Q: My days are always packed full of a long list of things I have to get done and problems to deal with. By the end of the day, having endured stress at work, battled the traffic, looked at the new bills that came in the mail, ran errands and kids to practice, put dinner on the table, and interrupted numerous fights, I am worn out. I rarely have time for a relaxing shower, and am late to bed. I feel as if I’m running on one of those mouse wheels with little joy in my life.
A: Kudos to you for paying attention to the emotional dis-ease that you are experiencing. Many of us fail to stop and look at how we manage our life. We push on through the same struggle every day compromising our health, ability to cope, emotional stability, and relationships.
This is the time to evaluate what you need in order to be OK. Typically, at some deep level within us, we have an inkling of the source of our striving, but we lack the courage or the discipline to heed the urging of the small voice inside telling us what we ought to do to get a grip on losing our self. We’re often afraid to step out of the fray and do something different.
Start by identifying the areas of dis-order in your life and make a serious effort to eliminate them. Develop competency in coping effectively with daily challenges. Do this by shifting energy away from chaos and towards meeting your basic needs. Our basic needs include:
1) Fresh air, food, water, sleep.
2) Safety – for your body and your relationships; surround yourself with trustworthy, moral people with whom there is reciprocal expression of love and belonging. It is imperative that we have a network of family and friends who are kind to us, who show up and care for us. These are the people who bring us chicken noodle soup, serve up a cup of warm calming tea, fluff our pillow and sit by us when we are in distress or ill. We can manage much of life when we share it with others who are invested in our well being.
3) Self esteem – an inner sense of confidence and mastery in the ability to soothe our self, to have the faith to tell our self “It will be OK, I am OK” especially during periods of struggle.
4) Issue resolution - We need a sense of confidence about our ability to successfully solve problems.
5) Meaningful enjoyment – A portion of your schedule set aside for play and activities – the kind in which you are so engaged you are unaware of time.
Give yourself permission to take care of your needs so that you are strong for yourself and others. When the flight attendant reviews the safety procedures before takeoff, you are instructed to put the oxygen mask on children and dependents first, right? Wrong. You are instructed to put it on yourself first. You’re wondering, doesn’t that sound selfish? The adult who is breathing and has all their faculties is in the best position to do the right things for their own preservation and therefore can help those around them for as long as needed.
Try the above and you will not only feel your joy return, but you will also be a blessing to others.
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Disclaimer: Responses to questions are not to be construed as receiving, and are not a substitute for, psychological services, or treatment.
Questions to Sophie is a new question and answer column addressing reflections on work, family, friendship and personal issues. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to The Hamburg Area Item office. Please submit by the editorial deadline.
The column is by Suzanne Kline a practicing psychologist born and raised in the Hamburg area.