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The rush

I used to live for the rush. Literally.

As in, I rushed everywhere I went. And I rushed everything I did without a second to spare. It felt invigorating. Like my veins were coursing with a magical stimulant..because they were. Adrenaline, cortisol and dopamine were my drugs of choice.

These "stress" hormones aren't bad per-say. They serve an important function for pushing our bodies into a highly alert and highly responsive place. But they're best in moderation.

We don't need to be popping adrenaline, cortisol and dopamine like their breath mints. Of course, in this case popping is actually triggering thru stimuli of an inedible nature.

There were a number of ways I kept myself in a state of perpetually rushing.

  1. Overcommitting myself

  2. Underestimating the time tasks took

  3. Not scheduling time for rejuvenation

  4. Being overly connected to my devices

  5. Lingering on headlines in the news

While I felt temporarily elated from experiencing these stimuli, it turns out, it was actually a succubus on my energy. They were bad habits, because they were harmful to my health and wellbeing.

But I was so used to always operating from a highly alert place that I didn't know how to be productive and calm. Anytime I felt mellow I immediately panicked that something was wrong with me. Not only did I struggle with with long bouts of fatigue, I also had a deeply embedded patterned threat reaction of freeze that was persistently being triggered. There was a time when I couldn't tell if I was needing to rest because I was fatigued or because I was stuck in a freeze response.

At one point I realized I had a highly anxious baseline for operating in the world and I was (predictably) alarmed about that fact. See how the cycle continues. These struggles are like an ouroboros. A self referential loop that's inescapable.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has a great word for how I felt - Altschmerz. It means feeling "weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had—the same boring flaws and anxieties you’ve been gnawing on for years."

Ouch, so spot on to how I felt when I suffered deeply from my maladies of the heart and mind.

A mentor of mine once observed that I don't spend too much time feeling bad for myself before I pick up and move on.

Indeed, life is more of a spiral than a simple, self-reinforcing loop. There's progress, growth, change and even transformation available to each and everyone of us. It's our birthright as humans. And no one can take away our ability to rewrite our limiting patterns into empowering practices.  

I spent the last 7 years healing, which is to say, resetting my nervous system. I've recalibrated my fuel source, shifted my heart into high coherence, reconnected with the wisdom of my body, and cultivated the voice of compassion.

I not only changed the stimuli I expose myself to, I also re-taught myself how to manage my emotions in a healthier way. I first had to learn how to let myself feel my "negative" emotions, which I had persistently buried before (although I wasn't really that good at it since others often observed that "wore my feelings on my sleeve").

Then I had to learn how to move through my "negative" feelings without fueling them. This looked like recognizing when I experienced fear, shame, embarrassment, exclusion, etc. without telling myself stories that made the feeling exponentially worse. Instead I just noticed my feelings with curiosity and compassion.

It helped to reconnect with my body to physically and mentally shift gears. I learned to release the pent up energy caused by different hormones like cortisol and adrenaline through breathing, and physical movement like shaking or going for a walk. Thus feeling through without fueling.

Learning how to shift out of my addiction to the rush didn't come over night. It's been a slow and arduous journey. In ways, it's still going, it's a perpetual part of my life. One never arrives at having healed (aka cured) oneself of our innate humanness.

Remember, our journeys are like spirals. We experience similar challenges but we are in different circumstances with new tools at our disposal. Our life lessons might not be on repeat. It's not Groundhog day. It's more of an invitation to continue deepening, growing and transforming - frustrating as it may be at times.

While this work is ongoing, it's not as intensive and raw for me as it once was. I've done a lot of deep healing work over the years. Hundreds of hours of work supported by professionals, guides, mentors and coaches. Along with my own personal practices of journaling, heart-focused meditation, breathwork, and somatic exploration.

In short, I have a new baseline - calm and connected. I have new habits such as speaking to myself compassionately, and moving my body. And I intentionally operate from a place of high heart coherence.

Keeping my body in a constant state of heightened stress was highly addictive and totally unsustainable. And I know I'm not alone in this struggle. I often work with leaders in similar predicaments.

Shifting out of that state was hard work but so worth it. I'm able to be a more present and compassionate parent, partner, leader, facilitator and community member because of my efforts. And that means I'm living in greater alignment with my values. This is an essential piece in Keepin it REAL in life and leadership.

This is because I was reactive and more volatile when my baseline was high stress. I wasn't being inclusive, caring or helpful like I wanted to be.

Having values is one thing. Living them is a feat in and of itself. Wholehearted leaders continuously strive to lead and live in alignment with their values. Setting the example. And doing the hard work to lean into moments when life lessons seem to be annoyingly on repeat.

Now I enjoy taking it slow. On the rare occasions I do find myself rushing, I notice it like touching a hot stove. I might still find myself racing to get to the other end of town but than I take a deep breath, sigh it out and remind myself, "I'll arrive when I get there regardless of how much stress I put on myself now." And suddenly the pressure is off.

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