As I sit down to type this, I am tired. After three weeks of constant motion, jumping of time zones, meetings, meetings, and more meetings, I am finally back in Asia. It’s been a great few weeks, but they have been intense in every imaginable way. As a result, I am fatigued.
I would like to say that this fatigue with which I am currently stricken is unusual. It is not.
Perhaps my worst habit (some would say addiction) is that of overwork and/or over activity. This is actually a result of an unhealthy outworking of a wonderful blessing in my life.
You see, I really have enjoyed my jobs and calling over the years. When you enjoy your vocation, it often does not feel like work. This is a great thing for me.
As a result, I am prone to running, running, and more running until I can run no more. I crash. . .and it is not pretty.
My worst “crash” came about 5 years ago. I had recently accepted a new job and moved to a new city. The job was great, and I was thrilled to be doing it. However, it was a HUGE job. I was working obscene hours just to get up and running to the point where I felt I had a grasp of what I needed to do.
The job was honestly fun, interesting, and fulfilling. However, I was so stimulated through it in every facet of life that I actually got to the point where I couldn’t sleep beyond about 4am (and I couldn’t fall asleep until midnight). I would wake up, excited for the day, thoughts and ideas racing through my head, and I would be unable to go back to sleep.
I would get up, be at the office by 6am, and generally not get home until 9 or 10pm. On top of this, I was traveling for my job 40-50% of my time.
My physical, mental, and emotional energy was completely depleted after a few months of this pace. I knew intellectually this was happening, yet I kept pushing forward.
My fatigue came crashing down upon me during a small, yet significant breaking point. I was standing in my office when my travel agent (yes, we still use travel agents here in Asia) called to let me know that a flight I was to take out of Bangkok in two weeks had been canceled. I was placed on a later plane. This would cause me to miss my connecting flight, so I would have to spend YET ANOTHER night in a hotel away from my own bed.
It was as if this little bit of news sent me into an immediate tailspin. I had spent 40+ days in hotel rooms already that year (it was only May at the time), yet the thought of spending ONE MORE night in a hotel caused me to have a visceral response like I had never had before nor since.
I literally fell back in my desk chair. Anxiety filled my body, I had shortness of breath, and my heart rate noticeably sped up. My hands began to shake.
I had pushed my mind and body beyond its limit and now I had to deal with it. Something had to change. . . and fast.
My first order of action was to simply tell those around me what was happening. I asked for counsel, wisdom, and accountability. This was vital, as I needed co-workers and friends to help me scale back my lifestyle. (I wrote about this aspect “A case for transparency”.)
My second change was to cancel all non-essential travel. People were gracious, but I pulled multiple planed trips off the schedule.
My lifestyle was next on the list. I recommitted myself to exercise, which often took the form of an extended lunch break. I tried my best to leave the office by dinner time. I began a process of shutting down earlier at night in preparation for bed and even purchased blinders for my bedroom window, so as to improve my sleep.
It took a few months, but my life did get back to equilibrium.
My final action point from this time period was to look inward. Along with the help of those closest to me, I identified several “internal alarms” which seem to go off when I am getting too tired and fatigue is setting in.
When I begin to notice the following habits/attitudes surface in my life, I know I am getting too tired. I MUST step back to avoid burnout.
Irritability – I begin to get irritated over little things in people and life in general around me. One of my first “tells” here in Asia is road rage. Driving here is nuts. Rules are lax, to say the least. On normal days, the chaos just rolls off of me. When tired (like this morning), I white-knuckle the steering wheel in red-hot vitriolic anger. Not healthy.
Mental discord – When I get tired, my thought life runs amuck. Whether it’s anger (like the aforementioned road rage), feelings of abandonment, or lust . . . when my mind starts going dark and to bad places, it is almost always a symptom of fatigue setting in. An exhausted body results in a messed up thought life.
Discouragement/depression – I don’t know about you, but when I get tired, I often start getting discouraged in all areas of my life. It seems that anything can bring me down when I am tired. Logic and the clear presence of God’s goodness goes out the door and discouragement rolls in. This stinks!
Well, as a result of my “internal alarms” going off right now, I am in the process of implementing some of wisdom gained in the aftermath of my previous crash.
- I have already canceled two trips I was planning on taking in the next three week.
- Bedtime has been about an hour and a half earlier the past two nights and will be so for the next few nights.
- I’m back to schlepping my road-kill of a body back to the gym. Soreness is my friend; or at least that is what I keep telling myself.
Does this ring true for you also? How do you keep fatigue at bay? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts!