How to Refill Your Emotional Well When It's Dry

I’ve been singing the praises of self-care for some time now. Honestly, it’s partially self-talk and reprogramming because I am a “Pour” type. I tend to pour out into others…their agendas, their needs, their desires, their lives. But historically, I did it until I had nothing left.

You may not find this personality type on a Myers-Briggs test or DISC profile but believe me when I say, I have company in this area.

A couple of weeks ago, I was volunteering at my son’s high school when I was reminded of how much I’m not alone in this. I was catching up with another mother that I hadn’t connected with in some time. She had a tenor in her voice similar to what I had a few years back when I first identified my “type.” After sharing a few anecdotes about her family life, she announced, “The well is dry!”

Have you ever been there?

This recent interaction left an impression on my soul for a few reasons. For one, I lived there for a long while. It’s not a happy place. Also, I wondered how this happened…that mom has consistently been one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever known. What changed in her world? I knew how I got there and how I finally emerged from that “dry place” but was my way a universal solution?

I had to research it.🤔

WHAT I LEARNED

Apparently, this sort of burnout (this psychological stress syndrome) is very common in people who serve others and who experience multiple, chronic stressors over extended periods of time.

Wait? Who is NOT included in that group according to today’s “adulting” experience? (Heck, kids experience extreme stress nowadays too!)

We can become so myopic, seeing only our own experience, that we’re unable to appreciate the journey of those around us. We look across at the next person and judge their experience as less demanding or less stressful than our own. It’s the-grass-is-always-greener syndrome. Since we don’t consider the other accurately, we don’t offer the support that is needed, especially if the other is known as everyone else’s supporter. I believe this passively contributed to my own battle with burnout.

Another factor is that we hide it.

Let’s be honest.

When I felt myself spiraling, I masked it. Figuratively, I put on a mask to cope or rather not deal with it. I didn’t want anyone to know what was really, really going on inside my heart and mind.

Sure. A few trusted friends knew that I needed to make some changes but I still hid a lot because I saw myself as the cog that kept the machine of my world going. I didn’t want to let anyone down. And hey, I kind of liked being needed (pride).

If I stopped doing, what would happen? This line of thinking fed the burdensome lies which claimed that I had to keep pace with the world around me.

Also, I didn’t quite realize what was happening to me, in me. I had always been able to handle a massive amount of stress and activity. I thrived on it, in fact. This experience felt foreign and strange.

So, I resisted it.

This, of course, prolonged the journey and impacted my overall health.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Here are few questions to ask yourself and those around you to assess if the “well” is running dry for you.

Am I exhausted…all the time?

Exhaustion is the sense of not having energy to do much of anything. It’s feeling completely spent…even after resting. And it’s not just physical. It can be emotional and mental as well. This is a fatigue that you just can’t shake.

Am I too critical and cynical?

It seems like every person around you has an issue that you are sick and tired of wrestling. From the shoes left in the foyer to the overbearing client, everyone in your world needs to…(you fill in the blank.) And you aren’t very hopeful that they will ever change.

Am I neglecting taking care of myself or engaging in unhealthy habits?

There’s a tendency to turn toward coping strategies like drinking too much, overindulging in junk food, or vegging out with Netflix when dealing with burnout. Some self-medicate with sleeping pills to shut down or multiple cups of java-juice (coffee) to stay alert.

Am I struggling to remain engaged cognitively?

No matter what you try, it’s difficult to concentrate and pay attention. You’ve become more forgetful and have a challenging time remembering things. According to Dr. David Ballad of the American Psychological Association, when faced with stress, attention narrows to focus on the negative stressor that is perceived as a threat. The brain’s focus on this negative for a prolonged period can make it difficult to make decisions and problem solve.

Am I experiencing challenges in my closest relationships?

This is where the engagement of “fight or flight” instinct is most evident. Some folks begin to have more conflicts in their relationships. If not, in real-life interactions, in their own heads. They complain, critique, and condemn…to themselves. Others withdraw. They may be physically present but completely tuned out.

Am I experiencing shifts in my health?

For many of us, we blame this on the aging process. However, studies reveal that digestive issues, depression, obesity, and heart disease can all be results of a chronically stressful lifestyle.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

If you answered, “yes” to more than one of the above questions, your well is in dangerous threat of running dry. Decide TODAY to pivot your life.

No fanfare. No manifesto. No 12 Step program.

Make a decision. Follow up with determination. And fuel the shift by discipline.

Here are a few ideas to get you started refilling your well:

Be still. Begin everyday with five or more minutes of quiet. Take deep breaths. Count to five, breathing in. Then to seven, breathing out. There is research that proves this practice calms the spirit, mind, and body.

Pray and meditate. I pray and meditate using Scriptures. Use whatever tools that align with your faith walk. If you don’t have a faith, consider changing that. Beliefs fuel thoughts, thoughts dictate actions, habits, and lifestyles. Cultivate the life you want from its root, your beliefs.

Create daily. Spend just a few minutes every day creating something. Write without thinking in a journal. Cook a new dish without a recipe. Hum a tune that you compose. Each of us has the power to create, whether we call ourselves creative or not.

Date yourself. Once a week, set aside time to take yourself out on a date. Go to a museum with you. Take you out for tea. Spend quality time with the person who is with you always.

Give thanks. Aloud. At each day’s close, find a couple of things to be thankful for and share that with someone. That new contract or the completion of a big project, say, “Thank you.” This outward practice has internal effects. It encourages and inspires.

These self-care practices are a departure from the occasional spa visit and the monthly massage, which have an appropriate place.😉 They help to shape a life that can roll with the punches of our high-stress culture. One that expresses your personal design. Not a default life characterized by a dry well, with a cracked bottom.

Which practice will you start NOW?

Until next time…

XO,

R