It’s Summer 2020, and I’m sitting on the back porch with my eyes leaking tears for minutes or perhaps hours at a time. When Bear asks what’s wrong, I say “I’m so tired.” This is the same thing I say every day, because this particular scene unfolds at the same time each afternoon.
For a lot of months when pandemic started, it felt like I was swiping my energetic credit card when I went to work in the morning: WELP you’ve no longer got actual energy, so we’ll pull from your reserves and see what happens. Future You will figure this out!
As evidenced by the daily tired cry, this strategy failed to work a few months into the crisis. My energy reserves were non-existent. I hit rock bottom energetically, day after day, unable to store up any scrap of energy to make tomorrow easier to survive.
If this has been happening to you, too: YUP I get it.
We humans are meant to have crises that last a few days or weeks, not global crises that unfold over the course of years, as pandemic is doing right now. (More about this from Brene Brown here! It’s genius!)
Pandemic life means our relationship with energy — how much of it we have, use, and need in any given day — has to change.
What was a-okay behavior for 2019-Me didn’t help me through pandemic. I was tired, I was lonely, I was recovering from having had Covid before it had a name, and I was in a new place entirely, having moved from Philly to Portland just before the virus was unleashed.
To build up energy, I had to get still and really listen to my body.
My body said it needed more sleep. And more time outside. And to do yoga every single day, no exceptions. I started doing those things, and in time I found that I was no longer hitting energetic rock bottom day after day. Three times a week, maybe. Four times, tops. OKAY FIVE TIMES A WEEK, MAX.
After moving back to Philly, body started asking to meditate. To which I reacted positively while screaming WHY GOD WHY internally. I’ve actively avoided having a meditation practice for a couple of decades, ’cause wow do I hate sitting still and watching my mind. I want to AVOID my mind most of the time, and now you want me to sit still and BE WITH IT?
Fine, I’ll do that, too.
Finding ways to produce and enjoy having enough energy often comes back to incredibly basic building blocks that we like to pretend don’t matter.
We like to think we’ve got shit figured out and we’re FINE GODDAMMIT, so why try improving anything at all? For me, the long journey to the body has meant that I’ve had to learn how to be in my body; ask my body what it needs; and stay tuned into my body while working out or even having sex.
ENERGETIC HABIT OF MAGNIFICENCE #1: BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FUEL LEVELS.
How much energy have you got in your tanks right now?
I dare you to be honest about that information with yourself. And then with others.
To tell on myself, here: a lot of the reason that I broke down crying every day in Portland had nothing to do with being tired. I was often crying because I expected myself to be GREAT and I wasn’t feeling at all great. I conveniently ignored the fact that I was thousands of miles from all loved ones except Bear, trapped in the house during a pandemic without a vaccination, living in a city experiencing visits from the Proud Boys domestic terrorism organization, and acting as the breadwinner while a global crisis unfolded.
The expectation that I would be FANTASTIC EVEN THOUGH THE WORLD IS ON FIRE was actually more harmful than having very little energy.
I would beat myself up about how I SHOULD BE FEELING SO MUCH BETTER THAN I AM, which resulted in wasting energy on self attack instead of using that energy to…sleep. Or eat some vegetables.
That’s part of why this simple question — how much energy have you got in your tanks right now? — is so profound. We’re trained to ignore our bodies and pretend everything is okay, so being honest with yourself about how much energy you ACTUALLY POSSESS AT THIS MOMENT might feel incredibly vulnerable.
You might admit that you haven’t felt like yourself in weeks or months or years. You might be absolutely freaked out by how little energy you’ve got in the tank when you stop to check. Your asshole brain might have convinced you that there’s no use checking, ’cause it will always be this way. (And ‘this way’ is sleep-deprived, nutritionally deficient, overwhelmed, dehydrated, and/or stagnant.)
This is data. Just as an empty gas tank doesn’t mean the car has to be scrapped, an empty energy tank doesn’t mean you’re broken. It’s COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE that you’re exhausted in this moment.
You are surviving an unprecedented global event that has left no one on the planet untouched.
That’s the good news: being tired is perfectly normal and there’s nothing wrong with you.
The bad news? Your exhaustion isn’t going to go away on its own.
ENERGETIC HABIT OF MAGNIFICENCE #2: COME BACK TO BASICS.
Being with and caring for our bodies often means being with what our mind wants to write off as basic — and therefore unnecessary — needs. Our asshole brain scoffs as we throw back mountains of sugar and pretend there are no consequences. Asshole brain has NO interest in hydrating, spending time in nature, meditating, ending work at a reasonable hour, getting enough sleep, moving the body, or even having days off.
Asshole brain will whisper that you should be doing MORE, not less, and do you really need nine hours of sleep, lazy?
Uh…yes, you do.
When your energy levels are in the toilet, it’s your job to take care of your body in ways that might have seemed indulgent or silly or ‘unproductive’ in The Before.
You might need more sleep, more greens, more time outside, more time offline, and more white space in your mind. (I have yet to meet a human who doesn’t need more of these things at this moment in time!)
Asshole brain will say sleep, greens, nature, offline time, and white space are basic. THAT DOESN’T MAKE THEM UNIMPORTANT.
Sure, these are basic needs, but they’re also the answer to filling your wells again: making sure the basics aren’t leaking energy. (Show me a person who is hyper-productive but doesn’t sleep, and I’ll show you a person I’d rather avoid.)
Which actions help to fill your tank in the most basic (and therefore reliable) of ways?
To put this another way: what are you committed to?
At some points in my life, my commitments were to take a shower, brush my teeth, and leave the house before 10am. Your commitments don’t have to be enormous in order to count!
Which actions or habits can you commit to on a daily basis in the name of having more energy for the long term?
Again, telling on myself: when my beloved health care provider asked me what I was committed to, I’m pretty sure I swore and scoffed. Then came the whining: I DON’T WANT TO BE COMMITTED TO ANYTHING DURING A PANDEMIC! Then the eye rolling: COMMITMENT IS SO STUPID ANYWAY, I DON’T EVEN LIKE COMMITMENTS. (See asshole brain doing its thing?)
I finally settled on being committed to doing yoga, meditating, and having 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. UGH I HATED SAYING IT OUT LOUD. And I’ve resisted doing it even more! But the truth is, those three commitments have helped me SURVIVE. Yoga makes me dip into my body before my mind gets going, meditation makes sure I’ve had silence and stillness in my mind before my work starts, and we both know there’s no substitution for eating actual foods that grew in the earth.
What are you committed to, even if you have to announce your commitment whilst kicking and screaming internally?
Please don’t judge yourself for the basics that have lapsed in the past 18 months. It’s not helpful to beat yourself up for not getting sleep or for stress-eating muffins until you developed a muffin top. You did what you had to do in order to survive. And now, you’re free to make new choices.
TOTAL ASIDE THAT DIDN’T FIT ANYWHERE BUT FEELS LIKE IT NEEDS TO BE SAID: sometimes you’re committed to the exact wrong thing. I know this because, like always, I’m speaking from personal experience. 😉
When I thought I was getting ‘too big’ for my life — when I was so clearly outgrowing my marriage and some parts of my work — I thought it would be better to get smaller. Just…try and keep this shit under wraps, Kalp. (Notice that ‘thinking’ about a thing and ‘knowing’ a thing are actual literal worlds apart. My mind OWNED MY ASS for the first 3 decades of life.) Don’t swear too much or say too much and FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T TELL YOUR HUSBAND’S ABUSIVE FATHER HE’S AN ASSHOLE. I failed on ALL COUNTS at getting smaller — I was just me-sized, but now angsty about being ‘too much.’ At some point I realized that my shrinking only made my husband shrink farther so as to not be bigger than me, thus making me angry, tired, frustrated, and downright mean to him. Internally screaming GET BIGGER MOTHERFUCKER at him didn’t work. Divorce did.
This is not about divorce so much as refusing to alter your DNA for anyone or anything — instead, growing bigger and accessing more energy to deal with the repercussions of being who you are, instead of wasting any energy at all on repression and refusing to feel what you feel.
Sure, some people will say shit about you, and some will roll their eyes, and OTHERS WILL GIVE YOU MANY DOLLARS FOR BEING EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE.
If you’re committed to getting or to being smaller, please please please knock that shit off.
ENERGETIC HABIT OF MAGNIFICENCE #3: LEARN TO DEEPLY NURTURE YOURSELF.
Yah, I know, talking about nurturing is even worse than handling the basics.
Your asshole brain might be defensive, piping up about how YOU’RE TOO BUSY ALREADY HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY FIND TIME FOR NURTURING. You might be like, YAH I TAKE A SHOWER AND EAT FOOD EVERY DAY, ISN’T THAT NURTURING ENOUGH? You might be like, ALL I DO IS NURTURE PEOPLE ALL DAY, WHEN IS SOMEBODY GONNA NURTURE ME?
Yes. I know. You’re busy and you’re doing the best you can. You’re taking care of yourself and you’ve got responsibilities.
I know. And.
This crisis isn’t going anywhere.
We’ve got to find new ways to support ourselves and our resiliency as we move through the coming months and years.
Pretending that you aren’t tired, exhausted, wiped out, overwhelmed, or freaking out won’t make your exhaustion disappear.
A few questions to help you find what your body or being needs:
Is there anything your being or body has been asking for repeatedly? And can you give yourself the gift of that thing?
Is there any person, activity, event, or practice that you keep being drawn to? And can you let yourself explore that thing?
Do you keep finding links or books or videos or articles about a topic that makes you feel inexplicable joy or curiosity? And can you let yourself move toward that thing?
This is the big energetic secret: we’re nurtured by what we’re nurtured by. It’s not the same for everyone.
Move toward any and everything that nurtures your body, brain, or being. Without judgement.
Bear can listen to music for 12 hours a day. I shine in silence.
I paint to fill myself up with color and form and movement. Bear has never painted a thing.
Bear can work his body for hours a day and enjoy it. He’s hiked the Appalachian Trail just for fun. I can hike for about two miles before I hate everything and everyone in existence.
Let yourself embrace whatever it is that nurtures you most deeply.
Asshole brain will pipe up that you shouldn’t give a fuck about [thing you care about] because [arbitrary thing] is more important.
It will say that [thing you care about] is stupid, or that [thing you’d like to try] is impossible.
When you kill your curiosity, you kill off your life force. Let yourself try out painting and fly fishing and turning your phone off and camping and clubbing and WHATEVER THE FUCK IT IS THAT CONTAINS ENERGY, FOR YOU.
Move toward that which is alive, and you’ll get more alive — i.e. have more energy — yourself.
🔥If you’d like my help tracking your basics, staying committed to your aliveness, and nurturing habits so that you’ve actually got enough energy to enjoy your business, take a look at KK on Tap Biz Coaching.
I’ll help you end I Can Do It All By Myself Syndrome so that you can stop stressing about doing ALL THE THINGS and actually ENJOY having a soulful, profitable business. Details here.
THE ENERGY IS YOUR FRIEND RECAP
🌈Be honest about your energy levels with those closest to you. Ask for help as needed.
🌈Embrace whatever it is that nurtures you most deeply. (You need to go to a knitting retreat and get your yarn on for a week? Okay! Judging what you want is a fantastic way to make yourself miserable. Let’s skip it. 😉
P.S. Asshole brain came up a lot in this episode, here’s some more about it!