I am 85 to 90% highly strung and prone to wanting to get the thing done right away and 10 to 15% a procrastinator. For most of my working life, these traits have served to be a combination of my greatest assets but also my downfall. In relation to getting things done, one of my motivators has always been that I truly, absolutely enjoy taking part in activities that are likely to assist or improve a situation. As I get older, I realise that more and more, if my heart isn’t involved, or the process has become mentally or physically exhausting, over and over again, I can no longer pretend to show the same level of enthusiasm or even interest as I would have in the past.
That being said, up until recently, I was unable to say no, unable to admit to others that I was overwhelmed. Sometime toward the end of 2019 I was completely burnt out. While I enjoyed many aspects of the year, spending time with family and friends and traveling, the negative outweighed the positive in many aspects of my life.
I was active with 3 organisations, my 9 to 5 was extremely hectic and I was unable to feel settled at home. I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush since April and couldn’t get a handle on a fitness regime that worked for me. More than once, I had tried fitting in other sources of income but quickly ended those aspirations because there were simply not enough hours in the day.
My immune system was hollering that I was doing too much and not taking care of myself, which resulted in me having some form of the flu or a cold a record 4 times during the year, including while on holiday in Jamaica and at Christmas. At times, insomnia also made it nearly impossible to function properly during the day.
At the beginning of December I made some changes following some painful conversations with a few persons close to me. I knew that I had to give up something. The end result was a premature ending of my association with one organisation at the beginning of the year and leave would be taken from another in mid-April after my tenure ended.
Other plans were in the pipeline for other changes but of course, Covid-19 happened and like most of us, I was forced to keep quiet. In April, I took the leave I said I would and my days became a cycle of working from home, with a firm decision to end work at a particular time and to begin a regular routine of exercise. I picked up a paintbrush (even though the first result was nothing short of disastrous!) and started writing again. Apart from dabbling in small activities that make me happy, I’m catching up on television and movies and was able to wean myself off of the constant Covid-19 news cycle, preferring to review statistics and the occasional update story.
I don’t remember when I first heard the expression that one “cannot pour from an empty vessel” but I heard it again very recently from a friend who was recounting a particularly stressful time in her life. It is so true. There may come a time in all of our lives where we experience our personal breaking point, whatever that may be and we cannot effectively be of service to ourselves or our commitments. It may mean that you have to take time from or leave an organisation, job, relationship, friendship or even the country. You are likely to be asked if you are sure about your decision and if you are sure, you must stand firm.
Stress is a silent killer and whatever may be happening in your life that you can, in a quiet moment (not in moments of extreme anger or sadness) rationalise and think about how you are personally benefitting from a situation, it is very important that you make the best decision for you. Every reaction to your decision may not be favourable and that is ok. Only you walk in your shoes.
Especially as we age, we come to realise more and more that meaningful relationships and quality of life are the most important parts of this existence here on earth. At this point, reorganisation of my life is a work in progress but it encompasses many aspects. Due to my natural propensity to zoom ahead, taking time sometimes takes a toll mentally but I know it is for the greater good.
Taking a step back does not mean that you do not care, it is self-preservation. It may be for a day, it may be for a few months. It may mean continuing with something you committed to but with modifications until its natural end. It also allows you to look at what is really important to you and what you can realistically manage, so what when it is time to venture back out, you can do so purposefully and with renewed and focused energy. Until then, let us take care of ourselves the best way we can.