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Quit The Hustle
In this episode
- the drastic health challenge that took Alex from hustling entrepreneur to wellbeing advocate
- why she didn't feel worthy of rest and how her perspective has changed
- Alex shares the self care rituals that helped her slow down, become more resilient and redefine what success means to her
Alex Phillips 0:02
Ultimately, if we’re always in the fast lane when do we then get to celebrate what we actually have? When do we then appreciate what we already have achieved?
Tahlee Rouillon 0:18
This episode feels very prescient. Although this interview was recorded at the end of 2019. It feels even more relevant today. We’re all living with greater levels of uncertainty, insecurity and fear. Circumstances are evolving rapidly and things change on the daily, which is why resilience is an incredibly vital skill to cultivate. We often think of resilience through the lens of perseverance, strength, and sacrifice. But there is demonstrable evidence to the contrary. It turns out, that resilience comes through rest. The ability to calm your nervous system, to self soothe, and slow down, especially in the face of ongoing threat is key. Rest is the panacea for these uncertain times. You’re listening to the Seekers’ Sanctuary, a show about creating sanctuary in life, work, relationships, and home so that you can embrace a life that matters to you. I’m your host Tahlee. On today’s episode, I speak with Alex Phillips, the co-founder of Saint Belford, a lifestyle planner company that helps you keep self care at the top of your to do list. We talk about the drastic health challenge that was the wake up call that took her from hustling entrepreneur, to wellbeing advocate. We unpack why she didn’t feel worthy of rest, and how her perspective has changed. And Alex also shares the self care rituals that helped her slow down, become more resilient, and redefine what success means to her. Enjoy.
Tahlee Rouillon 2:12
Hi, Alex, and welcome to the Seekers’ Sanctuary podcast.
Alex Phillips 2:16
Thank you so much for having me Tahlee. I’m super excited to finally sit down and chat with you.
Tahlee Rouillon 2:23
Me too! This series that we’re going to be talking about is all about resilience. And I just thought that you would be a perfect person to talk to about this, because I know that your business is all about prioritizing well being. And we are definitely going to be talking about resilience and self care and all that beautiful stuff really soon. But first off, I’d love to know if there was a time in your life that you weren’t prioritizing your well being? And if you were living in the fast lane and you weren’t putting your mind and body first?
Alex Phillips 3:01
Yes, definitely, Tahlee. I guess I’m human just as much as everyone else. But it wasn’t until the age of 25 that I made that shift into the slower lane. But prior to that I was very much living in the fast lane. I was all about the hustle. And it really cringes me out to admit this. But I even had a poster on my wall that said, “Good things come to those who hustle”. And it actually makes me nauseous just thinking about that now, but that was… basically it sums up my mentality. It sums up how I saw the world, and how I believed life should be lived. Yeah, it was all that I knew. And so because of that I just prioritized work and everything else over my own personal wellbeing. And it was because I believe that doing more, this whole idea of doing was the key to accomplishing more. And that was the magical key to success and living a happy fulfilled life, which obviously, looking back was really just a distorted and quite a toxic perspective to be holding at such a young age. But I mean, I know that it’s such a common one. And the cycle was so toxic that I remember… I remember that if someone were to ask me, “what are you doing on the weekend?” and I didn’t have anything to say or that particular weekend wasn’t jam packed with things to do, I felt embarrassed and I felt unworthy because again, I was so driven by this idea that I always had to be doing, which obviously was ultimately my downfall.
Tahlee Rouillon 4:53
And so when you say downfall, can you tell me a little bit about what happened?
Alex Phillips 4:58
Yeah, so the short story was that I burnt out. But if we were to go into it, it was a series of just not looking, not attending to those warning signs. So what basically happened was, I had to go home from work one day, my colleague had to put me in an Uber because I was experiencing these pains in my stomach that I’d never experienced before. And at the time, I was like, “oh, I’ve got food poisoning, how annoying”. And all I wanted to do, which is obviously be in a private state. But it was eventually diagnosed as gastritis, which is inflammation of the stomach lining. And so basically, I couldn’t eat properly, I couldn’t… the slightest bit of stress would just set off those cramps and those spasms. And basically, the doctor said to me that this was caused by stress, and that you need to take time off work and rest. And so for someone who at the time was climbing the corporate ladder, and thriving off that busy lifestyle, being told to then just press pause and stay at home and do nothing it was… although I didn’t like the sound of it, it was also the wake up call that I needed. Because I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that stress had manifested in physical form. And I was literally in so much pain that I couldn’t move without feeling that pain or if someone scared me, it would just trigger that pain, because my heart would just start beating really fast. And even just sitting down my resting heart rate was elevated, just to put things into perspective. So it wasn’t a good place to be. But it was definitely the catalyst for some big changes.
Tahlee Rouillon 6:58
That sounds really scary to go through something like you say at such a young age, and something that sounds really painful. It sounds like that would have been a really scary diagnosis.
Alex Phillips 7:10
Yeah, it was. But I think for me, because I’m the type of person that once I grab on to a belief, I kind of really hold on, and it’s hard to shift that. You know what I mean? And so I think that I definitely needed… because the Universe was probably “we’re trying to show her the way, we’re giving her these warning signs, but she’s not listening”. So I think that was the only way to really make me stop and listen.
Tahlee Rouillon 7:38
I want to go back to something that you touched on, about you didn’t feel worthy of rest.
Alex Phillips 7:46
Tahlee Rouillon 7:47
Can you unpack that a little bit for us at all?
Alex Phillips 7:51
I didn’t feel worthy of rest, because I didn’t see it as a contributor to “success”, or it didn’t play a role, a tangible role in my goals and I was so caught up at the time on this idea of being as productive as possible and doing as much as possible. And so resting, didn’t sit in that way of life, that lifestyle that I felt was so important at the time.
Tahlee Rouillon 8:32
And so how did you bridge that gap between you’re sitting in a doctor’s office, and you’re experiencing this incredible pain, it’s debilitating. It’s stopping you from working. It’s stopping you from achieving the success that you have been on this path to get for what sounds like years. And then all of a sudden, you’re having someone say, “hey, you’ve got to slow down and you’ve got to take some time off, you have to rest”. How do you go from being someone who has a poster that says “good things come to those who hustle” who then has to turn around and stop hustling?
Alex Phillips 9:11
Yeah, pain is a funny thing. I think pain really is the way we learn. And so that was just quite a steep learning curve, but it was enough to throw me. Not maybe not throw me immediately out of that headspace. It wasn’t like I clicked my fingers and all of a sudden self care was the only path it definitely took time. But I think that feedback of feeling that pain when I would start to go a little bit faster and then realize, “oh, okay, I need to take a step back because I am going too fast”. Having that feedback there and also having experienced the consequences and knowing I don’t, I never want to feel like that again. And if I continue going at this rate based on what the doctors telling me, I’m just gonna keep experiencing this same level of pain. So ironically, it’s putting me out even more, because I’m gonna have to take more time off work, I’m not going to be able to do the things that I want to do. So it really, it helped flip that perspective.
Tahlee Rouillon 10:25
It’s a pretty quick feedback loop, experiencing a lot of pain, straight after stress.
Alex Phillips 10:32
Tahlee Rouillon 10:34
And so what were some of those things in those early days? What did you try, in order to start slowing down and taking care of your body better?
Alex Phillips 10:45
It sounds so cliche, but the first thing that I did was start meditating. And again, I know it’s so cliche, right, but it’s great. But, and again, this did not come easily to me. In fact, it took me a while to really adjust to the whole concept of sitting still and meditating. Because, well, it was completely foreign to me. And I actually remember feeling anxious, like, it gave me anxiety to sit still. In the first initial period of trying to rebuild myself, I did feel I felt that struggle. But yes, definitely that deep conscious breathing, that was what helped me slow down from a physical point of view. But also, I think, mentally as well, because instead of, I mean, I still do it now. And my partner always flags me up on it, but just a classic example, I can tend to speak quite fast. And that is just a trait that was very common back then, everything I did was at a very fast pace, right down to talking, eating, everything. So just sitting still, it was like training myself on all levels in all areas of life, that I don’t need to go fast, I can just sit and slow down and be still.
Tahlee Rouillon 12:19
And so what benefits, what rewards have you got in your life now from embracing a slower pace, and actually incorporating rest in and prioritizing wellbeing into your life?
Alex Phillips 12:33
I definitely feel more energized. But more so. But more than that, I feel that I know myself better. I have this elevated sense of awareness around who I am, what I need, what I need on a good day, but also what I need on a bad day how I can recover, when I’m having those moments of self doubt. So in all aspects, so whether that’s related to my mental health, or whether I’m just feeling really lethargic my body, I feel like I have a better understanding of myself, since embracing the whole idea of self care, and slowing down. That’s the biggest benefit.
Tahlee Rouillon 13:18
That was so unexpected. But when you say it like that it makes sense. Because that self awareness requires reflection.
Alex Phillips 13:28
Tahlee Rouillon 13:28
And introspection. And you can’t do that when you’re constantly working.
Alex Phillips 13:34
Exactly, exactly right. Yeah. So even though there will be moments that I’ll feel as if I’m not doing anything. And those old thought patterns will resurface and I’ll be like, “Ah, I’m not doing enough. Like, maybe I’m spending too much time doing nothing”. But I’m able to nurse myself away from those old toxic thought patterns, a lot faster than a few years ago, where I would have just ended up in that toxic cycle, not knowing that there’s another way or not opening my mind to another way.
Tahlee Rouillon 14:16
And so you mentioned that you used to believe that success and the key to fulfillment was really about accomplishing more. Do you feel like you’re still accomplishing what you want and you’re living a fulfilling life? And do you feel successful, even though you have taken a step back and you’ve slowed down and you don’t go as fast as you used to?
Alex Phillips 14:44
Definitely, I feel that my definition of success has definitely evolved since my early 20s. And now I see it as not so much chasing external forms of success like the trophies and the awards and the external recognition. But more so personal growth how being able to know that I’m growing on a personal level. And again, coming back to that level of self awareness and learning about myself, and then being able to then share that with others. That’s where my source of fulfillment lies now, it’s that being able to add value, that not only adds value to other people, but also adds value to myself. And so for me a successful day, even if it might not be successful on paper, just simply going to yoga and knowing that I had a chat to my parents… had one of those soul nourishing chats with my parents and just did things that filled up my cup, that’s a successful day to me now. Whereas previously, I would have deemed that as “Oh, I didn’t do anything today”.
Tahlee Rouillon 16:03
I love that shift in perspective, because I think so many people are seeking fulfillment. And yet we live in this society that is drowning in these markers of success that are so toxic, as you said before, that toxic perspective of only good things coming to those who hustle.
Alex Phillips 16:26
Tahlee Rouillon 16:27
And yet some of the most fulfilling things in life are in those small moments of connection, and vitality and gratitude.
Alex Phillips 16:38
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, ultimately if we’re always in the fast lane, when do we then get to celebrate what we actually have? When do we then appreciate what we already have achieved?
Tahlee Rouillon 16:54
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Tahlee Rouillon 18:15
Why do you think quitting the hustle helps us become more resilient?
Alex Phillips 18:22
I think it allows us to let go of that “go-go-go must always be doing in order to keep up with everyone else” type mentality. And that’s the type of mentality that actually ironically, it holds us back because it prevents us from slowing down. It prevents us from taking that time out for ourselves. It prevents like you said that self discovery, that introspection, that learning about ourselves. And ultimately, I believe that the key to resilience is getting to know yourself, learning what those needs of yours are on a physical and a mental, on a emotional, spiritual level, so that you can then take better care of yourself. And not just when you’re forced to, but proactively. So every single day as a default measure rather than a emergency “I need to now look after myself” measure.
Tahlee Rouillon 19:23
Yes. I love that perspective, when you call it proactive resilience. I never thought about self care as a form of proactivity. But I love that, this sense that it’s not just about taking care of yourself when you’re needing it, in a sense of recovery, but actually that it’s an integral part of maintaining a life that feels good.
Alex Phillips 19:54
Definitely. Absolutely. I mean let’s face it, we are always going to encounter challenges and hurdles, it’s not to say that… as proactive as you can be, you don’t become immune to things that just happen. But at least you have the tools, you’re equipped, you feel more empowered to take care of yourself in those moments when those hurdles do emerge.
Tahlee Rouillon 20:24
I know a lot of people, including myself, are very attracted to the idea of self care and rest. I know that self care and rest are a really important part of life. But I find it difficult to slow down, I know a lot of people find it really difficult to slow down. And you mentioned when you first started, you found it very difficult to get into that practice of meditation and sit still. And it was really a process of re learning that sensation of slowing down. Why do you think we’re so resistant to slowing down and prioritizing our wellbeing?
Alex Phillips 21:06
Yeah, that’s a really good question. And just to be clear, I definitely feel that resistance from time to time as well, even now, knowing what I know. But I still do feel that resistance. And I think there’s a few reasons here. So especially for people who are new, who was me a few years ago, in that you’re in that hustle hard type lifestyle. And you’re trying to shift mindsets, the resistance comes from the fact that you’re trying to build this new mindset. You’re basically trying to build a new habit, a new philosophy. And so any new habit’s going to be met with some level of resistance, especially when your beliefs don’t line up with your actions. So if you believe that self care is selfish, then it’s going to be hard for you to engage in those acts of self care, because no one wants to see themselves as a selfish individual. And I think the other thing as well, is that it comes back to what everyone else is doing. So if we’re surrounded by family and friends, who aren’t prioritizing their wellbeing and who have this perspective that you need to hustle quite hard and aggressively, and you need to always be busy, everyone wants to wear the busy badge of honor, and everyone wants to compete with how busy they can be, then you don’t really want to go against that grain because everyone wants to fit in, everyone wants to gravitate towards the behaviors that earn them acceptance, not the ones that leave them outside the social circle. So I think that can also generate a lot of resistance, just wanting to fit in, but then everyone else around us is not doing that thing that we want to do. So it’s kind of like, our intentions are good. But our environment maybe is contributing to that resistance.
Tahlee Rouillon 23:14
Was that one of the difficulties for you, when you were climbing the corporate ladder, that you were surrounded by people who also had this sort of toxic perspective on hustling?
Alex Phillips 23:24
Definitely. But even more so… I love my parents, but they were entrepreneurs themselves. And so they were very much… and obviously, that generation, that whole generation was all about working as hard as you possibly can. And not really taking that good care of yourself, not really making that a priority. And so that was all I was surrounded by, that was my environment. So it was only natural that I gravitated towards that.
Tahlee Rouillon 23:58
Did your relationships change at all, when you started prioritizing your own wellbeing?
Alex Phillips 24:03
Mostly yes. I guess you could say my friendships changed a little bit, because I didn’t go to every single event anymore. I started saying no to the things that I didn’t really want to go to, or that I didn’t feel was going to serve me at that time. And so I guess, you could say that those friendships drifted apart because of that, because those events was what potentially held us together. But what I’ve learned is that you can’t… if the friendship is just based on going out, then there’s not really much substance there. So just different paths ultimately.
Tahlee Rouillon 24:52
I guess the flip side of self care and rest is productivity and I feel like if you google productivity, there’s 100 million YouTube videos on how to hack productivity. And there’s so many different tools and systems and ideas and books. And just there’s so much content around productivity. Why do you think we get so addicted to productivity in the first place?
Alex Phillips 25:24
It’s funny, right? It’s such an obsessed… I mean, obviously, I was obsessed with it, too. I think the addiction stems from this belief system, again, the belief that doing more equals accomplishing more. And so if we can’t see a direct output, or a direct benefit, or an immediate return, then we automatically disregard it as unproductive. And so I think that’s where the addiction lies. Because if we don’t see a result, then we disregard that and we chase something else that is productive, and because we all want to always be accomplishing, that’s we we crave, I guess, status, and acceptance from others, and possibly believe that that comes from those accomplishments.
Tahlee Rouillon 26:18
And so how do you think we can start to let go of that addiction?
Alex Phillips 26:22
I think it comes with shifting our beliefs, and changing that definition of productivity away from the rigid old school thoughts around productivity, and ultimately becoming comfortable with the idea that resting, slowing down, honoring your needs and taking those days off, regarding those is also productive. That’s where we need to begin. Because if your beliefs aren’t aligned with the actions that you want to take with the new habits that you want to build, then like we discussed earlier, we’re going to experience that resistance. So it really does begin with that, we’re shifting our beliefs in believing that resting is also productive.
Tahlee Rouillon 27:15
For anyone who is listening, and they’re ready to quit the hustle, they’re ready to start taking care of themselves more. And they’re thinking, “yes, I definitely want to become more resilient, I want to still have a really fulfilling life”. What do you think? Like, what would be your advice to that person? Can you give us just a really simple, practical tip?
Alex Phillips 27:43
So if you are looking to make that shift, congratulations, at least, you’ve realized you’ve made that realization that a shift needs to be made. I’ll start off broadly, but I will also include a practical tip there for you. So there’s this quote that I absolutely love, because it sums up what I think is so important. And that quote is by Aristotle, and it’s “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. And it comes back to again, what we were talking about before, in that when you learn what your needs are, when you learn what energizes you, what nourishes you, what helps you on a bad day, what helps you reset your perspective when you’re having one of those negative self talk kind of days. And when you also learn what drains you, when you’re armed with all of that information, then you’re in a much better position to make healthy decisions for yourself. And you’re also obviously more empowered to make those decisions for yourself. And so one way to do that might just be simply writing down when you notice that, “oh, that made me feel really good”, write it down so that you have that as a reference point. Or you can simply ask yourself, what are some things that make me feel really good, both in the short term and the long term, and also noting down the things that don’t make you feel good, so maybe events, particular events that trigger you and leave you feeling quite uncomfortable or perhaps looking at someone’s account on social media makes you feel really bad. So noting these things down so that you have a reference point, a guide to flick back on and use is almost a manual for looking after yourself.
Tahlee Rouillon 29:41
Yes, the little book of you.
Alex Phillips 29:44
I love that. laughs
Tahlee Rouillon 29:48
Oh, that’s such a great idea. I think it’s so easy to forget the things that make us feel good, those really sustainable things that make us feel good. Not just like “oh, I feel great when I eat a family block of chocolate… I feel really good when I go to yoga regularly”
Alex Phillips 30:08
Exactly, yes. And I think it’s even harder to remember when you’re having those bad days, because we just slide back into old habits, right? It’s what’s easy in that moment. So I think, yeah, having a little reference point can definitely be really helpful. And empowering.
Tahlee Rouillon 30:29
Oh, I love that. I thank you for sharing all of that amazing goodness and your story and your perspective. And all of your practical tips around embracing self care and rest, I just know that it’s going to inspire a lot of people. But just before we go, I want to ask you one last question, and what is it that you’re currently diving deep into at the moment?
Alex Phillips 30:55
So this year, it’s been around habits, and just learning how to build them, what gets in the way of building those habits, why we stop, why we struggle, all that sort of stuff, just because I’ve come to realize just how important those little habits are in our life and how integral… just the integral role they play in all areas of our life. Deeply, deeply fascinated by all that stuff at the moment.
Tahlee Rouillon 31:29
I love it. Yeah. Well, I think we are what we consistently do.
Alex Phillips 31:34
Definitely, yes, absolutely.
Tahlee Rouillon 31:37
Well, thank you so much, Alex, I will definitely be sharing links to your websites and all of your socials on the blog post so people can find out more about you there. Thank you so much for showing up today and sharing all you have with us. I really appreciate it.
Alex Phillips 31:54
Amazing. Thank you so much, Tahlee. It’s been so much fun chatting, and I really, really appreciate you making the time for me to just share.
Tahlee Rouillon 32:04
Absolutely, a pleasure. Thank you for listening to the Seekers’ Sanctuary podcast. I’ve been your host Tahlee. If you’ve enjoyed the music on this show, then you’re going to love becoming a Seekers’ Sanctuary member. You can access hours of calming meditones music on any device with our premium streaming service. Head to seeksanctuary.com for your free trial today. Special thanks to our editor Justin Rouillon for helping bring these episodes to life. Until next time, big love.