Shattering the Myth of Downtime

The first time I visited a spa I was 24. It was for my sister’s 21st birthday and I marveled at the calm that I felt after three days there. Looking back, that was my first glimpse at what it felt like to balance an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system. I had been a fearful kid; my optometrist uncle saw what are known as “worry lines” in my eyes in the third grade. I desperately wanted to hold on to the serene feeling that I had after three days of yoga, meditation, massages, and deep sleep in the most comfortable beds with pillows that perfectly cradled my head.  The tension melted from my neck and shoulders, and I wanted to know how I could hang on to this Zen feeling when I re-entered regular life. I had no idea how that could be possible. It’s funny to think that at that point in my life, I wasn’t a mom and had 20 years fewer miles and experience on my body and mind…and yet was already craving that rebalance. 

In the years after that first visit to the spa, I’m grateful to have had plenty of soul-restoring slowdowns that brought me back to that blissful state, where my heart rate slows, my breath flows deep and easy, my mind is clear, and my aptitude for learning skyrockets.  Some have had big price tags; others are daily rituals that are virtually free. One of these experiences has been this past week, doing little to nothing except writing, reading, walking, exercising, and eating fresh delicious food with my dearest friend Elizabeth on the big island of Hawaii with much thanks to the generosity of my mom and dad.  Elizabeth is the cleaning to my cooking, the detail to my big visions, and the notetaking to my listening ear and we could travel the entire world together and never tire of each other's company.

As I look back, this restorative path that I have sought, attracted, and craved was something I long felt guilty about.  Even when I’m not on vacation, as an adult, I have sought a healing path dotted with chiropractors, acupuncturists, somatic healers, a yoga practice, and research on every type of recovery I can come across and the people I have met in this walk of life have become dear friends.  I understand now that I feel my connection to the earth and the world around me on an even deeper level than mind, body, and spirit, and being wired that way takes a lot of care to sustain a healthy and purposeful path.  I also believe, and now science has shown, that recovery should be emphasized as a priority on any high-performing path because burnout is the enemy of sustainable success.  Proper challenges, combined with strong recovery strategies, will increase our potential and performance over time and we don’t even have to take long vacations to access many of these ways of being (although if a vacation is available to you, I highly recommend the reset). The research I have done on recovery methods has led me to better sleep hygiene, nutrition, meditation, infrared and near-infrared light exposure, yoga, acupuncture, talk therapy, music, and understanding the importance of deep connection with people in my life. Recovery in itself requires discipline and has helped me push my limits, understand myself better, and be better for the relationships with the people that I love and care for. If you are looking to level up in the game of life, start looking for the reasons you avoid recovery and scope out some protocols that would be easy and enjoyable to mix into your routine.  If you need help with this search, let me know. It may feel like an uncomfortable sacrifice of productivity at first…but discomfort is a great catalyst for growth. 

The truth is, our ability to propel ourselves to new heights and create sustainable flow in our lives, is directly related to the state of our nervous system and our ability to recover.  Today I know I’m not a bliss junkie who wants to be on a perpetual vacation, just that the yin energy in my life creates a home in my body where I can stay awhile.

As Ferris Bueller famously quoted:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

We honor the first half of our life when we are able to wink knowingly at the good and unlearn what didn’t serve us, and then see what we can inspire others to understand that has helped us along the way. The more mindful, calm, well slept, and unrushed I become, the deeper my connection grows to what is possible.

Thanks, mom, and dad for this time in paradise, my mind is clear and refreshed and that will have a ripple effect that extends far and wide. 

TASK: Write a Journal Entry.

What are my beliefs around recovery? Why?