“Keep your energy in a bottle” – advice I received during chronic illness

Quote from lessonslearnedinlife.com

I’ve had this post simmering for a while, but with the busyness of the holidays upon us, we all could use this reminder!

Years ago when I was still struggling to survive through the pain, the sleeplessness from pain, and the exhaustion from the pain of chronic Shingles, I was given the advice to “Keep my energy in a bottle”. (Thank you, Sylvie!)

What exactly does this mean?

Anyone who has a chronic illness knows there are good days and there are bad days.

After a person goes through a series of bad days where they just aren’t able to function well, and the dishes and other housework have piled up, there is a tendency to try to make up for the lost time by tackling the now enormous list of chores.

Of course, this only perpetuates the cycles of illness, because we tire ourselves out, use up any reserves we may have managed to gain, and then have another series of bad days where we can barely move!

This is where the advice comes in handy to “keep our energy in a bottle”, and not just use it all up!

Keep some energy in reserve.

Back when I was still a skier, we learned that the most skiing accidents usually happen when we try to squeeze in one more run, not realizing that our body is already tired, and that’s when serious mistakes are made.

So we learned that when we say to our skiing partner “One more run?” that we need to recognize the run we just completed was our last run of the day!

This bit of skiing advice transfers also to chronic illness. When we feel we can do “one more task”, we need to recognize saying those words is our signal to realize that we’ve reached our limit and we need to stop. We don’t realize that when we’re busy accomplishing tasks our adrenaline levels go up, sometimes way up, and we lose touch with being able to sense when we’re fatigued.

By not completing that one last task, we help ourselves set more realistic limits for ourselves, keep some energy in reserve, and don’t completely wipe ourselves out! We don’t let the adrenaline set unreasonable limits on our energy levels, instead we recognize that adrenaline wipes out our abilities to know when to stop!

In How To Stay Positive in the Face of Chronic Illness by esoterica, we are offered some tips:

Chronic illness presents constant hurdles. You may find yourself facing obligations without the energy to fulfill those commitments. If you are too tired or in too much pain to attend a social event, help a friend move, or work late, it’s okay to back out or to decline from the get-go. Looking back on the early years of my illness, I over-committed and overworked myself. By saying “yes” to too many things, I failed to prioritize my health and healing, thereby worsening my condition.

1) Focus on what you can do comfortably, particularly things that you enjoy
2) Identify a few things that you can do yourself that make you feel better
3) Conquer your mind
4) Realize you are not alone
5) Don’t be afraid to say “no”

How To Stay Positive in the Face of Chronic Illness by esoterica

Learning to say no to others and to myself was a big lesson in self-care I needed to learn. As much as I wanted to help others, do a lot of things around the house, participate in activities, I needed to accept there were limits to what I could do.

I usually overdid helping everyone else that I had no energy, then I’d push myself more to do what needed to be done to run my own life. The overall toll it took when I had a chronic illness was debilitating. For a few years, I had more bad days than good ones.

Once I learned to set limits, to say no, to keep my energy in a bottle, I slowly started having fewer bad days and more good ones.

It was a long journey toward healing. I had to learn to eat and cook as nutritiously as possible, how to exercise in a way that didn’t put added strain on my health, take supplements to boost my immune system, relearn how I spoke to myself, and relearn how to view life.

Quote by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

For years I was battling against the illness, trying to regain my old life back and to regain my health. When I accepted that I might NEVER regain what I had lost, that things might NEVER return to how they were before, I leaned into learning all new ways of living, thinking and being.

Acceptance of the illness and the new limitations it imposed was a huge mental stumbling block, since I was constantly running up against people who didn’t understand what chronic illness and chronic pain does to a person. I was always trying to somehow win their approval by trying to be the top performing human they wanted me to be or saw me to be.


I was NOT the same person emerging from those years of chronic illness, nor would I ever be the same person!

The person who emerged learned to value herself, to speak kindly to herself and not be harshly judgmental of herself or others.

My illness helped me learn and evolve into a better person. I don’t want to return to how I was. That person is gone, thankfully!

My illness helped me to divest myself of everything that made me ill in the first place, and taught me to never take that for granted, for it was hard-won!

I wish you all the best on your healing journey, whether it is from a chronic illness, emotional pain or mental anguishes, many of the steps towards recovery or feeling stronger and healthier are the same.

Sending Happy Holiday wishes to all!

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17 thoughts on ““Keep your energy in a bottle” – advice I received during chronic illness

  1. Tamara, thank you for sharing this. It is useful, even for those who do not live with chronic illness. I think we all should remember to take a pause when we think we can do “one more run.” We probably should not 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right, if qe stop ourselves from overdoing, we can save ourselves from burnout. Easy to fall into, hard to get out of!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for “keep your energy in a bottle advice” Tamara. I identify with much of what you say when I look back to when I was suffering from anxiety and depression 16 years ago. Although I am now able to largely keep it under control, dependent upon environment, I can honestly say I am a different person to what I used to be. That’s no bad thing – we learn from our experiences, both positive and negative – but I do need to take care of myself.

    I hope you have an enjoyable Christmas and a healthy, fulfilling 2023 Tamara.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so very much Margaret! I’m so happy to hear that you have moved through that tunnel and have emerged, much like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. Wishing a wonderful holiday time too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Devang! I appreciate your wonderful support! Yes, I’m doing well, visiting my daughter and family! Hope you are well.

      Happy Holidays to you and yours!


  3. I can relate to so much here, and learned the same lessons. While a challenging journey, you’re absolutely right that we emerge a different person with new priorities–we’re often gentler and more patient with ourselves, better able to say “no” to others, and have learned to recognize and accept any limitations. I wouldn’t wish chronic illness on anyone, but there is always a silver lining and, after recovering and regaining energy, people like you can go out into the world and be a beacon of light for those still struggling. Thank you, Tamara! Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you are one of the people who “gets” this! Thank you so much for your very kind words, I deeply appreciate them! We may only be a little bit ahead of others in some respects, but we still remember to keep a hand out to help others up. Spelling out the steps is very useful too, for it isn’t obvious what steps are needed to get from there to here. Happy Holidays to you and yours too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome, and thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience! Yes, helping others is a great undertaking… I know many internet strangers who have guided me over the years. Happy holidays!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A beautiful post that captures one of the things you do best – learning from your tough experiences! Although the great advice to keep your energy in a bottle was given to you in relation to chronic illness, I can see how beautifully it could be applied to many other life situations. Thank you, Tamara!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. <y pleasure Wynne! Thank you too! Yes, this can easily be applied to other situations, so we don't overextend ourselves. I figured this time of year is when we need this reminder the most, for too often we get ourselves into a frazzle and get overly stressed from trying too hard to make everything perfect! We need to know that it is perfectly ok to tone things down, and not to feel guilty about it! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for sharing, Tamara! What you describe is exactly what is important – that we listen very closely to our needs and stop ourselves before we overload ourselves. And not give in to an inner, often self-made pressure that we “have to do something”. You have very fine antennae for what works and what is no longer possible and to accept it, because you have learned to listen to your body. I like that quote “we cannot fail at being ourselves” – indeed. Wishing you happy and relaxing holidays!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! I wish you the same!

      Yes, learning to listen to our bodies is very important. I think I need to add an edit, to speak about how when we get depleted that often we then experience a corresponding mental downturn along with the physical crash. We don’t realize how our physical health can affect our mental health!

      Liked by 2 people

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