92. Less Active ... But More Tired?
Things get a bit warped at times, don't they?
As a follow up to edition 91 of The Anxious Morning, today I want to look at the idea of being tired as it relates to anxiety and recovery.
Let’s imagine someone with an anxiety disorder that makes them really afraid of their own body and thoughts. When confronted with sensations that are normal but uncomfortable, this person has developed the habit of treating those sensations as threats. The same goes for thoughts. Scary thoughts that predict disaster or lead one to constantly question their safety trigger all kinds of anxious and fearful responses.
For this person, over time, it would be expected that they might begin to build avoidance habits designed to keep them out of activities and situations that might trigger those uncomfortable things. They may avoid and shrink their lives because they are convinced that they can only devote their attention to being anxious and therefore can’t really engage with things like work, school, or social interaction.
As this goes on, our friend with the anxiety disorder becomes less and less engaged with life. They treat themselves as fragile and incapable. Their level of activity drops dramatically both physically and mentally as they withdraw only to the places and situations that might guarantee safety and calm. While other members of the household are engaged with life without the need for multiple dedicated rest days each week, our anxious friend is convinced that they must take it easy because they feel tired and can’t do much. There is no actual health issue at play here, only an anxiety and fear response gone off the rails.
Less engagement. Less activity. Less demand.
Yet, this person may declare that they are tired, and must rest. Maybe quite often. See how this can get a bit warped at times?
I do not mean to imply that you must never rest or that you must think of rest as a treat or rewards. All humans have a right to rest. Rest, sleep and relaxation are all built in to our physiology. There’s no reason to fight that or try to work against it. When tired … rest. That’s completely OK and advisable.
My only point today on The Anxious Morning is to shine some gentle light on a common distortion that runs through the community. Being tired or feeling fatigue can be a real issue when we’re always feeling anxious or afraid. No doubt about that. But it can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling some fatigue, then throwing our hands up and declaring it all too much while we retreat to the calm zone again.
This may seem familiar to you. If it is, I will leave you with a few things to think about today:
What small things can you accomplish even when tired?
Can you see examples of people in your life that engage in the world even when tired?
What’s the difference between being too tired to do something, and being afraid how you might feel if you do things while tired?
When was the last time you responded to the thought that you must rest with opposite action?
Again, it’s important for me to emphasize that I am not telling you to never rest. I am only suggesting that you take a few minutes to try to think objectively about your relationship with fatigue and rest. Does it seem healthy to you, or is it possible that things have gone a bit sideways in this area?
Sometimes taking some time to look at our habits and beliefs in the cold light of day can become a productive exercise.
I’m currently reading What Happened To You by Dr. Bruce Perry and (gulp) Oprah Winfrey. It was suggested to me a few times so I’m checking it out because it does resonate with many people that have traumatic backgrounds. I’m appreciating how Dr. Perry uses neuroscience to explain why traumatic experiences can create sensations and thoughts many years later.
Every Tuesday I’ll let you know what I’m currently reading. I read quite a bit on psychology and philosophy, but really you never know what I’ll have in my Kindle or Audible libraries! If you’re on Goodreads and into books, you can follow/friend me over there. Here’s a link to my “currently reading” shelf. I’d love to see what you’re reading and what you recommend.