How to evaluate your life for "fillers" and "drainers"

In our teens and 20s, we seem to have unlimited reserves of energy. Nothing stops us or even slows us down. However, when we get into our 30s and 40s, we notice that our energy supplies are not infinite as we thought. Some days we fly, but other days we flop. What makes the difference?

At first it’s difficult to figure out, but eventually we notice that some activities fill our tanks while others drain us. Then, we figure out that we have to balance fillers and drainers so that when we engage in a draining activity, we follow it with something that fills us; otherwise we’ll be running on fumes, which won’t last long.

Managing our energy consumption is as important as managing our money and our time. Pastor Greg’s words reflect on his wife Jeni’s experience of depression, but they are applicable to all Christians living long-term overstressed lives:

The life of a young family can be incredibly stressful, and I don’t think we really appreciate enough the weight of that day-in, day-out stress. And it doesn’t have to be a family that experiences some really traumatic event. It can just be the normal everyday life of a busy young family. If you don’t take precautions for physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, eventually you’ll just run out of gas and energy and you’ll crash. And I think it’s a real danger in conservative Christian circles that we just keep going, going, going, doing the Lord’s will, having all the spiritual rationale behind it, and then suddenly finding ourselves completely exhausted.

Managing our energy begins with identifying our drainers and fillers so that we can plan ahead and fill up when we’re running low. To help you identify yours, here’s a sample of mine:

Fillers: Bible reading and prayer; listening to Christ-centered sermons and participating in church fellowship; reading books (mainly biographies and nonfiction, especially Christian); reading blogs; time with David and family; good food; doing yardwork; walking by rivers, lakes, and oceans; fishing; catching up with friends over coffee and distant family on FaceTime; hosting my kids’ friends; seeing someone’s conversion to Christ; witnessing growth in God’s people; practicing gratitude; and laughing.

Drainers: Grocery shopping; handling family dental and doctor appointments; intervening in kid squabbles; over-stretching my to-do list; fear and anxiety; overcommitting; counseling; oversocializing; staying up too late at night; watching daily news; emailing; dwelling on my failures; negativity; and managing administrative tasks.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your life for those things that fill and drain you:

Remember that we’re all different. What fills me may drain you, and vice versa. I’m more of an extrovert, while my husband is more of an introvert. We’ve learned to understand that what energizes me can be a major drain on him, and we respond accordingly. While grocery shopping drains me, one of my friends thrives on it and fights her husband to do it. Quite a few of my friends are refueled by singing God’s praises together at their weekly choir practice.

Also, these are just the everyday drainers and fillers—the kinds that we encounter in our ordinary, day-to-day lives. Sometimes, though, our lives are hit with major changes, such as the loss of a loved one, a family conflict, or a relocation. These punch major holes in our tanks, and we need to take extra-special care during such seasons.

Third, some drainers are so big and serious that they call us to reevaluate our situation. One pastor’s wife who had a terrible experience at her last church describes it this way:

We were in it, we were wholehearted about the mission of the church, but as the “behind-the-curtain” situation continued to be revealed to us, there was this constant sense of “there has to be another way.” Finally, we realized that “other way” wasn’t going to happen, and we needed to be the ones to leave and make a change.

Fourth, there are some activities that could go on both lists—what I call “double listing.” That’s because though some things fill us in one way, they may drain us in other ways. Although socializing replenishes me, it also depletes me. I love to spend an afternoon with other women and families, but by the time I get home to fix supper, clean up from the meal, and catch up with my teens, I’m mentally and emotionally good for nothing. That’s why, earlier in the day, I have to set aside time to just chill or do it early the next morning. I also have to pace my socializing and avoid putting a social opportunity on my calendar every day. Otherwise, I will spend my summer days running on low fuel and become emotionally fragile.

Fifth, while I’ve highlighted the most significant daily fillers and drainers, we need to remember that everything, no matter how small, has an impact on us. It can be a hundred little things that turn our energy tanks into sieves and slowly drain us dry. That’s why we need to refill every day, not just once a year on a short vacation.

Sixth, while we can try to eliminate or minimize some of the drainers, others are important responsibilities that are a vital part of our calling. We cannot and should not try to escape these, but rather make sure we compensate for them when they arise. None of us should feel guilty about filling our energy tanks if it’s with a view to serving God and others better.

Finally, I would add one essential filler: a daily, personal understanding of God’s clear calling for you and a whole-hearted, contented embrace of that vocation. Whether that’s in the home or in the workplace, view your calling as designed by God especially for you, with a view to maximizing your own spiritual growth and usefulness. That will keep you persevering through the tough days and fill up your tank when other energy supplies are scarce.

Content taken from "Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands" by Shona and David Murray, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.