What are we talking about today? We are going to discuss that uncomfortable feeling when things slow down at work and you aren’t running around with your hair on fire or if a project is winding down or about to complete, and you feel like you can breathe.
Here’s how I feel during these times:
- I feel bad for not running at a million miles per hour.
- I wonder if something is wrong because I have space in my day and time to think.
- I wonder what I need to take on to fill that gap.
- Self-doubt and the feelings that there is something wrong with me creep in.
- I feel guilty or almost at a loss after the end of a project.
- I feel lost and not as productive in this lull period.
Does this resonate with you? I don’t think this is talked about enough. Here’s what I think this is. We are all so used to running on adrenaline, achieving, achieving, achieving. Hustling for our worth. Running so fast we don’t have time to think, let alone feel. Addicted to the sense of achievement we have by being the “go-to” gal at work, the one who gets things done, the person that leads the projects.
And when things slow down, we feel uncomfortable. Because we have time to think. We don’t have adrenaline coursing through our veins. We have space to just be with ourselves, which let’s face it, can be scary if we haven’t tapped in and listened in a while.
In this show, I review the steps I take to get more comfortable with the lulls or spaces in our professional and personal lives.
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Get Comfortable During Slow Times: Creating Spaces To Just Be In Our Professional And Personal Lives
I’m so glad you’re here. How are you doing out there? You get me in this episode. It’s a solo show and it’s been a minute. I have no idea why, but I don’t want to force content on the solo show front unless I’m feeling stirred and motivated. Our topic on being comfortable during slow times said, “I’m ready for another solo show,” so you get me in this episode.
Before I jump in, I wanted to give you a couple of personal updates. This shows that sometimes we got to get through things. My car was working fine. It’s a relatively new Honda, and I love my Honda car, my Honda Pilot. We lost our Honda Pilot to maintenance to the tune of 4 to 6 weeks. The car was running fine and got an electrical problem. Now, the shop is saying that it’s on backorder and insurance won’t give me a loaner. The warranty company won’t give me a loaner, and I don’t know why.
Food for thought, I need to fight that battle, but at this point, the Pestikas household is down to one car. I know, first-world problems, no big deal. It is not the end of the world. When you live in the suburbs like I do in the US, it’s quite a challenge to take one car everywhere. Things are not as walkable. My office and my husband’s office and all of the kids’ schools are not walkable. I’ll give you an example.
We left the house at 7:15 in the morning to drop me off at work. After my drop off, my husband, John, dropped off Olivia, my younger daughter, and then my older daughter, Charlotte, at school. He drove to another much farther suburb to get to work. As a matter of fact, it was a few days ago, he clocked the time in his car and he was in the car for six hours just dropping us off, picking us up, going to appointments, things like that.
This one car is becoming quite the bus that drives all over town. You don’t know how much you appreciate something until you don’t have it. As soon as this car comes back, my Honda Pilot, I’m probably going to give it a big squeeze and be so thankful that we’re back to two cars. Here’s the positive thing. Even though it is challenging, we have to do a lot more coordination than we did before. We’re having a lot of fun family time together. It forces the family to all be together at once. We’re singing together off-key, but who cares? We’re telling jokes, playing I Spy with my little one, and we’re making it work. Wanted to share a slice of real life with you before we dive in.
On a totally separate note, from the Brave Women at Work side, I wanted to remind you that I created some new freebies for you on my website. There are three of them, so you can go grab them now at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Why I started doing this is I started noticing patterns from what my coaching clients were coming to me for, asking me questions about. I created them with that in mind.
The three freebies are 24 Career and Leadership Affirmations because, on Brave Women at Work, we talk about mindset here. I also talk about negotiation. It’s called Getting Paid: 10 Negotiating Tips and that can be used for pay, benefits, time off, a sabbatical of some sort, and academic reimbursement. Last but not least, 5 Steps to Managing Imposter Syndrome because I believe that Imposter syndrome is pretty much part of the human condition and is something we have to manage throughout our lifetimes.
I’m super excited to share these freebies with you. Go and get them whether you want 1, 2, or all of them. They’re right there on my homepage and ready for you to dive in. Last reminder, if you are enjoying this show, I would love it if you went to Apple Podcasts or Spotify and left a rating and review. It takes a minute. You can leave a star rating or some comments. Either/or, I would so appreciate it. Your review helps the show grow and get out there in the world. I want to get the show into the hands of as many women as possible so they have the resources like you to take braver steps at work.
That Uncomfortable Feeling When Things Slow Down
Let’s get into the topic, which is discussing that uncomfortable feeling when things slow down at work and you aren’t running around with your hair on fire. You may be feeling you’ve got time to breathe, the project is winding down, and then you get hit with these types of feelings, or at least I do. Here are some examples of what I feel when things are starting to slow down.
I feel bad for not running at a million miles an hour. I wonder if something is wrong because I have space in my day and time to think. I wonder what I need to take on to fill that gap. I have self-doubt and the feeling that there may be something wrong with me start to creep in. I feel guilty or almost at a loss after the end of a project. Finally, I feel like I’m not as productive in this lull period.
I hope I’m not alone. Does any of this resonate with you? I don’t think this is talked about enough, this whole addiction to achievement. That’s what I think it is. I think of it as used to running on adrenaline with achieving. I call it hustling for our worth. We’re running so fast that we don’t have time to think, let alone feel. We’re addicted to the sense of achievement that we have by being the go-to gal at work, the one that gets things done, the one that everyone goes to for the answer, and the person that leads the projects.
When things slow down, I don’t know about you, but I feel uncomfortable because I have time on my hands. I have time to think. I don’t have adrenaline coursing through my veins. I have time to be with myself. Let’s face it. It can be scary if we haven’t tapped in and if I haven’t listened in a while to what I need or what we collectively need if you’re with me on this.
I also am starting to nerd out on studying nervous system healing and something called somatic, which I may bring in in the future. Basically, it’s about how our body heals through the nervous system, through the vagus nerve. There are all types of studies on this and how our body learns these patterns over time and can heal over time as well.
Fight, Flight, Or Freeze Mode
Our body can start to adapt to being in something called fight or flight mode more consistently. Fight or flight mode is simply, if you think back to caveman times, cavewomen times, or if you’re more into National Geographic, you’ve seen this when you have a predator animal and an animal that’s being preyed upon, that animal will either fight back, will flee, or will potentially play dead. It is fight, flight, or freeze mode.
Also, that primal instinct, we have that as humans. Essentially, back in those times, like a caveman or cavewoman, when we had true threats of that nature, we were waiting for the bear or the tiger to come and eat us. That is when the body would pump more blood into our veins, making us ready to go into self-protection or self-preservation mode not to be killed.
Now I’m not saying we still don’t have real threats and real worries in the world. We absolutely do. The problem is that we’re not made to sustain living in fight, flight, or freeze mode all the time. Another newsflash is that we’re probably not going to have a tiger or a bear come to eat us now. I hope not. I’m hoping you’re not living in a state of constant threat of self-preservation or your own livelihood. If you are, get the support you need.
My point here is that we don’t have to be in Mach 10 with our hair on fire all the time, but we’re training our bodies to be in these patterns more and more, and our bodies are not made for it. Fight, flight, or freeze mode should be for those rare, dangerous one-off occurrences. On the opposite side of that situation, the body recovers and goes into something called a rest and digest mode or rest and digest state.
How To Get Comfortable During Slower Times
If we’re always running on adrenaline which is what I’m calling the next hit of dopamine or adrenaline for the next project or task, “I’ve got to lead. I got to do,” our body won’t ever fully be in a rest and digest state. It is in this rest and digest state that the body heals and we feel at our best. This is not some mumbo jumbo. This is a body system regulatory thing where your body’s regulation systems want you to slow down. I’m not telling you I’m an expert. I wanted to talk about this because I’m in it with you. While I’m still working on this, I wanted to share some things that I have learned about how we can get comfortable with the slower pace times in our lives and at work.
The first step that I use myself is going back to when I’m in that frenetic state and I’m like, “Let’s go. Why is it slow?” and I get down. I realize that there are seasons for everything. I have mentioned this in the episode at least once before. We know that the Earth has seasons, and I live in an area of the world that has four distinct seasons and I love it. As I’m doing this, we are in spring. We all know that that is a time when there’s new birth or life all around us. There are buds on the trees. The flowers are coming up. There are tufts sprouting grass everywhere.
There are other seasons, like fall when the leaves start to fall down and die and, eventually, the trees come to a dormant state. In winter, we know that the ground lies fallow and it’s hibernating. Everything is hibernating. Animals will go to different parts of the world during that time. They recognize these seasons. The trees, flowers, and plants all recognize these seasons.
The question that I have for myself and everyone is like, “Why don’t we as humans recognize and accept these seasons?” At one point, we did. I’m going back to the way back machine here when we didn’t have light bulbs and technology and we had to go to bed when the sun went down. Now it’s not as clear cut for us.
We have artificial light. We have digital technology. We have screens that we can look at 24/7. We know that interrupts our circadian rhythms, and we can essentially override our bodies’ natural rhythms and we try to overwork and not listen to the lulls. We know this isn’t good for anyone, me included. Human bodies have rhythms and we should listen to them. This is a reminder for me as it is for you. If we’re tired, we should rest. If we feel energetic, then we can use it, we should use it. It’s as simple and as complicated as that so that when we’re tired, we should rest. When we feel energy, we should use it.Human bodies have rhythms and we should listen to them. If we're tired, we should rest. If we feel energetic, then we can use it, we should use it. Click To Tweet
Before we move on, I want to remind myself of this. I’m here to give you the permission to rest. In fact, you are going to be more productive in busy periods if you rest. I’m discovering that firsthand. I am not a napper, at least that’s what I told myself for years and years, but one Sunday, it was Mother’s Day, I was so tired and I don’t know why. I just needed a nap.
That nap ended up being like an hour and a half and I didn’t feel bad about it. Whereas before, I would’ve thought and felt guilty. “I’m sleeping the afternoon away. I’m sleeping the day away. I got to get stuff done.” I felt so much better after that hour and a half and felt more productive. I felt more present with my kids and my husband. I could get more stuff done. Sometimes we need to power down, and it’s okay.
The next step that I take is tapping into myself and listening when I’m feeling uncomfortable during those slow periods. Here are some things to talk about with a friend or family member. Maybe you like to journal, so journal about this. Here are some questions to think about and to tap into yourself and listen to. Listen to what your body and your intuition are saying. What is driving the discomfort during the slow period? Where do I derive my worth? Is it from achievement, or do I feel inherently within myself?
This is a big one for me. I know that for years and years, I had my worth tied up directly into my work, and it can be a very dangerous thing, and I need to feel worthy within myself. What is my body trying to tell me right now? Are there any tight places or spaces? Maybe the neck and shoulders are tight. Those are all the body trying to tell you something.
Listen. What does my intuition whisper that I would love to do now? Maybe you do need to rest. Maybe you need to go watch TV. Maybe you do need to go do something but just listen. How do I fill my tank right now so I am prepared when another busy season comes? If you’re going from busy to busy, how can you ever refill? How can you ever feel renewed or re-energized? You don’t. You keep running on empty, and that’s not good. I like that one. How can I fill my tank now so I’m prepared when another busy season comes?
Finally, how can I give myself permission to rest and have fun? It’s funny that my kids even will remind me. They’ll be like, “Mom, can you get on the little push scooter and can you do it in front of us?” They’re doing it. My daughter, Charlotte, is like my little Yoda. She reminds me. She’s like, “Mom, I’m doing that because I want you to remember to have fun.” She is wise beyond her years. Yes, even whatever age or stage you are in your life or your career, we got to remember to have some fun. It’s not all work and no play.Whatever age or stage you are in your life or your career, you must remember to have some fun. It's not all work and no play. Click To Tweet
The next step that I take is to allow the discomfort and avoid the temptation to fill in the gaps with more work. This is a huge step, a huge piece for me. I need to allow the discomfort to happen. What I have a tendency to do is I will try to push work in right away. I don’t want the thoughts to creep in. I don’t want to have to deal with the thoughts or the feelings that come in, so I’m going to cram it with something else to do.
Instead, I need to allow the thoughts to come in if they come in. I need to work on reframing those thoughts, which is harder for me to do than getting more work done or taking on another project. It’s more challenging for me to sit with the feeling and then reframe the thoughts. Instead of feeling bad for not running a million miles an hour, simply remind yourself that you are a human being, not a human doing. If you are wondering why you have space in the day to think and feel and you feel uncomfortable with that, sit with discomfort and then switch back to a thought of gratitude.
This one’s helped me. Be thankful that you have a break. Now I’m getting to a point, and I’m like, “Thank goodness I have a break.” I can actually take a breath. I can do something that’s fun. I can do something for myself or my family rather than worrying about another work project. Instead of feeling doubt that there’s something wrong with you, remind yourself that it’s okay to have a pause. It is okay.
This again is a reminder for me and everyone else. This is most important. If you are tempted to take on new projects or push something else into your work calendar, stop, sit back, and allow the break to happen, even if it is uncomfortable. When I had a problem with stopping and I started noticing it, that’s when I knew I had a problem. I was tempted to take on every new project, I would raise my hand at work. They love me because they’re like, “Awesome. She does it all. She takes on everything.” I knew that I had an issue. I knew that I needed to do something different. I knew I needed to get help and support, which I did through therapy and other modalities. I worked with a coach.
I knew I needed to do something different because I had an issue with achievement, that adrenaline rush, and that need to always have something to fill my life with. By reframing those thoughts, you’re going to train your body and your brain to not have to be running on adrenaline all the time. I gave you an example. It’s going to be uncomfortable to create these new habits, but it definitely will be worth it.
I’m type A, and you might think this is funny. You might be like, “You have to have a list for this.” I have a small list on my iPhone app of fun and creative things that I want to do this summer. Sometimes it’s seasonal. Those are fun or creative things to do by myself or with my kids or my whole family so I can explore things during the slow times. It may sound silly, but I believe that for high-achieving, ambitious women like us, we need to be reminded that we don’t always have to be working or achieving. We need to have fun, and not every minute of the day has to be productive. We can sit on the couch. We can watch Netflix.
Yes, you can. Who cares that you didn’t get the laundry done? You can work on a craft project. You can call a friend and reminisce about the past or dream about the future. You can plan a road trip. On my side of the world, it’s summertime. How fun would that be? I believe that life is meant to be lived and not only accomplished. When things are slow at work or home, what do you want to do for fun? Are there any creative outlets you would like to explore? I say write them down.
Here’s an example of my list so you have it. You might be wondering, “What is on Jen’s list?” Here are some of the things that I have on my list. It is to paint with my daughter Olivia. She loves to get the big craft paper out on the roll. We do Crayola paints on pallets and use paintbrushes, but sometimes it gets messy. When I say paint, we’re going to messy paint. My husband runs because he can’t stand the mess. I love it. It’s so unstructured and no meetings and no rules. It helps my brain get into fun mode and be free. That’s top on my list.
I put on my list to learn how to paint pour. One of my friends, Linda, is great at this. Paint pour, I’ve never done it, but she’s made me beautiful art that sits in my office. As I understand it, you pour paint and you can make beautiful pieces of art. Go look at YouTube or Google on this. I’m thinking that will be on my list. Maybe she can show me how to paint pour.
We have a place called Feed My Starving Children in Illinois where I’d love to take my girls to volunteer. I would watch new shows on Netflix without any guilt or remorse that I sat on the couch and did nothing. I love to meditate. I put that on my list. I listen to a podcast or book, call one of my friends, and take a walk in the springtime. It’s beautiful now in my area. You get the idea. Share your downtime list with me. You can put it on social media. I would love to hear what you are going to do for fun.
Let’s sum up how we can get comfortable in the slow times. First, realize if this is an issue for you. Are you in fight or flight or freeze mode all the time? Are you living off the adrenaline of achievement? Is it difficult for you to enjoy the lulls between projects? Own where you are without guilt, shame, or anything like that. As I told you, if you need help like I did, get a coach or work with a mental health professional if you can’t tackle this problem on your own.
Life is meant to live, not just to achieve. There might be some old programming or thought processes that you need to work on to move forward and live a more full life that’s personal and professional. Second, understand that there are seasons for everything. What season are you in now? Even though it’s spring, maybe in your life, you’re in winter. Who cares what the weather is outside? What season are you in now? Tap into yourself in the slow times and listen to what your discomfort is trying to tell you.
The next point is avoiding the temptation of filling the slow times with more work or achievements. That one’s the toughest for me. Making sure you have a fun or creative list on hand to help you during these times. Remember, it is having fun and times when nothing gets done. It’s the juiciness of life. It’s the fun part of life.
I was reminded of a French word. I saw it. I don’t remember if I saw it in a book. I read all the time. I know it was somewhere, but I don’t remember where I got it from. The French word flâneur is a French noun referring to a person, literally meaning stroller, lounger, saunterer, or loafer, but with some nuanced additional meanings. It’s basically the act of strolling and all of its accompanying associations. I looked it up because I know the word flâneur is not in the English dictionary, but I looked up loafer because I’ve heard of that in English.
I looked up the word loafer in the English dictionary, and it talks about a lazy person, a person who idols time away. That’s the official definition. When I looked up flâneur, it is not a lazy person. It is not someone who idles time away. It is purposely wandering for the art of it. Doesn’t that sound delicious? It is wandering aimlessly. What if not accomplishing something or potentially even wandering aimlessly for a few hours or a day was completely acceptable? There’s another term in Italian, and I promise this will not be a language lesson here at the end of the show.
You’ve got flâneur is the French noun for the loafer, lounger, stroller, and the art of wandering. Dolce far niente is the sweetness of doing nothing. That in Italian is the art of doing nothing. Whether you want to wander aimlessly or do nothing, it’s okay to actually do that. I’m an aspiring flâneur. What about you? Thank you so much for reading. I hope you found the show both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Until next time, show up. Get comfortable during slow times, and be brave.
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- Getting Paid: 10 Negotiating Tips
- 5 Steps to Managing Imposter Syndrome
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