This used to happen to me almost every day. Sometimes by 10:00 a.m., I was already out of energy and just wanted to crawl into bed and shut the world out. But I couldn’t, because I had to work until 5:00 p.m. Then my boss would give me something difficult to do, and I would have a meltdown. Or, I would go home at night and a family member would criticize me, and I would blow up. This still happens to me occasionally, but I’ve figured out how to reserve my energy for things that matter most of the time.
Step 1: Take an inventory for a week.
Carry a notebook or use your smartphone to log everything you do in a given day and how each thing affects you.
For example, if you go to the grocery store, write it down. Did the bright lights and rude cashier and crowds of people coming at you with shopping carts give you anxiety? Write it down. Did your mother call and ask you what you’ve been eating? Did you feel annoyed or irritated by this conversation? Did you take a 30 minute walk after lunch? Did the walk make you feel more relaxed? Write it down. Did you eat ice cream? How did you feel while you were eating it? Did you watch a horror movie or stay up late chatting online? Write down everything you do and how you felt. If you aren’t sure how something made you feel, that’s ok. Did you have a meltdown at the end of the day? If so, maybe you can pinpoint this meltdown to a certain activity that triggered you, or maybe it was a combination of things that drained your energy. The more often you take this inventory, the easier it will be to pinpoint and avoid what triggers you to shut down or melt down.
The things you write down are the ways you spend your energy.
Step 2: Go through your inventory and determine which things are absolutely necessary.
Some things you probably can’t avoid, like showing up for work or taking care of your kids. These are the things that probably matter most to you. They may be stressful, but you have to do them. The goal here is to try to reserve your energy for these things, and to try to spend the rest of your energy on things that make you feel good.
Step 3: Go through your inventory and figure out which things drain your energy most, and cut some out.
Look back at the list you made for one week. Do you see any patterns?
For example, do you have meltdowns every day that you talk to your mom on the phone? Can you ignore your mom’s call and text her or email her instead? Do you feel anxiety every time you go to the hardware store? Can you order those items from Amazon next time?
Step 4: Look at your inventory and determine which things make you feel better, and do more of those.
Maybe you felt good on the day you ate eggs for breakfast, or you were more relaxed the day you left for work half an hour earlier. Try to do these things more and see if they continue to make you feel better.
Step 5: Repeat the inventory and assessment process regularly.
The best way to get good at something is to practice. Some days we might not even notice how many things we are doing, let alone how they affect us, if we don’t write it all down. The more often I take an inventory and assess how I am investing my energy, the better I am able to see how much of my energy I’m really wasting rather than saving my energy for the things that matter.
Once you have cut out many of the unnecessary activities that waste your energy, you will probably find that you have fewer meltdowns and shutdowns.