How To Put Yourself First

Nicole Wood discovers a whole new outlook on the importance of wellbeing after chatting to founder of My Zendays, Nicky Thackray...

Speaking to Nicky Thackray comes at a time in my life when I need it the most. Recently being diagnosed with a chronic health condition, I have found myself putting a lot of pressure on myself to be the person I used to be and live the life I used to live. This is the negative and stressful mindset that the wonderful Nicky aims to shift.

After a successful corporate career and feeling like she had it all, Nicky was exhausted, burnt out and fed up, yet had no idea why or what was wrong.

Following a three month quest, learning about meditation, mindfulness and wellbeing, she decided to launch My Zendays.

“I teach people how to calm their mind and boost their happiness so they can get much more joy and fulfilment out of their life. As far as I’m concerned happiness, peace, love and joy are the things we need more of in our lives.

“I’m on a mission to help people step up their self-care, learn skills to support their overall wellbeing and happiness, help to achieve a greater sense of balance and peace, and inspire and empower you to live your life the way you’ve always wanted to,” says Nicky as she begins to explain what My Zendays is.

As I’m chatting to Nicky, I can’t help but open up about my own struggles in terms of managing my energy with my chronic illness and she floods me with advice I will now carry with me: “Learn how to manage your energy. We all only have so much and once that energy has run out for the day, it’s run out, we can’t borrow more. We need to learn to give that energy to the right things and the right people.

“Energy vampires exist and it’s about surrounding yourself with things and people who make you feel good. There are people you’ll spend time with and come away and think ‘my god, I am exhausted’. People will, and most of the time will do it without realising, but will suck the energy out of you. Surround yourself and fill your time with people who make you feel good, light, happy and giddy.”

Our conversation digresses as we begin to discuss the pressure of society and the world we live in.

“There’s a lot of pressure to succeed and to please people and to tick boxes off of someone else’s checklist to feel successful (usually parents!). When you get the job, buy the house, marry the person, have the children and have everything you think you always wanted, you can still feel miserable and wonder what’s wrong with you.

“I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you and in fact many people feel the same way. We’ve been programmed to live this way. We spend our time stressing and worrying and trying to be the best version of ourselves and that’s too much pressure. We need to focus on the smaller things, what is it that makes us truly happy, what is it that fulfils us and makes us smile.

“Things like journaling, deep breathing exercises and techniques that put your mind and body into this relaxation response are something we aren’t taught, we don’t learn about these things at school, yet it’s something so simple we can incorporate into our daily lives.

“It’s become ‘normal’ for us to lead busy lives and accept that stress is normal. You need to recondition your nervous system for relaxation because after all these years, especially those who are super busy and high flyers, we’ve basically conditioned our nervous system to be switched on all the time.

“There’s no award for overworking. Being busy doesn’t win you a badge of honour. You need to train your body to be able to relax. When I reached the ripe old age of 40 and was suffering from awful burnout, high anxiety and super stressed, it would have been extremely handy to know that even the way you breath can stimulate that relaxation response.” she continues.

Increasingly fascinated by Nicky’s upbeat energy and endless positivity, I ask her how one would begin to focus on putting their wellbeing first to which she guided me on the Four Interior Empires: mindset, heartset, healthset and soulset – all of which are based on the work of Robin Sharma.

“The first is mindset. Your mindset is basically your mental world, your thinking patterns, your thinking habits, how you interpret stuff and your ability to learn. Are you being kind to yourself? Are you learning and growing? Are you feeding your brain with positivity?,” Nicky begins to explain.

“Ask yourself what am I watching on TV? Am I watching motivational stuff that helps me feel like I can conquer the world or am I watching negative or damaging shows which will create a negative mindset? You need to be aware of your internal dialogue.

“So many people, especially women, are so hard on themselves and create a hostile environment within themselves e.g. ‘I must not fail’, ‘what will people think of me’ and it’s so catastrophic to think this way. Become aware of the narrative you’re telling yourself and make a conscious decision on turning down the volume when needed. Change the station and start giving your brain the message that it doesn’t have to be afraid. Tell yourself ‘I can do this, I will try this, it doesn’t matter if I fail, I’m not scared.’

“The second is your heartset and this is your emotional world. For example if you’ve been through a really painful relationship and you still haven’t got over it or if something terrible has happened in your past and you haven’t dealt with the trauma of it, then it’s about being able to accept you haven’t come to terms with this and say to yourself do I need to go hire a therapist or life coach? This is about your emotional world and whether or not you’ve been able to process the difficulties and the challenges that you’ve been through in your life in order for you to create the space and move on and create the future that you want to achieve,” she continues.

“The third is healthset which is your physical world. Are you getting enough water, are you exercising, are you sleeping enough, are you sweating – because you need to sweat and detoxify yourself so this is the importance of looking after your physical world.

“And finally, the soulset and this is your spiritual world. Sometimes this can scare people off because they think ‘oh well I don’t consider myself to be very spiritual’ but the question is if you watch a sunset or a sunrise do you feel moved? Does it affect you or do you watch it and think ‘oh that’s boring’? The chances are it’s going to move you, it’s beautiful and that’s an example of how you’re connected to the world you live in. This allows you to explore other connections too, such as the people in your life and even yourself,” Nicky explains passionately.

How do you know if this is you? “You have to think about how your life feels on a day-to-day basis. Does it feel good to you? Is there balance? Or are you living your days feeling mostly stressed, up a height, switched on and nervous – which sadly most people are because we’re running around in the world trying to get everything done without ever getting anything wrong, so worried about getting things perfect and that’s an exhausting way to live.

“One of the biggest realisations in my own life, that I now help to facilitate in other people’s lives, is deciding to change your relationship with failure. The thought of failure and the fear of getting something wrong can totally paralyse you and it can keep you feeling really small and retracting rather than expanding into your space and your life. I always told myself I couldn’t leave my job and start my own business because what if it goes wrong and I fail, what would people think? But I realised that I’d rather get to the end of my life and have tried and failed than never have tried and never have lived. And I’m so glad that I did.

“So, go ahead and fail at something like baking a cake, feel what it’s like for things to not be perfect and go your way. It doesn’t matter, it affects no one, you will survive, get comfortable with the idea of things failing. Doing this allows you to see that failing doesn’t define who you are, the world still goes on and you can always try again.

“Even if you have failed or you’ve gone through something painful or something bad has happened, try and think of it as everything happens for a reason and that you can pay that experience forward. What happened to you then has given you the ability to help someone else. When something happens and it feels rubbish at the time, you’ve actually learnt a lot about yourself, you’re further forward than when you dared to try it and in the future someone else may be able to benefit from your experience,” says Nicky.

A little apprehensive but really want to focus on looking after your own wellbeing? Take a look at Nicky’s Kickstart sessions. This epic three-part video training series is the perfect introduction to new skills and practices that will help to calm your mind, boost your happiness, and supercharge your life.

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