Here’s why you’re burning yourself out and what to do

Burnout is real. We want to push as hard as we can at the expense of our health, but is it because we aren’t identifying with our soul?

This age has been categorised by identifying ourselves with our careers. Our whole childhood education has trained us to do and contribute as opposed to just be.

Take, the innocent question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and the way we were trained to by well-intentioned adults to use childhood as a building ground to serve capitalist ideals. We went to class for a “future”, did homework so we could pass and go to university and then went to university, or training for a job. We were told to have realistic expectations and to not pursue dreams that could land us in financial trouble in the future.

We may have had creative outlets, but our identity was first and foremost, how we could contribute to capitalism and how we identified through its lens. Unless our passions were profitable, we were told to choose between what we love and what would let us lead the lives we love.

For me, writing was always my passion. I loved expressing myself through writing, but judged myself based on my grades, which naturally were fluctuant. I then went on to study politics and war at university and I identified myself as a student. Then I identified as a journalist and my highs and lows became dependant on how my career was going.

Little did I know, those perceived ebbs and flows were one single meander that is life and I was just navigating whilst plastering my identity to one tiny aspect of it.

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After realising this, I stumbled upon an article that said adults should identify with their health goals as opposed to their careers. It seemed legitimate, so I started to do it. I became Diana, the health conscious person and my fitness definitely improved… until I had days it didn’t.

Then came the same feeling losing your sense of self, but based on a different hurdle. I soon realised that the problem wasn’t what I was attaching my identity to, but the fact that I was identifying with temporary aspects of life, full stop.

Really, there’s no step-by-step to stop burning yourself out. We all do it in different ways and for different reasons, which change throughout our lives. Sometimes, it’s a necessity, other times it’s a survival instinct and then there are times we become addicted to the feeling of success. What we can do, though, is identify with something else.

Identify with your higher self, your soul. It could be too much to comprehend for some, especially for my readers who are new to spirituality, so think of it as identifying with your breathing.

“I am my breath. I am how I breathe.”

Take yourself there. How fast are you breathing? How deep are you breathing? Does your breathing come from your chest, or are you taking deep, belly breaths? Without judgement, focus on your breath, slow it down, put your hand on your heart centre and just say “I am”.

The rest of those identities will change. Success is relative, material is temporary. Even the body we have doesn’t stay with us forever, but our soul self, the self that was created in a completely dimension, will forever be ours and us.

Just coming to this realisation is enough. When you find yourself drifting with stress, overworking and identifying with success, just know it isn’t you.

Yes, life gets stressful, things get in the way of us doing what we want, but those are things that happen to you — they are not you. They do not need to become a part of you.

Don’t judge yourself for how well you’re connecting with your breath or identifying with your soul. Just do it. Allow negative thoughts to pass. They are not you and they do not stay forever. That extra sale may boost your confidence and dissolve those disturbing thoughts, realising your home is within lets you take a step back, allow you to feel how you want to feel, reminds you your thoughts aren’t you. Your thoughts are thoughts that affect you, but that doesn’t mean they become latched to your identity.

Get comfortable with stripping yourself of all of those labels and not identifying with the temporaries around you. Meditate on yourself, let go of the world and view yourself as the raw ethereal being you are. This is the purpose of spirituality and spiritual practice. You honour where you are, but you identify with yourself on a spiritual level to clear the material clutter in your mind.

Yes, you may need to do it more than once and yes it may take a while to retrain your brain to change the way you identify yourself, but by just having the simple awareness, you’re doing more than enough.

Baby steps, small wins and lots of gratitude and love.

I love you all.

Diana xoxo

Instagram: @flowerknafeh
Twitter: @superknafeh

Learn more about my distance reiki healing sessions via Zoom

Mindfulness resource sheet for tired Black activists (every part of you matters)

My dear, beautiful Black readers. There are times when as a writer, I know my words may not be enough. I don’t want to write about how much I care for you all, how much I stand with your cause and why I believe Black lives matter (because they do point blank. If you’re questioning the humanity of another human, you’re the problem) and blog about my feelings. This isn’t about me and it will never be. I’m a bleached blonde Palestinian who looks and passes for “white” until the slightest part of my culture comes out of me (pretty much all the time because y’all know how Palestinian I am ๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ธ). For this reason, I felt uncomfortable writing because I want to use my blog to genuinely help and I didn’t know how. Until now.

This morning, I was watching a video by thevillageauntie (Angelica Lindsey-Ali) explaining why she is refusing speaking engagements by non-Black Muslims to “educate” others on anti-Blackness in our communities. She’s right. We’re closest to our community and we have the most influence. She also spoke about how tired she is, how anxious she is, how fighting anti-Blackness affecting her relationship with her children, etc. As she was talking, I realised that I have tips from my own personal journey on how to calm the anxious mind, how to regulate thought, tackle self esteem, powerful duas, etc. I want to share them all with you.

Before anything, please follow thevillageauntie’s example and say no. When it feels tiring, say no. Those with genuine intentions will understand. Those without are obviously coming with narcissistic intentions. If they wanted to help you, they would care for you first.

To fellow non-Black Muslims, this isn’t the time for me to address us. I know a lot of us have lost friends and family during this as their true colours show, have had awakenings to bias, have to deal with moving past anxiety to speak, etc. I’ll talk to us later, in a different post; I promise. My intention is to not burden my Black readers in something I’ve written for them. All I will say right now is watch the video I linked above and be mindful. Check on your Black friends, tell them you love them, pray for them and ask what you can do for THEM. Be sustainable and mindful that the fight against racism doesn’t stop when the hashtags stop trending.

Enough rambling. Let me get started. I am not a therapist and I am not a yoga teacher, nor am I a Muslim scholar. I am a writer, a learner reiki healer (inshallah will be licensed when Covid-19 is over), a Muslim and a yogi and I am making this list from my independent study, advice from various mentors and personal experience.

Quientening intrusive thoughts with feeling

Once upon a time, I used to suppress my feelings. My thoughts used to run through my mind at what seemed like the speed of light. I used to feel overwhelmed, scared and helpless. I felt trapped in my own thoughts and I felt like they controlled me because I couldn’t catch them, let alone control them. Until I learned this one thing: thoughts are meant to be felt, not controlled.

What underscores your thoughts are your feelings that you have not processed. I encourage you to ask yourself how you feel at that moment. Don’t fight with your thoughts, because they are a part of you, but connect with yourself on a deeper level by asking yourself how you feel. What you’ll find is your thoughts and feelings aren’t as separate as you think and you identifying those feelings and trying to work through them will always quieten those thoughts. Have compassion for your feelings. Meditate on the child within that feels those feelings (I covered this + a guided meditation here).

Breathing techniques

Breathing is core. When you focus on your breath, youโ€™re focusing on the energy that is connecting your body to your soul, thus keeping you alive. Being in-tune with your feelings and breathing are foundations of mindfulness, which is why I put them both first. In my breathing practice, I was taught that to enter a state of relaxation, you need to breathe into your belly (diaphragmatic breathing) and generally your exhalation needs to be longer than your inhalation. There are some breathing techniques I learned as I went along and here they are:

4-7-8 technique: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, out for 8 seconds. Repeat as long as you want (I do it for around 2 minutes)

Box breathing: This technique is where you breathe in, hold and out for the same amount of seconds for relieving anxiety and lowering stress levels. Some people do 3-3-3, whereas others do 4-4-4.

2-3-4 technique: Breathe in for 2 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, out for 4 seconds. A smaller version of 4-7-8 but it’s still effective and maybe even more if you want to work your way up to breathing deep

Kapalabhati: A pretty advanced yogic breathing technique, but I love it! This cleanses your lungs, releases toxins, purifies your blood, warms your body, clears your mind and you get a bit of an ab workout ๐Ÿ˜! This warms your body so don’t do on the first 3-4 days of your menses, if you have high blood pressurem pregnant or have heart problems. I want you to read about it properly before doing it (Chopra Centre has a good guide and clear instructions) but essentially, you take deep inhales and explosive exhales.

Nostril breathing: In kundalini yoga, I was taught that the left nostril is the feminine nostril that you breathe through for calming properties (stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system) and the right nostril is the masculine nostril that energises you (stimulates the sympathetic nervous system).

You can either do left nostril breathing by blocking your right nostril and breathing deeply through your left nostril (usually in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds but the longer the counts the more effective). You can also do alternative nostril breathing which is breathe in through your left nostril, out through your right nostril, in through your right nostril and out through your left nostril, then in through the left, etc.

PS: You don’t need to block your nostril through sticking your finger inside! Just pinch the outside of your thumb or index finger on the outside of your nostril.

Affirmation guide

Affirmations are very important because they rewire your brain! One of my favourite things to do is to listen to affirmations instead of music when I’m tidying up my room by going on YouTube. You can go on Pintrest to find a list of affirmations, or you can make them yourself! Here’s how:

  1. Identify how you’re feeling and what your consistent negative thoughts are
  2. Write them down (I am helpless, I have to do everything or I will be a bad activist)
  3. Write counter statements (I am powerful, I am allowed boundaries for the sake of my mental health and they make me a better activist)

It may feel like you’re lying to yourself or you’re being oblivious to the situation at hand, but you’re not. You’re rewiring yourself from within as you change the world. You’re creating a safe space inside your mind where you listen to yourself, connect with your breath, address your feelings and unlearning toxic messages you were fed during childhood. Do not use affirmations to hide your feelings. Use them as you feel your feelings so you can raise your self esteem and tap into a healthier emotional space.

Using yoga to calm the mind and body

Yoga poses are amazing for everyone! Each pose is good for your mind, body and spirit and has a different effect on you. Here are some relaxing poses that you can search and try:

  • Child’s pose
  • Downward facing dog
  • Forward fold
  • Sphinx pose
  • Cow face pose
  • Reclined eagle pose
  • Lotus pose (the lotus mudra can be done as well by sitting in easy pose and breathing deep)

Kundalini yoga meditations

Some people are not okay with chanting, and that’s okay. This is a comprehensive list for everyone regardless of their religion so take what you want and disregard what you don’t. I know many Muslim kundalini yogis who don’t chant and others who do and others who prefer to find the meaning of the chant before chanting. I’ll be linking the full meditation and summarising it.

Lotus open heart meditation

To open, strengthen and heal the heart centre. You put your hands in a lotus mudra and you chant, or breathe deep.

Kirtan Kriya (Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation)

This meditation brings a total mental balance to the individual. Your thumb touches your index finger as you chant sa (birth), middle finger as you chant ta (life), ring finger as you chant na (death), little finger as you chant ma (rebirth). You do this at different volumes explained in the link above. You can follow a guides on YouTube that sings, whispers and is silent with you to guide you.

Antar Naad Mudra

This meditation is said to help with creativity. You sit in easy pose with your hand touching your baby finger and chant the sa-re-sa-sa mantra. Again, you can find the mantra on YouTube or Spotify and chant with it. Usually done for 11 minutes.

Duas

I am Muslim, so I will put some duas. I’ll paste them in Arabic, transliterate and translate so anyone can use these powerful prayers.

ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ูู…ู‘ูŽ ุงูู†ู‘ูู‰ู’ ุงูŽุณู’ู‰ูŽู„ููƒูŽ ุงู„ู’ููŽูˆู’ุฒูŽ ููู‰ ุงู„ู’ู‚ูŽุถูŽุขุกู ูˆูŽ ู†ูุฒูู„ูŽุงู„ุดู‘ูู‡ูŽุฏูŽุขุกู ูˆูŽุนูŽูŠู’ุดูŽ ุงู„ุณู‘ูุนูŽุฏูŽุขุกู ูˆูŽ ู…ูุฑูŽุงููŽู‚ูŽุฉูŽ ุงู„ุงูŽู†ู’ุจููŠุขุกู ูˆูŽ ุงู„ู†ู‘ูŽุตู’ุฑูŽ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ุงูŽุนู’ุฏูŽุขุกู ุงูู†ู‘ูŽูƒูŽ ุณูŽู…ููŠู’ุนูŽ ุงู„ุฏู‘ูุนูŽุขุกู

Allahumma inni as’alukal fauza fil qadaai’, wa nuzul-ash-shuhadaai’, wa aiyshaslua’daa’i, wa murafaqatal-ambiyaai’, wannasara alalaadaai’, innaka sammaiiud’dua

God, I ask You for success concerning my destiny, and feast with the martyr, and enjoyment with fortunate people, and the companionship of believers, and victory over my enemies. Only you can answer my prayer.

ุงู„ูŽู‘ู‡ูู…ูŽู‘ ุงุณู’ุชูุฑู’ ุนุงูˆู’ุฑูŽุชูู‰ู’ ูˆูŽ ุงู…ูู†ู’ ุฑูŽูˆู’ุนูŽุชู’ู‰ู’

Allahummastur ‘auraati wa aamin ru’aati

Allah, cover my faults, and change my fear into peace

ุฑูŽุจูŽู‘ู†ูŽุง ู„ุง ุชูŽุฌู’ุนูŽู„ู’ู†ูŽุง ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉู‹ ู„ูู‘ู„ู’ู‚ูŽูˆู’ู…ู ุงู„ุธูŽู‘ู„ูŽู…ูู†ูŽ ูˆูŽ ู†ูŽุฌูู‘ู†ูŽุง ุจูุฑูŽุญู’ู…ูŽุชููƒูŽ ู…ูู†ูŽ ุงู„ู’ู‚ูŽูˆู’ู…ู ุงู„ู’ูƒูŽููุฑููŠู’ู†ูŽ

Rabbana la taj’alna fitnatan-llil qaumidh-dhalimeen, wa najjinna bi-rahmatika minal-qawmil-Kafireen

Lord, do not make me a trial for the wrongdoing people, and deliver me by Your Mercy from the oppression of disbelievers.

ุงู„ู„ู‡ู… ุงู‡ุฏู†ูŠ ุตุฑุฉ ุงู„ู…ุณุชู‚ูŠู… ู„ู„ูˆุตูˆู„ูŠ

Allahuma ihdeeni seerat al-mustaqim la wusuli

Allah guide me to the straight path to my destination

ุงู„ู„ู‡ูู…ูŽู‘ ู„ุง ุณูŽู‡ู’ู„ูŽ ุฅู„ุง ู…ูŽุง ุฌูŽุนูŽู„ุชูŽู‡ู ุณูŽู‡ู’ู„ุง ูˆูŽ ุฃู†ุชูŽ ุชูŽุฌู’ุนูŽู„ู ุงู„ุญุฒู’ู†ูŽ ุฅุฐุง ุดูุฆู’ุชูŽ ุณูŽู‡ู’ู„ุง

Allahuma la sahla illa ma jaโ€™altahu sahla, wa โ€˜anta taj-alul hazna idha shiโ€™ta sahla

Allah, nothing is easy except what You have made easy. If You wish, You can make the difficult easy.

ุจูุณู’ู… ุงู„ู„ู‡ ูˆุชูˆูƒู„ุช ุนู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ูˆู„ุง ุญูˆู„ ูˆู„ุง ู‚ูˆุฉ ุฅู„ุง ุจุงู„ู„ู‡

Bismillah wa tawakkaltu aโ€™la Allah wa la hawla wa la quta illa billah 

In the name of Allah, I trust in Allahโ€™s plan, there is no might, nor power, except for Allah

“Just for today”

A principle we are taught in reiki, where we set an intention and choose to live in peace for today. The human mind responds better when you have short term aims, so if you aim to be at peace “just for today”, your brain digests it better. It also helps you to practice living with intention, which is SO unbelievably important! I’ll write something in depth on this later and I’ll link here once it’s ready so you don’t have to keep checking back.

Here are the five reiki principles to live by (gratitude is very important because it takes you out of anxiety and puts you into the present moment):

Just for today I will not worry.
Just for today I will not be angry.
Just for today I will do my work honestly.
Just for today I will give thanks for my many blessings.
Just for today I will be kind to my neighbour and every living thing.

That’s all so far, I’m open to questions and more suggestions. Please tell me what you want from me and what I can do to support you. I’m all ears.

Love you all so much!!!

Instagram: @flowerknafeh
Twitter: @superknafeh