Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Slow Down and Chill Out

Let’s get this straight.  You can kick-butt, rock your life, have big adventures, AND know how to take it slow, savoring every moment.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, you need to learn or else you will burn yourself out before you ever get to fully enjoy the fruit of your labors.

Trust me – I’ve been on that fast track of burning the candle from both ends. Whether that was attending multiple meetings in one day, virtually living at the hospital, parachuting myself into the latest crisis, trying to save the world, burning up a tank of gas every day going here and there “because they need me”, or creating new initiatives and implementing them for the thrill-factor; I did those things because I enjoyed it, and I had the energy.

But after a burnout I learned that I couldn’t keep doing it forever.  Neither could I maintain that pace any longer.  Now that I’m in my 50s, I’ve accepted a new reality for myself.

Let’s take a look at the typical man or woman with a type A personality – the person who experiences a constant sense of urgency; or constantly struggles against the clock:

He or she gets up too early in morning after an exhausting night of sleep; runs 3 miles before work, power-houses it at the morning staff meeting while slugging down a glass of green juice, squeezing in a lunchtime yoga session and munching on a green salad of iceberg lettuce;  then comes home after an hour of driving in traffic, makes dinner, feeds the cat, pounds out a presentation for a deadline, and hits the sack at 11 p.m. with thoughts spinning about the next day. You feel powerful, albeit exhausted and overwhelmed.

Why do we do that?

Fear of missing out – (FOMO) – that’s why.

In any event, these scenarios are appealing to a lot of people.  This kind of sexiness sells.  Think of the powerful men and women on TV we admire like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Bones, and the Good Wife.  Then there's Angelina Jolie who has become a role model for many young women; she manages to look hot, saves the world, flies a plane, has a number of children, adopts a few more, donates millions to charity, and spends a lot of time in Africa feeding the poor between sex scenes in her movies.

Go, go, go, and WIN!  It’s what our society admires – having it all.  At full speed ahead.  And we buy into it.

Only problem is, this is not sustainable.

Know why?  Because if you don’t take care of yourself, you will crash-and-burn.  But if you DO take care of yourself, you WILL be able to handle bursts of energetic activity and adventure.

You just can’t do it for decades.  (I can handle bursts of increased activity, not years of it).

It catches up.  You get a lot of colds.  The flu becomes more common.  Each time you get sick it’s harder on you than it was in your 30s.  You feel “foggy-headed” or groggy all the time – almost like a hangover in the morning.  You have less energy and feel tired constantly.  You feel like you are always “fighting off” something.

Sound familiar?

Or maybe you let it get completely out of control and you get an auto-immune disease.  You get irritable and angry.  You bicker at people and seem to stay in that state of mind all the time.  You gain weight and become an emotional eater (for comfort).  You feel chronic pain.  Your hormones are out of whack.  You have digestive problems, you feel bloated.  You have trouble sleeping.  Your skin breaks out.  You have a mid-life crisis.

Or, you get cancer.

Anything can happen.  At any time.

The most important lesson I learned in the last few years is that being fully present in the moment is more fulfilling for me than constantly chasing the next adventure.  Whether that is enjoying some downtime in solitude, spending time with the grandchildren, fishing from my boat, gardening, or resting in my easy chair each evening, being in the moment FULL ON is better than rushing to the next red-light.

It’s less about what I am doing and what I am being.


Think of it this way:  It's like the cycle of summer and winter. 

Take a look at the trees around you in winter time.  They show evidences of drawing inward.  Leaves are dropped.  The energy of the tree is drawn into the core (the trunk and roots), and things are more still.  The sun rests more.  There is more darkness and stillness in each day.  Our bodies follow suit; it’s a time of year that we too can draw inward, rest, and restore our reserves.

In Florida this is particularly pronounced.  In summer the days are very long, not getting dark until almost 9 p.m. at the peak of summer.  The gardens are alive, flowers blooming, the rivers pumping, and people are out to play.  Hard. 

We NEED winter to survive summer.  We need to sleep more and be a little more still.

Yet so many people don’t do this – they keep trying to go, go, go.  Hit the gym every day after work, and go to the clubs and hit up the live music every week… at a time when the nights are long and the days short.

And the dark circles under our eyes tell the story.

So do the coughs, colds, flu, body aches, and insomnia.

There’s a better way to live.  Get yourself in rhythm with nature.

(Psalm 127:2)  “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives His beloved sleep.

No comments: