I have 2 gears. I either work at a crazy fast pace or I’m crashed out on the couch. I run, then I burnout. Then I run again. And so on.
I’m like the Hare in the old fable The Tortoise and the Hare. But instead of sleeping, I’m by the side of the rode watching Mad Men re-runs to zone out, while the Tortoise passes me by.
At this pace, it’s hard to take care of myself. As a result I’m burned out and exhausted much of the time. But I’m keeping up damnit!
Ever feel that way?
How do we find a sustainable pace that doesn’t cause us to sacrifice our own health and happiness to take care of our families? And how do we enjoy it all at the same time?
Turn Off Survival Mode
The first step to finding a sustainable and enjoyable pace is to see what pace or “mode” you’re currently operating in. Look at how you move through your day. Are you running at a hurried and frenzied pace much of the time?
Are you in more of a “survival mode” or are you in more of “enjoyment mode”?
In survival mode, when your son forgot his lunch or the baby missed a nap, you handle it the like a plane crashed and you have to fight off the smoke monster. A slow driver makes you feel like you’re going to rear end him on principal alone. In survival mode, everything is important, everyone is annoying or frustrating, and you feel like you are always running to catch up.
Honestly, I think I’ve lived on survival mode since I was 18 when my parents got a divorce. I felt I had to start taking care of myself, grow up, and I started pushing myself to succeed, to work harder, to be the best. Failure was never an option.
Sometimes we need survival mode. We need to act first, kick butt, and take names later. But if you notice that you are prone to burning out or to needing to “zone out” just to keep going, you may be stuck in survival mode.
You may have forgotten that you have a choice in the matter!
What’s wrong with survival mode? First off, it’s actually hazardous to your health. In survival mode, you are more prone to hit your body’s stress response.
Follow me here, I’m going into biology a bit. Your stress response is your body’s emergency alert system, readying your body to run from a tiger. When that alert is triggered, your body dumps stress chemicals that allow your body to perform at a higher level, to run faster for example.
The alert also causes your body to shut down parts of your system, to divert it’s precious resources to dealing with the tiger. So if you trigger your stress response regularly at smaller events, like slow drivers or tantruming toddlers, your body may be diverting energy from other systems like your immune system or reproductive organs. Ever noticed your body breaking down during times of stress?
Even worse, the more you hit that alert, the easier it gets to trigger, so the more often it will get triggered. This means that as stress increases, your body’s ability to process it actually decreases. It’s a vicious cycle that I’ve actually been stuck it in many, many times.
Ever had something simple, like a pile of laundry, make you feel like crying or just giving up? This is why.
This is burnout. And if you operate in a survival mode, like I do, it will keep happening to you.
We need to chill out. We need to live more in enjoyment mode.
Enjoyment mode is the opposite of survical mode. When you are on enjoyment mode, you don’t sweat the small stuff. You do what needs to be done, but if you make a mistake you are able to let yourself off the hook. You move through the day slower, at a more deliberate pace. You feel happier and more relaxed. The same slow driver that drove you over the edge in survival mode now just makes you chuckle. You are able to enjoy your life more.
We all have the capacity to operate in either mode. But which do you spend more time in?
If you are in survival mode more often, it’s time to ask yourself why? Look back at your life and ask see – was there an event that caused you to feel you needed this mode? Do you still need it?
How to Chill Out…You Gotta Gear Down
How fast do you move? How tense are you? If you were to compare yourself to a car, what speed are you running at most often.
I move very fast. Sometimes I feel like that I can totally relate to that little mouse, Speedy Gonzalez. I don’t know why. I just do.
If you were to take a deep breath right now, does it feel a little forced? If I said to you – relax your jaw – would you suddenly realize it has been super tense?
Both speed and tension cause your body to think it should be stressed. Your thoughts are not the only thing influencing your stress response. The way you move your body, breath, and carry yourself all influence your stress response.
Your body is constantly feeling, sensing, and evaluating your circumstances to protect you from danger. You can tell your body to be on high alert, like a deer, or you can tell your body that it’s allllll goooood, just by changing a few things.
This exercise is called Gearing Down. First, tell yourself you need to gear down. Just in your head, say it.
Imagine that you are a car, and you are dropping down into low gear. The car is still powerful, but it’s moving a little slower. Gear yourself down.
Now drop and ground yourself. If you don’t know how to ground yourself, check out my free mp3: How to Ground Yourself – Your Emotional Reset Button.
As you ground yourself, notice your breathing. Are you breathing shallowly? Are you holding your breath? Take a few deep breaths and let your breathing go.
Next, I want you to start moving slower. Just slow everything down. If you are getting breakfast ready, do it…slower. Open the fridge in 3 beats instead of 1. Move across the kitchen in 4 steps instead of 2. Walk slower, cut slower.
When you slow down, you will notice that you have to relax a little. Just as it’s hard to move fast and not be tense, it’s hard to move slowly and not relax.
Slowing down will also get you out of you head and into the present moment. When you gear down while playing with your children, feeding, or spending time with your partner, you will notice that you enjoy it more. It’s nice, like coming home.
When you gear down, you actually get to treasure the moments with your children in real time.
But you first have to let yourself enjoy it more. At lot of us operate on survival mode because we think we have to. We work ourselves to the bone to prove something to ourselves or to someone else. We don’t let ourselves enjoy the fruits of our labor, much less our labor!
But you can’t chill out if you don’t give yourself the gift of slowing down. You deserve it. You can work hard AND enjoy it.
Remember, just because you don’t move at the speed of light doesn’t mean you’re not doing a fantastic job! So gear down mama and start chilling out and enjoying more of your life!