Today I am using this statement as my "slow mantra". I am working with embracing it, with hearing it as a gentle reminder that I really cannot do it "all". Something that assisted me with this paradigm shift is the awareness that perhaps I CAN continue to do it ALL. Perhaps I still have the ability to try, at least. However do I WANT to?
This is a powerful and empowering shift to make as it demonstrates that I am finally putting my own self first. That part of me deep inside that longs to be nurtured, doesn't want to be pushed too hard, driven too much but rather held, rested, cared for in a very deep and loving way is finally being listened to and honored.
As I type this I am aware that I am incredibly stubborn. And that though I might like to believe this was all a choice, to set my wise inner self as a priority, and that I listened to her cries for rest and attention early and heeded them, this is not the case. Like most of us it took signs from my body telling me something needed to change. Physical signs of burn out: fatigue if I stop moving, two gears: go and crash; delayed recovery time after exercise...these things I could handle - "if I just keep going I am fine!" so that's what I do: just keep going then crash into bed at the end of the day, falling asleep the moment my head hits the pillow. I work out, but just enough to get the adrenaline going and not so much to wear me down. This way I could still highly productive, juggling work, kids, family, home, meals, exercise, sleep (note that I say sleep and not rest! the absence of pure "downtime" or rest in someone's day is another sign that burn out is looming in their future if not already present!).
It wasn't until some secondary signs started appearing: other physical issues that were not so easy to ignore. Stomach issues despite a very healthy clean diet. Issues that would disappear on holidays but were present and worsening in day to day life. Such a telltale sign that symptoms are linked to stress!
But I was in denial: I wasn't "stressed"! I am so used to being productive, getting things done, hustling through life. I don't experience anxiety or panic or tense muscles or tension headaches... and I have so-called balance in my life: exercise, yoga, work, family, sleep (note the absence of simply "rest" in this list) and apparently still hold my own stigma against being "stressed". I couldn't accept that I was (and AM) in fact stressed. I like to think that because I handle it well that it doesn't affect me.
However I am now learning two things: 1) I don't actually handle it as well as I like to think... apparently it is being stored in my solar plexus!; and 2) it does affect me! I am not a superhero immune to the effects of "doing too much".
I am a person like all of the rest of us, and I have to say in the position I am in I have the opportunity to see that we are all in this same boat. In this day and age the demands on us are so high: both externally and internally. Not only is there logistically ALOT that needs to be done in day to day life, especially with demanding careers and family life, but we are almost all victims of conditioning that tells us we should be able to do it all. And to do it all perfectly. And so this belief is part of what drives us, whips us with an iron whip, to keep doing, moving, achieving. There is not a lot of praise for those who chose to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. Which, incidentally is a practice that my husband is a big fan of and when I first met him about 12 years ago I would stare at him like he was a martian: I was so curious as to how he could allow himself to do this while there was SO MUCH to be done! however I have the utmost respect for him so rather than judge him as I normally might have at that time I was in awe of him and over the years I have learned that these practices are a necessity for maintaining our energy, creativity and intuition. Unfortunately it has taken me this same length of time to recognize that this time to recharge is also necessary for ME. I am not an exception to the rule. I cannot do it all.
And I can still try however I see that it is at my expense and if I keep expending more energy than I am renewing there will come a day that maybe it is no longer a choice: that I really will NOT be able to do it all, that my body will have showed me other, louder indications that stop me in my tracks: things that I see in my practice: chronic infections, digestive disorders, chronic fatigue, inflammation, headaches and more serious conditions that develop over time when the body runs out of resources: the chronic infections lower the immune system and lead to cancer, digestive disorders worsen to auto-immune bowel diseases or ulcers, long standing inflammation leads to heart disease, diabetes, etc.
This is a time that we (at least I) need to slow down. And not just do everything at a slower pace but really take time to remove things from our plates, learn to work "unproductive" time into our schedules - time spent in slowness: stay in bed a little longer on the weekends, put your feet up in the middle of the day, stop to lie down for a few minutes before making supper. It doesn't have to be big stuff and most of us don't have time for really big changes to our schedules - but the little investments in slowing down will go far.
For me I have come to see that though on the surface I practice self-care (exercise, yoga, nutrition, journaling, sleep), I do not practice "extreme" self-care. The thoughts that I use to motivate myself have an edge of aggression, abuse and pushing; I do not factor in a lot of time for rest, for prayer, for creativity. Extreme self-care would be, for me, allowing myself that time to rest FIRST work SECOND. It would involved being more gentle with myself: pushing and striving less and respecting and honoring more. It would involve more "slow time" of less doing and more being. Our culture does not tend to support this way of being and living but if we want proof that we are working against our bodies own natural tendencies we simply need to look at the rising rates of disease, depression, anxiety, suicide, burn-out, violence around us and we will see that the work-hard/ play-less, technology-driven/ human connection-neglected world that we live in is not serving us.
So I challenge you first to take a good honest look at your own life to see if your health issues may in fact also be linked to stress: be it emotional, physical, psychological, mechanical, internally generated or busy-lifestyle-induced stress. As much as I know about the devastating health consequences of stress and as much respect as I have for it, I still had to be honest with myself and see that it is a factor in my life, too, and I am not somehow a failure for having let stress get to me!
And then I ask you to join me in my endeavour to slow down, to resist the temptations to do it all and to push back a little on this world that is so demanding. So tell your spouse, your boss, your kids "I can't do it all" but most importantly, remind yourself of this! the pressures we put on ourselves far outweigh the actual or perceived pressures that others put on us. If we want to make change, to slow the world down, to open our hearts to others and ourselves, to infuse thoughtfulness and mindfulness into our actions, behaviours and lives we need to start within our own little worlds.