We all know what it feels like to be physically tired. At the end of long day, as we slowly head to sleep and can’t wait for our heads to crash onto the pillow with heavy eyelids. Or maybe at the end of long walk or hike when you just can’t wait to sit down. The signs are easy to read, and we know how to respond.
However, we also can get emotionally tired; exhausted even. But it seems that as humans we are not as good at regulating or responding to emotional or mental tiredness as we are to physical tiredness. Because of our fast-paced world, work and school culture, and constantly comparing ourselves to others, we usually ignore the signs of mental and emotional fatigue and continue pressing on because… well, if we don’t, we are weak. Or we’re not being productive enough. Or someone else will overtake us. Or opportunities will pass us by. Or we feel like we just “have to.”
We need to tune our awareness to our internal state as much as we automatically do our physical state. It may be helpful to ask ourselves – am I honoring my bodies cues and signals? Physical, mental and emotional? Am I ignoring red flags and warning signs of exhaustion? Where could I benefit from a break?
And for those in recovery who feel the need to constantly be “doing” in order to be “worthy,” consider this: has doing recovery or your life “perfectly” just replaced the old desire to be good at your eating disorder? Is busy-ness and repressing emotional fatigue just a desire to distract from adverse feelings, and working through them? Do you fear slowing down because of what might come up if you do?
I think we all know, deep in our hearts that we cannot continue at breakneck emotional output speed for very long. We all know where it leads: burnout, feelings of failure, and a loss of resilience that can lead to long-buried coping mechanisms rearing their ugly heads. Therefore, a plea for moderation.
We must honor our emotional energy. We have a reserve of it; it may be more during times when we’re content, happy, feeling proud or surrounded by loved ones. It may be less when we are under stress, very busy, or during challenging personal or professional seasons. When we burn through our emotional energy, it is gone. How much are you using? When is it time to re-fill the tank? We can’t just create more out of nowhere. Therefore, it is also important to judge wisely and place boundaries so that we don’t overextend ourselves and use precious, valuable emotional energy when we need it somewhere else.
Your emotional energy, your heart, is a valuable resource. Protect and guard it with that in mind. We can do that by saying “no” more often, by evaluating opportunities based on how much we actually want or can give at that time, by being honest with ourselves about how much emotional output it will take, and by giving ourselves times of rest to restore and re-fuel. Carefully guarding our mental and emotional energy doesn’t make us weak, and we won’t miss out. In fact, in the long-run, it leads to greater strength and an evenness of spirit that helps moderate the emotional highs and lows.
So slow down. Breathe. Conserve that precious resource that brings life to you and to others: your emotional energy. So long as we protect and guard it, and use it wisely, its strength and power will always be there when we need it.