Last month I was leading a work-life balance retreat for a group of twenty successful female executives from around the US. As I guided an exercise on self-care, one of the younger attendees raised her hand and said she just didn’t get the concept of emotional self-care (which I describe as “the care and feeding of your heart”). She said she thought women were supposed to be strong, armored and hold it together–no matter what.
The room became very quiet. It was clear that this beautiful woman had been taught that sharing her humanity was a liability. Her modus operandi for years had been to check her feelings at the door before she walked into work. And, to make sure she didn’t “bother” others with her personal issues.
Last week was unusually stressful. But after attending an entrepreneur meeting with peers, gathering with some parents from our school community and enjoying special time with a mentor over the weekend–I had morphed into a different person. Had my external circumstances changed? No, but my mood was elevated and I had gained some much-needed perspective simply by being with others who made me feel more connected—to myself, to my family and to everyone around me. Research shows women are particularly impacted by these types of connections. When we circle up for heart-felt dialogue, we release oxytocin (the cuddle hormone), our serotonin levels rise and our stress hormones decrease. (This data was one of the driving forces for the creation of my personal renewal group program.)
One of my mom’s favorite songs in the 1970s was I Am a Rock by Simon and Garfunkel (“I am a rock, I am an island,”). Growing up I watched how often she would isolate herself from others and try to navigate all the ups and downs of motherhood, parenting and work–alone. Today, my heart is filled with compassion for her. And, I’m clear this is not how I want to live.
The older I get, the more I desire to show up “human” and vulnerable in my interactions–both personal and professional. I believe this is our birthright and not only is it essential to overall health and well-being, it’s critical to our growth and evolution.
I want to be an advocate, a model and a teacher for how we can all be more interconnected—both when we’re struggling and when we’re on top of the world. Because this coming together and leaning on each other is what’s it’s all about–isn’t it?
Homework: This week notice a time when you feel overwhelmed, isolated or sad. Then invite in curiosity and compassion and reflect: what is my habitual response? Perhaps if you tend to hole up, try reaching out to a friend or colleague for a walk, phone call or cup of tea.
Want to circle up with me for “belly time” (not virtual time)? Check out these three opportunities!
- Self-employed for 5-7 years, live in Texas and seeking a like-minded tribe? Join us at UNLEASHED ATX in Austin Feb. 23 from 2-5 p.m. for Navigating the Unknown with Grace & Power: Tools for Transition
- Join me April 20-22 at 1440 Multiversity in CA for Embracing the Wild Unknown: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat; ideal for women in transition asking, “What’s next?” Learn more.
- Ready to make self-care a priority in 2018 AND find your tribe? Learn more about becoming a RTA-Certified Facilitator and leading self-renewal groups for women in your community. Be the change! (Enjoy $100 off training through 2/28.)
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/speaker/author and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women experience balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining Personal Renewal Groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum. She is the author of three books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 15-year-old son. More on her background here.