Been going too hard for too long? If you are feeling as flat and depleted as the non-Energizer bunny, now is the time to get extremely serious about self-care.
When feeling physically and mentally fatigued, some of the most effective ways to help restore your health are extremely simple. You may however have to break some old habits, set some big boundaries and place taking care of yourself to the top of your to-do list.
When animals are run-down they rest. When humans are run-down we tend to completely ignore our animal instincts, so we can push on with work, study, training for that half-marathon and all those other things which seem incredibly important.
When we continually put rest last, we can start to fall apart, both physically and psychologically. There comes a point when attempting to push on through can have some fairly disastrous consequences.
Periods of big stress and big effort need to be balanced by big amounts of rest and recovery. Remember, sleep has more curative properties than anything anyone can ever sell you, so do whatever you can to get enough of it.
While we may like to think of ourselves as indestructible go-getters, sometimes the only getting we should be doing is getting to bed. While early nights and nanna naps may seem a little lame, they can play a hugely important role in helping us recover.
- Do less
While it sounds annoyingly simplistic, the best antidote to doing far too much, is to do far less.
Now is not the time to be a hero. Take off the cape, leave it lying somewhere near the laundry basket and get super-realistic about what is achievable for you right now.
Cut down your to-do list to the bare essentials and don’t waste your energy on perfect when ‘perfectly adequate’ will suffice. If there are tasks that can be delegated, delegate them. If there are tasks that can be postponed, postpone them. If there are tasks that have always seemed completely pointless, stuff ‘em.
Your health is more important than the length of your lawn, the cleanliness of your car or the size of your washing pile. Most of us have a myriad of tasks, eagerly awaiting to consume any leftover moments. When we are feeling fatigued, these moments are however precious and need to be guarded (and savoured).
To achieve ‘less’ we may need to set better boundaries and become a whole lot better at checking in on our own needs. When was the last time you asked “what do I really need right now?” Remember you are 100% worthy of honouring your own needs.
A good start is to delay your ‘yeses’ and say ‘no’ to those activites that drain your energy and vitality. Another important but sometimes difficult step forward is to ask for practical help. If there is someone else who can do the school run, hang out the washing or clean the gutters, pick up the courage to ask. Doing so is a great act of self-care and resilience.
- Give your brain a break
21st century humans have become accustomed to constant stimulation. Unfortunately, this isn’t great for our brains. With our days spent multi-tasking, doing complex jobs, scrolling attention-sucking social media apps and managing the multitude of open tabs on our computers, our minds simply don’t get the downtime they need.
There are many telltale signs that you may be cognitively fatigued. You may be making uncharacteristic mistakes or finding it incredibly hard to concentrate. Maybe you found yourself holding your car keys while asking your partner “have you seen my keys?” Perhaps you have put the milk back in the cupboard and the cereal back in the fridge. Or maybe you have found yourself in the supermarket feeling completely overwhelmed by the 43 different types of laundry liquid on display.
Whatever the telltale signs, taking some regular time away from attention-draining devices can be highly restorative.
One proven way of restoring vital energy is practising mindfulness. Be warned, it may feel a little weird and uncomfortable at first. So hooked are most of us on constant stimulation, that we can really struggle with stillness. Try a short, guided exercise to start with. Over time you may find you can step back from the busyness of your brain and begin to truly relax.
Other great ways to restore include taking a walk without your phone, getting out in nature or devoting some time to ‘single-tasking’, focusing on something you love – whether that be listening to music, drawing or watching sport.
- Listen to your body (not the marketers)
When feeling fatigued and run-down the answer is rarely any of the stuff the multi-billion-dollar wellness/personal improvement industry is trying to sell us. Instead, you will generally find it by listening to your body and giving it the simple things needed to nourish and restore it.
Rather than truly support us, most wellness industry messaging tends to model impossible ideals, tell us we are not good enough and suggest solutions that set us up for failure and disappointment. When we are fighting fatigue and feeling flat, this can be particularly unhelpful.
When run-down or exhausted, you probably don’t need an impossibly enthusiastic person to tell you to unleash the power within. It may not be super-helpful to have a 23-year-old fitness model tell you how to get an Instabod. Sunrise bootcamp may be the last thing you are feeling up for and do you really want a juice cleanse, if you have to spend 20 minutes a day cleaning a juicer?
Good nutrition, good sleep and regular exercise may sound far more boring than the latest highly hyped miracle cure. They are however far more likely to yield results.
Listen to your body closely and you will also know when you could use some extra help. If you require advice or feel that something is just not right, be sure to check in with your GP.
- Have a plan
If doing the same thing is leaving you more and more exhausted, it’s time to do things differently.
Remember, what’s considered normal isn’t necessarily what’s healthy. From medicine to law and all sorts of other demanding professions, exhaustion is far too often worn as a badge of honour. Instead of thinking about what’s “normal”, consider what is sustainable for you, what will keep you healthy and what a good life really looks like.
It’s important to have an action plan for those really tough days on the job and know who you will reach out to for support (you can create one in session 10 of Mindarma). If you need to get through a busy period, plan how you will look after yourself during it and plan how you will recover after it. If it has been too long since you last truly rested, book in leave and make sure whatever you do during this period is restorative.
Rather than staring down a future filled with more exhaustion, having a plan can provide great comfort and help us walk a path to a far healthier and more enjoyable future.