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Know your limits

As lockdown eases, more social opportunities present themselves and my diary fills up with coaching clients and Breakdown to Breakthrough talks, things are looking up and that’s a risky place to be for me. Lockdown has delivered many, many lows but it hasn’t been without positives for my family and me.

My previous approach to work and life in general has always been to maximise time and opportunities—not to waste either and that usually translated into being extremely busy. Several evenings a week more often than not would either be dominated by coming late from work, some fairly frantic sport/exercise or socialising. Weekends would be deemed boring or wasted unless filled with productive tasks, exercise and yet more socialising.

“You only live once” or “Life is for living” or worse, “Sleep when you’re dead’ would be trotted out as familiar maxims to justify the frenetic pace and then… breakdown followed by lockdown followed by furlough, more lockdown followed by redundancy and yet more lockdown—a much slower pace was forced upon me, and boy did I need it.

I absolutely didn’t know my limits before I broke down—clearly not. Even if I did, I certainly didn’t respect them.

My recovery and the various stumbles along the way made me acutely aware what happens when I exceed my limits, but the trouble is, my limits and resilience are slowly increasing over time. With that, the signs of when I’m approaching them, which have been glaringly obvious, are now starting to become more subtle again.

Man floating on a sea of water.
Take time to relax, reflect and breathe.
Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

For a while in 2019 and during my very non-linear phased return, I was extremely quick to tire, prone to tears at the drop of a hat and spent a good deal of time asleep during the day. Today, I rarely let myself become so fatigued that an emergency nap is in order but then, we’re still quite constrained and isolated so the opportunities to do it all wrong are limited.

Social diaries are opening up much closer to how things were and I’m starting to hear from friends that their weekend calendars are already fully booked. My FOMO is already starting to kick in…

At the moment, I’m in the main, calm, balanced and looking after myself—I’m operating well within my limits. If I don’t pay attention, I’ll creep towards and then over my limits as I get swept along with the messages and expectations of society and those around me to “get back to normal.”

I need to remember that what I want and what I need aren’t always the same thing and that it’s much more sustainable for me to operate just under rather than way over my limits. I’ve had to learn what my current limits are, learn to spot the signs that I’m approaching the red zone and learn to remember to do something about it or at least be conscious, if I choose not to. I needed help to learn this stuff and I need help to remember it.

So what works for me (mostly) is paying attention to what my body is telling me and remembering what it may mean before saying yes to things. What really works though, is monthly sessions with a coach to help me check in on where I am, where I want to be and what to do when I’m getting it not quite right.

  • Listen to James talk about his breakdown and subsequent recovery here.
  • This article originally appeared here.

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