A few weeks ago, I mentioned to my friend and mentor, Mary, that I felt like I was in “Recovery Mode” once again – that I felt like I’d been in Recovery Mode off and on for months, and couldn’t seem to get out for any length of time.
“What is Recovery Mode, exactly?” she asked. (Mary is very adept at asking questions to which she already knows the answer, her purpose being to get me to examine what is going on in my own head.)
“Recovery Mode,” I said, “is when something happens that disrupts your routine, and then it takes you days or even weeks to reestablish that routine.”
“What kinds of things cause you to go into Recovery Mode?”
“Oh, let’s see…” I paused, making a mental list. “Travel of any kind. Illness. Company visiting. Loss of a loved one. Upheaval at work. Sleep deprivation. Any kind of major life transition.”
Basically, I’ve been in Recovery Mode almost continuously since last May, maybe longer. Just when I get into a routine, something happens to send me into a tailspin, and it can take me days and days to feel back on track.
I love routine. I love rhythm. I love adventure and spontaneity, too, but I like to opt into them, not be forced into them. I want my daily reading time, my daily walk, a tidy kitchen and an empty dishwasher, dinner planned and executed. I want a made bed and laundry put away where it belongs. I want the decorating done and the organizing organized. I want bedtime to go smoothly and my sleep uninterrupted.
Recovery Mode, for me, looks like this: An emptyish fridge. A blank dinner menu and no idea what to put on it. Piled-up laundry. Dirty floors. No motivation to do my hair and makeup. Missed birthdays. Clean clothes pulled from laundry baskets rather than drawers and hangers. Unsureness about what to tackle first. A sense of being overwhelmed. Fogginess stemming from lack of sleep or too much time on the road.
I don’t know about you, friends, but Recovery Mode is killing me. The same day Mary and I discussed it, I decided that I wanted to be done. I wanted to end the repeating cycle. I wanted OUT.
But here’s the thing: Recovery Mode is mostly a feeling. It’s more mental and emotional than physical. It’s something you can get a handle on, because it exists inside your head. It is not mandatory.
Sometimes, there will be things that throw you into Recovery Mode for very valid reasons, like moving, losing a job, a serious illness, or a death. These things change the wider scope of life for a time, and that’s okay. Needing time to regroup and process is normal and healthy. When these kinds of transitions occur, we need to be gentle with ourselves.
But in the scheme of normal life, we don’t have to live in Recovery Mode as often as we might find ourselves there.
The first thing I had to do was decide to stop letting the uncontrollable day-to-day things, like L’s erratic sleeping habits, put me in Recovery Mode. I had to say to myself, “Okay, so things like this are going to keep happening, and you can’t be thrown off by them any longer. You have to cope. You have to maintain normal.”
Here are some of the mental tactics that are helping me stay out of the repeat cycle of Recovery Mode:
- Refuse to be controlled by the “tyranny of the urgent.” Pace yourself. Don’t let craziness at work, within your family, or elsewhere take over completely. Stick to the things that make your days tick. If that’s an afternoon trip to the gym, don’t miss it just because your mom and sister are in an epic fight and your phone is ringing off the hook. Silence your phone for an hour, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with the drama. It you normally go to book club on Thursday night, don’t skip it just because a meeting ran late and you’re not going to have dinner ready in time – simply switch gears, and ask your husband to pick up a pizza.
- When routines get broken, simply resume them as soon as you’re reasonably able. If I miss a daily walk because of weather, get up late and miss my morning devotional time because L was up at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., I simply resume habits at the next possible opportunity. I walk when the weather clears. I read while I’m eating my lunch. If I can’t work something in that day, I remind myself that “tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it” (that’s a very loose attempt at quoting Anne of Green Gables).
- Recognize that everything does not have to be caught up at all times. It is okay to have some laundry piled up. It doesn’t have to get caught up today, before you get on with the rest of your life. It is okay if the dishwasher doesn’t get emptied before dinner – you can empty it afterward. It is okay if there are a few stray dust bunnies – they’re not going to kill anyone. There will always be laundry. There will always be dirt. You do not have to tackle everything that needs doing before getting on with relationships, work, and self care.
- When you return home from travel, or say goodbye to company, take a day to regroup and catch up on essentials. Don’t expect to jump right back into normal routine OR get everything back to a perfect state – take a day to unpack, complete essential errands, catch up on mail and bills, plan some simple meals, and head to the grocery store. Start the laundry, but don’t try to finish it all. Clean toilets and counters, but not floors. And don’t forget to spend a few hours just relaxing and letting your mind re-enter your daily life.
- Get enough sleep. Go to bed early for a night or two. And know that it’s okay to take a nap when you need it (especially if you have continually disrupted sleep, like I do, which can cancel out any efforts to go to bed early). If you are feeling tired and foggy during the day, grab 30 minutes on the couch. Don’t let fatigue sap the energy out of your whole day. A nap is not a derailment – it’s healthy and will help you resume “normal” sooner. The Europeans, with their afternoon siestas and extended lunch hours, have this all figured out. Mike Hyatt agrees.
- Think self care. Don’t sacrifice it. The times you’re in danger of entering Recovery Mode are the times you absolutely need to implement self care the most.
What are your Recovery Mode triggers? Coping tactics?
Photo credit: Chris Maris. License: Creative Commons 2.0.