Endometriosis-related burnout was a big issue for me last year. I didn’t want to start the year off exhausted, yet I convinced myself I was raring to go with all my new goals.
Christmas can come and go in a crazy whirlwind of parties, indulgence, and traveling. Before we know it, it’s Jan. 2 and our boss is asking if we’re refreshed from the break. The answer for me, and for many other endometriosis patients, is often, “No.” But we smile and nod, and pretend we have the normal energy levels of everyone else.
I wasn’t going to do that to myself this year. So, during the Christmas break, I let myself be lazy. REAL lazy. For the first time in years, I gave myself nothing to do. I arranged my work schedule so I could afford to take three weeks off. I spent the first half on a few lovely trips and the other half only leaving my bed for food.
I often fantasize about a week in bed reading, watching feel-good movies, and dozing in the afternoon. But society usually makes you feel like a failure for this behavior, even if the other 51 weeks are on the grind.
What made relaxing easier for me was paying attention to the season. Winter, in the United Kingdom at least, is a season when plants fade back to skeletons, animals hibernate, and days are shorter. Everything about the season encourages us to slow down, to reflect, to recharge. I’ve always felt that continuing to work early and long hours in the winter darkness seems to go against our nature. No one I know appears happier for having to wake up in the dark and return home in the dark. Everything in my body is telling me to go inside, to turn inward, to prepare for my spring.
So, this year, I tried to listen to my own truth. On and off, I had guilty moments, and I had days when my relaxation session was interrupted by everyday life. But as I surrendered into the flow, I loved it. I towed the line between hygge master and coach potato, taking inspiration from my recent trip to Copenhagen, where they burn candles day and night in the low winter light, blankets scattered across tables and chairs in cafés. Open fires are a regular scene there, even in the coffee shops. Creating a calming, cozy atmosphere helped me feel like I was embracing an experience and making the most of the winter, rather than just collapsing into an exhausted, lazy heap. It also made me enjoy the time off even more — reading my book under layers of blankets and surrounded by candles is just not something I can feel guilty about.
As the days went on, I found a sense of peace and comfort settled inside me. I felt … rested. My body felt — other than softer ’round the edges – whole. My attention wasn’t drawn to a particular discomfort as it often is, such as endo pain, headaches, achy joints, tired eyes, brain fog, etc., etc. Everything was just present, on equal terms, feeling equally rested and equally comfortable. It was a new feeling, and one I relished. I knew that this was the feeling I’d needed — this was real relaxation, this was the feeling of being really rested.
Now, I wouldn’t say sitting in bed for days on end watching “Harry Potter” and eating crackers is the epitome of health. I know that going to yoga, exercising, sleeping well, and having a balanced life is usually the better way for me to feel good. However, I do feel under these circumstances, this was exactly what I needed and was healthy for what I was going through at the time.
It can be hard to give yourself permission to take time off to do nothing. It can even feel counterproductive. But with every option I took before to try to recover — whether that was a holiday running around seeing sights, or going to exercise classes, or trying to energize myself through socializing — I found myself unraveling more and more. My efforts to keep going were, in fact, counterproductive. I was just exhausting myself further.
When you have endo, and especially when you’ve been exhausting yourself trying extra hard to be “normal,” sometimes it’s absolutely fine to just do nothing. I assure you, I haven’t felt this good in a long time.
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