“Oh, you’re just in the honeymoon phase. Most people who quit their jobs feel great right after. Let’s check on you in a few months. You may not be feeling too well then.” My doctor said this with a smile but also with a firm tone, letting me know in a kind way that he was serious. He was right. I did not feel too hot months later. The weight of my decision crashed down. It was a good decision. Just not executed correctly. I left with a dramatic flair because I was crashing inside, screaming inside while on the outside I looked like I had it all. Many people would call it a nervous breakdown. But at the time, I did not realize I had one.
When you are running life on extreme amounts of stress, whether it is from external circumstances, like events beyond your control, or internally-generated, your brain goes into survival mode. You become highly reactive and blow up at the tiniest things or you freeze and feel nothing. In some cases, you run like me and quit your job. This happened to me many years ago, and I had to work through a lot of “stuff.” I eventually got my master’s degree to become a schoolteacher and became a certified teacher for child and adult yoga.
I also started practicing yoga in a better way than before, with the focus on moving my body with my breath and getting out of my head where most of my anxiety thrives. To be alone with your own thoughts can be scary and overwhelming. Our society makes it easy to stay busy and it’s easier to stay busy than to deal with how we are really feeling.
When COVID first hit, society was on high alert. I was a 6th grade science teacher with four children of my own who suddenly was working from home and checking her kids’ schoolwork. My husband was working for UPS and his job got more demanding. I was on high alert while holding up everyone else’s energy. I am still working through that high alert mode. Most of us still are. Your brain can only handle so much pandemic stress and many of us started to develop “pandemic brain fog” where we became unfocused, overwhelmed, and distracted. The whole feeling of doing so much and yet doing nothing at all mentality wrecked many of us and still does.
A simple technique has helped shift my mindset to enable calm focus. I started asking myself these two questions before making almost any decision. Try it: Ask yourself in the morning when your mind is most clear. Make sure to inhale through the nose and take a longer exhalation through your mouth to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Breathe until you feel good and then ask yourself:
Are you making this decision because it’s something that you genuinely want to do or is it because you only want to tell people about it or share your accomplishment? The whole… “Hey, look over here! Aren’t I amazing?!” attitude.
Are you making a social media post, text, etc. as a knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s accomplishment because you feel jealous or inadequate?
I asked myself these simple but tough questions. Total transparency. I got some answers that I didn’t like, and I reevaluated what I chose to do in my work. I got out of the headspace that if I didn’t say yes to everything then I would be forgotten.
As we ease back into this world, ask yourself these questions. Have those hard conversations with yourself. Forgive yourself if you get answers that shock you. Step through it and take one step at a time. And, if you are like me, one of those steps might just bring you to your very first yoga practice.
A science teacher by training, Chrissy Levin turned to her yoga practice to help work through the stress of job change and the pandemic. She still teaches science to middle schoolers and has launched herself as a yoga teacher as well, offering classes for both kids & adults through Moving Mountains Yoga (info & registration at MovingMtnsYoga.com). Additional info on the web: AutumnsTeacher.com and Autumn’s Teacher: The Yogi Science Teacher on Facebook.By Chrissy Lewin