Recently I went through a period of time where I was experiencing an extreme energy slump. I was so tired that I couldn’t really figure out what was going on and I wasn’t really motivated to do anything. I watched my kids doing wonderful things in their lives and I felt totally lifeless. This went on for a few months. All I wanted to do was get through the day and go home and sleep. This was not really a good sign for me. I had felt this way several years before when my dad was diagnosed with cancer and was dying. I was pretty depressed and did not want to feel this way again. It seemed no matter what I tried (and I have to admit, I wasn’t really trying much) I just wasn’t feeling good about anything. I even took time off from work to see if it would help restore some energy or help me feel better. It didn’t work. I actually felt worse. What I realized upon returning to work was:
1) I was doing too much for too many people. My time off from work was not a vacation. It was spent driving kids around in the car much more than I would have liked.
2) I lost sight of my goals. I was in the process of starting a new business. I hadn’t done any work on it in months and it was something near and dear to my heart. I stopped working on this because I “had to” attend to other people’s priorities- at least that is what I thought.
3) My mindset shifted from being upbeat to being pretty negative. I wasn’t really focusing on things that would make me feel better about myself or my current life situation.
4) I stopped doing things for me. I stopped taking care of my needs. I had gotten the message somehow that I shouldn’t be doing anything for me- that I wasn’t important. Such silly thinking! Where did that come from? Actually, I can tell you but will reserve that for another day and will instead focus on how I got off of the perpetual roller coaster of doom and gloom.
How did I start taking care of myself again?
I can’t say as there really was a magical aha moment. I just woke up one day and said to myself “I am tired of being unhappy. I deserve to be happy. I deserve some happiness in my life- everyone deserves that.” Next, I started asking myself some questions about what would bring me that happiness.
1) I started exercising. Exercise has always made me feel good. I needed to build time for it into my life again. I was not be able to get a full hour or two in at the gym which would be my ideal, but I could get a few 15 minute runs or walks in each day and the results would be just as effective for me and my level of happiness.
2) I stopped eating so much junk and drinking so much caffeine. I knew that when I ate certain foods I would feel terrible after consuming them. Yet I ate them anyhow because of the ease factor or the need for a sugar rush or caffeine rush. I needed to cut those things out of my diet or consume them much less frequently.
3) I started taking vitamins. My diet at times is really unhealthy. There are days that I forget to eat and then wind up with a terrible headache or stomach ache. I do not eat much in the way of protein either. I knew that I had to fix my diet or my energy levels would just continue to diminish. When I went to the doctor’s for my yearly physical she also talked to me about the importance of Vitamin B which increases energy levels and Vitamin D which helps fight against depression. I knew when I left her office I had to make some changes immediately.
4) I started carving time out of the day for me to work on things that I liked and valued- things that brought me happiness. Sure, I get joy out of spending time alone in the car with the kids transporting them to activities- it is often at that time that we talk about things that are important in their lives. The thing is though, that I don’t really want to spend all of my time in the car with the kids or all of my time watching them at their activities. I needed to have activities of my own and space for myself as well.
5) I started asking for help. I never saw my mom ask for help. She was “super-mom” and did everything- at least that is what I thought. She did have lots of help though. I was the youngest. I had siblings much older than me. They were the “help.” All the kids helped with chores, with cooking, with taking care of the younger kids. My older brother helped with getting me to sports and afterschool activities. Letting someone else do the work once in a while is okay. No one needs to do everything themselves in order to be a good parent.
Taking care of yourself is no easy task if you are prone to putting others before you. If you don’t take time out for yourself once in a while though, you are sure to go through periods of burn out and depression and will get to a point where you will not be able to take care of anyone.