Embracing Life’s Ebb and Flow

Whew! The first quarter of 2022 has been a whirlwind! Life has been intense, both professionally and personally, and I FEEL IT. I also know I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Clearly, there are times in our lives when we may be more focused on work priorities and other seasons where family/personal demands require more energy and effort. What’s less clear is our ability to recognize when we need a break. AND give ourselves permission to take that break.

We live in a culture that values achievement and being busy. When we feel overwhelmed, we may “gut it out” and soldier on vs. stopping to rest and recharge.

I recently listened to Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast with Karen Walrond. It was the perfect time to hear the important messages about noticing when you need to take a break. Karen highlights the fact that the natural world has an ebb and flow rhythm. We see it in the ocean tides, the waxing and waning moon, the seasons, and our breathing – inhaling and exhaling. Why wouldn’t this natural order apply to being human?

We should be paying attention to our natural ebb and flow patterns and acting on the signals our minds and bodies are sending.

I’m happy to say I’m able to make space for a break right now, and it’s given me time to reflect and offer some insights about recognizing when we need to rest and what to do. These may be useful to you as well.

  • Reframe “rest” – Think of rest as a way to build resilience vs. being weak. If we don’t take breaks and recharge, we won’t have the energy to do the work ahead! Embrace self-compassion by acknowledging when our ability to keep pushing ourselves is not in the cards. Stop thinking of resting and sleep as a luxury – it’s essential.
  • Check your ego – Our desire for achievement, recognition, and perfection could be driving extended working hours and saying “yes” to requests which cause us to over-extend our capacity. Ask why those things are so important and are there other ways to feel “successful.”
  • Evaluate your long-term priorities¬†– How we spend our moments is how we spend our life. Consider the impact on relationships if most of our time and energy is spent on activities not aligned with our values or don’t allow for time to connect with the important people in our lives. Reserve energy and time for the people and activities that are meaningful.
  • Notice how you feel – Conduct a self-check-in at least once a week (if not each day) for physical and mental health. Keep a journal or log as a quick way to pause, notice how you feel, and document it with a rating scale. Aspects to consider: diet, exercise, holding tension, mental exhaustion, screen time, media/entertainment content consumption, socializing/connecting with others, and relaxation. This assessment helps raise awareness, which is the first step in taking action to improve the current state.

We can learn so much from the natural order of things if we pay attention to the signals. That means pausing to assess our surroundings and noticing when we cannot focus, are unable to do our best work, and regularly feel exhausted.

If we constantly talk about how busy and overwhelmed we are and are not taking steps to change that situation, it’s a red flag. It’s time to change the narrative.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.