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What Drains You?

Updated: Sep 5

Many of us know what it's like to feel drained, as though there's some invisible leak and your energy slipped away on you. Some drains are obvious and easy to spot, such as a long day at work, an argument with your spouse or dealing with an ailing parent. But the more insidious energy leaks are those chronic ones we don't necessarily recognize. If your tap is clearly leaking, you fix it. But if it's a slow, nearly imperceptable leak, you may not notice until you've lost quite a bit of water.

What are some low-level leaks that we may be less aware of? I think one of them is agenda, which is wanting things (and people) to be a certain way as opposed to taking them as they come. Emotionally you would recognize this as a feeling of frustration, which is arguably the most draining emotion on the planet, because it involves great expenditure of energy with little to no result.

For example, this week we have skies full of wildfire smoke. I happen to be very sensitive to air quality and so this is greatly restricting my ability to get out and do what I want to do. There's absolutely nothing I can do about the smoke in the air. I can't control the winds or the rain. The tendency then is to become very frustrated, to wish it wasn't happening and add a spiral of negative thoughts and complaints. And thus I would leak energy, which may actually deplete my ability to cope with the situation.

In general, there are three possible responses to any difficult situation: resistance, which throws energy down the sink; shut-down, which saves energy but renders us useless; and action, which focusses on problem-solving. The difference between action and resistance is that action is geared toward what is actually under our control instead of what isn't. So I can buy a good air filter and stay indoors and/or wear a mask outdoors. I can also ramp up my personal efforts to help with climate change. If I do those things while allowing the situation to be what it is, then I've hit the sweet spot of empowerment. I'm not denying the problem or ignoring the problem or wasting energy wishing it wasn't happening.

"For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This same dynamic happens in relationships as well. Everyone knows on some level that you can't control anyone else. (It's often hard enough to control ourselves!) Yet we tend to have agendas for the people around us that we want them to meet. What they ought to do and say and who they ought to be. We don't often notice the extent to which we simply refuse to step back and let other people be who they are. Instead we throw all sorts of energy into wanting someone to do what we think they should do rather than letting them walk their own journey, for better or for worse. Not only is this a drain on us, but it is a drain on them and ultimately on the relationship. Nobody likes it and it doesn't work.

It's always best for us (and anyone around us) to use our energy for ourselves and for problem-solving. The next time you feel a bit worn out or flattened or even just uninspired, ask yourself what you might be resisting. What agenda do you have that is not being fulfilled? Are you wanting to control other people or uncontrollable events? If you can spot and stop these little leaks daily, it adds up to a lot of gained resources in the end.

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