This theory started as a resource within the chronic pain community. A way to make outsiders understand the daily struggles these individuals must navigate daily. Over time, the theory has become a widespread and useful tool amongst a broader population to communicate capacity (physical, psychological, etc) to others and navigate day-to-day capacity internally.
We each get a certain number of spoons per day.
We use our allotted spoons to take care of ourselves and our responsibilities. Once we use them, they need to be ‘washed’ and we can’t use them again that day. You can’t use spoons you don't have.
‘Washing’ your spoons look like…
Eating, sleeping, doing yoga, going out in nature, deep breathing, resting in a quiet place, etc
It’s important to know, everyone starts their day with a different number of spoons. There are a lot of factors that go into a person's daily spoon allotment, such as socioeconomic factors, chronic illness, stress levels, physical abilities, etc. A person's spoon allotment can change daily.
For example, a physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy individual who lives an overall contented and safe life got a great night's sleep after an uplifting phone call with a friend. They wake up with 20 spoons.
Whereas, that same person who, after a tough phone call, got a terrible night's sleep may start their day with only 10 spoons.
The person didn’t change, their worth didn't change but, they are, at that moment lacking the capacity to navigate life in the expansive ways they had access to on previous days.
I love this theory because it moves me past my own often unrealistic expectations about myself and my performance.
Of course, sometimes we’ll need to push ourselves, but having a genuine internal understanding of your capacity levels can really open the door to a life that is less stressful but more impactful. Giving yourself a break in the short term can sometimes sustain the long-term goal. Knowing and allowing yourself the rest necessary to continue forward momentum is critical but it can be really scary, the next time you anxiously spin wheels maybe check in on your spoon allotment and try to give yourself a break by accomplishing necessary tasks that you actually have the capacity for.
Be nice to yourself.