Spoon Theory, a term coined by Christine Miserandino in 2003, is the mentality that every day we only have so much energy. Miserandino had to describe what it was like to have Lupus and so she came up with the concept that every day we only have so many “spoons” of energy. She illustrated her point by laying out the spoons in a diner and described that each spoon was energy for a task throughout the day.


Miserandino explained that when a person is healthy, they have unlimited amounts of spoons to do whatever they want with their day, while people who are not healthy often are limited in their spoons, having to manage and plan their day wisely. She emphasized always keeping an extra spoon for emergencies at the end of the day, which further limited the number of spoons she had to work with. This example puts physical illness into perspective for those who don’t live with a chronic ailment like Lupus.

The same mentality can be applied to mental health. Those suffering from depression may suddenly wake up with a limited number of spoons as it gets harder to get out of bed in the morning, complete daily tasks, and make it through the day. Having anxiety can instantly drain a person of an entire spoon or two, leaving them struggling to complete their next task. When anxiety relates to being social, each interaction or work day has the potential to eliminate several spoons.

Spoon Theory may be a helpful way to envision things when you are feeling off in your daily life. Navigating where you put your energy could help you identify where you’re really struggling. If you’re not sleeping well, are you automatically waking up in the morning with less spoons that day? If you’re having difficulty with eating, are you now limiting your spoons by not nourishing your body with energy? If you are feeling socially drained, are you giving too many spoons to others and not keeping enough for yourself?

It is important to strive for balance with your spoons, as too much energy going toward being social, managing family, or dating may drain your spoons for other aspects of your life like work and school that are suffering as a result. Spoon Theory, just as it was discovered, can also be a useful metaphor to describe what you’re dealing with to friends and family. Feel free to explain how many spoons you feel like you have, and how you are using them. If you feel that your spoons are limited, remember to track your energy and seek out professional help if it lasts more than a month. While you may currently be fortunate to have unlimited spoons, be mindful of where you’re putting them, it could end up costing you more than you expect!

Contact us today to get set up with a depression counseling therapist.

Article written by Jennifer Klesman, LCSW

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