Editor's note: To view an archive of Kay Bensing's Career Beat columns published prior to 2009, click here.
As a former critical care and public health nurse, now life coach, motivational speaker, community volunteer, writer, business owner and wife, Connie Merritt, BSN, RN, PHN, admits she's been in a hurry since she was born.
"My delivery took only an hour," she shared. "I became a poster child and champion of the overbooked, overcommitted and overstressed control freak. . The only thing that mattered to me was what was next."
In her book, Too Busy for Your Own Good: Get More Done in Less Time With Even More Energy (McGraw-Hill, 2009), Merritt tells readers, "I had become a slave to the speed at which technology and new gadgets allowed me to work. I was living the multitasker's dream - more speed, more work, more stimuli, more responses required. Faster! Better! More!"
Merritt said, while she was exhausting herself on her life treadmill, she was unaware of any warning signs to slow down. After all, her friends and neighbors were all on the same frequency. The author notes in the book, "Busyness has become the newest status symbol" and "Modern life is not for wimps."
Merritt's description of her all-too-common former lifestyle in the fast lane reminds me of a funny, TV commercial currently running. In kitchens, within a small community, husbands and wives fill each other's fuel tanks with a certain brand of cereal, strapped to their backs. Once propelled into space, neighbors greet each other as they lift off, travel at warp speed to their destinations and return only when their day's assignments are completed - or until their fuel supply is low.
Unfortunately, the human body needs refueling to meet its needs. Merritt does a nice job in her book of citing research that clearly demonstrates the body, mind, spirit connection must be in concert if equilibrium is to be sustained.
Nearly a century ago, Hans Selye wrote in his general adaptation syndrome theory that the last stage of stress was exhaustion and death. No one yet has disproved his theory.
Merritt was not immune from going into overdrive on a daily basis. One day, she suddenly had trouble breathing, noted a little chest pain, indigestion and other symptoms of an MI, the diagnosis she was sure she had. In the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, she made every attempt to direct the paramedics caring for her.
Merritt was almost disappointed she didn't have an MI; her physician told her she experienced a severe panic attack.
"From all my cardiac nursing experience, I knew how to rehabilitate a heart attack, but I didn't have a clue how to recover from a panic attack," Merritt said.
Root of the Problem
Recently, I talked to Merritt. It was the day before she was taking off for Maui, Hawaii, for vacation and to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary. Already packed for her trip, the former peripatetic woman calmly told me her health scare didn't result in an instant conversion to the "countess of calm."
She explained she was able to create her own plan to debusify her life with the help of therapy, finding a cause she loves (she's training to be a volunteer therapist for equine therapy with children who have physical and emotional disabilities), taking an honest self-inventory of her life at that time and then setting goals for what she wanted to accomplish in the future.
She believes her actions at the time are what saved her life, sanity and marriage.