We berate ourselves when we succumb to fatigue. We complain about how tired we are, yearn for a holiday, question why we seem unable to keep up with our contemporaries, and wonder at our aches and pains. And we scold ourselves mercilessly for not being able to get it all done.
An insightful teacher years ago helped me understand that there was more than one way to address fatigue. It turned out that in many cases what I thought was the cure (sleep or being a couch potato) was the worst thing to do. In fact, we can often be our own worst enemy when it comes to rejuvenating ourselves. And it all starts with how we think.
Let’s focus on how to think when we’re tired, and how to find and sustain the right balance of different types of energy in our lives.
Too often, when we are rightfully drained, we label ourselves. We start to think of ourselves as low energy, listless and weak. These negative thoughts don’t serve us. And if we are not serving ourselves, we are not bringing our best self to others. When we feel tired, worn out, and empty let’s acknowledge how we feel in the moment, but take care not to label ourselves as tired, worn out, empty people.
Sometimes all it takes to restore our energy is to change our internal dialogue. Start the day with a positive affirmation or two (or twenty!): I am energetic and joyful. I have boundless enthusiasm. I’m going to accomplish something important today and I’m going to be grateful for my strong, healthy body.
Sometimes, we’re exhausted because we take on responsibility for things beyond our control. Or things that are a little ‘outside of our lane’. An old Polish proverb says: ‘Not my circus. Not my monkeys’. Wise words. We are each one person. We must cherish that person and honour our bodies and souls. Taking on too much is bad for us physically, and it’s self-serving, too. We’re here to fulfill a purpose; our job is to figure out what it is. If we burn out trying to fix everything, we serve no one. And other people are strong, too. Let them fix their own stuff.
Think about the kind of energy you need to replenish and choose the right remedy. The first type is physical energy. Training hard, doing physical labour, not getting enough rest or sitting still too long depletes physical energy. Sleep can sometimes be the answer, but when we are getting 7+ hours regularly, this is not the cure.
More often, the cure is movement. Working at a desk for hours makes us physically tired. We crave a nap but the best answer is to take a walk. Physical exercise can drain us, too, but often a gentle stretch is all it takes to rejuvenate. Lying about can actually make us sore. If it’s raining, do stairs or jumping jacks. Sing. Play music. Anything to get the blood pumping.
The second type of energy is mental energy. We drain mental energy when we focus on one task or perform critical thinking too long, or when we become bored. To replenish mental energy, we need to do something different. Break away from the task at hand and allow that part of your brain to rest. Drive a different way to work. Visit a new town or part of the office. Read about a topic you know nothing about. Work on a crossword or jigsaw puzzle.
The feeling of mastery that comes from completing something like this can spark your energy. For me, at times like this I really enjoy a walk outdoors. I try to remember to take care to actually see the beauty in the trees, the flowers, the wind, the sun. It makes me feel like a new person.
The third kind of energy is emotional energy. We exhaust emotional energy when we struggle with relationship, care-taking or parenting issues or, especially, when we suffer loss. It’s especially important to be kind to ourselves at times like these. We must not try to resolve things beyond our control.
We should direct energy into connecting with those that matter most. An email exchange, phone call or visit with someone who knows and loves us provides comfort. And that is often what we need to restore emotional energy. If one connection doesn’t do the trick, increase the dosage. As many times as needed.
Last, but not least, is spiritual energy. We deplete spiritual energy when we devote time and passion to a cause. Raising money for a charity, being a caregiver, volunteering or working in a long-term effort like a campaign can leave us needing a restorative activity. The cure for this type of energy drain is to do something mindless, or something that has no purpose. See a film, watch a comedian, play with a dog or other pet. Give yourself this kind of break and a pat on the back for being devoted to something so important.
Be kind to yourself. Especially when you feel like you don’t have the energy to do one more thing. Reflect on how you can help yourself deal productively with your fatigue. Avoid labelling yourself. It’s OK to be tired; that doesn’t make you a low energy person.
It’s helpful to be clear about what type of energy needs to be restored, and then to do what’s best to help rejuvenate ourselves. And to do those things without guilt.
We deserve whatever it takes to replenish us. It will benefit us but also all those around us, too. Remember, we are so much more than enough.
Joan Senio is a mental health blogger who runs My Best Friend Adeline. She is a wife, mother, sister, daughter, godmother and aunt.
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