The recent past has been such a rollercoaster for me. Vaccines being widely available — up; Delta variant — down; Rittenhouse verdict — down; McMichael and Bryan verdict — up, Omicron variant — WHAT IS HAPPENING? And of course these things are happening outside the day-to-day stressors of working, trying to keep roofs over heads and food on tables, etc. For me, it’s been overwhelming to say the least.
The first things to go when I’m overwhelmed are the things that I need to do to take care of myself. I lose my nighttime routine and go to bed later at night. When I go to bed later, I wake up later, and don’t have time to work out. When I don’t exercise regularly, I feel sluggish and have less energy. I also don’t have the time to meditate in the morning. When my brain has less space, it’s easier to lean into my perfectionist tendency and let perfect be the enemy of good. I spend more time working with less output. I order food, instead of buying and preparing my own food (currently eating leftover Chipotle as I write this). Then when I get home, I’m tired and start the whole thing over again. While somewhere in the back of my head I know that things will shift back at some point or I’ll find at least a little more balance, in the moment it feels like I will never “catch up.”
My body is great and will tell me that it’s time to slow down or take a break. One of my eyes will inevitably start twitching or I’ll get sick. I know that it’s time for a break because my body tells me, but listening to it is a whole other story. It becomes hard to slow down and actually take a break. When I finally take time off from work, the “open” time is then filled with taking care of my elderly father- renting a car, going to Jersey, scheduling and transporting him to doctors appointments, going grocery shopping, cleaning his living space, taking him to get a haircut, picking up prescriptions, etc. While helpful to my dad, none of these things is me actually taking a break. I’m not using the time to stop, relax or do or do things to take care of myself and fill my own cup. I’ve just replaced the work stress with a different type of stress and task list.
And then, on top of it all, I scold myself for not being able to “do it all.” After all, I should be able to work a full time job and be amazing at it, be a good daughter, friend and partner, keep myself healthy and happy, navigate the world, have lots of friends and cool and fulfilling hobbies, slay on social media with thousands of followers, etc. And I should be able to do it all with a smile while looking amazing. So, when I can’t do all of those things, the voice in my head likes to remind me that I should be able to do everything and I’m not, but everyone else is, so I need to do better. I call this voice Bitchy Becky. She’s legit the worst. She tells me all of the ways that I’m not good enough and could and should be better. She reminds me that I’ll never be as good as, as smart as, as you-name-it as, so and so.
I’ve gotten better in the recent years in my ability to talk back to Bitchy Becky — to thank her for trying to help or protect me from something, but that she’s actually not being helpful. She has a choice, she can either be helpful or she can be quiet and let me try something else. Bitchy Becky has gotten quieter in the past year and change, but, when I’m tired, and overextended, it gets harder and harder to talk back to her and tell her hush up for a bit.
I’m good at telling other people when their own Becky is showing up. I’m also good at telling other people to take care of themselves — to take a break, to go for a walk, to close their computers for the day, etc. But I suck at telling myself. I recently had someone tell me to keep some time off that I had on my calendar, after I had expressed that I was flexible and willing to hold some meetings during that scheduled time. Had they not pushed me, I would have fully worked during some of my scheduled time off, and not thought twice about it.
As we enter the holiday season, shopping, buying gifts, coordinating schedules, attending parties, booking travel, planning menus, preparing food for gatherings with family and friends, managing expectations and the emotions of others takes up the minimal time we have that is not spent working. For those of us who struggle with prioritizing our own needs, it becomes not only the season for giving, but the season for completely forgetting about yourself. Our Becky’s can get louder and bolder. “Oh, you didn’t write a long personalized note in Kelly’s holiday card,” completely overlooking the 30 cards with long notes that you did write and send. We are at risk of running ourselves ragged.
If you’ve read this, and thought, “Kennette, what are you talking about? I have no problem taking care of myself.” Amazing. I encourage you then, to find that friend or colleague or family member who you know struggles with this, and encourage them to take a break. Or, tell them that their Becky is showing up. Be the person to give them the push to take care of themselves.
If, while reading this, you saw yourself, I’d like to provide you with the same push that someone recently provided me. Take time for yourself. It’s ok. Whether it’s a few hours, or a few days, put yourself first and do something nice for yourself. Let that be one of the gifts that you give this holiday season.