Most of the people I come across and work with these days are hard charging, type A, goal oriented people who are trying to squeeze the most out of every day. No matter what their role in life, from athletes, to parents and students, they are grinding it out to make the greatest impact in their jobs and lives. But what most of us don’t realize, or can just be a hard pill to swallow, is that as high performers, we are being asked to conquer the recovery process too so that we can keep doing what we do for longer, with greater success, more fulfillment, and better relationships with people that add much needed human connection in our lives. It’s all possible because when we honor our minds and bodies with the care they need, we are more productive, connected, and find more flow in our days than when we fill every moment with work.
Sometimes for high perfomers, recovery is the work, and we need to give ourselves the permission to do it.
I’ve been called Zen Mom, a graceful *ss kicker, and I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I stay so calm. What I know is that my calm used to be a veil and a management tool that luckily led me down the path of asking the big questions about how to make it real and heal from past traumas, instead of burying my feelings which leads to more discomfort and usually down a path to addiction that makes our lives more out of control. It was from this place of pain, striving, and discontentment that my intuition led me to a yoga mat, a practice I must have tried five times between the ages of 30-40 that I just couldn’t get to stick. I had all but figured it wasn’t for me and then at my lowest point I found the magic of breath to movement and it set off regeneration in me that led to me to dive deeper into the why of active recovery practices that enhance healing and high performing lifestyles. Yoga and breath work healed in big and small ways, like removing that tiny pebble in your shoe that you can walk with but is causing constant discomfort. I’ve heard it said that living with unresolved trauma is like holding a brick in one hand and trying to do all the heavy lifting yourself, credit to @intrinsicway for this beautiful analogy, because this was definitely true for me. But these realizations have helped me uncover knowledge and helped me create a beautiful healing community that weaves it’s way through my days, shows me a safe space to learn more about myself and help others do the same. These healing elements, both internal and external that are available to us, help us learn how to down regulate and befriend our nervous systems. And guess what? All of this “chilling” makes us happier, more efficient and productive than if we put our heads down and try to work straight through.
When grace becomes a part of high performance, we are far less likely to succumb to overwhelm, exhaustion, and burn out, and learn to reframe perfectionism when it rears its ugly head.
Intuitively, I have always known this, it’s what makes me rise early in the morning to get that slice of quiet before the noise starts trickling in. But learning the science behind recovery is what makes me feel healthier at 45 than I did in my 30’s. It motivates me to focus on my sleep, hydration, movement, and nutrition because of how these things relate to my creativity, and connection with others. When I was younger, I didn’t know how to be kind to myself and the answer to find calm evaded me as I keep trying to do more to please others and ended most days exhausted and yet knowing deep down I was missing something that couldn’t until I learned to balance my nervous system with rest and recovery.
As I press forward into the world of high performance, I continue to learn about the multifaceted ways recovery brings calm to our systems and connection to our relationships because we are in a state to sit comfortably in our own bodies and listen and offer insight, instead of being distracted by what is ahead or behind us. Just discovering the magic of presence is curative in itself.
My piqued interest in the recovery and self care process helped me find a new book called Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. Did you know that positive social interaction is one of the easiest ways to signal to our brain that the world is a safe place. Pre-pandemic, when there were many situations that offered us interaction with others, I didn’t fully appreciate how much I got from my short conversations with the barista at Starbucks. These days, my visit there has turned into an almost daily habit, just because I find the little bits of connection so rewarding . If you find yourself moving a little closer to burnout and causal conversation isn’t delivering some relief for you, the next step is deep connection with someone you value or love. Did you know that, according to psychological researcher John Gottman, a six second kiss with your significant other will signal safety and help complete the stress response in your body? As will a 20 second hug when each person has their weight over their own center of gravity. At the height of a world experiencing a pandemic, it’s important for us to know how important we are to each others health, yes in keeping our distance when necessary, but also in our deepest forms of connection. From the benefits of daily movement, the power of a good deep breath, a solid sleep routine, music, belly laughter, and conversation and affection with the people we love, we have to remember that recovery takes discipline. It’s the greatest form of self love that will save us from ourselves and make us lifelong high achievers on any stage.