Monday, November 19, 2012

158/365: Refilling Your Tank

Today I made:

time to refill my tank...
I feel as if the last month of my life has gone by in a blur. Between juggling jobs, business-building endeavors, classes, visits from friends and family, travel, special events, and creative commitments, "me time" has been scarce. As rich with learning, connection and celebration as my life has been lately, I am beginning to feel the effects of an empty tank. Stress and overwhelm are manifesting in ugly ways. I feel so mentally exhausted that I lack the focus and energy for just about everything I take on. "I don't wanna!" has been my lament for days and days. I zone out during conversations with people I care about. I am short tempered with my students at school. I cut corners where I know I should be giving 100%. I lose touch with friends. Small to-dos get put off until they unnecessarily add to the overwhelm. There is so much storming around in my head that I feel unable to deal with the tiniest stressors. I am beginning to feel the scary physical symptoms of what I think must be anxiety. I feel completely over-stimulated, as if I'm constantly going and doing instead of just being. I know I am trying to give more of myself than I have to give. I have obviously over-packed my schedule and run myself ragged trying to keep up with my ambitious well-to-do efforts.

While a part of me wants to bury my head under a pillow and cry and feel sorry for myself, I have to remind myself that this is not failure and that it is part of the territory. This is normal wear and tear on the road of life and there is something we can do about it. Yes, we need to be very honest with ourselves about how much we can really take on, but since that is not always within our control, we need to focus on refilling our tanks- on a regular basis. Work, relationships, commitments...despite the joy and fulfillment we may get from these parts of our lives, the energy we invest there inevitably drains from our source until we don't have much left to give to ourselves or of ourselves.

When my tank begins to drain, I crave quiet, solitude, time to think, to write, to create, to reassess. But for some reason, I resist. Times like these when I feel spread thin with so much left to do, I have a hard time justifying taking the time to relax, unwind and refill. And that is how I manage to get myself into this stranded-feeling state, over and over again, by ignoring the warning signs.

No matter how surprising and uncomfortable our physical and emotional reactions to stress and overwhelm are, like speed bumps, they are there to remind us of something. The choice to slow down is ours to make every day. We must find a way to justify it in the haste of our daily lives. Maybe you're one of the clever ones who slows down to refill your tank before the indicator light turns on and you're running on empty. Some of us (yours truly) feel the need to keep pushing the gas pedal, long after the fuel has run dry, until we're stuck with our wheels spinning in the mud and muck. I seem to be reliving this hard lesson on a daily basis and I feel like I've been doing it for years. This must be one of my lessons in life. My need to share it with others is really just a big fat note to self/ tie a ribbon 'round your finger/ for goodness sakes don't forget again!!!

Thankfully, I am finally beginning to see that the things I do to refill my tank are not selfish acts of luxury, but nurturing acts of necessity. We cannot be our best and give our best if we are not our best to ourselves. Whether refilling our cup means listening to and caring for your body, relaxing the mind with journaling or a good book, reconnecting with nature or decompressing through conversation with a close friend, we can choose these simple acts of refilling every day. We can't afford not to.

So this afternoon, after bidding the relatives farewell and beginning my Thanksgiving break from school, I slowed down and checked my gage. There is much to do, as always, but instead of plowing ahead, I chose to refill my tank with a photo walk and some journal therapy. After so much depletion it may take a while to fill my tank, but I'm paying better attention to the indicator light.

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