/karen/

Fill the well

Tuesday, 02 June, 2009

It's funny how the same lessons hit you over and over again, just in different ways. Recently I've been thinking about the things that drain you and the things that have a restorative effect on you. I know I've blogged about this before—specifically, in my post about MTS, and givers and takers. I guess it never occurred to me that that sort of thinking applies to ordinary life, not just ministry—although you'd think the application would be obvious. I mean, the same thing could be said about the stress cup (an image from 2005), although expressed in a slightly different metaphor: the more stressed you get, the more full your cup gets, and when your cup starts to overflow, then you're in trouble.

If I may, allow me to use the rather similar metaphor of the well to describe what I'm talking about. The well stands for your emotional, psychological and even physical energy. Various things will drain your well—work, relationships, stress, conflict, ministry. Various things will fill it. If the things that are draining it outweigh the things that are filling it, that's when you start getting in trouble. Everything seems harder, things going wrong are more upsetting, it's easier for you to get angry, and you may even feel suicidal.

It seems to me that one of my biggest problems at the moment is keeping the balance—making sure that the things that are filling the well are equal to or greater than the things that are draining it. I was thinking about my life at the moment, and why I'm finding this year harder than last year (and the year before, and the year before that), and I think this is why. Last year, I quite happily worked my four days a week, ran a household, blogged, wrote, knitted and did Faithful Writer things on the side. This year, it's all a lot more difficult, and I think the well thing is part of it.

I've noticed this among some of my friends, too. From what I know about their lives (keeping track of their day-to-day through social networks and the like), the things that are draining them are far outweighing the things that are restoring them. This means that they're far more stressed, anxious, tired and prone to depressive thoughts than other people I know.

Now, for some people, that's understandable when you consider the load they're carrying. There is only so much you can do about the volume in the stress cup, and certainly everybody's stress cups will have varying amounts of dregs at the bottom (dregs that are near-impossible to get rid of; you can minimise them, but you can't make them go away forever). I guess you need to ask God for wisdom to see your life realistically so that you can balance the draining things with restorative things—know when to say no—know how proactive you need to be to deliberately carve out R&R time. That's not an easy thing to do because, in a sense, no one (well, no one human; maybe divine) can truly know the answer to that question except for you.

So on Saturday at the end of the week when I was drained and tired, I stared to ask myself “What are the things that restore not just me, but people generally?” and “What can I do to increase these things so I don't end up the way I am now, with my well completely empty?” Here's the list I came up with (and I realise that some of these things may overlap with my R&R list). I hope you'll be able to help me add to it.

I haven't worked out the answer to the second question yet (“What can I do to increase these things?”) But anyway, what do you find restorative? What can you add to my list?

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Hi gorgeous K, even though you blog less, you blog deeply when you do blog. I enjoy it.
And I think I’ll blog about what restores me, rather than writing a long comment. Hope that’s ok.

I second what George said!

And also I think singing is a good thing. Just putting on some music and singing at the top of your lungs, whether angry, sad, joyful, reflective, silly, funny or just mellow. It can really help deflect your mind off the grating feeling of hitting the bottom of the well (or wallowing in the dregs).  I think I heard somewhere that singing releases endorphins too, so, you know, that helps…

I wonder if I should have included exercise and eating in the list.

I love shopping too. Its the whole looking at pretty and creative things, especially since I’m not very creative. Less about the buying, more about the immersing yourself in another world and going awwww! (Like all those second-hand retro shops in Newtown)

Posted by Elsie on 02 June, 2009 3:21 PM

Yes - exercise, although it seems contradictory to relaxing, actually helps you to feel much better.  More endorphins (was just saying to Guan today how if I make myself do yoga even when I don’t want to, I usually feel really good afterwards).

And eating a good, nourishing and tasty meal - especially when someone else has prepared it for you!

Showers too. And baths.

I think it’s really interesting that a lot of the activities that you’ve listed can be done by yourself and don’t need a group to make it work.

I’ve found that most people find introverts who need down time *alone* as rather odd. The ‘norm’ seems to be to wind-down and chill out in a group with all your friends (getting drunk etc.)

I’m just glad to see lots of individual activities listed. Group activities are never things that help me ‘restore my well’.

Karen,

the wise Bec has sent me a link to your blog.  I hope you don’t mind, but it was such a light to me today to read this insightful post.  Thank you for sharing your articulate observations. 

I’d add greenery, gardening or sitting in a park, and watching or hearing the power of the ocean to my list of refueling ideas.

chinajackie xx

Posted by chinajackie on 03 June, 2009 7:45 AM

@Di: Good point! I’m an introvert so I tended to think of introverted things. I suppose the list would look a bit different for an extrovert.

@ChinaJackie: Welcome! Bec is indeed wise, and I’m glad you enjoyed my post!

Thankyou Karen!

After moving to Sydney I had various experiences of not coping, so I made a list of 5 things I plan to check next time I’m at a low ebb.

Food (esp getting enough iron)
Exercise
Sleep
Sunlight
Advice (talking to my Dad)

11 Days of No is very helpful too, if busyness is the cause.

Posted by JessG on 06 June, 2009 10:32 AM

Sitting in coffeeshops sketching passersby.

Playing games without rules - just pulling out the trivial pursuit cards and answering questions, or taking three storytelling elements cards and thinking of stories that use them.

having saturday morning free to myself is kind of important
- it means I get sleep
- it means I can enjoy something like breakfast.
- slowly do some chores, and do some vegging.
there’s no pressure to be anywhere. or necessarily do anything. bit of time out. smile found that otherwise I get grouchy.

Posted by Fuzzi on 24 June, 2009 11:17 AM

actually correct that - not necessarily free to myself can be with others… . but if something’s on, I have decided to participate in it on saturday morning by choice, not just cos it has to be done then!

Posted by Fuzzi on 24 June, 2009 11:19 AM


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