Since that time I have traveled to many other places and I believe that I have developed a greater understanding of what he was saying, at least in part. In the U.S. we have many rules and structures that are designed with the intent of keeping people safe. We have guardrails to keep us away from a cliff. We have signage to warn of a wet floor. We require walking surfaces to be flat and predictable. These are just a few examples of the many, many ways that our society actively tries to keep people safe. And while we could certainly debate the pros/cons of these (for example, there is research to indicate how our flat predictable surfaces make us weaker and more likely to fall as we get older), there is no doubt that COVID-19 has disrupted our collective sense of safety.
When we don’t feel safe the body will not easily shift into the parasympathetic nervous system and as a result our brain and body remain running in the fight or flight mode of the sympathetic nervous system. The body, and mind, in this mode are capable of tackling immediate threats and handling tasks, but this is not the ideal mode for major decisions or strategic planning and for the body this is not the time for adaptation.
Adaptation occurs in the parasympathetic mode. This is when your body can heal, recover, become stronger and better prepared for the next time you are handling stressful events. Like the body, your brain needs the parasympathetic to actually think. Trying to force oneself to make big decisions without first resting and gaining objectivity is, well, I think observable nearly everywhere right now during this pandemic.
Overtraining by definition is not allowing sufficient rest and recovery for your body to adapt to the exercise demands. This, thankfully, is fairly easy to assess with resting heart rate and body temperature. Overtraining with mental and emotional stress is harder to assess, but there are ways. One of which is to sit and quiet your mind. If you have trouble controlling your mind, you might be overtraining.
As with exercise for the body, there are many modalities that can help you to get to the place where your brain can experience the much needed rest. And, just like with the body, the benefits come through consistency. So, instead of saying something like “I am too stressed to meditate”, set a structure where you will designate a specific amount of time where you focus on whatever method feels right for you. And, if you don’t have that method, yet, keep looking. Once you can experience the feeling of being in the parasympathetic nervous system mode you will realize that it was worth the effort.
As always, let me know how I can help.