PRPD #27: Redefining self-care, prioritizing yourself, and setting healthy boundaries with Ana Ottman.

You can also find me on Spreaker, Player.FM, AudioBoom, & wherever fine podcasts are played.

Ana Ottman is a a ghost writer and fiction author who helps female entrepreneurs discover their story and share it with the world. We had a deep, soulful conversation about what self-care really means, how to stop it from feeling like another thing on your to-do list, making time for ourselves  and setting healthy boundaries. This is the conversation that I’ve had so many women asking for and there are so many great insights to dig into.

In this episode we talk about:

  • Ana's journey from working in the non-profit sector to becoming a self-employed writer
  • The problem with trying to find your "purpose" and a gentler way to look at career decisions and tuning into your passions 
  • Ana's creative practices and rituals as a full-time writer 
  • Our definitions of self-care and how we practice it in our own lives
  • How to stop self-care from feeling like another item on your to-do list and actually tap into what you need
  • How to make time for yourself based on the season of your life that you’re in
  • Advice for giving ourselves permission to set boundaries, recognizing when our boundaries are out of whack, and how to go about actually putting healthy boundaries in place
  • Why boundaries actually help us to connect better with people
  • Some entry points for having difficult conversations with grace and kindness
  • Understanding your unique gifts and figuring out what you have to offer the world
  • How to become comfortable becoming more visible and sharing your story and work

Links mentioned:

Where to find Ana:

Living in Your Flow: Periods, Moon Cycles, & Creating Your Own Self-Help Book

It’s a word that gets bandied around a lot: “get in the flow,” “live in your flow.” And the word “flow” sounds pretty dreamy. It conjures to mind images of life moving ahead with ease, unimpeded by obstacles.

In psychology, “flow” is an illusive state of mind where you’re completely in the zone: things flow easily and effortlessly, as if you're just the conduit the work is moving through.

But I want to talk to you about another type of flow, one that can even help you harness the former, and that’s your feminine flow (yep, we’re talking periods today! But not just periods, moon cycles and scheduling and birth control as well.)

If you downloaded the free PDF about the 10 books that have had the biggest impact on my self-love journey, you might have noticed that Code Red by Lisa Lister got a big ol’ shout out from me as having created a massive shift in how I understand myself and plan my time. Meeting Lisa and discovering he work was a complete game changer for me (you should definitely check out my interview with her).

While I highly encourage you to dive deeply into Lisa’s work - which will inevitably lead you down a rabbit hole of other amazing women, books, groups, and blogs - today I wanted to share my own primer on living in tune with your menstrual cycle and the moon, how these principles have changed my life, and tips for living in the flow even when we have busy lives full of non-negotiable commitments.

 

The Cyclic Nature of Women

For a long time, I felt like I went insane once a month. The tiniest thing - like dropping a pen or watching a Kleenex commercial - could send me into floods of tears. I’d fly off the handle and snap at people even though, somewhere in the back of a whole lot of brain fog, my rational mind was shouting “I don’t want to treat people like this!"

And then I’d bleed. And I’d feel so relieved. I hadn’t lost my mind, after all!

Can you relate to this?

Sure, perhaps we should be able to intuit that all that insanity is a by-product of our hormones whigging out during PMS. But when we’re not in tune with our natural cycles, a month can fly be so quickly that we might be surprised that it’s time for another period. It might not even cross our mind because we have no idea where our bodies are at.

And this is the important thing to remember: our natural cycles influence how we show up in the world. We’re going to go into detail about exactly what that looks like but it’s an important concept to hook into. Society teaches us to try and mitigate any impact our cycles have on us so that we can grin and bare it, but that is totally a product of the patriarchy (yep, I’m going there!) and not a recipe for a happy, flow-y life. 

Mainstream media sanitizes our periods by showing us blue liquid and telling us that if we stick something up our yonis and take a pill, we don’t even have to notice we’re having them. But doing that cuts us off from what’s going on in our body and from experiencing the depths of who we are as women.

When we try to force ourselves to be the same smile-y, outgoing, productive women day in and day out we’re setting ourselves up to feel like failures - and for suspecting that we’ve lost our minds at certain times of the month.

But when we can honour our cyclic nature as women and the natural changes that influence our moods, desires, energy levels, and feelings about who we are throughout the month by planning our lives in sync with these cycles, we can actually be more authentic by sharing all of who we are.

So let’s look a little bit at what that means and what it looks like...

 

Understanding Your Cycles

One thing I really took away from Lisa’s book is that we often think of our menstrual cycle as the 3-7 days when we bleed once a month. But in reality, this is a 28ish-day cycle with four distinct phases and they all have very powerful effects on how we think and feel.

Your pre-ovulatory phase is like your own personal spring each and every month. It’s a time ripe with new beginnings and is the perfect phase for starting something new. You’re peppy and full of energy and it’s the time when you’re most articulate: perfect for planning social engagements, important meetings, or interviews.

If pre-ovulation is spring, your ovulatory phase is summer and it comes with your own personal flavour of “I can do anything!” energy. You’re at your boldest and most confident. You’re a powerhouse of productivity and this is the perfect time for birthing new products and actually creating whatever it is you started during your pre-ovulatory phase. You’re also at your most fertile so prepare to feel frisky and a whole lot more sensual.

Ah yes, your pre-menstrual phase - the time most of us have grown to have so much resentment for. The good news is that living in harmony with your cycle can actually help prevent much of the pain and discomfort that you may experience during this time. And pre-menstruation also comes with its own unique set of superpowers. You know that razor sharp tongue that you sometimes regret when you have PMS? It’s actually a sign that you’re at your most truthful and discerning. You’re in the perfect place to edit anything out of your life that is no longer serving you.

Your menstrual phase is technically the beginning of your cycle, with the day that you bleed marking the first day of your cycle. For many of us this is a time of great release after the internal tension that builds up during our pre-menstrual phase. It’s the time when we’re most connected to our intuition, our highest self, spirit (whatever you want to call it) and so this shiz is super sacred. It’s the perfect time for diving deep into what’s going on for you so that you can release what’s not working and move forward along your path.

Learning about my cycle in this way blew my mind wide open! It actually made me excited to bleed each month so that I could access each of these superpowers and honour what was going on in my body and my self.

If you’re taking a hormonal form of birth control, like the pill, the artificial hormones will naturally dilute these bodily responses to the point where you might not even be able to detect them. Learning about this work was a big part of my decision to come off the pill but that is a completely personal decision and you’ll get no judgment from me no matter what side of the fence you’re on. If your intuition is telling you that hormonal birth control might not be the right choice for you any more, I highly recommend you read Sweetening the Pill which I know has helped a lot of my friends find clarity on this issue. But again - this is totally your decision. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your friends. Educate yourself. But ultimately, you need to go with your gut on this one.

There is so much more that can be said to unlock each phase of your cycle so please go pick up a copy of Code Red (honestly, I want to give it to every woman I know).

And never fear, even if you are on the pill, you can still honour your cyclic nature by following the phases of the moon - which actually mirrors our menstrual cycles. There are so many of us are interested in moon magic but many people just focus on the new moon and full moon, when actually each of the four phases have a unique energy you can tap into.

Like your menstrual phase, the dark or new moon phase is a good time for discarding thing in your life that you don't want anymore, contemplating what you've already accomplished, and setting intentions for the future (but not acting on them, yet).

The waxing moon is when the moon appears to be growing in size each day and this phase is linked to your pre-ovulatory phase. It’s a time for starting new projects, brainstorming ideas, meeting new people, and increasing the things you desire in your life, whether that’s in terms of your finances, relationships, knowledge, or anything else. It’s a time for nurturing and growing.

The full moon is like your ovulatory phase and this is when we see the moon’s entire face illuminated. It’s time for fulfillment and bringing things to completion, renewing commitments, and cultivating a deep sense of gratitude.

The waning moon is linked to pre-menstruation and is a time for moving inwards, releasing, letting go, and tapping into your intuition. This is the perfect time of the month to end a relationship, break a habit, or let go of anything that is no longer serving you.

If you do bleed, your cycle may or may not be lined up with the lunar cycle - it doesn’t really matter. Either way, you can find your own way of honouring these cycles in a way that makes sense to you. The really important thing to realize is that as a woman, you are not built to be consistent. Getting into the flow of your cyclic nature will help you feel more sane, productive, and in tune with your deepest self.

 

Creating Your Own Self-Help Book

One of the most powerful tools I learned from reading Code Red was beginning to “chart my cycle.” Essentially, I keep a small journal that marks the date, phase of the lunar cycle, and the day of my cycle I’m on. I make notes about my mood, my productivity, my emotions, my energy, and even my hunger levels. Just brief bullet points or even single words that sum up where I was at on each particular day. I keep the journal beside my bed and just jot all of this down before going to bed each night.

If you sign up for Lisa’s mailing list, you’ll be sent the first chapter of her book and that chapter contains a “cycle repair kit” with a pretty sheet for charting your cycle as well as an example chat, which will help you get started.

The reason this practice is so powerful is that you’re essentially creating your own, completely-unique-to-you self-help book. Because while the information I’ve outlined above provides some general guidelines about how you MIGHT feel at each stage of your cycle, everybody is different. Every body is different.

After a few months of charting, you’ll be able to begin to see patterns about how you feel at different points throughout the month. This has helped me plan my life in rhythm with my own unique cycle and be gentle with myself when I know I’m likely to feel wobbly. Plus, I can warn my husband if I’m liable to bite his head off without any provocation so that he can steer clear.

Charting also forces me to be aware of where I’m at in my cycle so I don’t have any more of those “Help! I’m going insane!” moments.

Most of us have commitments to jobs or families that mean we can’t completely dictate our schedules according to our menstrual cycle. I get that. Even when I try to, my cycle will throw me for a loop and add a few extra days onto the end so that I’m not totally in sync. BUT we can do our best. We can stock our desk with chocolate when we’re know we’re going to bleed soon. We can do extra high-level work during the first two weeks of our cycle, so that we can focus on simpler tasks during the second two. We can do our best not to make social plans on evenings when we’re likely to be feeling introspective. This isn’t about perfection. It’s about awareness and intention. 

Even just reading this article will likely create shifts in how you view your own cyclic nature and I encourage you to keep the conversation going. Talk to your girlfriends about this information. Or if you're not comfortable doing that, it's something we're always talking about in Girl Gang HQ. We'd love to have you join us!

PRPD #26: Getting clear on your desires and how you want to feel: a mini Desire Map workshop with Louise George.

You can also find me on Spreaker, Player.FM, AudioBoom, & wherever fine podcasts are played.

Louise George is a coach and actress based in London. We’re going to be talking about her story of how she went from working jobs she didn’t love to gaining clarity on her desires and creating a life that she really loves. But what’s really exciting about this interview is also a mini desire map workshop. Louise is going to tell us all about what desire mapping is, how we can find our core desired feelings, and how to use them to gain clarity in all areas of your life. Louise and I chatted about the core desired feelings we’re both currently working with and the little rituals we’ve used to cultivate them throughout our days. This work has been so transformative for me. By finding your core desired feelings you can stop chasing goals and dreams and pinning your happiness on your future happiness because you can start generating the feelings you want right now. 

In this episode we discuss:

  • How she maintains both structure and fluidity in her daily routines
  • Louise’s journey from being unfulfilled by her work and life to getting clarity on her desires and built a life she adores
  • What led her to desire mapping and exactly what this process created by Daniele LaPorte looks like
  • The definition of “core desired feelings” (CDFs) and how discovering yours can transform your entire life
  • How getting clarity around how you want to feel can help you to stop striving and pinning your happiness on future events, and instead start enjoying where you are right now
  • Questions to ask yourself to narrow in on your core desired feelings
  • The ins and outs of how many CDFs you should choose, how often you should go through the desire mapping process
  • How to use your CDFs to create goals that feel good and that allow you to enjoy the journey of reaching them
  • The CDFs that Louise and I are currently working with
  • The rituals we use to cultivate our CDFs every day
  • The tools that have helped Louise make positive changes in her mindset
  • What you can expect from one of Louise’s desire mapping workshops

Links mentioned:

Where to find Louise: