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Updated: May 24, 2023


As is often the case, I find I am inspired to write a blog because the content resonates with something I am mulling over either with a client, or for myself. And this is no exception…

A few days ago, after a few not-so-good nights, I was trying to focus on work and realised that I was actually so tired I felt lightheaded! As I reflect on that, I am thinking that it would have been better to have recognised (and acted on!) how exhausted I was long before that level of tiredness kicked in! As I made myself a soothing, hot drink, I considered the question…

What do I need right now?

If you had asked me that a few years ago, I would probably have just stared at you in askance, with absolutely no idea of what I needed, never mind how to go about putting that in place. My default in family life and in career choice has tended to draw my attention and activity to other people’s needs…which believe it or not is not always a good thing!

Thanks to the wisdom (and humour) of my therapist, I am a lot more self-aware than I was, and usually spot the warning signs of my tank being depleted before it actually runs out (I hope my family and friends would agree with that?!!!). Sometimes I don’t always have to be the one to rush to someone else’s aid – Maybe there are others who can (and would like to) help instead, if only we step aside.

I have a number of inspiring people in my life who share a common thread of kindness, a willingness to help others, and often putting everyone else first and I have noticed that I am not alone in sometimes finding it hard to identify my needs instead of trying to meet other people’s.

Recently, I met with a dear friend for coffee who, though still wonderful to see her, seemed really ground down. She is the kind of person you would naturally gravitate towards to share a heartache, ask advice, or boost your flagging spirits even if you didn’t know her that well. She exudes warmth and compassion and is just delightful.

Having squirmed (but appreciated how useful it was) when my therapist asked me what I needed, I decided to use the same tactic on my friend! Having heard what was going on in her own life, and all that she was doing for others, I shot the killer question:

What do you really need right now?

She grinned, and said sheepishly, “I know, I know! I’m doing too much!” As we chatted, it became apparent that what she needed what the strength and confidence to say NO to something she had been invited to take on. Saying no can be the hardest thing to do! (Assertiveness is a whole new blog!)

Life can get so busy that we don’t even realise we are depleted but it can be helpful to make an analogy with a car that needs fuel. Even if we are rushed off our feet we will make time to fill the car up knowing full well what will happen if we end up with an empty tank. Somewhere in the day, we will ensure we schedule in a stop at the garage regardless of whether we feel like it...

The way we re-fuel the tank will not be the same for everyone but for me, I need to be very intentional about how and when to top up. This means deliberately ring-fencing rest, relaxation, and self-care time in the diary before slotting in other commitments.

It can be useful to identify those areas of life that fill your tank, and those which deplete it. That way you can almost plan ahead – if there is a meeting that you know will be particularly challenging, you might want to clear the diary afterwards. Perhaps this exercise could help to highlight areas in your life that may need a little attention?

I appreciate that not everyone, especially those with dependents, has the luxury of taking time out on a daily or even weekly basis and if that is you, please do get in touch. I would love to support you.

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