“There is nothing in nature that blooms all year long, so don’t expect yourself to do so either.” ~Unknown
There have been time where I’ve felt spread incredibly thin and, at times, I’ve felt stressed to the max.
I realized that my best days all have certain things in common—little things I choose to do for my well-being, and a number of unhelpful habits I resist the urge to indulge. If you’re also struggling, personally or professionally, and feeling drained, perhaps these lessons will be helpful to you too.
5 Things to Stop Doing When You’re Struggling and Feeling Drained
1. Stop comparing your struggle to anyone else’s.
We all have a friend or two that is going through a really hard time. Your friend who was diagnosed with cancer, again. Your friend who is in a really bad relationship. Your friend who just lost her job,
We tell ourselves that our current experience couldn’t even be termed a struggle compared to what they are going through. “I should just suck it up when I’m having a hard day and push myself through any tiredness or discomfort. Because I’m lucky.”
But the reality is, you still have hard days. You are still juggling a lot, and dealing with a host of fears that require your compassion.
You wouldn’t compare your hard days to one of your friends devastating years—there’s clearly no comparison—but the point is, you don’t have to.
You are allowed to experience the feelings and struggles associated with your current life circumstances even if someone else’s are far more tragic.
Many may have it “worse,” but why compare and judge? If it helps alleviate self-pity so you can find the perspective and strength you need to keep going, then by all means make comparisons. But if it only serves to minimize your feelings and needs, try to remember that two people can have completely different situations, and both can need and deserve compassion equally.
2. Stop focusing on things that aren’t priorities.
When we’re going through a tough time, we need to get extra-discriminating about what truly matters and what doesn’t. If we exhaust ourselves with the non-essential, we’ll have little energy for the things that can actually move the dial in the areas of our life that most need our attention.
Can the dishes wait till the morning? Or can you get someone else to do them? Does every email in your inbox need a response—and immediately? Can you say no to some requests? Can you simplify your daily routine? What do you really need to do for yourself—physically, emotionally, and professionally? And what do you just want to do because you think you should, to feel ahead of the curve, or on top of things, or good about how much your checking off your to-do list?
Scaling back can feel like failure, especially if you’re a Type A, but sometimes we have to prioritize so we can use the limited energy we have wisely. If we don’t, we risk busting open our “stitches,” whether that means physical burnout or an emotional breakdown, and then we set ourselves back even further.
3. Stop expecting yourself to do what you could do before.
Maybe you were far more physically active or productive before. Or you were the person anyone could call any time, any day, whenever they needed an ear or a hand. Or you were everyone’s go-to person for a night out when they needed to blow off some steam.
It’s easy to cling to our sense of identity when we feel it slipping away. Not only do we mourn who used to be, fearing this change may be permanent, we worry other people may not like this new version of ourselves—this person who’s far less fun or far more needy.
But the thing is, we’re not who we were before. We’re in a new chapter, facing new circumstances and challenges, and our evolving needs won’t go away just because we ignore or neglect them.
I’m not going to sugar coat this: It just plain sucks when you can’t do the things you once enjoyed.
It’s natural to grieve losses, temporary or permanent, big or small, but eventually we need to accept reality and then ask ourselves, “How can I work with the way things are instead of resisting them?” Otherwise, we cause ourselves a lot of unnecessary stress—and it doesn’t help or change anything.
4. Stop pushing yourself when you need to take it easy.
We all do it, or at least I suspect we do: We minimize our physical and emotional needs because we judge ourselves for having them. We think we should be able to do more. Maybe because other people in similar situations are doing more. Or because we just plain expect a lot from ourselves.
But the thing is, telling yourself you shouldn’t be exhausted doesn’t make you better able to function through your tiredness. Demeaning yourself for needing a break doesn’t make you any more productive or effective. And belittling yourself for feeling whatever you feel doesn’t immediately transform your emotions.
If you’re tired, you need rest. If you’re drained, you need a break. If you’re hurting, you need your own compassion. And nothing will change for the better until you give yourself what you need.
I get that we can’t always instantly drop everything to take good care of ourselves, especially when other people are depending on us. But we can usually create small pockets of time for self-care by alleviating our self-imposed pressure and prioritizing our needs.
Embrace the idea of mini-self-care practices. It’s a way of helping yourself when you have an all or nothing mindset. Sometimes, small things can make a big difference.
You might not have time for an hour nap, but you can rest your eyes for fifteen minutes. You might not be able to clock in 10,000 steps, but you can take a walk around the block. You may not have the time to journal about your feelings for an hour, but you can jot down three worries and three potential solutions to help calm your mind.
And sometimes, you just need to find a way to do more for your own well-being, whether that means cancelling a commitment or asking someone for help.
It’s tempting to push ourselves, especially if this has been our pattern. But some days aren’t for moving forward. They’re just for honoring where we are.
5. Stop reminding yourself of how you’re “falling behind.”
I think it all boils down to this. When we minimize our struggle, try to do too much, and push ourselves despite our desperate need for self-care, it’s generally because we’re afraid we’re somehow falling behind.
We think about everything we want to accomplish, everything we believe we need to do in order to become who we think we should be, and we panic at the thought of losing momentum.
Most of us are accustomed to living life like a race to some point in the future when we imagine we’ll be good enough—and our lives will be good enough. Any threat to our sense of progress can feel like a threat to our self-esteem and hope.
We also live in this constant bubble of comparison, as if we need to keep up with everyone else in order to make the most of our lives.
But none of this is true. While we may want growth and change, we don’t need it in order to be worthy or happy, and certainly not on a pre-determined timeline. We also don’t need to keep up with anyone else because we’re never behind; we’re simply on our own path.
What’s more, wherever we are right now, this is a valid piece of our life experience, and perhaps even a valuable part. We don’t need to rush through it to catch up to everyone else or to where we thought we’d be.
Most people would agree that some of their most immense growth came from their greatest challenges, and in some cases, even their sense of purpose.
Wherever you are right now, be there fully. Accept it. Open up to it. It’s only when we accept the lows that we’re able to grow through them and rise to the highs.
Whatever you’re going through, I wish you self-compassion to help alleviate your pain, permission to do only what you reasonably can, and space to take good care of yourself.
For further help, reach out for a free, 15 minute phone consult at 704-741-2082 to get yourself through.