Emotional exhaustion is something I never really expected to find in myself. Looking over everything that I had experienced in the last few years of my life, I realized just how strong I was to be knocked down time and time again but to stand up after. This summer, however, I’ve shifted my views on my resilience.
I never found myself emotionally exhausted before, because I was never really allowing myself to be in touch with my emotions. In order to push forward, I would shut down and just focus on my responsibilities. I made it through those rough periods because I wasn’t allowing myself to feel much of what was happening to me emotionally. With more recent experiences that have tested me emotionally, I’ve worked hard to recognize my own emotions, feel them, process them, and keep going. Suppressing my emotions seemed like a strength to me before, but now I can see the behaviours and coping mechanisms I had taught myself weren’t beneficial in the long run.
This past year, I started talking to a therapist. Through my sessions, we’ve been working on putting my feelings into words. As someone who writes, I felt I should be able to put my thoughts and feelings into words easily, but it was more difficult than I had thought and it had always been something that frustrated me. But, through therapy and a lot of external practice, I started teaching myself to take a moment to examine the situation I’m in and then allow myself to listen to how I’m actually feeling. This method allows me to understand why I feel the way I feel. It reaches the root of the issue and I learn how to cope better in those situations.
Having gone through some recent, difficult changes in my romantic life, I put my newly-learned skills of emotional deduction into practice. It’s really easy to close off and shut down when you’re hurt, because then you don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable feelings, but it’s the uncomfortable feelings that are going to propel you to better understand yourself, your needs, and your wants.That’s how you inevitably grow.
I deduced that I was tired. Not just tired, but extremely exhausted. Relationships can be hard work and they often take some effort to maintain, but if all your energy is spent maintaining your relationship, you can’t take care of you, and it’s not your partner’s responsibility to care for you in that way. I had made this mistake. I often make the mistake of tending to my relationships or caring more about others than taking care of myself. Recent experiences helped me to see how truly detrimental that can be to my own health.
I acknowledged that I was emotionally exhausted when I couldn’t even muster up the desire to get to know new people. I didn’t (and still don’t) want to embark on a romantic relationship with another person. And I was physically functioning at a low level, finding I did not have the energy to enjoy things I had once found pleasure in. I hated the feeling, and I felt guilty for a bit. But then I examined why I felt guilty and realized it was just because I was habitually putting out my energy, often spending it on other people in my life because I felt like that was what I had to do. Removing people or choosing to spend my energy on me felt selfish, and being selfish is a bad thing, right?
The more I examined myself, the more I realized I didn’t like the person I was becoming because I was so against being selfish. I was forfeiting me-time just to make other people happy in the moment, but I ended up drained (and a bit bitter, if I’m honest). I realized it was time to make some changes to how I treat myself. So here is my (ever-developing) step-by-step list on how to be "selfish" for your mental health:
Know that taking time to rest is a sign of strength, too. Don’t rush it, allow yourself to be comfortable resting as long as you need to recharge physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ve been through a lot and you are MAXED OUT. You deserve to relax!
Consider the relationships you have. Who respects your boundaries? Who makes you feel good? Who do you know enough to feel comfortable around? Make time to spend with those people, even just an hour for coffee.
Talk about yourself. Especially with whoever you thought of from point #2. You are worth listening to, you deserve to take up space, and know that you have or would listen to them talk about whatever they’re going through.
Treat yourself! Guess what? No matter how many dates you’ve been on or how many relationships you’ve had, YOU are THE ONE for YOU. You’re your own soulmate and you’ve got to put energy into that relationship, too. Look how far you’ve come! Some days, even getting out of bed and going to work deserves a little reward. It feels good to spoil yourself.
Take yourself on dates. It’s one thing to plan a date for you and another person; you’ve got to find something of mutual interest and there’s a part of you that takes into account how they’re enjoying themselves. But, if you’re taking yourself on a date, you know your own interests best, so there’s no pressure!
Restore your energy by dedicating time to your hobbies. Start with scheduling a little time to do something you like (writing, drawing, reading, etc). Maybe even buy yourself something like a new book to get excited about. Your interest in things will begin to build you back up again.
Take time to be by yourself. I know this is similar to number one on this list, but it is so crucial. There is no timer for you to “get back out there” so don’t feel guilty for taking your time.
As someone who is often unsettled by change, the adjustments in my life recently have caused some frustrations and anxieties, but they have also provided me with great opportunities to grow as an individual. The list above has gotten me to where I am now, but I know there is a ways to go before I’m ready to get back out there and meet new people again. And I’m okay with that.
Written by: Megan McKague