After a particularly draining day today, I had the image in my mind that I felt like a battery that was almost empty. For many parents balancing family and work, this is a long term feeling that we have often learned to live with, right? Does it have to be though? Do you know how to reach for a recharger when you need it or does your battery ever reach absolute empty?
Grab a notebook
As I often do when trying to think my way through something, I grabbed my notebook and pencil and here’s my result. How would yours look?
What Recharges Me
Many of these depend on my situation and mood, but some surefire ways to recharge include time (re)connecting with good friends, blogging (like I am now!), a good movie or book, sunshine, fresh air and seeing my husband and kids happy. Sometimes I just need a few minutes of quiet. An absolute certainty for a recharge is sleep, though the quality and duration of this changes and I really notice the difference if I get less than about 7-8 hours. Yoga, meditation and praying work for many people, though I am not always in a state where I’m calm enough for these to really take effect. When they do though, I get a burst of energy for sure. Something that has worked before in our house is putting on a favourite, happy song and asking the kids to choose one of their favourites too.
What Drains Me
We all have our pet hates. Mine are dodging dog poo on the pavement in my neighbourhood and trying to ensure my kids do as well, so as not to track it through the house. Another is passive smoking. I find it interesting that some things that drain me almost instantly may not even bother others in the slightest. On days when my kids are bickering and nagging each other (or me) or when I’m around consistent negativity, I also feel the energy levels drop and it can become a vicious cycle. When this happens, I need to consciously reach for a recharger!
Here’s a few personal insights that came from this activity. What are yours?
Insight #1: Family, work and study sit right in the middle
Though most of my “recharges” and “drains” notes are not in any particular order, the biggest revelation that came to me when doing this exercise was that the three biggest parts of my life – family, work and study – all sit right in the middle. These three things can both energise and drain me – sometimes at the same time! I guess that makes sense as they take up a bulk of my time, but is also a reminder that I would like to learn how to balance these three things to ensure I am keeping on the positive side as much as possible. Knowing myself and what works well as well as keeping organised and planning ahead where possible seem to help.
Insight #2: Identifying unknown energy drains
You may notice in the top left hand corner “sometimes unknown energy drains”. You know on a smartphone there is a function where you can see which apps are draining your battery the most quickly so you can better manage these? I need one of those for my body and mind. Some interesting theories I’ve seen popping up recently relate to food allergies such as lactose intolerance, and also sugar, so I’m experimenting with this to see if it helps.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that when I get into the “red” section, which I’ve been in a lot lately, things that normally wouldn’t take much energy seem to somehow take twice as much. There are some parts of my job and life in general which are far from my favourite but have to be done. I received good advice once in the past I need to remember – if you are doing things that drain you that you can outsource – do! One example for me was taking on a weekly housecleaner. At first the 3 hours a week seemed a luxury, now it’s become a necessity as it means I do less of something I really don’t enjoy. Therefore I get to avoid (at least a little of) this energy drain, giving me precious energy to spend on something else I do enjoy – which in turn can create even more energy.
Insight #3: We need both positive and negative in our lives
The logical thing to do I supposed at first, would be focus as much as possible on the “positive” side and avoid the “negative”, but another important insight that came to me is that to actually function, a battery needs both. Therefore it’s more about trying to accept the negative and focus on the positive. To do so though, we first have to be clear about what exactly does drain us and energise us and as per insight 1, sometimes with big parts of our life, it’s not always straightforward.
This is by no means an exhaustive personal list, but I found that taking 15 minutes to sit and think about this was really useful. This visual representation has helped me consciously recognise what is making my personal battery levels drop and how to bring them back up again.
Have you thought much about this before? Please add a comment or contact me if you found this useful or have your own insights or ideas to add!