How do you get stuff done with limited energy? Asking for a friend.
I nearly didn't write this post. Not because I have anything controversial to say but because I'm once again working seven days a week on limited sleep and it's hard to drum up the energy. And that's pretty much been my reality for the past nine weeks.
Let's take a look at what I've been up to lately. In the past two months, I:
- Started my first-ever full-time job (on top of freelancing)
- Had a bad episode of major depression with ongoing insomnia and fatigue
- Moved five times (one friend's house, 3 Airbnbs, one hotel, and one apartment)
- Had a housing scare and signed an apartment lease, all within two weeks
- Got sick, twice (still recovering as I write this)
Now, I knew this transition of settling down and going full-time would be hard. It's a big switch from being nomadic and self-employed. But if I'd known it would be this hard, I would definitely have made better life choices.
So back to my question:
How do you do with limited energy?
Six weeks ago, I (also) attended the HealtheVoices conference as a health advocate for chronic mental health issues.
I joined a group session on podcasting because I was curious to learn from a roomful of people with chronic illnesses. I wanted to know how they managed their time and energy, day in and day out. So I asked them: "How do you produce content when you have limited capacity?"
Interestingly, despite all our lived experience, no one really had an answer (though shout out to the amazing Monique Gore-Massy who spoke up and chatted with me later!). But to be honest, that's reality. There is no clear answer.
To me, there are two choices: push through it or slow down. Now, again, this looks different for everyone.
"Pushing through it" really depends on your health and energy levels. Sometimes for me, pushing through it means knocking out my to-dos on good days and white knuckling it through the bad ones. Same with slowing down. We all have to interpret it whichever way works best for us.
Currently, I'm having to do both: push myself on some things and slow down on others.
Paid work and housing quickly became our top priorities, so my weeks have been devoted to meeting deadlines and adjusting to full-time work. Then on weekends, I had additional work, moves to coordinate, and if my husband was working, errands and chores.
It's probably no surprise that business planning and marketing, my newsletter, and our podcast have all been on hold. Even though they're all extremely important in different ways, I had to focus on what was right in front of me.
Also, let's not forget that being disabled is a part-time job.
Basic tasks like personal hygiene and eating can take up enormous amounts of energy. If you need to remind yourself to do stuff constantly, that's extra mental labor. Double it if you're trying to eat healthy, start a better sleep routine, and watch your sugar, caffeine, or alcohol intake.
Symptoms like insomnia add to the burden, leaving you less and less time and energy to get the same number of tasks done. Socializing, exercise, and other healthy habits can be tricky too; they seem impossible short-term, even if they're good for your wellbeing overall.
You need to keep yourself alive, but also if you don't do those extra preventative health things now, like take a walk, they come back to bite you later. It's a constant balancing act and a constant drain.
Yes, I am venting (a little), but this is also frankly just a realistic look at my life right now. I'll give you an example of something that I need, but is super hard to accomplish at the moment:
It took ages to see my therapist in person because coordinating with my husband to use the car was a full day's undertaking. Once I let my work know, I'd have to drop him off, drive to therapy, drive back, catch up on work, and then stay up late to pick him up. It messed up my sleep schedule and routine for a full two days!
Thankfully, now that we're settled in place, I can hopefully plan around that a bit better.
For now, all I can do is keep on doing.
This is temporary. I will get past this and find some sort of new normal. For now, I just need to keep things together a little longer.
And yes, things aren't all bad. There's been a lot of negativity in this post and again, part of that is just life. But I will admit that that's also the depression talking. It's something I'm working on.
Onto the positives: We are settled in place, both our jobs are going well, and the holiday season is less than a week away. I have a lot to be thankful for!
This is a lot to take in at once, so I won't keep you, but I appreciate you following along. I've missed sharing my thoughts in this newsletter and hope that life will be getting back to normal (my version of it at least) very soon.
As for this weekend, I’ve got stuff to move and unpack, freelance work to catch up on, and some great fall weather to enjoy, so don’t be surprised if you get this a bit early. Cheers!
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