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body budget

Managing Your Body Budget

Something that has come up a lot lately with my clients at every level of seniority has been the feeling of lacking balance in their lives. When this topic comes up, we inevitably end up talking about a concept called Body Budget (credit to Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D). Essentially, your mind constantly budgets the energy in your body to keep you alive and well – it anticipates what your body needs through internal and external signals and tries to satisfy those needs even before they arise. When your body budget is out of balance, you may draw the wrong conclusions on how you’re actually feeling and display emotional reactions that are sub-optimal and at times sabotaging. An easy metaphor of this is being hangry.

“You cannot overcome emotion through rational thinking because the state of your body budget is the basis for every thought and perception you have.” – Dr. Barrett

I often see people try to self-correct by (a) using willpower to change how they feel or react to things and (b) being hard on themselves. These strategies don’t work: they lead to more energy leakage and burnout. A more effective strategy is to start with the basics of tending to your body budget: plenty of sleep, healthy diet, exercise. In other words: tend to your habits. Habits help your body rest, recover and regulate.

Once you’ve got the self-care habits down, it’s time to look at how you’re choosing to spend your actual budget (energy). Ruminating, worrying and over-thinking leaks energy. Maintaining a lot of relationships takes energy. Keeping up with the Joneses takes energy. It comes down to choice and being realistic about your actual capacity versus your desires/ambitions. Taking agency over these choices is important and not easy in today’s society, which bombards us with a lot of “Do More! Do Better!” messaging constantly.

As I’m writing this, I am realizing how much I am in this too right now. Our habits, practices and commitments are in need of ongoing nurturing and tending to, as life shifts and evolves continuously. We may feel like we are going through it alone, but suffering is universal. This is why it helps to have coaches, mentors, and accountability buddies who can stay in conversation with us along the journey.

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