|credit: Andrew Neel|
I grew up in North Dakota - land of funny accents and unforgiving winters. My parents instilled in me the habit of never letting my gas tank get below half, year round. This was to ensure I'd never run out when it was below zero outside. Dutifully all through high school, college, grad school, and early in my career, whenever I saw my fuel gauge hit halfway I'd promptly head to a gas station.
In more recent years, sometimes I would let the needle creep lower. Seeing it below half would fill me with some unrest, but I justified it saying I was too busy and anyway other people let their tank get much emptier all the time. However, the further it falls the more anxiety I feel and the harder I cling to my busyness story.
Eventually, the low fuel light comes on and I have to fill up. I feel good for a while, but before I know it I'm at less than half again. The cycle continues. I came to realize that one of my personal signs of energy depletion is when my car has less than half a tank of gas in it. (It's so on-the-nose it kind of makes me cringe at my obliviousness for so long.)
It turns out I have several signs that I'm getting depleted:
- my toenail polish has been chipped for several days
- I don't pack a lunch for work
- I'm annoyed by routine tasks/errands like having to go to the dry cleaners
- I start putting dishes on the counter instead of into the dishwasher
- my home desk is getting messy
- I don't feel like going to yoga after work.
Experiencing just one item on the list doesn't automatically mean you are depleted, but when they start to happen more frequently or several at once - you've got yourself a nice warning flag to alert you *before* you let yourself get totally run down.
When you learn to recognize the early stages of depletion, it is much easier to treat. You might make sure to go to bed on time that evening. Or perhaps schedule a dinner with friends you haven't seen in a while. It doesn't take a lot to revive your energy when you catch your down slide early.
I challenge you to take 15 minutes over your next lunch hour or break to brainstorm a list of your own signs of depletion, as well as activities for triage and filling up your energetic reserves. Print out this worksheet as a guide.