Running on Empty

Published 20/01/2021

A great piece to start the week adapted from The Blurt Foundation called Running on Empty, so take a moment and listen up.

When we give so much of ourselves away, we quite often find ourselves spluttering to a grinding halt. That awful feeling of trying to magic up motivation and energy from the fumes and dust we’re left with. The sense that there’s more to give than we have to give. The knowing that we’re crashing balls left, right and centre. That crushing weight of responsibility and expectations is almost loud, it’s definitely palpable.

What to do?

‘Do’ being the very word that grates because it’s the ‘doing’ that got us here and the relentless demands on our energy, time and us-ness.

In order to get to a place where you can breathe again, there is some doing involved but the good news is that you can do some of it when in bed, sat on the sofa underneath a blanket, or whilst your child is being taken care of by CBeebies.

Cancel anything and everything that isn’t a complete necessity (stuff rarely is) – what’s on your list that can wait or doesn’t need to be or can be given to someone else? Be ruthless, you’re depending on it.

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. This isn’t always easy when we’re living with ill health or if we have very young children but do your best to hold space around time you can sleep – no falling down scroll holes nor Netflixing until you’re feeling better than empty. Again, you’re depending on it, be ruthless.

Expect less of yourself. Things won’t fall apart if you clean your house less often, if you batch the washing, if you eat frozen meals. You’re falling apart so we need to weigh it up – dust or you, fresh meals or you. You win every time – remember that.

Tell people how bad it is and accept their help if you’re allowed to within the restraints of Lockdown. Even if it’s that granny or Aunt Edna reads over FaceTime to your child whilst you sit beside them and plug your headphones in and take a quiet spell. It’s not rude, it’s taking what you need and in doing so, you’re teaching your child that it’s okay to take what they need when they’re not okay.

As you make yourself some food, make double if you can and freeze the overflow. Tomorrow-you will thank now-you when all that’s needed is a reheat. Trust us on this one, if you’re doing something that takes up energy and can’t be avoided, do a little extra so that you get an energetic break soon.

Care for yourself. Now then, you mightn’t be used to taking, being such a giver that you are, but you need to take right now in order to replenish. Take your own love, care and kindness and shower yourself in it all day every day. Pepper your day with chill out time, with things you enjoy, and give yourself a break. Create boundaries around what you will do, and when, and don’t aim for pre-Lockdown kickassness when the world was simpler – we’re in the middle of a very weird time, you’re allowed to feel weird and be weird.

Manage expectations. Often, we’ll tell people we’re unwell and not good and they’ll say something like ‘I’m so sorry to hear that, let me know what I can do to help’. Then the next time you speak to them, it’s as if they didn’t properly hear you because they’re asking more from you, wanting more from you, and you can feel really let down by them – that they’re not holding space for your emptiness and expecting you to carry on regardless. Repeat that you’re not doing good and manage their expectations – whoever they are; colleagues, teachers, managers, etc – explain that you’re really not well and that you will do it, but not yet. Explain when you think you’ll be able to.

You don’t owe anyone anything that will break you. You really and truly don’t. When the demands on you feel unreasonable, know this: they are unreasonable.

Keep well and keep safe.