Think about your day. What is everything that you do in a day? Try to remember every little thing you do.
You get up, maybe you shower. You’ll have to dry your hair. Brush your teeth, brush your hair, deodorant. Get dressed. Maybe you eat breakfast, maybe you skip it. You probably have a cup of coffee or tea on your way to work. You do your work and interact with your coworkers. Maybe you run out to grab something for lunch. You work for the rest of the day. You might need to stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things. Ideally you make yourself dinner. Maybe you have to deal with a pet. You throw your dirty dishes in the dishwasher. You decide if you want to just chill at home, maybe you could tidy up the place. Maybe you had plans to go out. At the end of the night, you clean your face, brush your teeth, change into pajamas, and head to bed.
Why would I have just made you go through every little detail of your day?
Well, do it this way now:
Everything now costs units. Each task will cost you different amounts of units. Go through your day and keep track of how many units you use by the end of the day.
Wake up and heave yourself out of bed – 1 units
Shower – 2 units
Dry shampoo and a messy bun – 1 units
Teeth and deodorant – 1 units
Put on Make-up – 1 units
Pick today’s outfit – 1 units
Get dressed – comfy – 1 units
Get dressed – business formal – 2 units
Feed a Pet – 1 units
Walk pet – 2 units
Make and eat breakfast so you can take your meds – 2 units
Grab coffee/tea prepared the night before – 1 units
Make coffee/tea – 2 units
Make lunch to bring to work – 2 units
Grab Leftovers for lunch – 1 units
Drive to work – 1 units
Transit to work – 2 units
Do your Job – 5 units
Interact with chatty Coworkers – 2 units
Brought Lunch – 1 units
Run out to grab lunch – 2 units
Remember to take meds & vitamins – 1 units
Drive Home – 1 units
Transit Home – 2 units
Stop on the way to pick up groceries – 2 units
Feed a Pet – 1 units
Walk pet – 3 units
Go to the gym – 3 units
Make yourself dinner – 1 units
Clean up the dishes – 1 units
Order Dinner – 1 units
Eat Dinner and Take meds – 1 units
Set up coffee/tea for tomorrow – 1 units
Pack Lunch for tomorrow – 1 units
Set out tomorrow’s clothes – 1 units
Tidy Apartment – 2 units
Do some laundry – 1 units
Call a friend – 1 units
Put on Make-up – 1 units
Host a friend – 1 units
Drive to friend’s house – 1 units
Hang out with friend – 1 units
Drive home from friend’s house – 1 units
Stay in and watch a movie – 1 units
Brush teeth – 1 units
Take quick shower – 1 units
Wash face – 1 units
Put on Pajamas – 1 units
Get a good night’s sleep – 1 units
How was that? Did you have to go up and down the list a couple times to decide which tasks to chose? How many units does your day “cost”?
Ok, now imagine you only have 25 units available per day. If you have anxiety or depression, you have one less unit to begin with. Try it, see if you can do it. It is possible, it just requires some serious thought and planning. If you really need to, you can borrow units from tomorrow, but then you have that many fewer units to work with tomorrow.
Now replace “units” with “spoons”, and you get the Spoon Theory. It’s a metaphor used by “Spoonies” to help describe how they live their life.
We can come up with ways to limit spending spoons: dry shampoo, hats, fast food delivery, a freezer full of easy to make meals, a pantry full of snacks, doing a lot of prep the night before, setting a million alarms for the next morning. Sometimes in order to limit the number of spoons we use, we forgo some tasks entirely and end up with a sink full of dirty dishes; a large pile of dirty clothes; a drawer in the fridge with weeks old leftovers. Sometimes we need to cancel plans with friends, or call in sick from work. It requires a lot of effort and planning, it does.
The number of spoons we start with is different for everyone, and sometimes different tasks cost different amounts of spoons between people. But it’s a widely accepted metaphor those of us with low energy or a chronic or invisible illness.
So next time you’re wondering why your friend has to cancel on you again, or why someone can’t just text or phone you back, or why that one friend never comes out with the group ever; maybe consider that they just might not be able to. Maybe consider just taking that friend out for coffee, or getting together at someone’s house to just hang out. Chances are they want to see you, they just need to do it using less spoons.