Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Staying motivated when you're somewhere "just under the weather"...

Have you ever had stretches of time when you were a little bit under the weather -- not really sick, but not really well? At such times, you are grateful that you don't feel ill enough to take to your bed. Yet, as you go about your daily life, you don't have the energy to accomplish all that you have in mind. Perhaps, your thinking isn't as sharp as usual, and you have a harder time setting and following through with priorities.

As someone who's battled chronic allergies, slight anemia, and a thyroid problem, I have had many such days. I've also experienced times like this when I was nursing babies round the clock, after recovering from illness or surgery, and during times of PMS. I've felt like this after passing through urgent life events, when my brain and body had been taxed beyond their normal limits.

Obviously, if you are in a season of feeling "puny", you will need to take some basic steps:
pray, identify and eliminate any sinful attitudes -- such as laziness -- that may be weighing you down, fill your heart and mind with good things, and attend to your physical health.

If you're recovering from an illness or you've passed through one of life's refining times, allow yourself some extra rest. Do this, even if it means you don't get around to everything that needs doing. The dust bunnies will wait for you! So will the papers on your desk, if you run your own home business or work outside of the home. Ease yourself back into your schedule by doing more each day.

If you don't know what's slowing you down, pray and, then, consult a doctor, a dentist, and an eye doctor. Often, draining fatigue can come from something as simple as an infected tooth or eyestrain. If the doctor pinpoints the origin of your discomfort as being something you can treat, follow his advice!

If your doctor can't identify the problem, don't fret. There are many physical, spiritual, and emotional causes of draining fatigue. Occasionally, the answer to why you feel so sluggish is not easily apparent. Do the best you can with the energy you have.

Assuming you've done all of these things, you may need some tools for getting and staying motivated. Here are a few simple ones to try:

1) If you feel "fuzzy-brained" from a chronic ailment or from a lack of sleep, you may find it harder than usual to identify what needs to be done first. This is especially true if you're so behind in your work that you feel overwhelmed. Yet, imagine that your dear husband calls and says he is bringing company over within the hour. Likely, you wouldn't have a problem deciding what needed to be done. You'd know exactly what you should do in what order to make the house tidy enough for you to receive guests.

So, set a kitchen timer for an hour and tackle the tasks in the order you'd do them if company was arriving at any moment. Once you've accomplished this basic tidy-up, your house will look better and you will feel better about your environment. Then, you can move on to other things as you have the strength.

Don't allow yourself to feel rushed as you might if a guest was really going to appear on your doorstep in 60 minutes. Just let the pretend deadline help you focus. The goal is to work steadily, calmly, and effectively.

2) Pray for each family member as you do their laundry or clean in their room. This will help you stay motivated for your tasks, even if your body and mind are feeling sluggish.

3) Remind yourself why you do what you do. Focus of the benefits you will reap if you accomplish a particular task. When you don't feel your best, activities that you normally enjoy seem daunting and activities that are less enjoyable, but necessary, seem insurmountable. In the short term, your usual enthusiasm evaporates. Focusing on your long term motivation can overcome a temporary lack of "oomph".

4) Set a timer for a half-hour or an hour and work at an easy pace. Or, take a gentle stroll for fifteen minutes or so. This idea is similar to #1, except that the goal here isn't to focus on a specific set of tasks. It's simply to get yourself moving. Sometimes, the act of doing something productive -- anything productive -- will unleash more energy, while procrastinating further drains you of strength. This is especially true if your sluggishness is due to a blue funk or an attack of the "lazies". So, dive into your tasks, and see if your energy revives. You might gain enough momentum to breeze through the rest of the day.

Sometimes, such mild work or exercise will tire you, rather than energize you. This is especially true if your fatigue is due to physical weakness. But, even if you do feel tuckered out, you can find satisfaction in having accomplished something. Besides, fatigue after a little activity is less wearing on the spirits than the restless fatigue that comes from too much inactivity. So, if you're just getting back into the swing of things after being in bed with an ailment, be thankful that you can be up and around -- even if its only for a bit.

If a little work tires you out, take a short break. Then, see if you can work for another hour or so.

Re-build your stamina slowly. Stretch yourself just a little more each day. If you find that you have not regained your normal strength within a reasonable amount of time, consult with your physician.

5) Be thankful for everything that you do get done. If we are physically weakened for some reason, and we are falling behind, we tend to focus on everything that we're not getting done. This can be frustrating, which, in turn, can make us feel even tireder. By contrast, being grateful for the strength we have and for each task we can do can lift the spirits and energize the body.

6) If you're not feeling up to snuff, now may be the time to do some creative task you've been wanting to do. You may not have the physical strength to mop the floor or clean the baseboards at the moment. But, you might be able to sew or paint or play the piano, at least in small amounts of time. If your fatigue is a result of mental strain, doing a creative task can revive your spirits and inspire you to tackle harder tasks.

Also, if you are feeling weary, review your past few weeks to see if you have taken some time just to have fun with friends and family. All work and no play can make Jill a weary woman.

7) On the other hand, be wary of over-indulging when you don't feel well. If we're under the weather, we may fatigue ourselves by watching too much TV or spending too much time on the computer or by engaging in some other pastime. For a time, such things do take our minds off our physical aches and pains. As long as we are not engaging in something sinful, this can be helpful. But, we may find that we over-do even wholesome diversions. For example, we may keep sewing when we should take a break and rest.

The proper amount of a pleasant diversion can be just what the mind and body need; too much can backfire on you and leave you feeling more drained than ever.

Likewise, if we are fatigued, we may reach for sweets or other foods to gain a boost of energy. Sometimes, fatigue can be due to low blood sugar, and a healthy snack can revive us. But, in the case of chronic or draining fatigue, a lack of food isn't usually the problem. I, myself, gained unwanted weight by reaching too frequently for something to eat. In my mind, I was hoping the food would soothe the pain and tiredness that comes with chronic illness. In fact, a few moments of fresh air or sitting down with my feet up would have been better options. After all, as I am learning the hard way, carrying extra weight only adds to fatigue!

8) If you are feeling extra fatigued for some reason, try drinking a soothing cup of tea or a glass of water. Many experts believe that you can develop a headache and fatigue if you are even slightly de-hydrated. Others debate this. But, it's worth a try to see if some liquid will refresh you. At the very least, taking a break while you sip your beverage can re-energize you.

9) If you would like to get out of the house for a bit, take a drive. If you feel to weak to drive yourself, ask someone to take you.

10) When your energy is limited, you may be tempted to skimp on taking care of your appearance. After all, you probably have a ton of important things to catch up on. Yet, keeping yourself freshly groomed and putting on something pretty will help your mood. It is also more pleasant for those around you. You don't have to devote a lot of precious stamina to this, but do try to keep up with the basics.

You can take care of hygiene and soothe aches at the same time. I find that minor pains are eased by a warm bath or shower. This is especially delightful at night, as the process of cooling down after a warm shower helps you drift into a peaceful sleep more quickly. However, if you are getting ready to go somewhere, really warm baths and showers can be too relaxing. A cooler shower is more energizing.

Throwing a little Epsum salts into your bathwater is a time-tested way to relieve minor aches and pains, as well. There are also fizzing bath tablets and scetned bath salts on the market that claim to do the same thing.

People who have been diagnosed with "chronic fatigue syndrome", which has a very specific set of symptoms, may have times when any sort of touch is painful. However, for most people, minor aches and pains feel better when you gently massage some lotion into your skin. Rub the lotion between your palms to warm it before you put it on your face and body.



Gaylynn said...

Very good advice, Elizabeth! It's just what I needed to read about! Although today I'm a little fatigued from going and doing so much, some days I feel that way from the time I wake up...I really could use a cup of tea right now...

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog and really appreciated this post. What wise advice and very timely for me.

Thank you!
M. in Texas

Elizabeth said...

Hi Gaylynna and M.in Texas!

Glad you enjoyed the post.


Anonymous said...

This post was very timely for me too. I'm suffering with fatigue after being almost constantly ill with tummy bugs and bad colds since Christmas. Thanks Elizabeth :)

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sarah,

I can relate! I've been struggling with sinus problems since Christmas, which prompted my post.

Here's hoping you feel better soon!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Elizabeth. I hope you're better soon too, it seems so many people I know have been plagued with various viruses recently. You'll be in my prayers :)

Candy said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog :)
I REALLY enjoyed this post! I just posted some info about the code to protect our pics if youd like to check it out..

Hope you come visit again :)

Elizabeth said...

Hi Candy,

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. And, thanks for posting the code. I'll be over in a second to check it out. :)