What do we do when the Great Lethargy Strikes Again?
This week was sluggish for me, everything extra-heavy (not just me, apparently also key particles), and I had no energy for anything.
It was frustrating, because I also perceive a great deal of urgency to solve all the various dilemmas that are asking to be solved. And also, that was the reality I was working with, nothing but lethargy, and no clues to be found.
So I wanted to very briefly cover a self-fluency approach that I consider a fundamental, always useful and especially so when your brain can’t do much.
I’m sure you’ve read about this concept if you’ve been hanging out here over the years, I call it “in the hard and in the soft”, we can work on things in the hard and we can work on them in the soft, ideally we do both.
Hard / Soft
For our purposes…
The Hard = that which is tangible, palpable, quantifiable, can be seen or perceived, described in a way that most people would understand.
The Soft is everything else. Everything on the mental-emotional side, and the energy of things, the spiritual end of the spectrum. We can’t touch or see the things in the Soft, and yet doing the work in The Soft still helps.
And: Whether what’s going on in The Soft makes sense to me or not, I am not always able to describe it in a way that other people understand, but that’s okay, they don’t need to.
When I approach sluggishness and lethargy in The Hard, I’m thinking about things like “Wow, I did not realize that it’s 95 degrees (that’s 35 degrees celsius) today, I bet that’s taking more of a toll on me than I think it is.”
Or, “Hmmm, have I been getting enough iron?” And of course, “Is it possible that a shower would help here?”
When I approach sluggishness and lethargy in The Soft, I’m thinking more about even more invisible impacts on my mood and energy level…
“Oh right, early April is often a challenging time for me, and the first heat wave too. This could be stirring up some memories from Then that are held in my body. Oh right, here are some other things going on in the background that are likely influencing my mood and energy levels.”
How we practice
Whenever I make a list of Contributing Factors / Known Elements of what could be impacting me, I name them in The Soft as well as in The Hard.
And I do the same when generating a list of what might help.
I will share bits of my lists with you, keep in mind that these are mine, your mileage may vary. The factors that impact you and techniques that support you don’t have to mirror mine. People Vary.
The important thing here is not what makes anyone’s list, rather what works for you.
In other words, my suggestions aren’t necessarily suggestions for you, they’re suggestions for me; you can put what works for you on your list, and if you aren’t sure yet, then you get to run some experiments, test hypotheses, figure out what earns a place on your list…
In The Hard: Known things that sometimes help when I’m feeling sluggish
Have I been hydrating (probably not), and is there a way to make hydrating more appealing? Sparkling water with ocotillo tincture? What if I write myself a note and tape it to my water glass? Current note says: SORCERY!
Have I been forgetting to take vitamins? Specifically vitamin B, vitamin D and iron. These, for me, are the Usual Suspects.
And I know that I do not eat enough because of JAZZ HANDS ****anxiety!!!**** JAZZ HANDS, so I can always use a reminder that feeding myself is a vital choosing-towards-life op, what can I do to care for myself in service of nourishment & dopamine…
Can I find movement that is fun (three minute dance party!)
Can I find movement that is needed (neck stretches, relaxing the jaw, relaxing the jaw again, rolling around on the floor)
Is there too much stuff in my field of vision? This is a big one for me. I can get really overwhelmed really fast when there is too much to look at.
Have I been outdoors / nature-adjacent? If it’s too hot, is there somewhere nearby to drive to and commune with tree friends or cactus friends, and have a beautiful expanse of horizon? Can I get going early enough to go walk the labyrinth before the heat kicks in…?
My friend H has a default rule of “when nothing is working, shave legs & paint nails”.
My friend K wisely gets under a weighted blanket as fast as possible.
My friend R washes dishes.
My friend M does a non-zero number of jumps (jump jump!)
Maybe none of these do it for you, and maybe they are clues or starting points. Sometimes it helps to know what is no in order to get a spark about maybe-yes.
In The Soft: Known things that sometimes help when I’m feeling sluggish
In the soft, we practice Acknowledgment & Legitimacy (naming what is what is happening, noticing how I feel about it, reminding myself that it’s okay that I feel this way, and no, I don’t have to like it).
In the soft, we investigate: what are the Known Elements at play here? What are some of the very legitimate contributing factors?
We looked at the temperature, but what about the invisible stuff, is there some big wilding happening with the astrology, have I spent time online encountering energy crud and emotional potholes…?
In the soft, we ask what’s true and what’s also true? In the soft, we wonder what we need to say no to or what boundaries may have collapsed and need to be shored up. In the soft, we return other people’s projections about us, we release what is not ours into the magical elevator shaft…
What else is going on for me?
In the soft we ask, What else is going on for me? For example, what would I bring up to my imaginary-therapist, oh right possibly I am exhausted because of narcissists & manipulators pushing boundaries.
What else is going on for me?
Oh right, loneliness, oh right the eternal disconnect, I am trying to survive in a pandemic but yesterday 100,000 people liked a tweet that took place in an airport bar. YIKES to airport bars. Yikes to pretending this isn’t happening.
Process (an example)
I did some journaling on the story of [I am not excited about anything, I don’t care about anything, everything is very blah], and discovered that while it is partially true, it is also not entirely true.
The part that is true is a sort of energy-level allergy to my current location, and several iguanas (things I don’t want to do) that need to be liberated from my life.
The part that is interesting is that there are actually several things I’m excited about that I haven’t let myself feel excited about, because they don’t seem to support my current mission of Solve All The Problems, which is kind of crucial right now.
What am I excited about even though I convinced myself I have zero enthusiasm
Okay it turns out, I get interested again when I think about the idea of making delicious seasonal recipes that can be a ritual of celebrating the seasons, like hell yes it’s April and we’re making horchata!!!!
Ooh, and I also like reading ten thousand different recipes, then coming up with my own version of [a something], especially if I can make it for someone I care about.
And as you know, I am geeking out on inventing new ways to celebrate made-up holidays.
And I enjoy thinking about vengeance ops, aka becoming an even more intimidating cowthey (or: nonbinary desert sorceress/assassin), this is also related to my secret op of luscious self-treasuring at Life Ruiningly Good levels.
So, I thought I had no interest in anything, and it turns out I do have interest in things, I just haven’t been giving myself any permission to access these passion-sparks because I am overwhelmed by my long list of Solve This Urgent Scary Problem.
What’s the point though (my self-criticism monsters ask)
Does it solve anything to know these sparks are there? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares!
The point is, I learned that my believable-sounding story was at best only partially true, not the full truth at all. The point is, I was reminded of much bigger truth-facets.
For example, integrating my vengeance-loving lusciousness-seeking cowboy-hat-wearing nonbinary vixen self is not separate from the mission I think is the mission.
And, if excitement-sparks exist, I might as well use them. So let’s make some life-ruiningly delicious horchata with what’s already in the pantry.
It’s a starting point, where there was none before.
If I follow the spark, a next indicated step will be there. Or I will return to playing in The Hard and in The Soft until I find one.
Worthy of a brief mention
Ahhh, the phenomenon of [things that help more than I think they will but not as much as I want them to], it’s such a thing.
So I just want to mention that this exists!
And it’s okay, I still keep things in this category on my list because a) they still help, and b) their support is cumulative.
Maybe today a shower is not the magic I needed it to be, and it still helped more than not doing it, maybe the same will be true for five minutes of stretching. It all helps a little, and quite often it helps much more than I think it will.
We try things, we take notes, we switch up the experiment and try again.
Can you combine techniques in The Hard and in The Soft
OF COURSE, absolutely, that’s the best way, if you can do it.
For example, I might do legs up the wall (in the hard), and name all the things that are going on for me or run a monster negotiation in the soft.
Summing up before I run out of steam
Working (and playing!) in The Hard and in The Soft is not so much a technique as a way of discerning what techniques are available to you in the moment.
Even better, everything we do in The Hard or in The Soft is going to impact the other side, and making sure we get a little of both is a way we can remember the hidden richness of options.
If something works, add it to the Book of You!
We keep practicing acknowledgment and legitimacy with the various Perceptions of Stuck (fake band of the week?), and we make room to feel what we’re feeling, and we poke around a bit to find out if it’s the whole story, and we do things that help.
If they don’t help, we give ourselves a trillion sparklepoints and have a party for being brave and trying something, and we try something else.
Also we make room for the idea that This Didn’t Help At All could be a monster story, and who knows, the thing we thought wasn’t helping enough might actually be shifting things in the background, under the surface, in the soft where we can’t feel the results yet…
And we praise ourselves, applause & sparklepoints all around
Good job planting seeds. Good job trying anything at all.
Good job going back to bed if that was the right answer (or the only available option). It all counts.
Thanks for doing it for the collective, I applaud and appreciate everything we try.
Come play with me, I love company
You are welcome to play with this concept in any way you like. If you have also been feeling the Sluggish and/or finding that key particle overly relatable, let me know. Slug Club!
You are welcome to brainstorm in the category of [things that might be affecting my mood/energy] in the hard and in the soft, and/or brainstorm [things that might help] in the hard and the soft…
You are also as always invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.
If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could use some miracles right now with my emergency situation that has now been compounded with new situations.
I am accepting support (with joy & gratitudea) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.
Or buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!
And if those aren’t options, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, tell people about this work, that all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️
This is so so sooo good. I appreciate the reminder that it’s good to work in the Hard and in the Soft at the same time. When I can do it, I often find that they deepen one another in really helpful ways. The physical grounds the psychic; the abstract elevates the concrete.
Things that help me in the hard include humming, stretching, placing cool compresses on pulse points, and putting pen to paper. Things that help me in the soft include imagery, soothing stories…and also humming, interestingly enough.
This week really *has* been a slog. Thanks for being here with me at the end of it.
Love HUMMING as the answer in the hard and in the soft, and yes you are so right about all of this, elevating the concrete, grounding the psychic, beautifully summed up and such a good reminder that I need over and over again
“I thought I had no interest in anything, and it turns out I do have interest in things, I just haven’t been giving myself any permission to access these passion-sparks because I am overwhelmed by my long list of Solve This Urgent Scary Problem.”
Yes. I totally do this.
My dearest friend and I are both in Slug Club at the moment, so this helpful.
I’ve taken So Many Naps this past week, and I’m not letting myself feel bad about it!
I am with you on the So Many Naps and the determination to not feel bad about it! It really does help to know this is not a solo mission, thank you!
Ahhhh, “truth facets”…what is true and what is also true? Such a good reminder, as is the concept that the practices are *cumulative*, and that helpful effects may be happening even if not immediately noticed. <3 <3 <3
Cumulative, fractal & truth-facets! ✨
These last months have had many days of my brain just sliding off of the work I’m supposed to be doing. Which makes sense, given what’s going on for me and in the world. And, this is helping me remember that I can be with the sliding-away brain and play around in the soft and at least find ways to feel better, instead of just feeling frustration-despair.
The brain-sliding is the most relatable. Yes to playing in the soft and figuring out what helps (if not with the brain-sliding, then at least with the feelings), so wise!
I am grossly under hydrated these days, insomnia cycle in full swing, my appetite is on vacation. Two weeks of rest for the hsp is in order and yet, I can’t get rid of the anxieties to Get All Of It Done Right Now. Doom everywhere. But is it really there? No. It a trick of anxiety brain and it makes sense for everything I am going through. And I am grateful for you because always when I need it, Havi arrives in my box and answers I needed (and sometimes didn’t know I needed) are right there. Thank you!
YES to the Is It Really There re the doom everywhere, it’s so tricky, and the pressure to get it done is so real! ❤️
“What am I still excited about now that I’m not feeling excited about my thing anymore?”
Crucial question. Vital and alive question. Love it, thank you.
Here’s to Vitality & Aliveness and the good questions, and yeah that is such a question ❤️