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Mental spring clean, step 2: Get off your buts

Written by Katariina Keinonen (4 Mar 2016)

"But I'm too tired..."

This is the second part of our mental spring clean. Check out the first part here.

Mental spring clean is largely about clearing space for activities that make your life fulfilling. Unfortunately, wanting to live a more colourful life doesn't automatically make it so. Sometimes it is a matter of some serious scheduling. Quite often it is a matter of our thoughts getting in the way, though. (Sometimes this happens with ordinary cleaning, too!) Many of us stand by a very simple list of rules that could be stated in this fashion:

  1. "When I'm tired, I should stay home."
  2. "Once I start to feel good, I can start to do things that make me feel good."
  3. "When I am feeling tired and I want to do something fun, I should wait for a burst of energy."

As you can see, this leads to the cycle of dullness described above to go on and on. You tend to feel increasingly tired when your life is getting increasingly empty. See how your personal rules about feeling tired can be questioned with an easy little exercise: Write down what you would like to do and your buts for why you cannot do it. Then change the buts to ands. Here are some examples:

"I would love to call my friend who I haven't seen in a while, but and I feel tired."
"I want to go for a long, relaxing walk in the forest, but and I feel tired."

Can you spot some hobbies or activities that you could, in fact, do even if you felt tired? Are any of them activities that might actually increase your energy level? Would you be willing to do some of them and test how it affects your mood?


Kirsikka continued to clear the cobwebs in her own head by trying out this exercise. Here's how it helped her right away.

I've been struggling with feeling tired a lot this winter. One of the reasons turned out to be low hemoglobin levels, which is relatively simple to fix but takes time. Also, the lack of sunlight in Finland during winter months seems to have a larger impact with each passing year, resulting also in frequently occurring but-thoughts.

Yesterday was one of those days. I hadn't slept well and the sky was grey with clouds. Moreover, as you may know, I've suffered from social anxiety a lot when I was younger, and one of the trickiest situations was eating at someone else's presence. Being tired seemed to increase the likelihood of my hands trembling and mind going blank. Nowadays, I'm not that worried about the symptoms, but I still sometimes feel like avoiding such situations if I feel tired.

Anyway, lunchtime was approaching. I noticed a familiar thought coming up, and tried out switching but with and: "I would like to have lunch and chat with colleagues, but and I feel tired."

Well, what do you know – I went, had lunch, talked, laughed and got out of my own head for a while. Forgot my tiredness for the time being, felt better about myself too.

Another thought that I often get in the evening is this: "I want to exercise, but and I feel tired." Sometimes I've forced myself to go for a run despite the tiredness. More often, I realize that it's too late for vigorous exercise if I also want to sleep well, and hence settle for doing some jumping jacks, push-ups and good stretching. And perhaps putting jogging clothes ready for the next morning.

The point is to realize that I can have this feeling and still decide to do what I feel is right for me. It doesn't have to be a huge thing; also with house cleaning, you can settle for doing the dishes and tidying up the kitchen but leave vacuuming to the next day. Even a little bit helps and makes the next time easier. You can choose to be in control of your actions, not ruled by your thoughts and feelings.

– Kirsikka