Anxiety, crying, low energy.
After all of these years, I can’t seem to find exactly what causes these downshifts. For someone so type-A, driven and focused, feeling like crap for multiple days in a row is a huge blow to my confidence.
On the surface it feels like something simple – putting too much pressure on myself with work, not getting enough rest, H not helping around the house, people driving like morons, hormones – you name it, it feels like the general cause of my stress. I assume I can ride it out for a few days, but when it takes over more than a week, it starts to feel insurmountable.
I’m learning that it’s complicated. And I’m learning if it’s normal for me, than it’s normal.
It’s about my innate power – my own abilities and the energy they require. How I can be so tuned into other people and yet get lost in the static of overwhelm. It’s about being highly sensitive. It’s about the ebb and flow of energy.
While there doesn’t seem to be an exact cause, there are a few things that seem to help pull me back to the filled up, happy person I always want to be. Listing them here in case they help you, and as a marker for myself the next time I’m way down in the muck.
Overwhelm, exhaustion, an empty tank – whatever you want to call it – getting more sleep seems to brighten my moods. More than a usual 7-8hrs. We’re talking 10hrs over night or a solid 3hr nap. I know this may not sound “reasonable”, but I’m learning I need to trust myself in what I need, and if that’s 8hrs of sleep and then a 2hr nap later that morning, so be it.
Eating healthy helps, obviously, but lately a few things really throw me off. I’ve lost any interest in alcohol, (which is better than the opposite) and when I do have a drink, I feel miserable. It wrecks my sleep and ruins my mood the next day. Coffee, even decaf lattes, seem to both up my anxiety and make me incredibly sleepy. So I’ve been sticking to tea and chai lattes for my hot drink fix.
Clearly I’m one of those people that care just a bit too much about work, my bar for excellence far exceeding other people’s. So last week, I took a day off. An entire day where I left my phone at home and did something fun. Another afternoon, I spent sitting with a friend at her pool, relaxing in quiet before I hosted a work event (where I was “on” for 5hrs straight). Making sure my reserves were refueled or even topped-off before I needed to pull from them is definitely something to schedule in in the future.
When I’m feeling anxious, I tend to check social media a lot, mindlessly taking in information via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and websites. It feeds the feeling that I’m doing something productive with my energy, but I’m not. At all. So, I stop. I ignore texts, drive without music, go for runs without podcasts, turn off the lights in my apartment, turn off the TV, stop checking email often and choose carefully who I spend my time with. It may seem extreme to people who don’t feel the way I feel, but it really does help me bounce back.
Change Of Pace
Getting out of my normal morning > work > homelife routine also helps. Clearly, the euphoria of travel is partially being away from my responsibilities – all of those shoulds (true and made up) I let run rampant in my head. Last week, H and I went climbing at Point Dume again. This gave me quality time with him, a challenge to rise to (I climbed really, really well) and an evening at the beach. All of these things shift my perspective away from work / pressure / unhappiness back to loving my life and feeling like a badass.
There seems to be this correlation between not creating and feeling like shit. I was able to get some creative time on Friday night and Saturday – writing a blog post, shooting some photos, and playing with paper. I also made time to write morning pages, which have fallen out of my routine. Another way to refuel and top-off the energy reserves.
All of the above falls into self-care, but the mental shift that seemed to take place last week was one of going from feeling trapped / exhausted / anxious to feeling OK with how I was feeling – allowing myself to feel it, talk about it, accept it and do what I not only needed to do to help myself, but actually what I WANTED to do.
And isn’t that the crux of it all – doing what I want to do? Why is that so difficult? And yet, it is. It’s the one thing that makes me the happiest, and it’s the thing I struggle with the most.
I mean, I started this blog and called it Allowing Myself because that is the skill I need to keep learning over and over. To allow myself. Last week was just another version of it. And each time, I get a little better at it – I move through it with more confidence and grace – even if it seems like there won’t be a light at the end of the tunnel, there is. Every time.
So maybe this week we could all practice a little bit. Tune into that little voice that suggests something that would boost our energy or even make us downright blissed-out, and choose that thing. Allow yourself any of those things you think aren’t reasonable to want, the thing that feels like “oh, that must be nice” but isn’t in your reach – and do that thing.
Let yourself do what you want. And I’ll be doing my best to do the same.