Most days I wake up and I'm excited to get my day started: I feel gratitude for my life and my passions, my family and friends... But there are those few mornings when I wake up and this isn't the case. It doesn't happen often, but when it hits it feels like a wave has swamped me and all of my fire goes out. I recently asked a group I belong to for advice about this. This group is filled with people who know all about how to get things done; it includes artists, authors, entrepreneurs, CEOs, social justice workers, etc. I posed a question to this group,
"What do you awesome people do when you don't feel so awesome? How do you keep going on those days?"
My group responded quickly with fierce compassion and many, many ideas - over 60 people responded! Reading over them I felt validated that I am not alone in experiencing this cycle of periodic lethargy, and inspired that even with these momentary interruptions these folks were able to make significant changes in the world. I took a few weeks to sort through all their advice and present it here for anyone else who may need inspiration from time to time.
This was the most common piece of advice I received and one that I follow regularly. We live in parts of the world and in an era where information and sensory input is overwhelming. One advisor shared, "I do not look at my phone for at least 30 minutes after I get up... multi tasking and overstimulating the brain right away essentially leads to ADD-type patterns in the brain which leads to more fatigue and less productivity and even more mindless reaching for the phone. And let me tell you, I am so much happier now and have more energy!" Many others shared variations on the theme of unapologetic rest: say no or turn down a project in place of resting, sleep in, take naps, schedule "unconditioned downtime."
A few others reached into the psychology of honoring this downtime, with one advising to "not buy into the you-are-only-as-worthy-as-your-productivity BS." Another offered this compassionate recipe for balancing emotions, "When I am feeling that oh so un-special feeling and I want to be irrational, I put time on my clock and go all out with any and everything that I feel is not awesome or amazing. I follow that breakpoint with double the time giving thanks for what is well in my life. I give myself grace for whatever I am dealing with but do not allow myself to dwell."
My daughter recently called me because she was procrastinating on her to-do list. "Take a shower," I explained to her, "And it will all seem a little easier after that. And if it doesn't, well at least you'll have accomplished that today." Cleansing yourself, your space and your self-defeating thought patterns can be really helpful to lift the heavy blanket of lethargy. Some other ideas from my advisors include, "Spend 10 minutes organizing a drawer or desktop (or any task that can be satisfyingly accomplishments in 10min)," "Make gratitude lists," "Change my sheets." That last one was new to me, but yes it does feel good to do!
Another advisor reminded me of the power of vision boards with her words, "Remembering that it’s not about me helps. When I shift my focus to the purpose of what I do and the impact I make that helps alter the slump. It’s still there, though easier to slide through. I have all around my desk the visuals of why I’m doing what I’m doing. And when I slump, I lean back and look up to my wall and refresh myself."
As a yoga practitioner for 20 years, I happy to read so many pieces of advice related to mindful movement, relaxation and meditation. Several advisors mentioned yoga, a few wrote about exercise and running and many listed different forms of meditation. Another way to nourish body, mind and spirit is through creativity and inspiration. Reading, listening to music and making art were among those methods listed, as well listening to podcasts and TED talks about inspiring people.
Similar to taking a shower, stepping into nature - Forest Bathing - can really help reset me, and I'm not the only one. Many of my advisors wrote about walking in nature, with one mentioning "If you're too exhausted for a walk in the woods find a park or a nice place with a view and just chill." Another idea is to "Walk to nearby places instead of driving or taking public transit." Of course, my favorite piece of advice in this category is, "Cuddle with my pet."
As an introvert I don't usually think of being around other people as a way to recharge, but some of you may feel differently and the group I asked had a wide range of answers, some of which are clearly for the extrovert set. "Getting together with a group of people helps me a lot," "Throwing a dinner party!" and "Playing with children" would not be on my list, but spending one-on-one time with my husband or a good friend is definitely something that shifts my mood.
I hope this list is useful to you. Even if you don't practice everything on the list, sometimes it helps just knowing there are others out there who are also laying on the couch and binging Netflix shows for a day so that they can get up the next day and tackle their to-do list, refreshed and grateful.