Embracing What Limits Our Capacity
Understanding the warning signs of capacity overload is important. But we also have to be aware of and embrace what affects our capacity. Sometimes it’s not just what we are doing but when and why we are doing it that affects us.
Identify your season of life
Different seasons of life affect our capacity. Times of huge stress — such as a move, a marriage, a divorce, a new job, a new baby, or serious illness — drain our energy supply more quickly. We might know that in theory, but sometimes when we’re going through those times, we forget that we may not have the capacity we used to have or that we want to have.
When Mark and I realized we were living well beyond our capacity limits, every single thing we were doing was great. We just couldn’t handle all those things all at the same time in the season of life we were in — running a business, raising five sons ages three to thirteen, and moving to a new house. Any one of those things could have drained our capacity. So it’s no wonder that in the middle of that season, my infamous ringing bra incident happened.
How would you describe the season you’re in right now? Sometimes writing down your current circumstances, or telling them to a friend, helps us recognize how much we have going on just in our households and workplaces, let alone the things that get added on.
Embracing the season of life we are in and the limitations that come with it helps us break busy and live life at a saner, more sustainable pace.
Identify your stress points
I am not naturally a morning person. I have come to terms with this. For years, doing something early in the morning was pretty much a recipe for disaster with me. I won’t say I’ve done worse than the bra-ringing incident, but let’s just leave it at, “I’m not naturally a morning person.” Now that I understand this about myself and have identified it as one of my stress points, I’m careful not to schedule anything before 8 a.m. It’s that simple.
I have also learned I’m not a toddler person anymore. I was a toddler person when my boys were young, but looking back on it now, I realize how exhausting those years really were. (If you are reading this with a toddler dumping juice on your lap, trying to stick their fingers in an uncovered outlet, and dumping all the contents of your drawers on the floor, God bless you, sister. It does get easier and you will be able to relax again, I promise!) The thought of having to take care of a toddler drains me just to think about. Put it this way: if asked to volunteer in a church toddler room, I’m first to run out the door.
But teenagers, I’m awesome with teenagers. Teenagers don’t suck my capacity dry the way toddlers do. This doesn’t make me a bad person. There are plenty of people out there who are better with toddlers than with teenagers. We offset each other.
The fact that certain circumstances and certain people drain our capacity is important information. It lets us set proper limitations on what we do, when we do it, and with whom we do it.
Identify why you are exceeding your capacity
If you already know your own limits, why do you sometimes exceed them? Here I believe a little soul-searching comes in handy. For instance, when I spend time in self-reflection, I find that pride often gets in the way of me saying no to commitments that stretch my capacity. Had I been honest about my lack of ability to handle a 6:00 a.m. flight, I could have avoided the whole stress of “losing” my phone! I needed to kill my pride and be okay to tell some people no (including myself). Instead, I wanted to get as much done as possible that day and not let anyone down (including myself!).
In addition to pride, any number of things can cause us to exceed our capacity. We might be too focused on “getting ahead.” We might be operating outside of our area of giftedness. We might be making bad decisions based on guilt or people pleasing. We might be caught up in perfectionism. Stepping back to evaluate why we are doing what we are doing gives us insights into whether or not we need to keep doing them.
I decided I would like to unwind at the end of the day by hanging out on Facebook. But I soon realized that my time on social media was draining me instead of recharging me. I realized that I spent so much of my work life online that anytime I went online, my brain clicked into “work mode.” I was surprised at the things that actually did recharge me and restored my capacity. Quiet music and solitude recharged me, but spending time with my family, snuggling the little guys before bed, and reading while snuggled up to my husband as he watched football also restored me.
As I have talked with other women while writing this book, I have been surprised at how different we are with regard to what drains us and what gives us life. (I have a friend who dreads the process of putting all the kids to bed and can’t believe snuggling with the little guys at bedtime restores me — it would exhaust her!) We each have a different capacity level. Our levels increase and decrease, depending on our season and our situation. Finding our own sweet spot in a world of crazy will take self-awareness, self-discipline, and a super dose of the Holy Spirit guiding us along the way.
Alli Worthington is the author of Breaking Busy, a speaker, blogger and the Executive Director of Propel Women. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, their five sons, rescued dog and cat who moved onto their doorstep. You can connect with Alli at AlliWorthington.com.
Publication date: January 26, 2016