Forgive me, dear reader, I know my columns have been sporadic this year. Life has been throwing a lot at me! It’s hard not to get discouraged sometimes when dealing with the everyday ins and outs of life, and I’ve been doing my best to juggle everything.
Though I hope you’re not in the same boat, I can’t help but suspect that from time to time you may be. We are all humans after all, and though at times we feel superhuman, there is a large part of us that feels overwhelmed sometimes. Though I’m certainly not an expert at responding to life challenges, there are a few things that I like to remember and that help me quite a bit.
Don’t let the actions of other people affect your mood. I have a very empathetic nature, and as such I tend to suck up other people’s emotions and troubles like a sponge. This includes emotions that other people toss out in an effort to get rid of them. Oftentimes, people I know will be fine a short time later, while I am still holding their toxic feelings with me. Though it’s nearly impossible to keep the actions and attitudes of others from affecting you at all (even the Dalai Lama and the founder of Kundalini Yoga admit to having trouble sometimes), it isn’t about you.
I read a great analogy in an article once, offered by a cab driver who had been cut off in traffic and berated by the other driver. He said that some people are like garbage trucks; they hold all of this garbage inside of them and are looking for a place to dump it. If they didn’t take it out on you, they would most certainly take it out on someone else. That is their own issue. Don’t let it become yours, too!
Find something you love (that’s not work). Because I love my job, I used to think that that was all I needed to be fulfilled in my life. I would work long hours and weekends in the interest of making a difference and doing something that I really liked. Gradually, because I did it well and our organization grew, my job got bigger. And I worked more. And longer hours. And suddenly I needed an outlet. Finding something that you love that is different from your everyday can make a huge difference.
I began horseback riding, something that I had loved when I was young but had gotten away from in college and as a young professional. Now it is the highlight of my week; I ride more often and volunteer at horse shows. It’s a great feeling to learn and grow in a totally different direction. You may choose something from your past that you had stopped doing, or you may choose something new that you have just seen and want to know more about. Either way, it definitely will make a difference.
Feel free to say no. I recently made the decision to step down from an activity that I enjoyed because my schedule had grown too packed. My enjoyment for the activity had been replaced by the feeling that civic engagement was a chore, something that I had to do because, well, who else was there to do it? The answer is, lots of people. I know so many people who volunteer with the argument that no one else is there to do it.
In many cases, it’s true; some of the most effective initiatives and social movements exist because a few committed people put in the time to bring it to fruition. On the flip side, however, reaching the level of burnout can sour you not only for a single activity, but for many other activities, especially if you are someone who volunteers in many places. Do yourself a favor. As soon as you think you might be burning out, step back. You can always return later if you want to.
I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. Take care of yourself.