I read a little book years ago written by Tim Hansel in 1979 (and still available!): When I Relax I Feel Guilty. I love the caption on the book’s back cover: Is Fatigue Next to Godliness? I thought so at the time. It was hard for me to take time off – vacation time. There was always a “to do” list – both at home and at work. I didn’t relax (or read a book) because I believed it was a luxury I didn’t have or couldn’t afford. Relaxation didn’t seem to be in my genetic makeup and didn’t come easily. And honestly, I didn’t know how to chill out. I had to teach myself how. Here is how I did it.
I loved making lists and schedules and learned that if I scheduled days or weeks off for the year, I could more easily take time off because it was on my “to do” list. At home, I learned to schedule 15 minutes – then 30 minutes – of down time each day. It was on my list of things to do. It may sound crazy, but it worked for me.
Changing long-standing patterns isn’t always welcomed by others. I discovered that when I quit working insane hours it was met with disapproval because my predictable over-functioning resulted in unrealistic expectations for it to continue. I remember a patient telling me then when she was going through chemo, she felt guilty and had difficulty saying No when asked to continue as the Chair of a committee. She didn’t want to disappoint those who relied on her, but changes were necessary for her own well-being.
It’s hard to say No. But having some ready-made lines in mind – or even better – written down, makes saying No easier. Here are some suggestions: “Thanks for asking – maybe another time.” “I’m not able to do that right now.” “Next year would definitely work better for me, and I look forward to talking with you then.” “I would love to, but frankly I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.”
Saying Yes to our own needs may mean saying No to others. We may risk their disappointment, but self-care is not selfishness. It’s not only okay but necessary to have some “me-time” for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation: to drink a cup of tea or coffee, play a computer game, watch a movie, take a walk, and yes, even read a book. It’s okay to say No to over-commitment and over-functioning and Yes to beginning a lifetime of self-care habits. (And I love reading books now.)
Join us the 2nd Monday of each month at 1:00 PM (MST) for a discussion related to this Blog. Request a Zoom link below, to join the discussion.
SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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