Studies have repeatedly shown that judges are far more lenient on criminals if they get to take a break before sentencing them. The saying goes “Justice is what the judge ate for breakfast.” That’s partially true — it’s what they ate for lunch, as well.
I remember reading a quote from some brilliant war strategist, which said something to the effect of “Most battles could be avoided with a good night’s rest.” I think about how everything we do is colored by our mood. Every action we take is filtered through how we feel while we’re doing it.
For awhile, I was amazed by how many couples get divorced (50%!), and how many people hated their jobs (90%?). And for awhile, I thought that marriage and jobs were the problem. That marriage was an ancient relic of institutional control, and that jobs were systemic slavery.
I don’t buy that anymore. I believe that people do things that chronically keep them in a bad mood, and because of that, they view everything through the lens of “I feel shitty, therefore my life and the world is shitty.” They can’t make good, rational decisions because their mood is always sub-optimal. And they become a magnet for bad living.
They chronically deprive themselves of sleep. They don’t have a social life or spend quality time with real friends, so they have to compensate by working all the time. They eat fake foods and drink stimulants (they get high), all by themselves. They watch reality TV and scary movies, all by themselves. They stay indoors all day long, out of the sun, sitting in casts (“chairs”) that hold them still. When they do move, they wear casts on their feet (“shoes”) that unplug them from the earth that they evolved on.
I’m not judging. I was a workaholic who never slept. I drank coffee all day and checked email until 2:00am. I would binge drink every weekend. I never took breaks to enjoy my life. My mind was either anxious about the future, or depressed about the past. I isolated myself and thought about how I was never going to be enough. And because of that, I completely fell apart. At one point, I lost 30 pounds. One my best friends said I looked and behaved like a soldier with PTSD. I felt terrible. I never laughed. I thought the world was going to end.
And I was confused and embarrassed by my own emotions, so I didn’t tell anyone about what I was going through. I tried to man up and tough it out. The irony is that when I finally wrote about how I felt, the whole world seemed to say “Oh my god, me too!” Just Google the phrase “cure anxiety” and you’ll see why — my story has been the top result for the last two years.
I’m a smart, rational person. I never thought this would happen to me. But it did, and it robbed me of at least two full years of my life. I wasn’t productive, I wasn’t creative, and I was miserable to be around.
There was NO WAY I could do great work, or enjoy a meal, or have an amazing girlfriend.
There was NO WAY I could feel grateful or happy or feel good, because the conditions I put myself in didn’t allow it.
I unwittingly destroyed my mental and physical health, because I thought I was indestructible. Everyone around me thought they were, too. “I’m not average, I’m awesome. I can do things normal people can’t do — like pull all-nighters on a regular basis.”
I wonder how many divorces, meltdowns, and suicides could be prevented if people JUST TOOK A BREAK. If they got a good night’s rest, or ate a good meal before having an argument. If they broke up their workday with a recess, where they went outside and played with their co-workers. If they walked in the sunshine for 15 minutes every morning.
How much pain and sadness and regret could be avoided if people tweaked their daily routines?
How quickly could we reverse the healthcare crisis and mental illness epidemic if we created conditions that allowed happiness and health to flourish?
That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been helping peak performers overcome burnout. Executives, entrepreneurs, soldiers, professional athletes — I pull them back to mental wellness so they don’t feel miserable all the time. I prevent them from fizzling out (or worse). One of my clients was the assistant to a billionaire. She would have meetings on yachts in Italy, sitting next to powerful people like Leonardo Dicaprio. And yet, her “dream job” was insanely stressful. By the time she asked for my help, her doctor had told her that her reproductive organs were shutting down. She had the body of a menopausal woman, at the age of 28. Now, she is back in superior health (her doctors were shocked), and she’s running her own business. She takes real vacations now, as well.
The funny thing is- Every one I work with has no idea how things got so bad. They believed that, because they were smart, they had their life figured out and everything was under control. None of them thought they would break… until they did. They realized they were dying. They weren’t actually dying, but they FELT that way. And so they were.
They don’t know how to get out of their own hell. So they come to me. And I gently escort them out.