Time Out

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.

102 thoughts on “Time Out

  1. Well done on the self-care. Over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that there will always be much more that could be done than I can possibly do. I’ve also recognized that given this, I must be the one that monitors and supports myself, adjusting pacing and time outs so that I am most likely to be present and available when I am in doing mode. I’m finding that with practice (and aging), its getting easier and easier to do what it is that I can do and value doing, and leave the rest. I’m certainly healthier mentally and physically for taking this approach, as counter to the prevailing “be all things to all people” message.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I think I’ve gotten better at it with age, too, but I still have a ways to go. Because you’re right, the need will always be greater than our ability to fill it, so we need to be careful about paying attention to when we need some self-care. And I also agree that it is much healthier when we do that!

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    • I agree! Sometimes it hurts too much to feel, so we begin to turn our feelings off. Or they are simply numbed by too much violence and hate, that seems to come at us from all angles. (It’s amazing how many people think the proper answer to hate is even more hate). I think your idea of recharging our “empathy” batteries is a great one!

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  2. I completely agree! Life is overwhelming before adding any kind of illness or tragedy on top of it. Sometimes it’s good to check out and give yourself time to recharge. It makes you a better human being! I think many need to take your advice and do what you did. I always look forward to your posts 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Good for you, Ann! A break, a restoration, a breath…..whatever we call it IS healing for the heart,
    body and soul. (Having our beloved pets nearby helps the healing process as well.) ❤️🐈🐕🐾.
    Lucky for us!

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    • You are right, JoEllyn! Pets do help, so much. Even walking the shelter dogs helps, although sometimes it is the reality of the shelter that I find stressful! But the dogs are so happy to go for their walk or have some attention that it just calms me right down and reminds me of what is really important: helping others as often as I can, as much as I can. Both the two and four-legged others!

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  4. Anne,
    All week I have been waiting to write my next blog post. I’ve had this idea in my head all week and I’m dying to get it out. But like you, I’ve been bogged down by other things, trying to catch up and get ahead on school work in between my work days. Taking breaks is important, it helps us re-charge our internal battery. I always say to myself, “don’t forget about your sanity”. I never take on more than I know I can handle, because I know if I do, I will go insane.

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  5. Dear Ann, you described very well a problem, which we all share. Fatigue, stress and feeling down will hit us every once in a while. Add a flue virus to our already weakened body and spirit and we could easily approach disaster. I bet writing about it in your blog must have given you some relief and taking a break even from the barrage of negative news must have helped as well. Warm greetings from sunny BC!

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  6. Once I retired I expected to leave behind those feelings of being overwhelmed… silly me! I still get them and, as was true while working, have a hard time giving myself permission to step back. I have had the same feelings of being out of sorts lately, and couldn’t quite figure it out. The best I can come up with that between the natural disasters we’ve had recently (none of which impacted me directly), the unrest and violence we keep experiencing, and the fact that my husband and I have been watching the Ken Burns’ documentary about the Vietnam War, my world view has turned grim. Perhaps I need to step back too, or at least refocus myself on all the good that is in the world.

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    • I think that believing retiring from the working world will take away all the stress is normal, even though it rarely works that way. You still have to deal with all the pain and suffering of the world, as well as the stress of just coping with everyday problems. And the world has been particularly difficult lately, for so many people. I hope you are able to step back a bit and recharge your batteries, because you deserve to have a happy retirement!

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  7. I also felt overwhelmed this week especially with the recent events that are so hard to comprehend. I do try to limit my exposure to TV and news cause for sure nothing good you won’t hear there. Funny, I actually wondered about you this morning on my way to work, I guess I got used to your positive blog 🙂

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    • Thanks, Svet…it’s nice to know I was missed! And I think you are wise to limit your exposure to TV news, because it can be so overwhelmingly negative. The bad stuff is real and needs to be dealt with, but it’s far too easy to forget all the good things and good people that are still right here with us. And sometimes we need to take a break to actually notice and appreciate them. Take care, my friend!

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    • Thank you! It took me a while to realize what was wrong and what I needed to do, but I’m glad I finally figured it out. I really do feel better. Thanks for your kind words…they help!

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  8. I am in total agreement. Anne Morrow Lindburgh wrote about this decades ago, there is a lot of information to respond to-now especially, such tragedy. It breaks our heart and we feel so powerless. It is overwhelming. You were right to rest from everything and restore your heart. I love the ease of communication we have now-but it is a mixed blessing, too. Well, you did the right thing and I hope it is a trend. Godspeed and Best wishes!

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    • Thanks, Jodi! Honestly, you know one of the things that helped me cope? Your art and poem about Las Vegas that you posted either yesterday or this morning (I tend to get your posts one day late in my email). I loved how you put your emotion into creating something that captured both the despair, anger and yet the hope for something better. Art really is a great healer…thanks for sharing yours!

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  9. A personal “time-out” is not only critical for personal health reasons, but also necessary if one is to continue in any “serving” capacity. Many years ago I volunteered in a hospital based Crisis Intervention Unit in a large Toronto hospital, and it was made very clear (in training) that I could not effectively serve others if I was not taking care of my own mental health. Very logical when you think about it. 🙂

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  10. Good for in recognizing what you needed and given yourself permission to take break. We must all recharge our batteries and take time to nurture our spirit. I am going on a 4 day retreat at the beginning of November…. and I know the world will still carry on without me well enough

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    • Enjoy your retreat! And I loved your last sentence, because isn’t it so easy to think that we just HAVE to keep going, all the time? Then when we do take a break, we realize that the world didn’t fall apart after all! Thanks, Val!

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  11. Thank you for sharing this wise advice! It’s true, in a broken world of tragedy, our hearts can feel overwhelmed. Our minds and emotions can only take so much before we need to look away to refresh and refuel. Taking time out reminds me that there still exists wonder and beauty, love and simplicity. It gives me strength and a renewed mind. I so enjoy reading your posts! I’m glad you are feeling better.

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    • Thank you! You are wise to recognize the benefits of taking a little break from all our troubles now and then. It really does recharge our spirits and give us the strength to carry on. I’ve found that sometimes a break is all it takes for me to figure out solutions to whatever issue I happen to be struggling with, too. It’s amazing what a rested mind can come up with!

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  12. I hear ya. I can relate and am glad you posted about this subject. So many people are suffering plus so many who are not directly experiencing loss and trauma are experiencing their own form of vicarious trauma by observing what others are going through – with the emotional roller coaster that goes with it. Take care of yourself first then you’ll be able to go on and take care of others. It’s the old “put your own oxygen mask on first” wisdom…

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    • I like that imagery! It is exactly like “put your own oxygen mask on first!” We can’t help others if we can’t even function ourselves. And even strong people sometimes feel overwhelmed and need to do what it takes to take care of themselves. Thanks for the comment!

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  13. You could have been describing me in the first paragraph. But the remedy you have chosen and applied has been eluding me for a while. All of us have this insistent albatross across our shoulders and just as you say, we must carry it ahead and along. Your post has shown a way to make it weigh less heavier, less unbearable. Thank you!

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    • I think so many of us are feeling out of sorts these days. And I agree, there are some burdens we just can’t put down. But it does help to discern the difference between what we “must” do and what we simply think we “should” do, or what others want us to do. And those are the things that we can let go of, at least temporarily. It does lighten the load. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  14. I totally understand. I personally have learned, as a fellow strong person, that I need quiet time every day. I’ve learned that getting comfortable with silence centers me. I need to hear the wind blowing, the birds chirping and the bees buzzing. I need the sun on my skin. I adore a clear night so I can look up at the stars and moon. I’ve learned that since the “silence” centers me, it allows me to deal with whatever life throws at me head on. Thank you for posting this…life goes on… The world will still turn.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Personally, I need a little time alone each day, too, even if it isn’t quiet. Having just a little while when I don’t have to interact with others helps me immensely. But I also like the quiet you describe…it’s when we notice things that we normally miss, and it helps to center us. I’m so glad you’ve found a way to cope with the stress of our lives, and appreciate you sharing it.

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    • I think you’re right, it’s a combination of a lot of things. The world events, the Fall season, and whatever each of us is dealing with in our own lives. I hope we all get the break we need and are feeling refreshed soon!

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  15. Ann, I love this post. I no longer call it “wimping out” either. It is regular, scheduled soul service….just like my trusty 20 year old pickup truck needs timely oil changes to keep running. And not surprisingly, the world and its problems are still here when I come back. Thanks

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    • Thanks, Larry! I think that is one of the most important things to remember about taking a break…it is maintaining our souls and sanity, and that’s crucial. And when I really think about it, I have to admit that it’s a little egotistical for me to think that I’m so very essential that I can’t take a break now and then without the world falling apart!

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  16. Taking a break is an absolute essential, Ann. It’s a very sensible thing to do. Nobody is superhuman, we all need to look after ourselves. As you said early in your post, though, often it takes time to know what is wrong. I go for long, long periods of doing too much before I finally realise that I need a break and often, by then, I need to take much longer than if I’d spotted it early!
    I’m glad you had some time off.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, Val, I’m the same way! It takes me a while to realize I’m feeling down, and then it takes even longer for me to figure out why I’m feeling that way. Eventually I recognize and address the problem, but it would be so much easier if I did it sooner.

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  17. It is good to hear that you did just what had to be done. Taking a guilt free break is a bliss. It is difficult for me to do it now with kids to take care of. But I grab it whenever I can and completely understand how you come back hopeful and zestful after that time out..

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    • Yes some commitments can’t be abandoned, and parenthood is one of them. When my children were small, I found a “mom’s day out” program at a local church where I could drop them off for two hours and they were safe and happy. Those little snatches of time really helped!

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  18. Well said as usual. I only read net headlines, detailed news is banned. Also great idea to turn devices off for 3 hours per day. Or better still only turn them on for 3 hours per day. Give yourself breathing space we all deserve it!

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  19. Oh, it’s so true, Ann. Whatever did we do before Facebook? How did we manage to get through any given day and live our lives? I am amazed how we have become so dependent on the available technology and all said devices. It is second nature for me to grab my phone (to check anything/everything) whereas before I may have spoken to an actual PERSON. This makes me laugh but at the same time sad. I must unplug now and then, better on a regular basis. Our world is changing and we cannot escape the barrage of information, sometimes it seems it’s always negative. Along with overwhelmed, I feel helpless sometimes and that gets me very down. I see article after article about how to live happily in a world such as ours and I can’t muster the energy to read them. I completely hear what you are saying. It’s OK to recognize we are not super-humans. We all need to stop and smell the roses. ❤

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    • I think the constant information and negativity is a huge problem for so many of us. Yes, we had hurricanes, earthquakes and mass violence before, but we either read about it in the newspapers or watched it on the evening news. Then we felt sad or angry, thought about what we could do, if anything, to help, and then went back to our own lives. Now the images are constant, all day long, invading every aspect of our personal space. No wonder we feel overwhelmed! I’m really thinking that sometimes we just need to shut the darn technology off! Thanks for the comment…I couldn’t agree more!

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  20. A great read…as always and thanks for getting us thinking! I agree totally with how overwhelmed we can become but I beg to differ and think YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH all the time but the difference is you are now wise enough and value yourself enough to watch your boundaries and recognise your limits!

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  21. Over coffee this morning, someone suggested thgat we, as a Nation (US, but maybe world-wide?) are ALL suffering from “Compassion Fatigue”. And how we get buy without major burnout or despair is exactly what you’re talking about here: minimizing exposure, unplugging for awhile, applying a little extra TLC to ourselves. And then coming back…because this stuff isn’t going away, but we need to be strong and stable to come back and carry on, and lending support to others.
    Perfect, timely, thoughtful reflection–thank you!

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    • I think compassion fatigue is a very real problem right now. And I agree, taking a break does give us the strength to address the problems, because they aren’t going to go away. It also makes us realize that we have a life apart of the issues of the world and our nation, and that balances the negativity, I think. Thanks for your kind words!

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  22. What a great post! You always manage to touch on the things that seem to relate to most women. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had, just recently, in regards to burn out. You are completely right that sometimes the only answer is to just take some time away from it all. I have days where I unplug and I am amazed that the earth was not swallowed up by the time I get back to my phone. I believe this may be the reason that some places enforce vacation days!

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    • I think it is. Studies have shown that employees who take regular vacations are much more productive than those who don’t. We all need a break now and then, and we need to learn to take them without feeling guilty. I agree that women in particular sometimes have a hard time with that!

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  23. I’m glad you took your own advice to me. When I had that awful experience here on the blog and just felt like shutting down, you helped me to understand that just blogging when I felt like it was SO helpful to me. It’s been much more inspirational than grinding through. So I commend you for taking a well needed rest. My last year or so here in FL has been one big long break that I am only now realizing I needed! xoxo

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    • I’m so glad you realized that a break is just what you needed! You are a strong person with a lot to give, but you need to take care of yourself as well. And please, please, just keep posting when you feel like it. Your regular readers (like me) will stay with you…. Thanks for being one of my first blogging friends, and still a good blogging friend today!

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    • Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I have already participated in one blogger award, and I don’t really do them anymore. But it is very kind of you to nominate me, and I hope you aren’t offended that I can’t participate.

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  24. I am right there with you! I was sick with a horrible virus the week before Irma hit Florida. then I spent 81 hours that week working in a shelter. Then it was back to work. Then helping my kids with painting their new house. On top of all that is what is in the news…. I too took a break from news and blogging. I was just too tired. Sometimes you just have to take that time for yourself. I am glad to hear you took it for YOU.

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  25. This brings back memories of when my boys were little and I was struggling. I remember telling them that Mommy needed a time out and had to stay in her room for a while. Now my time out is running or outside or writing poetry. It seems way too easy to just keep going and going and the results are NOT pretty when I forget.
    Your posts are very relatable.

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  26. The news has been overwhelming lately so there feels like there’s no escape, especially when the entertainment or escape we hope to find is also filled with heaviness. The important thing is you recognized and did something about it.
    I’m glad you’re feeling better, Ann, and have your dancing shoes on again😊

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    • That actually makes sense, because when we are reading the news, we are doing it at our own pace, and picking which stories we skim and which ones we read to the end. I much preferred the television news when it was just one three times a day!

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  27. Such a lovely reminder about giving ourselves permission to rest. I absolutely agree with you about limiting our exposure to the news. I also made the life-changing decision to remove Facebook from my phone. I know. It sounds silly. But I am way less likely to go there when I actually have to open up my laptop.

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  28. Glad you took some time out for you Ann. We all get overwhelmed at times so it’s good that you were able to recognise it and take that step back. Life is definitely not all roses! I hope you’re feeling much better now. Take care my friend. xo

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    • Thanks, Miriam! I really am feeling better now. Sometimes things just feel like a bit too much, but I have found that if I allow myself to take a little break, then I can come back to face the issues refreshed and feeling strong enough to cope. Thanks for understanding exactly what I meant!

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  29. Ok, maybe I should have left my comment to your next post about loosing your phone, here instead because I can see the similarities we both seem to go through lately. 😅
    I can totally understand your time out and also your thoughts about it might mean you’re not as strong as you want to be if you give into it – I have the same troubles.
    And I admire you for your strength, yes strength, because in the end that’s actually what you’ve shown, to see it through.
    Time outs are necessary from time to time and it’s only wise to realize it before worse things happen. Glad you could recharge those batteries of yours! 😄

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words, and for validating that it isn’t always a sign of weakness to take a break when we need one. As someone told me, “you can’t pour anything from an empty cup,” and I think that is right. There comes a time when we get so burned out that we have nothing left to give, and that doesn’t help anyone, least of all ourselves. Take care, and take care of yourself, too!

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