Wow, this feeling of exhaustion is not going away. It often feels you are being pulled in multiple directions at once. You keep telling yourself “If only I get a good night's sleep,” or “I’ll catch up this weekend.”
It just never happens though. Life doesn’t seem to slow down enough to recharge.
For first responder and military members, it can feel near impossible to feel recharged. The long shifts, with often unpredictable overtime commitments, makes it a challenge to feel a sense of balance.
You are definitely not alone in trying to feel energized and calm in the hectic pace of today’s life.
Explore these five reasons why you should start using self-care now to help get back to being you:
- You can't pour from an empty glass.
- Minimize frustration, anger, or whatever you may feel.
- Increase energy levels.
- Find more balance.
- Reduce stress and improve concentration.
1. You can't pour from an empty glass (successfully, anyway).
When we are exhausted and tired all the time, it is hard to take care of or support anyone else, even ourselves sometimes.
Think about it, if you are running on a quarter tank, or borderline empty some days, do you have the energy to be a support for your spouse, kids, family, or friends?
Also, this probably isn’t the kind or level of support you want to give your family or other important parts of your life.
When we do not take care of ourselves, we impact how well we can be present and support others. This can be evident in our behavior to include, but not limited to feeling:
Your cup is empty, and you’re the only one that can fill it.
Practicing self-care to fill your cup can transform the feeling of constantly running on empty to a feeling of having the choice of when and how much you want to pour from your cup.
When you take the time to take care of yourself, you will be able to support the people in your life you want to put your energy toward.
2. Minimize frustration, anger, or whatever you may feel.
Since you are not your best when you don’t take care of yourself, some other version of you is showing up, probably more often than you’d like.
If you are like me, that version of yourself has lots of frustration. Others identify being angry or short tempered. Some say they just shut down or are completely disconnected. Everyone experiences this in their own way .
This feeling of frustration arises when I neglect to do any self-care, especially when life feels overwhelming.
When I get to that frustration point, there is this nagging feeling inside that I am not the mom, wife, counselor, or friend I want to be.
This shows up for me as being short with my kids, feeling exhausted, not wanting to connect with others, and just constantly feeling I’m trying to play catch-up with all my responsibilities.
Don’t get me wrong, I get frustrated in my daily life. But there is a substantial difference between my normal frustration and my empty tank frustration. The difference is usually my patience, tolerance, and how I feel inside.
When I do the self-care that fills me, (like hiking, reading, working out, listening to music, or acupuncture), I do not get those feelings of frustration anywhere to the level of when I’m on empty.
Self-care looks different for everyone. Finding what self-care activities recharge you is one of the critical ingredients to minimizing negative feelings you may experience when you are exhausted.
3. Increase your energy level.
There are lots of experiences and situations that cause you to feel exhausted or burnt out in life, not just your job.
Self-care is one of the best ways to combat that exhaustion by connecting to activities that serve as an energy source for you.
When you invest your time into putting energy in your body, mind, and spirit, you are recharging that essential battery we all have inside us. You are committing to the importance of yourself as a person and your life instead of moving through the motions of navigating life in a haze.
Figuring out how YOU get recharged is the key to finding self-care you will do and that will give you the energy you’re looking for!
4. Find more balance.
For first responder and military members, finding any sort of balance in life can feel near impossible. Even as hard as we try, sometimes the job can take priority of your time.
When you have the energy and when you feel like you, it is significantly easier to find balance in life. You are in a better position to make decisions that truly reflect what you want.
When we are running on empty, it is so tempting to choose the path of least resistance. We do not have the energy to put toward what we really want.
For example, when I feel life is out of balance, I find myself wanting to choose screen time for my kids rather than put the little energy I have toward figuring out an activity for us to do as a family.
When you practice your energizing self-care and keep yourself from running on fumes, it is much easier to find balance in this life.
5. Reduce stress and increase concentration.
Let’s talk about stress. Those of you who work as first responders and military members, even the families of those individuals, know stress all too well. It’s part of the lifestyle.
“Will I have mandatory overtime,” “when will my spouse get their PCS orders so I can plan our move,” “I’m being held over and can’t get the kids,” and the list goes on.
Self-care doesn’t stop stress from happening, but it helps us react the way we want when life happens.
Self-care lowers our stress level because we are better physically and mentally prepared to handle that stress when it comes along.
Practicing self-care can positively affect our ability to concentrate as well.
If we aren’t stuck feeling like we’re living in that hazy state of running on empty all the time, we’re likely more focused on what’s going on around us.
This point really shows up for me with relationships in my life. When I fill and manage my tank, I am more engaged and really enjoy the interactions I have others in my life.
Another bonus of reducing our stress is preventing or managing burnout. This can be burnout with work, family, or anything in life.
When we aren’t constantly experiencing significant levels and changes to our stress level, it is much easier to manage our stress which helps prevent feeling burnt out.
Lowering your stress level while improving your concentration by taking care of yourself will help you flourish, not just survive, in this life of service.
If you find yourself in need of a little support to start using some self-care techniques, brainstorming ideas of what you like to do, reading or listening to information about self-care, or even talking to a counselor for some tips are all helpful ways to get started.
You don’t have to keep living in that exhausted, running on empty state to survive in this life. I encourage you to find self-care activities you enjoy that give you the energy you want so the best YOU shows up.
Imagine the change in living and enjoying your life if you give yourself the gift of energy and care!
Be well and take care!
Liz is an Associate Clinical Social Worker in California. She is one of our experienced counselors at Code 3 Counseling. Liz specializes in working with first responder and military trauma. You can contact her through our website.
If you find that this exercise or these conversations brought up some stuff you are struggling with, either individually or in your relationship, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help. We are here to support you, and we understand that this can be a challenging issue to face.
Remember, it may be your battle, but you don’t have to fight it alone.