Are our unrealistic expectations of ourselves and over-functioning behaviors the very catalyst for maintaining our “not enough” self-states? I’m sure many of you are familiar with the saying, “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” It is one of those sayings that we say to each other when offering unsolicited advice about someone else’s over functioning, people pleasing, or self-sacrificing behaviors. Although in practice, many of us do not adhere to this sound advice. It makes since considering we wear “busy” as a badge of honor, so the more you have going on and the more people counting on you, theoretically, the more important you are.

Brené Brown says, “We are so busy that the truth about our lives can’t catch up.” In a lot of ways “busy-aholism” is a very effective, yet maladaptive coping strategy. If we are too busy to slowdown and pay attention to our intuition, bodies, emotions, things our environment is communicating to us, and the impact of our unavailability, is it even real? If I am too busy to acknowledge how not fine I am, aren’t I fine? No, it’s real, and will rear its head in indirect, painful, sabotaging ways.

Bottom line: The glorification of busy is not a sustainable model! Turns out, there is a limited supply of psychic, physical, mental, spiritual, and relational energy. Our energy is our most valuable asset, we must support each other in prioritizing alignment of our inner and outer worlds because even if we don’t subscribe to this belief, the objective truth is THEY ARE THE SAME WORLDS.

People: Do whatever you got to do to protect your energy, it’s sacred and in limited supply. We have been talking a lot over the last week about burnout and feeling tapped out trying desperately to fit it “all” in, and noticing increased vulnerabilities surrounding our tendency to just push harder. Here’s the equation:

We all have 100% energy to expend each day, unless you are a parent, or a caretaker, or a human, so likely none of us are starting each day with 100%. Everything is connected so if you are operating in the model described above you are running on fumes the latter half of your day which impacts your energy the following day. Notice your give-get ratio, the things on your calendar that you want to do vs. the things you feel you “should” do. If you have a lot more shoulds than wants you are heading down the road to burnout.

  • 100% – 10% For disrupted sleep, evening anxiety about tomorrow, self-judgment about not doing more the day before, sick kids, sick dog, expired milk.
  • 90% – 10-20% For morning commute, making lists for the day, early morning meetings that are frustrating or not what you expected, spilled coffee, cold weather, etc.
  • 70-80% – 20% For workday, life, emotional labor, people pleasing, not saying what you actually mean or want to say, and any other added stressors impacting your workday.
  • 50%- On an ideal day, when we have 100% energy we are half way done before we do anything other than our bare minimum responsibilities.
  • Subtract additional 10% each added non-essential activity; meeting friends for drinks, going to the gym, conversation with family members, taking care of children, showing up for friends shows, concerts, parties, after work networking or work related events.

Once the energy is gone, it is gone. What most of us do is carry on anyway with the rest of our obligations by “pushing” through, which leads to burnout, emotion minded behaviors and feeling not enough, never enough. We can re-up and recharge with self-care practices, however ironically self-care is usually the first thing to go when we can’t “fit” it all in.

Prioritizing Return on Investments:

If I have 20% energy left where so I want to spend it? If we start operating with the belief that once the energy is tapped out it is gone, our decision making may be more aligned with things we value.

  1. You are the product: Taking care of your energy is necessary for anything and everything else.
  2. Do one thing at a time: Being one minded about your tasks means staying in the moment, not multi-tasking and completing one thing at a time. Break your day into manageable slices of time.
  3. Throw away the all or nothing attitude: There is actually quite a bit of gray within the black and white. If you didn’t do EVERYTHING it doesn’t mean that you suck, letting good enough be enough. If you can’t do EVERYTHING can you do something, what can you do?
  4. Your Best is Enough: Be Kind to yourself, you are doing the best you can.
  5. Slowdown and check-in with yourself: My therapist calls it the “give-o-meter” how do you know when you are running low on giving juice? My old answer was “Um, I have a meltdown?” That’s not effective! Notice how your energy levels are feeling before committing to one more thing. Give yourself permission to say, “I’ll get back to you, I’d love to but I have a lot on my plate today.”
  6. You can change your mind: Say “No”, make adjustments, reschedule, make room for balance. Remember progress not perfection.
  7. We are all in this together: Validate your people when they take care of themselves. Reinforce skillful give-get relationships by communicating honestly and directly with safe people in your life. This is a practice, we aren’t going to do it perfectly, leave room for people to be imperfect including yourself.

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