2020 stripped away mindless pleasure for me, leaving me lost and forlorn.
Not for long, mind you.
First, I struggled with the anxiety of “two weeks to flatten the curve” until I wrapped my head around the fact that I was drowning in the uncertainty of “which two weeks?”.
This rapidly moved into exhaustion. I woke up every morning with energy, but my energy levels were quickly depleted, and by early afternoon I would be struggling to “hold it together”. I easily spent two to three hours every afternoon napping or lying on my bed, overwhelmed.
Was this depression?
Possibly. But I guess I’ll never know.
What I do know is that for me, the world stopped. It came to a screeching halt in 2020 as Panama went into what felt like an eternal lockdown. And I slept, every afternoon, for weeks on end.
Relax, Recharge and Reflect. Sometimes it’s OK to do nothing.― Izey Victoria Odiase
I didn’t exercise or even walk the dog because we were restricted to walking within 100m of our front door. We could literally take them out to do their necessities and then walk back inside again.
Eventually, I’d had enough of the pleasure and distraction of sleeping!
But until the world stopped, I don’t think I ever knew how tired I really was.
While I dallied in the pleasure of social media – okay, sharing memes – I realised I wanted to use the time for learning, meeting up with others online and book clubs.
My support network was missing in my life, and I began to take active steps to rebuild a new network in the virtual world.
The more I engaged with others, books and social learning environments, the happier and more settled I was! I started writing again — at first sporadically and then more consistently.
When you remove all the distractions, you are left with mindfulness: listening to your body, noticing your feelings, and watching your thoughts. I noticed I was regularly tired every afternoon after lunch, and it wasn’t just the normal mid-afternoon dip; my body was still asking for healing rest.
So, I organised my schedule (since I work from home and am self-employed) so that my mid-afternoons were free for resting.
Calming allows us to rest, and resting is a precondition for healing. When animals in the forest get wounded, they find a place to lie down, and they rest completely for many days. They don’t think about food or anything else. They just rest, and they get the healing they need.― Thich Nhat Hanh
Back to school and building a new routine.
In 2022, we are back to school, and I am building a new routine. Unfortunately, it includes early morning starts, as little miss 8 has to be out the door by 6.30 a.m. to get to school for her 7.10 a.m. start.
I’m not very happy about her early morning starts, as I wake her up rather than allowing her to wake up naturally. Almost all schools here start at that time, so the alternative would be to choose home-schooling, and the last two years taught me that I am not cut out for that!
My biggest frustration, however, is that I get up at 5.30 a.m. each day to get her out the door by 6.30, and I don’t enjoy that first hour of the morning.
Once she’s out the door, the day is mine! But I miss having the first hour to myself. I have yet to make peace with this routine.
I no longer get my mid-afternoon naps as I pick her up from school in the early afternoon.
Exercise in the rainy season:
I also notice acutely the effects of the rainy season on my moods and my desire to exercise and get outdoors! My love for cycling and going for runs drops the moment we get into the humidity and wet days! It has rained for weeks, and I have no desire to work out indoors or outdoors.
Of course, that also takes its toll on energy levels! Exercise is a great way to boost dopamine and serotonin levels, and I notice the difference.
We have to learn to rest. Lying down is not the only position for resting. During sitting or walking meditation, we can rest very well.― Thich Nhat Hanh
I know that I have no desire to exercise this time of year. It happens every year! One of the ways that I prepared for this low, however, was by setting myself a 100-day challenge of what is the minimum I would do.
Rather than fighting it: I planned to do the least possible!
Getting a good night’s sleep.
My best days happen when I get a good night’s sleep:
- I try to get to bed by 9.30 p.m. and no later than 11.00 p.m.
- Ideally, I sleep the whole night, which is much better now than five years ago!
- I wake up when I wake up: that’s usually about 4.50 a.m. or so, and I get up!
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to get out of bed when I wake up (unless it’s 1.00 a.m. or so). Some mornings I am up at 3.30 a.m., and I know I’ll need a nap in the afternoon.
No matter the stress , anxiety or your situation. I hope you can afford to sleep peacefully at night. Sleep or resting is very Important. Make sure you get enough rest, In order for you to be able to be productive in whatever you are doing.DJ Kyos
But I’ve learned that I don’t try to get back to sleep, as I will wake up groggy rather than clear-headed.
Waking up naturally, rather than to an alarm, is one of the best gifts I can give myself for extra energy. So I avoid going back to sleep when I wake up before my alarm!
What I eat matters: how digestion impacts the quality of sleep.
As much as I might hate to accept it, the quality of my sleep is heavily impacted by my diet! What I eat matters. So does the time of day that I choose to eat.
Living with celiac disease and other challenges means I am pretty sensitive to how my gut responds to food. If I want a good night’s sleep, there are several things I must avoid:
- Caffeine – impacts my nervous system, making me sleep lightly and wake up multiple times throughout the night. I have no trouble falling asleep after drinking coffee. But I don’t get a good night’s sleep, as I fail to stay asleep.
- Foods that make me gassy – so I avoid onions and garlic (I know they have other health benefits, but they impact how well I sleep). I avoid cucumber and tomato seeds. I also stay away from carbs, which my body chooses to ferment rather than turn into energy!
- Sugars – once again, it’s about fermentation.
So, my typical diet is a FODMAPS diet, which I have modified towards KETO (because it gives me a lot more recipes and options that are gluten-free).
Feeling bloated is draining: my energy levels drop awfully when my gut suffers. This doesn’t just affect the quality of my sleep: it impacts all areas of my life.
So, I prioritise restful sleep, not just the hours I sleep. Sleeping deeply is a priority for excellent energy levels.
Sometimes you have to give your body a break before it breaks you. I mean, you have to rest your body before it arrests you with sickness. Rest to restart and break to breakthrough.― Ned Bryan Abakah
Managing my energy rather than my time.
The biggest lesson of living with the potential fatigue that comes with chronic illness is learning to manage my energy rather than relying on time management techniques.
I’m finally learning to love myself enough to ride the waves of energy and focus rather than belittling myself when I need to rest.
Many tasks don’t require me to be laser-focused. It’s easy to prioritise those tasks, procrastinating on the important ones because they are more complex. Most importantly, I’m learning to leave the “busy work” that can be done when I’m not feeling entirely focused for those times when I am awake and yet not wholly clear-headed.
But loving myself requires that I prioritise essential tasks to my highest energy levels and focus. And I leave the “busy work” when I’m not at my best.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to rest, despite my to-do list.
Resting must be given a full time as required to manage your overall body health― Anath Lee Wales
Secrets for dealing with reduced energy:
If you’re struggling with reduced energy and fatigue, here are some of the hard-learned lessons I’ve had:
- Give yourself permission to sleep and nap; stop trying to push through the fatigue;
- Prioritise a good night’s sleep, making all the lifestyle changes necessary to sleep deeply. This might include changes in your diet and daily habits;
- Exercise despite not feeling motivated – even if you choose just to do a minimum rather than anything outrageous! Even a 10-15 minute walk daily, no matter how slow, will make a difference over time;
- Create a schedule or task list that allows you to manage your energy rather than your time.
- Make rest and relaxation a priority in your life until you get back on your feet. That does not mean looking at social media or mindlessly watching Netflix: it means resting!
“As important as it is to have a plan for doing work, it is perhaps more important to have a plan for rest, relaxation, self-care, and sleep.”― Akiroq Brost