If we are passionate, caring, heart-centered, ambitious, and loving people, we can have a tendency to over-exert, over-commit, and over-promise ourselves. Often, this tendency is rooted in 1) a desire to make the world a better, more loving place and 2) fear about what will happen if we change our habit of over-giving.
One of the most profound ways in which we exhaust ourselves is to give when we need to receive, take a break, or retreat. As an antidote, I offer the following practices to begin to take back some of your precious energy when you have been giving it away at the sacrifice of your own needs.
1. Take inventory of where your energy goes.
Where does your energy go? What projects, work, worries, thoughts, people, and tasks are you giving yourself to? Write it down, so you can see exactly where you are "spending" your vitality.
2. Make a list of your needs.
What do you need to feel nourished, whole, supported, healthy, and good? Where are you getting these needs met in your life and where do you need to add support? When friends invite you out one night, do you need to stay in and read instead? Do you need to spend less money in one area of life to save for support in a different category? Can you let your family know that you will not be available as much as they desire you to be?
3. What do you need to add to your life?
Where do you see that your needs are not being met? What do you need to add in to take care of your precious self? Do you need more sleep, social support, alone time, date nights, or child care? It's amazing what just a little more support in any area can do for our quality of life. If this is one of the first times you have really asked yourself what you need, be prepared for emotion to arise, to feel awkward and possibly uncomfortable. This is normal - you are giving yourself permission to ask a new question and this leads to new territory.
4. What do you need to release?
What concrete steps can you take to come into greater alignment with what works for you? Is there a book club you need to quit, a friend you need to see less, less phone calls with your family, or less worry thoughts? Are you offering your services or qualities for free in places where you should be asking a fee? If this part is difficult, know that it is normal and you're not alone. Often, to change these habits we need greater support in practicing letting go and knowing that we are safe and supported as we step into our new way of being. This is where a therapist can come in handy!
5. Use the pause practice.
I love this one! If you have a habit of saying yes right away, only to find yourself exhausted and resentful, you can incorporate the practice of pausing. Wait 5, 10, 30 minutes, a day, a few days, or a week before you agree to do something. Pausing will give you the opportunity to assess whether committing to this offer is aligned with what you want and are able to give. It gives you a little bit of time to discover whether you can't actually give what is being asked of you and you can proceed with the, sometimes difficult, task of saying "no." For more guidance on saying no, read this post.
I hope this practice helps you have greater awareness of your needs, take better care of yourself, reclaim your energy, and life in greater authentic alignment with yourself.