By Julie Holliday
With illnesses like ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia and Lyme disease, every little bit of energy we can make available counts. I was brought up with a strong value of not being wasteful, and I’ve found this value particularly helpful for my illness management. I’ve discovered that if I can avoid wasting my energy, I have so much more for things I want to spend it on, like fun, productivity and healing.
One thing I’ve found can be really wasteful of energy is trying to do things when you just simply don’t feel like it. If you’re having to push yourself or force yourself to do something, you’re fighting against resistance, which is like trying to accelerate with the breaks on! We often think that we have to do something now or it just won’t get done, but the fact is if we wait until there is less resistance, it will be so much easier to do.
I’ve discovered two ways to minimise this resistance that are to do with timing. They both rely on an understand that energy isn’t just a here or not thing, it has different flavours. We can minimise the resistance by matching what we want to do with the type of energy we have in that moment. My energy type fluctuates rather predictably throughout the day, although from time to time I’ll have days when it is just completely different.
Usually my best time of day for thinking is first thing in the morning after my t’ai chi and meditation. If I want to do anything truly creative, I need to do it then. If I want to do my afternoon movement at 3pm, I’m going to be fighting myself all the way, but if I wait until 5, it’s suddenly fairly easy. At 3pm I might be able to do something non-physical that involves following a procedure. Doing something that I don’t have to think about (like the washing up) can be a good way of giving myself a break from sitting down and working at my computer. I’ve worked out a routine that fits what I want to achieve in a day with the kinds of energy that I usually have.
But not every day fits! Some days I just get a strong sense that I don’t’ feel like it. Sometimes that’s because of a dip in energy, so I just need listen to myself to make sure I don’t do too much. Other days I might just be in some strange kind of mood.
Yesterday I woke up in a mood. I didn’t feel like doing any work (which is rather strange because I love my work and am usually pretty motivated). I could tell my energy wasn’t particularly low so I tried to entice myself to do sit down at my computer. But after spending too much time procrastinating on Facebook, the carrot soon turned into the stick with thoughts of “you’re not allowed to waste this energy; how are you going to earn any money if you laze around?” (yes I can still be quite vicious with myself!) Then I reminded myself that resistance is a waste of energy and I gave myself permission to give up trying to work.
Once I stopped trying to push myself, it occurred to me that there was a hint of anger in my energy that would be ideal for being ruthless at decluttering. Having limited energy, decluttering is something that’s rather a long way down on my list of priorities but something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time! I knew what my anger was about and I’d listened to it with acceptance and compassion, but its flavour still lingered on my energy. I had a very productive morning, finding it much easier that I usually do to decide on what to give away and what to throw!
I’ve learned that when my energy is not right for what I normally do, or what I want to do, it’s much better to listen and not fight myself. Sometimes it’s because I need extra rest, although at other times my energy just needs to be directed at something different. I’ve also learned that by matching the kind of activity to the kind of energy I have, I not only save energy that would otherwise be wasted on resistance, but everything that needs to get done usually finds a good time for getting done.
Julie Holliday, ProHealth's Inspirational Editor, is a holistic life coach and writer committed to helping people take back control from energy-limiting chronic illness to live a more relaxed, balanced and fulfilling life. Julie loves spending time in nature, growing her own vegetables and spends as much of her day as possible in a comfortable pair of yoga pants. Writing as the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru, Julie shares tips on her weekly blog. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.