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Posted Aug 02 2009 12:00am

A few weeks ago I was at a fabulous conference for professional women working in the field of medicine. I may end up blogging again about it, but today I’m very focused on recharging my battery. That’s what this weekend has been for me. At the end of last week, I’ll admit it, I was a bit stressed. My husband and I were working on a chapter for a book—I was writing furiously with the dining room table covered with articles. Work, itself, was exceedingly busy. And life kept ticking along—laundry, dogs, family. This weekend? Well, much of it was spent finishing the chapter, but my husband was away and so I set my own schedule. When I wasn’t working and having dinner with my parents, I was snuggled on the couch with my two dogs watching whatever movie caught my fancy. I watched some, not brilliant, by entertaining movies as I sorted through my stack of magazines, checked through e-mail, and played solitaire. Maybe that doesn’t sound like an exciting weekend to you, but for me…ahhhh…my battery is recharged.

At that conference that I mentioned, we all took a personality test to understand aspects of our approach to work and the world. This not only helped us understand ourselves, but understand each other and other colleagues. When we separated into groups, it was fascinating. Some need clear lists of what has to be done. Others need to let things simmer, dream on them a bit, but in the end? Well, both groups get accomplished what needs to be done, just in very different ways. This exercise demonstrated that if two people are working together and have different personalities and approaches, they could come into conflict by not understanding each other’s process. Yet we also learned how much richer collaborations can be as people merge their different approaches.

How does that relate to recharging my battery? Well, one aspect of the test identified introverts and extroverts. I am clearly an introvert and while, at times, I wished I wasn’t—it’s who I am. However the definition of an introvert that was offered at the conference made me feel a little better. It wasn't that we couldn’t extend ourselves and speak before crowds—I’ve given speeches before and enjoy that task—it was how we refueled ourselves. Introverts need to direct energy inward to get recharged. Extroverts need to go out and pull energy from outside to get buoyed up. An extrovert would not have enjoyed my weekend of solitude, dogs, and odd ball comedies. But for me, it was perfect.

Now here’s the challenge. How do we craft what we need to recharge ourselves when others are around? I’m not going to tell my husband that he has to leave for days at a time so that I can regroup. But I also know that he recharges differently than I do. My weekend at home—would have been misery for him. I know because when I’ve left him at home, he typically hunkers down and watches “Band of Brothers”—a WW II show—and believe me, that does not recharge his battery.

I am lucky because I think on some level my husband knows that I need solitude—he’ll take the kids swimming on the weekends or to a movie and the expectation often is—mom is going to just hang at home. I’m welcome if I want the excitement, but he’s right, I often need some alone time. And how does he recharge? Weekend naps. And, yes, I help keep things running while he has his down time. It is all part of working together, but also recognizing what you need.

And so it is with recovery. You need to recognize what you need to recharge your battery so that you don’t have to turn to symptom use. You need to discover what helps you and ask for it. If some things make recovery harder, you need to set boundaries. Everyone has different needs, you need to understand yours and create your recovery atmosphere.

The luck about my husband understanding—well, I am lucky—but this understanding, I believe, has been crafted during our years together. I know that I’ve communicated times that I didn’t want to go swimming; I needed to just hang out alone. I know that he’s communicated his desire for weekend naps and so we work, when we can, to create the space for each other. Nothing is perfect—some weekends are too crazy to grab any time—but we do our best for each other, yes, but also for ourselves.

·         So what do you need to recharge your battery? Take that as your writing prompt—

o   What I need to recharge my battery is….

o   I feel more energetic after…

o   What helps me relax is…

o   What makes me crazy is…

o   The worst thing that I could get stuck doing is…

o   The best thing that I could do on the weekend is…

o   My ideal vacation is…

o   A vacation from hell would be…

·         Take a look back at your answers and see if there is any common ground. Are you allowing enough time for the space that you need or if crowds recharge you—are you finding the support and excitement that can help recharge your battery?

·         If you know what you need, but have a hard time asking for it—write out the dialog that you are predicting or worrying about. If you ask for some time alone, do you worry that other people will feel rejected? Is that how you would feel? Journal about what you’re worried about if you ask for what you need. Journal a conversation to request what you need. Now ask for what you need.

·         Understand that you might have to make some compromises, too. That’s all right. On the weekends I get a few hours to myself. I don’t usually get a couple of days, but now that I know the calm of it—the productivity and heft of that quiet time, well, if I need to recharge and get some writing done, I’ll be journaling all those prompts that I just gave you and I’ll have that conversation and I’ll ask for what I need.

Go recharge your battery, put energy into your recovery and Write On!

Martha Peaslee Levine, M.D.

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