For me, I was in the office yesterday and felt like there were so many things to do, that just getting started on anything was a challenge – like too much powder in a funnel that gets blocked up.
Those of us who serve, who engage in service activities, be they paid, with a stipend, or completely volunteer, have a tendency to do what we do because we feel it’s the right thing to do. We’re committed to an ideal, a cause, or others have placed faith and confidence in us and we are thus appointed or elected to various positions of service. But when these service opportunities all come crowding in, when they begin competing for space in our minds and schedules, it can become overwhelming and if we’re not careful, burnout.
When embarking on a flight, the attendants will instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen mask FIRST, before helping the person next to them. Is this selfish, a save-yourself-first mentality? Nope. Being a martyr is a one-time sacrifice. Being of service is long-term. And the only way you can be of service, continually, is by attending to your own needs.
I’ve long ago given up the feeling of guilt when I took a weekday morning to go hiking. With my week full of work and then my weekends full of meetings and trainings that I had to lead, I had to schedule in time to decompress. This was mandatory for me. If I was to be in any reasonable form, I needed to let out the stress, take a breather, and let others take on some responsibility (and trust that everything would be fine). I need to periodically remember to do this, otherwise my own mental health starts to weaken, and then everything begins to unravel.
Even if we can’t take a whole morning off for a romp in the woods, here’s some tips for reducing stress and increasing your inner calm and capacity, including exercising, deep breathing, writing, talking, laughing and crying, massage, accentuating the positive, meditation, imagery, and just taking a moment to smell the roses.
Upon leaving the office yesterday, I passed by a daycare center and saw a bunch of two year olds intently inspecting a sprinkler. The sight of such purity and focus made me burst out with a laugh and with that I felt so much better. Let’s be purposeful then, about taking care of ourselves, so that we can remember the joy in serving others.
Check out reader’s comments and suggestions for de-stressing in the follow-up post here.