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Illness and Fatigue

July 17, 2020
Fatigue: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & More

There’s an old story about a college football coach who held a press conference to announce his resignation. A reporter asked him why he was stepping down. His response was, “Illness and fatigue.” The crowd of reporters were a little taken aback by this. The coach continued, “The fans are sick and tired of us losing.”

How you doin’ on the Illness and Fatigue front these days? Me? I’m just plane sick and tired of all the stuff it feels like life’s throwing at me. I mean, before the whole Covid-19 thing, there were plenty of things that populated my world to make me sick and tired. But now that we’re more than four months into the “new normal,” it’s feeling like a dog pile of complications and frustrations.

I’m not a scientist, so although I have an opinion on our current situation, I’m not the guy to post up my opinion on it. I’m not a political scientist (and basically a political pessimist), so, again, although I have opinions on our current political situation, I’ll keep it to myself unless you ask me. You probably don’t want to ask me, anyway.

But in spite of these caveats, I’m getting more sick and more tired all the time with how things are going.

Here’s one of the things that most vexes me about it: it feels like there’s nothing I can do to change any of it. This is a strong indicator of my will to control, which, by the way, never works out well. Especially when the things I want to control really are out of my control. I have no control over a pandemic. I have such a small amount control over the political thing for it to be nonexistent. I can’t make our society just and equal for everyone. I can’t make up for the abuses that have happened in the past. And the harder I try to make any of this happen or control any of it, the more counter-control I encounter.

I thought I’d feel better after getting that off my chest, but I don’t really. I find I’m faced with a central reality of life, once again. My circle of control is limited to basically one thing: what I do about what happens to me.

Yes, there is a measure within that circle that represents choices that I can make for myself that are about what I want to somehow cause to happen to me. There are a limited number of things this applies to. This is in the world of consequences, of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7). Good decisions usually bring positive consequences. Poor choices generally bring bad ones. So I want to sow more good choices than bad ones, if I can. And I can.

But that won’t set the world back right side up for me. I guess this is what bothers me the most. Fixing it to suit me is out of the realm of possibility, and far from that of probability.

No matter what, I’m faced with the choice of what I will do about what happens to me. You are, too.

One application of this reality is to say to yourself (and others), “Snap out of it, snowflake! Get over it and move on! You’re as happy as you choose to be, so stop choosing to be unhappy! Now!”

To borrow from Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?”

I already know the answer to that one. Not great. It doesn’t work great with others, and it really doesn’t even work that great with yourself. Cracking the whip has an early and sure point of diminishing returns. When I say these kind of things to others, it rarely gets me the results I hoped for. And when I say them to myself, well, it doesn’t do much better.

Sometimes I need to say them to myself, though. It’s not like they’re never right to use. There are times when somebody needs to get my attention. It’s usually best if that someone is me. But once I get my attention, this self-talk has done its job. A negative and punitive tone and message only works at the front end of this process. It’s not useful for long-term motivation. It’s really only good for getting my attention. Pursuing this tone constantly will only keep me from getting what I want from myself, and it will REALLY keep me from getting what I want from others.

What this comes down to is that once I get my attention, then it’s about me responding to what has happened to me. But it takes tremendous maturity to respond to what happens to us instead of reacting to it.

Reacting to it usually comes pretty easily for most of us. I think it goes back to one of our primary instincts: the instinct to survive. The survival instinct is a gift from God. Without it, the human race would never have made it past Adam and Eve. But as valuable as it is for what God designed it for, it can be unhelpful, sometimes even downright destructive, when it gets out of that boundary.

Our survival instinct makes us alert to threat. Ideally, it’s an early warning system to keep us from putting ourselves in unnecessary danger. This is life-saving.

But sometimes we get so good at detecting threat, and so much in the habit of it, that we let it overtake the rest of our processes. When this happens, we tend to inflate the intensity and danger of the threat. This results in overreacting to threats. Usually when this happens, our instinctive overreaction doesn’t help the situation. Often it only makes it worse.

The vast majority of the threats we face are not physical, but emotional. This doesn’t make them any less powerful, though.

When I react instead of responding to threat in my relationships, I make them weaker and more difficult.

So what do you do to get on the response side of things? Great question.

There’s one big difference between reacting and responding. Thinking. Reacting has no thought. Responding is totally dependent on thinking. You can’t respond without thinking.

OK. Thinking about what?

I’ll suggest a few things. First of all, think about what you feel. Identify it. Good feeling, bad feeling, a feeling in between. Identify it. Admit it, identify it and own it. Don’t judge yourself because of it, but don’t minimize it, either. Did I mention that this takes lots of maturity?

Second, think about the source. Where did this thing come from? A person? A group? An institution? From a thing?

It’s tempting at this point to judge the person, group, institution or thing for what you think their motive is/was. You’ll rarely be able to know this. That won’t stop you from judging them, though. You have your own opinion and perspective, but you might be wrong. And besides that, your judgement of their motive may not be very helpful to the process of you responding instead of reacting.

Now we’re ready for the most difficult part of the process. Ask yourself the question, “What is the actual level of threat here?”

And then the next question, “What is wisest for me to do about this?”

Sometimes the answer to that question is, “Move away from the threat.” But sometimes you can’t move away from it. This is the case with the Corona Virus. We’re not going to be able to move away from it.

In cases like this, the question becomes, “What wise measures can I take to minimize the risk?” You seek input from sources you trust and decide this.

That’s a complicated process. You won’t be able to do this in the moment you have to respond. There’s no way most of us are going to be able to think through this kind of stuff and choose a response in that moment.

So here’s my last suggestion. Think about a recent time you reacted instead of responding. Rewrite the script for it. Walk yourself through this process. Think your way to a response. What could you have done differently? Then think of another recent time you reacted instead of responding and do the same thing with it. What you’re doing is giving your brain a chance to train itself with some alternatives to reacting. There’s no switch to flip. This is about training yourself.

I left the most important first step out. Invite Jesus to give you His mind as you do all this. Otherwise, none of us is smart enough to pull it off… Not even you.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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