way, I may be a wellness writer, but I too have “wobbles” in life – often. I’m human. Juggling work, a family and everyone’s needs is always a balancing act. But after a period of being low, I’ll pick myself up and adjust my mindset to forge ahead.
As a yoga teacher, I often talk with students about mindset and this idea of “falling up”. How you view the world can affect how you think, feel and perform at work and how you cope in relationships. It’s all interlinked.
Here are some of my tips to consider if you need help to fall “up”. I hope one of the points resonates and helps you through a tough time.
- Try to look at your situation objectively and with a clear head (ie give time for your raw emotion to calm down). Often things are not as bad as you first believe. Try to look at the bigger picture.
- Follow your heart and authentically live your life to be the best version of “you”. Use this to guide you.
- Know what you truly care about so you can focus on that – and not all the surrounding “noise”. Don’t waste time on the small stuff that doesn’t matter.
- Try to look at things from the other person’s view if you are dealing with someone you think is unreasonable. Have empathy. It helps to try and get where others are at so you can relate to them.
- However, always be unapologetically “you” when you need to be. Living life to constantly “people please” can be bad for your health. It’s exhausting. There’s real stress too in “holding stuff in”. So, know your own mind and don’t be afraid to say what you believe in and stand up for what’s important. No one likes someone who is chameleon-like (someone who will change to fit in). I personally respect people who know who they are and have real views.
- Be okay about not always following the crowd with your thinking. That is how some original thoughts, designs and breakthroughs can be made.
- Read lots, experience lots, and have a world view, rather than a narrow outlook.
- Surround yourself with kind and wise friends – they help to shape you.
- Remember you deserve to be happy. Self-love and self-belief can help to propel you forwards.
- Have a long-game plan and remember to enjoy the journey and not just the end result. That’s such a big secret to being happy – enjoying the “now”.
- Lastly, don’t be a dreamer, be a “doer”. Know your dreams and work on them passionately.
Article originally published in Good Magazine
Good’s wellness columnist Rachel Grunwell gives some practical advice on stepping outside your comfort zone.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that being brave and stepping outside your comfort zone can bring rewards that you might not have ever imagined.
As well as getting to experience new things, being brave is a way to grow, evolve and flourish.
I’ve been brave over the past year. I went back to studying and also tried a new fitness challenge. Both of these pursuits pushed me out of my comfort zone.
I already have skills in the wellness industry. I’m a journalist who specialises in wellness, a yoga teacher and director of the InspiredHealth lifestyle website where I work with lots of brands to inspire New Zealanders to live healthy and happy. But I wanted to broaden my health knowledge further. So, signing up to take on more study was the answer.
It took lots of courage, time, and financial commitment to study to become a qualified fitness consultant. I worried about juggling my family and business around this commitment. In fact, I was so overwhelmed that in the first week that I almost quit. But I didn’t, and I’m so proud that I chose to be brave, to believe I was capable of learning again, and chose to have faith in myself that I could manage the challenge.
Taking this on meant reprioritising work commitments and turning down some opportunities to manage.
The journey of studying was tough. Every week I had to pass several tests with at least an 80 per cent pass rate. The assignments never seemed to end.
But I loved learning about muscles, bones, hormones and how to train people safely to achieve different goals such as gaining muscle, getting stronger or running an event. I can now also make recommendations around lifestyle factors too, including food, sleep and stress. I’ve especially loved learning how to skilfully help people with breaking down the barriers that are holding them back from achieving their goals.
I’m so grateful that the study paid off. I can now help people even more with their health – it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to do this.
Another way I’ve been brave is changing my own focus with fitness. I’ve been a runner now for five years and conquered 19 marathons along the way.
I still love to run. But I now run twice, instead of six times a week. A new goal I have is to get stronger. So, I began CrossFit a few months ago. I had to be brave to turn up to a new environment where I didn’t know anyone and I had to get comfortable with being a ‘newbie’ who wasn’t very strong.
By the way, this change in direction fitness-wise was also prompted by a bit of a scare: I found out that my bone density was at an average level.
A key to increasing bone density is to lift weights. If you are a woman aged over 30, then your bone density goes on a downhill slide. I had to accept that just running was no longer serving my body well, and I needed to think about working on my strength too for my overall health and wellbeing.
Strength-styles of training are amazing for building stronger muscles and bones. But not only that: muscle helps to boost your metabolism too, which can help with weight loss.
It has also been fun taking on a new fitness challenge. I’m doing things like box jumps and some gymnastics-style moves.
So if you’re up for it and keen for a challenge, think about a way in which you can be brave. Try something new, something out of your comfort zone that might help you grow. Remember that being scared is normal, but don’t let doubt hold you back.
Article originally published in Good Magazine
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