Energy Hit Rock Bottom

This past Wednesday, my energy level literally hit rock bottom.  My fancy Garmin watch (if you’re curious, it’s a Forerunner 245) even confirmed it.  Tuesday night, I could feel it, my body could not relax and I felt so tense.  I forced myself to sleep that night around eleven or midnight, it’s kinda blur.  Then at 4:45 am on Wednesday, I woke up, with this impending feeling of doom.  Not an immediate feeling for myself or my family, it just simply felt like the weight of the world, this feeling of panic and distress.

I tried to go back to bed but I couldn’t.  The day’s thoughts started to flood me.  I thought, as I would suggest my clients do, I should take advantage and begin taking notes.  I stayed in bed, grabbed my phone and began taking notes of my thoughts.  I made notes for next webinar on Persistence (Click link to sign up, it’s free!).  Most days, I can go back to bed after letting my thoughts process but not on Wednesday.  Again, my body would just not relax.   So instead of trying some relaxation techniques I turned to social media.

I laid there consuming social media, laying in tension.  Finally at 7:30am I figured it was time to get up and ready for work.  I felt so drained.  I felt like I was coming down with something but decided to push through anyway.  (And if you can guess by now, it was a horrible idea).  I went to work (remotely of course, working from home yay!).  As the day went on, I just felt worse and worse.  Even, going outside with the kids for lunch felt awful.  Nothing was lifting my mood or my energy.

Finally at 4:00pm, I gave up after sending another email that made little sense to my departement (30+) and I logged off.  I went straight to bed and again I could not get my body to relax.  I played our usual bedtime music and after what felt like forever, I got some sleep.   Four hours later, my husband checked on me at 8:00pm.  He said I still looked so drained and tired; I still felt like it too.  Seriously, after four hours I thought I’d be recharged enough to get out of bed and do something, but nope.  Even my watch said I was barely recharged at a 13 (out of hundred), up a whole 8 points.

So, what did I do? I stayed in bed. (My husband got the family, take out).  I ate, read a little and went back to bed.  And finally after 15-hours, yes fifteen, did I finally feel somewhat better.  I can’t believe that it took me that much time to recharge enough to feel better.  Even then (according to my Garmin) I only got to 59%.   I share this to say, to listen to your internal body battery and take steps to prevent this.

Could this have been prevented?  Yes, it could have, had I acknowledged my fatigue for what it was: burnout, not just normal tiredness.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Not taking care of yourself not only can lead to burnout but compassion fatigue as well.  According to the Professional Quality of Life Scale, burnout and secondary traumatic stress are two interwoven elements of compassion fatigue.

Being a helping professional and in leadership, I am in constant alert to the activities in the world that affect the healthcare industry, so Covid-19, has been in my forefront for some time now.  Aside from the concern for our members, I am also thinking about my staff and their well being; plus my own family.  And then you add the media, social media, and the overall energy state of panic of the world.   Of course, feeling drained and fatigue is going to happen.

What can we do then when this is so beyond our control?  Here a few things you can do, and I did to make sure that I am protecting my energy throughout this pandemic.

  • Acknowledge how you are feeling.  Take some time to pause, to acknowledge how you are feeling and ask yourself is this more than just sleepiness?  Sometimes we get so use to pushing through sleepiness or other feelings of tiredness that we fail to acknowledge our serious fatigue.  This can, and very often does, lead to burnout.  After acknowledging how you feel, decide if you can take some time for some serious rest and relaxation.
  • Check-in/Check-Out.  This activity of actively checking-in with yourself will provide you with a guide of where you are in regards to your overall energy.  We need to recognize where we are mentally, physically and spiritually.    So do a Check-in n the morning.  Reflect.  Ask yourself, how you are feeling? where’s your energy level? and what you want to accomplish today?  Then in the evening, Check-out reflect on your day.  What did you accomplish? How’s your energy level and what is your overall feeling?  This should give you a good gauge of where and how you should focus your energy.
  • Look for Highlights.  Throughout our days we tend to focus on the work, the tedious and/or the negative.  So, take some time to find the brightside, the highlights of your day.  Did you get a good laugh?  Did you get a big project done? or some good momentum on tough problem.  Find something positive to be grateful for, this will help you recharge.
  • Recharge.  We tend to think that recharging needs to happen at night when we sleep, but we really should take some time during the day to recharge.  Taking more breaks during the day will allow your body to recharge and you will have more energy and clarity to tackle those big projects.  This can even been in 2-3 focused minutes of mediation or silence.  How many times do you take a moment to stop throughout your day and just close your eyes?  I would bet zero because most of us have so much going on that when we disconnect from work we pick up our phones and venture into the land of social media (which is just draining us even more!)

My final thoughts on keeping your body battery up during this time and all other times of high stress.  We can’t help others if we are depleted.  Give yourself grace, give yourself space to just be and most importantly, remind yourself that you are human and you need rest too.

What are is one way you recharge?  What have you found works or doesn’t work for you?

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