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Feeling Empty? Here are 3 Ways to Fill Your Cup Again

Published:
April 19, 2024
April 8, 2024
Feeling drained? Learn a few sustainable ways to fuel mindfulness and tips to fill your cup.

When I was a middle school teacher, parent-teacher conferences were held twice a year. Instead of regularly scheduled classes, I sat in my classroom from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and held five-minute individual meetings with parents. All. Day. Long.

After 12 hours of honest and sometimes tough conversations, my cheeks were numb, my tongue parched, and I could have sworn I felt some of my brain cells frying.

Yet, I also felt a strange, almost giddy exhilaration. I knew each student’s unique talents and passions. Their parents and I were on the same team, cheering on their children to academic success. This feeling uplifted me despite my exhaustion.

Many of our life experiences have a similar effect: they drain and sustain us simultaneously. Even humdrum parts of our lives (like my commute on New York City subways) can have aspects of rejuvenation (like having a spontaneous conversation with a fellow subway rider about the book I’m reading). 

Fortunately, whenever we begin to feel burned out, there are wells we can turn to for replenishment. We can reach down into them and refill ourselves with the nourishment we need to keep moving forward and take on another day. For me, one well that never runs dry is my faith. When I’m feeling strung out, even if it’s due to things like my job that also fulfill me, I lean on my relationship with God — and the lessons I’ve learned from it — for renewal. If you’re running on empty, here are some helpful tips for filling your cup again.

Be present.

My husband and I love hosting. We plan ahead the signature dish Arthur will cook and the dessert I’ll bake. Then comes grocery shopping, cleaning the house, setting the table, taking the dog on an extra-long walk, choosing the background music… All before the doorbell rings. After our guests bid us adieu, we often collapse on the couch, trying to motivate ourselves to stack the dishes in the washer so we won’t have to tackle them tomorrow.

Hosting is exhausting! We say, but we also know that we’re going to do it again. 

Why? Because as much as it is draining, the conversations we have with our loved ones sustain us for a long time. We feel connected to our guests through storytelling and shared laughter. These are the moments we will remember, not the labor of the preparations. 

There’s a reminder of this in Scripture through the story of Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha.  During a visit, Martha busied herself in preparing her home while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to his words. Jesus lovingly chided the host, saying, “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one,” meaning being present with her guest and friend, Jesus (Luke 10:41-42). Jesus doesn’t tell Martha not to prepare for her guests. But the Gospel describes her as being “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (Luke 10:40). This passage reminds me that it’s okay if not everything is ready when guests arrive. They want to spend time with me, and I need to be fully present for them, too. 

Delegate when possible.

When my husband proposed to me seven years ago, I was a full-time middle school teacher studying towards my doctorate. Because of these demanding responsibilities, planning for my wedding was draining at times. What sustained me was not only looking forward to our incredible day but also the fact that all my loved ones were in my corner, ready to pitch in. 

Comforted by the fact that they wanted to help, I recruited many members of my family to get things done. My mom did a lot of research when I was doing my own dissertation research; she found our amazing venue. She helped me choose flowers, pick bridal gowns, create the Mass booklets, among many other tasks. When family flew in from Poland for the wedding, my future in-laws took on tour guide duties so I could focus on final-day preparations. My husband hand-carved wooden coasters for everyone as our party favors. On the wedding day itself, my cousin filmed the Mass, my sister oversaw the day-of checklist, and my dad made sure the bridal party ate a healthy, nourishing brunch before we set off for the day.

God encourages us to delegate when we can. In fact, Mary did that at a wedding herself. When the wine ran out at the Wedding at Cana, Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Mary delegates to Jesus, knowing that we can tap into others’ strengths in order to sustain each other. And we should be ready to do the same when our loved ones need us.

Be merciful — to others and to yourself.

At the end of a work day, I wish I could go home and just sit back and relax. But there’s the dog to walk, dinner to make, dishes to clean, and clothes to iron for the next day. It’s tempting to grumble through these responsibilities as things to check off the to-do list. (It can also be easy to channel frustration into snappiness at others). But if we look at our evening responsibilities as opportunities to refresh ourselves, we can approach them with more willingness. A perspective of kindness and mercy can alter our attitude.

Did your spouse forget to pick up a critical ingredient for dinner? Hold your tongue and pivot the recipe. Or, use it as a fun excuse to try a brand-new restaurant in your neighborhood (or revisit an old favorite). Is your dog acting extra rambunctious? Extend her time at the park. You’ll make her day, and watching her play will make your day, too.

And be kind to yourself. If all the dishes don’t get done; if all the laundry isn’t folded; if the meal doesn’t come out exactly as it looked in the photo in the recipe book — take a deep breath. Imagine you are drawing water from the Lord’s well. Leading with mercy will sustain us in moments that drain us.

Ultimately, what helps me most is centering Jesus in all that I do. I think of what he told the Samaritan woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst” (John 4:13-14). When I’m feeling overwhelmed or undernourished, I find peace in holding tight to these reminders — I hope you can, too.

Creators:
Veronica Szczygiel
Published:
April 19, 2024
April 8, 2024
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