Last week I had a migraine. The next day the migraine was gone, but I still had a headache and felt ‘like a truck had ran over me’. I really craved giving myself some more recovery time. But there was also a critical voice in my head pushing me to suck it up and get some work done. It was telling me things like: “You can work, even if you have a headache. You cannot take the day off every time you have a headache! People will think you are cutting corners”. It took me an hour or so of going back and forth between these two parts of me. Then I gave myself permission to just rest and recover some more.
This morning I thought of some beautiful lyrics by Karen Drucker, that actually were very helpful when I was recovering from a burnout many years ago.
“I will be gentle with myself
I will only go as fast as the slowest part of me feels safe to go”
Default way of doing things
Up until this burnout my default way of doing things was to listen to the part of me that wanted to go the fastest.
My mind. To push myself, use an extra dose of willpower to do more, or go faster. My default way of doing things was to keep going without checking in with my body, my energy. Sometimes I did not even feel that it was time to slow down. Often I would ignore the signs of my body that it was actually time to slow down. My body felt like a really annoying uncooperative obstacle to all the things my mind wanted me to do and achieve.
Several times during the recovery process I fell into this trap again. But it also showed me so clearly what the costs of it were. When I had a bit more energy I always was so happy to feel this. I immediately would start doing stuff and then doing some more (and more). Until I felt so exhausted that it seemed I was back to a much worse state than weeks before. There would always be a moment during this doing that I would actually feel how tired I already felt. But then I would tell myself: just finish this, and then I’ll rest. Once this thing was finished I would often say to myself, just this one small thing as well.
After several of those relapses I learned the hard way that my mind wasn’t the wisest part of me. That I really should pay close attention to the part of me that wanted to go the slowest.
Often the critical voice in our head is telling us to go faster, to do more, to push ourselves a little bit further. But there is often also another part of us that tells us that it is actually time to take our foot off the gas, to be gentle with ourselves, to go slower. Sometimes pain in our body or a lack of energy signals it is time to slow down. Sometimes it is a gentle soft voice inside of you that tells you to stop pushing yourself so hard. That is time to take a break, recharge and recover.
The wisest parts
Over the years I have learned that my body and this soft gentle voice within are the wise parts of myself.
Not this harsh critical voice in my mind that pushes me. Knowing this makes it easier to listen to this wiser part of myself. But it always takes conscious inner work and courage to go for rest and recovery when this critical voice tells me otherwise.
My wish for you: Be gentle with yourself! Only go as fast as the slowest part of you feels safe to go!
Do you find it hard not to take direction from the pushy critical voice within? Could you use help in learning to balance between working hard and consciously recovering and recharging? I would love to help you with that. Just send me an email with your questions or dilemma’s and we can plan a free 30 minute exploration call to dive deeper into your questions and talk about how I could help you. Free of charge, no strings attached.