What to do When You're Tired all the Time
As a disclaimer, I'm writing this blog because I need to hear about it, not because I'm an expert in sleep science or Chinese medicine.
I'm also writing this blog because I've been tired, and it sort of feels like ALL the time lately. I have always been an early riser - even when I was a kid - but lately, I've been waking up at 11:00 AM on weekends, and those 6:00 AM early morning yoga + mediation classes I've been trying to prioritize are just. not. happening.
So what gives?! My husband has certainly been a little bit surprised, worried and annoyed at my new sloth-like sleep-ins, especially the past weekend when we were supposed to hit up the driving range early... (sorry Top Golf!). I know that I'm not sick, I've been going to bed at a reasonable time and I also know, (though thanks for asking, Dad!) that I'm not pregnant.
So seriously, what gives?
Interestingly enough, it may be the change of seasons. Though the weather in D.C. is still humid and balmy as ever, the leaves are starting to change and gently fall off branches, and there are definitely hints of autumn in the air. I also recently learned that according to Chinese medicine, autumn is a season that governs "organization, setting limits, and protecting boundaries" and that in autumn we "move from the external, expansive nature of summer to the internal, contractive nature of autumn."
Moreover, a friend and excellent acupuncturist in D.C., Marjorie Shovlin, shared with me that fall is is a season of tuning in and letting go, and often our bodies start to pick up on this even before the seasons 'officially' begin to change. Meaning we feel tired, sleepy, and actually do need more rest.
According to the ancient wisdom of Chinese medicine, the entire weight of the season is about being mindful of letting go, releasing anything that may be holding us back or burdening us in any way. The theme of "letting go" is absolutely something I can identify with as it's a key concept in almost all of my yoga nidra classes. Letting go is often difficult, but if we give ourselves a chance to just try it...just a little bit, it can feel amazing.
It can also be exhausting. Or in my case, we may not be completely conscious of the things that we need to let go of - the things that are still weighing us down. We are constantly bombarded and barraged with images and stereotypes of what it means to be successful, happy, and on the right path. As a new business owner, working to get my passions off the ground after leaving a very lucrative but ultimately unfulfilling corporate job, there is also a badge of productivity, and a sense of extreme focus on being helpful but also successful, that I'm realizing, I need to let go.
A great work-ethic, incredible focus, and determination are wonderful qualities when they're in balance. When they're out of whack, and when you're constantly tired, the seasons may be giving you a gentle nudge (or knock-out drop-kick) that it's time to relax a little more. Sleep is a GOOD thing. If your body is tired, then your body needs rest and better attuning to the natural changes taking place in the world around you.
So here are a few tips I've discovered to better align yourself to the Fall season, to foster letting go, and to hopefully get some rest. I'll be trying them out and would love to hear what works (and what doesn't) for you as well.
Eat with the seasons. Root veggies are one of the most nutritious (and delicious) bounties of this season. Even better then buying these veggies at a grocery store, you can check out your local farmers market or find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and receive weekly or bi-weekly 'farm-boxes' filled with delicious fruits + veggies. Here are a few of my favorites in the DC area: Spiritual Foods CSA, One Acre Farm, and From the Farmer.
Breathe deeply - and actually pay attention to your breathing. Breath can be a wonderful way to refresh and revive energy. Here follows one easy exercise to help foster release and relief through breath. First, breathe in through your nose and think of breathing in all the way to your belly, then lungs, and even collar bones. Fill up the whole body with as much air as possible and once the lungs are full, hold that air in fully for a count of five, then exhale through your mouth from the very bottom of your lungs all the way out. Once everything is emptied out, repeat 2 more times. Ahhhhh, relaxing, huh?
Let go of the negativity. Whether it's coming from you, a partner, or a friend, it's time to address and remove negativity in your life. The season can help with this! I find journaling can also be of great assistance. Where are negative areas in your life where you can let go or at least lessen their influence on you this season? What is the area that may be hardest to look at? That you don't necessarily want to feel but know in your heart of hearts could do with some attention. Coming from a place of kindness and compassion when searching and addressing these places is key. Do what you can. Even a little less negativity goes a long way! And, make sure you're being honest with yourself - if that negativity is coming from you yourself, it's time to change up that mental chatter and let. it. go. Just like the falling leaves. You too can let it go.
Get outside. Fall is gorgeous. If you live in the DC area take a quick drive to Harper's Ferry (a little over an hour), or Great Falls to get a fresh dose of nature's artistry this season. If you can't get away, an evening walk in a nearby park or even a 10 minute walk after lunch around your office building is better than nothing. It's important to see, and feel the way the seasons are changing and will help us live in better alignment. Prioritizing nature can be a true game-change.
Clean out the closet. A huge part of letting go can be fostered by a physical removal. There are incredible charities like the Salvation Army or Clothes for the Planet that will happily take your gently used items and provide them to others in need. Cleaning and clearing a space through giving is one of the best ways to utilize the power of this season and know you're making a positive impact in your community.
Just as nature is slowing down, trees are letting go of their leaves, releasing the old, and preparing to hibernate, so too can we let go of guilt we feel from needing too much sleep, let go of the cycle of negative thoughts, and be a bit more introspective this season. Know that you are worth it and that slowing down and fostering self-care this autumn will make you more happy, healthy, and vibrant.