Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your workload but can't seem to get anything done? Or maybe you keep putting things off because you just don't have enough energy? Do you sometimes avoid even thinking about problems because that alone feels like too much? If so, you’re not alone. I don't know a single person who hasn't felt this way at least once in their life. I can remember a thousand times (or more!) when I experienced this myself. Life is complicated and there are moments when we can't bring ourselves to do something because we just… can't. It happens to everyone and more often than you might think.

While there may be plenty of reasons why you are feeling this way (which certainly shouldn't be ignored), there's one thing that can help you handle whatever the issue might be: resources. 

What are “resources”? 

In human terms, resources are what energize you and help you live your life. Imagine you have a smartphone (which you probably do) loaded with all the apps and features you need. In order for it to work properly you have to charge it daily. You might even need to plug it in multiple times a day if you need it to work non-stop. But what happens to your phone if you don't pay attention to its battery? You might get frustrated with it for not working properly and failing to perform the functions you need it to. The same goes for you. When we don't take the time to 'charge' ourselves it can be hard to be productive and enjoy the work we do.

Why do resources even matter? 

It's time to introduce you to our imaginary friends Chloe, Teo, and Dan. Their stories are fictional, but they can help us better understand why resources are important and why it’s a bad idea to neglect your internal battery. 

Chloe is a graduate student. She takes two courses this semester and has a well-paying job with a stable salary. Her job can be mentally demanding as she deals with difficult clients, and taking classes for her master's thesis is a big intellectual load for her. Chloe increasingly finds she doesn't have the energy for anything else, except studying and working.

But the thing is, Chloe has goals. She has a long list of things she wants to accomplish, and somewhere on that list is publishing an article before graduation, opening her dream online store with a friend, creating a portfolio (she took a design course a few years ago), and starting a freelance career. Impressive list, isn't it? Chloe sincerely wants to achieve all of this, and it's not that she doesn't have any free time... she just doesn't have enough energy.

So she thinks to herself, "Why the hell don't I do anything?! Every day I tell myself I'll sit down after work and start my portfolio, but I end up wasting time on the Internet until late at night! I'm so mad at myself! Why do I keep putting it off? I don't want to be lazy!"

An interesting fact: there's no such thing as "being lazy". Yep, you read that right. Laziness doesn't exist. If you don't have enough mental and physical resources to get things done, you won't get anything done. Are you able to bake a cake without ingredients? Can you grow a plant without water? Is it possible to drive a car without gas? Well, you can try, but the truth is, ambitions don't move your car. Gas does. 

In Chloe's case, she just uses all her energy to go about her daily routine of studying and working. If Chloe strives to achieve any goals on top of her usual tasks, she needs additional mental and physical resources to put into new tasks. An alternative approach for her might be scaling back her ambitions and making sure she has enough resources for her usual day before planning anything else. 

A second example is Teo. Teo is an undergraduate international student. They are not rich at all, and they work very hard to be able to afford rent and to live up to the high standards they have set for themselves at the University. They try their best as they don't want to disappoint their family. They have a goal. They work for their future.

They're not here to have fun.

So, one night Teo worked late and went to bed at 3 am. The next morning, they woke up at 8 am, skipped breakfast, and forgot their lunch in the rush to catch the bus. They feel a little nauseous, and experience difficulties concentrating on lectures due to drowsiness, their dry eye syndrome, and fatigue. When class is over, they turn down their classmates' invitations to hangout together and instead go to the library to write an essay. They get a headache which worsens over the next hour as they stubbornly try to study. Things get so bad that they just can't write this essay. They're tired, annoyed, and disappointed in themselves. 

They think, "Stupid headache! Silly head! Stupid body! Why can't it just work like it should?! I have work to do! I must work harder!

Unlike Chloe, Teo's situation isn't difficult just because of a lack of resources. Still, Teo can use resources to make small changes that will help his workload feel more bearable. For instance, they desperately need sleep and a balanced lunch. A few days to rest would also be a good idea. How about a supportive hug? Or a cup of soothing chamomile tea? Maybe ten minutes of mindfulness meditation? Whatever. Ultimately, they need the resources to get through that day, and the day after that, and the next week - and the whole year. Unfortunately, Teo doesn't see it the same way.

So when Teo’s friends invite them to attend a free yoga event on campus, they think, "Yoga is just a waste of time. I have real things to do. I need to focus on work."

And when they should take care of their body’s needs, they think, "It's not that important. I can put up with it for another day, it’s no big deal."

And when their colleagues go to a party, they refuse because they think, "I don't make much money, my GPA is still far from perfect, and I have an assignment to work on. I'm going to enjoy myself when I really deserve it."

The thing is, a moment never comes when they feel they deserve a break. They always have new, more important tasks to do. They are exhausted and their battery is close to empty. Can a full night's sleep completely solve their problems? Unlikely. But might a good sleep give them the energy to get through their day, rearrange their schedule, and try to find any help? Exactly.

Admittedly, resources are not a magic wand that can solve all your problems. This is not the secret key to a happy, carefree life and endless energy. Resources are an important part of our self-care, and your daily routine should consist of grabbing resources like you grab a coffee every morning. You need energy, and you need to get it from somewhere. It's easier than you think, and you don't have to set aside a whole day to do it. Resources can be small things, like buying a delicious bun at the bakery or wearing your favorite sweater, or it can be big things, like looking forward to your best friend’s birthday party, buying a new car, or traveling with your family. In fact, often resources are already in our lives. We just tend to overlook them.

So what exactly are resources? 

Simply put, resources are things or activities you enjoy, and your personal qualities. For example:

Your attitude. Your optimism, hope, gratitude, and beliefs about the world affect your life more than you think! The way you believe in yourself and others can both give you energy or take it away. Think about the feeling you succeed in something you worked hard for. Or remember moments when you've experienced a sense of hope and confidence for the future. Do you feel how much power that has? All this power lives inside you all the time.

Social support. The people in your life who listen to your worries, empower you, and give you a hug when needed, are a great resource. Social activities you enjoy are also a type of resource whether you're an extrovert or introvert. You may love being a part of a large group, or prefer spending cozy time with your close friends and loved ones - you know best what situations energize you or allow you to relax. 

Me time. This can be time spent quietly alone, or busily engaged in an activity you love. You might spend the whole day at home singing Whitney Houston's songs, or binge-watching your favorite TV series. You may pursue your hobbies, whatever they are, or try something new that you've always wanted to give a go. Or perhaps you prefer to do nothing at all. That counts too! 

Taking care of your needs. Just think of a hot relaxing bath with bubbles, wine, and scented candles! Do you like a massage? Or how about a little meditation? Yoga? Sports? Actually, you may just want to sleep until noon and curl up in bed wrapped in fluffy blankets. All these options, and many others, are great! Even little things, such as wearing comfortable clothes or remembering to take a bottle of water with you, can count as your resources. 

Things and places. This could be a ring that calms you down, a thermal mug that you don't leave home without, your favorite backpack, badges, warm socks, books, food - you name it. A resource can be a place where you like to spend time or perform your favorite activities; for example, walking in the park, quiet time in the library, having coffee with friends in a cafe, journaling, listening to music in your room... anything. 

Memories and dreams. Good memories can fill us with energy and make us smile. We can wrap ourselves in the positive emotions of our favorite memories such as fun moments with our friends or cozy hugs with loved ones. What’s more, we can do the same thing by drawing on dreams and our imagination to create a comforting blanket for ourselves! You can even visualize a safe, cozy place where you won't be disturbed by anything, and relax there after a hard day. 

These examples only begin to cover all the possible options. You can label anything that brings you energy or a sense of peace as a resource! You could even make a list of your resources and add to it every time you think of something new. Here at the PSC we have a resource called the Self Care Wheel that can assist in organizing these resources and exploring new ones. It’s helpful to have such a list to refer back to when you need to recharge your internal battery.

One Important Note: Practice Self-Awareness when Exploring these Resources

Now that you know what resources are and how to find them, it's time to meet Dan! (You haven't forgotten I mentioned him, have you?)

Dan doesn't do too much. He's making good progress with his coursework, and he makes enough money to not have to worry about rent and food. Dan is just a little anxious. He’s worried about a thing or two. Or twelve. Or twenty. It doesn't matter. Dan just wants to take the tension off himself and relax. He manages to do this by smoking weed, scrolling through Instagram, playing games until the morning, hanging out with friends, and eating his comfort foods.

Are they resources? Some would argue yes. Dan is relaxed, having fun, and not worrying about a thing, right? 

However, what matters here is how he feels afterward.

Resources give us energy and inner satisfaction. We should feel recharged, refreshed, and rested after using the resource. Does Dan feel like this after his leisure time? Honestly, he’s tired and doesn't sleep well after smoking, and his eyes hurt for days after staying up all night. At the same time, he feels really great after spending time with his friends, because talking with them helps him to forget about his worries and just have fun. He also feels better after a slice of four-cheese pizza and a coke, because it reminds him of his dad and home.

After engaging in some self reflection Dan decided which resources he would like to continue using moving forwards to best support himself. 

It’s important to understand that resources are your responsibility to yourself. No one can force you to take care of yourself because it's a personal matter. Practicing receiving resources every day is a choice that makes us stronger and happier, even if it's just on a small scale.

For example, Chloe decided to get rid of spending time on social media after work, and instead spend fifteen minutes meditating in complete silence. After a busy and noisy day with demanding clients, this is just what she needs, and she feels much more energetic after her meditations. She also tries to be kinder to herself and set more realistic goals. Now she makes a list of resources for each to-do list to help her feel energized and on task. Her ambition is what gives her direction, but resource activities - alone time, walks, and listening to soothing music - provide her with the energy to move forward.

Teo is trying to change their attitude, and value themself more. They started sleeping in on weekends, and making themself a full breakfast. This is just the first step. They have a lot of changes to make to feel better in the long run, but they’re taking small steps towards big goals. They accepted a friend's offer to go to a concert together and had a lot of fun, making great memories. They went to a bar with their colleagues and had a soulful conversation that made them feel less alone. They did go to a free yoga event, and you know what? They liked it! With each small step, they feel more empowered to take the next one, even if that means simply buying eye drops... Small actions and choices can be important resources too.

Finally, Dan goes through some changes as well. He finds that anxiety is burning up most of his energy, and makes him tired. Dan has decided to contact Counseling and Clinical Services on campus, but for now, he listens to supportive podcasts and practices mindfulness along with deep breathing to manage his anxiety. He’s also getting support from his friends and is going to a cosplay event this weekend. Oh, and he bought a new hoodie! He absolutely loves it so far.

So what about your resources? What are you going to do to charge your inner battery? 

Don't forget about the resource list you made! Your battery needs charging every day to keep you energized. You can come up with at least one resource to use for today (I know, you can do it!), and if you're interested in making a long-term plan for yourself, the Peer Support Centre has a great exercise for that!

The PSC Resource Wheel can help you visualize your resources on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. If you've never tried anything like this, this is a great opportunity! You know what resources you need. You’re important and you deserve to take care of yourself. 

You're worth it.

Author Bio:
Tetiana Polishchuk (she/her) is a 2nd year PhD student at U of A’s Department of Education. She started volunteering for the Peer Support Centre in Fall 2023. In her free time she enjoys listening to music, writing fiction, cooking, and watching movies.