What Happens When You Try To Give Too Much Out Of Stores That Just Aren’t There?
Jessie is a 36-year-old global worker in Central Africa. She is a wife, mother of three, and actively serves in her community. Jessie loves getting to pour her heart into others, but struggles at times to balance serving as a wife, mother, and friend.
One day, Jessie came home after serving breakfast to children in the community, teaching literacy classes, and helping a couple work through marital disputes, to find that her son had broken a lamp and scattered pieces all over the floor while the babysitter was in the bathroom.
With Jessie’s emotional energy spent on loving people in the community, her first reaction was to snap at her child and send him to his room. She then spoke harshly to the babysitter. Shortly after, her husband came home from the office and she began arguing with him about his not being home more often and how things would go more smoothly if he were around the house more.
How often do you find yourself reaching a similar breaking point? How often do you try to give more than you have and need to stop and refuel? And when you do try to stop and take a breather, how often are you filled with guilt? Who am I to sit down and take a break? Do I really deserve this when there are people who need me? But at the same time, you may start feeling dread when someone comes to your door because you know you have nothing left to give. We become resentful. We become short-tempered. We become tired. We start to burn out.
The wonderful thing is that knowing burnout is a possibility in serving others, we have the opportunity to restructure our thinking about how we take care of our hearts and emotions. We pour into others what we store in our hearts. When we feel like we have nothing left to give but resentment, we give sand instead of water, stones instead of bread. But when we take time to fill our hearts, we can be a conduit of healing for those who are parched.
So how do we fill our hearts up? What does that look like practically? And how can we do this preventively rather than waiting until a crisis or burnout before stewarding our emotional needs?
Regardless of where you may find yourself right now on a continuum of survival mode to thriving, you can take some steps toward emotional care to help you shift more toward thriving and continue on that trajectory.
Steps Toward Emotional Self Care:
Keep an emotion/mood log for a week or two to figure out your baseline. Even if you just jot down a few words for each day on a calendar or in your journal, get a feel for how you’re doing overall in the emotional realm. If you have a hard time identifying what you’re feeling, sometimes it helps to look at your body for cues. For example when we experience anxiety or fear, we may feel a tightness in our chest and our heart begins to hurt from beating fast as the adrenaline courses through our veins.
Look for patterns. How are you doing emotionally overall? Are you aware of emotional needs that aren’t getting met, or just barely? Start to brainstorm some of your options for meeting those needs.
How have you been handling your emotions? Are there uncomfortable emotions you’ve been stuffing that are starting to build up? What would help you process those? Do you need to journal, pray, share more with trusted others?
Take an inventory of responsibilities that drain you (even the ones that you feel should give you life and energy, but don’t). Then take an inventory of responsibilities that give you life (those things that give you energy and that you would do in your spare time; those things that are fun). What do you notice? If there seems to be an imbalance of draining vs life-giving responsibilities, might there be ways to adjust your responsibilities or schedule to get a better balance? Can you add more life-giving, recharging activities in your down time to help?
As you take stock of how you’re doing in this area, it can help to find a trusted friend or mentor to bounce ideas off of, help you set goals to move toward greater emotional health, and check in with you along the way. If you realize it may be helpful to meet with a counselor for either preventive or restorative care, you can fill out our Service Request Intake Form to get started in that process.
Check back for more in our series as we explore other areas of self-care and how community care fits in to our lives as well.