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.
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.
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…
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)