The 50% Rule: Are You Running on Empty?

Fuel Gauge IllustrationLast week was my birthday week (41!) and I found myself stressed, sad, and sleep-deprived. Too much work and taking care of my sick man and sick dog and too little self-care.

And I went where I tend to go when I get stressed: within. I retreated, withdrew, tried to pretend that everything was fine. It wasn't. I didn't communicate with my man about my distress like I should have. I didn't let him know how upset I was that I spent my birthday working and taking care of him and his sick dog. That despite the fact that birthdays are a big deal to me, the only gift I received on my birthday was flowers from my student assistant; nothing from him. Most importantly, I forgot to take care of me.

By Friday morning, I was in a bad state. Emotionally depleted and physically exhausted, I turned once again to my best friend and peer coach, Kami. As usual, she called me on my shit in a loving way and told me just what I needed to hear to get myself out of the doldrums.

“What do you do when you fall below 50%?” She reminded me.

“You do whatever it takes to get yourself back above 50%,” I responded from rote memory. Damn it! I hate when she's right!

So what is the 50% rule? I've heard it described a few different ways, but the idea is this:

  • Each morning, start off your day by checking your energy tank. Simply ask yourself: “Where is my energy level today?” Lately I’ve been adding a second question: “Where am I emotionally right now?” as I’ve noticed a difference between my emotional and physical energy levels.
  • Ask yourself, “What do I need today to raise my energy level?” Again – lately I’ve been asking this twice – once for physical energy levels and once for emotional.
  • Do whatever your heart tells you to do to raise your energy level(s) or make a plan to do it later that day.
  • If either level is below 50%, stop. Don’t do anything else that day until you’ve done something to get your energy level back above 50%.
  • If your tank is running low, keep periodically re-checking throughout the day to see where you’re at and what you need.
  • Then go do it!

Now, obviously I wouldn’t be giving you this advice if I hadn’t learned the hard way from not taking it myself. Over the past couple of months, I let myself get so depleted that my body went into perimenopause.

I had my hormone levels checked a couple of weeks ago and got the results back today. They weren’t entirely what I expected given my perimenopausal symptoms. Yes, I am currently in perimenopause, but my doctor doesn’t think it’s permanent. He says that based on my testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol levels, my blood work shows I have been burning my candle at both ends and am about to break if I don’t change things. His advice? Meditate, journal, do more yoga, and have a little more fun. In other words, I need to get my stress under control and my hormones – and body – will come back into balance. So once again my ability to heal my body is all up to me – or in this case, my stress levels.

So what’s the plan? How do you get yourself consistently back above 50%?

  • Consult your checklist – Stacey Martino once suggested that you start by making a list of all the things you love to do that boost your mood and energy level. That way when you fall below 50% – and may be in no mood to figure out what you need to do to get back above it – you can just look at your list and have at it.
  • Check in with your body – in its infinite wisdom, it always knows what it needs
  • Check in frequently with your energy tank – I’m doing that exercise several times a day. I drew a heart on my hand in purple ink so whenever I see it that will serve as a reminder to check in.
  • Get some sleep – I rarely meet women that get enough sleep, especially when they’re below 50%. In fact, lack of sleep is often a contributor to that below 50% state.
  • Go back to the basics with your self-care – consult your absolute yes and absolute no lists, read tips for self-care, and most of all tune in to yourself and take care of you – whatever it takes. You’re worth it!

 

What do you do to get above 50%?

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  • Mary,
    Happy birthday, Goddess! I enjoyed reading your tips for refueling the tank. One thing I’ve discovered on my journey has to do with a semantics trick and that is referring to it not as “stress management” but as “energy management.” It seems when I use the word “energy,” I can align more easily with my intention of rejuvenation, whereas if I use the word “stress” it seems to I call attention to it and create more stress than I alleviate. I share this with the hope it helps anyone reading and I am sending you lots of love!!! I do hope you are feeling better!

  • Virginia says:

    To boost my energy I take a walk. Getting the blood and body moving helps a lot.
    I also take time out to read something for pleasure. Watch an old movie (my favorites).
    Think of 5 things I am grateful for. Send a card to a friend or on-line person to say thanks.
    Clean up paperwork so you see you did something useful for yourself. Call a friend.
    Read articles like this one to remind us we are not alone in frustrations. Then read something upbeat.

  • Chara says:

    Great article, Mary, on a topic so pertinent to so many of us! I’m working on this myself. The challenge for me is I never notice my tank is low until it’s very low! You give great tips. Simply reading quietly in bed or sitting still and doing nothing while drinking a cup of tea are helpful for me. I’m working up to time at a spa!

Leave a Reply