Returning to Ourselves
I was supposed to record for my Podcast on Wednesday of this week, but I texted my producer that morning and said, “I don’t have anything good to say.”
By Friday morning, I wanted to crawl into a cave with a fuzzy blanket and stay there.
The external circumstances around me feeling this way aren’t important. That isn’t to say they weren’t and aren’t very important to me. They are. I have felt anxious and angry and overwhelmed and nauseous and exhausted for the last few weeks.
When I say the circumstances aren’t important, I simply want to highlight that we all have times in our lives that we start to feel “off.” Not like ourselves.
Sometimes it is hard even to remember who we are in the midst of whatever is happening in our lives or in the world around us.
Sometimes we get off track because of good things that we want to seize and experience. Maybe we have a huge project we are trying to get out the door. Maybe we are in a season of travel for work. Maybe we are in a highly social period—an event or activity almost every night. Maybe we are enjoying a new relationship. Or maybe we are are experiencing loss, grief, illness, conflict, or trauma.
I started to feel the cumulative fatigue last week—fatigue that a good night’s sleep couldn’t “cure.” And a weekend nap, while lovely, wasn’t really taking the edge off either.
In response to my awareness of the fatigue, I backed some things out of my calendar and changed the pacing of certain commitments.
I became aware that I had fallen off the wagon with meditation. I set a goal with a friend to re-incorporate meditation, some morning grounding routines, and some stretching into my days, but made no progress in actually “doing” those things.
I was no longer preparing food that I could grab and go on my way out the door in the morning (and thereby not resorting to fast food), but I generally wasn’t aware of that gap until Monday mornings. Somewhere along the way my water intake went down significantly as well.
By Wednesday, I was thinking that I couldn’t expect myself to be able to create content for my podcast and blog if I wasn’t creating and holding space in my calendar and my life to allow the stillness, quiet, time and reflection that fuels that creativity.
On Friday morning, I chose NOT to crawl into my cave, and I went for a walk with a friend. I was reminded, again, that bilateral movement somehow helps us process emotions we are having a hard time processing. I am sure there is a lot of science around this, but Friday morning, I was simply aware of a change in how I felt in my body after even a few minutes of walking.
It also helped so very much that my friend and I are able to hold safe space for each other to “be where we are” and to share and express sometimes difficult feelings.
Earlier in the week, as my awareness of my fatigue and “not okayness” deepened and I had some timely cancellations, I marked my calendar “no meetings” on Friday. After the walk, I went to the gym. From the gym to pick up some lunch. Then to my office at Upstart. I was hopeful about being productive, and also aware that I needed to give myself space. After I ate my lunch, I started to read. As I started to read, my energy faded—not really able to take in what I was reading.
Thankfully, Upstart has a nap room! Yes, my office space has a nap room. Shouldn’t they all?!?! Went into the nap room and set my alarm for 45 minutes. Alarm went off. Re-set the alarm. Slept for another 45 minutes before getting up.
Friday night, I again resisted the urge to retreat from the world/interaction, and spent some time with friends walking around First Friday in Downtown Knoxville. I used to think I didn’t “get” art. But as we visited the galleries, I found myself placing my hand on my heart and breathing deeply in response to certain pieces.
I lifted weights Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week. Lifting is usually a happy place for me. But after Saturday’s session, I left feeling frustrated and just plain tired of my body being tired and hurting/aching all over.
Enter two more loooooonnnng naps in the last two days, and I feel like the fog is starting to lift off of my brain and my body. I feel like I am starting to recognize and be able to access some of the better parts of myself. Able to sense (again) the energy base that allows me to step into certain practices that I know are life-giving, but toward which I still have some resistance—things like meditation, and yoga, and writing. I am also dialing back in on nutrition as a critical piece of well-being.
As I work with others, and on my own journey, it is easy to become frustrated when change doesn’t happen as quickly as we would like. When we start to lose steam. When we make choices that we know are not good for us. OR when we cannot seem to find the energy to do the things as we know are critical to building the person we want to be and the life we want to live.
I tell my clients this, and I continue to learn this lesson for myself—it isn’t about not veering off the path. We will fall or step away from our path. We are human. Period.
The goal is to become more timely in noticing when we have veered off course; developing our awareness that says, “Hmmm, I am not feeling like myself. I am off track.”
And THEN, instead of wasting our energy beating ourselves up for veering off course, to gently and kindly bring ourselves back. And to give ourselves permission to do whatever it takes to re-ground and begin again.
By Friday of this week, I knew that I needed to give myself permission to do whatever I neeeded to do to return to myself. Without a checklist. Without a timeline. Without an expectation of how long it would take to “feel better.” Without beating myself up for not being “productive” or marking things off of my list.
This powerful practice—noticing, noting, gently bringing ourselves back, and doing whatever we need to do re-anchor—serves us time and again. It serves us in our journey toward personal health and well-being, toward the well-being of our families, our relationships, and our organizations.
If you need it, I give you permission:
Permission to return to yourself.
Permission to gently guide yourself back.
Permission to do whatever it takes to re-ground, re-anchor and restore your energy.
Permission to begin again and know that whatever progress has been made to date is not lost, and to know that whatever we need to do in the future, and whatever didn’t get done in the interim, will benefit from us taking the time.
Each time we return to ourselves and begin again, we are building our strength, capacity and resilience to find ourselves and anchor ourselves in the midst of all that life sends our way.
Our anchors keep us steady in the storm. And they allows us to stay on course for the longer journey that it is to recalibrate our lives and work in pursuit of well-being, purpose, vision, and impact.