Each and every day, we communicate in ways we may not even realize. While we might like to think that our communication is smooth and clear, and that anyone would know what we are saying, this may not be happening. There may very well be many other messages that you are sending and not even realizing it.
I think the more the amount of responsibility and/or stress you experience, the less clear your messages may be. For example, during an average day, you are asked to do a number of responsibilities. Some of these may be at work or at school—you may take on this new assignment, make additions to something that already exists, help someone else, could you stay later, come in earlier, and so forth. Some of these responsibilities could be at home or from loved ones or friends, such as taking over someone else’s chore, working on your own list, going to the bank, doing the grocery shopping, giving someone a ride, etc.
Now, I don’t know if you have ever counted all the things you do during a day, but I am surprised when clients say either, “I don’t think I do a lot” (when they truly do way more than they realize), or “I think I do way too much,” and then tell me “I have to do it all.” Many of us undervalue ourselves and our efforts and yet, if this self-view changes, we are less likely to take on too much or devalue ourselves.
When people who see me for therapy find themselves discounting their efforts, for me this means they are discounting their worth as well. If they tell me “no one else can help with this,” I know this is not the case. With this idea in their mind, what I tend to see is that they are most likely going to overwhelm themselves, assuming they are not already. Planning ahead is so valuable. But how do we accomplish it?
I like to have clients write out each and every task they take on during the day. Then we can evaluate what constitutes a small responsibility or a larger one, and how much is too much. I want to help them understand how it came to be, as well as what their role and that of others has been, in the development of this process. We then look more at what they want it to be and then examine how we can set boundaries for ourselves.
Planning ahead may also allow us more flexibility in trying to juggle all events of the day. Here’s how: When I acknowledge all the things that may be on the upcoming agenda, it may be easier to prioritize which needs to come first, as well as realize that all of it may not be possible and that maybe we then decide to wait on one or more of the less pressing issues. Once that is done, you’ve succeeded in lightening the load, and you may then feel less stressed. By not planning, we sabotage ourselves in thinking or expecting to accomplish everything which can or will be taxing. So if you are deathly opposed to saying “no,” this may at least help you start to set boundaries for yourself in giving you the tool of delaying and organizing a bit to catch your breath.
Planning ahead helps us in so many ways—like in making the list for the grocery store. If you are prepared, you follow the list and get the items vs. getting home and saying “shoot! I forgot ____. I should have written it down.” Listing out those responsibilities for ourselves (or someone else) keeps them in our focus and helps us prioritize if we only have so much time. Let’s do what we can to take care of you.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, therapist in Chino, California
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