Updated: Nov 24, 2021
“I should probably be doing something better with my time.” “I should be doing better.” “I feel like I’m the only one that is struggling right now.” “I must be doing a terrible job.” These are all things we may tell ourselves when we are feeling guilty, worn down, and even burnt out. Naturally, as humans, we compare ourselves to others. But to what cost? We are still enduring this pandemic and having to still adjust to many different things in our day-to-day routines. We are all doing the best we can—and that may look different from person to person.
I would like you to envision a plate. I want you to slowly add a piece of food to that plate that represents a responsibility you have today. Maybe it’s preparing dinner for your family. Maybe it’s going to work. Maybe it’s having to do a laundry list of chores while being at home with the little ones all day. I want you to add another piece of food. Another one. Another. Until you’re either out of space on that plate or don’t have any more food to put on that plate. What does your plate look like? Is it overflowing? Does it look like a healthy plate? Does it seem empty? Let’s compare--our plates are all able to hold food—but let’s contrast--everyone’s plate can hold different amounts of food. We all have different responsibilities and we all can handle a different amount of those responsibilities. Sometimes it’s difficult to manage what is on our plates. Someone else’s plate may have more food on it and they appear to be “doing just fine,” others may have 3-4 pieces of food on their plate and appear to be “struggling.” We all need to give ourselves grace and do what is best for us—which may not be what is best for everyone.
So how can we take care of ourselves while managing our daily responsibilities? Let’s go back to that plate that you envisioned. If you can pick 1-3 pieces of food on that plate that HAS to get done today, what would that be? Now I’m sure, naturally, you’re thinking that everything on that plate has to be done today—but that’s not always the case. What we just started to do was prioritize. I would like you to go through your plate each and every day and prioritize what absolutely has to get done today—and if there are some extra pieces of food left on your plate, they can be stored as leftovers for tomorrow. There are always things you can find to do to spend your time, but making the best of that time and taking care of #1, aka yourself, is key. Similar to what we hear flight attendants say on airplanes, we have to put our oxygen masks on first before helping others!
Now on that plate, I had you envision, I am wondering how many of you made room for dessert, aka, self-care. We have to make room for the things we care about in life! Maybe you never take time to watch your favorite show, or read that book you’ve been wanting to open, or take a bath because the kids are needing help with homework...etc. If we don’t actively make time for self-care and the things we enjoy, what is our purpose in life and how can it negatively impact the things we have to get done and the people we care about? Even if it is just for 5 minutes each day—it is absolutely necessary to have those 5 minutes of guilt-free self-care time!
There is a balance to everything in life—such as the line between balancing self-care and thoughts of being selfish for engaging in “too much me time.” Like I mentioned before, self-care is needed each and every day—now how we manage that self-care time is the important piece. Finding what works for you is key—sometimes people need just 5 minutes a day, sometimes people need an hour, and sometimes people need a whole day dedicated to self-care once in a while—and that’s okay! How we can learn to better balance self-care is by listening to our bodies and asking each day what we need. For instance, if you are feeling fatigued throughout the day, or are more irritable than usual, or feel like you have less motivation than normal—maybe you’re burnt out and in need of more self-care. If you’re wanting to prevent burnout, engaging in self-care a few minutes per day can be helpful!
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Licensed Professional Counselor