When Our Enthusiasm Takes Us Too Far

This is a post I wrote especially for ProHealth’s Inspirational Corner and first appeared there about 5 weeks ago

One of the biggest challenges to sticking within our energy envelope can be when we really want to do something! This can be even more challenging when others really want us to do that something too!

We might have every good intention of managing an event carefully, pacing ourselves and perhaps limiting the time we spend there, but when we’re enjoying ourselves and others are encouraging us to continue often those intentions fly out of the window, the inevitable result being a crash or a flare!

So how do we avoid this rollercoaster? How do we take control when our spirit is pushing for the delight and so are those around us?

For me it’s always been about three things, recognising that I have a choice, making sure I get the right support and assertive communication.

Recognising choice.

First of all I remind myself that I can choose to continue if I want to. I can choose to feed my spirit and continue on the wave of my enthusiasm, but when I am making that choice I am also choosing the consequences. It might we worth a few days of feeling terrible, to have this much enjoyment. Can I rest up a lot over the next few days to get over it? Do I have confidence that if I take care of myself well enough that I’ll get over the crash? Or do I want to choose my health? Is it more important to me at this time to keep giving my body the best possible chance of fighting this illness?

Whichever choice I make, I understand that I am in control. If I choose the fun I accept the consequent crash and just do what I can to make myself as comfortable as possible while I wait for it to pass. If I decide to let go of the fun, I focus on the positive value of choosing my health.

The right support

I feel extremely fortunate that several of my close family and friends are extremely understanding of the nature of my health challenges. They are the people who have seen me suffer, the people who knew me in vibrant health and have recognised the full impact of the illness.  These people are great to have around me when my enthusiasm is threatening to overcome me. They often recognise signs of my fatigue as early as I do, if not before. When they are going to be with me for an event I always tell them beforehand how I’m planning on managing it, how I’m going to take breaks, how long I think I can manage to be there etc. and seek their support in keeping me on track.

Assertive communication

Sometimes though, that support isn’t available and the people around us may be less understanding of the constraints of chronic illness. It may not always be possible or even desirable to educate everybody fully about your needs as a result of the illness, even if they were willing to understand (which many people aren’t). But keeping quiet can mean being pulled in directions that you hadn’t planned on going.

It’s important to remember that you are responsible for keeping your needs met. You don’t have to explain everything in detail, but you may need to assert what you need out of a situation.  For example, ‘ I know I’m going to be having so much fun I could easily get carried away so I’m going to have to be firm about leaving in half an hour’ or ‘Although I’m really happy to be here, today I need to sit quietly and take a back seat’.

Sometimes we put our own needs aside when the needs of others seem to shout louder. Remember your needs are just as important as anybody else’s. Sometimes needs conflict and that’s sad, but you are the one responsible for looking after your health. Don’t let someone else’s need for enjoyment overshadow your need to look after yourself!

Sometimes we put our needs aside for fear of being judged. Well, people will either treat you with compassion or they will judge you and that has nothing to do with you and everything to do with what kind of a person they are. You can’t control that so don’t let it enter into the equation!

Own and express what you need out of situation as simply as you can; understand that sometimes there will be a conflict of needs, but don’t feel guilty about taking responsibility for meeting your own. Remember you are choosing health and a better future! You’ll have more to give in the long run if you look after yourself now.

A couple of months ago my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary with a big party. I knew it was going to take it out of me and I planned a lot of rest before and after the event. I made arrangements to arrive late and leave early and I had the support of a couple of close friends to keep me paced and on track. Although my Dad is usually very understanding of my health needs, he wanted to introduce me to all of his friends and relatives that I’d never met, and it was exhausting. I understood that there was a conflict of needs, that he wanted to show me off, but I also understood that it was my responsibility to make sure I looked after myself, so once I reached my limit I slipped away!

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