Updated: Jan 19
It had been a long day and it wasn’t quite over yet.
Nothing about this day was much different than any other day during the pandemic, but I could definitely identify that I was nearing capacity, overstimulated, and exhausted from all of my roles simultaneously requiring my attention. And not to mention, on top of that, attempting to digest all that is happening and has happened in our country over the last year or so. As I cooked dinner, engaged with my husband about his workday, helped my youngest with her homework, and encouraged my oldest to sing as if she was actually in a kitchen (not performing for thousands of adoring fans), I undoubtedly began to feel my patience wearing thin as my longing for rejuvenation and space intensified.
Surprisingly, I was able to dig deep, find a breath, and verbalize how I was currently feeling to my family. My youngest, without a pause, replied,
“But mom, you’re a therapist. I think you can handle it.”
My eyes widened and my first response was a chuckle laced with a bit of shock. Wow, talk about pressure! Now from my experience, it is assumed by many (not just my 8-year-old) that therapists have their lives together at all times. I quickly jumped on this learning opportunity and began to explain the important fact that everyone has (and is entitled to) limits, waves of emotion, and beautiful human imperfections. I also wondered if I had falsely presented to my children that always showing up with energy, patience, and availability is achievable and something to strive for. If so, I have some work to do...
As a parent, it can sometimes be very difficult to model how to cope, adjust, and set boundaries in a healthy, productive way. I believe that my girls benefit by simply observing my emotional shifts, how I respond, and most importantly, how I bounce back. It permits them to feel, not suppress. It also confirms that emotions are not forever and that they possess the skills and strength to experience the difficult ones. I also want them to grow up feeling confident in my ability to take care of myself and refrain from projecting my emotions and issues onto them.
This is a tough task to deliver and prioritize. It takes practice with building good self-awareness and granting yourself permission to circle-back with your children after logic reemerges behind your emotions. This circling-back process acknowledges that we will make mistakes and we will not always know what to say or how to say it.
We are not perfect and shouldn’t strive to be. Keep these practical tips in mind.
Take ownership of what is ours to own
Refrain from projecting your emotions onto others
Circle-back to the unresolved conversations
Acknowledge when you need a reset or change
Emotions tend to be short-lived, fluid, but are real and deserve to be validated. We are supposed to feel an array of emotions and experience the diversities that every day brings us, even if most of our days are structured the same. The ability to think, feel, and empathize makes us human; present, and alive.
While I’ve spent considerable time and effort toward understanding and addressing behavioral patterns in others, I have learned that this awareness does not prevent me from exhibiting patterns of my own. We all have our ‘stuff’ and yes, it is all RELATIVE. I can't count the times a client or a friend has said, “I know I sound dramatic” or “I know my problem is not a big deal compared to what other people are going through, but...”
Why is this type of thinking so damaging?
These thoughts immediately discount the feelings you are having or could have as a response to a situation which therefore limits your opportunity to validate yourself and move forward in a healthy way.
They also welcome the unproductive and damaging tactic of comparing yourself to others. Our lives are uniquely different. How we are wired and how we have been raised/influenced greatly varies, so repeatedly making comparisons is not helpful or even fair. You will always find someone who has it ‘worse off’ than you.
As parents, teachers, leaders, friends, companions, and co-workers we seem to understand the value of practicing empathy and building connection with others. Unfortunately, we often forget to give ourselves the same courtesy and grace.
It is so important to check-in on the expectations you create for yourself and accept that you are not always going to be 100% AND in control.
As an athlete, I quickly learned the importance of rest and recovery. This critical step was encouraged by my coaches and built-in to our schedules. Most of us find it easy to validate and support others when they are ill, injured, or simply exhausted after an intense workout. Mental or emotional exhaustion is a different story simply because it is challenging for most to identify or understand. Nonetheless, addressing mental or emotional fatigue is just as important as addressing physical fatigue.
Whether you are constantly battling anxiety, involved in a difficult relationship, or struggling to simply survive and smile, own these hurdles. First, acknowledge, then dig deep and confirm that you have the power to make a dent, change things up, or adopt a new mindset. Any step is a step towards progress. It makes a difference and creates the momentum and confidence needed to press on. Rather than judging your need for rejuvenation and restoration, accept that it is a healthy, critical part of your cycle.
Begin to identify your triggers and patterns
Practice verbalizing how you feel
Identify where you can get support
Take a step or set a boundary
Remember, we are human; capable, strong, and beautifully imperfect!