Fatigue

Slowing Down!

When I hit puberty in 8th grade, I cried most nights for a period in the spring. Since that time, I've had a trend of an annual crash every spring that I'd make up for by my summers off. Working in schools I could push myself to the end of the year and then crash hard to rest and recoup for the new year. 

Free Retreat Planner inside: Slowing Down! Why rest can actually improve productivity.

Since I started my business though, there is no significant "time off." Now I did not push myself too much over the summer, but I still kept up my regular appearances with my podcast and blog posts, which distracted me from the things I had in the back of my head that I wanted to get done.

I have also been undergoing some major shifts in my own work prompted both by bringing it more into alignment for myself and supporting our bed and breakfast, which took a major hit with the political climate this year. 

The last few weeks, I kept thinking I was getting sick - and I realized almost hoping I was getting sick because that would give me an excuse to just crash.

What I forget sometimes is that 5 years ago I just crashed every day. I've come a long way from that point, but I sometimes need to remind myself that juggling multiple jobs/businesses is a lot for anyone to take on, let alone someone with adrenal fatigue and fibromyalgia. My fatigue is much better than it was, but it's not gone. I'm just extremely used to working in a state of fog and eshaustion.

Adding to that, ever since I completed my Reiki Master's certification last spring, I've been flooded with ideas that I'd like to implement, but have not had the chance to step back and systematize my approach because I've been so busy keeping up with the free stuff I've been so consistent with like the podcast, blog and social media presence. I enjoy all of those things, but I need to step back so that I can support them in a sustainable way.

Always "doing" does not always mean being productive, and I've come to realize that when I push myself too much, I don't get the benefits of rest OR productivity.

I've decided to take the month of December off from all of those things so I can reset and regroup. My plan is to come back in the new year inspired and reinvigorated with better systems in place to sustain it! 

With the holiday season upon us, it is so easy to get caught up with busyness. I highly encourage you to take a step back and allow yourself to rest in there as well! Remember that we are all more effective when we take care of ourselves first. 

To help you on your journey to slow down and take care of yourself, I created this free retreat planner!  It includes information on: How to prepare for your retreat in the way that’s best for you; Simple, accessible, and straightforward practices to deepen your experience; A template planner;  A guide to using essential oils to enhance and deepen your healing experience; A recommended reading list; and more!

From Boredom to Burnout

Ironically I almost missed this month's Hoagies' Gifted Blog hop on Balancing Boredom & Burnout because of end of school year burnout. This spring was especially challenging with the perfect storm of end of year fatigue, financial stress, dog dying, new sick puppy...

And then, of course, when I'm not really capable of taking on one more thing, my brain goes into overdrive with ideas of things I can do with my businesses, both this one and our Quinn Mountain Retreat BnB. Needless to say, none of these ideas have come to fruition quite yet. 

From Boredom to Burnout - Free Retreat Planner inside

The last few months I've thought and written a lot about prioritization and self-care and I've been revisiting these the last week as school gets out (I'd say "got" out, but I still have a few reports that need to get wrapped up). 

When I think of the word "boredom" I think "what's that, I never get bored?" But that's because my brain has gotten so adept at keeping itself busy. Watching my son though, I can see how it starts. That active brain has a low tolerance for inactivity. For me, I resorted to watching a lot of TV, which I regret in later years. And now, I admit, I find myself on social media more than is productive. 

For my son, I have to get really creative to help him with ideas to keep himself entertained without an electronic device. He can do it when pushed, but I find we both have a difficult time getting started. 

The thing is though, if we are not careful, the things we do to prevent boredom can lead us to burn out - both mentally and physically. 

As summer is upon us, I'm exploring ways to keep the balance between boredom and not further burning ourselves out. Here are a few things I'm working on as we move through the summer:

  • Record ideas in a journal to inspire us when we are looking for something to do. Including ideas that are productive, creative, interactive etc.
  • Leave space in our days for stillness and quiet. 
  • Be sure to include physical activity along with our mental activity. 
  • Leave space in our days for play.
  • Keep in mind our cycles of energy so we can plan for times we know we'll be tired and not push ourselves too far. 
  • Alternate structured time with creative free time. 

What will you do this summer to balance between boredom and burnout? 

To help you take time out to rest and avoid burnout, I created this free Retreat Planner!  It includes information on: How to prepare for your retreat in the way that’s best for you; Simple, accessible, and straightforward practices to deepen your experience; A template planner;  A guide to using essential oils to enhance and deepen your healing experience; A recommended reading list; and more!

Do You Suffer From Paralyzing Abundance?

Whenever I get a new member in my League of Excitable Women Facebook Group, I always ask the question, "What are you intensely passionate about," which is also ask all of the women I interview on my Embracing Intensity Podcast

One thing that has become evidently clear is that intense, gifted, excitable women rarely have one passion. There are many names for this - multipotentiality, polymath, scanner, rainbow person (vs. specialist in one thing). 

I believe this, along with our propensity for perfectionism, is what leads to feeling like scattered overachievers, or gifted underachievers. I can say that I, personally, have felt like both at the same time. 

Do you suffer from paralyzing abundance? Free Find Your Superpower Course inside

So, when you are passionate and talented at so many things, how do you choose what to focus on? This week I broke out of my usual interview format on my podcast to explore this further - On Paralyzing Abundance

Obviously you are not going to focus on just one thing for the rest of your life, or possibly ever, but when you have too many balls in the air, your effectiveness on each thing can diminish.

For example, over the summer and early fall I launched multiple things along with my new website and tried to start a local in-person talk series at the same time as I launched my podcast. I rapidly found that trying to do both at once, I could not give them both the energy they deserved. For this year, I decided to discontinue the live talks and focus on my podcast, which has grown considerably since that time and reached a wide audience of people around the world who need to hear my message. 

When I start to feel an excess of abundance, there are a few questions I ask myself to help decide where I should focus: 

Is it energizing to me? This has been a big one for me recently, as my work load in my "day job" has been draining enough that I've prioritized the things that energize me in my business life. 

Is it in line with my purpose and vision? In the grander scheme of things, if it doesn't energize you or move you forward toward your life vision or goals, consider if there is something else you could be doing that would be. 

Is this the most effective use of my time? There might be many different things that could potentially move you toward your purpose and vision, but they might not be the most effective use of your time at the moment. This is why I decided to focus on the podcast rather than the live events because while they both energized me and moved me toward my purpose, the podcast had a greater reach and would therefore get my message out more. 

As a multipotentialite, these things may shift over time. Some people are more effective at juggling multiple projects at once, while others do better rotating through and focusing on one or two at a time. Whatever your preference, if you start to feel exausted or overwhelmed by all the things you want to do, it might be a good time to step back and reexamine your focus. 

This has been a part of the Hoagies' Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on Multipotentiality

To help you explore your own unique gifts, I created a free Find Your Superpower Course to help you: Identify your individual areas of excitability with an excitability checklist; Customize the name of your own unique superpower; & Explore how you can harness your own power instead of suppressing it or letting it get out of control.

Walking My Talk

This week's Embracing Intensity Guest, Marina Darlow, helps creative visionaries create systems and frameworks to help support and sustain their vision. 

I was drawn to her work because as I move from the very structured and deadline-driven world of school psychology into the much more losely structured world of entrepreneurship, finding systems to keep me sustained has been a continuous adventure!

Walking My Talk: Practicing my own self-care - Free retreat planner inside

Last week I wrote about slowing down, and my own need to cut back what I was trying to do. I decided to try to keep things to the essentials that I've commited to, which for the moment has been my podcast and my Ignite Your Power group coaching program. 

As I was re-recording my 4th lesson on time and energy balance though, I realized that it's not just about cutting things out, but about doing the things that really energize me.

Here I was, spending hours to re-record a lesson for minimal sound improvement and as I'm reading the words describing draining activities, such as resigned, obligation, task, pushing against, that is exactly how I felt in the moment. 

What energizes me is connecting and creating. Revising and rehashing is draining to me - especially when it takes hours to rerecord a 20-30 minute lesson. I know that it is important, which is why I pay Team Podcast to do all of that for my podcasts. 

In my school job, my evaluation load has been so high this year that even 3 days a week is draining. Even though I don't really have the time, I find what gets me through is the 1 hour a week I go into a class and teach self-regulation to kids. I can't really afford the time for it, but then I also can't afford not to do something where I can really feel my impact. 

This all got me thinking about how I wanted to restructure the way I spend my time in business to focus on what energizes and minimize what drains, so this is what I'm adjusting so far:

  • Reduce my social media posts - do I really need 4 twitter posts a day or 8 Instagram posts a week when most of my traffic is from Facebook? 
  • Clean up and use the original recordings for my course - the quality difference is minimal relative to the time I save for more energizing things, and the cost of doing it is not just in time but in energy. 
  • Coach more - Between website, podcast and group launch, I have not been focused on 1:1 coaching, but doing my small group and mastermind calls reminded me how much I enjoy the 1:1 work. I offered some free coaching spots in my group to get back on track and the response was overwhelming!
  • Podcast adjustments - Finally, I was feeling behind on getting interviews scheduled and all of the prepwork involved. Even though I pay for much of the production, there's a lot involved in coordinating the interviews. I also realized that if I did a short solo show every other week, I could address specific questions that come up in my Facebook group on a larger scale, and it would minimize the production needs for those weeks. 
  • Be more deliberate in ending my work day on business work days - working from home, it is really easy to let business related tasks bleed into your personal time and this can disrupt my ability to rest and be in the moment. Clearly delineating "work time" from "personal time," can help make both more effective. 

We will see how this all goes, it is a constant experiment! What are some things you have done, or could do, to reduce the draining and add more energizing things into your life?

To help you take time out to practice your own self-care, I created this free Retreat Planner!  It includes information on: How to prepare for your retreat in the way that’s best for you; Simple, accessible, and straightforward practices to deepen your experience; A template planner;  A guide to using essential oils to enhance and deepen your healing experience; A recommended reading list; and more!

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Now that I've thought about it, I can't get that song out of my head.

For the past two weeks, my body has been trying to give me that message with that kind of low-grade sickness that doesn't completely knock you out but keeps you highly fatigued and moderately brain dead for weeks. I tried taking a 1/2 sick day to rest, but then ended up having to come in to work on my day off, which in-turn threw off my business schedule. 

At some point, something's gotta give. 

Yesterday, when I knew I needed to get my updated lessons for my group program up and finished, I decided to take it easy and do it in my own time instead of pushing myself. 

Slow down, you move too fast! Free retreat planner inside

At first this didn't feel very good, I still felt kinda cranky even after some nice walks in the sun and a nap. And to top it off, I hadn't gotten anything done! So what good did it do me to rest? 

Well, this morning I felt much better and had a nice chat with this week's interviewee, Jade Rivera. We were actually talking about our challenges with doing video and I shared that I found doing very short FB live videos and slowing myself down helped to ease my nerves. 

She said to me, "I found that slowing down in general is key, you know?"

That is exactly it! I still have basic duties that need to be done, but overall it's time to slow things down for me, and a big part of that is cutting out things that are nice but not needed or energizing, like consistent social-media posting for example. There will be a time and a place for that again, but for now I'm going to take some time to watch the flowers growing...

... Ba da da da da da da, feelin' groovy

To help you take time out to connect with your inner thoughts, I created this free Retreat Planner!  It includes information on: How to prepare for your retreat in the way that’s best for you; Simple, accessible, and straightforward practices to deepen your experience; A template planner;  A guide to using essential oils to enhance and deepen your healing experience; A recommended reading list; and more!

Puppy Power!

Puppy Power: Lessons Learned From Our New Pup

Lessons learned from our new pup

There was a time when your passion and drive filled you with energy! Your enthusiasm was contagious and you drew people in toward your cause. You approached the world with wonder and curiosity which left you open to any possibility.

But now you are getting tired. The realities of life sometimes get you down and you forget how playful life can really be. You’ve been there, done that and wonder what’s the point. At the rate you’re going you are at risk of burning out.

Watching our new puppy meet my cranky old 9 year old poodle brings to mind lessons we can all learn from an 8 week old pup:

Lessons Learned From Our New Pup

Reach out. When we got our new pup, the lady came out with him, he sniffed me then leaned toward me and reached out with his paws for me to take him. From that moment, I was putty in his hands.

I find in my own life, the warmer I am with others, the more receptive they are toward what I have to say.

Know your audience. Even after hours in the car, he greeted my cousin eagerly when we got home, and when she set him down, he climbed right into her boyfriend’s lap. The old dog however, has been much slower to warm. With him, he has taken his time getting to know him.

Some people are slower to warm than others. If your instincts say they are worth connecting with, let them know you are there for them without pushing too hard.

Know when to persist. When his first attempts to play with the little old man were met with small growls, he backed away. The next day, however, he continued to try to connect. He read his signals, and adjusted his own body language to be less threatening. He might not get the spritely playmate he’d like, but he will likely gain a pack mate.

Lessons learned from my new pup

Some people might jump on board with you at first meeting and others may take more time to develop a relationship with. If you know it’s worth pursuing, little gestures over time can lead to deep and lasting connections.

Communicate your needs. Puppies don’t know how to pretend they are fine when basic needs aren’t being met. If they are hungry, they will let you know. If they are lonely, they will come to you. If they want to play, they will do their very best to get you to play.

As adult humans, we become well versed in pretending everything is fine. If we don’t communicate our needs though, no one can help us meet them. And if we don’t meet our own needs, we will quickly burn out.

Play hard rest hard. When the pup plays, he plays hard. He throws himself into the moment. When he’s ready to rest though, he’s not afraid to pass out on the floor.

Lessons learned from my new pup

Sometimes we get so caught up in our work or cause, we forget to both play and rest. Both of these are essential to keep our fire alive!

Maintain your wonder and curiosity. Everything is new to a puppy. They explore the world with fresh eyes and a sense of wonder.

Isn’t this the key to mindfulness? When we think we know all of the answers, we close off the options that don’t fit this view. Keep yourself open to possibility and you never know what will come your way!

Are you starting to lose the fire that used to keep you going?

There is another way! By working with your innate nature, and embracing new perspectives, you can reignite the fire that got you started, enjoy feeling inspiration and passion every day and bring back your inner puppy!

This month I’m offering five free Bring Back Your Puppy Power! calls.

By the end of this 60-minute session, you will leave with:

  • A renewed sense of purpose, to harness more energy and inspiration everyday
  • Insight about what is really draining, depleting, and overwhelming you (it might not be what you think)
  • A new perspective about how to keep the fire of your passion and creativity burning, in spite of the challenges

Contact me here to reserve your spot now!

Puppy Power: Lessons Learned From Our New Pup

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring has Sprung!

Despite some amazing things that have happened to me in the last few months including getting married to an awesome partner and acquiring Quinn Mountain Retreat, this has been a challenging winter for me.

My fatigue and headaches had been worse than they had been in years and I took on extra emotionally draining work at my day job. I usually don't get hit hard by colds or flus, but a few weeks ago I was knocked out for two weeks from the flu.

I had occasional dreams and visions of how I could use the retreat to build community and offer transformational experiences, but for the most part my intellectual excitability slowed down to a lull. I hadn't realized until my house sold and we could start investing financially in the business how much feeling stuck had got me down. I wasn't moving forward toward my purpose and I was taking on responsibilities that did not bring me joy.

This got me thinking that I need to revisit my own self care power toolkit to include things that I can see in hindsight would have helped me while I was going through it. Having a plan for these times is so helpful because when you are in the moment it is difficult to get the perspective you need to pull yourself out.

Here are some things I will try to remember the next time I feel off course:

Take a look at your days. How are you spending your time? Are you doing more things that are energizing or more things that are draining. Energizing activities activate our courage, spirit of play, self-care, sense of power and encourage mindfulness in the moment.

Remember your purpose. Even if you can't spend the majority of your time moving forward on your goals, take some time each week, or even better each day, to visualize where you would like to be. It is helpful if you can plan ahead and find short activities that can move you toward your goal so you have some thing to refer to when you have bits of spare time here and there instead of getting stuck browsing Facebook or other electronic distractions.

Stay connected with your food. When things got busy for me and my energy got low, it was super easy to fall back on letting my spouse do most of the cooking and eat the same meals in a small rotation. What I realized though is that I had completely disconnected from my food. When I was planning meals and getting creative then the food I ate was more nourishing not just for my body but for me emotionally. Finding the joy in food again instead of seeing it as a chore has helped tremendously!

Move. Even a little. It's tempting to just crash, but this will just make the fatigue worse. Find something you enjoy doing. You don't have to go to the gym and push yourself to do things you don't like. Have a dance party with your kids - or just break out the moves by yourself, go for a walk, find yoga videos, one of these days I want to learn the art of poi dancing because it's just kinda cool.

Create. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece and you don't even have to share it with anything, but creating something gets the juices flowing. When you are inspired, other things in your life are more inspiring. I find that when my brain is going imagining all the things I want to do in the future, I am often more productive in the menial things I need to do in my job as well.

What are some things that you can fall back on when you are feeling stuck?

Spring has Sprung!

You CAN Make a Difference

You CAN Make a Difference: 10 ways to make a difference

When you feel things intensely, it is easy to be an idealist and even easier to get burned out or disillusioned when reality hits hard.

You start out with a mission and little by little that mission starts to slip away when the reality of the system, or entrepreneurship or whatever framework you are using to further your cause keeps putting roadblocks in your path.

I had such a moment a couple of weeks ago when I realized I was starting to become exactly what I entered in education to avoid. You see, when I was in college I was tested for learning disabilities and because all they looked at was an arbitrary state criteria, which I didn't fit, I was asked why I even bothered to get tested. What they didn't acknowledge as a roadblock was that my auditory processing was significantly below my visual processing - meaning I really sucked at taking in what I heard and read (unless it was in the form of meaningful conversation).

I became a school psychologist because I wanted to help students understand themselves better, regardless of whether they met some arbitrary state qualification. Recently though, I started to find myself slipping into black and white thinking, which is the enemy of effective problem solving.

So this got me thinking of how I've moved myself over the years to create real positive change within a set structure.

Reconnect with your why. You probably didn't get involved with this cause to jump through the hoops of paperwork, red tape and/or marketing. You had a purpose or you wouldn't have signed on. Reexamine that purpose, and look for new ways to move toward that goal.

Find common ground. Just as you had your reasons, the people you share space with have their own motivations too. I have always gotten through in this field with the assumption that everyone in the room wants what's best, but they may have different approaches or ideas of how to reach that. There's a great quote from Olivia Fox Cabana in The Charisma Myth, "In most situations, we don't know for certain what motivates a person's actions. So we might as well choose the explanation that is most helpful to us." In helping fields, such as education, I generally find the most favorable answer to be true. When we recognize our common goal, then we can come to appreciate their different approaches.

Think outside the box. Boxes can be useful for giving us a framework with which to organize our world, but they are also often arbitrary. If we are not careful they can encourage black and white all or nothing thinking. This stunts our natural creative problem solving.

Appreciate the good. It's there really! Even if you are currently feeling overwhelmed with what's wrong in the world, there is so much to celebrate! Find it and appreciate it - out loud so that others can hear. What we focus our energy on is what we start to see more of. When I worked at a school for children with severe behavioral needs, they had a strict policy of using 3-4 positive statements to every negative one. As both an employee and a colleague, I saw how powerful this is for adults as well as children.

Find the humor. Changing the world for the better is heavy stuff. When we can laugh at ourselves or our situation, it makes the whole process more fun!

Connect. Find others you can connect with on a deeper level. Even one or two people who share or understand your cause. Life is much easier when you don't have to go it alone.

Let go. If it's not serving you let it go. Let go of those expectations of perfection and how things "should be" and accept things as they are. Only then can we move forward and shift things in the positive direction of what "could be."

Change your story. Events may trigger thoughts, our thoughts may trigger feelings and our thoughts and feelings may trigger actions and our actions will trigger an outcome. We may not be able to control the events, but we can control our thoughts and actions.

Put your own oxygen mask on first. If you constantly put the needs of others before your own, eventually you will burn out. Take a look at your typical day and look at what activities nourish you and what activities deplete you. If you find more depleting, which is often the case, find ways to add more nourishing activities back into your life. Take small breaks to be mindful of your body and surroundings, take a walk, move, meditate, get out in nature. Whatever it is that makes you feel most alive. Even 5 minutes will do a world of good.

And remember, what you do is important! You have a heart for making positive change. You already are making a difference, and have been for years. Just please, be sure to take care of yourself in the process so you can keep on being your awesome self!

What has helped you move from disillusionment back into hope?

You CAN Make a Difference: 10 ways to make a difference

Behind the Curtain

Behind the curtain

I have to admit, with all the amazing things that have happened in my life in the last few months, I start to worry that people will find my posts obnoxious. I’m the kind of person who likes to share things when they happen - but when so much happens at once it can be overwhelming.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the social media world and think that’s the whole picture of someone’s life. What we don’t always post though are the things we don’t think anyone wants to hear for the fear of sounding like a whiner. These are the things behind the curtain.

For example, in my life before I got married, turned 40 and acquired a retreat property - I had started suffering chronic headaches again that got worse rather than better when the summer began. I had to go back to my day job more and now full time to make ends meet and put almost all business plans on hold.

It felt like a huge set back to me, but now I see how even though the stress is still giving me daily headaches, this is exactly what I need to work through so that I can best help the people I most want to serve.

You see, I realized that I want to help burnt out idealists like myself reset their energy and develop a self-care plan so that they can keep sharing their gifts with the world in a way that sustains them. However, when I stepped back a bit from my day job the answer for me was just work less in the “system” and more toward something that really utilized my skills. I had not, however, found a way to work within the “system” and come out of it without feeling depleted. In fact, I started this school year with a deficit instead of rebuilding my energy over the summer.

When I was asked how I dealt with extreme fatigue and burnout, I realized that although I’d managed my own fatigue quite well the year before - when a lot of stressors hit at once I was still ill prepared to find my way out of it. When “wait for summer break” has always been my answer and my summer was the most stressful time of that year, it’s time for a new approach.

Now it is still my intention to step back from my day job gradually over the next few years because I’ve come to realize that my mission lies elsewhere, but I see this spring of working full time as an opportunity to explore the best ways to take care of myself within the system.

I had planned for a lot of collaboration and connection this year, but to start 2016 I realized that I have to spend some time first turning inward and connecting more with myself. For me, this will include mindfulness training and some time exploring my creative side.

What will you do this year to connect more with yourself?

behind the curtain

When You Just Want to Binge Watch Gilmore Girls

Working in schools I always have such high expectations of what I will get done any given summer. Then, inevitably, the time rushes by and I start the new school year moderately refreshed but considerably disappointed in what I managed to accomplish.

This summer, however, has been anything but refreshing. Between an extended house full of family, facing the fact that I need to add another day onto my "day job" in the fall to pay the bills, a partner who is frustrated with his own job situation and planning a wedding on a budget (or should I say avoiding planning), my fatigue has kicked back into high gear. On the plus side, it made me realize just how far I'd come. On the minus, I fell right back into the cycle that feeds it.

Between fatigue and the summer habit of eating whatever is offered to me for meals, I put on 20 lb, which feeds the fatigue, which then makes it harder for me to plan more energizing meals.

Recently, the boy went on tour with his dad for a week, and an unexpected gift made the concept of wedding planning not make me want to pull my hair out, so I had grand plans of figuring all that stuff out and getting back into solid eating habits again.

The night the boy left, I had the worst insomnia I'd had in ages and was completely useless the next day with a headache. I managed to go for a walk with my Guy, and that evening I binge watched Gilmore Girls, took a bath and watched two more episodes in bed.

The thing we don't talk about much is that sometimes the reason we avoid "me time" is that when it finally arrives we are absolutely useless with fatigue, brain fog or headache. As long as I have a schedule and expectation on my time, my body pushes through and I function pretty well. It's when I don't have anything I HAVE to do that my body decides it won't even let me do the things I WANT to do.

There are a few things that have helped me get back into my groove:

  • Walking out in nature.
  • Stopping to listen to my body.
  • Stretching my neck.
  • Connecting with energizing people.
  • Eating something nourishing.
  • Schedule an appointment for self-care.
  • Occasionally binge watching Gilmore Girls.

I'm still exploring things that reenergize me. I would love to hear what works for you! Please share in the comments.

You Don't Really Want to Get Better

A few years ago I was wandering a holiday bizarre when I found a booth where they were selling magnetic jewelry that was supposed to help relieve pain. I asked the man if he'd seen any success using it for Fibromyalgia and he said, "I've found that people with Fibromyalgia don't really WANT to get better."

Umm.... Excuse me?

I spent years buying self-help books and trying new therapies in the attempt to relieve my chronic pain and fatigue.

But then I never really stuck to anything long enough for it to help, so was there some truth in what he said?

I call bulshit!

The reason it's hard to stick to anything is because chronic pain and fatigue deplete our resources of self-control.

Last week, when talking about focusing on health rather than weight, a client said to me, "but the problem is I don't really believe that my pain and fatigue will be fixed by losing weight."

This made me step back and look at my own experience. I had lost 40 pounds and kept it off without trying for almost two years and felt much better than I had. I said, "I still have issues with fatigue and pain, but I'm a hell of a lot happier."

I'm more in tune with my body's messages, I have an easier time falling asleep and don't wake up every day feeling like a truck hit me and I completely transformed the way I eat. I'm also working on projects that I feel passionate about and helping others harness the power of their own intensity. Once I gave up the idea that I had to "fix" myself before I could find the right partner, I opened myself up and found a partner who loves me BECAUSE of my quirks instead of despite them.

My friend Kathy Carlisle once said she had been looking for something outside of herself to "fix her," when it really came from within.

Our western medical approach is all about fixing the symptoms, but it doesn't really get at the core issues that drove the symptoms in the first place. Kathy is an inspiration because she managed to heal from her MS diagnosis without medication.

If there's a drug that stops the symptoms, many people end there.

Perhaps that's why this man felt that people with Fibromyalgia don't really want to get better - there are very few drugs or therapies proven to relieve the symptoms so many of us have given up on ever finding relief.

Looking beyond symptoms, I've found a few core issues in the highly excitable, intense and/or sensitive people that I've worked with that may play in to pain and fatigue:

  • The world is more intense for them than average.
  • They have a history of tuning themselves out and ignoring their body because it's usually uncomfortable.
  • They try to tone themselves down to fit in and not appear "too much."
  • They have a strong drive to make a difference in the world, while at the same time needing extra self-care due to their sensitivities.
  • Their willpower reserves have been depleted.
  • They have a really difficult time putting themselves first.

Here are some things that have helped me tremendously in healing from within:

Become an ally with your body. In an inspirational interview I did with Anna Chapman, she said that she used to see her body as an enemy, but now she can see that everything her body has done was in an effort to protect her. I see that in myself after trying so hard to "fight" my body and beat it into submission. After years of tuning it out, it screamed back at me to listen. When I was asked to stop every hour and rate my pain and tension I was able to feel headaches creeping up my neck and stop them in their tracks. Even now, I have to remind myself to check in with my body and make sure I'm not pushing it too hard. When I am more in tune with myself, I'm actually more productive because I don't crash so hard as soon as I don't have a deadline over my head.

Get clear on your purpose. When you are clear on your life purpose and vision for the future, you can make decisions that are in line with that vision. It helps to bring you clarity and direction. You can move from beating yourself up about what should be and focus on what could be. When you have a sense of purpose, your passion and intensity can be channeled in a positive direction instead of spinning your wheels unnecessarily.

Do exactly what you want to do. When I first started my coaching journey I wanted to help women with chronic pain and fatigue issues improve their self-regulation skills so that they could follow through on the things that would make them feel better. I realize now that I was completely missing the mark. It's not about forcing yourself to do things you don't want to do, but about doing exactly the things that make you feel alive! In my post on energy balance, I point out that If we can activate our courage, spirit of play, self-care, sense of power and be mindful in the moment, our activities are a lot more energizing. If, on the other hand, we are motivated by fear, duty, responsibility for others, powerlessness, dwelling on the past or ruminating about the future, we are bound to be drained. This is why so many approaches to healing can backfire - because we approach them out of fear and duty.

If you are listening to your body and your purpose, you can find things that align with both and make decisions that feel good instead of forcing yourself to do the things you think you "should."

What has helped you heal from within?

I know what to do, so why can't I follow through?

Maybe you can relate...  

My nervous system is highly active.  Things that don't bother the average person are uncomfortable for me.  Things that are uncomfortable for most feel like pain to me.  I am also very easily distracted by both my environment and my overactive mind.

I've scanned through any number of self-help books over the years and tried all kinds of alternative therapies, but nothing really stuck.  I tried counseling a few times, but I was generally more analytical than the therapist so we never got very far.  I have an arsenal of wellness strategies at my disposal.  I know some of them might help, but it's so difficult to stick to anything consistently.

I always believed that there was a connection between my ADHD tendencies and chronic pain and fatigue (diagnosed as Fibromyalgia and Adrenal Fatigue), because they both seemed to be a function of difficulty filtering out information from my senses.  Only recently has there been the beginnings of research to support this, such as this article, which connects them both as an issue of the nervous system.  Unfortunately, when your nervous system is having difficulty filtering stuff out, it can also be difficult to regulate your response to your environment.

Self-Regulation and Chronic Pain

According to Steven Stosny of Psychology Today, "Behaviorally, self-regulation is the ability to act in your long-term best interest, consistent with your deepest values. (Violation of one's deepest values causes guilt, shame, and anxiety, which undermine well being.) Emotionally, self-regulation is the ability to calm yourself down when you're upset and cheer yourself up when you're down."

If you struggle with self-regulation, you are more vulnerable to a host of stress related issues and illness.  In turn, if you have chronic pain or fatigue, your self-regulation reserves are limited.   Almost all of the things we know to help increase wellness and decrease pain involve creating consistent positive habits.  Creating new habits requires a significant degree of self-regulation.

So what now?

I first wrote about this issue on my Leaving the Food Matrix blog last year.  All of the things I shared in that post still ring true to me.  As I've continued to read more about self-regulation and habit change, some additional strategies have come up.

Know your purpose!

Know your purpose and values - In order to act in our own long-term best interest, we must know where we are trying to go.  Taking the time to really examine our deepest values and purpose will help keep us on track.

Understand how needs are different from strategies - This is a key in Nonviolent Communication, which I believe is a helpful tool in not only communicating with others, but in communicating with yourself.  If you can understand the underlying needs that drive your actions, then you can find better strategies to meet those needs.  Even the ineffectual things you do are an attempt to meet a need.  For example, if I browse Facebook way too long, I might be trying to meet a need for rest, but there are many more strategies that could meet that need more effectively.

Automatize - The easier you make a new habit, the easier it will be to maintain.  Use structure, routine and scheduling to work things into your daily plan.  If you want to access something daily, place it where you can get to it without effort.

Give yourself a break - You may think everyone around you is doing so much more than you, but I can assure you they also think there are ten thousand things they should be doing that they aren't.  Everyone has their own strengths and we tend to overvalue what we don't have and undervalue what we do.  Remember that what you have to offer is viewed as extremely valuable by someone else.  Also, when it comes to our own health, comparing ourselves to others is never productive.

Take care of the ones you love by taking care of yourself - I mentioned this in my last post, but I think it's important enough to share again.  Your family will not remember all the cleaning you did and laundry you folded.  What they will remember is how you made them feel.  If you take the time to take care of yourself, you will be more available for the ones you love and act as a role model for taking care of themselves.

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Photos courtesy of Guy Holzman Photography

If I Have Excess Energy, Why Do I Feel So Tired?

If you had told me I had excess energy a few years ago, I would have laughed. You see, I have had chronic fatigue issues pretty much my whole adult life. I'm constantly tired, and my body probably needs 9 hours of sleep (not that often give it that). It also takes me over a month to recover from 10 months of work in schools. I generally manage to pull through the year, but then my body just quits for a while and decides it will do nothing productive whatsoever, while throwing in some headaches and dizziness for good measure. It wasn't until two summers ago that I heard about Adrenal Fatigue. I took a few tests and sure enough, my Cortisol (stress hormone) levels were way too high at night, which was keeping me up at night. This didn't really surprise me since I believe I've lived in some state of adrenal fatigue since I hit puberty. The part that was most interesting to me though was that I was extremely high in what they said was a highly stimulating neurotransmitter (Glutamate), and extremely low in the calming one of Taurine. So, essentially my system is constantly overstimulated.

Psychomotor excitability and adrenal fatigue

Psychomotor excitability is essentially an excess of energy. It manifests most visibly in hyperactivity and need for movement. It would seem that people with this excitability would be natural athletes.  Many are but there are others, like myself, where this excess energy manifests in more subtle ways. For me, the most obvious sign is fidgeting. I can't sit still for long without fidgeting. I always thought of this as related to the fact that it was painful for me to sit for long periods.  That is part of it, but I also have an internal feeling of restlessness.

My restlessness shows up not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. My mind is constantly going - until it burns out then I turn to media to numb out. My environment is rather chaotic because there are so many things I'd rather be doing other than organizing and cleaning. A friend recently put it aptly that she wanted to break the cycle of sprint then hibernate. This is something I've been working on doing since I'm not at optimal performance in either setting.

All of the excitabilities can contribute to chronic fatigue and pain. With sensual excitability, your nervous system is so sensitive that what feels normal to most can be uncomfortable for you and what is uncomfortable to most is painful to you. Emotional excitability can make you much more susceptible to a stress reaction. Intellectual and imaginational excitability can give you lots of unproductive brain chatter, rumination and imagining worst case scenarios.

I always used to marvel at how my brain had the ability to make my body hurt from a young age. When I was a child and I didn't want to go to school for some reason, I would worry about it the night before and wake up with a sore throat that was visibly red. Over the years it struck me that while I could use my mind to cause myself pain, I had a very difficult time using my mind for good.

Knowing more about excitabilities, I'm learning ways to use these powers for good rather than for evil. The key is not to suppress them (which leaves you out of touch with your emotions) or let them go uncontrolled (which can feel "too much" for both you and others, but to harness them. Some examples of using your powers for good might include:

  • Using psychomotor excitability to get into a regular exercise routine.
  • Using sensual excitability to appreciate the beauty around you and get in touch with nature.
  • Using your emotional excitability to connect with people who help nourish you.
  • Using your intellectual excitability to change your unproductive thoughts to positive, life affirming ones.
  • Using your imaginational excitability to visualize where you want to go.

Things that have helped me harness my own power:

Diet - I started on a Paleo diet, and experimented to find what works for me. After an intolerance test finally convinced me dairy was really an issue, I've mostly stayed off of that and minimized my grains (except rice), beans and processed sugar. It's not perfect, but I strive not to make my diet a stress on myself because stress can cause as much damage to your digestion as the wrong foods. Overall, I lean toward an intuitive approach to eating, with the occasional conscious indulgence.

Excitability vs. Sensitivity

Social - I always valued my ability to get along with most people, but the last few years I have been more careful to keep in my life positive people who help nourish my soul. I am a highly sensitive extrovert, so it's a constant balance for me between being energized by other people and drained by overstimulation. Limiting my time with draining people has had a positive effect on both my emotional and physical state.

Energy work - Most of what I've done for myself in the last year has been on my own, but the one service that has made a positive difference recently was energy work with Samantha Brown at Enlightened Brilliance. Specifically Body Talk. I've also had positive results from acupuncture, but I was starting to realize that all of the treatments I'd been using that were strictly physical won't help until I clear up blocked energy. I believe that this has helped me to start listening to my intuition better and get on the right track. I believe there are many ways to do this, but this was one thing that worked for me.

Listening to my gut - After years of tuning out my body's messages because it was always uncomfortable or in pain, I am finally starting to listen to my body again. Once I started hearing my body better, I was better able to hear my gut, or intuition. This has helped me to find an amazingly supportive partner and take jumps in my business I would not otherwise have had the confidence to do.

Pursuing my passion - Finally, moving toward a path that pursues my passions and supports my need to contribute to the wellbeing of others has had a very positive impact on my overall wellbeing.

Just Steps in the Journey...

I certainly have a much further to go in terms of optimizing my own well being, but I feel pretty good about where I've come so far.  This summer I have a chance for a reset. I've taken better care of myself during the year, so it's been easier for me to recover. I'm ready to set some structures in place to start my next year off right as I go part-time to start my business helping the highly excitable balance their energy and harness their own power.

Calendar - My goal for this week is to start scheduling out my time better to include not only work time, but personal time as well.

Mindfulness - I keep meaning to take a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class, which I still intend to do, but the end of my school year was so chaotic I just could not even think of starting something new before the end of the year. The silly thing is though, I know I don't need to wait until I take a class to meditate. I've done it before and I can do it again. As I put my calendar together I will put it in my calendar as a part if my daily routine.

Excercise - I'm great at getting walks in when I have the structure of work and the weather is nice. When summer comes, my structure goes right out the window (bring in calendar). Fortunately the weather is nice, so it shouldn't be too hard to get in some nice walks at the lake.

Caffeine - I did so well at the beginning of the year not drinking coffee, but as the year progressed I started drinking more to the point where it is back to an almost daily occurence. I have to say that this is by far the stupidest thing for me to fall back on since, as I said above, I'm constantly overstimulated already!

It's easy for me to focus on what I still need to do, but it's reasurring to see how far I've come.  I hope to encourage others to take even small steps to use their own powers for good!

Photos courtesy of Guy Holtzman Photograpy