Feeling stressed out and exhausted? Could simply being listened to refuel your energy and zest for parenting?
Even before becoming a parent I was no stranger to extreme fatigue. While studying at university I caught the flu one January which turned into chronic fatigue syndrome. I spent 6 months at home, unable to concentrate on studying or doing much.
Although I recovered I often find myself having bouts of tiredness, and needing to rest more than the average person. However I have found some ways to deal with it.
In my mid-twenties when my life was undergoing many changes, I would often find myself spending long amounts of time lying in bed at the weekend, which I blogged about in this post.
I liked to journal a lot, and one day I discovered that if I journaled about my thoughts and feelings, my energy would come back much quicker than if I simply rested. I did yoga and was really interested in the mind-body connection. Over time I found that writing with an awareness of my body, helped me access my emotions, and release them. Then my energy was restored. It was amazing!
Shortly after that I found a book called Opening Up: The Healing Power Of Expressing Emotions by psychologist James Pennebaker. He conducted a famous study where participants were asked to write for 15 minutes on 4 separate occasions on the most upsetting event of their lives. He followed the participants up six months later, and found that those who wrote about upsetting events not only felt happier, they also went to the doctor less than those who simply wrote about mundane topics. Processing our emotions, can make us happier and healthier.
When I discovered Hand in Hand parenting I was stressed out and exhausted like most parents. Then I discovered listening partnerships (exchanges where two parents talk and listen to each other). I was amazed that even just 10 minutes of being listened could restore my physical energy. That the exhaustion I felt was not an inevitable part of parenting. It had an emotional component that I could release and feel much better.
It makes sense really. Our bodies and minds are intertwined, and there’s lots of research that stress and emotional upset can cause physical conditions.
Because tiredness has always been such a big issue for me, I’ve also worked more in-depth on this topic in my listening time. Sometimes it’s been powerful just to rest with the warm attention of my listening partner. To have a few quiet moments, when I’m not doing, but just being.
I remember Patty Wipfler saying that if there’s somewhere we want to get to in our lives, simply stating where we want to be in our listening time, is a powerful way to shed the feelings that stand in the way. So one day my listening partner gave me the direction to stand up, to stretch my arms wide, and to say, ”I’m so full of energy!” with lots of enthusiasm.
When I did this, a lot of strong feelings came up. I began saying, ”No!” and I suddenly realised that part of me didn’t want to be full of energy. I had the urge to curl up and protect myself. I kept trying the direction, as more and more strong emotions poured out. As my listening partner encouraged me, I realised how much energy I did have, tangled up in these feelings.
I had the insight that my tiredness had been a coping mechanism, a way to deal with heavy emotions, to hide away, rather than face them. As I expressed my fear of saying, ”I’m so full of energy,” it gradually became easier to say it.
Although I still love to write, I no longer journal about my emotions much. I find that being listened to by another loving human being is so much more powerful than being alone with my thoughts on the page. I really needed a listener, somebody who would make a space for those feelings. Someone whose brain was in a calm, relaxed state, who could accept and welcome all my emotions.
Nowadays when i get tired, I don’t just think ”I need to rest.” I also think ”I need listening time.” And often just being listened to for a few minutes can turn around my exhaustion.
If you’re feeling exhausted, it could of course be that you’re sleep-deprived. Sometimes listening time can help us clear our minds, and help us find the strength to figure out how everyone in the family can get a good night’s sleep. And Hand in Hand has some great tools for that!
Your exhaustion could be because there is a physical cause, such as being low in vitamins, or iron, so getting a check-up at the doctor is always a good idea.
As well as taking care of the physical aspects. Listening time can offer a way out of exhaustion, and we can parent with more lightness and joy.
Try this :Are you feeling exhausted? Find a friend or listening partner and exchange time talking and listening to each other. Vent about how exhausted you feel. Take a few minutes to rest. And if your tiredness is an ongoing challenge try exclaiming ”I’m so full of energy!” and see what thoughts and feelings come up.
Would you like to find a listening partner? Join the facebook group Hand in Hand parent’s support to connect with other parents.