You know when you’re burnt to a crisp and you think to yourself “I’m done. I. am. Just. So. Done.” Only, you’re nowhere near being ACTUALLY done?

Yeah. We’ve all been there. Some of us LIVE there.

You’re running on fumes, and you still have more Zoom meetings to attend, work projects to finish, housework to do, bills to figure out, and kids to shuttle around to daycare and school and sports and…and…and. Plus, if you’re already struggling with anxiety, depression, difficulty focusing, irritability…How do you keep going?

Here’s where I fly my nerd flag high. Ever see those sci-fi movies where the good guy’s spaceship is under attack and they suffer major damage to the ship? It usually goes something like this; “Captain! We only have one engine left! We don’t have enough power to propel to warp speed! What should we do?!” To which the Captain almost invariably replies, “redirect whatever power we have left to keep the life-sustaining systems running.”

That’s what you do. You let go of the things that may be good, so you can focus on what is essential. It’s not ideal, it’s not what we prefer, but it just may be what keeps you going when you’re done, but you’re not done. So what does that mean?

It means that you release yourself from things that you simply cannot “afford” to spend your energies on, like:

  • Carrying the load for someone who might need to seek help from someone else for a change. It’s ok to say, “I’m sorry, I care about you, but I just don’t have the bandwidth to help you with this right now.”
  • Holding yourself to standards that are impressive, but not always attainable, such as getting all the laundry folded and put away, having the house be completely “picked up”, ferrying your kids to and from the thousand and one activities they really don’t HAVE to participate in, or arriving at work early and leaving late every day because that’s what you’ve always done.

So what do you do with the little power you DO have? Redirect it to the essentials, and make sure to care for yourself. Now, self-care is a phrase that has certainly been run into the ground in recent years, and it has been thrown around without much attention to what it actually means or is intended to do.

When the phrase “self-care” comes up, many people immediately imagine getting a massage or taking a hot bath. While those things can be relaxing and delightful, when I use the term self-care,  I mean setting an alarm so you can turn off the TV/phone apps/video games and get into bed so you can get the deep, restorative sleep that your body needs. I mean eating whole foods that don’t come from a drive thru (rotisserie chicken and bagged salads are quick, easy, healthier options). I mean going for a walk instead of zoning out in front of a screen, and taking the time to take a long, hard look at your schedule and determine what you really NEED to do vs. what you feel guilted into doing. Now THAT is how you care for yourself so that you can power through a difficult season, and focus the energy you have on the things that matter most to you.

If you’re not quite sure where to start with this process of letting go of what you cannot manage and equipping yourself for what you absolutely need to manage, you may find it useful to get out your planner or calendar, your monthly budget and your to-do lists. Then, “triage” based on what has to get done vs. what should get done ideally, and break that list down into what has to get done most urgently to least urgently. It may also be helpful to identify what things can be delegated and what the things are on your list for which you can ask for help.

If you find that you are so overwhelmed and exhausted that your eating and sleeping patterns are way off, you are neglecting providing for your own or your children’s basic needs, or you’re missing work or school, that’s a signal that you need outside help. That’s the time to seek an evaluation to determine whether you need therapy, medication or simply help accessing services available in the community. The struggle is real, and so is the hope.