I’ve been feeling very stressed out, drained, and irritable lately. I hope you can give me some suggestions to get me back on track. I’m a working mom with two elementary aged kids. My husband is supportive and involved, but still I’m the one who takes responsibility for organizing what has to be done each week regarding the home, the kid’s schedules and of course their emotional needs. I also have a full time job that has become increasingly stressful. There have been layoffs in the past couple of years, so I have a greater workload and longer hours.
Unfortunately, we can’t afford for me to leave my job. Dinnertime is the worst. My husband picks the kids up from after school, and we all arrive home tired and hungry for dinner – which I have to make quickly. We are all irritable. I try to hold it in, but it’s hard when my kids are arguing with each other or complaining or screaming, to keep my cool. By the time the evening chores are done and the kids are in bed, I’m feeling guilty that yet another day passed and I didn’t have any quality time with my kids. By this time I’m too burnt out to spend quality time with my husband and I just want to go to bed.
I’ve been getting a lot of headaches and just feel tired all the time with nothing to give. Do you have any suggestions for me that could be helpful?
Dr. Norquist responds:
If energy were a commodity that you could store in a bank, we’d have to say that you are spending yours much more rapidly than you can replenish it. This negative cash (energy) flow (of sorts) has consequences with regard to the quality of your health (physically, emotionally and spiritually).
Living can be approached in all sorts of ways. In our western culture, we tend to rush through life, cramming in as much as we can, rarely stopping to savor the process. Although we say that quality is important, our actions show that quantity, time efficiency, material goods and achievements are our Gods. The trick is to learn how to give ourselves a time out, time to relax and enjoy what is most important to us, and time to replenish our energy banks. Your spirit is depleted, so quite naturally you have little to give. It seems to be the case that when our spirits are healthy, giving is natural and even replenishing; while when our spirits are depleted, the opposite is true.
So, the question is, with the demands of your current life, how do you replenish your spirit? By learning a different approach to life, you can handle your current responsibilities in a manner that is more enjoyable. Try to push yourself less, be aware and respectful of your limits and do things a little more slowly. This allows you to notice and appreciate precious moments that occur throughout your day – humorous moments, moments of stillness, moments to share with another. By focusing on moments that occur throughout our days, we create spaces or “time outs” that nourish us as we go about our daily activities (kind of like between-meal snacks for our spirit!). Remember, the end product of your day, or your life for that matter, is not as important as the process – the daily experience of your life.
Connecting with your kids doesn’t take as much time as it might appear to (when you are frantically trying to get dinner on the table). Perhaps a healthy snack for everyone when you first arrive home will buy you time to settle in together and approach the dinner preparation at a more leisurely pace. Rituals are helpful in this regard. Perhaps you could create a family ritual - something you do or share together when you first arrive home that helps everyone to feel connected and to settle into the evening schedule together.
It is important that you establish a consistent routine of ways of relaxing and replenishing your spirit. Along with a focus on enjoying the moments of your day, a daily meditation practice for 20 minutes in the morning can do wonders for filling your energy reservoir. Other replenishing activities include laughter, a walk by the water, time with friends who have an uplifting effect on your spirit, connecting with your husband, engaging in pleasurable activities and hobbies, yoga, massage, and regular aerobic exercise.
Try to find a way to build some of these activities into your week, as a priority (rather than as the first thing you let go of when you are pressed for time). Also, try to maintain a positive attitude. Negativity will most definitely have a draining effect on your energy reserves. Most of all, try to find a way to enjoy the process of living, by approaching each day as if it were the most important day of your life!
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog www.GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2018 Chaitanya Counseling Services