[Note: I had this post mostly ready months ago, but I kept waiting to feel “better” or “caught up” before I hit publish. But it’s not one of those things that you fix easily. There will always be new to-do lists. But it is something you keep working on to make your life how you want it to feel. I also want to note that I’m thankful I can write this post. What a privilege it is for my life to be so abundant to be able to have choices.]
I had three work days off for the holidays, and when this long break finally arrived, I was simultaneously cheering and ready to fall into a deep sleep. I was so tired.
The holidays come with their own set of tasks, including decorating, buying presents, and going to parties. They’re all fun and a big privilege, but this year, my thought was I am so tired.
And after several days of relaxing and the holidays come and gone, I’m still finding myself saying I am so tired. Why do I constantly feel behind?
I saw this quote by Juliana Finch and it helped me realize what was wrong: “You’re burned out because this culture has messed up priorities, not because there’s something wrong with you.”
I want too much.
I want to be excellent at my day job, to have a thriving blog and engaging social platforms, to be a thoughtful wife and an attentive dog mom, a devoted daughter, a caring friend, and a proactive human being. I want to make more money while inspiring and saving the world. When I get home after a workday and long commute, I want to go for a run, make dinner with Will, feed my dog, clean the kitchen, finish a blog post, get ready for the next day, and read before bed. Don’t get me started on my weekends. Those days would be super productive.
I want to have the time and energy to excel at all possible responsibilities and passions.
(Yes, I think social media and our picture-perfect social lives where we are all superhumans have a lot to do with this.)
But the reality is I get tired when I try to do it all at once and I’ve realized that I can’t have it all. Actually, maybe my definition of “all” is twisted. I think that accomplishing my big list will make me feel loved and accomplished. But to feel loved and accomplished, I can do less to make that happen and not leave me feeling ragged. I’m constantly learning and reminding myself to slow down because my mental health depends on it and my family depends on me.
These are five of the things I’m going to do to not only make sure I don’t constantly feel behind but to have a happier and healthier self.
1. Lower my expectations and build in flexibility.
Lowering my expectations sounds like a terrible thing but it isn’t. I have high expectations and I set myself up to fail. I need to be more realistic about what I can accomplish. Some tasks will take longer than others. For example, getting a blog post ready to publish always takes longer than I think, especially when there are photos to edit. It can easily take five hours. When I limit myself to accomplish fewer tasks, I won’t be looking at a long list I didn’t accomplish and beating myself up for it.
2. Give myself grace.
Overnight successes are rarely a thing and life will always have challenges. When I get discouraged, I need to remember progress takes time and practice. There will be good and bad days.
A past training run comes to mind. In my marathon training, I pushed my body farther than it’s ever gone. When I didn’t have the energy to finish a 20-mile training run (I think I finished 14 miles), I was distraught. I said some mean things to myself (things like why did I think I could do this?) and I was seriously ready to quit my goal of running a marathon. Maybe I could try running a marathon another year. But it was just a bad day. Six days later, I finished a 20-mile run with flying colors.
Whether it’s practicing an instrument, practicing a sport, or practicing a habit, we keep at it because we want to improve. I won’t ace it every time I try, but I can show up, work hard, and give myself grace if and when I fall short. With practice, my body and mind evolve to accomplish the challenge. That’s why things get better and easier.
3. Create routines and structure.
I can simplify my life by creating more structure through routines. I can journal daily, review my schedule at the beginning of the week, and do a big goal review monthly. If I plan out my days, I know what’s coming, what I’m working towards, and what to expect. With some flexibility built-in for those unexpected things, having a structure can prevent me from spiraling when one unexpected thing pops up or from feeling direction-less. Making a schedule also ensures I’m carving out time for the things I want to accomplish, such as having time each week to write blog posts and edit photos. It might sound boring to have the same routine week after week, but it is necessary for my sanity!
4. Remember my purpose.
It’s cheesy but true, my purpose is love. Love myself, love others.
Ultimately, when all other responsibilities are stripped away, my priorities are the wellness of myself, my marriage, and my pup. When life and to-do lists overwhelm me, I make sure these three priorities are ok or figure out how to make them ok. Sometimes that means putting other tasks aside and making time. When I have flexibility and structure, it makes this easier!
Similarly, if what I’m doing starts becoming more about vanity or keeping up with others instead of love and kindness, it’s time to stop and come back to my purpose.
5. Give thanks always.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” I forget often about what I am blessed with. Food, shelter, family, friends, a job, this blog, and an abundance of other things. I’m thankful for how I’ve grown emotionally and professionally and for all the things that make my life easier. I might not have accomplished my highest goals (yet) but there are so many small steps underneath them that I have accomplished. That’s something to be thankful for and proud of! Noticing and remembering all the things I’m grateful for reminds me I’m ok and I have everything I need.
6. Focus on my own journey.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” is a saying that is repeated over and over again these days. Because of social media, we are face-to-face with the “perfect” lives of others and it’s easy to get discouraged when we compare our real lives with that. I forget that I can do things another way. I forget I don’t have to do something someone else does. I don’t have to be trendy, buzz-worthy, and put-together. This is MY life. I get to decide what it looks like and what’s important to me. My metric of success can and will look different from someone else’s.
What do you think?
I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and successful. It’s good to accomplish goals, but sometimes we do so much that we forget to enjoy the journey. Yes, hard work can bring success and more opportunities and it’s awesome to grow and accomplish new things. But there’s no reward for getting the most stuff done. When pretending takes more work and stress than necessary, it’s time to evaluate what you’re doing. Life should feel good.
So, ask yourself (I’m doing this, too!): what feelings are you trying to achieve with everything you’re doing and what can you do to feel that way while not burning out?
Have you ever felt burnt out? Do you have any tips for a happier life?