3 Things that Help When You Feel Depleted
Stretch your boundaries! Push yourself! Step out of your comfort zone! Do you ever feel like all you ever hear is “do more do more do more”?
I’m all for getting out of your comfort zone. When you’re bored, stuck, or down in the dumps, take some risks and make some changes. And if you’re in leadership, moving forward is part of the job description. Leaders go first, often into unchartered territory.
But this year, it’s ALL unchartered territory. Everything is new and different or completely upside-down. You’re getting kicked right out of your comfort zone on a daily basis whether you like it or not! Sometimes, that’s good. It can shake you up and open your eyes to new opportunities and possibilities. Great ideas, innovation, and inspiration often come from times of flux. Unending change and crises, though, lead to burnout, breakdowns, and depression.
When you step (or are kicked) outside your comfort zone, you need courage. Courage is like a muscle: you can build it; you can strengthen it. You push yourself a little past your capability and over time you get stronger. And more courageous. But also like a muscle, extended overuse will give you an injury. It’s great to step outside your comfort zone, but you can’t live there. At best, you deplete yourself. Eventually, you’ll hurt yourself. And that’s what I’m hearing: many of you are depleted and hurting.
When you feel like you’re nearing the breaking point, here are three things you can do:
1. Come home.
Muscles rebuild during rest periods. You need time in your comfort zone to build the energy and strength required to step out of it. Go “home” to the place that is safe and comfy, where you can rest peacefully and replenish yourself. Hopefully, your literal home is a place of refuge and safety. But if you’ve been stuck there for months, it might currently feel claustrophobic. “Home” is anywhere you can physically or emotionally be at rest. It can be among people who know and care about you. It can be at an organization that shares your personal vision and values. It can be a place of solitude.
Right now, you may be facing crises on many fronts: difficult business decisions, upheaval within your family, health issues, the state of the nation. Where can you get comfortable enough to rest? Sometimes all it takes is a few moments to recharge: three minutes sitting by yourself on a park bench, a big hug from a family member, a quick phone call with a friend, a few deep breaths.
Soak up those moments when they happen. Make them happen, if you need to. Even if it feels like every area of your life is in crisis mode, find your place of safety.
Muscles need protein to grow strong, not just work and rest. You need nourishment, too. Note that nourishing yourself is not the same as consuming. Many people consume in the name of self-care: lots of food, lots of wine, binge-watching Netflix, endless scrolling through social media… There’s nothing wrong with that now and then, but don’t confuse it with taking care of yourself. Consume what will do you good. Consume the building blocks you need to grow. Consume what will make your mind and body feel well, strong, and healthy.
Often, that means consuming things that are in line with your passions and values. What lights you up? What do you love? Why are you even in this work that you’re doing? Who benefits?
Fill up on the sights and sounds, people and places, words and interactions that energize you, so you can step back outside your comfort zone when you need to. (Or when you’re thrown there entirely against your will.)
3. Assess your borders.
What is your comfort zone, anyway? It is unique to you. A friend of mine gave me a ride home once and said, “Adjust the heat however you like. I have a very wide comfort zone.” How nice for him! I have about a 2° comfort zone. I am usually too hot or too cold. Beyond temperature, you have a wide comfort zone in some areas and a narrow comfort zone in others. You might be comfortable in a wide range of social situations but get uncomfortable quickly when dealing with new technology (like me). Communication styles, work tasks, dealing with conflict, personality differences—do you have a wide comfort zone or a narrow one?
When you know your borders, you can be proactive. If you can see an uncomfortable meeting or nerve-wracking task ahead, flank it with a chance to rest or refuel. Get to know others’ borders, too. Just because something is uncomfortable for you, doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable for everyone. Let others take on tasks you hate. Don’t project your discomfort onto them. Don’t hang onto it because you “should” be the one to do it. Let it go. You don’t have to do everything. Frankly, you can’t.
If you are feeling overburdened, there is hope. Rest, nourishment, maintaining boundaries: these resources are available to you. Yeah, I know, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. A lot, maybe, this year. But you are the only person who decides how you allocate your time. You and only you. If you’re feeling depleted, take a few moments to rest, to refuel, and to figure out what you can drop.
Take care of yourself. If necessary, do it because people are counting on you. Better yet, do it because you are worth taking care of.