How are you feeling the pressure? Are you thriving in the face of chaos and crisis or on the verge of unravelling? Do you have enough mental, physical, emotional and spiritual resources for yet another wave? How are you going to thrive with so many threats to your survival? What change can you make in your own approach to life? How do we see more of the good in something that at times seems so bad?
On Valentine's day, my bride and I with our guide headed up the Icefields parkway in search of high alpine powder. The snowpack has been unusually and generally stable and some of the larger objectives have come into safe condition. The route we picked was not well travelled but several guides had been on it the day before. They found none of the dangerous slabs that skiers sometimes trigger and sweep them into oblivion. Armed with a solid thesis we skinned up to the base of a massive slope to take a look.
A venture into the high alpine can offer sublime, transcendent experiences that remind us of why we are alive. That's what I needed most, but sometimes the risk is greater than the reward. Wisdom is having the good sense to know which kind of day it is. Our guide found slabs and instabilities that had formed during the wind and cold of the night. The risk profile had changed; the smart choice was to pull the pin and turn around. It was a hard one but a good one. Job number one is come back alive; but I didn't like it. Not one bit.
Our choice saved us from one kind of avalanche but triggered a different kind. Intellectually I understood and agreed with both the decision to go take a look at the peak knowing it was possible we'd have to turn back and the decision to turn back. It was also a beautiful day and I was with my sweetie. But I felt profoundly disappointed and then skied so poorly I torqued my knee on the way down, which only added to my frustration. My extreme emotional reaction was massively overblown for the size of the event. I feel embarrassed missing such an obvious opportunity for gratitude and joy.
Most of us have come to learn about the concept of surge capacity during the pandemic–the ability the hospital ICU system has to handle an unusual rush of people sick or dying of COVID. Our political decisions to avoid breaching this capacity have resulted in massive "unintended" economic and mental health consequences. It seems like an unusually large number of people I know are exhausted and overwhelmed, dealing with their share of the problems.
I've been here before. In 2009 as the global financial crisis intensified, I reported to my naturopath and doctor Bruce Hoffman with the same levels of deep fatigue. He explained how the constant fight or flight reactions of my hyperactive sympathetic nervous system had overloaded the capacity of my parasympathetic nervous system to cope. His diagnosis was adrenal fatigue. Prolonged stress had morphed into strain, much like a wire hanger staying bent with too much force on it. I wasn't springing back into shape. With depleted resilience, I had become oversensitive to situations I'd normally just roll with or even see as catalysts for something even more amazing.
In addition to all the biochemical interventions he did (such as increasing my level of vitamin C intake), Bruce challenged me to consider how I approach my work as a coach. My job is to help my entrepreneurs frame threats as opportunities, so challenges do not metastasize into strain. Back then I though it was my noble duty to relieve stress by taking on their problems as my own. That decision was the real cause of my burnout. In time, I learned to ask great questions rather than take it upon myself to figure out the answers for them, giving them the gift of self-discovery.
Every challenge is either an opportunity to learn a new way to be more effective or get crushed under the weight of obsolete mindsets, blind fear, unchecked ego and bad habits (including binging on sugar for a week stuck inside without any exercise). My choice. And yours. Everyday.