Have you pushed yourself to run on an empty tank? What was the impact?
I did that recently and learnt some valuable lessons. I don’t have it all figured out fully. I’m still learning how to best care for myself as an introvert (who is also an HSP and Empath). I trust there’s something here that you can benefit from.
We had a very busy and wonderful 3-week trip back to my birth-country, South Africa. It was a mix of family (my parents and hubby’s parents), pleasure (hubby’s 40th school reunion with loads of social engagements, then a few days in a 5* private game reserve) and business (a few days in Joburg with hubby’s work colleagues).
It was filled with wonderful connection, conversation, fantastic food, walks at the sea, game drives, silence in the bush, laughter and fun.
On the other hand, it truly challenged my sensitive introvert nature.
It was fast paced with very little quiet time to recharge. It included short nights, traveling from city to city, late nights to squeeze in time with special people we don’t see often, and super early mornings because of game drives.
By the time we arrived in Johannesburg for our last 3 days in South Africa, I felt finished. Yet there was still lots to attend to. An evening visit to my precious kitty and her new people, racing around to various appointments during the day, seeing friends, a few business appointments… yes, I was READY to go home on the last day.
After the usual short night on the plane to London, we arrived home on Saturday around mid-day. A long, very delicious nap, plus a great nights’ sleep, a really SLOW Sunday, and I thought I was back to myself!
Monday I was back in the saddle in my home office, still a tad tired. Grateful for a not-too-busy week.
I already had 3 social engagements in my diary for that first week, for various reasons.
Monday I raced out to a lunch with a group of colleagues, and raced back for a client.
Thursday I had a packed WONDERFUL day at the Chelsea Flower Show. Oh my, what a birthday gift from a special friend of mine!! I arrived home around 6.30 pm after absorbing TONS of sounds, sights, colours, fragrances, the energy of literally thousands of people around us all day. I parked my body on the couch and couldn’t MOVE for an hour.
On Friday, I had an appointment with a friend who was here from the US only for a short time, and this was the only day we could meet. Waking up on Friday morning, my body told me “SLOW DOWWWNN!!”.
It was bone tired. I had this commitment and I really wanted to see her… After 3 hours of doing nothing I felt good to go.
We had a lovely time together in the oldest Botanical Garden in London. We chatted like old friends, though it was our first in-person meeting. It was MUCH quieter than at the Flower Show the previous day. I thought the garden was the perfect place to revive me.
I chose to walk a very long route home to a station far away from our meeting place. I felt like still being out. It was lovely weather – summer in the UK is SO special.
On the way home, I realised I was hungry and thirsty and had no snacks or water with me. My blood sugar dropped and I had to sit down for a bit in the beautiful Green Park, close to Buckingham Palace. I didn’t want to buy anything because I was almost home. Only 20 more minutes to my own tea…
A very tired body found herself parked on the couch again on Friday night.
Saturday hubby and I went for a glorious long walk along the South Bank, around 8 km’s or so.
I felt guilty about being out with friends for 2 days, and wanted to spend time with him on sightseeing, which we both enjoy.
Sunday morning I lay in bed thinking I should just STAY in bed. And – forced myself to get up and go to another park that we had decided to go and see.
I literally dragged myself to the station, asking hubby to walk slower a few times. It was a beautiful park, though, one we had not been to.
Holland Park is full of character and history, and was started in the early 17th Century.
Finally, on Monday (a public holiday) I decided ENOUGH!!! and had a slow day, resting and reading.
What’s the moral of this long, long story?
By Monday night I developed a sore throat. On Tuesday morning it felt like razor blades were having a party in there … and it got steadily worse.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the symptoms.
I had to cancel all my clients for the entire week. I was SO reluctant to do that. I find it really hard to let my responsibility rest (it’s a strength on the Gallup StrengthsFinder and it can definitely TAKE OVER too much!) I had to admit I wasn’t going to do anyone a favour by showing up sick, fuzzy-brained, hardly able to talk and using a precious session that way.
What did I learn?
- #1 – Introverts need ENOUGH recharge time between social engagements. I of all people should know that. Next time, I’m building in slow days between periods of frenetic activity.
- #2 – Rest, rest, rest when I hear the first signal. Because my body will force me to slow down if I ignore the earlier signals.
- #3 – Clients are FAR more understanding and kind than I imagined. One of them even renewed a contract in the same email – “I’m sorry you’re feeling sick. Rescheduling is fine. And can we please extend our contract to work together.”
It’s something I teach and talk about: self-care comes first. YET I humbly admit that I still struggle to ask for time off.
I had a session with a beautiful medical intuitive friend I trust with my life. This illness was not caused by a pathogen (virus or bacteria). It was a reaction by my body processing emotion PLUS me depleting deep energy reserves.
This was a humbling example for me that I need to practice what I preach.
It’s absolutely NO GOOD if we overdo things, and stretch past our limits because we made prior commitments, or feel bad to let someone else down.
There were several places in this story that I could have made different choices. I could have cut shorter each social engagement. I could have mentioned to hubby I’m not up to going to any of the weekend trips, or made the Saturday outing shorter. I could have chosen to buy a snack in the park. I could have taken a very quick route home instead of walking for kilometres.
So many choices were possible. I needed to forgive myself for all the oversights, and ignoring my body’s desperate signals. I’m not doing that again soon.
It also feels like the first time I asked my clients to reschedule with “no drama”. I’ll talk about this (no drama) in another post. It feels like I’ve opened the door to a new way to ask for what I need and I’d love to share that with you too.
If you still struggle with self-care, putting your needs first, and taking care of your energy reserves, maybe you can find some solace in the fact that I TEACH the stuff and can still make such a mistake.
I’m also hoping you’ll remember this little lesson from Liesel’s book and won’t try to repeat it in your own life!
Self-care comes first. If we’re not okay, hardly anything else matters.
What’s your experience with listening to the signals of your body?
Liesel helps sensitive introverts to see their sensitivity as a superpower, love their work and practice awesome self-care so they can be energized and make a difference in a meaningful and fulfilling way. She helps them to overcome the fear of being visible, avoiding the spotlight and conflict, being ‘too nice’, perfectionism and procrastination.
She’s the author of “No Problem. The Upside of Saying No”, which is a handbook for those who struggle to say no, are overwhelmed and exhausted.
Click here to read about the book.