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As a woman in my 40s, the pile of pressures continue to add up; a pile of self-imposed pressures stemming from subconscious ideas implanted by books, movies, decades of what a woman should be, can be, and most importantly, wants to be.
I want to be smart, alluring, and classy. I also want to be caring, kind, and nurturing. And then there is organized, stable, and consistent. Oh and by the way, while we are at it, I want to be energetic, creative, and fun.
I want to be a mother. I want to have a career. I want a happy, healthy, clean home. I want to cook fabulous, tasty, nutritious meals.
I want everyone sitting at the table, enjoying a home cooked meal, talking lovingly to one another, just before we head off to the kids’ extracurricular activity that instills sportsmanship, team values, and dedication. I want to spend romantic evenings with my husband, giving him the devoted wife’s gentle listening ear and supportive encouragement that he needs. I want to spend my weekends being a creative DIY warrior, making my yard and house beautiful, tidy, and a mecca for neighborhood entertaining. I want to have a career where I am devoted and at the top of my game.
Can I have my cake and eat it too?
What I can have is two in one shampoo and conditioner, because I am too exhausted to do the two separate steps. I am overwhelmed, always on the go, trying to be everything to everybody, constantly trying to improve, to be more organized, more efficient. I try so hard, but it seems nothing gets done right. It is enough to give a normal person a breakdown, now that I have it all written out in black and white. It’s an epidemic; women everywhere are putting these pressures on themselves. Why do we do this? We want it all and deserve it all, and expect it all.
What we end up getting is a bad case of burnout-based depression. Burnout-based depression is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion with a root cause of overdoing it. Unfortunately, for many, this leads to a never-ending cycle of guilt, negative feelings, trying to suppress and avoid said negative feelings by using distractive behaviors, which then leads back to the guilt.
Guilt comes from never being able to measure up to our own expectations. I should be a better daughter and call Mom every day. I should be a better wife and show my husband more affection. I should be a better mother and listen when my child is babbling on about the latest YouTube video he watched. I should be better at everything. The fact that I simply cannot be better at everything leads to negative feelings.
I must be lazy, disorganized, incapable. Why can’t I handle stress like everyone else? There must be something wrong with me. How do other people have time for this? What am I doing wrong? I suck at this. Adulting is hard. I cannot handle ONE MORE THING!
Negative feelings like these create a spiral effect of negative self-talk that worsens the situation and before you know it you are in a dark pit of despair that you cannot claw your way out of. The only way to make it stop is to distract yourself.
Self-Medicating with Distractive Behaviors
I feel stressed out, let’s eat some carbs. My life is too chaotic; it will feel better if I buy some new clothes. I have a big presentation to work on, so I should clean the baseboards of the house. The distractive behaviors may feel good temporarily, but in the long run usually make the looming problem even worse; leading back to guilt.
Let’s hop off this crazy train.
Okay, we have identified the problem. Something is not working. Our lives have spiraled out of control and we are no longer in the driver seat. The train wreck of my “perfect life” is leaving more carnage than ever. No one is getting what they deserve in this “I can do everything” world. It is time to take back control.
Reboot Your Life
Learn yourself and your priorities. Stop expecting so much. Take stock of what is really important in your life. You can go as far as to make a ranked list of what you want and need to be your focus. Then devote time and energy to your passions. All other unimportant things and relationships can then fall to the wayside.
Learn to say no to others. If it doesn’t align with your priorities, then don’t include it in your time. It is okay to know yourself and your limitations. There is nothing wrong with saying no. This includes relationships that drain. If a relationship brings negativity, unrest, and distress, do yourself a favor and say goodbye. Your focus should be in relationships that inspire, promote growth, and fill you with positivity.
Learn to say yes to yourself. It is okay to give yourself a break sometimes. Say yes to things you have been depriving yourself of, like time to read that book you have had since last Christmas or time to take a nap on the weekend, instead of precooking meals for the week. Life should be balanced. Be sure to give yourself the down time you need to recuperate your strength. Recuperate and recuperate frequently.
Learn to treat yourself with love and respect. Many times we are so delicate with others, catering to every whim, ensuring they feel loved and cared for. We nurture them with rest, relaxation, and nutrition. Why not treat yourself with the same love and understanding? All of the negative self-talk should disappear. Can you imagine talking to others the way your talk to yourself? Retrain yourself to see your positives, your achievements, your successes, and focus on those things. Create a positive board or journal and write down or post up with sticky notes all of the good things you do with your life, no matter how small they may seem. In times of struggle you can head there for encouragement.
Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve for resolutions.
It is never too late to make a change. You don’t have to keep living your life with burnout based depression. Life is about constantly changing and adapting. When something isn’t working, recalculate the route and head in a different direction!