Featured in

Featured in: Tiny Buddha, Halifax Media Coop, Fine Fit Day, Simplify the Season, La Presse, Filles, Le Canada-Français

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Knowing your limits - both the upper and the lower end

peasap, Flickr

It might seem like a cliché question, but do you know where your limits are?

And if so, do you respect them?

One good test is to ask yourself: "when I am hungry/tired/too hot/too cold... how long does it take me to attend to my need?"

Think about it.

The rat race we're in often leads us to oversee our needs.

I sometimes pride myself on being the antithesis of a diva (not in that I sing badly, but in that I am pretty low maintenance). However, that itself has its limits, and whenever I have trespassed them, it did not end well.

Last winter, for example, I worked wayyyyyy too much. Consequence: exhausted both mentally and physically, I ended up being sick for most of February. Me, the "never sick" person!

Luckily, others know better, and I am a good student.

  • With my mother I have learned that it's okay to take regular breaks to sit and have a snack when you're out shopping for a while. (I would just go and go until I practically collapse.)

  • With my father I have learned that the beginning of a headache has to be attended to, lest it turns into a full blown migraine. (They run in the family, and I have not been spared.)

  • With my friend A, a seasoned and well-rounded athlete - she is an IronWoman among other things - I have learned to pace myself: I would tend to start off hikes and runs way too fast. She calmed me down. (Very good advice: I now do much better overall at endurance challenges.)

  • With my little neighbor, L, who witnessed me packing my camping stuff, I have learned (following her advice) that bringing a good pillow is not superfluous. (She was right - I sleep so much better with my favorite pillow.)

Right now I am reading "Not Buying It. My Year Without Shopping", by Judith Levine. Some readers have accused her of not taking the challenge seriously, i.e. she complains about the luxuries she misses, and cannot wait to be allowed to spend again, when in fact she is still leading a comfortable life. I see the book differently. I think her journey illustrates clearly (and honestly) what happens when a middle class couple in their 50s, without children, attempt to reduce their consumption habits for the first time. Of course they have been used to a certain level of comfort and freedom. But you have to start where you're at, no? She does make some interesting points.

Taking breaks, attending our needs and being good to ourselves is no equivalent to overindulging and is not a waste of time. When done properly, it allows us to function more efficiently... with the added benefit of feeling better!

However, one must not forget that limits go both way. I believe we all operate best within an optimal range. Just as we need to give ourselves much needed breaks, we also need a certain amount of stimulation and challenge.

So, let me ask you again: do you know where your lower limit is, i.e. how much challenge you need in order to thrive?

And if so, do you make sure you do not remain below that stimulation level for too long?

I know my Vizsla has a clear need for physical activity, and a lot of it: if you don't exercise them sufficiently, many dogs (Vizslas in particular) will become "neurotic" and destructive.

I myself have noticed that when I fail to exercise sufficiently, my moods are affected.

Another example that's dear to my heart is that of gifted children; when they are forced to follow the regular curriculum, they can become bored and eventually disruptive. It's just like trying to drive a Ferrari at 15 km/h: it wasn't meant for that kind of speed!

As I was explaining to the kids today, certain forces contribute to maintain airplanes up in the sky (we had just witnessed a glider breaking free from the plane that had been pulling it), but slow the plane enough and it won't be supported anymore: it will fall. Same for bicycles. Same for people: their unique abilities have to be put to good use.

R, having just finished the junior version of the Spartan Race,
finishing in 2nd position in her category.
It was still a good challenge since she managed
to bruise a knee badly in the process.

We all have an ideal cruising speed. What is yours?

One final question for the road:

What do you think people's reaction is to someone who performs way above average in a given ability?

For example, in athletic ability? (the jock - not necessarily applicable to the pretty female athlete, who despite her huge talent might be known by many for her mouth-watering curves - I'm thinking of all I read about Eugénie Bouchard recently - not impressed.)

What about intellectual ability? (the nerd)

Do we react to it in the same way?

What makes us cheer? What makes us frown?

Why, do you think?

What about musical genius?


  1. Interesting to think about our lower limits - I see the inactivity with my boys occasionally. I always think that being a slug for a short time is OK, for an extended period is never good!!!
    And I'm with you on the gifted kids - I know it's hard for teachers to plan for all ranges of kids but I've seen the gifted ones get the short straw way too many times!!!

    1. I had a math teacher who simply had a box of harder exercises at the front of the class, that we could get and work on. She probably put a few hours on it before the beginning of the school year. Thanks for commenting, Kim!

  2. honestly? the older I get the more I am happily OK with average.

    1. So it IS possible to find balance then! :-)

  3. I see a lot of people getting sick because they never stop. I think if you don't occasionally rest, your body MAKES you rest! So it's better to take that time out each day than to be sick for a week or two the next time a virus goes around. It really does lower your resistance to constantly push yourself and not take care of yourself, especially if you aren't eating well.

  4. One thing about me and limits, I try very hard never to set my own limits. I let the world set them for me. It has worked pretty well :-)

    1. Hmmm... interesting. Not sure it would work for me. :-)

  5. My limits vary. I am very patient with children, but cannot stand sloppy adults. Also I tend to forgive others sooner than I would forgive me.
    I drive the speed limit around schools. May be five miles more on the highways. That's all.
    Like Dr.J most of my standards are set already, they work so why change.

    1. I like your differential attitude toward children and adults! LOL

      True about the forgiving, I am the same.

  6. I am totally in agreement with your mum and dads points of views in the bullet points early in your post.

    So often we ignore what our body is trying to tell us ....

    I enjoyed the read, and the points raised, thank you.

    All the best Jan

    1. Listening to our body is a work in progress, and so important! Thank you Jan.

  7. Time, and energy spent unnecessarily can be time, and time and energy wasted -- except maybe in the area of art. Art seems to be the exception since its flow is almost always spontaneous.

    Other areas though; work, parenting, athletics, wasted time and energy are usually counterproductive. It's common knowledge that Heisenberg found many of his answers outside the lab -- going for walks.

    Most athletes over-train -- even at the highest levels. They pander to their psyche rather than their endeavor.

    Most parents over-parent, pandering to the flow of society, and their perception of where they fit in that flow.

    As far as lower limits go, the baseline is climbing into a coffin, and waiting. Anything else is gravy -- I guess.

    1. Fascinating comment, I will ponder it! :-)

  8. Congrats to R--that is awesome.

    I hopefully tailor, as you do so well, my limits depending on the person and the situation.

    I have found that my time to accomplish things is late at night when kids are sleeping; which unfortunately cuts into sleep time. Losing sleep then makes me less attentive and quicker to anger. My limits are then moved in--as I adjust to my own issues.

    I hope your weekend is fun.