Achieve Wellness by Doing Less
I recently had a session with “Kate,” a new mother, wife, and ICU nurse. Kate expressed a feeling that people share with me frequently: “I feel like I’m not doing enough.” Kate shared feelings of guilt for “not working enough” (she works 24 hours per week in the ICU), “not losing the baby weight,” (her son is 10 weeks old), “not working out enough,” and “not cooking nice meals like I used to.” To provide some context, Kate’s baby has feeding difficulties, has her up three or four times per night, and wants to be carried all day long. Kate is exhausted and overwhelmed, juggling the responsibilities of parenting with the pressures of ICU nursing (and doing an amazing job, by the way), but she still she feels guilty for not doing “more.”
Unfortunately, I hear this message from my patients almost everyday: that they’re not doing “enough.” Not working enough, not cooking enough, not exercising enough, not making enough money, not enrolling their kids in enough activities, not spending enough time with their kids, not keeping the house clean enough, etc., etc., etc. We live in a culture that subtly says, “Do it all and do it all perfectly!” “Achieve, achieve, achieve!” and “Do more, do more, do more!” Well, I’m here with a completely different message: DO LESS. If your body is exhausted or hurting, listen to it. Give yourself permission to skip the work out and simply rest. If it’s time to make dinner and you feel tired and overwhelmed, give yourself permission to order take-out: and enjoy every bite. If you need a break from your children, don’t try to push through another craft: give yourself permission to put them in front of a video while you take a relaxing bath, do a meditation, or call a friend. If going for that promotion will bring added stress to you and your household system, give yourself permission to take yourself out of the running. When you make conscious choices to take care of yourself (through rest, relaxation, connecting with others, and “doing less”), you’re bringing balance to your family system; promoting your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health; and modeling healthy behavior for your loved ones!
I’m working hard to help Kate be more gentle and compassionate with herself. Specifically, we’re working to replace her culturally-based “do more” mentality with conscious choices that promote health, harmony, and balance. Each time she is faced with a decision, she asks herself this question: “What choice will lead to greater balance, peace, harmony, and health for me and my family?” If you struggle with that nagging feeling of pressure to do more (as I do sometimes), I hope you’ll consider using this question as a guide too.