Katia Dowling is the founder at Vital Means, a one-day mental wellbeing experience focused on building a community around wellbeing and longevity.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
After working 15 years in the corporate world and earning myself burnout and anxiety, in 2020, I decided to pivot and start my own business – Vital Means.
Looking at the number of professionals who are trying to solve global problems and their state of mental health, it was clear to me it’s time to take care of people, if we want to get it right.
So I decided to swim upstream to improve mental health, wellbeing and resilience of the minds behind problem-solving.
And so Vital Means was born, a one-day mental wellbeing experience. I run it once a month on a semi-rural property in the hinterlands of the NSW Central Coast.
The experience is designed for anyone who feels depleted, stressed, misaligned, burnt out, caught in the ever repeating known and needs a fresh reset. For any busy professional or creative, individual or a team for whom mental wellbeing is a priority.
Via this experience, I’m building a community and movement around wellbeing and longevity. Where it’s sexy to be well and healthy, live a preventative lifestyle and regularly get together without a drink, but with a purpose and meaningful conversations.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
I’m an early riser. I get up at 5am and meditate until 6am. At 6am husband and I take our dog for a walk along one of the amazing beaches of the Central Coast. Then I’m back home for breakfast, after which I start my work: planning, emails, meetings, writing, researching, preparing workshops.
A week before the wellbeing day, I work in the garden and supervise a team of landscapers and cleaners who help me to prepare the property for the day.
Closer to the event, I drive and visit local farmers and producers to source organic fruit and vegetables, bread and honey, tea and chocolate for a plant-based feast provided during the experience.
I finish my regular workday by a one-hour meditation at 5pm.
The workday of the mental wellbeing experience is very different, it happens only once a month and looks like this:
- Meet & greet and morning tea
- Interactive game
- Wellbeing workshop
- Plant-based lunch
- Forest bathing
- Mindfulness session
- Afternoon tea
- Live music performance
- Conclusion of the day
Usually exhausted, but happy, I finish at 6pm after all guests have left.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
During the transition between career paths, I came up with a simple approach that I applied to myself.
Balance must exist within the mindset, where you rank what you do for money as:
- ‘I’m not into it’,
- ‘I don’t mind doing this for money’, and
- ’Time flies when I work because, even though it’s challenging, I’m still having fun’.
Balance is not possible in the first case, because what you do will be draining you of energy, motivation, inspiration and creativity. Deep inside you’ll be an unhappy person, constantly trying to fill the void inside by consumerism, be it goods, people or experiences.
In the second case, you’re getting closer to balance. You hate less what you do, but you’re not 100% fulfilled, hence, you have to counteract it with spending money on nice things and holidays.
And the third case is a frictionless existence and flow. Where even when you’re physically tired, you aren’t mentally drained. You love what you’re doing and most likely it has a purpose.
Since I’ve started Vital Means, I put myself in the third category.
Of course, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. To maintain a healthy balance it’s important to look after all aspects of life: physical, mental, financial, occupational, relational, spiritual and recreational.
Supported by an optimal daily routine for my mental and physical health, I make sure I contribute quality attention, time and efforts to all aspects of my life to ensure it’s wholesomeness.
Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?
My main changes happened between 2018 and 2021. Since then I pretty much figured out my perfect personal formula of work-life balance.
I shifted from an owl to an early bird, I adjusted my nutrition based on my body type, I reduced my alcohol intake to almost none.
I don’t consume caffeine, I have fantastic quality sleep, which further enhances my meditation that helps immensely with dealing with all the challenges that come with life and work.
I don’t multitask. I preserve my attention and don’t binge on social media nor Netflix. In fact, I don’t have Netflix.
Plus since moving to the bush, I spend much more time in nature. And it’s very contagious. Luckily on the NSW Central Coast, where I live, there are plenty of beaches, forests, parks and reserves.
Regular attendance of 10-day Vipassana courses helped me a lot in forming a realistic attitude towards my human nature, the finite amount of time per human life and an ability to manoeuvre successfully through these 4000 weeks we are given.
We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?
Too many amazing resources to recommend. Here are a few of the favourite and recent ones:
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
- The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker
- How to Change Your Mind by Michale Pollan
- Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
- Your Brain On Nature by Eva Selhub & Alan Logan
One of my absolute favourites is Sam Harris. I enjoy both of his podcasts; Making Sense and Waking up app. One of the most brilliant people to get inspired by. Others:
- Hidden Brain
- Dhru Purohit
- On Being
- The Happinesses Lab
- Adam Grant: Rethinking
- Simon Sinek
- Rich Roll
Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Discipline. Don’t ignore what you need to be doing.
Exhausted, but trying to push through? Switch off when you could / should.
Stuck to your phone screen for an instant dopamine hit? Get out to nature for some soft fascination.
Feeling lonely? Engage in community activities or strike a conversation with a stranger.
Consuming high sugar processed foods? Switch to a diet that supports your nervous system.
Can’t sleep? Reduce your caffeine and media intake.
Netflix bingeing? Swap it for an interesting book.
Don’t choose the easy path. Choose the right path.
As humans we have our own limitations dictated by our nature. Learning to accept and live with them is essential.
With modern day demands and information overload, we need to be carving time in our schedules to spend on dynamic rest. This will counterbalance the load and prevent burnout.
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