Throughout our days, our energy should emulate a sound wave with dips to rest and recover, interspersed with peaks of high performance. Stress, through deadlines, commitments and pressure, helps us perform and deliver at a high level, but if we stay constantly in the peak of stress and high performance, we’re telling our bodies that it’s not safe to relax and recover. That keeps our nervous system in one of the fear-based nervous system states. And it’s also not sustainable. With 70% of our days being spent in a state of stress, unfortunately most of our energy graphs are an upward, or straight line, that falls off a cliff at the end of the day as we collapse into bed. Sleep is our most important tool in recovery, but if we remain stressed out or short-change our sleep, we don’t really recover as we are withholding essential repair and recovery time for our bodies and brains.
Many people say they will take a break on holiday or vacation at the end of the year. I’ve been one of those people and that break becomes an ever elusive mirage on the horizon. Teasing us with recovery as we hang on desperately, but never being quite close enough. And we’re not listening to when we need it. Recovery is not about running flat out during the year and then collapsing into a three-week holiday over summer, or at the end of the year. When I used to do that, I generally spent the first week of my holiday down with flu or illness. The rapid adrenalin drop-off when I finally relaxed, exhaled and stopped dropped my immune system so severely that it stopped me. Literally. All stop and go, with no flow. I used to see recovery as mutually exclusive to work. Now I see it as an essential part of my work. It makes my work better. Hard work and rest are partners. Recovery is about a natural dip down in our energy wave after a period of peak stress and high performance and it’s not about waiting for that elusive holiday, it’s about creating space in our days, weeks and lives for a pause.
A pause for potency.
We create space to come back stronger, better, more resilient and more inspired. Our impact is elevated, our focus is clearer and our perspective has often shifted and it’s usually easier to solve problems. In fact, we normally have a creative solution to a problem that may have been different to the one we were focused on. I step back into work not only more productive and creative, but also energised by a life that feels richer and more fulfilling and feels more whole. These pauses are essential to tune in and flow with our body’s natural energy and rhythm. The time to breathe signals to our bodies that we are listening and we’re aligned. Your body knows intuitively when it’s in the driving seat (or needs to be), and also when it’s not. As we tune into our innate wisdom and align with our body’s natural rhythms, energy flows and healing mechanisms, it’s time to create a new way and a new flow in your life that works for you. We can’t create effectively when we feel under threat or unsafe. Now that you are beginning to release that tension in your body, your body will feel safe to really create when you make space for the moments for it to do so. And being creative is not just for serious artists and creative types — everything you do is a form of art. We all need to create time and space to play without purpose or are focused on an outcome. During this time, I often unconsciously figure out how to solve a problem in another area of my life, without even trying. This is the purpose of the pauses in our lives. Pauses can be a few seconds, days, or even a few weeks. And it’s not just about staying still as there are many things we can do to pause. A pause is always about creating intentional space for however long it lasts and whatever you fill that time with. The weekend is one of my favourite pauses as it comes along once a week, as long as I use it wisely. During a day at work, I create micro-breaks during the day and between meetings for my mind to clear and allow my body to breathe, practicing some deep breaths. Rather than rushing.
We need these pauses for potency now, more than ever. We can’t white-knuckle through the pandemic, holding on and hoping we’ll cope. We need to find a flow that sustains us and enables us to be more resiliant.