Permission to Pause

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about how we struggle to give ourselves ‘permission to pause’. It’s such a difficult thing to get off the hamster wheel, even for just a few minutes, and to look after ourselves. We feel that we should be constantly busy, constantly productive, constantly achieving, constantly giving. I have even, at times in my life, wished that I could be sick, just so that I could stay in bed and I could tell the world to “go away”!

I’m much better at self-care now and I realise the huge importance of it. I try not to let myself get to that level of depletion and burnout. I’ve realised through my work and research how very important those moments of pause are – whether it’s for a few minutes, a few hours or a few days. And the “big pause” at the end of the day – a good nights’ sleep of 7-8 hours. These pauses are what will keep our bodies healthy and thriving. They are what accesses the healing and regeneration present in our parasympathetic nervous system (which I talk more about here). They are what makes the difference between a vital and inspired life as opposed to one that feels more and more overwhelming and exhausting.

Last week I was putting pressure on myself as to when I was going to write my blog so I could get it out last Thursday. We were away for a few days and then I had other commitments during the week. I realised that I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself. What did it really matter if I gave myself ‘permission to pause’ in this situation and allowed myself to be more present with our children in their week’s holiday? It would mean more to them to have a happy and present mum than for my blog to be a week “late”. And when I decided to do that, it was like a weight off my shoulders. During the week I also gave myself permission to enjoy some long baths, to do some gentle exercise and to spend some time outside, to curl up with a cup of tea and a book for 15 minutes instead of rushing to reply to emails and to do admin. And I’ve come out with a lot more energy and enthusiasm this week.

But I still find myself overcommitting and I think that many other women (and probably men) do too. Our world is one of instant communication and immediate replies. We are sent invitations on Whatsapp and we feel obligated to reply immediately. I challenge you to give yourself permission to pause, to take a few hours or a day or two before replying to a child’s birthday party invitation, a dinner invitation or any other commitment, and to feel in your body whether you really have space in your calendar (looking at it as a whole week or month not just as an individual slot in time), and whether you really have energy in your body, for the event. Why is it that we think that carting our children around to a multitude of different activities and parties is “worthwhile and important” and yet taking that same time to look after ourselves, or doing something that we would prefer and would fill our tanks, would be self-indulgent and we’d feel too guilty?

We are much better at giving ourselves permission to pause when we’re pregnant, and society reinforces this – we must put our feet up, find time to rest, get plenty of sleep, we mustn’t do too much or overcommit to life.  Everyone encourages us. And athletes and sportspeople know the huge importance of rest and recovery too on their physical and mental wellbeing. We would never think to question that. And yet when we’re not pregnant or not a professional sportsperson, why do we feel underserving of this same rest and recovery? It’s time that we realise that we’re worth taking care of, just because we are US. Not because we’re anyone’s mother, wife, daughter, carer, or provider, but because we’re human and we’ve been given our bodies for one life and we need to learn how to take care of ourselves and our bodies, and to model to our children to do the same if we want them to live lives that are healthy, fulfilling and enjoyable.

Nature models this to us all the time – there are constant rhythms of growth and rest. Outward energy and inward energy. In the rhythm of the day and night. In the rhythm of the seasons.In the rhythm of the moon and in the rhythm of our bodies’ monthly cycles. And yet why do we think that we can do the growth and the outward energy without the rest and inward energy? How have we become so detached from Nature’s wisdom that we think it doesn’t apply to us?

Dr Aviva Romm talks about this a lot in her wonderful new book, the Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. She wrote this book because she had so many patients seeing her who were “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”. They just wanted to feel like themselves again. A huge focus of her programme is encouraging women to read the signals of SOS (survival overdrive syndrome) in our bodies so that we don’t get to a stage of depletion, burn out and illness, where we may turn to less healthy ways of “looking after” ourselves and feeling better – too many glasses of wine, high sugar foods, a shopping spree that blow the budget. Looking for the “sweetness” in life in the wrong places.

I would really recommend her book or the books by Dr Libby Weaver “Rushing Woman Syndrome” and “From Exhausted to Energised” or “The Energy Code” (which I just got a copy of yesterday) by our very own Dr Ela Magna if you are feeling like you’re burnt out, overwhelmed, have brain fog, have gained weight, are struggling with an autoimmune condition or hormonal imbalances. There is an epidemic of this among women today and it starts because we’re not giving ourselves ‘permission to pause’.

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