I have been increasing my exercise regimen lately as I’m really recovering well. It is difficult to explain to people what it is like to recover from burnout. It has been a difficult process for me to learn when I’m overdoing it, when to push a bit harder and when to rest.
I’m not so good with rest. I like to push myself – that has always been my default. I like to make the most of opportunities to grow and to achieve. I don’t like wasting time. It has been very difficult for me to force myself to rest, to slow down and to find time to care for myself properly during this recovery period.
I am not yet able to resume my running as cardio exercise is still too hard on my recovering adrenal glands. I walk for about an hour or two per week and I am able to do yoga classes. I do flow yoga which is wonderful for stability and strength, as well as the hot yoga which builds flexibility and balance. In the hot yoga I am able to sustain a minute at a time of cardio, interspersed with a few minutes of rest in a posture called savasana or corpse pose.
It occurred to me recently that I might not be the only one who struggles to rest, or to stay in savasana for long. At the end of the class, the instructor usually advises you to stay on your back and to absorb the benefits of the class. In the old days, pre-burnout, I would feel too indulgent and lazy to do that. I’d jump up and get showered and off to the next commitment. I think this behaviour and thinking is part of how I burned out in the first place.
I didn’t feel entitled to just lie there for a few minutes after an intense 90 minute class of pushing myself beyond my limits. I wonder how many of us feel this way. I was entitled to that rest and I should have reveled in it. I’m learning to do that now but it isn’t very natural. I’m trying to change my thinking to ensure that I do rest after pushing myself, and not only in yoga.
It seems hard for many of us to surrender, to just relax and to let things flow. We try to control and to change things to go the way we want them to. Of course, it’s important to have goals and to work towards things in life. But sometimes we need to surrender, to fully relax into the space and to let go.
In my days as an ultra-marathon runner, I remember how important it was to take rest days. It is common for new runners to experience overuse injuries because they haven’t learnt to prioritise rest. In the days before a big race, one also has to taper off training and mileage in an exerted effort to rest the body before an event that will be grueling. It’s a pity that I was able to execute on these principles for running, but I failed to apply them to the rest of my life.
It is in the rest periods that we gain the benefits of the hard work we do.
As an introvert, I didn’t schedule recovery time after busy social engagements and work days. After highly stressful periods of work, I didn’t prioritise self-care and recuperation time. With small children, there is no respite from the demands of childcare and I didn’t fight hard enough for rest. One of the biggest lessons I learnt from burnout is to prioritise this recovery time and to insist on a life-savasana.
I haven’t written for a while as it is a really busy time of year. It is the end of the school year so there is a mad rush to finish everything before the Christmas holidays. Birthdays from November and December are squashed into a few weeks. I have attended eight extra mural demonstrations and a bunch of children’s parties in the past few weeks, as well as attending to the many last-minute demands from schools.
It is exhausting, and it’s hard to make progress on my own initiatives in this environment. I am also facing a long school holiday at home with two kids in my space. But I have decided to surrender into it. I hope to let go of my own plans and to indulge in the rest and the fun with my children over the holidays. I make the explicit exception of my book, since it is a very high priority in my life and my career, so I will make every effort to work on it as much as possible to ensure a launch early next year. In any case, writing feeds me, so it’s not as if working on my book will be tiring.
Here’s to surrender, to savasana, and embracing the well-deserved rest that this holiday season offers.