"Are you the most tired you can remember? " asks a friend. Well yes. My life is easy - my family responsibilities are limited and my job is physically undemanding and the stakes very low - but I am destroyed. The brain fog, tearful confusion, and deep lethargy that I feel seems almost universal. A viral tweet from February asked: "Just to confirm… everyone feels tired ALL the time, no matter how much sleep they get or how much caffeine they consume? ”The 71,000+ retweets seemed to confirm that this was the case.
But when we say we're exhausted, or Google "Why am I tired all the time? " (look for themhes reportedly hit a record high between July and September this year), what do we mean? Yes, pandemic life is, objectively, exhausting. Being on high alert is physically and mentally exhausting; our sleep suffered and many of us lost a basic sense of security, affecting our ability to relax. But the circumstances and constraints we face are individual, which means that the remedy is probably also individual.
The need for a more granular analytical approach to fatigue is part of what prompted Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, physician and author of Sacred rest: recover your life, renew your energy, stayImprove your sanity , to start researching and writing. “I wanted people to take a more diagnostic approach to their fatigue. When someone comes in and says he's hurt, I can't deal with it without getting more details: what hurts, where does it hurt, when it hurts ? "
The sacred rest dates from before the pandemic, when Dalton -Smith's office was already full of tired patients." People would come by saying : 'I'm tired all the time', 'I have no energy'… lots of non-specific complaints. Nothing you could give them a pill on; things that needed lifestyle changes. At the same time, Dalton -Smith struggled to combine intense work pressure with parenting two toddlers. "I was experiencing burnout type symptoms," she says. The book begins with an extremely relevant account of her lying about the ground, itschildren munching in front of the television. "I never knew how spellbinding cold wood planks can be " she writes.
Her preion for fatigue is to incorporate seven types of rest in your life: physical, mental, emotional, social, sensory, creative and spiritual. I am skeptical. Sacred Rest has a classic self-help book cover (a jetty shrouded in mist), talks about "the bread of self-revelation and the wine of the community", and has a strong focus on God (there is a clue in the title). Then there's the fact that every attempt to take a break over the past 18 overworked months has left me feeling miserable and tied up. I admit it when I talk to Dalton-Smith via Zoom.
"I don 't like to rest," I tell him. "I become listless and sad and feel a failure. " She is not surprised. “For some people, rest is almost uncomfortable. VSIt's almost as if their psyche is fighting against it because of the new sensation. She would never recommend, she said, a three-day silent retreat to a completely exhausted patient. "For someone who is actively exhausted, this is almost traumatic.
The book is not, in fact, about this kind of complete withdrawal; it is about incorporating enough moments of rest to remain functional. Perhaps it is a deprecation singing the accusation of terminally ill capitalism: Dalton-Smith thoughtfully criticizes society's inability to take a preventative approach to its "burnout culture" , commodifying sleep ("It's a billion dollar industry, we have specialty pillows, weighted blankets, all that stuff") rather than focusing on the root of the problem. It is, however, refreshingly realistic. I rotated the seven types ofRest for a week, to see if I would feel less tired - whatever that really means - afterwards. Physical
As a lazy home worker and office worker, I rarely get physically tired. However, I get stiff and sore, sit for far too long, and take my body into terrible shapes. Dalton-Smith advises incorporating "body fluidity" into my day with small hourly movements. It's easy and rewarding to set a phone callback to roll my neck, tighten and loosen my hands, or get up and swing on my heels. Better yet, the advice to "choose to stay still for five minutes while lying down". I do this on the sofa, under a blanket; the hardest part is getting up after five minutes.
I sleep badly , so Dalton-Smith's advice on the "bedroom routine" (the usual: dim lights, comfortable clothes and no screens at bedtime) are mostly things I already do. I am his recommendation to add a few stretches before bed; I sleep well the first night, but after that I go back to my usual movements. Mental
Fatigue mental - that confused, nervous, foggy feeling; forgetting what I was doing and missing out on important things because my concentration is shot - is my constant companion. "A brain like a wet Weetabix," a friend calls it, which I think is about correct.
It is difficult to improve my concentration with a basic technique: the time spent blocking "low-yield activities", such as email and networks.social, and periods of concentration. It also harmonizes well with hourly breaks in movement versus physical rest. I quickly realize how instinctively responsive I am to the most recent request - not the most urgent nor the most important; how the chime of a WhatsApp message reduces my concentration by 10 minutes, leaving me foggy. I feel silly that I didn't realize this before. Usually when I try something for an item, no matter how beneficial, I instantly give it up once I'm done, but the 25 minute tune-up and the five minute distraction timers on my phone have become a permanent fixture. Emotional
Dalton-Smith has a " rest quiz "to determine your repo deficitss; by far my worst score is for emotional rest. It also turns out that this is the area that I find the most difficult to do. One suggestion is to identify those people who are "wearing you out"; as an introvert i'm afraid it's everyone. Another trick is to "risk vulnerability", against which I have an almost physical reaction: my mask is there for a reason! The third is to "stop comparing ", but comparing myself unfavorably to others is my main hobby. Neither solution is exactly quick. I probably need therapy, but if not, I ask Dalton-Smith for help.
She suggests writing how I feel, if confiding in others seems too exposed to me. I sit in a cafe and write down whatever I can think of that makes me angry, scared, ashamed and sad. It takes time and I really hate it: I feel like I didbringing all my worst thoughts to the surface with no plans for what to do with them. Maybe it doesn't have to do me good to make me feel good, and maybe if I hold it for a while I will feel the benefit? I reserve my judgment. Social
I assumed that "social rest" would mean giving up socializing for a while, but Dalton-Smith's social rest means spending time with people who you can be yourself with without make-up.
Fortunately, I see my hairdresser this week (like a wig wearer is a very rare treat). We've known each other for 25 years and he sees me in my greatest vulnerability: bald and scared of what he's about to do with his scissors. He is also awonderful company. Punctuated by the totally misused phrase "long story short, Em", it offers me a two hour monologue on a variety of feuds, scandals and gossip so disturbing that I feel more energetic if I had had one. transfusion of something immoral in swiss clinic.
After that I have a leisurely lunch with my best friend, the woman who knows my worst qualities and my most thoughts unpleasant. We eat like pigs, we often stay silent and discuss both the really important things and the rising tide at the bottom of our refrigerators. It is deeply restorative. She is also my emotional rest, I realize. Sensory
I know exactly what sensory input to me exhaust: ring. Almost any noise - the battery beep of a neighbor's fire alarm, a distant motor, the fanin the bathroom - can erase my concentration (while writing this sentence I told the dog to lick himself too hard). My husband has been a brilliant colleague at the WFH in a pandemic, but the man is loud: a volcanic sneeze, expansive yawns, a one-man orchestra phoning through the speaker. It was difficult.
This is no surprise to Dalton-Smith. Analyzing data from her quiz during the pandemic, she found "a dramatic increase in the number of people suffering from sensory rest deficit. s ”. Homebound people with young children in particular, she said, were exposed to constant noise and even some adults "got annoyed to death." That incessant buzz of someone talking in the background gets on your nerves. This is what sensory overload does to us. "
I'm pretty much on top of my noise sensitivity: This article is courtesy of a "peaceful piano " playlist that masks my favorite noises without attracting my attention. But this week, I'm also trying to make sure I enjoy the moments of silence when they happen, and be aware that when I'm feeling exhausted and stressed out, noise is often there. right. Creative
I haven't had a decent idea for at least two years , so I think it's fair to say I'm exhausted with creativity. I instantly like Dalton-Smith's advice for "making sabbaticals part of your life". This is not a monthlong writer's retreat; it can take as little as 30 minutes, doing anything you choose, away from the hustle and bustle.
I decide to have lunch at my favorite cafe, then d 'go to the gallery. After checking my emails on the bus - one mistake - my lunch becomes lunchbecause I am doing urgent work. But after that, the fun begins. I wander slowly around an exhibition of ceramics, both transporting and inspiring. Then I drink hot chocolate as the late fall light fades, looking at people and store windows, and even chatting with a man about his dog. I feel like a different person for a while, like there is more space in my head. I still don't have any great ideas, but looking beyond my usual surroundings and doing something I have chosen seems wonderful to me. Spiritual
Dalton-Smith is clear that you don't need to share his faith - or any faith - to incorporate "spiritual " rest. in your life. “At the heart of spiritual rest is that feeling that we all have of needing to be truly seen, of feeling that we need to be seen.let us know, that we are accepted, that our life has a meaning. It can be from volunteer work or other activities.
I have no faith, and finding what gives me these feelings seems a longer term business. Instead, I turn to the one spiritual thing I know well: a silent Quaker meeting. I was educated by the Quakers, a faith group whose conception of God is both so broad and so minimalist (they believe that there is "that of God in everyone"), it is difficult to come to terms with it. feel uncomfortable about it. The silent meeting - an hour of silence, occasionally interrupted by anyone who feels compelled to speak - is the only type of meditation I can handle. I introduce myself, receive a warm and no-fuss welcome, sit down and enjoy the silence. Sometimes I examine my thoughts; sometimes I look at people's sweaters. I can see the blue sky through a window;mostly I watch that. It 's the deepest peace I have felt all week.
Do I feel more rested? I am not miraculously restored and razor sharp, but that is not a realistic goal, nor even the goal of the book. It's still a week of bad sleep, but I feel like I have a little more in the tank than usual which is nice. I also find it useful to analyze what type of fatigue I am and to have a toolkit to deal with at least some types of fatigue.
Of course , there is an inevitable flaw in this experience: I rest to work. It gives me a kind of "permission" to rest while continuing to work. Could I embrace rest just for myself? I should: this is basic upkeep, not self-indulgence. We cannot function indefinitely fueled by adrenaline andcaffeine, brains fogged up trying to function, nerves frayed like a cheap telephone cable. Of course, you can sleep when you're dead, but a little rest before that would be good.