Some days, I don’t feel like doing anything. I'm starting to question why my brain can label this a bad thing. Sometimes we need to rest. If we push and push, we end up doing more harm than good, like an athlete who’s exhausted. Maybe you're thinking, "But Hope, I’m not an athlete, all I’m trying to do is schedule some IG posts or find time to take a class at the new pilates studio."
Maybe what you’re trying to do is out of alignment. Out of alignment with what your Essential or True Self wants.
This happened to me recently. I made a caffeine decision to participate in a writing workshop. It was one of those $300 deals that was on sale for $97 if I bought it in the next 2 hours. Those count-down clocks get me every time. So I bought it, knowing I was going out of town for half the conference and telling myself I could watch the recordings later. Do you think I felt like logging in on the morning of the conference? No, but I forced myself to do it. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t really want to be there. So I started scrolling on my phone, answering work emails, etc. Did I go back and listen to recordings later? Nope. If I’d stopped and checked in with my Self, I would’ve said, “Hope, it’s a good idea in theory, but do you really want to do an online conference in your closet and be tethered to the wifi for three days?”
We’re studying body analysis in my life coaching program and it’s fascinating how your body often gives off clues before your brain registers what your essential self is trying to tell you. The essential self is the you deep inside that’s the same regardless of where or how you were raised. It’s the quiet, deep knowing part of you. When people refer to their Essential self, they might say, “I just knew deep down” or “I felt it down to my core” or “Something told me” or "I had a deep sense of knowing what I should do."
I was talking to a friend today and she was telling me about a chronic neck ache. I mentioned the body analysis and she said, “Oh I don’t need to analyze it, I know exactly when and why it started” and went on to tell me about a very stressful weekend that maxed out her emotional reserve. She said her neck pain is now her compass for doing too much or trying to be too much.
With the body analysis, you become an observer of your pain or discomfort and ask the body part if they have a purpose in your life, if they are here to help you in any way, and if they have a message for you. You can do this with someone else asking you the questions, or you can do it with writing. You write out “Dear ____, you’ve been around a long time, do you have a message for me?” I told y’all I did this exercise years ago with my migraines and what my hand wrote on paper surprised me. It turns out they appeared when I was around my daughter’s age, which incidentally also happened to be when my mom had a baby that usurped my role as the baby in the family. I loved attention, so the migraines were real, but they were also helpful in getting me one on one attention with my mom. Later they were there in PA school when I was overdoing the caffeine, the late nights, and the stressful studying. They let me know when it’s too much. I don’t always choose to listen, but they are definitely trying to tell me something.
My best friend growing up would throw up whenever she was nervous or upset. I knew her so well, I could almost predict when she’d throw up. When we had a big test at school, when we had a mean substitute teacher, when there was friend drama, when her dog died. I’m sure a part of me thought she was faking it, but now I believe her body was using this as a message to her that it was too much.
How does your body let you know when it’s too much? Do you develop insomnia? Do you get sick? Do you get a recurrent ache, tummy pain, or headaches? I want to also acknowledge that you aren’t making these things appear and you might not be able to make them disappear. I’ve done lots of therapy and inner work and I still get migraines.
And ladies, this is your permission slip. How many of you are waiting on your permission slip to take a break? I was talking to a friend recently who got Covid a few weeks ago. She said she had a rough case of it, but after a pause, she said, “and it was amazing.” I knew immediately that she meant the rest that she allowed herself. I hear this from patients all the time. The relief they feel when they receive a permission slip to rest.
When you feel completely depleted and a-motivated, and your body is screaming for rest, what do you do?
Do as little as possible. Go to work only if missing it means you’ll get fired. If you do go to work, treat yourself like a kind grandmother would treat you. Take a break for tea, do what my friend does and allow yourself to wear your most comfy tennis shoes instead of work shoes when she’s having an off day.
Go outdoors at lunch or on a break. Sit in your car if you have to. Take time to check in and ask yourself what you need. Cats do this, they intuitively know sunshine is good for them. There was a time lapse camera someone put on you tube of two cats in their den, the cats followed the patch of light coming through the windows. As the ray of sunshine crept across the floor during the day, the cats moved with it. Take a cue from cats and get some sun. No need to do yard work, you have permission to sit outside if the weather allows. If it doesn’t, consider buying a lamp for seasonal affective disorder.
Don’t add on any extras like stopping at the grocery store. Keep meals as simple as possible. Get takeout if you have to.
Let your family know you’re having a low day and that you’re taking it easy. We teach our kids that it’s not okay to slow down because they’re watching us run ourselves ragged.
Do not beat yourself up. Yes, you have a ton to do, and yes, taking time to rest is going to result in more work tomorrow, but today your body is begging you to take it easy. Listen to it.
Notice how it feels to liste to your Essential Self. Close your eyes, bring your awareness to the part of your body that hurts or feels the most exhausted. What would happen if you were gentle with yourself and asked yourself what you need?
Allow yourself one whole day to wallow, not shower, eat comfort food, and then, the next day (unless you’re sick), get up and go for a walk, wash your hair, put on real clothes. By giving yourself permission to take a day to not be productive, you'll increase your chances of having energy the next day.
This article is also in the form of a podcast, see episode #103