overwhelm

A Double-Spaced Life

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I’d been doing it unconsciously for the last few weeks. And the other day I noticed.
I looked at my hand-written to-do list for the day, and between every task listed was a blank line. I’d skipped a space between every list item.
Interesting, I thought. And then as the deeper epiphany landed, I realized…
Whoa. This is my life now.
I’m living a double-spaced life.
Let me back up a little. I’ve been a purpose-driven, passion-fueled entrepreneur for more than fifteen years now. I’ve worn many hats, juggled many balls, spun many plates, had many irons in the fire, many pots on the stove, insert your preferred-busy-AF metaphor here. I was no stranger to overwhelm.
In fact, if you’ve been following my work over the years, you know I’ve written a blog or ten about busyness, overwhelm, stress and that constant gnawing feeling I know many of us are familiar with: I’m not doing enough. I should be getting more done. How am I going to get it all done? And if you looked at my to-do lists from the years gone by, not surprisingly, they were single-spaced, one task stacked tightly on top of the other.
I’ve also always found it interesting that I journal on my blank page notebooks from one end of the page to the other, with no margins to speak of. When I create a vision board, there is never any posterboard left peeking behind the images I paste onto it. Filling time, filling space, filling my life to overflowing was how I did life. It’s what I knew.
Until I began to know a different way.
This summer I let go of a huge part of my life and my work, when I decided to close the Burlesque Experience. I also scaled back considerably on the other events, workshops and programs I was offering.
In doing so, I created a spaciousness in my life that at times has been uncomfortable. Who am I now, without this work?
I’ve resisted the urge to create filler, to throw new things together hastily, so that I “still matter” so that I don’t disappear or go broke. Because for so much of my life, I assumed that my greatest contributions to the world required me to be spread too thin. As if this was the only way to be successful. I watered down my potency, my very essence, and it took a major crash and clearing for me to realize this.
Living in a chronic state of overwhelm is not possible without the help of our adrenal system to kick in like a furnace, to support us, give us the energy we need, but guess what? That’s not what adrenaline is for.
Our bodies are marvelously wired with adrenaline for emergency situations. We were never designed to use adrenaline for getting through daily life, for managing our daily to-do list, for the everyday fuel. Yet so many of us are relying on our adrenal systems for just such support.
Until we can’t anymore. Until our adrenal system is fried. Until our bodies say no more.  I was. And mine did.
I spent much of the summer healing my adrenal system through diet, a restorative adaptogen regimen, rest, self-care. And I vowed to do things differently, going forward.
One of the greatest gifts middle age is giving me is the wisdom to slow the heck down. To breathe. To create space, in my home and my work and my life. To leave blank days on the calendar and blank lines on the to-do list. To commit to less. To rest. To seek quality over quantity. To declutter and let go and scale down.
Realistically (though I hate to even type this), I’m in the second half of my life now. I have given myself permission to slow down.
I have given up the hustle to do, do, do, so much of the time, in order to focus instead on being magnetic and being potent—to just be, be, be more of who I am. I still need my business to generate revenue. I still have bills to pay and dreams to fund and a future to plan for. But I refuse to utilize panic and fear as my personal motivator any longer. I refuse to sacrifice my well-being and water myself down, I am done with being stressed out as a normal way of life.
Desperation, overwhelm, over-commitment and stress are no longer invited into my work day. I am far more interested now in being the flower rather than the bee. My bee days are behind me. Letting go in this way can feel scary. Especially for a recovering control freak. Yet what a beautiful way to practice deliberate actions, clear intentions and deep trust. I’ve even noticed the chronic pain I’ve dealt with for years is subsiding, I feel more embodied, of course I do. It’s a friendlier place in there.
New ideas are gestating within me, I am inspired to create more, to express more, to inspire more. There are still big things I have yet to create. In fact, I think my greatest impact and contributions to the world exist in my future, not my past.
But a lot has changed, and I am clearer than I have ever been. I refuse to utilize my adrenal system for day to day living. That means shorter task lists, less events, less overlapping projects, more focus, more self-care and ritual and spiritual care. More white space.
With more space available, I’m finding myself to be a more potent coach, a more present partner, a more available mother. I’m a better friend. My close relationships feel richer.
I am more emotionally (and physically) accessible, more joyful and more me. And it’s easy to understand why…
I am showing up for life, undiluted.
I have gone from a single-spaced life to a double-spaced life, and wow, does it feel great.

 

Me? Stress-free? Can it be?

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My name is Lisa and I am a recovering adrenaline junkie. I have spent a lifetime, decades, in a rush toward the ever-changing finish line, overloading, overextending, overwhelmed. That’s just the way I did life. I think I even made myself slightly late to everything so that I could get that rush, that rush that came from rushing.

When my daughter was a little kid, watching everything I modeled, as kids unfortunately do, she was playing pretend with an old day planner I had given her. She sat at her “desk” filling in each date with pretend obligations, at one point saying something like “I still have to fill up all the empty ones…” Damn.

Yep. By the age of seven she had learned that a loaded calendar was somehow desirable, that it proved something, but what? That was a question I asked myself for years.

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Then there was this card she made around the age of eight or nine, on an afternoon we spent making cards, the haircut just happening to be my haircut at the time.

I had reoccurring dreams of being at a buffet and loading my plate up so much that food was falling off the sides, and then, I’d see the real buffet, the one I really wanted, but it was too late. Because buffet managers hate it when you waste. (True story: I once saw an owner loudly bitch out a mortified customer… “This is all you can eat, not all you can waste!”)

This was my normal: being completely stretched thin, tapped out, running late, rushing everywhere, overbooked, overextended, harried, frenzied, surviving on adrenaline.

Everything suffered, especially the things that mattered most, like relationships, health and sanity, yet I was too caught up in my busy-ness to notice. My busy-ness had become an addiction. A disease.

Getting out of this cycle took a good couple of years, a commitment to a different way of living, a reevaluation (or two, or twenty) of who I really was, what I really wanted, and what I was willing to let go of to get there.

It wasn’t about doing more, I finally realized. It was about letting go.

I’ve made a lot of changes in 2015. One of the biggest ones was shifting my business around dramatically, and basically handing over my largest piece of business to a new director to open up energetic space and lots and lots of time. I’ve also changed the way I eat. The way I start my day. The way I end it. I’ve changed the amount of commitments I put on my calendar. I now pay for a couple new services and tools to make my admin tasks and household chores easier, money very, very well spent. And I have a puppy, who (mostly) brings more sweetness into my days with lots of spontaneous cuddle breaks.

If I were to count, there have probably been 100 choices or more I have made this year so that I could love my life better, feel better, do better, be better.

And surprisingly to me, the stress dissolved.

I no longer live with stress and overwhelm as my baseline.

I no longer measure my worth by the amount of to-dos on my list or unopened emails in my inbox.

My new baseline is calm. Relaxed.

And dare I say it? Easy.

I didn’t even realize this shift until I felt stressed recently and realized what a “foreign” feeling it was. It was appropriate stress, not just my normal day to day adrenaline fix. And it felt weird. So much so, that I stopped, looked at my life and realized all of the changes I have made recently have cumulatively eliminated stress from my life.

Of course life will throw its curve balls. I’m no dummy. Things speed up, they slow down. Life gets crazy, I know this. And I’m ready for that when it happens. But I know that in my day-to-day existence, I am no longer committed to stress and overwhelm as normal ways of being. In fact, I’m even getting stubborn and refusing to let myself feel the anxious, overwhelmed, heart-pounding, adrenalin-pumping feeling that used to be my normal. I just can’t live like that anymore. Well, I “could”. But I choose not to.

You can have this too. No, really.

There are countless reasons why this is important to shift. Stress kills, how about that as reason enough?

If you’re ready to shift into a virtually stress-free life, it’s important to get really honest with yourself about what changes need to be made.

Here are some questions to get you started…

  • What in my current life used to bring me joy, but no longer does?
  • Who are the people in my life who add stress and overwhelm and what can I request of them to help make a shift?
  • What time consumers take more than they add to my life?
  • What is stress and overwhelm costing me?
  • What do I love to do that I’m not doing?
  • Where am I saying yes when I secretly wish I was saying no?
  • What commitments do I have that do not come from my heart?
  • What can I delegate?
  • What can I let go of that will instantly lower my stress levels?
  • What secret pay-offs am I getting from living in a constant state of overwhelm?
  • What inner stuff do I get to avoid by being constantly stressed or overwhelmed?

Yeah, I saved the hardest two for the end.

If you’re committed to creating a stress-free life in 2016, I applaud you. I salute you. support you. And I’m waiting, with open arms, for your arrival. It is possible. I’m living proof. Yep, me, the retired Queen of Overwhelm. Who’d a thunk it?

 

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Making the changes required for reducing stress in your life can be daunting. I can help. How about a complimentary Discovery Session?