At breakfast this morning I mentioned to my husband that I wasn’t sure what to write about for this blog post. He asked me a simple question, “What has been a theme for you and your clients?” Such wisdom at the breakfast table immediately suggested to me the concept of “pushing through”. While I love my work and generally create a workable schedule, we are due for a holiday. My body and mind are sending me the signals that I need to stop. Our break is fast approaching but I’m noticing my energy is waning and my mind is not as sharp, so there is an element of me that is pushing through. I am very grateful to that part of me who can fortify and go that extra distance, but I also have to watch her in case she takes over. When she does take over things become bleak for me. My mind becomes hard to switch off, obstacles appear more daunting, I’m more negative, and my body feels heavy and lacking in energy. The most problematic part of this tip over to the dark side means that, if I don’t catch it early enough, I can get more locked in and find it hard to see any options other than pushing through. Not sustainable!
Something we have in common?
Perhaps you have a similar experience at times. It’s a common issue, partly due to our personality traits and partly due to societal demands. We are constantly switched on to devices that enable us to text, call, scroll socials and email 24 hours a day. For many people their device is the last thing they see before bed and the first thing they reach for upon waking. In addition to this constant mental demand, more of us are working from home so the work/home lines are blurred. It’s harder to know when we are in work mode and when we are in leisure mode. Not only that, but a key message that advertising and the media constantly sends is, “You can and should have it all”. You should be able to have a great career, raise accomplished children, have a fulfilling romantic relationship and love yourself every day. I call bullshit! There are only so many hours in the day and only so much energy to go around. We have to make choices with our energy and that means saying NO to some things so we can focus on others. What we often don’t do enough of, is saying NO TO EVERYTHING sometimes so we can simply rest and restore.
The push and fall equation
Unfortunately, all too often we buy into the rhetoric and keep pushing ourselves for far too long. But this is destined to lead to us falling over. Take a moment to think of the action of pushing. The very nature of pushing through requires you to exert force, to expend energy against something. And that is an excellent strategy in the short term. But even Hercules would not be able to push continuously. After pushing for a prolonged period your body and mind fatigues and you fall over. If what you are pushing against ceases to be there – you fall over. The only way not to fall over is to decide at an optimal point to stop pushing through. To step away and recuperate. We know our bodies need rest but the mind equally needs rest in order to rejuvenate and function at its best. An overburdened mind leads to all sorts of issues including stress, anxiety, depression, loss of creativity, difficulty managing emotions and experiencing enjoyment. That’s not what I want for my life and it’s certainly not what I want for yours.
So what can you do to stop yourself “pushing through”?
A recipe for restoration
- Recognise your own “pushing through” signs. Awareness is key. What happens in your body when you are pushing too much? What is the quality of your thoughts? Do your emotions change? Look ahead in your calendar to danger zones where you may fall into pushing through for too long.
- Give yourself permission to take a break. The world will continue to turn without your constant pushing. In fact, often when we take a break and come back, our creative and problem-solving abilities switch back on. Problems and challenges appear more manageable. While taking a break if things don’t run exactly as you’d like – allow that to be. Let yourself experience the relief of letting things go for a while. You’ll handle it with less effort when you return refreshed.
- Imagine what you can do to restore and how long you’d like. If you can’t take a longer break, take a mini break of a weekend, a day, or even several hours where you switch off your devices, become fully present and do what you need to recharge. Sit, walk, lie down, be in nature, explore somewhere new. Whatever honours your soul.
- Schedule your restoration times in your calendar and keep them as if they were crucial meetings. Guard them well and watch for obligation-scope-creep into your restoration time. If you need to change your break make sure you reschedule it before you are in danger of falling over.
In short, pushing through can be an excellent short term strategy but you don’t want to make it your permanent state of being. Your body and mind need restoration time to perform optimally – in fact, it’s crucial to your success. Recognise when you need it, give yourself permission, and make it something you truly look forward to. Then repeat – often!