Are You Running on Empty?

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Keep this in mind as you read or watch the following.

Occasionally, there are days when I feel exhausted, defeated, depressed and discouraged. Do you ever feel like this? Who am I kidding? Of course you do. In fact, it’s the plight of being human to have bad moments and bad days from time to time. Sometimes the sting of reality becomes a bit hard to take, which is pretty normal in my experience. But, if we’re not careful, the bad moments and bad days can unsuspectingly sneak up on us, snowballing into bad weeks, bad months and even bad years. So, how do we keep this from happening? And how do we know when it’s creeping up on us?

In the title of this blog, I ask the question – “Are you running on empty?” You see, I believe that at any point in life we can easily lose our way if we’re not firmly grounded (having
the right foundation
) and filled with the right fuel. Quite easily and unknowingly, we can find ourselves taking a proverbial “drive through life” with our tanks running low on fumes – operating on the fringe. Even worse is when things come to a screeching halt, keeping us from achieving the right goals or reaching our destination.

Running on Empty or “On the Fringe” Defined

To be clear, my definition of “running or empty” or “operating on the fringe” is when a person conducts their life on limited resources, in danger of breaking down. It’s one who doesn’t have clearly defined boundaries, a person who has no set goals, a person who fails to nurture the body, the mind and the spirit. It’s Popeye without his spinach, grass without fertilizer, a car with little or no gas. You get the picture.

And speaking of cars, for most of us, our vehicle represents freedom and independence to do what we need to do and to get where we’re going. Not only does it represent our freedom, but it also facilitates (makes easier) most of what we need to accomplish daily. But, what happens when our car breaks down or runs out of gas?

Quite simply, no gas means “no go.” We all know that. It’s an easy concept to grasp. When the needle on the gas gauge starts pointing towards “empty,” what do we do? We drive to the nearest gas station and “fill ‘er up.”

But, what about our life tank? It’s not always easy to figure out when or if we’re getting close to empty. And there’s more than just one tank that needs to be kept filled. There are mental, spiritual and physical components that make up the whole, healthy person. And I believe that the combination and proper balance of these three directly affect our emotional wellness.

So what if our “life needle” starts pointing to empty? Many times we seek help or try to find ways to recharge or refill our life tank, if we even recognize our need. But many times, we seek out the wrong things or perhaps we just keep going, thinking we’ll soon make it to that gas station and get a refill.

Signs of Running on Empty or Operating on the Fringe*

Gas Gauge on Empty

  • Feeling anxiety, panic or being overwhelmed
  • Feeling depressed and worthless
  • Feeling fearful, scared and alone
  • Having trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired and fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Relying on drugs, alcohol, food, sex, TV to feel better (addiction)
  • Feeling physically ill
  • Sudden Weight gain or overeating
  • Sudden Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Relationship trouble (difficulty relating to family, friends and coworkers)

*Note- the above are just some signs of operating on empty. They are not exhaustive. All of these things can happen to anyone at some time, but don’t necessarily represent a person in crisis or close to it. Just keep in mind that if you’re experiencing any of the above in excess that you should be concerned. It’s also possible that an excess of any of the above could indicate a physical disorder and should be ruled out by a physician.

Now I understand that there are always going to be unexpected things that occur in life, things that cause grief and heartache, things over which we have no control. They are difficult to deal with and present challenges to us. It’s important though, to remember that if they happen while operating on empty or when close to empty – WATCH OUT! The aftermath can become a life wrecker and really difficult to overcome. This is why foresight, vigilance and preparation are so important.

In my coaching, I talk to people with all kinds of problems. Whether it be work, relationship, health, addiction, anxiety, mid-life crisis or a combination of these issues, one thing seems overwhelmingly clear to me –

Those who are operating on empty or on the fringe don’t cope well with the challenges that life presents. And not only that, but when problems begin to occur, while operating at a deficit (that is, being on or close to empty), more problems begin to take shape. In fact, much of the time, a type of snowballing occurs. Before you know it, a person is in full-blown crisis and unable to think, cope or adequately respond to the difficult matters at hand.

Your Take Home

So here are three things for you to consider today.

  1. Look at the signs above and try to determine if you’re running on empty.
  2. Begin to take precautions to keep yourself from operating on the fringe: mentally, spiritually and physically. Nurture these fundamental aspects of your life, keep them full and balanced so that when adversity comes, you’ll be equipped to deal with the challenges at hand.
  3. If you’re already in a state of crisis and operating on empty, then find someone wise and supportive to talk to. Now is not the time to try to deal with your chaos alone. It’s important that you have wise support and encouragement – someone good to talk to.

Over the next few blogs, I’ll discuss some things you can do that will help keep you from operating on empty or “fringeing, as I like to call it.”

As always, feel free to contact me if you need some help. Also, feel free to leave a comment or question below.

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  1. Rick Osborn | Life & Wellness Coach, Counselor, Minister, Graphic Designer, Singer » Staying Filled – The Importance of Refilling Your Life Tank - February 16, 2010

    […] at this point of reading or listening, you should now have a good idea of the signs and the concepts of what operating on empty or “fringeing” are. You should also know […]

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