A Meltdown and a Retreat

 

It was my birthday yesterday (yay!) and I am now the grand old age of 35. Woolf Works is also turning the grand old age of 1 in a week or so, so it feels like a particularly poignant time. This year has really been the cliché entrepreneur’s rollercoaster – big highs of accomplishment with big lows of ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into’.

 

This last month or two particularly has been tough on me and in the interest of ‘keeping it real’ I’m going to be honest about what I have been going through – because I know behind all the happy social media photos we all go through crap times.

 

I had a bit of a burn-out last month, though probably no one else knew it. It’s amazing how conditioned we are at keeping up a façade isn’t it?

 

My burn-out was caused by a multitude of factors including:

  •  working on a bunch of different things simultaneously and without enough planning or support
  •  not packing lunches or snacks for work and so either not eating, or eating takeout
  •  no exercise
  •  not enough sleep
  • two kids who were fighting constantly
  • a husband on a on a long overseas trip
  • over-scheduling myself

It ended in a lot of tears.

But, most importantly, it also ended in a great chance to reassess how I was doing things, which was obviously unsustainable.

Once the tears had passed and I realised it was time to make some changes – some of which are short term, some are long term:

 

  •   Taking control of my work by extensive list making, project-based organization, deadlines and identifying what I can delegate, what is urgent and what is just going to have to wait. I’m also exploring automation and creating pathways and forms that require less input for me while getting the right information out.

 

  •  Seeing a nutritionalist to help with food planning, learn about healthy snacks to fuel long days at work, to learn about healthy menu choices when I am eating out, and to get some accountability and track what I am eating.

 

  •   Seeing a therapist. Yes. Here I am, saying it out loud. And you know what, it feels great to have an outlet and to learn skills to deal with unhelpful thought patterns and negativity.

 

  •    Limiting nights out to two per week and learning how to say ‘No’. There are so many great events on, so much I want to be part of and so many people I want to meet! But if I want to be healthy and effective I need to have sleep. I already have a 2 year old keeping me up – I don’t need to be out till midnight all week on top of that.

 

  •    Exercising when I can. Last year I went hardcore – personal trainer three times a week, running two or three times a week. I’m kind of all or nothing with exercise and the last three months it’s been nothing. Now I’m finding an in-between, something manageable and much less stressful. A swim one morning, a 3 km run the next evening, or a yoga class at lunch time.

 

The last, and quite possibly the best thing I’m doing: A weekend retreat.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Singapore, tucked away from the world. I have a pile of books, some writing projects and my running shoes. I plan to sleep and read a lot and I have been looking forward to this for weeks. It was time for me to get off the frantic bullet train of life and have some time out for me.

 

I’m learning that one of the greatest gifts of getting older is getting to know myself better. Learning my triggers for over eating or not eating, learning to give myself structure to stop the overwhelm and learning that ‘good enough’ can be enough – I don’t need to be perfect.

 

Have you taken a personal retreat? How do you cope with overwhelm?

 

We have two retreats coming up with Woolf Works this year – the first is a Writers Retreat, dates to be announced – a long weekend close by to Singapore with lots of time to write, share, have a massage, write some more and make new friends over dinner and drinks in the evening. Interested? We’ll be limiting the numbers so email me at michaela@woolfworks.sg to be on the first invite list.

The second retreat is to Bhutan where we will be working on mindfulness and self leadership. It will be in either November or March. Lots more info available here and you can register your interest here.

Always great to know your thoughts and feedback. Drop me a line anytime (though forgive me if I don’t reply immediately, I’m taking that email pressure of myself too!)

Power-Packed Breakfasts to POWER through your working day

Guest Post by Karen Aroney (ANutr, ASN)

Karen is holding a talk on Motherhood and Nutrition at Woolf Works on the 11th March at 10am. More info and tickets details available here.

 

pure

Even if you are not a breakfast eater, ensuring you have even a small, balanced meal in your stomach before you head out for work is beneficial for the following reasons:

Brain Power

The brain requires between 100–150 g of glucose (blood sugar) daily. Once we wake up from our sleep are cells are in ‘fasting’ mode, waiting for the next hit of glucose (known as carbohydrate). If we don’t fuel ourselves with a nutritious breakfast of protein and carbohydrate, then what how do we expect to perform in that meeting? that presentation? Fuel for your brain is essential for high performance.

Weight Control

Lower rates of obesity have been found for people who ate breakfast regularly, versus those that skipped breakfast, partly due to breakfast eaters not over-consuming high energy snacks or meals at the later part of the day (where you are less likely to expend most of your energy)(1). Moreover, people who skipped breakfast also have a higher affinity for high-calorie foods and again over-eating with these foods, than people who eat a regular breakfast(2). Worth considering next time you reach for the ‘hidden chocolate’ in the desk draw or find yourself in front of the vending machine!

Increased Energy and Better Quality of Life

Research indicates that there is a direct effect of morning eating patterns on physical activity levels throughout the day, with people who ate breakfast displaying higher energy and overall physical activity levels(3). Further studies have found that breakfast eaters (versus those that skipped breakfast), had a more positive score for overall quality of life, vitality, social functioning , and emotional and mental health(1).

The easiest and tastiest way to enjoy a stress-free POWER-PACKED nutritious breakfast is to literally jar it! Here are 2 recipes to get you started:

Blueberry Coconut Overnight Oats

Pour 1/2 cup rolled oats, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, 1 tablespoon flaxseed, and 1 cup of coconut milk into a mason jar and stir to combine. Add 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and mash them in the pudding for a thicker consistency or you may leave the blueberries whole for a topping. Add honey to sweeten. Store in fridge overnight. Then before serving, top with shredded coconut, almonds and pumpkin seeds!

Almond Butter Chocolate Overnight Oats pure2

Pour 1/2 cup gluten free steel cut oats (use rolled oats for a smoother oatmeal), 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 tsp flaxseed, 2 tsp cacao powder , 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 chopped medjool date or 2 tsp maple syrup, 1/2 cup almond milk. Throw everything in a mason jar, mix well and store in the fridge overnight to eat. If you like yours thinner, just add a bit more milk.

(Recipe credit: www.nutritionstripped.com, www.mywholefoodlife.com)

All these factors combined make you more POWERFUL and PRODUCTIVE, so start the day on the right track and make it happen!

References:

  1. Huang CJ, Hu HT, Fan YC, Liao YM, Tsai PS. Associations of breakfast skipping with obesity and health-related quality of life: evidence from a national survey in Taiwan. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Apr;34(4):720-5. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.285. Epub 2010 Jan 12.
  2. Farshchi HR, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. Deleterious effects of omitting breakfast on insulin sensitivity and fasting lipid profiles in healthy lean women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):388-96.
  3. Betts JA1, Richardson JD1, Chowdhury EA1, Holman GD1, Tsintzas K1, Thompson D1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Aug;100(2):539-47. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.083402. Epub 2014 Jun 4. The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in lean adults.

pure3PureVitality Nutrition Concepts Pte Ltd is run by Karen, an accredited Nutritionist (ANutr, ASN) and Wellness Coach. She is also mum of twins, passionate about travel, sport, family health, and food!

PureVitality Nutrition Services provide nutritional advice and awareness through individual, child, family, and corporate coaching programs, and health talks to maximize health and well being. The key is to effectively empower individuals to develop healthy eating habits that support their goals in all areas of health, family planning and fitness for life. We help individuals and families create a healthy balance between food and life. Our mantra – “Welcome to Today. Another day, Another chance. Feel free to CHANGE!”

 

 

Checking in on your desk-bound posture – with Amie Wang

1

Does this look or feel familiar? Hunched shoulders, head forward, collapsed spine with rounded lower back. Up until 3 years ago, this position was my default. In fact I probably spent 10- 14 hours a day like this, for over a decade. I was totally unaware of my body and my posture.

How about you, how are you sitting right now?

In 2013, I pursued a long-time dream of becoming a Pilates instructor. I’d been practicing Pilates since 2001 and I fell in love with the exercise right away. I love how it requires a mental workout as well – training my brain to sense every part of my body and how each body part moved in isolation and with other parts. After I had my second child, my posture was terrible, despite having left my corporate office job. Pilates helped me build strength all around, not just in the core, and, more importantly, created an acute awareness of my body and what it’s doing in everyday life. Since embarking on this journey, I’ve discovered a passion for body awareness and movement, which I believe is an important aspect of our overall well-being.

I’m going to share a few quick tips for those whose work is mostly desk-bound and hope they help you build awareness and work towards a healthy posture.

1. Quick posture check – every 30 minutes

Set a timer and check your sitting position every 30 minutes when you’re working in front of a computer. Before making any changes, just take a few moments to sense how your body feels in that position. Is there any strain, tension, or soreness? Is it in the shoulders, lower back, or somewhere else in your body? What’s your core doing?

Now, take a deep inhale – get the air into the sides and back of your rib cage as much as you can. Pause. Exhale through pursed lips, as if blowing out a birthday candle, and simultaneously tense your abdominals and straighten your lower back. What do you notice? Yes! Your body will respond by lengthening from the lower back, where you’re starting to straighten, through the top of your head. Keep this posture and bring your shoulders down and back to open up your chest.

3

Try to breath intentionally to keep this sitting posture for about 5 minutes or as long as you can manage.

2. Quick stretches – every hour

If you can, each hour take a break and stand up from your chair. If you only have a minute or two to spare and can’t leave your desk, you can do these stretches right in your chair (as long as the chair is stationary).

Shift your body to the edge of your chair and sit tall on your sit bones, lengthening your spine from tailbone through the top of your head. Legs are a little wider than hip distance apart. Heels are directly below the knees so that you can still see your toes in front of your knee.

Arch & Curl

3
4

  1. Hands gently resting on your thighs.
  2. Inhale to open up the chest as your gaze moves upward. If your eyes are looking at the part of the ceiling directly above your head, then you’ve extended your neck too far. Imagine creating a nice arch from your tailbone through to the top of your head.
  3. Exhale through your mouth as you curl forward, pulling in your stomach and melting your chest in, stretching your spine, until your gaze is towards the floor between your legs.
  4. Repeat 5 times
  5. On the last repetition, from the curled position, inhale and stack your spine from the tailbone, one segment at a time, and back to the starting sitting position.

Spine Twist

5
6

  1. With your hands resting gently on your thighs, take a deep inhale and lengthen your spine from tailbone through the top of your head.
  2. Exhale, twist to one side, allowing the same side hand to glide toward your body while the opposite side hand glides towards the knee. Hold for one inhale and exhale while pressing the opposite side hand into the inside of the knee to deepen the stretch. Be sure to initiate the movement from your torso.
  3. Inhale, return to center.
  4. Exhale, twist to the other side, just like in step 2.
  5. Inhale, return to center.
  6. Repeat 3-5 times on each side, alternating.

(A core challenge – try reversing the breath such that you twist as you inhale. With this breath pattern, you need to remember to engage your abdominals – pulling in your stomach – as you twist since it typically expands on the inhale)

If you use the Pomodoro Technique  to break up your work every 25 minutes, the quick posture check and two stretches here are perfect for that Pomodoro break before you settle back in for the next 25 minutes.

Amie is a mom of two energetic and life-loving boys who keep her busy. Her passion for body awareness and movement stems from her own desire to enjoy physical play with her young boys without pain. This means keeping fit and strong, mentally and physically. Pilates and complimentary movement exercises help her do just that. Amie is passionate about sharing her knowledge and practices with others, especially families. She is a certified STOTT PILATES® instructor and qualified to teach Zen•Ga™.

She holds Pilates classes, both one-on-one and group sessions, at Woolf Works on Mondays and caters from absolute beginners to experienced. Email her at amie@playitfitnow.com for more information.

Top Tips for an Awesomely Productive Day

Staying productive during a work day can be a huge challenge. There are so many distractions and obligations pulling at us that we often run around trying to get everything done when actually we are actually getting nothing done well. Maintaining optimum productivity is a skill – and these seven productivity life hacks will help you nail it.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Going to bed too late disrupts the restorative functions of your body. Lack of sleep will have a huge effect on your productivity due to your reduced concentration levels. It is best to sleep early and get as much rest as possible to fully restore your energy. It’s obvious but often easier said than done! Start with making a non-negotiable deal with yourself: for example Tuesdays and Thursdays, in bed with a book by 8pm.

Complex Carbs and Protein for Breakfast

A cup of coffee will give you a quick burst of energy. But after the effects of caffeine subside, you will feel sleepy and tired. What you need is complex carbs to fuel your brain for long periods and protein to keep your appetite sated.

The ideal power breakfast should include whole grains, protein, watery and crunchy fruits such as apples or pears and a glass of natural citrus juice. Poached eggs on toast or greek yoghurt with oatmeal are great options.

Productivity 3

Image courtesy of Community Table

Finish the Easy Tasks First

Don’t start your day diving into the most difficult tasks of your job. If you do this, you will get overwhelmed in a matter of hours. The experts at Harvard Business School suggest that you should try to finish small and easy jobs first to keep yourself motivated. The brain needs to be rewarded with positive accomplishments to keep your energy levels at a constant high. By staying motivated all day, you will also increase your productivity.

Turn Off the Internet

While the Internet is essential for your work, you may need to stay away from it for a few hours each day. The web is a minefield of distractions. If you want to increase your productivity, you have to keep yourself away from your social networks, blogs, and emails even for just a short while. Create little pockets in your day where the wifi always gets turned off, 10-11am and 2-3pm for example, and set reminders for yourself at the start and finish.

Be a Good Leader: Delegate and Outsource

You have to admit that you cannot do all the work by yourself. If you have people working for you, it is always a good idea to delegate certain jobs to your employees. You will be surprised how easy it is to finish a big project by distributing some of your jobs to the other members of your team.

Outsourcing is a good option if you think that some of your projects are way beyond your ability. Pass the additional load to virtual freelancers and focus on the activities that really require your expertise.

Delegate and Outsource Image courtesy of Inspiria Media

Delegate and Outsource, image courtesy of Inspiria Media

Follow the 25-5 Rule

Working for hours on end will quickly burn you out. To maintain your efficiency, you should try the ’25-minute-work-5-minute-rest’ cycle. This is called the Pomodoro Technique. Microbreaks have been proven effective in improving mental agility at work.

Try Coworking

Working alone in your home office can diminish your long term productivity. Once boredom sets in, you will find ways to amuse yourself by browsing the net or doing other chores. Coworking is a type of shared workplace for self-employed and freelance professionals. Getting in touch with motivated people in a real workplace will boost your productivity.

 

woolfworks_horiz_logo

We think our coworking space Woolf Works is the best. Our community of motivated writers, entrepreneurs, photographers and consultants can help you boost your productivity. Woolf Works is a women-only space located in an old shophouse on Joo Chiat Rd. For more information, check out the website  or email us at info@woolfworks.sg.