Getty / 4x6
Rosemary Donahue
May 10, 2016 1:12 pm

This past weekend, I spent nearly the whole two days in bed. New York was coming off of a particularly dreary week, weather-wise, and my depression and anxiety levels had both spiked — a real one-two punch. I stayed in bed all day Saturday, and by the time Sunday rolled around and I was still feeling awful, I canceled brunch with a friend and opted to hide out in bed, do not one but TWO face masks, and cuddle my dogs.

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During this little staycation, I had a thought — many people don’t understand the canceling of plans just because we need some me-time, but often give leeway when we opt out by saying, “I’m too broke right now.” Is it because money is a tangible thing, and thus, is something that we can more readily fathom running out of, where emotional energy isn’t something we can hold in our hands? And if so, should we tweak our thinking a bit and learn to value our emotional energy more, which arguably has more value than anything else (even though we’ve been taught that money is king)?

I tweeted my thoughts on this, and judging by the response (or ~engagement~, in mediaspeak), I’m not alone.

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People make spreadsheets to assess their financial situation, but it’s not often that people do the same to take a hard look at the inner-workings of their personal or social lives. While I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to ACTUALLY create a spreadsheet with the names of my friends, assessing our conversations and scrutinizing the impact each has on my emotional energy, it’s a good thought to keep in mind when I’m making plans. Does this person or relationship drain me? Do I feel as though it’s one-sided, or do I feel listened to and cared for? Do I feel loved, or exhausted by these conversations?

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Emotional energy is a valuable thing that takes time and care to be restored. Some people find that they feel recharged by hanging out with people, and that’s totally great! I’m not one of those people, and even when I’m spending time with my closest friends, I usually need some time all by my lonesome to feel like myself again. I used to feel bad about this — I felt like it made me uncool, or like I wasn’t a fun person to hang out with, but I’ve learned over time that it’s part of what makes me me, and that accepting that these are the needs I have will only make it easier for me to feel good. When I’m not taking care of myself in this way, I’m even more susceptible to slipping back into periods of depression or anxiety, and I’ve learned that the people who really love me will understand that sometimes, even though I love them, I need to cancel plans and take a moment for myself. This has proven to be overwhelmingly true, and being honest about it has even lead to some great conversations about mental health, both on social media and with some of my dearest friends.

I recognize that it’s hard to be self-aware enough to know what your needs are, and creating balance is so much easier said than done — if it’s even possible in your current life. You might have so much on your plate that you don’t have the luxury of saying no to all the things you truly should say no to, in order to feel like you’re truly taken care of. But staying in tune with your relationships and who makes you feel good and who just saps energy from you every time you spend time together, as well as how much time you’re spending just focusing on yourself, is a great first step.

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