Back to School days have got many of us thinking about our goals and how to get in the flow now that our free-spirited summer is winding down. While we can stay adventurous year-round, the cooler and shorter days allow many of us, especially those of us on the East coast, to turn inward and take stock of the resources we have and prepare to harvest for the Fall.
While I speak with some of my colleagues, most sound pretty tired and melancholy. I couldn't help but feel guilty for the gifts of rest and nourishing food I've given myself over the past couple weeks, regardless of how busy work becomes, because I actually felt energized and excited to dive into the work and start creating projects and managing time. Why should anyone feel bad about being productive? But sometimes the "busy" syndrome kicks in and we feel like we're not giving enough of ourselves, to work, to study, to family or friends. It gets to the point in our Western society where it becomes sexy when we're too booked to be social and too exhausted to care.
The other day I was grateful to have spent some time connecting with a dear friend (which we both had to schedule INTO our busy lives) who reminded me of the difference between nervous system fatigue and pure exertion fatigue. One leads to burnout and anxiety while the other leads to a good night's sleep and satisfaction.
The City that Never Sleeps (aka The Big Apple) comes to mind when I think about nervous system fatigue because it forces your system to function at such a highly sympathetic (fight or flight) level that certain hormones start overproducing which can lead to chronic dysfunction of vital systems like digestion, reproduction and the ability to process our own emotions. With so many new experiences in our lives these days, the nervous system must keep up with each new experience, monitor it, and control the rest of the body's reaction to it. And that's a full time job! We need prolonged periods of rest between these bursts of activity and adrenaline to achieve homeostasis - the state where the body is in balance and can optimally function - which can only be done when the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system is engaged. Oh hi, Yoga!
Anatomy & Physiology aside, moving to Canada has been one of the best decisions I've made for my health. I drink less coffee (more beer, but that's a story for another time) because my breaks between work involve stretching in my backyard or in our spacious living room that actually fits area rugs and wall hangings(!!), nature walks on the Bruce Trail near my home, freshly prepared meals with my partner and, most interestingly, conversations in our new community here in the City of Hamilton with a diverse group of friendly and open individuals from various ages, classes, backgrounds and interests.
In a rapidly evolving city (for better or worse, depending on whether you take an economic or humanitarian standpoint), that has become a hotbed of renovations, artistic and culinary collaboration, as well as a leader in innovation and sustainability; conversations with my new neighbours have challenged me to stay open-minded and present, considering others' perspectives and paths - something I was not invited to explore as much as I thought while in NY due to the path I chose to pursue and its corresponding network of similarly-minded, mostly millennial group of ambitious theatrical and spiritual dear ones.
It is this group of harlequin hippies to whom I am grateful for continually inspiring me to keep going when the burnout was real and to keep considering the dreams, philosophies and life's simple joys.
Stay well, my friends! xo