This originally appeared as a contribution on MakeItUltra, written by me as a contributior’s post.
My mother has always preached to me about “energy giving, energy draining.” It has been such an important life lesson, and recently I learned it was actually a takeaway from Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie.
Regardless of if you are in a codependent relationship or not, I think it’s an important takeaway.
Mental illness is so draining on us. We often don’t have to energy to do all of the things we want to achieve in a day. Sometimes we don’t even have the energy to complete one thing on the to-do list. So what energy we do have is precious. And this where energy giving, energy draining comes in.
As someone with mental and chronic illness, I have a limited amount of energy, like most of you. So I literally have to decide where to spend my energy.
For many years, I felt as if I needed to take care of the world. Not just family and friends and significant other’s, but anyone who needed help. I was so desperate to help, that I always ended up over-involved and burnt out. I found myself being used. I found myself being walked on. I found my energy supplies were dwindling.
So I had to make a choice.
You have to make a choice.
Do you want to spend your energy on things that actually give you energy back, or do you want to spend your energy on things and people that end up draining more energy from you?
We are often in unequal relationships. What I mean by that is that one person is giving more than another. Is that relationship healthy for you? Is it draining energy from you, or is it revitalizing you?
That exhausted feeling, the kind that no amount of rest or sleep or vacation could cure, is from all of these people and things in our lives that drain the energy from us.
Imagine what would happen if we took our energy resources, no matter how big or small, and put them into someone or something that gave us energy back. Think about how much better it would feel.
So how do we get there? How do we go from energy draining to energy giving?
By saying ‘no.’ By setting healthy boundaries. By not giving more of ourselves to others than we can afford to.
Learning to say no is incredibly difficult. We feel a sense of obligation to our family and friends, to parties and social events. We want to do these things (maybe part of us doesn’t) but at what cost? How much energy is it going to drain versus how much is it going to give? What kind of energy are the people in our life giving or taking away from us?
We all have that one friend. The one really negative, pessimistic, angry friend. Everyone is out to get him/her, the world is against him/her; there is no winning. These people are the most energy draining. But when it’s your friend or family member, you can’t just not listen.
Here’s what to do instead: Set healthy boundaries. You can say something like, “When you are talking about how terrible things are, I feel sad and like things are terrible too, so I would appreciate if you could not say those kind of things around me. “
You can also slowly phase the person out of your life if they are too draining, although this can be difficult with family. Toxic people like that don’t normally like to be around people who won’t play into the game they’ve set up. Slowly, as you detach yourself and regain control of your energy from them, they will realize they are not eliciting the same responses from you, and will move on to the next person who will listen to them.
Our energy is precious. Our resources are limited.
We must choose our battles. Choose well, fellow Warrior.
Source: Energy Giving, Energy Draining