When work drains your resources
Our resources can be drained in various ways at work. A normal work day can be tiring on its own, though it should not feel like it is challenging our abilities to cope or focus. It might be difficult to differentiate between normal fatigue after a long day at work and exhaustion creeping in. This is especially challenging if peak seasons and busy times are normal in your line of business.
There are some work-related factors that can be especially draining and exhaust us beyond what a normal day at work does. Office politics and difficult interpersonal relationships at work drain our resources. Having too much work or too little time to complete our tasks make our resources run low, as does being criticized.
When your cup is empty
Your cup runs low or becomes empty when you feel exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. You have used up all your resources. Your physical and emotional health suffers. Therefore, your work and relationships start to suffer. Your sleep is not restorative and everything feels too much while at the same time nothing feels good.
The weekend doesn’t refresh you and a fun night out does little to boost your mood. You notice that you end up in petty arguments with family members or strangers. You struggle to contain your emotions, for example, you may find yourself getting irrationally angry in traffic. It is also common to be constantly on the verge of crying.
Your work suffers as you are unable to focus but trying harder does nothing.
You realize that you need to look after yourself but find yourself doing it in unhelpful ways. In the evenings, you sit in front of the TV, drink too much or eat junk food. You know that what you are doing is not helping, but you do it anyway.
How to fill your cup
Some things are under your control and other aspects of life are not. If you work in a toxic workplace, your influence over company culture is likely to be minimal. Changing teams or departments in order to escape your narcissistic line manager is not easy. If you are doing the job of three people, getting extra resources may not be an option.
Let’s look at ways in which you can fill your cup and increase your ability to cope.
1. Play and have fun.
Play is restorative because it forces you to be present in the moment. It allows you to disconnect from your worries and stresses.
You can play in many ways. Play with your children, your dog or cat, play some football with your friends in the park, sing and dance, climb a tree, build a sandcastle or have a pillow fight with your partner. Don’t worry about making a mess, not being efficient or looking silly. You are using your time wisely by playing.
2. Connect with others.
Reach out to your family and friends. Get involved in your community or join a volunteer organization. You may prefer to spend time alone but interacting with others is a good way to fill your cup.
Meet for a walk, cook a meal together or spend an evening playing board games. Check if the animal rescue group in your neighborhood needs extra volunteers or if your local religious group is collecting donations. The activity doesn’t have to be the most inspirational social activity you can think of. The goal is to interact with others and who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.
3. Talk about your empty cup.
Find someone you can confide in about your struggles with the demands that work puts on you. Your confidant may be a therapist, coach, mentor, good friend or your partner. Choose someone who can listen empathically, not to give you advice or try to solve your problems. They should not burden you with their struggles. You may be surprised how much lighter you feel when you are able to put your difficulties in words.
4. Hug and cuddle your loved ones.
Physical touch is healing. The endorphins that are released fight stress hormones. A hug or a cuddle reduces your anxiety levels and allows you to relax. If you don’t have a partner, family member or a fluffy dog to cuddle, get a gentle relaxing massage. Not only will you relax physically but you will also relax emotionally.
If a massage is not possible for health or financial reasons, give yourself a foot or leg massage. You will not be able to unwind as well as when someone else gives you the massage but you can ease pains and aches in your body. By showing love and compassion towards yourself, you are slowly filling your cup.
5. Do something that you are good at.
You may not be feeling great about work and successes may be scarce. However, you can engage in activities that you excel at. Create opportunities for you to succeed and enjoy your success.
The opportunities are endless as you have greatness within you. You can cook a beautiful dinner, continue learning your favourite language, get your garden to thrive, lift heavier weights, practice calligraphy or tidy your closet.
6. Do something you love.
Rather than seek comfort in food, alcohol or gameshows, use your time to do something that you love. You may not have the time, financial resources or opportunity to do what you would love to do the most, especially if it happens to be traveling. However, there are other things that you love to do.
You may love watching the sunrise, meditating before breakfast, helping a stranger, growing your own herbs or re-reading your favourite book. Think of the small things that once brought you joy in life. Scented candles, listening to the radio or DIY may not sound like much but can have a great impact on your ability to cope with a day at the office.
7. Try something you are interested in.
If you struggle to identify something you are good at or something you love, it could be that you have not given yourself enough time to find out where your joy and talents lie. It is time to start exploring new things.
Think of an activity that you are interested in. You do not have to be passionately curious about kite surfing or chemistry. It is enough to be a little bit curious. If you cannot think of an activity you are interested in, choose one that you have never tried before. Don’t do it in order to become good at it or to fall in love with it. Do it with an open mind and find out what it is like to learn something new.
When was the last time you learned a new skill? Children learn to ride bikes, swim, write and read often in the space of a few years but adults often stick to what they already know and hesitate to push outside their comfort zones. Give it a go. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
These suggestions will not fill your cup quickly, nor will all of them be helpful for you. However, you need to do something as the price of not doing anything is too high to pay. Burnout, depression, physical health problems and addictions do not start overnight. They creep in gradually and quietly. Look after yourself by refilling your cup one drop at a time.
Read more about the importance of filling your cup with breaks.
Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.