Today I am visiting a friend in Colorado Springs where I went to college. I love coming here. It’s a mini-vacation from my responsibilities at home and at work while I stare at Pike’s Peak and am fed delicious, homemade soups and breads.
I had to learn the hard way how important self-care is. I ignored my intuition and my own needs for too long, and ended up with over 2 years of a mysterious, chronic illness that forced me to make major changes in my life just to remain halfway functional.
When I was at my sickest, another intuitive essentially told me that I had drained all of my resources on others and that the lesson I was trying to work out was how to put on my oxygen mask first before assisting others. In principle, we all know this to be true. We can show up for others in a more authentic way when we have provided for ourselves first, whether it is through sleep, exercise, diet, or just spending a little time doing something that in no way resembles productivity. There are phases of life when this seems impossible, and I am headed towards one of those phases myself once my baby arrives. But we can all find 5 minutes. And for most of us, even 10. We can do something that helps us replenish our energy.
I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago. One of my favorite parts of that book is when she tries to make a list of things that the thinks are fun, and has a really hard time doing it. She feels pressure to write things that other people think are fun, like going on rides at amusement parks and or going clubbing. But she hates those things. Eventually she makes a list of things that includes something along the lines of watching a movie in bed while eating a snack. This, to her, is fun. So she makes an effort to include more fun things in her daily life.
This chapter struck me as funny until I tried to make my own list, and I had the same thoughts. It was hard for me to admit to myself what I find fun, because it makes me sound like an 80-year old. But I like to spend a lot of time completely by myself. I like to take naps and browse at bookstores. I like to go to coffee shops. Oh well. These are the things that I find fun and they give me back the energy that I left at work or in an argument or on my long commute.
Feeling burnt out or depleted is really the feeling of having given all of your energy away. When I feel this way, as quickly as possible, I arrange to do one of the things on my list that I find fun. It might be spending a few minutes preparing and drinking hot chocolate or a quick stop at a bookstore. If things are really bad it might be canceling my plans and hanging out with my dogs. It doesn’t matter what you find fun and energy-giving; what matters is that you begin to recognize the signs of burn-out and exhaustion in yourself and take baby steps towards gettings some of your energy back.
I hope you start to experiment with making a list of things you think are fun and try to include more of those things in your daily life. We’re headed towards the stress of the holidays and we all need to top off our energy stores before we unbutton our pants and sit down at the holiday table.