My head is throbbing. My voice is hoarse. Quite honestly I am having trouble thinking straight. I feel a little bit edgy about the things that happened, especially those things that were difficult now seem so much bigger than they were. I know it sounds like I had a disagreement or a fight with somebody, but I didn’t. In fact, most of the time the things that were happening were positive. I was coaching my cross-country kids during one of their meets and although there were a couple problems with the course set up, and the distance we had to travel to get there, the kids’ race went amazing and we all got to spend some time watching some of the high schoolers run, which was fun.
But at the moment, on the bus ride home, I’m having a hard time staying positive. I’m not talking about the false positivity that we bring about when things really are bad and we’re just trying to put on a happy face. That’s a way of numbing your uncomfortable emotions just like using alcohol, candy, shouting at people, etc. No, what I mean is that I’m having trouble actually acknowledging the expressions of joy that were on my runners’ faces when they were yelling in different languages as loud as they could while stretching (one of our team’s traditions). I’m straining to recall how one of my top female runners came up to me and said she really didn’t want to leave the meet because she was having such a good time. I can’t even seem to call up the equanimity I usually feel by simply having the chance to hang with some really good kids.
Why is all of this so difficult right now? Because I’m fatigued. When I’m fatigued, uncomfortable emotions like anxiety, irritation, and self-questioning, which are always present in the background of my mind, run on automatic. I have no filter for my inner critic, and these emotions are having a field day in my head.
There’s so many times that we fear our fatigue because of this. We may think to ourselves that if we become fatigued (usually when we give our all to something), we may become less capable of governing our anxiety, irritability, or anger. We will struggle to call on our joy, confidence, our sense of connection, or even just give them the weight that they deserve.
You see there’s no situation that we are ever in that is only filled with only happiness, connection, and joy. Neither is there one that only houses despair, anxiety, or fear. And the goal really isn’t to lean on one side or the other. Truth be told, the automatic vigilance of our anxiety and uncertainty was honed over thousands of years of human development to help preserve our lives. I mean, once you’ve watched your best friend, Sid, step blithely out into a field only to be snatched up by a saber-toothed tiger, wariness becomes your ally!
But those old, hind-brain responses don’t serve most of us anymore. Yet, if we’re being honest, it is a lot harder to govern our ancestral survival emotions like fear when we’re fatigued. So how do we balance our effort with this fear of losing control of our difficult emotions? How do we encourage and trust ourselves to give our all in situations where we want to grow, and not hold back because we know fatigue can make everything seem terrible all around us?
Here are some suggestions as to what you can do when fatigue threatens to color an entire experience, or get in the way of your continued effort to grow and face challenges!
Changing your perspective – This always sounds easy to do, but it’s harder to implement. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, our perspective is ours. We get to choose it or we can allow the environment to choose it for us. It’s really up to us. Sometimes, when I’m in a good spot, I can realize that my fatigue is making it that much harder for me to practice the tools that allow me recall the joy, connection, and incredible moments peppered throughout an event, so that I can be that much more focused on what I’m grateful for in the next moment or situation that requires it. Remembering that my fatigue may be coloring my perspective enables me to intentionally refocus.
Give yourself permission to not be at your best – Many times we give others a great deal more slack when it comes to being fatigued after doing something difficult than we do ourselves. When you feel the weight of fatigue bearing down on you, acknowledge it and give yourself permission to be ok not being ok. This small act of self-compassion can do wonders at moving you through the negative emotions that accompany fatigue.
Draw on your Internal Coach – As we all know, our Inner Critic finds much fodder in our fatigue. That voice inside that tells us we’re not good enough, or capable enough, it’ll chatter away trying to shame us for the big, uncomfortable emotions that we’re having. But, we can draw on our Internal Coach, that voice that allows for mistakes and reminds us of all the good things that we are currently doing and are capable of doing. Though this isn’t going to diminish our fatigue, giving your Internal Coach equal say can go a long way towards balancing the fatalistic voice of your critic, helping you muster the energy you need to keep moving forward (or at least until you can find a quiet place to sit and rest!).
My fatigue has eased a bit of its hold on me, but it’s still there. I’m owning that this fatigue is bonafide after the many weeks of giving my best in my START Right coaching practice, in coaching middle school cross country, staying as level as I can during my high mileage weeks of training in preparation for my race, all while still trying to stay available to family and friends. One of my runners is animatedly sharing about her race. I’m still tired, but I can hear her. I’m feeling available, and realizing this fatigue will pass, but the wonderful memories of the meet and time spent with the team will remain. For now, all I have to do is listen.
If you would like to learn tools and skills to help you improve your emotional aptitude, reduce your emotional isolation, lessen your avoidance of shame, fear, and anxiety, and enable you to reach your goals, break old habits, or create new ones, I can help. We can meet virtually or in person at my office in Waterbury, Vermont. Just click the button or the link below for a free consultation and let’s talk.
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