Fatigue. Are you ever so physically, mentally or emotionally exhausted that you need a pot of coffee just to try to keep up with your “normal” pace? What about stimulating yourself with a Snickers bar during that afternoon slump? I’ve been there, too. When we are under various life stressors, we can feel that fatigue creeping in. It’s our gut reaction to just pop a stimulant and not take the downtime that our body requires to heal. This is a Mainstream concept. Mainstreamers want the quick fix that will allow them to keep plowing ahead on a self-destructive path. Sure, it may look appealing for a while, as they can “get more things done” or “get ahead in life” in the short-term. What happens in the long-term is the problem.
If we ignore our body’s signals to slow down, we are putting our long-term health and wellbeing at risk. I won’t get all nerdy here and begin citing studies, don’t worry! It’s all too easy for us to make excuses that we have to push through for the sake of _____ (Fill in the blank with whatever is your deep-seated worry: our family, our finances, keeping up with the Joneses, etc.)
Truth is…we don’t.
There, I said it, counterculturist that I am. We DON’T have to push through the fatigue for the sake of anything.
When we experience recurring fatigue, it’s a warning sign. It reminds me of the flashing lights at a railroad crossing. (Yes, I grew up just outside the unofficial Railroad Crossing Capital in the States - Hammond, IN.) Those lights signal that a train is coming. We don’t know how fast it’s moving or how big a train it is, but it’s on the way. That’s a fact. We could choose to gun our engine, cross the tracks and try to “beat the train,” and we may be okay. But, if we follow that instinct every time, the odds are not in our favor.
Here’s how I have learned to cope with the fatigue, and I hope it helps you, too.
1. Accept. The fatigue is here. I may or may not have experienced it before, but it’s time for me to accept it as part of my current reality.
Example: Work is hectic. I’m hosting family for a week in my home. I’m training for an athletic competition. All at the same time. Fatigue is to be expected.
2. Analyze. What could be causing the fatigue? Could it be my diet, life stressors, the harried pace of life, a devastating loss, a new baby or any other change to my “normal” state? Determining the root of the fatigue will help with the next step.
Example: The root of the fatigue is multiple stressors all happening at the same time.
3. Address. If the cause of the fatigue is something I can change, what can I do to improve my situation? If you like to journal, write down what you think is the problem and some possible solutions. If you’re a talker, have a chat with a close friend, mentor or significant other to work through the issue.
Example: I may not be able to shirk my work or kick the family out of the house, but I can make more room for downtime in my schedule.
4. Act. This is the hard part. I must implement at least one of my possible solutions. It could be that I just need to slow down and rest more, or if it’s a serious situation, I may need to make some drastic lifestyle changes. In both extremes, it’s smart to get support when you act.
Example: I will start taking one time-out to do something I enjoy during the day, and I will NOT feel guilty.
5. Assess. Checking in with myself is vitally important, as this helps me to determine if my changes are working, or not. If they’re working, great! If not, it might be time to try another solution or to seek support from a professional.
Example: The guilt-free time for relaxation is helping me to cope with the fatigue. If fatigue increases, I will implement another solution.
That’s it! So, how is this process working for me in my own situation? It’s definitely helping, though I realize I may not completely eliminate the fatigue. That’s okay. I am being proactive and taking care of myself, rather than pushing my body beyond its limits.