I started this post a couple days ago typing it on my phone while scarfing down a breakfast burrito at 1pm in the afternoon. I had (and still have) this desire to write a brilliant blog post that will inspire Oprah to call me up and the rest will be history. Yet all I’'ve been able to think about all week is that I don't have time to eat, much less write anything of real substance. As I attempt to finish it (still on my phone, which I’ve never done before) I'm sitting in my new home while these godsend movers attempt to finagle the washer and dryer through a seemingly too small doorway.
Now eating is next to never something I have a problem with but I have all these other obligations. There’s the moving. And somehow I seem to be the only therapist who has a full caseload around the holidays. Which I’d like to interject I'm immensely grateful for. This is all really good stuff but it’s a lot and that doesn’t even include all the other smaller responsible, grown-up to-dos that have left me with very little me time. And by very little, I mean, none. Oh, and of course every December holiday is in full progress right now.
There's some judgment. Other people seem to be able to do all this. People with kids do this and I don’t even have those at the moment. Why does it feel so overwhelming to me? It got to the point that when a client asked me for something extra aside from actual therapy, my urge was to offer a trade. Sure, I'll write you another letter if you'll pack my dishes. Luckily I squashed the unprofessionalism, kept my therapist hat on, and set boundaries but the temptation lingered. It was then I realized how burnt out I was and that self-care had been at the bottom of my priority list.
So how do you manage even a tiny bit of self-care when there doesn't even seem to be enough time for the must dos?
I start by reminding myself that self-care is also a must do or else I become too cranky and flustered to do anything. Or I get sick. So I always put some fun stuff on my daily and weekly to-do lists. And during times like this last week when I can’t fit in as much of the fun stuff as I’d like here are some ways I alter my routine to still get in enough to remain sane (I think):
I love to read but that got thrown out the window immediately this week. A good enough replacement is listening to podcasts (or music or audio books) on the way to work (or any other mundane task). This has saved my life. Or at least my soul. And probably those around me. Los Angeles traffic can be at best frustrating, even to someone who has all the time in the world. I find that learning something new, solving a crime, or singing at the top of my lungs (always on pitch of course) can actually make some of these tasks enjoyable.
“Everyone” says that meditation should be the one thing you do every day and I try to get in the recommended 15 minutes a day. But for those days when there aren’t 15 minutes to sit “ohmming” I make an effort to practice what the Buddhists call “sacred breath” and what I refer to my clients as “the one second breath,” which is exactly what it sounds like, taking one breath. If you do enough of them they add up to 15 minutes. I do this at stoplights or when my phone dings with a message or when I’m thisclose to losing it.
Exercise is definitely my main form of coping so when I don’t have time to hit the pavement or surf I get in tiny bits of extra movement whenever I can. I walk everywhere I can, park at the back of the parking lot, and take stairs. I do lunges down my hallway. There are a million ways to get that body moving. Squats after using the toilet, pushups when you get out of bed in the morning, and there has to be a million 5 minute HIIT workouts on Pinterest you can defintely do when someone so annoyingly puts you on hold on the phone.
I tend to do things quickly. But when I start moving too fast I become burnt out and make silly mistakes. It might seem counterintuitive but doing things just a little bit slower makes it seem like there's more time. So I walk a little slower and drive a little slower. An extra 30 seconds to do something is nothing and when the sense of urgency decreases, solutions are more readily available and I feel more at peace.
So I managed to finish this post writing it during some strange breaks in wrapping up all my responsibilities. Now onto finishing them so I can full out enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation. I hope you all are doing the same for the rest of the year no matter what holidays you celebrate and start off this 2018 fresh and ready to conquer.