Recognising the warning signs of depletion and learning to care for yourself
I woke up this morning depleted. My body, my mind & my heart are depleted.
Depletion comes from not having sufficient amounts of something. We often think about being depleted in a nutritional way, such as lacking in a particular vitamin or mineral.
But what if our lives are depleted: lacking in fun, lacking in friends, lacking in passion? On a scale of 1-10, my life is pretty amazing. I have four wonderful children, an incredible husband, healthy parents, fabulous friends and do work that I love.
So why am I so depleted?
In the busyness of building my speaking practice, writing books, juggling the financial realities of being self employed and the emotional needs of four children, I woke up depleted.
My body is depleted of sleep and good food, my mind is depleted of down time and inspiration, my heart is depleted from not spending enough time with the people I love the most. My schedule over the past three months has limited my time with friends and family, my ‘heart fillers.’
The greatest part of this is that I recognised it. I knew I was depleted. I knew my tank was nearly empty. Like a cell phone that was low in battery power, I was about to turn off.
Once we turn off, it’s often hard to turn back on. I see women at my events that literally ‘turned off’ years ago and are now merely going through the motions of life. No joy, no interest: just existing. They are the living dead. This is a state that I am very motivated to avoid and so I am constantly checking in with myself to work out where things are at… so what does one do when one finds themselves in a state of depletion?
1. Give yourself permission to restore
It is not lazy or self indulgent to rest, switch off or cancel some plans in order to support yourself. Do what you need to do. My favourite line in the poem The Invitiation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer states, ‘I want to know if you can disappoint another in order to be true to yourself.’ In an effort to please everyone else, we so often forget how to please ourselves. Give yourself permission to let someone else down in order to restore yourself.
2. Stop & listen
What are your body & mind telling you? What does your body need most right now? A nap, to lie down, some exercise, some fresh air? We get very good at ‘carrying on’ and ‘keeping up appearances.’ Taking time to stop and honour how we actually feel can be difficult. We are programmed from an early age to ‘carry on,’ such as to get up and get on with the day, to disregard the messages that our body is sending us, to ignore our own needs and to put others first. It takes conscious effort to tap back into our body’s wisdom and to listen hard enough to hear our own messages over the noise of modern life. Be still and ask your body what it needs from you right now: you might be surprised!
3. Nurture Yourself
Grab a blanket, make some soup, or go to your favourite place. What do you want right now? Do you want to be with friends? Do you want to be alone? What do you really want to do? Do that. Do it without judgment. Do it without thinking of what others will say. Just do what you want, even if it’s only for an hour. The power to do what we want is one of the greatest gifts we own. The power to be free to choose how we spend our time, what we do with our lives and who we spend our time with. Obligation is a bitter pill that we swallow too often, creating resentment, bitterness and disease. Let yourself be your greatest obligation.
4. Make a plan
Plan something wonderful to look forward to, plan some down time in your schedule, plan some space in your calendar, plan time with your important people. Prioritise the needs of your body: sleep, food, exercise. Let your diary reflect your priorities. Wonderful advice from the Dalai Lama – “Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he’s never doing to die and then he dies having never really lived.”
I have listened after receiving the message of depletion loud and clear. So this weekend I will restore, nurture & plan. Blankets, movies, soup and cuddles are my plan!