The devil whispered in my ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.” Today I whispered in the devil’s ear, “I am the storm.” unknown
Emotional exhaustion can lurk around for many reasons – unsatisfying work or home lives, having stressful family relationships, deaths of loved ones, lack of self-confidence, chronic disease, and many, many others. It is a condition that I feel often gets overlooked, shoved aside, or pushed through. I was finding myself lying down at night, feeling exhausted but completely unable to fall asleep. I realized that my body wasn’t tired, but my soul was tired. It was tired of all the worry and hurt. See, my emotional exhaustion wasn’t from the disease multiple sclerosis, but it did come from the diagnosis of it.
If you are familiar with MS than you know that it is a diagnosis of complete uncertainty. The course of disease is different for every single person who faces it. Some people have an episode and never have another again. Some people have episodes on top of episodes and face a fast-paced level of the disease. And these episodes? They can be disruptive at any place in your body. Some people experience problems with nerves and tingling, some with walking, some with grip strength, some people lose their vision, some people lose their cognition. Some people experience short life spans due to disease complications, and some live into old age. There is no cure, but there are medications that might lessen progression, or the medications could cause serious harm to your body. Sounds fun, right?
So, imagine waking up every day, opening your eyes, being thankful you are still here, then doing a complete body check – is everything working? Does anything feel funny? No, ok. Not today. You head out to make breakfast for your family. While you’re cooking you accidentally drop the spatula and it hits the pan and sprays some scrambled eggs around. Oh, god…did I drop that because I have MS? Am I losing my grip? Is it happening? No, people drop things. Everything is fine. You are fine. Emotionally exhausted and it’s 7:15 am.
And I know in general, life in grief, for any reason, is tiring. And some days you just start to say why? and wonder how? And it can all spiral into a pretty negative self-talk place pretty fast. So to avoid letting my grief be in charge, I have collected a list of ways I try to quiet it. I don’t want to avoid it, but sometimes I just don’t want to hear it screaming in my ears.
Quieting the Grief
Read Inspiration – Read from people who have experienced hardships (like yours or not!), read from great thinkers of the past, read from people who study concepts like grief or confidence or vulnerability, learn how others are getting through because we all know that no one makes it through this life with a squeaky clean slate. You can even just google inspirational quotes, and most of the time something will resonate and push your mind toward being hopeful.
Rest – Check if the feeling is actually a physical exhaustion. Being tired makes everything worse. If you lay down and fall asleep, great! If you lay down and end up just lying there thinking and thinking, then move on to a meditation. Guided meditations are available in bookstores, and even online.
Exercise – Head to the gym, walk outdoors, hike, bike, go to a yoga class. Concentrate on moving your body, focus on your muscles. It’ll get those good juices flowing, and help you concentrate on your body rather than your thoughts.
Get Your Brain Busy – So many times, as adults, we forget to let our brain play a little. Do puzzles, play games, get out the cards, print a crossword puzzle offline, read a mystery novel. Just give your brain something else (and something fun) to think about.
Laugh – Watch a stand up comedian or a funny show. Let someone else point out some of the joys in the world.
Find Your People – Get a hold of some of your people. The ones who know the story. The ones who always make you forget. The ones who are just funny and make you laugh. You might have only one. You might have a lot. And if you find yourself with none, then maybe it’s time to pick one, take them out for coffee, and tell them your story. Communities regarding your subject pop up all around, too. There are usually meetings/gatherings around if you look for them. Social media is an excellent place to find other people who know how you feel, and a great place to share your story.
Spread Love/Volunteer – Just go do some nice things for other people. Being kind fills your soul and gives you purpose. Finding purpose is one of the best ways to combat feeling at a loss. I usually drag my kids along, cause they’re cute, and we do things like buy a bouquet of flowers and hand them out outside the store, or buy coffee gift cards and put them on random cars in the parking lot. We have also done non-monetary things like make cute, little snowmen along the trail in our town, and draw pictures and tape them around different places for people to take. There’s a lot of power in kindness.
Learn/Do Something New – Take a class, learn a skill, create a hobby. Your grief is already in the process of growing you as a person, you might as well add a few great, new skill sets along the way.
Spoil Yourself – Love on yourself a little. Get a massage, buy a new plant, go to the stylist just to have them wash your hair, turn off your phone and email and just lounge for an entire day, go out for a meal and be waited on, anything!
Create Something – Not only will creation get your mind off things, there is also a chance that it will release some of the grief, as well. Paint, draw, write, knit, sew, build, garden, design, change the layout of your bedroom, just let your mind make something new.
And my favorite…NATURE…Get Outside. Plain and simple. Feel the sun, breathe the fresh air, watch the sparkles of sunshine flicker in the puddles on the ground. Nature can’t help itself but be beautiful, and eventually the beauty rubs off on you.
Whatever the case, some days it’s ok to let grief be grief. I cry and cry and beg and whine and say this is not fair a million times. But most days, I need to quiet it down, to train my brain that this is my life now. That there are hard struggles, but that I still have purpose in this life. And mostly, to remind myself, that life is still so, so full of good.