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Lessons from Covid: Pouring From An Empty Cup

This blog is dedicated to the helpers, healers, girlfriends and bruh’s. If you care about others and provide empathy and support this is for you.

I have been pouring from a cup of empathy, concern, compassion, understanding and support for years to all who needed. While foolishly thinking that this same cup would magically replenish from the few self-care routines, I had developed for myself.

Day in day out, pouring, pouring, pouring watching those whose cups were full again, feel better, move in empowered choices, feel lighter as their burdens slid away.

Behind the mask

As I felt the edges begin to sear and I desperately scraped the bottom of the cup for more, Covid-19 a pandemic of international and epic proportion hit. I continued to scrape the bottom of the cup now in need of calm, control, normalcy, and routine. I needed these critical pieces of life not only for myself, but for those I work with.

Like most persons who work in a people-oriented business we at some level enjoy being needed. It is almost as if the more we are needed the more energized and hopeful we become, yet like a drug the thrill eventually leaves us empty and if we are not careful truly burned out. I jokingly refer to this place in the following manner, “the house is burning down and there is a ring at door, we open the door, smile and say, “Hi, Welcome to JC Penney.” I am sure you get the joke. I am by no means making light of the horror and trauma brought to us via the pandemic.

As I have stated earlier, persons of color have been living with a pandemic of systemic and institutional racism for over 400 years. We have become adept at walking the road of the burning house and opening the door with a smile on our faces.

Today in the middle of a pandemic of epic proportion, my cup truly became empty and I could no longer deceive myself into thinking that I could create more compassion, understanding, listening and presence. The day I realized my plight I noticed an edginess, impatience, an internal conflict within myself of trying to be present yet wanting to run away.

Not broken just empty

It was in this space that I allowed myself the gift of curiosity and self-compassion. I saw myself as the wounded bird in the scenario by:

  1. Admitting that it is okay to be vulnerable.

  2. Asking for help and receiving help.

  3. Recognizing and accepting that I do not have all the answers.

  4. Validating and trusting the strength developed in the process.

  5. Accepting that not all stories will have a happy ending, no matter how hard we try.

  6. Recognizing trauma changes us even through secondary or tertiary exposure.

I realize that as healthcare professionals we must practice what we preach by taking time regularly to:

  1. Set and manage our personal and professional boundaries.

  2. Make time for spiritual, recreational, and connective outlets.

  3. Stay connected to ourselves at a deep and authentic level being present with ourselves.

  4. Making intentional time to rest and rejuvenate.

  5. Laugh and not take ourselves and life too seriously.

Here is to your opportunity today to give yourself permission to actively explore and create balance, self-care, and compassion for you. When we take the time to fill our cup and intentionally care for our own cup, we and those in our lives are the better.

I welcome your comments about self-care and vulnerability.


Tammy Austin

Therapy Unchained

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