I have a new vehicle with all the fancy bells and whistles. This morning on my drive in to work I got the bright neon orange sign in the middle of my screen letting me know I was “Running Low – Nearing Empty”. (Shhh… don’t tell my dad! When I learned to drive he told me often “Consider 1/2 a tank empty. It’s just as easy to fill it up from half as it is empty and that way you won’t run out of gas.”)
Most of the time I keep my tank about the half way point, but this past week was hectic and I never seemed to find even just the 10 minutes to stop and fill up. (Maybe I should say I never made time). If I continue to go full speed ahead, without stopping to fill up my tank, my vehicle will eventually start to sputter. The warning signs will likely get more noticeable, often and louder. And eventually I will be stranded on the side of the road in need of someone to come and rescue me and help me get on the road again.
While we don’t have a bright neon light appear on our foreheads when our cup starts to run empty, there are signs.
- Easily Agitated
- Feelings of being Overwhelmed
- Unable to Sleep
- Feeling isolated and alone even in a crowd
- Mild Depression
Just like with my vehicle if we don’t stop to fill up when those warning signs start to appear, we will find ourselves completely empty and stranded in an emotional pitfall needing someone to help get us back on our journey again.
We are a generation that is Running Low and Nearing Empty.
Anxiety, Fear and Depression are at an all-time high.
20 years ago this was not the case.
What changed? What has caused us to be a generation full of empty cups?
- Information Overload: While technology appears to make life “easier” in various ways, it’s one culprit behind the rising stress levels. Our minds no more than get one piece of information received and processed before we get 10 more. My career is the perfect example of this. 25 years ago – before the days of email – if we had a question we would fill out, by hand, a form in triplicate called a “Quick Message”. You filled out the top copy – sent the other two copies by inter company mail – received your response back on the 2nd copy – and the bottom copy was filed as permanent record. Sounds crazy right? But the stress levels we have today did not exist then. And were we really that worse off? Today I walk into my office with no less than 15 unread emails that need read, processed and actioned. And as I read that first one I watch 3, 5, 10 more come in. At the end of any given day I have read and responded to no less than 200 email messages. This type of information processing at a rapid rate just naturally creates feelings of stress and anxiety, even in the best of circumstances. (And it’s why I drive home in silence and rarely want the TV on.)
- Social Media Addiction: We were not designed to know every detail of 300 peoples lives, every day. We were not designed to know every ailment, every incident of drama, every meal, every divorce, every hurt, every boo boo of our entire community. We start to naturally take this all on mentally, even without realizing it. If your friends group is doom and gloom – make no mistake – it will affect your mood! We become a bi-product of what we put into our minds through our ears and eyes. Junk in – Junk out. Good in – good out. And even too much good can well, be too much.
- Video games: These have become modern day babysitters and they are severely affecting the behavior of children and even of adults. (Refer to what you put in is what you get out from above). My husband is a mental health counselor and has watched teenagers throw themselves on the floor, pounding fists and screaming fits if a parent takes away an electronic device. Many video games today are promoting violence, sexual promiscuity, and some even rape and criminal acts. Anyone who immerses themselves in that false reality daily will not become untouched mentally. Video games will increase stress and anxiety levels in children and adults as well as alter behavior.
- Overextended Schedules: 20 years ago there were no local little league ball games played on Sundays. It was a day for family and for rest. 20 years ago we knew how to say “no”. Today we find ourselves being lead to sign up for every volunteer opportunity, every mission field, every classroom party, every sport and accompanying practice – on top of full time jobs. We eat fast food on our way from one commitment to another. Am I saying don’t volunteer – don’t be social? NO! A sense of community is healthy. But getting involved in every opportunity that presents itself, is not. I think of the story of Martha and Mary often because I can so easily fall into the trap of being a Martha. We can get so wrapped up in the perceived priorities that we miss His Presence – or being “present” and living in the moment. Instead we are being ran by our calendars as we start to feel overwhelmed and under appreciated and just plain exhausted.
Friends – if you have identified with anything you just read – this is your low level warning – It’s TIME TO FILL UP!
Fill your cup by…
- Have set times with family and friends where electronic devices are not permitted.
- Limit yourself to social media screen time. If you are on social media for more than an hour a day just aimlessly scrolling and trolling – you’re on social media too much.
- Learn to say “no” to things that may be good, but not necessarily God. God doesn’t want you to volunteer so much that you are left empty, overwhelmed and have no time for him. You don’t have to “earn” your salvation – you can’t – it’s a free gift that you’ve already received. Be sure to take time to connect with the One who gave it to you!
- Find a quiet place and just soak in the beauty of what surrounds you.
- Make it your purpose to be present and not miss out on the day you’ve been given.
- Most importantly – even if it’s only 15 minutes to start with – Start EVERY DAY with prayer. Thank God for another day, every day. And by reading the bible – even if just a verse or two. Prayer and the Word are good medicine for a weary soul. I will leave you with the one below as a gentle reminder…
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28, 29
May is mental health awareness month and I want to remind you that we’re in this together!
You are not alone!