There are two things I am sure of.
First, is that at least one of my patients every day will tell me they are tired, exhausted and overwhelmed most of the time. Second, is that these same patients are the kind of people that do everything for others, always put their family and friends first, and rarely if ever take time to do anything for themselves. In fact when I ask the question, ‘When was the last time you did something you love to do, rather than spend your free time running errands and checking things off your list?’ they will thoughtfully consider the question then with tears in their eyes quietly tell me that they don’t remember the last time. If they do, the response is often in years.
Now I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that this is sometimes the case for me, too. I have spent years balancing work, marriage, school, kids, starting a practice, all while trying to hold together friendships when it seems there is no time to even send regular emails let alone a phone call or coffee date.
I’ve been the person that has for years said ‘If I can just get through (insert event X), then things will slow down and I can relax and catch up’ but inevitably after ‘event X’ comes ‘event Y’ and the cycle continues.
Rewind five months ago when my husband and I were planning our first vacation together and alone in eight years and were planning to go to Australia. Turns out Australia is a pretty big place to visit for only 2.5 weeks and if you want to make sure you see what you want, you have to plan it all out ahead of time. Just the thought of planning the trip was overwhelming. One night I turned to my husband and said ‘Let’s forget Australia. I can’t even start planning because the thought of it exhausts me. Let’s go to Fiji. Let’s book a flight, a resort, and just figure it out when we get there.’ Much to my surprise he agreed, and this huge weight was suddenly lifted.
Because I think it’s important for you to know that I follow my own advice. And not only do I follow my own advice, I recognize how valuable this particular piece is. So here it is:
It’s not rocket science, but here’s the trouble that everyone (myself included) runs into. We say this. We know it would be great. But we don’t schedule it in and make it a priority. So then that Monday night yoga class you scheduled becomes the class you’ll do on Tuesday instead. But then on Tuesday one of your kids gets sick and you push it to Thursday. Then on Thursday you’re exhausted so you say you’ll just wait until next Monday again. And so it continues and when do you typically get to that yoga class? Never (or very, very rarely).
Fiji for us was like a dream. It was 2.5 weeks of utter relaxation, where the only major decision we had was whether to read by the beach or by the pool. No deadlines. No to-do lists. Just allowing myself the luxury of nothingness. In my whole life, I don’t remember feeling that relaxed. I slept soundly. I woke refreshed. I smiled all day long without effort.
So I’ll let you in on another secret I have learned:
How, you ask? Well, for me it first took realizing that I was capable of feeling that good to know that was possible. Then I figured out that I didn’t have to escape to Fiji to get there. Really what was I feeling? I was experiencing what it was like to relinquish all of the expectations that I place on myself when I’m home. Experiencing what it was like to only have my own well being in mind. Experiencing what it was like to go to sleep with a clear mind because I could always do tomorrow what I hadn’t done today. I realized when I returned that there was no reason not to feel that when I’m home also, which takes me back to the first secret, taking time each week to do something I love to do. No excuses. No guilt. My sanity, as I have realized, depends on it. I have discovered that it makes me a better mother, a better wife, a more productive worker, and I think ultimately a better person.
So now my patient’s know that when I give them this exact advice in an appointment, I am walking the walk. I am dedicated to it, as I feel everyone should be. And you won’t truly realize how much you need it, until you start doing it.
Start this week. There is no time like the present. Your health and wellbeing are worth the small investment. And another thing I have learned – it’s addictive. The more you do it, the easier it gets, because like chocolate, utter relaxation releases amazing chemicals that calm your mind and bring you happiness. Long lasting, sustained happiness – something you can’t get from a pill.
Challenge yourself to make the step. If you need help, I’m here to support you. I consider myself a master at helping busy women find time in their lives that they feel are overfull. If I can do it, you can, too.