As Jacinda Ardern steps down as NZ PM, how can you tell when your ‘tank’ is empty?

Knowing when to step back isn’t easy, but if your tank feels empty, now might be the right time. By Imy Brighty-Potts.

Imy Brighty-Potts
Thursday 19 January 2023 11:36 GMT
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, is stepping down
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, is stepping down

Popular New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced her unexpected resignation, saying she “no longer has enough in the tank” to do the role justice.

The public was surprised when Ardern told reporters her last day would be no later than February 7.

In an emotional speech at the New Zealand Labour party’s annual caucus meeting, the 42-year-old said it was “time” to step down.

But, how can you know when your tank is running close to empty and what steps can you take to preserve your wellbeing?

What do we mean by an ’empty tank’?

“Having an empty tank is much more than just feeling stressed: when we’re overloaded and under pressure, we feel like we just need an extra day in the week and then we’d be back on track,” says author and psychologist Suzy Reading.

“Energetic bankruptcy is a feeling of total overwhelm, like there is nothing left and more time would achieve nothing. It’s a feeling of ‘stop the world, I want to get off’. It can be characterised by disengagement, the inability to muster any energy, feeling emotionally distant, numb or dulled, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. While the toll of stress might feel more physical, the toll of energetic bankruptcy feels more emotional,” she explains.

How does this happen?

Unfortunately, we all may have periods in our life where the tank is empty.

“No one is immune and we can’t always prevent it,” Reading says.

There are some traumatic life experiences that result in this natural human response, and we need to take time out and heal.”

Equally, there are times when it can completely creep up on you – a slow build that feels busy but normal, until suddenly, it’s all too much.

How can we stop it in its tracks?

“If you’re noticing a feeling of retreat, being completely at capacity, unable to meet the demands of your day, then you know you’re reaching a point of overwhelm,” she adds.

And recharging at this point is essential.

“Things that would normally replenish and recharge us might not touch the sides in this state of depletion. Any self-care that requires effort or energy will feel too much, and this is a time for being cared for, and not having to do it all on your own.”

So, don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you: “Being heard, validated and understood is helpful, and receiving hands-on comfort is helpful too, like massage or acupuncture.”

Keeping your tank topped up is a lot about nurturing yourself too.

“Pacing ourselves compassionately helps – prioritising sleep, rest, nutrition, hydration, movement, time in nature, breathwork, and learning to soothe the nervous system all help,” Reading says. As does being brave enough to say it’s time to step back.

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