For years, I lived my life on the edge of dehydration. I went days at a time without drinking a sip of water. Surviving off of coffee and soda. In my younger days, I even exercised while sipping on smoothies and ginger ale. I can't count how many water glasses at restaurants I left untouched.
Then there came a day when I couldn't stand up straight. Literally. It was late morning and I was at work. Sitting at my desk sipping on my second (well, maybe third) cup of coffee. I hadn't felt well all morning, but I was getting through. That's what a lot of my days felt like back then....just getting through. I went to stand up, to run to some meeting or another, and I didn't have the strength to stand up straight. I was doubled over in a combination of pain and exhaustion.
Thankfully my co-worker and good friend saw me and forced me to go to the hospital right away. I was just going to try to keep going, thinking it would pass, but she was really concerned and put me in her car and drove me straight to the doctor. I had never experienced that kind of discomfort before, so I thought she was going to tell me that I had some serious sickness. But nope. The doctor said I was severely dehydrated and needed to be immediately put on an IV. Once I was rehydrated, I felt completely refreshed and ready to take on the world.
I didn't recognize the relationship between my physical dehydration and my moods until that experience. Even mild dehydration has been linked to dampened moods and fatigue. (WebMD) But, I share that story of physical dehydration because it mirrors how I've lived my life emotionally as well.
“I can’t function when I let my emotional tank run completely dry.”
There are times where I've felt so emotionally refreshed, like after a vacation or at the conclusion of a women's retreat. It's in those moments I feel renewed and strong enough to handle whatever the world throws my way. Those are the times when I complete that 6 week Bible study in 6 weeks (instead of 10) and I don't miss an opportunity to have my prayer time with the Lord every day. When I keep filling myself with encouragement from His Word, my spirit is never thirsty and I'm able to pour out that encouragement to share with others. I'm able to encourage myself even when challenges come my way.
But it seems inevitable that I always eventually get sucked back into the hustle and bustle of life. Constantly busy with something because I've taken on too much. Working non-stop, skipping meals (I've been told a bag of Ruffles doesn't count) and not getting enough sleep. Surviving on coffee and convincing myself that sweet tea is the same as a glass of water. It's in those times that I am so concerned with what other's need from me that I neglect to take care of myself. Instead of refreshing my spirit by picking up the phone to connect with a friend, I spend time getting sucked into my Facebook feed, filling myself with unrealistic images of a life full of only happy moments. Instead of quenching my thirst for encouragement from my Bible, I choose to escape into my latest binge session on Netflix.
“It’s when I don’t refresh myself with water or the Word that I start to feel most discouraged.”
Emotional dehydration is a cycle of extremes that I've found myself in over and over again - going from feeling completely refreshed to feeling completely spent. And it's in those "spent" times that I allow anger, envy, selfishness, materialism, un-forgiveness and pride to fill those dry spaces, because I haven't been replenishing my spirit with living water along the way.
I'm realizing I don't have to live that way. I can break that cycle and refresh my spirit before I become thirsty, instead of waiting until I'm so dehydrated that I can't think straight. Personally I function best when I have some sort of routine, so setting up little things to help me stay emotionally hydrated has really helped.
How's your emotional tank? Do you make time to keep yourself hydrated so that you never run dry? I hope our boxes of encouragement provide monthly refreshment to you!