Do you know when it is time to slow down and take good care of yourself because you are really tired? Do you know when it is time to get going, even when you feel tired? Do you know the difference? In this blog I share how I know and what you can do to find out whether it is time for you to slow down or to get going.
The summerdays were lovely. Not only because of sunshine and good weather. But also because I had time to create new things. I got inspired to create a video series and immediately put this idea into action and recorded the video series. My children were staying at their grandparents for a week and I used this week to work on modules and workbooks for my new programme “Work- life Balance for Academics”. Making lots of progress, lots of new ideas. Focus, flow and loads of energy. What a joy!
Until somewhere halfway during that last school holiday week. Suddenly it was all gone. I felt empty, I had no ideas, no energy and felt reluctant to get to work. Doubts about everything I was doing. What am I doing? No one will be interested in this! That wonderful focus was gone. Instead I suddenly felt dead tired and adrift, just bobbing up and down the water without any sense of direction. Bye bye flow, hello dip.
I resisted this feeling for half a day. With help of my friend Willpower I got working, but actually although I put in the hours, no progress whatsoever. After a while I gave myself permission to just stop working and start taking good care of myself. Permission to slow down and feel that I really was very tired and empty. That it was ok to give myself space and time to feel this. Not to wallow in it, but to slow down to really feel: how am I doing and what do I need now?
This requires ‘daily courage’ as I call it. Courage to decide “I am giving myself space to slow down, even when there is so much that needs to be done. “ And it is always scary! Up till now I have experienced that if I can find the courage to follow this feeling and give myself what I need in that moment (e.g. taking a walk in the woods, sitting in the sun, having a hot bath, letting my emotions flow out, writing about what is happening inside) that later new energy and inspiration follows. Sometimes already within the hour. But that is not how it went two weeks ago. Taking the afternoon off did not change this feeling of being adrift, the doubts, the reluctance to work and the lack of energy. So I gave myself permission for taking the rest of the week off and enjoying these last holiday days with my children.
Monday morning of a new week came and I still did not feel really energized or motivated to get working. Mmm what to do? I realized it was almost the end of August and I had not shared a podcast this month. I had promised my inspiration mail subscribers a new podcast every month. I also thought about what Elizabeth Gilbert said in her book Big Magic. About how creating works for her: “it’s just been about showing up every day for the work. And I find it – actually what happens is that you begin the work just from a place of diligence and discipline, and then if you’re lucky, through that process, you’ll have moments where inspiration will come in and meet you. “ So I thought: it is time to show up for work again. Just slowly get going with what has to be done and that is editing, uploading and sharing this podcast. I got to work again. There was no willpower involved. I just calmly and slowly got to work again. And it turned out to be a very focused and productive week.
Why did I get going in the second week even though I was tired?
The last couple of days I reflected on this. What was different in the first and the second week? Why did I stop the first week and got going the second week, even though I did not feel energized or motivated? Couldn’t I have done the same thing a week earlier? The answer is no.
A gentle soft voice versus your inner critic
This is why. Both times I followed a gentle voice within. That voice gave me a gentle nudge, a soft push in that first week…it is time to stop and rest. No judgment, just calmly and softly “it is time to take extra good care of yourself.” That same soft voice also gave me a gentle push the second week. It did not tell me to ignore my boundaries. Just a calm and soft voice telling me …it is time to get back to work. No judgment, just calmly and softly…it is time.
This is a totally different voice from the voice of your inner critic. The voice of your inner critic will be judgmental about feeling drained, the voice of your inner critic might be more like a bully. A voice that tells you in a harsh tone: work cannot be all fun and flow. Suck it up and get going. You can’t just do nothing when you feel like it. This harsh voice might also tell you that other people might judge you as lazy , lacking willpower, maybe it tells you you are cutting corners. Your inner critic might be installing fear, that you won’t have done enough to succeed, that this way you never get this thing finished. Your inner critic will tell you to ignore your boundaries and get going. There is nothing soft or gentle. It is harsh, loud. And in order to follow that voice you need a lot of willpower, constantly pushing yourself even if you are totally drained. Like someone with a whip is pushing you forward.
Taking good care of yourself is about making space to hear that soft gentle voice and finding courage to listen to it.
Sometimes this soft gentle voice will tell you to slow down or stop, sometimes this gentle voice tells you to get going. But it will never push you to ignore your boundaries.
Learning to hear this soft gentle voice
To take really good care of yourself you need to learn to hear this voice. How do you do this? Every day make space and time for five to ten minutes of selfcare. Every day taking this time to be silent, do nothing and be alone with yourself. Whether you do this through meditation, or by going for a walk in nature, or by simple sitting in silence with a cup of tea or coffee in your hands (no phone, book or anything). Then turning within. Asking yourself: How am I doing? What do I need right now? If you make this a practice you will learn to hear that soft gentle voice behind the loud and harsh chatter of your inner critic. So you will know when to slow down and when to get going.
Did I get you thinking or did I give you a new perspective?
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