Hasn’t 2020 been a huge dumping ground for all kinds of issues, big and small? And that’s an understatement! Pandemic fatigue and crisis management have led some, or many of us to feel a lack of sprit and an ongoing inertia. Could that be you, too?
Recently, I gave each office patient and client a survey that asked them to rate, by frequency and priority, which of an assortment of common—and uncommon—health challenges they’ve been facing lately.
The results surprised me: Lack of energy landed at #1, outranking even Covid weight-related issues, on my patients’ health radar! The feeling of many is more like Ho Hum rather that HoHoHo.
Where’s the spark and excitement that we all used to feel? Yummy treats, presents, shopping, lights, get-togethers and family, and that’s just for starters. Seems like the plug has been pulled on the most anticipated joyous times of the year, and numbness and flat moods have been installed instead.
Energy—or, more accurately, lack thereof—seems even more of a concern among my patients and virtual coaching clients than ever before. As we approach the end of the calendar year with many end-of-year festivities on the back burner—having the reserves to power through the stress, disappointment, possible isolation, and, well, just missing the old holiday spirit and fun, are especially important considerations. Those I work with report feeling a low-grade fatigue and apathy from enduring a tumultuous political atmosphere along with long-standing worry and concern about the Coronavirus. The year 2020 has been a long haul for all of us!
Patients tell me that this lack of energy leads to long days with to-do lists that aren’t addressed and that leave them exhausted. That could mean that less than optimal memory and focus early in a day may spiral into mental and emotional weariness and disappointment later (“It’s noon and I haven’t gotten anything done yet!” is my own common refrain ). As the day wears on, and blood sugar tends to drop, physical fatigue joins in, followed by a sense of guilt that we’ve sat in front of the computer way too long, gone grazing in the refrigerator way too often, and haven’t moved nearly enough. We even feel that sense of impending doom that the sequence will rinse and repeat tomorrow. And this is supposed to be festive Holiday Time, right? Not this year, so very much.
Sound all too familiar? I know you’re not pleased with this cycle, so today let’s dig in and discover what’s happening—with an eye to replenishing your depleted reserves!
As a holistic health practitioner and personal transformation coach, I begin assessing a patient’s lack of vigor with a fundamental question in mind: What’s possible for this person to do that will raise the momentum for happiness rather than continue the practices that are pulling down their energy? The answer, in most cases, is rather simple: Habits of thinking and living that quietly creep into our routines—and, without people realizing it—become regular patterns in daily life that don’t nourish the positive and have to be changed.
That’s actually great news, isn’t it? Habits are simply behaviors that YOU have the power to identify, reshape, and ultimately replace with better routines. Which ones are behind your energy crisis? Here’s my year-end gift to you, a checklist of common sneaky energy thieves, plus the sensible, effective best practices that can help you reverse the damage these bandits have done to your vitality.
Energy Thief #1: The News, Nonstop
If you’re like most people, you’ve been endlessly glued to the TV screen or radio for news about elections, Covid statistics, vaccines, and all their ramifications. Over and over, day after day, it’s been a long haul of ups and downs, highs and lows, and much of the same information day in and day out. We seem to have become addicted to any new scrap of information just available. I get it. But if we become so drained and numb as a form of self -protection and such a long haul since March, we lose our joy and our spontaneity and ability to find happiness in other activities and pleasures in life, even if they are now more limited.
Your Recovery Tactic: Turn off the TV, Nonstop.
Let’s give it try and connect with conversation instead. Interaction with others—OK, more Zoom maybe—and having fatigue and the blahs can be counteracted by a game online with a friend or family member, or reading a story to children. Let’s not lose our resourcefulness and creativity—2021 is around the corner!
Energy Thief #2: Late-night work and/or worry
Do you stay up late at the office—or worse, take those projects, tasks, worry, and stress to bed with you every night?
You may enjoy more time to work in the evening, but your wellness is at stake. Chances are, you’ve grown accustomed to overriding your body’s cues for rest and repair. That can rob you of sleep and disrupt your body’s natural daytime rhythms, too, setting the stage for a round of energy depletion.
Your Recovery Tactic: Give yourself a time limit and a pad and pen.
Starting tonight, stick to your work time limit even if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself. If you become tired before that time is up, stop early. It’s OK. Refuse to give in to the “just one more thing” syndrome. (It’s a trap—I understand that personally from my own past experience.) Just write down what you need to finish tomorrow.
Also common are late night worries, especially about finances. This is when that demon comes out to haunt me and 2 a.m. worries about “what ifs” could be keeping me from sleep. I always write down everything on a pad next to my bed and promise to review it all in the a.m. Having a “brain dump” for those worries helps and frees me up to relax.
Energy Thief #3: Poor eating habits
Did the last vegetable you ate come in “chip” form or in an unrecognizable ingredient list? Is grazing in the kitchen your standard meal plan? Or do you rush so much that you sometimes skip meals altogether? Or are you eating all day and not giving your digestive system a rest? If so, it’s no wonder your fuel isn’t translating to optimal energy.
Your Recovery Tactic: Adopt mindful eating.
Slow down. Leave room for both physical and mental restoration when you eat. Start by planning your next meal ahead of time. What flavors and textures please you the most? Food choices like crisp, fresh fruits and vegetables, plus comforting, filling, healthful fats—and energizing, restorative protein—don’t just nourish your body, they delight and refresh the senses, too. Make a point of taking a real break (not a snack sneaked in while hunched over a keyboard or driving). Enjoy that meal, unrushed, so you can truly savor every bite—and get more octane from your fuel. If too frequent eating is the issue, ask yourself if you are really hungry for food or just in need of a distraction or comfort. Could it be HALT—are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? If so, make a list to keep handy of what could you do instead, like call a friend, go for a walk, or wait for a while to see if you’re still hungry.
Energy Thief #4: All-or-nothing expectations
Here’s a recipe for stress. You see only white perfection or black disaster, no realistic greys in-between, like real life.
For instance, are you a list maker? This is useful to a point, but lists that are unrealistically long are a menu for disappointment. Or perhaps you skip the list altogether in favor of “winging it,” putting in frantic activity, and coming up short in the end.
One way or another, both these approaches can leave you sleepless at night, worrying about the unfinished details.
Your Recovery Tactic: Plan for a reasonable, productive pace.
Take a good, hard look at what you truly need and want to accomplish. Start your task list with necessities—your job, parenting, errands like food shopping, and getting some exercise daily. Include in that list some nonnegotiable me-time, too.
That’s your honest baseline. Add to it only the extras you can realistically achieve. Have to reschedule something to another day? Fine! That’s what tomorrow is for.
And don’t forget to check off each list item as you complete it. This simple step is affirming, reminding you that you are still in charge, and you CAN succeed.
The low-energy cycle has negative effects on every part of you, from immunity to the aging process, from memory to pain perception, from mood to general self-esteem. That’s all in addition to a reduction in focus and your ability to handle the tasks before you. But identifying what’s at the root of your fatigue is a powerful first step when followed up with positive action. Need a hand navigating away from your personal energy drains? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I’m here to help you kick depleting 2020 habits and claim once again the clarity, focus, and vibrant living you deserve! On to 2021.