• on September 25, 2018

I’m tired. I don’t want to rely on food and caffeine to get me through. What should I do?

I’m feeling tired.

Before IEWIN I used food and caffeine to get me through the day.

What now?

This question, posed by one of our community, is a cry from the heart. And a tired body.

How can we get through the day when we no longer want to use food or caffeine?

We use The Process* as our map. We use the IEWIN community as our supportive friends who understand disordered eating and what recovery means.

Setting the scene:

Many of us don’t wake refreshed. The alarm goes off and we groan and want to pull the duvet over our head and sink back into oblivion. Where has our energy gone? Our joie de vivre? Did we put it out with the bins last night?

Research tells us that, when rating symptoms, people often rate fatigue as worse than pain. It’s a powerful and debilitating symptom. Our bodies demand that we rest, so that we can maintain our health and wellbeing. So why do we resist this demand? Why does our current society dictate 24/7 activity? Is tiredness now an accepted part of modern life?

I have known extreme tiredness in my life as a mother of four and as a doula attending births and deaths, and as a nursedoing shift work. I have longed for two hours of sleep to be joined together. I have seen many sunsets and sunrises without shutting my eyes in between. I have used “food” and caffeine, in quantity, to get me through these days (and nights).

As I worked my Process, I started noticing* that “food” and caffeine didn’t help my tiredness, they made it worse. As I brewed up another cuppa and opened another packet, my body was still crying out for rest. But in true British fashion, I pushed on through, whilst congratulating myself for my broad shoulders that could carry any burden without crumbling. But it wasn’t true. My heart beat so hard and fast it frightened me. I would wake frequently at night, sweating and boiling then cold and shivering. My joints hurt, my head hurt. I hurt. I was bone tired, as the saying goes.

Have you seen the video that went viral “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”? It made me laugh! Even in my tiredness, I thought I had time for everything and everybody! But, in order to make sound and rational decisions, I needed to shift from the knee jerk reaction of “yes, yes, yes” to a more considered place of “maybe” or even, heaven forbid, “NO!”.

I learned the beauty of creating space*. I can do it now, after many years of practice, literally, in seconds. In the time it takes to inhale or exhale. I learned the art of going inside, breathing and feeling my way when my tired brain is on automatic pilot and my habitual, hard-wired behaviours would have me reaching for yet another “pick me up”. I did it by stopping, pausing, breathing and when I could, by laying down.

I was curious* that my reaching for “food” (I don’t mean carrot sticks and hummus) was my attempt to stoke the boiler, to keep going, when my body would really like to stop. So the sugars surged, bringing temporary relief, and then they plummetted like a stone. I craved more, I ate more, I craved more, I ate more and strangely now I’m looking at the bottom of the packet… how did that happen? There is something beneath this crave, something waiting to be discovered. Something that needs to be felt.

But typically, I was now angry with myself. “That was the kid’s chocolate! You weren’t going to do that! You have eaten the last one! How greedy! Blah, blah, blah…” and I neatly sidestepped the “something”, which may well have been the fact that I was TIRED. If not physically, then perhaps emotionally. That’s ok. I’m ok. There are feelings waiting to be felt.

So now, I practice kindess* towards myself. I’m doing my best. I’m trying to regulate myself, to keep going when everything in me is crying out for sleep. I’m not wrong for reaching for food or overdosing on caffeine. But there are kinder ways to self-soothe, better ways to give my body what it really needs. And none of it comes from a supermarket aisle.

I discovered that it would be a kindness to myself to make sure that I was well nourished, well hydrated, well cared for. In fact, if I simply gave myself what I was giving others it would be a start. If I listened to someone else on the phone for half an hour, surely I could lay down in the quiet and listen to myself for ten minutes? To give myself time to be in my body*. Otherwise, I was like a hamster on a treadmill, running fast, going nowhere.

A question (or two):  

Do you check your messages, whatsapp, the news, FB, Twitter, Instagram waiting for the kettle to boil whilst absent-mindedly eating a biscuit or two…?

Do you think about that conversation you just had, ruminating and re-hashing what you wished you had said and find yourself pouring yet another big glass of wine?

As soon as the kids are in bed, do you cruise round the cupboards looking for snacks, then settle down in front of the telly and enter a familiar numbed out zone?

Don’t we all? But are we sick and tired of being sick and tired? Is it possible to evolve different, more supportive ways of living?

We react to everything that is “out there” and easily forget about what is going on “in here”, inside ourselves, deep inside, where our wisdom and our knowledge lies.

So we get stuck and we start again* frequently, throughout the day. I forget, I remember. I notice. I go unconscious again. That’s real life.

There is no perfect solution to living in our time, tired all the time, surrounded by “food”. If it’s not the “treat table” at work; the “snack station” as you wait for your train; the chicane of bright and shiny packets both right and left of you,as you patiently wait to pay for your petrol; these processed, chemical shit storms are EVERYWHERE waiting to perk you up or calm you down. So I remind myself that someone, somewhere, is making trillions out of “food” and “drink” made in a laboratory with the explicit desire to hook me into wanting more, more, more, with its high palatability factor (yes, that is actually a thing). And advertising sells it to us. So a good yardstick for me is that if it is advertised or in a packet, it’s probably not going to help my tired body. We can also be nourished and energized by love, laughter, fun times, intimacy, connection…its not all about food!

I have had phases of my life when I have felt permanently tired. I want to give you hope that if you are feeling like this, it can be different. You can rebalance your life. Balance* comes and balance goes; a moment here, a moment there. Peace. Calm. Spaciousness. Feeling free. Making good supportive choices that feel right. Working with YOUR body, doing what feels right for YOU. Stopping, pausing, listening, feeling.

So hello tiredness, welcome friend. You show me that I need to rest.

I work my Process. I eat what I need. I feel what I feel.

-Jan Holden-