I Gave Myself a ‘Time Out’

Kelly Cole

A relentless winter complicated by illnesses and an unplanned move can prove to be too much for anyone, even an admitted overachiever. This month, our “Super Mom” explains not only why she needed a break, but how taking some time off changed her perspectives on stress and how it effects everyone in the family.

Commentary by K.M. White

I recently did something that is completely unheard of for me…something that I have rarely done…possibly never really have done. I called for a ‘time out.’ A much needed time out. I was hitting burnout, and I kept pushing forward against the wall that was creeping up on me. I finally admitted to myself that I needed a break and I took one.

I kept looking at a sign I have over my desk – “You can do anything but not everything.” That finally began to sink in. I am always trying to do everything and manage a handful of projects at the same time. Of course, I am always insisting that I can handle it and I will fine time to make it all happen.

February started, and everything in my life quickly piled on. Our family battled one illness after another, and I was sick for almost two weeks. Just when I thought I was improving, I would wake up feeling as cruddy as I had in the beginning. I am sure if I would have slowed down for a few days and focused on my health, I wouldn’t have been sick as long as I was.

We were also planning a last minute move to a new home. I was basically overseeing that entire event. Because of my husband’s insane work schedule, his participation was limited. We had no intentions of moving, but a great opportunity came about that offered us more living space, and we couldn’t pass it up. I knew that, at the end of the month, I would also be the one unpacking all the boxes and totes. But I don’t really mind doing that. I like putting everything in its place and organizing.

I also had my work as executive director of the Wyalusing Area Education Foundation to keep up with. I am in the midst of planning one of our big annual fundraising events, and I needed to keep my momentum going on that as well as all the other tasks that go along with the position. I also help with my youngest daughter’s Daisy troop and was managing the cookie sale.

So, I was packing and handling sick girls and dealing with my own illness and juggling work obligations. One of my few releases is writing, and my energy was zapped to even focus on that.

I called a time out so that I could mentally regroup. Even that took me a few days to gather the courage to do, because I was worried about falling behind in some part of my life, which made me quite anxious. This was one of the hardest things for me to not just do, but admit to myself that I couldn’t do it all at the moment.

I am not sure why I drive myself so hard to keep up with everything that happens. I know it cannot all be done, but I strive for that every day, nonetheless.

I stopped writing in February. I focused on our health. I told myself I would pack x-number of boxes a day. I set aside a set number of hours each day to focus on work-related items. I even allowed myself to rest on the couch. It took a lot of effort the first week to adhere to all that, but it did wonders for me. I felt refreshed at the end of the month.

I was able to get everything moved into the new house and have a large portion of our belongings unpacked and organized. I was able to stay on task with my job, and I succeeded in getting our cookies sales submitted.

I admit I would have liked to accomplish more, but that would have been setting myself up for failure. It also would have made me a miserable person. This experiment also gave me time to reflect on how I approach each day and to realize that it is okay to slow down. It is okay to end my day without finishing every project.

I also had more time to spend with the girls than I had allowed myself before. And I noticed that Katherine is a lot like me in feeling the need to complete each of the many tasks she takes on. I see her getting stressed when I give them their 30 minute bed time reminder and she is in the middle of game or craft. I am pretty sure she picked that up from watching me push myself to complete whatever I am working on.

I hate thinking that my eight-year-old can possibly get stressed out like I do. That isn’t something a child should be putting on themselves. I know I have told her in the past, “Relax. It will still be there tomorrow.” What I wasn’t thinking was, “Why wasn’t I giving myself this same piece of advice?” Instead, I drove myself to burn out.

So, I started March off with a better approach to how I handle everything in my day. I try not to stress if I don’t get everything completed. I stop working on projects when the girls get home and focus on them. I know that we need to set an example for our kids to follow in many aspects of my life, but I never considered that how I approach my daily tasks would affect how they handle theirs.

I am glad to see that Katherine follows through on projects, but there are times she needs to know it is okay to finish them another day. I need to keep reminding myself of that too. It is definitely tough for me to adhere to, but I seem to at least be allowing myself to relax a bit more with the idea.

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