Days like yesterday are hugely inconvenient and frustrating to me. I felt a lack of energy, and, more frustratingly, a growing lack of enthusiasm. I don’t want to cook. I don’t want to eat. I don’t want to work (even though it’s for my own company). I don’t want to row. I don’t want to work out. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to sell my business by being a slimy door-to-door person. I don’t want my alma mater to continue calling me for donations (in fact, I want to persuade every student that wants to go there that they absolutely shouldn’t).
There’s something wrong, something missing, and I don’t know how to fix it.
So I look to food.
Sugar will give me energy. Fat will make me feel sated. Protein will ground me.
I look to things.
Those sparkly earrings will make me feel beautiful and put together. That perfect side table and lamp will give my apartment just the right homey, safe, comforting feel; exactly the kind of haven I want. That dress will bring me admiration and attention.
I long for things. I long for something. Peace. The absence of tension, anxiety, stress. And, like a painter looking to fill holes in the wall, I find external ways to patch the holes. It works pretty well for walls, but not for the recesses of my heart and soul.
And the worst part of it all is that I always look to justify my feelings. Why do I feel a lack of energy? Did I sleep enough? Did I eat enough? Did I stay up too late watching TV? Or waste too much time this morning? Is it because I’m not achieving? Will checking off just one thing on my to-do list take away that angst?
Whenever my brain goes down this spiral, there’s always a part of me that just watches it. Maybe looking for clues, looking for solutions, looking to be empathetic. And yesterday, as I wanted to scream and cry in frustration, I started typing that first paragraph instead. And the calm observer in my mind said, “Yes, you feel that way. You feel all those things. And baby, that’s just how it is right now.”
Baby, that’s just how it is right now.
Maybe this sounds familiar to you? I think we’ve all been there.
The important thing that I want to stress to you is to NOT leave your body during these times. Don’t escape to mindless TV, don’t escape to online shopping, or binge eating. There is nothing wrong with doing any of these things except when you’re using them as an escape.
Stay in your body.
Here’s a technique I really like from Reuvain Bacal, whom I had the pleasure of meeting this year in Colorado. His method is simple: find where emotions manifest in your body.
So, I am tired and unenthusiastic. I close my eyes and look within to find where that tension goes in my body. My throat is tight. My eyes burn. My stomach clenches. It feels spiky and the color is gunmetal grey.
And then you stay there and ask, “Will this (these sensations in my body) kill me right now?” The “right now” is important here, because sometimes it feels like it might kill you eventually. But right now, no, it is not currently killing me, although it is EXTREMELY UNPLEASANT AND I DON’T LIKE IT AT ALL. Just keep breathing. And say to yourself, “Ok, since this is not killing me right now, I give myself permission to feel as tired and unenthusiastic as I do.” Keep breathing, and see what happens.
Other emotions may come up. Like, “I’m afraid I’ll never stop feeling this way.” And when you say that, where do you feel it in your body? Never ignore the impulse to bolt. And keep doing the process. Sometimes you just won’t be able to go deeper. “I’m afraid to let go of control.” And baby, that’s just how it is right now. Maybe it limits you. But you can make peace with that. Keep breathing.
Luckily, yesterday I had a brother who wanted to work out. And I hadn’t fully flushed out my issues to the point that I felt like I should NOT work out, so I did. And I found some sort of comfort in squatting. I can’t get out of my body when I weightlift, because I have over one hundred pounds on my back that I’m not interested in dropping. I have to keep my chest up, keep my abs expanded, my knees pushing out, and I have to focus during every part of the movement. That’s one way that I come back to my body. Everyone is different. For some people running is the key, for some, dancing. For some, meditation or yoga. Maybe you reconnect with your body during a bath or a massage.
There’s no wrong way to reconnect with your body, as long as you do it.
Your body needs to be a safe space for these emotions to manifest. And it is normal for emotions to show up in the body. I’ve never forgotten that a massage therapist explained to me how men often hold all their tension in their stomachs, and women hold it all in their shoulders and neck. People often clench their teeth when they are stressed. And everyone can picture a small child throwing a temper tantrum. Their emotions completely overtake their bodies. It’s amazing. And it’s right. Use your body as a channel through which these emotions can run.
Often, these emotions will not kill you right now. So let them be there.
Now, I also want to tell you that last night, after I finished working out and felt much more calm and centered, I did evaluate the past few days. And I am making tweaks to my diet and daily schedule.
I immediately noticed that I had many of the classic signs of protein deficiency: moodiness and irritability, fatigue, inability to lose weight, brittle hair and nails, among others. And I know that I tend to not eat enough protein (many years as a vegan means that I default to raw foods when I don’t plan meals). So, I am adding protein shakes during the day and meat at every meal.
I also admitted to not following a sleep schedule that serves me. I’ve been staying up late, often until 2AM, and then I get frustrated when I don’t wake up naturally at 6AM. I know from personal experimentation that I have better quality sleep when I go to bed between 10PM and 11PM.
My point is that there are fixes that your body may need. I did need to eat. For real. And it needed to be protein, specifically. And I am also in the process of buying furniture for my house, so that will probably happen as well.
But it’s important for me and for you that all these changes and actions take place as their own thing, and not as an escape from the body and from emotions.