I spent about the first 15 years of my adult life wearing my exhaustion like a badge of honor (as shame researcher and storyteller Brené Brown says). Without any regard for time, space or personal limits of energy, I said yes to just about every appealing invitation to work (and sometimes play) offered to me. And, I loved to talk about how busy and exhausted I was.
In graduate school at Chicago Theological Seminary (the first 2 years of which I worked two jobs, took 6 classes a year and participated in a number of extra school activities and still managed to hang out with friends), I began to sense that the pace I had been keeping wasn’t sustainable. Fortunately, a number of fellow students felt the same and began to lobby our administration for more opportunities to develop spiritual care practices that would sustain us as we prepared to leave that place and start our professional ministry lives.
After graduating, I took up yoga, and over the time I practiced, I changed. After years of physical practice, I learned to appreciate the stillness of meditation and the necessity of rest in restorative yoga. Now, 18 years after graduating, I don’t boast about being busy and exhausted any more. That badge of honor I once wore has lost its luster. I rarely mention my busy-ness in public or even to many friends.
But, I AM busy. Three years into starting a business during a pandemic has resulted in me picking back up some of those terrible habits I abandoned more than a decade ago. I’ve taken very few days off. Many of days, I work 10-14 hours. I write this not to brag, but to admit that even an advocate for rest and renewal can fall away from their well-constructed practices in a few years of upheaval.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I’m moving my yoga students from Burnout to Bravery during our weekly Wednesday classes in September and October. This week, we explored one of the beliefs that fuel these kinds of lapses in personal care: I have to do it myself. I must go it alone. I must do it all.
Here’s the simple antidote: You don’t need to do it all. I don’t need to do it all. We can ask for help. There are others who can do the work, too. We can teach other people to do the work so that we don’t do it all.
This antidote will likely feel very uncomfortable. Our culture conditions us to be lone rangers who work until we burn ourselves out. Breathe through the discomfort. It’s worth it.
Here’s a short journaling practice I offered as part of my class this week. Maybe you can stop and take 5 minutes to do it, too?
- Tune into the natural rhythm of your breath. Use your breath as support throughout the practice.
- Recall a situation in the past or present in which you were overwhelmed and needed help.
- Now journal on these questions: Did you ask for help in that situation, or did you just power through? If you powered through, what did that feel like in your body? What were the barriers to asking for help? If you asked for help, what did it feel like? Were the feelings different before and after you asked for help?
Share with me what you learned from this exercise. I’d love to hear back from you. And if you want support so you don’t keep trying to do it all, join me sometime.
Support for Doing Less
Try restorative yoga at my Fall Equinox Restorative Yoga Celebration on Sept. 21, 7-9 p.m. EDT.
Don’t let two hours of yoga intimidate you! We do a mix of gentle movement, journaling, restorative yoga (the laying around kind) and guided meditation, with a yoga dance party thrown in for good measure!
Do you want to be part of a community committed to doing less? Join my Defy the Trend Community Sampler for free! It includes:
- access to one of my upcoming yoga classes (attend live any Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. EDT or get the recording)
- access to online community conversations
- a sampler package of downloadable guided meditations
- and (soon to launch) my weekly newsletter that will be full of practice tips, resources, and links to special community events.