Hi, I’m Alex I’m a resilience coach and a recovering over achiever. The latter is a term I’ve used quite lightly and quite flippantly when introducing myself as a coach and also in life in general. However, the reality is that being this type of person has made my life hard. My achievements never really used to mean anything to me – and all too often I would just keep pushing and pushing myself without any regard for how I felt or what I actually needed.
In short, it sort of allowed me to give up responsibility for my health over the years because the achievement seemed to be the most important thing. And then I got really ill. Which often seems to be the case for those of us that just don’t know when to stop. Even then I didn’t really quit. Because I have a kind of relentless quality and determination that goes beyond my apparent physical ability – if I want to keep going I will. And I’ll get over that finish line you mark my words. But in what kind of state… well that’s another story.
Burnout just isn’t fun
Rest is not something I ever used to value. I thought being hungover was resting and that’s the only time I ever allowed myself to be still without shame. I might rest if I was ill but probably not. More likely I would set a goal, push towards it, achieve it and then – and only then – allow myself a little down time after that. So, it’s probably not surprising to anyone that I ended up really sick. Or that I burned out at the end of my 20s and then again in my 30s. I was an over achiever at many things but learning from my mistakes was not one of them.
The shadow side of rest
There are many reasons that we tend not to prioritise rest. It’s not something we are taught to value or to see as productive. And being productive is what being human is all about right? Sitting and staring into space is what crazy people do. Lazing around and daydreaming is fine if you have a trust fund. But for most of us rest isn’t where it’s at. It can also generate quite a significant feeling of fear. Or it used to in me anyway. Resting involves stopping and that used to be when all the things I’d been running away from would suddenly catch up with me. Being still with my thoughts when they were worrying about money, being single or what to do with my hair just wasn’t pleasant. So, I think often before we can truly begin to use rest in our lives we need to learn to make space for it by turning around and looking at what we’re running away from. No small feat I know.
Rest is as productive as activity – and just as necessary
After that it’s all about giving yourself permission. Which tbh can be equally as hard. If you have a deadline looming, children banging at the door, money troubles or feel cripplingly lonely then stopping just to be for an hour a day can feel like a total waste. It isn’t going to solve any of those problems just to read or write or watch a thriller so it’s a total waste of time right?
What I learned through my exhausting cycle of burn out and sickness was that rest – this thing we think is so pointless – is actually the fuel for everything else. If you don’t make time for it then you’re permanently running on empty. Your tank is never full. You’re never operating at optimum levels. So, all your efforts in life are going to be about half as effective. When you put it like that rest seems like a no brainer. Want to jump out of bed at 6am on. Monday and totally seize the day? Dedicate some of your weekend to being quiet and resting and get a really early night. See it’s not rocket science (says the person who couldn’t do it for 80% of her life (eye roll)).
It’s never too late to start
There are lots of different ways to illustrate the importance of rest, from Insta meme classics such as “a Sunday we’ll spent means a week of content,” to the importance that athletes place on giving the body time to catch up and recharge after exertion. You can probably find a few good examples in your own life of times when you didn’t rest and then ended up unwell or just performing under par. If you’re like I used to be and find this idea hard even though you know that there is logic in it then there are some simple ways to start:
- Have a lie in on a day when you don’t have to get up for work. No phone, no TV, no goals to achieve.
- Dedicate an hour a day to doing nothing. If you need to put a productive spin on this call it ‘the refuelling hour.’
- Change the way you rest – if your go to is just to switch on Netflix trying some rest periods that don’t involve a screen. Lie in the sun somewhere, read a book, listen to an audiobook or a podcast or just doze.
- If you’re not keen to be physically still try some gentle movement – yin yoga, walking and tai chi can all be effective.
- Give yourself a break from other people. Sometimes the rest that we need is social rest – turn your phone off, cancel your plans and just have you in your immediate space.
- Stimulate a different part of your brain. It may be that what you need is creative inspiration to feel rested, whether that’s painting or drawing (even if it looks so basic it should never see the light of day) or looking at inspirational things.
Rest is a non-negotiable. None of your hopes, dreams and goals can happen without it – especially if they involve innovation, creativity, taking risks or leading. In fact, it’s one of the most productive ways that you can spend your time if you’ve got big ambitions. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Resilience coaching can help you to find the right way to rest for you, connecting with your intuitive needs and creating the energy and inspiration to take your next steps, whatever they may be.