When Self-Care Isn’t Enough
Anyone who knows me can predict that eventually the topic of self-care will come up when discussing stress management. Self-care is a wonderful tool for giving yourself a break when dealing with lots of competing people and projects.
What is less often recognized is each person’s capacity to handle stress. I recently read in the book “Overcoming Overwhelm” by Dr. Samantha Brody that she views capacity as an empty bucket This bucket signifies the time and energy -both physical and emotional- that you can tend to things. It isn’t possible to have an empty bucket. What fills your bucket are all of your responsibilities, roles, to-dos, and demands on your time. We all have set things that occupy our bucket; work, children, partnership, finances, health, energy, projects, etc. And then we have the optional but chosen things we fill our bucket such as hobbies, committees, clubs, support groups, extended family, etc. Lastly comes the unexpected- the things that often push us over the edge and into survival mode. Who hasn’t blown a gasket when the hot water heater dies, or a tire blows due to a pothole on the highway?
In my experience living in survival mode is equivalent to living with chronic stress. Chronic stress causes a cascade of inflammatory responses in our body, excitatory responses in our emotions - overreacting and “flipping our lid” which then overwhelms and depletes the energy we have to tackle our daily activities.
You can “self-care” all you want, but if it sometimes seems to barely scratch the surface or make a dent in your stress level, it might be time to assess whether our bucket is too full and requires serious editing.
An Exercise For Getting Clear
Carve out a bit of time to do a brain dump.
What are all the things that take your time and attention in any given day, week, month and year? Jot them all down.
This next step may seem odd but just go with it. What if you woke up tomorrow and had found yourself with the flu or mono, for the next month - what of the things on your list would you drop from your to do list? What things could wait? What things are absolutely necessary? What of those things are yours and yours alone to do? What could you delegate - even if it is hard?
Notice how your list reduces significantly. What remains are your anchors - the things you want in your bucket.
Now imagine that you started to feel better. Your energy returns for part of the day, but you still don’t have enough energy to get all the way through the day until bedtime. Would you add anything to your bucket? What things would you add?
What Does Better Look Like?
Now you’re nearly better. You COULD go back to your normal schedule and add all your prior commitments and responsibilities. OR you could choose to maintain a reduced schedule, allowing yourself some down time, some time to putter, create, visit or just be. Many people clamor for vacation, a change of pace and scenery because their day to day lives are packed to the brim and beyond. Why do that to yourself? Why not create an UNBUSY life? Can you even imagine that? What would your life look and feel like - if you had the time you wanted to live the life you wanted?
Pretty amazing! I would guess. What do you have to lose?