Evaluating Your Life Stressors

by Karen Kondor

A daily priority of mine was taught to me by my maternal grandmother: “Every day, do something for yourself, something for someone else, and something for your brain.” So, I constantly look for ways to learn new things, and improve on old ones. Not long ago, I took a course from Sam Miller Science in which we learned about an exercise called “Drains & Charges.” It has to do with recognizing and accounting for the amount of stress we experience daily.

Our society has normalized stress

We don’t recognize the high levels of stress we are under on a regular basis. It’s become the expected and accepted norm to move through our days with high stress levels. This affects many parts of our lives, including our ability to build muscle, lose fat, sleep well, maintain quality relationships, perform well at work, and crush gym workouts, just to name a few.

So, an exercise to help you recognize and mitigate the stressors you have in your life...

Think about your life being like your cellphone.

There are ways that energy is depleted from your cellphone (Drains), and there are also ways that your cellphone’s battery goes back into the green (Charges). Another way to think about it is like a bank account - withdrawals versus deposits.

Sit down with a piece of paper, and make a T-chart (like a pros and cons table).

  • List all of the things in your daily life that drain you (e.g. work, poor sleep, parenting, arguments with your partner, caring for aging parents, dwindling bank account).
  • Next, make a list of all of the things in your daily life that charge you (e.g. reading, journaling, walking outdoors, eating nutritious food, going to the gym, napping, chatting with a friend).
  • BE HONEST with yourself - you may THINK that things like Netflix, gaming, online shopping, or sipping wine each evening are things that recharge you…but are they actually Charges? Or, are they ways that numb you from paying attention to your Drains?

Also, remember things that run in the background.

Like a cellphone, where you have apps that run in the background and drain energy from your phone, we have things in our lives that run in the background and drain energy from us. They aren’t always in our face, but they are there, running in the background, draining our energy. For example, that household project that is half finished, that tough conversation you need to have with a friend, the meeting you need to have with your boss to ask for a raise or promotion, that long-standing dysfunctional relationship you’re in, those forms that need filling out, that desk that needs to be organized. Oh, and let’s not forget a two-year-long worldwide pandemic, and the many divisive situations that are a part of that. Dig deep here, people - include these on your list!

Now, sit back and take a look at your T-chart.

Do you have more things in your Drains list than you do in your Charges list? Are the lists equal in number? 

Bear in mind that even if you have equal numbers in both lists, it’s possible that the Drains drain you more than the Charges recharge you. You might need more things on your Charges list in order to offset the things in your Drains list. After all, it’s possible that some of the Drains are out of your control.

If it’s an uneven number, what things can you add to your Charges list to support all of the things that Drain you? And/or what Drains can you whittle away at to remove from your list?

This is a great exercise to help put perspective on the things that drain us, and the impact they have.

Many of us sell ourselves short on how much stress we have in our lives, and therefore carry on as if it isn’t impacting us in a multitude of ways. Revisiting this exercise on the regular will help you understand why you feel so run down all of the time, and/or it will help you see the progress you are making in creating a more stress-free life for yourself. Dig in!


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