“I’m exhausted.” It is a phrase that permeates the courthouse and society on a daily basis. And you can see it in peoples’ faces. Earlier this week, I was in court wondering whether the lawyer sitting next to me was going to fall out of his chair he looked so tired. The best place to see it is while driving (am I the only person who people watches while driving?). According to Wikipedia, the clinical definition is fatigue. But exhausted is the word most of us choose to use on a daily basis.
And I am sure you see it all around you. People putting on make-up to cover up the tired bags under their eyes, drinking coffee all day long “just to keep going,” people forgetting to do work, etc. Exhaustion is deeper than just a lack of sleep. We create exhaustion in our lives through non-stop stress, lack of sleep, poor eating (really poor digestion), and frantic overuse of technology. Not only do we spend all our time on our phones, computers, tablets, televisions, etc., but we are being bombarded with information, some of it useful and some of it not, but most importantly, it is simply too much.
The old adage is true – there definitely can be too much of a good thing!
And when we are exhausted, our bodies do not function properly. Our brains need time to rest and rejuvenate. Our bodies need time to heal during the night. It is not called beauty sleep for nothing. Our skin even looks better when we sleep enough. I have had healing practitioners tell me that they can cure ailments like pain simply by improving peoples’ sleep quality and quantity. Exhaustion is not, therefore, something just to push through. It underlies so many other dis-ease states.
And beyond just our individual selves, in our modern world, the Earth itself feels exhausted. There are physical wars happening, political wars happening (I’m writing this while the US government is shut down), and interpersonal wars. We deplete our soil, overuse our goods, and pollute our air. No wonder we all walk around looking like zombies. Our phone addictions help protect us from having to feel the exhaustion. As long as we have a distraction, we can pretend we do not feel the full effects of the exhaustion. But then sometimes we do. Have you ever had a day where you could not face getting out of bed, where your body just did not seem to move? Have you ever gone to a yoga class and slept through savasana? That is when exhaustion overtakes us. And in the long run, it will win. It is just a matter of time . . . unless we counteract it.
So what do we do about it? How do we take back some of our exhaustion and begin to feel we have some energy again? There are a myriad of ways, and at some level I am reticent to give too many. After all, I do not want to exhaust you with things to do. But here is the most important thing to remember – do what feels like a really good idea to you. If it does not feel right (not because you do not want it to feel right but really does not feel right) do not do it.
First, at least one meal per day actually pay attention to your food. Stop reading, texting, or watching television, and eat your food consciously. Yes, it takes longer. And yes, it can seem boring. But try it. I have been trying to do this again, and I cannot express how hard it has been. I find my mind wandering everywhere but my food, but that is just a sign I have gotten away from this good habit. I used to do this really well - interestingly that was back when I was just out of college. And once you can do it for one meal per day, start doing it for two or even all three.
Second, take some time every day to breathe. Just breathe. This should really be the tagline of this blog in general – just breathe. But it is true. And if you want to really help calm the nervous system and relax before bed, try doing some alternate nostril breathing. When you feel something bothering you, take a deep breath. It is amazing how simple this is, and it is amazing how many of us forget to do it.
Third, get more sleep. Even just going to bed 30 minutes earlier will help. And while you are at it, turn off the television, cell phone, and tablet while in bed. And this is where I need to practice. My phone sits next to my bed, and although I have turned it silent overnight, it is still there when I cannot sleep, and I turn to facebook at 3am. That is not the best way to get back to sleep. In fact, it is one of the worst.
Fourth, stop watching and reading the news. It is designed to be dramatic and rile you up. It is not designed to be informative and uplifting. Sadness and violence sell, and that just increases our exhaustion. We hear about these stories, and we then internalize them. And we are bombarded with them all day, every day. So turn it off in moments when you feel totally exhausted. This is not to say never watch the news again – just choose wisely when you do and ensure you are ready for the onslaught and are prepared to breathe through it.
Exhaustion is simply rampant in our culture. We are expected to be exhausted. And that is unfortunate. We are creating, or have created, a culture where destruction of ourselves somehow shows we are stronger than others. It is a difficult belief system to overcome, but exhaustion is not the way we have to live, and deep down we all know it is not going to make us do our jobs better. In fact, it means we are going to end up not only exhausted but with chronic dis-ease patterns that make it impossible for us to function.
So, ask yourself if you are exhausted. And if you are, what one step are you going to take today to help overcome that exhaustion? For me, I am going to keep my phone off no matter how awake I am at 3am. Facebook can wait.
© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.