I felt broken today!
On the day I wrote this title, that was all I could manage. My head was so thick and slow, I couldn’t properly articulate what I was feeling and I just couldn’t find the flow I needed to express the message that was required. Thats not exactly what you were expecting to hear was it?!
Let me back pedal.
Many of you know about the renovations that seem to be forever ongoing in our house. Many of you know that I have responsibilities with the other companies that we run and the logistics of employees and general upkeep. Many of you have also noticed that I have been popping up on your news feed more frequently, helping more people and creating new ways to work together.
I am so incredibly lucky to have all of these opportunities and every day I have enormous gratitude for both the work that I do as well as the ability to create changes in my home.
So why did I hit a huge wave of fatigue, followed by a crash and burn which felt so hard that I was barely going through the motions?
Heres how it started… and no doubt this has happened to you too I see it in clinic, often!
Every so often we encounter the need to push through. Be it a work deadline, a family commitment, or even the mundane of the reality of being a human being. Ever so slowly, we take on more and more and more. We push harder and harder and harder until this becomes the new normal. Then we let a few things slip. Usually us!
Oh, its just breakfast, I wasn’t super hungry anyway or oh I will just work through lunch and have a coffee instead, its what I feel I need to get me through my afternoon.
That is until you start reaching for less food, more coffee and then, for some, a glass of wine in the evening. (There is often a need for stimulants to get you through the day, followed by wine to wind down in the evening, it is a self prescribing roller coaster!)
For me, I was mainly beginning to resort to convenience foods, things that I could pick up on the way to or from work, school pick up or any of the other many errands that had to be run. Gone were my fresh smoothies, salads and vegetable wraps. I was not making myself a priority. I was simply choosing everyone other than me!! Aaaaand the ironic twist is that I was launching my e-course called, wait for it….CHOOSE YOU! (Yes, my business mentor and I had a good chuckle at the irony of this whole scenario. But it was an absolute gift and I will talk about this a little later.)
So in the middle of the push through, I noticed that I needed less sleep. I could stay up later and be more productive. I was waking earlier, not just to fit in a little mindful practice, but to work. I began breaking my rule of one cup of coffee per day, and in fact had three on one day with no stimulant effect (a sign that I was pushing too hard). I was beginning to forget things and can admit that I was not very present no matter where I was. I wasn’t very much fun to be around either. I was addicted to productivity. I was tired. I needed a change. I had to stop.
So the other ironic thing about last weeks experience is that I discovered how hard it actually is to stop. I had little choice, as what I was producing wasn’t much chop and keeping my mind on track was proving impossible.
Every time I tried to write something I felt like I was trudging waste deep through mud.
It. Felt. Hard.
Forming valid and coherent information was a task and certainly not free flowing like it normally is. Keeping on task and completing what I had started, was impossible. Finding something inspiring to write about simply was not happening.
On the other side of this, I can see the absolute gift of the whole experience.
This was my first warning, it was subtle and only lasted a few days. I had been pushing too hard, I had stopped looking after myself and I was not feeling well at all. If I am truly honest, I felt totally broken. The simple things like making conversation at school pick up felt like a very difficult task, making decisions, making meals, keeping hydrated, keeping the kids in check, I had poor energy and even poorer patience. It. Was. Hard.
Part of me wanted to keep on pushing as I knew I had work to do, I understand the struggle.
Though I knew what I had to do, in fact I often give this advice, I now fully understand the difficulty in following through. My mind kept telling me to get up, get some work done, yet my body was shouting at me to sit still, I couldn’t decide what I needed. So I finally made the decision to sit still imperfectly and learned the hard way that this is what you have to do to get through it.
Also the act of laying down and stopping when I knew that I had so much to do was completely counter intuitive to me. But on the other side of this, I feel like a completely different person. I did all of the things that I would advise you to do.
I wanted to share this story with you as I really wanted to illustrate how stress impacts your productivity, the quality of your work and the way it makes you feel.
In one individual a certain amount of stress will improve their performance, while in another individual it will be the trigger of a cascade of symptoms. This can vastly depend on their current state of health. I actually saw a clever meme today that said something like- a pot of boiling water softens a potato, but hardens a boiled egg, it depends on what you are made of. Hey don’t quote me on the quote, it came up in my feed today and I felt it was fitting, I may have relayed it imperfectly and I can not remember the author, clearly it wasn’t me!
I believe stress to be part of a much larger problem, as we can not physically see how much stress someone is under. We actually rely on the individual to communicate their concerns. However often they wait until their body is screaming at them via headaches, poor sleep, concentration issues or the like or until they have actually hit a wall. In my experience, often many people just keep going as they do not see another way out!
Consistent and persistent stress in your life can actually lead to changes in your brain. As we constantly bombard ourselves with more deadlines, more family commitments and more offerings of help we actually begin to create a whole new normal. We begin to make, what thankfully seem to be, reversible changes to the way we process our information and more importantly how we handle these situations. While there are many other factors involved in your stress response, two areas of the brain are what I would like to discuss right now.
Due to chronic stress we have the ability to shrink our hippocampus which is vastly responsible for our emotions and decision making (did you notice in my story that I was incredibly indecisive!) while the amygdala is responsible for fear and worry. As we shrink the hippocampus due to prolonged stress and HPA axis dysfunction and grow the amygdala, the result is that we promote more fear and worry which then continues the downward spiral. There also comes a time where chronic stress leads to panic attacks, but lets save that one for another day.
What can you do today to decrease your stress levels?
Could you get outside for 20-30 minutes each day? There is a huge amount of research on what has been termed “Forrest Bathing” and how it actually helps to regulate your cortisol levels, improve your memory and concentration and a feeling of calm.
Could you finally open that mindful app and practise mindfulness? Only 10 minutes each day makes a huge difference, but you do actually have to DO it! I started imperfectly doing this exact thing recently and it made such a huge difference to my day.
Finally, if you feel you would like some support for your current state of health, I would love to hear from you. I practise in Mornington on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I also offer Skype consultations so that you can finally get your health on track.
Try our FREE State of Health Questionnaire, you will receive a personalised graph illustrating what your current state of health looks like as well as a report on how this might be impacting you. Simply clink the link below.