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Are you still sampling the holiday fudge? I hear it freezes well.
Hello F.U.D.G.E.-Folks, and the people that love them and the professionals that work with them. I’m back with another helping of F.U.D.G.E., and there’s plenty to go around.
I’m not here to point out the Whys, the Why we are exhausted. We all have our personal situations and Whys. Rather, I’m here to discuss our understanding of Exhaustion and to offer some new ideas on how to use that understanding for our betterment or toward a better outcome.
The ‘E’ in F.U.D.G.E. is for Exhaustion. Ever had a heaping helping of that? I have, recently, and it’s a hard one from which to climb out. Exhaustion itself seems easy to understand because, gosh, we sure feel it, but the getting through or climbing out is a little more elusive. Finding any good in Exhaustion can be challenging.
That’s what this segment is about: recognizing that it is indeed an ingredient of F.U.D.G.E., it has its rightful place, and there may be a few simple things we can try to make this ingredient work for us.
Let us first agree that this Exhaustion- thing is real. It is real for patients, caregivers, and the people who love them and for the helping professionals, too. We all saw that during the height of the pandemic, and you can bet the results of ongoing Exhaustion will be measured for years to come.
We are inundated with articles about recognizing it. We are given action steps to take that suggest self-care is the answer. Yet many of us do not follow through with any action steps. Why is that?
I was recently brought to point of Exhaustion myself. Try closing a small business, YOUR small business, transitioning a career into a new business model, packing up and U-Hauling yourself and all your worldly possessions to another state, all the while tending to a relative who is experiencing a major, major (did I say major??) health crisis.
I’ve every right to be exhausted. Every right to complain and lament and to seek comfort and to be comfort-ed, but I am even too tired for that. Or stubborn. I’m part of the problem.
I get it, that Exhaustion. Spoken or unspoken, acknowledged or not in our heart of hearts. I get ignoring the concerns of those who care, blowing past the watchful eyes in dogged independence or misplaced valor, and feeling like I must somehow persist and prevail.
I see this as a theme among my clients. They’re exhausted. They’re coming to me overwhelmed, depleted, or emotionally spent. They are with short fuses, snapping at loved ones, arguing with their colleagues, resentful of their partners, and their previous methods for self-care have evaporated. They’re struggling, and many feel there’s not enough of them (their own self) to go around.
I’ve never run a marathon, but any physiologist would tell you that it’s crucial to rest your body after putting that much stress on it. As humans, we’re equipped for demanding circumstances but also made to recover during rest. If you were to run marathon after marathon with no downtime, you would destroy your body, risking long-term damage and putting future goals at risk.
Are ya listening, caregivers? Are you listening professionals working in healthcare?
The time (now years) inside the pandemic has been a marathon. We’ve been inundated with triggers activating our nervous systems. From stockpiling toilet paper to lack of social interaction, constant changes in our job structure, schooling our kids at home, losing our routines, fear of a global pandemic, caring for aging parents, and suffering so many small losses, we have been through a lot.
If living inside a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of things OUT of our control. This can wreak havoc on our nervous systems and leave us in chronic survival mode.
Yes, we need to take time to rest and recover, all that. I am surprised at the amount of rest I still require from my ordeals, and I know many of you are resting or should be.
Should be, and could be. Here is the difference, though, here is a new way of looking at Exhaustion and with a prescription for new lenses, if you will.
We need to find new ways to practice self-care and manage stress rather than waiting for our old routines to become available again.
Some old ways will return. However, I think you will agree that this pandemic shifted things. It altered our lives and our coping skills.
I sure felt like I had no point of reference in March of 2020 when the pandemic shutdowns began and the disease gripped so many of us worldwide.
Now we need to look through NEW lenses. We need to recognize what we need (which is huge), and make giving that to ourselves top priority.
Whaaa? Top Priority, myself? How dare I?
I’ve written about the whole ‘How Dare I’ thing before. It does present in this instance.
“How am I supposed to rest when everyone around me needs something all the time?”
“It feels selfish to take time for myself right now.”
“Doing this is my purpose or responsibility. I’m the one that does this thing.”
Let’s examine these kinds of thoughts while viewing through new lenses.
The first thing we might do is challenge ourselves in our belief that everyone needs us and at all times.
Is that true? Are the people around you really incapable of surviving for an hour or two while you take a long walk, drive to the mountains, hole up in your room with a good book, or skip cooking dinner one night a week? We may think
“It will create more work for me in the long run if I take a night off.”
“I’ll fall behind at work.”
“My partner won’t do things the right way.”
Believe it or not, people actually can and do rise to the occasion when you release the reins. Shocking, I know, but the people who need you truly can survive without you.
Picture this (because I did, here’s where my mind went in dispute): You and another are seated atop a speeding stagecoach and you are holding the reins, driving the horses. If you fell ill or fell out, that other person would take the reins, control the horses. They just would.
The world will not combust if you don’t return that email right away. The kids will not be scarred for life if your bedroom is off limits for a couple of hours while you retreat.
Secondly, don’t discount small moments of self-care.
Many of my clients working from home have found it difficult having lost the transition time from home to work and work to home. Their lives have become blurred, and they’re carrying work into the kitchen and home life into their meetings. Boundaries give us a sense of order and safety. Implementing something small to transition between roles can help. Something as simple as changing clothes after your work day before you engage again with the world can help accomplish this transition. Remember how Mr. Rogers changed from his coat to his sweater? It helps your mind shift gears.
Do you feel the need to somehow escape? Do you wish that you didn’t have to do this thing you think you are supposed to do?
If you want to escape to a desert island, you likely need to carve out some alone time. If you’re carrying physical tension with you all day, you could prioritize your exercise routine again. If you resent your significant other, you probably need to ask them to support your self-care and be willing to do the same for them.
Don’t turn your backs on rest, real rest.
Rest and recovery come in many forms. Take, for example, the act of stepping back from the past couple of years and acknowledging its toll. How could we not have “toll” from living through a pandemic (?), or from caregiving or from assisting persons every day whose live are upside down, and toll from always helping those who are hurting?
Remember that the oxygen masks when they drop down while on the plane are for the parent, or the caregiver first, and for the care recipient next. It does make sense to extend our care capabilities, doesn’t it?
Back to the challenge now: Does everyone need you, and all the time?
We are not going to stop here and wrestle with whole self-worth thing, the “I’m not worth it”-stuff. I’m talking about reality. It really IS unlikely that the world will come to a grinding halt if you entertain some rest.
I am talking about the introduction of a little self-care, just a smidge, or just an idea. I’ve had knowing friends and professionals alike make kind suggestions in recent months, then I heard those suggestions increase in vehemence and volume. I even had one person sit. me. down. Then – like groceries in the backseat when you slam on brakes – it all came forward, and hit me. Exhaustion.
And while I was out, the world did not stop! In fact, my stopping ME, and my everlovin’ “I-Can-Fix-This” allowed a new course of events to begin that brought us all relief. How about that? My stepping away helped things or at least enabled some “new”. It brought about the new lenses.
Not only was I able to detach, I introduced some ME-Time, just a little. And it’s paying off. I feel better, and I look forward to it, that ME-Time. I bask in it, and I even bargain with myself during work tasks so as to reward myself with it. (Hey, whatever works to make it happen, right?).
If you are eating F.U.D.G.E. and tasting Exhaustion, I will offer a new Rx:
Head it off when you can. Obviously.
Listen to the kind suggestions from others and notice when the frequency or volume increases from watchful, concerned, and loving eyes.
Admit Exhaustion – Why am I hearing Pete Seegar’s all too familiar refrain, “The first step in solving a problem is admitting there is a problem.”? Likely because it fits here.
Read a self-care article – Would it kill you to, even on a whim, to read and consider what it has to say? When doing that, I may start out in response to an image or the article’s snappy title. I may open an email in response to an enticing subject line. Suffice it to say -when I follow a tug- more often than not the exact thing I need to review is revealed. When I listen to a podcast, I will hear that solution spoken, just for me! While reading, I will see words that seem to simply leap from the page. I’ve learned to pay attention to that. Pursue it, it just takes a minute or two, and it is somehow meant for you.
Try a tiny something in the self-care department. Or just make a decision to try. (One of those could be making your life easier by booking a call with me). Do a little thing, take a brief step away to test whether the world ends because of it.
Place yourself on your To-Do list, just not in last place. I am still recalling my friend Lisa telling me about her reckoning. Lisa was expounding upon all she‘d been doing and trying and managing and fretting when she finally added, “Nancy, I’d placed myself last on my own list!”
Look at all this through new lenses. Challenge your “Have to’s” and “it must be me”-thinking. Is it true, valid? Rebut.
The E in F.U.D.G.E. is Exhaustion. Whether we go nuts or add nuts is up to us.
If you struggle with F.U.D.G.E. or need help with healthcare navigation, eldercare or successful aging, do contact me. “Out of the Problem and Into the Solution”, I always say. 919.628.4428 nancyruffner.com.