My mother would have definitely frowned upon my posture. I was slumped in to the cushions of the couch like a moody teenager, legs stuck straight out in front of me as far as possible. Definitely not the way a grown woman sits in the living room. The sun had set on yet another day, counting down the handful of days left until Christmas, and my mind slowly giving up the fight on all the items still left to do on my never-ending to do list. My husband was running out the door to the final choir practice before their big Christmas concert and he noticed my face. “You okay?”
“I don’t think so,” I replied, almost wondering if I was or wasn’t. “It just hit me. I think I’m done. Too much. I’m emotionally and physically spent. And there’s still so much to do. I don’t see how I’m going to get it all done. And I just don’t even care.”
“Ouch. That’s not you. That’s not like you at all. Time to regroup” he asks? That’s the awesome beauty of this man. He knows me. He can see stress and exhaustion as it registers on my face and in my body and my language and he checks in with a “you okay?” He knows when I’m not me, when I’m out of my healthy rhythms, and when I need to recalibrate.
These last couple of weeks have been draining. Part of it was the kind of draining that comes from good things – being with friends, meeting for coffee and conversation, having visitors come to stay, and a long holiday weekend that we spent hiking and having great fun outdoors. Good stuff! Good stuff takes lots of energy.
Then there were a few tough days that were the “real” tough days… hard relational stuff, difficult meetings, stressful conversations. Add to that two days with back-to-back meetings all day long, a reading assignment, six hours in the emergency room with a friend, and two big group project meetings. Those things take a different kind of energy and cause a different kind of stress.
So, as I slouched down in to the corner of the couch, I realized that I was done. Dry. My cup does not runneth over – it’s empty. I’ve been here before. And every time I swear I’m going to pay more attention next time and not let it happen again. Yet, here I am. Ugh.
Time to recalibrate.
Emotional exhaustion is my downfall. I don’t usually get to a point of physical exhaustion. This girl has never had trouble sleeping! I can sleep in the car at the drop of a hat (much to my husband’s chagrin). If I try to sit in my favorite chair and read, I’ll be asleep in minutes. Movie theatres are nap time death traps for me! And if I curl up with a quilt and warm socks and the dog, there is no Netflix show known to man that can keep my eyes open. Nope – physical exhaustion is generally not my thing. Me and sleep are besties! But – the emotional stuff? That jazz just wipes me out and knocks me for a loop.
I can’t tell you what will be your magic elixir for getting back on track. It’s different for everyone. But I can tell you about some tried and true awesomeness that works for me. And maybe it will get your creative thoughts going and help you find a few gainers that will help you reset and refill your cup.
Okay, okay… don’t laugh and quit reading. I know that finding a way to rest is tough. I’m a mom and have several full-time gigs running at the same time. And I just told you that I can sleep without even thinking about it. But REST is different for me. Rest is finding a way to turn off my brain. I need to do something calming, something that induces peace in my head and my heart. Sometimes that means sitting with a good fiction book. And if I can do it in the garden, cha-ching! Score! Because nothing calms me more than sitting in the sun surrounded by plants and flowers and birds singing. Bad weather? Candles to the rescue! Me and a cup of coffee and candles and a book = pretty dang close to heaven.
This is one I forget to incorporate in my daily life, but it makes such a huge difference in my emotional status. With Spotify and other streaming music sites available, I can tailor the music to the mood I need. Smooth jazz, a good Blues playlist, some Rat Pack, or some Ruthie Foster are my go-to musical saviors. My daughter’s number one calm-down music is the classical masters… Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky. If I hear her streaming those guys, I know her studies are getting stressful. And to be perfectly honest, sometimes I need some seriously upbeat tunes or some good stand-up-and-fight music. Those are on stand-by in a special playlist.
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? You’re already exhausted, so why would you exercise? But trust me, the chemicals produced in the brain in response to exercise are vital to your energy and mood! Do what you like to do… take a walk, go on a jog, spend some time with your yoga mat and get in a really good stretch, ride your bike, or on a hike. It doesn’t matter what you do but do something for 20 minutes or so. My dogs love me when I can take them out on a walk for a bit or go to the park and throw the ball for them. We both benefit, and that’s a win-win! Hint: I use YouTube and stream exercise videos every day. It’s amazing! I just type in what I feel like doing and how long I want to do it and I get a whole list of videos to choose from. Sometimes I accidently choose some evil gym queen who I’m pretty sure makes videos after she finishes training fight dogs as her day job – but the beauty of YouTube is I can go *click*, “Goodbye Evil One! You are not welcome on my yoga mat today” and I feel like I really just saved the world.
Not gonna lie, sometimes the last thing I want to do when I’m emotionally caput is think about clothes and makeup and hair. But it’s amazing what a good bath or shower can do for your mood! Add some candles to the bathroom (are you feeling a theme here?) and some really great scents (I’m a sucker for spearmint and eucalyptus aromatherapy from Bath and Body Works, or anything vanilla or coconut… okay, food – I should just bathe with food – HA!). Somehow, after a good hot bath and some yummy clean smells, I feel like I might be human again.
This one is really hard for me on the tough days. I’m an introvert at heart, and when I’m emotionally drained, my default is to go in to full-on turtle mode and withdraw. If I have to go out, I wish I had the Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter so no one would see me or talk to me. But, this is one of those times when WE NEED COMMUNITY. When we are emotionally toast, we actually need people. Be choosy – choose people who fill you up, who make you laugh, or who speak truth and beauty in to your life. I may text a friend and go have coffee. Sometimes, physically going out to meet up is not an option for me, but I have a couple of friends who I can video call on Messenger or Skype and they are instant energy boosts for me. The key here is to be as close to real life face-to-face as possible. Texting back and forth isn’t the same as FaceTime or a video call. You need to see someone’s eyes and hear their voice and laugh together to get the full effect of those great anti-stress hormones that are released when we find joy in connection. I have one friend who can make me go in to that middle-school slumber party kind of non-stop ridiculous laughter, the kind that makes your sides hurt and your face starts to cramp. She is one of my go-to video calls in stressful times! She is important community for me!
Make it fit
I have other little things that I do. Journaling, painting, baking. My best friend gets out a jigsaw puzzle when she needs to chill – that makes me even more stressed, but it works for her. And that’s exactly my point. You need to find what works for you, what fills you back up, and what calms your spirit. It doesn’t matter what you do but do take the time to invest in yourself and in your own mental and emotional health.
Hey – Newsflash: You are not the only one. This is normal. We all get to the end of our rope. We have all been there and used up all of our energy and our reserves at one time or another. It’s okay. Just pick yourself up and refill that cup. You’re worth it!