Honor Your Ebb and Flow

by | Blog | 6 comments

Journaling over time creates an enormous visual roadmap of your personal fluctuations in energy. This map, this evidence, is invaluable as we stumble forward through the seasons, both literal and figurative.

Because I enjoy being productive, it’s difficult to surrender to the times of lower energy. But it’s essential to honor the need of my body and mind for rest. We need to refill the well of our creativity. One cannot go go go constantly and expect to maintain that level of activity for any length of time. It’s not sustainable.

I don’t know about you, but I can be a little hard on myself. My own affliction extends beyond perfectionism and into something deeper and more pervasive. I maintain exceedingly high standards for my own productivity and performance.

Being driven is good. Expecting myself to operate at peak performance 100% of the time – not so good. My journal is the tool that’s taught me to honor the ebb and flow of my own energy and creativity.

Pattern Recognition

Patterns power the earth, nature, and the even the body we’re wrapped in. (It’s easy to forget we’re wrapped in bodies sometimes, isn’t it? So full of Head are we.) All of life ebbs and flows. The tides, day and night, cycles of the moon, seasons. Why shouldn’t our lives and souls cycle likewise?

Journaling throws a light on the many patterns and cycles that define our lives.

The clear cut seasons of New England provide structure and phases for me, and my body and mind still expect them. In the Pacific Northwest there’s pretty much only two seasons: raining and not raining. The longer I stay, the more subtleties I discover. But it’s not the same as a clearly outlined Boston October or July.

In one of my favorite Folk Implosion songs, Lou Barlow, newly relocated to Los Angeles, sings: “Without the seasons, will I know how to change?”

I initially felt disoriented without the pre-fab phases created by changing seasons. Through journaling, I’ve defined my own cycles. While my personal ebb and flow is sometimes linked to my external environment, my phases have created a life all their own.

Cocoon Mode

I’ve become so intimately acquainted with some of my cycles that they’ve been given names. I’m learning to welcome them like old friends. The past week or two, I’ve been in Cocoon Mode.

I’m not sure if my personal phases are moon, weather, or hormonally induced. Perhaps they are a mix of all three — plus some influences I’m not even aware of yet. But following any burst of activity, productivity and creative output, I go into Cocoon Mode.

It usually lasts a week or two. I feel myself withdrawing. Output screeches to a halt. I sleep more. I spend more time in the dark, in the water. Womb-time. I take long baths and wear fuzzy jammies and read novels. I hold marathon movie sessions. I still journal, but other creative endeavors tend to float where they are.

Cocoon Mode used to drive me mad. I saw it as a failure of my productivity. I felt like I was losing momentum. But our bodies are not machines, and even our minds and souls require rest and downtime.

Looking back through my journals, I can see each completed Cocoon Mode lead to a burst of creative output, a flood of productivity. My writing takes on a new vitality, thoughts leap off in a new direction, I’m inspired by a cascade of fresh new ideas.

My body, mind, and spirit needed time to rest.

I enjoy comparing it to the process of breadmaking by hand. After mixing and kneading, even the dough needs to rest before baking.

We must learn to honor the natural ebb and flow of our bodies, our lives, and our environment. Journaling helps us do that by outlining our natural patterns and cycles, makes us more aware of what phase we are entering or exiting.

I admit it’s a little more difficult to honor my need for “filling the well” and descending into Cocoon Mode when I maintain a blog with dated entries. I’m working at accepting this challenge as the nature of the beast. There will be weeks of rampant output and weeks of quiet reflection.

I guess I’ve picked a perfect time to go into Cocoon Mode since I’m going on vacation at the end of this week, to visit my parents in Florida. I intend to lie on the beach and eat fruit. So you may not hear from me. Or the trip may provide lots of writing fodder. We shall see.

In the meantime, journal about your own cycles. What phases do you witness in your own life? What brings them on and how long do they last? Are you learning to trust that they are necessary to your wellbeing? How do you honor them?


  1. kelly

    I can so relate to this, I, too, drive myself, and I so get what you mean by “beyond perfectionism.”
    I am finding, as I get older especially, that you have to recharge your batteries, it isn’t an option, it is a requirement. And you have to be patient while they recharge. But just as you say, you come back stronger, filled with ideas and possibilities. We have to give ourselves a break every once in a while.

  2. Kristin

    Kelly – you are so right about it no longer being a requirement as we get older. It seems when I was in my twenties I could burn the candle at both ends for long periods of time and then repair the damage over a weekend. These days my cycles of rest and activity are much different. My body and mind require more patience.

  3. Joni

    Great post Kristin! I like to look at the down time as the “incubation period.” It’s sort of like the space in between the channels for me. Often times, when I come out on the other side, things feel just a bit different and I have new ideas.
    Have a restful vacation!

  4. Kristin

    Joni – love the idea of “space in between the channels.” I definitely feel like Cocoon Mode is incubation. Sometimes verging on hibernation! 🙂 No chance of that now that spring has arrived though.

  5. Penny

    Love this post. I relate to patterns and fluctuations, high, high personal standards, and our journals as a bread crumb trail to reveal these things…. But this one quote : “….even the body we’re wrapped in…”
    was the priceless gem in your post for me. Brilliantly put.
    Enjoy the beach vacation. When you’re a writer, NOTHING is wasted, not even time, it’s heat for the compost.

  6. Sandra Ludwig

    Dear Kristin, Thank you for this post. I have been feeling guilty about Cocoon Mode, even though: 1. I am under a lot of stress right now; 2. It’s been raining and cold for two days; 3. I keep telling myself I don’t have to be perfect.

    I need to be kinder to myself. thank you, again.