Writing coaches sometimes advise, “Write about what you know.” One of the things that “I know about” from recent experience is “hitting the wall.”
It’s that moment when you’ve been working and working, creating and producing, going non-stop. And then suddenly, it’s literally as if you’ve hit a wall. All inspiration and creativity has vanished. You have nothing left – no energy, no reserves, and no idea of what else you could say or do or create. Nothing. Your brain feels like mush. Your heart is tired. You’re done.
Chances are, you, too, have “hit the wall” at least once in your life. And if you are highly committed, driven to perfection, and incredibly passionate about what you do, you’ve probably hit the wall more than a few times.
So what do you do? And especially, what do you do when you can’t afford to stop. There’s too much to be done, or too many people counting on you, or you’re up against a deadline, or you have to feed your family, or…
There is no magic pill, yet as someone who (I confess) occasionally hits the wall, I have found an approach that seems to help. It doesn’t take away the deadlines or the responsibilities or the amount of “stuff” on my plate. Yet more than once, it has given me the shift I needed so that I could re-engage.
I stumbled onto this approach the first time out of exasperation. I leaned back in my chair, closed my eyes, and just breathed. I was feeling overwhelmed and I didn’t know what to do. Yet as I rested for a few minutes, luckily, my inner wisdom kicked in. A voice inside was saying that if I would just get quiet and let my inner senses take the lead, something might happen. And it did.
So here’s the process I found. Try it out and see what happens for you. Perhaps you’ll find that this approach can help you, too.
When you hit the wall, the first thing to do is simply stop. Whatever you are doing, just stop. If you are standing, sit down and lean back in your chair. And then breathe. When we are feeling a lot of pressure or anxiety, we tend to stop breathing. So just lean back for a few minutes and consciously focus on your breath coming in and going out. If it’s helpful, close your eyes.
Take deep and full breaths, imagining that you are breathing into your chair or into the floor. Pause for a second or two after each exhalation to rest before you inhale again. This is your only job right now. Put all of your attention on breathing in and out, with brief pauses in between. That’s all. Just breathe.
After a few minutes, notice what is happening inside of you. You might feel like your system is starting to refresh and replenish itself already, yet don’t be in a hurry to “fix this.” There is a good chance you will need more time. Be gentle with yourself. Just keep taking deep and full breaths as you lean back into your chair for at least five minutes. Pause between exhalation and inhalation. Take your time. Your breath may be slowing your system way down, and that will serve you well as you continue with the next steps. You are creating a conscious and intentional break in your focus and giving your whole system a chance to restore itself.
When you are ready, let your breath and your body take the lead as you slowly stand and walk away from your task. In other words, instead of just standing up as you normally would, let your body show you how it wants to move. Notice what part of your body wants to move first to take you into a standing position. What part of your body is actually taking the lead? And then, how does your body start walking? Let your body walk you.
I know that these are odd instructions, but most of the time, we walk our bodies. What if you turn your habit around? Let your body walk you as you walk away from whatever you have been doing and into another room.
Give yourself time to get used to what it feels like when your body leads you. Keep practicing your slow breathing even as you walk, pausing between each inhalation and exhalation. Let your body find its own pace and way of breathing and moving. Remember, your body is taking you for a walk, not the other way around.
Through this process, your body can naturally start to take care of itself. It knows what it needs and how it wants to move in order to start balancing your whole system and bring your system back to life.
If you wish, let your body take you for a walk outside. Keep your focus. It will be easy to revert to your habitual way of “going for a walk.” Stay with the practice. Things will continue shifting in your whole system. As you let your body walk you, it will show you the perfect walking pattern, rhythm, and pace that your system needs right now.
Alternatively, you may also choose to sit in a favorite chair or lie down where you will be comfortable. Or you may find that your body wants to move in a free-form way. Let your body and your system lead you. By now your breath has probably also taken on its own natural rhythm and flow. Surrender to the lead of your body’s deep inner knowing.
You will know how long you need to continue this exercise. Perhaps 15 minutes will be long enough, yet if you’ve truly “hit the wall,” you will probably need longer – perhaps an hour or more. You may even need to take the rest of the day off. If that’s the case, then do it. Give your system what it needs and it will replenish faster than you imagined. If you resist, you’ll soon be right back against the wall. Hold the intention that your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual systems are all finding what they need – that your energy reserves will soon begin to fill up again.
In my experience, by the next day, I’m usually able to come back to my work. Yet sometimes I need to step away from that project for a few days. I’ve learned that pushing through to try to “get it done” will only wear my system down even further, and in the end, I won’t be happy with my work. I know now to trust my intuition and just focus on other things for a day or two.
When you sense that maybe you are ready to come back to your project, come back to it gently. Ease your way back in. Ask the project what wants to happen, and then what it wants from you. Again, these may seem like odd instructions, but something wants to shift in what you are doing and/or the way you are doing it. Otherwise, you would not have “hit the wall.”
So pay attention and let the project guide you, just as you let your body lead you earlier as you stood, walked, and moved around.
You might also change your work place or position, or work on a different part of the project for a while. Set the intention that what wants to happen with the project will become clear to you and that you will be shown the way forward.
In the end, this process is about much more than just coming back into balance and replenishing your energy. It’s also about learning to listen and follow what wants to happen. At first, your body is teaching you how to move in a different way and how to bring your system back to life. Yet as you keep paying attention, your awareness expands beyond how your body wants to move. You begin to tap into a deeper well of creativity, your imagination stretches into new ways of thinking and perceiving, and suddenly your system has come fully alive once again.
Hitting the wall is no fun. Yet, as we say in Transformational Presence work, a problem is not something to be solved; it’s a message to be listened to. Hitting the wall is just a message. Practice this process when things are going well. Learn to follow your inner guidance and wisdom, and then, if you hit the wall again, you’ll know what to do.
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