Metaphors for Coping with Low Energy and Mild Depression

During autumn, trees face an upcoming energy shortage. The sun is no longer sending out enough light for trees to grow, so they prepare for this energy shortage by dropping their leaves and giving themselves a long-earned rest from the busy work of making sugar.  

Our bodies do this too. Sometimes the desire to be productive drains away leaving us feeling exhausted and worn thin. But often instead of dropping our leaves and giving ourselves a much needed rest, we start to push ourselves. We become our own bad boss, berating ourselves for being lazy, unmotivated, and unproductive, in the hopes that this cruel treatment will result in more work. This rarely works out well.  

We all have a survival mechanism that monitors our available energy and pulls the plug whenever it decides our survival might be at risk-much like the energy monitor that makes trees drop their leaves. This *energy monitor* is not under our conscious control, and we can’t force it to give us more energy. The energy monitor has one goal: SURVIVAL. If our energy monitor thinks it needs to conserve our energy, there is nothing we can do to change its mind except to stop using so much energy.   

Being wise about how and where we use our limited energy means renegotiating our relationship with the “bad boss”. Our bad boss wants good things for us, wants us to work hard, accomplish our goals, and be successful in our pursuits, but fear and shame are huge energy sucks and really poor motivators in the long term. The bad boss distorts our judgement, gets stuck on what *should* be instead of what is, and gets in the way of us making informed choices.  The bad boss is also terrible at helping us address the underlying issues leading to our energy shortage (the bad boss is sometimes one of the issues leading to the energy shortage). 

We would be far better off following the example of the mighty oak, and accepting that low energy cycles are a normal part of life, and adjusting ourselves to the demands of our body, rather than berating our body for not giving us something it doesn’t have (energy).  

If you notice your bad boss showing up at times when energy is low, brew a cup of tea, sit under the mighty oak, and give your bad boss five minutes to outline their concerns about your productivity (you can even write them down if that helps), ask you bad boss to use nice words and refrain from using shame, then take a deep breath, a sip of tea, and let it be. 

Eventually the sun will come back out, you will feel the desire to shoot out some new leaves, and sugar production will begin again. You’ll know because you’ll want to go get some stuff done, and then you will.  


However, if your depressive symptoms are severe enough or last for more than two weeks, seek out the assistance of a mental health professional.  Even trees need doctors sometimes. 

Lisa Butterworth, LPC, NCC Lisa specializes in women's issues, faith transitions, sexual concerns, LGBT+ journeys, trauma, anxiety disorders, body image concerns, and depression. She offers both coaching/consultation and therapy services to individuals, couples and families. 

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