Updated: May 28
Sleepless nights, rushing, barely eating, struggling to think things through, taking care of everyone else and their needs, but not your own. Arriving to your destination but spending extra time in the car, agitated by the smallest things, snapping at your loved ones, repeated negative thoughts, you are in tears throughout the days and/or weeks when no one is around, but still making it happen for everyone else. Long days, overtime, you really have a big heart for others. You love hard. Public events, date nights, and time with friends seem non-existent. Those responsibilities are running our lives as adults. That is how it’s supposed to be though right?
The inability to calm yourself and feeling tired is recipe for irritation. For many of us, we are not sleeping because of the thoughts we have, some of us have medical conditions that interfere with sleep, and many of us struggle with regulation and the ability to calm ourselves. As parents, teachers, supervisors, or person responsible for others in some capacity, we know how important it is to ensure that who we care for and/or look after can function appropriately and have their needs met. Kids to school, parents to conferences, making meals for others, assessing the needs of others, shopping for household needs, our presence is recognized by others and is needed. We understand the assignment of being an adult.
Time in the car by yourself can feel like your gaining peace of mind, like it is time to check out, shut down, fall asleep, you name it. We get comfortable sometimes too comfortable and when our bodies need some R&R, distraction, just a time out from stress, this will happen. Stress can contribute to anger and agitation. Sometimes there’s not enough time, we do not have the energy to explain or energy to repeat ourselves. Communication may be lacking because we are tired! No one’s understanding, no one’s making sure we are good, no one’s checking in with us. We have been conditioned to multi-task and sometimes that looks like following a new recipe, helping with homework, and still process mentally what the next day looks like.
The ability to problem solve and think critically begins when we are young. Due to the stressful environment and state of distress we experience, we experience negative thoughts more often than positive thoughts. So much so that the thinking behavior seems normal to us. We struggle to see the positive because of these thoughts. Between those thoughts and taking care of everyone else’s needs to the best of our ability, there is no time for ourselves. Sometimes we do the bare minimum for ourselves because we think we do not have time. We work overtime to make ends meet and with being responsible for someone or more, we are diligent and make sure things are taken care of for them, because we are supposed to for people we love—at least it is what we tell ourselves.
It all feels and seems to be too much, so we become irritated easily and we look forward to isolation. Especially when we learn of free time in our schedule, we try to tend to ourselves but at times we feel unworthy of spending that time alone. We feel like we cannot enjoy rest because we have a million other things to do. Which is why it is hard to “be available” for date night and socializing. Some of us feel guilty for enjoying things that are pleasurable because we have been conditioned to do what is required, what is important first, to get all our tasks done AND THEN indulge or enjoy ourselves. We have to stop neglecting ourselves and start taking care of ourselves too.
It is learned behavior whether from school or home, we are wired to complete tasks and then indulge. Generationally, the behavior is passed down, and goes as far back as when there were slaves and colonizers. Often than not, those who were slaves did not get to enjoy themselves but if they did and when they did, it was at the expense of many things. For instance, the requirement was to complete the job for the day, they would get the job done although they barely got to eat, barely have enough time to get rest, barely time to think because of exhaustion and just no time to take care of themselves properly.
Taking care of you requires becoming aware of the need and becoming aware of what may be contributing to you not taking care of yourself. Get to your “why”. Ask yourself why you do what you do for others. Taking care of your loved ones, taking care of your responsibilities and being diligent in doing so is typically because you care. The situations, the people, they all matter to you. That extra time you spend in the car, time you spend scrolling social media yet ignoring calls and text messages may make you feel guilty but it is okay. With the amount of time that you spend caring for others, you deserve some time to yourself to decompress. Be happy that you can take the time and enjoy it in the moment.
Your thoughts, behaviors, and how you handle things are the consequences of your core beliefs and values. The anger, sadness, confusion, exhaustion, the way you feel is the result. Believing that you have to take care of everything before you indulge is why you feel how you are feeling. It is why you become agitated and annoyed with the small things. Your patience is thin with others because you need time to yourself, you need time to do things for yourself. By taking time for yourself and doing things for yourself you are taking preventative measures to emotional distress and mental health episodes. You are taking care of yourself, PERIOD!
Those tears do not mean you are weak or anything less than a human being. Emotions are natural. Crying because you are overwhelmed is a sign from your body that you in fact need to take some preventative measures. Practicing self-care can be fun but there are some things that we should consider necessities. Making that decision will help decrease the likelihood of intensive and frequent interferences of symptoms. No one wants to experience distress daily; it can create a hopeless outlook on the future. Stop neglecting yourself and indulge in those meaningful activities (e.g. date nights, events, socializing, family nights, etc.).
Prevention looks like:
Seeing your care providers on a regular basis: Primary Care Doctor, Dentist, OB/GYN, Therapist.
Reviewing your availability and making adjustments where needed
Using coping skills
If you are struggling, experiencing emotional distress, feeling overwhelmed, it is okay to seek help. Trust that you can make the best decisions for yourself. In therapy, the root of issues and problems are identified. The therapist is there to help you improve where you would like to improve. It is okay to feel the emotions, it’s our responses we have to be mindful of. Desiring to challenge the negative thoughts you experience and change self-defeating core beliefs is a start. You love hard, you are available for yourself, while still caring for and showing up for others. It is possible. Run your life, do not let it run you. Stop abandoning yourself and love you!