“Overproductive is an illness”
I wrote that in my journal earlier this evening. I was in my dark bedroom lying on my bed. I had twenty minutes after getting home from work before getting ready to go back out for jiu jitsu, and I was trying to relax, if just for a moment.
I felt relief in my eyes in the darkness, felt the hours of light and computer screens slowly fall behind me. I began to soften into the comfort of my bed, shoulders letting go of bits of tension, face burying into my pillows, breathing in the smell of detergent. Comforting. Soft. Even my mind let go, and I watched dreamlike images flit through my . mind, accompanied by little bursts of energy twitching through my hands and feet – it felt something like my mind and body processing the energetic noise of the day and shaking out the remnants.
When I can tune back into the gentle sensations of my body, my body starts releasing tension. Relaxing is truly a process, and something I’m glad to be doing slightly more of lately. It’s easiest for me in small pockets of time like this, when I know I’ve been doing things and I know I’ll be doing things again soon enough… I can let go for twenty minutes, thirty minutes, an hour. When I have a few hours it’s harder, because I feel like the larger chunks of time are something I need to put to good use. Or at least, that is my mind’s habit, to get engaged and overthink things, over-manage my time – not very well either, I might add. Sometimes thinking of how productive I should be just causes me to feel stress, become mentally disorganized, and procrastinate. I get feelings of guilt prematurely. It blocks the relaxation process.
I’ve really noticed in the past several months that relaxing isn’t something that happens by itself, that it’s often quite difficult for me, particularly when I need it most. Today I don’t feel that charged about it, but it’s really something unpleasant to be so overtaken by racy energy, by the pressures of modern life, I suppose… I don’t know, I guess I can only speak for myself, but I can go long periods of time in go-mode, trying to be productive, trying to get things done, maintaining my awareness of the things I should be doing – sometimes at the expense of my awareness of my own fatigue, my own health, my own anxious state.
I’ve had the thought, “Has it always been so hard for me to relax? Have I always been so anxious and overactive?”, and I think the answer is… not exactly. I think we pick up habits through our life that make sense to us at the time, and sometimes the habits we pick up take time to show their true effect on us. So maybe it’s been a slow burn. Maybe perfectionism with a tilt towards being active and productive felt like a good way to be in this world. Maybe it’s taken time for me to get in touch with the negative aspects of that habit when it is overdeveloped.
I don’t think I’m the only one that struggles to slow down. It’s just so easy to see the value in all the doing-ness of our life. We are validated and congratulated for all the things we do. We are always exposed to the things other people are doing. It can feel like a race to do all of the things you can do in one lifetime. And we get some kind of pleasure in pushing ourselves to the limit, finding out what we are ‘capable’ of.
The trap is that a fast-paced life may take you many places, but will only let you dip into all your different experiences shallowly before whisking you away to the next thing. Worse – we can be so used to moving fast that we are in fact addicted to our own busy-ness, and even when we forget what our purpose is and our actions lose their meaning, still we can get trapped in the busy-ness, doing things that don’t matter just to fill the space.
We weren’t really made for so much racing. Life is meant to be lived at different speeds. The body is its own creature; it has its own rhythms we need to get in tune with and respect. And yes, it needs to rest. Relax.
When we chronically hold tension in our bodies, it becomes a part of our structure. We literally become hardened by our stressors when we don’t create space for our body to relax, to move freely, to dance, to stretch, to be touched. Our bodies weren’t meant to be told what to do all the time. They respond to what we tell them to do – dutifully, and as well as they are able – but we need to respond to what our bodies tell us, in return! This feels very yin-yang to me. It’s something that just needs to be in balance for us to be healthy. I don’t think many of us do this very well, though. We are counseled in the ways of one aspect and not in the other. We learn how to do, but not how to be. We learn how to think, but not how to feel. We learn how to demand things from our bodies, but not how to listen to their needs. And this imbalance only hurts us.
It’s good to spend time just being in your body, being embodied, being a creature in a vibrant and magical world, rather than a head-on-a-human’s-body playing a role in human society. We can work on finding more ways to do that, connecting with our deeper nature. It’s a path to healing. The body has a way of working things out, intuitively. And it really can’t happen when we are stuck up in the mind, worrying about the tasks on our to-do list and whether we are doing enough, are good enough.
You’re more than enough. I hope you find time to relax this week. We all need it.