The first pea-sized spots appeared on my face and legs soon after the retrenchments. As the months progressed, so did the sores, soon covering my neck, chest, back and legs, growing from peas to red and itchy plums.
My rash became angry welts as the next round of retrenchments loomed. The burning sores on my back made sleep elusive. Not able to hide, my face and eyes become swollen blotchy reminders of being unwell. Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Dermatologists and Chinese doctors couldn’t agree on cause nor treatment, but one thing was certain. I was suffering from adrenal fatigue and given my cortisol levels, stress was the primary suspect.
When I took the role as CEO I had no forewarning (perhaps naively so) that I would feel so responsible for so many. Emotionally I was internalizing every last bit of stress connected to the tough decisions. And you simply can’t continue to do so without your body eventually revolting.
After retrenchments there is well know syndrome referred to as survivor’s guilt. I felt another layer – decider’s guilt. Looking at my internalized stress and declining well -being, I had twisted the responsibilities of my CEO role into a ball of guilt. And while working through major agency restructures can be a bit soul destroying at best, surely there must be a way to do so without causing your body to crash into adrenal fatigue and display open wounds.
My mistake was to shoulder too much weight. Not to let others into the pain and feeling of overwhelm and simply not to have enough avenues of releasing my stress in a healthy fashion. I needed to be more vulnerable, wag the white flag of surrender and call for reinforcements more quickly. And I also needed to forgive myself. Guilt is a powerful force and can eat away at an otherwise healthy body. Knowing there were many failings on my part, but also recognizing that I operated with compassion and selfless ness has helped my chapter of forgiveness unfold.
So where is the layer of joy in this tale of woe? I think it begins with self-care. Our glorious bodies give us so many signals of being out of balance and we simply need to tune in. And having the courage to truly evaluate our actions, their causes, and effects is a powerful practice. For me that evaluation crystalized my need to resign. Not because I had failed, but because I had much to absorb and needed to focus on my well being.
We can’t avoid stressful situations but we can learn to spot the signs and better manage our responses. During times of stress it’s incredibly important to recognize what is draining your well being while it’s happening. And, to ensure you have recovery time to fill back up your reserves. The longer we stay caught in the web of stress, the greater the chance of becoming totally depleted.
So what are your early warning signs to stress? Can you listen to them and change your course of action or thinking? How do you recover and fill back up your energetic tank? Do you need to offer yourself forgiveness?
These are all questions that help us back onto the path of self-care, wellbeing and even more JOY.