Why You Can’t Switch Off From Work: Escaping the 24/7 Grind. (How to rewire your brain to ensure your professional success doesn’t come at the expense of personal failure)Sep 15, 2023
Why You Can’t Switch Off From Work: Escaping the 24/7 Grind.
(How to rewire your brain to ensure your professional success doesn’t come at the expense of personal failure)
The High Achiever’s Curse....
I was addicted.
Addicted to the stress, the adrenaline, the pressure, the relentlessness of it all. It gave me purpose and the busy-ness meant I wasn’t lazy. My worst fear was to be seen as lazy and just a “coaster”. This sounds terrible and so judgemental (it is!) but basically how I used to view those students at uni who did “basket weaving courses” and only did 2hrs of lectures a day, while at med school we were in Monday-Fri 8-5 or 6. Plus the hours before and after that. Even with a savage hangover. I digress…
Like the majority of high achievers you probably struggle to switch off in the evenings and weekends.
Simultaneously tired but wired. You have a high stakes, high pressure job with a lot of demands and responsibilities…
Part of you feels guilty for complaining about how difficult it is, when you’re in a position most people can only dream of…plus you worked your butt off to actually get here so it is a choice.
And another part of you is screaming, “You have no idea what it’s like to walk in my shoes! Everything rests on my shoulders and I feel like I am in my own prison!”
Exhausted from the pressure, the demands, and responsibilities, but simultaneously afraid that if you start setting boundaries, or striving for more balance, that your business will come crashing down, or you’ll lose everything you worked so hard to build…
You’re spinning 15 different plates, and the problems, the incomplete to-do lists, the unfinished business, the delays and the interruptions seem never ending.
So by the time you get home, you’re exhausted, burnt out, and in desperate need of release… but at the same time there’s still so much on your mind!
Perhaps you turn to food or alcohol to try to shunt your nervous system into a calmer state. And it sort of works… but mostly not… it’s mostly just numbing yourself. Plus it’s tainted with the guilt and the shame… and it’s at the price of your health, your waistline, and your long term resilience.
It’s like buying a moment of peace on a credit card - you have to pay back the principal with heavy interest.
If you’re like the majority of high achievers, you might be able to force yourself to disconnect from work physically - by going on date night, or helping out with bath/bed time with the kids, but mentally you’re still at work.
And even if you’ve developed enough self discipline (or is it self judgement?!) to force yourself to focus consciously on the date, or the kids, you still find yourself unsettled in some way, because – in the background – your unconscious conditioning is keeping you stuck in worry, anxiety, or frustration.
And heaven forbid you actually take time out for yourself - to rest, take a short break, go shopping, or just crash in front of the TV! Now you’re overwhelmed with the feeling that you’re lazy, wasting time, useless or even worthless!
You KNOW that constantly staying “on” is counter-productive. You KNOW it’s leading to burnout. You KNOW that it’s depleting your recovery, your resilience, your cognitive function and your decision making…
… but for some reason you can’t stop.
And it’s starting to bleed into every area of your life.
- You’ve completely put your dating life on hold.
- Or if you’re in a relationship, your partner is getting the low energy, low mood, irritable, distracted, detached, frustrated version of you.
- You're getting angry with your kids and you’re breaking your own parenting promises to yourself over and over again.
- You’re inconsistent (at best) with your own health, nutrition, exercise or self care.
- Whilst you feel like you SHOULD be grateful - you have financial security, a lifestyle many people dream of, great friends, perhaps a wonderful family - you don’t feel like you’re enjoying any of it because you’re perpetually in survival mode and doing all you can to keep your head above water.
What If You Could Do It Another Way?
What if you didn’t have to settle?
To have the professional success WITHOUT overwhelm & burnout?
What if you could remain ambitious and GROW professionally, WITHOUT sacrificing your health, happiness, and relationships?
What if professional success didn’t have to come at the expense of personal failure?!
Afterall, if part of your definition of success is that work or business gets harder the more successful you become, you might want to revisit your definition of success!
The truth is you really can do all of this… another way!
I know that sounds incredulous to you right now. I get it. We’ve been there ourselves.
When you’re stuck in survival mode, you can’t see the wood for the trees because your survival brain doesn’t think long term, it doesn’t even think short term, it thinks IMMEDIATE term.
When you’re being chased by a wild animal, you’re not thinking about that joke you wanted to tell the rest of the tribe around the campfire later that evening (something about bears and woods?). You’re thinking “RUN! GET ME OUTTA HERE!”
So it might seem beyond hope or reason that work, business, and life could be any different. Especially when this is all you’ve known for years, perhaps even decades. Even the very idea of “thinking” about changing adds another level of pressure….
But we’re here to tell you that it CAN, and (if you implement what’s in this guide) WILL get better. In fact, not just better, joyful, fulfilling and liberating!
Don’t just take my word for it.
At Chase Life Consulting we’ve worked with hundreds of business owners, leaders and professionals to help free them from overwhelm & burnout, WITHOUT having to quit, downsize, take up chanting & bongo drums, or go and live in a cave!
Take a look at what others had to say about working with us here.
We Are Giving You The Tools - Right Here
This guide is more than just information.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that what they need is more information.
No, we need to recondition your automated responses at the subconscious level. Information doesn’t do that.
It’s the metaphorical equivalent of learning to swim. You could STUDY swimming - read all the textbooks, watch videos breaking down technique, and develop your knowledge to a truly expert level where you can genuinely critique Olympic swimmers… BUT YOU STILL CAN’T SWIM!
Why? Because all that knowledge and information is not a part of you. You haven’t honoured the process of training the skill into your nervous system.
Understanding a problem doesn’t make a problem disappear. To use another metaphor - that’s like understanding why your car broke down. That doesn’t mean you have the tools, the skills, or the expertise to fix it!
In this guide we are giving you BOTH:
- We’re giving you the background knowledge for WHY you feel stuck, overwhelmed, and can’t switch off from work.
- But we’re also going to give you the tools for HOW to fix it and start rewiring your brain.
WHY Can’t I Switch My Brain Off?
But before we get into the “how?”, let’s first understand the “why?”
The Survival Brain’s Predispositions
The survival brain is predisposed to:
- Inadequacy: For millennia, our survival depended on being part of the group. 10,000 years ago, surviving on your own in the wilderness would have been extremely unlikely. Therefore we are PREDISPOSED to a fear of being rejected from the group.
- Scarcity: We are PREDISPOSED to assume there’s not enough water, food, shelter, etc. Which again, makes sense from a survival perspective. Who’s most likely to survive harsh times and pass on their genes? The hunter gatherer who does the bare minimum, or the hunter gatherer who is always looking for more?
- Insecurity: We are PREDISPOSED to assume we’re not safe and to look for threats, danger, and what could go wrong. Which again, makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. If you’re always looking for threats and problems, you’re more likely to survive long enough to procreate.
It’s important to understand that predisposed does not mean predetermined. We don’t need to live at the mercy of inadequacy, scarcity or insecurity.
HOWEVER, the problems start to happen for us when we develop beliefs - at the subconscious level - which trigger these predispositions over and over again.
Throughout infancy, childhood and adolescence we accidentally accumulate a whole suite of beliefs which are untrue.
All this happens completely outside of our conscious awareness.
These blindspots are responsible for causing our survival brain’s predispositions to inadequacy, scarcity and insecurity to go into hyperdrive.
Without realising what’s happening, our survival brains are getting unnecessarily triggered and overreacting all day long!
This is precisely the mechanism which means that now you can’t switch off. Even when you KNOW it’s illogical and self-destructive.
Your Blindspots & False Beliefs
Let’s go through some of the common blindspots & false beliefs that prevent you from being able to switch off from work.
“I’m not safe”
Let’s say that you grew up in a home that was filled with uncertainty and fear. This could be as extreme as violence, but it could also take the form of neglect. For example - perhaps you had an alcoholic parent who didn’t provide the care you needed.
You learnt that you couldn’t rely on anyone, and you needed to escape. So your driver was survival. That’s a very powerful motivator. Your survival strategy becomes “I can’t stop. I have to keep pushing. I have to keep working. I’m scared to even look over my shoulder, I just have to forge ahead!”
However, for so many people who come from this type of background, they remain stuck in survival mode, long after they’ve achieved the security and stability they craved.
But they’re terrified of letting go of this survival strategy, because they worry that they’ll either lose their drive, or worse that they’ll relapse into their former self.
If you had to escape an unstable home, and you had to quickly learn to fend for yourself, then being pushed by fear and survival was useful, powerful, and your only option at that point in time.
BUT, if you then stay there for the next 50 years of your career, that’s exhausting and is going to lead to burnout.
A less extreme way that “I’m not safe” can be learnt is if you overhear your parents worrying about money. Perhaps you used to hide on the stairs after bedtime and overhear your parents worrying about bills, and debt, and where the money was going to come from.
Whichever environment “I’m not safe” is learned in, it goes beyond describing a temporary situation. Your subconscious mind takes it on as the default setting.
It’s the metaphorical lens in front of your face. If you have a blue coloured lens in front of your eyes, then everything looks blue. But if you’ve had that lens in front of your face since you were 5 years old, you could easily forget that everything isn’t actually blue - that’s just a lens you’re looking through.
You’re looking through the lens called “I’m not safe”, but you’re completely unaware that it’s a lens.
In which case, does it matter how much “safety” you create for yourself? Does it matter how much money you accumulate? Does it matter how many contingency plans you have? Does it matter how much you plan and prepare? Does it matter how busy you keep yourself or how hard you work?
None of it prevents the constant low level anxiety, or the inability to switch your brain off, because you’re still looking through the lens of “I’m not safe”!
People develop control issues when they have a low tolerance for risk, the unknown, and a fear of failure. They will frequently OVERplan to avoid ANY mistakes, failures, judgement or criticism AT ALL COSTS.
Perhaps you find yourself consumed with overthinking and endless “what if…?” questions:
“What if I get it wrong?”
“What if I make a mistake?”
“What if I let people down?”
“What if I lose money?”
“What if I miss the deadline?”
“What if people don’t like it?”
“What if… what if… what if…?!”
You come up with every conceivable scenario that could go wrong, and then try to come up with contingency plans to protect yourself from each one. But none of it gives you the reassurance that you’re looking for, so you keep worrying and keep over analysing.
You may find yourself trying to predict the unpredictable and control the uncontrollable, which of course is futile and exhausting, but you can’t stop.
Now, please do not misunderstand. Forward thinking and planning are important life and career tools.
However, OVERplanning is about trying to reassure your over-reactive survival brain.
One of the common causes for control issues is when your survival brain has learned that ANY failure means that YOU are a failure, that you are not enough, and that you will be rejected.
Here’s just one example of how that can happen…
Let’s say that you grew up in an environment where you were judged, criticised, or rejected if you weren’t being useful, working hard, succeeding, achieving, or making a contribution.
The message your survival brain receives is that you are not inherently or unconditionally accepted for who you are. You are ONLY enough, and worthy of acceptance (or even love) if you’re being useful.
This conditioning might be so strong that the ONLY time you feel safe is when you’re OVER-achieving.
So now you can’t stop, you can’t relax and you can’t switch off. You’re always on. And you’re terrified of making a mistake because if you make a mistake, that means you’re not enough and you won’t be wanted or accepted.
As a result, your survival brain’s predispositions to…
- Inadequacy (including the fear of rejection, and the fear of not being good enough), and
- Insecurity (the fear of uncertainty and being surrounded by hidden threats)
… go into hyperdrive.
Now you can’t stop looking for flaws or mistakes…
You can’t stop overthinking your decisions because, what if you make a bad decision…?!
Nothing you do ever feels good enough…
This is not your brain trying to sabotage you. It’s trying to keep you alive, because to your survival brain, the slightest mistake means rejection, which from an evolutionary standpoint, means death!
No, this is not logical. But the survival brain doesn’t operate using logic. It operates using emotions and associations.
This is why you can’t use intellectual thought, logic, analysing, or willpower to force yourself to switch off. You’re trying to interrupt an automated programme in your survival brain, using a language that your survival brain simply doesn’t understand.
Completion addiction is when you’re addicted to the emotion of completion.
You never give yourself permission to relax, to switch off for a moment, to recover, to enjoy the journey, to be fully present, to feel at ease or at peace, or to feel like life is the way it SHOULD be until…
… until all to-do lists are complete, all unanswered questions are answered, all problems are solved, and all unfinished business is finished!
This leads to rushing and hurrying from one task to another, never stopping to take a break, to eat a meal, to reset or to recharge.
You convince yourself you don’t have time for those things, when in truth you’re desperately chasing the feeling of completion (which never comes).
You also can’t ever switch off or stop thinking about a project, or a problem or some kind of unfinished business until you have closure - until it’s done, over, finished, complete! Even if there’s nothing more for you to do today, no more action to take, and no more decisions to be made - you STILL can’t let it go.
Which means that you can’t switch your brain off… ever!
You intellectually understand that “life’s a journey, not a destination” but you’ve never been able to feel it or live it. You’re constantly living your life in the future and you’re never truly present.
Completion addiction convinces you that this is the ONLY way to be productive, to solve problems and to get things done.
And it’s convincing because in the first half of your career it worked…
When you were young and your body could take the biochemical abuse…
When you were still convinced that the light was at the end of the tunnel…
And when your business, career, and level of responsibility were below a certain threshold…
In truth it’s a low performance activity. At best you hit a glass ceiling you can’t break through. At worst you end up destroying your health, your happiness, and potentially even your career.
If you can’t ever disconnect from work, not only is your personal life going to suffer, but so is your professional life.
When you’re constantly “on” your nervous system can’t rebalance itself.
Which in turn means that your cognitive function declines…
- Creative problem solving
- Decision making
… all become impaired when you’re unable to switch off or disconnect from work at will.
Which of course means you get stuck in a vicious cycle…
- You’re stressed and overwhelmed…
- Which impairs your resilience and cognitive function…
- Which leads to mistakes, impatience, rushing, exhaustion, poor decisions, procrastination, and impairs your ability to solve problems, complete to-do lists, and work productively, effectively or efficiently…
- Which means your workload increases even more, you fall even further behind, and judge yourself even more…
- Which makes you even more stressed and overwhelmed!
And, like most high achievers, the only solution you’ve come up with is to push harder, work longer, and white knuckle it - convincing yourself that the light is at the end of the tunnel and you just need to get through this next phase…
Which of course keeps you stuck in the never ending cycle of:
Intensity > burnout > escape… Intensity > burnout > escape… Intensity > burnout > escape.
And with each cycle, you become more exhausted, more disheartened and disillusioned, your work feels more and more miserable, your relationships suffer, your health deteriorates, and perhaps your weight keeps creeping up year on year.
That is not the high performance trait of a leader.
That is a ticking time bomb.
High performance business owners are able to be fully committed, disciplined, and bold, decisive action takers…
… whilst simultaneously…
- Being able to honour the process of creativity or problem solving WITHOUT frantically rushing because they simply can’t handle incompletion or the unknown.
- Being emotionally non-reactive
- Taking the ups and downs in their stride
- Being fully present
- Being in complete harmony with the unpredictable way that events unfold.
THAT is a powerful leader with limitless potential.
Other Blindspots, False Beliefs & Subconscious Limitations
There are plenty of other subconscious limitations that will keep triggering your survival brain and prevent you from being able to switch off from work, including…
If you’re constantly afraid that people will find out that you don’t deserve your position or that you don’t actually have what it takes, you’ll find yourself overthinking, over planning and over preparing for every conceivable scenario, angle, disagreement, criticism, or argument.
People pleasers feel unable to say “no” or set boundaries without guilt. Which means they constantly take on excessive, inappropriate workloads. All the while resenting being unappreciated, undervalued and taken advantage of, when in fact the issue is their own fear of confrontation, their own inability to have difficult conversations, and their own fear of judgement, criticism or being disliked. They end up with a life by default instead of a life by design.
The need to prove yourself
Many high achievers have an underlying need to prove themselves, regardless of how intelligent or experienced they are. The subconscious compulsion to keep proving yourself again and again is often packaged up with the fear of losing your reputation, the fear of humiliation and the fear of losing respect or even being disrespected.
Believing that hard work deserves success
Of course a high work ethic and the ability to do difficult things is important. But this belief goes beyond productivity. It becomes your north star, meaning that if hard work deserves success, and if you want more success, you just have to keep working harder… it becomes never ending!
Is life supposed to get harder the more successful you become?
Are top leaders paid for time & hard work? Or are they paid for results and high-level decisions?
Perhaps it’s time to upgrade your definition of success, and who you need to become if you want success on YOUR terms. The Human Doing
This is where your sense of identity is tied to always feeling like you’re achieving, over-achieving, and being productive.
The moment you stop, you can’t shake feeling worthless, useless, lazy, or like you’re being a waste of space.
Doing “nothing” feels like you’re being lazy, wasting time, and being worthless.
Being driven and hardworking is great.
But this is different.
This is a compulsion to always remain busy so that you can feel like you’re being useful, valuable, needed, or even worthy.
It’s almost like you have to justify your existence by always “doing”.
Which means that now, you’re unable to stop, switch your brain off, or mentally and physically recover because to you, that makes you feel like a waste of space!
That’s Why “Nothing” Worked For You!
Hopefully you can now see why you’ve found it so difficult, if not impossible to switch your brain off from work and disconnect.
I’m sure you’ve already tried the “business strategy” solutions, like:
- Productivity “hacks” & time management techniques
- Software systems
- Getting up at 0430
- Planning, prioritising & scheduling
- Hiring an EA
- Team building & delegating
And whilst these are all important and valuable, they haven’t eliminated the sense of overwhelm or the inability to switch off.
That’s also why “personal development” & “stress management” solutions haven’t worked either. Things like:
- Self hypnosis
Again, these are all great tools, but I’m guessing that they haven’t helped much beyond temporary relief.
Because none of these ”solutions” are getting to the real source of the issue…
… which is your subconscious conditioning, and is rooted in survival.
HOW Do I Switch My Brain Off?
There are two steps to transformation.
And when I say transformation, I don’t just mean a band-aid or coping mechanisms. I mean a complete transformation in how you think, feel and behave. A genuine rewiring of your neural networks that leads to a profound, and lasting transformation in how you think about yourself, the world around you and how you operate.
The two steps are:
- Reveal The Blindspots
- Condition A New Response
Step 1: Reveal The Blindspots
This has been our goal - within this limited format - to help you identify some of the potential blindspots that were running the show behind the scenes.
It is possible to do this on your own. Now that you have a deeper understanding of how your brain works, you can notice when you get triggered, and start to develop more self awareness.
Notice where you feel compelled to work late, or to scrutinise your work for the umpteenth time, or to try to predict the unpredictable or control the uncontrollable, or to obsessively think about all the unfinished business, unanswered questions, and unsolved problems.
Take a step back and look at your behaviour through the lens of this model we’ve just given you, and notice what’s REALLY driving your behaviour.
However, this self awareness frequently requires working with an experienced mentor to point out your blindspots. Afterall, they are - as the name suggests - blindspots!
Once you identify the blindspot, you can reveal the lie - the completely false beliefs and assumptions that it is founded upon. I’ll give you an example to show you what I mean.
This is precisely what happened to one of our clients CJ - whom you may have seen in our client success stories.
You will know that you’ve gotten to the heart of a blindspot, when you reveal it in its original form - in the language that was used at the time it was formed.
CJ’s pattern was the human doing. But whilst she completely agreed and resonated with this description, it was still at the intellectual level. The language “human doing” wasn’t accurate enough.
On digging a little deeper, we discover that she was constantly trying to be “useful”. She would even write “I am useful” when she used to journal.
However, if somebody is trying to BECOME useful, what must their CURRENT view of themselves be…?
NOT useful, or in other words, “USELESS”.
When we pointed this out to CJ she visibly tightened up.
If you recall the “blue lens” metaphor we discussed earlier, CJ’s lens was “I’m useless”. This was the precise language in which it had become encoded all those years ago when she developed this “survival strategy”.
Assuming she was “useless” was how her younger self protected her from the threat of rejection.
So it didn’t matter how useful she tried to become - how much money she made or how “perfect” her decisions were, she could never switch her brain off and was constantly berating herself.
I asked CJ, “is it true - as an actual truth - that you are useless? Does that in any way define you, or who you are at your core?”
It was an immediate “No!” and she got it. Not just intellectually this time, but emotionally and in her body. Her shoulders dropped and there was a huge sigh of relief.
That was her breakthrough moment.
Step 2: Condition A New Response (Rewire your brain)
Once the blindspots and the old conditioning have been revealed, there’s usually still some conditioning work to be done. The old survival response can still pop up from time to time, simply because it was a well ingrained habit.
However, now that you’ve exposed the lies upon which it was founded, this reconditioning process is a lot easier.
Here’s a simple process you can follow to reprogramme the old conditioning and install new responses:
STEP 1: SPOT
Spot when you get triggered. Using CJ’s example, she would spot the symptoms of the old conditioning, such as decision paralysis and self judgement.
Specific to the topic of “switching off” she would notice when she felt compelled to work late - because she still hadn’t done enough - because she still had to prove that she was “useful”.
STEP 2: SEE
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “you are not your thoughts”. This response is not the REAL you. It’s just conditioning. It’s just an outdated piece of software that is TRYING to protect you. It’s not malicious. It has your best interests at heart. But it’s just misguided.
Treat it like a hurt and scared little child who is crying “there’s a monster under the bed!”. You can acknowledge and fully accept the child, without believing there’s a monster under the bed!
In the same way, you can notice, acknowledge, and hear that part of you saying, “You need to work late! You’re still not safe! You still need to prove yourself!” without believing it.
STEP 3: CHOOSE
Choose the version of you that you’re stepping into now. Imagine your future self, your next level self, or your higher self. How does that version of you think, feel and behave in this moment?
Make a categorical decision that this is who you are and how you function from now on.
As you fully embody this new you and this new response, you might still need to acknowledge and accept the hurt & scared little child who might still be kicking up a bit of a fuss in the background.
That’s ok. It still gets to come along for the ride. Again, just treat it like a hurt and scared little child. You don’t berate them or reject them. You fully accept them, but you’re the one in the driver's seat.
Over time this new response will become fully automated.
Two things will speed up that automation
- Consistency - doing this EVERY time you get triggered
- Peak states - if you take the time to amplify your state in the final step, and fully embody energy, or confidence, or calmness, or gratitude, or relaxation - whichever state is going to be the most useful - you’ll strengthen the new neural pathways MUCH more quickly.
Commit to this process.
Don’t dither with it.
Attack it with an intensity and a commitment that declares to yourself and the world that you’re a different person from this moment on.
Do that, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re able to rewrite deep conditioning that’s been there for years, and feel a profound sense of liberation and rejuvenation.
You’ll be able to fully switch off from work - consciously AND unconsciously.
You’ll be fully present with your spouse, your kids, and yourself.
Your energy will return, your vitality will return, and you’ll finally reclaim control over your mind, your professional life, AND your personal life.
Love R&D xx
YOUR INVITATION TO WORK WITH US
At Chase Life Consulting we specialise in helping multi 6-7 figure + entrepreneurs and experienced professionals accelerate their revenues, growth and personal health by rewiring the rollercoaster of mental & emotional “turbulence” involved in running a high performing operation. This includes high-stakes, high-pressure situations, managing stress, dealing with overwhelm, navigating uncertainty, and preventing burnout.
If you are an A-Player who is looking to "Gain The Edge" and refuses to settle for less APPLY HERE for our Private Mentorship Program.
Working with us is fast, immersive and tailored to your requirements which we assess and discuss with you upon you submitting an application.
We operate in a direct & results-driven manner, in which we ask for full commitment from clients. Honesty, openness & communication between us is paramount. We need to know more about you before discussing a full solution.
Our consulting and advisory times range from 3 months - 24 months.
We are excited to connect with you!
Rachel & David