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  • Kelly Tennant

Bucket fillers, drainers, and lids

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

Have you heard the saying "You can't pour from an empty cup?" It's a metaphor for energy expenditure that is used often in the caregiving community but is also relevant for Spoonies or anyone living with a chronic condition that causes fatigue.

If we think of your cup, or your bucket, as your reservoir of energy, when your bucket is full, you have lots of energy and plenty to give to people or tasks that drain your bucket, or deplete your energy. When your bucket is low or empty, you don't have any energy to spare and likely don't even have to keep yourself going.

Tasks or people that boost your energy are bucket fillers - friends that make you laugh, snuggling with a pet, reading a book, spending time outdoors; everyone has their own set of things that fill their personal bucket. Likewise, tasks or people who use up your energy stores are bucket drainers - cleaning, caretaking, grocery shopping, etc. And you don't necessarily need to dislike an activity to consider it a bucket drainer. You may love it, but know it takes a lot out of you, such as a night out socializing with friends.

Thinking of the balance between bucket filling and draining will help you balance your energy levels over time. Using the concept of a "lid" - a coping mechanism that can stop something from draining your bucket, is also useful to maintain energy when it is starting to deplete. Your lid may be recognizing your early signs of fatigue and knowing that it's time to head home from an outing, holding boundaries, saying no, or limiting the number of tasks you plan to do in a day.

It's important to keep in mind that what fills your bucket may drain someone else bucket. When your bucket is full, you have extra energy to fill someone else's bucket. Think about that person and what they would consider a bucket filler. Try to choose something to do for or with them that isn't something that is going to drain your bucket excessively. Even better if it fills both your buckets!

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