Katie Walls – wellbeing expert, experienced health educator and wellbeing practitioner – works with busy working parents to prioritise and focus on wellness for both their family and themselves. This month she joined Parents@Work founder and director Emma Walsh for our special event True Wellbeing Starts With You.
To start with they looked at the importance of self-care as we juggle the demands of a busy life.
How does a woman who has worked a busy corporate career in HR, is raising three children, runs her own wellness clinic and is a regular speaker about wellness at events manage to prioritise herself and be well? Why is exhaustion and a sense of depletion common?
Katie explored the need for a ‘big picture’ look at wellbeing. As she suggested being and feeling well is not just about ‘not having a cold’ or ‘eating healthy and exercising regularly’, it incorporates so much more.
K: “A common area that gets ignored is our emotional wellbeing and relationships.”
E: “People are killing themselves to get to exercise, because to them, that’s the only way they are going to be well. It’s not just about narrowing it down to our physical health.”
K: “That’s quite often why people get stuck and can’t go to that next level because so much of the focus is going to certain aspects. We have a level of being comfortable with that so sometimes issues with our relationships have been avoided for some time so you just put up with that tension. But that tension is in our body the whole time so it doesn’t matter how great our diet is or how much exercise we are doing if it’s getting drained in other aspects of our day-to-day it’s like you’re putting fuel in but it’s getting drained out in the other aspects.”
How do we come up with our own definition of wellbeing and how do we break down some of the ideals and beliefs of wellbeing?
K: “It’s like we’ve being going by a script. That often doesn’t work for people because what’s right for me often won’t be right for you.
We get a bit lazy and have tried to tick all the boxes to say ‘this is what’s meant to be ‘good’’ or ‘this is what my doctor has told me’ or ‘this is the book that I’ve read’, tick tick tick. But do we actually stop, feel our body, assess where we are getting stressed, assess where that’s draining us.
It might be that in the morning we are feeling a drain so we’ve got to look at our night time with how we are caring for ourselves or it might be that mid morning some people may feel sluggish after breakfast. For some people they don’t feel like breakfast yet are told breakfast is a really important meal but if we actually give ourselves space to feel into the body – the body is talking to us all the time.
K: “We are so busy and our focus is going into other things so often we are missing these little gems that are right there that can really help us in assessing what’s right for us personally.”
Why do most people find it so hard to prioritise self-care?
As Emma pointed out everyone wants to feel healthy and look good but it doesn’t seem to be working.
K: “It’s about taking responsibility in full. This goes back to what we were talking about it being easier to ‘tick all the right boxes’ or follow what we’ve been told is good for us. But if we’re talking about the whole body – and that includes the emotional and the physical – there are definitely aspects that we are ignoring. The tension every day – certain aspects, like, in the mornings if the kids are going crazy and it’s really chaotic in the house or we haven’t prepared food for the day to take for work or prepared what to wear the night before so we’re running around in the morning trying to prepare.”
K: “There are aspects that we do know [are impacting our wellbeing] but we are overriding them.”
“This takes a bigger toll than we are actually aware of. So it’s just listening to what’s working for you and what’s not working for you. And if we’re feeling overwhelmed that it’s all too much it’s about going ‘ok, where am I feeling more stressed in my day and what’s happening in those areas to create that?’”
“I know this all sounds very simple but quite often we haven’t gone to that level.”
“So the intentions can all be there but we haven’t personalised that. We haven’t made it real for us. We haven’t looked at what are our obstacles, what are our challenges.”
One of the biggest reasons for lack of self-care (especially for working parents) is time.
“If time was a commodity some one would do really well selling it,” Katie summarised the issue perfectly.
To overcome this ‘I have no time’ excuse Katie suggested we start looking at ourselves as an entry in out diary to set aside some time in a very practical way in the 24 hour cycle of a day.
K: “It’s about valuing our time and energy output equally for every task as we would a meeting with our boss and changing your mindset to ‘I can’t avoid not going for that walk’ or whatever it is that supports our personal wellbeing.”
We are not valuing ourselves in accordance with everything else. That’s why those things [personal wellbeing tools] tend to slip off the list. It might be as simple as going three days with not doing the things that support you and suddenly your feeling tired, not as motivated. Or that it’s harder to get out of bed yet we’re not putting it together but those simple things give us much more benefit than we are actually acknowledging.”
“How much are we valuing ourselves or valuing other things as more important?” Katie highlighted.
Managing expectations to support wellbeing
K: “The underlying expectations of how we think it should be versus stepping out of that, reflecting, having a look at what’s actually needed. And often there is quite a large variance between what we expect and what’s actually needed.”
Next blog we deliver Part 2 of Emma’s interview with Katie where they discuss practical tips on how to deepen your level of self-care, how employers can support their employees with this and how improved wellbeing can impact others around us.