Life has been especially busy for me recently. Busy practice, busy kids and a husband who was away for three weeks made this spring a crazy one, with more on my plate than usual.
My life came to a head after a long week and a weekend course in Vancouver. My husband finally came home and… I crashed! Just like the post-secondary students who visit me, sick as soon as their exams are done, my crash led to a summer cold.
I often choose to write about topics that come up in my practice and this has been coming up a lot lately. Our overwork is making us sick. It led to my cold this spring and sometimes more serious health concerns in people I see.
It's not just that we're busy; I believe the modern world drives most of us to live a life that’s busier beyond what’s healthy. But there is something else I have observed. Sometimes the need to be productive is not just driven by need... we seem to have a collective view that the only way to be, is to be constantly productive.
As a holistic doctor, I try to understand the context of people’s lives to help them reach their goals. I know that stress contributes significantly to many of the concerns that people bring to me. Poor sleep, fatigue, anxiety, depression, low immune system, the list goes on.
A common theme that comes up often in my office is the lack of down time. More than that, some of us are driven to avoid down time as we see rest, relaxation and play as lazy and shameful. This is a message that circulates in our society and can bring on feelings of guilt when we are not constantly being “productive.”
This constant need to be productive (not to mention the constant worry that we are not doing enough) is making us sick. Our nervous systems are constantly “turned on” and don't get the time needed to rest and recharge.
Sometimes, after period of particularly high stress, I will see people go through bouts of extreme fatigue, illness or low mood. It's like their body was just holding out for that little break so that it could let go. And when they come down from the stress, they crash.
And just in case you’re looking at your neighbour/friend/relative or coworker and wondering how she/he seems to do it all, well, maybe they are built differently then you. Or maybe their life is not what it seems from the outside. One of the privileges that I have in my job is that I get to hear the real story from so many people, it's often a different one then they portray to those around them.
With all of this in mind, here is my prescription for you this summer:
Taking a break can be like putting money in the bank. You won't be able to work more, or take care of your loved ones, or attend to your many responsibilities if your health is not in good form. So here is the permission that you may have been looking for.
Absolutely, there are non-negotiable responsibilities. We need to put food on the table, a roof over our heads and take care of our loved ones. However, is there are a responsibility that you can let go of? Can you say yes a little less often? Is it time for a holiday? Can you make do with less and work less?
Put some health in the bank this summer and take a break.
Wishing you a fun and restful summer!