I’m learning to go with the flow, the flow of my energy, that is.
I used to set the same productivity (and even social) expectations without taking into account the natural flow of my physical and mental energy. And then I would fail.
I would fail because I would often set my expectations in times when I was at my best, ignoring the blatant cycles of focus and the need for rest that have been going on for quite some time. I would try to go against the current instead of with it. Then, when I would get to my low points, I would feel like a rotten, lazy, good-for-nothing, piece of crap for being a zombie all day (or playing Sims for 6 hours straight…). What I didn’t realize is my zombie-like state was my body pleading for me to take a break. It wasn’t that I was lazy; it was that I didn’t have much left to give.
I could be wrong, but I would say most of us have these energy cycles, even if everyone’s cycles are a little bit different.
But in case your curiosity has been peaked, let me tell you a little bit about mine and how I work with it.
The first thing I did was begin to observe my energy ebbs and flows throughout the day, week, month, and year. I didn’t do this formally (I cannot be bothered with consistently taking notes on anything), but rather just started paying attention to the present and reflecting on the past. Once I did, it quickly became apparent how my body more or less operates. Then, I was able through trial and error, to
Daily: I’m a morning person. Sorry not sorry. I love the morning. I LOVE getting up early (provided I got enough sleep the night before–which I usually do because I LOVE going to be early). My brain is firing on all cylinders early in the day. But in the afternoon, forget about it! I have no motivation and feel a little bit like a slug. Some days, I need to sleep in because I’m physically worn out or need some extra cuddles with my husband. But since accepting I’m a morning person, I’ve been able to tap into focus levels I didn’t think I had.
Weekly: Mondays are my favorite day (And I don’t care how unpopular that may be!). I am rejuvenated, inspired, and ready to go. However, Thursdays, I’m usually feeling pretty depleted, physically and mentally. So, every week day, other than Thursday, I set my alarm two hours earlier than I need to before work (while allowing myself the freedom to sleep in if my body needs it) and have a list of the same six things I need to do (practicing Arabic and French for 10 minutes, decluttering my phone for 5 minutes cleaning up around the house/car for 5 minutes, sorting at least one thing of mail/paperwork that’s been piling up, doing something for my body whether it’s six minutes of light stretching or a two hour walk, and sitting in silence to reset for a few minutes.) Thursdays, I let myself sleep in and do absolutely nothing completely guilt free. Having a built in zombie day makes it possible for me to do what I need to do on the other days, because I’ve set realistic goals and don’t get bogged down by the would-be failure of Thursdays.
Monthly: I don’t know if this is oversharing but if it is, it shouldn’t be. BUT, I’m on the birth control bill, so my period week is predictable. The Thursday before to the Wednesday of that week is at best a gentle time of much needed rest and at worst a bumpy ride on the wonky brain train. Relieving myself of productivity goals and extra responsibilities goes a long way in helping preventing a wonky brain train crash and in setting me up for success the following week which is my most energetic, productive, and happy time of the month (if I’ve put in the work–aka the rest–the week before). Embracing this reality has felt a little bit like harnessing a superpower. I feel stronger, empowered, and way more productive.
Yearly: Seasonal depression, y’all. It’s real! My husband likes to say I’m solar powered, because I feel sleepy as soon as it gets dark and energetic as soon as the sun pops out. If the sun is up at 5 am, so am I. If the sun goes down at 5 pm, I’m yawning and ready for bed. Not getting sunlight really does affect me. I have a handful of preventative measures (like a special lamp to use on winter mornings, exercise, and not letting myself sleep 12 hours every night) to use during the winter. At the same time I try to keep in mind it’s okay I’m not the same person I was in the summer. In the summer, it was awesome to bounce out of bed at 5 am and getting a billion things done. This winter, though, I’m going to try to celebrate that it’s just as awesome to mosey out of bed, do the bare minimum, and get cozy on the couch to read a book or do some writing (…or play some Sims…). Seasons of energy are just as natural as seasons of weather.
I didn’t write all that because I think any of you reading this care about my particular cycles of energy or systems I’ve created. But this has been a change in my life that has made a huge difference in my ability to get things done and be proud of what I accomplished. So I hope you’d find a little inspiration to reflect and work with yourself–in a natural and gracious way–instead of trying to enforce expectations that have never and probably never will work. Let me know what you think!