The question is asked in desperation, when it feels like there isn’t enough of you to go around. It comes when the demands of life are so pressing and urgent that it feels like you don’t get a chance to do the self-care you want and need. The degree to which the pressures need to mount for you to exclaim “What about me?” varies from person to person and from one situation to another. However, at its heart is the feeling that you don’t have anyone pouring into you—and you can’t find a way to pour enough into yourself.
Step 1: Plug the Drain
The first step in dealing with the desperation is to clamp down on demands, both in the short and long term. Certainly, there are some demands that you can’t avoid. If you’re a parent, you have an ethical and legal responsibility to take care of your children, so they are not neglected. However, there is no requirement that says you must have them in three activities each with you as their permanent taxi. You can and should carefully evaluate the activities you do to determine whether they contribute to your personal energy and agency today.
You should evaluate the activities you do to determine whether they contribute to your personal energy.
Many of us get trapped in the idea that we were able to lean on our church small group when times got tough, or we used to be filled by the conversations at the book club. However, in the crisis of desperation, the question is more pointed. Are the activities really filling you up today? If not, perhaps it’s time to put them on pause.
Step 2: Talk About Support
One of the most vastly underrated resources on the planet is the desire for other people who care about you to intervene in your life and be supportive—within their limits. Few people realize the impact that they’ve had or the number of people that care about them. We discount those “simple” things we’ve done that were easy or obvious to us, but others simply weren’t capable of.
One of the weaknesses when we’re struggling is that we sometimes feel shame or guilt that we need something. We have a self-image that doesn’t include the idea that we might be having a bad day, week, month, or year. Because we don’t want to accept that, like everyone else, we occasionally need external support, we fail to voice our need.
Our caring friends, family, and colleagues are unaware there’s anything that we need and, as a result, provide us nothing. Conversely, if we can get past the false notion that we don’t need anyone else, we can ask for—and most often receive—help. It’s as simple as opening up.
Step 3: Make Self-Care Happen
When you feel like there is so much to do that you’ll never get it all done, and you’re wasting precious time, allocating more resources to do self-care seems out of the question. However, sometimes just a bit of careful planning can make a huge impact. If you’ve reduced the demands on you and asked for some help, you should have some breathing room to allocate a bit of time to self-care. If not, all is not lost.
Sometimes, we can squeeze a bit more out of the time we do have. All of us take at least some time to attend to our needs. We all must drink, eat, and sleep. We do things that aren’t necessarily the biggest ways to fill our personal energy and agency reservoirs. Making changes to activities that will make us feel more energized is a quick way to get more out of what time we have.
When put together, a series of small changes can create a different way of looking at the world. Instead of “What about me?” we can begin to ask, “How can I contribute best today?” The question comes from an abundance of personal capacity looking for a way to change the world.
Rob and Terri Bogue are leaders, speakers, educators, and co-authors of Extinguish Burnout: A Practical Guide to Prevention and Recovery. Rob has been a business owner and consultant for the past 12 years, and Terri has over 30 years experience in the healthcare industry. They’ve gathered knowledge from numerous disciplines, read stories from the anecdotal to the evidence-based, and put it all together in a way that anyone can understand. You can learn more about their book, the online course, and burnout at ExtinguishBurnout.com. Follow them on Twitter @RobBogue and @BogueTerri.