a woman with restless legs syndrome relaxing on the moon surrounded by clouds showing a hot shower, a puzzle, and some tea

Wakeful Rest: 5 Self-Care Tips on Exhausted Days

Sleep. My elusive bed partner.

How tiresome it is, when the thing you want most, is the thing you get least.

Today I am writing with my eyes propped open by metaphorical toothpicks. Yet experience tells me if I try and lie down for a quick catnap, my breath rate will increase, my heart will pound like it’s a taiko drum performance, and my legs will shimmy along to the beat. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a catalyst for much of my insomnia.

Exhaustion in a body that can’t keep still

I did sleep last night – and for that I am grateful – but it was a broken sleep and I woke feeling unrested. My body is tired from whatever manic dancing it was doing all night long. Daytime naps are impossible for me. Traditionally RLS might be a nighttime occurrence, but much like the misnamed “morning” sickness in pregnancy, it can happen at any time of the day.

There’s something sinisterly torturous about experiencing extreme exhaustion in a body that can’t keep still. And there are no easy fixes. For many of us, medications may work to still those legs and the ache beneath the bones, but medications don’t always work and personally I never take them during the day.

Which leaves me in my current dilemma – how to fill in time for the next 9 hours in a body that won’t rest despite dripping with fatigue.

5 self-care tips for exhausted days

Self-care is becoming the 21st-century mantra and I’m learning all the tips and tools along the way. Starting with acceptance.

1. Acceptance

Sometimes I just have to accept exhaustion – fighting it and getting frustrated leaves me upset as well as exhausted. It’s like resigning yourself to the reality of a traffic jam – fighting it won’t make it go any faster. A calm, radical acceptance means at least my tired body isn’t sad and mad as well.

2. Puzzles

To keep the calm a happening event, I bought a puzzle. It’s a thousand pieces with a beautiful image of waterfalls in Croatia. It looks stunning. I want to go there one day. Until then, I’m really happy doing the puzzle. It’s a focused, mindful experience that is somehow mesmerising for my tired body. My legs keep jiggling away but I can ignore them.

3. Hot beverages

Then there are hot beverages. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing more comforting than a nice cup of tea. Caffeine can be such a buzz-killer for RLS but my favourite chai tea in the morning doesn’t affect me, as long as I switch to rooibos in the afternoon. I’m chuffed that I found a way to work my favourite beverage into my RLS lifestyle. I have a lovely hot cup of tea sitting next to me right now – calling me to comfort.

4. Hot showers

After my cup of tea, I want to luxuriate in a long, hot shower. I know it’s a waste of money and resources, but it feels lovely and today is the kind of day where I need to find something soothing. Something that relieves the tension and rests the legs momentarily. A shower is one of those sensory experiences that ticks a lot of boxes and is also a place where I get to be all by myself – something that can be a rarity in my household.

5. Taking a break from people

Strange as it may sound, my last self-care technique is to stay away from people altogether – in real life and in the virtual world. I really love people but sometimes I need a break from them – I’m sure we all do. No coffees or catchups. No calls or messaging. No doing something for someone else. Just me and my puzzle, nestled in with a nice hot cup of tea.

Prioritizing my physical and mental health

Self-care feels self-indulgent. There’s work to be done. Things to be cleaned. Errands to be run. But history tells me to take care of my physical and mental health so I don’t succumb to the toll of exhaustion.

Today I’m going to let go of the things that need to be done and relax in the only way I know how. I’m going to rest while I’m awake.

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