I feel like this has been the longest year of my life. I’m so burned out, I can barely enjoy the holidays. I’m cranky, resentful, and exhausted. What am I doing wrong?
I can think of a few different reasons you may be feeling the way you do. Without knowing more about your situation, my best guess is that you have fallen to the bottom of your priority list. I see this often with clients in my practice, especially women. Women tend to be amazing caregivers… to everyone but themselves. We volunteer at school, church, and sports. We overfunction at work and home. Our kids, partners, work teams, extended family and neighbors all come before ourselves.
Many women express a sense of guilt about taking care of themselves. They can feel a sense of pride for a friend who runs a 10k, but they feel guilty even thinking about going out for a 30 minute run themselves. Sitting and reading a book for a bit before the kids come home from school? Are you crazy?! There’s laundry to do and toilets to clean!
By now I am guessing you have heard the adage about the airplane-oxygen mask: put yours on FIRST, then help your child or seat-mate with theirs. It’s a tired example, but incredibly true—if you are on your last legs, you are not going to be any good for anybody. Would your family rather have two hours with a refreshed, energized, patient woman or three hours with a cranky, bitter, angry woman? The hour that you “take away” from your family to give to yourself (that’s the guilt talking) is really a gift you give to everyone.
My advice for you is to come up with a list of self-care activities that can be done in 10 seconds, 10 minutes, one hour, half a day, whole day, and a whole weekend. Then, engage in several smaller (10 seconds to one hour) activities a day. Some of my clients even keep a self-care calendar, logging their self-care activities every day to keep themselves accountable. Every so often, throw in a bigger one (half day to weekend) for good measure. Here are some examples to get you started:
10 seconds: Several deep breaths; smelling roses at the grocery store; stopping to look at interesting art in a store window; quick, deep stretch; smiling at a good memory
10 minutes: mini-yoga session; walk; leafing through a magazine; listening to two favorite songs; talking on the phone with a friend
One hour: good, solid workout; long bubble bath; reading a great book; knitting/jewelry making/creative endeavor; cooking a gourmet meal; mani/pedi; massage
Half day: kayaking at Marsh Creek; hiking in Valley Forge; reading an entire book; wine tasting with friends/partner; movie and lunch
Good luck—and remember—self-care is not a luxury…it’s a necessity!
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of the family therapy practice, Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC in Chester Springs, PA. She is also the incoming President of the PA Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT). Remember to check out Shelby’s website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.