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WHY I LEFT INSTAGRAM

Why I left instagram

Back in 1999 I was one of the last people to get a mobile phone. Years later I was also one of the last people to get a Facebook account and one of the last people to get a smartphone. Even my parents, who at the time were in their late 60s, had smartphones before I did. My old job involved me travelling to a different location each and every time, so I used to hand draw my route on a scrap of paper (using Google maps on a desktop) and watch tentatively out the bus window, scanning nervously for my destination. I often missed my stop. I often got lost. All because I didn’t want a smartphone!

Why I left Instagram

Photo ~ Asim Bijarani

I knew in my bones that these ‘advances’ were more disadvantages, seemingly connecting us together more easily, but disconnecting us from ourselves more deeply. The more time our brains are ‘logged on’ to an online world, the less time we spend tending to our needs and emotions in the offline world, thus increasing our susceptibility to low moods, depression, despondency, anxiety etc

I knew all this as a teenager in the 90s but have experienced an insidious dissolving of my resolve as society seemingly ‘progresses’. Everything I knew would happen to my brain has happened, and it’s time to take my power back.

THE EXCHANGE WAS OFF

Why I left Instagram

My teacher David Elliott describes exchange as the flow of energy or consciousness given and received as energy, respect, value, appreciation and love. The reciprocity in my relationship with Instagram frequently felt off. I was pouring immense amounts of myself into it, sharing vulnerable pieces of myself, my wounding and my healed parts, transmuting my life energy into 2200 character posts and 24 hr stories. My expansive energy was being containerised.

screaming into a void

Photo ~ Greg Rakozy (Unsplash)

I was also warring against a living, breathing beast of an algorithm and people weren’t seeing or responding to my posts. I do what I do and I write what I write in the hope of connecting with people – to offer hope to the hopeless, to be witnessed and to witness, to be appreciated and to appreciate, to be heard and to hear. 

Sometimes this need and intention would be met, but more often than not I would be left feeling bereft and disjointed, like I was screaming love into a void. It’s very easy for us humans to feel discouraged in a vacuum, and Instagram was sucking the life force out of me.

MY LIFE THROUGH A FILTER

Why I left Instagram

Photo ~ Fredrik Solli Wandem (Unsplash)

Whilst I’ve always loved creating stories for Instagram and enjoyed the ensuing conversations, I became very aware that I was living in a self-created goldfish bowl. In sharing my joy I was subtracting from my own – I was removing myself from the present moment. Every experience, everything I saw with awe, became currency for content. I was documenting my life and it was depleting my life force. 

My mind became an Instagram filter, calculating whether everything I saw or experienced was either postable or not postable. I was living through a lens, rather than just living. Life had stopped being a felt experience and was more about how it looked through other people’s eyes.

ATTENTIONALLY CHALLENGED

Why I'm leaving instagram

Photo ~ Gaelle Marcel (Unsplash)

At one point I was spending 3+ hours a day on Instagram, under the guise of marketing and forming connections. The modern day equivalent of networking. That’s 3 hours actually on the app, but the time I spent on it mentally was so much more. If I wasn’t on it, I was thinking about it. Again, distracting me from the present moment. Filtering everything in my life for content. Wondering what I could write about next. Worried I would run out of ideas. Worried I wouldn’t get enough engagement. 
 
Instagram was like an app running in my brain – always online even when I was physically offline. An ever present white noise interrupting and disturbing my consciousness, repeatedly throughout the day.
 
Why I came off instagram

Photo ~ Max Cavallari ‘Loneliness’

I am deeply adverse to labels and definitely adverse to calling myself disordered, but for ease, I will explain my brain as an ADD brain. I’ve struggled with attention deficit issues all my life, often joking that I have the attention span of a gnat. I have the capacity for hyper-focus on an activity with deep meaning and resonance for me, but otherwise I can be flighty, foggy and unfocused.

The speed at which we scroll through social media, scanning the plethora of stimuli for something satisfying is a recipe for disaster for even the most stable of brains. (Studies show that in the last 20 years, our attention span has decreased from 12 to 8 seconds, which is less than a goldfish!) So dangle this dopamine dispensing device in front of an ADD/ADHD brain day in day out and it can feel like it’s breaking your brain. 

PRESSURE TO PERFORM

Why I left instagram

Getty images

It felt as if I’d been brainwashed into believing that my business couldn’t survive without Instagram. I’d even recently spent a small fortune on a ‘Build Your Instagram as a Business Asset’ course by a very reputable coach. But when there’s that level of importance attached to anything, particularly a social media platform, it can create a dangerous degree of dependence and a huge fear or anxiety of not being on it ‘enough’. 

If my business depends on Instagram, then surely I need to be working on it all the time? If I’m neglecting Instagram, then I’m neglecting my business, right? This created a constant pressure to show up, irrespective of whether I felt like it or not, and created an impending sense of doom and relentless guilt when I wasn’t showing up.

COMPARE AND DESPAIR

Why I left instagram
Before I was on social media I rarely indulged in a game of compare and despair. Even despite all my suffering I was always very rooted on my own path and rarely looked sideways. 
 
My experience on Instagram uprooted me in a rather unexpected and unwelcome way. I found myself frequently looking sideways and falling into the trap of comparing my insides to other people’s outsides, and comparing the beginning of my business journey with the middle of other people’s. Even with all the tools I’ve acquired over the years, this unappealing new habit often felt unavoidable. 
 
Reframing the platform as a source of connection and a way to meet new people definitely helped transform my relationship with it, but the low hum of inescapable exposure to other people’s highlight reels became exhausting. 
 

MY EMOTIONAL RAINBOW

Why I left instagram

Photo crop ~ Oladimeji Ajegbile (Pexels)

Being conscious of the impact Instagram was having on my emotional health did help to an extent, but it didn’t eliminate the fallout. 
 
As a business on Instagram there’s an expectation to relentlessly churn out content and this in itself can feel depleting. I was also not immune to the feelings of futility and despondency when my posts weren’t ‘liked’ enough. I know too well the limitations of instant gratification and my brain was not sufficiently resistant to the little red notifications designed to deliver a dopamine hit each and every time. And the perfunctory pops of pleasure are almost always interluded by periods of gloom.
 
Mood stability and freedom from emotional volatility have taken me a long time to achieve throughout my recovery, and my relationship with Instagram was starting to threaten that. 

All of this (and more) was all too often overwhelming me to a point where my brain just felt flooded. I was spending a considerable proportion of my life in a relationship that was not nourishing me – it was harming me more than it was helping me.

And so I’ve decided to walk away and see what happens. I already feel a full body exhale and a spaciousness within my soul, much like the feeling of coming out of a toxic relationship.

MY HOPE AND INTENTION

• To be more present in my life.

• To feel at a cellular level the wonder of a brand new shoot or an unfurling leaf. To feel the wind on my cheeks and really listen to the sound it makes rustling through the trees.     

• To experience more flow and ease with how I show up online for my business, and to create a routine and rhythm that work for me.

• For my attention span and focus to improve significantly. 

• For my time back, which will open the valve for more motivation, inspiration and ideas to flow in.  

• To re-root unwaveringly on my own path, without the incessant sideways glances.

• For a feeling of groundedness and connectedness in my own body, less attached to outcomes.

I have no idea how long this will last – whether it’s a break or the end – but I’m excited to see how my Instagram-free life will unfold.

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SELF-CARE | MORE THAN JUST A BUBBLE BATH

Self-care is a loving, compassionate journey of self-discovery – the conscious, deliberate attention to our needs and feelings, and the development of ways in which we can tend to them. 

With the practise of self-care, with the implementation of tools to nourish our souls, we have the capacity to rewire our brains and nervous systems. We can diminish the ways in which we are dominated by our patterning, our old beliefs, our conditioning, and gently, lovingly reconstruct our habits and our hearts, turning towards love, beauty, kindness and generosity – for ourselves, and each other.

Self-care in essence is the mindful taking of time to pay to attention to you, that ensures that you are being cared for by you. – Maria Baratta

self care nature

Dr Victoria Burns acutely observes the distinction, but interconnectedness, between self-care and self-soothing.

Self-care often involves doing the hard things (eg setting boundaries, health care appointments). Self-soothing helps us recover from doing the hard things.

WHAT SELF-CARE IS NOT

It can be particularly illuminating and helpful for our understanding of self-care to look at what it’s not.

Over indulgence 

It can feel so good to binge on Netflix for hours or eat a whole family-size bar of Galaxy caramel, but in essence, these are not acts of self-care. By numbing or escaping our feelings, we are actually contributing to more discomfort in the long run.

It can be really helpful here to consider the concept of ‘short-term gain & long-term pain vs. short-term pain & long-term gain’ – to consciously question ourselves about which of these categories our actions fall under.

Treats, play, and relaxation are absolutely all integral to our self-care, but it’s important to be conscious about the extent to which we are meeting these needs in preference to maybe some of our more prevalent needs eg. peace, ease or wholeness.

Avoidance

Again, this might feel like the easier option by means of its immediacy, but by retreating from life, from relationships, from responsibility, and deliberately evading conflict and difficult situations, we actually only prolong our pain and minimise our sense of wholeness and peace within.

Selfish

Nurturing our needs is essential for our growth, peace of mind and reducing the risk of physical and emotional pain and strain. Imagine if you neglected a plant – what would happen? It might shrivel, yellow, wilt and prematurely die without nourishment, light and water. We humans are living, pulsing, breathing beings, just like our plants. Neglect our needs and we too will emotionally shrivel, wither and waste away.

One off/ isolated actions

Self-care is an ongoing practise of building self-connection, emotional integrity, and resilience, resulting in the reduced possibility of burnout, fatigue and depletion. It requires consistency and perseverance in order to be effective.

Reactionary

Ideally self-care is not a reaction to illness, or an accumulation of stress, precipitated by external or internal circumstances.  The truest sense of self-care is an ever present, undercurrent of practises, internalised regularly with deliberate, gentle awareness.

self care what it is

HOW IT FEELS WHEN WE DON’T PRACTISE SELF-CARE

This list is an invitation for self-exploration. It is by no means conclusive or exhaustive.

Strained and Overstretched

Minimal self-care can contribute to elevated stress levels. Gabor Mate states that excessive stress occurs when the demands made on an organism exceed that organism’s reasonable capacities to fulfill them. Just like a rubber band will snap with excessive stress, so too will a human.

Fragile and Overly Sensitive 

Without rest, emotional safety or community, our internal resources may become depleted and our edges can feel frayed and frazzled. 

Overwhelmed and Volatile

In the absence of balance, support and stability, we can easily experience feelings of overwhelm, leading in turn to freezing and emotional shutdown, or explosiveness and volatility.

Angry and Resentful

Without freedom, autonomy, self-expression and self-authenticity, it’s very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of resentment and anger. Erin Telford explains the importance of speaking our truth (which is not necessarily ‘the’ truth), in order to live with alignment and integrity. If I’m not speaking my truth, if I’m saying yes when I mean no, I run the risk of encrusting resentment around my heart.

Ungrateful and Disconnected

Ignoring our need for love, connection, reciprocity and empathy can easily ripple into ingratitude, isolation and feelings of disconnection.

ACTS OF SELF-CARE

In addition to the obvious eating and sleeping right, drinking enough water, exercising, connecting with nature etc these are perhaps some of the less obvious ways to nurture yourself, but central to any self-care practise.

self care nature

Setting Boundaries

There is enormous power and autonomy in knowing our personal capacities and limitations, and it is within this space that our boundaries are rooted. Boundaries enable us to architect our own personal sanctuary, facilitating a life of more fulfillment, flow and alignment.

Areas that require the dedicated and diligent communicating of boundaries include: your time, the way you speak to yourself, your spiritual practise, your mental/ emotional/ physical space, the way in which other people speak to you/ treat you.

Self-Empathy and Compassion

This might be the most difficult, yet most potent, act of self-care. How many times a day do you ‘should’ yourself? eg. I should be able to cope with this. I should’ve known better. I shouldn’t have lost my temper. I should have responded differently. I should have said this. I shouldn’t have said that. I should be braver/ bolder/ stronger. I should be less emotional/ less needy/ less greedy.

Every time we ‘should’ ourselves we create an internal war in our psyche (M. J. Ryan), consolidating layers and layers of shame within our souls, and the effects of fortified shame are hugely toxic.

When we replace the ‘shoulds’ with self-love, immersing ourselves in compassion, non-judgment and open-hearted acceptance, we create fertile soil for healing. If we can hold space for our own pain and discomfort without shame, if we can meet all our emotions with curiosity instead of ferocity, we are providing ourselves with the utmost, almighty care.

Cultivating a Conscious Relationship with your Self-Talk

The often relentless, tyrannical voice of our inner critic can have a devastating impact on our wellbeing, so developing a gentle, loving relationship with that voice can be transformative. Transmuting the score of self-criticism and shame to one of compassionate cheerleading and support IS possible but requires persistence and commitment.

Releasing ‘Bad’ Habits & Creating New Ones

Humans are essentially a collection of habits – habitual thinking, behaviour and actions. We have healthy habits and we have not so healthy habits. It’s integral here to bring in boundless amounts of self-love and compassion, and know that our ‘bad’ habits don’t make us bad people.

Behind each habit is a need and a reward (Charles Duhigg), and by deciphering what these are, it can help us create new ones.

For example, the need behind ‘mindless scrolling’ might be for connection, or for inspiration, or for beauty, but it may leave us feeling lonely, fatigued, and insecure, and like we’ve been sucked into a time vacuum! To create new habits we can identify the needs we’re requiring to be met, and develop some new behaviours to meet these needs instead. If I’m needing connection, I could text or call a friend instead. If I’m looking for inspiration, I could read or listen to a podcast. If I’m needing beauty, I could go for a walk in nature with my camera.

Our needs are varied and run deep. With a little playful experimentation and lashings of love, it is possible to create new habits to meet our needs, rooted in self-care, rather than self-neglect.

*When habits become addictions, there is help and community out there to support you. My own experience with addiction (drink, drugs, self-harm) has shown me that recovery is possible, that we do have the capacity to change our habits.

 

Connection & Community 

Part of practising self-care is in the seeking and cultivating of meaningful connections with others. We all have an innate need to be seen, to be heard, to be understood, and to feel like we matter; these needs cannot be met in isolation. We flourish when we experience a sense of belonging within a community, where we can be witnessed and appreciated for our true, uncensored selves.

self care community

Saying Yes

Sometimes, self-care involves doing the hard thing, the thing we don’t ‘want’ to do. Excuses and procrastination can feel easier than doing the ‘thing’, but for the relief, the release, the growth and the spaciousness it creates, it’s so worth it.

Inactivity, sloth and isolation, or conversely compulsive over-working and organising, can feel so much more appealing than nurturing ourselves. But sometimes saying yes to that self-care commitment, saying yes to that coffee with a friend, saying yes to that yoga class or women’s circle, is exactly what our soul needs.

Creativity

We are inherently creative beings, vibrating with creative life force energy. To stifle that is to stifle ourselves. Birthing something out of nothing is to express our innermost selves, fosters a deep sense of presence and purpose, and meets our needs for achievement, vitality and spontaneity.

WAYS TO IMPLEMENT SELF-CARE

The ways in which we practise self-care, the patchwork of tools we use to facilitate all of the above, are probably as wide and varied as there are humans.

I’m a firm believer in finding what works for you, approaching each technique with as much openness, willingness, honesty and vulnerability as possible.

1:1 support and/or immersion in a healing community are indispensable. Healing circles for me are heart medicine, providing a safe harbour for our souls, and the strength, support and inspiration for solo practises. 

self care womens circle

Circles provide care & sustenance, each a much needed commodity and energetic infusion for our hearts, minds, and spirits. In Circle we may experience deep inspiration, find healing for parts of ourselves seeking answers to our questions, and we can relearn important lessons or find new ideas about our lives. We learn to listen deeply to poignant stories, we witness the full spectrum of human emotions, we learn to hold space and allow feelings and emotions to enter the healing circle, and we honor the ability to transform in circle and to be transformed. – Marilyn Wilson

JOURNAL PROMPTS FOR SELF-CARE

Exploring the ways in which we practise self-care and unraveling our resistance to it, via journaling, can be an illuminating exercise in itself.  

Self-exploration is always an invitation for self-compassion over self-judgment, for self-love over self-criticism. Go gently and go slowly.

  • Do you prioritise self-care every day?
  • If not, what obstructs you from practising self-care?
  • In what ways do you currently practise self-care?
  • What new ways might you introduce to practise self-care?
  • How do you feel when you don’t practise self-care?
self care journal
Olivia is passionate about all things healing. Having spent the last 11 years on a personal recovery journey from substance abuse and self-harming, she has a uniquely gentle and compassionate insight into this world.
She believes that connection with others and connection with ourselves is at the root of all healing and uses different modalities to explore this essential truth – breathwork, healing circles,  creative arts, 1:1 spiritual mentorship. 

** To join The Journal Circle if you’re in the US, click here.

*Alcoholics Anonymous UK – 0800 9177650 // Narcotics Anonymous UK – 0300 9991212
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TO ALLOW OR TO WALLOW – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

To allow or to wallow… what’s the difference?

Just one letter. One tiny letter with huge significance.

How do we make the distinction between wallowing and allowing our feelings? Should I allow my feelings when they’re based on cognitive distortions/ faulty beliefs? 

Thoughts create feelings. So should I allow my distorted thoughts to create distorted feelings? By allowing these distortions am I then wallowing?

There is this trend at the moment encouraging us to allow all of our feelings, but I think there is an extremely fine line between allowing and wallowing. I invite you (and remind myself) to tread very cautiously with this paradigm.

Absolutely acknowledge your feelings with gentleness and self-compassion. Meet them with love and hold space for yourself. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself that you are listening. Denial after all is no one’s friend.

But then gently investigate your thoughts that preceded the feelings.

I can experience feelings of sadness, anger, overwhelm etc that all feel hugely justifiable and valid, but if I skate on the thin ice of allowing too long, I invariably fall through the cracks into the icy waters of wallowing.

So allow but investigate. Challenge the thoughts that led to the painful feelings.

Have I been outsourcing my strength and power?
Have I been fearful of not getting what I want?
Have I been fearful of losing something I have?
Has a situation or person not turned out the way I thought it/they ‘should’?
Are things not going ‘my way’?
Am I indulging in black and white thinking?
Am I being single minded, obsessive and unable to see the wood for the trees?
Am I believing my own inner critic?
Am I trying to manage someone else’s life, thinking I know what’s best for someone who isn’t me?
If everyone is pissing me off, am I considering who the common denominator is?
 
Meet your fear and disappointment and anger and frustration with an open heart. Let go of self-condemnation and self-expectations and be sure to drop all those ‘shoulds’! Nurture yourself and practise self-empathy.
 
But then investigate. Release your tears and explore with curiosity. Journal, meditate, sing, dance, create, bake. Whatever works for you.
 
Thoughts are thoughts. They don’t represent truth but they do create feelings and those feelings can feel very true.
two yellow doors
Red flags for when we’re wallowing rather than allowing:  
 
  • Self-pity and resentment 
  • Self-righteousness & justifying anger
  • Endless thought loops – stagnating in the same thoughts
  • Feelings of resistance to flow and growth
When we’re allowing:
 
  • Curiosity about our thoughts, rather than self-criticism
  • Self-compassion & gentleness
  • Self-responsibility over blaming others
  • Openness to lessons and growth
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Feeling the Fear & Doing it Anyway | A decade into Sobriety

I’m not usually one to sit and ponder a whole year or a whole decade – possibly because it feels too overwhelming, possibly because I often have a sense that I haven’t achieved ‘enough’, possibly because I practise self-reflection Every. Single. Day as part of my daily routine so I don’t feel the necessity.

It’s also very easy for me to focus on where I think I ‘should’ be, instead of looking at how far I’ve come, so with the intention of redirecting my focus, here’s a little reflection on what I’ve learned, and relearned, this year.

insta twirl

🌈I can handle it 

Despite my experience of achieving what I thought was impossible (a decade of sobriety and abstinence from self-harm, one day at a time) my old thought patterns can still persist. My default whispers of ‘I can’t handle this/ It’s too hard/ I want to give up’ have limited me immeasurably over the years and I am again relearning that I can handle it/ I can do it/ and that perseverance yields results.

The messages we tell ourselves have an unfathomably enormous effect on our lives and so by transforming our inner dialogue, we transform our outer lives. Telling myself ‘I can handle it’ (when I’ve often convinced myself I can’t) has truly been life-changing.

🌈 My feelings, my choices, my actions are MY responsibility

I was introduced to this truth when I first entered recovery and it was probably the most difficult lesson for me to accept. I’d spent my life blaming others for the way I was and the way I reacted; it was always somebody else’s fault, never my own. If I was miserable and suffering, it was your fault. To therefore be asked to digest the unpalatable truth that I was in fact responsible for all these things… I was horrified.

It has taken me years of oscillating between acceptance and resistance of this notion, consistently feeling the pull back into blaming, but this year, having read some incredible books (eg. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway) and working with an incredible breathwork practitioner (Olga Circles) I have felt a truly pivotal shift in my understanding of self-responsibility.

🌈 To reconnect to the spiritual path after heart ache and disappointment

Throughout the last decade my morning practise has proved to be an integral piece in my healing. (By morning practise I mean my *almost* daily routine of reading spiritual literature, journaling, affirmations, gratitude lists, yoga and meditation – *almost* every day I utilise a combination of these tools.) Despite knowing the profound impact this has had on my life, I have frequently experienced resistance to it and over time had become complacent and even negligent – possibly because it can feel counter-intuitive (my ego doesn’t want to be silenced), possibly because it’s hard, possibly because growth can be slow and I allowed my impatience to win.

This year however, after quite an extended period of ‘slackness’, my life circumstances shifted and I was left feeling bereft and desperate. Instead of reacting emotionally and destructively, I miraculously felt the pull to reconnect to my spiritual path and began a gentle but regimented daily practise (incorporating all of the above tools). Within weeks I felt transformed and was reminded that ‘doing the work’ really really does work!

🌈 Resistance (for me) is inevitable, and that’s ok!

Some people seem to heal effortlessly – they seem to grasp new concepts and new ideas with fervour and embrace growth & change whole-heartedly. I on the other hand seem to need my claws prizing away from old ideas and old beliefs. I judge myself for being this way, often wishing I could just let go of my resistance, but have recently been reminded (through exploring Buddhism) that this is NORMAL.

Growing can be uncomfortable. Facing yourself can be uncomfortable. Sitting through pain and discomfort is definitely uncomfortable. It’s not surprising I experience resistance. Knowing this and introducing self-compassion to my daily practise has been hugely helpful.

🌈 Humour is everything

When faced with what we label as ‘awful’, laughter can be transformative. It lessens the pain, it takes away the shame, it connects us. In the midst of my old life I don’t remember having a sense of humour. Now, the ability to laugh at myself and inject humour into a situation full of pathos is one of the greatest gifts I have.

🌈 I can walk through fear

Despite consistent evidence in my life that walking through fear is possible, my thinking can still default to old patterns. I have been reminded again this year that pushing through fear is far less frightening and far less painful than sitting in inaction (thank you Susan Jeffers!) Walking through the discomfort and asking for support has led me to achieving things I never imagined I could.

🌈 To live with uncertainty

To lean into it with an open heart and ride the wave in the direction it’s going, wide eyed to possibility. It is only through practise and willingness that I have been able to do this, as for me, uncertainty gives me itchy blood. To sit in ambiguity, to let go of expectations and mental scripting, to dissolve all the ‘shoulds’ – this is where the work lies. It’s hard. It can be disorienting. But it’s oh so freeing and I have deep wells of gratitude for the gift of this practice.

🌈 My ‘tribe’ is everything

Without connection I would simply wither away. I am fortunate enough to be deeply nourished by two tribes: my recovery group and my ‘home alone’ group. The women in recovery who walk this path with me are my life line. To share our lives together, our experiences, our struggles and our successes keeps me afloat. No one gets me like they do. We have a wordless connection, our hearts are interwoven and our stories save each other. My heart surges with gratitude when I think about them. I owe them my life. And the women who comprise our ‘home alone’ group – our incredible network of sole business owners/ warriors – support and inspire me everyday. They are awe-inspiring, resilient and brilliant women and I am privileged to call them my closest friends. I learn and re-learn all the time how important these GODDESSES are to me.💖🙏🏻