Have you ever felt totally stuck in your life, trapped by your obligations, and wondering how did I get here?
Sometimes we can find ourselves so committed to climbing the ladder and creating the American Dream that we lose ourselves.
We become more focused on how the outside looks and lose touch with our essence. We’re so busy being do-gooders, or raising kids, or being the most successful entrepreneur, doctor, lawyer, creative, mommy-prenuer, whatever it is, that we become totally disconnected from our core Self.
Around 2006 I realized that the daily grind of living the good life was taking me further from my freedom and self-expression, which led to a growing sense of self-betrayal that plunged me into a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the life I’d worked so hard to create.
The dissatisfaction would come in sudden waves of inexplicable sadness or a longing to be free.
One time I was driving home from work and listening to Keith Urban’s “What About Me.”
I’m livin’ in a world that won’t stop pullin’ on me
I’m not complaining but it’s true
It’s like I owe my time to everyone else
‘Cause that’s all I seem to do.
Sometimes I can’t help thinkin’ what about me
Some days go by that I don’t even see
Yeah I’m doing everything right and I can’t break free
Oh is this the way it’s always gonna be
What about me?
The song’s lyrics touched my aching soul so acutely and deeply.
I was working so hard as a psychologist in a women’s prison to help other people break free of their inner prison’s and helping LGBT people get marriage equality, yet I felt totally trapped by my life. I didn’t have a moment of freedom. I just wanted to go camping. I wanted to stay in bed on a Sunday and drink coffee in bed and read a book. I wanted things to slow down.
My life was on a super highway and I wanted to meander the backroads. I wanted to make a positive difference in the world, but I didn’t want to be a martyr.
I cared deeply about everything I was doing, but my priorities were ass-backwards. I put other people’s needs and priorities ahead of my own. It was unsustainable.
It led to BURN OUT! And BREAK DOWN!
Two years later, in 2008 I quit my government job. I needed to create my work life in a way that was authentic to me. I’d done my best to create groups and programs to help the women I worked with in the prison and in turn the prison did it’s best to undermine those programs and return the focus to guard duty and human warehousing. It was the way the country was going at the time and I was tired of going against the stream.
I got clear how much more energy and joy I would have when I was going with the flow working for myself allowed me to focus on doing therapeutic and healing work and not be called away to handcuff or pat search someone.
I also decided not to work full-time for any one company so I wouldn’t be forced to do anything that didn’t mesh with my values just to keep a roof over my head. I decided multiple streams of income were safer, and the recession ultimately proved that instinct was on target.
Part-time was fine, but full time allegiance to a company that could ask you to do something unsavory, fire you for being LGBTQ, withhold your paycheck (as they did with the government shut down), or lay you off before Christmas to raise profits. No thank you!
This is another reason why I’m grateful for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because it meant I didn’t have to sell out just to get health care.
So what do you do if you find yourself burnout, stressed out, stuck?
Call a TIME OUT!
You need to pause the action. Obviously, you can’t pause everything, but you have to PAUSE something.
First, you have to make TIME and SPACE for yourself.
Step off the proverbial hamster wheel.
How do you do this?
You’ll need to look at your specific situation.
- Take a day off! Do you have sick leave or vacation days you can take? If so, TAKE ONE.
- Schedule a massage, a facial, a spa getaway. Go nurture your body.
- Turn off all the devices sweet darlin’, even the old Victrola. Now it’s you just you. Close your eyes. Breathe. Keep breathing. Just breathe.
- Ask for help. For God’s sake stop trying to do everything yourself You can ask God for help. You can ask a friend. Maybe you’re pulling someone else’s weight. Doing your share and theirs. Stop it!
- Update your resume. If you’re in a crappy job, start updating your resume. This will give you a chance to reconnect with your accomplishments and get you ready if you need to seek new employment.
- Make a coffee date. Connect with a friend or colleague. We all need connection. People to talk to. Talking can help us figure things out. I’ll talk about therapy and coaching next. Sometimes venting with a friend or connecting with a colleague can help us find the next step. Sometimes they’ll have great ideas or insights we wouldn’t get to on our own. Sometimes they’ll have leads for employment options, babysitters, real estate agents, whatever it is we might need.
- Get some exercise. Take a walk, take a hike (not off a short pier). Go for a bike ride. Hit the slopes. Do something physical to get out of your head and to your body that’s been filled with stress hormones a chance to expel that crap.
- Basic Self Care. Get some sleep, make and go to your doctor’s appointments, and eat some healthy food. When was the last time you ate a fresh vegetable?
- Don’t indulge in addictive substances. A piece of chocolate is fine, but if you’ve started using wine, marijuana, or junkfood as your main method of reward or coping at the end of the day you’re only adding to your troubles. Instead take a hot bath or shower in the evening to wash the weight of the day off of you.
- Take off Your f***ing Cape! Stop trying to be Wonder Woman or Superman. I’ll be writing more about this later.
- Get Support! Make an appointment with a therapist or life coach so you have support. You need support! WE all need support. Get some! Especially if you’re in crisis, depressed, overwhelmed, addicted, heartbroken, suicidal, deeply stuck, conflicted, being abused, totally confused. Don’t’ try to do it all by yourself.
- Get a copy of my book It’s Never Too Late to Be Your Self. You need some time to start considering your next move. You can’t change everything overnight. However, once you’ve stabilized yourself, you can start taking steps to take back your life and create it in a way that works for you!
Here’s a link to Psychology Today to help you find a therapist. If you’re in crisis and need to talk to someone now the National Suicide Hotline # is 1-800-273-8255.