Breaking it Down – A Metaphor for Our Emotional Capacity

Given our fuel gauge, we must measure how much emotional gas is in our tank at one point and only drive as far and fast we are capable of. This is a skill; a skill that I find myself practicing every day and consistently find useful to teach others. Let’s break this metaphor down together.

There are three types of moments:

  1. We are at capacity and can’t take on any more.
  2. We don’t have very much capacity left and something is looming out in front of us that we need to conserve every last drop for.
  3. We have so much leftover, we can achieve all of our missions and offer someone else some of our leftovers too.

These differences in emotional capacity have to be accounted and accommodated for, or we overspend on our tanks. For a short period, this is ok. But over a prolonged period, over using resources we don’t have depletes us. An even more prolonged period can end up breaking down our mental and physical health. In the end, even though we are trying to get so much done.

Every day (and sometimes every hour), we have to check in with ourselves and see what we have left. Then we have to fluidly, with self-permission and self-compassion, adjust accordingly. We cannot drive fast for long periods on an empty tank with only fumes. Our minds and bodies are the same –  we have to re-fuel.

When we don’t have any to spare – we must break down our time increments in front of us to one minute, one hour, one day, one week, one month .Whichever of these time increments work to keep us grounded. We also must break down our tasks to one at a time, one group at a time, one group of groups at a time – or whichever accommodation works.  

ReallyBeU Health and Wellness Blog on breaking it down, a metaphor for emotional capacity. ReallyBeU is based in Vermont but services as wide as possible for human trafficking.

Our brains need us to SLOW down and BREAK down time and tasks so we can process and produce what we have the energy and reserves to produce. This slowing down and breaking down allows us to accomplish and succeed at smaller increments. Which will actually put gas back in the tank and replenish.  

  1. Check-in at shorter and shorter increments when stressors increase.
  2. Make a commitment to expend only what you have, except for exceptional circumstances which cannot last for a length of time.
  3. Be very very careful with yourself and what is ahead if you are over accelerating or covering too much distance.
  4. Slow down and break down to smaller and smaller bits if you are under water.  It is non-sensical but absolutely critical.
  5. Allow others to utilize this process to de-stigmatize against productivity above wellness.  When someone says to you, “I can’t handle this,” hear them and offer them the break it down tool.
  6. This skill gets easier and easier the more and more we practice it.  It feels clunky on the front end, because for those of us that like to push through, it feels easier to just push through.  Start small and practice, do not expect immediate success.

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