A couple of weeks ago, I took Sunday and Monday off as mental health days.
I didn't think I would need them. Why would I? I'm at home. Not traveling. But I did.
I could feel the need coming on Friday night––I was drained. I powered through Saturday, mowed the lawn but then, because the mower was clogged, I was overwhelmed by fresh cut grass and pollen and suffered a hay fever meltdown.
That was the opening my body needed to say STOP. My body communicates that. It will say, “I know that we are in good health, but I really need you to stop. If you won’t, I’m going to give you a little sneeze. Or two or three. How about a hundred?” Which is what happened.
I cancelled all the meetings I had on Sunday and Monday and mostly read. Chucked my to-do lists. Which, I suppose, are part of my challenge. I make lists.
As I've mentioned before, lists provide routine, and routine is a very useful tool in shaping our days when there’s a lot of chaos around. I like them. But I forget that I not only need routine, but room for discovery and grace for shortfalls, my own as well as others.
One of my little secrets is that I'll make a list and if I'm making good progress, I sabotage myself. If there are five things on my list and, as the day goes along, I've completed and crossed off four of them, I add ten more. Instead of celebrating the achievement of five goals, I set myself up to be frustrated for falling short of reaching 15.
Why do I do that? Can you imagine an explorer saying, “I’m going to go 10 miles today” and at mile nine and a half, with the day waning, decide to go another ten? Instead of pitching the tent and watching the sunset? And do that day after day? Maybe what I need is not a longer list but a plan for refreshing leisure if I run out of scheduled tasks before I run out of time. Tomorrow’s to-do’s belong to tomorrow; I don’t have to transplant them to fill a void in today. Lists, for all they can help us accomplish, are not the summum bonum of life.
So, I'm working on making my list, checking it twice, and then being nice to myself by leaving well enough alone. Instead of naughtily, constantly sneaking more tasks on there to thwart my sense of accomplishment.
It will probably help thwart burnout instead.
Take mental health breaks, an hour at a time, or a whole day or two. Take care of yourself so you can help take care of others. Make lists and stick to them, not just to get things done, but to know that it’s okay to be done. Pat yourself on the back as you complete them. Embrace the thrill!
Benjamin Hardy, author of Personality Isn't Permanent, is making a second appearance on the podcast this week. We previously visited with him to discuss his book Willpower Doesn't Work. What I love about his new book is its bold assertion that wherever we are today doesn’t dictate our future. Our vision of a future self can decide who we want to be, and we can change to bring that vision to fruition. For example, my future self can make a list and declare victory at its completion—halfway through the day. Nor does my future self have to drag my bias baggage with me forever. And though the past is gone, the meaning we make of it can change too.
As always, thanks for being here.