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Have you heard about the spoon theory?

The other day at work, I attended a virtual Lunch & Learn hosted by a colleague. The discussion was about “Mental Health & Stress” – a timely topic given the ever-present stress brought upon us by the pandemic, among other things. The presenter, Dr. Rim Khazall, came equipped with a neuroscience background and a spunky attitude. She covered the signs of positive mental health, the difference between stress and stressors, the reaction stress has on the brain, and ways to cope with stress. 

One of the coping mechanisms presented was the spoon theory, which is the idea that you start each day with a set number of spoons. Spoons act as an indicator of your energy reserve, and completing daily activities costs spoons. That means for me, things like making breakfast, showering, getting groceries, attending an appointment, driving to work, or finishing homework, would all count against my daily count. 

spoon theory explained
(via theunchargeables)

I learned the theory was used by Christine Miserandino as a way to describe to her healthy friend what it’s like to live with limited energy as a result of a chronic illness. Miserandino painted the picture of using spoons to monitor the amount of energy being spent and on what kind of activities. (Find out more about her theory on her blog But You Don’t Look Sick.) 

On the Teams call, Dr. Khazall explained the common use of the phrase in the chronic illness community, as well as the link to managing stress levels. The spoons are a tool, and anyone can use it as a way to gain control of their energy levels.

The spoon theory immediately resonated with me, and I could see myself adapting the mindset. Spoons are a real, tangible way for me to follow the theory. If I wanted to, I could carry spoons with me to monitor my levels real-time. It’s powerful, yet simple and practical. 

This theory dovetails nicely into one of my goals for 2021, which is learning how to confidently say no. Too often, I find myself drained at the end of the day because I take on more than I have time for. I’ve realized I’m doing too much for others, and not enough for myself. Applying the spoon theory to my life complements other ongoing efforts to prioritize self-care, and learn the art of saying no. It allows me to be conscientious of where I’m spending my energy, and put some controls on my reserve. My spoons become an important resource I must learn to protect. 

I’ve coupled the spoon theory with time-blocking, and this newfound mindset is empowering! I feel like a warrior princess! I feel more in control of my time on a daily basis, I am more in tune with myself, and my feelings of exhaustion have been validated. I’ve even started reserving spoons strictly for self-care! 

Can you see the spoon theory working in your life?

All the best,

Amy Richardson

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