In our society we are pressured to always be productive. We are constantly asking what is our ‘output’ of the task that I’m doing. Will this activity make me a better employee or advance my career? Will this action improve my parenting? Is this action the best use of my time? How do we make ourselves better version of ourselves? How so I find the life-hack for this?
I had a client that envisioned themselves as a dragon hoarding time. There was never enough time to get everything done and they were pushing themselves past their limits in work and relationships, while letting their goals, passions and downtime fall to the sidelines. When we get into this mindset of scarcity of time we run the risk of burning out.
I sometimes have clients draw up 5 batteries on a piece of paper. For some that don’t actually want to draw the batteries I have them put down the labels of each of the batteries: Rest, Play, Social, Alone, Health. Each of these batteries are ways that we get to recharge. If we put out energy in the world, how do we bring it back into ourselves? I’ll repeat this later, but I find that most people need these 5 areas, but some people have other times of batteries that need recharging.
But what are these batteries and what actually recharges them? Let’s look at each one. As you do, think about what would go into your recharging category.
Some people think of self-care as needing to do something, but sometimes it can be doing nothing. If we get in a scarcity of time mindset we always feel like we need to be doing something. However, our bodies need to rest. If we are constantly pushing ourselves past our limits we are releasing cortisol or stress hormones into our bodies which will eventually cause harm, pain and fatigue. The state of Rest is to find a safe place where we can give ourselves permission to wind down. We might read a book, particularly a book that has nothing to do with productivity or making ourselves better. We might find a trip to the beach helps bring a state of Rest. Cuddling up under blankets under the couch. Giving attention to a pet.
Rest doesn’t need to be inactive. I have also heard clients talk about feeling restful coming down from a trip to the gym (not at the gym, but when they are leaving). Rest can be playing boardgames or getting lunch with friends. Rest can be a walk in the park. The key to rest is that your have space to NOT think about all the things that brings stress. What are areas or activities that help you get in a state of Rest?
Like Rest, Play is a state of mind we can get in. Also like Rest, we can view Play as indulgent. When we Play, it is a way that we can get in space of not to take things so seriously. We give ourselves permission to make mistakes and goof around. Kids are particularly good with Play and sometimes can remind us adults that it can be really fun.
Playing is also a chance to test our limits. A friendly board game or video games builds new skills. Playing sports pushes our physical abilities. Taking an art class or just doing art at home is a way to practice a skill. We are usually not conscious of failing but just having fun in this state. What are things that you do for Play?
Our Social battery acknowledges that we are wired to connect. Being lonely can be draining and can actually add to stress. Being able to connect with others actually allows us to relax. When we make time to have good quality moments with our families, partners, friends, and pets we are actually helping the body to relax and feel supported. Who are the people you like connecting to and feel safe with? How do you make time for those individuals?
Much like Play and Rest are somewhat opposites, Alone and Social recognizes that we need both aspects in our life. The Alone battery is an acknowledgement that we do need time for ourselves every so often. Parents particularly have a hard time finding space for this time. We need time to self-reflect, process what we have went through during the day, and just see where we are at. Where do you make time to enjoy time with yourself? In a bath, reading, meditation, going out for a walk?
Health is by far the easiest one to explain. These batteries are about taking care of the mind and body and the Health battery is exemplifies this. How do we take care of our bodies? We need sleep, we need good sustaining food, and we need to exercise. By exercise I mean something that gets the heart elevated for a short period of time. This can include going for a walk, yoga, stretching, going to the gym, playing sports and so on. How do you take care of your body?
If we pay attention to these batteries we can recognize when they are empty. I could have been on many social outings recently and noticed my Alone time battery is running low. I can acknowledge that going out to happy-hour with co-workers was a good social and play activity, but I might need time to Rest and wind down afterwards.
Someone might need more of one type of battery than others. Extroverts might need more social batteries and Introverts may need more Alone time. Extroverts and Introverts might have the same and different types of Play as well. Some people might also have different batteries that help charge them. For example, someone might have a Creativity battery or a Spiritual battery. They have to make sure that their self-care includes activities that help charge where they are feeling depleted.
An emphasis that I make is that the batteries are not about doing more activities to take care of yourself. The batteries are about reflecting where you feel depleted and calibrate what you need more of in your life. We need time to reflect on what we need more of in our lives.
When we do good work out in the world, we put out a lot of energy. These batteries help us maintain ourselves and make sure we are keeping a good work/life balance. So pay attention to how much energy you put out and how much time you give yourself to recharge.