I burned out.
I was wearing too many hats, and contimplating hiring a mythical beast to help me out. I’ve been trying to be eight or nine different full-time things, and I’m only one person.
I can’t be more than one person.
I spent two years trying to be more than one person. After I left my ex, I took on all of her responsibilities – but I didn’t take off any of mine. In addition, I didn’t have much autonomy due to the nature of that relationship, so I was floundering pretty hardcore.
And on top of all of that, she was my trusted system, so I now have two years’ worth of open loops in my head – and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I don’t have another trusted system (a way to remember things and plan things and get things done), so I’ve been trying to keep it all in my head.
In my one head.
This is not feasible or sustainable.
But, woah did I try. I tried until I stopped being able to try, until I burned out, until I was making myself sick. I wound up spending more time staring at my screen and trying not to cry than accomplishing anything. I got angry. I got snippy.
That’s when I realized it was time to change something. I didn’t yet know what, but good gods, I knew something had to change or I was going to fall completely apart.
And then I kept going.
And then I fell completely apart. I held on for a few more weeks – but I started planning a retreat.
I had to fall completely apart to start caring for myself.
That was just stupid. I’m not helping anyone if I’m not helping myself first. If I don’t take care of me, there won’t be any me left to take care of anyone else.
But I’m the easiest thing to ignore, you know? I know my limits, but I’m not sure of Pace’s. I know my limits, but I don’t want to push my kid’s.
Turns out, I didn’t know my limits. And pushing myself so far past my limits made me a basket-case, a ball of sorrow and stress and ineffectiveness.
So I went on a retreat, at home.
Once I realized how desperately I needed a break, I started planning one. I kept it simple. I looked into going away, but decided to stay at home. I cleaned the house and added a few touches to it that created a more spiritual and calming atmosphere: simple things like curtains over my bookcases and the TV, so I only see them when I want, candles and stones in the bathroom, and several CDs of healing, relaxing music.
I made a list of things I’ve been wishing I had time to do. I made a list of fun things I wanted to do. I didn’t want “down time”, I didn’t want time to sit on my butt and do nothing. I needed to be recharged. I needed healing. I needed high quality me-time.
I caught up on my work so I could have a few days off without guilt or more open loops. Pace, sweet girl that she is, offered to be my butler so I could really rest, so I could focus on myself without having my normal, day-to-day responsibilities drag me down all the time.
And then I started stopping.
Regular self-care will prevent burn out.
The moment I set aside real time for myself, I stopped stressing out. Less than an hour into my first day, I was already relaxing. All I did was plan to relax, to really let go and take care of myself, and I started feeling better.
My inner Kyeli, that scared and terrified little girl who’s been neglected these past long months, started breathing again – and as soon as she was breathing, I was breathing. Deep, long breaths. Stress-relieving breaths, healing breaths, recharging breaths.
If I’d been taking care of myself all along, I wouldn’t have gotten to a place where I needed the world to stop so I could take care of myself.
If we build in self-care to our regular daily lives, we won’t burn out. We won’t get so stressed. We won’t get sick as often, won’t get angry as much.
…reading. We’re so busy, we’re reading less and less. But reading enriches our imagination and gives our brain a vacation and lowers stress levels. Curling up with a book is a great way to spend an afternoon – and the quiet is a dramatic change from the loud, bright hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.
…masturbation. Taking time out to go on a date with yourself, including having sex with yourself, is a very powerful thing to do. It sends your inner self and your body the message that you’re important to yourself and worth your own love and care. Plus, it’s nice, fun, and relaxing.
…making a list of abandoned projects. You don’t even have to finish them, but having a list of the things you wish you had time for will help you decide where your priorities are. Having a list also clears up things that might be stale – things you used to want to do, but don’t really care about anymore. Cross those things off!
…having fun. We spend so much of our time on the go, working, driving ourselves mercilessly from one task to the other, that we forget to have fun. Spending time doing activities that are purely fun reminds us to laugh and enjoy our lives.
…connecting with the divine. Prayer, song, ritual, church. Whatever you do that reminds you that you’re not alone, that you’re part of something bigger. Our souls are constantly crying out in our scientific world, begging for time to shine and be noticed. Take time out to reconnect with that.
…connecting with yourself. Spending time being yourself sounds simple, but often isn’t. We wear so many masks in our daily lives; maybe we’re one person at work and another at the club and another with our parents and another with our kids and still another with our lover. Remind yourself of what you like to do, and then do it for a little while, just for you.
Don’t forget to breathe.
In all this, I’m learning that the most important things are the ones that are the simplest. Breathe. Love. Laugh. Spend time with myself. Spend time with my partner, my kid, my friends. Take walks, read, sing. Play. Listen to my heart, follow my heart.
And really, isn’t that why we’re here?