Yep, I just did that. Quite recently in fact. After returning my beverages to the completely wrong places I proceeded to walk upstairs to fold the laundry but forgot what I went to do once I was up there. You’d think this would be enough to completely push me over the edge but no, I managed to hold it together until I couldn’t find the car keys. I should have heeded the first warning with the beverage mix-up – I needed to slow down. Have you ever been there? Where you are so overwhelmed by everything on your plate that don’t know if you should laugh or you should cry? Perhaps you burst into tears because you couldn’t get the lid off of a jar. Go ahead and cry if you need to…and laugh too, because returning the milk carton to the microwave instead of the fridge really is kind of funny – at least it is when it happens to somebody else.
Our mind and body can only manage so much at one time before it starts to fight back. It fights back with things like memory problems, emotional fragility, stress, and physical symptoms like headaches, stomach upset, and fatigue. Pay attention to what this is telling you – slow down, take a breath, and find a way to make some time for yourself to regroup.
This is always easier said than done, life doesn’t stop because you need a break. But nobody is going to make one for you – it’s up to you to take charge and get your needs met. Here’s what I suggest:
1. Tell people you need a break. Setting healthy boundaries is okay, everyone needs a break sometimes. If possible arrange for other people to take care of things for a little bit.
2. Do what you love – reading, exercising, walking outside, spending time with your friends (or significant other without the kids) – whatever it is that you find relaxing, do it.
3. Do nothing at all. Don’t think about your “to do” list. Don’t feel guilty that you aren’t making dinner, preparing that report for work that you’ve been putting off, or finding a way to solve world hunger. Be completely useless for a little while and enjoy it.
4. Take care of your body. Eat well, get fresh air, and enough physical activity. Go to the doctor if you’ve been putting it off.
5. Re-examine your priorities. What’s truly important to you? At the end of your life, what will you consider time well spent? I promise you it won’t be clean dishes or killing yourself to attend that 5pm conference call while your kid has a soccer game.
6. Journal – sometimes jotting down your thoughts helps to relieve stress and gain some insight. Remember keeping a diary as a kid? If you enjoyed it then, you’d probably enjoy it now too. Since they don’t make grown- up diaries with those little locks on it find a sneaky place to hide it in. Or get a kid’s diary because you kind of like the lock, I won’t tell.
7. Laugh – I’m a big believer in the use of humor to lighten the mood, gain perspective, and relieve stress. Life can be difficult…but it can be so much fun too.