How’s Your Energy?
How do you feel most mornings when you wake up? Do you feel good and have an abundance of energy? If you are caregiving for a spouse, my guess is that your answer is “no.” Probably more like “I’m usually exhausted!” How much energy we have at the start of our day is going to have a huge impact on how our day goes. Your energy is a precious resource. It’s the “juice” that fuels you through the day. Everything you do each day requires a certain amount of energy. Everything!
It’s a resource we don’t really think about until it runs out. When that happens, we are so drained, we can hardly function… we’ve “hit a wall.” Some people may be able to push through those times of energy loss through sheer willpower, but it usually catches up with them.
Energy is a resource that must be replenished. Getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising… These are all things that can renew our energy. But have you ever stopped to think about what might be wasting your energy? Nobody wants to waste this precious resource, but you may be doing just that without even realizing it.
There are three activities that you may be doing without even thinking about it and it is costing you precious energy. They are:
- Not feeling your emotions
- Staying stuck in indecision
- Trying to control someone or something outside of yourself
All of these will suck those precious energy juices from you each day! Let’s talk about each one and what to do if you are falling into this trap.
1. Not Feeling Your Emotions
Let me paint a picture for you:
You wake up in the morning after a restless night and feel anxious right away. You and your partner are supposed to find out the results of the latest scan sometime this week and you are dreading what it might be. The anxiety is humming in your chest and so you indulge in something sweet for breakfast. You just want to forget about everything for a few precious moments and enjoy the comfort of something tasty. Your partner is also anxious which makes them grumpy and so you snap at each other. You then feel guilty for being so childish because you know they are worried about the results too. Work is stressful and by the end of the day you are exhausted. You relax with a few more glasses of wine than you normally would, just to take the edge off. Still wound up from the day, you have another restless night and the whole cycle starts over again.
Anxiety, guilt, stress… In the scene above, none of these emotions were actually felt. Instead, this person reacted to the emotions that were coming up and tried to comfort themselves with food and alcohol. None of this actually helped to acknowledge and process the emotions that they were feeling.
When you don’t take a moment and actually feel and process your emotions, they don’t go away, instead they just get stuck in the body. Trying to avoid the emotions all together takes a tremendous amount of energy and it will exhaust you. This is a very common reaction when we have a lot of negative emotions because most of us are not taught how to acknowledge and process through them. Instead, we try to avoid feeling them or stuff them down and try to ignore them. This never works and is exhausting.
Emotions have to be acknowledged and felt as they come up when you are caregiving. The reason is, this is a time of heightened emotions and when you have so many coming at you throughout a day or week, you have to take care of them as they come. Otherwise, they will overwhelm you.
I’ve written a lot about how to process emotions, but the quick and dirty is to first Notice what you are feeling, Name the emotion, Acknowledge your experience and Allow it by mentally noting how the emotion feels in your body and allowing it to be there (remember NNAA for short). There are other tools to process emotions, one of which I love is called EFT Tapping. But just taking a 5 minute pause to go through this NNAA process will get you started. The more you do this, the less those emotions will drain you of your energy. Read Space To Feel Your Emotions to learn more.
2. Staying Stuck In Indecision
Another thing that may be draining your energy is being stuck in indecision. When you are caregiving, you are faced with a lot of decisions that you have to make. What doctor to see, what type of treatment to pursue, what insurance issues to keep in mind… There are constant decisions to be made and a lot of pressure to make the “right” choice. Anytime you have a decision weighing on your mind, it will drain your energy. You will want to keep reviewing all the information in your head and wanting to do more research. You will want to wait for more information so you can feel better about making a decision. You will put pressure on yourself to find the right decision. All of this is exhausting. It will drain you. The more decisions you are putting off, the more energy it takes.
One of the best skills you can develop is learning how to make quick decisions and how to stick to them. To develop this skill, the first thing you have to learn is there is no “right” decision. There are just choices and consequences. Quick doesn’t have to mean no research, but it does mean putting a limit on the amount of research you will do. It means setting aside time to discuss it with your partner, then committing to a path forward. I recommend you start practicing making quick decisions with smaller areas of your life like what to order when getting take out, an online purchase you are considering, or any of the little decisions you make throughout the day. Practice making them quickly and decisively. As you start to develop this skill and get over your fear of making a wrong choice, you can then apply it to decision making around caregiving and health. Check out No Wrong Decisions if you want to dive deeper into this topic.
3. Trying to Control Something or Someone Outside of You
This is probably the sneakiest energy drainer of them all. It’s an easy thing for caregivers to fall into. If you are in a situation where your partner is no longer an equal and needs significant help and assistance, or even emotional support from you, then it can be very easy to blur the line between support and wanting to control them or the situation. It may look like lecturing them about how they are eating or taking care of themself. It may look like wanting them to do things they don’t want to do. It may look like wanting some security over the future.
When your life feels out of control, it’s natural to want to assert control anywhere you can. Often you end up focusing that intent on the people and situations in your life. If you can get your life and the people in it under control, then you will be able to relax. The problem is, other people and situations outside of you are NOT within your control. So anytime you spend effort trying to make someone do something, even if it’s for their own good, and they don’t comply you will just get more and more drained.
The solutions to this energy drain is the easiest in theory, but one of the hardest things to do in practice. You have to pull back and focus on what you do have control over. That is yourself, how you think, how you feel, and how you show up each and every day. That is where your power is. It’s within you, not outside of you. And when you start taking action from where your power is, you will start getting your energy back and feeling back in control again.
Energy Is Precious
Your energy is precious. You need all of it right now to be your best. If you start focusing on feeling and acknowledging your emotions as they come up, limiting the time you spend on making decisions, and focusing your efforts on yourself and how you show up each and every day, you will start to feel so much better and reclaim some of your precious energy!
These are all things you can do on your own and I encourage you to pick one area and get to work. If you want some help, I focus on each one of these areas in my coaching program for caregivers. If you want to find out more, let’s talk! Schedule a time that works for you by clicking on the button below.