Edna has been getting discouraged at her lack of progress in clearing out the stuff in her home. “Twenty years ago I could have had this all done inside of a month, but now it seems like I make two steps forward and one step back when I try to accomplish anything. Where did my energy go?” she asked. I told her that, as we age, the ratio of energy use to recovery time switches to needing twice as much rest as activity. We can remember how, in our teens and twenties, we could party-hardy and still show up for class or work the next day not too much the worse for it. But now, even though the mind might be willing, the body just can’t keep up with the demands we put on it. I told her my new motto is “adapt and compensate”.
- Adapt for the loss of physical vitality by extending the time to complete a project and/or pay for some help.
- Assess your energy level when you get up in the morning and plan your day accordingly. Some days we have less energy because we used up today’s share of it yesterday when we did too much. Compensate by doing only a small portion of what you had planned for the day. Instead of taking on a whole room, settle for emptying a drawer and sorting the contents. Even better, take the day off to do something that recharges you.
- Think of yourself as a battery. What sorts of things leave you feeling drained? Sometimes its people in your family. Sometimes emotions are overwhelming when you come across something while clearing out that evokes grief or regret or even anger. What could recharge you? Maybe music or visiting a friend? Maybe sitting down to read a novel will do the trick.
- Close any “open loops”. These are the things you have left unfinished or thoughts that won’t leave your mind when you need to relax. Make a list of these items and leave them on a sheet of paper instead of occupying space inside your head.