I wish I had something really compelling to write about, but I don’t. My brain is kind of fuzzy and the one thing it can really focus on is this:
I Am Tired.
Which brings to mind the song lyrics from the song I’m Tired in the movie Blazing Saddles.
Sick and tired of love
I’ve had my fill of love
From below and above
Tired, tired of being admired
Tired of love uninspired
Let’s face it
Because, we have all had those days, even Madeline Kahn (or at least the character she plays.) And lately, it seems like a lot of people I know are having those days. But why? Why do we have those tired, sluggish, can barely even think days? (Why Santie Claus, why?)
We use up a lot of energy. And there are times we pull all of our physical reserves in order to make it through because we are faced with additional stressors. And right now, most of us have a LOT of stressors. Just reading the news right now can be a major stress inducer! Those stressors can be external (such as the election and impending results), internal (such as pulling a muscle or fighting off a cold), or brainy and thinky or stress things (because the brain is actually the biggest consumer of energy in your body). And we all harness that energy and energy requirements differently. From the time I was a teenager to now I have a propensity to get sick after a big event. Examples: Big choir concert – I get a cold the day after. Lots of travel and stressful assignments end and then I get a migraine afterwards. I empty the “health reserves,” if you will and when they are empty, my body does a big “Fuck you!” to myself. It would be great to manage that better ongoing, but I haven’t fully managed that capability yet. And then, it always changes, too. Just when you think you have all the right combinations, they change. And your body forgot to send you the new codes.
And, of course, we all blame stress. And stress can be exhausting. But it is more exhausting if we think of it as exhausting. Lots of things are “stressful” but it is what are brains tell ourselves that make it better or worse. In a Harvard Business School study done in 2014, participants about to make a public presentation were either asked to calm down or told to rethink their nervousness as excitement. The study found that calming down didn’t reduce stress, it just made people feel worse about being stressed. Turning those nervous feelings into the product of excitement were better able to channel the energy their body created into positive outlets. And which is less exhausting in the long run? Trying to calm your nervous energy ineffectively or using the energy you already have from being stressed and channeling it into what you are doing?
Studies have shown that the physiological responses from terrified stress and from excited stress don’t actually differ. So, make your approach positive. Your body can’t tell, but your brain certainly can. Apparently the traditional stressors we think of as ‘fight or flight’ are really indistinguishable from “excite or delight.” Therefore, let’s give our brains the opportunity to “excite or fright.” Excite seems so much better and certainly does our brain and dispositions better. While the physical toll may be the same, the mental impact will be less damaging. You might as well channel your energy into feeling amped up versus feeling panicked. Other stress strategies include considering how you can use the stress (and how you have used stressful incidents in the past) to strengthen you and grow your insights and abilities. How has given that first terrifying speech or performance helped you learn and become a better performer? Positive goals will help you have a more positive outlook and will help you approach stress from a different perspective. It also helps you see yourself in the future – either past the stress, without the stress, or channeling the stress in different ways.
Finally, make the issue about something bigger than yourself. Realize that when you help others, you also help yourself. If you are the one to reach out and hold someone else’s hand when you are both stressed out, you will likely be getting the most benefit from that interaction. Just helping and encouraging others can help you create stress-relieving changes in your own brain. This isn’t just feel good talk. Apparently, neuroscientists have studied the brain and giving support reduced stress significantly more than receiving support. If you don’t agree, don’t ask me – I am NOT a neuroscientist. Just passing on the message…
So, tired. Yah. I get it. And right now it looks like many of us may be stressed and fighting (there are just some things you can’t get excited about) and then tired for maybe at least four years. Not counting all the other stressors we have, too. But, as much as we can, let’s try to channel our stress and help ourselves so that we can get through these difficult times a little bit easier and with a little less mental and physical damage to ourselves.
So, here is to excitement, growth, and REST. Because you know, sometimes sleep alone just doesn’t cut it.