When I worked in the West End, we had a running joke that whenever anyone went on holiday, they’d get what we called ‘The Stops’.
It’s when you’ve been running on adrenaline for an extended period of time; you finally take your foot off the accelerator, slam on the brakes for your holiday and BOOM, instant sickness.
Symptoms of The Stops include, but are not limited to: extreme fatigue, runny nose, headache, sore throat and the desire to do absolutely nothing.
We’d get really annoyed about The Stops, because we’d worked SO HARD, we deserved to enjoy our holiday, but instead we’d be plagued and unable to enjoy much at all.
The Stops would usually last for about a week, which is precisely how long you take off in a job like that, because God forbid you take 2 weeks off – the whole world would simply crumble.
When I switched to a touring role, the symptoms of The Stops were amplified. On tour, I was ‘on’ all the time. If someone needed help, it didn’t matter if it was 4pm or 4am, I had to be available to help them. Can you imagine what that does to your nervous system?
Our circadian rhythms were thrown way out of whack by overnight travel every Sunday, often across time zones, often meaning we didn’t get to bed until after 3am on Monday mornings.
Sometimes we would arrive so late that we’d watch the sun come up in the new city.
We’d spend the rest of the week settling into our new environment, finally getting the hang of where the light switches are in the hotel room, the quickest walking route to the arena and how to get to front of house, only to be uprooted and do it all over again. We did this for 12 weeks on and then we’d have 2 weeks off.
2 weeks, one of which was spent asleep with a severe case of The Stops. The second week, if we hadn’t escaped to somewhere tropical, was its own version of adrenaline-fuelled living as I scheduled my days down to the minute, trying to see everyone I knew, in a week. So the first week of a tour leg was always a version of stops/ jetlag combined before we did it all over again.
(As I’m writing this, I can feel the adrenaline rising in me. I write about it like it’s a bad thing – and it is, but the addiction of that adrenaline rush is real, and I can’t say I’m not enjoying having a little taste of it as I recall what it was like to live like that – it’s no wonder so many people do it for so long.)
I practiced cycle-awareness on tour, and it was a real challenge. The pull of seeing a new city vs. the necessity of resting on my one day off that week was rough. Sometimes I did it, others I didn’t. I learnt to pick my battles – if I knew a city I REALLY wanted to explore was coming up, I’d sacrifice seeing the one I was currently in.
Part of the problem (and by part, I’m talking drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made of tiny drops like this) was that I wasn’t speaking up about the importance of cycle awareness and my needs around my own cycle.
I was quietly obsessing over it in my hotel room, telling my closest friends and my partner all I’d learnt and all I needed, but I wasn’t taking the bold, brave step of sharing with my colleagues – even though we were close.
The culture simply didn’t have the ‘give’ in it to allow for cycle awareness.
And there’s an element of truth in that.
And there’s an element of boxed thinking in it, too.
We can’t imagine a fast-paced-yet-cycle-aware workplace because it’s simply too far-out from what we’re used to.
But I believe that cycle-aware workplaces are the most efficient and effective antidote to The Stops culture.
When we practice cycle awareness, busy-ness and The Stops is no longer a badge of honour. It’s a sad reflection that you’ve pushed your body too hard.
When we practice cycle awareness, we prioritise rest over perceived productivity. The result is an increase in energy. This doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in output; instead what it leads to is streamlined systems, a cutting of everything that’s not essential and therefore a simpler but more effective system of working. It also leads to an increase in creativity, problem solving and embodied, intuitive, wise, clear decision-making
More importantly, it leads to happier, healthier employees who are more likely to show up authentically, bring their whole selves, their creativity, their ideas and their disagreements to the table which will rapidly propel any team forward.
Until you’ve been in a meeting with four women, each in a different cycle stage, all working on solving a problem together, you can’t even fathom how effective this is.
When we prioritise ourselves, our health and our cycle, the likelihood of ever having The Stops is drastically decreased.
When we prioritise the humans in our work-machines, everything gets easier, more efficient, more effective and the environment becomes infinitely happier which feeds the machine in turn and leads us on this positive cycle of both health and growth.
Having The Stops isn’t inevitable. We have the power to change a culture where this is the norm and it’s our responsibility to do so, for the sake of ourselves and for the planet.
If the past 18 months have show us anything, it’s that the current model that most workplaces are operating on simply doesn’t work.
And as we move forward, return to the office and prepare to jump back on the express train of work-life in 2021, I challenge you: bring up cycle awareness in the workplace. Share this text with the people you work with. Let them know that a cycle-aware workforce is a powerful one and watch how drastically your working environment changes when you allow this to seep into your culture.
Consider it a dare, then come back and let me know how it goes.
You can find out more about me by following me on Instagram @womaninpower.co. If you’re interested in learning more about doing business in a cycle-aware way you can watch my masterclass about doing business cyclically if you identify as a woman here or if you identify as a man here, or by booking a connection call with me.