Avoid them at all cost to keep your long-term sanity.
I’ll give you just a handful, but they are among the worst drainers in the world. The order is not dictated by the effects. They differ for different people.
It can have many shapes, but in the end it’s delaying an action which is unavoidable or which is very beneficial to do here and now. You can make up some ‘urgent’ subsidiary actions, or you simply wait instead of doing.
Both courses of action drain your energy. Even if you do something, but you know you should do something else entirely, your heart is not in the present action. Your mind is divided. Your energy drains through the cracks.
It applies to absolutely every kind of binge. I’ve never met a person who moved too far with any kind of binging and wasn’t robbed of energy. Maybe you met someone who said:
“Oh, I ate a ton and have so much more energy!”
“Yesterday, I drank myself unconscious and I have more energy today!”
“I read an awesome fiction book, 5 hours passed by and I was able to move mountains afterwards.”
“I played Fortnight till 3am and I woke up 6 am buzzing with energy!”
“I watched YouTube for four hours/ the whole series on Netflix and it filled me with energy.”
No? What a surprise.
While pleasures of the flesh and of the mind can restore your energy in moderation, they are drainers when you cross the ‘moderation’ point.
3. Living in the Past.
It’s not that every single time you reminisce you lose energy. Sometimes you need to revisit past lessons to pick the right course of action now. Sometimes you recall something awesome or wonderful from your past and it boosts your mood.
But living in the ‘ol’ good days’ all the time or beating yourself about your past mistakes over and over again leaves no time to be present here and now. And here and now is the only place when/where you can truly act and live.
“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” — Arthur Somers Roche
Eight-five percent of our worries will never materialize. We also tend to stupendously waste our ‘worry time.’ Instead of preparing for the worrisome future probabilities, we simply worry ourselves sick.
I have a close friend. She is sick and doctors cannot help her. She experiences unexplainable dizziness every so often. She cannot function properly. She may walk down the street, suddenly experience dizziness and collapse at any time.
She is constantly worried about her dizziness attacks. What if she goes to school and has an attack? What if she gets an attack while grocery shopping? Every day of her life is a struggle.
In her case, maybe as much as 50% of her worries may materialize. The problem is, she occupies almost 100% of her time with worries, so she has very little time for living. And her every second spent on worrying is wasted anyway. She cannot do a single thing about her mysterious attacks! Whether she worries about them makes exactly zero difference.
She, like most of us, would be so much better if she stopped worrying altogether and dedicated her energy into living her life.
5. Holding a Grudge.
Oh, this is so draining! Mulling the past injustices in your head robs you of time, brainpower and energy.
Instead of living your life, you revisit the past hurts, you have discussions in your head with your tormentors, you come up with scenarios of how you should have answered an unfair attack… and you relive the unpleasant experience over and over again. Even the one-time occurrence of unjust treatment drains your energy. Reviving it in your mind is like putting new holes in your energy tank.
The best remedy? Authentic forgiveness.
6. Beating Yourself up.
It is like holding a grudge against yourself, and it is as unproductive and draining as holding a grudge against anyone else. Oh, even more. You see, you are the only person who can change your life for good.
We all know people who feed their stomach, but it doesn’t automatically transform their lives. Being alive doesn’t mean you are living to your full potential, it’s just a prerequisite. Only you can leverage external and your internal resources.
Beating yourself up is equal to beating up the only person who can get you out of trouble. True, you might be the person who got you into trouble in the first place, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are your only hope. If you don’t stand up and do something, the only alternative is waiting for help or luck.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” — Jim Rohn
Work actually provides energy. Does that sound counterintuitive? Let me elaborate: the right work in the right doses provides energy. Sadly, most people work to live, not the other way around.
When you do something you are good at, something you are passionate about, and/or something you like doing, work is a source of energy, not a drainer.
So, ‘overworking’ applies first to doing the wrong kind of work. I’ve been working in IT support for almost 15 years. The one thing I absolutely love about this job is solving real life problems. Oh, it’s often frustrating. It’s challenging. It also mobilizes my whole intellect and creativity.
On the other side of the spectrum is writing technical documentation. Ugh! It’s drudgery. It drains my energy within mere minutes.
The second shade of overworking is working too much. If you work more than five hours a day, you probably work too much. Of course, I mean ‘work’ by work, not coffee breaks or water-cooler chats. Nor do I mean hours of boring corporate meetings.
People who are the best in the world at their crafts — sportsmen, writers, artists — you know, the kind of people the world is fascinated with, so they were studied very carefully, unlike IT support guys — practice only about 3 to 5 hours a day.
And they are the best! Part of the reason is that they work really smart and don’t waste their time on corporate meetings. However, the main reason is that anything above those 3–5 hours is counterproductive. It drains energy.
8. Living in the Future.
Worrying yourself sick is one form of living in the future. But it is only slightly different than dreaming about the great bright future of yours. In small doses, it provides energy. You feel motivated to keep going. You forget about the grey reality and focus your mind on happy images.
But if you overdose on dreaming, you rob yourself from the present moment. You don’t have time to actually act and do something to achieve those bright images. Frustration creeps in.
Dreaming too much always brings down the cognitive dissonance. Your reality doesn’t much your imagination and it becomes unbearable. You fall into coping mechanisms, procrastination, binging, or you start to beat yourself up.
Your energy evaporates.
9. Acting against Your Values.
This is the biggest drainer on my list. Usually, if you act against your values, you put yourself on the first step on the path to the one of the above eight drainers.
You literally cannot live with yourself. It cannot end well. You either take responsibility for amending the situation or you succumb to one of the escape routes. Even if that route is beating yourself up, it’s a bit more bearable than realizing that you betrayed your very own self. At least you are doing something about it, right? You are punishing the person responsible for this abominable situation — yourself.
The big problem with this drainer is that nowadays it’s not common to know your values. You may send your kid to school with an internal dread, but you don’t realize that freedom of thought is one of your core values. Each time your kid goes to school and is formed into the ‘ideal member of society’ you feel responsible for killing his individuality.
When you know you are acting against your values, you’d better amend the situation as soon as possible. There is no worse mess than a person who commits crimes against themselves. It’s the direct road to hell. Or rather, it’s a very slippery slope to hell.
Do you see a common thread here? The overwhelming majority of those habits attack from inside your mind, unnoticed. The best remedy for overcoming them is developing some mindfulness habits.
I recommend meditation and / or journaling.