Seven years ago my life was in a tail spin. I'd gotten myself fired from my "dream job," and my Father was terminally ill. Our new baby girl at home kept my wife and I sleep deprived and agitated. I wasn't exercising and my first entrepreneurial endeavor was failing.
The cracks in the dam were getting bigger, and I had no way out. There was no type of meditation that would help me. No relaxation techniques to calm my frayed nerves. I was a mess.
I functioned on less sleep than I needed. Instead of fueling my body with healthy food, I craved sugar and gained weight. I drank too much coffee to wake up and drank too much scotch to get to sleep.
I continued to tough it out. Head down, keep moving forward. I'd tell myself to sleep when you're dead. Work harder, longer hours. Keep up the hustle. Work seven days a week. I pushed my body, and mind to the limit. In my mind, I had to keep moving to create an agency my Father would be proud of.
I had to go on television to show him I'd made it. I had to create a conference that he could attend, and be proud. I knew he didn't have much time.
I had to show him.
I had to prove to him.
I had to ...
I was running an agency, an event, writing books, creating online courses. All that work, while raising two children under the age of three. Plus, dealing with the realization that my Father was actually dying.
It all came to a head when I had to visit the emergency room. I had begun to experience stress induced heart palpitations. Nothing serious physically, but to me, they felt very serious and very real.
I thought I was being resilient. My entire life, I had learned how to tough it out. Stop complaining, push through the pain. Pull an all nighter. Work harder. Work longer.
The twisted thing is I would brag about my insane hours. I would wear my late bed time like a badge of honor. My many projects were my trophies. I would put them on display and laugh how the day after my event I couldn't get out of bed because I was so ill. I thought I was doing it the right way.
I was wrong.
Recently I read a compelling article in Harvard Business Review by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan. In the article, they argue that:
"the key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again."
I know that for some of you just the sight of the word "stopping" makes you cringe. You may think to yourself that you can't stop now. You don't have time. Your boss doesn't care that you need rest. Or your investors don't mind if you visit the emergency room. They want a return on their investment.
I get it.
If a long term break in the action gives you more anxiety than your workload, Anchor and Gielan suggest that you follow the advice from researchers Zijlstra, Cropley and Rydstedt who wrote in their 2014 paper: "Internal recovery refers to the shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks."
So when the cracks in your dam are breaking, your world is crashing down around you. Take a step back, and take a break.
You'll be better suited to come back and fight another day.