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Episode 128: Just Tired

 In podcast

Welcome back my friends. I’ve been thinking a lot about tiredness lately. And I’ve just noticed that so many of us are tired. Even after a good night’s sleep. Even after a break, or a vacation, or a day off. We just can’t seem to shake that heavy feeling of being tired and this is because the tired you’re wrestling with is a mental fatigue and can’t be remedied with sleep no matter how many hours you give yourself.

Some things need to be addressed so you can move forward and start to shake off that heavy weight of tiredness.

This mental fatigue is a state of weariness that interferes with our cognitive functioning, emotional well-being, and spills into our physicality. This fatigue is caused from too much mental strain. You only have a finite amount of mental energy and you might be expending an enormous amount of energy without actually realizing it. 

I call these silent spenders. 

Think of it this way, you know on your computer you can go to your system preferences and see what programs are draining your battery the most. Most of which are programs that you’re not actually using or didn’t even realize were open. For me, it always says, Spotify – I don’t actually use Spotify because I have apple music so most of the time I don’t even realize or think about Spotify or the toll it’s taking on my laptop. Another is Zoom. If I don’t quit Zoom after my sessions it just keeps on running silently in the background but also taking a toll on my battery.

It’s like this with our silent spenders. 

I want to go through 3 silent spenders today and talk about how these are wreaking havoc on your body balance budget and why you feel tired all the time.

The Body Balance budget is a concept created by Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett. She is one of the leading researchers on emotions and wrote one of my favorite books, How Emotions Are Made. I’ve read it many, many times. Add it to your TBR list because it’s fantastic.

But she teaches that our body and mind have an integral connection. She writes, “Your body-budgeting regions play a vital role in keeping you alive. Each time your brain moves any part of your body, inside or out, it spends some of its energy resources: the stuff it uses to run your organs, your metabolism, and your immune system. You replenish your body’s resources by eating, drinking, and sleeping, and you reduce your body’s spending by relaxing. To manage all of this spending and replenishing, your brain must constantly predict your body’s energy needs, like a budget for your body. 

Just as a company has a finance department that tracks deposits and withdrawals and moves money between accounts, so its overall budget stays in balance, your brain has circuitry that is largely responsible for your body budget. 

That circuitry is within your interoceptive network. Your body-budgeting regions make predictions to estimate the resources to keep you alive and flourishing, using past experience as a guide…

Whenever your brain predicts a movement, whether its getting out of bed in the morning or taking a sip of coffee, your body-budgeting regions adjust your budget. When your brain predicts that your body will need a quick burst of energy, these regions instruct the adrenal gland in your kidneys to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is released whenever you need a surge of energy….

Withdrawals from your body’s budget don’t require actual physical movement. Suppose you see your boss, teacher, or baseball coach walking toward you. You believe that she judges everything you say and do. Even though no physical movement seems called for, your brain predicts that your body needs energy and makes a budget withdrawal, releasing cortisol and flooding glucose into your bloodstream…Stop and think about this for a minute. Someone merely walks toward you while you are standing still, and your brain predicts that you need fuel!…

To perturb your budget, you don’t even require another person or object to be present. You can just imagine your boss, teacher, coach, or anything else relevant to you. Every simulation, whether it becomes an emotion or not, impacts your body budget. As it turns out, people spend at least half their waking hours simulating rather than paying attention to the world around them, and this pure simulation strongly drives their feelings…

Every person you encounter, every prediction you make, every idea you imagine, and every sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell have budgetary consequences.” (P.69-71)

You’re tired, actually, physically tired because of mental strain.

This is so important because as you start to become more aware of these withdrawals and paying attention to how you feel when thinking about, or while doing something, or even the afterwards you can then prepare, plan, and carry out a different way that won’t eat into your budget as much.

Now there are countless books and articles devoted to this topic so we’re not going to exhaust all the reasons you’re mentally fatigued in this one short episode however, we will explore just some to get your own wheels turning so you can then explore more on your own.

The first is centered in our core beliefs about ourselves.

These beliefs become the filter through which you experience your world. If you, for example, believe you’re too much for people. How do you think that affects and changes the way you interact with others?

You might hold back which requires a withdrawal and then the subsequent thoughts that come with this – the memories steeped in the past of when you were too much and the feelings that accompanied that experience. The mental energy of predicting the future of what people might think of you if you really showed up authentically. And the mental anguish of the current moment of wanting to share and be part of something but feeling restricted solely because of this core belief.

This is the same with believing you’re not enough. Or when you doubt yourself so you exhaust the energy in the core belief, in the bringing forth of “evidence” to prove and back this belief up and then wondering if you’ll ever be enough. It’s exhausting and a bit slippery. 

It’s not a thought that most of us actively realize we’re thinking. It seems like it’s just a part of you. That it just IS. But in reality, it’s a thought that has been practiced over time and solidified by curating “evidence” to prove your thought true. These filters can be adjusted and changed but only when you’re aware of them. These become patterns of what I call, Frequently Played Thoughts. The more you’re aware of these – even by writing them down and just seeing in fact, how often they show up. It’s an incredible discovery. It’s the moment when you realize, it might not actually be true for you, it’s just what’s known and what’s been practiced.

So start taking an inventory of these frequently played thoughts and notice how much of a dip they’re taking on your body budget. How much energy is expended while grappling with thoughts and feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. This is a biggie.

Now before we go on to the next budget gouger – let’s talk about how you can add deposits and replenish these budgets. 

You’ve all experienced moments of deposits. These times when you’re tired but then a friend calls you and invites you out and in minutes your rejuvenated and seem to have this second wind of energy.

With our core beliefs the way toward depositing is going to be simply not expending first. 

That means getting to neutral before you can actually start depositing again. That means that when you feel the tug that you’re not enough, that you’re too much, that there’s something wrong with you – that you just take out the triggering words, the words that activate heightened emotion in you. When you can meet those with neutral thoughts you calm your nervous system down and your body will stop sending the message to be prepared with cortisol and extra energy.

This can look like becoming the watcher of your thoughts instead of being them.

Like this:

I notice my brain is wanting to think the thought…

I notice my brain is thinking the thought…

I notice my brain is wanting to believe the thought…

Just this moment of separation can start to calm your nervous system down and allow you to try on different thoughts.

It’s possible I could be wrong about this.

Maybe it’s possible that this is just a story.

What if it’s possible that I don’t have to believe this story?

Do you notice how the first initial belief is condemning – YOU ARE…not enough, too much, inadequate, etc.

The second is neutral. It’s just watching, noticing, observing. And the third is full of curiosity. 

Curiosity is interesting. It’s one of my favorite feelings and go-to’s because it can be a source of a deposit. 

Kids are so good at being curious, imagining, day dreaming, creating. We lose that and then it starts to feel foreign to us. But what if it were possible to build this back up so that it could be a meaningful source of positive and productive energy for you?

Be curious about where these core beliefs originated. What part of you did they serve? Acknowledge that they arose in part to try to keep the human alive but maybe they’re no longer serving their perceived purpose. Do you still want to keep them now knowing how much of a toll they’re taking on your budget?

See, the problem (among many) is as Dr. Barrett states:

“Your body-budgeting regions can trick your brain into believing that there is tissue damage, regardless of what is happening in your body. So, when you’re feeling unpleasant, your joints and muscles might hurt more, or you could develop a stomachache. When your body budget’s not in shape, meaning your interoceptive predictions are miscalibrated, your back might hurt more, or your headache might pound harder—not because you have tissue damage but because your nerves are talking back and forth. This is not imaginary pain. It is real.” 

Just as you would do something to alleviate the physical pain, you can also take necessary steps to alleviate this mental fatigue and exhaustion.

You have to start being your own watcher of your thoughts and gate keep what gets to stay. Interrogate the thoughts that are unproductive – is this thought true? Is it productive for me? Does it add a deposit or is it going to take a withdrawal?

Another silent spender is repressing your emotions.

When we don’t stop and actually allow the emotion to run its course we inevitably store it in our body but it doesn’t  – stop. The emotion continues to carry a charge that is depleting your budget while also creating momentum to explode in some way shape or form if it’s not relieved of the pressure beforehand. 

This can look like frustrations that are all small initially but by the end of the day you’re just shot. Someone then says something to you and you just snap at them or blow up and it’s not them – it’s not the thing, it was the 1000 of little things that built up to it.

It’s like keeping tabs running – you’re not actively using them but they’re still a source of excessive energy use. It doesn’t take long to process through an emotion. It takes longer to process through a thought because the thought keeps activating the emotion. So working in tandem – noticing thoughts and allowing and processing emotions in real time is going to be the biggest and best help and game changer you can offer yourself.

I notice my brain is thinking this thought and it feels (name the feeling).

That statement and bringing it into the light and into awareness can already help be part of the solution. You’re noticing the source and not gaslighting yourself out of the current feeling but allowing yourself to be human who feels a wide array of emotions.

What does that emotion actually feel like? What’s interesting is that Dr. Barrett teaches that no two emotions are actually alike. You might be feeling frustrated but not frustrated like you were last week. This is a new emotion with new context and a new body (based on what you ate, how much you slept, how your body has changed in subtle ways). Treat it like something new – get to know it, explore what it feels like. 

But always remember that these feelings are transitory. They’re not meant to stay. Let them pass through. Breathe into them. Where does this vibration congregate in my body? What does the vibration feel like? Is it high intensity or of a low intensity? Is it high positive intensive or low positive? High negative or low negative?

This meeting yourself where you’re at helps you feel seen and validated – both of which add deposits in your budget.

Okay, the last -but certainly not least silent spender is what you are surrounded by. The things in your home, the things that fill your eyesight – everything you see you have thoughts about. This expends energy especially if it’s not sparking joy for you.

For example, all day long you have silent “to-do” lists. The dishes on the counter are not just dishes – it’s a reminder (aka a thought) that you have to clean the kitchen. That then expands into all the things you have to do to make it clean.

Or the shoes on the floor. I have to put these shoes away or my kids left them out again and they need to do their chores, which means, I have to remind them to do their chores and look at that pile of dust next to them, I have to clean the floor and on and on it goes.

These messages that say:

Organize that

Clean this

Get rid of that

You haven’t used that 

You said you’d do that hobby – when is that happening?

You haven’t worn that in a while – why do you still have it?

Which triggers thoughts like –  it doesn’t fit anymore – which leads to:

I need to exercise more

Eat less

Which leads to thoughts of being “too big”, too out of shape, not enough…

And it’s exhausting.

There’s a difference in noticing and observing vs obsessing and depleting your body budget.

I’m a huge fan of Marie Kondo and sparking joy – is your home filled only with things that spark joy? 

The things you see don’t always have to lead to a depletion. It can add deposits. Things like when you see certain things you think:

I love that picture.

That blanket is so soft. I’m so glad I bought it.

I remember when I got that. Which leads to memories of fun times with fun people. 

I have this really special art piece made by a local artist. It’s a really fascinating piece of art using the technique called, shifu. It’s an ancient art where they take paper and through a process turn it into thread. And the piece is an oddly shaped 3d art to represent these healing stones in Europe called the Men a Tōl and it was thought of as a Healing stone. There’s a perfect circlular hole in one of the stones and people would bring their sick and pass them through this hole and believed that had healing properties. I just loved the story behind it, the way the piece is shaped and was constructed. 

When I see that piece in my home it adds to my body balance budget because of the joy it sparks. Instead of a long stream of negative silent to-do thoughts, it adds thoughts of healing, of slowing down to create art, of beauty and memories of the day my family and I met that artist. It’s just all special. It never gets old. I see it daily. It’s in my office. What would it be like to have your home filled with the majority of things that spark joy? Things that add to your budget rather than taking withdrawals?

Take an inventory. Notice your thoughts.

Even in undertaking the seemingly mundane tasks can be transformed into a meditative, body deposit practice.

But it starts with your thoughts, your perception and your awareness to what takes away or what adds to your budget.

This is actually a really fun exercise – just for a day or two take inventory of the thoughts and feelings that are present. Then adjust. Not in a critical way but just an observant way. I don’t want zoom running all the time on my computer. It eats away at the battery. Just like I don’t want to keep thoughts running that aren’t serving me. But I have to see them in order to address them in order to work out what I’m going to do with them.

Take a daily edit. Find out what eats away at your budget and what adds to it. When you know this you can be really creative in how you structure your day. There are still tasks (and people if we’re being honest) that seem to eat away at my budget. But knowing this I can be strategic about it. I can sandwich things in a way that I’m never in a deficit. I’m never in the red. 

You want to create a life that you’re excited to wake up to. That you look forward to. A life that isn’t creating a constant tiredness that seemingly won’t ever go away.

You are the catalyst. Only you can change the things that takeaway from your budget and replace them with things that add to it instead.

Okay, my friends! Have a great week! I’ll talk to you next week!

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