Are You Running on Empty?
Honoring your capacity and the capacity of others
My work as a therapist has taught me that there’s only so much helping or assisting that I can do in a single day. I wake up, I go through my routine, and some days I jump right into work. I like to see my clients back to back so on a given day, I may have seven or eight clients. When I get off work, I don’t always have it in me to talk to a person who’s a chronic complainer. Even if all my clients weren’t complaining, I may just be at capacity for problem solving. It doesn’t mean that I never want to talk to that person again, it just means that on that day I am tapped out.
Some signs that you may be at or over capacity are:
You feel like if one more thing happens you’re going to lose it.
You don’t feel like yourself.
You feel tired or fatigued and can’t figure out why.
You’re not interested in your usual routine.
You feel like you’re over people.
You feel irritable.
You find it hard to listen to others.
You’re indulging in your vices more than usual.
We have to notice our exhaustion levels and not keep pushing ourselves. That’s why cars break down. I’ve been in a car that’s breaking down before and you can always tell. It always starts slowing down and making noises. We see those signs and you pull over to the side of the road because we know what’s coming. We know if we don’t get off the road it could be dangerous. When we’re at capacity and we keep taking stuff on, we break down, just like the car.
When you are at capacity, some of the ways you can reset are:
Create a list of pick-me-ups. Watching funny, heartfelt movies are on my list. I also like doing and watching things that are predictable., like eating a grilled cheese sandwich and throwing on Golden Girls. I know exactly what Blanche is going to say, so there are no surprises.
Go to bed early. These are the days when more rest is needed. It is not the day to push yourself. Sometimes you just need to begin again, and the best thing we can do for ourselves is go to sleep and wake up to a new day.
Find ways to protect your energy. Say no when you need to. Don’t pick up the phone if you’re not up for talking. Bypass the news apps and channels if that’s too much for you. Take a break.
Journal. This is a wonderful way to figure out what’s going on inside ourselves. You can go back and look at old entries to see if you notice any patterns and get insight into what may be triggering you. It provides a historical reference.
It is important that we not only place boundaries around our capacity, but also that we recognize others’. How do we honor others’ capacity when they are on vacation, have just become new parents, have a really hectic schedule because of a work project, are managing grief, or any host of scenarios that can cause a strain? When we have capacity, we need to think about how we can make space for those who don’t. This is what it means to be in community with other people, to show up where we can and help when we can.
I often make space for others by making lasagna. If you have a baby I’m sending you lasagna. If someone dies, guess what? Lasagna. If someone lives out of town, I send a gift card. It’s not always about being physically present, sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s mental – just allowing someone to vent and share how they’re feeling. We also have to make sure that when we offer help, that we are actually in a space to help. We have to take care of ourselves, and be honest with ourselves about whether we are in a space to be of service.
How do you know when you are at or nearing capacity?
What steps can you take to honor your capacity?
A Few Things That Caught My Attention This Week
A Little Motivation to Take a Walk, by Jancee Dunn, in The New York Times.
6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Cutting Off a Toxic Family Member, by Samantha Vincenty, in Self.
Shrinking. You can watch the show on AppleTV.
Unprisoned. You can watch the show on Hulu.