I am a big fan of metaphors. One of my favorites is comparing people to a battery. Batteries give energy to external things but, if they are never or rarely recharged, they quickly will lose their vitality. Returning energy to a battery takes time and effort. The same is true of people.
A lot of people give too much of their energy away and leave nothing for themselves. Although they are not the only ones who do this, mothers are some of the worst offenders in running ourselves ragged because too many of us have bought into the idea that we exist solely to serve others. We don’t. Serving ourselves is important too because being emotionally depleted – running on empty – can lead to depression, illness and general misery.
So how do you change? How do you go about recharging your battery? While there may be additional ways to do this, listed below are five steps that are important to feeling refreshed and full of energy.
- Learn to make good decisions.
There are several reasons why people do not make good decisions. For instance, people who do not have adequate emotional resources are too exhausted to make good decisions. They do not have the time or energy to consider all options or do their research, so they make whatever decision seems to be easiest. Others never knew how to make good decisions in the first place. The good news is that good decision-making is a skill that can be learned. You can learn these skills by studying people who make good decisions, taking a class, reading books or going to counseling.
- Celebrate your positives.
Although they may sometimes be difficult to see, all of us have strengths. Positives could include the willingness and persistence to survive incredible hardships or they may be specific attributes, like being funny or kind. Whatever your strengths are, make a point of recognizing and celebrating them because they will sustain you in the struggle to get better. The strength you’ve repeatedly shown will serve you well again.
- Focus more on yourself.
Too many people worry that emphasizing your strengths and needs make you selfish. It doesn’t. In fact, it is necessary for good mental health. Taking care of everyone else and leaving yourself for last is a good idea in theory but it leaves almost nothing for you. Make yourself a priority and start with your health. Make certain that you get enough sleep, do some exercise and eat as healthy as possible. Also spend a little time every day doing something pleasant. Read a good book, take a hot bath, sit outside in the sun, watch children play or do whatever is relaxing and fun for you. This is not indulgent; it is essential.
- Set good boundaries.
Taking care of others is often code for letting people run over you. Boundaries are the way you decide how you want to be treated and what the consequences are when people don’t follow your decisions. For example, decide how much emotional return you get from the people in your life. If you feel constantly used by a specific person, decide how much you are willing to tolerate and do no more than that. Boundaries are tough to implement but the long-term gain of putting boundaries into practice are worth the short-term pain.
- Develop rewarding relationships.
Take the time and effort (and these days, it probably will take both) to seek out emotionally satisfying relationships with people who will nurture you. Find those who ask about your day, who are willing to help you when you need it and people who make you laugh. Relationships should be a two-way street, so find people who are willing to give back as much as they take. When you do, your emotional bank won’t be so depleted.
I won’t lie and say any of this is easy. It isn’t. Every single one of the five steps takes a lot of time and energy but they are necessary. Moreover, done correctly, they will provide you with continuing rewards. They will be just like those self-regenerating batteries that keep recharging without having to stop and find the charger. These days, the companies that make batteries are phasing out the ones that cannot be recharged because they’ve discovered that they are too expensive and bad for the environment. We should take heed and take the same perspective for ourselves. Running on empty is just too costly and unsustainable. We need to do better.