When things go wrong and the pressure mounts it’s so easy to lose a sense of healthy rhythm. Nothing seems more important than work and trying to fix things. You work longer hours, late into the evening and find that during the night thoughts play on your mind. You drag yourself out of bed very early to get on with more work or as late as you can get away with because you cannot bear to face another day. Stress is a killer.
So much gets squeezed out by the immediate pressures that you are facing. On the surface of it, if your business and livelihood is at stake nothing seems to compare to its importance. However, this approach will create a whole load of additional problems in and of itself.
It’s important to keep a good balanced rhythm when life becomes especially stressful. I appreciate it seems counter-intuitive as having more time to ‘fix things’ seems like you’ll avoid or solve the problems that are most on your mind. But less time spent on a healthy rhythm means a slower mind, tired thinking and the danger of being bogged down in details. It’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you can’t sleep well at night.
It may seem irresponsible to go to the gym, visit a friends for dinner, go for a walk or take your partner out on a date, when everything around you seems to be failing. I’d say it’s irresponsible not to do these things.
Many people put life on hold whilst they try to fix their business, only to come back having failed or succeeded in rescuing their business, but having lost everything else. Keeping a rhythm helps keep perspective. It’s all too easy to become self consumed in the problems you are facing. It feels like far more is riding on this for you than other people’s problems. You’ve got livelihoods that you are responsible for. You’ve got creditors that you need to pay. You’ve got projects that need to be finished. You’ve got people you don’t want to disappoint. Without you – O mighty, heroic person – how is the world going to keep turning?
Your child being naughty at school is not that big a concern. Your wife’s sense of isolation that you’ve switched off and disengaged can be fixed when things go right again. Your friend’s forthcoming marriage can be squeezed in reluctantly (but surely they don’t expect more than you just turning up for a couple of hours). It doesn’t matter if you miss football- they know how good you are, and I’m sure they’ll want super striker back on the team the other side.
So what does a healthy rhythm look like? Prioritising your physical, mental, intellectual, psychological, social and spiritual centres.
Here are three obvious areas it’s easy to overlook which I have experienced. I will be exploring more areas in forthcoming blogs.
I put on 5 stone from the time my business hit struggles to the time I lost everything. I was eating late, comfort eating too much and not making time for exercise, as that, in my opinion, wasn’t as important at the time. I felt sluggish, grew man-boobs, couldn’t fit into my suits or clothes and lost a lot of energy I previously would have had. I didn’t work at exercise to my advantage in reducing stress.
Whether it be popping to the gym every few days or playing a team sport, which I think often is harder to give up, get yourself involved in sport. Join a regular team, go for a jog in the morning, make it enjoyable and life-giving but do not allow yourself to let yourself go. I just felt it was so irresponsible to spend my time doing exercise when so many people’s jobs depended upon me. I now know painfully that I would have thought better and been in a better frame of mind if I’d done exercise.
Again this is obvious but eating late night pizzas at the office is not a good way to look after your body in the middle of stress. If you haven’t got time to plan out meals, get a batch of carrots, apples, satsumas in your office so you can nibble on these each day. Yes, it sounds crap, I know and tasty food is tasty. But at the same time don’t be owned by your gut.
Avoid lengthy lunch breaks and instead prioritise sitting down with your family or loved ones for an evening meal. Engage fully, do the cooking, taste it, chew it, swallow it, savour it. Food is beautiful, so don’t waste it by eating with your mind rushing onto your next activity.
Not every friend will be able to relate to what you are going through: some will be painfully unhelpful and others will be a complete blessing. It’s important to manage your expectations as to how your friends can be during this time. In moments of crisis lots of people don’t know what to say.
Sometimes they judge, sometimes they feel incapable of reaching out, sometimes they’re busy with their own concerns and sometimes they surprise you in the ways they express their love. You will be surprised by the people who offer support in ways that you wouldn’t have expected and you will feel let down by those you would have expected more from but don’t seem to give it. Show grace because people’s personality types make it easier to respond to crises in certain ways, and recognise that they are needing to process their own thoughts towards your situation. Also likelihood is they wont have gone through the situation you face. In the same way that you may not have experience in areas of divorce, bereavement, illnesses or being a victim of crime don’t have un-realistic expectations as to how much others will understand what you are facing.
Don’t judge what you don’t understand. Allan Leighton
Recognise early on who has been through similar circumstances, so that not only can you find comfort in their experiences and wisdom from their words but you know that you have a safe space in them, where there is a greater level of understanding of what it’s like to be in your shoes. However all-consuming your situation feels, make room to love and give to your friends. Maybe write a letter explaining that things are going to kick off or you’re overly consumed with work, and let them know what you would really value from them at this time.
Apologise in advance for the ways that you might not be able to give them as much time, energy and attention as normal. Ask what you want from them. Do you want space or do you want them to reach out? Do you want their challenges, for them to get fully involved or do you want a more distanced support? Remember that the wounds of a friend can be trusted, and although you may find it hard to hear, try to create space where you can hear what others have to say. It may just make all the difference.
If you’re in the middle of stress and bogged down by it all, it’s not easy. My heart goes out to you, and you’ll find that there’s a lot of people who have gone through loss as well, who have a greater capacity and desire to support you. It’s horrible, but as one experienced friend who’d lost everything said to me, it wont last for ever. I held on to that for a long time. And it was true! My God was it true! It will shift, it will change.
If you want someone completely out of your circle to vent with, listen and bounce stuff around with, please drop me an email with your phone number and I’ll give you a call. I’d be honoured to chat to you.