Spoiler: You ARE.
You’ve worked super long hours three days in a row. You’ve handled several items of personal paperwork that HAD to be done. You’ve done the emotional work of making sure everyone in the family is heard and appreciated and reminded that you love them. You’ve been there on the phone for a friend who is facing a huge disappointment. You have screened calls from three other friends, letting them know by text that you’ll talk soon. You’ve filled prescriptions. You’ve bought food. You’ve cleaned the litter box.
You’re spiraling. There is no time, NONE, for anything except the next thing. You are struggling with making your daily “Finish Strong” checklist and getting into bed at the time you must in order to be functional the next day.
Your introvert self is screaming for some time alone to gather your energy and recharge.
How do you take stuff off your mental plate, when EVERYTHING needs to be done?
First, realize that you CAN’T do everything. Your work stuff must get done, and it must get done by deadlines. You have to put other things on the back burner, just for now. The trick is to write those things down, even the most minor of things that take up space in your inner brain schedule, and then let them go until they come up on your calendar, or you can delegate them to someone else (Always plan to check back on your delegated tasks). Make a form text that says, “Hey, I’m sorry about the telephone tag, but work/life is crazy. I’ll call you back on (date).” Only send this when it is true, and DO call on the date you say you will.
Second, say NO to anything new. When you’re already at max mental and physical effort, DON’T take on anything else. Even if it’s something you think you want to do, you won’t want to do it when it is time. The hours in a day are finite. Sleep, as part of your self-care, is non-negotiable. The solution is saying NO in the first place, not cutting corners on things you have already committed to in order to cram something else in. Be impervious to guilt. You are good enough. You are better than good enough. You are kicking ass.
Third, don’t spiral. YOU are in control. Mental effort spent worrying and stressing about not getting things done is wasted energy. Use positive self-talk to reassure yourself that you are on top of this, you control your time and choices, and you are doing great. If you forget something, apologize, forgive yourself and move on. Remember to write things down, and carry your list, journal or whatever with you, and check it often.
Last, as you begin to get past the crunch, start scheduling downtime. Schedule time to write, journal, take photographs, paint, play music, craft or whatever re-fuels you. NOW you must prioritize those blocks of time. Say NO without explanation. Hire a sitter without guilt. Your scheduled downtime is important, just as important as any other responsibility or task. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for getting low on energy and re-charging. Re-charging is what fuels your super power of great focus and persistence during the busy times.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. Everyone is good at looking like they’ve got it together. It is one of our major talents. Don’t fall for it.
If this sounds like advice from an expert who has it all together and sails through life, never faltering, or screwing up, or bursting into tears of frustration and exhaustion, it most certainly isn’t. All these things are what I know I should do, not what I DO do. But writing them down is a coping therapy in itself, helping me to pull out of a dive when one happens.
Say it with me: It’s hard, but I’ve got it. I am enough.