by Amy Kennaugh
I had the best of intentions to write a monthly article for MDW. To share my passion as a mental health professional and shed light on practical resources and insight to give hope to the weary world. Then the middle of November hit out of nowhere, and honestly, I don’t even know where November went to!
Before I knew it, the month was over. And at the end, I feel like I let people down. After an emotional reaction to, what I believed, were my inadequacies, I stepped back, took a deep breath and realized, I needed to recognize my own symptoms of burnt out and how the month of November became yet another valuable lesson in self-care. Which brings me to my never-ending "to-do" list.
How long is your "to-do" list?
Personally, I work three jobs, have a family, am the wife of a pastor (although I haven’t been to church in months due to said jobs), take care of a house, attend graduate school, and the list goes on and on.
I have personal and professional goals to attain, a wife and mother to be, a friend... But where does "being good to myself" fit in with all those priorities?
Especially during the holidays, we as women often feel we need to make a difference and give our family, friends, neighbors, the poor, and whomever else is on our list a memorable and happy two months. But that’s not always reasonable.
As we give and give and give and give and give, our own self-care gets farther and farther down the "to-do" list.
And then we come apart at the seams.
In an attempt to cut off the impending collapse before it even begins, let's talk about ways to identify when we've stretched ourselves too thin in the past and be proactive with our selves instead of reactive when we crash and burn.
Recognize the need for self-care.
There's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to self-care. Overwhelming anxiety due to overscheduling can manifest itself physically, emotionally, and mentally. For me, the first thing I notice is that I get really snippy and short-tempered with my family. Not because they are necessarily doing anything wrong, but I feel at that moment like I can’t do anything right.
I also notice that I become lethargic. Not the slouchy kind of tired where a good cup of caffeinated tea will kick-start my energy. I’m talking about not being able to move anywhere to do anything.
And then I literally shut down.
In my mind, there's too much to do in too little time and I can’t do it to the level I want, so I do - nothing.
Then, I start to overthink everything. In fact, my head will not shut up!
Did I do that right? Do I have time for that? I need to finish that task...
And so on and so forth.
I really noticed this as we went into the week of Thanksgiving last month. I knew if we were, or at least, if I was going to enjoy the week, I needed to make some changes.
So I did.
The first thing I did, which completely contradicts my type-A personality, was I canceled everything. I cancelled clients, I cancelled plans, I even cancelled Thanksgiving dinner.
And yes that was after I had just spent money buying everything for Turkey Day. My husband and I both worked anyway, so I wasn’t even sure where dinner was gonna go. I scrapped assignments that needed to get done as well as those I wanted to get done (such as the November article for MDW).
Next, I made plans with family and friends. I went to church, which my weekend work schedule never allows, and my family spent the morning watching the parade followed by football.
A friend invited us over for dinner, and I gladly accepted, the only thing we missed out on was leftovers. I dove into much-needed rest, but not the sleep kind, rather, rest for my soul.
In essence, I got caught up on the priorities I was neglecting - faith, family, and friends.
As a happy result, I was able to start December with a renewed energy.