Every now and then, I forget to put myself on “battery-life preservation mode” or low power mode. I overextend myself, staying up too late. Convinced that if I just finish this “one little thing,” I’ll have taken something off of my overloaded plate and will feel better.
In the back of my mind, I know I need to rest, but I don’t. Rather, I allow myself to reach a depletion point. When that happens, I hate to admit it but I’ll start snapping at my family. The “punishments” they get are far more severe than their crimes.
I shut down and am helpful to no one.
And, then I feel guilty.
I suspect you also know what this is like.
Why is it that we’re good about recharging our smartphone batteries but not good at preserving our own energy?
How to shift yourself to battery-life preservation mode
Next time you feel depleted or overworked, here are things you can try. They have been tested out by coaching clients and me, so you can be confident that they work:
- Lighten your load and record that you’ve done so. If you haven’t done so already, take some things off your “to-do list.” When you can, let people know you’re saying “no,” then cross it off your list. Or, try pushing back a deadline, by adding it to your “someday-maybe-later list” or rescheduling it in your calendar. Making note of what you’re not going to do or postpoing removes the mental weight off of your headspace.
- Take only necessary baby steps. Focus on the small and immediate things you must do to get you through the day or next hour. For example, even though your pantry may nearly bare, you may need to say, “I’ll deal with the food shopping later; right now I need to make a doctor’s appointment and then just lie down for 20 minutes.”
- Remain fully present. When low on reserves, it becomes even more important to focus on only the task at hand. Avoid multitasking. Continuing with the example above, resist the temptation to check email while on hold with the doctor’s office. Checking email might prevent you from being able to take the short nap you really need.
- Lower standards for less important matters. This requires that you both prioritize and avoid becoming a perfectionist. You have to ask yourself questions like, “Which is more important, getting over this stomach bug or having a neat house?”
- Accept help and ask for what you need. When people offer help, take advantage of it. It’s not a sign of weakness. It usually means giving someone else the opportunity to feel good they got the chance to help you and to feel more connected to you. If someone offers help that you don’t need, ask for what you need instead. This, of course, requires thinking about your needs–which many selfless women tend not to be able to do.
- Recite a calming, encouraging mantra. Women, especially, have a tendency to send themselves too many negative messages, which only serve to drain us of energy. When I started to feel overwhelmed and utterly exhausted, I tried to remind myself, “This too shall pass” or “I’ll be more efficient and creative, after I rest and recharge.”
How you apply these general principles will of course depend on your own situation, personality, and resources. It also involves a bit of trial and error.
How will you remind yourself to put yourself on batter-life preservation mode?
Earlier versions of this article were published in July 2009, September 2013, and March 2018.