You do everything to a high standard, EXCEPT take care of the systems your brain and body operate on.
Try this – plug your ears and close your eyes, and LISTEN for 30 seconds while you take a few deep breaths – Go.
Did you the hear hum of activity in your body?
That’s your sophisticated brain and body systems feeding, repairing, and communicating with each of the trillions of cells that are your physical tissues and conscious mind – you.
Your cells and systems do their jobs optimally when you are relaxed or going about non-stressful daily activities. A lot of cell maintenance and storing what you learn really happens during sleep.
When an experience of stress pops up – such as swerving to miss a car or going for a job interview – your sophisticated body and brain stop day-to-day maintenance of health and put all your blood pumping and energy into handling the situation.
So, in stressful situations your body –
Decreases activities of digestion, immunity, and abstract thinking to put all energy into
Increased breathing, heart pumping, and muscle tension to prepare for action.
But what happens when your brain and body systems are under constant stress of an overwhelming schedule, lack of sleep, or not eating? AND your inner critic, worries, and other internal pressures never let up?
You guessed it –
LESS digestion, immunity, cell repair, memory storage, creative thinking, and good feelings
MORE heart pounding, tense muscles, hyper-vigilance, and worry.
If you are like I was as a college student, you have been under persistent stress since high school. My systems finally wore down until they were so far behind on day-to-day maintenance they couldn’t do their job. This is the mechanics of why I ended up with anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, hair loss, weight gain, low energy, and moving back in with my parents without a job after graduation.
As I reached out for help, a therapist finally nailed it – “You want to be excellent at everything, why don’t you try being excellent at relaxing?” That blew my mind open to a whole new approach to life.
I couldn’t just turn around the next day and traipse through the flowers without a care in the world. I had been constantly busy and self-critiquing for so long that it took time and practice to really believe that it is ok to relax.
Say it out loud – It is OK to relax. In fact, relaxing is intelligent, efficient, and brings out your best creativity and achievement.
I began to try things that lifted my stress – laying in the grass at the park and going on a walk instead of a run. Eventually I took bigger steps like letting go of my college minor and resigning from a stressful job. Relief!
I realized every person’s body/brain system reacts differently to stressors, so I can’t compare myself and my pace with anyone else. Also, my system was taxed by a lot of inner stressors that someone else may not burden themselves with.
My high-standards and work ethic were powerful though when I applied them to letting go of fears, self-criticism, worry about the future, workaholism, and perfectionism. With such ineffective strategies out of the way, I discovered the unique ways I thrive in the world, my healthy motives, and my real contributions. For example, I realized I personally get more done when I work in shorts bursts of energy and then balance it with down time.
With that information as my guide today I engineer my work, play, and relationships to support my happiness, best contributions, and sustainable success. And I help my clients do the same!
If you have been under sustained stress for months or years, your systems will need time to repair. I gave my system months and years to recover. It is worth starting now while you are young and your systems can rebound more quickly.
The sooner you become excellent at relaxing, the sooner your system can repair and support the success and happiness you want.
5 steps you can take today:
1. Get real about what state your body and brain systems are in. Are you tired, sick often, have brain fog, stomach trouble, constipation, hair loss, constant muscle tension, feel down or fearful all the time, or have other symptoms? Give those symptoms the right to exist, and write them down. They are the language your body is using to communicate to you that your current approach to success is not going to work for the long run.
2. Close your eyes and tune in to the tension in your body. Are you holding your breath, tensing your face, clenching your teeth, holding in your belly? Are your neck, shoulders, back, legs, hands tight? Scan your whole body, notice how you are holding stress, and release it. Set the timer on your phone for 5 minutes, and check in with your body again. You’re holding it again, right? Let it go again. Put a reminder on your phone to give your body that moment of letting go every hour.
3. Assess your schedule – If you knew you could let some things go and still be wildly successful (Yes, it is true!) what would you take off your plate? When you are ready, take action to do so.
4. Assess sleep – How much are you getting realistically? Find ways to ease your school/work schedule and get more sleep ASAP. Start today.
5. Make a list of what sounds pleasurable and restful. Do one or more of these this week. Some of my favorites are walking in nature, napping in a sunny spot on the couch with a warm blanket, making art, meeting friends, and reading a novel curled up in bed with a warm tea.
Let me know what you discover, the steps you take, and your results!
If you want more information or personalized help overcoming high-functioning anxiety and empowering yourself for lasting success, contact me now. I’m here for you!