As I sat in the multipurpose room at a YMCA branch, I knew this training and my subsequent work with cancer survivors would be fulfilling but it would be a project that would require me to be far more emotionally invested in my participants than I have ever been.
Then, as if on cue, the Livestrong trainer acknowledged that the 12-week program could take its toll on instructors. Patients face setbacks, relapse, die. They also fight, win and offer an amazing perspective on the world. To cope, we would have to recognize how we were feeling and know how we could recharge ourselves.
And what better way to do that with a fun group activity? Because every training session, Y or otherwise, needs a worksheet-guided activity.
We were asked to think of ourselves as an engine, one that operates on fuel.
At that time, right then, how full was our gas tank? Were we operating with a full tank, a half-tank, one-quarter? Or, were we on empty?
I don't often think about how I'm feeling until it's too late. I might be tired one day or happy another but I rarely consider my emotional well being. I take on project after project until I can't and then I wonder why I'm screaming at Si for pulling my hair.
What is draining your tank? Work, family, not enough sleep?
My kids. I couldn't even write it down on the sheet – I felt guilty. I'm nearing the breaking point with nursing and pumping, and the competition for attention feels difficult to juggle. There are other things, too. I'm too quick to say yes to subbing classes and taking on commitments because I want to be seen as valuable and a team player. However, doing too much leaves me with not enough time for myself and my family, further exacerbating the displays of neediness from the boys.
What can you do to fill your tank?
Easy answer, right? Running. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that running cannot be my only outlet. When I'm tired and stressed, I can't always lace up my shoes and go. Heck, sometimes the mental fatigue of an intense training plan can drain my tank as well.
So I've been thinking about other ways that I can pump myself up:
1. Laughing with Mark. I'm not talking giggling about something the boys have done but joking around to the point that I cannot stop the giggles. Thankfully, Mark is easy to laugh at ... I mean with :)
2. A hot bath. I didn't realize how much of a luxury baths were until Miles started insisting on joining me. As a 40-pound toddler, he takes up 3/4 of the bath and his required accessories (sword, rubber duck and monster truck) take up another 1/8, leaving me with a sliver of water to splash up. But, if I wait till after bed, I can draw a hot bath and soak in epsom salts as I page through the Ulta catalog.
3. Spending quality time with the boys. I'll admit it: Sometimes I think that I need to get as far away from my kids as possible to have a moment of me time but I learned a lesson last week. The sun was shining and the air was warming as I picked up Miles from school and Si from daycare. It was the perfect day for the park. And though I had things I could do at home, we turned right instead of straight and found ourselves parking next to the playground.
Miles was so excited that he ran to the swings before I even had Si out of the carseat. I guess we were swinging, I thought. I got Si situated in one and then Miles next to him. I pushed one then the other, Miles pumping his legs to go even higher. Right hand, left hand. Push, push, push. Legs reaching toward the blue skies, hands holding tight. Laughs escaping from their mouths.
I swear we spent 20 minutes just on the swings and in those 20 minutes, I felt like a new person. A better person. A good mom.