What Does “You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup” Mean?

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    “You can’t pour from an empty cup” is an old saying that’s been around forever and recently (incorrectly) attributed to a Canadian politician, Norm Kelly. So what does it mean? And how does it apply not only to our daily lives but also to our finances as well?

    What does it mean when your cup is empty?

    You can’t pour from an empty cup is generally used to talk about self-care. If you are constantly juggling work, kids, family, finances, and more, you’ll quickly end up burnt out – and with an empty cup. 

    An empty cup means your ability to care for others will be non-existent when you don’t even have the time or energy to care for yourself.

    Sound familiar?

    Thanks to our hustle culture, we’re constantly feeling the drive to do more, be more, and have more. But it’s not without its downfalls. While I fully support the side hustle life, it’s not always sustainable for a long time for any human being.

    Stack on top of that, the repercussions of COVID, and how we’ve had to juggle even more tasks, like homeschooling, sick family members, and added stress, it’s no wonder self-care comes last.

    What does self-care have to do with finance?

    hands holding an empty cup

    Ok, we get it – self-care is good. Being too busy is bad. But how does this apply to your financial life?

    When you let earning money, and hustle culture wear you down to the point that it affects your mental or physical health, then it’s not worthwhile. All the money in the world is no good if you have beaten your body and mind down in an attempt to get it. 

    Another saying that applies is:

    “The first wealth is health.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1860

    Hustling to the point of illness or accident shouldn’t be what finally convinces us to take care of ourselves. Also, the harder we work, the more we need to stop and recharge. 

    Why Self Care Isn’t Selfish

    Whether we’re talking about personal self-care or financial self-care, a lot of us are guilty of feeling…guilt if we decide to devote any time to ourselves (*raises hand*). 

    The first thing to realize with self-care is that it’s important to show yourself some compassion. Learning to take care of yourself is essential to avoiding the “you can’t pour from an empty cup” scenario.

    Some key points to learning how to refill your cup include:

    Learn to say no.

    You cannot do everything all the time. (Trust me, I’ve tried. And failed.) It’s ok to say no to things or people you don’t want to deal with. If the interaction or task is more draining than fun, feel free to turn it down.

    Stop feeling guilty.

    This one is easier said than done, but it’s a key to keeping your cup full. It’s ok for you to need time to decompress, recoup, and relax. Do it. When you get back to your work, side hustle, or kids, you’ll feel much more energized and ready for the challenge.

    Start somewhere.

    Even if it’s five minutes to meditate every night or 10 minutes to read a chapter in a book, aim for small breaks and work your way up. Not every day is a winner, and not every day is completely draining. Doing one good thing for yourself is better than nothing!

    Make your self-care a priority. 

    Whatever you choose to do to recharge, make it a priority. It’s ok to ask your spouse to step up with the kids and give you time alone or hire a sitter for 4 hours a week. Unfortunately, you are solely responsible for taking care of yourself and scheduling your self-care. No one else will do it for you, so you have to advocate for yourself.

    Cheap Self Care Ideas

    If you feel like you’re to the point where you can’t pour from an empty cup, it’s time to incorporate some self-care. While it’s not always feasible to spend an entire day at the spa sipping cucumber water (I wish!), there are plenty of alternative ideas to help you reset and refresh.

    1. Meditate or pray. YouTube has excellent guided meditations that are free and easy to follow. Find a new mantra every week that helps you to focus on your goal of compassion, gratitude, or just being “enough” for this world.
    2. Practice gratitude. Again, I love YouTube for this and have one in particular that I enjoy listening to every night. Or, try writing down ten things you’re grateful for every day to help you adjust your mindset. Rewiring your brain using affirmations can really make a huge difference!
    3. Use breathing exercises to lower your blood pressure and stress levels.
    4. Change your scenery. Go for a walk or a bike ride and get out into the fresh air. 
    5. Exercise. Release those good brain chemicals that make you happy.
    6. Garden. There’s something about digging in the earth and bearing fruit (literally, sometimes) to help you reset.
    7. Sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s wreaking havoc on your mind and body, not to mention stress levels.
    8. Call a friend. Friends are great at pulling you out of your funk, helping you decompress, and reminding you to focus on what’s important – you.
    9. Take a shower or bath. Not every self-care break can be an all day event, but sometimes something as simple as a shower or bath care be a great way to relax and wash away anxiety and stress.
    10. Go out with friends, or on a date night. Again, a change of scenery can be a great reminder that there’s more than life than work, chores, and to-do lists. Click here for a list of cheap date ideas, and cheap fun things to do with friends.
    11. Bake, craft, or do any hobby you love. This should be a hobby you enjoy doing, but it’s work. If you’re thinking of trying to turn it into a side hustle, stop right there and back away from the woodworking projects. You’re allowed to do fun things you enjoy without giving them additional purpose.
    12. Join a group. Find a group of like-minded people to hang out with, whether a book club or a local crafting group.
    13. Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite treat. Sometimes something as small as a donut and a latte can be a great pick me up.
    14. Sign off of social media or the news. As much as I love to scroll Facebook, I know that sometimes it can ramp up my anxiety worse, making me miserable. Try picking up a book instead, especially right before bed.

    At the end of the day, none of us are Wonderwoman or Superman (no matter how much we like the outfit!). It’s ok to stop and use self-care activities to help you keep your mental health and physical health in peak condition.

    So, now that we know you can’t pour from an empty cup, what are your favorite ideas to help you recharge? Let me know what you’ve tried and what worked in the comments below!

    Text that reads welcome to Debt Free Forties

    A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More

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