Prior to having my son in 2008 I kept a pretty busy social schedule in addition to managing my clinic and working full-time as a chiropractor. I probably had a modest level of energy but there were certainly times where I would hit the wall and be overwhelmed by all my commitments.
I anticipated that having a newborn would further deplete me and readied myself for a decade of fatigue. In fact the opposite happened and becoming a mother ended up giving me more energy.
I have discovered that at the heart of it all I am quite an introverted person. True introverts recharge their battery while being on their own while true extroverts feed off the energy of being with others. All my socializing pre-motherhood and hands-on work with patients was tiring me out.
I took 11 weeks maternity leave after my son was born and it was a lovely time to hibernate at home with my baby. Once I started to branch out and leave the house I realized that I didn’t want to be away from him two nights in a row. Even though I was taking care of an infant, I wasn’t completely exhausted since I was home more through my self-imposed restriction.
It was also interesting to discover my natural limit at parties and social gatherings. I would bring my son all bundled up to a party and he’d be happy as a clam for 1.5-2 hours and then begin to fuss. I realized that I actually had had enough of the party at that point as well – it became a perfect time to either head home or grab some quiet in a room to breastfeed. Before having a kid, I would have ignored that tired/depleted feeling and would have stayed longer at the social event.
Now that my son is 10 years old and more independent, I am still trying to be mindful of my energetic limits. Building in free time into my schedule and trying not to over-commit myself is still something I strive for a regular basis.
November and December are generally challenging months for me: the diminishing sunlight and pre-holiday events can easily drain my energy. I also notice increasing stress and anxiety mounting in my patients at the clinic which can transfer onto me if I’m not careful.
Here are my top pre-holiday life hacking tips:
I often find my energy at its lowest the middle of December so I try to keep the middle weekend free of plans. It does require me to decline a holiday party invitation or two but it’s better for my mental health in the long run.
If I have said “no” to an event and I do really want to spend time with that person, I will follow-up with a suggestion for future date when I have more energy.
I will try to avoid daily consumption of sugar and alcohol in November and December, saving those treats for special occasions.
I have found doing a jigsaw puzzle at home, with great music in the background, is a calming and mindful activity.
If possible, taking a day by day approach to committing to events and gatherings. This can be challenging for events planned far in advance but making game time decisions on whether to say yes/no forces me to check in with how my mind + body are feeling that day.
If an event requires more energy than I am capable of expending, I am diligent about only committing to what I can handle. For example, every Christmas my husband and son travel for an extended break to Ottawa. I usually take the train for a 2-3 night visit which allows me to time to celebrate with my extended family but also allows for some quiet solo time the week after.
Sleep, sleep and more sleep – I cannot sleep enough in November + December!
Lana Lontos and I just finished teaching a 3 week Coaching + Mindfulness workshop – during the 2nd week I introduced a concept which I called my Bonsai Theory of Essential Needs.
What if you treated taking care of yourself and all your essential needs (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial etc) with the same care and precision that a bonsai tree requires to thrive?
Applying the same exacting approach to what you need to be happy and healthy is a powerful way to understand how you interact with the world and what support you need to be your best self.
Draw a large circle or plant/tree in the middle of a blank piece of paper or on a Bristol board. Write all your essential needs (i.e. cannot commute more than 2 hours per day, needs to live near a body of water, needs 8 hours of sleep etc) in the middle of the circle/plant/tree and see if any words come up in a repeated way. When I did this exercise during the workshop, the word FLOW popped up repeatedly. You can refer to your specific Bonsai Tree needs when making a decision about work or community or relationships.
This month I wanted to share an experience I had just this morning.
Since Covid lockdown started, I’ve been practising yoga on Friday mornings but when I woke up this morning I didn’t feel like doing my usual 90 min vigorous Ashtanga practice.
I went back and forth in my brain with “well this is my new pandemic schedule – I should stick to it – but it may tire me out before my 4 hour coaching course today at 10am -but it’s what I agreed to – but I don’t feel like it”.
Then I remembered all the recommendations I had made this week to coaching clients and patients about listening to their bodies and remembering to ask themselves in the moment what they truly needed.
I decided to take my own advice.
What I my body/mind/spirit really needed today after a gruelling week was to simply get outside, do a short walk for 30 min, soak up the beautiful sunny rays on this perfect June morning and put my music on shuffle.
I think during these stressful times it’s particularly important to honour your needs moment-to-moment and to remember to be compassionate towards yourself.
When I was a kid Chinese New Year was exciting because it meant receiving lucky money. Now that I’m older and wiser CNY has a more special meaning to me.
As many of you know I like to follow the energetic patterns of the lunar cycle, hence the name of this newsletter. New moon means new energy, great time to start projects and relationships. Full moon can intensify events and have a frenetic energy, and a dying/waning moon is a good time to bring a natural end to things.
To me CNY and this new moon symbolizes a renewed energy and hope for a lucky, healthy and prosperous year. I would usually celebrate with large meals with family and friends but this year we will make the best of eating socially distanced noodles for a long and healthy life. And remember to avoid washing (the luck out of) your hair today!