Many times life can feel like running on a treadmill with your hands tied behind your back. We can feel a sense of overwhelm at all that needs to be done, achieved, completed – and it seems never-ending. As you consider this metaphor/image think of the feelings it brings up and know that that is just an inkling of the stress your body undergoes when in this state. (Your body does not know the difference between reality and perception so it responds as if there is a true crisis if you experience life that way).
Overwhelm happens when we feel powerless, hence the image of running and running and having no hands free to press the stop button or slow done the treadmill. However, this is a perception of life and all perceptions can be changed. You actually ARE able to untie your hands and have choices available to you and, in having these choices, your aim should be to simplify your life so it does not feel like such a treadmill.
In my journey with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome I have had to learn to simplify life a great deal otherwise I would have never been able to recover. Bringing two children into the mix made me really have to focus on the treadmill that my life had become and look at how to experience my hands as free and slow down the treadmill (I am still working at actually stopping it and getting off at times – this is not so easy for me!)
Have you have ever noticed how much energy even the simplest task requires when you have the flu? To recover from AFS one needs to expend as little energy as possible in order to allow the body to recuperate and even the most simplest task takes energy. Therefore, it becomes necessary to simplify.
This can be very difficult for people who struggle with burnout as they are also usually the same people who are prone to perfectionism and simplifying can be seen as ‘less than’ or failing in some way. “If you can’t do it properly then don’t do it at all” – how many of you subscribe to this, where ‘properly’ equals 100%?! The trick is to change this to being able to do it adequately. This means being honest with yourself about what you really need and whether the extra you do is actually needed or is part of your need for perfect. (You don’t have to do it 100% when less than that is actually sufficient for your needs). Here is a slight overlap with prioritising which I will discuss in the next section on time management. It is important to prioritise what you have to spend your energy on (the essentials) and to let go on the things that can be let go of.
I did this in the following ways – I started doing my grocery shop online but to save money I did a huge monthly shop online so I paid a delivery fee for that one delivery and then only bought the bare essentials every week. I also learned to send my husband to the shop even if it meant I would receive a cabbage instead of a lettuce. I overcame this by sending him pictures of what I wanted!! I started to order a few frozen homemade children’s meals so that when I was really battling I could pull something out of the freezer. I cooked huge batches of food on my good days and then froze leftovers to use on my bad days. Instead of seeing clients randomly whenever they could make it I set up a schedule so that I saw them during blocks of time (however, never back to back as that was too much). This way when I was not working I was not working. I also made sure I finished my work at work and then did not do any work at home (this has slipped a lot as I type this now while sitting in our spare room at home hiding away from the children… ooops!) Instead of walking the dogs to the park with them pulling me down the road with two children in tow who both want to look at every flower and scrap of rubbish in the road, I chose to pack them all in the car and drive the two blocks to the park, letting them all bundle out the car straight into the park.
Finally, I have delegated wherever possible and let go of the unnecessary. What I have found is that instead of forcing myself to complete all the less important things to do I sometimes randomly find that everything falls into place for the less important tasks to very easily be done. The more you try to control the more resistance you will experience and the more stressful it seems whereas, when you let go, things can often fall into place!
This all takes some planning i.e. you have to sit down and give some serious thought as to how you can simplify. I would really advise you get someone else to help with this as people who tend to try to take on everything themselves and/or try do it all 100% are not very good at letting go and simplifying! A new year and a new beginning is a great time to focus on this!
Finally, when you simplify things and find that small pockets of time or more energy become available to you don’t try to then fill those pockets of time or use that energy for something you feel you should be doing. Use the time to conserve the energy. Bank it up to nurture yourself and to have enough in reserve when you really need it – like when the car is in for a service and the dogs are going berserk from lack of a walk so you have no choice but be dragged down the road by the hounds with two straggling children in tow.(Or you could just phone someone to come and join you for the walk and then hand over the dogs!) Simple!