Ferrari brains with bicycle brakes need breaks!

Updated: Mar 15

‘I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own…we are always what our situations hand us, it’s either sadness or euphoria’ Billy Joel, Summer, Highland Falls.

My cathedral was a half-term break in Cornwall en famille. I have been learning that my racing brain needs to be forced to switch off every 3-4 weeks (as well as a few times each day!). Trying to run marathons as a sprinter leads to frequent burnouts but as it turns out, knowledge is power. The trick to enforcing the breaks is ensuring that they don’t go on too long which leads to boredom and then sadness. 6 days in Cornwall in good weather was just right. I got the beautiful benefits of relaxation; sleep, lightness, being outside all day in the elements which sink into your pores, banter and humour with my family and enough time to read 100 pages of Hemmingway’s ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ (might finish it by Xmas!). I also had some space for euphoria; giggling whilst playing Chinese whispers with the family, cuddling my puppy on the beach, watching my kids engage in and be inspired by art at the Tate in St Ives, running along the seafront between Newlyn and Penzance grinning from the adrenalin release. During this run, I glimpsed my soul and realised that I had found ways to my soul in my teenage years despite the tsunami force pushing me to be ‘normal’. This is my dream for my kids. To find their euphoria and know how to get back there. We, adults, need to model the way back.

I also got a good measure of reality and self-acceptance. My kids had some spectacular ‘omni-tants’; simultaneous meltdowns requiring superhero parent capacity which I don’t have. I do have a sense of humour though; Whilst my older two were scrapping and screaming, my youngest wouldn’t leave my side while I tried to intervene as he was convinced that Voldemort was hiding in the bathroom!

When it comes to owning our behaviour, self-regulation is often an afterthought. I am not scared of the ‘onmi-tant’. I operate well in a crisis and can successfully mediate through the rupture and repair cycle. My husband who doesn’t fare so well in a crisis avoids the overwhelm and is often nowhere to be seen during an ‘omni-tant’. He gets away with it as he is the only person in our house with exceptional executive function skills so when I emerge from the fray, the kitchen is miraculously tidy and the washing is in hand. Knowledge of oneself leads to self-acceptance, playing to strengths and knowing which weaknesses to work on and which to delegate!

When the Ferrari brain is forced to take a break the day-dreaming and ideation can get out of hand. Three days in, I could have given any Estate Agent in Cornwall a run for their money. In my head, I had moved in, found schools for the boys and squared away the train situation for my husband’s job and envisaged feeding all my creative outlets as well as my business developments. This can cause tension with my partner who craves stability. We have settled on staying put and channelling energies elsewhere for a couple of years before our next major adventure.

On my return, I touched down with one of my favourite friends and I realised the best thing about breaks; the quality of thought and ability to connect to others is replenished. I watched a whole film with my kids (often I can get through about 40 minutes before fabricating a need to leave the room as I can’t sustain the boredom). For some of us with Ferrari brains with bicycle brakes, we need to systematically apply the “breaks”. Ironically, learning ways to slow down regularly can lead to the Ferrari capabilities in thinking we demand of ourselves and the euphoria we get from it.

One of the reasons our brakes are faulty is our brain wiring. Another reason is often our horrific self-talk which comes from trying so hard, having to reconcile our considerable strengths with our challenges. We get annoyed that other people, ‘normal people’, do not have to deal with our challenges but when we really dig into the idea of ‘normal’ we baulk at the idea of not being Ferraris! ‘I am enough’ doesn’t work for me. Enough sounds a bit ‘meh’.

I now ask my coaching clients what ‘more than enough would look like?’ and then we are cooking on gas!

How do you take breaks in order to practice putting on your brakes? Have you tried coaching?

If you are a coach, how do you help your clients with their brakes?

Hallowell, E and Ratey, J (2021) ADHD 2.0

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