Three Tips to Living with Low Energy or Chronic Pain

 

Photo Credit: Stock.xchng photo


I have a secret. I am not an energetic person. Never have been–even as a kid, I got tired before everyone else. I was the one who was relieved when parents came to break up sleepover shenanigans so I could get some much-needed sleep. I was in a car accident years ago, and the residual pain taps my energy further while adding its own problems.

My practice focuses on the chronically ill, so I see a lot of people like me. Many of them have trouble mentally dealing with their health issues.  They feel like they’re missing out on life, or that all they can do is get the daily requirements done, then drag off for as much sleep as possible before doing it all again. They are constantly tired, and usually depressed.

I get frustrated at my energy levels, but all-in-all I handle them pretty well. I look at my life, and it is full–I go out with friends, I have a career that uses my talents, and a husband and cat who love me. I get a fair amount done most days, and stay better rested than I have been at any earlier point in my life. How do I do it? I’m glad you ask!

  • I accepted there were limitations. This idea is anathema to many. They want to fight with everything they have to get one more thing done, add one more activity, one more commitment, one more accomplishment. For those whose personality fits this lifestyle, it is great–the constant challenge energizes them, so fighting their limitations is a great coping strategy. Most of the people I see day-to-day don’t have this personality–they just wish they did. I stopped wishing for it a long time ago, and made a few policies: I rarely commit to extra responsibilities because I know I can’t be reliable at them.  If I get so little sleep that I cry when it’s time to get up, I cancel my day. I avoid places, other than my office, where sick people are likely to congregate–no trips to the drugstore during flu season, and no unnecessary gatherings with a gaggle of small children. Being sick takes a lot out of me, and since setting up this policy I have a lot less illness than I used to.
  • I eat well. As much as I used to like soft drinks and french fries, I almost never eat them now. I don’t digest either of them well, and the “hangover” of eating any kind of junk food gets in the way of the things I want to do. My husband and I invest a lot of our income on healthy food that tastes great. We both enjoy food, and both know how important it is to give our bodies good things. It was a lesson we have only really committed to in the past five years or so, but now that we have we get reap great dividends–a clear mind, better moods, and a gradual improvement in health all-around. My pain levels are usually very low, and my energy improves the better I eat.
  • I try to have only positive things in my life. Lest you think I live my life focused on what I can’t do and cannot eat, let me tell you my philosophy: I am a valuable commodity, I have a lot to give, and like any precious thing or entity, I must receive excellent care to be at my best. So I put as many good things into my life as I can. The lesson of positivity is relatively new for me–I used to feel that saying my life was going well was a form of bragging. Now I see it as a way to improve the world around me by not adding to the complaints that burden society. I try to look at my life with a positive perspective (“change your story, change your life“). I seek out positive people to read and emulate, like Michael Hyatt, Marc and Angel Chernoff, Chris Guillebeau, and others. Putting upbeat, can-do, honest words into my mind each day helps fight discouragement and gives me the raw materials to create my own positive creations. Taking care of my mind also gives me a safe place to deal with hard things. When I’m tired, cultivating a positive outlook means I don’t bow to discouragement as often, and dark days when I see only the negative are easier to turn around.

These are just three tips for dealing with fatigue and stress. They are simple, but not always easy. Do you have any tips you use for dealing with the issues in your life?

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    Three Tips to Get Back Up When Life Knocks You Down

    Things don’t always “come up roses.”

    Today has been a rough day Chez Green. Something happened that took the wind clean out of my sails. Nothing earth-shattering, just an unexpected hassle that I thought I had taken steps to avoid. In the past few days, I’ve had other frustrations that I managed well. But this one popped the balloon, broke the camel’s back, crushed my spirit for the day. It made all the other problems zoom back into focus, and now I find myself literally stooped, finding it hard to lift my head.

    My dear husband tried to help.
    “This problem isn’t a big deal.”
    “It’s going to be ok..”
    “You can’t let something minor like this tear you up.”

    But for whatever reason, being caught off guard has me smacked down today. I’ve moped and groused and cried and fumed, and now I’m ready to learn. Just how do you fight a disappointment–whether severe or severely minor?

    1. Accept where you are. This one is hard for me. I don’t like to admit I’m in “a wee bit o’ a snit,” even more so if my problems are for something I could have prevented. And I’m often afraid of seeing how bad a problem is, so I try to ignore it and hope it goes away. But, as this article on acceptance points out, you can’t deal with something you can’t accept. Most problems are not as bad as you imagine them to be.
    2. Look for inspiration. I went to QuoteGarden.com, and searched “disappointment,” which led me to “inspirational adversity quotes.”  There I found lots of good advice, everything from “birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” (Rose Kennedy) to “If you want to forget all your other troubles, wear too tight shoes.”  (The Houghton Line, November 1965). After reading the page, I sat up a little straighter and felt a bit more resilient. You can also call a friend or mentor, or go over your successes in your mind.
    3. Look to your beliefs. Do you believe you’ll be rewarded in some way for doing the right thing? Do you believe you have a mission to complete? Do you believe your attitude affects your reality? Then live like you believe. If you know negativity is an issue for you, and want to change, then the best time to start is in a negative state. Find an uplifting sentence to repeat, or a verse of poetry to write out. I sat down to write this blog, knowing I don’t really believe the day/week/month is wasted because of one disappointment. 

    I hope these points help you in your own fight against disappointment. If so, please share or comment!

    Photo credit: Teresa Y Green

    Smiling Really Can Make You Happy!

    Photo Credit: Anissat

    One of my favorite new books is Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (affiliate link). It describes the many ways that our brains process information unconsciously, and how we make decisions based on those processes. One of the sources of this subconscious information is the arsenal of microexpressions we translate from other’s faces. In the book, Malcolm Gladwell highlights the work of Paul Eckman and Wallace Friesen, two researchers who have mapped out The Facial Action Coding System, a system to codify microexpressions by describing the muscle movements that accompany each emotional expression. To create these “maps,” they practiced making the faces for joy, exhilaration  anger, sadness, etc., in front of mirrors and in front of each other. To their surprise, they found their emotional state was affected by what faces they spent the day making. On days they worked on anger or other less pleasant emotions, they felt angry, depressed, or other unpleasant feelings. On happier expression days, they felt uplifted.

    So what’s our takeaway? Even if you feel rotten, smile. Laugh, even if nothing is particularly funny (but don’t laugh maniacally in front of others–no sense taking an unnecessary trip to the psychiatric hospital!). Your body responds to the physical movements of emotion much as it responds to the conscious emotion itself. Happiness has definite positive chemical effects on the body–why not take advantage of them? 
    I’m not advising avoiding unpleasant emotion at all costs. You need to process anger, grief, and hurt. Pretending not to feel these major emotions will cause them to build up in you and you’ll find yourself irritable or depressed. The emotion will come out somehow. But everyone has days that are just “blah.” When you are bored, or cranky, or tired. On those days, making the conscious decision to smile anyway will make a rough day more pleasant, for you and those around you.

    Do you have any tricks to improve your mood on glum days? Please share in the comments!