So, my doctor says I’m suffering from stress. Surprised? No, me neither. I have a full time job, with plenty of pressure and not enough resources, and two small children. Oh, and there’s still a hole in the house roof…
I had a telephone appointment with a counsellor yesterday, and she asked me to explain my life to her. At the end of it, she said ‘I’m a bit stuck here’… Not a terribly reassuring thing to hear a therapist say, especially down the telephone, which clearly isn’t a long term solution. I do now have five sessions face to face with someone else and we’ll see how that goes.
One of the things she asked me was what in life I could stop doing. Anything that I could give up, which would give me more time to just ‘be’ instead of being on the perpetual treadmill of ‘doing’. A lot of the causes of stress in my life at the moment are externally driven, things I cannot change. The truth is that I cannot afford to reduce my hours at work, and I clearly cannot hand over my kids to someone else until they start sleeping through the night, so really, the only things I can give up are those things I do for myself. The things I do to keep a bit of me around, the me that isn’t an employee or a mother, but just me. I’m not about to do that, because those are the things that help me retain my sanity, albeit on a very loose thread.
I could, however, give up my 35:35 Challenge. I’ve come to realise that I am pretty unlikely to get to complete 35 new things before June, unless there is a flurry of activity soon. It’s hard to find the time in amongst all the other things that need doing every day, or every week. After a bit of thought, what I’ve decided to do, rather than giving it up, is to stop putting pressure on myself to complete it. So what if I only do twenty new things in the year? That’s still a good handful of new experiences, new people, new places. The journey is what counts, not whether I make the numbers ( I have enough budget management to do as it is!).
So, a relaxing, then, of the Challenge. Not an abandonment. I do still have things in the pipeline that I will continue to do. Some of them I will be writing about very soon. And there is still my ‘Bucket List’. A more important list of things I really, really want to do before I drop off my perch, which I wrote ages ago and then ignored, like somehow it was going to just happen all by itself. So, there’s the rest of my life to think about that, rather than just the time to my next birthday.
But what I need to do now is find some better coping mechanisms. The last thing I want is for my children (who let’s be truthful, are often the cause of my stress, as well as my happiness) to suffer because I am exhausted, anxious, weepy or snappy. I’ve started taking a better, more objective look at myself and what I’m doing every day. My crutches have been occasional drinking, way too much sugar, and getting into bed or slumping in front of the TV instead of to the gym or out in the fresh air. I also need to tidy the house, as the sheer amount of things we have in it sometimes feels as though the walls are closing in. In her wonderful book and website “The Happiness Project“, Gretchen Rubin understands that outer calm creates inner happiness, and I agree with her, so I need to tackle the clutter!
I don’t think it’s a generalisation too far to say that working mums (or dads) put themselves at the bottom of a long list of people, but once you burn out, then you are not helping yourself or them. So, time for a bit of self-help, alongside the counselling. Better nutrition, that will give me more, longer sustained energy; getting some exercise; a massage. Taking some time for me, to find a bit of calm and peace on that treadmill.
If there are any stress management things you do, that you think would help me out, do let me know. I know I’m not the only one out there who juggles a lot in life, so it would be brilliant to hear how you manage it!