I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability lately. Not only living sustainably in relationship with the Earth and the other creatures on the planet, but living in a way that is sustainable for my soul. For this reason, my co-editor and I decided to focus on sustainability as our March theme and in our Lent Action for Ignited Magazine (you can read more about those on our website). I was excited about thinking more deeply about ways to practice both global and soul sustainability, and to experiment with practices over the next 40 days. I thought maybe I’d try going vegetarian, and that I’d set aside time in my week for creativity, or going on an outdoor adventure with a friend, or something else that feeds my soul. But life, it seems, had other ideas and decided to throw me a curve ball.
For the past two weeks, the fatigue I have struggled with for months (maybe even for almost a year) has intensified to the point that normal, everyday activities make me feel worn out. My muscles ache, burn, and feel tense all the time, I wake up so tired that I can’t focus in class or remember the readings, my neck and back hurt almost constantly… today I slept for 14 hours and still don’t feel fully rested. Add to that list a particularly heavy course load and you’ve got a Hailey whose life has been thrown a bit off kilter recently.
My instinct when things spin out of my control is to try harder. Work harder in school, do more every day so that it all fits, give up all the “non-essentials” (which usually are actually pretty essential, I just don’t get graded on them). I have been trying so hard through my foggy-brainedness of the last couple days to think of a meaningful Lenten practice centered around sustainability. I decided to give up all non-fair-trade cocoa products as my global sustainability practice–something I have been wanting to do for a while– but couldn’t think of a good personal sustainability practice. It just felt like I didn’t have time or energy to do the practices I thought would be meaningful.
Today, after 14 hours of sleep, on the way to a last-minute doctor appointment, I realized that right now, the most important way for me to sustain myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically is to take care of my health. Part of that is using my time and energy to take care of my body and my emotions, instead of pouring all myself entirely into staying on top of my course load. It also means recognizing that I don’t HAVE to be able to do it all. Depending on the outcome of the blood tests I am getting done tomorrow, it may be in my best interest to withdraw from a class, so that I can deal with my health problems without added stress from being overwhelmed by schoolwork. Finally, it means voicing my needs to my friends and family. I tend to get very lonely when I am tired and overwhelmed, but I also tend to get worse at asking for the support I need from people. In my exhaustion I just hope they’ll notice what I am going through and know what to do, but this only leads to frustration when people, inevitably, can’t read my mind. So those are the practices I am focusing on to cultivate some personal sustainability. I will put time and energy into cultivating rhythms that support my physical well-being (including a stricter sleep schedule and eating 3 meals a day). I will be gentle with myself and allow myself to only take on what I can handle without feeling overwhelmed. And I will reach out to people and ask for the support that I need.
To be honest, I’d rather be able to adopt practices that seem more interesting and unique, but I also need to recognize that self-care, particularly in times of stress, is something that I need to work on in order to sustain myself and be able to love others well.