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Recovering from overstimulation

I've been back from Antarctica for about 3 months now. And those months didn't turn out the way I thought they would.

You see, I completely underestimated just how exhausted I really was, after spending all that time at the bottom of the world. Living life on ships is tiring. You're constantly surrounded by people, and privacy is practically non-existent. Work days as an expedition guide started at 6.30 am and ended around 9 pm, after dinner and evening events with guests.

Because you're not just a guide, no no. You're also the entertainment team. Plus, often a zodiac driver. And in my case, also a lecturer and a scientist. Collecting my research data on top of all those tasks was incredibly tiring. Long days, little sleep. Barely any time for myself to recover from the overstimulation and constant socializing.

I was away on fieldwork from mid October to the end of January. But before that, I was working in Greenland and Svalbard to gain experience. I was completing firefighting training, learning first aid and survival at sea skills, acquiring a firearms license, producing lectures for on-board education, learning as much as possible about the polar regions, and getting my powerboat driving license. I had to rush to learn how to make field recordings myself, before setting off to teach others how to do so... I had to boost my French because the first expedition I joined was fully French-speaking. I had to research equipment, apply for funding, purchase thousands of euros worth of microphones. I had to arrange leave to work away from the University, take care of insurance, purchase polar clothing, submit a 10,000 word report on my research and fieldwork aims, attend my viva (oral examination) literally 4 days before leaving for fieldwork...

Well, you get the gist of it. From last year May and onwards, I didn't have a break. It was just go go go. It was one of the hardest and full-on times I have ever known (also one of the most rewarding, epic, and happy ones, but that's for another newsletter).

From outdoor guide to homebody

When I returned to the UK late January, I had planned to give myself the full month of February off to focus on resting and restoring my energy. I went to visit family, I attended a dance festival in Slovenia, and made some upgrades on my living space. I turned into a 'homebody' and didn't want to leave my bed (one of the upgrades was a plush new bed!). I watched a lot of Netflix.

March came, which is always a busy time for me because it's when the national Week of Giftedness in the Netherlands takes place. I had some new intakes, launched a new podcast season, and hosted some masterclasses. But I took it way easier than last year (when I had around 80 1-1 coaching conversations within the span of 3 weeks - remember that?!). I made a trip to Italy with my mom (see photo). I was dancing again. And I watched a lot of Netflix.

A photo of me in Italy in March

April came around, and I focused on some personal goals as well as important life organisation tasks that needed taking care of. There was some teaching, coaching, financial planning, research strategizing, minor PhD-related tasks... I had thought that by April, I'd be deep into data analysis. But that was not the case at all. Instead, I was still feeling tired. And watching a lot of Netflix.

And now we are in May. And I finally feel my energy returning to its usual level. Much later than I thought it would.

Guilt-free resting... Mission impossible?

You might be reading this and thinking to yourself, "well Simone, sounds like during all that 'resting', there was still A LOT of doing". Because that is exactly what I am thinking as I am writing all of this down ;)

I often notice my clients behaving like this as well. When gifted people say they're taking it easy, they'll still be doing a lot more than most others do when they're proper busy. You'll be out there feeling like the most unproductive, lazy being ever. But the people around you will be rolling their eyes at you once they find out about the things you were getting done whilst doing 'nothing'.

I will continue this piece of writing in the next email I'll send you, because this is getting longer than I thought it would. But here's one piece of advice for you, which I have been applying to myself these past few months:

Practice self-compassion, first and foremost.

It's so easy to be hard on yourself. Gifted people often have a tendency to be incredibly hard on themselves. To have such high expectations of themselves. Guilt-free resting is quite literally one of the most difficult, near-unattainable experiences for us. Doing 'nothing'? Forget about it. Everything we do must be useful, educational, productive... Right?

Which is why it's so important to practice self-compassion. I literally soothe myself every single day, by reassuring myself it's ok to feel tired, it's ok to go into my own cocoon, it's ok to skip those social events, it's ok to need more recovery time after all that overstimulation. I also remind myself that these responses of my body and brain are connected to my being gifted and HSP. It helps me respect and honor the recovery time I require.

Speak to yourself in kind and loving ways. I know that's easier said than done, which is why I am reminding you that this is a process. A practice. And one I myself am involved in Every. Single. Day.

To be continued!

Ps. Oh and please go watch some Netflix. Or indulge in whatever other guilty pleasure you have. The more useless the better.

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