How do I live healthy when I am too tired to function?
That is what I have been asking myself lately because I have been totally exhausted, unable to eat normally, and very unmotivated to maintain normal activities like baking sourdough bread, preparing nutritious meals that don’t involve noodles, and of course, working on my blog! I’ll be posting about the health issues that have been wearing on me in a few days.
I sat down to pick a new herb to research or write about the top 10 herbs I would want on hand for a pregnancy, but I was too tired to research anything. Thus I thought I would share based on my experience and give you some strategies for maintaining a healthy lifestyle when you are exhausted.
The purpose of this post is not to say, “Oh you’re tired? Here’s how to not be so tired so you can go on with everyday life.” Nope. I find that very annoying because sometimes you CAN’T gain more energy at the moment. (Not to say I wouldn’t want more energy; here’s my post on herbs to increase energy!) Sometimes real life is just being tired for a season and you have to make the best of it while still providing a healthy joyful home for yourself and your family. Some of these are not related specifically to herbs or natural remedies, but are more focused on helping you get through the day successfully and joyfully. I consider maintaining mental health and preserving hope when you are exhausted as being just as important as your physical health. These strategies could benefit you whether you are expecting a baby, dealing with a chronic illness, finding it harder and harder to manage your family as life goes on, etc. Some strategies I have implemented and benefited from already and some I am working on right now.
I didn’t pick a word of the year for 2018 but I feel like this could be it! It’s only been a month, but it feels like so many things have changed, so many changes are coming, and so many different projects are demanding my attention. To avoid being overwhelmed I am working on prioritizing my actions based on my family’s values & principles. For example, we are committed to being healthy so taking the extra time to continue baking my sourdough bread rather than caving in and buying bread at the store is important to me. Investing in my kids is extremely important so I’ll prioritize sitting down to read a Bible story to my toddler over cleaning up, even if that means sitting in a pile of clean laundry waiting to get folded.
Think about what is most important to you. If you are a list maker like me, write down the things in your life, most important to least, and allot energy to projects and activities based on how important they are to your family.
The Spoons Analogy
This reminds me of the spoons analogy used by people with chronic illness to describe how they think about spending their time. Picture this; you have a certain number of spoons to use up each day. Each activity “costs” you a different number of spoons. Getting dressed might require one spoon. Walking your dog may take 5. Cleaning up the kitchen might cost 3. When you have used up all your spoons you simply cannot go on and need to rest or sleep to recover them. Where healthy people who have never experienced extreme exhaustion do not have to carefully consider whether they should take a shower or try to vacuum the floor today, people who have experienced the debilitating effects of chronic illness do need to. The spoons analogy is a helpful way to explain your dwindling energy levels to friends and family, and can be confirmation that, No you’re not crazy, you just really do have a limited amount of energy. So prioritize where you use it!
I grouped this with prioritizing when I began thinking of coping strategies for exhaustion, but it really is different. Where prioritizing is deciding WHAT to do, simplifying is deciding HOW to do it in the most streamlined, easy way possible. You can simplify your meals, routines, cleaning, errands, etc. Think about the activities you have decided to do and cut out anything that requires unnecessary time or energy. For example, you may find an herb recipe for a tea online that calls for 4 different herbs that do similar things. Yes, they may work a bit better together, or different herbs may be more effective for different people, but you can streamline by only using one herb that you know works for you instead of four. I also streamline my diaper rash treatment. Instead of a time-consuming herbal cream in a cute little tin, I just make a quick 2 ingredient infusion and am done. I simplify errands by buying everything possible online. You can even create lists of favorites on different sites for repeat purchases to eliminate the time it takes to search for each one. Meals can be simplified too. My mom is the queen of the one- pan suppers, so I have never realized how streamlined my cooking already is until I started reading recipes online. They tell you to sauté the onions in one pot, wilt the greens in another, cook the meat then take it out, wash the pan and add other ingredients, etc. No thanks! I save time by dumping it all in and remembering to stir occasionally.
3. Work with your body.
Know when you are feeling better and have more energy and when you generally don’t feel as good. If rainy weather slows you down, give yourself grace and lower your expectations on yourself when the weather is bad if possible. If you know you have more energy at night, save your more tiring projects for the evening. Be flexible as much as you can when trying to accomplish projects.
4. Accept Help.
This has actually been the hardest thing for me to wrap my mind around over the years. I always feel like I should be able to handle my own responsibilities and juggle everything that has to get done myself. However, that’s not always possible and my Mom, my husband, and even my sister-in-laws who are busy with their own families have been an incredible blessing when I was extremely down & out. Know that if people are offering help it is because they care about you and your family. Be grateful & gracious, not frustrated that you are unable to do as much as previously. I have learned that you can still be a blessing to others even when they are serving you by being appreciative, being joyful & not complaining, and being interested in their lives too.
5. Know your resources ahead of time & write them down so you don’t forget them.
When you are super tired but still want to make the effort to live healthy by treating yourself with herbs, maintaining your supplements, etc. it can be hard to remember what you should even do to take care of yourself. I know that when I am exhausted I do not have any desire to brave the internet and sift through the hundreds of different articles and comments about a specific issue to try to figure out the proper treatment for something. I just don’t have the mental or physical energy.
Instead, try to gather information about common medical issues ahead of time and store the information in an accessible location. This could be a memo on your phone, sticky notes on the inside of your medical cabinet, a Google Document, or a health binder like mine. The idea is to have resources at your finger tips so you don’t have to worry about forgetting specific treatments or second-guessing yourself and causing more stress.
6. Use down time to your advantage.
This is my advice for when your are stuck on the couch or in bed and can’t really accomplish anything physically. Instead of just turning on the TV, use that time to your advantage by learning more about health and wellness if you are mentally able. Listen to a podcast or YouTube video while you rest your eyes, read some articles about herbs you want to try, collect recipes for some DIY hygiene products that are on your to-make list, or if you are really tired, just pin a bunch of new ideas on Pinterest so you have them on hand and can check them out later. This can help to keep your mind busy so you don’t end up having a pity party for your poor tired self. It can also expand your horizons and give your hope for the future. I know I can go from being completely exhausted and unmotivated to chomping at the bit to get in my herb garden with just a few minutes on Pinterest! Spending down time wisely also redeems the time by giving you a sense of purpose. I am a huge believer continuing to grow and learn to the best of your ability all the time, not just when you are feeling perky.
7. Buy instead of make.
Shocking I know. Buy a tincture already done? Order some elderberry syrup online instead of making it? Yep, if that is what it takes to get healthy remedies into you and your family, there is no shame in not doing absolutely everything yourself. The cost may be higher to buy instead of make, but the value of keeping your family healthy and not having to deal with sickness on top of exhaustion is even higher. For example buying Elderberry syrup is undoubtedly more expensive than making it yourself, but preventing your family from getting sick when you are already queasy and worn out from being pregnant is definitely worth it.
8. Train your family to help.
You do not need to be the only one who knows how to treat your family. My kids are only 2 and 9 months, but my toddler can already tell you what to take to prevent sickness, what we take when we are getting a cold, how to make your tummy feel better, and what will help the baby’s teeth feel better. I’m confident that she will enjoy helping to make remedies and learning about natural healthy living as she gets older. My husband is also a very gracious listener to all my enthusiastic chattering about health and absorbs a lot of what I tell him. He’ll head to the herb cabinet or the fridge to get a remedy on his own when it is needed and remind me to maintain my health as well. This also goes back to writing down your health info and recipes in a convenient place. If you are unable to make something at the moment, another family member can easily follow a recipe and make the remedy themselves if they are old enough to work in the kitchen safely.
9. Be organized and make less mess.
This is not directly related to living healthy, but it does help you survive when it feels like you don’t have the energy to get through a day. It can greatly benefit your mental health! The less stuff there is out and the easier it is to put away the less energy it takes to clean up.
The less stuff there is out and the easier it is to put away the less energy it takes to clean up.
We have implemented this in different ways; here are a few examples . . . I keep the kids’ toys in 3 different bins and only pull one out each day. This makes it more fun for them because they get fresh toys each day and actually play with all their things. It also makes it easier for them to clean up at the end of the day. We keep a limited amount of shoes out in a basket in the laundry room so that we won’t be tripping over misplaced shoes all day. If you aren’t wearing them or they don’t fit in the basket, they get put back in the bedroom, donated, or thrown away when they get destroyed. I also have a limited number of pots and only one cast iron pan to keep me motivated to wash dishes and use up leftovers stored in the pots. It gets inconvenient sometimes but it works!
Staying organized can also help you get more rest because other people can help themselves more easily if they know something is where it belongs. When my daughter knows where her art supplies are she can get them out by herself & I can snatch a few more minutes laying on the floor playing with the baby 🙂 And when I finally stop rearranging things & settle on a spot for them, my husband can actually find them without me needing to remember where I put them. Your family will also know where things need to be returned to when they are done with them, making it less taxing for your to keep things clean.
What’s the bottom line?
The bottom line is to use the energy that you do have wisely, remember that you still have a purpose, choose to bring joy to others even in your exhausted, fuzzy state, and stay hopeful!
With a positive attitude each day can still be a blessing when you are worn out. Your health and your family’s well being is worth investing in regardless of how much time, brain-power, and energy you have to devote to it. Don’t wait until you have more energy to start doing things to improve your health, because you may never get there if you are not investing in it!
I’d love to hear about any tips and tricks you have for getting things done, staying sane, and staying healthy even when you’re tired. Feel free to share with your especially tired friends and leave your ideas below!