Did you end 2019 feeling exhausted and burnt out? Did you set the intention that this year would be different, that you would take more time for you and to spend with friends and family? Are you finding that already you are slipping back into old patterns of taking work home in the evenings and working on weekends?
I understand. I’ve been there. Early in my childhood I internalized the belief that in order to be loved and valued I needed to perform and achieve. And so I kept doing that. Setting one goal, reaching it; then raising the bar and striving for the next one. Taking very little, if any time, between my accomplishments to celebrate; until I became exhausted and burned out.
What happens when we are driving and striving?
- Our agendas are packed
- We have little or no time for ourselves
- When we are speaking with someone, often half of our brain is focused on them and the other half is focused on the next thing on our to-do list
- We feel like there is so much to do and so little time
- We focus on our goals and become so fixated on achieving them that we may miss out on other opportunities that come our way
- We often feel tired on awakening
- We may start to feel resentful, as we seem to be giving to everyone else, yet no one seems to be there to support us when we need it.
Do you relate? Living this way, constantly driving and striving, leads to adrenal fatigue, burnout, various types of cancer, and auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis (for more details on burnout and what to do about it – https://pamela-thompson.com/how-to-know-if-youre-burning-out-what-to-do-about-it/). When we work night and day, our bodies don’t have time to return to homeostasis where we relax and rejuvenate ourselves. As stress hormones constantly surge through us, our organs eventually burn out.
What does thriving look and feel like?
- We feel happy, healthy and grounded with a balance between “giving” and “receiving” and “doing” and “being”
- We feel open to possibilities
- We awaken feeling energized and excited about the day ahead
- We spend time with people we care about
- We feel connected to something greater than ourselves
- We spend regular time in nature
- We exercise regularly
- We are grateful for the life we have
- We are clear on our core values and live life in alignment with them.
Feel free to add your own descriptions to the lists above.
How do we move from driving and striving to thriving?
- We learn to Listen to and trust in our body’s wisdom – The first step in getting out of our heads and into our bodies is a mindfulness technique called body scanning. On awakening, you begin scanning your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and noticing where there is any tension or discomfort. Then you breathe into these areas and set the intention to release any discomfort. Another mindfulness practice is mindfulness walking meditations. I encourage my clients to begin doing this 15 to 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week. It can be done at noon or during a break. Instead of taking a walk and thinking about the next thing on your plate or reflecting on a stressful conversation you had with a partner or team member, you focus on your senses. You feel the wind on your cheeks, you smell the salt sea air, you hear the birds singing, you see the beautiful vistas surrounding you. When thoughts come into your mind you view them as clouds floating by and let them pass, returning to focusing on one of your senses. When you do this, notice what you notice during the exercise, after and the cumulative effects.
- When you are feeling stressed, Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth; making a sound as you breathe out. When you do this 3 or 4 times you release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes you.
- Each week block off in your calendar all of the things you commit to doing for yourself (that you enjoy). For me one of these is yoga 3 times a week at noon. It may be going to the gym 3 of 4 times a week after work. It may be meeting a friend or partner for lunch once a week.
- Set firm boundaries. Learn to say no. This is important at work, and with family and friends.
- Notice your energy levels and schedule your activities to capitalize on these. For example, if possible, do your creative work when you are naturally more creative. Schedule meetings after 10 am.
- Spend regular time in nature; walking, hiking, cycling, kayaking … . Nature is therapeutic. Based on several decades of research, the Japanese have evidence to show that forest bathing/walking among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces. For more on the benefits of being in nature check out: https://pamela-thompson.com/how-you-can-benefit-from-nature-why-its-important/
- Unplug from technology for at least 24 hours one day a week (e.g. on weekends) if possible
- Celebrate your achievements, big and small.
It’s important to reach out for support to friends, family or a coach, as moving from driving and striving to thriving, IS a journey and it requires support from others.
For more practical tools and techniques to support you to be healthy, happy and grounded, I invite you to check out my book Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women – www.amazon.com/dp/B0145ZGDO2 that is backed up by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and the health promoting and healing benefits of the arts. There is also a series of coaching questions woven throughout the book to support you to move from driving and striving to thriving.
I welcome strategies that you’ve found helpful in the comments below.