Imagine drawing your energy for your work life as if you were drawing water from a well. You lower the bucket and pull up the fresh, clean water you need each day to feel sustained through the ups and downs.
When your work is fulfilling, the well can feel like it is practically overflowing! No bucket needed, just fill your cup from the top. When your work is draining, however, there is just the dry thud of the bucket hitting the bottom of the tapped well.
If it is early in the process and you are noticing that you have to go deeper in the well to bring up water, consider trying the following ways to replenish your energy and fill the well:
- find a way to take time away – short breaks during the day, taking a long weekend, scheduling a vacation
- do more of the things that give you joy outside of work
- take care of your body – get physical exercise, eat well, prioritize sleep
- limit work availability after hours
- talk about your concerns with friends, loved ones and/or a career counselor
- try to shift your perspective
- look for ways to increase your resilience and persevere
If your well is completely dry and has been for a while, it can feel hopeless to keep lowering the bucket and coming up with nothing. If this situation goes on for a long time, you could be looking at a larger, more long-term issue. This New York Times article identifies the following warning signs:
■ Emotional exhaustion — emotionally overextended, drained and used up without any source of replenishment. It’s the chronic feeling that you just can’t face another day.
■ Cynicism or depersonalization — a loss of idealism. Particularly in the health professions, it can manifest itself as having a negative, callous or excessively detached response to other people.
■ Reduced personal efficacy — a decline in feelings of competence and productivity at work.
If short term well filling activities have failed to raise the water line and you find yourself experiencing the above symptoms, consider the following:
- Investigate your employer’s benefits – is there an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that can connect you to resources and options?
- Connect with a counselor (if you haven’t already) to talk about supports and options for change
- Adopt a mindfulness practice
- Reflect on whether this job is right for you, and whether it is a good time to conduct a search
Whether your well is low or bone dry, do take care of yourself. “Self care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.” – Jennifer Louden