When The Therapist Takes Her Own Advice
Whenever I am in session with a client, and I hear the panic of stress in their voice, they also sound defeated, overwhelmed, and suffering from pure exhaustion. My “go-to” response is to make a list with my client and prioritize what needs to be done. Together we decide what is absolutely necessary and what can be put on the back burner temporarily. Ultimately when we are feeling those high levels of stress, we simply cannot do it all.
Over the past couple of months, I had to take my own advice. I was going through a stressful time. It felt like I was on overdrive in my personal life and professional life. I began to notice my typical stress symptoms and even discovered some new ones. Then I realized I was making my health worse by trying to “do it all.”
One morning I sat down for my morning routine and was reminded of this lesson that I teach. So I wrote a list of my absolutely necessary tasks for during the week and on the weekend. Anything that did not fall in the “essential” column was put on the back burner. In that process, writing my weekly blog was taken away because that was one of the tasks in my professional life that added to my overwhelm.
I still got up and worked every day that I needed to, met with my clients, did my notes, and accomplished household chores with the support of my husband, but I did not do anything extra during this time. I stuck to what was only necessary. I challenged the thoughts in my head that said “just suck it up and do it” or “people are counting on you,” or my personal favorite, “you are being lazy.” It was not easy, but I knew I needed to take care of my health.
So what did I do with my spare time? Well, I remembered how to relax and have some fun! When I wasn’t working or doing household chores, I did things that brought me joy, like listening to and reading books. I did things for my health like exercising and going on walks outside. I had fun with friends and date nights with my husband. I did things for my mental health like meditating, journaling, checking in with my therapist. I got a haircut, tried new coffee shops, got a bird feeder, and watched the cardinals on my deck every day.
I took time to take care of myself and do things that I wanted to do, no matter how simple or ridiculous they sounded to other people. While things still are not perfect rainbows and butterflies, I feel more like myself and am getting my energy back. But most importantly, I was reminded of how to take care of myself and how to have fun!
If you find yourself in the same place I was a couple months ago, stop, take a step back, and decide what you can temporarily take off your plate. The tasks will always be there! This week I am back to writing my blog, and I am enjoying it. This week as I write, it does not feel like another task to check off the to-do list.
When you learn how to take care of yourself and have fun away from your work, you will get your energy back to accomplish more of what you want.