For as long as I can remember, my energy has been like a yo-yo.
Up and down, and up and down, like a never-ending rollercoaster. (And I’m NOT a fan of rollercoasters, thankyouverymuch.)
For a few days, or even weeks, I’ll get a kick of motivation, energy, and positivity, and it feels like I can do anything. My mind is clear, my spirits are high, and I’m totally on my game.
Then a couple of days later, all of that energy and motivation simply vanishes. I’m left in a fog, feeling sluggish and drained, wondering, “Was that energetic person really me??”
I used to judge myself hardcore during those dips in energy.
I’d hate on myself for feeling lazy and try to muster up motivation where there was none. Every single time I was feeling “blah,” I would worry if I’d ever get back to feeling energized and optimistic again. It felt SO far off.
It took me a long time to realize that, not only is this energy yo-yo effect totally normal — everyone experiences it to some degree — but there’s nothing “wrong” about the highs or the lows. The point is not to be an energizer bunny all of the time (ugh, how exhausting!). It’s about recognizing that you need different things at either end of the spectrum.
An energy slump isn’t a bad thing — it’s just a sign that something is out of balance.
And more often than not, it’s your body’s way of yelling, “Hey! I need you to take better care of me right now!”
The question is … are you actually listening?
HOW WELL ARE YOU TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF?
When we’re having a low-energy day, or are in a bad mood, or are feeling unmotivated … most of us are so quick to blame our circumstances or immediately assume there’s something wrong with us.
But a negative outlook and lack of energy may not necessarily be indicators of deep unhappiness or something hugely wrong. In fact, they may just be symptoms of something extremely simple: You’re not taking good enough care of yourself.
How many of these situations feel familiar?
- Going to bed late so you can send that last email or mindlessly scroll through Instagram.
- Waking up early to beat traffic.
- Grabbing takeout on the way home because you’re too tired to cook.
- Skipping that gym class because you can’t even today.
- Taking on extra work to prove you’re a great employee.
- Drinking a few too many glasses of wine on Friday to decompress from the week.
- Binging on House of Cards until 2am with a big bag of chips … and more wine.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Most of us aren’t taking nearly good enough care of ourselves.
YOU’RE NOT THAT DIFFERENT FROM A TODDLER
Imagine if you treated a toddler the way you sometimes treat yourself. If you woke a toddler up before he was well rested, fed him junk food, didn’t give him enough active playtime, denied all fun … and then expected him to listen to you and behave.
Get ready for an epic meltdown.
That kid would throw a temper tantrum like you would not believe.
Now, would you look at that toddler in the middle of his tantrum and think, “Wow, what a bad kid! Something’s wrong with that one. There’s no hope for him.” Absolutely not!
Instead, you’d think, “That kid must be tired or hungry. Give him a snack and put him down for a nap!”
WHAT AN ADULT “TEMPER TANTRUM” LOOKS LIKE
I hate to break it to you, but we’re not that far evolved from that temper-tantrum-throwing toddler. We’ve just gotten better at keeping our tantrums *mostly* inside, since it’s not exactly appropriate to stomp around and yell uncontrollably in public once you’re past the age of 3.
An adult temper tantrum looks like …
- Calling yourself whatever mean names you have to (“Lazy,” “Dumb,” “Not good enough,” etc.) to push yourself into action.
- Assuming you’ll always feel this low and unmotivated.
- Blaming everything/everyone around you for how “blah” you feel.
- Numbing the discomfort with food, alcohol, technology, or mindless distractions.
- Avoiding making decisions because you’re too burnt-out to care.
- Questioning everything in your life and wanting to quit it all and move to Bali.
These aren’t necessarily signs that you’re on the wrong life track (which is what it feels like in the moment). They may just be signs that you need to step in and be a better parent to yourself, the way you would parent that screaming toddler.
Self-care is about being a good parent to yourself.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TAKE EXCELLENT CARE OF YOURSELF
Taking care of yourself means making your needs at least as important as your obligations.
If you’re like most people, you likely get so caught up in your responsibilities each day (which are usually based on other people’s agendas) that it’s easy to forget about your own needs.
The easiest way to start taking better care of yourself is to periodically ask yourself throughout the day, “What do I need right now?”
Are you feeling hungry? Or dehydrated? Do you need to calm your anxiety and just breathe for 5 minutes? Could you use some fresh air and movement? Do you need to ask for help? Or have a short conversation with a friend because you’re feeling isolated? Is your body begging you to get more sleep?
Then you’ve got to give yourself permission to follow through and take care of yourself in that moment. (This will usually require courage and boundary setting.)
I know this seems overly simple, but it’s the very best way to recharge your energy. We could all stand to go back to basics.
When you’re in an energy slump, it’s a sign that you need more self-care.
SELF-CARE IS NOT SELF-INDULGENCE
What blocks so many people from this whole “self-care” thing is that they believe taking quality care of themselves is self-indulgent or pampering, so they don’t prioritize it. But…
Self-care and self-indulgence are NOT the same thing.
In my last job, because I was so unhappy, I would “console” myself with unhealthy comfort food, impulse purchases, wine after work, etc. That was self-indulgence, not self-care. In fact, doing anything in excess from a place of lack is usually self-indulgent.
Self-care is recognizing that, when you’re unhappy, in a difficult situation, or generally in an energy slump, you need even more healing experiences (like sleep, quality food, time with people you love, physical movement, time outside in nature, etc.), not unhealthy indulgences that ultimately make you feel worse.
True self-care is not a nice-to-have. It’s essential to your mood, your energy, your motivation, your outlook on life, your relationships, your success, and your general sense of contentment.
STOP THE JUDGMENT
Even if you’re taking pristine care of yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally, you’re still going to experience lower energy ocassionally. That’s normal.
But please, please stop judging yourself for it! All that’s going to do is pull you deeper into the slump and make it harder to get back to feeling energized again. The more compassion you have for yourself, the more quickly you’ll get back to feeling good. (Compassion is a form of self-care, after all.)
So tell me, how well are you taking care of yourself right now? What could you do to take even better care of yourself?
Kristen (+ Rachel)
Fantastic points, Kristen, and thanks for reminding us all that taking care of ourselves is important! Have a great day!
Thanks, Sarah! This was just as much a reminder for myself as it was for you! 🙂
Wow, it’s like you know me… ^_^ I have been going through just such an energy slump – and it seems like only yesterday I had been rearing to go and had plans and was feeling productive (this was actually a few weeks ago and not long-lived). And it’s just as you said, I asked myself the other day, “Was that energetic person really me??”
I very much enjoy the toddler comparison… having a cranky temper tantrum is a perfect expression of how I feel! In fact, I’ve actually done so at least once when I was too long in this slump-state, much to the concern of my startled fiance.
Thanks to CoF and the PPVE, I am becoming more aware of my needs and what energizes me. I knew for a while that my dance classes provided some restorative help, if I could maintain the good mood. Even better is sleeping in or disappearing in books, and getting massages – but these quickly turn to feeling lazy and indulgent, not to mention going to the spa can get expensive.
Still working on finding a healthy (and affordable) balance.
Luckily, I have a great friend who also recognizes these symptoms (in me and in herself), and initiated plans for us to have a short get-away to re-charge our batteries!
Glad this came at the perfect time, Jen! I’m not gonna lie — I totally still have those adult temper tantrums from time to time, too. 😉
I love that you found some really energizing ways (like dance classes!) to reenergize yourself when you need that boost. And having a friend who’s an accountability buddy for your self-care is a brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing that.
Hi! I’m confused.
“In my last job, because I was so unhappy, I would “console” myself with unhealthy comfort food, impulse purchases, wine after work, etc. That was self-indulgence, not self-care. In fact, doing anything in excess from a place of lack is usually self-indulgent.”
This quote is how I feel. Always always always. The whole article is how I constantly feel. I’m super unhappy with my job and trying to go part time…or leave. Are you saying, check in with yourself and take better care of yourself? Or if you’re moving into the self-indulgent, something is actually wrong and you need to change it? I think I need help defining the line.
My signs all point to “get out quick or change something!” rather than sleep more or eat more veggies. I could also do those things. But my job worries will still be there.
I’m really glad you asked for some clarification about this, Lily!
First of all, yes, I DO believe that self-indulgence is usually (maybe even always) a sign that something needs to change, whether it’s how you’re treating yourself OR your external circumstances (often both). So you’re spot-on with that question.
Also, you’re totally right that taking better physical care of yourself isn’t going to make you suddenly happy in a job you hate. But it WILL help you have the energy to do what it takes to “get out quick or change something!” (as your intuition is clearly telling you to do right now). Nothing is more daunting than considering making a big life change when you’re already exhausted and in an energy slump. The extra sleep, veggies, and more positive self-talk won’t solve everything, but they may give you the boost you need to make those situational shifts.
Hope that helps!
That makes sense. Rather than drowning in self-indulgence, if I do what I can to fuel myself and prepare for the day, maybe I could get a bit clearer on the “how and when” to make changes.
On another note, is there a way to get notifications when my comment gets replies? I never get an email, and have to look to see if you respond. I’m hoping there’s a way to switch this, and that I didn’t set something up wrong when I first commented!
Hey Lily! Great question. We JUST added that functionality (thanks to your recommendation!), so from now on you’ll be able to sign up for email notifications when someone replies to your comment. So next time you write us a comment, you’ll see this feature. Thanks for the great idea! 🙂
yay!! I just saw this now.
And below is the wonderful alert box option….yay!!!! Thanks 🙂
I so needed to hear this today! Granted, I also realize being a few days from my “monthly visitor” this seems to happen just about every month. I likely need to do a better job of scheduling high-energy and elevated mental gymnastics tasks versus lighter tasks a bit better. Self care is so important to our mental and physical states. Thanks for the reminder!
Great point, Emilie! Hormones can play SUCH a big part in your energy level. If you know the general peaks and valleys of your energy throughout the month, you can hopefully plan in advance to slooow things down and take better care of yourself when you know you’ll be in that slump. I really love the idea of planning your activities based on your natural energy flow. Thanks for sharing this idea!
I am totally strugling with self indulgence for more than a year. I moved to France and I wasn’t able to find a job because I didn’t search to much for one. I have no idea what I would like to do professionally so I am spending litteraly every day doing nothing: Facebook and movies, sometimes seeing some people I ‘ve met here. The problem is that I don’t feel like doing anything, most of the time I just want to stay in bed and just do nothing. I am very lazy and have no intention of getting a job although I know I should. I am living with my husband who is working so I depend on him. I guess I’m the queen of self-indulgence. I just want to relax all day, enjoy the sun, enjoy people but when I think about work I feel sick. I hated my job before I moved to France. But since I can’t figure out what I am good at and what I want I’ll just wait for a miracle I guess. I feel totally powerless over my life. Just waiting for someone to save though I know that I am the only one who can save me.