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In a world flooded with global disasters and mental health conditions like eco-anxiety on the rise, author of the bestselling self-help book, Slow, Brooke McAlary, unveils the pitfalls of neglecting personal care in her new book, Care.

Brooke McAlary’s own experience with post-natal depression was the catalyst for her self-care journey and marked the beginning of her career change from business woman to self-help author. After the overwhelming success of her 2017 international bestseller Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World, Brooke returns to share her latest tips to live a slow and joyful life, through her latest book, Care: The Radical Art of Taking Time, published by Allen & Unwin.

After receiving her post-natal depression diagnosis following the birth of her second child, it was Brooke’s therapist who first recommended slowing down. This wake-up call prompted Brooke’s change of pace and her ensuing move to the Southern Highlands with her family. Burned out by her past career running a jewellery business, along with raising two young children and juggling excessive commitments, the self-care author reveals how she knew something had to change.

Brooke says, “Looking back, I can see my mental health started to take a dive…I write about slow, because I need slow, it’s not something that comes naturally.”

Self care is important for mental health
Photo Credit: Nikko Macaspac on Unsplash

In her book, Brooke tackles the exploitative nature of the wellness industry. The industry has high stakes in profiting from the growing market for self-care, reeling in nearly $4.5 trillion and representing 5.3% of global economic spending.

With increasing mediums for internet users to be inundated by advertisements and marketing campaigns, it is becoming easier for corporations to exploit the rising population of people seeking solutions to stress and burnout. Brooke says, “If you are buying into certain elements of self-care because you think there’s something wrong with you, you become vulnerable to that marketing message.”

Wellness services have flooded the market, many of which have been accused of charging exorbitant fees and exploiting desperation. Brooke challenges the exclusive tactics of self-care corporations, and offers a more accessible path to wellbeing in her guide.

“Everything I write about needs to be accessible to everyone, regardless of finances, geography, abilities,” Brooke says.

It helps if you’re already well, you’re slim and you’re 25, that kind of mentality is what has attached itself to self-care.

“In keeping with the idea of accessibility, I really wanted it to be achievable for people who are busy, which is a lot of people. If you’ve got thirty seconds, you can spend those thirty seconds looking out a window at a green view, you can write down one lovely thing that you saw today or you could hold the door for a stranger.”

Walking outside is a form of self care
Photo Credit: Юлія Вівчарик on Unsplash

Brooke unpacks the ideas of ‘Big Care’ and ‘Small Care’, and their significance in the past year where ‘Big Care’ has had a major global impact of “upheaval and collective grief,” with the climate change crisis and the COVID19 pandemic. While she acknowledges that these two types of ‘care’ don’t exist in a vacuum, she also identifies why we need to prioritise the ‘Small Care’ sometimes.

Brooke says, “I realised I had spent so much time and energy caring about all of these big, important global collective issues like climate change, COVID, the national grief we’re all feeling as a result of last year’s bushfires, but what I had neglected was the other end of the spectrum of care, the small acts of care.

“That is the genesis of the spectrum of care I talk about in the book. The reason we need to start spending more time on the smaller end of the spectrum.”

Brooke’s call for greater self-care and mental health awareness is all the more pertinent, with stress and burnout rapidly increasing among the population. Asana’s global study found that 4 in 5 Australians in white-collar jobs suffered burnout in 2020.

While a variety of symptoms are reported, the main signs often include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Brain Fog
  3. Maladaptive Daydreaming
  4. Lack of Motivation
  5. Sleep Issues
  6. Frequent Illness

With smartphone users clocking in 3 hours and 15 minutes a day and technology infiltrating all aspects of people’s lives, Care brings to light the role technology plays in exacerbating burnout and stress.

Fighting the temptation to keep scrolling on social media is hard when “it feels good in the short term because it releases dopamine”, Brooke says, but she maintains the need to substitute internet usage with more fulfilling activities.

Our phones, our laptops, our screens can be viewed much more like a tool… something you use for a job and then you put it away.

Brooke advises people to partake in hands-on activities outside of technology, suggesting that physical activities like yoga can positively affect the brain and even just “looking into the eyes of animals can release oxytocin”, also known as the love hormone.’

Looking into the eyes of animals produces oxytocin
Photo Credit: Nachelle Nocom on Unsplash

Brooke says, “If there’s an opportunity to go for a walk, or to sit and do something tech-related, I use that information for motivation.”

In her own life, Brooke has implemented this concept for her family, with her children creating a technology-free ‘slow room’ to help reduce outside sources of stress. She says, “I started experimenting and started to declutter and was astounded to find the impact it had on my mental health.” It was this realisation of how switching off can bring joy that inspired Brooke to share this practice with her children.

Practising self care as a family
Photo Credit: Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Brooke also outlines how ‘Small Care’ can affect our perception of time, revealing how anyone can harness the ability to “bend timeand alter their experience of its passage.

“As I get older, as my kids get older, I feel like time speeds up. That made me curious about why there were times in my life where time seemed to feel like more,” Brooke says.

Research shows that our perception of time changes as we grow older. When we’re a child everything is new.  As a result, time feels like it goes on for longer… That is the simplest way to bend time.

Brooke says when people’s lives become monotonous and repetitive, the brain doesn’t hold on to those memories, thus creating the illusion of time passing quickly. In Care, Brooke encourages individuals to embrace the sense of play and wonder from childhood, to slow down their perception of time and make space for ‘Small Care.’

Featuring Brooke McAlary, author of Care: The Radical Art of Taking Time.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Brooke’s work, watch our exclusive interview with her below.

Beyond ego and facades…

Of all the life-changing events, this course has affected me, and improved my life, like no other.

I was surprised to learn I held deep-rooted Rage and Shame in being a woman. I had been blocked by a fear of not being good enough. A fear of rejection. We ALL feel a sense of isolation and anxiety over not being accepted. We NEED to belong.

The Mighty Gum

Not unique, not special, one of many … at first glance.

Omnipresent from where I sit, and common throughout the world.

But look closer and you will see the power of the Mighty Gum.

Erect and tall, it reaches high and higher, its stem gradually growing depth and bulk as it metamorphoses into a solid trunk, over time.

Its branches spreading outwards, expanding to take in more of what the air has to offer.

Its delicate leaves multiplying, more and more and more, and dying and dropping off and falling; the tree, never once grieving the losses of these, as it knows in its heart, its soul, its guts, that more will come.

It is strongly rooted in the earth, spreading underground in gentle, continuous search of more nutrients, more moisture, to sustain its blood and body.

It doesn’t resist the searing sun, it moves gently with the breeze and allows the rain to gently fall from its leaves.

Opening to the sun, soaking in its energy, that it needs to feed all its elements – the leaves, the branches, the bark, the trunk, the guts, the roots… all of her.

Which then feed the many creatures that like to visit, stay a while or stay longer – the ants, the beetles, the birds, and bugs.

And then, as it ages and understands the elements won’t keep its body alive, there is no terror as it looks down and sees its two healthy, enthusiastic little saplings thriving – full of optimism, hope, and energy, eager to continue the cycle of the Mighty Gum.

 

I wrote this poem on the Path of Love retreat recently, during a small assignment where we reflected on Nature and its symbolism to us.
It was about my journey as a Woman and as a Mother.
Surprising for an editor perhaps, I frequently agonize over writing, but I wrote this poem in 10 minutes.

I wrote with freedom. Self-doubt didn’t suffocate me, instead a bolder, richer and more creative part of myself emerged; overpowering my usual insecurity and self-criticism.
I credit this to the Path of Love.

The Path of Love (PoL) is a powerful, seven-day course, set in natural bushland in the Hunter Valley, NSW, which is formulated to break through limiting, personal barriers that block people from achieving what we really want out of life. It is designed to help us develop more Love, and to live a more meaningful life.

It enabled me to go within, to the core, beyond Ego and facades such as appearance, life-situation, and personality; which cleared the way for my natural drive and passion to return.

I went to the Essence. I experienced an authentic me.

People had different personal motivations for being there – relationship problems, a lack of career direction, a personal crisis of some kind, dealing with childhood and past traumas, or, simply, because they felt at Crossroads and wanted more passion and direction in their life.

I didn’t have a clear reason for going on this retreat. I just noticed a few coincidences around PoL and was compelled to sign up, not knowing very much about it at all.

I am glad I listened to that inner whisper, because of the University degrees, travel, relationships and other life-changing events, this course has affected me, and improved my life, like no other.

PoL is a deep inquiry into the Self, involving meditation; music; dancing; writing; time in nature; sharing experiences, thoughts, and emotions; reflection; and silence.

There were 30 participants and the same number of staff, our ‘Angels’, who supported us through the intense, exhilarating and, at times, confronting, journey within. They formed a nurturing womb which held us while we shed outmoded and decaying belief systems and habits, allowing for a truer self to emerge.

We worked intimately in a group of eight where all exteriors washed away. I now consider these people another family. The bond we formed during this personal process was profound. And, under the skillful, compassionate and deeply insightful guidance of our facilitators, Samved and Mairead, we were safe to allow raw vulnerability, which encouraged trust, truth, unconditional love and deep, personal breakthroughs to happen.

I faced the scary, dark fears, and also celebrated the light-filled, majestic parts of myself.

I was surprised to learn I held deep-rooted Rage and Shame in being a woman. It was a low-level thing. On the outset, I was reasonably accomplished and happy, but deep down, this self-subjugation was killing the inner fire. In an effort to avoid being a “hard bitch,” I had suppressed my natural Womanhood.

I had made myself ‘small,’ in what I thought femininity ‘should’ look like. I had believed I was an empowered woman! But, through the course’s penetrating process, I experienced a different, new and beautiful kind of power in the Feminine.

The experience helped me take ownership of myself as a woman and as a mother.

Opinions, self-support, sexuality, sensuality, inner strength and a Voice to express what I want and need, as well as love and compassion. I found a Lioness. Protective of her children, and herself. Protective of women.

I identified issues I’d been harbouring since childhood, adolescence and adult life, and was then encouraged to nurture these wounds, and to let them go.

I also found a need to Speak my Truth, overthrowing fears of reproach or judgement, and I’ve been amazed at how well this has worked since in my relationships, work and daily life. I was too afraid to do this previously for fear of rejection, conflict and ridicule.

I realised I have been quite a fearful person, which, despite appearing confident, manifests as shyness and me avoiding social situations. I felt awkward and nervous of intimacy, and actually found it almost impossible to look people in the eye.

It was humorous and a great relief at the end of this course to be able to do this apparently basic exercise, that had seemed so terrifying seven days earlier.

I had been blocked by a fear of not being good enough. A fear of rejection. This, I learnt, is inherently part of the human condition. We ALL feel a sense of isolation and anxiety over not being accepted. We NEED to belong.

I learned that all have our insecurities, weaknesses, fears and pains. Of particular interest, was an insight into the male psyche and heart. I was ignorant to just how vulnerable men are too, and they, like women, are just as in need of love and meaning in their lives.

Here is a snapshot of what my new friends experienced on PoL:

Gunter, a husband and father who traveled from New Zealand to attend the course, shares:

“I felt pretty much done with life – I was depressed, fed up, over it, tired, mainly with my relationship in particular, and came away with the support and feeling that I was still ok, that I was not banished, cast out… I have always known that I’m not perfect, but I gave myself such a hard time, from quite early on. I feel I have made a quantum leap.”

Tanya was overcoming childhood sexual abuse and trauma:

 

“The loving kindness of PoL fast-forwarded the healing of childhood wounds that I did not realize were holding me back in love and life.”

Mark, a devoted husband and father, says, he was tired, stressed and depressed.                                                                                                        “I had lost the passion and connection with my life purpose. Life post-PoL is completely transformed. I am excited about the future and have a new perspective on what contribution I can make.”

Carol, a powerful, sophisticated, charming woman reveals:

“Path of Love helped me understand I had a longing for connection – with my Self and with others. Since I have been able to meditate easily and to find the real “me” within. I’ve also been more aware of patterns where I may self-sabotage and I am able to connect with friends and with life at a much deeper level, which is enriching my life. I feel an inner peace.”

Troy, a devout Christian, father and husband, says:
“I came to learn and grow, and discovered I really wanted to see the bits of me I always hid from. I was encouraged to share, to cry, to listen, and to dance, and to realize that I was loved and divinely bespoke.”

Wen, a charismatic woman coming to terms with the ending of her marriage, shares:                                                                                         “I was able to look at my self-doubts and love for myself. Old beliefs are hard to confront but when you are in a loving, gentle, understanding surrounding, you can feel pure bliss.”

Ant, a clever, eloquent and successful businessman and father of two, explains:

“Its formula is genius and gruelling. On the course, I was semi anxious most of the time with that simmering turning up of the requirement to keep going deeper. That constant inching forward of the intensity and that escalating demand to face yourself. I found real power there. It was enough of a taste to show me that most fear can be transcended.”

I recently read somewhere: “Once you wake up, you can’t come back.” 

The Path of Love enabled this to happen and it feels great to be alive, present and loving, and Real.