Jackson Brown may have said it best in his lyrics from Running on Empty:
Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind
Do you feel like you're running on empty, like your body and your mind just can’t go anymore? Do you push yourself to continue, not because you want to but because you have to? Do you ever ask yourself what more you can possibly give? Are you sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, read on to find out how to beat (at least lessen) both emotional/mental and physical fatigue.
No one likes to be sick. Even a simple cold can be too much. The runny nose drives you crazy and then you wish your nose would run because now you’re congested. All you want to do is sleep, but coughing makes that impossible. It doesn’t take long before the simplest of activities seems like too much. The box of tissue that is a few steps away may as well be on the other side of the house. You don’t have the energy to move.
The sicker you become, the quicker you are to get angry or cry. What is usually a non-issue may feel overwhelming, especially if the illness is more than a cold and will be going on for a very long time, maybe even indefinitely.
Physical fatigue leads to emotional fatigue and vice versa.
Lack of Sleep
I'm the poster child for not getting enough sleep. As far as I know I don’t look sleep deprived, but maybe I’m not awake enough to notice. Generally I sleep five or six hours each night, and that may not be uninterrupted sleep.
I can be the last one in our house to go to bed and be the first one to get up in the morning. Part of this (getting up early) is because I have medication to take. Part of the problem is that I’m one of those people when once I’m awake, I’m pretty much awake. Later in the day I’ll fall asleep at the computer or on the couch, but if I go back to bed I won’t be able to sleep.
Part of the reason for going to bed late and getting up early is that I’m always trying to squeeze in one more thing during the day. In some cases, I’m on a roll with something I’m writing. It’s a curse, but anyone who likes to write knows that you have to keep going when you’re on a roll. I’m not saying that I’m writing each and every night. I’m just trying to pretend that each time I stay up to late it’s always doing something productive.
I have volunteered on the same council (Society for Technical Communication – Southwestern Ontario chapter) for approximately 14 years. I have learned so much. I’ve done things that I would never get to do in my regular job (for example, newsletter editor, public relations manager, student awards co-ordinator, international judge of every form of technical communication you can imagine). I have learned skills that I can use when applying for jobs. I have met so many great people. Unfortunately, I’m tired. I’m burnt out. I feel like I’m giving more than I’m receiving.
I’m taking a break from being on council right now. While part of me wants to continue to help, part of me just needs a break. It’s like eating too much of something really good and then not being able to eat it for a while. It’s too much of a good thing. Eventually the excitement over the food/volunteering with this group will return. It may just take a little time.
I am still doing volunteer work, but with Cancer Care Ontario as a Patient and Family Advisor. This is a relatively new role for me, so I’m in learning mode. It invigorates me. I know that what I say and do will make a difference to cancer patients and their families/caregivers.
Yes Person/People Pleaser
I’m not always a Yes person, but there are times when I will agree to do something when I should really have said no. I’m a people pleaser and I want to make the people around me happy. If I can do something that will make their life easier or better, I want to do it. It’s what you do for friends and family; however, with healthy relationships, it’s okay to say no to someone from time to time without fearing that they won’t be happy with you. If you constantly say yes when you would like to say no, you will eventually resent the people who keep asking you for your help and the relationship you thought you were saving will fall apart. You need to find time for yourself. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t effectively take care of anyone else.
Again, I know that while it makes sense, it can be hard to take the time for yourself that you feel you should be giving to someone else.
Sometimes you pretend to be happier than you really are. You smile when it’s the last thing you really want to do. You may keep your feelings bottled up inside for a variety of reasons.
You may do this because you may not want to explain yourself to anybody. It may seem easier to smile than to share all the details. You may just want to deal with things on your own without answering a lot of questions.
You may feel that you have to be happy because you believe that’s what is expected of you. For example, people often tell someone with cancer that they should be happy when the treatments are over. The truth is, while it is great when the treatments are over, the cancer experience is never truly over. The fear of recurrence is always there and the pills that can be taken to help keep breast cancer from returning can be taken for 10 years. Keeping cancer at bay is awesome; however, some of the side effects to the medication are not quite as exciting.
You may fear the emotions that come with opening up to someone about what’s going on inside you. Sometimes your emotions can be even more intense than you expected. Once you feel that intensity it can be scary. Suppressing your emotions can seem preferable to dealing with them but, over the long run, it’s unhealthy and will make you feel like you’re running on empty.
You may not believe it’s the right place or time to deal with your emotions so you put on a false front at work until you get home. This is perfectly understandable; however, you have to allow yourself to deal with your feelings once you get home. If you continue the charade about being not only okay, but even happy, the feelings or issues that you never dealt with will resurface when you least expect it. You may think it came out of nowhere, but the truth is that it was there all along, just buried.
Here are a few suggestions that may help you feel less emotionally empty:
Over 30-years of writing experience, over five years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.