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In Bloom: Tracing the lines of burnout
Reflecting on how our bodies hold things known and unknown
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Hi there everyone,
This is Francesca, coming to you from a very foggy and grey London today. We are losing the light here and gearing toward our clock change, signifying the official end of British Summer Time. Outside my window, the trees are starting to turn shades of red, orange, brown, and yellow. Autumn is here. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you’re able to take a moment to connect with whatever shifts, big or small, are happening around you.
I joined Chayn in June as Survivor Services Lead and have spent the last few months getting to know Bloom. I’ve also been reflecting on connections between trauma and burnout. Our theme for this newsletter is connecting with our bodies and what we hold there, sometimes without really knowing. From the ground up to the branch, I am thinking about how burnout feels within the hidden corners of my body. The piece of writing in the branch section below is a very personal reflection on how this feels for me; an attempt to articulate things that have sometimes felt impossible to give words to. There is a vulnerability in naming things that can feel shameful and difficult to reconcile. My hope is that some of these words resonate with you and your own experiences in some small way.
Ground: Settling into our bodies and the present
Our team has been working our way through some new grounding exercises gifted to us by Aishwarya, one of our trauma-informed therapist partners. You might remember another one of Aishwarya’s exercises from our last newsletter! These groundings have been so nourishing for us, and we hope that same sense of nourishment can be extended to you, too.
This month, we are going to do a somatic practice called progressive muscle relaxation. The objective of this practice is to release physical tension from the body and find ease and relaxation wherever we can. We will move slowly from the toes all the way up to the head, tensing and relaxing various parts of the body.
Start by sitting comfortably with your feet planted on the ground and your eyes closed or gaze focused at a point in front of you. Starting at the toes, visualise all the stress in the body condensed near the toes and tense them, squeezing them together as tightly as you can… Hold this for a few moments and release.
Lift your heels off the floor and tense the calf muscles… Hold this for a few moments… and release.
Lift both feet off the ground and straighten out the legs in front of you, tensing the thighs… and release.
Exhale to slowly pull your belly in towards the spine, pulling the core muscles in and feeling this tension in the belly… and release.
Rolling the shoulders back and down, lift your chest, tensing these muscles as much as you can… Hold this for a few moments and then let all of the tension go.
Shrug the shoulders upwards, tensing the muscles in the shoulders and neck… and release.
Make a fist with your hands, tensing the arms… and release.
And finally, squeeze all your facial muscles together, making a funny face if you need to. And release.
Keep your eyes closed for a few more seconds, noticing the relaxation in the body. Whenever you’re ready to come back to the present moment, gently open your eyes.
Root: Connecting with the Chayn community
As always, we have some updates from our Bloom and Chayn communities!
Do you speak Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese, or French? Then you can now take Bloom in all those languages! We’re so excited to have launched two courses, Healing from sexual trauma and Society, patriarchy, and sexual trauma in all four languages. To switch languages, click the 🌐 EN icon at the top right corner of the Bloom homepage. And help us spread the word!
Bloom’s live courses
As you may remember, we aren’t running any more live courses this year for Bloom. However, you can still access all of our content from last year for the following three courses:
Recovering from toxic and abusive relationships
To access the material that feels right for you, you can fill in this short form here.
Collaborate with us
We continue looking for trauma-informed therapists to partner with us, delivering remote, short-course therapy to survivors.
We’re also looking for influencers from different regions of the world who can help us spread the word about Bloom. Do you know someone we should be reaching out to? Send us your recommendations! And if you’re an influencer who wants to partner with us to talk about Bloom through your channels, get in touch.
We’re also gathering insights on how people describe Bloom. How do you talk about Bloom to a friend, a family member, or survivors in your life? What words and phrases come to mind when you think about Bloom? Send us your thoughts via this short form.
And from Chayn…
We're working on an updated version of our guide, Manipulation is Abuse, for our Chayn community. This guide helps us identify different forms of coercive control that we may have experienced or are currently experiencing in our relationships. We’ll be launching it during November’s 16 Days of Activism, so follow our social media for updates.
Our podcast about how the justice system is failing survivors, Less than 2%, is a finalist for The Lovie Awards, awarded to the best of the European Internet. We’ve been selected for three categories: Best Co-hosts, Public Service and Activism, and Crime and Justice Episode. The winners will be announced on 2 November!
Branch: Exploring together
I want to start with an acknowledgement that this is a personal reflection. I have worked in frontline sexual violence support services for many years and that is important context that I do not want to ignore here—my work has shaped my experiences in many ways and I have an immense gratitude for it and where it has taken me. This writing is not just about the ways burnout and trauma are intertwined, but also the toll of fighting against many different structures and systems. You may see some or none of your own experiences here, but I extend an invitation to you to connect with your body and anything it might be trying to communicate. Sometimes all we need to do is listen.
When you occupy a position for too long, your body starts to adapt. Your muscles seize up from holding their position, losing their ability to sink back into place, to loosen their grip. Your bones feel stiff and parts of you feel like they're curling inward on themselves. You worry that if you move, something might tear or snap.
I am very familiar with holding a position—a cross between a boxer’s stance and a brace. I am used to firefighting, trying to shout for help in between putting fires out.
We need back up, we need resources, listen to what we are saying. It's not enough, it's not enough, you're not even trying, you're not even trying to try.
At various points in the last eight years, I knew I had experienced or was experiencing burnout, sitting with a probably quite intense vicarious trauma that I also knew was there but did not feel able to look at. When you are stuck in place but also running at full speed, there’s no time to stop and ask yourself what is happening. There is a fear about what happens if you do.
Recently, I saw the reality as clearly as looking in a mirror—I remember the shocking clarity of finally knowing, on a level that goes beyond mere acknowledgement, that I was experiencing a cumulative toll. I knew from some previous untangling that trauma had altered my worldview in ways I was aware of and ways that I wasn’t. The moment was distressing for me. I didn’t like what I saw and I felt ashamed of it.
I have heard and seen and felt hurt that could fill many lifetimes. I feel a deep gratitude for what has been shared with me and a very profound grief. There are things buried within my body that I can only feel the shape of when I trace the lines of tension through my jaw and down into my hips. Your body always finds a way to tell you.
I have seen it in friends and people around me, a deep emotional fatigue that feels like it has seeped into your soul, an impatience, a hyper-vigilance, a disconnect, a constant asking, willing to be met and to be seen where you are and often refused. It's the way that it is. We cannot ask for more. You are too idealistic. You are too dramatic. You are too aggressive. You are too angry. There is no more.
Trying to change systems and cultures that go deep, deep, down, that are rooted into the earth with a force so strong that you wonder if the fiercest storms couldn't rip them away, is some of the most exhausting work we can do. We claw at the earth and together we try to make ourselves into that storm. We bend and push and wail and roar and tug. We know that together we are powerful but that the systems have coiled themselves into knots, have dug tightly into where they lie. When we fail, we are depleted. Why were we not strong enough? Why did we not bend and push and wail and roar and tug more or harder or longer? We should have been more, done more. Did we not care enough? Are we not good enough? What is enough?
I was recently talking to a friend about some feelings she was navigating through in her new job. I said, to myself as much as to her,
“Be patient. Be generous. Be curious. Collaborate. Give yourself a break. This is a process, it's gonna take time. You are capable. You got this.”
Everyday, I try to let my body sink into itself. I try to acknowledge the inclination to adopt the boxer and the brace and remember I am trying to break years of habit. It is an unlearning and a relearning, while holding close the bits you savour and treasure that have sustained you and driven you and tell you that it is worth something. Be patient. It’s a process. It’s gonna take time. You got this.
Our feelings are not weakness or inadequacy; it is okay to be vulnerable and it is okay to recognise what is happening to us internally and externally. Sometimes, we also need to acknowledge the ways in which we have already been resilient. This is something we talk a lot about in our Bloom courses, too. Our experiences and contexts may be different depending on who we are and where we are; but there’s much we can learn and hold together. We aren’t alone, and we don’t have to do it alone.
And remember, you can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With love and nourishing energy for your month ahead,
Francesca and the Bloom team
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