What happens when you run out of fuel?
A friend of mine once shared a story with me that really changed the way I think about managing stress, and I would like to share that story with you today.
She told me that she grew up in Haiti and her family was very poor, but when she got a job and needed to go to work, her uncle let her use his old car. The car had a lot of problems and among them, the gas gauge was broken. The first time she drove the car, her uncle told her to drive until the car runs out of gas. Because the gauge was broken, she would never know when she was close to empty unless she drove the car until it ran out of gas once and observed the symptoms.
She did this and noticed that when the gas level was low, the car would make more noise, she felt that she had less control over the steering, and the car was unable to go at high speeds. Now she knew how the car functioned when it was low on gas and in the future, when she noticed these symptoms beginning to emerge, she would fill up the tank before the situation got worse and she ended up stranded somewhere on the island.
Everyone needs to run out of gas once so they know what happens to them as they get closer and closer to empty.
Her story made me think about what happens to me when I start to feel overwhelmed or stressed. I make more noise – usually, I start to complain more about my work load or vent to friends about relationship drama. I feel as if I have less control over what is happening around me, and it becomes increasingly difficult to steer through my problems and to a solution. I cannot go full speed when I start to feel stressed, and sometimes I have to cancel commitments in order to prioritize other things.
I believe it is extremely important for everyone to run out of gas once, so that they can identify the symptoms in themselves as they get closer and closer to empty. When you know yourself and your capacity for stress, you can make much more informed decisions about what projects you are able to take on and when. Even more importantly, when unexpected issues arise, you know how much you can handle and when you may need to ask for help or take a step back.
If you discover your personal fuel tank capacity and know what starts to happen to your body as you run low, you will be able to fill up again before you end up stranded!