By: Dana Meshil, Clinician
The average person’s daily life has become one where being busy and always having too much on their plate has become the expectation. It’s gotten to a point where most of us feel pressured to say yes to any task, favor, or social plan asked of us and yet constantly feel that we’re not doing enough. If we aren’t juggling multiple projects at once, we judge ourselves as being lazy as opposed to respecting our limits. This fast-paced, nonstop lifestyle has the notion of being productive, but in reality isn’t sustainable and lessens the quality of the things we invest our time and energy towards. When did being overwhelmed become synonymous with success? It’s time to change this falsehood.
The issue with our over-packed schedules is that we’re all scared to say no. We’re worried if we say no to our friends or family that we’ll be hurting their feelings or be letting them down. We’re worried that if we say no to extra responsibilities at work that we won’t seen as team players or it will hurt our chances of career advancement. There’s this internalized pressure to be able to “do it all” and creates this sense of failure when we aren’t able to be superheroes. Let’s stop buying into the idea that more stress equates to greater achievement and learn how to set boundaries and maintain balance.
Children love saying no. it’s the first way we learned how to establish autonomy and assert our independence. Most of us probably had to go through that aggravating journey of accepting that sometimes no isn’t an option. Then our brains further developed and we adopted the idea that saying no is never an option. Not being able to eat candy for every meal isn’t the same as scheduling 3 events in one day on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean we should throw a tantrum when there’s a social engagement we’d rather blow off; it means we should learn how to delegate our responsibilities. If we were meant to handle everything on our own then we would be solitary creatures. It’s okay to say “I don’t have time right now” and it’s okay to ask for help. So let’s ask our inner child to take the reins every now and then and use that adult brain to rationalize why such a choice is necessary for our wellbeing.
Working downtime into our lives is a necessity. Daydreaming and zoning out would not be widely familiar terms if our minds did not require breaks. Rather than working so hard to the point that your brain simply can’t focus during a team meeting, make a point to incorporate nothingness into your day. That doesn’t mean spending every weekend binge watching Netflix. Too much downtime leads to decreased motivation, but too much busy time leads to burnout. The secret is balance, that nonexistent concept in our all-or-nothing American culture. For every exertion period there needs to be a recuperation period. You aren’t actually doing anyone (most of all yourself) a favor when you take on too many things, so let’s start being the ones who are brave enough to say no. We’ll achieve greater satisfaction if we apply our energies towards quality, not quantity.
Let’s Start Actually Listening To Our Bodies
By: Lujuana Milton, Owner and Clinician
On weeks like the one that I am currently having, it seems like there is no end to the struggles and I have to ask myself:
Is it a full moon?
How many more days until the weekend?
Is mercury in retrograde?
Rarely, I find that it’s actually a full moon and the weekend is days away. Usually, during my Google search I find that mercury is indeed in retrograde. For those of you unaware of the mystical nature of mercury retrograde, it occurs during a three-and-a-half-week period in which Mercury appears to be moving backward. Following this period, the planet will reverse itself and move “forward” again. It is important to note that Mercury does not ever actually start to move backward, it just looks like it does based on its position relative to the Earth’s axis.
In certain circles, mercury is believed to hold power over things like communication and mental function. So it’s no surprise that Mercury retrograde tends to result in planned events going a little wonky. All this amounts to is that when the crap hits the fan, it really hits the fan. I find that when this happens, I need to protect my space as part of my self-care routine. Nowadays, self-care is one of those buzzwords that everyone is talking or writing about. Quick tips and lengthy articles that I often become too bored to finish reading attempt to teach us how to protect our emotional, mental, and physical space. But, why do we need these reminders to take care of ourselves. Why? Because in this day and age, it’s so easy to neglect oneself and in some cases it’s often expected. Self-care is a necessary part when things are going well AND especially when things are going horribly wrong.
We need to practice better self-care in order to protect our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. In order to do this, we need to remember to set better boundaries. I tell anyone that will listen to my sometimes coherent ramblings, to set emotional and physical boundaries with yourself and others. What are boundaries, you ask? Boundaries are rules and principles you live by that identify what you will or won’t allow. Boundaries allow for the protection and maintenance of our personal space, privacy, body and emotions. It would not be fair to have a discussion about self-care without including the use of coping skills. Coping skills are daily strategies that we use to help us deal with and work though our distressing thoughts and/or emotions. Now let me be clear; coping skills can be both positive and negative. So, of course, I am talking about using positive, pro-social coping skills that include consistent exercise, regular sleep, healthy diet/nutrition, talking with others, involving yourself in social activities, engaging in hobbies, and other activities that help to manage distressing thoughts and/or emotions.
In theory, setting better boundaries and using coping skills is easy, but it’s a lot harder to do so in practice. A bit of self-disclosure here, I’m a therapist who teaches these concepts for a living and it’s hard for me to do this consistently. There are days when I feel like I’ve handled life’s struggles like a champion and then there are days when I hunker down on my couch and binge watch a show I would never usually watch while ignoring my piling work with a sleeve of Oreos. So I guess what I’m saying is to try each day, especially during mercury retrograde, to set better boundaries and use those darn coping skills your therapist constantly talks to you about. But, give yourself a break because we are human beings that can’t always be perfect and respond appropriately in all situations. We just have to try for as many situations as we can.
By: Lujuana Milton, Owner and Clinician
The topic of life and the perception that life is hard has been coming up a lot in my personal and professional discussions and has piqued by interest lately. The question of why life is so hard is such a complicated topic to pursue. Whenever this question is posed to me directly, I am often tempted to do the typical therapist response of silence in order to catch my bearings because how the heck am I supposed to have an answer for why life is so hard?
After the initial internal panic passes, I continue to process this question and really started to think about this concept. But, let me be clear, this post is by no means contains the answer to this complicated and often asked question. It is just a collection of my thoughts that I have developed as I struggle with my own life’s difficulties (because everyone does…yes even therapists!) and as I am able to bear witness to others attempting to process this age old question.
As a therapist, I listen to the life struggles of others. The single mother struggling to make ends meet; the young professional with a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression; the woman who experienced childhood abuse that continues to effect their relationships. Life is hard and often sucks that’s for sure. But, why is life so hard? Is this what we are destined to go through for the rest of our lives?
These questions resonate with me because how can one have answers to those questions? I am then reminded of a quote from Buddha stating “Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all.” A thousand people can read this quote and come up with a thousand different meanings, but I can only share what this means for me and those experiences I have had opportunity to witness in my life and the lives of others. Life is hard and yes it sucks sometimes, but that is part of the experience of humanity because if we are able to be still in the midst of chaos we can appreciate and experience the happiness that we so long desire.
It strikes me as ironic that the happiness we often search for in the midst of our struggles are right there present with us. Just like yin and yang, they are two distinct concepts complementing one another; we just have to mindful enough to recognize it and appreciate them. I can attest that this is extremely difficult to do, but think about the happiness you can experience when you recognize even in your darkest moments.