June 17, 2011

Good GRAVY, I’m Tired!

How To Decide When To Try To Move Past Feelings And When To Honor Them.

I’m tired. Tired in that peculiar way I seem to get every June as my kids’ school year draws to a close. I’m tired from my (self-induced) early mornings and from my (kid-induced) later-than-I-like-them nights. I’m tired from nine months of lots and lots of yoga. I’m tired from keeping track of four other schedules, when my own comings and goings are more than enough to keep me fully occupied. I’m tired from all the fun stuff that happens this time of year – pool parties, class events, concerts and recitals. And I’m tired from everyday stuff that really shouldn’t all that tiring – like grocery shopping, cooking dinner and brushing the dog.

Note, I said I’m tired from all these things and not tired of them. Because I’m not actually tired of any of it. Wait. Let me be completely honest. I certainly am sick and tired of the constantly looming presence of my kids’ homework and the endless questions it requires of me. “Do they have any? Have they done it? Have they turned it in?” But, otherwise, I can say without hesitation that I’m not tired of the people, things and activities that fill my life.

Because everything I do seems to add a layer to my tiredness, and because I actually enjoy most of it, it’s a little hard to figure out what changes would help perk me up. Would a little more exercise shake off my cobwebs? Or is a little more sleep that’s needed? Would a night out with friends add just the shot of fun I’m craving? Or would it tip me over the proverbial edge? Would a little more time with my children help? Or is it a little space I’m in need of?

As I try to diagnose exactly what would reinvigorate me, I find myself marveling at all the ways it is possible to feel tired. And on any given day in June, I’m capable of experiencing them all! (Fun.) Here are a few:

– Tired can feel sleepy. I often feel this way when I’m sitting at my computer paying the bills or writing. Usually, all I need to do to perk up is to stand up, move around or get a drink of water.

– Tired can masquerade as boredom. This kind of tired makes me feel antsy, distract-able or edgy. I feel this way after hours of schlepping my kids hither and yon. A change of pace or location helps. Getting out of the car, for instance, can immediately restore my spirits.

– Sometimes my tired feelings can be a little two-faced. I can recall times I’ve been so tired of what I’m doing (unloading groceries or folding laundry) that I’d swear I couldn’t lift another finger. Yet the second something better comes along (a walk with a friend, say), somehow I suddenly have plenty of energy.

– Tired can feel sluggish. This one is tricky. When I’m feeling this way, sometimes exactly what I need is the very exercise I’m feeling too tired to do.

– Then, there is tired to the bone. This is a physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Not only does walking up a flight of steps feel like I’m swimming in wet cement, but my mind feels dull. My emotions swing wildly from listless to grouchy. Even fun stuff sounds unbearable. The only solution for a tired like this is to come to a screeching stop and go to bed.

There’s good reason that we use the same word — “tired” — to label this wide variety of feelings. It can be surprisingly hard to tell what kind of tired we’re feeling at any given moment. Yet, as each version of “tired” has a different “antidote,” it’s important to spend a little bit of energy reflecting on exactly how we’re feeling. Even if moving on our yoga mat is not the answer, our broader yoga practice can hold the key to more clearly understanding what’s making us so tired.

After all, practicing yoga is a powerful tool to help us get more connected with our feelings. Each time we unroll our mats, we come face to face with emotions and reactions we might otherwise ignore. The more we practice, the better we get at recognizing when we’re frustrated, when we’re fearful, when we’re doubtful and when we’re (yes) tired. We also get better at deciphering why we’re feeling the way we are. Most importantly, we get really good at figuring out when to work to move past these feelings and when to honor them. Sometimes, we learn, our frustration is limiting and other times it protects us. Sometimes, what we need to wake up is to move vigorously. Other times, all that would do is leave us feeling drained. And we never need to feel drained!

Learning to tell one kind of tired from another is an incredibly valuable life skill, and one I’ve been putting to good use the last few weeks. While I’m pretty sure I would have been able to figure out that the crazy pace of the last month of school is tiring me out even if I’d never stepped foot on a yoga mat, my practice has helped me better understand the nuances of my exhaustion. Many times the physical practice of yoga has given me a shot of energy to get me through the rest of  a pooped day. Sometimes stepping on my mat serves as precisely the change of location I need to restore my spirits on an antsy day. And sometimes, my yoga has helped me see that what I really need is some rest. On these days I rely on the inner work I do on my mat to help me rein in my exhausted mind and moods. 

This inner work is endless. Feelings fluctuate constantly. Day in and day out, June or not, we are responsible for understanding our feelings so that we can respond to them rather than letting them dictate our actions. Today, I may feel tired. However, tomorrow I may feel filled with energy. In fact, I bet I will. Because tomorrow is the first day of summer vacation!

Bring it on!
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