Running on empty

I feel like a wuss for admitting it, but this is a hard season.

This is not a blog for complaining, but I do have some legitimately tough things going on at the moment. Or rather, things that, each on their own, would be a handful, but all at once, feel like a maelstrom. Let’s review:

  • I am a post-doc entering the last six months of my project.
  • I am about to go part-time (hello, 50% paycut.)
  • I have just returned from three days in Portugal, and am about to go to Edinburgh for a week, all work-related (entailing writing and giving presentations and lots of networking.)
  • I am a maximum of six months, and possibly only three months, away from being unemployed.
  • And I’m getting married in less than five weeks. It’s a big wedding.

The last thing is a happy thing. I want to be excited, and enjoying these last few weeks before our wedding. But it’s undeniable that planning an event for 150 guests involving two venues, numerous suppliers, and little introverted me being the centre of attention all day, is causing me some stress.

I always knew this was going to be a difficult season, but what I didn’t appreciate was how much the first four points would be taking their toll. An example: my three days in Portugal went well, but my sleep routine got almost entirely screwed up. The first night I barely slept because it was too warm, the second night was the conference dinner, and I didn’t get back to my hotel till 1.30 am, and my flight home didn’t get in till late, so I didn’t get to bed till 1 am either.

Normally, a couple of nights of less-than-average sleep would be annoying, but I’d recuperate pretty quickly. It’s Sunday now, and I am still totally exhausted, as in, can barely keep my eyes open. This feeling doesn’t help – the minute I start thinking about what’s coming in the next few weeks, I feel totally overwhelmed. Quite literally, I can feel my brain shutting down, unable to even form a coherent thought or plan as to what comes next.

I feel the effects. My temper control is shot to pieces. Normally, I’m able to take things reasonably well on the chin; now, even something as simple as a messy cupboard can send me into a sudden fit of rage. My emotions are bubbling right under the surface and it doesn’t take much to get a volcano. This is scary for someone who is normally mild-mannered. It’s also c**p for my relationship with A. He has the patience of a saint with me at the moment, but I know he hates it when I lose it over something tiny. My moods are all over the place, and I hate it.

I also seem incapable of switching my brain off properly. There always seems to be something to do, but due to the overwhelm, I more often than not end up paralysed and unable to do even the simplest things. Calling the insurance company, checking things over with bridesmaids, writing a shopping list – everything feels like more of a struggle than normal.

I’m running on empty. I’m reminded of a couple of posts from a blogger I’ve read for a long time, Jen Fulwiler. Our lives are very different – she has six small children, for starters – but her posts on Bare Minimum Mode and how to survive overwhelm have stuck with me. I’m going to have to ponder how I can ease my load, at present – there aren’t many things on that list that I can avoid right now – but I’m sure there are things I could be doing to help.

Top of my list over the next week is finding ways to help me recharge my batteries. We’ve joined a new gym, and I have a fitness programme ready which I am determined to follow. If I can accomplish that one goal, I may well feel better. (Our gym also has a great pool – and we all know how important exercise is for stress relief.)

More though, I need to find ways to mentally recharge. The paradox of this situation is that picking up the activities that would help – knitting, reading, watching a film, going for walks – make me feel guilty, because there is SO MUCH ELSE TO DO. I have to continually remind myself that keeping myself healthy and sane must be my top priority right now. In fact, that’s going to be my theme for this week. Healthy and sane.

What are your tips for getting through hard seasons, and recharging your batteries when times are tough?

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