• Nathan Riley, MD

Slow Down

At every fork in the road, I nearly always choose the more difficult option. I know what it means to push myself to my physical and emotional levels. Ironman triathlon, medical training, rock climbing…I have a knack for kicking ass.

But recently I’ve been faced with a far greater obstacle.

In 2017, I was balancing 100-hour workweeks with 4–5 hours of sleep, buckets of coffee, and various other passion projects. On top of that, my workouts weren’t 20 minutes on an elliptical. They were a daily, ritualistic sacrifice slaughter of my ego and body.

I had gotten away with it for 3 decades, though the devil was lingering…waiting to strike me down. And strike me down she did…

You know that feeling you get when you realized you had too much to drink, and that wave of nausea overcomes you and exorcises itself without any warning or sympathy for where you are or who you are with?

I experienced something like that except it manifested as rigors and chills for an hour followed by deep, knock-style caliber sleep. I experienced this on three occasions at the half-way point through residency, and it scared the f*ck out of me.

Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. After many discussions I determined that I had driven my physical being into the dirt. I was cooked. Three years later, I feel strong again, but it came with a cost: more sleep, better self-care, and a completely different narrative.

My biggest challenge yet has become slowing down. Sympathizing with the needs of body, mind, and spirit. Harmonizing recovery with stress.

This is the great obstacle. You’ve proven that you are powerful enough to conquer the world, but can you rise to the challenge of slowing down?


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