August 29, 2017

What my Fatigue was Trying to Tell Me—A Reluctant Conversation with my Body.

Yesterday, I woke up tired and groggy.

A fog sitting around my head made all sounds dim and distant.

The morning glow, soft as it was, bothered my eyes. My limbs felt heavy—as if they needed some convincing before they would move.

This was all quite unusual for me, since I am one of those annoying morning people who will spring out of bed like a jack-in-the-box at 5 a.m.—not needing a shower or coffee to wake up.

Nobody likes to be tired, and all I could think of was how to find my energized, active self again—the woman I know so well. I was resisting my fatigue. I wasn’t going to put up with it (I thought).

Isn’t it funny how we always want to maintain situations that we know well, and immediately feel uncomfortable when something is different? Why do we resist change so much? Change brings new experiences and involves learning new things.

We’re usually not too keen on that learning process, but it’s those moments of discomfort that we need to pay attention to, because they may have some valuable lessons for us.

Here’s what I learned yesterday from my fatigue: I tried hard, for a good part of the day, to beat it. I wasn’t sick. I had no fever or pains, and no hangover either. I couldn’t rationally explain why I was feeling like this—and I felt that I shouldn’t. I wasn’t having it.

So, I tried everything that I knew. Everything.

Here are five ways to overcome “ordinary” fatigue—all of which I tried:

>> Take an invigorating hot-and-cold shower. Scrubbing ourselves with a loofa with some peppermint oil can get our blood pumping. It helps us feel less tired, especially when the fatigue includes sore muscles. A hot bath might be more appealing for our tired and sore bodies, but it will only make us sleepier. Save that one for bedtime.

>> Put some fresh high-energy foods in our bodies. Eat foods like fresh fruits and veggies or some of those superfoods. Stay away from sugars and ditch the “lifesaver” caffeine fixes (coffee or black tea), because they will only make us more exhausted after the buzz wears off. (If we feel fatigued more often, we can try a juice cleanse to get the toxins that are slowing us down out of our system. When I do a lemon juice master cleanse, I’m usually hopping with energy within a couple of days.)

>> Stay away from alcohol. No explanations needed.

>> Get active. As contrary as this sounds, when we are feeling fatigued, some mildly vigorous exercise can reenergize us. A lot of our fatigue is mentally induced. There’s always stuff going on in our lives that we don’t like, that is bringing us down and wearing us out. When we get over the mental resistance, going for a brisk walk, a swim, or just some work in the garden will get us out of our heads, while the exercise itself will pump more oxygen into our system, energizing the whole body.

>> Breathe. If we don’t have the time to go outside and get moving (or if the weather sucks), we can sit down and do some pranayama (breathing) exercises. Certain ways of breathing can help us to relax, but there are others that can clear our minds and raise our energy levels. Making our inhalations stronger and deeper than our exhalations has an invigorating effect on our energy levels.

I tried them all, but the fog in my head didn’t really want to lift. All day long I tried to beat the exhaustion, overrule it, deny it.

Only when my massage client fell asleep under my hands while I had been yawning my head off for the full 90 minutes, did I finally understand that this fatigue was here to stay for the day. Instead of running away from it, I had to stay with it. It needed to be felt, heard, and understood—instead of denied and battled.

I lay down with it, facing it. I allowed my body to sink into the tiredness, then asked it what it wanted to tell me, what I needed to understand or do. We had an honest conversation—my body and I.

She told me how she had been feeling ignored for weeks now—not getting what she needs. I blushed, and admitted that I’d been slacking with my yoga practice.

Body said it was more than that. She needed better food again: more veggies and some healthy proteins, and less black tea, please. I knew she had a point. My online apprenticeship had taken me out of the house too often, sitting in my favourite restaurant for hours to use the Wi-Fi, drinking loads of fragrant Earl Grey tea, and not eating the healthiest options off the menu—plus too many Italian desserts.

“That’s another thing,” body said pouting. “You’re sitting way too much: my seat feels like wood, my spine is sagging into a scoliosis, and my right shoulder is stuck in its socket from too much scrolling. You’re barely moving me for hours at a time.”

This is not a false accusation; it’s a fact. My overbearing need for perfection often makes me overdo things. I can’t help but do my best, and to do that, I might neglect other things that seem less important like—in this case—my physical well-being.

By giving the apprenticeship my 200 percent, I had been abusing my body, and it was fed up with it. Fair enough.

“And then one more thing, that you seemed to have forgotten: when you take the time and mindfulness to take good care of me, you’ll be functioning better in everything you need to do—your teaching, your treatments, your practice, your writing.”

Darn, my body was so wise and so honest. I wonder where she got that from.

Then she whispered, the darling, “And you know what? You don’t have to be perfect all the time. Because nobody is watching you all the time anyway, apart from yourself. So give yourself some slack every now and then; just let go.“

My dear sweet body—she brought tears to my eyes.

I fully understood that I had to make some changes.

I promised my dear body that I would get up to drink some water and move more often, take breaks from my screen, watch my posture and stretch regularly, plan my work better so that I didn’t have to stay up late. I vowed to choose the healthiest options on the menu when I had to take my meals in a café. I made a mental note to tuck some herbal teas in my bag.

And most importantly, I promised myself—my stubborn perfectionist ego—that we were going to practice easing off a little bit, every now and then. We might even learn to trust that the world will not totally collapse when we just let go for a bit.

Lessons learned, sweet tired body.

Now, let’s rest.


Author: Leontien Reedijk
Image: Joseph Choi/Flickr
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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