Imagine closing your eyes, and opening them to a feeling of calm and serenity
Life is not always easy. There’s always someone who wants or needs our attention, and we want to give it to them. We love them. We want them to be happy. Sometimes even more than we want ourselves to be happy.
When I was in my early twenties, I desperately wanted everyone to be happy. I figured, if everyone else is happy, then I’ll be happy too. Sadly, the more I tried to please everyone else, the more I suffered. Somewhere along the way the wheels fell off and I ended up in a deep depression, with panic attacks and disordered eating to top it off. I couldn’t understand where I’d gone wrong. I couldn’t figure out how everyone else seemed to be succeeding when I was just drowning.
We’re more aware now of the importance to put our oxygen mask on first, before helping those around us. It makes sense – it means we’re still alive in order to help. We can support and serve better if we’re supported ourselves. Yet so many of us wait too long to put our oxygen masks on. We miss the signs and before we know it we feel completely overwhelmed and the cracks start to show.
I wanted to share with you three simple tools I use with my clients. They may not solve all your worries overnight, but they can definitely give you some respite in between.
1. Recognise what you can, and can’t, do: we often get sucked in to stressing about something we feel we ‘should’ do, but for whatever reason, can’t. Instead of accepting that we might have to let someone down, we work ourselves into a frenzy of worry and beat ourselves up about it. Instead, bite the bullet. Recognise it’s not going to happen and use your energy to manage expectations. People are often much more understanding if they feel they’re being levelled with and have notice if something isn’t going to happen, rather than hearing promises of something that then eventually never materialises. It let’s them make alternative arrangements and keeps you from tearing your hair out.
2. Batch your tasks: as much as possible, schedule your day so you focus on one task before starting the next. Yes, multitasking is a great and sometimes necessary skill, but it doesn’t mean you should be doing it all day long. It’s much more productive to focus on one task, finish it, then move onto the next. You’ll have better results, and you’re brain won’t be mush by the end of the day. If you need to, there are apps to stop you flitting between browser pages and you can put your phone on silent for 20mins at a time to avoid the temptation to answer that one email that just came through.
3. Figure out how to sleep: When we’re overwhelmed, our sleep is often the first victim but it’s imperative we get the rest we need in order to function properly (why do you think sleep deprivation is a recognised torture technique?). Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed and definitely put your phone on silent. If there’s someone who needs to contact you in an emergency, put them in your favourites and use the Do Not Disturb function instead (kills all sound except when certain people call you). If you struggle to fall asleep, try a sleep meditation app that you can put on and listen to either through headphones, a speaker pillow or aloud depending on if you have a partner and their preferences. It can be tempting to stay up past the point of tiredness to get more chores done, but it will cost you in the long run. Go back to point one.
These tips will give you more breathing space and a feeling of greater control over your life and remember: it is YOUR life. You get to choose, every day, what to focus on and what is an isn’t possible. You set the standard for yourself. I honour you for the love you give to others, and hold the space for you to gift that same love to yourself.