In 2015, when I turned 40 years old, I could feel the deep internal rumblings that something needed to shift, internally and externally. Up until that point, together with my husband we had built a successful business from scratch and we’ve been working side by side for 12 years now. In that period, three beautiful boys were born, and I have been fully immersed into working, child rearing, volunteering in various capacity and homemaking. Keeping very busy was all I knew, and I rarely stopped and when I did try and relax, my mind still whirled with ‘what’s next’.
For years I had been complaining how tired and busy I was. I prayed that ‘if only’ things were different I would not feel so stressed out. But when things were different, such as when I had a day off, I would still complain and never felt rested. My family and friends would say it was no surprise I was exhausted, considering my work load and raising three boys. Hearing them say “I don’t know how you do it” just validated my hard work and strangely, fed my ego.
Looking back, I was hell bent on keeping everything together, making sure all the to-do list was ticked off, the house was in order, and I had covered all potential scenarios. I was chained in useless worry and it was no surprise I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at 39. That was the beginning of the shake up and wake up call.
A journey of healing began, and I learned that in long periods of stress and trauma (mild, moderate and severe) the amygdala part of the brain which processes memory, decision-making and emotional responses can get hijacked and stay in a constant fight, flight or freeze response. This affects our psyche, hormones, health and decisions (subconscious and conscious). I realised that at some point my amygdala had been hijacked and while I assumed it was my current stresses, I journeyed back to some childhood memories and I could see that it was triggered as a young girl. This explains why much of my behavior, attitude, choices and busyness has been a way to facilitate and control things around myself to keep things safe and secure. Over the years I had learned that I must keep going, my security is hinged on it and stopping meant being alone with myself and thoughts, which honestly, I did not enjoy.
Fast forward to now, I have been committed to setting a new pace and it is not easy when it has been my modus operandi for over 30 years. I have had to take a deep look at myself and remind myself that if I have built the walls around me, I can knock them down. I have stopped blaming and accepted that my busyness has been MY choice. It has taken some patience, self-awareness, and slowing right down to process it all and some professional advice has helped enormously. I have found journaling, meditation, EFT (emotional freedom technique) and having a good talk to myself very helpful. If I am consciously stopping to relax and my brain sparks up the thought that it is not a good use of my time, I’ll say to myself aloud “It is safe for me to sit and relax”.
There are plenty of rewards in setting a new pace which I am beginning to see. My body is slowly healing and I’m trying new ways of doing things, ditching the to-do list has done wonders. There certainly has been more harmony and laughter in my life. I’ve enjoyed playing with the boys and consciously stopping to help with their homework, kick the soccer ball or go for a walk. It is becoming easier to fully be attentive to them and they are showering me with cuddles so much more. As I go about my day, the other morning as I was loading dirty clothes in the washing machine, I paused and noticed deep in my being, a sense of calm, contentment and stillness. What is this new wonderful feeling? Honestly, it was the best feeling and I really could get used to this.