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Category Archives: Time Management/balance

Work/life balance, and balancing our time can be tricky. But there are answers to achieving a better balance, and improving your time management, as you will read here.

Strength to body and soul

Apparently, American President Theodore Roosevelt (1858- 1919) experienced neurasthenia. And the fascinating thing here for me is the discovery of one of his solutions to combat the condition and regain strength to body and soulStrength to body and soul – he opened many national parks.

The outdoors.


Fresh air, no technology, stunning scenery.

The sense of being part of something much bigger than yourself.

And this brings to mind a popular character in our house, John Muir. He was a Scottish conservationist and naturalist, and founder of – guess what – the American National Park system. Here are some of his observations, from over a century ago –

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” John Muir, Our National Parks (1901)

Tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised….sounds remarkably like some of the symptoms of burnout, or indeed, neurasthenia. And the fact that both Muir and Roosevelt identified these problems as symptomatic of our culture and way of life all those years ago both encourages me – there is little that is really new about the human condition – and causes despair – do we never learn?!

I am so enjoying this investigation into burnout and it’s history….

I love exploring our heritage, both in terms of our creativity and inventiveness, and understanding how, at a fundamental level, there is very little that is new under the sun. We have always been inventive, creative, relational people with an amazing capacity to learn, grow, cherish and enjoy.

And we have always needed time out to stop, breathe, see the bigger picture and be refreshed and restored. To regain strength in body and soul. Sometimes, when we feel overwhelmed with our 21st century lives and swamped by the need to be ‘on’ all the time, we can feel trapped and isolated. But look at our forefathers and see that there is a way out, and we are not alone.

The challenge is not staying put, but doing something about it.

And one small action we might take is to get out into the national park to drink of that fountain of life, to paraphrase John Muir. Or at least, get out into our local park, or some green space, or even head further afield into the hills, the coast, a forest. Today, it is the most glorious sunny day, and the idea of disappearing into a national park to commune with nature is extremely appealing. Not practical however, but there are always small concessions or compromises we can make to get outside, without technology, reconnect with the greater expanse of world of which we are part, and regain some small measure of strength to body and soul.

Neurasthenia or nervous prostration anyone?

Neurasthenia. Recognise the term? No? Well, it was coined by George Beard, a 19th century neurologist, to describe what we would now call burnout – as we started to explore last week. So, nothing new then. Described thus –

A state of constant fatigue, loss of motivation and energy and often insomnia and muscle aches associated with general and persistent unhappiness. In the present state of knowledge, and in the absence of any evidence of a cause, the state described as neurasthenia is considered not to be of organic origin and, in particular, to have nothing to do with nerve function. (Collins Medical Dictionary)

Any of those symptoms ring true for you? Interestingly, most current medical dictionaries giving a definition concur that it was secondary to psychological factors not physical, and would now be known, in part, as stress.

It was also popularly called nervous prostration – imagine giving that answer in response to how you are feeling at your next work appraisal, or to concerned friends.

Further digging (this has really caught my imagination, as you can tell!) reveals that neurasthenia affected both men and women, and both upper and lower classes. According to a fascinating (and very long) article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, neurasthenia was a fashionable and highly prevalent disease that accounted for up to 11% of hospital discharges from the late 1890’s to 1930.

I came across a little questionnaire that enables you to work out your Burnout Quotient – how high your risk is of becoming burned out, which would presumably serve as a wake up call to do something about it. Symptoms listed include feeling

tired, depressed, physically and emotionally exhausted, wiped out,

trapped, worthless, weary, disillusioned, hopeless,

anxious, rejected, susceptible to illness

A sobering list, and one that, in itself, leaves me feeling quite flat. As humans, we are made for so much more than this, but it seems that life, and our choices in response to it, take over and can leave us burned out, to varying degrees.

So how do we respond? What do we do about it, and how do we prevent it in the first place?

In Victorian times, if you were suffering from neurasthenia, bed rest for neurastheniayou had worked yourself into a sickness from hard work, and you were then required to take some time off to recover. The commonest cure was rest. This might involve taking the waters at Bath, or somewhere similar. Interestingly, treatments varied for women and men.

Women were prescribed 6 to 8 weeks of strict bed rest, with firm instructions to avoid any mental or emotional excitement, correspondence or interruption from the outside world. There might even be a sneaky wee bed pan in the bed to avoid the need to get up at all.

Can you imagine?!

Women readers, think about your average day and all that involves. Then picture yourself stepping back from ALL of that and lying in bed. For 6 weeks. Men, imagine your partners or wives not doing all that they normally do, ceasing all correspondence or outside interruptions, and thus putting all that onto your shoulders (ooh, I hear a little trouble brewing for me!)

For men, at least American men, the directive was to go and rediscover their cowboy roots, to reconnect with nature and their wild inner men. And while that sounds like much more fun, remains equally impractical for the majority.

There must be another way? What is the point of all this?

I simply want to make you stop.

Pay attention to your own body, and what it is telling you.

If you have an inkling of neurasthenia, how are you going to rest?



The Burnout Bandwagon

Neurasthenia: Victorian burnout

Neurasthenia: Victorian burnout

Everywhere I turn just now it seems that burnout is the topic of discussion. Several articles have appeared on LinkedIn recently, aimed at coaches who work with Chief Executives, and at care givers. Responses to my own recent musings on the importance of good boundaries, and the need to let our souls catch up with our busy and over-stretched selves have struck a chord with many of you.

I wonder did our ancestors suffer from burnout? What symptoms would our Victorian or Renaissance predecessors have experienced? They too had 24 hour days that filled up with time constraints, employment issues, and family challenges.

Curiously, some very brief research has produced the marvellous term neurasthenia – believe it or not, the Victorian term for what we now classify as burnout:

emotional and mental weariness, anxiety, aches and pains,

sluggishness and sleeplessness, and general malaise.

The diagnosis, as cited by David Schuster, originated with 19th century neurologist George Beard, whose view was that the body ran on nervous energy, and when this energy was expended, many physical and physical health problems manifested themselves.

What prompted this diagnosis of symptoms that were common enough in the day to coin their own term? The late 19th century was a time of rapid change, industrialisation, increased transportation and movement of people to the cities, and the advent of – wait for it – the telephone.


Nothing wrong with the telephone you understand – well done to the genius Alexander Graham Bell. (And he was Scottish!)

But observe with me the irony of it all – we invent new and faster communication methods to improve our lives and narrow our world, and eventually our bodies and minds rebel. Typical me-statement that: very black and white. Clearly, it is not as simple as that, but I am only seeking to stir your thoughts.

Neurasthenia becomes the trendy 19th century ailment even as people are stretching themselves to learn more, invent more, move further, create more. As humans, we are truly astonishing – capable of incredible creativity, inventiveness, depths of emotion and resilience. That is who we are, and each of us is unique and amazing with the most powerful computer at work inside our heads.

But – and there is always a but – we also require rest and restoration to allow us to function at our best.

What did the Victorians do about neurasthenia? What were some of the recommended treatments? And what are the symptoms we would recognise as burnout? What can we learn from past generations? Explore with me over the coming weeks.

Soul care for the weary

The idea of letting our souls catch up with our tired, over-worked and weary bodies seems to have struck a chord with many. Indeed, a dear friend gently challenged me to attend to my own soul care over the Easter holiday weekend, and to her I am very grateful. Because I had to stop and recognise that the tiredness I had been feeling was tiredness of soul more than of body.

Sometimes the idea of letting our souls catch up seems too daunting and time consuming – we surely would need oodles of time, and this is neither realistic nor achievable.

But I believe that just as we nourish our bodies with varying quantities of food depending on the circumstances, so too there are layers of nourishment available for our souls. Sometimes we grab a quick snack on the run as a short term energy top up. Most days we have a sit-down meal which affords greater sustenance but still needs repeated on a daily basis. And at times of celebrating, holiday, expanded spaces – full blown feasts leave us, sated, satisfied and restored.

I recently enjoyed the soul equivalent of the latter – a whole day away to myself, on my favourite beach. Walking, thinking, reading, emptying out my brain of clutter and fog, and gradually re-filling it with re-committed priorities, values and certainties.

A day of soul care

A day of soul care

The investment that had gone into sharing our story of our Black Dog, and the creating of The 10 Things Challenge had, inevitably, taken its toll on my soul. I had been travelling too fast, and needed some catch up time. So I cleared a day in my diary, attended to family needs in advance and asked MB (My Beloved as he is referred to here) to be available for the children, and disappeared for 12 hours.

A whole day of soul care just for me.

I have never done this before, and I think I rather took my Nearest-and-Dearest a wee bit by surprise. But at that specific point, I had time, opportunity and pressing necessity and thus I made it possible.

Over the holiday weekend, it was neither practical nor necessary to repeat this soul feast. But I did enjoy smaller morsels of nourishment for the soul, and in a more sustainable and repeatable way.

Where is your soul currently? Is it far behind your tired and weary body, and running to catch up?

What form of nourishment would provide soul care to you, and how can you fit a morsel or a feast into this week?

Wanting what we have

The secret to happiness lies not in getting what we want but in wanting what we have.

This is what was challenging me last week, and that little phrase keeps going round in my mind. It’s implications are huge, not least in how I view time and what I do with my time. The weeks seem to be hurtling past at an astonishing rate, and it isn’t just us ancients that observe that – Elder daughter commented last Friday that it felt like the previous Monday only a few minutes before. Wanting what you haveNow I love Spring, and am delighted to see all the fabulous spring flowers cheering the place up – the crocuses in our local park seem especially vibrant and animated with the joy of lighter, longer days.

But I am also aware of voices around me of those wanting more time to combat the insidious and perpetual busyness with which we all live. Mine included at times.

In considering the secret to happiness as being the skill of wanting what we have, I fear that we are at risk of missing out on happiness because we are so busy thinking about the next thing that we don’t enjoy the present thing.

We all live with responsibilities, commitments, and pressures – paid or unpaid work, family and friends, social commitments, routines and mundanities, illness and unexpected crop-ups. But we also all have choice and we all have the ability to chose to enjoy what we are doing in the present.

What robs us of happiness in the present moment?

Regret of what we haven’t done

fear of what we might not get a chance to do

worry about what we are going to do next

brains filled with organising and planning the next thing.

I know I can be guilty of this, and have to stop, catch myself before I turn into grumpy psycho mum, and make a conscious effort to ask myself

  • why am I so distracted by what is next?
  • what is stopping me enjoying what I am doing now?
  • how have I got myself into this situation – am I overcommitted, over ambitious, losing sight of my boundaries?
  • and – of course – what is most important here?

There can be many reasons why we are not enjoying the moment – a difficult job or relationship situation, illness, repetitive non-stimulation, boredom.

But when it becomes the norm to live constantly preoccupied with the next thing, with little joy in the present thing, that robs us of happiness and keeps us blind to wanting what we have – what we have, right here and right now.



Learning to stop, notice, and value friends

So after last week’s little humpluck in the duvet of life, normal services resume this week. Christmas seems to be hurtling towards us faster than ever before. My senses were assaulted this week at a large garden centre by a singing reindeer complete with winter wonderland entourage, and an overwhelming scent of cinnamon from the barrage of candles that greeting me. Some of you reading this will know exactly where I have been!

And so to what is exercising my mind this week. I am planning a big launch in January of a coaching tool that I have written, and want to share some of the backstory that led me to write it. It will be very personal, and will need to be approved by my beloved before I publish it, as it is very personal to him too. Our story has had it’s complications, but nothing is wasted, and I never stop learning.

But that is just a wee teaser for you….Advent will see me writing simple short reflections on keeping focused on what matters most at Christmas (a theme never far away for me!). And between now and then?

Learning to apply my own medicine seemed to really strike a chord with folk. The concept of boundaries and limits that we have been exploring has really made me stop and think about how I choose to live, and what I need more and less of in my weeks to not overstep my own limits.

Valuing friends

Valuing friends

Friendship is very high up that list and realising that making time for friends is crucial to my mental, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

When I better understand my limits, I am less likely to become overstretched and miss out on time with friends. The other side of that equation is about prioritising friends because they are important (and probably much more important than many of the things I am tempted to become preoccupied with when in hyper-controlling-mode) and therefore protecting time with them with good boundaries.

Some observations about friends over the last few weeks:

  • the support network aka protection squad of friends around elder daughter at a potentially nerve-wracking social event in her honour
  • having friends listen to and reassure me about my own anxieties concerning same event
  • being asked to help a couple of different friends in dire straits (and having time to do so)
  • support for younger daughter as she learns to deal with her twin braces
  • at the Good Food Show, inspired by chef/TV chap James Martin emphatically affirming his own friends – “If you want to get anywhere in life, you need to have good friends around you”. A humble, honest and very down to earth guy.

None of these examples are life shattering, and again are simply my own recent reflections. But as I start to look out for that which is most important, and prioritise it, my perspective shifts. Celebrating my friends, and seeking to be a good friend, are aspects of life that are well worth protecting.




Do you walk the walk?

walk the walk

Do you walk the walk?

When you get to the end of your life, will you be content that you lived the life you wanted to? That you walked the walk?

That you did what you said you were going to do? That you fulfilled your dreams and goals?

Of course, life is not that simple (how often do I say that?!) and we are not always in control of what happens to us. But we are in control of how we respond, and subsequent choices we make. We can choose to give up when our plans and dreams are derailed. Or we can choose to keep going, learning as we go and growing in confidence and self awareness.

Sometimes we talk big talk about what we are going to do with our lives, what our dreams are, but nothing comes of it except lots of hot air. And sometimes this is fine, as the dreams might be too much like pie in the sky.

If I say something is important to me, how much do my behaviour, choices, and use of time line up with this? This is a subject I have mused on many times, and one we will always wrestle with. Time is limited, we only get one shot at life. So do we take steps, one at a time, towards the life we say we want to live?

If we say we are going to do something, how often do we actually do it? And if we don’t, what is the cost?

This is the final deathbed regret, and perhaps one of the most fundamental. Will we live lives that reflect what really matters to us – people, contentment, humour, career choices, travel, use of time? Will we do what we say we are going to do, and persevere through struggles, obstacles, hard times because we are committed to our goals and being the best versions of ourselves?

Will we walk the walk?

Do you leave work at work?

more time at the office?


This deathbed regret is quoted so often that it tends to lost it’s impact. There is an irony here – we are designed to work, and have an in-built desire to provide for those we love. But if we are honest, sometimes we justify excessive time at work by arguing that we are providing for our families, when our families would rather have more of us, physically present to them, than whatever we think we are providing.

Now of course, with all these regrets, it is never as simple as that, and being committed to your job, giving of your best, working with integrity and sometimes going the extra mile are important.

But the underlying principle is a very straightforward one:

What is most important to you in life, and how much time to you spend on that?

Work will always be there – instant communication through email and the internet can be something of a double-edged sword.

But imagine getting to the end of your life and looking back – don’t be in the position of having missed out on precious time with your nearest-and-dearest because of never-ending work commitments. Do your job well, and then leave it at work. It will still be there when you die, but your relationships might not be.

Challenged by this? Want to explore more what it means to live according to what matters most to you?

Download your FREE self-coaching guide for inspiration and lots of practical tips.

Want to win the battle over clutter?

more space, more energy!

I came clean recently and confessed that clutter is my No.1 Energy drainer.

The top thing that leaves me sapped, frustrated, mentally fatigued if you will. But dealing with and winning over clutter is entirely possible. It starts in your mind, addressing the internal obstacles that stop us dealing with clutter. Understanding that we own it, it doesn’t own us. 

Having taken charge of our internal mindset, we can move on to the very practical outworking of that. Again, some very simple steps can help –

  • Decide on how much time daily is realistic to specifically allocate to decluttering.
  • Start with something achievable, like 15 minutes a day. 15 minutes a day will make a huge difference by the end of two weeks.
  • Consider which area is most pressing, then spend your allotted time on the first element of that first area  – one drawer, one pile, one shelf inside one cupboard.
  • Work systematically through that area with three possible outcomes: deal with it/put it away/file it; throw it out; take it to charity.
  • Work in a concentrated fashion without being distracted for your 15 minutes, or however long you have chosen.
  • Stop after your chosen amount of time, put bags in the bin or at the door to go to charity.
  • Move on to doing something else, feeling very pleased and satisfied with yourself!
  • Repeat the process the next day, and over time, this will become habit forming.
  • If and when required, go back to your internal processing and your goal for what you want the cluttered area to be like eventually, to refocus and re-energise yourself for the task.

None of this is new, none of this is complicated. But at the same time, it is a problem for many of us and therefore often we are missing something in our approach. Understanding what matters to us, why the clutter is a problem, and that we can be proactive enables us to deal with this insidious, pervasive energy drainer and regain our mental clarity. And yippee to that!


What is the secret to dealing with clutter?

Create space by dealing with clutter.Last week we started to consider energy drainers – those elements of life, personal to each of us, that leave us feeling sapped of mental and emotional energy. I mentioned a few that are on my list. But my top energy drainer?


Now for some, this would prompt incomprehension, that clutter could pose such a problem to me, drain me of energy and leave me feeling grumpy, irritable, not myself. But therein lies the truth folks: for me, clutter is my top energy drainer.

What about you? Any fellow clutter-loathers out there? Or more to the point, any of you have piles of clutter around the place that you would love to deal with but never…quite……get……….round…………to………………

There is no magic with this. The way forward has two components to it – one internal and one external. The internal component is the crucial first step. The secret, if you will, to success.

Recognise that you can change your perception of your ability to deal with the clutter.

Some simple steps that can help:

  • Consider what methods of dealing with the clutter you have tried before, and why they haven’t worked.
  • Visualise how different your environment will be once the clutter is dealt with. Use your emotions, think about how you will feel, how much more energy and freedom you will have. Do this with as much detail as possible. Draw the outcome, write it down, imagine it – it doesn’t matter, but this is your goal. If it helps, pin a sketch above or near where the worst of the clutter is, to inspire you – a tidy desk, or filing system, or cupboard, or garage…..
  • Take charge of the clutter in your mind – you are the grown up here, it does not rule your life or emotions.
  • Be proactive – you have the power to make the changes that will make a difference. You own it, it doesn’t own you.

That is the first step – getting into a good mind set, but without putting too much pressure on yourself. Simple, practical steps follow next week that allow you to take one step at a time towards your goal. But for this week, it is enough to win the internal battle over clutter.