How to Slow Down and Just Be
I have not had much rest in the past decade, or even the past two decades (I actually cannot really remember when I last felt fully rested). I have three children, who are now 12, 8, and 8 (yes, twins are harder than singletons) and I work a full-time job in mortgage. My immediate family is out of town, and I am not one to ever ask for help. Ever.
Nothing I do ever feels like it is enough and it is tough to keep up. Despite all of the responsibilities and tasks we all face, we must remember to pace ourselves and do what we can. Slowing down can be tough, but it is crucial to avoid burnout and to preserve mental health.
Here are some of the ways that life can kick our ass, and ways that we can kick life’s ass right back.
Ride the Waves
Life is not stagnant, it is constantly ebbing and flowing like a tide. There is always so much to do in life, as all adults know. There is the never-ending list of daily chores, from laundry to dishes, from cooking to cleaning. There are everyday mundane duties and tasks, from work to bills to taxes. And there are the unexpected things that always seem to come up at the most inopportune times, from dead car batteries to broken pipes. All of these things make it pretty much impossible to slow down, and even more challenging so to do so without feeling a certain level of helplessness, almost akin to a feeling of drowning.
Achieving perfection is literally impossible. Human beings are inherently flawed and life is complex and full of unexpected complications. We should not expect things to be perfect, or even close to it. There are multiple facets of life, and it is incredibly challenging to keep them all balanced and achieve success in all of them at once. The pendulum that is life swings back and forth, never quite reaching equilibrium. You may have your career or love life or health or another aspect in order but you are likely to neglect another part of life. That is normal and natural, as it is basically impossible to fully keep up with everything.
Release the Guilt
When I become completely exhausted, I am forced to slow down. My body just gives up, and I usually pass out on the couch or bed, fully clothed, with the lights and TV on. During those times I sleep for hours on end, during all hours of the day and night. I stay inside and watch movies and read and try to distract myself from the guilty feelings. It works for a little while, yet the guilt always re-emerges eventually. It is as though chores and expectations and work are constantly pulling on me, and I am begging them to give me a break.
My difficulty with accepting help from others leads me to take on much more than I can handle. I seem to constantly achieve new levels of exhaustion that I never felt before. My ex did not need much rest and often made me feel guilty for needing it. When I slept in or even sat down, I felt lazy (and was called it numerous times). Despite taking care of the kids and the house and so much more, I never felt like I did enough. We beat ourselves up for not being productive, when we simply cannot and should not be productive 100 percent of the time, despite what we are told by our significant others or society.
Ask For Help
Another way to reduce the stress and pressure of an ominous to-do list is to enlist the help of others. When I finally slow down, I often feel alone and neglected, despite the fact that I pushed people away and I never asked for help. During those times, I tend to feel as though I need to do more, not less. I feel as though I am not doing a good enough job as a parent, or a friend, or a writer. I notice that my laundry is not done, that there are dirty dishes in the sink, that my driver’s license is about to expire… The work is literally never done, and it is mostly up to me to get it done. Asking for help can relieve a tremendous amount of pressure.
Gratitude helps to serve as a reminder that as overwhelming as life may be, we should still be thankful for all that we have. I am fully aware that overall, things in my life are pretty great. I have so much — three amazing children, a job, friends, a nice place to live, and more. I am aware that things could be worse, and I try my best to live with gratitude.
Take Care of Yourself Too
Being a giver can be tough. Caring as much as I do — about others and doing a good job and doing everything well — is very hard. I care and give so much that it is rarely reciprocated at the same level. I then wonder why I do not receive the same level of output. I expect my children to behave and do what is expected, yet they often do not. I expect men I date to be caring and attentive, yet they often are not. I expect my employers to pay me what I deserve, yet they often do not.
We need to stop and reflect on how others are treating us — are we being taken advantage of? The people in my life get away with more than they should, as I often put others before myself. I am aware of this, and I am working on setting and enforcing boundaries and demanding more respect. I am also learning to lower my expectations of others. Although others may not give much back to me, I can always give to myself. I can take time out of my day for self-care. Expecting so much from others can be a let-down and contribute to our guilt. We cannot control the behavior of others, but we can control our own behavior, and if we need a little TLC, it is okay to give it to ourselves. Self-care is not selfish.
“A day of rest yields a hundred days of progress.” -Adrienne Posey
Ways to Rest
Rest is achieved in various ways, and they are all okay (I promise):
- Sleep. Recover.
- Log off. Recharge.
- Be unproductive. Take time away.
- Go outdoors. Connect to nature.
- Let. Go.
You Are Enough.
Accepting that what you do is enough and that taking a break is okay are keys to erasing the guilt of slowing down. I am not sure I ever fully recover when I am always worrying about doing things while I am supposed to be taking care of myself and resting. Therefore, letting go, allowing yourself to relax, and accepting that being occasionally “lazy” is fine is the first step toward any semblance of balance.
I am nowhere near perfect (no one is), but I have many good qualities. I am a good mother and a hard worker. I am a good lover and friend. Although I may occasionally neglect some aspects of my life in favor of others, I never mean any harm, and any harm that I cause was not fully intended. I simply cannot do it all and must accept that I will occasionally let others down. I am no martyr, but I always try my best. And my best is enough. I am enough. And so are you. You are enough.