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Beating Burn-Out: 5 tips to keep you sane

Our founder, Arianna Radji Lee, shares her five tips to keep you sane when juggling more than one job.

You might have heard the term ‘burn-out’ used over recent years as a term to describe feelings of being physically and emotionally run down. You may have also seen, felt or even found yourself rolling your eyes at yet more millennial jargon.

But, as of 2020, the phrase ‘burn-out’ has officially been recognised as a global medical condition since it was added to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases. Their definition of the term is ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’

I started this year with three jobs under my belt:

1) As a freelance event consultant where I am currently working for my client 3 days a week;

2) I also teach spinning at boutique spin studio, PSYCLE, four times a week, and

3) Most recently launched Pachamama to support women’s transition to motherhood by offering pre and postnatal health and wellbeing events

Now this might sound strange coming from someone who works in events, but I don’t deal well with stress. Like, at all. Ever since my father died 5 years ago, my levels of anxiety have risen to the surface and are only ever an aggravated email away. Over the years I’ve had to find coping mechanisms to help keep my anxiety at bay; and now, more so than ever with three jobs on the go, I’ve really had to focus on the best ways to navigate my stress-levels without compromising on the work itself or my own well-being.

Full disclosure and as irony would have it, as I write this, I have a stress-induced stye on my left eye, so I’m certainly no expert in self-care! I’m also well aware that the jobs I’m referring to are all business-related and there are many other forms of jobs, such as parenthood. Whatever you’re juggling though, here are some of the things I have found useful when managing multiple things on the go. Some of my advice will resonate with you, some certainly won’t. Take what you can or what you need and start small. No one is going to have time to implement everything at once. I’d suggest picking one that you can add to your weekly schedule and try it. Once that becomes habit and routine, add another, then another. And whatever you do, don’t berate yourself for not having the perfect self-care regime. It doesn’t exist. The fact you’re even considering making yourself a priority is a massive step in the right direction.

Let me know how you get on and please do share any self-care rules and regimes you have that work for you.

1) Set your non-negotiable. Whether it’s at home or at the office, be crystal clear on your working and lifestyle norms so that both you and others can make sure you stick to them. For example, if you’re a working mum, your non-negotiable might be that you need to leave work early on a certain number of days to pick your kid up from nursery. If you’ve vocalised and established that rule with your employer, you won’t end up feeling guilty or concerned about leaving when you need to, and your colleagues can adapt and adjust to support you achieve that.

2) Start with the things you love. Everyone’s got a to-do list. Mine is ginormous and is all over the place – I write notes on my phone, I have an app to help manage tasks, I email myself things to do and I set calendar reminders. For someone who’s so organised, the way I structure that organisation isn’t great, and when I look at the number of things I’ve got to get through it can be ridiculously over-whelming. When faced with a long list, most people tackle the hard jobs first and save the enjoyable ones till last. Well, I reverse that.  Behavioural change specialist and friend, Shahroo Izadi, taught me that it’s much easier to make a start on the harder tasks when I’m feeling good about myself. So now I start my day with the things I enjoy the most or that are the easiest because they make me feel capable and confident enough to take on the tasks that I find more challenging.

3) Dial-down the digital. A lot of my work means having a social presence. As a spinning instructor I use Instagram to help build and celebrate my community of riders; and as a small business owner I use it to increase brand awareness. I’m also in about 20+ active WhatsApp groups that are a constant source of notification, even when muted! There’s no doubt that technology is incredible, but if we’re not careful, it can be incredibly harmful. The feeling of always having to be ‘on’ and available is exhausting, so here are some of the parameters I’ve set to protect myself:

  • The days I’m working for my client, I set my personal phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’. You can set a handful of people who, if they call you instead of text, can get through, but otherwise that phone doesn’t make a sound.
  • I’ve switched WhatsApp, Instagram and Mail notifications off. I know I will be opening these apps at certain points throughout the day regardless of getting notifications. So why have the added nuisance of getting reminders?
  • I allocate time for Instagram. If I didn’t, I’d be on it way more than I need to be. How many times have you found yourself unnecessarily scrolling through when bored or just to kill time?
  • No walking and texting. So many times I’ve almost bumped into someone on the street or worse, wondered how I wasn’t run over because I didn’t check the road properly before crossing. Instead now, I listen to a podcast on my walk to the station or speak to my mum. It’s amazing.

4) Proximity is power. Last year I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a seminar by world-renowned life-coach Tony Robbins, which was a bizarre, wonderful and life-changing experience for me. One of the most significant lessons I took away from it is the idea that the people you surround yourself with and spend time with are ultimately who you become. He explains it here (yes, he does talk that quickly in real life!), and whilst he’s talking about it from a business perspective, I applied it to my personal life. I surround myself with family and friends who are loving, supportive, smart and successful in the hopes that I, myself, become all of those things. Having friends who not only support my business goals, but who don’t make me feel guilty when I need to put work first, is incredibly rare and refreshing. So find people that lift, bolster and encourage you when the going gets tough and be sure to recognise it when they need it in return.

5) Sleep is a healer. I think that if everyone had the ability to sleep as much as they needed, we’d be so much healthier. But of course, with work, kids and other commitments, hardly anyone has that luxury. I’m also not a good sleeper. I find it hard to switch my brain off at night so it sometimes takes me hours to fall asleep, and when I finally do, it’s always disrupted. I find tiredness adds to my levels of stress and anxiety, so in order to help manage it, I plan my working week (where possible) and weekends to ensure there are at least one or two nights that I know I’m able to get eight to nine hours of sleep. I read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep which claims that you can’t ‘bank’ sleep, which is probably true. But just knowing that there is even one night in the entire week that means I can ‘catch-up on’ the sleep I’ve missed out on, has massive psychological impact and in turn makes me feel less anxious about working late or waking up early on  the other days.

Recommended Reading – New Parent Books

Like with baby products, deciding which parenting book to pick up and read can be an overwhelming task.
We polled our online community and asked them what book they would recommend for new parents. Here’s are the top five most mentioned:
  1. Your Self Confident baby by Magda Gerber
  2. Baby Food Matters by by Clare Llewellyn and Hayley Syrad
  3. The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson
  4. Your Baby Week By Week by Caroline Fertleman and Simone Cave
  5. Like a Mother by Angela Garbes
Join our community online for future polls or to just say hi.

10 things you actually need for your newborn

With so many products on the market and the endless stream of targeted ads, as a new parent, it’s hard to know what you need and what you can trust to make your life with the little one that bit easier.
We polled our online community and asked them what was the one item they – or their newborn – couldn’t live without.
Here’s a list of the top ten most suggested items (in no particular order):
  1. Nappy bags and bin
  2. Breast pump (top two recommended were Haakaa and Elvie)
  3. Baby carrier (Ergo was the most recommended)
  4. Muslins (multi-purpose for dribble, sick, swathing, you name it!)
  5. Baby bath seat
  6. Baby bouncer
  7. Sleep pod (Sleepyhead was the most recommended)
  8. Nipple balm (top recommendation was Weleda)
  9. Stroller that’s also a car seat (Doona came recommended)
  10. Baby monitor
Join our community online for future polls or to just say hi.

Have you thought about your baby’s sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits, practices and behaviours before going to sleep. According to newborn specialist and sleep consultant Dawn Grey, sleep hygiene (or lack of) can affect the quality and length of sleep for your toddler.
Here are some things to consider:
1. Bed and wake-up times need to be as consistent as possible
2. Keep it short! Don’t over complicate their bedtime routine. Kids need to be calm enough to fall asleep but if the routine is too long (more than 35 mins), they loses focus and can get another burst of energy
3. Allow ‘winding down time’ before the bedtime routine commences
4. No screen time in the 2 hours before bed
5. Ensure appropriately timed and length of naps
6. Check for the correct room temperature and lighting
7. Use the day wisely. If possible, get out in the daylight and have plenty of fresh air and exercise
8. Ensure they’re eating a healthy diet
You can hear more from Dawn at our upcoming pop up on the 25th Jan 2020, where she’ll sharing her tips on holistic practises for family sleep. Limited spaces available; book here.

Q&A with Women’s Health Physio, Jenny Constable

Jenny Constable is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Six Physio. We spoke to her to learn more about postnatal physio check ups, find out why they are important and what women need to look out for.
Jenny will be speaking at Pachamama’s upcoming pop ups on 25th Jan, 1st Feb and 8th Feb, addressing subjects including postnatal care regarding pelvic floor, abdominals and sex. For more information on our events and how to book, click here.

What can women expect when they book their first appointment with you, post-birth?

I always start by asking about their birth history to find out if they’ve had a vaginal birth or a C-section. I find out whether they are breastfeeding, as that has an implication for returning to exercise. We then go through any aches and pains that they have, and talk about their bladder and bowl movements…the nitty gritty stuff. The question that I always ask, which I genuinely never expect to be answered with a yes is: have they returned to sex? I ask that as it helps to know what their expectations are in terms of returning to sex, and I can help alleviate any problems or concerns they have with that.
I then tend to go through what exercise they’ve done pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy, and whether they are doing anything now or what their goals are. This ranges from women who just want to do a class, to others who want to feel more fit; then there are the more extreme cases when a woman already has a date in the diary for her next run.
I would then look at their body, starting with their posture; posture is key. Mothers have gone from nine months of being in a pregnancy posture and they have a tendency to stay in that position which can really impact their tummies.
Once I’ve looked at posture, I will look at that abdominal muscle separation by having them lie down and having a feel of their tummy. At Six Physio we use a real-time ultrasound machine which is exactly the same machine that looks at babies, but I’m looking at stomach muscles to show me if a woman is working her inner core stomach muscles properly. I find a lot of women will grip with their obliques which creates a flat belly with a bulge below the belly button, that then a lot of women work even harder to try to get rid of, which only makes it worse.
Then, if the woman allows it, I will move onto a vaginal assessment, where I’ll ask them to undress from the waist down, cover them in a towel for modesty, to look at them doing a pelvic floor squeeze. I will also look at their stitches if they’ve had a vaginal birth to see for any tears, and potentially have a feel around those muscles to feel if there’s any pain on the outside. Then, with a gloved hand and lots of lubricant, I will go inside the vagina and feel for muscle strength as well as any discomfort.
It’s just like any other routine physio assessment, it’s just that the muscles we’re looking at are harder to access without getting up close and personal!

And how long does that assessment typically take?

That all happens in a one hour session. At the end of the session I’ll go through a couple of exercises – the do’s and don’t’s. A typical one is seeing if they are able to do a double table top (lying down on your back with both legs lifted an a table top position) to check whether they can do this whilst keeping good control of their tummy. If they can’t I can let them know that they can attend their Pilates class, but mustn’t do the double table top yet. It’s about making sure women have that control over their body and knowing what to look out for.

Have you found that there is a popular goal that women are working towards post-birth?

Everyone’s got different goals, but overall I think that women just want to feel like they are doing the right thing and that they are not doing any harm to their bodies.

Are there any common misconceptions that women have about their bodies after birth?

The main misconception, I think, is that women think they should snap back after having a baby. I think that’s because they’re not told much about their post-pregnancy body in their antenatal classes or they see celebrities in the media that have just had a baby and are wearing a tight skimpy dress.
Another misconception is that women think that as soon as they’ve had their six week postnatal check with their GP, they can go straight into running. Generally from what I’ve seen, I would say they can’t.

What would you say is the most important part of your body that you need to be looking after once you’ve given birth?

That’s a tough one! It all works together so it’s hard to pick out just one part, but I’d say your pelvic floor. We know that if you’ve got a pelvic floor that’s functioning nicely, i.e. it can contract and relax, it isn’t painful and it’s strong, that in turn leads you to doing more intense exercise more comfortably.

And what’s the best way to look after your pelvic floor?

Coming in to see a physio of course! We would check that you’re doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly and measure how strong it is.
Then once you’re doing your exercises it’s things like avoiding constipation. Straining can put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor, so ensuring you’re getting enough fruit and fibre.
Also making sure you poo in the right position. You can do this by making sure your knees are above your hips. If you have a small stool at home, just pop it under your feet when you’re on the toilet.
Avoiding heavy lifting is another way to best look after your pelvic floor. This can be very difficult when you’re a mum, especially if you have a newborn and a toddler, so it’s about seeking advice on when to lift and how by looking at different lifting techniques.

We’re seeing a few fem-tech products that are on the market, for example the Elvie Trainer, which helps strengthen your pelvic floor at home. Would you recommend using those?

There’s lots of things on the market, all varying in different price ranges. The Elvie, for example, is good for what we call ‘bio feedback’, which is basically giving you information on whether you’re squeezing the right muscles. The device can detect pressure and it’s been very well designed in that it usually tells you if you’re doing the wrong thing. It’s a small, wireless device that goes inside and connects to an app on your phone via bluetooth.
The Elvie Trainer is on the more expensive end; there are products like The Educator which has an applicator and is little bit more fiddly, but a lot cheaper.
At the end of the day if you’re doing the correct technique when you squeeze with or without these contraptions, you will get the same result.

Typically, how long do you need to do these kinds of exercise before you start seeing progress?

Any muscle in the body takes eight weeks to get bigger, and normally the guidelines say doing pelvic floor for three months, three times a day should give you enough time to see a progression in that strength.

We’ve focused a lot on postnatal recovery, what are some of your top tips for someone who is pregnant?

I think it’s knowing that there are different educational classes out there that give different advice when it comes to the antenatal and postnatal period. Some are very focused on the labour, breastfeeding and baby care, but don’t talk a lot about looking after the mother and getting her body ready. So I think it’s important that when you’re investigating which antenatal classes to do, just to be mindful of what they’re talking about.
I see so many women who come in with an element of a prolapse – which is when the vaginal wall gets a bit soft and sometimes the bladder or the bowel push into it. It’s quite common – around 50% of women at some point in their life will have a prolapse – but it can be prevented through education.
A lot of the women I see who have a prolapse tell me that they were never told that could happen after having a baby. Knowledge is power. Women should be told these things beforehand so that they are aware of what could happen if they don’t look after themselves properly.
Unfortunately, I think there is a normalisation of the problems you can have after having a baby. For example, you can see an advert about wearing liners because you’re leaking and that will lead you to think that it’s ok, it’s an ‘oops’ moment and it’s fine to do that. When actually it’s not fine. It’s common, but it’s not normal. And we need a lot more education around all of this.

Jenny Constable is Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Six Physio. She will be speaking at Pachamama’s upcoming pop ups on 25th Jan, 1st Feb and 8th Feb, addressing subjects including postnatal care regarding pelvic floor, abdominals and sex. For more information on our events and how to book, click here.

Meet the Founder

Who are you?
Hey, I’m Arianna Radji Lee. I’m Pachamama’s Mama. My background is in corporate events as well as fitness (I teach a London’s spin studio, PSYCLE), so knowledge, health and a sense of community are all really important to me.
What is Pachamama?
Pachamama is a network and community of parents (mainly mums), child experts and health practitioners who have come together to support parents with their transition into parenthood.

What does that support look like?

At the moment, we’re running online events and courses for new and expecting parents. We have a range of workshops and workouts for both pre and postnatal women, as well as activities for little ones to keep them occupied, stimulated and learning during the pandemic.
Ultimately though, we’re working on opening a physical space that women can come to with their friends or on their own to meet like-minded women, have a coffee, attend a talk, get a treatment or workout, all the while knowing that their child is being well looked after in the same space. 
Full disclosure – I’m not a mother yet – but I’ve spent the last year talking to mothers and mothers-to-be and listening to what they want, and I’ve noticed that the current systems in place aren’t catering for their needs. What I’ve also come to understand is that whilst motherhood is a beautiful and rewarding experience, it can also be exhausting, overwhelming and lonely at times.
So that’s why I’ve created Pachamama, to offer a safe space with community at its heart, to meet the needs of modern motherhood.
Why is creating something like Pachamama so important to you?
It’s important because now, more than ever, people are understanding the value of self-care. Unfortunately though, the current systems that are in place – in the UK at least – don’t, or aren’t able to support that care when it comes to new parents, particularly mothers, and that needs to change. I think that’s why, maybe selfishly, I’ve been hesitant about starting my own family.
From the many women I’ve spoken to, I’ve come to understand that as a parent, particularly with a newborn, finding time for yourself becomes incredibly difficult, especially if you don’t have support at home or family close by.
My hope with Pachamama is that it gives women the necessary support they need all under one roof, which makes carving out time for themselves that little bit easier.
What’s the meaning behind the name?
I read once that Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes who is known as the Earth Mother. In other beliefs she is the goddess of grounding and fertility. She’s an ever-present and independent deity who has her own self-sufficient and creative power to sustain life on Earth. Given how strong mothers are, I like to believe that they embody her spirit. Basically, I think all mothers are goddesses!
Click here for our calendar of events. Follow us on Instagram @pachamama.london for more details.
This post was updated on May 21, 2020.