Are you in constant overdrive?

When I worked as a surgeon, I was always on call, always ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I was honestly too busy to realize how tired I was. The truth is, I was bone-deep tired. Living in a constant state of exhaustion is too much for a body to handle.

One day, I simply collapsed. For a month, was unable to concentrate, unable to feel, and unable to know what I really wanted to do. Exhaustion sucked me completely dry.

I realized that to get back in alignment with my health, I needed to leave the system I was working in. I refused to continue to work in a way that make me sick. The only cure was to leave and change the way I worked.

Now, recognizing people around me who are overworked and exhausted is easy for me. I know the symptoms and results of working too hard because I’ve been there.

As a society, we are obsessed with getting things done, being the best, being on time and working to the point of fatigue. We neglect body’s signals and push through the pain because we believe hard work is the cornerstone of success.

When I talk to my patients, what’s most obvious to me is their feelings of being lost and a lack of connection to their lives. They feel they lack a link between their logical, rational minds and their hearts.

When we work to the point of making our bodies get sick, we look for cures that are a quick, easy “fix.” We don’t want to think too much or dive too deeply into the source of our problems.

Being in constant overdrive creates a shift in the internal balance of our sympathetic nervous systems. It taxes our adrenals, big time. This state of imbalance is the perfect breeding ground for illnesses that can range from the simple flu to cancer.

When you constantly live in fight-or-flight mode, your body will delay rejuvenation and immune response. Our ancestors had to be prepared to run or fight so that they could survive. We no longer have the threats our forebears did, but we do face stressful situations every day. Our bodies react the same way they did long ago because they don’t know the difference between a real, imagined or self-imposed threat.

Why would our bodies expend energy on rejuvenation when we are faced with a threat to flee from or fight? Humans evolved to put our survival first. That enhanced state of excitement (i.e., our reaction to stress) evolved to work in short bursts so that we could run from saber tooth tigers, or stand and fight them. We are not wired to live in that heightened state for extended periods of time. The result of constantly living in a heightened state of stress is detrimental to our bodies.

 

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