As part of my coaching practice, I like to have clients take a look at what aspects of their lives are demanding energy from them. Parkinson’s obviously puts quite a burden on a person but it is very helpful to see what other areas of that person’s life are also taking life energy from them. When a person is able to identify where their inner resources are being directed, it is much easier to come up with strategies for responding to those problems. When the problems aren’t obvious or remain unidentified, the very human tendency is to react to them, potentially draining internal resources that might be put to better use.
When some aspect of our life is draining energy from us, our natural tendencies can be to react rather than respond to it. Reaction is best defined as a strategy that deals with the problem as it presents itself, every time it presents itself. Some people talk about “putting out fires” in their lives meaning that they apply a relatively temporary solution that ends the pressing nature of the problem. However, this strategy often does not allow us time to consider how we might keep the problem from arising again. Reaction is a rapid response and we use it most often when it feels like we have a lot of small problems pressing on us at once. We just want the discomfort to stop so our solution douses the problem, allowing us to move on.
Responding to those problems is far more potent because it allows us to approach them from a position of personal power. Responding is more measured, more focused on removing the fuel that feeds those personal fires rather than simply snuffing out the flames. When we respond rather than react, chronic diseases like Parkinson’s no longer have the same dominance in our lives. We retain our life energy, which in turn keeps it from becoming fuel for a reactive fire.
Each of us has a number of different but overlapping areas in our lives that can drain energy from us: our partners, families, health, finances, homes, and work. It is easy to overlook other important areas requiring expenditures of energy such as how we manage our leisure time, our personal behavior and our beliefs about the future. Finally, even the manner one deals with the Parkinson’s can be reactive rather than responsive.
When a client determines the life areas that are draining energy, she already has the outlines for a plan for how to best respond. What is also helpful about this approach is the opportunity it provides for prioritizing then targeting areas that are drawing too much from a person’s inner resources.
When a person has Parkinson’s, the condition feels like it is intruding across these multiple life areas. That person reacts to the Parkinson’s rather than responding. This results in countless fires, countless moments of frustration, and a debilitating loss of energy. Emotional fatigue combines with the physical fatigue of PD, magnifying the distress a person feels.
Identifying areas of your life that are draining your energy allows you opportunity to respond rather than react. Responding is another word for coping.