My mom had an endless supply of pithy one-liners to describe people’s behaviours and quirks. “She’s been shot, but she’s too stubborn to fall down” is one of those lines that I’ve been reminded of multiple times lately. It refers to someone who keeps on working when they should be restoring themselves, to someone whose doggedness is no longer leading to productivity or effectiveness. Remind you of anyone you know?
Several events this week made me think of that line from my mom:
- Coaching sessions with several C-suite executives / business owners who began crying within seconds of the start of our calls. (Who knew that, “How are you?” could be such an evocative question?!)
- Therapy sessions with injured health care workers, all of whom suffered avoidable injuries by ignoring low-level pain signals in order to finish up a shift
- Catching sight of my own bedraggled self in the mirror, with my shirt on backwards and inside-out, just minutes after telling a colleague that I was hale and hearty
Seven months ago, a pandemic arrived, and we all hit the ground, running. We rallied everything we had to stock up, safeguard our families and employees and customers, keep our income streams going or replace work that was lost. That was all fine and good, at least for a time. Most human beings have the capacity to deal with shocking and severe stressors, and to emerge, intact and even stronger, on the other side.
But the stressors that can put the lie to that general truth are the ones that are chronic and unremitting, with no natural breaks or periods of reprieve. Chronic stress without recovery is what leads to emotions that won’t stay contained, to bodies that break down, to mental processes that grow sluggish and inflexible.
So here’s my best advice to you: Fall down, dammit. Fall down, and stay there for a while. Do it voluntarily, pre-emptively, proactively, before your mind and/or your body remove all choice from you. Step away from the desk; put down the tools; turn off the phone and computer.
While you’re down, think about what you need to truly restore yourself. Depending on how long it’s been since you were shot but too stubborn to attend to yourself, it might take a while to figure that out. But it will come to you, eventually. The vacuous drooling stage of recovery WILL end, and some answers will emerge. The trick is to make yourself stay down until you can tune in to those things that are calling to you from the strongest, healthiest part of yourself – that impulse to move your body, that yearning to pull out some long-neglected hobby, that calling to lean into beauty and connection. It’s all there, my friend; it’s been there all along. You just didn’t know how vital it was to attend to it. But now you do.
Article originally published on LinkedIn Oct. 16, 2020.