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Running on Empty

The solution may not simply be refuelling.

Do you have days when you feel like you are playing catch up? Do you fall into bed at night exhausted but not able to sleep – your mind is racing? Are the words “Sea Change” close to your heart. You are not alone. But the solution may involve more than just refuelling; it may be time to have a closer look at what is really going on in your life.

The reason you are running on empty could be you are using the wrong fuel, someone is milking your tank, sand in your fuel or you have a hole in your tank. Refuelling more often does not solve these problems. The time for an inspection and a repair job is now.  

The right fuel for you – do something that fuels your fire every day

When you fill up your car with fuel you can use unleaded, lead replacement, diesel or autogas depending on your car. The same goes for you; you need to find what gives you energy. If you run on steam, using diesel is not a good choice. Although just like all cars need oil, water and to be run regularly so too does your body need a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables to lubricate you well, plenty of water to keep you cool and exercise to keep you running. The fuel I am talking about is what makes you feel energised.

You need to have some time each day that is your time. For busy people that may mean scheduling in 15 to 20 mins as free time. Some people do yoga, meditate, burn candles or oils, walk in the bush, swim, pray, do something for someone else (not something you have to do), soak in the bath, do crosswords, daydream, cross stich or any other art or craft or write in a journal. The secret is that this time is for you to do something you choose to do not something you have to do or something that everyone else says is good. It needs to work for you. Some people force themselves to do a cross-stitch because they promised to make it for someone. You need to give yourself at least 15 – 20 mins every day to refuel. This is about 1% of the 1, 440 minutes in a day. Are you worth 1% of your time?

Someone is milking your tank – learn to say no.

Some people in your life simply take your energy – they milk your tank. You have two choices: First, don’t see these people. Often, the people that milk your tank the most are family members that you have to see. The second and preferred choice is to get a locking cap.

To get a locking cap you need to look at how they are taking your energy. Are they taking your energy by making you feel bad about yourself, do they criticise. If this is the case you need to become more assertive and ask them to stop criticising you. Speaking up for your self gives you a locking cap.

If they are sapping your strength just by the physical demands or time demands, for example looking after disabled children or elderly parents, ask for help. Many people believe that they should be able to cope but asking for help has an amazing effect on your energy.

Sand in your fuel tank – flush it out

Sand in your fuel tank makes you sluggish and you don’t reach top speed. Sand is unexpressed emotions that clog up your fuel system. The only way to get sand out of your tank is to clean it out. This takes time and effort. To do this you need to express your feelings. You can do this by talking to someone; this could be a close friend or a therapist. However, this is not the only way. There are many nonverbal ways of expressing your feelings; I personally have found painting and writing to be useful

But, other things you can do include, woodcarving, soap shaving – get a bar of soap and a sharp small knife and shape the soap, oodles of doodles, keep a diary, a visual diary is great as you can draw, doodle and write in this. Writing poetry is also effective. The sand in the fuel tank can get into the engine and create a lot of additional problems including seizing the engine, do not take this problem lightly.

Some people may tell you that medications (natural, prescribed or illicit drugs) will help, but this is like fuel additives it doesn’t get rid of the sand, just lubricates it a bit so you can’t feel it, very much a short term solution.

My fuel tank has a hole in it! 

A hole in your fuel tank is a major repair job, but the hardest part is finding the leak. Especially if it is a small leak or is underneath the tank – buried deep below. The hole in your fuel tank is created by your own beliefs. They are the self-criticism that slowly eats away the fuel tank. To find them you need to search within yourself.

One way to bring your self-criticisms to the surface is to remember and write down your criticisms of others – the judgements you make on other people. These judgements you make of other people you will be making of yourself as well. One of the best ways to do this is to keep a journal. Over time you may begin to see a pattern. There are usually one or two very dominant beliefs that tend to leak the most fuel. Some of the most common beliefs are “I’ll never be good enough”, “Everyone has to like me all the time”, “No one understands me” and “I’ll never do anything worthwhile with my life,” or some derivatives of these.

Ready to ride again

After refuelling with the right fuel, fitting a locking cap, flushing out the tank and mending any holes you are now ready to ride again. You will find that you no longer run out of fuel as often and you are no longer running on empty, but have plenty in reserve.


Mary was a committed Social Worker. Not only was she effective with her clients, but she was the one her colleagues, family and friends turned to. Mary could handle any situation with ease. Her Manager relied on Mary to assist any new workers acclimatize to working in the small country town of which she was the only Social Worker. Mary worked full-time during the week and on the weekends assisted with her children’s activities, her husband’s business and two local service clubs. 

Mary had worked for two years without a day off. Mary took one week off when her daughter had to have a minor operation. On returning to work, a number of people told her how relieved they were to have her back; she was the one who knew what was going on. 

Two years later Mary suddenly quit her job, left her husband and moved to another larger town and got a job packing shelves in the supermarket. She never told anyone again that she was a Social Worker.


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