Here I am off on holiday out to the west coast of Canada to catch up with family and friends. A vacation, at least I keep telling myself that in hopes that it will both sink in and be understood as truth. We should take vacation! We need to take vacations and time out from our day to day lives, to hit the reset button – to fill our cups. Yet here I am, fairly well rested, in a pretty good mood, no real pain to speak of and my inner voice says: “Vacation? What the hell you haven’t worked hard enough for one yet!” I hope when you read those lines you are able to call bullshit – and I know if you had written them I definitely would! But I have a hard time, and certainly my work in progress to both take my own advice and feel I deserve too.
Please keep in mind these are the confessions of an admitted workaholic. I don’t feel satisfied until I am entirely spent, physically and mentally exhausted. But that’s also what got me into this mess in the first place. Yet, I am determined to reset the bar, to put my ongoing loops of burnout finally behind me, and simply be healthier. This health doesn’t come from diet and exercise, I’m decent enough at that. This is about stress resiliency, and though often added as an afterthought to our overall health paradigm, I promise you it is just as important!
Stress resiliency describes our nervous systems ability to easily toggle between our sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight) and parasympathetic nervous system (rest/digest). The result of a balanced system brings our social engagement system online [Polyvagal Theory, Stephen Porges] where we feel connected to our self, those around us and safe in our environment. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Yet, we continue to force ourselves to keep up. Pushing ourselves more and more, raising the bar on stress resiliency. With chronic stress and unresolved trauma our nervous system adapts. We are a species built upon survival, and so without conscious thought or the ability for it we set a new normal. We adapt to function in higher stress environments. The nervous system and resulting adrenal/cortisol loop focus on maintaining this need to push through, but everything comes at a cost. To maintain this high, we can only come down so low before we need to be up again. Essentially, we never spend enough time in our parasympathetic (rest/digest) system to properly recover to withstand the increased demands on our system. The result: poor sleep or insomnia, muscle tension or chronic pain, poor digestion, lack of mental clarity and memory, adrenal fatigue, increased PMS, imbalanced moods including depression and anxiety… need I go on?
It’s time to RESET the bar on stress resiliency, and I’m bringing you along with me for the ride. One of my biggest fears as I launch my new business is falling victim to my workaholic tendencies after spending so long in recovery mode. But here I am, on an airplane en route to mountains, wineries, good food, BFFs, niece and nephew squishes and a little yoga. Taking down time before I crash and burn where I feel so shitty I can’t even enjoy myself. Watching for the little signs of the slow burn to come creeping back up again. What luxury to enjoy a vacation when you don’t even feel like you need one. I did it again – luxury… bullshit. How smart I am, to take this vacation now in efforts to prevent burnout. To enjoy my life! This is what we all need to do. Don’t wait! Take the day off, take the week off, take the extra hour to be lazy or nap or watch TV or whatever will help you come back down. It has taken me almost a year to get to this space. It’s not about running away from your responsibilities. It’s about managing them by creating balance. The capacity to easily toggle between active and passive.
It’s time we understood on a fundamental level: we don’t deserve rest – we require it!