The importance of stepping away

When was the last time you stopped to really take care of yourself?

Physically, emotionally, mentally; professionally, personally, or socially — how often do you give yourself permission to take the time and create the space necessary for you to heal, recover, and recharge?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the groove — the progress, the pressure, the drive — that it becomes equally as easy to let ourselves go go go go go, often overlooking what our bodies and minds are subtly — or not so subtly — telling us we need.

It’s impossible to run at full speed all the time — even machines break down — yet the pressures we put on ourselves and expectations we set can quickly slip from “ambitious” to “ridiculous” if we continue to operate at the heightened intensity many of us have come to expect from ourselves for a prolonged period of time.

Ooo — There it is! EXPECTATION! One of the most valuable aspects of life and mental wellness that spans from workplaces to personal lives.

Relationships, work collaborations, personal mindsets and more, setting and managing expectations might be the key to determining whether an experience is positive or negative for ourselves and for others.

If we regularly expect too much, we might be setting ourselves up for frequent letdowns, frustrations, and disappointments. If we expect too little, we might not push ourselves or others in the positive, productive ways that often lead to surprising results. Thus the importance of setting and managing expectations.

Learning to be realistic

Tying this into self-care, it’s important that we understand what our bodies and minds are truly and realistically capable of, and make sure not to expect the unreasonable from ourselves or from others.

For example, sometimes we just cannot grind our way forward anymore, even though mentally we ”know” we can do better. Sometimes the reality is that we will best serve ourselves by stepping away, changing our environment, and doing something different. Sometimes we need to heal ourselves instead of exert energy ineffectively.

We might be really good at working hard, expending energy, building strength and getting shit done, but there will come a time when the best way to make some much-needed progress will be to stop, put it all down, and experience some constructive rest.

Spending time not working, not problem solving, and not focusing on the challenges at hand might actually put your mind at ease and allow you to become much more relaxed and calm, which is really the most effective — and enjoyable — way to operate.

This happened to me recently, which is how I came to write all this stuff.

A personal story

I’ve been exerting a lot of mental energy at work lately for clients, projects, and proposals, which can quickly turn from exciting to exhausting. I’ve been exerting a lot of physical energy at the gym where I’ve been working to heal and strengthen my back and core after an auto accident, and also at home where I’m improving and renovating a room, preparing the yard and house for summer, and getting the garden ready to produce. I’m so ambitious with all my projects — plus friends, family, and social events! — that I somewhat broke down from the sheer exhaustion of it all.

Work is wonderful but draining; home improvement is delightful but draining; and social activity is lovely yet also — you guessed it — draining.

Today, major projects at work and home both took unexpected turns and honestly, I just caved.

In reality, only good things are happening, yet in my mind everything is F’d and I just can’t even anymore. My body felt that way too, which makes it even harder to change the mood and right the ship, so to speak.

If you know me, you know that I always find a way! It’s what I do. I always find my way forward, so why can’t I now?

Right now, however, my circumstances have come to overwhelm me, and it’s simply time for me to take a break; to ease up on the gas, get out of the car, and just go be in nature for a while.

I needed a break, plain and simple.

But I wasn’t going to take one, because I’m me, and I can always grind through the pain, right?! It’s what I do.

Not this time!”, my body said. This time, I just broke down and cried.

I was too tense, too stressed, and pushing myself too hard and entirely unnecessarily — and I didn’t even realize what I was doing to myself!

Fortunately, my partner saw my behaviors and commanded me (with love!) to let it all go, grab the dog, and head out into the woods for some rest and recovery. Or, as we seem to call it nowadays, self-care.

Now, three hours and one shower later I actually feel refreshed, reinvigorated, and at peace with all the circumstances that previously caused me a stress breakdown.

I feel cool, calm, and composed, which is pretty much the polar opposite of how I was feeling and acting earlier in the morning.

So, my friend, that’s my story for today. I wrote it for myself, as the opening line came to me in the shower and I could not shake it, and I decided to share it with you in hope that you will take time to checkin with yourself and ask yourself questions like “how are you really doing?” and “what do you need today?”

It would bring me great fulfillment to help you recognize and listen to what your body is telling you, the way my partner helped me do the same.

And finally, I want you to know that it’s OK to slow down. Or step backwards. Or stop entirely. It’s OK, and it’s normal. We all need to step away sometimes.

If you need some constructive rest, it’s totally OK for you to create the space necessary to heal your body, mind, and soul. We all need that space sometimes, as it’s absolutely impossible — and inhuman — to go go go all day every day.

Perhaps now is that time for you. If so, I suggest you find a way to carve out that space, take yourself to your happy place, and let go of the world so you can find your calm.

If you see a future where space and time to reset will be valuable, now is a perfect time to plan for it.

You absolutely deserve it.