Part 1: Understanding the Problem
Recently I found myself so burnt out and overextended that even when I managed to take a break from all my go-go-going, I carried my anxiety with me and couldn’t really be present and enjoy the moment. I realized something needed to change. For me, that started with wiping the slate clean by going to confession. Since then I have been trying to determine what led me to this state of exhaustion and overwhelm, and here are my thoughts so far…
Too much on my plate
Since there are so many things that are left undone at the end of every day, I usually feel like I need to be working on getting as much done as possible from sun up until well past sundown. I can see the ridiculousness in that sort of mindset, but I feel guilty about all of these things I can’t do. The idea of making time for activities that are important but that don’t have to be done, when there are so many pressing tasks that are left undone, feels irresponsible. What is really irresponsible though is neglecting what matters in favor of what doesn’t.
Not enough self care
When life gets crazy, I don’t want to cut taking care of my family or my work, so my go to is usually to cut back on taking care of me. However, I am responsible for me, not anyone else. I can’t go around being grumpy that my needs are not being met when it is me that chose not to meet them. When I neglect to take care of myself, it doesn’t just impact me. The reality I have to face is that when I run myself into the ground, I am no good to anyone, and I can’t do the important work that God needs me to do. I can be more effective and happier in completing my tasks if I make the time for activities that are restorative to me.
Not enough sleep
I am inclined toward staying up late trying to get as much as possible done, especially since during the day I have lots of noise and little people to contend with. However, with our school and work schedule right now, our days start early, and with four little kids, it’s a likely possibility that the sleep I do get will be disturbed. I began to find that I just couldn’t function anymore with the amount of sleep I was getting, so I have started making more of an effort to get to bed earlier. The hardest part has been learning to leave time sensitive tasks incomplete when necessary and letting God show me a better way to meet my goals.
Not enough praying
Prioritizing is painful for me, so I am revisiting a concept that I learned a while ago from Jennifer Fulwiler about keeping overwhelm at bay by making the time for prayerful planning and trusting that God will give me the time to do what is actually important. The gist is that if there is something important that needs to be done (important being judged by God’s ability to see what the future holds and how me doing or not doing certain things impacts that future), then God will give me the time/energy/resources/opportunity to do said thing. If that does not happen, then I can let it go peacefully, knowing that it was not actually important that it get done that day.
Not enough connection
When I allow myself to become a stressed out mess, I find that I am physically present to those around me without being emotionally present. I can get so all consumed with myself and the things I am trying to do, that I am only half paying attention to those around me. We were designed to live in communion with others, so it is not good for me or those around me when I check out. I end up missing the little opportunities to connect that can bring joy and meaning to my day. On the other hand, when I manage to slow my roll a little, I find that even in the midst of a full day, I can still have meaningful interactions. I can have a nice chat with my husband while folding laundry or cooking dinner. I can play with my daughter while I’m helping her dress or while we’re driving. I can enjoy a brief conversation with another mom while I drop my son off at school, or say hi to the mailman when I see him. As I have tried to make space in my life for such opportunities, I have been really surprised at what a difference it makes.
Not enough joy
Recently, I had a lovely conversation with an 89 year old customer of mine. She is so sharp that you would never realize she is almost 90, and she is so sweet and pleasant to spend time with. Hearing about some of the joys and tragedies of her life really reminded me of what I’m trying to accomplish with this whole process. I don’t want to put off living until some future date when things are supposedly going to be simpler. I don’t know what the future holds. This life of mine might be chaotic and crazy, but it’s also really beautiful, and I want to be able to enjoy adventures and simple moments with my family and friends. There are so many things I want to do that should be simple yet feel impossible or ridiculously difficult at this point in my life, and that needs to change. It’s time for me to start dreaming again and to find creative ways that I can make some of those dreams a reality.
To be continued
Balance feels like this elusive concept that I am always chasing but never quite finding. I think I need to get a clearer understanding of my dreams, my values, my priorities and my goals, so that I can make sure that my little and big choices are in line with them. It’s easy for me to rattle off priorities like family and faith, but I think I need to drill down deeper to understand what living those priorities really means to me. So with any luck, I will have a future post where I share part two of this journey.