I’ve been out of sorts lately, both physically and emotionally. I’ve been tired and cranky, lacking the energy to perform even the most basic daily chores and not particularly interested in engaging in the social activities I usually enjoy so much. I thought I might be coming down with some sort of virus, but days passed and I never actually got sick. It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally realized what was wrong with me was that I was feeling totally and completely overwhelmed and that trying to keep up with everything I usually do was only making things worse.
Feeling overwhelmed now and then is normal for me, as it is for most people. Most of us lead busy lives with responsibilities that we can’t drop every time they feel a little too heavy. I volunteer regularly at an open-admission animal shelter, and I can promise you that every single person who either works for or volunteers at an open-admission animal shelter is all too familiar with feeling overwhelmed. It’s just part of the package. And I know the same is true for parents with little children, people with super-stressful jobs, those who are primary care-takers for aging parents, just to name a few. There are times when know that we’re trying our best, but we also know that our best is not quite good enough.
Dealing with our own issues is hard enough, but we are also constantly aware of the onslaught of tragedies that are playing out in the world. The Las Vegas massacre, Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the earthquake in Mexico–the bad news just keeps coming, and it becomes almost impossible to even process it after a while. Honestly, it’s not surprising that most of us feel overwhelmed at times. And when we do, sometimes the best response is to take a little break from it all.
Taking a break doesn’t come naturally to me, probably because it feels too much like wimping out. I have a tendency to think that I should be able to handle whatever life happens to throw at me, and that admitting there are times when I can’t is the same as admitting that I am weak. But I’m not. I’m just like everyone else: I have my limits. And when I hit them, I need to step back and allow myself to catch my breath.
So this past week, I didn’t write my usual blog post for no other reason that it felt like too much work. I gave myself a couple of days to perform only the essential chores and let the other stuff slide. I didn’t accept any invitations for social gatherings. I watched only enough news to learn the basic facts, then either turned the TV off or switched to a different channel. I let my phone ring out more than once, knowing that any important messages would be left on my voice mail.
And you know what? It worked. Taking a break from it all didn’t make the world any better or make any of my problems go away, as nice as that would be. But it did change my attitude and it did restore my confidence in my ability to cope with the the things I need to handle. My head doesn’t hurt anymore, and I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends this weekend.
I am a strong person, but that doesn’t mean I can be strong enough all the time. And for those times when I’m not strong enough, a little “time out” is exactly what’s needed.