Are you loving and thriving in your work at the moment, feeling invincible? Or are you struggling and feel like you're moving through quicksand? Or maybe somewhere in between?
Wherever you are, that's OK.
I know that prioritising yourself, making hard decisions around self-care, saying NO is still hard as a psychologist, particularly in a time where we are seeing a continuing increase in demand for mental health services as we struggle with the impact of COVID19. You want to be of service, and of course you need clients and you need to work.
However, you also need a sustainable business. Squeezing in an occasional extra client or going without a lunch break once in a blue moon happens for many reasons. However, doing this on a regular basis starts to add up.
Without appropriate counterbalances, work overload often catches up with people in the end. And in the end, there is burnout.. The overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and poor productivity impacts on you, your clients and the profession.
You can come back from this, people do, but recovery time is not measured in days or week, it is sometimes measured in years. Depending on the source of burnout, it can be exhibited in leaving employment, career change, early retirement, retraining, and/or withdrawal from direct client services.
But I don’t have time for self-care
Ever gave an excuse for not doing something as "I ran out of time", or variations. "I didn't have enough time"?
Stop for a moment and Imagine that the thing you didn’t have time for was your most favourite thing to do in the whole wide world. Would you have had time to do it?
I’m guessing that most of the time you are going to say ‘yes’ or ‘probably’.
So, it's not the time involved in self-care.
Okay, so what is it?
Here are four real reasons why you say you don’t have enough time.
1. Your current values and priorities don’t allow this task to fit. Life can become full of anything you choose. Work, study, children, children’s activities, gym, coffee dates, meetings, etc etc. There is no shortage of things you can do.
Hard question alert.
Q: Is what you are currently doing congruent with what is most important to you?
2. Distorted thinking. What about if I do this thing and it doesn’t work out? What if I spend my limited time and resources on …… and it still doesn't make a difference. I’m not sure what I’m doing and I don’t want to look stupid. I should already know how to look after myself.
3. The words have become an easy way out.
In a world where being busy is seen to be a badge of honour, “I’m just too busy. I don’t have enough time” has become a default. It’s easier than saying ”I know I should do that, but I actually don’t want to/it’s too hard for me at the moment/I don’t like it/I’m ignoring all things people at the moment/etc”
How about trying to be super honest (at least with yourself) about what you really want to say.
Here are some alternatives
4. You don’t love yourself enough.
This can be hard to hear.
Whether it is because you are putting your needs last out of habit, or, you genuinely believe you are not as deserving as others.
If you find yourself saying, Oh, I don't have time to sit and meditate for five minutes, I'll just take 10 minutes for lunch time because I have a report to write, I don't have time to prepare a healthy meal. I don't have time to go for a walk. I don't have time to journal. I don't have time to X, whatever it is. If these are common responses to decisions you are making, firstly look at the three points above, but then look at what you are saying about your relationship with yourself.
You are worth it. Okay. You need it. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your family. You owe it to your clients.
What you can do about reducing your busyness.
You ARE a limited resource. No matter how hard you work, there is still only 24 hours in a day.
Shifting your boundary fences to extend your clinic hours, adding on a new extra- curricular activity for your child, taking on extra clients, volunteering, pushing through…..can be a slippery slope to burnout.
I've been there, I've said yes to doing more and more because my clients needed it. When what I needed was to say NO and spend more time with my young family.
Another hard question alert
Q: What do you need to say NO to?
I know it's not quite that simple, many factors go into why you say 'Yes' instead of 'No', including
(In the Essential Self-Care for Psychologists course, the module on boundaries is definitely my favourite one - wish I'd understood all this when I first graduated).
When you check what is behind the statement of “I don't have enough time”, you get to restart your life. It's a really good trigger to set off in your brain that things just aren't the way you want them to be.
You HAVE to look at your priorities and values.
And if you don't, if you just keep saying it and not change anything, nothing's going to change.
You might find that you start to feel resentful and neglected. As the demands pile on and you are not taking care of yourself, you may start to hate your life, crave for things that just aren't there. Burnout may start to creep up on you.
So, take “I don't have enough time” as your cue to dig deeper, examine your beliefs, your priorities, to engage in honest communication, and to work on removing those barriers that stand between you and your self-care.
Be kind, and go gently.
What to know if you are experiencing burnout? Go here.
Interested in finding out more about Imposter Syndrome? You can access a paid webinar here.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.