Ali Brennan is the founder of The Sweatworking Collective- an inclusive space for all women to connect, collaborate, learn and prioritise wellbeing. Through fun, informal, purposeful events and workshops focusing on mental health and overall wellbeing through the mind, body and soul, Ali encourages women to feel safe to be themselves and share their stories. You can check out The Sweatworking Collective on Instagram or find more info on their website.
Q. What does self-care mean to you and what role does it play in your life?
Ali: Self-care really does look different to everyone doesn’t it? For me, in the age of social media I feel that somewhere along the way the self-care message has become a little lost. It has become more about how the practice of self-care “looks” than how it genuinely “feels.” Much like the challenges and pressures many feel as a consequence of the body image and self-love movement, there has become an undertone of inauthenticity to genuine self-care. Keeping your wellbeing in focus is fundamental to your mental and physical health and how you show up for others. It’s not about how it appears to your online audience or anyone around you; it’s about how it feels for you and you only. It’s an opportunity to reset, gain perspective, create purposeful and kind boundaries, bring things into focus and allow yourself to just be.
Q. How do you like to practice self-care? Are there certain activities/rituals that best work for you?
Ali: I lead a very full life and I have always struggled with the practice of being still. Self-care for me isn’t long baths or meditations (although these are both wonderful things I endorse and enjoy). It is walks in nature, muting emails, staying off social media, choosing to let phone calls go to voicemail, taking a little longer to respond to DM’s and text messages. It’s bare foot walks at the beach, a day trip down the coast, long chats with my dearest friends. It’s choosing to say no to opportunities people offer me and yes to others. It’s knowing when to draw a line in the sand with friends, family and colleagues that I feel are asking too much of me. It’s being kind to myself and knowing when it’s necessary to put my own needs ahead of those around me without feeling guilty.
Q. Self-care isn't always easy. What advice do you have for anyone who's struggling to prioritise themselves?
Ali: I have battled with prioritising my own needs my entire adult life. I’m 40 next year and learning to put myself first is something I am most proud of achieving over the last 2 years. For a very long time, I was conditioned to believe that supporting others to achieve their goals is what gave me purpose. I’ve even built a career out of it. But I’ve learned that looking after myself isn’t selfish. Doing things that bring me joy and not just adapting to what others want or need isn’t self-indulgent or dismissive. Prioritising your wellbeing should be a non-negotiable in your life.
I truly believe that the glorification of “busy” has become a badge of honour for many. Society has conditioned us to believe that we need to justify how we spend our time and why, in order to be valued by others. If you’re not chasing wealth, a personal, business or fitness goal, completing a project, if your kids aren’t attending a million different activities, if you don’t have home cooked meals on the table every night then you’re not doing enough. If you don’t have something “tangible” to show for how you’ve “spent” your time, you are labelled lazy. There is a BIG difference between lacking purpose, laziness and needing to slow down to take care of yourself.
My advice is simple, block out the noise. Not only does looking after your wellbeing build your resilience and your immune system, it enables you to show up for others in a much more productive and purposeful way. My other piece of advice is this; STOP following people online that “promote” self-care like it’s an on-trend buzz phrase. It’s not about perfectly posed Instagram pics of beautiful women perched on top of a mountain in their exorbitantly priced active wear, or the perfectly angled shot of tanned legs protruding from a seemingly luxurious bath, it’s not filmed stories of manicured bare feet grounding at the beach. Stop comparing how you take care of yourself to what you see online. We put WAY too much pressure on ourselves to do things in a way that others would approve of instead of doing them because they feel innately good for us. If you are TRULY putting your wellbeing in focus, then you should be so immersed in what you’re doing that you shouldn’t even be thinking about how to setup the perfect shot for the ‘gram. Self-care is not a marketing exercise. It’s a very personal practice for you and you only.
Q. Do you have a favourite quote, mantra or role model that inspires you to practice self-care?
This quote encapsulates how I choose to live my life and consequently how I show up for myself and for others. Brene Brown is a constant source of inspiration in my life. Brene lives by the premise that you can’t have courage without vulnerability:
“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage, or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” Brene Brown