Do You Fill Your Cup? Tips for Self Care

By Dr. Audrey File February 26, 2019

Have you ever had the experience of getting stuck in a rut and that rut ends up stretching out over weeks… months… even years? To the point that you’re barely keeping your head above water with all of the responsibilities, you’re juggling? You begin to believe “this must be what life is now.” Or do you find yourself thinking, “I just need to make it to (insert holiday or long weekend here) and then things will be better.” Or “Once (insert transition or promotion here) happens it’ll be so much easier.” Maybe your life now looks like what you dreamed it could be, yet you still feel unsatisfied. While sometimes a break from your normal routine or the shift to a new routine can be refreshing and energizing, we often slip right back into our previous habits or uncover new pressures and sources of stress. When what we were looking forward to didn’t lead to the relief we expected, we can become even more overwhelmed. 

Life doesn’t have to feel this way. 

There are many factors in our lives that we do not have ultimate control over (e.g., how rude the boss is, the loss of a loved one, a sick child (again), traffic on 485, etc…), however, there are so many different things we DO have control over that can help fortify us so that we can push through and still enjoy our lives. Imagine taking a walk away from the noise of a busy day and back into the quiet woods. It’s a warm, sunny day and when you come upon a small creek you sit to relax and rest and you set your cup right down into the calm, shallow water. Now consider the creek and the cup… On days when the cup is full and the water is low, the creek gently trickles by, barely nudging the cup. On days after rain the creek rushes by, but when the cup is full, even though the water crashes against the cup, the cup remains in place. On days when the cup is empty, even a gentle nudge knocks the cup over, and when the water is high the cup is immediately swept away by the current. We cannot always predict when the rain will come and the water will rise, but we can fill our cup so that we are stable enough to get through each day. 

How can we fill our cup? 

The beauty of filling the cup is that each and every persons’ cup will be filled by different things. Even the same person may fill their cup in different ways on different days. Self-care is a major buzzword right now and for good reason. But when you think about your cup, think about expanding your definition of self-care to way beyond the occasional pedicure. Think about making small or significant changes that are intentionally chosen to help you feel better, to help you feel more like the you that you want to be. And if this doesn’t stir up any ideas, think of what a toddler needs to function at their best – drinks plus three meals a day and snacks in between, a consistent sleep routine, time with loved ones, time to play and move… a lot, and items that make them feel comfortable and happy. These basics/essentials enable toddlers to grow and take on new things every day. They also help stabilize their mood. If you don’t believe it, ask a parent what a toddler is like when they don’t take their nap or dinner is ready later than usual! How do your basic/essential habits compare to a toddler’s? Is your body running on caffeine instead of water? Did you even eat breakfast today? When was the last time you enjoyed your favorite meal with some of your favorite people? Do you have a space at home (or even at work) that elicits feelings of comfort and happiness? 

If this discussion or these questions made you laugh, keep laughing, laughing is good! Then consider small steps… Add a picture or print you love to your desk at work or your bedside table. Drink one more glass of water than you did yesterday. Schedule a time to meet up with a friend or to catch up over the phone. Take a walk. Stretch for 5 minutes and get into bed a little earlier than usual. Enjoy the pampering kind of self-care too, but make sure to incorporate some options that make you feel good/relaxed/happy/full/satisfied beyond the time you’re engaging in them. The amazing thing is that there are minimal limits when it comes to options for filling your cup. Yes, time and money are the big ones, but oftentimes what we need most to get started is much more basic (again, water/food/sleep). Otherwise, try one thing each day and if you get on a roll, add as many more as you want to. And…

If you cannot fathom summoning enough energy to even consider making a change.

If you feel so stuck and overwhelmed that reading this makes you feel even worse.

If you cannot imagine adding One. More. Thing. to your “to do” list.

Consider meeting with a therapist. I know, that often means getting into your car, leaving home/work/family, taking the time you don’t believe you have, and spending money. Yet, this is one thing therapists do - help you to figure out how to create space for you. What has led to your cup remaining empty for so long? Why reading about self-care makes you laugh and sometimes cry. How filling your cup means you are able to withstand the days of rising water and enjoy the days of still water in between. 

You can do it. 


Audrey A. File, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and the owner of Ashton Integrative Health, PLLC. Dr. File works with adults and couples and specializes in depression, anxiety, and relationship issues. She focuses on overall wellbeing in emotional, physical, and relationship health. She believes that collaborative and interdisciplinary work can lead to more comprehensive care and incorporates that into her work whenever possible.  You can learn more about Dr. File and her practice at You can reach her at (704)565-9230 or at