Published On: Wed, Mar 27th, 2013

From ZZZ to S…

clockFrom ZZZ to S…

by Rebecca Kovan, PhD (Dr. Bee) 

I am exhausted. In most parts of this great country, clocks were moved ahead for DaylightSaving Time. An hour was lost—an itty-bitty hour. We are not talking about several hours. I know I did not fly across oceans, to lands far away, prompting the relocation* of the time-keeper’s hands around its numbered face. (*Unless you are my mother, who doggedly keeps her watch on home-time when traveling because she feels it is important to know what time it is there!)

We pushed the clock up only one hour. But oh, what a difference an hour makes. I know I am not alone in this feeling. I saw it in the faces and movements of people whose paths I crossed; people looked more tired. Bodies seemed to be moving slower. In the past week, my son has spent more time sprawled out on the floor, in a day-dreamy chill mode, than before he had the coordination to crawl; his normal demeanor . . . this is not.

Depending on when you are reading this, at least two weeks have passed since Daylight Saving Time, and many, (I am included in this group), still appear to be operating from a collective molasses. You would think that the weeks separating events of then and now would have likely stabilized schedules. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Another explanation to my observation is that maybe schedules are stabilized now, and instead, Daylight Saving Time prompted me to take notice of people more keenly, searching for other kindred (translate: exhausted) souls so that I might feel better about me and my drained state. I have been looking back, over and through my timeline, trying to pinpoint how long I have felt like this.

I do not know; it has been a long time.

What is going on? Do you think that if we were daily and communally roused by Homer’s eloquently-stated, “rosy fingers of Dawn,” while welcoming Morpheus’ sleep-spell as the last glimpse of color slipped behind the horizon, we would be so tired? In other words, if we adhered to a schedule dictated before the advent of electricity, oil lamps, and candles—up and down with the sun—would we be plagued with fatigue to the same extent?

Or, is the obviousness of our exhaustion only heightened when we lose a precious 60-minutes. And if so, does that mean most individuals suffer from a pre-existing condition called ‘fatigue’? Perhaps that is my ailment. Perhaps it is yours as well.

The insidious complication attached to fatigue is that it is doubtful one can afford to pay it too much mind. Life is busy, obligations are present, schedules demand adherence—who has time for fatigue? Though we may try not to pay it much mind, we are affected by it. Fatigue seeps into our actions, our reactions, our relationships, and our careers. It dulls, weighs, muffles, demotivates, and dampens. It holds our hand, pretending to be a dear friend, coaxing us toward our beds. But it is really an enemy to the vibrant, effervescent, and energetic side of life.

Fatigue is also known by her sister-synonyms of exhaustion, lack of energy, languidness, languor, lassitude, lethargy, listlessness, and tiredness. Its predominant feature is that it is not relieved by rest. Like any problematic, subjective experience, it is important to rule out any potential underlying medical conditions, as fatigue can be a symptom of many other illnesses.

That said, let’s move forward with the assumption that the fatigue I am referring to does not have ties that are explained by the physical realm.

However, the fatigue I am referring to is still a very real phenomena, which can also morph into a debilitating condition referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I have decided not to address the CFS-end of the fatigue spectrum here, but instead, want to focus on the more generalized feeling of fatigue, and what can be done about it.

The good news with fatigue is that it can usually be traced to one or more lifestyle choices. Drinking too much alcohol? Slamming too much coffee? Exercising like a possessed maniac? Eating poorly? Slothing it up lately (yes, inactivity can be a cause of fatigue)? Taking cold or cough medicine, antihistamines, or another type of medication? If you answered yes to any of the above questions and are feeling the constant nag of fatigue, you are the proverbial master of your own destiny. Make that change, and make it quick! I suspect you will see a steady increase in your energy levels.

Problem solved. ☺

In my case, I cannot attribute any of the above to my fatigue. I rarely drink alcohol these days. I found out that I am allergic to coffee (that was a sad day). I cannot be accused of exercising too much. I eat pretty well. I am not inactive (impossible with a 5-year old son). I do not take medication. So what is up? I can sleep the recommended eight hours and still wake up shattered.

I’ll share with you my insight to this conundrum. It came to me during the process of writing this article. I was wondering how I was going to provide advice to a problem, that in actuality, I had no idea how to solve, for even me, let alone anyone else. And then it hit me in an instantaneous flash; a mind-stamping download that only occurs when I am not actively thinking. I have enough experience with this phenomenon that I trust its wisdom; I do not know where it comes from, but frankly, I do not care. I am only grateful that it sometimes does grace my world. And when it does, its timing is perfect.

This is how my “ah-ha” moment came about. I was reading Alphabet Livingto my son, a book I co-authored with my husband and illustrated, with the intention of its messages having relevancy for both adults and children. Each letter stands for something I feel is important to embody in life, with poems and illustrations capturing the respective word’s essence.

Snuggled up, we finished R, which is for Respect, and were on to S. Now, S stands for Solitude. The illustration shows one of the character’s relaxing in a hammock with a book. The scene is easy and it evokes a sense of tranquility.

I stared at the illustration I had nurtured to print, in somewhat of a fugue state. I don’t know how much time passed—it may have only been a few seconds. It was long enough though, for my son to nudge me and say, “Aren’t you going to keep reading, mommy?” In that short period of time, I received my answer as to why I was feeling so fatigued. And, I had had the answer at my fingertips the entire time! In fact, I had written a version of the answer for Alphabet Living. Gosh, did I feel sheepish.

Want to know the answer?

SOLITUDE.

The realization that I had scant few moments of solitude that extended past my bathroom door was enlightening. I had created a Life that whirred around me—a Life that I love—but a Life that left very little for me, and me alone. I somehow forgot about the importance of me-time. Subsections of the population may try to claim exclusive rights to fatigue for reasons that find solace in one’s pain-body*, but I suspect that that we all need moments of solitude. *(Note: I will save an in-depth look at the pain-body topic for another occasion.)

Solitude helps us to regenerate. It does not have to be a big production. The key is it must be uninterrupted. It can be a five minute session, supine, with eyes closed. It can be in a hammock or chair. It can be taking a walk around the block or on the beach.

The take home?

It is limited only by your creativity. But make no mistake; it is important for our mental and physical health and well-being. So get in there!

Just like Johnny Nash sang (as well as Jimmy Cliff), ♫ ♪I can see clearly now . . .” ♫ ♪

To come full circle, fatigue is exhausting, and I am sick and tired of feeling this way. I am going to do my best carve out time dedicated to me, if only for a few minutes a day. If my previous downloads are any indication of future success, then solitude may very well be the panacea, lifting the heavy cloak of my fatigue—or at least lessening it. And I deserve it.

You deserve it too. Give it try. Make some time for you.

I will leave with the Alphabet Living, S is for Solitude poem. I hope it helps.

S is for Solitude

Solitude is quiet time that simply lets you be.

Solitude provides a space to revel in carefree.

If you need perspective or must make a hard decision,

Solitude will help your cause and clarify your vision!

Now go hug your children

and make it a great, energizing day!

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