You’ve probably seen the meme that goes round social media about how it’s not your body that’s tired, but your soul. It’s such a good description of how many of my clients have been feeling especially after the last few years, and it makes it obvious why physical rest and self-care isn’t always enough.
In my work as a human potential coach, energy healer and yoga and mindfulness teacher, that tiredness of the soul is one of the most common issues people come with. We pour ourselves out on the altar of work, family, home and obligation, exhausting our reserves and then wondering why we feel unproductive and demotivated.
We often then compound the issue by willing ourselves on to do more, more, more. And when willpower isn’t enough, the self-criticism starts. The thing is – berating someone doesn’t get better performance out of them. It might get compliance, but not performance. Why would it be any different with you?
We need to love ourselves better. Through rest and self-care which is more genuinely thoughtful than a burnout bubble bath – we can inspire and fuel more productivity and performance from ourselves than we ever will with harsh words and thoughts.
What do we know about rest and self-care for the soul?
In yoga philosophy, a human being is described as having five koshas or interconnected layers of being – physical, energetic, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The key to health and happiness is to care for each of those layers individually and by looking at the person’s whole experience.
For example, when we have a shock, we experience emotional turbulence first, and that spreads into affecting how we think (less clearly), move (more shakily), and feel about ourselves and the world around us (less trustingly). To heal from shock we need to care for each part of ourselves – we might talk it through with someone to dissipate the emotions and restore a sense of normality to our thinking, we might go for a rest to let the body recover, and then we have to re-enter the world again. It’s like getting back on the bike when you’ve fallen off. Don’t leave it, dust yourself down, shake it off, get back on.
In the same way, we need to consider and respond to life experience so that we care for all the layers of our being. Each one of us will find different things restorative, so I like to work with clients to compile a list of their go-to activities, places, and people so that they get confident in how to look after themselves no matter what life throws at them. Often we find that certain activities – like singing, or laughing – restore several layers of the being at once meaning that they become our priorities for rest and self-care.
Let me describe the koshas in more detail and give some examples of helpful activities –
The literal translation is the food body, which gives us an idea of where the yogis suggest we start! Food! Eating delicious, nutritious, flavourful, colourful, fresh food will satisfy multiple senses at once. Add to this well-chosen exercise and good quality sleep, as well as regular health check ups for maintenance purposes, and your body will thank you.
Your needs will change over the course of your life, so stay in touch with what feels good now. Perhaps you once loved a spin class but now a yoga class is more your speed. Perhaps you ran marathons but now swimming is better with its low impact. Allow for those changes and enjoy them rather than resisting. Change is the one guarantee we are given!
This layer of the being is one that people sometimes find harder to connect with at first. I think of it as life force, and it is deeply connected to the breath. Indeed, we naturally refer to ‘breathing life into’ a project or idea. This shows that at an intuitive level we do have an understanding that there is an animating force that we rely on to make things happen – in Chinese medicine it is ‘chi’, in Japanese ‘ki’, and in yoga ‘prana’.
Many of the complementary medical approaches work in this layer of the body – breathwork, homeopathy, Reiki, vibrational essences, acupuncture – and we can do a lot for our wellbeing by engaging with these practices and modalities. I love yoga because not only do I get a good stretch, it sorts my energy out too! (Ever had that experience of walking into a class feeling like a bear with a sore head and walking out feeling serene? That’s not just the stretching! It’s the effect of clearing and nourishing your energetic field too.)
I have simplified this kosha a little by calling it the emotional body – it is in fact all our every-day thinking, feeling and doing. We might say it’s how we are when we are on automatic pilot. Many of us spend much of our time simply responding to our environment – what’s the next demand we need to meet. What I notice with clients is that this leads to feelings over time of being stuck in a rut, lethargic, depressed, resentful. People say they don’t know who they are any more, they don’t recognise themselves.
To keep ourselves fresh, we need to bring more awareness to how we live. Mindless consumption can be transformed into mindful choices that will bring us joy and laughter. Think about the people you spend your time with – do they drain you or fill you up? How about your home? Has it got cluttered and heavy feeling, or is it light and fresh and comforting? What do you watch on TV? What do you read? Each of these day-to-day choices can feed or starve your emotional body, and even just a little awareness makes a difference.
This is the part of our being which is all about personal growth and showing up as the person you want to, and I would argue are born, to be. It is the ability to choose courage over comfort, to borrow from Brene Brown. It is inspiration, challenge, and the ability to take control of your life proactively. And it is the switch out of victim into player – someone with authority over their own life.
Can you feel the difference as you read? It is a proactive state of being the person you wish to be. Coaches work in this space, helping clients to overcome self-limiting beliefs, work through obstacles, find faith and courage and above all take appropriate action. We can build our mental muscle by choosing what we feed our mind with care. This is where I put study, art, music, film that expands my mind or heart. It is where conversation with wise friends creates more wisdom in me. It is life blood to a seeker like me!
Or as I prefer the literal translation, Bliss body. This is your connection to Life as a whole. Your sense of being part of something larger than yourself. It is your spiritual beliefs, yes, if you have them – and it can be as simple as your deep connection to nature. For me, the simplest way to experience your bliss body is to ask – what brings me joy? Do more of that.
Your joy is your single biggest secret weapon when it comes to resilience, so prioritise it.
How can we harness rest and self-care for productivity?
Coming back to productivity then, how can you use this concept of the five koshas to boost your productivity?
The simple answer is – when you are firing on all cylinders with a happy physical, energy, emotional, mental and bliss body – you will be naturally productive. Rather than producing the same old things, you’ll be naturally creative and resourceful because that is the baseline of a well-rested human being.
Don’t believe me? Try it.
Take 15 minutes now, to think about each of these layers of being. How well nourished do you feel:
You might even give it a score, so that you can track your feeling of wellbeing in that area over time.
What do you need to do to improve your rest and self-care in that area? How could it be more balanced, more sustainable and more capable of giving you joy?
Keep your actions simple and specific, building up a list of perhaps 10-20 things you could do that will have the most impact on your wellbeing. Remember those activities, people, places, things that affect you at multiple levels of your being are the ones to prioritise.
Now you have a toolkit for boosting your health, happiness and your productivity. You don’t have to do ALL the things, just pick the ones that feel relevant on any given day and enjoy putting JOY at the centre of your life.
The original ‘The secrets of rest and self-care for productivity’ article was published in Brand You magazine. Click here to download the article as a PDF.
This is your invitation to feel better, in the way that feels just right for you – book a free call here with Joanne Sumner to discover how.