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April 19, 2022 2 Comments
I've been deep thinking about the idea of emotional fatigue for some time now and gratefully, a student of mine brought it all to the surface again. When I hear from the people I care about, I can't help but take a moment and reflect. This time, on paper.
We all have something we are passionate about. Even my oldest brother, who often seems less energized by life than my other siblings, demonstrates great enthusiasm for certain types of learning. For those of you reading this post, you're probably like me, passionate about something you've been hooked on for years. For me, it's horses. But sometimes, something unique happens and the passion turns into a grind. The signs are obvious to anyone looking. You've lost some desire. You're crabby and short with your tongue, or something similar. You're avoiding doing the thing you said you always want to do. When you see the signs, what happens then, what should you do?
Answer. I don't know, I'm not you. But I'll tell you what I've done and what works for most people.
When you're tired, know it's normal, even for the professionals. The picture below is me, completely burned out of training, riding, and teaching after a few weeks of traveling. Here I am, embracing absolutely nothing related to progress, resting on my horses shoulder. It's the only thing I did for a long time. Ironically, both my horse and I are better off for it.
Here are the keys to dealing with fatigue.
Let's talk about acceptance first:
Lots of people think they should be invincible, and when they realize they aren't... they become hyper determined to never show it. Sounds like a recipe for fatigue. So first things first, accept that it's okay to rest and even show people that you value rest. For years I couldn't show my wife when I needed a break. I would never nap in the middle of the day. Then I got a little older and I realized I'm human and it's okay to be human and even a little bit important to be human. We, as a society value productivity so highly that we forget about sharpening the saw. Read sharpen the saw. Basically, we forget to value rest and see how it actually improves our productivity.
And I'm not just talking about a daily nap, I'm talking about weeks off, or even months off an activity. When I was young, I played basket ball. Five solid months of practice, live games, open gyms and coasting into summer. Then a long, seven month rest. Guess what, the next year, after playing very little basketball for seven months. I was much, much better. The time off made me better. Perhaps the extra seven months of practice would have made me substantially better again, but some people aren't meant to push that hard and if they try, they burn out. If you're reading this, you may know a thing or two about burn out. It's okay, breath it in. You can rest. Accept it!
Next, let's talk about how to address fatigue:
Well, obviously, as stated above, when you're tired, rest! But beyond that, when you're tired, fuel up. You need to address the elephant in the room and that elephant usually comes in the form of food that your body doesn't assimilate well. Good fuel equals better energy. Simple right? So look in your fridge, your cupboards, your pantry and ask yourself, should I? Look at your TV or smartphone as ask, should I? Is there something better I could choose, a better program, better food, something more nutritious? Trust me, I love junk food, I do. I eat it too. But I do follow patterns and when I eat too much I feel it. I used to tell myself it was just how I felt, like I always felt that way. Then I took a ten day junk food cleanse and started to feel amazing. Then, I ate some more junk food and felt like, well... junk. I never knew how much the food affected my body. Now I'm more conscious and do more to check my energy when it starts to slow down. I notice the signs of toxicity in my body and take some small steps to mitigate it. I notice signs of mental fatigue from participating in things I can't control like most things on TV. I don't have recommendations media sources, or food types or body types to invest your visual, auditory, and gustatory energy in, I only know myself, and I think knowing yourself is useful.
When you're tired, get inspired!
Sometimes you need a muse. You need a little inspiration. You need to be reminded of why you do what you do. When you started out in your magnificent passion there was an endless amount of inspiration. Everywhere you looked you saw people doing amazing things. Now you see people doing those things and they don't hold the same emotional intensity for you. That's normal life. Things that happen often, fade in significance. But smart people, and I believe you're smart, learn to see intricacies in details that others don't. You see the finer points and get inspired by that instead. And then, if you do that often enough, you even get sick of seeing the finer points and it's time to step back and see the forest for the trees again. I find that watching a horse play with other horses inspires me like never before. Even if everything doesn't look clean and perfect, it's still beautiful. It's authentic, and once again, I find myself inspired. What inspires you? It's different for everyone.
Let's talk about building slowly:
As you get back on your feet, it's important to go at it slowly. You're a little groggy, so to speak, don't go sprinting, the blood flow to your brain isn't right yet, you'll faint. You just got up from recovery, don't do twice as much as you should. Muscles build slowly and so does inspired action. Rest and rebuild but when you rebuild, build it slowly. When I fell from a horse and injured myself I thought I wouldn't ride again, then I took one small step toward my dreams and another and another, a year later I was riding again. It's amazing what can happen in a year. The problem is, the whole time I thought I should be back to normal on day two. I thought it was taking too long. With coaching and support I kept my cool and took it slow. I hope it's good food for thought for you too.
Lastly, let's talk about celebrating your wins differently:
A win, for me, used to be grand things. Now I can notice and celebrate smaller things. That's important, but more important than the win itself is the way in which you celebrate a win. If you remember when you were a kid, you celebrated wins with incredible enthusiasm. The first basket I made as a budding basketball player warranted galloping around the court like I'd just won a gold medal at the Olympics. Later in life, I found myself, not only not celebrating wins, but beating myself up for losing. Imagine a toddler beating herself up for falling down while learning to walk. The poor thing would never walk. Wins need to be celebrated with youthful enthusiasm. If you want to get back on your feet, do it with the style of your younger self. Don't say "finally. I did it, why did it take so long?" Instead say, "OH YEAH BABY!" and jump up and reach for the stars and gallop around like you're five years old. Or at least some version of that which your body can handle.
Don't downplay your early successes. Make life grander than life. I'd say it's not only a better way to live, it's perhaps a necessary way if you want to really feel like you're doing things right. When I teach my clinics and courses I'm always sure to celebrate each small thing with my students with supreme enthusiasm. We deserve that kind of energy. We live for it. We can give it to ourselves as well. Even when it feels silly, it's worth it!
In summary, it's okay to be tired, it's okay to rest, it's within reason to believe your resting doesn't mean quitting, and it's feasible to believe you will gain more by resting than by pushing through and damaging the natural glee you get from your passion. So if you feel fatigued, do what feels best for you and know you'll always have a friend like me around to encourage the best parts of you to shine.
As always, thanks for reading.
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April 21, 2022
Thanks again, will send this further to help people.
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April 25, 2022
It never ceases to amaze me that, if you are searching and are open to it, how the right thing comes along when you most need it. Today’s column is that “right thing”. Thanks Don.