People always talk about “filling your cup” as a way to take care of yourself. But I actually think it’s the exact opposite.
For me, the way to stay happy and grounded (and alllllll the other good stuff) is to empty my cup.
What do I mean by that?
I mean finding healthy ways to drain out all the STUFF — the worries, the racing thoughts, the ideas that bounce around your head — so you can be open and ready for new experiences to fill you up throughout the day.
I don’t know about you, but when my cup’s full, I’m:
– feeling like every little thing is a mountainous chore
When my cup’s full and you ask me to lunch (something that would normally be so fun,) my gut screams out, “OH FOR THE LOVE OF BERTIE BOTT’S EVERY FLAVOR BEANS, PLEASE, NO MORE!”
When your cup’s full, there’s no room for anything else.
But when your cup’s empty…
When you’ve poured it out and made room, you can take on new things. You have space to respond, rather than react. You can be flexible.
Because there’s room in the cup, you can take on the unexpected — both good and bad — with grace.
Here are 7 ways I actively empty my cup:
Since I was a kid, I knew I had different sleep needs than everybody else.
I was always, always, always the first one to fall asleep at a slumber party! And while I wish I were one of those people who could thrive on 4 hours’ sleep, catching those Zs is crucial to emptying my cup.
According to health.com, sleep helps you:
– lower stress
– improve your memory
– become more creative while awake
– sharpen attention and aid learning
– decrease depression and anxiety
It’s counterintuitive, but during busy seasons where I have a lot on my plate, I prioritize rest first and foremost. To bring my best self to the table, I need to empty my cup by giving my mind and body time to reset.
I know, I KNOW. For years, I tried meditation, hated it, and forced myself to try again. But if you’re cringing while reading this, hear me out…
There are all different kinds of meditation styles. And once you find one you can get into, it’s a fantastic way to empty your cup.
I’m admittedly not perfect at it. But it’s a chance to let the chatter go, to get still, to pour all the worries out of my cup for a bit. I always feel like I can breathe more deeply after a meditation session. And honestly, it feels good to know there are 20 minutes in my day devoted to quieting my mind.
I find meditations with guided imagery helpful because they give my mind something to DO while it’s calming down. If you’ve struggled with meditation before, give this one a try and see what you think:
Talking it out (the right way)
While diving into the work of John and Julie Gottman, I was introduced to the idea of the Stress-Reducing Conversation. (Sidenote: If you love personal development and/or relationship psychology, you will LOVE the Gottmans’ research and techniques!)
The concept is simple:
I tell you something that’s bothering me. And then you tell me how amazing I am and how understandable it is that I’m upset and how unfair it is that I have to deal with that situation because, as previously mentioned, I’m amazing.
Most times when we’re venting to loved ones, they chirp up with suggestions of how to improve the situation. And while their intentions may be good, logical, practical suggestions don’t help empty our cups.
What does? Support, to know we’re being heard, and to have our pain be witnessed.
That’s where the Stress-Reducing Conversation comes in…
The goal is not to solve the problem. The goal is to feel understood.
When I need some cup-emptying in this form, I simply tell Joe, “I need to have a stress-reducing conversation” before diving into it. That’s his cue to *not* offer helpful suggestions and simply listen, and respond with things like, “I can see how that’s hard for you,” or “wow, that’s really unfair.”
Being allowed to vent, and feel like your emotions are valid, is a hugely supportive experience. Pouring out the stress not only empties your cup, but this convo also allows you to feel support around you. Double whammy!
Ah, the original nerdy hobby! As little kids, we read all the time. But do you read as an adult?
As of a few years ago, I didn’t really. But then I discovered the Overdrive app and my reading life was forever changed.
This is an app that you connect to your local library card. It syncs with your Kindle or e-reader and delivers books to your device…like magic! It’s the ultimate.
I find the most cup-emptying happens when I read fiction. I love a good business or personal development book but I find it doesn’t relax me like fiction does. Being able to completely immerse myself in another world (ahem: Hogwarts) removes me from the mental chatter for a bit. And it’s never as loud when I return.
Plus, studies show that reading fiction improves your empathy. Stepping into someone’s else’s shoes for a bit can help you gain a ton of perspective on your own life.
About a year ago, I started doing what I’ve dubbed “Gratitude Breaths” in the morning.
Here’s how to do ’em:
Right when you wake up, while lying in bed, breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, and breathe out, audibly, for a count of 8, like so:
The audible exhale activates your vagus nerve, which can reduce your heart rate, promote psychological well-being, and release neurotransmitters that provide a sense of inner calm. It looks a little weird but hey, it’s a small price to pay!
During each breath, focus on something you’re grateful for. (Here’s one you can use for your first breath every day: you woke up that morning!)
Sometimes I stick to the tried-and-true blessings (family, health, a roof over my head, etc.) But other times, I’ll give myself a category so I stretch my creative muscles in remembering all the things I’m lucky to have in my life…
– body parts that are working
– foods I love
– places or experiences I’m glad to have seen
I used to do 50 gratitude breaths each morning but that was admittedly over the top. As few as 5 can start your morning on a calm and grateful note!
Focusing on things that went well
Another little practice I do (admittedly not every day, but most days) is make a mental list of all the things I did well that day right as I’m drifting off to sleep.
It’s like a mini pep session. I run back through my day and give myself credit for the big (like landing a new client) or small (like adding an extra handful of spinach to my eggs) things that were good decisions.
Our brains are wired to remember negative information more strongly than positive. So it’s helpful to have an intentional practice to force yourself to notice the good things you’ve done.
Reminding yourself of all the overlooked good in your day feels great, and creates the right mood in which to drift off to a peaceful sleep.
Spending time with good people
There are certain people who, to quote my hippie friends, “raise your vibration” when you hang out with them. Do you know who yours are?
There are certain people in your life who empty your cup, who make you feel calm and content, after you’ve spent time together.
An example from my life…
We’ve been spending a lot of time with Joe’s grandpa lately, as he’s dealing with some health issues. As we tend to go visit him after work, my cup is relatively full when we set out for his house. But after leaving him, I always have a calm smile on my face. Being in his presence resets something in me, reminds me what it’s all about.
Find those kind of people…and hang out with them regularly. Intentionally plan your calendar to include time with the people who make you feel good, relaxed, and balanced.
And hey, if none of those 7 feel like a fit, there’s always the strategy of filling your cup (of coffee or tea) and really savoring it! Instead of having it on the go, sit at your kitchen table — or on the couch or outside — breathe in the aromas and really sink into the moment.
join the convo
How do you take care of yourself during busy times?
What little tricks help empty your cup and de-stress your mind?
Do you totally disagree? Tell me why you’re on Team Fill-Your-Cup!