Four steps for dealing with fatigue

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What is fatigue?

Fatigue is the feeling that you are running on empty but have no time to stop. It's almost a numbness to your own exhaustion. In today's world, especially for working mothers, it's more common than people realize.

Warning Signs of Fatigue

  • There are dozens, so it's important to know yourself and to be capable of checking in on your mental and emotional state. But, basically, fatigue shows itself in three ways: physical, emotional, and inter-personal.

  • Physical warning signs include headaches, backaches, sleeping disorders, short-term memory problems and eating issues.

  • Emotional warning signs can show up as irritability, grumpiness or feeling like you're withdrawn or disengaged. Finally, it can show up in your social world with relationships and work. Perhaps friends stop calling or everyone at work gets under your skin. Or perhaps you've had a loss of creativity or depletion of your critical thinking skills.

  • The key is to find the space to really check in and become aware of how you're feeling physically, emotionally and in your relationships with others. Balance is a temporary state. Overcoming fatigue requires something sturdier than balance. It's about rediscovering your true self: your enthusiasm, your effectiveness, your core value system. It's about getting back to a life that feels meaningful and is open to the possibility of joy.

  • A fatigue checkup is about taking the time to examine how you are really feeling, not just in a fleeting moment but in a broader sense. It's about listening to your body, your emotional self, examining your relationships, attitudes, and worldview. It's about reconnecting to your core desires, understanding what you really want, including how you define "success."
The Prescription for Fatigue contains four steps:
  • Awareness -- "Smell the coffee." Escape from the whir and blur of the fast lane and check out how you are doing. How are the people around you doing, too? How are your and their spirits, bodies (health and well-being), attitudes, relationships doing? Are you as creative and effective as you'd like to be? Are you having enough fulfillment and joy as you want? Are you climbing the right mountain?

  • Reflection -- Think about it. How did you (and they, but you, first) get this way? Too many expectations, some of them not your own? Too often saying "Yes" to one more thing when you are already overloaded and can't seem to do anything well enough? What might some new answers be? What might you learn more about? How might you make more time for really important things, not just busywork? This is a time to gather some thoughts and to have some new thoughts.

  • Conversation -- None of us lives in a vacuum. Our happiness and contentment are tied to our relationships - our partners, our kids, our co-workers, our friends. By listening to others we uncover a deeper understanding of ourselves, how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves. Conversation is the active process of listening and sharing that leads to discovery

  • Plan-and-act -- This is the opportunity to put your life-changing discoveries into place and to try them out. It's the time to take some very small steps, make some adjustments, celebrate little victories, consolidate progress, and learn new ways. It's the time to move ahead. By this time, change is not a cliff you're stepping off of, but a curb. You're ready and able, and, because of the conversations, you have allies. You'll have fun with this, too!
There are definitely some simple steps we can all take to help us out, for instance, taking little time-outs during the day to stretch, to smile, to listen to your heart. It's important to believe that you are capable of having a better day. Believing that happiness is possible actually makes it possible. The key is to be proactive. Meaning isn't going to sneak up on you. You have to go get it and you can.

The common mistakes people make in regards to fatigue

  • Not asking for help is the main one. This is particularly true of working mothers. Mothers can be so caught up in nurturing others that they forget to nurture themselves. Asking for help is very important whether it's from friends, family, or co-workers. Most of us try to carry too great a burden. Admitting we're not superheroes, that we're just ordinary people is critical.

  • Second, and again this really applies to mothers, we have to remember that taking care of ourselves is not selfish. We won't be able to be there for others (our kids, our partners, our clients or coworkers) if we can't show up for ourselves.

  • If people don't nurture themselves we stop fulfilling our commitments which leads to chronic frustration. We get crabby, mistake prone, underwhelmed, physically sick and out of shape, our relationships suffer, our communication skills deteriorate, and eventually we forget how to have fun, how to be joyful. It can be very debilitating.
Specific techniques that people can use to heal their fatigue
  • Instead of going straight home from work take twenty minutes and go to a coffee shop or just sit in your car and read or breath or people watch. Just take a little time-out that's free of worry or vexation.

  • Put important events for your kids or partner on your calendar the second you find out about them so that your schedule won't fill up with work related things first and important family events second.

  • Play together with your kids. They say you can only be a kid once, but that's not really true. If your kids are riding bikes, get yours out, if they're skate boarding, put on some roller blades. Engage them on their terms, not yours.
For more information, go to www.thefatigueprescription.com

About Linda Hawes Clever:

Linda Hawes Clever MD, Master of the American College of Physicians, is a specialist in Internal Medicine and Occupational Medicine. Dr. Clever received undergraduate and medical degrees from Stanford University.

She is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and Founding Chair of the Department of Occupational Health at California Pacific Medical Center.

She was recently appointed as Associate Dean for Alumni Affairs at Stanford University Medical School. She is founder and president of RENEW. RENEW is a not-for-profit aimed at helping dedicated people maintain and regain enthusiasm, effectiveness, and purpose and resolve the dueling demands of work and life. Her husband is an internist as is their daughter, who is on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dr. Clever is a member of the Board of Directors of the Northern California Presbyterian Homes and Services and chairs its Foundation Board. She served on the Stanford University Board of Trustees for 14 years. She was editor of the Western Journal of Medicine and also chaired the Board of the public broadcasting station, KQED.

Dr. Clever speaks nationally and internationally and has many publications on topics including health promotion, occupational health, personal and institutional renewal, volunteerism and leadership. Her book, The Fatigue Prescription: Four Steps to Renewing Your Energy, Health and Life was published in February 2010. Dr. Clever is a dedicated walker and enjoys good company, good conversation and good cookies.

About the book:

Our lives are more packed than ever. Almost 40 percent of Americans work more than 50 hours per week and when we're not working we're getting to and from work or shuttling our kids to and from their commitments. Then there's housekeeping, bills, exercise, emails, voicemails, texts, and finally finding the time to wolf down some good and, if we're lucky, get a decent night's sleep.

As a nation, we are sleep-deprived, overworked, overwhelmed, and undernourished in body and soul. It's gotten to the point where we are too busy to figure out how to be less busy. There's a real downside to all our hustle and bustle. It wears on us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Over the long haul it simply wears us down.

That's where Dr. Linda Clever's The Fatigue Prescription: Four Steps To Renewing Your Energy, Health, and Life comes in. There are countless books on the market that explain why relaxation, exercise, sleep and reflection are important. But few of them deliver a step-by-step program for tackling the fatigue endemic in our modern lives.

>> Buy this book on Amazon: The Fatigue Prescription: Four Steps to Renewing Your Energy, Health, and Life

Book signings:

February 19, 2010 at 7 p.m.
Corte Madera Book Passage
Website: www.bookpassage.com

March 16, 2010 at 7 p.m.
Santa Rosa Copperfield's Books
Website: copperfieldsbooks.com

March 17, 2010 at 7 p.m.
Oakland Public Library-Main Branch
Website: www.oaklandlibrary.org

April 15, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
San Francisco Metropolitan Club
Website: www.memberstatements.com

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