Recovery 3 minutes to read

Whether you love the holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations—or you tolerate them, the holidays can be draining. How do we recover from being emotionally stressed and drained as we face the New Year?

We all have coping behaviors that we use when recovering from the stresses of life; they help us relax, self-sooth, and rest. Some are very healthy, while others turn into addictions or destructive self-coping behaviors.

There is a process I use—the 55 Gallon drum barrel exercise—that will help you make decisions and allow you to cope with your Holiday Hangover. To be fair, my friend, Wayne Cordeiro, introduced me to this exercise. I believe this simple process will help you move forward into the new year. I know it has helped family members, friends, and clients as they process life. It has been a gift to me too


First, on a piece of paper, draw a 55 gallon drum barrel: approximately 3 inches high and 1.5 inches wide. Put a spout in the top of the barrel and a spout at the bottom right side of the barrel.

Next, at the top left side of your paper just above the barrel, write: “The things/people that fill me.” At the top right side write, “The things/people that drain me.”

Now, under “The things/people that fill me,” start writing the things and/or people that fill you. Be sure that these things, people, or behaviors are within your personal values. Here is an example.

55 Gallon Drum Barrel

Things/People that Fill Me

  • Deep conversations with spouse
  • Yard work
  • Public speaking
  • Group of people I don’t know
  • Family celebrations
  • Earning a paycheck
  • Following my favorite teams
  • Going to the movies
  • Reading
  • The kids!
  • Deep breathing

Things/People that Drain Me

  • The Kids!
  • Balancing the budget
  • Confrontation with my spouse
  • Family obligations (in-laws)
  • Overtime or working weekends
  • Yard work
  • Personal failures
  • Procrastinating
  • Being controlled
  • Not getting enough sleep

As you look at your two lists, you may notice that there are things or people who show up on both lists (the kids, for example). It is often true that the same activity can both fill you and drain you, depending on the circumstance.

There are activities that drain us and cannot be avoided. For me, I am the family dishwasher and I don’t always value the job. Most of the time, it fills me; I get some quiet time and it feels good to have a clean kitchen. However, there are times when it’s just an obligation or an emotional drain. I know this is true. I find myself procrastinating over the dishes. I am sure you have activities that can both fill and drain you.

Here’s the deal: at the bottom of the 55 gallon drum barrel is sludge—It’s what is left over after all the “best” is taken out of the barrel. The bottom-of-the-barrel-sludge is not good for us or those around us. We need to keep a reserve of emotional energy; so that we are not only drawing from the bottom of the barrel. We don’t want to get to a place where we have nothing left to give.

In Matthew 22, Jesus said that we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Think about that:  a red letter quote from Jesus saying we can love ourselves.

We need to find self-care behaviors that refill us. Here are some healthy strategies to refill yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually—to refill your 55 gallon drum barrel.

Physical Self-Care

  • Get plenty of sleep (doctors recommend at 7 hrs/day)
  • Have a healthy diet (not the “see food & eat it” diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep appointments & follow medical directions from doctors

Emotional Self-Care

  • Build into your schedule activities that fill you and are in your personal values
  • Build in quiet time (Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:20). Embrace solitude—important for processing life and your relationship with God—and minimize isolation: avoiding God and others

Spiritual Self-Care

  • Participate in worship—where you experience God and relationships with other believers
  • Develop the daily practice of meditation and devotionals

Recreational Self-Care

  • Keep active with your hobbies and areas of interest
  • Maintain your important relationships (long-term stress relief)
  • Find activities that encourage mental improvement (reading a book or enjoying a movie—all in moderation)

Bottom line: after you have experienced behaviors that are emotionally and physically draining, it is important to develop behaviors that refill you. Be intentional about taking care of you.

May 2018 be a true blessing to you!